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  • Writer's pictureJenna Miller

July 2022 Reads!

The Bright Side of Disaster by Katherine Center: engaged and very pregnant Jenny feels she's on the cusp of having everything she's ever wanted...until her fiancé walks out the door on a grocery run and never returns. His abandonment triggers labor, and Jenny finds herself the single mom of a beautiful baby girl. Jenny learns to live this new life and slowly begins to realize that perhaps she had been settling for someone who had proven himself as less than. I love Center's books, but this was probably my least favorite of her works. I think it is one of her earliest too. I loved the descriptions of Jenny falling in love with her baby, breastfeeding, learning to do things one-handed---super relatable and sweet. It was a fast read and I was pulled in quickly. It did have more language than her later books. There's a sweet little romance inside along with some fun family drama. I would rate it a B.

The Magician's Nephew by C.S. Lewis: I have been reading The Chronicles of Narnia aloud with my two oldest boys this year, and we have officially finished all of them! They were a big hit with my kiddos. Lewis was so great at weaving theological truths into his stories. I find something new with each reread. If you have never read them, give them a shot! Even if you are an adult. They are so good.

The Wild Robot by Peter Brown: middle-grade novel. A hurricane destroys a cargo ship carrying 500 boxed robots. Five are swept onto an uninhabited (by people) island where one is accidentally activated by otters. Robot Roz awakens to a world she has been ill-prepared to inhabit. She learns to survive in the wild and befriend the cautious animals, until her mysterious origins rear their heads. We listened to this as an audiobook and my boys were enthralled. The sound effects were great. If you have a kiddo interested in robots, the outdoors, or animals, this would be a great pick. It is not an action-packed read though, more of a slow and steady build. My boys give it five stars and are ready to listen to #2!

A Haunting at Havenwood by Sally Britton: regency era novel; after being notified by her overbearing mother that they are penniless and homeless, Louisa is summarily sent away by her mother to live with an unknown aunt in the Welsh countryside. Her aunt proves to be a kind, loving woman, and Louisa soon discovers the benefits of not being at someone's beck and call. On a walk past some castle ruins, she comes to face-to-face with a man whose name is on the tombstone in front of her. This chance meeting sparks a joint, avid interest in local lore about a lost royal treasure. This was super cute. I thoroughly enjoy Britton's regency novels! If you haven't read one yet, this would be a good place to start! :)

Neverland Falling and Breaking Neverland by Brittany Fichter: retelling of Peter Pan! Wendy's parents are trying to force her into a marriage with an unkind man, so when the infamous Peter Pan offers her an escape, she takes it. Neverland is beautiful and magical. Peter is handsome and fun. But Neverland is slowly falling apart, and Wendy comes to the realization (with help from unkind faeries), that she is the reason for it. Everything is not as it seems in Neverland. There are destructive forces at work, clothed in phrases like "for the common good" and "you made a promise". This was a great version of Peter Pan. I enjoyed it more than JM Barrie's original. Fichter dealt with a more logical thought process--with what would a lost boy who left Neverland struggle? Would living the same fun day every day really be satisfying? I recommend these two!

The Legendary Inge by Kate Stradling: a retelling of Beowulf where the slayer of the monstrous beast was actually a woman. One who did not want to be adopted by the king, thank you very much! Inge is out for a walk in the woods to clear her mind when she is suddenly attacked by a monstrosity. She slams her wooden sword on its skull and does the king's soldiers could not. However, the king is determined to proclaim her as his new adopted son and heir. Is he mad? Devious? Why is Inge being forced into this lifestyle? As evil lurks (literally) at her door, she realizes that she must be clever and have weapons concealed upon her at all times. This book was published in 2015, but I had to chuckle at how it fits into the cultural issues now. There is one major difference: in this book, Inge is fighting for reality, while our society is fighting to disregard said reality. Stradling's books are always a win for me, and this one was no exception! Recommend!

James Herriot's Treasury for Children by James Herriot: this audiobook was great fun for my older boys and for me. I love Herriot's adult books about his life as a veterinarian. This treasury contains some funny and charming tales from those books specifically for kiddos to hear. They loved hearing about the dog who only ever barked once, the lost lamb, and the Christmas kitten. If you have an animal lover, this would be a fun pick to listen to together. It's relatively short at eight chapters, so we finished it within a few days. A+

The Summer of Lost and Found by Mary Alice Monroe: set during 2020, Linnea Rutledge finds herself lost after being furloughed from her job, socially distancing herself, and struggling with her feelings for her newly-in-town ex and her visiting English boyfriend. Okay, so I have read most of Monroe's books because she always came through my hometown to do book signings, and although she leans pretty heavily toward environmentalism, I always enjoyed learning something new about nature from her. Previous topics have been about dolphins, monarch butterflies, turtles, fly-fishing, etc. None of that was present in this book. I should have stopped when I realized it was about 2020, but I hoped the story would redeem itself. It felt like an ode to mask-wearing with thinly veiled political opinions sprinkled throughout. I was disappointed. Does anyone else feel like it's too soon to be writing 2020 novels? I also felt like the ending was lacking. There is very clearly a trend in many books to focus on self first, find yourself, you are enough, you do you, etc. It drives me crazy. So, all that to say, I did not enjoy this and I do not recommend it. Her earlier works are much better.

Christian Beliefs: 20 Basics Every Christian Should Know by Wayne Grudem and edited by Elliot Grudem: Many Christians are turned off by theological books, or assume they know enough to get by or won't understand the content, but Grudem disagrees. His premise is that even if you do not go to seminary, there are basics about Christianity that every Christian should know and be able to explain if asked. It is part of loving the LORD with all of your mind. Wayne Grudem has written a massive tome called Systematic Theology, and this is a condensed version of that work. I chose to surrender control of my life to Christ when I was a young teenager, but spiritual growth/discipleship did not really happen until during and after college. Many of these 20 basics I have heard all my life growing up in church, but could not succinctly explain. Each chapter is short, to the point, and easy to read. Highly recommend for all Christians. I would just encourage those claiming to be Christians to not be satisfied with saying a prayer for salvation. If we do not know why we believe what we believe, then false teachings and unbiblical ideas will creep in easily and parasitically. Pray for the motivation and ability to do hard things like reading your Bible daily, learning to pray, reading theology books, etc. It is one of the best things the Holy Spirit has helped me do. And if you are not a Christian, this is a great book to pick up if you want to know the tenets of Christianity.

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