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  • Writer's pictureJenna Miller

May 2023 Reads!

84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff: this slim book is filled with actual letters written back and forth between Helene in New York City and Frank Doel of Marks & Co. Booksellers in London. The letters span from 1949-1969. This was such a charming book! I loved Helene and Frank's unlikely friendship. If you enjoy epistolary books, this is one to pick up! I also watched the movie by the same name starring Anne Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins. It was also enjoyable, although I did not care for the romantic overtones the movie added that I didn't see present in the book.

The Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny: Inspector Gamache novel #11. I love this mystery series. In this installment--9 year old Laurent is known for his exaggeration and imagination, so when he runs into town claiming to have found a gun taller than a building with a monster on it no one bats an eye. But then he is found dead the next day. Gamache joins with his former team to search for answers, and what they discover terrifies them. The beasts are human, and long buried secrets are unearthed. There is some language. This was such a good story! Definitely start with the first in the series though, Still Life.

Nora Goes Off Script by Annabel Monaghan: a fun, clean little chick-lit novel that I read in a day. Nora's husband walks out on her and their kids for 'bigger and better things'. To cope, she deviates from her normal Hallmark-y movie scripts to write a semi-autobiographical blockbuster. Famous movie stars arrive to film at Nora's house. But what really disturbs her life is when the male lead goes missing after filming wraps only to turn up back on Nora's front porch. He pays her to stay in her tea house. He's only supposed to stay for a few weeks, but that appears to be enough time to fall in love, and maybe have a broken heart? Super cute!

The Soulmate by Sally Hepworth: Gabe and Pippa live by a cliff with their two young daughters. This cliff has a history of attracting suicidal visitors, but Gabe has successfully talked down each one...until he doesn't. As the police investigate, a whole host of secrets come to light. Point of view jumps back and forth between Pippa and the woman who did not walk away from the cliff. Okay, I totally thought I knew where this was going, but I was wrong. I love when that happens. The short chapters made this a fast, suspenseful read. There was a bit of language, but I recommend it!

The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery: Valancy Stirling is afraid of everything and emotionally beaten into submission by her overbearing family. She is an old maid at 29 with no prospects. In a rare pique, Valancy sneaks off to a doctor (one not deemed worthy by her family) to discover why she has been having heart pains, and receives a diagnosis that changes everything. She becomes a new woman, speaks her mind, balks at familial tradition, sees her family for how ridiculous they are, and falls in love. This novel is filled with lovely descriptions of nature. This was one of my most favorite reads this year. It is heartbreaking and humorous. So, so good! Pick it up!

In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl's Journey to Freedom by Yeonmi Park with Maryanne Vollers: memoir about growing up in North Korea, escaping to China, being trafficked and aiding in trafficking, and eventually escaping to South Korea. This is perhaps the third memoir I have read about escaping North Korea and it is just as heart-wrenching as the others. I felt especially sad that the missionaries Yeonmi worked with to escape did not adequately escape the Gospel of Jesus Christ to her. I pray she understands it now and accepts Jesus as her Savior. She has written another book that I plan to read as well. I also heard Yeonmi interviewed here on Cultish, and of course, her TED Talk. I highly recommend that we readers grab onto books like this. North Korea is a hot bed of human rights violations, but so is China, We need to be aware and not indifferent to the suffering of the people who live there.

A Duty to the Dead, A Bess Crawford Mystery by Charles Todd: the first in a series set during World War I. Bess is a nurse on the Brittanica when it sinks and she injures her arm. During her convalescent leave, she finally delivers a deathbed message to the family of one of her patients, Arthur. It is not received well, and leaves Bess with more questions than answers. She cannot help but ask questions and these only multiply when she is unexpectedly called upon to nurse Arthur's brother who has been in an insane asylum for over a decade. Is Peregrine actually guilty of the crime he was accused of as a child? Or is something more sinister at play? I decided to start rereading this series, and it did not disappoint!

Hitler's Cross: How the Cross Was Used to Promote the Nazi Agenda by Erwin W. Lutzer: if you take the time to study Nazi Germany from the point of view of church history, you clearly sees that there was a massive conflict between two crosses and two churches: the broken Nazi swastika and the personality cult of Adolf Hitler versus the cross and church of Jesus Christ. Where was the German church in the midst of the horrors of WWII? Lutzer delves deep into this important issue and compares the religious atmosphere of WWII-era Germany to modern day America. What happens when stark evil meets a dying church that would rather ride the cultural wave than stand firm on Scripture? This was an absolutely fascinating read, and I learned so much more about Hitler (his occult practices and strange behaviors) and the bitter, yet sadly short battle between him and the Christian German churches. Lutzer also discusses the important role Dietrich Bonhoeffer played during this time. Highly relevant!

An Impartial Witness, Bess Crawford Mystery #2 by Charles Todd: Bess Crawford has been tasked with escorting severe burn victims back to London when she witnesses a strange event between the wife of one of her patients and an unknown man. Weeks later when back in France, Bess discovers that this woman had been murdered the same day she had seen her at the train station. To the chagrin of the Scotland Yard detective assigned to the case and her family friend Simon Brandon, Bess is determined to investigate. Can she discover the truth before a man she believes is innocent is hanged? I listened to this audiobook for free with my Audible membership. It was so fun!

A Place to Hang the Moon by Kate Albus: after the death of their rather cold grandmother, three orphaned children decide to follow their lawyer's rather surprising advice to join the hoards of child evacuees to the countryside and hope they find a family to adopt them. Wartime allows certain things, like the loss of a guardian, to slip through the cracks. This delightful story follows William, Edmund, and Anna as they make do with less than stellar evacuee situations in a desperate, somewhat hopeless search for parents to love them as their own. I listened to this audiobook with my boys and we loved it. There were many humorous moments and a few moments that made me cry. I loved it.

By Canoe and Dog Train: The Adventures of Sharing the Gospel with Canadian Indians by Egerton Ryerson Young: Young's autobiography details how he was called into missionary service in the late 1800s. He served the Cree and Saulteaux Indians at Norway House around Lake Winnipeg before trains or automobiles. This meant traveling by canoe in the spring and summer, and braving blizzards by dog train in the winter. He has some amazing stories to share, but the central theme and purpose of his life and ministry was to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with all he met. I was brought to tears a few times while reading testimonies of those who were no longer blind to their sin and chose to live in surrender to the LORD. I loved this book and looked forward to reading it whenever I got a chance. Highly recommend. It is free to own on Kindle Unlimited right now.

Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne: my kiddos and I listened to this audiobook during our drives t and from karate. I was concerned it might be too young for my older boys, but all five of us laughed through this book. I don't remember reading Milne's books myself when I was a child, so it was fun for me to listen along with my boys. Recommend! It is currently included for free with an Audible membership.

Love and Respect: The Love She Most Desires; The Respect He Desperately Needs by Emerson Eggerichs: as newlyweds, my husband and I read this book on marriage. Since moving to NY, I joined some ladies from church in rereading it. It is still just as true and helpful today as it was over a decade ago when I read it and 20 years ago when it was first published. Eggerichs bases his marital advice on Ephesians 5:33--"However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband." He posits that a 'crazy cycle' occurs in marriages when husbands and wives fail to see the different ways each sex perceive love. Men desire unconditional respect and women desire unconditional love. If either one feels they are not receiving what they most desire, then they tend to withhold what their spouse most desires in retaliation. Much of this is subconsciously done, but this 'crazy cycle' leads to indifferent/dying marriages and divorce. To step out of this cycle, each spouse must choose to love/respect their spouse as an act of worship to God rather than because said spouse deserves it. Marriage is used frequently in the Bible as a metaphor for God's love for His children (believers). Therefore, serving your spouse regardless of whether or not such love or respect is deserved is a great act of love. After all, God sent His son to die for us while we were yet sinners. Highly recommend for all Christian couples to read!

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