January 2021 reads

Okay, so first things first. Last year my goal was 100 books (and I actually went above that and read 108). So to go ahead and answer those thoughts you are most likely asking right… yes I have a lot of free down time (but I also didn’t watch a lot of tv) and yes Austin probably did get ignored quite a lot (sorry babe).

To me, reading is a way of escaping. Whether I am learning or in a new world, this year I needed a lot of that. I guess we all did.

However, knowing that I’m making some big moves and changes in 2021 I decided to lower my goal for this year to 75.

But of course over achiever me signed up to do 3, yess t-h-r-e-e book club reading challenges. That’s 86 categories.

With all of that being said, here are the books of the first month.

Cher Ami and Major Whittlesey by Kathleen Rooney **

The basics: Cher Ami is a pigeon from England. Major Whittlesey is an officer from America. While they only have a fleeting and terrifying encounter during WWI, this novel tells both character’s stories from their own viewpoints.

My thoughts: I have to say, I actually learned a lot about pigeons, including the fact that they were used so much during the First World War. However, making the pigeon gay and then constantly referring to the Major’s sexuality had no point for me. It didn’t help the plot (in my opinion) in any way so it was more of an eye roll moment every-single-time it was mentioned (which was a lot!)! However, I will say the writing was extremely poetic and that part made me keep going back to the story, even in its most gut wrenching scenes of war.

Killing the SS by Bill O’Reilly ****

The basics: We know (now) about the atrocities that the Nazis incurred during WWII and some of us even know something about the Nuremberg Trials, but what happened to the Nazis that escaped prosecution? Reminiscent of the show “Nazi Hunters”, but without as much murdering this book tackles the research and explanation. But be prepared to be extremely pissed and saddened. *Spoiler* The USA allowed thousands of these monsters to enter our country (and protected them as well). A lot of them got away as well, escaping to places all over (including South America) never having to answer for their crimes. But these Nazi hunters will try to track many of them and bring them to justice.

My thoughts: Putting all politics aside and what you may think of Mr O’Reilly, he is an incredible historian. This is not the first of his books from the “Killing” series I’ve read and I have loved every single one. I am, like many people, a fan of WWII books and this one gave a different perspective of most of them, which I really enjoyed. O’Reilly did an incredible job of researching and giving detailed accounts of the aftermath.

The Whole 30 by Melissa Hartwig Urban ***

The basics: If you’re considering doing the Whole 30, but don’t know a lot about it– read this book. It covers all the basics: what you can eat, what you can’t eat, why you’re giving it up, what you want for end results, recipes, and so much more.

My thoughts: In case you don’t usually read my blog (I’m silently judging you for this…. just kidding) I talked previously about Austin and I taking part in the Whole 30 “diet” for 2021. My personality type constantly insists that I research everything in great detail to know what I’m getting myself into. (Sometimes this is a blessing, most of the times an annoyance. In this case, I really enjoyed it). While a little overwhelming in size, it offers up so much insight. The book goes into detail what food you’ll be giving up and why. It also gives helpful hints, previous victims, er- clients and their feedback and then the best recipes!!! Since there is A LOT of things you can’t eat on this diet, it helps to have a bunch of ideas for what you actually can. If you plan to do the Whole 30, I highly recommend this book.

The Mystery of Mrs. Christie by Marie Benedict ****

The basics: For 11 days Agatha Christie went missing. Once she was found, she never revealed where she was. It was a secret she kept even to her death. Marie Benedict in this novel decides to tell the unknown tale as she believes it could have happened.

My thoughts: If you know my reading preferences well, you’d know that I love Agatha Christie (I have a bucket list to read every single one of her books) and I have a new appreciation and interest in any of Marie Benedict’s books. She is always choosing a women character that is lesser known in history, yet had a giant impact on the world. So a combination of these two = fantastic. Benedict tells the story from 2 timelines that closer to the ending converge to help everything make sense. Be prepared to hate men.

The Night Portrait by Laura Morelli ***

The basics: Following 3 timelines, each with a different character and time period, Morelli tells the story of a famous Leonardo Di’Vinci painting and it’s subject as well as how the Nazis tried to steal it and what great lengths some went to to save it.

My thoughts: I loved each character and timeline in their own right, but my mind had a hard time keeping track of where in history I was and what was going on. Leonardo and his subject, Cecilia, are in Milan in the 1400’s. Edith’s story begins in the beginning on WWII, while Dominic’s story starts in the middle of WWII. However, once I was able to get over that silly quirk, the story itself was beautiful. I also loved learning about an aspect I hadn’t known: Monument Men (whose main job it was to protect artwork from the Nazis).

Sad Cypress by Agatha Christie ***1/2

The basics: Number 22 of the Hercule Poirot mysteries, this one tells the tale of Elinor who as the story begins, is on trial and accused of murder. However, one man still believes her to be innocent and calls upon the infamous Poirot to help solve the mystery of who actually killed Mary Gerrard.

My thoughts: A quick read, Agatha Christie yet again includes details at the very end to throw you off your track. I swear, one of these days I will guess the murderer correctly!

Culture Shock by Chip Ingram ***

The basics: Its seems that after the tumultuous year we had in 2020 everyone is seeking truth. It’s hard to blame anyone after being fed so many lies from the media. Ingram’s book (which I listened to) dives into subject matters that are typically swept under the rug by the Church. He also brings us back to the Bible- what does the Book say about these things? And how should we live our lives by truth?

My thoughts: Although sometimes I felt like Ingram was repeating himself more than need be, I really enjoyed this book and his talks. It brought up a lot of conversation (our church has been studying this book and discussing it in Sunday morning classes) that I feel needed to be addressed. We are not of our parents or grandparents culture of “we don’t talk about that” anymore. And if we as a church don’t talk and teach our kids God’s Word on these areas, where else can we learn?

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia ****

The basics: The story begins with our heroine, Noemi and her father receiving strange and cryptic letters from Noemi’s newly married cousin. Worried, Noemi decides to go visit her cousin at an English type castle, High Place. Even from the first moment of arriving Noemi feels that something sinister is happening at High Place. The castle itself is decrepit and falling apart. The family members are odd and borderline manic. After learning her cousin is sick and her husband won’t let her leave, Noemi decides to stay at High Place instead. That’s when all hell literally breaks lose.

My thoughts: I knew going into this that this novel would be on the creepy and even dark side, but it still blew my mind away. At night I struggled with wanting to read more because it was so fascinating and also being terrified that if I kept reading I wouldn’t be able to fall asleep. The finale sent me for a loop and while I didn’t find it very believable, I was still okay with how it ended.

Midnight Train to Prague by Carol Windley ***

The basics: Beginning in the 1920’s, the story is told from 2 points of view: Natalia and Miklos. Once their lives intersect, we are shortly thereafter thrown into Part 2 which takes place in the 1940’s and includes a new point of view: Anna. The intertwining of all of these characters throughout the 2 decades of time is what makes the story tick.

My thoughts: I loved each character’s individual stories and I especially loved the art of how Windley tied them all together. However, I was not a fan of her writing. Quick phrases and story points never given as much detail as they should have been left me confused and wanting more.

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