Reading Recap: August 2018

With August comes the end of summer reading.  In my last month’s recap, I mentioned a big stack of books in my room I hoped to cover before starting up grad school again.  I made it through everything in my pile except A Room of One’s Own.  After four years away from Virginia Woolf, I thought I was ready to return to her again.  (I even wrote her a break-up letter back in 2014).  Alas, I was wrong.  I guess our reunion will have to wait.

Something I noticed this month was a lack of quality YA and an increase in nonfiction.  Of the YA I read, none really captured my attention.  They all took longer For nonfiction, I read an in-depth analysis of Harry Potter, a book on the Enneagram, and made it halfway through an excellent collection of essays about walking.  (The walking book will have to wait until my next school break to finish.  It’s fascinating, but slow.)

After sitting on my to-read list for many years, I finally got to read The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern!  I was so excited about this one, it was my book club pick for the month.  I absolutely loved it.


Overall Statistics:

  • Number of books read: 10
  • Number of pages read: 3,127
  • Number of audiobooks listened to: 2
  • Number of rereads: 2
  • Longest book: Legendary by Stephanie Garber
  • Shortest book: Why I Wake Early by Mary Oliver
  • Highest rating: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (4.5 stars)
  • Lowest rating: Ash Princess by Laura Sebastain

Some notes on my stats:

  • Audiobooks are included in total page count.  It takes me longer to listen to a book than read it, so I count them
  • My ratings are on a 5-star system and are ridiculously subjective

If you want more information about each book, follow the links embedded in the titles.  That will bring you to the book’s Goodreads page.

Mini Reviews

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

  • Pages: 387
  • Rating: 4.5 stars
  • Format: Print/Audiobook
  • Thoughts:
    • This has been on my to-read list for years now and I’m so glad book club gave me the push to finally read it!
    • I covered the majority of this via audiobook and, when it started playing, I was absolutely delighted to find that it was narrated by Jim Dale, best known for his work with the Harry Potter series.  It was such a wonderful surprise, like being unexpectedly reunited with an old friend.
    • The Night Circus is dazzling and delightful.  The story is very spread out, both in time, space, and characters.  It took some time for me to get into the pacing, but once I did, I thoroughly enjoyed it.
    • The tension of the competition and romance between Celia and Marco drives the plot forward.  It’s a dance you sometimes forget about, but suddenly sweeps you right back in.
    • Morgenstern’s writing is lovely, especially her descriptions of magic.  There’s so much imagination on every page.  I want to visit this circus and behold all its wonders in person.
    • Our book club discussion gave me a deep appreciation for the quality of Morgenstern’s writing.  She’s got layers and layers of allusions in here–from Shakespeare to the Bible and even Harry Potter.  I definitely want to revisit this book in the future.

How Harry Cast His Spell by John Granger

  • Pages: 280
  • Rating: 4 stars
  • Format: Print
  • Thoughts:
    • I picked this up on recommendation from a friend, as I wanted to dig deeper into some of the academic work that has been done on the Harry Potter books.
    • The premise for this was really interesting.  Granger sets out to prove why Harry Potter is so popular through examining its place in the English  literary tradition.  He basically examines all the Christian elements from lots of different angles.
    • I loved the insight into literary structures.  I’ve been fascinated by the hero’s journey narrative for some time now, but the concept of literary alchemy was relatively new.
    • Some of Granger’s interpretations, particularly when he breaks down climactic moments, felt too literal for my taste.
    • Overall, this was an interesting and insightful book.  My next Harry Potter reread will be richer for it.

Legendary by Stephanie Garber

  • Pages: 451
  • Rating: 3.5 stars
  • Format: Audiobook
  • Thoughts:
    • The sequel Garber’s debut, Caraval, expands the world significantly.  The main plotline hinges on the world’s mythologies, which I really enjoyed.
    • What fascinates me about this series is that Garber doesn’t give readers unreliable characters, but unreliable settings.  In the mysterious world of Caraval, everything is a game and nothing is real… or is it?  This keeps readers constantly on their toes and strengthens their identification with the protagonists.
    • The protagonists, though, are pretty annoying.  Scarlet is boring and Tella was just stupid.
    • I got REALLY into the ending of this one.
    • Garber’s descriptions are extremely lush, to the point of being lurid.  When she was describing a city or the character’s emotions, it was too sweet.  I felt like I had eaten too much chocolate cake.  The exception is her descriptions of pretty dresses, which I adored.

Everybody Always by Bob Goff

  • Pages: 240
  • Rating: 3.5 stars
  • Format: Print
  • Thoughts:
    • I’m always torn on Bob Goff’s books.  They’re so beloved by so many people and I understand why… but there are some aspects I have a hard time getting past.
    • Goff’s stories are delightful and inspiring.  His charisma oozes off the page.  He strips away the tangles of theologies and gets right to the heart of Christianity: the importance of loving others.  This is so refreshing!
    • I do wish that Goff used footnotes or end notes when referring to stories in the Bible.  When he makes references like, “this guy in the Bible who was paralyzed”, it feels lazy.  Notes would ground the stories and give people a place to explore further.
    • I also have a hard time getting over Goff’s priviledge.  While he strikes me as someone who would be very humble in person, it’s hard to take life advice seriously from a guy who holds office hours in Disney World.  I mean, does he seriously expect his law school students to pay to get into Disney just to have a conversation with their professor?  As a graduate student with a tight budget, this sets me off.
    • The strongest part of this book were the chapters at the end regarding Goff’s legal work with witch doctors in Uganda.

Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian

  • Pages: 432
  • Rating: 2 stars
  • Format: Print
  • Thoughts:
    • I almost didn’t finish this one.  I was so close to putting it down so many times.  But I was waiting on some other library holds to come, so I pushed through.
    • This book felt like something I’ve read before.  It’s a YA fantasy about a princess whose kingdom is conquered and she, after years of living in submission, begins to rebel.  The magical system is interesting and I liked the world-building, but it didn’t feel like anything new.
    • The characters were flatter than North Dakota.  I didn’t care about any of them.
    • The plotline was predictable.
    • Ugh, love triangles need to not be a thing.
    • What I did like: It was dark.  There was torture, murder, and trauma.  But the emotions didn’t go deep enough to feel truly authentic.

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

  • Pages: 272
  • Rating: 4 stars
  • Format: Print
  • Reread
  • Thoughts:
    • What a quirky, delightful graphic novel!  Even though I had read it before, I couldn’t put it down!
    • Stevenson’s art is charming.  I was introduced to her drawings during my Tumblr days and have followed ever since.  To speak to the quality of this graphic novel, it was a finalist for the 2015 National Book Awards in Young People’s Literature.
    • Stevenson is subversive in her handling of the hero/villain narrative.  It’s not heavy-handed at all.  Her characters are wonderfully fleshed out.
    • I love it when the characters are working with extremely complex formulas and technologies and they refer to it by the blanket-statement of science.  For example, the hero character interrupts the villain in the midst of a theft and he goes, “UNHAND THAT SCIENCE!”  It makes me laugh so much.
    • Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin might be one of my favorite character names of all time.

The Road Back to You by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile

  • Pages: 237
  • Rating: 4 stars
  • Format: Print
  • Thoughts:
    • This was an insightful overview of the Enneagram typing system.  I discovered Cron’s “Typology” podcast earlier this summer and enjoyed it so much that I decided to pick up the book.
    • There wasn’t much in here that I hadn’t heard before.
    • This is the first book I’d hand to someone who is learning about the Enneagram for the first time.  The writing is so accessible and they cover all the basics: types, deadly sins, childhood wounds, types in relationships, wings, and paths for spiritual development.

This Day: New and Collected Sabbath Poems: 1979-2013 by Wendell Berry

  • Pages: 404
  • Rating: No Rating
  • Format: Print
  • Reread
  • Thoughts:
    • Every year, I do something new during my morning devotions.  In 2017, I read one poem from this collection every day at the end of my prayer time.  I loved this practice so much that, when I reached the end, I went right back to the beginning.  This was my second time through.  Because of this, I don’t feel like I can give this book a rating.
    • Over the past two years, Berry’s work has deeply nurtured my soul.  He’s become one of my favorite poets.  Lines from this collection frequently come to mind when I’m out in nature.

Why I Wake Early by Mary Oliver

  • Pages: 71
  • Rating: 4 stars
  • Format: Print
  • Thoughts:
    • Oliver has been on my radar for quite some time.  I have a friend who did her undergrad thesis on Oliver, so I asked her where to begin.  This collection was on her list and in my local library.
    • This is beautiful poetry.  Oliver’s words are a feast for the soul.
    • Oliver’s poems focus on the natural world: birds, streams, landscapes.  Through their core runs a thread of wonder.
    • There were several poems in this collection that I know I will carry with me into the future.

To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo

  • Pages: 352
  • Rating: 3 stars
  • Format: Print
  • Thoughts:
    • Adventure, swashbuckling pirate princes, and murderous sirens?  The premise for this was just my cup of tea.  Sadly, it took me ages to get into.
    • On the whole, this book dragged.  It didn’t pick up until the final pages.
    • Christo’s world building was intriguing, but could have been stronger.  There were so many countries/islands with so many mythologies and purposes, I had a hard time keeping them straight.  A map would have been wonderful.
    • While Elian and Lira’s relationship was relatively predictable, I loved their dynamics.  What can I say?  I’m a sucker for a story where the couple goes from hating to loving each other.

  • See you next month for another recap!

    For more of my reading adventures, add me on Goodreads

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5 thoughts on “Reading Recap: August 2018

  1. Lori @ Betwined Reads September 3, 2018 / 9:40 am

    I love YA and can relate to the disappointment of picking up one too many in a row of novels that just don’t capture my interest or attention. I’m switching up my reading to non-fiction and contemporary after I finish my current read, Rebel Spring.

    I don’t really like to read poetry, but I’m now interested in Why I Wake Early. I like to be an early bird and feel like maybe this collection would speak to me, so I’ve added it to my “Want to Read” shelf on Goodreads ^_^

    • Amelia September 5, 2018 / 12:41 pm

      Hi, Lori! It can be so discouraging to constantly pick up books that don’t catch your attention! I don’t know why, but YA fiction just hasn’t been sticking lately. Maybe it’s time for me to switch up my genres as well. Is Rebel Spring part of the Falling Kingdoms series by Morgan Rhodes?

      I really loved the Mary Oliver poetry, I hope you’re able to pick it up sometime. The poems are all pretty short, so they might be a great place to start if you’re not a big poetry reader. 🙂

      • Lori @ Betwined Reads September 5, 2018 / 1:02 pm

        Yes, Rebel Spring is the 2nd book in the Falling Kingdoms series. I’m still reading it. I just need to power through!

      • Amelia September 5, 2018 / 1:24 pm

        I had such a hard time with those books–I think I got three or four in and gave up.

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