Hello, hello, hello. It’s October already, but you know what, let’s drift back in time to when the world was a little bit more… well, actually, it’s tough to say whether all that much has changed over the last two and a half months. But then again, when you are trapped in your own private bubble, it can be difficult to see change. Wow, hitting deep waters right out of the gate. Why do I feel the need to randomly dive into huge existential topics that I have no intention of going further into during my introduction? Such drama. But, aaaaaaanyway.
Today, we’re going to be starting a series where I touch on books that I’ve read over every month or two months… or you know, as I feel inclined to write about the books I’ve read. I’m not going to get super deep about any one of them, probably (she says), and I’m not really planning on having a straight-forward structure with it (she says… for now), buuuut let’s just see how it organically takes shape. There will probably be some personal stories involved, (because what’s an Allie article without a story that no one asked for?) but we will definitely go into some summary, thoughts, and/or a basic review of each book.
I will give out my Goodreads rating for each of the books, but please recognize that my rating is extremely subjective and based entirely on my personal enjoyment of the book (which is based on my own unique standards). I will likely write an article later regarding my personal thoughts on book ratings and why I won’t be handing them out anytime soon. However, each book review thingie will have a “what you might want to know” section at the end. This will be used to discuss some areas of the book that some people might find problematic, so they can be informed and make their own decision about whether to read the book or not. I want to be sensitive to all kinds of sensitivities, and I recognize that books that are alright by my standards (let alone my preferences) may not be alright by others. Therefore, in that section, I will briefly mention some of those raw, fact-based points of potential concern. I may or may not add my opinion to those points, but ultimately, my opinion is only there as a perspective.
So, lez’ go. Looking back, August and September were reasonably slow months for me in terms of reading, but you know what, sometimes it’s better to go for quality rather than quantity, and so, I’m okay with this… I’m going to be okay with this. Okay, self? Be okay with this.
Anyway, I completed six books in total during August and September (click on the title to jump to that section):
- Artemis Fowl and The Last Guardian by Eoin Colfer
- A Cloud by Day, a Fire by Night: Finding and Following God’s Will for You by A.W. Tozer
- The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer
- The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
- Almond by Won-pyung Sohn
- Enola Holmes: The Case of the Missing Marquess by Nancy Springer
So, to analyze it a bit. That would be two young adult novels, two Christian books, one classical lit book, and one fiction. Overall, not a bad turnout in terms of balance, now that I look at it, but that’s not really something that I’m looking for when I choose what books I want to read, anyway. I’m out of college now—the world of mandatory reading—so I mostly just choose what books I want to read completely on mood. I’m pretty standard in that I usually try to only read one book at a time, but it’s been known to happen that I start something new and then become completely unloyal to the book I was originally reading, and then only read the new book… and then forget about the old book for, like, five years. So, in order for no book to be left behind, I usually just try to stick with one.
I did, in fact, just break my un-spoken, just-spoken rule by reading Enola while also reading The Three Musketeers… and thus, this is the reason why I am finished reading Enola but not The Three Musketeers… but I feel like massive doom novels are the exception. I mean, can they be, if they are not? Sometimes you just need a break… from your entertainment source. Ahh, reading can be so complicated.
Anyway, six books. Let’s chat.
1. Artemis Fowl and The Last Guardian
My Goodreads rating: 4/5 stars
First off, let’s go young: The Last Guardian by Eoin Colfer, which is the eighth and final book of the Artemis Fowl series.
Artemis Fowl has a very special place in my heart. I read the books when they first started coming out in the late 2000s; they were very much my cup of tea, as I loved antiheroes long before I think I could put to words and analyze why I love a good antihero, and Artemis Fowl was a good antihero… which is slightly contradicting, but that’s fine.
As a kid, I had this thing where I bought all of my books. When I needed new books (but I mean, I didn’t really need them, because I always had books on my bookshelf that I hadn’t read yet… but still, I neeeeeded them), we would go to Barnes and Noble instead of the library. That was my norm, but now that I’m grown (or at least, have grown-up responsibilities), I can totally see how crazy and not of-the-norm that is. So, thank you, parents! Although I consumed the first two or three books immediately after buying them, eventually I started getting a little “old” (whatever that means) for them and started getting busier, but I still bought the newest book for a while. Eventually, I moved out of my parents’ house and moved to Japan, but one year, I was feeling super nostalgic, so when I went back to my parents’ house during the holidays, I set my mind to bringing back all of my Fowl books (hahah… that sounds funny). I had totally forgotten that I hadn’t finished the series but that I did have most of the books; the books that I didn’t have, I ended up asking for for Christmas… because in 30 years, my Christmas list is still 90% books… this is my life. I brought my books back home to Japan, and believe me, you don’t know how difficult it is to pack under a weight restriction until you have eight moderately hefty books (plus all the other books) that you want to bring with you during your international flight (me bringing back my hardback Harry Potter books was an event). My priorities are being shown here, that’s for sure.
But anyway, almost 20 years after first starting the first book (oooooh, that hurts), I can now officially say that I have completed the Artemis Fowl series. Yay! Woot! Hurrah! And you know what, it was 100% worth the million times I arranged my suitcases to make it happen. The eighth book was just as charming as the other books, and while seeing my antihero slowly progress into a regular old hero felt a little bittersweet, the wit, the plotline, and the conclusion were enough for me to feel satisfied with the journey. With that being said, I did attempt to watch the Artemis Fowl movie that recently came out… and man-oh-man, what a train wreck. What a heartbreak. What a disaster of a movie. Like, they destroyed everything that makes the books amazing, but at the same time, they just didn’t make it an enjoyable movie… for anyone, particularly not fans of the series. I’m so hoping that this doesn’t turn people away from the series and make people feel like it’s radioactive for a million years, because there are AMAZING movies to be had from this series, but I don’t know what’s going to happen. Disappointment. Anyway, though, for those who have not read any of the series, hear the cry of a fan: the movie does NOT represent the books well at all, and please give them a try if you enjoy fairy stories, antiheroes, Ireland, and young criminal masterminds.
What you might want to know: Overall, I would consider the entire series to be family-friendly. There is some violence, some romance, some substitute curse-words, and some criminal plotting of a genius youth involved, so as always, if you are concerned about what your children are reading, give them a read yourselves before making the decision. But, overall, all aspects of these were extremely light and age-appropriate by my standards.
2. A Cloud by Day, A Fire by Night: Finding and Following God’s Will for You
My Goodreads rating: 4/5 stars
Carrying on, I went through an A.W. Tozer phase (that I think I will never get out of) these two months. I read A Cloud by Day, a Fire by Night: Finding and Following God’s Will for You and The Pursuit of God. I first got introduced to Tozer through The Knowledge of the Holy, and if you are interested in expanding your consumption of classic Christian literature, that is pure gold. Even if you are not Christian, try not to immediately pass on the suggestion. There’s something beautiful about reading faith literature from other faiths; certainly, it helps give us a better perspective and understanding of our brothers from other religions and those who are non-religious, so it’s something to think about. I’m not nearly good enough at reading faith lit outside of my own, but it is something that I inspire to get better at. If you have any suggestions for me, I would love to hear it.
A Cloud by Day, a Fire by Night is a collection of sermons that Tozer did over the teaching of God’s will, where each sermon was edited into a chapter by James L. Synder, and a worship song that tied into the message was put at the end. As Tozer is known for being a mystic, he is highly concerned with experiencing God. The wisdom that can be gleaned from the book could be summarized as: draw near to God, follow Him, and He will lead you. Overall, it was an encouraging book that reminded me that God is present with us in all of our struggles and that when we are trying to figure out what to do, our main concern needs to be our relationship with Him. As we spend more time with Him and seek Him, the more our hearts align with His, and therefore, we can begin to glean more of what is pleasing to Him.
I think this is one of those topics that will always be difficult to wrap my brain around but that I will always try to wrap my brain around. Considering the condensed-sermon style, there were some chapters that read as a bit repetitive, and there are some parts of his theology and wording that I’m unsure about, but overall, there was encouragement to be found and some interesting thoughts to be had.
I read this book free off of Amazon Prime.
What you might want to know: Tozer’s mystic approach to Christianity and a relationship with God may rub some people the wrong way, denominationally. When reading up on Tozer, there are many who do not consider him a theologian. I think there is some validity in this, but I’m not going to get lost in the details of it. I think that his perspective helps draw us into a deeper connection with God but should be taken with a balanced diet of reading and studying your Bible yourself and listening/reading from classic and contemporary theologians. As this is a Christian text, those who are sensitive to religious themes and language may want to keep that in mind as they make their decision about the book.
3. The Pursuit of God
My Goodreads rating: 5/5 stars
The Pursuit of God follows along with Tozer’s heart for experiencing the experiential God, as it’s largely a book in response to too much head and not enough heart, which is frequently found in the church these days. I agreed with a great deal that he had to say, particularly in relation to how we as individuals need to be accountable for our own relationship with God. As Christians, we need to be working toward some form of prayer life and stirring up our desire to have a healthy prayer life. It’s important for our spiritual lives to be as healthy as possible so that we can do more as the combined body of Christ when we come together in the Church. That’s not to say that you have to be healthy and full before you come to church, because man, if that’s the case, I would never get to church, but rather, we need to be working toward practicing our spiritual disciplines and interacting with God not just at church but throughout our entire week, as much as possible.
I had a big issue with one of the things that he mentioned, but actually, as I am working out my thoughts on this, I think I resolved my issue. I disagreed slightly with his perspective of meekness and rest. His position was that rest is not something in which you do but something that you receive through the giving up of your burdens of pride and pretense. Now, I totally agreed up until that far, but then, I was bothered by the fact that he seemed to be implying that the only things that cause us unrest are pride and pretense. For sure, pride and pretense in our lives can cause so much exhaustion, depression, and anxiety. But I argued with myself that not all exhaustion, depression, and anxiety are caused by pride and pretense. Sometimes, it’s sin that is done to us. Sometimes, it’s the brokenness of the world. Sometimes, it’s biology. But now that I think about it, I don’t think he is arguing the cause of those things. Instead, I think he may be arguing that our response to those things is often prideful and full of pretense, which then causes us unrest. Is it not pride and pretense how I pretend that the depression that is haunting me, the anxiety that is hounding me, is actually something that I can manage by myself? Is it not pride and pretense to put on a face and say that everything is fine when it really isn’t? Isn’t it a form of pride and pretense (and fear, which is often rooted in thoughts of inferiority and superiority, which also stem from pride) to not allow people to know just how much I am suffering? I’m never going to be the person to be able to say that it’s all pride and pretense, but I would say that I am very convicted right now over the way that I try to handle all my issues without relying on God and others and how I stress and freak myself out when I don’t have to. Tozer explains that we must be meek like Jesus; we must surrender ourselves, admit our weakness to God, and let Him fill us up with His power and rest. By admitting to God and to those who know and love us that we need help, by being meek, we can receive rest and peace. It’s not a perfect thought. But it is a thought. I’d love to hear what you guys think on the matter.
I read this book free off of Amazon Prime.
What you might want to know: The comments mentioned in the previous book coincide with this book, as well. Likewise, as can be seen in the above section, there are some parts that seem to reflect a very black and white perspective in regard to mental health. There are also moments when Tozer seems to have a negative view regarding entertainment and what is taught in universities, so those who are sensitive regarding those topics might want to keep that in mind when deciding to read the book and/or during the read.
While I did disagree with Tozer on various accounts, I do think we agree on the most important issues in Christianity. His concerns didn’t surprise me or make me disengage from the importance of his message.
4. The Count of Monte Cristo
My Goodreads rating: 5/5 stars
But let’s move onto something lighter… Revenge! Mwah hahah. The fourth book to be talked about is The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. And let me just tell you. This book changed my life. Vastly. Epically. Massively. Without any trouble, I would rate this book 5 out of 5 stars. Is it perfect? No. Do I care? Absolutely not. It’s a masterpiece, and masterpieces can get away with imperfections. Now, there is some good room in debate for why that is and whether that’s okay or not, but for now, I will let it rest because… IT WAS SOOOO GOOD, YOU GUYS.
For those who are not familiar with it, it is about young Edmond Dantes, a sailor who has his entire life ahead of him. He has a father who loves him dearly; he is engaged to the beautiful and fiercely elegant Mercedes; and he is set to become captain of a ship. With all of this good fortune in front of him, several sets of jealous eyes begin to follow him. Three men, each with their own motives, set a plan in motion to position Dantes as a traitor against the king. Through their accusation and through the selfish, self-protecting actions of the public prosecutor, Dantes gets sent to jail for fourteen years, even though innocent. While in jail, Dantes meets an imprisoned monk, and through this encounter, his plans for revenge begin to take shape.
So, there is an abridged version, which apparently has removed some of the heft during some of the more boring parts (which there are not many), but I opted for the unabridged version. I wanted to know everything about the book. Now, I watched the movie back when I was much younger, but I actually have zero memory from it. A rewatching is in need, for sure. Before starting the book, all I remembered was that I loved it. But whatever amount of love I must have had for it as an 11-year-old or so, I highly doubt that it equals the amount of love I now have for the book. With that being said, though, seeing as I had no memory of it, I went into it with almost a blank slate, so I got to experience it with fresh eyes and a more mature perspective.
Alexandre Dumas is known for his pop fiction literary works, and it reads like that. It’s so consumable, to the point that I have a theory that if you are hoping to begin trying to read long lit, this is an amazing book to begin with. Consider it the gateway book to hefty classics. The dialogue carries the story for the most part, so it reads so actively. It’s conversational. There are a few parts that are heavy in description, but if you can get through them, it moves right back into a nice flow. Also, while this might feel like a weird name drop to go along with Dumas, that kind of heavy, smart, lyrical banter of Monte Cristo reminded me of Jane Austen’s writing. If you aren’t an Austen fan, fear not, though. It’s not the content of the story that reminds me of her but the style of dialogue. Where Austen’s content of dialogue tends to be more relational and dramatic, Dumas uses his dialogue as a way to progress the story, give context, and add suspense. It is in the consumable pace that I draw connection to the two.
I would have to say my least favorite parts of the story was during Carnival and almost anytime that Maximilian showed up with Valentine. There were only three times that I put the book down for an extended period of time, and it was during those scenes.
But there is so much to say about what I liked about it. I loved the pace, the writing, the characters. I loved the structure of the story and the way that Dumas had everything planned out to a T of how Dantes was going to accomplish all of this. The execution of his revenge was so simple, so elegant, but so profound and intelligent. It was difficult to see what was going to happen next, so you’re kept constantly pushing yourself to finish the next chapter. I could go on. Probably my favorite aspect of it, though, was seeing the change in Dantes as he realizes the cost of his revenge and when his eyes start opening to the happiness that could exist for him, which he never could have hoped for himself at the start of this all.
Anyway. So good. Go read it. Don’t let its heft scare you. Just give it a try and take it a piece at a time.
What you might want to know: There is a great deal of religious language within the book, so pay that in mind if that concerns you. Likewise, there are incidents of extramarital affairs, political corruption, murder, thievery, plotting, romance, suicidal ideation, suicide, etc. The language is clean, and the romance is flowery and poetic, for the most part, so I don’t think there should be much concern there. The murders can be reasonably graphic and intense but probably not by what we consider “graphic” today.
So, here is the thing. There are a lot of intense elements to this book, but there is so much room for dialogue, particularly within the conclusion. There is so much room to talk about humanity and the human condition. There is so much room to talk about God’s view on revenge and how that is portrayed in the book. There are so many good questions to be discussed. Some may not have answers, but it’s my opinion that those kinds of questions are some of the most precious, because it keeps us looking and seeking. When we have kids, I can easily imagine having a book club with my teenager and discussing the poop out of this (oh yes, so mature).
That aside, as well, I think there is worth in engaging in literary classics. And that aside, it’s my personal belief that there is worth in engaging in escapist literature, which this book is definitely an example of. That, however, is entirely my opinion and perspective. If you haven’t thought about it before, perhaps it would be an interesting subject to engage with.
My Goodreads rating: 5/5 stars
Number five, Almond by Won-pyung Sohn, and for those who follow BTS: why yes, I did pull the title from Suga, who was reading it during one of their tv show things. So, my thoughts? Well, I would like to thank Suga, because IT WAS BOMB.
Almond is the story of Yunjae, who was born with an underdeveloped amygdala, which can cause something called “alexithymia,” where the brain is unable to identify emotions. There are so many aspects of this book that make it so unique and incredible. On a broad scale, there is some fierce woman power going on with this publication. It is the debut novel of Won-pyung Sohn, so the fact that her debut novel was translated into English by another woman translator and sent out globally is wild and speaks volumes to her capacity. The book is very much a Bildungsroman, as it deals with themes such as loss, journey, conflict, and maturity; it even tips its hat a bit to other coming of age novels that have gone before it, such as Demian and The Catcher and the Rye.
But here’s the thing, Yunjae is unable to recognize and identify emotions, right? And the book is written from the perspective of Yunjae, as he comes across people, situations, and life. While us neurotypical people experience joy and sadness, we can usually identify them and then we name them as they are. However, Yunjae cannot identify them, so he has to fight for his words, struggle to figure out how he is feeling and how the people around him are feeling. That explanation doesn’t even do it justice, because there is no explanation for it. We get to see through his eyes what it means to grow up, to be friends with someone, to fall in love… and you know, it’s fascinating, because when we are teenagers, we have no idea what anything means or how we are supposed to be feeling about anything. There is often this lostness, but at the same time, we feel this pressure that we are supposed to be finding ourselves, supposed to have all the answers. Goodness, I still feel that way a lot of the time. And in some way, it felt like Yunjae’s story gives us permission to not know how we are feeling or what we should do in certain circumstances, while also giving us the encouragement to keep on looking, keep on searching for our words, which may be different than others.
The writing was fantastic and drew out all kinds of emotions from me; the relationships were raw and complex. It was a super quick read, as the chapters were very short, but the story just pulls you in.
I was able to read this free of Amazon Prime, so if this is something that you are interested in, hopefully, it is still there for you. I would highly recommend giving it a try.
What you might want to know: There is quite a bit of graphic language from one of the characters and some bloody scenes. There are also some moments of reference to pornography and some mild romance, so if you are sensitive to that, some care might be in order.
Just to add my opinion to it, though, in the literary sense, I personally found it to be very fitting for the character and felt that it drove home the contrast between Yunjae and his friend, who served as a kind of antithesis to Yunjae. But as always, read in a way that is most helpful, healthy, and fun for you.
6. Enola Holmes: The Case of the Missing Marquess
My Goodreads rating: 4/5 stars
Starting young and wrapping up young, let’s talk about Enola Holmes: The Case of the Missing Marquess by Nancy Springer. Now, I did a long article about the book and its Netflix adaptation, so if you are interested in reading a lengthy analysis about it, head over to that article: here. For now, I will just say a few things about the joy that was Enola Holmes, who is the sister of the infamous Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes. The Case of the Missing Marquess is the first book out of six which follows the young sleuth, who is following in her brother’s footsteps but entirely in her own style. In the book, Enola’s mother mysteriously disappears, and in her quest for looking for her, she also finds her calling in life: to be a perditorian, which means a finder of lost things.
The book is cleverly written and while its intended audience is middle-grade, young adult readers, the suspense writing and well-crafted, well-thought-out plot will definitely hold an adult reader’s attention. Enola is strong, independent, resourceful, and a great model for young adults, as she is also kind and empathetic, which is something that her brother severely lacks. Springer’s writing style and story definitely have me curious for the rest of the books, so I think it’s highly likely that I will be digging into those soon.
What you might want to know: Overall, very family-friendly, I would say. There is quite a bit of suspense but no crude or graphic language or romance. There is a fairly vivid account of some of the disease-stricken women of London, and while it does provide a point, if you or your little ones are sensitive to that, perhaps consider an alternative.
So that’s my August/September wrap-up! Overall, no complete bummers, and definitely some life-changers, so I call that a win. I love book suggestions, so feel free to drop in the comments what you are reading and loving right now~ Likewise, if you have any follow-up questions about the books and my thoughts, feel free to let me know. Join in on the conversation if you’ve read any of the books mentioned or if you are interested/not interested in them. Aaaaaand finally, if there’s any book you want me to review or write an article about, you know what to do.
Thanks for taking some time with me to talk about all my lovely book friends. Happy reading to you all. Peace, and peace out.