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When I set out to read this month, I had no pre-conceived ideas of what I would consume each night before bed. If I saw something interesting that I could easily get from the library, from the pile of books stacked in my office, or that I could purchase on Amazon or grab for free from my Kindle Unlimited membership, that’s what I read.
But it didn’t take me long to realize that what I was reading was not within my normal reading and genre preferences. Although I knew from my reading log that I tended to gravitate towards certain types of novels – mostly women’s fiction, literary fiction, and contemporary fiction with a few sprinkles of mystery and romance thrown in just for fun – I was pleasantly surprised to find myself enjoying the books that were way out of my comfort zone!
By reading outside my usual parameters, I discovered that books I had originally considered uninteresting because of the time period were actually quite fascinating! Rather than just reading books that allowed me to escape from my everyday life, I learned that books and stories could open your eyes and your heart to the problems in our society today, offering you a better insight than the news or social media ever could. And I realized that terms which often carry a bad connotation are actually empowering in the proper setting.
Why am I telling you all of this? Because I think we should challenge ourselves to read outside our comfort level every once in a while. Instead of snuggling up with your favorite cozy mystery, try reading a historical novel set in the 1800s in London. Rather than escaping with a steamy romance, grab a book meant for teens and see the world through their eyes. Trust me, you’ll be delighted that you did – and who knows, maybe you’ll find something new to fall in love with!
Thanks to the winter freeze that inundated the state of Texas for a week (and left me without power for 3 days), I was able to get a lot of reading done! Here’s a list of the novels I enjoyed this month:
Author: Sandra Byrd
# of pages: 441
Genre: Christian Historical Fiction
Miss Eleanor Sheffield is a talented evaluator of antiquities, trained to know the difference between a genuine artifact and a fraud. But with her father’s passing and her uncle’s decline into dementia, the family business is at risk. In the Victorian era, unmarried Eleanor cannot run Sheffield Brothers alone.
The death of a longtime client, Baron Lydney, offers an unexpected complication when Eleanor is appointed the temporary trustee of the baron’s legendary collection. She must choose whether to donate the priceless treasures to a museum or allow them to pass to the baron’s only living son, Harry—the man who broke Eleanor’s heart.
Eleanor distrusts the baron’s motives and her own ability to be unbiased regarding Harry’s future. Harry claims to still love her and Eleanor yearns to believe him, but his mysterious comments and actions fuel her doubts. When she learns an Italian beauty accompanied him on his return to England, her lingering hope for a future with Harry dims.
With the threat of debtor’s prison closing in, Eleanor knows that donating the baron’s collection would win her favor among potential clients, saving Sheffield Brothers. But the more time she spends with Harry, the more her faith in him grows. Might Harry be worthy of his inheritance, and her heart, after all? As pressures mount and time runs out, Eleanor must decide whom she can trust—who in her life is false or true, brass or gold—and what is meant to be treasured.
My thoughts: I have to admit, I’ve had this book on my shelf for a LONG time. The author, who is a good friend and mentor, sent it to me shortly after it released in 2018. While I knew she was an excellent writer, I just wasn’t keen on historical fiction. Especially as far back as 1800 (WWII is usually my limits with history). Boy, was I wrong!! This was a wonderful story – excellent writing, tons of intrigue and suspense, very well-paced and a love story that is spellbinding. I highly recommend it!
Author: Susan May Warren
# of pages: 313
Genre: Contemporary Literature and Fiction/Romance/Christian
God has answered Mona Reynolds’s prayers and given her the opportunity of a lifetime: she is about to open her own bookstore-coffee shop, the Footstep of Heaven. Now Mona has no time for love and no hope that a man can ever be the hero of her dreams. But when she hires mysterious drifter Joe Michaels to be her handyman, she discovers that it isn’t only in fairy tales that people live “happily ever after.”
My thoughts: I have been of fan of Susan May Warren since I heard her teach at a writing conference a few years ago, but I never had the chance to read one of her novels. Why? Because I’m not a big romance reader and that’s mainly what she writes. But wanting to study the pros, I picked up one of her novels (which there are a lot of them!) that I thought I could relate to and started reading. SMW is an amazing writer drawing you in with her descriptive sentences, well-rounded characters and well-paced plot. While I did enjoy the book, I was more captivated by the writing than the story itself. However, if you are not a student of writing and looking for a sweet romance, then you’ll definitely enjoy this one.
Author: Jennifer Mathieu
# of pages: 326
Genre: Teen & Young Adult
Vivian Carter is fed up. Fed up with an administration at her high school that thinks the football team can do no wrong. Fed up with sexist dress codes, hallway harassment, and gross comments from guys during class. But most of all, Viv Carter is fed up with always following the rules.
Viv’s mom was a tough-as-nails, punk rock Riot Grrrl in the ’90s, and now Viv takes a page from her mother’s past and creates a feminist zine that she distributes anonymously to her classmates. She’s just blowing off steam, but other girls respond. As Viv forges friendships with other young women across the divides of cliques and popularity rankings, she realizes that what she has started is nothing short of a girl revolution.
Moxie is a book about high school life that will make you wanna riot!
My thoughts: Although the author is from Houston and sets her stories in the Lone Star state, I originally picked this book up because I saw that it was being made into a Netflix original film by Amy Poehler. Who doesn’t love Amy? I knew I’d want to watch the movie, but I had to read the book first. I’m so glad I did! I thought the premise of the book was really bold and well done. The characters were believable and I think Moxie is a needed story for our young kids to know and read in a context they can understand. I wish my girls had read it when they were younger! I could have done with out the language, but I get that it kept to the authenticity and the times. Whether you’re young or old, Moxie rules!
Author: Angie Thomas
# of pages: 521 (large print!)
Genre: Teen & Young Adult
Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.
Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.
But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.
My thoughts: This is a book that is very needed and needs to be read by everyone regardless of your race. I had seen the title for the book several times but always passed it over. When it kept popping up for me, I decided to give it a chance. I’m so glad I did! I thought it was a beautiful story of what it means to be a black kid in America today. It truly opened my eyes beyond what I hear or see on the news. Well-written but does continue a lot of profanity (again, keeping with the authenticity of the story). Definitely worth 5 stars!
Author: Nancy Johnson
# of pages: 322
Genre: Women’s Fiction
A promise could betray you.
It’s 2008, and the inauguration of President Barack Obama ushers in a new kind of hope. In Chicago, Ruth Tuttle, an Ivy-League educated Black engineer, is married to a kind and successful man. He’s eager to start a family, but Ruth is uncertain. She has never gotten over the baby she gave birth to—and was forced to leave behind—when she was a teenager. She had promised her family she’d never look back, but Ruth knows that to move forward, she must make peace with the past.
Returning home, Ruth discovers the Indiana factory town of her youth is plagued by unemployment, racism, and despair. As she begins digging into the past, she unexpectedly befriends Midnight, a young white boy who is also adrift and looking for connection. Just as Ruth is about to uncover a burning secret her family desperately wants to keep hidden, a traumatic incident strains the town’s already searing racial tensions, sending Ruth and Midnight on a collision course that could upend both their lives.
Powerful and revealing, The Kindest Lie captures the heartbreaking divide between Black and white communities and offers both an unflinching view of motherhood in contemporary America and the never-ending quest to achieve the American Dream.
My thoughts: I’m not sure why I picked this book out. Maybe it was a recommended read by my library or someone on FB mentioned it. Or maybe because the story premise sounded interesting. Regardless of the reason, I thought it was good. I think the downfall of this book is that it tries to convey too many messages (black vs white, family secrets, adoption, etc) rather than focusing on one theme. It was well-paced but it didn’t leave me wanting more.