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.

9781984804044_NotLiketheMo_FCO.indd

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.

What I Read This Week

This week was a pretty good reading week. It was all fiction, and one of the books was even a classic.  I’m kind of pleased because it’s my second classic of the year.  I always want to read so many “new and shiny” novels from the new releases section of my library that I sometimes neglect older novels.

I seem to be averaging two to three books a week right now (and I’m almost at 91 books for the year, so yay!), and this week is no exception. I do have to say that both books I read this week were a little bit too much on the trigger warning spectrum for me, but it was still a fun journey.

1984

1984 is a classic and much beloved book. It tells the tale of Winston, a mid-level government employee. His job is to rewrite history so that Big Brother’s regime is always right and always good. Each day he receives “corrections” to make to old newspaper articles and he makes them before burning the notations of corrections. However, he has budding thoughts against Big Brother as well as a clandestine romance with a younger government employee that could get him arrested or killed if Big Brother were to ever find out.

I’m surprised, since apocalyptic fiction is one of my favorite genres, that I have never made the time for this book. I am glad that I did. I could really feel how well of a handle Orwell had on the motivations of an authoritarian regime. I felt that both the populist right in our country and the progressive left are guilty of many of the infractions that make Oceania such a truly limiting and frightful place.

This book is also very dark. It’s not going to win you with a “happily ever after” type of ending. Trigger warnings also abound (as is common in the genre). I finished it feeling as if I might break down sobbing or vomit, and i was not sure which was going to happen first. It is super intense, and I know I will be thinking about it for a long time to come.

kingdom of the blind

Kingdom of the Blind is the fourteenth Inspector Gamache book. He’s still suspended from the Surete du Quebec, and he’s also still working behind the scenes to try and clean up the mess he has made. He also finds himself in the position of being named one of the executors of a will. As it happens the will is really bizarre, and soon a body turns up as well.

The story is good. I really like the whole story with the will and the murder. The people involved there are also a lot of fun to read about. On the other hand, the ongoing Surete mess ends up involving a cadet at the academy, and I found that to be a particularly stomach-turning storyline to follow. I was also not enchanted by Beauvoir’s usual hand wringing and mental gymnastics. I really feel like, fourteen books into the series, we should really be past some of that. As with most Gamache books, there are trigger warnings in this book as well, and as I said, I this one left me a little triggered.

What I Read This Week

This week I have focused my fictional reading entirely on Inspector Gamache, trying to get caught up with the series. I bought the entire series last year, and got fatigued about halfway through. I started picking them up again a couple of months ago, and I’m on a real Gamache streak! I finished one Gamache novel and am so close to finishing a second one this weekend!

glass houses

In Glass Houses, Inspector Gamache has become the head of the entire Surete du Quebec. The story begins in the courtroom, recounting happenings in Three Pines and shifts back and forth from present to past telling a story of both murder and drug cartels.

The shifting timeline makes this one a little confusing to follow at times, but it is still a wonderful book. I enjoyed the plotting and storyline, and I did not figure the mystery out until over 3/4 of the way through. I really feel like Penny has hit her stride with the series and stories keep getting better and better.

rediscipling the white church

In Rediscipling the White Church, Swanson proposes that racial injustice stems from disordered affections. We have been discipled to have unconscious biases and these biases show where our heart is tainted with racial prejudice. First, the church needs to realize and understand this prejudice. Then, the church needs to redisciple its people to value racial justice and to make strides in being a more multicultural and unified body.

Reading about social justice is outside my comfort zone, so I have been reading this book for weeks. I would read a chapter, go think about it a while, and then come back to the book. This was a timely read, as I started reading it before George Floyd’s murder and the resulting civil unrest, and I emerged from it feeling a little overwhelmed by the work there is for the white church to do. The church has made strides, but really not nearly enough. I also have a whole new slate of book recommendations I received through this book. Many of them were on sale on Kindle during the time of the protests, so I acquired them and have a new library of social justice books to read. I want to learn more so that I can do better and so I can teach my children to do better.

A Common Problem in Christian Leadership

I’m currently taking a intercultural communications class in seminary, and one of the required texts is Sherwood G. Lingenfelter’s Leading Cross-Culturally: Covenant Relationships for Effective Christian Leadership. I really did not expect, when I looked at the title and endorsements on the book that this would be a book that I would enjoy or that I would find too helpful. However, Lingenfelter’s voice is really easy and pleasant to read and his thoughts are often full of wisdom.

One of the things that I have encountered in this book that has stayed in my thoughts as I begin to contemplate some of my writing assignments is the following quote from the first chapter. After Lingefelter shares a case study of a less than successful missionary team, he dives into exploring the idea of what Christian leadership is. He then shares some pitfalls and temptations for Christian leaders to avoid. The temptation of power and exertion of will is a leadership failure that has driven my family from two different churches in the past three years.

As Lingefelter puts it,

Yielding to the temptation to control and forcibly influence outcomes completely undermines and destroys spiritual ministry. We cannot do the work of the kingdom of God by exercising the tools of the devil. When we distort God’s will, when we seek power to achieve the ends that seem right to us, when we refuse to love as Christ commanded us, when we use power to make things happen that we think are essential, we have fallen into the trap that the evil one so cleverly sets for us, and we destroy the work of the kingdom of God.

The ends do not justify the means, and God never wants us to use unsavory means to accomplish our work for him. We would all do better to remember that.

Books I Read This Week

This is a week where I had two of my seminary classes overlap which I thought would severely cut into my reading time. However, I had the best reading week I’ve had in a while.  I had a couple of “surprise” finishes with a Bible study and an audiobook finish, so that definitely helped boost me to having four finishes. Even more importantly, I read two novels that I really loved (both backlist).

galatians

This week our church finished a sermon series on Galatians, marking the third time I’ve read through Galatians in the last year. It’s a small and deceptively simple writing by Paul. He clearly lays out the idea that Christ has come to set us free, not only from sin, but from the striving to live and abide by law for our right standing with God. Every time I read through this book, I learn something new, so for a short book, it is a very fruitful study. If you’re curious about Christians and what Christians should (and do) believe, this  book provides a picture of the cornerstone of Christian doctrine.

The Almost Sisters

Leia, a 38-year-old comic book illustrator, had a one night stand with Batman. Now, she’s pregnant and not telling anyone. Her “almost sister,” stepsister Rachel, is currently undergoing a crisis of her own. Meanwhile, a few states away in Alabama, Leia’s grandmother has a public incident that has Leia and her niece, Lavender, flying to Alabama to assess whether or not it is time for Birchie and her almost sister, Wattie to be moved to the nursing home.

The story is fast-paced, character-driven, and has so much family drama. Jackson also deals with the ideas of racism in the south, what it is like to grow up without a father, and how sisters relate to each other, especially when their relationship is set up to be naturally contentious. I loved this book and I could not read it fast enough. Beautiful writing and wonderful characterization. I probably could have read a book about this family that was twice as long as this 350 page novel. I was disappointed to not have more to read. I really can’t believe I’ve had this one sitting on my Kindle as long as I have without reading it.

knock three times

Knock Three Times is the third book in the middle-grade The Wizards of Once series. Xar and Wish are still adventuring together, along with their entourage of bodyguards, tutors and magical creatures. This book opens with them fleeing from their parents to pursue a confrontation with the Nuckalavee. I can’t say anything more in plot set-up without giving away major spoilers, and if you haven’t read the books, just what I’ve said may sound odd and confusing.

I am really enjoying seeing the character development here with both the main characters and the minor ones. However, this book dragged a little in the middle, so it was not quite as good as its predecessors. I listened to this one on audiobook with my kids, and David Tennant’s narration is excellent!

a great reckoning

A Great Reckoning is the twelfth Inspector Gamache novel. In this installment, Penny returns to the topic of some previous books, the ongoing corruption in the Surete du Quebec. Gamache decides that he wants to attempt to help fix the corruption in the Surete at the root by becoming the commander of the police academy. Of course, there is opposition to his changes, and also, of course, there is a murder. During the ensuing investigation, even Gamache’s closest associates find themselves wondering whether or not Gamache is capable of murder.

This is a great book. We have the reappearance of a former antagonist. We have a group of new cadets. We have a seemingly (and maybe completely) unrelated mystery related to a map and a stained glass window in the town of Three Pines. This book fills in a lot of holes in Gamache’s story and made me feel strong waves of both grief and joy. This one is possibly my new favorite in the series. I’ve already picked up the next Gamache and am almost 100 pages into it!

So, I hope everyone else is having a great week. If you live in the US, I hope your Independence Day weekend was great, and also hope that everyone is staying safe.

Articles I Enjoyed

I’m back with a few more articles that I enjoyed enough to want to share.

History Lessons for Donald Trump after his Fourth of July Speech

My teens and I have been reading about the American Revolution this summer. So, it was incredibly fun to read this article with the things that President Trump got wrong in his Fourth of July speech last year. I’m saving the article to share with my teens. It’ll make them feel good to know they have a better grasp of the Revolution than he does.

Reading and the Coronavirus Pandemic

I will admit that I have struggled to concentrate since the Coronavirus pandemic began back in March. My reading life has really slid since then. Articles like this actually make me happy as I realize that I’m not the only one struggling. The author also gives some tips to try to help jumpstart your reading life.

What Frederick Douglass Had to Say About Monuments

Because of all the monuments coming down, I’ve been kind of following the whole conversation on social media. I really liked this article about the Emancipation Monument (one of the monuments caught up in the battle) and heartily agree with Douglass.

I’m Not Hateful, You Are

I love this article so much that I’ve read it multiple times. I have long felt that people are not as divided or as far apart as they think they are, and David French provides some beautiful graphs, numbers, and prose discussing how the perception of difference far exceeds the actual differences between conservatives and liberals.

What’s Really Orwellian About Our Global Black Lives Matter Moment

I didn’t realize how much of his writing was an interaction with his feelings about policing. I also didn’t realize that Orwell had a background as a policeman. Now I’m moving 1984 back up my TBR again.  I admit that Animal Farm is the only one of his books that I’ve actually read.

 

June Reads and the Unread Shelf

I’m trying to do better about reading the things I already own and about not adding too many books to my stack of books to read. I added far too many books to my stack in June and didn’t even count them (I’ll begin counting purchases next month), but I wanted to make a few notes of what I read this month so I’ll see how much I’m cutting into my actual unread books.

Physical Books:

  • The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert (Purchased June 2018)
  • The Night Country by Melissa Albert (Purchased May 2020)
  • Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan (Purchased June 2018)
  • The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix (Purchased April 2020)
  • Ghosting a Love Story by Tash Skilton (Purchased May 2020)
  • The Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny (Purchased August 2019)
  • Galatians

Kindle Books:

  • And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie (Purchased May 2020)
  • The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson (Purchased January 2018)

Library Books:

  • If It Bleeds by Stephen King
  • I’d Give Anything by Marisa de los Santos

So, I read a total of 11 books and owned all but two of them.  I’m at 85 books read at the end of June. That puts me on a pace for about 170 books.  We’ll see how it goes!

What I Read This Week

This week I had a couple of books from the library so I shoved aside what I had been reading for Stephen King before it was due back. Here’s what I read:

if it bleeds

If It Bleeds is a new short story collection from Stephen King containing four short stories. Let me give you a quick, one-sentence set-up for each story. “Mr. Harriman’s Phone” details a relationship between a young boy and his mentor where a first generation iPhone plays a big role. “Life of Chuck” is a post-apocalyptic short story that begins at the end and moves backwards over three acts/vignettes. “If It Bleeds” is a new Holly Gibney story, and in this story, Holly sees something in the video coverage of a tragedy makes her think that she has spotted another outsider. “Rats” tells the tale of writer who has gone to a cabin to spend time attempting to write his first novel.

As in a lot of short story collections, this collection is uneven.”Mr. Harriman’s Phone” and “If It Bleeds” are both absorbing and rewarding stories. “Rats” would be entertaining except for the fact that it drags for about 10-15 pages right in the middle. “Life of Chuck” has some beautiful elements, but King is not really successful in blending the vignettes into a cohesive story. In the end, I was glad I got this one from the library rather than buying it.

the nature of the beast

The Nature of the Beast is the eleventh Chief Inspector Gamache book. In the book, a nine year old boy with a big imagination is always telling stories of things that had happened. Adults don’t take him seriously anymore because so many times his stories have turned out to be completely in his head. So, when he begins to tell the tale of a big gun out in the woods, no one, not even former Inspector Gamache, believes him.

This was a a very good entry in one of my favorite mystery series. At first, I will confess that I believed that Penny might have jumped the shark with this series as it contains superguns and a serial killer with connections to Three Pines. It seemed a little convoluted, and I thought she might be attempting to do too much. Yet, it somehow works.

And as for the superguns, it turns out that the story of Gerald Bull and Project Babylon is actually based on historical fact and not fictional speculation. It was the part that I thought was completely crazy, so I guess it goes to show that you can’t make the craziest things up.

i'd give anything

I’d Give Anything tells the story of Ginny Beale. At eighteen, Ginny is fun, fearless and loved, but twenty years later, she is fearful and closed off, with a husband who has entered a flirtation with a girl not much older than their daughter. The difference between the twenty years lies in a long-buried secret that created a barrier of separation between her and the dear friends that she had as a teenager. Will she find her way to freedom? What will happen with her husband? Will she ever be able to shed the burden of her terrible secret?

This is a fun and fast read. It’s also an easy read alternating in timeline between the present and the past and occasionally between the perspectives of Ginny and her daughter Avery. The book is slight at 250 pages and can be read in just a few hours.

My library had this labeled as romance, and I would contest that label. The Modern Mrs. Darcy Summer Reading Guide has it under the complicated family category, and I agree that it is a family drama all the way. I really enjoyed this book, but I don’t think I have read anything by her yet that has risen to the level of her book I’ll Be Your Blue Sky. This is only my fourth of her books though, so I’ve go a couple more to read before I can call myself a completionist.

 

I’m kind of happy with my totals this week because this is the first week I’ve read three books in a while. I’ve struggled to have the concentration to really dig into a book since all the COVID-19 lockdowns and everything began, so I’m pretty happy with my progress this week.

I did try The Woman in the Mirror this week and decided to DNF about 100 pages in. Maybe another time, but for now I just wan’t enjoying the creepy, haunted house vibe.

What I Read This Week

This week, the middle week of June has not been a bad reading week. I have been reading almost exclusively from books I own on my Kindle and in hardcopy. However, my library opened for the first time this week since mid-March, and I got several books from there, so a couple of them might appear on next week’s list.

and then there were none

I started off my week with a very quick read. When the list for the Great American Read books came out a couple of years ago, I realized that there were a lot of them that I haven’t read. One of those was the mystery And Then There Were None. I was kind of surprised about it because I’ve read several famous Agatha Christie books, but just not this one.

In this book, ten people have been invited or hired to come to Soldier Island. All ten, unbeknownst to each other, have secrets they are hiding. They are all, in one way or another, responsible for the death of another person. These secrets are brought to life by some unknown entity, and then the people begin dying.

There are suspicions. There is drama. There is paranoia. There is a sense of encroaching dread that covers the whole story. The deaths are very well planned out too, with the manner of death coinciding with the verses of a nursery rhyme.

I figured out the murderer about halfway through the book, but I was completely befuddled as to the method until it was explained at the very end. I will also be recommending this one to my teenagers as I think they both (especially my fifteen year old son) would enjoy the fast pacing of this one.

ghosting

Zoey and Miles are both ghostwriters. They work for rival dating companies where clients can hire “ghostwriters” to help them talk to potential matches and hopefully score a meet-up and a new relationship. In real life, Zoey and Miles barely know each other but have an intense dislike for each other. As ghostwriters, when they find themselves working for clients who are attracted to each other, they find themselves falling into a playful banter and more than a little bit of attraction.

This was a cute new romance. Zoey and Miles are both lovable characters and all the secondary characters have their own pizzaz and sparkle. I admit the world of dating apps and ghostwriters made me feel a little old at times, but my sister just married a man she met through a dating app, so I have no doubt that this is an effective way to find true love.

I found that this book was a little bit of a slow starter for me. It took me about 50-75 pages before I got totally wrapped up in the story. If it had been a library book and not one that I bought, I would probably have given up on it before I made it through to the part where Zoey and Miles truly start to connect. They both have a lot of baggage to work through and there’s a lot of set up with their baggage and their progressional lives in the first third of the book.

There’s also a lot of humor in the book, and I had hoped that it might be a good match for my teenage daughter. However, there’s a smoking hot, open-door love scene toward the end of the book that rules it out for her as she is a younger teenager.

 

Well, those are the books for this week. I’ve really stalled out some with my reading in the latter half of the week, so I’m hoping to gain a little bit of traction with the new library books. I’ve found myself reading 20 pages of this 50 pages of that and not finishing anything else.