JULY | Summer Book Challenge Check-In

July was the first month in some time in which I had some overlap in my book challenges. I managed to finish out Megan's Semi-Charmed Summer Book Challenge (in just over a month!) in the first week, and then I promptly began checking off my list for Erin's Book Challenge that runs from July-October.

And if you're wondering how I've managed to chip away so many books (because I'm sure the curiosity is killing you), rest assured that I am not some super speed-reader. At any given time, I am reading three books in three separate formats: print book, e-book (on my iPhone Kindle app), and audiobook. Since I drive a ton for work, I manage to go through a lot of audiobooks, and then I switch back and forth between print books and my phone, depending on my mood. I've always been a bigger fan of real books and visit my local library at least on a weekly basis, but can't deny that there's something nice about being able to lay in bed and just crack open an e-book on my phone without having to get up. I'm lazy, what can I say?

Anyway, here's what I read in July:

15 points: Read a book set in Appalachia | A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson (276 pages, ★★★★)
15 points: Don’t judge a book by its cover! Read a book with a cover you personally find unappealing. | Spiritual Midwifery by Ina May Gaskin (482 pages, ★★)
I swore by Ina May's Guide to Childbirth during my first pregnancy so to say this book was a disappointment would be a vast understatement. The first third was birth stories from the Farm that discussed the spiritual nature of childbirth. Despite some silly, hippie-dippie colloquial language, I enjoyed it. The rest of the book was written for midwives as almost a how-to. I got bored with all the scientific language and reading about diseases, birth defects, etc that were not relevant to me.  
My biggest complaint, however, was the organization of the book, it didn't feel like one cohesive text, but a few different childbirth-related books that had been chopped up and forced together against their will. Ina May then ended the book on a super negative note sharing two particularly horrible hospital birth stories illustrating the uncompassionate nature of doctors. It was altogether bizarre.


Once I had completed Megan's challenge, I immediately started crossing books off my list for Erin's Book Challenge (you can see my Preliminary List here): 

15 points: Read a book that has a (mostly) blue cover. | The Vegas Diaries by Holly Madison (288 pages, ★★★★)
Such a good, guilty pleasure read- I devoured it in one sitting. I felt that Holly's first book was very "woe is me," so this was the redemption I was hoping to find for one of my favorite reality TV personalities.
25 points: Read a book set in a country you have always wanted to visit. (Germany) | Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum (479 pages, ★★★★)
For those interested in the Holocaust or WWII history, I felt like this was a fresh perspective written from the alternating perspectives of a German woman who lived through the horrors of Nazi Germany in the 1940's and her daughter in the 1990's. Although it wasn't my favorite book set during this time, I did think the author did a good job portraying the shades of grey present when humans are placed in dire situations and the lengths people will go to to survive and protect the ones they love.

10 points: Read a book that starts with the letter "R." | The Royal We by Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan (454 pages, ★★★★)
Although I will echo the sentiments of others that this book was looong, it gets a pass because it was light, fun, and a total guilty pleasure read. Loved it!
5 points: Freebie – Read a book that is at least 200 pages. | Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist (240 pages, ★★)
I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. 
Here's the thing: I love Shauna Niequist. I love her heart, her faith, and the way she centers her life around family, friendship, and food. But sometimes her writing style drives me a little bit bonkers. I wish that it was more organized, and easier to follow. Instead, it reads like a stream-of-consciousness or like one long blog post. I love where her head is at, but I feel like sometimes I miss her point because I'm just trying to follow her train of thought. 
I will continue to read her books, so long as she continues to write them, but this only gets three stars from me simply because of the above.

30 points: Read a music related book. | How to Kill a Rock Star by Tiffanie DeBartolo (438 pages, ★★)

I thought the premise of the book was interesting, and to be fair I really loved how music-centric it was. That being said, I spent the first half of the book being completely annoyed by the lack of character development and the second half annoyed by the melodrama, self-righteousness and just plain shitty-ness of the main characters. 
I also found the author's use of "gay" and "retard" by the main characters completely unnecessary. I could understand if they were being used to give more insight into the personalities of the characters, but I felt like it was more indulgent and insensitive than anything else. 
I would recommend this book probably only to indie music-loving emo kids. For anyone else, pass.

 I got a little burnt out on reading books strictly to meet my book challenge categories this month, so I did sneak in a few "extra credit" reads that were just for me:

I liked the idea behind this anthology and admittedly I did enjoy some of the original stories written by authors who were inspired by Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat Pray Love. That being said, my reason for loving Elizabeth Gilbert was notably missing: HER voice.
 Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton (272 pages, ★★★)
I knew I would love this book because I love virtually every word that comes out of Glennon's mind. But I was completely unprepared for how this book would wreck me, convict me, and cast light on the dark, scary, vulnerable parts of myself and my marriage. Glennon's struggle with intimacy particularly resonated with me and as she wrote about how she and her husband learned how to drop their shame-filled ideas of what sex is supposed to be and re-learn how to love each other, tears streamed down my face. 
I devoured this book and if I could give it six stars, I would. This book needs to be read by every woman, every married couple, every person who has ever felt like no one understands their pain. I can't begin to overstate the beauty, vulnerability, courage, and honesty that is wrapped up in this book. 
(I received this book through a GoodReads giveaway).
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What books did you love this month?

p/c: Goodreads

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