Bookish Gifts I'm Giving This Year

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It's no surprise that I give a lot of books for gifts. (Note: I rarely get books because everyone says I have read them all. My TBR says differently! Is this a common book worm problem?)

Here's what I'm giving this year:

For my history loving husband:

Grant by Ron Chernow -- I got him both the hardcover and the audio versions. It would drive me crazy to go back and forth, but this is his new preferred way.

For my reluctant reader son:

Guinness Book of World Records -- My son isn't a big reader, but he loves trivia. I think he'll love finding obscure facts (and might even try to break an obscure record or two!)

For my bookworm jr. daughter:

I know she is going to go nuts over this personal library kit. I predict a lot of playing library in my future. Let's hope she doesn't charge late fees! (She'll be getting several books as well, of course.)

For My Secret Santa:

Food Anatomy by Julia Rothman -- An illustrated history of food- doesn't it sound just perfect for snow day reading? I hope she enjoys it.

What are you gifting this year?

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Armchair Audies

I'm super excited to be a judge in the History/Biography category of this year's Armchair Audies. (Although since these are audiobooks maybe I should call them laundry time/driving to baseball practice/tedious work time Audies.)

Here are the books I will be listening to:

  • In Harm’s Way: The Sinking of the U.S.S. Indianapolis and the Extraordinary Story of Its Survivors by Doug Stanton, narrated by Mark Boyett
  • Paul McCartney: The Life by Philip Norman, narrated by Jonathan Keeble
  • A Time to Die by Robert Moore, narrated by Pete Cross
  • Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American Revolution by Nathaniel Philbrick, narrated by Scott Brick
  • The Year of Lear by James Shapiro, narrated by Robert Faas

These books are all brand new to me, and I'm excited to dig in.

If you'd like to be a judge too there's still plenty of time. Sign up here.

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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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.

Novels

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

Diaries

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

The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank

Non-Fiction

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)

Cookbooks

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?

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.

My TBR

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: 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.

May 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.

I finally got around to reading Northanger Abbey, and liked it a lot. The ending was kind of meh, but the character of Catherine was crazy in an awesome way. I loved all of her wacky scenarios.

I'm still on my travel writing kick, hence, my impulsive use of an audiobook credit on Albert Podell's Around the World In 50 Years. This one grew on me. I didn't agree with all of "Big Al's" opinions, but I was fascinated by the logistics of traveling to every country in the world. I also appreciated that he seemed to spend a fair bit of time in every country. He wasn't just traveling to check things off his list; he really seemed to take time with each country.

Ever wondered what it's like to be Mormon in New York City? The New York Regional Singles Halloween Dance by Elna Baker was an interesting account of what seems to be a pretty big struggle. It was sometimes shallow, but also very sincere, and seemed very honest. I recommend it, but don't expect to find any life altering truths here.

I finally finished The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, and now I finally know what everyone was talking about last year. This method is not really for me, but it did make me think about all the stuff we have. Some spring cleaning may be in order.

I listened The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury in my car. It was perfect for that. I found it entertaining enough to listen to, but didn't feel that I had to shut it off the second I picked up my kids. In fact my 8 year old even enjoyed a few of the stories while we waited for his bus. These are all short stories that are about the same things. It's kind of hard to explain, but very enjoyable, light science fiction. The only depressing thing was the astronauts from the future were born in 1986 - a full 9 years after me. I don't know when I got so old.

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REVIEW: The Road Not Taken by David Orr

I first read about The Road Not Taken: Finding America in the Poem Everyone Loves and Almost Everyone Gets Wrong in a review last year, and loved the sound of it. I added it to my TBR, and then added it to my 2016 non-fiction reading list. then I took it out from the library twice, and returned it unread. I was a bit intimidated. Finally on my third check out, on my third renewal I had a deadline to either read the book, or return it unread again. Well, third time's a charm. I picked this up earlier this week, and blew through it in two days.

I wouldn't consider myself a poetry fan, but do like to read Frost's poems, especially before I go on a trip to New England. Other than that I didn't really know much about him. Then I read this: "...one should bear in mind that Frost was the kind of man who, first, courts the woman he loves by printing up a volume of his own writing and, second upon feeling himself rejected by that woman, travels over five hundred miles in order to walk into a swamp." Oh Mr. Frost, you are interesting, aren't you?

After a brief biography Orr goes on to consider the poem line by line, the legend of Robert Frost, common misinterpretations, and their connection with the American psyche. This is one of those books where you learn a ton without feeling like you're doing it. Even if you don't like poetry, I think you should read this book. If nothing else it makes for good conversation when you're stuck in an awkward conversation with your boss.

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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.

REVIEW: Everyone is Italian on Sunday

If you love vegetables and Italian food this book is for you. For anyone who is stuck on the 30 minute gimmick and the cutesy sayings Rachel Ray is known for, put those aside and get ready to cook from this book all summer long.

This is not your usual spaghetti, meatballs, and chicken parm Italian cookbook. You'll find those things, but you'll also find dozens of recipes for eggplant, a whole chapter on using up garden veggies, and no less than three variations of mashed potatoes. (There's also a whole chapter devoted to cocktails, and some pretty damn good looking desserts.)

I read this book right after my herb garden started producing, so the first recipe I made was Savory Fennel, Rosemary, and Honey Oatmeal. It was amazing! The oatmeal was just the right mix of hearty food and tasty flavor. I can't wait to request this book again once the full garden starts producing, and cook through the vegetable section.

Other cookbooks that make you want to eat all your veggies:

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If you liked The Rosie Project

If you're a fan of The Rosie Project (and who isn't?), you should check out the lesser known non-fiction book The Journal of Best Practices by David Finch. It is funny, and poignant, and true, so there's no off the wall story lines. If you're looking for a real love story, read this one.

Other books I love that never made the best seller list:

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REVIEW: The Nesting Place

The subtitle of Myquillyn Smith's The Nesting Place is "It doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful." I finally got around to reading her book after being a longtime fan of her blog because I feel like the inverse has been true in my home for a while now. "It doesn't have to be beautiful to be perfect." could be my design mantra. Let's just say that after having two kids in three years plus working full time, our house has become a bit functional.

I appreciated Myquillyn's encouragement to just try a few things rather than worry about what will happen if I mess it up. I really loved all of her beautiful pictures. I think I've seen most of them on her blog, but I enjoyed having them all in one place. I'm frustrated that the thrift stores near me don't sell chairs for $20 that I can recover to look awesome. I'll keep looking though.

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New gardening books to beat the winter blues

Every day this week my mailbox has been stuffed with gardening catalogues. Winter just started and already I'm dreaming of spring. Before I start my seeds, I'm going to see what's new in the gardening section of my library. Here's a few that I'm hoping I'll find.

A Wilder Life by Celestine Maddy

The Urban Farmer by Curtis Stone

The Herbal Apothecary by JJ Pursell

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My favorite quotes from books I read in 2015

I started keeping a written reading journal this year precisely so that I would have a good way to record quotes from the books I'm reading. Here are my favorite quotes from books I read in 2015:

From First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen:

"Motherhood is hard enough without judgment from others who don't know the whole story."

From How To Eat A Cupcake by Meg Donohue:

"And then I was alone in the tapering crowd."

From Who Could That Be At This Hour by Lemony Snickett:

"If someone wanted to torture me until I gave them critical information, all they would have to do is get my socks wet."

From Life Is a Wheel by Bruce Webster:

"One day you're a Jetson, the next you're a Flinstone."

From Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote:

"I felt in my pocket the key to this apartment; with all its gloom, it still was a place of my own, the first, and all my books were there, and jars of pencils to sharpen, everything I needed, so I felt, to become the writer I wanted to be."

From A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote:

"As for me, I could leave the world with today in my eyes."

From The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver:

"There are more words in the world than no and yes."

From Yes, Please by Amy Pohler:

"I'm tired of being tired, and talking about how tired I am."

From A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

"Never forget what you are, for the world surely will not. Make it your strength. Then it will never be your weakness. Armor yourself in it, and it will never be used to hurt you."

From Tricky Twenty-Two by Janet Evanovich

"My hair was out of control by birth. Hers was by design."

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2015 Reading Challenges Wrap Up

Cape Cod, a great place for reading

Cape Cod, a great place for reading

I love to take part in various reading challenges throughout the year. In 2015 I took part in two notable ones: Modern Mrs. Darcy's 2015 Reading Challenge, and the Books on the Nightstand Summer Book BINGO. I finished Mrs. Darcy's challenge, and came close to completing the square on BINGO. Here's how I filled the categories:

2015 Reading Challenge:

A book you're been meaning to read: Station Eleven

A book published this year: I Take You

A book in a genre you don't typically read: Can't we talk about something more pleasant?

A book from your childhood: Ramona Quimby Age 8

A book your mom loves: W is for Wasted

A book that was originally written in a different language: Heidi

A book that "everyone' has read but you: Me Before You

A book you chose because of the cover: Prospect Park West

A book by a favorite author: On Writing

A book recommended by someone with great taste: Game of Thrones

A book you should have read in High School: My Antonia

A book that's currently on the bestseller list: All the Light We Cannot See

Summer Reading BINGO:

Published before 1970: A Separate Peace

Cozy Mystery: The Nightingale Before Christmas (Meg Langslow Mysteries)

Set in a place you want to visit: Doctor Sleep

10 Short Stories: stories by O. Henry, Maeve Binchy, Truman Capote, and from the journal One Story

An audiobook: I Know How She Does It: How Successful Women Make the Most of Their Time

A presidential biography: Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President

Nonfiction: Sally Ride: America's First Woman in Space

A novella: Breakfast at Tiffany's

Borrowed from the library: Never Let Me Go

Free Square: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Book 7)

With only words on the cover: W is for Wasted (Kinsey Millhone Mysteries)

With a red cover: How to Eat a Cupcake: A Novel

Travel writing: Life Is a Wheel: Memoirs of a Bike-Riding Obituarist

By an author of a different gender: Jurassic Park: A Novel 

Started but never finished: One Summer: America, 1927

Young adult novel: The Fever: A Novel

That you've pretended to have read: To Kill a Mockingbird

Currently on the bestseller list: The Girl on the Train

Found in a used bookstore: The Poisonwood Bible: A Novel

Fantasy: Wizard and Glass: (The Dark Tower #4)(Revised Edition)

Squares I missed:
A play
With a number in the title
By an author of a different culture
Recommended by a librarian or a bookseller
With a one-word title

What book challenges are you looking forward to in 2016?

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This post is linked to The Sunday Post at Caffeinated Book Reviewer.

Forty Non-Fiction Books I Want To Read in 2016

My goal in 2016 is to read 50 non-fiction books, with 40 of them being "pre-assigned". This is in an effort to read more substantial non-fiction. These are in no particular order, and selected from my TBR list, my library holds list, and from books I already have at home.

You can click on any of the images above to see a description on amazon.com.

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