Saturday, February 8, 2020

Read with Us 2020: A Book Recommended by Someone You Trust

Hello, friends! Four years ago, my sisters and I (and sometimes our mom and brother) attempted the Modern Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge. (For some reason that I can't remember, I made all of our posts on my personal—and now basically defunct—blog. But you can see those posts here.) We decided to try again this year ... hopefully we'll be more successful than we were the last time around!

Steph, Val, & Becky
First, a little bit about our reading tastes. If you've been around very long, you already know me (Becky). I'm an avid reader of mainly Christian fiction (contemporary romance is my fave!) and clean YA. Val prefers contemporary fiction and mysteries/thrillers. And Steph reads lots of nonfiction and scifi.

For this month, we picked A Book Recommended by a Source You Trust. Here's what we thought ...

(Note: The title of each book links to its Amazon page. These are affiliate links.)

Steph's Pick: The Next Right Thing by Emily P. Freeman

My book for this month was the Next Right Thing: A Simple, Soulful Practice For Making Life Decisions by Emily P. Freeman. I chose this book because one of my best friends loves Emily’s podcast and is always sending me links to things that she puts out. While I love the advice that Emily gives, homegirl has a voice that just lulls me into slumber. It’s just too peaceful and calming. Most of the podcasts I list to happen while working on projects, doing dishes, or driving. I cannot afford the sleeps in those moments. When Emily published this book this recommendation came in immediately and has been repeated a couple of times. I enjoyed the book and liked it more now that I would have previously. This was definitely the right season for me to be reading the book as I was looking at making some bigger decisions. The whole premise of the book is to take the time and space to figure out your next step—you don’t need to solve everything, just do the next right thing. The idea comes from a very old poem that has been widely quoted in culture. Most recently you can see this concept at play in Frozen II when Anna sings a song called “The Next Right Thing.”

The layout of the book is anecdotes/advice from Emily, a Prayer, and then a Practice for the reader to put the advice into place. The book is made to be read at a slower pace which is good for me. My tendency is to be on the move all the time so to have a book call me to a slower gait is a welcome change. Emily gives you the tools you need to pay attention to why you make decisions so that you can make better ones more efficiently. I would recommend this book to anyone that wants to improve their decision making process.

Val's Pick: Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

For this month’s challenge, I read the book Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson.  I had been meaning to read this book for literal years, but finally bumped it to the top of the list because I wanted to read the book before I see the movie, which came out on Christmas Day. 

Stevenson is a lawyer who founded the Equal Justice Initiative, “a legal practice dedicated to defending the poor, the wrongly condemned, and those trapped in the furthest reaches of our criminal justice system.” (from back of book) While the book is centered around the case of Walter McMillian, an African American man wrongly convicted of murder in Alabama, Stevenson weaves stories of dozens of defendants throughout the pages.  Some of them were wrongfully convicted, some were convicted of crimes they did commit, but their mental illness wasn’t taken into account during the trial or the sentencing, while others were minors, some as young as 13-14, who were sentenced to life in prison without parole for non-homicide offenses (crimes that were not murder).  In each situation highlighted, Stevenson shows time and again that the American justice system is failing so many of its citizens.

What’s truly terrifying is the amount of power law enforcement officials, district attorneys, and judges have throughout the entire legal process, and how difficult it is to overturn wrongful convictions or to reduce disproportionately harsh sentences.

In Walter’s case, government officials knowingly engaged in gross misconduct to convict a man they almost certainly knew was innocent.  They even transferred him to death row before his trial. And then they did everything in their power to keep him there.

Not only is this book important and eye-opening, but it’s also a page-turner.  I couldn’t wait to find out what would happen not only to Walter, but also to several other defendants mentioned throughout.  I can’t begin to do justice to the book with this review, but I wish Just Mercy were required reading for literally everyone.

Becky's Pick: The Matrimonial Advertisement by Mimi Matthews

A few months ago, I started hearing about Mimi Matthews all over Instagram, Twitter, and blogs. I'd never heard of her before, but authors and reviewers I respect were raving about her novels ... so when The Matrimonial Advertisement popped up as a Kindle deal, I snapped it up. But with my total backlog of TBR books, I kind of forgot about it until I saw it on multiple "best of" reading lists. So I picked it up the first weekend of January and stayed up far too late reading!

While it took me a bit to get immersed in the story, I ended up really enjoying it! I loved Justin and Helena's romance, and I adored how much he cared for her. While some of his past actions were not very gentlemanly, he was nothing but respectful of her, and he clearly put her needs above his own (though sometimes in a misguided way).

The novel deals with real events, such as the Cawnpore Massacre in India and the horrible conditions of private asylums in England (and the way people used them to get their hands on "mentally ill" relatives' money). Much of the story centers around Helena's desperation to free herself from her uncle's machinations, and I enjoyed watching everything unfold.

Fans of Victorian romance (especially those who prefer their romance to be on the sweet/clean side of the spectrum) should definitely give this book (and Matthews' others!) a chance. You just might end up bingeing four books in three days, like I did! (See my full review.)

Steph's Bonus Pick: She Died a Lady by Carter Dickson

Do you like mystery? Do you like the English coast? Do you like a kindhearted doctor and a passionate language? Then this book is for you.

Fast paced and full of twists and turns, She Died a Lady by Carter Dickson was engaging from the first line. All you need to know is on the back cover.
"She was of a certain age -- was Rita Wainwright. Old enough for experience, young enough for adventure. And comely, as they say, withal. And married to a much older man. 
Then Rita did a silly, human thing. She fell in love with an American actor, recently come to Devonshire. Younger than Rita, but apparently just as smitten. 
A difficult situation, complicated by the unexpected developments of an extraordinarily dismal night. 
At this point, Sir Henry Merrivale rolled in. Literally. In the motor wheel chair necessitated by a broken big toe. Uproar, of course, ensued. Followed, naturally, by triumph for H. M. From any standpoint, a swinging case."
Two things I loved about this book—plot twists throughout the whole thing (even in the epilogue) and the bombastic language. I laughed and was shocked by who the killer turned out to be. The last twist made me love the book so much more.

10/10 would recommend.

Have you read any of our picks? What did you think? And be sure to join us again next month to hear about our February picks: A Book Published in the Decade You Were Born.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means if you click the link and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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