It’s been a hot minute since I did a Reading Roundup! I didn’t really blog much the last bit of 2017, and I’ve read quite a few books those months. In December, I read a lot of Christmas books, but I don’t want to review them now…it’s not in season. My grandma has this tradition of getting us a new Christmas-based book every year, so I’ve been looking through those recently. But, I did get a book from Blogging For Books in December and it’s high time I reviewed it! I also read three books this month, two for different book clubs I’m in, and one from Deseret Book.
Well, it typically seems like when my interests online wane, my interest in reading waxes. This month for the Reading Roundup, I actually read and completed four books! I’m so proud of myself! However, one isn’t pictured below because it was an e-book.
Why Not Me by Mindy Kaling
I had loved reading Mindy’s first book, so I was excited to read this book, especially since I had watched all of the Mindy Project. This one was a bit more thematic, especially when it came to the empowerment of women and working hard to follow after your dreams. Mindy talked a lot about how she still is an ordinary person, and to be honest, I believe it. She was very clear on her sometimes disdain for her body, looks, and eating habits. I liked this book a whole lot more than her first. I feel like I really caught a glimpse of her in real life and separated that from her Mindy character–and that was a big point of hers. She hated being seen as Mindy Lahiri in real life.
Miriam: Book 2 of Treasures of the Nile by Mesu Andrews
* I received this book from bloggingforbooks.com in exchange for a review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.*
This is the second in Andrews’s Treasures of the Nile series. I read and reviewed her first book, The Pharaoh’s Daughter, and when I found out that she was writing a second, but it wouldn’t be published until 2016, I couldn’t wait. So, I was very excited to read this one!
Miriam takes place a long time after the first book. Miriam is now 80 rather than the young woman helping to raise her brother Moses and keeping his birth a secret. Moses has already run away to Midian for 40 years. Miriam is known as a seeress, a prophetess, able to communicate with El Shaddai–an ancient name for the Hebrew God. But, He has recently been quiet towards her…and then Moses returns with the news that Yahweh, El Shaddai’s true name, has communicated with him and told him to free the Hebrew slaves. The book follows Miriam as she struggles with her new relationship with a suddenly unknown God and her nephew (Aaron’s son), Eleazar, a slave-warrior who is the body guard to Pharaoh’s first born son and how he grapples with loyalty and protection and believing in his Hebrew heritage’s religion.
Again, Andrews did a great job developing her characters. I loved seeing Miriam struggle with her personal relationship with God. It was so poignant. He never changed, but her understanding of Him did and that was hard for her to grasp. It really spoke to me because of my trial of faith last year. However, I did feel that the book followed Eleazar more than Miriam. And, as the 10 plagues of Egypt continued, Andrews seemed to speed up the pacing, which was a bit sad. However, I do really hope that she writes a third about the 40 year journey in the wilderness!
The Devil in Vienna by Doris Orgel
This is a WWII book, as is obvious by the front cover. Inge, a Austrian Jew, has to say good-bye to her best friend, Leisolette, as she moves to Germany to go to a Hitler Youth program against her will. Inge receives a journal from her grandpa and writes her feelings about the fast changes of Austrian nationalism to complete acceptance of Hitler’s idealism.
I did feel like the author tried to make it Anne Frank-ish, but with a hint more sarcasm as Inge makes fun of the idea of naming a journal, etc. Also, the back cover leads the reader to think that Inge and Leisolette’s “forbidden” friendship is the main plot of the story, but it really is only mention in the very beginning of the book, then the last 1/3 of the book. However, it was a quick read and I didn’t like putting it down. A lot of it was open and honest, like Anne Frank’s journal because Orgel said that this book was based off many experiences she had herself as a young Jew in Austria during Hitler’s raise to power.
Understanding Your Endowment by Cory B. Jensen
This is a Mormon book, with Mormon theology in it, so I’m sorry if it isn’t of interest to my other readers. But, it was definitely of interest to me.
For those who don’t understand, the endowment is the “ritual” of ordinances and covenants we make the first time we go through an LDS temple. A lot of it is very confusing to those who go through for the first time. Mainly, because we aren’t really sure what to expect. What happens in an LDS temple is personal and sacred dealing with our personal relationship with Christ and understanding His saving Grace and His plan for us on a deeper, more intimate level. Because of this sacredness, we don’t really discuss much about it outside of the temple–it’s sacred, not secret.
I, personally, received my endowment four years ago, a week before I got married. I have been through the temple numerous times since then, repeating these ordinances and watching a sister-in-law, a brother, and a sister go through their own endowments. Every single time I go, I experience and learn something new–that is the point of the endowment. However, it also happens to be a point of questioning for many. Many think it is too Mason-based, some think it is ridiculous, some don’t understand the deeper levels, etc. That is why I was really interested in reading this book. Although I will be the first to admit that I don’t understand everything about the endowment or the reasons behind it, I do feel pretty comfortable with it. I wasn’t necessarily confused the first time I went through. But, that is because I am very good with symbolism and its intertwining with history. It’s always been an interest of mine. Yet, this past year, I’ve been trying to understand my faith and beliefs on a deeper level. And that’s what I liked about this book. Jensen tries to peel back layer after layer and made you realize that each part of the endowment meant, symbolized, promised, and required numerous different things. It was real interesting to think of the endowment in some different ways I never had before. I suggest all Mormons read this book! Honestly, it should be part of Temple Prep curriculum!
What books did you read this month?
I had a nice well-rounded month of reading. I read a few novels, finally finished Better Than Before, and read a very insightful non-fiction book.
A Man Called Ove by Frederik Backman
I actually read this last month for Bonnie’s February Book Club. It is about an old man named Ove, who is very grumpy after his wife dies of cancer. At the book club, we kind of agreed that he was like Carl from Disney’s Up. I didn’t like him at all. He was grumpy, judgmental, and a bit of a stick in the mud. I did begin to feel sorry for him and like his back story a bit as we got to know him more and more. However, I would have loved to have known more about his wife. The ending wrapped up all nice and sweet and perfectly, and I thought it was ok. We don’t always have to have a tragic ending or one that ends with a bang. But, you do have to be in a good mood to read it since Ove is rarely in a good mood.
Rival to the Queen by Carolly Erickson
The author has spent a lot of time devoted to researching the Tudor era and has written a lot of history books, as well as historical fiction, on the subject, so she definitely knew her material. (I hope to be the same way eventually one day.) It is about Lettice Knollys, “cousin” to Elizabeth I. Elizabeth’s mom, Anne Boleyn, was famous for her marriage to Henry VIII after he divorced his first wife and left the Catholic Church. Well, not many people realize that she had a sister named Mary Boleyn, who was the king’s mistress. There is a known bastard son between them, but it is hinted that Lettice is also Henry VIII’s granddaughter through Mary Boleyn. In this novel, Lettice is more beautiful than Elizabeth, and she is always jealous, especially when Robert Dudley (whom historians love to analyze Elizabeth and Dudley’s “affair”) marries Lettice.
Obviously, I was enraptured by the story, loving the Tudor era as I do. However, I didn’t like how the author described Elizabeth. I know Elizabeth had her own personality issues, but she was described as a flighty, mentally ill woman, whereas I believe she used her “womanly wiles” with purpose during her reign. It was also a little boring at some times, being more historic than novel. But, I really liked the plot and story itself.
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
Check here for the full review!
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What books did you read this month?
**I received a free copy of this novel from Cedar Fort Publishing & Media in exchange for a review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
I was excited to read a sports book! I’ve been told time and time again by different sites, professors, articles, etc, that teachers need more sports books for boys to relate to. So, although I don’t really like most sports movies or books, I decided to try it out.
Sterling Bridge by Chad Robert Parker is a historical fiction that is very reminiscent of Remember the Titans. It takes place in the 1920s in Tooelee, Utah. Tooelee (too-el-ah) is still a very small town today–it began as a mining town for all the copper and silver mines in the mountains in the west of Salt Lake Valley. In the 1920s, the last of the original Mormon pioneers were beginning to die off, but their descendants still harbored a distrust and prejudice against non-Mormons (I can’t really blame them due to how the early Mormons were treated), but many non-Mormons and immigrants began settling in Utah to work int he mines. Part of the 7th grade history Utah Studies curriculum is to teach students about the impact of the immigrants and different cultures that settled Utah. The year I taught it, I had my students do a big multi-cultural heritage project and they loved learning more about their ancestors and their cultural heritage.
In this book, Tooelee is a divided town–Old Town and New Town…divided between original pioneer settlers and the migrants/immigrants. The narrator is 14 year old Joe Lacey. He meets Sterling Harris (a real man), a Mormon from another Utah city who is a football coach. Harris brings together both Old Town and New Town, immigrant and pioneer descendant, Mormon and non-Mormon into a rag-tag team. He creates unity with the boys and brings unity to the town.
I was honestly a little disappointed with this book. This was Parker’s first novel published, so I have to give him some lax, but I honestly didn’t think it was well-written. It is a little confusing to follow the events. Parker has this whole world perfectly set up in his mind and he knows the history so well, but narrating it to us was a little difficult. I also realize that Parker is a Mormon author and Cedar Fort’s target audience is the Mormon community, but I think the book would have done better with less detail and plot of the Mormon church. I mean, difference of religion is a big topic, but the book could relate to other people like Remember the Titansdid by focusing on the fact of different cultures coming together to be stronger.
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It’s been a while since I did one of these, and to be honest, I haven’t been making my way through the novels as quick as I would’ve hoped. But, I hit a rough patch with some of them that I just wasn’t interested in, so it made it a little harder to continue reading.
White Sand, Red Menace by Ellen Klages
Dewey and Suze are a little odd because they love physics and mechanics. Their parents helped work on the Manhattan Project and now the war is over. Dewey’s dad has died, so she now lives with Suze’s family and they moved to the middle of nowhere where the government is doing experiments with rockets and missiles. This book is basically a daily slice of life with them adjusting to a new city, 1940s gender stereotypes, racism against Hispanics, and Dewey’s personal past. I actually didn’t realize this was a sequel until near the end! I got a little bored because there wasn’t a lot of plot (the main plot didn’t really begin until about the last 1/3 of the book) nor do I really relate to the protagonists as I don’t care about physics or mechanics. But, I think it is wonderful that there is a book for girls interested in hard sciences!
Where I’d Like to Be by Frances O’Roark Dowell
Afternoon of the Elves by Janet Taylor Lisle