"When it's done well, it can feel as real as sunshine on your face. It can taste like mint on your tongue. It can sound like thunder or the scream of someone you love dearly. It wouldn't be a good story if we, the writers, didn't totally believe in it, would it, now?"
-- Finding Serendipity, Angelica Banks --
Sometimes, you just need to read a good "kid" story.
This seventh book in the #yearof50books, Finding Serendipity, by Angelica Banks, is an excellent kid story! I won't try to explain it much because it's more fun and makes more sense when you just read it, but the story follows the adventures of Tuesday McGillycuddy as she and her faithful dog, Baxterr, go on a quest to find her missing mother, Serendipity Smith.
I picked this book up during the school book fair this spring, and I wanted to read it so I would be able to recommend to some of my intermediate age students (3rd-5th graders) who might enjoy it. It really pushes the importance of imagination and would definitely help kids understand the magic that can happen when you write a story!
As with most books I find interesting, I loved the quirkiness of the characters. Plus, Tuesday's biggest battle with the villain is a battle of rhyming couplets..what beats that?! How wonderful. :)
Book #8 is selected and in progress. It's a bigger non-fiction read than I've previously taken on, so we'll see how it goes!
Thank you for checking in on this journey with me and staying interested, even though it's been half a year and I'm not even one-fifth through my goal yet. Oy. Life lessons!
"Sometimes the story we're telling the world isn't half as endearing as the one that lives inside us."
-- Donald Miller, Scary Close --
It's hard to know ourselves.
It should be really simple, but we're all so good at putting on fronts for different reasons that we sometimes get lost in them...and then, just like that, we don't even know our own true selves.
I like talking to people and socializing; I always have. However, as I've gotten older, I don't feel as comfortable socializing as I used to. I always feel like I don't know what to say or do, and that small talk is boring, but people seem uncomfortable with real talk (or maybe I'm uncomfortable with real talk?). I say that I value relationships and people, and I truly mean that, but it's sometimes difficult for me to live that out.
Reading this sixth book in the #yearof50books gave me some excellent food for thought as I think about my relationships. This book is Scary Close: Dropping the Act and Finding True Intimacy by Donald Miller. I've read one of his other books, Blue Like Jazz, and have another of his on my list to read, but this particular book has intrigued me for a long time. I appreciate his conversational writing style: he just seems to be talking with you, not at you, which doesn't seem to be the style of all non-fiction authors.
Miller gets real in this book about his own issues with relationships and how he dealt with them. He's read several other books on the topic and references them, as well as information from counselors and his friends, to give readers their own opportunity to develop stronger and healthier relationships and really get to know people.
I highlighted many sections and sentences while reading because I know this is a book I will revisit and I want to remember those key concepts and words that stuck out to me. One thing he said touched on something that I've been working through in my head a lot lately, about the kind of life I want to live. He said, "...I'm starting to wonder if that's not the whole point of life, to be thankful for it and to live in such a way others are thankful for theirs as well." Isn't that the kind of life we all want to live? The tricky part, though, is remembering that and putting it into practice.
I don't want to keep giving things away, but his list of "New Freedoms" for himself are freedoms I want for myself -- the freedom to be human. What a wonderful thing!
Remember, if you're interested in learning more about any of the books I share, I'm keeping track of what I've read (and what I hope to read) on the Books page! Clicking on a title will link you to Goodreads. If you're on Goodreads, look me up! I'd love to be book friends! :)
Book #7 is coming along nicely! This fictional read is one that I think some of my intermediate students would be interested in, so I'm reading to make sure I can recommend it to them. I look forward to sharing it with you soon!
"People have to tell their stories, Elsa. Or they suffocate."
-- Fredrik Backman, My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She's Sorry --
This read is one I was looking forward to for a LONG time.
I first saw it in the book section at Target (a.k.a. my financial nemesis) and was immediately intrigued by the title. A title so involved certainly requires a deeper look! After reading the back of the book and the first couple of pages, it was automatically added to my list of future reads.
This fifth book in the #yearof50books, My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She's Sorry, by Fredrik Backman, a Swedish author, is an adventurous and heart-warming story told through the eyes of Elsa, a seven-year-old girl who thinks about and sees things a little differently. The close relationship she has with her crazy grandmother sets the tone (and the plot) of the story.
I can't say too much, for fear of giving some things away about the story, but let me just say this: although not quite what I initially expected, this is a book that I am keeping and intend to read again someday. I loved the characters and could just picture the whole story as a movie while I read it. Elsa's character was especially sweet, because seeing things through the eyes of a child always helps me think in a more simplistic way--adults make things way too complicated.
If you're looking for a book to get swept up in, I recommend this one, without a doubt. I intend to read some of his other books, as well: A Man Called Ove, Britt-Marie Was Here, and And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer.
How wonderful to be reading so many good books. Look for a post about book #6 soon!
It's been quite a while since my last post!
I am happy to inform you, however, that I have read three more books since then! #winning
In order to keep track of my reading more accurately, I will still write one post per book, so expect two more posts relatively soon.
The fourth book in the #yearof50books was Lauren Graham's new book, Talking As Fast As I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls (And Everything In Between). I am a self-proclaimed (and probably others-proclaimed) Gilmore Girls addict. My whole family (dad included!) has always enjoyed the show, and my dear husband even watched all seven seasons so he could attempt to understand the quote-riddled conversations my sisters and I have. (He won't always admit it, but he definitely liked parts of it..especially Luke and Taylor moments!)
Reading Lauren's book gave me some interesting insight into her life. It's obvious that she is quirky on her own, so it made even more sense that playing Lorelai was so natural for her. I loved her in Parenthood too, and that was a quirky role, also!
Honestly, at first the writing felt kind of forced to me...like she was trying hard with some of the jokes she was making. But things started to feel much more natural later into the book. Reading biographies is always entertaining, especially autobiographies, because it's fun to learn more about another person from different perspectives!
Since it's been at least a month and a half since I read the book, and I've since returned it to its owner (my sister), this post is somewhat limited..but I shared the basics with you! If I had the book readily available, I'd probably babble more, which isn't enjoyable for any of us.
So, we'll just stop here.
Book Five was tremendous and I'm looking forward to sharing it with you!
"Perhaps there is some secret sort of homing instinct in books
that brings them to their perfect readers."
--The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, page 10
I love when things are a little out of the ordinary.
I've always loved sitting or lying down in places where people didn't normally sit or lie down.
In a corner, under the dining room table, in a tree.
I take great pleasure in little things.
Vibrant rainbows, the cute little waddle of groundhogs or other creatures with large bellies, baby giggles, big hearty laughs.
I especially love reading books that are a little out of the ordinary, whether that's due to how they were written, why they were written, or who wrote them. For this third book in the #yearof50books, I loved the non-traditional epistolary format. (I know there are many books in letter form, but there certainly aren't more than there are traditional novels!) Reading letters written between characters makes me feel like I'm right there with them, and yet leaves so much to question at the same time. It's certainly an exercise in inference, especially when letters don't explicitly connect.
This book, the third in my year of reading, is The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer.
What a delightful--though sometimes heartbreaking--story! I loved every character and enjoyed reading their correspondence. This novel takes place in 1946 after the German occupation of the Channel Islands during World War 2. It's rare for a novel to inspire me to do so much research, but I've thoroughly enjoyed my time spent checking Guernsey out on Google Maps! I would like to visit the island someday.
The spunky female characters--Juliet, Isola, Elizabeth, Amelia, Kit, and more--made me chuckle often, but could break my heart in the next beat with something so meaningful and poignant. Although I've learned about World War 2 in school, I never knew about the occupation of the Channel Islands nor considered how such situations would affect the everyday people who lived there. I can't imagine going through what they did during that time--completely cut off from England, completely occupied by German soldiers.
This is what books are supposed to do, right? Find their "perfect readers" and inspire them to learn more about this world of ours and the people who live in it. What a wonderful thing.
Stories like this that demonstrate how necessary the arts are--creative writing, visual arts, performance arts--always tug at my heart. I love reading about how books bring people together and change the lives of people in the process. There is tremendous power in words..never forget that.
Book four is already in progress..another non-fiction read! I'm looking forward to sharing it with you!
Spring break, glorious spring break!
I love teaching, I do. I love working with my students and colleagues. I love books and folders and office supplies and discussing books with kids and teaching them to how to use technology and all of the things.
I also love getting a break from teaching. I love having lunch with my husband and going shopping with my sister and being the manager of my own days. And, of course, I love having extra time to read!
Since I had time that is not always as readily available to me, I finished my second book of the #yearof50books during spring break! This read, recommended by one of my favorite writers, is a non-fiction book about letting go of things that get in our way when it comes to serving God and the people He created.
Book #2 is...Falling Free: Rescued From the Life I Always Wanted by Shannan Martin.
The freedom of LESS is such a theme through the Martin family story. God does so much in our lives when we free ourselves from the world's MORE. I enjoyed reading about the risks they took as well as how they redefined their idea of family, downsized their "stuff", and gathered more often with people. The value of relationships cannot be diminished, and the Martins certainly value relationships over things. At the end of one chapter she says, "...the shortest routes to relationships are carved when everyone takes two giant steps past the gates of their comfort and toward each other."
This concept is something I'm working out for myself. I value people and know I have so much to learn from others. Inviting people into my home is something I want to do often, but it makes me anxious: Are things clean enough? What do I fix? What if someone's allergic to something? What if I mess up? What do we talk about?
On and ON my thoughts race.
What's funny is that if someone else had these same concerns and told me, I know the advice I would give them:
People aren't here to inspect how clean your house is.
If you're not sure what to fix, ask your guests if they have any favorite things. Or make your favorite thing to introduce it to another family!
Same for the allergies..just ask!
If you mess up, handle it with grace and humor. It will make a good story!
Talk about life. Conversation will flow. If not, there's always a family-friendly list of trending topics on Twitter. (Kidding.)
As I continue to grow as a wife, I want to be a person that people feel comfortable coming to as a safe space. I want our home to be a place where others always feel welcome (even if the place is a mess). I love imagining the laughter and dishes clinking as everyone sits down to a cozy meal!
Check out Shannan's blog here to learn more about her family, her life, her story, and her bathrooms.
(Sounds strange, I know, but she's written blog posts about them and they are cute!)
Book #3 is already in progress! This fiction novel is written in letters, so I'm enjoying the difference in style from my first two reads.
Do you have any tips or stories for me as I work to be more intentional about inviting people into our home? Share them in the comments!
Well, this is embarrassing.
Here we are about three months since I started this journey, and here I am finally finishing my FIRST BOOK for 2017. (Don't judge me.)
My first book for this wonderful journey is a prequel to The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart. I've read the first two books in that series, but haven't read the third one yet. After my sister's prodding, she told me that reading the whole series was not a prerequisite for reading this book, and that this one was her favorite! So, my first book for this #yearof50books is:
The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict by Trenton Lee Stewart
I'm not going to summarize the story for you. You can easily look that up for yourself.
Instead, I'd like to share some of the things I noticed about and learned from Nicholas Benedict and his friends.
1. Nicholas is a noticer. He pays attention and recognizes things that no one else sees. Of course, this is what affords him so many opportunities in the story, and one of the reasons I love it so much. He's not magical, nor does he have any "special powers"...he just pays attention! (He's also a genius, but I mean. Whatev.)
2. The importance of friendship. Nicholas has always done things on his own, so it doesn't really bother him to be alone. BUT, in this story, he learns the true significance of what it means to have (and be!) a friend.
3. It's interesting to me, and might be to you, that very little in this story is actually about the literal "education" that Nicholas receives. The extraordinary education is not one in the classroom, but the life lessons he learns through his interactions with people, his adventures at (and around) the orphanage, and his time spent in the library reading book after book after book after...
This book, and the series in general--even though I haven't read the last book yet--get my recommendation. I often recommend it to my middle school readers if they're looking for a page turner that is still quirky and creative, too.
Trenton Lee Stewart has also written another book, The Secret Keepers, that I'm looking forward to reading eventually, too!
If you want to check out the Benedict Society books, click here. I enjoyed reading about the characters and playing the strategy games there, too!
Starting this journey has been an extraordinary education for me. I took an online class this winter, which of course became quite a hindrance to my reading goal for this year.
That class is over now, and spring break starts tomorrow, so I'm hoping to get through at least one more book, maybe two, during this next week!
I've realized that if I say I value reading, then I need to spend more time doing that. I'm working on finding ways to incorporate more reading time into my daily routines, so if I come up with any extraordinary tips, I'll be sure to share them.
I've started a non-fiction read that I plan to share with you next, but do you have any reading recommendations for me as I continue? Share them in the comments!
In the meantime, be a Benedict. Be a noticer. The wonderful is happening all around!
Every goal needs a plan. A way to manage and maintain how it's going to be accomplished.
So, here are my rules for reading 50 books in 2017:
1. The entire book must be read in 2017. (No reading in 2016, finishing in 2017, and counting it. I might end up doing that some, just to finish books, but I won't count those in the 50.)
2. Books must be from a variety of genres. (It's a given that they'll be a variety of lengths.)
3. At least one blog post must be written about each book to document the process.
That's it! I'm currently finishing a book I started in December before I embark on this year's reading, so that's giving me some time to get together a brief list of the first ten books I plan to read. (The less decision-making between reads, the better.) Check out the Books page to see the list thus far!
Can you tell I like using parentheses? (I'm learning my own quirks as I write these posts. Know thyself!)
"And most of all and best of all it all never ends, for the wonderful happens and happens again.."
Starting a blog feels weird. I enjoy talking to people, and I'd much rather talk about important things than just make small talk, but it's a difficult task in our seemingly disconnected world. Writing where I know anyone who wants to can read it is a bit alarming--it's putting it all out there, which can feel a bit selfish, or arrogant, like being in a one-sided conversation and you're the one doing all the talking, not the listening. I feel somewhat better about it because my motive isn't to talk about me, but to talk about things. I'm excited to share with you about Jesus and books and music and pop culture..all of the things!
If starting a blog feels weird, then naming a blog feels even weirder. Every time I thought I came up with something original, I was shot down with a big red X and "TAKEN". (Great feeling, let me tell you.) In a last ditch effort to find words I'd saved in the past that were meaningful to me, I scrolled through my personal Instagram feed and saw a picture I'd taken of a page in a children's book:
and most of all and best of all,
it all never ends,
for the wonderful happens
and happens again.
BOOM. I've always loved those words from Cynthia Rylant in The Wonderful Happens, a beautiful children's book by this West Virginia author, and this thought: the wonderful happens and happens again! Life knocks you down, or you feel lost, and it seems hopeless. But if you look around, it never ends. The wonderful keeps happening and happening again!
So, The Wonderful Happens is born. Let's keep the wonderful happening. I'm excited to share with you!