Thursday, May 31, 2018

On the Bookshelf: Jumping into Summertime

We basically skipped over springtime over here because we went from some cold temperatures in April to a hot May. As in, the high for nearly every single day this week is in the 90s. So, I've been spending lots of time in air-conditioning while reading! Over the past few months, I read an assortment of fiction and non-fiction books, and I really loved some of them. So let's talk literature!  

The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning, by Margareta Magnusson. This was a really fun book to read. The author is an old woman who imbues this book with her wisdom. I really enjoyed the perspective that she gave as she looked back on her life and talked about the importance of "death cleaning"-serious decluttering and cleaning routinely, in preparation for one's eventual death. I think the whole concept is great, and I appreciated the way in which she so frankly talked about death. Many of her ideas made a lot of sense to me and nothing was too surprising, but it was still a fun book to pick up and read through. 

The Emily trilogy, by L. M. Montgomery. How had I never read this trilogy before now?!?!?! I loved these books. Emily is a teenage girl who, when her father dies, goes to live with her snobbish relatives at New Moon. The characters are vivid and hilarious (L.M. Montgomery really has a talent for crafting her characters), and as a writer, I found Emily an extremely relatable person. She writes, she journals as a form of therapy, and she has plenty of adventures and misadventures. Since this is a trilogy, the story fleshes out nicely over Emily's growing-up years and then comes to a sweet conclusion. I highly recommend these books! 

Hind's Feet on High Places, by Hannah Hurnard. This book has been on the edge of my radar for many years, and I finally got around to reading it. It's a beautiful allegory all about the Christian life, and it draws a lot from the Song of Songs, which is my favorite book of the Bible. So, I really enjoyed this book ;) There was lots of good points to pray with and I think this book would be a fantastic way to introduce a child to the Song of Songs, since it focuses so much on the "God loves you" aspect.

The Distant Hours, by Kate Morton. In this book, young adult Edie visits Milderhurst Castle, a crumbling old place owned by spinster sisters, where her mother stayed during WWII. The story was very Gothicy, with layers of secrets that Edie begins to unravel as she tries to discover hidden stories from her mother's past. It was a fun read, but it was just "okay." There were way to many lies and secrets for me. I just did not like the way in which lying was presented as a good thing to do. Instead of picking up this book, next time I need my Gothic fix, I'll pick up Jane Eyre or, for some giggles, Northanger Abbey.

Dear Fahrenheit 451, by Annie Spence. This book, written by a librarian, is full of love letters and break-up notes to the books that she has encountered over the years. Some of them were pretty funny (the Yurtle the Turtle letter was probably my favorite), but several of the books mentioned I had never read, so I skipped or skimmed over them. It was a pretty fun book to pick up, though I'm not sure I'd go back to it.

Inferno, by Dante. I tried reading this a few years ago, and found it hard to get into. It was on the list for Well Read Mom, so I picked it up again. It was still hard for me to get into, since it's chock-full of references to people I've never heard of. I wound up not reading ever single canto (my toddler was having a difficult day when I tried to finish it), but I read most of the book and it was good to discuss it at WRM. Discussing the book really helped me draw more from it, and it'd be great to go through again someday! 

Cold Sassy Tree, by Olive Anne Burns. This was a Southern coming-of-age story, told through the eyes of a teenage boy. As Will Tweedy grapples with small-town-Georgia life and scandals (like his newly-widowed grandfather marrying a young woman!), he learns about his family, has adventures, and grows from the consequences of his actions. Some of this book is pretty hilarious and reminded me a bit of Huck Finn and his adventures :) Will, being a hormonal teenage boy, made some sexual references that I didn't appreciate, but I otherwise enjoyed this book and thought it was a really interesting story about family. 

Bollywood Kitchen, by Sri Rhao. This was a delightful cookbook in which the author matches up some of his favorite Bollywood films with menus and recipes for Indian meals. I really liked how the recipes were intended to be simple and practical, and the author drew from his experience growing up with his mother's home cooking as she figured out how to integrate recipes and flavors from India when she moved to the U.S. I made the "homestyle chicken curry" recipe, and it was very tasty and simple to make. I'd love to try out more recipes sometime!

One Beautiful Dream, by Jennifer Fulwiler. Fulwiler had 6 kids in 8 years, hosts a radio show, and is a blogger and author. She's not a superhuman, either; she's a normal human being. In this book, Fulwiler relates the process of how she wrote her first book, Something Other Than God (it's excellent and is all about her journey from atheism to Catholicism) in the midst of challenging pregnancies, babies, and tight financial situations. I giggled and cried my way through this book. Honestly, it felt like this book was written for me, just because of how it was exactly the book I needed to read at this point in my life. With humor and frankness, Fulwiler relates the joys and struggles she experienced while trying to pursue her personal passions in the midst of embracing motherhood. I found her words very inspiring, and I think she does a good job at showing the importance of embracing your passions and hobbies. I loved this book, and I highly recommend it! 

My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me, by Jennifer Teege. This book, on the other hand, was AWESOME. I loved it so much!!!!!!! Teege wrote a memoir about how, as an adult, she discovered that her grandpa was an infamous concentration camp commandant. I love reading anything related to WWII and the Holocaust (it's a sad time period, but also fascinating) and Teege's story was very powerful and moving. I particularly liked reading about her journey of forgiveness and how she tried to wrap her mind around her grandma, who she was close to, living in the commandant's house at a concentration camp. There's just lots of really good reflections in here, and I highly recommend this book. 

Helena, by Evelyn Waugh. In this lovely little novel, Waugh paints a portrait of Helena, the mother of Constantine. I read this during Lent, and I thought that was a good time to read and reflect on it. I think Waugh's depiction of Helena was pretty fun, though his writing style, for some weird reason, is hard for me to get into at times.It was a good book and I'd really like to re-read it sometime to get deeper into the story. 

When Donkeys Talk, by Tyler Blanski. This was a beautiful book in which Blanski relates his discovery of how wondrous and incredible Christianity is. He talks about miracles, he talks about church history, and he talks about the importance of liturgical living. Blanski's words made me think of Blue's reflections, in the splendid novel Mr. Blue. Blanski wrote this book as a practicing Anglican, which I think perhaps may make this more approachable to a non-Catholic than other books about these topics. I really enjoyed this book, and I look forward to reading more by Blanski at some point (I've heard that his latest book is amazing!). 

Homegoing, by Yaa Gyasi. This novel follows two half sisters from 18th century Ghana, Effia and Esi, as they face very different lives-one as a slave, the other as the wife of a wealthy Englishman. The novel then travels down through the centuries, telling the story of these ladies' descendants. The prose was gorgeous, and I really loved the detail and depth of showing the importance and impact of the different people in a family tree. The novel brought in a variety of aspects to the experience of African people both abroad and in America, which I really appreciated. My main reservation about this book was the number of sex scenes and sexual references. Nothing seemed too gratuitous, but there were some intense occasions of rape or sex between married people. I skimmed and skipped over some of them, but they may not be a problem for some people. Overall, I enjoyed this novel, though it's not necessarily something I would pick up again in the near future.

The Unsettling of America: Culture & Agriculture, by Wendell Berry. This was my first jump into Berry's non-fiction, and I found it really thought-provoking! This is a somber book in which he talks about the ways in which human beings have exploited each other and culture (and agriculture) have suffered from it. Some of this book was a little dense as he was discussing various technicalities of farming, but I really got into some of his discussion! He talks a lot about the importance of having a holistic view of the human person and how everyone is connected, which I loved. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to finish this book before it was due (and the library wouldn't let me renew it), so I can't speak on the last 2 chapters, but I really did enjoy what I read of this book. 

I have a few more books I'm working on currently, but I am always adding to my list-so let me know if y'all have any recommendations! 


  1. Oh my goodness, I should read My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me...I've been on a WWII kick lately...

    And YES I ended up loving One Beautiful Dream!!

  2. Love it! So interesting, as usual. I've not really read much in WWII time, but did enjoy The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom a while ago. I'm finishing up Tyler Blanski's newer book An Immovable Feast right now, and I agree it's good! (But I won't review it on my blog since I work for the publisher, lol.) Your recipe from that other book sounds so yummy - I enjoy a good curry!

  3. I LOVE the Emily series, more than the Anne series recently. I lent my Emily books to my sister over the summer and she keeps saying she can't believe she never discovered them until now--they're good! L.M. Montgomery made even her little side characters more interesting than some other novel's main characters, haha!

  4. I've been meaning to read the Emily trilogy! My husband gave me the first book for Christmas. It's my goal to read it this summer. Hind's Feet on High Places has been on my list for awhile now. I felt the exact same way about The Distant Hours. It's my least favorite Kate Morton book for sure. I love that you read My Grandfather Would've Shot Me! LOVED that book. So powerful and fascinating.

  5. I was so excited about Dear Fahrenheit 451, but I had to drop it. I just don’t like reading the f-word that many times. I’ve got My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me to Read next. Thanks for the great recommendations!

    1. It makes me really disappointed that the f-word is so common in books now! Unfortunately, I think it's gotten to the point where I don't even notice it sometimes just because of how I am used to seeing it now. I hope you enjoy My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me! I'm excited to hear what you think about that one!