books forty to forty-eight: the end of "summer" reading. / Quick Lit.

Hello, hello! It's that time again: I'm linking up with Anne at Modern Mrs. Darcy to share the books that I've been reading this month. And since in my world, summer is just about to end, I'm going to consider this the last summer reading post. Did I follow my summer reading list? Not really. Am I OK with that? ...Yes. :)

Book Forty: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling. If you're wondering if I have already posted about reading the whole Harry Potter series this year, you're right. Except I started my read-a-thon with the third book, because I read book number one (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone...this one) fifteen years ago. But my History of Children's Literature class had this book listed as required reading (darn!), and I was thrilled to re-enter Harry's world and consider the story in light of what I was learning in class. 

Book Forty-One: Locomotion by Jacqueline Woodson. Also required reading this summer for my course was Locomotion, a book written in free verse poetry by Lonnie, an African-American boy who is grieving the loss of his parents in a house fire. He is living in foster care and has been separated from his sister, and writing is his way of expressing himself and processing his hardship and loneliness. He says, "Writing makes me remember. / It's like my whole family comes back again / when I write." Beautifully written.

Book Forty-Two: Cinder by Marissa Meyer. I'll be honest: I was skeptical about this Young Adult novel, the last of our required books for my class. And then I started reading this dystopian re-telling of the classic Cinderella tale, and I was immersed in this page-turner. It's Cinderella meets cyborgs meets Starwars and a little bit of Station Eleven. I'm going to read Scarlet, the next book in the Lunar Chronicles Series, this fall (though my professor said it was her least favorite). The storyline in Cinder continues and intertwines with another retold and twisted version of another classic fairy tale. (Reading the back of the books in the series to John in my nerdiest voice was admittedly fun as well.)

Book Forty-Three: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling. This was $1.99 on Kindle one day and I couldn't pass it up. It was a hilarious read; reading it in public (on trains, at a cafe) meant that I was laughing a lot and no one else could be in on the jokes, but that's OK. It was fascinating to read about how Kaling got into comedy, how she scored her gig as a writer, actor, and producer on The Office, as well as a peek into what fame looks like for her from day to day.

Book Forty-Four: A Million Little Ways: Uncover the Art You Were Made to Live by Emily P. Freeman. I loved this book and would highly recommend it. Again, it was $1.99 on an Amazon Kindle deal, and was recommended left and right on Twitter. As I'm trying to determine what God is calling me to next job-wise, and as I feel the constant stirrings of creativity bubbling up, this book was such an encouraging read. God calls us to be artists, no matter whether we are accountants, moms with little ones at home, teachers, or painters--and "being an artist has something to do with being brave enough to move toward what makes you come alive." And so as I reflect on all of the passages I highlighted, I'm left thinking a lot about what it is that makes me feel alive, to serve others and ultimately to give glory to God.

Books Forty-Five through Forty-Eight: The Magician's Nephew; The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe; The Horse and His Boy; and Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis. So, here's another I-can't-believe-I'm-admitting-this thing...but I've never read all of the Chronicles of Narnia. Especially since I studied English literature, I feel like that's a sin. But hey, I'm redeeming myself now! I'm currently reading Voyage of the Dawn Treader and expect to finish the series in the next two weeks, before we leave Valencia (since I'm borrowing them from the apartment we're living in!)

That's it for this month's Quick Lit! I'll be posting from a different country next month, and we'll see how much I get read in the midst of moving and family/friend time. I hope you are enjoying the books you're reading at the moment, too!

Books Thirty-Two to Thirty-Nine: More Summer Reading

I haven't been exactly sticking to my summer reading book list... How do I resist picking up books in the friends' apartment that we are currently staying in? How could I help from reading Go Set a Watchman when it came out? (Some people would probably say, "Quite easily," to which I respond, "Pssshhh.") What about when a friend sends a book from far, far away with the most interesting title and cover? Oh, and there are the books for my summer class in Children's Literature than I'm required to read that I didn't completely factor in. 

Whatever. I'm holding my list loosely at this point. (And no, Anna Karenina probably isn't going to get read until the winter, when I can curl up on the couch on cold Saturdays and devote some time to reading it.)

Read on for my latest summer reading with short (super short this time, promise!) summaries/ideas/brilliant thoughts. (The last thing is a joke. Kind of.) Oh, and I'm linking up with Anne at this month to share my current summer reading!

(And for those of you who are new to this site [maybe there are more readers than six devoted family members and friends...?], this overall count is for books read in 2015.)

Book Thirty-Two: Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee. This book has been hotly contested this summer since its July release. Should it have been published at all? Was its publishing against Harper Lee's true wishes? I tried to read GSAW for what it is: a piece of fiction that a disillusioned Lee wrote after moving away from home in Alabama to New York City, where she grappled with the changing times and strong presence of racism in her hometown. It's not (NOT!) a sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird, and shouldn't be read as such, since Mockingbird was written after and developed from Go Set a Watchman. I looked at it more from the perspective of how far a piece of fiction can come through the writing and editing process; writing can change drastically, oftentimes for the better. There's way too much to talk about in this small space, but I would encourage you to read it and see what you think for yourself.

Book Thirty-Three: A Good Year by Peter Mayle. I found this one on a bookshelf in the friends' apartment we're currently occupying, and hope they doesn't mind I borrowed it (!). We visited Provence in January, so this book about moving to the south of France caught my eye. It's a quick, fun read, though a bit contrived and predictable. If you can get past that, this one makes a good beach read.

Book Thirty-Four: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. I read this one for my History of Children's Literature class during our week studying nonsense and fantasy in children's books, and can't believe I haven't read it before! The story was familiar, but it's nice to have a sense of the whole flow of the story. 

Book Thirty-Five: Fup by Jim Dodge. My dear friend Lina recently sent this one from the West coast of the U.S., as Dodge is a local author in her part of the world. I was so excited to sit down and read it! It's a delightful, laugh-out-loud tale of three unlikely characters coming together in three very different stages of life. Beautiful all around. And I can't wait to read it again!

Book Thirty-Six: American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang. Another book for my History of Children's Lit class, this graphic novel (a new genre for me, by the way) takes three distinct story lines that all flow together at the end. A unique story of "otherness," belonging, and helping others along the way.

Book Thirty-Seven: The Shifting Fog by Kate Morton. I'm new to Kate Morton, though I know she's a well-respected and much loved author. This was a long book, but engrossing. I'd say it's Downton Abbey meets A Handful of Dust (Evelyn Waugh), written in a flashback style. An excellent read.

Book Thirty-Eight: The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. Picked this up off of our new "home's" bookshelf, and loved it. I was judgemental about it for the first few pages, thinking it was likely total fluff. And then the narrator's voice made me laugh and sucked me right in. A fun, light (but not fluffy) read.

Book Thirty-Nine: Ms. Marvel: No Normal by G. Willow Wilson. Another book for my class, but this time in comic form. (Yes, reading comics for class is pretty awesome!) Again, this storyline touches on what it feels like to be "other" (the main character Kamala Khan is Muslim and has a strict but very loving family) all while trying to fit in and still remain her sense of self.

Currently reading: Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell. I think I'll finish by the end of the month--this one is taking longer for me to read than I'd hoped, but that's OK. I want to enjoy the story without rushing too much. Also reading A Sense of the World: How a Blind Man Became History's Greatest Traveller by Jason Roberts. Not the most engrossing read yet, so we'll see whether or not I stick with it. 

Happy reading, and happy weekend!



Books Twenty-Seven to Thirty-One: First Five Summer Reading Books

Summer is starting off well for reading, but I know it's going to get tricky this week as we're moving apartments and as I'm starting an online class. But I'm committed to making it work! Here are my first five reads of the summer (books 27-31 of my year-long reading goal) with short-ish summaries (and yes, I added one that wasn't on my original list...I couldn't pass up the deal in a bookstore!). I'm linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy this week as she shares about her summer reading progress! Check her blog out--you won't regret it.

BOOK TWENTY-SEVEN (1st Summer Reading book): What is the What by Dave Eggers. This is a novel recounting the true story of Valentino Achak Deng, who fled his home in what is now South Sudan the 1990s when it came under attack. One of the Lost Boys of Sudan, Deng's story is told in harrowing detail, a story filled with sorrow and yet with hope as he seeks refuge and safety, education and opportunities outside of refugee camps. The novel switches back and forth between his present day (at the time) life in Atlanta, and his life on the run in northeastern Africa. A couple of days ago I pulled up the news on my BBC phone app, and lo and behold, Valentino Achak Deng recently made the news in his appointment to the position of education minister in his home country. A little on the long side--and I'm not sure why this was a novel and not a biography--but informative and enabled me to walk in someone else's shoes in a unique way.

BOOK TWENTY-EIGHT (2nd Summer Reading book): The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly by Sun-Mi Hwang. I saw this book for half price in England; I'd recently set it down in a bookstore in Amsterdam after deciding not to buy it. (Great things come to those who (finally) exercise book-buying self-control!) This short book, translated from Korean, is a simple fable that is sweet, endearing, and heartrending. Sprout, a self-named chicken who is left for dead in a hole by a farmer, escapes the farm to make a life for herself elsewhere and realizes her dream of becoming  a mother. But her Baby is a duckling, not a chick... Themes of adoption, belonging, loyalty to "your people," home, and loneliness abound. Beautiful writing and illustrations.

BOOK TWENTY-NINE (3rd Summer Reading book): The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie KondoI LOVED THIS BOOK. OK, so it's a little "out there"--Ms. Kondo is, shall we say, obsessed with keeping a tidy house and has some strange rituals up her sleeve. There were a couple of things organization-wise I just can't bring myself to do (i.e. own 30 books only, keep my bookshelves in my closet) BUT there was so much in this short book that I cannot wait to apply to our life when we finally live somewhere more permanent than the past two years! Tidying, by Kondo's definition means totally decluttering, cleaning, and making a beautiful space to live in. I love her main rule of thumb for decluttering, which is to ask yourself the question, "Does this spark joy?" Yes? Keep it. No? Toss it. She says, "You'll be surprised at how many of the things you possess have already fulfilled their role. By acknowledging their contribution and letting them go with gratitude, you will be able to truly put the things you own, and your life, in order. In the end, all that will remain are the things that you really treasure." If you're looking to declutter and totally change your home, read this book!

BOOK THIRTY (4th Summer Reading book): My Summer in a Garden by Charles Dudley Warner. I want a garden, but I have the opposite of a green thumb, whatever that would be. This short book's cover grabbed my attention at a used bookstore in Munich, and summertime in England seemed like the perfect time to read it. Warner lived in a home flanked by Mark Twain and Harriet Beecher Stowe, and though he is a little-known author, this is a sweet little book of his insights and reflections on gardening that, if you have any interest in gardening and dry wit and sense of humor, you might enjoy. "To own a bit of ground, to scratch it with a hoe, to plant seeds, and watch their renewal of life,--this is the commonest delight of the race, the most satisfying thing a man can do."

BOOK THIRTY-ONE (5th Summer Reading book): Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver. Ah, another Barbara Kingsolver novel. The more I read of her, the more I enjoy her writing style and the worlds she crafts, especially since her novels seem to take place in parts of the U.S. and the world that I'm not familiar with. This book takes place in the fictional town of Grace, Arizona, where Codi Noline returns to her childhood home to get back in touch with her ill and aging father, and tries to come to terms with her past. Codi encounters people who have changed, and people she wishes will change but who never will, all the while pushing against changes that are happening inside of her and all around her. After "seeing" the landscapes of Arizona painted in Kingsolver's prose, I am planning a trip out West for sometime in the next few years!