Well, kids! It has been a while since I did a good, old-fashioned book round-up. Who among you is looking for something delightful to read while we social distance ourselves for the foreseeable future? (Raises hand) Well, grab your coffee and your Kindle, because it’s past time I catch you up on my winter reads. Be ready to download as I share everything I read this winter!
To make it as easy as possible to follow this time, I’m organizing all the titles by genre. Additionally, I’ll link each title directly to Goodreads and you can go from there. Sound good? Here we go!
All three of these books are set in modern times. Two take place in the United States, albeit on opposite sides of the country, and the other is set in Australia.
Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck & Fortune — I found this book nothing but enjoyable. It was like escaping into a beautiful Chinese movie where the plot is a little fantastical and the pictures in your mind’s eye wouldn’t do the scenery justice. Set in San Francisco’s Chinatown, the main character Natalie must return home after her estranged mother’s death. It’s a wonderful look into culture, food, and relationships.
The Mother-in-Law — The Goodreads synopsis starts like this: “A twisty, compelling novel about one woman’s complicated relationship with her mother-in-law that ends in murder…” Well, this is as close to reading an actual mystery as I have come in a long time and I really enjoyed it! Told over several years through flashbacks and different characters’ perspectives, the book is a study in “not everything is as it seems.”
The Light We Lost — Admittedly, this is my least favorite of the bunch. Not that it was bad; moreso that it was just blah. The story begins and is centered around a relationship formed in the wake of the attacks of 9/11. Honestly, there were times I wanted to shake the main character for some choices she made. But, maybe that’s a good thing if it means I cared enough to be upset with her?
Naturally, I made historical fiction a different genre from “regular” fiction! To me, it’s the best genre there is for allowing the reader to escape into a different yet understandable reality. Which one of these will you dive into next?
The Alice Network — Another “mystery-ish” novel, this book begins in the chaotic days of the aftermath of WWII. In an effort to find her missing cousin, college co-ed Charlie teams up with grizzly Eve. The world they encounter together is full of intrigue and female spies. Will Charlie find her cousin? Will Eve come to terms with her ghosts? You’ll just have to read to find out!
Moonlight Over Paris — Honestly, I was a little disappointed in this conclusion to Jennifer Robson’s WWI trilogy. It was, unfortunately, a bit formulaic and lacked the spark that the other two books (mainly the first one) offered. It was enjoyable, but if you’re looking for some WWI with a side of romance, maybe check out the first book in this trilogy, Somewhere in France.
Not Our Kind — Oh, the heartache and drama that ensues when you pair up a middle class Jewish woman and her well to do WASP employers in the aftermath of WWII! With New York City and Long Island as a background, I can imagine it would look really amazing as a movie. Ultimately, the young heroine Eleanor must decide which of the two worlds she straddles is the one where she truly belongs.
The Women in the Castle — In a similar vein as books such as The Alice Network & We Were the Lucky Ones, this book is the story of secrets, war, and the heartache that come come of both. It was a bit slow at times. And I wish the main character had been a little more fleshed out and not as hard to know. Then again, that was part of what made Marianne, Marianne. I learned about quite a bit about post-WWII Germany by reading this, too.
Hold onto your hats, friends! These are all wonderful books! Truly, I recommend each one.
When Life Gives You Pears — Jeannie Gaffigan, the brains and beauty behind her husband, comedian Jim Gaffigan, survived a brain tumor. And she did it with an insane amount of faith, honesty, and humor. I cannot recommend this book enough.
The Story of the Trapp Family Singers — OK, raise your hand if you’ve seen the Sound of Music 150 times. (I’m raising mine high!) This book is the true story of the Trapp family and takes place mostly after they immigrated to the United States. Written by Maria herself, this is a book all about faith and family. It would be beneficial to note, though, that some references are quite dated and the story is a bit sluggish at times.
Tender at the Bone — In my humble opinion, Ruth Reichl is the queen of the food memoir niche. She has an unequivocal talent for spinning a tale and describing food that leaves my appetite for story sated and my appetite for food ignited. I highly recommend this book about her childhood and young adult years.
Home Work: A Memoir of My Hollywood Years — Dang! I just love Julie Andrews. And her newest memoir, a follow-up to Home which she wrote several years ago, does not disappoint. I’ve always sort of put her on a pedestal, you know? But after reading this, Andrews is much more human and much more relatable.
Salt Fat Acid Heat — If you really want to dive into the nuts and bolts of cooking without a recipe, this book is for you. If that’s the case, you should buy it. If not, if you are more like me and enjoy actual recipes, then just do what I did. Borrow it from the library, copy a couple recipes and then turn it back in. (Now, I’m going to duck and hide from all the foodie-types.)
The Catholic Table — Oh, how I loved this book! Recipes, theology, hospitality, self-image, relationship with food…this book truly covers it all. Emily Stimpson Chapman has such a beautiful way of writing, too, that you feel like you’re being welcomed into her home. This book reads like a conversation with a dear friend!
Theology of Home — I’ll be really honest. I wasn’t as in love with this book as most people I know who have read it. And here’s why. You see, the pictures are gorgeous and the theology is sound. I could totally get on board with their efforts and what they were trying to do. But…the homes are a little too gorgeous and the theology a bit too heavy. Reading this book made me feel bad about my meager attempts at decorating and my tendency to compare myself to others took over. For my own sanity, I had to put it down. That’s just me, though! Like I said, I know a lot of people absolutely loved it!
Giving Thanks and Letting Go — How do I love Danielle Bean? Let me count the ways. She is faithful, yet not preachy. She’s a wife, a mom of many, an author/speaker/podcaster, and 100% down to earth. In her latest book, this mom who is just a couple steps ahead of me on this path of motherhood reminisces and encourages. For those of us who are just about to launch our first babies into the world, I’d say it’s a must read.
And that wraps up the winter reads!
Ok, friends! That’s it! That is everything I read from November 2019 through February 2020. I hope it gave you some new ideas of what to read while you continue to keep your social distance from anyone who doesn’t live at your house.
Keep your eyes peeled soon for the March update! And be sure to put your own recommendations in the comments here, or on the Facebook and Instagram posts!