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  • Writer's pictureJenna Miller

February 2021 Books!

Every Secret Thing by Susanna Kearsley: historical fiction novel set in 1940s and present day Canada, NYC, and Portugal. A Canadian journalist is reporting on a London trial (a man killed and assumed the identities of 22 different people) when she is approached by an elderly man who seems to know her. He tells her he has information about a murder committed years ago that needs justice. Then as he walks away he becomes the victim of a hit and run. This incident sets her on a spiral to do whatever it takes to discover the truth. I loved this book. It may be one of my favorites of the year. I loved the recurring theme to not look past or through the elderly people around you. Highly recommend! I will have to read the rest of Kearsley's backlist. Another great book by her is Bellewether, another historical fiction novel that switches back and forth between the Seven Years' War and present day.

Until Tomorrow: Christy and Todd the College Years by Robin Jones Gunn: my local friend Jessica loves all of Gunn's books, so I decided to read this one when I saw it was free with KindleUnlimited. Gunn has written loads of Christian fiction books that are quick, fun reads. This book was fun specifically because the main characters are touring Europe! It allowed me to vicariously travel through these characters since travel is a no-go here at the moment. You don't have to read these books in order, so pick one up if you want a fun, fast, clean read!

The Girl with Seven Names: Escape from North Korea by Hyeonseo Lee: this autobiography was gripping from the first pages. Lee describes her childhood in North Korea in great detail, her unplanned escape, hiding for years in China, and finally escaping Communist totalitarian regimes by making it to South Korea. Her story reads like a novel. She includes a side story about her friend, another NK escapee who was caught by authorities in China and sent back to North Korea. During torture, she was specifically asked if she knew any Christians. That simple statement gives me a great desire to pray for believers in these countries. I thought Lee did a fantastic job showing how challenging it is to shrug off the paranoid mindset from living in North Korea to truly thrive in a free country like South Korea. This book is definitely a must-read.

The Red Address Book by Sofia Lundberg: fiction; a 96 year old woman living in Stockholm, Sweden starts to look through her red address book. Almost every name now has a strike-through with the word 'dead' written beside it. With the encouragement from one of her caregivers, she decides to write out her life story for her only living relative, a great-niece in America. Each chapter focuses on her interactions with a different person from her life. The story ranges from the 1920s to present day. It has themes of abandonment, lost love, female independence before it was usual, and the importance of family--born into or found along the way. I loved the last line of this book; it left me in tears.

The Stationary Shop by Marjan Kamali: historical fiction set from 1953-2013, Tehran, Iran to the United States. 17 year old Roya meets the love of her life, Bahman, on the eve of the Prime Minister Mossadegh's ousting. They have plans to elope but he never shows. In the midst of heartbreak, Roya and her sister are given the opportunity to attend college in America, and they go with their parents' blessing. Life continues on, as it does, for fifty years, until Roya is given the opportunity to find out what actually happened that day in Tehran. This book has some of the most beautiful, fantastic writing I have ever read. I could not put this book down, but also did not want to read it too fast. Highly, highly recommend. (Isn't the cover beautiful?)

The Guest List by Lucy Foley: suspense. Guests arrive for a highly anticipated wedding on a secluded island. As stormy weather encloses the island, cutting them off from returning to the mainland, someone is about to come face-to-face with their past demons. This had all the makings of a great book, but it was not for me. It was our local book club pick, and about a third of the way through I decided to skim to the end. I did not really care for any of the characters, there was too much foul language for my taste, and many of the things the characters had gone through were heartbreaking. I have one other book to try by this author before moving on to ones that may better fit my tastes.

Feels Like Falling by Kristy Woodson Harvey: chick-lit; two women from radically different worlds find strength in each other as their lives are turned upside down. Gray made a fortune in her early twenties, but now her husband wants a divorce after ten years of marriage, her mother has just died of cancer, and her husband is trying to take half of her company. Diana's mother left her and her siblings when they were young kids, and they grew up in and out of foster homes. She loses her job (partially due to Gray), breaks up with her deadbeat boyfriend, and finds herself homeless. These two very different women lean on each other, find love in unlikely places, and heal. I did not care for this novel as much as I liked her first trilogy. I felt uncomfortable with some of the content, and did not relate to either main character. However, there was a lovely theme throughout the book about the importance of having community to rely on in life.

A Room with A View by E.M. Forster: classic novel, Lucy and her spinster cousin Charlotte travel to Florence and Rome during the 1800s where she meets two young men: the passionate George Emerson and the proper, more sedate Cecil. Upon her return to England she must make a decision regarding what kind of man she will choose as hers. I enjoyed this novel far more than I imagined I would! Forster includes some very tongue-in-cheek themes regarding social class, a woman's place, and pokes fun at English traveling through the Continent. My friend Callie wrote about using the Serial app--you are sent 10-15 minute installments each day of a classic of your choice. It makes reading classics that seem challenging, easier. I loved the book and the app, so check them both out!

From Scratch: A Memoir of Love, Sicily, and Finding Home by Tembi Locke: actress Tembi Locke wrote this autobiography several years after her husband of almost two decades died after a long battle with cancer. I do not like reading about cancer, so I was hesitant to pick this book up. Locke, however, is an adept storyteller and I was immediately drawn in by her writing style. This book is less about cancer, and more about dealing with grief and falling in love with her husband's home. I was left wanting to visit Sicily, cook Italian food, and feeling thankful that my family stands on the truth of the Gospel. We know that death does not bring eternal separation because of our submission to Christ. Unfortunately, it was clear that Locke and Saro did not have this same foundation. Still, their story is beautifully told. Recipes are included at the end of the book!

Hour of the Assassin by Matthew Quirk: suspense; Nick Averose is a mock killer. Retired from the Secret Service, he now is hired to find security vulnerabilities for those in power. This all goes awry when the owner of his latest job, the former director of the CIA, is murdered while he is present on the job, and Nick is being actively framed for the death. In the world of political intrigue that is DC, Nick does not know who to trust. His wife? Old military buddy? Coworkers? This novel was laced with suspense. I really liked the short chapters and the twists I didn't see coming. If you are in the mood for some action, pick this one up! (There is some language, but its rather minimal.)

Stealing Home: A Sweet Magnolia Novel by Sherryl Woods: chick-lit; this is the first book in the Magnolia series from which the Netflix show Sweet Magnolias is based upon. I enjoyed the show, so I thought I would check out the first book. This was a nice, cozy novel that definitely had some differences from the TV show. Perhaps the show's first season includes content from later books? I haven't decided if I will read more in the series. It was a nice palate cleanser, but I am not necessarily hooked on the series.

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