Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen
I imagine I was one of the last people to read this book and so going into it, I had very high expectations. It was a compelling story full of high adventure and fascinating circus stories. While it was a page-turner and it mostly met my high expectations, I finished the story feeling disappointed with the development of the star-crossed relationship and also the relationship between the main character and the elephant. I waited to watch the movie until I finished the book, and this is one of the rare cases where the movie actually improves upon the story. I guess I'm a sucker for a romance, and I thought they did it better in the movie.
Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren
Awhile ago, I watched Pippi Longstocking (the movie) with my daughter and realized neither of us had ever read the book. It's interesting how incredibly naughty Pippi comes across in the book. I worried that she wasn't a very likable character and was definitely paying attention to how my daughter (the Incredible Rule Follower) was going to react. She didn't seem too put off by Pippi and it was a fun story to read. We were lucky to score some discount tickets to the MN Children's Theatre production of Pippi Longstocking, and I love that we got to follow up our reading experience with this incredible play. It absolutely trumped both the movie and the book. It was incredible!
7: an experimental mutiny against excess by Jen Hatmaker
A friend of mine suggested this book for a sort of book club (which is now excitedly going to become an actual book club ... making it my 3rd book club. It's a lot of books to read, but I'm game). I hadn't previously heard of the memoir, but it seemed right up my alley as far as things I like to read and ways I find myself the most challenged.
Because I think so highly of myself, I didn't think I'd be so much challenged by this book, but rather that I would find a lot of things to relate to. While I did relate to quite a bit (believe me, when you move as much as I have, much of your life becomes a mutiny against excess), I was challenged, convicted, and presented a lot to wrestle with. Jen Hatmaker goes through a 7-month fast, of sorts, where she spends each month cutting back on 7 different areas of her life: food, clothes, spending, media, possessions, waste, and stress. It's a refreshing read if you, like me, grew up in a "bless me" church culture. I didn't think it was harsh or judgmental; just really thought-provoking. I also enjoyed the laid back, journal-writing quality of the book. As far as a self-help book goes, it felt more like a conversation than a textbook.
Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary
We picked this audiobook up from the library on a whim before our latest road trip. I didn't know how well Rosemary would do with an audiobook without any books or pictures to follow along with, but our whole family was enthralled with this story. To be honest, I usually have a hard time keeping my mind from wandering while listening to an audiobook, but I was hooked on this one. Stockard Channing did an excellent job reading it and we'll definitely be checking out other Ramona stories for future car rides.
The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins
Another set of stories that I'm basically the last on earth to read. I finally decided to read The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins. While many people have recommended the series (and a few people have discouraged it), it was my neighborhood book club that finally got me turning these pages. I can't rave about them, but I can't discourage them either. They were a quick, easy read and they also kept me thinking and guessing throughout. The writing in the first book turned me a little off as it was noticeably basic. While I knew they were Juvenile Fiction, the writing style never allowed me to forget, and I don't think young people need things dumbed down. Regardless, the cliff hanger endings had me racing for the next story and I'm definitely looking forward to seeing the movies.
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Last, but certainly not least, The Secret Garden is a classic that must be read. I read this aloud to my husband and daughter, but you do not need a child present to read this book. Full of hope, magic, and wonder, this reread for me was a delight. It's a book I read multiple times as a child, but reading it as an adult brought a whole new perspective. I love how Hodgson Burnett loves the new growth of springtime and all of the analogies she is able to make. I especially loved that we read this book as spring was springing in our neck of the woods. It made all the nesting birds and budding "green things" seem magical.