After hearing numerous students gush about Shannon Messenger’s middle grade series The Keeper of the Lost Cities, I finally have read the first book myself. It lives up to their hype. Sophie makes a likable, admirable, and relatable protagonist. An encounter at a museum leads her to discover her identity as an elf, and the story follows her adjustment to a new world, family, and friends. Though she feels like an outsider at her new school as much as she did at her human one, she embraces her abilities and explores their potential. Vaguely reminiscent of Harry Potter, I find this a brighter alternative. Messenger achieves a great balance between world building and character development, and I find myself tearing through the pages. I’ve acquired the next installment already and happily reported to my students I enjoyed it (and thanked them for the recommendation).
Morgan Matson’s young adult book Save the Date makes a quiet yet humorous and heartfelt story surrounding a family gathering for an upcoming wedding. Charlie faces numerous common adjustments many readers may find familiar, and she faces them with an expected trepidation yet also with strength. It gets off to a slow start but becomes better as the events unfold and more of Charlie’s character gets revealed through her reconsidering how she views and engages in her relationships. The themes of family bonds, personal growth and reflection, making adjustments, accepting change, and moving forward all made positive messages.
I received Silencing Insecurity: Believing God’s Truth about You by Donna Gibbs from Revell in exchange for a review.
The insecurity topic had me at first glance when this appeared as a review option. As someone who started fighting an inner negative and untrue voice years ago, I knew I needed as much guidance in my battle as I could get. This book made great armor in its knowledge, application, and truth. Accessible, it finds a great balance between enough information to gain a greater understanding an insight for reflection and application. I found myself yearning to sit down with my journal at the end of each chapter so I could write out my reflections on the questions. The content included a lot that I already knew, but I found it pertinent and appreciated that it added to my understanding. Gibbs gently reminded her readers that adjusting a mind involves a lot more than a simple flip of a switch. Renewing the mind requires daily work.
I received How Joyful People Think: 8 Ways of Thinking That Lead to a Better Life by Jamie Rasmussen from BakerBooks in exchange for a review.
As simultaneously simple and complex as it sounds to write a book revolving around a single bible verse on a broad topic like peace, Jamie Rasmussen makes it work. He uses Philippians 4:8 to walk readers through a topic by topic route to adjust thinking patterns. Each “whatever” idea falls into everyday thoughts. Reading how to recognize them helped me see where I can stop negative patterns and improve them to better match a biblical standard. In turn, it increases the level of peace I experience throughout my days. While the suggestions felt a little clinical at times, the message maintains its importance. Everyone can benefit from using this book for reflection and instruction on their thought patterns, especially in today’s high stress way of living.
Yesterday I finished read Heather Demetrios’s Something Real, a real gem of a book. Despite my cousin and me making jokes about me going on The Bachelor to find myself a husband (and shock our extended family), reality TV probably would not find its way into my life whether the camera followed me or I followed the show. However, I could relate to Chloe’s angst over coming to grips with a childhood that caused her angst and anxiety beyond her control.
As a reality star since birthday, Chloe/Bonnie Baker grew up in the public’s eye on Baker’s Dozen with her parents and twelve siblings. The show ended up getting cancelled in her early teen years after her parents got divorced and Bonnie, who later changes her name to Chloe to get distance from her trademarked self, overdoses on medication. She started public school with her brother as a senior, when she chose to start fresh with her identity. However, her mother decided to restart the show in an effort to financially provide for Chloe and her twelve other siblings.
Again, I couldn’t imagine what it would feel like to have cameras watching my every move, broadcasting not only my positive moments but all my mistakes. I also couldn’t imagine having that many siblings around, though the thought terrified me. Yet I could relate to a constant angst in my own childhood, the feeling that my parents couldn’t see the pain caused by choices not my own even if made with the best intentions. My parents divorced as well, and by the time I reached Chloe’s age I had experienced that more than once. I also experienced (and still do) anxiety and depression. Those and some of my other health issues heightened some disconnect since they did not always make themselves evident. Unfortunately that disengagement only increased the severity of the problem. Chloe repeatedly expressed her concerns before she made the drastic decision to raid the medicine cabinet. When the show restarted, she again repeatedly voiced her concern, especially as her panic attacks returned. Ultimately, she sought legal counsel to separate herself from a main root of her anxiety.
That break in root was tough. Again, I could relate. She didn’t want to hurt her family, and I never wanted to break mine. As deep as family was, the root of pain went just as far. I admired her bravery and strength to make that cut. The book showed how the pain lingered and how she still wanted her family’s support and connection. They didn’t attend her high school graduation, and that stung Chloe. Yet she knew she had to move forward away from the cameras and therefore the Baker’s Dozen.
This story provided an authentic look into anxiety and other issues related to dysfunctional families. I appreciated how it showed the depth of the roots and how events or specific issues can ripple into other areas of life. It reminded me how important it was to invest in healthy relationships, like the close sibling bond Chloe has with her brother Benny and her group of friends, and in the counsel of experts like Chloe’s counselor and lawyer.
As we finish the first week of the new year, I would like to reflect on my last year’s reading. I read more than I have in years, and I noticed it helped me feel better than I have. Some highly regarded intellectuals like John Maxwell, as well as other sources, note the importance of regular reading and how a routine of even fifteen minutes a day can lead to finishing numerous books in a year. Last year I learned a lot as I kept my mind cycling through books rather than my ruminative thoughts. Here is a list the list of 61 works I read last year:
A * denotes a book read for a book club or list.
*Noah’s Compass – Anne Tyler
The Longest Ride – Nicholas Sparks
The Girls of Mischief Bay – Susan Mallery
*The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society – Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
*The Language of Flowers – Vanessa Diffenbaugh
*The Dressmaker – Kate Alcott
*Defending Jacob – William Landy
Captivating – John and Stasi Eldredge
Princess – Jean Sasson
*Lock and Key – Sarah Dessen
*Unbroken – Laura Hillenbrand
Supergirl – Michael Green
*The Little Paris Bookshop – Nina George
Supergirl Vol. 1: The Girl of Steel – Jeph Loeb
The Wasted Vigil – Nadeem Aslam
I Kissed Dating Goodbye – Joshua Harris
What the Dog Saw – Malcolm Gladwell
The Depression Cure – Stephen S. Ilardi
This Is Where I Leave You – Jonathan Tropper
*American Born Chinese – Gene Luen Yang
*Everything Everything – Nicola Yoon
*Mockingjay – Suzanne Collins
*I Am Princess X – Cherrie Priest
Tuck Everlasting – Natalie Babbit
*Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – J.K. Rowling
The Rosie Project – Graeme Simsion
A Mad, Wicked Folly – Sharon Biggs Waller
The Leaving of Things – Jay Antani
Batman: The Killing Joke – Alan Moore
Waiting for You – Susane Colasanti
The Summer of Chasing Mermaids – Sarah Ockler
Gifts Differing – Isbel Briggs Myers
*Dead Until Dark – Charlaine Harris
*Carry On – Rainbow Rowell
Emmy & Oliver – Robin Benway
Eleanor & Park – Rainbow Rowell
*The Fault in Our Stars – John Green
*Dept. of Speculation – Jenny Offill
Outlander – Diana Gabaldon
*Club Dead – Charlaine Harris
A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
See Me – Nicholas Sparks
The Mistletoe Promise – Richard Paul Evans
Starry Night – Debbie Macomber
*Scoop – Evelyn Waugh
The Christmas Box – Richard Paul Evans
Timepiece – Richard Paul Evans
The Death of Superman – Dan Jurgens
Books I reread:
If I Stay – Gayle Forman
Much Ado About Nothing – William Shakespeare
The Choice – Nicholas Sparks
The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde
Peter Pan – J.M. Barrie
The Perks of Being a Wallflower – Stephen Chbosky
Winnie the Pooh – A.A. Milne
The House at Pooh Corner – A.A. Milne
I choose Eleanor & Park as my top read last year. It completely pulled me into the story and relationship between the characters as I found myself thinking about them between readings. I found myself exclaiming I wanted to cry when I finished; the reality and emotion in that book felt so tragically authentic. This book may become a routine read for Valentine’s Day or some occasion so I can enjoy it on some regular basis. I highly recommend it. Sadly, I saw it several times before deciding to give it a try. I picked it off the bookshelf at stores so many times thinking it caught my interest but not feeling completely compelled. Now I’m gifting it to friends who feel the same way because I want them to experience its greatness as well.
Last year I also read my first few comic books. I still hold no expertise when it comes to the comic world, but I have learned that not all comics hold equal appeal. The same character has stories by numerous authors. While the storyline may follow similarly in all of them, some simply aren’t as good. I suggest using some sort of research, whether Goodreads or other readers, to avoid reading the ho-hum comics.
Since Christmas and my birthday have just passed, I’ve got a nice stack of books ready to get me through the first part of the year. I’m excited to keep up the heavy reading (to keep my heavy spirits up)!
I recently finished reading Nicholas Sparks’ second newest novel See Me. Though I consider myself a big Sparks fan, I did not enjoy this story nearly as much as his other books. Seeing him write a story with a greater thriller aspect showed a range in his talents, but the story didn’t get as deep as usual.
The characters were in their mid twenties like me, and I wouldn’t have guessed that. Colin attending college classes gives him a younger aspect, but Maria didn’t seem to hold many similarities to me or any of my friends my age. Unlike most of us, she got right into a good career track and in law, a tough field. To top off the two dimensional characters, the suspense had hit and miss elements. The mystery itself for the stalker had its strength and would have fit into the thriller genre as far as I can tell since I don’t read many books in that genre. However, it took multiple paragraphs to get to an assailant sneaking up to Maria. Even I knew the forthcoming action and didn’t feel added suspense waiting those extra descriptive paragraphs just for the actual event.
I still enjoyed the book and still love Sparks. This book just might rank last in all the ones I’ve read. I suppose one has to land there. It shows Sparks can flex his writing muscles in genres outside love stories, and it demonstrated the power of a close knit family (Maria’s) and how people and look out for and comfort each other.