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  • Writer's pictureJenna Miller

September 2021 Reviews!

Happy October everyone! We have been loving the cooler weather over here in Germany! I have a larger than normal list of books read than usual (for me anyway). I hope you find something that piques your interest!

Together Tea by Marjan Kamali: the point of view in this story jumps back and forth between people (mom Darya and daughter Mina), and between timelines (1970s-1990s). Darya, her husband, and their three children emigrated to America from Iran after the Revolution. It has been 15 years, and a series of events lead Darya and Mina to travel back to Iran to see their beloved family and country they left behind, but it is no longer the same Iran they left behind. Some themes explored--importance of family, freedom, romance, the feeling of not being at home in either country, women' rights, and how being Iranian does not mean you are a terrorist. I loved this book just as much as I loved her other title, The Stationary Shop! Definitely recommend!

King Arthur and Her Knights by KM Shea: fantasy; Arthur has fallen in love and run off with a shepherdess, so Merlin is forced to craft a spell to find someone worthy to take his place. Present day, Britt Arthurs is visiting the UK with some girlfriends when her photo-op with Excalibur takes place. Upon grasping the handle, she is transported back in time to take Arthur's place. With the help of Merlin and a few trusted knights, Britt hides her gender and crafts the Camelot that legends are made of. How long can she live this way? Will she ever see her family again? At times, the main character really annoyed me, so be aware of that. This was a clean, fun twist on the Arthurian legends most of us know. It is seven books long in total, but all very quick reads. My friend gifted it to me for my birthday in August :) The start of the saga is a bit cheesy, but it only gets better. If you are looking for a light read, look it up on Kindle!

The Monogram Murders by Sophie Hannah: Hercule Poirot is having a nice dinner at one of his favorite cafes when a distressed woman rushes in. After a bit of cajoling, she claims that she is soon to be murdered, is tired of running, and then rushes away. Poirot becomes intrigued and slightly obsessed with finding this mysterious woman. He is joined reluctantly by a Detective Catchpool as they also investigate a triple homicide at a nearby hotel. So...I thought I was reading an Agatha Christie mystery during the entirety, and was disconcerted to see progressive Christianity portrayed, aspects of Poirot's character not seen before, and a rather unnecessarily complicated mystery. A friend pointed out my error, and now life makes sense again! This was well-written, but I am biased in favor of Christie, and do not really care for someone else furthering her characters.

Before Beauty by Brittany Fichter: a retelling of one of my favorite fairy tales, Beauty and the Beast. I really enjoyed the different twists Fichter took in this story. She redefined the location, specificities of how the curse presented itself, and the 'beastliness' of the prince. I appreciated all the extra background information woven throughout the novel. It was clean, well-written and I really enjoyed it!

Girl in the Red Hood by Brittany Fichter: a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood. After a strange messenger arrives at her grandparents' farm claiming that a healer in his town in the middle of the forest can heal Liesel's ailing mother, her father packs them up to move to said town despite the fearful pleas of her grandmother. The messenger's claims are not what the seem, and after Liesel is bitten by a wolf, the villagers refuse to speak to her. This retelling is much darker than I realized, but there are some sweet, light-hearted moments as well. I thought it was extremely well-written. Recommend!

The Princess Companion by Melanie Cellier: a retelling of the Princess and the Pea. This retelling follows much along the same line as the original fairy tale (from what I can remember, which is not much). Alyssa, a woodcutter's daughter, finds herself separated from the merchant caravan she is traveling with whom she is traveling and in the midst of a storm discovers the Winter Palace. To her surprise, she is offered the job of princess companion to the tweenage twin princesses. This one was probably my least favorite of the retellings I read this month. The content was clean, and it as a fun read, but I did not like it quite as well as the other two retellings I read this month. It is a different author, so that could be part of the issue as well.

True Light and Dawn's Light, Restoration Series #3-4 by Terri Blackstock: read my previous review here. A Pulsar star began emitting waves that knocked out electrical capability throughout the world. These last two books continue to follow the Branning family as they deal with different crises: a teenager shot over a deer, horrific local jail conditions, robberies/murders over bank handouts, etc. I was pleasantly surprised that the Scripture references and writing was not cheesy, but well-thought out and relevant. There could be some triggers for anyone who has lost a child, so please be aware of that. In all, I very much enjoyed this series!

Lovely War by Julie Berry: two love stories set in WWI told from the perspective of Aphrodite, Ares, Apollo, and Hades. Aphrodite's husband Hephaestus has placed her on trial for her public love affair with his brother Ares. Growing up, I was fascinated by Greek mythology. I thought this story might be weird or disjointed, but it was actually very smooth in transitioning and very well-written. A fun aspect was how the book incorporates the new, popular ragtime music. The characters were well-developed, it was clean (rare for YA novels these days), and included historical informational the end about WWI. I thoroughly enjoyed it! Give it a shot!

The Lost and Found Bookshop by Susan Wiggs: Natalie inherits her mother's charming, struggling bookstore in San Francisco. The building has been in her family for a few generations, and family legend says treasure is hidden somewhere inside. Is the treasure real? Could it save the shop? Natalie determines to care for her beloved grandfather who is struggling with dementia, grieve her mother's death, and deal with hard realizations about herself. There is some bad language in this book. I kind of thought the ending dragged on and then went too fast, ha! I was a bit unsatisfied with it. Other than that, it was a good read!

Praying the Bible by Donald S. Whitney: tired of praying the same old things about the same old things? Whitney teaches through how to easily pray through the different genres of Scripture. It was so helpful and encouraging while also being humorous. I took his 7-minute timed exercise to read and pray through a Psalm, and I was surprised at how well his method works and how quickly the time passed by. I'm so glad I picked this up! It's very short, only about 100 pages. Highly recommend for anyone wanting to revamp their prayer life!

Keeping Hope Alive by Dr. Hawa Abdi: Dr. Abdi spent the majority of her life serving as a doctor to her fellow Somalians during the worst of the worst times. She sacrificed a lot, specifically time with her family, to continue serving her people. This memoir was heartbreaking emotionally and spiritually. It was horrific to read about how the Somalian people have suffered and died under the rule of various warlords and the terrorist group Hezbollah. I did not know a lot about Somalia, so this was an incredible history lesson. I also enjoyed learning more about Somali culture. I would recommend this for those who love to read memoirs, or history books.

Another Gospel? A Lifelong Christian Seeks Truth in Response to Progressive Christianity by Alisa Childers: Childers was a member of the band ZOEgirl which. was popular in the early 2000s. As an adult, she was challenged by her progressive pastor's questions about Christianity. He systematically decimated her faith, leading her to dive into those same questions to find the truth of the Gospel. If you have ever been in a similar place, or want to know how to defend your faith (why do you believe what you believe?), this book is for you! Childers also helpfully includes resources to dive into for more information. Progressive Christianity is pervasive, and attractive to questioners who do not have a solid historical Biblical background, or do not care to investigate for themselves. Highly recommend! She also has a Youtube channel and a podcast which are incredible resources.

How the Light Gets In by Louise Penny: things are about to come to a head, and the enemy will stop at nothing to accomplish them. Gamache struggles to maintain his self while dealing with personal and work loss. I thought this was so well-developed and filled with tension. If you love mysteries, start with the very first installment, Still Life and work your way through the series. Totally worth it. It was so hard to put down!

The Number of Love by Roseanna White: historical fiction set in Room 40 of WWI London. Belgian refugee Margot de Wilde has a head for numbers and despite being 17 years old, is one of the best cryptographers. Drake Elton returns home from gathering intel in Spain with a gunshot wound to the abdomen. Their paths cross and friendship grows as they try to survive, and work to outsmart German field agents in London. The characters' Catholic faith plays a large part in this novel, it was a clean read, and really kept my attention! I especially enjoyed it since finishing The Last of the Doughboys earlier this year.

What Is Predestination? by R.C. Sproul: predestination is one of those topics that can be hard to wrap your mind around and explain without creating misunderstandings or getting into heated arguments. Sproul compares and contrasts the prescient view with the Augustinian view of predestination. The prescient view essentially states that the deciding factor for salvation is the individual's decision. In the Augustinian view, the decision rests with God. The Bible states quite clearly (and repeatedly) that no one is righteous and no one seeks after God on their own power (Romans 3:10-12). So the questions we all must wrestle with are: do humans play any role in their salvation? If not, does that mean that God is arbitrary in deciding who is saved and who is not? If we are all evil, then what do we deserve? These are all discussed within Sproul's book. There is a lot more to the issue of predestination than this simplified version I typed up. The booklet is quite short, and a wonderful resource. This book and most of Sproul's Crucial Question series are free on Amazon Kindle. I highly recommend it!

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir: science fiction; Ryland Grace awakens from a coma on a spaceship with no recollection of how he got there or what he is doing. His two fellow astronauts are dead. As he slowly regains his consciousness and memory, Grace discovers that he is on a last-ditch rescue mission to save all humanity from whatever is draining heat and power from the Sun. And there's a deadline. Some surprises await him along the way! First things first, this book is super-sciencey. Most of the content sailed miles over my head. I was however, pleasantly surprised with all the humor throughout the book! It was incredibly interesting and kept my attention. Not surprisingly, the premise of this book is completely based upon evolution theory. There was mention of a creation scientist who was not portrayed in a completely negative light. It was also mostly clean, just a bit of language. If you are not into science fiction, definitely skip it.

I hope you all have a great reading month in October!

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