Sunday, October 30, 2016

It's Monday - Happy Halloween!

Hey there, ladies and gents! Happy Halloween!

First things first: who is dressing up today? What is your costume? Our family will be going full Star Wars this year, with a tiny Princess Leia, a young Luke Skywalker, Han Solo (me), and Obi Wan Kenobi (husband). It's the first year we have ever done a theme for the whole family and I have to confess that it's a lot of fun! We will have to see if we can get a few more years of it before someone decides they are too cool for such things.

This week, I read Alice Hoffman's newest book Faithful. The story is about the aftermath of a terrible accident in the life of a girl. Then I picked up Split Second, and took a rare journey (for me) into the serial suspense/mystery genre.     Split Second (Sean King & Michelle Maxwell, #1)

Today I started reading Truevine and my timing is perfect because Nonfiction November is on the horizon! Up next is Lessons in Belonging From A Church-Going Commitment Phobe.

       Truevine: Two Brothers, a Kidnapping, and a Mother's Quest: A True Story of the Jim Crow South        Lessons in Belonging from a Church-Going Commitment Phobe

 What are you reading this week?


Friday, October 28, 2016

Ten Things I Learned On Vacation

Our family of four plus my mom and sister went into NYC on a Saturday and boarded a giant cruise ship. We spent a few days at sea before arriving at a beautiful private island in the Bahamas. The next day was spent at Disney World and then we cruised back up the East Coast before arriving back in dreary, cold New York.

I know, it's not Tuesday and these points are mostly not about books (gasp!). But I wanted to share a bit about our recent trip, so here you go!

1. The wind out at sea is no joke.


2. You will find that you permanently have something in your eye when your toddler squeals with joy and runs into the arms of every character you encounter. When she waves to the princesses as they take their bows at the end of a show, you may find yourself having a sudden allergy attack.

3. Even the "too cool" big kids turn back into excited little ones when Mickey Mouse is involved.

4. If you have a boy who eats you out of house and home like I do, it may be the only time in your life that you encourage your kids to please eat more food. After all, you've already paid for it.

5. I love New Jersey beaches. But the water in the Bahamas is blue from far away and clear up close, people. You can see through to the sand and see shells and fish!

6. Formal dinner on a cruise ship seems so silly, but it's a lot of fun.

7. Cruise ship architects/designers are brilliant. There was so much room for all of our stuff in our cabin. Also, BG slept on a bed that pulled out of the sofa and D's bed came out of the ceiling!

8. Princess Leia does not like posing for pictures, even if she gets to trick or treat two whole weeks early.

9. Vacations with kids are both fun and stressful. We had so much fun with our kids, but we also really appreciated a quiet dinner with fancy food and wine for the two of us.

10. There are much worse places to read than a lounge chair on the deck of a cruise ship sailing into the Bahamas. (See? It always comes back around to reading.)

Ok, fellow Disney fans, it's time to out yourselves. Who loves Disney? Who has been on a Disney cruise?

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

RIP Review: The Girl With All the Gifts

Melanie starts each day with being tied down and removed from her prison cell. A guard takes her into a classroom with several other children and she has the best part of her day, as her teacher Helen Justineau tells the students wonderful stories. While Miss Justineau gives Melanie her affection, she seems sad about the girl's future. She knows that Melanie will never leave the army base where they live. The world outside has been divided into survivors and hungries and no one is safe.

If you are hoping to avoid spoilers for this two-year-old book and its upcoming movie, you may not want to keep reading!

The Girl With All The Gifts is a bit of a different spin on a zombie story. Instead of a strict survival tale, we begin with a relationship between a young girl and her teacher. They adore each other, but they know that their relationship will always be tempered by restraints, cells, and the knowledge that one of them is a human and the other is a very intelligent zombie who can (usually) control her hunger. While this book certainly has its fair share of heart-stopping moments, it is mostly about morality and ethics in time of crisis. Melanie's hopeful teacher with her kind heart is contrasted with Dr. Caroline Caldwell, a scientist who will go to any ends for her research. She believes anyone and everything is expendable, when it comes to helping humanity as a whole.

This book is perfect for wimpy readers like me. We like the thrill of a tense moment without having to double-check the locks on our doors before going to bed. The Girl With All The Gifts is an engaging read that will make you think about what lengths you would go to in order to survive. And I would be remiss if I didn't mention how wonderful it was to read a book full of action that revolves around three women.

The Girl With All The Gifts
By M.R. Carey
Orbit June 2014
460 pages
From the library

I read this book for Readers Imbibing Peril, hosted by Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings.


Sunday, October 23, 2016

It's Monday and we are home again

Hello friends! How are you doing?

It's been two weeks since I did one of these posts. In the meantime, I went on a week-long cruise to the Bahamas and Disney World and then I participated in an abridged Readathon this past Saturday.

Vacation time plus Readathon means that I've gotten a lot of reading done lately. Here are the books I've read:

           Commonwealth    Sing for Your Life: A Story of Race, Music, and Family  Behold the Dreamers                           
           The Firebird (Slains, #2)   Today Will Be Different   Public Library and Other Stories 
                          Fables, Volume 1: Legends in Exile    Let's Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir 

Now I'm planning to read Alice Hoffman's new novel Faithful and then catch up on the latest edition of Saga if it arrives at my library in the next few days.

What are you reading this week?


Saturday, October 22, 2016

it's Readathon Time!!

End of Event Survey

  1. Which hour was most daunting for you? I think I did ok this time around. I tried not to stress about missing some time during the day when my kids needed me, and I went to sleep around hour 18 (1 a.m. here) because I needed to get two kids and myself off to church in the morning. 
  2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year? Comics are always a great choice. I read Fables this year and I've previously read Seconds, Saga, and some of Lucy Knisley's comic memoirs. 
  3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next season? Nope! Thanks for all of your hard work, ladies! 
  4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon? Everything seemed to work well this time around (and really, every time). 
  5. How many books did you read? I finished two during readathon and a third  on Sunday afternoon.
  6. What were the names of the books you read? Public Library and Other Stories; Fables volume 1, and Let's Pretend This Never Happened
  7. Which book did you enjoy most? Let's Pretend This Never Happened 
  8. Which did you enjoy least? Public Library and Other Stories 
  9. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time? It would take a lot to keep me from readathon! I will definitely be reading and I'm always happy to help out too!

Half-way Point!
Mid-Event Survey:
1. What are you reading right now? Let's Pretend This Never Happened and Fables, volume 1
2. How many books have you read so far? One: Public Library and Other Stories
3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon? I'm excited to see what Fables is all about!
4. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those? I have two kids, so there was a fair amount of playing Clue and changing diapers. There may also be the allure of a week of television to catch up on...                                                                                                        5
. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far? I haven't found a book I adore yet. I hope to find one before the night is over!

I know I'm late friends, but I have a really great excuse! This morning, my family and I disembarked from our cruise ship after a one week cruise to a private island in the Bahamas and Disney World. So we got everyone home, unpacked a few things, fed some kids, and now I am ready to read!

Opening Meme:
1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today? I just arrived back in rainy New Jersey this morning. 
2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to? Um, I didn't really make a stack this year. I was sort of waiting to see which books would be unfinished from our trip. I do have Fables, volume 1 from the library and I may swing back to the library and pick up Parnassus on Wheels. 
3) Which snack are you most looking forward to? You know when you get home from a trip and there is no food in your house? Yup. Probably takeout tonight. 
4) Tell us a little something about yourself! I am a a book-loving lady approaching the big 3-0. I have one husband, two kids, and no pets. If I'm not reading, you can probably find me editing, playing the piano, singing show tunes, or baking something delicious. 
5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to? This readathon is much more seat-of-my-pants than I usually do, but I'm excited for it anyway! 

Friday, October 14, 2016

Review: Vinegar Girl

Kate Battista certainly didn't expect to end up here. She spends her days as an assistant at a preschool and then comes home to care for her eccentric scientist father, younger sister Bunny, and her garden when she finds a spare moment. Dr. Battista has one more favor to ask his daughter in addition to her cooking dinner and doing the household taxes: he wants her to marry his brilliant lab assistant so he won't be deported. Kate is furious with this proposition, but she soon finds herself seeing the possibility for both a relationship and a different kind of future in the joyful and charming Pyotr.

Vinegar Girl is the third book in the Hogarth Shakespeare series and a new imagining of the play The Taming of the Shrew. I read the play before jumping into the novel and found it to be near the bottom of my preferred Shakespeare plays. The characters seem very much like archetypes, as we never really get insight into who they are or why they do what they do. According to Shakespeare, a woman can be shrewish for no specific reason and a man will embark on a crazy scheme to marry a woman he has seen once. In Tyler's hands, our characters get a bit more depth. Kate is a woman who has trouble staying quiet, which we know is dangerous for females. When she calls out a college professor, she finds herself out of her botany program and caring for her family instead. Kate is not shrewish just for the sake of it; she is angry about things and trying to figure out how to express that. Her potential husband Pyotr, on the other hand, seems to never get angry. Instead, he is eager and hopeful, even when Kate continually brushes him off.

While Tyler's novel is a short one, she is able to focus on a smaller number of characters than Shakespeare wrote into his play. The reader no longer has to remember who is disguised as whom or which sister this particular suitor is after. Tyler has publicly stated that she is not a big fan of Shakespeare, and she finds Taming of the Shrew particularly painful. Her novel never captures the great wit or sweeping language of Shakespeare, but it does give us a charming romantic comedy  with a happier ending as we see two people bend because they love themselves and another, as opposed to a man shaming and conquering a woman through marriage.

Vinegar Girl
By Anne Tyler
Hogarth June 2016
224 pages
Read via Netgalley

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

RIP Mini-reviews: Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew'd and The Fireman

In this eighth Flavia de Luce mystery, our heroine is growing up and learning some tough truths. She expects her return from school to be greeted with celebration from her family. Instead, her father is in the hospital, her sisters are preoccupied with their own problems, and even the family's beloved Dogger is hard to find. But some things never change in Bishop's Lacy, and it's not long before Flavia discovers a dead body and decides to take on the case.

This wasn't my favorite Flavia mystery so far - I had expected bigger things to happen as a result of the events in previous books. But I do adore the way Bradley uses his stories to tell readers about the details of life in 1950s era England. In this particular one, readers get some insight into publishing and medicine during this period. And of course, Flavia herself is a joy to accompany, especially now as she is grappling with some more adult responsibilities with her trademark spunk. Reading a Flavia de Luce mystery always feels like coming home to your slightly batty, but very beloved family. There just happens to be the small issue of a homicide to solve before the last page.

Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew'd
By Alan Bradley
Delacorte Press September 2016
331 pages
Read via Netgalley

Harper Greyson is a nurse determined to help her patients, first at the elementary school where she works and then at the local hospital. But her skills and compassion are not enough to save all of her patients as a strange pandemic called Dragonscale strikes the world. This disease causes its victims to break out in shiny scales before they spontaneously combust. Harper soon discovers she is pregnant and she will do absolutely anything to save her child. When a mysterious man known only as The Fireman appears and offers to bring her to safety, she takes him up on it. But safety may be only a memory as Harper and The Fireman discover what people are capable of during their darkest moments.

The Fireman is a long book, but it's one that moves quickly. Harper starts out as a somewhat naive character, happy to let her husband take care of most things as she placates the students at her school with candy and tunes from Mary Poppins. The dragonscale and the panic that follows forces her to grow quickly without room for error. While dragonscale itself is presented as the horror here, the characters and readers quickly discover that the real terror is what frightened people will do. People with the disease are scorned if not killed and survivors become desperate as resources dwindle and infrastructure falls apart. Joe Hill gives readers a sprawling story, a big bunch of well-developed characters, and some serious questions about what it means to retain our humanity.

The Fireman
By Joe Hill
William Morrow May 2016
747 pages
From the library

I read both of these books as a part of Readers Imbibing Peril, an event for reading mystery, horror, suspense, and thrillers.


Monday, October 10, 2016

It's Monday and we went to the book sale!

Hi friends! What's happening in your corner of the world?

This was a sort of recovery week for us after a crazy fun weekend of flying cross-country and back in 4 days. Our house seems to be very grumpy we left it and is responding with fun things like electrical problems and a busted dishwasher. Sigh.

On the positive side, we did visit our town Harvest Fair this weekend and came home with some delicious bbq, a giant bag of fresh popped popcorn, and books from our local library book sale (of course).

This week, I read the really fascinating Patient H.M. Then I paired Anne Tyler's Vinegar Girl with The Taming of the Shrew, the Shakespeare play that the novel is based on.

                Patient H.M.: A Story of Memory, Madness, and Family Secrets    Vinegar Girl

Now I'm reading Commonwealth, which I picked up in an airport book store last weekend. Next up is Sing For Your Life.

                Commonwealth    Sing for Your Life: A Story of Race, Music, and Family

What are you reading this week?


Wednesday, October 5, 2016

September Wrap-Up and What I'm Into

September is done? Are you sure? Well, all right then. Fall is decidedly in the air. I am happy with my warm blankets, pumpkin coffee, and plans to use our backyard fire pit. We will, however, escape the cool temperatures for a few days with a cruise later this month. I think by that point we will be ready to break our bathing suits out again and spend some time on the beach!

But this month was certainly not boring. We had two weddings, traveled cross country and back within four days, and our son started third grade. I know, I now have a pretty big kid. I don't want to talk about it.

What? Is there a different way to wait for the bus? 

What I Read/Reviewed:
I reviewed nine books this month. Five were for review and four were from the library. I finally wrote about a nonfiction book in the midst of all my novels. I feel like I am not reading much nonfiction lately. However, the truth is just that it took me two months to wade through my Jonathan Edwards biography, which really checked off my nonfiction box for a while. My favorites this month were Marrow Island and Homegoing, with an honorable mention to Underground Airlines.

           Jane Steele    MWF Seeking BFF: My Yearlong Search For A New Best Friend     Underground Airlines

                                    The Dollhouse        Homegoing       Amy Snow
                             Smoke       MWF Seeking BFF              The Book of Esther
                               Jane Steele      Marrow Island       Underground Airlines 

Favorite posts:
It was fun combining a book review and writing about my own life experiences when I discussed MWF Seeking BFF. This month also featured the second edition of Readalongs, where I pick a children's book to accompany the novel you are currently reading.

What I've Been Watching:
Oh hello there, fall tv. We have eagerly been awaiting your return. In our house, we are remaining loyal to Once Upon A Time, Grey's Anatomy, and I am very impatient for Jane the Virgin to be on my tv again. New shows in our lineup are The Happy Place, Designated Survivor, and This Is Us. 

What I've Been Listening To: Podcasts, podcasts, podcasts. Overdue, What Should I Read Next, The Book Riot Podcast, Get Booked, The Liturgists, and The Mom Life Crisis Podcast are currently in rotation. I'm also trying out my first audiobook in a long time - Without You: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and the Musical Rent. There is still some music around the house, but it tends to be classical in the early morning to gently start our day or music for the kids in the car.

What were you into during September?

Grab button for What I'm Into

Monday, October 3, 2016

It's Monday and we are back from California!

Hey friends! After a few days in sunny California, I'm back in New Jersey and ready to do some blogging.

A friend of my sister's got married this weekend and asked my husband to officiate the wedding. We hopped on a plane very early Thursday morning. Friday was the rehearsal, Saturday was the wedding, and then we headed back home on Sunday evening. In between, we got to spend lots of time with my sister and her husband and explore some beautiful towns in California!

The good thing about traveling is that long plane rides are perfect for reading. I finished The Fireman before we left, but read Wearing God and The Girl With All the Gifts mostly on my flights or waiting in the airport. I also read most of Patient H.M. and started The Taming of the Shrew in preparation for reading Vinegar Girl

             The Fireman  Wearing God: Clothing, Laughter, Fire, and Other Overlooked Ways of Meeting God  The Girl with All the Gifts

           Patient H.M.: A Story of Memory, Madness, and Family Secrets   The Taming of the Shrew

Now it's time to do some laundry, snuggle up with my kids, and try to get used to East Coast time again. What are you reading this week?