August Reads

August was a slightly better month, in terms of reading and other things. I continued some series’ I’m reading, read a few new authors, and explored more of a new genre (to me). Here’s my August Reads:

A romance writer who no longer believes in love and a literary writer stuck in a rut engage in a summer-long challenge that may just upend everything they believe about happily ever afters.

Augustus Everett is an acclaimed author of literary fiction. January Andrews writes bestselling romance. When she pens a happily ever after, he kills off his entire cast.

They’re polar opposites.

In fact, the only thing they have in common is that for the next three months, they’re living in neighboring beach houses, broke, and bogged down with writer’s block.

Until, one hazy evening, one thing leads to another and they strike a deal designed to force them out of their creative ruts: Augustus will spend the summer writing something happy, and January will pen the next Great American Novel. She’ll take him on field trips worthy of any rom-com montage, and he’ll take her to interview surviving members of a backwoods death cult (obviously). Everyone will finish a book and no one will fall in love. Really.

Summary from Goodreads

This was one of my favorite reads of the year. Gus and Janie were both great characters, and this plot had an extra zing to me, what with it centering around two writers falling in love, but also working on novels in the meantime. I loved the glimpse into other writer’s processes, and how story and the love of story was woven in and out of the (people) love story. Also, the characters and the setting were just really interesting, and I thought unique for a romance (not that I’m a big expert). I laughed out loud in a few places, but I also cried a little. It was a perfect combination of pathos and hilarity, mixed with a steamy romance.

Emily is a mess.

Emily Proudman just lost her acting agent, her job, and her apartment in one miserable day.

Emily is desperate.

Scott Denny, a successful and charismatic CEO, has a problem that neither his business acumen nor vast wealth can fix. Until he meets Emily.

Emily is perfect.

Scott offers Emily a summer job as a housekeeper on his remote, beautiful French estate. Enchanted by his lovely wife Nina, and his eccentric young daughter, Aurelia, Emily falls headlong into this oasis of wine-soaked days by the pool. But soon Emily realizes that Scott and Nina are hiding dangerous secrets, and if she doesn’t play along, the consequences could be deadly.

Superbly tense and oozing with atmosphere, Anna Downs’s debut is the perfect summer suspense, with the modern gothic feel of Ruth Ware and the morally complex family dynamics of Lisa Jewell.

Welcome to paradise…will you ever be able to leave? 

Summary from Goodreads

This book kept taking me by surprise because it kept going places I didn’t expect. It tricks you at first. At first you think you know where it’s going, and then the story keeps taking a hard right turn when you least expect it, and all of the sudden you’re in a totally different place than you thought. If you like psychological suspense with sympathetic characters and a twisty plot, I recommend this particular book.

Olive is always unlucky: in her career, in love, in…well, everything. Her identical twin sister Ami, on the other hand, is probably the luckiest person in the world. Her meet-cute with her fiancé is something out of a romantic comedy (gag) and she’s managed to finance her entire wedding by winning a series of Internet contests (double gag). Worst of all, she’s forcing Olive to spend the day with her sworn enemy, Ethan, who just happens to be the best man.

Olive braces herself to get through 24 hours of wedding hell before she can return to her comfortable, unlucky life. But when the entire wedding party gets food poisoning from eating bad shellfish, the only people who aren’t affected are Olive and Ethan. And now there’s an all-expenses-paid honeymoon in Hawaii up for grabs.

Putting their mutual hatred aside for the sake of a free vacation, Olive and Ethan head for paradise, determined to avoid each other at all costs. But when Olive runs into her future boss, the little white lie she tells him is suddenly at risk to become a whole lot bigger. She and Ethan now have to pretend to be loving newlyweds, and her luck seems worse than ever. But the weird thing is that she doesn’t mind playing pretend. In fact, she feels kind of… lucky.

Summary from Goodreads

For me, reading this was exactly like watching a rom-com, which basically means that I laughed and pretty much enjoyed it, but it really had no more impact than that. Of course, this isn’t necessarily my favorite genre either, so I’m a little more critical, I suppose. But if you like romance, I feel like this would be really enjoyable for romance fans.

The first book in C.J.Cherryh’s eponymous series, Foreigner, begins an epic tale of the survivors of a lost spacecraft who crash-land on a planet inhabited by a hostile, sentient alien race. From its beginnings as a human-alien story of first contact, the Foreigner series has become a true science fiction odyssey, following a civilization from the age of steam through early space flight to confrontations with other alien species in distant sectors of space. It is the masterwork of a truly remarkable author.

Nearly two centuries after the starship Phoenix disappeared, leaving an isolated colony of humans on the world of the atevi, it unexpectedly returns, threatening the stability of both atevi and human governments. With the situation fast becoming critical, Bren Cameron, the brilliant, young paidhi to the court of the atevi is recalled from Mospheira where he has just undergone surgery. Upon his return to the mainland, he Cameron finds that his government has sent in his paidhi-successor, Deana Hanks—representative of a dangerous faction on Mospheira who hate the atevi.

Haunted by the threat of assassination, Bren realizes his only hope may be to communicate with the Phoenix as the spokesman of the atevi—an action which may cut him off for good from his own species. Yet if he doesn’t take this desperate action, he may be forced to witness the destruction of the already precarious balance of world power.

Summary from Goodreads

Invader is the second in C.J. Cherryh’s science-fiction series, Foreigner. This second book escalates the tension and the stakes, but again, this is very cerebral sci-fi. Much of the action is internal, or political in nature, and so, even though I still find this series fascinating, it did take me a little bit longer to get through. However, I’ve already started the third book, because I’m keen to read the whole series. It’s just not necessarily a binge read.

Is the pressure to “lean in,” “wash your face,” and believe you are a “badass” actually making you miserable?

Well, there’s good news: you don’t have to give in.

When faced with disappointment, self-doubt, and failure, we rely on positivity mantras and upbeat Bible verses to relieve our anxiety. But instead of easing our emotional burden, the pressure to love ourselves more actually makes it worse. Even so, the idea that unconditional self-love can cure all that ails us is tempting and easy to rationalize.

It’s time to admit to ourselves what we already know: we are not smart enough; we are not beautiful enough; we are not tough enough; we are not good enough. And that’s okay, because God is.

Allie Beth Stuckey, a young mother, Christian, and conservative thought leader, was once herself sucked into the Cult of Self-Love–and knows that you probably have been too. In this book, she shows you how to identify and combat the toxic, exhausting myths our culture encourages with Scripture and traditional values like personal responsibility, self-sacrifice, and grit. For instance:

Myth: There is no objective truth.
Truth: We’ll never feel personally fulfilled if we have no moral benchmark at which to aim.

Myth: Life is all about me.
Truth: When our highest priority is our own comfort and success, we end up alienating family and friends.

Myth: Happiness is the goal.
Truth: Since good vibes don’t last forever, they’re not sufficient criteria for personal purpose and meaning.

Blending timeless wisdom and biblical truths, Stuckey shows how these sneaky, pervasive myths threaten women and fuel victimhood culture–from social justice warriors to radical feminism and the new wave of socialism. Stuckey dismantles these myths step-by-step and offers strategies that can help you move past them–and undo the damage they’ve done.

Summary from Goodreads

Let me start off by saying that this book was written for Christians, by a Christian, discussing Christian ideas and beliefs. If you’re not a Christian, this book wasn’t for you. Basically, there’s some foundational Christian principles that are understood, and if a reader doesn’t accept the basic principles, the purpose of this book is going to go right over their head (this is not meant to be a criticism or insult, I just want to be clear about where this book is coming from). That being said, I was blown away by this book, and really appreciated the thought and detail in the way Stuckey laid out her ideas and presented her reasoning for each statement she made.

Maggie Holt is used to such questions. Twenty-five years ago, she and her parents, Ewan and Jess, moved into Baneberry Hall, a rambling Victorian estate in the Vermont woods. They spent three weeks there before fleeing in the dead of night, an ordeal Ewan later recounted in a nonfiction book called House of Horrors. His tale of ghostly happenings and encounters with malevolent spirits became a worldwide phenomenon, rivaling The Amityville Horror in popularity—and skepticism.

Today, Maggie is a restorer of old homes and too young to remember any of the events mentioned in her father’s book. But she also doesn’t believe a word of it. Ghosts, after all, don’t exist. When Maggie inherits Baneberry Hall after her father’s death, she returns to renovate the place to prepare it for sale. But her homecoming is anything but warm. People from the past, chronicled in House of Horrors, lurk in the shadows. And locals aren’t thrilled that their small town has been made infamous thanks to Maggie’s father. Even more unnerving is Baneberry Hall itself—a place filled with relics from another era that hint at a history of dark deeds. As Maggie experiences strange occurrences straight out of her father’s book, she starts to believe that what he wrote was more fact than fiction.

In the latest thriller from New York Times bestseller Riley Sager, a woman returns to the house made famous by her father’s bestselling horror memoir. Is the place really haunted by evil forces, as her father claimed? Or are there more earthbound—and dangerous—secrets hidden within its walls?

Possible spoilers (inferred)

I’m a bit confused about my reaction to this book. It was a good read, and the writing is fantastic, and I was hooked from page one, but I wasn’t exactly excited about how it turned out? I’m not talking about the ending, per se, but just the overall twist of the plot. Which is funny, because I was honestly terrified for it to come out a certain way, and when it didn’t, I was disappointed? I’m just very confused, but I’m also fairly new to the horror genre, and so I don’t know how I feel about the horror part not actually being . . . horror. Right. Without giving much away, I think horror fans of the haunted house variety might be a little disappointed, but fans of psychological horror will probably like it.

Here’s to my August Reads. Now onto September!

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