What I Read in May

This month’s reads are primarily fiction, as befits the beginning of summer! I just made it to my goal, finishing book six while visiting my husband’s family in Baltimore.  A couple of these books were provided to me for free in exchange for my honest review–I will let you know which ones those were below.

Curtain by Agatha Christie is an old favorite. My daughter picked up a copy for me from a used bookstore. Before our house burned down I had amassed an almost complete collection of the works of Agatha Christie, which is around 80 titles in all. I still have most of them but they are covered in soot and stored in the garage, so it has been awhile since I have read them.  This is one of two titles that the author put into safe storage during the Blitz in case she was killed.  Those works (the other was Sleeping Murder, Miss Marple’s last case) were published upon the author’s death which thankfully did not occur till the 1970s.  Written at the height of her powers, this novel is much better than works written later but published earlier.

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert was a Christmas gift that I have been reading for awhile. Read it if you are a writer! It’s a little goofy at times but I found kernels of wisdom therein.

Seeking Tranquility by Amy Schisler is one of the free books I mentioned. It’s a Catholic romance novel, something I used to wish for back when I was reading a lot of Christian romance novels under the Steeple Hill/Love Inspired imprint. She puts the setting–Chincoteague Island–to great use.  Faith is part of the story for sure, but it’s more a natural backdrop than the entire focus of the story. And the story was absorbing with everything from NASA to the mob with a side of wild ponies.

The Heretic’s Apprentice by Ellis Peters is the next Brother Cadfael mystery and this one is more overtly theological than most, centered as it is around issues of what Catholics are required to believe and what is open to discussion. I am over halfway through with this series now and I am going to be so sad when I finish them.

The Vows We Keep by Victoria Everleigh is the second book I received for free. It’s another Catholic romance starring a former priest whose re-entry into the dating world is adorably awkward. I enjoyed the characters and the story and especially the twist ending that I totally did not see coming.

The Murder of Mr. Wickham by Claudia Gray was pure delight.  Several of Jane Austen’s characters from various books are gathered for a house party (hosted by Emma Knightly) when who should show up but the odious Mr. Wickham! Everyone has a motive for murdering him so when he turns up dead two of the house guests decide to play detective. These sleuths are the author’s creation, being children of Austen’s characters.  One of them is clearly autistic, and I really appreciated the way he was portrayed. This is one of my favorite books I’ve read this year and I wish she would write another one like it.

As ever, I’m linking up with An Open Book! Be sure to check out other great reads there!

 

What I Read in February

So, I just barely made my six book goal this month, and that’s only because the first book I read was a picture book!

But John Ronald’s Dragons by Carolyn McAlister is truly a superior picture book. It’s a great introduction to Tolkien for pre-readers but there’s also a lot to enjoy for Tolkien lovers of all ages, especially the visual depiction of the eras of Tolkien’s life.

There were only two Georgetown selections for the first quarter of this year, and I quickly finished this one:

While I enjoyed Mine! by Michael Heller and James Salzman, I find I have already forgotten most of it!

Next I made the mistake of letting my sister talk me into reading this one:

I say it was a mistake not because Mother, May I? by Joshilyn Jackson  was not good–it was! Rather, it was a mistake because I could not put it down and ignored all my priorities that day. It’s a thriller involving a kidnapping, identity, love and its complications, and even topical issues. I have not forgotten this one and I doubt I will.

I’ve had this one on my list of spiritual books for awhile:

The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Laurence is a very simple little book that was written a long time ago, but it has a modern feeling to it. The premise is that of learning to walk with God in every moment rather than just calling on Him occasionally. I want to read this again and again so I can internalize its message.

This was another one from my sister:

It took me a minute to get into Little Eyes by Samanta Schweblin, since it starts in medias res and lets the reader catch up gradually, but once I did I was hooked. This is an all-too-plausible story about where our many virtual connections and lack of concern for privacy might lead us–and it’s not good!

I have had this one on my non-fiction list for some time, and was happy to get it for Christmas:

As someone who first got the message that my body was not good enough when a doctor put me on a diet at the age of four, the message of radical self-love described in The Body Is Not an Apology by Sonya Renee Taylor resonated deeply with me.  I wish everyone who hates their body and all people who continue to shame them could read this.

OK, so this is the book that was responsible for my almost not reading six:

I wanted to like Franchise by Marcia Chatelain. It’s obviously a meticulously researched book and its story and implications are important. But it is so dense that I could not get through it. I rarely fail to finish something I start reading but I made an exception for this one. It was a Georgetown choice and someone in the club commented that it read more like a sociology dissertation than a book for popular consumption. It’s a good book but not for me.

Finally, I am going to share another one I have not finished:

The reason I have not finished Imagine You Walked with Jesus by Jerry Windley-Daoust is not because I don’t want to read it, but because I want to savor it. And the reason I am telling you about it now instead of when I do finish is because I was supposed to review it and it just is not fair of me to wait to tell people about it for that long! Plus I think it would be an awesome read for Lent if any of you are still looking for something special to do. It’s an introduction to Ignatian Contemplative Prayer, or Imaginative Prayer, where you put yourself into the story and use all your senses to experience the scenes right along with Jesus and his disciples. This is a super-accessible book for anyone who has no experience with this form of prayer, even kids. It can be used for solitary prayer or in a group. Not only does the book provide instruction in this way of praying, it also offers background information to enrich your imagination and many suggested readings to pray with. I recommend it very highly and I am not just saying that because I received a free advance copy.

That’s it for February! Find more great reads below via An Open Book linkup.

What I Read in September

Sometimes it’s hard for me to believe that I have turned into a person who 1) needs to set a reading goal and 2) finds a five-book-a-month goal challenging at times.

I was the kid who always had her nose in a book–brushing my teeth, walking down the hall, eating my breakfast, riding in the car . . . I was reading all the time. You know how kids are with their phones these days? That was me, only with books.

I read around a book a day most of my life until college.  And even up until about ten years ago I was already reading something. I blame the internet. I still read a lot, only not books.

ANYWAY, that’s why I set this goal. And I did not make it in September! In fact, I only read THREE books!

I know why–it was the first full month of school. And my 2:00-3:30 reading time often was absorbed by helping William with online college. That’s one reason. The other is that two of the books I was reading for my online Georgetown book clubs just were not that compelling, making my reading of them more of a chore.

Here’s what I DID read.

Rewilding Motherhood by Shannon K. Evans

Shannon is a blogger and writer whose work I’ve been following for a long time. I loved her first book, Embracing Weakness, and so I was excited not only to read this one but to participate as a member of the launch team, which got me an advance copy and was so much fun.

Beautifully written and full of the wisdom of an amazing array of theologians and thinkers—all of them women—this is a book that challenges you to think and then to think some more. Shannon helps you do that with suggestions for “Going Deeper” at the end of each chapter. My favorite was her invitation to go back into my childhood to remember all the ways I enjoyed spending time back then, looking for clues to what I should be doing now: “The activities that absorbed us as children can speak to the unique and particular way our souls were formed.”

Writers and Lovers by Lily King

This was the one Georgetown book I did enjoy, although I don’t know if I’d read it again. It’s about an aspiring writer who is still reeling over her mother’s death and is working as a waitress and drowning in student loans.  The part that stressed me out was her having two boyfriends at once–and then I disagreed with which one she picked! If you have read it, let me know if you agree with me!

It Happened One Autumn by Lisa Kleypas

This was my fun read, second in The Wallflowers series of historical romances. I was a big fan of this genre as a teen, then I got bored. But these are different, with quirky heroines who take their destinies into their own hands, albeit within the rigid confines of the patriarchal society in which they live. I want to read the next one but my daughter says we have to wait until Winter, when it is set.

Of course, I was reading other books last month which I did not finish . . . which means I have already finished three in October, so I’ll have a lot to tell you about next month! In the meantime, I’m linking up with An Open Book–just click here for more great reads.

What I Read in May

Y’all, I read TEN books this month!

I kicked it off with Anne’s House of Dreams. You know, I never realized before how wildly varying in style the Anne books are. In contrast to the primarily epistolary structure of Anne of Windy Poplars and the episodic structure of Anne of the Island, this one has much more of a narrative structure, which I enjoyed.

I bought White Fragility last year when everyone else was buying it. I’ve since realized that there’s something problematic about getting my racism education from another white woman, but I still found valuable insights here.

I did not find Boundaries to be as good as I was expecting. It was very elementary and I don’t personally  need Biblical reassurances that it is okay to set boundaries. Still, it confirmed some of the things I have already been working hard on for awhile.

I have been reading The Silmarillion via the Tea with Tolkien book club. Although I did not have time to participate in the discussions, I found the weekly podcast episodes summarizing each chapter to be super helpful. This was my second read of this book, which sat largely untouched on my shelf most of my life because it was so challenging, and I think I really have a handle on it now. It is so beautiful.

I read Anne of Ingleside this month too, which brings to a close my reading of the Anne books from my childhood (the two short story volumes were not included in this boxed set.). Two books remain to read, mostly about Anne’s children, but they were out of print when I was a little girl and I did not read them until I was an adult. This volume is again more episodic. I “get it” more now because Anne’s midlife musings are way more relevant to me these days!

I ordered The Psychic Hold of Slavery a couple of years ago after attending a discussion led by the authors at one of my Georgetown reunions. It was a challenging, academic read–a collection of essays examining the issue of why Black people cannot just “move on” from slavery, through lenses of poetry, novels, television, art, and movies.

I took to heart a lot of what I read in Health at Every Size, which debunks the notion that you have to be thin to be healthy, and promotes body acceptance and rejection of the modern diet culture. As someone with a life-long struggle in these areas, I found this message welcome.

I almost did not get to read a a Brother Cadfael book this month, but
Emily brought me one right before John and I went to visit our middle son, Teddy, in Boulder, and I read Dead Man’s Ransom in the hotel.  I continue to relish this series and I am relieved there are still so many left to read.

Amazon Prime offers subscribers one free e-book each month. I always take advantage but not being a big fan of e-reading I save these books for airplane rides.  I read The Darkest Flower on the way to Boulder. Besides being a fun legal thriller this one also offered some food for thought regarding legal ethics and the legal profession that felt relevant (my husband is a lawyer and I’m his assistant).

And finally, I read The Next Wife on the flight home. While I was entertained by the story throughout, I really don’t like books in which everyone is horrible. I want to be able to root for someone!

Thanks for following my reading adventures. I am as usual linking up with An 
Open Book. By clicking below you can find other great reads!

 

What I Read in January

I set a goal this year to read five books a month.  In truth, I thought it a modest goal, since I used to read that many every week, give or take.  But it was surprisingly challenging, perhaps partly because I am only counting books I finish each month even though I am reading others at a slower pace for various reasons. (And also perhaps because my kids–one in high school, one in college–started back to online school, and they require frequent assistance!)

I finished the Emily of New Moon series which I got for Christmas.  Much of Emily’s Quest is painful to read, honestly, but the payoff is worth it.  One of the elements of the Emily books that appeals to me is the hint of the supernatural therein which is not really a feature of the more well-known Anne of Green Gables series.

Chasing My Cure: A Doctor’s Race to Turn Hope into Action, is one of three books I read this month for various Georgetown University alumni book clubs.  We were supposed to read them over a ten-week period but I just cannot manage that when I get really interested in a book.  This one was a quick read because I wanted to find out what happened to the author in this story of how his medical degree and relentless, active hope were key to finding his own cure when he was stricken with a mysterious, incurable disease.

Ask Again, Yes–another Georgetown selection–was my favorite read of the month.  This story of the intertwined lives of two families and the tragedy that tears them apart was surprisingly uplifting in the end.  And I found it deeply Catholic in its views on marriage and redemption.  Some favorite quotations: “Marriage is long. All the seams get tested,” and (of marriage) “Love isn’t enough. Not even close.”

The Power of Habit was my final Georgetown Book Club read.  Its combination of science, anecdote, and self-help made it an engaging read.  I definitely filed away some of its insights to help me towards my goals.

The Leper of Saint Giles is the next installment of the Brother Cadfael mysteries, which I continue to love.  Everything about these books is pitch perfect–the characters, the history, the mystery, and the faith.  And there are so many of them that I will have the pleasure of reading them for months to come.

Coming up in February, I’ll be doing three book club reads, some spiritual reading, and at least two “just for fun” books!  I’m linking up today with An Open Book.  Click the picture to discover more great reads!

 

 

 

What I Read in December

I did not read many books in December because Advent/Christmas.  I will be making it up in January for sure!

Just before Advent, I heard about The Reed of God on multiple podcasts.  I took that as a sign to add it to my plans for Advent.  It’s perfect for the season, and the chapters are just the right size for reading one per day during prayer time.  This is one of those small books packed full of beauty and wisdom.  I will probably pull it out again next year.

Wintersong has been in my to-be-read pile for a long time.  I am a Madeleine L’Engle fan from way back, but I had never heard of Luci Shaw.  I picked this up after I finished The Reed of God and read one section each evening during Advent. I found myself enjoying the short prose readings more than the poems.

As you may recall, I discovered the Brother Cadfael series courtesy of Booktober. Saint Peter’s Fair is the third book in the series, and I am waiting for the third to arrive.  I like each one more than the last.

Emily of New Moon was a childhood favorite that I specifically requested as a Christmas gift–along with its sequels and the more well-known series by the same author, Anne of Green Gables.  My childhood copies were, of course,  destroyed by fire so it has been many years since I have read them.

Emily Climbs is the second in the series.  It was so fun to have these old favorites to read during the Christmas holidays.  I’m reading the last one now.

I have joined a scary amount of book clubs and along with the books I got for Christmas (not to mention the crazy piles in my room) I am well set up with reads for months to come.  I am excited to share them with you this year.

I am linking up once more with An Open Book.  Click on the picture to find more great reads!