Monday, February 1, 2021

Read-at-Home Mom Report: January 2021 Wrap-Up

My Month in Books

January was a great reading month for me. I read 17 books, of which 10 were books for adults and 7 were kids' books. Here's a quick run-down: 

Just Like That by Gary D. Schmidt (5 stars)
[reviewed on the blog]
This middle grade novel is set in the same universe as The Wednesday Wars and deals with Meryl Lee Kowalski's grief following the death of a beloved character from that earlier book. It was tough getting past the death but Schmidt's writing is impeccable as always. 

The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr (3 stars)
[reviewed on Goodreads]
The memoirs discussed in this book are more literary than what I typically like to read, but I enjoyed reading the author's thoughts on honesty in memoir writing and on the impact of writing down difficult memories on the family members who share them. 

The End of Her by Shari Lapena (3 stars)
[reviewed on Goodreads]
This author's books are always quick reads, and this was no exception. I didn't think this one was quite as good as some of her previous titles, but I still mostly enjoyed all its twists and turns. I just didn't love the ending.

Nancy and Plum by Betty MacDonald (4 stars)
[reviewed on the blog in 2016]
This middle grade book was a re-read for me, but this time I read it aloud to my oldest two girls. They loved it and they are still talking about the adventures Nancy and Plum had at the boarding house run by the horrible Mrs. Monday.

The Bookish Holidays of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman (5 stars)
[reviewed on Goodreads]
I meant to read this short story during Christmas and forgot, so I decided to just read it instead of hoping to remember next year. It was a nice follow-up to The Bookish Life of Nina Hill and a very cozy winter read. 

The Late Show by Michael Connelly (5 stars)
[reviewed on Goodreads]
I loved this police procedural book which is the first in a series that is connected to the author's long-running Bosch series. I listened to the audiobook and really enjoyed the straightforward writing style and the interesting main character. 

Felicia the Critic by Ellen Conford (4 stars) 
[reviewed on the blog in 2020]
This short middle grade novel was our other January read-aloud. Unfortunately, I think the lesson - that criticism is not always welcome or necessary - was lost on the child who needed to hear it most. 

The Black Echo by Michael Connelly (4 stars)
[reviewed on Goodreads]
After enjoying The Late Show, I went back and read this first Bosch book. Though I liked it, it took me a while to get into it, and I actually abandoned the second  book of the series at 60% when I realized I was bored and not retaining any details. In the future, I plan to skip around among this author's books and just read the ones that grab my interest. 

A Kind of Paradise by Amy Rebecca Tan (5 stars)
[reviewed on Goodreads]
This adorable middle grade novel is a love letter to public libraries. Though there is a bit too much young teen dating and use of the Lord's name in vain for me to want to hand it to my kids at this stage, it was otherwise the perfect book for me and it made me completely nostalgic for my old library job in New York. 

The Love of Friends by Nancy Bond (3 stars)
[reviewed on the blog]
This was a disappointing third book in a trilogy that started with The Best of Enemies in 1978. I had been hoping that this book would redeem some of what happens in book two, A Place To Come Back To, but the first book turned out to be the only one worth reading. The writing was great, but the story left a lot to be desired.

The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien (5 stars)
[reviewed on Goodreads]
I first read this trilogy 20 years ago and I'm re-reading it via audiobook over the first three months of 2021. I loved it just as much this time as the first time, but I was a little surprised that it wasn't the intimidating tome I imagined it to be as a college student. 

The Heart of the Family by Elizabeth Goudge (5 stars)
[reviewed on Goodreads]
This was a fitting ending to a wonderful trilogy about family, faith, home, and so much more. I'd love to own these books.  

Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler (4 stars)
[reviewed on Goodreads]
This is a retelling of The Taming of the Shrew. It was more like a romantic comedy than I think is typical for this author, and the best parts of it were about the daily lives of the characters rather than the central relationship. 

The Professor's House by Willa Cather (5 stars)
[reviewed on Goodreads
I have learned to go into Cather books with no expectations, and this one was a very pleasant surprise. It was a bit melancholy, but the characters were very well-drawn and I zipped through the whole thing in just a few days. 

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson (5 stars)
[review on Goodreads coming soon]
I listened to this one on audio, and it was beautiful from start to finish. I can't wait to read the companion novels. 

Dragon Hoops by Gene Luen Yang (5 stars)
[review on the blog coming soon]
I borrowed this young adult graphic novel about basketball at a Catholic high school from Libby on a whim after seeing two positive reviews on Instagram, and I could not put it down. I'll save the details for my review, but this is absolutely deserving of all the praise it's getting. 

Over the Blue Mountain by Conrad Richter (4 stars)
[review on the blog coming soon]
My husband read this story about what happens to two Pennsylvania Dutch boys on the day when it is said  that "Mary goes over the mountain," and he loved it and insisted that I read it immediately. There are lots of parallels to the story of the Visitation, but I felt like something was missing to really connect the dots, so I only gave it 4 stars.  

The Best of the Bunch

This year I've decided to join the link-up hosted by A Cocoon of Books and share my favorite titles of each month. I had seven 5-star reads in January, but  of all of them, the ones I enjoyed the most were The Professor's House by Willa Cather and Dragon Hoops by Gene Luen Yang.

As for the rest of the family's reading...

In addiiton to Over the Blue Mountain, my husband read Ezra Jack Keats: A Biography with Illustrations, which he also wants me to read ASAP. (I am counting on it to be a much better representation of Keats's life than A Poem for Peter.) 

M., age 7, finished the Ramona series and has now moved on to Avi's Dimwood Forest series. She got three of the books for Christmas, but we didn't realize we didn't have book one, so she started with Poppy rather than Ragweed. Grandma ordered the rest of the books, though, and they'll be here in a few days! 

C., age 5, finished Henry Huggins and Henry and Beezus and started Beezus and Ramona. (Beverly Cleary is extremely popular here right now.) She is also reading History Can Be Fun by Munro Leaf as part of her homeschool work, and she is really loving all the information about ancient civilizations that she has gathered from it so far. 

M. and C. are also both enjoying our read-aloud of Island of the Aunts by Eva Ibbotson, but I'm finding it kind of a let-down. 

E., age 3, discovered The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats, as well as The Summer Snowman by Gene Zion and Margaret Bloy Graham and White Snow Bright Snow by Alvin Tresselt and Roger Duvoisin. She is also still really into Mercy Watson and quotes entire passages from the books all the time. Another current favorite of hers is Little Sleepyhead by Elizabeth McPike and Patrice Barton. 

Baby girl A. and baby boy R., age 10 months, received new books from Grandma in the mail. Two of them were three-in-one books from Cottage Door Press showing what you can see if you Look Up!, Look Around! and Look Down! on the farm and in the forest. The others were Melissa and Doug EZ Page Turners board books to help them practice turning pages.  

Up Next for Me

I actually made a to-read list for February because there are so many things I'm interested in reading.  Among the titles on my list are The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien, Motherhood Redeemed by Kimberly Cook, Heart and Soul by Maeve Binchy, Lucy Gayheart by Willa Cather, Mother Angelica by Raymond Arroyo, and How To Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster.  

Linking Up

I'm sharing this post to four link-ups: 

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