What I Read This Week

There are so many books I want to read right now, and I find that I haven’t had a lot of time for reading. Too much work and responsibilities. Anyone else feel that way? Even with that, I somehow finished five books this week. Crazy, right?

Yumi Chung is a 12-year-old girl who belongs to a family of immigrants. Her parents own a Korean restaurant, and she goes to a private academic-prep school. Her 20-year-old sister is in her first year of medical school. It is safe to say that Yumi’s parents are serious about their children’s education. However, Yumi has a dream, and that dream is to be a stand-up comedian. One day, she’s leaving a morning study class that her parents have signed her up for, and she stumbles into a new comedy club where the club is hosting a summer camp for children who are interested in stand-up comedy. Yumi finds herself sitting in on the camp, and then trying to figure out what to say to her parents about her day . . . .

This is a sweet and quick middle-grades read. I had heard the book mentioned on two different podcasts in the same week, and I knew that I had to pick it up and try it out. I initially tried to push it onto one of my daughters, and I still think they would like it even more than I did. However, I enjoyed this quick and fun read, especially since I saw more of the Asian immigrant mindset and why academics are so important to these parents.

The Whydah: A Pirate Ship Feared, Wrecked, and Found examines a small corner of history. The ship sunk in the waters off Cape Cod during a storm in 1717, and was not rediscovered until the 1980s. Sandler tells the history the ship, the pirate who was its captain, and the history of the excavation of the ship, as well as the meaning of the discovery. Each chapter also contains sidebars giving readers information about the topics of the chapter. These sidebars dispel many common myths about pirates that have crept into our cultural milieu.

I found myself completely pulled into this little corner of history and read this book over a 24-hour period. It’s a book aimed at teens, and my teenagers will be using it for a few weeks for history, and I expect them to find it just as engaging as I did. I did think it was a little irritating that several pages of sidebars came in the middle of the chapters, and I worry that my children, especially my 13-year-old, might find it to be a little confusing.

Sebastian Bell awakens in the woods with no memories, only knowing someone has been killed, and having the name Anna on his lips. He soon realizes that he is at an estate called Blackheath and odd things are going on. Is Anna dead? Who is he? Why is he at Blackheath? There are many puzzles to solve, and of course, there’s his missing memory. He encounters a strange figure in a plague doctor costume who begins to fill in some of the gaps, but can Sebastian trust him?

I’m trying to be as spoiler-free as I can be, but this is a hard book to talk about without giving out spoilers. Having said that, I really loved this book and considered it a fun puzzle. It is probably one of the best books I’ve read this year. If you like mysteries, and don’t mind a touch of sci-fi/supernatural, then you should really read this book.

Jonathan has heard that there are bears on Hemlock Mountain, but the adults in his life have told him that this idea is just “stuff and nonsense.” When his mother decides to send him on an errand that requires him going over Hemlock Mountain and back again, it takes all his courage to carry out the task. After all, there might be bears on Hemlock Mountain.

This is a fun little book that is really only a little more than a chapter book. I’ve read it multiple times because I read it to my older two children several times when they were younger. I’ve been going through my books, trying to figure out which children’s books I want to share with my younger two before they are too old to appreciate it. This was high on the list, so I shared it with them this week. It’s truly a charming read, and they were old enough to really talk about underlying themes of the book that I had not discovered on my last reading.

For those of us who have been to seminary, we have usually found it to be an illuminating, and sometimes overwhelming time. For those called to the pastoral ministry, many of the practical lessons of pastoring cannot be taught there. Teaching some of those practical things is the goal of 15 Things Seminary Couldn’t Teach Me. They cover topics such as, what to do when you can’t get a job, how to teach your children to love a church, how to discern when to accept a ministry change, and how to deal with conflict.

As I’m not called to pastoral ministry, I am not the primary audience for this book. However, there were several points of wisdom that I gleaned. I especially needed the chapter on fighting for your faith. There’s nothing like being in ministry to kill one’s faith (but that’s another story). One thing I hated about this book was that each chapter gave advice in list or bullet point format. It made the book feel tiresome and overwhelming, kind of like a list of self-help articles.

What I Read This Week

This week was a pretty good reading week. I had a lot of reading going on this week, and I finished a non-fiction book that I had been reading for a couple of weeks. That always makes for a good reading week.

Jesus and John Wayne is one of the books written in the aftermath of evangelical Christianity’s unprecedented support for Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election. The fact that a group of people who always claimed to support men of character for the presidency would wholeheartedly embrace someone who is not a moral man in his election for the presidency is a symptom of a larger problem within evangelicalism.

Du Mez is writing as a historian attempting to figure out what went wrong. How did such a countercultural religious movement become so enmeshed with Christian nationalism that these evangelicals would disregard their candidate’s character? Du Mez’s interpretation of this issue is to find that the evangelical problem begins with and idolization of the masculinity of John Wayne instead of the masculinity of Christ. She points out how, since World War II, the Christian ideal image of a man and a strong military have led Christians into supporting leaders for their strength instead of their character.

As I reader, I have often wondered what went wrong in a world where so many of my friends would not only support a man of such low character but would champion him as a person of moral character. As a result, I have been on a journey of my own attempting to separate what real Christianity is from the cultural Christianity that I see around me. As such, Du Mez’s book is a helpful tool on that journey. There were things that filled me with nostalgia and things that filled me with horror. I realized that one of the things I will have to separate in my Christianity is biblical manhood and womanhood from the cultural vision of “biblical manhood and womanhood.” More reading is definitely necessary for me!

All I Ask begins with a prologue where Teagan watches her best friend get married. The thing he doesn’t know? She’s completely in love with him, even though she’s pregnant with another man’s baby. Through a series of events detailed in flashbacks in the book, Teagan and Derek lose touch. Thirteen years pass and Derek and his daughter are back in town. Will Derek and Teagan reconnect? Will they become friends again? Will more that friendship bloom?

This is a romance, so the answers to these questions are probably pretty self-evident. However, the road to happily ever after is not a smooth one for Teagan and Derek as they deal with the past, their daughters and the future. I truly enjoyed the first two-thirds of the book. At this point, however, the book takes a melodramatic turn as the author throws several “problems” in their way. I was less than impressed, and found that the melodrama really ruined the book for me. I wish the author had maintained the strong pace and storyline of the first two-thirds of the book.

Lucie is a spinster and a suffragette. She pulls together a consortium to purchase controlling interest in a London printing press so that she and her fellow suffragettes can publish a report that would bring light to the plight of married women as property of the men they marry. Unfortunately, at the same time Lucie is attempting to buy controlling interest in the press, an antagonist from her youth (who is a hopeless rogue) is buying up all the shares from other owners to have an equal interest in the press. And he wants to be very hands-on with his approval of content and the daily workings of the press. Sparks fly, and soon Tristan makes an offer that Lucie seriously begins to contemplate.

I have always loved historical romance, and A Rogue of One’s Own is a really good historical romance. It’s the second in the League of Extraordinary Women series, and it is as good or better than the first book. Tristan is a lovable rogue, and Lucie is exactly the strong, sympathetic character that I really enjoy reading about. It was smoking hot in places, but was really sweet. I look forward to the next one in the series. It’s too bad it doesn’t come out for a whole year.

A Couple of Slower-Paced Novels

This week was a slower reading week that the weeks that I have had recently. The reason for the slowness is that I read two slower-paced books. Have you ever done that? Felt like you’ve been reading and reading and never quite finished a book? Or maybe you’re looking for something just a little slower paced to read that you can relax yourself into it. In that case, I have two books for you.

Mexican Gothic is a book that is perhaps best classified as a horror novel. Noemi receives a letter from her newly-married cousin Catalina and this letter is jumbled, strange, and deeply disconcerting. Noemi finders herself immediately leaving Mexico City for the rural Mexican countryside to her cousin’s husband’s ancestral estate. When Noemi gets there, the atmosphere is creepy, the house and the family are unwelcoming, and Noemi feels deeply unwanted and out of place. She is often even barred from visiting with her cousin. She is demanding answers, but receiving none, trying to decide how best to help her cousin, and then, she begins having very strange dreams. . . .

This book relies heavily on atmosphere. For much of the first half of the novel, nothing much truly happens. Noemi is in a gloomy house with strange rules, surrounded by unfriendly people, and having strange dreams. Unless the reader truly likes the character of Noemi, it’s going to be a bit of a push to read. Luckily for me, I really liked Noemi. Once the action starts in the second half of the book, the book becomes harder to put down, and I really ended up enjoying it. If you enjoyed books like Rebecca and Wuthering Heights, I think you’ll like the atmospheric feel of this one.

In All Adults Here, Astrid is the widowed mother of three adult children. Her relationships with these children are somewhat distant, and after seeing another townswoman get killed after being hit by a bus, Astrid realizes that she wants to tighten her bonds with her children and make some changes in how she’s living her life. At the same time, her youngest son, Nicky, sends his own teenage daughter, Cecelia, to live with Astrid after Cecelia experiences some trouble at school. In addition, Astrid’s daughter, Porter, and son, Elliot, are going through their own personal trials.

This one was really buzzy when it first came out. It was a Read with Jenna, and it was all over Bookstagram. The book is a family drama with a well-established author, and as I began the book, I found the characters to be rather quirky and interesting. Unfortunately, the charm kind of wore off and I plodded through this one. So many big issues are addressed–online pedophilia, artificial insemination, adultery, lesbianism, coming out transgender, parenting failures, sibling rivalry, friendship issues, bullying, and more. Yet, all are dealt with blithely, and in many cases, kind of unemotionally. This made it difficult to connect with the characters. Also, some of the plot lines are left either unfinished or not woven very well into the storyline. I think Straub might have just been over ambitious for a 350-page book. I could have easily read a whole book about each of these characters, and I think that, if I had, the stories as a whole would have been more impactful for me.

As an aside, I found Straub’s writing to be beautiful, and I copied several quotes into my notebook. This one is just an okay book from a very good writer.

Well, that’s all my reading for this week. What have you been reading?

The August 2020 Wrap-Up

This month was a really good reading month. I like to average between 15-18 books a month, so I was able to fall directed within my average this month, and that was good. More importantly, I really enjoyed most of the books I read. My favorite reads were probably the last two books in the Crazy Rich Asians trilogy, but there were lots of other winners for me this month.

The Stats:

  • Books Read: 16
    • Library–4
    • Kindle–3
    • Hardcopy–8
    • Audio–1
  • Re-Reads: 1
  • Goodreads Challenge Progress: 115/200 (18 books behind schedule)
  • New Books vs. Backlist:
    • New Books: 7
    • Backlist: 9

The Books:

little women

This audible listen was a re-read of a book I loved as a child. Listened with all four of my children at a pace of about three chapters a week over the past few months. All the children, boys and girls say this one is a winner.

As an adult, I felt that the book was a little preachy, but children’s tales often contain moral lessons, so I tried not to let that bother me too much. Once I did, I was able to relax and enjoy the story.  I really need to watch the new movie with the children now that we’ve finished the book.

china rich girlfriend

This is the second of the Crazy Rich Asians novels and it’s really fun. There are several new characters introduced as a large portion of this novel details Rachel’s biological father and how she gets to meet him along with her half-brother and his girlfriend. The Chinese world in this book is even more crazy than Nick’s world in the first book. There’s a side story about Kitty Pong attempting to fit into Asian high-society and another one about the implosion of Astrid’s marriage.  However, the spotlight here is on Rachel and her half-brother. The story is frothy, fun, and completely over-the-top.

boys and sex

A nonfiction winner for me, Boys and Sex is a narrative created by interviews with around 30 men in their late teens and early 20s.  They’re beginning to navigate sex, love, and relationships, and reading the book is, in some ways like watching a train crash. So many of these boys want to have relationships and can’t figure out how to get beyond the hookup. Others feel pressured into sexual activity they don’t want to prove their masculinity. There are very few mature, sexually aware men in this book.   It’s a tough but necessary conversation

As an ancient linguist, Hebrew for Life is a professional read to me.  It’s very practical and hands-on, filled with tips for practice and memorization as well as lists of resources for Printbuilding fluency. They also make the case for Aramaic, and that influenced me strongly as Aramaic is a language I have not got around to learning yet. It’s a great little book, but obviously is going to have a limited appeal.

The Lies That Bind is a book that isn’t sure what it wants to be. On one level it’s almost a frothy romance. On another level, it’s a tear-jerking 9/11 the lies that bindnovel and meditation on both unrequited love and loving someone you should not love. Then, there’s the whole thing with the terminally-ill twin brother.  I really wanted to find out how it ended, but at the same time the premise and story itself was completely ridiculous. It might have been a little soap-operatic.

Speaking of ridiculous premises, The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared has a completely ridiculous premise. After all, how many 100 year old man100-year-old men climb out the window of their nursing home, happen upon a suitcase with 50 million dollars in it, and in their backstory have interacted with the likes of Stalin, Truman, Mao, and de Gaulle? Not many, right? Especially not when traveling in the present with three other people and an elephant? And he’s so calm about everything that happens that it’s almost like it happens to someone else. I found myself compulsively flipping pages to find out how it ends, but I didn’t enjoy the read as much as I had hoped to.  I just didn’t feel like I had anyone to root for.

I next turned to a little fantasy with the classic middle-grade novel, The Phoenix and the the phoenix and the carpetCarpet. The four children in this book have a knack for getting into troublesome situations. When you add in a talking phoenix and a magical flying carpet, you’re really just asking for more trouble. This book was delightful in many ways, and I may find myself re-reading it in a few months as a read aloud with my two youngest children. I’ve owned this one since my older two were young, and it’s just been collecting dust in the garage, so it felt good to mark this one off my TBR list.

Graduate school and graduate school reads continue to play a significant role in my leading with cultural intelligencereading. Because I’m only going to grad school part-time, it does feel like I might be grad school forever though! The next book I finished this month, Leading with Cultural Intelligence, was for my required Intercultural Communications class. This book is business focused, describing the areas of cultural intelligence and how to increase one’s levels of cultural intelligence. The writing was engaging, but as my specialty is ancient languages rather than business, I admit that this book was not immediately applicable to me.  Still, I did receive several insights, and I think it was a helpful read.

Next, I read a novel that was almost perfect for me. The Love Story of Missy Carmichael is the love story of missy carmichaela story set in the lovable curmudgeon genre. Seventy-nine-year-old Missy is struggling and lonely. Then, a chain of events in the park set off some interactions that culminate in new friendships and fresh experiences. She also begins to repair some broken and dysfunctional relationships that already existed in her life.  She approaches her whole life with a better understanding and healing. . . . There are also some super sad and bittersweet moments, and I found myself reading the ending of the book in the bathroom, having to set aside the book at times because I was ugly crying and the tears were coming so fast that I couldn’t read.

I knew as soon as I read China Rich Girlfriend that I would very quickly follow it with Rich People Problems. This third book in the Crazy Rich Asians trilogy is the perfect rich people problemsending to the story. Everyone’s storyline is wrapped up, and all the questions that a reader might have are answered. I read this a little more slowly than I often like to read books, mostly because I wanted to savor it. I didn’t want it to end.  Then, I finally got to a place 3/4 of the way through, and I just had to read the rest of the book really quickly. If you like over-the-top, satirical, family drama, this is a great trilogy for you. It’s frothy enough to never be depressing. There’s romantic comedy. There are all these family relationships. It’s just great!!

Next was my second Agatha Christie novel of the year, The ABC Murders. Reading this ABC Murdersone, I know why it’s such a beloved novel. It’s a great snapshot of Christie’s famous Hercule Poirot. The mystery is interesting, and I might be the only one, but I totally didn’t get the answer to the mystery. I was super close, but wasn’t right in my answer.  This was such an enjoyable book that I’m going to recommend it for my teenagers for their literature reads.

The next book I read was The Pull of the Stars. Set in a maternity ward in Dublin during the pull of the starsthe 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic, this book is short, but covers a lot of ground. I found myself feeling a little brokenhearted because there was a lot of death in this one. There was also a little romance, discussion of World War I, and a lot of birthing babies. This is a really beautiful book, and it takes place over the course of three very long days within the hospital from the point-of-view of a 30 year old nurse.

I finished my homeschool science study from spring and summer with my 9 and 10-year-mammalsold children. We used Memoria Press’s curriculum, and the spine was one of their books The World of Mammals. The book had a workbook and another book that came with it to use in mammals study.  It went through each group of mammals in an organized fashion, ending with seven lessons on primates. I don’t think I’ve ever studied either primates or whales so closely, so I learned a good amount from this book.  I alternate science and social studies with my little two, so now we’re doing US geography, focusing on memorizing states and capitals.

As we finished up mammals, I decided to do just a little more in-depth studies on whales what is a whaleby reading What is a Whale? to the children. This was actually a really nice entry in a series by Bobbie Kalman, where she goes in depth into different types of whales. Since I didn’t know much about whales, this was a great addition to our mammal studies.

The next book I read was part self-help and part memoir. Afraid of All afraid of all the thingsthe Things begins with a girl that is fearless until she realizes that bad things can happen in life. In this case, the bad thing is her parents divorce. Following her parents’ divorce and her mom’s subsequent remarriage, Hiltibidal finds herself wracked with new, and often paranoid, anxieties. These anxieties follow her throughout life, changing and morphing as she grows into adulthood. As an adult, she discusses how life experiences and her growing relationship with Jesus have helped her to approach life with less fear. As I have been someone who struggles with generalized anxiety disorder, I found many parts of her book to be relatable, some to be quite helpful, and others to be a little too preachy.

The next book I read is one of the books I’ve been more excited about recently. I read Sally Clarkson’s new book, Awaking Wonder. This book sets a vision for what you’re AwakenWonder_mck.inddtrying to awaken in your homeschooled child, as well as paining broad strokes for how to get there. Gentle, beautiful, unapologetically Christian. Clarkson’s books always remind me why we do what we do here at home, so I’m delighted to have gotten to read this book this month as we start a new “school year” here at home.

What I Read This Week

This was another fairly big reading week. Although, I have to admit that all the books I read were fairly short, and two of them were related to my younger children’s schooling. Still, this week and last week have been monster reading weeks when I look back at my reading this year. Here are the books.

the pull of the stars

After spending all spring and summer hearing about a pandemic, what type of book could be more welcome than a book about a pandemic? The Pull of the Stars is a historical fiction, set during the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic. Donoghue’s book takes place over the course of three days in a flu-gripped maternity ward in Dublin, Ireland. Women are pregnant, give birth to babies, and have the flu. Some even die of the flu. The story is told from the perspective of the nurse who is heading the daytime shift of this little flu/maternity ward, and features thoughts about the Great War, British rule of Ireland, the flu, and even a little romance.

This was a really enjoyable (and quick) read. It was like having a little close-up shot on one nurse’s life in the days nearing the end of World War I and the first fall of the Spanish flu pandemic. Donoghue packs a lot in, and the narrator leaves these three days completely changed as a person. In addition, I really enjoyed reading about medical care and the birthing of babies 100 years ago.


The next book I finished was The World of Mammals from Memoria Press. (Pictured is the accompanying study guide). This was a very serviceable spine to a semester study on mammals that my children (who were 4th and 3rd grade). The book features 30 2-page spreads, upon which are pictures and text detailing information about each subgroup of mammals. Sometimes these subgroups span multiple lessons (For example, there are seven lessons on primates). It’s not really a book that one would choose to just purchase though unless they were using the curriculum.

what is a whale

What is a Whale? goes in depth on a large and (to my children) largely unknown topic–the whale group of mammals. This groups covers whales, porpoises, and dolphins, as well as a few other varied whale species. Each page brings further depth to the subject of whales, and it is perfectly written for an upper-elementary school aged audience. If you have children in your life that are into science, Bobbie Kalman’s books could make a nice addition to their personal libraries.

afraid of all the things

Feat has played a huge role in Scarlet Hiltibidal’s life, and she shares many of her fears over the course of this book, starting with how fear entered her life during her parents’ divorce when she was a young child. Hiltibidal not only chronicles her fears, the shares how her Christian faith has transformed her to the place where she is not nearly as fearful as she once was. This doesn’t mean she’s cured, but she’s made good progress in her journey.

I have had a struggle with anxiety for much of my life, and while my faith has not miraculously healed me, it has made things more bearable and hopeful. I enjoyed Hiltibidal’s book as I laughed along with her stories and I remembered how God has brought me through some of the things I have been anxious about. I did find Hiltibidal a little preachy at times, but overall this was a good book for an anxious person.


Awaking Wonder is a book that discusses education and a parent’s role in helping their children to become curious about the world and willing to learn. The author, Sally Clarkson, paints with a broad brush, concentrating on her philosophy of education rather than putting too much detail into the mechanics of learning. Clarkson concentrates on homeschooling, and on her success in graduating all four of her children successfully as proof of how her methods and philosophy can work.

This is not my first Clarkson books, as I consider Clarkson to be a huge influence on my parenting style and philosophy. While our homeschool does not look exactly like theirs, I can look around at our homeschooling and see the influence her writing has had. This book is a welcome addition to that and is a book I would consider sharing with someone who was thinking about beginning to homeschool. Clarkson says that her writing would also be applicable to people who had children in public school or private school. However, she provides no real guidance for those parents, so this may feel completely inapplicable to those parents.

So, those are this week’s books. I plan to be back on the blog at the middle of the week to share my August wrap-up. Until then, I hope everyone has a great reading week!

What I Read This Week

This week was one of those monster reading weeks where I read and read and then was surprised to reach the end of the week and find that I read five books this week! I was really surprised because I was so busy with grad school stuff and homeschooling my kids that I did not expect to read so much.  Here’s what I read:

the phoenix and the carpet

The Phoenix and the Carpet is the second book in the Five Children series. This series focuses on four older siblings (and one baby brother) who are constantly finding themselves in a state of trouble and misadventure. In this book, their mother buys a new carpet for their nursery floor. They find an egg wrapped up in the the carpet. One day, the egg accidentally ends up in the fireplace, and a phoenix is reborn. He tells them the carpet is a magic one, which gives three wishes daily, and they end up using the carpet and consulting with the phoenix to go on many adventures.

This book is a mild portal fantasy, where the action is never too thrilling, but it makes for an interesting read anyway. This is written for children, and I think I will probably hand it over to my own children in the hopes that they enjoy the adventures and want to make up their own adventures.

The only real discordant note for modern readers is that, at one point, the children are transported to an island, and they keep referring to the natives of that island as “savages.” it’s fairly normal for the time, but doesn’t age well for our culture.

leading with cultural intelligence

My grad school class that just ended is a class on intercultural communication, and Leading with Cultural Intelligence was one of the required reads. Livermore uses this book to explain the importance of cultural intelligence, and how to go one’s cultural intelligence. He divides cultural intelligence into four components: CQ Drive, CQ Knowledge, CQ Strategy, and CQ Action. After defining these components, the remainder of the book is an exploration of each component along with action points on how to grow this component.

This is heavily a business book, and as an academic, I doubt I would have read it had I not been required to. Between the book and the the Cultural Intelligence Center’s accompanying quiz I was able to pinpoint some of my weaker areas and strategize how best to become more culturally intelligent. I suspect that I’ll find it helpful.

the love story of missy carmichael

The next book I read, The Love Story of Missy Carmichael, is in the genre of lovable curmudgeons. Missy is lonely. Her husband is gone; her son lives in Australia; her daughter is not speaking to her. She decides to go to the park for a park event, just so she’ll have news to report to her son via email. She passes out at the park and is helped by a young woman, her friend, and her son. This young woman, Angela, and her older friend, Sylvie, decide to befriend Missy. The rest of the book is told in alternating chapters between past and present as the reader sees how Angela and Sylvie’s attempts go, and how Missy got to be so lonely in the first place.

Missy really resonates with me on a couple of levels. I think she might, like me, be an enneagram 5. There are times when she seems self-pitying and when her trouble seems of her own making, and there are other times when she worries over being a burden and fearing getting to close to others. She’s a mass of contradictions, and I think most people can relate to her complicated experiences and feelings.

Towards the end, this book gets a little emotional, and I admit that I cried through several chapters.  Actually, I had a big ugly cry at some point with it. Still, it ends in a place of happiness and hope, and I am glad for that.

rich people problems

Rich People Problems is the third book in the Crazy Rich Asian series. It focuses on Nick’s grandmother being sick, and as she’s dying, relatives are flocking there to say good-bye. Of course, the don’t just want to say good-bye. They’re all very concerned about who might get Su Yi’s large fortune when she’s gone. Nick is unconcerned about the fortune, but he desperately wants to make amends and reconcile with the grandmother he loves and has been mad at so long. On the other hand, Eddie is completely obsessed with the fortune, believing he’s going to be a rich man in just a few days.

There are two important side plots going on at the same time. First, Astrid’s still in divorce proceedings, and Michael has been vicious, attempting to smear her name, as well as Charlie Wu’s name across the press. Astrid and Charlie’s story still hangs in the balance. The second is Kitty Pong’s story also continues. She is now Jack Bing’s wife, and so jealous of his daughter Colette that she can’t stand it. She spends the entire book trying to find her place in society and attempting to find ways to one-up Colette.

This is really a great ending to the trilogy. Readers learn so much about Su Yi and what made her who she was. They also get to be in the room when the will is read and see the family’s reactions. The second half of the book nicely ties up all the loose ends and  gives a picture of where everyone’s story ends.

ABC Murders

The ABC Murders is the thirteenth Hercule Poirot mystery and my second Agatha Christie novel of the year. It all begins when Poirot begins receiving letters. These letters include a city and a date. These cities and dates become the map for a murder spree . . . and ABC order murder spree as the killer begins in Andover, killing a woman with the last name A. He then continues working his way through the alphabet, taunting Poirot as he goes with a new letter each month.

This is masterfully done. I really enjoyed the mystery, and I really enjoyed seeing Poirot’s working relationships with the other detectives and police officers throughout the novel. I also admit that I was a little fooled by Christie. I was close to who the murderer was, but not quite there when the murderer was revealed. I always love a mystery where I don’t get the murderer right. I plan to read more Christie soon.

So, that’s it for my reading this week. What have you guys been reading?

What I Read This Week

This week was a busy reading week for me as I snuck a little extra reading in while my thirteen-year-old was at the orthodontist and stayed up late one night to finish a book. Since I fall under my state’s shelter-in-place order, my children have dropped tae kwon do and gymnastics during this pandemic, and I have to admit that it’s really cut into my reading time.

My children are able to do Zoom music classes and they’re doing small groups for Bible study class over Zoom this fall. They’re even doing a once-a-month art lesson over zoom. However, none of these add to my reading time, as at home, I inevitably find chores, grad school work, and scrolling Twitter to fill these times rather than reading.

This was a really good reading week, however, and I finished four books! Here are the books:

boys and sex

Boys and Sex tells the inside story for many young men who are attempting to navigate hookups and romantic relationships in their late teens and early twenties. Orenstein does not pretend that she’s telling the story of all boys, but she weaves together the stories of twenty or thirty boys who have agreed to be interviewed. They discuss porn, relationships, hookups, consent, and things that have crossed the line. The biggest takeaway? Boys struggle just as much in a toxic sexual climate as girls do.

I had read Orenstein’s Girls and Sex back in 2017, and when I did my heart hurt for those young girls and for what my own young girls would be navigating in just a few years. I wondered what the atmosphere was like for boys, especially as I have two sons. I feel just as much concern for them after reading this book. There are three things that I want to emphasize for them now that I have read Orenstein’s work: 1) You do not have to have sex or hookup with a large number of girls to prove your masculinity. 2) Make sure you get verbal consent for anything you do. 3) Do not take advantage of drunk girls.


Hebrew for Life is a practical guide for the student of Biblical Hebrew. The authors help unpack the reasons for learning and retaining Hebrew, strategies for practice and what steps to take continue to build fluency. There are also some interesting technical and devotional thoughts expressed along the way.

This is very similar to Greek for Life, which I read in 2018. The basics of the chapters are the same, but this book has been revised to apply to Hebrew. They are different enough that each bears reading, especially if you’re reading them a couple of years apart like I did. I found that it helped my motivation in both languages.

the lies that bind

In The Lies that Bind, Cecily Gardner is a transport from the midwest to New York City, attempting to make it as a writer, but struggling as a second-rate reporter. She’s just broken up with her boyfriend, Matthew, and is very lonely. She’s sitting alone at the bar, contemplating calling Matthew when Grant Smith enters her life. Cecily and Grant make an immediate connection, and Cecily begins to fall in love. However, there’s something off about their relationship, and Cecily is not sure what it is. . .

This book is a little nonsensical, and I didn’t really enjoy being in Cecily’s head.  However, I enjoyed the plot and the romantic elements. There’s a lot going on here, and as I attempted to describe the plot to my teen daughter, I realized how much it had in common with a soap opera. Let’s just call it farfetched. Or maybe frothy and enjoyable. It might be great if you’re looking for something fun, but I don’t think its Giffin’s best.

I wouldn’t read the jacket cover or the goodreads description. They really give too much away and write about things that happen halfway through the book. I will say that this is slightly historical fiction, and 9/11 plays a big role in the plot of the book. I think I can say that without giving too much away.

100 year old man

The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared revolves around Allan. Allan is turning 100 years old, and as his nursing home is throwing him a party to celebrate, Allan decides to flee the nursing home and make a new start. He doesn’t really have a destination in mind, but as he leaves, he finds his way along on a completely new adventure. His present adventures alternate with chapters from his past, telling the story of how he travelled across the world with pure luck and his abilities as an explosive expert leading the way. Readers also get to see him interact with many famous politicians along the way.

Reading this book is part of my commitment to read more of the books I own and from my backlist as I plan my reading this year. I’ve actually owned this book on my kindle for about 18 months, and was happy to be able to cross it off my list. Sometimes older books fall off my list because I am distracted by the “new and shiny.”

This book is humorous and fun to read. I found myself feeling critical of it for two reasons. 1) Everything that happens to Allan seems to happen by sheer dumb luck. I’ve never met someone so lucky. 2) Many of the actions in this book are immoral and unlikable on the part of both villains and good guys. Allan’s emotional detachment from his morals made me have a hard time rooting for him, and I need someone to root for–even if that someone is not a terribly moral person.

Still, I kept turning pages as I wanted to know what would happen next and how Allan was going to make the best of (or get out of) each situation that he got himself in.


Well, that’s about all for this week. Hope everyone has a great week and finds some great reads along the way!

What I Read This Week

This week I have been in the midst of five or six books all at the same time.  So many books to read and so little time! I did finish two books and really enjoyed both of them.  Here are the books:

little women

Little Women is a classic novel of four sisters–Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy. They have very different personalities, but they share a love for each other and a basic virtue that is endearing. They often have their stumbles, but they are able to draw on the love that their mother and father (as well as the others around them) have for them to help them right themselves again.

My children and I have been listening to an audiobook version of this book at a pace of about 2-3 chapters per week.  It’s a really enjoyable pace, and I found myself savoring this re-read. While it’s a little more heavy-handed morally than I remember it being, that does not take away from its charm. All four of my children also really liked it (boys and girls–teens and tweens), so I know it’s a winner.

china rich girlfriend

China Rich Girlfriend is the second book in the Crazy Rich Asians series. It continues Nick and Rachel’s story as they prepare to get married and as Rachel discovers and meets her biological father. Astrid’s story is also continued as she has returned to her marriage, but it hasn’t made her nearly as happy as she hoped. We also get to see Kitty Pong trying to fit into Chinese society on the heels of her marriage to Bernard Tai.  When Rachel meets her father, her half-brother and his girlfriend are also introduced, and part of the fun of the book is following their exploits. After all, Colette Bing is not just “crazy rich,” she’s “China rich.”

This is a fun and very over-the-top look at Asian culture through the eyes of its richest members. It’s interesting to see the dynamics between outsiders and insiders, the jockeying for position, and how difficult it is for Rachel, as an American born Chinese person to truly become a part of her father’s family.

When I finished this book, I immediately picked up the third book in the series and began reading it. I’m already enjoying and surprised by some of the plot twists as I go through it.

What I Read This Week

This week was not quite as spectacular a reading week as last week. However, I did finish three books (and American Demon is almost 500 pages).

I usually post these on Sunday, but I actually forgot yesterday between some work I was doing and well . . . actually reading. . . .

Anyway, here are the books I read:

american demon

The first book I finished this week was American Demon. This is the fourteenth book in the Hollows series, and the first book (that wasn’t a prequel) in six years.  People are attacking those they love and not remembering it. Rachel finds herself also feeling aggression towards those she loves as she sleeps from sleep into wakefulness. They are obviously being attacked by someone, but who? The FIB and IS are both taking a very hands-off approach, and the demons are running scared. Will Rachel figure out what is causing this in time to stop it? Or will she become the latest victim?

It was good to be back in Rachel’s world. It’s been so long since I’ve spent time there, and reading this book was like spending time with old friends. There wasn’t enough of a couple of the main characters in this book, but there were a couple of new characters I really loved.  This was a really good book.  I’ve had thoughts about re-reading the series since reading this book, but I’ve got plenty of other books I want to spend time with first.

what is a mammal?

This barely counts as a book, but my nine and ten year old have been doing a study on mammals over the past five months, and we finished one of the books that we’ve been reading with it today. What is a Mammal? is a brief picture book survey of mammals.  It covers many groups and the basic characteristics of mammals. It’s fairly basic and a great aid for this age group.

We’re drawing close to the end of our mammal study, and I had hoped to celebrate with a trip to the zoo. Unfortunately, I fall under our state’s shelter-in-place law, so I won’t be going anywhere like that. Also, our local zoo has many of their spaces closed, so it’s not worth the exorbitant prices to go right now.

letters to a diminished church

Letters to a Diminished Church is a collection of essays by well-known mid-twentieth century mystery novelist Dorothy Sayers. She, like the others in her writers’ circle, has deep thoughts about Christianity. These essays pertain to various topics in the Christian faith. Her argument is not that we have too much religion but that we have not learned enough dogma. The discusses topics like Christian dogma, sin and the problems associated with contemporary Christian life. Several essays are also on the topics of Christians and the writerly life or Christians and literary genres.

Sayers makes many thoughtful reflections on the Christian faith, and I found myself putting many quotes into my commonplace book as I read. I think there are elements of this book that I will be reflecting on for some time.

I also found this book worthy of my fifteen-year-old’s attention. He is a creative type, and her reflections on allegory, mysteries, and the characterization of the devil in literature will probably be fascinating for him, if he can get past the mid-20th century writing style. I’ll be using this book with him for fall semester as part of his worldview readings. I am not sure at this time whether or not I’ll use the entire book or just select essays from it.  I’m still considering how to approach it with him.

What I Read This Week

I had a monster-sized reading week this week and finished five books.  Among them was the most recent Louise Penny book, a couple of professional reads, and a couple of romances. I feel kind of accomplished finishing the Louise Penny book. There’s just sometimes about finishing a whole series that is exciting!

a better man

In A Better Man, Inspector Gamache’s suspension is finally over and he takes a demotion back to being head of homicide at Surete du Quebec. He will share this role with a co-worker who is leaving the force for two weeks, and there is a question of how they will handle this and how it will affect their relationship. Meanwhile, Clara is having difficulty and drama as her latest exhibition is panned by both the critics and Twitter.

The first case Armand takes as he’s back in the job is the disappearance of a battered wife. It’s a case that’s open and shut, or is it? And Armand feels especially connected to this missing woman, who is about the age of his own adult daughter, and to her her father as he shares a deep well of sympathy for what the father must be going through.

This is a very good addition into the Inspector Gamache storyline.  I enjoyed the mystery very much and I also really enjoyed Gamache’s personal continuing storyline. There are some real changes coming in his life, so it will be interesting to see what Penny does with his character going forward (though in the plot synopsis I read of the next book, she may not have handled it yet). I really didn’t enjoy Clara’s storyline and thought it was a distraction. Three Pines is kind of a background of this story and the local characters did not have much to, and I felt like Clara’s storyline was just filler.

leading cross-culturally

Leading Cross-Culturally is a book about forming relationships and leading in a way that empowers other people to become effective leaders. When working with people, different personalities and values come into play and these differences create opportunities for misunderstanding each other and for growth in both the leader and those who are being led. Lingenfelter discusses how to build trust and empower other people as well as the pitfalls and temptations of leadership with a special emphasis on leading across multiple cultures.

I had to read this one for a class I’m taking in intercultural communications, and it was not one I would I probably would have picked out for myself. However, I found myself truly convicted on several levels by portions of this book, and I feel that it is helpful for any Christian in a leadership position, whether that position is across the world or in their own hometown. Many of these leadership issues are fairly universal.

bears behaving badly

Bears Behaving Badly is the first book in a new series by the Queen Betsy series author MaryJanice Davidson. This book is not about literal bears, but instead is the first book in the BeWere My Heart series, a paranormal romance series focused on shape-shifters.

Annette is a caseworker for the Interspecies Protective Agency (IPA), managing the placement of specific young were creatures into foster homes. When she begins case management for a young, mute werewolf, the young werewolf’s attack of another werewolf brings private investigator David Auberon onto the scene. Both Annette and David are bear shifters, and as they case becomes stranger and more dangerous, Annette and David are brought into a close contact that creates sparks between them.

This was really fun read for me. I picked it up because I knew I liked the author, and I was pleasantly surprised by both the mystery and the romance. The romantic scenes do get a little spicy at times and are completely open-door. Still a really fun read if you’re into either paranormal romances or urban fantasy.


In Not Like the Movies, Chloe is dealing with a spat of publicity. Her best friend Annie has published a screenplay that is about to hit the movie theaters. The screenplay is loosely based on Chloe’s life and imagines a relationship between Chloe and her boss Nick. As Chloe had never seen Nick in a romantic light before, the screenplay has awakened tensions in Chloe that she was previously unaware of. Add in preparations for Annie’s wedding, caring for an elderly father, struggling through business school and putting up with an unreliable brother and Chloe’s life feels as if it’s spiraling out of control. Is her life like the rom-com of Annie’s dreams or is it a nightmare?

I really enjoyed this romance (and it does have plenty of rom-com moments). I think this one is more enjoyable if you’ve read Annie’s story in Waiting for Tom Hanks. The storylines are intertwined and dependent on each other. I actually liked Chloe’s character more than Annie’s and felt like she was a little more relatable than Annie, so it was a great follow-up.

scandalous witness

Scandalous Witness lays out fifteen propositions for how a Christian should approach politics. Camp discovers that Christians should be “neither left nor right nor religious” as their beliefs are based on the historical fact of the resurrection rather than the vague spiritual promised. This means that a Christian is bound to Christ before any political affiliation.

Both the left and the right will find themselves equally offended by the propositions Camp sets forth. They will also find themselves convicted of how often they have put their political convictions ahead of the cause of Christ. This book is not large, but it is weighty.