At Home In The World (of books)

My parents are travelers. They have been to so many amazing places. And, starting when I was very young, they never had any qualms about bringing their children along. Some of the most memorable moments from my childhood are centered on the times when they took us somewhere new. We spent a summer driving up and down the California Coast, splashing in tide pools, visiting the Monterrey Bay Aquarium, and Disneyland.

We spent a summer in Australia and New Zealand. We snorkeled in the Great Barrier Reef and climbed Franz Josef Glacier on the South Island of NZ all within a few weeks of each other (as a mom now, I cringe at the idea of packing for that difference in temperatures!). I remember being on a New Zealand train and learning how to knit with NZ wool from NZ sheep. I remember a volcano that exploded in Rotorua that left the cars, trees, and streets covered in Ash. I remember the Syndey Opera House and seeing those sweeping curves rise up from the water like a flock of birds.

We spent a summer in Europe, taking trains from London to Paris to Berlin to Rome to Florence to Milan. We took small boats from Venice to Murano and Burano to see the glass and lace factories that have been there for generations. We fed the pigeons in St. Mark’s Square. We ate fettuccini carbonara with a raw egg cracked on top of it at your table. We snacked on Brie and escargot, and still talk about our favorite Parisian waiter. We watched the changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace and tried to make the Beefeater soldiers laugh.

My family also enabled or empowered me to strike out on my own. That meant two additional trips to Europe, one with my high school orchestra, where we traipsed around small towns in Germany (the cello was on the bus with me!),  and visited the Czech Republic to see the red roofs of Prague. I also spent six weeks in Spain studying abroad in the summer between when I finished my Bachelor’s degree and started my Master’s degree. They took care of my new husband while he studied at home and I drank Calimocho (wine and coke) with my young undergrad friends who called me abuela.

My husband and I traveled together as well, as soon as we got started on our journey of wedded bliss. We honeymooned in Jamaica, staffed a small clinic in Baja, Mexico, built houses with Habitat for Humanity in Costa Rica, Paraguay, and Guatemala. We sailed on catamarans in Belize and St. Thomas.

And then we had some babies! We took our boys all over the place when they were tiny and free to fly and nursed to sleep on the plane. They went to Cancun and Puerto Vallarta and Puerto Penasco. We got stamps in our passports and theirs together, as a family.

 

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Cancun, MX

 

And then we stayed home for a while, and I turned to books for adventure. We were overwhelmed and exhausted by the idea of packing all the things, and flying somewhere and who would get sick, and who would misbehave. But when I open a book for the first time, I am so excited to discover a new world (or re-enter a favorite one, if this is the next in an already-loved series). I cannot wait to meet new characters, explore new landscapes, or feel new feelings. I am thrilled to fall in love for the first time (again!), run away from a killer, or experience the prejudices of racism. Maybe this time I’ll grow up in the south, see the world through the fingers of a blind man, or live in India. I might be part of these characters’ lives for a week or a year or three generations. Every single new book that I open reveals another facet of the world I love to explore.

As I jump from book to book, I am transported from space stations on Mars to springtime in Manhattan, from the battlefields of WWII to a dystopian future I could never imagine. Great fiction takes me there, for far less than the cost of a plane ticket, or time machine.

Non-fiction involves the same transportation, but always somewhere in this world. Perhaps I know myself better; perhaps I walk a hard road alongside the author, or perhaps I recognize the seedy underbelly of a society that I have never seen before. When non-fiction authors open my eyes, they force me, or maybe just help me to look further inward and outward than I have in the past. These authors open up new worlds that exist right here around me, instead of only in the pages of their books.

And that’s what today is about. Today, Tsh Oxenreider’s new book, At Home In The World, just showed up at my house. I got to read it already, so I can tell you it’s a beautiful reflection on travel and the love of adventure that my parents gave me from in my earliest memories – and that I hope to instill in my own children. It’s also an ode to the homebody, to the desire to put your roots down deep and have a favorite chair and a favorite restaurant and your own pillow. It’s a happy juxtaposition of wanderlust and belonging.

And if you’re like me, or if you’re not, and you love the places of this world but maybe can’t afford plane tickets for everyone right now, or can’t handle the headache that might come with the travel, be sure to grab a copy of Tsh’s memoir. It will take you around the world while you sit in your favorite chair. It costs less than as a fast food meal for the family, but she will share with you the flavors of four continents and 20 countries.

So, what’s next for me? Well, I’m gonna keep reading my books and seeing the world that way, but we’ve also put two new family trips on the calendar for this summer because I read this book. Tsh prompted me to remind my husband of our early adventures and ask him if we are instilling that love of adventure in our kiddos. The answer was to book flights, and make hotel reservations, and go exploring. Because I want to be at home and rested and comfortable, but I want to remember how small I am as well, and see its sights and feel its climates and revel in its wonders.

*disclosure: I was provided with an advance copy of this book by the publisher, but I also bought my own copy, with my own money because I love it that much. Links used are affiliate links: no cost to you but a little kickback to me*

QuickLit – March 2017

Linking up to Modern Mrs. Darcy for her monthly QuickLit post, where we share “short and sweet reviews of what we’ve been reading lately”. I’ll share everything I’ve read over the previous month here at the end of each month, in the order I finished reading them. I read 21 books in March, but a few of them were 200 pages or less, which is what led to such big numbers this month. Here’s the rundown!title image


01 The OneThe One by Kiera Cass

More drama for America and Maxon. Good stuff in this one, though! And even though there are more books after this one, it feels like a good wrap up spot.
I’ve borrowed #4 but am taking a break for the next in the Red Queen series. As I dive back into that one, it seems they have many similarities, so I will say that if you enjoyed the one you might enjoy the other, although The Selection series is definitely a bit more “fluffy”.


02 Glass SwordGlass Sword by Victoria Aveyard

Oof, I didn’t enjoy this one nearly as much as the first one the series. It felt like endless plans for battles, and then the battles themselves, and then hating each other and adoring each other. The constant mood swings made me feel manic-depressive.


03 Study in CharlotteA Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro

Kind of felt a bit like this one was trying too hard to be witty. This story centers on the modern day descendants of Holmes and Watson at boarding school. They are equally maddening and endearing, like their predecessors. Overall, this retelling was fun and interesting enough, I’m just not sure it scratched the itch I was expecting it to satisfy.


04 The HeirThe Heir by Kiera Cass

I almost abandoned this one as soon as I realized what the premise was. But I persevered, because these books mostly feel like candy to me: completely devoid of nutritional content, but tasty nonetheless! I don’t want to ruin anything in the previous books, so I’ll say that this one felt a bit like a rerun, but I still enjoyed it enough to finish it, and still requested the next one from the library. I would have been equally pleased with the series ending on book 3, though, so you may want to consider that before continuing on?


05 Just MercyJust Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

This book is eye opening and heart breaking. Tt will remove the scales from your eyes in regard to prison sentences, the death penalty, institutional racism, and the cycle of poverty. I found myself alternately crying, shaking my head in disbelief, shuddering in anger, and dumbstruck. Bryan Stevenson brings his decades of law experience and leadership of the Equal Justice Initiative to bear in this moving, non-fiction memoir. It is not to be missed.


06 KindredKindred by Octavia Butler

Dang, this was crazy. Dana is a black writer in 1976 America who unwillingly travels through space and time back to a plantation in pre-Civil War America. The stark contrast in society, personhood, and value are, of course, hard to acclimate to. The premise behind this book feels kind of similar to Outlander, but with the additional insanity of race relations and slavery thrown in the mix. Highly recommended, even if it’s mostly so I have friends to talk to about this one!


07 Range of MotionRange of Motion by Elizabeth Berg

One of my favorite internet friends, Sasha of Pathologically Literate, knew I would love this one and she was right. It is such a beautiful reflection on love and life and friendship and loss and grief and joy. I borrowed it from the library but found myself really wanting to dog-ear pages and underline quotes and read paragraphs again and again. Berg is a stunning writer and I’m looking forward to finding a few more of her books to dive into. Thanks, Sasha!


08 Behind Her EyesBehind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough

Hhhuuuuhhhh??? @$#$&%@@=<:; <— Me being a spazz after finishing this crazy-ass book. This book is a total mind trip. It’ll mess with you in the best way and you’ll have to figure out the end before you go to sleep. Sarah Pinborough kept me guessing all the way to the end. And even then, I felt like I needed to start at the beginning and re-read with the twist in mind. There’s a reason the hashtag for this one is #wtfthatending.


09 Cold TangerinesCold Tangerines by Shauna Niequist

I love Shauna Niequist. I really do. But this isn’t my favorite thing of hers. She has really come into her own over the past few years, so this book from 10 years ago feels a bit underdeveloped and more like a collection of blog posts. I still love her, but would recommend choosing something else to read by her if you’re just getting on the Niequist train, like Bread and Wine, one of my favorite books of 2013, or her newest book, Present Over Perfect.


10 TriggersTriggers by Amber Lia and Wendy Speak

After slowly working through this book together over the past six months, my bestie Krysta and I finally finished up our Triggers study today!!! We were fueled by coffee, friendship, and prayer. Are we perfect mamas now? Not a chance. Do we still get “triggered” to anger by the things our children do? Absolutely. But we are better able to identify and manage those triggers in order to build happier, healthier relationships with our boys, and we are better for it. I’d highly recommend picking up a copy to ALL parents and would happily meet with local moms who want to discuss what we’ve learned!


11 The House GirlThe House Girl by Tara Conklin

This book started out slow for me, but I appreciated how well it came together. Lina is a young attorney trying to make her way up to partner, and she is tasked with finding a plaintiff in a reparations case. Josephine is the house girl of a wealthy southern plantation owner, and has a close relationship with the mistress of the house, but dreams of freedom. I listened to the audiobook and constantly wished they had used at least 2 narrators. I do think that would have enhanced the experience a bit! But the story of Lina and Josephine really captured me by the end.


12 Life-Changing Magic of Not GivingThe Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck by Sarah Knight

This book is loosely based on The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, but instead, focuses on “tidying” your mental/emotional/social “barn”. I did indeed laugh out loud a few times and then find it super self-serving. Not like she was trying to snag the Christian crowd with this title, but the book is essentially about hedonism: “embrace what you love and f*ck the rest”


13 WaywardWayward by Blake Crouch

Unlike my feelings about most sequels, this one really held my interest. I also appreciated that it wasn’t as graphically violent as the first book in the series. I thought I figured out where the end was going and decided it was probably going to ruin the series for me, but then the twist kept me going and now I can’t wait for number 3!


14 Essential EnneagramThe Essential Enneagram by David Daniels

All that this book did for me was confirm that I’m a 2. I don’t feel like I learned much of anything about myself as it was SO bare bones regarding each type. I’m hoping that the otter enneagram books I have will help me dive deeper into what my type really means, how I interact with others (I believe my husband to be a 3), and help me to learn more about the enneagram and its modern applications. I have to assume there are better options out there for all of this, so don’t waste your time or money on this cursory overview.


15 Lincoln in the BardoLincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

I loved the “play” aspect of this with so many actors and voices portraying the audiobook version. BUT I do recommend at least glancing through a paper copy if you’re going to listen to the audio version, or else you’ll be super confused about what’s going on! The plot itself is interesting and funny and smart. I’ve never read anything else by Saunders, so I’m not sure if this is representative of his work or not, but I do recommend this one.


16 WonderThe Wonder by Emma Donaghue

I felt compelled to finish this one, but not because it was so plot- or character-driven that I couldn’t stop, but rather because I paid good money for this book and it sat there for months taunting me with its unfinished-ness while I worked through SO many great library books!

The story of Lib and the miraculous Anna who doesn’t eat is part mystery, part drama, part wrestling with God. It would be a great premise for a shorter story, but trying to turn 7 chapters into almost 300 pages was a recipe for dull moments. I’m sure you have something more interesting in your stacks to be read, so I’ll recommend a pass on this one.


17 Exit Pursued by a BearExit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston

This was a fantastic story about high school senior Hermione, who suffers a tragic sexual assault at cheer camp, and then rises above. But she can’t do it alone, and her parents, best friend, coach, team, and psychiatrist rally around her to raise her up. It’s like a fictionalized lesson in how to deal with the tough shit that teenagers and going adults get confronted with all the time but aren’t equipped to handle. Great story, well written, and a fast read.


18 Marriage lieThe Marriage Lie by Kimberly Belle

I liked this one overall, but felt like the beginning was too drawn out and the end was too hasty and glossed over. Of course it’s about lie upon lie upon lie, thus: the marriage lie. I feel like I was expecting another twist toward the end that never came and the other ones were predictable enough that I wasn’t shocked. Definitely a decent story, I just feel like there are others I’d recommend first if you’re looking for a domestic thriller.


19 At Home in the WorldAt Home in the World by Tsh Oxenreider

I absolutely adore this travel memoir from Tsh Oxenreider. I’m a longtime fan of her blog, The Art of Simple, and her podcast, The Simple Show, and this book is like a longform version of both. Tsh’s voice is clear, lyrical, and honest. She absolutely brings her #WorldWideOx travels to life in these pages, and you’ll find yourself both eager for adventure and grateful for home, exactly as she intended. You’ll enjoy your own prefect tension between wanderlust and cozy hominess, both/and. You’ll want to scoop up your kids and take them to see where you met your spouse, and watch their eyes light up at a great wonder of the world or UNESCO world heritage site, and see them make friends everywhere in the world despite the lack of a common language or culture. I can’t wait to read this book again and to give it to friends to read for the first time. And I’ll be honest and say I found myself tearing up on more than one occasion while reading.

Perfect gift for the parents that gave you your own wanderlust, the recent graduate, the empty nesters debating their next adventure, and the mom sitting next to you at school pickup every afternoon.

*I received an advance copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*… but I also bought a hard copy for myself with my own cash-money!


20 Enneagram Made EasyThe Enneagram Made Easy by Renee Baron and Elizabeth Wagele

I thought this was an excellent, concise, readable treatment of the Enneagram. The drawings add levity and sass to what could otherwise be a very dry subject, as noted in my other book review on this topic this month. Of the two, I’d definitely recommend this short version if you’re still wondering if you’ve pinpointed your type correctly. You’re bound to feel like the descriptors of one of them just fit.


21 AmericanahAmericanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

First, I listened to this one on audio and found the narration so lovely. I’m not sure if the narrator IS Nigerian, but her precise accents for the Nigerian, British, and American characters really brought this novel to life for me. I thought she did a wonderful job.

The novel itself is a convicting sweeping story that fictionalizes the horrors and trials and systematized racism faced by American and non-American Blacks in 21st century America. The part that makes this so compelling is that the main character is the outsider in more than one sense. She doesn’t JUST face the racism inherent in our white-centric culture, she sees it from the outside, so she is more able to name it and see the differences from her home country of Nigeria. The entire book is just so well put together. Highly recommended.


Happy reading, friends! Hope you found something here that belongs on your own TBR list. Have a suggestion for mine? Leave it in the comments!

Quick Lit – February 2017

Linking up to Modern Mrs. Darcy for her monthly QuickLit post, where we share “short and sweet reviews of what we’ve been reading lately”. I’ll share everything I’ve read over the previous month here at the end of each month, in the order I finished reading them. I read 17 books in February, even though the month started kind of slow for me. By the end, I had picked up a new series that I couldn’t put down!



01-rise-of-the-rocket-girlsRise of the Rocket Girls
by Nathalia Holt

This was great stuff, guys. The history of the US space program basically started with Caltech/JPL and was built upon the minds of the women computers who did the math and had the smarts to get us there. But they were rarely recognized for their contributions. I look forward to reading the book-to-movie biography as well, Hidden Figures, which focuses in further on the African American women who propelled NASA foward. But this one was a great starter. Fantastic biographical history from Nathalia Holt.


02-the-best-of-adam-sharp

The Best of Adam Sharp by Graeme Simsion

Not nearly as sweetly endearing as the Rosie Project/Effect. This book is full of songs and sex and infidelity. So, take that as your warning (not against the songs, of course, those were fantastic). I live the IDEA of this main character, Adam Sharp, but couldn’t stomach his actions and motivations. It was entirely too gratuitous.

*I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*


03-red-queenRed Queen by Victoria Aveyard

I thought this was a great (dystopian, YA) read about the Red and Silver blooded people in Victoria Aveyard’s world. Mare Barrow is red-blooded (aka, normal, human) young girl who finds herself thrown into high society with the silver-bloods (who all have unique “powers”), when she has lightning shoot out of her hands. Cal, the silver prince, saves her, and she becomes engaged to his brother Maven. I listened to this on audio and, even at 12+ hours, it just flew by. Can’t wait to get the next one from the library!


04-nothing-to-proveNothing to Prove by Jennie Allen

Jennie just knocks it out of the park with this book. I believe it will absolutely speak to every woman, no matter where she is at, because we all struggle with feeling like we’ve got SOMETHING to prove. Jennie gently takes you by the hand and reminds you that all your enough-ness is found in Christ’s good work for you on the cross. It may have been a whirlwind book to write, but it came together in a beautiful way: both challenging and comforting.


05-survivors-guide-to-family-happinessThe Survivor’s Guide to Family Happiness by Maddie Dawson

I was expecting a little more fun and a little less drama in this book. Nina Popkin loses her adoptive mom right at the beginning of this book, and, for the first time in her life, is given a few clues about her birth mother. This leads Nina on a journey to find her mom, all while trying to manage her current life (which she’s not very good at). I found myself shaking my head at her decisions constantly, and also maybe giving her older boyfriend all the heart eyes. In my head, he looks like George Clooney. 😉 Full of family drama, like The Two-Family House, but less polished. *I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*


06-elizabeth-is-missingElizabeth Is Missing by Emma Healey

This book reminded me of Still Alice, but with a darker undertone and not so heartbreakingly sad. As my own grandmother goes through the final stages of Alzheimer’s, I felt like this book showed the inner workings of outer conversations that I myself have had with her. Maud is concerned about her friend, Elizabeth, whom she hasn’t heard from in a while. She writes herself notes to keep the information straight that she gets from others, but the notes often contradict each other. Add to that the fact that her own sister went missing when she was just a girl and it’s hard to keep all the stories straight. You will be equally curious to solve this mystery.


07-second-mrs-hockadayThe Second Mrs. Hockaday by Susan Rivers

I really enjoyed this one! At first, I was annoyed with most cardinal numbers being omitted (not sure if that was intentional or just an issue with the galley), but eventually it didn’t matter because I was so drawn in by the story. Placidia is a young bride that marries a civil war soldier who has to return to war the day after their nuptials. Two years pass and all the things happen. Court cases and drama and mystery all conveyed through letters. I’m sure I’ll be recommending this one often! *I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*


08-carrying-albert-homeCarrying Albert Home by Homer Hickam

I liked this family saga about Elsie and Homer Hickam (sr.). It’s a touching adventure. Albert is Elsie’s alligator and he’s getting too big to keep so they go on an epic road trip from Coalwood, Virginia to Orlando, Florida to carry Albert home. I found it fun and endearing. The couple turns into an unlikely entourage/menagerie that runs into famous writers and survives unlikely circumstances, all on their way to Florida, where they will have to decide if their love will survive this journey and a lifetime in a rural town. All in the name of love.


09-the-unfinished-angelThe Unfinished Angel by Sharon Creech

I thought this was an easy middle-grade read, and I think my kids might enjoy it someday, but I didn’t love the as this angel (main narrator) talked. She has supposedly been around humans for hundreds of years, but can’t keep her words straight? For some reason that bugged me. Also, the plot felt like quite a bit of build up for not much movement. I wanted to like this, I really did. I just couldn’t muster up the enthusiasm.

 


10-youll-grow-out-of-itYou’ll Grow Out of It by Jessi Klein

I found this memoir amusing and self-deprecating and easy to read, but it certainly wasn’t the funniest I’ve read, which is to say that it didn’t live up to the hype for me. It could be because I read it instead of listening, as is my preferred way of digesting humor memoirs anymore. Jessi Klein is sure to give you a few laughs though, if you snag this one. Just be sure you’re not easily offended before you pick it up! Full of situations and language that will make your grandmother blush (but not your mother, if she’s anything like mine!). 🙂


11-pinesPines by Blake Crouch

Creepy and thrilling and so interesting. I enjoyed this book and honestly couldn’t put it down. Some parts were graphically violent, so be forewarned, but I do look forward to diving in to the next book in the series. Not sure where he’ll take it from here, because this one can stand alone. But it’ll be fascinating to read, because he’s a talented writer! One of my surprise favorites from last year was his newest novel, Dark Matter. That one inspired me to pick up this one.


12-food-a-love-storyFood: A Love Story by Jim Gaffigan

I heart Jim Gaffigan. He is hilarious, but snarky, but “safe to play in front of the kids” as well. That’s a hard line to toe, and he does it. This book is a great collection of stories about food (warning: do not read or listen while trying to lose the baby weight, as you will crave all the things). I can see myself listening to this again in the future, especially since I kept laughing out loud and then repeating jokes to my hubby. Some of my favorite material is the stuff that centers around my current location: NM green chili jokes are PERFECT! Good stuff. Highly recommended.


13-the-assistantsThe Assistants by Camille Perri

Tina and Emily are assistants at a huge media conglomerate, who have been working hard and diligently for years but are still hobbled by student loan payments. In a mostly innocent turn of events, Tina is able to pay off get loans using company money and it all spirals from there. This book was fun and funny, and even had a great Rom-com subplot that I thoroughly enjoyed. I loved that the author poked fun at her own tropes and pop – culture references. Recommended.


14-the-selectionThe Selection by Kiera Cass

Oh man, I tore through this one in a single day and then dove straight into the next in the series. This book is like The Bachelor, mixed wth The Giver, mixed with Hunger Games. It’s not high literature by any means, but it’s definitely fun! America Singer is a 5 (in a caste system ranging from 1 to 8) when the Crown Prince becomes eligible for marriage. She enters the Selection for a shot at becoming his bride, although she isn’t interested in the prize, just wants her family to stop hounding her about it. YA love triangle ensues.


15-the-eliteThe Elite by Kiera Cass

As with many series, I didn’t love this one as much as the first. Lots of drama with little forward momentum in the plot. I don’t want to fill up my review with spoilers, so I’ll avoid any plot summary herer, in case you decide to pick up the first one in this series. My so-so review didn’t stop me from starting book 3 as soon as this one was finished! I finished that one after March started, so I’ll include its review next month!

 


16-manage-your-home-without-losing-mindHow to Manage Your Home without Losing Your Mind by Dana White

I’m pretty organized, so hypothetically this book wouldn’t be “for me”. Even so, I found myself nodding along, getting inspired and tackling some of my pain points as I read through this fun, sassy book. I decided to pick it up after hearing Dana on The Simple Show, one of my favorite podcasts, and was a bit embarrassed to find that I already owned it on Kindle. Oof. Maybe if there’s a “keep your TBR and kindle under control without losing your mind” book, I should pick that one up next!


17-hag-seedHag-Seed by Margaret Atwood

I liked this one from Margaret Atwood. It’s not my favorite that I’ve read from her (Blind Assassin), or even my second favorite (Handmaid’s Tale), but it ranks up there! Felix is ousted from his beloved theater festival and ends up leading a Shakespeare class at the local prison. He eventually chooses the tempest and uses it to exact revenge. A fun retelling of the classic play. For another view on the same topic, check out Shakespeare Saved My Life, which is kind of like the non-fiction version of this book!

QuickLit – January 2017

Linking up to Modern Mrs. Darcy for her monthly QuickLit post, where we share “short and sweet reviews of what we’ve been reading lately”. I’ll share everything I’ve read over the previous month here at the end of each month, in the order I finished reading them. I read 19 books in January, which means I’m holding steady on my December pace.


01-curious-charms-of-arthur-pepperThe Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper – Phaedra Patrick

This was a sweet and heartwarming story about an older widower (a la A Man Called Ove) who finds a charm bracelet in his deceased wife’s boots as he prepares his donations for charity. The charm bracelet, which he has never seen before, has 8 charms on it and be spends the book trying to find the meaning of each one. I feel like I wasn’t properly warned that there’d be some weepy moments in this one! But there are funny moments as well, and I thought it was a fun book, although at times I felt that there were some scenes that maybe should have been cut, just the slightest bit too long. I loved Arthur Pepper as a character (he’s much less curmudgeonly than Ove, even to start), and his development through the story.


02-yes-pleaseYes Please – Amy Poehler

Listened to this one on audiobook, and THAT is the way to go. Amy pulls in guest narrators that are phenomenal, she plays you clips of some of her favorite scenes, and sings you songs throughout the book. She is hysterically funny and this book is pure gold. I’ll be ruined for memoirs that aren’t on audio after this one, because it’s just that damn good. In fact, this may have been THE book that decided for me that from now on, any celebrity memoirs read by the author will be consumed in audio format!


03-love-and-first-sightLove and First Sight – Josh Sundquist

I figured this would be a quick but silly read, but I was wrong about the silly part. Will is a newly mainstream 16-year-old blind kid. He was born blind and has always attended the blind school. now he has to/gets to try to make his way in his new public high school. This is YA but it’s also wonderful. Josh Sundquist did so much research to try to understand blindness and blind culture. as someone who is newly aware of impairments of this nature, I found this book both fascinating and wonderful.*I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*


04-the-boys-in-the-boatThe Boys In The Boat – Daniel James Brown

This was slow to pick up for me, but once I committed to it, I couldn’t stop reading! Daniel James Brown really brings the story of the Washington crew and the boys who composes it to life. Although I think I should have been more drawn in by Joe Rantz’s upbringing and childhood, it is the synchronicity of the boys in the boat, their trust in one another and their utter power that really pulled me into the story. and drew me out emotionally. I ebbed up breathless and teary eyed for win after win. even knowing from the outset that this team wins the gold medal, the race stories in this book will have you on the edge of your seat.


05-evictedEvicted – Matthew Desmond

What a 5-star read to start the year off with. Matthew Desmond’s in person interviews with the people of Milwaukee (tenants and landlords) come together like a harrowing novel. This book follows eight families through the cycle of poverty and eviction, in the dead of WI winter. It seems inescapable as the characters in each vignette try to find decent housing and stay there. The amount of research he did for this book is staggering and it shows in every word. The picture is not all bleak though, there are solutions if we are willing to pursue them.


06-fangirlFangirl – Rainbow Rowell

I liked this plenty, as YA audiobooks go. I think Rowell has written better in other works (like Eleanor and Park, and Attachments), but this one was appealing and quick and sweet. The plot centers on Cath and Wren, twin sisters who are starting at University of Nebraska Lincoln. Wren wants to experience the world independently of Cath, so she chooses to live with a roommate that isn’t her sister, which leaves Cath living in the dorms with someone else as well. Cath deals by spending most of her time working on her fan fiction. There was plenty of drama, but not so much that I wanted to strangle everyone. The plot seems kind of ho hum, but it works anyway, because the characters are fun and engaging.


07-the-mothersThe Mothers – Brit Bennett

The Mothers is a quick read by a talented, young debut novelist (only 25 years old!). The Mothers themselves are the aged ladies of the Upper Room church in Oceanside, CA. The plot of this book centers around Nadia, Audrey, her best friend, and Josh, the pastor’s son. At the beginning of the book, there is an abortion and the rest of the book deals with the fallout and secrets and damage surrounding that decision.We follow Nadia and her cohorts from high school through middle age.


08-lillian-boxfish-takes-a-walkLillian Boxfish Takes a Walk – Kathleen Rooney

On the cusp of 1985, 85-year-old Lillian Boxfish takes a walk. she leaves her Murray Hill apartment in Manhattan and walks all over the island, reminiscing about her remarkable life and meeting new people all along the way. This lovely and witty old lady is charming and adventurous and sweet. Based on the real-life advertising woman of Macy’s, Margaret Fishback, and great for fans of MadMen. *I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*


09-the-grownupThe Grownup – Gillian Flynn

This is a short story written by the author of Gone Girl, Sharp Objects, and Dark Places: AKA a bunch of really dark books. When I read it, I totally scared the bajeezers out of myself in 30 minutes (it’s only 64 pages long). A palm reader takes her game to the next level by offering to help spiritually cleanse a house that the owner thinks might be haunted. This tiny little book just leaves you hanging and my hands were a bit shaky from about halfway through onward. Book of the Month sent this little freebie along in their January box. I love surprises like this!


10-design-momDesign Mom: How to Live with Kids: A Room-by-Room Guide – Gabrielle Blair

I loved this collection of short and simple tips to designing a beautiful home while living with kids (what? they don’t have to take over every room and surface???). The book is divided into sections of the house with ten to 20 single-page tips per section so it’s easy to find exactly the advice you are looking for. Beautiful color photos to illustrate the points make this book a keeper and a great gift idea. Look for my upcoming interview with Gabrielle!


11-the-girl-in-the-spiders-webThe Girl in the Spider’s Web – David Lagercrantz

Perfectly captured the spirit and tone of the Steig Larsson Millenium (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, et al) series. In reading more about it afterwards, there are apparently notes from Steig Larsson for another novel, but this is not that work. Those notes are still held by his parter. However it was developed, Lisbeth and Mikael are back, along with August, an autistic savant. We’ve got tech, hacking, and dramatic exposes, all with a side of murder, thugs, and mobsters. Thrilling and well composed, this series is great for those looking for “books in translation” for a reading challenge. I enjoyed it on audio.


12-you-are-freeYou Are Free – Rebekah Lyons

I thought this was a decent collection of personal stories illustrating the way that God can work through you to bring freedom. Biggest takeaway: confess your shortcomings and failings and He will heal them and replace them with his grace. Rebekah’s stories are approachable and human (not high-and-mighty or flawless). She is genuine in her writing.The book itself didn’t grab me in a change-your-life kind of way. But that cover! *I was provided with a galley copy of this book from Zondervan in exchange for an honest review*


13-miss-janeMiss Jane – Brad Watson

Oh, Miss Jane, I adore you. In the early 1900s, a baby is born to a couple on a farm. Conceived in less than lovely circumstances, one of the first things they notice about her is a genital defect, which will affect her for the rest of her life. This baby grows to be Miss Jane, based upon the author’s own great aunt and treated just as lovingly through these pages. Brad Watson is a vivid wordsmith. I’ve never read any of his other works, but do feel that this book will be treated well through history, and someday be considered a classic. It is intimate and emotional and the natural beauty portrayed through his words is unforgettable. This author is notoriously difficult to get ahold of, so I will refer you to the excellent interview my friend Amy Allen Clark did on her website, momadvice.com if you’d like to learn more about him!


14-the-oddfitsThe Oddfits – Tiffany Tsao

Although I did enjoy the sci-fi/fantasy part of this book, mostly I found it really tiresome. It took almost 30% of the book to get into any kind of action whatsoever. And because it is the first in a series, that action is almost useless. I just couldn’t get interested in Murgatroyd Floyd (yes, really), or the More Known World. Mostly, I was annoyed with it and felt like I needed to power through to get to more interesting books. Probably should have abandoned this one, but didn’t realize that until it was about 60% done and I only had an hour and a half left. *sigh* Don’t finish books you don’t love, people! A friendly PSA from your favorite book nerd.


15-today-will-be-differentToday Will Be Different – Maria Semple

This novel follows Eleanor Flood for one day, when she vows to be different from her regular (pessimistic, negative, judgemental) self. But she just keeps getting derailed. Today is not the day she thought it was. I thought this was put together pretty well, and fun to read, but I didn’t really like Eleanor as a character. I enjoyed Where’d You Go Bernadette (the author’s first novel) more, overall. And I feel like most people like one or the other, but not both! So, Bernadette is my heroine.


16-attachmentsAttachments – Rainbow Rowell

So fun and sweet and funny and great. It’s the turn of the millenium and email is new enough to still be a little scary.Lincoln is in charge of IT security at the local newspaper. Beth is the movie review girl, who keeps using “banned words” in her emails, so they end up gettting flagged and sent to Lincoln. As he reads the emails between Beth and her best friend, he gets to know them both, but only from one side of the screen. I think I loved every word of this book. I could not have loved it more.


17-the-professor-and-the-madmanThe Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary – Simon Winchester

I picked this one up on Audible sale after buying it for my mama for Christmas. I knew she’d love it when I heard about it and I was excited to get to read it as well. Anne Bogel calls this the book that turned her onto audiobooks. I thought it was interesting and compelling (not the best book EVER, but great). The history of the OED along with WC Minor and Dr. Murray, friends to the end, was put together very well.


18-is-everyone-hanging-out-without-meIs Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? – Mindy Kaling

I liked this one well enough. I just don’t think it stands out as exceptional in the celebrity/comedy memoirs I’ve listened to. But I will say that, as with other memoirs of this genre, listening is the way to go. You’ll enjoy the additional celebrity voices she pulls into the soundbooth with her, as well as the honest portrayal she gives of a girl with a “not perfect” Hollywood-body. So fun and funny.

 


19-heartlessHeartless – Marissa Meyer

This new novel by Marissa Meyer (of the Lunar Chronicles, one of my favorite YA series!) took me a little while to finish, but only because we were on a family vacation! I really enjoyed this retelling/prequel to Lewis Carroll ‘s classic Alice in Wonderland, which answers the question “WTF is up with the Queen of Hearts”? We meet Catherine Pinkerton, Lady of Rock Turtle Cove, daughter of the Marquess and the Marchioness. She falls in love, is proposed to by the King of Hearts, and has to deal with the dreadful Jabberwock. We meet the Mad Hatta before he went mad, the March Hare, as well as various other characters from Wonderland. It really is a fun retelling, but don’t expect the sci-fi/future element of the Lunar Chronicles: this is definitely set in the original time and place.

QuickLit – December 2016

Linking up to Modern Mrs. Darcy for her monthly QuickLit post, where we share “short and sweet reviews of what we’ve been reading lately”. I’ll share everything I’ve read over the previous month here at the end of each month, in the order I finished reading them. I read 21 books in December (holy crap!), which means I finished out the year strong!

Including the chapter books that I read aloud to our kiddos (but not the picture books), I read a total of 126 books in 2016. Those books added up to 38,713 pages of reading. I look forward to reading even more in 2017 and bring more great author interviews and book recommendations to this site. Happy New Year!


01-lily-and-the-octopusLily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley

Grab the tissues. We all know that stories about dogs have to end in tears, right? Well, this one is sweet and endearing and funny and memorable. Steven Rowley loves his dog, like we all love our dogs, and she is a member of the family. Lily is a sweet little wiener dog. The octopus is the tumor that grows above her eye. And this is the story of their journey together, and Steven’s battles against Lily’s octopus. You will laugh. And you’ll definitely cry.

 


02-four-seasons-in-romeFour Seasons in Rome by Anthony Doerr

This has all the makings of the books I love the very best: a year-in-the-life, travel, Europe, and Anthony Doerr’s prose. His writing is so fantastic, and the details he picks out to illustrate the story are always spot-on. This book tells the backstory of the year he spent as an Artist in Residence in Rome, while he wrote All the Light We Cannot See, another favorite of this year! I listened to it on audiobook, which was fine, but not spectacular, except for the fact that it allowed me to finish this one super quickly.


03-two-family-houseThe Two-Family House by Lynda Cohen Loigman

I ended up short-listing this as one of my favorites this year! This debut novel shares the story of the two families of brothers Abe and Mort. The family drama is so lovely. They live together in one big house on Christopher Street in New York. The tragedies and love and sacrifice and day-to-day that these families face together with their lives intertwined are all beautifully written. I enjoyed every moment.

 


04-this-is-the-story-of-a-happy-marriageThis is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett

I listened to this wonderful collection of essays (read by the author) about writing and life and love and nuns and dogs. They each are wonderful in their own ways. I cried a few times, smiled many times, and shook my head plenty. Patchett is one of my favorite writers and I thoroughly enjoyed this group of her writings in short story format, and it is what convinced me to put “read a collection of short stories” on my reading challenge list for next year.

 


05-this-is-how-it-always-isThis Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel

I loved this book. I loved the way it took me out of myself and my life while making me feel like it was just another version of how my life may have gone. I loved Frankel’s writing, her witty dialogue between characters, and her soul-searchingly deep treatment of a tough topic. I know it will continue to stick with me for months or maybe years. This one also ended up on my favorites of 2016 list!

 


06-so-youve-been-publicly-shamedSo You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson

Such an interesting look at the development, abolishment, and resurgence of public shaming, using real-world examples of people who have experienced internet shaming, those who have been sentenced to shameful consequences, etc. I found it so interesting that the internet gives us the power to be judge/jury/executioner for regular people, for “crimes” that they may or may not have committed, and it gives us immense power. I am so intrigued by the whole premise of this book. Jon Ronson also did a great job narrating, but I wouldn’t recommend this one on audio, since there are a few places in which he has to verbally describe photos that are pertinent to the story and are included in the book but are not, obviously, available to the audio listener.


07-magicians-elephantThe Magician’s Elephant by Kate DiCamillo

Honestly, let’s be real here. I love elephants. That’s why I picked up this young-adult short story when it was the Audible deal of the day. I know DiCamillo has a huge backlist of titles, so I’ll be sure to pick some of those up as well, because this story, about an elephant that is accidentally summoned by a magician, was charming and lovely. I’m sure I’ll put in on my list of books to read aloud to the kiddos one day!

 


08-how-to-talk-so-little-kids-will-listenHow to Talk so Little Kids Will Listen by Joanna Faber and Julie King

Oh, man. This might be the most empowering parenting book I’ve read about the age and stage of parenting that I (and most of my friends) am currently in! This collection first gives you the information and tools (in part one), along with myriad examples of what those tools look like in action. And then, in part two, they dive into specific situations and examples and how to use those tools to deal with tough behaviors. The authors also acknowledge that parents get ANGRY sometimes, and sometimes even yell, but it doesn’t have to lead to damaging your relationship with your child when done in the right way. In the six days it took me to read this book, I started using the tools and tips immediately. This morning, when the boys got into a bit of a scuffle, my oldest used his words to identify his feelings instead of lashing out at his younger brother. It was a breakthrough! Not only are they working for my kiddos, they are absorbing the information and it’s helping to make their relationship better! I feel like this one will go on my list of “parenting books to recommend to all the friends” from here on out.


09-underground-railroadThe Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

Another of the books that ended up on my 2016 favorites list! Wow. Just phenomenal. And heartrending. And so beautiful. And sad. Cora, a slave on the Randall plantation, decides to escape with Caesar and makes her journey on the LITERAL Underground Railroad. (Isn’t that what we all imagined when we first learned about it in history?). This novel by Colson Whitehead draws on the true atrocities of slaves in the pre-civil war American south. Engrossing and unputdownable.


10-the-couple-next-doorThe Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

This book had me dying to finish it and once I had I was so creeped out I couldn’t sleep. *shuddering goosebumps*
Anne and Marco are a sweet young couple with a 6-month-old baby that disappears when they are next door at a party. The whole thing is just horrifying. and as details are revealed and the case comes together, it pulls you deeper into the story. Really well done.

 


11-the-outsidersThe Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

This is a classic story about greasers and socs, rival gangs, two sides of the same town. Ponyboy is a greaser, along with his two brothers, Darry and Soda Pop. This novel reminded me quite a bit of West Side Story’s jets and sharks, but without the Romeo and Juliet-style love story as well. I’ve been told that I now need to read Rob Lowe’s memior about making the movie. I wouldn’t have picked this up if it hadn’t been for the Mom Advice Book Club!

 


12-everything-everythingEverything Everything by Nicola Yoon

I’d probably rank this as the best YA novel I read this year, although I did get to some other great ones! Madeline is sick. Sick enough to not ever get to go outside. And then handsome Olly moves in next door.
Oh my heart, I really loved this story. It was so typical teenager without being at all typical. A quick read that is sweet and funny and silly and sad and scary, just like teenagers. Can’t wait to pick up her next one, newly-released The Sun Is Also A Star.


12-one-true-lovesOne True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid

I would say this isn’t my typical genre, which may explain why I won’t rave about it. Although I thought the plot was intriguing and well-constructed, to me the characters (especially our protagonist Emma), fell a bit flat. Her turmoil over the choice between Jesse and Sam was a bit… meh, for me. I don’t think the fault lies with Reid’s writing, more that Emma wants everything, and, as is often the case in real life… can’t have it.

 


13-britt-marieBritt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman

Very much in the vein of A Man CalledOve, it’s starting to feel like Backman can only write one type of character (the crotchety curmudgeon, male or female). Of course, this isn’t the case in My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry, but he certainly writes them well! This one is about Britt-Marie and the time immediately following her separation from her husband, Kent. She has so many idiosyncrasies, probably more than a touch of OCD, and plenty of socially-inept tendencies. But she has a place, she just needs to find it and herself in the process. I recommend reading My Grandmother before this one as it kind of sets the stage for this novel.


14-news-of-the-worldNews of the World by Paulette Jiles

One more fiction favorite from this year! I loved this beautifully written adventurous tale about Captain Kidd and Johanna as they journey south through Texas. Johanna (10 years old) was taken captive by the Kiowa tribe 4 years ago and needs to be returned to her relations. captain kidd (71 years old) is the one to do it as he travels the small towns of Texas reading from local and far-fling newspapers the news of the world. My friend Sasha from Pathologically Literate convinced me to pick this one up, and I’m so glad she did!


15-born-a-crimeBorn a Crime by Trevor Noah

So grateful for this freebie from Audible! Trevor Noah brings his trademark humor to some really tough stories about growing up during and after the fall of apartheid in South Africa. Read by the author, these stories are full of wit and fun and a bit of horror. Just like The Daily Show, just like life.

I’m giving myself a pat on the back for this one because I bit the bullet and contacted his publicist about arranging an interview for this site. Of course, he is insanely busy, so the answer was no, but if I hadn’t tried, I would have always wondered! This was one of my top non-fiction picks for the year!


07-another-brooklynAnother Brooklyn by Jaqueline Woodson

Another beautifully written piece of lyric prose from Jacqueline Wilson. This one is fiction (she talks about developing her characters at the end of the book). But she uses her memories of her childhood in Brooklyn to fully develop and flesh out the setting. As such, it is lovely to read. I did LOVE Brown Girl Dreaming a bit more though, so that’s my recommendation from this author.

 


08-commonwealthCommonwealth by Ann Patchett

I love me some Ann Patchett, but this one didn’t grab me. It was beautifully written, as all of her books are, but it felt a bit disjointed and I didn’t connect well with the characters. There are so many “main characters” to keep track of (and more introduced even up to the final chapter!) that I didn’t care enough about any of them. I think it comes down to me enjoying her plot-driven novels quite a bit more, overall.

 


09-fairestFairest by Marissa Meyer

This novella that proceeds the final installment of the Lunar Chronicles is mainly to fill in the gaps for the “Lunartics” that want to know EVERYTHING about this world. It recounts Levana’s childhood and ascent to power. It was fine, but you can tell that the whole point was to answer the questions, not to give us anything substantial. with that in mind, it’s still fun to return to the world of Marissa Meyer.

 


10-miss-peregrineMiss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

My favorite part about this book is that the inspiration came from old found photos. The story and characters are well-written, it’s just not REALLY for me. I have to say that I’m kind of confused about the intended audience for this book. It’s scary enough to mess with my head as an adult, but it’s about 15-18 year old children, so you’d imagine young adult readers. Either way, creepy in a good way, but I’m not sure I’ll pick up the sequels.

 


11-wishful-drinkingWishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher

I picked this up from the library on audio on the day Carrie Fisher died. All the copies of all of her books were sold out/backordered on Amazon, so I was glad I could snag it that way.I liked hearing Carrie Fisher read her book. She is silly and pokes plenty of fun at her major ups and downs in her life. But it also seemed like she wasn’t really invested in it. Hearing he tell her own obituary just a day after she died was very poignant.

 


 

My Favorite Books of 2016

top-2016-booksBy the end of this year, I will have read 126 books, and so many were absolutely wonderful! It was really difficult to narrow them down to my top 10 fiction and top 5 non-fiction picks. I could make a top 40 fiction and still feel like I left out some gems. But a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do! So, here we have my top 15 books from 2016, fiction first and then non-fiction.

Fiction

coverEveryone Brave is Forgiven – Chris Cleave

This beautifully-written novel is about a couple in London during World War II. It is witty and fun, and unforgettable. Cleave weaves a masterful story. His characters and setting are phenomenal and transport the reader directly to WWII. I loved this story through and through.

Be sure to check out my interview with Chris Cleave after you’ve read it. He’s such a wonderful writer and person!

02-small-great-thingsSmall Great Things – Jodi Picoult

Jodi Picoult has long been a favorite author of mine, but I’ve always considered her more of a guilty-pleasure-read. This novel changes that for the better. Small Great Things tackles black/white relations in this country in Picoult’s signature style (court case and personal drama). I devoured this one.

11-homegoingHomegoing –Yaa Gyasi

Yaa Gyasi’s debut novel follows two branches of a single family from Africa through the colonial period, slave trade, and post-segregation America. She includes one story from each generation, and it doesn’t seem like it should work, but it does! And it’s so revealing and thought-provoking. I couldn’t put it down.

underground-railroadUnderground Railroad – Colson Whitehead

Colson Whitehead reimagines the underground railroad of America as an ACTUAL railroad, just like we all did as children. His novel is hard, but so necessary. Main character Cora will stick with you long after this one has ended.

 

09-lilac-girlsLilac Girls – Martha Hall Kelly

This stunning debut novel introduces us to the “Rabbits of Ravenbruck”, healthy young women who were experimented on medically by the Nazis during WWII. I listened to it on audio, and that’s definitely the way to go. The three narrators of the audio version really bring the story to life in such a unique way.

Be sure to check out my interview with Martha Hall Kelly after you’ve read it!

18774964A Man Called Ove – Fredrik Backman

This sweet story is about Ove, a curmudgeonly old man reeling after the death of his wife. He is forced to interact (begrudgingly) with his neighbors throughout this book, and it produces some sweet moments filled with hope and joy and laughter. Backman is only 35 years old, and this book was originally written in Swedish. I feel like knowing those two things makes the entire story that much more amazing.

8 - 11-22-6311/22/63 – Stephen King

This isn’t a new book, but it was new to me this year. It’s the first 30+ hour book that I devoured on audio, and that should say something about its plot. It’s un-putdownable. None of the horror that made Stephen King famous, but all of the plot and character development that he has perfected over his decades of writing best-sellers.

news-of-the-worldNews of the World – Paulette Jiles

This is a story about an older man (Captain Kidd) that reads newspapers throughout Texas who ends up taking care of a young girl who needs to be returned to her parents after four years of being held captive by the Kiowa tribe. The road they travel is dangerous and long, and they have only each other to make it through. Beautifully-written, and absolutely wonderful plotline.

this-is-how-it-always-isThis Is How It Always Is – Laurie Frankel

This one comes out early next year, but I couldn’t not put it on this list. Laurie Frankel gives us a family of boys, the youngest of which is diagnosed with gender dysphoria. He is a girl. This family drama deftly illustrates the love of forever that comes with family as well as the trial and heartbreak of having a child that you don’t know how to parent.

two-family-houseTwo-Family House – Lynda Cohen Loigman

Loigman’s story about Mort and Abe, two brothers (and their wives Rose and Helen, and their numerous children) who live in a single home spans a full generation. It will make you laugh and cry and sigh with affection for her characters. You’ll be sucked in by family secrets and wonder if it’s a thriller or a drama.

Honorable mentions: What She Knew, Behind Closed Doors, Woman in Cabin 10, The One-In-A-Million Boy, I Let You Go, and Ready Player One.

Non fiction

11-love-warriorLove Warrior – Glennon Doyle Melton

I love Glennon’s writing in every form, but I think this one might be my favorite. The shattering of her (and my) naive notions about marriage, love, acceptance, beginning, and pain is just fantastically written. She does such a wonderful job of redefining the landscape, for women especially, in relation to God and the church as well. I found myself nodding, crying, and amen-ing throughout this book and I know it will become a regular recommendation for others, just like Carry On Warrior has done!

born-a-crimeBorn a Crime – Trevor Noah

I was so grateful for this freebie from Audible! Trevor Noah brings his trademark humor to some really tough stories about growing up during and after the fall of apartheid in South Africa. Read by the author, these stories are full of wit and fun and a bit of horror. just like the daily show, just like life.

5893865Wild Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys – Steven James and David Thomas

Thomas and James dissect boyhood perfectly into ages and stages and needs and wants and desires. I kept nodding my head and wanting to tattoo parts of this book on my arms. I broke out the highlighter and read pages aloud to my husband. Cannot wait to pass it along to fellow boy moms (as long as I get it back!)

05-when-breath-becomes-airWhen Breath Becomes Air – Paul Kalanithi

In this memoir, neurosurgery resident Dr. Paul Kalanithi is diagnosed with brain and spine cancer. Not a spoiler: it’s about his journey toward death. Paul’s writing is beautiful and poignant. He so faithfully captures both the doctor and patient sides of care. As with everyone else who reviewed this gem, the afterword by his wife left me weeping on the floor.

11 Brown Girl DreamingBrown Girl Dreaming – Jaqueline Woodson

I loved this memoir in verse novel format. I listened to it as an audiobook, read by the author. I highly recommend it in that format, especially. Like most verse novels, this isn’t a lengthy read. Due to our current national/political/social climate, this one seems especially important. Woodson has much to tell us, even in the short format. Make sure you stay tuned for the author’s note and “thankful for”s at the end.

Honorable mentions: The Fringe Hours, This Is The Story of a Happy Marriage, Big Magic, and Hillbilly Elegy.

If you’d like to see my entire year as a reader, you can click over to Goodreads, where they’ve created this fun Kaytee’s year in books graphic!

QuickLit – November 2016

Linking up to Modern Mrs. Darcy for her monthly QuickLit post, where we share “short and sweet reviews of what we’ve been reading lately”. I’ll share everything I’ve read over the previous month here at the end of each month, in the order I finished reading them. I read 12 books this month! That’s a great reading month for me!


01-behind-closed-doorsBehind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris

Currently $2.99 on Kindle!

This book was really disturbing. the farther I got into it the faster I had to read because it was freaking me out. It’s been called “the psychological thriller you won’t be able to put down” and that’s exactly what it was for me. Grace and Jack Angel’s marriage looks totally perfect from the outside, but….. ugggghhh. Totally terrified me in the best way. all kinds of trigger warnings for this book but if you like psychological thrillers, definitely pick it up!


02-small-great-thingsSmall Great Things by Jodi Picoult

This has unseated The Storyteller as absolutely my favorite of Picoult’s books thus far. It can be adequately summed up by the author’s note at the end. She challenged herself and all of her white readers by writing as a black woman and a white supremacist man. I was challenged and moved and cried (as per usual with her books). Systematic racism is real and horrifying and unseen by so many of us who have lived out our lives in white privilege. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.


03-the-dispatcherThe Dispatcher by John Scalzi

I picked up this audio novella when it was on sale for free on day, never having read any of Scalzi’s work. I was honestly hooked by Zachary Quinto’s voice (Spock and Skylar!). His chilling voice is perfect for this little Sci fi romp into a world where murder is virtually ineffective: 999/1000 times you come back to life, but if you are murdered. and people use that to their advantage with dispatchers, who kill you if you are about to die so that you can come back. Super interesting premise and a quick “read” (only as an audiobook). I recommend it


04-hillbilly-elegyHillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance

I heard this recommended multiple times from varying sources, especially for those who were dying to understand Trump’s rise in popularity with the rust belt. I finished it the night before Election Day and found it supremely interesting. Vance’s upbringing and escape of the hillbilly culture into the middle class were fantastic. For those that are dying to understand the unseen part of America that helped vote Trump into the presidency, I cannot recommend this highly enough.


05-when-breath-becomes-airWhen Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

Paul Kalanithi is a neurosurgeon who considered a career in creative writing. Those two very disparate paths led to this amazing memoir detailing his diagnosis of cancer and the subsequent fight for his life. Paul’s writing is beautiful and poignant. He so faithfully captures both the doctor and patient side of care. As with everyone else who read this novel and recommended it, the afterword by his wife left me weeping on the floor. So, yes, cry-fest warning on this one!


06-arrowoodArrowood by Laura McHugh

I couldn’t put down this Gothic mystery about the disappearance of Arden Arrowood’s twin baby sisters when she was a young girl. Arden returns to her family’s home in Iowa after the death of her father and finds herself confronted by the past. Her family moved away from the home shortly after the disappearance of her sisters, with Arden as the sole witness. Definitely got my heart pounding a few times and had me guessing in the wrong direction a few times. Overall, very readable and entertaining. I look forward to picking up her previous novel, The Weight of Blood, as well.


 

07-portrait-of-emily-price

A Portrait of Emily Price by Katherine Reay

Be sure you check out my interview with Katherine, the first author I had on my site! I loved this book and feel like we’re really starting to see Reay’s evolution as a writer. She is really coming into her own, writing stories that she is putting her whole self into. I do kind of feel like there are two stories in this one though, and with a little more length on each, it could have been two novels instead. there’s just that much good stuff here. Emily and Ben are your favorite romantic comedy couple in paper form. ❤❤❤


08-light-of-the-worldThe Light of the World by Elizabeth Alexander

Elizabeth Alexander primarily writes poetry, and that is achingly obvious in this memoir about the loss of her husband unexpectedly at age 50. although his death is the pivot point, this book is more about their life together, the fallout/healing after his death, and his family, more so than the event itself. I thought it was beautifully written. However, I read two books about the loss of a husband in a single week and it’s a bit too much. IMPORTANT NOTE: I AM NOT FACING THE LOSS OF MY HUSBAND, THEY JUST HAPPENED TO BOTH COME UP AT THE LIBRARY AT ONCE!


09-i-hate-everyone-except-youI Hate Everyone, Except You by Clinton Kelly

This was like reading a book written by my bestie. I’ve been a “fruit fly” (the tender and ridiculous name for those girls that hang around gay boys) for the majority of my life and this book feels like the musings of a more famous version of my dear gay boys. You know Clinton Kelly from What Not to Wear and/or The Chew. Kelly doesn’t pull any punches, except for revealing the intimate details of his marriage. All the rest is fair, and fairly hilarious, game. This one comes out in January. I received an advance copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


12-victoriaVictoria by Daisy Goodwin

This historical novel details only the first year or two of the reign of Queen Victoria of England. It is deftly written, pulling you into a story that is more than a century old as though it dealt with current events. I enjoyed the characters but found young Victoria petulant, which I’m sure the author intended. definitely recommended for fans of historical fiction and/or fans of the royals (The Royal We, Downton Abbey, etc). I received an advanced copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


10-tell-me-three-thingsTell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum

This is great YA lit. Is smart and funny and endearing without being inane, or sob-fest-worthy. High school drama, yes, but not overly dramatic. Mostly about growing up and first love, and we can all get behind that!

Jessie is a transplant to a new school and receives an email after her first day there from Somebody Nobody, who offers to be her “spirit guide” through the wild halls of their high school. Such a fun premise. Think You’ve Got Mail.


11-homegoing Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

This novel contains a story of a single family that spans 6 or 7 generations and multiple continents. From 18th century Africa to modern day America, we follow an African family, beginning with the two daughters of Maame. The vignettes that give us glimpses of each generation are wonderfully written and so well put together. It’s like a shallow dive into African culture, slavery, the American Civil War, Jim Crow, and current BLM movements. Gently leading the reader to see from all points of view (or at least one different from your own).