Summer 2023 Book Stack #2

by | Oct 27, 2023 | Bookstacks | 0 comments

A stack of books showing which books are being reviewed.

As I mentioned in my last Book Stack post, I am quite behind on posting what I’ve been reading this year. My books are a little out of order, but I figure disorganized sharing is better than not sharing at all!

That said, here is my Summer 2023 Book Stack, which contains three fiction novels and two non-fiction books. I hope you find these reviews helpful!


Gilded by Marissa Meyer

Gilded is a dark retelling of the fairytale classic, Rumpelstiltskin. Meyer’s writing is creative and engaging, and I thoroughly enjoyed the liberties she took in re-visioning this story. I found it a little slow at first, but once I got into it, I was hooked! The ending was unexpected, which I loved because I am not easily surprised. It definitely left me looking forward to the sequel. I would recommend it for high-school and older.

The Librarian of Burned Books by Brianna Labuskes

The premise of this historical fiction novel is not uncommon, but still captivating: two overlapping stories set during World War II that inevitably merge in a powerful way. The author created interesting and engaging characters and quickly immersed me in their stories. That said, I didn’t love this book. It is nothing against the author—it is quality crafting and a well-written story. However, there was a heavy LGBQT+ storyline central to the plot that wasn’t mentioned in the summary. Had it been, I probably wouldn’t have chosen this book, simply because it is not something I prefer to read about out. I did finish the book, mostly because I hate to quite something once I’ve started. But if that is not a storyline you are interested in, you can skip this one.

The Secret Messenger by Mandy Robotham

This is another historical fiction novel set during World War II, this time highlighting the city of Venice. The Secret Messenger begins with a grieving modern day magazine writer who, in her search for identity and purpose, sets out to uncover the clandestine details of her family tree. As the story alternates back and forth, she slowly uncovers a heroic legacy she never could have imagined. Through the eyes of her grandmother, Stella, we learn the fascinating details of those who lived double-lives in their desire to fight the evil of Hitler by secretly transporting messages for the allies. Overall, I really enjoyed this book! The characters were engaging and I enjoyed learning about the history of Venice and it’s impact during the war. I would highly recommend The Secret Messenger over The Librarian of Burned Books.


Codependent No More by Melody Beattie

I am pretty sure I read the 1992 edition of this book years ago during college. But it was recommended again recently, and I’m glad I decided to revisit it. If we’re honest, there are certain relationships that bring out the codependent tendencies in all of us. While the book largely focuses on codependency in relation to addiction, there are lessons to be gleaned for anyone who is open to growing.

In full transparency, I read this book through the lens of learning to parent adult children. While I feel like our years of ministry with teens and young adults have prepared Jeff and I to parent fairly open-handed in this season, there are still times when we seek to control or allow ourselves to be controlled. As a long-time “peacekeeper” and “helper,” I struggle with letting people make their own bad decisions and often let other people’s emotions affect my own while seeking to do whatever I can to keep everyone happy. This book helped me pinpoint areas in which I was doing this in unhealthy ways and gave me ideas for how to change that.

This wasn’t a life-changing book for me since I am very familiar with the concept of codependency, but it was a good reminder of truths I already know. If you are considering reading it, you probably should!

We Are Driven: The Compulsive Behaviors America Applauds by Hemfelt, Minirth, and Meier

Early this year, my pastor preached one of the best, most timely messages I’ve ever heard. He mentioned reading We are Driven many years ago and credited it for helping him understand and turn his life around in the areas he was addressing. Of course, I ordered it on amazon as soon as I got home! I couldn’t wait to start reading it.

Essentially, this is a self-hope book. The authors, who are well known Christian counselors, describe how the “drivenness” that Americans consider “good” often evolves from unhealthy emotional deficits, resulting in compulsive behaviors such as perfectionism, materialism, and comparison. They do a great job of explaining the difference between a healthy trait and a compulsion, and the middle section walks through the steps of the addiction cycle as it relates to this topic. In part 3, they focus on recovery and how to find balance. 

Those who are familiar with 12 Step programs will recognize much of this material. But many people never make it to such programs, and wouldn’t feel the need to do so (because being driven is a good thing, right?) so this is a great resource to help those people. They even include “How about you?” sections throughout each chapter to help the reader apply the content to their specific life and situations. 

There are not many copies of this book available anymore, but if you struggle with being extremely driven and a perfectionist, you may want to try to get your hands on a copy. In the meantime, I would also highly recommend my pastor’s sermon, which you can find HERE . (It is Part two of a series on Breaking the Cycle of Dysfunction. Part one was great also; you can access that HERE).

I have one or two more book stacks to share before I am caught up, but hopefully this will give you a few books to consider adding to your list. What about you, friend? Have you read any good books lately?

What’s on your nightstand?


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