Sunday, January 31, 2016

It's Monday and everyone is sick

My week. Well, my big kid is on antibiotics for strep. Between the snow and the sick days, he only went to school two out of the last five days. Then when he was starting to feel better and actually go back to school, little girl got a stomach bug. I think I have attained some new sort of parenting level when my toddler threw up down my back. Yup.

I managed to post a few things this week, only because of scheduled posts. It was a pleasant surprise to see my reviews of Gold, The Wrath and the Dawn, and Kitchens of the Great Midwest show up, since I had forgotten about writing and scheduling them!

What have I been reading lately? Well, I read Drew Barrymore's Wildflower while sitting up with a feverish kid, and then read Felicity and 2 A.M. at the Cat's Pajamas.

            Wildflower   Felicity  2 A.M. at The Cat's Pajamas

My plan for this week is to read The Hours Count, historical fiction about a neighbor to the Rosenbergs, and Making It Home.

             The Hours Count   Making It Home  

What are you reading this week? 


Friday, January 29, 2016

Mini-reviews: The Wrath and the Dawn & Kitchens of the Great Midwest

You've heard this story before. A king marries a new woman each day only to kill her the next morning. A brave girl volunteers to be the new bride in order to save her kingdom. But you've never heard it quite like this. Shahrzad has a broken heart after her best friend is the latest victim of the Caliph's edict. She decides to volunteer as the newest bride, but she doesn't plan to die the next morning. She plans to murder the king. Instead, she finds herself telling him a story...a tale so intriguing that Khalid allows her to live in order to hear its end. But as the nights go by, both the murdering king and the would-be assassin bride find themselves falling in love. When Shahrzad discovers what is really happening in her kingdom, will she be able to carry out her plan?

I picked up The Wrath and the Dawn because I am a huge fan of all things Sheherazade and One Thousand and One Nights related. This book was perfect because it was similar to the original tale, but Renee Ahdieh really takes it in a different direction. It hooked me in early and soon I was ignoring my responsibilities in order to finish the story. There is magic and romance and Ahdieh beautifully conveys the beauty of the palace, the surrounding village, and the desert that lies beyond both. The characters are really interesting and while I plan to read the second story, I would even pick up additional books that feature the supporting characters. The Wrath and the Dawn is the perfect book to lose yourself in for a weekend.

The Wrath and the Dawn
By Renee Ahdieh
G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers May 2015
388 pages
From the library

Lars and Cynthia seem to have a charmed life. They have just welcomed their first child, a daughter named Eva, into the world. They share a passion for great food and wine. But then, seemingly out of the blue, Cynthia runs off with a sommelier. She leaves only a half-hearted apology that she needs to find what makes her happy. Lars is determined to make his daughter happy and teach her the joys of cooking and enjoying good food. As Eva grows up, she discovers that food will play a vital role in her life - inspiring her, challenging her, and ultimately leading her to become one of the most infamous and sought after chefs in the country.

I promise I haven't ruined the plot for you with the above description - it's on the book jacket. But what I am about to write may spoil some things for you if you like to go into a book with no knowledge of it. [Spoilers ahead] You have been warned.

The charm of Kitchens of the Great Midwest is threefold. First, J. Ryan Stradel has crafted characters you will adore. They don't always do the right things, and they make stupid decisions. But they have heart and good intent and such big dreams to fulfill. Secondly, Stradel goes ahead and makes the state of Minnesota a character. It's not by taking readers through sweeping vistas or over rolling plains. Instead, Eva discovers her home state through food. She learns to love and cook the dishes that the people around her adore and, in doing so, we learn about the people who live in Minnesota. Lastly, Stradel has conceived a really fascinating and brilliant scheme for telling a story. Each section is from the point of view of a different character. While this initially threw me off, I soon found myself wishing for more time with Eva's dad, a high school boyfriend, a jealous rival and of course, Eva herself. I am utterly impressed by an author doing something new in fiction and doing it so wonderfully.

Kitchens of the Great Midwest
By J. Ryan Stradel
Pamela Dorman Books/Viking July 2015
310 pages
Read via Netgalley

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Review: Gold

Kate and Zoe are competitive cyclists. They met at the age of nineteen when they both make the national program. They start training under the same coach, flirting with the same guy, and doing whatever it takes to get to the Olympics. Thirteen years later, the best friends are looking at the race that will be their most important and probably their last. The 2012 Olympics are on the horizon and Kate and Zoe are determined to race. Kate is trying to train all the while caring for her daughter who is fighting cancer. Zoe will do anything to win, including damaging her relationships and throwing her own safety and sanity aside. Will the Olympics bring the friends closer together and give them one last shot at glory, or will it tear them apart forever?

This story takes a friendship and places it in a unique context. I didn't know too much about competitive cycling, and I have to confess I haven't given much thought to the intense training that goes into becoming an Olympic athlete. While I will never walk into a stadium to the cheers of thousands, I think all parents can relate to the constant tightrope walk between the needs of our children and our own needs.

Like many books, this one oscillates between the past and the present. Cleave is expert at giving you tiny snippets of the past that illuminate the current storyline in really interesting ways. It's impossible not to care for Kate, her husband Nick and daughter Sophie, Zoe, and even their coach. If you have read a book by Cleave before, you know that he is a fan of the surprising twist. That certainly happens here, but the thing that really kept me turning pages was the fact that I didn't know how the story would end...and I wasn't sure which woman I wanted to win the gold. This book is not just for cycling or Olympics fans; it's a story for anyone who enjoys nuanced, fascinating characters and a compelling story. 

By Chris Cleave
Simon and Schuster July 2012
324 pages
From my shelves

Sunday, January 24, 2016

It's Monday, so let's talk books and things!

Hi again. It's been a crazy few days, right?

In the interest of honesty, I haven't been out of the house since I got home from work on Friday night. We got quite a bit of snow this weekend. There has been a lot of reading, sitting around in pajamas, and I may have made some muffins which are rapidly disappearing. It appears that the fun isn't over quiet yet, since we got the message today that school is cancelled on Monday. Of course, D decided to celebrate his impending day off by spiking a fever, so things can only get better from here...

On the blog this week, I posted reviews of Advent In Narnia, Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library, and A Curious Beginning. I also did my weekly check-in for Alexander Hamilton. We will be reading it for the next five weeks or so...

I read The Queen of the Night, which was great. It's like tumbling down a rabbit hole, where our narrator is led to recount story after story. Trust me, you will be happy to follow her into a circus tent, the back room of a brothel, or the glorious stage of a Paris opera house. Then I read The Memory Keeper's Daughter, which has been sitting on my shelf for longer than I want to admit.

              The Queen of the Night   The Memory Keeper's Daughter

Next up for me is Wildflower by Drew Barrymore and Felicity, Mary Oliver's latest collection of poetry.

              Wildflower   Felicity

What are you reading this week?


Friday, January 22, 2016

Mini-reviews: Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library and A Curious Beginning

Kyle Keeley is good at making jokes and good at playing games. He especially loves the games of local legendary game-maker Mr. Lemoncello. When he discovers that the inventor himself is sponsoring the reopening of their local library and has created an overnight game for twelve lucky kids, Kyle knows he has to be a part of it. The children are told that they must use all of the resources of the library to figure out how to escape from being locked inside. 

I think Grabenstein deserves some credit here for both realizing the power of libraries' history and the capabilities they may have in the future. Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library references your childhood favorites, but it also imagines the ways that technology could be used to enhance and interact with those stories.

If this book had been out when I was in elementary or middle school, I think it would have been a favorite. Since I am about two decades older than that age group, I will say that it was a fun way to spend an afternoon and I would wholeheartedly recommend it to any young reader who loves adventure, whether they know all of the wonders a library can hold or will discover them for the first time through the clever games of Mr. Lemoncello.

Escape From Mr. Lemoncello's Library
By Chris Grabenstein
Random House Books for Young Readers June 2013
304 pages
From the library

Veronica Speedwell is at a turning point in her life. Her aunt has passed away and she is ready to pursue her love of science around the world. But before she can leave, her home is ransacked and a mysterious baron says that she is danger. He promises to reveal everything he knows about what is going on and how it connects to Veronica but before he can tell her, he is murdered. Veronica must team up with the baron's eccentric friend Stoker to figure out who is after her and what they want.

Veronica is a very spunky heroine. She does things like taking lovers in foreign lands or telling off the local parson when he disapproves of her behavior. It makes for a lot of fun, but I was waiting for some consequences for her nontraditional choices. Of course, this is fiction, so people may disapprove but no one actually gets in the way of Veronica's independence. 

The mystery is good here, but the real draw is the dynamic between Veronica and Stoker. Both characters are stubborn and feisty. Watching them come to care for each other is the highlight of this story. 

A Curious Beginning
By Deanna Raybourn
NAL/Penguin October 2015
337 pages
Read via Netgalley

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Hamilton: Chapter 10-14

Alexander Hamilton 

Hello, fellow Hamilton lovers. It's that time of the week again when we talk about the joys and sorrows involved in reading Ron Chernow's door stopper of a biography. 

I have to confess that this was the first week when reading felt like a bit of a slog for me. I don't know if it just my being tired, or the fact that these four chapters have a lot of political details with fewer witty remarks. 

So...let us review what happens in chapters 10 through 14!

Chapter 10 revolves mostly around the exploits of Alexander Hamilton, lawyer. We learn a little about Hamilton sticking up for what he thinks is right yet again, even to the detriment of his own reputation. In this case, he thought that the way Americans treated the defeated Tories said a lot about who Americans wanted to be. He defended people both through his writing and in court. One case involved a loyalist woman who had fled her home, but wanted back rent from the people who moved in during the war. All in all, he represented almost 50 similar cases. AHam certainly didn't worry about taking the unpopular stand, did he?

This is also the chapter where we get Aaron Burr's sad back story. Suffice it to say, it is almost as awful as Hamilton's. His parents and three grandparents all died in less than two years. Baby Burr was a sad orphan just like his fellow lawyer and future nemesis. 

The reading this week was also the first moment when I felt less than charitable towards our friend Ron Chernow. At the beginning of chapter 11, he writes, "In all, Alexander and Eliza produced eight children in a twenty-year span. As a result, Eliza was pregnant or consumed with child rearing throughout their marriage, which may have encouraged Hamilton's womanizing."

Hold up, Ron. Are you speculating Hamilton couldn't keep his pants on because Eliza was caring for their children? Because she had perhaps "let herself go?" 

No, no, Ron. Let's not go there. Especially when you go on to say how Eliza took care of all those kids, ran the whole household, and designed patterns for furniture in all her spare time. And also, she had a "perpetually busy husband."

Moving right along now. Now it's time to talk about slavery. Historians are fairly sure the Hamiltons did not have slaves, but Angelica and her husband and Eliza's parents most certainly did. So did George Washington. And so did many of the members of the New York Society for the Promoting the Manumission of Slaves, which Hamilton joined in 1785. It's fascinating and disheartening to see how many slave owners realized it was awful and tried to get rid of it gradually. They would get to keep their slaves, but maybe they could get rid of it in a generation or two.

In chapter 12, we learn about the long, slow road to the Constitutional Convention. Chernow does a really good job of conveying how little certain founders wanted a national government to have great power and how easily things could fall apart if the states had no responsibility to the country as a whole. The true miracle of the Constitution is that every signer made compromises for the good of their new nation. 

The last two chapters are about The Federalist Papers. As we all know, Hamilton was non-stop and wrote the 51 of the essays. Then Chernow covers all the drama of the ratification of the Constitution. Hamilton was doing his best to convince his fellow New Yorkers while hoping to hear that Madison had succeeded in Virginia. When the Constitution was ratified, Hamilton hit the apex of his fame and fandom. In fact, "admirers wanted to rechristen the city "Hamiltonia."" How sad are you that NYC isn't named Hamiltonia?

The last chapter is mainly about Washington becoming the first president and Hamilton becoming the treasury secretary. The best moment, as usual, isn't really about Hamilton. Instead, the Schuyler sisters shine again. Apparently Angelica dropped her garter (is that easy to do?) on the dance floor. Hamilton picked it up and gave it back. Angelica teased him that he wasn't a Knight of the Garter. Peggy shot back that he would be a Knight of the Bedchamber, if such a thing existed.

Can you possibly wait for next Thursday, girls and boys? Stay tuned for more history, scandal, and sass.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Review: Advent in Narnia

Heidi Haverkamp has written a devotional for Advent that centers around beloved novel The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. In the first chapter, she writes, "...Advent is like Narnia in more ways than the weather. It's a magical time, set apart from ordinary time: we listen to special music; we decorate our homes, streets, and clothes; we eat particularly delightful and delicious foods. We experience a heightened sense of excitement and expectation. Those expectations are not only about the giving and receiving of gifts but also about Advent and Christmastime offering us a glimpse of a world that's kinder, more just, and more joyful than the one we usually experience."

This was a great Advent pick. Themed devotionals like this one can get bogged down in the minutiae of the book or it can make half-hearted connections between a theme and a book. In this case, there was so much to draw from The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe that really connected with the Advent themes of waiting, trust, and joy. The questions for reflection at the end of each chapter will actually make you think about the things that might hold the place of Turkish delight in your life, what it means to "keep awake" to await the return of God (or Aslan), and what aspects of Advent make you curious and full of wonder like Lucy.

Advent in Narnia has been set up for both individual and group use. While it works wonderfully as a solo study, there are also suggestions for doing it with a group and finishing the study by watching the movie. Each chapter of the devotional matches up with chapters of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe and passages of Scripture.

I would highly recommend Advent in Narnia to any reader looking for something special for the holiday season. It made me see Advent and Christmas through new eyes, while giving me the warm, safe feeling of being back home in the much-beloved Narnia. 

Advent in Narnia: Reflection for the Season
By Heidi Haverkamp
Westminster John Knox Press September 2015
96 pages
Read via Netgalley

Sunday, January 17, 2016

It's Monday and we have snow and pancakes!

This was a pretty normal week around here. It's been a good weekend, though, with balance between rest and getting some things done. It snowed in NJ today, but thankfully it waited until we got home from church. So we did the appropriate things like napping, baking fresh bread, and eating pancakes for dinner. D has a day off tomorrow for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Here's hoping I remember that and don't hustle him to the bus stop to stand there and wonder where everyone else went.

In the past seven days, I read the newest volume of Saga, finally picked up The Only Ones (which has been sitting on my shelf for too long), and read Elizabeth Gilbert's Big Magic. I'm still hanging out with Alexander Hamilton, along with the other ladies and gents doing the readalong at Reading Rambo. Goodreads tells me that I am about a quarter of the way through this 800 page behemoth.

     Saga, Volume 5       The Only Ones                  Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear     Alexander Hamilton

This week, I'm picking up The Queen of the Night. It's coming out in a few weeks and has been getting a lot of positive buzz. Then I'm going to my own shelves to finally read The Memory Keeper's Daughter.

             The Queen of the Night   The Memory Keeper's Daughter 

What are you reading this week?

Friday, January 15, 2016

Review: Things Unsaid

Jules, Joanne, and Andrew are siblings. They grew up in the same house, but they now live their own lives in different towns. Their parents are not doing well, and the children are going to have to make some decisions about how to proceed. Their mother Aida and father Bob are staying in an exclusive and expensive retirement home while making poor financial decisions and expecting their kids to pick up the tab. The fact that their children are supporting them in various ways is not enough to stop Aida from making calculated and painful digs at the three children.

Things Unsaid is often a difficult read. The characters are so incredibly self-absorbed and seem to care very little for what their family members want or need. Jules is the main character and she finds herself torn between the needs of her own career, husband and daughter, and the demands of her parents. But this is not Jules' story alone. We also read from the perspectives of Joanne, Andrew, and the parents, which gives readers insight into the ways abuse is perpetuated and cycles are repeated through the generations.

While it seems instinctual and right to take care of our parents, Ms. Paul forces us to reconsider. What if our parents have made life awful for us? What if they insist that they be put first every time, even to the detriment of our lives? In spite of Bob and Aida being neglectful and often downright cruel to Jules, they expect her to care for them financially and emotionally.

Diana Paul is a good writer - despite my difficulty with the characters, the story itself is compelling. While the story is fictional, it also serves as an important reminder that we all deserve to have good people in our lives, who love and support us just as we do for them.

Things Unsaid
By Diana Y. Paul
She Writes Press October 2015
270 pages
Sent by the author for review

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Hamilton Week Two: Chapter 6-9

Alexander Hamilton 

It is the time of the week when we revel in the glory that is Ron Chernow's biography of Alexander Hamilton, "the ten dollar founding father without a father." 

In chapter six, we see the relationship between Washington and Hamilton ice over a bit. Hamilton desperately wanted to actually fight in the war and Washington didn't want to let his best wordsmith get away. There is a section in this book that is pretty radically different from the musical, and it depicts the duel between Charles Lee and John Laurens. Lee did trash talk Washington, but Aaron Burr was not Lee's second for the duel. After Lee was shot in the side and declared that George Washington was actually pretty great, the dispute was over. This is not actually the point where Hamilton goes home to his wife Eliza. In fact, he had only met her once.

In chapter seven, readers discover that Alexander Hamilton was actually a high school girl who made a list of all the attributes he hoped for in a wife. Needless to say, Eliza was awesome. It's sad to note that while the musical portrays the wedding between Alexander and Eliza as an occasion marked by all of their friends, Hamilton was all alone in reality. Eliza's family was present, but all of his friends and colleagues were occupied with the war. (The greatest shame here is the lack of Hercules Mulligan as flower girl). 

We are going to take a moment to talk about potentially the greatest event in this book so far and it doesn't even include Alexander. On August 7, 1781, Tories and Indians took over the Schuyler house. So we have Papa Schuyler shooting his gun out an upstairs window to signal for some help, we have rather pregnant Angelica and Eliza, and we have Mama Schuyler and Peggy. At some point, everyone realized that they had left newest baby Schuyler downstairs and not barricaded upstairs with everyone else. So Peggy goes downstairs, gets the baby, sasses the guy holding basically holding them hostage, ducks from a tomahawk thrown at her (you can supposedly still see the mark on the banister) and run back upstairs. I am so bummed this is not included in the musical. Let's give Peggy some props here.

The last chapter of this section has to do with the British surrender and the time right after the war. Things I didn't know or maybe forgot about the Revolutionary War: Britain surrendered after the Battle of Yorktown (mostly), but there were still pockets of Brits and loyal colonists for years after that. Also, there was almost a second round of war because Congress rather belatedly realized they couldn't actually pay the men who had been risking their lives for the past few years. Whoops. Angry troops stormed into Philadelphia and surrounded the State House. Hamilton faces an angry mob yet again. I get the feeling it won't be the last time...

That's all I've got for now. If you are debating picking up this massive tome, do it! It reads so well for a massive biography and we are having lots of fun reading it together. You can check out what other readers thought here.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Review: Emily, Alone

Emily Maxwell is a widow. Her children live far away. Her only regular companion is her sister-in-law Arlene who accompanies her to their favorite breakfast buffet or to the museum. When Arlene is rushed to the hospital, Emily begins to grapple with what it means to be alone. What compels an old woman to continue living? What hope does she have for the rest of her life?

Emily, Alone is a sequel of sorts to Wish You Were Here. In the former book, the Maxwell family converged on the summer house for one last time after the patriarch has died. Now Emily is back at her own home, figuring out what her life looks like without her husband.

Emily is a bit curmudgeonly, but Stewart O'Nan has carefully crafted a woman you can't help but love. Thank you notes are not something I particularly care about, but I found myself outraged along with Emily when her granddaughter didn't send her one. Her frustration about the Pittsburgh traffic or the children running through the museum seem perfectly reasonable.

There are not a lot of characters in this story. We meet Emily's sister-in-law, her cleaning lady, some neighbors, and her children. But perhaps the supporting character here is actually the city of Pittsburgh. Through Emily's eyes, we see a Pittsburgh of possibility and promise when she visited its country clubs as a young married woman. But we also witness the confusion of modern city life, exemplified by a spray-painted arrow painted in front of Emily's house that no city office will take credit for leaving.

There is wry humor to be found on these pages, but there is also deep grief as Emily attends funeral after funeral and watches the families on her street completely turn over. Her husband is gone, her children don't need her anymore, and she is back to her essence - who is Emily when she isn't a wife or a mother?

Emily, Alone is quiet and quotidian, but it is told simply and beautifully. There is a fine line between sentiment and saccharine, but that line is never crossed here. Emily is an unforgettable character and I will always be grateful that Stewart O'Nan brought her to brilliant life.

Emily, Alone
By Stewart O'Nan
Penguin Books December 2011
272 pages
From my shelves

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: 2015 Releases I Meant To Read

It's Top Ten Tuesday! Today we are talking about those books we fully intended to read in 2015, but then there were other books and not enough time...

The good thing about this post is that all of these books are fresh in my brain again. Maybe 2016 will be their year!

1. The Train to Crystal City by Jan Jarboe Russell
Nonfiction about an internment camp in Texas during World War II, where Japanese and German immigrants and their children were exchanged for people behind enemy lines

2. The Hidden Light of Objects by Mai Al-Nakib
Short stories about people living in the Middle East and the objects we cherish the most

3. Of Things Gone Astray by Janina Matthewson
This is about a single morning when a group of people all lose something important to them, and its connection to a little boy named Jake

       The Hidden Light of Objects   The Train to Crystal City: FDR's Secret Prisoner Exchange Program and America's Only Family Internment Camp During World War II

4. Wearing God by Lauren Winner
The author examines metaphors that are less frequently used for God, and deciphers exactly what it means for us to be "clothed with Christ"

5. The Wonder Garden by Lauren Acampora
Short stories about the suburbs with a little magical twist

6. Uprooted by Naomi Novik
A mysterious and powerful man known as The Dragon takes a girl from Agnieszka's village every ten years

       Wearing God: Clothing, Laughter, Fire, and Other Overlooked Ways of Meeting God   Uprooted

7. The Song of Hartgrove Hall by Natasha Solomons
Dual narrative with elderly composer and the night during WWII that he met his wife

8. The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow
Greta lives in a land where the children of royalty are held hostage to prevent war, but war seems on the horizon

9. The Hours Count by Jillian Cantor
Historical fiction about a woman who befriends Ethel and Julius Rosenberg

10. The Witches by Stacy Schiff
Stacy Schiff wrote an amazing history of Cleopatra. I can't wait to see what she does with the Salem Witch Trials.

       The Hours Count  The Scorpion Rules (Prisoners of Peace, #1)   

Which books did you mean to read in 2015?

Sunday, January 10, 2016

It's Monday and January is weird

Hey friends! Here we go with another week! The past few days has had a lot of normal, with a fun touch of a chest cold for me, going to a birthday party for BG's buddy, and finally having Christmas with my husband's side of the family. If you need me, I will be trying to figure out where to put these new clothes and toys!

On the blog, I reviewed Bonhoeffer, talked about my experiences with the first few chapters of Alexander Hamilton, and wrote my giant "Best of 2015" post. David reviewed The Map to Everywhere and City of Thirst, which he really loved.

This week, I read When Women Were Birds and Twain's End. I know a lot of people adore the first book, but I didn't find myself in that camp. While I certainly appreciated some of Williams' insight and beautiful phrases, it was too angry and disjointed for me. Twain's End was good historical fiction. Samuel Clemens is one of my favorite writers, so it's fun to imagine a little bit (although I don't think Cullen portrays him in a very flattering light).

               When Women Were Birds: Fifty-four Variations on Voice  Twain's End

Next on my list is The Only Ones, in which Inez survives by being a test subject since she is immune to the disease that has decimated the world. After that, I'm going to give Elizabeth Gilbert's Big Magic a whirl.

             The Only Ones  Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

What are you reading this week? 

Friday, January 8, 2016

Looking Back at 2015

2015 was a pretty good reading year! I read some great books, got better at putting aside books I wasn't enjoying, realized I didn't have to review every book I read, and branched out a bit into new kinds of reading. Here's how the year broke down for me:

Books Read in 2015: 121
Books Reviewed in 2015: 102 
First Book of the Year: Last Night at the Lobster by Stewart O'Nan
Last Book of the Year: Gold by Chris Cleave (review to come) 
Pages Read: 38,385
Fiction: 77

Non-fiction: 25
Books by male authors: 22
Books by female authors: 80

Favorite new (to me) authors: Nadia Bolz-Weber, Karen Russell, Rachel Caine, Jami Attenberg, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Sara Taylor, Nadia Hashimi

Favorite book covers:
A Thousand Pieces of You (Firebird, #1)     Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania  Saga Deluxe Edition, Volume 1

 Almost Famous Women: Stories    The Watchmaker of Filigree Street

My Favorite Books in 2015:
We can just get this out of the way and say that I was as blown away by A Little Life, Fates and Furies, Station Eleven, and A God In Ruins as the rest of you. So let's move on to the rest of the books!


Accidental Saints is about Nadia Bolz-Weber's experiences as a pastor and her constant realization that she needs God's grace. It is irreverent and funny and rang very true to this pastor's kid and pastor's wife.

The Underground Girls of Kabul: In Search of a Hidden Resistance in Afghanistan
The Underground Girls of Kabul is an eye-opening revelation of the lengths some girls and women will go to in Afghanistan to share the experiences and freedoms of their male counterparts.

Simply Tuesday is a gift for people who feel like they are just going day to day and not achieving the grand things they were always told to strive for. It is an important reminder that we are doing good, important work in our careers and homes, even on ordinary Tuesdays

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania
Dead Wake tells the story of the doomed Lusitania, the passenger ship that was sunk by a German submarine during WWII. In Erik Larson's talented hands, history reads like a novel that you won't be able to put down.


Dumplin' is the best kind of YA - heartfelt, funny, and believable. Willowdean is a fat teen with a skinny, gorgeous best friend and a mother who is a former pageant queen. She is also a young woman who has confidence and is willing to admit that she is learning how to better love herself and love the people around her.

Vampires in the Lemon Grove: And Other Stories
Vampires in the Lemon Grove is one of the best short story collections I have read. Russell's stories are a little bit creepy, but they reveal great depths about the things we are afraid of and what our fears reveal about us.

Girl at War
Girl At War is the story of a ten year old girl who lives in war-torn Croatia in 1991. It is heart-breaking and terrifying, and a beautifully written debut.

Saga Deluxe Edition, Volume 1
I don't read a lot of comics, but Saga is one I will be devotedly reading as long as Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples are creating them. If you are new to this story, Marko and Alana are new parents who met on opposite sides of an intergalactic war. It asks interesting questions about the ethics of war and power, all the while taking readers on a rollicking space adventure.

After Birth
After Birth. This book. This is the one I want to push into the hands of every new parent who finds that parenthood is not all sweet-smelling baby heads and beautiful family photos. Although it is fiction, it is a balm to the mom dealing with depression or the dad who wonders why he hasn't immediately fallen in love with his new baby. 

Lost and Found begins with Millie, a seven year old girl with red boots, who is left by her mother in the ladies' underwear section of a department store. She is "rescued" by the elderly Karl and Agatha, who decide they will help the girl find her way home. This story is sweet and zany and will make you believe in the goodness of people again. 

My to-be-read list needs some new additions. What were the best books you read in 2015?