Booking It – March Update

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Reading books, real books, is a wonderful way to explore your world and connect with other people. Booking It is an online book club to help you do that. Let’s talk about what we read in March!

For Booking It in 2013, I’ve invited my friends Carrie and Anne to co-host with me. I think it will be fun to get different perspectives on books as well as present some reading choices from others besides myself. We’re going to try to keep it interactive and hope that you will chime in with your thoughts in the comments section.

Please note: This post does include Amazon affiliate links. If you make a purchase through those links, I am paid a small amount in way of advertising fees.

Be sure to leave your link below or tell us about your recent reading in the comments section.

What Carrie read

shadowsShadows of the Workhouse

by Jennifer Worth

Unlike my experience with “The Midwife“, I really enjoyed reading Shadows of the Workhouse, despite the sobering stories that it told.

Shadows primarily focuses on the lives of Peggy and Frank, Sister Monica Joan (and her hysterical handling of being on trial for theft), and Mr. Collett, whose friendship with Nurse Lee caused me to wipe away a tear or two.

In addition to the stories which have been covered on the TV series (“Call the Midwife”), Shadows also introduces the reader to Jane, a woman with a traumatic history, and an unsure future. Jane’s story of workhouse beatings and will-breaking were heart wrenching, yet her true story of redemption and happily-ever-after where a bright spot in a series of not-so-happy tales.

Once again, I was impressed with Worth’s writing abilities and her focus on simply telling the story, without an excessive amount of bias. Unlike her explicit sexual detail in the “Cable Street” chapter of The Midwife, Worth’s telling of Frank and Peggy’s story focuses on their sad childhoods, the death of their parents, their workhouse life, and their eventual reunion – which, sadly, does lead to incest. However, she doesn’t spend a lot of time focusing on it or the “how”, which I appreciated.

What Jessica says: I don’t watch TV, so I’d never heard of either books/series. Did you watch the Shadows show before or after reading the book? How do they compare?

What Anne says: This title is new to me, too. You’re broadening my horizons, Carrie!

Carrie’s Reply: Well, I don’t watch TV except what I find online for free. 🙂 I stumbled onto “Call the Midwife” at The show is based on the trilogy of books that Jennifer Worth wrote about her real-life experience as a midwife in the 1950’s in London, and I am quite surprised by how closely the TV series has stuck to the books. I’d recommend both the books AND the show. In fact, I’m working my way through Book #3 right now (Farewell to the East End), so look for that review next month!

emilyEmily of New Moon

by L.M. Montgomery

I grew up reading the Anne books. In fact, after learning how to read in Kindergarten and quickly making my way through the Little House series, Anne of Green Gables was the next book I went for at the tender age of 7. I’ve lost track of the number of times that I have read through the series, but it never gets old.

Recently, I realized that I had never tried the Emily series, and decided that I might be missing out on something good.

I wasn’t.

While I can’t put my finger on it exactly, I could not fall in love with Emily the way that I did with Anne. I didn’t find the same comfort in her friendship with Ilse that I did in the Kindred Spirit of Diana. Aunts Laura and Elizabeth are not Marilla, nor is Cousin Jimmy the equivalent of sweet, kindly Matthew. And let’s be honest, neither Teddy nor Perry can hold a candle to Gilbert, and Dean’s infatuation with Emily borders on scary obsession.

I’m OCD when it comes to finishing books, so finish the series I will, but I’m not holding out any hope that this set will stay on the shelf with my well-read Anne collection.

And speaking of Anne, I also read (for the first time) The Road To Yesterday, which has just enough of Anne and Gilbert to be charming. If I were you, I’d pick up a copy of that and skip Emily.

What Jessica says: Haha! I read both series as an adult. Loved Anne, was weirded out by Emily. I read all three. I’m guessing that you haven’t read them all yet. Yes, Emily was disappointing.

What Anne says: I completely agree that the Emily books are not another version of the Anne series: they’re much sadder and more serious in tone. But I love them anyway, especially Emily of New Moon, which (in my opinion) is a perfect book for any young aspiring author.

What Anne read

dinnerDinner: A Love Story: It All Begins at the Family Table

by Jenny Rosenstrach

I adore cookbook/memoir mashups, and Dinner: A Love Story: It All Begins at the Family Table, a thick, story-rich cookbook was no exception. Rosenstrach is devoted to all things dinner: she’s kept a dinner diary–wherein she records what she eats for her evening meal–for the past 14 years. She’s also a firm believer in the power of what happens when families gather together at the table, and her enthusiasm for the practice infuses each page.

Rosenstrach used to work at Real Simple, so it’s no surprise the book is packed with practical tips and tricks for actually making family meals happen, whether it’s with toddlers or teenagers. Also? The bourbon-marinated grilled pork tenderloin (p. 71) went over big at my house.

What Carrie Says: This book interests me (probably because I used to really enjoy Real Simple magazine – until I got too frugal to shell out the money for it). I’m all about practical tips!

What Jessica Says: I’ve noticed that you cook fairly often from the memoirs you read. At least you did with the pickled grapes mentioned in A Homemade Life and here. Do you always?

Anne Replies: I’ll almost always try a handful of recipes from a cooking memoir, but only a handful. I’ve never been one of those people who tries every recipe in the book!

Carrie Replies to Anne: The only cooking memoir I’ve ever cooked from was The Kitchen Counter Cooking School. Liked the recipes so much, it’s actually on the shelf with my cookbooks, rather than stashed in the library!

bread and wineBread and Wine

by Shauna Niequist

Another cookbook/memoir, Bread and Wine contains some good-looking recipes, but it really shines for its stories about how food brings people together. Niequist covers some sensitive ground here, gracefully covering topics like miscarriage and bereavement, in addition to lighter-hearted (but no less moving) fare like weddings, parties, and picnics.

I haven’t made any of the recipes yet, but I hear the blueberry crisp is to die for.

Bread and Wine is about food, but more than that, it’s about what happens when food brings people together. This is a great book, coming April 9.

What Jessica Says:  I’ve often thought of food as The Great Equalizer, so much nicer than Death taking that role. Food brings us together, we all need it, and it’s such a beautiful experience when shared with others. I’m interested to read this one!

What Jessica Read

mbsThe Mysterious Benedict Society

by Trenton Lee Stewart

The Mysterious Benedict SocietyThe Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey; The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner’s Dilemma.

My month has been spent indulging in fun, adventurous kid lit. Mandi reviewed The Mysterious Benedict Society awhile back. It piqued my interest, so I requested all three in the series from the library.

As tends to happen when we’re doing a family read-aloud, my 15yo listens in enough to see if it’s worth his time and then grabs the book when we’re not reading so he can read ahead. I can’t blame him. I do the same thing.

But, I skim quickly so that it’s still really enjoyable to read along with my kids.

The Mysterious Benedict Society and its two sequels focus on four children, geniuses in their own ways, a group of orphans and runaway, who are brought together under unusual circumstances. Mr. Benedict is their kind and loving benefactor; Mr. Curtain is the villain who wants to take over the world.

Through a series of clues and logic puzzles, the children — and the reader — solve a number of mysterious, uncover lost identities, and bond together as a family.

It’s a sweet story full of action, adventure, and humor. It’s a “children’s book”, but I believe it holds appeal for all ages. All good kid lit does!

What Carrie Says: Jessica, it almost sounds similar to Lemony Snicket (a series that I could never get into), is it humorous, scary, set in the past/future?

What Anne Says: I’m intrigued. I think this sounds like a series my oldest kids would really like! And you know I firmly believe that good kid lit holds appeal for readers of all ages.

Jessica Replies: Someone else told me that when I described this book to them. I never read LS, but my kids did. When I asked my ten-year old, he vehemently dissed any possible comparison. He “hated” Lemony Snicket because it was so so sad and tragic. MSB is light-hearted with action and suspense, but no very sad parts.

I’d say that it was set in my childhood. LOL. There are computers, but no cell phones, internet, or other technologies from the last 20 years.

What did YOU read this month?

– Anne loves strong coffee, long books, and big ideas. She puts a timely spin on timeless women’s issues at her blog Modern Mrs Darcy. Head here to get her free guide Paper Gains: A Guide to Gifting Children Great Books from Modern Mrs Darcy.

– Carrie adores culture, coffee, books, and British mystery shows. After serving with her husband throughout Africa, southeast Asia, and Alaska, she now works from home as a social media specialist and book editor. In her spare time, she blogs about finances, thankfulness, and books at Carrie’s Busy Nothings and What’s On My Nightstand

– Jessica is a married mom of six kids, aged 4 to 15. Most can read independently which means the homeschool experiment is working – at least on the literacy front. She has been a lover of books for 39 years and counting. We won’t count the first year of life. She runs this here show called Life as MOM.

Tell us what YOU’VE been reading.

Leave a comment or a link below. Please be sure to link back here so your readers know where to find the party.

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  1. Jessica, make sure you read the prequel to The Mysterious Benedict Society books about Nicholas Benedict. It tells about his childhood and is just as quirky and delightful as the trilogy. 🙂

    1. Thanks for the tip! I seriously think that the series could easily go on. Such a great storyline.

  2. Thank you for all of the good book suggestions! Jessica, would your series of kids’ books be good for an 8 year old?

    This month I read Gone, Girl and Unbroken, both of which I liked immensely!

    1. Hi Melissa!

      If you’ve clicked through my bio up there, you know I also created and moderate a book blog (What’s On My Nightstand) where I occasionally write book reviews, and collected the Bookworm Network (a group of 4 women from all walks of life who connected through their mutual love of reading). A couple of weeks ago, one from the Network (“The Pharmacist”) reviewed “Gone, Girl”, and tomorrow, “The Writer” is reviewing “Unbroken” – you have good taste! 🙂

    2. I adored Unbroken. I liked it so much I read Seabiscuit (Hillenbrand’s previous book) next, even though I had zero interest in the subject matter.

      It was fabulous.

  3. When I was reading this over, I had to share. I have read almost all of L.M. Montgomery’s books. Yes, Emily is different than Anne, but I liked that series as well. It’s much more serious and somber, but I did fall in love with Emily. (although I have to say, as an adult now, no parent would let their young teen daughter hang out with Dean!). If you loved Anne though, can I suggest the book Blue Castle. It’s my absolute FAVORITE Montgomery book. I’ve loaned it out about 4-5x and never get it back, so I’ve bought it again. I read it about once a year, and my kids always are asking me what I’m laughing about. 🙂 Seriously, please try it and let me know what you think! 🙂

    1. Rosanne,

      Thanks for the comment! I actually just read “Blue Castle” last summer (for the first time) and absolutely fell in love with it!

      I think that’s why I was surprised by Emily. Blue Castle isn’t like Anne at all, and yet it was funny and I loved it and the characters Montgomery created. Emily is…well, I just don’t like her. Sorry to all Emily fans! 🙁

      1. Don’t be sorry – there are plenty of books/characters I don’t like either. That’s why it’s so great there are so many to choose from, even from the same author. If we all liked the same things, life would be very monotone wouldn’t it? 🙂

          1. I, too, did not care for the Emily series, but I have read the Anne books over a number of times. I also like Blue Castle, and Jane of Lantern Hill is one of my very favorites!

    2. The Blue Castle! Swoon. Such a good book!

      I keep hearing great things about Jane of Lantern Hill, but I’ve never read it. Yet. 🙂

      1. Oh, you must read Jane of Lantern Hill! Seriously. In between writing recipes. =)

        1. I have also missed Jane of Lantern Hill in my Montgomery reading, so it sounds like another one to add to the list! Glad to know I’m not the only one who didn’t care for Emily. 😉

    3. I loved Blue Castle! (also, Jane of Lantern Hill is terrific). And Dean is definitely a little creepy and wierd, but I still love the Emily books! Tales of Avenlea, anyone?

      1. I’ve been reading all the short stories from Montgomery, many of which bring in character traits and names that we see later on in the Anne books. As for Tales from Avonlea – I love the story of Anne following through the roof of the house when she and Diana are out canvassing for money for something. The AVIS perhaps?? I think that story is told in Tales – they all start to run together for me after a while. 🙂

        1. I love that story! It must be Tales of Avonlea, because I don’t think I’ve read any of her other short stories. That’s when Anne writes the sketch about the flowers right?

  4. My 10 year old son has been on fire with the Mysterious Benedict Society Books. He just can’t get enough of this series.

  5. Thanks for the kid’s lit series recommendation! My boys love series (they have read all of Redwall, another good one;) and it can be hard to find books that are appropriate for them. Just put this on hold at the library.

    1. How about the Ralph Moody books? They are a bit hard to find, but they are a terrific series and true stories. They might be a little too mature, but at least the first book would be good.

  6. My to-read list has definitely grown since the last few months. Ya’ll have inspired me 🙂

    Right now I’m going back and forth between an assortment, actually: Kelly Cutrone’s “If You Have to Cry, Go Outside”; Jenny Lawson’s “Let’s Pretend This Never Happened”; Rebecca Wolfe’s “Rockabye”; and Daniel Pink’s “Drive”.

  7. Sadly, I haven’t been reading for myself near as much as I would like to. There seems to be so many other things that need to be done and I fall into bed dead tired! I’m going to try and change that, so thanks for the motivation. I have been enjoying reading to my son at bedtime. He is almost 4 and we have read Stuart Little and are in the middle of Charlotte’s Web. I had forgotten how much I truly love well written children’s literature!

    1. Charlotte’s Web made me sob as a child. I don’t think I’ve read it since then! However, when I was young, my mom did a drawing for the door of the bedroom that I shared with my two (much older) sisters. My oldest sister (who happens to be named, Charlotte) was the spider, my other sister (who was a bit of a slob) was Wilber, and I, the hoarder of the family, was Templeton. 🙂 I think I still have it somewhere – while the book made me cry, that drawing is full of good memories! 🙂

  8. Glad I came over from Modern Mrs. Darcy! I LOVED the Mysterious Benedict Society books – except for the last one. It fell flat for both my husband and me. We are currently making our way through the first two books (which we own) with our 14 month old son. We love reading novels out loud at bedtime. Thanks for the fun blog read!

  9. Carrie, I thoroughly enjoyed reading the Midwife series by Jennifer Worth. And as one should ;), I read them all before watching the series. So far, I’ve only seen one episode, and I was a bit disappointed. The books are way, way better! 🙂

    They are rich books, touching on issues of sociology, poverty, spirituality, and much more. Having had home births and a student of Biology, birth is a subject that fascinates me. But beyond that, I think these books would be excellent for anyone–those interested in birth, or not. I listed “Call the Midwife” as one of my top 10 books for 2012:

    Anne, I am hoping to read Bread and Wine, especially!

    Jessica, thanks for the recommend! I will add that to our list of read-alouds.

  10. Need help? I got “The Mysterious Benedict Society” on audio for a long car ride we have coming up over spring break. But after reading some reviews, I am wondering if this books works on AUDIO….or do we need to have the book in front of us to enjoy the puzzles….sigh. Let me know what you think. Thanks so much!

    1. We saw that the kindle edition was slightly different than the print version. I’ve not heard the audio, so I am not sure. They are word puzzles, though. I don’t think any of them were illustrations.

      1. Thanks so much! I will pack some paper and pens in the front seat and hope for the best! 🙂

  11. I will have to look up some of these books. The only one I’ve read out of this list are the L. M. Montgomery books. I’d have to agree with a lot of you that the character of Anne is a lot more likeable than Emily, but Emily does seem to have more depth to her in some ways. I think the first Emily book is the best one, and I didn’t like the third one very much. Blue Castle was better than the Emily books in my opinion–it starts out sort of dark but has a good ending. I also liked Jane of Lantern Hill (Jane is a little similar to Anne, so people who didn’t like the Emily books might still like this one).