[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.

Vacation Book Review

This year was my first in memory that I tried to match my vacation reading to my location. Usually when I travel I pick something that's easy to read. I've been known to devour a whole trilogy in a week. I also have a thing for reading scary books by the beach.

Last week when I traveled to the mountains of North Carolina with my family I switched things up a bit, and matched my books with my vacation destination.

I've been meaning to read A Clearing in the Distance for years. It worked out well though that I got to read it in the same week I was visiting the Biltmore Estate.  Olmsted laid out Biltmore as an older man, and I got so much insight into the process by reading this book. I even got to read some of it while sitting on a bench in the gardens of the estate.

My husband downloaded all ten million hours of Fortune's Children for us to listen to in the car. This book was actually very funny, and gave a good background into exactly why someone would want to build a really huge house.

My husband bought me a signed copy of Appalachian Odyssey for Christmas, and I put it aside until our trip. I turn 40 this year, and appreciate stories about people who continue to hike past the age of 30.

How do you pick your vacation books? I liked this approach, but did kind of feel myself wishing for a novel at the end of some days!

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What happened when I tried to do a read-a-thon

Since I joined Litsy I've been reading about all sorts of intriguing book clubs and read-a-thons. I decided it might be fun to try the 24 in 48 read-a-thon, and since I live near DC I had a 3 day weekend for the Inauguration. The essence of the thing is you should spend 24 out of 48 hours reading. I figured since I had an extra day that weekend I could spend it reading.

Here's what happened:

Saturday:

4 am - My plans were dashed almost right away when I found out I would have to work on my 3 day weekend. Still I gave it a go with 103 minutes of audiobooks and programming before the kids got up.

7:30 am - After the kids were fed and the husband left for the day I spent 90 minutes reading on the couch

9 am - We had a ton of errands to run, so I spent 40 minutes in the car in between listening to audiobooks with the kids

1:30 pm - Husband is back home, we eat lunch, and putter around. I listen to more audiobooks while I clean, and spend some time on the couch reading a guide book. This amounts to 127 minutes.

5 pm - I cuddle in the bed downstairs and read out loud to the kids for 50 minutes.

6 pm - Our day is over, no one is hungry for dinner, and the kids are settled in with Minecraft. Now is when the real reading starts. I read for an estimated 300 minutes before I fall into a deep sleep and don't wake up again until the next morning.

I ended my read-a-thon though I realized that I probably needed sleep more than reading, and gave up tracking my reading time on Sunday. Still I enjoyed what reading I did do. By forcing myself to sit and read, I had a renewed energy the next day. Sleeping 13 hours might have helped too...

Books I read at least part of:

There's another read-a-thon in July. I think I'll do it again.

Have you ever done a read-a-thon?

Note: my computer keeps changing read-a-thon to read-a-thin. I wish!

January 2017 Audiobooks

Hiking the Delaware Water Gap, Jan. 1, 2017

Hiking the Delaware Water Gap, Jan. 1, 2017

Happy New Year readers!

I have finally broken away from my Inspector Gamache binge long enough to listen to a few new things and one audiobook that I have listened to a minimum of 1 billion times now. (Not Harry Potter. My Overdrive hold that I put on in November still hasn't come through.)

A Thousand Miles to Freedom by Eunsun Kim - I have been meaning to read something about North Korea for a long time now, and this was my first introduction. This was a powerful story, but I think something was lost in translation. Not being allowed to watch TV was reported in the same tones as being forced to have a baby in exchange for room and board. Still, I recommend this book if you also want to learn more about life in North Korea.

Packing for Mars by Mary Roach - I thought I would LOVE this book, but just found it so-so. Too much talk about poop and vomit, and not enough about space.

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson - Yes, again. I just listened to this last summer with my brother, and didn't say no when my husband wanted to listen to it on our New Year's trip. There's just something about hiking parts of the Appalachian Trail that makes you want to hear Bryson's take on it. Most of his books have worn on me, but this one still resonates.

Life According to Steph

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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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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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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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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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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!

REVIEW: Braving It by James Campbell

I tossed this book into my work bag at the last minute, then almost missed my metro stop because I was so engrossed.

Braving It by James Campell bills itself as "a powerful and affirming story of a father's journey with his teenage daughter to the far reaches of Alaska.". I really appreciated that Campell focused more on the journeys that make up the story than the father/daughter stuff. By making the story about the adventure, and by not trying too hard to make this a memoir about father daughter relationships the relationship stuff shone through naturally. He didn't force it down your throat. He told a really thrilling story made all the better because it was shared by a father and a daughter.

I have a touch of wanderlust in me, and Campbell's vivid descriptions of Alaska turned an itch to visit into something I must scratch soon. The descriptions of the rivers, animals, and mountains were glorious. I also enjoyed that he often used quotes from literature to help tell his story.

I highly recommend this one if you love a good armchair hiking story. It would also be great if you're looking to get your own dear Dad a gift for Father's Day.

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

REVIEW: The Happiness of Pursuit by Chris Guillebeau

Have you ever set out to meet a challenging and clear goal that has a specific end point? I know I have. Turns out I may be on a quest, which sounds a lot more exciting than "crazy hobby".

In his book The Happiness of Pursuit Chris Guillebeau not only defines modern day quests (no tilting at windmills here), he provides tips for completing them, and illustrates his points with interesting vignettes from his own travels, and from interviews with other hopeful questers.

I'm in the middle of my quest to visit the highest natural point in each of the 50 states plus DC right now, and this book provided me with some motivation to keep going. (It also gave me plenty of ideas on what to pursue when I'm done!)

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

The Book Was Better: A Walk in the Woods

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson was one of the first books I read about hiking. I loved it right away, and made my husband listen to the audiobook version on a road trip. We both thought it was hilarious, and we still repeat some of the lines today. When I heard it was going to be a movie starring Robert Redford, I was puzzled, but excited. It sounded baby-sitter worthy.

My first clue should have been when we got the baby-sitter, but couldn't find the movie in any theaters around us. I finally ended up streaming it last week, and was really glad I didn't shell out baby-sitter + movie theatre type money for it. Everything that is so wonderful about Bryson's book comes off as stiff and uncomfortable in the movie. Some of my favorite plot points in the book were there, but taken out of context they just don't stand up.

It's a shame. When one of your favorite books is recreated by one of your favorite actors you expect magic. But even Robert Redford couldn't make this movie better than the book.

If you like books about hiking try:

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