Thursday, January 5, 2017

What I read 2017 Edition!

**1. Teaching from Rest by Sarah MacKenzie  Reread this for a book study and it was just as good as the first time.  Being restful, not frantic and fueled by anxiety, knowing that God has got this and that my best work is all I can do.  A great encouragement for any homeschooler who has faith in God!

**2.  Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist  Almost more of a collection of essays about leaving the frantic behind and finding a slower, smaller, sweeter way of living.  We spend so much of a lives thinking we need bigger, better, more and yet, the joy, the soul of living is not the career aspirations it is the people we are with.  I think this is one I need to reread again too!

*3.  Roots and Sky by Christie Purifoy  Another collection of essays, arranged through the four season. Christie and her family moved to Maplehurst a beautiful old brick home with 3 acres surrounded by fields of new homes on the land that used to be a part of the farm.  We see her have a new baby, fight depression, plant a garden, meet the community and come full circle all while loving God.  Some real gems in here, another 'read again' type book!

**4.  Lillac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly  Oh, this book!  It is based on the true story of the Polish 'rabbits,' the ladies that were experimented on by Nazi doctors at Ravensbruck.  The story bounces between Caroline Ferriday (a NY socialite, turned tireless worker for French orphans and the Polish ladies after the war), Dr. Hera Oberheusern(the only female doctor who was convicted at the trials after), and Kasia Kuzmerick (who was arrested with her sister and mother and survived the prison and the experiements.)  Caroline and Hera are real people and their lives are followed closely in the book; Kasia and her sister are based closely on a pair of real sisters.  Such an amazing and terrible read.  It was one that was hard to read and hard to put down. 

*5. Hope Heals by Katherine and Jay Wolf   A true love story.  The love between a young married couple going through a truly horrific ordeal and the love they have for God.  Katherine suffered a massive stroke in her brain stem and her survival was a real miracle.  She has gone on to have a lot of recovery and they have even had another baby!  But it has been such a struggle, she has lost the use of the right side of her face, her hearing in one ear, so much independence and the early years of her oldest son's life as his primary caretaker (he was 6 months when this happened.)  Really strong faith got them through and their love for each other is amazing to witness.

**6.  The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah Another fantastic WWII book.  This one features two sisters, Isabelle the one who fights with the resistance as "the Nightingale" helping downed pilots cross the mountains and Vianne, the one who is in the little village with Nazi's in her home, trying to save her little girl and then her best friend's son.  The girls have had a rough childhood with no mother and a father who returned broken from WWI.  There is love between Isabelle and Gaetan, there is loss, so much loss, and there is survival in every sense of the word.  Ari, the first of 19 children Vianne helps save comes back into the story many years later, Julien, the child conceived in rape at the hands of the Nazi staying with Vianne never knows his full story, but is raised as an American with a loving family who only learns of the heroic role of his family all those years later, Sophie, the little girl who grew up with no childhood who survived with her mother who (we learn during those late years of the story) died 15 years before of cancer.  A great read with a bit of can't wait to figure it out narrative.

*7. Simply Tuesday By Emily P. Freeman  I started this book last year and don't think I finished it and here it is again in the same boat. This time I almost did and found it to be good, but not the same kind of connection other books in this same idea have had.  Her main idea is that we need to get small, to keep things focused on the small, to think of the ordinary, every day that "Tuesday" is all about.  She uses the imagery of heaven being one inch  off the ground often and the idea of benches that we build and rest one.  We invite others to be with us on those benches, but we can't force it, just as we can't force the good stuff in life. 

**8.  The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick  Such a sweet, quick read.  Made for a perfect snowy Sunday by the fire book!  Arthur's wife has died and it is one year later. After 40 years of marriage he is having a hard time letting her go, but has somehow seemingly lost his son (who is in Australia with his wife and two daughters) and daughter (who just lost a baby and got divorced and lives around the corner.)  He decides to clean out his wife's clothes and finds a charm bracelet with a tiger, an elephant, a book, a paint palette, a flower, a ring, and a heart.  He starts the journey to find out his wife's story and her past is much more than he could ever imagine.  In the process he realizes his friendship with the neighborhood caretaker widow is important, he does things he never dreamed off and he reunites his family.  Very sweet, in the vein of Ove, but less grumpy :)

*9. Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool Abilene Tucker is sent to Manifest, Kansas by her father after a life spent riding the rails.  She feels abandoned, but quickly is loved on by two new friends, Shady, the bar/church owner she lives with, Hattie Mae, the newspaper writer and Miss Sadie, the town diviner and the one who eventually tells the story that helps Abilene learn about her past and discover her future.  It jumps back and forth between the time when this mining town of immigrants starts gearing up for and sending its young men off to war and the time that Abilene is there trying to figure out her story.  A good read about finding home.

**10. The Orphan, The Widow & Me by JT Olson  I don't even know what to say because I loved this so much.  His story has always impacted me, but the things I didn't know were happening when I first knew their family were amazing.  The work he does now is so wonderful.  The story of bringing Grace home was just perfection..."She chose me!"  Such an important book for such important work they do!

*11. The Lady of Bolton Hill by Elizabeth Camden  Young rich girl meets young poor boy over their shared love of Chopin.  Girl gets shipped to Europe and the boy gets very rich, but also crazy bitter over the death of his father.  They reunite and sparks fly, but the hatred gets in the way and then it becomes very much about her helping him find God.  Of course it all works out in the end, but not until the girl's life is in danger, the boy's fortune is almost lost and the bad guy becomes Christian.  It was good, but not nearly what I thought it would be based on other reviews.

12. First Women The Grace and Power of America's Modern First Ladies by Kate Andersen Brower  A whole lot of information about the last 10 first ladies.  It is obviously based on many, many interviews with staff and those who knew them best.  Lots of interesting stories and yet it was far from my favorite read...too much jumping around.  It almost seemed like she was trying to get so many quote in that it couldn't be just the interesting story it should have been.
*13.  Jesus, My Father, The CIA and Me by Ian Morgan Cron  I really liked this book and debated as second star.  The story of his alcoholic father that had a shadow life that they didn't know about, photos of him golfing with the president and lots of unknown men coming to his funeral.  The mother who stayed through it all working to keep their family afloat during the rough years.  The Nanny who came with them from their wildly wealthly days in London to the rougher days in NY.  And his recognition of God in the Eucharist, his drinking and drugging, return to God through it all and eventual celebration of the Eucharist as an Episcopalian priest.

**14. And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer by Fredrik Backman   I have loved everything I've read by this man!  This is a very short (read it in about 40 minutes) novella about a boy and his Grandpa and the father as well.  About losing memories and keeping them and love and overcoming touches it all.  So good!

*15. Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv  Major preaching to the choir in this book! He does a great job laying out all the reasons kids need to be connected to nature and then the challenges that there are to that now.  He spends a fair amount of time talking about the political steps needed, the connection to spirituality, and the people who are fighting to make nature more available.  The biggest takeaway is really how crucial it is for people to be connected to nature for their own mental and physical well-being.

*16. The Awakenig of Miss Prim by Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera  There is so much I feel like I should love about this book....a young lady comes to a village that has made the decision to step back from the world a bit, she is a librarian, there is so much quoting of great literature and Latin, lots of discussions that are philosophical, a budding romance, the wide feast education of four children, 16 weeks in Italy and more.  However, I just couldn't love this book like I thought I would.  It was a good read and maybe in a different mood I would have loved it.  I did love this quote at the end, "Time seemed to stretch out indefinitely when you did things properly  It froze, halted, stopped suddenly, like a clock that has wound down.  Then the small things, the necessary things, even the ordinary, everyday things, especially those one performed with one's hands--how mysterious that man could do such beautiful things with his hands--were revealed as works of art."

**17.  I liked My Life by Abby Fabiaschi  I didn't like this book, I LOVED it.  It left me in tears at the end!  Madeline commits suicide and leaves her husband, Rory, and daughter, Eve, mourning her, but also completely devastated as to why their 'perfect' life would drive her to do that.  Maddie can influence their actions and thoughts and does so to try and help them find some peace and happiness.  More people come in to the story and we see all of them dealing with grief, the secrets families have, and how we all need to be a lot more focused on those we love.  The switching between points of view is really well done and the story line is so good.  The ending helps tie a lot of things up wonderfully and you see so much healing and love that it just made me weep!  So good.

*18.  The Frankies Spuntino Kitchen Companion and Cooking Manual by Frank Falcinelli, Frank Castronovo and Peter Meehan  Wow!  That is long title and author list.  A great little cookbook by the two Franks who started the restaurant the book is named after.  Simple Italian-American cooking with very simple ingredients.  Like how quick and easy they make everything feel!  Wish I had a big old bowl of their Sunday sauce and some hunks of meat they talk about too.  Makes you want to throw a big Italian feast for everyone right now.

**19. Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple  Such an interesting novel told using emails, conversations, and thoughts of Bee, the daughter of Bernadette, an awarding winning architect who built two amazing houses and is now lost in her own manias and Elgin, the Microsoft 'god' with the fourth highest ranked Ted talk.  There is a interesting battle between Bernadette and the 'gnats' from the school, boarding school, Antarctica, and over eager assistants (in India and in Seattle).  Basically, an easy read that is way more interesting that I would have ever thought!

*20.  Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling by Ross King A very interesting book about the history of Michelangelo and his relationship with Pope Julius II, the work he did for him including the Sistine Chapel.  There is  lots of great history about how the painting was the done, the challenges with the architect, Raphael, and all the other players in this time of history.  A good read, but sometimes hard for me to stay with because of the multitude of artists and people to keep track of!

*21.  Ready Player One by Ernest Cline I am torn about giving this one or two stars.  Who would have thought a book about video games would be so good?  It is the future, the world is crumbling, everyone is escaping reality into the Oasis, a virtual interactive world. The creator has just died and for years everyone is trying to solve the puzzles he left behind in order to win his entire fortune.  Following the High Five group as they make strides to solve it, the evil Sixers who are cheating, the little love story that develops, the 80s pop culture all adds up to a really good book.

22. Rachel Carson and Her Sisters by Robert K Musil  I was excited to read this book about women who have shaped American environmental policy.  This promised to talk about the ladies who opened the doors for Rachel Carson and those who have followed in her footsteps.  I read about a quarter of the book maybe, but it is just seemed to bent on connecting the ladies and making sure that all the things they did 'in spite of being women in their times' and they did 'better than the men of their time' (I feel like those should be in big, important looking capitols) that I feel like the story just disappeared.  I was hoping for an engaging read on women who have braved big discussions, broken down science for the general population and just had an impact on our world.  I felt like I was getting an overly forced agenda shoved down my throat.  And I just don't have time to find out if it ever changed...

23.  **The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines  The "Fixer-Upper" couple tell their story from childhood, through college (and selling books!), to marriage, and all the different ways their businesses have worked.  They are so connected as a couple in their faith, with their children, and so passionate about what they do.  A quick read, but a good one about a great family focused couple.

24. *So Long, See you Tomorrow by William Maxwell  I feel like this books is better than I realized because I read it in chunks and I almost think I would have loved it more in one sitting.  The background of the story in Lincoln, IL and two families who help each other but end up being torn apart by the affair of one of the men and women which results in a murder.  The narrator is a town boy who gets to know one of the sons after the fact and most of the story is him imagining what happened to cause the murder and why he didn't do more to befriend the boy. Reminded me of My Antonia in some ways.

25. *Lady With A Spear by Eugenie Clark A great autobiography of Eugenie Clark's early years.  She spends most of the book discussing her diving in the S. Pacific and the Red Sea and the book takes us to the point of getting married and coming back to write up all her research after the year at the Red Sea.  She was such a barrier breaker, she followed her passions, and her descriptions of all the fish, as well as the people she encountered is wonderful.  Loved reading about her in the two younger books and then reading her words here.

26. *Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead  The story of Cora, a slave girl who was a 'stray' because her mother ran when she was 10.  The fact that her mother was never caught is a huge factor in the story, but in the end we learn she actually was coming back of her own accord and was killed by a snake.  Cora and Caesar decide to run when their master dies and his even worse brother is to take over their plantation.  Lovey follows them and is caught and killed. The underground railroad involves actual hidden stations and trains in this novel.  We see Cora enjoy life in North Carolina for while until the evilness of that system seeps in and she must escape again, this time from Ridgeway, a slave catcher obsessed with her because of his inability to catcher her mother. At this point Caesar is caught and killed.  She lives on Valentine's farm in Indiana for while and seems to be settling into a happy life and even love, but that all explodes when the whites in the area can't take having such a large settlement of free blacks in the area.  It is a good book and one that makes you sick about slavery for sure.

27. *Dark Matter by Blake Crouch  Jason Dessen is a scientist who decided to marry his pregnant artist girlfriend, Daniela and have their son Charlie.  In doing so they both compromised their careers, but found real happiness together.  Jason's specialty was the idea of a multiverse, that every time we make a decision our reality splits into two, one with each decision. Jason is 'abducted' by a different version of himself where he ditched Daniela and had a huge career.  This Jason2 takes over Jason's life and sends him back to his.  This leads to all kinds of chaos, but he does eventually find himself back in his real Chicago life, along with at least 50 other Jasons, all trying to get back to living with Dani and Charlie.  There is violence, there is mind boggling science and there is, at the heart a love story of epic proportions.

28.* Hamilton The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter  This is the full libretto and footnotes of the musical Hamilton.  It also includes essays on most of the main actors and other players in getting this to stage.  I had no idea of the 7 years it took before it went to Broadway.  I listened to the full cast recording recently and enjoyed it.  Now I have a better understanding of all he put into the hip-hop musical about one of our founding fathers.  So much history from so many places and centuries!  It was worth the read.

29. *Planning Your Charlotte Mason Education in 5 Simple Steps by Sonya Shafer  Really a workbooks, but a great way to set goals for an education, a year, a term, a week and a day.  I'll be working through the worksheets as I prep for next year!

30. * A Butterfly Journey, Maria Sibylla Merian, Artist and Scientist by Boris Friedewald  We read a great little picture book about her, but this is a more grown up biography complete with many of her beautiful paintings.  She was so connected to the early book publishing of scientific knowledge and helped us learn that caterpillars don't spring from mud...amazing what a little close study of something can teach you!  She is most known for her work around 'summer birds' as she called butterflies.  Her trip with her daughter to South America (Suriname) was filled with discoveries and such a rarity for a woman to do.  She had to return to Europe due to her health, but continued to be involved with drawing, cataloging and studying her entire life. 

31. ** Behind her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough  What a creepy book!  I knew there was a twist and you think you have it figured out, but then the final twist is C.R.A.Z.Y!  Granted by the end you believe that people can go through a 'second' door in their controlled dreams and go see other people and maybe even change bodies with them.  Adele is married to David and they have some serious baggage (her parents died in a fire, he saved her, poor farmer boy marries rich heiress, she goes to mental facility, many breaks with reality and scary things happen), but when David meets Louise at a bar and they flirt it begins a whole new round.  Turns out David is her boss, the new doctor where she works.  Then Adele bumps into her and does everything she can to make her her new best friend.  So Louise (single mother of Adam) is caught loving both of them and not able to come clean to either of them.  And it gets crazier from there :)