1. Pax by Sara Pennypacker, illustrated by Jon Klassen
First off, woah, talk about heart wrenching. A boy separated from his pet fox Pax during a time of war. Except Peter knows that they are not meant to be separated, and in order to be with Pax, this young boy begins hiking through the woods, trying to retrace his trail back to Pax, and overcoming horrible struggles.
This story is unique in the fact that it's told from the alternating perspectives of Peter AND Pax, with the fox's POV standing out completely, mixing in the feelings that we imagine our pets to have along with the natural instincts of a fox.
This book definitely pulls at the heartstrings for any animal lover, though I challenge anyone to get through this book without grabbing at their chest at least once.
2. Dark Tides by Jennifer Donnely (3rd in the Waterfire Saga)
I read the first two books of this series a year ago and was really intrigued by the world that Donnely created, especially because mermaid stories aren't quite as popular as I might wish for them to be (The Tale of Emily Windsnap was one of my favorite books when I was younger). However, something about this third book was lacking. I don't know if there were too many characters to keep up with, but I just could not be pulled through the entirety of the story.
However, I know that Donnely has a retelling of Beauty and the Beast coming out, and because that is the story of my heart, I'm definitely going to give it a read!
3. Jesus Feminist by Sarah Bessey
My sister from another mister sent me this book for Christmas, and since I am becoming more open toward creative nonfiction, I was not opposed to reading it, especially since I identify with that title. It was very interesting, thought provoking, and she backed up her claim of finding feminism in Christianity with Biblical evidence that I can go back to. She did give a lot of personal anecdotes, which were interesting, but I'd have liked a little more discussion of the actual topic.
Sarah Bessey also has a blog, which apparently discusses most of what she has in her book, if you are interested in reading some of her work.
Overall, I was glad I read this book. It made me question my own beliefs in a meaningful way and gave evidence to how I believe my God actually respects all human life.
4. The Key to Extraordinary by Natalie Lloyd
"True friends turn a bad day into something wonderful faster than a pancake flip."
HOLLA for an awesomely charming middle grade fiction that I devoured. I mean, I love middle grade anyway. But Natalie Lloyd just like stepped up the cuteness/seriousness game with this book. It's based in a fictional town in the mountains of Tennessee (whoop whoop!) and is filled with fantastical magic. The narrator, Emma, is spunky, faithful, loyal, and all around adorable. Though she is a confidently mature kiddo, she is self conscious of the scar from her cleft lip, but I appreciate the nod to diversity of all kinds, the movement that allows every child to see themselves in literature.
This is an absolute must read. I do not care how old you are. Read it with your kid or the kid you babysit if you're embarrassed to read it yourself (which you shouldn't be because middle grade rocks and carries weight no matter how old you are). You might also check out A Snicker of Magic, if you like this book.
5. Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo
"I would come for you. And if I couldn't' walk, I'd crawl to you."
Crooked Kingdom is the second installment of the Six of Crows Duology (so, tear that it's over), and it's placed in the same world as the Grisha Trilogy, with some overlapping character appearances. This is a magical high fantasy novel that reflects our own world, but with a more antiquated sense. Bardugo deals with real world issues, such as politics, racism, bigotry, rape, human trafficking in beautiful, heartbreaking, tasteful ways. Her characters are full, rich, three-dimensional humans that will ensnare any reader. The way she builds backstory makes me want to dive into this book and literally never come out. I'm not kidding.
Yes, it's a vicious world, but I love the people in it. I want to be their friends. Really, I want to be Leigh Bardugo's friend because she is my writing idol. Ask me about the first time I met her some other time. But seriously, read this book.
She is writing a Wonder Woman: Warbringer book, which comes out this August (so pumped), and I just saw that she's releasing a collection of short stories! Woohoo!!
Next up: A Step Toward Falling by Cammie McGovern (real life sister to Lady Cora from Downton Abbey)
What are you reading?