An Open Book: What I Read in August

Here are a two things I learned while reading in the month of August.

First, it turns out I’m not such a big fan of true military stories. In theory, they sound interesting, but I’d much rather follow a single person’s story during wartime. While that is a highly micro-level perspective of a conflict, I connect much better to the story and I’m far more engaged. I think the military works I read during August were too much playbook-focused and not enough person-oriented for my liking.

Second, it always surprised me that I like magical realism. But it turns out that sometimes realistic fiction that weirdly inserts fantasy elements is either not actually magical realism or is so poorly done it just turns me off. Maybe there are just magical realism authors I like rather than the genre itself.

What have you been ready lately?

book covers

The Bird King by G. Willow Wilson (2/5 stars)

Three-line review: This strange, meandering fantasy tale never managed to grab my attention. The early pages of the book, introducing the friendship between an imaginative mapmaker and a concubine, drew me in, but as soon as the story left the walls of the castle where the two lived, it lost my interest. It gets two stars because I love the idea of a mapmaker who can draw maps of places he’s never been, but it failed to manifest into anything great.

Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek (4/5 stars)

Three-line review: I love the concept behind this inspiring business-focused book, and Sinek’s thesis of why companies succeed because they start with a core purpose makes so much sense. I appreciate the examples woven throughout, though Sinek’s obsession with Apple is a bit overbearing. The book is a manageable, quick read, which is good because it goes on a bit longer than necessary as it is.

Rogue Heroes: The History of the SAS, Britain’s Secret Special Forces Unit That Sabotaged the Nazis and Changed the Nature of War by Ben Macintyre (2/5 stars)

Three-line review: Impressively researched and written with extensive detail, Rogue Heroes is an important read for anyone interested in military history, especially from the Second World War. The book started out interesting, but the play-by-play of military action quickly wore on me, and all the missions eventually ran together. I guess I’m just not that into military writing.

The Book of Tomorrow by Cecelia Ahren (2/5 stars)

Three-line review: I love a good YA book, and this one had a good premise (teenage girl encounters unexplained situations after moving in with her aunt and uncle), but this one had so many ridiculous unexplained plot points that it just felt lazy. It drives me batty when characters and convenient situations pop up just to serve the story without being well written or woven appropriately into the plot — especially one as bizarre as a diary that writes itself. And, the main character is an arrogant, ignorant teenager, so I wasn’t even cheering for her despite the obstacles she encountered.

The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz by Erik Larson (3/5 stars)

Three-line review: I always enjoy learning the story behind the story, and Larson did that with this book by peeling back the layers of Winston Churchill’s moment-to-moment actions and thoughts while serving as the United Kingdom’s prime minister during World War II. I was especially interested in the intimate accounts of his family members’, confidantes’, and colleagues’ lives during this time. This is a long read, though; buckle in and prepare for a very long ride.

2 Responses to “An Open Book: What I Read in August”

  1. Jill

    I want to tackle The Splendid and The Vile…but I’m thinking in the winter when I’m not spending so much time outside! Here’s a suggestion for you (which I don’t remember you mentioning)….A Woman is No Man. By Etaf Rum. The extra information written by the author & included in the paperback edition I have, is certainly worth reading as well.

    • JoAnna

      I have A Woman is No Man on hold at the library right now! There is a long wait for it – hopefully I get it soon!


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