Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Katie Reads {4}


I'm a little behind on sharing my current reads, but these Katie Reads posts are keeping me accountable to keep reading and to be a bit more mindful of the books I'm picking up.  Here's some a few titles I've read recently!

(FYI- the links for the books are Amazon Affiliate links.  That means that if you click through and purchase something, I will receive a small percentage at no cost to you.  I will gratefully use it, probably to stock up on more books! :) )

Since I would rather be reading than writing long book reviews, I'll give you a grade and a quick run down- totally just my opinion based on what I enjoy.  I'd love to hear your thoughts on these books or suggestions of what I should read next in the comments! (You can check out other book recommendations here: Katie Reads {1} & Katie Reads {2} & Katie Reads {3})

Victory Over Vice, Archbishop Fulton Sheen {A}
  • One of Sheen's books is perpetually on my what-I'm-reading stack.  I recently re-read this small but powerful book on the seven deadly sins and their corresponding virtues.  Packed with wisdom, Fulton Sheen weaves powerful little kernels of truth about overcoming personal vice as he teaches about Jesus' suffering and death, using the Seven Last Words as anchor points for each chapter.
  • "We lose our souls not only by the evil we do, but also by the good we leave undone." (I loved that one so much I made it into a coloring page years ago.)
  • This would make a great book to read during Lent- one chapter a week would get you through the season with a better understanding of virtue & vice.

Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis {A}
  • I need more C.S. Lewis in my life.  Every time I pick up one of his books (of course, the Chronicles of Narnia, or the Screwtape Letters, or the Four Loves...) I wonder why it took me so long.  Mere Christianity was no exception.  Written in short, conversational chapters he discusses how morality points to belief, how that belief finds truth in Christianity, and how Christianity makes us new men.
  • "Enemy-occupied territory- that is what this world is.  Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage."
  • This quote was timed perfectly as a reminder that the strife of politics is not to be our chief concern, but instead our care for the souls that make up our world: "If individuals live only seventy years, then a state, or a nation, or a civilization, which may last for a thousand years, is more important than an individual.  But if Christianity is true, then the individual is not only more important but incomparably more important, for he is everlasting and the life of a state or a civilization, compared with his, is only a moment."
  • If you are looking to read an approachable & timeless take on morality, philosophy, and Christian living, look no further.
The Light Between Oceans, M. L. Stedman {B+}
  • I read this book months ago in the mindset of gotta read it before I see the movie... and here I am and still haven't seen it.  Movie rental, hopefully coming soon.
  • Also- Hey Publishers!  Stop changing lovely book cover art to match movie posters.  Yuck. (See link to above compared to the photo of my edition...)
  • This quote makes the book sound more depressing than it really is, but it was one of my favorite moments of character self-awareness- "He turned his attention to the rotation of the beam, and gave a bitter laugh at the thought that the dip of the light meant that the island itself was always left in darkness.  A lighthouse is for others; powerless to illuminate the space closest to it."
  • If you are looking for a story that demonstrates how the love within a family is both heartbreaking and beautiful, this book is for you.
Giants in the Earth, O.E. Rolvag {A-}
  • My love for all things pioneers started when my first grade teacher read Little House in the Big Woods to us.  I then devoured the rest of the series (and others like it) and most of my childhood games of make believe were tied up in the fantasies of covered wagons, cooking over a fire, and building sod houses. 
  • This book perfectly captures the trials and triumphs of the pioneer spirit- "And so Per Hansa could not be still for a moment.  A divine restlessness ran in his blood; he strode forward with outstretched arms toward the wonders of the future, already partly realized."
  • Next up I need to find out what happens to the second generation of pioneers in Peder Victorious and Their Fathers' God
  • If you're looking for a grown-up, culturally accurate, sweeping saga about the life of the pioneers, this book is for you.
The Nightingale, Kristin Hannah {A+}
  • Two sisters, at odds with one another's choices and personalities, live in the difficult circumstances surrounding the German occupation of France during WWII.  Both are called to bravery, secrecy, and sacrificial love as they each resist the dehumanizing war raging around them.  Neither realizes the lasting impact they each will have- and neither sees how the secrets they keep unite them in the same fight for truth and justice.
  • In the same spirit as The Book Thief and All the Light We Cannot See, this book has been added to my list of forever favorites.
  • The opening paragraph sets the tone of the story- "If I have learned anything in this long life of mine, it is this: In love we find out who we want to be; in war we find out who we are.  Today's young people want to know everything about everyone.  They think talking about a problem will solve it.  I come from a quieter generation.  We understand the value of forgetting, the lure of reinvention."
  • One intriguing plot element was the narrator- like The House at Riverton, she tells the story as an elderly woman slowly unfolding the past. You soon realize that she is one of the Rossignol sisters, but it is not revealed which sister until the end of the book.  That reveal and the falling action was one of my favorite parts of the book. 
  • If WW2 is a topic of interest, if you love stories about the redemption of broken relationships, and if you are inspired by the courage that can shine in the darkest of circumstances, you should read this book.
For Such a Time, Kate Breslin {D}
  • I've debated about even including this book, but I did read it, and I certainly have an opinion about it.  I really, really wanted to like this book, but ended up hating it. (Lots of spoilers below)
  • Set at Thereseinstadt Concentration Camp, it tells the story of a Jewish woman (Stella) who is saved from a firing squad to become the personal, live-in secretary for the Kommandant (Aric) in charge of the camp.  Staged to mimic the book of Esther, Stella uses her tenuous power to influence change in Aric and try to save as many of her people from the camp as she can.
  • Here are (some) of my issues:
    • The premise of her rescue is ridiculous.  Aric sees her as she is about to be shot at another camp, and supposedly because of her blue eyes and blonde (but shaved?) hair, assumes she is not Jewish and therefore hides her in his car and takes her to another camp.  What?  Inaccurate stereotypes develop the entire plot line.
    • The romance between Aric and Stella is just too heavy handed and left me feeling creepy.  Love in war time? Yes.  Love despite conflicting sides of politics? Yes.  But love when the man expresses desire for her in one breath and uses the threat of sending her back to the camp in the next?  Just gross.  
    • Stella did not come off as the strong heroine she is suppose to be.  To me, it felt like she was brainwashed.  One minute she is trying to orchestrate a plan to save her people, the next she is all thanks-for-the-new-clothes-yes-let's-have-a-snowball-fight.  Also, losing her faith and finding it again would have added to her character.  Losing her Jewish faith and supposedly finding salvation as a Christian was an insult.
    • Then the author changed actual dates and events to suggest that people actually were freed from the camp by the characters.  It didn't happen, and she explains that it is all fiction in her Afterward.  Again, this is too sensitive of a topic to have a fake character sweep in and save groups of people in a camp that saw no such thing.
  • Creative license with history might have a place in some fiction, but to falsely portray events in Concentration Camps during WWII is too much.  Those times were too dark, too horrible, too atrocious.  There are real stories of courage, of love, of sacrifice that deserve to be told.  Wrapping up a completely fake and implausible story, masquerading it as a retelling of Queen Esther, and then staging it like a harlequin romance novel was just inappropriate and disrespectful to the suffering of the time.
  • If you are looking for... nope, never mind.  Just don't read this book.  If you want more evidence, go read the polarized reviews on Amazon.
Night, Elie Wiesel {A}
  • After reading such an atrocious attempt to tell the story of the Holocaust, I needed to pick up something true and honorable about those that suffered.  I chose Wiesel's autobiography of his arrest, internment, and suffering at Auschwitz.  
  • My copy was a new translation from 2006, so it also included a forward from the author about why his message still needed to be told.  This quote particularly struck me:
  • "For the survivor who chooses to testify, it is clear: his duty is to bear witness for the dead and for the living.  He has no right to deprive future generations of a past that belongs to our collective memory.  To forget would be not only dangerous but offensive; to forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time."
  • The week I was reading this, I unexpectedly got to attend a lecture with a Holocaust survivor, Magda Brown. Magda's advice  to her audience was this: protect your freedoms, think twice before you hate, and remember what happened.
  • If you are looking for a short but poignant first hand account of the suffering of the Holocaust, this would be a great book to pick up.

Now that I'm all caught up on sharing what I read this fall, I already have a new stack of recommendations! More time reading, less time blogging I guess. :)  What should I add to my TBR list for 2017?

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  1. Those all look so good (except the one you said not to bother with, naturally). Now I will have to fit them in to my ever-growing stack. :-)

    1. I know! The more blogs/podcasts/social media things I follow, the more my to-be-read list grows. I've got to catch up sometime! :)

  2. The last thing I need is more books on my to read list, but I cantstopwontstop reading book review blog posts!

    1. I know! So many recommendations, so little time :)

  3. After reading what you wrote about For Such a Time, and then Night (which is such a compelling read), it came to mind that you might like Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl, written in 1959. He was a survivor of Auschwitz and a Jew, but he really "gets" that there can be meaning in suffering, a (mostly) Catholic idea.

  4. Hi Katie, your website is a great inspiration for me as I teach my own children and the children's liturgy and sacraments at our church! I too read The Light Between Two Oceans and I was very struck by the few lines at the end of the book about forgiveness. To quote, “You only have to forgive once. To resent, you have to do it all day, every day.” I found those words to be so powerful, especially when we refer to the teachings of Jesus and how he calls us to forgiveness. Have a great day!!

    1. Ooo, what a great quote, and great connection to the Sacraments! Thanks for sharing!