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On My Bookshelf {January & February 2012}

source: Mo Riza

Confession: I procrastinated on this post at the end of January and again at the end of February because I have a new feature I’d love to roll out soon, and I was sure I was going to get to it soon. But obviously I haven’t. So, I’m going to go ahead and post January & February’s lists as just that…simple lists, with a few thoughts about my favorites, and then I’ll start posting my reviews weekly so I don’t get so far behind again. And hopefully I’ll have my new feature ready in the coming months because it’s pretty awesome, if I do say so myself!

I’m still averaging 2-3 books per week, less on especially busy weeks or when trying to meet a deadline, and I’m still somewhat obsessed with young adult dystopian novels, as you’ll see from the list below.

I often get asked how I have time to read so much, so I shared my top strategies in the busy mom’s guide to finding time to read.

My favorite source for reading material is Amazon’s free Kindle books. I’ve gotten more than 600 books over the last two years, and I’ve discovered more than a few authors and series that I love. Although I prefer to read on my iPad or Kindle Fire, Amazon offers free Kindle apps for your PC, Mac, iPhone, BlackBerry, Android or Windows 7 phone as well!

When I do buy a book, which I’ve been doing more often lately as I get more picky about my reading list, I like to use gift cards I’ve earned through Swagbucks — guilt-free shopping at its finest!

And with that, here are the books I read in January and February:

Historical Fiction

  • The Keeper (Stoney Ridge Seasons) by Suzanne Woods Fisher
  • A Time for Peace (Quilts of Lancaster County) by Barbara Cameron
  • The Lady of Bolton Hill by Elizabeth Camden
  • The Guardian Duke: A Forgotten Castles Novel by Jamie Carie
  • Yellow Crocus: A Novel by Laila Ibrahim
    Of the historical fiction I read, this is the only one that stands out. And it stands heads and tails above the rest. It seems a bit strange to call a story about slavery beautiful, but this story — written from the perspective of a slave who’s forced to leave her baby boy in the care of friends and family when she’s given the role of wet nurse to the master’s baby — is truly beautiful. The writing is evocative, painting clear pictures of the beauty and pain of motherhood — from childbirth and nursing a baby to putting their needs first and letting them go — as well as the plight (and strength) of slaves in our country. It’s a novel that has stayed with me and that I look forward to sharing with my girls when they’re ready.

Young Adult Dystopian

  • When She Woke by Hillary Jordan
    To be honest, I wanted to like this story — and it started out strongly — but in the end it devolved into a series of feminist stereotypes that really took away from the story as a whole. I finished it because I have a hard time not finishing a book, but I didn’t eagerly devour it the way I do most books.
  • Wither (Chemical Garden) by Lauren DeStefano
  • Matched (Matched Trilogy) by Ally Condie
  • The Giver (Newbery Medal Book) by Lois Lowry
    I’m a little bit embarrassed to admit that I’d never read any of Lois Lowry’s books since they’re considered classics and standard reading in many classrooms, but somehow I hadn’t. I picked up The Giver on a friend’s recommendation, and it was a quick but poignant read. I enjoyed it so much that I picked up several other of Lowry’s books from the library, which I’ll tell you about next week!
  • Divergent by Veronica Roth
    Unlike When She Woke, this was a story I did devour. In fact, I read the entire thing in a single evening (no small feat considering it’s 500 pages long), staying up entirely too late in order to finish it. In a society where teens are forced to choose between five factions (the daring, the selfless, the intellectual, the truthful and the peaceful), Beatrice finds herself not fitting in with any of them — but drawing from each of them — in a race to save her people. This story drew me in from the very first chapter, and I can’t wait to read the sequel, Insurgent.


  • Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder
    I actually really like the first half of this story. And it finished as strongly as it began. However, in full disclosure, I’m not really a fan of “magic” in books, and so it lost some of its luster for me with the addition of magicians halfway through (and that’s what I get for skimming the description!). Although I enjoyed it — and I think it could have stood as a Dystopian novel without the magic — I won’t be picking up the others in this series.
  • Graceling by Kristin Cashore
    I had Graceling on my reading list as a dystopian novel until someone commented that it was really more fantasy than dystopian. I have to admit that I didn’t think I would like it, and honestly debated getting it at all, because fantasy is just not my favorite genre…at all. However, this was one of my very favorite books so far this year (up there with Yellow Crocus and Divergent). Katsa lives in a world where certain people (Gracelings) are born with special talents. She is a gifted warrior who has been forced to work as an enforcer for her uncle, a cruel king. That is, until she discovers her own purpose and sets out on a journey of her own. There are some fairly mature themes in this one, and I’m not sure I agree with its categorization as Young Adult, but I really enjoyed it.
  • Fire (Graceling) by Kristin Cashore
    The second book in the Graceling series, Fire, did not grab me in the same way that the first book did, but I’m still eagerly awaiting the third book in this trilogy!


  • The Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask by Mark Mittelberg
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
    So many of you recommded this book last year that it was at the top of my reading list for 2012. I was not prepared for how heavy it isboth emotionally and scientifically — but I think it’s an important story to be told, and I was fully invested in it by the time I got to the end. If you’ve ever heard of HeLa cells and the role they play in medicine and research — or even if you haven’t — you’ll want to read this book, the true story of the woman whose body the HeLa cells came from and her family’s journey to understand the immortality of their mother’s cells.
  • The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home (Third Edition) by Susan Wise Bauer
    The Well-Trained Mind was one of the first homeschooling books I ever read, back when my oldest was only three years old, and I’ve long since admired Susan Wise Bauer and the role she’s played in modern classical education at home. In fact, our family loves Story of the World (also written by Bauer) and uses the Bible and language arts curriculum from her company. A few weeks ago I received an incredible invitation to spend a weekend with Susan and a handful of other bloggers, and I am still over the moon excited as I count down the weeks until that trip. I immediately picked this book up to read again, and I got so much more from it now that we’re actually homeschooling. I’m sure it’s one I’ll read again and again because it really helped me clarify my vision for our family’s education.

I’ll be back next week to share the books I’ve read so far in March as well as those that I’ve added to my wishlist!

What has been your favorite book so far this year?