What I Read in October

I made up for last month’s failure to meet my five-book-a-month goal by reading eight books this week, thanks to multiple book clubs.

Think Like a Rocket Scientist by Ozan Varol

This is a perfectly fine book, which I read for one of my Georgetown book clubs. It just didn’t really grab me and I kind of had to slog through it. I’ve decided to opt out of the Georgetown choices that I am not really excited about going forward.

The Lions of Fifth Avenue by Fiona Davis

It was my third time participating in Booktober this month, and this was the first book I read. It had some problems, but this tale of two women living almost a century apart, both of whose lives were affected by a mystery of books gone missing from the New York Public Library, was a fun don’t-want-to-put-it-down kind of read.

The Sirens of Mars by Sarah Steward Johnson

This was the other Georgetown book club selection that I had trouble finishing. Again, it’s not the author’s fault that the subject matter just did not grab me. One neat thing is that there was a certain amount of overlap between this and the Rocket Scientist book.

Human Voices by Penelope Fitzgerald

This was the second Booktober selection, about people working at the BBC during World War II. It was a weird read because I could see that it was well-written but I just did not care about it at all.

Wise Blood by Flannery O’Connor

I do not even know what to say about this book. Bizarre is the best adjective to describe it. I have read O’Connor’s short stories so I know how strange she can be but I wish that I had read this in college so I could have had a really good discussion about it.

Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man by Emmanual Acho

This would make a great starting point if you have not read any books on being anti-racist yet. It’s based on the author’s video series of the same name in which he answers questions posed by white viewers, on all kinds of topics from hip hop to Affirmative Action. It’s very non-threatening and accessible if there is someone whose consciousness you’d like to raise. ūüôā

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

I slogged through this 600-page tome for my RL book club, having been assured that it was the scariest book ever, and I regret to inform you that I was more irritated than scared. I get that it’s supposed to be clever and experimental and modern but I wish someone would explain its appeal and how it has achieved cult status.¬† To sum up as briefly as possible, it’s a (fictional) scholarly book about a fictional movie written by a reclusive old man discovered and edited for publication after his death by a troubled, drug-addled young man and it has about a million footnotes and what I will call a creative layout.

A Most Excellent Mystery by Ellis Peters

What can I say? Delightful, as always, and I was pleased to figure out the mystery more quickly than usual.

As usual, I am sharing this month’s reads at An Open Book. Check it out!

What I Read in July

Well, this was the first month I failed to meet my five book reading goal. I read parts of several other books that will show up in my August post, but  only completed four. It is getting harder and harder to preserve my dedicated reading time, and with school starting back up in August I am going to have to re-think my schedule.

I started The Philosophy of Tolkien: The Worldview Behind the Lord of the Rings years ago and did not finish it, so I started over. This is a very accessible look at Tolkien’s philosophy, and there is a lot on C.S. Lewis too!

I should have read Divine Mercy for Moms last year, when Faustina was my Saint of the Year (which is why I bought the book in the first place!) but better late than never!¬† This book is a nice intro to Saint Faustina’s story and spirituality, and comes with practical advice, a study guide for individuals and small groups,and daily reflections and prayers.

Upstream: The Quest to Solve Problems before They Happen is the last of the second quarter of Georgetown book club reads. It was a fascinating look at problem-solving. I liked its emphasis on analysis and concrete steps rather than just worrying about the future and succumbing to paralyzing anxiety. I feel myself thinking new thoughts after reading it.

Finally, The Pilgrim of Hate is the next installment of the Brother Cadfael books, which continue to delight me.  I drop everything else to read these when my daughter brings me the latest from the library. I am halfway through the series now!

As ever, I am linking up with An Open Book. You can find more great reads by clicking here. And please comment below with your own latest reads!

What I Read in June

I did not read as much in June, but I did meet my goal.¬† Here’s the breakdown:

Call Down the Hawk is the first of a trilogy that follows the Raven Boys series, which I loved. My adult daughter loves young adult fantasy and I am grateful for the ones she recommends to me.  This was a re-read in preparation for the second book coming out.

I’ve been reading Only Love Today for awhile, bit by bit during my evening prayer time. It’s perfect as a once-a-day read, and it contains valuable and affirming lessons written in an engaging and accessible way.

Mister Impossible is the aforementioned sequel, which I got my hands on at the beginning of vacation, once my daughter had finished with it. There’s not much I can say about this series without giving things away so I’ll just say I had¬† hard time putting it down.

I read The Vanishing Half for one of my Georgetown book clubs. It’s the story of Black twin sisters who are separated when one disappears to pass for white, and all the repercussions that follow into the next generation. I found the ending mildly disappointing but I was absorbed by the story.

Another Georgetown selection, The Pull of the Stars is set during the 1918 pandemic but the author did not plan its publication to coincide with our current pandemic. It was a case of truth being stranger than fiction that she had this book about to come out before she ever heard of Covid-19. Needless to say, the coincidence adds weight to what is already a well-written and riveting story about three days is a ward for pregnant flu patients in a hospital in Ireland. It was graphic and painful but I could not stop reading.

Secrets of a Summer Night is my guilty summer read. It’s obviously a romance novel, and first in a series about a group of wallflowers who set out to help each other find husbands before they are hopeless old maids. I discovered this author when I ran across one of her books at Goodwill. I was mildly intrigued by the blurb on the back of the book and my daughter and I enjoyed the book so much that we ended up reading the whole series.¬† If you ever enjoyed romance novels but grew tired of them, give these a try. There’s a freshness to them that makes the genre fun again.

And that’s it!

As ever, I’m linking up at An Open Book. Click below for more great reads.

What I Read in April

April was a month in which I read parts of a lot of books which I will finish and post about NEXT month. I did meet my five book goal for April though!

Continuing with my re-read of the Anne of Green Gables series, I read Anne of the Island, in which Anne goes to college. On this reading it strikes me how little we actually hear about Anne’s actual studies! Also, the pacing is strange as whole years seem to pass in the blink of an eye. But I will always love this book for the chapter in which Anne finally realizes that she loves Gilbert.

Ellis Peters’s mysteries continue to delight me. This month’s read was The Devil’s Novice. Whenever my daughter brings me one of these books from the library, I immediately put down whatever I’ve been reading and proceed to devour it in a day or two.

This Is All I Got was a gut-wrenching, soul-sucking read, and if you are one of those people who believe a smart, hard-working woman ought to be able to pull herself out of poverty, you need to read this. It was one of my Georgetown book club reads for the month.

The Biggest Bluff was the other Georgetown book and it was a jarring juxtaposition to the prior one. It chronicles the author’s quest to become a top poker player, while also dabbling in psychology.¬† If you don’t understand poker and don’t really want to, parts of it are tedious, even though the story and some of the insights are interesting.

Finally, even though I am trying to read only one of these a month, I just could not resist cracking open Anne of Windy Poplars. This is probably my least favorite of the series, perhaps because it is almost entirely epistolary, and features too many new characters at the expense of all our old friends.

I am writing this on May 5, and I have already finished two books this month–so I am already looking forward to next month’s post!

As always, I am linking up with An Open Book. Click the picture below to discover more great reads!

 

What I Read in March

I read a lot in March! I am once again becoming the girl who always has a book in her hand, and I love it!

I was not expecting to read The Turn of the Key, which was a book Emily got for herself at the library.¬† But as she described the plot, I became intrigued.¬† It’s a mystery inspired by The Turn of the Screw, which I read in college.¬† I couldn’t put it down and it kept me guessing right up till the end.

Every Catholic woman (those who hang out online, anyway) is reading Falling Home this month it seems.¬† It’s a vulnerable, touching, and inspirational memoir. A couple of my favorite quotes: “[G]oodness doesn’t become any less good or valuable because it only lasts for a short time,” and “But she is full of hidden treasures! She must be! Isn’t everyone? . . . [E]veryone has marvels and miracles woven within them.

Here’s another book every Catholic I know seems to be reading this month: Consecration to St. Joseph The Wonders of Our Spiritual Father.¬† And I’m going to voice a super-unpopular opinion: I did not like this book and I would have stopped reading it very soon if not that 1) It was one of the things I planned to do for Lent and 2) I wanted to be consecrated to St. Joseph.¬† As it was, I admit I skimmed parts. I hate to go on at great length in a negative way about a book that seems to be bearing great fruit for so many people so I’ll just say that it was repetitive and simplistic, and a lot of the “theology” seemed to be the writer’s opinion, as far as I could tell.

Bookclub time! This month I was participating in the Fountain of Carrots readalong of The Reckless Way of Love. Having read a biography of Dorothy Day not long ago I was eager to learn more of her wisdom, like “The mystery of the poor is this: that they are Jesus, and whatever you do for them you do to Him,” and “Love and ever more love is the only solution to every problem that comes up.” I highly recommend this short and easy way if you want a quick introduction to the thinking of this holy woman.

I read Me and White Supremacy and completed the associated workbook as part of another online book club led by Leticia Ochoa Adams.¬† This is part of my ongoing anti-racism work, about which I plan to write more later. Anyway, reading this is hard and it’s work, but it is necessary work.

I continued my nostalgic revisit to the Anne series with the second installment, Anne of Avonlea, which primarily concerns Anne’s time as a teacher of the one-room schoolhouse she herself attended.¬† Here’s a lovely description of the heroine: “Anne was one of the children of light by birthright. After she had passed through a life with a smile of a word thrown across it like a gleam of sunshine the owner of that life saw it, for the time being at least, as hopeful and lovely and of good report.”

I don’t recall how I first came across Domestic Pleasures, but it was definitely by accident. I’ve never read any other books by the author, which I should probably remedy given how much I enjoy this one. This copy was a Christmas gift to replace the one I lost in the fire. It’s a tale of the intertwined lives and stories of Martha (ex-wife of Raymond); Charlie (Raymond’s divorce lawyer and now trustee of his estate); Jack and Phoebe, the teen kids of Martha and Charlie; Sophie (Charlie’s erstwhile girlfriend) and her unhappily-married sister, Connie; Patsy (Charlie’s ex-wife); and Gillis (Martha’s former lover and father of her toddler son).¬† At its heart it’s a sweet love story but philosophically it’s a reminder of how our lives are shaped both by random events and our connections.¬† It’s full of wisdom, for example: “Martha didn’t listen, because of course no one ever listens.

The Sanctuary Sparrow was another delightful visit to the medieval world of Brother Cadfael, former Crusader turned detective monk. These books never disappoint me and I am so glad that there are so many of them.

Did y’all count? That was EIGHT books so I surpassed my goal by three, and I read parts of lots of other things too, as you will eventually hear. Check out more books at the link below.

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!

What I Read in November

Oh, look! Here I am again, being all consistent and posting about what I read in November!

Normally our book club reads something scary around Halloween, often something by Stephen King.  The above read (which we discussed outside and distanced around a crackling fire) was not scary at all.  It was well-written but somewhat unsatisfying to me, since the whole point was that the mystery was supposed to remain unsolved.

I also finished my Harry Potter re-read.

Harry Potter and the Deadly Hallows is quite simply one of my favorite books of all time.  I consider it a masterpiece, and I think it is the only book I ever read two times in a row, the first time from midnight to 6 a.m. the morning it was released.  It was great fun reading all the books in a row, especially knowing how it was all going to turn out and being able to appreciate all the little clues along the way.

Thanks to Booktober, I got turned on to the Brother Cadfael series and this month I read the second one.

I found it even more delightful than the first one and am excited to read more.  It is always fun to have a series to look forward to.

For fun, I picked up a comfort read to enjoy while soaking in the tub. (Is that TMI?)

I loved Wylly Folk St. John as a child, my favorite book by far being The Secret of the Seven Crows.  Of course, I lost all those books when our house burned down, but my daughter has been buying them as presents for me.  This one is as far as I know her only adult novel, and it is always a fun read.

Finally, this month I participated for the first time in the FemCatholic book club and read this magnificent book.

I did not know much at all about Dorothy Day before I read this, and I fell in love with her.¬† What makes this book even more amazing than its subject is that it is written by Dorothy’s granddaughter, and focuses on the relationship of Dorothy and her daughter, Tamar.¬† I read this with highlighter in hand.¬† It was beautifully written and full of wisdom I want to remember, and it was so absorbing that I truly did not want to put it down.

So, without the challenge of reading a book a week for Booktober, I only managed five books this month.  Still, I did sit down with and read most afternoons for at least a little while.

This month I am tackling a couple of Advent reads, and in January I am taking part in FOUR book clubs so I will have a lot to share then!

I’m linking up with An Open Book.¬† Click below to see more great reads!

Merry Christmas Gift Guide

Now, I am not one to start Christmasing early.¬† We celebrate Advent hard and save Christmas for its proper 12 days as much as possible in today’s world.¬† But part of having a peaceful Advent for me is doing my Christmas shopping in November.¬† If you want to get an early start too, I’ve got some ideas for you!

Many of the products below were created by folks I know, or were given to me to review in the past.  There are a few (very few!) affiliate links among them.  In many cases I have included links to my reviews so you can learn more.

Let’s start with Catholic gifts.¬†

I used to think my only option for Catholic gifts was the local Catholic book and gift shop.¬† It’s still a great option when I need something right away, but there is so much else out there, much of it handmade by Catholic artisans.

I love, love, love Pink Salt Riot products.  You cannot go wrong shopping for your favorite Catholic woman here!  My top recommendation is the design your own bracelet:I wear the one I created most days!

I also love my St. Peter bracelet from Kindred Forest Co.

Visit them for a wonderful product line geared toward helping you be friends with the saints!

I am crazy about SockReligious (especially the clever name!).¬† There are so many choices that I can’t pick a favorite.¬† Maybe these?

Stay Close to Christ is another source for all kinds of Catholic gifts, including these adorable tiny saints.  You can get one for free with your $10 purchase if you enter the code LESLIE at check out.

I found these and many other favorite Catholic products via the CatholicsOnline Directory.  Click on the logo to learn more.

The talent of the artisans listed is truly a gift from God and I have been blessed by the products I have purchased.

A couple of my favorite Etsy shops I discovered via Catholics Online are Saongjai (I have bought sturdy, beautiful rosaries there) and No Heart Untouched (love her style and my husband loves the coffee cup I bought for him!).

There are always books on my Christmas list. 

I’ve already written some posts on Christmas-themed children’s books.¬† And here’s a link to non-Christmas picture books I love.

The following are a few Catholic books I have reviewed and can recommend.  Links to purchase are in each post:



And here are links to a few that I have not reviewed:

Be Yourself: A Journal for Catholic Girls¬† (The boys’ version is coming out soon!)

The Gift of Invitation (this is one of a series of Stay Connected journals)

Becoming Holy, One Virtue at a Time (another of the above series, to pre-order)

Made for Greatness (a growth mindset journal for Catholic kids)

Now for a few secular options!

I love the ring I purchased from Mama’s Jewelry, which contains the birthstones of all my children.¬† There are lots of styles to choose from and they are surprisingly affordable! ¬†

This is the best lipstick I have ever owned.¬† It’s no longer available from the seller in the linked review, but you can purchase it here.

This next one is a bit pricey, but Healtop health and wellness products are amazing.

Finally, for those-hard-to-shop-for-people-who-have-everything, visit Uncommon Goods.  Honestly,  I love almost everything they sell (especially the candles)!

Let me know in the comments if you found anything here for your Christmas list!

Books Worth Reading: Christmas Part II

I’ve written previously about our family’s Christmas book tradition and shared some of our favorites.¬† Just in time for you to order before Christmas, here are five more of our all-time favorites.

Who Is Coming to Our House

I am pretty sure this was the second Christmas book I bought for Emily, so it has been part of our Christmas for over a quarter of a century!  She loved it so much that she memorized most of it.  A big plus is that nowadays you can get it as a board book!

We Were There

Now, there are lots and lots of books that tell the story of the birth of Jesus from the point of view of the animals in the stable.¬† But there were other creatures present that you may not have thought of.¬† This book was–and is–a hit with our youngest two, who love all things creepy crawly; and it is a wonderful reminder that God made ALL creatures, not just the cuddly ones.

Santa and the Christ Child

From a literary standpoint, this one isn’t going to win any awards.¬† But I still love the story, and it reminds me of my favorite “Kneeling Santa” Christmas decoration.

Christmas Tapestry

We are big Patricia Polacco fans and several of our Christmas books were written by her, but I think this recent acquisition is my favorite.¬† Although it’s a Christmas miracle story, it’s also ecumenical and historical and heartwarming.

All Creation Waits

Maybe it is cheating a bit to include an Advent book but we got this last year and I cannot tell you how much we loved it.¬† We read one story every evening as a part of our Advent celebration.¬† I bought it for my son the animal lover but we were all enthralled and amazed by the beauty of God’s creation as revealed in these stories.

That’s all for this installment! Tell me about your favorites in the comments–I need some ideas for what to order this year!

 

Five Favorites

Today I’m linking up with Mama Knows, Honeychild to tell you about five of my favorite things! (Don’t be thinking Sound of Music here!)
1.  Yves Rocher
yves rocher
No, I am not on their payroll, although I would do a sponsored post for them is a second if I thought I could get free things. ¬†Because I buy stuff from them through the mail EVERY MONTH. ¬†I don’t really wear makeup except on the most special of occasions (maybe I’ll blog about that some time too). ¬†But I anoint myself liberally morning and night with beauty products from Yves Rocher–it’s my one self-indulgence and I’ve been indulging myself for close to 20 years, off and on.
I think I first discovered the company in one of those get-so-many-free-things-it’s-too-good-to-be-true ads in a magazine, and then I was hooked. ¬†Because although their deals seem too good to be true, they ARE true. ¬†Shopping with them brings me a constant supply of free samples, sales, and fun gifts. ¬†Pretty much all of my luggage came to me as free gifts from Yves Rocher. ¬†I’ve also got coffee mugs, blankets, and a lot of jewelry. ¬†And their products are great! ¬†In fact, I think I’ll do another five favorites post on my five favorite products!
Finally, it’s a French company and when you call customer service (they have good customer service, by the way, and they give you three months free credit automatically!), the people all have French accents. ¬†So that’s pretty cool. ¬†I’m always tempted to speak to them in French but then they might start talking really fast and that could be embarrassing.
2.  Hanna Andersson
hanna andersson
Buying clothes at Hanna Andersson is my only indulgence on behalf of my kids. ¬†I’ve always been happy to dress my kids in consignment sales finds, hand-me-downs, gifts from relatives, and the occasional necessity grabbed at Wal-Mart or the like, but I make an exception for hannas (as we call them around here). ¬†William spent most of his babyhood in Hanna Andersson clothes and it just kills me that I won’t have those to hand down to grandchildren one day. ¬†Because I totally could. ¬†Yes, they are expensive, but they last forever.
Since I discovered zulily, which often has Hanna Andersson sales, I’ve gone a little crazy buying them for Lorelei. ¬†She loves them to, because she is itchy and they are soft.
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3.  Deb
deb
Emily recently introduced me to this shop at the mall. ¬†They have great sales, and they have plus size clothes that are not frumpy. ¬†If you aren’t plus-sized, you have no idea what a big deal it is to find the combination of inexpensive and non-frumpy. ¬†I have, for example, been trying forever to find some capris that don’t look like someone’s grandmother would wear them. ¬†These are the ones I bought last week at Deb:
deb capris
Also, I have a very hard time finding jeans that fit correctly. ¬†I’ll spare you the details. ūüôā ¬†But I found a brand at Deb that does.
4.  Janice Holt Giles
I just posted about Janice Holt Giles in my What We’re Reading Wednesday post, but she deserves more than that. ¬†My mother introduced me to her books years and years ago, one summer when we were visiting the library, and I think I read them all. ¬†Hers are historical novels, with that sense of place that is so important to me as a reader. ¬†Many of them are part of a series in that the characters are related to one another, but they can be read separately. ¬†I think The Believers, which is about the Shakers, is my very favorite.
I am a terrible library patron. ¬†Invariably, I start off with the best of intentions, then forget to turn in my books, run up a huge fine, and am banned until I pay it (or wait until the day when I can be forgiven¬†by bringing in cans of food or school supplies). ¬†Right this minute my card and William’s card are non-functional, but we still have Lorelei’s! ¬†So I’m not a regular visitor to the library, but every summer we try again, because of summer reading.
And every summer I look to see what Janice Holt Giles books, long out of print, remain on the shelf of whatever library we are visiting, and I check some out.  We went to the downtown library last week, and I was rewarded with this:
act of contrition
This was published posthumously in 2005 (Giles died in 1979). ¬†I haven’t started it yet and I hope I like it!
5. South Knoxville Urban Wilderness
I hope y’all aren’t tired of hearing about this yet because I intend to plug it every chance I get. ¬†It’s getting national recognition and if you are local and don’t take advantage of it you should be ashamed. ¬†Here’s just one picture (more to follow) of our walk in the wilderness last weekend:
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And that’s the end! ¬†Check back next Tuesday (yes, I am a day late!) to see more of my favorite things.