The Baby-Sitters Club Club

Like most everyone else my age I wanted to be Claudia Kishi when I grew up. She's the reason I have multiple holes in my ears, and I used to make earrings from miniature doll furniture I bought at the craft store. She was just the best.

I tried to start reading these book out loud to my 5 year old daughter, but she said they were boring. I was so sad.

Enter the Baby-Sitters Club Club podcast, and I now have an outlet for my baby-sitters love. They cover everything I ever wondered about our favorite baby-sitters and more. If you're not listening already, you need to give it a try, you silly billy boo goo.

REVIEW: KNEADLESSLY SIMPLE BY NANCY BAGGETT

This time of year things start to get crazy, but we still like our freshly made bread. Enter one of my favorite cookbooks, Kneadlessly Simple by Nancy Baggett. In between swim camp and trying to get everything ready for back to school I was able to knock out 4 loaves of bread with about 20 minutes active work.

This is a great book for reading too. The varieties and instructions are interesting. Baggett really goes into the science behind her bread.

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August Quick Lit

New bikes for the kids have given me a good excuse to sit on the curb while reading a book. (Pictured here: wolf by wolf by Ryan Graudin)

New bikes for the kids have given me a good excuse to sit on the curb while reading a book.

(Pictured here: wolf by wolf by Ryan Graudin)

I have been reading a wide variety of stuff lately - just whatever suits me at the time, really. It's too hot to stick to a list!

The Royal Nanny by Karen Harper was an interesting book, made all the more interesting because it's based on a the true story of the Nanny who took care of King Edward VIII and King George VI. It's a little longer than needed, and is sure to force interaction between the Nanny and all the major political figured of the day (the Tsar, Churchill, Teddy Roosevelt, etc.) Recommend for fans of royal baby pictures and The Royal We. (I got this book from Library Thing in exchange for a review.)

I wanted to read Jaws by Peter Benchley this summer, but forced myself to wait until after our annual trip to Cape Cod. I needn't have waited, as the movie is way more scary than the book. I kind of thought the book was just meh, actually. Plus a lot of the 1970's language is offensive. I know they didn't live in such an enlightened time as us, but it's not really worth it for a sub-par book.

Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin was about a motorcycle race in a world that would have existed if Hitler had won the war. If you try not to think about the details too much this is a really good book. I'm looking forward to the sequel due out in November.

I've had Off Balance by Dominique Moceanu on my to be read list forever, but it took the Rio Olympics to finally get me to read it. This book has its ups and downs, but was really interesting to a once every four years gymnastics freak like me. I did some background research on Wikipedia, and it seems like a lot of people in the gymnastics industry deny a lot of Moceanu's claims. However given recent news stories about USA Gymnastics and Marta Karoli's handling of the team I see Dominique in a much better light than I may have a month ago.

Each month I link with Modern Mrs. Darcy's Quick Lit as a way to talk about the books I liked, but didn't review.

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Best books about World War II

Like a lot of people I read a lot of books about World War II. It's an interesting subject, and there's a lot of material. Here are some of my favorites.

Novels

Margot by Jillian Cantor

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

Diaries

Mr. Brown's War Ed. by Helen D. Millgate

The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank

Non-Fiction

No Ordinary Time by Doris Kearns Goodwin

D-Day by Stephen Ambrose

Kids and YA

The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wain

World War II Spies (Choose Your Own Adventure)

Cookbooks

Cooking on the Home Front by Hugh and Judy Gowan

Lost Recipes by Marion Cunningham

What am I missing? What are your favorite books about this fascinating time period?

This month's audiobooks

I have been listening to audiobooks like no one's business lately. My rabid consumption has been driven by a combination of a huge pile of laundry from my kids' swim camp, and all of the time in the car spent driving them to said camp. Being a parent is giving me perspective into how much work my mom had to do so that I could be bored all summer. Oh well, turning lemons into reading time and all that. Anyone want me to throw in a load of towels for them?

The Residence by Kate Andersen Brower was fascinating. I really liked getting a behind the scenes look at life in the White House. (But note: both of my kids complained endlessly about the narrator on this one. They said the voice gave them a headache.)

I had seen the movie version of And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie, but I've never read an Agatha Christie book. The movie was pretty good, but the book was just so much more messed up. (In a good way.) Look for more Agatha Christie in my future reads.

The Royal Wedding by Meg Cabot was my solution when I was craving something light and funny. It was super predictable and stupid, and that made me love it all the more. Sometimes that's all you need.

Eruption by Steve Olson was a fascinating look into the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens. I didn't know much about the eruption going into this book. I remember a teacher bringing a jar of ash to school, and all of us being like Mount St. Who? I was also vaguely aware that the state highpoints of Oregon and Washington were volcanoes. I was too young at the time, and too distracted since with my east coast problems to realize that there are volcanoes that have, can, and will explode in the Pacific Northwest. I can't decide if I should should rush out west to see them before they do, or stay far far away forever in case they pick my vacation week to come alive. There were some boring bits that I tuned out about the history of the lumber industry, but most of this audiobook took my breath away, much like Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air.

Life According to Steph

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Books about the Olympics

Last night I started reading Off Balance by Dominique Moceanu. It's not the greatest book ever written, but since it involves the 1996 Olympics I'm all about it. I caught serious Olympic fever the summer Kim Zmeskal went to Barcelona. It intensified the summer the Magnificent Seven won gold (YOU CAN DO IT!!!), and has never gone away since then. Because of this it's really surprising that the only other two books I've read about the Olympics have been Unbroken and The Boys In The Boat.

Can anyone recommend some awesome Olympics books to me?

Two books I'm thinking of checking out:

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The 20 oldest books on my TBR

I started using Library Thing in 2014 to track the books I've read, and to track the books I want to read. This makes me sound like Angela from The Office, but I find Goodreads to be a bit too flashy for my tastes.

Today I was shuffling through my TBR and realized I had books on there that dated from the inception of my account in 2014. That inspired a new reading challenge. If I don't read these 20 books by the end of 2016 I'm taking them off my list.

I'm going to post the covers here. If you want the amazon.com description click on the cover.

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A walk in the woods with Stephen King

My trip to Maine earlier this month featured good decisions and bad decisions.

Good decisions:

  • Turning around .2 miles from the summit of Mt. Katahdin because the weather was deteriorating and my group was on its way back down.
  • Packing way more food and water for my hike than I should have needed.
  • Keeping gloves in my pack even though it was July.

Bad decisions:

  • Taking a walk in sandals that I know give me blisters the day before our summit.
  • Being okay with a combined 16 hours of driving in the day before and day after our hike.
  • Deciding to read The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon by Stephen King while camping in Maine.

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon is a psychological thriller featuring 9 year old (but tall for her age) Tricia, the Boston Red Sox when they were still cursed, and a pretty good reason to stay on the trail when you're hiking in the woods. Especially the Maine woods. Because the Maine woods are pretty isolated. Anything can happen out there. This is a fact that I didn't really appreciate until I had driven 8 hours to get there from Providence, RI. Not a great time to be reading a Stephen King book about the very place you happen to be camping.

Let's just say that Tricia discovered the world has teeth while hiking in Maine, and so did I. Her discovery involved bears, the sub audible, and being lost in the woods. My discovery involved freezing rain in July, hypothermia, nightmares in a tent, and way too much time to think while driving a rental car.

Other scary books that take place in the north east:

(Note: I had the good sense to put off reading Jaws until after my beach vacation to Cape Cod last week. I read Doctor Sleep in Vermont last August.)

 

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REVIEW: End of Watch by Stephen King

I finished End of Watch by Stephen King while I was on the train, and it was all I could do to keep myself from sobbing.

And I should stop you right here and let you know that this review might be considered spoilery by some people. I'm not going to tell you what happens at the end, but I'm going to talk a lot about my feelings at the end. You've been warned.


The first book of this trilogy, Mr. Mercedes was billed as a detective story, and it worked. I liked it a lot, and even compared it to Robert Galbraith's Strike series. The second book wasn't as great, but it was still good. It was a good story, but Bill Hodges didn't show up until about 2/3 of the way through, and I like Bill Hodges. Plus the ending was weird. Brady is still alive, and maybe can move things with his mind? What does that have to do with criminals that are obsessed enough with books to murder for them?

On to the third book. I had to wait a few weeks for my turn on the library wait list, and when I got it I was almost afraid to read it. Stephen King has sucked me into a series before only to crush my bookworm heart.

But start it I did. This book is in high demand, and the library only gave me two weeks to get through it. In fact I started it on the 11 hour ride back from Cape Cod last week. Were my kids screaming the whole way? I don't know. I was reading.

End of Watch was not the greatest story ever told. But the characters were some of King's best, and when taken together this trilogy is greater than the sum of its parts because of it. By the end you really care about them.

And the end. The end is about facing what life throws at you instead of escaping from it. It was about living every day to the fullest on your own terms. And it crushed me. In a good way. There were no loose threads or unrealistic conclusions. It was kind of perfect. And, I hope I'm wrong about this, but it almost seemed as if Stephen King himself was telling us a few things he learned over his life. It felt like he was saying he's getting to end of his watch. And that's what crushed me the most.

I read about it in a book, and now I must go...

I finished The Wright Brothers last week, and now I am itching to travel to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. I've been there before, but David McCullough's book is so rich with detail that I need to figure out a way to see it again. I barely remember it, and I'm sure I didn't appreciate it enough. Luckily it's only about a four hour drive from here (when traffic is good.)

Have you ever done that? Read about a place, and gone there? As much as I read it usually works the opposite for me. I read about a place because I've just been there, or because I have plans to go there.

A new adventure! How exciting!

July Quick Lit

Each month I link with Modern Mrs. Darcy's Quick Lit as a way to talk about the books I liked, but didn't review.

DC Metro has decided to make up for years of delayed repairs by doing them all at once this summer. That means they are just shutting down certain areas of track for weeks at a time leaving a whole city to scramble when it comes time to get to work. I'm learning the city's bus system, and getting in some extra reading time while I wait for unfamiliar modes of public transportation to arrive. July 2016 might be a record breaking reading month for me!

If I had just picked up Eligible as a Curtis Sittenfeld fan I would have hated the horribly bigoted characters. However, since I knew it was a play on Pride and Prejudice I kind of found the whole thing amusing and impressive. This book doesn't stand alone like Bridget Jones does, but as a Jane Austen re-write it's kind of cute. I loved that Mary got a chapter at the end of the book. 

Home Field by Hannah Gersen is billed as a book fans of Friday Night lights will enjoy. I've never watched Friday Night Lights, but I know enough people who have to know this book would appeal to me. It's one of those books that tells the story of nice people who are trying to do their best in a really tough situation. The ending was just about perfect. (Note: review based on an ARC I received from Library Thing.)

The Madwoman Upstairs by Catherine Lowell was entertaining - we all would like a world where Bronte descendants were reported on about as much as the Kardashians in this world wouldn't we? Another book with a perfect ending, this was well worth the read, though if I had to do it again I would wait and curl up with it on a cold winter's day.

The audiobook version of Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods was road trip entertainment for my brother and I when we were driving to Maine last week. I've listened to this probably about eight times, but it never gets old for me. This is by far my favorite Bill Bryson book.

Rise of the Rocket Girls was interesting from a science standpoint, but even more interesting from a working mom point of view. This was an awesome look at some of the unknown heroes of NASA.

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Books to read when you can't do anything else

There were mountains out there...

There were mountains out there...

I spent a good part of last week fighting hypothermia in a tent in Maine. It was much better than it sounds, actually! When you can't leave your sleeping bag, you get some good reading done. I read two books that were perfect for the occasion.

There are a lot of books that feature down on their luck women who stop doing their actual jobs and find peace by opening bakeries. These story lines annoy me (It actually takes a lot of work and skill to bake bread and run a business. It's not something you do because you can't handle your more stressful career back in the city.) However, once I get past that I usually really enjoy these books when I'm looking for some fluff. The Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan was no exception - this one featured an island that can only be reached at certain times, and a sexy beekeeper from Georgia.

I somehow lucked out and was first in line when my library got the new book First Comes Love by Emily Giffin. This, again, was not Earth shattering literature, but it took my mind off the rain coming through my tent walls. It was what summer reading is all about - a light but thought provoking story line with characters that you can root for, flaws and all.

Life According to Steph

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REVIEW: A Super Upsetting Cookbook About Sandwiches by Tyler Kord

I have never laughed so hard when reading about sandwiches. Amazing. Even if you are on a carb free gluten free paleo diet get this cookbook right away and read it cover to cover. All of the recipes, descriptions, even the index have little notes, and bits of sarcasm that just make you smile.

The recipes sound good too. There are normal meaty sandwiches, but there are also interesting vegetarian ones that involve broccoli. Apparently these are all served at the author's restaurant in New York, and I have never wanted to eat at a restaurant so much as I have after reading this cookbook. The food sounds good, but if the place is half the fun of this book I will never want to leave.

This isn't just a cookbook. It's a conversation starter, or something you would leave on your coffee table.  It would make a great gift for a Secret Santa or your quirky cousin.

Note: I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for a honest review.

Books for little gardners

As any good parent would, I'm trying to brainwash my kids into liking all of the things I do -- mostly the Red Sox, hiking, reading, and gardening.  These books about the garden and vegetables help with the last two.

Cheers for a Dozen Ears: A Summer Crop of Counting is a rhyming book with vibrant pictures.  It makes for a great read aloud.

A Cottage Garden Alphabet doesn't have much of a story, but is wonderful to flip though on a rainy day with your favorite little person.

Eating the Alphabet has long been a favorite of ours -- and my go to baby shower or 1st birthday gift.  The pictures are so lovely, I sometimes find myself looking through it when my kids aren't around.


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The Green Eggs and Ham Cookbook

I've been hunting around for kid's cook books at my local library, and I really like what I see in this Green Eggs and Ham Cookbook.  The recipes are fun without being too out there -- although I was surprised that their recipe for Roast Beast used chicken instead of beef.

This book would also be great for birthday party food.

Have you tried anything from this book?  Do your kids have a favorite cook book?

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The best cookbooks for freezer cooking

Cooking in summer isn't always fun, but still the people who live here want to eat every day. I tend to rely on freezer cooking or batch cooking to get us through until the humidity falls back below 50%. There are tons of freezer cooking options online, but of course my most trusted resources are books.

Click on any of the book covers below to go to the description on amazon.com.

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Review: Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter

I got a lot more laundry done than usual this weekend because I was listening to the audiobook version of Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter by Kate Clifford Larson. This book about the least famous Kennedy child was heartbreaking, but also inspiring. Her birth was rough, and Rosemary suffered from intellectual disabilities. After a failed lobotomy in her early 20's Rosemary spent her life hidden away from her public, and even her family for a time. It's hard not to judge Joseph Kennedy for what happened to Rosemary, just as much as it's hard not to admire what her brothers and sisters, especially Eunice and Ted, did later in life to better the positions of disabled people.

If you like biographies of underappreciated people try:

What I read last summer...

According to my records, last summer I read thirty books! I was curious to see what kinds of books I spent a good part of my summer with. To be honest with you there are some I must have read really fast, because there are some that I barely remember. Then there are the others. The ones that I can just look at the covers and I am transported back to the sights and sounds of last summer.

We had a few kid free days while visiting relatives in Ohio, so of course I tore through a few books. I get up hours earlier than my husband, and enjoyed the time by drinking tea and re-reading Jurassic Park. I loved this book when I first read it as a teenager, and I still like it a lot now.

My summer reading wasn't all fluff. How to Talk so Kids Will Listen & Listen so Kids Will Talk ended up making a huge impact on how I interact with my kids.

I was stuck at the LaGuardia airport for about six hours last year as part of a business trip, and I had finished my book on the plane. Nightmare! Luckily I randomly bought this Sally Ride biography at a newsstand, and the time passed quickly. Amazing and inspiring.

Destiny of the Republic was a fascinating audiobook that would be perfect for a long road trip, however I clearly remember listening to it when I was doing the mounds and mounds of laundry from my son's sports camp. Another amazing part of history that I didn't know much about.

The ferry ride across Lake Champlain is beautiful, but I couldn't pay a bit of attention because I was 3/4 of the way through Doctor Sleep. A creepy Stephen King book that takes place in New England kept me from paying attention to actual New England.

The accent in the audiobook version of The Boston Girl was perfect. It made you feel like the main character was with you, talking to you, about her time growing up in Boston back in the day. A year after my grandmother died, it soothed something in me to feel like I was listening to the story of someone who would have been about her age.

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The tyranny of library due dates

I really love the ability to put books on hold and renew books online at my library. However, being the book addict that I am I am prone to checking my account once or twice a day. No harm done, except for when I realize that four best sellers have come in at once, and they're all due next week, and they can't be renewed because they all have multiple holds on them.

That's when I start feeling rage similar to what the Incredible Hulk must feel.

Why am I expected to work when I have books to read? Why do my kids want to eat when I have books to read? Why do I have to talk to other people when I have books to read?

You wouldn't like me when I'm angry. Leave me alone and let me read my book.

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My favorites from Books on the Nightstand

Like most people I was sad but understanding when Ann and Michael decided to pull the plug on the Books on the Nightstand podcast. It doesn't take years of listening to deduce how much work went into recording that show.

This podcast was always the one I never forgot to download, and I would usually listen to an episode two to three times so I could get all of the bookish info straight. I'll miss it, but luckily there's a large backlog of episodes to go back to. Here are some of my favorites:

Episode #376 - Ten Books, a Whale, and a Library Farm - The "Don't You Forget About Me" feature was my favorite, and this episode had an especially good one.

Episode #357 - Planning ahead to 2016 - Reading goals are one of my favorite things to think about.

Episode #346 - AirB and Bookstore - Great for daydreaming.

Episode #327 - Jynne Martin Helps Me Solve My Poetry Problem - Poetry! It's not just by dead guys.

Episode #304 - Wait...What Just Happened? - I thought it was just me.

As you can see all of my favorites are from the past few years. Lucky me, I get to ease the pain of no new episodes by listening to the ones that aired before I "discovered" this podcast. Any recommendations on where to start?