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  • Writer's pictureJenna Miller

January 2023 Reads!

Hello from Upstate New York where our hill is covered in snow and the wind is whipping over our house! It has been lovely to see family and shop in American stores, but we are missing our friends overseas. I read some good books this month; I hope you find one that piques your interest.

Black Rednecks and White Liberals by Thomas Sowell: Sowell is a well-known economist and this book is a compilation of some of his essays. It is incredibly well-researched and so interesting. His first essay, this book's name, traces the black ghetto culture back to white, Southern landowners who emigrated from Northern Ireland (before its modernization). So fascinating. Another essay focuses on what the school system has gotten wrong about its educational approach toward black children. Another focuses on how the demonization of financial middlemen throughout history played a major hand in the Jewish genocide by the Nazis. There are more essays as well, and all of them are outstanding. This is a larger book, but so worth it!

Half Magic by Edward Eager: four children are out wandering their neighborhood when they find a nickel on the ground and pocket it. Trial and error leads them to discover that it grants wishes, but only by halves. Hilarious adventures ensue. These chapters left the kids and I laughing out loud. We all enjoyed this read-aloud. Thankful for my friend, E, who suggested it. I plan to buy the rest in this series since it was so beloved.

Saving Cinderella: What Feminists Get Wrong About Disney Princesses and How to Set it Right by Faith Moore: I checked this book out after Callie at Through Clouded Glass recommended it months ago. Moore takes the top rated Disney princesses along with the historical fairy tale symbolism, and compares that to the twisted accusations made by third-wave feminists. Some of their accusations hold up, and some of the princesses truly are terrible, but for the most part the fairy tales have been taken out of context from their historic symbolism. I thought this was so interesting! Definitely take a look.

Keeper of Enchanted Rooms by Charlie N. Holmberg: estranged from his family for over a decade, Merrit Fernsby is astonished to find that his grandmother left him a remote house on Narragansett Bay in her will. He is further horrified to discover that said house is enchanted when he finds himself unable to leave it. Hulda Larkin from the Boston Institute for the Keeping of Enchanted Rooms is sent in. but both get more than they bargained for when their pasts come to the forefront. This was such a surprise to me! It has a little romance, suspense, magical realism, horror and I had a hard time putting it down!

The Bookstore Sisters by Alice Hoffman: a magical realism short story. Sisters Isabel and Sophie have been estranged for decades, ever since the death of their parents and Isabel's subsequent flight from home. Their reconciliation comes with Isabel's unexpected return. All the purposeful forgetting Isabel has done over the years resurfaces (it's almost disjointed or stream of consciousness which I didn't really enjoy). Both sisters annoyed me, so the first half was so-so for me, but I really enjoyed the last part of it.

The Matchmaker's Gift by Lynda Cohen Loigman: as a child recently arrived in America in 1910, Sara makes her first match when she sees a thread connecting her sister to her future husband. Threats from the traditional Jewish matchmakers force Sara to make matches without either intended party realizing her hand in it. Decades later, Abby is devastated by her grandmother's death. She inherits her matchmaking journals, but skepticism from her parents' terrible divorce and her job as a divorce attorney prevent her from believing her grandmother had a gift. Well, until something changed that perception. This was one of my mom's favorite books from 2022, and I really loved it also! Highly recommend!

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys: historical fiction; during WWII, Lithuania finds itself stuck between a rock and a hard place--Hitler versus Stalin. When the Soviet Union invades Lithuania, those who were against either party were rounded up and shipped as cattle into work camps and gulags to "work off their criminal records". 15 year old Lina and her family are some of those unfortunates, eventually ending up in Siberia. This story was even more potent because Sepetys' Lithuanian father and grandparents were among those shipped off to gulags. Often these poor people were left there for 12-15 years. This story emerged as a compilation of several stories of survivors she interviewed. A must read. (This book is also offered in graphic novel format.)

The Do-Over by Bethany Turner: hot-shot lawyer McKenna is blindsided when she finds herself wrongly accused of embezzling from her firm. Placed on forcible administrative leave during the investigation, she reluctantly returns home for her sister's wedding. There McKenna meets her old, geeky high school friend who just so happens to be the hottest documentarian on the market, and he uncovers a mystery in her family tree. As they try to solve it, sparks fly while McKenna's career hangs in the balance. This was a cute, clean, fluff read. If you are looking for something fun and easy, this would be a good choice.

The Mayfair Bookshop by Eliza Knight: historical fiction; this follows portions of the life of Nancy Mitford as she writes her books, deals with an unhappy marriage to a serial philanderer, and struggles with her highly dysfunctional family. Two of the Mitford sisters were ardent socialists and Nazi supporters, one may even have been Hitler's lover at one point. All of the women in the family had acerbic tongues. Reading about Nancy's family life was like watching a train wreck! There was a current timeline to be read with this story, but Nancy's life definitely overshadowed it. I just felt terribly sorry for her as I read this. What an ultimately unfulfilled life she must have led, void of God and always in the pursuit of fleeting happiness. However, I am interested to try one of her novels.

Live Your Truth and Other Lies: Exposing Popular Deceptions That Make Us Anxious, Exhausted, and Self-Obsessed by Alisa Childers: Childers (whom I love--check out her other book and podcast) takes some of the top "truths" culture tries to sell people and aligns it against Scripture. It is always lacking and always deceptive even if it initially sounds harmless. Some of these lies she exposes include "you are enough", "follow your heart", "you only have one life to live", etc. True freedom can only come through a relationship, a surrendering to the LORD, not through whatever motto the world tries to sell us. Highly recommend.

Being in a new place, I also reread some comfort reads: the Magiford series by K.M. Shea. She has three trilogies out, and a fourth will be completed in March. Some of my absolute favorites!

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