Book Reviews

What I’ve Been Reading | Spring 2019 Edition

Books. Books. All the Books! Even though I don’t do book reviews anymore, I still want to keep y’all in the loop of what I’m reading! Here’s the most recent reads – some for the INSPYs, some for the different book clubs I’m in, and some for fun! Have you read any?

The Saturday Night Supper Club by Carla Laureano: An INSPY nominee.

The Reckoning of Gossamer Pond by Jaime Jo Wright: Another INSPY nominee.

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson: Y’all know how I feel about this book. I think everyone in America should be required to read this. We read it for one of my book clubs and it was a great discussion. I also did a quote series on Instagram, be sure to check it out!

Thief of Corinth by Tessa Afshar: And another INSPY nominee.

The Land I Lost by Huynh Quang Nhuong: I wrote about this a few weeks back here.

Mark of the Raven and Flight of the Raven by Morgan L. Busse: It’s a series, and I’m not so patiently waiting for the conclusion next year!

The Printed Letter Bookshop by Katherine Reay: I love everything she writes and this was no different! Well worth your time.

How the Light Gets In by Jolina Petersheim: Always love the creativity and her unique take on a story. This is definitely one of my favorites from Petersheim.

Murder at the Flamingo by Rachel McMillan: Can murder mysteries be fun to read? I think so! I’m a big fan of Rachel and how she brings important characters and topics to the world. Be sure to check her out if you haven’t yet!

Broken Harbor by Tana French: This is my second book by French and I’m trying really hard to like her books. I like her writing, but the two I’ve read, the endings (and murder mystery reveals) have left me wanting. Usually I give an author two books before accepting we aren’t meant to be, but I’m willing to give her one more shot.

Olivia Twist by Lorie Langdon: Another INSPY nominee.

I Was Anastasia by Ariel Lawhon: I read this for book club and it was such a great discussion. If you’re looking for a good discussion book, I definitely recommend this one. It’s also just a great book, but extra bonus getting to discuss it with friends.

What are you reading?

Book Reviews

What I’ve Been Reading

I’m about to dive a bit more into INSPYs reading, but wanted to share some of my recents reads!

  1. Stuart Little by E.B. White – I blame the puzzle.
  2. Becoming Us by Robin Jones Gunn – One of the fun books I get to work on. Robin is fabulous, so be sure to check it out!
  3. A Song of Home by Susie Finkbeiner – Confession, I’m not 100% done, but am loving this one and have really enjoyed this series, and she’s the best, so buy them all! And maybe follow Susie.
  4. The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick – Loved! More about it here.
  5. My Happy Life by Lagercrantz & Eriksson – Again, the puzzle.
  6. Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate – Lived up to the hype. So enjoyed this one for book club.
  7. Dangerous Prayers: 50 Powerful Prayers that Changes The World – Read more of my thoughts here!

Have you read any? What are you reading right now?

Book Wisdom

Back to the Basics With Hugo Cabret

“If you lose your purpose…it’s like you’re broken.” Hugo to Isabelle (page 374)

This quote is from a scene in The Invention of Hugo Cabret, where the main character Hugo is figuring out why the various toys he has encountered were made – they all had a reason for existence. As I was thinking more on the quote, the reminder became clear. We all have a purpose on the Earth.

This isn’t earth shattering news, I know. I bring up this truth though, because in a culture that seems to scream that our value alone comes from what big thing we’re doing, our side hustle, how busy we are, our platform (and to be clear, these aren’t bad things), I don’t ever want to forget the basics. Our purpose is living out a life of love. Loving God, loving others. Our purpose is that we each can bring faith, hope, and love to every human we encounter. For some, that will be on a big platform, book, public influence, but for many, it will be on a smaller stage. One isn’t any better than the other.

So never forget that you were made for a reason; that simple beautiful purpose of bringing hope to the world.

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13

The Greek poet Sappho once penned: “Become a voice.” I encourage you today to continue to be a voice for what matters, because there’s some good in this world and it’s worth fighting for (#SamwiseGamgee).

Book Wisdom

A Few Lessons From Stuart Little About Life, Family, and Friendship

I recently got back into puzzles. Yes, this is also a very random way to start a blog post, but I blame Target. While Christmas shopping, they had puzzles on sale (it was of a tiger) and for reasons I still don’t know, I thought “that sounds fun, I’m going to buy myself a Christmas gift.” It’s been at least two decades since I’ve done a puzzle, but I enjoyed it and found it relaxing, so I bought myself another one. This time featuring covers of famous children’s books. After I finished that one, I did what any book nerd would deem necessary – decided read all the books featured in the puzzle throughout the coming months (It’s gonna be such a struggle when I have to re-read The Hobbit and the two books from The Chronicles of Narnia).

Thus bringing me to a little mouse named Stuart Little. I have a small collection of children’s books and since I already owned this one, it’s the one I started with.

While not Charlotte’s Web nor E.B.’s best work, I think it’s still a fun read for children. It’s a random collection of Stuart’s adventures, with only a few tied together. It ends without some answers, but there are plenty of takeaways. I thought the end quote was quite fitting for life.

We always don’t know what the outcome will be (in Stuart’s case, if he will find his best friend, Margalo), but that shouldn’t stop us from moving forward:

“Stuart rose from the ditch, climbed into his car, and started up the road that led toward the north. The sun was just coming over the hills on his right. As he peered ahead into the great land that stretched before him, the way seemed long. But the sky was bright, and he somehow felt he was headed in the right direction.”

Just like a life of faith. Sometimes it’s enough to know you’re headed in the right direction, even if you don’t know the final destination.

Stuart also teaches us how fulfilling life can be when we live it to the fullest, whether that’s seeking adventures in our own backyard or taking some steps a bit further away. He was always up for trying something different or something new.

We also see his love for home. Never is his family and home far from his thoughts, wherever he finds himself and of course there’s friendship. True friendship is one that loves at all times. We see that in his final quest to find his best friend Margalo.

If you haven’t read a children’s book in a while, I invite you to. There’s always something to be gleaned and as my friend C.S. Lewis once wrote: “Someday you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.”

Finally, if nothing else, how about these life rules? While “substitute teaching” Stuart asks the class what is important:

“A shaft of sunlight at the end of a dark afternoon, a note in music, and the way the back of a baby’s neck smells if its mother keeps it tidy,” answered Henry.

“Correct,” said Stuart. “Those are the important things. You forget one thing though. Mary Bendix, what did Henry Rackmeyer forget?”

“He forgot ice cream with chocolate sauce on it,” said Mary quickly.

“Exactly,” said Stuart. “Ice cream is important.”

I’m good with that.

Changing the World

Why We Should Change The World

After reading the title of this post did anyone else bust out in dance to Captain E.O.’s “We are here to change the world….gonna change the world!” No? That’s odd.

While it is a worthy topic, MJ’s jams aren’t the topic of discussion today. I’ll save that for another time. As you might have noticed (or not at all 😉 ), this “Why” series is full of posts I do once a month that discuss whatever my heart desires. Sometimes it’s related to books, but most of the time you find things like tv, sports and other such shenanigans. Today it’s about changing the world. Daunting no?

I’m sure you’ve heard of the rather annoying “YOLO” term (if I ever use it, please know it’s in a sarcastic/let’s make fun of this and it usually involves friends and I deciding to eat ridiculous amounts of candy), but I do have to admit, it’s true. You do only live once. So let’s make it count (If you ask me, speeding in fast cars or making as much money as possible isn’t making it count).

Instead I can’t express enough how much more life matters and comes alive when you invest and give to others.

One of the places and organizations I’ve recently partnered with is Reach Out and Read. It’s awesome. Each week I head over to a medical clinic and read to kids in the waiting room. They also get books too. While this might not seem like a big deal, statistics show it is. Having a book of their own, reading more can drastically affect how well they do in school. As they mention on their website: These early foundational language skills help start children on a path of success when they enter school.

I love doing this. It’s fun and when the kids want me to keep reading more, my heart melts a little.

The program in central Austin is starting to gain momentum and it’s a blessing to be a part of! Sometimes there’s a ton of kids, sometimes just one. And don’t worry if you’re not the outgoing-let’s-get-this-party-started type, I promise if I can do it, so can you. I have yet to master the use of the puppet (y’all I.have.tried), but puppets creep me out (which I’m sure can probably be traced back to a creepy 80s film I stubbled upon).

To my fellow introverts, don’t you worry, most of the time when the kids see me, my first thought is “please like me! please come be my friend!” You know, just like any other 31 year old woman. I promise I survived my youth years with no major mishaps.

But internet! Once books start to be read, it’s a whole new world. It’s worth pushing myself beyond my comfort zone every single time! You want to talk about Five Little Monkeys Jumping on a Bed? Got that one down like a lyrical gangsta. Clifford, Dr. Seuss and Llama Llama are my b/f/fs for life.

Seeing kids run to the bookshelf, anxiously picking out their next book, then coming back makes me wish my lunch hour was all day long.

I want to change the world. I have this crazy idea I’m working on of a fundraising Read-a-thon. I don’t know what it will look like, but why let that stop me right? :). And even if reading isn’t your thing, I bet there’s something out there waiting for you to join and change a person’s life.

So what about you? I’d love to hear what you think and if there’s something awesome you’re connected to!

If you’re wondering who the hey Captain E.O. is (a.k.a Disney’s greatest invention ever) please see below and you’re welcome!

Bookish Radness

Nostalgia Creepin In My Bookshelf

Please tell me they still have summer reading clubs at public libraries. Please!! I hope they do. All I can say is I rocked those. My mission each summer (besides running around causing outside chaos with my cousins and siblings) was to read a ton of books, so I would win prizes at the local library. I was ballin on a budget back then.

I’m moving in the next few weeks, so the OCD in me is already organizing and boxing up what I can. Going through my library, I came across the books I’ve kept from grade school and Jr. High. This discovery made me smile. I loved these books (I guess keeping them for 20 years says something). I think I might re-read them just for kicks. You know how those nostalgia days can go.

If you have young kids who are just getting into reading, I highly recommend these. Take them back a couple of decades.

Here’s the official Books and Beverages favorite Children’s book list:

My branding style back in the day

Do you remember any of these? What are some other 80’s/90’s classics?