Quick Takes: Searching for Sunday

Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church
by Rachel Held Evans

22574709My main frustration with this book is that it felt like it was trying to be too many things at once all while lacking organization. A book can be a presentation and appreciation of the sacraments, a memoir, and a discussion of the church in present day America, but it cannot be all three equally. It seemed like the focus of the book seemed to change from chapter to chapter, paragraph to paragraph. I think some books can pull this off, but it is certainly not easy to do, and even then it has to have a main focus. I couldn’t tell you what it was for this book. Regardless of the seemingly arbitrary section headings, it had the feel of a loosely tied collection of blog posts, some of which I liked more than the others. And though Evans is clearly a good writer, the style was inconsistent and occasionally over the top. Sometimes it was flush with purple prose, sometimes it was a straightforward narrative.

I wavered so much in how I would rate this book, and that’s why I landed on 3 stars. There were parts I genuinely loved, and would have liked to go back and copy parts down if it didn’t have to go back to the library. And though somewhat sloppily presented, I feel like it was a good argument for church. I found more motivation to love the Church and pursue her more. I was moved, if only for a total of maybe 30 pages. Still, you don’t want your reading experience to turn into a slog because of its mechanics–of the way it’s put together and presented. Whether or not you are a bit more easygoing on that than I am may deetermine whether or not you enjoy this book.

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The Good, the Bad, and the Orange

A Higher Loyalty by James Comeyfive-star-rating-black-clip-art-hi

35108805He who permits himself to tell a lie once, finds it much easier to do it a second and third time, till at length it becomes habitual; he tells lies without attending to it, and truths without the world’s believing him. This falsehood of the tongue leads to that of the heart, and in time depraves all its good dispositions. — Thomas Jefferson

For someone who is not big on the memoir genre, I never expected to be this moved by one, nor to be here giving out a five-star rating to one. But we live in strange times, don’t we?

We are experiencing a dangerous time in our country, with a political environment where basic facts are disputed, fundamental truth is questioned, lying is normalized, and unethical behavior is ignored, excused, or rewarded.

Let’s be honest, most of us are reading this book for the juicy bits about Trump and Hillary, but that comes later. Before that, we learn all about Comey’s childhood and the work that eventually led him to become director of the FBI. Usually, this is the part where I find my eyes glazing over sentences, bored if I were being honest, but not so with this book. It all adds dimension and color to Comey as an individual and the decisions he would come to later in life. Plus, talk about an interesting pastthe Sicilian mafia Cosa Nostra, Rudy Giuliani in his earlier years, and the Ramsey Rapist all make an appearance. Notably is his experience with bullies and the obvious connection to some people he has to deal with down the line. In contrast, he also discusses individuals who inspired him and showed him how true leadership behaves. I really enjoyed how Comey wrapped this discussion of leadership into his memoir.

Doubt, I’ve learned, is wisdom. And the older I get, the less I know for certain. Those leaders who never think they are wrong, who never question their judgments or perspectives, are a danger to the organizations and people they lead. In some cases, they are a danger to the nation and the world.

And then we get to the good, or rather, terrible stuff of Hillary and the whole email fiasco. By experiencing it in Comey’s shoes and knowing the past he was coming from, I was able to gain a whole new perspective on this moment in our nation’s history. I think it’s dangerous territory when we play judge and jury and pass judgments in ways we have no authority or expertise over. This book is important for everyone to read because it helps us avoid that line of thinking and helps us become more empathetic, focusing instead on why people may have behaved in the way they did. For someone who originally experienced a lot of anger over the way this investigation was handled, I feel much more at peace about it.

The Constitution and the rule of law are not partisan political tools. Lady Justice wears a blindfold. She is not supposed to peek out to see how her political master wishes her to weigh a matter.

And then Trump comes into the picture, and it’s like you can hear The Imperial March slowly rise in volume. Much like the Hillary drama, readers get fresh insight into this weird, creepy dance Trump and Comey had all before he got fired in such an unceremonious way. In all seriousness, I experienced a lot of emotions at this point in the bookthere was anger, fear, and at some points, tears. The radical shift in the way not just Obama but also Bush ran the White House…man, I mourned the loss of that all over again. I knew it was coming, but these chapters felt like the valley of despair. How on earth did we as a country get here? How on earth were we going to get out?

Without all those things—without kindness to leaven toughness, without a balance of confidence and humility, without empathy, and without respect for truth—there is little chance President Trump can attract and keep the kind of people around him that every president needs to make wise decisions. That makes me sad for him, but it makes me worry for our country. 

Even in the midst of all this, A Higher Loyalty ends on a very optimistic note. I was surprised to find myself, after all that came before, feeling both inspired and a little optimistic myself. I read the epilogue twice to remind myself that, though we are in the eye of the storm, all storms pass over. It’s true that this review is a far more personal/emotional one than most others, but I think it’s because this is that kind of book, and I think that shows its effectiveness in presenting its message. It inspires you to reach that higher loyalty and demonstrates what true ethical leadership can be. I hope that readers from both sides of the aisle will reach for this book, and will come out on the other side fighting for the values that make this country great.

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Double the Story, Double the Fun

Replica (#1) by Lauren Oliver

I was looking for an audiobook to listen to and I found this through my library, so I decided to give it a go! This was a book that I had first heard about when it came out and29505437 I was initially intrigued by the premise and idea of the book!

So this book follows the perspective of two girls, Lyra and Gemma. We meet Lyra at the infamous Haven Institute, which is tucked away on a private island off the coast of Florida. What people don’t know about the Haven Institute is that it is a research facility where thousands of replicas, or human clones, are born, raised and observed. Lyra is one of these replicas and when an attack is launched on the Haven Institute, she and another replica (a boy only known as 72) manage to escape. Then we meet Gemma, who is a lonely teen who has been in and out of hospitals her whole life. After a scary and strange encounter with almost being abducted by a stranger, Gemma begins to investigates her family’s past and discovers that her father has a strange connection to the Haven Institute.

Now that you know what this book is about, there is something else that you need to know about this book! This book is written in half, half is from Lyras’ POV and half is from Gemmas’ POV. Both POV’s begin separately as we begin to see what each individual girl’s life is like and then the stories begin to overlap. The book can be read through different ways; you can either read all of Lyras’ story and then read Gemmas’ story OR you can either read all of Gemmas’ story and then Lyras’ story OR you can read alternating chapters between Lyra and then Gemma. This is such an interesting concept and I was even more interested to see how this experience was going to translate to via audiobook.

First, it was crazy to hear the voice of April Kepner from Grey’s Anatomy (Sarah Drew) and it was kind of a fun experience, haha!! Second, I did find that it was more cumbersome to switch back and forth between chapters more than I think it would have felt reading the physical book.

Overall the story was good and fun! I definitely liked reading from Lyras’ perspective more than Gemmas’. I found Gemmas’ character to be annoying and way focused on her body. Now reading through the book, I do understand where this is coming from but it was still infuriating to read from. Lyras’ perspective was really interesting since we get to see more than her own experiences, as we get to learn more about the Haven Institute through her perspective.

I definitely enjoyed the book. There is a second book to this, as it is a duology, and I am still debating on whether or not I will be picking it up soon. I don’t find myself to feel too curious to the rest of the story, but we shall see! Definitely a good reading experience!!

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Text Me, K? :)

Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi

emergency contactAnother incredible diverse read for the win!!! This book is why representation matters so much in literature, especially today. This was another 2018 release that I was so excited for, so went ahead and got it right away thanks to Amazon!!

In this story, we follow dual-perspectives between Penny and Sam who find themselves swapping numbers thanks to an unfortunately, awkward incident. As their story progresses, they continue their relationship via their phones leading to a deeply intimate relationship with very limited IRL interactions.

First off, I really appreciated the age range of the characters in this book. Penny is in her freshman year of college and Sam is just a couple of years older. We do not typically see a lot of YA contemporaries of characters at this age or in this phase of life, which is refreshing and fun to read. It’s a different take on a contemporary, allowing the topics explored to be a bit riskier and darker which they were and I loved it!!!

Like I said, this contemporary is not your average sunny coming-of-age story, it was grittier, hard-hitting, darker and raw which made the story feel that much more real. But what I appreciated about this book was that the gritty, raw details weren’t the main parts of the story, but that they were layered within the story just like they are in real life. We are not defined by the bad things, they are parts of our bigger story and that is how this story was written about both of our characters.

And last but not least, Penny is our lead Korean-American woman who is not only a refreshing lead character but is also a different representation of Korean/Asian-American women that we typically see in literature. As an own-voices novel, I loved seeing a different take on Penny’s character and the different ways in which Korean-American women can be seen in literature. I definitely saw myself more in Penny’s character than I ever have in books and so for that, I am incredibly grateful to Mary H.K. Choi.

All in all, this was a great read. It was fun, heart-warming and a definite journey for myself and all the characters involved. This was a great new contemporary and I cannot wait to see more books from Mary H.K. Choi!!

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Rise Up!

Children of Blood & Bone (#1) by Tomi Adeyemi


Okay…now to get into my coherent review of this incredible book!! This was an children of blood and boneincredible fantasy read and a much needed read. This book follow Zélie Adebola, who is the descendant of Reapers, powerful magji whose magic used to flow through the land. One tragic evening, a ruthless king targeted the maji and had them all killed. Zélie will never forget that night, never forget the night that she watched her mother die at the hands of the ruthless king. The night that magic died.

As life happens, Zélie finds herself an opportunity to bring back magic, avenge her mothers’ death and bring down the evil monarchy. With her brother and the rogue princess, Zélie sets out on her journey and meets various obstacles along the way. Little does Zélie realize that she may be her own greatest obstacle.

This story is a West African inspired YA fantasy and it was a definite breath of fresh air for this fantasy reader. As a woman of color and as an avid fantasy reader, it was so refreshing and so impactful to read a fantasy story that only had people of color in the book. One of the greatest downfalls of the fantasy genre is the lack of representation, in any identity not just race. It is encouraging to see that more and more fantasy authors are integrating more layers of diversity into their stories and I am so excited to see what else is coming!

This book was beautiful, dark, fast-paced and action packed. It was a much darker than I had anticipated for a YA fantasy, and I was pleasantly surprised. Tomi Adeyemi took a risk with writing this dark and violent, yet also so filled with family, captivating mythology and strong women and I am here for that risk!! This book was beautiful and I am beating myself up for reading this book right when it came out, because now I have to wait an entire year for the next one!! 😦 If you haven’t already, please pick this up!! 😀 You will not regret it!! Now, I have a few spoiler-y filled thoughts, so if you haven’t read this yet…do not read further!!

Continue reading

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Quick Takes: Wonder

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

11387515Looks like I’m continuing my tradition of reading books after the hype has passed! What can be said about this book that hasn’t already been said? It really is one of those books that should be required reading, for children and adults alike. It is an uplifting story that makes you smile and believe the world can be a better place–who doesn’t need that?? All the characters in it were quite wonderful, and I enjoyed the narration from different viewpoints. Even with six narrators, the POV didn’t jump around too much, and I really think it added to the characters and the story as a whole. It’s a tale that’s full of both humor and wisdom, and the message comes across wonderfully without turning cheesy and cliché. It shows why we should choose kindness, to go out of your way to make someone else’s day a little brighter, and in turn not only help them but also ourselves. I can’t think of many other books that portray this so comprehensively, and for that, I would definitely recommend this book to anyone and everyone!

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“Believing Is A Kind Of Magic…”

The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Panfive-star-rating-black-clip-art-hi

TW: Suicide and Depression

This book was beyond stunning. If I could just leave my review at that, I would. This 35604686book was beyond stunning.

In this book, we follow the events that happen after Leigh’s mother commits suicide. Leigh is not certain of a lot of things after the event, but she is sure of one thing and that one thing is that her mother became a bird once she died. Leigh is half-White and half-Asian, travels to Taiwan for the first time to visit the maternal grandparents that she didn’t know she had. She goes to follow the clues left behind by her mother and this leads Leigh down a path of not only self-discovery, but discovering more about her culture and her family.

This magical realism story uses colors in a way that is stunning and literally paints a picture of mental health, grief and family. I am so grateful to Emily X.R. Pan for giving us this stunning story that explores the intersection of the Asian/Asian-American identities and mental health. This intersection is definitely not something that is explored, particularly by Asian/Asian-American authors. As an Asian-American woman who has and still struggles with mental health illnesses, this was not only a breath of fresh air but I found this to be incredibly necessary and validating.

This book doesn’t shame Leigh’s mother or her story, and it doesn’t fully only evolve around her mother’s suicide. Her mother’s suicide is the core of the story, but shows us just how interconnected mental health is with not only our experiences, but with the experiences of those around us. This story honors Leigh’s mother and her experiences, and it melted my heart.

At the end of the story, there is a note from the author where she shares her own familial experience with suicide. This note is what really set off my emotions and left me a blubbering mess of tears. I didn’t realize how much I held my breath throughout this book because I didn’t realize how overwhelmed I felt with how seen this book made me feel. I’m a bit of a blubbering mess just thinking about it all, but this book is a very important book and I hope to see more stories around this specific intersection in how mental health and culture impact one another.

If you haven’t read this book yet, GO GET IT! This is definitely one of the most stunning books I’ve read this year and I cannot wait to see more from Emily X.R. Pan.




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