Tag Archives: Berta Ruck

2019 Reading Challenge: My 5 Star Reviews, Part 1

I read 319 books in 2019 and quite a few turned out to be gems! Here are some of my favorites.

The Boy With Wings by Berta Ruck

Written in 1915, this novel contains multiple levels. At its most basic, it is the romance of a Welsh girl and her aviator boyfriend. At another level, it is the story of how war came to England from a woman’s perspective. And finally, at an even deeper level, it is a work that provided social identity to women in a rapidly changing era. I honestly think it should rank as a classic and I cannot believe there are only two reviews of it on Goodreads (and one is mine!) I did not necessarily like the story, but I am amazed by how it captures emotions I still feel–and don’t always know how to express–over a hundred years later. The writing’s very timelessness makes it beloved.

Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians by Martin Luther

Martin Luther writes about Paul as one writes about a mutual friend. It brought passages I thought I was pretty well familiar with to light in new ways. I found it a wonderful reminder of the power of justification by faith alone and the work overall uplifting, thought-provoking, and encouraging.

EntreLeadership: 20 Years of Practical Business Wisdom from the Trenches by Dave Ramsey

Dave Ramsey is obviously a very familiar name in financial circles and in EntreLeadership he talks about what it takes to to succeed as a leader, manager, and entrepreneur. This is a pretty foundational read and full of relevant advice and experience. He comes across curmudgeonly at times and I personally would never want to work for him, but I sure enjoyed learning about how he structures incentive and such. This was particularly good as an audio book. 

Daring to Hope: Finding God’s Goodness in the Broken and the Beautiful by Katie Davis Majors

I really love Katie’s first book Kisses from Kate and her second memoir did not disappoint. For those not familiar with her story, Katie did a ‘gap year’ in Uganda…and  ended up staying and adopting 13 orphan girls. Katie experiences more pain and suffering daily than I think most of us ever will fully know. But the point isn’t the magnitude of pain, but the commonality of wondering where God is amidst the pain. Katie opens up about her heartbreak. She writes of losing children and watching friends die, of unanswered prayers and unexpressed doubts. She writes of the gospel and the prophets and patriarchs and in doing so reveals the many cries of God’s people within the Bible. Although different in scope and nature, it reminded me of C.S. Lewis’s A Grief Observed. Powerful, strengthening, and inspiring.

On Fairy-Stories by J.R.R. Tolkien

“Very little about trees as trees can be got into a play.” A lovely essay about truth and fairy tales and creation and…oh, everything worth thinking about. I want to memorize every word. (Though admittedly, this is an area I’m interested in so I was predisposed to love it.) An excellent read following Letters to a Diminished Church by Dorothy L Sayers. The two works touch on the Christian’s role as creator, but in very different ways.

In Plain Sight: Impunity and Human Rights in Thailand by Tyrell Haberkorn

I recommend this book to anyone seriously interested in human rights violations and the way a nation can zealously uphold human rights in name while simultaneously violating them in reality. While this book centers on Thailand specifically, the author does an incredible job describing a universal reality. He describes the class attitudes that uphold the rights of some but not others. Interspersed with theory and facts, he tells compelling stories of human rights violations in Thailand. Throughout he holds that human rights violations did not appear and disappear with each coup d’etat, but rather existed consistently throughout them all. Besides containing a great combination of stories, data, and theory, In Plain Sight was very well written. I read it in one sitting. Great topic sentences! Engaging and well worth the time. 


Sweethearts Unmet by Berta Ruck

It continually boggles my mind that Berta Ruck’s books aren’t better known. She wrote before, during, and after WW1 and her novels give stunning glimpses into the social outlook of women during that period, particularly within the context of war. When she writes about ‘our boys in khaki!’ she writes it in 1914 with no knowledge of whether England will win the war or not. She captures the desperation of war and a suddenly changed society and she does it from the front lines. 

Written in 1919, Sweethearts Unmet tells a sweet story about two sweethearts…who never meet. At least, not for the first 3/4ths of the book. The plot flips back and forth from ‘The Girl’s Story’ to ‘The Boy’s Story’ and so the reader gets a front row seat to how often they almost meet. They’re two adorable, sweet characters with old-fashion values and pure hearts. They’re perfect for one another. And they both manage to get engaged to perfectly wrong people. 

Spoiler alert: sweethearts eventually meet.

In fact, by the end it is almost too sickeningly sweet. Not only do the characters harp on ‘what if we hadn’t met?’ (i.e. sweethearts unmet) but the author has an entire chapter at the end devoted to ‘what shall happen to all the nice young people who don’t meet? We must find ways to bring soulmates together!’ 

It that sounds vaguely over the top, I agree. But it is so much better when set within the historical context. Berta Ruck is not just telling some sugary little love story and declaring that young men and women should socialize more. She’s recognizing the change the war has wrought on traditional courtships. 

Because pre-war: Boy sees Girl. Boy likes Girl. Boy has someone introduce them. Or, if no introduction can be found, has his family approach her family. In no way must Boy talk to Girl without an introduction. And for the Girl, not only would she not talk to Boy, but she would not give Boy the time of day if he did talk to her. A Nice Young Lady does not do such things.

But then came War.

And now Boy sees Girl. Boy likes Girl. But Boy’s family is dead. All Boy’s chums died fighting. Boy has no way to introduce himself. Girl sees Boy. Girl likes Boy. But when Boy tries to talk to her, Girl freezes up because a Nice Young Lady does not allow perfect strangers to talk to her. Even if she knows no one else in London. 

The two young people would be perfectly happy if properly introduced. But they no longer live in a world where the old rules work. So they are left at a standstill. (Hence sweethearts…unmet!) And hence Berta Ruck’s strong push for breaking some of the social constraints around ‘young people finding happiness.’ 

Not my favorite Berta Ruck but one I think I will return to as it combines both the interesting historical context with some strong, female side-characters. 


Whatcha Reading…? 6/30/2019 Book Update

After a semester of reading all day every day, I feel like my reading has seriously slowed down since coming home. However, I’m out of ideas for a blog post today (I was sick with the stomach flu this week) so I figure now is as good as ever to post about the books I’m slowlyyyyyy reading. There are only three this time: Bygone Badass Broads by Mackenzie Lee, Stain by A.G. Howard, and Sweethearts Unmet by Berta Ruck. 

Bygone Badass Broads: 52 Forgotten Women Who Changed the World by Mackenzie Lee

This book names 52 lesser known but pretty awesome women from history. It ranges from Hatshepsut (female Pharaoh of Egypt circa 1508-1458 BC) to Sybil Ludington (the female Paul Revere and a personal favorite of high school Amy) to Rukmini Devi Arundale (1904-1986 Indian dancer). I love the idea of this book but the author’s reliance on pithy, “hip” language undermines the awesomeness of these women and leaves the book already feeling pretty dated. 

Stain by A.G. Howard

Stain is the newest Princess and the Pea retelling and I was super excited to read it. Unfortunately, it is super long and super boring. Not sure I’ll make it through all 500+ pages…at least, not this time through. 

Sweethearts Unmet by Berta Ruck.

Berta Ruck wrote women’s novels before, during, and after World War I. Sweethearts Unmet begins with a fairly standard Berta Ruck plot: regular, “nice” girl meets regular, “nice” boy. This particular novel examines romance post-war where all the usual nuances of wooing no longer exist. 


2018 Reading Challenge: Honorable Mentions

With so many books read in 2018, several stand out but didn’t quite make the 5 star mark. I still have to give them a shout-out! (And you should consider adding them to your to-read list.)

In Another Girl’s Shoes & His Official Fiancé by Berta Ruck

Berta Ruck wrote in the midst of World War One and it makes her fluffy, female novels all the more intriguing. They are romantic and fun but written at a time when most women really did not know if their boys would make it back. It shows in her style. She also takes a strong, feminist tone that is remarkable considering women in England did not have the vote yet when these books were published. I have enjoyed everything I have read by her, but these two particularly stand out. I suspect they will become re-reads every year.

Captain Blood by Rafael Sabatini

It took me over a year to get through this swashbuckling adventure, but it was worth it in the end. If you love Robert Louis Stevenson or Walter Scott, you’ll love this tale of nobility and piracy! (Stick with it, the last third is the best.)

Orange Is the New Black by Piper Kerman

I haven’t watched the TV show Orange Is the New Black and I was a little skeptical of the book, but my professor recommended it and I ended up enjoying it quite a bit. Kerman does a good job humanizing prison and talking about necessary reforms without getting on a soap box and alienating the reader. Definitely an adult book, though. Don’t recommend for younger readers.

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson

There are two sides to every story, and Bryan Stevenson does a powerful job telling the stories of the incarcerated men and women on death row. Agree or not with his conclusions – this is a powerful book.

The Hollow Kingdom by Clare B. Dunkle

Possibly this book stands out because I read The Stolen Songbird right before it, which basically has the same plot but done much more poorly. At any rate, this is the story of a young woman forced to be the Goblin King’s bride.  It is one of those fantasy books where the author takes an existing mythology and adds her own twist, creating a whole new legend to tell around the campfire. It reminded me of Lloyd Alexander (who the author credits), Beth Hilgartner (perhaps it is just the use of the name Kate, but there is a The Perilous Gard feel), and Diane Stanley.

A Lady of Quality by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Prior to this book, I only knew Burnett the author of Little Lord Fauntleroy, A Little Princess, and The Secret Garden. This book read so differently I kept double-checking to make sure I wasn’t confused and mixing up authors. But no, this is her! The heroine of A Lady of Quality is thoroughly strong willed and dislikable. She is mean and twisted. But Burnett redeems her, not by sacrificing her to wasting disease or anything like you would expect from an author writing in the 1800s, but by giving her a romance for the ages. Though the book builds towards her final, saving romance, it doesn’t revolve around it. Different kinds of love push the story along, from a sister’s devotion to a Father’s self-centeredness. It really is fascinating and not all what I expected from this era.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondō

I went into this book mostly to better appreciate my sister’s minimalist lifestyle, and frankly, doubted it would apply to me. Turns out, it did! Kondō called out a LOT of my habits – like getting rid of clothes by forcing them on my younger sisters, saving boxes from appliances because maybe, someday I’ll repack, and keeping something because I got it as a gift once and have not used since. In fact, time and again her points hit so specifically home that I would experience a twinge of shock. Oh yeah…I do that…

Pimpernel by Sheralyn Pratt

I obsessively love The Scarlet Pimpernel. The book…the movies…the series…. you name it. I love it. And once upon a time I discovered Across A Star-Swept Sea, which was a fantastic, gender-bender retelling. But guess what? I FOUND ANOTHER AWESOME RETELLING. This book! Pratt takes the Scarlet Pimpernel we all know and love and turns him into a white-collar crime fighter. It works, partially because she does not try and recreate the Scarlet Pimpernel. Jack is very much his own man. He’s….well, Pimpernel. This is another book I can’t wait to re-read.

The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett

Hammett is a master at the crime noir genre, but I think he excelled in The Thin Man because he steps a tiny bit away from the dark, brooding shadows and creates a funny, likable couple as his main sleuths. Nick and Nora are great! I cannot wait to get my hands on the movie. (The only thing I like more than a good noir book is a good black and white movie.)