Tag Archives: marjan kamali

A Look Back: Five Star Books

2020 is coming to an end, and for my own curiosity, I thought I would share the books that moved me in the last 12 months. I count December 2019 in this collection since I’m obviously not done with December 2020 yet.

Vicious – The first book in a duology by VE Schwab. All of her books usually garner a four or five star for me. In this book, there are two scientists trying to figure out how to give themselves special powers. And when they finally figure out what it takes, things go horribly wrong.

The Starless Sea – Erin Morgenstern’s most recent book. I love her lyrical writing and fantastical settings. A man finds a scene of his life written in an incredibly old book. Upon further investigation, he finds an entire world of magic that is on the brink of trouble.

The Stationery Shop – I love this book by Marjan Kamali because it addresses pregnancy loss and mental health, though it is not really a part of the main plot. Two lovers get separated during a revolution. Decades later, they are reunited and discover exactly what happened and why it happened on that fateful day in history.

When God Made the World – Any book of Matthew Paul Turner usually gets a five star from me (as you will see on down this list). The illustrations are beautiful. Lovely children’s book that explores God’s creation and how we play a wonderful part in it.

The Best Yes: Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands – One of my absolute favorite nonfiction/self-help books this year. Lysa Terkheurst shares the beauty of boundaries and changes the perspective of saying no to waiting to say the best yes.

Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle – The other favorite nonfiction/self-help book. Written by sisters Amelia and Emily Nagoski, it explores stress as a study and how to work through it to live a healthier, slightly more sane life.

Don’t Overthink It: Make Easier Decisions, Stop Second-Guessing, and Bring More Joy to Your Life – Sweet memoir kind of book from Anne Bogel, who has a blog (Modern Mrs. Darcy) and a podcast (What Should I Read Next). Very appropriate book for this year.

Lovely War – Julie Berry Novel set mostly during World War One. The twist of this book is that the author incorporates Greek Gods who narrate the story. Aphrodite is trying the tell Hephaestus what love is when he finds her in the arms of Ares.

This Tender Land – William Kent Kruger novel that gives both Odyssey and Tom Sawyer vibes. Set during the Great Depression. Odysseus and Albert escape the abusive boarding school in the North and travel along the Mississippi river in hopes to reunite with their aunt.

The Color of Compromise: The Truth abut the American Church’s Complicity in Racism – Jemar Tisby’s excellent look at the history of the American church and slavery. I learned so much about how everything has evolved throughout time and how it has complicated everything today.

A Darker Shade of Magic – One of my hands-down favorite authors, V. E. Schwab. This was probably the series that put her in the spotlight, though I read some of her other novels first. It really does live up to the hype. The story takes place in London but there are four Londons, four worlds, once connected by magic. But when one world fell, it was shut out in hopes of containing the destruction. However, Kell and Lila have stumbled upon something that could change and destroy everything.

The Jane Austen Society – Natalie Jenner’s novel. Another historical fiction set in the town of Chawton, England after World War II. The town is known as one of the last places Jane Austen resided, writing some of her last novels there. A group of people connect over her books and seek to preserve her memory when the famous estate her brother owned might get sold off by its owner. TW: There is pregnancy loss in the book, but it is well-handled

All the Colors of Christmas – The second Matthew Paul Turner book on this list. No surprise here. Very beautiful book for Christmas that talks about the different colors that we find during this season, including ourselves as part of the beautiful picture.

How to Be an Antiracist – Ibram X. Kendi’s memoir-esque book about his journey to becoming more antiracist. It includes history and the people who inspired him along the way.

The House in the Cerulean Sea – This absolutely lovely book by TJ Klune is magical, fantastical, sweet, heartbreaking, and the closest thing to a perfect story. Linus Baker is a social worker who observes orphanages of magical creatures to see whether they are appropriately caring for their wards. When he is given a special assignment, his isolated, quiet life is turned upside-down in the most delightful way. Lucy was my favorite character.

Middlegame – A Seanan McGuire alchemical story about two people created as counterparts to each other and how they try to stop the end of the world. Beautiful, hopeful and heartbreaking.

What are some of your 5 star books this year?

Books of January

In the past, I posted book reviews on Mondays, but I think I might do something different this year.  I realized that there was pressure to post, at least for me, during the months I didn’t have as much reading time or I was in a reading slump.  For now, I’m just going to give a brief overview of the books I read in January.  I did pretty good for January, finishing five books.

The Self-Evolved Leader by Dave McKeown – This was given to me to review by the author.  I’m not sure why I was chosen since I don’t actually lead a team in this season of life, but I still managed to have a few takeaways to incorporate in my own life, particularly the interpersonal relationships.  It was a solid four stars for me.

The Stationary Shop by Marjan Kamali – Read this for book club.  Gave some Romeo and Juliet vibes, but is much more of a story than just that trope.  Set in Iran, mostly in the 1950s, but also some present-day scenes and everything in between.  Roya is a teenager in 1953 and falls in love with a political activist, Bahman.  They get engaged, but then he disappears with no real explanation.  She moves to the states and marries, which is revealed in the first chapter so no spoilers.  It covers so many topics, but specifically it touches on pregnancy and infant loss and mental health surrounding loss. 

When God Made the World by Matthew Paul Turner– This book came out on January 27th,  but I got to be part of the launch team which was super fun.  He is, hands down, my favorite children’s book author, and the artists he gets to illustrate his books are phenomenal.  This book is all about creation and seeing it as part of God’s divine story.

The Best Yes: Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands by Lysa Terkeurst – Changed my life.  I had come to grips with being a people pleaser at the end of last year, and I knew I wanted to listen to God more than others in the decisions I make in life.  But I had no real way to do that.  Enter this book.  It gives you permission to listen to God without the fear of looking selfish.  It made me see the choices I make in an entirely new light, and this will be a bedside re-read for many years to come, maybe at the beginning of each year but especially making any decisions!

The Toll by Neal Shusterman –  This was my only four-star read.  I really liked the trilogy, but I felt like the end wasn’t as strong as the rest of it, even though I got the special edition from Barnes and Noble that included notes on each chapter.  That really helped me understand just how much of the end was decided at the beginning.  I don’t think I can really get into the issues I had without spoiling it, but there were some characters that I really loved that seemed to just end abruptly (not necessarily died, just didn’t really finish).  Still, it was a good read.  I liked the approaches to power and death and grief that the entire story addressed.

What books did you read and enjoy in January?

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