Read: July 2018


Only Human by Sylvain Neuvel

The Optometrist and I read aloud the first two books of the Themis Files last Spring, Sleeping Giants in April and Waking Gods in May, so we were very excited to wrap up this interview/epistolary-style trilogy this summer.

Picking up where Sleeping Giants left off, we enjoyed the journey Rose, Vincent, Eva, and Eugene took to Ekt, their struggles to adapt there, their (mostly) desire to return to Earth, and their plans to help restore needed peace on Earth upon their re-arrival.

My thanks to Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine and NetGalley for access to both the print and digital ARC.


Summer at Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan

I had been waiting for summer to arrive in order for this to be a seasonal read, after having read Little Beach Street Bakery in May. What a delight it was to return to the lighthouse in Mount Polbearne to revisit Polly, Huckle, and Neil the puffin, and to root for her bakery career and their relationship. Now I just have to wait for the final Christmas installment in this sweet (all puns intended) series.

Read via: academic library InterLibrary Loan


The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile

For a while now, I’ve been hearing a lot about the Enneagram (especially from No Thanks We’re Booked and Anne Bogel) and was curious to learn more about this ancient method of better understanding not only your strengths, but your weaknesses, and how this knowledge better allows you to live a healthy, Christian life. Enneagram teachers Cron and Stabile outline each of the 9 types/numbers with practical examples of what each number looks like in healthy and not so healthy situations, providing great encouragement to embrace who God has made you to be. (And I’m pretty sure I’m an Enneagram 1, The Perfectionist or The Reformer, which really wasn’t a surprise at all.)

Read via: Hoopla audio


The Book of M by Peng Shepherd

I forget where I heard about this post-apocalyptic story, but after having loved The Road by Cormac McCarthy and Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, the premise immediately appealed to me.

Around the world people are beginning to lose their shadow and when they do, their memories soon follow suit, which has upended civilization. Told through a series of perspectives of interconnected “shadowed” vs. “shadowless” people in search of an illusive man in New Orleans, this is a story of clinging to memories, hope, and love even in the worst of circumstances.

Read via: public library


In Conclusion, Don’t Worry About It by Lauren Graham

These words of wisdom were originally given as a commencement address at Langley High, actress Lauren Graham’s alma mater (I loved her memoir Talking As Fast As I Can). The audio book is narrated by her and is less than 30 minutes in length – perfect for a short car trip (like when I listened to it).

“Love yourself and what you’re doing, even if you’re not yet at the place you hope to land. Let joy be the thing that drives you and I bet you’ll get there faster. Give yourself permission to make mistakes. … Your job doesn’t define you – your bravery and kindness and gratitude do…you are enough just as you are.”

Read via: Libby audio


The President Is Missing by Bill Clinton and James Patterson

Former President Bill Clinton teams up with writing juggernaut James Patterson to create a fictitious, but not unlikely scenario of how the president would deal with a cyber attack – its impact, the terrorists at its inception, potential fallout in the United States and around the world, and how it can be prevented. Written in Patterson’s distinctive short-chapter style, Clinton’s influence is apparent with true insider knowledge and a positive perspective of how we are always stronger together.

Read via: public library


Out of Left Field by Ellen Klages

This children’s historical fiction story is set in 1950s San Francisco, centering around Katy Gordon, the best baseball pitcher in her neighborhood and school. The fact that she’s a girl and restricted from playing Little League, as per their rules, inspires her to fight back through research, leading her to learn more about the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. While her story is fictitious, the female baseball pioneers she discovers are not, making this a great story to be used in an elementary classroom for American history and sports history alike. (And watching A League of Their Own with older kids would be a fun tie-in, too!)

My thanks to Viking, an imprint of Penguin Random House, for the ARC.


Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata

This novella explores the ordinary life of Keiko, whose job at a Japanese convenience store gives her not only an income, but deeper purpose and identity. (As an educator, I would hazard a guess she would likely be classified somewhere on the Autism spectrum.) While she lacks understanding of how society functions, she possesses keen insight into human observation, making her a valued employee, until a male worker begins to disrupt the status quo with her job and life. Overall, this is a story of belonging and remaining true to yourself, quirks and all.

Read via: Libby e-book


Kind is the New Classy by Candace Cameron Bure

So much of what comes out of Hollywood seems to be trivial, negative, or shallow, but this call to kindness and living a life of intention from actress Candace Cameron Bure is filled with Biblical truth, positivity, and depth. She shares first-hand examples of how she has stood up for her faith and values with conviction, covered in grace, which serves as a friendly and approachable reminder that we can all show ourselves and others kindness and respect.

Read via: public library


Whiskey in a Teacup by Resse Witherspoon

In this lifestyle guide, actress Reese Witherspoon shares with fans and readers insights, photos, and recipes into what it means to be a Southern woman – well put-together on the outside with a fiery spirit inside, hence the title of her book. Releasing September 18, look for a full review on my blog then!

My thanks to Edelweiss for access to the digital ARC.

August means the start of “fall” for me, since our academic year begins soon. What are you excited about reading in the upcoming season?


Read: May 2018

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


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

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

Read via: public library Overdrive


Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan

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

Read via: academic library InterLibrary Loan


This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki

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

Read via: academic library youth collection


Nobody’s Cuter Than You by Melanie Shankle

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

Read via: public library Hoopla audio


P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han

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

Read via: public library


Simply Tuesday by Emily P. Freeman

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

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

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

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


Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han

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

Read via: public library Overdrive e-book


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

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

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

Read via: public library Hoopla audio


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

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

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

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

Read via: academic library InterLibrary Loan


The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Read via: public library Overdrive audio


The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

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

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

Read via: academic library


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

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

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

Read via: home library

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

Read: April 2018


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

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

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

Read via: academic library


Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

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

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

Read via: home library


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

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

Read via: academic library


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

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

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

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

Read via: academic library InterLibrary Loan audio CDs


Not if I Save You First by Ally Carter

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

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

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

Read via: home library

beautiful mystery.jpg

The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny

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

Read via: public library


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

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

Read via: public library


The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis

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

Read via: public library Overdrive

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

Read: February 2018


Uncommon Type: Some Stories by Tom Hanks

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

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

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

Read via: NetGalley & public library audio book


Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier

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

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

Read via: youth collection from my academic library

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

Photo via my Instagram.

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

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

Book read via: home library


The Geography of Genius by Eric Weiner

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

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

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

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

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

Read via: home library


Love Poems by Nikki Giovanni

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

Read via: academic library


The Alice Network by Kay Quinn

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

Read via: public library Overdrive


Two Across by Jeff Bartsch

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

Read via: academic library InterLibrary Loan


Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

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

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

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


Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly

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

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

Read: November 2017


Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos

After finishing Anne of Green Gables on Audible, I wanted to try my public library’s Overdrive audio book selection. I downloaded the app, searched for available Newbery winners, and selected this 2012 medal recipient. Easy!

Narrated by the author, this semi-autobiographical story of Jack Gantos’ childhood is a fictitious glimpse of a child’s life in the post WWII 1950s with quirky characters, two parents with differing styles of love and discipline, the care taken to write a quality obituary, a neat (and true) connection to Eleanor Roosevelt.

Book read via: Overdrive audio


The Encore by Charity Tillemann-Dick

Sixteen years ago I was a vocal music education major in my junior of college and after an extended period of having difficulty producing sound, I was placed on vocal rest by my ear, nose, and throat doctor. The diagnosis of a cyst on one of my vocal chords was the culprit, which I combated with vocal rest, consistent hydration, a modified diet, and medication to combat acid reflux. After approximately 3 months, I was able to begin singing again – a praise for which I continue to give thanks to God Almighty.

Thus when I came across Charity Tillemann-Dick’s story of undergoing a double lung transplant as a young opera singer, I immediately empathized with a fellow soprano and was intrigued to read her account of overcoming a much more serious and life-threatening hurdle.

I flew through this memoir over a weekend and found her story approachable, honest, and filled with faith, hope, and the desire to truly live and be thankful for each personal and musical achievement. Even for those who have not studied classical music or medicine, her story is relatable and entirely inspirational.

Her 2010 TED Med speech/performance gives a condensed synopsis of at least part of her story. Watch her TED Talk here.

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


84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

This has been on my TBR list for ages and after receiving it from ILL, I was astonished how slim an epistolary novel this was – only 71 pages! Had the adjustment back to standard time not thrown my internal clock for a loop, I could have easily read the whole thing in a day.

This collection of real letters exchanged over several decades between Hanff, an avid reader and writer in New York City, and the employees of Marks & Co. antiquarian booksellers at 84, Charing Cross Road in London, was as endearing as I hoped this book would be.

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


Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary

The recipient of the 1984 Newbery medal, this is an outstanding example of the timelessness of well-written children’s books that includes themes of reading and writing, the difficult impact divorce has on the life of a child, and the longing to be understood, listened to, and loved.

After reading 84, Charing Cross Road and Dear Mr. Henshaw, I started thinking about other epistolary novels I’ve read and enjoyed, which led me to blog about other books in this style of writing. Read this blog post here.

Listen to Ms. Cleary’s Newbery acceptance speech here.

Read more about my Newbery Reading Project here. 

Book read via: youth collection from my academic library


You’re a Genius All the Time by Jack Kerouac

Currently the shelf organization of our main collection allows me to walk out of my office and see this immediately outside my door. I’ve often walked by it, meaning to pick it up for a quick read, and I finally did so on a recent Friday afternoon.

This slim volume contains brief but deep phrases and ideas about the process writing from one of America’s most famous beat poets. My favorite was, “No fear or shame in the dignity of your experience, language & knowledge”

Book read via: my academic library


Camino Island by John Grisham

I read The Innocent Man by John Grisham in April of 2016, but prior to that, Skipping Christmas in 2002 was been the last time I read anything by him newly published. (The Firm remains my favorite of Grisham’s writing.)

I’ve been aware of his more recent publications, but when I heard this book’s premise of a heist planned to steal original F. Scott Fitzgerald manuscripts from Princeton (academic library!), a black market book seller (book store!) and an inquisitive writer (author!) seeking inspiration in Camino Island, Florida, I couldn’t help but request it from the library!

This was a fun read and reminded me why John Grisham (and other authors like him) are so popular – they draw readers in with an intriguing story, likable characters, short and easily digestible chapters, and a tidy conclusion at the end.

Book read via: public library


In This Moment by Karen Kingsbury

While this is listed as a part of the Baxter family saga, the Baxters and Flanigans are only supporting characters in this newest release from Karen Kingsbury.

The key story revolves around a new character, a Christian high school principal whose students are exhibiting increasingly troubling and dangerous behavior. As a way of providing an alternative, he forms an after school Bible club which results in lives changed…but also a religious freedom lawsuit. Thus themes of standing up for religious liberty are heavily woven throughout Kingsbury’s latest installment.

My thanks to NetGalley for access to the digital ARC.



Refugee by Alan Gratz

A highlight of my fall semester is helping out at our Scholastic Book Fair fundraiser, where a portion of the proceeds go to enhance and support our academic library’s youth collection. When I saw Refugee was included, of which I had heard good reviews, it piqued my interest into a very timely topic and I bought a copy for myself.

Told from three children’s perspectives, each of whom face exile from their homeland: Josef – a boy who is Jewish during Hitler’s oppressive rise in 1930s Germany, Isabel – a girl from Cuba fleeing during Castro’s reign in the 1990s, and Mahmoud – a boy from Syria facing modern-day atrocities.

This would spur wonderful conversation for middle and high school readers, yet due to the intense nature of these three stories, I wouldn’t recommend this for sensitive or younger readers without guidance or an adult reading partner.

Book read via: personal library

I’ve just received several festive Christmas novellas from various library sources and am looking forward to these enhancing my already festive Christmas mood! (Look for a blog post about that soon.) Are you also getting ready to read seasonally? Feel free to leave comments and suggestions below.


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!


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.


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.


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!


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!


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!

Read: October 2017


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. 


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. 


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


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

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 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 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!