This is my monthly roundup of books that came my way in the last month. I also share an update with you on other things going on in my and my family’s life.
Welcome to the New Year! I hope your holidays were full of reconnecting with loved ones near and far, some good cozy reading, lots of rest and reflection, and laughter. Our holidays went by too fast, but I enjoyed having all three kids together for a few days. Reagan getting her wisdom teeth out and a big snowstorm on January 1st forced us to stay home and I loved the lazy weekend before the crazy schedule started up again. Here’s to many blessings in the year 2022!
Family and Life Update
We kicked off December at ISDTA (Iowa State Dance) in Des Moines. The team did an awesome job and now we get to watch them perform new routines at upcoming basketball games and wrestling meets.
The three of us rang the Salvation Army bell for the first time in a small town near us. We had scheduled it weeks in advance, but the day we chose had a high of 50 degrees. Not too shabby even though it got chilly once the sun went down. We had a fun time greeting people at the local Fareway and even seeing a few friends.
December is also full of Christmas concerts and Madrigal is always a favorite of ours.
The kickoff to show choir season is just before Christmas break. Our first competition is this coming weekend in Wisconsin. We love traveling to all the schools, finding new (or old favorite) restaurants, and cheering on our musicians.
Having the five of us together is such a blessing and we don’t take these moments for granted.
This month the book selections are adult non-fiction and fiction with a couple of the books you could read in an evening. Plus, as always, I have some excellent children’s picture books. Check them out below and let me know if you received any books for the holidays!
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.
If you choose to make a purchase through any of the links I may receive a small commission without you having to pay a cent more for your purchase.
Adult Fiction and Non-Fiction Books
THE BOOK OF FORM AND EMPTINESS
By: Ruth Ozeki
Published: September 21, 2021
This came in my Literati Book Club Subscription. I wrote about this monthly book club, HERE and HERE. It was Luminarie Cheryl Strayed’s choice for January. I hadn’t seen this book anywhere until it arrived and now I’m seeing rave reviews for it. It’s a chunkster at nearly 550 pages.
After the tragic death of his beloved musician father, fourteen-year-old Benny Oh begins to hear voices. The voices belong to the things in his house–a sneaker, a broken Christmas ornament, a piece of wilted lettuce. Although Benny doesn’t understand what these things are saying, he can sense their emotional tone; some are pleasant, a gentle hum or coo, but others are snide, angry and full of pain. When his mother, Annabelle, develops a hoarding problem, the voices grow more clamorous.
At first, Benny tries to ignore them, but soon the voices follow him outside the house, onto the street and at school, driving him at last to seek refuge in the silence of a large public library, where objects are well-behaved and know to speak in whispers. There, Benny discovers a strange new world, where “things happen.” He falls in love with a mesmerizing street artist with a smug pet ferret, who uses the library as her performance space. He meets a homeless philosopher-poet, who encourages him to ask important questions and find his own voice amongst the many.
And he meets his very own Book–a talking thing–who narrates Benny’s life and teaches him to listen to the things that truly matter.
By: Christina Clancy
Published: July 6, 2021
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
This was part of a daily Kindle Deal and it had been on my list. It isn’t my typical read, but I’m definitely curious about it. I don’t know how closed door or open door it is, but it has gotten rave reviews from a lot of authors I love and trust. I have Clancy’s first book, THE SECOND HOME on my shelf and I’m needing to read that one too.
The small town of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin is an unlikely location for a Playboy Resort, and nineteen-year old Sherri Taylor is an unlikely bunny. Growing up in neighboring East Troy, Sherri plays the organ at the local church and has never felt comfortable in her own skin. But when her parents die in quick succession, she leaves the only home she’s ever known for the chance to be part of a glamorous slice of history. In the winter of 1981, in a costume two sizes too small, her toes pinched by stilettos, Sherri joins the daughters of dairy farmers and factory workers for the defining experience of her life.
Living in the “bunny hutch”—Playboy’s version of a college dorm—Sherri gets her education in the joys of sisterhood, the thrill of financial independence, the magic of first love, and the heady effects of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. But as spring gives way to summer, Sherri finds herself caught in a romantic triangle—and the tragedy that ensues will haunt her for the next forty years.
From the Midwestern prairie to the California desert, from Wisconsin lakes to the Pacific Ocean, this is a story of what happens when small town life is sprinkled with stardust, and what we lose—and gain—when we leave home. With a heroine to root for and a narrative to get lost in, Christina Clancy’s Shoulder Season is a sexy, evocative tale, drenched in longing and desire, that captures a fleeting moment in American history with nostalgia and heart.
THE LOVE STORY OF MISSY CARMICHAEL
By: Beth Morrey
Published: April 7, 2020
Publisher: G. P. Putnam’s Sons
I didn’t know anything about this one before purchasing it, but I liked the premise and I had a Kindle credit to use toward it. It’s compared to ELEANOR OLIPHANT IS COMPLETELY FINE and A MAN CALLED OVE, and I loved both of these books.
The world has changed around seventy-nine-year-old librarian Millicent Carmichael, aka Missy. Though quick to admit that she often found her roles as a housewife and mother less than satisfying, Missy once led a bustling life driven by two children, an accomplished and celebrated husband, and a Classics degree from Cambridge. Now her husband is gone, her daughter is estranged after a shattering argument, and her son has moved to his wife’s native Australia, taking Missy’s beloved only grandchild half-a-world away. She spends her days sipping sherry, avoiding people, and rattling around in her oversized, under-decorated house waiting for…what exactly?
The last thing Missy expects is for two perfect strangers and one spirited dog named Bob to break through her prickly exterior and show Missy just how much love she still has to give. In short order, Missy finds herself in the jarring embrace of an eclectic community that simply won’t take no for an answer–including a rambunctious mutt-on-loan whose unconditional love gives Missy a reason to re-enter the world one muddy paw print at a time.
Filled with wry laughter and deep insights, The Love Story of Missy Carmichael is a coming-of-old story that shows us it’s never too late to forgive yourself and, just as important, it’s never too late to love.
THE WAR LIBRARIAN
By: Addison Armstrong
Published: August 9, 2022
Publisher: G. P. Putnam’s Sons
I’m not familiar with this author, but the tagline said it’s for fans of THE PARIS LIBRARY, which was a Favorite of 2021 for me. It doesn’t come out until August, but you can always pre-order which does help the author generate buzz before the pub date. I love WWII stories and those with dual timelines.
Two women. One secret. A truth worth fighting for.
1918. Timid and shy Emmaline Balakin lives more in books than her own life. That is, until an envelope crosses her desk at the Dead Letter Office bearing a name from her past, and Emmaline decides to finally embark on an adventure of her own—as a volunteer librarian on the frontlines in France. But when a romance blooms as she secretly participates in a book club for censored books, Emmaline will need to find more courage within herself than she ever thought possible in order to survive.
1976. Kathleen Carre is eager to prove to herself and to her nana that she deserves her acceptance into the first coed class at the United States Naval Academy. But not everyone wants female midshipmen at the Academy, and after tragedy strikes close to home, Kathleen becomes a target. To protect herself, Kathleen must learn to trust others even as she discovers a secret that could be her undoing.
By: Kathrine Kressmann Taylor
Published: 1938, republished June 29, 2021
First published in 1938 in a magazine, this short story was written to warn readers about how the Nazi mindset can take over our minds and change everything we thought we believed or loved. I heard about this on a Best Books of 2021 episode of What Should I Read Next? Patreon format and the story intrigued me. Again, this can be read in one sitting with just under 100 pages. But, those 100 pages pack a punch right in the gut. Gosh, I’m still thinking about this one. Also, the author first only used her initials so it would get published since she was a woman, but now, we truly know the author’s full name. I think it would be an excellent addition to a WWII unit in a classroom. Told in epistolary format, it makes for a very quick read.
In this searing novel, Kathrine Kressmann Taylor brings vividly to life the insidious spread of Nazism through a series of letters between Max, a Jewish art dealer in San Francisco, and Martin, his friend and former business partner who has returned to Germany in 1932, just as Hitler is coming to power.
Originally published in Story magazine in 1938, Address Unknown became an international sensation. Credited with exposing the dangers of Nazism to American readers early on, it is also a scathing indictment of fascist movements around the world and a harrowing exposé of the power of the pen as a weapon.
A powerful and eloquent tale about the consequences of a friendship—and society—poisoned by extremism, Address Unknown remains hauntingly and painfully relevant today.
WARTIME CHRISTMAS TALES
A WWII Flash Fiction Anthology
By: Alexa Kang, Dianne Ascroft, et al…
Published: November 26, 2020
Historial Fiction/Short Stories
I was looking for a quick Christmas book to finish out the year. I don’t remember where I saw this posted, but it was FREE on Kindle and still is. It is only available on Kindle and is a collection of short stories all set during WWII but in different places in the world. At less than 80 pages, you could read this in an evening. This entire collection included new-to-me authors.
Fourteen wartime Christmas tales for you to enjoy this holiday season. This collection of short stories is our gift to bring you something positive and joyful with which to end the year.
Soldiers stumbling upon mercy and miracles; children sharing gifts of friendship and love; romance finding its way into lonely, war-weary hearts; resistance fighters, spies, families on the home front—all bringing their own rays of hope in the darkest of time.
For this holiday season, we offer you this collection of short stories to lift your spirit, and to remember a time when love and the strength of human spirit prevailed.
We hope you will enjoy stepping back into the wartime Christmases in these stories with us.
How History’s Awesome Twentysomethings Got it Together
By: Robert L. Dilenschneider
Published: December 28, 2021
I read the book LATER BLOOMERS which shares about people over 35 doing great things but I haven’t seen a book that talks about younger people’s contribution to society. Each chapter focuses on one person, some I’ve heard of, and others I haven’t.
Do you think Albert Einstein had his act together by his mid-20s? Think again. Would you assume style icon and humanitarian Audrey Hepburn’s life was always as beautiful as she was? Far from it. At the other end of the spectrum is the revolutionary Steve Jobs, who was at the top of his game by age 25. But Jobs’s beginnings were marked by his adoption, displacement, bullying, and then a rocky personal life. This absorbing book examines the trajectories of 25 iconic figures—from Toni Morrison to Albert Einstein and Golda Meir to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart—to reveal where they were in their lives in their mid-twenties and the choices that enabled them to make their historic marks. For those who are coming of age now, and for those who care about them and their futures, these captivating profiles provide inspiration, instruction, and encouragement. The profiles in Path to Greatness will be real-life examples of the fact that the turning points that lead to success and happiness come at different times and as a result of different conditions. Some people create their own turning points, other people build on what happens to them.
THE STILL POINT
The Simplicity of Spiritual Enlightenment
By: Kevin Krenitsky, MD
Published: March 1, 2022
Publisher: Waterside Productions
This book is written in a question/answer format which makes the reading more approachable and more like a conversation you might have with a doctor or therapist. For those struggling with anxiety or depression, this may be a book to help you start off on a new path towards happiness.
Many people live lives riddled with outright anxiety and fear. Instead of happiness and ease being the normal state of existence, most experience happiness as only brief moments of joy, when some desire has been temporarily fulfilled. But it does not have to be this way; happiness can be recognized as our natural state of being.
According to author Kevin Krenitsky, a medical doctor and modern-day philosopher, we are in the midst of the biggest wave of awakening or self-realization this planet has ever seen. Our unconscious living has not only created stress, anxiety, wars, and famine; our choices have brought us to the edge of mass destruction. The earth has suffered greatly from our collective human unconsciousness.
In The Still Point, Krenitsky shows us a better way. He shows us how to discover and live our lives in alignment with our true self. More than just a mental concept, the Still Point is a felt experience of recognizing our own self-aware being. When the Still Point becomes obscured by giving exclusive focus to the noise of the outside world, we lose our feelings of peace and happiness.
How to Stop Painful Patterns and Find Peace and Freedom—-at Last
By: Radhule Weininger, MD, PhD
Published: December 7, 2021
For those that seem to find themselves in destructive patterns or have been hurt through a traumatic event, this book offers guidance to get out of the self-blame or emotional turmoil and find yourself again.
Find freedom from life’s painful recurring patterns in 12 simple steps, with guided practices of self-compassion, mindfulness, and embodiment.
Do you ever feel trapped by experiencing challenging feelings over and over again—sometimes without realizing it? Or do you find yourself thinking “Why is this happening to me again?” or “Why do I always feel this way?” You’re not alone. With Heart Medicine, you can learn to identify your emotional and behavioral patterns through the lens of loving awareness—without self-judgment or blame, learning to hold yourself as you would a dear friend, with space and grace.
Radhule Weininger draws on decades of experience as a therapist and meditation teacher to help readers understand the trauma behind their patterns, then offers twelve simple steps to work towards healing. Each chapter features short practices so readers can begin to put the book’s concepts to work for transformation in their own lives. With Heart Medicine you can finally be equipped with the tools to break through the patterns that hold you back and begin to live with more freedom, confidence, and peace. And that’s good medicine, indeed.
How One Therapist and a Circle of Strangers Saved My Life
By: Christine Tate
Published: October 27, 2020
Publisher: Avid Reader Press/Simon & Schuster
This is the Jen Hatmaker Book Club choice for January. It also came with an Attitude of Gratitude 2022 Journal.
Christie Tate had just been named the top student in her law school class and finally had her eating disorder under control. Why then was she driving through Chicago fantasizing about her own death? Why was she envisioning putting an end to the isolation and sadness that still plagued her in spite of her achievements?
Enter Dr. Rosen, a therapist who calmly assures her that if she joins one of his psychotherapy groups, he can transform her life. All she has to do is show up and be honest. About everything—her eating habits, childhood, sexual history, etc. Christie is skeptical, insisting that that she is defective, beyond cure. But Dr. Rosen issues a nine-word prescription that will change everything: “You don’t need a cure, you need a witness.
So begins her entry into the strange, terrifying, and ultimately life-changing world of group therapy. Christie is initially put off by Dr. Rosen’s outlandish directives, but as her defenses break down and she comes to trust Dr. Rosen and to depend on the sessions and the prescribed nightly phone calls with various group members, she begins to understand what it means to connect.
52 AWARD-WINNING TITLES EVERY BOOK LOVER SHOULD READ
A One-Year Journal and Recommended Reading List from the American Library Association
By: American Library Association
Published: December 7, 2021
I wasn’t sure how this book would be set up, but it’s a reading journal for the books that the ALA suggests every book lover should read. The books are listed with descriptions and questions to ponder and space for journaling your thoughts about the book. I have read six of the books. Several others are on my to-read list. Several others I’ve never heard of. I may get the six that I have read written about, but I’m not sure I’ll do much more with this journal this year unless I happen to read one of the books on the list. You can also get this same type of book in Diverse Titles and YA Books.
Calling all book lovers! Expand your reading list with a one-year reading challenge from the American Library Association (ALA). Including the ALA’s insights into each title, notes on the awards they’ve won, and prompts for further reflection, this journal is a must-have for all bibliophiles and library regulars.
THESE PRECIOUS DAYS
By: Ann Patchett
Published: November 23, 2021
This was a Christmas gift from my best friend from college who lives in Nashville, home to Ann Patchett’s bookstore, Parnassus Books. I’m delighted to have received this and am anxious to read through her essays.
“Any story that starts will also end.” As a writer, Ann Patchett knows what the outcome of her fiction will be. Life, however, often takes turns we do not see coming. Patchett ponders this truth in these wise essays that afford a fresh and intimate look into her mind and heart.
At the center of These Precious Days is the title essay, a suprising and moving meditation on an unexpected friendship that explores “what it means to be seen, to find someone with whom you can be your best and most complete self.” When Patchett chose an early galley of actor and producer Tom Hanks’ short story collection to read one night before bed, she had no idea that this single choice would be life changing. It would introduce her to a remarkable woman—Tom’s brilliant assistant Sooki—with whom she would form a profound bond that held monumental consequences for them both.
A literary alchemist, Patchett plumbs the depths of her experiences to create gold: engaging and moving pieces that are both self-portrait and landscape, each vibrant with emotion and rich in insight. Turning her writer’s eye on her own experiences, she transforms the private into the universal, providing us all a way to look at our own worlds anew, and reminds how fleeting and enigmatic life can be.
SEEING BEAUTIFUL AGAIN
By: Lysa Terkeurst
Published: March 30, 2021
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
This was another Christmas gift from a dear friend. I am already a fan of Terkeurst’s books and am looking forward to her newest devotional. I like that it is one I can read once a week rather than daily.
Lysa, president of Proverbs 31 Ministries, assures us that the aching pain we feel is proof there’s a beautiful remaking already in process if we don’t give up. Through these 50 devotions, Scriptures, prayer prompts, and personal notes from Lysa, you will:
Gain healthier ways to process your pain
Learn to see your situations through truth-based perspectives
Disempower the lie that how you feel about your life is the full story by
Remember that with God there’s always something more true, lovely, and good right now
Stop feeling alone in your struggles by spending guided time with God each day
While there’s no denying there are parts of our story we’d love to edit out, what if those circumstances are the unlikely ingredients God is using to weave together a greater good we’d never want to miss out on? Together we’ll discover the indescribable gift of our God, who breathes life into even the shattered pieces of our stories, creating something new and more beautiful than ever before.
JAZZ AGE COCKTAILS
History, Lore, and Recipes from America’s Roaring Twenties
By: Cecelia Tichi
Published: November 16, 2021
Publisher: NYU Press
My husband and I love making cocktails so I thought this one would be fun to learn the history of some cocktails and try making some. The author also has a Guilded Age Cocktails book which also sounds fun.
“Roaring Twenties” America boasted famous firsts: women’s right to vote, jazz music, talking motion pictures, flapper fashions, and wondrous new devices like the safety razor and the electric vacuum cleaner. The privations of the Great War were over, and Wall Street boomed.
The decade opened, nonetheless, with a shock when Prohibition became the law of the land on Friday, January 16, 1920, when the Eighteenth Amendment banned “intoxicating liquors.” Decades-long campaigns to demonize alcoholic beverages finally became law, and America officially went “dry.”
American ingenuity promptly rose to its newest challenge. The law, riddled with loopholes, let the 1920s write a new chapter in the nation’s saga of spirits. Men and women spoke knowingly of the speakeasy, the bootlegger, rum-running, black ships, blind pigs, gin mills, and gallon stills. Passwords (“Oscar sent me”) gave entrée to night spots and supper clubs where cocktails abounded, and bartenders became alchemists of timely new drinks like the Making Whoopee, the Petting Party, the Dance the Charleston. A new social event―the cocktail party staged in a private home―smashed the gender barrier that had long forbidden “ladies” from entering into the gentlemen-only barrooms and cafés.
CHRISTMAS, HERE I COME!
By: D. J. Steinberg
Illustrated by: Laurie Stansfield
Published: October 12, 2021
Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap
I have already reviewed this one since I wanted to share it before Christmas. See my review, HERE.
SNOW ANGEL, SAND ANGEL
By: Lois-Ann Yamanaka
Illustrated by: Ashley Lukashevsky
Published: January 4, 2022
Publisher: Make Me a World
Format: Hardcover Picture Book
Set in Hawaii, a young girl learns to appreciate what is right in front of her. Isn’t it funny how here in Iowa, I dream of beaches and warm sun in the winter and Claire, in Hawaii, dreams of snow? Sounds like this book will be a good reminder for all of us to appreciate what we have.
Claire has been surrounded by the deep blue waves of Hapuna Beach and the magnificent mountains of Hawai’i all her life, but has never, ever seen snow. When her father drives her and her family to the top of the Mauna Kea, she can’t help but to be disappointed…it’s not the winter wonderland she’s always dreamed of. And that’s what she wants, more than anything.
But as Claire edges ever closer to the new year, she wonders if maybe– just maybe–she can delight in the special joys of winter in her own way–right there, on her Big Island of Hawaii.
WHAT IS LOVE?
By: Mac Marnett
Illustrated by: Carson Ellis
Published: December 28, 2021
Publisher: Chronicle Kids
Format: Hardcover Picture Book
A child’s experience trying to find the answer to what is love. This is sure to be a story read time and time again.
“What is love?” a young boy asks. “I can’t answer that,” his grandmother says, and so the boy goes out into the world to find out. But while each person he meets—the fisherman, the actor, and others—has an answer to his question, not one seems quite right. Could love really be a fish, or applause, or the night? Or could it actually be something much closer to home? This tender, funny tale is an original take on the “I love you” story, a picture book treasure for all ages to read and cherish.
PLAYING WITH LANTERNS
By: Wang Yage
Illustrated by: Zhu Chengliang
Translated by: Helen Wang
Published: January 11, 2022
Publisher: Amazon Crossing Kids
Format: Hardcover Picture Book
Celebrate the Chinese New Year by reading this book.
Zhao Di and her friends are excited to go out at night with their paper lanterns and celebrate Chinese New Year. Each holding a unique colorful lantern with a lit candle inside, they admire the breathtaking colors while doing their best to avoid the wind and the sneaky boys in the village. Every night, until the fifteenth day of New Year, Zhao Di and her friends take part in this fun tradition, experiencing the thrill of nighttime in their village. And then—it’s time to smash the lanterns!
In this cheerful book first published in China, readers are invited along with Zhao Di and her friends as they experience all the joy and excitement of this folk Chinese custom. Details about the paper lantern tradition are also included in an author’s note at the end of the book.
BATHE THE CAT
By: Alice B. McGinty
Illustrated by: David Roberts
Published: February 8, 2022
Publisher: Chronicle Kids
Format: Hardcover Picture Books
This one looks hilarious! I bet it would make a great classroom or storytime read-aloud.
It’s cleaning day, but the family cat will do anything to avoid getting a bath. So instead of mopping the floor or feeding the fish, the family is soon busy rocking the rug, vacuuming the lawn, and sweeping the dishes. Bouncy rhyme carries the story headlong into the growing hilarity, until finally Dad restores some kind of order—but will the cat avoid getting his whiskers wet?
BE MY NEIGHBOR?
By: Suzy Ultman
Published: February 8, 2022
Publisher: Chronicle Kids
Format: Interactive Board Book
Suzy Ultman was the illustrator of the book LOVE CAN COME IN MANY WAYS, which I found adorable. I think kids will love this story of cats going to each neighbors house looking for the ingredients they need. Over 60 lift-the-flaps make this an interactive reading experience.
Welcome to the neighborhood! The new cats on the block are ready to bake cookies, but they’re a few items short! Help them gather ingredients by going house to house, and meet a medley of critter families. Explore each neighbor’s unique home while searching inside lift-the-flap cupboards, drawers, and more to find the needed ingredients. The best housewarming treat of all? A neighborhood full of new friends!
Lift the flaps and search the scene! This immersive dollhouse-shaped book is filled with detailed seek-and-find scenes, an abundance of lift-the-flaps, and educational first words to engage and delight young readers.
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 Addison Armstrong, ALA, alcohol, Alice B. McGinty, Ann Patchett, Ashley Lukashevsky, Bennett, Beth Morrey, board book, Book Review, Carson Ellis, Cecelia Tichi, Children's books, Christian, Christina Clancy, Christine Tate, D.J. Steinberg, fiction, Helen Wang, Jen Hatmaker, Kathrine Kressmann Taylor, Kevin Krenitsky, kindle, Laurie Stansfield, Literati, Lois-Ann Yamanaka, Lysa Terkeurst, Mac Barnett, New on the Stack, non-fiction, Pat, Patrick, Radhule Weininger, Reagan, Robert L Dilenschneider, Ruth Ozeki, short stories, Suzy Ultman, Wang Yage, WWII, Zhu Chengliang