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  • Writer's pictureJenna Miller

February 2023 Reads!

Night Angels by Weina Day Randel: WWII historical fiction. This book follows the true story of Chinese diplomat, Dr. Ho Fengshan, to Germany in the years leading up to WWII. He and his wife are advocating for Germany's help against the invading Japanese army. Instead of the help that was promised, they are met with vague answers. When Dr. Ho sees the mass roundups of Jewish citizens, his questions conclude in threats toward him by the German government. He is forced to choose between duty to his country, and issuing thousands of visas to China for the desperate Jewish people. This story is also written from Grace Ho's perspective. Little is known about her, so this part of the story is heavily fictionalized. I found this very interesting, especially viewing events from an Asian perspective. I say to give it a read.

Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling by John Taylor Gatto: Gatto was a public school teacher in NYC for thirty years before he wrote this book in 1992. This book is a compilation of five of his speeches given during award presentations for his teaching skills. He is a proponent for a complete restructuring of compulsory public education, less school rather than more school, and allowing kids ample private time to learn things for themselves (and not be under constant surveillance as kids are in public school). He has major, well-argued issues on how the curriculum universally applied in school leads kids to exhibit indifference, emotional and intellectual dependency, a lack of curiosity and inability to think critically, treat others cruelly, etc. His speeches are entirely fascinating. They made me study my own public/private school experiences with a new eye. I would say that much of what he has to say is entirely relevant. I plan to read more of his books.

Live Not By Lies: A Manual for Christian Dissidents by Rod Dreher: Dreher decided to write this book after receiving an email about the concerns a first generation immigrant from a formerly communist country had regarding America's current political state. We have seen the rise of "soft totalitarianism" in the U.S.--something closer to Brave New World than 1984. We willingly allow recording devices into our homes (surveillance). We are a lonely, isolated people willing to give up our freedom for safety/convenience (hello 2020 restrictions). We are willing to believe/not fight too hard against the lies of politicians and leaders who continually flip-flop on issues without explanation. Political loyalty is more highly prized than actual expertise. Dreher lists many more. He also interviews several people who grew up being the Iron Curtain. Do they see totalitarianism on the rise in the US? (Yes.) How did they stay spiritually strong in the face of immense torture and long imprisonments? (Small groups.) I wept over many of the stories. I would highly advocate for every Christian to read this book. One of my major takeaways: it is imperative for Christians to be part of a small group so that when hard times come, we will not be like the seed sown on rocky ground (Mark 4).

Set The Stars Alight by Amanda Dykes: in London, one family's cottage comes to life with stories from the past that seem to magical to be true. The author's not at the end of the book notes the truth behind these stories, so cool! This story follows four people. Two from present day, and two from the early 1800s. Really neat aspects combining maritime archaeology and space to discover a mystery. It is really difficult to summarize this book. It was one of my absolute favorite fiction reads thus far this year. I read and loved her first book also, Whose Waves These Are. Here was one of my favorite quotes and the major theme of this novel: "'To remember the God who is coming, and coming, and coming to find your heart,' he'd say. 'Wherever you are, whatever's happened. With every miracle around every ordinary corner.'"

M is for Mama: A Rebellion Against Mediocre Motherhood by Abbie Halberstadt: Do you feel troubled by the narrative put forth about motherhood by social media? Where choosing to be a stay-at-home-mom requires a caveat for your decision, children are considered stumbling blocks for your 'real calling', 'me time' is king, and so much more? Or maybe you are similar to me in that you do not realize all the ways you have allowed secular culture to shape how you view and talk about motherhood. This book is for you! It is convicting and encouraging, chock full of contextual Scripture. I specifically enjoyed the end-of-chapter prayers and lists of how mediocre motherhood differs from Christlike motherhood. She has a podcast and shop. I love her message that just because something is hard, does not mean that it is bad.

The Mitford Affair by Marie Benedict: historical fiction from 1932-1941. This follows the lives of three infamous Mitford sisters: Nancy, Diana, and Unity. It was interesting to read how Nancy came to the conclusion that she must betray her sisters to the British government. Diana broke tradition by divorcing her rich, devoted husband to become the mistress of Oswald Mosely, the leader of the Socialist party in Britain. And Unity made headlines with her intimate relationship with Adolf Hitler. So fascinating. I recommend it. I have enjoyed all of Benedict's books thus far.

Whose Body? The First Lord Peter Wimsey book by Dorothy Sayers: A man returns home to the apartment he shares with his deaf mother. He awakes to discover a dead man, wearing only pince-nez, in his bathtub. Lord Peter, an acquaintance and an amateur detective, shows up at his door to surreptitiously investigate. Joined in his efforts is a friend of Scotland Yard dragging along a seemingly unrelated case. This was my first Sayers' novel (written in 1923). I loved all the British humor and the twists and turns of the case. I will have to try another!

The Legends of Abreia Series by Kenley Davidson: clean fantasy series. The small country of Farhall is effectively being forced into a marital contract between Farhall's princess and Garimore's second prince. But, why? Farhall is effectively bankrupt and currently being attacked by elves. Garimore is large and prosperous. Leisa, a mirror mage and the princess' bodyguard, is sent in her place. What she discovers chills her to the bone and makes her question all she thinks she knows about her power. The first two installments focus on Leisa, and the second two focus on the princess. I thoroughly enjoyed these!

Midnight for the Curse by E.J. Kitchens: a Beauty and the Beast retelling where the Beast is perfectly content staying cursed as it gives him more time to read peacefully in his massive library. The enchantress has placed extra, rather annoying restrictions on the original curse to try to kick him out of his complacency. A fruitless exercise until Belinda comes along and throws his perfect routine into disarray. So fun! I loved this take!

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