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  • Writer's pictureJenna Miller

March 2023 Book Reviews

Happy Resurrection Day, fellow readers!

1 Corinthians 15:17, 19 "And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins...If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied."

The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder: this installment of the Little House on the Prairie books covers the terrible winter of blizzards from 1880-1881 in Dakota Territory that the Ingalls family survived. Seven months of blizzards! I cannot remember if I read this as a girl or not. This was a family read aloud with my bigger boys, and it was fitting for our first snowy winter in the midst of our move to New York. We all were enthralled, especially with the descriptions of how the blizzards sounded. I cried at the end! These are great books!

They Came for Freedom: The Forgotten, Epic Adventure of the Pilgrims by Jay Milbrandt: nonfiction by an author who can trace both sides of his family back to the Mayflower. This doesn't only speak about the Pilgrims' journey to the New World, but also about the political climate in Holland and Europe as a whole during these decades. It was gratifying to see world events click in my mind while reading this book. I also appreciated Milbrandt laying out what the Pilgrims were facing in Holland, what prepping for the long voyage and move entailed, and the incredible hardship of life in the New World. His research made me relate to them in a whole new way. I was also surprised to learn more about the famous Squanto and his somewhat shady character traits. The majority of this I was never taught in school. I throughly enjoyed this history book and learned a great deal.

Beyond the Wand: The Magic and Mayhem of Growing Up A Wizard by Tom Felton: memoir of the actor who played Draco Malfoy in the Harry Potter movies. I grew up watching all the HP movies and was so sad when the last one was released. I found Felton's book to be entertaining, honest, and easy to read. He details how his acting career started as a young boy, his surprisingly normal upbringing (in comparison to that of his more famous HP colleagues), his struggles with depression, etc. It was a quick, fascinating read. There is a bit of language in it, but nothing crazy.

Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt: 70 year old Tova has endured a great deal of tragedy--from her son's untimely death at 18 to her husband's more recent death from cancer. To keep busy, she takes on a job as the night cleaner at the Sowell Bay aquarium in Washington State where she befriends a remarkably bright Giant Pacific Octopus. Tova routinely rescues Marcellus from his nightly explorations outside of his tank. Point of view flips among Tova, Marcellus, and a young man named Cameron who is searching for his birth father. I loved Marcellus. This was such an interesting premise. There is some language, and Cameron is rather unlikeable for much of the story, but I highly recommend it!

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn: historical fiction from World War I and right after World War II. 1915--Eve begins work as a spy in occupied France. Her experiences there haunt her emotionally and wreck her physically. 1947--Charlie, unwed and pregnant, is chaperoned by her mother overseas to have her 'problem' taken care of. She escapes in a desperate attempt to discover the whereabouts of her missing French cousin. Her only link is to Eve. Together they face their demons and discover the truth. Okay. This had the makings of a great story, but I could not get past the language. There was So Much. I eventually skimmed to the end because I was so uncomfortable and just wanted it to be over. In addition, Eve's experiences in the war were hard to read and, in my opinion, sometimes over-explicit. For those two reasons, I do not recommend it.

The Girl in His Shadow by Audrey Blake: historical fiction; Nora was the only survivor of cholera in her family during the Victorian London outbreak. Adopted by the doctor who saved her, she is raised in an unusual way resulting in her secretly mastering the same skills as male surgeons. Everything changes when her father brings in a new male assistant who has a very traditional view of medicine and women having no place in said field. Some of the medical descriptions were very detailed, so prepare yourself if you pick up this book. I was drawn in immediately. Recommend!

The Poppy Wife: A Novel of the Great War by Caroline Scott: historical fiction based on the author's grandparents' experiences. When Edie receives the telegram that her husband Francis is MIA and presumed dead, she never doubts the veracity of it. Several years later in 1921, she receives an anonymous photo in the mail of her husband looking years older than the last time she saw him. She and her brother-in-law Harry set out to discover if Francis is indeed alive, each dealing with their own array of emotions and skeletons in their closets. This was a slow build-up, but such a well-written story. I thought the author did a great job expressing the times--the mental/emotional effects war, loved ones inability to accept MIA reports, and the survivors' PTSD. Recommend!

The Wild Robot Escapes by Peter Brown: sequel to The Wild Robot. Robot Ros, as a camouflage expert, has survived the factory where she went to be fixed and is now on a farm helping out a grieving family. Her heart continually yearns to return home to her island, and with a lot of help from some unexpected places, she starts out on her long journey. Obstacles abound. We listened to this on audio during our many drives to and from karate, co-op, etc. The boys loved it just as much as the first book, and cannot wait to listen to the third. They give it two thumbs up.

Goldmayne by Kate Stradling: a retelling and combination of two French-Canadian folk tales called "Scurvyhead" and "Sir Goldenhead". I had never heard of either one! Duncan doesn't believe in fairy tales. He runs away from his terrible father only to be hired by Old Dame Groach as caretaker to her crumbling estate. His duties include weeding her poisonous garden and beating a talking horse. Clearly things are not what they seem, and Duncan's refusal to believe in fairy tales may be his undoing! This was a fun, entertaining book. I have been enthralled by all Stradling's books. Recommend!

Clean Sweep by Ilona Andrews: science fiction; Dina may look like an ordinary person, but she runs a magic, sentient inn, her broom is a weapon, and her guests may be extraterrestrials. When massive, unearthly creatures begin to attack neighborhood dogs, Dina steps in with help from some other people who are not-as-they-seem. This was a quirky, different read for me. I read it super fast. It's the first in a series, had a bit of language, and a couple inappropriate jokes. Pick it up if you are in the market for a sci-fi/fantasy read.

The White Slipper by Brittany Fichter: novella length fantasy story. Princess River is distraught when her father injures his foot in a life-threatening accident. She is eternally grateful when a magic shoe is made for him that allows him to live a normal life as long as he wears it. She is beside herself when he loses said shoe, and then horrified when her father offers her hand in marriage to whichever man can find a replacement. Lots of emotions, but such a fun, cute novella. I enjoyed the story and the main characters.

Some random podcast recommendations that I have been enjoying:

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