September 2020 Reads!
Hello friends and family! Here is my first official book review blog post. Enjoy!
Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner: This historical fiction novel flips back and forth between WWII and modern day. It focuses on two sisters who return to London on the eve of the Blitz after having been evacuated to the countryside. During the chaos that ensues, they are separated. Flash forward to the mid-2000s and a young American scholar named Kendra is in search of someone to interview who lived through WWII. She is introduced to a famous reclusive painter who meets those requirements and is ready to tell her story for the first time. This was such a wonderfully written book, with great character development. It entertains themes of belonging, family secrets, and romance. It was a clean read, but still gritty in its detail regarding the realities and horrors of the Blitz and its aftermath. I really enjoyed it! This book was a pick for the Read Aloud Revival Mama book club--a shoutout to one of my favorite blogs/podcasts.
The Children's Blizzard by David Laskin: This is a nonfiction book that I first heard about on the What Should I Read Next podcast hosted by Anne Bogel. On January 13, 1888, a massive cold front slammed into a warm front causing a disastrous blizzard. It arced down from Canada through Montana, the Dakotas, Nebraska, with effects felt all the way to Mexico. January 12th and the start of the 13th had been 'warm' with temperatures above 0 degrees Fahrenheit, so the homesteaders felt safe going to check on their farm animals, accomplish some mid-winter farm chores, and even send their children to the one-room schoolhouses (many without warm winter coats). Unfortunately, when the blizzard slammed the midwest, hundreds of people, mostly children, were caught outside in the elements and killed. This was a devastating read, but I learned so much about how the weather was forecasted in the 1800s and how much they could not have predicted. Perhaps some lives could have been saved with less political infighting, but the lack of technology compared to what we have now makes that rather unlikely. One chapter focused on the technicalities of weather forecasting, which was harder to understand. I should note that the descriptions of the survivors' hypothermia and gangrene is not for the faint of heart. Do not pick this book up if you have a weak stomach. One of the most interesting things I learned came from the firsthand accounts of survivors describing what a blizzard of this magnitude looked and sounded like. It had to have been otherworldly. On a personal note, my father is a meteorologist so I enjoyed discussing the weather aspects of this tragedy with him.
The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan: I needed a lighter book after my second read. Enter in a fictional retelling of the William/Kate love story. In this novel, Prince Nicholas falls in love with American Bex Porter while she is studying abroad in Oxford. This was a lot of fun to read, and definitely a recommendation for any Anglophiles out there. I thought it seemed pretty realistic, dealt with some hard topics, and was not merely a piece of 'fluff'. The twist at the end was great!
Open Book by Jessica Simpson: In all honesty, I did not know much about Jessica Simpson when I picked up her autobiography. I had heard great things about it, and thought I would give it a shot. In fact, while reading this, I had to Google her music because I had not heard any that I could remember. Simpson did a great job writing her life story, She seemed pretty self-aware, admitted to a lot of mistakes, and took responsibility for things she did wrong in her first marriage. It was rather refreshing. I definitely questioned the choices her parents made--diet pills for a small-boned teenager? dipping into her earnings? Telling your daughter that you plan to divorce her mother while she's in the hospital to give birth? On a spiritual note, while Simpson says a lot of the correct "Christian" words, her beliefs denoted throughout this book are much more similar to Progressive Christianity and New Age than biblical reformed theology. As a very basic elaboration, she focuses more on feelings and meditative rituals rather than what the Bible actually says. Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone who is a JS fan, or likes celebrity autobiographies.
Stand All the Way Up: Stories of Staying in it When You Want to Burn it All Down by Sophie Hudson: Sophie always has such wisdom to impart along with her Southern humor. In this collection of essays she recounts her struggle with anger/grief and how she came to surrender it over to God. A lot of the lessons she writes abut are perfect for today: Disagreeing with someone does not make them your enemy. Making decisions based on fear rather than conviction will mess up your life. Community is important, and as Christ followers, it is our sacred duty to be safe places for one another in the midst of pain, anger, grief, etc. This was a great read. I laughed out loud in several places, and told my mom to pick it up so we could discuss. I also loved her previous book titled Giddy Up, Eunice which focuses on the importance of having female friends of all ages surrounding us.
The Red Door by Charles Todd: Set in England post WWI, these mysteries can be read out of order. They follow Inspector Ian Rutledge of Scotland Yard, a man tormented by the horrors of the war, but determined to do his job now as a civilian, if only to survive. In this installment, a small-town war widow is found dead and a well-known missionary goes missing in London. How are these two separate cases connected? This novel had me jumping through mental hoops trying to nail down what exactly was happening and who was lying. I could feel Rutledge's exhaustion and weariness as he made headway through this convoluted tangle of facts. I always recommend his books!
Vanessa Yu's Magical Paris Tea Shop by Roselle Lim: My mom and I always pick up books that include either of our names in the title. We just can't help ourselves. This is a chick-lit novel about a Chinese American woman in her twenties who can see people's fortunes in tea leaves. Unfortunately, when a fortune comes upon her she cannot keep it contained. It forces its way out. She hates this 'gift' and refuses all training in it until she accidentally ruins her cousin's wedding. Panicked and humiliated, she finally agrees to take lessons from her aunt in Paris. What follows is an adventure of self-discovery, taking control of one's fate, and romance. This was a fun, light read where I learned about some aspects of Chinese culture. Since I do not believe in fate or destiny, I did have to suspend belief while reading it and control some eye rolls. Regardless, it was what a chick-lit read advertises itself to be.
I hope you find something that piques your interest! You can see my Instagram at the bottom of this page for photos of books I have read throughout the past two years. I plan to cycle through some of those in proceeding posts.