7 Quick Takes in September 2016

Seven Quick Takes

— 1 —

Roughly one year ago I was still hunting for a church for us. Fast forward one year and I’m now regularly attending two churches. We have the one that I consider our home on Sunday morning, but it is SMALL, and my kids have asked to go to another one on Saturday night which has LOTS of kids. So I take them on Saturday night and then we go as a family on Sunday morning. And then on Sunday evening the kids go to Awana at yet a THIRD church. We should be well covered with varying church traditions, as they’re all different denominations (or no denomination at all).

— 2 —

AWANA started back up on recently. I now have two Sparks, and one still in the nursery, as she missed the Puggles cutoff by 18 days. I think she would have loved being a Puggle, and would have done well at it, but they do not budge on their cutoff dates. It was *almost* enough to make me switch back to our old Awana location, especially because we’re going to run into the same issue next year – she’ll miss the Cubbies cutoff by 18 days. Which will mean that she either only does one year of Cubbies or she doesn’t start Sparks as a Kindergartener.

I realize it seems like I’m overthinking it and need to relax, but I do have some extra reasons for wishing she’d made the cutoff this year. Ok, one big reason – potty training! The nursery isn’t set up to handle potty-training kids and I’m thinking before the year ends she will have reached that point.

— 3 —

Due to rainouts we’ve had makeup dates for two soccer games. It ends up meaning games on Saturday morning and then games on Sunday afternoon, and adding that second set of games makes for a really busy weekend. The Sunday afternoon time also conflicts with naptime, which is not ideal, and R isn’t a fan of them because they conflict with football. At least the season is almost over!

— 4 —

I joined a women’s Bible study through church (the Sunday morning one; guess I need to specify. Ha.) It meets weekly and has around 2 hours of homework each week, and I’ve already missed once because I can’t keep up.

I’m thinking I need to concede that it’s not working right now – 2 hours of work that has to be done when kids are occupied and I’m not exhausted (i.e., so I have working brain cells) is a large amount of the kid-free time work time I have each week.

— 5 —

Book club retreat is NEXT WEEK. I meant to search for Harry Potter-themed meal ideas, to forward to the ones planning the menu, but never managed it. I did buy something to bring to the retreat, and I’ll share it once I return (trying to keep the surprise since I know a couple of the book club members read my blog).

— 6 —

I thought I had all of my book club books picked for next year, and then realized I had 13 selected. Plus I forgot to look at page counts, and I don’t want to run into another Count of Monte Cristo behemoth. So, time to update my list and verify lengths and then maybe looking at the calendar and thinking about when each book would fit into an overall reading calendar may make it obvious which one has to go.

— 7 —

Burial RitesThe best book I’ve finished recently was Burial Rites, although I have to admit that it’s not an easy one to read. It’s powerful, and gripping, and heart-wrenching. It makes me very grateful I didn’t live in Iceland in the early 19th century, but it does make me wish I could take a Summer trip to visit.

For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t The Lyceum!

Previously on The Deliberate Reader

One year ago: Book Review: The Martian by Andy Weir
Three years ago: Most Memorable Books

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

Book Review: A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny

A Fatal GraceA Fatal Grace by Louise Penny

Book number two in the Chief Inspector Gamache series, and I do love the setting for these books. Penny is amazing at bringing the location to life – not only the village which is so appealing, but in this book the time of year almost becomes a character in the story as well. She’s so convincing that I’d look up from reading and feel surprised that there wasn’t snow outside.

If anything, the flaws are that the setting is too perfect – Three Pines seems unbelievably quaint and charming. Even the village curmudgeon is beloved. The murder victim is also an extreme – so hateful, so mean-spirited, so vicious, it’s hard not to root for her killer to get away with it as a kind of public service.

I should probably pace myself with the series, as some of the aspects of the books will likely begin to annoy me if I binge read them. However, I am so curious as to what’s going to happen with a few of them I’m not sure how successful I’ll be at that plan. As I write this post I’m already about a quarter of the way through book #3.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Audible | Nook | Goodreads

Publisher’s Description:
Welcome to winter in Three Pines, a picturesque village in Quebec, where the villagers are preparing for a traditional country Christmas, and someone is preparing for murder.

No one liked CC de Poitiers. Not her quiet husband, not her spineless lover, not her pathetic daughter—and certainly none of the residents of Three Pines. CC de Poitiers managed to alienate everyone, right up until the moment of her death.

When Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, of the Sûreté du Québec, is called to investigate, he quickly realizes he’s dealing with someone quite extraordinary. CC de Poitiers was electrocuted in the middle of a frozen lake, in front of the entire village, as she watched the annual curling tournament. And yet no one saw anything. Who could have been insane enough to try such a macabre method of murder—or brilliant enough to succeed?

Previously on The Deliberate Reader

One year ago: Responses to the Reader Survey, part 1
Four years ago: Review: Enough by Will Davis Jr.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

Goodreads Hacks: Using a Secret Group

Goodreads imageOne of the things I have wished Goodreads offers is a way to make a shelf of books private. Not my entire profile, but just some titles, for when I’m working on projects.

Why yes, this is especially on my mind right now because of planning for book club next year. I want the choices to be a surprise, so I can’t exactly make a shelf and call it “2017 book club possibilities” and keep the suspense.

Enter a secret group. From my computer (I can’t get it to work from the app, unfortunately), I created a new group with only me as a member. Then I pulled in all the titles I’m considering. And, while it doesn’t matter quite as much with this year (I’m in the final stages of selecting), I’m already making plans to use it for next year: I can add titles throughout the year and have them ready to consider next fall when I begin finalizing plans for 2018.

The only downside that I have found with this is that it doesn’t work on the app. I can’t create the groups on the app, and I can’t see the bookshelves I’ve filled via the app. So, it’s not a perfect solution, but it’s better than nothing.

If you’ve figured out a better workaround to the lack of private shelf options in Goodreads (besides a piece of paper kept offline), please let me know!

Previously on The Deliberate Reader

Two years ago: Homeschooling Update: Teaching Reading with All About Reading
Three years ago: Book Review: The Well-Educated Mind by Susan Wise Bauer
Four years ago: Review: Blackout / All Clear by Connie Willis

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

Quick Lit: Recent Middle-Grade and YA Reads

The PenderwicksThe Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy by Jeanne Birdsall

As I mentioned on my Instagram, I would have LOVED this book as a kid. LOVED IT. It’s funny and imaginative and the girls make it sound like being a Penderwick is so much fun. As an adult reading it, I can see lots of flaws with it, so I’m still debating how to rate it on Goodreads. A 5-Star book for kids, and a 3-Star read for me. Read it to your kids, let them read it themselves, or read it yourself and try and channel your inner 10 year old.

Looking for AlibrandiLooking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta

Read during my Australia books binge, and the premise sounded like it was going to be just another typical coming-of-age story. Although it could have been completely cliched, Josephine is such an appealing character she turns the book into something much more than I expected. Nicely written, and it deserved a better cover for the American version than it got. There are some mature themes in it, so be aware of that if you’ve got younger teens interested in it.

An Uncertain ChoiceAn Uncertain Choice by Jody Hedlund

Light historical romance. I usually enjoy Hedlund’s books, but didn’t like this one (her first YA novel) as much. There are two more in the series but I’m unlikely to pick them up. Disclaimer: I don’t typically like romance novels so if you do and think this one sounds good, I’d give it a try. I wanted more emphasis on the history and less on the romance angle, and the plot was WAY too predictable.

The School for Good and EvilThe School of Good and Evil by Soman Chainani, illustrated by Iacopo Bruno

I’d heard RAVES about this book so I stuck with it even when I wasn’t enjoying it, thinking it had to get better. Sadly, no, it didn’t. I love fractured fairy tales, and while I loved the premise of this, it was dreadful. Derivative, repetitive, with awful messages – it makes me wonder what other people were seeing in it to like it so much. I’m dumbfounded that it was a best seller.

Please don’t waste your reading time, and please don’t give it to your daughter(s) to read. Want to know more details about why not? This gif-heavy review summarizes my main issues with the book. A heads-up though that there’s some language in it if that offends you, and it’s loaded with spoilers.

For more peeks at what people are reading, head over to Modern Mrs. Darcy’s link-up!

Previously on The Deliberate Reader

One year ago: Quick Lit: Recent Middle Grade and Young Adult Books
Two years ago: Quick Lit: Recent Christian Reads (2014)
Three years ago: Quick Lit: Recent Christian Reads (2013)

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend paperbackThe Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald

I wanted to love this book. The premise is fun, and the emphasis on books seems like it be a definite winner.


The premise and emphasis on books is all that keeps this from turning into a rant about the book, and as it is I can’t believe it’s a best seller. The supposed “charm” of the book felt fake and ridiculous, the characters were so cardboard I had a hard time remembering who they were, and the resolution was contrived and cringe-worthy. There’s also a side-plot that was impossible to believe, and some dangling plot elements that annoyed me to no end. As if that wasn’t enough, it was way too long and drew out what littleaction there was with tons of padding. I like big books, but I don’t want them to be long and boring. This one? Kind of boring.

Often after I finish a book I disliked I find myself perusing Goodreads reviews to see if I’m the only one with those negative opinions. Typically I can find other negative reviews (like this one) that capture the issues I had with the book, which is always satisfying. Yes! It wasn’t just me!

As disappointed as I was in this book, I would keep an eye out for future titles by Bivald – this was a debut and I can hope that the issues I had would improve with more experience. I feel like she’s got the potential there, and this one had potential as well. It just didn’t happen.

Not recommended. Save your reading time.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Nook | Audible | Goodreads

Publisher’s Description:
Once you let a book into your life, the most unexpected things can happen…

Broken Wheel, Iowa, has never seen anyone like Sara, who traveled all the way from Sweden just to meet her pen pal, Amy. When she arrives, however, she finds that Amy’s funeral has just ended. Luckily, the townspeople are happy to look after their bewildered tourist—even if they don’t understand her peculiar need for books. Marooned in a farm town that’s almost beyond repair, Sara starts a bookstore in honor of her friend’s memory.

All she wants is to share the books she loves with the citizens of Broken Wheel and to convince them that reading is one of the great joys of life. But she makes some unconventional choices that could force a lot of secrets into the open and change things for everyone in town. Reminiscent of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, this is a warm, witty book about friendship, stories, and love.

Book Details

Title: The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend
Author: Katarina Bivald
Category: Fiction
My Rating: 2 Stars

Previously on The Deliberate Reader

One year ago: Cover Love: The Well of Lost Plots

Disclosure: I was provided with a copy of this book to review by NetGalley (although I actually read a library copy because the NetGalley copy wasn’t cooperating with my Kindle). I was not required to post a positive review (I guess that’s probably pretty obvious though), and all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links – thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

Planning for 2017’s Book Club

book club planning

The Original Plan

In a post not long ago, I mentioned the planning I had done about possible books for my in-person book club to read in 2017. And I mentioned the next step was a survey for everyone to vote on what they wanted.

However, as I made the survey (and was reminded just. how. long. it. was) I couldn’t help but realize that for most people (i.e., everyone who isn’t obsessive about book possibilities like me), it was going to be completely overwhelming.

So. Rethinking things I realized that the main reason I wanted to pick all the books for that book club in advance was so I could be sure to pick different books for my Facebook book club. As last year there was a strong preference by everyone to know all the titles for the year in advance, I wanted to do that again. And that didn’t *really* require the in-person group to decide everything first.

New Plan

I will go ahead and pick what I want for my Facebook book club. My in-person book club will continue to pick books on a shorter lead time (although at least 3 months out, to provide plenty of time for everyone to acquire and read the books).

I’ve got a good start on that plan, and hope to announce those picks in late November, so anyone joining in will have all of December to read January’s pick.

Looking Ahead at 2017’s Books

As with this year’s selections, I’m intentionally picking books that I have *not* read, but am trying to read enough about them to ensure they’re going to be good discussion options.

Also like this year, I’m aiming for a mix of genres, and I think my biggest struggles so far has been picking the ONE option for various genres. I have two Science Fiction books that both seem like they’d be great – which one to choose? I have about 8 Fantasy possibilities, and need to really look into them to decide which will be selected. I’m scared to even do a final count of all of the Historical Fiction I’m considering – it’s a lot.

Previously on The Deliberate Reader

Three years ago: Book Review: WorkShift

A Book Club Dinner Party

Last Thursday was my in-person book club’s annual dinner party, one of my favorite nights of the year.

This year our book was My Life in France, so of course we had a French-themed dinner!

My Life in France dinner party meal(photo credit: Janet McNight)

We had beef bourguignon & garlic mashed potatoes, asparagus with hollandaise, Provencal tomatoes, green salad, and bread.

Plus macarons, chocolate cake, and wine. 🙂

It was, as always, a lovely evening.

While we don’t always match the menu to the book, it worked well this month, and it added quite a bit to the appreciation of the book to actually taste some of the items she described in it.

The only downside to the dinner party is I find we rarely discuss the book much, and I’m always happy that typically our book club actually discusses our books. We chatted briefly about the book, and the reality of trying to cook meals like that, but mostly we just socialized. By now we know that’s likely to happen at this meeting, and we choose our book for the month accordingly. 😉

It is a lovely book however, so don’t take our lack of discussion about it to mean that it’s not worth reading. It absolutely is, and you can read more about my thoughts on it in my original post about it from 2012.

Previously on The Deliberate Reader

Four years ago today I started this blog – thank you all so much for reading it!
Two years ago: Magic in the Mix
Three years ago: First Blog Birthday
Four years ago: Welcome to The Deliberate Reader

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

Homeschooling Update: One Month In to the 2016 – 2017 Year

We’re roughly one month into the new school year, and that’s been enough time to give some evaluation to how things are going.

So far, overall I’m fairly pleased with things. I still need to finish adding in a few subjects (like spelling for G), and I want to give H some more focused time on reading instruction. We’ve started that for her, but she wants more than she’s gotten so far. She seems ready to begin All About Reading 1 so it’s time to pull that out!

Last week was almost entirely half days – there was a dentist’s visit and two other days with doctor’s appointments. Tuesday was the only day that we did a full school day. I guess that happens at “real” school too.

Kindergarten Book StackAlthough I have a schedule for H to follow, we haven’t been following it that much. Instead I’m just pulling together a stack of books each day and doing the next thing in each one.

G sticks with the Sonlight schedule more, but I still find that I’m completely off track as far as where we are with various components. Week 8 in Science, week 19 in History, and I don’t even know in Language Arts.

This week G also finished up his Mathematical Reasoning book. I haven’t gotten the next one in the series – as much as I (we) loved those books in the younger levels, I don’t think they’re as good at older grades. I’m going to try to use Beast Academy (which we already have the first book) as his secondary math now. He does really well having two to flip between, so I want to keep that option, at least for now. That’s also likely to change as he keeps moving along.

Beast Academy 3AH is also almost done with her Mathematical Reasoning book – she should finish it next week. That’ll be about 5 weeks to complete the Pre-K book, and then I have the Kindergarten book ready to go. I like starting the kids at the lower level first, because it ends up being really easy for them, and they have fun with it and feel super confident. Not a bad way to start their math journey!

Awana starts up this weekend, so both kids will be back in the habit of scripture memory. Neither of them have done it at all since it ended last May. I’m ok with that. 🙂

Recent Readalouds: The Princess in Black series

Princess in Black 1 and 2

The Princess in Black and The Perfect Princess Party by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale, illustrated by LeUyen Pham

Books one and two of the series were birthday gifts to my daughter, and she loved them. I wasn’t sure how they’d be as readalouds – they’re suitable for somewhat newer readers, and sometimes those books can be painful to read aloud. I should have trusted Hale, as these were fun.

They are quite silly, but not in an obnoxious way, instead in a this-is-delightful-to-young-kids way. The illustrations are wonderful too, and there are lots of them, making this book a nice bridge between picture books and chapter books.

Princess Magnolia is appealing, and while I think the books were just about perfect for a 5 year old girl to listen to, my 7 year old son happily listened in as well. Admittedly, his favorite parts were when Magnolia is battling the monsters.

Book #3 releases in paperback just in time for Christmas (and I’ve already pre-ordered it), and the final book in the series releases in hardcover in November. I’m holding off on it only because the other books we’ll have will all be paperbacks, and it kind of bugs me to have the series be mismatched on our shelves. Fingers crossed that book #4 will be out in paperback before her next birthday in 2017.

They’re not books that I want to read aloud again and again and again, but it’s fun to read them a handful of times, and then have my daughter “read” them herself is fantastic. I’m sure once she starts reading for real she’ll tackle these on her own again too.

Previously on The Deliberate Reader

Two years ago: Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson with Veronica Chambers
Three years ago: God’s Bestseller by Brian Moynahan

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

Death Wears a Mask by Ashley Weaver

Death Wears a MaskDeath Wears a Mask by Ashley Weaver

I was reminded of this series thanks to my own “on this date” posts (as found at the bottom of blog posts). Late in July, Weaver’s first book, Murder at the Brightwell, popped up which prompted me to go looking for the next book.

Once again I enjoyed the main character, and was entertained by the book. Although I am not super fond of the whole marriage-situation plot device, it’s not (currently) a deal-breaker as far as continuing to read the series. I have some concerns that it’s going to get really tedious if she doesn’t resolve it in some way, but I’ll read the next one and then decide if I’ll keep going (assuming the series keeps going).

The books are light and although this one isn’t as good as the debut, I’ll try the third, A Most Novel Revenge, after it releases in October. The description leads me to believe the marriage issues that so bugged me in book #2 might not be an issue in book #3 so here’s hoping. 🙂

(A heads-up if you’re interested in trying this series, book #1 is currently only $2.99 for Kindle.)

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Audible | Nook | Goodreads

Publisher’s Description:
Amory Ames is looking forward to a tranquil period of reconnecting with reformed playboy husband Milo after an unexpected reconciliation following the murderous events at the Brightwell Hotel. Amory hopes a quiet stay at their London flat will help mend their dysfunctional relationship. However, she soon finds herself drawn into another investigation when Serena Barrington asks her to look into the disappearance of valuable jewelry snatched at a dinner party.

Unable to say no to an old family friend, Amory agrees to help lay a trap to catch the culprit at a lavish masked ball hosted by the notorious Viscount Dunmore. But when one of the illustrious party guests is murdered, Amory is pulled back into the world of detection, enlisted by old ally Detective Inspector Jones. As she works through the suspect list, she struggles to fend off the advances of the very persistent viscount even as rumors swirl about Milo and a French film star. Once again, Amory and Milo must work together to solve a mystery where nothing is as it seems, set in the heart of 1930s society London.

Death Wears a Mask is the second novel in Ashley Weaver’s witty and stylish Amory and Milo Ames mystery series.

Previously on The Deliberate Reader

One year ago: Anniversary Week: A Look Back, a Look Around, and a Look Ahead

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!