Monday, January 9, 2017

It's Monday and we saw Waitress!

Hi friends! It's been a busy and snowy week around here. D went back to school this week, so we tried to get back into our routine. Friday night, husband and I got to see Jessie Mueller in Waitress before she leaves the show. It was great. It's funny and heartfelt and a wonderful night at the theatre.

They sell little pies! How cute and delicious!
BG also got her own theatrical experience this weekend, when she saw Daniel Tiger Live with her Grammy as her Christmas present. There's still quite a bit of snow on the ground today here in NJ, but D is off to school and husband is off to work so little girl and I are cuddled up and enjoying our Monday morning!

Snow days are good for reading, aren't they? I finished This Is Where You Belong, which gave me lots of great ideas for loving my community. I was devastated (in the best way) by the short stories in Roxane Gay's Difficult Women, learned to be a bit more realistic about parenting with No More Perfect Moms, and raced through the stunning debut novel The Mothers






Up next for me is Orphan Train. What have you been reading?


Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Mini-reviews: Upstream and Hallucinations

Mary Oliver is a writer known for her poems that praise the beauty of nature. In Upstream, she uses essays to examine her favorite writers and extol the ways that nature can give us hope and put things in perspective. For the reader familiar with her poems, it should be no surprise that her prose is sparse and beautiful. Some of the earlier essays deal with Oliver's childhood discovery that both the quiet forest and the pages of a book could offer companionship. Another essay holds her musings on the nature of creativity and the meeting of hard, regular work and the spark of inspiration. Some essays focus solely on the life of animals, like fish and turtles and even a single spider, as she reports her observations.

As always, reading words from Mary Oliver is a balm for the soul. These essays are a reminder for each of us to pay attention to our lives, to the small joys of every day, and to the wonders of nature all around us.


Upstream: Selected Essays
By Mary Oliver
Penguin Press October 2016
178 pages
Read via Netgalley


Hallucinations are a manifestation of mental illness, right? Dr. Oliver Sacks reveals that, instead, there are a variety of kinds of hallucinations and reasons for them to occur. Some people experience hallucinations because of injury or illness. Others purposefully seek out these experiences by taking drugs. In this book, we learn about the wide range of hallucinations from a doctor who wants readers to understand them instead of fear them.

I have been meaning to read something by Oliver Sacks for a while. When I saw this book recommended as a starting point for his work, I found the audiobook through my library. I usually find nonfiction a good genre to listen to, and this book was no exception. The narration is good and Dr. Sacks teaches you a lot without losing those of us who don't have advanced degrees in brain science. Just be prepared for some strange looks when people walk into the room and suddenly hear about malevolent voices or the appearance of tiny people....


Hallucinations
By Oliver Sacks
Random House Audio November 2012
9 hours, 49 minutes
Listened via Overdrive through my library

Monday, January 2, 2017

It's Monday and I'm back!

Hi friends! I took a week or so off to enjoy the holidays. For us, that meant church services on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year's Day, lots of baking, a nine year old with a high fever that wouldn't quit, a quiet Christmas dinner with my family, a boisterous New Year's celebration with my husband's side of the family, and a few quiet moments in between!

 


Peanut butter reindeer cookies and
 milk for Santa and oats for the reindeer!

Christmas aftermath

Thankfully, there has been a lot of reading this past week or so! Here's what I've been reading lately:

 



The Mother Letters: Sharing the Laughter, Joy, Struggles, and Hope     The Paris Wife

I'm currently reading This Is Where You Belong, which gives some readers some tips for making the towns where they live feel more like home. I'm listening to The Book of Unknown Americans, so I would say reading in 2017 is off to a great start.

Tell me all about your holiday celebrations and what you're reading this week!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

A Month of Faves: I Love December


amonthoffaveshome

There are so many things I love about December. I will try not to keep you reading for the next two hours though, and only talk about four of them!


For my entire life, I have gone to a Christmas Eve Service the night before Christmas. When everyone circles around the dark church with their candles and sings "Silent Night," it officially feels like Christmas is here.

For the past few years, we have counted down to Christmas with the kids using Christmas books. They get to unwrap a Christmas-themed book each night and I love watching them enjoy stories they haven't read for months.


My husband is a genius and he put twinkly Christmas lights up in our bedroom. When you curl up with a mug of hot chocolate and a good book or have kids come in for early morning snuggles, everything is a bit more homey and magical.

We all know that one of the happiest things about the cold weather is a warm drink. Personally, I love Nutella Hot Chocolate, some apple cider made in the crockpot, and the pumpkin spice and peppermint mocha coffee creamers I can only get in the winter.


What are your favorite holiday things?

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Mini-Reviews: A Thousand Nights and Wonder Women

Lo-Melkhiin is the ruler who selects a girl from each town and village. He takes them as his wife, only to kill them before the sun rises the next day. When she sees the king coming to her home, our heroine ensures that she is chosen instead of her beautiful sister. The bond between siblings is strong and her sister begins to pray to make her a smallgod - a spirit that can intercede on behalf of the living. And the new queen lives. She spins stories that keep her alive and her tales start to become reality. Can the power of a woman defeat an ancient evil?

This story is loosely based on One Thousand and One Nights, but it subverts expectations by focusing on the love between sisters instead of the romantic relationship between a man and a woman. The women in our tale are never named, but they are powerful all the same. The stories that our heroine tells to save her life are not fantastical. Instead, they are the tales of her own life, of the day to day moments of living in the desert and the bonds between family members. It sometimes seems like YA is an endless parade of re-tellings, but I'm happy to report that this one is worth adding to your toppling to-be-read pile.

A Thousand Nights
By E.K. Johnston
Disney Hyperion October 2015
328 pages
Read via Netgalley


The ladies of history sat quietly and worked on their needlepoint, right? Not so much, according to Sam Maggs. In her collection Wonder Women, Maggs brings scientists, doctors, and inventors to vivid life. Each chapter teaches about an amazing woman in a way that sounds like chatting with a witty friend. These women lived all over the world in every century and Maggs shows the impact of these trailblazers as she places their biographies alongside interviews with women working as computer scientists, biologists, and CIA agents today.

This collection will boggle your mind as you realize the sheer number of amazing women that you hadn't heard of before and make you laugh at Maggs' humor and appreciation of the things that have changed for women. We don't just get to read about these women's lives and adventures, we also get to see them through the illustrations of Sophia Foster-Dimino. This book occasionally feels like it was written for a YA audience, which may bother some people, but I would be hard-pressed to think of a book I would rather give to young women.

Wonder Women:
25 Innovators, Inventors, and Trailblazers Who Changed History
By Sam Maggs
Quirk Books October 2016
240 pages
Read via Netgalley

Sunday, December 18, 2016

It's Monday and I read books!

Guys, I finished books this week! I read Mary Oliver's Upstream, a collection of essays. I finally finished listening to Hallucinations by Oliver Sacks and I finished reading Miroslav Volf's The End of Memory. I'm currently reading Michael Chabon's Moonglow. I need to get a move on, since it's due back to the library soon.

I know that this week is going to be a busy one, but I am excited for some great reading time between Christmas and New Year's (and of course, getting some books for Christmas)!

    The End of Memory: Remembering Rightly in a Violent World   Upstream: Selected Essays



     Moonglow

What are you reading this week? Is your December full of holiday magic or crazy stress?

Friday, December 16, 2016

Readathon Mini-Reviews: Public Library and Let's Pretend This Never Happened

Like many of us, writer Ali Smith is concerned about the future of our public libraries. She lives in the UK, where downsizing or closing libraries is a frequent occurrence. So she wrote stories about the value of books, reading, and libraries in our lives. She went a step further and interviewed other writers about the impact that libraries had on their development as writers and as people. Although there is no story called Public Library within these pages, the memories and stories contained here serve as a battle cry for readers to fight on behalf of those beautiful places of magic and possibility that we call libraries.

The stories in Public Library are varied and many of them have nothing to do with libraries themselves. Each one is narrated by an "I," although I don't think they are supposed to be Smith herself. Some have a touch of magical realism, like the woman discussing World War I with the ghost of her dead father or the person whose chest starts to sprout roses immortalized in a poem by John Milton. The actual stories themselves were interesting, but I'm hard-pressed to remember the details just a few weeks later.


Public Library And Other Stories
By Ali Smith
Hamish Hamilton November 2015
220 pages
Read via Netgalley



Jenny Lawson has had a weird life. She grew up in a poor family where her father worked as a taxidermist. Childhood memories include being entertained by puppets made of dead animals and swimming in a cistern. She tells the zany stories with true affection for her life and family, even as she reveals that the family propensity for stuffed animals seems to be emerging in her adult life.

It took me a while to get into this one, but I ultimately found it pretty funny. Jenny had some weird experiences handed to her, but she also relates those stories in a really wry and humorous way. She excels at poking fun at herself, but it's not all jokes in this book. She is honest about the pain (literal and emotional) of becoming a mom and her experiences with anorexia and anxiety.  I will be hard-pressed to forget how she thought her boyfriend was going to murder her when he was just trying to propose and just how terrible Jenny is at making party small talk.

Let's Pretend This Never Happened
By Jenny Lawson
Penguin Group March 2013
370 pages
From my shelves