Read: March 2017

What wonderful March reads! And I didn’t realize until a few days ago that all of this month’s books were written by women authors. Very appropriate given the fact that March is Women’s History Month!

StillLife

Still Life by Louise Penny

First in the Chief Inspector Gamache series, Still Life takes place in the cozy, fictitious hamlet of Three Pines in Quebec, Canada. An unexpected death has occurred where Gamache and his team have to determine if this death was an accident or murder.

I’ve heard such rave reviews about this series from Anne Bogel and various guests on the What Should I Read Next podcast and am pleased to say the hype did not prove disappointing at all! I’ve already requested the second book (in a series of 13), A Fatal Grace, from the public library and am excited to continue in the series!

 

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Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling 

In January The Optometrist and I read The Sorcerer’s Stone aloud together and have continued the journey through book two this month. As I mentioned in that month’s post, the illustrations by Jim Kay are stunning and evocative, but now we have to wait until this fall for The Prisoner of Azkaban (my favorite HP book). In the mean time, maybe we’ll pick up some of the (American) audio books narrated by Jim Dale. (I’ve listened to several in years past, in which his voice shifts were subtle but the character changes were instantly recognizable.)

AfterYou

After You by Jojo Moyes

I first read Me Before You last February and found the story compelling and memorable. (If I can remember character and plot details a year later when reading a sequel, that’s a good sign…but this doesn’t always happen!)

We are reintroduced to Louisa, the female main character in Me Before You, as she navigates her life amid loss, grief, and guilt. After an accident impacts her own health, an unexpected teenager enters her life, as does a potential love interest, and she is forced to examine her motives and heart’s truest desires.
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Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid

I feel like this came across my radar also thanks to Modern Mrs. Darcy, possibly from a Kindle e-book alert (?), but checked it out from my public library instead. The overarching theme of a “multiverse” caught my attention, after having loved Dark Matter by Blake Crouch so much. Reid’s take on this idea accompanied me during our Spring Break travels.

Our protagonist Hannah returns to her hometown of Los Angeles after several years living elsewhere around the country, and the night after she returns home a group of her high school friends, including her ex-boyfriend, meet to catch up. Does she stay to chat with him, or leave with her best friend? From here the story splits, allowing the reader to imagine both “what ifs” rather than just one happily-ever-after.

FatalGrace

A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny

After a little spring break trip to Branson, this library book awaited my return home. I’ve quickly developed such a strong sense of place for Three Pines and the cast of eclectic characters who repeated from Still Life (plus a few new ones).

In addition to Chief Inspector Gamache returning to Three Pines to solve another murder, there’s some treachery taking place between him and one (or more) of his officers, so I can’t wait to see how (or if) this resolves in book three, The Cruelest Month!

Malala

I am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb

I’ve owned a copy of I am Malala for several years and in light of March being Women’s History Month, felt it appropriate to finally read it. As soon as I finished, my husband asked me what I thought and the first word that came to my mind was “important.” The work that she has championed for children’s/girls’ rights to receive an education before the shooting was important and remains even more so even now. What a remarkable young woman she is.

Ms. Yousafzai provides great historical perspective of her home country of Pakistan, what it was like to live through the rise of the Taliban, a glimpse into her family’s progressive and encouraging counter-cultural influence on her life, as well details surrounding the act of violence perpetrated against her, and her difficult but triumphant recovery.

Watch her (26 minute) Nobel Peace Prize Speech here.

ArtofthePie
Art of the Pie: A Practical Guide to Homemade Crusts, Fillings and Life 
by Kate McDermott

When logging into my public library’s e-book (Overdrive) system last week, this contemporary guide to pie baking was listed and I just couldn’t pass it up! Most of the book is comprised of delicious-sounding crust and filling recipes, but there are some sweet narratives about the author’s life and experiences as a pie baker. I’ve been on a low-sugar diet for a few years now, so pies have been off limits for me, but after reading how little sugar it takes to sweeten a naturally sweet fruit pie (like apple), I’m excited about using a sugar substitute and work on my pie baking skills this spring and summer!

Since I read it on my Kindle, I didn’t have a full appreciation for the pictures since they were in black & white, but this is one that I just might look for in print!
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Books in progress for April include a sci-fi classic, more Gamache, and maybe even and a soon-to-be-released love story!

Read: February 2017

My reading journey for most of the month of February can be summed up as “gloom, despair, and agony on me.” Maybe because I was trying to read most of these at the same time or maybe because the first couple contained heavier & darker subject matter, which didn’t help my mindset. Yet, as the month has ended, an inspiring pair of memoirs helped perk up my reading mood!

It’s also been neat to read in a variety of formats this month: non-fiction audio (British), fiction e-book (British), and two print non-fiction books (American).

h-hawk

H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald

This is my second book finished via Audible (first one here) and the narration by the author added to the beauty. I felt this book had two main themes: 1.) The reader joins Macdonald as she recounts the sudden death of her father and the subsequent grieving process, which coincides in training her new goshawk Mabel. 2.) Macdonald shares her childhood/lifelong fascination with training birds of prey and repeatedly references T.H. White’s The Goshawk (1951), comparing and contrasting her personal experiences with his.

I’d heard such good things about this book and agree that the writing is notably smart and vulnerable. I wasn’t surprised that I learned more than I ever thought I would about raising hawks, but wasn’t expecting to empathize with her grief as strongly as I did.

braveforgiven

Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave

When I read Cleave’s Little Bee in 2010, I fell in love with his style of writing, and have such fond memories of reading both it and then Gold in 2012. I kept hearing rave reviews from book bloggers and even had access to this via a digital ARC since December 2015 but finally dove in January.

Although I loved Cleave’s turns of phrases throughout the entire book, I honestly had to slog through the first bit before I really cared about the plot and characters about halfway through.

Set in England in WWII we meet characters from a variety of social backgrounds: privilege, middle class, those esteemed, and those marginalized. As always seems to be the case, the war brings out a sense of national pride in these individuals as they forego what has been normal and step into positions of public service with inevitable loss, but with love and personal honor discovered along the way.

My thanks to NetGalley for this digital ARC!

selftalksoultalk

Self Talk, Soul Talk: What to Say When you You Talk to Yourself by Jennifer Rothschild

I already wrote a lengthy post about this book last month, so check out that thorough blog post to read more!

magnolia

The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines

Since we don’t have cable, I was excited to see how Netflix carried select episodes of Fixer Upper for a short time (boo! for it being removed). While I didn’t watch as many as I would have liked, I immediately came to love Chip and Joanna Gaines, their design aesthetic, and the kindness they show to each other (vs. other mean-spirited reality TV shows).

Their memoir contains both of their voices (differing font, which makes it easy to “hear” which one is talking) and provides insight into the hard work it has taken for them to reach their current level of success. My take-away from the book was Joanna’s decision to thrive in the midst of change and upheaval rather than just survive.

 

What an encouraging read to wrap up the month! And with March comes spring break and a road trip, so, extra time for reading (and knitting, too)!

Read: January 2017

A new year, new month, new books read! Here’s my January recap.

hillbillyelegy

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance

I kept reading reviews from bookish bloggers who read this near the end of 2016 and it piqued my curiosity. My formative years and my current geographic location were/are entrenched in living in a small town surrounded by very rural areas. But my impression of “hillbillies” received such a startling wakeup call through the eyes of Vance, who grew up in the rural Rust Belt of Ohio. His memoir shines a very personal light onto the everyday lives of those living in poverty, violence, and without a lot of hope. This cycle continues today in all parts of our country, evidenced by certain educational and political statistics, but Vance is a living testament to the fact that change and a bright future is possible.

This recent article/interview from The Guardian has more details about this best seller.


hp-ss

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling, illustrated by Jim Kay

The Optometrist surprised me at Christmas by giving me the boxed set of the Harry Potter movies on Blu Ray! We’ve since worked our way through all eight, which was a lot of fun to see the actors age (with improved acting skills) quickly, one movie at a time. This spurred us to begin re-reading the series aloud to each other, this time from the beautifully illustrated edition by Jim Kay. If, for some reason, you still haven’t journeyed into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (either through the books or movies), what are you waiting for?!

This video provides a glimpse into Kay’s home art studio and some of his artistic inspirations.

march-johnlewis

March. Book One by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, & Nate Powell

This YA graphic novel autobiographically recounts Representative John Lewis’ (D-GA) youth growing up in rural, segregated Alabama, and the eventual and pivotal role he played promoting the social gospel and Civil Rights movement. It’s the first of three graphic novels in this series and would be a terrific inclusion for any discussion about Civil Rights, Martin Luther King, Jr., or Black History Month in February. And March: Book Three won the Printz award last week, so I am especially excited to read installments two and three!

Related: This video clip showing Lewis, Aydin, and Powell accepting the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature for March. Book One will bring a tear to your eye.

stranded

Stranded by Dani Pettrey

Third in the Alaskan Courage series (previously read books 1 and 2 in December), Pettrey plots another inspirational mystery, this time on a cruise ship headed from Alaska to Russia with an unaccounted for disappearance at the heart of the story. The McKenna siblings, along with other recurring characters from the first two books, are featured once more as they open their hearts to God’s leading, find love, and rely on one another to bring about justice to those who have been victims of evil.

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Take the Key and Lock Her Up by Ally Carter

YA author (from Oklahoma!) Ally Carter resumes her Embassy Row series with this third installment, which continues with Grace needing to be on the run to preserve her safety, finding out who her true allies are, and discovering the answers to long-held secrets. Grace possesses a lot of youthful angst, but the plot and mysteries are compelling, inviting the reader to journey with her and find out what she learns, especially in light of the historical pressures her character faces.

Read more: my review of book 1, All Fall Down, and thoughts about book 2, See How They Run.

A sneak peak into my February reads…H is For Hawk by Helen Macdonald (Audible streaming), Self Talk, Soul Talk by Jennifer Rothschild,  Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling, and more!

Weekly Reader

The title of this blog post series pays homage to the beloved childhood informational news bulletin, Weekly Reader, as I highlight favorite finds from around the web.
weeklyreader

Books & Literacy

Take a peek at the Children’s Book Week poster by Jocelyn McClurg (USA Today – January 19, 2017)

Looking ahead to May when Children’s Book Week takes place, what a visually eye-catching and kid-friendly way to promote literacy!

Meet the writers who still sell millions of books. Actually, hundreds of millions. by Karen Heller (The Washington Post – December 20, 2016)

A bit of insight into the success of literary household names.

Every book Barack Obama has recommended during his presidency by Ruth Kinane (Entertainment Weekly – January 18, 2017)

What a well-read President we’ve had! From this list I’ve read Brown Girl Dreaming,  All the Light We Cannot See, one of the books in the Junie B. Jones series, The Great Gatsby, Where the Wild Things Are, and the Harry Potter series. I am currently listening to H is for Hawk on Audible and want to read The Underground Railroad, Gilead (on my bookshelf), and Cutting for Stone (on my bookshelf).

Travel

Journey across Canada by train by Nancy Gupton (National Geographic – accessed January 14, 2017)

Beautiful, nostalgic, and romantic – what a trip of a lifetime this would be!

We the People

Watch Michelle Obama take a final stroll through the White House with First Dogs Sunny and Bo by Megan McCluskey (Time – January 18, 2017)

If you’ve ever moved before, you know how it’s never easy…even if you are the First Lady.

Pete Souza, Obama’s chief White House photographer, on making pictures for history by Mike Hofman and Alex Reside (GQ – January 19, 2017)

A candid interview with Souza reflecting on how he captured everyday and monumental Presidential moments over the past 8 years, his time also photographing President Reagan, and personal insight into the art of photography.

 

What encouraging, insightful, or fun information have you read this week?

Books: December Edition

Several sick days during finals week (when the library was busy with students, but slower for me not having to provide any instruction) afforded me lots of glorious time to stay at home to rest, drink tea, and read, read, read! And then, with the semester ending and visiting family over Christmas, I had even more time to read! And somehow, I forgot to post this before 2017 rolled around…so here is my December reading recap!

good-behavior-175

Good Behavior by Blake Crouch
Oh how I love anything by Blake Crouch! The Pines trilogy was so engrossing and Dark Matter was my favorite book read in 2016 (twice). Now, after finishing Good Behavior, I realize why I enjoy Crouch’s books so much: he writes descriptively and draws the reader in, which helps vividly envision scenarios and characters’ mannerisms, allowing the stories to mentally come to life and remain with you long after the last page is turned.

Comprised of three novellas stories, “The Pain of Others,” “Sunset Key,” and “Grab,” we meet Letty Dobesh, a seasoned criminal who is smart but her past choices and addictions haunt her life post-prison and influence the decisions she currently faces. The stories each stand alone, so there really isn’t a cohesive flow between the three. Yet, after each short story/novella, Crouch provides additional commentary about the story, its creation, and/or how it was adapted for TV; a neat, insider’s glance behind the scenes, allowing the reader to understand this slightly disjointed structure.

While I haven’t seen the TNT series, I’m curious about it simply because Michelle Dockery, Lady Mary from Downton Abbey, plays Letty. Talk about an actress not wanting to be typecast and playing a diverse range of characters!

My thanks to NetGalley for the digital ARC!

greenglasshouse

Greenglass House by Kate Milford

I saw this listed as a Kindle daily deal in early December, and as I always do, first looked to see if my library had this in the youth collection, which we did (which means I probably ordered it…)! Free beats a Kindle deal any day!

This is an inviting story, perfect for cold, snowy weather, drinking hot chocolate nestled near the Christmas tree, and escaping into a world where two children are solving ongoing thefts and mysteries in a unique, snow-bound inn. Although this is a children’s book, the reading level is advanced (upper elementary for sure) and the plot requires some attention to remember different characters, various names, and details about the mysteries that unfold.

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What Light by Jay Asher

I received a three-chapter preview of this Young Adult novel from NetGalley, and it propelled me to request it from our public library. Jay Asher is best known for his book Th1rteen R3asons Why, which has become a well known, go-to YA story about the tragic impact of bullying.

In comparison, this Christmas story is much more positive and sweet. Sierra’s family owns a Christmas tree farm and each year they travel from Oregon to California to sell their trees, so she has two lives and two sets of friends divided around the holidays. This year, however, she meets a cute boy whose past is shrouded in speculation and rumor, and she must decide whether to accept him as he is, or be fearful of his past. This YA novel includes positive messages of acceptance, fresh starts, and openness towards the future.

submerged

Submerged by Dani Pettrey

While I’m pretty familiar with Inspirational Fiction authors, Dani Pettrey had never been on my radar until seeing one of her books as a Kindle daily deal. Again, I opted for checking my public library first to see if any of her books (especially starting with Book 1 of a series) were available. Thankfully, several were, including Submerged, the first in her Alaskan Courage series.

Although I’ve never been to Alaska, I was easily whisked away to the small, fictitious, coastal town of Yancey where Cole McKenna and his adventurous siblings work together with a friend from years past to uncover the motives surrounding a series of interconnected murders. This Christian fiction story includes themes of forgiveness, letting go of the past, the bonds of family, and an assurance in God’s faithfulness.

shattered
Shattered
by Dani Pettrey

After devouring Submerged I grabbed Shattered, the second book in the Alaskan Courage series, at my public library and enjoyed it equally as much as I did the first! The McKenna siblings return once more, with sister Piper and family friend Landon being featured as the main characters in this installment, as they collectively work to prove the true identity of someone who has killed their brother’s friend.  Themes in Shattered include dependence on God, being open to love, truth prevailing, and loyalty among family members.

I’ve also realized my favorite books are written with a strong sense of place, which allows me to fully immerse myself in the writer’s world, and this series definitely whisks me away to an inviting, fictitious place!

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A Baxter Family Christmas by Karen Kingsbury

I began reading stories surrounding the Baxter family in 2008 and have read every.single.one.of.them (this is the 24th) over the years – wow!  This is definitely the longest series I’ve read and endeavored to keep up with, but the characters leave imprints on your heart and it’s always cozy to return to beloved friends found between the pages.

However, Kingsbury shares a brief backstory about all the characters in the preface, so you can be completely new to the Baxter family and still enjoy this sweet story of love, honesty, forgiveness, family relationships, and the birth of Jesus at Christmastime.

My thanks to Edelweiss for the digital ARC!

 

Weekly Reader

The title of this blog post series pays homage to the beloved childhood informational news bulletin, Weekly Reader, as I highlight favorite finds from around the web.
weeklyreader

Libraries & Literacy

Moving forward together by Julie B. Todaro, American Library Association (ALA) President (American Libraries – Jan/Feb. 2017)

On the importance of libraries serving our patrons,
We must continue to be inclusive beacons for meaningful and equitable public discourse, push for social justice, champion intellectual freedom, fight for equitable access to resources and services for our constituents, protect privacy, commit to diversity, and strive to ensure that we help build and sustain a literate constituency.

How data and information literacy could end fake news by Kalev Leetaru (Forbes – December 11, 2016)

Today we have access to all the world’s information, yet we take no advantage of that information to be more informed citizens of the world.

Through a series of tests, the authors found that at every level of education, from middle school to high school to college students, digital natives found themselves unable to perform even the most basic of tasks of recognizing a news article from a paid advertisement or recognizing an editorial from hard news reporting.  (Emphasis mine.)

Instead, to truly solve the issue of “fake news” we must blend technological assistance with teaching our citizens to be data literate consumers of the world around them.  

Yes, this is my role as a librarian!!!

Ghostwriter: The Most Literary 90’s Kids Show by Nick Ripatrazone (The Atlantic – August 4, 2016)
I loved this show on PBS! Maybe you did too!

Spiritual

Epiphany: In celebration of the journey by Ruth Haley Barton for Transforming Center
Moving beyond advent to being obedient where God is leading me – yes and amen.

History

National park honoring Underground Railroad heroine Harriet Tubman made official by Nicole Gaudiano (USA Today – January 10, 2017)
Wouldn’t this be a neat place to visit?

Social Justice

A new type of food pantry is sprouting in yards across America by Deborah Shaar (NPR – January 11, 2017)
Look out Little Free Libraries, neighborhood food pantries are joining you!

 

What encouraging, insightful, or fun information have you read this week?

2016 Favorites & 2017 Projections

Favorite Reading:

Click on the links below for a more detailed review from when I read these throughout the past year.

DarkMatter
Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

capture
How We Got to Now by Steven Johnson

coldtangerines
Cold Tangerines by Shauna Niequist 

ReadyPlayerOne
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Total books read: 56

Favorite Knitting:

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Title & Pattern: French Cancan
Recipient: me!
Yarn: Araucania Huasco DK: Grass
Needles: US 7

Green complements our University’s main color and the cabled border is a show-stopper!

coffeebeans
Title & Pattern: Little Coffee Bean Cardigan
Recipeint: Elias
Size: 6 month
Yarns: Cascade Yarns 220 Superwash: White, Malabrigo Yarn Rios: Glitter
Needles: US 7 & US 8

Such a pleasing and quick knit, which was so appreciated by my friend, the mother of the baby!

Total knits: 46 items

Hats: 12     Baby booties: 9 pair     Socks: 4      Dish cloths: 3     Various household items: 3 Adult afghans: 2     Mittens: 2      Fingerless mittens: 2     Coffee Cozies: 2     Cowls: 1         Shawls: 2     Baby sweaters: 1       Baby blankets: 1     Princess Crown: 1     Other toys: 1

2017 Ponderances:

  • When recently reading this Modern Mrs. Darcy blog post, I began pondering what it would look like for me to think on purpose this coming year. Rather than have my mind flit from topic to topic, a more diligent approach to my conscious thoughts will allow me to think more deeply, practice more logical reasoning, and perhaps see different angles to a given situation.
  • Practicing the art of hygge –  a Danish term defined as “a quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being.” Pronounced “hoo-guh,” the word is said to have no direct translation in English, though “cozy” comes close. From The New Yorker.
  • Finally knit a sweater! If I can knit a baby sweater, I know my skills allow me to be capable of knitting an adult size sweater. I’m pondering several patterns on Ravelry, so the goal is finding the right one and pairing it with the right yarn…
  • All the while remembering less is more. When I was in grad school and made peanuts for a salary, I was completely content to not buy new clothing, books, yarn, or other creature comforts very often at all. Somehow over the past few years this mindset has shifted, especially when I have seen so many beautiful yarns, striking patterns, or engaging descriptions of books, it makes me feel like I need to buy/read/make the same thing. I want to remember I can still buy/read/make these things, but more in moderation (quality vs. quantity) and to think on purpose if I will really enjoy it in the long run, and if not – to vicariously enjoy other people’s photos, descriptions, and creations.
  • Possibly re-read the Bible (If so, this will be my 4th re-read). I found the process of reading through the Bible this year (ESV) was greatly assisted by the narration feature on my Bible app, which would be again be used if I endeavor to make this spiritual journey again.

“But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” ~ Philippians 3:13b-14 (ESV)