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

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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)

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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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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

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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

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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)

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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

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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

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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!

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

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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

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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.

Read: February 2018

UncommonType

Uncommon Type: Some Stories by Tom Hanks

My goodness, Tom Hanks, just when I thought you couldn’t be more likable, you’ve done it again.

This debut of 17 short stories from America’s favorite actor (at least mine) are filled with hope but tinged with melancholy and all include a mention or plot incorporation of typewriters, Hanks’ passionate hobby. One particular favorite that lingers in my mind is “The Past is Important to Us.”

I began reading this via a digital ARC from NetGalley prior to its release in the Fall, and even though they were quite enjoyable, I stalled out after reading only a handful. However, after discovering Mr. Hanks narrates the audiobook himself, I was sold on finishing this via audio CDs from the public library, which was time very well spent.

Read via: NetGalley & public library audio book

Ghosts

Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier

The gals from The Ardent Biblio mentioned Raina Telgemier in an October graphic novels post. I’ve overseen purchasing several of her books during our semi-annual Scholastic Book Fair, including Ghosts, but had never read one until I hit a bit of a reading slump mid-month.

This sweet story of two sisters, the very scary reality of a sick sibling, moving to a new community, and (of course) ghosts was a heartwarming look at fierce love and embracing an unknown future. With the plot incorporation of Día de los Muertos, a great movie tie-in would be Disney Pixar’s Coco.

Read via: youth collection from my academic library

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Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling, illlustrated by Jim Kay

Photo via my Instagram.

Even though The Optometrist and I began reading this aloud together last fall, over the past few weeks we ratcheted up our efforts to finish Prisoner of Azkaban. This has always been my favorite Harry Potter book and Jim Kay’s illustrations just enhanced the tension, excitement, and pleasure Harry finally receives after so long.

If you’ve curious about Jim Kay’s home studio, this video is wonderfully magical, and here he specifically talks about Dementors, Buckbeak, and Snape drawn in The Prisoner of Azkaban.

Book read via: home library

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The Geography of Genius by Eric Weiner

Near the end of 2017 I was approached by friends to be a part of a small book club, and I was the only one who offered a suggestion from my TBR – this one!

When visiting Italy in college I was awed in understanding how when Michelangelo was painting the Sistine Chapel, Raphael was next door painting The School of Athens. This started me thinking about other phenomena of when groups of geniuses arose to change the world.

Not only is the Italian Renaissance featured, but so are genius collectives in ancient Athens and Hangzhou, China, but Edinburgh, Calcutta, Vienna, and Silicon Valley.

For those interested in read-alikes, two that came to mind are: The Know-It-All by A.J. Jacobs and How We Got to Now: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World by Steven Johnson, read in October 2016.

Side note: as much as I learned from this book, the pressure of choosing a book, hosting the book club, and feeling responsible for leading the discussion put a damper in the joy out of this reading experience, unfortunately.

Read via: home library

LovePoems

Love Poems by Nikki Giovanni

Mentioned in Dear Fahrenheit 451, I had previously not heard of the poet Nikki Giovanni, but this was the perfect collection to accompany me throughout month, especially with Valentine’s Day in the mix. My personal favorites were “Love Is” and “A Happy Reason.”

Read via: academic library

AliceNetwork

The Alice Network by Kay Quinn

On my radar since this summer from the Modern Mrs. Darcy Summer Reading Guide under the History+ category, I enjoyed the interconnected stories of Eve, a British spy from WWI, and Charlie, a young American woman, on a dual mission to seek answers about their pasts in post-WWII France.

Read via: public library Overdrive

TwoAcross

Two Across by Jeff Bartsch

This was another book brought to my attention by Dear Fahrenheit 451. The Optometrist and I often work crosswords together (one of the things saving my life right now), so this  smart, quirky, unique love story made me feel all.the.feels. Spelling bees, crossword puzzles, youthful mistakes, genuine but confused love, forgiveness, maturity, and redemption elevates this to my favorite book of 2018 so far!

Read via: academic library InterLibrary Loan

LongWayDown

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

A highlight of the month was watching the live stream of this year’s ALA Youth Media Awards on February 12th, when the best-of-the-best children’s and young adult books were announced. As the librarian for our university’s youth collection (the favorite part of my job), and a lover of children’s and young adult literature, I soaked up the opportunity to witness authors and illustrators achieve well-deserved prestige and notoriety.

Evidenced by the cover (above), Long Way Down was selected as a Newbery Honor book, an Odyssey (audio) Honor book, a Printz Honor book, and a Coretta Scott King author Honor book.

Told in prose, the plot addresses gun violence and is a story that, sadly, could apply to many young people’s lives across our fractured and hurting country. Read over the span of a couple of hours, themes include the lies we believe for our preservation, the choices we have (to break destructive cycles), and the interconnectedness of our lives with others unbeknownst to us.

HelloUniverse

Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly

Although this was the recipient of the 2017 Newbery Medal, the plot didn’t overwhelm me. What it did well was create diverse characters, with a mission surrounding friendship and kindness, along with bravery, family, acceptance, and standing up for yourself.


What was your favorite book read in February and/or what are you currently reading? I’m currently reading another ALA award-winning book, The 57 Bus by Dashka Slater, and also look forward to taking Chief Inspector Gamache on Spring Break with me in a few weeks.

Read: January 2018

January has brought about a new year and lots of new reads!

Origin by Dan Brown

I have such strong and fond memories of reading The DaVinci Code in 2003 and Angels and Demons shortly thereafter. The subsequent Robert Langdon mysteries have fallen a little flat to me, including Origin, but I still enjoy this recurring character and his code-breaking, globe-trotting adventures.

Langdon once again returns in Dan Brown’s newest novel as he travels to Spain to reunite with Edmond Kirsch, a former Harvard student, now a computer scientist millionaire who is about to globally reveal the answers to humanity’s greatest questions, “Where do we come from? Where are we going?” But before Edmond can share his findings, tragedy strikes. Now Langdon must find a way to retrieve Edmond’s research and help make his findings public before the backlash catches him in the crossfire.

Book read via: public library

Moxie
Moxie 
by Jennifer Mathieu

My high school experience in the late 90s is a long way from what many young women face in public schools today. Even though Mathieu’s Moxie is a work of fiction, the realities of teenage boys harassing girls are all too real. And yet, when young ladies like protagonist Vivian and her friends decide enough is enough, this collectively empowered voice makes a difference, proving once again, that we are so much stronger together than when we are divided.

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

stillme

Still Me by Jojo Moyes

Third in the trilogy of Me Before You and After You, Still Me just released yesterday! For a more thorough book review, check it out here.

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

DearFahrenheit451

Dear Fahrenheit 451: Love and Heartbreak in the Stacks by Annie Spence

I kept hearing about this epistolary memoir throughout the end of 2017, so as a librarian and lover of Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, this was at the top of my must-read list in 2018.

Filled with irreverent snark, Spence pens short letters, as if writing to books she encounters in her public library, home, and other peoples’ homes. I don’t work with the public nearly as much as she does, with a different patron base on the academic side of things, so these quirky collection development encounters allowed me to be a bystander in my own profession.

I particularly enjoyed her musings on books I also have read and enjoyed: The Time Travelers Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, the Big Stone Gap series by Adriana Trigiani, Matilda by Roald Dahl, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, Holidays On Ice by David Sedaris, and Belle’s dreamy library in Beauty and the Beast.

And now I have even more book recommendations to consider, including Love Poems by Nikki Giovanni, Attachments by Rainbow Rowell, Love in Lowercase by Francesc Miralles, Two Across by Jeffrey Bartsch, and In the Stacks: Short Stories About Libraries and Librarians by Michael Cart.

Read via: public library

CourageIsContagious

Courage is Contagious: And Other Reasons to be Thankful for Michelle Obama edited by Nick Haramis

Read over a weekend, this brief collection of essays looks back on the important, culture-shifting role Michelle Obama played as First Lady of the United States: educated professional, advocate of children’s health, working mom, supportive wife, and style icon, just to name a few.  Some of these accounts are written by people you’ve likely heard of, but many are not, proving how she was, and continues to be, a woman of aspiration for so many men and women in our country (including yours truly).

Read via: academic library InterLibrary Loan (ILL)

LeanIn

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg

As mentioned at the beginning of the month, my words for 2018 are LEAN IN. While I’m wanting to apply this concept in all areas of my life, this manifesto from Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg was a helpful rallying cry to jumpstart my year of living with intentionality and bravery in my professional and personal life.

Book read via: academic library

NeedToKnow

Need to Know by Karen Cleveland

I love spy stories and this is a good one! Released January 23, check out my book review for more details.

My thanks to Edelweiss for access to the digital ARC. https://www.edelweiss.plus/

KillersOfTheFlowerMoon

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann

Recommended to me by a colleague in the spring, I kept this on my radar throughout the rest of the year and at the end of 2017 I continued to see this on several “best-of” lists, along with nominations for numerous prestigious book awards. But the tipping point for me to buckle down and read (listen) came when it was announced the author, David Grann, is coming to our campus to speak in February!

Living in Oklahoma for less than a decade I’m still very much a student of its geography and Native American history. Thankfully, this book gave me a crash course in all of these areas, and more!

Centered around a string of Osage Indian murders in the 1920s, this is a story of white man’s deception and greed for Osage tribal members’ oil money and the founding of the FBI as agents came to Oklahoma to investigate these murders.

The one challenge I encountered in listening to this vs. reading it in print was keeping track of all the characters (since I couldn’t flip back pages to re-read), but this forced me to pay attention and keep moving forward, which I may not have done if I had been reading this visually.

Overall, this was a terrifically well-researched, narrative non-fiction, true crime novel; well deserving of the accolades it continues to receive.

Read via: public library audio book


Books I’m currently reading that I will likely finish in February: The Geography of Genius by Eric Weiner, The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien, and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling (illustrated edition by Jim Kay).