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  • Writer's pictureJenna Miller

January 2021 Books!

Death in Mud Lick: A Coal Country Fight Against the Drug Companies that Delivered the Opioid Epidemic by Eric Eyre---this nonfiction book captured me right away with its title. It reminds me of a nonfiction deep dive into the issues surrounding the book Hillbilly Elegy by JD Vance. Eyre is a journalist in West Virginia who was made aware of the insane amount of opioids distributed into small towns in his state. Specifically, nearly 9 million opioid pills were distributed by a pharmacy in Kermit, West Virginia, a town of 382 people. People would drive in from hours and states away, and popcorn was offered for those standing in line. How does something like this go unnoticed? After her brother's overdose in 2005, Debbie Preece contacted a lawyer to help. The trial brought against the major offending pharmaceutical companies (Cardinal Health, McKesson, AmerisourceBergen) was set to go to court in March of 2020, but apparently it has been indefinitely postponed as of December 2020. This book is full of politicians, the DEA, pharmaceutical companies, pharmacies, and doctors pointing fingers at each other as to whom is at fault. It is such a tragic and infuriating read. I definitely recommend it. We need to be informed so this doesn't happen in our hometowns.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by VE Schwab---this was the pick for my local book club. I was not looking forward to reading it, but the writing was fantastic. I ended up enjoying the book much more than I had anticipated. This fantasy book centers around a girl from 1700s France who makes a deal with a devilish spirit. She desperately wants to never belong to anyone, but she doesn't realize that the deal she makes ultimately renders her completely forgettable. As soon as someone turns their back on her, she is forgotten. It was a very interesting read, although I will caveat that with warnings for LGBTQ content, some drug use, and language. You'll probably enjoy it if you like fantasy.

You're Not Enough (And That's Okay) by Allie Beth Stuckey---Allie Beth hosts a podcast called Relatable that focuses on incorporating a biblical worldview into politics, culture, etc. I really enjoy it. Her book was fantastic as well. She delves into how the 'self-love' culture is destructive, idolatrous, and unbiblical. The Bible specifically says we are not enough--that's why Jesus had to die for our sins in our place. Those of us who are followers of Christ should think of ourselves less, and think about Christ more. I encourage everyone to pick it up.

How To Walk Away by Katherine Center---I loved this romantic comedy so much! I have thoroughly enjoyed all of her books thus far, so I plan to read them all. The night of Maggie's engagement, she is involved in a terrible accident that completely changes her life. While going through physical therapy in the hospital, she learns how to be content no matter her life circumstances. (A thoroughly Christian idea--hello Philippians!) I loved the relationship between Maggie and her sister. Center does a fabulous job with writing rom-coms that incorporate major life issues. Her books are not pure fluff. Highly recommend all her books.

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys---this historical fiction YA novel follows four teenagers fleeing the Soviet advance into Germany at the end of WWII. They each manage to board the Wilhelm Gustloff in the Baltic Sea. For those who have never heard of this ship, it became infamous as the worst maritime disaster in history. Sepetys is such a skilled writer. I could feel the palpable desperation portrayed by the people fleeing the Soviet atrocities. Some of her descriptions were incredibly hard to read. Pick it up if you are interested in historical fiction.

Death at La Fenice and Strange Country by Donna Leon---these are the first two books in Leon's mystery series set in Venice. She is a prolific writer with 29 novels in this series. In the first novel, Commissario Guido Brunetti investigates the death of a world-renowned conductor. A former Nazi, married to a much younger woman, and known to alienate those with whom he works, there is no shortage of suspects. The second novel centers around relations between Italy and the nearby American base as Brunetti investigates the death of a young American sergeant. I thoroughly enjoyed this series and plan to read more. Leon makes me want to visit Venice again if we ever get the chance!

This Time Next Year by Sophie Cousens---this chick-lit novel follows two 30 year olds born one minute apart on New Year's Day in England. Cousens jumps around in her timeline, weaving their stories together to show how lives can unknowingly intertwine. I liked that the author bounced back and forth between the two main characters' points of view. This was fun read. I found one of the characters to be rather annoying for the first third of the book, but once she let her guard down I enjoyed the story much more. There is a little bit of language, but other than that, this is a quick, light read!

Out of the Silence: After the Crash by Eduardo Strauch---I watched the movie Alive! in my senior high school Spanish class. For those who are not familiar, in 1972 an airplane crashed in the Valley of Tears in the Andes Mountains. The search was called off after a couple weeks, but there were survivors. They lived in the shell of their airplane for 76 days, and when their meager food supply ran out, they were forced to either die or eat the dead. Strauch is one of the survivors. After a climber randomly found his jean jacket and ID cards while climbing the mountain, Strauch decided it was time to tell his story. His tale is extremely interesting, although I will say I skipped over his detailed New Age-y reminisces of the mountain. Many of the survivors have written memoirs, so if you are interested, pick one up!

The Last Story of Mina Lee by Nancy Jooyoun Kim---fiction; Korean American Margot Lee is concerned because her mom, Mina, has not answered her phone in several days. She and her friend Miguel drive there only to discover her mother dead in her apartment. Margot has to confront the fact that she did not really know her mother, and does her death actually add up? This had the makings of a great novel, but it just fell short for me. I was not a huge fan of the author's writing style, but I finished it to see what would happen. The scenes from Mina's life in Korea were heartbreaking. There are also a great deal of scenes in the novel meant to inspire compassion for illegal immigration without presenting the other side. I don't know, I just felt unsatisfied after I closed the book.

The Call of the Wild by Jack London---I was introduced to another book challenge with suggested books: Read Around the World. The month of January was Antartica/the Arctic. I had never read Jack London, so I chose this famous work of his. I really had no idea what it was about. The writing was so, so good that I had to read some of it aloud. It is written from the perspective of Buck, a domesticated Saint Bernard/Shepherd mix, who is stolen from his home in sunny California to be sold as a sled dog during the Klondike Gold Rush. The violence of some of these scenes was so incredibly hard to read, but I could not stop because London's style was incredible. The novel is very short, and even though I probably won't reread it, I am glad I picked it up. On another note, Jack London lived an incredibly interesting life. I may have to read a biography about him.

Last Light and Night Light by Terri Blackstock---I read these first two books in the Restoration series while feeding my new baby at night. Thanks, babe for the Kindle! They follow the Branning family after an atmospheric phenomenon (similar to an EMP) knocks out all electricity worldwide. Everyone must learn to survive in this new world. In the second novel, four young abandoned children from a nearby apartment complex are introduced. Their mom, a known drug addict, has disappeared and they have been left to steal and fend for themselves. These have mystery, suspense, romance, and faith struggles in them. I have liked Blackstocks books since high school when I used to check them out from our church library. I definitely plan to finish the series.

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