Read: October 2017

Jane

Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore

This new release from the author of Graceling was one I had been anticipating for the fall, but it did not live up to the fondness I had in reading her debut novel many years ago.

The basic premise is that Jane, a young woman mourning over the death of her explorer aunt, fulfills a promise made to her aunt and accepts an invitation to a gala at Tu Reviens, a castle on a secluded island owned by a wealthy friend’s family. I enjoyed the first 2/3 of the book as Jane gets to know the other gala guests and residents of the house and begins to suspect things aren’t as they seem.

But then, the plot intentionally starts to shift and Jane is able to choose her own adventure. Once this happens, as a reader, I found it hard to remember details of plot lines, especially before things shift at the start of the next chapter. I would have also liked a bit more connection between these scenarios and an overall sense of closure at the end of the book, which didn’t happen.

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

41SRMAXU4qL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_

Artemis by Andy Weir

Andy Weir’s sophomore release with a female lead character (huzzah!), set on the moon, is available November 14. Look for my book review in just a couple of weeks!

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

WednesdayWars

The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt

My original inspiration to read this came from Everyday Reading at Janssen’s high recommendation. Then I read about Madeleine’s Newbery project on Top Shelf Text, so I have revisited my goal of diligently reading more Newbery award-winners and am excited about this project!

Set in the late 1960s during the Vietnam War, 7th grader Holling Hoodhood is convinced his teacher hates him. As the school year progresses, he begins to better understand himself, his teacher, his believably quirky family members, the impact of war in his school and community, along with an unexpected appreciation for Shakespeare.

A great, more contemporary partner book would be Summerlost by Ally Condie.

This is a terrific coming-of-age middle grade novel, very deserving of its Newbery honor.

Book read via: public library

graveyardbook.jpg

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Coraline was my first Gaiman book and The Ocean at the End of the Lane was one I thoroughly enjoyed a few years ago. I would also say I’ve read about 30% of American Gods and would still like to finish it, maybe as an audio book.

Knowing Gaiman is a masterfully spooky storyteller, I was a bit hesitant to read this 2009 Newbery-award winner. While there definitely were some moments I felt nervous for how things were going to turn out for protagonist Nobody “Bod” Owens, and while steeped with murder and death, there were many moments filled with gentleness, kindness, and caring.

While reading, I felt like these were a continuation of stories with some chapters containing a mini-adventure as Bod grows and learns about the dead and the living. In the post script, Gaiman shares how portions of the book were pieced together over time (the sensation I experienced), but there is still great continuity in the writing and execution of this middle grade novel, perfect for Halloween.

Book read via: youth collection from my academic library
HateUGive

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

I first heard about this YA debut via the Modern Mrs. Darcy Summer Reading Guide in the Thought-Provoking Stories category. Since then I have heard it mentioned many times as a tour de force centered around the topic of police brutality in an African American community.

In my quest to read more diverse books as of late, this has probably stretched me the most as I’ve begun to better understand the injustices many African Americans face in low-income areas. Although this is a work of fiction, the killing of innocent young people and the cyclical reality of drugs and gangs in so many neighborhoods was brutally honest and eye-opening.

Book read via: public library

Anne

Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery

I have owned a paperback copy of Anne of Green Gables for probably two decades and have meant, year after year, to read this childhood classic. I also have a framed Litograph of the text of Anne in my library office. Yet, when I discovered Rachel McAdams’ narration, I bought the corresponding e-book just to take advantage of the Audible deal. After finishing Echo last month, I was ready to dive into another great audio book and this one did not disappoint!

Now I can say I finally understand the hype for Anne (my husband was astonished I had never read this beloved series, while he was very familiar with the miniseries) and, as Anne would say, I would now consider her a “kindred spirit.” I have absolutely fallen in love with this smart and spunky heroine and her fantastic “scope of imagination.”

Thankfully my public library has other audio books in the Anne series available via Overdrive, so I’m excited I can continue to listen to Anne’s subsequent adventures.

Book read via: Audible

bury-your-dead

Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny

Looking back on previous blog posts, about every couple of months I pick up the next installment of the Chief Inspector Gamache series, with this being the 6th. I love how Penny often sets her stores in real places, with this story centering around the Winter Carnival in Québec City. To help give my imagination a boost, I often performed image searches online to see what locations like the Literary and Historical Society (Lit and His) and the Château Frontenac look like in real life.

I was also able to learn a little Canadian history, particularly about Samuel de Champlain, the founder of Québec City and the historical figure around whom this mystery centers.

When a prominent Champlain scholar is found dead while the Chief Inspector is visiting Québec, grieving the loss of one of his recently deceased agents, he can’t help but get involved to catch the murderer. All the while the Chief Inspector has tasked his 2nd in command, Agent Beauvior, to oversee a secret investigation in Three Pines; re-interviewing and re-examining evidence from the previous book in the series The Brutal Telling.

There were so many intriguing plot lines and cozy settings, I didn’t want to see this one end!

Book read via: public library


Fall is the perfect time for cozy reading, so please share what you’re enjoying or anticipating reading during this season!

Advertisements

Read: August 2017

TheNestingPlace

The Nesting Place by Myquillyn Smith

An embarrassingly long time ago The Optometrist gave me this book as a just-because gift, of which I proceeded to read about 99%. At the beginning of the month, a few minutes and a few pages later, I had finished this encouraging call to make your house a home based around your style and budget. While The Nester’s style is a bit more shabby chic than I prefer, her exhortation of it doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful is a mantra I’m longing to embrace wholeheartedly in both my home and work spaces.

Book read via: home library

solo_kwamealexander

Solo by Kwame Alexander

What Kwame Alexander did for basketball in The Crossover, he has now done for music and in Solo.  Check out my full book-review of Mr. Alexander’s recently published YA novel.

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

Kiss-Carlo

Kiss Carlo by Adriana Trigiani

Adriana Trigiani is the queen of crafting memorable Italian American stories, and my love of her writing goes back to the early 2000s when my best friend and I discovered and fell in love with Big Stone Gap.

This, her newest novel, takes place in post WWII Philadelphia with a feuding family who own taxi cab businesses, their African American dispatcher who longs to find her passion, a fledgling but loyal local Shakespeare company, and an Italian ambassador with an American doppelganger in South Philly.

Of her work, I must say Very Valentine and The Shoemaker’s Wife have been my favorites, but Kiss Carlo was very memorable and included diverse characters and a firm sense of place.

My thanks to Edelweiss for access to the digital ARC copy. http://edelweiss.abovethetreeline.com/

ChurchSmallThings

Church of the Small Things: The Million Little Pieces That Make Up a Life by Melanie Shankle

Last July I read The Antelope in the Living Room and found it to be laugh-out-loud funny juxtaposed with moments to ponder the less-than-perfect, but still beautiful moments of marriage. So when I had an opportunity to request a digital ARC for the upcoming release of her new book (on October 3), I said, “Yes, please!”

If you are a fan of Melanie’s books and/or the Big Mama blog, I think you’ll also enjoy her newest offering that centers around finding God and appreciating the small, everyday moments of life.

“I’ve learned that the best way to live is to look for God in the church of small things. The church of small things is where God does his best work. The church of small things is where the majority of us live every single day.” 

Look for a more detailed review on October 3rd!

My thanks to Edelweiss for access to the digital ARC copy. http://edelweiss.abovethetreeline.com/

BrutalTelling

The Brutal Telling by Louise Penny

I can’t help but think about what the statistical number of murders per capita would be if Three Pines were a real town. Probably similar to the statistics from Cabot Cove in Murder, She Wrote.

5th in the Chief Inspector Gamache series, the beloved Inspector has returned to Three Pines to investigate yet another murder, this time of a Hermit whose cabin is filled with world-renowned treasures, but whose identity and personal history remain elusive, except to a local resident.

Stories of fear and deception and secrets long preserved come to light when Armande Gamache is determined to find answers to these unknown questions and, of course, also find the killer.

Book read via: public library

Read: June 2017

CountdownCity

Countdown City by Ben H. Winters

I began the The Last Policeman trilogy, reading book 1 of the same name in April. Book two continues now with only 3 months remaining until a giant asteroid is certain to collide with planet Earth. Henry Palace is faced with another investigation, tracking down the disappearance of a man who is married to the woman who was his childhood babysitter. In a world of scarcity and bizarre human behavior, his resources to find this missing person are even more limited now that his position as a city policeman/detective has been eliminated in favor of federal law enforcement to oversee and keep the (sporadic and fleeting) peace.

Book read via: public library

everywildheart

Every Wild Heart by Meg Donohue

Included in this year’s Summer Reading Guide from Anne Bogel/Modern Mrs. Darcy under the Beachy Reads category, I found Every Wild Heart to be a sweet story about growth of free-spirit Gail Gideon, a famous call-in radio host (think Delilah) and fiercely-protective single mom, as well as her teenage daughter Nic, who loves horses and longs to live a brave life.

After Nic takes a calculated risk riding her horse after school one day, the ramifications of her injury result in interesting consequences with her mother, those who’ve known her for years at the horse stables, with her friends and acquaintances at school, and a mysterious fan of her famous mother.

This is listed in Adult Fiction but I could see a great cross-over appeal to fans of YA, since the story has a good balance of writing from both Gail’s (first person) and Nic’s (third person) perspectives.

Book read via: public library

Frankel

This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel

This is a book I’ve seen recommended highly and repeatedly from Anne Bogel and which she also includes in her Summer Reading Guide, this time in the Thought Provoking Stories category.

The story centers around a large family with a concern about their youngest child and the resulting decisions they make to protect this child. The writing was spell-binding and the handling of a sensitive issue, superb. It definitely has been thought provoking for me, creating insight into a topic I knew relatively nothing about.

Book read via: my academic library InterLibrary Loan (ILL)

PresentOverPerfect

Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist

Last June I read my first Shauna Niequist book, Cold Tangerines, and since that time I have become a loyal devotee of her writing. I received Present Over Perfect for Christmas from The Optometrist, but reading it this spring/summer has been the most wonderful choice. As much as I want to read every single thing she has written, waiting until summer’s slower pace allows me unhurried time to savor each page (with copious amounts of underlining, bracketing, and margin notes), embodying the message of the book.

Book read via: home library

LOTR

The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien

For my birthday last year The Optometrist bought me this small, beautiful, leather set of The Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit. A few years ago I read The Hobbit for the first time, thanks to his urging, and even though I’ve seen all the aforementioned book to movie adaptations, reading the full LOTR trilogy has been a bucket list reading goal of mine for quite some time. So one down, two to go!

I had languished in reading The Fellowship of the Ring on my own, so my husband kindly suggested this become our next shared read-aloud selection. In addition to this providing some accountability, it also helped to consult him about names, pronunciations, character clarifications, and differences between the movie and the book. This has accompanied us on smaller road trips in both May and June and I’m excited to begin The Two Towers and have it accompany us during our July travels!

Book read via: home library

Rule

A Rule Against Murder by Louise Penney

After a brief hiatus from the Chief Inspector Gamache series in May, June found me continuing to read the fourth installment.

Armande and Reine-Marie Gamache are celebrating their 35th wedding anniversary at a French manor (based upon the beautifully real Manoir Hovey) near Three Pines, an annual tradition. This year the Gamaches are the only guests at the small manor who aren’t in attendance for a family reunion. But the murder of one of the family members interrupts their celebratory reprieve, which is convenient for the Chief Inspector to begin an investigation.

And for those who have come to enjoy characters from the previous Three Pines books, some familiar and beloved individuals do make appearances and come alongside Gamache as he and his team solve this manor murder.

Book read via: public library

WDMR-Paperback

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

The last book I read in June was another that caught my eye from the Modern Mrs. Darcy Summer Reading Guide, also under the Beachy Reads category.

This YA novel features two Indian teenagers, Dimple and Rishi, who meet for the first time at a summer tech/coding camp. The only problem is that their parents have already agreed to an arranged marriage for them, of which Rishi is aware, but Dimple…not so much. The camp lasts 6 weeks with Dimple and Rishi partnered together to work on the design of a new app for the duration, so it’s impossible for them to not spend time together. With Dimple’s coding skills and Rishi’s artistic talents it’s inevitable they become friends, but will they become more than friends?

This sweet and kind YA story is one of friendship, being proud of your ethnicity, abilities, and work ethic, plus being open to both the known and unknown.

Book read via: public library


What are you reading this summer? Please feel free to share suggestions of what you have enjoyed or are excited to read!

Read: April 2017

TalkingFast

Talking as Fast as I Can by Lauren Graham

For fans of Gilmore Girls and Parenthood (but especially Gilmore Girls), Graham’s autobiography provides readers with stories of her childhood, education in becoming an actor, and personal insights and memories of filming  such beloved TV roles. This was a very quick read for me (<48 hours) since her writing style follows a “stream of consciousness” dialogue. If you’re a fan of GG, as I’ve been for years, this is a fun, lighthearted, pop-culture read!

Book read via: public library

love-story

Love Story by Karen Kingsbury

This continuation of the Baxter family series features a love story of more recent characters Cody Coleman & Andi Ellison, plus takes a look back at how it all began with John and Elizabeth Baxter. Love Story will be released on June 6, so look for an in-depth book review closer to that time. (Update: my book review is now available!)

My thanks to Edelweiss for this digital ARC!

Cruelest Month
The Cruelest Month by Louise Penny

Reading The Cruelest Month, third in the Chief Inspector Gamache series, the week of Easter was fortuitous since the book takes place at the exact same time! However, there’s nothing holy about the murder that takes place in Three Pines after someone is literally scared-to-death after a seance. Or is there more to this death than meets the eye?

It took me a while to personally connect with this story compared to the first two books in the series, but once the characters are established and Gamache returns to Three Pines to investigate, my interest was definitely piqued!

For new readers of Penny’s “Gamache” series, I recommend reading these in order for ease of recurring character and plot development continuity.

Book read via: public library

Cover of The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
The Crossover
by Kwame Alexander

This award-winning middle grade story is told in free verse poetry and was a lightning fast read (literally a few hours at the most on a Friday afternoon). Yes, this is a book about a young man who loves playing basketball, but interwoven is a beautifully supportive family dynamic where the words “crossover” come to mean more than just a way of handling the ball.

A well-deserved recipient of the 2015 Newbery Medal and a 2015 Coretta Scott King Honor Award that I should have read two years ago!

Book read via: youth collection from my academic library

hitchhiker
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
by Douglas Adams

The Optometrist and I picked up a hardback copy of The Hitchhiker’s Guide at Elliott Bay Book Company in Seattle several summers ago, which is a fun memory! It’s not very lengthy and we enjoyed reading it aloud together, along with a little help from the audio version checked out from the public library, excellently narrated by Stephen Fry.

It’s funny, I’ve knit three Hitchhiker shawls over the past few years and watched the movie years ago, but honestly couldn’t remember anything substantial about the plot, so reading the original inspiration was a fun experience to tie everything together!

Book read via: home library

The Silver Chair
The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis

Narnia is always a magical and inviting place to visit, no matter how old you are. My parents gifted me with a paperback set (exact copy of the cover above) for Christmas when I was ~8 years old and I would unequivocally say The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is probably one of my all-time favorite books.

And yet, I haven’t ever finished reading the entire Narnia series. Well, I can’t say that’s entirely true because my 5th grade teacher read the entire series aloud to us throughout that school year upon returning to our classroom after recess each afternoon. And I also remember loving the BBC movie version as a young girl – especially marveling at how they made Puddleglum’s hands and feet webbed!

I’m now just one book away (The Last Battle) from finally reading all seven Narnia books!

Book read via: home library

hope-heals
Hope Heals 
by Jay and Katherine Wolf

If you haven’t heard the testimony of Jay and Katherine Wolf before, it’s one that will forever leave an impression on your heart of what God’s faithfulness looks like in the midst of unknowable human suffering. Their autobiography centers around the event that forever changed their lives: Katherine having a massive stroke at the age of 26. Their marriage is one that is covered with God’s grace and a real-life inspirational example of “loving one another in sickness and in health.”

Or if you’re interested in watching and hearing more about their story, check out this 20 minute documentary on YouTube.

Book read via: my academic library InterLibrary Loan (ILL)

SleepingGiants

Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Nuevel

Last summer I signed up for a 3 month subscription to the Book of the Month club and this was my personal selection for July.  The opening premise of “a little girl is riding her bike and inadvertently falls into a pit that contains a giant metal hand” might sound a little bizarre – it did to me – but I’m glad I gave it a chance! This sci-fi scenario is grounded in believable ensuing possibilities: research motivations, military involvement, linguistic breakthroughs, and developing love interests.

After finishing The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy with The Optometrist I was excited to start another sci-fi adventure with him. And now we can look forward to reading book two of the Themis files, Waking Gods, which was released at the beginning of April and the digital ARC awaits us on my Kindle!

What I’m learning, as a relative new comer to sci-fi, is that the genre is much more approachable than I once believed. Like a lot of other genres: this book was fun, well written, kept me wanting to know what would happen next, and contained characters for whom I developed affection.

Book read via: home library

Thelastpoliceman_BenHWinters_0

The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters

John Green’s (The Fault in Our Stars) endorsement of this series immediately piqued my interest, “[The] weird, beautiful, unapologetically apocalyptic Last Policeman trilogy is one of my favorite mystery series.”

A brief scenario of this apocalyptic mystery: an asteroid is headed for Earth and will make impact in the next 6 months, so what should Detective Hank Palace do when he discovers a suicide is actually murder?

As a reader, I’m excited all three books in the trilogy have been published so I don’t have to wait to read books 2 and 3!

Book read via: public library

——————————-

May brings the end of the school year and the kick-off for summer reading! Books from series like the Dresden Files, Narnia, The Penderwicks, Gamache, and Alaskan Courage are on my short list for right now!

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!

Book read via: public library

hpcs

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.)

Book read: home library

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.

Book read via: public library

maybe-in-another-life

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.

Book read via: public library

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!

Book read via: public library

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.

Book read via: home library

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!

Book read via: public library Overdrive
——————————–
Books in progress for April include a sci-fi classic, more Gamache, and maybe even and a soon-to-be-released love story!