Category Archives: books

Come Rain or Come Shine by Jan Karon

Word Lily review

come rain or come shineCome Rain or Come Shine by Jan Karon, Mitford book 13 (GP Putnam’s Sons, September 2015), 304 pages

This installment in the beloved series is set at Meadowgate. Father Tim and Cynthia are settled in and working hard alongside so many others, preparing for Dooley and Lace’s wedding.

I love these books. They’re a breath of fresh air; coming home; comfort and relaxation.

The wedding ceremony itself is beautiful, of course. It kind of made me wish we’d had an Episcopal service for our wedding.

I don’t know what else to say. Another lovely installment in a gorgeous, comforting, honest series.

Have you read the Mitford books? What books are hugs to you?

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Picture books in our hands

I experienced something new last week: The online library system said I couldn’t reserve any more books because I’d reached my (25-book) limit.

IMG_20151102_072829846

(That reminds me … I wasn’t quite able to reserve all I’d wanted to when I hit that limit, but since we just picked up holds, there’s room. Lemme go rectify that … Done.)

We’ve been working our way through the SLJ’s Top 100 Picture Books, and I reserved the next chunk of them that are available at our library. We’re more than half way through that list, and I’ve added a few other lists to what I’m keeping track of, in terms of picture books. Let’s see, I’m tracking Caldecotts and 1001 Children’s Books You Must Read Before You Grow Up.

My son was SO. EXCITED. to pick up this huge stack of books (there were a few for me there, too)! Whenever we get new library books, they’re the most interesting thing in the world to him. I anticipate I’ll be reading aloud most of the day today, as long as my voice can hold out. (I’ve got a cold of some kind.)

Have you read any of these picture books? What are yours, or your children’s, favorite picture books? Have you worked through book lists like this? How do you decide what books to bring home?

Books that have had the most impact on me

Back in December, when the current meme of Top Ten Most Influential books was going around Facebook for the first time, I made a list but never got around to sharing it. I was just tagged (this time it says Top Ten Favorite books, but since I struggle so with choosing favorites, even in multiples, I’m going forward with the initial idea), so I’m sharing now.

This is the list I jotted down in December 2013, so it naturally doesn’t include any book I’ve read since then. And if I wrote it today, it might be different, but.

  1. Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn
  2. War & Peace by Leo Tolstoy
  3. Traveling Mercies / Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
  4. Dakota by Kathleen Norris
  5. Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery
  6. 1984 by George Orwell
  7. Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers
  8. The Manual of Detection by Jedediah Berry
  9. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
  10. The Reluctant Prophet by Nancy Rue
  11. A Star Curiously Singing by Kerry Nietz
  12. CS Lewis’ space trilogy / The Screwtape Letters

I’m not tagging anyone because I’m not that kind of person but also because I think nearly everyone has already done this. I’d love to see your lists, though!

The Catch by Taylor Stevens

the catchI LOVED The Informationist.

I read and loved The Innocent. And The Doll.

So it’s no surprise, really, that Taylor Stevens’s latest, The Catch, was another winner for me.

For one thing, I love the specific-countries-of-Africa that we get to know a little and Stevens’s treatment of them (in this book and The Informationist). We don’t get a generic setting, or a generic Africa. We get specifics and distinguishing characteristics, while still acknowledging that some overriding truths do apply across the board.

For another, I love the role language (and languages) play.

Mostly, I just love Michael Munroe.

The Catch wasn’t as jaw-dropping as The Informationist or The Doll, though. I think the factors that make me respect The Catch the most are the same things that make it not as much of a thrill ride as the earlier installments of Vanessa Michael Munroe books.

Michael is healing, you see. As the series has progressed, she’s becoming more in control of herself. She’ll never be normal (“normal” is a fallacy anyway), but she’s getting much closer to that than she was when we met her in book one. This is a very good thing; Stevens has allowed her protagonist to grow in a logical and believable way. But I’m afraid it’s also a bad thing. Will this be the end of the series? Will we as readers never again get to watch Michael work simply because she’s more capable of dealing with her past than she used to be?

This installment, because of the character’s growth, is much more character-driven than previous books were. But again, this is something I like in a book, yes, even in a thriller.

The world still has a place for someone with Michael’s skills; I certainly hope the book world still has a place for her, too. I may be better at delayed gratification than I used to be, but I’m not perfect. There’s still plenty for me to learn and do. Perhaps that’s an appropriate corollary? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Do you like character driven books? Have you ever read a book where character growth made said book unpalatable?

Other views:
Books and Movies
S. Krishna’s Books
Stacy’s Books
A Bookworm’s World

Disclaimers: This book was provided to me by the publisher. This post has affiliate links. If you click through and buy something, I might get a few pennies, without it costing you any more.

Quote

‘Living simply isn’t actually an option these days …’

“‘At first,'” … “‘it was more a matter of what I didn’t want. Well before I finished college, it had become clear to me that the standard deal — a modicum of luxury, in exchange for one’s free time and comfort — wasn’t for me. I was happy to live frugally, if that was what it took, in order to avoid the nine-to-five cubicle. I was more than willing to sacrifice the new car and the sun holidays and the — what are those things? — the iPod.'”

… “‘It wouldn’t have been much of a sacrifice, no. But what I failed to take into account is that no man is an island; that I couldn’t simply opt out of the prevailing mode. When a specific deal becomes standard through a society — reaches critical mass so to speak — no alternatives are readily available. Living simply isn’t actually an option these days; either one becomes a worker bee, or one lives on toast in a wretched bedsit with fourteen students directly overhead, and I wasn’t particularly taken with that idea either. I did try it for a while, but it was practically impossible to work with all the noise, and the landlord was this sinister old countryman who kept coming into the flat at the oddest hours and wanting to chat, and … well, anyway. Freedom and comfort are at a high premium just now. If you want those, you have to be willing to pay a correspondingly high price.'”

“‘Have you ever considered the sheer level of fear in this country?'”

“‘Part of the debtor mentality is a constant, frantically suppressed undercurrent of terror. We have one of the highest debt-to-income ratios in the world, and apparently most of us are two paychecks from the street. Those in power — governments, employers — exploit this, to great effect. Frightened people are obedient — not just physically, but intellectually and emotionally. If your employer tells you to work overtime, and you know that refusing could jeopardize everything you have, then not only do you work the overtime, but you convince yourself that you’re doing it voluntarily, out of loyalty to the company; because the alternative is to acknowledge that you are living in terror. Before you know it, you’ve persuaded yourself that you have a profound emotional attachment to some vast multinational corporation: you’ve indentured not just your working hours, but your entire thought process. The only people who are capable of either unfettered action or unfettered thought are those who — either because they’re heroically brave, or because they’re insane, or because they know themselves to be safe — are free from fear.'”

The Likeness by Tana French, pages 336-337, Daniel speaking

Sunday Salon

I was chatting with my husband about how long it had been since we each had blogged (as one does). I was thinking it had been a month or maybe a month and a half. But come to find out? It’s been longer than two months already. Sigh. I have so many ideas for things I’d like to write about, but as I opened the blog today, to attempt to break the drought, none of them were flowing from the fingers. So we’ll try a more useless kind of unsticking, like so.

I’m reading a book that, I can hardly remember during the day. But once I get back into it each night, I enjoy it (or at least one of the two points of view). I’m about 100 pages in now, but I’m thinking I should maybe abandon it. I know we’ve talked about this before, but what’s your standard for quitting a book? I don’t usually regret the books I don’t finish, but I do sometimes get frustrated that I wasted time on a book I’ve finished. I have a draft about this, untouched for almost a year (honestly).

I want to write about my crafty pursuits (so much you haven’t seen). I want to write about picture books.

In my seemingly never-ending quest for good books for my almost 2-year-old that don’t annoy me, I rediscovered SLJ’s Top 100 Picture Books list, posted it, and started keeping a record of those we’ve read, hoping to make it through all or most of them together. We still have a long ways to go, but that’s OK. How many of them have you read?

Related: Are there any books about Easter (the real thing) that have trains, even in the background? Because the boy is still quite train-obsessed.

I’ve been intending to post a round-up of train books, too. Some are awful, but there are some that are excellent. And some in between, of course.

And then I could share what I’ve been reading. Just because I haven’t blogged doesn’t mean I haven’t been reading. If you’re curious, here’s the list of what I’ve read, to tide you over.

Today, I’m sick. We’ve had so much illness in the past month or so that I’m wondering if we’ll ever be healthy again. (And how are you supposed to get better when you can’t sleep, again? I’ve never figured out how that is supposed to work.)

The weather, however, is supposed to be fantastic today. The sun is out and the high is forecast to be in the 70s. After what feels like an interminable (if lacking in snow) winter, this is most welcome.

What’s going on in your world today? Hope your day is sunny!

Picture Books, round one

Last week I asked for recommendations for picture books with excellent writing (read: non-annoying when read aloud 2,763 times per day, every day). I started by asking about the Caldecott (which is an award for picture books, but actually for illustration of said picture books). And then just for recommendations. And they rolled in.

I had a couple being pulled for me at the library, so I had to go pick them up. While I was there, I browsed, with my head full of titles and authors I’d been hearing about (and looking up) all week. I came home with a big stack, and we’ve been reading them all weekend. Here’s the low down.

Freight Train by Donald Crews (author and illustrator) (Caldecott honor book)
A good transitional book, on the way up from board books. Very few words. Nice graphic illustrations. Bold colors. Although it’s been eclipsed the past two days by the newest train book to enter the house (which I’ll hopefully get around to telling you about reasonably soon).

Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney (author and illustrator)
I picked this one up because A’s already familiar with this character from a few board books. I think we’ve only read it once so far.

Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale by Mo Willems (author and illustrator) (Caldecott honor book)
I’ve heard so many great things about Willems’s books. This one for sure didn’t disappoint. Again, very few words. Images are black and white photographs overlaid with cartoonish people. My guy laughs at the baby talk [not someone talking to a baby in what is usually called baby talk, but the verbalizations of a pre-talking kiddo].

We Are in a Book!, an Elephant and Piggie book, by Mo Willems (author and illustrator)
I laughed and laughed on the first read-through. A very self-aware book. The illustrations are straightforward and clear. I think it might (the humor at least) be a bit over my kiddo’s head, though.

The Snail and the Whale by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Axel Scheffler
The rhyme and rhythm are fantastic, the story is grand. More words per page than A’s used to, but he’s bringing it to me repeatedly. Really a beautiful book. So much to see on every page, too.

Clifford’s First Snow Day by Norman Bridwell
Not annoying, but not particularly enchanting to this mama or toddler, either. I don’t think, when we’ve read this one, that A has ever asked to read it again right away once yet.

The Three Snow Bears by Jan Brett (author and illustrator) (This my library had in both board book and picture book format)
Lots of people highly recommended Jan Brett’s books. I’m not sure I understand the fandom, though (at least not yet). This is the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, except Goldilocks is now Aloo-ki, who lives in an igloo, and the bears are now polar bears.

A Good Day by Kevin Henkes (author and illustrator)
Quite simplistic. A likes the squirrel and the dog, though. One of those books that don’t have much of a plot. Very few words per page, and a short page count, too. Not annoying, though.

Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen (Caldecott honor book)
Enchanting. The narrative doesn’t have the rhyme and meter some of the others do, but the story is sweet and illustrations are adorable (especially if you’re a yarn lover, but even if you’re not).

So, the winners this round are:

  • Freight Train (although it’s a bit dull and repetitive for me)
  • Knuffle Bunny
  • The Snail and the Whale (a bit longer, though)
  • Extra Yarn

Have you read any of these? What did you think? Do you have any (more) recommendations for us?

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Best of Reading for 2013

I’m borrowing shamelessly from Trish at Love, Laughter & Insanity (who got it from Jamie of The Perpetual Page Turner) so I didn’t have to come up with the questions, too. Just the answers will be enough blogging work for me these days, thank you very much.

2013 EOY book survey

1. Best Book You Read In 2013?
To Kill a Mockingbird. Lots of other great ones, but they pale in comparison to this one.

2. Book You Were Excited About and Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?
I wasn’t really all that underwhelmed by any books that I finished. Although Theodosia and the Serpent of Chaos was kind of annoying. And The Explanation of Everything was pretty disappointing, too, actually.

3. Most surprising (in a good way!) book of 2013?
Maybe Daystar by Kathy Tyers?

4. Book you recommended to people most in 2013?
Daystar, The Dragon’s Tooth, The Reluctant Prophet (not a 2013 read for me, though; does that count?), With a Name Like Love … And then there are the book club books; since I picked them, does that count?
:: How to Save a Life, Small Damages, Maisie Dobbs

5. Best series you discovered in 2013?
• the ND Wilson one
• Robert Liparulo’s series that started with The 13th Tribe
• Also, started (but not really discovered this year): Tess Gerritsen’s Rizzoli and Isles books.

6. Favorite new authors you discovered in 2013?
Harper Lee? Except my standard for declaring someone a favorite author generally includes having read more than one of their books. So. ND Wilson?

7. Best book that was out of your comfort zone or was a new genre for you?
Looks like I stayed mostly within my comfort zone for reading this year.

8. Most thrilling, unputdownable book in 2013?
The Doll / Dragon’s Tooth / Eleanor & Park

9. Book You Read In 2013 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year:
Um, maybe Eleanor & Park, if I pick it for book club. I only very rarely reread, but I did more in 2013 than normal, by a lot. And that’s mostly because I picked them for book club and then needed to refresh my memory before the actual discussion.

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2013?
Small Damages / How to Save a Life

11. Most memorable character in 2013?
Well, it’s hard to say it’s not Maisie Dobbs, since I’ve read like 10 books starring her, but Sherlock Holmes might be a strong contender … Oh. Also Scout Finch, and Eleanor and Park.

12. Most beautifully written book read in 2013?
To Kill a Mockingbird. Small Damages. How to Save a Life.

13. Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2013?
To Kill a Mockingbird.

14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2013 to finally read?
TKAM? Me: Broken Record.

15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2013?
I don’t really keep track of quotes.

16.Shortest and Longest Book You Read In 2013?

Shortest: Man of Action is a standalone short story (87 pages); The Sign of the Four clocks in at 136 pages, according to what I can find.
Longest: Daystar (652 pages)

17. Book That Had A Scene In It That Had You Reeling And Dying To Talk To Somebody About It? (a WTF moment, an epic revelation, a steamy kiss, etc. etc.) Be careful of spoilers!
A Treacherous Paradise by Henning Mankell

18. Favorite Relationship From A Book You Read In 2013 (be it romantic, friendship, etc).
Eleanor and Park
Maisie Dobbs and James Compton

19. Favorite Book You Read in 2013 From An Author You Read Previously
The Doll. Small Damages. Eleanor & Park.

20. Best Book You Read That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else:
With a Name Like Love, I think.

21. Genre You Read The Most From in 2013?
mystery/thriller

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2013?
Atticus Finch?

23. Best 2013 debut you read?
I’m not even sure I read any 2013 debuts.

24. Most vivid world/imagery in a book you read in 2013?
Small Damages.

25. Book That Was The Most Fun To Read in 2013?
The Dragon’s Tooth

26. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2013?
To Kill a Mockingbird, maybe?

27. Book You Read in 2013 That You Think Got Overlooked This Year Or When It Came Out?
Into the Free. Daystar. With a Name Like Love.

And then looking forward…

1. One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2013 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2014?
Jane Eyre
Count of Monte Cristo
Cloister Walk

2. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2014?
The new Maisie Dobbs? Really want to get to Matthew Quick’s latest, too.

3. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging In 2014?
Actually blog, maybe? Continue clearing the TBR book case.

So what did I read in 2013? (links lead to posts)

1. The Theory of Everything by J.J. Johnson (2012)
2. The Stars Shine Bright by Sibella Giorello (2012)
3. To Far to Say Far Enough by Nancy Rue (2012)
4. Leaving Everything Most Loved by Jacqueline Winspear (2013)
5. Doors Open by Ian Rankin (2010/2008)
6. The Missing File by DA Mishani (2013)
7. The Girl in the Green Raincoat by Laura Lippman (2008)
8. Into the Free by Julie Cantrell (2012)
9. Seeking Unseen by Kat Heckenbach (2012) (ebook)
10. Angel Eyes by Shannon Dittemore (2012)
11. Dead Man’s Hand by Eddie Jones (2012)
12. A Light in the Darkness by Heather Sutherlin (2012)
13. The 13th Tribe by Robert Liparulo (2012)
14. Daystar by Kathy Tyers (2012)
15. Chasing Jupiter by Rachel Coker (2012)
16. Freeheads by Kerry Nietz (2011)
17. Placebo by Steven James (2012)
18. Cake: Love, Chickens, and a Taste of Peculiar by Joyce Magnin (2012)
19. With a Name like Love by Tess Hilmo (2011)
20. Crazy Dangerous by Andrew Klavan (2012)
21. Soul’s Gate by James L. Rubart (2012)
22. Double Blind by Brandilyn Collins (2012)
23. The Dragon’s Tooth by ND Wilson (2011)
24. Caught by Margaret Peterson Haddix (2012) (ebook)
25. So Cold the River by Michael Koryta (2010)
26. A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans (2012) (ebook)
27. The Judgment Stone by Robert Liparulo (2013)
28. Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos by RL LaFevers (2007)
29. Still Midnight by Denise Mina (2009)
30. A Red Herring without Mustard by Alan Bradley (2011)
31. A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1887) (ebook)
32. The End of the Wasp Season by Denise Mina (2011)
33. Goodness and Mercy by Patti Hill (2013) (ebook)
34. A Treacherous Paradise by Henning Mankell (2013)
35. The Sign of the Four by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1890) (ebook)
36. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1892) (ebook)
37. Sidekicked by John David Anderson (2013)
38. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (1960)
39. The Explanation of Everything by Lauren Grodstein (2013)
40. The Doll by Taylor Stevens (2013)
41. Small Damages by Beth Kephart (2012)
42. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell (2013)
43. Motorcycles, Sushi & One Strange Book by Nancy Rue (2010)
44. How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr (2011) (reread)
45. The Drowned Vault by ND Wilson (2012)
46. The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1894) (ebook)
47. Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear (2003) (reread)
48. The Surgeon by Tess Gerritsen (2001)
49. The Apprentice by Tess Gerritsen (2002)
50. The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1902) (ebook)
51. Man of Action by Matt Bronleewe (2013) (ebook)

Quick Stats

Book Posts: 18 (44%) [not counting this post, oops]
E-books: 10 (20%)
Library Books: 4 (8%)
From the Shelf: 11 (21.5%)
Male/Female Ratio: 21:30 (41% : 59%)
Book Club: 3+
Fiction/Non-Fiction Ratio: 50:1 (98% : 2%)
Books Abandoned: 20

How was YOUR 2013 reading year? I’d love to hear what your favorite book of the year was.