Read: June 2018

TheDry

The Dry by Jane Harper

Included in the 2017 Modern Mrs. Darcy Summer Reading Guide under Twisty Novels, I finally got around to reading this a year later, and am now ready to read Harper’s newest novel, Force of Nature, with the same protagonist, which is featured in her 2018 Summer Reading Guide.

Set in Australia in the midst of a severe drought, Aaron Falk has traveled from his federal police job in Melbourne to his rural hometown after his childhood friend Luke is suspected of committing a family murder/suicide. Now that Falk has returned as a mourner, Luke’s parents think his training might lend assistance into these murders to find out if Luke really was responsible and for Aaron to get to the bottom of unresolved secrets shared by he and Luke from their teenage years.

Read via: public library

Ghost

Ghost by Jason Reynolds

I’m just now diving into some of Reynolds’ ground-breaking middle-grade novels, with Ghost included in The Great American Read list from PBS, and having read Long Way Down in February after winning several ALA Youth Media awards.

In Ghost we meet Castle Cranshaw, a.k.a. Ghost, who knows he’s a fast runner even though he’s never been on a track team before. Opportunity, coincidence, and a supportive, Olympic-winning mentor enter at the perfect time for Ghost, but he must first learn some hard lessons about reconciling his past as he deals with anger and self control.

Read via: public library Overdrive

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The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels by Ree Drummond

While this was a re-read for me (2011), I bought a copy during our visit to The Pioneer Woman Mercantile in Pawhuska, and thought The Optometrist might enjoy this as our next read-aloud together. Not only was it a read-aloud, it was a laugh-aloud as we journeyed through her hilarious and self-deprecating perspective of how she and her husband the “Marlboro Man” met and fell in love.

If you are a fan of The Pioneer Woman and haven’t ever read this autobiographic story, you will love it, I’m sure!

Read via: home library

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A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War: How J.R.R. Tolkien And C.S. Lewis Rediscovered Faith, Friendship, And Heroism In The Cataclysm Of 1914-1918 by Joseph Laconte

After finishing the Lord of the Rings series in May and a re-read of Narnia in April, the time was right to listen to this historical account of World War I, its impact on the culture of faith in post-war Europe, and its indelible influences on the writings and friendship of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis.

Read via: Hoopla audio

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What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

Many readers have shared how of all Liane (pronounced Lee-on) Moriarty’s works of women’s fiction, this is their favorite. And while this was my first time to read any of her books, I’m glad I began with Alice. This novel surrounds 39 year old Alice Love, Australian wife and mother who, after a bump on the noggin while exercising at the gym, believes she’s 29 and pregnant for the first time, not remembering a thing about all that’s transpired over the past 10 years of her life.

Filled with humor and heart, Alice’s journey to remember again is a call to live in the moment and focus on what truly matters – love, family, forgiveness, inevitable growth and change, and kindness to others and yourself.

Read via: home library (purchased at Magic City Books)

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The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

Also featured in the Modern Mrs. Darcy 2018 Summer Reading Guide, this is one I would call an uncomfortable, yet compelling read. Uncomfortable in that it deals with abuse, but compelling due to the complex and broken characters, along with a heavy sense of Alaskan atmosphere. Hannah’s descriptions of the oppressive winter darkness and buoyant summer days are bookends for very memorable characters in a lingering story of generational and romantic love.

Read via: public library

Anne-Avonlea

Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery

Last October I read Anne of Green Gables for the first time (technically, listened to, and wonderfully preformed by actor Rachel McAdams) and I longed to continue Anne’s story. This sequel was narrated by Tara Ward, who helped bring the maturing Anne, softening Marilla, loyal Diana, whimsical Miss Lavender, ornery Davey (and more) vividly to my imagination and deeper into my heart. On to Anne of the Island!

Read via: Hoopla audio

BreadWine

Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist

Of all the Christian authors actively writing right now, Shauna Niequist is one of my absolute favorites. And summer is the perfect time for me to slow down and savor her writings, and in this case, her recipes, too. All of the essays in Bread and Wine center around how food connects us to one another, and many of the stories have an accompanying recipe included. Reading this will make you want to bake/cook/serve your people in a meaningful way, where you can leave perfection at the door.

Read via: home library

Dumplin

Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

Life isn’t easy for 16 year old Willowdean Dixon, who lives in a small Texas town with her former beauty queen momma, especially since Will’s body type isn’t typically seen as beauty pageant-worthy. And yet, Willowdean finds herself choosing between two boys who like her and who just might even be brave enough to enter the historic Teen Miss Blue Bonnet Pageant.

This coming of age story is filled with loads of Dolly Parton references and meaningful statements about body image and overall self-confidence.

Read via: Overdrive audio

VincentTheo

Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers by Deborah Heiligman

When I received an ARC of this young adult book, I expected it to be a historical fiction novel surrounding the relationship between brothers Vincent and Theo Van Gogh. However, this was a well-researched and aggregated look at their upbringing, artistic endeavors, and later relationship, based on letters written to each other and to their family members, during their adult years in the 1870s and 1880s.

I learned so many new facts about both brothers, including how they were Dutch, their father was a minister, and Vincent also studied to be a minister for a while. Theo was an accomplished art dealer in Paris, including representing Claude Monet, and died at the age of 34. Vincent likely suffered from manic depression, was a diligent student of improving his craft, and sadly died at the young age of 37.

For fans of Van Gogh, this book explores his life beyond the canvas and would be a great introduction to art history for younger readers or to dive deeper into a historical aspect of a well-known painter for more experienced art lovers.

(Side note: I’m fortunate to have seen one of his Sunflowers paintings at the National Gallery in London in 2005 and a Self Portrait at the Art Institute of Chicago in 2008.)

My thanks to Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group and NetGalley for access to this digital ARC.


As I look ahead to July, I already have a big list of books I endeavor to tackle: Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi (read along with Jimmy Fallon!), My Life in France by Julia Child, Summer at Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan, and more!

What titles await your summer reading? Feel free to comment below!

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Read: May 2018

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

ToAlltheBoys

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

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

Read via: public library Overdrive

LittleBeachStreetBakery

Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan

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

Read via: academic library InterLibrary Loan

ThisOneSummer

This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki

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

Read via: academic library youth collection

Nobody'sCuterThanYou

Nobody’s Cuter Than You by Melanie Shankle

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

Read via: public library Hoopla audio

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P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han

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

Read via: public library

SimplyTuesday

Simply Tuesday by Emily P. Freeman

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

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

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

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

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Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han

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

Read via: public library Overdrive e-book

Reading-People

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

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

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

Read via: public library Hoopla audio

MyKitchenYear

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

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

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

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

Read via: academic library InterLibrary Loan

Ragamuffin

The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning

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

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

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

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

Hamilton-Revolution

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

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

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

Read via: public library Overdrive audio

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The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

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

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

Read via: academic library

LOTR

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

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

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

Read via: home library


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

Read: February 2018

UncommonType

Uncommon Type: Some Stories by Tom Hanks

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

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

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

Read via: NetGalley & public library audio book

Ghosts

Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier

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

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

Read via: youth collection from my academic library

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

Photo via my Instagram.

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

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

Book read via: home library

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The Geography of Genius by Eric Weiner

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

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

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

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

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

Read via: home library

LovePoems

Love Poems by Nikki Giovanni

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

Read via: academic library

AliceNetwork

The Alice Network by Kay Quinn

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

Read via: public library Overdrive

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Two Across by Jeff Bartsch

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

Read via: academic library InterLibrary Loan

LongWayDown

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

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

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

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

HelloUniverse

Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly

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


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

Read: 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/ 

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

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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
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

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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!

Learn: Summer 2017

Linking up with Emily P. Freeman and others, sharing the silly and sublime of what I’ve learned throughout this summer.

1. Vacations shouldn’t be divided in order to conquer

The Optometrist and I do a great deal of “dividing and conquering” in life: taking turns fixing meals, tackling different parts of the store as we grocery shop, and handling different household responsibilities and chores. But the decision to travel with each other to his optometry conference in St. Louis and my knitting retreat in Nashville did not ever allow us to feel like we truly took a “vacation” together. While this was just the way it worked out this summer, in the future I think we’ll be more diligent about planning a trip where neither of us is required to be somewhere else for hours each day and then trying to fit in time to explore together.

2. Amazon donation program

Recently one of my dear colleagues and friends shared how you can re-use your Amazon boxes, fill them with items you wish to donate, and mail them away for free! We haven’t tried this yet, but have a couple of Amazon boxes (after cleaning out some cat hair) that could definitely be used to benefit a good will effort.

3. James 4:8 in Practice

“Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” (James 4:8a – ESV)

Over the summer I continued with my daily Bible reading (current focus is to finish the Old Testament rather than the whole Bible this year) along with Margaret Feinberg‘s Overcomer Bible study of Philippians. Utilizing the color method, I was able to creatively study and analyze names, verbs, repeated phrases, etc. in Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi, was guided with application principles of what I learned, and also participated in a weekly Facebook Live video series (free and still open to everyone!).

The more I’ve been in scripture, the more grounded and peaceful I’ve been and the more I’ve been aware of my need to check in with God throughout the day. It’s been a very sweet spiritual practice.

4. Put down your phone and read

Sarah Mackenzie of Read Aloud Revival, posted on Instagram several months ago saying, “I’ve been surprised by how much time I’ve had for reading since I’ve committed to picking up a book (rather than my phone) when I have a few minutes throughout the day.”

I’ve taken her advice to heart (not every time, but making a more concerted effort) to said no to the sleek white baby and yes to the old fashioned monograph awaiting my attention.

5. Have a giant stack of books ready to read

With that in mind, in June and July I read several books from the Modern Mrs. Darcy Summer Reading Guide, all of which I requested either from our public library or my academic library’s InterLibrary Loan service.  As always seems to be the case, they all started arriving about the same time, which created piles of books around the house. (a.k.a. the best problem to have)

My trick for not feeling overwhelmed by all the books at my disposal was to write on my calendar the date it was due to give myself a visual cue on how much time was left before it needed to be returned, then alternated the types of stories I read to shift my mental focus – ex. a murder mystery followed by a light-hearted YA novel.

My final selection I chose from the MMD list, The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson, is one I started today and am loving it already!

6. When needing a reading break, have a solid queue of other media ready

Visual media – I tell you what, The Optometrist buying us a Google Chromecast has changed the way we “watch television” (Internet streaming since we don’t have cable). Our BluRay player had been our portal for streaming YouTube and Netflix, but when it no longer supported YouTube (even when it did work you had to still type out your search, one letter at a time) and was consistently cantankerous in connecting with Netflix, he ordered a Chromecast and voila, we’re now able to use our phones (both his Android and my iPhone) to “talk” to the device, immediately relaying what’s on your phone to the TV.

And our summer streaming pick from Netflix? Broadchurch. 

Audio media – I’ve been a podcast listener for over a decade, but discovering some new ones, or really good episodes of shows I’ve long appreciated, have been great ways to be informed, inspired, or entertained. Using the podcast app on my iPhone I rotate what the I’m listening to (like the order of books I choose to read) and use the “Up Next” feature to create a playlist so after one podcast is through, a different one will immediately follow.

Podcasts saving my life this summer:

Shauna Niequist

Making Oprah

Fresh Air

Up First

And after hearing rave reviews about the Audible version of Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan, I bought it on sale, and am LOVING this middle-grade WWII novel about hope, kindness, and the power of music; all things I love, but in tandem? Perfection.


What things have been saving your life this summer?

Read: July 2017

AtHome-sm

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

WorldOfTrouble

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)

EMP

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: 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!