Wednesday, February 17, 2016

My favorite book of 2015

It's February, and I'm finally declaring my favorite book of 2015.  I feel like everyone did this two months ago, but I wasn't ready to declare myself yet.

I think about this book often.  I think about the sheer joy I felt bouncing along with the author's words as his brave protagonist faced every day of tricky seventh grade.  I think about the quiet way he handled a moment of faith between two unlikely allies.  I think about rats.  I think about cream puffs.  I think about how I wanted to write just like this when I read it.  I think about Shakespeare and how I should give it another chance.  I think about tough teachers and all the big things we go through in school and life.  I think about how I felt a fondness for the book as soon as I finished it.

My favorite book of 2015 was The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt.  It wasn't published this year, but this year is when I read it.

I totally prefer this cover.

Runner-ups include:

Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
Shadows on the Rock by Willa Cather
The Life Intended by Kristin Harmel

You can check out how this compares to my mid-year reading roundup right here.

What was your favorite book of 2015, published then or earlier?

Monday, February 15, 2016

What I've been reading (February 2016)

It's double the fun today as I update the world wide web on just what exactly I've been reading since I posted in December.  Thank goodness for my Goodreads app, or I wouldn't know what I read.

Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes by Shauna Niequist  I have fond memories of reading this book electronically as 3/5 of my family traipsed out to the Christmas tree farm fields to find a good one.  Little sis had fallen asleep en route to the farm; so, I stayed warm while I flicked my thumb on the iPhone, turning pages.  Niequist was warm-hearted, encouraging, and full of inspiration to let people in, both in heart and home.  Let your guard down, cook some food, ignore the dust bunnies, and enjoy your guests.

Coming Home for Christmas by Jenny Hale  I believe this was the first Christmas romance I found as we approached the big holiday and was certainly not the last.  I receive great joy from reading Christmas-themed books around the holidays, and this was a fun, easy read.  The protagonist finds work as a House Manager and more romance than she bargained for at such a job.  (I'd like to take this opportunity to clarify that when I read romance, it's not a bodice-ripper.  I have read those kinds of books here and there; so, please, don't read me as high and mighty or judgmental.  I just don't anymore.)

The Mistletoe Promise by Richard Paul Evans  I have a feeling that admitting to reading one (okay, maybe three) of his books will cause some readers to roll their eyes in bookish superiority, but I was delighted to read this book.  The premise?  Hard to believe.  The writing?  Sometimes cheesy.  But I still loved it.  I love a story about grace, mercy, and forgiveness.  It was set at Christmas time!  It was romantic!  It was gentlemanly!  I couldn't help it!  And it had a pretty cover that sucked me right in at the library!

The Mistletoe Inn by Richard Paul Evans  This book's jacket caught my eye because it was about writers and a writer's conference in wintery, Christmasy New England, and that's a winner, right there!  I could see the ending coming a mile away, but I really enjoyed the writerly setting with dashes of glamour and romance.

Promise Me by Richard Paul Evans  This is where my Christmas romance run started to sputter.  I didn't like the plot twist in this one at all, and I nearly abandoned it.  The book was an easy read, though, and I saw it through.  If you like Christmas book candy, be sure to read the others, but I don't really recommend this one.  However, I would like to commend Mr. Evans on his heroic male leads.

Winter Stroll by Elin Hilderbrand  I've seen Hilderbrand recommended many times at Modern Mrs Darcy; so, I thought I'd give her a whirl when I saw its lovely Christmas cover on the New Books shelves at the library (I really loaded up that day).  This book pulled me right in with all its talk about quaint inns and other fabulous places on Nantucket.  I loved the family drama, the national news anchorwoman character, and the actual idea of the Winter Stroll.  The Nantucket setting was so fabulously enchanting.  And come to find out, I accidentally read book two of a series!  Now, I need to interlibrary loan book one (Winter Street), but perhaps I should wait for Christmas 2016!  Or will the third book in the Winter series be out then?  And, hey, Hilderbrand fans: which summer book of hers should I try next?

A Very Nantucket Christmas: Two Holiday Novels by Nancy Thayer  I just could not quit the Christmas theme at this point.  Winter Stroll's Nantucket setting sent me searching for similarly themed books, and this one hit the spot (I was all over Google searching and reading about Nantucket at this point).  The stories were fine (middle aged newly married woman deals with selfish daughter-in-law and middle aged married couple sees their daughter get married on the island), not my favorites of all my Christmas themed books this year, and I found myself out of steam after this one.  Lost December by Richard Paul Evans went back to the library unread.  Maybe next Christmas, RPE.

For the Love by Jen Hatmaker   I happily received this for beautifully-covered book for Christmas, and it was a heartwarming, encouraging plea to be realistic about all the perceived pressures we ladies experience as daughters, mothers, wives, workers, church members, and just plain people.  I really appreciated that aspect of the book in particular.  We've gotten so out of hand with our expectations (or perhaps I should just speak for myself) with the advent of the internet and looking at everyone's lives on social media.  There was more to the book than this topic, but I recommend it mostly for that reason.  For the love, ladies, let's all dial it down, eh?  We are driving ourselves batty.

Abandoned:  I tossed aside all sorts of books in my post-Christmas letdown, such as Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson (I really wanted to like that one), The Snow Queen by Michael Cunningham (I couldn't even care enough to see what was going on with the angel sighting), Surprised by Truth 2 by Patrick Madrid (just wasn't in the mood for conversion stories, which I usually love), and Giants in the Earth by O.E. Rølvaag.  I just finally called that one quits.  It was haunting me like Jacob Marley, and I said enough!  Back to the library you go.  I might not be able to show my face at the Well Read Mom meeting (haha!), but I can move onto what I really want to read without that book giving me a guilty conscience.

What about you?  Tell me about what you've been reading in the comments.  Any of these?  Linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy's Quick Lit for the monthly chit chat about what we've been reading.

P.S. More bookish fun from December and November!  Check out my favorite book of 2015!

Monday, January 4, 2016

Goal setting and checklists for the new year

With today being the first day back from the holidays, I am inspired to write through several goals I've been rolling around in my head.    

I've been very encouraged by Gretchen Rubin's books, and one of her quotations floats to the surface often:

"We manage what we monitor."

Many of the goals I have in mind have been goals in the past, but I am hoping that monitoring them and writing about them publicly will provide the accountability that this Obliger needs to make progress with truly desired goals.  It's easy to forget about these things in the everydayness of mom life.  A checklist in a high traffic area will keep my goals off the back burner!  Hopefully.  I did something similar to this when I was expecting my first child: eat my protein, do my exercises, et cetera, and I am proud to say it worked.

Take a reading break every day after lunch.  I have been doing this more often since it has really started to sink in that I need a break in the afternoon, too.  I may not be able to take a nap, but relaxing into a book is the next best thing.  It should coincide with my oldest's quiet time and the youngest's nap.

Be finished with school before lunch.  The day just flows more peacefully when we've started with school earlier and finish completely before lunch.  It's hard to restart school after a lunch break.  Someday, we will always have to restart after lunch and rest, but right now, the oldest is only in second grade.  Schoolwork can be done in a couple of hours.  If it's not, I need to reexamine what I we are doing.  This goal coincides nicely with the next one.

Start school at 9:00am.  Yeah, I know.  Homeschooling is nice because you don't have to have a schedule.  That's true.  But without outside accountability, I sometimes start later than I'd like.  Do I beat myself up for it?  No.  Do we still get work done?  Yeah.  I'd like a little more routine, and the kids do well with routine.  A few hard stops sprinkled throughout the day will help us out.  This looks like "this before that" not "reading at 9:00, writing at 9:15, math at 9:30."

Write for 30 minutes in the morning.  I don't know how this one's going to go, but I have to try and start somewhere.  I feel like I should say 60 minutes, but that seems like a lot.  Am I going to get up? Is my 2 year old going to get up with me? Anne Lamott wrote that you have to get your tush in the chair and just do it if you want to write; so, let's get this going.

Sit in stillness and pray for at least 5 minutes.  I used to do morning and evening prayer via the magazine Magnificat, but I fell off the wagon when I stopped purchasing the magazine.  I want to build up my intentional prayer life, but I am undecided about how to move forward.  This is a start.

Lights out at 10:00pm.  This means no reading, no iPhone, no laptop, and no Kindle.  No, no, no, no. And yes to more sleep!  I won't be able to get up for writing time if I don't go to bed at a decent time, not to mention I am a better mom when I sleep properly.

Put the iPhone down for the night no later than 9:00pm.  I feel like I should call this one even earlier, but let's be realistic.  If I put it down by 9:00pm, I would still have one hour of book reading before bed, and one hour of bed reading is like an oasis of time, is it not?  It's like time stretches in a thousand ways while my brain is locked into the words.  My being breathes again when I read a good book in bed after the kids are asleep (bless their souls).

Exercise for 30 minutes.  I don't know how to be specific about this one.  Walk outside?  I've tried that in the morning.  After rest time in the afternoon?  With a DVD?  Oh, gosh, I hate even writing about this!  But I know I need to do it for my mood, being inside a lot with the kids, and having the energy to work on these goals.  Still, I groan inwardly....I'll have to put a big star on the monitoring chart next to this one.  And highlight it.

Get at least 15 minutes of fresh air each day. Put on the big ugly coat and get outside! Throw hats and coats on the kids and get outside! Get out there before it gets dark! Game changer.

Wrestle with the middle child at least once a day.  That little dude's love language is physical touch for sure.  He loooooves to wrestle.

Read a book to the youngest child at least once a day.  Keep board books by the bed and read them to her before we nurse to sleep.  It is very easy for my oldest child to receive the most read aloud time with homeschool and all, and the middle child gets read aloud time at bedtime, at the least.  Little Miss Youngest misses out more than I'd like.

There are other things on my goal list, but these are the ones that seem easiest to monitor via the checklist strategy.  (Gretchen has a free blank 31 day printable for your goals, if you're interested. I had to print mine at 90% to get it all on one page.)  I begin today, Monday the 4th.

Has the new year inspired you to zone in on your goals?  Please share in the comments on the what and the how!  Happy 2016!