Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Katie Reads {5}

Time to chat about what I've been reading!  These posts are keeping me accountable to continue picking up the books I've been meaning to read.  I also have found so many good recommendations around the blogging world, so I'd like to share a few ideas with you!

(FYI- the links for the books are Amazon Affiliate links.  That means that if you click through and purchase something, I will receive a small commission at no cost to you.  I will gratefully use it, probably to stock up on more books! :)  )

Since I would rather be reading than writing long book reviews, I'll give you a grade and a quick run down- totally just my opinion based on what I enjoy.  I'd love to hear your thoughts on these books or suggestions of what I should read next in the comments! 
You can check out other book recommendations here: 
Katie Reads {1} 
Katie Reads {2}  
Katie Reads {3}
Katie Reads {4}

The Awakening of Miss Prim, Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera, {B+}
  • Haley and Christy of Fountains of Carrots recommended this one, and I really enjoyed it (you can listen to their podcast discussion of the book here.)  It's a new book, but is written in an old fashioned style about an old fashioned character who stumbles upon a job in an old fashioned town.  
  • Miss Prim accepts a position as a librarian for an eccentric gentleman with a fabulous library, despite the fact that she is highly over qualified.  She finds herself immersed in an interesting little town, full of interconnected people and stories that lead her to questioning the world she thought she already understood so well.
  • I will admit that while I am not well-read or intelligent enough to fully understand all the classic literature references, I could still appreciate the air of nostalgia associated with higher learning and discourse and philosophy.
  • One of my favorite elements of this book were the townspeople and community.  The layers they add to the story made me actually pick up and reread this book about a month after I finished it, something I rarely do.  I enjoyed them even more the second time around.  
  • "My story is as old as the world.  I'm not the first and I won't be the last.  I know what you're thinking.  Would I turn back if I could? No, of course not.  Would a newly awoken man willingly go back to the sleepwalking life?"
  • If you like books that make you think a bit about the world and what it might take for you to change the opinions you hold so dear, I think you'd like this book.

St. Gianna Beretta Molla: Wife, Mother, Doctor, Pietro Molla and Elio Guerriero {A}
  • St. Gianna makes my Saintly Top Ten (don't make me actually list my favorites- it is impossible).  I first read this book- maybe right after college?- and loved its style.  Written by St. Gianna's own husband, we get a loving look into the everyday life of this amazing woman.
  • And then when I had the opportunity to meet her daughter Gianna (the child whom she risked her life for) I knew I had to reread this book.  The photo of the book was taken from our visit to the Our Lady of Guadalupe Shrine in LaCrosse, WI, home to the beautiful original painting in the background.  Below I'm including a picture of my friends and I with Dr. Gianna Molla. :)
  • It includes a biography of both sides of the family, her childhood and young adult years, and content from interviews with Pietro.  You will also find Pietro's reflections on her virtue. 
  • So much beauty existed in their relationship, so I think one of my next book purchases will be The Journey of Our Love, a collection of Gianna and Pietro's letters. (swoon)
  • "Gianna had that courage and found true beauty in living with joy and love in the grace of God, 'with Jesus in her heart', in admiring and enjoying the wonders of creation, in seeing the gift of God everywhere."
  • Really, I would recommend this book for any woman- It presents a beautiful image of having a career, of serving God as a single woman, and of being a wife and mother.

The Blue Castle, L.M. Montgomery {A+}
  • This one was another Fountains of Carrots recommendation, with a podcast coming soon. 
  • I LOVED this book.  I'm still working my way through the Anne books, so I expected something similar.  However, it is everything that makes people love the Anne series, but deeper and richer and different.  I read that critics have called this Montgomery's best work, and I can see why.
  • Valancy Stirling has led a miserable life, and as a still-single-twenty-nine-year-old, she knows nothing good will ever happen to her.  Stiff, formal, sheltered, and with no pleasures of her own (except enjoying her creative daydreams), she risks throwing everything away and is viewed as crazy by her whole family.  Her choice leads her down a path that changes her life and helps her discover who she really was all along.
  • This is another books that has phenomenal "townspeople."  The secondary characters were both ridiculously adorable and ridiculously deplorable, depending.  The dialogue made me laugh out loud several times and the characterization was just stellar.  I so wish there was a movie version of this book!
  • I know I just said that I don't do this, but I seriously read the last page of this book and immediately turned back to the first page again.  I just enjoyed the characters and how the story turned out so so much.  It was a bright spot in this dark winter.
  • (Also, small note- The hardback book pictured above is the hardcover listed on Amazon.  I was disappointed in the binding (cracked and split when I first opened the book) and the fact that the pages look like downsized pdfs, resulting in approximately 8 pt. font.  Just get the kindle or paperback version!)
  • "Valancy reviewed her whole life between midnight and the early spring dawn.  It was a very drab existence, but here and there an incident loomed out with a significance out of proportion to its real importance.  These incidents were all unpleasant in one way or another.  Nothing really pleasant had ever happened to Valancy."
  • If you are a typical fan of AnneLittle Women, or Jane Austen, this book is for you.  

How to Be a Hero: Train with the Saints, Julia Harrell {A}
Pauline Books & Media provided me with a free copy of How to Be a Hero: Train with the Saints in exchange for an honest review.
  • When Julia asked for reviews of her new book, I knew it was going to be right up my alley.  I've written before about some of my favorite Saint books for 9-12 year olds, and this one needs to be added to the list.
  • Julia created a handbook of how to grow in virtue (an important topic for home & classroom) for intermediate age kids.  Pairing each of the Cardinal, Theological, and "Little" Virtues with the example of an awesome Saint, she is giving the kids the inspiration to find holy heroes and become like them.  She chose some of my favorites, such as St. John Paul II, Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati, and St. Josephine Bakhita.  The Saints also range in era from very early Christianity (St. Monica) to modern day (Bl. Chiara Badano.)  There is someone for every kid with Saints representing varying interests, backgrounds, struggles, and triumphs.
  • The book has several content areas for each Saint, including info about a virtue and how they exemplified it, a short "novelized" biography, discussion/reflection questions, photos, drawings, and a prayer. There is also a section in the back with brief, page long biographies of each Saint.
  • I would most recommend this book for 4th-6th graders.   I especially think that the "Who Is...?" chapters work perfectly for read-alouds, which is how I have been using the book in my classroom.  I also have had several students pick up and read selected chunks (note- I love that they can pick and choose the chapters to read- this works so well for this age group) and they have really enjoyed it.  Some of their feedback included that they were really interested by some of the stories of Saints that were new to them, they liked the details packed into the short chapters, and liked the "look" of the book with all of the illustrations.
  • "You can be holy.  There are as many ways to be holy as there are people.  The saints come from every country, every time period, every age, every walk of life, and every type of family. Though there is enormous diversity in their circumstances, every saint lives a virtuous life: a life powered by God himself."
  • I'm grateful to be able to add this to my classroom library for continued lessons in virtue and devotion to the Saints, and I think it would make a great addition to your home or classroom, especially as a read-aloud and a resource for great virtue related discussion starters.

The Catholic Table, Emily Stimpson Chapman {A+}
  • This is by far the best new nonfiction I have read in a long time.  Emily blogs at The Catholic Table, where she writes about life and food and hospitality and faith.  This book of the same title covers the same topics, but in an interwoven and introspective way that I did not expect when I first picked it up.
  • Emily takes food, the substance we all can't live with out, the thing many people obsess over, the item that we misuse frequently, and helps us see it through God's eyes.
  • The content of this book is just amazing.  She writes about food, but connects it to Creation, Theology of the Body, eating disorders, cooking, hospitality, family, friends, sacramentality, the Eucharist, and more.  Even better, the book is peppered with delicious recipes, stories of food miracles, and mini bios of Saints connected to special food patronages.  It was a delight.
  • I now would love to score an invite to one of Emily's dinner parties. ;)  And this cover! So beautiful! It was what first attracted me to reading it, and the image doesn't disappoint.
  • "Food isn't just about calories and fat, vitamins and minerals, additives and preservatives.  It's about God.  It's about community.  It's about life.  Food is one of God's most precious gifts, a sign of the Lord's goodness, abundance, creativity, and love.  Most important, it's the very thing that God becomes for us in the Eucharist."
  • I loved it so much, I am convincing my young adult group to lead a Bible study series on the topics Emily presents.  In the meantime, I want more people to read this book.  I think that it will be especially poignant for wives & moms seeking meaning and everyday theology in the daily tasks of providing for people.  But really, I think that this book is for anyone who eats and wants to know why God gave us food and how He is using it to draw us back to Him.  

Austenland, Shannon Hale, {B}
  • I reread this one Saturday in January when I had the rare luxury of staying home most of the weekend.  You know I love all things Austen, and Austenland is probably my favorite fun adaptation.
  • I first picked this up because I LOVE Shannon Hale's writing, both personally and for my students.  My favorite by far is The Goose Girl (and series) and I also really like The Princess Academy. She's a Newbery Honor author, so when I found that she was also was writing some chick-lit Jane Austen stories, I had to read it. 
  • Jane is a modern day woman whose life has been overtaken by her love for Jane Austen, Pride & Prejudice, Mr. Darcy, and Colin Firth.  She receives an incredible vacation as a gift- but that vacation is to Pembrook Park, a themed Inn that immerses its guests in the life of Regency England.  Complete with no electronics, costumes, balls, and actors playing the part of doting gentlemen, she hopes the trip will cure her of her Austen obsession.
  • "It is a truth universally acknowledged that a thirty-something woman in possession of a satisfying career and fabulous hairdo must be in want of very little, and Jane Hayes, pretty enough and clever enough, was certainly thought to have little to distress her."
  • The movie is fun as well, but I like the book better- shocking, I know.  If you like Jane Austen at all- even just the movies- and are looking for a light-hearted read, you will enjoy this book.

A Lantern in Her Hand, Bess Streeter Aldrich, {A+}
  • This book made me cry on an airplane. Well, I was leaving my sister and nephew behind, so I suppose the tears are not that unexpected, but seriously, real tears.  If you've read some of my other Katie Reads posts, you know that Little House has forever made me love Pioneer Lit.  A Lantern in Her Hand has become a new favorite.
  • Chronicling the lifetime of Abbie Deal through the hardships and triumphs of pioneer life in the unsettled Nebraska territory, we get to read about the 80 years in her lifetime.  While the first half or so of the book read a little like a series of events, the further I got into the book (and the older Abbie grew) the more introspective and thought provoking it became.
  • A White Bird Flying, the sequel about Abbie's granddaughter Laura, is now on my wishlist.
  • "'I think it's a nice memory, Grandma, but something about the way you say it makes me sad.'  'But it's not sad, Laura.  My memories are not sad. They're pleasant.  I'm happy when I'm living them over. You'll find out when you get old, Laura, that some of the realities seem dreams... but the old dreams, Laura, ... the dreams are all real.'"
  • Don't judge the terribly nineties cover- I'd love to see a redesign more accurately representing the era in which it was published (1928) or the setting of the story.  As I'm posting this, the paperback is only $2.99 on Amazon! Go grab yourself a copy and reflect on the lifetime of hard work and self sacrifice lived out by the generations before us.
There's all my new recommendations!  My to-read list grows longer and longer, so I'm almost afraid to ask...but what do you think I should read next?


  1. I loved seeing your reviews. I'm adding a couple of your choices to my to-read list. :)

    I just finished "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" for the first time and enjoyed it. A great followup to ATGIB is The Mighty Miss Malone. It's a juvenile book, but still so good.

    1. Thanks, Alicia! Let me know what you think of the ones you read!
      I have never read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn! That seems like a great one to add to my TBR list :)

  2. Oh I loved the Blue Castle, too! I'd never have found it, or Miss Prim, without Fountains of Carrots! Yay!

    A Lanetern in Her Hand! Yesss! I read that as a kid; my grandma and I shared a love of Pioneer stories and it makes me think of her. I HAVE to reread it now. Thank you!!!

    1. Fountains of Carrots (either Christy and Haley or the Facebook group) has been where I have found some of my favorite books lately! I just loved the Blue Castle and am glad you did too!
      And as a kid who thought I had read-all-the-pioneer-books, I am realizing as an adult I was missing out on a lot. Those days before the internet limited me to what was on my school library shelves. :)

    2. My grandma was a teacher and a librarian, so that helped! ;)

  3. Also! I'm not done with it yet but I'm loving The Family That Overtook Christ by M. Raymond. It was recommended by a beloved, holy priest as his favorite book and it is not disappointing.

  4. Great choices... you've def. added to my reading list. And that pic with St Gianna's daughter!! WHOA!!!! What a special moment!!! #godlyjealousy

  5. I read the first 3 and loved them too! I was especially surprised with how much I enjoyed The Blue Castle. The movie Austenland was hilarious and I had no idea there was a book so thank you for that bit of info :) This week I finished Everyone Brave is Forgiven which I recommend if you're into WWII novels.

    1. I love WWII novels! I've heard of that one, but just added it to my wishlist. Thanks! Have you read All the Light We Cannot See or the Nightingale? They are in a couple of my older reviews and make my list of top WWII fiction!

    2. I've read both of those and they are definitely at the top of my list too! Everyone Brave is Forgiven isn't as good as those, but I still enjoyed it.

  6. I'm never going to live long enough to read all the books I want to read and this isn't helping. :) thanks for the recommendations, Katie!!

    1. I know! Do you think heaven is filled with libraries? ;)