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March turned out to be my highest volume of finished books ever–ten books! But March wasn’t quite what we expected, was it?
My high finished reading pile was largely because books became a distraction from the coronavirus pandemic and all the news. I spent the second week of March reading article after article on social distancing and the projected numbers of how many could potentially fall ill and die, as well as all the ways it’d affect society. It was overwhelming and quickly consuming. I had to set news limits and now I read The Skimm and the Coronavirus Briefing from The New York Times in the morning and a Google search for updates in my state in the evening. Still updated, still informed, but much less inundated.
I did pour some of that anxiety and needed distraction into my reading through two YA series! (I was feeling little angsty afterward.) I’d been wanting to read Holly Black’s Folk of the Air series for awhile and finally got The Cruel Prince from my library holds. I read it in about two days and quickly put the other two books on hold. But I couldn’t wait and ended up downloading the ebooks from OverDrive. I finished The Wicked King in two days and The Queen of Nothing in 24 hours. Crazy. I know.
Black is definitely a master at the page turner. It’s engaging with unexpected twists begging you to turn the page and find out what’s next. Holly Black has created an engaging and thorough world in Elfhame with all the little details of clothes and food and the court. The characters are flawed in all the right ways. There’s court intrigue and politics, trying to find your place in family and society, a hate to love romance, and swordplay and potions. This may be a magical fairy land, but you can leave the pretty at home–it’s gritty.
“He had always said that the joining of a man and a woman was also the joining of two families. Ancestors, whole histories, came with the act, but so did sins and curses. The children were the embodiment of that unity, and they bore the brunt of it.” (Gyasi, 21)
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi has been on my TBR pile since I first heard about it 2016. It’s a book I knew I’d want to sit with and not rush. It was worth the wait. Homegoing is a masterpiece of family history, tracing the generations of two African sisters, one married to a British colonizer and the other sent on a slave ship to the US. It’s a fascinating look at how our ancestors shape us and how their lives intersect and impact our own lives, both shaping our personal and cultural history.
“We believe the one who has the power. He is the one who gets to write the story. So when you study history, you must always ask yourself, Whose story am I missing? Whose voice was suppressed so that this voice could come forth? Once you have figured that out, you must find that story too. From there, you begin to get a clearer, yet still imperfect, picture.” (Gyasi, 226-227)
After Homegoing, I dove back into another YA fae series. Every time I’d search Pinterest for the Folk of the Air characters and art (and spoilers–oops), there was always a splattering of A Court of Thorns & Roses art and memes. It intrigued me enough to finally jump in.
With her series, A Court of Thorns & Roses, Sarah J. Maas has woven a world of history, magic, manipulation, friendship, heartache, and love into a enthralling story. What starts off slow with a Beauty and the Beast retelling in A Court of Thorns & Roses transforms into a story all its own. A Court of Mist & Fury is what got me hooked with beautiful and gut wrenching twists and turns. This is the book where readers fall in love with Rhysand and Feyre finds her feet. A Court of Wings and Ruins is the book I shed actual tears reading. FYI – It’s labeled YA, but it is quite steamy in parts.
I ended March with gardening and an audiobook, The Book of Waking Up by Seth Haines. I haven’t read a Christian living book in a long while, but after seeing a couple writers I admire suggest Waking Up I finally dove in. Haines’ narration is wonderful (it’s always endearing to hear an author read their own book), but I’m going to have to purchase my own copy. This book is beautiful and rich. It’s part Haines own story, but also mine too on how we all have our addictions and coping mechanisms. But goes beyond that following the idea that we may quit one thing, but fill it with another coping mechanism, another addiction to cover our pain and discomfort. Haines writes beautifully on how when we wake up from our addiction we should wake up to Something.
The last three chapters had me on the edge of tears the whole time. It’s…I’m not quite sure how to say…like someone holding your hand and speaking gently to you reminding you of the Love that first woke you and helping you pull off the bandaid addictions and coping mechanisms keep you from living awake.
With my kids, we finished two books:
- Snow & Rose by Emily Winfield Martin – A middle grade retelling of “Snow White and Rose Red” highlighting familial love instead of romance. The illustrations are beautiful (Martin has written and illustrated a number of picture books), the forest world building was lovely and imaginative, but the actual story and characters were a little lackluster.
- Freedom Train: The Story of Harriet Tubman, by Dorothy Sterling – This is a great introduction to Harriet Tubman and the amazing woman she was. It does not shy away from the hardships of the Underground Railroad or horrors of slavery, but it does it in a way I think is accessible to children (it may make some uncomfortable) without whitewashing the truth.
I hope you’re doing well, even amid quarantines and social distancing!