Carry Up Hearts

“I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.” 
Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre

I feel ya Charlotte.  I refuse to be trapped. And my will is not much different than a menopausal woman’s waistline: it seems to be expanding, not shrinking in the least. That’s a gain I’m good with. (I’m pretty sure I just heard an enthusiastic amen all the way from Thornfield Hall.) In honor of International Women’s Day, let us recognize strong women both past and present, and celebrate their greatness. As I read the final few pages of Wonder for a second time to my boys tonight, I raised my voice high when Mr. Tushman quoted Henry Ward Beecher: “Greatness lies not in being strong, but in the right using of strength…He is the greatest whose strength carries up the most hearts by the attraction of his own.”

Here are a couple of recommendations for readers who want to relish in women whose strength carries up hearts by the attraction of her own.  


The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden by Jonas Jonasson

This is the book I’m currently reading. So far, sooo good. I’m barely into Jonasson’s clever pages, but I’m already enamored with Nombeko Mayeki. If Amazon’s description of this 14-year-old prodigy doesn’t scream greatness, I don’t know what would: “Poor and orphaned, she quickly learns that the world expects her to die young. But Nombeko has grander plans. Little does this cunning and fearless girl know that soon she will steal a fortune in diamonds, outwit a mad scientist kidnapper, travel across the world, fall in with a pair of diabolical assassins, and ultimately save a king--and possibly the world.” My kinda girl. 


The Paperbag Princess by Robert Munsch

Right on Mr. Munsch, right on! Chances are your daughters have grown up with Disney Princesses in need of rescuing from Disney Princes. I LOVE this modern classic! It ditches the princess stereotype and underscores self-respect. Honestly, I want my girls to take cues from a plucky princess who recognizes she deserves the very best. And won’t settle for less. This empowering fairy tale has been endorsed by the National Organization for Women and should rest on a shelf in every home as far as I’m concerned. (Go for the 25th Anniversary Hardbound Edition—you won’t be sorry you did.) The New York Times called this one of “the best children’s books ever written.” I couldn’t agree more. 

Posted by Tracy

Mini-Review Monday

“My temptation is to tackle everything at once, or nothing at all.” ―Kevin DeYoung

Have you been stalking me, Kevin? Because you just nailed the story of my life. Hence the current (constant) state of my not-so-walk-in closet. Which is also why, on days like this, I'd normally wave my white flag, crawl into bed, pull the covers over my head, and forget all about that review I promised myself I'd write. If I can't bring the whole kit and caboodle, why bring it at all? But new year, new me. I'm okay to bring the kit, and who knows, you probably don't have time for the caboodle either. So here's two super quick mini reviews of the books I finished last week. Who knows, maybe it'll become a thing around here. Mini-Review Monday. I kinda like the sound of it...

Echo came to me by way of a friend's hardy recommendation. It did not disappoint. If you're a listener (and why on earth wouldn't you be by now—even Tracy's converted, folks!), this is one of those books that was written to be listened to. Grab your kiddos, or just yourself, and settle in for “a grand narrative that examines the power of music to inspire beauty in a world overrun with fear and intolerance; it's worth every moment of readers' time."

Am I alone in not loving The Great Alone? To be fair, I came at it with some pretty high, as in The Nightingale high, expectations and I picked it up right after savoring every word of An American Marriage. Not many books could withstand that double whammy and this one definitely did not. It felt a bit trite and predictable—almost like it was written to be a movie (which someone obviously agreed as the film rights have already been sold.) If you're looking for a book about life in the harsh Alaskan wilderness, do yourself a favor and read The Snow Child instead.

Posted by Rachel

This is Why I Read

"Our marriage was a sapling graft that didn't have time to take."

Tray's last post has me hankerin for a Stranger Things re-watch (and a real whodunnit). But first, I cannot let one more day go by without sharing the book love for An American Marriage. Somehow I missed all the hype leading up to its release—it made almost every list of Most Anticipated Reads of 2018. Let's not dwell on what that says about my book blogging game as of late.

The first I heard of this gem was when a longtime friend managed to finagle me an invite to its launch party that was being held in her home. Funny thing is, I almost didn't go. It was a cold night by Vegas standards and my sweats, a cozy fire, and The Crown were all calling my name. Not to mention the fact that the only two people I'd know there would be my friend and her husband—whose hosting duties would mean I'd be forced to be social. The horror. With no legitimate excuse to skip it, the only way out was a lie...and to quote Eleven, "Friends don't lie." 

So I went. Not only was it not horrible, it was one of the best evenings I've spent in a long while. Tayari Jones regaled us with stories from her past, her writing process, and how this book is already changing her life. The more she spoke and read passages aloud, the more sure I became hers isn't the only life that will be changed. With this gift of book she shines a heartbreakingly beautiful light on mass incarceration, race, marriage, and social class in America—one that is desperately needed. 

This is one of those books that reminds me all over again why I love reading. For a time I am a mother who instead of worrying over my boy's grades and which college he'll go to, desperately hopes he just makes it through high school without going to jail; a man who despite playing by all the right rules, has everything snatched away in an instant; and the woman who loves him but maybe not quite enough. I'm there with Ghetto Yoda, listening to him dispense life lessons from a prison cell, and I'm standing there watching Big Roy sum up what real love looks like with some dirt and a shovel. This is why I read.

After Tayari finished speaking, we met and instantly bonded over BLTs, Boden, outlet shopping secrets, and our mutual love for staying in. What I didn't tell her is that this was one night I thanked my lucky stars I had gone out.

Posted by Rachel

Hitchcock Approved

“Why are you keeping this curiosity door locked?”—Dustin

Mr. Clarke, I’m happy to report that I am opening any curiosity door that I find, especially when it comes to searching up good books.  I’m taking cues from Dustin. And why wouldn’t I?  He does, in fact, speak a lot of truths.  

Over the weekend, I researched best books of 2018.  It’s only February, I know. But I was looking for something different and something new—something I could recommend to all of you readers who continue to outpace me.  Keeping the curiosity door unlocked paid off! 


I selected the book that Stephen King called “unputdownable.”  I trust the King of Horror when it comes to psychological thrillers. It didn’t hurt that Rachel’s girl Louise Penny described The Woman in the Window as “absolutely gripping.” When I downloaded the nearly 14-hour audible, I didn’t imagine I’d finish it in less than an extremely busy week.  (Of course, my left eye won’t stop twitching from the tired, but I suppose that’s neither here nor there.) Dr. Anna Fox, an agoraphobe, spies on her Harlem neighbors. She’s housebound with nothing but time, classic black-and-white films, and plenty of merlot on her hands. When Anna thinks she witnesses a crime, her otherwise dull life takes a turn toward gripping and dramatic.  A.J. Finn will keep you guessing throughout his debut novel that certainly seems to be living up to the hype.  I recommend listening to this hot-off-the-press bestseller—Ann Marie Lee’s performance is captivating in itself. That’s right, you won’t be able to resist this pearl. 

p.s. Be warned: F-bombs were dropped into the pages of this book. 

Posted by Tracy

Books: A Love Story

“I think books are like people, in the sense that they'll turn up in your life when you most need them.” ―Emma Thompson

A dear friend, who's weathered the unthinkable over the past few months, now finds herself weathering even more as her sister, and closest confidante, fights for her life in an ICU. So my friend does what she does best: she soldiers on. After a day of sitting bedside with nothing but worry and the whir of life-saving machines for company, she decided a book was in order. Enter Flavia de Luce. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie had been languishing on her bookshelf for years—perhaps waiting, as my imaginary BFF Emma would say, for when she needed it most. My friend, who's as practical as I am romantic, would argue she grabbed it on her way out the door simply because it was small and easy to fit in her bag. Potato, patahto.

After giving the book a quick once-over, her brother-in-law declared Flavia wasn't really his cup of tea and settled in with a newspaper instead. Undeterred, my friend sat down next to her sweet unresponsive sis and started reading aloud. A few chapters in, said brother-in-law suddenly stopped her with a "Wait, back up...did you just say Flavia found a dead body in her garden?" To which she replied, "What was that about tea?" He moved in closer and begged her to continue. He was hooked. After another hour or so, the nurse, who'd been in and out all morning, and otherwise sitting at her desk just outside the room, came in and shyly asked for some clarification on what Inspector Hewitt had just said to Dogger. Clearly, the first meeting of their ICU book club was underway.

Buoyed by signs of improvement and signals that her sister takes comfort in the sound of her voice, she reads on. Because books, like humor, make the unbearable bearable.

Posted by Rachel

Rae of Light

“We have calcium in our bones, iron in our veins, carbon in our souls and nitrogen in our brains.  93 percent stardust, with souls made of flames, we are all just stars that have people names.” — Nikita Gill

Rachel’s birthday came and went and I made no mention of it.  What’s wrong with me? Anyone? Anyone? In my book, few days matter more than February 1st: the day kindness got a facelift. (Not to mention understanding and compassion—and laughter, don’t forget laughter.) A day that has afforded me countless blessings. And brought with it a friend who is made up of the most perfect stars. Don’t mistake my silence for lack of deep gratitude.  

I gave Rachel a hodge-podge of small gifts this birthday. (Nothing so grand as last year’s give-a-gift-get-a-gift offering.) Naturally, I wrapped up a few books, my favorite being a picture book that doesn’t require more than 10 minutes’ time. It’s called The Fox and the Star. The illustrations are fantastic. The 2015 Waterstones Book of the Year is charming, maybe even enchanting. Some will say it’s a story about need and loss. But I focused solely on the friendship between the fox and the star—on someone to light the way or simply provide light with the very thought of her.  Rachel is a light in dark places. She’s a light that never goes out. 

Posted by Tracy

Throwback Thursday

“Thursday or as I like to call it ‘Day 4 of the hostage situation.’”

We’ve made it to Thursday. Hallelujah! That’s cause for celebration or at the very least, reason enough to share a riddle? Johnny’s mother had three children. The first was named April and the second was named May.  What was the name of the third child?  If you’re tired like me, maybe you had to think about it.  Chances are you knew it was Johnny. But that’s not the real riddle on my brain. Here’s a teaser: There is a haunt of a book that won the Newberry Medal and the Carnegie Medal, the first time both named the same work. Throw in the Hugo Award for Best Novel and the Audio Book of the Year nearly a decade ago and which throwback jewel have you got? 


If nothing or Nobody comes to mind, then you’re on the right track. Quite frankly, Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book is spectacular. His imagination gets A pluses all around for conjuring up a runaway toddler who heads into a graveyard to escape his family’s grisly murderer. Fortunately, supernatural residents agree to raise the young orphan they named Nobody Owens—Bod for short. In the sprawling graveyard-turned-home, Bod is educated by the dead.  I particularly loved when he visited the dead poet who was as melodramatic as he was forgotten by the living. Bod’s grim adventures are guaranteed to captivate and delight readers big and small.  I completely agree with the smart reviewer who said, “How Gaiman has managed to combine fascinating, friendly, frightening and fearsome in one fantasy I shall never know, but he has pulled it off magnificently.” And that, my friends, is no joke. 

P.S. Gaiman’s audible reading of this novel was like perfectly whipped buttercream icing on a Duff Goldman cake. 

Posted by Tracy

Readers Rejoice

"If Monday had a face, I'd punch it." —unknown

Suffering a from a serious case of the Monday blahs? Take heart. Here are three brand spanking new reads from favorite authors sure to turn that Monday frown upside down.


My favorite cyanide-loving sleuth is back—solving mysteries and stirring up mischief in her latest adventure: The Grave's a Fine and Private Place. Isn't it just like Alan Bradley to serve up a new Flavia in time for my birthday? What a love.


Be still my beach-read-lovin heart, Louisa Clark is back. This is chick lit at its finest, folks. If I'm being frank (and why wouldn't I be?),  After You was a disappointment. Did it make me hesitate to download Still Me? Maybe for minute. But I just can't believe Jojo would let me down twice. Four chapters in and so far so much better.


This is what you call burying the lead, people. The Great Alone comes out tomorrow and I'm both giddy and a bundle of nerves. How in the world is Kristin Hannah going to come close to, let alone top, The Nightingale? So far the reviews have been glowing. Erin Kodicek from Amazon Book Review writes: The muse of The Great Alone is clearly Alaska--in all its untamed, stunningly beautiful, dangerous glory. It provides the perfect backdrop for an equally dramatic tale, one that feels remarkably current for the 1970s setting. But Hannah’s latest also harkens to her mega bestselling The Nightingale: it highlights the heroics of everyday people, especially women. And it’s just a damn good read." Time to order up.

Posted by Rachel