I have been trying hard to have a different attitude toward review books. Like any blogger who gets free books (free books! calloo callay!) it is easy to go overboard, commit to more reading time than there are hours in the day, and take everything offered whether or not you are suited to the style. (C.S. Lewis mentions this in an essay about reviewing, that it is important not to review books which are a style that you normally dislike because it is impossible to be fair to the book.)
I have an unfortunate tendency to be like Therese of Lisieux, “I want it all,” but without the charming saintly qualities with which she was imbued. So “all” is not really good for such as me.
At any rate, I began asking myself, “would I be willing to pay for this book in five years instead of getting a free copy now?” Suddenly, my time and book ratio began to straighten out. I hardened my heart, turning away more books.
So if a book made it onto this stack, I thought long and hard about it, read a Kindle sample, and thought yearningly of the Dickens novel that I might not get to begin because I was reading a review novel instead. (Dickens is my latest “discovery” as of a few years ago. As unlikely as it may sound, a year without Dickens is a year without sunshine and I’ve got a lot of his books to go.)
So, voila! Here are the books who crept into my heart despite my best efforts to thrust them aside. I wanted to let you know now so you don’t have to wait until I’ve read them.
Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge
Since birth, Nyx has been betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom-all because of a foolish bargain struck by her father. And since birth, she has been in training to kill him.
This book has been in the corner of my eye for a little while. You know, you suddenly realize that you’ve seen this book mentioned everywhere, that half your acquaintances are reading it, and that it just ducked behind some trash cans like a stray puppy when you turned around suddenly on the street? Or maybe you don’t. I get haunted by books that way.
So when the Darwin Catholics ran a book giveaway for a copy of Cruel Beauty because the author is Darwin’s sister, I signed up. While waiting for the results I thought, “Wait. Rosamund Hodge. Didn’t she just become my friend on Goodreads? Never mentioning her book? Just arguing with me about whether Jane Eyre is really a true romance novel?” By golly, I like her style!
Didn’t win. But I was interested enough to request a copy at the library, super impressed by not only Ms. Hodge herself but by the fact that I have a friend whose sister’s first book is out from a major publisher in hardback, on Audible, and as an ebook. And, of course, the Kindle sample was good. Luckily for me, the Darwins, those canny friends of mine, scored me a review copy.
Deathbed Conversions: Finding Faith at the Finish Line by Karen Edmisten
I read Melanie Bettinelli’s review of this book.
I trust Melanie. My father was a deathbed convert to Christianity. And I loved the way Karen Edmisten began the book.
Had to ask for a copy.
Go read Melanie’s review. You’ll see why I was interested.
Jesus and the Bridegroom Messiah: Shedding Light on the Ancient Jewish Traditions That Influenced Christ by Brant Pitre
In Jesus the Bridegroom, Brant Pitre once again taps into the wells of Jewish Scripture and tradition, and unlocks the secrets of what is arguably the most well-known symbol of the Christian faith: the cross of Christ. In this thrilling exploration, Pitre shows how the suffering and death of Jesus was far more than a tragic Roman execution. Instead, the Passion of Christ was the fulfillment of ancient Jewish prophecies of a wedding, when the God of the universe would wed himself to humankind in an everlasting nuptial covenant.
Ok. I’m gonna say what we’re all thinking. “Thrilling exploration?” That description does not make the book sound thrilling.
But … and this is a big but … I absolutely loved Pitre’s Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist (my review here). Yes. I was even thrilled by it.
It’s the kind of nerd I am and I’m ok with it. Again, the Kindle sample sold me. This is gonna be some kinda good. It may just be the book I read during Lent.
St. Peter’s Bones: How the Relics of the First Pope Were Lost and Found … and Then Lost and found Again by Thomas J. Craughwell
In 1448 a team of architects and engineers brought Pope Nicholas V unhappy news: the 1100-year-old Basilica of St. Peter suffered from so many structural defects that it was beyond repair. The only solution was to pull down the old church-one of the most venerable churches in Christendom-and erect a new basilica on the site. Incredibly, one of the tombs the builders paved over was the resting place of St. Peter.
Then in 1939, while working underground in the Vatican, one workman’s shovel struck not dirt or rock but open air. The diggers shone a flashlight through the opening and saw a portion of an ancient Christian mausoleum. An archaeologist was summoned at once, and after inspecting what could be seen through the hole the diggers had made in the mausoleum’s roof, he authorized a full-scale excavation. What lay beneath? The answer and the adventure await.
Love Craughwell’s writing. Love this topic. One of my favorite books as a relatively new Catholic was an old one on this very topic but which has been out of print forever and could only be gotten through my parish library. I was so pleased to see that Craughwell was telling the story anew and I’m interested to see what modern developments may have happened.