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chestnutcurls: (bookworm)
To Be Told: Know Your Story, Shape Your Future by Dan Allender
I read/studied this book over the summer with some ladies from church, and finished it on my own this month. It didn't provide me with a life path or anything, but it affirmed some things I've already learned. It can be slow going, but everything really came together in Chapter 10. I highlighted almost the entire chapter.

Julia's Cats: Julia Child's Life in the Company of Cats by Patricia Barey and Therese Burson
I needed this charming, uplifting read (with adorable photos of cats!). As the title indicates, it's a little Julia Child biography anchored around the cats in her life. I've been going through a Julia Phase for a couple of years, and as a fellow cat person, I loved hearing her story from this angle.

Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God's Will by Kevin DeYoung
My small group leader gave me a copy of this book after I mentioned my fear of making wrong decisions. The message is that God's will is not as mysterious or personalized as most of us are taught. God doesn't turn us out into a maze and expect us to figure out His specific plan for our lives - He gives us wisdom to make good choices, and freedom to choose among options that are pleasing to Him. For the most part, this book encouraged and refreshed me!

Major Crush by Jennifer Echols
I've always wanted to write the Great American Band Novel, and Major Crush is by far the best example I've found so far! Virginia and Drew are new co-drum majors of their high school band. With controversy over Virginia's election as drum major, a last-minute change of band directors, and the fact that Virginia and Drew aren't speaking to each other, things are looking bleak. Can they achieve success as a team both on and off the field? This was my first Jennifer Echols bok, and I'm looking forward to reading more of her stuff. Based on her book covers, I didn't expect her to be so funny - like a YA Jennifer Weiner. It's obvious that she wrote this partly from experience, because the little touches of band life ring so true. LOVED IT.

Slammed by Colleen Hoover
I reviewed this here. Very good!

Starring Me by Krista McGee
I reviewed this here. I actually liked it even less than the review indicates, but I feel terrible giving a bad review of a wholesome Christian book, as if it might call my salvation into question. :P

All These Things I've Done by Gabrielle Zevin
This novel, set in NYC in the late 21st century, combines elements of The Godfather, Charles Dickens, The Hunger Games, and many other well-known themes into a really original, engaging story. Anya is the unwitting heiress of the Balanchine crime family (specialty: chocolate production and smuggling), which is falling apart years after the murder of her parents. After years of staying out of the action to protect her siblings, Anya is gradually forced into the leadership role that is her destiny. I liked this book SO much more than I thought I would! (It doesn't hurt that it shares a title with one of my favorite songs of all time.)

Books for September: 7
2012 year to date: 52
chestnutcurls: (writing)
Uncommon Criminals by Ally Carter
After the events and revelations of Heist Society, teenager Katarina Bishop has become a vigilante thief, only stealing to recover what crooks have taken from the innocent. She's also determined to work alone, shunning the help of her family and her best friend/dreamy love interest, Hale. But when Kat gets conned into stealing the Cleopatra Emerald by another powerful female thief, the fallout is more than she can handle on her own. There is something about the pacing, exotic settings, and visual quality of these books that makes them obviously ready-made for movies. But that doesn't bother me. Bring them on!

Graceling by Kristin Cashore
Katsa is a supernaturally gifted (Graced) killer. Her unpleasant uncle, the king, has forced her to bully the populace on his behalf for most of her life. To counteract those deeds, the good-hearted Katsa leads a secret Council that rights wrongs in the kingdom and beyond. After they rescue an imprisoned grandfather/king from a faraway country, Katsa meets his Graced grandson, and together they discover that the mystery of the kidnapping is only hiding a much greater danger. This novel is really solid and balanced on every level. The adventure, the romance, the danger, the family ties and family dysfunction - everything had just the right tone. I loved it, and loved Katsa and Po, and am looking forward to the rest of the series!

The Beginning of After by Jennifer Castle
In one night, high school junior Laurel loses her parents and brother in a tragic car accident. The only person who can truly understand her grief is the son of the man behind the wheel - David, her childhood friend who's been aloof toward her for years. His mother also died in the accident. This is a slow, quiet, character-driven novel, but I didn't mind walking through Laurel's recovery with her. Anyone who's experienced a Before and After can relate to and appreciate the realness of this story and its characters (who are as flawed as real people but still very likable). Although nothing is sugarcoated, it still ends on a hopeful, encouraging note.

City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare
I continue to enjoy the characters and the witty repartee of this series. The plot is action packed and kept me up way too late finishing the book. COLS presents even darker stuff than the previous Mortal Instruments books, but it didn't seem gratuitous and was dealt with in a thoughtful way. Still, I give this 4 stars almost despite myself. I prefer the more genteel world of the Infernal Devices (and got excited about the increasing number of ID cross-references - can't wait to find out who Brother Zachariah REALLY is!).

We Have Confidence! by Cheryl Cory
This sequel to Must've Done Something Good finds Sylvie happily married to her former co-teacher/frenemy, and still getting into plenty of hijinks with her sisters, Kate and Meg. In need of a new purpose in life, Sylvie and Meg launch Miss Meg's Common Sense Academy, but face opposition from a similar business in the area. The B-plot revolves around Kate's pregnancy and Sylvie's subsequent soul-searching about whether or not to have kids. This book could have used more editing and structure, but it's still enjoyable and relatable!

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? And Other Concerns by Mindy Kaling
I laughed out loud a lot at this collection of funny essays. I didn't know much about Mindy Kaling before, but now I feel a kinship with her. Partly because her general "voice" reminds me so much of moredetailsJessica that I feel like I know her. :) This is a fun, fast read.

Scary Hope: Courage and a kick to hug hope, face fear, and get going by Gary Morland
As a student of hope, I was all over this e-book when I read about it on Emily Freeman's blog (Gary Morland is her father). It's a collection of thoughts, quotes, and stories about hope. It's God-centered without being preachy, and has a rambly, stream-of-consciousness style that fans of Donald Miller will love. Don't be fooled by its humble appearance - this little book is inspiring and insightful. It was what I needed at this moment in my life. In fact, it's probably already time to re-read it.

Books for May: 7
2012 year to date: 28

My Kindle is earning its keep! I read most of these books on the Kindle, and some were from my library's new e-book program, which is almost TOO convenient - you don't have to go anywhere to pick up your holds. I've been stacking up $2.99 bargain e-books too. I really hesitated to get a Kindle, but it's one of the best investments I've made in a long time!
chestnutcurls: (bookworm)
The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler
I LOVE the premise of this novel: in 1996, two (former) best friends sign up for AOL and see their Facebook profiles - fifteen years in the future. The profiles start to change based on decisions they make in the present, some intentional and some unintentional. It wasn't quite as awesome as I hoped, but still great. I love plots involving time travel/telling the future via current technology (see also one of my classic 80s faves, Rewind to Yesterday by Susan Beth Pfeffer).

Heaven Is Here by Stephanie Nielson
As a follower of The Nie Nie Dialogues, I was excited to read Stephanie's memoir. For those who don't follow her blog, Stephanie and her husband suffered severe injuries in a plane crash in August 2009, and have been bravely putting their lives back together ever since. I appreciated Stephanie's honesty, and related to her struggle over being thankful and appreciative of her good life, but losing it anyway. I had a hard time putting this down even though I already knew the major details.

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
kiwiriaMaria loves this memoir, and I'm sorry I waited so long to take her recommendation! Through a year of intense study and practical application, Gretchen Rubin learns what makes her happy and how to spread that happiness. In fact, she establishes that trying to increase your happiness isn't selfish, because happy people make other people happier. I relate to her in many ways, and some of her personal commandments - "Be Gretchen," "What is fun for others may not be fun for you," etc. - are things I want to start applying to my life now. I plan to get my own copy of this book, re-read, and probably take notes - because that's the kind of thing that makes me happy. :) 4.5 stars!

God Loves Broken People: And Those Who Pretend They're Not by Sheila Walsh
I reviewed this for Booksneeze, so a full post is forthcoming.

How To Save A Life by Sara Zarr
After Jill's dad dies, she feels adrift in the world, no longer sure who she is. When her mom decides to adopt a baby, and the teen mom, Mandy, arrives, life gets even more confusing. This novel alternates between Jill's and Mandy's perspectives. Sara Zarr is always great at writing strong, true voices, but it's even more striking here because Jill and Mandy are such opposites. I've never been in the same position as any of these characters, but I found a LOT to relate to in this story. There was a deeply insightful line about the multi-dimensionality of grief that struck me especially hard. (Someday I'll learn to copy down quotes before returning the book to the library.)

Books for April: 5
2012 year to date: 21
chestnutcurls: (belle)
Quitter: Turning Your Job Into a Dream and Your Dream Into a Job by Jon Acuff
I talked about this already.

Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare
Things get more complicated in this second Infernal Devices novel. The secret of Will's jerkiness is revealed, Tessa receives Shadowhunter training and is torn between Will and Jem, and Charlotte has to track down the evil Magister or lose her leadership of the Institute. Plus some other surprises. I devoured this in about 24 hours. I sigh to wait another year or more for the next one.

Belong to Me by Marisa de los Santos
Why did I wait so long to read this sequel to Love Walked In? The story reconnects with Cornelia, Teo, and Clare several years after the first novel. Cornelia and Teo have moved to the suburbs and are having trouble fitting in with their neighbors, especially WASPy queen bee Piper (whose best friend is dying of cancer). Cornelia befriends another new woman in town, Lake, but is puzzled by her sudden mood swings, especially on the subject of Lake's teenage son. It all leads up to a shocking twist that I, at least, never saw coming. De los Santos is a genius at writing realistic relationships, and characters you wish you could be friends with.

Basketball Made Simple: A Spectator's Guide by P.J. Harari and Dave Ominsky
Since I love my Tiger basketball, I wanted to better understand the elements of the game. So I checked out this very earnest, but informative, guide. It covers basic player roles, strategies, and common fouls, and includes a general history of the game, NCAA and NBA. I also liked the profiles of famous players at the end.

The Gospel of Ruth: Loving God Enough to Break the Rules by Carolyn Custis James
I talked about this one here. LOVED IT.

Pretty in Plaid by Jen Lancaster
This volume of Jen's memoirs covers her childhood, teenage years, college years, and early 20s... through fashion. :) As usual, she's very funny and likable!

A Praying Life by Paul Miller
This is a book I'll come back to. It's about prayer, but it's also about hope and honesty and disappointment. The main point is that prayer should be a natural part of all those things, integrated into our lives, not a separate item on a spiritual checklist. I've read some books on prayer that were pretty dry, but this one is almost as engaging as a novel. I can't recommend it enough. It's already changed my prayer life for the better.

Books for January/2012 year to date: 7
chestnutcurls: (bookworm)
Yearning: Living Between How It Is and How It Ought to Be by Craig Barnes
This book took me a long time to complete, partly because I didn't make much progress until I put the highlighter down. In a way, it's The Allure of Hope 202 - a lot of the same themes are addressed, but more deeply and less optimistically. However, the hopefulness increases as the book goes on. These are good, solid thoughts to revisit in the future.

Amy and Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson
Amy's dad recently died in a car accident - and she thinks it's her fault. Her mom asks Roger, an old family friend, to drive Amy cross country on a pre-arranged route to her family's new home in Connecticut. When the kids decide to take a detour, a very different journey begins. It's a touching, endearing, and funny story with likable characters, and I wouldn't mind a Roger of my own. :)

The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party by Alexander McCall Smith
In this 12th installment of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, Mma Ramotswe sees the ghost of her old white van, investigates a cattle-related mystery, and helps one of the mechanic apprentices with a big problem. Meanwhile, Mma Makutsi prepares for her long-awaited wedding. I love these books!

Books for December: 3
2011 TOTAL: 71

I was hoping to hit at least 75 books for the year, but considering my schedule and the heaviness of many of my selections, I probably did well to make it this far. We'll see if my Kindle boosts my numbers for 2012! Either way, it's all about the love of reading, not numbers. :)

PS - This in-site posting client is super annoying. Why is there no Semagic for Mac??
chestnutcurls: (bookworm)
Sorry this is a little late. September was a quality-over-quantity month - three of these books were five-star reads!

Grace For the Good Girl: Letting Go of the Try-Hard Life by Emily Freeman
It's hard for me to talk about this book concisely, yet I can't stop talking about it in general. I am a Good Girl in the bone, and this book highlighted truths that God has already taught me through experience, as well as lots of things I'm still learning. It is freeing, encouraging, and life-changing. I want to hand out copies to every woman I see.

Love, Charleston by Beth Webb Hart
I don't often judge a book by its cover, but this gorgeous cover drew me in. While I enjoyed the story - about two adult sisters and their cousin, and the new priest at their historic church - and the charming setting of Charleston, something about this book was a little disconnected. One of the sisters suffers from the most extreme case of postpartum depression I've ever heard of, and it's never fully explained. The main romance of the book takes place almost entirely "offscreen." Things happen abruptly. I almost got the feeling this was written for NaNoWriMo or something.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett
I'm pretty much the last person to read this, so just add my praise to the chorus. What an excellent and inspiring story. I think the book and/or the movie should be part of the curriculum in modern US history classes - they really brought the day-to-day realities of the civil rights movement to life for me. The strength of Aibileen, Minny and Skeeter will stick with me for a long time. Amazing book.

Goliath by Scott Westerfeld
The perfect ending to a perfect trilogy. I believe the Leviathan books are destined to be classics. There's something brilliant, unique, and timeless about them that people of all ages can enjoy (although the whole fabricated beasts thing might be too much for young kids to grasp :)). As I said on my blog recently, I think they have a well-rounded, Princess Bride-ish quality. Goliath is also very romantic in a wholesome way, and I teared up at several points. (True, I am very emotional, but if you don't feel something at that ending, you are MADE OF STONE.) I also want a Bovril of my own, although my cat Gandalf is pretty perspiscacious himself. Anyway, I will love these books forever. And maybe we can look forward to a movie someday - for any Westerfeld fans who haven't heard, the Uglies movie is finally happening!

Books for September: 4
2011 year to date: 59
chestnutcurls: (bookworm)
In writing this up, I noticed that the unintentional theme of June's book list (at least 4/5ths of it) is Realistic Fiction. All of these stories involve tough or sad situations and/or people who disappoint you... just like real life. I guess that's good. I certainly can't be accused of escapism this month. :)

Sisterhood Everlasting by Ann Brashares
After four Sisterhood books, reading this ten-year follow-up was like visiting old friends. The adults Lena, Carmen, Bridget, and Tibby turned out to be, and their reactions to what happened, seemed so real. I felt like I was experiencing their tragedy right along with them. I read this book in one evening because I couldn't do anything until I found out how it all ended (satisfyingly!). I remember [livejournal.com profile] enjoythemoment once said she prayed for a character's safety on Lost before she remembered that he wasn't a real person. That's how I felt while I read this!

When The Stars Go Blue by Caridad Ferrer
This novel is (mostly) set in Miami and is about a dancer who joins a drum corps! Could more of my favorite things BE in one book? It's well done, but it was a darker, more intense story than I was expecting, with a shocking end. The characters are multidimensional - likable, but prone to bad decisions. (Also, the eternal marcher in me is still wondering how the Raiders retooled their show in time for finals. :))

We'll Always Have Summer by Jenny Han
In this last book in the Summer trilogy, Belly has to make a final choice between brothers Conrad (her first love) and Jeremiah (whom she's now been with for two years). I obviously liked it, since I finished it in one afternoon, but the impossibility of Belly's situation made me uncomfortable. I just felt bad for her and everyone involved. I think the story ended the right way, but not without a lot of pain and scars.

The Last Little Blue Envelope by Maureen Johnson
When Ginny (of 13 Little Blue Envelopes) hears from the stranger in possession of her last mysterious letter from her aunt, she embarks on another European adventure. I loved this as much as the first Envelopes book! I liked the fact that it wasn't exactly a fairy tale ending, but happy nonetheless. :) I really wish there were more Ginny books!

The Girl Who Was On Fire: Your Favorite Authors on Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games Trilogy, ed. Leah Wilson
A collection of essays about The Hunger Games from 13 current YA authors. I enjoyed the very different perspectives. My favorite by far was "Your Heart Is a Weapon The Size of Your Fist," about love as a political act. :)

Books for June: 5 (I'm amazed it's that many, considering how busy I was)
2011 year to date: 40
chestnutcurls: (belle)
Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
This is a dark novel about two extremely eating-disordered girls, one of whom launches off the deep end after the other dies. I know that a book about mental illness is well written if it makes me start feeling mentally ill. :\ I'm not sure why I read it, other than it's mentioned sometimes on book blogs.

Beautiful Darkness by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
This second book in the Caster series was packed full of surprises and revelations! It built up and delivered on the mythology while still leaving plenty to be explored. Although Ethan and Lena are still the focus, there's a lot more weight on the supporting characters, which I liked. I'm not sure how long the series is expected to be, but THIS is how you write a sequel! I have to say, some key plot elements reminded me of New Moon, but it seemed appropriate since this is the "Southern Twilight." :) And they were far less annoying than in New Moon.

The Summer I Turned Pretty and It's Not Summer Without You by Jenny Han
I never expected to be so taken in by these books. In the first, Belly has spent every summer of her life with her mom, her mom's best friend Susannah, and Susannah's two sons at a New England beach house. But this summer, everything is changing. This book is refreshing and somehow comforting, and the characters are realistic and likable. I related to Belly in some ways, even though I'm twice her age. :\ The second book is set a year later, after tragedy strikes, and Belly tries to help the boys pick up the pieces while dealing with her own confused feelings. I finally gave in and ordered the last book, because I can't wait any longer to find out how it ends!

13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson
I enjoyed this so much! It's a YA novel about Ginny, who is sent on a wild goose chase around Europe guided only by letters from her free-spirited aunt, who has recently, unexpectedly died. It was unfortunate that I read this so soon after seeing Taken, because every time Ginny befriended a stranger, I was worried for her safety. :) But it's a fun, touching, relatable story. It would make a great movie - Kate Hudson would be a perfect Aunt Peg, in flashback.

Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart by Beth Pattillo
A novel about a woman with a martyrdom complex who goes to Oxford to present her sister's paper at a Pride and Prejudice conference. It was okay, but I think there was too much backstory. The payoff moments were mostly based on past events that the reader never saw, some of which weren't fully explained. It made me feel disconnected, and I generally had trouble warming up to the main character.

The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman
When I saw this in the library, I was just thrilled that Polly Shulman wrote another book. The subject was beside the point - I would read an electronics manual if Polly Shulman wrote it. Thankfully, this novel is much more exciting. It involves fairy tales and a magical library, but has the same fresh and current feeling as Enthusiasm (one of my favorite books). Her characters are always lovably quirky and diverse, and you can totally see yourself hanging out with them. I loved it!!!

Books for May: 7
2011 year to date: 35

PS: I was forced to return Beth Moore's amazing So Long, Insecurity to the library before finishing it, but a copy of my own is on the way, and you WILL be hearing more about it.

PPS: As someone who laughed and cried her way through four Traveling Pants books, HOW am I so late in hearing about this? It comes out in two weeks!


It's an adult novel that picks up ten years after the last book. I'm hopeful for a better where-are-they-now than Sweet Valley Confidential (which I haven't hurried to read because I heard it was awful).
chestnutcurls: (bookworm)
Captivating: Unveiling The Mystery of a Woman's Soul by John and Stasi Eldredge (re-read)
It's been a few years since I first read this book, but I get even more out of it now. Apparently a lot of women hate it and think it's demeaning and overemotional, but I totally disagree. I connect to it deeply and find it empowering!

Writing Down The Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg
I started reading this, oh, last fall sometime. I wanted to make sure I was really absorbing it, so I made myself read slowly, and eventually forgot about it. :P Well, I'm glad I picked it back up because it is BRILLIANT. Also laugh-out-loud funny in parts (her epiphany about a buttoned-up writing class: "I know what the problem is! None of you have ever taken LSD!"). Although the author and I come from very different perspectives, I totally got her points and think they'll be helpful and valuable in my writing. This is definitely a future re-read!

Flying Solo by Denise Hildreth Jones
DHJ is a Christian fiction author, and these are excerpts from her journal during the year after her divorce. If you're divorced, have a loved one who is, or just want to understand what it's like, READ IT. Whole chunks of it were things I've said or thought almost verbatim. I wrote a long review for this book, which I planned to submit to Blissfully Domestic, so I'll hold off on posting it until I learn how to write a query and see if they might want it. :\ Anyway, I think it was incredibly brave of Denise to publish this.

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
This YA novel about an American in Paris lived up to the massive hype. I finished it in one night! Anna and her friends are realistic and likable, and Etienne St. Clair is totally swoon-worthy. It's a fun, romantic, intelligent story not involving vampires or werewolves, or glorifying Ke$ha-like behavior. And the jabs at Anna's dad, who's an obvious stand-in for Nicholas Sparks, were hilarious. I loved it!

This World We Live In by Susan Beth Pfeffer
In this final book in the Moon trilogy, the teenage protagonists of the first two books meet. I was chomping at the bit to read this, but ended up disappointed and don't know why. Maybe the bleakness of the post-moon world finally got to me. Maybe I've lost all ability to buy into a love story between near-strangers. It wasn't bad, but it didn't thrill me. The first book is still miles ahead of its sequels.

Shelf Discovery: The Teen Classics We Never Stopped Reading, edited by Lizzie Skurnick
A collection of essays about classic children's and teen books. I enjoyed the chapters about books that I loved as a kid, and was made aware of many others that I missed!

Books for April: 6
2011 year to date: 28
chestnutcurls: (belle)
A Girl From Yamhill and My Own Two Feet by Beverly Cleary
These are Beverly Cleary's two memoirs - I know I've read the first one before, but it didn't seem familiar to me. The first book covers her childhood years in Oregon during the Depression and is an honest look at that time period, including her messed-up relationship with her mother. The second memoir is about her college years, first job, marriage and move to California during the WWII years, ending with the publication of her first book, Henry Huggins. She had wanted to write a book since childhood, but was 33 before she finally did it! That gives me hope. :) I think she's awesome.

Envy and Splendor by Anna Godbersen
The last two books in the Luxe series. They didn't quite live up to the first two for me, but I still loved the bold plot twists and multidimensional characters. The ending was unexpected, but pretty satisfying. I appreciated that not everyone got a big red bow!

Savannah From Savannah, Savannah Comes Undone, and Savannah by the Sea by Denise Hildreth
I read the first two books of this Christian fiction trilogy years ago, but wanted to re-read (and finish) now that I've been to Savannah several times. I enjoyed the series more with an accurate mental picture! In the first book, Savannah returns to her hometown after her dreams of writing a novel are shattered. She gets a job at the Savannah Chronicle and uncovers a beauty pageant scandal, which may affect her mother, the former Miss Georgia. In the second book, her mother protests the attempted removal of a monument of the Ten Commandments, and Savannah covers the story while going through personal changes and faith challenges. The third book involves a family beach trip, finding love, and figuring out what real love looks like. This messy summary is the best I can do, because the plots are packed. While I found most of the characters charming, I have to say that Savannah herself consistently irritated me... and when the love story came to fruition, I didn't really buy it. I have more thoughts and commentary on these books, if anyone wants to discuss them further. :)

Emily and Einstein by Linda Francis Lee
A Goodreads Firstreads novel about Emily, who works at a publishing house in NYC. Her cheating, entitled husband, Sandy, is killed in an accident - but "wakes up" in the body of a stray dog, Einstein, whom Emily subsequently adopts. In order to save his soul, Sandy/Einstein has to right his wrongs and help Emily put her life back together, while in dog form. It's upsetting in parts and a little bit crazy (okay, a lot crazy), but overall I was drawn in by the story.

Cold Tangerines by Shauna Niequist
A wonderful, moving, insightful book that brought me to major tears more than once. I eventually stopped highlighting things and just put stars next to chapter titles! I can't decide whether I like this one or Bittersweet best.

Books for March: 9
2011 year to date: 22
chestnutcurls: (bookworm)
Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher
Like Carrie Fisher herself, this book is manic-depressive, but interesting. I admire her sense of humor about tough things, and laughed out loud several times. A good quick read.

The Luxe and Rumors by Anna Godbersen
For years I've been attracted to these beautiful book covers in stores, but I assumed it was just another A-List, Gossip-Girl-esque series. Turns out, it's Gossip Girl circa 1899. This story is full of intrigue, secret loves, Victorian gowns, and people of honor vs. people behaving badly. I was totally sucked in and put a hold on the second book immediately! The overall tone reminds me of Caroline B. Cooney's Both Sides of Time quartet (I mean that as a compliment), which makes sense since it takes place in the same time period. I thought the author's plot choices at the end of the second book were especially brave. I read the third and fourth books yesterday, so you'll have to wait another month to hear about those. Oh and Diana is my fave.

Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secular World by Henri J.M. Nouwen
A book of musings on the meaning of being God's Beloved and how it translates in our lives. borboletalannaAlanna gave this to me for my last birthday, and I'm sorry it took me so long to finish it! After a long pause, I tore through the last half of the book in one night (and highlighted plenty). This is wonderful and affirming stuff. Anyone have other Nouwen recommendations?

Heavens to Betsy and Earth to Betsy by Beth Pattillo
Betsy is an associate minister at a downtown Nashville church, dealing with the struggles of women in ministry AND her sudden romantic feelings for her best guy friend. The sequel, well, let's just say a wedding is involved, but it doesn't go the way you would expect. I liked these novels (but preferred the first one) and especially enjoyed all the Nashville references. :) It's hard to find good contemporary Christian fiction, but these struck the right balance.

The Opposite of Me by Sarah Pekkanen
I connected deeply with this novel, and I can't really explain why. I sort of related to the main character, Lindsey, who goes home to start over after her fast-paced life in NYC gets derailed. For the first time in years, she has to spend time with her twin sister, Alex, who's everything Lindsay is not. Then some unexpected turns in Alex's life force both women to confront who they really are. There's also a great cast of supporting characters. I loved it!

Books for February: 7
2011 year to date: 13
chestnutcurls: (bookworm)
Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
When this book came out, I heard it described as Twilight meets To Kill a Mockingbird. That's pretty apt. It's about a teenage boy in a small South Carolina town, which is turned upside down by the arrival of Lena, a volatile girl with strong, mysterious powers. It wouldn't necessarily make my all-time favorites list, but while I was reading it, I couldn't get anything done. Really great.

The Yada Yada Prayer Group Gets Decked Out by Neta Jackson
The Yada Yada series ends with a wedding! I enjoy these characters, but I had to shake my head at some of the goings-on in this book. Thankfully, some of the characters were shaking their heads too. All in all, a good ending.

When Life and Beliefs Collide by Carolyn Custis James
Based on the title of this book, I assumed it was about trusting God in hard times. It sort of is, but the real focus is the importance and influence of a woman's theology (what she believes about God) to her faith walk, her life, and everyone around her. It's structured around the story of Mary of Bethany (sister of Martha and Lazarus). This is one of the most important, and empowering, books I have ever read. I could talk about it for hours and want to buy a copy for every Christian woman I know. THANKS to moderneleganceEsther for loaning it to me! Now I need to get the rest of CCJ's books.

The First Part Last by Angela Johnson
This is a short and beautiful novella about a teenage dad and his baby daughter. The action is divided between past and present, so you get gradual snippets of what happened and why he's raising a baby by himself. It seemed very realistic, and the hopeful, pro-life message was strong but subtle. The Printz Award was well-deserved!

Eleven Kids, One Summer by Ann M. Martin
A nostalgia read - I loved Ten Kids, No Pets as a kid and I was happily surprised to find a sequel at a thrift store. It's about the now eleven-kid family's summer adventures on Fire Island. It was cute, but I'm not sure I would have loved it even in my younger days. It lacked the structure and plot follow-through of the original.

The Double Comfort Safari Club by Alexander McCall Smith
This month was fairly bleah for me emotionally, so I decided I needed a good dose of the Ladies' Detective Agency. This is the most recent installment, which I hadn't read yet. I love these books SO MUCH. They're funny, comforting windows into a simpler (but not sugar-coated) life. I was excited to discover that the next book will be out in March, and I have high hopes that Mma Makutsi and Phuti Radiphuti will get married at last.

Books for January / 2011 year to date: 6
chestnutcurls: (belle)
Runaway by Meg Cabot
I waited so long to read this conclusion to the Airhead trilogy that disappointment was probably inevitable. I enjoyed it, but felt that MC dropped down to her worst writing tropes (i.e. headdeskingly clueless heroine) just in time to wrap up an intelligent, fun story. Maybe it was just me.

Anchored In Love: An Intimate Portrait of June Carter Cash by John Carter Cash
I sort of relate to June Carter Cash as portrayed in Walk the Line, and was interested in the true details of her life and her marriage to Johnny. This biography was written by their only son and child together (they each had several daughters from previous marriages). I prepared to be inspired - and I was, but not in the ways I expected. After so much depiction of their relationship as a Southern fairy tale, I was saddened and disillusioned by some of the facts. But there's no doubt that June was an incredibly strong woman.

Matched by Ally Condie
THE YA dystopian novel of this season - it's sort of a more romantic teenage version of The Giver. For me, it suffered slightly from overhype, but overall I thought it was great and look forward to the sequels!

The Yada Yada Prayer Group Gets Rolling by Neta Jackson
My last book for 2010 - I stayed up late last night to finish it. :) I finally bought the last two Yada Yada books so I can finish the series. As with all the other books, the Extreme Diversity and charismatic influences are heavy-handed, but there's no doubt that these stories put me in a more God-centered mindset. Plus, I always enjoy good individual AND group character development over a long period of time. One more to go!

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart
In this novel, Frankie, a brilliant but underestimated teenager at a New England boarding school, beats her boyfriend and his buddies at their own secret-society game. I loved it. Most of the characters were the kind of smart, quick people I've always enjoyed hanging around. :)

Get Off Your Knees and Pray by Sheila Walsh
An encouraging, easily understandable look at cultivating a lifestyle of prayer. I LOVE Sheila Walsh - she's so real and down-to-earth.

Books for December: 6
2010 FINAL TOTAL: 67

There's been an obvious decline in my year-end reading totals over the last few years. I guess that's what happens when you get older and develop more interests. And start subscribing to a lot of magazines. :\ But it's been a great year of reading no matter what the numbers say. Yay books!
chestnutcurls: (bookworm)
Stiltsville by Susanna Daniel
This novel, about a couple's everyday life from the 60's through the 90's, is beautiful, real, and profound. A few times I was moved to tears just by how perfectly the author captured the evolving atmosphere of South Florida - only a true Miami native could have written this. It made me feel like I was home again.

The Gathering Storm and Towers of Midnight by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson
The first two books in the trilogy-within-a-series that will wrap up the Wheel of Time. Brandon Sanderson is second only to Joss Whedon in his ability to write strong, feminine, multi-layered women, and all the characters (not just the women) are really fleshing out under his authorship. I want to sit at Egwene al'Vere's feet and learn the weaves for awesomeness. I hate to say it, but I liked these books better than any of Jordan's!

Oh and please note that both of these clock in around 800 pages, severely lowering my book count for the month. It's a miracle that I even finished the last one last night, in time to make the book list. I also got a lot of Looks while reading them in public, which is odd - I mean, some Harry Potter books are about the same length and no one gives weird looks about those.

Books for November: 3
2010 year to date: 61
chestnutcurls: (belle)
The Healing Path by Dan Allender
This is a deeply encouraging book about hope, embracing life, and how God draws us closer to Himself. It encompasses what I want to be and believe right now. I highlighted three pages' worth of quotes! My friend Kaye recommended it to me, and now several of my friends are reading it.

Summer at Tiffany by Marjorie Hart
A charming memoir by a woman who worked at Tiffany in New York for one summer of college - the summer of 1945, when WWII ended. I love first-person accounts of historic periods, and it was great to read about NYC back when everyone had a lot more class. :)

Such A Pretty Fat by Jen Lancaster
This volume of Jen Lancaster's memoirs is about losing weight (and also growing up a little in the process). You can always count on Jen to keep it real and hilarious! I only have two more of her books left to read, so I hope she's working on a new one.

How to Ditch Your Fairy by Justine Larbalestier
This novel is deeper than it appears. It's about a society in which most people have a personal fairy that gives them a specific ability. Charlie believes that her good-parking fairy is ruining her life, and will stop at nothing to get rid of it. It's lighthearted, but also raises discussions about faith, personal rights, the grass being greener on the other side, etc.

Ascendant by Diana Peterfreund
This sequel is even better than Rampant - I don't know how to do it justice. I was riveted. 5 stars. I'm also devastated that the final book isn't in the works yet, because there's so much to tie up!

When He Leaves by Kari West and Noelle Quinn
This book made me feel more understood than any other divorce/crisis recovery book I've read. These ladies - both of whom have Been There - have said everything I could say on the subject. What really sets it apart is the assumption that you love God and are committed to Him, and you gave everything you had to your marriage. It doesn't say that you ought to be questioning yourself and probably should have tried harder (the way other books, and people, do). It reminds you that God loves you, has delivered you, and has amazing things in store for you. It provides SO MUCH hope, comfort, and even laughs. I can't recommend it enough!

Books for October: 6
2010 year to date: 58

A friend loaned me the first Brandon Sanderson Wheel of Time book (I still haven't read it), so that may be the only book I read next month because they're so insanely long. We'll see.
chestnutcurls: (bookworm)
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
Without being spoilery, Mockingjay produced a lot of the same feelings in me that Deathly Hallows did. It was brilliant, but not quite what I expected. Still, everything unfolded in a way that was true to the story and to Katniss's (awesome) character. I love Haymitch too, flaws and all.

In Every Pew Sits a Broken Heart: Hope For the Hurting by Ruth Graham
I was very encouraged by this memoir/self-help book, in which Ruth Graham talks about the unexpected trials she's experienced and what she learned from them. Each chapter focuses on a specific tough time in her life, and is supplemented with advice, discussion questions, and pertinent Bible verses. I appreciate such a prominent Christian being so honest about her struggles - and I know it wasn't easy for her, since she addresses that in the book too. The chapter about recovering from crisis (with the example of the prophet Elijah being cared for in the desert) was a great affirmation for me at this moment in my life.

The Day I Shot Cupid: Hello, My Name Is Jennifer Love Hewitt and I'm a Love-aholic by Jennifer Love Hewitt
Don't judge! I saw this at the library and couldn't resist. It read like a blog, was very entertaining (often unintentionally), and included a workout designed by JLH's trainer that I copied and am actually going to try to do! It took me less than an hour to read, too, so there's nothing to feel bad about. :) JLH also seems like a very nice and well-meaning person.

Falling Apart in One Piece by Stacy Morrison
This memoir of an unwanted divorce was difficult for me to read. I almost gave up a few times, but for some reason I felt that it was important for me to finish it. It is honest, real, and raw, and a good representation of the experience.

Knowing God by J.I. Packer
I started this classic at the beginning of 2010, reading it a little at a time so I could fully absorb it. He expounds on the attributes of God in a way that's both understandable and leads you to new revelations. I'm sure I'll come back to this book again and again!

Talking to Girls About Duran Duran: One Young Man's Quest for True Love and a Cooler Haircut by Rob Sheffield
My first win on Goodreads First Reads! I enjoyed Rob Sheffield's first memoir, Love is a Mixtape, so I was excited about this new one. Each chapter is loosely structured around an 80s/early 90s song that influenced him or was the backdrop to an important time in his life. Since I also strongly connect music with memories, I can totally relate. The book is fun and engaging, and if a guy who wrote for Rolling Stone can admit to liking Hanson, I need not be ashamed. :)

Books for August: 6
2010 year to date: 46
chestnutcurls: (bookworm)
July was my most productive reading month of the year!

Don't You Forget About Me by Jancee Dunn
This novel is about a thirtysomething New Yorker who moves back to her childhood home in the suburbs after her husband leaves her. In preparation for her high school reunion, she basically regresses to that seemingly-better time. This book was funny, thought-provoking and even comforting to me. The characters were real and relatable, and in some cases, charming. I really liked it.

The Solitude of Prime Numbers by Paolo Giordano
I read this in one night. It's a sort-of love story about Alice and Mattia, two solitary, disturbed people with dark pasts. I never warmed up to either of them and didn't really like the story itself, but the writing and the translation from Italian are superb. Most translated books I've read have seemed awkward, but this one wasn't at all.

Schooled by Anisha Lakhani
A novel about a private school teacher who temporarily loses her ideals in favor of big bucks on the side. I'm always fascinated by these NYC-high-life novels (see also Lauren Weisberger's entire body of work). Part of it is escapism into a cushy life I'll never lead, but part of it is morbid curiosity as to why these characters don't just leave New York. I mean, it appears to be a culture unto itself. Move to Cleveland or somewhere and enjoy a normal life with normal priorities! Although I guess then there would be no book.

The Summer Before by Ann M. Martin
I was a diehard Baby-Sitters Club fan as a kid, and the books impacted me in subtle ways that I probably don't realize even now (not including the traces of Stacey McGill in my handwriting). So I was excited to hear about the first new BSC book in many years. It follows the "core four" in the summer before they start the BSC. I've heard that some of the plot is directly contradictory to the Portrait Books, and it also reminded me a little of the liberties-taking BSC movie (not sure if AMM had a hand in the movie). But I still enjoyed it!

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life by Donald Miller
One of my passions in life is a well-told story, and this book is all about telling a good story with your life. It's about Donald Miller's experiences while turning Blue Like Jazz into a screenplay. It's convicting, inspiring, and brilliant...but his simplistic, almost Forrest Gump-like manner of thinking/writing drives me nuts a lot of the time.

Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
This is sort of a memoir in short, unrelated vignettes. It's really original and interesting. I laughed a lot, and, like many others, wish I had thought of it first.

The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling
Finally got around to reading this! It's brief and simple, but a nice background piece. I liked Dumbledore's notes. :)

Tea Time For the Traditionally Built by Alexander McCall Smith
#10 in the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series. I LOVE these books and I think Mma Ramotswe and I would be good friends.

Books for July: 8
2010 year to date: 40
chestnutcurls: (bookworm)
The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly
Recommended (and loaned) to me by lmconnLance. Like the original fairy tales it pays homage to, this book doesn't pull punches, and a lot of truly disturbing things happen to David (the child hero) and his friends. I had a hard time slogging through the darkness, but everything really picked up in the last 50-100 pages. I'm generally not a fan of horror, but this book is VERY well-written and probably has a lot more traditional literary references that went right over my head. By the way, I finished it right under the wire last night and was more excited about that than I ought to be. :P :)

My Fair Lazy by Jen Lancaster
Loaned to me by tingilyaDanielle. Each of Jen Lancaster's memoirs have a theme - this one is about expanding her cultural horizons after realizing she's addicted to reality TV. It's funny, interesting and informative. Weirdly enough, the funniest part for me had nothing to do with culture. It was about her cats becoming so obsessed with a pineapple that she never got to cut it up and eat it. I could totally envision the scene. I'm laughing just thinking about it!

A Circle of Quiet by Madeleine L'Engle
Madeleine L'Engle always has plenty to teach me, and I think this is my favorite of her books so far. It's sort of a long journal entry about writing, family, community, faith, beauty...all the important things. I underlined something on almost every page (and plan to share those quotes soon). The other Crosswicks Journals are on my wish list now.

The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner by Stephenie Meyer
After being crazy about Twilight, then backing off from it, I'm starting to enjoy it in small doses again. (I want to see Eclipse this weekend!) This novella was interesting even though we all know what happens to Bree. I read it on the publisher's website. Say what you will about Stephenie Meyer, the woman can tell a story. I admire her.

Maria by Maria von Trapp
A memoir about Maria's pre-convent and post-war life - there's not much about the Sound of Music days, I'm pretty sure that's another book. I was surprised to learn that Maria got into the Charismatic Catholic movement later in life.

Plan B: What Do You Do When God Doesn't Show Up The Way You Thought He Would? by Pete Wilson
This book came out at the perfect time for me. It was exactly what I needed to deal with my current disappointing circumstances. It's encouraging but doesn't give you platitudes or easy answers. It'll definitely be a re-read!

Books for June: 6
2010 year to date: 32
chestnutcurls: (belle)
The Friendships of Women by Dee Brestin
This book uses three examples of Biblical friendship to illustrate how we should relate to each other as women. It wasn't exactly what I thought it would be, but I enjoyed it.

Being Nikki by Meg Cabot
I think the Airhead trilogy is Meg Cabot's best work, after Avalon High. This second book is full of unexpected turns and has a sad, suspenseful ending, but I know all is not lost for Em and her friends. Can't wait to read Runaway - unfortunately, my library doesn't have it, and I don't want to buy the hardcover when my other books are paperback. Wah.

Heist Society by Ally Carter
This book is like a young female version of Ocean's Eleven populated by Cassandra Clare characters. LOVED IT. I know many people were bothered by how obviously movie-optionable it is, but it didn't bother me!

The Humor of Christ by Elton Trueblood
It took me a while to get through this book because it's very scholarly, but I'm glad I read it. It's an analysis of Jesus' wit and humor in the Gospels. Like the author, I feel that this side of His personality (for lack of a better word) is seriously under-studied. The prevailing attitude is that every word Jesus said was completely serious and intense, and that just isn't the case! It's encouraging to be reminded that He laughed too.

Books for May: 4
2010 year to date: 26

Wow, am I even going to make it to 50 this year? :( I have a ton of new, interesting books to read at home, but they're ALL non-fiction and I don't feel up to it. I just want something fun and fluffy that won't make me sad.
chestnutcurls: (bookworm)
I was going to post my book list on Friday, but I hoped to finish my "current book" by the end of the day. I didn't. Now I have to wait another month to talk about it - and it was great! :\

Family Affair by Caprice Crane
A novel about a separated young couple who fight for "custody" of his wacky family. Not my favorite Caprice Crane, but still funny, entertaining and hard to put down.

Six Steps to Increased Fertility by Harvard Medical School
A helpful and positive read. The information is pretty basic, but the writers emphasized things I hadn't heard much about before. I was surprised to see a sort of holistic approach from a medical school.

Barefoot by Elin Hildebrand
This book exceeded my expectations! It's about three women (two of them sisters), each going through a different crisis, sharing a beach house for the summer. It's one of those books that I related to, and that affected me, in ways I can't really explain. And one of the characters is a writer named Brenda. :)

Led by Faith by Immaculee Ilibagiza
borboletalannaAlanna gave me this book for Christmas, and I'm so glad she did! It's a memoir by a survivor of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. I didn't know much about that event before reading this, but you can't find a more eyewitness account. This book focuses mostly on the spiritual effects of the genocide in Immaculee's life (she lost almost her entire family), and her journey to forgiveness. Her beautiful spirit and closeness to God is really inspiring.

Blue Heart Blessed by Susan Meissner
Christian chick lit: a jilted bride opens a secondhand bridal boutique in a hotel, where she lives with a motley crew of characters. I didn't totally buy the end-game romance for various reasons, but all in all, it was a charming and good book.

Truly, Madly by Heather Webber
This novel about a psychic matchmaker/investigator totally lived up to the hype. I'd definitely read the other books in the series!

Books for April: 6
2010 year to date: 22

December 2015

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