Non-Fiction Round Up

I’ve been reading quite a bit of non-fiction over the past few months, so I thought I’d share some of the more interesting titles along with a short review of each. I try to read both in and out of my comfort zone so I get information from all viewpoints.

Confessions of A Secular Jesus Follower
by Tom Krattenmaker

Tom Krattenmaker is a USA Today columnist on religion whose writings have appeared in many publications. In this book, he shares how one can follow the teachings of Jesus without confessions_jesusprofessing to be a born-again Christian.  I was pretty fascinated by this book. As a life-long conservative Christian, it was hard to wrap my brain around the concept of a secular Jesus follower. The author is very clear that he follows the teachings and examples Jesus set forth in His time on earth but he rejects the notion of salvation or heaven/hell.

While I think it’s commendable that he’s choosing to live his life the way Jesus taught, I feel he misses the point of Christianity all together. We’re saved by grace and have a sin nature so even if we try to lead a perfect life, we can’t. Which is why not everyone will simply do good because they can – without Jesus as our Savior, evil and sin creeps in causing all that is bad in this world.  Still, this was a really interesting read and very thought provoking. It sparks a little bit of a challenge to Christians and non-Christians to live more compassionate lives.

The Happiness Effect: How Social Media is Driving A Generation to Appear Perfect at Any Cost
by Donna Freitas61gcHkEepOL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

Social media is meant to connect us to each other, especially when families and friends live hundreds of miles apart and friends. While it’s a great tool for keeping in touch, it’s also turning us in to narcissists, bullies and liars.

In this book, Freitas  interviews over 200 students and it’s mostly essays on how social media is affecting them. While the book was interesting, it wasn’t quite what I expected. Maybe it’s because I’m in the generation that uses Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter constantly but I didn’t find out anything that shocking. I would definitely recommend it as a source for a research paper and others who might be interested in how social media is affection our youth’s culture and perception of the world around them.

Women Who Work
by Ivanka Trump

51kauwY0hJL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_ A guide for women starting out in their careers with the intention of equipping the reader with the best tools and advice on how to navigate interviews, shifting careers, taking on leadership roles and balancing family and work.

The good: there is some worthwhile advice here for young women starting out in their careers although I doubt most people will get past the Trump name and actually give it an unbiased read.

The bad: Ivanka was born in to privilege. That’s not to say she doesn’t work hard but she definitely has had an advantage over most people. Also, she relies way to heavily on quotes and thoughts from other people to flesh out the content, which I feel is lazy writing.

The verdict: not terrible but there are better reading options out there, like…

#GirlBoss
by Sophia Amoruso

A self-made entrepreneur, Sophia Amoruso went from sketchy teen to successful owner18667945._UY475_SS475_ of the online Vintage shop Nasty Gal. I especially LOVED the fact that right off the bat, she states #GirlBoss is not feminist manifesto and opens with:

“Is 2014 a new era of feminism where we don’t have to talk about it? I don’t know, but I want to pretend it is. I’m not going to lie — it’s insulting to be praised for being a woman with no college degree. But then, I’m aware that this is also to my advantage: I can show up to a meeting and blow people away just by being my street-educated self. I, along with countless other #GIRLBOSSes who are profiled in this book, girls who are reading this book, and the girls who are yet to become a #GIRLBOSS will not do it by whining — but by fighting. You don’t get taken seriously by asking someone to take you seriously. You’ve got to show up and own it. If this is a man’s world, who cares? I’m still really glad to be a girl in it.”

AMEN. I get so tired of today’s whiny feminists. I’ll admit, if it hadn’t been for the Netflix show that I randomly decided to watch, I probably wouldn’t have picked this title up, but I found it to be funny, truthful and pleasantly surprising.

Daring to Drive 

by Manal Al-Sharif

In 2011, Manal Al-Sharif filmed a video of herself driving a car down the streets of Saudi Arabia. Even though there are no laws existing stating women can’t drive, it’s culturally unaccept51DTuKgAgeL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_able for women to do so. Her video went viral, she was arrested for “driving while female” and so began her path to activism.

Al-Sharif’s paints a very real picture of what it’s like for a woman to live in an Islamic country. The book is heartbreaking at times – her parents (and later her husband) beat her and both she and her sister are child victims of genital mutilation.  For a time, she embraces Islamic extremism until 9/11 happens and she begins to question how that strain of her religion could carryout such a horrific act.

An inspiring and eye opening memoir that will challenge and enlighten readers. I highly recommend this title for anyone seeking to understand Islamic culture and Women’s rights abroad.

 

 

 

 

Favorite Reads of 2016

It’s that time of year again – everyone is making their top 10 “Best of 2016” lists. It was a weird year but I still read some awesome books. This year I set a goal to read 52 books and surpassed it by reading 61! I may be able to squeeze one more in before December is over but I haven’t finished it at the time of writing this. Here are the Top 10 titles that made my #libfaves16 countdown on Twitter.

boy 10. KILL THE BOY BAND by Goldy Moldavsky

Have you ever loved a boy band or been a part of a fandom? I have (and still am)! Four friends and life-long fans of fictional British boy band The Ruperts (probably One Direction) stalk and accidentally kidnap one of the members in their hotel room right before a huge concert in New York City. Things quickly spiral out of control from there. While some of the plot is pretty over the top, this young adult title takes on the crazy, dark and hilarious world of music fandoms in a pretty accurate way.

9. HEARTLESS by Marissa Meyer

If you’ve ever wondered how the Queen of Hearts came to be such a cruel character who enjoys cutting off people’s heads, then Heartless is a must-read. Marissa Meyer, best
known for her Lunar Chronicles series, has written another stellar heartlessYA title which vividly re-imagines Lady Catherine Pinkerton of Wonderland before she became the Queen of Hearts.

 

8. ALL THE SINGLE LADIES: UNMARRIED WOMEN AND THE RISE OF AN INDEPENDENT NATION by Rebecca Traister

Rebecca Traister’s book about single women in America singlefocuses on the growing rate at which women are pursing education and careers and delaying marriage or choosing to remain single altogether. Traister takes us through feminist history beginning with the changing role of women in the home and in the workplace and delves deep into the major waves of independence
covering monumental moments such as the right to vote, equal pay, the Fair Housing Act and Roe v. Wade. Read more of my thoughts on this title in a blog I wrote earlier this year.

7. SMALL GREAT THINGS by Jodi Picoult
small-great-things-hc-400w
Jodi Picoult could have not picked a more timely moment in history for her latest novel. Known for her moving fiction that usually delves into a legal or moral dilemma, she tackles racism, Black Lives Matter, the media and cultural tension that goes along with social justice movements.  An excellent writer who knows how to craft an engaging story, choosing to write a narrative that featured an African American woman  at a time when racial tensions are high and often front page news, is a very bold move for a bestselling author. I also blogged about this one earlier this year!

6. FLYOVER NATION: YOU CAN’T RUN A COUNTY YOU’VE NEVER BEEN TO by Dana Loesch

9780399563881 There’s a great divide between how those of us in the heartland and those who live in the coastal regions view the issues affecting our culture today. Dana touches on gun control, the Black Lives Matter movement, feminism, equality and explains how each topic differs from the coastal’s point-of-view. A lot of the content is autobiographical and very personal but the subjects covered are also balanced out with research and facts. An excellent book to give to liberal friends or relatives to help them understand why Trump won the Presidential election of 2016.

5. ALL THE MISSING GIRLS by Megan Miranda

23212667Ten years apart, two women go missing in the same town. Both cases are eerily similar even though they appear to be unrelated. Told in reverse order , this page turner has lots of psychological twists and the ever popular unreliable narrator. This year’s Gone Girl.

4. TRULY MADLY GUILTY by Liane Moriarty

truly-madly-guilty-review-ew
Three seemingly happy suburban couples get together for a barbecue. It’s a nice evening , the kids and dog are happily playing – what could go wrong? Then, not one but TWO shocking incidents happen that night, causing cracks in lifelong friendships and forever altering life in the neighborhood.

The story switches back and forth between the day of the barbecue and the events that follow, yet the narrators don’t at all let on what happened. Just when you think you’ve figured it out, a new wrench is thrown in the plot and it’s not until the book’s final few pages that one truly learns the truth. Liane Moriarty weaves another suspenseful tale dealing with friendships, marriage and parenthood.

3. THE CHEMIST  by Stephenie Meyerthe-chemist-jacket

Alex is an ex-CIA agent/chemical torture specialist who’s on the run – the agency decided she knew too much and tried to take her out. So she jumps from town to town, always sleeping with her gun nearby and a gas mask on.
When she’s approached about a way out, she cautiously accepts but it means taking on one more job that turns out to be a whole lot more complicated and dangerous than it’s supposed to be. One part James Bond, one part Alias, The Chemist is a high adrenaline spy adventure and easily Stephenie Meyer’s best novel to date.

2. AND THE TREES CREPT IN by Dawn Kurtagich
28449150
Dark and gothy, this modern fairy tale is about two siblings who flee their home after an incident with their father. They seek refuge at their aunt’s home in the forest and soon it’s apparent that not only is the the crumbling old mansion haunted but their aunt is most definitely insane. The story is rich in emotion, horror and the imagery is very vivid. You will never see the ending coming. One of the very best and most unique books of 2016.

 

1. TALKING AS FAST AS I CAN by Lauren Graham
lauren-graham-big_0A must read for fans of Gilmore Girls and Parenthood! As a huge fan of Gilmore Girls, I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Lauren Graham’s life, her time on the show and her chapter about Someday, Someday, Maybe – the fiction book she wrote a few years ago. Graham is witty, personable and her memoir arrived just in time for the Gilmore Girls Revival. I read it in a couple hours and just like the show, it left me wanting more. My favorite book of 2016 and the best non-fiction autobiography of the year.

 
Honorable Mentions: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – J.K. Rowling, Party of One – Dave Holmes, There Goes My Social Life – Stacy Dash, The Last Star – Rick Yancey, Sorry Not Sorry – Naya Rivera and Settle for More – Megyn Kelly.

What’s the Next Big Thing in Young Adult literature?

Since the Divergent and Hunger Games series have wrapped up their sagas, teens may be looking for the next big thing. There aren’t a lot of series getting much buzz right now and it seems like dystopian is dead. Vampires certainly are and zombies may be on their way out too. What does seem to be emerging is a trend are stories featuring characters with special abilities – maybe YA authors are cashing in on the popularity of superheroes?

Here are a few titles that I’ve recently read that I think could be the next big thing at the library, bookstores and eventually the box office.

Red_Queen_book_cover

 

The Red Queen
by Victoria Aveyard

Mare Barrow lives in a world that’s divided by blood – those who bleed red are the poor commoners, destined to a life of poverty. The silver bloods are the elites in society who also possess super-human powers and strengths.

After a series of unfortunate events and a chance encounter with a prince, Mare discovers she has special abilities of her own. In the wake of a Red rebellion, the royal family forces her to hide her true identity, claiming she’s of Silver lineage and betrothing her to their son. The rebels can’t be silenced though and Mare’s abilities play a crucial role in the impending revolution.

The Red Queen is a mix of The Hunger Games, X-Men and Game of Thrones. Sounds like a weird combination but it surprisingly works. While the book isn’t especially original and some of the plot twist are predictable, it’s still an entertaining and action packed story.

 

The 5th Wave
by Rick Yancy

16101128

Sixteen year old Cassie Sullivan is trying to survive on her own after a series of alien invasions, called waves, that have begun wiping the planet of human life. She’s already lost both parents and she last saw her little brother waving from the back of a school bus on his way to safety at a nearby military base…or so she thought.

The aliens know she’s out there though and they’ve sent a “Silencer”to track her down and kill her. What they didn’t plan on is a very real, very human connection that forms between Cassie and her would be assailant.

Part War of the Worlds and part Falling Skies, The 5th Wave is a high octane survival story that will appeal to both guys, gals and their parents. Cassie is the main protagonist, but the chapters alternate between her point of view and other main characters in the novel until all their stories meet at the end. The movie version didn’t do so well at the box office, but the book is a well written, engaging story that will leave teens eager for the next installment, The Infinite Sea.

 

missperegrine_334x518

Miss Perigrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
by Ransom Riggs

Don’t let the cover fool you – this book is not a horror story! Instead, brace yourself for a time traveling adventure as Jacob Portman, who sets out to find out who his recently deceased grandfather really is, stumbles upon a portal that takes him back to Wales during WWII.

There he discovers the orphanage his grandfather grew up in, a bunch of mysterious children with super powers and a dangerous monster that’s out to kill them all.

Part one in a trilogy, Miss Perigrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is a fascinating story that uses photographs to enhance the plot and reader’s experience. Characters are extremely well developed and the story unlike any you will ever read. The books have been wildly popular for a few years now, but with the movie version set to hit theaters in August, expect a rush of new fans to the series.