5 Favorite Epistolary Novels

As the weekend dawns, let’s take a look at five of my favorite epistolary novels. Happy reading weekend, bookish friends!

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Dracula by Bram Stoker

During the last semester of my Masters in Library Science program I was enrolled in a reader’s advisory class in which we read a lot of books in various genres, one of which had to be a horror novel.

More recently I’ve discovered I am a highly sensitive person, thus am hesitant about scary premises, but even in 2010 I opted for a classic approach to this assignment. Upon picking up Dracula, I wasn’t expecting this Gothic classic to be told in a series of letters! It was creepy, mysterious, and compelling, but didn’t give me bad dreams at night!

Published in 1897, this novel is now in the public domain and the above link is a free electronic version via Project Gutenberg. Print copies are still easily available too, if you prefer a more tactile reading experience.

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The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows 

While it’s been a number of years since reading this sweet series of correspondence between a woman living in London and a small community on a French island, I think fondly think of the enjoyment I received in reading this story set during World War II.

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Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn

I received this as a gift from The Optometrist for Christmas last year and chose to read it a bit later, in July. Centered around the phrase “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog,” the story grows progressively more interesting as letters of the alphabet are banned from being used in written or verbal speech. Read it and you’ll learn why!

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84, Charing Cross Road  by Helene Hanff

I forget how I heard about this epistolary novel, but it was on my ever-growing “wish list” (I would like to read it without buying it). Having reached a slight lull in my reading decisions, I freely requested it through my academic library’s InterLibrary Loan department.

This slim novella could easily be read in a day, or leisurely over a weekend, and was a lighthearted but heartfelt series of real letters between Helene Hanff and the employees of Marks & Co. booksellers found at 84, Charing Cross Road in London.

This little gem was also the catalyst for this blog post!

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Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary

I remember reading this as a little girl while visiting my grandparents, but retained nothing about the plot 25+ years later. The story centers around Leigh Botts, a little boy who writes many letters to his favorite author, Mr. Henshaw, and thus grows as an author himself. It goes without saying that Beverly Cleary knew a thing or two about this topic, having received countless letters from young readers throughout her lifetime.

Upon re-familiarizing myself with this as a part of my Newbery Reading Project, and an example of an epistolary children’s book, I was reminded how well-written children’s books can endure across generations of readers. Even though children are obviously well acquainted with technology and are now more likely to e-mail an author, the themes of inspiration, imagination, dedication to reading and writing, children whose parents are divorced, a longing for friendship, love, and a desire to be known are all timeless.

A surprise came in remembering Paul O. Zelinsky illustrated this book. I loved the episode of Reading Rainbow when Zelinsky’s Caldecott winning version of Rumpelstiltskin is included! Watch the full Reading Rainbow on YouTube episode here.


Are there other epistolary novels you’ve enjoyed and would recommend? Please feel free to share in the comments below!

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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/ 

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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/ 

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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

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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
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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

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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!

Newbery Reading Project

newbery-medal“The Newbery Medal was named for eighteenth-century British bookseller John Newbery. It is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.” (American Library Association)

I am endeavoring to read Newbery medal winners and honor books from at least 1981 (my birth year) to the present. Some of these I read as a child, but I’m classifying “recently” as beginning in 2008, the year I began my Masters in Library Science. Stay tuned for semi-regular updates and feel free to begin your own Newbery reading project!

2017

  • The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill 
  • Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life by Ashley Bryan
  • The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, the Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog by Adam Gidwitz
  • Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk

2016

  • Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña (2016)
  • The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
  • Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson
  • Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan (2017)

2015

  • The Crossover by Kwame Alexander (2017)
  • El Deafo by Cece Bell (2016)
  • Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson (2016)

2014

  • Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo (2014)
  • Doll Bones by Holly Black
  • The Year of Billy Miller by Kevin Henkes
  • One Came Home by Amy Timberlake
  • Paperboy by Vince Vawter

2013

  • The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate (2014)
  • Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz
  • Bomb: The Race to Build — and Steal — the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin
  • Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage

2012

  • Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos (2017)
  • Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai
  • Breaking Stalin’s Nose by Eugene Yelchin

2011

  • Moon over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool
  • Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer L. Holm
  • Heart of a Samurai by Margi Preus
  • Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night by Joyce Sidman
  • One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia

2010

  • When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead (2015)
  • Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Phillip Hoose
  • The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly
  • Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin
  • The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg by Rodman Philbrick

2009

  • The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (2017)
  • The Underneath by Kathi Appelt
  • The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba’s Struggle for Freedom by Margarita Engle
  • Savvy by Ingrid Law
  • After Tupac & D Foster by Jacqueline Woodson

2008

  • Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village by Laura Amy Schiltz
  • Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis
  • The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt (2017)
  • Feathers by Jacqueline Woodson

2007

  • The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron
  • Penny from Heaven by Jennifer L. Holm
  • Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson
  • Rules by Cynthia Lord (2009 – signed copy after hearing her speak live)

2006

  • Criss Cross by Lynne Rae Perkins
  • Whittington by Alan Armstrong
  • Hitler Youth: Growing Up in Hitler’s Shadow by Susan Campbell Bartoletti
  • Princess Academy by Shannon Hale
  • Show Way by Jacqueline Woodson

2005

  • Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata
  • Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko (2009)
  • The Voice that Challenged a  Nation: Marian Anderson and the Struggle for Equal Rights by Russell Freedman
  • Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy by Gary D. Schmidt

2004

  • The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread by Kate DiCamillo (read pre-2008)
  • Olive’s Ocean by Kevin Henkes (2009)
  • An American Plague: The True and Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793 by Jim Murphy

2003

  • Crispin: The Cross of Lead by Avi
  • The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer
  • Pictures of Hollis Woods by Patricia Reilly Giff
  • Hoot by Carl Hiaasen
  • A Corner of the Universe by Ann M. Martin
  • Surviving the Applewhites by Stephanie S. Tolan (2008)

2002

  • A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park
  • Everything on a Waffle by Polly Horvath
  • Carver: A Life in Poems by Marilyn Nelson

2001

  • A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck
  • Hope Was Here by Joan Bauer
  • Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo (2008)
  • Joey Pigza Loses Control by Jack Gantos
  • The Wanderer by Sharon Creech

2000

  • Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis (read pre-2008)
  • Getting Near to Baby by Audrey Couloumbis
  • Our Only May Amelia by Jennifer L. Holm
  • 26 Fairmont Avenue by Tomie dePaola

1999

  • Holes by Louis Sachar
  • A Long Way from Chicago by Richard Peck

1998

  • Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse
  • Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine (2009)
  • Lily’s Crossing by Patricia Reilly Giff
  • Wringer by Jerry Spinelli

1997

  • The View from Saturday by E.L. Konigsburg
  • A Girl Named Disaster by Nancy Farmer
  • Moorchild by Eloise McGraw
  • The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner
  • Belle Prater’s Boy by Ruth White

1996

  • The Midwife’s Apprentice by Karen Cushman
  • What Jamie Saw by Carolyn Coman
  • The Watsons Go to Birmingham: 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis
  • Yolanda’s Genius by Carol Fenner
  • The Great Fire by Jim Murphy

1995

  • Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech
  • Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman
  • The Ear, the Eye and the Arm by Nancy Farmer

1994

  • The Giver by Lois Lowry (read pre-2008)
  • Crazy Lady by Jane Leslie Conly
  • Dragon’s Gate by Laurence Yep
  • Eleanor Roosevelt: A Life of Discovery by Russell Freedman

1993

  • Missing May by Cynthia Rylant
  • What Hearts by Bruce Brooks
  • The Dark-thirty: Southern Tales of the Supernatural by Patricia McKissack
  • Somewhere in the Darkness by Walter Dean Myers

1992

  • Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor (read pre-2008, signed copy)
  • Nothing But The Truth: a Documentary Novel by Avi
  • The Wright Brothers: How They Invented the Airplane by Russell Freedman

1991

  • Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli
  • The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi (read pre-2008)

1990

  •  Number the Stars by Lois Lowry (read pre-2008)
  • Afternoon of the Elves by Janet Taylor Lisle
  • Shabanu, Daughter of the Wind by Suzanne Fisher Staples
  • The Winter Room by Gary Paulsen

1989

  • Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices by Paul Fleischman
  • In The Beginning: Creation Stories from Around the World by Virginia Hamilton (Harcourt)
  • Scorpions by Walter Dean Myers

1988

  • Lincoln: A Photobiography by Russell Freedman
  • After The Rain by Norma Fox Mazer
  • Hatchet by Gary Paulsen

1987

  • The Whipping Boy by Sid Fleischman
  • A Fine White Dust by Cynthia Rylant
  • On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer
  • Volcano: The Eruption and Healing of Mount St. Helens by Patricia Lauber

1986

  • Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan (read pre-2008)
  • Commodore Perry In the Land of the Shogun by Rhoda Blumberg
  • Dogsong by Gary Paulsen

1985

  • The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley
  • Like Jake and Me by Mavis Jukes
  • The Moves Make the Man by Bruce Brooks
  • One-Eyed Cat by Paula Fox

1984

  • Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary (2017)
  • The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare
  • A Solitary Blue by Cynthia Voigt
  • Sugaring Time by Kathryn Lasky
  • The Wish Giver: Three Tales of Coven Tree by Bill Brittain

1983

  • Dicey’s Song by Cynthia Voigt
  • The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley
  • Doctor DeSoto by William Steig
  • Graven Images by Paul Fleischman
  • Homesick: My Own Story by Jean Fritz
  • Sweet Whispers, Brother Rush by Virginia Hamilton

1982

  • A Visit to William Blake’s Inn: Poems for Innocent and Experienced Travelers by Nancy Willard
  • Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary
  • Upon the Head of the Goat: A Childhood in Hungary 1939-1944 by Aranka Siegal

1981

  • Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson (read pre-2008)
  • The Fledgling by Jane Langton
  • A Ring of Endless Light by Madeleine L’Engle

 

Read: September 2017

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The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson

For a long time I’ve been wanting to read something I enjoyed as much as The Help by Kathyrn Stockett. I finally realized I had enjoyed what is categorized as “southern fiction” and The Almost Sisters completely met this literary longing. I’m now interested in reading Ms. Jackson’s other works of fiction and am excited to have found a sub-genre that is comforting to me.

Featured in the Modern Mrs. Darcy Summer Reading Guide, from the Families are Complicated section, the premise sounded a bit scandalous, but when Anne Bogel described this as “The Help meets Comic Con,” I was intrigued and am glad I took a chance in reading this!

A theme that resonated with me was the “second south,” where protagonist Leia has grown up with sweet tea, hospitality, and a love for Jesus as the “first south,” but as she has grown older she recognizes hatred, close-mindedness, and bigotry still simmer beneath the surface as the “second south.”

This has reminded me that I often read within my comfort zone and haven’t consciously explored diversity as much as I should. Therefore, I’m compelled to now read Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham, and The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas.

Book read via: public library

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

While The Almost Sisters is contemporary fiction, the theme of segregation in the Deep South dovetailed into my choice to read the second non-fiction, graphic novel installment about the Civil Rights movement by Representative John Lewis. Book Two picks up where Book One ended, which I read in January.

Book read via: youth collection from my academic library

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Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan

As I’ve said before, I believe the right book finds you at the right time, and I love how my “random” choices in books have all had intersecting themes of looking beyond cultural and race differences.

When Sarah Mackenzie of Read Aloud Revival recommend this via Audible, I was intrigued by her praise, so I bought it and it did not disappoint! This book was not simply narrated, it was performed by several talented voice actors and the narrated story was enhanced by gifted musicians.

Themes of intolerance, kindness, war, hope, and the transforming power of music are threaded throughout three intersecting plots and is one of the best children’s books I’ve ever read (and I’ve read a lot, let me tell you). Right now this has climbed to the top of my favorites read in 2017, thus I HIGHLY recommend this middle-grade story to readers of all ages!

Book read via: Audible

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

In light of this month’s reading theme, I was excited to see March. Book Three come into my office on a truck of new books shortly after reading Book Two. Representative Lewis’ Book Three is the grittiest and most difficult to read of this trilogy, especially his first-hand accounts of “Bloody Sunday” – the Civil Rights attempt to march from Selma to Montgomery, AL, for equal voting rights.

In my opinion, this series is suited to older readers who can best put Civil Rights into context and comprehend tragedies in our nation’s history. Incorporating these into a classroom discussion would be timely considering current headlines: take a knee, police brutality, immigration, DACA, etc.

Book read via: youth collection from my academic library

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The Mothers by Brit Bennett

Midway through the month I saw this on the New Books shelf in my local public library and was intrigued with the premise: loss, longing, and a secret with lasting consequences. Even though this has been listed on “read diverse books” lists, I felt like these themes and characters could have been of any race, from any location.

Book read via: public library


What have you read in September? Care to share any good recommendations?

My books on the nightstand that will likely be finished in October are Artemis by Andy Weir (releasing November 14) and Jane Unlimited by Kristin Cashore, plus hopefully a few more!

Saving My Life: Beginning of Fall Edition

As per the phrase by Barbara Brown Taylor, this is a look at the things saving my life as fall begins.

  1. Bath & Body Works Spiced Apple Bourbon hand soap with pumpkin butter

    During my last trip to Bath & Body Works, I discovered they didn’t have the Leaves scent in this year’s fall soaps, which is my all time favorite. I was so disappointed I didn’t take the time to try anything else new this season, but when a dear friend gave us this as a thank-you gift, I was excited to realize it is very reminiscent of Leaves. Washing my hands at the kitchen sink has been an extra special treat, thanks to this year’s new release!

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  2. Cross stitch

    Since mid-August I’ve been experiencing some consistent joint stiffness and occasional twinges of pain in my left pinkie finger. When you look at the sheer number of items I knit in July, it’s no wonder my joints and hands have needed a break! And while I know it’s in my body’s best interest to give my hands time to rest, it’s been so difficult to not reach for my needles and yarn (or sit down at my piano) during this stressful back-to-school time. But I’ve had to go through seasons of vocal rest in the past and have seen God bring about healing in His time, so I am making a concerted effort to trust His faithfulness once more.

    With this in mind, my patient mother-in-law recently gave me a refresher tutorial on how to cross-stitch. As a young girl I loved printed cross-stitch, but was always intimidated by counted cross-stitch. A few years ago I picked up this beginning kit from Cecilia’s Samplers in Branson, MO, determined to learn, so she showed me a few things, but after our visit I promptly went back to knitting. Now that I’m on the knitting DL, I figured this was the perfect time to devote my creative energies to a new craft, while not putting as much strain on my fingers. It’s been a fun, puzzle-like adventure to see take shape, X by X.

    This is “Simplicity” by Little House Needleworks.

  3. Adult coloring books

    As a child I wasn’t a huge fan of coloring. I loved activity books with word searches and dot-to-dot pictures, but the lack of precision of crayons was always frustrating to my small hands. Fast forward about 30 years and now that adult coloring books and colored pencils have arrived on the scene, this has been another way for me to decompress at the end of a long day. This is Enchanted Forest by Johanna Basford, a past Christmas present from The Optometrist.

  4. Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan on Audible

    While coloring, I have frequently set my phone nearby and listened to this spectacularly performed (not just narrated) middle-grade story that spans continents and time frames, all connected to themes of hope and the power of music.

    It was highly reviewed by Sarah Mackenzie of Read Aloud Revival and it has lived up to her recommendation! Not only so, but it’s one of the best children’s books I’ve ever read and so far my favorite overall book of 2017.

    echo-cover

  5. NCIS 

    And when my brain has needed a vacation, it has often found itself escaping via Netflix to NCIS headquarters to hang out with Gibbs, Ziva, McGee, Abby, and company. The Optometrist and I are currently working our way through Season 10 and I realized the other day, the reason I watch isn’t for the mystery or murders they solve, it’s for the character development between cast members. (I consider them make-believe friends.)NCIS


What things are saving your life as fall finally arrives?

Read: July 2017

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At Home in the World by Tsh Oxenreider

This was the perfect book to read at the beginning of the month since The Optometrist and I did quite a bit of traveling throughout July. Granted, it wasn’t across continents with backpacks and children, rather, across state lines in our own vehicles with suitcases and no other dependents. Yet the perspective of an introvert with wanderlust (like me) finding beauty, rest, and a deeper sense of home among the ordinary and extraordinary during her family’s year-long journey around the world was a comforting read. The writing was beautiful, inviting, and focused on the ways she and her family interacted with places they visited and the ways they lived life as a family in huge cities and tiny villages. So rather than serving as a do-this, go-here, make-sure-you-don’t-miss “travel guide,” it was still enticingly descriptive of landmarks and locations around the world.

Wanderlust and my longing for home are birthed from the same place:  a desire to find the ultimate spot this side of heaven. (p. 246)

This was highly recommended by two sources I’ve returned to time and time again this summer: the Modern Mrs. Darcy Summer Reading Guide in the Thought-Provoking Stories category and the Shauna Niequist Podcast, where Tsh was her inaugural guest in Episode 1.

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

Summerlost

Summerlost by Ally Condie

You might know Ally Condie from her YA novels, including the Matched trilogy (of which I still need to read the second and third installments…), but this is her newest offering, a middle-grade stand-alone story.

Cedar Lee and her family have a new summer routine after tragedy has struck and as Cedar processes this loss and her grief, her new neighbor Leo invites her to take part in the town’s annual summer Shakespeare festival, Summerlost. I immediately developed a strong sense of place as I began reading this book, which is very important for me to connect with the story, characters, and setting. This sweet tale of healing, friendship, and remembering loved ones could be easily read over the span of a day or so, especially during summer vacation.

Book read via: youth collection from my academic library

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World of Trouble by Ben H. Winters

World of Trouble is the final installment of the Last Policeman trilogy, of which I read book 1 in April and book 2 in June, thus I wanted to finish book 3 before I forgot many of the details and connections among the three.

Now just days away from an apocalyptic asteroid making impact with Earth, Henry Palace is on a journey from Massachusetts to Ohio to find his rogue sister Nico and investigate her belief that there really might be a way for the asteroid to be re-routed in the sky before it makes impact. Final mysteries are solved and the series comes to a likely, if not somewhat depressing, conclusion.

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

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Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn 

Given to me by The Optometrist for Christmas, I felt it was finally time to read this smart, epistolary homage to the alphabet, the famous pangram (use of all 26 letters in the alphabet) phrase the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog, a struggling Utopian community, and what happens when the literal letter of the law overrides common sense.

There were hints of Fahrenheit 451, which I love, and of course, Ella Minnow Pea is also known as the series of letters LMNOP. Overall a very cleverly written and thought-provoking novel!

Book read via: home library


As July gives way to August, this signifies to me the end of summer and the beginning of fall since school resumes late-month. Therefore, I’m excited to read and report on some upcoming fall books to which I’ve been given access via free, digital ARCs. Look for blog reviews over some of these titles in the months ahead!

Solo by Kwame Alexander (August 1)

Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore (September 19)

To Be Where You Are by Jan Karon (September 19)

Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu (September 19)

Uncommon Type: Some Stories by Tom Hanks (October 17)

 

Read: April 2017

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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

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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!