One of the goals I set for myself this year is to read more.
I love reading, and the older I get I realize what a blessing it is to actually enjoy and learn from reading.
We also homeschool and we read aloud a lot together as a part of our school, both fiction and non fiction. Some of the best book discussions I've ever had have been with my kids, and that's just.... awesome.
In the past, for my personal reading time, I've spent a lot more time reading non-fiction than fiction. I read a lot of homeschool books, christian/Bible based books, books on speech and learning struggles, and other topical books on things that our family is into (Yes, I've actually ready several books on chicken coops). I plan on continuing to read these types of books (of course) but I really wanted to start reading more GOOD fiction.
A few of my closest friends and I started a book club last year and I think that is really at the foundation of what has gotten me back into reading fiction for myself.
All of that being said..... I plan on posting more often about the books that I've been reading. Mostly just for my personal records (I can't tell you how many times I've gone back to my own reading lists to find the name of a book).
So without further delay.... Books I've read so far this year.
"The Kitchen House" by Kathleen Grissom
Goodreads Rating = 4.17/5
My Rating = 8.5/10
Book Club Selection for January
Honestly, my rating is probably higher for this book, it's up at the top of my list for favorites, but I struggle with commitment issues, hence, the 8.5 rating.
I LOVED this book. I mean, loved. It's set in the late 1700s early 1800s in the south. Pre-civil war (for those of you that aren't good with dates).
Dealing with issues of slavery, family bonds, love, survival, and life on a plantation. I was struck once again by the resolve of the slaves, the acceptance of their life, and yet their ability to persevere, love fully, endure and to continue, regardless of circumstances, to work hard and push through.
This was not a fairy tale book, in any sense. It was tough. It was truthful. It wasn't always pretty. But it was also heart-warming at parts. It was eye-opening and a reminder about how far we can stray from the laws of the Bible (and obvious human ethics) and yet think we have the right to do so.
This was one I could not put down, and well worth reading!
"The Help" by Kathryn Stockett
Goodread Rating = 4.45/5
My Rating = 7.5/10
I read this book after hearing about how it was similar to "The Kitchen House". It was set in the 60s (I believe) and deals with civil rights issues. I feel like most everyone has either read the book or seen the movie but me. I genuinely enjoyed it. It wasn't as "heavy" as "The Kitchen House" but dealt with some pretty real and tough issues. I can see why it was so well received, and then turned into the movie. Like with most books, I'm glad I read the book before I saw the movie, because the book was much better and offered much more insight and detail. I appreciated that there was some humor in this book, even in dealing with the heaviness of the reality of that time. You couldn't help but fall in love with the characters. I mean. Seriously. I wish they were real, and that they were my friends.
"Small Great Things" by Jodi Picoult
Goodread Rating = 4.38/5
My Rating = 8.75/10
I loved this book. The timing was impeccable and "coincidental" having read so many books dealing with race in America. I genuinely loved that the perspective of this book came from a thought-she-wasn't-racist white woman, a hard-working-middle-class black woman, and a white supremacist. The book (as quickly as I can describe it) is about a black nurse on trial for murdering a baby that she had been commanded to not touch (because of her race). Painful, real, raw, eye-opening on so many levels. I always love reading the author's notes and I love the amount of time Picoult put in to studying a subject that was so sensitive and important to our time.
"Atonement Child" by Francine Rivers
Goodreads Rating = 4.26/5
My Rating = 6/10
This was a good book. I just didn't feel like it was a GREAT book, parts of the book seemed somewhat predictable to me. A story about a young girl with, what looks to be, a perfect life in front of her. She's attending Bible college, engaged to a good-looking promising young man, but one night on her way home from work she's raped, and everything changes. She finds out months later that she is pregnant, soon after she's asked to leave the Bible college, and decides to move back in with her parents, where life continues to seem to unravel. I feel like Rivers did a great job handling some difficult topics. Overall, I'm very appreciative of some of the overarching biblical themes/lessons held throughout the book, like that God is sovereign AND good. I'm a big Rivers fan, so that's probably why I rated the book as high as I did. I felt like parts of the story really drug on. I also found parts of the book a little unrealistic.
"Truly, Madly, Guilty" by Liane Moriarty
Goodreads Rating = 3.55/5
My Rating = 2/10
Would not recommend this book in the slightest. So so so slow. I could NOT get into this book. If it wasn't for my personality of having to finish things, and see them through, there is no way I would have finished this book. Though I will tell you I skipped about 70 pages at one point, and no kidding, didn't seem to miss anything of useful/crucial value to the story.
I hate to give an outright negative review of a book, honestly, but with so many good books out there.... I have to recommend avoiding this one.
Young Adult Fiction
"Wolf Hollow" by Lauren Wolk
Goodreads Rating = 4.31/5
My Rating = 8/10
We read this book as a read aloud for school. We all genuinely enjoyed it. Based after World War 2 (I believe), it reminds me a little of "Little House in the Prairie" without nearly the overly-wordy detail. The kids all enjoy it and I don't think I read it once without them asking me to "read another chapter". The children loved the suspense of the book, and trying to figure out "who did what" - we always seem to have multiple perspectives and opinions, which makes for great discussion.
Based in Pennsylvania, it's told from the perspective of a young girl named Annabelle who lives in a quiet town, until Betty shows up, a girl who, from my perspective, is some type of socio/psycopath who takes pleasure in the pain of others. Betty's presence quickly causes Annabelle's (and the entire towns) world to turn upside down.
My kids and I would certainly recommend this book.
"The Inquisitors Tale" by Adam Gidwitz
Goodreads Rating = 4.23/5
My Rating = 3.5/10
Based in the middle ages about three unlikely (and outcast) children, a giant monk, a small jewish boy, and a peasant girl, becoming friends and joining together on a mission (against the king) that puts their lives in danger. I read this book because Alexa had wanted to read it and I wasn't sure if it would be age-appropriate for her. Throughout most of the book, I was fairly certain I would let her read it. There were a few things that I knew I would want to discuss with her (as you can imagine, the catholic church, saints, "miracles", and the middle ages would provoke a lot of much needed discussion) but nothing that I saw as a "deal breaker". (Side note: I tend to be a parent that wants to discuss these things rather than avoid them, and I can see why other parents would choose a different approach at certain ages and with certain children).
However, once I got to the end of the book, I did change my mind (without giving too much away) because there are some biblical characters/stories that are brought up at the end as a part of the story..... I tend to avoid writing that attempts to mix biblical history/characters with a fiction story, especially for the kids. I find it to be confusing at this age, and with so many other good options available, I would rather avoid it.
"The Broken Way" by Ann Voskamp
Goodreads Rating = 4.46/5
My Rating = 7/10
I loved the overall message of the book, but I struggled even more with this book than I did with 1000 Gifts with the poetic writing style of Voskamp. Some of the crucial points she is attempting to convey are hard to dig out of the muck of her musical tone. In many instances I find her writing to be beautiful, but 275 pages worth ended up being a lot for me.
The book is about sacrifice, and living out of our brokeness, living broken and poured out for the world around us the way the Jesus was an example to us all. True love does not happen without pain and suffering - it's sacrificial by nature. While, I didn't see anything in her writing that is directly heretical, I know many people complain about some of the liberties she takes with scriptures, and I can kind of see their points, but at the same time, the over-arching message was certainly in line with what scripture teaches.
"Nothing to Prove" by Jennie Allen
Goodreads Rating = 4.55/5
My Rating = 8.5/10
I was genuinely encouraged by this book. Easy to read. Well organized. Powerful message.
Dealing with the struggle of constantly trying to prove yourself and measure up to people, is one that I have (in spades). and no as I begin to serve in positions of leadership this struggle can feel debilitating at times. Using stories from the book of John Jennie Allen walks through the clear messages of the Bible that while we are not enough, Jesus is, and the freedom that comes from truly understanding this.
Some of my favorite quotes:
"We are not defined by our worst or our best: we are defined by our God."
"It's not my curse that I believe I am not enough; it's my sin that I keep trying to be."
"When we hide, we diminish ourselves, we diminish our worth, we diminish our belief in God."
Allen's writing is practical, real, and biblical. I love how honest she is lovingly pointing out some of our (those in the church) ongoing mistakes - like distracting ourself with entertainment (binge watching TV anyone?), distracting ourselves with the work of the mission rather than God himself, allowing our identity to be defined by lies, isolating ourselves from other believers, and more.
I highly recommend this book.