Thursday, December 22, 2016

A Month of Faves: I Love December


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


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

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

A Month of Faves: 5 Books On My Winter Reading List

A Month of Faves

Today we are talking about the books we are looking forward to reading this winter. Don't forget to visit Estella's Revenge, Traveling with T, and GirlXOXO to see more winter favorites. Grab your reading list and a mug of hot chocolate and let's talk books!


The Mothers is perhaps the most buzzed-about book of the year, so I have to see what the fuss is about!

Michael Chabon's newest novel is MoonglowI haven't disliked one of his books yet.

I am a huge Gilmore Girls fan, so of course I have to read Lauren Graham's memoir Talking As Fast As I Can. 



Difficult Women is new Roxanne Gay, short story style.

I'm enjoying a lot of nonfiction these days, and the history of Bellevue seems like it will be a fascinating read.

Girl in Disguise
imagines the life of the first female Pinkerton detective. You're already intrigued, aren't you?


Blackout is time travel + WW II, so it's right in my wheelhouse.

I know that Amor Towles has a new book out, but I still haven't read his debut Rules of Civility

I think Burial Rites sounds like the perfect winter read, with its Icelandic setting and murder mystery.

What is on your winter reading list?

Monday, December 12, 2016

It's Monday and the reading is slow

Hey bookish friends. How are you doing?

I am feeling the December slump very seriously. There are a million things to do. I am having a tough time getting more than one or two posts up each week and even the reading is slowing down. I pretty consistently read two books a week, but this week saw me only finishing Wally Lamb's I'll Take You There. I'm still working through Miroslav Volf's The End of Memory and I'm also reading Upstream, a lovely collection of essays on reading, writing, and nature by Mary Oliver. If you are looking for something quiet and beautiful, that collection would certainly fit the bill.

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

How are you all doing with the reading and the blogging and the holiday prep?

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Mini-reviews: Lessons in Belonging and Love Warrior

Erin Lane is probably the poster girl for going to church. Her husband is a pastor and she recently graduated from seminary. But she finds it surprisingly difficult to fit in at a church. Her knowledge of theology makes her bristle in the face of ignorance about church practices, and she is decidedly uncomfortable with platitudes and superficial social interactions.  In Lessons In Belonging, Lane tries to find out if there is a place in the church for a smart feminist troublemaker with a penchant for asking lots of questions.

There are an abundance of spiritual memoirs from people in their 20s and 30s who feel that it is difficult to belong in the churches of their childhood. It's so much easier to just leave when someone lets you down or hurts you. But Lane discovers that disillusionment is the first step in belonging. Just like any other relationship, being a part of a church means being vulnerable, truthful, and willing to pick your battles and love in spite of your differences. Lane doesn't pretend to have all of the answers, but her questions will seem very familiar to many people who both love the church and feel like they sometimes don't belong there.

Lessons in Belonging From A Church-Going Commitment Phobe
By Erin Lane
IVP Books December 2014
208 pages
Read via Netgalley

Glennon Doyle Melton was feeling good about her life. She loved her family, and had a much beloved blog and a NYT bestselling book. But then she found out that her husband had been cheating on her for years. Everything she thought she knew about herself, her life, and her family seemed to explode around her and she found herself at rock bottom. But Glennon remembered that she had been here before, as a young woman who was an alcoholic and bulimic and held a positive pregnancy test in her hand. In this memoir, we follow a woman as she starts over again to learn who she is, what she believes, and what she will do to fight for love.

This book has been overshadowed by the reality that writing about your life always means writing about the past. As Love Warrior comes to its end, the author has learned a lot about herself and has hope for the future of her marriage. But this manuscript was completed several years ago. As Glennon currently promotes this book, she has separated from her husband and is currently dating Abby Wombach. In spite of the changes to her life since finishing this book, the story itself holds up as raw and beautiful. She writes about the ways that we compromise who we are to fit into perceptions of who we should be and the truth that we must know and love ourselves before we can truly love and know others. If you are in the midst of heartbreak, this is your book. If you have read and loved Glennon's writing before, this is her best work yet.

Love Warrior
By Glennon Doyle Melton
St. Martin's Press September 2016
272 pages
From my shelves

Monday, December 5, 2016

It's Monday and someone is nine years old!

Hello bookish friends! It's been a whirlwind couple of days around here as we celebrated a certain little boy turning nine years old. He had a friend over to play and watch a movie on Friday night, we had the family over for a party on Saturday, and we finished off the weekend by going out to lunch and visiting our favorite indie bookstore for kids! He picked out four new books and little sister came home with two.


I didn't pick out any books at the bookstore, but that doesn't mean I haven't been reading. This week, I finished reading Wonder Women and finally got around to Lyndsay Faye's Dust and Shadow and Colson Whitehead's The Underground Railroad. 

       Wonder Women: 25 Innovators, Inventors, and Trailblazers Who Changed History   The Underground Railroad

I'm currently reading The End of Memory and I just picked up a big pile of holds from the library, so my next read will be Wally Lamb's newest novel I'll Take You There

          The End of Memory: Remembering Rightly in a Violent World   I'll Take You There

What are you reading this week?