Read: June 2018

TheDry

The Dry by Jane Harper

Included in the 2017 Modern Mrs. Darcy Summer Reading Guide under Twisty Novels, I finally got around to reading this a year later, and am now ready to read Harper’s newest novel, Force of Nature, with the same protagonist, which is featured in her 2018 Summer Reading Guide.

Set in Australia in the midst of a severe drought, Aaron Falk has traveled from his federal police job in Melbourne to his rural hometown after his childhood friend Luke is suspected of committing a family murder/suicide. Now that Falk has returned as a mourner, Luke’s parents think his training might lend assistance into these murders to find out if Luke really was responsible and for Aaron to get to the bottom of unresolved secrets shared by he and Luke from their teenage years.

Read via: public library

Ghost

Ghost by Jason Reynolds

I’m just now diving into some of Reynolds’ ground-breaking middle-grade novels, with Ghost included in The Great American Read list from PBS, and having read Long Way Down in February after winning several ALA Youth Media awards.

In Ghost we meet Castle Cranshaw, a.k.a. Ghost, who knows he’s a fast runner even though he’s never been on a track team before. Opportunity, coincidence, and a supportive, Olympic-winning mentor enter at the perfect time for Ghost, but he must first learn some hard lessons about reconciling his past as he deals with anger and self control.

Read via: public library Overdrive

BlackHeelsTractorWheels

The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels by Ree Drummond

While this was a re-read for me (2011), I bought a copy during our visit to The Pioneer Woman Mercantile in Pawhuska, and thought The Optometrist might enjoy this as our next read-aloud together. Not only was it a read-aloud, it was a laugh-aloud as we journeyed through her hilarious and self-deprecating perspective of how she and her husband the “Marlboro Man” met and fell in love.

If you are a fan of The Pioneer Woman and haven’t ever read this autobiographic story, you will love it, I’m sure!

Read via: home library

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A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War: How J.R.R. Tolkien And C.S. Lewis Rediscovered Faith, Friendship, And Heroism In The Cataclysm Of 1914-1918 by Joseph Laconte

After finishing the Lord of the Rings series in May and a re-read of Narnia in April, the time was right to listen to this historical account of World War I, its impact on the culture of faith in post-war Europe, and its indelible influences on the writings and friendship of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis.

Read via: Hoopla audio

WhatAliceForgot_US

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

Many readers have shared how of all Liane (pronounced Lee-on) Moriarty’s works of women’s fiction, this is their favorite. And while this was my first time to read any of her books, I’m glad I began with Alice. This novel surrounds 39 year old Alice Love, Australian wife and mother who, after a bump on the noggin while exercising at the gym, believes she’s 29 and pregnant for the first time, not remembering a thing about all that’s transpired over the past 10 years of her life.

Filled with humor and heart, Alice’s journey to remember again is a call to live in the moment and focus on what truly matters – love, family, forgiveness, inevitable growth and change, and kindness to others and yourself.

Read via: home library (purchased at Magic City Books)

the-great-alone

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

Also featured in the Modern Mrs. Darcy 2018 Summer Reading Guide, this is one I would call an uncomfortable, yet compelling read. Uncomfortable in that it deals with abuse, but compelling due to the complex and broken characters, along with a heavy sense of Alaskan atmosphere. Hannah’s descriptions of the oppressive winter darkness and buoyant summer days are bookends for very memorable characters in a lingering story of generational and romantic love.

Read via: public library

Anne-Avonlea

Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery

Last October I read Anne of Green Gables for the first time (technically, listened to, and wonderfully preformed by actor Rachel McAdams) and I longed to continue Anne’s story. This sequel was narrated by Tara Ward, who helped bring the maturing Anne, softening Marilla, loyal Diana, whimsical Miss Lavender, ornery Davey (and more) vividly to my imagination and deeper into my heart. On to Anne of the Island!

Read via: Hoopla audio

BreadWine

Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist

Of all the Christian authors actively writing right now, Shauna Niequist is one of my absolute favorites. And summer is the perfect time for me to slow down and savor her writings, and in this case, her recipes, too. All of the essays in Bread and Wine center around how food connects us to one another, and many of the stories have an accompanying recipe included. Reading this will make you want to bake/cook/serve your people in a meaningful way, where you can leave perfection at the door.

Read via: home library

Dumplin

Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

Life isn’t easy for 16 year old Willowdean Dixon, who lives in a small Texas town with her former beauty queen momma, especially since Will’s body type isn’t typically seen as beauty pageant-worthy. And yet, Willowdean finds herself choosing between two boys who like her and who just might even be brave enough to enter the historic Teen Miss Blue Bonnet Pageant.

This coming of age story is filled with loads of Dolly Parton references and meaningful statements about body image and overall self-confidence.

Read via: Overdrive audio

VincentTheo

Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers by Deborah Heiligman

When I received an ARC of this young adult book, I expected it to be a historical fiction novel surrounding the relationship between brothers Vincent and Theo Van Gogh. However, this was a well-researched and aggregated look at their upbringing, artistic endeavors, and later relationship, based on letters written to each other and to their family members, during their adult years in the 1870s and 1880s.

I learned so many new facts about both brothers, including how they were Dutch, their father was a minister, and Vincent also studied to be a minister for a while. Theo was an accomplished art dealer in Paris, including representing Claude Monet, and died at the age of 34. Vincent likely suffered from manic depression, was a diligent student of improving his craft, and sadly died at the young age of 37.

For fans of Van Gogh, this book explores his life beyond the canvas and would be a great introduction to art history for younger readers or to dive deeper into a historical aspect of a well-known painter for more experienced art lovers.

(Side note: I’m fortunate to have seen one of his Sunflowers paintings at the National Gallery in London in 2005 and a Self Portrait at the Art Institute of Chicago in 2008.)

My thanks to Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group and NetGalley for access to this digital ARC.


As I look ahead to July, I already have a big list of books I endeavor to tackle: Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi (read along with Jimmy Fallon!), My Life in France by Julia Child, Summer at Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan, and more!

What titles await your summer reading? Feel free to comment below!

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Learn: Spring 2018

Linking up with Emily P. Freeman and others, sharing the silly and sublime of what I’ve learned throughout this spring.

  1. Social media break

    Throughout Lent I made a conscious effort to pay attention to how I spent my free time and this meant abstaining from social media, especially Instagram, and let me tell you, it was freeing. Now that we are beyond both Easter and Pentecost, I find I am happier when I give myself more parameters to only check in periodically throughout the week.

    I follow a few in-real-life (IRL) friends, but a lot more are accounts of fellow readers I don’t know personally, which I hadn’t realized had begun impacting and overwhelming my bookish decision making. Taking a step away allowed me to not only spend more time reading, but tapping back into making more thoughtful decisions about what I read this spring and how I spent my time.

  2. Yeti to the rescue

    Ever since I was diagnosed with a cyst on my vocal chord in college and given a more stringent set of guidelines for vocal health, I’ve been a diligent water drinker. Over the years I’ve gone through my share of Nalgene bottles and a nice Lifefactory one, but after some hesitation about BPA in plastic and the tendency for glass to break, I had my eye on something a bit more easily cleanable and durable .

    Over Spring Break The Optometrist and I took a little road trip to Springfield, MO, to visit the Wonders of Wildlife Museum and Aquarium at Bass Pro Shops (highly recommend!). At Bass Pro he kindly bought me a Yeti water bottle, the 18 oz. “Rambler” in Seafoam. Sturdy, girly, and the ability to keep my water chilled throughout the day makes me realize why this brand has such a loyal following.

  3. Immunity to book allergens

    Over Christmas break my parents, The Optometrist, and I visited one of my favorite used book stores. After a little while they all began getting a tickle in their throats and had to step outside for a breath of fresh air, whereas I was just fine. After 8+ years of working in libraries, I find it ironic that I’m now more allergic to plants outside than books inside.

  4. Billy Graham and Queen Elizabeth were friends

    I’ve slowly been working my way through episodes of The Crown on Netflix. In Season 2, Episode 6, “Vergangenheit,” a plot point is illustrated that the Queen and Billy Graham met together on several occasions in the 1950s (story via Time), which was a complete surprise to me.

  5. Carry the big umbrella

    It’s thankfully been a rainy spring in our corner of Oklahoma and after realizing we own not just one, but three large umbrellas, I decided it was time to grab an unused one and keep it in my trunk for rainy days.

    For years I’ve carried around a small-ish Totes umbrella, which has performed admirably, but anything hanging off my person (usually both a purse and tote bag) is inevitably left a little bit damp on my walk from the parking lot to the Library.

    This is one of those times where “bigger is better” certainly lives up to its moniker.

  6. I can get by with less than I think

    A few weeks ago The Optometrist and I performed with one of our local music groups and our call time was around 5:00, which is about the time we eat dinner. Due to warm ups and stage set-ups before the concert, we only had time to eat the granola bars we had with us, which surprisingly got us both through the entirety of the performance (but I was still glad to eat a bite afterwards).

  7. Duplicates come in handy

    In an ongoing quest to live a simple life, I’ve recently discovered having two of something is not redundant or wasteful, but can be helpful and a time saver. (Example: cleaning supplies in each bathroom). However, this idea was really “driven” home during a recent road trip through Oklahoma and Kansas to Missouri.

    After leaving home I discovered we didn’t have the atlas with us (in the other car) and while I had road maps for OK and MO, states where I’ve lived, we were going to be driving through Kansas with only our GPS. Of course, it was in Kansas when we experienced a complete road closure, as in the road had been ripped up for repairs and was a field of dirt, and a 10 mile back-track to a gas station resulted in, you guessed it, The Optometrist buying me a second atlas to consult during the rest of our trip.

  8. Yes, you should try to stay at the Pioneer Woman Boarding House

    As good fortune would have it, The Optometrist and I were able to book a room at the new Pioneer Woman Boarding House in Pawhuska, OK, the night reservations became available last month. And even though we live an easily drive-able distance away, we hadn’t had the opportunity to visit the Pioneer Woman mecca yet, but as soon as our room at the “BH” was confirmed (the Prairie Room), we knew the time was right for us to visit.

    Even though reservations are booked until March 2019 (yowza!), if you have the chance to go in the coming years, her staff will take very good care of you and it will be a restful, memorable stay.

    Look for a more thorough blog post about all things Pioneer Woman soon!


What noteworthy moments have defined your Spring? Feel free to share in the comments below.

Read: May 2018

The end of the semester, a new-to-me discovery of Hoopla, a free audio book service from my public library, and the release of the Modern Mrs. Darcy Summer Reading Guide, along with the Great American Read from PBS, has made for a jam-packed bookish month!

ToAlltheBoys

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

Janssen from Everyday Reading has raved about this young adult book in several of her blog posts, and with the school year winding down, I was in the mood for something fluffy. It was filled with unexpected heart, and there were some unexpected twists within the premise of “teenage girl writes secret letters to boys she’s loved, who then receive her letters, unbeknownst to her until it’s too late.”

Read via: public library Overdrive

LittleBeachStreetBakery

Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan

I enjoy a heartwarming starting over again/reinventing oneself story, and when it involves baked goods, count me in! When Polly encounters a few more downs than ups, a dilapidated flat over an old bakery is all she can afford when she moves to Mount Polbearne, a quaint English seaside village. Filled with atmospheric warmth, characters who care about one another, heartbreak and romance, yummy descriptions of food (freshly baked bread, honey, and fish) and a protagonist who comes into her own, this was a delightful book to begin my summer.

Read via: academic library InterLibrary Loan

ThisOneSummer

This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki

Every summer Rose and Windy rekindle their friendship when their families return to their Canadian seaside cabins. Even though they are pre-teens, they have a curiosity for experiences beyond their young years: scary, rated R movies and the local teenage drama and gossip. This graphic novel falls squarely in the young adult/crossover adult category, as it deals with complicated issues of pregnancy/infertility and contains adult language, but does so in a thoughtful way.

Read via: academic library youth collection

Nobody'sCuterThanYou

Nobody’s Cuter Than You by Melanie Shankle

Over the past few years I’ve really enjoyed reading the humorous and encouraging words of Melanie Shankle, both The Antelope in the Living Room and Church of the Small Things. When I saw my public library had the audio book for Nobody’s Cuter Than You narrated by her, the reading experience became all the more enjoyable, but made me long to spend quality time with my sweet girlfriends who live miles and states away.

Read via: public library Hoopla audio

PSIStillLoveYou

P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han

Picking up immediately where To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before left off, Lara Jean and Peter are now officially dating and there’s a lot they have to work through in their relationship – namely past relationships and feelings for others, plus learning how to trust they will stay true to one another in the present.

Read via: public library

SimplyTuesday

Simply Tuesday by Emily P. Freeman

I’ve owned an e-copy of Simply Tuesday for a very long time and have picked up my Kindle to read a few pages here and there over the past few years. But after finishing Nobody’s Cuter Than You and began exploring other books on Hoopla by Christian authors I love, this was my motivation to finish this languishing book.

Her honest writing about embracing small, the goal being Jesus, movement toward God, and choosing to be led by love vs. pushed by fear, were words to which my soul said a grateful amen.

After regularly listening to Emily’s podcast, The Next Right Thingthe only thing better would have been for her to have narrated this call to simplicity.

Read via: public library Hoopla audio (& home library)

book-alwaysforever

Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han

Wrapping up this trilogy by Jenny Han, I was left feeling a little blah by the series. Lara Jean is a strong and unique character and I really enjoyed her relationships with her Song sisters, dad, and her affinity to bake to relieve stress. However, I thought she sacrificed essential parts of herself to be with love interest Peter. (But maybe that’s what you learn from high school romances?)

Read via: public library Overdrive e-book

Reading-People

Reading People: How Seeing the World Through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything by Anne Bogel

Confession: when Anne Bogel was promoting her book last Fall I was a little hesitant about it because I thought it was about people who read (the personalities of different readers) versus what it’s actually about, how to read (understand) people. Well, duh.

Narrated by Anne, a.k.a. Modern Mrs. Darcy, she takes you on a tour of various, existing personality indicators such as the 5 Love Languages, Myers-Briggs, StrengthsQuest, and Ennegram (I still want to take this assessment) and how you can better understand your strengths and weaknesses, along with the traits and personalities of those with whom you live, love, and work. While these were brief overviews, her research was obvious when synthesizing detailed concepts, making them easy to understand and apply.

Read via: public library Hoopla audio

MyKitchenYear

My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes that Saved My Life by Ruth Reichl

When I look back on this Spring (March and April) in years to come, I will fondly remember the writings and recipes of Ruth Reichl and what a comfort they have been to me at just the perfect time.

After Gourmet magazine folded in 2009, this is a candid journey of Reichl’s sadness and grief seen through each of the four seasons that year and how cooking kept her grounded and thankful in the present moment.

What a wonderful journey it’s been to read vivid accounts from her life and be inspired to try new recipes. Thank you, Ruth Reichl!

Read via: academic library InterLibrary Loan

Ragamuffin

The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning

I’ve owned my print copy of Ragamuffin for 15+ years, but never progressed past Chapter 3. Then after listening to Simply Tuesday, my pursuit to listen to books I’ve never finished reading in print continued with Ragamuffin, a perfect fit.

On the heels of Reading People, where I began to pay more attention to my personality traits, Ragamuffin reminded me to ultimately view myself as a child of grace, forgiven, and deeply loved by Abba.

This is a must read for anyone looking to expand their view of acceptance and the great love given through Jesus Christ.

Read via: public library Hoopla audio (& home library)

Hamilton-Revolution

Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter  

When I discovered this was the winner of the 2017 Audie Awards, I couldn’t resist this being my next audio book. Narrated by actress Mariska Hargitay with footnotes by Lin-Manuel Miranda, you are taken behind the scenes to understand the influences, decisions, and planning that created the revolutionary (all puns intended) journey of the Broadway smash hit, Hamilton.

I’m not the world’s biggest Hamilton fan, but have really enjoyed the cast recording (I’ll always have fond memories of it accompanying us on our road trip to Santa Fe) and think Lin-Manuel Miranda is just so, so smart. This book only solidified my impressions of him and makes me anxious to see the musical in person someday!

Read via: public library Overdrive audio

the-little-prince

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

I have heard about this French children’s classic for a long time, but seeing it listed as one of the contenders for The Great American Read inspired me to take it home over the Memorial Day weekend.

Quite honestly, it wasn’t my favorite – the various veiled allegories were difficult to determine an overall theme of the book, woven throughout. Mini-themes that did stand out to me addressed friendship, kindness for those smaller than yourself, embracing the unexpected, and a longing for home, and perhaps another reading would allow me to pick up on more and/or deeper themes. (If you’ve read it and it’s a favorite, please share why in the comments below!)

Read via: academic library

LOTR

The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien

While The Lord of the Rings series has taken me almost a year to read, spanning last June and this March through now, I’m pleased to have been stretched outside my reading comfort zone and can proudly say it’s been worth it. The experience of reading aloud to The Optometrist has certainly helped me stay on course to not only persevere but connect all the characters and story lines along the way.

I now understand why this series and these characters are so beloved by countless readers for generations: good triumphing over evil, bravery (one step at a time), the hero’s journey supported by selfless friendship, everyone having an important role to play, and hope – always hope.

Read via: home library


What are you excited about reading this summer? And do you have any good audio book recommendations? Please share!

These are the days of…

  • Turning another year older
  • Embracing a slower summer schedule
  • Oklahoma verdant and jungle-like
  • Morning walks around the neighborhood
  • Yellow rose bushes planted a year ago in our front yard, now filled with healthy, fragrant blooms
  • White-headed, sprouted clover in open fields
  • The heady fragrance of honeysuckle in the wild thicket of woods behind our neighbors’ house
  • A new cedar wind-turner, finished by The Optometrist
  • Placing a red & white checkered tablecloth over our puzzle table to convert it to a bistro table that overlooks the wind-turner and bird feeders in our back yard
  • A deep dive into the book of Esther in our Sunday School class and the conversations it inspires
  • The Blacklist on Netflix
  • Digital audio books borrowed from the public library
  • Anticipated vacation to travel to new places to rest, eat good food, and see beloved friends
  • Daily journaling
  • One new poem every day
  • One new recipe every week
  • The sweet, cool scent of ripened nectarines; my favorite summer fruit and the encapsulation of how this season smells to me

“These are the days of…” is inspired from Simply Tuesday by Emily P. Freeman

Read: April 2018

GarlicSapphires

Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise by Ruth Reichl

My fascination with Ruth Reichl continued from March and this memoir was a slight deviation from her other two, focusing entirely on her years as the restaurant critic for the New York Times. Included are her actual reviews, after sharing the back stories behind her positive and negative dining experiences (and a few personal recipes, of course).

And to see glimpses of the beautiful home where she and her husband now live, and how she navigates around her personally designed home kitchen, you will enjoy this 2015 video from the New York Times.

Read via: academic library

Countingby7s

Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

Willow Chance is a highly gifted 12 year old girl, whose favorite number is 7 and whose cerebral ruminations are reminiscent of Sherlock Holmes. After a family tragedy turns her world upside down, she learns to cope thanks, in part, to some unlikely individuals (strangers, really) whom she also ends up inspiring. The overall theme of this middle-grade story is a child’s grief over the loss of her parents, which is often underrepresented in children’s literature.

Purchased during a past Scholastic Book Fair in our academic library, Allison’s recent mention of this middle-grade novel reminded and encouraged me to finally pick it up. I’m glad I did!

Read via: home library

Feynman

Feynman written by Jim Ottaviani, art by Leland Myrick, coloring by Hilary Sycamore

This graphic novel about American Nobel-Prize winning physicist  Dr. Richard Feynman (quantum electrodynamics, the Manhattan Project, and investigating the Challenger explosion) was the perfect format to not feel intimidated by such advanced and scientific breakthroughs. It inspires me to keep learning more about scientific and mathematical concepts I’ve never formally studied before.

Read via: academic library

Dolly

Dream More: Celebrate the Dreamer in You by Dolly Parton (audio)

When you grow up on the Ozarks, country music is rather a way of life. And nothing says country music more than Dolly Parton. While I’ve known the highlights of her career, eaten at Stampede in Branson, and visited Dollywood in East Tennessee, when I heard about her Imagination Library during library school, this was her achievement that impressed me the most.

Elaborated upon from her 2012 commencement speech given at University of Tennessee, this isn’t a memoir, simply an opportunity for her to share some brief personal anecdotes about what has inspired her to dream big and give back to others.

Dolly’s unmistakable speaking and singing voice give heart and passion to her thoughts in the audio version, which is an easy listen at around 2 hours.

Read via: academic library InterLibrary Loan audio CDs

NotIfISaveYouFirst

Not if I Save You First by Ally Carter

Logan and Maddie are no ordinary 10 year old best friends since Logan’s dad is President of the United States and Maddie’s dad is head of the President’s Secret Service detail. During a state dinner, Logan and Maddie help deter a Russian attack on the President’s family, but the strain takes its toll and Maddie and her father move as far away from Washington, D.C., as possible; off the grid in a remote part of Alaska.

Fast forward six years and Maddie’s numerous letters to Logan have never been reciprocated, but when teenage Logan shows up on the doorstep of their cabin after getting himself into a bit of trouble, Maddie quickly realizes trouble isn’t as far away as any of them would like to believe.

For those unfamiliar with Ally Carter, her books contain smart and tough female protagonists, with a suspenseful but clean story line. She’s one of my favorite young adult authors (and is from Oklahoma)!

Read via: home library

beautiful mystery.jpg

The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny

The 8th Chief Inspector Gamache novel is filled with beautiful descriptions of sacred music and Gregorian chant despite the fact that Gamache and Inspector Beauvoir have been summoned to a remote Canadian monastery to investigate the murder of one of the monks. Layers of intrigue abound with the monks relationships to one another and also between Gamache and Beauvoir. This one ends with a bit of a cliffhanger, so I’m anxious to find out what happens next in How the Light Gets In!

Read via: public library

NotBecomingMyMother

Not Becoming My Mother: And Other Things She Taught Me Along the Way by Ruth Reichl

My fascination with Ruth Reichl continued during the month with this short homage written in honor of her mother Miriam after her death. By looking through a box of her mother’s notes and correspondences over the years, Reichl comes to better understand her mother’s personal frustrations and ambitions, along with her desires for Ruth’s own life. This was a terrific read, especially with Mother’s Day right around the corner.

Read via: public library

LastBattle

The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis

My 5th grade teacher read our class the entire Narnia series during the course of that school year, long ago. Since then I have re-read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe several times, but had never re-read The Last Battle. And while I possess a classic paperback set of the entire Narnia series, I was inspired to listen to this book once more, this time narrated/performed by Patrick Stewart; a real treat.

Read via: public library Overdrive


The end of our collegiate semester culminates with graduation this weekend, which, to me, means summer reading can begin!

Read: March 2018

The57Bus

The 57 Bus by Dashka Slater

My quest to read more from the ALA Youth Media Awards list led me outside my reading comfort zone with The 57 Bus, the true story of a white, transgender teen whose skirt was set on fire by a black, male teen while riding a city bus in Oakland, California, in 2013.

A co-winner of the Stonewall Award and selected as a Finalist in the YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults, the reader gets to know both teens, their families, their hopes and dreams, and while the issue of gender is at the heart of the story, so are the choices we make, consequences, repercussions, kindness toward others, and forgiveness.

Read via: public library

WeAreOkay

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour

Rounding out my current reads from the 2018 ALA Youth Media Awards, this YA novel was this year’s recipient of the Michael L. Printz Award.

College freshman and protagonist Marin has fled her life in California to the unknown East Coast to begin her first year of college after enduring “tragedy…heartbreak…betrayal” and who possesses a profound sense of “broken longing” for answers and love from those who know her best. The story unfolds a little bit at a time with vulnerable moments grounded equally in the present and in the past.

Read via: public library

TenderAtTheBone

Tender at the Bone by Ruth Reichl

After reading two YA books fraught with high emotions, I needed a break, and nothing makes me happier than to read an outstanding food memoir. This was a $3.00 find from my favorite used book store while visiting my parents at Christmas; money very well spent.

In this memoir Reichl weaves recipes into stories and adventures from her early and young adult life in the most inviting way. Whether it’s homemade cheese she ate on a farm in France, a stacked pastrami sandwich discovered at a diner in Montreal while in boarding school, or fixing food for her hippie commune from her garden while living in 1970s Berkeley, you are drawn into each mouth-watering moment, experiencing life along with her (and growing hungrier by the second).

I previously read Delicious!, Reichl’s only fiction novel, in the summer of 2014 and enjoyed it just as much as I did as this, her first memoir.

Read via: home library

LOTR

The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien

Yes, it’s been the better part of 9 months since I read the last installment from The Lord of the Rings, but I’m hanging in there! Since The Optometrist and I are reading these aloud together, I have him to thank for continuing to guide me into all things Tolkien, including character and plot information, and so many world-building details. Now on to Return of the King!

Read via: home library

Jan-Karon-To-Be-Where-You-Are-cover

To Be Where You Are by Jan Karon

Although this has been out since the Fall, it wasn’t until this month the time was right for me to return to Mitford. After a very hectic winter, my schedule and mind have begun to slow down a bit, and I relished reuniting with beloved characters.

In this latest installment of Karon’s longstanding series, Dooley, Lace, and Jack are faced with many real-world challenges in their new family’s personal and professional lives, but make diligent and ongoing choices to love, support, and cling to one another. Father Tim and Cynthia continue to find ways to love and serve the quirky denizens of Mitford, and the supporting cast of characters can always be counted on to bring a smile to my face and a moment for my soul to breathe.

My thanks NetGalley for access to the the digital ARC.  https://www.netgalley.com/

Trick-Light

A Trick of the Light by Louise Penny

7th in the Chief Inspector Gamache series, the Chief and his investigative team from the Sûerté du Québec return to Three Pines when an unknown woman is found dead in the garden of recurring characters Clara and Peter. When the identity of the woman is revealed, the question remains if her death is coincidentally timed with Clara’s debut, solo art show. Meanwhile, the Chief and his investigators continue to deal with grief, honesty, and loss from a previous attack to members of their team; an ongoing struggle.

Read via: public library

Comfort-Apples

Comfort Me With Apples: More Adventures at the Table by Ruth Reichl

What a dual-find it was to discover both Tender at the Bone and Comfort Me with Apples over Christmas at my longtime favorite used book store! However, after enjoying Tender so much, Comfort was more gritty for me to read as it centers around Reichl’s affairs, divorce from her first husband, remarriage, and longing for motherhood. And yet despite her personal woes, her professional accomplishments and influence in the food world continued to grow, often illustrated by corresponding recipes. (Danny Kaye’s Lemon Pasta is one I’m anxious to try…)

Read via: home library


Spring has sprung! I await a slower pace as the semester gets closer to reaching its conclusion as I am accompanied by delightful books like Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl and perhaps a few more Newbery medalists, too.

Meeting Killers of the Flower Moon author David Grann

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As a librarian and lifelong reader, any opportunity I have to meet authors is one that brings me untold joy.

When it was announced that David Grann had agreed to be the guest speaker for our university’s annual endowed lectureship, I knew this would be a big deal, attended by many guests from outside the university.

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Grann’s third book, Killers of the Flower Moon, has now been on the New York Times non-fiction best-seller list for 37 weeks, was an Amazon.com top 20 picks of the best books from 2017, and a 2017 National Book Award Finalist in Nonfiction. So, having him come to our mid-size, rural university was especially notable.

However, our university has distinctly proud tribal roots, and since the whole focus of his book centers around the murders of members of the Osage tribe in the 1920s, it was a perfect opportunity for a special spotlight to locally be shone on American Indians and Oklahoma history.

This story of greed and prejudice was expertly told through the lens of a talented journalist and researcher, with it taking 5 years for Mr. Grann to research and accumulate information from various archives and museums to write this book. We were also fortunate to have some Osage descendants in attendance, whose family stories were featured from the murders that took place almost 100 years ago.

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For those who have yet to read Killers of the Flower Moon, this tragic story will be one you hopefully don’t quickly forget; a segment of American history from which we all learn and hopefully do not ever repeat.

All photo credits: Peter Henshaw.


To read more about other authors I’ve had the privilege of meeting and books I’ve had signed, check out My autograph collection post.