book reviews

February 2022: Recent Reads

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Happy February!

Reading continues to be a little strange for me so far this year. It kind of shocks me how little I have been reading (relatively speaking). I do miss it, because reading is – obviously – something I love. But I also have been relishing the reason(s) why I haven’t been reading as much. The overarching reason is that I have a more normal-looking life. I’m not stuck in my apartment this year, for which I am extremely grateful. The difference between last year and this year in terms of reading is just jarring to consider.

Two bookish ideas before I get started on my few book reviews:

First, I’ve begun a new thing: random library picks. I mentioned it last month, embedded within a book review, but I thought I’d mention it here. Every time I go to the library, whether it’s to find a book I’ve looked up or to pick up a hold, I also browse through a couple of stacks until I find 2-3 books that look interesting and seem promisingly clean/appropriate. I’ve learned a lot about how to decipher book jacket reviews and synopses to know if the book will have open door scenes and then I do a quick read through the first few pages to determine if the language is free (or full) of expletives and whether or not the style is appealing. It’s been ages since I’ve felt confident enough to find books this way, and it’s kind of fun. It reminds me of me as a kid, when the library was a big, expansive place with bookshelves filled to the seams with all kinds of adventures waiting for me to open their pages.

I still recommend doing some research to find good books when you can, but it’s been nice to take the pressure off my reading life as my life fills up with other things, and it’s been fun to discover older books that aren’t the next hottest thing in the reading world or plastered all over social media. If you want to use that idea too, feel free 🙂

Second, have y’all heard of Storygraph? Have you tried it? What do you think? My sis was telling me about how her bookish friend introduced her to it and she’s liking all the stats it provides. I went ahead and made an account, exported my Goodreads info to it and I’m going to see what I think. I expect I’ll write a review once I’ve used it enough to have some substantial thoughts. But I’d love to hear your thoughts in the meantime! Comment away!

Nonfiction

No Cure for Being Human by Kate Bowler

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I read Kate Bowler’s other book last month, and liked her style enough to read her second one when my hold on it came in. I just find the reflections of people going through hard things helpful; it’s cathartic and helps me verbalize my own difficult things. Again, I don’t agree with all her theological statements, but in these pages, you’ll find someone who is not a stranger to wrestling with difficult questions and facing her mortality sooner than most of us hope/expect.

The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry by John Mark Comer

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Wait, Christina, you must be confused. Didn’t you talk about this book last month?

Well, yes. Yes, I did.

I don’t think I have ever started rereading a book so quickly upon finishing. I’ve heard of other readers doing that, but it’s never happened to me. HOWEVER, this was a book I liked so much that I bought it – hardcover – for my own personal library using some B&N gift cards from a couple of Christmases ago. (Thanks, little brother!) And, as someone in my life recently observed, “I don’t know if it’s just that Ecuadorian culture is so different and it changed you, but it seems like you have a hard time with the busyness of U.S. culture.”

Yes. A thousand times, yes! And so I don’t know how much of it can be chalked up to transition, or the crazy drive found in U.S./Western culture to fill every moment with pleasure or productivity, or how much of it is just me. But I have this hunger for building a life that is unhurried, unbusy, and richly filled with the peace that only comes from satisfying my soul in God. So I’m rereading this sucker and trying to soak in the countercultural wisdom in there in the hopes that I’ll have the gumption to keep living counterculturally.

Fiction

Chasing Shadows by Lynn Austin

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WWII historical fiction novel right here that follows a family, but more specifically three women, as they grapple with how to resist the Nazi occupation in the Netherlands. I appreciated how this book showed differing perspectives on deciding whether to capitulate to Nazi demands, or to fight back in their seemingly small ways by sheltering Jews and feeding those who were hiding from the Nazis. And the heartache represented by the devastatingly difficult decisions that families had to endure to save themselves and their children was well-portrayed. It was worth the read!

We Hope For Better Things by Erin Bartels

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I don’t often enjoy books that span multiple generations, but this was one that I did enjoy. One generation of this family takes place during the Civil War, one is during the 1960s Civil Rights movement, and the other is “present day.” All three (white) women have to grapple with racism in a very personal way. Somewhat spoiler: there is an extramarital affair in here. And while the emotions are portrayed as understandable, the author doesn’t excuse it, and even shows the remorse and huge family repercussions, down through generations, of that affair. I appreciated that. I highly recommend it!

Kid Lit

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

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I’ve had this on my to-read pile for awhile. I finally read it. I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, the prose feels like L.M. Montgomery’s in Anne, due to its whimsy and apt descriptions of the passing of seasons that just touches the heartstrings. However, I really, really, disliked Toad’s storyline. And his change of heart felt abrupt and unrealistic, almost like Grahame felt like the story had gone on long enough, but he needed to make it somewhat a good moral lesson.

Also, the way he describes Toad’s obsession with cars honestly sounds like an addiction. I mean, no joke. So I just have mixed feelings about whether this should really be such a beloved book. I’m not convinced it’s one I’d give to my (hypothetical) kids to read.

Did Not Finish

The Plus One by Sarah Archer

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A random library pick that I did not finish. I wanted to like it, truly. It’s a fun, fresh twist on a romance: the main character works with robots and is on the cusp of creating a very life-like, human-looking one, but struggles with dating. She creates one using work resources so she can have a plus one, and realizes how nice it is to have a partner/companion/date.

I did not finish this because of the way a secondary character talked about sex and dating – flippant, provocative, crude – and because of several expletives within the first few chapters.


What have you been reading? I’d love to hear your recent favorites – fiction or nonfiction – in the comments!

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