Read: May 2017

All of my April reading projections were upended with access to new books in May: two memoirs, a sci-fi sequel, and a YA mystery!

Alyssa

Who Thought This Was a Good Idea? And Other Questions You Should Have Answers to When You Work in the White House by Alyssa Mastromonaco with Lauren Oyler

After hearing Alyssa Mastromonaco’s interview on a recent episode of Fresh Air, I was curious to pick up her autobiography.  Filled with wit, candor, and gumption, she recounts honest, some humorous, and many less-than-glamorous stories about the hard work it took to coordinate, plan, and serve as President Obama’s Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations (among many political jobs and positions held for a variety of politicians).

She significantly downplays her own abilities, but it’s evident that she just didn’t “arrive” or “happen onto” a position working alongside the leader of the free world. So if you’re remotely interested in political autobiographies, this is a refreshing and inspiring read.

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

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Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel

As soon as The Optometrist and I finished reading book 1 of the Themis Files, Sleeping Giants, in April, we quickly segued into reading aloud book two together, Waking Gods.

The cast of characters from Sleeping Giants returns, allowing the reader to gain more backstory and details of these individuals’ lives. We also learn more about the history of Themis, the other alien robots, and their descendants populating much of the Earth, while the Earth Defense Corps (EDC) tries to stay one step ahead of the robots to preserve as much of humanity as is possible. The story ends with a very obvious cliff-hanger, so The Optometrist and I are anxious to continue the series as soon as the third book is published (TBD)!

My thanks to Edelweiss for this digital ARC!

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Between Heaven and the Real World by Steven Curtis Chapman with Ken Abraham

My adolescent, teenage, and college years were punctuated with a soundtrack revolving heavily around Steven Curtis Chapman’s music (some of which was on cassette tape, ahem). Thus, when I heard about the release date for his long-awaited memoir, I immediately added it to my InterLibrary Loan requests.

This autobiography is filled with stories and personal photos of early influences growing up in a musical family, his initial launch into Contemporary Christian music as a songwriter, how he met and fell in love with his wife Mary Beth, his numerous successes and awards in the music industry, the birth of their three children, the adoption of their three daughters from China, the grief and heartache of the death of one of their daughters, and the faithfulness of God carrying him through each “great adventure” he and his family have encountered personally and professionally.

Themes of God’s love and the hope we have in Him alone make this a must-read for any fan of Steven Curtis Chapman!

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

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Zero Day by Jan Gangsei

Addie, a politician’s daughter, was kidnapped from the governor’s mansion as an 8 year old girl and has suddenly reappeared at the age of 16 with her father now elected as President of the United States. Simultaneously, a series of public events in Washington, D.C., some political and some not, have been hacked or hijacked by a group calling themselves Cerberus, striking fear into innocent people. Always a brilliant computer whiz, the question remains, is Addie’s reappearance tied to these acts of political anarchy?

This was a great YA page turning mystery, perfect since May is National Mystery Month!

Book read via: home library (bought from our Scholastic book fair fundraiser)

 

Currently reading/soon to be finished in June: Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist, The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien, and Countdown City by Ben H. Winters.

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Read: April 2017

TalkingFast

Talking as Fast as I Can by Lauren Graham

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

Book read via: public library

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Love Story by Karen Kingsbury

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

My thanks to Edelweiss for this digital ARC!

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The Cruelest Month by Louise Penny

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

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

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

Book read via: public library

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

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

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

Book read via: youth collection from my academic library

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The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
by Douglas Adams

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

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

Book read via: home library

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

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

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

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

Book read via: home library

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Hope Heals 
by Jay and Katherine Wolf

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

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

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

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Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Nuevel

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

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

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

Book read via: home library

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The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters

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

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

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

Book read via: public library

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