Tri 2 (May-August) Books in Review

May through August, huh? Then why are you posting this in October, Liz? Ok, I know I’m late. Turning 32 took up a lot of my time last month, though! (also, I bought a house and moved, so…)

But, I read more books and now I’m going to tell you to read them. Most of these were recommended to me from someone else. Who starts the book recommending job anyway, though? Can I have that job?


Same Kind of Different As Me: A Modern-Day Slave, an International Art Dealer, and the Unlikely Woman Who Bound Them Together

By: Ron Hall

So I actually read this book toward the beginning of the year and forgot to include it on my last list. #oops. This is a memoir of an art dealer and a homeless man. And, of course, the art dealer’s wife (the “unlikely woman” in the title). Although I think she was a very likely woman. She is kind and charitable and sought out ways to help others, which led her and her husband to serve at a homeless shelter. The shelter allowed them to meet Denver Moore. The book is fascinating, heartbreaking, a little more heartbreaking, and inspiring to read. After I finished, I knew I could be doing some things a little better. For years, our Church group was assigned to serve down at St. Vincent de Paul Diner (St. Vinny’s), which is a place where the homeless can go to get 2 meals a day. For five or so years I went nearly every time we were assigned. But over the past year I’d let myself get busy. After reading this, I got back in the rhythm of serving down at the diner. I don’t know the people there like Ron Hall knows Denver Moore, but I do know that when God inspires you to do something (as I felt from this book), you should do it.

On Living

By: Kerry Egan

As some of you know, I do product management for LDS Family Services. One of the therapists recommended I read this book. This book is poignant. It is a series of short stories from a hospice worker and the lessons she learned as she helped people grapple with the idea of death. It was powerful and inspiring.

I especially like the following passages from the book.

From a hospice patient.

“We shower so much love on babies and children,” she said. “But as we grow up, it stops. No one showers love on grown-ups. But I think we need more love as we get older, not less. Life gets harder, not easier, but we stop loving each other so much, just when we need love most.”

From another patient.

“Everybody only thinks about the good things changing, that’s the problem,” Rose continued. “But if the good things didn’t change, then neither would the bad things. And thank God the bad things change. No matter how bad something is, it’ll change, too. We’d go crazy if nothing ever changed.”


Big Magic

By: Elizabeth Gilbert

[Audiobook: just a normal read. Good listen].

I’d never read anything by Elizabeth Gilbert before. I found her writing nice and interesting, but nothing really fantastical about it. I liked this book because she tells about her journey as a writer. Writers just get each other. What is the “big magic”? It’s about living a creative life. I agree with much of what she says in seeking out what it is that moves you. But she also seems to connect to that idea much too deeply, which I can’t really explain, so you probably would have to read it to understand. I do feel like the book reminded me to believe in myself and my power to create. And I also agree that if you’re going to live a creative life, you can’t just say you’re going to do it and be irresponsible and unemployed. Make a life for yourself with your creativity.

Death Sentences: How Cliches, Weasel Words and  Management-Speak Are Strangling Public Language

This book is not what it seems by the first 2 words in the title. It’s about the fall of language in professional cultures. “In terms of” “paradigm shifts” this book is interesting. It’s filled with nuances and phrases that are way overused in our business culture. The book helped me see where I might be leaning on cliches and using certain terms that mean nothing to sound like I know what I’m doing. However, for as much as this book was about writing and using words well to convince, I felt the writing was dry and the tone extremely boring. It was hard to push through this book.

World War II Books

There’s no other way to classify this section than that I happened to read a ton of books related to WWII. I guess all my recommenders are on a kick of books in that time period. But most are depressing at best, so I may need to switch genres for a bit.


By: Eric Metaxas

[Audiobook: I recommend audiobooks on long biographies because it’s easier to push through some of the parts you get bogged down in as a casual reader]

“Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession…Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.” –Bonhoeffer

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was an incredible German pastor and theologian. He wrote several books on theology and I’ve been reading through one of them that will maybe make the list next time. I love his teachings on grace as I feel his understanding of grace more fully matches what I’ve discovered. However, Bonhoeffer was not just a pastor but he was anti-Nazi and part of many conspiracies against the German regime. He and his family, along with others, were involved in several failed assassination attempts of Hitler. Ultimately, Bonhoeffer was imprisoned and killed by the Nazis. His story is remarkable and worthy of anyone’s study. I felt inspired to do more and believe more by learning of this man’s life.

The War that Saved My Life

By: Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

[Audiobook: Absolutely delightful! I would definitely recommend listening to this one as the reader is phenomenal]

After I read this book, I was surprised to find it was written for a younger audience. It is a charming YA book. It seems to address some dark and troubling themes, but the author does so beautifully.  This is a fictional story of two English children who were sent to the countryside for safety when London feared bombing from Germany. The children had led an impoverished and closed life but the countryside saved their lives in many different ways.

The Zookeeper’s Wife

By: Diane Ackerman

[Audiobook: loved the reader]

This is a beautiful book of a new heroine of mine, Antonina Zabinski. Antonina and her husband owned a zoo in Poland in the 1930s. When the Germans invaded, they lost nearly all of their animals. The German military staged posts close to the zoo. Yet in an incredible act of courage, Antonina began finding ways to save Jews in the neighborhood. Some she “hid” in plain sight as workers in her home, with changed names and changed papers. Others she hid in the zoo…in cages, in enclosures…in places soldiers did not ever think to look. She worked with the underground to provide safe passage for Jews to get to safety. The stories are incredible. I often wonder if I would have the courage to be an Antonina.

The Nightingale

By: Kristin Hannah

[Audiobook: great reader. Although, I wish I had read this one as I hated waiting for the next time I was in the car (where I listen to audiobooks) to discover what was next.]

The Nightingale captures the fictional story of 2 sisters whose lives had led them apart, physically and emotionally. As they grapple with the beginnings of war and the invasion of the Germans into their homes in France, they have to decide whose side they are on. One sister wants to join the resistance. The other simply wants her husband back from the war. But both find themselves in a web of hard decisions–who is worth fighting for? Who is worth saving? What is most important in the game of life and death? This was, quite simply, beautiful. Be prepared for feelings of not knowing the right answer for these sisters. Be prepared for high emotion, excitement, passion, heartbreak, and tears.

7 Women: And the Secret of their Greatness

By: Eric Metaxas

This one is not a World War II book, but it did have two stories in it of women in the World War II era. Basically, this was a book with short synopses of 7 women…and the secret of their greatness.

The women represented are:

  • Joan of Arc
  • Susanna Wesley
  • Hannah Moore
  • Maria Skobtsova
  • Corrie ten Boom
  • Mother Teresa
  • Rosa Parks

I know you’ve heard of a few of those, but I would be surprised if you already knew all of them. I loved learning about these amazing women and the choices that led them to be some of our heroines. These women were faith-filled women whose lives I believe were directed by God. I felt inspired to do more to better the world after finishing this book.


The Orphan Keeper

By: Camron Wright

[Audiobook: I liked it]

Have you seen the movie Lion? If you have, this book’s basic plot line is similar. If you haven’t, you should see it and make sure to have tissues. But the gist of it is the incredible story of a child born in India, kidnapped, taken to an orphanage, and adopted by an American family–and his journey to discover his home. The Orphan Keeper is based on a real-life experience and is interesting to us locals because much of it takes place in Utah. You can tell where the plot was changed just enough to de-Mormonify the book and make it more general.

The Invention of Wings

By: Sue Monk Kidd

This is what I’d call historical fiction. Handful is a slave in the early 1800s. Sarah Grimke is the daughter of a plantation owner. Handful becomes a “gift” to Sarah for her birthday, but Sarah was against slavery from an early age. Her attempts to change how her family’s slaves were treated or even to provide more freedom were thwarted at every turn. Yet Sarah pressed on and in her young adult years ventured out to make her way in the world. She gained enough learning and made enough connections that she began to speak out about slavery. Not only that, she became an early advocate for women’s rights. As I progressed through the end of the book, I thought, “This is going too far in fiction…You can’t place fake people in places of influence and have them be the stars. You can’t change what actually happened in history.”

Well, it turns out that as I read the notes at the end, Sarah Grimke was a real person. She and her sister Angelina really did become huge anti-slavery speakers and women’s rights advocates. I was shocked that I knew nothing of them and was grateful for what I learned. Handful was representative of a slave in the Grimke household, but the exact relationship with Sarah, or her exact experience, is not known. But the author wove a heart-wrenching story of what Handful’s life as a slave would/could have been like. The indignation and emotional feelings at the injustice of that time period is hard. Simply hard. Why is mankind so awful? Yet it is empowering to see how one person with a mind to change things can actually make a difference.

Good Omens

By: Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

[Audiobook: Great listen!]

In the beginning, this book felt like themes from C.S. Lewis’s “The Screwtape Letters”. There is a devil and an angel and they were both determined to influence men in their own way. A child is born who was prepared for and intended to be the one who would end the world. This book shows the devil’s and angel’s attempts to find the child, influence him, and either end or save the world. But there are others along the way who must be likewise convinced or persuaded to help–or who have received prophecies of what they must do at the end of all things.

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry

By: Fredrick Backman

[Audiobook: Quite fun, but lots of swears]

The title of this book is just too awesome. This author tends to write about the elderly quite a bit. The book is about a fairly crazy (in a good way) grandmother and the secrets about her life she helps her granddaughter discover. It’s brilliant, funny, and downright sad as well. It makes you want to love people a little bit more because life is tough for all of us. And it’s kind of like a detective book where you’re trying to figure out the clues right along with the granddaughter.

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell

By: Susanna Clarke

Are you into magic? Because this book is all about it. I wish I remember who recommended it to me because I want to know what that person thought of it! This is the tale of the rise of two magicians in a time when magic had been absent for ages but many are trying to bring it back. The magicians each have their virtues and morals of how magic should be used. The plot was insane and frustrating, even quite dark and eerie at times, so I could not have expected the emotion I felt at the end. Even if I had expected it, I probably still would have shed tears.


The Book of Mormon

I finished one read of the Book of Mormon during this time period and then read it again.

My first read-through thoughts are in my post Grace and the Book of Mormon, as that was a study of grace in its pages.

The second was a challenge from our young single adult ward to read the Book of Mormon in 30 days. I read a substantial amount and listened to a substantial amount. When you finish the book in that short of a time, it really helps you to see it as one story and you feel the power of the testimony of so many, one right after the other, testifying of Christ. I love this book and believe in the word of God to soften hearts and help us to be kinder, gentler people.

Stay tuned for next time…since I’m already a month and half into the next review, you better believe I’m already working on that as I’m 5 books in already.

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