April 2020 Reading Recap

This month has been unusual to say the least! I have barely left the house this whole month due to the stay-at-home order meant to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus. (Now, that's a sentence I never thought I would write!) If you would have told me I'd have an entire month at home with so much time on my hands, I would have expected to read many, many books. That was not exactly the case.

As it is, I am proud and grateful for the many books I have read this month. Even though I have lots of time, my attention span and ability to focus on reading has been more of a struggle. I've also found myself unwilling to read books that are too challenging or dramatic, favoring instead ones with gentler plot lines or more magic and fantasy. Reality is odd right now, so adding more reality on top was more of a challenge than I found myself typically wanting.

{FYI: this post does contain affiliate links to bookshop.org, which I may get compensation for if you buy books from that link. Other links are only for your information, and the books I was not able to find on bookshop.org I did go ahead and link to Amazon, which I don't get compensated for at this time.}

I am working my way through several reading challenges in 2020. The first one is the Modern Mrs. Darcy 2020 Reading Challenge. I read two books this month that fit in those categories. One was for "a local author," and ended up being The Mostly Invisible Boy by AJ Vanderhorst. The Other was My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry by Fredrik Backman was translated from Swedish to English so it satisfies the "book in translation" option.

The Mostly Invisible Boy sneaked its way onto my reading list after I connected with AJ in a Facebook group called the Rabbit Room Chinwag. This group is connected with Andrew Peterson, a Christian music artist and author, which is especially delicious given that fact that I also read Peterson's Adorning The Dark book this month. (More on that in a little bit!) In any case, AJ reached out to that group looking for readers to read and review an advanced copy of his middle grade fantasy novel. That genuinely sounded like a book right up my alley, so I let him know I'd be interested. We have mutual friends, too! I was in a drama group with some of his younger siblings during high school.  Only a few chapters in, I was hooked. I am so glad I got the chance to read this book. Here is an excerpt from the review that I wrote after finishing it:

The Mostly Invisible Boy is one of the best I’ve read recently. I understand there is to be a sequel and I’m already excited about the next book.  Casey Grimes’ story is a middle grade adventure/fantasy novel. The main character is dealing with questions of identity and the struggles of being a new kid, like many kids might. But there is an added twist—he can’t be seen by his classmates. No one knows why. Then he ends up on an adventure he couldn’t have imagined, full of monsters, danger, friendship, and magic. The world building was solid, I could imagine the places and happenings with ease. I loved the characters. They were genuine and interesting and likable. I loved the sibling dynamic between Casey and his sister and the friendships with his new friends.  I really hesitate to say anything is “like Harry Potter,” but if you love the hero’s journey and the school of magic elements from HP, I bet you’ll like Casey Grimes too! I highly recommend it. I bought the Kindle book to send to my sister (she’s away at grad school)  before I even finished my copy because I knew she’d love it too. She started it today and already likes it a few chapters in. About Mrs. Jones, she said, “I wish I had a babysitter like that!” 

Carmichael's Bookstore --what a wonderful place! 
 I chose to listen to My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry thanks to the recommendation of Rachel Eldredge, a fellow Anne Bogel fan whom I met while on my trip to Louisville, KY. We wandered around Carmichael's Bookstore, compared notes and swapped recommendations on many books. I told her I had read A Man Called Ove last year and enjoyed it, but I was afraid to read Backman's other works because so many of them sounded devastating or contained traumatic events.
Rachel and I with our books from Charmichaels. I'm still reading The Underground Railroad, so it'll be in my May recap! I recommended Nothing To See Here to Rachel. 

Rachel recommended the one I ended up reading, telling me it was much lighter and didn't contain some of the triggering elements some of his other works do. I am so glad I read it. The story centers around one building and people who occupy it. There is a little girl who is "different" and her insane but charming grandmother. The grandmother and granddaughter have a world of pretend they've developed together...but it has more to do with reality than anyone expected. It's a story of grief, joy, and the ties that bind us all together.

The audiobooks I read in April 2020. So grateful for online library resources that let me keep up my audiobook habit! 

Anne Bogel also did an incredible Stay At Home Book Tour recently, and two of my audiobooks were from authors who were guests at that event. You can watch the replays from all of the guests here.

The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner is historical fiction focusing on the German and Japanese families who were detained in Crystal City, TX during the end of WWII. I knew nothing about this part of history, so for that reason alone I was highly motivated to read this book. I also had just read A Fall of Marigolds by the same author in March and had thoroughly enjoyed it. The story was told in two timelines, and I enjoyed both narrative perspectives. It was touching and humorous, but at the same time didn't shy away from the unfair and devastating effects of the war on so many families. If you enjoy historical fiction I would highly recommend this book. 

Melanie Shankle was also on the Stay At Home Book Tour with her book On the Bright Side: Stories about Friendship, Love, and Being True to Yourself. She does the audiobook narration herself, and it is marvelous.  Her anecdotes are hilarious, her faith is strong, and her advice is sound. I didn't know I needed this book in my life, but it spoke to me right where I am at. Especially her stories about how God meets us in the midst of our uncertainty and mess but that He has a plan...I needed to hear that this month. 

My final audiobook was The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel. This one was interesting, although it will not be one of my favorites. The story centered on the fallout following the implosion of a Ponzi scheme, and the many people's lives who were swept up and forever changed by this event. I am always interested in a good Ponzi scheme, so that was fascinating to me.  The story was very different from Mandel's Station Eleven (which is a fascinating book given the period of history I'm currently living! but that's another story). But I found that they both had a similar feel to me, one that is both dark and foreboding, but also alluring and glittering.  I don't feel like I am doing it justice explaining it that way, but alas that is the best I've got!

Adorning the Dark by Andrew Peterson was on my radar after he had a podcast episode with Annie F. Downs on the That Sounds Fun Podcast. You can find that episode here. I saw this book discounted on Kindle several weeks later and it crept into the mountain of unread books I stash there for "just in case." I started reading it while not sleeping (thanks pandemic + anxiety!) since I can read digitally without the lamp on, and it became a great solace to me during sleepless evenings. I love his thoughts on creativity. If you are an artist or you enjoy art, I would highly recommend this book.

Adorning the Dark
by Andrew Peterson
One of my favorite quotes. Hard to choose one because there were many. 

The other reading challenge I am working through this year is The Unread Shelf Project 2020. Whitney started her instagram account @theunreadshelf it to help people who had unread books on their home library shelves shift their mindset and read some of those books. According to her website, "The Unread Shelf Project is a community of readers who want to live their best reading life, by tackling their unread shelves, one book at a time."
I'm not complaining that part of my morning routine some days has been tea, scones and reading. I love the light that pours in from my kitchen window, and baking-therapy has been a thing.

The April prompt for The Unread Shelf Project was to read the most recent book you've acquired. For me that was The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, which I had purchased at a thrift store the first week of March. It had come highly recommended to me from several friends, so I was looking forward to reading it. I am very glad I did. The writing was lovely, the storyline original, the characters well-developed, and the atmosphere was magical. As I mentioned earlier, my attention span was struggling this month, so the fact that this book pulled me into a world of Morgenstern's creation that felt so vivid but so far away from my present was fantastic. It kept my attention, which was a feat of epic proportions.

All these books are either owned or live with me for the foreseeable future (looking at you, lonely library book!) 

My local library is currently closed, so I have a few lonely "stranded library books" at my house. The one I finished reading this month was Reforesting Faith: What Trees Teach Us about the Nature of God and His Love for Us by Dr. Matthew Sleeth. Interestingly enough, getting this one from the library was also inspired by an episode of the That Sounds Fun Podcast that I very much enjoyed. I loved the premise of the book: that every major biblical event is tied to a tree, which means that trees are important to God and that they should be important to us. I found myself only interested in reading this book a little bit at a time, which is why it took me a month-and-a-half to finish it. However I did learn a lot from this book and definitely appreciate the trees and beautiful nature we have around us. Neighborhood walks have been a big part of our days, and watching Spring blossom and bloom has been delightful. I was very sad when I saw that, due to road maintenance in our neighborhood, many large trees have been unceremoniously chopped down just down the way from us.

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
Speaking of trees, I found The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein in on of our local little free libraries this month. I grew up reading Silverstein's work and I very well may have read this as a kid, but it had been long enough ago that  I didn't remember it. I wanted to read it for myself, which is why I am counting it in my read books for this month. I also picked it up with some little kids in mind. I've been doing Zoom story time with twin 4-year-olds that I know, and they enjoyed this book as well.

Speaking of children's books, that brings us to Please Close It! by Kathleen M. Jacobs. Kathleen and I have connected on Instagram, and several months ago she sent me a copy of a chapter book called Sophie & The Bookmobile to read and review. Then this month she reached out and asked me if I would like to read and review her children's book. Since I've been reading the kids stories, I thought they would enjoy it and accepted her offer. It was a fun little book, with bicycles, cookies, and a little boy who learned the hard way that it's a good idea to close doors and drawers when you're done.
At Home in Mitford by Jan Karon....at my home. 

I ended up with the first four books of The Mitford Series by Jan Karon when our church decided to get rid of the books they had on some bookshelves. (Calling it a "church library" would make it sound bigger than it was.) My husband grew up reading Mitford, my mom read Mitford, and my dad read it aloud to my sister after I left for college. So I was the only one left out of this. I figured now was a good time to dive in. At Home in Mitford was actually one of the first books I read this month. The gentle storyline with the small town feel and the hilariously developed characters was just what the doctor ordered.
Did I mention that tea, scones and books have been a recurring theme this month? 

Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott wandered onto my shelves last year thanks to another little free library. I had read her book Help, Thanks, Wow with a Bible study several years ago, so was familiar with Lamott thanks to that. This is another book that I nibbled my way through bit by bit, preferring to read it mostly over breakfast when given the chance. Lamott just has such a way of putting things, so simple yet so profound. She speaks from her own experience, which has been rocky at best, but she's come through it all with a faith. It gives me hope.

All in all, I read 12 books in April, clocking in at 3, 325 pages total. That brings my 2020 total to 56 books spanning 16,370 pages.

The breakdown was as follows:
8 Fiction
4 Non-Fiction

5 owned physical books
4 library audiobooks
1 owned Kindle book
1 physical library book

How was your April reading? Has the pandemic changed how you read? Tell me about it in the comments!

With lots of literary love from my library to yours, have a wonderful day.


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Library Laura
Laura is an avid reader who is happiest when surrounded by books, tea, blankets and/or friends. Host of the Library Laura Podcast.


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Laura 's Goodreads bookshelf: read

The Slug Queen Chronicles: Season One
Christmas Night 1776
A Perilous Undertaking
The Mostly Invisible Boy
Please Close It!
On the Bright Side: Stories about Friendship, Love, and Being True to Yourself
The Giving Tree
At Home in Mitford
The Last Year of the War
The Goblin Emperor
My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry
Goodnight, Anne
Such a Fun Age
Every Heart a Doorway
The Underground Railroad
The Hate U Give
The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse
A Kind of Paradise

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