At the end of March I shared these book reviews of my recent reads, but I didn’t expect to have this many more to share so soon.
Reading this much is not normal for me. “I am not a great reader, and I have pleasure in many things” (Austen). I set my goal for 20 books in 2020, hoping I could achieve it. According to Goodreads, I’m 9 books ahead of schedule.
There are many factors here. 1) My husband is in seminary. 2) I use both audiobooks and hard copies. 3) I am staying at home way more than normal. 4) I don’t live with multiple siblings any more (hard to read when there’s a constant commotion/party going on).
As circumstances shift, I hope this pace continues; reading both fiction and nonfiction enriches me in so many ways.
When you read my reviews, know that I’m kind of a tough critic when it comes to books. It’s hard for me to skim, so I’m absorbing every word as if reading aloud. I’m evaluating is this book well-written and worth it or wasting my time? I could say with Anton Ego from Ratatouille, “If I don’t love it, I don’t swallow.”
Trying to be a brave reader
That’s why I’d often rather just return to my tried-and-true books because they’ve earned my love and respect. But I’m also aware it’s more than worth it to meet new characters and authors — tasting new words, especially when they come with recommendations from my people.
So here’s to a pursuit of both old and new words!
I hope you enjoy browsing my reviews along with articles I found intriguing. Let me know what you think!
Stepping Heavenward (Elizabeth Payson Prentiss) — This book is very special to me because my mom gifted it to me with a sweet note on the inside cover when I was 14. More than a decade later, I read this again! I think this story is helpful for girls to know they’re not alone in their doubts and struggles. God is with us through it all. I don’t normally like diary formats, but this one is so realistic. (Side note, I had remembered from my first reading that the main character married someone really old. He was 26…basically my age now. Little did I know then that I would marry an old guy, too!) Author fun fact: Elizabeth Prentiss was a preacher’s daughter and began writing as a teen. She also wrote the hymn “More Love to Thee, O Christ.”
“You cannot prove to yourself that you love God by examining your feelings toward Him. They are indefinite and they fluctuate. But just as far as you obey Him, just so far, depend upon it; you love Him. It is not natural to us sinful, ungrateful beings to prefer His pleasure to our own or to follow His way instead of our own way, and nothing, nothing but love of Him can or does make us obedient to Him.”Elizabeth Payson Prentiss, Stepping Heavenward
The Zookeeper’s Wife (Diane Ackerman) — This was a heavy but educational read. Based on a true story about a family who hid Jews in the Warsaw Zoo during WWII. The storyline was a little hard for me to follow, maybe because it was written based off Antonina’s diaries. I enjoyed the peek into Poland’s history but was happy when the book (and the war) were both over!
The Printed Letter Bookshop (Katherine Reay) — I’m always on the lookout for classy contemporary books. This title sounded promising, but it wasn’t very charming or classy to me. I think I was looking for a light, fun read, and it began with a funeral and there were divorce, teen rebellion, etc. themes. Just not my fave.
The Next Right Thing (Emily P. Freeman) — Emily’s words are conversational and pretty, if you will. She’s known for feeling like your best friend. My primary takeaway was how she pointed out how we can get more caught up in what people think of us than what God thinks about them. Instead of having the mindset, “Here I Am” think, “There You Are.”
An Old Fashioned Girl (Louisa May Alcott) — I love Polly. I relate to her since sometimes I’ve felt old-fashioned, too. It’s fun to see Louisa’s lingo and style shine through a different cast of characters, reminiscent of Little Women. I especially enjoyed the second half (the six years later part). You’ll like this book if you love the March sisters, young America, or are a millennial with an old soul.
Cozy Minimalist Home: More Style, Less Stuff (Myquillyn Smith) — My sister and I read this decorating book at the same time, and we had great fun discussing it and rearranging our houses while doing it! My biggest takeaway: don’t buy a bunch of cutesy stuff that you have to manage. I repeat: don’t buy all the cutesy stuff. It’s better to have a few, big statement pieces you love. Be a home curator, not a stuff manager. Myquillyn is funny and talented, and her tips for home decor are inspirational.
The Blue Castle (L. M. Montgomery) — I was highly amused by this story. Kind of a scandalous book (for Montgomery), but her rich description, deep characterization, and humorous flair are present. If you think you could get a laugh out of a mysterious tale where a heroine is tromped upon by her ridiculous Rachel-Lynde-type relatives, but suddenly begins standing up for herself — then give this a try!
Hannah Coulter (Wendell Berry) — A book for the farm girls at heart! Since it’s a memoir, it wasn’t as suspenseful as it could have been, since she gives away things in her retrospect reflections. But I liked it. The story is just so simple, straightforward, and sweet. Wendell’s writing style is poetic and bittersweet. Note: while overall it’s a wholesome read, there are a couple suggestive lines.
Enjoy Your Prayer Life (Michael Reeves) — This is a very short but poignant read. I always, always need reminders of how prayer is an exercise of faith, and God understands our weakness in it. “Prayer, then, is enjoying the care of a powerful Father, instead of being left to a frightening loneliness where everything is all down to you.” –Reeves
Favorite articles from spring
Writing as Ministry (Glenna Marshall) — “Writing is putting down the truths of the gospel and untangling all the ways it’s true.”
Why Every Writer Should Have an Epigraph Journal (Sarah K. Butterfield) — “As writers, we are both collectors and curators.”
What We Need to Know (Madelyn Canada) — “She doesn’t read articles for human answers. She reads the Scriptures for holy promises. She doesn’t look to models or statistics for a peace on which to sleep at night. She looks to the One who holds the stars in place for quietness in her soul.”
For the Distracted Heart (Christina Fox) — “If God provided for the biggest and most important thing we could ever need—our salvation from sin—how can we think he would fail to provide what we need right now?”
The Thing About Fear (Lisa Dean) — “There is no grace for these imagined scenarios because I don’t need grace for them. They’re not real! When trouble does come my way, God’s grace will be sufficient for whatever I may face.”
FAITH & LEGACY
How To Sit Still Early So You Move Freely Later (Leslie C. Glass) — I love these simple, powerful tips for a meaningful quiet time first thing in the morning!
There Is No Faith So Little That It Is Not Saving (Jared C. Wilson) — “It’s not the strength of the faith that saves, but the strength of the Savior.”
I’ll Leave The Light On (Shelli Rehmert) — The legacy of Sunday Wesche, a godly mentor. “She taught us to sing for Jesus with all of our hearts and to share our stories about how He had brought us from darkness to light.”
Two Worlds, One Family (Anna Pederson) — What do Tarzan and serving overseas have to do with each other? “Though my heart sometimes feels split in two, I cling to Jesus’ words in John 17 and pray that our temporary separation will bring us closer to each other and to our heavenly Father.”
Anne Shirley, Literary Life Coach (April Kolman) — “It has become clear to me how much I learned from Anne as a child, and how much I’m continuing to learn from her as I navigate this most tragical time, as I’m certain Anne would put it.”