Book Reviews, Fiction, Nonfiction

What I’ve Been Reading | Fall 2019 Edition

I would like to give myself a high five for blogging this week! Granted it’s a recap of books, but hey, it’s a new post! Have you read any? Would love to hear what you thought of them!

Legendary and Finale by Stephanie Garber – Really enjoyed this series! While the conclusion felt a teeny bit rushed, I think it was more because I was sad to say goodbye to so many characters. Maybe we can get some short stories of a few years down the road :).

Delicious! by Ruth Reichl – This was a fun one for book club. It’s a quick read and produced lots of reactions. My take – if you’re looking for a fast read with some interesting historical pieces and foodie culture of NYC, it’s worth checking out.

The Spice King by Elizabeth Camden – She continues to be one of my favorite historical authors. She always finds little bits of history I know nothing about and creates a fun story. If you want a bit of romance and history, be sure to check this one out.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng – Even though I hadn’t read it yet, I was really excited when I heard this was becoming a movie (I read her debut), but honestly I didn’t love it as much as I thought I would. This may be a slight spoiler: The story itself is interesting, but there was a character I felt she tried to make the “perfect” character, even when their decisions were actually terrible.

Endless Night by Agatha Christie – When I started reading this book, I wasn’t sure what to think. It wasn’t what I was expecting and it was in first person (which I’ve never read from Agatha), but I trust her books, so I stuck with it and I have to say it was worth it. Super eerie! Of the several I’ve read, definitely her most creepy!

The Dream Called Home by Reyna Grande – I really enjoy memoirs. No matter if you agree with every point and/or every decision a person makes, I truly believe there is always something we can learn from reading people’s stories. Grande’s is a story of an undocumented immigrant and the journey of a writer. If you’re looking for a memoir, check out this one!

State of Lies by Siri Mitchell – I’m a big fan of Siri’s historical fiction novels. As that’s her go-to genre to write, so it was so much fun to see her step into suspense and thriller!

Happy reading everyone!

Bookish Radness, Fiction

The Joy that is Jane Austen Retellings (and Some New Ones to Check Out!)

Today is one of the days we honor Jane Austen. It can be a bit weird to honor someone on the anniversary of their death (She passed away on July 18th, 1817), but I guess when you’ve forever impacted the literary world, people do that, and honestly, I’m here for all the Austen celebrations. Today, I wanted to share some recent Austen retellings I’ve read. I love retellings – whether movies or books, it’s such a fun way to experience Jane. I’ve decided there are three types of Austen retellings:

1. An almost exact retelling, but names, dates, and locations changed. These can be hit or miss.
2. A barely recognizable version of Jane, where the author tried to hard to be different, but it usually ends up not working.
3. The best kind. The author has enough changes to make it different, but the nod to the genius that was Jane. These are obviously my favorites.

Am I missing any? I tend to lean toward Pride and Prejudice retellings, which also seem to be the most popular.

What’s a favorite Austen retelling of yours? If you say Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, let’s hang out. I don’t care that Jane might be rolling over in her grave, I love that movie (it’s one of those rare ones where I like the movie more than the book).

Finally, here are some recent ones I’ve read. As with any book, some I liked better than others, there were some things I wish the authors didn’t do, but overall, I think they’re all worth checking out. Have you read any?

Unmarriageable by Soniah Kamal: In this one-of-a-kind retelling of Pride and Prejudice set in modern-day Pakistan, Alys Binat has sworn never to marry—until an encounter with one Mr. Darsee at a wedding makes her reconsider.

A scandal and vicious rumor concerning the Binat family have destroyed their fortune and prospects for desirable marriages, but Alys, the second and most practical of the five Binat daughters, has found happiness teaching English literature to schoolgirls. Knowing that many of her students won’t make it to graduation before dropping out to marry and have children, Alys teaches them about Jane Austen and her other literary heroes and hopes to inspire the girls to dream of more.

When an invitation arrives to the biggest wedding their small town has seen in years, Mrs. Binat, certain that their luck is about to change, excitedly sets to work preparing her daughters to fish for rich, eligible bachelors. On the first night of the festivities, Alys’s lovely older sister, Jena, catches the eye of Fahad “Bungles” Bingla, the wildly successful—and single—entrepreneur. But Bungles’s friend Valentine Darsee is clearly unimpressed by the Binat family. Alys accidentally overhears his unflattering assessment of her and quickly dismisses him and his snobbish ways. As the days of lavish wedding parties unfold, the Binats wait breathlessly to see if Jena will land a proposal—and Alys begins to realize that Darsee’s brusque manner may be hiding a very different man from the one she saw at first glance.

Told with wry wit and colorful prose, Unmarriageable is a charming update on Jane Austen’s beloved novel and an exhilarating exploration of love, marriage, class, and sisterhood.

Ayesha at Last by Uzma Jalaluddin: A modern-day Muslim Pride and Prejudice for a new generation of love.

Ayesha Shamsi has a lot going on. Her dreams of being a poet have been set aside for a teaching job so she can pay off her debts to her wealthy uncle. She lives with her boisterous Muslim family and is always being reminded that her flighty younger cousin, Hafsa, is close to rejecting her one hundredth marriage proposal. Though Ayesha is lonely, she doesn’t want an arranged marriage. Then she meets Khalid who is just as smart and handsome as he is conservative and judgmental. She is irritatingly attracted to someone who looks down on her choices and dresses like he belongs in the seventh century.

Ayesha is torn between how she feels about the straightforward Khalid and the unsettling new gossip she hears about his family. Looking into the rumors, she finds she has to deal with not only what she discovers about Khalid, but also the truth she realizes about herself.

Unequal Affections by Lara S. Ormiston: When Elizabeth Bennet first knew Mr. Darcy, she despised him and was sure he felt the same. Angered by his pride and reserve, influenced by the lies of the charming Mr. Wickham, she never troubled herself to believe he was anything other than the worst of men–until, one day, he unexpectedly proposed.Mr. Darcy’s passionate avowal of love causes Elizabeth to reevaluate everything she thought she knew about him. What she knows is that he is rich, handsome, clever, and very much in love with her. She, on the other hand, is poor, and can expect a future of increasing poverty if she does not marry. The incentives for her to accept him are strong, but she is honest enough to tell him that she does not return his affections. He says he can accept that–but will either of them ever be truly happy in a relationship of unequal affection?

Diverging from Jane Austen’s classic novel Pride and Prejudice at the proposal in the Hunsford parsonage, this story explores the kind of man Darcy is, even before his “proper humbling,” and how such a man, so full of pride, so much in love, might have behaved had Elizabeth chosen to accept his original proposal.

Pride by Ibi Zoboi: Pride and Prejudice gets remixed in this smart, funny, gorgeous retelling of the classic, starring all characters of color, from Ibi Zoboi, National Book Award finalist and author of American Street.

Zuri Benitez has pride. Brooklyn pride, family pride, and pride in her Afro-Latino roots. But pride might not be enough to save her rapidly gentrifying neighborhood from becoming unrecognizable.

When the wealthy Darcy family moves in across the street, Zuri wants nothing to do with their two teenage sons, even as her older sister, Janae, starts to fall for the charming Ainsley. She especially can’t stand the judgmental and arrogant Darius. Yet as Zuri and Darius are forced to find common ground, their initial dislike shifts into an unexpected understanding.

But with four wild sisters pulling her in different directions, cute boy Warren vying for her attention, and college applications hovering on the horizon, Zuri fights to find her place in Bushwick’s changing landscape, or lose it all.

In a timely update of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, critically acclaimed author Ibi Zoboi skillfully balances cultural identity, class, and gentrification against the heady magic of first love in her vibrant reimagining of this beloved classic.

Jane of Austin by Hillary Manton Lodge (This is a book I got to work on, so yes, a little biased : ): “Know your own happiness. You want nothing but patience – or give it a more fascinating name, call it hope.”―Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility

Just a few years after their father’s business scandal shatters their lives, Jane and Celia Woodward find themselves forced out of their San Francisco tea shop. The last thing Jane wants is to leave their beloved shop on Valencia Street, but when Celia insists on a move to Austin, Texas, the sisters pack up their kid sister Margot and Jane’s tea plants, determined to start over yet again.

But life in Austin isn’t all sweet tea and breakfast tacos. Their unusual living situation is challenging and unspoken words begin to fester between Jane and Celia. When Jane meets and falls for up-and-coming musician Sean Willis, the chasm grows deeper.

While Sean seems to charm everyone in his path, one person is immune – retired Marine Captain Callum Beckett. Callum never meant to leave the military, but the twin losses of his father and his left leg have returned him to the place he least expected—Texas.

In this modern spin on the Austen classic, Sense and Sensibility, the Woodward sisters must contend with new ingredients in unfamiliar kitchens, a dash of heartbreak, and the fragile hope that maybe home isn’t so far away.

Pride and Prejudice and Other Flavors by Sonali Dev (I actually haven’t read this one yet, but I’m really excited to): Award-winning author Sonali Dev launches a new series about the Rajes, an immigrant Indian family descended from royalty, who have built their lives in San Francisco…

It is a truth universally acknowledged that only in an overachieving Indian American family can a genius daughter be considered a black sheep.

Dr. Trisha Raje is San Francisco’s most acclaimed neurosurgeon. But that’s not enough for the Rajes, her influential immigrant family who’s achieved power by making its own non-negotiable rules:

– Never trust an outsider
– Never do anything to jeopardize your brother’s political aspirations
– And never, ever, defy your family

Trisha is guilty of breaking all three rules. But now she has a chance to redeem herself. So long as she doesn’t repeat old mistakes.

Up-and-coming chef DJ Caine has known people like Trisha before, people who judge him by his rough beginnings and place pedigree above character. He needs the lucrative job the Rajes offer, but he values his pride too much to indulge Trisha’s arrogance. And then he discovers that she’s the only surgeon who can save his sister’s life.

As the two clash, their assumptions crumble like the spun sugar on one of DJ’s stunning desserts. But before a future can be savored there’s a past to be reckoned with…

A family trying to build home in a new land.

A man who has never felt at home anywhere.

And a choice to be made between the two.

Book Reviews

What I’ve Been Reading | Spring 2019 Edition

Books. Books. All the Books! Even though I don’t do book reviews anymore, I still want to keep y’all in the loop of what I’m reading! Here’s the most recent reads – some for the INSPYs, some for the different book clubs I’m in, and some for fun! Have you read any?

The Saturday Night Supper Club by Carla Laureano: An INSPY nominee.

The Reckoning of Gossamer Pond by Jaime Jo Wright: Another INSPY nominee.

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson: Y’all know how I feel about this book. I think everyone in America should be required to read this. We read it for one of my book clubs and it was a great discussion. I also did a quote series on Instagram, be sure to check it out!

Thief of Corinth by Tessa Afshar: And another INSPY nominee.

The Land I Lost by Huynh Quang Nhuong: I wrote about this a few weeks back here.

Mark of the Raven and Flight of the Raven by Morgan L. Busse: It’s a series, and I’m not so patiently waiting for the conclusion next year!

The Printed Letter Bookshop by Katherine Reay: I love everything she writes and this was no different! Well worth your time.

How the Light Gets In by Jolina Petersheim: Always love the creativity and her unique take on a story. This is definitely one of my favorites from Petersheim.

Murder at the Flamingo by Rachel McMillan: Can murder mysteries be fun to read? I think so! I’m a big fan of Rachel and how she brings important characters and topics to the world. Be sure to check her out if you haven’t yet!

Broken Harbor by Tana French: This is my second book by French and I’m trying really hard to like her books. I like her writing, but the two I’ve read, the endings (and murder mystery reveals) have left me wanting. Usually I give an author two books before accepting we aren’t meant to be, but I’m willing to give her one more shot.

Olivia Twist by Lorie Langdon: Another INSPY nominee.

I Was Anastasia by Ariel Lawhon: I read this for book club and it was such a great discussion. If you’re looking for a good discussion book, I definitely recommend this one. It’s also just a great book, but extra bonus getting to discuss it with friends.

What are you reading?

Book Reviews

What I’ve Been Reading

I’m about to dive a bit more into INSPYs reading, but wanted to share some of my recents reads!

  1. Stuart Little by E.B. White – I blame the puzzle.
  2. Becoming Us by Robin Jones Gunn – One of the fun books I get to work on. Robin is fabulous, so be sure to check it out!
  3. A Song of Home by Susie Finkbeiner – Confession, I’m not 100% done, but am loving this one and have really enjoyed this series, and she’s the best, so buy them all! And maybe follow Susie.
  4. The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick – Loved! More about it here.
  5. My Happy Life by Lagercrantz & Eriksson – Again, the puzzle.
  6. Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate – Lived up to the hype. So enjoyed this one for book club.
  7. Dangerous Prayers: 50 Powerful Prayers that Changes The World – Read more of my thoughts here!

Have you read any? What are you reading right now?

Book Reviews, Nonfiction

The Tiny Truths Illustrated Bible by Joanna Rivard & Tim Penner | Review

What a great story book for children! With a variety of Old Testament and New Testament, this is great for story time with any child. I appreciated that it covered a variety of stories, but with age appropriate details.

Accurate to the stories and the people of Bible times, I am so glad more and more books like this are becoming available.

Here’s a few more photos:

BOOK DESCRIPTION

With whimsical illustrations and engaging storytelling, The Tiny Truths Illustrated Bible presents all your favorite stories and diversely represented characters from the Old and New Testaments. It starts at the very beginning with the magnificence of creation and includes Moses parting the Red Sea, Jonah being swallowed by a giant fish, and ultimately the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus, the rescuing King.

Uniquely presented in a way that connects each individual story to the next, this book introduces children to the most important ideas and characters of the Bible while also making clear how everything fits together to tell one big story––the story of God’s love for his children.

Kids will want to return to these joyful, memorable stories again and again, building their understanding of God’s Word. And the practical lessons, reminders, and truths found throughout the stories make this an invaluable resource for parents and teachers.

The Tiny Truths Illustrated Bible will help your children discover:

Who God is––the one who made everything and everyone Who we are––his children, whom he loves unconditionally What we were made for––to love God and everyone else

Introduce your children to the incredible story of God’s enormous love for them with The Tiny Truths Illustrated Bible! This book’s bright and engaging cover has a unique feel and pops off the page with debossing.

Book Reviews, Nonfiction

Dangerous Prayers by Thomas Nelson Gift

World-changers. Rebels. Rejecters of the status quo. Throughout history, Christians were never meant to have a safe faith.

Learn from the brave ones who have gone before you with Dangerous Prayers, an inspiring collection of prayers from people who have changed the world. Exploring historical figures, cultural icons, political leaders, saints, and martyrs, this book offers you a rich visual experience to explore the power of dynamic prayers.

From St. Francis of Assisi to Harriett Tubman to Billy Graham, God can use ordinary people who pray courageous prayers to do extraordinary things for Him. No matter your age, position, or status, praying dangerous prayers will change your life—and likely the world around you as well.

Gain wisdom from the prayer lives of spiritual giants and invigorate your faith as you consider those who came before you with Dangerous Prayers.

I love history and I love reading about those who came before us in the faith. Reading bits and pieces about these people is always encouraging because you see so clearly how God works. I love the idea behind this book. Sharing the dangerous prayers of those who have changed the world is inspiring in so many ways.

There is one thing I need to say though. As you know, if you’ve been around the blog for a minute or two, race and America are important topics to me. We can’t heal if we don’t acknowledge the sins of those before us, so I must ask, why do we keep including certain people in our heroes of faith? Two examples in this book are George Whitefield and Jonathan Edwards. Whitefield was pro slavery. He actively taught that slavery was good and justified it. He believed Africans and African Americans were subordinate. Edwards himself owned slaves.

As Christians, we need to stop praising people who played a hand in keeping one of America’s darkest sins alive and running. I don’t expect our past leaders to have been perfect, but they never realized their sin nor repented. The church then and now is made up of millions of people they helped to keep enslaved. The ripples of their actions continue today.

I’m also not saying we remove them from our church history – all the more reason to actually keep them, as it shows how racism was in the church for centuries – but we also don’t need to include them in every hall of faith type of book Christians publish. We can only move forward when we acknowledge the past.

Outside of that, I really liked this collection. From voices in ministry, to activists, to artists, this shows how God will use you where you are at. They also featured men and women of different backgrounds and cultures.

Book Reviews, Nonfiction

The Color of Compromise by Jemar Tisby | Book Review

Given the centuries of Christian compromise with bigotry, believers today must be prepared to tear down old structures and build up new ones.

In August of 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, calling on all Americans to view others not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. Yet King included another powerful word, one that is often overlooked. Warning against the “tranquilizing drug of gradualism,” King emphasized the fierce urgency of now, the need to resist the status quo and take immediate action.

King’s call to action, first issued over fifty years ago, is relevant for the church in America today. Churches remain racially segregated and are largely ineffective in addressing complex racial challenges. In The Color of Compromise, Jemar Tisby takes us back to the root of this injustice in the American church, highlighting the cultural and institutional tables we have to flip in order to bring about progress between black and white people.

Tisby provides a unique survey of American Christianity’s racial past, revealing the concrete and chilling ways people of faith have worked against racial justice. Understanding our racial history sets the stage for solutions, but until we understand the depth of the malady we won’t fully embrace the aggressive treatment it requires. Given the centuries of Christian compromise with bigotry, believers today must be prepared to tear down old structures and build up new ones. This book provides an in-depth diagnosis for a racially divided American church and suggests ways to foster a more equitable and inclusive environment among God’s people.

I thought about writing a few paragraph of a review, but honestly, I don’t think I need to add much more. The church needs to read this book. Will it be hard for some? Will some want to jump to the defensive? Absolutely. But it’s too important of a topic to not read it, work through it, ask questions, pray, and work to bring healing.

This book is needed. This book is important. Please, read it.

Book Reviews

If You Need A Couple More Book Ideas For Christmas…

I was going through some books this morning (deciding which books to take on vacation is no easy task ;), and thought I would share a few books for those looking for some last minute ideas. They’re different genres and styles, so if you were stuck, hopefully this will help you!

  • For the person who wants to dive deeper in history (and wants to create change): The Color of Compromise by Jemar Tisby
  • For the person who loves stories of friendship (and wants to learn about people different from them): Once We Were Strangers by Shawn Smucker
  • For the thinker and writer (and journal collector 😉: Burning Ships (A Guided Journal) by Douglas Mann
  • For the person who likes to laugh (or teaches English!): P is for Pterodactyl by Raj Haldar and Chris Carpenter
  • For the person who loves literature and story (because Jack is awesome): On Stories by C.S. Lewis

Merry Christmas everyone!!

Book Reviews, Nonfiction

The Infographic Bible | Review

I really liked the idea behind this Bible resource. There are infographics on a variety of topics and a mix of art work, charts, etc. It’s not a book you can go through in one setting, since there’s such an abundance of information. If you tried to in one setting, you’d get overwhelmed rather quickly, but I kinda like that there’s a ton of info to dive into. My one qualm with it is that the font is sometimes really small, making it hard to read.

It’s definitely worth looking into though.

(Thank you to BookLook Bloggers for a copy of the book. All views expressed are my own.)

ABOUT THE BOOK:
It doesn’t just tell you the story—it shows you the story.

Powerful infographics reveal new beauty and depth of understanding as you engage with Scripture’s story in a fresh, visual way. Taking inspiration from the imagery Jesus evoked with His picturesque parables, The Infographic Bible reveals the character of God, his Word, and his redemptive plan in 84 stunning infographics.

Features:

  • 84 stunning infographics explain the character of God, his Word, and his redemptive plan
  • Scripture excerpts throughout the book taken from the New Revised Standard Version, the New King James Version, and the Good News Translation.
  • Durable cover with generous foil accents
  • Heavy, bright white paper