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

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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?


If you're waiting for the next Robert Galbraith book...

Maybe you're like me and have read all three of the Robert Galbraith mysteries. Maybe not having a new one has left a hole in your reading life. For me, the Bill Hodges trilogy by Stephen King has been filling that hole a bit. THESE ARE NOT HORROR STORIES! They're mysteries, and they remind me a lot of the Strike series. Do not let your preconceived notions of Stephen King stop you from giving these a try.

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June 2016 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.

Summer reading is in full swing!

Friday night = book + lawn chair + mojito

Life is good.

I read The Daylight Marriage by Heidi Pitlor because a bookstore I am known to frequent advertised it as similar to Gone Girl. Well, it was similar to Gone Girl because there's a missing wife. However Gone Girl was like watching a train wreck, while The Daylight Marriage actually had characters that were flawed, but you could get invested in them. You actually wanted a happy ending. It was more of a warning than a thriller.

Jane, the Fox, and Me by Fanny Britt was a quick read about a lonely girl in Canada, and her adventures making friends and reading Jane Eyre. I don't usually read comics or graphic novels, but quite enjoyed this one. 

We listened to The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley in the car, and absolutely loved it. If you're looking for a listen for your summer family road trip look no further. It was a great story - likeable characters, interesting for me and the kids, and got us talking about history. Plus the narrator had an accent that made her sound just like Mary from Downton Abbey.

I tried to read The Knockoff by Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza a few months ago, and couldn't get into it. Then I listened to the What Should I Read Next follow up show, and decided to give the audiobook a try. Wow, having someone scream out emojis added so much to the story. Crazy in a good way. Pure entertainment.

Wildflower Hill by Kimberley Freeman reminded me of the books I've read by Kate Morton. It had that same sense of gentle mystery to it. This book is 500+ pages, but I read it over a weekend because it was just so easy to curl up with. Perfect lawn chair reading.

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REVIEW: Home Cooked by Anya Fernald with Jessica Battilana

Home Cooked is the kind of cookbook that you just want to curl up and read. The recipes are great, but the stories and background information are just as great. Home Cooked focuses on the foods many of us don't usually take the time to cook, but don't mind spending a Saturday afternoon reading about how to cook them - lard, sausages, condiments, the list goes on.

My husband saw me reading this book, and demanded to know when I would be cooking something from it. I decided on "The Greatest Pork Spareribs" and they were amazing! Everyone in my family loved the flavor, and there was nothing complicated about the recipe at all. I made the rub and put it on the meat early in the morning, went to the water park all day with my kids, came home exhausted, and threw them in the oven for a few hours. This is a recipe we'll enjoy again and again this summer.

Get this book if you love cookbooks you can cuddle up with. It would also make a great gift for someone who really takes food seriously.

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

Linked to Wake Up Wednesday

REVIEW: Grandma Gatewood's Walk

I'll be forty years old soon, and I've kind of been feeling it in my knees and lower back. Plus my metabolism isn't what it used to be, and some medication I've been taking has been making it hard to catch my breath. I was beginning to worry my hiking days were ending. Then I read Grandma Gatewood's Walk by Ben Montgomery. Um yeah, if she did it, I need to stop being a wimp and keep on hiking.

Grandma Gatewood hiked the Appalachian Trail in her late 60's. Part of the time she couldn't see due to broken glasses, and she kept going any way. I don't even go to the bathroom in the middle of the night if I can't find my glasses. Plus her equipment was lacking. She hiked from Georgia to Maine with little more than some food, a shower curtain, an umbrella, and a pair of Keds on her feet. Her amazing athletic accomplishments don't even account for the serious abuse she had to overcome before she hit the trail.

If you're looking for some great summer reading, something inspiring, or a down right amazing adventure story Grandma Gatewood's Walk by Ben Montgomery won't disappoint. This is going to be one of my most memorable reads all year!


I think this is the best Books on the Nightstand Summer BINGO card I've ever gotten. There isn't a single square that I'm not excited about filling in. As of right now, here's what I'm leaning towards as far as my BINGO reading list.

A mental health memoir: Girl, Interrupted

A dark, upsetting, or sad book: We Need To Talk About Kevin

Written by an author you've met: 168 Hours

Cozy Mystery: All Shall Be Well

Published before 1900: Wuthering Heights

An audiobook: The Knockoff

From the Harvard Classics 5 foot shelf: Pride and Prejudice

That you loved as a child: Baby-Sitter's Club (one of the new graphic novels.)

Set in Australia: Wildflower Hill

With a happy ending: The Little Beach Street Bakery (I'm assuming from the cover. It has a picture of a cupcake with the beach in the background.)

A Newberry or Caldecott winner: The War That Saved My Life

Horror: The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon

Travel writing: My American Revolution

Published in 2016: Eligible

Set at (or near) the North or South Pole: Letters from Father Christmas

Shortest book on your TBR: O Pioneers!

Mentioned on the Gilmore Girls: Ella Minnow Pea

Currently on the nonfiction bestseller list: Rise of the Rocket Girls

That spans multiple generations: The Baker's Daughter

Set in Africa: O, Africa! (I'm disapointed in the selection for this one. Why has no one written a multi-generational historical novel about Africa?)

A retelling of a classic: Northanger Abbey

Nonfiction: Grandma Gatewood's Walk

With a day of the week in the title: The Wednesday Wars

Nonfiction about your hometown or state: Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter

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My summer reading list

My son is so wrapped up in sports that we don't even recognize months in this house any more. We just have soccer season, baseball season, basketball season, etc. Reading is my sport, and summer is undoubtedly my sport's season. I spent way more time than is normal this week coming up with my summer reading list.

(Need inspiration for your own list? Try Modern Mrs. Darcy's Summer Reading Guide and Summer Reading BINGO from Books on the Nightstand.)

To read's description of these books click on any of the images.

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Halftime Reading Goals Progress

Can you believe it? 2016 is half over. Any resolutions I made to improve myself in January have been long abandoned, except for the ones related to reading. I'm still trying to meet my 2016 reading goals for non-fiction, reading out loud, and classics.

Goal #1:

Read 50 non-fiction books, at least 40 from a list I curated from my TBR.

Progress: I have read 28 non-fiction books so far this year, but only ten are from my list. I'm in the middle of a huge book from my list now, so progress will be made this summer.

Goal #2:

Read the 5 chapter books on this list out loud to my kids.

Progress: I have read three chapter books out loud to my kids (plus numerous story books), but none were from my list. Not to fear, we have started two books from the list, so this shouldn't be a total shut out.

Goal #3:

Read these 8 classics in 2016.

I've read 3/8, almost half of my list. I would have read Grapes of Wrath too, but for some reason I've been waiting for weeks for my library hold.

Reading Challenges:

Modern Mrs. Darcy's reading challenge:

I only have 2 books left for this one -- "A book chosen by your sibling, spouse, child, or BFF", and "A book that was banned at some point".

BookRiot's Read Harder Challenge:

I've read 10/24 books for this challenge. Time to step it up! I'm starting with my selection for 500+ pages - City on Fire.

Books on the Nightstand Summer Reading BINGO:

I am super excited for my BINGO card - this is my 3rd year doing this, and I think it's my best yet.  I usually try to read the whole square, and I usually get pretty close.


I started the year with 400 books on my TBR, and am down to 383. Not bad, since I feel like I've added about a thousand books since summer reading lists started coming out.

Happy reading!

REVIEW: A Fine Imitation by Amber Brock

A Fine Imitation by Amber Brock is everything you could want in a beach read, if you happen to be going somewhere warm this weekend. It's the story of Vera, a rich but lonely woman drinking her way through 1920's New York. Vera is so rich she doesn't know how to make tea, but with all her comforts she's never been allowed a bit of fun or self expression. Even when she's tried her very proper mother or socially conscious husband has shut it down. Enter a mysterious European artist, and, well, you know.

This book is not one that will change your life with its prose. It's not The Great Gatsby. This book has characters you can root for, a backstory that keeps you interested, and a satisfying ending. If you're sitting in the sand sipping a drink, isn't that exactly what you're looking for?

Note: I received this book as part of Library Thing's Early Reviewers program in exchange for an honest review. Links to are affiliate links. Thanks for your support!