This is my monthly roundup of books that were added to my shelves in the last month. I also share an update with you on other things going on in my life.
Family and Life Updates
Show Choir season has begun. It looks a bit different from previous years. No more long days sitting at a school watching various schools perform and waiting on the edge of our seats for the awards to be announced at the end of the night. Plus, no more facials. I hate that they are performing with masks on. The facials in show choir are one of the things that make it so entertaining to watch. But, I am thankful that there is a season and the kids have an opportunity to perform.
Our daughter turned 16 last month. She is kind, spunky, smart, talented, independent, and creative. She brings us joy every day.
Our sons are back to their regular college routine and our house is quiet again. I’m making much less food and doing a lot less laundry. We still find ways to have fun including games and puzzles and watching old comedies on Hulu. We have more snow than we have had a lot of winters. The snowstorms just keep coming. I know Spring is coming, but it is hard to see the end of winter anytime soon. It’s a good thing I have lots of books to keep me busy on those cold and snowy days.
Be sure to follow me on Instagram, HERE to see snippets of what I’m reading or what’s going on in my daily life.
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I CAN SEE CLEARLY
Rise of a Supernatural Hero
By: James Cusumano
Published: March 16, 2021
Publisher: Waterside Productions
I don’t know anything about this book. Early reviews have given high praise for offering a look at a new type of superhero and reminding teens and young adults to strive for finding your life’s purpose through this story.
Sixteen-year-old star basketball player, Luc Ponti wins an important tiebreaker game for the Palo Alto Vikings with a three-point basket during the last few seconds of play. He is simultaneously critically injured with a flagrant foul by a player from the opposing team. Luc dies for several minutes but is revived after having a near-death experience (NDE). He inexplicably begins to develop superpowers, which change the course of his life and have a profound impact on the world.
Luc becomes caught in a tangled web of espionage, blackmailed by the CIA to use his powers of remote viewing to spy for them. This creates conflict in his life, most significant—how can he pursue his long-time dream of playing varsity ball for a top college; major in engineering; and possibly go pro after graduation. I Can See Clearly is the story of a talented teenager seeking the Meaning of Life and his Life Purpose, while fighting the grip of the CIA.
One Family’s Journey of Letting Go of What Was — And Learning to Live Well with What Is
By: Pat and Tammy McLeod
Published: July 9, 2019
Publisher: Tyndale Momentum
This sounds like an inspiring story.
Life hit Pat and Tammy McLeod hard when their son Zach collapsed on a high school football field; he had sustained a severe brain injury. Facing the devastating possibility that things would never be the same for their beloved son, they committed to staying strong as a family and finding a way to maintain their footing. But the journey would reshape their faith, their family, and their future in ways they never saw coming.
What would it take for them to navigate the endless fallout of their son’s life-transforming injury? How could they reconcile their grief over the life Zach lost, with gratitude for the life that remained? And how does a couple move forward together in their search for hope, rather than letting indefinable loss drive them apart?
Hit Hard is the true story of the McLeods’ journey through ambiguous loss–both having and not having their son. It’s the story of a family who faced unexpected heartbreak, a story that offers us all glimpses of how we can pick up the pieces, redefine expectations, and trust God for hope in the midst of unresolved pain.
The McLeod’s experience with ambiguous loss in Hit Hard is relevant to so many who have gone through similar types of loss, from PTSD to addiction recovery, families with loved ones MIA to those with Alzheimer’s, those in foster care to head injuries or brain trauma. Walk with them through their journey as you find a way through yours as well.
THE GIRL WITH THE LOUDING VOICE
By: Abi Dare
Published: February 4, 2020
This was an end-of-the-year choice from Book of the Month since it was nominated as a Book of the Year. So many people whose reading tastes I trust have raved about this book.
The unforgettable, inspiring story of a teenage girl growing up in a rural Nigerian village who longs to get an education so that she can find her “louding voice” and speak up for herself, The Girl with the Louding Voice is a simultaneously heartbreaking and triumphant tale about the power of fighting for your dreams.
Despite the seemingly insurmountable obstacles in her path, Adunni never loses sight of her goal of escaping the life of poverty she was born into so that she can build the future she chooses for herself – and help other girls like her do the same.
Her spirited determination to find joy and hope in even the most difficult circumstances imaginable will “break your heart and then put it back together again” (Jenna Bush Hager on The Today Show) even as Adunni shows us how one courageous young girl can inspire us all to reach for our dreams…and maybe even change the world.
A WOMAN IS NO MAN
By: Etaf Rum
Published: March 5, 2019
I chose this as an end-of-the-year choice from Book of the Month after a strong recommendation from my BFF. She also said it would make for an excellent book club discussion so I may just choose it for my book club to read this year.
In Brooklyn, eighteen-year-old Deya is starting to meet with suitors. Though she doesn’t want to get married, her grandparents give her no choice. History is repeating itself: Deya’s mother, Isra, also had no choice when she left Palestine as a teenager to marry Adam. Though Deya was raised to believe her parents died in a car accident, a secret note from a mysterious, yet familiar-looking woman makes Deya question everything she was told about her past. As the narrative alternates between the lives of Deya and Isra, she begins to understand the dark, complex secrets behind her community.
THE ALL OF IT
By: Jeannette Haien
Published: June 7, 2011 (Reprint)
Publisher: Harper Perennial
This was on my to-read list and I’m guessing I heard about it on a recent podcast. While perusing the shelves at Half-Price Books, I spotted it and decided to purchase it. It’s a short novel at just 145 pages.
A sleeper hit when first published in 1986, Jeannette Haien’s exquisite, beloved first novel is a deceptively simple story that has the power and resonance of myth. The story begins on a rainy morning as Father Declan de Loughry stands fishing in an Irish salmon stream, pondering the recent deathbed confession of one of his parishioners. Kevin Dennehy and his wife, Enda, have been sweetly living a lie for some 50 years, a lie the full extent of which Father Declan learns only when Enda finally confides “the all of it.” Her tale of suffering mesmerizes the priest, who recognizes that it is also a tale of sin and scandal, a transgression he cannot ignore. The resolution of his dilemma is a triumph of strength and empathy that, as Benedict Kiely has said, makes The All of It “a book to remember.”
By: Susie Yang
Published: November 3, 2020
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
I purchased this one because it was going to be one of our book club reads and then we changed our mind. But, I’m still interested in reading it and have seen lots of people buzzing about it.
Ivy Lin is a thief and a liar—but you’d never know it by looking at her. Raised outside of Boston, she is taught how to pilfer items from yard sales and second-hand shops by her immigrant grandmother. Thieving allows Ivy to accumulate the trappings of a suburban teen—and, most importantly, to attract the attention of Gideon Speyer, the golden boy of a wealthy political family. But when Ivy’s mother discovers her trespasses, punishment is swift and Ivy is sent to China, where her dream instantly evaporates.
Years later, Ivy has grown into a poised yet restless young woman, haunted by her conflicting feelings about her upbringing and her family. Back in Boston, when she bumps into Sylvia Speyer, Gideon’s sister, a reconnection with Gideon seems not only inevitable—it feels like fate.
Slowly, Ivy sinks her claws into Gideon and the entire Speyer clan by attending fancy dinners and weekend getaways to the Cape. But just as Ivy is about to have everything she’s ever wanted, a ghost from her past resurfaces, threatening the nearly perfect life she’s worked so hard to build.
Filled with surprising twists and offering sharp insights into the immigrant experience, White Ivy is both a love triangle and a coming-of-age story, as well as a glimpse into the dark side of a woman who yearns for success at any cost.
Why Students Fail and the Science that Can Save Them
By: Kimberly Nix Berens PhD
Published: October 27, 2020
Publisher: The Collective Book Studio
I’ve actually started this one and it has me very interested in her teaching model.
In the United States, a majority of students graduate below proficiency in all academic subjects. Parents of struggling students feel overwhelmed and confused about how to help their children simply survive school, let alone succeed. Various school reform efforts have been tried and all have failed. But all hope is not lost. A science exists that allows children to learn as individuals even though at school they are educated in groups. One that avoids senseless labels that sentence children to lifetimes of failure and mediocrity.
Dr. Kimberly Berens and a team of scientists have spent the last 20 years perfecting a powerful system of instruction based on the learning, behavioral, and cognitive sciences that they call Fit Learning. This method of teaching has been proven to markedly improve how students understand and achieve, even for children who have been told they have learning disabilities or other disorders that interfere with their ability to learn.
Blind Spots reveals the history of our broken education system and shows that by using this teaching system in the classroom, we can unlock the vast potential hidden within every child.
SALT, FAT, ACID, HEAT
Mastering the Elements of Cooking
By: Samin Nosrat
Published: April 25, 2017
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
I’ve been wanting this book for a long time and finally decided to make the purchase when I saw the price had dropped. I am a good cook if I can follow a recipe, but I’m not very good at winging it or coming up with my own concoctions. I’m hoping to learn more about the science of cooking to experiment more with my favorite dishes.
In the tradition of The Joy of Cooking and How to Cook Everything comes Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, an ambitious new approach to cooking by a major new culinary voice. Chef and writer Samin Nosrat has taught everyone from professional chefs to middle school kids to author Michael Pollan to cook using her revolutionary, yet simple, philosophy. Master the use of just four elements—Salt, which enhances flavor; Fat, which delivers flavor and generates texture; Acid, which balances flavor; and Heat, which ultimately determines the texture of food—and anything you cook will be delicious. By explaining the hows and whys of good cooking, Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat will teach and inspire a new generation of cooks how to confidently make better decisions in the kitchen and cook delicious meals with any ingredients, anywhere, at any time.
Echoing Samin’s own journey from culinary novice to award-winning chef, Salt, Fat Acid, Heat immediately bridges the gap between home and professional kitchens. With charming narrative, illustrated walkthroughs, and a lighthearted approach to kitchen science, Samin demystifies the four elements of good cooking for everyone. Refer to the canon of 100 essential recipes—and dozens of variations—to put the lessons into practice and make bright, balanced vinaigrettes, perfectly caramelized roast vegetables, tender braised meats, and light, flaky pastry doughs.
Featuring 150 illustrations and infographics that reveal an atlas to the world of flavor by renowned illustrator Wendy MacNaughton, Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat will be your compass in the kitchen. Destined to be a classic, it just might be the last cookbook you’ll ever need.
WEST WITH GIRAFFES
By: Lynda Rutledge
Published: February 1, 2021
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
This was part of the free Kindle book choices for Amazon Prime members in January. I was very intrigued by the storyline. My aunt is an avid reader and loves giraffes, so I even purchased a physical copy for her since she has a birthday this month.
An emotional, rousing novel inspired by the incredible true story of two giraffes who made headlines and won the hearts of Depression-era America.
“Few true friends have I known and two were giraffes…”
Woodrow Wilson Nickel, age 105, feels his life ebbing away. But when he learns giraffes are going extinct, he finds himself recalling the unforgettable experience he cannot take to his grave.
It’s 1938. The Great Depression lingers. Hitler is threatening Europe, and world-weary Americans long for wonder. They find it in two giraffes who miraculously survive a hurricane while crossing the Atlantic. What follows is a twelve-day road trip in a custom truck to deliver Southern California’s first giraffes to the San Diego Zoo. Behind the wheel is the young Dust Bowl rowdy Woodrow. Inspired by true events, the tale weaves real-life figures with fictional ones, including the world’s first female zoo director, a crusty old man with a past, a young female photographer with a secret, and assorted reprobates as spotty as the giraffes.
Part adventure, part historical saga, and part coming-of-age love story, West with Giraffes explores what it means to be changed by the grace of animals, the kindness of strangers, the passing of time, and a story told before it’s too late.
THE BEST OF FRIENDS
By: Lucinda Berry
Published: August 18, 2020
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
This ended up being our book club choice for January and we had a great discussion around it. Family drama, secrets, and long-term friendships all collide in this page-turner.
Best friends Lindsey, Kendra, and Dani endure every parent’s nightmare when a tragic accident befalls their teenage boys, leaving one dead, another in a coma, and a third too traumatized to speak. Reeling from the worst night of their lives, the three mothers plunge into a desperate investigation of the bizarre incident. How could something so horrible happen in their wealthy Southern California suburb? They soon discover that the accident was just the beginning, and troubling discoveries lead to chilling questions: Do they really know their children? Do they even know each other? As more secrets surface, a fog of doubt and suspicion threatens to poison their families, their friendships, and the whole community. With the illusion of happiness and safety long gone, these women must now confront the hazards of heartbreak, the consequences of jealousy, and the dangers of living double lives.
WHISPER OF THE LOTUS
A Girl. A Chance Encounter. A Lost Letter
By: Gabrielle Yetter
Published: October 22, 2020
Publisher: Meanderthals Publishing
The author contacted me about her novel and after reading the premise, I had to know more.
Charlotte Fontaine’s dead-end life lacked excitement so she impulsively booked a flight to Cambodia to visit her best friend. She never imagined that sitting on a plane, struggling with her fear of flying, might lead to a chance encounter with Rashid, an old man whose tragic secret would take her on a mystery tour of discovery.
In a land of golden temples, orange-clad monks, and smiling people, Charlotte discovers nothing is as she’d expected. She also never imagined the journey would take her back to the night when her father walked out on the family.
And who was Rashid? Was he just a kindly old man, or was there something deeper sewn into the exquisite fabric of his life?
LET THAT SH*T GO
By: Nina Purewal and Kate Petriw
Published: January 5, 2021
Publisher: Prometheus Books
This was a win from Prometheus Books. This book hasn’t been on my radar, but it sounds like a book I definitely need in my life.
It’s no wonder you can’t calm down: your to-do list is as long as your arm, your bank balance keeps dropping, you feel guilty for not calling your parents more often and there always seems to be a big deadline to meet at work. You need a serious breather—but you can barely find time to shower, let alone to exercise or meditate.
In Let That Sh*t Go, Kate Petriw and Nina Purewal share the wisdom they’ve gained through decades of practising and teaching others to find peace of mind no matter how busy they are. Learn to put your life in perspective, take each day one step at a time and steal moments of calm amid the chaos. And remember: it’s not worth holding onto that sh*t.
THE ROYAL GOVERNESS
By: Wendy Holden
Published: August 25, 2020
Publisher: Berkley Trade Paperback (February 23, 2021)
Isn’t this cover gorgeous?! I think this sounds like a fascinating read and it has gotten high praise from authors I love. This is a must-read for fans of The Crown.
In 1933, twenty-two-year-old Marion Crawford accepts the role of a lifetime, tutoring the little Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret Rose. Her one stipulation to their parents the Duke and Duchess of York is that she brings some doses of normalcy into their sheltered and privileged lives.
At Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, and Balmoral, Marion defies stuffy protocol to take the princesses on tube trains, swimming at public baths, and on joyful Christmas shopping trips at Woolworth’s. From her ringside seat at the heart of the British monarchy, she witnesses twentieth-century history’s most seismic events. The trauma of the Abdication, the glamour of the Coronation, the onset of World War II. She steers the little girls through it all, as close as a mother.
During Britain’s darkest hour, as Hitler’s planes fly over Windsor, she shelters her charges in the castle dungeons (not far from where the Crown Jewels are hidden in a biscuit tin). Afterward, she is present when Elizabeth first sets eyes on Philip.
But being a beloved confidante to the Windsors comes at a huge personal cost. Marriage, children, her own views: all are compromised by proximity to royal glory. In this majestic story of love, sacrifice, and allegiance, bestselling novelist Holden shines a captivating light into the years before Queen Elizabeth II took the throne.
By: Brian Alexander
Published: March 9, 2021
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
My parents depend on a small hospital near their home. My sister even works there. During the pandemic, so many small-town hospitals were struggling to stay open, many not having any patients due to surgeries and procedures being canceled. I am deeply interested in this topic and am anxious to read this one.
By following the struggle for survival of one small-town hospital, and the patients who walk, or are carried, through its doors, The Hospital takes readers into the world of the American medical industry in a way no book has done before. Americans are dying sooner, and living in poorer health. Alexander argues that no plan will solve America’s health crisis until the deeper causes of that crisis are addressed.
Bryan, Ohio’s hospital, is losing money, making it vulnerable to big health systems seeking domination and Phil Ennen, CEO, has been fighting to preserve its independence. Meanwhile, Bryan, a town of 8,500 people in Ohio’s northwest corner, is still trying to recover from the Great Recession. As local leaders struggle to address the town’s problems, and the hospital fights for its life amid a rapidly consolidating medical and hospital industry, a 39-year-old diabetic literally fights for his limbs, and a 55-year-old contractor lies dying in the emergency room. With these and other stories, Alexander strips away the wonkiness of policy to reveal Americans’ struggle for health against a powerful system that’s stacked against them, but yet so fragile it blows apart when the pandemic hits. Culminating with COVID-19, this book offers a blueprint for how we created the crisis we’re in.
THE SOCIAL GRACES
By: Renee Rosen
Published: April 20, 2021
Gosh, isn’t that cover pretty?! This story of the Vanderbilts intrigued me as well as three decades of NYC society and gossip beginning in the 1800s. Should be a fun read.
In the glittering world of Manhattan’s upper crust, where wives turn a blind eye to husbands’ infidelities, and women have few rights and even less independence, society is everything. The more celebrated the hostess, the more powerful the woman. And none is more powerful than Caroline Astor—the Mrs. Astor.
But times are changing.
Alva Vanderbilt has recently married into one of America’s richest families. But what good is money when society refuses to acknowledge you? Alva, who knows what it is to have nothing, will do whatever it takes to have everything.
Sweeping three decades and based on true events, this is a gripping novel about two fascinating, complicated women going head to head, behaving badly, and discovering what’s truly at stake.
THE WOMAN WITH THE BLUE STAR
By: Pam Jenoff
Published: May 4, 2021
Publisher: Park Row
I haven’t found a Pam Jenoff book I don’t like. This one is high on my to-read list. I can’t wait to dive into this WWII story.
1942. Sadie Gault is eighteen and living with her parents amid the horrors of the Kraków Ghetto during World War II. When the Nazis liquidate the ghetto, Sadie and her pregnant mother are forced to seek refuge in the perilous sewers beneath the city. One day Sadie looks up through a grate and sees a girl about her own age buying flowers.
Ella Stepanek is an affluent Polish girl living a life of relative ease with her stepmother, who has developed close alliances with the occupying Germans. Scorned by her friends and longing for her fiancé, who has gone off to war, Ella wanders Kraków restlessly. While on an errand in the market, she catches a glimpse of something moving beneath a grate in the street. Upon closer inspection, she realizes it’s a girl hiding.
Ella begins to aid Sadie and the two become close, but as the dangers of the war worsen, their lives are set on a collision course that will test them in the face of overwhelming odds. Inspired by harrowing true stories, The Woman with the Blue Star is an emotional testament to the power of friendship and the extraordinary strength of the human will to survive.
How to Reach for Your Stars
By: Abigail Harrison
Published: January 19, 2021
Publisher: Philomel Books
I love sharing books that show girls succeeding in STEM fields and following their dreams. Abigail is a research scientist and known to many as “Astronaut Abby”.
From the age of four, Abigail Harrison knew she wanted to go to space. At age eleven, she sat down and wrote out a plan–not just for how to become an astronaut, but how to be the first astronaut to set foot on Mars. With a degree in biology, internships at NASA, and a national organization founded to help kids reach for the stars themselves, Astronaut Abby is well on her way to achieving her dreams–and she wants to help others do the same!
In this book, readers will find helpful advice and practical tips that can help set them on the path toward finding, reaching for, and achieving their goals. With examples from Abby’s own life, interactive activities to get readers going, and plenty of fun illustrations along the way, this is the perfect guide for anyone–of any age–with big dreams and plenty of determination. It’s time to reach for the stars!
THE LOVELY HAZE OF BABY DAYS
By: Lindsay Kellar-Madsen
Illustrated by: Mie Frey Damgaard
Published: January 13, 2021
Publisher: Little Otter Press
I’ve reviewed this one, HERE. This would make a perfect gift for a new mom!
The Lovely Haze of Baby Days is a playful tribute to the chaos of motherhood and life with babies. Remind moms they aren’t alone with these soothing rhymes and relatable moments, that are sure to entertain little eyes and ears too!
Using clever illustrations, The Lovely Haze of Baby Days truly captures the tender love and messy reality of mom-life.
Perfect as a baby shower gift, this honest, funny, and sweet little book is a symbol of solidarity for overwhelmed moms with babies and toddlers.
This durable board book celebrates diversity, twins/multiples, and the importance of the motherhood community from baby’s bookshelf.
A SMALL KINDNESS
By: Stacy McAnulty
Illustrated by: Wendy Leach
Published: February 2, 2021
Publisher: Running Press Kids
Format: Hardcover Picture Book
I really thought Stacy McAnulty’s picture book, LOVE was so special, so I was excited to hear she had a new book coming out. I’ve already reviewed this one, HERE. I LOVED IT! Such an important message for all of us to read!
It was like a game of tag, with one small act of kindness spreading throughout a small community of kids and teachers alike. Award-winning children’s book author Stacy McAnulty packs a powerful punch with minimal text, providing a sweet message about all the small ways one can be kind. Illustrator Wendy Leach creates a diverse cast of characters while using color as a visual cue to how kindness is able to spread, even in a small community like a school. Overall, A Small Kindness is sure to speak to this new generation of children and their parents.
FEEL LIKE EGGS?
Introducing Children to A Dozen Emotions
By: Jeff Goodman
Illustrated by: Gabriella Urbina
Published: November 23, 2020
Publisher: Precocity Press
Format: Paperback Picture Book
The author contacted me about his new book and I was happy to share it with you. I love the concept of explaining emotions in this easy to understand and silly way for kids.
Each egg has an emotion
In this delightful book.
The menu’s full of feelings,
And your child is the cook!
This is no ordinary carton of eggs. Inside this carton, the eggs express their feelings through a dozen different dishes. A happy sunny-side-up egg, a sensitive poached egg, and a naughty deviled egg are among the clever characters revealed throughout this adorable picture book. With playful rhymes and irresistible illustrations, it’s a whimsical journey into an egg-centric buffet of feelings that will whet even the pickiest kids’ appetites for a helping of emotional intelligence.
Which one (or two or three) of these books will you be adding to your list?
To see all the posts featuring new books on my shelves, click HERE.
So many books, so little time!
Posted Under Abi Dare, Abigail Harrison, Brian Alexander, Children's books, cookbook, Etaf Rum, fiction, Gabriella Urbina, Gabrielle Yetter, historical fiction, James Cusumano, Jeannette Haien, Jeff Goodman, Kate Petriw, Kimberly Nix Berens PhD, Lindsay Kellar-Madsen, Lucinda Berry, Lynda Rutledge, middle-grade, Mie Frey Damgaard, Nina Purewal, non-fiction, Pam Jenoff, Pat McLeod, Reagan, Renee Rosen, Samin Nosrat, Stacy McAnulty, Susie Yang, Tammy McLeod, Wendy Holden, Wendy Leach