Summer Reading List

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One of my Summer Mini-Bucket List items is to read 12 books by the end of August.  My intention is to mix books that satisfy the Popsugar Reading Challenge with a few faith-based books and what I consider lighter, fluffier choices.  I’ve compiled a tentative list of the books I plan to devour in the next few months.  I say tentative because, other than the Popsugar books which I have to read to meet the challenge, I’ll be letting my feelings dictate my selections.  Right now the reading list is pretty fluffy because I just finished  The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by  Stephen Covey and am in need of some mindless (but well-executed) entertainment.  That may or may not change as the summer progresses.  In anticipation of my fickle feelings, I’ve added some alternative choices just in case nothing I’ve officially listed is tempting me.

Summer Reading List:

  1. The Girl With All the Gifts by Mike Carey (a book recommended by a stranger, audiobook)
  2. The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson (a book published in 2016)
  3. Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys (a book and its prequel – this would be the prequel to Jane Eyre which I already read)
  4. The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach (a book with a blue cover)
  5. Dune by Frank Herbert (a science fiction novel)
  6. Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart
  7. The Good Girl by Mary Kubica
  8. The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
  9. Still Life by Louise Penny
  10. A Dangerous Place by Jaqueline Winspear
  11. The Case for a Creator by Lee Strobel
  12. Made to Crave by Lysa Terkeurst

Waiting in the wings (just in case):  The Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan , The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah, The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Garielle Zevin, A Man Called Ove by Fredric Backman, Out of the the House of Bread by Preston Yancy, H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald, In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin by Eric Larson.

I’m looking forward to settling in with these books and only wish I had time to read them all…

What books are you looking forward to reading this summer?


Book Consumption: April 2016

This year, I’m participating in two reading challenges: 1) a personal Goodreads goal of 50 books by the end of December and 2) Popsugar’s 2016 Reading Challenge.   All of the books I read in April satisfied a requirement of the Popsugar challenge.  The  single audiobook I listened to kept me company during long drives to visit students at their clinical sites and tempted me to exercise, even when I didn’t feel like it.

April Books


Joyland, by Stephen King.  Joyland was written for the Hard Case Crime series and highlights King’s substantial storytelling ability rather then his dark imagination.  Even though the book is touted as a murder mystery with a dash of the supernatural, the real story centers around a broken-hearted college student named Devin Jones, the months he works at a boardwalk amusement park, and how those experiences impact him and his life.

My thoughts:  I read a fair amount of Stephen King as a teenager and young adult and most of it was the horror variety.  Joyland is completely different and I loved it.  The protagonist as well as the other characters are believable and likable, the plot is interesting, and the ending is just what it should be.  All this with no horror and very little gore (it’s a murder mystery, after all). Joyland is a well-crafted, satisfying story that was a pleasure to read – one of the happiest surprises of my reading life this year.  It would be a perfect beach or by-the-pool book for the summer.

(The first book you see in a bookstore -Popsugar Reading Challenge)



The Pearl by John Steinbeck.  The Pearl is a retelling of a Mexican folktale that Steinbeck heard on a trip to La Paz in the 1940’s.  It is the tale of Kino, a poor pearl diver who lives with his wife Juana and baby son in a small hut by the sea.  One day, Kino finds a glorious pearl worth a fortune which ultimately turns his world upside down.  In the course of this novella, Steinbeck takes the reader through anguish, joy, hope, anticipation, suspicion, rage, murder, desperation, grief, and acceptance.  Greed and it’s consequences are at the heart of this story which is often viewed as a parable.

My thoughts:  First of all, the writing is simply beautiful.  Steinbeck is able to manipulate the reader’s emotions or create the feel of a scene with meticulous word choice and I loved that aspect of the story.  On the other hand, the plot is simple and the general outcome of the story is obvious (which is expected, I suppose, with a  parable).  I also found the pace to be sluggish until the end of the book.  When I first read The Pearl, I didn’t feel strongly one way or the other about it.  But, I find myself returning to it again and again, thinking through the different aspects of the story.  I will probably reread this at some point because it’s the type of book that reveals new insights or pieces of wisdom with each exposure.

(A book that ‘s under 150 pages – Popsugar Reading Challenge)


Beautiful forevers

Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo.  Annawadi, a makeshift slum erected near the Mumbai airport, is the setting for this award winning book. Over the course of several months, Katherine Boo chronicles the experiences of several families and individuals as they struggle to survive and thrive in this difficult environment.  An unknown world is revealed to the reader, a culture is explored and the human reactions to life in this “undercity” are investigated.  Behind the Beautiful Forevers is a National Book Award Winner and Katherine Boo is a Pulitzer Prize winner.

My thoughts:  It is obvious why Katherine Boo receives awards for her investigative journalism.  Somehow she manages to present a difficult story that often showcases the worst characteristics of humanity without turning the people demonstrating those characteristics into villains.  She writes the truth about an existence that is wholly foreign to my own with intelligence and empathy.  Behind the Beautiful Forevers was a very difficult book for me to read because of the ugliness, desperation, exploitation and immorality it presents.  However, it has forever altered my understanding of what raw humanity looks like in the midst of relentless poverty and corruption.   Even though I spent a large part of my reading time feeling frustrated and/or helpless,  this book was invaluable for developing a more accurate world view outside of my very comfortable middle class American life.

(A National Book Award winner – Popsugar Reading Challenge)



Scarlet: The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer.  Scarlet is the second book in the wildly popular Lunar Chronicles series which takes fairy tale characters such as Cinderella and Little Red Riding Hood and places them in a science fiction setting filled with technological advances, a devastating plague and a thoroughly evil alien queen.  This installment continues Cinder’s story from the first book and introduces Scarlet, a young woman who’s grandmother has gone missing and no one seems to care.  Scarlet embarks on a mission to find her and the ensuing adventures comprise the bulk of the story.

My thoughts: I feel so-so about the Lunar Chronicles in general and Scarlet in particular.  The premise of the series – fairy tale characters which are re-imagined and placed in a futuristic setting – should draw me, a lover of fairy tales, right in.  I do appreciate the imagination and creativity behind this concept and the fact that Meyer has created some strong,  independent female protagonists and interesting supporting characters.  However, the clunky writing style annoyed me to the point I couldn’t enjoy the story.  And more masterful world building and scene creation would have increased my reading pleasure immensely.  Since Scarlet carries a Goodreads rating of 4.31/5 stars, my opinion is an obvious oddity.  I guess I’ll be one of the few weirdos who do not continue with the series – unless my daughter, who loves The Lunar Chronicles, twists my arm.

(A YA bestseller – Popsugar Reading Challenge)



A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle.  The plot of A Wrinkle in Time revolves around the slightly eccentric Murray family.  Mr. Murray, a government scientist (perhaps a physicist?), has been missing for months and no one knows where he is.  Two of his children, Meg and Charles Wallce, and a neighbor boy named Calvin O’Keefe are sent on an extraordinary quest across space to find him and battle the darkness that is encroaching on the universe.  This science fantasy novel takes the reader on a wild adventure with unusual creatures through imaginative and diverse worlds.  A Wrinkle in Time is a Newberry Medal winner and begins The Wrinkle in Time quintet of books that follow the Murray and O’Keefe families through many fantastical exploits.

My thoughts: I first read A Wrinkle in Time when I was in sixth or seventh grade, a.k.a. a long time ago.  At that time, only three of the five books had been published and I loved them all.  The interesting characters, fantasy elements, magical creatures and  good versus evil theme was an irresistible combination for me then and still is now.  I picked up this book in April to fulfill a Popsugar category (“a book you haven’t read since high school”) and was surprised how much I enjoyed it.  Meg was a bit needier than I remembered but it didn’t ruin the story for me.  Did you know that Disney is making A Wrinkle in Time feature film?  Only the writer and director have been named so it’s anyone’s guess when the actual movie will  be completed.  Even so, it’s something to look forward to.

(A book you haven’t read since high school – Popsugar Reading Challenge)


Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë. (Do I really need to summarize this classic?) A friendless, loveless young woman, Jane Eyre, takes a position as governess for the French ward of a wealthy Mr. Edward Rochester.  She falls in love with Mr. Rochester and agrees to marry him, not knowing he harbors a dark secret that ultimately crushes her dreams of matrimonial felicity.  After a span of time, much hardship, and several plot twists Jane is finally able to realize her dreams.

My thoughts:  Jane Eyre is one of my favorite stories of all time.  I first fell in love with it while watching the BBC movie version starring Ruth Wilson and Toby Stephens.  This prompted me to actually read the book, which, of course, is exponentially better.  Recently, I’ve been spending a lot of time on Loyal Books and happened upon an excellent free audio recording of Jane Eyre.  The talented narrator, Elizabeth Klett, brought Jane to life for me in a new and refreshing way.  I cannot recommend this audio version highly enough.  This was another very happy reading/listening experience for me in April!

What I am currently reading:

  • The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey.  I’m slowly listening my way through this one.  It’s dense and I’m needing time to mull things over.
  • The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss.  It was a slow start and I almost gave up but am really enjoying it now.

What books are you currently reading?  I ‘d love to hear about them. 



A Little Yule Cheer: Day 7 (A Book Lover’s Gift Guide)


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My bookish Christmas wish list:

  • The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
  • The Lake House by Kate Morton
  • The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
  • Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
  • Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
  • The Practice of the Presence of  God by brother Lawrence
  • Ovenly by Erin Patinkin and Agatha Kulaga
  •  Huckleberry by Zoe Nathan
  • Boho Crochet: 30 Hip and Happy Projects by Martingale

What books are you hoping Santa brings?

Books I’ve Read This Fall

In the summer, I shared that I was participating in Popsugar’s 2015 Reading Challenge.  I’m making good progress; I’ve checked 38 items off the list and have 14 more books to read before the end of the year.  With about eleven weeks left in 2015, I should be able to finish the challenge without too much angst.

My fall reading has been eclectic, to say the least.  I started September with a semi-autobiographical graphic novel for kids and ended with a hefty unconventional literary work.  As much as I am enjoying the challenge and appreciate the way it is broadening my reading horizons, I’ll be ready for some serious comfort books (i.e. Susanna Kearsley, Kate Morton and Jane Austen, etc.) as a reward when this is all over.


El Deafo by CeCe Bell.  I thought this graphic novel was charming.  CeCe Bell uses her own experiences to create a story about the tribulations and triumphs a deaf girl growing up in a hearing world.  It’s funny and authentic to elementary/middle school life.  El Deafo is the type of book my children would have loved when they were younger. (Fulfills the graphic novel requirement.)


All the Light We Can Not See by Anthony Doerr.  This is, by far, the best book I have read in 2015.  The writing is gorgeous, the characters are fascinating, and the story is engrossing.  My mom called it “luminous” and I agree.  The storyline moves between past and present to eventually bring the main characters, a blind Parisian girl and an orphaned German boy, together in the city of Saint-Malo during a WWII Allied attack. I cannot possibly do the story justice by trying to briefly describe it.  Just believe me when I say it is a beautiful, beautiful book. (Fulfills the Pulitzer Prize-winning book requirement.)


The Diary of a Young Girl by Ann Frank.  I doubt that Anne Frank needs much introduction or explanation.  Her diary is a candid glimpse of life for Jews in hiding during the Nazi occupation in Belgium.  It was unsettling to witness her intellectual and emotional growth as a young woman juxtaposed with the atrocious living conditions she endured for two years before she, her family and housemates were discovered and eventually executed.  Her account has validity as a historical document and as a witness to the perseverance of the human spirit under extreme duress.   (Fulfills the book originally written in a different language requirement.)


The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler.  The plot of this book based on a curse involving generations of  “mermaids” who can hold their breath underwater for very long periods of time. All the women of the family drown on the same day of the year at about the same age.  The story alternates between a brother and sister who are the last survivors of the family and the history of the creation of the curse. Frankly, I feel luke-warm about this book.  It was well-written, but I wasn’t particularly attached to the characters or impressed with the development of the story.  When I finished reading, I felt dissatisfied even though I am still unable to articulately explain why.  (Fulfills the book published this year requirement.)


The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck.  The Good Earth tells the story of Wang Lung, a poor Chinese farmer who overcomes many adversities to become a wealthy land owner in pre-Revolutionary China.  I liked the book, especially the simple but eloquent writing style which complements the story.  I also enjoyed the peek into a small part of historical Chinese culture.  (Fulfilled the requirement of a book you were supposed to read in school but didn’t.)


Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.  In Fahrenheit 451, Guy Montag is a firefighter living in a dystopian future whose job requires burning books.  After he meets an interesting young woman who seems to reject the current culture, he begins to have doubts about his job and his life. I expected the main focus of this book to be about the evil of burning books.   Instead, it is a much larger commentary on the shallowness of modern culture which seeks happiness and pleasure without consequences above all else.  The end result of this pursuit will result in lives without meaning, feeling or beauty – life without life.  This is a thought-provoking read which seems more relevant now then when it was first written.  (Fulfills the banned book requirement.)


The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles.  The French Lieutenant’s Woman is the most unusual book I’ve read this year.  The novel is set in Victorian England with a simple love triangle as it’s main plot.  There are several things that make this book unusual. The author interjects himself into the story on several occasions to provide a behind the scenes look at the development of the characters and storyline.  He also goes off on tangents about Victorian culture and mores (which I particularly enjoyed).  To make sure he fairly addressed each of the main characters’ desires, he provides three separate endings to the story.  The abundant humor also caught me off guard.  I enjoyed this book even though it became intellectually heavy at times.  The quality of the writing alone entices me to consider some of his other books.  (Fulfills a book that came out the year you were born requirement.)

I am also linking this post to Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Quick Lit.  Take a peek to see what other bookworms are reading.

A Reading Challenge and Books for the Beach

Even though I was up to my eyeballs in graduate work at the beginning of 2015, my daughter challenged me to work through Popsugar’s Reading Challenge with her this year.  I accepted the challenge because: 1) the categories were interesting and reasonable, 2) the list gave me a reason to chip away at my cumbersome to-be-read pile and 3) 52 books does equate to a challenge (hence the name), something I can’t seem to turn down.  Considering the state of my life during the first half of the year, I made commendable progress, finishing 14 books by the second week of May when I finally completed my degree.   (Hallelujah Chorus commences.)

Since finishing graduate school, I have been reading with abandon.  It’s been delightful to lose myself in a story without experiencing the “I should be doing something more productive” guilt I’ve felt for the last two years any time I tried to do anything that wasn’t school or work related.  Several of the books I’ve read in the last two months have been the best of the year.  I now find myself at the end of July with 23 books under my belt and 29 to go to complete the Challenge.

Books for Popsugar’s Reading Challenge 2015 (with date completed and my rating out of 5 stars):

  • The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo (January 2015)  4 stars
  • Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (January, 2015)  4 stars
  • Cinder by Marissa Meyer (January 2015)  4 stars
  • Beauty by Robin McKinley (February 2015)  5 stars
  • Skinny Dip by Carl Hiaasan (February 25, 2015)  3.5 stars
  • Thickety by J.A. White (March 3, 2015)  3.5 stars
  • North and South by Elizabeth Gaskill (March 19, 2015)  4.5 stars
  • The Space Trilogy (Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, That Hideous Strength) by C.S. Lewis  (March 23, 2015)  4 stars
  • Stephen King on Writing by Stephen King (March 26, 2015)  5 Stars
  • Dr. Sleep by Stephen King (April 1, 2015)  3.75 stars
  • The Martian by Andy Weir (April 12, 2015)  4 stars 
  • Shogun by James Clavell (April 15, 2015)  4 stars
  • Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett (May 1, 2015)  2.5 stars
  • The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen (May 15, 2015)  4 stars
  • Elegy for Eddy by Jacqueline Winspear (May 19, 2015)  4 stars
  • Leaving Everything Most Loved by Jacqueline Winspear (May 28, 2015)  4 stars
  • Falling Leaves by Adeline Yen Mah (June 1, 2015)  4 stars
  • The Golum and the Jinni by Helene Wecker (July 5, 2015)  4.5 stars
  • Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller (July 11, 2015)  5 stars
  • Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer (July 11, 2015)  4 stars
  • Me Before You by Jojo Moyes (July 13, 2015)  4 stars
  • Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter (July 20, 2015)  3.75 stars

Note: At this point, I’m hesitating to assign books to the Challenge categories.  I’m finding my reading choices often fit into several categories OR after reading a book, I realize it doesn’t fit into the category I thought it would.  For instance, Dr. Sleep wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be and Me Before You didn’t turn me into the blubbering mess I expected.  We’ll just have to wait until the end of the year to see how things match up. In a few days, I’ll be settling in at the beach for a glorious week of sunshine, saltwater, family shenanigans and reading.  Lots and Lots of reading.  When my husband saw my pile of books for the beach, he asked me (with considerable snark) if I planned on doing anything like eating, sleeping or engaging with other humans during our vacation.  I did the mandatory eye roll thing and then explained my need for a  selection of books so I can choose what to read based on my mood.  The truth is, with sharks behaving badly in the Outer Banks this summer, I’ll probably be spending less time in the water and even more time than usual reading under an umbrella.  Considering the circumstances, a small suitcase full of books seems quite reasonable. This is what I’ll be packing:

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I’ve heard great things about these books so I’m excited to get started.  It’s going to be a fantastic week at the beach! Have you read any of these books?  I’d love to hear your thoughts and any other book suggestions you have.