Belated Book Reviews, July and August


Other than a few Netgalley reviews, I really slacked off on book tracking and reviewing this summer. So, even though it’s almost the end of September and time for this month’s list, here’s everything I read in July and August. Settle in!


The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow (5 stars)
I reviewed this here (and got a retweet from Erin Bow herself!). AMAZING.

Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen (4 stars)
For years, Sydney has lived in the shadow of her older brother, Peyton, a charmer who can’t stay out of trouble. After Peyton goes to prison on a DUI charge, Sydney changes schools to get a fresh start. There she meets quirky, bubbly Layla, her strong-and-silent brother Mac, and their crew of friends, all of whom draw her out and provide the love and acceptance her parents can’t. This book hits all the usual Sarah Dessen sweet spots, and I think it’s one of her best.

Help Thanks Wow: The Three Essential Prayers by Anne Lamott (5 stars)
This short, profound book is exactly what it sounds like and has become a guide for my faltering prayer life. Though, along with Glennon Melton, I often add “WTF” to the list.

This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp (3 stars)
A Netgalley read I never got around to reviewing officially. While well-written and suspenseful, this chronicle of a fictional school shooting in small-town Alabama is incredibly depressing. In my opinion, there wasn’t enough resolution or redemption to justify the tragedy, and it felt almost exploitative. Not for me.

Has to Be Love by Jolene Perry (3 stars)
Another novel from Netgalley. Clara, an Alaskan high schooler, wants much more than this provincial liiiiife, but worry about her widowed dad and self-consciousness over her scarred face are holding her back from her New York City dreams. She’s also torn between safe long-term boyfriend Elias and sexy “older man” Rhodes. I appreciated various unique aspects of this story that set it a little apart from the YA pack, but overall I just didn’t love it.

Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek by Maya Van Wagenen (3 stars)
When Maya Van Wagenen was thirteen, feeling awkward and unpopular, she discovered a 1950s book about popularity. This memoir is basically her diary from a year spent obeying all of its rules. I give her props for her bravery, spirit, and general precociousness, but I cringed a lot. Probably because she hit on some of my own bad memories. Middle school: you couldn’t pay me a million dollars to go back.

In the Age of Love and Chocolate by Gabrielle Zevin (4.5 stars)
In the final book of the Birthright trilogy, Anya opens a successful nightclub, makes some unexpected strategic decisions, and deals with still more setbacks. I can’t explain why I like these books as much as I do, other than like my experience with Tris in Divergent, I feel really comfortable in Anya’s head and enjoy her thoughts. I was also 100% satisfied with the ending, which I can rarely say about YA trilogies.


Rising Strong by Brené Brown (5 stars)
I reviewed this here.

Royal Wedding by Meg Cabot (4 stars)
As an old Princess Diaries fan, I couldn’t NOT read the first adult novel about Mia, which revolves around her engagement to Michael and the discovery that she has a half-sister. Meg Cabot did a great job writing a mature Mia who’s still her same endearing, well-intentioned self.

The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan (4.5 stars)
My favorite summer read of 2015! Yes, this is thinly veiled Will and Kate fanfic (with Kate recast as an American), but it’s smarter, wittier, and more fun than you think… even if you, like me, aren’t really into the royals. Also, the authors deserve some sort of award for the detailed alternate royal lineage they created.

On These Courts by Wayne B. Drash (3.5 stars)
The true story of Lester Middle School’s road to the first of three basketball state championships, coached by Memphis native and NBA great Penny Hardaway. These events took place just a few miles from where I now live, but I never heard much about it at the time. I believe every Memphian should read this book. When I finished, I wanted to start volunteering with one of Penny’s charity organizations immediately. Still looking into it.

Girl Walks into a Bar…: Comedy Calamities, Dating Disasters, and a Midlife Miracle by Rachel Dratch (4.5 stars)
I did not expect, and am just now owning up to, how much I LOVED this memoir. Rachel Dratch is the Everygirl contrast to the holy trinity of Fey, Poehler, and Kaling; the one who succeeds, at best, on her second try. After dating into her 40s and having a surprise baby at 44, she can speak truly and hilariously about the road less traveled by. I felt less alone after reading this. Debbie Downer, you’re the best.

P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han (3.5 stars)
In the sequel to To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, the fallout from Lara Jean’s illicitly mailed love letters continues. As she and Peter work on their pretend-turned-real relationship, another love letter recipient, John, comes back into her life. Fun and cute.

Girl Meets Change: Truths to Carry You Through Life’s Transitions by Kristen Strong (3.5 stars)
Kristen Strong’s reflections on change are authentic and helpful – as an Army wife and mom, she’s an expert on the topic. Over the course of this book, through personal stories and Bible teaching, she encourages readers to embrace change and trust that God is working in and through it. She also tackles important but underdiscussed aspects like changes in friendship. I’m thankful that Girl Meets Change prompted me to think about change and my evolving (better) attitude toward it, and I have some thoughts I’d like to write about myself. I plan to go back to the book in the future and am sure it will help a lot of women. But at this moment in my life, I can’t really rave about anything with an ultimately “all things work together for good” message. IT’S NOT YOU, BOOK, IT’S ME.

Books for July: 7
Books for August: 7
2015 year to date: 45

About Brenda W.

Christian. Memphian. Reader. Writer. True blue Tiger fan. Lover of shoes, the ocean, adventure, and McAlister’s iced tea.

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One Response to Belated Book Reviews, July and August

  1. I really want to read Rachel Dratch’s book. I’ve always really liked her.

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