September Reading

Best of the Bunch:

Beloved, Toni Morrison

It’s a bitter pill to swallow, but I believe that understanding the past can make us stronger. The book humanizes the struggle of slavery and spotlights the legacy of fear and separation that it created in our country (that has not ceased to exist, especially in our most impoverished communities.)

 

Notable:

Come as you are, Emily Nagoski Ph. D.

Engaging and relevant, this book should be a must read for every woman, if only to help all of us understand that we are all both normal and unique.

 

Raymie Nightingale, Kate DiCamillo

I listened to the audio version and loved every minute. While I have to admit, I love The Tale of Despereaux even more, this story of a summer friendship adventure between Raymie, Louisiana, and Beverly deals with identity, compassion, grief and loss in a wildly entertaining way. I can’t wait to read the sequel, Louisiana’s Way Home, that continues with Louisiana Elefante’s journey with this summer friendship in the rearview mirror.

 

Speak No Evil, Uzodinma Iweala

I received this book several months ago in my Strand subscription box, signed by the author. It’s a quick read, but dealt a big punch. He writes with expert emotion, and through the narrator, Niru, how it feels like to be an immigrant, an African-American, and on the edge of coming out. Largely through his friendship with Meredith, you experience the elation of newly discovered love, frustration, anger, sadness and hopelessness.

 

Entertaining:

Crispin, Avi

This heroic tale was entertaining for me to read, but ultimately I don’t think it would capture my girls’ hearts. It seems they like to read contemporary fiction more than something like this.

 

The President is Missing, Bill Clinton and James Patterson

Fun and entertaining, perfect vacation read or “mind vacation” read. It is lightly seasoned with a little politics, but I wouldn’t think it’s enough to be offensive. Bill Clinton provides the humor and insider presidential view and Patterson provides the twisty plot. I enjoyed it.

 

When Life gives you Lululemons, Lauren Weisberger

Perfect for the aging The Devil Wears Prada fans, we continue with Emily’s story post-Runway. Emily is as snarky as ever and her characterization of these 30-something women in the suburbs is just spot on. It’s not going to open your mind to new and wonderful things, but it’s tremendous fun.

 

Not my favorite:

On Chesil Beach, Ian McEwen

Boring, hopeless, artsy, frustrating, tedious… and this is a movie too? This was a recommendation from a popular blog, Cup of Jo, but it’s not my cup of tea. I need to remember that I have been more overjoyed by the book recs I get from the comment section of the popular blog than the editors’ actual recommendations.

 

Manhattan Beach, Jennifer Egan (started in July, finally finished)

Okay, so this was good. I wouldn’t say entertaining, but it wasn’t a complete waste of time either. I wanted to like it, but it was slow to start and I didn’t really connect with the characters. I read so many glorious reviews of this one, so maybe it’s me.

 

As a side note… are you using the Reco app? You can log in your current reads and keep a digital “want to read” list, as well as recommend anything notable. As you build your network, you can share recommendations. I like it, even if I’m doing less of the recommending and more of the record keeping.

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Fast Friday: On the Needles

I finished a simple baby hat for my neighbor’s new son, Barrett. He is only a few weeks old, but the temperatures have cooled enough that he needs a good, light wooly hat. I was leaning toward a red pom but asked my friend at the last minute to confirm. I’m glad I did, because she requested blue.

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I am finally to the point where I divide for sleeves and knit the body of my Effortless cardi. Slow progress is progress, right?

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Fall Bucket List

The first official day of Fall is Sunday, and even though our weather hasn’t gotten the memo, I am ready to celebrate my favorite season! Here’s my bucket list:

  1. All the pumpkin flavors! Last night, I let my daughter convince me we needed to get Krispy Kreme doughnuts to have a special Friday breakfast. All in, I chose the glazed pumpkin spice cake doughnut and it was heaven. More please!
  2. Begin running again. Feeling the cooler mornings and viewing the gorgeous fall colors are a better incentive than sunburn risk and suffocating in summer humidity. It makes me quit running every summer.
  3. More camping and hiking. We have two trips scheduled so far, and I am excited to get away and enjoy time with nature (and s’mores, of course!).
  4. Fall festival with bluegrass music. There’s several craft fairs that I love to attend, but I want to find one with bluegrass music!
  5. Relaxing Sunday Dinners. We are so busy running around just about every day of the week and I love getting back in the habit of inviting some family or friends over for good, casual food and fellowship to relax and reset before another busy week sweeps us away.

Do you consciously make a list each changing season or just go with the flow?

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Finding Peace in Transition

Fall is my favorite season. The cooler weather, school supplies, football weekends are all welcome, but it can also be challenging.

Our family pace picks up with new responsibilities and activities, and even with a predictable routine, the routine can be more rigorous than we want.

We are also trying to do some moderate updates to our house to keep it fresh. It’s easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of activity and responsibility and let anxiety and worry reign supreme.

Here are 5 simple ways I reduce my anxiety to find peace during transition:

  • Set goals: I find this helpful especially with home renovation, but also exercise, and drinking water, and cleaning the house. When those tasks are broken into manageable chunks, I get less overwhelmed.
  • Prayer: My prayers are often simple, but they are essential to my well-being. In the morning, I remind myself I have been refreshed (Lamentations 3). I ask for focus on the present (Matthew 6). In the evening, I especially try to reflect on the blessings in the unexpected places (Philippians 4).
  • Serve: These are small but practical efforts, and they don’t change the world, but they change my world. (Micah 6:8) What can I do to show Christ in me today? What could I do for my husband today to reduce his stress? What could I do for myself today that would make tomorrow easier?
  • Be creative: We all need a way to release some mental and physical energy. I like to read, jog and knit. My husband likes to do woodworking projects. My daughters blast music and dance. You do you!
  • Young Living Essential Oils: I add Orange or Lemon to my water. I add Peppermint on a cotton ball in the car. (This also helps me reduce over-caffeinating to wake up). Peace & Calming is diffused after school and into the evening. And a Stress Away roller is easy to use before prayer in the evening.

Ultimately, my faith in God is my source of peace, so I included my guiding scripture, if that is something that also interests you.

What works for you? How do you find peace?

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Summer Reading

I’m working towards my goal of 100 books, but not sure if I will make it without a significant portion of the second half of the year being middle grade and young adult. Which really isn’t a problem considering I’m always on the lookout for books to recommend to my girls, and fishing in the pond of Newberry award winners and National Book Award winners is an excellent place to begin. Especially for my oldest, as she gets assigned “her choice” novel studies now. It makes it easier to study a novel that’s a little deeper than Dork Diaries…

 

I’ve kept meaning to write a reading post when June ended, then July, so my apologies that the list is so long. Here’s May to August!

 

Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman (audio)

Not that I’ve ever done anything quite dangerous enough to land me in prison, but I connected with Piper and reading her experience made me wonder exactly how I would react. Prison through Piper’s eyes was both more and less frightening than I imagined.

 

Far from the Tree by Robin Benway

Oh, this story of 3 adopted teens truly touched my heart. Family can take so many forms and following these teens on their journey to find their own meaning of family is just excellent. Best book I’ve read all year.

 

One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus (audio)

A notorious cyberbully gets mysteriously poisoned in study hall, and the story develops around the people that shared the room just before his death. Are they co-conspirators/victims/murderers? I loved this one, and truly could not guess the ending.

 

Force of Nature by Jane Harper

This was creepy and great… once you get past the idea that none of these women wanted to go or were prepared to go on this hike through the Australian bush that left one member missing, but they all went anyway. So a little unbelieveable, but fun regardless.

 

Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood

Hilarious from start to finish. Every family has their quirks but hers is truly original and she writes with such hilarity that you will laugh out loud. I promise.

 

House Among the Trees by Julia Glass (audio)

Oh, I’m not sure if it was just me and I was really distracted, but this was sooooooo boring. I tried both the audio and the library copy and never could finish this one.  It developed so slowly for me, and I wondered it if was going to go in the direction of child abuse, so I just stopped reading. Life is too short for boring books (and books that make you mad-sad).

 

Someone Like You by Sarah Dessen

This story of a friendship between two teen girls Halley and Scarlett showcases complicated parent/child relationships perfectly. I would have loved to have read this in high school, but can appreciate the perspective I have far from it as well.

 

The Girls in the Garden by Lisa Jewell

Creepy to the max, even after the ending. I can’t spoil it because I can’t explain it. I talked to this book- Don’t go out there!! Don’t talk to XXX!! Why did you do that!! Just read it!

 

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

This one has two wartime storylines- 1914 and 1947, and the former is more compelling than the latter. It follows Charley in 1947 on a search for more information about a family member, and I just felt Charley was a bit one dimensional. It wasn’t my favorite war story,  I would recommend The Nightingale or Sarah’s Key or Code Name Verity before picking this one.

 

We are Okay by Nina LaCour (audio)

This was also slow and just okay. The grief that centers the storyline is so amplified that I wanted out of this girl’s brain. Maybe that’s the point? I certainly felt trapped.

 

Our Little Secret by Roz Nay

This was very quick and tricky and exceedingly dark. This little story of a first love gone wrong surprised me. I didn’t guess the ending on this one either.

 

Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan

So, I couldn’t finish this library copy before I had to return it, but I really wanted to. I had to return because there were others waiting on it. But I’m back on the holds list and promise to finish before the year is out.

 

Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen (audio)

I like Bruce’s voice (and music) but didn’t really fall in love with this. I don’t understand enough about making music to follow it or be interested in the intricacies, and wanted to hear more “behind the music” relationship/inspiration details than what was offered. I didn’t finish it. I probably just should have forwarded on to a point in the book where I had a little personal context, but didn’t make the effort.

 

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

I loved this and would recommend to anyone. On the surface, this community is certainly strange, but as she dives into each character you swirl around into a web that is so fascinating and wonderful. The only thing I did not fully understand is why it was relevant to mention it was the 90’s?

 

One Second After by William Forstchen

This was recommended by a friend when we were talking about post-apocalyptic-type books that we’ve read (I mentioned Station Eleven, one of my favorite books ever). I am familiar with Black Mountain, and the Montreat College area, so this felt especially fun and interesting to explore. I can see why the author chose that area, and I’d like to be there as well if this type of attack happened. I didn’t fully understand the mechanics behind the attack, but it was very interesting nonetheless.

 

Moon over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool (audio)

This is the next book I’m buying for my oldest. I loved this little story of Abilene, digging into the mystery of connecting the town’s past with why she was abandoned with an old friend of her father’s, in a town called Manifest. Historical detail is amazing and once you are in the story, it’s hard to put down. Mystery, history, redemption, diversity, all excellent themes to explore in this one.

 

Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell

Another fast paced, thriller from Lisa Jewell. It’s official, I’m a big fan. This had its share of creepy characters and unsolvable mysteries. And I kinda loved the ending, even if it wasn’t what I expected (or turns out, what the author originally decided it would be).

 

A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park

I found this on the Newberry list and although this was a lovely book, it felt more like a book that would be assigned to read versus one that I would be interested in reading.

 

The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware

I felt this was so predictable until the twist at the end. I have liked Ruth Ware’s books, Woman in Cabin 10 especially, and this was a fun and quick read. I didn’t feel like Hal’s childhood and more recent past was developed enough, but I’m not sure if it could be without giving away the ending.

 

A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck

Again, good but not exciting or worthy to pass on as a recommendation for middle grade.

 

That’s it for now. September stack pictured above (all non-library, most borrowed from my mom and sister). Anything you’d recommend?

❤️

Effortless Prep

For Christmas last year, my mother gifted me enough Quince & Co Lark to make the Effortless Cardi, designed by Hannah Fettig. I chose the color Slate, which is a saturated gray/blue.

I swatched (and washed) and realized I need to go down a needle size. I am at 3.5 sts/inch with US 9, and the pattern calls for 4.75 sts/inch. (Yay for swatching! I rarely swatch, but I know it’s a waste of time and yarn to knit a sweater without a swatch.)

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Trolling Ravelry, through others’ project notes who also used Lark, it appears many also had to size down to 8. Additionally, I think I will use 7 on the button bands to keep the ribbing a little more crisp. This yarn is generous and floppy while wet.

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Off to wind and begin…

What are you working on right now?

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Busy Bees, or Bunnies?

July has passed in a total blur. With camps, holidays at the lake, and family vacations, the month is ending and I have very little to show for it except for this cute baby hat and some fast fading tan lines.

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The pattern is Bunny Tail by Susan B Anderson, from the book Itty-Bitty Hats. The yarn was Quince Chickadee. The little booties I just made up as I went, on a bored day without internet at the lake.

We hosted a baby shower for my cousin and her sweet girl and my other cousin that moved all the way across the world to Utah (well, anyway it feels like it’s all the way across the world) came and brought with her my newest cousin, sweet Abraham. Made my summer I tell you! (And no, his blanket is not finished. But as you can see, he has forgiveness in spades.)

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Abraham and I were fast friends. I hope your summer has also been as peaceful and perfect as this little chunk of miracle.

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