I read Head Over Heels by Hannah Orenstein with a friend as a fun way to connect while we don’t get to see each other. The story follows a predictable but fun romance plot when would have been Olympic gymnast Avery reconnects with another former athlete when she moves back to their hometown and they start working together. Their shared goal to get a talented gymnast into the 2020 Olympics makes a good central point for discussion points like the abuse scandal, career and purpose, healthy relationship dynamics, and more. While these issues don’t get detailed responses on the pages, the characters, particularly the women, make positive models for how empathy and empowerment can grow when people reflect and adjust. I would have loved to see more character development there but appreciate the strong frame. Overall, it makes a quick but fun and motivating read.
I recently have reread The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins and have discovered a deeper appreciation than I had for it when I first tore through the first installment’s pages this time eleven years ago. In The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins paints us a society we tell ourselves differs greatly from ours but that deserves our attention as a warning. Children regularly face publicized death in a system citizens fear to speak against. When Katniss Everdeen volunteers in place of her sister Prim, she sees herself as sacrificing her life in place of Prim’s. Yet she ignites a spark of hope instead.
Though the first time around I brushed off Peeta Mellark, the male tribute from Katniss Everdeen’s District 12, I have found a deep appreciation for his steadfastness. Only glimpsed in this introduction to the series, he shows the most unconditional love and stable support of his team. Katniss may look to her interests first, even if they are foremost for her family, but Peeta holds true to his values. This requires a look beyond the supposedly boring exterior presented through his seemingly lack of strength. A second read allows this opportunity of greater study of all the characters as well as Panem’s structure as a society.
The Hunger Games has brought Suzanne Collins notoriety for a reason. The books have an action-packed plot, the love triangle expected in a YA book, and likable characters. Seemingly an escape from reality, it offers a springboard for considerations about sacrifice, unconditional love, strength in all its forms, control, and rebellion. It has stirred a lot of contemplation in my mind when it comes to sacrifice, unconditional love, and mental health, particularly where those topics merge. I owe this series a token of gratitude for helping me see the strengths of the Peeta in my life.
Emily Henry’s romantic Beach Read offers all you hope to find during a coastal getaway. Packed with the flirtatious fun expected in a romantic comedy, Gus and January’s banter have you grinning constantly. Both authors facing deadlines and writer’s block, the former rivals unite in creating a challenge to finish their new books. Clever connections to classic movies, budding love, and a fun story setup keep you glued to Beach Read. To prove the story goes beyond the “everything is roses” layer, it explores deep topics as well. These issues allow character and relationship exploration that seal the book as a full picture of love and personal growth.
Abby Jimenez’s latest romance The Happy Ever After Playlist came into my orbit thanks to Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Summer Reading Guide. The quick banter between Sloan and Tucker hooked me immediately. I found myself smiling at their quips, rooting for the relationship to evolve. The Happy Ever After Playlist maintained its fun tone throughout but unpacked some weight later in the story. Seemingly small yet realistic issues came to light, showing the characters making tough decisions to balance personal, career, and relationship goals. Themes of resilience and friendship abounded as Abby Jimenez’s characters moved forward in their lives. The story made a delightful escape as I stayed home and walked through the delights involved with falling in love, stepping forward in a career, and building emotional strength after setbacks by reading Sloan’s story.
Sarah Addison Allen weaves magic into real life, and the enchanting Lost Lake does not disappoint. Emerging from her initial mourning period, widow Kate takes her daughter to Lost Lake for fresh perspective. The destination that used to draw crowds for vacations no longer holds its allure, but it still pulls Kate and Devin into its orbit. They connect with the regulars at the lake as they too face new adjustments. Together, they find hope and resilience no matter their ages. Rich in backstory, small town camaraderie, and love, Lost Lake has you rooting for its characters to reach their next growth point.
I recently reread this classic that also made the first spot on the list of books that brought tears to my eyes. Reading this as an adult affirmed its status in literature. Wilson Rawls wrote a story about a boy worthy of our cheers as he worked to buy and train his hunting dogs. Immersed in the poor, rural setting, I felt a content participant in Billy’s life. I wanted to encourage him on his quest to become the best coon hunter as I saw the people in his life come together for a common cause. Loyalty and dedication abounded as positive themes throughout the story, not only from the dogs but from Billy as well. He made a good example what it takes to overcome odds and meet goals.
My library book club leader and friend Delois recently interviewed me for a book recommendation feature on the library’s website to highlight selections available on OverDrive and Libby courtesy of the library.
Here is the interview:
Anatomy of a Book Club: Up Close with KIRB Appeal Book Club Members #2
Delois Walters: Library Assistant, Book Club Moderator
In the upcoming weeks, I’ll introduce members of KIRB Appeal, a multi-generational, diverse book club that meets at the Bob Kirby Branch Library.
Our featured reader this time is Kayla Stierwalt.
The Gown by Jennifer Robson (Available through OverDrive/Libby)
DW: Kayla, I don’t think I have met anyone else with your last name here in Bowling Green. Are you from Kentucky?
KS: I do have an unusual last name—I haven’t me anyone outside of my family who bears the name. I am actually a native of Missouri.
DW: What brought you to Bowling Green?
KS: I came here from Texas right after Hurricane Harvey. You could say I was escaping hurricanes and the heat, mainly the heat!
DW: I remember your first visit to the library—you were excited about getting your library card, but dejected that you had just missed the Friends of the Library book sale.
KS: Yes, books were on my radar and since I missed the book sale, you invited me to KIRB Appeal for a book discussion. I was so happy to make connections there.
DW: You recommended the book The Gown by Jennifer Robson. Why did this book grab you?
KS: I really enjoy reading historical fiction and I was attracted to this book because it is about the wedding gown of Queen Elizabeth, and because it has an element of intrigue as well as a dual time-line.
DW: What else did you like about this book?
KS: I liked the themes of friendship and resilience, and it was hopeful.
DW: Kayla, you’re fascinating; you contribute book reviews to a blog, you enjoy doing research, and in addition to being an avid reader, you write as well. If you were writing the ending to this chapter in all of our lives about living through a pandemic, what would that ending be?
DW: Just as The Gown is a hopeful story; I would write a hopeful ending. This has been a time of hope and growth for me. I am fortunate to be employed and have everything that I need. My wish is that when this is over, people will reflect on what we’ve gone through, slow down, and continue to show kindness, so we can grow and become better people, because we are all in this together!
DW: I know literacy is very important to you. You said something earlier about your job as a teacher’s assistant that made me smile. Do you know what I am referring to?
KS: I’ll bet you mean when I said the favorite part of my job is when I take my group to the library—it’s my Happy Place!
The Gown is available to download through the WCPL digital catalog as an eBook or an audiobook through OverDrive & Libby.
Guys, libraries provide so many services for communies. Right now funding sources question that. I still am learning exactly how much they offer, but I can tell you I felt especially delighted when I realized I could get free access to Mango Languages to learn Arabic. During my time in quarantine I also have registered on Hoopla, which makes a good resource for trying new music, audiobooks, TV shows, and more. Next, I’m exploring research options as I help a student with a project. Let’s keep our libraries alive so communities can thrive.
Last year I fell in love with Taylor Jenkin Reid’s Daisy Jones & the Six immediately after its release, ready to read it again before I turned the last page. Her prior book The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo did not disappoint either. Following a similar interview style format, the story followed actress Evelyn Hugo over the course of her career and husbands. Reid immersed readers in the Hollywood lifestyle and reminded us appearances do not tell the whole story. Though on some levels I couldn’t relate to Evelyn, I found myself wrapped up in her tension to propel her career and to fulfill her desires for her home life. Success in both posed an impossible challenge. Then despite some unlikable characteristics, Monique finds her own resolve strengthening as she interviews the star. The growth there made a great catalyst for moving forward with a proper foundation, one possibly not found in Evelyn’s history. I adore Taylor Jenkin Reid’s writing style and voice and look forward to reading more, especially Daisy Jones again.
Anne Bogel, BakerBooks, BakerBooks bloggers, book club, book review, books, Christian, Christian living, don't overthink it, encouragement, hope, mental health, overthinking, personal growth, reading, self help
I received a copy of Don’t Overthink It: Make Easier Decisions, Stop Second-Guessing, and Bring More Joy to Your Life by Anne Bogel from BakerBooks in exchange for a review. I also purchased a copy.
The delightful and bookish Anne Bogel did not disappoint with this book. It exceeded my expectations, giving me ample content to contemplate and apply to my life. In an early chapter she writes, “When it comes to overthinking, the same thing is true for many of us. We’re bothered by it, but we don’t do anything about it because we don’t know change is within reach” (28). She continues to share common obstacles and highly accessible and desirable information to make tangible progress. Using careful research within the chapters and leaving prompts and lines for reflection at each one’s end, she invites readers to do just that. Reading this felt like having a discussion with a mentor, and each time I set it down I felt a renewed encouragement for continued growth and even affirmation for some of the habits I already had in place. I highly recommend this book as well as the reflection and application sections (I know I sometimes gloss over them or intend to return to them later).
I am also a member of Anne Bogel’s Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club and recommend that community as well. It feels so good to be among those who are reading. We share the joy of reading and a mutual desire to make the most of our reading lives.
My appreciation for Jodi Picoult has grown in the last couple years. She takes difficult topics and invites readers to contemplate them in ways they might not have otherwise. This story takes a common issue that we tend to not notice. Looking at racism through the eyes of a black nurse on trial, a white nationalist putting that nurse on trial while grieving his son’s death, and the nurse’s lawyer who witnesses prejudice she didn’t realize existed I noticed we all hold more prejudice than we like to think. As the characters interact with each other, they gain deeper understandings of all; I also gained an awareness of my own blind spots and felt encouraged to deepen my empathy. Each person faces very real obstacles, and each person has room to grow. This applies to readers as well. Though tough to read at points, I’m glad Picoult examined such a full spectrum of experiences and urged readers to consider where their perspectives fall and where they may grow in empathy.