Happy Monday, Readers! The first week (and weekend) of school went well overall for me last week. It made for an odd schedule, but it worked. This week my schedule is a little more normal since I will not have class over the weekend. So far the actual content has been pretty basic, which I appreciate to help ease into things, but I hope that we progress to more substantial content soon.
I also celebrated one of my best friend’s birthdays last week, and ate in an actual restaurant for the first time in months. I really can’t say that I’ve missed it. I’m much more comfortable getting food and bringing it back to my own place to eat. Still, it was fun to do something different and get out for a bit.
This week I’m taking another look at my TBR list to see if I can pare it down any. Later this week I plan to share my review of Sarah Grace Grzy’s book Never Say Goodbye which came out a few months ago. If you’re a fan of cute (but not cutesy), clean, contemporary romances, then you’re going to want to hear about this book!
Explanation: It has become apparent that my TBR (to be read) list has gotten nearly out of hand. Therefore, I have decided to do a post featuring ten books from it approximately every other week. As I go through the list, I will evaluate each book and decide whether or not it still belongs. Who knows, perhaps as my list (hopefully) shrinks, you will find a few books to add to your own!
The last time I did this type of post was July 13. At the end of that post, my TBR list contained 689 books. Today it has 728. I have gone through 120 books.
#121. Gracious: A Practical Primer on Charm, Tact, and Unsinkable Strength by Kelly Williams Brown
Synopsis: Graciousness is practicing the arts of kindness, thoughtfulness, good manners, humanity, and basic decency. As a bonus, it makes your life and even the world (or at least the room you’re in) much lovelier.
It’s not about memorizing every rule of traditional etiquette to a T (though there is so much there to explore!) or spending all your time maintaining a spotless house. It’s about approaching the world with compassion, conviction, self-confidence, and whole-heartedness, whether you’re at the Met Gala or saying good morning to a convenience store clerk.
From chatting easily with anyone to mastering the subtleties of social media etiquette (hint: block early, block often), Brown has talked to gracious women and men all over the country to give you easy ways to embody your own graciousness.
With the wisdom of gracious folk ranging from celebrities to the author’s mother-in-law, this book explains the perspective, actions—and, sometimes, inaction—that help us move smoothly and effectively through whatever life tosses at us.
Comments: I think I came across this while shelving at the library a few years ago. It still sounds interesting, although I don’t know when I will ever be in the right mindset to read this book.
#122. Herb of Grace by Adina Senft (Healing Grace #1)
Synopsis:Amish widow Sarah Yoder has been struggling to raise her two teenaged sons and provide a home where family and members of her Old Order Amish church can find fellowship and friendship. Though she is close to her in-laws, lately it feels like her relationship with her boys is splintering. Her stepson Simon wants to move out west with his cousins to find work. And her youngest, Caleb, is spending far too much time over at the tumbledown home of a man who left the church long ago. Henry Byler only returned recently to Willow Creek when he inherited the family farm–under protest–and now seems caught in a struggle between the faith of his childhood and the world he’s come to know. Ruth Lehman, the local Dokterfraa, believes Sarah should use her gift for growing plants to become an herbal healer, too. Sarah is reluctant, however, uncertain if caring for others will take her away from her family–the place where she believes God wants her. But when she feels called to help members of her community, she soon discovers that the heart can be scarred as deeply as the body. As she compiles her herbs, she waits for God to do his healing work in a man who rues a harsh decision, in a lonely prodigal who has lost everything, and maybe even in a herbalist-in-training who firmly believes she will never love again.
Comments: Herb of Grace found its way to my attention a few years during a random trip to a book store. It was on sale, in the clearance bin actually, but not what I had come for and not something that I could justify purchasing that day. So I made a note, and added it to my TBR list. I’m sure that I would have enjoyed it had I read it at that time, but now I’m not so sure. The story sounds too much like many others I have read.
#123. The Complete Uncollected Stories of J.D. Salinger
Synopsis: This book contains twenty short stories and two novellas that have never before been collected or published outside of their original magazine appearences due to the wishes of the author who has declined to publish any of his work since 1965. Stories collected here for the first time include two 30,000 word novellas (The Inverted Forest & Hapworth 16, 1924), two stories featuring Holden Caulfield in expanded scenes from The Catcher in the Rye (I’m Crazy & Slight Rebellion Off Madison), and the Babe Gladwaller and Vincent Caulfield series (Last Day of the Last Furlough, This Sandwich Has No Mayonnaise & The Stranger). This collection includes all known works by Salinger not already widely available.
Comments: Of course, I would love to read all of Salinger’s stories, but the likelihood of coming across this one volume is moderately unlikely. I’m not that dedicated.
#124. Emily of New Moon (Emily #1) by L.M. Montgomery
Synopsis: Emily Starr never knew what it was to be lonely–until her beloved father died. Now Emily’s an orphan, and her mother’s snobbish relatives are taking her to live with them at New Moon Farm. She’s sure she won’t be happy. Emily deals with stiff, stern Aunt Elizabeth and her malicious classmates by holding her head high and using her quick wit. Things begin to change when she makes friends, with Teddy, who does marvelous drawings; with Perry, who’s sailed all over the world with his father yet has never been to school; and above all, with Ilse, a tomboy with a blazing temper. Amazingly, Emily finds New Moon beautiful and fascinating. With new friends and adventures, Emily might someday think of herself as Emily of New Moon.
Comments: This, again, is a book which I am sure I would have appreciated and enjoyed greatly at another time. Unfortunately, that time has passed. Perhaps another will come.
#125. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
Synopsis: A novel of breathtaking sweep and emotional power that traces three hundred years in Ghana and along the way also becomes a truly great American novel. Extraordinary for its exquisite language, its implacable sorrow, its soaring beauty, and for its monumental portrait of the forces that shape families and nations, Homegoing heralds the arrival of a major new voice in contemporary fiction.
Two half-sisters, Effia and Esi, are born into different villages in eighteenth-century Ghana. Effia is married off to an Englishman and lives in comfort in the palatial rooms of Cape Coast Castle. Unbeknownst to Effia, her sister, Esi, is imprisoned beneath her in the castle’s dungeons, sold with thousands of others into the Gold Coast’s booming slave trade, and shipped off to America, where her children and grandchildren will be raised in slavery. One thread of Homegoing follows Effia’s descendants through centuries of warfare in Ghana, as the Fante and Asante nations wrestle with the slave trade and British colonization. The other thread follows Esi and her children into America. From the plantations of the South to the Civil War and the Great Migration, from the coal mines of Pratt City, Alabama, to the jazz clubs and dope houses of twentieth-century Harlem, right up through the present day, Homegoing makes history visceral, and captures, with singular and stunning immediacy, how the memory of captivity came to be inscribed in the soul of a nation.
Generation after generation, Yaa Gyasi’s magisterial first novel sets the fate of the individual against the obliterating movements of time, delivering unforgettable characters whose lives were shaped by historical forces beyond their control. Homegoing is a tremendous reading experience, not to be missed, by an astonishingly gifted young writer.
Comments: With a compelling synopsis like that, how could I not want to read Homgoing? It sounds pretty intense. I may have to set aside time for it someday.
#126. Ten Girls to Watch by Charity Shumway
Synopsis: Like so many other recent graduates, Dawn West is trying to make her way in New York City. She’s got an ex-boyfriend she can’t quite stop seeing, a roommate who views rent checks and basic hygiene as optional, and a writing career that’s gotten as far as penning an online lawn care advice column.
So when Dawn lands a job tracking down the past winners of Charm magazine’s “Ten Girls to Watch” contest, she’s thrilled. After all, she’s being paid to interview hundreds of fascinating women: once outstanding college students, they have gone on to become mayors, opera singers, and air force pilots. As Dawn gets to know their life stories, she’ll discover that success, love, and friendship can be found in the most unexpected of places. Most importantly, she’ll learn that while those who came before us can be role models, ultimately, we each have to create our own happy ending.
Comments: This synopsis is reminiscent of The Bell Jar, which contained characters whom I resonated with greatly. I don’t think the themes are ones that I see myself wanting to take on anytime soon though, so away it goes.
#127. Miss Match (Lauren Holbrook #1) by Erynn Mangum
Synopsis: Lauren Holbrook has found her life’s calling: matchmaking for the romantically challenged. And with the eclectic cast of characters in her world, there’s tons of potential to play “connect the friends.”
Lauren sets out to introduce Nick, her carefree singles’ pastor, to Ruby, her neurotic coworker who plans every second of every day. What could possibly go wrong? Just about everything.
Comments: Matchmaking is one of my least favorite tropes. Why did I ever put this on my list?
#128. Faking Grace (Head over Hills #1) by Tamara Leigh
Synopsis: Maizy Grace Stewart dreams of a career as an investigative journalist, but her last job ended in disaster when her compassion cost her employer a juicy headline. A part-time gig at a Nashville newspaper might be her big break.
A second job at Steeple Side Christian Resources could help pay the bills, but Steeple Side only hires committed Christians. Maizy is sure she can fake it with her Five-Step Program to Authentic Christian Faith–a plan of action that includes changing her first name to Grace, buying Jesus-themed accessories, and learning “Christian Speak.” If only Jack Prentiss, Steeple Side’s managing editor and two-day-stubbled, blue-jean-wearing British hottie wasn’t determined to prove her a fraud.
When Maizy’s boss at the newspaper decides that she should investigate–and expose–any skeletons in Steeple Side’s closet, she must decide whether to deliver the dirt and secure her career or lean on her newfound faith, change the direction of her life, and pray that her Steeple Side colleagues–and Jack–will show her grace.
Comments: I can see how younger-me would have been drawn to this story. It sounds like fun, if you don’t think too hard about it. But, reading the synopsis now, there are too many warning flags of things that would make me uncomfortable in it – and not the kind of uncomfortable that leads to personal growth.
#129. Chronicles of Avonlea (Chronicles of Avonlea #1) by L.M. Montgomery
Synopsis: On Prince Edward Island, where Anne Shirley grew up in the sea-sprayed town of Avonlea, there was no shortage of wonderful stories. There was the case of Ludovic Speed, who wouldn’t propose to the woman he had courted for fifteen years until Anne devised a plan to “speed” him up . . . if it didn’t backfire and break his heart. But no one could blame mischievous Anne for the hilarious battle of the sexes that erupted when a man-hating woman and her cat got quarantined in the same house with a woman-hating bachelor and his dog. From sprawling Penhallow Grange, where a family waits nearly forever for two quarreling lovers to break their stubborn silence, to the tumbledown farm of Old Man Shaw, who awaits the retum of his beloved daughter, L. M. Montgomery has written twelve tales of secret hopes and hidden dreams, filled with enchantment and humor.
Comments: Have I really never read this book? I thought that I had, but I can’t be certain. I know I used to own a copy of this. I’ll have to see if I can find it sometime soon.
#130. News of the World by Paulette Jiles
Synopsis: In the aftermath of the Civil War, an aging itinerant news reader agrees to transport a young captive of the Kiowa back to her people in this exquisitely rendered, morally complex, multilayered novel of historical fiction from the author of Enemy Women that explores the boundaries of family, responsibility, honor, and trust.
In the wake of the Civil War, Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd travels through northern Texas, giving live readings from newspapers to paying audiences hungry for news of the world. An elderly widower who has lived through three wars and fought in two of them, the captain enjoys his rootless, solitary existence.
In Wichita Falls, he is offered a $50 gold piece to deliver a young orphan to her relatives in San Antonio. Four years earlier, a band of Kiowa raiders killed Johanna’s parents and sister; sparing the little girl, they raised her as one of their own. Recently rescued by the U.S. army, the ten-year-old has once again been torn away from the only home she knows.
Their 400-mile journey south through unsettled territory and unforgiving terrain proves difficult and at times dangerous. Johanna has forgotten the English language, tries to escape at every opportunity, throws away her shoes, and refuses to act “civilized.” Yet as the miles pass, the two lonely survivors tentatively begin to trust each other, forming a bond that marks the difference between life and death in this treacherous land.
Arriving in San Antonio, the reunion is neither happy nor welcome. The captain must hand Johanna over to an aunt and uncle she does not remember—strangers who regard her as an unwanted burden. A respectable man, Captain Kidd is faced with a terrible choice: abandon the girl to her fate or become—in the eyes of the law—a kidnapper himself.
Comments: I can definitely smell some problematic elements to this story, but I’m intrigued.
Ending number of books on TBR list: 724
Have you gotten into your “fall routine” this month? Or are you still on Summer time (or winter, for the other side of the world)? I’m very much looking forward to settling into a fall routine of studying, reading, working, and enjoying autumnal weather (crossing my fingers that this comes!).
Until the next chapter,