Friday, February 9, 2018

November Books

Ahhh, I'm doing it...I'm catching up!  Time for November's books...


Code Name Verity



I had students reading this book for a book group, so I wanted to read it as well (and it was magically on my kind...Mom, you are the best!).  It ended up being one of my favorite books from the past year!

This book is about a female spy during WW2.  It's actually told in two parts, Verity and then her friend Maddie.  It is witty, funny, heart wrenching, and incredibly sad.  I just loved this book (and may have sobbed like a baby at the end...).  I'm a sucker for a WW2 book, so I have read a lot.  And this one?  Definitely near the top of my WW2 list!


Someone Else's Love Story



I mentioned in January's book reviews that I have finally started reading Joshilyn Jackson.  This was my second Jackson book to read. This story is about Shandi, a single, college aged mom who ends up in a convenience story hold up with her 3 year old son.  It takes place, as all of Jackson's books do, in the South, and deals with a lot of big issues.  But someone this author makes everything so relatable and less heavy.  I loved this book!


Wolf Hollow



I hae to have a middle grades book on the list!  This book is about Annabelle, a girl growing up after WW2 in a rural Pennsylvania town.  It deals with bullying and prejudice.  This story is just so beautifully written.  It is one of those books that is incredible for kids to read, but also so great for adults as well.  It's no surprise that this book killed it in the awards category last year!  I had a book group read this as well, and they really enjoyed it.


Chocolate War



Yet another middle grades book, and another one that I had a book group reading.  I had students pull out text evidence from the books for their assessment, so I needed to read/reread some of these books before scoring their assessments!

I first read this book as a middle school student myself.  I ended up becoming a big Robert Cormier fan and devoured pretty much every book he ever wrote.  His books are edgy and weird, and I'm not sure my students really enjoyed this book.  Sadly, I didn't love it as much when I reread it, but I still think it's an amazing book.


Bury Your Dead



I have always been and will always be a re-reader.  Sometimes I just need to open up a familiar book.  It's comforting.  What's funny is that I am, with the exception of Gilmore Girls and Veronica Mars, rarely a re-watcher.  

This was my first re-read of this book, one smack dab in the Louise Penny series.  In Bury Your Dead, Gamache is Quebec City, rather than his usual haunts of Three Pines and Montreal.  I love reading about this city (only 4 1/2 hours from me!).  It's a nice break from Three Pines, but Penny still connects with her little imaginary city on the border of Vermont.

I am a HUGE Louise Penny fan.  She is just an incredible writer, and this book is no exception!


Emily of New Moon


Another comfortable re-read.  I first read the Emily books last year.  They are written by L. M. Montgomery, who also wrote the Anne of Green Gables series.  You can read my thoughts on Emily here.  Let me just say, this re-read was everything I wanted.  I might have even loved this book more the second go-round.


Only four more months to recap!

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December Books

As promised (I know, I know, you, my two readers, have all been sleepless with anticipation), I am continuing to backtrack through my books read. 

Next up?  December!


All American Boys



Oh, goodness, so so so good!  I am trying to stay on top of diverse middle grades and YA books, partially for personal reasons but partially for a unit I'm teaching this spring.  The librarian at my school told me about this book.

All American Boys is told from two perspectives--Rashad, a African American high schooler who is falsely accused and beat up my a police officer, and Quinn, a white classmate who saw the whole thing happen but is also pretty close to the police officer.  This book really delved into current day issues.  I would suggest it for everyone, but especially for high schoolers.


Emily Climbs



&

Emily's Quest



I read these books a year ago, and I wrote about them here.

The only thing I would add is that they were just as delicious, precious, wonderful, and magical as before.  I will never love a heroine more than Anne Shirley, but Emily Starr is a close second.


Everything I Never Told You



I've been hearing good things about Celeste Ng and this book for months now.  When it magically appeared on my kindle (thanks, Mom.  Shared kindle accounts are the best), I decided to give it a try.

This book is about the death of Lydia and how her family deals with it.  Lydia has a Chinese American dad and lives in a small town in the midwest in the 1970's.  Ng not only deals with marriage and family issues, but she covers racism and feminism as well.  I really liked this book.  Something about it reminded me of Lovely Bones--maybe the whole death at the beginning but then backtracking to tell the whole story?  


Eleanor and Park



Oh, Rainbow Rowell!  Listen, if you haven't read anything by her, go do it.  Now.  She is just a delightful YA author.  Eleanor and Park is about, duh, Eleanor and Park.  This is the story of a high school romance during 1986.  But it's not a simple love story.  There's a lot of friend and family issues. I could not put this book down.  It's my third Rowell book to read, and that is always the case. Seriously, get you some Rainbow Rowell!


I'm still going to keep going back and working on past months.  But I do have a final count for the year...

72 books!

Not as much as 2016, but, given the craziness of 2017, still a pretty respectable number!

January books

Long time, no blog.

Seriously, the last 6 months have been a whirlwind over here in the Evans house.  Jack started first grade, I started a new teaching job, Bech's job changed a bunch, and Gil is just insane.  Plus, we bought a house at the beginning of January, spent the rest of the month painting and redoing the floor, and moved in at the end of the month.  The boys and I are recouping from the flu, and Bech may actually be coming down with it now.

So yeah, a lot going on.  But I have, nonetheless, still been reading a ton.  And I miss putting my books on here.  It's such a good way for me to remember what I read and how I felt about each book. I stopped at June last year, so I have 6 months to go back and review.  But I'll start with January for today!


The Woman In Cabin 10



Hmmm, I have mixed feelings about this book.  The truth is, I'm just not a huge thriller fan.  I don't love that genre.  As far as thrillers go, this one was pretty good.  It's about a woman who goes on a cruise as a travel writer.  Some crazy stuff happens, and she thinks that a murder has been committed.  But no one else believes her.

Again, not my fav, but if you like thrillers, you will like this one.  


The Mark of the Plague



This is a middle grades book.  It's actually the second in a series.  I read the first one, The Blackthorn Key, last year, and I really enjoyed it.  This book is no different.  It takes place during the middle ages in London and follows an alchemist's apprentice during the time of the plague.  If you have a middle school student who likes adventure books or puzzles, I think they would really enjoy this book (although start them with book 1).


The Alice Network



I really enjoyed this book!  It tells two stories--one of a young American girl who goes to Europe after WW2 and the other of a British woman who is a spy during WW1.  The women actually are together for a lot of the story, so the British woman's narrative is actually a flashback of sorts.

I love WW2 books, and I really love reading about women spies (e.g. The Nightingale and Code Name Verity).  While this wasn't my favorite book of the month, it was up there!


Almost Sisters



This one was my favorite book this month.  I've just started getting into Joshilyn Jackson.  This was my fourth book of hers to read.  All of them have been great, but I liked this one the most.

Leia is a comic book illustrator and has just found out she's pregnant from a comic-con one night stand.  At the same time, her step-sister is having marriage problems and her grandmother has dementia.  So Leia takes her niece down to Birchville, Alabama.  After a couple of days, her grandmother crashes a car with a trunk full of bones in the back.  This story is funny but also really insightful.  Jackson deals so gracefully with issues of race and family.

Anne Bogel is a huge Joshilyn Jackson fan, but I avoided her for a while because the books have cheesy covers.  I know, shallow of me, right?  Ignore the cheesy covers.  This book was just wonderful!


The Things We Wish Were True



This one has been on my TBR ("To Be Read") list for a while, based on a recommendation.  It tells the story of one Southern neighborhood and how an accident at the neighborhood pool ends up changing everyone's lives.

I liked this book.  The plot was interesting, and I got into it.  But it wrapped up a little too neatly at the end for me.  I think this would have been a better summer read--(mostly) lighthearted with a happy ending.


To Dwell in Darkness



This is my third Deborah Crombie book to read.  Crombie writes British mysteries (although she is from Texas, go figure...) mostly taking place in London.  I need some mysteries to fill the voids in between Louise Penny and Alan Bradley books.

If you are a mystery fan, Crombie won't disappoint.  Her books are not predictable at all, and I really do like Duncan Kincaid, her detective.  I read the first book in the series first, but my second two were in the middle, so you definitely don't have to read the books in order.  Anything they reference from past books, you can pick up from context clues.


My goal for this year is 75 books, so 6 in January is a good start (especially considering how busy it was!).

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

May and June Books

I'm still catching up on my book reviews.  Here goes!


Barefoot



I just love reading Elin Hilderbrand in the summer!  She is from Nantucket, and all of her books take place there.

This book is actually 10 years old.  I am always checking out the Hildebrand section in the library to see what is available, and this book was!  It is about three women who have very different life issues going on--one has cancer, one is pregnant through IVF but just found out her husband is cheating on her, and one just lost her career in academia because of an affair--and a young man who, because he starts babysitting the kids, gets wrapped up in the whole situation.  It's funny and sweet and, as usual, makes me want to go to Nantucket so badly!


The Secret Wife



I found this on my kindle account so I read it.  I don't know if it's popular or if anyone else has read it, but I did enjoy it (edit: Apparently it is, or at least that's what Amazon says).  It's a time lapse book, flipping from the present in the US to 1914 in Russia.  This story tells about the Romanov's, their life, capture, and eventual death.  But the premise is that one of the daughters secretly married.  

One of the reasons I enjoyed this book was that I learned a lot about the Romanov family and the history of everything because of this book, both by what was in it and by reading outside sources when I was done.


Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore



I loved this book!  It is about a secret literary society that is working on an elaborate puzzle, and how some young new members manage to solve parts of that puzzle using technology.  It reminded me of a grown up version of From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.


The Bookshop on the Corner



I kept seeing this book recommended, so I finally checked it out.  It's good, in a You've Got Mail sort of way.  The main character moves from a library job in the UK to a small village in Scotland and starts selling books out of a van.  It is cute and pretty happy.  This would be a good book to cuddle up with in the winter.


A Share in Death



Anne Bogel has recommended Deborah Crombie several times, especially for people who love Louise Penny's mysteries.  Since I do love Penny's books (a new one comes out in just a couple of weeks!), I thought I would give Crombie a try.  

This book is the first of her Duncain Kincaid and Gemma James series.  I really enjoyed it.  The book felt like a more modern Agatha Christie book (not as good, of course, but, really, who is as good as Agatha?).  I have since read another Crombie book.  I don't think she'll be an author I am preordering (like Penny), but I do plan on slowly reading through her mysteries.


Greenglass House



This was a fun middle grades read!  Milo lives with his parents in a huge old hotel for smugglers.  The week of Christmas, when the hotel is supposed to be closed, a slew of mysterious guests show up.  It's mysterious, but not too scary.  I can't wait to recommend this book to students!  Plus I have the pdf of the galley for the next book in the series.


The Course of Love



This was another book that I kept seeing recommended.  First of all, the cover is beautiful.  It should get points for that alone.

The book tells the story of one couple's love, from meeting, dating, marriage, kids, etc.  I didn't like this book, until the very end, which is a strange thing to say about a book.  It just was very introspective.  After every event, the author would analyze the events and emotions.  It was a little annoying.  But by the end, he wrapped it all up nicely and I really liked the book.


The Handmaid's Tale




I started this book in high school and never finished it.  I decided it was high time to give Margaret Atwood another chance.

Y'all, so good.  Also, so creepy and scary, mostly because I could see parts of this happening.  The book is dystopian fiction about a new America.  If you like dystopian literature and have never read this classic, do it.  Also, add 1984 and Brave New World (the original dystopian books) to your list.


The Distant Hours



I have yet to read a Kate Morton book that I didn't enjoy.  Her books are time lapse, meaning they slip back and forth between some time in the past and the present.  This book is about three sisters who live in a castle, a literal castle, in the English countryside and a girl who meets them in their later years.  Morton's books always have some sort of shocker at the end, but it's not too crazy.  I would never call her books thrillers, but they have enough of the unknown to make you not want to put them down!


The Lost Book of the Grail



This is one of my favorite books so far this year.  It is about Arthur Prescott, an English professor at a small cathedral town in England.  He is in search of the grail, and his search leads to a mystery that is hidden in books.  It is basically Mr. Penumbra's but set in England and involving the medieval ages.

It was a really fun read, but I also enjoyed the writing as well.  Plus, I LOVE reading books involving anything medieval (e.g. Pillars of the Earth).


Death of a Blue Blood



Listen, I know Murder She Wrote isn't high literature.  I know only 80 year olds watch the show or read the books.  But I just can't tell you how much I love these books.  They make me happy.  Also, I am a closet 80 year old, so I guess it's fitting.

I actually listened to this book on audible.  It's about Jessica Fletcher (duh) and she solves a mystery (duh).  Personally, I would have a complex if that many murders happened around me, but not good ole Jessica.  She solves a murder mystery in an old English castle, and it is just delightful.


Two Part Invention



Hands down this is my favorite book of the summer.  I am a HUGE Madeleine L'Engle fan.  She has been my favorite since middle school.  Someone gave me this book a couple of years ago (I think they were cleaning out their shelves), and I hadn't read it.  Two Part Invention is the fourth in a series of four non fiction books that L'Engle put out, titled The Crosswick Journals.  The books were written from her journal entries during specific times in her life, all centered around life at her house in Connecticut. 

This book is about her husband's cancer, and it is just so beautiful.  Over and over in my life, L'Engle's words have shown me the beauty of the gospel, and this book was no exception.

"I have come to the hospital this morning just after receiving what my friend Tallis calls "the holy mysteries," bread and wine which are bread and wine but are also more than bread and wine, since the bread and wine, like the stars, like the snow, like all of us, is made of the original substance of creation, that which Jesus put on as human flesh.  It is by these holy mysteries that I life, that I am sustained."


Fangirl



I referenced this book in another review post.  This is the book about the girl who writes Simon Snow fan fiction (the fan fiction book, Carry On, was later published by Rainbow Rowell).  But the book isn't about the fan fiction so much as the writer, a twin who goes to college and has to figure out life apart from her twin.  

I'm trying to read more YA even though I'm not usually a huge fan.  This book, though, totally breaks the YA mold.  Rowell is an amazing author.  Her characters and the dialogue are very believable (one of my main complaints about most YA).  Read this book!


Mourn Not Your Dead



I went with another Deborah Crombie mystery.  Again, this book feels slightly like a modern Agatha Christie, which I enjoyed.  No major twists in the mystery, but it's also not so cut and dry or even predictable (I'm looking at you, Mary Higgins Clark).  Duncan Kincaid is investigating the murder of a higher up in the force, which uncovers a lot of hidden issues.

Also, I read this out of order, and it was totally fine that way.  If you are thinking of reading Crombie, I definitely don't think you need to worry about following the order of the series.


The Inquisitor's Tale



Another middle grades read.  This one is on the DCF list for this coming year, which is a list of children's books in Vermont that teachers and librarians have picked as the best for that year (guess what committee I now want to be on...?).

This book is about three children from totally different back grounds who are being pursued by the king because of their talents.  It's set in medieval England and is both funny and thought provoking.  I would love to use this with a literature group because I think there is a lot of depth. 


Alright, I'm finally almost caught up!

Friday, August 11, 2017

The Reading People Book

I have never kept secret my love for Anne Bogel, her blog, Modern Mrs. Darcy, and especially her podcast, What Should I Read Next.  My friend suggested her podcast to me a year and a half ago, and I am a huge fan now.  Her suggestions, not just for what books to read but also for how to read, have revolutionized my reading life.  Perhaps my favorite post was, "7 Simple Ways to Read More This Year."

When I heard she was writing a book, I knew I wanted to be on the launch team.  Any slight connection to Anne? Yes, please!



Anne's book is titled Reading People.  I have a penchant for not reading anything beyond the title (I don't want things spoiled).  One time I accidentally read an unfinished mystery by Charles Dickens because of my refusal to read the back cover.  This book is no different.  I heard the title months ago and immediately thought it was about people who read (Reading People?  Right?  It makes sense...please tell me I'm not crazy!).

I got on the launch team thinking this was a book about people who read.  Guess what?  It's not.  Instead, it's about Reading...people.  This book is a primer on all types of personality sorters.  Anne covers:

Introverts & Extroverts
Highly Sensitive People
Love Languages
Keirsey's Temperaments
Myers-Briggs Types
Cognitive Functions
StrengthsFinder
Enneagram 


So basically everything personality wise.  I already had done some reading on Myers-Briggs and the Enneagram, but even with that, I learned SO much.  Anne has done her research, and it shows.  But she manages to not sound like a lecture, by weaving in a personal connection.



My favorite part of this book was her takeaways about personality.  I have lots of friends who LOVE personality typing.  But sometimes I feel like others can use those as a crutch: "Oh, I do that because I'm an introvert/a J/a type 3."  Um, no...you did that because you were being a jerk or rude.

In the last chapter of the book, Anne writes, "My personality doesn't prescribe my actions, but it does help me thoughtfully consider them in a way I couldn't before.  If my personality is the lens through which I see the world, then I've learned to look at it instead of just through it.  I've learned to notice where it's serving me well and where it's stirring up trouble.  I've become better at noticing how my lens differs from other people's lenses and what kinds of communication breakdowns are likely to result.  And then I've learned how to deal with them."  Anne presents all of this personality typing as a way to truly understand ourselves and then try to understand others, not as a way to justify actions.

I also had some major AHA moments throughout the book, in regards to my personality types.  I've always thought I was a TJ (Myers-Briggs), and I do test right down the middle.  But I think I lean toward the FJ side; I think I'm a feeler who thinks she's a thinker (Hm, how many times can I say think?).  I also realized that I have major HSP tendencies, even though I'm not introverted.

The only negative about this book is that I read the kindle copy (because it's pre-release).  This is a book I can't wait to own, so that I can flip to chapters easily.  I read through this book quickly (and I usually struggle to read non-fiction quickly!), but I keep wanting to go back and reference chapters and sections!



This book doesn't come out until September 19th, but you can pre-order it here or here (and it's less than $10 at both!).  If you pre-order it, you get the audiobook free (and Anne is reading it) and Anne's online "What's Your Reading Personality?" class.  Check out the official website because that's how you prove you pre-ordered it!

I rarely buy books.  I love to borrow them from the library or friends.  But this book is one that I can't wait to own a physical copy.   I can't wait to hear what others think!

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