recent reads

High as the Heavens by Kate Breslin--3.75 stars: I spent half this book picturing WWII until I realized it was actually about WWI. Whoops. Days after her wedding, Eve's husband leaves Britain for the war and is immediately killed. OR SO SHE THINKS. Dun dun dunnnnn! Eve returns to Belgium to be with her family and works as a Red Cross nurse and as a spy. Three years later, she witnesses a plane crash and realizes she happens to be quite acquainted with the sole survivor. She risks her life trying to save him and the rest of her family from the Germans and complete her spy missions under the radar of the Germans at the hospital where she works. Overall, I was entertained. It's borderline predictable, but there were some times I was clutching my blanket wondering how things would turn out. It is Christian fiction, which I did not know until I started reading it. God is mentioned maybe three times, so it's not a preachy book or anything like that, but it does have a little bit of a cheese factor. Not as cheesy as a Hallmark movie, but it's definitely on the milder end of war novels. The ending was very eye-rolly, I won't lie. In many ways, it reminded me of The Alice Network, but without the raunch factor and pervasive sense of despair, though it definitely did not shy away from the horrors of war. It's the perfect book for a low-key weekend of reading.

For fans of: The Alice Network but rated G, The Nightingale but not as incredible, WWI, strong independent women who don't need no man

Dear Mrs. Bird by A.J. Pearce--5 stars: Well, this book doesn't have stellar reviews (how?!?!?), but it was one of my favorite books of the year--maybe ever. Delightful doesn't even begin to describe it. Emmy is a writer with big dreams of being a war correspondent. She winds up getting a job that is the exact opposite---typing an advice column for a stodgy woman who refuses to give any helpful advice, so Emmy takes matters into her own hands. It takes place during WWII. A lot of the book revolves around The Blitz and dodging bombs. There is so much humor in it and the dry wit and vocabulary are spectacularly British. It's hilarious, tragic, sweet, and so so so good. The whole way through I kept thinking that this is the book I wish I could write. The ending was slightly more open-ended than I would prefer, and I'm hoping that means a sequel is on the way.

For fans of: Elinor Oliphant is Completely Fine, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, 84 Charing Cross Road, delightful writing and wit

The Landscapes of Anne of Green Gables--4 stars: Every time I read a book by L.M. Montgomery, I salivate over her descriptions of nature. I get so much joy from trees and flowers and the changing of seasons. SO MUCH. This book is the perfect companion piece for her novels. It's chock-full of photos of Prince Edward Island and the real Green Gables. It even has a lot of photos Montgomery took herself in the 1880s and early 1900s, which are incredible to see. I borrowed the books mainly for the photos, but I did read or skim most of it. It gives a lot of the history of PEI and compares and contrasts it to the fictional Avonlea. It also walks through the life of L.M. Montgomery and compares her life to that of Anne's. Some of it I knew and was a little boring, and some was really interesting. I had no idea how autobiographical her novels were.

For fans of: AOGG, beautiful nature and seasons, super duper pretty pictures, googling plane tickets to PEI

Cinder by Marissa Meyer--3.5 stars: I've seen rave reviews about this book for years. I didn't know much about it other than it's based on Cinderella. It was....weird. I wouldn't call myself a sci-fi person, but I don't necessarily dislike it either. This was pretty hardcore sci-fi, at least to me. Apparently I didn't read the description well because it surprised me. I'm not going to say I googled what a cyborg is, but also not going to say I didn't. Anyway! This novel is super dystopian, and I'm always a fan of that genre for whatever weird reason. Cinder works as a mechanic on robots and such, and the prince befriends her even though she acts like an angsty brat and the evil moon queen hates her and everyone is dying of the plague and her stepmom is the worst. I'm kind of laughing as I write this because it sounds ridiculous. It was entertaining. I didn't want to put it down, but I was also rolling my eyes a lot. WHY would the prince find her so endearing when she's so pouty? Why would he tell this random stranger all his secrets? DUMB. It's perfect for when you need a mindless, entertaining book. It didn't suck me in quite the way it did for others, and I doubt I'll read the rest of the series, but I'm not sorry I read it either.

For fans of: The Hunger Games, Divergent, Cinderella meets the Twilight Zone

Rising Out of Hatred: The Awakening of a Former White Nationalist by Eli Saslow---3.5 stars: Derek Black is the son of Don Black and godson of David Duke, the former leader of the KKK. He grew up enmeshed in the white supremacy culture and even started hosting his own radio show as a teenager. He eventually winds up at a mega liberal college, where Jews and an immigrant befriend him and challenge his beliefs. I have mixed feelings on this one. I love the story of how Black came to renounce white supremacy/nationalism. In this age of nasty tweets and name-calling, I found it encouraging that the victims of Black’s racism made an effort to befriend him anyway, which ultimately led to his change of heart. My issue was with the politics. It’s written from an extremely liberal point of view, which is fine. But it was insinuated over and over and over that all conservatives share WN ideology, and that is horribly wrong and offensive. It’s insinuated that if you don’t believe in totally open borders, you’re a racist. If you didn’t vote for Clinton, if you don’t agree with abortion, you must be a white nationalist at heart. MAJOR MAJOR issues with that. The author seemed to have a fundamental misunderstanding of conservatives. All in all, this book was good. I wound it equally horrifying and fascinating to get in the brain of a white nationalist to see why they believe what they do. It is TWISTED. The writing was a bit dull and boring at times, but I came away encouraged that a group of immigrants and Jews befriended someone with close ties to the KKK. It’s a beautiful story of redemption and the power of relationships.

For fans of: politics, race relations, transformation stories

The White Christmas Inn by Colleen Wright--4 stars: After the last book, I needed something lighthearted and festive, and this fit the bill. The Evergreen Inn is tucked away in rural Vermont. During a Christmas blizzard that apparently NO ONE knew was coming or when it would end, because even though this takes place in present day, apparently weather radars are not a thing, stranded travelers congregate at the inn, where...you guessed it, there is no more room. Everyone brings their own problems, and they all sort through their issues together while eating world class food and watching the snow fall. Don't go into this book expecting literary greatness; expect the script of a Hallmark Christmas movie. It's cheesy, you'll know how it's going to end during the first 5 pages, but it is as festive and sweet as all get out. And yes, just like the movies, there's a dog. 

For fans of: cheesy Christmas movies, lush descriptions of Christmas decorations, gaining 5 lbs reading about sweets, White Christmas minus the singing and dancing

I just nose-dived into Becoming Mrs. Lewis last night, but didn't make it past the prologue before the cold meds took effect and I passed out. I think it's going to be a good one. 

What are you reading?

Life According to Steph


  1. Sorry you were bummed about Cinder! I love the series as a whole, but the books give off very different vibes so it may be worth giving the others a try still.

  2. Dear Mrs. Bird sounds super interesting and you had me at fans of Guernsey (one of my faves of all time). Bummer you didn't love Cinder, that series is also one of my all time faves.. I do read quite a bit of sci-fi and to me it's not really sci-fi at all, but if you're not into it I can definitely see that it would be a bit much. I definitely don't recommend continuing if you didn't love the first one though.

  3. I am a flaming liberal, but I didn't pick up on that insinuation. I thought most of the book's political commentary was that the white nationalists were looking for leaders of a political party to take their intentionally made more palatable messaging to heart and make it mainstream to act as a dog whistle to their people, and they thought the GOP would be the party to do that, and they did. White supremacy is in every institution by design, and we've all grown up in it regardless of how we vote.

  4. Rising out of hatred is super interesting and I really want to read it.

  5. Rising Out of Hatred is a book I know I should read but can't do at the moment. I think I added it to my list after Steph reviewed it.

  6. I enjoyed Cinder but thought Scarlet the next book was just okay and gave up on the series. I also read and reviewed The White Christmas Inn this month and enjoyed it.

  7. I loved White Christmas Inn! So cute. I did not really like Cinder... BUT I did enjoy Scarlet and Cress a lot. A solid series, I'm not really into sci fi, though I do read it sometimes now. I'd recommend trying the second book if you feel up to it. Added Dear Mrs. Bird to my TBR! Here from SUYB! XO - Alexandra

    Simply Alexandra: My Favorite Things

  8. I just added Dear Mrs. Bird to my list! I'm super tempted to pick it up from the library ASAP, even though I'm currently in the middle of two books (a Christmasy murder-mystery set in England and a nonfiction book about the history and lore of ninjas) and a couple other massive book that I've been meaning to read for months and finally checked out (a book on trauma and a book on Mary Cassat). But! There is always room for delightful fiction in my life ;)

  9. I’ve been wanting to read “Dear Mrs. Bird”!


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