This summer has been full of good books! Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to review them all, but these are my thoughts on the last three months’ reads. I won’t be summarizing plots on this post, but you can take a look at my Goodreads for more information.
Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys (5/5)
- Breathtaking, beautiful, and tragic. Told from the perspective of four teenagers of differing backgrounds in 1945 making their way to an ill fated German refugee ship. Each character was brilliantly developed. I strive for such good character development in my own writing. Ruta Sepetys is a pioneer in young adult fiction. She’s restoring my belief that not all YA is trashy. (No offense to my YA loving friends, there are good ones out there, they’re just few and far between.)
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (5/5)
- I have no words. The more my mind has dwelled on The Book Thief the more my love for it grows. Zusak is remarkable author with his thought provoking metaphors and narrator. Such a touching story. It’s simply impossible read this book without being moved by it. My full review can be found here.
1984 by George Orwell (5/5)
- As I told everyone who’s asked me for my thoughts on this one, I’m not sure whether to feel enlightened or grossly disturbed. Pretty sure Orwell intended that we feel both though, otherwise his message would not have been conveyed well. Truly a terrifying and thought provoking read. Full review here.
White Rose Black Forest by Eoin Dempsey (4/5)
- Not my favorite, but nevertheless an entertaining read. There was talk about some sides of the war that most WWII fiction does not cover, like the mass murder of mentally handicapped children and the banning of books. I enjoyed the symbolism of the title, as the main character does live in the Black Forest and was part of the White Roses (a German resistance group in WWII). It was nice to see a secular author talk about this group that placed their faith in the Lord. (I highly highly recommend looking up the story of the White Roses.) The plot was fast paced and more action packed than most books I’ve read, making it an engrossing read. While Dempsey’s book had a sort of movie feel to it, he did ask some questions about the horrors of war and its justifiability that were quite interesting. He also asked good questions about when it is right to speak up and keep silent.
“These books are precious now. You are privileged to read these words that so many are barred from. And why are they barred? Because the Nazis know that their real enemy is the independent thinker, the true German patriot who questions their ways and speaks up against injustices. I’m not suggesting you go around preaching the writings of Heine, but keep the ideas he speaks of in your heart, and use them. Analyze what’s going on, and remember that he never knew of Hitler or the National Socialists. He understood human nature and the nature of the German people, and that’s why his writings still matter. That’s what the Nazis are afraid of.”
Thief of Glory by Sigmund Brouwer (5/5)
- Finally a Christian fiction book narrated by a man and written by one! So refreshing to hear different voices. While there was some romance in this story, the author’s main message was the transformation of Jeremiah’s heart and his healing in the aftermath of the war. The setting was also a unique one, a concentration camp set up by the Japanese in the Dutch East Indies for the Dutch colonists. Brouwer definitely tackled some difficult issues too, like mental illness, trauma, and forgiveness. Definitely would recommend.
Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick (Not finished yet)
- I like to think I’m a huge nonfiction enthusiast. However, the slow progress I made though only half of Mayflower disproved my notations. It wasn’t that this was a bad book, actually, it was very fascinating to read a detailed, fact based account of the Pilgrims’ journey to America, the early years of Plymouth, and the relationships forged between Natives and newcomers. Truly it puts so much of our history into perspective. Nathaniel Philbrick is a great historian. That being said, after 200 pages or so my soul was in need of some quality fiction. Perhaps I’ll revisit Mayflower when my stack of library books is finished.
Midnight in St. Petersburg (2/5)
- This had so much potential, so much, but that potential was chucked. Historically speaking, the author captured the era very well. From a writing standpoint, the novel was adverge, not exceptional writing, but not terrible writing. The main character wasn’t my favorite either, but I was really only reading this for entertainment, so I was prepared to lay aside minor flaws. HOWEVER, the author kept dwelling on Rasputin in an unhealthy way (generally a very disgusting and demonic figure, but that’s another conversation). I held onto a small tread of hope that she would drop him, but she didn’t. Then she threw an affair in the story (one that had no redemptive value and wasn’t portrayed as wrong). Not to mention the main character was extremely fickle and self absorbed. That was when I dropped the book. I generally can set aside certain negative aspects in a book, but this one decided to choose the two aspects that I absolutely refuse to open the door of my imagination to.
The Other Alcott by Elise Hooper (4/5)
- This was such a wonderful read! It wasn’t a profound book, but it wasn’t a stupid book. Not the most beautiful writing I’ve ever encountered, but the author had a nice style. Overall it was just a good book, in the fullest sense of the word. The Other Alcott centers around May Alcott, Louisa May Alcott’s younger sister and the model for Amy in Little Women. I enjoyed reading about the relationship between Louisa and May, and the rest of the eccentric Alcott family. Her travels in Europe and encounters with artists of the time were quite fascinating too. What particularly resonated with me was May’s struggle between her family and her art. Both are integral parts of her being that pull on her equally in their force. It was interesting to read about how she dealt with and resolved her struggles. I loved how she was a strong, independent woman who was still kind and thoughtful and womanly. Society forgets that a strong women doesn’t equal rough, harsh, and masculine.
River’s Edge by Marie Bostwick (5/5)
- Who knew the little orange book in the middle of the shelf at the library would be so touching, profound, and wholesome. I can’t place my finger on exactly what about this book resonated with me so deeply, but Elise’s unique story and journey hit a chord in me.
- The character development was absolutely beautiful. I had my doubts in the beginning but by the end I had tears streaming down my face at the richness of all that had taken place inside these people.
- I loved the prose of the novel. It wasn’t overwhelming in it’s efforts to be beautiful, but it was by no means simple. It was genuine and exquisite in it’s own way. There wasn’t a moment where I felt detached from the story.
- My complaints are few. I wished that more of Elise and Cookie’s friendship had been shown, but as the story moved on it seemed that Cookie wasn’t the focus. This was a very minor thing.
- I did wish that more of the Muller family’s faith would have been discussed. As the wife and children of a pastor, grace was not discussed as much as one would have thought. Especially with all that they are wrestling with I would have expected that aspect of their faith to be talked of more. But the characters did grow in their faith, and I applauded Ms. Bostwick for the real life way she dealt with faith. She wasn’t afraid to be real, as much Christian fiction is.
- River’s Edge was full of depth and insight. A copy was ordered halfway through reading it because I already knew that this was one for the shelves.
Brooklyn by Colm Toibin (3/5)
- I have such conflicting emotions on this one. On the one hand I really enjoyed it. Toibin does a wonderful job creating the world of Brooklyn and Ireland for his readers’ minds. The book itself was very engaging. There were some moments I felt I was there. Eilis’s emotional journey was interesting as well. I could understand her conflicting emotions in her homesickness for both Brooklyn and Ireland. On the other hand, Eilis herself was hard to like. In some moments she seemed selfish and unfeeling. But in others she was everything kind and wonderful.
- I must say, what lessoned the book’s caliber was one particularly graphic scene between Tony And Eilis. Most authors artfully deal with this sort of thing, but this book spared no detail. I had to skip about five pages. There was some strong language that wasn’t much appreciated on my part.
- Overall, I enjoyed the most of Brooklyn. I did feel that the ending could have been more concrete and not so loose. (The movie did an amazing job tying the strings on the end. Usually I enjoy the book better, but the movie had a stronger, more resonating ending. I wasn’t completely sure if Eilis was happy to be home in the book.) Toibin is an engaging writer with a unique style and he captured the world he wrote of very well.
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (5/5)
- THIS BOOK. Although I found 1984 deeply insightful, this book, I believe, is more chilling and true to human nature. In 1984 the government has absolute control, in Brave New World society’s lust for pleasure rules them. Overall, it was a harder book to read; the idea of what we love destroying us is uncomfortable. Humanity, in our sinfulness, puts worldly pleasure above the pleasure that comes through seeking the Lord. It’s not that God doesn’t want us to enjoy what He’s given us, it’s that our ultimate joy should be found in Him, not in what is transient. Full review soon to come.
” ‘But if you know about God, why don’t you tell them?’ Asked the Savage indignantly. ‘Why don’t you give them these books about God?’
‘For the same reason as we don’t give them Othello: they’re old; they’re about God hundreds of years ago. Not about God now.’
‘But God doesn’t change.’
‘Men do, though.’
‘What difference does that make?’ “
My Dear Hamilton by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie (4/5)
My decision to read this had nothing to do with Hamilton.My Dear Hamilton‘s protagonist, as you may have guessed, is Eliza Hamilton. With almost 700 pages of Eliza’s narration, I really got a good glimpse into the Hamiltons’ family life and the era they lived in. My Dear Hamilton is steeped in history and my view of America’s early years feels more well rounded for having read this. (I don’t recommend this for younger readers due to sexual remarks and an affair.) I feel somewhat that Eliza’s forgiveness at the end of the novel (not her forgiveness of the Reynold’s Affair) was more resignation than true forgiveness. Grace is not acceptance of someone’s wrongdoings. It’s acknowledging the wrong and choosing to love that person in spite of it. Other than that one complaint, the story was told very well. (Side note: In reading this book I kept hearing Hamilton lyrics echo through my mind. Like LAFAYETTE! and ElIIIIIIIzAAAAAA! and best of wives and best of women. and like the whole rest of the musical.)
Whew! That’s it. As you can see, I was very busy with my books this past summer. I’d love to hear about your summer reads. Comment below!