November 2020 - December 2020 Books!
We recently welcomed baby #4 into our home, so my book reviews will be rather shortened in nature until I can get the hang of life even more outnumbered by my boys :)
The Book of Lost Names by Kristin Harmel: This historical fiction novel is set in France during World War II, and in Florida circa 2005. Eva Traube Abrams, an elderly librarian in Florida, is caught completely by surprise when she sees the Book of Lost Names in her local newspaper. She is the only person alive who knows how to break the code written within its pages, but to come forward and claim this book would be reopening old wounds--the life she has not spoken about in decades. In 1942, Eva is a young Jewish woman trying to protect her mother after the arrest and deportation of her father. She becomes a Resistance document forger enabling hundreds of Jewish children to escape France, and struggles with the tug of war between this noble calling, and her mother's deep grief and depression. I loved this book! It was so well-written and left me in tears at the end. I also felt much more connected to the places mentioned since we currently live in Europe. Perhaps once this pandemic subsides, I will be able to visit some of them. I highly recommend it for anyone who loves WWII novels or historical fiction.
The Tiger Rising by Kate DiCamillo: Sixth grader Rob Horton is wandering through the woods before school when he unexpectedly and inexplicably encounters a caged wild tiger. He then meets the new girl in town, Sistine, who is just as much an outsider as he is. Both dealing with familial grief, they join forces to try to save this tiger from its caged life. Set in Florida probably twenty or thirty years ago, DiCamillo does a great job creating the atmospheric setting and the middle school angst. This YA book is short, a super quick read, and tells a great story. Definitely recommend.
Anxious People by Fredrik Backman: It's the day before New Year's Eve and a group of strangers at an apartment viewing is taken hostage by a rather inept bank robber who tried to rob a cashless bank. Chapters are devoted to the backstory of each character, along with the police officers interviewing the hostages. Backman does a fabulous job weaving the lives of these strangers together. I found this novel funny, engaging, sad, and completely charming. There is a heartwarming theme of strangers becoming family. I will mention that their could be triggers for anyone who has dealt with the effects of suicide.
Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie: Hercule Poirot is on his way home aboard the Orient Express train from Aleppo, Syria when he finds himself next door to a murdered, infamously hated man. Stranded in the snow in the Hungarian mountains, Poirot determines to solve the mystery. I read this novel as a teenager, but decided it was time for a reread, Agatha Christie is one of my favorite authors. If you love mysteries, pick up any of her books!
Nothing But The Truth by Avi: Ninth grader Philip Malloy cannot join the track team because of his failing grades in English class. Rather than shift his lackadaisical attitude toward school, he concocts a plan to get himself transferred from Miss Narwin's class. It spins completely out of control, turning into a national news story. This book was written in 1991, but it does a great job of showing many parents' proclivities toward believing their children can do no wrong, and also the politics within the school system. Miss Narwin has been teaching for decades, and has a reputation for being a strict, non-nonsense teacher. She loves instilling a love for literature in her students. The way she is treated by the school board is terrible. Avi opens the book by noting how many teachers have come up to him asking if he got the idea for this story from what happened at their school. This is a YA novel written in a documentary format. It's a quick read. I would be interested in speaking with other teachers about any similar experiences.
Joy! A Bible Study of Philippians for Women by Keri Folmar: I am sure that I am not alone when I say that I have struggled with bitterness and frustration during 2020. Moving to a new country, being quarantined for months without having any local friends, navigating gestational diabetes and having a baby in a foreign country have all been new and sometimes difficult experiences. However, God really snatched my attention off of myself and placed it firmly back on Him with this Bible study. If you have been or are in the same frame of mind in which I found myself, I highly suggest picking this up. Philippians 4:11b-13: "...for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me." (ESV)
The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien: For the last few months I have been listening to the audio version of The Hobbit read by Rob Ingles. This is my third or fourth reread, and I really enjoyed listening to it this time! I will be continuing with the rest of the Lord of the Rings as well. I love Tolkien's books. You should definitely give them. try if you have never read them before. The movies are great but so much had to be left out from the books!
Let me know what you've been reading lately!