September Reading

September was a light reading month for me. Sometimes my attention drifts and centers around crafting or cooking, rather than reading in all my spare moments, but this month it was more centered around rest. So a little laziness and giving ourselves a little mental break is necessary sometimes too!

Here’s what I did read:

  • Code Name Verity Elizabeth Wein, centers around two young women fighting for the Allied cause in WWII. When Verity is captured by the Gestapo, the novel details her imprisonment and rescue as details of the friendship are revealed. It’s one you won’t want to put down, and I would recommend for both teen and adult readers.
  • Storm Donna Jo Napoli, gave a different perspective on the Noah’s Ark story that Christians everywhere are so familiar with. I stumbled on it while checking out some Noah’s Ark books for the girls (I like to check out companion books to what the kids are studying in Sunday School and regular school). Originally I thought Sarah might like it, but in my opinion it’s better suited for an older teen reader. A stowaway on the ark who battles the storm, with the loss and seclusion that comes with her situation, looks in on Noah and his family and their purpose.
  • All the Bright Places Jennifer Nevin, was a tough read about a teen battling bi-polar disease. I struggled because I recognized early on the problem, and while I know some cases of bi-polar are not so obvious, I just could not believe that any of the adult characters could not have intervened. I hope and pray that my eyes are open for my kids and their friends.
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them JK Rowling, I listened to the audio version, which was really interesting, but I would think the illustrated version would also be truly awesome.
  • Rump Liesl Shurtliff, was a school commute audiobook, and it was good but didn’t capture our hearts enough to finish before it was returned. I asked Sarah if she wanted me to check it out again so we could finish and she wasn’t interested.

2 other wonderful read-y things to note:
My sister’s Christmas gift to me arrived and I am blown away. It’s the quarterly book box from The Strand. So many goodies including Sing, Unburied, Sing which I am starting tonight! If you have someone on your Christmas list that loves books, this would be an excellent choice.

Emily St. John Mandel is doing a meet and greet in November due to our Library’s hosting a group read of her novel (and a favorite of mine!) Station Eleven. I am so excited to attend and report back. (And hopefully get my sister’s copy of Station Eleven signed- she loves her as much as I do.

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Listening

On the drop-off commute with the 11 year old:

Wolf Hollow, Lauren Wolk

Quick car trips with both girls:

Circle Round podcast

Wow in the World podcast (old favorite episodes only, they are taking a break to create new content)

Long walks & “me” time:

The Child, Fiona Barton

(books on loan from my local library, listening through the free Overdrive app)

Do you have any suggestions for me?

❤️

August Reading

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by JK Rowling was both familiar and different. Reading in a screenplay format was interesting (Shakespeare in high school and a bit of theatre in college is all I can remember ever reading) but the characters were so familiar that I had to make myself set it down or else I would devour it in hours. (Fantastic Beasts came up on my library hold list this week and after that I am tempted to reread the series again. I caught part of the movie version of Deathly Hallows this past weekend and that only stoked the flame.)

Voyager by Diana Gabaldon was my favorite so far of the Outlander series. I’ve needed to pace myself with this series but it is an excellent escape. This one follows Jamie and Claire over to the Caribbean and America, and sets me up to be really anxious of what might happen to Claire’s daughter in the next book. Can’t wait.

Present over Perfect by Shauna Niequist was an audiobook I had on loan that I didn’t get the chance to finish. It was engaging, but not enough to win out the backlog of podcasts. Maybe another time, because family balance is certainly something relevant for me.

The Lying Game by Ruth Ware is even better than her first two thrillers. After reading The Woman in Cabin 10, I preordered this one and it did not disappoint. She kept me on the hook because HELLO, FIND A SOMEONE YOU TRUST TO WATCH THE BABY!!! The baby has very little to do with the plot, but it certainly keeps you invested in the scene.

Mrs. Fletcher by Tom Perrotta was racy and truly laugh-out-loud funny. Mrs. Fletcher is embarrassing and such an awkwardly funny read. Highly recommend if you liked The Election, or ironic, situational comedy in general. (I confess, I only saw the movie version of Election, but now I want to read that one as well as his others).

I listened to both The Nightbird by Alice Hoffman and Moo by Sharon Creech with my 11 year old daughter on the school commute this month too. Nightbird was an instant favorite. She asked to listen to the end of the book one night before bed because she couldn’t wait until the morning. Moo grew on us, and she loved sympathizing with Moo for the “unreasonable” actions of her parents (her and her brother were volunteered by their parents to help at a local farm). Both excellent for 11 year old girls who like a strong female heroine.

Tell me, what should I read next?

-S

Hello Stranger!

Goodness, it’s been quite a bit since I’ve blogged. Working and handling everyone’s summer schedule kept my hands full for a bit there, so blogging took the back burner. I haven’t stopped reading, crafting and cooking by no means.

I will start with summer reading, because I have read many excellent books since May. Here goes…

Outlander, Diana Gabaldon- Wow guys, this series is heavy, and I tried to read them back to back, but had to pause for a bit after the second one. Heavy in content, in detail, and in length, and heavy in LOVE. Romantic, heart-wrenching, laugh out loud, LOVE- in it’s very dark and light goodness. This series is a must-read, in my opinion.

Dragonfly in Amber, Diana Gabaldon- see above, stick with it, it’s worth it to keep going, just take a break between novels…

In the Dark Dark Wood, Ruth Ware- The title is much scarier than the story, but very entertaining, even if it’s a bit predictable. Excellent descriptive writing, I felt like I was THERE.

The Curated Closet- Fun, and helpful, if you’re stuck in a style rut and want to make more calculated wardrobe decisions. While I can appreciate minimalism in theory, it is difficult for me in practice.

A Piece of the World, Christina Baker Kline- Inspired by Wyeth’s painting, Christina’s World, this story is dynamic, interesting, and lovely. Kline captures so well the human need for connection. A little depressing though, fair warning.

The Dollhouse, Fiona Davis- This was fast, fun and very twisty. I thought I knew the ending, but was pleasantly surprised.

Short Stack Cookbook: Ingredients that Speak Volumes, Nick Fauchald- I drooled over all the photos, but did not make anything at all before I had to return it to the library. Inspired by good and simple ingredients, and yummy photos, I think it could be a pantry staple. But all it was for me was an excellent escape flip book.

The Woman in Cabin 10, Ruth Ware- So THIS one was better than her first. It was twisty in a way I could not predict. And the description of the scenery was most excellent. I felt trapped right there with her, freezing and feeling paranoid and set up.

I Found You, Lisa Jewell- Wow, now if I had to tell you to read one mystery from this list- this would be it. Her characters are so real, so knowable, and the mystery is not predictable. You follow a young foreign bride, a single mother, and a man with amnesia found on the seashore. Great, great twisty book.

Every Wild Heart, Meg Donohue- It was a little vanilla and boring at times. Maybe because I was reading some good, darker mysteries for a bit there, but I kept wanting this one to get darker.

The Rules Do Not Apply, Ariel Levy- I listened to the audio version of this one. It made my heart ache for her. For love that she needed, for forgiveness, and the experiences she had to endure, just tough. But I guess we all follow our counterfeit gods in one way or another.

The Upstarts: How Uber, Airbnb, and the Killer Companies of the New Silicon Valley are Changing the World- This one is kind of factual and boring. The investor process was a little shocking to me, but ultimately I read this as the news of Uber’s founder & CEO, Travis Kalanick, resigning over allegations of the company culture of sexual harassment. I lost interest.

Stories I Only Tell My Friends, Rob Lowe- I don’t (or I should say, didn’t) know very much about Rob Lowe, only that he’s my favorite actor in St Elmo’s Fire. I didn’t watch the West Wing, but reading this makes me want to binge-watch it. While it is not a tell-all, it’s a fun little Hollywood glimpse at what some well-known actors are really like off-screen, and the Hollywood process in general.

A Perfect Obsession, Heather Graham- Good, but a little too much “weak female, strong rescuing man” characterization.

Salt to the Sea, Ruta Sepytys- This fictional story is based on the real-life tragedy of the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff, and follows four refugees trying to escape war-torn Germany 1945 in the midst of a Soviet advance. It is engaging for both young and old readers, and I would highly recommend. If you like The Book Thief or Echo, you will love this.

Dreamland Burning, Jennifer Latham- Another fantastic and engaging mystery that also explores racial prejudice and entitlement from a teen point of view. Modern-day Rowan discovers skeletal remains during a home renovation and starts digging into the past to solve the mystery. Enlightening the journey is the story of 17-year old Will, and his experiences in a segregated town, leading up to the 1921 Tulsa race riots.

Always and Forever, Lara Jean, Jenny Han- I love this series. The goody-goody high school student in me loves this, because goody-goody Lara Jean can break out with some bold decisions from time to time and it’s so fun to read. Start from the beginning with To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and enjoy every sweet second.

The Screwtape Letters, CS Lewis- I think this is a school read for most kids who have a religious education, so I’m probably the world’s oldest reader of this. It’s Satan talking to an apprentice on how to defeat Christianity, and it makes you think. It goes to some pretty dark, surprising places. If you are praying for a closer walk with God, this would be interesting to read.

The Case Against Sugar, Gary Taubes- Very factual and boring, and the way he presents it makes it sound like we’re doomed and have already doomed future generations.

The Residence, Kate Andersen Brower- Stories about the White House, how it’s run, and the families that reside there are endlessly fascinating to me. I loved this insider look and detailed description from so many staffers during so many decades. I listened to the audio version and especially enjoyed new accounts of the Clinton, George W Bush, and Obama eras.

What have you read this summer? Anything I need to add to my already-packed holds list?

 

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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