Three on a Theme: Jane Eyre

My in-person book club reads an annual “book flight,” inspired by a post at Modern Mrs. Darcy.

This year the theme voted on by our members was Jane Eyre. (I’m excited about this, as I didn’t think it would be the winner, but it was my pick).

The first book in our trio is, not surprisingly, Jane Eyre.

For a reimagining of the Jane Eyre story, we’ll also read Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye. What sort of reimagining? Well, Jane is a serial killer, so I’m guessing a pretty creative one.

The final book in our flight is the 2016 biography Charlotte Brontë: A Fiery Heart, by Claire Harman. I’m hoping we gain a new appreciation for Brontë’s work through looking at her life and times.

I can’t wait to dive into these three, which is good because, at over 1500 pages between the three, I need to get moving on reading them before our October meeting where we’ll be discussing them. 🙂

Find Jane Eyre: Print | Kindle | Audible | Nook | Goodreads

Find Jane Steele: Print | Kindle | Audible | Nook | Goodreads

Find Charlotte Brontë: A Fiery Heart: Print | Kindle | Audible | Nook | Goodreads

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Introducing April’s Book Club Selection: Dark Matter


Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

What’s It About?

(Description from Goodreads)

“Are you happy with your life?”

Those are the last words Jason Dessen hears before the masked abductor knocks him unconscious.

Before he awakens to find himself strapped to a gurney, surrounded by strangers in hazmat suits.

Before a man Jason’s never met smiles down at him and says, “Welcome back, my friend.”

In this world he’s woken up to, Jason’s life is not the one he knows. His wife is not his wife. His son was never born. And Jason is not an ordinary college physics professor, but a celebrated genius who has achieved something remarkable. Something impossible.

Is it this world or the other that’s the dream? And even if the home he remembers is real, how can Jason possibly make it back to the family he loves? The answers lie in a journey more wondrous and horrifying than anything he could’ve imagined—one that will force him to confront the darkest parts of himself even as he battles a terrifying, seemingly unbeatable foe.

From the author of the bestselling Wayward Pines trilogy, Dark Matter is a brilliantly plotted tale that is at once sweeping and intimate, mind-bendingly strange and profoundly human—a relentlessly surprising science-fiction thriller about choices, paths not taken, and how far we’ll go to claim the lives we dream of.

Why Was This Title Selected

I wanted a thriller for the year, and one that would be super readable and accessable for those who don’t typically read that genre. Buzz I was hearing about the book led me to think this would be a compelling, thought-provoking read that would promote a great discussion!

Anything Else to Know About It?

The discussion will begin soon in the Facebook group, and you’re welcome to come and join us.

If you haven’t read it yet, there’s still time for you to join us – it’s a very quick read, so you should be able to get it read and then join in on the discussion. Heads-up though that I’d stay away from the chat about it until you’ve finished the book; it’d be an easy one to spoil and you’ll miss out on a lot of the fun if you know too much about it before reading it.

It’s available in Print, for Kindle or Nook, or via Audible.

What’s Coming Up in May?

hannah-coulterHannah Coulter by Wendell Berry

What’s it about? An elderly farmwife looks back on her life and world.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Nook | Audible | Goodreads
(Note that you can get the Audible version for a reduced price if you buy the Kindle version first.)

See all the books we’ll be reading in 2017 here.

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My Easter Basket Plans

Surprising absolutely no one, my kids are getting books. They’re also getting items for our trip to Florida in May that they’ll need anyway.

I thought briefly about getting them sticker books for the drive but realized that giving them now means they’d probably have them used up before we leave.

For G (age 7 1/2)

The Usborne Outdoor BookThe Usborne Outdoor Book. He is all about Cub Scouts lately, and headed into summer I think he’ll have a lot of fun with the ideas in this one.

I’m also getting him light-weight pjs, and flip-flops or crocs or some sort of shoe that will work well for the pool on our upcoming vacation. I’m also looking at a Cardinals t-shirt for him, because he doesn’t know it but he’s going to a baseball game in April. Not to see the Cardinals, but I know he’ll still want to represent his team. 🙂

For H (age 5 1/2)

Fingerprint Activities BackyardFingerprint Activities Book
She loves anything arts & crafts related, and I love when she can entertain herself. We both win with this one!

She’s getting new pjs as well, plus a new bathing suit as well as pool-friendly shoes. And a dress for Easter, because I can’t resist.

For M (age 2 1/2)

Little Bear Needs GlassesLittle Bear Needs Glasses
She LOVES All Better, and this is a related title. Reusable glasses! I’m sure she’ll love it.

She doesn’t need pjs, or a bathing suit (or a dress, really), but assuming the sale hasn’t ended before I can put my order in, I’ll be getting her a new dress for Easter too. I don’t want ALL of her clothes to always be hand-me-downs. She does need pool-friendly shoes though because her sister’s old ones broke.

All of their baskets will have some candy as well, but my intent is to not have too much of that. I feel somewhat sneaky using items we’d be buying anyway (like for vacation) as basket-filler, but I don’t think they’ll complain.

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Lost in Shangri-La by Mitchell Zuckoff

lost-in-shangri-laLost in Shangri-La: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II by Mitchell Zuckoff

I’ve read so much about World War II but I love that I can still come across new-to-me stories on some aspect of the war. The latest? A rescue mission in New Guinea that had me reading sections out loud to my husband (always a sign of an interesting book). What an incredible story!

The book is filled with photographs, which helps visualize the people and setting. One drawback to reading the book on my Kindle is that the included map was too small to be of much use, so keep that in mind if you’re debating which format.

Zuckoff does a decent job of bringing the individuals to life, but there isn’t as strong an emotional connection with any of them as the very best narrative nonfiction provides. I did appreciate his follow-up interviews in New Guinea, and assume he did the best he could with the historical record available.

There are some definite moments of “can you believe this!” that could lead to a fun discussion, and make me think it would be a good choice as a book club selection.

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

Publisher’s Description:

On May 13, 1945, twenty-four American servicemen and WACs boarded a transport plane for a sightseeing trip over Shangri-La, a beautiful and mysterious valley deep within the jungle-covered mountains of Dutch New Guinea. Unlike the peaceful Tibetan monks of James Hilton’s bestselling novel Lost Horizon, this Shangri-La was home to spear-carrying tribesmen, warriors rumored to be cannibals. But the pleasure tour became an unforgettable battle for survival when the plane crashed.

Miraculously, three passengers pulled through. Margaret Hastings, barefoot and burned, had no choice but to wear her dead best friend’s shoes. John McCollom, grieving the death of his twin brother also aboard the plane, masked his grief with stoicism. Kenneth Decker, too, was severely burned and suffered a gaping head wound.

Emotionally devastated, badly injured, and vulnerable to the hidden dangers of the jungle, the trio faced certain death unless they left the crash site. Caught between man-eating headhunters and enemy Japanese, the wounded passengers endured a harrowing hike down the mountainside–a journey into the unknown that would lead them straight into a primitive tribe of superstitious natives who had never before seen a white man or woman.

Drawn from interviews, declassified U.S. Army documents, personal photos and mementos, a survivor’s diary, a rescuer’s journal, and original film footage, Lost in Shangri-La recounts this incredible true-life adventure for the first time. Mitchell Zuckoff reveals how the determined trio–dehydrated, sick, and in pain–traversed the dense jungle to find help; how a brave band of paratroopers risked their own lives to save the survivors; and how a cowboy colonel attempted a previously untested rescue mission to get them out.

By trekking into the New Guinea jungle, visiting remote villages, and rediscovering the crash site, Zuckoff also captures the contemporary natives’ remembrances of the long-ago day when strange creatures fell from the sky. A riveting work of narrative nonfiction that vividly brings to life an odyssey at times terrifying, enlightening, and comic, Lost in Shangri-La is a thrill ride from beginning to end.

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Goodreads Hack: Creating a “Not Going to Read” Shelf

bookworm-hacks-not-interested-shelfYou do know about creating additional exclusive shelves on Goodreads, yes?

The exclusive shelves are the ones where a book can only be on one of them – the defaults are “Read” “Want to Read” and “Currently Reading.” I’ve since added three of my own – “Never Finished” “Paused” and “Not Interested.”

Why did I make a “Not Interested” shelf?

I debated this one a long time, as I was concerned that it could seem mean in a way: I am not going to read a lot of books, so why was it necessary to highlight certain titles that I’m not going to try?

What eventually swayed me to do it is that there are some books that I keep looking at, and then remembering “no, I already checked it out and passed on it.” I want to save my time and have it already in my Goodreads account as a “not for me.”

And that’s what this shelf is: a not for me shelf. If you see a favorite book of yours on the shelf, it’s not that I’m saying I think it’s a bad one. Simply, it’s not one I want to read. Perhaps it’s got some themes I don’t enjoy, or maybe I’ve read too many that are similar and don’t want another one.

It’s already been handy, and I’m wishing I hadn’t waited so long to create it.

Have you added any extra exclusive shelves to your Goodreads account?

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

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Ready Player OneReady Player One by Ernest Cline

My in-person book club’s pick back in January, and I was so sad to miss that meeting thanks to a sick child. The book was compelling, and it seemed like it would lend itself to a fascinating discussion.

There’s a bit more to enjoy about the book if you’re familiar with 80’s pop culture – movies, music, and video games especially. While I was alive for all of the 80’s, I was either too young to be aware of some of the items, or too sheltered (or a mix). I know I missed some of the references, but I had fun asking my husband about them.

That said, you don’t need to be familiar with 80’s pop culture to enjoy the book, or even be a fan of science fiction. It was a fascinating look at a society that I hope isn’t in our future. Wade was an appealing main character, and if you listen to the audio version, Wil Wheaton is fantastic at narrating the story.

Thinking of it for a book club?

It’s also fantastic as a book club discussion book, or so my book club friends tell me. I’m told the discussion was so rich it could have filled a second meeting. It’s also one that’s easy to recommend for readers who don’t usually read science fiction. Our book club likes to expand our typical reading choices, but not so far that no one wants to read the book. Ready Player One worked well for that!

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

Publisher’s Description:
In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he’s jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade’s devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world’s digital confines, puzzles that are based on their creator’s obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them. When Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade’s going to survive, he’ll have to win—and confront the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.

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Cooking the Book: Swedish Visiting Cake

Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie GreenspanOne of my favorite cookbooks (as I mentioned in one of my earliest posts), but it was after making the cake for my book club’s tea party and having two people request the recipe that I realized it’d be nice to have it shared here as well.

I have made a few changes to the way Greenspan wrote the recipe in her cookbook (I promise I made it her way the first few times). I always omit her optional almond extract, because I hate almond extract, and I up the vanilla extract. I rarely have fresh lemons, so I almost always substitute lemon essential oil for the zest of one lemon, and I changed the order for how ingredients are mixed, to make it even easier on me.

How I Now Make “Swedish Visiting Cake”:

1 cup (200 grams) sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
4 drops lemon essential oil* OR zest from one lemon
2 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 stick (8 Tablespoons) butter, melted and cooled
1 cup (120 grams) all purpose flour
about 1/4 cup sliced almonds

Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter a 9-inch cake pan.

Combine sugar and lemon essential oil or zest. Mix together. Add eggs, one at a time, and mix thoroughly. Add salt and vanilla extract and stir well. Stir in butter, and then add flour and mix until just combined.

Pour into prepared cake pan and sprinkle top with sliced almonds and extra sugar. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes or until golden.


My verdict:

Love this cake. It’s easy to make, quick to bake, can be made with pantry ingredients only, and lasts well.

The kids’ verdict:

It’s cake. They’re kids. What’s not to like?

See all the Cooking the Book reviews and recipes I’ve shared..

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Goodreads

* If you’re baking or cooking with essential oils, please make sure you’re using ones that are safe for consumption. I use and recommend Young Living, because of their standards, and they have a special line of oils just for dietary purposes.

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Homeschooling Update: All About Spelling is Amazing

all-about-spellingI wrote about how impressed I was with All About Spelling after completing Level 1 , but I never gave any other updates about it.

My son has now finished Level 2 and Level 3, and I still have nothing but positive things to say about it!

The spelling rules are all presented in such an easy-to-understand manner, and each lesson focuses on one rule. It makes it very easy for him to progress as it’s such a nicely incremental program. I continue to learn the reasons behind why certain words are spelled that way (I had zero phonics instruction in school, and the only reason I could ever spell at all was because of reading so much that I often could just “look” at a word and know if it looked ok or not).

Easy to Use

I’m a member of several homeschooling online groups, and one concern I hear regularly in regards to All About Spelling is that it takes too long, and is too involved. I absolutely do NOT find that to be the case at all. We usually spend 10 to 15 minutes a day on spelling, using nothing more than the book and a piece of paper. Most “steps” (think lesson levels) take 3 or 4 days to complete at that rate.

Yes, if you pull out the letter tiles to build every word it’ll take longer, but that hasn’t been necessary for us since Level 1. For Level 3 the only time he used the letter tiles was during the lesson on contractions. For that lesson it was helpful to use the tiles and show how the contraction was formed.

The majority of the time he spells the words and sentences out loud to me. I only have him write for the last part of the lesson, when he’s given a word and has to create a sentence for it.

Looking to Economize?

You could easily get by without purchasing the student packet, and simply use the teachers manual. While that means you won’t get the review cards, the program can be done without them, especially since the words on the cards are all listed in the manual. If you wanted review cards it’d be easy enough to make your own on index cards. I make do by noting in my planner when my son needs to review a word.

Doing without the student packet will also mean you won’t get the progress chart, or some other handouts. None of them are essential, but you could create your own (or download them from the All About Spelling website). All in all, the student packet makes things easier, but it can be done without it.

The manual is also completely reusable for younger children. All I’ll have to do is erase the penciled check marks I added to keep track of where he was, and it’s ready to use for his sisters. I’ll download and print a new progress chart for each of them, and get stickers for them to mark their progress (assuming they’re motivated by stickering progress charts; my son definitely is).

One of His Favorites

My son is not always a completely enthusiastic student (I hear rumors that those do exist in the homeschool world), but he is almost always enthusiastic about doing spelling. It’s such a quick lesson, and he likes making steady progress through the program. He’s already talking about when he finishes Level 4, and we only started it this week..

I can’t recommend this program enough. It’s an excellent method of teaching spelling, and the way the program is laid out it’s incredibly easy to teach. I love it.

Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post, and I didn’t receive this program for free – I paid for it myself – I just LOVE this program. So much so that I am an affiliate for it, which means that if you buy the program using my link I may receive a percentage of the cost at no additional cost to you. And then I use any money I make to buy more books and homeschooling supplies which I talk about here. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

Recommended Nonfiction Reads

A quick look at four nonfiction books I’ve finished recently. Or, somewhat recently at least, and haven’t written full posts about them, so a quick comment about them is better than ignoring them completely.

GruntGrunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War by Mary Roach

Typical of her style, with a funny narrative and look into military technology. If you’re a fan of her previous books, you’ll like this one. if you don’t enjoy her approach, this one won’t convert you.

Don’t think she’s just writing for laughs though, as I always learn something from her books, and she gives great shareable tidbits of info that I repeat to my husband. Just … not necessarily at the dinner table or in front of the kids. 🙂

What IfWhat If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe

Get the audio version, as it’s read by Wil Wheaton and he’s a great narrator. I didn’t follow all of the science behind a few of the sections (and didn’t even try to; I’m not that interested in the specifics of the topic) but I still enjoyed the oddness of the questions and the seriousness of his answers.

Sleep SmarterSleep Smarter: 21 Essential Strategies to Sleep Your Way to A Better Body, Better Health, and Bigger Success by Shawn Stevenson

Packed with great suggestions for how to get better sleep (and why you should care). I’ve made some of the changes, and can tell when I start breaking too many of the “best sleep practices.” Highly recommended.

animal-vegetable-miracle Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver, Steven L. Hopp, and Camille Kingsolver

A fascinating look at their year of eating locally, and it promoted a great discussion in my book club. While I don’t think it’s completely realistic to expect to follow her example exactly, it was motivating to consider what changes I can make in our current food habits.

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Cover Love: Emma

Emma was first published in 1815, so there have been almost endless cover versions. To give some limit to the ones I shared today, I stuck with English-language ones published since 2000, with one exception for a 1998 Dover version that I thought was especially pretty.

Pictures are shared in date order, beginning in 1998 and ending with two 2015 200th anniversary edition covers.


See all posts in the “Cover Love” series.

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

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