Welcome to Quick Lit, my monthly reviews of books I’ve read lately. This month’s books included a little of everything: some YA, a bit of romance, a legal thriller, and some heartfelt nonfiction. Let’s get to the reviews!
The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are, by Brené Brown: Brené Brown has been encouraging and inspiring me for a few years now, but it’s taken me a while to read this, one of her earlier books. What was the hold up? I think I subconsciously knew that reading this book would hit to the core of many of my personal hangups, and I wasn’t quite ready to do the work that would almost certainly be prompted by the book. I’m a perfectionist, and I don’t like to think that imperfection could be tolerable, let alone worthwhile. This fall, I was finally ready to face this concept and discover some of the gifts of imperfection.
The Gifts of Imperfection is a guide to wholehearted living, which Brown describes as “engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness. It means cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough. It’s going to bed at night thinking, Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am also brave and worthy of love and belonging.” Brown goes on to explain that practicing courage, compassion, and connection—the three gifts of imperfection—is the way to cultivate worthiness, and she outlines ten guideposts that lead to this type of life.
Throughout the book, Brown defines many concepts that are part of our common vernacular, but not fully understood, such as connection, love, belonging, and spirituality. For me, these definitions were the #1 most valuable portions of the book, and her definitions reminded me of how important it is to know what we are truly talking about when we discuss these new and sometimes scary concepts.
Another helpful portion of the book was the afterward in which Brown explains her research process. I’ve often wondered about how she conducts her research, so this was interesting and added validity to her work.
I personally don’t find Brené Brown to be the most talented writer, and the book’s format was difficult to follow, but her concepts are golden. The material in this book is deep, rich, and sometimes hard. I took my time with reading, pausing frequently to mull the ideas around in my head and reflect on their implications for my own life. I came away from the book with quite a few new perspectives and ideas for cultivating my own wholehearted life.
My Rating: 4.5 stars.
Tell Me Three Things, by Julie Buxbaum: Everything about Jessie’s life is in upheaval. She is still grieving her mom who died two years ago, and now her dad has moved her from best friend and her home in Chicago to live with his new, rich wife in Los Angeles. Jessie is struggling to fit in at her expensive private high school, so when she begins receiving helpful emails from an anonymous fellow student who wants to be her friend, she cautiously accepts the offer. They strike up a vibrant online relationship, and though she doesn’t know the identity of her secret admirer, the connection helps keep her afloat during one of the most trying periods of her life.
This YA romance is about as clichéd as they get, but I mostly didn’t mind the predictability or implausibility of the plot setup. I had fun trying to identify Jessie’s secret friend (whom I guessed pretty early on) and found their email dialogue witty and smart. The book’s insights into the experience of losing a parent are believable and touching, and I liked the character of Jessie for her introspectiveness and general approach to life.
I continue to be amazed and slightly appalled by the language and sexual content found in YA books these days, and wish there had been less of both of these things. This is not a book I would be comfortable handing to a young teen, which is unfortunate because I imagine Jessie’s emotions would be very relatable for a teen reader, especially one going through a similar trial. In the author’s note, Buxbaum mentions that she also lost her mom at the age of 14, which explains the palpable emotion present within the book.
My Rating: 3 stars.
The Rooster Bar, by John Grisham: Mark, Todd, and Zola are third-year law school students who have invested vast amounts of time and money into becoming lawyers. When they discover they have been duped by a shady for-profit school that has left them unprepared to pass the bar exam—let alone obtain jobs that will allow them to pay back their loans—the three resort to taking the law into their own hands. They quit school and pose as experienced lawyers in an effort to expose the school and become rich in the process. But it’s a risky pursuit and more than a few people have the potential to get hurt.
I feel as though I really should have enjoyed this book. It was fast paced and touched on many intriguing topics, from corporate greed and flaws within the legal system to immigration policy and even mental illness. Yet, the lack of character development left me uninvested in the story, and the hodgepodge of issues made it hard to determine who or what to focus on. It wasn’t a bad book, but definitely not Grisham’s finest.
My Rating: 3 stars.
Starry Night, by Debbie Macomber: This is a sweet little story about Carrie, an ambitious young journalist (who just happens to be extremely attractive), and the reclusive Alaskan wilderness writer whom she is determined to make the subject of a career-defining exposé. Carrie makes the trek from Chicago to Alaska to find the mysterious man, and wouldn’t you know it: the Alaskan survivalist turns out to be extremely attractive too. Sparks fly faster than you can say “snowflake” and Carrie must make some difficult choices between her new love and her career.
In case you couldn’t tell from the synopsis, this is an incredibly cheesy novel with shockingly little originality. But somehow, it wasn’t horrible. In fact, I found it heartwarming (in a way that only cozy Christmas romances can be). The lack of risqué content was especially refreshing. This book won’t win any awards for exemplary writing, but it made for a fun seasonal read.
My Rating: 3 stars.
Paperboy, by Vince Vawter: The protagonist and narrator of this middle grade novel is “Little Man,” an 11-year-old boy growing up in Memphis in the late 1950s. He is a mostly average kid, with one big exception: he suffers from a speech impediment that prevents him from speaking without a severe stutter. Those who know him have grown accustomed to his inability to speak, but when he takes a job as a neighborhood paperboy, he has no choice but to learn to communicate with his customers—some who are unkind, and others who quickly become friends.
This novel has been compared to To Kill a Mockingbird and The Help, and I definitely thought a lot about both of those books while reading this. The narrator’s relationship with his family maid resembles those of the other two books, and like Scout Finch, the protagonist is coming of age in a time of racial tension that leads to frightening personal entanglements and the realization of some very challenging realities.
This story is largely autobiographical, and the author’s personal pain and triumph permeate the book’s pages and bring the novel to life. My favorite part of the audiobook was the afterward, read by the author (who still stutters but has mostly overcome his speech impediment.) Books about disabled individuals are becoming more and more popular, and this one is fitting with the trend but also very original and more believable than some of the others I’ve read.
My Rating: 4 stars.
Read any of these books? What did you think? Leave me a comment with a mini review of your own! I’ll be back on Wednesday with reviews of five other books I’ve read lately.