Sunday, January 1, 2017

Books I Read in 2016

Hello! I'm here to share my bookish thoughts from 2016.

My favorite books read in 2016 were:

  • Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
    • Most unusual plot EVER but wonderfully written characters and series of events.  I still miss the characters.  I can almost hear the piano playing.
  • Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler
    • Bert did not sleep well while I was reading this because I stayed up late shaking with laughter and laughing into my pillow.  It was so funny.  It's a retelling of Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew.  I want to re-read it/own it/give it to everyone I know.
  • Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
    • You figure out the plot as you go, but there is a real sense of danger and awareness of abundance that I loved about it.
  • The Lake House by Kate Morton
    • Deep spiraling family mystery set in an old English house. What's not to love?
  • Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
    • I will forever be laughing about the horse story.  And appreciating what he said about paying attention to the beauty of water and the faces of people you love.  This book made a mark on me.
  • Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson
    • Probably the most likeable characters (who were certainly not perfect people) that I will read all year.  Major Pettigrew had endeared himself to me by the end of the first chapter and the plot moved nice and quick.  It was not boring!
  • Leepike Ridge by N.D. Wilson
    • Classic adventure.  Stands alone (not as a part of a series but has great depth of character, and an amazing setting.  I love the scene where the mom is walking through the muddy field and her boots keep getting stuck in the mud.

Here is my comprehensive list of books read in 2016:

1. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling
2. Leepike Ridge by N.D. Wilson
3. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
4. L'Abri by Edith Schaeffer
5. The Fellowship of the Ring (The Lord of the Rings #1) by J.R.R. Tolkien
6. Anne of Ingleside (Anne of Green Gables #6) by L.M. Montgomery
7. Spurgeon's Sorrows: Realistic Hope for those who Suffer from Depression by Zack Eswine
8. The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
9. A Fatal Grace (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #2) by Louise Penny
10. The Lake House by Kate Morton
11. Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
12. Bossypants by Tina Fey
13. For the Love by Jen Hatmaker
14. West Wind by Mary Oliver
15. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
16. The Two Towers (The Lord of the Rings #2) by J.R.R. Tolkien
17. One Crazy Summer (Gaither Sisters #1) by Rita Williams-Garcia
18. The Return of the King (The Lord of the Rings #3) by J.R.R. Tolkien
19. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
20. The Cruelest Month (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #3) by Louise Penny
21. A Rule Against Murder (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #4) by Louise Penny
22. Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal
23. Hood (King Raven #1) by Stephen R. Lawhead
24. Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
25. Silent in the Grave (Lady Julia Grey #1) by Deanna Raybourn
26. Grit: Passion, Perseverance, and the Science of Success by Angela Duckworth
27. Brooklyn by Colm Toibin
28. Gilead (Gilead #1) by Marilynne Robinson
29. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by John Tiffany
30. True Beauty by Carolyn Mahaney
31. The Royal We by Heather Cocks
32. Wildflower by Drew Barrymore
33. Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
34. The Story of My Life by Helen Keller
35. Roomies by Sara Zarr
36. Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ by Lew Wallace
37. Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler
38. The Messenger of Athens by Anne Zouroudi
39. The Green Ember (The Green Ember #1) by S.D. Smith
40. The Forgotten Sisters (Princess Academy #3) by Shannon Hale
41. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (Flavia de Luce #1) by Alan Bradley
42. The Brutal Telling (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #5) by Louise Penny
43. Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland's History-Making Race Around the World by Matthew Goodman
44. The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson
45. Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art
46. Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson
47. The Legend of Sam Miracle (Outlaws of Time #1) by N.D. Wilson
48. Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo
49. Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles #1) by Marissa Meyer
50. Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry
51. The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katrina Bivald
52. Bury Your Dead (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #6) by Louise Penny

PHEW! That was a lot to type out.  I gave ratings and brief reviews on each of these books on my site, which was a good discipline for me, and might be helpful to view if you want more information on these titles.  You can find me under the name of Daniel and Rebekah Eikum on goodreads.  It's unfortunate that my username can't just be Beki, but alas, it's all permanently linked to and such things can't be changed.

  • I re-read The Lord of the Rings series this year for the first time, and it was harder than I remembered it being in high school.  Those books are all-encompassing for the imagination and it takes some effort to stick with the detailed sword names and genealogy lines.  But there are some epic moments and really fantastic characters.  I'm glad I did it, and maybe I'll try again in 10 years when my brain isn't in toddler-raising mode and has more capacity?
  • I finished my Harry Potter re-read this year. I have lots of thoughts. I wrote something about it and maybe I'll share that sometime. 
  • I read eight books this year that are the #1 book in a series. It was unintentional. Some of the series I do not plan to continue: King Raven, Flavia de Luce, Gilead.  Some I WILL definitely read more: Lunar Chronicles, Outlaws of Time).
  • 20 of my 52 books were audiobooks. Two of my all-time favorites were audiobooks, in fact.  Station Eleven and The Lake House.  I loved the English Cornwall accents on the audio for The Lake House. But I want to re-read Station Eleven so I can experience it with my eyes instead of ears.  So fascinating!
  • I've read a lot this year.  More than past years.  I think it's because I've been learning to relish books more than TV.  I have always loved TV, but my husband doesn't love it as much as I do.  Or rather, it makes him more tired instead of more awake.  I used to just stay up late and "watch one more show."  But I realized that was not good for my marriage or good for my unending desire for more TV.  I'm learning the joy of finishing a book and having something in my brain that sticks longer than the plot of the next episode.  Books are not the end-all of my life, but there is something special about the written word.
  • My favorite podcast this year was (not shockingly) What Should I Read Next? by Anne Bogel
  • Louise Penny!  The Chief Inspector Armand Gamache books have been a wonderful part of my year, but I didn't feel like I could put a certain one as a favorite for the year.  They are all interconnected and build upon each other.  I really enjoy her words about regular everyday things like weather and food and personality, and I'm aware on how boring that sounds.  But they aren't boring.  They're thoughtful and smart and quirky and honest.  And now I NEED to go visit Quebec.  I've also had the unusual pleasure of reading each book at the same time of year that it's set in (ie: read the Cruelest Month in the month of April, and it's about the month of April) which has been so fun.  Not many books can fully capture what a frigid winter season feels like, but these ones do.  Sigh.  If only I had a chocolate croissant and mug of steaming coffee in an armchair next to a roaring fire...that's the impact of Louise Penny.
  • Ben-Hur was probably my most ambitious read of the year because the language is old and takes some getting used to.  It helped to listen to part of it on audiobook.  Overall, I really, really liked it.  It was exciting to follow an unfamiliar story through the familiar time of Christ.  The details about the feast at Ben-Hur's house and the wise men meeting for Jesus's birth were super neat. The betrayals and battles with leprosy were intense.  I saw the recent movie remake and it did the chariot scenes really well, but the ending was all wrong from the book.  I would recommend this book to anyone feeling up for the challenge.  It was good.

Some of the best books read this year with my kids were:

With Gwen (5 years old):
  • The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White
  • My Father's Dragon series by Ruth Stiles Gannett
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
  • The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary
  • James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
  • Stories From Grandma's Attic by Arleta Richardson
  • Bink and Gollie by Kate Dicamillo
  • The Princess in Black by Shannon Hale
  • The Mercy Watson series by Kate Dicamillo
  • Charlotte's Web by E.B. White (Bert read with Gwen)
  • Stuart Little by E.B. White (Bert read with Gwen)
  • The Bears on Hemlock Mountain by Alice Dalgiesh
  • some Magic Treehouse series
  • some Cam Jensen series
  • some Boxcar Children series
  • some A to Z Mysteries series

With Simon (2-3 years old):
  • Curious George stories in the style of H.A. Rey
  • Laura Numeroff books
    • What Mommies/Daddies do best
    • What Grandmas/Grandpas do best
    • What Aunts/Uncles do best
    • When You Give a Mouse a Cookie
    • When You Take a Mouse to School
  • Knuffle Bunny and Knuffle Bunny Too by Mo Willems
  • Little Critter books by Mercer Mayer
  • Elephant and Piggie books by Mo Willems
    • There's a Bird on Your Head
  • Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems
  • Edwina: The Dinosaur who didn't know she was Extinct by Mo Willems... seeing a Mo Willems theme here!?!

Friday, January 1, 2016

Books I Read in 2015

This is my second year of tracking the books I've read throughout the year. Book series have taken over 12 of my 32 books this year, so I've spent a lot of time with a few choice characters -I'm looking at you Anne, Harry and Tris. 

Thoughts on Anne books:
I've been inspired by Anne.  I especially love her enjoyment of trees and her stubborn will to befriend crabby people.  Listening to the first couple books on audiobook was gold, because the plots were already familiar from the movies and were filled with unexpected humor.  I had to stop doing audiobooks at Anne of the Island because I didn't want the good love story parts to go too quickly, and I LOVED Anne's description of college and those uniquely diverse friendships. Each Anne book feels slow at the beginning as I try to discern what kind of story arc will come.  Inevitably at the end of each book I'm so attached to the setting and characters that I'm sad it's over.  I still have three books left in the series, which will definitely be a part of my 2016 reading.

Thoughts on Re-reading Harry Potter:
The first time I read HP I definitely rushed to see what was going to happen, and it's really nice to take my time through interesting details and connections during this re-read.  The creativity and side characters are a lot of fun. The second time through I'm finding extra affection for Hagrid and McGonagall, who are present in the movies but even more present in the books.  Sigh.  And Ginny in the books is so much spicier than the movie version.  One more book to go here...

Thoughts on Tris (from the Divergent series, Mom):
Ugh. Well. She inspired me to try the ropes course at the Mall of America.  And in general, I love that she's strong and willing to face her fears.  A lot of other things about these books and Tris's character were frustrating but I read them so I can be informed about the movies.  I thought the movie Insurgent was actually way better than the book, and completely different than the book.  So, whatever.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, by J.K. Rowling
The Last Battle, by C.S. Lewis
In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex, by Nathaniel Philbrick
Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn
Young House Love, by Sherry and John Petersik
A Chance to Die: The Life and Legacy of Amy Carmichael, by Elizabeth Elliot
Unbroken, by Laura Hildebrand
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, by J.K. Rowling
The Imperfectionists, by Tom Rachman
Where'd You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple
Letters to My Children, by Daniel Taylor
Veronica Mars: Mr. Kiss and Tell, by Jennifer Graham and Rob Thomas*
Insurgent, by Veronica Roth
Caddie Woodlawn, by Carol Ryrie Brink
Anne of Green Gables, by Lucy Maud Montgomery*
Allegiant, by Veronica Roth
Anne of Avonlea, by Lucy Maud Montgomery*
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo
Mr. Penumbra's 24-hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan*
Daring Greatly, by Brene Brown
Something Fresh, by P.G. Wodehouse*
Paper Towns, by John Green
Still Life, by Louise Penny*
All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doeer
Anne of the Island, by Lucy Maud Montgomery
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith*
Anne of Windy Poplars, by Lucy Maud Montgomery
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, by J.K. Rowling
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie*
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling*
The Martian, by Andy Weir
Anne's House of Dreams, by Lucy Maud Montgomery
Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, by J.K. Rowling

*Audiobook through Audible

Worst, most horrible and gross book: Gone Girl 
Best History: In the Heart of the Sea & Unbroken (lots of starving on life rafts all around!)
Most Delightful and Light-hearted: Caddie Woodlawn (it helps that I read it floating in the pool) and Where'd You Go Bernadette and Something Fresh (which I listened to while vacuuming the pool)
Strangest: Mr Penumbra's 24-hour Bookstore
Most Socially Conscious: Americanah (learned about the important feeling of "choicelessness" and how American's tend to take tomorrow for granted - also the audio accents were beautiful)
Most Teeny-Bopper: Paper Towns (little too disillusioned for me) and Insurgent/Allegiant
Spiritually Encouraging: The Last Battle & A Chance to Die
Meatiest and SO WORTH IT: All the Light We Cannot See & A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

I'm looking forward to more Louise Penny mystery books in the coming year, Still Life was good, but I've been told they get amazing around the 4th book in the series.

My Audible subscription supplies me with one book per month, which helps provide excitement to wash dishes, vacuum the pool and pick up the house.  That's become my recharge introvert time.  Another series I want to re-read is the Lord of the Rings - so the Fellowship of the Ring is my next audiobook.

Other notable reading resources:
1. Reserving books online, and picking them up at my library
2. Modern Mrs Darcy's Summer Reading List
3. Read-Aloud Revival Podcast

Here's to enjoying books in 2016! Please comment with any recommendations!

Our favorite TV shows of 2015 were probably:
Parks & Rec
Brooklyn 99
Survivor & Amazing Race
Fixer Upper

I've recently started reading chapter books out loud with Gwen before her afternoon quiet time.  Our first book was Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle by Betty McDonald which made her laugh but I thought was just ok.  We've also started and set aside: The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White, Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne, and Paddington by Michael Bond.  Right now we're devouring My Father's Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett which is just perfect (thanks Aunt Jill!) and we will definitely finish it.

Here are some of my favorite books for Simon:
Trucks, Planes, Boats, Trains all by Byron Barton *love these!
The Napping House by Audrey and Don Wood
Quiet, Loud and Big, Little by Leslie Patricelli
The Going to Bed Book and Moo, Baa, La, La, La by Sandra Boynton

Friday, May 22, 2015

Time to Move

Why NOT sell your house and move to Bloomington for a house with a pool?

  • We love living in Minneapolis! 
    • So close to beautiful Lake Nokomis, biking, Minnehaha Falls and Parkway, diverse people and food options, light rail and public transportation, museums, concerts, plays, Fort Snelling, Downtown, three parks for our kids within walking distance, library, bank, post office all in our neighborhood, quick drive to the airport to pick up friends, doesn't take long to drive anywhere outside the city.
  • We love our house. We've made a lot of changes here like updating kitchen, bathroom, bedrooms, building a sweet pergola and patio, finishing the basement etc...  Even when we first moved in I often told Bert I wanted to live here forever because it's such a special house.
  • The kids are young, (four and one) and we are BUSY.
  • I've been battling the emotional roller coaster of depression these past few years. I transitioned off of medicine, thinking I was better, but have still had many days of heaviness and difficulty.  I was feeling exhausted with daily life and wasn't sure this was a good time for a major life change.

Why sell your house and move to Bloomington for a house with a pool?

  • We've always talked about the dream of having a pool one day.  We often talk about our dreams for the future on date nights, and it almost always comes up.  Oh the allure of the after-dinner swim on those hot July nights!
  • The kids are young.  They aren't rooted in schools here yet.  And it's possible we will be sending them to school in Bloomington because they have such great schools there.
  • The kids are young.  They could get major, major hours of fun swimming in the pool at these young and rambunctious ages.  Let's make as many memories as we can before time flies away.
  • The kids are young.  In the new neighborhood they will be able to ride their bikes on the street and play around nearby Nine Mile Creek in the prime of their childhood.
  • We love new projects, and the new house is FULL of potential cosmetic changes.  Nothing has been updated inside the house (avocado green kitchen sink, six rooms of outdated wallpaper), but the backyard is pristine and perfect.
  • The exterior and backyard are awesome.  Huge pool. Hot tub, Eating area outside which is only steps away from the kitchen counter. Basketball half-court. New retaining walls with perennials. Front porch to sit and watch sunsets from. Nice roof and siding and windows etc.
  • All bedrooms are on the same level with two bathrooms.
  • Great for hospitality and entertaining.  We can't wait to have our discipleship group and all our friends and family over to swim!
  • It would be awesome to have the house where our kids and their friends want to gather, because then we can know their friends and know they are hanging out in a good environment.
  • There is a beautiful and secluded nature trail that starts down the street and winds around a calm pond area.  There is another trail that goes to Nine Mile Creek and a fantastic elementary school.
  • Well-established neighborhood that doesn't have through traffic, so the streets are calm and safe and all the neighbors know each other.
  • We agreed on our core values when we got married, and while we might need to update those since becoming parents, two of our core values are being ADVENTUROUS and HOSPITALITY. 
So.  All this to say.  We're doing it.  Putting our beloved Minneapolis house on the market and moving to Bloomington.  We haven't been planning this all along, but just have felt stirred lately to look at the possibility of moving.  We didn't even plan on looking that far south, but just looked at this house on a whim.  Then we walked out and said, "now what?" because we realized that was the dream house and we needed to decide what we were doing.  After much talking through the above points, we decided to make an offer and it was accepted.

I've been amazed to see how God has used this life change in a healing way for my mind and heart.  Since making the offer on the house, I have experienced such a healing distraction and peace on my mind.  You'd think I'd be more overwhelmed with the tasks before me, but I've felt much more myself and up for tackling the work ahead.  I'm so excited about the future instead of dreading the upcoming days.  What amazing grace.  God has been answering our prayers for my healing and helping me each day to lift my heart out from under the dark cloud.

I am overwhelmed by the unspeakable grace that this move is to our future life as a family.  We have a lot to learn about pool care, but we are up for it.  Hope you can come over and swim!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

2014 in Books and Misc Details

For the first time in my life, I tracked my reading all year long.  2014 was the year of throwing out my rule about reading nonfiction in between every fiction book.  Life is too short.  And winters are too long.  I'm still reading some non-fiction, but not MAKING myself do it as frequently.  I read mostly for enjoyment in 2014 and branched out with some new genres.  It was really fun!  I also let myself endeavor in multiple books at one time. Watch out world!  My love for reading is totally revived.

Most impactful:
*Bread and Wine, by Shauna Niequist - Inspired me to try making risotto and ultimately enjoy cooking for my people so much more!
*Eleanor and Park, by Rainbow Rowell - Even though it was mostly just a fun read (SO FUN), it changed how I think about what it must feel like to grow up without supportive parents.  Like how she has to wash her jeans in the bathtub and exists without privacy.  Eye opening about real-life poverty.
*The Nesting Place, by Myquillyn Smith - Inspired me to create beauty in my home and be safe to make mistakes.  It doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful!

Most enjoyable:
*Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier - Spooky!  Loved it!
*The Rosie Project, by Graeme Simsion - Out of the box for me.  I love the bar-tending scene so much!  Hilarious.
*Parnassus on Wheels, by Christopher Morley - Short and oh so sweet.

Empire of Bones: Ashtown Burials #3 by N.D. Wilson
Divergent, by Veronica Roth
The Secret Keeper, by Kate Morton
*Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier
*Bread and Wine, by Shauna Niequist
*The Rosie Project, by Graeme Simsion
Don't Make Me Count to Three, by Ginger Plowman
*Eleanor and Park, by Rainbow Rowell
A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, by Donald Miller
Lifter of My Head, by Susan McRoberts
Maisie Dobbs, by Jaqueline Winspear
Birds of a Feather (Maisie Dobbs #2), by Jaqueline Winspear
*Parnassus on Wheels, by Christopher Morley
Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card
Till We Have Faces, by C.S. Lewis
Europe Through the Back Door, by Rick Steves
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, by J.K. Rowling
The Paper Magician, by Charlie N. Homberg
The Giver, by Lois Lowry
*The Nesting Place, by Myquillyn Smith

Notes from a Blue Bike, by Tsh Oxenrider
The Homemade Life, by Molly Wizenberg
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, by J.K. Rowling
Made for More, by Hannah Anderson

Rachel Schultz - Not only did she teach me how to make killer pad thai, I love how she talks about faith.
Modern Mrs Darcy - She inspires my reading life and I love her stuff on personality
Nesting Place - I was reading her blog for a year before I read her book.  Let go of perfection!

FAVORITE Netflix SHOWS of 2014:
Foyle's War
Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries

Pad Thai
Slow Cooker Chicken Tostadas

Monday, June 9, 2014

Our Joey's Day

Two years have passed since I held my second baby's tiny body in the palm of my hand, and a few hours later we buried him under the tree.  Two years have passed since my life and faith and heart really got rocked, and God began a work in my heart which is long from finished.  A longing for heaven and an acquaintance with grief.  A deep knowing that this is not how it was meant to be.  And a hope for the day when all things are made new.  We called him Joey in part because Joseph never knew God's plan while he waited out those years in a gross Egyptian prison.  He didn't know about his part in God's story.  But he had a part.

And even though we don't know why, we know God is telling a good story.  And Joey has a part in ours.  We love you and miss you Joey!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Naming Simon

Everyone has their own preferences for baby naming.  Exploring baby names is super fascinating to me, so I thought I would share how we came up with the name Simon Keith for our sweet boy.  Boy names are much more difficult than girl names, in my opinion, because it seems like there are less options. You can't get away with random flower names or just pretty sounding names And you want it to be something that is masculine enough to put on a business card someday, just in case he wants to be a business man.  

Here was our criteria (no judgement to other mindsets!):
-Easy to spell correctly upon hearing
-Obviously a boy name
-Has to exist in history, not made up
-Not in the top 100 of the social security website
-Not a long name with a short nickname, but just one name

We started assembling "the list" last summer.  We had a few favorite ideas starting out but none of them seemed to make the final cuts because they were all too popular.  I emptied the library shelf of baby naming books and took them to the lake the day after our gender-determining ultrasound.  We read three of them cover to cover, boy names only of course.  Over time we each chose our favorites and narrowed down our list through many debates.

I remember being on the dock at Dee and Barry's when I first came across Simon.  Beth was sitting with me and I asked her how many Simon's she knew in her years of preschool and kindergarten teaching.  She had only ever known one and he was a very cool and funny kid. 

I loved a few things about the name immediately.  It met all our criteria, and it is derived from the Hebrew name Simeon which means "listener" or "he listens."  We hope that he grows into his name and has a soft heart to listen to God and other people.  I loved that it was classic and fresh.  It was also ranked at 255 so it was likely that there wouldn't be 3 other Simons in his class at school.  It was a winner!  Although, it took about three months for Bert and I to officially agree on it.  We had a few other favorites, which I'm not going to disclose yet, just in case.

The middle name Keith is in honor of Bert's dad Keith, and it's also his middle name (Daniel Keith).  I love it as a name and how it sounds with Simon. It's meaning has to do with woods, forest, and battleground.  Since Bert loves working with wood and being in the forest, it seems like a good fit there too.

Yay for Simon Keith!