The Au Pair by Emma Rous | Advance Reader’s Copy Review

Au Pair Review

Title: The Au Pair
Author: Emma Rous
My rating: 4.5 / 5
Is it worth reading? If you love mystery and suspense, slow-revelations-style character development, and contrasting spooky/cozy atmosphere, this is a great book for you.
When does it come out? January 8, 2019
Random gushing: I love the cover of this book. It’s one of those covers that doesn’t disappoint you and fits in perfectly with the content of the book. Can’t wait to see this one on the shelves!

 

>>SPOILER FREE REVIEW<<

Summary:

After her father’s accidental death, Seraphine Mayes seeks solace in old family albums. That’s when she discovers a photograph she’s never seen before—of her mother serenely holding one, not two, babies on the day she and her twin brother were born. Hours after the photo was taken, her mother would throw herself from the cliffs behind their idyllic countryside estate, and the events surrounding the birth of the Mayes twins would become the stuff of local legend … tales of sprites and switched babies, changelings and a curse upon all twins born at Summerbourne. But who is Seraphine, really?

Review:

I was first intrigued by the cover of this book, and let me tell you—and like the girl on the cover, it will keep you looking back over your shoulder the whole time, hoping you don’t find a knife waiting for you.

Each chapter shifts between two perspectives—Seraphine in the present day, and Laura (the au pair) in the past. I love how this story slowly unfolds as the circumstances become more dire in each narrator’s story. I also appreciated how the author kept me guessing the whole time—just who are these children and where did they come from? Rous’ sense of place and atmosphere is wonderful. It made me want to sip tea in Summerbourne and run down to a rocky beach. But while sometimes the story felt cheery and homey, at other times it was eerie and mysterious (this always seemed to happen when I was reading it at night!).

I also liked Seraphine’s internal dialogue of self-doubt. Is she just being crazy and paranoid? Is she just grasping at straws to stay connected to her dead father? Or has she been ignoring her own intuition her entire life?

The story has a mostly satisfying ending (even some romance!), although we never know the extent of the accused character’s true evil or the extent of Ruth’s mental illness.

My only critique was that the first chapter felt a bit bumpy to me. I just didn’t initially buy into Seraphine’s sudden suspicions based on one photograph. But as the story unfolds, we see how little dominoes falling over the course of her life have lead her to this place of suspicion.

This one ticked all the boxes for me: Great mystery, interesting characters, intricate plot development, great sense of place, and quick read. Pick up a copy this January!

Thanks to NetGalley and Berkley Publishing Group for an early copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The Queen of the Tearling Series | Book Review

Titles: The Queen of the Tearling, The Invasion of the Tearling, The Fate of the Tearling
Author: Erika Johansen
My rating: 4 / 5
Genre: Fantasy
Is it worth reading? Definitely. If you love fantasy, action, politics, and magic sapphires, this is the series for you. It’s central plot conflict stretches across three books, making the resolution exciting and (mostly) satisfying.

 

THERE WILL BE SPOILERS AHEAD. DON’T WORRY—I’LL GIVE YOU PLENTY OF WARNING.

Great, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s get started.

I’ve been on a bit of a fantasy kick lately. After the Tearling series, I read Uprooted by Naomi Novik (oh my word. so. good.), and I’m currently reading Six of Crows.

Although I love the genre, I’m realizing that I’m very picky when it comes to fantasy. (Kind of like choosing a Netflix show, if I’m going to commit to 6 seasons, it has to be good).

It’s so easy for fantasy to become cheesy and silly (especially in YA—sorry YA lovers!). And one of my top requirements for good fantasy is a fully fleshed out world. Without good world-building, fantasy flops for me.

This series is not nearly as detailed or lush as The Name of the Wind or Game of Thrones, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The Tearling series relies largely on intrigue and action to keep the story moving, and I found it to be a nice change of pace.

A quick glance at Goodreads will tell you that there are a lot of mixed feelings about this series. Some loved it, some hated it, some were extremely offended by it (still trying to figure out why). Some of my favorite reviewers were split down the middle. Just another reminder to try things for yourself sometimes before writing them off!

This book had a lot of the quick-read, can’t-put-it-down elements I like about YA books, without all the annoying things I hate about YA books (hormones, unrealistic love, hormones, drama, hormones).

Let’s dive in.

The Good

Kelsea

First of all, I have never read a book with a main character like Queen Kelsea. I’m sure there are many similar characters out there, but for me, this was a first.

I love that Kelsea is scared and strong and fiercely loves her kingdom. I even like that anger seems to be her greatest vice (uncommon in female characters, in my reading experience).

In the second and third books, I liked how she struggled with her own growing internal darkness…a power that was starting to spiral out of control and into evil. To me, a hero or heroine who doesn’t face some sort of darkness and learn to overcome it is a rather flat, unrealistic sort of hero.

I like that Kelsea isn’t perfect. She has a tendency to use people (especially Pen), gives in to indecision and despair at times, and struggles to see the big picture when she’s trying to do the right thing. She’s complex, and that makes her interesting.

What I found interesting was that this story was so good without having any kind of strong romantic angle. Kelsea is more concerned with the work of rebuilding and improving her kingdom than allowing a romance—even a good romance—to interfere with her work.

The Villains

The Tearling series has a LOT of villains. You have pedophiles, child zombies, dark queens, immortal villains-turned-good-guys, traffickers, and more. The evil does a good job of highlighting the light—the good that Kelsea is striving for. And many of the bad guys are wonderfully three-dimensional. This further highlights the fact that the most believable characters are usually not completely good or completely evil. Our childhood experiences and our pasts radically impact our present—just ask the Queen of Mortmesne.

The World Building

Although I thought the world was fleshed out enough, I don’t think the series would have suffered from a few more chapters that gave us more detail. I wanted to know more! For example, on one side of the spectrum, I think of 11/22/64 by Stephen King, in which the world was so fully fleshed that I almost got bored because the action seemed secondary to the world. On the other side are works like The Selection by Kiera Cass, in which the world is barely explained—leaving huge plot holes and frustration for the reader. The Tearling series falls somewhere in the middle.

The Bad

This was by no means a perfect series. For me, the good mostly outweighed the bad, except in a few points.

Subplot vs. Plot

I’m not sure if this is a negative or not, but sometimes I found the subplot of Lily’s and Katie’s stories (in books two and three) more interesting than Kelsea’s story. Granted, it all mingles together the closer you get to the end, but I found myself flying through the Lily/Katie passages and slowing down in the Kelsea ones. Especially in book two, it felt like the non-Lily portions of the book mostly involved Kelsea stumbling around, stressing herself out, and trying to figure out how she was going to stop the approaching Mortmesne army (aka, nothing really happened and the lack of action edged on boring).

Unanswered Questions

At the end of the series, all of the mysteries are not explained or solved. I’ve read a few places that Johansen may be working on more books about Tearling, so maybe more will be revealed. I wanted more explanation. How did William Tear get the sapphire in the first place? Does the Tearling exist in another dimension, or in a different time? Does it exist during the same time as the old world, but is impossible to find without a sapphire? What happens if you sail away in God’s Ocean? Again, this comes back to the world building. A few more chapters would have made me happy.

For the most part, I was left intrigued rather than irritated. Hopefully we will learn more soon.

Touchy Subjects

Just as a warning to sensitive readers, this series does tackle some heavy issues. An entire family has been physically and sexually abused. Human subjects are experimented on in the Queen of Mortmesne’s laboratory. A general has a sexual taste for children, and expects them as part of his plunder. An entire underground network of child fighters, prostitutes, and more exists in New London. Humans are trafficked and sent to Mortmesne in payment. There is the violence of war, and from Kelsea herself. There is some sex, but only a few short scenes. One character experiments with the occult and raises an army of dead children.

Treatment of Religion

Oddly enough, I found this series quite spiritual in unexpected ways.

If you’ve read The Handmaid’s Tale, the version of Christianity in the Tearling series will seem familiar. “God’s Church” is exploitative, greedy, and hypocritical. It’s religion twisted to suit man’s lusts, a weapon of control, and a comfort for the weak-minded and fearful.

Basically, it’s what Christianity would be without Jesus.

I didn’t find it offensive, because it’s clearly a caricature of what following Christ actually looks like. That’s not to say there aren’t church leaders exploiting followers both today and throughout history, but in reading Christ’s words, I’m comforted that Christ never advocates or condones such corruption.

In the midst of all the “Christian” corruption, I was pleased to find a grain of truth central motivation of all the “good” characters in the book—the longing for a better world. I believe we all share this central longing.

One of the core reasons I believe Christianity is true is because it’s the only thing that makes the world make sense to me. When I see the despair, the suffering, and the hurt in our world today and throughout history (similar to the corruption of the Tearling), I can’t help but long for a better world. I’m so thankful to have hope and confidence that one day Christ will set all things to rights—He alone will bring about the better world.

Although the Tearling books touch on our universal longing for a world without evil, the solution—establishing a utopia—is one that I don’t believe will ever be fully realized. We all have the capacity for good and evil inside us, but without Christ, we have no hope of establishing anything fully good and perfect.

But that also doesn’t mean we should sit back and do nothing until Christ returns. We have a responsibility to fight against injustice, speak the truth, stand up for what is good and true, love relentlessly, and say no to evil at every turn. We have work to do. It won’t be a utopia, but it can be good.

That Ending

>>SPOILERS AHEAD<<

I’m still not sure how I feel about it.

Although I didn’t see the ending coming, it was an interesting twist on the whole series. On the other hand, it felt like a bit of a cop-out…like Johansen couldn’t figure out a good way to wrap up the series, so she just went with the “change-the-course-of-the-future” route instead of figuring out a way to preserve the characters, setting, and struggle we’ve come to care about.

Here are the two main problems with the ending:

One: As mentioned, I don’t really believe true utopias are possible. Somehow we’re supposed to believe that after Kelsea kills Row Finn, the fallen son determined to destroy his father’s work (an intentional or unintentional analogy to Satan, Christ, and God?), it sets off a chain of events that leads to Utopia finally being realized in the Tearling.

As much as it makes for a happy ending, I just have a hard time believing that not one greedy, power-hungry, or selfish individual wouldn’t rise up against the common good. I just can’t suspend disbelief enough to think that all a utopia needs is the right conditions, and suddenly everyone will care about the common good and stop being selfish.

Two: The ending also felt odd because Kelsea is such a powerful and dynamic character that I have a hard time seeing her being content to live in anonymity for the rest of her life. As we saw in the other two books, Kelsea is constantly battling with a dark side. Despite the fact that Kelsea’s temptation with darkness seems to originate from Row’s sapphires, I think her struggle will always be internal. And I think she loves being powerful, even if she uses her power for good.

And the part where Kelsea sees the sapphires in a museum and seems to be tempted to take them makes me wonder … A) How has no one ever been tempted by their power?! B) Is Kelsea going to take them back to try and regain her old life??

I guess we’ll just have to wait to find out. The ending didn’t ruin the series for me, but it just wasn’t as satisfying as I had hoped. It didn’t ring true to the norms of the series. I’m just not sure I believe it.

Overall, I really liked this series,  and would recommend them to any fantasy lover. I look forward to reading whatever Johansen writes next!

14 Agatha Christie books, ranked

I. Love. Agatha.

I am not a slasher, psychological thriller, criminal minds mystery lover. I unashamedly love cozy mysteries, and Agatha Christie is one of my favorite mystery authors.

One of my lifelong goals is to read every single Agatha Christie book ever written, but I have a feeling this will be a lifelong pursuit (she wrote 70+ books!). Last year, I knocked several more Christies off my list, and I’ve finally read enough to begin a ranking list of my favorites.

I know some readers feel Christie mysteries are either a hit or miss, and while I’ve definitely read some misses, for the most part I find Christie’s books to be consistently enjoyable. Hopefully this list will help you select your next cozy read from the Queen of Mystery:

1. And Then There Were None

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Ten men and women are mysteriously summoned to an island where they are forced to reconcile with their sins—as an unknown killer begins to pick them off one by one.

Utter. Brilliance. This is probably Agatha Christie’s most well-known work, and for good reason. It’s twisty, chilling, and just plain clever.  This was also the first Agatha Christie book I ever read. As The Lord of the Rings is a must-read for any fantasy lover, And Then There Were None is required reading for mystery lovers.

Bonus: The 2015 mini-series is incredibly well done. Gave me chills and I even knew what was coming!

 

2. Death on the Nile – Hercule Poirot

51zsVKc2zeL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_A beautiful young woman’s mysterious death shatters a peaceful cruise on the Nile, but Hercule Poirot is determined to find the killer who’s still onboard.

This is one of my favorite Hercule Poirot mysteries. The setting is exotic, the mystery is smart, and the reveal is extremely satisfying! I didn’t see the ending coming, and for me, that’s the mark of a great mystery. What I love most is that this book is that it’s transporting—meaning that I felt like I was floating down the Nile with Hercule Poirot. The atmosphere is fantastic!

Bonus: Rumor has it that Death on the Nile will be the sequel to the recent Murder on the Orient Express movie!

 

3. The Murder at the Vicarage – Miss Marple

516wvvl6WLL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_I’ve talked about Murder at the Vicarage here and here, so I think it’s safe to say that I LOVED THIS BOOK. Before I gave Miss Marple a try, I was convinced there could be nothing interesting about a little old lady solving crimes (judgmental, I know!). But I’ll fully admit it: I was wrong!

This mystery was not what I was expecting—Miss Marple is not the main player in the story (like in many Poirot books), but her expertise in “human nature” is ultimately what saves the day.

 

 

 

4. Murder on the Orient Express – Hercule Poirot

u341fevwh7ngw7nlvxickikw2pmyaglw8rbmsyhbriag5ouet9tcq9f2xjffxkzsjelhh1dotzfe59az8eyzmcztb0of4sfmxkiawsw1oyzkgsradzgmvyczu.pngPoirot must draw from all his resources to find the killer of a most-loathed man from among thirteen passengers on the Orient Express.

This book had one of the most surprising endings of any mystery book I’ve ever read. I definitely recommend reading the book if you’ve only seen the movie. While I loved Kenneth Branagh’s recent film adaptation, the book’s resolution is much more satisfying. This is one of Christie’s most famous novels, and for good reason.

 

 

 

5. The Mystery of the Blue Train – Hercule Poirot

The-Mystery-of-the-Blue-TrainThe Mystery of the Blue Train spans across Europe as Poirot investigates the death of a beautiful young woman on a train to the Mediterranean … and the jewel that lead to her demise.

This one starts out a bit unconventionally—cursed jewels, gangs, gypsies—but soon settles into a familiar Poirot storyline.  I never suspected the killer, and like Death on the Nile, you’re pulled into a world of intrigue, passion, and European decadence. It’s one of my favorite Christie audiobooks too!

 

 

 

6. The Moving Finger – Miss Marple

5141B9s+zWL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_The village of Lymstock seems perfectly peaceful, until a series of vicious anonymous letters sends everyone into an uproar … leading one villager to commit suicide.

Sadly, this book doesn’t feature much of Miss Marple—she sort of swoops in at the end and solves the mystery—but the narrator is (mostly) likable and the plot is deliciously twisty. The only thing I didn’t really like was the relationship between Jerry (the narrator) and Megan Hunter. Throughout the story she’s portrayed as a 20-year-old who acts more like a 10-year-old in dress and behavior, which makes Jerry’s attraction to her seem kind of creepy. But overall, I loved how the characters evolved throughout the story, and how the murderer (as usual) was the person I least expected! Megan’s heroism helps save the day, and I found this Christie a thoroughly satisfying read.

 

7. A Murder is Announced – Miss Marple

51nmzJynQYL._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_The whole village is aflutter when a murder announcement is placed in the local paper—and local residents can’t resist coming to watch!

At first, I thought I wasn’t going to be able to finish this one. The first few chapters introducing all the characters were just boring. Then, the “murder attempt” was so ridiculous I was almost embarrassed for the characters! “How can this book be on so many top lists?!” I wondered. But once you get past the “setting the stage” portion of the book, it gets really good.

This one also features plenty of Miss Marple, and I never saw the ending coming! Highly recommend.

 

8. The Regatta Mystery (and Other Stories)

x500I usually avoid short stories like the plague. I don’t know why … something about the shortness of short stories always seems to leave me wanting more. I actually only picked this book up because I wanted to read something short to hit my 2017 reading goals.

So, imagine my surprise when I thoroughly enjoyed this collection! Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple, and Parker Pyne all make appearances. Far from being disappointing, these quick, punchy stories get right to the mystery and resolution quickly. I enjoyed listening in short spurts as I did chores around the house. It was great to not feel pressured to listen for long periods of time while still having the satisfaction of listening to a complete story.

 

9. The A.B.C. Murders – Hercule Poirot

71EqbWRE9MLThe A.B.C. Murders is arguably a fan favorite—and it is extremely clever, twisty, and has a wonderfully creepy serial killer who seems to be murdering his way through the alphabet.

Most of the build up was a little slow for me. The payoff at the end was excellent, but unfortunately this one gets low marks from me because I can’t stand Poirot’s friend Captain Arthur Hastings. I know he’s a foil to Poirot’s genius, but still. *Begin rant* Besides the fact that he’s one of the most idiotic characters ever written, his internal monologue is painful. Painful. You’d think he would stop questioning Poirot’s abilities … how many investigations has he helped Poirot with at this point?! But no, he always thinks he knows better than Poirot and always ends up being amazed that Poirot figured out the crime without any help from him. Shocker! *Rant Over*

You’ll have to decide for yourself what you think about Hastings, but The A.B.C. Murders is definitely still worth the read.

 

10. Ordeal by Innocence

ORDEAL BY INNOCENCEAPBAn interesting premise—a man awakes from amnesia only to realize he could have provided an alibi for a man convicted in a murder trial. His guilt leads him to confess to the family, and he is surprised to discover they are displeased. Jacko, the black sheep of the family, was the one person they all hoped was guilty.

This one gets lower marks for a few reasons. First, I essentially figured out the mystery before the reveal, one of the main characters was just plain annoying (and yet for some reason everyone seemed to be in love with her), and lastly, it purports some ideas about mothering and adoption that I’m still not sure about. One of the main sources of conflict in the story is that the matriarch of the family (the one murdered), cannot see people as they really are, and thus is overbearing in the extreme. This causes resentment, anger, and frustration for all the adopted Argyle children. I am not adopted, so I cannot speak to what it’s like to be part of an adopted family, but it seems like at times the book is implying that adopted children can never truly love or trust a family they’ve been adopted into.

 

11. Endless Night

16366Every Night & every Morn 
Some to Misery are Born 
Every Morn and every Night 
Some are Born to sweet delight 
Some are Born to sweet delight 
Some are Born to Endless Night 
– from Auguries of Innocence, by William Blake

This is probably one of the creepier Agatha Christie novels I’ve ever read, and perhaps that’s why I wasn’t a huge fan. The mixture of psychological suspense, obsession with architecture, disturbing passion, and that crazy twist at the end … it’s definitely not what you expect from a typical Christie. And that’s ok. It just wasn’t exactly my cup of Earl Grey tea. For much of the book, I didn’t know where the story was going, and I certainly disliked Michael Rodgers as the narrator. Add to that the creepy poem (quoted above) that is sung by one of the main characters at different points throughout the book, and you have a recipe for an eerie thriller.

Endless Night is considered one of Christie’s best, and in fact, is one of her own favorite works. It’s worth the read, but don’t expect it to be Agatha Christie business as usual!

 

12. The Mysterious Affair at Styles – Hercule Poirot

The-Mysterious-Affair-at-StylesWho killed the wealthy heiress? Was it her new husband? Her stepsons? Her housekeeper or her nurse? And how did they get into her locked chambers?

This is another Captain Hastings + Poirot mystery. As stated above, I don’t like Poirot books that feature Hastings. He’s like a more ditsy version of Dr. Watson. Which makes me wonder if Christie was trying to play off the Sherlock Holmes/Watson dynamic in these books? I suppose the Watson of the original Sherlock Holmes books was dazzled by Sherlock in a way that could be annoying, but that’s another discussion.

Back to this book. Besides my dislike for Hastings, I just didn’t think this was a very interesting mystery. Keeping track of the characters was more difficult than usual, and I suspected the resolution before it happened. Basically, a disappointing Poirot book all around. I recommend skipping this one.

 

13. Hallowe’en Party – Hercule Poirot

16307An annoying teenager is drowned in a tub of apples during a Halloween party … not long after she was heard bragging that she witnessed a murder. Was she crying wolf again? Or was she finally telling the truth?

I read this book for Halloween because I love reading holiday-themed books. But goodness … this was disappointing. I had to keep forcing myself to finish and I was very close to having the whole thing figured out two-thirds of the way in. The whole plot felt odd and disjointed. I left with the feeling that this book was just an excuse to have a book that centered around Halloween—which is really a shame. I don’t recommend this one!

 

 

14. The Seven Dials Mystery – Superintendent Battle

9780062074164-us-300A group of young adults decide to play a prank on their friend who is known for oversleeping—they place eight alarm clocks in his room, only to discover he is dead the next morning. Soon, the survivors are involved with a secret society and international spy ring before discovering the truth of their friend’s murder.

The worst Christie I’ve read to date. The characters were incredibly one-dimensional, pompous, and ridiculous. I barely recognized Christie’s voice—the story is too light and the characters too petty. It was also annoying how every single character said, “Oh!” before they began a line of dialogue. Superintendent Battle barely played a role in the story at all (even less than Miss Marple), which seems like a waste.

The twist at the end redeemed it a little, but this book was the closest I’ve come to DNF-ing a Christie book. I just couldn’t take the plot (or a character named “Bundle”) seriously. I love this review on Goodreads about the book and recommend you read it if you’re still unsure.

On almost hitting my reading goals, favorite books of 2017, and more

What a turbulent, change-filled, and exhausting year 2017 has been.

Besides the craziness happening in the world at large, this has been one of the most difficult years of my life. When I started this blog back in January of last year (here’s my first review!), I had no clue how much things would change in my personal life, and how little blog writing I would actually get done this year.

My husband and I moved across the country. I spent a stressful summer looking for a job while working from home (torture for an extrovert). I started graduate school. We moved again. I started a new job. My husband started his own business. I’m tired just writing all of that.

Basically, life has been bananas (and I mean B-A-N-A-N-A-S) for months.

And here, on the fresh cusp of a new year, I finally feel like the dust may slowly be starting to settle. The stress about the business is still there. The endless pile of to-do’s are still there. The dirty dishes are ALWAYS there.

But it’s difficult for me to feel too pessimistic at the start of a new year. Something about a new year feels like a fresh start…a new chance to be a better version of myself, to grow and improve, and to reflect on what did and didn’t work last year.

What didn’t work: Moving twice within six months. Never again.

What did work: Reading more books, finding a library job I love, and taking the plunge into grad school in a field that excites me.

Still in progress: Forming community and finding new friends in a new place.

Today, I hope you have a chance to reflect on 2017 and what obstacles you have overcome in your own life this year. Last January, I never would have imagine how much upheaval we would experience this year. If I had known, I probably wouldn’t have had the courage to even begin.

But here I am, still alive somehow, on the other end of 2017. You can do it too. I hope you have a truly marvelous 2018!

2017

So close…

On to book matters:

For 2017, I had a goal of reading 40 books. Maybe something about not having friends or lots of free time this summer helped me go past my goal goal until it was a week before January 1, and I was at 48 books. I wanted sooooo badly to hit 50 (I’ve never read 50!), but having family in town (among other excuses), meant that I was finishing my last book of the year, On Tyranny by Timothy Snyder last night at 11:30 p.m.

I only read 49.

The anal part of me is dying inside.

I know I should be glad that I could read nine books over my initial goal, but of course all I can think about is that one measly little book I somehow couldn’t manage to finish. Sigh.

Next year.

Best of the best of 2017

I read so many good books this year. So many. Here are some highlights:

  • I discovered Louise Penny’s wonderful Chief Inspector Gamache series.
  • I chipped 4 (almost 5!) more Agatha Christie books off my lifetime list.
  • I only read two Jane Austen adaptations instead of the usual five.
  • I read 20 nonfiction books—a new record for this fiction lover!
  • I even read one short story collection—The Mistletoe Murder by P.D. James—and discovered I don’t hate short stories!

Since choosing one favorite book is obviously impossible, these were my favorite books by genre. Apparently I only read three genres:

Fiction

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The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

Not since The Lord of the Rings have I found a fantasy that so captured my imagination like this one. I love the format of the story too—as Kvothe tells the story in flashbacks, it keeps you itching to know more. Part hero epic, part action adventure, part love story, Rothfuss’ world feels as real as Middle Earth. It’s a huge book, but it reads fast.

 

Honorable mentions:

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Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

I didn’t expect to like this one as much as I did. I honestly thought it was going to be something like desperate housewives with petty, shallow characters crying in their Mercedes convertibles and fighting over popularity. I was so wrong. I loved how this book highlights the secret burdens and pains we all face. The twist at the end was great too! Don’t go in expecting a full-fledged mystery or thriller. It’s a little of both but not fully either.

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Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin

I’ve already talked about what I love about this book over here, but if you haven’t picked this one up yet, you should. The audio version is also fantastic. I laughed out loud and also was forced to think about my own assumptions following scandal.

 

Nonfiction

liturgy of the ordinary tish harrison warren nonfiction picks

Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Harrison Warren

This was such a readable and thought-provoking work. I won’t rehash everything I’ve already said about this one, but I really recommend you pick this up if you’re searching for significance in the everyday, ordinary parts of your life. This book is a reminder that we can be worshipful even in the most seemingly insignificant moments.

Bonus: It’s Christianity Today’s 2018 Book of the Year!

 

Honorable mentions:

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Booked by Karen Swallow Prior

I actually had Dr. Prior for a class in college, and I remember this (her first book) coming out. But it was only this year that I picked it up for myself, and I am so glad that I did! Dr. Prior reflects on different points in her life and the books that shaped those times. I loved the combination of memoir + love letter to reading. She also has some seriously important insights on how reading is one of the greatest way we can grow and mature. (I was even inspired to finally give Great Expectations a try!)

the road back to you ian morgan cron enneagram

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

I loved learning about the Enneagram from this book. I’ve reflected a lot this year on my type and what role fear (the Type 6’s great struggle) plays in my life. Before reading this book, I didn’t realize how much fear impacted my choices. Read this book if you want to know yourself better! (And read here for a more detailed review.)

9780147526793

Evicted by Mathew Desmond

I couldn’t have said it any better than Roxanne Gay when she reviewed this book: “The brutal truth of poverty in America is far more devastating than any fiction ever could be.” This book was eye-opening, tragic, and amazing. There is so much I didn’t know or understand about eviction until I read this book. I was angry and enlightened. This is an incredibly important read.

Bonus: It won the Pulitzer Prize and was named a Top 10 Best Book by the New York Times Book Review in 2016.

 

Mystery

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The Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie

I have read so many great mystery books this year, but this one stands out as the one that surprised me the most. I can’t wait to read more Agatha Christie in 2018! Read more here about how I changed my mind about Miss Marple.

 

Honorable  mentions:

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Still Life by Louise Penny

I have Anne Bogel over at Modern Mrs Darcy and What Should I Read Next? to thank for convincing me to try Louise Penny. I love this series! Especially now that we live in a small mountain town, I feel right at home in Three Pines as Chief Inspector Gamache solves mysteries and reflects on the simple pleasures of life. I also appreciate how Penny wrestles with human nature and analyzes her character’s fears, joys, and struggles throughout the series. I’m on book four now and I can’t wait to read book five!

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Death Comes to Pemberly by P.D. James

This was my first P.D. James book. I watched the mini-series on Netflix and enjoyed it, so I decided to pick up the book. I’ve never read a Jane Austen retelling that is also a mystery, so this was an interesting departure. It’s a light, fun read if you enjoy imagining the world of Pride and Prejudice after the Darcy wedding.

The last three things I’ve read (plus why I disappeared again)

Three books you should read ASAP. Also, why I disappeared again.

It’s been a while. Again. I swore once things settled down with the move out to Colorado, I’d regularly write again.

Whelp.

Things didn’t settle down, because almost as soon as we were unpacked, we decided to move (AGAIN) for new job opportunities. Moving for the second time in six months, starting a new job, and beginning my first semester of graduate school has meant that not only is my house literally a trainwreck, but I also haven’t had much time for writing!

Hopefully, that will change now.

In the meantime, here are three quick books I have managed to read in my spare time that I think you should pick up ASAP:

1. Young Jane Young, by Gabrielle Zevin

Young Jane Young book cover

I was too young to remember the Monica Lewinsky scandal, but this book was extremely powerful nonetheless.

Not only does it highlight the double standards for women caught in scandal, but it also touches on the eternal nature of the internet and the practical challenges of picking your life back up after a terrible mistake. In many ways, it read like a cautionary tale about the realities of women’s reputations, but at the same time it was clearly a call for societal change.

I found myself wondering: Should we really crucify someone for the rest of their life because of a mistake they made when they were in their twenties? As a society, it’s also crucial that we recognize that the things we say online – the shame we cast on an individual – has the power to derail a life. We must wield this power cautiously, carefully, and compassionately.

But beyond being thought provoking, this book was hilarious. The audiobook is particularly great—I was cracking up on my morning commute so many times throughout the book. The only thing I didn’t like was the “choose your own adventure” section at the end. I actually checked out the physical book from my library before realizing that the other “options” were actually not options at all—they had strike-throughs (aka, you couldn’t “choose any adventure” other than the choices Aviva actually made), but that was unclear in the audio version. When I finished the audiobook, I was left wondering if there were sections of the book I hadn’t read until I got my hands on the physical book.

Overall though, I highly recommend this book. It was engaging, funny, thought-provoking, and timely.

2. Reading People by Anne Bogel

Reading People book cover

I love Ann Bogel’s podcast What Should I Read Next and her eBook deals Modern Mrs Darcy. I’ve even toyed with the idea of joining Anne’s online book club, but haven’t pulled the trigger yet. That’s why it’s weird that I don’t actually read many of her blog posts (sorry Anne!), but I love following her everywhere else online (is that weird?). Anyway, this is her first book, and it’s about personalities, which I love studying. So obviously I had to give it a try. It’s also exciting to see someone whose blog I admire be successful in writing her first book.

Going in, I wasn’t sure if I was going to enjoy an overview of different personality typing systems, since I’ve studied things like the enneagram pretty thoroughly already. Good news: Reading People was pleasantly insightful and relevant to both the personality obsessed and the beginner. What I particularly liked was Anne’s emphasis on the purpose behind personality typing: Learning to understand yourself and others better to strengthen relationships and get off the crazy-person spin cycle.

After Reading People, I recommend more in-depth analysis of the personality typing systems to learn more (The Road Back to You is a fantastic enneagram book), but as a general overview, Reading people is certainly helpful.

I also learned some things I didn’t know before—I’ve never heard of HSPs (Highly Sensitive People) before, and I also enjoyed her section on introverts and extroverts. Overall, whether you’re a personality junkie or don’t know what personality typing system might best suit your needs, this is a good overview book.

3. Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie

Murder at the Vicarage book cover

Since yesterday was the premiere of the new Murder on the Orient Express movie starring Kenneth Branagh (I saw it, loved the cinematography, and would recommend it for the most part), I’ll recommend my favorite Agatha Christie book I’ve read this year: The Murder at the Vicarage.

Every year, I try to read a few Agatha Christie books to slowly chip away at my lifelong goal of reading all 70+ of her works. I love her standalone titles, and I love Hercule Poirot. But for some reason, I have avoided Miss Marple stories like the plague. I suppose something about a little old lady solving mysteries hasn’t appealed to me—and I have no idea why.

Anyway, I finally decided to give Miss Marple her due, and boy, was I disappointed. Not in the book, but with myself. WHY HAVE I WAITED SO LONG TO READ MISS MARPLE?! The world may never know.

The Murder at the Vicarage is perhaps one of my all-time favorite Christie novels. It’s funny, twisty, and I never saw the ending coming. I also highly recommend this title on audiobook!

Great audiobook narrators, Part 1

“Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them.”

— Lemony Snicket

Picking a good audiobook isn’t just about picking the right book.

It’s about picking a voice you can listen to for the next 12 hours. I’ve written about it before, but a narrator can make or break an audiobook.

Struggling to find something you’ll enjoy? I’ve done the hard work for you.

Here are some of my favorite audiobooks by narrator:

 

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Rosamund Pike, Pride and Prejudice

Not only is Rosamund Pike my favorite Jane Bennet of all the Pride and Prejudice film adaptations, she is a marvelous narrator. Her voice is melodious and her voices for different characters are marvelous. I’ve read Pride and Prejudice more times than I can count, but listening to Pike’s narration was like hearing it for the first time. Her voices are excellent, and her delivery impeccable.

Use your free 1-month trial from Audible and fall in love with this classic again!

 

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Carey Elwes, As You Wish

If you’re a fan of The Princess Bride (especially the movie), you’ll absolutely love this audiobook. Carey Elwes (aka Wesley) narrates the story of The Princess Bride‘s journey from book to movie production. His humorous stories, wonderful voice (who could resist Wesley??), and storytelling ability is a wonderful tribute to the movie and its fans.

What I especially love about this particular audiobook is that many of the original actors narrate sections of the book from their perspective. The story of making the film is almost as hilarious as the film itself.

 

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Rob Inglis, Lord of the Rings

I love Rob Inglis’ narration. Every time I press play, I feel like I’m being wrapped up cozy blanket by the fire with a mug of tea, listening as Gandalf reads me a story. While I absolutely love Lord of the Rings, there are definitely some thick/slow parts that audiobook helps you power through.

Also if you, like me, love Lord of the Rings but hate reading the songs and poems, you’re in luck. Rob Inglis actually sings every song, so you can finally appreciate Tolkien’s poetry instead of just skipping over it.

 

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Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me

If you love listening to writers read their own books, listen to a copy of Between the World and Me next. I honestly don’t know if I would have recognized all the emotion, heartache, and passion Coates writes with if I hadn’t heard him read his own words aloud.

Beyond the fact that Coates is an excellent narrator, Between the World and Me is an excellent book, and it’s one you need to read. I didn’t have the slightest understanding of what it was like to be black in America before reading this book. I probably never will, fully. But this book was a good place to start. Listen to Ta-Nehisi Coates, and let Between the World in Me draw you one step closer to understanding, compassion, and hope.

 

Who are your favorite audiobook narrators?

 

*No affiliate links used in this post

Old book, new review: The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

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Title: The Pillars of the Earth
Author: Ken Follett
My rating: 4 / 5
Genre: Historical Fiction
Is it worth reading? Yes. For more conservative readers, there will definitely be some sections to skip over (sex, rape, violence etc.). However, despite these flaws, Follett’s world is so captivating and the drama of the cathedral’s construction is so captivating, that if you love being sucked into a new world, you’ll find much to enjoy.

 

>>SPOILER FREE REVIEW<<

This September, Ken Follett will be releasing a new book — the first since he completed the Century Trilogy (which I’m currently reading). Out in September, A Column of Fire is the third book in his Kingsbridge series.

I decided to revisit book one in the series, The Pillars of the Earth, in a new review of the 1989 epic.

First, this book is no joke. At a whopping 1,000+ pages, it’s no quick read. This is not a Harry Potter-1,000 pages that vanish all too quickly. It’s a sizable commitment. But that shouldn’t scare you away, and here’s why:

 

The weird and ugly

Let’s get the negatives out of the way first.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. But there’s definitely some disturbing content. If you’re particularly sensitive to these topics, you might want to skip on Pillars.

Graphic sex and rape: There is a lot of sex throughout, and most scenes are pretty descriptive. I found it easy to skip over them (no major plot points lost), but the amount of detail felt unnecessary. I didn’t pick up a romance novel. Be warned: One rape scene is particularly disturbing and graphic.

Plot devices: As another reviewer pointed out, sometimes the plot felt a bit methodical: Things are going well, HUGE PROBLEM, solution is discovered at the last second, repeat. It’s no surprise that Follett started out writing thrillers.

I eventually came to expect that if things were going well, it was only a matter of time until things got crappy again. Nothing is sacred. No one is invincible. Even though I knew exactly what Follett was doing, I couldn’t. Stop. Reading.

Corruption and violence: Medieval England is about what you would expect — violent, cruel, every man for himself. There are accusations of witchcraft, misogyny in its worst forms, and evil, oppressive leaders. The injustice was so despicable at some points that it took my breath away.

Despite the ugliness depicted throughout Pillars, the stories rang true. Even today, evil exists and abounds. Nothing irks me more than a story that untruthfully depicts human nature.

Now, some of the characters were almost a little too evil, and much of the sex was highly dramatized. But overall, Follett does a good job of presenting flawed, believable characters who develop throughout the story.

 

The beautiful and good

Religion and the Church: For Christian readers, one important thing to keep in mind is that Follett does not believe in God. This is part of what drew me to the book in the first place. It’s totally fascinating to me that someone who doesn’t practice Christianity would write a book about the construction of a cathedral.

Yet somehow Follett creates multi-layered, three-dimensional characters who struggle with their beliefs and wrestle with discerning how God would have them live — something Christians experience daily.

For the most part, Follett was respectful of the church (even though he doesn’t subscribe to faith himself) and Prior Philip is still one of my favorite Christian characters.

World building: This is Follett’s true triumph. The world that he weaves is beautifully intricate and surprisingly real. The layered, rich world-building alone made it worth skipping over all the negative parts.

I’m amazed at how Follett has the ability to capture life in a different time and place, so that you really start to believe you’re immersed in medieval England. I was completely sucked into a different time and place.

Every time I read a Follett, I learn something new about history and people. I know everyone doesn’t love learning (so tragic), but when you read Follett, it doesn’t feel like learning. That’s the beauty of it.

I do wish the book had included a diagram of a cathedral. I’m not familiar with cathedral architecture and terms, and I ended up searching cathedrals online so I could visualize the descriptions of the construction.

 

Why I’m not interested in World Without End

This brings me to why I haven’t read the sequel, World Without End, and why I probably won’t be reading A Column of Fire.

It’s important to note that World Without End was written 20 years after Pillars. Several friends who have read both books (and many Goodreads reviews) point out that much of Follett’s political and personal philosophy seems to have shifted in the years since Pillars was published.

Whereas in Pillars we had Prior Philip — a believer in God, but also a strong, courageous, and flawed character — World Without End seems to be exclusively populated with religious figures who are evil and corrupt.

As a person of faith, I just can’t bring myself to read it. I’m not trying to be naive — I know that throughout history (and today) many religious institutions have been controlled by the corrupt. (Spotlight is one of my favorite movies!)

But why devote the time to reading a 1,000-page book that will likely just make me frustrated?

Life’s just too short and there are too many other good books to read.

 

Have you read The Pillars of the Earth? What did you think? Have you read the sequel?

4 books to inspire your next big change

Reconsidering your career? Stuck in a funk? Ready to kickstart your daily routine?

Step into my office.

This year has been full of HUGE transitions for me. Maybe it is for you too.

Whether you’ve decided to beat that bad habit or you’re heading back to grad school (or moving across the country), these books will help streamline your focus. They’re inspiring and thought provoking, and I hope you’ll benefit from them as much as I have.

Confession: I listened to most of these on audiobook (Read earlier confession).

Enjoy!

1. Grit, by Angela Duckworth

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I probably wouldn’t have picked this book up if it hadn’t been available for free at my workplace (what kind of person says no to a free book??). But I’m so glad I did!

This book was both convicting and encouraging. 

In Grit, Angela Duckworth debunks the myth that talent is a better predictor of success than effort. She argues that determination, purpose, and endurance are key to achieving long-term success.

In high school, I was successful because I worked hard, not because I was naturally talented in math or chemistry. I was determined to succeed and I was comfortable with failure. But something changed in college. I started thinking that because other students were “naturally smarter” than me, I couldn’t measure up. This book was a much-needed wakeup call. It helped me regain some confidence and perspective I lost in college.

Recommended if you feel a bit lost in your career and you wonder if you have what it takes to achieve your goals. Be warned, there are long passages describing her scientific methods, and some parts are repetitive. Be strong and stick around for the good stuff!

 

2. The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg

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The Power of Habit is a seriously fascinating book.

I’m a how-to junkie and I’m also fascinated by the way things (and people) work. I love tips for becoming more efficient and productive. I also love the How Stuff Works podcast and the TV show How It’s Made.

If that sounds like you, this is your book.

The Power of Habit explains the brain forms habits and how you can retake control of your own habits. Duhigg also talks about the history of habit science and how habits impact the way we live, work, and make decisions.

I especially enjoyed the sections on habit formation in the workplace and how marketers use the basic principles of habits to influence consumers. I swear I’m not a science junkie (AT ALL), but I still enjoyed this book all the same. (However, I do have a sneaky suspicion I would have had a harder time finishing it if I hadn’t listened on audiobook.)

The only part I didn’t like was the last section covering Angie Bachmann — I thought it was a bit weak, didn’t give any satisfactory conclusions, and wasn’t as interesting as the rest of the book.

Recommended if you want to adjust bad habits, cultivate good habits, and want to be more aware of how your subconscious impacts your decision making.

 

3. The Road Back to You, by Ian Morgan Cron & Suzanne Stabile

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I used to love the Myers-Briggs personality test, but I always felt like the half of my results described me, and the other half didn’t. (I’m an ESFJ, in case you were wondering.)

Then I discovered the Enneagram, and my whole personality-test loving world was shattered … in the best possible way.

The Enneagram described me so perfectly, it was a little creepy. I learned about my basic fears, my unique contribution to the world, and why I react to certain situations the way I do.

If you’re curious about learning more about yourself to improve your relationships, self-doubt, and workplace habits, The Road Back to You is a great place to start. As a primer for the Enneagram, it takes you through all nine personality types and explains how the enneagram works. It also offers plenty of helpful tips for overcoming your core “deadly sin,” learning to interact more productively with others, and using your unique strengths to contribute to the flourishing of others.

Knowing that I’m an Enneagram 6 helped me recognize how fear is always holding me back. For the first time in my life, I realized that most of my unhealthy beliefs, habits, and attitudes are based in fear. This is game-changing stuff.

Recommended if you want to understand yourself better so you can start relating to others better. (Aka: why certain things make you mad, how you can get along with that annoying coworker, and why your parents are so weird.)

 

4. Liturgy of the Ordinary, Tish Harrison Warrenliturgy of the ordinary tish harrison warren nonfiction picks

Confession: I find the pressure to “live every day like your last” exhausting and overwhelming.

But in this cultural moment, there’s a pervading idea that your life — filled with the unglamorous tasks of laundry, 9-to-5 jobs, and doctor’s appointments — is being wasted unless you’re doing big, exciting, and audacious things.

If we’re not carpe diem-ing every moment, we must be doing something wrong.

Liturgy of the Ordinary offers a different vision: Although many years of our lives will be spent doing everyday, ordinary tasks, that’s ok.

In fact, it’s during these seemingly unimportant moments that we are forming spiritual (and unspiritual) habits that shape who we are. We are being sanctified through ordinariness.

Warren also points out that Jesus Christ was a humble carpenter for 30 years before He changed the world. If ordinary life was embraced by God Himself, then there must be deep spiritual value in the formative work He is doing in our rhythms and routines.

Recommended if you’re ready to start paying attention to how your habits and routines are molding and shaping you spiritually. Maybe you’re at a place in life where you need to stay planted, grow roots, and purposefully commit to endurance and ordinariness. This book will help you not let that time go to waste.

 

What books inspire you? Leave a comment and let me know!

 

Accidental Hiatus: That time I moved across the country

Hello, fellow readers. It’s been a while.

Two months ago, I totally didn’t mean to go on hiatus from blogging (and reading for that matter). But then, I totally didn’t mean to move across the country either, and that happened, so here we are.

A big life change has been on the horizon for a while. My husband and I have been waiting, hoping, praying, and longing for the “what’s next” in our life for a long time, but it came much faster than we were expecting.

accidental hiatus

In the form of moving from Virginia to Colorado.

In six weeks.

It’s been a whirlwind, to say the least. A stressful, exciting, strange whirlwind.

The mountains have been calling to us for a long time, and we (well, mostly me), finally found the courage to answer.

But I’m excited to be back to writing! I’m mostly (ish) settled in to my new place, my new routine, and my new life. We’re loving it out west so far (minus the whole not having any friends thing), and I’m ready to discover some new book stores, new libraries, and review some more books!

Thanks for sticking with me. Let’s get reading!

Old book, new review: Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller

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Title: Blue Like Jazz
Author: Donald Miller
My rating: 3 / 5
Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir
Is it worth reading? Yes. I didn’t find the writing style sophisticated or completely enjoyable, but the perspective and ideas presented make this one worth the read. Expect to be challenged and prepare to ask yourself questions about your own version of faith.

 

You get a strange mix of feelings when you arrive late to the party — over ten years late, to be exact — on a book like Blue Like Jazz.

On the whole, I’m glad I finally got around to reading this one.

When Blue Like Jazz first came out, I was barely a teenager. Miller was writing to a generation just a little bit ahead of mine, who were tired with a fading 1950’s cultural Christianity and eager to reconcile their beliefs with a postmodern world.

On this point, I think Miller was incredibly successful. He writes about the real struggles a Christian has with living in our present age while juggling the American cultural baggage many grew up with.

In so many ways, Blue Like Jazz is permission to lean in to doubts and questions and permission to push back against “the way it’s always been.” In that sense, even ten years later, Blue Like Jazz a breath of fresh air.

All that being said, I waffled back and forth about whether this was a 3-star or 4-star book for me. Here’s why:

NOT A FAN: WRITING STYLE

While Donald Miller had some truly insightful and convicting points, the writing style totally bogged me down. In fact, that’s my main beef with the book and the reason I only gave it three stars.

And to make matters worse, many of Miller’s memories and experiences just weren’t that interesting to me. So not only did I not like the way it was written, I found the content largely boring.

Maybe this is a sign of the times. Maybe our culture is addicted to larger-than-life, over-the-top amazing life experiences to justify reading a memoir about them (ahem, celebrity memoirs).

But I don’t think that’s what’s happening here. I think it’s more just personal taste.

I also found his conversational, we’re-just-getting-coffee style of writing was a bit annoying at times. I appreciated his humility throughout the book, but at other times I just wanted him to stop being wishy-washy and make an argument without so many qualifiers.

The editor in me wanted to tighten up sentences, cut down on the unfocused musings and filler text, and totally scrap the pop culture references.

When I read a book, I don’t want to feel like I’m reading a blog post or rambling thoughts. But I know many people who absolutely love Miller’s writing and find his style incredibly approachable. That’s great — just not for me.

I can applaud Miller for talking openly and authentically about his struggles of reconciling Christian faith with secular culture. But I couldn’t decide if his “shock you out of your comfort zone for the purpose of making you think” strategy was totally effective or not.

On the whole, I was disappointed that the writing was (in my opinion) so unfocused for a book that had such great insights.

HIPSTER MOMENTS … BEFORE THEY WERE COOL

Reading Blue Like Jazz 14 years after publication was like suddenly discovering the roots of Christian hipsterism. Before it was mainstream, of course.

Case in point: “I read through the Koran before it was even popular.” (Blue Like Jazz, 87)

THE REALLY GOOD STUFF

Don’t let my critique fool you — there is some great stuff in Blue Like Jazz. Like really great.

This is my favorite quote from the book:

“When I am talking to somebody there are always two conversations going on. The first is on the surface; it is about politics or music or whatever it is our mouths are saying. The other is beneath beneath the surface, on the level of the heart, and my heart is either communicating that I like the person I am talking to or I don’t. God wants both conversations to be true. That is, we are supposed to speak truth in love. If both conversations are not true, God is not involved in the exchange, we are on our own, and on our own, we will lead people astray.” (Blue Like Jazz, 222)

This shook me.

I used to think my problem in high school was that I couldn’t stop judging people. But these few sentences made me realize that while I was focused on speaking the truth, I wasn’t communicating love at all. Deep down I didn’t like many people I interacted with (much less love them) because I was too focused on how they weren’t living up to my own made-up definition of what “living for Christ” looked like.

What a wake-up call.

Another great point Miller makes is that all the terrible things in the world — evil, suffering, racism, violence — come back to the problem of our own hearts.

Miller asks, if we’re not willing to fix the problems within us, how can we even begin to fight for justice in the world?

FINAL THOUGHTS

Part of me finds it hard to recommend Blue Like Jazz because I just didn’t enjoy reading it that much.

But at the same time, I learned some really powerful things about myself and my own expression of Christianity precisely because I went along for the ride and saw this thing through. Especially if you’re not sure about this whole Christianity thing, Blue Like Jazz is a great place to start.

Overall, I’m not disappointed I read it, and I’d probably even recommend it (with a grain of salt).

But I’m glad I highlighted all the good parts so I don’t have to read it again.

What did you think about Blue Like Jazz? Love it or hate it?

Quote source:
Miller, Donald. Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality (p. 87). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.