May 2022 Reads!
Jane and the Year without A Summer by Stephanie Barron: feeling poorly, Jane takes her sister Cassandra with her to Cheltenham Spa to take the waters. The year is 1816, and the Mount Tambora volcanic eruption has led to very mild summer temperatures, crops failing, and famine in some parts of the world. The calm the sisters envisioned does not come to pass as their fellow houseguests are troublesome, veiled in mystery, and life-threatening situations abound. Ill health, however, will not stop Jane from using her keen sense of observation to sleuth! This is toward the end of a series of books where Jane solves mysteries. I noticed this one at my library and decided to try it. I'm glad I did! It was fun, charming, but also sad because Jane Austen dies in 1817. Recommend!
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury: a future where firefighters start fires to burn books rather than put fires out. Guy Montag's ignorance and satisfaction with his job as a firefighter is wiped away by a chance meeting with Clarisse. She actually listens when he speaks, asks questions he's never thought about, goes for regular walks, and notices things around her (all characteristics that lead to trouble in their world). Bradbury envisions a world where people accept unquestioningly what the government tells them, are completely mesmerized by screens, do not have normal familial /romantic relationships, children are scorned, marriages are entered into flippantly, etc. So good. I thought Bradbury did a great job writing Montag's stream of consciousness thoughts. For a novel written in the early 1950s, it has definitely held up over time. A great reread!
Popes and Feminists: How the Reformation Frees Women from Feminism by Elise Crapuchettes: This books tackles two subjects: how women were viewed before versus after the Reformation, and how Christian women should view their own places in the home. According to firsthand accounts from that era, before the Reformation women were despised, considered evil for causing men to lust, weak minded, etc. Being a wife and mother was not a holy vocation--only joining a convent was considered a worthwhile way for women to live. After the Reformation, women were able to free themselves from convents (many had been forcibly sent there), marry, be viewed with worth, raise children, and even run businesses. Crapuchettes delves into the lives of several of the reformers' wives. These women were amazing. She posits that modern women should take a page from their counterparts in the past, and not devalue the holiness that comes from being a wife and a mother. I thought this was an incredibly interesting read!
The Theology Handbook by the Daily Grace Co.: this is a quick reference guide to Christian theology. Entries include topics like soteriology, eschatology, angels, demons, the Trinity, canonized books of the Bible, and so much more. It is visually pleasing and provides great, short definitions of some of the staples of the Christian faith. I loved reading through this in the mornings after my Bible study. It gave great information and definitions on words I always heard from growing up in church, but did not always know how to succinctly explain to someone else. Highly recommend!
The Seven Sisters by Lucinda Riley: Maia d'Apliese is the eldest of six sisters, all adopted by their rich, reclusive, beloved father. Upon his death, he leaves each daughter the coordinates from where he found them along with a letter. Reticent Maia discovers she is from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and uncharacteristically hops on a plane to discover her story. The novel jumps back in time to her grandmother who is pressured into marrying a well-connected Brazilian, but ends up having an affair with a French artist during her European tour before marriage. I had high hopes for this series, but the story about Maia's grandmother is very 'pro' her affair. The sanctity of marriage was clearly not there, and her adultery was put forth with the attitude 'who could blame her?' I skipped to the end to see what happened. I wish the story had been handled differently!
Piranesi by Susanna Clarke: Piranesi's house is different than any other. It is infinite with innumerable halls, rooms, and statues of all shapes and sizes. He is visited twice a week by The Other, the only other inhabitant. He helps The Other in his research for A Great and Secret Knowledge. But when evidence begins to present itself for another person in the house, Piranesi's world and everything he knows to be true begins to unravel. This book surprised me with how much I enjoyed it. It was so good! Summaries do not really do it justice. It is a mystery with some fantastical elements, and while the beginning is slower, the second half really picks up. (There was a bit of language.) Recommend!
To Catch A Magic Thief by E.J. Kitchens: Marcel Ellsworth, a nonmagic, has been falsely accused of being the infamous magic thief after being found at the scene of the most recent crime--his cousin's house. Marcel is then stunned to discover that his mentor and his entire family are all enchanters as well. They are the magic thief's next targets. Marcel is determined to prove his innocence, especially to his mentor's beautiful daughter Gabriela. Unbeknownst to Marcel, Gabriela is fighting her own demons as well. Naturally, bth storylines must come to a head. Kitchens is such a great writer! Her fantasy novels have fantastic plot lines and character growth. Plus, they are always clean. Loved this tale. Recommend!
Raising Boys: A Christian Parenting Book: A Practical Guide to Faith-Based Parenting by Quinn Kelly: Quinn is a mom to four boys and a licensed marriage and family therapist. I love when I find parenting resources written by all-boy moms. There's just a different dynamic present when your kiddos are all the same sex. I really appreciated Quinn's Biblical approach to raising boys. The questions and topics she presented made me consider how to raise my boys with more intentionality. What is most important to me in regards to the characteristics I hope my boys will one day embody? What are some practical steps for beginning that journey? She has her readers imagine a future scenario where all your adult children come over to eat dinner with you as a family. What do you hope they will be like? What do you hope they will do after dinner is through? Such an interesting way to imagine the results of parenting. I read this on Kindle Unlimited, but plan to buy a hard copy as well.
The Glitter and Sparkle Collection, Books 1-3 by Shari L. Tapscott: this chick-lit collection features stand alone books that are also all connected via the main characters. Each book follows one of three young women who grew up together, their friendships, and their romances. Lauren, Riley, and Harper are in their late teens/early twenties in these novels. Each story was super sweet and they were all clean, so perfect for adults or older teen girls to read. Tapscott's books are always binge-worthy!
The Ruses of Lenore, Books 1-3 by Kate Stradling: the country of Lenore is famous for its magic and its Eternal Prince. But, Lenore is a fraud! The magic is dwindling and the Eternal Prince does not actually exist. The Moreland family has kept up this fantasy for generations. At least, they did until a strange young man arrived in Lenore and began to impersonate the Eternal Prince. Perhaps, there is more than meets the eye here. Such a fun trilogy! All three books are fast reads with well-written, lighthearted plots--humor mixed with bouts of seriousness. Each book follows a different Moreland son or daughter. I have loved every single Stradling book I have read. Give her a shot!
The Midnight Library by Matt Haig: Nora Seed feels as if her life has been a waste and decides to commit suicide. Instead of immediately dying, however, she finds herself in a library where the librarian encourages her to weigh her regrets and try out the different lives that could have occurred had she made different decisions. She discovers that not every regret she has is legitimate, and that some regrets are not actually hers, but those of family members and friends she has been carrying around with her. Will she discover that life is worth living after all? I was extremely hesitant when I began to read the beginning of this book, but the premise slowly ingratiated itself to me. The way Haig put forth his multi-verse theory was off-putting. It was highly unbiblical (not that the author is claiming Christianity in any way), and I view too much time spent imagining 'what-if' scenarios as rather unhelpful and counterproductive to truly living your life. So, overall, the book was just okay for me. It was not a long read, and there is some language. I do not regret reading it, but I also have no plans to reread it. (It did provide great fodder for book club discussion!)