Tuesday, August 15, 2017

May and June Books

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


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."


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

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!


Wednesday, August 2, 2017

March and April Books

March and April were a lot better as far as reading--12 books total!

Also, I am writing and publishing this SUPER late.  But I really want to have a record of what I read this year and what I thought about it.  So better late than never!


This book is one of my favorites for this year.  It tells the story of two half sisters from Ghana.  One stays in Ghana and one is sold as a slave and goes to the States.  The story takes the form of parallel stories of the descendants of the sisters.  

One of the most amazing things about this book is how effectively Gyasi shows the effects of slavery, even 100 years after it was outlawed in America.  There is one scene in this book that was really hard for me to read, and so, I don't know that I would feel okay having middle school students read this book.  But I think high schoolers could (and should!) read this book.  Everyone should read it!

Enduring Love

I heard this book recommended on What Should I Read Next, and I was intrigued.  But, I thought it was recommended because it was a book with an unreliable narrator.  Nope.

Still a good read.  Perhaps not my favorite, but still interesting.  It tells the story of how one man helps out in a crisis situation, and a weird, creepy relationship that forms because of that action.

The Guineveres

This book has been compared to Jeffery Eugenides' Virgin Suicides, which is one of my favorites.  I can see the comparison, but it isn't as good.

The book tells the story of four Guineveres who, for different reasons, all live at a convent during the War.  They are desperate to leave the convent, so they create an elaborate plan that involves comatose war victims.  I did really enjoy this book.  One interesting aspect is that you never really know what war.  All of the references to it are super vague, so much that it could have been WWI, WWII, or even Vietnam.

Also, the cover art is beautiful!

The Secret to Hummingbird Cake

I found this book on my kindle (thanks, family kindle account!).  It is a sweet read, about three southern girls who have grown up together and are now facing some really tough situations.  Nothing especially deep or mind blowing, but, still, I enjoyed it.

Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes

Another random find on the shared kindle account.  I would classify Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes as a middle grade book, although I haven't confirmed that.  It definitely could be read and enjoyed by a middle school age reader.  But, it was also a really fun book to read as an adult.  

Peter is a blind orphan who is forced to steal in order to earn his keep.  One day, he sets forth on an adventure...because that's just what books like this do.  But it's witty and the storyline is different enough that you want to keep reading.

The Merciless

I read this book because I had a sweet 8th grade student who suggested it, and I think it's important to read student suggestions!  

It was a creepy book about high school students and an exorcism--not my usual cup of tea.  But, hey, if you're into that sort of thing, go for it!

Summer of My German Soldier

Goodness, I didn't like this book!  I led a literature group on it and almost every student disliked this book too.  It's about a Jewish girl in Arkansas who helps a German POW (held in a camp near her town) escape.  It's much more about her abusive father and how she rebels against him.  But the writing is rough and the subject matter gets a little weird.  So yeah, don't read it.

This Is How It Always Is

Modern Mrs. Darcy has been recommending this book since last fall, and I finally was able to snag it from the library.  It's the story of a family who is hiding a secret, not necessarily a bad one but a secret all the same.  You see how this secret affects every part of their family and how they deal with the truth when the secret is outed.

I really loved this book.  The writing is well done, and I enjoyed reading about the relationships within and without the family.

A Clatter of Jars

I stumbled across this is my school's library.  It's another middle grades book.  In it, some people have talents, a special gift.  But when a camp director starts stealing all of her campers talents, things get a little crazy.  I enjoyed the plot a lot, but I also liked how the book didn't drag on. 

In Farleigh Field

Ohhh, I loved this book!  It randomly appeared on the kindle (seriously y'all, share a kindle account with your family.  It's the way to go.).  I think Anne Bogel might have recommended it as well.  There was something that was reminiscent of both Agatha Christie and Downton Abbey, a wonderful mix!

In Farleigh Field is a mystery, taking place during WWII in the British countryside.  There's romance and intrigue and, of course, murder, but it is a pretty clean novel.  I want to read more by this author!

Carry On

This is a really strange book to try to explain.  First, let me say, I really enjoyed it.  Carry On was my first Rainbow Rowell book to read, and I plan on reading many more from her!  In a previous book (which I have since read), Fangirl, the main character writes Simon Snow fan fiction.  Simon Snow is basically the Harry Potter series, but with a few differences.  This novel is that fictional fan fiction actually written out.  Did that make sense?  

Guess what?  It doesn't matter if it does!  I read this book before Fangirl, so I read it just like it was a novel.  And it is wonderful that way.  If you know the backstory, I am sure that is fun too.  

I am trying to read more YA, and this book was one of my first YA's for the year.  I ended up really liking it!  

I'll Be Seeing You

Ahhh, there's nothing like some Mary Higgins Clark rereads.  Clark was the first mystery writer I ever really got into, back in 7th grade.  Since then, I still keep up with all of her books, no matter how formulaic they may seem at time.

I have inherited all of my grandmother's Clark books (as well as her Agatha Christie books), so I pulled out this old favorite for a comfort read this month.

Listen, if you are looking for mysteries that are deep (e.g. Louise Penny) or witty (e.g. Alan Bradley) or even a little magical (e.g. Tana French), Mary Higgins Clark is not your girl.  But if you want a mystery that usually ends well, lacks gore, language, and sex, and really is fun to read, Clark is a good go to.