Leather Chair Reading! Cozy January Books!

Leather Chair Reading!  Cozy January Books!

After all the hustle and bustle of the holidays, January seems like the perfect time to get cozy by the fireplace and relax with a good book on those cold, winter evenings!

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In our family, we still love giving and receiving good books for Christmas gifts…it gives us something to look forward to come January when the weather is bleak and schedules are a little less hectic.

Leather Chair Reading! Cozy January Books!

“A book is a gift you can open again and again.”  Garrison Keillor

Here are a few cozy January books I highly recommend!

Prayers For Sale  by Sandra Dallas

Leather Chair Reading! Cozy January Books!

In all the many books I’ve read over the years, there’s only a handful that I can honestly say I couldn’t put down…this book was one of them!  Much of the story takes place in the mountain mining town of Middle Swan, Colorado–so getting cozy under a big quilt or a warm afghan is a necessity as you read about the cold, harsh winters the people endured there as they worked hard to eek out a living under brutal weather and living conditions.  The story takes place in 1936 when the great depression has ravaged the country and jobs are scarce.  The main character, Hennie Comfort, befriends seventeen year old Nit Spindle and her husband, who have come to find work in Middle Swan.  Hennie and Nit create an instant bond over their shared love of quilting, as well as the deep heartache both have suffered from having lost a child.  Hennie doesn’t sell prayers, not really, but her wise nature and deep commitment to helping the people of her community seems to make them believe that she is more in tune with a higher power than most.  I think one of the main reasons I loved this book so much was because Hennie’s resilient spirit reminded me of my maternal grandmother, who raised my mother and her six brothers, mostly on her own, since my grandfather traveled often, and for extended periods of time for work with his insurance business.  Hennie Comfort and women like her, have a work ethic and common sense approach to life that can’t help but inspire you to be a more selfless and loving person.  This book shows you that friendships truly have no boundaries if you sincerely care about each other.

"Prayers For Sale" by Sandra Dallas

How To Find Love In A Book Shop  by Veronica Henry

Leather Chair Reading! Cozy January Books!

A wonderful friend recommended this book for our neighborhood book club…and what a treat!  The title and cover art alone make you want to go find a cozy spot and get lost in the pages of this fun book!  One review of this book states that, “…it is a delightful story of a bookshop, its devoted new owner, its loyal customers, and the power of books to heal the heart.” —and indeed it is that, and more.  In fact, as you can imagine, some of the best stories aren’t told within the books sold, but rather from the customers themselves that frequent the Nightingale Book Shop.  Although Emilia gave a deathbed promise to her father to keep his beloved book shop open, where he fell in love with her mother, she faces some of the same dilemmas many small business owners face today…that of keeping things afloat while big property developers put undue pressure on her to sell out to large company conglomerates.  Compounding the fate of the book shop even further, is the tremendous debt her father had accrued before he died.  Even though there are a lively cast of characters, (and I loved them all) who create several storylines…from the introverted but sweet chef, Thomasina, who came on Tuesday afternoons to browse the cookery books, to Sarah, the owner of Peasebrook Manor, who used the escape that a good book provides to hide a special secret of the heart…the author is an amazing storyteller and develops each one in a compelling and heartwarming way.  It’s truly an enchanting story of the power of community–and books!  It’s a cozy January “must read”!

Leather Chair Reading! Cozy January Books!

“A town without a little book shop…is a town without a heart.”  Nightingale Book Shop owner, Julius, in “How To Find Love In A Book Shop”

Number The Stars  by Lois Lowry

"Number The Stars" by Lois Lowry

I read this gem years ago with my kids when they were in elementary school, but when my oldest granddaughter received this book for Christmas, I rummaged through my bookcases to find it and read it again.  Lois Lowry has written many wonderful children’s books, but this one is by far my favorite!

The story told in this book is based on historical fiction and the events that took place in 1943 during World War II, when thousands of Danish Jews were helped to escape to the neutral country of  Sweden in order to avoid being relocated to concentration camps by the German Nazi’s.  The book centers around the Annemarie Johansen and her family, who risk their lives to help Annemarie’s Jewish friend, Ellen Rosen, by pretending she is their late daughter, Lise, who had died earlier in the war.  The author states that the book’s title is from a reference in Psalms 147:3-4, where God states that he has numbered all the stars and has named each one of them…which seems befitting since so many innocent lives were lost due to the treacheries of this war.  It also ties into the special Star of David necklace Ellen wore that becomes a significant symbol of Annemarie’s courage when she breaks it off Ellen’s neck when Nazi soldiers raid the Johansen’s apartment early one morning, thinking they are illegally harboring the Rosen family.

"Number The Stars" book quote.

This novel received the Newbery Medal Award in 1990, which is given to a distinguished contribution to American literature for children.  One award reviewer stated, “Like the main character, Annemarie, young readers are protected from the full implication of the horrendous events of World War II, but will get caught up in the suspense of her courageous run as courier on the night of the family’s escape from Copenhagen.”  I also read where Lois Lowry traveled to Denmark to do research and conduct interviews for the book, and took the photo of the girl on the cover shown above that was used on many editions of the book.  If they haven’t heard about it already, introduce your children to this book and read it with them; they will surely develop a deeper appreciation for the freedoms they enjoy today due to the sacrifices of those who lived before them–including many children!

In this day and age, it seems more important than ever before to turn off the distractions of our TV’s and technical devices for a while, and pick up a good book.  I hope you’ll find the ones I’ve listed here as enjoyable as I did.

Open a good book quote.

What are some good books you’re reading now that we could add to the cozy January book list?

–Love, Mary


Leather Chair Reading! Fun And Thoughtful Summer Books!

Leather Chair Reading!  Fun And Thoughtful Summer Books!

As you scan the big, wide, wonderful world of the internet, it won’t take you long to realize that summer book lists are a dime a dozen.  That being said, I’m a huge proponent of checking out anything that gets us interested in taking a break from social media to actually opening up what we each consider a good “read-worthy” book.  Here’s a few I’ve read lately that I know will make you glad you took the time to curl up in a comfy, secluded corner somewhere, to get lost in the entertaining wonders of the written word!

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 “If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need!”  Tribute Journal

Tribute Journal’s Summer Book List!

Short  by Holly Goldberg Sloan

Short: by Holly Goldberg Sloan

“Unexpected things happen when you are young that change you…or maybe a better way to say this is, unexpected things happen when you are young that shape you.”  Holly Goldberg Sloan

This fun novel was a recent pick for a book club I attend…and boy, did I ever love every entertaining, laugh out-loud moment it provided!  This delightful book was inspired by the author’s own experiences of being the shortest girl in her class throughout her elementary grade school years, as well as her adventures of playing a Munchkin in summer theater production of “The Wizard Of Oz”.

The endearing story of “Short” is told through the matter-of-fact, pre-teen eyes of Julia Marks.  Discouraged about her lack of stature and grieving the loss of her beloved dog, Ramon, Julia isn’t looking forward to her summer.  To make matters worse, her mother signs her and her younger brother up to audition for a semi-professional community play of the “Wizard Of Oz” …and what does she get cast as?  That’s right, a munchkin!  During the course of the nearly daily rehearsals, Julia is introduced to the world of theater and the quirky cast of characters who make a lasting impact on her young life.

I grew a lot this summer.  Not on the outside, but on the inside.  And that’s the only place where growing really matters.

Julia Marks in “Short” by Holly Goldberg Sloan   

Aside from the ever charming character of Julia, I loved Julia’s neighbor, Mrs. Chang, a former prima ballerina, who Julia has no trouble convincing to become involved in the theater production as costume designer extraordinaire; she is a kick and even though she’s well into her 70’s, she eventually talks the eccentric director of the play into letting her and Julia be some of the flying monkeys who are strapped into make-shift harnesses as they fly across the stage in what becomes a highlight of the play.  Another subtle, yet wonderful relationship development that takes place in this book, is the new-found respect Julia finds for the tireless efforts of her mother as she starts to realize how much her mom just wants what’s best for her family…any mother can certainly relate to that plot line!!

I smile at mom and tell her something I’ve wanted to say all summer.  “Thanks, mom.  Thanks for making me try out for this play.”  I think I might have made being a mother totally worthwhile for her.  I will never forget the look on her face…mom has tears in her eyes and she’s smiling.  It’s an amazing look.  I have to remember how powerful it can be to say thank you.  Especially to the people you live with.  They probably least expect it.

As an adult, I dearly loved this book, and my two older granddaughters are also enjoying it as we read it together this summer.

The Rent Collector  by Camron Wright

Rent Collector quotes.

“Just when we think we have our own stories figured out, heroes arise in the most unexpected places.”  Camron Wright 

My husband gave me this beautifully written book as a gift this past Christmas.  My sister-in-law, who is an avid reader, suggested it as a “must read” when he inquired about a good book he could give me…and indeed “The Rent Collector” is  a mesmerizing book to read!

Typically, when an amazing story is discovered in a wonderful book and gains public acclaim, it might eventually be made into a movie.  In the case of “The Rent Collector” –it was a documentary film made by the author’s son while he attended film school, that inspired Camron Wright to make the characters come to life on the written page.  (You can read more about the documentary film here.)   

Sang Ly in the book The Rent Collector.

(Sang Ly with her husband and son via “River of Victory”)

The story is set in Cambodia just after the decline of the communist Khmer Rouge regime.  The two main characters, Sang Ly and her husband Ki Lim, live in Stung Meanchey, the largest municipal waste dump in Cambodia.  Day to day life is hard enough when you have to make a living scavenging through the trash for recyclables, without the extra worry for their chronically ill child, Nisay, and the added expense of the medicines that don’t seem to be working.  Although this story line may sound grim, the author’s eloquent message throughout the book is one of hope, determination and redemption.  Sang Li’s quest to save her son’s life takes an unusual turn when she finds out that the ill-tempered woman who collects their rent, Sopeap Sin, has a secret that could eventually help Sang Li save her son.

As stated on the cover of this book:

The Rent Collector powerfully illustrates how anyone can quite literally “rise from the ashes” so to speak, in the most unlikely of places.

I read about an interview Mr. Wright gave when “The Rent Collector” was first published, where he states that hope is sort of an innate thing that we should all hold on to in our hearts…

Things get terrible and things get bad, but we always look to better times; I think that is how we should always live no matter our circumstances.

I guarantee that this book will have a powerful impact on how you view your own life and how you choose to resolve the challenges you face.

Choices That Change Lives  by Hal Urban

Choices That Change Lives by Hal Urban

“Our lives are the direct result of our choices, and the most important choices we make become our character traits…the ones that lead to fulfillment and peace of mind.”  Hal Urban 

This book is a follow-up to Hal Urban’s best seller and one of my very favorite books, “Life’s Greatest Lessons: 20 Things That Matter Most”.  (You can read my journal entry on that book here.)  Hal Urban’s books are so joyful to read; he has the rare ability to entertain and enlighten without getting preachy.  As a former high school teacher, college professor, and single father who raised three sons, his stories are insightful and the wisdom he’s gained through his own process of self-evolvement can’t help but inspire you to more fully develop your capacity to live a rich and rewarding life.  I keep both these books handy so I can use them as a ready reference for those times when I find myself in need of a little extra “food for the soul” –so to speak!

Hal Urban quote: We live by choice, not by chance."

In the introduction of this book,  Mr. Urban recalls that all too often in his travels, he found that people were intrigued with the concept that he’d mentioned in his previous book…

I recall vividly that while on a media tour for my book, “Life’s Greatest Lessons: 20 Things That Matter Most” –all every radio or TV host wanted to talk about was the chapter on making choices…you would have thought that I’d made some startling discovery that was going to dramatically change millions of lives.  But the truth is, choices have been around for as long as mankind.  It’s truly amazing how many people are either unaware, or forget, that they’re making choices all the time–little ones that are fairly unimportant, and big ones that can change our lives for good or for bad.  This book is about some of those big choices.

When I first read this book, I just picked out the chapters with the characteristics and choices I thought I needed to work on the most–I mean who doesn’t need to take a good close look at being more humble, patient, kind and courageous…right?  However, when I picked up the book again and reread it from front to back, it dawned on me that so many choices we make in life are interrelated and applied simultaneously as we strive to live our best lives.

The advice given at the end of the book is one of the key reasons why I love Hal Urban’s observations and astute insights into everyday life.  He says:

While reading this book, you may be thinking the same thing I was thinking while writing it.  What person could possibly practice all these qualities and virtues every day?  I thought of two who probably did–Albert Schweitzer and Mother Teresa.  The world doesn’t produce a lot of people like these two Nobel Peace Prize winners, but it does produce a lot of regular people like you and me who want to grow, who want to be the best persons we can be, and who want to lead lives of joy.

I hope you are all having the best summer, full of all the things you love–I also hope it includes a good book or two!  My cute dad, who always seemed to have a book in his hand, loved this quote…Ralph Waldo Emerson quote on reading.With this thought in mind, I’d love to know of any good books you’ve read lately or are reading now that have made an impact on your life.

–Here’s to happy summer days and good reading!  Mary 

Leather Chair Reading! Books That Celebrate The American Spirit!

Leather Chair Reading!  Books That Celebrate The American Spirit!

I think it’s fair to say that we may all be a little weary of the grueling political process we’ve experienced in the past several months as we anticipate the election of a new president of the United States.  Sometimes it seems that the very principles our founding fathers fought so hard for in establishing this great country are being compromised.  The campaign rhetoric got so bad one night, that I found myself browsing my husband’s expansive library of American history books to find a few that would help restore my faith in everything I love about this great land of America.  For this Leather Chair Reading journal entry, I have chosen a few of the books I love that helped me remember, more intimately, the immense sacrifices of past generations as they fought for the many freedoms we now enjoy, as well as reenergize my belief in the great American spirit!

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“There is nothing so wrong with America that faith, love of freedom, intelligence and energy of her citizen’s cannot cure!”   Dwight D. Eisenhower  

1776  by David McCullough

1776 by David McCullough

“The eyes of all America are upon us as we play our part; posterity will bless or curse us!”  Henry Knox

If you are a fan of Pulitzer prize winning author, David McCullough, like my husband is, (don’t even get him started on John Adams, McCullough’s book written just prior to this one) you know he always does extensive research.  In 1776 McCullough focuses on a single momentous year in the fight for American independence, rather than any one individual, although George Washington definitely takes on a starring role.  If you have ever wondered how a bunch of unruly farmers, so to speak, end up defeating the great monarchy of England, you’ll learn from this book that it was done with a great deal of suffering, determination, ingenuity…and perhaps a bit of divine intervention!  McCullough details both sides of the conflict, and how England underestimated abiding hunger for victory.  Besides a new respect for George Washington and his ability to garner an unwavering loyalty from those he led, you’ll also see that he had the rare gift to learn from the criticism he received from other commanders.  When Washington learned that other military leaders considered him to be hopelessly indecisive, he considered their views, agreed with them and made himself more decisive.  An unlikely hero in this book was Henry Knox, a small, rotund Boston bookseller, who trekked over wintry, frozen terrain to bring much needed ammunition from Fort Ticonderoga to help American soldiers be victorious in the battle at Yorktown, a pivotal turning point in winning the Revolutionary War.  On the book jacket it states that 1776 is another landmark in the literature of American history.  In reading this book, I was in awe of all the players that, by no small coincidence, came together to help America gain its freedom!

A More Perfect Union  by Dr. Ben Carson with Candy Carson

A More Perfect Union by Dr. Ben Carson

“Our founding fathers wrote the Constitution for ordinary men and women, in clear, precise language; they intentionally made it short enough to read in a single sitting.”  Dr. Ben Carson

My husband and I picked this book up long before Dr. Carson made his bid for the 2016 presidential race.  I had read his autobiography, Gifted Hands, and liked his thoughtful, determined approach to life.  We read a few chapters after purchasing the book, then got busy with other projects, so it sat neglected on my nightstand.  But when the constitution became such a focal point of the current presidential race, we decided it was time to become better versed on this document drawn up by our founding fathers as a fundamental directive that helps to define key points that promise to protect the rights of the citizens of the United States of America…even amid all their varying viewpoints.  Dr. Carsen so profoundly states, “I wrote this book to encourage every citizen to read and think about the Constitution, and to help defend it from those who would misinterpret and undermine it in our age of political correctness…it’s so important to defend the Bill of Right, which guarantees our freedom to speak, bear arms, practice our religion and much more.” 

The Constitution. A More Perfect Union!

The Preamble to the Constitution says, “The purpose of this document is to create a more perfect union of this blessed nation!” 

May we all be empowered, in some small way, to protect that union and secure the blessings of liberty for ourselves.  I also loved the insights from Dr. Carson’s wife, Candy, as she put a female spin on the privileges we are afforded as a result of upholding the Constitution.  (If you really want to treat yourselves, get the audio version of this book, Dr. Carson’s kind voice is such that listening to him read this book can’t help but restore any lacking faith you may have in the great American Spirit!)

Unbroken  by Laura Hillenbrand

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

I actually read this book some time ago with a neighborhood book club; and while I’d like to think of myself as somewhat of a dedicated learner about World War II, I have to admit that I found I wasn’t too knowledgeable on the Japanese element of this horrific war.  Unbroken is the true story of Louis Zamperini who learns to channel his youthful defiance into being a world-class runner who eventually makes his way to the 1936 Berlin Olympics.  But when World War II breaks out he finds himself enlisting as a United States airman.  I found this book to be a hard read sometimes as it documents Zamperini’s perils of being lost at sea after his plane is shot down over the Pacific Ocean and the brutality he eventually faces as a Japanese prisoner of war.  I loved learning that the author was able to interview Zamperini many times as she wrote the book, and was able to find out first hand that his character, even in old age, exemplified hope and humor amid his memories of the most desperate of human conditions!  I later saw the movie based on the book that was produced by Angelina Jolie, who said Zamperini taught her about having faith.  “There’s just something greater than all of us…and it’s uniting and beautiful!”   Wonderful wisdom to keep in mind as we each face life’s challenges, whatever they may be.  

The great American spirit of Louis Zamperini!

(Louis Zamperini in 2014 at 97 years old.)

“When he thought of his history, what resonated with him…was not the pain he had suffered, but the divine love that he believed had intervened to save him.”  Laura Hillenbrand on Louis Zamperini

I  hope I can learn to love deeper when facing adversity…and may we all learn to truly cherish those who have forged the way for America to exist as it does today, and honor its greatness by the way we live!

I Love America quote.

Please share what books you’d recommend about American History and its great spirit that are a “must read”?