Wednesday, February 1, 2017

On the Bookshelf: Some Heart-Wrenching Books & Some Light Reading

Hello and happy February, everyone! I, for one, cannot believe that January is already over and gone. Seriously, where does the time go???? Life has been interesting over here (not only has my baby not been napping consistently, but he's teething to the extreme), so I have just not been able to come over to this blog much. But, I have a little bit of time and want to tell y'all about what I've been reading. It's a mismatch of cookbooks, heart-wrenching (and non-heart-wrenching) nonfiction,and some very fun fiction.





Little Old Lady Recipes, by Meg Favreau. I just gotta start out with this because it is so adorable. This book is exactly what the title says: It's a small compilation of recipes that those little old church ladies bring to potlucks. Food the way your grandma always made it. Not only that, but all of the recipes are less than a page long, and very simple to prepare. Plus, there are snippets of wisdom (and snark) from old ladies sprinkled throughout this book. It was a delight to read this and look at the recipes! 

Pomegranates and Pine Nuts, by Bethany Kehdy. This cookbook is gorgeous. It is absolutely beautiful, which is why I picked it up. There are tons of cool-looking recipes for Middle Eastern dishes, and I'm hoping to try some of them out soon. 

Mad for Muffins, by Jean Anderson. This cookbook is a small, absolutely delightful array of muffins! I love how tons of savory recipes are presented here, using a wide range of ingredients (like the sundried-tomato-and-pepperoni muffins). I love the super simple, super easy directions that are given for making and reheating muffins, and I also really love that the author decreased the original amount of sugar in many of the recipes. Many muffins are definitely in my future :) 


The Summer Before the War, by Helen Simonson. I think that this book has flavors of The Awakening of Miss Prim, Jane Austen, Anne of Green Gables, and Downton Abbey, yet with less scandal than Downton. The story follows Beatrice, a young woman who is hired as a Latin teacher in England on the brink of World War I. The small town where she becomes a teacher is charming, but full of men who are a bit misogynistic. The romance in this story is adorable, the characters are very well-written, and some events are very sad, but beautiful. This novel isn't perfect by any means (while there isn't a bunch of sexual content, there area few references here and there, and some bad language), but it is so, so good and very sweet. 


Enslaved, edited by Jesse Sage and Liora Kasten. Wow. Just...wow. This book is an anthology of short narratives given by people who have lived under the yoke of modern-day slavery. I really like that people from all across the globe are represented here, coming from different types of slavery-like chattel slavery, forced labor, and sex slavery. This book is very eye-opening, and I think it's helpful to see how institutions or the indifference (or ignorance) of others let slavery continue. One of the narratives was given by a former slave owner, which I thought was very awesome and hope-filled. I definitely recommend this book, though I will caution you that some of the stories are graphic (I skipped over a couple paragraphs of one woman's story because the things that were done to her by her BDSM-obsessed owner were extremely horrific), and I think that should light a fire in all of us-how can we sit by and let this horrible, gruesome slavery exist?  

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. This book was a fascinating, in-depth, well-researched exploration of how women have been treated across the world, with a focus on poorer countries. The different chapters would focus on broad themes, and then dive into personal stories of the women whom the authors met, making this a very informed and personal read. My eyes were opened to the widespread use of certain practices which have been continuing for decades (or centuries) and still exist, harming millions of women. I was never really aware, before, about the high rate of maternal death during or just after childbirth, and I am shocked. I really liked that the authors did not want to leave the reader in a sad state of hopelessness for our world, but instead highlight the positive changes that have been done. The authors call the reader to help make a difference and work with others-finding common ground with those of differing political beliefs-to help improve the lives of women worldwide. I just wish that less emphasis had been made about condoms and the Pill-many times, in this book, these were given as "good" and "important" in helping women. I, however, think that it would be much more beneficial to help change the cultural disregard of women and empower men and women with the message of chastity and knowledge of the fertility cycle. Anyways, despite this disagreement I have with the authors, I still really enjoyed this book, and thought that it provided a good perspective for me to read. 

Your Farm in the City, by Lisa Taylor and the gardeners of Seattle Tilth. I am pretty much a certified plant-killer or mold-grower (the last time I tried to sprout seeds, I just made a bunch of mold), but I have lofty dreams of being an urban farmer. So, I'm really glad that I came across this book! It talks about everything. Raised beds, planting directly in your yard, container gardening, you name it-it's covered in this book. The book went through strategies for where to plant different seeds on your property, soil types, plants, predators, bugs, etc. Plus, small profiles were given of different urban farmers, to show real-life examples of the different ways in which people are farming! This was a great book, with tons of awesome resources, and I think I'll definitely pull it out again if/when I decide to try making a tiny urban farm. 

The Eyre Affair: A Thursday Next Novel, by Jasper Fforde. This book was fun! It was a quick read about a cast of colorful characters in a sci-fi, literary-loving world. I think my biggest complaint (along with some references I didn't like) was that in all the summaries which gave an overview of this book, the mention of Jane Eyre being plucked from the pages of her novel was mentioned...and while this happens, it doesn't happen for a long time. I guess I had just been wanting to see more that had to do with Jane in the earlier parts of the book. But, this is still a weird, fun, lighthearted read, and I mostly enjoyed it. 

Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us, From Missiles to the Moon to Mars by Nathalia Holt. Before you ask-no, this book isn't the same thing as Hidden Figures. But, it's about another group of female "computers" working in the same time period; these women are from California. This story was so powerful-it actually  made me want to solve math problems for fun (I haven't touched a math book since I was 17, so this goes to show the power of words and personal stories!). I really like that photographs of the "computers" are included,and that the author of this book did extensive research and interviews with the women. This book is very well-researched and well-written, and my creative-nonfiction-loving heart was full :) I recommend this!

A Chance to Die: The Life and Legacy of Amy Carmichael, by Elisabeth Elliot. I had never heard of Amy Carmichael until Elizabeth mentioned her in an interview, and I was really intrigued. I love reading stories of missionaries, and I really wanted to read about Amy Carmichael since she is loved and revered by some Protestants I know! This story was beautiful, and I loved reading about Amy's passion for God and serving others. She was so intense! I highly recommend this book-while I may not agree with everything Amy said or did, I really admire her example and fervor, and there are so many good lessons that all people, regardless of religious beliefs, can learn from her!  

All of these books were really interesting, and I enjoyed reading them. I am so glad for the gift of public libraries! This year, I've decided to make a scheduled reading list, assigning certain books to each month, and I'm enjoying it so far-I only assigned a couple books for this month (like A Chance to Die), but I really like knowing in advance a couple things that I will definitely read, while allowing myself plenty of reading space for picking up random books to enjoy. I'm still making my reading schedule for 2017, so if any of you have recommendations, please let me know! 

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