Well, hello again, reader friends! It’s been far more than a hot minute since I added a post to this blog.
This fall has held some huge life changes for me personally. Late August, I bought my own place, and then moved in and took a good chunk of September to settle in. While buying a house and moving was super exciting, it also used up a lot of my emotional, physical, and mental capacity, as moving does.
In October, I got engaged! He took me hiking outside of Chattanooga and proposed at a gorgeous spot overlooking the Tennessee River. If there hadn’t been other hikers wanting to enjoy the view, I could have stayed there half the day and just soaked up the fact that he popped the question and we’re gonna get married! As it is, we took some photos of the place so I can revisit that practically perfect day in my memories as often as I like. And now, I have a very positive memory to associate with Chattanooga instead of how much I hate the bottleneck of traffic that is inevitably on the interstate going around it to get to/from my family.
Life just keeps happening, and writing about reading has slid to the back burner. Rightfully so. I mean, I have a wedding to plan now!
Even with all the big events taking place in my life, I do have a few books to share with you that I’ve read in the last few months, and I finally carved out some space to do so.
I put this on my TBR list awhile ago for two reasons: 1) I had never read anything by MLK beyond the excerpt of “Letter From a Birmingham Jail” found in my high school English textbook, and I thought he warranted more of my attention than just required reading in school.
2) My fiancé has read a lot of MLK’s works and his convictions have been shaped by MLK’s nonviolent philosophy. I wanted to read it straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak, so I could understand his perspective better.
Conclusion: Definitely worth it. It took me quite awhile to read, but it was neat to read about the Montgomery bus boycott from one of the main leaders. I learned a lot about it – you know how when you’re younger, history doesn’t really make sense and it’s just a bunch of dates and names and places? Then once you’ve lived through some historic events yourself/lived enough life, you have a better sense of time and can put historic events in context? That’s what reading about it felt like. But it also was convicting and challenging to read what MLK had to say about his nonviolent approach to changing things. I definitely recommend it.
The Scent Keeper by Erica Bauermeister
What is with all the books with “keeper” in the title that I’ve been reading lately? No idea, but this book was recommended by a friend who specifically thought of me and suggested it (Hey, Mandi!)
It’s about a little girl who grows up completely isolated on an island with her father and their “scent catcher”. She has no idea that her life is abnormal until she gets older. After a tragedy, she is taken off the island and into the care of a man and his wife who help her adjust to life beyond the island. She has, understandably, many questions about her father, who her mother is, and what her origins are.
It was a weird premise, honestly, yet an intriguing one. I kept reading it even when I didn’t quite want to, and I am glad I read to the end. I really wanted to figure out the scent machine thing that her dad had and the mystery of whether it was her mom or dad who was at fault for their rift. Plus, there’s a childhood sweetheart to love, too. There’s some redemption, but not fake-happy. I will let you know that there are plenty of triggers in there. So if childhood trauma, neglect, and domestic abuse are things you need to avoid in your reading life, don’t read this book.
Egypt’s Sister by Angela Hunt
This one: definitely a favorite read for this year. Historical fiction about Cleopatra. It’s got all sorts of historical Roman and Egyptian historical figures in it, but the main character is a fictional Jewish girl who is Cleopatra’s best childhood friend. It’s written from a Judeo-Christian point of view, and deals with faith even when you don’t see the point of things. Chava is a naive, sheltered, well-off Jewish girl who doesn’t understand the reality of her best friend’s life when she suddenly becomes Egypt’s queen.
Chava eventually undergoes her own pain and trials and grow up a bunch. There’s some feel of the ending being too good to be true, however, it’s a generally well-written story that gives a peek into some of the ins and outs of power and rulers in the years before Christ was born.
If you’re like me and don’t know much about this time period, but you enjoy historical fiction, I’d recommend it! There’s not really any content warnings that I have – I mean, there are references to realities of that time (Cleopatra’s affairs, some people making advances to Chava) – but it’s generally tame and just allusions.
The Record Keeper by Charles Martin
This is the third installment of Charles Martin’s Murphy Shepherd trilogy. It’s his first attempt at anything beyond two books.
I would say it’s not my favorite of his writing, but it’s good. The premise of the trilogy is a couple of men who rescue people from human trafficking and help them recover in a safe place. Because of the content, it’s definitely intense, especially since as the trilogy progresses it becomes clearer that there is a specific network/person that is working against them.
There is a definite Christological figure in this trilogy. While I didn’t love how obvious it was, there are some powerful examples of sacrificial love and forgiveness and some of the pithy descriptions of life that I have come to appreciate about Martin’s writing.
If you’re looking for a good, short series with some powerful pictures of love and redemption, along with some intense, almost-thriller type scenes, I’d recommend it.
The Diamond Eye by Kate Quinn
A friend from work lent this to me, conveniently right before I got sick and had to use some sick days. It kept me company very nicely while I hydrated in between naps and sleep.
The Diamond Eye is about a real-life WWII Soviet sniper. She was a single mother and a graduate student, but she joins up when the Soviet Union joins the war and becomes renowned for her high count of people she has killed.
Kate Quinn explains in her author’s note that she was fascinated by how a women who doesn’t seem like a “crazy killer” could be so deadly. It is your typical, fascinating WWII historical fiction, with one twist: it flips back and forth between the “present” on a goodwill tour in the U.S. with some thriller-like elements – someone is trying to kill her, but who? – and the past, telling her backstory and her war experiences.
In general, I liked it and gobbled it up as a good story. I will, say, though, that reading about a real-life sniper juxtaposed with reading Stride Toward Freedom (aka all about nonviolence) caused some cognitive dissonance. I’m okay with that. I just decided that I’d read it as a good story, even though I couldn’t stomach the violence in real life.
Fair warning: there is, obviously violence (hello: it’s about war). Also included: extramarital sex and sex scenes and a bad almost ex-husband who just keeps showing up and being abusive/controlling. I wanted to get rid of him, but didn’t like how Quinn did it.
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
I thought I DNF’d this book a couple of years ago, but my sister told me she thought I’d like it. Once I started reading it, I realized I had never tried it. Is there another book about an old, depressed man who sneaks out of his house through a window wearing nothing but long underwear and carrying a suitcase or something? Whatever the details of that other book, I was mixing the two together. Long story short: I like this one.
Ove is depressed because he is alone and has never had many friends. And then this crazy and intrusive new family moves into his neighborhood and his life is changed for the better.
The narration of Ove makes it blatantly clear that he would love to die and even tries to do so multiple times. However, as books (and life) happen to go sometimes: there was always an interruption or something not working such that he couldn’t complete the act of ending his life. (Thank goodness for nosy, caring neighbors!)
I loved that this book was really just about a neighborhood: good neighbors, soured relationships, and messy, complicated life situations. The narration was stellar with its apt descriptions of life (love those!) and the style generally flavorful with the chapter titles and characterizations. If you’re okay with the content considerations listed below, you’ll get to a satisfying, heart-warming ending.
Content warnings: some European cussing, depression and suicide attempts, normalization of gay marriage (it’s a minor part, and I do appreciate how Ove takes in the young man who gets kicked out of his house when he comes out to his dad), and grief
When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Peach Pie by Erin Soderberg Downing
Another book that focuses on grief: but kid-style. I’ve found only a couple of books that deal with death in a kid-appropriate way, but I think this one qualifies.
A single dad and three kids who lost their mom to cancer are still dealing with the aftermath a few years later. The oldest daughter has had to shoulder too much of the load as her dad buries herself in work. Her younger two brothers have had to try to get by and find their place in their family.
One summer, their dad unexpectedly announces that he bought a food truck and they’re going to make and sell pies all over the Midwest, ending at a food truck contest where they have the chance to win several thousand dollars. They all think he’s crazy. Will it be a success?
The narration flips between all three kids, and the author does a fabulous job of giving each kid their own flair as well as their own perspective on how the family is doing. That’s definitely true to life. The one criticism I had as I started the book was that it felt like she made some emotional things too obvious and could have let a bit more be inferred. However, once I got more attached to the characters, I was fine letting it go and enjoying the rest of it. The ending is happy (if unrealistic), and the healing the family finds leaves this reader feeling hopeful. 🙂
That’s it for my last few months of reading!
As you can see, I am really going off of people’s recommendations these days, so bring ’em on!
What have you been reading lately?