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

BlackHeelsTractorWheels

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

WhatAliceForgot_US

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)

the-great-alone

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: Top 5 of 2017!

Favorite books read in 2017:

(Links below lead back to blogs where I discuss these books in more detail.)

Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan
This was my FAVORITE book of the year, especially via Audible!

Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
Why did it take me over 3 decades of living on Earth to discover this literary kindred spirit?!

Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist
An ideal read when needing to take a breath at the start of summer.

The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson
Discovering the term “Southern fiction” makes me very excited to read more in this genre in the coming year.

Still Life by Louise Penny
…Plus the next 5 Chief Inspector Gamache books I’ve also read this year – a newfound favorite mystery series.

Total books read: 74

Home library: 13     Public library: 23     Academic library: 9     InterLibrary Loan: 11     E-books: 13     Audio books: 5

2018 reading goals:

  • Seasonal reading
    Over the past two Christmases, I have really enjoyed reading seasonally, so I hope to do more of that through spring and summer this year (as well as fall and winter).
  • Less screen time
    Since this summer, I’ve been motivated to spend less time on my phone and instead reach for a book and hope to continue this diligent bit of self-control into the new year.
  • Diverse reading
    I live by the philosophy that “the right book finds you at the right time.” In September and beyond I have intentionally been more open to reading books with diverse characters and plots, namely viewpoints from African American authors and stories about immigration, and I desire for this pattern to continue to inform my view of the world.
  • Read more from my home library
    Upon viewing my reading statistics, over the past year I’ve leaned heavily on borrowing library books, for which I (and my bank account) are so thankful, but there remain many, many books I need to read on the shelves of my home library.
  • An active TBR list
    Like a lot of people the winter blues can really zap me in January, so having a list of books ready to read and/or request from the library really gets me excited!
    On my short list are:
    • Lean In by Cheryl Sandberg
    • Dear Fahrenheit 451 by Annie Spence
    • Courage is Contagious by Nicholas Haramis
    • Endurance by Scott Kelly

What have been your favorite books of 2017? Are there specific books you are excited about reading in 2018?

Read: July 2017

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At Home in the World by Tsh Oxenreider

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

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

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

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

Summerlost

Summerlost by Ally Condie

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

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

Book read via: youth collection from my academic library

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!