Sunday, December 30, 2018

My Testimony of the Book of Mormon

I just finished the Book of Mormon, one day early.

For the context of any readers I might possibly have who are not members of The Church of Jesus Christ, back in early October, our prophet, President Nelson, challenged the women in our church to read the entire Book of Mormon before the end of the year. Less than three months to finish a 531 page book of dense scripture.

I'm nothing if not an upholder, so I knew once this expectation had been given me, from a prophet no less, I would meet it. But I also knew it wouldn't be easy for me. I did the math and calculated I would need to read between six and seven pages of scripture a day. I already struggled to read one page a day. Honestly, most days were a handful of verses. Factor in that this challenge was given in the middle of one of my most intense, most demanding semesters of my life, where I spent every available minute reading all my other assigned work, and I really didn't know how I was going to fit in extra reading time every day.

But now that it's over, now that I've done what felt impossible and like a serious burden in the beginning, I'd like to take a few moments and reflect on the experience.

Lesson 1: I Have Time for My Priorities

This is a lesson I keep learning over and over. My life is so busy, so very, very busy. I never have enough time to do all of the things I need to do, let alone want to do. During the semester, I never have enough time to clean the bathrooms, I never have enough time to watch TV, I never have enough time to get all the sleep I want. But I always have time for what is most important: reading to my children, making dinner every night, occasional date nights with my husband.

I have enough time for the things that are most important.

And this challenge was no different. Way back in early October, I did not know where I was going to find the time in every day to read seven pages of scriptures, but I knew it was important. I knew this was going to be a priority. And so I thought about where in my day I could do this. My morning routines are already so rushed, I didn't think I could add scripture reading there and still make it out the door on time (let's be honest, I was rarely making it out the door on time at the end there, always rushing into class frazzled and late). But I realized I have this pocket of time, about fifteen minutes or so, after we all get home from school but before I start dinner prep, where I usually allow myself a break. I get the kids set up with a snack and make a snack myself and just sit at the kitchen table scrolling my phone. I decided that if I read my scriptures during that snack time instead of scrolling my phone, I could probably fit it in there, so that's what I did.

It took some discipline on my part. After all, at that time of day (4 PM), I am exhausted and weary and not up for much mental exertion. Reaching for my scriptures instead of my phone took energy. And I will be quite honest that there were days I was so tired that my "reading" was pretty superficial, eyes glazing over words with not much meaning taken in. I even fell asleep a few times.

But it was a priority, and I made it happen every day, until it became natural and easy.

And so, during one of the busiest, most grueling semesters of my life, I found time every day to read seven pages of the Book of Mormon. It was time that I would've sworn before I did not have, but when I chose to make it a priority, when I looked long and hard at my schedule, there it was. Time for what was most important.

Lesson 2: Joseph Smith Did Not Write This Book

One of the hardest parts of pursing an advanced degree in the liberal arts is the fact that most of the people and texts I interact with on a daily basis are highly critical, if not downright hostile, toward religious belief. This was not my worst semester (by far) in terms of dealing with professors or other students or class discussions where faith has been ridiculed (oh, how different it is to attend schools that are not BYU), but there was still a constant undercurrent that occasionally rose to the surface.

There was the snarky comment at the conference I attended about scripture belonging to the "speculative fiction" genre.

There was the class discussion on fan fiction writing where a fellow student brought up the idea of scripture being like fan fiction (people being so obsessed with an imaginary world they write about it as if it were true).

That's just a small, small sampling of the many comments and ideas hostile to faith that I combat on a daily basis, but these two, made at this time where I was immersing myself in the Book of Mormon, found themselves rattling around in my brain as I came home to read every day.

What if the Book of Mormon was "written" by Joseph Smith, like some kind of Bible fan fic? What would that mean? That a twenty-something kid with a rather limited education was able, essentially on his own, to take some rather obscure verses in Jeremiah about the sacking of Jerusalem under king Zedekiah, and imagine not one, but two groups escaping at this time, send them over to America, and then construct 1,000 years of history for a complex civilization with incredible detail, and allow different writing styles for different prophets, and then throw in a complex structure of small plates and large plate abridgment? And then let's not forget about the Jaredites, and the level of complexity that adds! Could someone like Joseph Smith really have constructed this world? Imagined it this clearly? And, history aside, could he really have made up this doctrine? A kid who was not a theologian? With an eighth grade education?

It was actually my son, just a week ago or so, who asked me, "Mom, why isn't there an author listed on the title page of the Book of Mormon?"  And I shot the question back at him:

"Well, who would the author be? What name should be listed as the author?"

And in his sweet, sweet innocence, he thought for a minute and then said, "Well, didn't God write all the scriptures?"

Yes. In a way, yes. I explained to him about how it was actually a long string of prophets who kept records and then those records were compiled and abridged, and so, technically, they are the authors of the Book of Mormon. But in the end, it is God's work entirely.

I know there are some places (like my university's library catalog) where Joseph Smith is listed as the author of the Book of Mormon. But what impressed me so much during the past three months of reading this book, so quickly and all together, was that there is no way Joseph Smith could have done this. No offense to my esteemed ancestor (four-greats grand uncle), but it is a stretch to believe that any person of his background and upbringing could create something like the Book of Mormon from scratch.

It is honestly easier for me to believe an angel sent from God showed him how to translate it than it is to believe he wrote it himself.

Lesson 3: There is Power in this Book

This is not the first time I've learned this lesson, because this is not the first time I've read this book.

I read the Book of Mormon for the first time when I was eight years old, in answer to another challenge given me at my baptism (if an authority figure gives me a challenge, I will meet it). It took me a year to read it. I understood very little of it. And when I finished it, I happily closed the book, content to move on to other more exciting books.

I don't remember exactly how long it took me to notice. Maybe it was a few months, probably a few years. But I began to realize that something was different. I remember reflecting on my year reading the Book of Mormon, and how happy I'd been that year, how I had been kinder to my siblings and gotten in fewer fights, how I'd felt more peace. I'm still impressed with myself, for being able to notice this at such a young age, but I did notice that since finishing the book and moving on, I'd been less happy, more quarrelsome, not as good a person.

At the age of twelve, I decided that I needed to return to regular scripture reading. But since I'd already done the Book of Mormon, I decided to branch out and try the other books of scripture. It took me through most of middle school, but I read the Bible cover to cover, then read the D&C and the Pearl of Great Price. And it was good. But it was not the same.

In eighth grade, I began reading the Book of Mormon again, for the second time. Again, it took me the better part of a year to finish it, and again, I didn't understand most of it. But the difference in my life was marked. I felt it. I felt it every day.

I finished on October 15th 2001, when I was in 9th grade. I recorded the date in my scriptures, because I wanted to mark the occasion. Now, after having read every book of scripture, I could say without doubt that there was something different about the Book of Mormon. There was power there, and I knew that I never wanted to go another day of my life without that power in it. So I decided that no matter what, I would read at least some piece of the Book of Mormon every day of my life.

Today I finished reading it for the 22nd time.

It's hard for me to say exactly how reading it this time influenced my life more than at other times, considering how long it's been since I've been without the influence of this book in my life. But here's what I can say about this three month period: I survived when I thought I wouldn't. I found time I didn't think I had. I had ideas and thoughts that led to papers that were very exciting to write. I was led to an incredibly serendipitous find in the special collections library which allowed me to frame one of my papers on original research. I was able to spend time with my children. I found the mental energy to play with them. I read to them every day. I made their dinners and breakfasts every day. For the most part, I did not yell at them. During the Thanksgiving holiday, I had the distinct thought: My life is busy, but it is full of deep, deep joy! If I miraculously won the lottery tomorrow, it wouldn't change a thing! This is the life I would choose! I would wake up and keep doing exactly what I'm doing now!

Now, that's not to say everything was perfect. I was definitely not getting enough sleep, my kids were sick far more often than was convenient, and my house was a complete disaster 99% of the time. But I was feeling deep joy, and deep peace, despite the chaos.

And I know I was feeling it because of the Book of Mormon.

So, I would like to take this time and space and place, to share my testimony of the Book of Mormon. My faith has not always been perfect. I have been deeply troubled by doubts before, and still battle with many doubts. There are doctrines and practices in my religion that are hard for me to accept.

But this I know: The Book of Mormon is true. I know this in a way that defies logic or reason. I know, I have felt, that if I were ever to deny the Book of Mormon, the very fibers of my being would revolt against me, for every part of me, my body, and my spirit, knows it to be true. There is power in that book. I have never known or felt anything as strongly as this.

If you would like a free copy of the Book of Mormon, you can request one by clicking this link.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Birthday Season

It’s that time of year. Time for putting up decorations, time for buying presents, time for planning parties, time for making cake!

Wait, did you think I was talking about Christmas?

Yes, there are Christmas preparations too.

But no. I’m talking about the decorations and the presents and the parties for my soon-to-be seven-year-old boy and two-year-old girl. With one born two days before Christmas and one born three days after, this is the season of birthdays for us.

And if last year was any indication, this season promises to be a mad-house every year for the next decade or so. Because when your kid has a birthday around Christmas, it just isn’t fair, and you’ve got to do everything in your power to make it special. You’ve got to fight to have a birthday party (maybe not with friends, because everyone is traveling or busy with family, but the cousins are even more fun, right?), and you’ve got to make sure the wrapping paper isn’t the same one Santa uses, and you’ve got to get balloons and streamers that are NOT red and green. And you’ve got to make cake.

Lots of cake.

Cake for Birthday #1, cake for Birthday #2, and cake for the joint party the following weekend.

And you have to make all this cake even though no one will eat it. Because who wants birthday cake when there are plates of cookies (molasses and mint chocolate and snickerdoodles) and gingerbread houses covered in candy and peppermint bark and stocking treats and let’s not forget Christmas dinner pie!

But even though no one will eat the birthday cake, you will still make birthday cake. Because cake is what is served at every other birthday in every other month of the year, and gosh darn it, your children are going to have as normal a birthday as possible!

And during this crazy week, you will live in the kitchen. You will make two special birthday breakfasts plus Christmas brunch. You will make two special birthday dinners, plus the traditional Christmas Eve smorgasbord, and possibly (the years you’re hosting) all of Christmas dinner. And of course, you will make cake. Which means by the time the joint birthday party rolls around, you will wonder if anyone else will notice if all you serve is leftovers (and cake!).

When you wrap the presents, even though you only have three children, you will make five piles. And you will alternate between feeling guilty about how small each pile is considering this is the one time of the year that two of your children get any presents at all, and feeling incredibly overwhelmed by the sudden accumulation of so much stuff! Not to mention the cost of it all!

But in the quiet moments, the few snatched between all the present wrapping and decorating and cake-making, when you have a moment to reflect, you will feel that this whiplash between singing Christmas carols and singing Happy Birthday is actually… kind of perfect.

Because what is Christmas, after all, except the biggest birthday party of them all?

It is birthday season.

And what are birthdays for, except to celebrate the incredible blessing of life? We celebrate birthdays not only to remember the day we were born (most of us can’t remember that anyway), but to celebrate the life we’ve lived since being born.

The year my son was born was one of the most sacred and holy Christmas seasons I’ve ever had. I held my newborn babe and thought of the other one, born so many thousands of years ago.

But my son is not a baby anymore. Every year brings a new number, longer limbs, a bigger vocabulary. He wants bikes and books and LEGOS and a Star Wars birthday party, this growing boy of mine. And as he grows, I can’t help but think of a growing Savior. He was not a Babe every year either. He turned one, and then two, and even seven years old. What was he like as a seven-year-old? What games did he play? What songs did he sing? What would he have wanted for his birthday at seven?

The reason we celebrate birthdays is not just that we were born. We celebrate birthdays to celebrate the life behind and ahead of us.

The reason we celebrate Christmas is not because a baby was born in a lowly stable. The reason we celebrate Christmas is because that baby grew up, year after year, and did remarkable things with his life.

And so on the 23rd, I will celebrate my son, honor his remarkable life, and shower him with as much love and affection as I can. And on the 28th, I will celebrate my daughter, and look forward to all the amazing life she has yet to live.

And on the 25th, I will celebrate my Lord. I will honor His remarkable life. I will consider what it is I can give Him that would please Him most.

For it is birthday season, and that is how we celebrate birthdays.

That, and with cake!

Every other year or so, I tend to write a Christmas essay (this season makes me reflective, for obvious reasons), usually about my birth experiences. You can read my other ones here and here.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Books I Read in November

Well, we're barreling right along toward Christmas now, but I've just unburied myself from the avalanche that is the end of the semester, and now I'm back and ready to talk about reading for fun!

But really, that was one of the more exhausting semesters I've ever had. I loved my classes, but for some reason they all seemed to require so much more work than classes I've had before (more papers, longer papers, more reading, longer reading). And teaching/grading is always exhausting. It was a great semester for me as far as interesting research/writing, but I'm burned out in every way imaginable. I need this winter break so I can start feeling like a normal human functioning on more than survival mode. So grateful to be back here now!

Anyway, my November reading post is one of the many things that got put off in the midst of end-of-term paper writing. I'm sure most of you neither noticed nor cared, but I love writing those posts so much for the reflection time they give me about my pleasure reading. So, this is for me, even if none of you care. I only got around to six books in November (now, six books is actually a pretty good number for me, it's just down from the whopping 10 or so I read in October), because one of them was beastly long (and I only read half of it). But anyway, here they are:

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

This one was a assigned reading, but I read it once before in high school (for fun back then...). Anyway, I can't really say I recommend this one, let alone like it, but it is still fascinating in so many ways. First off, Flaubert is just an incredible writer. This is a translation, and the amazing writing still shines through (oh, if only my French were good enough to read it in the original!). Second, I'm always fascinated by the negative portrayal of pleasure reading in this novel, and how Madame Bovary can never find happiness in life because real life doesn't measure up to the romantic books she reads. It feels like Flaubert is blaming the books, but honestly, I blame Madame Bovary. For some reason, all the men in my class found her a fascinating and attractive character (phrases like, "I would date her if she were a real person" were used in class), but I can't stand the woman. She annoys me beyond what is reasonable to be annoyed by a fictional character, and I'm sooooo frustrated by her life choices. Anyway, this makes for a fantastic English class/book club read (lots to discuss!), but does not make for a happy read.

Second Foundation by Isaac Asimov,

Third in the series, and my favorite up to this point, though I had to stop after this one because my library doesn't have the next book in the series available on audio (I could write a whole post about my library's spotty and disappointing audio book offerings, ugh!), so we'll see if I continue with the series. After all my complaining about the lack of female characters in the first book, here Asimov comes up with a rather delightful and precocious teenage girl who steals the show. And this whole mind-reading thing has really taken the series into a much more interesting place plot-wise. If you like science-fiction, I really do recommend this series.

Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny

Perhaps not my favorite of the series, but good enough that I will keep along with it (I can't believe I've read six of these!). The murder investigation in this one was a little uncompelling to me (the opening of an old investigation was far more interesting, but also split the plot up), but I learned a lot of interesting stuff about Quebec and Canadian history which I enjoyed, and as always, the food descriptions were insanely mouthwatering. These books make such great winter reads, too, because Canada just sounds so darn cold all the time.

My Plain Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows

I finally got around to reading this long anticipated sequel to My Lady Jane (which I loved so much)! And, I have complicated thoughts. First, I think I really, really would've loved this one if I didn't love the original Jane Eyre  so much. If I could just disassociate this story from that one, if this could just be its own stand-alone historical fantasy fiction, I would've really loved it. The ghost element was a lot of fun, their humor was characteristically delightful, and there was so much to like. Unfortunately, they kept reminding me that this was riff on  Jane Eyre by actually quoting lines from the original, which just made their own writing look pale and juvenile in comparison. I think the ways they tried to rewrite the story and redeem Mr. Rochester were interesting, but in order to make Rochester palatable they basically had to break him up with Jane, which I don't necessarily disagree with, because I don't like Rochester in the original, but then it wasn't Jane's love story... and it just meant Jane wasn't the character I loved from the original, so that was hard for me. But if you haven't read the original, or don't care about, and just enjoy fun and light historical fantasy fiction, this one is worth the read.

The Black Moth by Georgette Heyer

How I do enjoy a good Heyer novel! This was her first (apparently written when she was 17, or something ridiculous like that), and given that, I find it remarkably good. It's not her best novel, and a lot of the criticism comes from it being so darn cliche. And yes, when it comes to the stereotypical melodrama, I think Heyer manages to tick off every single cliche in the book. But she does it with such flair! The villain is sooo villainous, the hero so dashedly charming and deserving, the heroine so beautiful and in distress... it is all just delicious fun. I could absolutely see the influence of The Scarlet Pimpernel in this one.  I devoured this one, loved every minute of it.

Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes

Okay, this was a quixotic pick for me (did you see what I did there?), but after reading Madame Bovary (Flaubert was heavily influenced by Don Quixote) and thinking about the way this story has influenced attitudes on books and the power of reading, and thinking it might relate tangentially to the topic I wanted to write my paper about, and seeing it was available on audio (when so many other things I want to read are not), I decided to listen to it for fun. Okay, I recommend no one do this, unless, like me, you are pursuing an advance degree in literature. This may have been wildly popular in it's day, and it may be very influential, and have a lot of great characters and funny moments, but as a whole it does not translate well to the modern day. It is long and tedious. I barely made it through Part 1, and decided to just stop there when I realized that Part 2 was written more than a decade later and only after fans asked for more. I'm glad I read it, I did end up using it in my paper, but if you're interested, just do yourself a favor and stick to the musical version or some other modern adaptation. Don't suffer through the early seventeenth century prose and meandering plot lines.

I started Don Quixote in mid November, and it took me the rest of the month to finish it, so that's all for my pleasure reading last month. December has been off to a slow start (thanks to all the time spent writing said papers), but now that I'm on break I'm hoping things pick up a bit. Holiday time means reading for fun time, am I right?

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Books I Read in October

In case you don't follow my personal account on Instagram, here's the epic family-themed costume for this year. This costume was driven by my 6-year-old, who wanted to be BB8 so badly, and luckily the other two are still young enough to not have opinions. I'm hoping we can keep the family costume trend going, but Little Miss already has a BIG personality and STRONG opinions about things, so we'll see how that plays out in future.

Well, you may or may not have noticed I haven't posted anything since my reading round-up for September. We're just at that point in the semester where I'm not even keeping up with my school work, so pleasure writing is pretty much off the priority list. Except for these monthly check-ins. I always allow myself the luxury of at least this one post a month (you probably won't hear from me again until I do November's wrap up, but maybe December will bring some more personal time?...)

Anyway, despite the incredibly busy month of school work, I managed to read/listen to 13 books this month, which is perfectly fitting for a spooky October, but also kind of blows my mind because I think 13 books has to be a new PR. And I don't even know when or how? I really only listen to books on my commute and while cooking/cleaning (and heaven knows, I do precious little cleaning), so how did I manage 13 books this month? A few of them are shorter, it's true, and also, at one point in the month I realized I was having a hard time following how fast the narrator was speaking, and when I checked my app I discovered I'd been listening at 3X speed. I've no idea how long I'd been listening at that speed, possibly for several books in a row. I usually listen at 2X speed, and I guess my brain has gotten so good at listening at that speed that it took me a while to notice it was playing even faster than that, unintentionally. I'm back to 2X speed (which doesn't feel fast at all, anymore), so we'll see if my reading number drops in November.

Also just want to mention that I met and blew out of the water my reading goal for the year. My goal this year was to read 75 books, which I thought was going to be a stretch (my best year since I started recording was 63 books). But as of the end of October I've read 83 books. Eek! Honestly, I won't be surprised if I hit 100 this year, and if I do, I'm sure I'll write a post all about it.

We'll that's enough ado about nothing. Now let's jump into the books.

Perusasion by Jane Austen

Continued my re-read through Austen's oeuvre with my all-time favorite, Persuasion. I love Anne, I love Captain Wentworth, I love this story. Sweet and shorter, and just wonderful.

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen

And, I finished up my Austen binge with this one. It's not my favorite (it's no one's favorite), but if I ever write an academic article about Austen, it will be about this book. So many things fascinate me about this book. I chose to skip out on Northanger Abbey this year. That one's definitely not my favorite.

The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin

Read this one for my virtual book club, and I don't think I would've read it otherwise, just because after reading Better Than Before, her blog, and listening to her podcast, I felt like I knew enough about the four tendencies. But of course, I learned even more by reading the book, and even had some interesting insights into my husband's personality and behavior that has been kind of useful to understand. All in all, I think the framework is brilliant and helpful for understanding/motivating people, but the book itself isn't all that great as far as writing goes.

The War that Saved my Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

I was hesitant to start this one, because I get so tired of WWII novels. But of course, WWII novels make the best novels, and this is no exception. This one is just absolutely perfect middle-grade fare. I loved almost every thing about it. Deserves all the praise and attention it's getting, and in my humble opinion, deserves to become a beloved classic.

What We See When We Read by Peter Mendelsund

This one is really different, but really fascinating. It was assigned as a textbook for one of my classes, but was written for a lay audience. Mendelsund is a cover artist, so he spends his career reading books and then thinking about how best to visually represent those books, so he spends a lot of time thinking about what he visualizes when he reads. This book outlines his meditations on that process, and I found it fascinating (of course, this is the sort of stuff I think about in my academic career). The other reason this book is so fascinating is because it's nonfiction, but it's a graphic novel (as in, it's not a novel, but it has graphics on almost every page, but also text, and I don't know any other term besides graphic novel). Anyway, if you're up for a little intellectual-but-still-lighter reading, this one is super interesting.

The Brutal Telling by Louise Penny

This was the first in my intentional seasonal reading; nothing like a good murder mystery to set the tone for Halloween. And this one completely surprised me. I did not expect Penny to ever take these books in this direction. I like being surprised, so that was fun (which is a weird thing to hear myself say about a book about MURDER). I really like picking up one of these books every few months.

A Dark Night's Work by Elizabeth Gaskell

I read this for my local book club. It's a short novella (or maybe long short story?), and I won't say it was excellent and amazing (the writing was not Gaskell's best), but it made for a suitably macabre October discussion, and was pretty fun all around. And it reminded me that I really need to read more Gaskell, because I really do like her so much.

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

I read this book in 8th or 9th grade. I had a reading chart due on Monday where I needed to read so many books to meet my goal, and I'd procrastinated a bit, so I spent Sunday afternoon reading this whole book to finish up my reading chart. And it totally left me feeling dark and depressed and kind of messed up inside. And then I proceeded to have just a really terrible week, so I made up my mind that from then on, I would never read a secular novel, for pleasure or for homework, again on Sunday. And for the most part, I've stuck to that (which also means that yes, I've read 83 books this year without reading any of them on Sundays). Anyway, I decided this would be a good year to revisit this gothic novel just to see how I'd feel about it now. And what better month than October? Ugh. The writing is beautiful, and Bronte is incredible at what she does. But I stand by my original assessment. This book is dark and depressing and leaves me feeling a little bit messed up inside. I don't need to read it again.

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

Continuing on with my seasonal reading, I picked up this classic. And goodness, I really need to read some more Christie! She's a genius! I must admit that I saw the movie earlier this year, so the mystery was spoiled for me from the beginning, which was really too bad. But I did completely marvel at the craft of it all, how Christie was able to slowly unravel this mystery from Poirot's point of view, even though she knew the whole thing already. What a master!

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Another re-read. This has been a month of re-reading. Why am I re-reading so many books? Thoughts for another post. Anyway, I loved this one the first time I read it (it was my second official review on this blog!), and thought it would be lovely to revisit as a Halloween read, and boy was I right! It was perfect seasonal reading. I may make this a tradition!

Foundation  by Isaac Asimov

After five straight books of October seasonal reading, I was ready to move on, even if I still had a week of October left. But apparently, I'm still in the mood for re-reading. I first read the Foundation series in middle school, and I remember devouring them and loving them and thinking they were brilliant. But I couldn't actually remember much of the plots, so I decided to revisit. Oh, boy! I wrote a long post over on my Goodreads review all about how these books reveal more about the era they were written in than they do about the future, but I don't feel much like retyping that here, so if you're interested, click on over to my Goodreads account. If you like science fiction, I definitely recommend this series as foundational for the genre (ha! pun!). If you don't really like the genre, stay far, far away. These books are probably not for you.

Foundation and Empire by Isaac Asimov

I think at this point, I'm interested enough to re-read as much as the series as I can. We'll see if that lasts. In middle school, I read them in chronological order, but I've decided to read them in publication order now (much like The Chronicles of Narnia, they were published out of chronological order). Liked this second one slightly better than the first. Asimov has a real flair for plot.

The War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

A very worthy follow-up to The War That Saved My Life. I don't feel like the plot had quite as neat an ending point, but it definitely made me tear up at points, and was excellent all around. I highly, highly recommend both these books. They are wonderful.

Whew! What a load of reading! Have you read any of these? I'd love to know you're thoughts on them! How did October reading go for you?

Monday, October 1, 2018

Books I Read in September

September was a big reading month for me. I finished 9 books (two for homework, but still counting them), am in the middle of two more I'm almost finished with, and did not finish (but majority read) another book that I'm probably giving up on because I just don't find it enjoyable enough to slog through the depressing story-line (FYI, it's The Great Alone by Kristen Hannah, in general not a recommend). Here are the ones that actually got completed.

What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast by Laura Vankerkam

I feel guilty counting this, considering the thing is only about 32 pages, which really doesn't feel long enough to be called a book. It's more like an extended article? I don't know. Whatever, I'm still counting it. I was hoping for something a little bit more useful from this, but considering I already wake up at 5:30 most mornings and use that time for personal scripture study/meditation and exercise, this book had nothing to offer me. If you currently are not but want to be a morning person, this book might provide an ounce of motivation, but in general I'm not sure it's worth your time.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

I'm in a 19th Century British Lit class this semester (quite possibly one of my all time favorite classes ever, if you follow me on Instagram I'm sure you've heard me talk about this class), and we read the first chapter of Jane Eyre for the first day of class. But how can I stop at the first chapter? Even though the rest was not assigned, I found myself pulled in, and finished up the rest of it on my own time. Guys, I love Jane so much, what a perfect little heroine she is! But oh, how I loathe Rochester. He is manipulative and delusional and sexually harasses Jane with his possessiveness. Jane, I know you love him, but you could do better!

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

Guys, this is one of the rare times I'll say this, but the movie is better. Seriously. The book is fun and all, but the movie actually gave a touch of depth and nuance to two of the main characters that was completely missing from the book, so if you're interested at all in this fun, fluffy story of crazy opulence, just go watch the movie. It's better.

The Pearl by John Steinbeck

I really love Steinbeck a lot, but until now I've only read two of his works (Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men). It was nice to dip back in with this short one. His prose style really is so beautiful. Someday I'll tackle East of Eden too.

Off the Clock by Laura Vanderkam

I have such a love/hate relationship with Vanderkam. Some of her advice really resonates with me, but sometimes I feel like she is so out of touch with reality. Anyway, the premise of this book sounded really intriguing (yes, I would love to feel less busy), but once again left me feeling... disappointed. Maybe it's because I read her blog, and literally nothing in the book was new content for me. I did get inspired to do some more time tracking, so maybe I'll write about that again at some point. But in general I would say this one isn't as good as her other books, and not worth your time.

Waverly by Sir Walter Scott

Read this one for class, and while it was super interesting in the context of what we were discussing, I do not recommend it at all. It really doesn't hold up well for a modern audience.

Emma by Jane Austen

This one was also homework. Which is awesome. My favorite English homework is when Austen is my homework. This is my least favorite Austen, but that doesn't even matter. I will read anything by that woman, any time.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

So after finishing Emma, my options were to go back to the miserable Great Alone book I was not enjoying, or just continue on a little Austen jaunt. Clearly I chose the latter. I re-read her entire oeuvre last Fall, and now I'm thinking this might become a yearly tradition. A very pleasant yearly tradition.

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

This one was rather interesting to read in context of the national debacle that is the Kavanaugh judicial hearings. It was just interesting to think about Willoughby as a sexual predator, and how society (or at least, Austen) handled such situations back then. Rather interesting to think of how much has changed, and how little has changed in 200 years.

Okay, that's it for September, but October is already off to a great start (I finished Persuasion today, so I'll include it in October's post). I'm hoping my library holds come in on time to get some serious seasonal reading in this month.

How about you?

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Historical Bibliophilia

Hello! Hi there! It's been a while, as I'm once again lost in the pressures of the semester, endless amounts of reading and writing and lesson planning and grading... while still trying to maintain some semblance of normal happy life on the home front.

But I just had to steal some time tonight to stop by and tell you about this class I'm taking. Actually, both of the classes I'm taking this semester are beyond interesting and this is quite possibly the most enjoyable semester of coursework I've ever had. But one of my classes is 19th Century British Literature (we are in the middle of reading Emma, and any time Austen is homework is a fantastic time) with a theoretical emphasis on the practice and history of reading. In other words, we are studying what it means to be a book reader. What it means to be a book lover.

It's basically my favorite class ever.

While I would love to sit and rehash everything we talk about in that class here with you guys, I don't quite have the time. But talking about all things book-lover related has made me feel itchy to stop by and drop a line in this space, my book-loving space. And so, while I don't have time right now to compose anything original, I just want to share an excerpt from one of our earlier readings, just because I felt like many of you might be able to relate. This comes from an essay written by Leigh Hunt (you may or may not know him as a friend to such Romantic poets as John Keats) in 1823.

"Sitting, last winter, among my books, and walled round with all the comfort and protection which they and my fire-side could afford me; to wit, a table of high-piled books at my back, my writing-desk on one side of me, some shelves on the other, and the feeling of the warm fire at my feet; I began to consider how I loved the authors of those books: how I loved them, too, not only for the imaginative pleasures they afford me, but for their making me love the very books themselves, and delight to be in contact with them. I looked sideways at my Spenser, my Theocritus, and my Arabian Nights; then on my left side at my Chaucer, who lay on a writing-desk; and thought how natural it was in C.L. to give a kiss to an old folio, as I once saw him do to Chapman's Homer." (You can read the rest of the essay here, should you feel so inclined.)

You guys, book loving people have been around for a long time. And they truly are the best people. Feel free to go and kiss a book now.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Books I Read in August

Well, we are two weeks into the back-to-school craziness, and settling in nicely. It was a bit of a rocky start, as that whole day-care drop-off situation was quite the adjustment, and then of course we all managed to get sick (just a minor cold, thankfully, because it meant I could still take the kids to daycare, but how awful is it to be the one dropping off the snot-nosed kid?), and frankly I'm exhausted. But, there are inklings that this is going to be my best semester yet. I have some awesome classes this semester that I'm really excited about, and I have Fridays completely off! Which is amazing!

And can I just say yay for having my commute reading time back in my life? It's a little different this year, as I now have to listen to my audio books through ear phones so I can play kid music over the speakers for the two littles who now accompany me to campus, and I don't particularly love driving with ear phones in, but it's a sacrifice I'm willing to make to keep up my precious pleasure reading time. For being such a crazy busy month, I managed quite a bit of reading for fun!

Scarlet  by A.C. Gaughen

I stumbled across this one while doing some research for my younger sister (she's a middle school teacher, and was asking for some recommendations to flesh out her classroom library). I'm kind of a sucker for a good Robin Hood retelling, and so when I checked my library app and found it available for immediate download, I jumped right in. And it was really quite fun! It took half a minute to adjust to the rough-and-tumble accent, but it was rather good adaptation in my opinion. I liked turning Will Scarlet into a girl, I liked how well the Robin Hood story worked as a dystopia setting, and the romance was rather satisfactory, despite the unnecessary love-triangle aspect (seriously, it ticked off every single expected dystopia-with-a-strong-female-lead stereotype, so if you like that kind of thing, you should definitely check this one out).

Lady Thief by A.C. Gaughen

A worthy second book (despite some plot holes, but let's not be too demanding of this genre). I especially liked that Eleanor of Aquitaine shows up as a great character in this one.

Lion Heart by A.C. Gaughen

And a satisfying conclusion to the trilogy.

The Read-Aloud Family by Sarah Mackenzie

This one's been getting a lot of buzz lately, and I kind of felt like I didn't really need it. After all, I'm already reading aloud to my kids everyday. I've listened to her podcast. What more could Sarah Mackenzie possibly have to say in this book that I hadn't heard before? But after so much glowing praise, I finally decided I didn't want to be left out, so I read it. And. I'm so glad I did. It really was that good. I would recommend this as mandatory reading for all parents. It's not just the inspiration/motivational stuff I expected, but really fantastic practical advice too about how to talk to your kids about the books they read and make book conversations a part of home life. It was all so good.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

One of my biggest complaints about my current library's app for e-audio books is that it offered a rather pathetic collection of classics. So, imagine my delight when I discovered this month the addition of dozens of new classics on their lists! I was eagerly scrolling through, trying to decide what to listen to first, and this one just called my name (maybe because I watched the lovely new PBS miniseries adaptation a few months ago). I haven't read it since middle school, and I was surprised all over again about how preachy this book can get, and yet it's still so popular! But oh, I love the preachiness! I wish there were more of that simple-hearted purity and goodness in books. It was so lovely and wonderful and heart-warming to read again, and I cried multiple times (Beth!!!!). So much love!

What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast by Laura Vanderkam

I tend to really like Vanderkam's ideas, but also tend to be really annoyed by her tone and style. Same here. I am very much on board with the benefits of early mornings, but this particular book didn't do much for me. Not much by way of substance, as it's really too short to offer that. It might be helpful for some, but generally not a recommend.

Now, this is not counting the books I read aloud/listened to with my kids this month (we got through four or five fun audio books on various road trips and driving around town), nor some required reading for my school work, or the several I started but am still in the middle of finishing, but all in all it was a busy month for reading! Here's hoping September is just as good!

Friday, August 17, 2018

The Perfect Summer

Recently (for pretty much my entire marriage), I've dreaded summer.
I know this is completely opposite of everyone on the planet (it feels like), but let me explain:

-We always move in the summer. Sure, we don't move as much as some people (only three really big moves in the past 10 years), but nothing is worse than moving, and it completely ruins my summers.

-I've been pregnant three times in the summer. Twice, it was through the whole awful just-kill-me-now-because-I've-lost-the-will-to-live first trimester, and with the middle one, it was through the huge-as-a-beached-whale final trimester. Something about being pregnant in the summer, when you're supposed to travel and be out and about doing fun things and your kids stay up late and wake up early because of all the extra light... doing summer while pregnant just depresses me.

-I'm a creature of habit and routine. And summer throws it all off. Sometimes in a nice way, but mostly in a disruptive way that leaves me feeling slightly off-kilter.

-I HATE being sweaty. I also hate the artificial feeling of air conditioning (especially when it feels cold enough that you actually need a sweater in doors to be comfortable!). Do you see the conundrum here?

-I do not know how to wear summer clothes. Layers are kind of my thing for putting outfits together, but that doesn't work in the summer. And I feel like shorts are so awkward, but skirts are too dressy, and pants will just kill you. Why are summer clothes so hard?

-I love soup. And hot chocolate. And roasting vegetables in the oven without my kitchen feeling like the surface of the sun. I do also love salads and fresh summer produce, but my husband is so sick of salads right now that I'm looking longingly at my soup recipes and wishing for colder weather.

So yeah, summer has, at least for most of my marriage, produced in me a feeling of low-level anxiety and annoyance that means I usually don't look forward to the season.

But all that complaining is to preface that this year! This summer! This summer has felt like the start of something new and wonderful and beautiful. This is the first summer in a long, long time that I've felt sorry that it's ending. And so I just want to take a moment to stop and reflect about what was so good about this summer.

-We didn't move! And it's likely we won't be moving for a long, long time. Which means I finally feel settled. Like we've arrived. I think that feeling of being "home" has really helped me feel more content with summer. I know we lived in our place in Houston for almost four years, which is pretty settled, but it was an apartment in not perfect school boundaries, and we always knew we would have to move someday, so I thought of it as temporary. And even though we will very likely move again at some point in our future, we are pretty sure we're here for at least another five years, and there is the possibility we'll stay here forever. We talk about things like "If this is our forever house, then someday let's (insert whatever house project dream here)." Apparently, I need roots. I need to be "home". And while I need this all the time, I especially need it during summers of travel and relaxed routines.

-My kids are at great ages. Seriously, it has been so fun to be home with them this summer. The baby is just big enough for adventures, but everyone's still young enough for nap-time/quiet-time (yay!). Everyone's sleeping tolerably well, no one got sick, they've played well together for the most part, no one was potty training or going through some otherwise horrible phase, and it was just fun to be with them! They are all at a really cute age for their personality. The baby's vocabulary has just been exploding this summer and she's becoming so much more reasonable and pleasant to be around now that she can communicate a little better (also, she's just so stinking cute!). My three year old is absolutely the most adorable child on the planet (I never thought I would say that about a three-year-old, I hated this age with my oldest son and predict I will hate it again with my strong-willed youngest). And my six-year-old is just the coolest kid ever, so helpful and responsible and full of enthusiasm for life. We spent lots of time going on walks or playing at the park or hanging out at the library or reading together, and it was just sort of the summer of my motherhood dreams. I'm really, really sad we won't be getting to hang out in this chill, relaxed, always reading kind of way anymore.

-We went on a fabulous trip! And my kids got to have a fabulous Grandma Boot Camp with their cousins! But then (this is the key), we all came home and just had a quiet rest of the summer, only a few weekend trips. I need balance in my life. I need big exciting vacations, but then I need lots of chill downtime to recover, and this summer was perfect for me.

-I know summer will end! Honestly, I think this was one of my biggest problems with summer in Houston, the fact that it never ended! Hot and sweaty temperatures just kept going and going and going, and it depressed me to no end. What I've decided about myself is that it's not so much that I love winter and hate summer, it's that I need my seasons to change! This sounds really funny, coming from someone who just spent paragraphs complaining about how I need roots and hate moving and need reliable routing. But for whatever reason, I crave changing seasons. I know by the end of last winter I was thoroughly annoyed with cold weather and just ready to see the sun again. That's what I need from my summer weather too. I need it to end. I can't love it unless it's temporary.

So yes, despite the fact that I need the season to end in order to fully enjoy it, this summer I do feel like it's ending too early. I'm already mourning the end of this perfect, golden summer. I don't want my children to grow up, I don't want to go back to school and spend so many hours away from them, I don't want this happy moment to vanish. I recognize that this is it. This is the moment, the season I will look back on and long for in years ahead. Yes, we'll have plenty of good times and good summers ahead of us, and there are many wonderful things to look forward to, but also there will be hard times too. There will be less than happy seasons ahead of us too, so I want to stop right now and recognize that this is it! This is happiness! This is beautiful! This moment, this season, was a pure gift of joy.

I'm sad it's ending, but I'm also grateful. I'm so grateful we got this summer, this summer together of all sorts of small golden moments. And I'm hoping that writing about it here will help me always remember. No matter how life changes, no matter how great or how horrible future seasons of my life are, I want to look back on this summer and remember what a gift it was.

We have a moment of happiness and sunshine, and life is good. Life is so, so good.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

You Can See it in Their Eyes

We were standing in the church hallway with our squirming and screaming babies when the bishop's wife walked by. This woman, the bishop's wife, is one of those people you can't help loving. She's just so full of light and joy and infectious love. She is one of the kindest people I know.

Which is why I know she wasn't trying to hurt me. She wasn't trying to wound anyone. She was merely trying to be encouraging when she stopped, and in her effusive and loving enthusiasm gave both me and my friend a hug and said, "You young mothers are doing such great work here! You are doing the truly important work! It may feel hard now, but the love you're giving your babies now, the time, the sacrifice, it will stay with them forever! I know! When I go to the high school, and I look at all those grown up kids, you can tell the difference between those kids raised by good mothers, and those raised in daycare. You can see it in their eyes!"

She hurried on to her Sunday school class or wherever she was going, probably never giving a second thought to her comment or that small moment in the hallway.

But I think about that moment often. Her words echo in my mind almost every day. "You can tell the difference between those kids raised by good mothers, and those raised in daycare. You can see it in their eyes."

My kids will be starting daycare next week.

To say I have conflicted feelings about this is a massive understatement. Because, you see, if you had asked me just a few years ago, I would've agreed 100% with my bishop's wife. Not that I ever would've said it out loud like her, but I totally felt that way. I felt that really good mothers stayed home with their kids. Really good mothers did not pass off the responsibility of caring for and raising their children to someone else.

I had a hard enough time coming to terms with the situation when we hired our first nanny. Not only did it feel strangely privileged and extravagant (I did not grow up in a world where anyone had a nanny), I struggled with the idea of giving up my responsibility to raise my children, even if only for a few hours a week. But at least, at the very least, it was still one person in our home, keeping my children in the routines I set, with the toys and activities I provided for them, giving them the individual attention they needed. If I couldn't be there myself, a nanny felt like the next best thing.

But daycare? The image of daycare in my mind was one of flickering fluorescent lights over threadbare dingy carpets illuminating a sad and stringy selection of secondhand toys, with a bunch of kids crying in soiled diapers while frazzled and overworked care providers tried to keep too much snot from spreading around. Daycare, in my mind, was neither happy nor loving, the opposite of the kind of environment I wanted for my children. That person I was long before I married or had kids would never, never in a million years, have imagined daycare as an option for my children, my future precious babies.

Funny how life turns out. Because like I mentioned earlier, my kids are starting daycare next week.

So, how did we get here?

Well, the decision process was long and winding. We had a wonderful nanny this past year that I was so grateful for. Having a nanny in my home solved a lot of headaches (like what to do when my oldest was sick and needed to stay home from school), but created other headaches (what to do when she gets sick and can't work?). Plus, there was the conundrum of what to do with our middle child, who really ought to be attending preschool (alas, the wonderful days of Joy School co-ops are behind me). So we started looking into the daycare option provided on my university campus, and it looked good. Really good actually. After visiting and getting a tour, I was very impressed. They have an incredible staff-to-student ratio, three separate playgrounds, a garden that provides produce for the meals (lunch and snacks) prepared on site for the kids, and a fleet of vans and carseats for quarterly field trips. They had a sparkling accredited curriculum, and a shiny beautiful facility. It was not the dismal daycare center of my imagination. Plus, it was on campus. I could bring my kids to school with me, drop them off, then walk over to my building just a few minutes away. I could come eat lunch with them, or check on them whenever I wanted. It sounded perfect.

So we applied, and got accepted, and put down the deposit, and started making all the other arrangements. I would have a wonderful, reliable daycare option for my younger two children (the oldest one will be in full day school).

But then, the memory of my bishop's wife surfaced, and started haunting me daily. "You can see it in their eyes." You can see it in their eyes.

What can you see in their eyes? Neglect? A lack of love? A lack of connection? Is that what is destined for my children, now that they will be attending daycare? Does it mean I love them less? That I am less devoted, less involved, less of a mother?

I know there are many women out there who are rolling their eyes at my concerns. Of course it doesn't mean I love them less! Of course my kids will be just fine!

But I know some of you will understand why I feel so conflicted about this. These are my children, the single most important responsibility in my life. Nothing is more important, not a job, not a degree, nothing is more important than making sure they are well cared for and all their needs, physical and emotional, are being met. So, when I fully believe that, why am I doing this? Why am I sending my kids to daycare?

Honestly, my only answer is that I sincerely believe God wants me to. I don't think I could do this any other way, and I question Him over and over again, because it feels counter to everything my culture has taught me to believe about what He wants. But this I know: when I pray, I know that I am supposed to be getting this degree. And when I pray about my children, I know that God is taking care of them.

When my baby started nursery at the end of June, and screamed for forty minutes straight before the desperate nursery leaders finally found my husband, I came home from church, knelt, and prayed, "If she can't handle two hours of nursery, how is she going to handle a full day of daycare? Are you sure this is right?" And the answer I got was, "She'll be fine. I'll look after her, for remember, she's my child too."

When I found out about the daycare's policy that absolutely zero super hero paraphernalia is allowed, and my sweet boy who has worn his Catboy cape and mask day and night since March would not be allowed to wear it at school, I came home and prayed again, "But he loves that outfit! And if I were a stay-at-home mom, he could wear it as much as he wants! It's his security blanket against all his anxieties! Are yous sure this is right?" And the answer I got was, "He'll be fine. I'll look after him, for remember, he's my child too."

They'll be fine. They'll be fine.

They will know that I love them. They will know I am not abandoning them. They will not lose the light in their eyes.

And so, I write this, partly to justify my decisions to those of my culture who I know will question me, and partly to say that I now believe differently. I believe I can love and care for my children just as much as ever, and also let someone else watch them for a good chunk of their waking hours. I believe I am still a good mother. I believe my children will still know they are loved and cared for even if they will grow up in daycare. I believe it is all about perception, and my perception has changed.

My children will be raised by a good mother, a mother who has made many sacrifices. And you will be able to see it in their eyes.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Books I Read in July


Well, it's that time of month again. Time for me to report on my reading for July, and I'm happy to report that my reading pace continues to be quite positive, despite the lack of commute/audio books this summer. Of course, I'm probably ignoring all the housework/school prep/children more than I should be to read these books, but I'm not sorry. Summer days were meant for pleasure reading!

The Black Moon by Winston Graham

I zipped through the first four books in this Poldark series a couple years ago, after watching the first season of the TV show, but I quit because ughhhhh! The drama, and I was so unbelievable angry with Ross, and I just didn't see how I could view him as a hero to root for anymore. So I was done. But then, over a month ago I read a blog post or article or something from somewhere talking about Ross and Demelza's marriage, and how it develops over the years, and I got intrigued again, and decided to jump back in. So I read this one, and remembered that yes, there is so much to like here. The time period is super interesting (French Revolution!), and the historical details are great, and maybe I do like the characters after all...

The Four Swans by Winston Graham

Or, maybe I don't. Demelza's the one who let me down this time. Plus all the other nasty drama from other quarters. Sigh. But it is such a soap opera I couldn't quite pull myself away yet, and picked up...

The Angry Tide by Winston Graham

I think it was the point in this book when I actually agreed with George Warleggan's assessment of Ross that I decided I need another break. I've just got to be done with the gross masculinity that gets thrown around here. So, I may finish this series off some day (I'm a sucker who just needs to know how the story ends!), but I've hit my drama saturation point for now, and will take some time off.

Emily Climbs by L.M. Montgomery

So I delightfully threw myself back into this series, after loving Emily of New Moon so much last month, and guys! So wonderful, so wonderful! I can see why this series isn't quite as popular as the Anne series, but I really think I relate to Emily just a touch more than Anne, and this second book in the series did not disappoint! If you love Anne, and you haven't read the Emily books yet, you really, really should!

Emily's Quest by L.M. Montgomery

Oh Emily! This was my least favorite in the series, mostly because I was so frustrated by the stupid pride and lack of communication that kept Emily and Teddy apart for so many years! (Not to mention the near miss with Dean!). But it all still ended happily ever after and was completely wonderful and is fully worth your time! Read it! I know you'll love it! (And I'm sorry I ended every sentence in this brief review with an exclamation point, but as Emily says about her use of italics, sometimes I just can't help it!)

The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey

Based on the real life story of one of the first practicing woman lawyers in India, this fictional mystery set in 1920s Bombay was a lot of fun (which feels weird saying about a murder mystery with some heavy thematic content). Perveen Mistry studied law in Oxford, and while she can't argue a case in court, she is allowed to act as a solicitor in her father's law firm, and finds herself in the unique position to cater to certain female clients, specifically a family of Muslim widows who have chosen to live in Purdah, cutting themselves off from the outside world and having no contact with men other than their husband. It was a fascinating culture (Perveen herself is Parsi, another sect I learned a great deal about), and I enjoyed all the cultural/historical details. The story itself was compelling, and I enjoyed it, but it did seem a bit under-polished. However, I think I'd be willing to pick up another book by Massey in future. We shall see.

The Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson

I would love to have a conversation with Bryson, because while I have no idea if he would find me interesting at all, I'm pretty sure I would find everything he has to say fascinating and hilarious. I don't think his books are for everyone (he can be tedious, I'll admit), but everything about this book tickled my nerdiest spots. While I already knew a lot of this information (after all, I am getting a PhD in English, I have learned a few things about the history of the language), I still found his geeky enthusiasm completely infectious. I just wish I'd read this prior to my last semester when I made my students do research papers on the English language, they would've found certain chapters here to be great resources. Lots of fun! (Note, I listened to this on audio, which was both great and terrible. In the sections where pronunciations were being discussed, it was great to hear how things were pronounced. But in the sections where spelling was the main topic, it was terrible to listen to words spelled out too quickly to really catch it all, and I much would've preferred to see it written on a page. Just something to think about if you pick this one up!)

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman

I read (well, heavily skimmed in parts) this one for book club. And while I can't say I *loved* the book, I do think it was a fabulous book club book. It was fascinating. I learned a lot about the Hmong culture, about medical practice, and even though most of this story took place over thirty years ago, the issues of refugees and culture clash provided really relevant discussion fodder for book club. However, I feel like Fadiman needed to give this book a serious edit. She includes so. much. detail that I did not find useful or interesting (she details so many of the medical records from encounters, or goes off on really long historical tangents, it just needed to be summed up more quickly to keep the story flowing). Still, very much a recommend if you're interested in refugee issues or thinking about modern medicine vs. traditional/cultural medical practices. Lots of food for thought.

Jane of Lantern Hill by L.M. Montgomery

Oh, I just needed some more Montgomery in my life. I believe this one wasn't published in her lifetime, and I wouldn't say it was my favorite, but there was still so much to love! Bless Montgomery forever for making the lives of  adolescent girls feel meaningful and important and worthy of being written about! And bless her for writing heroines that are flawed and face really hard circumstances but are deeply good and strong and full of all the things I want my daughter to be. This one is very much worth reading!

And there we go! What a lovely month of summer reading! Have you read any of these books? I'd love to hear your thoughts on them!