A Sisters Book Flight

Many of my favorite classics feature sisters. Instead of including the Bennet sisters or the little Ingalls, I’m focusing on modern classics some of which give a distinct nod to the aforementioned sisters.

After choosing this flight and writing these reviews, all I can think of is Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye dressed up in sequins and boas singing, “sisters, sisters, there were never such devoted sisters,” in White Christmas.

I’ll leave you with that image and these four fun reads about sisters.

Lizzy and Jane by Katherine Reay

I’m a Katherine Reay fan! She writes emotionally driven novels with nods to Austen (and other great literature) without being straight up fan fiction. (Though there’s nothing wrong with a Mr. Darcy’s Diary or Lost in Austen, both of which are on my bookshelf next to Reay’s fantastic first novel, Dear Mr. Knightley.) Her novels have originality while maintaining the substance of classics.

In this, her second, novel, Katherine tells Lizzy’s story. Lizzy is a talented chef who has lost her food inspiration. Her sister, Jane, has cancer. Together, they have a messy sibling relationship that keeps getting more complicated. I love how Reay adds modern elements, like the importance of social media hype to new businesses, in a timeless fashion. Lizzy and Jane gives an intimate look at caregiving and what you can learn about others by what they read.

If any of this review piques your interest, check out the interview I did with Katherine on Kindred Grace. We talk about why classics are appealing, what she hopes her novels will be saying years from now, and the challenges of incorporating classics into her own work. 

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

A friend with excellent taste recommended this to me and I can’t resist her suggestions, rabbits, or a New England setting. The Penderwicks is a an absolutely heartwarming  middle grade novel about four motherless sisters who spend a Summer on the grounds of a sprawling estate in Massachusetts with their father. Adventures ensue and I loved every minute. Jeanne Birdsall captures the tipping of child into adolescence so perfectly with the oldest sister, Rosalind. I cannot wait to read these with my kids and to finish the series (four books altogether) myself.

Jane of Austin: A Novel of Sweet Tea and Sensibility by Hilary Manton Lodge 

Jane Austen created several recognizable sets of sisters, two of which can be found in Sense and Sensibility, her novel about practical Elinor and fanciful Marianne. In Jane of Austin, Lodge has modernized the Dashwood’s story, putting the sisters in a Texas setting as tea shop owners. For me, Jane Austen retellings always have the potential to be too similar to the original (Sense and Sensibility by Joanna Trollope) thus boring, or too convoluted that they miss the appeal of the original (The Three Weissmanns of Westport by Cathleen Schine ).

Jane of Austin was the perfect fusion of contemporary and classic with a fun Southern twist. Here are a few things I loved: I’m not always a fan of quotes to start chapters, but these were diverse, contributed to moving the plot along and alternated in subject depending on the narrator of the chapter (clever!). The author is a foodie and she includes a few recipes scattered throughout the novel. They were actually things I’d like to make. Plus, her use of food in the novel is tastefully done, not excessive. Sweetly romantic AND clean. The 10 discussion questions included at the end went beyond plot-points. The cover is lovely.

The Other Alcott by Elise Hooper

The well-known set of sisters in Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women is loosely based on the author and her own three sisters. One of those sisters, Abigail May (went by May), is the subject of The Other Alcott. May is plagued by the fictional reputation of Amy March in Louisa’s utterly successful novel and burdened by the underlying competition between herself and her older sister. The novel follows May as she wriggles out from under the control of her sister, trying to establish herself as an artist.

This book was such a pleasure to read. Elise Hopper brings the Alcott family to life. I learned so much about art in the nineteenth century and I loved seeing how May’s journey intersected with familiar painters like Degas and Cassatt.

What is your favorite book about sisters?

A book flight is a curated sampling of reading material that shares some defining quality: theme, setting, time frame, subject matter, etc. Like a beverage flight, the samples are selected with care and presented together intentionally with the purpose of expanding the sampler’s horizons, developing literary discernment, and encouraging reflection and analysis as she considers, compares, and contrasts each book.

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A Free Indeed Book Flight

A book flight is a curated sampling of reading material that shares some defining quality: theme, setting, time frame, subject matter, etc. Like a beverage flight, the samples are selected with care and presented together intentionally with the purpose of expanding the sampler’s horizons, developing literary discernment, and encouraging reflection and analysis as she considers, compares, and contrasts each book.

Ever year, MOPS International puts out a theme that guides the content for individual groups around the world who are working to encourage and equip moms of young children to realize their potential as women, mothers, and leaders. The last two years have brought themes I found to be very in touch with the heartbeat and struggles of women in general, not just moms. This year’s theme – Free Indeed – is no different.

And because I’m a total nerd, my mind goes to all the books that speak directly to the theme and three focuses for the year – Let Love Be The Loudest Voice, Be Gutsy, and Go First. Even if you’re not a mom, we all want to experience freedom and love. These books will point you in the right direction.

Just to be clear – this post is not endorsed or sponsored by MOPS International. I’m just a MOPS participant who thinks in books. :)

FREEDOM

What do you long for? What is the thing that your heart craves? Is it possible that your deepest desire is to be free? Free from worry. Free from feeling stuck. Free from hustling to be loved. Free from a heaviness you can’t put your finger on. Free from thinking you should be someone other than exactly who you are. At the core, maybe what we are all longing for is to be Free Indeed.

Wild and Free: A Hope-Filled Anthem for the Woman Who Feels She Is Both Too Much and Not Enough by Haley Morgan and Jess Connolly

Two very different women have united to share their belief that God calls us to be both wild, “walking in who God created us to be,” and free, “resting in what Jesus has done for us.” In alternating perspectives, Jess and Hayley talk about the hurts, insecurities and fears that cause us to feel like too much or not enough and the grace that covers them all. Maybe my favorite part of the book is a short, 14 line anthem to being wild and free.

Mom Set Free: Find Relief from the Pressure to Get It All Right by Jeannie Cunnion

This newer release (August 2017) seemed tailor made for Free Indeed (even the feather on the cover fits with the bird graphics MOPS is using this year) so I pre-ordered it and found myself acting like a bobblehead, nodding along to all Jeannie’s words. The desire (and resulting struggle) to be a perfect mom is real. With that desire comes fear – fear that you’r not doing it right, that you’ll ruin your kids, that you’re just not good enough. Mom Set Free addresses these fears and struggles with freedom and Truth. Jeannie is also the author of Parenting The Wholehearted Child.

Deeper Waters: Immersed in The Life-Changing Truth of God’s Word by Denise J. Hughes

“This book is about determining in our hearts to study God’s Word and obey God’s voice because, when we do, we’re set free from the brokenness that binds us and the sinful patterns that permeate our choices” (126). I might contend that this book is about more than that, but it’s hard to argue that God’s Word holds the key (Jesus!) to freedom.

Deeper Waters is a well crafted memoir interspersed with a teacher’s (Denise is an adjunct professor at a SoCal university) heart to share her knowledge about how to study and connect with the Bible. Even though her story has been punctured with a lot of heartache, Denise’s stories are permeated with a gentleness that is so enticing. I love her simple method of studying the Bible (I’ve done one of her Word Writers studies) and have enjoyed incorporating it into my own time with God.

LET LOVE BE THE LOUDEST VOICE

We will bask in the freedom of living loved by understanding who God is, and who we are because of it. We will be free from the need to hustle for our worth, and we will live in the truth that we are already loved and loveable, without all the striving. We will parent with fresh perspective and will treat ourselves with tenderness, because love is the loudest voice we hear, and it is proclaiming freedom and favor.

Love Does by Bob Goff

If you follow Bob Goff at all, you’ll notice he has a certain joie de vivre that lingers around himself and his work. How could you not when you’re office is at Disneyland? He puts hands and feet on love in a way that is contagious and confusing (because who sends flowers to the person who rammed their vehicle so hard it made them airborne?). Love Does is the kind of book you almost wish you hadn’t read because it will cause you to reevaluate life and how you live it.

Jesus Prom: Life Gets Fun When You Love People Like God Does by Jon Weece 

“He [Jon Weece] talks about the power of being present in people’s lives and the beauty of living a life of availability and inconvenience,” says Bob Goff in the introduction. Jon is a pastor of a large church in Kentucky and a darn good story teller. He uses that skill to champion the importance of love in the life and ministry of believers in Christ. Bonus: the book has a grammar theme (makes more sense when you read it, but think verbs, nouns, adverbs in relation to love). I cried and underlined my way through the stories and recommend it all the time. It’s another one of those books you almost wish you hadn’t read because it will prompt change and action.

Speak Love by Annie F. Downs

I’ve always enjoyed words and been pretty good at manipulating them to communicate. I like the creativity inherent in choosing words and witnessing them connect to others. But it wasn’t until I became a mom that I truly saw how powerfully words can effect others, both negatively and positively. It’s always gut-wrenching to watch my kiddos crumple under the weight of my words when I lose my temper and it’s a delight to see them snuggle into the security of gentle, kind speech. Not matter what age or stage we are, we have the ability to speak love, as well as do love (like Bob!). With her trademark humor and honesty, Annie Downs takes on the power of words in Speak Love.

BE GUTSY

Sometimes we don’t take responsibility for our lives. We carry the weight of expectations, feeling out of control over the pace and trajectory of our days. Being gutsy is about realizing that you get to decide how busy you are, what you say yes to, what is best for your family and what you make a priority in your mothering. The truth is, we have more authority to shape our daily lives than we think we do. Your life can match your values and your passions, it will just take some guts to make it happen.

Daring Greatly: How The Courage To Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead by Brené Brown 

Brené Brown’s entire body of work would fit nicely in the Free Indeed theme so it was hard to choose one book. No one can describe this book better than Brené: “Daring Greatly is about what it takes to bust through the fear of not being good enough and not being perfect enough and not being bullet-proof enough, the fear of failing. Instead of asking yourself what would you do if you couldn’t fail, ask yourself what’s worth doing even if I fail?”

Reading People: How Seeing The World Through The Lens of Personality Changes Everything by Anne Bogel

A book about personality may not be an obvious pick for this category, but I’ve found that having a deeper understanding of who I am and how I relate to others helps me make wiser, more gutsy, choices in life and parenting. Anne, of Modern Mrs. Darcy, gives and engaging, clear overview of 8 personality frameworks and does a great job of illustrating how you use this information to not only learn about yourself, but also understand how you interact with others. I’ve already returned to the chapters on cognitive functions and the Enneagram multiple times.

You still have time to pre-order and get good bonuses (like the audiobook, read byAnne, free and access to her Reading Personality class). This gem releases 9/19.

Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler More Soulful Way of Living by Shauna Niequist

I will read anything Shauna writes. Present Over Perfect, her fifth book, is a bit more prescriptive than the descriptive narrative running throughout her other books, but my soul will always resonate with simplicity and slow-living. While the entire book fits right in with the idea of being gutsy, I keep returning to one of the first chapters entitled You Put Up The Chairs. Shauna starts with a quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald that perfectly describes what it means to be gusty in the context of Free Indeed: “I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you are not, I hope you have the strength to start all over.”

GO FIRST

It is a fact that freedom is contagious. That is why we are choosing to go first in order to spark a revolution of women who are choosing freedom over fear. Going first is about being courageous enough to take steps before you are ready, to share the details of your journey, to extend invitations and conquer fears, and lead the way for friends and kids and family. In fact, one of the best ways to advocate for others’ freedom is to go first ourselves, and then we can share with courage and honesty because we have found the keys of freedom. We will go first so that we can set other captives free.

Permission To Speak Freely: Essays and Art on Fear, Confession and Grace by Anne Jackson

One of my best friends has the spiritual gift of being vulnerable (I totally made that spiritual gift up but I do think it’s a legit gift). We’ve been friends since childhood and she’s always been willing to go first in sharing her struggles with me and those around her. Anne Jackson would call this “going first” as giving the gift of seconds. It’s always easier to do something when someone else has gone before you, paving the way. Ten plus years after reading Permission To Speak Freely, I’m still thinking about this book.

People of The Second Chance: A Guide To Bringing Life-Saving Love To The World by Mike Foster

People of The Second Chance is an ode to grace and love and the freedom that is inherent in our identity as one beloved by God. It could have easily been in the Let Love Be The Loudest Voice category, but Mike goes first by sharing details about his own life that squeezed my heart, making me reflect on the parts of my own life that are equally broken and in need of the second chance we have in Christ. I particularly resonated with Chapter Six about changing our inner dialogue.

Many of these fit within multiple categories and there are so many books I haven’t read that would be keeping with the Free Indeed theme. Have you read any these or have suggestions for this book flight? 

A Jane Eyre Book Flight

A book flight is a curated sampling of reading material that shares some defining quality: theme, setting, time frame, subject matter, etc. Like a beverage flight, the samples are selected with care and presented together intentionally with the purpose of expanding the sampler’s horizons, developing literary discernment, and encouraging reflection and analysis as she considers, compares, and contrasts each book.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

My first introduction to the venerable Jane Eyre was alongside another Jane, who I took too a little more readily. Required reading the summer before my junior year’s AP English class consisted of Jane Eyre (Charlotte Brontë) and Wuthering Heights (Emily Brontë). To cope with all the Brontës, I picked up my first Jane Austen novel – Emma. But this post isn’t really about Austen. It’s about Jane Eyre.

Orphaned and plain, Jane becomes a governess at Thornfield Hall under the employ of mysterious Mr. Rochester. Their love evolves amidst complex and complicated circumstances – a timeless story that provides commentary on gender, class and religion.

It wasn’t until years after that first reading of Jane Eyre that I truly appreciated her gumption and ability to make hard decisions. Life experience will do that to your perspective on classics, I think. And it wasn’t until recently that I wanted to read Jane Eyre again – thanks to the two other books below (and the bonus pick).

Mr. Rochester by Sarah Shoemaker

Edward Rochester may not produce as many swoons as Mr. Darcy but he is an equally recognizable literary beau. It’s hard not to wonder at his gruff manners and mysterious ways even though he captures the heart of fair Jane. In her gorgeous novel telling the history of this complex hero, Sarah Shoemaker gives life and body to the wonder and mystery surrounding Mr. Rochester.

It would be a disservice to call Mr. Rochester fan fiction because Shoemaker has effortlessly captured the tone and style of a classic. The first half weaves the sprawling tale of Edward’s childhood, education, work and travels which are peppered with a wide array of relationships that form him into the Mr. Rochester who meets Jane on that fateful, icy day. The second half provides Mr. Rochester’s perspective on the events written by Charlotte.

This was an oddly page-turning novel for reading so much like classic literature. I loved it and it’s beautiful cover. (As you can see from the photo, I have this on my Kindle but I will be buying the hardback!)

The Eyre Affair: A Thursday Next Novel by Jasper Ffjorde

I don’t naturally lean towards sci-fi or fantasy in my book choices. Unless, of course, the books revolve around books (a la Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore or The Jane Austen Project). The Eyre Affair is such a book.

Jasper Ffjorde has created a Great Britain where time-travel is the norm and Special Operations has a Literary Division. When one of the most wanted criminals steals Jane Eyre from the original manuscript, LiteraTec Thursday Next is on the case.

I found this fantasy world so engrossing. Thursday Next is a quirky and a little brash. The idea of changing the history of literature by taking a character out of their book is intriguing and Ffjorde’s characterization of Jane outside of her own story was fun. Definitely a series I will return to.

What Should I Read Next: Episode 60 with Melissa Joulwan 

Mel Joulwan is a Paleo maven most known for her cookbooks Well Fed, Well Fed 2, and Well Fed Weeknights, but thanks to her conversation with Anne Bogel on the delightful podcast, What Should I Read Next, we now know she is a Jane Eyre enthusiast and avid collector. I loved listening to her describe her collection and why she connects with Jane.

What would you pair with Jane Eyre?

What I’ve Been Reading Winter/Spring 2017

Short-ish reviews of what I’ve read so far in 2017!

Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas by Stephanie Barron

A book I couldn’t resist from an MMD Kindle Deals email around the beginning of the year. I love mysteries but have to avoid them because of an overactive imagination and inability to forget creepy details when I’m home alone. If Jane Austen is involved I figured the murder couldn’t be too gruesome. I enjoyed this and would read others in the series.

What Women Fear: Walking in Faith that Transforms by Angie Smith

We are fans of Audrey Bunny in my household (I can’t read it without tearing up), but this is my first experience with Angie Smith as an author for adults. I listened to the Audible version read by Pam Turlow which was a little stiff (Angie’s sense of humor came off flat) but was still very engaged by this take on fear. Angie is real with her struggles with fear (that are definitely more than the average – she was hospitalized as a young girl because of anxiety). Tied with Unafraid: Trusting God in an Unsafe World by Susie Davis for most impactful books I’ve read about fear/anxiety.

A Portrait of Emily Price by Katherine Reay

I’m a huge fan of Katherine Reay. She expertly weaves classic literature into her own narratives, creating page turners that will effect you deeply. Dear Mr. Knightley is still my favorite of her four novels, but Emily Price delivered Reay’s signature subtle spiritual themes around the enjoyable framework of food, Italy, art, and romance.

Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home by Richard Foster

One of my 101 things in 1001 days was to read five books about prayer. Richard Foster’s was book number one! With similar accessibility to The Celebration of Discipline, Foster’s guide describes 21 types of prayer that help move us inward, upward and outward. I loved this book.

Coming Clean: A Story of Faith by Seth Haines

A fascinating peak in the mind and heart of a man who realizes he’s an alcoholic and journals through his journey to sobriety. Slim and well-worth the read.

Praying in Color: Drawing a New Path to God by Sybil MacBeth

The second of my five books about prayer was a complete departure from Foster, though I think he would approve of this practice. As someone whose perfectionism often stifles their prayer life, using a kinesthetic activity to focus your mind and heart on the subject of your prayers was intriguing and welcome.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Another of my 101 things in 1001 days is to read the favorite book of 10 readerly friends. (This has lead to the discovery of gems such as The Penderwicks and Code Name Verity.) The Great Gatsby is one of the favorites of a friend I’ve had since childhood. I hadn’t read it since high school and then heard this podcast where Megan Tietz (of the Sorta Awesome Podcast) raves on an on about The Great Gatsby. I may have understood it better on this second read, but I’m still not a huge fan.

Radical Spirit: 12 Ways to Live a Free and Authentic Life by Joan Chittister

Picked this up because the MOPS theme for next year is Free Indeed and my Input strength (yay StrengthsFinder) now compels me to consume everything within reach about freedom. Radical Spirit explores the 12 steps of humility laid out in the Rule of Benedict. Humility, to Joan, is the key to ultimate freedom in faith.

After reading the first few chapters, I realized I only needed to read the section addressing the spiritual implications of that step of humility to grasp all the concepts laid out in the entire chapter. And even those could have been said in a couple sentences. I did come aways with a few chewy nuggets but wonder if just reading the Rule of Benedict would have been more productive and insightful.

(I received this book from Blogging for Books for free but all opinions are my own!)

Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah

Previous to reading this, I knew nothing about Russia’s involvement in WWII. Winter Garden explores mother-daughter relationships and the hardships endured by inhabitants of Leningrad before and after Germans laid siege to the city. The narrative flits back and forth between past and present. Fantastic read.

The Coincidence of Coconut Cake by Amy E Reichert

I was (and still am) in the middle of four non-fiction books and needed a light fiction read to break things up a bit. This was definite fluff. I enjoyed learning more about the Milwaukee food scene as the food writer gets shown the city by a chef, but the rest was unremarkable. A good diversion, tho!

What I’m Into {lately}

This is part What I’m Into (a la Leigh Kramer) and part What’s Saving My Life (a la Modern Mrs. Darcy). I hope you find something new or noteworthy!

Fam Bam

The whole fam getting ready to head out for #LoveLehighValley. It was special and humbling to serve as a family and with our small group!

The Great British Baking Show –  My brother and his fiancé recommended this show while we were comparing notes on what we were binge-watching on Netflix. (Fixer Upper and House Hunters for us…) Utterly delightful. That’s the best way to describe this British-import baking competition. It’s beautifully shot with fun hosts, charming judges, and kind contestants.

Natalie Freeman, of Natalie Creates, introduced me to the Whoa, wait, Walmart? Instagram account. Bethany and Amanda just may help me conquer my dislike of Willy Waldo Mart. (Anyone else have nicknames for stores? Just me? Okay…) I have purchased at least five articles of clothing because of their IG.

I bought a Kindle! I had been reading my small collection of e-books on my iPad/iPhone and wasn’t thrilled with the whole experience. Then I subscribed to Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Kindle Deals newsletter and my resolve to remain Kindle free went up in flames. On my brother-in-laws recommendation, I didn’t do the cheapy thing and bought the Paperwhite instead of the regular. The backlit screen is so worth it.

This brings me to how much I love Amazon and their amazing customer service. I was waiting to purchase my Kindle until after I sold my iPad, so I was unable to take advantage of the electronics sale around Thanksgiving. Two weeks after I bought my Kindle at full price, Amazon put it on sale again. The aforementioned brother-in-law noticed and suggested I ask Amazon for a reimbursement of the price difference. I did. And they issued the reimbursement, no problem. And that is why I will happily buy all the things on Amazon.

Rachel Hollis of The Chic Site (a lifestyle website that is easy to get lost in). Her Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey (a fantastic podcast) was one of my favorite episodes.

The Lazy Genius Collective – I heard Kendra on Around The Table (another fun podcast). She was the inspiration for my 101 things in 1001 days. Kendra has a lovely balance of silly and serious. She’s also a hard core baker which makes me love her more.

Pinch of Yum’s Capsule Wardrobe – One of the best posts I’ve read about starting a capsule wardrobe.

Carpool Karaoke – I am mildly obsessed with carpool Karaoke. James Corden of The Late Late Show drives around with a famous artist and they chat, sing, and have shenanigans. I’ve watched Adele and Justin Bieber’s multiple times.

Burts Bees candles – Soy candles that smell delicious (I’m partial to Pinecones and Cinnamon and Sweet Basil). My only complaint is that the wick dies before the wax is gone.

I kinda love looking at other people’s wedding and family photos. I did a deep dive on Jenni’s blog and loved this family’s photos (I used to write with both Jenni and Callie at Kindred Grace).

My buddy Kat’s blog is endlessly inspiring me to write more, parent intentionally, and find more joy in my daily tasks.

I saw on Rachel‘s Instagram a genius idea to use your dishwasher as a drying rack. I’m really trying to keep on top of my dishes, lately, so I don’t end up with an overwhelming pile of that takes me ages to clean after the kids go to bed. Sometimes I end up with too many dishes for my actual drying rack which halts my whole process. I’ve been doing the dishwasher drying rack hack and it’s awesome.

Along those same lines, I’ve been making a concerted effort to keep my house in maintenance mode which requires actually putting things away where they go at the end of the day, not just shuffling the shaz.

I’m loving Modern Mrs. Darcy’s newish podcast What Should I Read Next. She talks books and reading and does a little literary matchmaking with a different person on each episode. AND Tim is going to be a guest in a future episode (insert JEALOUS emoji here.)

I could go on, but several things deserve their own post…

What are you loving right now?