Stand All The Way Up: Stories of staying in it when you want to burn it all down by Sophie Hudson

First of all, to be perfectly fair, I thought this was a different kind of book. I had never heard of this author, though she has written other books as well. I got this book because of an Instagram recommendation and the title of the book. I thought this was a book about social justice and the evangelical church because those have been one of the types of books I’ve been seeking lately in my nonfiction reads. But this is not that book.

That doesn’t make this a bad book. Each chapter is an essay with funny, light anecdotes and scripture references. It reminded me of the speakers at Ladies day luncheons at church growing up. It’s definitely entertaining, just not the depth that I thought there would be.

Except for the last chapter which touches on the things going on in the world (and this was published in 2020 so it was written before the pandemic). The author makes a point about not being consumed with anger and rage and instead fight for the things that are important in your community and among your neighbors. It ends on a reminder to bring Jesus with you whatever you are, whatever you are doing. Which, honestly, does get lost in the fray on social media, politics, and our every day lives lately.

Overall, it’s definitely a book I would recommend to women who are trying to navigate all the harshness of life and the world as is it is now, while continuing to be in a more traditional, evangelical church setting. I hope the author writes another book that reflects more of what has happened in the last few years with the church and our country as a whole, and how she has navigated the complexities there.

Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

This novel is a contemporary fiction that takes place in the marshes of North Carolina. It follows a girl, Kya, who is abandoned by her family to grow up by herself. While she is alone for a lot of her life, she does have community found in Jumpin’ and his wife, Mabel, who she trades with for food and other necessities. She also learns how to read from another local who lived in town. But this book follows her resiliency and intelligent bravery as she survives in the wild.

Nature is a character in the story. Kya learns a lot of life through what she observes in nature and how it interacts with her and itself. The author also adds a lot of descriptive language, making nature more anthropomorphic. Kya also feels more connected to nature than she does the people in her world, which highlights her lonely and alone feelings.

There is also a murder mystery. The book jumps back and forth in time through about half the book before the two timelines meet to play out the story. One timeline is Kya’s life as she is abandoned and then figures out how to survive. The other timeline begins by uncovering the dead body of a kind of golden boy of the local town. The plot twists and turns until all is revealed finally in the end.

The story is beautiful, haunting, and heartbreaking. There are trigger warnings of sexual assault and abuse throughout the book. I would recommend this to anyone who likes a good murder mystery with a plot twist, as well as books that wrestle with prejudice and survival in harsh circumstances. There is also a friends to lovers romance, but it is not really the main story, but it does play a part in the plot.

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

This book was smart and witty and said a lot about women in the 1960s (as well as today), especially in the workforce. It follows Elizabeth Zott, a beautiful, intelligent chemist who struggles in her career simply because of her gender. She encounters obstacle after obstacle but remains hopeful that she can go further in her career based on her merit.

It’s also a love story found in chemistry and followed in unexpected heartbreak. It’s about being a single mother and making hard choices while also creating space for your little one to grow. It’s about finding community in the unlikeliest of places and empowering others by simply being yourself.

Science and faith seem to intertwine despite Zott’s ambivalence towards religion and God. This book is so strong with characters that are easy to root for. There are plot twists and big reveals that are teary and sweet and heartbreaking.

Overall, it’s a fun read, one that might make you a bit mad at the patriarchy. I would recommend this for any woman who might be lost in the world, unsure of where they are meant to be. Also, for people who love science, a little romance, and an amazing, tidy ending.

The Body is Not an Apology: The Power of Radical Self-Love

This beautiful book. I’ve already recommended it to friends before I even finished it. This author’s work is both challenging and edifying. I really appreciate everything she does to lay out the history, statistics and personal perspectives in this book in order to show how our bodies have been abused and misrepresented.

Her writing vacillates between hard facts and humor. It’s like I was taking a class in radical self-love. There are questions throughout the chapters and challenges to have conversation with other people. One of the biggest points was that we can’t radically love ourselves in a vacuum, it has to be done in community, both in how we treat and view ourselves and others.

There are also practical examples which are perfect for my learning style. She reiterates points throughout the book so you aren’t just given a whole lot of information but instead are able to process it from different sides and facets. It is only 130 pages but pretty dense, and it references the workbook that I will be definitely looking into soon. I would recommend this to anyone with a body and who desires building a community where we love and celebrate who we are and how we are made.


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Bomb Shelter: Love, Time, and Other Explosions by Mary Laura Philpott

In a word, this memoir is triggering in the best way. The author reflects on life in middle age, when things happen that remind us just how unstable life can be and all the anxious thoughts that follow those moments. She touches on big moments like 9/11 and the pandemic as well as personal moments like her son’s first seizure and epilepsy diagnosis as a teenager.

The writing isn’t quite chronological, but flows from one memory to another through themes and observations on life in the middle. It feels like sitting across from someone in a coffee shop. At the end of the book, I just wanted to hang out with Mary Laura in the best way. I wanted to say (and did on frequent occasion), “Me, too. I’ve had those thoughts and fears and it’s good to know I’m not alone.”

It was also a nice look into the next decade for me. This author is almost 10 years old and in a different season of life, and yet was still completely relatable in facing challenging times as well as giving me a peek into things to come. This is definitely a book I will be keeping on my shelf for reference and reminder. I would recommend this to women facing unexpected moments in their life or just approaching or living in the middle-age season.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

This historical fiction set after World War 2 is completely endearing. It follows Juliet Ashton, a writer who became a little famous after her newspaper column during the war that was a satirical commentary. Once those articles were made into a book, she was looking for a new subject matter to write.

Then one day, she receives a letter from a man named Dawsey who lives in the quaint Guernsey in the Channel Islands between England and France which had been occupied by the Germans during the war. This was the door that opened Juliet to this town and its people and the story of survival during the German occupation. And, of course, the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

The entire book is a collection of correspondence which allows multiple points of view. Through these letters, Juliet forms relationships with various people in this book club as well as writing to her publisher and her friends, giving the reader a unique way into her own thoughts and feelings. Secrets could be divulged in these letters, or withheld in this form of conversation, only to be revealed in other ways later on.

Even though a lot of the subject matter surrounds World War 2 and the Holocaust, the resiliency of the people in this book is highlighted more than the atrocities that they endured. They are mentioned, but only in a way that better describes how people got through it. But be aware that there are mentions of execution, starvation, and suffering in this book.

It’s a beautiful book about amazing people that feel like friends at the end. It’s the kind of community that is there for each other and loves each other through dark times. This was a feel good book, and one that I would recommend to anyone who enjoys historical fiction (especially around WW2), happy endings, and friends to lovers kind of stories.

The Broken Earth Series – N.K. Jemisin

This trilogy is a science fiction dystopian fantasy. It is gut-wrenching as an exploration in prejudice and power. There is also a trigger warning of the death of a child. The first book opens with one and there are references through all three books to this death as it acted as a catalyst for the main story. There is more than one of these deaths in the story as well.

Each book is written in second person, as it is being written to someone to recount the events of the story. Because of this, the reader moves through the story both passively and actively. Also, each book is written in three points of view which change, usually in a rhythm every chapter. The points of view are different with each book, but all of it is still overarchingly told by the same narrator.

The first book has a big plot twist that involves the main character, so I can’t really talk about the details of the book. The world has for hundreds of years experienced immense natural disasters that are primarily affected by earthquakes, volcanoes and tsunamis that decimate the entire planet, called Fifth Seasons, and the effects can last from months to years. In order to survive, people live in comms that are built to weather most of the effects, with storehouses that will hopefully last.

Orogenes are people who can affect the earth, meaning they can cause or redirect a lot of the disasters. But people fear them, sometimes even killing their own child if they exhibit powers. A toddler throwing a tantrum could cause an earthquake that could hurt the comm. However, there are Guardians who are willing to take and train these children at Fulcrums, but orogenes are treated with fear as dehumanized second class citizens. And then, there are stone eaters who not many people have seen but are also considered dangerous.

The other things I enjoyed in the story was the use of language. There is a dictionary in the back of each book that explains a lot of the words. Some seem to be shortened, like comms instead of communities. The utility of this language is to communicate a lot of information in a short amount of words. Their middle name is their faction, like Strongback or Knapper which would tell people what their skills are. And their last name is the comm that they are from.

While I did get lost in some of the description and the science of this world, the plot and character development are really strong. There were clever plot twists and strong commentary on humanity and power and prejudice. I would recommend this series for sci-fi fans with a mix of magic, geology, and social commentary.

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Wrapping It Up

I hope you enjoyed my series on The Way to Pentecost. If you want to start back at the beginning, here is the first post.

When I began this series, I already planned to take a break from writing after my final post. This is my birthday month, and we have some family activities planned as well. So, the blog is going to go quiet for the next couple of weeks while I rest and reflect about writing on this blog again.

I’ve really enjoyed learning about those forty days between resurrection and ascension and what Jesus did during that time. From the big miracles to the small intimate moments, he shared what was important to him, that we carry his name and his message into the far reaches of the world, forgiving and loving others just as we have been forgiven and loved. With everything going on in the world right now, the love that Jesus taught and exhibited, even in those last days, seems even more vital to us moving forward.

See you in a couple of weeks!

Tepper Isn’t Going Out by Calvin Trillin

This book reminded me of the play, Waiting for Godot. It seemed to be a book about nothing, really. The main character, Murphy Tepper, likes to park legally on the streets of New York after work and read his newspaper. This confounds and annoys others looking for a spot to park, but at first it is seen as nothing more than just being an inconvenience.

That is, until people start to visit with Tepper during his parking experiences. While he doesn’t say much, really listens more than speaks, people walk away encouraged and enlightened. He grows in popularity, much to the chagrin of the Mayor whose losing in popularity.

Even the reader will walk away with their own opinions of Tepper and why he chose this unconventional hobby. Regardless of what you think his true intentions actually were, the story is filled with comical scenarios and heartfelt interactions. It is a light, fast paced read that was both hilarious and sweet. I would recommend it to anyone who wants something quick and light to read, as well so those who enjoy books about community or New York City streets.


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The Way to Pentecost: The Final Words of Jesus

Most of the stories of Jesus after the resurrection come from the first day, the morning that announced Jesus had risen. But there were 40 days between that day and the day of Pentecost. In John 20:30-31, the writer says that Jesus performed many other signs that weren’t recorded, but what was written was done so for the purpose that others may believe. He reiterates this at the end of his book in John 21:25 that says, “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.”

What is fascinating is not what is left out, but what each gospel writer chose to keep in, particularly with the final conversations of Jesus. Final words hold great importance to people, the last words before passing on, both to the speaker and to the ones being left behind. What these writers chose to include shows what message they were trying to convey.

In Matthew, the writer doesn’t share much after resurrection, except for the corruption of the religious leaders. The angels at the tomb instruct the women to tell the eleven disciples to meet Jesus on a mountain in Galilee. At this mountain, Jesus gives a great commission, telling others to make disciples of all nations, promising them that he will be with them to the very end of the age.

Matthew was written for the purpose of showing the Jewish people Jesus’ role of fulfilling scripture. These final words, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” is the main thesis of this book. The entire book is written to support that claim. And the if/then statement follows. If Jesus has all authority, then we are called to go make disciples and teach them as Jesus taught.

Mark does include a similar commission, though some early manuscripts don’t include it. While Matthew’s commission was pointing towards the authority of Jesus, Mark’s commission was more about the authority being passed on to the disciples. Also, after the final words, Jesus’ ascension is recorded as well.

Luke is much more detailed and reliant on extensive witness testimony. The writer differs with Matthew on where Jesus met with his disciples, though really since Matthew does not mention the ascension as well, these could have been two different conversations. But in the book of Luke, it just briefly mentions his ascension outside of Bethany and blessing the disciples.

It’s in Luke’s second book, Acts, that goes into more detail. Jesus is eating with the disciples when he gives them the commission to go into all the world and witness to others about Jesus after receiving the Holy Spirit. It runs the same thread as in the other books that the commission is to reach every person and tell them the gospel.

And even though John doesn’t include the commission or the ascension to the disciples, he does tell more intimate stories of Jesus and his relationships with people like Peter and Thomas. Technically, he does give a commission to Peter to feed his sheep. It’s probably my favorite perspective of the gospels, showcasing his relationship with his friends even after he rose from the dead. He still cared and still wanted them to continue the work he started.

The common thread through the final words recorded of Jesus is that Jesus calls his disciples to witness, to serve, to love, to heal, to teach others the love that Jesus showed to them. I believe he calls us to do the same. To continue the work he started. The work that the disciples continued on that day of Pentecost.