Read Your Bookshelf Challenge: August 2022

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My book club meets in a bout an hour, and I realized I never posted about what we read last month. I really enjoyed the book I read for the August prompt: a body part in the title. Since people will start showing up at my door soon, I promise to keep this post short. I read Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson, which in the first book in his Reckoners series.

Amazon summarizes Steelheart this way:  Ten years ago, Calamity came. It was a burst in the sky that gave ordinary people extraordinary powers. The awed public started calling them Epics. Epics are no friends of man. With incredible gifts came the desire to rule. And to rule man, you must crush his will.
   Now, in what was once Chicago, an astonishingly powerful Epic named Steelheart has installed himself as emperor. Steelheart possesses the strength of ten men and can control the elements. It is said that no bullet can harm him, no sword can split his skin, and no fire can burn him. He is invincible. Nobody fights back . . . nobody but the Reckoners.

A shadowy group of ordinary humans, the Reckoners spend their lives studying Epics, finding their weaknesses, and then assassinating them. And David wants in.

When Steelheart came to Chicago, he killed David’s father. For years, like the Reckoners, David has been studying, and planning, and he has something they need. Not an object, but an experience.
   He has seen Steelheart bleed.
   And he wants revenge.

I really enjoyed the book, but something about it prevented me from giving it 5/5 stars. I think it was the first person young male perspective. There were too many references to attraction to a female character and about her body. Those really took me out of the story and felt *blech*.

I did see a couple of the twists coming a few chapters before their full reveal in the book. I like this sort of pacing. I feel smart for seeing it coming, but it isn’t so obvious as to think the characters are dumb for not seeing it sooner. Sanderson managed to surprise me a few times.

Overall, a fun anti-superhero story. I plan on reading the rest of the series. I did read Mitosis, the short story which immediately comes after Steelheart.

Other books read by people in my book club for this prompt included:

  1. Anna Dressed in Blood by Kandare Blake
  2. Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper
  3. A Promise of Ankles by Alexander McCall Smith

Read Your Bookshelf Challenge: July 2022

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My book club met last week to discuss our choices for July: a book you’ve been avoiding but actually want to read. As soon as I saw this prompt, I knew I wanted to read Skyward by Brandon Sanderson. I learned the hard way to wait until Sanderson finishes writing a series before starting to read it. My friend and I have waited years for him to wrap up the Wax and Wayne series. We should get to finally read the last book in November. I finally started following Sanderson’s YouTube channel to get his updates on writing. Once he shared that he completed and turned in the last book in the Skyward Flight series, I knew I could finally start the series.

Amazon summarizes Skyward this way: Spensa’s world has been under attack for decades. Now pilots are the heroes of what’s left of the human race, and becoming one has always been Spensa’s dream. Since she was a little girl, she has imagined soaring skyward and proving her bravery. But her fate is intertwined with her father’s–a pilot himself who was killed years ago when he abruptly deserted his team, leaving Spensa’s chances of attending flight school at slim to none.

No one will let Spensa forget what her father did, yet fate works in mysterious ways. Flight school might be a long shot, but she is determined to fly. And an accidental discovery in a long-forgotten cavern might just provide her with a way to claim the stars.

I will admit to disliking Spensa at first. Her brash attitude and decisions grated on me. She did grow and mature throughout the book. The characters in the book focused on flight school and not teenage drama, which I appreciated. Sanderson did a great job writing young adult characters who grow and mature without needing to be in a relationship. I don’t know if romance will come in later in the series, but it was refreshing to have a series for this target age start without it.

M-Bot, the Artificial Intelligence in the book, really added some much-needed humor in a book with a lot of death and battle. He starts out fixated on mushrooms and adds to his programming as he spends time with Spensa. I loved all of his lines by the end of the book. I definitely plan on continuing the series. However, I will probably wait until January to read more. The last book doesn’t come out until spring of 2023.

Other books my friends read this month included:

  • Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
  • Under the Dome by Stephen King (not recommended)
  • Crave by Tracy Wolff
  • Waymaker by Ann Vaskamp
  • The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
  • The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

Book Review: The King and the Dragon

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I received another advanced reader copy form NetGalley! This time, I requested a children’s book titled The King and the Dragon by James Shrimpton. This picture book was written for 3–5 year old children. It should be published on July 12th.

Here is the synopsis: When the knight slays the dragon in any story, readers and listeners all cheer in celebration. We rejoice because it echoes the Bible–the victory of good over evil is a prominent theme because the Lord came to have final victory over the devil.

In this imaginative story, James Shrimpton teaches children the story of redemption in the Bible through the lens of dragon slaying. With a memorable rhyming style, engaging artwork, and theologically grounded storytelling, this book is perfect for teaching children the story of Christ’s defeat of sin, death, and evil.

I think Shrimpton did a great job summarizing the Gospel for young children. My own children (1 thru almost 8) enjoy stories with dragons, knights, and victory. The beautiful illustrations will also help captivate their imaginations. I think this book will appeal to them and plan on purchasing a copy. I love finding books which help cement biblical truths.

My only complaints involve the ebook version. The full page spreads get broken up into separate pages, so readers can only see one half at a time. The words also do not line up with the correct illustrations. The photos I saw online of the physical version do not have these flaws. Overall, I look forward to seeing the finished product.

Disclaimer: I received an ebook version of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: Mothering by the Book

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I received another advanced reader copy from NetGalley: Mothering by the Book by Jennifer Pepito, which comes out on August 2nd. I rarely get books I request, so I became excited when NetGalley approved me for this one. Since I struggle with anxiety at times, I thought this book could help me.

Goodreads summarizes Mothering by the Book this way: Homeschool mom Jennifer Pepito was letting fear and insecurity push her around, but then she recaptured her confidence as a mom within the pages of classic literature like The Hiding Place and Pride and Prejudice. This inspiring read takes you on a fascinating and whimsical journey that will bring freedom and fun to your parenting–one book at a time.

I started this book at a bad time: a couple of weeks before the longest road trip my husband and I have taken with our four children. This book put fear and anxiety at the forefront of my mind when I struggled with anxiety about this trip. I wish I could say this book helped me through it, but I just ended up having more panic attacks. I ended up having to take a break from this book until after our trip.

While Mothering by the Book did not help me with my anxiety, I did still learn from it. This book reiterated the importance of reading aloud. During my first two years of homeschooling, I have neglected to include reading aloud books to my third child. She cannot sit through the chapter books her older brothers like to have me read to them.

I do like to use literature to teach my children. However, I think this book neglects to balance fictional role models with flesh and blood ones. We can learn much from literary heroines, but they cannot replace the role of godly mentors.

Overall, I think this book does a good job of portraying the importance of reading aloud for both mamas and children. However, I recommend The Read-Aloud Family over this book.

Disclaimer: I received an ebook version of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Mid-Year Freak Out Book Tag 2022

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I watched my friend Chantel’s video with this tag and decided to turn it into a blog post since I don’t have a YouTube channel. These questions forced me to look at my reading for the past six months. I may decide to write another post with answers from the books I have read aloud to my children. For this post, I will try to stick to books I have read by myself. However, there will be some overlap as I try to read some of our potential read aloud books before reading them to my children. Without further ado, here are my answers to the questions:

  1. The best book you’ve read so far
    • The Last Bookshop in London by Madeline Martin. This book came recommended from Sarah Mackenzie on her Read Aloud Revival podcast. I used to almost exclusively read historical fiction and fantasy, but I felt burned out on it a few years ago. I started reading more mystery and suspense novels. However, I enjoyed immersing myself back in a WWII historical book. Martin spent most of her book focusing on the relationships between Grace and her friend, her mother’s friend who takes them in, the owner of the bookshop where she works, and the community as a whole. The romance takes up very few pages, which I appreciated. I also enjoyed watching someone who did not read much fall in love with stories and become a voracious reader. This may stay my favorite book of the year. I have recommended it every chance I get.
  2. Best sequel you’ve read so far
    • Strong Poison by Dorothy L Sayers. A friend of mine has loaned me the Sir Peter Wimsey books over the past several months. The fifth installment of the series introduced Harriet Vane, Peter’s love interest. I enjoyed their humorous and flirty (at least on Peter’s side) interactions. I look forward to more of Harriet in future books.
  3. New release you haven’t read but want to
    • I have actually done a good job of reading books as they come out this year. Brandon Sanderson did re-release his Alcatraz vs the Evil Librarians series this year with new covers. I have not read this series by him yet, but I want to get to it. I do not know much about this series and would prefer to go into it blind.
  4. Most anticipated release for the second half of the year
    • I have a few for this one, all of them new releases by authors I have read
      • The Librarian Spy by Madeline Martin (July 26)
      • Fallout by Carrie Stuart Parks (September 13)
      • The Lost Melody by Joanna Davidson Politano (October 4)
      • The Premonition at Withers Farm by Jaime Jo Wright (October 11)
  5. Biggest disappointment
    • The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan. I had high hopes for this book. I love the idea of a bookmobile bookstore. Scotland (the setting) also has a special place in my heart since my grandmother was born there. I really enjoyed the first part of the book where the main character buys and renovates the van and moves to Scotland. The last chunk of the book is a trashy romance novel with the characters having sex all over the place and NOT what I want to read AT ALL. The book had the potential to become a favorite of the year, until the last 50 pages.
  6. Biggest surprise
    • The Length of a String by Elissa Brent Weissman. I found out about this book from a YouTube video by a person who has different reading tastes than I do. However, I ended up devouring this book. I found myself fascinated by Anna’s journal and Imani’s responses to the entries. I did not care for Imani’s mother but otherwise have no complaints about the book.
  7. Favorite new (debut or new-to-you) author
    • Nancy Mehl. I read both her Kaely Quinn Profiler and Quantico Files series. Her characters grow as Christians and in other ways throughout her series. I liked seeing some of the psychology behind finding criminals. I did prefer Kaely Quinn over Alex Donovan as a main character. I look forward to reading more of Mehl’s books.
  8. Newest fictional crush
    • This one doesn’t apply to me as I am happily married and prefer my flesh and blood husband to any fictional character. My favorite couple in a book I read this year is Aurelie Harcourt and Silas Rotherham. They truly want what’s best for each other and pray together for people they know. Their relationship focuses on more than just physical attraction and how they make each other feel.
  9. Newest favorite character
    • Beatrice from The Girl and the Galdurian by Tim Probert. I like how Probert visualizes Bea’s anxiety and the moments when it could overwhelm her. Cad pulls Bea out of her own head most of the time. Bea decides to do scary things to rescue others. I think she makes a great fictional role model.
  10. Book that made you cry
    • Books don’t make me cry, but if one were to do that, it would be Hope Between the Pages by Pepper Basham. Clara’s love story ends so tragically early, and she doesn’t tell her descendants about Oliver. I think it is really sad that she doesn’t tell anyone about him after his mother dies. So much drama could have been avoided.
  11. Book that made you happy
    • Garlic and the Vampire by Bree Paulsen. I love all of the veggie people and their garden. I should probably add the sequel to my list of anticipated releases. My boys found this book after I finished it and begged me to read it to them. We had so much fun with this book.
  12. Most beautiful book you’ve received or bought this year
    • The Imaginaries by Emily Winfield Martin. My friend and I oohed and ahhed over the illustrations in this book and went hunting for prints online. I also checked out a couple of her other books to read to my girls.
    • The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, specifically the interactive edition illustrated by Min Alima. I’ve had my eye on this edition for a few years, and I found a copy at my library’s book sale this year. I look forward to reading this childhood classic.
  13. What books do you need to read by the end of the year?
    • Books I hope to get to in July (but definitely by the end of the year) include:
      • Skyward by Brandon Sanderson. I’ve put off reading this book until I knew Sanderson finished writing the entire series. I have high hopes after hearing what some of my friends have said about this first book.
      • Finding Lady Enderly by Joanna Davidson Politano. I decided to read her books in publication order, and this one is next on my list.
      • Have His Carcase by Dorothy L Sayers. This is the next book for me to read in the Lord Peter Wimsey series, and I want to return my friend’s copy in a reasonable amount of time.

I hope 2022 has been a great reading year for all of you!

Read Your Bookshelf Challenge: June 2022

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My book club is about halfway between meetings, so I figured now is a good time to write about the books we discussed at our most recent gathering. The prompt for June encouraged us to read books with a book or books on the cover. I looked forward to this category since Chantel at Chantel Reads All Day put out the list in December. However, I had a difficult time actually choosing a book for this category.

I read The Last Bookshop in London for a new to me author back in April for May’s meeting and had finished Mothering by the Book before our May meeting (full review coming on Saturday). This left only one book on my to read list with a book on the cover: Mayhem at the Orient Express by Kylie Logan. I started the book with high hopes. Agatha Christie has become one of my favorite authors. Her Poirot mysteries first interested me in her books, and I had really enjoyed Murder on the Orient Express.

Logan’s book did not pay homage to one of Christie’s most popular books. Her story spent way too much time focusing on the drama between the women and their love/sex lives. I wanted to read a mystery, not a book which revolves around catty, hormonal women. If I had another book to choose, I would have quit this one. I do not recommend it.

During my book club meeting, I really wanted to discuss Lady Jayne Disappears by Joanna Davidson Politano. The cover features several pieces of paper on it, which I assume come from the book the main character writes. My lovely friends decided to call it a deconstructed book and count it for this month. We hold to the prompts very loosely in this group. Our meetings exist to have snacks and discuss books. The monthly challenges just give us nudges in what we decide to read. Few of us choose the same book, so this provides a great way to get reading recommendations.

Back to Lady Jayne Disappears, Goodreads summarizes the book this way: When Aurelie Harcourt’s father dies in debtor’s prison, he leaves her just two things: his wealthy family, whom she has never met, and his famous pen name, Nathaniel Droll. Her new family greets her with apathy and even resentment. Only the quiet houseguest, Silas Rotherham, welcomes her company.

When Aurelie decides to complete her father’s unfinished serial novel, writing the family into the story as unflattering characters, she must keep her identity as Nathaniel Droll hidden while searching for the truth about her mother’s disappearance–and perhaps even her father’s death.

Author Joanna Davidson Politano’s stunning debut set in Victorian England will delight readers with its highly original plot, lush setting, vibrant characters, and reluctant romance.

I liked Aurelie as a character. She prayed so much through the book and tried to be selfless. I wish I could be more like her. I appreciated Politano showing Aurelie and Silas praying together in her book. So many Christian authors leave that out of their books.

I do wish more of the book would have stayed on the mystery of Lady Jayne and why she disappeared. It seemed like Aurelie didn’t do much detecting in the story and just got most of the information in a couple of discussions with people. The balance between writing a mystery and figuring out a real one skewed one way by the end of the book. However, I still really enjoyed the book and even passed along my copy to a friend in my book club. Thanks to Chantel Reads All Day for the recommendation.

Other books my group discussed during our meeting included:

  • Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
  • Anne of Avonlea by L M Montgomery
  • The Stationery Shop by Marjan Kamali

Read Your Bookshelf Challenge: May 2022

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Yay! I finally caught up on monthly reading challenge posts. For May, we had to read a “new to you author.” I read so many fantastic books in May, several of them written by authors. I will have to include honorable mentions at the end of this post. My absolute favorites were: The Last Bookshop in London by Madeline Martin and Garlic and the Vampire by Bree Paulsen. Both of these books have started making their way through the group. I always love it when most of us end up reading a book over several months.

My friend Sara raved about Garlic and the Vampire during our April meeting. I ended up picking up a copy and reading it during my family vacation in May. A witch brought vegetables to life to help in her garden. They each have their own personalities and quirks in this graphic novel. We start with insecure Garlic showing up late to the farmer’s market and end with her confronting the vampire who has taken up residence at the local castle. The other vegetables think she has natural immunity since she is … well.. GARLIC. I liked the interactions between Garlic and the witch and the friendship between Garlic and Carrot. My boys (ages 5 and 7) picked up this book and flipped through it several times and begged me to read it aloud to them, which I did. So, I ended up reading this book twice in one month. I hope to get others in my book club to read it as well.

I also really enjoyed The Last Bookshop in London. This book came recommended by Sarah Mackenzie at Read Aloud Revival.This story follows Grace as she moves to London in 1939, when England prepares for war with Germany. Grace starts working in a bookshop with little love for literature and quickly becomes an avid reader. This book does have a sweet, chaste romance, but the bulk of the book focuses on Grace’s relationships with the friend who moves to London with her, her mother’s friend who lets the young women live at her house, the bookshop owner, and the community as a whole. I haven’t read too many books set at the beginning of World War II, so this book taught me a bit about that time period. I recommended this book enough to get my friend Lauren to read it before our meeting in May.

Some other new to me authors I read include:

  • Dear Sister by Alison McGhee
  • A Place to Hang the Moon by Kate Albus
  • Mothering by the Book by Jennifer Peppito
  • Treasure in the Lake by Jason Pammet
  • Premeditated Myrtle by Elizabeth Bruce

Due to end of the year activities, only one other person came to book club. She didn’t read a book for this prompt but hopes to get to some books by Jaime Jo Wright I loaned to her. I look forward to finding out if she read them when we meet on Thursday.

Read Your Bookshelf Challenge: April 2022

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My book club has our June meeting in less than a week, so I want to catch up on posts before then. For April, we needed to read books with our initials in the title. This prompt ended up being easier than I expected. I ended up reading three books for this one: What Mrs McGillicuddy Saw! by Agatha Christie, The Midnight Library by Matt Haig, and The Lost Kingdom of Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine.

What Mrs McGillicuddy Saw! (also published as 4:50 from Paddington which also has my initials in it) features Christie’s Ms Marple. I have come to appreciate Ms Marple over the past couple of years. I liked seeing more of her in this book, especially at the beginning. This story starts out with a middle-aged woman (Mrs McGillicuddy) taking the train home after doing her Christmas shopping. She gets a glimpse into another train, and sees a man strangling a woman. Mrs McGillicuddy tells her friend Ms Marple as soon as she gets home. Ms Marple then decides to prove the murder did happen and then figure out whodunit with the help of a young woman. I always enjoy seeing how Christie lays out the clues in her mysteries. This one did not disappoint!

I did not enjoy The Midnight Library nearly as much. The idea of trying out different versions of a life is interesting. I think Haig was trying to use this book to show people they have more influence on those around them than they may realize. However, I didn’t like the suicide aspect of the book. I also saw the ending coming and just slogged through the last bit of the book to get to the end.

The Lost Kingdom of Bamarre was a reread for me. I fell in love with Levin’s The Two Princesses of Bamarre as a teen and have reread it many times. I discovered this other book in the same fantasy world a few years ago. This gives some background about the country of Bamarre, some of its customs, some of the historical figures in the other book, and couple of the magical items used in Two Princesses. I enjoyed this reread of The Lost Kingdom.

Some of the books my friends read included:

  • The Abolition of Man by C S Lewis
  • Horseman: A Tale of Sleepy Hollow by Christina Henry
  • Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
  • The Shadow of Vesuvius by Daisy Dunn

Read Your Bookshelf Challenge: March 2022

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I have fallen behind on monthly updates on the Read Your Bookshelf Challenge. Prepare for several posts in a row as I catch up on prompts. March’s theme revolved around growth. My group applied this very liberally to the books we read. We counted anything with something growing the cover (plants, people, or animals), character growth, love between two characters, etc. Several of the books I read in March could have fallen into this category, but I shall focus on my two favorites: A Fine Romance–Falling in Love with the English Countryside by Susan Branch and The Length of a String by Elissa Brent Weissman.

A Fine Romance documents Susan Branch’s voyage to England via the Queen Mary 2 and her vacation in the English Countryside with her husband. I appreciated her illustrations and photos of the trip. Branch included the books she read along the way, which I liked (even though I don’t think we have the same taste in books). Branch and her husband visited several well-known houses and gardens. Her illustrations included flowers found in the gardens she visited. This travel journal made me want to visit England and spend time in the countryside there. I also liked the first chapter, in which the author talks about meeting, falling in love with, and marrying her husband.

The Length of a String starts with Imani preparing for her bat mitzvah in present day. She wants to ask her adoptive parents for information about her birth family. While struggling with how to ask for such a gift, Imani’s great-grandmother dies and leaves her books to her great grandchildren her book. Imani stumbles across Great-Grandma Anna’s diary from 1941. The book switches between Anna’s diary about moving to the United States from Luxembourg during World War II and Imani’s preparation for her bat mitzvah and learning about her great-grandma’s past. I enjoyed most of the book. I learned about New York and Luxembourg in the early 40s and Jewish traditions. However, I did not care for Imani’s mother at all. Her two children obviously know they are adopted since they are a different ethnicity from the parents and each other. Yet, the mom seemed to have given no thought or preparation for when her children would inevitably ask about their histories. She also shut down and focused more on herself and her feelings than her children. She redeemed herself by the end, but I didn’t like many of her interactions with Imani.

Only a couple of friends showed up for the meeting in March so I only have these other books to share:

  • Southern Research trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer
  • The Farmer Takes a Wife by John Gould

My Life In Books: 2022

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In February, Chantel from Chantel Reads All Day did a video for us patrons called “my life in books TAG”. I thought I would pop on to my blog and write down my answers here. I may decide to look back on which books currently shape me as a reader. Without further ado, here are my answers:

  1. Find a book for each of your initials:
    1. Adventuring Together by Greta Eskrigde
    2. (The) Dragon with a Chocolate Heart by Stephanie Burgis
    3. Mairelon the Magician and Magician’s Ward by Patricia Wrede (both part of a duology)
  2. Count your age along your bookshelf and talk about the book you land on: On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness by Andrew Peterson. I enjoyed the Wingfeather Saga and hope to read it to my kids someday. It is difficult to discuss without spoilers, but I’ll give it a go. Three children try to fix their broken world with the assistance of adults.
  3. Share a book set in your country: Constance by Patricia Clapp. A fun book for teen girls about the founding of Plymouth settlement.
  4. Share a book set somewhere you want to travel to: The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street. I’ve been to Scotland, but I would also love to visit England.
  5. Share a book that has your favorite color on it: Formula of Deception by Carrie Stuart Parks. This one bent my mind by the end. I actually love the blue color of the background.
  6. Share a book that you have the fondest memories reading: Book Love by Debbi Tung. It came along at a time when I needed it and has provided comfort in other times.
  7. What book did you have the hardest time reading?: Rex Appeal by Peter Larson. It’s difficult to read a book knowing the author has a different viewpoint than I do. Also, some of the science went over my head.
  8. What book on your TBR will you feel the most accomplished when you read it?: Skyward by Brandon Sanderson. I have put this one off until I can read the series all in one go. I can’t wait until Sanderson finishes it so I can read it.

I hope you have enjoyed this peek onto my bookshelves. Let me know your answers to these questions.