Guys, I had a huge reading week, and I passed the forty book mark for this year. This post is quite long, so let’s just get straight to the books.
Early Riser by Jasper Fforde. This quirky science-fiction novel is set in an alternate Wales where climate change has made things incredibly cold. In fact, the weather is so cold that most humans hibernate for sixteen weeks during the coldest parts of winter. Charlie is experiencing a first winter of not hibernating as a part of the Winter Consuls. They protect those who are asleep, which is a great and interesting opportunity for Charlie. Unfortunately, Charlie keeps having the strangest dream, and it seems like parts of the dream are coming true.
I truly enjoyed the world that Fforde is building throughout this book. It’s an interesting mystery to figure out what is going on and there were a couple of times that I was truly surprised by the outcome. I perhaps would have liked more of the world and the book by turns. This is a book that starts kind of slowly, but finishes way too quickly. My dissatisfaction with both the slow beginning and the rapid ending make this a three star book for me rather than a four or five star read. (Book 35 of 2019)
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery. This is, of course, the first volume of the iconic Anne of Green Gables series, and chronicles how Anne came to live at Green Gables and her childhood years. This book follows all her childhood mishaps, and it shows her becoming quite a warm and gentle young woman who is about to embark upon a school teaching career due to a bend in the road of her life’s path.
I have read this book numerous times as Anne was one of my favorite heroes growing up. This time, I read it, with pleasure, to introduce Anne to my daughter Emalee, and I found that I am still just as charmed by Anne, but that Marilla had a relatability to her that I had never discovered in my childhood readings of this book. And, of course, I still cry my way through the last two chapters of the book, even though I’ve read it multiple times. I still remember the first time I felt that sorrow with Anne at the end of the book too as a young girl.
By the way, I love the Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition look of this book, and I only wish Penguin had made the whole series in the same edition! Even my daughter commented on how much she wished they’d made a “pretty version” of the other books. (Book 36 of 2019)
The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck. Last year, when I read Echo, I realized that Nazi Germany during and after World War II is an underrepresented segment of that aspect of World War II fiction. An acquaintance recommended this book as a good representation of just that kind of story. This book is the story of three widows, gathered to live together in a castle after World War II, dealing with post-war Germany and the roles that their husbands played in the war. The book jogs backward and forward a little in time to show wartime as well as to update on their status (and that of their children) 40-45 years after the war.
This was a pleasant read and I enjoyed the story. I found some of the plot lines to be pretty predictable, but I have never really put myself in the role of someone who was on the German side of the war. That in itself made this book a worthwhile read for me. I have heard this book compared to Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale, which was my favorite fiction read in 2017, but it’s a pale comparison at best. If you were going to pick between the two, I’d go with The Nightingale, but if you were going to compare the plights of women in Germany versus the ones in occupied France, these would make good companions.
Despite the fact that it was a worthwhile read, I must confess that I struggled to remember that I had read it as the week went on. I didn’t forget the story, but I kept going, “I think I read something else this week, but I can’t quite remember what it is.” So, this is not a book that is sticking with me.(Book 37 of 2019)
The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien. This is the epic conclusion to a story about a ring and a story about a king. I don’t think there are any spoilers in telling you that Aragorn becomes king (and marries his dear love), and that the ring is destroyed, but its mark still leaves a shadow over Frodo long after the adventure is done. This is a much longer and slower paced conclusion than the book, and there’s a lot of beauty in the conclusion.
The children and I listened to it on audible. The boys loved it, and the girls far prefer the movies to having to wade through Tolkien’s prose and appendices. I honestly get both positions. I am glad to have experienced this because I have often started the trilogy but never made it through, and I appreciate the books and how beautiful they are now in a way I did not 10 or 20 years ago. (Book 38 of 2019)
The Sunlight Slayings by Kevin Emerson. This is the second of the Oliver Nocturne series, and Oliver is dealing with the ramifications of both vampires and Emalie thinking that he killed Dean. Sometimes, he even thinks that he might have killed him. Then, vampires start dying, victims of some strange occurrence where they die from the inside-out with their beings suffused with sunlight. Who is responsible? Is Emalie involved? Will Oliver’s parents find out Oliver’s lies? Will Oliver be one of the victims?
This is a page-turner. I’m really dying to figure out some of the secrets in this series, especially now that we’ve had two books in this world. If this series was not my current buddy read with Connor, I would have already picked up the other books and torn through them. As it is, I’m glad we’ve already got book three in hand to start next week (Book 39 of 2019)
Stuart Little—E.B. White. A classic tale of a mouse born into a human family (or at least a mouselike young man). You’ll read about him and his very different adventures as well as his striking out into independence on the search for a friend. I can’t imagine anyone who has reached a certain age and hasn’t read the book, but if you’ve only heard of the movie version, the original book is very different.
I read this one with the kids, and they enjoyed the adventures and the tales of Stuart. (I read this one to the older kids a few years ago, and they didn’t remember this one.) The lack of resolution in the ending, however, really ruins the whole book for both Emalee and me. The other children, although they still enjoyed the book, wished White had written a sequel. This one also lacks the emotional punch of Charlotte’s Web, but since I cried my way through Anne of Green Gables earlier this week, that might be a good thing. (Book 40 of 2019)
Learning to Speak God from Scratch by Jonathan Merritt. This book begins with Merritt’s realization that making a move from Atlanta to New York City silenced his ability to have spiritual conversations. The phrases and ideas behind them that made perfect sense in the south often were completely undiscovered by the New Yorkers that he was suddenly surrounded with. Through this, Merritt begins to think about the decline of spiritual conversations, spiritual language and the feeling that some words are either too fraught with baggage to even come to a consensus their meanings. What does it mean for our faith if we withdraw from using these words and from having spiritual conversations? After pondering the reasons for use of sacred words and where we are linguistically, Merritt continues by sharing several words and how those words have been altered in his spiritual vocabulary, using personal anecdotes and reflections.
This is truly a beautiful book, and I think it is an important conversation. We come to words like God, sin, suffering, lost, and grace with our own backgrounds and our own presuppositions, and we often don’t realize that someone else’s background and connotations surrounding those words are very different. When we add in meanings through church history and in the biblical languages, things can get very confusing indeed.
It was just such a book as this, Kathleen Norris’s Amazing Grace, that made me see, when I was close to rejecting my faith that I needed to wrestle with God rather than run away from him. God was big enough to handle my doubts, fears and often, accusations. (That book still has a place in my top five favorite books ever.) Merritt’s book is perhaps not as well done as Norris’s, but his book digs into the idea of lost languages and speaks to modern issues in a way that is much appreciated, and that young seekers may even relate to better. His personal reflections are top notch, and I might have really found a few things that hit me where I live, especially in the chapters on “disappointment,” “neighbor,” “self-esteem,” and “lost.” In fact, I copied so many quote from the chapter on disappointment into my commonplace book that I might as well have copied the whole chapter.
I am thankful that I paused to read this book, and I will definitely be exploring the bibliography, probably starting with Borg and Taylor’s books, so I expect I will be taking up this topic of spiritual words on my blog often in the coming months. This book receives my highest recommendation. (Book 41 of 2019)
This post finished my February reads and starts my March Reads. For those keeping track of my stats, I read fifteen books in February. Of those, my favorite book was actually a novel this month. I think everyone should add Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine to their reading list if they haven’t read it already. Eleanor is a little quirky, but more than that, she is not completely fine and her story of healing and finding her own little community is just perfection.