What I Read – January 2018

Looking back over the month of January, despite how it felt, I think I have a respectable list of books read! I’m going to share my personal reading and then in a separate post share our read alouds and picture books.

Children’s Fiction/Young Adult

The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street (Karina Yan Glaser) This was a delightful read! It truly was. If you enjoy books such as The Saturdays, The Moffats, Treasure Seekers, or The Penderwicks, you will likely feel right at home with The Vanderbeekers. A fun, loving, lively family that receives heartbreaking news. They are faced with having to move out of their beloved brownstone in New York! But the Vanderbeekers kids are determined to stay in the home that is full of so many memories.

A couple of my children finished this before me and they kept encouraging me to make time to finish it. I’m glad that I did. A really fun read was just what I needed at the beginning of January. It would make a great read aloud! Keep an eye out! There is a second Vanderbeeker book that may be out in late September, 2018!

The Boy on the Porch (Sharon Creech) This one made its way into my January stack based solely on the author. A young boy with a simple, vague note is left on a porch. A couple steps outside in the morning and discover a sleeping boy. They soon find that while the boy does not speak, he has a unique way of expressing himself especially through art. While the couple seek to find the boy’s family, their hearts long for him to stay. Then the boy’s father arrives and their lives are never the same.

Unfortunately, I found The Boy on the Porch awkward? The story never seemed settled in a place or time (and perhaps it wasn’t suppose to) and I struggled with knowing what audience this story was for. It clearly speaks of foster care and the beauty in that but is it for adults? Or older children? Maybe I should have put it down and saved it for a different time.

The Fault in Our Stars (John Green) With all honesty, I began this book totally prepared to dislike it. It made it to my January stacked based solely on a friend’s reading of the book. Hazel is dying. There is no way around the hard truth that she has terminal cancer and eventually the miracle drug that is keeping her alive will at some point fail. It appears that Hazel is waiting for that moment. Then she meets Augustus Waters, falls in love, and finds purpose in living what is left of her life.

Confession: Despite my bias going into The Fault of Our Stars, I found that I did enjoy  the story of Hazel and Augustus. There were aspects that met my expectations for this book such as crude conversation and physical relationships. Those added nothing to the story but I suppose it is expected in young adult fiction? However, it was ultimately two young people facing death with no hope of anything beyond that final moment. That, for me, was the most heartbreaking. We are all dying. But do we realize that the story doesn’t end there? None of my teens have read this book. My fourteen year old daughter would be moved by this story but due to some of the content, she will not be reading it.

Adult Fiction

A Name Unknown and A Song Unheard (Roseanna M White) These are the first two books in the Shadows of England series. Christian, historical fiction that takes place during World War I; perfect!. There are times when I need the literature equivalent to a “chick flick”. That was initially the reason I had A Name Unknown. My desire was for a light, easy read before bed. However, these books were not fluff. Mrs. White has successfully taken us back into time to meet a wide cast of characters. I enjoyed A Name Unknown; I enjoyed A Song Unheard even more. I am eagerly awaiting An Hour Unspent (hopefully released this year).

The Lake House (Kate Morton) Last year I read Secret Keeper and wasn’t sure that The Lake House could match it. I was so wrong!  A young boy goes missing and is never found. A mystery over the years…seemingly forgotten. Then a detective stumbles upon an abandoned house and the missing young boy is once again sought after.

After a couple of chapters I was completely hooked on this story and could not wait to finish it. Having to deal with the interruptions of life was quite bothersome! It was such a bittersweet story. I love how Morton flows from the past to the present and seamlessly shifting from various characters. I highly recommend if you enjoy family dynamics and suspense.

The Bookshop on the Corner (Jenny Colgan) Nina, a librarian who loves to match people and books, finds herself unemployed as the library shifts to a more technological focus and audience. This spurs shy, quiet Nina to make drastic changes in her life. She buys a truck and sets up a mobile bookshop in Scotland. Nina embraces the small, Scottish community and discovers who she really is.

I had high hopes for The Bookshop but was a bit disappointed. I was not particularly fond of Nina and that makes it challenging when you don’t care for the main character. When the last section of the book seemed to be highlighting her physical relationship with someone, I resorted to skimming the pages to get to the end.

Maisie Dobbs (Jaqueline Winspear) – My daughter actually selected this book for me to read. I need a few mysteries to check off our our reading challenge this year so I had my daughter pull one from the library shelf that looked interesting. She actually chose a Maisie Dobbs’ book that is later in the series. So we requested the first one and I’m glad that we did. In this first book, we meet Maisie Dobbs, learn about her past, and discover why she is a successful investigator. I’m sure you could read various books in the series without this knowledge but I think the enjoyment would be a bit out of balance.

I found this a great read and perfect for my evening reading. It was interesting and engaging with a nice bit of history to it. (I do love historical literature!) It takes place after World War I and that war directly affects some of the characters and plays a major role in the story line. There were no language concerns or inappropriate behavior so I will be passing this along to my daughter (14) who enjoys a good mystery. If you need a mystery or two, give Maisie a try.

What did you read in January? What is in you current reading pile? Check in with my Instagram or Facebook page to see what I am reading throughout the week.

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What’s On My Nightstand

Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links.  Using these links provides a small percentage to me that I use to purchase books for our home and school.

Last year I failed at my plans to share about the books I was reading regularly. I  told myself that I would do better in 2017. What’s On Your Nightstand is a great way to hold myself accountable, so I am going to try to participate each month.

What I Read in January:

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend (Katarina Bivald) – This was recommended on my library’s website. I perused a few reviews and saw it compared to 84 Charing Cross Road (which I loved) and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society (another book  I loved). I had no expectations that this would be a gripping, powerful story. I was looking for a light enjoyable book that used the love of literature as an element of the story.

Unfortunately this was a disappointment. The main character, Sara, was not interesting or engaging. While other characters added some life to the story, you never learn enough about them to pull it all together. I cringed at the depiction of “Christians”. The weak pastor who is lead by the uptight town busybody. There is also much focus on various views of appropriate relationships. This is one selection that I can not recommend. I may need to re-read 84 Charing Cross Road.

The Lilac Girls (Martha Hall Kelly) – It is no secret that I am drawn to stories set during World War II. Naturally, I had to read Lilac Girls. Lilac Girls brings together the lives a New York socialite, a Polish teenager, and a young, female German doctor. The story travels from New York, Poland, France, and the concentration camp, Ravensbrück.

For me. this story lacked a continuity and depth compared to other WWII books I have read. What I found interesting is a fact I realized when I finished the book. The New York socialite, Caroline Ferriday was a real person; her name and work for those ladies that suffered in Ravensbrück was new to me. I wonder if she would be pleased with how she was portrayed?

Trouble (Gary D. Schmidt) – Can we go wrong with Mr. Schmidt? I do not think so. Trouble introduces us to Henry Smith. Henry is from a well-established family in Maine. His life is forever changed when his brother, Franklin, is hit by a car.  Henry is driven to hike Mt. Katahdin to try to make sense of what has happened. This is a story of grief, hurt, friendship, sacrifice, prejudice, and love. Henry learns that Trouble can’t be kept away.

My teens and I all enjoyed reading Trouble. Schmidt has a gift at telling a moving story in a subtle way. As always a bit of comic relief is offered up to balance the emotional impact of the story. I also appreciate books that give some great male characters for me teen son to read.

Counting Thyme (Melanie Conklin) – I read a bit about this several months ago and passed over it. Then I saw a review of it at Semicolon and was swayed to give it a go.  Thyme, age 12, I think, has to move across the country so her brother, 5, can have cancer treatment. Thyme struggles with wanting to go back home and knowing her brother needs to be here.

Conklin does an excellent job of showing the various aspects of Thyme’s relationships, struggles, and emotions. The other characters in the story are engaging. I must confess that I wish I had a Ravioli. It is a sweet story of a family that is facing a serious struggle and need each other to stand strong. An excellent middle grade read. There is a bit of young “romance” that is handled appropriately and sweetly. Just noting that for those who prefer books with no romantic leanings.

What will I be reading in February? /So far I have these selected:

  • The Woman in Cabin 10 (started tonight and not sure if I will push through)
  • Above – Roland Smith
  • Gertie’s Leap to Greatness  – Kate Beasley
  • Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
  • The Circle – Dave Eggers

I have a few more requested but I’m not sure if they will be available in February or not.

What is on your nightstand?
What's On Your Nightstand

(Pop back in  later this week when I’ll share what I have been reading aloud with my children.)

 

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Favorite Picks from Children’s Lit 2016

**Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. The small percentage earned from affiliate links goes toward books used in our home.

I love sharing books with my children so I often read books before passing them along. Why? Because a good book is a good book no matter who its intended audience is and it creates connections with my children. How could we play Literary Murder Mystery if we didn’t share our books?

The books in my Children’s Lit section are books I read personally and not aloud. I try to include a wide topic range but don’t always succeed. I must confess that a couple of my favorite picks this year dealt with the elderly.


How to Avoid Extinction – Paul Acampora – is a quick read that packs a lovely punch of life and laughter. Leo’s grandfather passed away and since then he has been in charge of tracking his grandmother who tends to wander off. She isn’t suffering from dementia but a grieving heart and a bit of free spirit. When his grandmother decides it is time for a road trip, Leo tags along. Donuts, dinosaurs, tattoos, and death…how can you pass this read up? It is middle grade fiction but I thoroughly enjoyed it. Leo’s relationship with his grandmother is sweet and I found myself smiling as I read it. At around 200 pages it would be a great choice for the reluctant or struggling reader as well. Mr. Acampora also wrote I Kill the Mockingbird which is another great one for the book list.


The Secret Life of Lincoln Jones – Wendelin Van Draanen – comes with a bit of a confession. I saw this book on my libraries New Books list; it was on order. As always I looked it up on Amazon to find out a bit more about it. The reason I put the book on hold was because it was perfect for fans of Counting by 7s. I loved Counting by 7s. When Lincoln Jones arrived I was skeptical. I was concerned that I had been mislead. Ah,  my concern was not needed. Lincoln Jones keeps to himself and keeps to his writing. Great stories all about a hero that saves the day.  Lincoln? He’s not a hero, right? I don’t want to give away this story because I don’t want to ruin it for you. Another middle grade fiction selection but one I think many would enjoy no matter the age.

Ghost – Jason Reynolds – I walked past it. Twice. It was on display at the library with other new books and the bright yellow cover did nothing to draw me. That day wasn’t a great library day. My selections were slim so at the last moment, literally on the way to check out, I grabbed it. It would be a quick read so why not? Ghost is just one of four middle school kiddos on an elite track team. All have a different story to tell but this one is, of course, Ghost’s story. When it comes to the track, Ghost is a natural when it comes to running. That happens when you find yourself running for your life. Thankfully Coach steps in before Ghost has the opportunity to ruin his life

Although this was a quick read, it didn’t take me long to love Ghost and Coach. I love the roll the adults played in this book and that the story came across as “real”. I passed it along to a couple of my girls and they enjoyed. We are looking forward to the rest of the Track series

Reynolds also wrote As Brave As You which we enjoyed well.

Raymie Nightingale – Katie DiCamillo – I had to double check to see if this was really a 2016 read. It seems like forever since I read this book while sitting in a doctor’s office waiting room. Raymie is putting all her effort into winning the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition. Because winning will be bring her daddy back. But  Raymie isn’t the only one practicing baton twirling for this competition. Louisiana and Beverly are in the competition as well. The unlikely happens and these three girls find that life is pulling them together in friendship. Winning the competition is not what any of these girls needed.  A friend to stand beside you when life is hard is the true prize. I would definitely add this to my girls reading list but they have already read  it, of course. Is it on yours?