It's time for me to recap what I've read since my last book review post. But first, I can't help but say - Happy National Library Week! As a former library worker, book nerd, and library lover, I have to take a moment to say thank you to the place and people that make most of my reading possible (and affordable).
Living overseas without access to libraries showed me what a unique, valuable resource the American library is. And we shouldn't take it for granted. So if you haven't stepped foot in a library this week, stop by and get a card, take home a free book, and tell the librarian behind the desk thank you for the work they do in your community.
Now, on to the book reviews.
I picked up this novel at a local book sale because of the great things I'd heard about Marisa de los Santos. In Belong to Me, she tells the story of three families woven together through loss, birth, and secrets, asking the question - how far will you go to protect those you love?
Her characters were authentic but not always like-able. The setting in upper-middle-class suburbia is not one of my favorite places to read about. I sent the book on for another life at Half-Price Books once I finished it.
I picked up this coffee table book on the library shelf while looking at travel guides. (You can't help loving 1990's coffee table books.) Full-color pictures tell the story of ancient Great Britain and its ruined stone circles, churches, and grave sites. I had no idea England alone was home to hundreds of prehistoric ruins. Hopefully we'll get to wander among a few during our trip next month.
The Rosie Project was a bestseller last year, and I finally listened to the audiobook last month. Don, the narrator, is a professor of genetics who (unbenownst to him) also has Asperger's Syndrome. He develops The Wife Project, using scientifically validated surveys to find himself the perfect wife - then has his world turned upside down by a completely unsuitable woman.
Living inside the mind of someone with Asperger's was fascinating, as he navigated awkward social situations. I wish the book had less blatant sexual content and evolutionary-psychology-driven-sexual ethics, as it really detracted from the story for me. I can recommend it only with reservations.
Andrew gave me this book for Christmas, and I finally dove into it. Keller, a pastor at a large church in the heart of New York City, outlines a compelling motivation for marriage lived out as followers of Jesus - why marriage is still necessary and good, how to live with and pursue your spouse in love, and why sexual monogamy is God's best plan.
Keller has written one of the best books on marriage I've read, and it's one that anyone, whether married or single, Christian or atheist, would benefit from exploring.
This small book was another random pick-off-the-library-shelf read. It felt a little bit like a blogger writing about her favorite novelists and characters and what life lessons they have taught her. I enjoyed reading about some of my favorites, like Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte. I also read about other authors and novels I decided would be better not to waste my time on - so perhaps, this little book has saved me some reading time down the road.
I listened to the audiobook recording of the second book in the Kincaid-James series. It fascinates me how Crombie can slowly unravel a story with little action or thrills, yet hook me into wanting to know how a murder was done.
Kincaid's terminally ill neighbor passes away unexpectedly, and the detective soon discovers she could not have done so without assistance - and that 'help' was likely unwanted. Clues are dropped as softly as petals, and the ending made perfect sense, although it was surprising.
Simonson's first book was one of my favorite novels of a few years back. Her newest book is set in a completely different landscape and time, yet still shows her perceptive descriptions of small-town life in England, with its petty fights, deep hurts, and families joined together (at times unwillingly) by love and loss. She tells the story of a small seaside town on the edge of World War I and how life changes for everyone. I cried at the end, which is telling enough, as I rarely cry at books (but will immediately tear up at any movie soundtrack).
I am always trying to understand big social arguments from the individual perspective, and Wesley Hill's book on living a celibate gay Christian certainly gave me that. He openly shares his theological and emotional journey through loneliness, pain, and isolation - and hope, grace and redemption through his knowledge of Jesus and in Christian community. It's a good and necessary read for me, as a straight Christian hoping to support and encourage gay believers.
I consider Ellis Peters' novels one of the great secrets of mystery literature and historical fiction. Peters is able to bring to life 1100's England so you are completely immersed in Brother Cadfael's world.
Cadfael is a former Crusader who now tends the herb garden in an abbey in Shrewsbury. In the first book of the series, he travels to his homeland of Wales with other brothers to bring back the bones of a Welsh saint. But murder follows their steps (of course), and Cadfael must use his knowledge of nature - both human and earthly - to find the murderer.
I recently discovered the series is out of print and am slowly buying the copies I find at used bookstores. If you love historical fiction, mystery novels, and anything British, you'll probably love the Brother Cadfael series.
And now it's your turn - what have you been reading lately?
Linking up with Modern Mrs Darcy for Quick Lit!
Note: Affiliate links used. Full disclosure here.