May Reads – 2018

1. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

This book was a Goodreads Choice Winner in 2017, so I decided to give it a try. I loved how the author structured the narrative. The story starts with Mrs. Richardson waking up late one morning to the smell of smoke. Someone has lit fires in the bedrooms. From here, the author takes us back to the events leading up to the arson and introduces us to the lives Mr. & Mrs. Richardson and their four high school children. The perfect, painstakingly planned out community of Shaker Heights is disrupted by the arrival of a mother-daughter duo and by a custody battle. As a read this book, I was struck multiple times by the human desire for something that can’t be fulfilled on our own. Some characters take control of their lives and follow rules only to find some things are still out of their control. Others break the rules in search of a fun, happy life and find they are still discontent. In the end, all the characters are still searching for something to complete their lives and bring them joy. Overall, this wasn’t one of my favorite books, but it was thought-provoking.

 

2. Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys (audiobook)

I LOVED this book! There are so many WWII historical fiction books out there, but this one quickly became one of my favorites. The story is told by four very different people who find their lives intertwining due to the war. The audiobook was fantastic because there was a different narrator for each character’s part of the story. I liked seeing into each character’s thoughts as they fought for survival. This book was also an interesting way to learn the history of the Wilhelm Gustloff, a ship shrouded in more tragedy than the Titanic.

 

3. The Song of Glory and Grace (Outlaws of Time book 2) by N.D. Wilson

I am a huge fan of N.D. Wilson, but I’m struggling through this series. I have trouble engaging in the story line, and I miss Wilson’s imaginative descriptions and humor that pervade his other books.

 

The book I abandoned…

The Magicians by Lev Grossman (audiobook)

A high school student receives a mysterious invitation to join a secret college of magic where he meets other brilliant young adults with magical capabilities. With that kind of premise, I can see why this book is described as Harry Potter for a more mature audience. I made it almost a fourth of the way through the audiobook before giving up. None of the characters were enduring, and I didn’t care what happened to any of them. Several times, I fell asleep while listening to this book and found that I didn’t mind missing a large chunk of the story. I also quickly grew tired of the language/swearing.

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April Reads – 2018

Friends, audiobooks have changed my reading life. I didn’t realize how much time I spent driving until I started listening to audiobooks in the car. And now I don’t have to choose between cleaning my house and reading – I can do both at once!

 

  1. North! Or be Eaten (book 2) by Andrew Peterson (audiobook)

I love Peter Sandon’s voice as he narrates this audiobook. It fits the tale perfectly. This second book in the Wingfeather Saga took a bit of a darker turn as the Igiby family flees from their home and tries to find safety in a world of enemies, monsters, and traitors. It seems unlikely that a family could survive so many near-death experiences, but Peterson won me over in the end and I’m looking forward to the next book in this series.

 

2. Berlin 1936: Sixteen Days in August by Oliver Hilmes

This historical book about the 1936 Olympics was not quite what I expected. I thought it would focus more on the actual Olympic events and the athletes, but instead it was more about the atmosphere in Berlin and the lives of the people who were there at the time. I felt very confused for the first part of the book as character after character was thrown at me. Just when I had figured out who someone was, they would vanish from the story and a new person would be introduced. After getting passed my initial misconceptions, it was interesting to learn about what it was like in Germany leading up to WWII. It is amazing how much was already set in motion in 1936 and how the Nazis managed to hide so much as tourists streamed into Berlin for the Olympics.

 

3. These is My Words: The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine by Nancy Turner (audiobook)

I loved how the voice of Sarah changed and developed throughout this book. This story follows Sarah’s life from 1881-1901 as she faces great loss and love.

 

4. The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros (audiobook)

A short and sweet story about Esperanza, a Latina girl, living in Chicago. The story is told in poetically written snapshots, and I enjoyed catching glimpses of what growing up in Esperanza’s culture would be like.

5. In Farleigh Field by Rhys Bowen

I heard this book compared to binge watching a British TV drama, and I think that description holds true. Set in WWII, In Farleigh Field is a historical novel about life in Britain with the impending horror of being invaded by Germany. It focuses on the lives of several young adults who find themselves caught up in a world of mystery, spies, and code breaking.

 

6. The Monster in the Hollows (book 3) by Andrew Peterson (audiobook)

7. The Warden and the Wolf King (book 4) by Andrew Peterson (audiobook)

I wasn’t sold on the Wingfeather Saga until I read these last two books in the series. I feel like book 1 & 2 were just setting the stage for all the events in these two books. Peterson’s stories are full of creativity, lots of adventure, an amazing cast of characters, and beautiful allegories that make these books worth reading for all ages. I was struck several times by how relatable these characters in a fantasy world could be. I was somewhat disappointed that Andrew Peterson narrated these two books instead of Peter Sandon, but these still made great audiobooks to keep me awake on my drives to and from work.

 

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March Reads – 2018

I felt like I had reading ADD this month. I usually prefer to devote all my attention to one book at a time, but this month there were several times when I realized I had 2-3 books going at once. I would start one book, and then get distracted and start reading another. Here are the four I actually finished reading:

1. On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness by Andrew Peterson (audiobook)

I’m continuing with my youth fiction/fantasy mania. This series (The Wingfeather Saga) was recommended to me by a couple people during my Harry Potter hangover. I listened to the audiobook and really liked it. I’m interested to see where the series goes.

2. Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

I only gave this book 2 stars on Goodreads, but not for the reason most people did. Most of the 1 and 2 star reviews say they could not get past the way this novel was written. I actually loved the premise of this book and Saunders’ experimental organization and format. Saunders writes this story as a series of quotes from the characters. I felt like the ghostly characters were talking directly to me, and the story wasn’t bogged down by “he said…she said…then he said…”

This book takes place when Willie Lincoln died and was buried. Willie wakes up in the graveyard surrounded by a host of strange and, quite frankly, horrific characters who do not realize they have died. Everything changes for these characters as they interact with this sweet young boy and witness an unusual visit from his father, President Lincoln.

So why did I give this book only 2 stars? I did not like some of the content that frequently entered the story. There were multiple sexual references and language used by some of the characters that I did not appreciate. I found myself skimming or skipping over some pages. It was just too much for my taste.

3. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

Why wasn’t this book on my radar sooner? I couldn’t put this book down once I started it. Set in the 1960s, this book tells the story of Lily Owens. Lily is a young teenage girl who finds herself growing up without her mother, running away from her father, and finding a home among a group of African American women on a bee farm. I fell in love with this unique, beautifully flawed cast of characters.

Also, I am thrilled with my colorful, cute copy of this book from the Penguin Drop Caps series.

4. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (audiobook)

Another book I only gave 2 stars! I would have given it 2.5 if that was an option. I heard this book mentioned several times, especially now that the movie is out, and downloaded the audiobook out of curiosity. I almost gave up on this one several times during the first half. I strongly dislike dystopian literature. I also didn’t grow up in the 1980s and don’t play video games. Since those three elements are the basis of this book, I had a hard time getting into it. However, I was intrigued by the overall plot, especially in the second half of the book. I listened to the last 5 hours in only 2 days, but I can’t say I would recommend it.

 

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February Reads – 2018

I had a nice mix of media in my reading life in February. Here is the audiobook, ebook, and paperback I enjoyed:

1. The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

In the past, I have only listened to audiobooks on long road trips, but since I have been spending a lot of time commuting in my car this year, I’m trying to give audiobooks a try. I loved this audiobook for “The Girl Who Drank the Moon.” The narrator’s voices made the characters come to life.

The people of the Protectorate live in fear – fear that the child they sacrifice each year will not be enough to appease the witch that lives in the woods. Very few people in this town fully recognize the horror of what is happening, and even fewer are willing to stand up for what is right. This book follows the story of the townspeople living in the shadow of a dark tower, a baby girl who is left to the mercy of the witch only to find herself enmagicked by the moon, a bog monster, a tiny singing dragon who thinks he’s monstrous, and the witch. I loved how the characters and plot are developed; I never knew what to expect next. Although it’s categorized as middle grade fiction, this is definitely a tale for all ages.

 

2. Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

In this nonfiction book, Stevenson tells about his experiences as a lawyer and how he founded the Equal Justice Initiative. I was shocked to learn about the injustices and prejudices that have penetrated the criminal justice system. I felt very naive when I realized how common racial discrimination still is in the south. Stevenson tells the stories of men, women, and children who have found themselves convicted, sometimes unjustly, to life in prison or to death row. I now have a greater appreciation for the work lawyers do and compassion for those accused of crimes.

 

3. The Legend of Sam Miracle by N.D. Wilson

This book is the first installment in Wilson’s “Outlaws of Time” series. I will read anything by Wilson, so I was excited to finally pick up this one. Although I did not fall in love with this story as much as his “100 Cupboards” books, I still enjoyed it. Wilson creates a twisting tale of time travel about Sam Miracle and his friends as they chase a villain through history. Sam Miracle is an unusual hero and legend because he needs help from his friend Glory, two snakes, a priest, and a host of other characters to protect him and remind him of his past and purpose in life.

Time travel is such a complicated concept to embed in a story, and there were multiple times in this book where I found myself rereading a page and asking, “Wait, what just happened?” I’m not sure if this could be attributed to the writing, my exhaustion the week I read this book, or the fact that I’m not as quick to catch on as the target audience of 8-12 year-olds. I will also say that I felt this book had more violence than Wilson’s previous youth fiction. Regardless of all of that, I have already ordered book #2 and am eagerly awaiting the release of #3.

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January Reads – 2018

Winter break was especially cold this year, so I enjoyed several days curled up at home with my books and some tea. Here are the four books I read in January:

1-2. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince & Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

I do not like “fandoms” and try to avoid them at all costs.

With limited success.

The past 6 months, I have fully embraced the Harry Potter books (and the movies) and loved them. Why did I avoid them for so long? Granted there were several plot points that I found implausible, and don’t get me started on how much I hated the epilogue, but overall I was amazed at the detailed, magical world J.K. Rowling created. These books kept me up late reading on numerous weeknights, and they took priority over my to-do list multiple weekends. There is also something to be said for reading this series in the fall/winter months. Somehow it made the adventure even more real.

As a side note, I think my favorite character is Severus Snape. I’m not sure what that says about me as a person, but I was rooting for him from the beginning.

I may have also thrown a Harry Potter party when I was ready to watch the last movie. Butterbeer – I’m not a fan. Pumpkin juice and pumpkin pasties – delicious. I will definitely be making them again.

3. A Man Called Ove by Fredrick Backman

This book intrigued me. After hearing about it on a podcast, I decided to give it a try. I loved how the plot was character driven as the story follows the day-to-day life of an old man called Ove as he interacts with his annoying neighbors and a stray cat. The reader also gets glimpses into Ove’s past and learns how he became the man he is today. Although this book didn’t make it onto my favorites list, it was still an enjoyable read.

4. The A.B.C. Murders by Agatha Christie

I love picking up an Agatha Christie novel as a quick, engaging mystery. My brain was spinning until the end trying to figure out who the murderer was.

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Miracles

I recently enjoyed reading “Miracles” by C. S. Lewis. Lewis explains theology in a logical, step-by-step way that I find so helpful. And I love his use of analogies! Simple truths come to life. In this book, he starts by explaining the evidence for a God who created nature. He moves on to give evidence for miracles and how they relate to the laws of nature. I love how he pointed out that miracles are supposed to startle and amaze its audience, and in order for that to happen we have to first know and understand the laws of nature. We have to know and understand science to fully appreciate how awesome and creative our God is. Lewis finishes by looking at the life of Jesus and describing the significance of the miracles he performed.

“If they [miracles] were not known to be contrary to the laws of nature how could they suggest the presence of the supernatural? How could they be surprising unless they were seen to be exceptions to the rules? And how can anything be seen to be an exception till the rules are known? If there ever were men who did not know the laws of nature at all, they would have no idea of a miracle and feel no particular interest in one if it were performed before them. Nothing can seem extraordinary until you have discovered what is ordinary.”

 

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Hello 2017

One of my goals this year is to use Goodreads to keep track of the books I read. Honestly, I was a littel bitter when Shelfari was discontinued, especially since my books did not transfer correctly to Goodreads (nerd problems). I’m still not convinced I like it as much as Shelfari, but I’m willing to give it a try. I am excited that there is an app and an easy way to save quotes. Why not try it with me? I’d love to be “friends” with you and see what you’re reading. Click here to see my profile.

2017 Reading Challenge

Emily has
read 1 book toward
her goal of
25 books.
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Happy reading!

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Summer Reading

Summer Reading from Emily Ed on Vimeo.

Summer reading is drawing to a close. I always look forward to my summer days relaxing on the porch with ice tea and a good book. Here are some of the highlights…

 

Crime and Punishment (Oxford World's Classics) by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, translated by Jessie Coulson ~ One of my all time FAVORITE books!

I started off the summer by rereading “Crime and Punishment” by Dostoevsky. When I read it for the first time in high school, I loved it. I enjoyed it even more the second time! I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I just find myself blown away by Dostoevsky’s ability to capture the inner thoughts of characters. The main character embraces the idea of relevant truth and discovers the consequences. The idea that truth is relevant to each individual is still so prevalent today that it makes this book a timeless classic.

 

Brooklyn by Colm Toibin ~ This is one of the rare times when I thought the movie was better than the book. Good story, but I didn't like the writing style.

Of course I had to read “Brooklyn” by Colm Tolbin before seeing the movie. The book was okay, but I was disappointed with the ending. This is one of the rare times when I would say the movie was better than book.

 

Doctor Who: Two Novels by Dan Abnett & Jonathan Morris ~ The first story was pretty cheesy, but the second one was pretty good.:

I’ll be honest. I bought this book because, as a Doctor Who fan, I loved how it looked, but I actually did read it. The stories were cheesy, and I found myself laughing out loud at some of the writing. The figurative language and descriptions were pretty comical at times. But I still love how this book looks on my shelf.

 

The Light Between Oceans: A Novel by M.L. Stedman - A beautiful yet heartbreaking story.

I loved “The Light Between Oceans” by M. L. Stedman. After reading the Doctor Who stories, Stedman’s writing made me want to jump up and yell, “YES! That is how you use a simile!” The book tells about a man and his wife and their desire to have children. Their grief causes them to break the law and become entangled in a hopeless, heartbreaking, and beautifully crafted story.

 

The Kitchen House: A Novel by Kathleen Grissom ~ This was a really good book with amazing characters...hard to put down.:

“Kitchen House” by Kathleen Grissom was another good summer read!

 

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

It wouldn’t be summer without a little Agatha Christie, and now I understand why “Murder on the Orient Express” is one of Christie’s most famous novels. Amazing!

 

I haven’t finished “Jesus Among Other Gods” by Ravi Zacharias yet, but it is good. I love Zacharias’ perspective and knowledge about Christianity compared to other religions.

 

“Moby Dick” by Herman Melville…I tried. I read 150 pages of them preparing to set out on their ship. One chapter of Captain Ahab just standing on the deck. And then I gave up.

 

The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare:

I read “The Taming of the Shrew” by Shakespeare after seeing it performed this summer. I don’t think I would have appreciated it without seeing it performed first. I loved seeing Shakespeare’s work brought to life! That’s how a play was meant to be enjoyed.

 

A Room with a View by E.M. Forster“A Room with a View” by E. M. Forster was pretty good too.

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Farewell to Summer

After finishing my master’s degree…

WOOT WOOT!!!

WOOT WOOT!!!

….it was nice to have a relaxing summer to refuel. I found plenty of fun and nerdy ways to fill my time.

 

I spent a week on Lake Michigan with my family. Hiking, soaking in the scenery, playing games in the cabin on rainy days, roasting marshmallows over the campfire…it was wonderful.

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I spent time digging in the dirt and trying to grow things. I love my herbs, zinnias, and cherry tomatoes!

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I transferred all our home videos from VHS tapes to DVDs. This required getting in touch with my inner 90’s child and researching the workings of VHS tapes to save the corrupted 95-97 tape. I felt pretty accomplished.

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I made a tea mug rack (with help from my grandpa) out of reclaimed wood from our old swing set. Pinterest win!

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My grandpa also helped me transform my $2 garage sale finds into some beautiful chairs. I now have a greater appreciation for Windsor chairs and milk paint thanks to him.

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Before

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After

 

Of course it’s not summer without some summer reading!

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“Eating and reading are two pleasures that combine admirably.” -C.S. Lewis

 

I also spent quite a bit of time getting ready for my new job as a school SLP! I have my resource teachers to thank for creating such a cute, organized room.

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Add a trip to the zoo, hanging out with friends, lots of bike rides, Shakespeare in the park, a sister road trip to visit friends in KC, and some other summer activities and you have the perfect summer!

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Zinnias

You can't buy happiness...
but you can plant it.

IMG_2458 IMG_2459 IMG_2467I always get excited when these bright, happy faces start peeking out of my garden. So beautiful!

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