Bookish Chatter | Two New Releases and Plenty of Readalouds

Does it feel like winter anywhere else lately? It has been so cloudy and gray around here and has felt like a big snowfall is going to happen at any time. Luckily there’s no snow forecasted until next week, so we can wait on the snow blowers a little while longer. And despite the cold and clouds, the kids still want to spend a big chunk of their afternoons playing outside. So I’ve been wearing my winter coat and covering up with my Patchwork Swoon quilt and reading while they run around like wild things. It’s been working for now, but I’m not sure how much longer I’ll be able to manage with my frozen fingers!

I’m here today with the books I’ve finished over the last two weeks. I was surprised by how busy the holiday week kept me but am thankful that I still had a stack of books to turn to in my quiet moments. I managed to finish two fantastic new releases by two of my favorite authors and a few chapter books with the kids. I can’t wait to share them with you.


I wasn’t expecting to see Shrines of Gaiety on my library’s New Arrivals bookshelf and wasn’t planning to read it until the new year, but there it was a couple of weeks ago. Just sitting there and begging me to pick it up. I started reading it almost as soon as I returned from the library that day and was completely sucked in by the opening chapters. Did you watch Boardwalk Empire? I watched a season or two and this book reminded me of it so much. There wasn’t the Prohibition issue (although the nightclubs in question were working without liquor licenses), but the era and seediness of it all felt so familiar.

This book focused on several characters caught up in the Coker family drama – the family who owned nightclubs in which so many girls went in and never came out. In true Kate Atkinson fashion, we watch the same scenes unfold from the perspectives of different characters, which adds such a richness to the story. Reading this book reminded me that I’d like to be a Kate Atkinson completist so I have some work to do on that! (Also: remember when I was amazed that the word bacchanalia showed up in both The Secret History and Babel? Well, it’s used multiple times in this book. How about that?!)

Can you believe I’ve never read Hatchet before? We finished this as a readaloud for our school time and we all really enjoyed it. Like me, I’m sure many of you have a general idea of what it’s about. A young boy is involved in a small plane crash while he’s on his way to visit his father in Canada. He’s the only survivor and all he has is the hatchet that happened to be attached to his belt. He knows very little about how to survive outdoors and learns everything the hard way, bless his heart.

This is a great book for so many kids. Not only is it a good rainy-day choice for a reluctant reader who loves to be outdoors and active, but it’s good for those who may struggle with perseverance and frustration. Brian encountered obstacles constantly and talked a lot about how his mindset changed as time went on. It is so helpful to hear when others experience frustration and failure but find ways to make it through the hardship. I highly recommend it for the shelves of any homeschooling family, but especially those that lean toward Charlotte Mason.

Oh, Captain Underpants and the Big, Bad Battle of the Bionic Booger Boy Part I: The Night of the Nasty Nostril Nuggets. These books, unlike Hatchet, are not Charlotte Mason approved and are 100% what she would consider “twaddle.” However, I believe that a healthy dose of twaddle keeps reading fun and creates a true desire to read everything in sight. My own 9 year old is proof. We’ve been reading Captain Underpants at night before bed for the last 3-4 years. I can sometimes steer him in a different direction for a brief period of time, but we always end up back here. He loves it and I’m pretty sure he knows all of these novels by heart. The novels often refer to each other and he’ll immediately ruffle through his shelves, find the particular volume, and flip to the exact scene that’s being discussed. I think that’s just amazing.

Anyway, this book is about Melvin Sneedly, the school genius. He was trying to give himself bionic powers with his latest invention and accidentally sneezed when the device went off. That meant that he turned into a giant booger boy and all kinds of chaos ensued. It was quite the story. There’s even a sequel and yes, we’re nearly finished with that one too. (again.)

I had such complicated feelings about The Fire and the Ore, but loved it overall. The religion of the time practically oozed from the very first page and I almost abandoned the book because of it. But I’ve read some Olivia Hawker before and decided to trust her. And I’m so glad that I did. This book is set during the 1850s and is about the Mormon migration to Utah. If you know me at all, then you know I love books set on the prairie and during colonial times, despite all of the problematic issues involved with colonization. I wrap myself in my woolen shawls and pretend like I’m right there on the wagon with them. I’ve done it since I was a little girl, playing in my bedroom with my stacks of American Girl and Little House on the Prairie books from the library. I just can’t help it. Except I didn’t have any woolen shawls when I was little, but I have plenty now!

This book is well-researched and about a part of American history that I’d never learned before, the Utah War. President Buchanan declared war on the Mormons, who were building their own country in the Utah Territory. Although I’m in no way religious, I find religious history fascinating and that definitely includes Mormon history. This book is about a three women who were basically tricked into a polygamous marriage and had to learn to work together to keep themselves and their family safe. Polygamy is such an interesting topic to me and Hawker did an amazing job showing the nuances of the situation. Her Author’s Note at the end of the book explained a lot and was illuminating.

I’m always on the lookout for westerns with strong feminist stories. Jane Smiley will have a new one out in a few weeks called A Dangerous Business that I’m looking forward. If you know of any others, please share them in the comments!

Bronwyn and I finished Kirsten Saves the Day this week. Kirsten discovered a bee hive in the woods and was excited about how the family might be able to purchase the things they needed with the income the honey could bring. To surprise her family, she tried to capture the hive with her little brother Peter. Of course, that’s not as easy as it seems, especially when there are bears in the woods!

We only have one more Kirsten book left in the series, Changes for Kirsten, and then we move on to the next American Girl: Addy. I remember reading her story when I was little and am anxious to see how well the story is written given how much we’ve all learned in the last several decades. Addy is a little girl who is a slave and is trying to become free and that seems like a difficult topic to write about for children!

I am so pleased that I managed to read even a little during the holiday week. There were days during the week of Thanksgiving that I didn’t pick up any books (other than my readalouds with the kids) and I definitely missed my personal reading time. But of course — those days are just blips in the big picture and don’t matter at all, despite always wanting to read more!! I’m sure I’m not the only one who always wishes for more reading time, no matter how much or how little I find in a day.

Just a reminder that there’s a small group of us reading Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher in December. There’s already a lively discussion happening in our Discord group and you’re welcome to join us! Here is an invitation link. It will expire in 7 days but I can send you a fresh one if you leave a comment or email me. Don’t hesitate to ask!

That’s all for me today! I hope to be back on Friday with a small stitching update. Until then – take good care.


15 thoughts on “Bookish Chatter | Two New Releases and Plenty of Readalouds

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  1. I never read Hatchet as a kid, even though I was well aware of it, and it only just occurred to me that I was turned off by the cover — it looks like there’s a hatchet in his head! I don’t think I ever even bothered to read the synopsis to know what it was about, but I probably would have enjoyed it (I loved My Side of the Mountain, for instance, which is all about a boy fending for himself in the wilderness).


  2. I am always so happy with your reading updates, Katie! I have put Kate Atkinson’s new book on hold! (I loved Boardwalk Empire… so much!)

    I also just checked out Winter Solstice and will start as soon as I finish The Marriage Portrait! Thank you!


  3. Readers always find a way to slide some reading into a busy schedule. I remember reading the American Girl series to my daughters. I enjoyed them, too. Hatchet sounds like quite the book.


  4. I look forward to reading Winter Solstice with you this month! I am about 70% through The Books of Jacob and want to finish that tome before I start anything else. I always enjoy seeing what you have been reading!


  5. So many good books (and woohoo for being outside reading in almost-December!) … and I want to know what you thought happened to Florence in Shrines of Gaiety?! I’ve listened and re-listened to the ending and I’m still not sure!


    1. I’m only about 100 pages into the book so far and YES. Cornwall has made an appearance! No Ibiza yet, but there’s still plenty of pages to get through šŸ˜‰


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