Winter Reading: Just Mercy

Winter is almost becoming my favorite season. Winter = more time for books.

A couple of weeks ago, I finished Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption. Yes, it is non-fiction, but Stevenson packed it so full of stories that I read it like I read  novels – in just a couple of sittings.

Just mercy  Stevenson writes from his experiences as a lawyer, sharing the stories of incarcerated individuals, many who have received unjust convictions and sentences. He tells of his own experience defending prisoners on death row, and helping some to get their convictions overturned.

I’ve always been fascinated by the judicial system (perhaps because of my early adolescent reading of John Grisham?), and Stevenson has made me all the more curious and saddened about the current situation.

Summer Reading: Iran & Maisie Dobbs

journeyfromthelandofno  My current interest has been Iran, thanks to Journey from the Land of No: A Girlhood Caught in Revolutionary Iran. After reading Roya Hakakian’s fascinating account, I watched several documentaries on Iran and found several Iranian food blogs. I guess I’ve moved from opera on to Iran. . .





maisiedobbsI want to tell every reader I know about the Maisie Dobbs series, but perhaps I’m just late to the party. (I see that this is the tenth anniversary edition?!!)  Winspear creates a gripping plot line without a lot of the gore that sometimes accompanies mystery novels.  Highly recommended.




Today I’m linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Quick Lit. Check out her blog for some great reading suggestions!






Still Alice & Pioneer Girl

Sometimes finding good books is hard; I was surprised that the last two books I read were blog-worthy. Usually I read one good book every several weeks.

still alice Still Alice by Lisa Genova. Soo good. This is written from the perspective of Alice, who has been diagnosed with early onset Alheizmers. Two of my grandmothers have had dementia, so I have a personal connection to this novel. I’d like to check out the movie, although I’m always hesitant to watch a book-based movie. Has anyone seen it?




pioneer girlPioneer Girl: The Annotated Biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder. I grew up pretending that I was Laura Ingalls Wilder from The Little House in the Big Woods. This is the original autobiographical manuscript on which Wilder based her fiction series. I loved comparing what I remembered from the series to what actually happened in Wilder’s life.

Orange is the New Black

I had thought that Audiobooks were kinda silly – why would I listen to a book when I could read it myself?  Well, that was until I began nursing my newborn for several hours each night. Audiobooks and podcasts have helped me not feel so bored or lonely at 3 a.m.

orange_is_the_new_black_book This was a fascinating book: Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison by Piper Kerman. I’ve worked with some people who were in and out of prison, but I’ve never really asked about their experiences. Piper’s story was incredibly gripping.  I should note that there is quite a bit of profanity if you’re sensitive to that sort of thing.

After listening to Piper’s words, I’m curious about other people’s experiences in prison. I know that the system is pretty broken, and this book reminded me of yet another area in our world that needs transformation.


Little Princes: One Man’s Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal

Thanks to my friend for recommending this book: Little Princes: One Man’s Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal by Conor Grennan.

littleprinces  Grennan tells the story of how a short volunteer stint at a orphanage in Nepal transformed his life. He discovered that the children he thought were orphans were actually trafficked children with living parents. He then works to find the parents of the children, and also to stop other children from being trafficked by starting Next Generation Nepal.  Intertwined with this story is the story of how Grennan met, dated, and married his wife.

Grennan’s story starts a little slow, but once I got into it I could not put it down. Fortunately, I had plenty of time to read on our road trip.

What Color is Monday?

This was a quick, engaging read: What Color is Monday? How Autism Changed One Family for the Better by Carrie Cariello.

whatcolorI’ve always been interested in reading books about families and children with disabilities (I guess I do have a special education degree. . . ). Carrie does a fabulous job of describing the ups and downs of parenting five children, one of whom is diagnosed with autism. She’s honest, the stories she shares are hilarious at times, and she manages to keep a positive outlook.  Also, for those of her readers who are not terribly familiar with autism, she does a good job of explaining terms such as perseverating and stimming, and keeping the book very readable.

I’ve read a lot of memoirs by moms, and this is one of my favorites so far.

Rain of Ruin

For my book club last night, we discussed Mark Kelley’s Rain of Ruin. He joined us for the evening.

Rain of Ruin is the fictionalized account ofrainofruin Mark’s mother, Agnes, and her experience as a secretary for the Manhattan Project. Mark explained last night that he had wanted to write a biography, but instead chose to write a novel because his mother did not share all details with him. (Her work was obviously highly-classified, and most records have been destroyed.)

In school I learned about the Manhattan Project, but I never thought about the individual people who were involved. Many of the people had no idea what they were working on, or the potential dangers. Rain of Ruin made history more personal for me, especially since Agnes was from Pennsylvania.  Mark mentioned a recent book along similar lines- The Girls of Atomic City that I think I’m adding to my list.


2 Authors I’ve Discovered Recently

Have you ever found a writer you like and then immediately need to devour everything they’ve written?  I’ve just discovered two authors I’m into: Kathy Harrison and Jodi Piccoult.

onesmallboatI just finished Kathy Harrison’s One Small Boat. I found this one even more interesting than Another Place at the Table (my post here). . . probably because this book is more focused on one particular foster child. I love Kathy’s heart for children and her incredible honesty with her fostering and adoptive journey. She needs to write another book!! (I see she wrote one about preparedness, but I’m not as into that.)



Another author I discovered is Jodi Picoult. jodipicoultNow, there are aspects of Picoult’s work that I don’t appreciate – such as some language and sexuality — and perhaps I will find more of that the more I read of her work. But I have loved the stories she’s decided to tell, and how she’s told them. My first read was My Sister’s Keeper. I can’t believe that they didn’t stick with the story when they made the movie! I read House Rules next. Because of my interest in Aspergers, this was a fascinating read for me. I just checked out Plain Truth from the library and we’ll see how I like it. I feel like I’m doing a dance between wanting to read novels that make me think . . . and novels that make me wonder if I should be reading them, let alone blogging about them. I’m just so tired of “Christian” novels that are about girl meets boy with a little bit of church thrown in.

How do you decide if a book is something you should be reading, (or shall I use the term “appropriate?”)


Another Place at the Table: A Story of Shattered Childhoods Redeemed by Love

Finally. I had been looking for a book like this for years: Another Place at the Table.


Kathy Harrison shares from her experiences as a foster parent. This is not an easy book to read; the children came into the Harrison home from very difficult pasts. I’ve read multiple books written by previous foster children, but this is the first book written by a foster parent that I’ve been able to get my hands on.  Although the individual stories are obviously different than the stories of the children that have been in our home, so much of Harrison’s story was the same as mine.


The love for the children. The difficulty.The broken heart from hearing their stories, and the broken heart from saying good-bye. The phone calls and quick decisions. The relationships with biological parents. The meetings with therapists and life-altering court decisions.

Not knowing if you can handle another child from the system, and not knowing if you can handle NOT having another child from the system.

This is part of the journey Josiah and I are on. We’re glad we don’t walk alone.

Hope’s Boy

Hopes Boy

I couldn’t stop reading this book – Hope’s BoyAndrew Bridge shares the story of his rocky childhood and his undying love for his mother, even when she was unable to care for him. I found it particularly fascinating to read of his experience in a foster home. I really hope that Josiah and I are able to do a better job loving on the kiddos we have in and out of our home. . . and I am sad when I think of the many children in rocky foster homes, institutions, etc. whose stories are not being told.

If you read A Child Called It, this book is a lot less dramatic – which made it easier reading for me. Bridge really speaks to the bond between a mother and a child, even when things don’t seem to make sense. And the best part – Bridge is now a lawyer and an advocate for many vulnerable children. Read about his work here.