A Month of Books – March 2020

I love to read. At the beginning of March, I was sick, so I found myself reading more. Then COVID-19 hit and many of our activities came to a halt, which provided additional reading time. Really, this is my favorite way to relax.

Recently I've joined NetGalley which gives readers the opportunity to preview new books and give feedback to authors and publishers. So some books I've been reading for free, and then others I've been reading for fun. I thought I'd gather my thoughts on the books I've read and share them each month. I love seeing what others are reading, so I hope this inspires you to check out a new book!

Children's Literature

I love reading Childrens literature. Often times I'm reading these books with my kids, but sometimes I read them for my own enjoyment. Here are the four books in this category I've devoured this month:

Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis

I've had this on my list to read for a long time, and at 5 hours on Audible, this makes the perfect story for the short drive to see my son at college. James Avery does an incredible job of bringing this story to life.

Bud, not Buddy, is a story about a young orphan set in the Great Depression. Surprisingly despite the dire circumstances of this story, it is a light hearted and funny tale.

I listened to this one with my youngest daughter and my husband. We quoted it so frequently that my other two kids have listened to it on their own to join in the fun.

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

The One and Only Ivan reads like a modern day Black Beauty. Ivan is a gorilla living in captivity at a mall with a little side circus. This is loosely based on the story of a gorilla kept in captivity on display in a mall in Tacoma, Washington.

It's written in first person from the limited perspective of the gorilla. I love how Katherine portrays Ivan not feeling the injustice until he sees the situation from the eyes of an innocent baby elephant.

We also listened to this one on Audible. The reader's voice is deep and rich and really brings the strength of Ivan to life. It's not a very long read, so also a great one for short road trips!

The sequel The One and Only Bob comes out in May 2020.

The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo

I love Kate DiCamillo's writings. Her books are worth reading simply for her poetic playing with words. This was one of the last of her books for me to read, so I figured I needed to take the time to read through it myself.

For having such an innocent hero like a tiny mouse, Kate has a way of drawing out deep truths that wash over her readers. This quote was one of my favorites:

Stories are light. Light is precious in a world so dark. Begin at the beginning. Tell Gregory a story. Make some light.

A Tale of Despereaux, p. 82

There are some very dark ideas woven through this book. However, it's hard to see the value of light without it. If you have sensitive souls in your home, it wouldn't hurt to read this one first. It does end in a sweet way, and I enjoyed it!

Ivy in Bloom by

Ivy in Bloom is a celebration of the glorious transition from Winter to Spring. Vanita Oelschlager weaves the words of Spring poems from great poets to create this playful journey of welcoming the vibrance of new life that comes with Spring. 

My favorite part of this lovely illustrated book truly is the pairing of the words with the art. The illustrations bring the poetic ideas to life and brighten your day as you read. This is a very uplifting book! 

At the back the author shares the poems from which she gathered her story. It really is a quite impressive weaving! This is a great intro to poetry for young readers. 

NetGalley provided a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my voluntary, honest, and objective review. And then I bought a copy to send to my niece.

Older Fiction

I'm separating these fiction stories out from the Children's literature because I feel like these titles might need a little parental discretion when reading with younger kids.

100 Cupboards by N.D. Wilson

The first book in the 100 Cupboards series will always be my favorite. N.D. Wilson weaves an incredible story weaver. 100 Cupboards begins with a boy named Henry going to stay with his aunt and uncle in the sleepy town of Henry, Kansas. He's lived such a sheltered life that small town freedoms are magical: playing baseball, drinking soda, and riding in the bed of the truck without a helmet.

However, there's an added magic to this particular farmhouse. In the room where Henry sleeps, there are 100 cupboards that lead to different worlds. For a boy that has been kept safe all of his life, these portals awaken his desire for adventure and a longing for a different kind of life.

I'm not usually one for scary stories, but this one has a wonderful balance of a thriller and fantasy novel combined. The audible reader is fantastic and brings this story to life with the safety of a trustworthy grandpa.

Be prepared. The story is not fully over at the end of the first in the trilogy, but then again, that's why I love to read trilogies.

Dandelion Fire by N.D. Wilson

The second book in the 100 Cupboards series picks up where the first book leaves off. I love how quickly the action begins and new elements of Henry's character are developed and revealed. You really feel like you're on the journey of discovery with him throughout the series. He's such a likable character. He fights for justice, despises evil, and seeks truth even when it is unlikely that he will succeed.

This book is quite a bit longer than the first. In Audible terms, the first book is 6.5 hours and the second is 12.5! There are new characters introduced, several different story lines woven together, and continual action throughout.

It is a middle story, so you're going to definitely have to keep reading to discover the resolution of Henry's story. You'll never look at dandelions the same way again.

The Chestnut King by N. D. Wilson

The third book in the 100 Cupboards series brings the conclusion to Henry's quest that began in that small attic bedroom in a unexacting farmhouse in Henry, Kansas. This one might be the scariest of the three as the witch continues to grow in her power.

I love the ending to this series. It truly is a very satisfying conclusion to a series. Wilson draws on themes of sacrifice, truth, family, unity, and the enjoyment of life. Wilson's fantasy world reminds readers to see ALL worlds through the eyes of wonder...even Henry, Kansas.

This last book is the longest of the three at nearly 15 hours, but you won't want to put it down. I highly recommend this series to anyone who loves fantasy stories.

A Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket

If you're a fan of the Netflix Original A Series of Unfortunate Events, then you'll love this audiobook version of the story. It features the cast from the show and is a quick read. The audio drama aspect of this multi-voice recording is worth listening to simply for the deleviry. They do an incredible job bringing the story to life like an old radio series might have done. It's a super quick read, but since the story is rather unfortunate, if you have younger kids, they might need to "look away."

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

My son had recently read The Giver again, so on our road trip we decided to listen to another dystopian story for comparison. Fahrenheit 451 is one of those that has been on my "to read" list for a while, so I was excited to tackle it. I totally missed when I downloaded this one from Audible that it was read by Tim Robbins. As we started listening, I recognized his voice right away. Wow. His dramatic reading was captivating and really brought the story to life.

The basic premise of this story is that books have ideas that are dangerous. Montag, the main character, is a firefighter whose job is to start fires, burning down houses that contain books. As this book was written in 1953, I was amazed by the way Bradbury captures our current world. It's a quick read and this audio version makes it definitely worth reading!

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

As I've been reading along with my children, I've really just fallen in love with literature that makes me think. It doesn't have to be difficult per se, but I like books that require a little bit of struggle to glean their goodness.

Karen Swallow Prior is one of those people I've respected as a bookish lady who's further down the road than I am. I loved her thoughts in On Reading Well: Finding the Good Life through Good Great Books.

She's currently working with B&H Publishing to connect readers to classics through these beautiful cloth editions with guided thoughts and questions to draw out the Christian themes. I've always thought of Heart of Darkness as a very dark story. It's in that darkness that Prior draws out the light of the story.

In drawing out the themes of this story she instructs, "Marlow comes face-to-face with a truth he has seen glimpses of all along: the heart of human beings—absent any restraints, whether internal or external—is horrifyingly dark." This idea conceptualized makes this book worth reading for society today. She's also released Sense and Sensibility which I'm exited to dig into!

And if you're looking for a good Audiobook version of this one, Kenneth Branagh does a fantastic job reading it.


The Simple Faith of Mister Rogers by Amy Hollingsworth

We recently enjoyed watching A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood featuring Tom Hanks. It was so well done and inspiring. My mom, who is an avid reader, went on to read two biographies about this iconic neighbor. The Simple Faith of Mister Rogers was her favorite, so my husband and I listened to it on a drive home.

If you ever watched Mister Rogers as a kid, this back story is incredible. Amy Hollingsworth shares her insight from building a relationship with Mister Rogers over the course of eight years.

Unlike other mainstream children's programs, Mister Rogers sought to use his television program to equip children with ways to process their emotions. He believed the best gift you can give to one another is your honest self: "I don't think of myself as somebody who's famous. I'm just a neighbor who comes and visits children; I happen to be on television. But I'm always myself."

If you haven't seen Tom Hanks in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, you need to watch it. Then read this book. They are both excellent.

Stay: Discovering Grace, Freedom, and Wholeness Where You Never Imagined Looking by Anjuli Paschall

I was drawn to this book because I loved the idea of slowing down and soaking in the presence of God. Anjuli Paschall invites readers to meet God in our weakness in Stay. What I didn't expect was the powerful, transparent, and poetic way that Anjuli invites her readers into her story, exposing her flaws and insecurities in a humble and honest way. 

Anjuli is a master story teller. She weaves Biblical truths through real experiences that draw out the insanity of some ridiculous ideas our culture tells us about ourselves and then like a master surgeon, she shines light on the dark places that need healing. 

Stay in your grief, stay in your anger, stay in your fear, and stay in your guilt so that God can use them as a pathway to healing and freedom. "Remembering our story and retelling it again and again and again until our voices don't shake in vulnerability but resound with unyielding strength."

"Unless the heart is known, it can never be loved. It can never be free." This was a short read, but such a wonderful reminder of God's desire to have a relationship with us and that we are not alone in our feelings of guilt, shame, loneliness, and fear. 

This would be a great book to read with a group of good friends! Discussion questions included in the back. 

I received this book from Netgalley for my review. All thoughts and opinions are my own!

Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds by Phillip E. Johnson

This is my third time to read Defeating Darwinism and I'm always challenged and inspired by it. I suggest before you get too deep into reading this book that you go watch Inherit the Wind. Don't watch it for entertainment. Watch it for the characters developed in the movie. Who are the characters? What are they doing? Are they likable? Are the smart? Do they listen to one another? How do they treat one another?

As you soak yourself into this story, you'll see how the world views the debate on Darwin. Phillip Johnson does a fantastic job of walking you through the natural biases in our modern world as well as presenting arguments against those bias.

The goal of this book isn't as much to defeat a certain belief system, but more to practice good thinking habits. This is a great introduction to the topic of the creation vs. evolution debate. It provides great conversations for those seeking to be free thinkers.

They have finally released an audiobook version of this one! I haven't listened to it, and since I don't have any more kids reading through this book, I won't be getting it. However, it would have been wonderfully helpful!

Made to Move Mountains: How God Uses Our Dreams and Disasters to Accomplish

Made to Move Mountains was a very timely read for me. In the midst of a world-wide pandemic, this kind of faith building encouragement is exactly what is needed. 

Kristen states, "I've learned there are mountains we climb because they challenge and inspire us and we long to see what's on the other side. Then there are mountains that show up in our paths we desperately want to move. Some mountains are dreams; others are disasters. We need grit and Jesus for both."

This is one of those books that is both easy and hard to read. Kristen shares her journey like she would with a friend over coffee, yet she ties in scripture throughout that challenges you and often made me uncomfortable—in a good way. 

This book can also be difficult because many of the stories that Kristen shares are in process. They don't resolve into these perfectly "happily ever after" tales. I'm inspired by her transparency and honesty as she shares things that are incomplete. 

I would recommend this book to anyone who desires to live a life that matters; anyone who longs to see God work through their lives in amazing ways. 

I received this book from Netgalley for my review. All thoughts and opinions are my own!

March Books in Numbers

So I finished 14 books this month, which brings my total for the year up to 25. What I've discovered is that the more I read, the more I want to read. I've got 10 books in my "currently reading" shelf on Goodreads. It looks like another month of shelter-in-place, so I'm going to work on finishing as many of those as I can!

What are you currently reading? I always love a good recommendation!

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