Monday, May 25, 2015

Summer Reading Challenge 2015

My friend Sarah Katherine asked me to do this reading challenge with her this year right after I had posted my list of 23 books for the year as a new year's resolution. She is likely already completely finished with the challenge, but I have been waiting to get farther through my original list before I start on this one. So, as summer approaches, I have decided I will make Sarah Katherine's reading challenge my summer reading challenge and finish the remainder of my list (the Andrew Peterson books, the two Julie Klassen ones that haven't come out yet, As Always Julia, and Delta Wedding) after the summer. Look at me saving the best for last (not really, I am not looking forward to those last two at all!!) And 12 books for the year is not much of a challenge for any of us, though I believe it's the categories that makes this more of a challenge; however, 12 books from Memorial Day to Labor Day is a bit more of a challenge, especially when we're not really talking about beach reads. In the end, my list has 16 rather than 12, and there's still one more I'll need to choose. So, 17 books in 15 weeks. 20 weeks into the year, I have already read 30 books, so I am hopeful I will be able to meet this challenge. I started reading the first selection (I'm not doing this in order by the way due to my reliance on library availability) Ready for the list?

#1 a book you've been meaning to read

Jack: A Life of C.S. Lewis by George Sayer - my daddy gave me this book when I graduated from Auburn. Why haven't I read it?! At first it was the RUF intern study program and then it was burn-out from the RUF intern study program, and then it was issues with my dad. Once my issues were hashed out, I had forgotten about the book entirely. But now, I'm ready! I'm looking forward to it.

#2 a book published this year

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee - Cannot wait until July 14th!

#3 a book in a genre you don't typically read

Did y'all know there is a genre called magical realism? I did not. I am not completely sure I understand what it is, but I am going to read a book from that genre that sounds like it will be delightful. The Dress Shop of Dreams by Menna van Praag sounds like it could be a pretty good. And I am trying very hard to pick books that sound like they could be pretty good! I also feel like I can add One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories by B.J. Novak to this category. It was on the paperback bestseller list at one point recently, but has fallen off. But I almost never read short stories so it works for my atypical genre as well. 

#4 a book from your childhood

Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink - this is another I can't wait to read! It is the first chapter book I ever went back and read twice! I think I'll read it aloud to Elspeth this time! Another favorite was Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes and that may be a good one to read aloud to August if I have time for it.

#5 a book your mom loves

A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken - she also recommended The Screwtape Letters so I will try to get to that one too- can't believe I've never read it!

#6 a book that was originally written in a different language

This one was tough. I took a literature in translation class at Auburn and loved it. But there are plenty of scary suggestions out there like Tolstoy and Dosteovsky! I thought about Dumas. I loved The Count of Monte Cristo in high school, but I've heard that his other books aren't as good. And I thought about Heidi. I have my grandmother's childhood copy. But something in me wanted to read something written in the last twenty years. The classics will always be there, but I felt like I'd benefit from an introduction to a modern author from somewhere other than America. I finally decided on The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Luis Zafon of Barcelona because it is supposed to be a great book for book lovers. We shall see what this book lover thinks.

#7 a book that "everyone" has read but you

Okay, I don't know very many people. And the problem with this category is that I generally read what it seems like everyone else is reading unless I'm just not interested. Hunger Games? Not interested. Twilight? Not interested. Obviously, those are examples from a little while back. But it seemed like everyone at church up here in Iowa had read Gilead so I read Gilead. A couple of years ago, everyone was reading The Help so I read The Help. But nothing seems to be getting a lot of buzz around me these days. So I'm going to wait on this one. I feel like I'm copping out, but I just can't think of anything. I'm sure something will surface over the summer as everyone has more time to read.

#8 a book you chose because of the cover

This goes against everything in me. For one thing, we have all been taught never to judge a book by its cover! For another thing, how often do you choose a movie because you just love that actor and his body of work and the screenwriter wrote something else you really enjoyed and it really looks funny only to be horrified by the movie. Or bored silly. Or both. It happens to George and I a lot! So committing to spend the time it takes to read an entire book, as opposed to the hour and a half it takes to watch a movie (coupled with our increasing comfortableness with turning a movie off altogether when we realize it's a stinker), is kind of a big deal. Not huge, but I tend to scour Amazon reviews before I make such a commitment. Well Abby, it's time to live a little! So, with my handy dandy Barnes and Noble 15% off coupon in hand, I headed over to Barnes and Noble today to choose a book by the cover. I realize I could've gone to the library, but there aren't many displays at the library. Plus, it was a fun outing with the kids. I picked up a book called How to Be a Heroine: Or, What I Learned From Reading Too Much by Samantha Ellis. I know nothing about it but the title and the description from the little blurb on the back cover. But I'm looking forward to it!  

#9 a book by a favorite author

Maud Hart Lovelace has earned her place as a favorite of mine because of the Betsy Tacy books. If you have not read the Betsy Tacy books, you are missing out. Truly. Betsy and Tacy are two girls growing up in Deep Valley, Minnesota and the reader has the privilege and the delight to grow up with them through the ten books Mrs. Lovelace wrote in the series. There are several other books about Deep Valley that do not follow Betsy herself that I have not read, simply because when I read about Betsy, I have to stay with Betsy because I can't wait for what happens next! However, I should have read these other books in the series by now! Amabel has, and I am very eager to read her copy of Emily of Deep Valley by Maud Hart Lovelace.

#10 a book recommended by someone with great taste 

When I think of someone with great taste, I think of my friend Annie Barlow. She loves Jane Austen, so there's that, and she reads more than me, so there's the certainty she'll have some books in mind that I haven't read. She's smart and has a great since of humor so I know she will neither recommend something horribly written nor horribly dull. And we both agree on not wasting our time on anything that's overtly dark and heavy- ain't nobody got time for that! Annie recommended a couple of things to me. First of all, Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. She also recommended Uncle Dynamite by P.G. Wodehouse. I have long wanted to read Wodehouse -since Lord Grantham mentioned him in Notting Hill. (Well, he wasn't playing Lord Grantham at the time.)

#11 a book you should have read in high school

The Once and Future King by T. H. White - I truly should have read this in high school. It's long. And at some point, our twelfth grade English teacher decided we should just split the last part of the book up and each person in the class would read a chapter and "teach it" to everyone else. I remember, even at the time, thinking this was a cop out. I think the teacher even acknowledged it. But we were taking too long with it, so we did it this way. And I remember kind of faking it with my chapter, because I really didn't know who anyone was or what was going on. I had been behind when we quit. So, I owe it to myself to read it. And I'm looking forward to doing so.

#12 a book that's currently on the bestseller list

I've been keeping an eye on the bestseller list since I decided I would do this this summer and have already added several books to my library list only to have the book fall off the bestseller list before the hold is ready. Meanwhile, all the ones in which I am not interested in the least seem to linger on the list for weeks! I am so ready for The Girl on the Train to fall off the list! Not interested! Something tells me most books that the majority of the public are going to be reading and talking about is not going to be for me- case in point, Fifty Shades of Grey. But as it happens, we had dinner last night with some new friends and as we got to talking about books, she recommended and subsequently loaned me two books that are both on the bestseller list right now. The first one is All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. The second book is The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

2014 Reading List

With my list of books I want to read this year, I thought I might like to also have a list of books I read last year. It's hard to remember, but this is what I have come up with so far apart from the eight cheesy Christmas books I read on my Kindle in December and any kind of Christian Living book:

1) Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell -- this was actually my first time reading this book. It will not be the last.

2) To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee -- not my first time to read this, but also not the last.

3) Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg -- I read everything Fannie Flagg wrote in 2014. I have to say, I like her most recent stuff best. To me, this is one of those odd cases where the movie is better than the book.

4) A Redbird Christmas by Fannie Flagg -- this one is one of her better ones, in my opinion. It was sweet and I have even recommended it to some of our customers at the flower shop who love cardinals.

5) Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man by Fannie Flagg -- just no. This is her first and worst book. Don't bother. Her more recent works are so much better.

6) Can't Wait to Get to Heaven by Fannie Flagg -- now, this is third in a series and I didn't realize it and read it first. It is mostly about old people that live in a small town in rural Missouri. If it sounds boring to you, we have that in common. I probably would've liked it better if I had known who any of the people were beforehand as I think it was written for people who knew and loved the characters from the series (some of whom were dead and revisited in heaven- sort of).

7) Standing in the Rainbow by Fannie Flagg -- this is the second in the series and again, I didn't realize it was a series until I began reading this one, and even then, didn't realize there was another one which came first. I think this one is the best of the three and could stand alone.

8) Welcome to the World, Baby Girl by Fannie Flagg -- by the time I got to this book, I was sick to death of Elmwood Springs, Missouri. Yep, this is the first of the series- the first and the worst. It is clear to me that Ms. Flagg has become a better  and better writer and storyteller with time- encouragement for all of us!

9) I Still Dream About You by Fannie Flagg -- I liked this one. I remember when it came out and was written up in Southern Living because I clipped the article so I would remember to read it because, at that point, I had never read anything by Ms. Flagg. Four years later, I got around to reading this and everything else she ever wrote!

10) The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion -- I also liked this one. This was the first one I read as it had just come out in late 2013. The story follows one of the characters from Welcome to the World, Baby Girl, but again, I didn't realize that at the time. Basically, I read everything out of order. Still, this was my favorite of all of Ms. Flagg's books.

11) The Optimist's Daughter by Eudora Welty --This is the second time I've read this one. There isn't much of a plot; it's more of a character study, I guess. It won a Pulitzer Prize, but I'm not sure I get it.

12) The Lady of Milkweed Manor by Julie Klassen -- I also read everything Mrs. Klassen wrote last year. And I read these in order of publication though it didn't matter as there were no repeat characters. They were all pretty good in an easy reading sort of way.  These are the ones I said were kind of Ruth stories set in Regency England.

13) The Apothecary's Daughter by Julie Klassen

14) The Silent Governess by Julie Klassen

15) The Girl in the Gatehouse by Julie Klassen

16) The Maid of Fairbourne Hall by Julie Klassen

17) The Tutor's Daughter by Julie Klassen

18) The Dancing Master by Julie Klassen

19) Killing Lincoln by Bill O'Reilly -- Oh dear. This is most certainly not an endorsement. I can stand neither the subject nor the author. But I love my dear coworker who really wanted me to read this and lent it to me. I tried to find something nice to say about it. Evidently, I did because the following two were lent to me afterward.

20) Killing Kennedy by Bill O'Reilly

21) Killing Jesus by Bill O'Reilly

22) A Lasting Impression by Tamera Alexander -- This is the book I mentioned that I read because it was set Belmont Mansion in Nashville. It was kinda cheesy.

23) Beauty so Rare by Tamera Alexander -- This is the second book set at Belmont Mansion and it was even cheesier. George and I jokingly referred to this book as "booty so hot" as a misquoted reference to an old SNL sketch (I have since found out that the actual quote was "booty so tight" from "The Best of T.T. and Mario"- fair warning, it is horribly inappropriate!)

24) Pride, Prejudice, and Cheese Grits by Mary Jane Hathaway -- I really wanted to like this series because it combined my two loves of Jane Austen and the South. But they were no good. I read the second one just to give it a fair chance, but they really just aren't worth reading.

25) Emma, Mr. Knightley, and Chili-Slaw Dogs by Mary Jane Hathaway

26) Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry --I think this is probably sacrilege, but I didn't really love this. The writing was lovely, of course. But the characters were all strong, silent types. No one talked about anything or expressed feelings, and that is just a world I could not live in!

27) The Death of Santini by Pat Conroy -- My brother-in-law lent this to me and it was really good. It's chock full of family dysfunction but does have some redemptive elements to it.

28) Homesick: a Memoir by Sela Ward -- This is sort of the first book I read out of homesickness for the South and the list above is what I can remember of what followed! I think it was written at the height of Sela Ward's acting career, but I have not watched either of the shows for which she is famous so I just found myself not caring. For some reason, I expected it be more about love for the South than her very specific story, but I was wrong.

29) The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander -- I read this series, The Chronicles of Prydain,  aloud to the kids over the summer. We enjoyed it, but we were also ready for it to be over by the time we got to the last book.

30) The Black Cauldron by Lloyd Alexander

31) The Castle of Llyr by Lloyd Alexander

32) Taran Wanderer by Lloyd Alexander

33) The High King by Lloyd Alexander

34) Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James -- I read this because I knew Masterpiece was going to do an adaptation of it and I figured it must be worth reading if it was worth adapting. It wasn't bad, but it's really just so impossible to come alongside Jane Austen. I understand why people try, because we all want more Austen, but we probably need to just reconcile ourselves to the fact that we won't get any more until the new heavens and the new earth.

35) Longbourne by Jo Baker -- See, I need to take my own advice. There is no new Jane Austen. This book really was sacrilege. I hated it. Truly. It was yucky! Yucky! Yucky! Yucky!

36) Bridget Jones' Diary by Helen Fielding-- The third Bridget Jones book came out in late 2013 and my library immediately had a wait list for all three books. I didn't get started on these until early 2014. They're pretty much exactly like the movies, only everyone is slightly more charming on the silver screen. I have heard Hugh Grant doesn't want to be in the movie for the third one so I guess it won't get made- at least not until he changes his mind!

37) Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason by Helen Fielding

38) Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy by Helen Fielding

39) Shopaholic to the Stars by Sophie Kinsella -- I read everything Sophie Kinsella ever wrote (well, not what she wrote under her real name, Madeleine Wickham) in 2013 and then had to wait almost a year for her to put something new out. And now I will have to wait again for the next book! I completely adore her!

40) Wish You Were Eyre (The Mother-Daughter Book Club) by Heather Vogel Frederick -- Oh my goodness! This is the sweetest series that I found for Amabel in 2013. I bought them all for her and read them before she did! But the last volume came out a little later and I didn't get to it until this year. It was so good, but it was the last one and we are a little sad there won't be any more stories about our friends in Concord, Massachusetts.

41) My Life in France by Julia Child -- I had started this a while ago and somehow quit reading it. I think because Mrs. Child was actually really liberal and kind of harsh about a lot of things, despite Meryl Streep's adorable portrayal of her in Julie and Julia.  I love reading cooking memoirs, but this is actually one of my least favorite. Maybe if she hadn't brought her political views in so much. She also had a very bad relationship with her dad and I didn't like hearing about that either, especially because the problems in the relationship centered around differing political views. Can you imagine being so politically minded that you would let it come between you and your family?

42) Nightmares by Jason Segel -- I read this as soon as it came out last year and I could get my hands on a copy from the library. It was kind of a Monsters Inc. meets Coraline... I don't know, I can't exactly remember, who was meeting whom, but while reading it, it was all very familiar. I started a new N. D. Wilson book today and it kept nagging at me that I had read something else other worldly around Halloween. That was it! I liked it.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

2015 Reading List

Instead of making a New Year's Resolution this year, I made a list of books I want to read. The only thing is, I keep adding to it! A little over two weeks in, here is the list. But I am sure I will add to it as the year goes on- especially because it is a list of 23, and that is an irritating number (I prefer nice round number ending in 5 or 0 or, at the very least, an even number, if you please). In no particular order:

1) As Always, Julia: The Letters of Julia Child and Avis DeVoto by Joan Reardon -- my dear friend Rebekah and I were reading My Life in France together until her children hid her book from her! I finished it on my own, and I have to say, I didn't love it like I thought I would; but I think that maybe Mrs. Child's friendship with Mrs. DeVoto was one of the loveliest things about her. (I also thought her marriage was really sweet too.) As Rebekah is a very special friend with whom I have not long had the pleasure of living in the same place, I thought reading this book about a very special long distance friendship (involving a shared love of food, no less!) would be an apropos follow up read in honor of my special long distance friend with whom I share a love of food.

2) As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales From the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes -- Honestly, I am not sure why I am reading this. I believe it started as a book George mentioned to me that he thought I would be interested to know about and then I put myself in line to read it- 15th out of 4 copies on order, I think- and eventually, it arrived and was read by 14 people, and the library let me know it was ready for me. I am three chapters in right now, and it is interesting enough; I just wonder how it will continue to be now that we have met everyone and been through the table reading.

3) Delta Wedding by Eudora Welty -- Oh dear. I had this out from the library for the maximum number of weeks and renewals and still only made it through Chapter 2. It has that Faulkner-like quality of involving quite a few characters of the same family from quite a few generations in a very subtle plot that has the reader feeling like surely there is more going on here than they realize. And, if the reader is me, she will begin seriously questioning her intelligence and ability to follow such a complex and artful saga. I read a wonderful review on Amazon that encouraged me to stay with it after all, but unfortunately, the library would not allow another renewal. I shall give it a few weeks and see if they will let me check it out again. I can't say that I care much at all about Dabney Fairchild and her kin, but I do care about finishing what I started, and, even moreso, about Southern Literature, so it stays on the list.

4) 100 Cupboards by N. D. Wilson -- This is first on my list of quite a few by Mr. Wilson. What happened was, I read Notes From the Tiltawhirl and was so impressed, I decided I wanted to read his fiction. He reminded me of my husband and his friends- guys that I love! I was really surprised and wanted to hear more! I am sure I have mentioned having multiple problems with Mr. Wilson's parents. I really want to like them and can even allow that they are very nice people, but their writing seems harsh and judgmental and it hurts my feelings on other people's behalf. I am not sure if I had low expectations of Mr. Wilson because of his parents or if Notes From the Tiltawhirl was really that good, but it piqued my interest and earned my respect at the very least.  I will say that I wasn't crazy about 100 Cupboards and have put the next two books in the series off because of that. It's not that it wasn't well written, it's just that it was rather dark. I have heard good things about his newer series so those are also on my list and I hope they are a bit less grey.

5) Dandelion Fire by N. D. Wilson

6) The Chestnut King by N.D. Wilson

7) The Dragon's Tooth by N. D. Wilson

8) The Drowned Vault by N. D. Wilson

9) Empire of Bones by N. D. Wilson -- they don't sound any less grey do they?

10) Belinda by Maria Edgeworth -- This is a book George got me a while back that I have just never stayed with. I always read the introduction in books and the introduction to this book gave away the entire plot, without warning, all the way down to which gentleman wins the heroine's heart in the end! That took some of the wind out of my sails, but I really do want to read it anyway. George thought it would be a fun read for me because the author was one of Jane Austen's contemporaries.

11) The Last Days of Socrates by Plato -- This is another book inspired by Nate Wilson. He is classically educated and knows all this history and philosophy and stuff I don't know. I don't like it that I don't know these things because I feel like I'm capable of knowing, just no one ever taught me. Well, no one ever taught George either, but he's just read all the philosophers. George tells me I can read Plato, and that I would actually like it. So, it's on the list.

12) The Bark of the Bog Owl by Jonathan Rogers -- This is the first in a trilogy (the rest of the series is listed below) that I have been interested in for a while. I guess the reason for my interest is because the author is often linked to Andrew Peterson whose Christmas album is my all time favorite and whose fiction series has long been a favorite of Amabel's (and is listed below this series on my list as she has implored me to read them for quite some time.)

13) The Secret of the Swamp King by Jonathan Rogers

14) The Way of the Wilderking by Jonathan Rogers

15) On the Edge of the Sea of Darkness by Andrew Peterson

16) North! Or Be Eaten by Andrew Peterson

17) The Monster in the Hollows by Andrew Peterson

18) The Warden and the Wolf King by Andrew Peterson

19) Gilead by Marilynne Robinson -- This is a Pulitzer Prize winning novel by an Iowa author. I have dedicated the last year or so to reading almost exclusively Southern authors and you can see that this list is a departure from that. In thinking that we may also depart from Iowa altogether, I decided to read some of Ms. Robinson's works before I go. If I hate the first one, I reserve the right to remove the next two from off the list.

20) Home by Marilynne Robinson

21) Lila by Marilynne Robinson

22) To Whisper Her Name by Tamera Alexander -- Okay, this one is a bit humorous. I read these period novels last summer by a Christian author, Julie Klassen, who loved Jane Austen and wrote stories set in the same time period-- usually about girls who had suffered some misfortune or other that should remove them from all good society, but, because of their character and courage, ended up with a wealthy and wonderful man in the end anyway- Ruth stories set in Regency England, if you will. They were, honestly, page turners, even if they wouldn't win Pulitzers (many of them did win the Christy Award though which is how I heard of them) and I quickly read through her entire body of work. Often alongside Mrs. Klassen as a nominee for the Christy Award was the name Tamera Alexander. Though Mrs. Alexander lost to Mrs. Klassen each time, as they say, it is an honor just to be nominated. And I thought I might like to read what she had written as well. And, as it turns out, she has written several post-Civil War era novels about the historical homes in my hometown of Nashville, Tennessee, two about Belmont Mansion and two (second one coming out later this year) about Belle Meade Plantation. I read the Belmont Mansion books but my library did not have the one listed here set at Belle Meade Plantation. I have found it at a library in the suburb where I work so I just need to go over there and get a library card.

23) The Princess Bride by William Goldman -- Well, I don't suppose I can very well read a book about the making of the movie without reading the original book as well.

 24) Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay  --  I loved this book. There are reviews on Amazon about it being a rip off of Daddy Long Legs, but to me, the plot was so obviously parallel that I don't think the author was trying to get away with anything. She took a format, and idea, a plot really, and updated it and made it more interesting. I don't think she was thinking she wouldn't be found out, and I don't think it took anyone any real detective work to find her out. It was pretty obvious. But oh, it was so good. I really loved it. (And I can add it to my list without any added anxiety because it is also marked off the list!)

25) Lizzy and Jane by Katherine Reay -- Longest. Library. Hold. Ever. I have been waiting to read this author's second book since I read the first couple of chapters of her first book and the library had it on order. It's been on order for like six weeks. At least. It makes me want to donate Amazon Prime to the library. Why does it take so long?!

26) The Gatecrasher by Madeleine Wickham -- Remember how I said I read everything by Sophie Kinsella but nothing she wrote under her real name? Well, I did listen to one on audio a few years back and it was terrible. For one thing though, the person reading the book gave everyone horrible voices. And then I realized that it was actually only her second novel. You know how I said Fannie Flagg had improved so much with time? Clearly, so has Mrs. Wickham. So I decided to give her another try. And I liked The Gatecrasher. It isn't so lighthearted as the Sophie Kinsella books, but it was a page turner, and I need a few of those peppered in amongst some of the heavier titles on my list. So I've added the rest of hers as well! Well, there are two that she wrote before The Gatecrasher, besides the one I listened to, but I am not brave enough at this point to add them to the list. Maybe later.

27) The Wedding Girl by Madeleine Wickham

28) Cocktails for Three by Madeleine Wickham

29) Sleeping Arrangements by Madeleine Wickham

30) 40 Love by Madeleine Wickham

31) The Penderwicks in Spring by Jeanne Birdsall  -- do y'all know the Penderwicks books?! They're so wonderful. They're just lovely books about four sisters and their friends and family. The newest one just came out this March (I am updating as the year goes by) and we had pre-ordered it. Amabel and I drank it up. If you don't know the Penderwicks, you're going to want to get to know them soon!

32) Beautiful by Cindy Martinusen Coloma -- this was a book that I found through my Amazon recommendations and searching through the finalists for Christy Awards in years past. I was looking for a book for Amabel and thought I would read it first. I didn't care for it at all. It's about a girl who is in a very bad and disfiguring car accident in high school - a story I can actually very much relate to as I went through a similar, but less severe situation. What I couldn't relate to was the character. I mean, she was a teenaged girl, but she was unlike any teenaged girl I have ever encountered. I decided that Amabel wouldn't enjoy it at all. It was intense without being entertaining or relatable. I wouldn't recommend it.

33) The Secret of Pembrooke Park by Julie Klassen -- this one came out in December of 2014. Somehow Miss Julie is managing to crank them out as there is a new one coming out this July and another one in December! 

34) Lady Maybe by Julie Klassen -- set for release on July 7- I hope my library gets a copy!

35) The Painter's Daughter by Julie Klassen -- Amabel thinks it is hilarious that all of the titles have daughter or lady or girl in them. This one is set for release on December 1st, so I will be reading it at the very end of the year if my library gets it on time.

36) The Dragonfly Pool by Eva Ibbotson -- this book was mentioned in the newest Penderwicks book and I took it as a recommendation.  I cannot pass on the recommendation. It's a bit tedious. It seems like there is a lot of potential in a story about a little girl who goes to boarding school in the English countryside at the dawn of World War 2 and befriends an exiled prince from a country taken over by the Nazis. But it was surprisingly dull and, dare I say, unimaginative. A disappointing read.

37) Cosmic by Frank Cottrell Boyce -- this book was also mentioned in the newest Penderwicks book and I took it as a recommendation as well. This one, however, is a much better book than the other. It's sort of a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory meets outer space.

38) This Quiet Sky by Joanne Bischof --this is another Christy award finalist and again, I was not very impressed. I think the thing that bothered me most was that it was set in 1885 for no apparent reason. The setting was actually distracting because the characters behaved and spoke very much like characters from 2015. I kept trying to figure out how the story needed to be set then because it so obviously didn't work that I figured an editor would have had to let it be because of key points in the plot. Nope. This story could've easily moved to modern day and worked. But then it would be compared to The Fault In Our Stars because of the whole teen cancer thing. Did I mention the teen cancer thing? It was sad for sure. But it was also a case of the stakes being too high. That irritates me in modern literature (and cinema)- the stakes are always death. Can we have tension in a story without lives being on the line? According to Disney and bad books everywhere, no. But I say yes! Looking back over this list, most of the books I like do not have a strong role for death, which is a mercy because after reading this and finishing the terrible All the Light We Cannot See today, I have had enough of death (not that it matters because I have already read almost everything else on this list). Alright, end rant.

39) Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham -- this book was kind of adorable. If you like Lauren Graham, and I really do so much just because of Parenthood alone, in spite of never having seen Gilmore Girls, you may really like this book. It's just a good old fashioned romantic comedy with the main character being a twenty something struggling actress in the mid nineties. My guess is it is at least somewhat autobiographical. But I don't know for sure. It's a fun read.

40) Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella -- Hurray! My sister bought me Sophie's new book when I went to visit her.  It is her first young adult book, but it was still very Sophie and very good. It was about a family, and specifically, about a teenaged girl. But it was a loving family. And that is rare to see in any type of media these days. It was not a family without faults by any stretch, but it was a family of people who cared for each other - parents who weren't afraid to make choices for their children's best, even when the children strongly disagreed, and parents who also weren't afraid to change their minds and admit when they were wrong. And it was overall, a redemptive story. I quite liked it.

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

I made these for the first time last week and have already made them again. The second time I made them, I sprinkled in a bit of cinnamon and it was an excellent addition!  The recipe seems to make about two and a half dozen cookies.

1c. flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
2c. rolled oats
1/2 c. chopped pecans
8T unsalted butter
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 egg
1/4 c. maple syrup
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1c. chocolate chips

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, oats, pecans, and 1/2 tsp. cinnamon. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugars together for 30 seconds until blended. Add in egg, then maple syrup and vanilla. Mix in dry ingredients on lowest speed, then mix chocolate chips in by hand. Scoop batter onto lined baking sheets in heaping tablespoons about 3 inches apart and bake at 350 for 9 minutes.

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