After far too long, I have another post of fun Internet finds, quotes, and updates. For some reason, these can be the most difficult to compile. Still trying to work out why, to be honest, but here we are and I hope you enjoy. 

Life 

First off, a few updates! As you may know if you read this and this, I’ve got a few big things coming up! I’m now only about a month away from both my long-awaited trip to England and from moving to Washington D.C. In the meantime, I’m cramming in last visits with family and friends as well as a family vacation to Boston! Thanks for having a nicely located business trip, dad. ;) My parents and brother and I are leaving at the end of the week, and hopefully the trip will offer a small break from family craziness (yes, there’s been lots). As usual, I’m very excited to visit a place I’ve never been and will no doubt have a full report or two to post afterwards. Stay tuned with me on Instagram to follow the action live.
A favorite recent friend outing. The Little Mermaid was a delight!

Links

25 Books to Read When You Feel Like the World is Falling Apart  
Lots of great titles on this list and a timely word from Anne Bogel. 

Things Lucy Maud Montgomery Lied to Me About
But really though. 

This Book Nerd’s Tweet to a Bookstore’s Official Twitter Account Ended in a Love Story 
A book nerd’s dream, am I right? 

Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflin Go Speed Dating!
I finally saw Me Before You last week, and the performances of these lead actors packed an emotional punch, making me laugh and cry in equal measure. They were just as delightful to watch in this interview that is mostly silly and thoroughly fun. (And if you’re now looking askance at me because of how Facebook exploded with criticism of this movie, check out my review of the book here. I don’t agree with everything about it, but I still argue that it’s a worthwhile story.) 

What I’m Into These Days 

Hamilton
Yes, I’ve gotten caught up in the hype of Lin Manuel-Miranda’s musical Hamilton and have been listening to the soundtrack repeatedly. So far, I’d say it lives up to all the talk. Truly brilliant. I’m also checking out the source material – Ron Chernow’s biographical book titled Alexander Hamilton. We’ll see if it holds me for the 800+ pages.


Doctor Thorne

With the departure of Downton Abbey, it was refreshing to watch this new work of Julian Fellowes. It’s only four episodes long and has all the charm, wit, love, and glamour we’ve come to expect from period drama. 
Stefanie Martini as Mary Thorne, Tom Hollander as Doctor Thorne, Richard McCabe as Frank Gresham, and Rebecca Front as Lady Arabella in Doctor Thorne
Screen Capture Source: YouTube

Surprised by Oxford by Carolyn Weber 
I’ve mentioned this book before and will likely mention it many more times in the future. It is without a doubt one of my new favorite books, likely in the top five at the moment. I read it for the first time back in February/March and just read it again this summer. Carolyn Weber shares how she became a Christian while in graduate school at Oxford in this gem, and she is thoughtful, vulnerable, engaging, and a masterful storyteller. You’ll likely forget you’re reading a true story because of how she draws you in and paints beautifully vivid pictures in her writing. Read it. 


Grantchester 
Here’s another one for fans of British drama, though I wouldn’t classify Grantchester as a strict period piece. Set in 1950s England, it brings together an unlikely crime solving team – Anglican vicar Sidney Chambers and gruff police detective Geordie Keating. Sidney has unrivaled people skills while Geordie relies on logic and hard facts. And in the midst of all the murder cases to solve – there are a surprising number of them in this quiet little village of Grantchester – these two men are also facing PTSD to one degree or another, having both fought in WWII. Friendship, crime mysteries, post-war changes, and social issues abound in this drama and I highly recommend it!
Robson Green as Geordie Keating and James Norton as Sidney Chambers in Grantchester
Photo Credit: Grantchester on Facebook

Quotes 

If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden. –The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett 

God doesn’t do contracts. You have nothing to barter with. –Matt Chandler 

It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live, remember that. –Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling 

We always value something for which we’ve had to labor. –Dr. Nuttham, Surprised by Oxford by Carolyn Weber 

A place ain’t a place without a bookstore. –Lambiase, The Storied Life of AJ Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin 

This was a day for soft wool, warms socks, loafers, and literature. –The Brontë Plot by Katherine Reay 

You can do more with a castle in a story than with the best cardboard castle that ever stood on a nursery table. –C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy 

I like books. They’re so much less terrifying than people. –Leonard Finch, Grantchester (2015 TV Series) 

It is a curious thing, Harry, but perhaps those who are best suited to power are those who have never sought it. –Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling 

As I aimed to become a teacher, God made me a student. My spirit as a questioner does not affront Him; rather, it reflects Him, and honors Him, and pulls me toward Him. –Surprised by Oxford by Carolyn Weber
Despite the title of this post, sadly, I’ve actually never been part of an organized book club (anyone want to help me change that? Working on it). However, I think I have a decent idea of what makes a good book club pick. A great book does not necessarily mean it’ll be a good book club book. If everyone loves it, that’s excellent, but there has to be more to it than that. Book clubs need discussable material. Books with social issues, deep characters, complex and biased themes, and author agendas would be right at home in a book club. If people disagree on certain aspects of a story, all the better. It makes for a more interesting and layered conversation. So I’ve come up with a list of ten good book club picks here, and I hope you’ll join in with your favorite discussable books!

1. Seven Men by Eric Metaxas 
Biography snapshots. Various times throughout history. Seven widely different men of huge accomplishment and great sacrifice. 
Discussables: How do these men exemplify sacrifice? Where were they right and where did they stumble? How can we look to these men and emulate them today? 

2. Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling 
Fantastical world of witchcraft and wizardry. A school of magic. A quest to defeat an evil dark lord. Marketed as children’s and young adult fantasy, but applicable for all ages. 
Discussables: Friendship, love, family, death, purpose in life, sacrifice, standing up for what is right, good and evil, coming of age, learning from mistakes and tragedy, creativity in the writing of the magical world 

3. Poldark Series by Winston Graham 
Opens on the 1780s in Cornwall, England. Struggling economy. Copper mining. Complicated family relationships. Aristocracy juxtaposed against the impoverished. Fights for justice for the less fortunate. Twelve books in all. 
Discussables: Class and rank, social justice, hypocrisy, role of law and lawmakers, family, marriage, effects of war on a nation, role of the affluent in helping the poor

4. The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom 
1790s Virginia. Slavery. Confusion about race relations and status. Servant-to-employer connections, some positive and some negative. Colonial women with rightful confusion about their place in society.
Discussables: The plight of many slaves in colonial America, class and rank, racial prejudice in colonial times, relationships between slaves and masters, ill-treatment of women (both slaves and free) in the 1700s, marriage expectations for women in the 1700s

5. The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown 
The story behind the victory of the nine-man American rowing team at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. The Great Depression. Nazi propaganda. Ultimate underdog story. 
Discussables: How much did you know about competitive rowing before reading? What surprised you? What would it have been like to fend for yourself like Joe in the middle of the Great Depression? The friendships between the team members are strong and inspiring – how did it affect you as you read? How did you feel reading the accounts of the boat races?

Photo Credits: A Happy Little Family Blog, BookFifty on Instagram

6. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah 
1940s France. Nazi occupation. Two sisters in unimaginable situations. Secret French Resistance movement. Harsh look at World War II brutalities. 
Discussables: Where did the sisters make the right and wrong decisions? What would you have done in their shoes? Are there ever easy choices for them? What was the worst situation? Do you identify more with Vianne or Isabelle? What do you make of their relationship with their father?

7. The Help by Kathryn Stockett 
1960s Mississippi. Civil Rights Movement. Dangerous but rewarding friendship between races at the time. 
Discussables: Civil Rights Movement, history of race relations in America, female friendship, unlikely friendships 

8. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
1960s-1990s Afghanistan. Multi-generational scope. Mistreated women. Rise of the Taliban. Unlikely friendship for survival’s sake. 
Discussables: Middle Eastern perception of women, whether the women in the story made right choices in various difficult situations, our role as America in defending innocents in the Middle East

9. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes 
Quadriplegia. Loss. Identity questions. Unexpected friendship and love. Controversial ethical questions. 
Discussables: What do you make of Will and Louisa’s connection and how did it change as the story progressed? How did you react when the controversial plot element was introduced? How did you feel with the resolution? Who was in the right and who was in the wrong at the end? Did you sympathize more with Will or Louisa? 

10. Lizzy and Jane by Katherine Reay 
Sister relationships. Cancer. Family. Food and literature. Marriage and parenting. Processing grief and tragedy. Guilt and forgiveness. 
Discussables: How are Lizzy and Jane both at fault for their difficult relationship? What do you make of their relationship with their dad? How do they help and hurt one another? Who are the steadying, calming figures in the story? When did you think the sisters were making progress and then were surprised by another difficult twist?


What books would YOU choose for a book club and why? What types of books have you found work particularly well in discussions?
It’s taken me a long while to figure out that my love for stories and books can be incorporated into decorating, but here we are and I’m loving it. For a while, my decorating mainly entailed lots of pictures. That will likely always be true, but I’m slowly incorporating bookworm-esque love into it as well, and it is so much fun. Here are a few things that I’ve realized make great décor for bibliophiles.

Pretty book editions
I had to overcome my practical side to take the plunge on this one. Logic says, “You already have that book. There’s no need to get another edition just because it’s pretty.” But forget logic on this one. Get that colorful or beautifully decorated edition and sit it proudly on your shelf in a prominent spot. Have a special place for the pretty editions and enjoy them thoroughly every day. I now have grand visions of a future house with beautiful, built-in wall shelves stacked with gorgeous editions. It’s coming, y’all. So far, the two pictured above are my starters, and I now have my envious eye on the Puffin in Bloom Collection and the Penguins Jane Austen Classic Hardcover Set.

Frame quotes from your favorite books


Show your favorites some love by hanging their best lines in places of honor. Mr. Darcy now has that award in my room. He sure did have some good ones, let me tell ya. 

Frame good bookish quotes in general 
I have my friend Jamie of Books and Beverages to thank for these as well as the Pride and Prejudice art above. These quotes capture so much of what I love about stories and I’m so glad to have them to look at every day. ANNND Jamie’s having a MASSIVE sale over at her Shoppe right now so get on over there and buy yourself some goodies!
 

Bookish arts and crafts 
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not crafty at all, but there are people out there who are and also happily grace the book-loving world with their talent. You’ll be amazed at what you can find on Etsy and other craft-related places. I got this lovely Pride and Prejudice pages wreath from a friend’s craft show a few years ago and I doubt I’ll ever get tired of looking at it. She also had book-page bouquets, mini Christmas trees, ornaments, and much more! 


What kind of bookish decorating have you done? Do you have any other suggestions? I’d love to hear! Always looking for more ways to show book love around the house!
I am not a crafty person. At all. I’ve never particularly liked extensive craft projects and have no desire to be one of those impressive DIY people. But recently, I discovered that I do enjoy a definitive scrapbook project, and it made me think that maybe other not-at-all crafty people might get a kick out of it too.

First, some background on this scrapbook I just completed. It’s an album commemorating my summer as a counselor at Camp Marannook in 2012, and I started working on it in the summer of 2013. But, as often happens with ambitious crafty things, I quickly got overwhelmed, ran out of some necessary supplies, and abandoned it. I knew I wanted to finish it someday, but it would have to be at another point in time. Fast forward to this summer. I’ve had lots of extra time on my hands and had gradually restocked my materials, so I determined to get it done. A few weeks later, I’m so glad I did and have fondly looked through the completed book many times. So, here are a few reasons I now recommend scrapbooking even for the non-crafty person, along with a few tips for the process. 

Reasons to Try It 

1. You’re surrounded with happy memories the whole time 
The whole process did wonders for my mood and mental state, and I wasn’t expecting that. But seeing all the pictures spread out on my floor and remembering the context of them all put me back inside that summer at camp, and it was a joy to look back on it all for a few weeks. Being enveloped in the happy memories was so refreshing that this aspect alone made me start considering other future scrapbooks I might try.


2. It’s satisfying, hands-on work 
One of the coolest things about the scrapbooking process was just seeing it come together before my eyes. With something like this, you’ll usually have ideas of what you want it to look like, and it’s so rewarding to see your imaginings become reality. And working with your hands can just feel good, you know? 

3. The end result is so worth it 
The completed book is such a nice memento to now have on my shelf. What’s more, it does justice to a sweet, valuable time in my life. And the sense of accomplishment I felt when I completed the last page can scarce be described. I had done this, and it was a beautiful ode to memories I wanted to keep close. Now it’s certain they always will be. 

Tips 

1. Double-sided tape
Not having this was one of my rookie mistakes when I first started putting the book together three years ago. I began with glue, which is not only messy, but can also leave marks and imprints in inconvenient places. Double-sided tape is definitely the way to go, and be sure to have lots of it when you start. I think I used up six-and-a-half rolls on maybe the last eighth of my book. 

2. A paper cutter 
When I started this scrapbook way back, I hadn’t thought about how much cutting would be involved. But almost every picture will need to be trimmed, as will any construction paper used for borders, backgrounds, frames, and so on. And trying to do all that snipping with scissors contributed largely to my stress, because I can’t cut in a straight line to save my life. Enter the paper cutter. It cuts beautiful straight lines every time and saves loads of time in the bargain.


3. A good playlist
Happy, upbeat music in the background was also a huge mood booster for me during the process. I was surprised by this at first, as I usually go for an audiobook when I’m cleaning or driving. But scrapbooking requires more thought and inward conversation with yourself than I initially realized. When I tried an audiobook, I found myself unable to both listen to the story and think out how I wanted the page to look. So I then opted for the same few playlists every day, and it was so much fun. I had happy music cheering me on as I basked in happy memories, and I enjoyed the combination immensely. 

What are your thoughts on scrapbooking? Have you ever done one? What other crafty things do you think that even non-crafty people could enjoy! I’d love to hear about your experiences in comments!

More summer reading recommendations are here! I hope you had a lovely July 4th weekend and have already been able to get some good reading in this summer. I’ve been thinking about my favorite children’s books lately and was reminded afresh of just how many excellent books there are out there for young readers. I hope you enjoy my suggestions below and share your own in the comments! And if you missed out on any of these when you were younger, I hope you’ll quickly remedy that! The brilliant C.S. Lewis once said, "A children's story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children's story in the slightest." I couldn't agree more! :)

Notable Authors

E.B. White 
Many of White’s popular books feature animals as central characters, and I enjoyed that immensely as a child. His stories remind me a little of Aesop’s Fables – animal-centered and full of good moral lessons. My favorites are Charlotte’s Web and The Trumpet of the Swan

Beverly Cleary
Cleary’s charming series on the Quimby sisters and Henry Huggins are childhood staples! I read a few of the Henry books first, but Beezus and Ramona are my favorites. They’ll have you rolling with laughter and offer many teachable moments about family and school days in the bargain. 


Roald Dahl
When I was in second grade, my teacher read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory aloud to our class, and from that point on, I was a goner for Roald Dahl’s books. Matilda is another well-known work of his that I loved as a child. His books are quirky, fun, wildly imaginative, and usually have a hint of magic thrown in. 

Frances Hodgson Burnett 
The Secret Garden and A Little Princess are Burnett’s most popular books, and they also were rites of passage in my childhood. Mysteries, coming of age, British India, and childhood play are major themes in both of these. They are feasts for the mind and wonderfully suspenseful. I still remember The Secret Garden as one of the first books that kept me up till late hours.

 

Notable Series

The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warren 
What’s not to love about this endearing series? It’s a classic “orphan in the woods” story that will stir up dreams of adventures. This series begins when four orphaned siblings stumble upon an abandoned boxcar on an overgrown train track, and they set about making it their home. It makes living in an old train sound like a vacation! 

The American Girls’ Collection 
I grew up on American Girl Dolls – in fact, they’re still sitting in their place of honor atop my bookshelf. And of course, I mean the original dolls. The real ones. It saddens me to think of what the American Girls have become, because the original dolls and their companion books brought me up. I learned so many valuable things about America’s background and overcoming difficulties as I read the adventures of Felicity, Josefina, Kirsten, Addy, Samantha, Kit, and Molly. From the American Revolution all the way to World War II, these girls’ stories shaped my childhood and I’m so glad. Hit up eBay for all the original books and get your kids reading them! 

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery 
Anne Shirley captured my heart around age eleven and I’ve never gotten it back. If you’ve only seen the movies and never read any of the books, please hear me – you are missing out. It’s common to hear that the book is better than the movie, but in this case, it’s truer than I can express. The second and third movies are basically the filmmaker’s own creation without reference to the books, but even the first movie, which stays relatively faithful, skips over a lot and makes unnecessary changes. These books are true gems of young adult literature and deserve to be read over and over. It all begins when elderly brother and sister, Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert, decide to adopt a boy to help on their farm, but instead are given a chatty, freckled, redheaded girl with an imagination. Little do they know how Anne-with-an-e is about to steal their hearts make her mark on their little town of Avonlea on Prince Edward Island! My favorites of the series are the first three – Anne of Green Gables, Anne of Avonlea, and Anne of the Island

Quite a list, I know, but I just kept thinking of so many good ones! Have you read any of these? What are your favorite children’s books? I’d love to hear! 

P.S. I couldn’t leave this post without also mentioning The Chronicles of Narnia series and the Harry Potter series. I thought about including them in the official list, but if you haven’t realized my love for these books yet… I don’t know what to say ;) Must-reads, all of them! Many times over. (Click here for Harry Potter posts and here for Narnia posts)