September and October Book Reviews


Better late than never?


Mosquitoland by David Arnold (4.5 stars)
An excellently written, sort of trippy novel about Mim, a teenager who flees her new Southern home after discovering her estranged mom is sick back in Cleveland. Her wild Greyhound journey leads her to new people and situations she couldn’t have imagined, as well as truths she hasn’t been ready to hear. There’s a moment at the end of it where I thought it had taken a really crazy twist (if you’ve read it, you may know what I’m talking about), but as cool as the shock value would have been, I’m glad I just misunderstood. This story is raw and stunning enough just the way it is.

Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling (5 stars)
Mindy Kaling is simultaneously inspiring and totally relatable. While her hilarious first book is already one of my favorites, in this one she gets even more personal and real. I loved the more detailed stories from her past, as well as how she’s dealing with fame and success, and her chapters about friends’ weddings and her relationship with BJ Novak almost brought me to tears. PREACH IT.

Disappointment with God: Three Questions No One Asks Aloud by Philip Yancey (4.5 stars)
It took me FOREVER to finish this book due to the intensity of the topic. Philip Yancey is great at creating a safe place to wrestle with hard questions about God’s goodness and fairness, while also providing different and helpful perspectives. I’ll probably revisit this one.



Harry, a History: The True Story of a Boy Wizard, His Fans, and Life Inside the Harry Potter Phenomenon by Melissa Anelli (4.5 stars)
I’ve been a Potterhead since 2003, but I’d never gotten around to reading this memoir/fandom history by the webmistress of The Leaky Cauldron. I idly picked up my BIL’s copy while visiting him and my sister. Within minutes, I had excused myself from the family card game to read, and ended up taking the book home. While the chapters about shipping wars, wizard rock, etc. are fascinating (really), at its heart this is about Anelli’s journey from unsure, frustrated writer in a dead-end job to successful author, interviewer and friend of J.K. Rowling, and contributor to a phenomenon that’s given joy to millions of people. Melissa, you have inspired me and given me hope.

Modern Romance: An Investigation by Aziz Ansari with Eric Klinenberg (5 stars)
As I mentioned in October’s What I’m Into, Aziz Ansari teamed up with a sociologist to research and write this analysis of dating in our modern digital age and whether we really have it better or worse than those who coupled up before us. I HIGHLY recommend it whether you’re single or not, and would love to discuss it with someone. I found it about 70% encouraging/validating and 30% depressing.

Sounds Like Me: My Life (So Far) in Song by Sara Bareilles (4.5 stars)
As a huge Sara Bareilles fan, I was thrilled to get approved for her memoir on Netgalley. Each of the eight chapters uses one of her songs as an epigraph and framework for a chapter of her life. I loved learning more about her childhood, progression through the music industry, creative process, and her latest project, Waitress (premiering on Broadway this month). ♥

Orange Jumpsuit: Letters to the God of Freedom by Tara Leigh Cobble (3 stars)
Tara Leigh Cobble is an author, minister, and singer/songwriter who’s fairly well-known in Southern Reformed circles. This memoir revolves around her moving from her beloved New York City to South Carolina, building a life and ministry there, and falling in love with a man who can’t seem to make up his mind about her. It’s well-written and contains some good insights… but personally, I almost couldn’t finish it because it’s so steeped in specific faith culture aspects that now give me serious heebie-jeebies. However, I’m glad I pressed on, because she ends up in a spiritual place that’s not too far from where I am at the moment.

Pointe by Brandy Colbert (3.5 stars)
Despite the title, this gritty, intense novel is only tangentially about ballet. Theo is an up-and-coming ballerina, but the real story here is the unsolved disappearance of her best friend, Donovan, when they were thirteen. When Donovan is found and comes home four years later, Theo discovers that her secret older boyfriend from that time was his kidnapper, and has to decide how much she’s willing to risk revealing. Meanwhile, she’s having another secret relationship with a pianist who has a girlfriend. This isn’t exactly an enjoyable read, but it’s realistic, and I hurt for Theo while also relating to her struggle to believe in her own worth.

10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works by Dan Harris (4 stars)
In 2004, ABC journalist Dan Harris had a live on-air panic attack while reading the news on Good Morning America. Years as an adrenaline junkie both on- and off-camera were finally taking their toll, and he knew he had to make changes. When he discovered meditation, it made such a deeply positive impact that he felt compelled to write this book about his experiences and progress. Coincidentally, I attended a “mindfulness” seminar for work a few weeks before I read this. We meditated as a group for about ten minutes, and I walked out refreshed and with a lot of thoughts about meditation and how it could relate to my (current lack of) prayer life. So I appreciated learning more about it and its benefits.

Never Broken: Songs Are Only Half the Story by Jewel Kilcher (5 stars)
I’ll admit I’ve never been a passionate fan of Jewel’s music, but after reading her honest, reflective memoir, I greatly admire her as a human being. Many music journalists have covered the bones of her early life: raised in Alaska, then lived in a van until she was discovered in LA. In this book, she fleshes out those stories and so many more, while sharing a lot of hard-earned wisdom, bravery, and encouragement. I highlighted a lot!

Shirt of Flame: A Year with St. Therese of Lisieux by Heather King (4.5 stars)
Another book I didn’t expect to love so much, Shirt of Flame is (as the title implies) an extended reflection on the life of St. Therese of Lisieux. Heather King attempts to apply Therese’s passion, courage, and commitment to the difficulties of her own life. Each of the twelve chapters ends with a prayer, which I liked so much, I might make my own calendar quoting them!

Love and Other Foreign Words by Erin McCahan (3 stars)
Josie is a kid genius, skilled at blending in with various social groups, but only truly at home with her family and her two best friends. When her beloved sister Kate gets engaged to a pompous know-it-all, then refuses to listen to her objections, Josie attempts to crack the code of what love is all about. While the love story here is sweet, this is really a book about family and all the ways love changes people for better AND worse, pushing them apart and bringing them back together.

Perfectly Matched by Heather Webber (3 stars)
This fast-paced installment of the Lucy Valentine series revolves around an arsonist terrorizing Boston, and a mysterious man who can communicate with a cat. After so many heavy books on my trip, I needed to read something really light and enjoyable, and this hit the spot. I love how the relationships between all the characters grow stronger and more complex with each book. Yay for good ensemble casts!


September Total: 3
October Total: 10
2015 year to date: 58

About Brenda W.

Christian. Memphian. Reader. Writer. True blue Tiger fan. Lover of shoes, the ocean, adventure, and McAlister's iced tea. View all posts by Brenda W. →
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