Learn: Spring 2018

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

  1. Social media break

    Throughout Lent I made a conscious effort to pay attention to how I spent my free time and this meant abstaining from social media, especially Instagram, and let me tell you, it was freeing. Now that we are beyond both Easter and Pentecost, I find I am happier when I give myself more parameters to only check in periodically throughout the week.

    I follow a few in-real-life (IRL) friends, but a lot more are accounts of fellow readers I don’t know personally, which I hadn’t realized had begun impacting and overwhelming my bookish decision making. Taking a step away allowed me to not only spend more time reading, but tapping back into making more thoughtful decisions about what I read this spring and how I spent my time.

  2. Yeti to the rescue

    Ever since I was diagnosed with a cyst on my vocal chord in college and given a more stringent set of guidelines for vocal health, I’ve been a diligent water drinker. Over the years I’ve gone through my share of Nalgene bottles and a nice Lifefactory one, but after some hesitation about BPA in plastic and the tendency for glass to break, I had my eye on something a bit more easily cleanable and durable .

    Over Spring Break The Optometrist and I took a little road trip to Springfield, MO, to visit the Wonders of Wildlife Museum and Aquarium at Bass Pro Shops (highly recommend!). At Bass Pro he kindly bought me a Yeti water bottle, the 18 oz. “Rambler” in Seafoam. Sturdy, girly, and the ability to keep my water chilled throughout the day makes me realize why this brand has such a loyal following.

  3. Immunity to book allergens

    Over Christmas break my parents, The Optometrist, and I visited one of my favorite used book stores. After a little while they all began getting a tickle in their throats and had to step outside for a breath of fresh air, whereas I was just fine. After 8+ years of working in libraries, I find it ironic that I’m now more allergic to plants outside than books inside.

  4. Billy Graham and Queen Elizabeth were friends

    I’ve slowly been working my way through episodes of The Crown on Netflix. In Season 2, Episode 6, “Vergangenheit,” a plot point is illustrated that the Queen and Billy Graham met together on several occasions in the 1950s (story via Time), which was a complete surprise to me.

  5. Carry the big umbrella

    It’s thankfully been a rainy spring in our corner of Oklahoma and after realizing we own not just one, but three large umbrellas, I decided it was time to grab an unused one and keep it in my trunk for rainy days.

    For years I’ve carried around a small-ish Totes umbrella, which has performed admirably, but anything hanging off my person (usually both a purse and tote bag) is inevitably left a little bit damp on my walk from the parking lot to the Library.

    This is one of those times where “bigger is better” certainly lives up to its moniker.

  6. I can get by with less than I think

    A few weeks ago The Optometrist and I performed with one of our local music groups and our call time was around 5:00, which is about the time we eat dinner. Due to warm ups and stage set-ups before the concert, we only had time to eat the granola bars we had with us, which surprisingly got us both through the entirety of the performance (but I was still glad to eat a bite afterwards).

  7. Duplicates come in handy

    In an ongoing quest to live a simple life, I’ve recently discovered having two of something is not redundant or wasteful, but can be helpful and a time saver. (Example: cleaning supplies in each bathroom). However, this idea was really “driven” home during a recent road trip through Oklahoma and Kansas to Missouri.

    After leaving home I discovered we didn’t have the atlas with us (in the other car) and while I had road maps for OK and MO, states where I’ve lived, we were going to be driving through Kansas with only our GPS. Of course, it was in Kansas when we experienced a complete road closure, as in the road had been ripped up for repairs and was a field of dirt, and a 10 mile back-track to a gas station resulted in, you guessed it, The Optometrist buying me a second atlas to consult during the rest of our trip.

  8. Yes, you should try to stay at the Pioneer Woman Boarding House

    As good fortune would have it, The Optometrist and I were able to book a room at the new Pioneer Woman Boarding House in Pawhuska, OK, the night reservations became available last month. And even though we live an easily drive-able distance away, we hadn’t had the opportunity to visit the Pioneer Woman mecca yet, but as soon as our room at the “BH” was confirmed (the Prairie Room), we knew the time was right for us to visit.

    Even though reservations are booked until March 2019 (yowza!), if you have the chance to go in the coming years, her staff will take very good care of you and it will be a restful, memorable stay.

    Look for a more thorough blog post about all things Pioneer Woman soon!


What noteworthy moments have defined your Spring? Feel free to share in the comments below.

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Read: April 2018

GarlicSapphires

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

Countingby7s

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

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

Dolly

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

NotIfISaveYouFirst

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

NotBecomingMyMother

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

LastBattle

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: March 2018

The57Bus

The 57 Bus by Dashka Slater

My quest to read more from the ALA Youth Media Awards list led me outside my reading comfort zone with The 57 Bus, the true story of a white, transgender teen whose skirt was set on fire by a black, male teen while riding a city bus in Oakland, California, in 2013.

A co-winner of the Stonewall Award and selected as a Finalist in the YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults, the reader gets to know both teens, their families, their hopes and dreams, and while the issue of gender is at the heart of the story, so are the choices we make, consequences, repercussions, kindness toward others, and forgiveness.

Read via: public library

WeAreOkay

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour

Rounding out my current reads from the 2018 ALA Youth Media Awards, this YA novel was this year’s recipient of the Michael L. Printz Award.

College freshman and protagonist Marin has fled her life in California to the unknown East Coast to begin her first year of college after enduring “tragedy…heartbreak…betrayal” and who possesses a profound sense of “broken longing” for answers and love from those who know her best. The story unfolds a little bit at a time with vulnerable moments grounded equally in the present and in the past.

Read via: public library

TenderAtTheBone

Tender at the Bone by Ruth Reichl

After reading two YA books fraught with high emotions, I needed a break, and nothing makes me happier than to read an outstanding food memoir. This was a $3.00 find from my favorite used book store while visiting my parents at Christmas; money very well spent.

In this memoir Reichl weaves recipes into stories and adventures from her early and young adult life in the most inviting way. Whether it’s homemade cheese she ate on a farm in France, a stacked pastrami sandwich discovered at a diner in Montreal while in boarding school, or fixing food for her hippie commune from her garden while living in 1970s Berkeley, you are drawn into each mouth-watering moment, experiencing life along with her (and growing hungrier by the second).

I previously read Delicious!, Reichl’s only fiction novel, in the summer of 2014 and enjoyed it just as much as I did as this, her first memoir.

Read via: home library

LOTR

The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien

Yes, it’s been the better part of 9 months since I read the last installment from The Lord of the Rings, but I’m hanging in there! Since The Optometrist and I are reading these aloud together, I have him to thank for continuing to guide me into all things Tolkien, including character and plot information, and so many world-building details. Now on to Return of the King!

Read via: home library

Jan-Karon-To-Be-Where-You-Are-cover

To Be Where You Are by Jan Karon

Although this has been out since the Fall, it wasn’t until this month the time was right for me to return to Mitford. After a very hectic winter, my schedule and mind have begun to slow down a bit, and I relished reuniting with beloved characters.

In this latest installment of Karon’s longstanding series, Dooley, Lace, and Jack are faced with many real-world challenges in their new family’s personal and professional lives, but make diligent and ongoing choices to love, support, and cling to one another. Father Tim and Cynthia continue to find ways to love and serve the quirky denizens of Mitford, and the supporting cast of characters can always be counted on to bring a smile to my face and a moment for my soul to breathe.

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

Trick-Light

A Trick of the Light by Louise Penny

7th in the Chief Inspector Gamache series, the Chief and his investigative team from the Sûerté du Québec return to Three Pines when an unknown woman is found dead in the garden of recurring characters Clara and Peter. When the identity of the woman is revealed, the question remains if her death is coincidentally timed with Clara’s debut, solo art show. Meanwhile, the Chief and his investigators continue to deal with grief, honesty, and loss from a previous attack to members of their team; an ongoing struggle.

Read via: public library

Comfort-Apples

Comfort Me With Apples: More Adventures at the Table by Ruth Reichl

What a dual-find it was to discover both Tender at the Bone and Comfort Me with Apples over Christmas at my longtime favorite used book store! However, after enjoying Tender so much, Comfort was more gritty for me to read as it centers around Reichl’s affairs, divorce from her first husband, remarriage, and longing for motherhood. And yet despite her personal woes, her professional accomplishments and influence in the food world continued to grow, often illustrated by corresponding recipes. (Danny Kaye’s Lemon Pasta is one I’m anxious to try…)

Read via: home library


Spring has sprung! I await a slower pace as the semester gets closer to reaching its conclusion as I am accompanied by delightful books like Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl and perhaps a few more Newbery medalists, too.

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

HP-Azkaban
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-eric-weiner-paperback-263x409

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

TwoAcross

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.

Learn: Winter 2018

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

  1. Dewey Decimal rock star
    Isaac Asimov
     is one of the few authors whose books are featured in almost every classification of the Dewey Decimal System.
  2. Classical music revelations
    One of my colleagues has done extensive research on Leonard Bernstein over the years, which piqued my curiosity into remembering more about this pioneer of American composition and conducting. Plus, 2018 is the centennial of his birth! In my own exploration of Bernstein on the Internet, I found this video that features Bernstein introducing 7 year old Yo Yo Ma as he played for Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy in 1962.
  3. Feed the cat when he’s hungry
    We’re typically home mid-afternoon most weekends and typically Sylvester begins begging for his dinner around 3:00 p.m. (But let’s be honest – I need a snack around this time, too.) Since adopting him almost 3 years ago we’ve tried to appease or scold him when he begins to either a.) meow pitifully or b.) become a holy terror.
    After returning home from our Christmas travels, we fed him a portion of his evening meal mid-afternoon and the rest around the time we eat early evening, which has made all the difference in his comfort and our sanity.
  4. Winter wardrobe and jewelry
    This winter I discovered I have a lot of mix-and-match items in my wardrobe that could be a uniform for Gryffindor house at Hogwarts -maroon and mustard yellow with black, white, and grey. This brings me secret pleasure to wear everyday Harry Potter outfits to work.
    I’ve also discovered that I stick to wearing the same 2 pair of low-profile earrings and bracelets due to the fact I often have a hand-knit scarf or shawl wrapped around my neck or body and don’t want to snag these stitches on protruding jewelry teeth or jagged clasps.
  5. Reading on a deadline
    While I have scads and scores of unread books in my home library, I’ve come to the realization that I would much rather read a book from the library and have a deadline for returning it rather than having it languish by my beside.
  6. Tell people what you need
    At the end of January I attended a mid-day yoga class with my favorite instructor and at the end of class she shared with our small group her birthday was coming up the following week. Without apology she shared her birthday plans for that day and wanted to open cards as a part of her personal celebration.
    She asked us to write down a thought, birthday wish, etc. and either mail it to her or drop it by the studio (she brought her own cards and stamps if we needed them). Not one person in our group batted an eye or said no when this request was asked of us and it reminded me I shouldn’t be ashamed of asking friends for something I need or something that will make me feel loved.

What have you learned this winter? Or maybe there are some lessons still in progress? Feel free to share in the comments below.

Book Review: Still Me by Jojo Moyes

stillme

Fans of Jojo Moyes, rejoice! Louisa Clark, the plucky heroine from Me Before You and After You, returns in Still Me. Following up from the plot in After You, Louisa has been contacted by her friend and former colleague Nathan, who also worked with Will in Me Before You, about the possibility of working for a wealthy family in New York.

Despite her newfound love with Ambulance Sam, Louisa needs a fresh perspective and an opportunity to let go of the past, so she agrees to the offer and proceeds to move from London to New York. And not just anywhere in New York, but to 5th Avenue, as the live-in assistant to Agnes, the immigrant (younger, second) wife of an American millionaire businessman.

There are fun parallels to The Devil Wears Prada as Louisa transitions to being a girl about the city, learning how to anticipate Agnes’ needs and helping her navigate obligations inherent with her posh lifestyle. But as her personal assistant, Louisa is also privy to family secrets and when her loyalty causes Agnes’ wealthy husband to question Louisa’s actions, the predictability of the book’s plot becomes less so. Louisa is now faced with the opportunity to reinvent herself again and have the opportunity to embrace her true love: vintage fashion.

As she explores New York City, it becomes a supporting character all on its own – Central Park, the neighborhoods, libraries, and diners she visits all enhance the overall atmosphere of the book.

The character of Louisa is entirely relatable to me with her desires of putting others ahead of herself, living a full and passionate life, and embracing her creative and quirky tendencies. She would definitely be the kind of gal I would want to befriend in real life.

As is typical of Moyes’ writing, she infuses “all the feels” into Still Me: sweetness, humor, longing, sadness, grief, courage, living life to the full, and, of course, love. For those who have loved this ongoing story line, Still Me is not to be missed.

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

 

 

 

Read: December 2017

My December reading has included newfound literary Christmas treats, many novellas, and several 2017 buzz-worthy books!

Bonfire

Bonfire by Krysten Ritter

In this fictional debut from actress and knitter (!!!), Ritter’s protagonist Abby is a lawyer who has returned to her rural hometown in Indiana 10 years after graduating high school and escaping to the allure of anonymity in Chicago.

She has no reason to come back and face unanswered questions until Abby’s legal team is sought to investigate claims that a local, do-gooder company is actually responsible for a variety of chronic illnesses and environmental red flags. Abby realizes the task to separate these current incidents from the unexplained behaviors of past acquaintances (many bullied her and were too mean to be called “friends”) is easier said than done.

My thanks to Edelweiss for access to the digital ARC. https://www.edelweiss.plus

TDOAL

The Deal of a Lifetime by Fredrik Backman

Probably best known for A Man Called Ove (which I have yet to read), Swedish author Backman tells a brief yet compelling story in this novella set on Christmas Eve.

Upon its completion I was left thinking about ambition and legacy, and as a Christian, humility and sacrifice.

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

ChristmasBall

Two Tickets to the Christmas Ball by Donita K. Paul 

I honestly can’t remember where I heard about this book, but it’s been on my Christmas TBR list for several years.

Cora and Simon are two co-workers whose paths have never crossed other than in a business as usual way. But when they both visit the same mysterious bookstore on the same evening and both receive tickets to the wizard’s ball, Divine destiny is giving them a push to take another look at one another.

Filled with a bit of Christmas magic from a Christian’s perspective, this novella was more traditional in its length and made for a sweet, romantic weekend read.

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

FamilyUnderBridge

The Family Under the Bridge by Natalie Savage Carlson 

This Newbery Honor Book from 1959 casts a heartwarming and dreamy look at a serious topic – homelessness at Christmastime.

When Armand, a beggar on the streets of Paris, encounters a mother and her three children who are now also homeless, he begrudgingly sets in motion an unexpectedly generous approach to helping provide for them in their time of need.

The illustrations by Garth Williams, whom I met as a young girl, are a beautiful accompaniment to this story about kindness and the family you choose.

Book read via: youth collection from my academic library

Chemist

The Chemist by Stephenie Meyer

Recommended by a colleague back in the summer, I began listening to this during my Thanksgiving travels. The narration was well done with easily identifiable character voices. For those familiar with Meyer, the author of Twilight, I promise there are no sparkly vampires in this one!

This spy thriller unfolds well, allowing the reader to get to know The Chemist and how she earned her name from her former job as a mastermind of chemical persuasion for the American government. But questions remain: why is she still on the run, who set her up to interrogate an innocent man and why, and whom can she love and trust moving forward as she seeks answers (and revenge) for those who have wronged her?

Book read via: public library (audio CD)

ExitWest

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

The American Library Association’s Book Club Central, has developed a new(ish) partnership with actress Sarah Jessica Parker as their honorary chair. I just love how she describes herself as an avid reader, “To this day, I would never leave the house without something to read. I’ve been running late for things and run back just to get a book” (from American Libraries magazine). I hear you, SJP, I hear you.

Exit West has been the fall selection, which I added to my public library wish list and when I found it wasn’t checked out a few weeks ago, I brought it home with me.

Also mentioned in the NPR Best Books of 2017 list, this contemporary fiction novel depicts two Middle Eastern young adults, Nadia and Saeed, whose friendship and burgeoning love becomes increasingly difficult as safety within their unspecified city becomes painfully violent with infighting between rebels and the military. But rather than be trapped by their surroundings, portals exist in their city (as do they all around the world) allowing them to pass through a door and leave their home location.

While I would classify this as fiction with magical realism, it is steeped in a reality all too common for many who face being a refugee in various parts of the world. The prose is beautifully written and easy to follow, which makes for a beautiful read from a different cultural perspective.

Book read via: public library

FC-JRRT

Letters from Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkien

Reading all of The Lord of the Rings series remains an ongoing goal, but this sweet collection of letters has nothing to do with Middle Earth. They have everything to do with Tolkien and his imaginative love shared with his children over the span of about 20 years as he writes and illustrates letters from the pen of Father Christmas.

This is a perfect Christmas read-aloud for members of the whole family but I would suggest using the print version so as to not miss out on viewing his variations of hand lettering and fonts for the different characters, along with the accompanying colorful illustrations.

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

TheHangman

The Hangman by Louise Penny

This Chief Inspector Gamache novella was written for the Good Reads incentive program for reluctant readers in Canada, thus making it very approachable with the plot and vocabulary. A handful of Penny’s characters from Three Pines make an appearance and only whets your readerly appetite for more!

Book read via: public library Overdrive

SistersFirst

Sisters First by Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Pierce Bush

Over the past three decades the Bush family has been synonymous with American politics. Without a political agenda, this co-authored memoir by twins Jenna and Barbara lends a very personal and inviting presence to hear their side of the story.

This memoir is filled with candid stories of their childhood, honest explanations of moments in the spotlight, and, most importantly, a deep and appreciative love for each other and their unique family.

Book read via: public library


Next up on the blog: my knitting recap and goals for 2018!