How is it possibly April already? This year seems to be flying by (maybe because time seemed to be crawling this time last year? Who know!). In any case, we just finished our Spring Break and the Heath Fam is ready to be DONE with school! Six more weeks… we can do this!
My book stack for March has a lot of variety. Two books came from my local used bookstore, one I have owned for nearly 30 years, and one I couldn’t wait to order from Amazon! They are all different lengths and genres; two are fiction and two are non-fiction. So this should be fun!
Which leads to our first book…
That Sounds Fun by Annie F. Downs
If you listen to Annie’s podcast (also titled That Sounds Fun), you will likely hear her voice in your head as you read this! She has the type of personality that makes you feel like you are friends even though you’ve never met, and that comes through in her writing as well. Each chapter felt like I was sitting across the table from her as she told me her stories!
The main thread she weaves through each chapter is the concept of “missing Eden;” of being created for a perfect world in which we have complete joy and constant communion with our Father, yet living in an imperfect, fallen world that includes pain and sadness. The distance between the two worlds creates a tension in us; a longing for what we were made for, a desire for something our souls miss… Eden. Thus, her stories include things that make her sad and things that bring her joy, and in many cases, which do both. But always with a glimpse of Eden thrown in!
This book is much like having a conversation with a friend (especially an enneagram 7, LOL!)— it’s a little unorganized and has a bunch of random comments thrown in to make you laugh— but that’s all part of what makes it so fun! I especially recommend this book to my single friends, as Annie is so vulnerable in sharing her struggles and successes in that part of her journey. I am confident she will be a great encouragement to you!
How To Listen to God by Charles Stanley
This book is a classic. I am always surprised to find so many of my Christian friends have never read it! It was published in 1985, but I first read in the mid 90’s, shortly after I graduated from college.
Everyone wants to hear from God, right? Yet, so many of us don’t want to take the time to listen, and even if we do, we may not know how to listen. That’s where this book comes in! The chapters are well organized, and the content is easy to understand. Dr. Stanley shares why God speaks to us, how to discern His voice, and how to prepare our hearts and minds to hear Him (among other things).
This is a relatively short, simple to understand book on an extremely important subject. It is especially beneficial for new believers or anyone who is serious about following Jesus. Charles Stanley has remained a voice of Biblical truth throughout the decades, and I am grateful for how his words have shaped my faith over the years!
The One Safe Place by Tania Unsworth
I grabbed this book from the used bookstore mostly based on the cover. The summary declared it a “near-future dystpia” and compared it to The Giver. While I was not nearly as drawn into the storyline or characters as I was with The Giver, I still think it would be enjoyable for middle grade readers!
After the death of his grandfather, Devin makes his way alone into the city looking for someone to help him run their farm. Several days into his journey, while navigating the dangerous chaos of the city streets, he teams up with a homeless girl, Kit, who helps him find food and seek shelter during a torrential rainstorm. From there, he befriends an older boy who offers to take him to a special home for abandoned children where there is everything a child could dream of— food, safety, playgrounds, swimming pools, and more. Devin agrees to go only if Kit can go with him, and their adventure continues.
It turns out there is something very sinister going on at the home. The children are being used somehow to bring joy to “the visitors,” but no one wants to talk about it. Before long, Devin uncovers the secret and hatches a plan to free them all.
The plot was fairly predictable, though a middle grade reader might still find it suspenseful. Also, we learn early on (a little awkwardly, in my opinion) that Devin has a special ability which connects all his senses (for instance, he feels colors). This becomes a contributing factor towards the end of the book, but it felt forced, as though the author was trying to create something unique instead of just having him be really smart. I’m afraid it might be a little confusing to kids who are reading it; they may waste time trying to figure out why those sentences are in there instead of just enjoying the book. By the end, though, it all makes sense.
Beyond that, it was an enjoyable story with several really kind, likeable characters (and a sideline redemption story). It has the potential for creating some good conversation on ethical dilemmas associated with aging. I don’t think Eli (7th grade) would like this story too much, but I think Noah (5th grade) would probably enjoy it!
The Winter Palace by Eva Stachniak
As I mentioned, my latest trip to our local used book store was very productive; this is the other one I grabbed. It is historical fiction, this time set in Russia in the 1700’s, which is a time period I know almost nothing about. The hook is that it is told from the viewpoint of a spy in the palace, which was so intriguing! I really enjoyed it!
Our narrator, Barbara/Varvara, begins the story as a young teenage girl, brought to the palace upon the death of her parents as a favor to her father. Throughout the pages, she weaves a beautiful yet tragic tale of a queen who stole the throne and lives in constant fear of losing it, her foolish (and a bit crazy) nephew who is heir to the throne, his kind and naïve (or so we think) wife, and others who come in and out of life at the palace. It is a tale of love, hate, passion, betrayal, friendship, deception, and above all, lust for power. It was not a quick read, but it was quite enjoyable, and there were several unexpected twists along the way, which I love.
If you are a fan of historical fiction and are interested in a glimpse of the behind the scenes workings of Russian palace life, this one is worth reading!
I told you there was a lot of variety! And I am already a couple books into my April stack, so get ready for more great suggestions! If you missed them, you should check out my January and February Book Stack posts for more ideas on what to read.
As always, I love to hear your recommendations. What books are you loving these days? What’s on your nightstand?