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Posts Tagged ‘Madeleine L’Engle’

Question: did anyone else ever get those slips of paper in elementary school that said, “You’ve Been Caught Reading!”? If they handed those out to adults, I’d get at least one a day.

Anyway. On to the first batch of books for a new year:

The Time in Between, Maria Duenas
I loved this big, sweeping novel set in Spain and Morocco in the late 1930s/early 1940s. Sira, a dressmaker, jaunts off to Tangiers with her dashing lover, who abandons her. She has to pick up the pieces of her life and literally stitch them back together – in a bold, unexpected pattern. Duenas writes gorgeously about high fashion, exotic locales and espionage, with a wonderful cast of characters. Sira’s voice is enchanting, and while her story carries echoes of Casablanca, it is utterly her own.

Cocaine Blues, Kerry Greenwood
I checked out this first book in the Phryne Fisher series from our library after Marianne mentioned her on Twitter. What a fun mystery-cum-romp through 1920s Australia. Our sleuth/heroine is dazzling, funny, generous and bold. A lighthearted story, with an interesting mystery. Fortunately the series spans 18 books so far – so I can keep reading!

The Orchid House, Lucinda Riley
A sweeping family saga, a tale of an English great house, several intertwined love stories and a fascinating glimpse into Bangkok in the 1940s – what’s not to love? I was intrigued and then absorbed by this tale of love, deception, war and secrets, centering around an estate in northern England. Lush descriptions, believable characters, and ultimate redemption. To review for Shelf Awareness.

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, Jennifer E. Smith
Rachel told me about this book (the author is her book’s editor), and I read it in just a few hours. Two teenagers meet at JFK and end up sitting together on their overnight flight to London. They’re both on their way to momentous family events, both feeling raw and shaky – so they spend the night talking. And the story doesn’t end once they land. It’s a sweet (but not saccharine) love story, and the characters are refreshingly real. I immediately put Smith’s two other YA novels on my list.

The Witch of Blackbird Pond, Elizabeth George Speare
I love Calico Captive by the same author, but had never read this classic – prompting Sarah (who is blogging about it) to exclaim, “Get on it, woman!” So I did. And I fell in love with Kit Tyler, brought up in Barbados and struggling to fit into Puritan life in Connecticut, and her cast of unlikely friends – all, in some way, misfits like herself. Since moving to New England, I am fascinated by historical fiction set in this area, and this story is a winner. Read it, if you haven’t!

The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt, Caroline Preston
I heard the author give a talk in November, and enjoyed this elegant book-cum-work-of-art, filled with vintage ephemera from the 1920s. Frankie (don’t call her Frances!) is spunky, sweet and a tad rebellious – she longs to see the Great World, like Betsy Ray, and ends up living in both New York and Paris before coming back home to New Hampshire. A fun story in an absolutely gorgeous medium – take a look inside to see for yourself.

Winter: Five Windows on the Season, Adam Gopnik
I love Gopnik’s work, but didn’t know about this collection till Zoe of Brookline Booksmith blogged about it. Gopnik examines the five “R”s of winter: romantic, radical, recuperative, recreational and remembering. His topics range from Romantic poetry to Arctic explorers, from Thomas Nast to ice hockey to underground cities – and all the while he is typically thoughtful and lyrical. I posted a few quotes from the first chapter last week, and I’m hoping these words will help me through my second Northeast winter.

Flying Too High, Kerry Greenwood
I enjoyed Phryne Fisher’s second adventure – which involves kidnapping, murder, flying lessons, clever tricks to catch the bad guys, and of course, dazzling clothes. Fun to see some of the characters from the first book (like Dot, the faithful maid) again, and to meet a few new ones.

The Sweet Life in Paris, David Lebovitz
As Jaclyn warned, this book made me hungry – for crackly baguettes, warm goat cheese, rich chocolates and other delicious things on offer in Paris. Lebovitz writes with warmth and wry humor about the city he loves, the quirks of Parisians (both humorous and annoying), and the foods he’s discovered while living there. Delectable (though it will make you want to hop a plane to Paris immediately).

The Arm of the Starfish, Madeleine L’Engle
I’d met most of these characters – Adam Eddington, the O’Keefe family, Canon Tallis – before, but this adventure set off the coast of Portugal was new to me. The plot deals with experiments on starfish (which can regenerate their own arms if injured), and how this ability could possibly apply to humans. The plot focused mostly on keeping the information away from the wrong people – I would have liked more exploration of the research itself. Not L’Engle’s best, but still compelling.

Little House in the Big Woods, Laura Ingalls Wilder
I promised myself a reread of this series this winter, and this first book was as cozy and fun as I remembered. Corncob dolls, a dance at Grandpa’s house, making maple sugar, churning butter – this is pioneer life at its most delicious. (I did catch a few references to the Civil War that I’d never noticed before.) And oh, how I love Pa and his wise, twinkling blue eyes, and his fiddle singing Laura to sleep.

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I’ve been an avid reader – and rereader – almost since I learned how to read. (Just ask my parents, who swear they read Ned’s Numbers to me a million times when I was a toddler.) I’ve read – and reread – hundreds of books since then, but a few of them have truly, powerfully changed the way I see the world. This list is not exhaustive, but contains a handful of the gems that marked some important shifts for me. (Inspired by Roxanne’s Books Well-Loved series.)

1. Little Women, first read when I was seven – the first story that completely, wholly absorbed me and made me want to read it again and again. (Which I did.)
2. Walking on Water, my “back-door” introduction to Madeleine L’Engle (now one of my favorite authors) and her oeuvre of beautifully written, thoughtful, moving books. (And, eventually, a topic for my master’s thesis.)
3. Watch for the Light, a book of Advent reflections that has shaped my relationship to liturgy, and indeed my faith.
4. Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg, which constantly pushes me to be more honest in my writing.
5. The Sound of Paper by Julia Cameron: given to me as a college graduation gift by J, it has powerfully shaped my creative life.
6. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, which revolutionized the way I think about food and seasonal eating.
7. The Cool Girl’s Guide to Knitting by Nicki Trench, which helped reinforce a lot of the basics for me.
8. A New Kind of Christian by Brian McLaren, which introduced me to the concept of postmodern Christianity.
9. The reading list for my World Lit class, my senior year of college – most notably Saramago’s Blindness and Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things. Horrifying, heartbreaking, powerful stories with pitch-perfect writing, and so many different ways of seeing the world.

What books have changed your life?

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Because endings, too, can be so good.

1. It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both. (Charlotte’s Web)
2. We talked of what was to come. And of the lost art of keeping secrets. (The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets)
3. “‘God’s in His heaven, all’s right with the world,'” whispered Anne softly. (Anne of Green Gables)
4. And now we’ll all go swimming. (No Children, No Pets)
5. Only the margin left to write on now. I love you, I love you, I love you. (I Capture the Castle)
6. “Music I heard with you was more than music, and bread I broke with you was more than bread.” Yes. And always will be. (Two-Part Invention)
7. But this is how Paris was in the early days when we were very poor and very happy. (A Moveable Feast)
8. “Well, I’m back,” he said. (The Return of the King)
9. She could feel the Big Hill looking down as the Crowd danced at Tib’s wedding in the chocolate-colored house. (Betsy’s Wedding)
10. The scar had not pained Harry for nineteen years. All was well. (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows)

What are your favorite last lines?

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Because beginnings can be so, so good. These are the ones I remember best.

1. I write this sitting in the kitchen sink. (I Capture the Castle)
2. I met Charlotte in London one afternoon while waiting for a bus. Just look at that sentence! (The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets)
3. In an old house in Paris that was covered in vines / lived twelve little girls in two straight lines. (Madeline)
4. My life – my real life – started when a man walked into it, a handsome man in a well-cut suit, and yes, I know how that sounds. (Love Walked In)
5. It was a dark and stormy night. (A Wrinkle in Time)
6. Once upon a time, sixty years ago, a little girl lived in the Big Woods of Wisconsin, in a little gray house made of logs. (Little House in the Big Woods)
7. We are each the love of someone’s life. (The Confessions of Max Tivoli)

I often have trouble remembering first lines of books – it’s the odd, random phrases or scenes from the middle that stick in my mind. But I do love these.

What are your favorite first lines?

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Troubling a Star, Madeleine L’Engle
I’d been saving this last book in the Austin series – and it was the perfect read for a warm, lazy Saturday. I curled up on the couch and read all about Vicky Austin’s trip to Antarctica. Not my favorite of the Austin books, but a good ending to the series, and a fun adventure for a character of whom I’ve grown fond.

Horoscopes for the Dead, Billy Collins
I took my time with Collins’ new collection, dipping into it before bed for several weeks. His sly, witty, thoughtful gift with words is still present; there are some gems here. I love him because he makes my husband laugh – and makes me laugh – and then makes me pause and reflect on life’s quiet beauty, found in the little everyday moments.

The Moffat Museum, Eleanor Estes
This last Moffat book was a treat – who else would think of making a museum out of the old barn in their backyard, complete with stardust, a rusted brown bike and Rufus the Waxworks Boy? Jane and Rufus are in fine form, loving childhood as much as they ever did – but Sylvie and Joey are growing up, which gives the book a tinge of poignancy. Sylvie’s wedding is lovely, but it was Joey getting his working papers and leaving school that choked me up. And the ending is just perfect.

Loose Diamonds…and other things I’ve lost and found along the way, Amy Ephron
A lighthearted, frothy, sometimes random collection of essays about life in L.A., motherhood, marriage, and occasionally jewelry. Ephron often hides behind her cynicism, but I prefer her writing when it’s honest and a bit nostalgic. To review for the Shelf.

Make the Bread, Buy the Butter, Jennifer Reese
A cookbook-cum-memoir, born out of a desire to see whether making stuff from scratch is really worth it. Reese’s conclusions are always honest (each recipe carries a “Hassle” rating) and often hilarious. And some of these recipes (like the apricot-ginger bread!) look delicious. (Though I probably won’t be curing my own meat, or keeping chickens, any time soon.) To review for the Shelf.

When You Reach Me, Rebecca Stead
I picked this up at the Booksmith one night and spent the rest of the evening reading it. Such a fascinating story, with echoes of A Wrinkle in Time (the protagonist’s favorite book) and several interesting twists. The reader is just as puzzled as the characters for a while – and then, suddenly, beautifully, all the strange clues start to make sense.

The Most Beautiful Walk in the World: A Pedestrian in Paris, John Baxter
Baxter is a bookworm and an expat (he’s an Aussie) living in Paris, and his musings on the City of Light are erudite, thoughtful and often charming. He does relish shocking people with tales of the seedy side of Paris, but there’s plenty of variety here. (Of course, it makes me want to go back to Paris. Le sigh.)

The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels, Ree Drummond
I love the Pioneer Woman’s blog and Twitter account – she’s hilarious – and I own her cookbook. (Yum.) So I loved her lighthearted, funny, romantic tale of falling in love with her husband, “Marlboro Man.” She pokes sly fun at herself and shares lots of embarrassing moments – no wonder she claims to “channel Lucille Ball” sometimes. But what I love most of all is her quiet commitment to love, honor and cherish her man forever. I’m working on that same commitment with my love.

31 Dates in 31 Days, Tamara Duricka Johnson
A funny, honest, refreshingly real account of one woman’s quest to revamp her dating habits – and learn to have fun again, instead of desperately clutching at each man as a potential mate. I liked her writing style, and appreciated her ingenuity – and energy! – in coming up with 31 dates. (To review for the Shelf.)

Theater Shoes, Noel Streatfeild
I loved Ballet Shoes, but hadn’t read this book till I found a lovely red vintage edition on Etsy. A wonderful tale of three half-orphaned children, who learn to sing, dance and act in wartime London. The details of theatrical life, the loving (but very human) siblings, the privations of wartime London – all are well rendered and come together to make a wonderful story.

Dancing Shoes, Noel Streatfeild
I liked this story too – though not quite as well as Ballet Shoes or Theater Shoes. Rachel and Hilary, sisters by adoption, have a deep and complex relationship that carries the book. Some of the other characters veer into stereotype at times, but there’s lots of dancing, some funny moments and a happy, if ambiguous, ending.

Oolong Dead, Laura Childs
It’s been a while since I picked up a Tea Shop Mystery. The writing is not brilliant, but the mysteries are intriguing, the characters comfortable and familiar, the tea shop itself a delightful spot. A fun bit of cozy mystery fluff.

Skating Shoes, Noel Streatfeild
Another lovely, hopeful story from the author of the Shoe Books. Harriet and Lalla bond through ice skating – and Harriet’s confidence begins to grow, and Lalla gradually learns she’s not the center of the universe. A sweet story (and Harriet’s brothers are wonderful supporting characters).

What are you reading lately?

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For our third anniversary last Tuesday, J and I decided to eat at home instead of going out. Since I work downtown and he works way south of the city, going out on weeknights can be a scheduling challenge – plus we’d just spent a weekend on the Cape with lots of eating out. So we planned a special meal of manicotti with tomato sauce and homemade blackberry cobbler (a summertime favorite).

We did have our special dinner (and it was delicious), and we did exchange cards and gifts and spend some time laughing and talking and just being together. But we also had a long, rich, deep Skype conversation with a friend who is spending a life-changing summer interning in New York, and later I talked to my parents and told them all about our Cape weekend.

This connectedness has been a hallmark of our marriage – time alone together interspersed with deep friendships, for both of us individually and as a couple. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Our evening reminded me of a favorite passage from Madeleine L’Engle, in A Circle of Quiet, the first of her four memoir volumes:

It’s all right in the very beginning for you to be the only two people in the world, but after that your ability to love should become greater and greater. If you find that you love lots more people than you ever did before, then I think that you can trust this love. If you find that you need to be exclusive, that you don’t like being around other people, then I think that something may be wrong.

This doesn’t mean that two people who love each other don’t need time alone. Two people in the first glory of new love must have great waves of time in which to discover each other. But there is a kind of exclusiveness in some loves, a kind of inturning, which augurs trouble to come.

Hugh was the wiser of the two of us when we were first married. I would have been perfectly content to go off to a desert isle with him. But he saw to it that our circle was kept wide until it became natural for me, too. There is nothing that makes me happier than sitting around the dinner table and talking until the candles have burned down.

I cherish this idea of keeping the circle wide – because it means we’re keeping our lives big, letting plenty of space and light into our relationship, allowing ourselves room to stretch and grow. There’s a balance to be struck, certainly, and we both cherish our solitude and just-the-two-of-us time. But I love the image of a wide circle, glowing with candlelight, making room for all the people we love and who love us.

How do you keep the circle wide in your life?

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Un Amico Italiano: Eat, Pray, Love in Rome, Luca Spaghetti
Like millions of other women (and some men), I loved Eat, Pray, Love – and this was a fun take on the Italy/”eat” part of the story. Luca Spaghetti (that’s really his name!) seems like a nice guy – kind, funny, devoted to food, friends and soccer. And he loves American music – especially James Taylor! A lighthearted, funny tour of Rome from a native Roman, and a fun chance to see Elizabeth Gilbert through someone else’s eyes.

Betsy-Tacy and Betsy-Tacy and Tib, Maud Hart Lovelace
I’ve read both these books a dozen times – but hadn’t picked them back up in years. They were my bedtime reading for a few nights (I can’t handle anything too intense before bed), and they’re just as charming as I remembered. I love the stories of their exploits – making Everything Pudding, cutting off each other’s hair, dyeing sand and Easter eggs, and teasing their bossy big sisters. So fun.

The Art of Racing in the Rain, Garth Stein
Annie mentioned this book the other week, and I found a copy at the Brattle and thoroughly enjoyed Enzo’s story. He’s an unusually wise dog with a wry sense of humor and a fierce love for his master, Denny, and Denny’s wife and daughter. I learned a lot about racecar driving – which I’d never been interested in before – and there are some lovely meditations on life sprinkled in. The plot is heartbreaking, but beautifully told – and it ends bittersweetly, but with so much hope.

Spiderweb for Two: A Melendy Maze, Elizabeth Enright
Such a fun conclusion to the Melendy Quartet – a scavenger hunt that lasts all year! I loved watching Randy and Oliver hunt for the next clue, and discover new places and treasures in the process. Fun family moments, as always, abound – the Christmas chapter was particularly lovely.

Betsy and Tacy Go Over the Big Hill, Maud Hart Lovelace
I love this third installment of the adventures of Betsy, Tacy and Tib – from falling in love with the King of Spain to Cat Duets and Baby Dances. But my favorite part is when the girls go to Little Syria, and discover a whole world of kind, good-hearted people who are proud to be new Americans.

Murder at the Vicarage, Agatha Christie
In preparation for the AC read-along hosted by Book Club Girl and friends, I thought I’d check out the first Miss Marple mystery (though it’s not on the discussion list). I read it in one day – couldn’t go to sleep without finding out who really killed Colonel Protheroe! Charming setting, delightful characters and a wonderfully twisty plot. I can’t wait to dig into more Miss Marple books!

Gone-Away Lake, Elizabeth Enright
A fun summer story of two cousins who discover an old abandoned group of houses in a swamp – and a couple of charming old folks who still live there. Not quite as well-drawn or as much fun as the Melendys, but still super fun. The kind of summer adventures kids dream of. (Though I think she could have named the main characters better. Portia and Julian? Really?)

Once Was Lost, Sara Zarr
I’d been hearing about Zarr’s work for a while, and was blown away by this sensitively told story of a struggling pastor’s daughter, who has to deal with an alcoholic mother, a missing girl in her town and an unavailable dad. Sam’s (the narrator’s) voice is so real and honest, and the other characters are also well drawn. I’m not a pastor’s kid, but I am a lifelong church kid – and I remember well how it feels when the answers you’ve always been so sure of start to crumble beneath your feet.

The Coffins of Little Hope, Timothy Schaffert
I read this one on the plane to Nashville. Such a fascinating story of a girl who disappears – or really of her mother and the people in their small Midwestern town, since we never meet the girl. The narrator, Essie, is the town obituary writer and a keen, incisive, often witty observer. Her family members have a few issues of their own, and the writing is beautiful. Totally entertaining and thought-provoking.

The Violets of March, Sarah Jio
Set on lovely Bainbridge Island, this book has a double plotline – a blocked writer with a failed marriage trying to get her life back, and the story of a woman whose 1943 diary holds all kinds of secrets. Interesting, though not quite what I wanted it to be. I’m not sure what was missing – the story is certainly compelling. I liked it, but I didn’t love it.

The 4:50 from Paddington, Agatha Christie
Another Miss Marple adventure for this summer’s read-along – so fascinating. It’s always the last person you suspect, of course. Elegantly plotted and well written, and fabulously entertaining. I’m getting hooked on AC!

A Ring of Endless Light, Madeleine L’Engle
Maybe my favorite of the Austin books so far. Vicky must face death for the first time in her life, along with all the usual complications of adolescence. In this fourth book, she’s finally starting to come into her own, as a writer and a woman. L’Engle writes so beautifully and sensitively – her books have so many levels. I loved this one.

Alice Bliss, Laura Harrington
Oh. My. Goodness. I loved this book. Love love loved it. The prose is gorgeous (but beautifully understated); the complicated bonds between the characters are so well drawn. I wanted to walk right through the pages and get to know Alice and her family even better. And I cried at the ending, riding the T on the way home. (Yes, this happens to me occasionally. Yes, I’m sure people think I’m nuts.) One of the best books I’ve read this year.

Story of a Girl, Sara Zarr
After reading Zarr’s latest (see above) I wanted to read her other books. This one, her debut, follows a girl whose life is marked by a mistake she made at 13 – and explores what happens when people insist on labeling you for so long you start to believe them. And what happens when you decide to fight that label – even a little bit.

Sweethearts, Sara Zarr
A sad, beautifully told story of a girl who lost her only friend, reinvented herself, and is totally shocked when he shows back up, eight years later. I wish it had ended differently, but the ending, like the story, is complicated. Lots of layers, like all of Zarr’s writing. (I think she gets better with each book…Once Was Lost is my favorite of her works.)

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On the T, tucked up in bed, curled up on the couch, at my desk while I eat lunch…I read everywhere. Here’s what has occupied my book-time this month:

The Chocolate Cupid Killings, Joanna Carl
The Chocoholic mysteries are like cheap milk chocolate – sweet but a little bland (though the chocolate shop in the series sells gourmet treats). I like Lee, the main character, and it’s interesting to see how the plots turn out. Not on a level with Maisie Dobbs or Dorothy Sayers, but entertaining.

The Weird Sisters, Eleanor Brown
I’d been hearing the buzz about this book  – and Dawn’s review at She Is Too Fond of Books convinced me to pick it up. And oh my, I loved it. The three sisters, all named after Shakespearean heroines, are such complex, fascinating characters, and the first-person-plural voice is true wizardry. I savored every page of the wonderful writing and the rich story. Especially recommended if you’re a fan of the Bard.

Hattie Big Sky, Kirby Larson
Erin and Jet both recommended this book after my lament about the lack of World War I stories for young adults (and American readers in general). Sixteen-year-old Hattie Inez Brooks heads to Montana to “prove up” on her uncle’s homestead claim – and what adventures she has, and what hardworking, compassionate people she meets. The ending is bittersweet, but the story is wonderful. I lent this to a friend who’s moving to Montana this summer.

The Mapping of Love and Death, Jacqueline Winspear
The best Maisie Dobbs novel yet – and I’m a big fan of the whole series. Maisie continues to uncover important truths about World War I’s effect on individual families and England as a whole. She also falls in love again – with the last man I’d have expected! – but it’s a good match. And the supporting cast of characters is, as always, well drawn.

Tender at the Bone: Growing up at the Table, Ruth Reichl
Shauna rightly compared Ruth to Anne Lamott – they do have the same sense of humor. My favorite parts of this book dealt with the hilarious (if disgusting) concoctions Ruth’s mother made when she was little. The book got less interesting as she moved out to Berkeley – more chronicling and less reflection. Still enjoyable, though.

The Moon By Night, Madeleine L’Engle
Book #2 in the Austin series, which I can’t believe I missed as a child. I still identify with gawky, uncertain, thoughtful Vicky, though – especially as a stranger in a strange land. A compelling story sprinkled with L’Engle’s signature gems of truth.

Spoon Fed: How Eight Cooks Saved My Life, Kim Severson
I found this on the remainder table at the Booksmith, and read it in less than a week. Severson paints fascinating portraits of some famous cooks – and her mother – who helped form how she feels about food, and ultimately about life. Since I believe food is love, this book rang true from beginning to end. “Making food for the people you get up with and go to sleep with is the best thing ever,” she says. I agree.

The Blessings of the Animals, Katrina Kittle
A compelling, funny, heartbreaking story of a woman putting herself back together after a divorce – with help from friends, her teenage daughter, and a cast of ragged, sweet animals (Muriel the Houdini goat is my favorite). I could have done without some of the profanity, but I did enjoy this story.

Jacob Have I Loved, Katherine Paterson
A young adult classic I somehow missed – and mostly enjoyed. I sympathized with Louise, the narrator, at first, but I started to wonder why she didn’t just snap out of her bitterness and do something. (She finally did build her own life, though.)

Cold Tangerines, Shauna Niequist
I won this book in a giveaway from Zondervan, and enjoyed it – though I did like Bittersweet (her more recent book) better. Thoughtful, honest essays on celebration, family, coming to terms with your body and your place in the world, faith and doubt, and the little things worth savoring.

The Young Unicorns, Madeleine L’Engle
I turn, often, to young adult lit and/or Madeleine for comfort – though this book offered precious little of that. A much darker story than the previous two, with questions about freedom and power at its center. But the part that made me cry had to do with a lonely, hardened boy finding, at last, a real family.

Sarah’s Key, Tatiana de Rosnay
Two fonts, two narrators, two time periods – two families linked by a dark secret, which Julia Jarmond, American daughter-in-law to a French family, cannot let rest. I wondered at her tenacity, especially as her marriage was falling apart. A compelling story, well written. And heartbreaking.

Blessed are the Cheesemakers, Sarah-Kate Lynch
Recommended by Jet. A light, amusing story of cheesemaking and love in Ireland. Lots of coincidences make this tale a bit unbelievable at times, but it’s definitely entertaining.

The American Heiress, Daisy Goodwin
I received an ARC of this book from the publisher, and enjoyed the tale of an American socialite who marries an inscrutable English lord. (Coincidentally, her name is Cora, like the American mother in Downton Abbey.) The story was entertaining and full of fun period detail, though I saw the plot twists coming long before Cora did, and the ending felt rather unsatisfying.

The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett
After seeing a quote from this classic on Sarah’s site, I pulled it off the shelf to read again for the first time in years. What a gorgeous story of rebirth and awakening – and as I walked around Boston Common at lunchtime, I found myself willing the trees to bud, just as Mary and Dickon and Colin urge the crocuses and other green things to grow.

(These monthly book roundups are getting unwieldy in their length. Perhaps I should start splitting them into twice-monthly posts? Opinions?)

What have you been reading lately? I’m always curious.

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I haven’t tweeted in two weeks. I kind of miss it, though not as much as I thought I would. Sometimes I think of sound bites or quips that I would normally tweet, and then I remember I’m not tweeting till Easter. The oh-so-clever (usually snarky, rarely brilliant) comments in my head drift away. (Occasionally I post them to Facebook instead.)

I’m sure I’m getting more actual work done at work, though a small part of my job does involve social media (coordinating more than participating). And I know I’m spending less time online in the evenings, with fewer links to click, fewer conversations to participate in. (And I’m spending more time listening to my husband play guitar, which is what he’s adding in for Lent. To each their own.)

I’m realizing how often I looked to Twitter as a distraction, a brain screen-saver, something to fill my day, a chance to consume instead of create. And I’m trying not to let my Google Reader take its place.

Madeleine L’Engle, my literary idol, points out in Two-Part Invention, “We have allowed the media to call us consumers – ugly. No! I don’t want to be a consumer. Anger consumes. Forest fires consume. Cancer consumes.” In her acceptance speech for the Margaret Edwards Award, she added, “I want us to be nourishers.” Yes. I want to be a nourisher, a creator, someone who brings life into the world instead of simply absorbing – or, worse, wrecking – what’s already there.

Lofty goals for a single Lenten period, I know. And when I go back to tweeting, I’m sure I will still be susceptible to distraction. But I want to remember what it feels like to have a little extra silence and space in my life. And to create more often, instead of consuming.

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One thing I’ve always appreciated about summer is the extra chance to read. Even in high school, when I was going to camp and helping with VBS at church and playing games with my family and hanging out with friends, there were still far more lazy afternoons than there were during the school year, and loads more chances to stay awake far into the night, reading a book I just couldn’t put down.

Even though I’m now working full-time, the office has been pretty quiet lately, so I’ve been bringing books up to work and devouring them behind my desk. I’ve also been reading in the evenings and weekends…not that that’s unusual, but I love the feeling of being able to read for great stretches of time, restocking my brain, so to speak. Summer reading is usually one of two things: light stuff I’m treating myself to after the rigors of a school year, or complicated stuff I didn’t get around to during the school year. This summer it’s been a mixture of both, and here’s the list of what I’ve covered in the last month:

  • The Forest for the Trees: An Editor’s Advice to Writers, Betsy Lerner
  • Many Waters, Madeleine L’Engle
  • The Sound of Paper, Julia Cameron (a gradual read over the last year, but finally finished)
  • The Penny Tree, Holly Kennedy
  • The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion
  • The Water Will Hold You, Lindsey Crittenden
  • The Space Between Us, Thrity Umrigar
  • Half Magic, Edward Eager
  • The Book of Jane, Anne Dayton and May Vanderbilt
  • French Women for All Seasons, Mireille Guiliano
  • The Last Summer (of You & Me), Ann Brashares
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, J.K. Rowling
  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, J.K. Rowling
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, J.K. Rowling
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J.K. Rowling
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, J.K. Rowling
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, J.K. Rowling (midway through)

You can tell where my mind’s been the last week and a half – but I’ve balanced Harry with a healthy dose of other fiction and nonfiction. Looking forward to the release of the seventh in a couple of weeks…also to the ACU Shakespeare Festival, which will almost certainly prompt me to read a bit of stuff by the Bard.

Happy reading!

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