(And, obviously, April has been a crazy month, too. Don't believe me? April is almost over, and I'm just now getting around to posting what I read way back in March!)
As before, here are short summaries of each book I read last month. If you want to see all the books I've read this year, check out my #EmptyShelf Challenge Pinterest Board!
Killing Floor by Lee Child
For the past two years, one of my coworkers has been recommending that I check out the writing of Lee Child. I finally decided to make it happen. Thanks to the help of my friendly local librarian, I was able to figure out which novel was the first in the Jack Reacher series. This was a murder investigation novel that instantly pulled me in. I wasn't sure if I was going to like it, but I really did. I got kinda attached to the characters, and the novel definitely kept me guessing. Of course, I'm the type that never solves the mystery before the investigator. So, all mystery novels keep me guessing.
Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo
In college, one of my mentors recommended this book to me. I'll admit that I was a tad skeptical about the book. Did the little boy really visit heaven? Or is this just a publicity stunt? A few weeks ago, I saw that my library had a copy, so I decided to give it a shot. This was a quick, heartwarming read. I enjoyed reading about the family's experiences. And, I found myself drawn to the childlike faith and trust demonstrated by the young child. I especially liked the inclusion of the discussion of what Jesus looked like. I enjoyed this book, and I'd recommend it to others.
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
I read The Hunger Games in college. And, I watched The Hunger Games movie a year or so ago. After hearing so many of my students discuss the Catching Fire movie, I decided that I really needed to get around to reading the second book in the series before I saw the second movie. Since it had been so long since I read the first book, I had a little trouble getting into the second. But, once I was in, I was hooked. The second book went a place I did not expect. After finishing the first book, I had wondered how the story could continue. Well, now I know! My only complaint? The ending. Let's talk about the book ending with a cliffhanger! I now must read the third book to find out what happens. The only problem is that someone currently has the third book checked out. Eventually, I will finish!
Front Page Love by Paige Lee Elliston
I've been trying to go back and finish series that I've started while I still semi-remember what the series is about. Last month, I read my first Paige Lee Elliston book, Changes of Heart. This book followed the same recipe as its predecessor. One girl + Two guys + One Heart-Wrenching Decision = True Love. I was rooting for the guy who didn't get picked in the last book. But, I won't ruin the ending for you in case you want to check it out for yourself. There's one more book in the series, but my library doesn't have it. So, I'll be stopping here. I did enjoy reading about The Oklahoma Dust Bowl in this book. It was set in Montana during an epic drought. The main character is a newspaper reporter who is tasked with writing about the impact of the drought on the community. As part of her research, she interviewed a survivor of the Dust Bowl. I learned several new things about the Dust Bowl as a result which was pretty cool.
The Traveler's Gift by Andy Andrews
I read the sequel to this book last month. I enjoyed the sequel so much that I ended up checking the first book out of the library. My favorite thing about this book was its biographical nature. I learned all kinds of fun and interesting facts about Anne Frank, Harry Truman, Christopher Columbus, Abraham Lincoln, and more. This book had a really inspiring message, and it was quite an enjoyable read. So far, I've enjoyed everything I've read by Andy Andrews.
Fearlessly Feminine by Jani Ortlund
I picked up this book at a thrift store probably a year of so ago. And, it's sat on my bookshelf since then. Over Spring Break, I was wanting a short break from the massive amounts of fiction that I had been consuming. So, I picked up this book about "Boldly Living God's Plan for Womanhood." I wasn't quite sure what to expect, but I thought I'd give it a try. I figured if I didn't like it, I could always donate it back to charity. This was a book that forced me to ask a lot of questions of myself. In college, I remember being asked once if I was a feminist. I don't exactly remember what I said because I wasn't really even sure what feminism was. This book is definitely anti-feminist. As I read it, I had to decide how I actually felt about certain things I had never given much thought to before. For example, the author of this book recognizes that many women must work outside the home. But, she asks the reader to ask themselves if this is really for the best. If you are financially capable of staying at home with your kids, should you work outside the home? I've always assumed that I will put my children in day care and continue working and teaching. (Of course - this is a long, long way off! I've got to check the whole getting married thing checked off my to-do list first!) After all, my own mother has worked full-time my entire life. Is this really for the best, though? When the time comes, will I be able to hand my own children over to a stranger in order to spend my days teaching the children of strangers? I'm going to admit right now that I don't have any answers. I've just got a ton of questions.
I am a huge Richard Paul Evans fan. I was first introduced to him through The Christmas Box trilogy. Recently, I asked the librarian for a book recommendation, and she recommended Evans. Since that recommendation, I've been reading as many of his books as possible. This was a book of second chances, a book of redemption, a book of hope. It was a sweet, slightly suspenseful book that I simply couldn't put down. This book opened my eyes to some of the realities that come with being homeless. This is a novel that I definitely recommend. It's a re-telling of the story of the prodigal son and so much more at the same time.
Until Proven Guilty by J.A. Jance
The same coworker who recommended that I read Lee Child brought me this murder mystery to read. I picked it up over Spring Break, and I couldn't put it down! I was forcing myself to alternate between reading a chapter in a book and grading a stack of papers. Soon, the papers were set aside as I immersed myself in the book. It was that good! J.A. Jance is a new author to me, but these books have been around longer than I've been alive. Murder. Mystery. Intrigue. Romance. A Cult. This book had it all. And, it's probably one of the most memorable endings to a book I've ever read. After I raved to my coworker about how much I enjoyed this book, she brought me the next 6 books in the series to read!
Jade by V.C. Andrews
I'm still working my way through The Wildflowers series. There are five books in the series. And, so far, I'm averaging one book a month. I'm not entirely sure who these books were marketed towards. The characters are teenagers. But, the topics discussed in them are kinda dark. This series has covered divorce, rape, kidnapping, incest, and more. Part of me wonders why I keep reading them. It's probably because I think these stories are pretty close to the actual lives led by my students. This is not a series I would recommend. But, I think it's still a series that I will finish. After all, I've got to find out why all of the girls ended up in court-appointed therapy. And, I'm hoping that the last book will tell about what ends up happening to the characters.
Crewel World by Monica Ferris
Remember my coworker who loves to read? This is another novel that she loaned me. It's a murder mystery that is set in a needlepoint store. First off, I didn't know there was such a thing as a needlepoint store. I know how to knit. I can sew. I can crochet. But, I've never had any desire to do needlepoint. I think that I would have enjoyed this book more if I had a passion for the subject. It was an okay book. But, I didn't really find myself sucked into the story. It seemed to take me forever to make it through this book which is strange for me. If you love needlepoint or want to know more about needlepoint, I'd recommend this book. Otherwise, there are more intriguing mysteries out there.
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
Once a month, I am part of a book chat at our public library in town. A book chat is kinda like a book club, but everybody reads whatever they want to read. We get together to discuss our latest reads, talk about what we want to read next, eat yummy snacks, and just enjoy a couple of hours of company together. I started going in January, and it's one of the highlights of my month. At February's book chat, somebody mentioned the book, Water for Elephants. Everybody else at the table started raving over it. Pretty soon, all eyes were on me. "Sarah, what did you think of the book?" "Well, I've never actually read it." "You haven't read it? How is that even possible? You MUST read this book!" When I realized that every single other person at book chat had read this book and loved it, I decided I must add it to my must-read list. I read the description on the back of the cover, and it did nothing for me. But, I decided that the book must have merit if everyone else was raving about it. I started it and quickly fell in love with the characters. After reading this book, the circus life is entirely unappealing to me. It was an amazing story with an amazing ending, and it was one of those books that I didn't want to end. I love, love, love this book! So, if you haven't read it, I'm looking at you now and asking, "Why haven't you read this book yet?!?"
The Looking Glass by Richard Paul Evans
Remember how I told you I was on a Richard Paul Evans kick of late? Here's further proof. I read three of his books this month! One of my favorite time periods to read from is the days of the Gold Rush. There's just something about that time period that is so romantic to me. I know that it was actually a really harsh, unforgiving time period in history, but I prefer the romanticized version found in books. :) I absolutely fell in love with the characters in this story. They stole a piece of my heart. Then, the ending of the book ripped my heart out and left me sobbing. If you love a tearjerker, I'd definitely recommend this book. If you're looking for a happy ending, stay away!
The Sunflower by Richard Paul Evans
This was a sweet, heart-tugging romance set in the Peruvian jungle. It's more than a love story, though. It's an adventure. In a way, it's two love stories or almost-love stories in one. This novel is a fast-paced, character-driven story. One of my favorite aspects of Richard Pauls Evans' books is the inclusion of quotes from the main character's diary before each chapter. I love reading these snippets and trying to predict what will happen in the chapter based on the quote. I have to say that none of my journal entries are anywhere near as profound and reflective as those belonging to the fictional characters in his books, though.
Christmas at Harrington's by Melody Carlson
Yes, I realize that most people don't read Christmas novels in March. But, I'm not most people. I'm also not the type of person who restricts Christmas music from the day after Thanksgiving to New Year's. If I want to listen to Christmas music, I think I should be able to listen to Christmas music! My absolute favorite music to play on the piano? Christmas music. If you ask me my favorite movie, I will break it down by genre. Favorite chick flick: tie between Sweet Home Alabama and How To Lose A Guy in 10 Days. Favorite action movie: Top Gun. Favorite Christmas movie: The Christmas Card. Favorite inspirational movie: The Ultimate Gift. Favorite classic movie: North by Northwest. Yes, Christmas movies get their own category. I also love Christmas books. But, it seems like there's never enough time to read Christmas books and watch all my favorite Christmas movies and spend time with family and finish my Christmas shopping and do all the other things that get relegated to Christmas Break. So, I decided to make up for it by reading my Christmas books during a more leisurely time of year. March it is! It was a story of second chances, romance, and the spirit of Christmas. My only complaint was that the book wasn't long enough! I wanted so much more!
Still in the mood for more Christmas stories, I read O Little Town in e-book form. I picked this book based off of the title alone, and it's one of the best Christmas novels I've ever read. Seriously, I LOVED this book. It's one of those books that spans multiple generations. It's constantly going back and forth between 1904 and 1958. It's also one of those books where it seems like none of the chapters are connected. Each new chapter brings new characters. Eventually, all the characters are woven together into one beautiful, touching story. This was definitely a tearjerker, but I loved every minute of it!
Mennonite in a Little Black Dress by Rhoda Janzen
Confession: I know next to nothing about the Mennonite faith. Second confession: I bought this book because it had an intriguing title. Third confession: I bought this book thinking that it was fiction. It's not. It's actually a memoir. Still, I stuck with it, and I learned quite a bit about the Mennonite community. It took me a while to make my way through this book. And, I'm not sure if I gained anything from reading it. There were definitely some enjoyable parts and funny stories. I don't think I'll be re-reading it anytime soon, though.
Passion & Purity by Elisabeth Elliot
This is a book that I first read in college at the urging of a friend in a bible study group. She had read the book and said it changed her life. I remember reading the book and loving it. I really do think it changed the way that I looked and thought about romance and moving towards marriage in a way that honors God. The book tells the rather unique love story of Elisabeth and Jim Eliot - missionaries in Ecuador. Though they met and fell in love in college, they held off on marrying until they were 100% sure that it was God's will and timing. Sadly, not long after their marriage, Jim was killed on the mission field. I picked this book up again because I feel like I am in such a different place in my life right now than when I first read the book. I felt like I could relate a lot to Elisabeth's experiences about waiting and wondering about what God's perfect plan for her life was. This book continues to touch my heart and shape my thought processes.