What I Read: August 2016

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cursedchild

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by John Tiffany and Jack Thorne – I’m happy to discuss this in more detail if anyone wants to, but I also don’t want to spoil it for anyone. All in all .. it was a play, not a novel, and it’s hard to develop characters in a play without seeing it being acted out. Also, I want to think that Harry is happy and has a nice, quiet life after book 7, so I was kind of prejudiced against this from the start. 😉

wintersolstice

Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher – I have heard a lot about Pilcher’s Shell Sheekers, but I ran across this one at a thrift store and decided to pick it up. I am so glad I did, because it’s one of the best books I’ve read in awhile. My only regret is looking on GoodReads at the synopsis, which ruins a main event. So don’t look at it! Just dive in. A great cast of characters find themselves together at Christmastime. That’s about it – the whole plot. But it’s really an excellent read that made me almost feel cold despite being 6+ months pregnant when I was reading. Set in England and Scotland, it reminded me a little of Maeve Binchy, one of my very favorite authors.

annewindypoplars

Anne of Windy Poplars by L.M. Montgomery – Compared to the original six Anne books, which I read in July, this one fell pretty flat for me. It’s told about half in Anne’s letters to Gilbert and half in narrative. Anne is teaching for the three years that Gilbert is at medical school, this book falling in between Anne of the Island and Anne’s House of Dreams. I was hoping to get more of Gilbert and Anne’s relationship, but instead we mostly see Anne’s developing relationships with the characters around her in Summerside. There seem to be a lot of old, crotchety ladies – maybe Montgomery’s writing sweet spot, but none of them are Rachel Lynde. So while I liked visiting Anne, this is definitely my least favorite I’ve read in the series. I’m looking forward to reading Anne of Ingleside still, though.

trulymadlyguilty

Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty – I’ve yet to hear of anyone who was enamored with Moriarty’s newest release, myself included. There is no doubt it’s readable, but unlike the other books of hers I’ve read (reviews: The Last Anniversary, The Husband’s Secret, Big Little Lies, What Alice Forgot), I didn’t find any of the characters to be sympathetic or likable. I did think the last quarter of the book helped redeem some of them, but it was too little too late.

I’m really learning that if there is not a likable character or at least one I can root for, I cannot deal with a book. I know that’s not the case for everyone. I’m wondering if it’s some aspect of my INFP personality or just me as a reader.

cityofmirrors

The City of Mirrors by Justin Cronin – I almost always reread all the books in a series before the final book comes out. But y’all, I could not bring myself to reread 1300 pages, especially since I was not enthralled with the middle book of the trilogy, The Twelve. Unfortunately that meant it had been more than three and a half years since I read the other two books, and I had a hard time remembering what was going on in the story when I started.

I thought Laura did a good job summing up my feelings on The City of Mirrors in a recent episode of the Sorta Awesome podcast: It was really long; there was a lot of fighting; and it seemed disjointed at times. But it really did an excellent job wrapping up all the plot lines and themes of the series. It’s a series about science, faith, human nature, and desperation. In all honesty, I think when I recommend it I will say to just read The Passage. But I’m not upset I finished the series, either, even though it was a slow read for me.

oneinamillionboy

The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood – I’ve heard a ton of buzz about this book, and it was on the Modern Mrs. Darcy Summer Reading Guide. I was so glad it lived up to its hype! A great tale about the relationship between a 104-year-old woman and the young Boy Scout who is helping her with her yardwork. I won’t say anything else, because I like to go into a book with no knowledge if possible. But it is an easy read, heartwarming, and delightful.

sugarqueen

The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen – I don’t know what it is about Allen’s books, but I just devour them. I don’t think it’s taken me longer than two days to read one, ever. This was no exception. It’s the story of Josey, a twentysomething who lives with her (rich and) demanding mother, is in love with the mailman, and suddenly has a woman living in her closet. Through the urgings of the closet-dweller, Josey comes to terms with her life and starts to emerge from her shell. It’s a “sweet” story all around, and I am addicted to Allen’s magical realism and Southern charm.

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I was kind of astonished to see in August I read two books published in July, one from May, and one from April. I am not usually that on top of new reads. What have you been reading lately? 

Added to Quick Lit at Modern Mrs. Darcy

Books We Both Love

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This week on the What Should I Read Next? podcast, Anne talked to a couple who wanted to read some books together and talk about them. It was a fun listen. And it made me think about those books that my husband and I have both loved.

I honestly never thought there would be books that Mr. V and I would have in common 10 or 15 years ago. (We started dating 15 years ago this fall! Holy moly!) Mr. V loves science fiction and fantasy. I used to read a lot more Christian fiction and chick lit, with a lot of memoirs and some contemporary fiction bestsellers thrown in. This is not to mention that Mr. V is a mathematician with science interests, and I was an English major with a travel bug.

But as we’ve aged, we’ve both broadened our horizons a little bit. I am no longer scared by scifi. We both read a thriller here and there. And if a book gets great buzz, no matter what it is, one of us will probably try reading it.

Here are some of the books that have hit the sweet spot as ones we both loved.

The Martian

The Martian by Andy Weir – I was a little more lost at some points than Mr. V (lots of math and science and botany …), but the overall story was so well-told that I could get over the science and love Mark’s tale about being the lone man left on Mars.

Wool by Hugh Howey

Wool by Hugh Howey – I probably never would have picked up this self-published, post-apocalyptic book; but Mr. V urged me to read just the first part (I think it’s only about 30 pages) and see if my mind wasn’t blown. It was. Here, a generation has grown up inside a silo, and people are sent outside only as the ultimate punishment. But things start to go bad … and the people of the silo have to decide how to continue on. Note: I did find that the second book in the trilogy, Shift, was a little too much for me, and I didn’t read the third, Dust. Mr. V did, and he liked them, but not as much as Wool. 

Station_Eleven_Cover

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel – Mr. V read this closer to when it first came out in 2014; I just read it this June. My immediate reaction was to scold Mr. V for not making me read it IMMEDIATELY after he was finished. He told me it was good, but obviously didn’t tell me I would love it. Another post-apocalyptic story with vivid characters and several interesting plot lines. It will definitely be in my top books I read in 2016!

passage-300-450-1

The Passage by Justin Cronin – Mr. V always says that the school librarian at the time pressed this book on him, telling him it was about “vampires, but not teenage vampires kissing.” I think it’s a pretty apt description. Really, The Passage is more about a science experiment gone wrong, and the humans struggling to survive in the aftermath. We both adored this gargantuan novel, although I was glad Mr. V warned me there was a short section about 150 pages in that would get a little boring, but the facts were necessary. If you can get through it, the rest is absolutely riveting.

[You can see the theme here. I read the books Mr. V tells me to. I have rarely read anything first and made him read it. See: exception below.]

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell – The Sparrow is one of the books I’m always recommending to people, because I think its themes of religion, sexuality, and language are so interesting set in this sci-fi story about interplanetary travel. I nagged Mr. V until he read it, too – probably the only time ever I’ve read a sci-fi book before him. He enjoyed it and went on to read the sequel, which I actually have not read.

Some other books we’ve both read and enjoyed:

How about you? Do you and your partner share any books? 

Menu Plan What Day Is It?

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mpm2

Y’all. I officially have lost all sense of time. And my oldest starts back to school in less than a week. I don’t think that’s a good thing. All I can think about is how hot I am and how very pregnant.

But I still have to cook for another week or so while we wait for the dining hall to open again. So here it goes – the last hurrah!

Asian-Inspired Lemon Chicken

Saturday: recipe testing for Chattavore!
Sunday: One Pan Balsamic Chicken and Veggies
Monday: Fettuccine Alfredo and Roasted Salmon
Tuesday: Asian-Inspired Lemon Chicken, Pressure Cooker Sesame Broccoli (from Cooking Under Pressure)
Wednesday: Perfect Pot Roast, macaroni and cheese
Thursday: tacos, Spanish rice
Friday: Savory Cheesy Waffles, eggs, sausage

I know we are all looking forward to the dining hall opening. It’s not that I don’t love cooking, but I am reaching the point of pregnancy where I feel totally justified in making Hot Pockets for dinner because dang, I am tired and getting uncomfortable. Plus, washing dishes.

Hope you are having a great weekend so far!

What I Read: July 2016

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I think it’s been the Summer of Series, huh?

I reread all of the Harry Potter series (we are waiting on our library for The Cursed Child), and this month I finished what’s been written of J.K. Rowling/Robert Galbraith’s Cormoran Strike series and six books of the Anne of Green Gables series.

(And with Anne, I finished all the books on my Spring TBR except Wild in the Hollow, which I did try to read but had a hard time getting into.)

robert-galbraith

The Silkworm and Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith – I finished The Cuckoo’s Calling in June and immediately picked up the next two books in this mystery series. Galbraith (aka JK Rowling) writes some gruesome, twisted mysteries; usually I don’t feel like thrillers are my thing. But a good one can really drag me in, and these all had me turning the pages. Her characters are so vivid and well-defined. (And hello, cliffhanger at the end of Career of Evil! Anyone else dying for the next installment??)

weddingdress_hauck

The Wedding Dress by Rachel Hauck – I listened to this one on audiobook via Overdrive from my library. I enjoy having an audiobook to listen to while I clean or cook, and this one was good enough to make me ignore my favorite podcasts for a week or two. Half set in modern-day Birmingham, half in Birmingham of 1912, this novel goes back and forth between Emily – a young, rich, engaged but dissatisfied socialite in 1912 – and Charlotte – the owner of a trunk purchased at an estate sale with mysterious contents. When I started listening, I didn’t realize this was Christian fiction. I didn’t feel like it was very heavy-handed with “Christianese,” and Hauck does a beautiful job of just displaying a real faith for the two heroines. I loved the story and would definitely recommend it if you enjoy a light romance tale here and there. The historical fiction aspect of it is really nice.

anne-series

*Most* of the Anne of Green Gables series by LM Montgomery – When you buy a 99-cent collection on Amazon for your Kindle, apparently you should check and make sure you have all of the books in a series. My collection had the original six Anne books (not Windy Poplars or Anne of Ingleside, which were written later by Montgomery) and also Pride and Prejudice thrown in (??). Very strange. I’m trying to make myself read something else instead of immediately going back and reading the two I missed, because I devoted most of July to reading about Anne.

AND I LOVED IT.

I was familiar with many of the stories of Anne of Green Gables from the movie, but reading them was so very enjoyable and tied it all together for me. As expected, I absolutely fell in love with the stories, characters, and Montgomery’s writings. My favorite books were Green Gables and Anne’s House of Dreams. I could swoon over them for days, and I might, but probably in a separate post.

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Right now I’m reading Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher and loving it. I feel like I was in kind of a reading slump, and this month totally pulled me into a happy place. What are you reading now?

This will be added to Quick Lit at Modern Mrs. Darcy

Menu Plan Monday

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mpm

Saturday: Pretzel-Crusted drumsticks, parmesan rice mix, baby carrots, salad
Sunday: Ham and Potato Frittata (lunch); Stuffed Flounder Rolls, sweet potatoes, broccoli, zucchini noodles (dinner)
Monday: Brown Rice and Lentils
Tuesday: spaghetti and sauce with meatballs, green beans
Wednesday: Smoky Turkey Shepherd’s Pie (from Rachael Ray 365)
Thursday: Chili-Orange Country-Style Ribs, corn, veggie

That was as many meals as I could bring myself to plan. 🙂 PBJ for dinner it is! Actually my in-laws are coming this weekend, so meals might be flexible anyway.

Have a great week!

Hi Again, Third Trimester.

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Things I cried about yesterday:

  • David starting kindergarten. (Just thinking about it. He still has about 2 1/2 weeks.)
  • A sad part in Rilla of Ingleside.
  • Wanting Chinese food for dinner.
  • For sending my kids to bed early after they were being especially hooligan-like and disobedient.
  • That we are going to have more kids than we can afford.
  • That I may not be able to hold onto my sanity until the baby is born.

I feel absolutely enormous already. Mr. V says I just can’t remember the third trimester – it’s been 3 1/2 years since I was there with Joshua. I maintain I wasn’t as big with him (you can see my belly at 36 weeks in this post; I’m only 28 weeks right now). I have more time to think about being pregnant this time around, too; when I was pregnant with Joshua I had 4 and 2 year olds keeping me pretty busy 24/7.

Whether it’s memory loss or just that things are different, I am tiptoeing into the third trimester with some trepidation. This is my first pregnancy since Libbie that I haven’t been able to take my antidepressants (they make me wildly sick to my stomach for some reason), so I definitely feel less balanced – and that plus the lovely emotional turmoil and discomfort is a little frightening.

And yet, with baby four here, I am fairly positive I will make it through the next 12 or so weeks. I know I will be very uncomfortable, won’t be able to eat normally, will cry, and will want to sleep all the time. I am incredibly grateful that over the next few weeks, all three of our kids are going to be in school at least three days a week, so I will have time to get some much-needed rest. (And maybe do some cleaning and baby prep!) I am hoping and praying desperately that continuing in water aerobics and starting healthier will keep my back in check this time. I am giving myself a whole lot of grace and asking for help if I need it.

And I am enjoying those baby kicks. Because THIS IS THE LAST BABY. FOR REAL THIS TIME. 😉