Reading Overview Circa 2019

Reading Overview Circa 2019

Preface: Due to two factors, the first being that I did a rotten job track when I read what between Fall 2018 and January 2019, and the second being that I decided to make this post cover through November 2020, this “year’s” book is most certainly a Circa. I kind of like that, though, and have decided that from now on, my booklists will be Circa lists, which after this year means they will run December-November.

On with the show.

First, a list of all the books I finished since about September 2018, some with notes:

  1. Heidi by Joanna Spyri – Precious and sweet and strong. Don’t let the Shirley Temple movie trick you into thinking this is an insignificant or cutesy story.
  2. I Let You Go by Claire Mackintosh
  3. The VanderBeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser – Delightful story with updated All-of-a-Kind-Family vibes (but the VanderBeeker family, as you might have guessed from the name, are not Jewish).
  4. The Cruel Prince by Holly Black – This is typically how I like my YA – fantastical or dystopian, edgy, and not too sexy, with at least one strong female character.
  5. The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides – I did not like this as much as I thought I would…
  6. I, Juan de Pareja by Elizabeth Borton de Trevino – Incredible historical fiction worth lingering over and savoring. It’s later middle-grade fiction, but it’s a worthy read no matter how old you get to be.
  7. One Day in December by Josie Silver
  8. Lady Cop Makes Trouble by Amy Stewart – What self-respecting true-crime aficianado doesn’t want to read about the first female sheriff’s deputy in NJ history?
  9. Kiss Her Goodbye by Wendy Corsi Staub
  10. Circe by Madeleine Miller – This was very good. A reimagining of Circe that massively passes the Bechdel test many times over. Odysseus is not nearly as big a deal as he thinks he is.
  11. A Door in the Wall by Marguerite de Angeli – A marvelous book about a young noble boy in the middle ages who is separated from his parents after becoming incredibly ill and unable to walk.
  12. The Bookshop of Yesterdays by Amy Meyerson – A nice little bookshop story.
  13. Behold Here’s Poison by Georgette Heyer – This year I became a Georgette Heyer fan, but it was not because of this book. This book nearly prevented me from reading any more of her work. It was like if a classic Agatha Christie was redone by the people who turned The Silver Chalice into this dreadful film.
  14. The Lost Book of the Grail by Charlie Lovett – Solid 2.5-star Grail lore novel.
  15. The Tempest by William Shakespeare – Not only did my fourth graders read every word of this and act in a shortened (but with 100% Shakespeare-authored lines) version, but they LOVED it. It brought new life for me to a play that I’ve loved since that classic Wishbone episode.
  16. Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty – I liked it more than I expected but less than I’d hoped. Usually, I really enjoy Moriarty, but this one did not get good reviews. I didn’t think it was as bad as all that, but it was not great.
  17. The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz – Horowitz is the only person with permission from Conan Doyle’s estate to write authorized additions to the Sherlock Holmes canon, and for good reason. This fits seamlessly and meaningfully into said canon.
  18. The Huntress by Kate Quinn – This is a runner up for my favorites list. It’s gripping, thrilling, and a bit horrifying – the Huntress is a Nazi serial killer who’s a woman and has disappeared in the post-war chaos. To say more would be a bit unhelpful.
  19. The Road Back to You by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile – A great intro to the world of the enneagram, especially for people of the Christian faith. I love going deeper into the enneagram with Typology (Cron’s podcast) and The Enneagram Journey (Stabile’s podcast).
  20. The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman – I think I wanted this to be more like The Eyre Affair or something out of Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s Cemetery of Forgotten Books series (first book: The Shadow of the Wind), but alas, the worldbuilding here was weaksauce by comparison.
  21. The Secret Keepers by Trenton Lee Stewart – I absolutely fell for The Mysterious Benedict Society books (eponymous first book in the series), but this new venture did not measure up.
  22. Jane of Austin by Hillary Manton Lodge – Part of the fun of this well-done Christian romance novel (closed door, not that anything questionable is going on behind the door anyway in this novel) is figuring out which parts of the plot are inspired by which Austen novel. This is an update, but not to any one specific novel like Joanna Trollope’s Sense and Sensibility (which I loved) or Curtis Sittenfeld’s Pride & Prejudice modernization Eligible (which wasn’t my jam). Utterly delightful.
  23. The French Gardener by Santa Montefiore
  24. The Dark Rose by Erin Kelly
  25. A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas – What if Sherlock Holmes was actually a woman pretending to be a man in order to use her gifts for the public good but not encroach on cultural norms?
  26. A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer – My favorite book of Circa 2019. I nearly devoured it whole on a plane to NYC. It’s a creatively brilliant, vibrant reimagining of Beauty and the Beast. Bonus fact: The heroine has cerebral palsy.
  27. Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers (and Their Muses) by Terri-Lynne DeFino 
  28. The White Cottage Mystery by Margery Allingham
  29. The One and Only Ivan by Kate DiCamillo
  30. Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon
  31. Texts from Jane Eyre by Mallory Ortberg – I snort-laughed my way through this one in one sitting. A perfect gift for an English major of any age.
  32. Recursion by Black Crouch – Crouch does it again. This is brilliant speculative fiction that is well-conceived sci-fi that deeply delves into what it means to be human and what it means to be ourselves.
  33. The Municipalists by Seth Fried
  34. Rush by Lisa Patton – This one might scratch your itch for sorority stories.
  35. What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell
  36. The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer – Heyer shines when she’s writing regency romances. Her heroines, like the eponymous Sophy in this case, are saucier than Austen’s heroines, but not unbelievably so. Think more along the lines of Charlotte Bronte. This is where I dove deeeeep.
  37. Storm & Fury by Jennifer Armentrout
  38. Venetia by Georgette Heyer
  39. A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro – I don’t even know what I can say about this that wouldn’t make it sound except: favorite non-Horowitz take on Sherlock Holmes – better than both Elementary and Sherlock.
  40. The Corinthian by Georgette Heyer – Fave Georgette Heyer to date. Prime yourself for the story by reading this explanation of the term “Corinthian” – it’s not entirely different
  41. The Printed Letter Bookshop by Katharine Reay – Another nice bookshop tale.
  42. Heating and Cooling by Beth Ann Fennelly – A life in 52 micro memoirs. Highly recommend.
  43. The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi
  44. Cousin Kate by Georgette Heyer
  45. This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nukamp – Novel about a school shooting that unfolds “in real time.”
  46. Arabella by Georgette Heyer – Second-favorite Heyer novel to date. Fiesty, provocative, and good-hearted heroine from the country goes to London during the season. Drama ensues.
  47. Sabrina by Nick Drasno
  48. The Path Between Us by Suzanne Stabile – How people interact with others, based on the Enneagram – super-helpful content accessibly presented.
  49. You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott – Feels a little like Big Little Lies meets competitive gymnastics.
  50. Winterhouse by Ben Guterson – Delightful middle-grade fiction with some dark supernatural bits toward the end.
  51. The Overdue Life of Amy Byler by Kelly Harms – #Momspringa
  52. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche
  53. Only Ever Her by Marybeth Mahew Whalen – A bride disappears a few days before her wedding. Why?
  54. The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory – Fun, rom-com, fairly open-door.
  55. Lock Every Door by Riley Sager – A gripping thriller I tore through in less than a day.
  56. The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware – This didn’t get great reviews, but I don’t really understand why. Maybe because I wrote a paper about its inspiration, Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw, I recognized most of Ware’s allusions to the original and really appreciated this update. Well done, I say.
  57. Tricky Twenty-Two by Janet Evanovich – How many Stephanie Plum novels will I read? Probably about the number Janet Evanovich writes.
  58. Conviction by Denise Mina – Imagine you’re a true crime podcast junkie and a podcast you’re listening to unexpectedly overlaps with your life history. That’s exactly what happens in Conviction.
  59. Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions by Mario Giordano – I didn’t care for this one.
  60. The Secrets of Winterhouse by Ben Guterson – A worthy sequel.
  61. Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey
  62. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell – A wildly popular fanfic writer (who reimagines her favorite novels – which smack of Harry Potter – as a long-term love story between the sorta Harry and the sorta Draco) goes to college. It’s fun and sweet, but for me did not live up to the hype.
  63. Mama Day by Gloria Naylor – One of my favorite books of all time. On this reread (for book club), I cried. Again.
  64. Stay Sexy and Don’t Get Murdered by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark – My favorite true crime podcasters went and wrote a very profound book! I recommend tackling 1-2 chapters at a time, and with something soothing like a glass of wine or a cup of tea in hand.
  65. Lethal White by Robert Galbraith – I always love Cormoran Strike books. Every time they’re great. This one is no exception.
  66. The Wicked King by Holly Black – A second book in a series is usually (deservedly) referred to as a sophomore slump. We can all think of the few exceptions because they are so unusual. This book fits in that category, in fact, I liked it better than its predecessor.
  67. The Inquisitor’s Tale by Adam Gidwitz – This middle grade fiction novel would be clever and creative if it had been written for adults, especially the sort who’ve read The Canterbury Tales or know a lot about the history of Christianity; instead it was weird and most likely would be confusing to a kid. If your child in the target age range wants to read it, I suggest a read along and that you have a lot of discussions.
  68. The Prince & the Dressmaker by Jen Wang – I did not care for this book, and I do not recommend it.
  69. Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman – Deliciously narrated tales from Norse mythology. I was so pleased to add it to my world mythology shelf.
  70. Never Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson
  71. In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez
  72. A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan – Oh, this is good fun. This is a “memoir” of the early life and young adulthood of a lady in the age of naturalists who was instrumental in the research of dragons. There’s a little taste of emerging steampunk, but mostly follows the traditions and conventions of Western Europe (esp. England) and thereby has a strong feminist streak, in the best possible sense.
  73. The Lager Queen of Minnesota by J. Ryan Stradahl – My #2 book of the year. I just loved it so much. The end was utterly fitting. The only reader I wouldn’t recommend it to is one with moral or personal reasons to abhor or eschew alcohol.
  74. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee – Another reread for book club. What a great novel!
  75. Celine by Peter Heller – A loaner from my bookish fairy godmother, this book was a slow burn for me. I enjoyed it, but wasn’t gripped by it. It’s the story of an ill and aging uppercrust New England brahmin who spends her time doing art and solving mysteries, usually related to family matters (like helping adoptees find their biological parents).
  76. The Mother-in-Law by Sally Hepworth – This was a fun read, a mystery told from multiple vantage points. Yeah, we definitely have the mystery going on, and you definitely want to get to the bottom of it, but also featured prominently is the disconnect that can grow between people as a result of different expectations, different personalities, and
  77. Nevermoor by Jessica Townsend – Phenomenal world-building. Delightful characters. If you’re a Harry Potter fan who wants some elements of the Potterverse in a new series, but done differently, this is an excellent choice.
  78. Inheritance by Dani Shapiro – Another loaner from my aforementioned bookish fairy godmother, this one was another huge winner of my reading year – probably book #3 if I had to choose a #3. This memoir about finding out the father who raised her isn’t biologically related to her is masterfully done and really leans into questions of identity, parenthood, genetics, and grief.

Here are the books I haven’t finished yet but intend to:

  • Different Seasons by Stephen King – First two novellas down – the inspiration for The Shawshank Redemption and the very disturbing “An Apt Pupil.” Next time it’s my turn to borrow it from the library, I’ll definitely tackle at least the inspo for Stand by Me.
  • IT by Stephen King – I had planned to finish this 1153-page behemoth by the end of the year, and then I went and lost track of it for like a month. Maybe by February? (I happened started a new job in that month, and there’s no way I’m taking this heavy beast on the train with me, even if it is deliciously well-written and fascinating.)
  • Shrill by Lindy West – This memoir is brave and sad and funny and hard. I love so much of West’s body positivity and fat acceptance, but the chapter about her abortion broke my heart.
  • Wundersmith by Jessica Townsend – This worthy sequel to Nevermoor is fresh off the presses; I’m hoping to finish it this weekend.
  • Co-Laborers, Co-Heirs: A Family Conversation edited by Brittany Smith and Doug Serven – This is an incredibly important book for the PCA (and others wrestling with similar things) about the way the Church regards women and the roles we ought to play as church members. I am so grateful for this one, and for the ability to take it a couple of chapters at a time, thoughtfully and without rushing.

Favorites

A brief reminder: Affiliate links throughout – meaning I make a lil change if you purchase after clicking through.

November

November

So far in November,

  • I turned 35.
    • My rockstar husband made me his legendary chicken tequila. It was divine.
  • I got a job!
    • In tech, in customer service, in the mental health field – check out our mothership Evercommerce and the main subsidiary I work for GoodTherapy.org.
  • I started said job and love it.
First day of new job! Very exciting stuff. 🙂
  • I turned into one of those trendy public transit commuter professionals who work in LoDo and daily uses a Bevi machine.
  • I taught a K-1 Sunday School class in which no one cut themselves on tin foil.
  • I learned about spell casters and that people actually use them.
    • They’re supposedly witches; some of them Don’t do that.
  • I shoveled my first driveway.

I plan to resume normal posts once things calm down a bit.

35 Random Facts

35 Random Facts

In honor of my 35th birthday, I’m going to tell you, gentle reader, 35 random facts. After 35 years, my brain is full of them. So here they are, in no particular order. [A couple of these contain affiliate links.]

  1. The teddy bear was orginially inspired by and named after President Teddy Roosevelt.
  2. It’s “octopuses,” not “octopi,” because “octopus” comes from the Greek, not the Latin. #knowyourdeadlanguageroots (also per a friend who is rather obsessed with octopuses).
  3. Extra dry champagne is sweeter than brut champagne.
  4. The aardwolf of Australia eats insects.
  5. The book as we know it – the codex – was originally made popular by the early church, which published all four canonical Gospels together – they fit really well in codices.
  6. If you get a chemical burn from, say, cutting jalapenos, pour milk on it. (There are other palliative options.)
  7. “Rocky Mountain oysters” and “prairie orders” are “polite” ways to say “bull testicles.” They serve them at nice restaurants here in Colorado.
  8. Anyone who creates a Target Circle account can get 1% back for all Target purchases.
  9. The average number of arms possessed by a human on earth is < 2. Still, there are more human arms than people on the earth. (Just think about it.)
  10. Despite the fact that she won Oscars in 1969 and 1978, among MANY other appearances and awards across the years, Dame Maggie Smith blames Downton Abbey for a fame that makes going out in public tricky business for her.
  11. Sleep apnea can significantly impact your brain functioning. Get that snoring checked and get you an ASV or CPAP or something.
  12. Endometriosis occurs across race, ethnicity, and nationality, in an estimated 10% of women.
  13. It takes an average of 7-10 years from the onset of symptoms to accurate diagnosis of endometriosis.
  14. Surprising brands that now carry up to at least size 24:
  15. Purple is the opposite of yellow.
  16. Early on in WW2, the USSR trained dogs to be suicide bombers. The idea was that the dogs, strapped with bombs, would run under the German tanks and blow them up. But they trained the dogs using their own tanks, so guess which ones the dogs ran under in the canine unit’s first battle. (For more, check out this article.)
  17. The spy and mastermind behind Argo, Tony Mendez, was also an accomplished artist. (HT: Retropod)
  18. Edible gold flakes is a thing.
  19. Pink used to be the “boy” color and blue the “girl” color. (See?)
  20. Juan de Pareja started life in the early 1600s as a biracial slave. He was inherited by the acclaimed portraitist Diego Velazquez. He became a painter in his own right, and was eventually freed by Velazquez and became part of his paid studio staff. There is an excellent, Newberry Award-winning middle grade novel about Pareja.
  21. The name “Lauren” is from Latin and means “a crown of laurel leaves.”
  22. According to ancient Greek myth, the first laurel tree was originally a nymph named Daphne who had the unfortunate luck to catch the eye of Apollo in one of his rapacious moods. He chased her when she refused him, and as she ran through the woods, she called out to the river god who was her father for deliverance. His solution? Turn her into a tree. Apollo was a sore loser and made her leaves his symbol of triumph and victory, which is why Olympic and military victors were crowned with them in the Greek and Roman cultures. He would so have not survived the #MeToo era.
  23. The crust of a baguette is formed by evaporating water.
  24. Pan sauces are really quick and easy to make, and add SO much to a sauteed chicken main course.
  25. The name “Rosamund” means “horse protection.” Maybe that’s why I like it.
  26. There is a little bit of all three primary colors in every naturally-occurring color. (per an artist-cum-teacher friend of mine)
  27. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart ran around with Marie Antoinette in her home, and he thought she was very nice because she was so kind to him when he slipped on the slick marble floors and fell.
  28. Michelle McNamara (Patton Oswald’s late wife) played a significant role in the catching of the Golden State Killer because she rebranded him as that. He’d previously been known by a variety of names: Visalia Ransacker, East Area Rapist, Original Night Stalker. By pulling all these different monikers together under one encapuslating (and catchy) title, she brought to public attention the full scope of his evil.
  29. Dr. Pepper predates Coca Cola.
  30. It is more likely that a sex trafficker in SE Asia will be struck by lightning than prosecuted for his or her crimes. (Noonday Collection)
  31. Sighthounds (e.g. greyhounds) do not have the smelling capabilities of the stereotypical dog, which is why if they get loose they cannot find their way home by smell, the way your lab or poodle could.
  32. 95% of diets fail, and most people gain more than they lost.
  33. Jeffrey Epstein didn’t kill himself.
  34. Originally, I & II Samuel, I & II Kings, and I & II Chronicles were just Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles. The I & II come from them being so long they didn’t each fit onto a single scroll.
  35. We all know about Pope Francis of the Roman Catholic Church, but there are currently three other reigning popes: Pope Tawadros II of the Oriental Orthodox Church (a.k.a. the Coptic Orthodox Church), Pope Peter III of the Palmarian Catholic Church, and His Divine Beatitude the Pope and Patriarch of the Great City of Alexandria Theodore II of the Eastern Orthodox Church.

I Can’t Stop Reading This Novel

I Can’t Stop Reading This Novel

Y’all, I love to read. I read all kinds of books. I listen to Currently Reading and What Should I Read Next?. I have a rather massive library. But The Lager Queen of Minnesota is SO good and has completely sucked me in. Is it overdue at the library because I got a late jump on it? Yes. Does it have a massive waitlist and am I screwing them all over by keeping it? *Cringe.* Yes. Is that stopping me? NOT AT ALL.

As a beer lover with a homebrewing husband, this book is especially fascinating, but I have it on good authority (*cough*ANNEBOGLEonCURRENTLYREADING*cough*) that one does not need to love beer to fall in love with this book. Currently Reading even has a minisode interviewing the author.

Seriously it’s SOOOOOO GOOOOOOOOOOD.

So what do you need to know?

  1. It’s not all about beer. There are also pies. And relationships. And Arby’s.
  2. Strong female characters dominate the interwoven narratives.
  3. The writing is fantastic, and so is the character development. I care about every single character in this book, and that’s saying something.

I’ll come back and post a follow up when I finish – hopefully in the next couple days or JeffCo Libraries will be taking alllllll my change.

I Have a Splinter in My Foot, or, Musings on Patience

I Have a Splinter in My Foot, or, Musings on Patience

This summer, my patience was tested by a number of circumstances. I can withstand children melting down, applying to job after job, and long waits before exciting things happen.

But apparently one of the limitations of my patience is the splinter in my foot.

So about a week ago, I got this splinter. I’m pretty sure it’s metal – we were taking apart and cleaning my outdoor sconces not long before I stepped on it (while sitting at the dining room table! COME ON!). When I initially tried to pull it out, it broke off.

It hurts.

I tried to get it out – with a sewing pin and tweezers and a baking soda paste. My husband tried to get it out, adding pointier tweezers to the mix. My mother-in-law, bless her, tried to get it out (she was in town, and why not ask for a little surgery?), soaking it for 20 min and then applying her gifts with all of the above. Then they tagteamed it. It went straight in, and every attempt to get it out was pushing it deeper into my heel. They decided that, in order to get it out, we’d need to excavate the area . No thank you.

Well it’s still in there. It’s closer to the surface of my skin – my heels are SUPER thick, so it’s taking a while. But I am weirdly obsessed with it. I’ve even had multiple dreams about it.

This reminded me that it’s easy for me to pat myself on the back for virtue that comes easily to me. Here I was thinking I had developed this incredible patience, when really, those instances of patience were not as hard for me personally to deal with. I was less uncomfortable having to be patient in those circumstances than I am in this one.

While this impatience does make sense psychologically – after years of chronic pain and illness, of course I would be more sensitive to physical pain, however stupid – it’s also a humbling reminder that I’ve not “mastered” patience. I mean, duh, but also, oh.

People Are Persons: An Introduction

People Are Persons: An Introduction

This is an introductory post in a new series on seeing and treating other people as actual humans. It sounds really simple, but there are so many ways in which we fail to do this.

So I was reading this really great book (click the pic for a good ole fashioned affiliate link – the Kindle version is on sale for $3.99!) yesterday. I’m only about a quarter of the way through – a full review is in order once I finish it – but I came to Ashley Williams’s chapter that really resonated with me and I posted this on IG and FB:


I’m reading Co-Laborers, Co-Heirs, a collection of pieces on the role of women in the #PCA, and this quote really stuck out to me. Here, Williams is talking about being a black single woman in the denomination, and the difference she notices between the way singles in particular are treated and celebrated in the church. This resonates because it is so true! We must be a people characterized by seeing and loving people because of their personhood. Single people are often treated as a separate category of church member – ESPECIALLY single women. It’s generally assumed that singles don’t want to be friends with married people, or at least with folks who have kids – which is completely bogus. The friendship between a single person and a married person (or, for that matter, between people or different ages) is not automatically a mentoring relationship because the married person is sharing their secrets with the single person who wants what their married friend has. What I’m saying is, singles are people too. Their promotions, their birthdays, their accomplishments and opportunities and gifts ought to be celebrated by their people, God’s family. They should be recognized and fully embraced as they are – not as a puzzle piece that we need to find a fit for. They have a place already – they belong to us, the Church.

Turns out that resonated with people. I suppose the time for this series is now.

Single women deserve their own post. (So do single men.) But for now, what I most want to say is this: People are people. Or, to put it in Charlotte Mason terms, people are persons. They are human beings, with innate dignity. It is so easy for us to think of people as less-than-persons in some way, even though our conscious minds would shrink at that idea. And as persons, we have got to start challenging that in ourselves. That’s what this series is all about.

[Don’t worry – there’ll be plenty of lighter posts mixed in because we can’t be serious all the time.]