Hi, friends! I hope you’re having a great day on this lovely Friday. I’m hanging out with my niece and nephew today (again), so my hands are full! I finished (+ abandoned) five more books this month, so here’s my regular roundup and review of what I’ve been reading lately. I’ve included affiliate links if you’re interested in checking out any of them for yourself. Enjoy!

The Epiphany Machine by David Burr Gerard*
ABANDONED | Science Fiction

Everyone else knows the truth about you, now you can know it, too. That’s the promise of Adam Lyon’s epiphany machine, or at least the headline of an original promotional flyer he uses in the 1960s. At that point, Adam is already hosting regular salon nights in his tiny New York City apartment, where his guests can offer up their forearms to his junky old contraption and receive important, personal revelations in the form of a tattoo. Over the decades, Adam’s apparatus teaches John Lennon to love The Beatles, takes early blame for the spread of HIV, and predicts several violent crimes. But most significant to Adam may be the days on which he marks the arm of Venter Lowood’s mother, and then his father, and then Venter himself.

MY THOUGHTS: Unfortunately, this book didn’t resonate me. I have a personal rule that I’ll read 50% of a book and if it still doesn’t catch my interest then I abandon it. That was the case with The Epiphany Machine. I had a hard time following who the characters were because the timeline jumped around so often. The writing was very dark and… unique? I’m not sure what word I want to use here. I feel like this is either a love it or hate it type of book. The concept is intriguing, but the execution wasn’t there for me, unfortunately.

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
★★★★☆ | Fiction (audiobook)

“Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet. So begins this exquisite novel about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee, and her parents are determined that she will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue. But when Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together is destroyed, tumbling them into chaos. A profoundly moving story of family, secrets, and longing, Everything I Never Told You is both a gripping page-turner and a sensitive family portrait, uncovering the ways in which mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and husbands and wives struggle, all their lives, to understand one another.”

MY THOUGHTS: It took me a little bit to get into this book, but I really liked it. After reviewing hundreds of books on this blog, I’ve come to learn that if I don’t connect with a book’s characters, it tends to fall flat for me. The deep-dive into each of these family member’s lives fascinated me. The dynamic is very typical of an American family, but still heartbreaking (maybe even more so because it’s typical). Like I said at the beginning, it takes a little while to get into the nitty gritty of the story, but was a really good read. Specific thoughts on the audio version: I did not particularly enjoy the narrator. Her voice was too proper for the style of book, in my opinion.

READ THIS IF: You like a touch of mystery, enjoyed The Glass Castle, or want to read about what’s behind closed doors.

Tables in the Wilderness by Preston Yancy
★★★☆☆ | Spiritual Memoir

“Preston Yancey arrived at Baylor University in the autumn of 2008 with his life figured out: he was Southern Baptist, conservative, had a beautiful girlfriend he would soon propose to, had spent the summer living in southeast Asia as a missionary, and planned to study political science. Then God slowly allowed Preston’s secure world to fall apart until every piece of what he thought was true was lost: his church, his life of study, his political leanings, his girlfriend, his best friend . . . and his God. It was the loss of God in the midst of all the godly things that changed Preston forever. One day he felt he heard God say, “It’s going to be about trust with you,” and then God was silent—and he still hasn’t spoken. At least, not in the ways Preston used to think were the only ways God spoke. No pillars of fire, no clouds, just a bit of whisper in wind.”

MY THOUGHTS: This book was recommended to me months ago by a friend of mine and I’m glad that I finally got around to reading it! I wanted to read this in bits and pieces because I knew it would be a lot to take in, so I decided to read it on my lunch breaks at work. I highly recommend reading this is small chunks if you’re going to pick it up. I made the mistake of trying to read larger portions toward the end and didn’t comprehend a lot of it.

The writing style of this is a little much sometimes. Nothing is simple. That got a little overwhelming at times. I also had a hard time sometimes with the timeline and keeping people’s names straight, which is why it only has three stars. I do, however, really recommend this to anyone who is struggling in their faith (however minimal or major it may feel to you).

READ THIS IF: You feel like you’re in a spiritual wilderness, you need some encouragement, or you’re at any point on your faith journey.

Orphans of the Carnival by Carol Birch
ABANDONED | Historical Fiction

“Julia Pastrana is the singing and dancing marvel from Mexico, heralded on tours across nineteenth-century Europe as much for her talent as for her rather unusual appearance. Yet few can see past the thick hair that covers her: she is both the fascinating toast of a Governor’s ball and the shunned, revolting, unnatural beast, to be hidden from children and pregnant women. But what is her wonderful and terrible link to Rose, collector of lost treasures in an attic room in modern-day south London? In this haunting tale of identity, love and independence, these two lives will connect in unforgettable ways.”

MY THOUGHTS: I read half of this book before giving up on it. The biggest reason why I abandoned it was because it felt like nothing happened. Absolutely nothing. Julia travels around with a couple different managers working at different shows, but that’s it. There really isn’t a ton of plot and the characters aren’t super developed (which I expect by that far into a book).

TRY THIS INSTEAD: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (one of my favorite books of all time!)

Impossible Views of the World by Lucy Ives*
ABANDONED | Fiction/Mystery
Expected Publication Date: August 1, 2017

“Stella Krakus, a curator at Manhattan’s renowned Central Museum of Art, is having the roughest week in approximately ever. Her soon-to-be ex-husband is stalking her, a workplace romance is in freefall, and a beloved colleague, Paul, has gone missing. Strange things are afoot: CeMArt’s current exhibit is sponsored by a Belgian multinational that wants to take over the world’s water supply, she unwittingly stars in a viral video that’s making the rounds, and her mother–the imperious, impossibly glamorous Caro–wants to have lunch. It’s almost more than she can overanalyze. But the appearance of a mysterious map, depicting a 19th-century utopian settlement, sends Stella on an all-consuming research mission. As she teases out the links between a haunting poem, several unusual novels, a counterfeiting scheme, and one of the museum’s colorful early benefactors, she discovers the unbearable secret that Paul’s been keeping, and charts a course out of the chaos of her own life.”

MY THOUGHTS: Another book that I read 50% of before abandoning. I really, really, really, really wanted to like this book based on the description (and the cover – let’s be real). I just couldn’t follow what was going on. That’s what it comes down to. The writing style is different, but just didn’t jive with me. I love the idea, but just couldn’t get behind the characters and the way it was written.

Aaand there’s the second part of my July 2017 reads! I think I’ll have a few more to review before the month is up, so stay tuned for that. All of the books indicated by an asterisk were given to me free of charge from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are always my own.

What have you been reading this month? Anything I need to add to my list? Let me know in the comments!

About Leah Van Ert

Leah is newly wed to her high school sweetheart and is a church secretary by day and blogger by night. She firmly believes in spending a little extra on high-quality cuisine, sleeping in, and the healing power of a good cup of tea. She currently lives in central Wisconsin where she was born and raised (and, yes, the stereotype is true - we really do love cheese).