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Posts Tagged ‘Jan Karon’

Lucia, Lucia, Adriana Trigiani
I’ve been hearing about Trigiani’s writing for a while, found this paperback at Brattle, and decided it was a sign. And oh my. I’m hooked. I loved this story about Lucia, growing up in Greenwich Village, amid the color and glamour and tumultuous change of the fifties, sixties and afterward. Trigiani’s writing style is lush, her characters are real, and they win your heart. Love love love.

Shepherds Abiding, Jan Karon
I reread this special Christmas installment in the Mitford series, wanting to find some of the peace that infuses it, as Father Tim restores a special Nativity scene, and his friends in Mitford prepare for Christmas in their own ways. My favorites are Hope Winchester’s Christmas tree, a beacon of hope above her bookstore, and Uncle Billy Watson’s homemade gift for his cantankerous wife, which turns her into a beaming little girl again. (Sniff. Sniff.) Wonderful.

Viola in Reel Life, Adriana Trigiani
This is Trigiani’s young adult debut, following snarky, artsy Viola to boarding school in the Midwest. I liked her relationships with her roommates, though I found Viola herself a bit self-absorbed at times. (I guess we all are, at fifteen.) She reminds me of Tibby from The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. Good fun, but I like Trigiani’s other books (adult fiction? women’s fiction?) better.

Mockingjay, Suzanne Collins
Not a very Christmassy read, but I’d been waiting for the hold to be filled at the library for weeks. This was the most gruesome of the three books; Collins seems almost casual at times about all the bloodshed. And, well, I don’t like Katniss that much by the end, though I know she’s been through intense trauma. I’m not sure exactly how I would have changed the ending – but – I was disappointed. (Still worth reading, for those of you who haven’t.)

Very Valentine, Adriana Trigiani
More delights in Greenwich Village, this time at the Angelini Shoe Company, which makes custom wedding shoes and makes me want to go visit. I love Valentine, the peacemaking middle child and maiden auntie who carries everybody’s burdens. And I love her Gram, the elegant Teodora Angelini, and their whole crazy Italian family. The first book in a charming trilogy.

The Golden Road, L.M. Montgomery
I picked this up because of the scenes near the beginning – Christmas at the King farmstead and New Year’s resolutions around the kitchen fireside. But I wound up rereading the whole thing, for the first time in years. Sweet, wholesome, good fun. Oh, how I love all things Montgomery.

The Story Girl, L.M. Montgomery
Yes, I know these are out of order. But I kept thinking about the crowd of King children and their friends, so I picked up this prequel to The Golden Road again, and was as charmed by it as ever.

Brava, Valentine, Adriana Trigiani
The second book in a charming trilogy. (At least, I’m sure Book 3 will be charming – it hasn’t been published yet.) I loved watching Valentine grow through this book, learning how to deal with her brother and new business partner, Alfred, and learning how to open herself up to love. I love her sisters and mother and her hilarious best friend, Gabriel, and I love that all the chapter titles are Frank Sinatra songs.

Winter Solstice, Rosamunde Pilcher
I needed a comforting story I could live in on our long trip to Texas, where we spent Christmas with my in-laws and then headed to Abilene. I never get tired of this story. Ever.

Accompanied by Angels: Poems of the Incarnation, Luci Shaw
A collection of breathtaking, fresh poetry on Christ’s breaking into this world – such gorgeous meditations on his annunciation, birth, life, death and rising. I’d buy this to read again each year. Lovely and thought-provoking – which I expect from Shaw.

Maisie Dobbs, Jacqueline Winspear
Book Club Girl is hosting a read-along of this series on her blog (you can still sign up!), and I picked this first book up at my beloved Brattle. It’s a compelling mystery, but also a thoughtful portrait of England during and after World War I. And the story of one woman’s struggle to rise above her station (she starts out as a maid, but studies at Girton College, Cambridge) and to find her way to the work she’s meant to do. I was fascinated. And am already working on the sequel.

What have you been reading lately?

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As usual, I can’t believe another month has flown by – and it’s time for the book-review post again. I do enjoy sharing my literary treasures with you – and if you’re so inclined you can find me on Goodreads. I don’t usually write long reviews there because I write them here, but since I love lists and books, I enjoy listing books on Goodreads.

Anyway. On to the books for March:

These High, Green Hills, Jan Karon
I love every book in the Mitford series – hence why I had to reread all of them once I started the series again. I love the deepening of the relationship between Father Tim and Cynthia, and watching Father Tim open his heart to Dooley, the homeless boy he takes in; Puny, his redheaded housekeeper; Miss Sadie, his oldest parishioner; and many others. Mitford is so charming, and yet it’s also real – Karon does a wonderful job of balancing the charm and the hard realities.

Out to Canaan, Jan Karon
I appreciate this book for its thoughtful portrayal of Father Tim’s struggles with retirement. He’s always defined himself by his work and his ministry – and now, faced with the idea of retirement, he feels strangely bereft, set adrift. He’s such a sensitive, thoughtful central character, and yet doesn’t devolve into self-pity or sentimentality. And Cynthia, now his wife, is spunky and charming and refreshingly candid.

A New Song, Jan Karon
This book takes Father Tim and Cynthia to Whitecap Island, floating in the Atlantic – and they meet so many quirky and charming people. A real summer treat.

A Common Life: The Wedding Story, Jan Karon
This book is shorter than the others, and sweet – such fun to read multiple perspectives on the days leading up to Father Tim’s wedding. Karon usually only tells the story from Father Tim’s point of view, but this book switches back and forth. It’s kind of fun.

In This Mountain, Jan Karon
This book makes me cry more than any other in the series – Father Tim is struggling with depression, and oh my, how it breaks my heart. But it’s still a loving, warm story, filled with characters who are so real and honest, and who love their priest so much. And I love the way Karon inserts hymn lyrics and Bible verses, and yet doesn’t expect them to answer all the questions. No platitudes for her.

Shepherds Abiding, Jan Karon
This is a lovely Christmas tale – of Father Tim’s work on restoring a Nativity scene. I love how all the secondary characters pop in and out of every story – the “Turkey Club” of middle-aged men who hang out at the Main Street Grill; Winnie Ivey, who owns the bakery, and her brother Joe, the barber; Puny and her ever-growing family; Louella, who makes yeast rolls and sings beautifully; and Hope Winchester, who works at Happy Endings Bookstore and finally, here, begins to allow herself to dream. (She lives up to her name beautifully.)

Light from Heaven, Jan Karon
I’d only read this one once before – it takes us into the mountains around Mitford, to a tiny mountain congregation filled with unusual people. Karon certainly has a gift – there are nine of these books, and they never get old. If you haven’t read the series, I recommend them – and so does award-winning memoirist Lauren Winner, who mentions them in her book Girl Meets God.

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, Jacqueline Kelly
I bought this at BookPeople in downtown Austin, and devoured it in just a few days. I loved this story about a tomboyish, stubborn girl (hints of Caddie Woodlawn) who starts studying nature and evolution with her grandfather in 1899. She has six brothers, so things are never dull, and she has a smart, thoughtful way of looking at the world. So fun.

Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage, Elizabeth Gilbert
Alexis had an interesting perspective on this book – she didn’t really like it, but is still rooting for the author. I had mixed expectations after reading her post, but I loved Eat, Pray, Love, so I read this one anyway. And I will say: it’s a completely different book from Eat, Pray, Love. It’s still a personal/travel memoir, but contains much more research and much less personal heartbreak. I found Gilbert’s research on marriage – particularly her historical findings about marriage and women – fascinating. I think my favorite parts were the stories of the women in her family, and their experiences with marriage. I love that she didn’t find, in the end, one single formula that guarantees happiness in marriage. I also love that she had a happy ending – she did get to marry her sweetheart, known in the book as Felipe.

If you’re into Elizabeth Gilbert, into reading about marriage (like my therapist husband) or into unlikely love stories, you’ll probably enjoy this one. I’d love to hear what you think about it, if you’ve read it.

The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott, Kelly O’Connor McNees
I never win blog/online contests. I mean NEVER. But I keep entering them anyway, and I won this one – an ARC (advance reading copy) from Goodreads! Anyway, this is a fictional tale of a summer when Louisa May Alcott was in her early twenties, and oh, it’s so good. The author draws the characters so well – not only Louisa, but her sisters and parents, all of whom appear in fictional form in Little Women. The Alcott girls are different from the March sisters, though, and I think McNees portrays them as such. The historical details are well-researched, the description is well done, and the ending is both heartbreaking and satisfying. I usually don’t like it when people mess with my favorite authors, but I’m so impressed with this story.

That’s all for March. On to April books (and April showers…and winds…and flowers…)

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The end is in sight! This afternoon I began the 1970s segment of what has been a truly gigantic project…the ACU Today database. I’ve been going at the rate of about four or five years a day, so with a couple more days on it, I should be back in 1970 and done with the whole shebang. (I’m sure there’s a cool time travel joke there, but my brain is too tired to make it.)

In other news, I’m getting sick of eating sandwiches…despite my dangerously low bank account, I’m going to have to run to Wal-Mart this weekend. No two ways about it. Peanut butter and jelly can only go so far.

And I’m halfway through Light from Heaven and loving every chapter…tearing up during most of them, actually. Jan Karon’s books may not endure for centuries as have some of the great classics. But she’s created a whole townful of characters that are real. I know people like these. And she’s made me love them, and I’m literally crying and laughing as I read the last part of their story. (Maybe this points to a serious lack of actual human contact these days. Could be.)

That’s it for now…think I’ll go and make myself a dish of pasta. And then, to Wal-Mart. Can’t put it off forever.

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Summer Readin’ – Had me a blast

I don’t usually title my posts, but I couldn’t resist this pun. 🙂 One of my favorite things about summer has always been more time for reading. That’s especially true since I got into college…when the reading during the year isn’t always what I want it to be. I’ll probably post about books periodically all summer (don’t worry, Clint, my blog won’t be all “book reports”). In addition to skimming about 15 years’ worth (so far) of back issues of ACU Today, here are the books I’ve read, finished or started so far this summer:

Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks, a dark and sad but ultimately hopeful novel set during the Great Plague of 1666
Alec Forbes of Howglen by George MacDonald, a charming love story edited by Michael Phillips and retitled The Maiden’s Bequest
Talk to the Hand by Lynne Truss, a no-holds-barred attack on rudeness in today’s society. For those who are familiar with her work, it’s like Eats, Shoots and Leaves for manners!
Through Painted Deserts by Donald Miller, a road-trip narrative from the author of Blue Like Jazz (just begun this weekend)
Light from Heaven by Jan Karon, the final novel in the Mitford series (just begun today!)

Mmmmm. I LOVE summer reading. Maybe tonight I’ll take a book or two to a coffee shop. Good books are always better when mixed with yummy smells.

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