September 2017 Quick Lit

From a road trip to Indiana -- seems like a nice place, but I was obsessed with finishing Glass Houses, so...

From a road trip to Indiana -- seems like a nice place, but I was obsessed with finishing Glass Houses, so...

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. Well, I've been in such a back to school slump that my list is a whopping two book long this month. But really there's only one that matters:

Glass Houses by Louise Penny -- I never buy print books any more (out of room in my house), but I made an exception for this one. It didn't disappoint. These books leave me so emotionally drained, but in a good way. This one had a little different format that previous books in the series - it switched between a trial in the present day, and a murder in the past. I don't always love it when authors tell a story that way, but it worked here.

Also, I love Ruth.

Summer At Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan -- Simple and predictable, just what I needed for reading in the car while my husband drove us along the PA turnpike.

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September 2017 Audio Books

Fall flowers

Fall flowers

Summer is officially over, and after running here, there, and everywhere for weeks I'm looking forward to some weekends at home puttering and listening to audiobooks! I haven't listened to much lately, but here's a few I did manage (mostly in the car.)

In A Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson -- I read this book a long time ago, and decided to give the audio a try this summer. I like this one - it's more like A Walk in the Woods than some of his others that I find to be too judgey.

Al Franken, Giant of the Senate by Al Franken -- Interesting to see how the sausage gets made. He wants to run for president right? That's why he wrote this book?

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald -- Still one of my favorites, and I love it on audio. For such a short book, there's so much there. Beware of careless people.

That's all for this month! Hopefully next month I'll be back in the swing of things.

Life According to Steph

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[REVIEW] The Road to Paradise by Karen Barnett

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I love a book about mountains, and when you combine mountains with historical romance you really can't go wrong. Hence I spent a pleasant day curled up with Karen Barnett's The Road to Paradise.

As I mentioned it wouldn't take much for this book to keep me entertained, but even so, the lovely vintage cover drew me in right away. And Margie's story was a good one too. Margie went to Mt. Rainer both to indulge her love of nature, and to escape her shady ex-fiance. Of course there's a hunky ranger on the mountain. I'm telling you; it's everything good for a cozy day of reading.

Note: A copy of this book was provided by Blogging For Books in exchange for an honest review.

Books About Travel Gone Wrong

After finishing The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware last week I remembered how much I enjoy reading about travel gone wrong. After going through my librarything.com account I saw that I had read quite a few books on that topic. Here are some of my favorites (both fiction and non.)

Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith

The Travelers by Chris Pavone

The River of Doubt by Candice Millard

Around the World in 50 Years by Albert Podell

Do you have any favorites about travel gone wrong?

My Back To School Reading List

I used to love going back to school as a kid. Even now when I only get to put my own kids on the bus I get a big sense of anticipation. I just feel like conquering the world, you know? Even my reading changes. No more breezy summer reads - I'm ready for something deeper. Hence my back to school reading list.

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen

War and Remembrance by Herman Wouk

How to Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster

Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin

Richard Nixon: The Life by John A. Farrell

So You've Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson

Emily of New Moon by L.M. Montgomery

August 2017 Quick Lit

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My summer of amazing reading continues! I usually try to keep my posts to three great books, but I could only narrow it down to six this month.

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. Here are the best of them:

Three Books That Gutted Me

A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline -- If you have ever felt like you're invisible, or taken for granted by the people around you, I think you'll really feel for the main character in this book. (Even as she makes bad choices.) I appreciated that this wasn't the usual artist has affair with muse story.

Shoes for Anthony by Emma Kennedy -- Yes, another World War II novel. BUT this one is set in Wales, so it's different. Well, not really, but if you can take one more World War II book this should be it. This book was as heartwarming and hopeful as a book about war can be.

Beartown by Fredrik Backman -- One hundred pages in I was like "I am not going to finish this book. Too much hockey." One hundred twenty pages in I was like "NO ONE TALK TO ME UNTIL I FINISH THIS BOOK." I thought about rating this one five stars, but had to knock it down to 4 1/2 because of the hockey at the beginning.

Books That Were Just Plain Fun

New Boy by Tracy Chevalier -- I didn't like this one for the story, but more for the fun Tracy Chevalier had with making Shakespeare her own. Of course I would probably read the telephone book if Tracy Chevalier wrote it.

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal -- I was smitten by the characters in this book. It wasn't exactly what I was expecting, but that was okay. It was a little romance, some coming of age, a bit of mystery, and some naughty parts involving fruit. Not too many naughty parts though, and they're all in italics so you can skip them if they bother you. Did get some weird looks reading this on the metro though.

Sometimes I'm So Smart I Almost Feel Like a Real Person by Graham Parke -- Harold was another character I liked a lot. Read my full review here.

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August 2017 Audiobooks

The world may be ending, but my flowers look great this summer!

The world may be ending, but my flowers look great this summer!

I can't believe it's August already. Summer is almost over, and I'm turning 40! No worries. In my head I'm maybe 32.

Anyway summer always leads to good audiobook listens. Here are some of my favorites from the last month.

Apollo 8 by Jeffrey Kluger - I LOVED this book, especially the recordings of the astronaut's chatter with mission control at the end. Audio added so much to this book. It's about, as you may have guessed, the flight of Apollo 8. Apollos 11 and 13 get a lot of attention, but this one was truly groundbreaking. I'm glad to know more about it.

Song of Susannah by Stephen King - This is a re-read for me. I first read it on my honeymoon, and my memories of it mostly included our balcony in Mexico. This time I paid more attention to the book, well aware of what's going to happen at the end. It's weird that Stephen King wrote himself into the book, but I appreciated the technique more this time.

The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan - This book about the Dust Bowl is so interesting. I highly recommend it if you enjoy non-fiction that reads like fiction.

Happy reading friends!

Life According to Steph

[REVIEW] Sometimes I'm So Smart I Almost Feel Like a Real Person by Graham Parke

This book started off as a funny workplace memoir similar to The Rosie Project and ended up as a poignant reminder that you never know what someone's going through on the inside. Harold is a cubicle worker who lives with his mom, and runs a dating advice Youtube channel at night. He's a severe introvert, and has rules for everything. Even eating a burger requires precise finger placement.

Things begin to unravel in Harold's carefully planned life when he begins trying to date Emma, the cute girl who works at the nut shop in the mall. As someone who works in an analytical field, and who has met more than my fair share of Harolds I really enjoyed watching him break out of his comfort zone. (Note: I may also be a Harold.)

If you like quirky humor and nerds give Sometimes I'm So Smart I Almost Feel Like a Real Person a try. It's even free for Kindle Unlimited users right now!

Note: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. Links to amazon.com are affiliate links. Thanks for your support!

Austen in August

I am excited to take part in this year's Austen in August on the Roof Beam Reader blog. This is my first time taking part in this event, and I'm looking forward to immersing myself in all things Austen.

If you have a blog you have until July 31 to sign up. If you'd rather follow along on Twitter the hashtag is #AusteninAugustRBR.

This is a great way to wrap up summer reading, isn't it?

July 2017 Quick Lit

Not to brag, but I have not read a bad book all month. It has been a great reading summer so far, and we've only just begun!

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. Here are the best of them:

Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie -- This book was everything I love: a coming of age story set in an far away location. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a genius, and I can't wait to read more of her books.

The Wanderers by Meg Howrey -- This book was billed as Station 11 meets The Martian, which it wasn't, at all. Those books had a lot of action, and this one mostly took part in the astronauts minds. Still, I liked most of the characters, so I liked this book.

Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith -- A perfect summer read. Two creepy people meet each other on a train with murderous results. I liked this one a lot.

The Shining by Stephen King -- I HAD to re-read this after driving through Estes Park, CO.  I had forgotten how different it was from the movie. When I finished I was so creeped out I jumped at my husband's shadow. That doesn't usually happen to me.

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July 2017 Audiobooks

I have been indulging in all sort of things this summer: swimming, prickly pear cocktails, ice cream, and BOOKS! I have just been reading and listening to whatever I want, and it has been blissful. I'll have to go back to my reviews soon, but for now I'm living the good life.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett -- I read this book when it came out, but have always wanted to listen to the audio. I finally got around to it, and loved it just as much as the print version. The multiple voices really added to the story in the audio version.

At Home In The World by Tsh Oxenreider -- People who aren't afraid to travel with children are my kindred spirits. People who travel around the world with children are my heroes. I loved this book for that reason.

Pax by Sara Pennypacker -- I liked this middle grade book, but not sure it was appropriate for my kids. It talks a lot about loss, evil parents, and war. It sailed right over the head of my six year old, and made my 9 year old sad. I should have waited, or listened alone.

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2Q2017 Reading Stats

This quarter my reading life included a lot of audio for the Armchair Audies, a youth sports induced reading slump, and the start of summer reading. Here are my stats:

34 books read between April and June.

That's 5 fewer than in Q1.  Not bad for a busy season.

My TBR is up to 357.

I wanted to get it down to 300 this year, but it actually keeps creeping up. Oh well, that's the price I pay for taking part in reading round ups.

Favorites from 2Q17:

It's interesting to me that these are all audio books. My brain might have just been too tired for print last quarter.

I average 2 non-fiction books a month.

However, that number keeps getting lower as we ease into summer.

How has your reading year been going?

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[REVIEW]: Footsteps

Over the past month or so I've been savoring The New York Times' Footsteps. It's an awesome collection of pieces on literary pilgrimages that have been printed in the Times over the years. The short stories are perfect for dipping in and out of in between phone call or while on a train. My only complaint about this book is that it's adding to my already too long to-be-read list.

Note: A copy of this book was provided by Blogging For Books in exchange for an honest review.

June 2017 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.

The weather has been very rainy, but I'm starting to get a few chances to do summery things like read outside by the fire. I haven't even bought our pool pass yet, but I'm looking forward to reading by the water soon.

The Winds of War by Herman Wouk -- I really liked losing myself in this long book about a family on the cusp on World War II. I'll admit to skimming some parts about military history though. Beware if you read this; it ends on a cliff hanger. Don't do it unless you want to commit to the doorstop of a sequel as well.

Margaret from Maine by Joseph Monninger -- I would describe this book as thought provoking. There's so much there about today's veterans and their families, marriage, motherhood, and life.

Lassoing the Sun by Mark Woods -- This was a good travelogue about the National Parks. It's not a I did this and then I did that kind of book. It's a this is what the parks mean to me kind of book.

Last Night at the Lobster by Stewart O'Nan -- This short book was good, but I wish I had read it around Christmas time.

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June 2017 Audiobooks

Memorial Day meant a road trip to Cleveland. 

Memorial Day meant a road trip to Cleveland. 

Once the Armchair Audies ended I went on a podcast binge, and have only recently found my way back to audio books. I am a huge fan of history books on audio, but listening to so many of them in a row was a bit much. I had fun, but I'm glad it's over.

Here's what I've been listening to since I stopped listening to Audie books.

Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner -- I was surprised that this book was written in the 1980's. The slow building story of adult friendships reads more like a classic. If you need something soft and gentle to read in your hammock, pick this one up. It's lovely.

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman -- I listened to this book about a grumpy old man for the Imaginary Book Club. It had been on my TBR forever, and I was so glad for the push to get to it. It's great on audio if for no other reason than to get the correct pronounciation of Ove.

The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Spere -- I loved this book. I got it out of the library to listen to with the kids, and ended up listening ahead after I had dropped them off. I don't know how I never read this one growing up, but I'm glad I got the chance now.

A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny -- Another winner by Louise Penny. I was on a train with co-workers when I got to the end; I hope they didn't see me crying.

Life According to Steph

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My Summer Reading List 2017

I can't wait for summer reading. Is there anything better than books that smell like sun block?

I'm expecting good things this summer. My kids are both independent swimmers now, and we got a pass to the local water park. There is a chair there somewhere with my name on it. (Hopefully it's in the shade, and hopefully it stops raining soon.) Here are some of the books I plan on slipping in my bag (other summer bag essentials: sun block, band aids, cheeze its, and sun glasses.)

Song of Susannah by Stephen King -- I lost steam in my re-read of the Dark Tower series until I started seeing posters for the movie version coming out this summer. Suddenly I got interested again.

Saints for All Occasions by J. Courtney Sullivan -- I've read most of J. Courtney Sullivan's books, and I'm excited she has a new one for this summer.

Y is for Yesterday by Sue Grafton (release date 8-22-17) -- I really hope Kinsey doesn't die at the end of this series. Been reading these since I was a young teen.

Glass Houses by Louise Penny (release date August 29, 2017) -- I'm about 1/3 of the way through book 12. I'm so glad there's another book in this series on the horizon for when I finish that one!

What are you looking forward to reading this summer?

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The Best Road Trip Audiobooks for Adults

One of my favorite parts of road tipping is listening to good books with my husband while the kids snooze in the back seat. We've never been people to read the same paper books, but we can usually find plenty of audio books to amuse both of us. Here are some of our favorites.

Fortune's Children by Arthur T. Vanderbilt II -- The history behind the Vanderbilt family is fascinating, and the gossipy parts are fun too.

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman -- There are two types of people - those who have read A Man Called Ove, and those who have it on their TBR. If you haven't got to it yet, a road trip would be a great time to listen to this wonderful story.

Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millard -- James A. Garfield is a forgotten president, and was so glad I had the opportunity to learn more about him in this fascinating audio book.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee -- You can't go wrong with a classic, especially when it's read by Sissy Spacek.

Wait Till Next Year by Doris Kearns Goodwin -- I loved this baseball memoir. If you grew up in a baseball family you'll relate.

What's your favorite road trip audio book?

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And The Armchair Audie Goes To...

In Harm's Way by Doug Stanton is my pick for the 2017 Audie Award in the History/Biography category.

This was a hard decision, but in the end this was the book that stuck with me the longest.

Audie Awards are announced on June 1. Follow @ArmchairAudies on Twitter to see if my pick matches up with the real thing.

UPDATE: The official results are in, and In Harm's Way won the Audie! Congrats to Doug Stanton!

All Audie Award Reviews:

In Harm's Way

Paul McCartney: The Life

A Time to Die

Valiant Ambition

The Year of Lear

May 2017 Quick Lit

Making my way through The Winds of War on my hammock last weekend. A long book read outdoors=Heaven.

Making my way through The Winds of War on my hammock last weekend. A long book read outdoors=Heaven.

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.

This is my busy season - things are crazy at work, and my kids are both playing sports while trying to complete their year end commitments for Scouts and Religious Education. Each year I say I'm not going to let them leave everything until the end, but each year we have the same situation. I am practically living out of my car at this point. Hence I need to fill my library bag with cozy, fluffy reading material.

The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet by Bernie Su and Kate Rorick - I never watched the web series it was based on, but still enjoyed this cute modern Pride and Prejudice. In this retelling Lizzie and co live in California and work in tech.

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter - This book about a Hollywood starlet in a backwater Italian town was funny in a subtle way. I enjoyed it a lot. Perfect summer reading.

Leave the Grave Green by Deborah Crombie - I'm slowly making my way through this series. These are always reliable, good, short books I can read over a weekend.

What have you been reading lately?

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