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 Audible.com 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

Monday, June 3, 2019

Finds & Buys -- Searching for Sunshine Edition

I can't speak for every corner of the Midwest, but I'll take a stab at summarizing the past several months in my corner:  longest winter ever, followed by the wettest and coldest spring.  I don't know if official weather data confirms my summary, but I can say that with the exception of a handful of glorious days (or at least parts of days), it's been fairly miserable.  I admit to medicating with some retail therapy in the form of unnecessary but not super expensive perk-me-up purchases. 

I've written about my love of Nora Fleming products before.  I couldn't resist the rain boot mini Nora Fleming came out with this rainy spring.

Grocery store flowers are always a good perk-me-up purchase.  I perked up a tube vase from Dollar Tree with some colorful spring washi tape. 
My kids don't need sunshine to enjoy popsicles.  We love the Wyler's Italian Ice ones.  They have the perfect texture and come in lots of delicious flavors (the orange is the best).  They're always available at Walgreen's, but I also bought a huge box at either Sam's or Costco.  Apologies that I can't remember which spot.  One warning -- if you don't clarify expectations with your popsicle eaters, you'll find abandoned popsicle tops throughout your house and every pair of scissors you own glued together with fruity goodness.
Good smelling cleaning products are a real perk-me-up purchase for me,  I am loving the Vetiver & Tea Tree scent from Home & Planet.  Really fresh, clean unique scent.  No, I don't know what Vetiver is either.

I was at Wal-Mart in search of a baby gate for our new puppy when I spied this giant insulated jug.  So far, I have used it to keep Diet Coke chilled and it has worked like a charm (even over several hours).  Actual goal is to drink more water this summer and this bottle will serve me well.  It was $14.95.  

Knock on wood, but it seems we are finally entering a season of reliable sunshine.  Best news?  Sunshine is a free perk-me-up and you don't have to de-clutter it later.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

LFL -- YMCA Nostalgia Edition

When visiting my parents a couple years ago, I noted that the YMCA near their house had a Little Free Library in front.  I imagined that one day I would walk down there and check it out, but in my recent visits I've never found the time to make that half-mile journey on foot.  This evening, after securing some local food favorites at Kroger to take back to Pleasantville, I parked in front of the Y and my oldest and I finally checked out this LFL.

First off, I love the idea of a LFL in front of my childhood YMCA.  As a girl, I spent what in hindsight seems an inordinate number of hours at the Y.  Back in the 80s, one didn't languish in Pike for session after session.  You could actually learn to swim and advance through the classes Pollywog, Pre-Minnow, Minnow, Guppy, Pike, Fish, Flying Fish, Shark, etc.  Don't quote me on the progression or the class names, but I took them all, not because I had a huge passion for swimming so much as because my next youngest sister had a real passion for swimming and so we all had our "own stuff" to do at the Y.  That being said, more than half of my YMCA visits were spent outside the pool while my sister was practicing or competing.  With no cell phone or tablet to turn to, I had a rotation of things I did to while away my time at the Y:  visit the "new' water fountain near the racquetball courts, watch adults play racquetball from the upper viewing area, hope for a turn with the pool table or foosball, test the dryers in the locker room, pester my mom for change for the gumball and vending machines, read every scrap of paper on every bulletin board, read every plaque on the walls, review the posted swim team records (my sister had one, NTB), and, of course, if I came prepared, read a book.

Had an LFL existed in those days, checking its offerings would have been my most savored ritual of each trip to the Y.  Without a doubt.  Fast forward thirty-plus years.

This LFL is a fairly basic model.  The wood is a bit faded, but I like the red-tinted glass.  I'm a big fan of the message:  Travel the world starting with books.  Don't we all want young readers to expand their worlds through books?  I've visited so many cool places in books and can't imagine my life without those "travels."  Side note:  I was interested to note that the phrase "Young Men's Christian Association" is emphasized on the front of the LFL since the word "Christian" has completely disappeared from the Y where I live now.

 Perhaps it's the time of year, but the pickings were slim when we opened it up.

As is my tradition, I look at the offerings and play a little "game" of If I were desperate for a new book to read and had to choose one from this LFL, what would I choose?  Since the selection wasn't vast, especially for an adult reader, I decided to think ask myself what 1983 or 1984 Megan would choose.  I think that 80s Megan would be excited to check out Allergic to My Family.  I didn't look inside to the year of publication but the cover illustration took me back and made me nostalgic for the time in my life when I had endless hours to fritter away at the Y (though it was a necessity, not a choice).  I wonder if my daughter will feel similarly some day when she thinks of all the ways she  entertained herself in the hockey area of our Y during her brothers' games.  I will tell you that on our way out the door, I usually remember to remind her to bring a book and some vending machine money, evidence that even in the pre-LFL days, I did learn a thing or two at the YMCA.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Dog Gone It

Meet Dandy.  He was born in February and joined our family on April 7th.  It's no coincidence that I haven't posted on this site since April 3rd.

Until last month, I had never had a dog in my life.  I grew up without one and my siblings and I were all nervous/afraid of most dogs (stemming in part from an incident when my brother, as a toddler, was bitten by a stray dog).  As I grew up, I was less afraid of dogs but still not that comfortable around them.  Thus, I was very anxious about welcoming a dog into our family.  My husband and kids eventually wore me down.  My oldest put together two different Power Point presentations about why we should get a dog -- the earliest of which he created five years ago as a second grader.  As a fifth grader, he wrote up a proposal pitching alternative family pets (mostly small rodents and reptiles) artfully intended to make me view a dog more favorably.  Two years later, I caved.  I wanted my kids to have the experience of loving and caring for a dog and prayed that I could open my heart as well.

I'm glad I didn't write about Dandy earlier because a puppy post in the early days would have been a doozy.  The first week gave me major flashbacks of my days as a new mom (short summary of early motherhood for me was that I was an anxious, lonely, decidedly un-breezy mom of a restless baby).  The similarities were unsettling:  getting up multiple times in the middle of the night to take Dandy out so he wouldn't pee/poop in his crate and thus hate being in there going forward; weeding through all the advice out there in books, YouTube videos, blogs, etc.; feeling like I was "on the clock" every time I left the house (similar to when you are newborn's food source) because I didn't want to leave him in crate too long; reckless willingness to buy gear, gadgets, treats -- anything I thought would make things easier; whispering and tiptoeing around the house when he was asleep; a feeling of fear/hopelessness that my life would never be the same again (it won't, but seems less bleak now); and a overall sense of anxiety and uncertainty about what to do and whether I was doing it wrong.  At one point, I was standing in the front yard practicing having him on a leash when I found myself praying that the person walking down the side walk would pause to chat with me -- this was a major flashback to the kind of loneliness and desperation I felt as a new mom.

All of the above sounds dramatic, but welcoming a dog (especially when you are brand new to the experience) is a HUGE adjustment.  And that first week, my husband was out of town for several days (on more of a boondoggle than a command performance), my kids were at school, and I was home just bumbling through the day and trying to figure out how I was going to accomplish basic life tasks in addition to puppy care.  Lots of things happened:  roundworm, vomit, nipping, accidents in the house, and more.  When my sister called me one morning late in the week, I started sobbing.  My husband eventually got home, and my kids figured out that I was on the edge of a nervous breakdown and stepped up their helpfulness.

The adjustment still feels HUGE, but things are getting easier and I am getting more comfortable and confident as a dog mom.  We have a dog trainer who has helped us a ton.  Dandy is able to take short walks, which I really enjoy and which give me hope for longer walks in the future.  We've successfully helped him through roundworm and two other parasites.  Good times.  We no longer wake up in the middle of the night to take him out (though waking at 6am for an hour of rowdy/crazy puppy time is not a major improvement).  Any of the kids can handle being on "Dandy duty" if I need to go somewhere, run errands, etc.  Seeing my husband and kids playing and cuddling with Dandy warms my heart.  I have appreciated my own quiet moments just relaxing with and petting Dandy. Pre-Dandy, I can't tell you the last time when I have sat outside in the sun on a weekday and just, you know, sat there and felt the breeze without trying to read something, check my phone, etc.

One of the coolest things to experience since welcoming Dandy is the way other people react to puppies and the reminder of how kind people can be.  We've gotten to know our neighbor's granddaughter and her two dogs and had a chance to better know another neighbor who also has a dog.  Bringing Dandy to the sports fields, I've had conversations with other parents of my kids' teammates that I would not have had if not for my furry conversation starter.  People pet him and talk to him (in hilarious baby voices).  Friends have given us gifts of treats, dog toys, and gear.  I sent an email about a month before Dandy arrived home asking local friends with dogs for advice and recommendations, and the thorough, wise, encouraging, practical feedback and wisdom I received was unbelievable.  Dog people are really good people.  I don't think I am a dog person yet but I can see it happening and aspire to the designation.

Until then, I'm trying my best to love and care for this puppy while figuring out how to proceed with the rest of my life -- writing, reading, exercise, laundry -- as well.  I'm sure it can be done, dog gone it.

P.S. -- It was very hard to choose just one cute puppy pic for this post, but you can see others on Instagram:  @ourdoodledandy  Also, I spent an embarassing amount of time curating a Spotify playlist with songs that feature "Dandy" (or "candy" and "Mandy" which can be easily adjusted) in them -- playlist is titled @ourdoodledandy

P.S. #2 -- At any earlier moment in my life, I would be shocked to discover I authored the sentences in the first post-script.  Times, they are a-changing.


Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Afternoon with Gloria Bell, Bill and Ted

Today was pretty much the most springy day we've had all spring, but I had initiated indoor plans to see Gloria Bell with some friends.  Kid/Life logistics kept me from seeing the film last night with some friends from a women's group I'm in so I reached out to see if anyone could catch the show this afternoon.  I didn't know much about Gloria Bell, but it had a high Rotten Tomatoes rating and I liked the images I'd seen of of Julianne Moore dancing.  Looks fun, I thought.  Three of my pals were willing to meet up.

Gloria Bell is a tough movie to review. 

The positives:  great cast (Julianne Moore, Brad Garrett, Rita Wilson, Jeanne Tripplehorn, a grown-up Michael Cera, and even Rudy/Sean Astin in a super strange sequence); great soundtrack (Who can't relate to the pleasure of singing Air Supply while driving?); a few moments that were kind of beautiful/funny/real/joyful, especially between Gloria and her daughter.

Here's the Gloria Bell teaser blurb: "A free-spirited divorcee spends her nights on the dance floor, joyfully letting loose at clubs around Los Angeles.  She soon finds herself thrust into an unexpected new romance, filled with the joys of budding love and the complications of dating."

To me, that description promises something light, fun, hopeful.  And while the movie wasn't the exact opposite of light, fun, and hopeful, it was a bit light on the light and the fun (though possibly, possibly twas a little hopeful at the end).

The negatives... The movie is slow.  I kept thinking, we'll get in the groove here soon, but we never did.  Gloria Bell is likeable, but I never quite figured her out.  As good as the soundtrack is, the score is kind of creepy.  There were moments when the instrumental music made me think something super dark was coming.  Unsettling.  Speaking of unsettling, lots of screen time for a hairless cat.  Also plenty of screen time for Julianne Moore's breasts (small but lovely, I guess, but I didn't need to see them so often).  There's also a lot of drinking and some pot smoking.  One of my friends described the movie as filled with awkward moments (kudos to the actors for making them seem so).  Another said, "This is one that makes you thankful for your marriage." 

One lingering question from the film:  Do clubs where well-dressed, normal looking, middle-aged people dance to 70s-ish music really exist?  Asking for a friend.

I don't feel like I wasted my afternoon, but I don't think I'll urge others to rush out and see Gloria Bell.  Maybe if my friends and I had more to time to reflect and discuss afterward and make sense of it all, my review would be more positive.

But alas, school pick-up was calling so we all moved on.  In the window between movie and school pick-up, I took advantage of the gorgeous day to pop into The Pink Elephant (hospital resale shop).

I couldn't resist this Colorado "candy dish" (which I realized upon bringing home was an ashtray -- Gloria Bell is a smoker, btw).  I washed it and am going to give it to my friend who grew up in Colorado.
Pink Elephant customers could choose a FREE DVD with purchase so I nabbed Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, which is actually light and fun, if I'm remembering it correctly.  If we can get our DVD player to work, the kids might like this one.  Or, maybe we'll save it for the RES on our next road trip.  Good feeling to secure a candy dish and a DVD for one buck.

All in all, a good spring afternoon.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Snackshots: Q1 2019

Favorite snacks from the first quarter of this year...

I found these Lumpy Bumpy Mandarin Oranges at Marianos.  They are larger than clementines, easy to peel, and SO GOOD.  I've had six in two days and now the kids are in on the act so there's only one left.  Need to hurry back as the packaging warns of "limited availability."

Two things going on in this Snackshot.  First, there are the Nabisco Corn Thins.  Honestly, it's not the most exciting cracker you'll ever eat, but for those of us living the WW lifestyle, the bargain is attractive:  17 crackers for 1 WW Smartpoint.  The Corn Thin is salty enough to enjoy on its own, but I prefer it as a vehicle for other foods (see hummus above and once I even used the Corn Thins as a nacho base). 

Second thing happening in the Snackshot ... carrots!  I think I actually forgot that you don't have to eat raw carrots in their slightly slimy, bagged baby form.  I was tasked with bringing a veggie platter and a fruit tray to a ladies' painting party.  I found some baby cucumbers that I wanted to slice longways (first things to disappear, btw) and thought it would be more symmetrical and visually appealing if I had longer carrot sticks as well.  I got out the Costco peeler I've had since my wedding shower (thank you, Aunt Pat!), went to town, and then sliced them up.  And I haven't looked back.  I've been eating way more carrots that I peel and slice myself than I ever did babies from the baggie.  I'm embarrassed that I forgot peeling and cutting carrots myself was an option.

If you're like me, regular Um, Skinny Pop isn't blowing you away these days.  Sure, it's a caloric bargain, but the plain version is starting to feel blah to me.  I tried the Pepper Jack version at an airport in January and loved it.  It's got plenty of flavor and a lil kick.  I haven't seen a movie yet in 2019 but when I finally do, I'll be packing some Pepper Jack Skinny Pop in my large mom purse.  Outside of airport convenience stores, I've only been able to find the Pepper Jack variety at Walgreens, but as I go there at least thrice a week, it's been easy to stay supplied.  I've also tried the Black Pepper Skinny Pop, which I like but not as much as the Pepper Jack.  I am not a fan of the Aged White Cheddar.

Noted but not pictured because I am pretending I didn't eat them:  two bags of Brach's Conversation Hearts purchased at Walgreens (see above) as part of post-Valentine's Day clearance; a bag of Starburst Jelly Beans because they are amazing, even six weeks before Easter.

Favorite snacks these days?  Do tell.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

#instajoy -- Doodles with @diane.bleck

We're on Spring Break ... in the snow.  My husband and kids are spending most of the day skiing and then returning to our lodgings for plenty of downtime.  Yesterday, so that all the downtime didn't default into device time, I pitched a creative activity to the kids and two of them took the bait.

I showed them the Instagram of @diane.bleck, where she includes lots of doodle ideas and brief how-to videos for doodling inspiration.  We decided on the cabin and skis for obvious reasons.  We were working with a Walgreens sketch pad and the contents of my daughter's travel backpack (hint: lots of gel pens).

We all had fun with the activity.  The kids' doodles turned out better than mine.  I think because they added more personal touches whereas I stuck to the program a bit more.  I love how my daughter drew multiple pairs of skiis and branded them.  My ten year-old son added sun and snowflakes -- I was surprised by how he enjoyed the doodling. 

My daughter and I moved on to bunting doodles next.  The ones featured above are mine.  I can see adding some bunting flair to a thank you note, journal page, or bookmark.  So fun!
My daughter turned the bunting doodling into a real party!  I couldn't be more charmed by her disco ball.
If you're on Instagram, follow @diane.bleck for creative inspiration!  I checked out her website and  it looks like she also offers a variety of online courses, which I can see us enjoying in the future. 

This doodling afternoon was another reminder of how fun, relaxing, and satisfying it is to carve out time to do stuff, create stuff, try new stuff, etc. 

Circle back for future #instajoy posts wherein Instagram inspiration and action will intersect.  And, of course, for #bookstajoy posts where I follow up on literary inspirations from #bookstagrammers.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

2018 Reading Highlights -- Nonfiction

I was trying for one massive 2018 Reading Highlights post, but it was becoming too unwieldy. Here's Part 2 of 2:  2018 Reading Highlights:  Nonfiction.

As with the Fiction Highlights post, I will note which books are available via Hoopla as it is an easy-to-use digital resource to which many libraries subscribe (including my beloved Elmhurst Public Library, featured in photo above).

2018 Highlights -- Memoirs
I like to be inspired, especially by people taking risks and/or living lives totally different from mine.
Educated by Tara Westover:  Kids are so much tougher than we imagine and family love so much more complicated and messy.  I said a bit more here.

Small Fry by Lisa Brennan-Jobs:  That Steve Jobs was a strange cat and I feel like his daughter did a good job of telling her story honestly and letting her Steve-focused anecdotes speak for themselves.  Available via Hoopla.

The Year of Living Danishly: My Twelves Months Unearthing the Secrets of the World's Happiest Country by Helen Russell:  Would be great for book clubs!  I'm not ready to pack my bags and move to Denmark, but I enjoyed (and learned from) the insights of a couple who did just that.

The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio: How My Mother Raised 10 Kids on 25 Words or Less by Terry Ryan:  Inspiring story and good glimpse into an earlier (but not always easier) time.  Available via Hoopla (though I had purchased the ebook).

A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson:  Humor, historical tidbits, witty and sometimes wise commentary.  A gem!

2018 Highlights -- New Books from Old Favorites
If you can't easily secure the title I mentioned, you're safe finding a backlist pick. 

Calypso by David Sedaris:  Sedaris tackles some tougher topics in this collection, but his keen observations and humor are still present.  His Fitbit essay is an all-time favorite of mine.  This one isn't available via Hoopla, but some backlist titles are.  Try Me Talk Pretty One Day.

Go Ask Ali: Half-Baked Advice (and Free Lemonade) by Ali Wentworth:  Ali Wentworth has written three books and they've all made me laugh.  She's honest and funny.  Go Ask Ali is her latest.

2018 Highlights -- New Favorite (Nonfiction) Author
I will track down all future titles.

Clare Balding:  I read two Clare Balding (British TV presenter and radio host) memoirs this year and look forward to more.  I loved Walking Home: My Family and Other Rambles and My Animals and Other Family.

2018 Highlights -- Practical Inspiration
I appreciate reading to learn.  The older I get, the more I realize how much I still have to learn.

Decluttering at the Speed of Life by Dana K. White:  I've already written about White's first book.  This one was also full of inspiration and practical tips.  Both of her books available via Hoopla.

The Year of Less:  How I Stopped Shopping, Gave Away My Belongings, and Discovered Life Is Worth More Than Anything You Can Buy in a Store by Cait Flanders:  I'm always looking for inspiration to spend less and declutter.  My stage of life is different from Flanders' but I learned from her and liked her straightforward, honest writing style.  Available via Hoopla.

2018 Highlights -- Essays by Women
I need to explore this category even more widely.  Lots of good writing and wise women out there.

Tell Me More: Stories about the 12 Hardest Things I'm Learning to Say by Kelly Corrigan:  I've read all of Kelly Corrigan's books.  I appreciate her honesty and love her writing style.  I laughed and cried reading this one.

Nothing Good Can Come from This by Kristi Coulter:  One woman's story of drinking and then stopping with lots of larger insights about gender and drinking.  A serious topic but still some funny moments in these essays.

Heating & Cooling:52 Micro-Memoirs by Beth Ann Fennelly:  These are micro-memoirs not essays, but I feel like putting them here and not above with the memoirs.  They aren't exactly poems but are clearly penned by a poet.  Quick but satisfying reading experience.

2018 Highlights -- Funny Books and/or Funny People
These are books by or about funny people that I really enjoyed in 2018.
The Chris Farley Show:  A Biography in Three Acts by Tom Farley, Jr.:  Farley's friends, family, colleagues all share memories, offering a full (and I suspect, fair) depiction of Farley with all his goodness and genius and struggles and flaws and demons.

A Polaroid Guy in a Snapchat World by David Spade:  A friend recommended this one and Spade just cracked me up with his self-deprecating humor.  I tracked down Almost Interesting (available via Hoopla) and that made me laugh as well.  Neither book suitable for children!

My Squirrel Days by Ellie Kemper:  Hmmm, a lot of people didn't like this, but I enjoyed Kemper's fresh, distinct, engaging voice.  She comes across as much smarter than many of the characters she plays.

The Actor's Life by Jenna Fisher:  This book could also be categorized above with the "practical inspiration" titles.   I'm a huge JAM fan so had to read this one.  I have never had ANY plans to pursue acting, but there is loads of practical advice here for someone seeking an acting career or anyone with a dream.  Don't wait for work!  Find ways to create your own opportunities and projects.  Very encouraging!

What about fiction?  I covered that yesterday:  2018 Reading Highlights -- Fiction.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

2018 Reading Highlights -- Fiction

Better late than never.  I'm writing two posts.  Here's the first:  2018 Reading Highlights -- Fiction.   My descriptions are going to be BRIEF and still this post will be too long. 

I chose this photo of the Elmhurst Public Library at sunset because EPL is truly the beating heart of my reading life.  Not only do they have a wonderful selection of books, often arranged in tempting displays, but their e-resources are unbelievable.  Thanks to My Media Mail/The Libby App and Hoopla Digital, I read and listen to many wonderful books for free.  Because Hoopla is the easiest digital resource to use (if your library subscribes, which I hope it does), I will make mention when a title is available via Hoopla.

2018 Highlights -- New Books from Old Favorites
If you can't easily secure the title I mentioned, you're safe choosing a backlist pick.

All I Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin:  Giffin's best book in years.  It's a whole new world out there with social media, even for "good" kids.

Lethal White by Robert Galbraith:  I am obsessed with the Cormoran Strike series.  I waited almost two years for this one.  Start at the beginning with Cuckoo's Calling though.  Even my husband is hooked, though he won't gush about it like I do.

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty:  Some people found this one to be a snoozer, but I liked the characters and their back stories.  Stick with it.

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones:  A tough novel to read, but so well-written and worth it.  If it's unavailable, try Silver Sparrow.

How Hard Can It Be by Allison Pearson:  I waited over a decade for this follow up to I Don't Know How She Does It.  You need to read that one first, but then you won't have to wait ten years for this worthy sequel.

Anatomy of a Miracle by Jonathan Miles:  Cameron was paralyzed and walks again.  Miracle?  Medical breakthrough?  You'll want to meet Cameron, his sister, and his neighbors. 

How the Light Gets In by Louise Penny:  I listened to seven Chief Inspector Gamache books in 2018,  I recommend listening because the narration is exquisite.  My heart about burst at the end of How the Light Gets In, but you can't start there.  You have to start at the beginning with Still Life.  Sorry.

2018 Highlights -- Solid, Satisfying Novels
These books just hit the spot for me. I'm not going to say much more.

How to Walk Away by Katherine Center:  Center's best yet.

Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi:  Includes witty text exchanges.

I Liked My Life by Abby Fabiaschi:  Premise is the worst, but stick with the story and you'll be glad.  Available via Hoopla.

The Cactus by Sarah Haywood:  Great for fans of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine.  Available via Hoopla.

One Day in December by Josie Silver:  Read it and imagine the blockbuster rom-com it will be one day (see what I did there?).

This Must Be the Place by Maggie O'Farrell:  This one was a WOW for me.

My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh:  Dark, dark, dark, but it worked for me.  You might hate it though.

2018 Highlights -- New Favorite Authors
I will track down all future titles.

Jane Harper:  Great mysteries with cool Australian settings.  I enjoyed The Dry and Force of Nature.

Cherise Wolas:  The Family Tabor asks big questions:  How does one negotiate life without faith?  What happens if you try to bury, deny, discount the past?  Her previous novel also made me think.  I'll come back for more.

2018 Highlights -- New Favorite YA Authors
I am picky about my YA.  I don't like YA novels where teen characters are mouthpieces for adult author social/political commentary or when situations are exceptionally brutal, bleak, or sexual.  I like books that feature interesting teen friendships and relationships with witty, realistic-seeming dialogue.

Emma Mills:  I started with First and Then, a romance involving football and a play on my beloved P&P.  Stay tuned for reports of the 2019 Emma Mills bender I went on.

Brigid Kemmerer:  I started with More than We Can Tell and have since read another from the Letters to the Lost Series.  Looks like there are some other series, but they sound sort of Sci-Fi-ish so I'm not likely to be going there.  Letters to the Lost though ... I'm all in.

2018 Highlights -- Short Stories
I always think I don't like short stories until I remember that I do.

You Think It, I'll Say It by Curtis Sittenfeld:  Just right.  Smart, witty, ringing true.

Fight No More by Lydia Millet:  These interconnected short stories were a fantastic surprise.  Sad and happy and hopeful.  Available via Hoopla.

2018 Highlights -- For Anne (with an "e") Fans
In case your spot for Anne of Green Gables is as soft as mine is.
Marilla of Green Gables by Sarah McCoy:  Lovely and heartbreaking to imagine Marilla's life before Anne.  Available via Hoopla.

House of Dreams: The Life of L.M. Montgomery by Liz Rosenberg:  This book is NOT fiction, but all those who love L.M. Montgomery's fiction should read it.  I said more here.

2018 Highlights -- Fun/Creepy Reads for Boy Moms
Consider yourself warned.  Who's good enough for your precious boy?

The Girlfriend by Michelle Frances

The Other Woman by Sadie Jones 

2018 Highlights -- Romance
Combination of some steam and a good story.

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang:  BOTM pick.  Available via Hoopla.

The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal:  Reese Witherspoon said so.  Via Hoopla. 

If you're not exhausted, check out Part 2:  2018 Reading Highlights -- Nonfiction.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Revisiting The Blue Castle

Here's my copy of The Blue Castle from the late 1980s.
I was scrolling through #bookstagram the other day and spotted a copy of L.M. Montgomery's The Blue Castle.  Scanning the comments, I glimpsed someone saying that it was their favorite L.M. Montgomery novel.  Hmmm, really?!  I knew I had read the book but had no memories or impressions of it.  Zero.  Zilch.  Nada.  After I finished off the Anne of Green Gables series in around seventh grade (maybe that's late to read them ... I don't know, but that's when I discovered them), I made it a point to buy and read any other L.M. Montgomery book that crossed my path.  So, I likely read The Blue Castle somewhere between 1987 and 1989.  I can be forgiven for not recalling a book read thirty years ago except that I do remember many other books read during that period.

The L.M. Montgomery titles available via Hoopla have the gorgeous artwork from the new Source Books editions.
Last year, I revisited L.M. Montgomery's Emily of New Moon series as audiobooks checked out via Hoopla Digital.  I did a quick search and discovered that The Blue Castle was also available on Hoopla.  I downloaded and pressed play, and this weekend's listening experience was wonderful!

The Blue Castle is just fantastic.  L.M. Montgomery tells the story of Valancy Stirling, a plain young woman of twenty-nine who has lived a small, dull, stifling life with a proud but fairly miserable family.  She's unmarried and mostly ignored.  She's existing but not living.  Having experienced some heart trouble, she gathers up just enough gumption to see a doctor outside of her family's circle.  The news she receives convinces her that if her life won't be long, she ought to at least live it.  What ensues is an energizing, satisfying story of bravery, friendship, and love.  When Valancy finally realizes she doesn't give a hoot what her family thinks and begins speaking her mind, I was laughing aloud and cheering her on. 

Just some of my L.M. Montgomery books from the late 1980s.
At 44, I loved every second of The Blue Castle, but I guess at 12 or 13, I wasn't that impressed.  Perhaps a middle schooler can't fully appreciate the courage required to explode one's whole world and sever family ties.  I'm now excited to see what other L.M. Montgomery titles I can reread.  Nine years ago while nursing my daughter, I reread all the Anne of Green Gables books on my iphone.  I revisted the Emily of New Moon books last year.  I think I'll head back to Pat of Silver Bush next.

This book is very readable and includes perfect illustrations by Julie Morstad.
I find I am appreciating all of L.M. Montgomery's books even more after having read Liz Rosenberg's House of Dreams: The Life of L.M. Montgomery this past autumn.  This well-researched account shows how un-dreamlike Montgomery's life was.  One appreciates the spirit, life, and struggle of Anne and Emily knowing how tough Montgomery's own climb was -- that constant interplay between darkness and light.  Heartbreaking, actually, to know that someone who saw and brought so much beauty in and to the world suffered so keenly.  If you are an Anne Fan, please check out House of Dreams

Have you revisited any childhood books as an adult?  Despite the "so many books, so little time" reality of life, my experience with The Blue Castle makes me think I should do more rereading, especially with favorite authors. 

Sunday, March 24, 2019

(Lil) Lil Project: Cardinal Art via Post

Today's (Lil) Lil Project is barely a project, but I'm giving myself credit anyway because I had a vision and took steps (literally) to make it a reality.

I turned 44 last week and received a birthday gift from my aunt and uncle.  In addition to a really cool necklace and earrings from the Mill City Museum, I received a birthday message written on a cardinal notecard. 

The cardinal notecard had a lot going for it:  cool, modern lines; the way it featured a female cardinal (most cardinal art features the showier male); a turquoise background (currently can't get enough turquoise); and the fact that it was chosen with love for a niece obsessed with cardinals

"I need to put this little birdie in a black frame to join some of its friends," I thought to myself.  And then, our Saturday was kind of expansively empty in the best possible way and the sun was shining so I took a walk to The Pink Elephant, the hospital resale shop here in Pleasantville.  For $1.00, I found a black frame with the subtlest red/rust accents and knew it fit the bill (or beak).  After walking home, I got out my glass cleaner and spiffed up the frame.  Then, I chose a piece of cardstock from my home stash for the background, popped the notecard into place, and added the new frame to a little cardinal vignette I've got going in the library. 

Ah, the satisfaction of a lil (lil) project complete!