Hello, everyone! Happy Feast of the Beheading of St. John the Baptist! I know I did a summertime literature round-up earlier this month, but...I realized that I forgot to include some other books that I've read. And I've read more since then. So, since September is coming soon, I figured that I'd do one more post about books for the month :) As always, there's a selection here of fiction and non-fiction, and while some of them were "meh," there were others that I really enjoyed quite a bit!
Cranford, by Elizabeth Gaskell. I loved watching the miniseries (Judi Dench forever!!!!!), and I really liked reading the original novel. It's a series of vignettes about life in Cranford, a sweet old English town mostly populated by women of very strong opinions and traditions. I think the show is easier to follow than the book (since there is more of a consistent plotline that they created to frame the events of the book), but the book is simply delightful as well.
The Light Between Oceans, by M. L. Stedman. The premise of this novel is really fascinating: a man and woman operate a lighthouse in a remote location. One day, a boat washes up that has a dead man and a living baby. What they do in this situation shows that despite our good intentions, sometimes, our actions can have disastrous consequences. While one of the main characters drove me BONKERS (I seriously could not go to sleep for the longest time because I was so mad and frustrated with her), I really liked this book. I liked how it focused on a married couple and their life and struggles. I liked how the premise seems rather simple, but then gets more complicated and twists and turns a bit. I liked that this book discusses the horribly sad reality of miscarriage. For this reason, actually, I want to caution anyone who has suffered from a miscarriage before reading this book, because miscarriage and stillbirth play large parts in this story, and it gets intense.
The Little Book of Hygge, by Meik Wiking. This is a delightful little, easy-to-read book all about Danish secrets to happy living. The book just feels cozy, and fills you with a desire to light candles and have friends over to play games, or to light a bunch of candles, drink tea, and read a good book. This was a delightful read, and I think there's a lot of good things that we can learn and implement in here!
Little House Living: The Make-Your-Own Guide to a Frugal, Simple, and Self-Sufficient Life, by Merissa Alink. This is a lovely book with recipes for different household items and foods. One of the elements that I really liked was the author's mention of making bulk packages of mixes to store in the cupboard. I made a huge bowl of Hamburger Help mix and some slow cooker chili mix, and we've had some delicious, easy, cost-effective dinners! My main complaint with this book is when the author discussed price breakdowns, to talk about why her recipes are the cost-effective option. While this was true in some respects, prices on groceries vary so much around the country that it was hard to see an accurate picture. Overall, though, I still really liked this book-it had some handy recipes for things that we actually use or eat!
The Year Of Living Danishly, By Helen Russell. Since I read about ways to cultivate hygge, I thought I'd go one step more and read the memoir of a woman who traveled with her husband to live in Denmark for a year while he worked for LEGO (!!!!!!!). In this book, she details her journey to find if Danes are actually happy, and she talks about the culture over there. I thought this book was very interesting, but I did have to skip some very explicit sexual content. Which brings me to my overall view...this book showed me the world's version of happiness versus the Christian's version of happiness. While Christians strive to love and serve God in this life so that we will be happy with Him for all eternity, the way the author portrayed Danish culture (which was supported by studies and statistics and interviews) was very sad. The book detailed how the Government takes care of people's needs (due to the welfare state), and how people don't see a "need" for God...because the Government takes care of them! The book went into the dark culture of pornography, sexual infidelity, and promiscuity that are seen as normal to many people. The book basically showed that people are "happy" because they can "have it all"-sex without kids (b/c of abortion and contraception), easy divorces, tons of free stuff from the Government-and I find this really tragic. I am really glad that I read this book and got to see this side of another culture, but I had some serious problems with all of the explicit sexual stuff.
Deep Undercover: My Secret Life and Tangled Alliances as a KGB Spy in America, by Jack Barsky. I love memoirs, and I really loved this book. Barsky talks about his process of becoming a spy, his life as a spy, and his ultimate rejection of the KGB, as well as his conversion to God. It was really good, and really eye-opening. I thought it was super fascinating to hear about his work as a spy, and found it very sad as well to see how that negatively affected his family life. I really recommend this book!
Dorothy Day: The world will be saved by beauty, by Kate Hennessy. I've spent my life hearing snippets about Dorothy Day here and there, and saw this book recommended by another blogger, so I decided to pick it up. And I'm really glad I did! We hear the life story of Dorothy Day, social reformer and devoted Catholic, through the eyes and research of her youngest granddaughter. Because the perspective is familial, we get a very intimate portrayal of Day, which I appreciated. Hennessy talks about Day's amazing holiness, work, and good attributes, but she also doesn't shy away from all of the sufferings and hardships and tensions between Dorothy and her daughter, and how that affected Dorothy's grandchildren. This book creates a lot of good discussion material, some of which I plan to chat about on this blog eventually!
The Rithmatist, by Brandon Sanderson. I'm pretty sure that this is a children's or young adult novel, so it was fairly easy reading and it was SO GOOD. It's about Rithmatists (people who have been granted a special power to draw with chalk and have it come to life) and Joel, a boy who is obsessed with Rithmatics, but is not himself a Rithmatist. Naturally, there's an evil force at work, mysterious happenings, and it gets exciting. I loved this book, and it's convinced me that I need to read more of Sanderson's work.
Mystery and Manners, by Flannery O'Connor. This book is a collection of O'Connor's essays and articles about peafowl, Catholicism, and writing. I love Flannery O'Connor's short stories, and I thought it was neat that in this book, she discusses some of her stories and the thought process that went into her writing. I loved this book, and I thought it had some really great insights and points of discussion!
The Woman In Cabin 10, by Ruth Ware.This was a fast-paced, interesting, creepy novel about a journalist who's reviewing a luxury cruise ship, but winds up witnessing a murder and a disappearing passenger. It was a pretty fun, lighthearted "fluff" read (some language that I didn't like, though), and I enjoyed it, though it wasn't the best suspense book I've read.
The Perfect Omelet, By Johne E. Finn. This cookbook is really interesting. It's a thick book all about omelets. Omelets in art, omelets in history, and most importantly, omelets in the kitchen. The book details the different ways to make omelets (rolled, tortilla-style, American style, and one other that I'm forgetting at the moment) and it had tons of fancy-schmancy recipes. Also, some simple, more approachable recipes. I started making more omelets after reading this book, so I think it's good that I read this :)
If At Birth You Don't Succeed, by Zach Anner. I first heard of Zach Anner through his "Have a Little Faith" show, a youtube show where he visits people of different religions and talks with them about what they believe. He also does work as a comedian, and this book is the story of how Zach, a man with cerebral palsy, has launched himself through obstacles and done crazy things with his life. There were parts of this book that I really enjoyed, and I really appreciated the honesty and humor with which Zach looked at his life. I could have done without the more...intimate...sexual content (and very personal content about his body)...and I skipped over some big chunks. While I liked reading Anner's life story, I wasn't a huge fan of this book.
Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus by Nabeel Qureshi. This book is SO GOOD, and I've been recommending it to people like crazy. Qureshi tells the story of his upbringing as a devout Muslim in America, and about his eventual introduction and conversion to Christianity. I found myself coming to a greater level of understanding, compassion, and respect towards Muslim people than before, and I really appreciate the insights that Qureshi gives in this book. Also, he provides some great insight into what good evangelization looks like. I love this book, and I highly recommend it!!
Lady Killer, by Joelle Jones & Jamie Rich. This is a comic book that takes the whole "1950s housewife" image and turns it on its head. We meet Josie Schuller, a sweet 1950s housewife who spends her days taking care of the house and her two adorable children, wearing gorgeous outfits...and assassinating people. And she doesn't use dainty methods like poison to do this; daggars, full-on contact, and intense battling is more Josie's style. I actually really enjoyed this comic book, and I really liked seeing the juxtaposition of the bloody assassin and the neat & tidy housewife. There was a little bit of sex content, and tons of blood and gore, so don't pick this up if you're looking for a light read, and you probably don't want to hand it to your young teens, either.
Censoring Victoria, by Yvonne Ward. This was a fascinating scholarly look at the editorial process of creating the original public collection of Queen Victoria's letters. The book spent a little too much time in the introductory pages going through the personal lives of the editors in my opinion, but I really enjoyed this. It talked about the huge amount of correspondence that Victoria had with other women, but pointed out that in the original publication, barely any of this correspondence was included. It also talked about the way in which the royal family insisted on not including any letters that could hint at scandal or indecency, thus helping to promote one certain image and portrayal of Queen Victoria. I thought this book was fascinating because I do enjoy the show Victoria, but I also liked learning about this process since it is applicable to so many famous people in history. We see the image of these historical figures through the lens, perspective, and agenda of other people, and this book is a great reminder of that fact!
Starvation Heights, by Gregg Olsen. This non-fiction book reads like a fast-paced crime novel as it recounts the story of two spinster sisters who, in the early 1900s, went under the care of "Doctor" Hazzard, a fasting specialist in Olalla, Washington. As their experience revealed, Hazzard spent her days starving people to death and stealing their money. This book was so sad because, while it's fascinating and engrossing, there's the realization that it is a true story, and that this woman really did kill these innocent, unsuspecting people. As sad as this book is, I really loved it-I never knew about this historical occurrence, and the writing style of this book is really engaging. Plus, it is very well-researched. The author did tons of work and fact-checking, and even used the court transcripts as he put together this book. I really recommend this one!
I hope y'all enjoyed hearing about my latest reads! Please let me know if you have any recommendations; I love adding to my reading list :)