Monday, February 29, 2016

Recommended Reads, February 2016

I missed last week's recipe and happiness posts because my daughter and I have been fighting the Lingering Cold of Doom 2016, and I spent from Tuesday night through midday Sunday doing as little as possible. This illness, however, led to me getting more reading done than I expected in February, a total of 15 books.

Here are my favorites from those books, in the order I read them. As far as I know, none were actually February releases--I'm rarely quite that up-to-date in my reading--but if your curiosity is piqued, they're all available as ebooks and/or at your local library.

Accidental Saints by Nadia Bolz-Weber

A memoir of faith by an unconventional Lutheran pastor (her congregation is the House for All Sinners and Saints in Denver) that was the perfect read for me at the beginning of Lent. It follows the rhythm of the liturgical church year--which is a big part of what drew me from my very non-liturgical Baptist roots all the way to the Episcopal Church, that whole sense of following an ancient rhythm and set of traditions to mark the patterns of the year--and also features the life-affirming grace and humor that have been a source of joy to me as a newbie Episcopalian. (Episcopalians and Lutherans have wildly different Protestant origin stories, but at least in America have grown quite a bit alike, so there's a certain similarity in style and approach, and our congregations often work together.)

The Aeronaut's Windlass by Jim Butcher

I'd never read anything by Butcher before, though I knew him for a popular and prolific author. So I didn't quite know what to expect from this book.

What I found was purely delightful. Steampunk fantasy with airships engaging in duels a la Hornblower or Aubrey/Maturin in the clouds! Swashbuckling! Talking cats! (The talking cats were my favorite part of all.)

This book is first in a new series which I expect to follow all the way through, and I plan to check out Butcher's backlist as well. There are few things more delightful as a reader than discovering a new-to-you author whose "also by..." list takes up an entire page.

In Her Wildest Dreams by Farrah Rochon

A contemporary romance novella that packed a lot of romance and character develop into a story you can read in an afternoon. It features one of my all-time favorite tropes--friends to lovers--in a pair of New Orleans entrepreneurs (he's a computer programmer turned chocolatier, and she's a high-end event planner) who support and advise each other as they struggle to balance their longing for independence and self-sufficiency with their needs for community, to care for and accept care from friends and family.

I love that this is a city story, and one where love goes hand in hand with work, ambition, and finding a sense of vocation and fulfillment in their careers for both the hero and heroine.

Forgotten: The Untold Story of D-Day's Black Heroes, at Home and at War by Linda Hervieux

This account of black American soldiers during WWII, focusing on the experience of a barrage balloon battalion who landed at Omaha Beach on D-Day, was fascinating, and it left me gibbering with rage at the culture I was born into--that of the rural white South--for the way those soldiers, American citizens fighting to defend our country and to liberate Europe from tyranny and genocide, were treated. Yes, much has changed (though much still needs to change). But the fact that German POWs were regularly given privileges, kindness, and leisure opportunities that black AMERICAN SOLDIERS were denied? It's sickening. Not surprising, sadly, but sickening. (Not that I'm saying the POWs should've been treated badly, please understand.) And it also made me realize that we're almost as far removed from WWII now as WWII was removed from the Civil War. It seems weird that we're so many decades past WWII that it's starting to feel both distant from our world and close enough to the Civil War that you can clearly see the through-lines connecting them in American race relations and military history.

Listen to the Moon by Rose Lerner

While In Her Wildest Dreams was a delicious example of one of my favorite tropes, Listen to the Moon took a trope I usually struggle with--a large age gap between the hero and heroine--and made it work for me. (He's 40 and she's 22.) It helped that they met as adults, and she was never in any sense his ward or otherwise a daughter figure to him, so while there was a gap in their maturity and life experience, they still felt like equals in their relationship.

It's also an unusual historical romance in that the hero and heroine are both servants and stay that way throughout the story. In addition to being a sexy love story is something of a meditation on work, community, and finding your true vocation--so in that way it has a lot in common with my other romance recommendation. More romances like these, please!

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