Reading in the Bathtub

My dear daughter has a strong personality. I have no doubt she will rule the world one day.

I admire her drive so much. She is the girl that couldn't make it past one monkey bar at kindergarten orientation, and made it her goal to get across by the end of the year. As of now we are a month in and she has been to the nurse twice, but she can make it to 5 monkey bars. She will not give up until it's done.

Unfortunately she can also use her drive in ways that drive me nuts. The latest? She hates the bathtub, and bed time has become a bit of a challenge.

My solution? Same as always. Read.

We have brokered a deal where I will read her story books while she takes her bath. Win win.

Some bath time books we've enjoyed:

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October 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. That adds up to a grand total of two books this month! Despite weather that is perfect for reading under blankets I'm just not getting it done. My nerdy spreadsheets that I use to graph my average books read per month show me that is normal for this time of year. I guess this is my reading off season.

When I first started reading Everyone Brave Is Forgiven by Chris Cleave I kind of felt like I have read this same World War II story several times over the past two years. But then I got sucked in and ended up loving it just like all of the other World War II stories. This one takes place mostly in London during the blitz, and does a good job of showing what it did to people as time went on.

I started reading the Little House series again, starting with, of course, Little House in the Big Woods.  This book is more instructional than story driven, but I did enjoy all the descriptions of old time food preparation. It made me want to fill my basement with pumpkins and mason jars.

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October 2016 Audiobooks

Life According to Steph

This time of year seems like a constant sprint/marathon combined. Meaning I have to go to meetings and practices a lot and talk to people. Meaning I am not able to dream away my time while listening to audiobooks as I would prefer. However I did make my way through two mysteries.

I always thought I wouldn't be able to follow mysteries on audiobook, but turns out I quite like them. Just goes to show you're never too old to try new things.

X is the latest in the Kinsey Milhone series by Sue Grafton. This wasn't the best in the series, but I liked how this book continued the story of some of the characters from the previous book.

With only two letters left in the alphabet I'm strongly considering starting over again at 'A' before the series ends. These books started in 1982! Can you believe it?

When I tried to read Still Life by Louise Penny in print I didn't get past the first 15 pages. I heard so many people rave about these books though I decided I needed to try again, this time on audio. I'm so glad! I'm not sure if it was the country setting on the back drop of a fall hurricane, or the delicious way pastries are pronounced with a French accent, but I too am now in love with these books. I'm anxiously waiting for it to be my turn to listen to the next one on Overdrive.

I started listening to It by Stephen King this month as part of a spooky Halloween reads challenge. However it is 44 hours long, so I may not have a review until next Halloween!

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[REVIEW] The Angel of Forest Hill by Cindy Woodsmall

This has been a rough couple of weeks in the way that normal weeks can be rough. No emergencies, but grinding, persistent nonsense that has been wearing me down. There was nothing I needed more than a Saturday afternoon on the couch with a pleasant romance to fill my tanks enough to face another week.

I was so glad when The Angel of Forest Hill by Cindy Woodsmall arrived in my mail box. Rose and Joel, two members of the Amish faith, both feel that they have no choice but to marry after Joel's wife dies. Joel has no one to care for his three small children while he keeps his business alive, and Rose can see no other way to get away from her abusive family. They form a practical partnership, but eventually individually decide they want more. The only problem is the series of mishaps and misunderstandings that keeps them apart. That this all plays out on the days before Christmas makes for a delicious and heartwarming tale that soothes all your mental aches.

Note: The book was provided in exchange for a honest review from Blogging For Books.

The Life Changing Magic of Audiobooks

I look like I am folding laundry, but really I am becoming intoxicated by The Night Circus.

It arrived without warning, and swept me away with its enchanting language, and an amazing narrator. Like with any good audiobook I forget what I am doing, and begin reacting viscerally to the story.

Read more about how audiobooks have changed my life in my guest post for The Imaginary Book Club.

Cursed Child - 5 Things

I flip flopped between wanting to stand in line at midnight for Cursed Child, and wanting to pretend it was never published. I didn't want to spoil my feelings about the Harry Potter series, and initial reviews were not encouraging. Finally I got it from the library, and on a dark and stormy night I stated reading. I was done within twenty-four hours. I have too many disconnected thoughts to do a full review, but here are five thoughts.

  1. Draco Malfoy is a really good dad, and his son is pretty cool too.
  2. Harry never seemed to leave the self-centered teenage funk he entered somewhere around The Order of the Phoenix. I guess one can't be left to die to save the world by your mentor and surrogate father and grow up completely normal. He did save the world though, so we all forgive him for it.
  3. I didn't pay too much attention to timelines, what made sense, etc, etc. I did love being back in the wizarding world again.
  4. Professor McGonagall is still alive!
  5. Hermione is Minister for Magic, but I didn't see her doing jack for the house elves. Wasn't that, like, her whole platform?

Have you read it? What did you think?

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REVIEW: Life of the Party by Bob Kealing

Every so often you stumble across a book about something obscure, and it's so interesting that you spend the next month telling all your friends what you know about said obscure topic. If you're willing to talk to your friends about Tupperware you should read Life of the Party by Bob Kealing right away.

Life of the Party starts from the beginning of the company when plastics genius Earl Tupper came up with the secret formula using materials previously cast off by other processes. At his side was glamorous but smart and hard working Brownie Wise, the woman who really made the home sales party the phenomenon it was in the 1950's. 

The writing in this book was repetitive in some areas, and lacking depth in others. At one point much was made of a law suit, but it was never resolved in the book. However the fascinating hidden story behind the Tupperware empire was more than enough to make up for any problems in the text.

If you like fascinating but obscure stories like the ones you might hear on This American Life be sure to pick this book up.

Note: this book was provided by Blogging For Books in exchange for a honest review.

The Best Summer Brain Candy

I try to read with a purpose, but in the summer I need some brain candy. Here are three I loved this year.

In the audiobook version of The Knockoff by Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza the narrator reads out the emojis at the end of emails in an awesomely crazy voice. An can't miss audiobook if you need a laugh.

If you generally like Sittenfeld's books you'll smile at her take on the classic Pride and Prejudice. If you don't you will think it's horrible racist dribble. I fall in the first camp.

The Swans of Fifth Avenue is a delightfully gosippy book with a satisfying ending. Get ready to google search everyone in this novel based on the life of Truman Capote.

What was the best brain candy you read this summer?

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Summer Reading BINGO

I didn't think I was going to do it, but I squeaked out a BINGO at the last minute!

Here's my row, right across the middle.

A Newbury of Caldecott winner: Sarah Plain and Tall

Horror: The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon

Free: Mr. Mercedes

Travel Writing: Walking With Plato

Published in 2016: The Madwoman Upstairs

Interesting that this row contained so many of my five star reads!

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My Five Star Summer Reads

I read a bunch this summer, and I'm happy to say I had six five star reads - pictured above. Click on any of the images to see a description on amazon.

I'm trying to think if there's any common theme among them, and can't come up with anything. They're just awesome books.

What was the best book you read this summer?

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Non-fiction books about walking: summer reading round up

Leaves are falling on my lawn, so I have to admit summer is over. (Even if it still is 90 degrees outside.) To that end I've been going through my summer reading. A big take away is that I like books about long distance walks. I read 4 of them this summer alone!

Walking with Plato by Gary Hayden will be one of my favorite books of the year. First of all it features two walking companions who actually like each other. The book doesn't end with them divorced, owing each other money, or barely speaking. Instead they cheered each other on, and grew as a couple. Second of all the author didn't bog it down with scientific descriptions of the trees or geology. He simply tells the story of a walk. He reads and he thinks as he goes, and this book is a simple yet satisfying unpacking of his thoughts. He wasn't trying to write a book as he set off, and the reader gets a much better story for it.

I read Grandma Gatewood's Walk by Ben Montgomery a few weeks before my ill-fated trip to Maine. I was really inspired by Grandma Gatewood. Read my full review here.

It took me two tries to get through Step by Step by Lawrence Block. When I started again this summer I really got into the story of this mystery writer who also happens to be a competitive walker. I've never read any of his mystery books; I heard of him when listening to The Moment. (Look for it on iTunes.)

As I wrote in Quick Lit Walking the Amazon by Ed Stafford isn't the best written book. It was a pretty good adventure story about a long walk though (like 3 years.) This was a great book to read in the car while my husband drove us around the Great Lakes.

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September Quick Lit

Summer reading season always ends too quickly...

Summer reading season always ends too quickly...

It's mid-September, and I think we can all agree summer reading time is over. Here's what I read in the last few carefree weeks of summer.

I'm not sure what to think about The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng. The subject, WWII, was brutal, but the cadence of the book was soothing. This is the first book I added to my TBR when I started my LibraryThing account. Now that I finally read it I'm sure it will stay with me for a long, long time.

I read Are You There God, It's Me Margaret by Judy Blume in order to fill in a few blanks for some reading challenges. I'm glad I took the time, because this book is still a masterpiece. I was the same age as my son is now when I first read this book, and re-reading it this summer brought back a lot of my 3rd grade feelings. It was a timely reminder.

Walking With Plato by Gary Hayden tells the story of a walk. He reads and he thinks as he goes, and this book is a simple yet satisfying unpacking of his thoughts. He wasn't trying to write a book as he set off, and the reader gets a much better story for it. This was a five star read for me, and may end up as my favorite of the year.

The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin made me want to drop everything and read Truman Capote books all day and night. I had no idea that this was a fictional retelling of his relationships with the Fifth Avenue elite until I started, and it was such a lovely surprise. Sometimes when you pick a book by its cover it works out for you.

Brush Back by Sara Paretsky is the latest V.I. Warshawski novel. It's not the greatest in the series, but it was still worth reading. True story - when I was finally allowed to take books out of the adult section of my local public library growing up I randomly grabbed one of the first V.I. mysteries, and I haven't stopped reading them since.

Walking The Amazon by Ed Stafford was another book about walking -kind of a theme for me lately. This was a solid adventure story. It wasn't the best written of the bunch, but it was enough to make you want to run away from home and do something crazy.

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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September's Audiobooks

I listened to five audiobooks this month. Some awesome, some not so awesome.

The Gift of Failure by Jessica Lahey was full of quotable lines: "Parenting is more than a duty to make your kids happy." Wow. Something I always knew, but I appreciated the reminder via this audiobook. This was a great option for the weeks before my kids went back to school.

The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud was not such a great option. I don't recommend the mentally unstable 3rd grade teacher genre as an option for any parent's back to school reading. I probably would have stopped, but had a lot of laundry to do and nothing else to listen to.

I wasn't a huge fan of The Lightening Thief by Rick Riordan, but my son who "hates reading" couldn't get enough of this audiobook. As soon as we finished he started begging for the next one. I guess I'm in for a whole lot of Percy Jackson this year.

Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan was not a favorite for my kids, but I bawled through most of it. In a good way. Glenn Close was the narrator and I thought she did a great job.

I listened to the free version of O Pioneers by Willa Cather, and the story lost something from that. Still, this was a pleasant story that I would have never appreciated had I been forced to read it in high school.

Life According to Steph


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I am an instragram addict

I joined instagram a month or so ago, and I am an addict. It's all of the pictures I love from pinterest without all of the annoying instructions making me feel like I should be doing things.

I love the hashtags - my favorite is #readingoutside. I also love the pretty pictures of books next to tea cups. When I'm having a bad day at work (every day lately) I can look and be calmed instantly. Plus there are lots of clouds and sunsets.

I know I'm years behind on this, so if you're already on instagram please leave your name in the comments. I'd love to follow as many of my bookish friends as possible.

Pa is getting on my nerves

We took an epic road trip last week through Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana. We got pretty close to Little House territory, and I even saw a sign for a slough at one point. I had plenty of time for car reading on this trip, and given the setting I decided to catch up on my favorite pioneer family.

I forgot just how much Pa annoys me in this book. I know it was a different time, but man. He really just does what he wants doesn't he? His only concession to his wife and girls is that he is only moving them to a shack in DeSmet instead of Oregon.

I think I need to keep reading to the next book (The Long Winter), because I like when Ma finally loses her patience and lets Pa have it. Rosin your fiddle with that Ingalls.

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.


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.


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


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

The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank


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)


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?