The Magnolia Story

When you read about the reigning champions of  Do-It-Yourself, the natural thing to do it create hand poured candles at book club. It was sweet to expand our activities together beyond wine, snacks, and laughs. Here is our lovely club:

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Here is what I thought of The Magnolia Story:

magnoliaThe Magnolia Story surprised me. I was far more inspired and impressed with their family story than I predicted. Most celebrities write books these days, many are hit and miss, in my humble opinion. However,  Joanna and Chip write from their hearts. They tell their simple story, driven by a desire to invest their lives into Waco, Texas. They are much like their television persona: honest, driven, and goofy. I have always had a need to do things with my hands, to create, to grow seeds into food, to nurture children. I did a lot of soul searching thinking about a career move; at the root of some my dreams was creating with my own hands. Joanna and Chip echo the same desires, to help people with their hands. To build, remodel, create, and design. I liked walking through the ups and downs as they pursued their passions. They are not pushing anyone to be like them, or take on their values, they are simply doing their dream. I enjoyed reading about two people living and loving imperfectly, but doing their best to give back and give grace.

To Purchase this book on Amazon, click here: The Magnolia Story

 

 

3 Books for Winter Weather

Shakespeare said, “A sad tale is best for winter.” In Seattle, we have endless days of gray and rain in winter.  It is perfect weather for book steeped in a bit of melancholy. These three books have a touch of sorrow, but do not leave you devastated. Two out of three have a happy ending.

the-snowchildThe Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey– A young married couple moves to rural Alaska to homestead. Their plan is to endure the winter, in order to farm through the summer of never setting sun. They long for a child, and that has left a rift in their marriage. One evening, in a moment of renewed friendship, the husband and wife build a little snowman in the fresh Alaskan snow. The husband begins to see small footprints in the snow, and imagines the child has come alive. Part magical realism, this is a novel that envelopes it reader. The storytelling and world building is so rich, time melts as you read. It also has a happy ending.

To Purchase this book on Amazon, click here: The Snow Child: A Novel

russian-winterRussian Winter by Daphne Kalotay- Oh, this book made time pass so quickly. The book opens in Boston, a former star ballerina is selling off her jewelry. The auction of her possessions brings up memories of her past.  Her life as a prima ballerina, and dark secrets that caused her to flee Russia as it came under Stalin’s power. This story is engrossing, the end comes full circle with a satisfying ending.

 

To Purchase this book on Amazon, click here: Russian Winter: A Novel

i-will-send-rainI Will Send Rain by Rae Meadows- Drought, dust, and dirt as far as anyone can hope. Oklahoma farmers Annie, Samuel, and their children Birdie and Fred, wait desperately for rain. Each member of the family carries their own secrets and longings. They are all weighted down by the shadow of the fire and brimstone preaching they hear every Sunday in church. Is the drought the result of their own unbelief? Is God pouring out his punishment in the form of scorching sun? You can feel the dirt in your hair and eyes as you read. The writing is stunning and the story is moving. A perfect winter read.

To Purchase this book on Amazon, click here: I Will Send Rain: A Novel

 

The Best Five Books of 2016

I finished my reading goal of 52 books a year in 2016. Reading time is precious, and no one wants to waste it on a book you have to fight your way through. I was moved by each of these works. I savored the feelings the pages brought to life, or what I pondered as I read. May your reading be worthwhile and fill you will joy and wonder in the New Year.

homegoingHomegoing by Yaa Gyasi– Homegoing is a powerhouse of a novel. It spans hundreds of years of history. It begins in Africa as slaves are shipped from the Cape Coast, to life on southern plantations, and ending in poor Harlem. I thought about all the ways we are enslaved, through our own thoughts, emotions, through addictions, bitterness or anger. Even after the characters were freed, they were enslaved by these things until they worked those shackles off as well. This is a work of impressive fiction.

To Purchase on Amazon, click here: Homegoing: A novel

avalavender__spanThe Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton– I love to imagine life in old Seattle at the turn of the century.  This book let me wander through a barely settled rainy Seattle, with strong and beautiful characters. I love a good tragedy, I long for books that captures the longing of the human heart. I also love odd, and this story was wonderfully quirky as well. If you only like happy books, stay away. If you love rich writing, exquisitely woven settings, with twists and a little sadness, you will savor Ava Lavender and her beautiful sorrows.

To Purchase this book on Amazon, click here: The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender

Fish in a treeFish in a Tree by Linda Mullaly Hunt– I have taught for many years, and my heart has always been for the children for whom learning does not come easy. The main character has dyslexia, and has carefully hidden her inability to read.  I believe when one person understands our struggle, it makes it a little easier to carry. I loved this book, because it provides a voice of understanding for those who struggle to learn.

To Purchase this book on Amazon, click here: Fish in a Tree

up to this pointeUp to This Pointe by Jennifer Longo– When a ballerina in San Francisco has her life plan derailed, she does what most would never do, goes to Antarctica. I loved the dual settings of this book. The love story was believable, but not sappy, contrived or predictable. It combined science, history, and a fun story. Light hearted, and well written, I enjoyed the journey. A little bit, Where’d you go Bernadette without the zany breakdown.

To Purchase this book on Amazon, click here: Up to This Pointe

 

the readers of broken wheel recommendThe Reader’s of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald- I live to find books about book lovers. Two bookstore owners from opposite sides of the world (Sweden and Iowa) become book sharing pen pals, and meet in Iowa one summer. When a swedish book worm lands in a small Iowa town, no one knows what to do with her. They finally find common ground with, you guessed it, books. I was sad when this sweet and charming book was over. This is the happiest little tale of friendship, and I devoured every word.

To Purchase this book on Amazon, click here: The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend

 

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

homegoingThis epic novel begins with two half-sisters, connected by the bloodline of their father. Daughters born into the Ashanti tribe in Ghana, Africa  They grow up, and their family tree is split down the middle. One sister is married to a slave trader, and taken to the Cape Coast Castle, living upstairs as a prize wife. The other sister ends up in the castle basement, waiting to be sold as a slave and shipped to America. The book follows the lineage born from these two women’s lives across miles of land and sea. The sweeping journey rambles through American history under Jim Crow laws, to the great migration of free blacks, to Harlem during the Jazz era. The story tells such hard and gut wrenching history, yet it is necessary to know and not forget how people fought for freedom. The rich writing and vivid characters wrap you in the story, but the history is accurate and fascinating. The last page leaves you with questions to research and wonder about after it is finished. The lives in Homegoing are sad, but there are glimpses of happiness and joy gleaned from finding true love, and forgiving the past. I would consider this a must read of 2016.

To Purchase this book on Amazon, click here:

Homegoing: A novel

 

The Gilded Years by Karin Tanabe

The Gilded Years by Karin Tanabe 

the-gilded-yearsIn 1897 a brave woman stepped onto Vassar College Campus. She was a black woman, her heritage hidden by white ancestry on both sides of her family tree, so courage was her only option. Anita Hemmings passed as white and entered the all-women’s college.  At a time when New York was being built by Vanderbilt and Carnegie wealth; Anita entered society poor, from a black family.

Anita and her friends lived a dreamy existence. Weekends were spent at formal dances in lace dresses, ice skating, and riding in carriages through the city. Anita was a strong student, and a gifted linguist. She excelled at Vassar academically, particularly in Greek and Latin. Her drab clothing made her feel like an outsider. She was perceived as poor, but fit in by carefully hiding her race. Until she was assigned a room with Lottie Taylor. Lottie was the wealthiest girl on campus, and a true believer in the separation of races. Anita’s safe existence becomes threatened when her friendship with Lottie blossoms. Set in an era of incredible romance and simplicity, but also of harsh prejudice. It will prove that separate was never equal, and the end of slavery was just the beginning of a long road of racial reconciliation. If you are a reader of Historical Fiction, put this on your list.

To Order This Book on Amazon, click here: The Gilded Years: A Novel

Here is a photo of  Anita Hemmings during her college years: