Reading and writing recap: 2017 thus far

We're just over halfway through with the year so I thought I'd do a little recap of how my reading and writing has been going this year. 

Reading

So far, I've read 41 books (or 43 according to GoodReads, not sure what my paper list is missing). I started to keep track of some with the hashtag #nicolelovesbooks on Instagram but since I read so many on Kindle (thru Overdrive/the library), I don't end up getting pics of many of the books I read. But I have done better at recording my books read on paper as well as on GoodReads, and I love having a pretty list to look at and reminisce about all the lovely books I've read. It's been a good reading year so far, with lots more to go. 

My currently reading/TBR includes: Present Over Perfect, Big Magic, The Girl from Everywhere (about a time traveling YA pirate girl), A Snicker of Magic, For Darkness Shows the Stars (a YA dystopian Persuasion re-dux), Ginny Moon, Echo, Some Kind of Happiness, At Home in the World, Much Ado About Anne, Chasing Slow, and Border Odyssey (stories from the US/Mexico border). My upcoming book club selection is an Agatha Christie, which will be my first of hers. And of course, the TBR list grows daily it seems. (So many books, so little time!)

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Around the fam-- David read and enjoyed Ready Player One (he liked it more than me but I am looking forward to the movie) and just started The Hunger Games (!!). The fact that he's reading more has me all swoony. ;) Gigi is reading lots (recently The Babysitters Club (originals and new graphic versions), The Mother-Daughter Book Club, Little Women (my childhood abridged copy) and lots more, and Brody has been devouring Magic Tree House books in order, along with lots of graphic novels, and most recently some of the easier Matt Christopher (who's actually a lady!) baseball books, like this one

Writing

In addition to my quarterly posts at The Art of Simple and what's become almost that infrequent here on my blog, I've been writing a lot (well, a lot for me). I finished my middle grade novel manuscript and have been editing and revising that and now I'm ready to submit it to Pitch Wars, a really cool contest and community. I've written a query letter and a synopsis and I have a couple more weeks to polish those up before entering in early August. 

My next project is flourishing in my mind but I haven't quite found/made the time to do much in the way of concrete outlining/plotting yet. It's a YA and I am really excited about bringing these characters' stories to life. 

{sometimes when you have a creepy dream and wake up early, you have to redeem the time and get to work!}

{sometimes when you have a creepy dream and wake up early, you have to redeem the time and get to work!}

Podcasts

If you're a reader, I'm sure you already know and love the What Should I Read Next? podcast, but another fun one I found recently is Overdue. Each episode the two hosts discuss one book, so I've downloaded a bunch about books I've read and they're quite entertaining. As for writing, I have been really loving the diyMFA podcast. Although, now that it's summer I'm pretty behind on my podcast listening-- something to look forward to when I'm driving to school and practices more in the fall. 

One last note...

I think I'll try to send a newsletter in the early fall with more thoughts on this, but after much prayer and consideration we decided to send Gigi to public school for 5th grade. She is thrilled. I'll still be homeschooling (part-time) Brody and Hallee for 1st and 2nd grade, which should be fun.

Hope you're enjoying your summer!

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YA, KidLit, cyborgs, & more {reading update!}

what i'm reading 2016 It was a good summer of reading! Now that we've entered fall, I thought it was time to update the ol' reading list here on the blog. I had a lot of fun with the audioblog in my last book update and after so good feedback, I decided to do another one. This audioblog will be available in my free newsletter, which will hit inboxes on Saturday, October 29th. (The newsletter is meant to be seasonal, but as it turns out this will be my first one of 2016-- oops!).

Read More Coverget the scoop

If you haven't already signed up, you can do so here. When you sign up, you will receive a free copy of my eBook, Read More, and you will also have access to my second audioblog... where I discuss all these books including which series has surprised me most (which will hit inboxes soon)!

So without further adieu, here is what I've been reading lately:

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I'd love to hear your thoughts if you've read any of these books! And don't forget you can listen to all my thoughts on these in my audioblog which will arrive via email on Saturday morning, Oct. 29, 2016. If you're reading this post after the newsletter goes out, just send me a quick email (hello @ nicolevbennett . com) and I'll forward it to you! :)

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Summer book club: Eight Hundred Grapes

Our lovely little book club met again this summer; this time to discuss the novel Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura Dave. sebastopol-ca

I really loved this book, not in the least due to my personal experience with the setting. The book takes place in the Northern California town of Sebastobol, which just happens to be the area where David grew up. He lived in Santa Rosa as a kid and went to an adorable little school in Sepastopol, so we have visited up there several times, and it's a beautiful place. It was very easy for me to picture the setting in my head, and I have a tendency to love a good setting like a character.

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We had a charming night discussing the book out on my back patio under the twinkle lights. Our book-themed meal was one of our best yet, so thanks Ms. Dave, for putting so many yummy things in your book! As usual we didn't all feel the same about the book but we had a great conversation around the story, theme, and character's choices.

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If you're curious about my book club, and are thinking about starting your own, I have just the resources for you. In addition to the post I wrote a while back on Mom Advice, I was a guest on The Simple Show podcast this summer and discussed my book club with my friend Tsh Oxenreider.

Disclosure: This post has affiliate links; thanks for your support and for reading!

What I've been reading: Early 2016

spring Winter has come and gone (praise hands from the summer-lover!), spring has officially sprung, and I realized I haven't shared the books I've been reading, or rather devouring, with you, not even once yet this year. Oops!

(I did share a bit about what we've been reading with the kids, and in our homeschool over on my homeschool blog, so you can check that out if you're curious.)

what i'm reading 2016

As for me, I have had the pleasure of enjoying some great books this year so far, including some good YA which has been fun to dip back into. I'll go ahead and dig right in to my recent books list...

Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen

I have enjoyed all of SAA's books and this one did not disappoint. It had a slightly darker feel to it (just in the sense of tackling deeper issues of the heart), which makes sense considering this was her first book after her battle with cancer (she's in remission now!). I loved the characters, and the setting, and I'm hoping she revisits them in another book.


Silver Bay by Jojo Moyes

Another good Moyes romance; I especially loved the setting-- on the water's edge in a seaside South African town, where the location was as much a character as the people. I always enjoy her multi-POV stories, as she has a real knack with changing voice seamlessly.


Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg

Lots of great writing inspiration in this book, even if it means wading through some serious zen-mumbo-jumbo to find it. The chapters are short, the writing prompts are fun, and she's very encouraging to the writer-dreamer. I was greatly inspired to start writing in a notebook-- someday I hope that will actually become a daily discipline.


First Frost (Waverley Family, #2) by Sarah Addison Allen

A friend who is also a big SAA fan couldn't get into this one as much but I really enjoyed it. Similarly to The Girl Who Chased the Moon (my fave of her books), she follows both an adolescent (Bay, grown up from when we met her in Garden Spells) and some adult characters in this one, giving it a little YA flair. (I always love returning to characters I befriended before, so I'm probably not as critical as some when it comes to follow-up novels.)


Mr. Kiss and Tell (Veronica Mars, #2) by Rob Thomas

I was incredibly disappointed to find that Kristen Bell did not read this audiobook like she did the first. I almost had to turn it off because the narrator started out so droll, but as I got into it, I found she did a great job of changing her voice for different characters. The story was captivating and well-written but would probably say I liked the first one better. Here's hoping Rob Thomas keeps going with these books because I love Veronica so much that I don't want this series to end.


The Lake House by Kate Morton

This was our last book club pick. It was a great title to discuss-- Morton always gives us lots to talk about. I don't want to say too much because that's just how her books are, but this was more of an actual mystery (and the main character was in fact a mystery writer). Lots of people love this one, but I'll go on record and say it was really good, but I liked The Secret Keeper better. I prefer to read her books in actual paper form because I constantly feel the need to flip back and review things.


The Royal We by Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan

Favorite novel I've read this year so far. These two authors are so good at telling a story and crafting characters, and after reading a bit about them, I found myself wanting to find a friend to write a book with (Amy has a great interview with them on MomAdvice). I sincerely hope they write a sequel, because when the book ended, I was downright depressed to let go of the characters, and I felt a bit obsessive about them and their story for a while. I don't go ga-ga for Will-and-Kate mania but I loved this fairytale story and the rawness and "real" struggles the authors brought to it.


Paper Towns by John Green

A great YA read-- Green is a wonderful storyteller, and I was glad to read a less-depressing book by him. ;) This wasn't all sunshine and rainbows of course; it had plenty of YA angst and a good dose of getting-to-know-your-real-self. But it was a fun mystery, with a fair share of adventure, and I look forward to watching the movie now (after sobbing through The Fault in Our Stars, I had no desire to watch the movie, so this is a big improvement in my book).


Side by Side: Walking with Others in Wisdom and Love by Edward T. Welch

We read this with our church, discussing it in our community groups. It was easy to read and incredibly encouraging as we strive to live in community and interact with each other the way Jesus would want us to. Very practical help on how we counsel one another, and come alongside one another as we walk with the Lord. I'd say a must-read for small group leaders and people who want to really live out the gospel.


Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success by K.M. Weiland 

I picked this up at the writer's conference I went to last year and I'm so glad I did as it's exactly what I needed as someone who's not very good with following through. I read it all the way through and now am working through it to outline a new project. I'll share more about the project and the book soon. :)


Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling

I read the Harry Potter books probably about 15 years ago or so, so it's really fun to revisit them now with kids. We read this aloud to our kids (and listened to a big chunk on audio while road-tripping), and they fell in love with Harry and the wizarding world-- especially Brody. We intend to take our time (we didn't jump right in to book #2 yet) and only read books 1-3 until the littles are a bit older. They loved reading the book and then watching the movie.


First & Then by Emma Mills

I definitely picked this up because I was drawn to the cover (isn't it so pretty?!), but then when I read the jacket cover I was convinced to check it out. I really adored this story-- a story "about falling in love--with the unexpected boy, with a new brother, and with yourself." Quintessential (non-fantasy) YA. Plus, the author is a young grad student and vlogger, which is pretty fun.


Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella

Another spontaneous find of the YA library shelf. I had no idea SK had written a YA book- how fun (and another cute cover, too)! This was another great read. I don't know how realistic its treatment of anxiety and mental illness is, but I appreciated that it was raw, without being depressing. I do love how Sophie Kinsella tells a good British story, too. ;)


Follow Me: A Call to Die. A Call to Live. by David Platt

This was a super legit book at what it really looks like to follow Jesus. Lots to think about, lots of evaluation of the heart and what life looks like. This was a great companion/followup to Side by Side.


 

So that's what I've been reading so far this year-- whew! I should really write these posts more often I think so they aren't so loaded with titles.

And again, if you are interested in more of what we've been reading with the kids and in our homeschool time, you can visit my recent post over on my homeschool journal, February in books, pictures, and a few thoughts.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on these books if you've read any of them! And here's what I'm currently reading...

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Fallish Quick Lit + my last books of 2015

too busy to read Life has been busy, but not too busy to read. ;) Even if it's only for a minute or two, I just don't feel right turning off my light without my eyes resting on the pages of a book (or ebook, as it were) before I fall asleep.

And in the moments when I had time to take a breath and chill for a minute amidst the craziness of life, it was usually to pick up either Instagram or a book.

So here's what I spent my reading time indulging in during the autumn of 2015.

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton

(So good and, whoa, that twist at the end! Just thinking about it gives me goosebumps.)

The Summer Girls by Mary Alice Monroe

sarah addison allen covers

The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen

The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen

The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen

(I fell in love with SAE's books-- can you tell?? They are delightful stories with just the right amount of magic. The Girl Who Chased the Moon is my fave so far.)

The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton

A Window Opens by Elizabeth Egan

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell (yep, again. I just love it so much.)

After You by Jojo Moyes

(I just loved After You. It completely redeemed Me Before You for me, which had an ending I did not love. After You had a wonderfully satisfying ending, if not perfectly "happily ever after.")

Veronica Mars: An Original Mystery by Rob Thomas: The Thousand Dollar Tan Line by Rob Thomas & Jennifer Graham

(I listened to this (read by Kristen Bell, which was perfect), and I can't imagine reading it any other way. If only every beloved canceled series could be followed up by a movie and 2 novels. I loved getting more of a Veronica fix, and can't wait to read/listen to the second one.)

In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume was our fall book club pick. Reading Judy Blume again reminded me how wonderful a storyteller she is, but it also reminded me what I discovered when I read Summer Sisters years ago-- she can actually be a bit, well, almost graphic in her non-children's novels, especially when writing from a guy's perspective. I was unsure if the plane crashes would be too much for me to read but they weren't too traumatic for me-- the story captivated me enough to make up for them. Overall a good book, which gave us a fun discussion, and a great 5os-themed meal to enjoy.

With the kiddos

The Year of Bill Miller by Kevin Henkes

Oh how we love Mr. Henkes' writing and illustrations. This was a delightful book-- the first chapter book of his that we've read and recently Hallee asked me, "When can we read more stories about Billy Miller?" Maybe there'll be a sequel??

The Bad Beginning,The Reptile Room, and The Wide Window by Lemony Snicket

David read the first book from the Series of Misfortunate Events (which he and I had both read years ago) to the kids, and then we checked out the audiobooks of the next two for some very fun entertainment on a road trip-- especially the one read by Tim Curry.

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Stuart Little by E.B. White (currently)

I started reading this to Hallee (mostly when the big kids are at school) but Brody has wanted to get in on it too (he was a baby when I read it previously to him and Gigi). The vocabulary in this little book astounds me! And it's just so cute.

Unwrapping the Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp (love this beautiful advent storybook!)

Currently reading

Honorable mention (books that I've been "reading" for way too long):

  • On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder (Read-aloud time got pushed to the back burner a lot late fall. Hoping to ramp it up as we start the new year after Advent kick-starting us into a good evening routine and finally have more down time with the kids during the day.)
  • Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg (Writing has really been on the back burner but I'm looking forward to getting back into this with its short chapters, writing prompts and general bits of encouragement and butt-kicking.)
  • Encore Provence by Peter Mayle (I may wait till spring to pick this one back up. I tend to feel like reading travel lit in spring/summer.)
  • Follow Me by David Platt (This is a super solid book; I just need to get back in a rhythm of reading it-- probably a bit in the mornings after I finish Side by Side.)
  • Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan (I bought this for David for Father's Day in '13 and we started out having him read it to me in bed out loud (he does a good Jim impression), but considering it's been on my Goodreads shelf for 2.5 years, we apparently don't do this "ritual" very often. We both were loving the book but are better at watching TV late at night. Must finish in 2016!)

Up Next

My little book club is reading The Lake House (Kate Morton's latest) next for our winter pick and we are all super excited for our library hold numbers to come up; and I also plan to grab First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen from the library on Kindle as soon as I have a moment. Stay tuned!

what i'm reading in 2015  nicolevbennett.com

Hopefully next year I will do more frequent (and less gigantic) reading updates! ;) Have you read any of these books? Let me know what you thought. 

Quick Lit: Summer Reading Edition 2015

summertime reading 2015 There are still a few weeks left of summer for us-- we start school officially after Labor Day-- which means we are still enjoying the freedom and warmth of summer (yay!), although I am starting to feel the pull towards getting back into the rhythm and routine that the school year provides.

It's been a good summer of reading. In fact, I had to revise this post several times because I kept remembering more books that I finished this summer. Here's what I've read and what's still to come before this season is over.

what i'm reading in 2015  nicolevbennett.com


All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

This book was a real pleasure to read. I ended up reading it rather slowly (it has ridiculously short chapters, which I loved because it was easy to read in snippets of the day). Because the library holds list was so long I couldn't renew it... I ended up buying it. I knew it was one I would like to be able to loan out or read again. I'll be honest: I wasn't crazy about the ending. If you've read it, I'd love to hear what you think (send me an email and let's chat!). But it was such a beautifully crafted story, so well-written and well-told, that the whole of it made up for that. A true literary gem, this one.


The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty

I definitely did not love this as much as I loved What Alice Forgot, but it was a good read still. The ending had a sufficiently surprising twist, and I enjoyed Ms. Moriarty's description of the school culture and community. It was a thought-provoker, too, that's for sure.


Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist

I really love reading Shauna's memoirs. In fact, I love them so much that they make me want to abandon my dreams of writing fiction to write my own memoir. She's so honest and raw, and yet also encouraging, in this book as she process going through tough paths that come her way in life. The tagline, thoughts on change, grace, and learning the hard way, says it all.


Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

This was definitely a departure from my usual genres of choice. But it's a departure I'm glad I took. This book came highly recommended and for good reason. It was a really interesting look at a post-apocalyptic america with no electricity (and no internet!). It was intriguing and mysterious, carefully crafted and really well-written. And one of those books that makes me go, wow, I wish I could think up a story like that!


Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty 

I'd probably rate this one second in terms of Moriarty books-- still not as good as Alice but I liked it better than The Husband's Secret. The interesting thing about this one was the perspective, as the story was told through more than one character's experiences. The details of the mystery gradually unfolded throughout the book in a creative way that really captured me.


Knowable Word by Peter Krohl

This summer our women's group has been studying Mark inductively and this little book was a great tool for expanding my understanding of what it means to do the three main steps of inductive Bible study: observation (what does it say?), interpretation (what does it mean?), and application (how does it apply or change my thinking about God?). Reading it felt a little like studying literature in college again, in a good way. It's an easy read.


The Boy Next Door by Meg Cabot

This a super fun and easy read that a friend handed me to read. She knows I love Meg Cabot and this reminded me why I love her so much. It was written completely in emails (which I know isn't a style everyone loves) but I tend to enjoy that kind of book. A great summer read-- comparable to something like Shopaholic but with a more likeable main character.


Yes Please by Amy Poehler

I finally finished listening to this. I'm still not very good at audiobooks-- because I have so many podcasts and Voxer messages I get distracted by. :) But you really can't beat a memoir written and read by a comedienne. Amy Poehler is definitely crass at times but her book was entertaining (complete with guest voices and a chapter read to a live audience) and even inspiring-- I found myself quoting her last night to some friends. She's a strong, talented, passionate woman, and I enjoyed getting to know her story.


Fit to Burst by Rachel Jankovic

I wish Rachel was a real life friend. She inspires me more even than I realized I needed in terms of motherhood and the gospel. This book was convicting in all the right ways, as I said on Instagram when I posted about it. It's pretty short, and easy read, and when I finished I made plans in my mind to begin it again almost immediately.


Where'd Ya Go Bernadette by Maria Semple

This was our first book club selection. I was intrigued by the fact that most friends I know who'd read it really liked it, but Anne, who is usually my reading guru, hated it! Well, it turns out I was in the first camp. I enjoyed it quite a bit (but you know I like epistolary books and this one was written as if it were compiled with emails, journal entries, letters, etc, which was fun).  More thoughts on this to come one after my book club meets.


 Currently Reading:

If it appears that I have all but abandoned Les Misérables, it's because, well, I have. :| It was so hard to get into and I think I was just too lazy to read it. The year's not over yet, so maybe I will go back to it, but I feel a bit bad that I've basically abandoned the FB book club.  The Motherhood & Jane Austen Book Club technically still exists but I'd say it's pretty dormant right now. Maybe another time it will awaken again. For everything there is a season, right?

For now, leaning into a real life reading community was more on my heart, so for the first time, I decided to start an in-real life book club. We're meeting next week for the first time to discuss Bernadette and I'm quite excited!

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What have you been reading? 


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