Our Library Bag Favorites: Plants, Gratitude, and Jan Brett

I love that David is as much of a bookworm as I am. Here are our favorite picks from this past week:

thankyouforme  Thank You For Me! by Marion Dane Bauer.  I had no idea this was a book that included prayer – a great bonus!  Each night we thank Jesus for things from the day. Recently David has been saying “Thank You Jesus for something.”  This book gives him more ideas.



on_noahs_ark_jacket_300  On Noah’s Ark by Jan Brett. I love Jan Brett, but I had assumed that none of her books would be appropriate for a two-year-old. This was a hit for us. The illustrations are the best for Noah’s Ark that I’ve found. We learned a new animal: flamingo.



updownandaround  Up, Down, and Around by Katherine Ayres. This is the wrong time of year for this book, since it’s all about growing a garden. I thought I’d still include it though so I wouldn’t forget about it for next year.  Ayres describes which plants grow up (peppers, broccoli. . . ), which plants grow down (carrots, potatoes, onions. . . ), and which plants grow around and around (pumpkins, cucumbers. . . ). It’s also super-fun.



This past week I’ve finished reading: Orphan Train, Ender’s Game, A Can of Peas, and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. I started reading The Red Badge of Courage and The Forgotten Garden.

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.


The Cellist of Sarajevo

Our county and several other counties have a program called the One Book, One Community. This is the featured book for the year:  The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway.

cellistofsarajevo I highly recommend this novel. It’s terribly sad, although that is no surprise considering the setting of war-torn Sarajevo. But, Galloway does not just write a book that makes you cry. He makes you want to dream, choose hope, and live with purpose.

I’m still wrestling with the fact that Sarajevo is not the only place that hatred has affected. Ugly things are happening all around the world, right now. And, hatred can breed in our own hearts. Lord, have mercy.


Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

It has been awhile since I loved a fiction book as much as I loved this one: Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet.


Jamie Ford‘s novel touches on many things I love to read about: history, family and culture, and friendship. Henry Lee, a Chinese American, looks back on his childhood in the 40s, and his friendship with a Japanese girl. This is during a time when anti-Japanese sentiment was high in the U.S.

This book helped me survive horrendous traffic while traveling this weekend. The only problem is that I wanted to eat authentic Chinese and Japanese food. Immediately. Guess I’ll have to check out a cookbook in the near future.


And the Mountains Echoed

When I heard that Khaled Hosseini (author of The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns) had written a new book, I immediately had to look it up in my local library’s database.  Bah!! There were probably 70 holds. So I decided to wait til next year. Then, this past Thursday, I just happened to be at another library, glancing at the new book shelf, and there it was. . .And the Mountains Echoed.  I snatched it right away.

andthemountainsechoed I had a little more trouble getting into this book than Hosseini’s other two, but last night when I was about halfway done, I reached a point when I just HAD TO FINISH THE BOOK BEFORE I WENT TO BED. Josiah luckily was just as into his beekeeping book so I was able to finish it.

I don’t know what to say about it without ruining your reading experience. . . just that it is a beautiful story about family – messes and all. I love that I felt like I was traveling with the characters to Kabul, Paris, and San Francisco. My only regret while reading this book is that my favorite Afghan restaurant is not closer.




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?”)


In Which I Join A Book Club

I joined a book club. Before you tune me out because you think I have gone too far in the nerd realm, let me explain.

There is a wonderful site called meetup.com that puts you in contact with groups in your area. It is not a dating site. Obviously I’m not interested in that. So, for instance, right now I am a part of three meetup groups – a crafty one, a moms one, and a book club. I went to my first book club meetup last night and I had a blast.

I didn’t know anyone and that was the best part. Normally when I go somewhere and I don’t know anyone, I freak out and forget that I am able to talk to people that I don’t know. But in this particular situation, most people didn’t know each other, and we had specific things to talk about – such as the food we were ordering and eating and the month’s book selection: Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple.  where'dyougo

All the women were so different from each other. I need more of that in my life! I tend to run around in the same circles, and since I’m not working outside the home, I rarely come into contact with new people. (Besides all the people that talk to us in grocery stores because I have a handsome toddler who ALWAYS behaves himself.)  Last night was refreshing and fun. And I came away with a bunch of scribbled notes: books to read, bookstores to check out, events to go to. . .

And Where’d You Go, Bernadette?  It was a fun read. Not necessarily a book that I’m going to recommend to all the readers I know – I was disappointed in some aspects of it – but some parts are laugh-out-loud-hilarious and that is good for something.

In Our Library Bag – June 7

David’s picks:

brownbear Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? -Eric Carle:  Great book. I don’t know how many times David has picked this, even though we have it at home.




My Clothes/Mi Ropa – Rebecca Emberley:myclothes I guess David wants to learn Spanish.



five-little-ducks-w-holes Five Little Ducks – Rebecca Emberley: The little holes in the pages are David’s favorite part.




I ordered for David:

headshoulders Head, shoulders, knees, and toes-Annie Kubler: David says “no” every time I start reading this one, so I’m guessing that he’s not a fan.



Teddy Bear, Teddy BearteddybearAnnie Kubler: We like to act this one out. David now knows how to turn around.



I ordered for myself:

hungrymonkey Hungry Monkey: A food-loving father’s quest to raise an adventurous eater – Matthew Amster-Burton: A very entertaining book – fun snippets and yummy-looking recipes. I don’t know why I decided to read it while experimenting with the GAPS diet – I want some cheese!!! (and chocolate and bread)


deeper-waterDeeper Water: A Tides of Truth Novel. – Robert Whitlow: I decided to try some Christian fiction again- this time a legal drama. It was kinda interesting, but I’m not sure if I’ll read the others in the series or not. I have always had a fascination with the law, but never enough to seriously consider law school.




I found Sold when I was searching soldfor books about human trafficking. I put off reading it because it is fiction, and I wanted to read more personal accounts. I discovered, however, that Patricia McMormick researched extensively before writing.  I am glad that I did take the time to read it. And really, it didn’t take that much time; it is a quick (though heavy) read.

As I read Sold, I kept reminding myself This is fiction and that didn’t really happen to Lakshima. But the more I thought about it, I realized that although the details are made-up, the overall story is repeated around the world more often than I would wish.

Lakshima, a 13-year-old girl, lives with her family in the mountains of Nepal. After a series of difficulties, she is sold from person to person, eventually winding up in a brothel in India. McMormick tells Lakshima’s story as a series of vignettes. I love her style. She also handles the topic and events sensitively, but I would still only recommend the book to mature readers. My local library places Sold in the young adult section.

Check out my posts on these related books: I am Nujood, Age 10, and Divorced and The Slave Across the Street.

I’d like to read Forgotten Girls and Slave at some point. (And Patricia McCormick’s other books). I think I will always have a large list of books to read.

But really, its not so much about what I’m reading, or what I want to read. What am I doing with what I know? How am I growing in active compassion?

Fiction Suggestions?

Joe Crawford / Foter.com / CC BY

I’m realizing I don’t own many fiction books, and I often struggle to find fiction that I really get into (besides children’s books – haha!) or that I don’t feel like I need to take a shower after reading.  I enjoyed Neta Jackson’s Yada Yada Prayer Group series, most of Francine Rivers‘ work, and classics such as Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.  I did read the Hunger Games this past year, but I don’t think I’ll feature it since it doesn’t seem to qualify as “nourishing” in my mind. I’m working through Susan Wise Bauer’s list, but I’m stuck right now in the middle of Don Quixote.

Does anyone have any suggestions for great fiction?