July is going down as a let down of a month when it comes to reading. I had high hopes for this month choices but they let me down. Except one, which I knew I'd like and didn't feel as fulfilling because it was right up my normal alley. I'll explain more below.
CUYAHOGA by Pete Beatty
I wanted to enjoy this book. We stopped at a used book store in Columbus and this cover was irresistible. Not to mention I was itching to read something Ohio related, preferably something historical. And this was supposed to be that. I'm not sure if I was supposed to have prior knowledge to some folk tale from around these parts but it seemed to be playing off of one or at least borrowing the style and pattern of one. Either way, it didn't do it for me. In a sense it felt like a mediocre version of The Sisters Brothers even thought they are entirely different books. Set in the early 1800s in Ohio, two brothers are integral to the book but their relationship didn't capture me like I had hoped it would. It isn't a terrible read, I still had fun at parts but overall the story didn't hook me either. It's essentially a story of two brothers caught in the middle of a battle between cities trying to decide on building a bridge. The people go through events which toss the argument back and forth but in the end it didn't feel like such an important thing to be arguing about. And maybe that was the point? Not sure. I can't say I'd recommend it but it wasn't a complete waste of time. Is that a recommendation?
I think we all are forever looking for costumes. We are naked and fearful fools in search of disguises, with pockets to hide our sins in. Actor's rags. I were swapping between coffin maker and brother and biographer and apprentice felon freely all summer and fall - and there were more actor's clothes besides. (pg. 182)
Even though his body never showed, Tom Tod had himself a slapping good funeral. In truth a mess is the best burying stone. You cannot name a person who died and left every last speck cleaned up - you would not remember them from boredom. Keep your desolate places and Pyramids of Cheops. Exploding makes a better memory. (pg. 257)
REQUIEM FOR A BLACK ROSE by Mike DeFrench
Mike DeFrench is a fellow self-published writer that I came across on Instagram. He seems to be trying to elevate his social media game, which is what drew me to his page to begin with. I enjoy watching his work ethic, along with other writers on social media. It not only gives me ideas but also inspires me to continue writing. Knowing there are other suffering self-publishers out there is comforting to say the least. Mike sent me a free book when I subscribed to his website and I was excited to check out his work. I'd read a bit of a short story here and there but wanted to read an entire work of his. His covers are well designed and he's managed to find himself a great brand image like a Stephen King or James Patterson. That genre style cover, horror for Mike.
Anyway, the book itself is about a man whose wife passed away leaving him to raise their son alone. He's obviously dealing with tons of grief and often finds himself hitting the bottle to deal with it. But there's hope because he has his wife's script for a play she was writing and he is set to get it to the stage in a way of sending her off. He sets up shop in their hometown and begins producing the play only to find out there might be some hidden horrors to the town. The concept itself was intriguing but unfortunately, the book was a rough read. It was a bit drawn out and didn't feel exactly like horror except for a couple parts. Other times I felt like I was reading unimportant stuff. The worst part was the spelling and grammar mistakes. Now look, I ain't perfect in this department either and I understand being self-published we don't always have the budget for such treatment of our manuscripts. But there were mistakes practically, no exaggeration, on every page. If not more than one per page. And they weren't barely noticeable ones. They stood out. And I hate to say this as a critique considering I myself self-publish and would hope to God that my book doesn't have as many as this. I feel like I did my due diligilence to have my book readable with mistakes minimal, but it's hard to say for one's self. I do know there aren't ones on every page and it almost feels like he didn't even read over it himself. If he doesn't have passion for his projects than I find it hard to as well. (I exempt myself from your judgment if I indeed have a litany of grammar mistakes within this post.) In the spirit of honesty I wanted to share my true thoughts even though I feel terrible considering he gave me it for free. The concept was there though and perhaps, like myself, we are just growing and developing. I've said before I see these early works as mixtapes and practice. Drake isn't held to his early mixtapes, some of which he would be embarrassed by as well. It's part of the craft and I will still keep watching Mike grind. I'll be there next to him grinding as well.
Vince took another slug from the 8.5% in his hand and was starting to feel the warm effect of the alcohol work through his stomach and worm its way to his fingers and toes. (pg. 111)
CHURCHY by Sarah Condon
Mockingbird does it again like they always do. Of course, I must put my cards on the table. I write for Mockingbird and my bias will shine through clearly in this review. I've listened to Sarah Condon speak at conferences, on podcasts and read her articles before. She's brutally honest about herself and humanity in general. I originally got this book for my wife and she finished it quickly only to highly recommend it to me. I've seen it on their site for a long time but I'm glad I only read it now. She references marriage and kids numerous times and obviously that is highly relatable to me now. Each chapter covers a topic or story from her life in which she extracts a theological gospel centered word from. It's hilarious and also touches darker topics. But overall she captures what it's like to be human while also commenting on her marriage, parenting and life as a priest. If you are looking for a fun read where you can also have a breath of fresh air with hearing a good word then this is for you!
My advice for raising children to be Christian is to take them to church and not talk about it too much on the ride home. (pg. 2)
Spirituality, especially women's spatiality, can be laden with self-improvement. There are an endless amount of "mores" in Christian woman blogs, books, and bench presses. (pg. 26)
When we come to Christ, it is because we are done doing our best. It is because we cannot even pull off our most mediocre. It is because we are done doing anything, ever, period, the end. It is because all of our magnificent moments have failed us, and we long for the sweet relief of Jesus. (pg. 42)
The fact of the matter is that most of our ideas about how to fix the church are terrible, my own included. We over-exaggerate what we can do, and we forget that nothing happens that has not first been named by God. We figure that our ministry de jour will grow the church, because we love our latest idea, and if we love it, how can anything be wrong? Well, if we love it, then everything can be wrong with it. (pg. 152)
Even though I didn't love all my reads this month, I still find value in finishing a book. Seeing it through to the end. Giving the author a chance like I would like a reader to give me. I don't think I'd ever give lower than three but I guess there are plenty of books out there still for me to read. Thankfully, the books for August are going well and I am enjoying them dramatically more than July. See you at the end of August!