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  • Writer's pictureJenna Miller

October and November 2023 Reads!

The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner: it's 1943 and Elise Sontag is living a normal American life until her German father is arrested unexpectedly on suspicion of being a Nazi sympathizer. Sent to Crystal City internment camp, Elise meets Mariko, a Japanese American also interred there. Their friendship blossoms until both are returned to their parents' countries of origin. A historical fiction novel following the unfairness of such actions and the horrors of being sent into a war torn country you've never called home. So good. Moved me to tears.

The Toxic War on Masculinity: How Christianity Reconciles the Sexes by Nancy Pearcey: Is masculinity toxic? That's the message prevalent in our culture today. What does the Bible teach? How did we get to this tragic mindset? Pearcey traces the history of the culture's mindset on masculinity through the centuries. She begins by presenting interview answers of men on what being a man is and what being a real man is. So interesting! She also devotes chapters at the end of the book to true toxic masculinity. This was such a fascinating read! i learned a plethora of interesting information. For instance, did you know that most women opposed the suffrage movement, not because they felt oppressed but because they knew such a move would mean that their men would no longer view it as necessary to vote for the benefit of their whole family rather than for selfish reasons. There is also a fantastic section regarding what the word "meek" originally meant to first century people. (Hint: it is not what you think.) Highly recommend for all believers. Here's an interview to give you a sense of the book.

Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis: Dr. Ransom is on a walking journey through England when he inadvertently inserts himself into an adventure he never imagined. He is abducted by a sociopathic scientist and his partner and taken by spaceship to the planet of Malacandra. Ransom believes he is meant as a human sacrifice and escapes as soon as possible. But this planet is enchanting, and the creatures that inhabit it are sentient, and not at all as fearsome as he had originally thought. This was such an interesting book! I plan to finish the trilogy. There is also a three part episode series on the Literary Life Podcast regrading this book that was just fascinating. I loved it much more than I was expecting.

Strangers Always: A Jewish Family in Wartime Shanghai by Rena Krasno: born in Shanghai in 1923, Rena and her family are stateless Russian Jews during WWII. This journal encompasses her time living under Japanese rule, She includes a map, pictures during that time, and footnotes adding in extra information she found out as time went on. Her experiences are noteworthy. The Jewish people were not treated as terribly as in Germany, but they were forced into segregated areas with other stateless peoples. I learned about some other famous people in China during that time of whom I had never heard. I really had no idea of what life was like in China prior to the PLA taking over. Recommend is you enjoy memoirs!

Henry VIII and the Men Who Made Him by Tracy Borman: Henry VIII is infamous for his many wives and their low survival rate. This book focuses exclusively on the male influences in his life: his father, brother, friends, advisors, and contemporary male rulers. His reliance upon Cardinal Wolsey and Sir Thomas More are to be noted, along with Henry's intense desire to outshine his father. A major point Borman makes is how Henry's intense spoiling as a child led to emotional stunting. This is a larger historical tome, but truly fascinating.

A Portrait of Loyalty by Roseanna M. White: the last in the Codebreakers trilogy follows photographer Lily Blackwell as she struggles with her job of helping to create propaganda and other photographic war material. Her life takes an intersting turn upon being introduced to Zivon Marin, once one of Russia's top cryptographers now defected to Great Britain. These two misfits connect, but can they trust one another with their secrets? A wonderful tale of faith, friendship, and the bittersweet trials of wartime. I thoroughly enjoyed it!

Tangled Webs by Irene Hannon: the last in the Men of Valor trilogy. Former Army Ranger Finn is recuperating mentally from a disastrous mission and PTSD at a lakeside cabin. While there he meets Dana who is recovering from her own harrowing experience as a hostage. Their paths are thrown together repeatedly as strange and sinister things begin to happen at Dana's cabin. Attraction grows as they investigate the rapidly growing danger. This was a great finish to the trilogy! Ive enjoyed Hannon's books. They aren't cheesy either--a definite plus!

Live Like A Narnian: Christian Discipleship in Lewis's Chronicles by Joe Rigney: only read this if you are intimately familiar with the Narnian books. Rigney goes through different themes and characters of the series, discusses the characteristics of those who truly embody the spirit of Narnia, and how one can live in the same way in our own world. I found myself smiling and thinking more deeply about the books. I think we will reread some the Chronicles soon!

The One with the Kiss Cam by Cindy Steele: a modern day rom-com. Nora goes out with a match from her online dating profile, but it proves to be a bust. Her date is loud, drunk, and touchy. But when he leaves for more snacks, the kiss cam at the basketball game stops on her and the stranger next to her. They decide to go ahead and kiss. From there begins a night of fun and silliness, hampered only be her impending move to North Dakota. But upon her return three years later, Nora discovers that her connection to Duke was more than a passing fancy. Steele writes fun, clean romantic comedies that I always enjoy. This was no exception, other than dealing with some slightly more serious issues along the way. Recommend.

The Mark of the King by Jocelyn Green: loosely based off of true events during the days of French colonialism to Louisiana. As immigration to Louisiana dwindles, the French king agreed to forcibly marry male and female convicts and then transfer their sentences to the New World. They were treated no better than animals and forced to "mate" as well to ensure a new generation in service to France. This story follows a midwife falsely accused of murder who volunteers for the New World, not realizing what she would be forced to do. Her new husband is mostly kind, but the colony of Louisiana itself is rampant with death, prostitution, and lack of food. Such an interesting tale of hardship, faith, and endurance.

this prequel to the Claivoir Castle series (loved them!) was just as lovely as the rest. This story follows the elder duke and duchess's love story as they meet, fall in love, and rebuild the old family home where they will raise their children. Britton always writes lovely, clean regency romances.

The Life Giving Home: Creating A Place of Belonging and Becoming by Sally and Sarah Clarkson: Sally and her daughter Sarah go through month by month discussing different ways to make a house a home. Their ideas and traditions are down-to-earth, inspiring, and cozy. This book made me rethink how I decorate (or lack thereof), celebrate certain holidays and milestones, and show hospitality to those around me. I loved reading this!

Interesting Podcast Episodes:

Allie Beth Stuckey's interview with Kat Von D here.

Natasha Crain's public school podcast here.

Alisa Childers' interview with Joni Eareckson Tada here.

Haunted Cosmos episode on giants here.

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