what I have been reading (spring please come soon edition).

sparkle jar

Incognito: Lost and Found at Harvard Divinity School by Andrea Raynor (via NetGalley)

I enjoyed the divinity school part of this book quite a lot but was less interested in the dating/relationship parts of her story. I have been reading a Henri Nouwen book for Sunday School, so it was fun to read about what he was like as one of her professors at Harvard. I also enjoyed reading about her work with the homeless. Overall, enjoyable and interesting story of a woman moving into her vocation. Recommended for: people who like reading books about divinity school, which is why I picked it up.

Wonder Woman Unbound: The Curious History of the World’s Most Famous Heroine by Tim Hanley (via NetGalley)

The beginning and the end were strong but the middle read mostly as a discussion of female characters and feminism in comic books rather than specifically being about Wonder Woman. I think I would have enjoyed a long piece just about Wonder Woman more. Is there just not enough to say about Wonder Woman for a whole book? That makes me sad. Recommended for: hardcore Wonder Woman fans, comic book feminists.

Notes to Boys (and Other Things I Shouldn’t Share in Public) by Pamela Ribon (via NetGalley)

Pam (of Pamie.com) shares her teenage journals and notes and stories with commentary from her current self. Little Pam wrote a lot of notes to boys, and she saved all her first drafts, which are funny and sad and very very (squirm in your seat) awkward. Pam unflinchingly shares the intense feelings and words of Little Pam with great affection and gratitude for the things that she has learned since these tumultuous times, and that’s what gives the book such heart. I would love to give Notes to Boys to high school girls so that they could see that they are not alone in the intensity of their feelings and also to remind them to hang in there because life after high school is very different. I think I would have loved a book like this in high school. It’s not targeted as specifically young adult or new adult but I think it will find a lot of fans there. I also recommend it for anyone who works with teenagers or remembers their teen years as being particularly rough.

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick (via the public library)

I don’t think I liked this one. Overall I thought that Leonard was less crazy quirky annoying to me than Quick’s other main characters but I couldn’t get into it. (Side note: I am starting to wonder about Quick’s ability to write female characters because they never feel fleshed out to me.) About 3/4 of the way through, I felt like it should have been more than one book. As a school librarian, it was hard/scary for me to read about a kid carrying a gun in his backpack all day long, so perhaps that explains some of my resistance to the book and why I was so troubled by the ambiguous ending. I have been working my way through Quick’s books for a project and only had one (his newest, which is for adults) left to read. I ended up passing on it because I just couldn’t read another one of his after this one. He is just not my thing, unfortunately.

My Accidental Jihad by Krista Bremer (via NetGalley)

It must be difficult to write about sharing a life with a person from another faith without seeming insensitive. Bremer, an American, is married to Ismail, a Muslim who was born in Libya. She writes movingly about her difficulties understanding some of their cultural and religious differences. I teared up unexpectedly as she wrestled with Libyan expectations for pregnant and nursing mothers (quoting Gaddafi of all people) versus American expectations which, frankly, can wear a woman out. The end, which shows how her daughter is getting older and coming into her own identity, will stay with me for a while. My two complaints about the book are that the beginning was a bit slow and that she makes herself out to be the difficult one and her husband to be more calm and saintly (which was a problem I also noted in Saffron Cross by J. Dana Trent). Like I said, I know it must be hard to write with sensitivity about relationships that cross these cultural and religious lines, but I wished for a little bit more balance. On Goodreads I gave it four stars – I would probably have given it three except I liked the ending so much. (Check out Krista’s essay in The Sun with the same name to see if you might like this one.)

City of God by Sara Miles (via NetGalley)

I have read this twice already, and enjoyed it even more the second time. It’s the story of Sara giving “ashes to go” on Ash Wednesday in the Mission in San Francisco. As she recounts her experiences administering the ashes, she offers reflections on life and death as well as the things that living in the Mission District have taught her about the kingdom (the holy city) of God. The Mission District sounds like it has a lot of families who were originally from Mexico and South America who have Catholic influences. It made me wonder what it might be like to administer ashes here in the South where the high church rituals are less known. Recommended for: Lenten reading. (For a different take on administering ashes to go, check out my friend Gawain’s thoughts on administering ashes at the train station yesterday.)

NetGalley provided me with copies of some of these books but my opinions are my own.

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