Tackling the TBR #17

I hope you had a good weekend, Readers. Mine was busy with school and typical weekend errands. I did get to finish reading Tune It Out, which is a wonderful middle grade book if you’re looking for something earnest and quick to read. I hope to finish at least one more book this week, although as I’ve mentioned before, February is turning out to be extremely busy this year!

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My TBR (to be read) list has gotten nearly out of hand. Therefore, I have decided to do a post featuring ten books from it approximately every other week. As I go through the list, I will evaluate each book and decide whether or not it still belongs. Who knows, perhaps as my list (hopefully) shrinks, you will find a few books to add to your own!filligree page divider

The last time I did this type of post was January 18. At the end of that post, my TBR list contained 748 books. Today it has 769. I have gone through 190 books.

Steal Away Home: Charles Spurgeon and Thomas Johnson, Unlikely Friends on the Passage to Freedom#191.  Steal Away Home: Charles Spurgeon and Thomas Johnson, Unlikely Friends on the Passage to Freedom by Matt Carter & Aaron Ivey

Synopsis: Thomas Johnson and Charles Spurgeon lived worlds apart.

Johnson, an American slave, born into captivity and longing for freedom— Spurgeon, an Englishman born into relative ease and comfort, but, longing too for a freedom of his own. Their respective journeys led to an unlikely meeting and an even more unlikely friendship, forged by fate and mutual love for the mission of Christ.

Steal Away Home is a new kind of book based on historical research, which tells a previously untold story set in the 1800s of the relationship between an African-American missionary and one of the greatest preachers to ever live.

Comments: In theory, I really like the idea of this book. Unfortunately, having read several reviews, I don’t think it is worth my time. There are a number of complaints about historical inaccuracy and I don’t want to wade through that.

Decision: Remove

Surprised by Oxford#192.  Surprised by Oxford by Carolyn Weber

Synopsis: A “girl-meets-God” style memoir of an agnostic who, through her surprising opportunity to study at Oxford, comes to a dynamic personal faith in God.

Carolyn Weber arrives for graduate study at Oxford University as a feminist from a loving but broken family, suspicious of men and intellectually hostile to all things religious. As she grapples with her God-shaped void alongside the friends, classmates, and professors she meets, she tackles big questions in search of love and a life that matters.

This savvy, beautifully written, credible account of Christian conversion follows the calendar and events of the school year as it entertains, informs, and promises to engage even the most skeptical and unlikely reader.

Comments: I’m sure this is a fine book from a perspective worth studying, but again, I don’t think this book is the best fit for me.

Decision: Remove

The Biggest Story: How the Snake Crusher Brings Us Back to the Garden#193.  The Biggest Story: How the Snake Crusher Brings Us Back to the Garden by Kevin DeYoung

Synopsis: The Bible is full of exciting stories that fill children with awe and wonder. But kids need to know how all those classic stories connect to Scripture’s overarching message about God’s glorious plan to redeem his rebellious people.

In The Biggest Story, Kevin DeYoung—a best-selling author and father of six—leads kids and parents alike on an exciting journey through the Bible, connecting the dots from the garden of Eden to Christ’s death on the cross to the new heaven and new earth.

With powerful illustrations by award-winning artist Don Clark, this imaginative retelling of the Bible’s core message—how the Snake Crusher brings us back to the garden—will draw children into the biblical story, teaching them that God’s promises are even bigger and better than we think.

Comments: I remember hearing a trusted friend talk about this book, and thinking it would be interesting to read and possibly share with my nephews. From rereading the description today, however, I think I’ll pass. The Bible doesn’t need an “imaginative retelling” it simply needs to be shared and explained.

Decision: Remove

Coffee, Tea, and Holy Water: One Woman's Journey to Experience Christianity Around the Globe#194.  Coffee, Tea, and Holy Water: One Women’s Journey to Experience Christianity Around the Globe by Amanda Hudson

Synopsis: Part reflection, part entertaining travelogue, Coffee Tea, and Holy Water explores everything from each culture’s offer of hospitality to life in a Masaai boma. “There are lessons to be learned from other countries that are not visible in our own culture,” writes Hudson, “Questions that are not our questions. Struggles that are not our normal struggles. And yet, when we look around the throne one day at the nations assembled there, instead of marveling at the diversity, I think we will actually be fascinated by what we all had in common.” This is a book about the places we meet, what we share, how we can learn to cross borders (geographical, cultural, personal), and learning that the steps to do so make all the difference.

Honest, witty, and thought-provoking, these stories come from a young woman raised in the South, who found herself wondering what “normal” Christianity looked like in other countries.

Comments: I don’t remember this book, but it sounds interesting!

Decision: Keep

48462#195.  Collected Works by Flannery O’Connor

Synopsis: In her short lifetime, Flannery O’Connor became one of the most distinctive American writers of the twentieth century. By birth a native of Georgia and a Roman Catholic, O’Connor depicts, in all its comic and horrendous incongruity, the limits of worldly wisdom and the mysteries of divine grace in the “Christ-haunted” Protestant South. This Library of America collection, the most comprehensive ever published, contains all of her novels and short-story collections, as well as nine other stories, eight of her most important essays, and a selection of 259 witty, spirited, and revealing letters, twenty-one published here for the first time.

Comments: This is definitely a collection that I eventually want to read. I started it once before, but got bogged down in the first story.

Decision: Keep

Caminar#196.  Caminar by Skila Brown

Synopsis: Set in 1981 Guatemala, a lyrical debut novel tells the powerful tale of a boy who must decide what it means to be a man during a time of war.

Carlos knows that when the soldiers arrive with warnings about the Communist rebels, it is time to be a man and defend the village, keep everyone safe. But Mama tells him not yet — he’s still her quiet moonfaced boy. The soldiers laugh at the villagers, and before they move on, a neighbor is found dangling from a tree, a sign on his neck: Communist. Mama tells Carlos to run and hide, then try to find her. . . . Numb and alone, he must join a band of guerillas as they trek to the top of the mountain where Carlos’s abuela lives. Will he be in time, and brave enough, to warn them about the soldiers? What will he do then? A novel in verse inspired by actual events during Guatemala’s civil war, Caminar is the moving story of a boy who loses nearly everything before discovering who he really is.

Comments: I think one of my professors recommended this book. I’ll keep it around based on that thought.

Decision: Keep

The Austen Escape#197.  The Austen Escape by Katherine Reay

Synopsis: Mary Davies lives and works in Austin, Texas, as an industrial engineer. She has an orderly and productive life, a job and colleagues that she enjoys—particularly a certain adorable, intelligent, and hilarious consultant. But something is missing for Mary. When her estranged and emotionally fragile childhood friend Isabel Dwyer offers Mary a two-week stay in a gorgeous manor house in Bath, Mary reluctantly agrees to come along, in hopes that the holiday will shake up her quiet life in just the right ways. But Mary gets more than she bargained for when Isabel loses her memory and fully believes that she lives in Regency England. Mary becomes dependent on a household of strangers to take care of Isabel until she wakes up.

With Mary in charge and surrounded by new friends, Isabel rests and enjoys the leisure of a Regency lady. But life gets even more complicated when Mary makes the discovery that her life and Isabel’s have intersected in more ways that she knew, and she finds herself caught between who Isabel was, who she seems to be, and the man who stands between them. Outings are undertaken, misunderstandings play out, and dancing ensues as this triangle works out their lives and hearts among a company of clever, well-informed people who have a great deal of conversation. 

Comments: I see this book floating around pretty often, but based on the synopsis, it’s not for me. I’m not sure why I added it in the first place; probably based on the title and a vague sense of recognition.

Decision: Remove

Kitty Hawk and the Hunt for Hemingway's Ghost (Kitty Hawk Flying Detective Agency, #2)#198.  Kitty Hawk and the Hunt for Hemingway’s Ghost by Iain Reading

Synopsis: Kitty Hawk and the Hunt for Hemingway’s Ghost is the exciting second installment in a new series of adventure mystery stories that are one part travel, one part history and five parts adventure. This second book in the series continues the adventures of Kitty Hawk, an intrepid teenage pilot who has decided to follow in the footsteps of her hero Amelia Earhart and make an epic flight around the entire world. After flying across North America Kitty’s journey takes her down south to Florida where she plans to get a bit of rest and relaxation before continuing on with the rest of her long and grueling flight. As Kitty explores the strange and magical water world of the Florida Keys her knack for getting herself into precarious situations sweeps her headlong into the adventure of a lifetime involving mysterious lights, ancient shipwrecks, razor-toothed barracudas and even a sighting of the great Ernest Hemingway himself. This exhilarating story will have armchair explorers and amateur detectives alike anxiously following every twist and turn as they are swept across the landscape and history of the Florida Keys all the way from Key West to the strange and remarkable world of Fort Jefferson and the Dry Tortugas.

Comments: This is exactly the kind of thing I want to read now, to fill in the few gaps of free time in my busy school and work schedule! I remember enjoying the first book and thinking Kitty reminded me a bit of Nancy Drew. Perhaps it’s time to track down this book.

Decision: Keep

The Paris Wife#199.  The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

Synopsis: Chicago, 1920: Hadley Richardson is a quiet twenty-eight-year-old who has all but given up on love and happiness—until she meets Ernest Hemingway and her life changes forever. Following a whirlwind courtship and wedding, the pair set sail for Paris, where they become the golden couple in a lively and volatile group—the fabled “Lost Generation”—that includes Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald.

Though deeply in love, the Hemingways are ill prepared for the hard-drinking and fast-living life of Jazz Age Paris, which hardly values traditional notions of family and monogamy. Surrounded by beautiful women and competing egos, Ernest struggles to find the voice that will earn him a place in history, pouring all the richness and intensity of his life with Hadley and their circle of friends into the novel that will become The Sun Also Rises. Hadley, meanwhile, strives to hold on to her sense of self as the demands of life with Ernest grow costly and her roles as wife, friend, and muse become more challenging. Despite their extraordinary bond, they eventually find themselves facing the ultimate crisis of their marriage—a deception that will lead to the unraveling of everything they’ve fought so hard for.

A heartbreaking portrayal of love and torn loyalty, The Paris Wife is all the more poignant because we know that, in the end, Hemingway wrote that he would rather have died than fallen in love with anyone but Hadley.

Comments: I could see myself enjoying this if I were in the right mood. Hemingway is an interesting (if frustrating) person, so seeing a novelization of his life could be worthwhile.

Decision: Keep

The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop  Cafe#200.  The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop Cafe by Mary Simses

Synopsis: A high-powered Manhattan attorney finds love, purpose, and the promise of a simpler life in her grandmother’s hometown.

Ellen Branford is going to fulfill her grandmother’s dying wish–to find the hometown boy she once loved, and give him her last letter. Ellen leaves Manhattan and her Kennedy-esque fiance for Beacon, Maine. What should be a one-day trip is quickly complicated when she almost drowns in the chilly bay and is saved by a local carpenter. The rescue turns Ellen into something of a local celebrity, which may or may not help her unravel the past her grandmother labored to keep hidden. As she learns about her grandmother and herself, it becomes clear that a 24-hour visit to Beacon may never be enough.

The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop & Cafe is a warm and delicious debut about the power of a simpler life.

Comments: I have seen Hallmark’s Irresistable Blueberry Farm, which I think is based on this book, and I have read Simses’ later book The Rules of Love and GrammarThe Rules was disappointing, though the location and aesthetic of the book were wonderfully cozy. I enjoyed the movie. I think this book still sounds worthwhile, although I’m not as confident in it as some.

Decision: Keep

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Ending number of books on TBR list: 765

There were several very interesting books in today’s list! I like seeing how my taste has changed over time. What about you, Reader? Have you always enjoyed the kinds of books that you currently do? What do you like to read most?

Until the next chapter,

Jana

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