QuickLit – November 2018

Here’s another great collection of books for you to sink your… eyes(?) into, Readers! My reading slowed down this month for a number of reasons, but I still managed to squeak in 19 books. Some really great ones as well! Scan until you see something that interests you! I’m adding links this month to the episodes of Currently Reading that we discussed these titles on if your interested in a little more about any of these books!

01 GhostedGhosted by Rosie Walsh
Hmm. I thought this was going to be more interesting than it was. I kept feeling like something really exciting was going to happen, and then it was a bit meh instead. I mean, overall, it was a much more interesting than *just* being ghosted, but not as exciting as the book I was thinking we’d get.
Sarah and Eddy spend an amazing week together in a very love at first sight type of situation. And then he disappears. What happened to him? Is he okay? Is he just a jackass?
Discussed on Episode 14 of Currently Reading Podcast.

02 CrawdadsWhere the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
This book is gold. Every word is so carefully chosen, so aptly written. Kya is our protagonist. From age 6 to 10, she watches each of her family members walk away, leaving her abandoned in the Marsh of NC. She has to learn to survive, to protect herself, to do everything that a family should have done for her. There are exactly zero wasted screened, wasted words in this book, and the scene comes to life along with the wildlife and Kya. You will feel as though you might look out your window to see a marshland outside.

03 RebeccaRebecca by Daphne du Maurier
I tried reading this once about a year ago and abandoned it. Much better in audio format (I remembered nothing of the 50 pages I read). Twisty with definite Jane Eyre elements to it. I enjoyed it, but I’m not in love with it like those who want to read it yearly.
Discussed on Episode 10 of Currently Reading Podcast.

04 Cozy MinimalistCozy Minimalist Home by Myquillyn Smith
So practical. Myquillin makes it so easy to start over, identify exactly what you need, and create a space you truly love. I read it cover to cover, now I plan to get started, slow down, and actually follow the steps. Because Myquillin truly makes me think I can. Love it. This book will not leave my shelves.
Discussed on Episode 13 of Currently Reading Podcast.

07 Finding HolyFinding Holy in the Suburbs by Ashley Hales
Ashley really nails down the already/not yet of suburb life. We live in a homogenous, safe little community, where it’s easy to pretend that everything is perfect. It’s easy to feel like there is no mission field here, no calling to be God’s people. But Ashley teases out both the hard and the blessing of living a suburban life as a Christian. Worth picking up.
Discussed on Episode 13 of Currently Reading Podcast.

06 MonstressMonstress by Marjorie Liu
I picked this up for a reading challenge category, and probably wouldn’t have read it otherwise. It seemed really complicated and violent to me, so I’ve decided that I need to stick to the graphic novels that are memoirs or at least sweet instead, because yikes to the violence and ickiness in this one… Our main hero is not human, but not a robot. She’s something “created” and she’s missing an arm and she’s super violent and sexual and I just… didn’t love it.

05 Marilla of Green GablesMarilla of Green Gables by Sarah McCoy
If this book doesn’t make you immediately want to dive into Anne to “continue the story”, I don’t know what’s wrong with your reader heart. I loved this fan fiction story of Marilla’s childhood and the “older” generation of Avonlea and Prince Edward Island. I feel like McCoy stayed true to the tone of Anne while giving us something totally new to sink our teeth into. Loved every minute.

08 NevermoorNevermoor by Jessica Townsend
This did not lag for me for a single second. I wanted to devour it in one sitting, and the new one (Wundersmith) comes out today!!! I’m reading that one right now and had to set it aside to write up this post… never have I wanted to finish up a QuickLit so badly!
Morrigan Crow was born on Eventide, so when the next Eventide rolls around she is supposed to die. But when Jupiter North shows up and makes a bid for her with his crazy ginger hair, everything changes. And you will DIE happy reading this book. ❤😍❤
Discussed on Episode 2, Episode 3, Episode 10, and Episode 14 of Currently Reading Podcast. HA!

09 South of BroadSouth of Broad by Pat Conroy
This book from my cousin Kelsey sat on my shelf for entirely too long. I had such a great time bonding with her favorite characters through some really difficult life events. From high school, we meet Leo King, who is the core of a group of misfit friends. We grow up with these friends through the 70s, 80s and 90s. Trigger warning for suicide, abortion, AIDS, abuse. It’s not a “pretty” book, but it is a good one.
Discussed on Episode 15 of Currently Reading Podcast… out tomorrow!

10 Venus BlackMy Name is Venus Black by Heather Lloyd
This book had so many compelling viewpoints and characters, I’d be hard-pressed to pick a favorite. Venus goes to prison at age 13, and mere days later her younger brother who is highly autistic disappears from home. We pick the story up 6 years later when Venus is released and it is unputdownable. Each of the characters is so well developed. The plot is phenomenal without getting contrived. Really enjoyed it. If you want to discuss, I led a book club discussion on the MomAdvice Book Club on Facebook!
Discussed on Episode 15 of Currently Reading Podcast… out tomorrow!

11 Wondering YearsThe Wondering Years by Knox McCoy
Plenty of fun and laughs and cunning observations. Audiobook is totally the way to go. Had a great time listening to this on a road trip with my adult sibling and parents. We all found something to laugh at. My favorite was the chapter about Canine Evangelism. It had me rolling in the minivan seat trying not to pee myself.
Discussed on Episode 15 of Currently Reading Podcast… out tomorrow! And on Episode 9 with Meg Tietz.

12 Jane EyreJane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
I think I liked this more as a high school student, which is surprising. But I still enjoyed it as an adult! This time, I read it on Serial Reader and liked the day by day feel of Jane’s childhood and relationship development with Mr. Rochester.
Discussed on Episode 15 of Currently Reading Podcast… out tomorrow! Mostly in reference to Brightly Burning, which I read a few months ago and can’t stop thinking about! That is what prompted me to pick up Jane again for a re-read.

13 ScytheScythe by Neal Schusterman
Loved it. Flawlessly plotted and put together. Strong main characters, excellent premise. Anti-heroes to truly haunt you. Love love loved it. Citra and Rowan are complicated and real and you want them to succeed, even when they don’t. It’s really compelling. Can’t wait to read Thunderhead, the sequel!
Discussed on Episode 10 of Currently Reading Podcast, and Episode 15… out tomorrow!

14 Bluebird BluebirdBluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke
This “rural noir” novel follows a Texas Ranger to East Texas to investigate the untimely death of a black man in a community rife with the modern version of the KKK. Our Black ranger is unwelcome in more ways than one and Locke gives us every insight into his thoughts and feelings. Really well done.
Discussed on Episode 11 of Currently Reading Podcast.

15 Winter GardenWinter Garden by Kristin Hannah
Actually, my third Kristin Hannah book, but I’m starting to see the themes and patterns. We’ve got another story within a story here. Meredith and Nina head home when their father passes away. They both make deathbed promises, and Nina’s is that she will get their mother to “finish the fairytale” that she’s been telling them since childhood. When mom, Anya, starts behaving very strangely, the girls realize that they need to hear the fairytale to decode her behavior.
Discussed on Episode 16 of Currently Reading Podcast – out on the 10th of December!

16 Book of PollyThe Book of Polly by Kathy Hepinstall
Polly is 58 when her husband passes away and she finds out shortly thereafter that she is surprise pregnant. Her young daughter, Willow, grows up with a feisty mom who doesn’t give a flying flip about anything. Willow lies about her mom to get her attention and then get mom makes those lies come true to spite her daughter (falconry? 😂). The dialogue is witty and funny. The plot moves along fine. I really liked Polly and Willow and Shel (Polly’s older son) and Phoenix (his friend). Fun book.
Discussed on Episode 14 of Currently Reading Podcast.

17 Curious BeginningA Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn
Veronica Speedwell kicks serious booty. I kind of thought I wasn’t going to like this, because she collects butterflies (insert eyeroll). But, it turns out that means she goes on exotic journeys, doesn’t give a damn what anyone thinks of her reputation, and has learned to table herself well. When she is unexpectedly throw together with Stoker after her Aunt Nell’s death, he brings her feistiness to a whole new level. They are both whip-smart, opinionated, hilarious, and dangerous, and I love them.
Discussed on Episode 16 of Currently Reading Podcast – out on the 10th of December!

18 Nine Perfect StrangersNine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty
After I finished this book, I realized that I couldn’t EASILY name all 9 of the “perfect strangers”. I got it after a bit of thinking, but I do think that having so many protagonists (Francis, Tiny, Ben, Jessica, Carmel, Napoleon, Heather, Zoe, and Ivan) makes it hard to really care about any of them. Then we have the workers at the “wellness retreat” to keep track of as well. It’s a bit much. I thought it was fine, but certainly not brilliant, like some of her other titles. I’ll continue to pick up her books as soon as they release.
Discussed on Episode 16 of Currently Reading Podcast – out on the 10th of December!

Goodbye_Vitamin_APPROVED.inddGoodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong
I went into this with low expectations but then really enjoyed it. This is written like a journal from Christmas to Christmas. Ruth goes home to visit her family but her father has started suffering from dementia and her mother asks for her to stay for a year in order to help her care for him. Ruth keeps a journal of that year, her interactions with her dad, daily observations. It’s fun, and witty, and poignant at times. It made me want to start a “today, you said this silly thing” journal for my kiddos.



QuickLit – October 2018

I am super excited to have hit my Goodreads reading challenge goal for the year this month! That’s right! That means I finished book number 200 in October! Wowzers. I will say that if there’s a title below that seems to be interesting to you, there’s a really good chance that Meredith or I talked about it on our new PODCAST! You can listen to Currently Reading Podcast wherever you get your podcasts, or even directly on our website at currentlyreadingpodcast.com. You can also follow us on Instagram or on Facebook for more readerly goodness!


01 Siblings

Siblings without Rivalry by Adele Faber and Eileen Mazlisch
This book is absolutely going on my shelves. I wanted to highlight the whole thing, except I listened to it as an audiobook. The examples, the classroom sessions, they are so useful. I love that it’s not JUST Faber and Mazlish’s experience as parents, but those of their students as well. And I love that the updated edition includes additional information and letters received after the release of the book. This is a MUST for any parent that has more than one child. And I almost want to give it as a
new baby gift to anyone having their second child. Because it’s that good.

02 NorthangerNorthanger Abbey by Jane Austen
Northanger Abbey has the slightest little bit of creepiness to it, and that’s why I finally picked it up in October. I listened to an audible “audio drama”, so I’m not even sure I should count this as read. But Emma Thompson as narrator, and the actors they chose really did a great job creating an amazing story. Austen’s trademark sweet romances are here, as well as her misunderstandings. It’s a sweet story, and a fun one, but not one I’ll feel compelled to re-read.

03 HPHarry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
I read the illustrated edition this year as a read-aloud with the kiddos. The Jim Kay illustrations totally bring this book to life for the littles and are completely gorgeous (great for adults also!!). I mean, an adult probably isn’t going to *carry around* this book as their sole read because it’s rather large, heavy, and unwieldy. But, definitely get a copy for your shelves if you are a HP fan, because it is a wonderful book to read at home, snuggled under a blankie, with your sweet kiddos piled next to and on top of you.

04 Garden SpellsGarden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen
A sweet family story about coming home, with a bit of magic thrown in for good measure. Sydney and her daughter Bey (Bay? Bae??? I don’t know I listened) escape an abusive relationship and go home to her sister Claire and the house she grew up in. Which happens to be close to a neighbor that gives people random shit they don’t think they need… Until they do. And has an apple tree in the back yard that throws apples at people. If you eat those apples, you’ll see your fate. The whole thing, the budding romances, the fun circumstances, all of it is great fun. I’d call this a summer/chick lit read for its breeziness.

05 A Spark of LightA Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult
This is a touchy subject, as are most of Jodi’s books. Even though I’ve moistened to interviews and know firmly where she stands on this issue (pro life versus pro-choice), I think she does a really great job, as usual, at humanizing both sides of the debate.
I didn’t like the end->beginning timeline though. Of course it eventually becomes clear why she decided to write the book in this way, but most of the time, I think it creates more confusion and is mostly a trope that authors use just to see if they can pull it off. My opinion: the answer is usually no. I think this will end up being one of Picoult’s most controversial books to date, because while other books face issues that are debatable, this is probably the first one for most of us where we know and love people who will vehemently argue on both sides of this issue. And I think that, overall, even though abortion is a divisive issue, and I don’t think this book will change minds on either side, it’s a good thing to put yourself in the shoes of the other.

06 Half-Night StandMy Favorite Half-Night Stand by Christina Lauren
Well, this was fun, even though I went into it with *meh* expectations. Totally a reworking of Pride and Prejudice, like a more modern, flip flopped version of You’ve Got Mail. Nostalgia runs rampant even though it feels totally “modern”.
Millie and Reid are part of a group of friends, professors at UC Santa Barbara. Each of them needs a date for commencement so they all sign up for a dating app. Hilarity as matchmaking snafus ensue. Releases December 4, 2018.

07 Well-Read Black GirlWell-Read Black Girl by Glory Edim
Glory Edim of Well-Read Black Girl (Instagram: @wellreadblackgirl) curates this collection of essays from Black writers, poets, and playwrights. They are mostly centered on the first and formative books for each of these women, the ones that first depicted relatable characters for her to look up to. The Black authors that came first and showed that Black characters can have depth and meaning and be something for a young Black Girl to aspire to, these are v the formative stories. Be prepared for your TBR list to explode with titles!

08 Scarlet WomenA Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas
Lady Sherlock = YES! I’m a big fan of this re-imagining of Sherlock Holmes as a woman. Definitely will pick up the second one. Charlotte/Sherlock is my favorite. And Mrs. Watson! 😊
Charlotte Holmes is a young woman who cannot bear the idea of being “married off” per her family’s wishes, so she deliberately destroys her reputation. She is fashionable, feisty, and observant, of course. As she flees her family home, she has to find a way to support herself, because money is tight and she needs an income. Purely out of self-interest, she writes a letter to the Detective in charge of a case, but under a pseudonym… because who would take a lady seriously?

09 Cabin at the EndThe Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay
Scary stuff. A gay couple and their adopted daughter rent a cabin in the remote woods to “unplug”. They are totally cut off with no internet or cell service so they can reconnect and enjoy the outdoors together. But then: Home invasion. Trigger warnings galore. Don’t read this if you have an issue with books including children being hurt (I’m not an HSP, and this was difficult). Also, is the apocalypse coming? What in the HAIL is going on!? I was plenty freaked out by this book, even when finishing it in the morning, instead of binging through it at night.

10 Underground AirlinesUnderground Airlines by Ben Winters
This was an interesting reimagining of a world post-different-outcome-of-the-Civil-War. The South won the right to keep their slaves, the country remains divided, and we’re in present-day America. There is an “underground airlines” movement of slaves to free states, and our main character (usually called Victor) is an undercover Black man, a Federal Marshall, tasked with bringing those slaves back to their owners and investigating the underground movement.
This whole world is so topsy-turvy it takes a while to get your head around this novel. It’s got a thriller/mystery element built into it as well. There are a number of flashback chapters to Victor’s pre-Marshall life. On audio, those ended up being a bit confusing (“oh, we’ve moved back in time again?”, but I’m not sure if that comes through more clearly in the printed version). Overall, I thought it was a solid dystopian effort.

11 Clockmaker's DaughterThe Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton
The build-up to this one is long and a bit convoluted. You are following a lot of storylines before she stops adding them in. But, about 60% in (300 pages or so), the stories start to come together and then it’s worth it. Just a question of whether most readers will make their way through tyre first 300 pages to get to that point. I found myself researching Edward Radcliffe, to see if he was a real painter and to see if the paintings referenced were real works. Spoiler: they’re invented. Which is fine, but I wanted to see them!
I do think this would make a great movie. Partially because it would be easier to keep track of the different timelines, and it wouldn’t be terribly hard to cut it down quite a bit. 🙈

12 Absolutely RemarkableAn Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green
Dang that was fun! You can tell this book was put together quickly because of the various typos that didn’t get caught, and therefore made it into the final edition. But otherwise, it’s phenomenal. I love the premise, I love the way he put together the plot and story, l love the puzzles and overall message about the goodness of humanity. It was super fun and readable and I know I’ll be recommending this one constantly. Great for fans of Ready Player One and/or Dark Matter and/or Sleeping Giants.

13 Some WriterrSome Writer! The Story of E.B. White by Melissa Sweet
This was SO well put together. Sweet’s art is amazing. She put together a relatable story, filled with writings and anecdotes from White’s life. The typewritten sections, the handwritten stories, the photos, the decoupage artwork, all of it is so lovely. It makes me love his writing even more.

14 Pretty GirlsPretty Girls by Karin Slaughter
Well, this was screwed up and terrifying and twisty and nightmare-inducing. Well-plotted, not for HSPs in any sense of the word. Totally horrible and also fascinating in the “cannot look away even though I know I’ll never be the same” way.
Paul Scott is stabbed to death in an alleyway after a stick up goes awry. His wife Claire holds him as he dies. From the funeral on, everything starts to fall apart. There are crazy sex tapes, unexplained money, and collusion with law enforcement. I listened to this book like 🐔😯😮😶

15 Thirteenth TaleThe Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
Wow. I loved the way this was put together, a biographer, a book within a book, twins, a mystery teased at the beginning but then being slowly spilled out. Mrs Vida Winter is an aging, prolific, beloved writer, but no one knows her true life story. She has created many fictions over the years, so it’s hard to know which one to trust. She contacts Margaret Lea and agrees to tell her the truth. This gothic, ghosty, classic-feeling mystery is fantastic. And the two audio narrators do it great justice.

16 CoralineCoraline by Neil Gaiman
Definitely one we need for our shelves for an annual Halloween read! Coraline the book is a bit creepier than Coraline the movie, so definitely be aware before you read it. I read it aloud to my kiddos (8 and 5), although the 5-year-old often didn’t sit through an entire chapter. They have seen the (also creepy) movie a few times, so I figured we’d be okay, but the other mother is much scarier in this version and some events go done in a way that’s harder to deal with for young kids. I’d definitely recommend it as a readaloud, but maybe not RIGHT before bed. The imagery is perfection, because Neil Gaiman is a master.

17 AlcatrazAlcatraz versus the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson
This was a fun little jaunt. Please remind me if you’re the one who recommended this to me!
Alcatraz is a normal-ish foster kid who accidentally breaks a lot of stuff. So much that he’s been bounced from house to house. On his 13th birthday, he receives a bag of sand a as a gift, which is promptly stolen, and his world gets flipped upside down. His grandpa shows up soon afterward and lets him know he’s actually been living in the Hushlander lands of Libraria under an evil librarian dictatorship. He is actually part of a dynasty of Oculators and they need those sands to create powerful glasses, which have unknown powers.
The book is very tongue in cheek and self-aware, with the narrator talking directly to the reader. It’s funny and ridiculous, if not high literature. I’m positive my kiddo would love this if only he ever read things I suggest to him…

18 UnmarriageableUnmarriageable by Soniah Kamal
I liked the concept here, but felt like it stuck too close to the original text. I mean, real readers of P&P will be able to figure out each character in the book and who they correspond to. We don’t need to be told through “clever” renaming: Looclus for Lucas, Kaleen for Collins, Darsee and Bungles (Bingley). By the end I was mostly annoyed at the way she renamed instead of letting the reader be smart enough to figure it out.
BUT, all that being said, I love the way that Pakistani culture fits so well with the P&P storyline and Regency England culture and thought it was well done overall. Releases January 15, 2019.

19 All Things Cease to AppearAll Things Cease to Appear by Elizabeth Brundage
This was an interesting and complex version of a thriller. A man (George Clare) comes home to find his wife literally axe-murdered in her bed, and his young daughter nearby. The house has been completely wiped down, and he’s been at work all day. That’s all we know before we zoom back in time to learn how the Clare’s came to live in this centuries-old farmhouse. The Hale House. The whole time you are reading, you’re trying to put together the whos and whys and whats as to what happened. I thought it was really well done, with just the right amount of detail and suspense and ick-factor.

20 From Twinkle with LoveFrom Twinkle, With Love by Sandhya Menon
This was totally readable and fun. But I have to say I got pretty annoyed when Twinkle’s cranky meanness reared its head. Twinkle is a “groundling” at her school but yearns for “silk feathered hat” status. She thinks she can make it happen, on order to get her ex-best friend back, possibly by directing an amazing movie for the end of school year party.

QuickLit – September 2018

This month’s QuickLit features short and sweet reviews of the 22 books I read in September! Feel free to scroll until you find something you like. If you’re interested in listening to me CHAT about the books I’ve been reading lately, my lovely co-host Meredith Monday Schwartz and I debuted our podcast this month! You can find Currently Reading on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, or the podcast player of your choice. You can even ask Alexa to “play Currently Reading” and she’ll help you out! We really spent some time figuring out what *the perfect book podcast* would be like and it seems that lots of our listeners agree! It would mean so much to us if you want to check it out. 🙂
Otherwise, you can just scan below to see what I read this month!

01 Want to Talk About RaceSo You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
Oluo pulls no punches in this book. It is brutally honest and convicting. It is for white people who “could never be racist” as well as anyone who has been hurt by racism. It expands and explains the hurt, the misconceptions, the teachable moments. It’s definitely worth picking up and going on my list of favorite social justice reads.

02 Mother's ReckoningA Mother’s Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy by Sue Klebold
Holy hell, this was rough. But also feels like it should maybe be required reading for every parent. And then maybe establishing your family with a family counselor should be required for every parent as well. And it wouldn’t fix the world, but it might go a ways toward helping us better understand and support our children, and those with mental illness, and especially better understand where those two roads intersect. This book is heartbreaking, but well thought and worthwhile all the same.

03 Every Note PlayedEvery Note Played by Lisa Genova
Lisa Genova writes such well researched, poignant dramas. The juxtaposition of a concert pianist with a man suffering from ALS who slowly but surely sees his body decline is horrifying and heartbreaking. I love the way she gives us the viewpoint of Karina as well as that of Richard, her ex husband. It’s not an easy read, but it’s a good one. The audio was well done, but the narrator for Karina was far better than that of Richard, I felt. 

04 Little Broken ThingsLittle Broken Things by Nicole Baart
My biggest critique of this book is that there are so many women in it with different relationships to one another that it gets a little hard to keep track of everyone until you really get a handle on the characters. Tiffany and Nora are friends who moved away from their hometown, where Nora’s mom Liz and sister Quinn live. Nora drops off Everlee, who she calls Lucy, to Quinn’s house, owned by their mom, and tells her not to let anyone know she’s there. Got all that? After you can wrap your head around all of the ins and outs of the relationships, you’re pretty much good to go on this ride, where we wonder who Everlee’s dad is, why she has to hide, etc etc. The mystery element is well-plotted if the buildup is a bit convoluted.

05 Last Night in MontrealLast Night in Montreal by Emily St. John Mandel
This book was interesting, but the timelines and jumping from one point of view to another left me disinterested and confused more often than not. Having to spend half of each chapter figuring out where we were in time was too much for this sleep deprived brain to handle.
Lilia disappears from her mother’s home when she is only 8 years old, spirited away in the middle of the night by her father. She spends her entire life as a migratory wisp, a nomad traveling with her father, staying for moments or evenings or months in one place before moving along.

06 The Best YesThe Best Yes by Lysa TerKeurst
Fun and lighthearted while also being convicting. Just what I needed to remember in this time of decision and opportunity and balance. But mostly it was a reminder, because it didn’t feel groundbreaking to me. Overall, it seemed like Lysa had some good points about seeking Godly counsel and spending time in prayer and not stretching oneself too thin (by looking at emotional, spiritual, time, and money resources).  I did enjoy it though.

07 The Gospel Comes with a House KeyThe Gospel Comes with a House Key by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield
I did NOT like this book. It felt like nothing I wanted. Christian books about hospitality are totally my jam, but this one is not that. This is a memoir about how self sacrificing the author is and about how only Jesus could make her ungay. And about how Christian pastor’s wives need to be serving everyone all the time, and should be giving to such and extent that they never get time or money to take care of themselves and enjoy their families. I feel like it sets a poor precedent for Christian hospitality. So many better titles in my coffers to recommend to you, if you like this idea!

08 The War I Finally WonThe War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
I just totally adore this series. I can’t stop gushing about it. This one made me cry more than once, but it’s still just so great. Ada and Jamie continue to live in the English countryside as the British war with Germany heats up. They face loss and victory, heartache and joy. Ada has to learn how to trust, how to allow herself to really live. I know I’ll be recommending it across the board to everyone from 3rd grade to age 80.

09 I'd Rather Be ReadingI’d Rather Be Reading by Anne Bogel
I love this collection. I’m not a re-reader, but I know I will pick This up to read these essays again and again. I know I will turn back to these book darted pages for smiles and comfort and sweetness and even ideas in the future. This is absolutely THE love letter to books that I’ve always wanted on my shelves, and this little book will be with me for the rest of my days.

10 All the Pretty GirlsAll the Pretty Girls by J.T. Ellison
Really well put together thriller, if a bit gory and violent (yes, I *know*…. It’s a thriller). I followed along almost exactly with the way the author wants you to believe things are going to play out, and therefore thought I knew whodunit, but was wrong, and then was right, and then was still surprised. All without feeling like she had played me for a fool. Lieutenant Taylor Jackson is a great character to root for. I’m a fan.

11 MiddlesexMiddlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
I really enjoyed this. I an beating myself for not listening to Melissa 12+ years ago and reading it ASAP. Instead, I let it languish on my shelves, almost gave it away, and finally decided to pick it up.
This multi-generational saga starts in Greece at the beginning of the 20th century. It follows Lefty and Desdemona and their family, as told through the eyes of their grandchild, Calliope. You’ve got the fabulous Greek culture, you’ve got early 20th century immigrant experience, the auto boom, World War II. It’s all contained in these pages and they are so worth reading.

12 What I Saw and How I LiedWhat I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell
Historical fiction mystery. 15 year-old Evelyn, her mom, and stepdad head down to Florida and spend the late summer and fall at a hotel. Post World War II. She meets Peter, who served with her stepdad Joe in the army during the war. Relationships are messy. Lies are told. I liked this plenty, but it didn’t draw me in like I feel like it could have.

13 Matchmaking for BeginnersMatchmaking for Beginners by Maddie Dawson
I didn’t realize I had already read one of Dawson’s books until the end of this one. But I liked it quite a bit more than the previous one I had read (A Survivor’s Guide to Family Happiness). I picked this up as a Kindle First read, and then I wasn’t sure I’d even read it. But it was a fun read after a week of heavy ones, so it fit the bill. Blix is an eccentric older lady, who is going to die soon, and she’s a self-proclaimed matchmaker. She meets Marnie, her great-nephew’s fiance and knows that she is meant to be part of her life. Marnie is a bit of a mess, goes through a breakup, etc etc. She ends up living a “big life” in ways she definitely didn’t expect, and you keep wondering how this is going to resolve without Marnie looking like a total toolface. It does… kinda. She still kinda carries that self-centered vibe with her until the end.

14 Maybe In Another LifeMaybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid
I’d call this novel a book version of Sliding Doors. Was that a book first? I don’t know.
Hannah moves home after a breakup to LA, where she no longer has a home because her parents picked up and left to move to London when Hannah was in HS. She meets up with her ex-boyfriend, Ethan, one night right after her return and then she needs to make a choice: go home with Ethan or go home with her longtime friend Gabby. We follow both timelines. The chapters switch back and forth between leaving Ethan at the bar and leaving the possibilities open with him or going home with him. We see this one decision change the course of her life and see how the thigns that were already in place play out in each timeline. It’s SO cool. It’s like a girly version (i.e. no blood and guts) of Dark Matter, by Blake Crouch, or a more interesting version of How to Walk Away, by Katherine Center. Definitely read it!

15 I'm Still HereI’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown
I don’t have the right words for this book and the ways it spoke to the circumstances in Brown’s life, and the ways she helps us white women to see the racism inherent in our interactions and comments, and the ways she affirms the struggle of the Black women in her life. Brown is a racial sensitivity trainer, often for religious organizations, so she has seen and spoken to and been involved in some super tricky situations. She uses all her knowledge and experience to really clearly outline white guilt and white fragility and affirmative action and separate but equal and, just… life. This book is absolutely a must-read, for anyone. But especially for white Christians.

16 GhostGhost by Jason Reynolds
This one was talked about so highly on the Great American Read that I decided to pick it up. Went into it knowing nothing about nothing. Ghost (Castle Crenshaw) is a young Black boy whose life has not been easy. His father tried to kill him and his mother before being sent to prison. He has no great male influence in his life. But that changes at the track one day. His coach, his mom, and his teammates show him what it means to show up, to be committed, to care for one another, and to trust each other. This was a great YA read.

17 TKAMTo Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
This book sits very differently with me now than it did when I read it as a teenager. Then, I read it as the story of a young girl, who idolized her father (and brother). Atticus was mostly definitely a good man who deserved to be idolized.
Now, and especially with the reading and listening I’ve done of late to writers of color and women of color, I find this book to be a portrayal of white southern culture in the 30s. We get nothing from Cal, from Tom or Helen Robinson. These pivotal characters of color are not remotely fleshed out.
Lee’s later (earlier) novel Go Set A Watchman seemed to cast doubt on Atticus and his infallible character. And I kind of feel like it was maybe deserved? Even though I didn’t feel like that when I read GSAW a couple years ago. I’m not saying that I love this book less than I did then. I’m saying it’s a different story because I’m a different (and I hope, more knowledgeable and more informed) person now.

18 Lethal WhiteLethal White by Robert Galbraith
I spent entirely too long caring only about Robin and Strike instead of their investigation. It finally got interesting about 1/3-1/2 way in and then I couldn’t put it down. This case centers on a minister for culture, blackmail, accusations of strangling a child from a mentally unstable young man. It seems to be easily disconnected and dull as we get the entire story set up, but then things start coming together and happening quickly. Overall, I’d recommend it, but tell the reader to push through the boring bits to get to the good stuff.

19 MarchMarch: Book One by John Robert Lewis
Excellently done. Drawings are black and white, which seems totally appropriate. Can’t wait to get my hands on the rest of these. And possibly find a Lewis biography, because: dang. At Obama’s swearing in, John Lewis is met by a young mother and her two young boys. He has to go, but he tells them the story of his life, starting from a young age, going through the Montgomery bus boycott, the non-violent resistance and civil disobedience of the civil rights movement, the times he met Martin Luther King, Jr. It’s amazing.

20 The Power of HabitThe Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg
I’d like to review the power of The Power of Habit. I feel ARMED with all this knowledge now! How habits are formed, triggered, changed. Between this and Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin, it feels possible to change anything about the way one behaves. Duhigg has the research about habits themselves and Rubin shows us how to harness that research.

21 Uninvited GuestsThe Uninvited Guests by Sadie Jones
Fun and silly with a bit of weirdness. It’s 1912. Emerald Torrington is getting ready for her birthday party when a nearby railway line suffers and accident and the survivors are sent to the Torrington home for shelter. This happens right as the party guests start to arrive as well. It’s a bit of a mess, of course, but the show must go on. How should we feed these people? How do we entertain ourselves with the study taken up with all these “guests”? What in the world is happening in there anyway? I found myself laughing at the situations, even when it was getting a bit creepy.

22 Where You BelongThis Is Where You Belong: The Art and Science of Loving the Place You Live by Melody Warnick
I liked that this was like a place attachment experiment. But I also happen to love books that fall into the “stunt journalism” genre (i.e. I tried to live like this for a year and here’s how it turned out)… this feels kind of like that. Warnick outlines some guidelines for place attachment and then spends time telling us how it looked in her life as she attempts to root herself in her current city, Blackburg, VA.
It feels like a checklist: here’s what I’ve already done to love where we live, here’s something else I could do to love it more or love it better. Warnick is really readable, but I feel like the chapters are each a bit too long.

QuickLit – August 2018

This month was a big one for me! I was attempting to finish up the Goodreads Summer Reading Challenge (expert level) so I was plowing through books left, right, and sideways! I managed to finish my last of the 40 titles on August 30th, so I officially squeaked in under the wire and am feeling pretty proud of my accomplishment. I had one other huge accomplishment this month: I finished War and Peace! Read on for quick reviews of that and the other 20 titles I read this month.

01 Peace Like a RiverPeace Like A River by Leif Enger
Felt very similar to The Outsiders to me. More family, less friend group. More adventure, less drama (but still plenty of that). But similar. It’s a well-written story, and I love this family: Reuben, Swede, and Danny, three siblings along with their amazing dad. I counted this as a Story that Features a Father for my reading challenge, and it certainly fit the bill, as their dad is so involved and caring. He is *almost* the star of the show.

02 Into the WildInto the Wild by Jon Krakauer
Liked this far more than I thought I would. In my ignorance, I did not realize this was a nonfiction title until I started it! This is a harrowing tale of Alex’s adventure, the way he gets sick, and the reason he dies (not a spoiler – we know he is dead from the first pages). Krakauer researches meticulously, interviews so many people, and even corrects his own misconceptions from his original article.

03 You Think It I'll Say ItYou Think It, I’ll Say It by Curtis Sittenfeld
Although I’m definitely a fan of Curtis Sittenfeld, this short story collection left me feeling kind of unsatisfied. I wanted MORE from each story, like they cut off too early and were too spare. That’s not to say any of them were bad! They were nice stories, I just feel like she’s better suited to long-form fiction.

04 20000 Leagues20000 Leagues under the Sea by Jules Verne
Classic adventure of Captain Nemo and his crew. Totally groundbreaking at the time! My kiddos will love this one in a year or two. I’ll have the bigger boys listen to the audio also, as it went well for me, but I think the text might feel a bit plodding for them. And then, the movie, of course. Because that’s sometimes what gets kids excited about these classic tomes.

05 Castle of WaterCastle of Water by Dane Huckelbridge
Reread on audio this month. Original review published below. Still loved every second.

Please hold while I finish wiping my eyes and blowing my nose……. (Mary, you didn’t warn me!)………

Okay, ahem. So, Barry goes down in a tiny plane among the Tahitian islands, along with two other passengers and the pilot. He and newly – married Sophie (whose husband went the way of the pilot) wash up on the same shore. Dane Huckelbridge is an amazing writer. His prose is beautiful without being anywhere near overdone or bourgeoisie. He weaves in French speech but doesn’t leave us hanging as to what it means. He creates plot and drama without it feeling like there would be no book without it. Really, this was just masterfully done, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.

06 Good Morning MidnightGood Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton
I Could. Not. Put. This. Down. Such an interesting premise. Loved the two perspectives. Loved the plotline and scenery. I wanted everyone to hush up so I could just keep diving into this book! It’s been described as Station Eleven meets The Snow Child, and all I can say to that is Yes Yes Yes. I loved both of those, so I should have known I would love this one too! And I did! And also: that cover. All the heart eyes.

07 RelishRelish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley
Well, that was fun. This one’s a keeper, for sure. I’ll be pulling it off my shelves for recipes and just to read again. I’m always up for a love letter to food, and Knisley delivers. I also asked my husband if he would hug me for a long time every day if I worked in a cheese shop and smelled like cheese when he got home. He says I already smell like spit up most days, so he’ll pass.

08 Stretched Too ThinStretched Too Thin: How Working Moms Can Lose the Guilt, Work Smarter, and Thrive by Jessica Turner
Jessica does it again. Her books are relatable, important, and impeccably researched. I’ll be pushing this one into the hands of every working mom I know! But the caveat here is that you don’t need to be a working mom to get a lot from this book. Jessica tackles taking care of your marriage well, parenting your kids well, and prioritizing self-care in this book. Perhaps if, like me, no one pays you a paycheck, you might not get a ton out of how to ask for telecommuting options or managing that part of work-life balance, but lots of it is applicable even if you are “just” a volunteer somewhere!

Full disclosure: I’m on the launch team for this one so I got to listen to the audiobook early, but I also bought my own copy!

09 The Blue CastleThe Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery
The Blue Castle is a re-read for me, but I still enjoyed it immensely. Valancy is a hypochondriac “old maid” that is coddled and almost abused by her controlling mother. She is a disappointment to her family and basically gets walked all over by each of them. When she gets a terminal heart diagnosis, she decides to buck tradition and live her own life. And when she does, we all benefit. Because the story that results is so sweet and fun and joyful.

10 A Rule Against MurderA Rule Against Murder by Louise Penny
Book number 4 in the Gamache series didn’t disappoint. I’ve heard book 5 (Brutal Telling) is the best, so I’m not rushing to pick it up. Because then I will have finished “the best one!” In this one, Gamache is already in Three Pines celebrating his anniversary, when, you guessed it, a murder occurs. He’s back on the case, even while on vacation and the way this one comes together and gets solved is still making me smile. I love me some Ralph Cosham (the narrator of these first 4 books, and some of the susequent ones but I’ve been warned he eventually changes), and the way he brings the story to life on audio.

11 Brave New WorldBrave New World by Aldous Huxley
For Ford’s sake. This classic dystopian novel feels like something I definitely should have read before, but I honestly don’t think I have! It soared in popularity again after Trump’s election two years ago, and it’s easy to see why. This government-controlled, mass-produced, ultimately-efficient world is a stark wake-up call to the reader.

12 BlindnessBlindness by Jose Saramago
A brutal look at the human condition. Blindness spreads like an epidemic, from one person to another, with everyone seeing white. In Saramago’s book, he delves into the human response, the government response, the way society copes (or doesn’t), and it’s fascinating. And horrifying.

The writing style in this made it hard to connect with the characters and what they were saying, for me. “Being blind means names are meaningless” so no one is referred to by name. Instead they are “the man with the eye patch, the doctor, the woman with dark glasses”. And there are no quotes pre even paragraph divisions while people are talking. Just commas and a capital letter at the beginning of each phrase. Takes some getting used to! I do feel like this book is rather unique and ground-breaking though! I’m just not sure it qualifies for “scaring the Bajeezers out of me” like I originally planned.

13 VoxVox by Christina Dalcher
Goodness this book is terrifying. In a dystopian, post-Obama America, the president who takes the reins is a fundamentalist Christian who espouses the idea that women were made to serve men. Under advisement from his pastor (?), he institutes “bracelets” that count a woman’s words and deliver a shock if she goes over 100 in a given day. The premise is horrifying, if farfetched, and just gets worse as it develops. Especially awful in bringing this novel to life: when my fitbit would vibrate with “reminders to move” as I read, because I couldn’t put it down!

14 Girl Wash Your FaceGirl, Wash Your Face: Stop Believing the Lies about Who You Are So You Can Become Who You Were Meant to Be by Rachel Hollis
I felt ambivalent about this book. Some stories were so interesting and life giving and some were SO meh. When Rachel is being really vulnerable and writing from her heartbreak, this book is unputdownable. When she is trying to be pithy and funny it just doesn’t do it for me. 😶

15 The Air I BreatheThe Air I Breathe: Worship as a Way of Life by Louie Giglio
I thought this was a lot of words that could have been a 500- to 1,000-word blog post. I mean, I like the introspection that Giglio does, and I appreciate him in general, but calling this a “book” seems like a bit of a stretch. I did definitely appreciate the general message though: where do you spend your time? That is what you worship. We are all worshipping something.

16 The SparrowThe Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell
One of those books that gets pushed into your hands and you’re kinda like “um, I guess? Sounds a little crazy?” But then you love it. Jesuits in space. Father Emilio Santos, the linguist priest who maybe doesn’t believe in God. I am a total language nerd and this totally scratched that itch. Such a well-thought and curated story, even if it takes a bit of time to get into.

17 An Anonymous GirlAn Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen
Super readable, much less predictable than their first novel and far twistier, this sophomore thriller by Hendricks and Pekkanen is weird and crazy. Jessica sneaks into a psychology study on a college campus because of the financial incentive it offers. But Dr. Shields has some strange questions and decides to take the study to the next level based on Jessica’s answers. This one kept me guessing throughout. I received it as a galley and enjoyed it immensely.

18 Make It HappenMake it Happen: Surrender Your Fear. Take the Leap. Live on Purpose. by Lara Casey
My favorite part of this book is the final section, where Casey relates pursuing your goals to the cultivation of a garden. It’s a great metaphor and really well put together. The rest felt more like a memoir to me. And if that’s what you’re looking for, you’ll enjoy it.

19 War and PeaceWar and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
You guys! I did it!!! Let it be known that at 8:08 this morning in Rio Rancho, NM, this mama of 4 finished reading War and Peace, Tolstoy’s 1500-page epic tome, published as a complete work in 1869. It was originally released as a series, and so that’s how I read it, using the Serial Reader app. The app breaks down the classics into magazine-article length chunks and sends you one serial a day to read. It took me 235 days, dutifully reading my “issue of the day”. I’m pretty excited about this HUGE accomplishment!

I’m giving this 3 stars because I liked certain parts quite a bit, but thought others just dragged on for days and weeks at a time.

20 The War that Saved My LifeThe War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
I loved this story of Ada and her brother Jamie. Ada was born with a club foot and her mother finds her to be a disgrace, so she is not allowed to leave the house. Web the children ofzs London are evacuated to keep them safe during WWII, she escapes with her little brother to live in the country where it’s safer. This entire book is just fantastic and comes highly recommended… By me and everyone else I know who has read it. Glad I already got the sequel from the library!

Definitely pick this up if you loved Wonder but can’t handle another book FULL of tears.

21 These Is My WordsThese Is My Words: The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine, 1881-1901 by Nancy Tuner
I loved this. All of it. To me, this feels like a bit more grown-up version of the Little House books. Journal form, but that same journey and settlement aspect. I really enjoyed that they are in Tucson for much of it, my old stomping grounds. It really made it hit “close to home” for me. I didn’t know much about this before I picked it up, but I certainly am glad I did!


QuickLit – July 2018

My July was eventful, as you may have guessed! I had a baby! A little girl. She was born the day before her due date on July 5th. That morning, at a standard appointment, we found out she was breech (I didn’t feel her turn, so we assume she had been breech for some time). The hospital system I delivered at does not allow for breech births, so when my contractions started in earnest that afternoon we hustled along to the hospital for a C-section. The recovery from that was pretty heinous, especially the spinal headache (worst pain I’ve ever been in… and this includes 3 natural non-medicated childbirths). That means my July reading was pretty hampered at the beginning of the month by pain as well as visitors – I can’t be the only one who feels like it’s rude to sit on the couch close to your visiting family and just bury myself in a good book instead, right? Still ended up being a decent reading month overall though with 15 books read, as I breezed through some great audio toward the end, and slowly worked through others.
Scroll until you see something that piques your interest!

01 Medium RawMedium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook by Anthony Bourdain
I finally rescued this book from my languishing TBR pile on my Kindle this month, after the devastating news about Bourdain’s death. This is mostly a collection of stories and vignettes of his life. From the best food he’s ever eaten, to the best and worst chefs he’s worked with, to the people who annoy the bajeezers out of him, to the way he has raised his daughter to look at food (and McDonald’s, which had me laughing out loud). Bourdain’s chapter on the best local foods he’s ever eaten had me absolutely salivating – and craving pho from Vietnam. But otherwise, I found this book to be mostly geared toward people who are true foodies and know the who’s who of the food world. For those of us that don’t rub elbows with Michelin-starred chefs, it’s more of a meander through a world we don’t inhabit.

02 Expecting BetterExpecting Better; Why the Conventional Pregnancy Wisdom is Wrong – and What You Really Need to Know by Emily Oster
For a data nerd like me, this book is INVALUABLE, and would have been even more so if it had existed prior to my first pregnancy. Although I spent all four of my pregnancies flouting the conventional, American wisdom regarding pregnancy, I usually couldn’t justify it. I typically just said “we’re very European about pregnancy” with regard to questions about foods to avoid, drinking alcohol, weight gain, prenatal screenings, and the like. But Emily Oster, a statistician by trade, wasn’t satisfied with those answers. So, she took the time to look up the actual health studies that play into doctor recommendations. Thus empowered, she gives us the summary of the studies, the way that you could interpret the results, and even the way she chose to make decisions based on this knowledge. I’ll be referring anyone I know, who wants MORE answers and more thorough knowledge, to this book on pregnancy. I was so glad to borrow it from my dear friend Elizabeth, and learned so much even at the very tail end of pregnancy number four.

03 StardustStardust by Neil Gaiman
As an avid lover of the movie, I was pretty sure I’d love the book, and of course, I was right. Per the bookworm manifesto, the book is always better than the movie. I’ve only read a select few of Gaiman’s works, and this one was absolutely delightful. For those unfamiliar with the premise, Stardust takes place in the Village of Wall and the village beyond the wall, which really belongs to another realm, one with fairies and kings and witches and cloud pirates. These characters are brought to life in the film with an all-star cast, who I couldn’t help picturing as I read through the story. I want to push this shorter book into the hands of anyone facing a reading slump. You’ll devour it and be ready for something fun or heavy afterward!

04 Return to AtlantisReturn to Atlantis (Choose Your Own Adventure) by R.A. Montgomery
Does that cover bring back memories, or what? In Return to Atlantis, I also got to return to my childhood. As part of the Goodreads Summer Reading Challenge, I *had* to pick up one of these titles from the library. I actually chose three to bring home so that I could let my kiddos Choose Their Own Adventure as well. We went to space, were abducted by ant people, and dove beneath the sea. Sometimes we died, sometimes we saved the world, and mostly we had a great time. The books themselves are not nearly as exciting as I remember them being. I kind of want someone to pick up this series/concept and make it into something new and great. But even so, the walk down memory lane was certainly fun.

05 Crazy Rich AsiansCrazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
Kwan’s novel is ridiculous and fun and dramatic and exciting. It felt like a peek into the lives of the uber-rich as well as a glimpse into modern Asian culture, and I’ve never really read a book that gave me either! So, this ended up feeling totally new and different to me, while similar enough to the contemporary fiction/drama books that I’ve read in the past to not leave me wallowing in the mundane details of their lives…. I’m looking at you other-super-popular-and-recent-Asian-culture-book. Definitely recommended although I’m not sure how fast I’ll be looking for the next book in the series. Perhaps I’ll leave these as summer reads and look into it next year.

06 Jesus FeministJesus Feminist: An Invitation to Revisit the Bible’s View of Women by Sarah Bessey
Having never read Sarah Bessey’s blog, I didn’t have the “disappointed these are mostly blog posts in book format” reaction that other reviewers have noted. Instead, I found this to be a fresh way of looking at the Bible and the church’s treatment of women. I recommended it to my mom right in the middle of the book and I stand by that recommendation now. I feel like we get so caught up in Paul’s letters that we forget that the way that Jesus treated the women around him was truly revolutionary. He does not relegate us to less-than status, does not tell us to sit down and be quiet, does not put us on the shelf to look pretty. And any book that reminds us of that is a good one in my… ahem, book.

07 Brightly BurningBrightly Burning by Alexa Donne
Oh, this was so fun. Jane Eyre, but reimagined, up in space, after the apocalyptic freezing of Earth in another ice age. The characters are different, the plot is futuristic and crazy, but the feeling of the original is still there. Enough so that I want to go back and reread the classic that inspired this retelling, but I also feel like people who don’t love Jane will enjoy this novel anyway! It’s a quick read, and it’s worth putting it on your TBR stack.

08 Benjamin ButtonThe Curious Case of Benjamin Button by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Benjamin Button is another “book I read after the movie”. Two in one month? What the heck? This short story by F.S.F. is endearing and sweet and still feels totally original 100 years later. Not a spoiler when the text is 100 years old, right? Benjamin Button is born an old man and he ages backward throughout his life, gradually becoming younger and younger. When he is 18 years old, he looks 50 and attempts to enroll in college with disastrous results. The fleshing out of the story for the movie is incredibly well done, and it leaves the actual novella feeling underwhelming. Perhaps it’s because Brad Pitt is… you know, Brad Pitt, but Benjamin Button in the novel seems much more self-centered and much less adventurous than his movie counterpart.

09 CirceCirce by Madeline Miller
Circe is brilliantly written and beautifully put together. Greek myths are interwoven throughout, and Circe plays a role in all of them. Her life as a goddess, as an exile, as a witch, are all so well done. I tried and failed to read The Song of Achilles at one point a few years ago, but this does make me want to go back and pick it up again. Miller’s writing is just totally on point. The audio of this was fantastic, and I raced through it pretty quickly considering the fact that I had a baby and out of town guests for like 9 of the 12 days it took me to read it (I can’t bring myself to delve into headphones when people are hanging out visiting us…).

10 The Thorn BirdsThe Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough
This might be my favorite “family saga” that I’ve ever read. The Clearys, a family of boys upon boys and a single girl, is such an endearing group of people. McCullough captures their flaws, their thoughts, their motivations, without leaving us with a totally internal novel. Instead, this tome (700+ pages) is fully plot-driven AND character-driven, and she does a great job at both. We are totally immersed in the back of beyond of Australia. We’ve got an interlude in Rome with the Catholic Church. We’re led to fully fall in love with each of her characters and become totally invested in their lives. There’s a reason this is a beloved classic, and I’m for it.

11 Ugly and Wonderful ThingsAll the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood
While I was reading this book, I described it to several people as “totally screwed up”. But I still couldn’t put it down. I picked it up as a “book that challenges a viewpoint” for a reading challenge this year, and it definitely does that. Wavy is the daughter of a drug dealer and his wife (and often watched over by one of his many girlfriends). She is damaged. Really damaged. By all the awful things her mother has said to her over the years, leading her to believe that she is dirty, that eating is dirty, that touching someone is dirty, that getting a hug is dirty. Even from her own parents or her little brother. When Kellen enters Wavy’s life and starts taking her to school and watching over her in a parent sort of way (the kind of parent that someone should have… taking an actual interest in her life and well-being), it’s no wonder that her affections develop into something more. As a young man, but definitely a man (mid-20s), Kellen doesn’t know how to deal with it. The whole book is just totally bizarre, and you find yourself examining what you want to happen and how you want the situation dealt with. If you are in need of a viewpoint challenging book, definitely pick this one up.

12 Scarlet LetterThe Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
I didn’t like this. It’s a classic, I get it. It’s definitely interesting (in parts), but oh my word, the introduction is 1/4 of the book and it just DRAGS on forever about nothing. No one cares about what this guy found in the attic! The setup here is so long and arduous that the story itself gets buried. I read this via serial, and even in 10-minutes-a-day chunks, it was just tortuous to get through. I understand the discussion and examination that comes from reading a book like this, but I honestly may have been turned off of all classics for life if THIS was the book I was forced to read in school. Blerg.

13 Katie Met CassidyWhen Katie Met Cassidy by Camille Perri
Katie is reeling from a fresh breakup when she walks into a work meeting with a handsome dude… who turns out to be Cassidy. Cassidy is obviously not a man, but a polished woman, who has embraced a masculine wardrobe and haircut. It gives her power in the boardroom, and Katie is drawn to it, in ways she wouldn’t expect. I was surprised that this LGBTQ romance was chosen as a Book of the Month last month, as it seems a bit out of their usual genre. But, overall it’s a fun little romance. I breezed through it quickly (it’s only 6ish hours on audio), much like Perri’s other book, The Assistants. This one has a little less depth than that one though, and overall I liked her first novel better.

14 Secret Book and Scone SocietyThe Secret, Book & Scone Society by Ellery Adams
Cozy mystery lovers: this book is for you. I loved this novel from Ellery Adams, who I’m excited to say is part of my favorite book group. She gave away a few copies in the group. As the reviews started rolling in, I knew I needed to push this one up to the top of my TBR stack, and I wasn’t disappointed! Adams prose and setting reminds me quite a bit of the Louise Penny novels, except with a younger group of protagonists. They are fun and feisty and damaged. You’ll want to pop into Nora’s bookshop, Miracle Books, for some bibliotherapy but only after getting a scone from The Gingerbread House bakery across the street, where Hester will make you a scone based on what she gleans from her conversation with you. It’s really all so lovely. I’m looking forward to seeking out more of Ellery’s work in the future when I need a good comfort read!

15 Summer at Little Beach StreetSummer at the Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan
I read this as “a book that takes place on the beach” for my summer reading challenge. Definitely should have sought out the first one (Little Beach Street Bakery), first. But this one can be read alone. And it’s much more *summer-y*. Polly is a baker in Mount Polbourne. She lives in a lighthouse. With her boyfriend Huckle. And their puffin Neil. What?
The entire novel has so many weird little details like this. But the overall story arc was fun. And the more intense action right toward the end kept me interested enough to finish. I did have to switch to audio about halfway through though. Blame the newborn, if you must, but I was falling asleep reading this even in the middle of the day.

QuickLit – June 2018

Who can believe the year is half over?! What in the world is happening? Here’s my June QuickLit roundup of 17 titles, which you can skim through at your leisure. I’m also including an update on my 2018 reading goals at the end of the post!

01 The Wedding DateThe Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory
I loved that this romance combined the traditional tropes with the added white/black romance that we so often miss. And that it wasn’t just a side-detail in the story, but an actual conversation piece between the protagonists and their friends. Alexa and Drew make for a very fun meet-cute couple, and I’d definitely recommend this one as a great story as well as a bit of a steamy read.

02 Grown Up Kind of PrettyA Grown-Up Kind of Pretty by Joshilyn Jackson
Big and Mosey and Liza are all part of the same family of women. Big (Liza’s mom) had her super young, and Liza had her daughter (Mosey) super young as well. That means grandma, Big, is only about 40ish with a teenage granddaughter. Liza suffered a stroke recently and is mostly non-verbal. The story starts with an old tree in the front yard being removed, and a small baby-sized skeleton being discovered by the tree. The story unfolds via all three women’s viewpoints as they piece together their history and the mystery behind this tiny body. Jackson does a great job putting the story together, as always, revealing it slowly without the reader feeling like she’s just getting dragged along.

03 Secret GardenThe Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Oh, this sweet and classic story is darling in every way. I felt sure that I had read it when I was younger, but if so, I had forgotten almost all of it and only remembered the film. The text, as expected, is so much richer and fuller than expected.
This may be a book for children, but for me it will be a book for every spring. It is perfection.
Re-read in 2018 using the Serial App. It was nice to slow down and savor it. So enchanting.

04 Language of ThornsThe Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo
A collection of fairy tales in short story format, retold in ways you didn’t imagine. Bardugo pulls together familiar elements to make something totally new. You’re sitting there reading, thinking that you know how this story goes or how it will end, but you’ll nearly always be wrong. This collection is just delightful, and highly recommended.

05 Hamilton AffairThe Hamilton Affair by Elizabeth Cobbs
Part of my post getting-to-see-Hamilton reading binge, this fictionalized retelling paired with the musical and the Chernow biography really helped bring Hamilton to life for me! Cobbs is a historian by trade, so much of the novel is based on actual fact, while it gets novelized through the day-to-day details that we can guess at, but are impossible to know for sure. I thought she did a wonderful job weaving his story together in a totally readable way, and would definitely recommend this one as a great option for people who want more Hamilton in their lives but aren’t ready to commit to the giant Chernow tome. 🙂

06 Alexander HamiltonAlexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow
This is SO worth diving into for Hamilton fans and history fans and biography fans. There are, of course, long periods of history that hold very little interest for those of us that aren’t total nerds about it, but this biography condenses even the driest parts into easily-digestible pieces that leave you wanting more. These 800+ pages (32 hours audio) just flew by, in that I was totally okay with Hamilton taking over my life for a week. It’s so easy to get sucked into his story and so easy to understand why Miranda read this and decided it was time for a Hamilton-inspired fever to sweep the nation.

07 Perfect MotherThe Perfect Mother by Aimee Molloy
The Perfect Mother kind of feels like a story you’ve already read before, I’ll bet. A mommy group decides it’s FINALLY time for a night out on the town, and while they are out one of the mommies has their baby abducted from her home while the sitter sleeps on the couch. It’s horrifying and traumatizing, as a mommy expecting a baby, especially (makes me even more thankful to have a multi-year relationship with a sitter we really trust!). Molloy builds the chapters and the story in a predictable way, but then there’s a twist you (or at least, I) didn’t expect, which really is the part that makes this book worth it. Either way though, it’s a quick read because it keeps you on the edge of your seat wondering what happened.

08 Coming CleanComing Clean: A Story of Faith by Seth Haines
This is basically a journal of Haines first 90 days of sobriety, and he doesn’t promise it’ll be pretty or get all wrapped up in a bow or even have a plot. But it does have an overarching theme as Seth struggles with his faith, his ability to trust in a God that would allow his baby boy to be so sickly, his desire to drown the fear and anxiety with alcohol. There are some deep faith questions asked and (sort of) answered in this book. It is so worth a read. I’m sad that I let it languish on my Kindle for so long, but glad I finally picked it up for a summer reading challenge!

09 Kiss QuotientThe Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang
I spent entirely too much time blushing in front of my kids as The Kiss Quotient played through my earbuds today and yesterday. I don’t usually “do” romance, but I loved the premise of this one and it did NOT disappoint!
Stella is a brilliant Econometrician (is that even a thing? It’s definitely a job I’ve never heard of!) who has Asperger’s. Her mom is pushing for marriage and grandkids, but dating and sex are *awkward* on many levels. She hires an escort, Michael, to essentially show her the ropes.
Even if it was a bit steamier than I usually reach for, I’m going to heartily recommend this one as a summer heartthrob. Maybe don’t buddy read it with your… Mom though (insert awkward giggling here).

10 DietlandDietland by Sarai Walker
Buddy read with a bunch of book club friends. Plum is an overweight woman who works for a fashion magazine answering emails. She is scheduled for an extreme weight loss surgery in just a few weeks and dreaming of her post-fat body, when everything gets turned upside-down. First, she is approached by Leda, who passed along a copy of the book Dietland, an expose on the empire created by a woman named Varina, who pioneered the “skinny woman bursts through a picture of her fat self” movement. The situation spirals from there, as Plum is taken under the wing of Varina’s daughter and encouraged to re-think her surgery plans. All this is happening while a female revolution is taking place, led by an elusive and generic “Jennifer”. The whole book is just a bit crazy overall but gives you so much to think about with regard to body image, fat-shaming, diet culture, and the feminist movement.

11 CalypsoCalypso by David Sedaris
He’s back and better than ever! I was SO glad to power through this collection of stories while laughing so hard I wiped tears from my eyes. Definitely recommended on audio (one story was recorded at a show I WAS AT! So that was fun), as Sedaris’ voice really brings his words to life! Even having heard some of these stories before when he read them aloud the last time I saw them, I just couldn’t get enough. The one about road rage just had me dying all over again. And the Fitbit encouragement to move made my side hurt. Just read it, really. It’s worth your time and your giggles, I promise.

12 Monsoon MansionMonsoon Mansion by Cinelle Barnes
This story feels unbelievable at times. Like, can this all have really happened? But Cinelle Barnes admits right at the beginning that, like most memoirs, some characters may have been combined and some details may have been changed, and childhood memory isn’t always the most reliable, but this is a real memoir with real stories about her childhood in the Phillippines. And it doesn’t disappoint in terms of drama, suspense, and even horror at the atrocities she faced growing up in a crumbling mansion as her parents fell from riches to despair. I found this read totally compelling, and wasn’t really ready to let it go at the end.

13 Their Eyes Were Watching GodTheir Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
Although this seems right up my alley, I just could not get myself into the story. I mostly felt like I just wanted everything to turn out right sooner rather than later for Janie, our protagonist, and then be done. Instead, even though it’s not that long of a book, it felt like she just couldn’t catch a break and I got a bit annoyed instead of developing compassion for her life and circumstances. Bummer, because it’s a classic and I wanted to love it!

14 Pretty BabyPretty Baby by Mary Kubica
Overall, I found this to be a solid psychological thriller from Mary Kubica, and definitely got sucked into the story. She weaves it together in a masterful way, which leaves you guessing from one minute to the next how it all comes together, and when the sh*t is going to hit the fan in every which way. Heidi sees Willow on the train platform a few days in a row, notices she has a baby with her and is bleeding-heart enough to invite her into her home. Her husband doesn’t know what to think; her teenage daughter is standoffish and defensive, per usual; but Heidi is just thrilled to have a baby in the house again. We know from the outset that something weird is going to happen or has happened, but it takes 300 pages to really start piecing it together.

15 Read-Aloud FamilyThe Read-Aloud Family: Making Meaningful and Lasting Connections with Your Kids by Sarah Mackenzie
My first purchase of 2018 for myself! I decided to get around my book-buying ban by calling this a “homeschool resource” because I was assured that I’d be referring to it again and again, so it’s more like a reference book. I imagine my enablers will be happy to know that they are correct. Sarah Mackenzie’s wisdom from her podcast on this topic has been artfully distilled down into this book, to the tune of me wanting to buy 10 more copies so I just have them on hand for everyone I know. Especially the people who ask me about how I got my own kiddos so addicted to reading and how they want to change the reading culture in their own homes but don’t know how. (What? You don’t have these conversations??). Sarah has all kinds of knowledge as to how to incorporate reading, how to get your kids to fall in love with reading, what to do with audiobooks or late readers, why it’s important to keep reading aloud even to your teens, what to do with fidgety listeners, and even how to ask good questions about the books your kids are reading in order to create a book club culture in your home. Finally, book lists at the end (20 titles for each of 4 age ranges) will enable you to start building your personal collection in a meaningful and intentional way. The whole thing is just gold.

16 Ramona BlueRamona Blue by Julie Murphy
Ramona Blue is our title character in this YA novel from Julie Murphy. I’ve loved her other books, so I may have gone into this one with slightly over-elevated hopes, which is why it didn’t get another 5 star rating from me. But, overall it’s a solid story about a teenage girl about to graduate from High School in a small town, where she is one of only a handful of gay teens in town. Her childhood summer friend moves to town for his senior year and they basically meet up to mourn their summer girlfriends gone awry. You see where this is going, right? Yeah, so did I. But it’s still a cute story, and a plenty fun “Pride Month Read”.

17 I Will Always Write BackI Will Always Write Back: How One Letter Changed Two Lives by Caitlin Alifirenka and Martin Ganda
Although I spent a solid 30% of this book being super annoyed with middle-grade and teenage Caitlin ( I get it, you’re a typical American, self-obsessed teenager), I definitely understand why it was put together the way it was. It really takes the time to show us that this pen pal project wasn’t about stoking a fire that already existed for a third-world country and its inhabitants. It really did change the lives of both of these young people for the better. I dare you to try to read or listen to this exchange (audio was fantastic) without crying by the end.

2018 Reading Goals Check-In:

Goal: Read 200 books in 2018
Status: I had finished 125 before July 1st. That means I’m ahead on my goal, but I’m also due with baby #4 ANY DAY NOW, so we’ll see how that affects the rest of the year!

Goal: Read enough from your shelves that they all fit on one shelf
Status: I can fit all my physical TBR books on one shelf in our bedroom! Yay! According to Goodreads, I have finished 61 books from my shelves this year, which is almost half. I’m happy with that progress!

Goal: No buying any new books during 2018
Status: As noted above, I did purchase a book for myself this year. So, just the one. And I justified it as a “homeschool resource”. It’s not a novel! I do have a number of favorites already from the year that are going on my “to buy in 2019” list!

Goal: Read longer books than last year
Status: Last year, I felt like I gravitated toward shorter books sometimes in order to get my “books read” number up higher. I ended the year with an average pages/book stat of 304. Currently, my average pages/book for 2018 is at 333 pages, so I’m doing well on this. I’m also SLOWLY working through a couple tomes that should push this up even higher, so I’m happy with this progress!

QuickLit – May 2018

With my birthday, homeschool practicum, mother’s day, and a road trip all stuffed into May, it was a pretty full month. Still read lots of great books. Short and sweet (and honest) reviews of each of the nineteen are below… scroll until you see something that strikes your fancy!

01 Daughter of a QueenDaughter of a Daughter of a Queen by Sarah Bird
This was so well put together. We meet Cathy Williams toward the end of the Civil War, when she is “requisitioned” as a cook for the Union army, under General Sheridan. Cathy is the granddaughter of an Amazon queen, tall and muscular. As a recently freed Black woman, she is swept up in the end of the Civil War and opts to conceal her gender and join up with the peacetime army. Sarah Bird doesn’t write a lot (in the galley, at least) about why she chose to pursue this story, or how much of it is based in fact, or whether it’s even possible for us to know ANYTHING about women who served in the Buffalo Soldiers branch of the U.S. Calvary after the Civil War, but the tale she weaves is compelling and unputdownable. At 400 pages, this book breezed by. Definitely recommended for history aficionados.

02 How to Stop TimeHow to Stop Time by Matt Haig
This book was so compellingly done. I found myself talking about it to all kinds of people who haven’t read it but I think should! We meet Tom when he appears to be 41-years old. But the trick of the light is that he ages only one year for every 15 years he lives, from puberty onward. So, he’s lived through the plague, and Shakespeare, and rubbed elbows with Fitzgerald. He has to move regularly, to keep the people in his life from realizing his difference, so he’s been all over the world. The research that has to have gone into this novel is just astounding, and the way it’s put together (jumping from present time to the past and back again, but always following Tom’s life) is so great. Definitely recommended!

03 Knife of Never Letting GoThe Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
This screwy novel is so totally out there it took me a good long while (probably at least 100 pages) to even piece together what was going on. Todd lives in Prentisstown, where he is the last “boy” about to become a man, as all the women are dead and gone. He is told this is due to an alien virus that was brought to earth 15 or so years ago, and allowed all men to hear each other’s thoughts (their “noise”) as well as the thoughts of animals. The virus was deadly for women. Todd is about to turn 14 -in a 13 month year, so he’s actually about 15- when he starts to figure out that things are not all as they seem. Prentisstown is a mess, so he is encouraged to leave by his caretakers and find other settlements with his dog, Manchee, at his side. As he strikes out, we accompany him on his journey to find out the truth and find what else is out there.

04 Frost and StarlightA Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J. Maas
3.5 but rounded up because it’s SJM. This novella was so unsatisfying because I just wanted MORE. I mean, I loved getting back into this world with Ryhs and Feyre, and getting a glimpse into her other characters as they rebuild after the war, but bouncing from viewpoint to viewpoint means we don’t really get to dive deep with anyone at all. And only 270ish pages means there’s no real development, although there is somehow time for quite a bit of shopping. I just wanted… more.

05 As Bright As HeavenAs Bright As Heaven by Susan Meissner
This historical novel approaches the Spanish flu of 1918 from the point of view of an undertaker’s wife and three daughters, which brings it to life in an entirely different way. Pauline, Maggie, Evelyn, and Willa are uprooted to move to Philadelphia after the death of Pauline’s infant son (and the baby brother of the other girls) Henry, at just a few months old. They “confront” death in a tangible way when they move in with an uncle who agrees to leave his undertaker business to the family and give them a better life. But that means living with death on a daily basis as bodies are brought in and prepared for burial. As the Spanish flu epidemic ramps up, the death toll climbs and death becomes an ever closer companion. Meissner brings this novel together in just a fantastic way. Highly recommended.

06 Emma in the NightEmma in the Night by Wendy Walker
Emma and Cassandra disappeared from their childhood home three years ago, and now Cass is home. Where is Emma? Cass weaves the story of their disappearance, where they’ve been, and what has happened to them over the past few years, but the main psych profiler on the case just doesn’t buy into it and can’t figure out why. Even though the unreliable narrator trope can be frustrating, this one definitely took a turn or two that I didn’t see coming. I thought it was likeable, overall, but not compelling or thrilling. Just a standard thriller.

07 PuddinPuddin’ by Julie Murphy
Oh, Julie Murphy, I will read all the things you write. I didn’t know if we could follow on to Dumplin’ in any way that I would truly appreciate, but this spin-off novel takes a different turn and follows two of the side characters from the original story: Millie and Callie. Millie is big and vivacious and full of love and friendship. She lives large and is on her way to accepting herself exactly as she is. Callie is the co-assistant captain of the school’s dance team. She is tiny and lithe and judgmental and rude. The two are thrown together in response to a teen prank gone wrong, and their unlikely friendship. This book is about so much more than teen friendship or bullying or body acceptance. It’s about learning to live into exactly who you are and follow the path that’s right for you instead of worrying about anyone else’s ideas for your life. So fun to buddy read this with my reading friends!

08 Far From the TreeFar From the Tree by Robin Benway
Oh, this book. This book is phenomenal. Robin Benway takes three siblings who are essentially separated at birth and walk three different journeys through the adoption/foster care universe. We have Grace, who is adopted by a childless couple and raised as an only child. We have Maya, who is adopted by a different childless couple that is unexpectedly blessed with a biological child just a short time later. She feels like she doesn’t fit in with her adoptive family as they are all light-skinned and light-eyed, but they love her well. And then we have their half-brother Joaquin, who is bounced from family to family, adopted and rejected and sent back to the system, struggles with anger and is scarred inside and out from his time in the system. The three meet right at the end of high school, and we get to walk with them as they learn about love and family and blood relationships versus the ones you are adopted into and how they are different and how they are the same. The whole book is just so wonderful. I couldn’t put it down, even when it meant walking through the grocery store on Mother’s Day weekend, with tears running down my cheeks.

09 Everybody AlwaysEverybody, Always: Becoming Love in a World Full of Setback and Difficult People by Bob Goff
Reading the first five chapters, provided by the publisher! Can’t wait to read the rest!

Update: Now I’ve read the whole book, and have to say, I just love Bob. He puts his stories together the way that a pastor gives you a great illustration that you can’t get out of your head for days or weeks afterward. He has lived so MUCH life and met so many interesting people, and really just seized the day over and over again. And all that living leads to some great insights into the human condition, the way we love others, the way we relate, the ways we deal with fear, and the way we forgive. He can make you smile and laugh, while also leading you to weep or mourn with him. And it doesn’t feel forced or contrived in any way. Truly loved this book.

11 Colour of Bee Larkham's MurderThe Colour of Bee Larkham’s Murder by Sarah J. Harris
10 days. 9 days to get actually interested in this book. And then one more day to finish it. Yeesh. I wanted to love it so much! I love the entire concept of this kid who doesn’t process faces, but DOES process sound as color. I love that he did or saw something, and we’re trying to piece it together with him, but his sensory processing differences make it so hard. I love that we don’t know who to trust. But seriously, the buildup and the development of the story is just not there. It shouldn’t be this hard to get into something that otherwise has so many qualities that you know you’ll love. I’m sorry to say that I can’t recommend this one, because it just went too slow. But, if you feel like you’ve got interest in this type of story, hit me with other recommendations for the unreliable narrator/SPD combo, because I am FOR it! This book releases June 12th.

10 Since We FellSince We Fell by Dennis Lahane
Welllll, I waited two weeks to review this book and I barely remember it at all. That doesn’t bode well, huh? At the time of finishing it, I gave it three stars, because I did really enjoy the way that Lehane put this love story/mystery together. Main character Rachel is essentially an agoraphobe after a breakdown on the air (she’s a journalist). She has to come to grips with the world around her, however, when her otherwise perfect life seems to not add up. We learn at the very beginning of the book that she shoots her husband, but what it takes to get to that point is a convoluted mystery, full of half-truths and full-on-lies. Just a compelling, if apparently a bit forgettable, read in general.

12 Loving My Actual LifeLoving My Actual Life: An Experiment in Relishing What’s Right in Front of Me by Alexandra Kuykendall
Author and mama Alexandra finds herself going through the motions of motherhood, not dreading, but also not really enjoying any part of it. She embarks on a 9-month experiment (a la The Happiness Project) to focus in on certain parts of her life to wring more enjoyment out of her days. Although she has specific goals for each month (and an evaluation process at the end), the months themselves read more like sporadic journal entries. I thought the premise was interesting, but the execution could have been better planned.

13 Tell Me MoreTell Me More: Stories About the 12 Hardest Things I’m Learning to Say by Kelly Corrigan
Kelly is a fantastic, unfiltered (read: don’t listen around your kids, or recommend it to your straight-edged church friends), humorous author while dealing with some really TOUGH stuff. She buries her dad and one of her best friends within just a few months, and is therefore going through some terribly difficult grief while she pens this collection of stories and tidbits. The “12 Hardest Things” are all vitally important, but so counter-intuitive at times that it feels good to have this collection of them all in one place. I love the way she puts “Tell Me More” into practice with her daughter, the way she embraces “You Are Enough”, and the way she juxtaposes “Yes” with “No” (the two simplest chapters). I feel like this one deserves a spot on my shelves when this no-buy year is over.

14 Children of Blood and BoneChildren of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
I could NOT put this book down. Well, I did, because I had to, because Life and Kids and Husband and Eating and such. But not because I wanted to! The story just totally sucked me in, and I loved the way that Adeyemi made this entire world come alive with her characters and setting. (Dystopian/fantasy Nigeria). Zelie is the daughter of a Maji, but her mother was killed along with almost all the rest of them when Zelie was just a young girl. Now, magic is gone and the descendants of the Maji are referred to as maggots by their racist king and countrymen (you can tell who has Maji blood based on their stark white hair). But Zelie has the chance to bring it back. The cliffhanger at the end of this novel for book #2 has me salivating to get my hands on it!

15 Bring Me BackBring Me Back by B.A. Paris
Screwy psychological thrillers are my favorites! Although I did eventually guess where this book was going, it was so far into it that it still felt like it was a shock! Layla goes missing from a car in Paris and all we really know is that her boyfriend wasn’t entirely truthful about the moments leading up to her disappearance. Now, 12 years later, he is set to remarry and has moved on with his life, when it seems as though someone wants him to believe that Layla is back. I tore through this novel in less than 24 hours. This book releases June 19th!

16 Rewiring EducationRewiring Education by John Couch
This felt more like a pat on the back to the author than a real non-fiction book about how technology can “unlock every student’s potential”. There are a few stories of real-world application, but mostly I feel like we get to hear that he worked with this guy, got to shake hands with this one, and really loved developing this program that revolutionized something or other. I get that you can’t write a how-to book about bringing technology into classrooms because it just changes too fast, but mostly by the end of this book, I felt really vindicated that at least our homeschool “classroom” is getting really close to that ideal 1-to-1 teacher-student ratio that Crouch champions. He says it’s only possible with the use of technology. But other than rethinking a “ban” on technology for educational purposes, I didn’t really feel like this was anything truly groundbreaking.

17 Baby TeethBaby Teeth by Zoje Stage
Hannah and her mom, Suzette, are locked in an epic battle for daddy’s heart, only Suzette doesn’t know it. Hannah is a smart, sometimes sweet, seven-year-old girl, who doesn’t talk at all, but she’s pretty sure Daddy can only love one of them and Mommy has cast a spell on him so that he loves her more than Hannah. Written from H and S’s alternating points of view, this book will take you on a distrusting roller coaster of terror, basically. You’re never sure what Hannah will do next, how Suzette will interpret her actions, or what kind of intervention Daddy will provide. The whole thing is just shudder-inducing. I really enjoyed it, in the only way you can: with a grateful heart that this isn’t your life. This book releases July 17th!

18 Alice NetworkThe Alice Network by Kate Quinn
So glad I finally had time to move this one up my TBR into the currently reading spot! Charlie (Charlotte) is an unwed mother who decides to bail on her abortion appointment in order to try to find her cousin, Rose, missing since WWII ended a few years ago. She approaches Eve Gardener, an alcoholic PI, with hands severely damaged from a previous injury, to help her find Rose. Evelyn was a spy during WWI, and the story jumps back and forth from Charlie’s present-day 1947 to Evelyn’s recollections of 1919, paralleling their stories in surprising ways. Charlie and Eve are both spunky, brave, damaged heroines, and it is so easy to get sucked into their stories. This novel came highly recommended to me, and I will pass it along as the same.

19 Milk and HoneyMilk and Honey by Rumi Kaur
This book is a beautiful, sensual collection of poems that I’m pretty sure I need on my shelf. It was great hearing it read by the author, but I’d love to keep a copy as well (high up, where the kiddos can’t reach it). Rumi doesn’t shy away from sex or rape or body image, and her short poems use words economically and perfectly to show her comfort with these subjects. I truly enjoyed every moment of listening (and even slowed down the narration from 2x to 1.5x so I could enjoy it, are you proud of me?).