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#LearnEverythingtlt Nonfiction Summer Reading Challenge 2016

Saturday, May 28, 2016
Summer is unofficially here, pools are opening and the barbecues are sizzling. I am especially excited now that the weather in Northern Virginia has turned into some extended sunshine. We had rain here for the entire month of May! I was starting to lose my mind...

Thankfully with the sunshine comes a little extra relaxation or vacation time. A lot of us take advantage of the spare time and turn to reading. And since I've been committed to reading more this  year, obviously I want to use the free time during these warmer months to take things up a notch. Who's with me?

Nonfiction Reading Challenge - choose a topic and get learning with this summer reading challenge

This summer improve your reading game with the #LearnEverythingtlt Nonfiction Summer Reading Challenge!! You won't be reading just any books. Instead you'll be getting lost in books that enlighten and maybe even motivate you in a subject you've always wanted to learn about but have yet to give a chance. Those burning questions you "never have time for" are suddenly at the top of your priority list.

Here's what you'd be getting yourself into:

How To Participate

  • Starts: Monday, June 20, 2016 (The Official First Day of Summer!!)
  • Ends: Monday, September 19, 2016
  • Books should be nonfiction books about a concrete topic of education. Ideas could range from anything to fashion to geography to color psychology!
  • Reading list should include:
    • A narrative fiction or realistic fiction book based on a real-life event or person related to the subject you choose.
    • A book recommended by your local librarian on the subject you choose.
    • A book written by a known authority or author you have heard of on the subject you choose.
    • A biography of a relevant/historical figure in the field you choose.
    • BONUS: A book, article, or research paper on the subject you choose that can be read in a day. Blogs with cited sources might also be worth considering.
  • Set a goal to read at least 1 book each month. Nonfiction books are generally a lot more to chew on, so give yourself some room to really take it all in. 

    Participate More

    • Facebook: Hang out with me on the brand new Everything the Light Touches Blog Facebook page for the live event to share your chosen learning topic and to see what others are up to. LearnEverythingtlt Nonfiction Reading Challenge
    • Twitter: Use the hashtag #LearningEverythingtlt for links to book lists, knowledge nuggets you learn along the way, and pictures of your journey.
    • Pinterest: Get on the #LearnEverythingtlt Bookshelf Pinterest board to share links related to your topic and to get inspiration from the learning experience of your fellow nonfiction readers. Those who add their posts in the Pinterest board could be featured in my posts throughout the summer.
    • Blogging: 
      • Post your reading list/challenge introductions on your blog before June 30th. Be sure to link back to this page ( for the rules using the image provided here
      • Post again by September 30th to share what you learned over the Summer and your further nonfiction reading goals. 
    I'll be breaking my Saturday-only posting schedule to bring you updates. You'll be able to read about my personal experience and the experiences of others on the third Monday of each month. Like the ETLT Facebook page for these posts and more.

    Alright, if you're in, download the prep sheet which will walk you through the choosing of your topic and keeping track of your books. See you June 20th!
    #LearnEverything Nonfiction Reading Challenge Prep Sheet

    Currently Reading: The Maggie Hope Mysteries

    Saturday, May 21, 2016
    A couple months ago I was browsing the International Spy Museum gift shop. A bookshelf by the back registers caught my eye. On the cover of one book was an art deco propaganda-worn graphic of a young woman with crayon-worthy red hair and the title "Mr. Churchill's Secretary" in a mod font. Without command, my hands snatched up the book. I started scanning the synopsis.

    My time with Jane and her husband, Vincent, were coming to an end and I needed somewhere new to start. Light Googling had proven to me that there was nothing like the Glamourist Histories that I was willing to get into. (I don't think I'm ready for Sense & Sensibility & Seamonsters...) All seemed lost until this chance meeting in a museum gift shop. A book about London during World War II with smart women and espionage was sure to have me hooked. And it might be just the thing you were looking for as well.

    **This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase goods or services through links contained in this post I may be compensated by the website, brand, or product. All the opinions in this post are my own. 

    Currently Reading: The Maggie Hope Mysteries - a story of a young girl coming of age and espionage in WWII London

    The Background

    The Maggie Hope Mysteries is a New York Times Bestselling series written by the quirky and smart Susan Elia MacNeal. The story follows Maggie Hope, a once-aspiring mathematician who grew up in the United States, and her friends who are anxious to help Great Britain in its fight against Nazi Fascism. The journey from a band of patriotic flatmates to high clearance agents working for Churchill himself is one to obsess over. With diverse, independent characters and an offbeat perspective on the time period, each installment of The Maggie Hope Mysteries is worth the late, late nights and the last minute searches for the  next book in the series. I was crushed when I found out the next book in the series isn't even out yet! You should see the desperate email to my library in search of the next book. So "currently reading" might be better said "currently waiting" haha.

    The five novels so far are highly entertaining. MacNeal does a fantastic job of making you feel like an insider to the Allied forces and their efforts in the early 1940s. I love that the books incorporate dual perspectives - British and American - on culture, strategy, and politics during the War. Thanks to the differing cultural expectations and the intrigue, readers have the chance to hear well-known events and characters retold in a new light. The historical notes are a great bonus offering extra detail and some basis for the more interesting conspiracies which MacNeal chooses to highlight. About 25% of my time with the books was spent online doing my own research. A book that is entertaining AND makes you curious is definitely on my list of must-reads.

    The Best & The Bad

    Admittedly I started out the series wondering why I kept reading. Then I found myself burning through them as fast as I could find the next title. The stories suck you in without your knowing it! That might have a little something to do with MacNeal's consistent nod to the cliff hanger. The book would end and I'd NEED to know what happened next. I tip my hat to you, good lady.

    The best part of the series has to be the way MacNeal presents the imperfectness of decision-making during the War. As a teacher and fan of history I was impressed by the portrayal of life-and-death questions being answered with more than a simple "yes" or "no." Powerful people were making powerful moves, and that is evident throughout the text with intentional conversation between all levels of characters. The stories strive for balance in explaining the reasons behind going to war, etc. Sure there was hope for positive results, but these world leaders also contradicted themselves in these endeavors. Even a simple reference to this is important to a well-balanced story.

    I also appreciate the seemingly tangent stories that are mixed in among the spying and warring. Susan Elia MacNeal often reminds readers that "there's a war going on." But she also reminds us that, despite the repeated mantra, there is more to the story. Social and economic questions were being debated on both sides of the pond both in the context of war and without. Race, homosexuality, propaganda, family, terrorism - they all have strong storylines throughout the novels. However, I do feel that the discussion was a little too open and relaxed. Many may have felt as open-minded and accepting as the characters in the series, but I would say that the majority opinion was much more rigid. For that opinion to not have a lasting effect on the characters is a bit unrealistic. Still the mention of these topics within the text adds to the perspective of the books which is what makes the series its own.

    On a lesser note, I do wish the romance worked out differently in the books. At times the intimate relationships in the story seem *too* realistic and logical. Just once I would like for it to get messy enough to work out in the end. I've got my fingers crossed for Maggie in the upcoming release - #OTL.

    More Books

    I will be counting down the days until The Queen's Accomplice debuts on October 4, 2016. Until then I'll have to fill my time with something... First, I'm digging into a nonfiction reading challenge I'm hosting over the Summer (deets coming next week) and getting back to my roots with Harry Potter.

    When I am done with that I might try The Maisie Dobbs Novels by Jaqueline Winspear, also a New York Times Bestselling series, or Her Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen which are set in Britain during World War II as well. That last one sounds like fun.

    Stay up to date on the release of the sixth novel starring Maggie Hope and company by following Susan Elia MacNeal online: Website/Facebook/Twitter.

    Click to explore the books in The Maggie Hope Mysteries and pre-order The Queens Accomplice:

    Use an eReader? Start reading now:

    8 Encouraging Quotes to Put on Your Favorite Bookmark

    Saturday, May 14, 2016
    This Mother's Day all the main moms in my life were gifted homemade bookmarks complete with beaded tassels and a quote from the Bible about the value of women (Proverbs 31:10). The intent was to encourage these women to read and learn as well as just let them know how cool I think they are. Thoughtful gifts are kind of my specialty. 

    The bookmarks were really easy and inexpensive to make. I designed the image using PicMonkey. Then I printed and laminated them at my local UPS store. A few hole punches, some embroidery floss, and a couple glass beads later and we were in business. Even after making 9 of them I spent less than $25! And there was still one to spare for myself. You can see the one I made for Mother's Day and more of my bookmark designs below.

    8 Encouraging Quotes to Put on Your Favorite Bookmark - remind yourself how awesome you are and motivate yourself to read. It's win-win!

    Well, Mother's Day passed and I got to thinking about all the possibilities with this bookmark idea. Homemade bookmarks with personalized quotes would be a hit for any special people in your life: mom or dad, old or young. After gathering up some Pinspiration, I came up with these 8 quotes worthy of motivating you and yours to keep reading, learning, and being cool too!
    1. "If you are not willing to learn, no one can help you. If you are determined to learn, no one can stop you."
    2. "A gentlemen is one who puts more into the world than he takes out." - George Bernard Shaw
    3. "It's not just a daydream if you decide to make it your life."
    4. "You don't have to be great to get started, but you have to get started to be great." - Ralph Waldo Emerson
    5. "The journey of a thousand miles begins with one watch your step." - Jeffrey R. Holland
    6. "You are far too smart to be the only thing standing in your way." - Jennifer J. Freeman
    7. "Work hard & be nice to people."
    8. "The things you are passionate about aren't random, they're your calling." - Fabienne Fredrickson
    I chose these quotes because they portray a sense of knowing right from wrong and acting on it. They encourage the reader to truly evaluate the goals they've set and consider what it takes to get there. Perfect for motivating don't you think!

    Here are a few of my favorite quotes from this list which I've turned into bookmarks for you already. Also check out the one I made for Mother's Day. I'm no graphic designer, but it's pretty fun! Save your fave to print later when you're ready to be reminded to keep being awesome. Or make your own! Which of the quotes from today's list would to want to see everyday? Tweet me your favorite or your bookmark creations so I can see: @love_kristyn