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Happy New Year! I can hardly believe how little I’ve been writing in the past few months! (Aside from the post I published after Christmas which is unrelated to reading.)
Have you missed me? I’m sorry if you have. I was sick for a good chunk of that time, plus there were holiday travel and other “real life” things happening.
I’ll be honest: it was a relief to remove the weekly task of a blog post from my to-do list for a little while.
Nevertheless, I’ve started to miss writing again, and I’ve had a couple of people ask if I’ve posted anything lately. Both of those things are drawing me back here to write.
Since I missed November’s and December’s recent reads posts, I’ll be combining some of what I read those couple of months in this post too.
It’s been strange to not be reading as much as I’m accustomed to reading. I also haven’t been spending as much time researching book titles and picking out what I want to read next. Which, when you don’t have awesome titles that you’re excited about reading, it creates a cycle that is hard to break – not having books you’re excited to read, which means you read less and look at books less, which means you’re less excited….You get the picture.
That last couple of years, I’ve read over 100 books. While it does feel good to read a lot, I’ve decided to take a bit of a different approach this year. I’m not going to do any official reading challenge (gasp!) and I’m going to ease off quite so much of the researching of books that sound interesting. It’s not that I’ll completely change how I go about reading…I’m just going to take a bit of the pressure off that having goals can create.
Don’t worry, though: I’ll still be reading – and writing about it here 🙂
Anyway, now that you’ve read all of that, here are the books with which I ended my reading in 2021 and with which I have started 2022!
A Hope More Powerful Than the Sea by Melissa Fleming
I picked this book up because it was suggested for the Middle East month of the Book Voyage Challenge I started last year. I didn’t finish the challenge, but I’m glad I read the books that I did.
Doaa’s story and journey to escape her war-torn country of Syria was eye-opening to me, mostly because I haven’t done much reading about that area of the world.
If you want a heart-wrenching, inspiring story which will help you learn more about the plight and reality of refugee’s lives, I recommend this book!
The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry by John Mark Comer
OH. This book. I don’t even really want to say anything about it except this: READ IT.
John Mark Comer writes in an accessible and humorous tone that points out our frenetic attachment to leading hurried, harried lives. Then he points out a better way and uses some evidence from his own life as proof that it’s a healthier, more full life when we consciously make the effort to “eliminate hurry” from our lives.
I will be buying this book in hard copy and rereading it – possibly multiple times. I may even buy copies to give away to friends. That’s how much I liked it.
Everything Happens for a Reason (and Other Lies I’ve Loved) by Kate Bowler
This book was recommended to me by a friend. It’s different than I was anticipating. I thought by the title that it would be a more linear, explanatory type of book. After reading it, I think I’d classify it as a memoir. She doesn’t really delineate the “other lies” that I saw – not as clearly as a three-point sermon, anyway.
What she does, though, is describe her experience, in humorous but very painfully honest tone, of getting diagnosed with stage IV cancer as a thirty-five year-old, and then seeking treatment. While I don’t always agree with her theological statements necessarily, especially since she doesn’t flesh them out, I really like these kinds of books because they make the human experience…human. Approachable. And somehow the emotions of grief and suffering are universal, even when the circumstances are not. Ever since experiencing my own grief, I’ve been drawn to these books because they help me put words to my own emotions.
Sisters of Sword and Song by Rebecca Ross
I’ve started doing something the last couple of times I’ve gone into the library: wandered to a section and picked a few books off the shelves that I’ve never heard of but sound good based on a quick book preview. This was one of those books – and I’m glad I picked it up!
It looks super cheesy with the triple alliteration and the flowy script font, but . . . I found it to be a sweet story, not too cheesy and a decently intricate plot for a YA book. It focuses on two sisters, one who is the older, seemingly more talented sister who joins the army but then is accused of murder. The second, the younger, who will “clearly” not amount to much other than an ordinary life. However, appearances can be deceiving and the two sisters end up embarking on a dangerous quest to save the country from an evil group that is slowly taking over through devious subterfuge in the government. If you want a feel-good story that has a touch of romance, a strong sisterly bond, and some complexity of relationships – along with a fun fantastical world with magic, pick this book up!
Divergent by Veronica Roth
Okay, I finally did it. I read the Divergent series – well, almost all of it. The first book is solid, the second book iffy, and the third book, well, I plain just skimmed it. It feels like Veronica Roth had an awesome story to start out with, but then when she tried to give answers, she had a hard time figuring out how to make it believable, and also find good place to end the story. My sister told me years ago that the story petered off, but I guess I just had to find out for myself.
If you aren’t familiar with the Divergent story from the movies, here’s a quick synopsis: Tris is a girl who, at the age of “choosing” (16 years old) decides to leave her “faction” and join a different one. But she is “divergent” meaning that she doesn’t fit the mold like other people do, and that puts her in danger, because there are people out to get her. Turns out there’s a whole intricate plot that Tris has to fight against, but who can she trust?
If you don’t think you can start a series without finishing it, don’t start this one. If you want a good story without having to know “the end,” pick up the first book. Just don’t expect to love the whole series.
Pegasus Kate O’Hearn
I found this book by looking for books that are similar to the Keeper of the Lost Cities series. I’m still waiting for the next book in that series. I thought it was supposed to be released November 2021, but…on a quick Google search, looks like it’s coming out this November. So I’ve had to find other fantasy books in the meantime to fill that part of my reading life.
This book has a simpler plot than Keeper, but still involves a brave, teen girl as the protagonist, a boy who becomes a trustworthy friend, and some mythical creatures (Greek ones, to be exact). Turns out that the myths are actually reality, but in another dimension – until they somehow make it to New York City and land on the roof of Emily’s apartment during a bad storm. But there are Nirads trying to destroy Olympus, and if Olympus is destroyed, so will Earth. So it’s up to Emily and her new friends to save the world.
It’s a light read and pretty predictable, but still enjoyable.
Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley
I have such mixed feelings about this one. It, too is about processing grief, but in this one, it’s a main character who can’t seem to accept the grief. Rachel is an older teen who didn’t manage to graduate high school after her brother died. Her mom is worried about her and packs her off to her former hometown to stay with her aunt. While there, she discovers that she might not be over the feelings she had for her best (guy) friend as she thought – but he’s still with a clearly-not-right-for-him girl.
This had the feel for me of The Fault in Our Stars for some reason. Maybe it’s just the teen romance part, maybe it’s the fact that teens often have to deal with “grownup” events, yet they don’t have all the tools for it – and their parents aren’t always capable of giving them the tools they need, either.
That being said, like Fault, I didn’t love the talk of teen sex, or the normalized talk about gay attraction, nor the strangely violent/dangerous scene of a jealous guy going after Henry. That seemed out of place. I did finish this book because it did have some good qualities, I just am not super keen to recommend it. So keep those things in mind if you decide to give this a try.
Holes by Louis Sachar
This one…I’d never read it, or watched the movie, but it comes recommended on a lot of kids’ book lists. So it’s been on my TBR list for years, and I finally read it.
Stanley, the main character, gets sent to a boys prison camp even though he’s innocent. And the boys have to dig holes in a dried out lake that are 5 feet in circumference and 5 feet deep every day. They don’t know what they’re looking for, but if they uncover anything, they have to show it to matron in charge. Things start getting fishy, and Stanley ends up uncovering a mystery that is related to the curse that has been on his family for generations.
However, I’m not a huge fan. First, it feels like it’s trying to be magical realism, but the pieces that explain the backstory just feel jarring and out of place. I did appreciate the way Louis Sachar tied all the pieces in by the end, and the silly creativity of it makes me smile just slightly while thinking about it now, but…I don’t know. It just didn’t hit me right.
Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech
Now here’s a book that deals with heavy topics, but in a gentle way for kids. Wow, I didn’t realize how many books I’d picked that center on the topic of grief in the last few months!
I had my suspicions while listening to it about what they were really driving West to see, but I wasn’t completely sure until the end. Now that is some good writing. Sal tells the story of her friend Phoebe Winterbottom, and in the process, we learn of Sal’s story. She tells it to her grandparents to while away a long drive out West, so most of the book happened in the past, rather than the present.
It’s humorous, but it doesn’t make light of grief and difficult family situations, and it walks with Sal through her journey of coming to terms with what’s happened in her family. I loved the voice of Sal – such an old soul in a young girl – and I loved the way her grandparents helped her process simply by listening and commenting.
I don’t know if I’d recommend this as a read-alone book for younger kids, but it would certainly be good as a read-along or read-aloud so a trusted adult is there to talk about the story. It just depends on your kid.
The Two Princesses of Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine
Gail Carson Levine did it again with this book! I’ve loved her writing ever since I read Ella Enchanted as a kid. I didn’t love her 2020 release A Ceiling Made of Eggshells, but this 2004 book hit a sweet spot over my Christmas break.
These two princesses are different as could be, but when older sister Meryl falls ill with the Gray plague, it’s up to timid, fearful Addie to face her fears and seek the remedy before her sister dies.
I appreciated the fact that this was a sweet story of two sisters, without much (seriously barely any) romance, as well as a story of facing one’s fears and learning the importance of loving selflessly despite fears of losing who you love.
It’s always interesting to reflect and find patterns in my reading…apparently I’ve been drawn to books that involve grief and/or strong sister relationships.
What have you been reading lately? I’d love some book suggestions in the comments!