April Reading

As spring blossomed, I heeded the call to be outdoors this month (allergies be damned, ha). We spent several weekends at the lake, adjusting the dock and cleaning up after the flooding, and just enjoying some longer evenings spent with friends, riding bikes and playing in our neighborhood.

I had running on the brain, with the half marathon, and read a couple of cookbooks about running nutrition and whole foods- Run Fast/ Eat Slow and Nourishing Meals.

I also listened to Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli on my walks. It was narrated by John Ritter, a voice I adore. Stargirl is a girl who is misunderstood, who marches quite literally to the beat of her own drum. I loved it and can’t wait to enjoy this one again with my soon-to-be-middle-schooler.

I’ve been wanting to read When Breath Becomes Air for awhile now. Being so popular when it came out, it was hard to pick up at the library. And in forgetting to reserve it online, completely forgot about the book. A couple of months ago, when reading yet another glowing review, I finally pulled the trigger and got on the wait list at the library. Of course, the advantage in waiting is that the library has many, many copies now and the wait was not long. The book was hopeful, and sad, and lovely, and just everything I wanted it to be. (Well maybe not, I knew the ending, but if I didn’t- I would hope for some magical cure, happy-ending optimist that I am.) The medical jargon was a little over my head, but broken down enough that I got the gist of what was happening to Paul. I certainly read it more with the focus of Lucy and how she must feel to navigate this journey, rather than Paul. A true must-read, as many reviews have advertised.

I also read Running by Cara Hoffman. I had mixed feelings about this one. The story is centralized around a young girl orphaned very young, and raised unconventionally. She ends up hustling for money and squatting around Europe. Parts of the story were shocking, and seemed to amount to a miserable existence. Just when you think the abandonment and hopelessness would triumph, hope peeked around the corner and you realized that she was living the life she wanted. So maybe as an observer, I just don’t understand the appeal of the lifestyle, and that’s why I was a bit distracted and uninterested as a reader.

Have you read anything wonderful lately?

 

Summer Reading Plan

With the school year ending, I’m not going to lie- I am very excited to see the end of the reading log for the kiddos. We love to read! However, the requirement to log in a certain amount of time a day truly steals the joy.

So this summer, the reading plan is very loose. I am taking them to the library on Fridays, to let them pick anything they want. They have their own library card, and I let them usually choose 5-10 books. And together (bedtimes and car trips mainly) we will try to read a few chapter books.

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These are some of the ones I’m looking forward to sharing this summer:

The Boxcar Children

The Courage of Sarah Noble

Red, White, and Blue

Hattie & Hudson (not chapters but so beautiful)

Bellyache

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And for me-

The Woman in Cabin 10 and In a dark, dark wood, in thriller preparation for The Lying Game (coming out July 25!)

More of the Outlander series

Pure, White, and Deadly 

Always and forever, Lara Jean 

Echo

And some other new releases that I heard about on Bookpage: How to Fall in Love with Anyone: A Memoir in Essays and Mrs. Fletcher: A Novel

Do you like to make a plan for yourself and your kiddos?

Reading Phases

I don’t know if this is common with others, but I go through reading phases. My interest will go heavily into nonfiction, fiction, biographies, magazines, cookbooks, or juvenile novels, for several months. Because I am actually recording what I read these days, there’s a certain effort into spreading it out. But what happens now, instead of enjoying that rabbit hole, it results in me just not reading and picking up my knitting or focusing on running, if I can’t get into what I’m telling myself I should be reading (instead of what I want to be reading). Which is a long way of saying, I haven’t been reading very much.

But I did pick up two excellent cookbooks that were new on my library’s shelves this past month (and disheartenedly, they are due tomorrow and reserved, so there’s no option of renewing).

Nourishing Meals by Alissa Segersten & Tom Malterre

Nourishing Meals was excellent, and would be a top notch resource if your meal planning involves sidestepping gluten, dairy and soy. You should have seen how many recipes I sticky-noted along the way! I made the grapefruit and radish salad a few weeks ago, and have so many more plans to incorporate these recipes into my daily routine. There’s practical advice on lunch planning, creating balanced family meals, and incorporating smart snacking into your diet.

Run Fast. Eat Slow. by Shalene Flanagan & Elyse Kopecky

I heard about Run Fast. Eat Slow. on the podcast, Another Mother Runner. The half marathon training was in full swing, and I was struggling with the energy to get out the door for the longer runs and trying to figure out what to eat (& when) to maximize my energy levels while also being realistic about balancing my busy work & kid schedule. With the help of this book, I roasted beets for smoothies, garlic and sweet potatoes, and batch cooked whole grains. This book was endorsed by some pretty impressive athletes- Joan Benoit Samuelson, Meb Keflezighi and Allyson Felix. I want to be running in ten or twenty years, and it is conclusive that getting nourishment from whole foods is the key to long-term success.

If you are into the whole foods movement or need help avoiding certain allergens, both of these books would be recommended.

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March Reading

It was another quality over quantity month for the reading list this past month.

My favorite was Long Man by Amy Greene, and you can read about it here. It’s everything I want to hear from a local voice.

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey was another excellent book, almost magical, like a fairy tale. The delicate details of the Alaskan scenery are like Jack and Mabel’s love, not always confident but always complicated and beautiful.

Jack and Mabel are grieving the loss of a pregnancy and hopes of creating the family they want so badly. They move and pour their energy into homesteading in the 1920’s Alaskan wilderness. Faina, the snow child, comes to their homestead fantastically, in a blizzard. She arrives when their relationship is failing, and they are challenged with discerning if she is real or imagined. Jack and Mabel are looking for a new beginning together and Faina provides that foundation, even if it is fractured and slippery.

A brassy and bold neighbor of Mabel says earnestly, “We never know what is going to happen, do we? Life is always throwing us this way and that. That’s where the adventure is. Not knowing where you’ll end up or how you’ll fare. It’s all a mystery, and when we say any different, we’re just lying to ourselves. Tell me, when have you felt most alive?” {Drop the mic, as my daughter would say}

365 Thank yous by John Kralik. It was inspiring and humbling to read his story. He is self-admittedly arrogant and depressed, and hears a voice in the wilderness calling him to be a better version of himself. Through the process of writing a thank you note every day, his outlook changes from grumbly hateful to humbly grateful for the people around him, at work, on the street, and his family. It reminded me of the message of our church retreat, about allowing God to break in to our every day lives. (Perhaps try to put Philippians 4:8 into practice, if you that is something you feel lead to do.)

Bone Gap by Laura Ruby was mysterious and fantastical (and maybe a little too mysterious and fantastical for the audio version I was trying to listen to as I ran this past month). It was less confusing once I checked out the actual library copy, but I loved the narration of the audio version. The story moves around a high school boy, who witnesses a crime and wrestles with his role in the crime, as well as discovers love and his identity in the process. (And now that I know the ending, I’d like to reread it; it’s that kind of book.)

What are you reading? Anything inspiring or hard to put down? I’d love to hear!

Long Man: A Novel

I wanted to feature Amy Greene’s latest novel #1 because she is an East Tennessee local author, #2 because she writes so beautifully about this region, and #3 her stories are so real they will have you googling for more information to unearth the fiction from the truth.

Long Man is set in 1930’s East Tennessee, during the height of TVA’s progress building dams and bringing electricity and modernity to many rural parts of Tennessee. The fictional town of Yuneetah rings like Loyston, a real town that was uprooted during the creation of Norris Dam. The book centers around a family whose little girl goes missing in a bad storm, just moments before they are set to evacuate and the flood waters are rising. She uses those family members and extended family, a drifter returning to the area, many townspeople, and TVA representatives to paint this picture of a town on the brink of extinction and the indecision in the face of the unknown.

Greene perfectly captures the pride of these impoverished people and the Cherokee influence on the region. Through the voice of Ellard Moody, the town sheriff who is investigating the lost child, her description of how he plans to move forward and what he wants to remember of the town of Yuneetah rang so beautifully true to me. She writes that he wants to remember “how a fresh crewelwork of snow dressed even the dustiest of their farmyards. How leaves shaped like hands of their babies sailed and turned on the eddies of the river. How an open meadow sounded when they stood still. How ripe plums tasted then they closed their eyes. How cucumbers smelled like summer. How lightning bugs made lanterns of their cupped palms. How it felt to come in from the cold to where a fire was built. These things they hadn’t lost. But, like Ellard, they had grown too weary to see them anymore.”

The narrator in the audio version has a Southern raspy accent, and it helped shape the story at first, but I grew frustrated near the end because it felt too slow. Just as TVA wanted to ignore the voices of the town of Yuneetah in the name of progress, I too wanted to see progress in the narrator’s accent. I ended up returning the audio version and getting the actual library copy so I could read faster.  If you like reading about East Tennessee, both Amy Greene’s Long Man and Bloodroot are excellent books to add to your reading list.

New Beginnings

Currently:

Intro to Middle School 101- We are feeling left out already and middle school doesn’t start until next year. Our daughter has had multiple briefings and tours of the school, and decisions have had to be made based on information they have given her alone. But Parent Night is finally this week! Which, I assume, is to tell us that we need to butt out. I’m not ready!!

Unicorn sleepover party planning- So in an effort to feel more “in control” we are pouring our energy into planning the best 11th birthday ever. So far, that means the parents will be banished to the bonus room while the 11-year-olds have the run of the place.

Listening to Star Girl, by Jerry Spinelli & narrated by John Ritter. Ah, a comforting voice. Come and knock on my door, friend 🙂

Struggling to reduce sugar, wheat & dairy. It makes me feel so much better! So why do I struggle? Two words- Easter Candy.

Search for the best new kicks for the half marathon. I am currently running in Brooks Adrenaline. I need support, but also love cushioning, and run wider than narrow. (Basically, I’m an elephant.) Thinking about Asics Gel-Cumulus or New Balance 1080. Any recommendations?

Coming off Church Retreat High. We had a lovely weekend in Montreat, North Carolina with our church family, learning to pray and watch for God to “Break In” our every day lives. Our youngest is on such a high, we caught her pretend-play teaching the children’s message to her stuffies, mimicking the youth pastor at the end “Let us go to God in prayer, repeat after me…” So cute!

Cheers to new beginnings!

February Reading

Just Mercy, Bryan Stevenson – Excellent; I reviewed earlier this month.

The Nightingale, Kristin Hannah – Also excellent; I reviewed earlier this month.

Carry On, Rainbow Rowell – I listened to this as I ran most of February. Basic plot is a group of teens struggling with sexuality as well as wizardry and fighting dark forces. I didn’t love it, but it was interesting enough. I shouldn’t compare it to Harry Potter, but having recently read those, I couldn’t help myself. It just wasn’t as imaginative or compelling.

Unforgiven, Lauren Kate – This was the final story in the Fallen series, and I read through it pretty quickly. This was set from Cam’s point of view, his love story. He was a very interesting character from the original band of fallen angels, and his love story felt less superficial and deeper than the original love story.

Caddie Woodlawn, Carol Ryrie Brink – This is another pioneer girl story. Caddie has the pluck of Laura Ingalls but her family struggles much, much less. Caddie is likable enough, but I didn’t love her family the way I loved the Ingalls family. Her mother reminded me of Nellie (from the Little House books), and some of that arrogance comes through in Caddie as well.

Wolf Hollow, Lauren Wolk – This was an excellent middle grade novel set in early WWII farm country. Annabelle, a responsible and thoughtful 12 year old, befriends Toby, the town recluse. Toby helps Annabelle defend herself against a young bully that is threatening her and her younger brothers. I loved the mother character and the morality influence she had on Annabelle, encouraging her to not let fear or pride generalize the way she treated others, that what we do and how we act isn’t dependent on someone else. When the town bully goes missing, Toby is blamed. Annabelle is the only person that has tried to understand Toby and his PTSD, and her impossible task to make the town see the situation clearly and protect Toby will pull at your heart.

Wonder, RJ Palacio – I read this with my daughter, whose class is also reading this together. This story about a young boy that has facial deformities, starting school for the first time and his struggle to make friends, captured her interest from the beginning. Schools were closed for sickness and she wanted to finish the book and couldn’t wait for school to start back to find out, so she asked me to buy this book for her. I read it after she finished and we had an excellent discussion about the book, whose character she identified with most, and what parts she loved the most. Her class is going to see the movie together when it comes out, but I would challenge everyone to read this book first! It is excellent book for everyone, not just late elementary and early middle school readers.