World Book Day – A “Must-Read” List

It’s World Book Day today, so we just quickly want to give you the book that we each recommend to people the most. 

Natalie: The Thirteenth Tale, by Diane Setterfield 
Every once in a while I read a book that I wish I could experience for the first time over and over again. This book ranks among my favorite mystery novels simply because of the author’s ability to craft beautiful sentences – and the surprising twist at the end.

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Meg: Celia Garth, by Gwen Bristow – This is the book that has it all: history (Revolutionary War era), drama, war, love, spies, a beloved setting (dear Charleston), and a smart and sassy heroine. I’ve yet to have anyone tell me they didn’t love this book.
Note: reading a 1st edition copy makes it even better. 😊img_9373

AB: The Staff and the Sword Series – For fans of the LOTR or The Wheel of Time series, this debut series by Patrick W. Carr (a high school math teacher from Tennessee) is an excellent addition.  I love the deep character development and the intricate plot. These qualities and many more contribute to the epic nature of this series. Start with the first book, called A Cast of Stones.

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What Alice Forgot, by Liane Moriarty

Review by Meg 

When I was a college freshman, I wrote a “10 year” letter to myself – to be read when I was 29. It was full of the usual stuff – who my friends were, what classes I was taking, the guy that I currently had a crush on, etc. I put it away in my keepsake box and proceeded to forget about it. Then, when I was 28, right after having my first child, I found it – and decided 9 years was good enough to wait, and re-met my 19-year-old self. By this point in my life, it was mostly funny to read, maybe mildly embarrassing (I liked THAT guy – Really? And thought I might MARRY him??). But that whole instance brings up an interesting question: Do you know what your life will be like 10 years from now?

What Alice Forgot begins with Alice waking up (with a very sore head), thinking she’s 29 years old, madly in love and about to have her first baby – only to be told that she’s actually 39, has 3 kids, and is about to get a divorce. Shealice has absolutely no memory of the last ten years of her life, and cannot imagine how on earth she got to where she is now.

The next 476 pages unfold with Alice trying to remember her life and repair the damage she’s done. But without her memory, she is, as she puts it “floating helplessly above the calendar like an escaped balloon.” I flew through this book – IN ONE DAY (that’s how much I just needed to help Alice resolve her issues). In one sense, the premise is similar to other memory-loss stories like Remember Me, but what’s unique about this story are the close-to-home issues that many “ordinary” people experience – about marriage and divorce (and custody battles), and about the grief and heartache of infertility. The story unfolds with 3 narrative voices – mostly through the 3rd-person omnicient author, but also through the journals of Alice’s sister, Elisabeth and the letters of Frannie, Alice’s surrogate grandmother, to her long-dead fiance. I know that may sound confusing, but I thought the change-up in narration helped weave some interesting texture into the plot (and gave us that special, inside look into Elisabeth’s infertility).

The story’s ending seemed to “work out nicely” – and I’m sure some readers will be disappointed that it wasn’t more shocking and post-modernly heartbreaking – but I really appreciated the fact that the resolution (for all 3 women) had true goodness and what I would call the kind gifts of God winning the day.

Purchase What Alice Forgot here.

NOTABLE QUOTES: 

“It’s Mother’s Day next Sunday. That’s the most painful day of the year for an Infertile. I always wake up feeling ashamed. Not sad so much. Just ashamed. Sort of stupid. It’s a version of that feeling I had in high school when I was the only one in my class who didn’t need to wear a bra. I’m not a proper woman. I’m not a grown-up.” 

“But maybe every life looked wonderful if all you saw was the photo albums.”

“Each memory, good and bad, was another invisible thread that bound them together, even when they were foolishly thinking they could lead separate lives. It was as simple and complicated as that.”

“Early love is exciting and exhilarating. It’s light and bubbly. Anyone can love like that. But after three children, after a separation and a near-divorce, after you’ve hurt each other and forgiven each other, bored each other and surprised each other, after you’ve seen the worst and the best– well, that sort of love is ineffable. It deserves its own word.”

 

The Road Less Traveled: AB goes to Hampton Plantation, home of Archibald Rutledge

20170324_125139 (1)As a creative writing teacher, I’m always looking for ways to expose my young writers to strong examples of good writing and to the personal stories of respected, published authors. Recently, I accompanied some students along with their parents to McClellanville, SC and Hampton Plantation – the ancestral home of Archibald Rutledge, South Carolina’s first poet laureate. Rutledge grew up in a wealthy family with deep ties to the land and history of the South Carolina lowcountry. His great-great grandfather, Daniel Horry, purchased the land in the early 18th century and later built the house on this sprawling rice and indigo plantation. Rutledge spent his pivotal years roaming the land, learning to hunt the local wildlife, and befriending the children of former slaves. After decades teaching in Pennsylvania, Rutledge, already an established writer, moved back home to oversee the restoration of his beloved home. To the Rutledge enthusiast, such works as Home by the River and Tales of Whitetails bring this special place to life, and I wanted my students to experience it in person. Continue reading

Reading Challenge Update – Natalie recaps 5 new reads 

A couple of weeks ago, my family of five expanded to a family of six – and busy is our new phase. But before that event, I was trying to get through a big chunk of my 2017 reading list. My list included 24 books, and I’ve managed to make it 1/3 of the way through. Since my reading time is limited, I chose books that I thought had the best chance of making it to the finished pile rather than the discarded pile. So far, 7 out of 8 have been big winners, so read on to find out more. Continue reading

Snapshot: 3 quick reviews on 3 celebrity memoirs

By Meg
I didn’t mean to binge on celebrity memoirs the past few weeks, but as I’ve requested various ones from the library the past 3-6 months, they all became available for me AT THE SAME TIME. And of course books that you wait 6 months for cannot be renewed … so blitz through them I did. All were enjoyable to a degree, but one definitely rose above the crowd. So here are 3 really quick reviews (with star ratings)  of memoirs by Carrie Fisher, Cary Elwes, and Megyn Kelly.

PDbookThe “meh”moir:
The Princess Diarist,
by Carrie Fisher. ***

I’m always interested in people’s diaries, so reading Carrie Fisher’s actual entries in her handwriting was fascinating. But for the most part, this was the story of an older teenager with a crush on her much-older, married co-star having meaningless sex with him during the weekends of their filming of the first Star Wars movie. She admits her own immaturities; but with the excess of the vulgarities and her lack of ultimately pointing to anything beyond her memories, I came away from this read (which took less than a day to finish) just feeling kind of “meh.” I’d hoped for more. Continue reading

Elizabeth Is Missing

By Emma Healey                            Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Reviewed by Natalie                      4/5 stars

513shwrvdlThe mystery genre takes up a great deal of space on my bookshelves, and my love of mystery stems back to elementary school when my 4th grade teacher read The Pink Motel (as I’ve mentioned a few times). Typically, I read Agatha Christie’s mysteries along with my fair share of Gothic-style mysteries like Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in WhiteElizabeth Is Missing is #22 on my 2017 book list – a “book you were excited to buy or borrow but haven’t read yet.” I bought this book, but then read a few others before picking it up. Once I did, I didn’t want to put it down. Continue reading

Love Him Anyway, by Abby Banks

Reviewed by: AB
Genre: 
Memoir, faith testimonial

screen-shot-2017-02-26-at-8-37-38-amI’m going to be honest: Love Him Anyway isn’t the kind of book that I normally read. I’m unapologetically a fiction reader primarily, but I’m so glad that I read this book. When my friend Anna (from Ambassador International) asked if I wanted to read a book about a baby who becomes paralyzed at the age of 7 months, I was skeptical that this was the book for me. But God knew how much I would need to read this book. In the past year I’ve seen unfathomable loss. I’ve seen friends and family members bear incredible burdens when it comes to their little ones. Some have lost their babies in the womb and others have lost them as newborns. I’ve seen other friends watch their children struggle with sudden debilitating physical handicaps. Love Him Anyway is the kind of book that is for all of those parents and for anyone who simply wants to understand how to have hope when surrounded by pain. Continue reading