Gift books under my tree

As should be expected in my house Santa leaves a lot of books under our tree. Here are a few I know he's bringing this year for my husband and kids (ages 5 and 8.)

For my son (age 8):

For my daughter (age 5):

For my husband (age unknown):

What's under your tree this year?

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Harry Potter season

For me this time of year is Harry Potter season. Most nights find me staying up late listening to the audio book versions and making cookies.

I still have to finish listening to It, and I have the next Inspector Gamache mystery in my playlist. However I know that soon though the spirit of the season will take over, and I'll need to listen to The Half Blood Prince. It wouldn't feel right not to.

Do you have certain books that you read or listen to at certain times of the year?

P.S. I brought the kids to see Fantastic Beasts this weekend and we loved it! It was funny and cute with a hint of scary. I never really liked the Harry Potter movies, but since I wasn't comparing this one to a book I was able to relax and enjoy it.

Cleaning up my TBR

My TBR (to be read list) has ballooned to gigantic proportions in the past month. It was clear I was never going to get through it. Last weekend I spent an entire afternoon when I should have been getting ready for Thanksgiving cleaning it out.

If a book met any of this criteria I deleted it. It was kind of heart wrenching, but I figure if it was meant to be the book will come back to me some day.

1) Anything that had vampires in it went. The thought of vampires makes me want to vomit so I didn't have a lot of them in there, but a few snuck through. I can't even drink tomato juice. There's no way I'd read a book about vampires

2) Books involving unsolved murders of elementary school age kids or murders of mom who leave young kids behind.

3) Books I included when they were new and promising, but now only have two star reviews.

4) Books that are on my list only because I feel guilty for never having read them.

5) If I was on the fence about it, and my library doesn't have it.

6) Books that I keep returning unread.

7) Books with endings that seem to infuriate people. Given the current climate in this country, I prefer solid endings.

8) Too many people call a book weird or experimental.

I was able to take my list from 499 to 345 books.

Do you ever clean out your TBR? What are your rules?

November Quick Lit

Reading in a tent, just a few short weeks ago.

Reading in a tent, just a few short weeks 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.

For three quarters of the year I am a very mindful, list driven reader. This time of year I use reading as a form of self-care, and pick up whatever feels good. This is what has felt good lately.

I really enjoyed Opening Belle by Maureen Sherry. It's about a woman working on Wall Street in 2008. I have never made $500k a year, or had anyone grab my butt at work, but other than that this book reflected my experience more than any other working mom book I've read. I loved the tangent at the end that seemed to say the financial crisis would have never been so bad if a few more women had been in leadership positions.

I'm getting ready to host a family Thanksgiving dinner for the first time, and Immoveable Feast by John Baxter really got me in the mood. It's about a family's Christmas feast in Paris, and the background of each of the courses. If you really love putting together huge dinners, and sourcing each ingredient, read this book.

My son and I are reading through this series by Lauren Tarshis, and we both love it. We started with I Survived the Eruption of Mount St. Helens, 1980, and quickly followed that with I Survived the Sinking of the Titanic. My son claims to "hate reading" but he begs me for one more chapter each night for like five chapters. (I can't wait until I can hand him Into Thin Air!)

Lakeshore Christmas by Susan Wiggs wasn't the best book I've ever read, and I don't think I'd seek out anything else from this series, BUT when I needed something simple to read on a dark night it fit the bill. It's a classic bad boy meets good girl and she makes him believe in Christmas and fall in love type story.

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Books that give me hope.

So, that election was a surprise, wasn't it? So many people I know are scared and hurting right now. I couldn't find much to smile about on my way in to work, but then I checked Twitter. So many of my bookworm friends are vowing to read in the face of what we think is wrong. I love it!

Here's my two cents on books that will give you hope, if your political leanings have you wanting to read for hope right now.

To read about any of these books, click on the image and you'll go to These links are affiliate links. Thanks for your support.

November Audiobooks

Sometimes wasting hours on Pinterest is so worth it...

Sometimes wasting hours on Pinterest is so worth it...

It's my busy time at work, and I've been cranking through audiobooks as I program my life away. I never used to listen to mysteries, because I thought I wouldn't be able to follow them. I gave a couple a try last month though, and now I have a whole new world open to me.

Mr. Churchill's Secretary by Susan Elia MacNeal was enjoyable enough. It's a World War II book with a bunch of twists and turns, but nothing too mentally taxing. I didn't realize it was part of a series when I started. I'm not sure I'll seek the others out, but wouldn't turn them away if they showed up on my doorstep. Has anyone else read anything from this series?

Foul Play by Janet Evanovich bills itself as a mystery, but really it was a romance that had a little bit to do with a missing chicken. Total fluff, not that there's anything wrong with that.

Everyone who told me that the Gamache books got better with time was right. This month I listened to The Cruelest Month by Louise Penny, and loved every minute of it. I went out of order and read #3 before #2, and I'm hoping that doesn't mess things up too much. That's the risk when you depend on Overdrive!

Linked to:
Life According to Steph

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[REVIEW] A New Way To Dinner by Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs

I recently had the pleasure of curling up and reading A New Way To Dinner by Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs. This gorgeous cookbook by the brains behind Food52 is a collection of amazing recipes that are also family friendly. Best of all they are organized to knock out a week's worth of cooking in one afternoon!

After an hour or so of reading and drooling over the recipes and color photographs I was inspired to get in the kitchen and cook. Not only did I prep for a week's worth of bag lunches for my family, I made the Thai Steak Salad from this book. We loved it, and I can't wait to do a more organized session of a week's worth of meals.

Buy this book for yourself, and buy a copy as a Christmas present for your best friend. you both will thank me later!

Note: I received this book in exchange for an honest review from Blogging For Books.

Movies so good they should be books...

I'm not sure exactly how to word this post, so I'm just going to give you two examples.

Example 1:

My kids have to dress up as book characters at school for a parade that happens to be on Halloween, but definitely has nothing to do with Halloween because we don't celebrate holidays in this city. My husband suggested my daughter dress up as Annie, but of course that was never a book. A comic strip yes, but not a book.

"That movie was so good. how come it wasn't a book first?" he said.

Example 2:

I was watching the old school version of Twelve Angry Men last night. Earlier this year I served on a week long jury, and someone suggested this movie to me. I finally got it from the library. I loved it, but knew I couldn't stay awake for the whole thing. I figured I'd find the book version and listen to it on audio at work.

It was never a book either! Much like my husband I couldn't believe it.

Does anyone else think that all good movies are based on books? Am I just a book snob?


Little House Re-Read Part 1

I never read Laura Inglalls Wilder’s Little House series as a child.

I was into The Baby-Sitter’s Club and then Christopher Pike. I would have never taken the time for these way back people.

When I finally did get around to them as an adult I did something uncharacteristic for me. I started in the middle of the series. As a new mom searching mommy blogs for the answer to doing it all, doing it all well, and doing it all on a severely reduced budget I kept coming across references to The Long Winter. So one day I picked it up, and was amazed that Ma could do so much with so little.

I eventually read the whole series, but did so out of order. Reading the series that way left me with an incomplete picture of the Little House story arc. Why was Pa always making the family move? Did their story ever come out all right? Why did Laura marry Almanzo when Cap Garland seemed like so much more fun?

I decided it was time to read all of the Little House books in order, and see if I couldn’t get some of my questions answered.

Read my first installment here.

[REVIEW]: Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

I put off reading Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier for years because for some reason I thought it was a re-telling of Jane Eyre from the 1980's. Rebecca, it turns out, is a gothic novel, but it has nothing to do with Jane Eyre.

It does, however, have that sense of something's just not right like Jane Eyre does. It's that creepy feeling we love to indulge in this time of year. It should be a dream come true- poor girl marries rich man and gets to live like royalty at an English country estate by the sea. But we all know it never turns out all right for the down trodden shy girl.

When the twist comes you kind of suspect it, but it still knocks the breath out of your body. And the ending. Oh, the ending. I don't want to give anything away here, but I dare you to read the ending without immediately going back to the front of the book to read it again. I'll just say it's not the romantic ending that we somehow feel dirty about because he kept his wife in an attic ending that we got in Jane Eyre.

I'm so glad I finally read Rebecca, and I can't rule out reading it again next year around this time.

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I linked this post to Jenn's Bookshelves Murder, Monsters & Mayhem -- a collection of creepy books perfect for this time of year.

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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