The Bookspired Linkup (May 2016)

Welcome to The Bookspired Linkup! Each month we share posts that fit The Bookspired Linkup theme: exploring how a book has inspired you. You can read about my inspiration for starting the linkup here. Check out the linked-up posts through the blue inLinkz button at the bottom of this post and add your own, or participate through the comment feature.

This month I’m also hosting a giveaway! Details are at the bottom of this post. 

Thanks for stopping by.

Confessions of a Prairie Bitch and Other Things I Love

A year and a half 7284508ago, I was scrolling through my Goodreads updates feed and this book caught my eye: Confessions of a Prairie Bitch: How I Survived Nellie Oleson and Learned to Love Being Hated by Alison Arngrim. How could I resist the saucy title, the Pepto-Bismol-pink cover, and the collage of one of the best TV villains from one of the best TV shows, Little House on the Prairie? I put the book on my Christmas list, and my parents fulfilled my wish.

I was so intrigued by Arngrim’s stories about her days on the TV set that I read while holding my newborn in one arm and the book in the other. I loved learning about Arngrim’s relationships with Melissa Gilbert (they were and still are close friends), Melissa Sue Anderson (not so close with this Melissa), and of course our beloved Michael Landon. Arngrim had a difficult childhood, and her persistence through some terrible situations, along with her wit and likeable real-life personality, puts the character of Nellie Oleson into a whole new light.

In addition to loving this book for its own story, reading Confessions of a Prairie Bitch sparked my interest in reading other memoirs so that I could dive into the details of other people’s lives, learn more about their true personalities, and understand the good (and sometimes the not-so-good) things they’ve done. Some of my favorite memoirs from the past couple of years are:

Dad is Fat and Food: A Love Story by Jim Gaffigan

Yes Please by Amy Poehler

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

Tattoos on the Heart by Fr. Gregory Boyle

Out of Sorts by Sarah Bessey

Nellie Oleson now has a special place in my heart. I owe her, and the talented actress who played her on TV, for fueling my interest in good memoirs. Here’s to the biggest bitch on the prairie!

Giveaway Details:

I’m giving away my copy of Confessions of a Prairie Bitch. To enter the giveaway, leave a comment on this post to explain why you want to win the book. All commenters will be entered into a random drawing after the linkup closes in one week. One entry per person, please.




My Favorite Place To Browse

“Perhaps no place in any community is so totally democratic as the town library. The only entrance requirement is interest.” Lady Bird Johnson

My favorite place to browse for books is the Staff Picks section at my local library. Although tastes can differ, a good librarian won’t recommend a book that is poorly written. Most (I’d venture to say all) librarians are serious readers and see hundreds of books come through the library doors. They get the latest scoop on what’s hot off the presses and are typically knowledgeable about the best books in all different genres. There’s no incentive to recommend bad books because they’re not making any money from sales, so their recommendations can be trusted to be books they truly loved.


I’m sure the caliber of staff recommendations varies depending on the library, but there’s an easy way to tell if it’s a top-notch selection: Check to see if any of the best books you’ve already read are included on the shelf. When I spotted Wally Lamb’s The Hour I First Believed as one of the staff picks, I knew I’d hit the literary jackpot. Since we moved to our town a year and a half ago, I’ve read six Staff Picks books. Five of them were great, and one of them was well-written but not my style.

The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff – A very interesting novel that flashes back and forth between the stories of Ann Eliza Young, the 19th wife of Brigham Young, and a young man exiled from a fundamentalist Morman group in the late 20th century.

Precious and Fragile Things by Megan Hart – Apparently Megan Hart is known for writing erotica, but this book is not that. It’s a dark, suspenseful cabin-in-the-woods novel that would make a great beach read for any woman, particularly a mother, who doesn’t mind dark stories. A page turner.

You Know When the Men Are Gone by Siobhan Fallon – An excellent collection of fictional stories about military families on the Army base at Fort Hood, Texas. I was a military spouse for almost three years, and the characters rang true for me.

Into the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes – A very dark and graphic suspenseful novel that I could not put down. It’ll have you checking the locks on your doors and maybe even hiding under the covers. Much more suspenseful than some more recent disappointing bestsellers which shall remain nameless at this time.

A Small Hotel by Robert Olen Butler – This is the one I didn’t like. It’s a bleak story about a broken marriage. I can understand why it was recommended, though, as the writing is very good.

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin – As I shared in my last post, this book is a gem and one of the best novels I’ve read in a while. The small town Mississippi setting and complicated characters are so well done. My favorite, so far, of the Staff Picks.

Then there’s these three, the Staff Picks checked out to me at the moment.


I’m not sure I’ll love them, but I’m pretty confident they’re worth a read.

What’s your favorite place to browse?


The 6 Books I Finished in April

*Linking up with Anne Bogel’s Quick Lit at Modern Mrs. Darcy*

I consider it a good reading month if I read at least one book that I love. In April, I loved two of the books I read and liked the other four, so it’s been a good run. Without further ado, here are the six books I finished in April:

512QYi8RoLL__AA300_1. Yes Please by Amy Poehler
My Thoughts: Amy Poehler grew up in Burlington, Massachusetts, not far from my hometown of Needham, and attended my alma mater, Boston College. It was fascinating to hear her talk about her childhood and her college years at BC. I also loved her stories about working on Saturday Night Live and the births of her children. The audio version of this book was great because it was read by Amy herself with several guest appearances including Carol Burnett and Amy’s own parents. Their thick Boston accents made me giggle.

Length: 7 hours 31 minutes

When I Read It: March 30-April 3, 2016

Where I Found It/How I Read It: Placed a hold through the Overdrive App/Listened to the audiobook.

Favorite Quote: “That is the motto women should constantly repeat over and over again. Good for her! Not for me.”

2. Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin

My Thoughts: This book is a gem. I picked it up from the staff picks section at my local 7948230.jpglibrary knowing nothing about it. The story jumps back and forth between the 1970s and present day in small-town Mississippi and unravels the mystery surrounding the disappearances of two girls. The writing is great, and the ending is satisfying. It’s one of the best novels I’ve read in a while.

Length: 274 pages

When I Read It: April 3-10, 2016

Where I Found It/How I Read It: Found it in the staff picks section at my local library/ read it the old-fashioned way

Favorite Quote: N/A

3. Dad Is Fat by Jim Gaffigan

My Thoughts: I liked this memoir even more than Gaffigan’s Food: A Love Story, which I finished back in March. This book is all about the Gaffigans’ family life and hilariously depicts many of the challenges of living and traveling with young kids. Quite a bit of this material is used in The Jim Gaffigan Show, the TV Land sitcom which will air its second season starting in June. I’d recommend both watching the show and reading the book because both are too funny to miss.

16141924Length: 5 hours, 26 minutes

When I Read It: April 7-14, 2016

Where I Found It/How I Read It: Placed a hold through the Overdrive app/listened to the audiobook

Favorite Quote: “If camping is so great, why are the bugs always trying to get in your house?”

4. Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life by Richard Rohr

My Thoughts: I read this book with The Red Couch Book Club, a group of writers and readers of SheLoves Magazine. I’ve had Richard Rohr on my to-read list for a while and jumped at the chance to read along with a smart group of women. I was, quite frankly, blown away by this book. Rohr has an amazing gift and language for expressing the magnitude of God’s mercy, among many other big topics. I plan to make my way through his other books and am particularly looking forward to his forthcoming book, The Divine Dance. 9963483

If you’d like an intro to Richard Rohr, check out Rob Bell’s recent interview with Rohr on the Robcast. It’s pretty special.

Length: 199 pages

When I Read It: April 9-19, 2016

Where I Found It/How I Read It: Requested it through my local library/ read it the old-fashioned way

Favorite Quote: “In the beginning, you tend to think that God really cares about your exact posture, the exact day of the week for public prayer, the authorship and wordings of your prayers, and other such things. Once your life has become a constant communion, you know that all the techniques, formulas, sacraments, and practices were just a dress rehearsal for the real thing – life itself – which can actually become a constant intentional prayer. Your conscious and loving existence gives glory to God.”

5. Killing Lincoln: The Shocking Assassination That Changed America Forever by Bill O’Reilly

10587120My Thoughts: Although I wasn’t crazy about having Bill O’Reilly’s voice in my ears for hours while I walked the dog and cleaned the house, I did like this book on Lincoln’s assassination. I appreciated the chronological account of the end of the Civil War and the events leading up to the assassination, the night at Ford’s Theater, and the hunt for John Wilkes Booth. Although I’ve been to Ford’s Theater a couple of times and went on a walking tour of the area just a couple years ago, I picked up some new fascinating details about this terrible event, including the fact that EIGHTY-SEVEN men drowned while searching for Booth after the assassination. I might check out O’Reilly’s Killing Kennedy after I take a break from his voice for a bit.

Length: 7 hours, 49 minutes

When I Read It: April 15-28, 2016

Where I Found It/How I Read It: Placed a hold through the Overdrive app/listened to the audiobook

Favorite Quote: N/A

6. Still Life by Louise Penney

My Thoughts: I’ve heard the Inspector Gamache series recommended over and over again, and I was glad to finally check out book #1 to see what the hype is all about. I enjoyed the depiction of life in Three Pines, a village outside of Montreal, and the introduction of the fun cast of characters and a solid plot about a suspicious death in town. Although I can’t say I loved the book as much as I’d hoped, I did enjoy the story. I’ve heard the writing gets better as the series progresses, and I think I’ll read at least one more to see if I’m in it for the long haul. I might even jump into book #2, A Fatal Grace, in May because I find that if I don’t continue with a series right away, I lose steam and abandon it. 338691

Length: 293 pages

When I Read It: April 19-30, 2016

Where I Found It/How I Read It: I received this book in the first book swap we had in the SortaLiterary Facebook group. I was thrilled with the surprise pick that my fellow SortaLiterary member Joni sent my way, as it’s been on my to-be-read list for a long time. I sent Joni Sarah Bessey’s Out of Sorts: Making Peace with an Evolving Faith.

Favorite Quote: “I think many people love their problems. Gives them all sorts of excuses for not growing up and getting on with life.”


Audiobooks beefed up my reading game this month. I’m hoping to spend more time with good, old-fashioned paper books in the month of May. You can friend or follow me on Goodreads for the latest updates.

Looking Ahead …

The Book I’m Most Excited To Read in May:

  • The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule. I just started this true crime classic about serial killer Ted Bundy. I’ve been wanting to read it ever since I first got hooked on the true crime genre a few months ago … I’ve heard it’s one of the best. So far, I’ve learned the creepy fact that Ted Bundy studied at University of Washington, where I attended graduate school. I’m grateful he wasn’t there when I was.

Don’t forget to join The Bookspired Linkup on the May 18th! Check out the linked posts from last month, including the close-to-my-heart one from my friend Kerry at Inspired By Baking.