To say that this post is overdue is quite an understatement. So many times I meant to sit down and type out an update on my 2021 reading goals and progress, to mention new books I’d read, to share my spiritual journey. But life got busy and I began opting for self-care like naps, workouts, and attending daily Mass instead of blogging. I did share many of my adventures from 2021 on my social media pages, so if we’re connected there you’re in the loop on what I’ve been up to. My biggest accomplishments of 2021 were meeting my goals of reading the entire Bible and still accomplishing my Goodreads goal for the year! That’s a whole lotta reading, and I’m so thankful I was able to complete both goals.
After a couple of years considering joining Book of the Month, I finally did it! I was so excited to get my first blue box. Picking my first book was not easy, but when I read about a new book that is a reimagining of Jane Eyre, I couldn’t say no.
When I heard the title The Wife Upstairs, it definitely reminded me of Jane Eyre and for good reason. The Wife Upstairs is a contemporary reimagining of Jane Eyre set in the American south, Birmingham, Alabama to be specific. I’ve always loved Jane Eyre. I read it once in my twenties at my mom’s insistence that it was an amazing book (she was right!). Then I read it a couple more times in college while studying women in literature and English literature. Jane Eyre is one of my all-time favorite protagonists. In a time when women, especially young ladies, were expected to be silent and compliant, she was vocal, independent, and brave. Realizing that The Wife Upstairs drew inspiration from this classic and personal favorite, I couldn’t wait to start reading.
It’s hard to believe it’s March already! The first couple of months of 2021 turned out to be…shall we say…challenging? Of course I realized that things weren’t going to change drastically overnight with the turning of the calendar page, but I had high hopes for some return to normalcy. I do think we’re getting there. It just takes time. I’m going to cling to my optimism throughout the year and allow my faith to give me hope. And the year hasn’t started off all bad. I had two new books just release from Capstone Press! It’s always exciting to see a completed project in print!
I’m also happy to share that I’m sticking to my reading goals for this year. I’m current on episodes of the Bible in a Year podcast which means I’ve already read all of Genesis and Job, Exodus and Leviticus, parts of Proverbs and Psalms, and am currently reading Numbers and Deuteronomy. I have learned so much, and I can’t recommend this podcast enough! I’ve also read a cozy mystery, which was unfortunately a miss for me, a nonfiction book written by visionary Mirjana Soldo about her apparitions of the Blessed Mother in Medjugorje, and I just finished a terrific memoir by actress Maureen O’Hara about her life and career during the Golden Days of Hollywood. It proved to be funny and entertaining. I love her feistiness and her spirit!
In addition, I’ve been reading a lot of picture books for work, and today I’ll be reviewing a new picture book that I think needs to be read in every home and classroom in America. It’s called We Disagree by Bethanie Deeney Murguia. Truthfully, I’d love to see this book in the hands of several adults I know as well!
Well, 2020 is finally winding down. What a crazy year it’s been! Around this time last year, most of us were setting goals and resolutions and looking forward to what 2020 might bring. I don’t think any of us would have ever imagined the year that lay ahead. I had high hopes for 2020, and now looking back, I realize that while it was a difficult year, it was also a beautiful year for me personally.
2020 is the year I found my faith and was received into the Roman Catholic Church. In 2020, I maintained a healthy workout routine all year, not just for the first month or two, and that’s even with the closing of gyms during quarantine. My hubby and I welcomed two new fur babies into our home this year. The Buffalo Bills won their division for the first time in 25 years! And, to top it all off, I needed an unexpected surgery this fall (hence my long break from the blog), and as shocking as it was to need the surgery, it ended up bringing incredible healing to my body. I’m now living pain-free! So while it’s easy to look back on 2020 with contempt and dismiss it as “the worst year ever,” I’m trying my hardest to find the joy amid the sorrow.
Since converting to the Catholic faith, I’ve found myself splitting my reading time between entertainment and faith-based books. I find it’s a good balance between growing in my faith but also allowing myself time to relax and indulge in my favorite pastime. Lately I can’t seem to get enough apologetics! Catholic Answers and Dynamic Catholic are at the top of my list. I do have some fiction reads coming soon, including another new picture book. But today, I’d like to talk about a new faith-based favorite of mine, a book I think everyone should read: Why We’re Catholic, Our reasons for faith, hope, and love by Trent Horn.
I’ve been enjoying a variety of new books lately covering everything from children’s picture books to teen and YA to Catholic apologetics. I spent most of August checking out new releases in the YA genre. Some were hits, others were misses. But overall, summer YA releases were strong in my opinion. I loved Parachutes by Kelly Yang. It’s Ms. Yang’s debut YA novel, and I only hope she writes more. On the other hand, My Summer of Love and Misfortune by Lindsay Wong fell way short for me. I couldn’t connect with the main character or get into the story. It actually ended up being the rare DNF (did not finish) for me.
Fortunately, I finished the month strong with Girl, Unframed by Deb Caletti. This was my first read from Caletti, but I’m excited to see that she has many more books available. Girl, Unframed was a typical yet unique YA novel. All the elements were there – teens, first loves, relationships, drama. But the setting and the dynamic of the parent/ child relationship is different from most, which created an intriguing background for the story.
In June, I highlighted a phenomenal new picture book, Taste Your Words. It was the debut picture book from author Bonnie Clark. This month I am thrilled to recommend her new picture book, Catching Thoughts.
Catching Thoughts is an equally touching story about a young girl who learns an important lesson in self-care. Mental health and well-being is crucial, especially now as we all deal with the stresses and anxieties of this pandemic. Catching Thoughts is ideal for any kiddos who struggle with anxiety. I honestly think this book could help anxious youth and adults as well.
I’ve been on quite the spiritual journey for the last two years as I’ve studied the Christian faith. My studies led me to Catholicism, and I’ve been doing a deep dive into the faith and its teachings. This includes reading tons of books like the writings of the early Church Fathers, apologetics, and conversion stories. In addition to reading, I’ve discovered the awesomeness that is Catholic YouTube. Priests like Father Mike Schmitz and groups like Catholic Answers have answered so many questions I’ve had about the Catholic faith.
Not long ago, I discovered a YouTube video of a talk given by a man named Keith Nester. Keith was a Protestant pastor who had recently converted to the Catholic faith in 2017. In doing so, he left behind his church, his job, his livelihood, and even friends. If someone was willing to give up that much to convert to the Catholic faith, I figured his story must be worth listening to. It was!
I could relate to much of what Keith was saying. I started to search for more of his videos and, to my delight, discovered that he has his own YouTube channel! Not only does Keith offer incredible videos, but he recently published his first book, The Convert’s Guide to Roman Catholicism: Your First Year in the Church.
I will be sharing a few picture book reviews in the coming weeks as I have been fortunate enough to receive early copies of two upcoming releases, Catching Thoughts by Bonnie Clark and The Whatifs by Emily Kilgore. Both books deal with anxieties that kiddos face, a very important topic, especially given the current global pandemic.
I’ve been thinking about kiddos a lot lately and how difficult all of this must be for them to understand and to cope with. They had to end their school year early, they’ve had to be secluded from friends and relatives for weeks or months at a time, they are still restricted from some normal summer activities, and there is no definite answer about schools opening in the fall.
Now that bookstores and libraries are reopening, parents and kids have an exciting opportunity to get out of the house and explore some new stories. It’s also an exciting time for authors who’ve been waiting months to share their new stories with the world. Today, I’ll be highlighting Grown-ups Never Do That by Davide Cali, a timely tale with a much needed lesson for kids and a good reminder for adults too.
Like most people, my activities the last three months have consisted of working from home, weekly trips to the grocery store, and watching the news for signs of re-opening here in New York. I was beyond thrilled to finally get a haircut a couple of weeks ago and to see us moving into Phase 3 of re-opening this week, at least in my neck of the woods. The best part of Phase 3? Both my local library branch and my nearest Barnes and Noble have reopened!
There are some indie bookstores downtown that haven’t reopened yet, but I’ll take what I can get! While it was exciting to finally be in familiar and comforting surroundings, it was definitely a surreal experience. Today, I will share my experiences of visiting the library and bookstore in a post-pandemic world. If your local branches or bookstores haven’t reopened yet, you can probably get a good idea of what to expect based on what I observed at mine.