A while ago, I did polls on both my instagram and facebook asking if you would like to see book reviews on the blog. The answer was unanimously yes! Unfortunately, I hadn’t been reading a whole lot at the time. Packing up a house and moving does that to a person.
I also found that I was trying to read only nonfiction, “practical” books that would benefit me, homeschooling, my walk with Jesus, etc. While those books are important and still part of my reading, reading those exclusively caused me to not like reading as much. After we moved, I started reading fiction again and remembered why I love reading so much. Since then, I have rekindled my bookworm ways and been voraciously devouring books! I thought I would take time to share some of the books I’ve been reading lately.
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I recently discovered Agatha Christie. I honestly can’t believe I’ve gone this far in my life without reading any of her novels (especially since my older sister absolutely loves her). I’ve yet to delve into any of her Miss Marple mysteries, but I’ve loved the Poirot mysteries I’ve read so far. I remember watching the PBS Poirot movies with David Suchet and loving them.
Here are my favorites –
A lavish trip through Europe quickly unfolds into a race against time to solve a murder aboard a train. When an avalanche stops the Orient Express dead in its tracks, the world’s greatest detective — Hercule Poirot — arrives to interrogate all passengers and search for clues before the killer can strike again.
This was the first Agatha Christie book I picked up. I had heard the title, but didn’t know anything about the plot. Murder on the Orient Express certainly didn’t disappoint! It was exciting and kept you guessing until the end who the murderer was. Go into this book spoiler free for maximum enjoyment. (Disclaimer: The book cover on Amazon portrays the new movie based on the book, but I haven’t seen the movie, so I can’t vouch for how good it is)
Roger Ackroyd knew too much. He knew that the woman he loved had poisoned her brutal first husband. He suspected also that someone had been blackmailing her. Then, tragically, came the news that she had taken her own life with an apparent drug overdose. However the evening post brought Roger one last fatal scrap of information, but before he could finish reading the letter, he was stabbed to death. Luckily one of Roger’s friends and the newest resident to retire to this normally quiet village takes over—none other than Monsieur Hercule Poirot.
This book. Oh, my goodness. Let’s just say I never could’ve guessed the ending. If you did, you either read something that hinted at it or you’re lying. Resist temptation to read spoilers, because it’s amazing.
“Ten . . .”
Ten strangers are lured to an isolated island mansion off the Devon coast by a mysterious “U. N. Owen.”
“Nine . . .”
At dinner a recorded message accuses each of them in turn of having a guilty secret, and by the end of the night one of the guests is dead.
“Eight . . .”
Stranded by a violent storm, and haunted by a nursery rhyme counting down one by one . . . as one by one . . . they begin to die.
“Seven . . .”
Which among them is the killer and will any of them survive?
When you read this book, it’s so tempting to think that this kind of plot has been done so many times. Strangers stranded on an island being killed off one by one, becoming more and more desperate with each murder to reveal the culprit. Agatha Christie herself referred to this book as her crowning achievement, because it was so difficult to write. This was one of the first novels to try a plot like this. I was fascinated throughout the entire book. I figured out some of the twists and thought I had the killer figured out, but as the chapters went on, I second guessed myself quite a few times. If you’ve read some of Agatha Christie’s novels, but weren’t a fan of the detective solving the case, you will enjoy this one. If you’ve read some of Agatha Christie’s novels and enjoyed her detectives, you will enjoy this one. Basically, if you like mysteries at all, I can’t foresee any reason why you wouldn’t enjoy this.
Jude the Obscure (Thomas Hardy)
Jude Fawley’s hopes of a university education are lost when he is trapped into marrying the earthy Arabella, who later abandons him. Moving to the town of Christminster where he finds work as a stonemason, Jude meets and falls in love with his cousin Sue Bridehead, a sensitive, freethinking “New Woman.” Refusing to marry merely for the sake of religious convention, Jude and Sue decide instead to live together, but they are shunned by society and poverty soon threatens to ruin them.
I had read Thomas Hardy’s book Far From the Madding Crowd and absolutely loved it. It is one of my favorite novels of all time. I figured I couldn’t go wrong in reading another Thomas Hardy book.
This book was shocking for its time with the bleak depictions it gave of marriage, sex and religion. It was fascinating to me that the things that were so taboo 100 years ago are now completely normal. That being said, I also found this book highly depressing. Being happily married, I was not a huge fan of the picture Hardy painted of marriage. However, I was very drawn to the characters and found myself sympathizing with Jude quite a bit. Hardy does a tremendous job of writing characters and locations, making you feel like you are really there.
That being said, it’s highly unlikely I will reread this book. While I was not expecting a happy ending (that’s not giving anything away – the bleakness of this book makes it clear there won’t be one), there was a twist towards the end of the book that made me slam the book shut. I would’ve thrown the book across the room if it weren’t a library book (and if my husband wasn’t sleeping beside me). The only reason I finished it was because the scene in question was close to the end. Though I love Hardy’s writing style, I’m not sure I’d recommend this book … unless you want to be depressed. Far From the Madding Crowd is a much novel, in my personal opinion.
Tender is the Night
Set on the French Riviera in the late 1920s, Tender Is the Night is the tragic romance of the young actress Rosemary Hoyt and the stylish American couple Dick and Nicole Diver. A brilliant young psychiatrist at the time of his marriage, Dick is both husband and doctor to Nicole, whose wealth goads him into a lifestyle not his own, and whose growing strength highlights Dick’s harrowing demise.
Do you remember how I said I chose Jude the Obscure based on my love for Far From the Madding Crowd? Similarly, I chose Tender is the Night based on my love for The Great Gatsby. And once again, it was a poor choice.
While Hardy wrote a bleak tale, filled with criticism of the institution of marriage, he still managed to make me care about the characters and want to continue reading. F Scott Fitzgerald failed to do that with me. To be completely honest, from the beginning, I disliked Rosemary for her selfish, petty, obsessive nature. Dick disgusted me just as much. Before the end, I was pretty fed up with Nicole as well. When you dislike every single character in the book, it makes it very difficult to enjoy it. I felt absolutely no sympathy for the characters and felt they deserved every ounce of misery they received.
The themes of adultery, infidelity, alcoholism and descent into darkness were too dreary for me. The Great Gatsby is a favorite of mine. As I am familiar with that book, I wasn’t naive enough to believe that Tender is the Night would have a happy ending. Gatsby also had themes of infidelity, but I felt like they weren’t as blatant as this book. This is probably one of the least favorite books I’ve ever read. I can’t deny that this book was well written, but as I read to escape and not just to measure academic/literary merits, this wasn’t enjoyable to me. After all, who wants to “escape” into a world filled with misery and no redemption?
Upon further investigation, it turns out this book was very much autobiographical. F Scott Fitzgerald’s wife, Zelda, also suffered from schizophrenia and he too spiraled into alcoholism that destroyed his life. That explained much of this book’s dark tone, but it didn’t make it any more enjoyable to read. In fact, it just depressed me further.
The Read-Aloud Family (Sarah Mackenzie)
Connecting deeply with our kids can be difficult in our busy, technology-driven lives. Reading aloud offers us a chance to be fully present with our children. It also increases our kids’ academic success, inspires compassion, and fortifies them with the inner strength they need to face life’s challenges. As Sarah Mackenzie has found with her own six children, reading aloud long after kids are able to read to themselves can deepen relationships in a powerful way.
Founder of the immensely popular Read-Aloud Revival podcast, Sarah knows first-hand how reading can change a child’s life. In The Read-Aloud Family, she offers the inspiration and age-appropriate book lists you need to start a read-aloud movement in your own home. From a toddler’s wonder to a teenager’s resistance, Sarah details practical strategies to make reading aloud a meaningful family ritual. Reading aloud not only has the power to change a family—it has the power to change the world.
I noticed a phenomena that happened every time we would have a bad day. Whether it was Claire or me (or both), when there was crankiness, restlessness and just overall bad attitude, there was always one surefire fix. Reading aloud together. We would both be distracted by whatever was weighing us down and be transported to somewhere else, leaving our grumpiness far behind.
I had noticed that read alouds made a huge difference in our day to day lives, but I didn’t really know why. I just assumed it was because I had a bookworm kiddo. While I’m sure that factors in, there was a lot more to it than that. Sarah Mackenzie does an amazing job delved into the importance and significance of reading aloud to your children, whether they are infants, toddlers, preschoolers, elementary aged, or even in junior high or high school!
This is probably one of the best books I’ve ever read. It’s helped me be more intentional about the time I spend with Claire. It’s also helped me realize that the days when life is crazy and we only read aloud are NOT days wasted.
Revival Praying (Leonard Ravenhill)
Leonard Ravenhill presents prayer as faith in action in this fast-paced presentation of this crucial subject. He called prayer the most essential ingredient in producing revival. Filled with exhortations and illustrations, it teaches the art of effective praying–which will result in revival.
If you want an easy read, don’t read this book. If you want a feel good book, full of fluffy Christianity, don’t read this book. However, if you want to be challenged and grow in your faith, this book is a must read. Ravenhill isn’t one to sugarcoat the state of the church or Christianity. Though this book was written decades ago, it is still an accurate depiction of why the church isn’t seeing revival or souls being saved. This book convicted me, stretched me and made me think. It’s not a book that you will fly through, as each chapter gives you so much to chew and meditate on. But I feel like the best books are not the easiest to read. The best books are the ones that make you reassess your life and help you grow. This is one of those books.
Well, that’s it for this edition of book reviews! My hope is that I will write one of these every month or so, but I make no promises. What are some of your favorite books you’ve read lately? Have you read any of the books I’ve reviewed here? Let me know in the comments section below!