by Royce Prouty. As I've mentioned before, I really like the book Dracula-I prefer vampire books with fangs, not sparkles :) Stoker's Manuscript is a modern-day takeoff from the Dracula story. It follows a rare-manuscript expert, Joseph, as he is hired by a reclusive, anonymous buyer in Transylvania to purchase the original draft of Dracula. I really loved this book. It was creepy, gripping, entertaining, paralleled Dracula in many ways, and made me want to visit Transylvania so badly! After I finished the book, I spend a ridiculous amount of time researching travel in Romania and castles in Transylvania.
The Legacy, by Katherine Webb. This novel interweaves stories of two sisters in modern-day England, one of their ancestors (Caroline) and the mysterious disappearance of their cousin Henry. I especially liked the sections about Caroline as she travels from New York to the wilds of the Oklahoma prairie in the early 20th century-many times, this time period seems to be heavily romanticized by Hallmark movies or other fiction books, but this novel gives us a different take on the harsh life of a woman adapting to prairie life. The story was gripping, touching, and it was neat how the characters developed. This really is the story of a family learning to love and understand each other, and I liked it. One of my big problems, though, is how sex & romantic relationships are treated. Without spoiling it, two characters are suddenly like, "Oh, let's spend the night and have sex!" It's not a particularly lengthy sex scene (I mainly skimmed it), but I was like, Really? Sex is being treated as a super trivial thing that 2 people do when they're starting to fall in love with each other. Not cool. Other than that, though, it was a pretty interesting read!
The Reluctant Matador, by Mark Pryor. This is an international suspense thriller that follows two men as they try to find a family friend, Amy, who disappeared while working in Europe. A bunch of people are murdered, clues are getting pieced together, they still can't find the girl, and things go crazy. The story was really interesting, and I loved the European setting. Again, my main problems with this book were in the "sexual content" department. Even though a few scenes take place in strip clubs, nothing is too crazy explicit, but I'm not a fan of this whole "casual sex" mentality that so many fictional characters in this story had!! This book was entertaining, but I was shaking my head at times.
Hannah Coulter, by Wendell Berry. I had never read Wendell Berry before, but some of my favorite Catholic bloggers love his writings, and I am so glad that I have now been exposed to him! This book is incredible. It tells the story of Hannah and her life in Kentucky, which includes being widowed twice. More than that, though, this story is about love, community, the land, family, and hope. I'll probably blog more about it sometime when I can pull my thoughts together better. It's super good, not that long, and it's quite amazing!
Around the World in 50 Years: My Adventure to Every Country on Earth, by Albert Podell. My feelings towards this book are complicated. I really love the concept; I mean, it's not every day that a man decides to visit every single country in the world!!!! I love reading travel memoirs, I love travelling, and I love personal interest stories. For some reason, though, it was really hard for me to jump into the flow of this book. I felt like there wasn't really one cohesive glue that pulled all the chapters together, aside from the fact that this man was chronicling his fifty-year adventure. So this book felt more like a collection of vignettes, and if I approached it more in that way, it probably would have been easier to get into. Another part of which I was not a huge fan is that the author's views towards sex and relationships come up a lot, and I disagree with them (I'm guessing that, since the author used to be an editor of Playboy, that was to be expected). So there are times where I would grimace at his focus on women as pleasurable objects, his many girlfriends (he ultimately married a woman at the end of the book who was like 49 years younger than him), and his vivid description of a brothel/massage parlor he frequented in one country (I skipped that part). All that being said, this book was very interesting, and I really liked reading his crazy adventures in different countries, how he almost died several times, how he ate several weird and disgusting things (fresh monkey brains, anyone?), and how he met so many unique people! I think my favorite part of the book was when he traveled to North Korea in 2010. This is North Korea-people don't go there. Like, it doesn't really happen much that I've heard. Reading about his journey in North Korea, I was given a vivid image of how horrifyingly controlled daily life really is over there. For example, the author wasn't allowed to talk with any of the locals, really, and he was constantly guarded. I guess this was so he wouldn't tell people how oppressed they were? It was interesting. Another part which I found fascinating-and scary-was the author's reflections on the effect of Islam on so many parts of the world. To be clear, this author declared himself as a Jewish Atheist, and I'm pretty sure he and I disagree politically on a lot of levels (based on various things he said). He was very concerned and aware of the negative effect that Islam in general-and also radical Islam-was/is having on so many people and cultures. So that was really enlightening. All in all, I don't know I'd go back to this book, but it had parts that I liked.
Behind the Shattered Glass, by Tasha Alexander. I'm still on a bit of a murder mystery kick, and I have fallen in love with Tasha Alexander's books. Her "Lady Emily" mystery series follows Emily as she and her husband-together-solve murder mysteries in 19th century England. This book in particular intersperses scenes of the servants, which I really enjoyed. The characters are wonderful, the plots are mysterious and intriguing, the descriptions are wonderful, and the romance of Emily and her husband is the best. They are very passionate, very committed lovers and spouses, but the author conveys this very tastefully-so you are given just a tiny glimpse into their relationship, and then your brain can fill in the rest of the gaps. Hence, I would deem these books appropriate for a middle-schooler (though I've only read two of the series). I really am enjoying this series a lot, and I'm excited to read more!!! I've pretty much been reading all the books out of order (because I didn't know the order), and that hasn't mattered all that much.
I should probably end here, since I'm getting very rambly, and so that I can start my next "Lady Emily Mystery" book. If y'all have any books you recommend, please let me know-I love to expand my reading list! I hope that you all have a wonderful day!