Thursday, March 26, 2020


Early on in the Covid-19 at-home hunkering, I listened to Cozy: The Art of Arranging Yourself in the World by Isabel Gillies.  I borrowed the book from Hoopla Digital, thanks to my public library's subscription, and even though the single Hoopla reviewer on record didn't love this title (see photo above), I figured I'd give it a try since it sounded comforting in these strange times and because years ago I read and loved Gillies' memoir Happens Every Day.

This book is less a how-to guide to coziness (ideas of what's cozy do vary by individual) and more a series of Gillies' thoughts and reflections regarding categories, examples, and dimensions of coziness.  I think the idea is that readers will enjoy her thoughts on coziness and then start thinking about what they find cozy and finding ways to arrange their surroundings and attitudes for more coziness.

Once I finished listening to Cozy, I made my own list of general conditions for and specific memories of coziness from my own life.  Here are some of the things I find or have found cozy:

* The feeling of opening up one's library bag and having the time to carefully inspect the treasures inside, especially if they were gathered hastily or haphazardly when at the library.

* That moment when you've changed out a lampshade (I used to have a Target lampshade-buying problem) and then click the lamp on for the first time with its new/different shade.

* Warm lighting in general.  Side note:  Gillies talks about the importance of pointing out coziness to your kids so they can create/find it for themselves.  Thanks to me, my kids are very tuned in to cozy lighting.  We are all passionately against cool light.  

* The feeling of eating at Cracker Barrel (think corn muffin with butter) in the right conditions.  The right conditions = husband not present or husband initiating trip.  Eating at CB with a reluctant husband is the opposite of cozy.

* This combination:  blanket, good book, fountain Diet Coke.

* Gallery walls

* Looking at my cardinal Christmas tree in December.

* Certain movies and shows watched at home:  BBC Pride and Prejudice,  Wonderworks Anne of Green Gables, Bridget Jones's Diary, The Office, Gilmore Girls.

* Being at an airport gate with a snack, a good book, and no anxiety about flight delays or cancellations.

* Sitting in a movie theater with girlfriends, preferably with popcorn and DC.  Note:  I went on a last minute outing to see Emma on Monday, March 9th, which was wholly delightful and now seems like it happened in a different lifetime.

* Coming inside after a chilly walk and feeling energized, virtuous, and rosy-cheeked.

* Going through a drive-thru and then finding a parking spot (I try to find one near a tree) and eating alone in my car.  It sounds sad, but it's not, and it is a cozy habit that my sister also enjoys.

* I play on a tennis team and after our matches, the home team provides lunch for the visiting team.  You sit with your own team during lunch, and I love that cozy time of chatting and eating with my teammates (women of all ages at various stages of life).  Even cozier if I won that day.

* The smell of a basketball gym.

* My kids and I stay after school two days a week to pray the Rosary with a small group.  These afternoons in our beautiful Church with these friends are very special and cozy to me.

* Sitting on my parents' giant sectional couch with other members of my family.

* Eating pot roast nachos at Pint's, a sports bar in town.

* Meeting my "breakfast club" friends at Egg Harbor.  Buttering toast and adding their delicious jam.

* Settling into a little crafting corner I have and making cards out of washi tape.

* Visiting the book sale corner of my library.

* Browsing at my favorite gift shop, The Uptown Shop.

* Sitting at my kitchen table with a snack and a stack of magazines.

* Bookshelves ... my own but also those of others, especially glanced through a window (in a non-creep way) when taking a walk in the evening.

* Birthday cards displayed on a mantel.

* The feeling of laughing and lingering at a restaurant or bar with good friends.

* Singing along with my kids or friends in a moving vehicle or at a concert or at church.

Gillies makes the point that cozy is not just an at-home phenomenon.  It's things (often little) but also a state of mind.

Some of the words that help convey cozy to me -- safe, satisfied, content, familiar, hopeful.

I acknowledge that it is a luxury to be at home writing about coziness at this moment when many are sick and when others like medical professionals and grocery store employees are exposed and vulnerable.  I'm staying home as asked and looking for ways to make that experience more cozy than confining.  I wouldn't say my current state of mind is cozy (too much uncertainty and strangeness for that) but there are cozy moments, and I am thankful for them.  Making this list helps me look forward to a brighter future when we can once again feel cozy in the world and in one another's company.   

I would love to know what you find cozy.

I did take a few photos from the past week or so that captured moments of cozy.
 This photo is not taken from a great angle, but it shows a cozy scene of book, 
dog, pajamas, a lamp shade with warm light, and a gallery wall.

 This photo was taken on Sunday when my family rented the new Emma.  We have fire, family, snow outside, birthday cards on mantel, and son in his Comfy.  The scene was a bit less idyllic than it may seem as not everyone loved the movie as much as I did and we had to pause frequently to clarify plot points.

These Hunter boot socks are cozy as all get out.

What day did it snow?  I'm losing track, but snow-covered trees and roofs are cozy to me.

Last night's sunset warmed my heart. Cozy.  Hopeful. 

Stay well, everyone.  Take care of yourself and one another.

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

2019 Year of Books: Fiction

Elizabeth Acevedo
With the Fire on High (audiobook via Hoopla)

Poppy Alexander
25 Days 'til Christmas (audiobook via Hoopla)

Kate Atkinson
Transcription (audiobook via Libby)

Jane Austen
Sanditon (audiobook via Hoopla)
The Watsons (audiobook via Hoopla) 

Beryl Bainbridge
The Bottle Factory Outing (ebook via Kindle Store)

Chandler Baker
The Whisper Network (audiobook via Audible)

Natalie Barelli
The Housekeeper (audiobook via Hoopla)

Kimberly Belle
Dear Wife (audiobook via Hoopla)

Robin Benway
Far from the Tree (ebook via Kindle Store) 

Lou Berney
November Road (audiobook via Hoopla)

Taffy Brodesser-Akner
Fleishman Is in Trouble (audiobook via Audible)

Anna Burns
Milkman (audiobook via Hoopla)

Emma Burstall
A Cornish Secret (Tremarnock #4) (audiobook via Hoopla)

Julie Buxbaum
Hope and Other Punchlines (library book)  

Robyn Carr
Virgin River (audiobook via Audible)
Shelter Mountain (audiobook via Audible)

Katherine Center
Things You Save in a Fire (hardcover) 

Mary H.K. Choi
Permanent Record (ebook via Libby)

Jenny Colgan
Christmas at Rosie Hopkins' Sweetshop (audiobook via Hoopla)
The Bookshop on the Shore (audiobook via Hoopla) 

Tara Conklin 
The Last Romantics (audiobook via Hoopla)

Catherine Cookson
Katie Mulholland (audiobook via Audible)

Blake Crouch
Recursion (audiobook via Libby)

Rosie Curtis
We Met in December (audiobook via Hoopla)

Paula Daly
Clear My Name (audiobook via Hoopla)

Jen DeLuca
Well Met (hardcover)

Sarah Dessen
The Rest of the Story (audiobook via Libby)

Matthew Dicks
Twenty-one Truths About Love (library book)

Samantha Downing
My Lovely Wife (audiobook via Hoopla) 

Evie Dunmore
Bringing Down the Duke (hardcover)

Helen Ellis
Southern Lady Code (library book) 

Lucy Foley
The Hunting Party (audiobook via Audible)

Tana French
In the Woods (Dublin Murder Squad #1) (audiobook via Libby)
The Likeness (Dublin Murder Squad #2) (audiobook via Libby)
Faithful Place (Dublin Murder Squad #3) (audiobook via Libby)

Elizabeth Gaskell
Wives and Daughters (audiobook via Hoopla)
North and South (audiobook via Hoopla) 

Laurie Gelman
You've Been Volunteered: A Class Mom Novel (library book) 

Tracey Garvis Graves
The Girl He Used to Know (audiobook via Audible)

Anne Griffin
When All Is Said (audiobook via Audible)

Jasmine Guillory
The Wedding Party (The Wedding Date #3) (library book)
Royal Holiday (The Wedding Date #4) (library book)

Cynthia Hand
The Afterlife of Holly Chase (audiobook via Hoopla)

Jane Harper
The Lost Man (audiobook via Audible)

Rachel Hawkins
Prince Charming (ebook via Kindle Store)

Felicity Hayes-McCoy
The Mistletoe Matchmaker (audiobook via Hoopla) 

Jane Healey
The Saturday Evening Girls Club (audiobook via Audible) 

Amy Hempel
Sing to It: New Stories (audiobook via Libby)

Greer Hendricks
The Wife Between Us (audiobook via Hoopla)

Sally Hepworth
The Mother-in-Law (audiobook via Hoopla) 

Kristan Higgins
Life and Other Inconveniences (paperback)

Elin Hilderbrand
What Happens in Paradise (hardcover)
Summer People (paperback)
Summer of '69 (hardcover)

Linda Holmes
Evvie Drake Starts Over (library book)

Helen Hoang
The Bride Test (The Kiss Quotient #2) (audiobook via Hoopla)

Catherine Isaac
You Me Everything (audiobook via Audible)

Balli Kaur Jaswal
The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters (audiobook via Hoopla) 

Lisa Jewell
Roommates Wanted (audiobook via Hoopla) 

Lana Wood Johnson
Technically, You Started It (library book) 

Jessica Francis Kane
Rules for Visiting (library book)

Mary Beth Keane
Ask Again, Yes (audiobook via Audible)

Brigid Kemmerer
Letters to the Lost (ebook via Kindle Store)
Call It What You Want (library book)

John Kenney
Talk to Me (audiobook via Audible)

Sabina Khan
The Love & Lies of Rukhsana-Ali (audiobook via Hoopla)

Stephen King
The Colorado Kid (library book)

Sophie Kinsella
Christmas Shopaholic (library book)

Gordon Korman
Restart (paperback)

Jean Kwok
Searching for Sylvie Lee (audiobook) 

Julie Langsdorf
White Elephant (audiobook via Hoopla) 

Christina Lauren
Twice in a Blue Moon (library book) 
The Unhoneymooners (library book)
Love and Other Words (ebook via Libby)
My Favorite Half-Night Stand (ebook via Libby)
Josh and Hazel's Guide to Not Dating (audiobook via Libby)

Min Jin Lee
Pachinko (audiobook via Libby)  

Elinor Lipman
Good Riddance (library book)

Claire Lombardo
The Most Fun We Ever Had (audiobook via Audible)

Julia MacDonnell
Mimi Malloy, At Last!  (hardcover)

Karen M. McManus
Two Can Keep A Secret (audiobook via Libby) 

Dervla McTiernan
The Scholar (Cormac Reilly #2) (audiobook via Audible) 

Lauren Mechling
How Could She (library book) 

Emma Mills
This Adventure Ends (ebook via Kindle Store)

Famous in a Small Town (library book)
Foolish Hearts (ebook via Libby)

Denise Mina
Conviction (audiobook via Audible)

Fatima Farheen Mirza
A Place for Us (audiobook via Libby)

L.M. Montgomery
The Blue Castle* (audiobook via Hoopla)
Christmas with Anne and Other Holiday Stories (audiobook via Hoopla)

Meg Mitchell Moore
The Islanders (hardcover) 

Yukiko Motoya
The Lonesome Bodybuilder: Stories (ebook via Kindle Store) 

Loretta Nyhan
All the Good Parts (ebook via Kindle)

Beth O'Leary
The Flatshare (library book)

Camille Pagan
I'm Fine and Neither Are You (ebook via Kindle Store)

Liza Palmer
The Nobodies  (library book)

Lucy Parker
Act Like It (London Celebrities #1) (ebook via Kindle Store)
Pretty Face (London Celebrities #2) (ebook via Kindle Store)

Ann Patchett
The Dutch House (audiobook via Audible)

A.J. Pearce
Dear Mrs. Bird (audiobook via Libby) 

Louise Penny
Kingdom of the Blind (Chief Inspector Gamache #14, audiobook via Libby)
A Better Man (Chief Inspector Gamache #15, audiobook via Audible)

Rosamunde Pilcher
September (audiobook via Hoopla) 
Voices in the Summer (audiobook via Hoopla)

Sylvia Plath
Mary Ventura and the Ninth Kingdom (library book) 

Katherine Reay
The Printed Letter Bookshop (audiobook via Hoopla)

Penny Reid
Truth or Beard (Winston Brothers #1) (audiobook via Hoopla)
Grin and Beard It (Winston Brothers #2) (audiobook via Hoopla)
Beard Science (Winston Brothers #3) (audiobook via Hoopla)
Beard in Mind (Winston Brothers #4) (audiobook via Hoopla)
Dr. Strange Beard (Winston Brothers #5) (audiobook via Hoopla)
Bear with Me (Winston Brothers #6) (audiobook via Hoopla)

Taylor Jenkins Reid
Evidence of the Affair (ebook via Kindle Store) 
Daisy Jones & The Six (hardcover)

Kim Michele Richardson
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek (audiobook via Hoopla) 

Andrew Ridker
The Altruists (audiobook via Audible)

Barbara Robinson
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever* (audiobook via Hoopla) 

Sally Rooney
Normal People (hardcover)

Heather Rose
The Museum of Modern Love (audiobook via Hoopla)

Rainbow Rowell
Pumpkinheads (paperback)

Steven Rowley
The Editor (audiobook via Libby)

Madhuri Shekar
Evil Eye (audiobook via Audible)

Cathleen Schine
They May Not Mean To, But They Do (ebook via Kindle Store)

Curtis Sittenfeld
Atomic Marriage (audiobook via Audible)

Gregory Blake Smith
The Maze at Windermere (audiobook via Audible)

Sarah Elaine Smith
Marilou is Everywhere (library book)

D.E. Stevenson
Spring Magic (ebook via Kindle Store)

Nina Stibbe
Reasons to Be Cheerful (library book)

Elizabeth Strout
Olive, Again (audiobook via Audible)

Donna Tartt
The Secret History (audiobook via Libby) 

Angie Thomas
The Hate U Give (hardcover)
On the Come Up (audiobook via Hoopla) 

Jean Thompson
She Poured Out Her Heart (audiobook via Hoopla) 

Sally Thorne
99 Percent Mine (library book)

Tony Tulathimutte
Private Citizens (audiobook via Hoopla) 

Richard Van Camp
The Lesser Blessed (ebook via Kindle Store)

Elizabeth Von Arnim
The Enchanted April* (public domain ebook via Kindle Store)

Ocean Vuong
On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous (audiobook via Libby) 

Karen Thompson Walker
The Dreamers (ebook via Libby)

Cara Wall
The Dearly Beloved (audiobook via Audible)

Kathy Wang
Family Trust (audiobook via Libby)

Abbi Waxman
The Bookish Life of Nina Hill (audiobook via Libby)

Kevin Wilson
Nothing to See Here (audiobook via Audible) 

Kerry Winfrey
Waiting for Tom Hanks (library book)

Jacqueline Woodson
Red at the Bone (paperback) 

Jeff Winterhart
Other People: Days of the Bagnold Summer & Driving Short Distances (library book)

David Yoon
Frankly in Love (audiobook via Libby)

2019 Year of Books: Memoirs, Essays & Other Non-Fiction

Karen Abbott
The Ghosts of Eden Park: The Bootleg King, the Women Who Pursued Him, and the Murder That Shocked Jazz-Age America (audiobook via Libby)

Nancy Stearns Bercaw
Dryland: One Woman's Swim to Sobriety (ebook via Kindle Store)

Elizabeth Berg
Still Happy: Includes "The Book of Homer" (library book)

Rohit Bhargava
Always Eat Left Handed: 15 Surprising Secrets for Killing It At Work And In Real Life (audiobook via Hoopla)

Gary John Bishop
Unfu*k Yourself: Get Out of Your Head and Into Your Life (audiobook via Hoopla) 

Jamie Brickhouse
Dangerous When Wet: A Memoir of Booze, Sex, and My Mother (audiobook via Hoopla) 

Vera Brosgol
Be Prepared (paperback)


Bryan Burrough
The Demon Next Door (audiobook via Audible)

Candace Bushnell
Is There Still Sex in the City? (audiobook via Hoopla) 

Makenzie Campbell
2am Thoughts (library book)

John Carreyrou
Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup (audiobook via Audible) 

Marla Cilley
The CHAOS Cure: Clean Your House and Calm Your Soul in 15 Minutes (library book)

Catherine Cookson
Before I Go (ebook via Kindle Store)

Ruth Cowen
Elizabeth II: Life of a Monarch (audiobook via Audible) 

Molly Erdman
Catalog Living at Its Most Absurd: Decorating Takes (Wicker) Balls (library book)

Rachel Held Evans
Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church (audiobook via Hoopla)

Huda Fahmy
Yes, I'm Hot in This: The Hilarious Truth about Life in a Hijab (library book)

Allison Fallon
Indestructible: Leveraging Your Broken Heart to Become a Force of Love & Change in the World (ebook via Kindle Store)

Ronan Farrow
Catch and Kill:  Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators (audiobook via Audible)

Jeannie Gaffigan
When Life Gives You Pears: The Healing Power of Family, Faith, and Funny People (audiobook via Audible)

Neil Gaiman
Art Matters: Because Your Imagination Can Change the World (library book)

Malcolm Gladwell
Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking (audiobook via Libby)

John Glynn
Out East: Memoir of a Montauk Summer (hardcover)

Lori Gottlieb
Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed (audiobook via Audible) 

Julie Heldman
Driven: A Daughter's Odyssey (audiobook via Audible)
Jessica Chiccehitto Hindman
Sounds Like Titanic (audiobook via Audible) 

Rachel Hollis
Girl, Stop Apologizing: A Shame-Free Plan for Embracing and Achieving Your Goals (audiobook via Hoopla)

Jessica Hopper
Night Moves (library book)

Mira Jacob
Good Talk: A Memoir in Conversations (library book) 

Abbi Jacobson
I Might Regret This: Essays, Drawings, Vulnerabilities, and Other Stuff (audiobook via Libby) 
Patrick Radden Keefe
Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland (audiobook via Audible) 

Greg King
Sharon Tate and the Manson Murders (audiobook via Hoopla)

Austin Kleon
Newspaper Blackout (ebook via Hoopla)

Lucy Knisley
Something New: Tales from a Makeshift Bride (library book)
Kid Gloves: Nine Months of Careful Chaos (library book)

Stephanie Land
Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother's Will to Survive (audiobook via Libby)

Leon Logothetis
Go Be Kind: 28 1/2 Adventures Guaranteed to Make You Happier (library book)

Belinda Luscombe
Marriageology: The Art and Science of Staying Together (audiobook via Audible)

Greg McKeown
Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less (ebook via Kindle store)

Michelle McNamara
 I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman' Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer (audiobook via Libby)

Gabrielle Moss
Paperback Crush: The Totally Radical History of '80s and '90s Teen Fiction (library book)

Ben and Erin Napier
Make Something Good Today (library book)

Meaghan O'Connell
And Now We Have Everything: On Motherhood Before I Was Ready (ebook via Libby)

Ryan O'Connell
I'm Special: And Other Lies We Tell Ourselves to Get through Our Twenties (audiobook via Hoopla) 

Nnedi Okorafor
Broken Places & Outer Spaces: Finding Creativity in the Unexpected (library book)

Jessica Pan
Sorry I'm Late, I Didn't Want to Come: An Introvert's Year of Living Dangerously (ebook via Hoopla)

Brooks Palmer
Clutter Busting: Letting Go of What's Holding You Back (audiobook via Hoopla) 

Mary Laura Philpott
I Miss You When I Blink: Essays (library book)

Catherine Price
How to Break Up with Your Phone: The 30-Day Plan to Take Back Your Life (library book)

Carole Radziwill
What Remains: A Memoir of Fate, Friendship, and Love (audiobook via Hoopla)

Ruth Reichl
Save Me the Plums: My Gourmet Memoir (audiobook via Libby)

Marc Reklau
The Life-Changing Power of Gratitude: 7 Simple Exercises that will Change Your Life for the Better (audiobook via Hoopla) 

Jason Reynolds
For Every One (paperback)

Gretchen Rubin
Outer Order, Inner Calm: Declutter & Organize to Make More Room for Happiness (library book)

Angela Santomero
Radical Kindness: The Life-Changing Power of Giving and Receiving (audiobook via Hoopla)

Kathryn Scanlan
Aug 9 - Fog (library book)

David Sedaris
Me Talk Pretty One Day* (audiobook via Hoopla)
Theft by Finding: Diaries 1977-2002 (audiobook via Libby)

Dani Shapiro
Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love (ebook via Kindle Store)

Jan Smith
Killer by Nature (audiobook via Audible) 

Myquillyn Smith
Cozy Minimalist Home: More Style, Less Stuff  (ebook via Kindle Store) 

Patti Smith
Just Kids (audiobook via Hoopla) 
Grant Snider
The Shape of Ideas: An Illustrated Exploration of Creativity (library book)

Nina Stibbe
An Almost Perfect Christmas 

Jia Tolentino
Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion (audiobook via Libby)

Adrian Tomine
Scenes from an Impending Marriage (library book)

Debbie Tung
Book Love (hardcover)

Judith Viorst
Nearing Ninety: And Other Comedies of Late Life (library book)

Jen Waite
A Beautiful, Terrible Thing: A Memoir of Marriage and Betrayal (ebook via Kindle Store)

Florence Williams
The 3-Day Effect (audiobook via Audible) 
Rachel DeLoache Williams
My Friend Anna: The True Story of a Fake Heiress (hardcover)

An (*) indicates a reread.  All ebooks are purchased on sale via the Kindle Store or checked out from the e-offerings of the Elmhurst Public Library.  All audiobooks are from or the Elmhurst Public Library's e-offerings (Hoopla and Libby Apps).

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Fall Faves, August - October 2019

It's been a great few months of reading.  Trust me that the books above are just the cream of a very rich crop of recent reads.  What's great about this collection of titles is that except in a few cases, these are books written by authors I love so if you can't get your hands on the title in the collage, there are other great books to be found.  If you want to know more about what I'm reading, follow me on Instagram and Goodreads, where I am @booksandcarbs and booksandcarbs. 

In order of the photo collage (which was random), I present:

The Islanders by Meg Mitchell Moore:  This book was a perfect (end of) summer read for me.  I really liked the Block Island setting, the fact that some of the main characters were writers, and the book's familial/romantic relationships.  Book clubs could find plenty to discuss.  Speaking of book clubs, The Admissions by Meg Mitchell More is a PERFECT book club selection.

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett:  My heart was full to bursting by the time this book ended.  It exceeded my (very high) expectations.  I loved the brother-sister relationship in this book and loved that it was another forgiveness story (I've read a lot of strong ones this year).  Ann Patchett is one of the finest living American writers and she outdid herself here.  Highly, highly recommend the audio version as the narration of Tom Hanks is exquisite.  I wanted to live in this book.  Other favorite Ann Patchett titles?  All of them, but especially State of Wonder, This is The Story of a Happy Marriage, and Bel Canto

Red at the Bone by Jaqueline Woodson:  Woodson's writing is beautiful.  The way she shifted between past and present and among family members really worked.  Aubrey's story (and his mother's) will stay with me most powerfully. 

Conviction by Denise Mina:  This mystery checked all the boxes for me ... quirky, interesting characters who were not caricatures and who had real issues and pasts, cool locales, just the right mix of humor and absurdity with this pair of unlikely buddies/amateur detectives.  I liked the timeliness of the true crime podcast angle of this story.  Bonus points for melodious Scottish narration.

A Better Man by Louise Penny:  I'm all caught up in the Chief Inspector Gamache series now and it feels both satisfying and sad as now I have to wait for what's next.  And wait I will.  This latest trip to Three Pines was all about how we read and perceive others and the courage required to admit when we're wrong.  To see Gamache's relationships with "his people" and the loyalty, respect, and love binding them is a beautiful thing.  It's interesting to see Gamache up against a new regime of doubters and insecure higher ups.  This series starts slow but it is SO WORTH THE INVESTMENT.

Marilou is Everywhere by Sarah Elaine Smith:  I can't promise you'll love this one, but I did.  I've not read a book quite like it and couldn't stop reading to try and understand Cindy.  This one was sad and strange and sometimes funny and ultimately hopeful.  Different in a refreshing way.  Unique (to me) rural setting.

The Likeness by Tana French:  Tana French, like Louise Penny, is able to infuse her mysteries with true insight into human nature and writes so beautifully.  I like how her detectives, especially in this book, are flawed but compelling.  I love the Irish settings.  Allegedly you don't need to read her books in order, but I would.  Start with In the Woods.

Reasons to be Cheerful by Nina Stibbe:  I "met" Nina Stibbe when I read her letter collection/memoir Love, Nina -- one of my favorite books of 2014.  I've since read all of her Lizzie Vogel novels as soon as I could get my American hands on them.  Reasons to be Cheerful is the latest of them and thoroughly delightful.  Who doesn't like reading about amateur dentistry?  These books are funny and smart, tons of wit and humor in the details.  Quirky but complex characters in an odd but loving family.  Stibbe's books are just my cup of tea.  The Lizzie Vogel series starts with Man at the Helm.

Just Kids by Patti Smith:  I went into this book with limited knowledge of the life and art of Patti Smith nor that of Robert Maplethorpe (aware of reputation and controversy but not familiar with the work itself).  Even lacking prior knowledge and passionate interest/curiosity, I was still blown away by Just Kids.  Smiths' writing is gorgeous (and I was completely charmed by her narration -- she adds an "l" to "drawing" and drops the "g" in all "ing" words, for example).  This is a story of friendship, love, and art that spans decades.  Struggles and shared joys.  Smith doesn't sensationalize or spin; she shares moments and memories thoughtfully.  The moment inspiring the book's title is mentioned early on and got to me.  Readers interested in music and art in the late 60s and 70s will appreciate Smith's interactions with other creatives.  Really glad I stepped out of my comfort zone to read this one.

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee:  I waited so long to read this one.  I'm not sure why as I loved Lee's Free Food for Millionaires.  This family saga was wonderful.  I was very interested in all the relationships and in the way family was interpreted so expansively.  Plenty to discuss in terms of love, generosity, service, courage.  This is the second book I've read that has enlightened me about the the experiences of Koreans living in Japan.  Long book, but I would happily stick with this family for decades more.

What are your Fall Faves?  Please share in the comments!

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Five Faves -- July 2019

Surfacing to share my five favorite reading experiences from the past month ...

The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo was everything I wanted and needed it to be.  It included the most moments of heart-bursting joy I've experienced in a book in recent history.  You're invited into the lives of a family over decades.  They are flawed and funny and loving and sometimes selfish and sometitmes lost and it was just wonderful to be there with them for the highs and lows.  Bonus for me was the Chicago/Oak Park setting.  Favorite characters?  Jonah and Wendy.

Fleishman Is In Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Aker is perfect for book clubs.  Anyone who only reads the first quarter or so of the book will be saying how the guy seems okay if only he would stop with all that swiping.  Then, those who read on will be thinking that actually, he's a pretty good dad.  But that mom?!  You'll want to judge that mom.  Keep reading.  Then, you're ready for a really good discussion about marriage, gender, power, societal norms, and more.  Very interesting narrative frame for this novel with Fleishman's college friend connecting the stories.

Call It What You Want by Bridget Kemmerer is a solid and satisfying YA novel.  I've loved all Kemmerer's non-fantasy YA novels (I may indeed love her fantasy ones as well, but I haven't tried them as that's typically not my bag).  It's been almost twenty years since I was a high school teacher so I can't accurately judge how realistic it is for kids on the fringe or the outs (for various reasons) to find each other and connect.  I love the idea of readers seeing more expansive possibilities for friendship on the pages of the books they read -- that's my kind of fantasy, I suppose.

Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center is a breezy read that still has heft.  I enjoyed Cassie's journey and liked learning about life as a firefighter, the station scene, etc.  This novel is a forgiveness story and we can always use more of those (well, most of us can).  I think I've read all of Center's novels and they are all reliable reads.

On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong is beautifully written.  I listened to the audio version, narrated by the author, and I'm glad I did as his lyrical, poetic style lends itself to being read aloud.  Content wise, this book is not easy to read:  the inheritance of war, abuse, opioid addiction, the loneliness and challenge of the immigrant experience.  There's also love and friendship and some beautiful moments of generosity ... a young man finding his way and his words (and with his words).  Not easy to read but worth reading.

Honorable mentions ....
Waiting for Tom Hanks by Kerry Winfrey -- There was a time (long, long ago) when I had time to watch rom coms, some of them over and over again.  This book brought me back to that time and I just inhaled it.  Fans of Meg Ryan movies ... treat yourselves!

Dear Wife by Kimberly Belle -- I found this thriller via Hoopla Digital and listened for free because my library subscribes.  Couldn't wait to find out how the two women's stories overlapped and didn't find it predictable nor overly twisty (getting weary of books with twist after twist after twist).

If you follow me on Instagram (I'm @booksandcarbs), some of these blurbs will sound familiar.  If you don't follow me on Instagram, please find me! 

Saturday, July 13, 2019

If You Like It, Then You Should Put a Glue Gun On It

This 'Lil Project has been a long time coming, not because it was tricky or time intensive but because I wasn't sure what I wanted to do.

I've been saving our wine corks for at least five years, probably longer.  I'm not a obsessive wine drinker myself, but the latent hoarder in me didn't want to throw them out.  However, the corks were starting to take up valuable real estate in a kitchen cupboard, falling out each time the door was opened.  Since I've been on a kick with reading de-cluttering books (and actually doing some de-cluttering), I decided it was time to get the cork on with it.

There are some Pinteresting ideas for wine corks out there, but nothing was exactly what I wanted.  I was in Michael's earlier this week and saw this long narrow box for 70% off and felt inspired. 

I did some laying out and selecting (for variety in corkage) in advance.  Maybe you are supposed to soak, clean, or treat them somehow first?  I didn't do that.  I got out the glue gun tin and went to town.

There were still plenty of corks left when I finished the sides so I covered the bottom as well.

I just moved the flowers I already had out in my kitchen into the box.  If I had staged this better, I'd maybe look for more vases or possibly lower ones.  I'll change it up in the future.

My husband's attitude toward most of my 'Lil Projects is somewhere between indifferent and lukewarm, but he was quite interested in this one and seems pleased to have these corks displayed.  Proud of himself for drinking most of that wine himself perhaps.

I'm pleased with the final result and pleased that I've freed up some cupboard space.  Of course, now I'll throw away any future wine corks.  Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. 

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Five Faves -- June 2019

Happy Summer!

Here are my favorite books from the first month of summer break...

You Me Everything by Catherine Isaac
What seals this one is its setting -- a gorgeous family resort in the French countryside.  I liked these characters and rooted for them as they reconciled past with present.

Summer of '69 by Elin Hilderbrand 
This one is Hilderbrand's first historical novel and it was great visiting Nantucket in the past (since I've "been there" so many other times more recently) and during such a historic moment (Vietnam, moon launch, Chappaquiddick, Woodstock on the horizon).  I just loved Kate's family and want to check in on them again in future summers.  Teared up at the beginning and the end.

For Everyone by Jason Reynolds 
Jason Reynolds is a YA author with whom I was unfamiliar, but this book was featured at Joseph Beth Bookstore when I was visiting Cincinnati and so I picked it up.  Short but powerful ... truly a title for everyone who needs inspiration and motivation to keep going, keep dreaming, keep creating, keep doing.  Just loved it.

The Flatshare by Beth O'Leary
I've read so many books that reference Bridget Jones's Diary on the cover blurbs that have been so very, very disappointing.  Finally, a book that is worthy of the comparison!  Humor and heart.  Strong friendships.  A heroine you can really care about and root for.  The Flatshare also tackles some serious topics in addition to its very endearing love story.  Thoroughly satisfying.

Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane
Two families whose lives intersect over several decades -- love, challenges, changes, and, especially, forgiveness. 

Honorable Mentions...
The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren -- super fun and funny summer read!
Rules for Visiting by Jessica Francis Kane -- slow but lovely story about nurturing friendships
Into the Woods by Tana French -- my first Dublin Murder Squad book, won't be my last
The Printed Letter Bookshop by Katherine Reay -- fresh start story featuring books and friendships