Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Our Library Bag: February 2020 Edition

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Graphic including books, dragon, castle, frog, the earth, and more.

As usual, our library bag is bursting at the seams with good books!  Well, technically, once we get the books home they go onto the library bookshelf in our home library . . . We currently have 92 books checked out.

Here are some of the books that I've been reading this year:

Lake House by Kate Morton
I added this book to my list based on Sarah's recommendation.  I really enjoyed it!  A fascinating mystery with many twists and turns.  It has an element of historical fiction which is genre that I've been exploring recently.  The ending might be a bit too perfect, but honestly, I'm fine with that.  I look forward to reading more of this author's work!

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead
This was the February book for my Library Book Club.  Wow.  While a work of fiction, it is based on a former real life Florida reform school.  It's an atrocious, heart wrenching, and painful book to read and yet I am glad to have read it.  It's stylistically on point and I feel the author did his subject justice; something sorely needed.

Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise by Ruth Reichl
I have a soft spot for fluffy non-fiction, and this book is perfectly that--in a good way.  Reichl weaves a delightful story about her adventures as the New York Times' food critic in the '90s and sprinkles in a couple of recipes for good measure.

The Jane Austen Project by Kathleen A. Flynn
"Two researchers from the future are sent back in time to meet Jane and recover a suspected unpublished novel."  I mean, with a description like that, how could I not pick it up?  Admittedly, not particularly amazing, but a super fun read.

Summer of '69 by Elin Hilderbrand
I really appreciated certain aspects of this book, while simultaneously being really annoyed by other aspects.  I found the author to be a good story-teller; pages turned easily and I wanted to know more about all of the characters.  All of the mother-daughter relationships are a disaster.  I thought the ending was too abrupt.  I know "Summer" is literally in the title, so I shouldn't expect the story to go any further than that, but it really felt like a few chapters were missing.  (I did have an amusing, albeit slightly uncomfortable moment, at book club when I had to admit that I considered this to be a work of historical fiction to a room full of women with personal memories of '69!)

Many of the books that are currently checked out are for our daily read aloud time.  Here's a tiny sampling of what I've been reading with the kids:

Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett
This story had the kids and me in stitches.  Short, sweet, and yarn-y, we really enjoyed every page.

We are studying African geography for the rest of the school year, so I've been on the hunt for a large variety of African picture books.  (I'll be constantly updating my list of Picture Books about Africa throughout the next couple of months.)  Also pictured is one of our read alouds in honor of St. Valentine's Day.

What is in your library bag this month?

Friday, January 3, 2020

Our Library Bag #8 & My Five Favorite Books from 2019

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Graphic including books, dragon, castle, frog, the earth, and more.

A great way to start the new year is with books, so here's another round of Our Library Bag.  In keeping with the plethora of "Best of 2019" posts I'll be finishing up this post with my Five of my Favorite Books from 2019.

If you follow me on Facebook you probably saw at least one of my Christmas picture book posts.  Throughout December we read quite a few!  The goal was every day, but we didn't quite get there.  (You can check out a list of some of our favorites here.)  Since it's still the Christmas season we're going to finish up our stack of library Christmas picture books this week.  (That's right, Christmas isn't just a day, it's a season!  It doesn't end until Epiphany . . . or even Candlemas.)


Here are a few of the library books that I read in December:

A heroine that loves to read?  Who works in a bookstore? Is a bit introverted?  I mean, who doesn't want to read more?  Hasn't every book lover dreamed of opening a bookstore? There's a lot to like with just the set-up.    

I have a weird complaint about this book.  Nina, the protagonist, is supposed to be incredibly well-read and you see that by the various name drops, references, allusions, etc.  (Very Gilmore Girl-esqu.)  However, they are all pretty easy.  I do read a bit, and have always been a reader, but I wouldn't say that I am incredibly well-read.  I wish that there had been some that I needed to Google.  Also, a lot of the references are more "pop-culture-ish" than "book-ish".  It felt to me that the author couldn't quite capture the essence of a bibliophile resorted to creating a character largely based on characterizations and stereotypes. 

Oh, another complaint!  Nina is supposed to suffer from social anxiety, but it seems to have a particularly thriving social life.

It's definitely an adult book, with multiple adult themes.

When I first finished the book, I thought it overall was a nice fluffy read; however, the more that I ponder the book the less I like it . . .


The Last Romantics by Tara Conklin

I had added this book to my list due to Modern Mrs. Darcy's recommendation.  This one was a miss for me.  There were several reasons that this book fell flat for me:

  1. The narrator is recounting her life as an author in 2079.  There are various allusions to a catastrophic event that has resulted in a somewhat dystopian society (maybe?), but we never really learn anything.  It's just rather bizarre and has absolutely zero to do with the story.  
  2. The characters weren't very likable, especially as adults.
  3. The final denouement was a bit, "Wait, that's it!?"
  4. There was a strong anti-mariage theme.  Perhaps even anti-men.
  5. It was overall boring, boarding on depressing.
I think the idea of this book is interesting, and could make a riveting and thought provoking novel, but this wasn't it.  (Random note, but all I could think when I was reading was, "Wow, these people need Jesus!")


Supernova by Marissa Meyer

I really, really enjoyed this book. I find Meyer's books just plain enjoyable to read.  They are fun, the characters are interesting, and the pages just fly.  Supernova was the third book in the Renegades Trilogy.  (At least, I'm pretty confident that it's just a trilogy.)  The whole series gets included in my Favorite Books from 2019!


My Five Favorite Fiction Books of 2019

It's so hard to limit myself to just five! I think it would be more apt to say "Five OF MY Favorite Fictions Books". If you allow me to cheat just a little by counting a trilogy as one, then here's my list:

1. The Renegade Trilogy: RenegadesArchenemies, and Supernova by Marissa Meyer

This fast paced series has it all: supervillains, heroes, a dystopian society, super powers, interesting characters, page turning suspense, and more! I really enjoyed the whole series.  Just as a waring, the first book doesn't really end with any type of satisfying resolution.  This trilogy really is a three part book.

2. Princess Academy by Shannon Hale

Both my nine year old and I read and loved this book in 2019. This book surprised me a little by how simply delightful it was. The story is well told.  The themes of friendship, family, and the value of learning (among others) are all woven together in a truly beautiful manner.  There's the teeniest bit of romance.  While the target audience might be girls somewhere around 10-12 I have to say that I wish more adult fiction was like this!  (This book is the first of a series, all of which are awesome, but the first one is great as a stand alone book.)

3. Lethal White by Robert Galbraith

This is the fourth book in the Cormoran Strike series by J.K. Rowling written under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith.  Rowling/Galbraith knows how to tell a story!  The twists and turns this complex mystery takes had me on the edge of my seat, all the while further developing the characters and relationships of Strike and Robin.  It should be noted that this book is very much NOT for children or teens.

4. Clara and Mr. Tiffany by Susan Vreeland

This was one of the historical fiction novels that I read for Library Book Club; I am so glad that it was assigned, because I might not have discovered on my own. It's a delightful bit of the history surrounding Clara Driscoll and her importance in the Tiffany glass department.  I've always had a soft spot for the famous Tiffany lamps so I found the story of the woman responsible for so many of them to be surprisingly spellbinding.

5. Divergent by Veronica Roth

I have to admit, I was quite torn on which book would round out my top five, but I decided to give the honor to this dystopian novel.  It was a really fun read, and quick despite its numerous pages.  The characters and the world were interesting and I felt invested quickly.  This might have been one of the best entertainment books that I read this year.  (I do have concerns that it's a wanna be Hunger Games series . . . but I'll reserve judgement on that for later.)

What is in your library bag?  Which fiction makes your top five list for 2019?

This is my Review of the Month for the review collection on LovelyAudiobooks.info