Tuesday, October 20, 2020

The Word is Murder

 Did I mention I love mysteries?  It's one of my go-to genres for busting up reading slumps and for general book enjoyment.

Anthony Horowitz seems to write a really good mystery.  I read Magpie Murders after it came out years ago and loved it.  It was so good I bought The Word is Murder and then set it aside, thinking I would save it for a rainy day.

Bookstagram let me know that Anthony Horowitz is coming out with a new book and I realized I hadn't picked up The Word... yet.  I pulled it off my shelf on an actual rainy day and was completely absorbed.  

A woman walks into a funeral parlor, plans out her funeral, and is murdered later that day.  It's an interesting premise for sure, but I really loved the way Horowitz himself (well, kind of) helps solve the murder.  I said in my Instagram review that it gave me Inception and Fletch vibes so of course, I loved it.  Authors who play with form and don't take themselves too seriously and still manage to pull all of that together into a well-written, cohesive narrative are my favorite.  It's a tall order, I realize that.  There are funny asides, clever revelations, and it's the beginning of a series.  The next book is out and sitting on my shelf waiting for me.   

Do you like reading mysteries?  What's one of your favorites in the genre?  Isn't it the best thing in the world to curl up with a mystery book on a rainy fall Saturday? That last one was totally rhetorical but it's nice when we can all agree on something.  

Monday, October 19, 2020

The Ghost at Dawn's House

 My first book of October was The Ghost at Dawn's House by Ann M. Martin.  I've been part of an online book club where we read a Babysitters' Club book every two weeks.  The Bookshelf started this back at the beginning of summer and I'm so grateful.  It's reminded me of how much I loved these books and how much fun it is to read something easy and quick.  

BSC books have been good palette cleansers between books dealing with big, important, and sometimes scary things.  They are fun, they hold my attention, and they provide a healthy dose of nostalgia.  I also love looking at the parenting in these books and picking and choosing what might be useful in my family (don't sleep on fiction as parenting manuals).  

I've heard many times that when kids are struggling to read, the best thing you can do is give them easy to consume books or books that bring joy.  The secret to why my pandemic reading life is so full is that I've sprinkled in some easy books to keep me going.  

This book was fun because there was a mystery to solve and Dawn is the babysitter I most identify with.  Are you a Kristy, Mary-Anne, Claudia, Stacy, Dawn, Mallory, or Jessie?  If you're not sure or don't know what I'm talking about take this quiz and tell me your results in the comments.  

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Well, hello again...

 If nine months into a global pandemic isn't the right time to revive your blog then I don't know when is...

I'm back, maybe not better than ever, but trying.

I've been doing a lot of reading and this year will likely be my best ever from a quantity perspective.  I've also been doing a lot of writing.  The first draft of my novel is done and now I'm in the weeds of rewriting.  

Stay tuned for high-quality content like: book reviews, book mail, bookstagram pet peeves, picture book parade, what's saving my life, monthly and seasonal TBRs, and end of month wrap-ups.  

This year has been rough and on the good days and the bad books have gotten me through.  Books have calmed me and my children, they have given us a distraction, and reminded us that humanity has been through bad times before.  The purpose of this blog is not to gain followers or add pressure to your reading life.  My purpose is to write a love letter to books, to remember the books I read, and maybe to connect with other book lovers and have real discussions about the books we love and the books we do not.  

Let's finish 2020 with strength, grace, and good books.  

Monday, December 2, 2019

Monday Moods

Thanksgiving is behind us, December is ahead of us.  This Monday feels like a new beginning.  Time to roll up my sleeves to get started on all that Christmas stuff.  

Here are my Monday moods:

Things I Love

1.  Holidays with family.  This year was challenging because it's our first Thanksgiving without my dad.  Last year was our first Thanksgiving without my father-in-law.  Sometimes it feels like we've been trapped in the grief cycle for too long.  Despite a week of worry in anticipation of the actual holiday, we had a great time celebrating together.  Together makes grief easier and I need to remember that for the next holiday. 

2.  The Family Upstairs.  This book was perfect for a week of holiday prep work.  It distracted me when I needed it to and the suspense and twisty turny plot kept me going back for a few more chapters instead of going down the black hole of social media.  

3.  My mom.  She came to spend a few days with us and she helped cook, clean, fold laundry, and babysat the kids so we could go see a movie.  Even if she did none of that, I would still be grateful for her sense of humor, the way we can talk for hours, and her hugs!  I'm not taking her for granted.

Normally I only do three, but it was a big week so:

4.  Knives Out.  This movie is so good.  I'm still thinking about it.  The characters are interesting.  The plot is excellent.  The subtle social commentary is just what we need.  Go see it.  Don't wait.  

Things I Don't Love

1.  Cleaning before and after a holiday.  It seems like this kind of work never ends and just when you've vacuumed it's now time to start doing dishes.  We divided the work before our guests came and got a lot done, but now it's Monday and somehow, there is still a lot to get done.  

2.  Spilling coffee on my shirt.  I do this all the time.  Today I poured myself a perfect cup with just enough sugar and just enough half and half and I wanted to savor every sip.  Bam!  1/3 down the front of me.  That will teach me to try to multi task while I'm enjoying my coffee.  


3.  Dry hands.  With all the cooking and cleaning I washed my hands about a million times this week.  My hands are chapped and chafed.  I keep getting paper cuts so if you see me around town, please avert your eyes from my wrecked hands.  And also, share your favorite hand lotions (nothing too fragrant, please) in the comments.  

Those are my Monday moods.  How are you feeling on this first Monday of December?

Monday, November 25, 2019

Monday Moods

It's a big Monday...the Monday before Thanksgiving.  This week is full: of shopping, of cleaning, and of celebrating.  I will not let all the work ahead of me rob me of the joy of eating a big, delicious meal with the people I love.  So, yay Monday!

Here's what I love:

1.  Tea tree oil body wash from Trader Joe's.  I love tea tree oil and this body wash is great, light and clean and smells great.  

me when I open 

2.  Christmas decorations.  Even though we haven't had Thanksgiving yet, we put our tree up on Sunday.  At church, the pastor said Christmas Eve is only a month away and I was like ok, I'm doing this.  We didn't decorate it yet, but having the tree with soft white lights makes us all feel a little more peaceful.  I love coming down in the morning to see the tree all lit up.  Don't @ me.  Christmas is a lot of work and I want a full month of enjoyment, thank you very much.
my third child contemplating a Christmas village.  I am v. proud, she is just like her mother. 

3.  Family visits.  My mom is coming to visit for the holiday.  My brother and sister-in-law and their two little ones will stay with us too.  I love this.  It's a lot of prep work, but when everyone is here, the house is full of love and I feel so peaceful.  This will be our first Thanksgiving without my dad and I know there will be big feelings and tears, but grief is best handled together and I'm ready for a few days of laughing and crying with the people I love.  

Here's what I don't love:
1.  Having to tell my kids to do things 1,000 times.  I keep repeating myself and this is not ok.  My time on earth is limited, I do not enjoy repeating the same phrases over and over again.  "Brush your teeth."  "Clear your plate."  "Pick up your socks."  "Why isn't anyone listening to me???"

2.  Missing my alarm.  This morning I overslept and had five minutes to rush downstairs to teach at 5:30am (if you don't know, I teach kids in China each morning through VIP Kid).  It was stressful.   Hopefully, tomorrow will be better.

3.  End of the month pressure.  This is the week I start to panic about all the books I wanted to read this month and how many I actually read.  These numbers are usually vastly different.  I have three books that I'm more than halfway through but with the holiday I'm not sure how much I'll actually read.  I don't like the way I save this all up and then freak out.  Maybe next month I can bring awareness to this and skip the negative self-talk.  Only time will tell...

These are my Monday moods.  What are you feeling this holiday week? 
Happy Thanksgiving, to you and yours!

Friday, November 22, 2019


Tis the season to be grateful, right?  Being grateful in every season has all kinds of benefits.  This year I decided to keep a gratitude journal and I actually stuck with it.  The practice of waking up and writing some things that I'm grateful for each day helped me feel more content and pay attention to all the good things in my life.

One of the things I find that crops up in my gratitude journal now and then is my current read.  This got me thinking.  What are 5 books I've read over the course of my life that I'm grateful for?  Not necessarily my favorites...but books that helped me. This is not a complete list, not by a long shot, but here are a few of the books I am grateful for, in no particular order.

Hippos Go Berserk.  This is a board book that we read to all four of our children.  I can still recite it from memory.  "One hippo, all alone, calls two hippos, on the phone."  It is a tale of going from loneliness to a life filled with hippos and back again to being alone.  There are some deep themes and some very cute hippos.  I am thankful for the memories I have from all those times holding a wriggly baby and laughing over the silly hippos.  I am thankful for the way the words and pictures take me back to that time and encourage me on this journey of parenthood.

Ramona the Pest.  I've written about my love for this book before.  It is one I am forever grateful for.  I got a copy from the scholastic book fair.  I read it and reread it and reread it again.  I understood Ramona, always trying her best but having mixed results.  Her misunderstandings and confusion were relatable.  This book propelled me to dig into Beverly Cleary's catalog and meet Ribsy and Henry, a mouse with a big sense of adventure, and get to know Ramona's parents and sister, too.  I wish one of my kids loved these books the way I do, but they have so many more options for plucky heroines, series with complex real characters, and authors bringing their A-game to middle-grade readers.  So it's ok.  But in my heart, I know the seed for so many of today's characters and for my love of books and writing came from this book.  I am thankful for the way this book changed my reading life and the books my kids have access to.  

The Nature of the Beast.  Maybe not my favorite book in the series, but it got me through the month after my dad died.  I needed to feel safe in a book and when the world seemed cold.  The lights of the bistro beckoned and as I poured myself a big mug of tea and sat with this book I was able to escape into another reality where bad things happened but people who were bruised and hurt could heal and grow stronger together.  I'm thankful for the way this book gave me hope.

Tribe.  This slim, nonfiction book is one I think about often.  The author considers tribe mentality and how that affects modern Americans, veterans, and all of humanity.  So much of what we're missing in our current culture is human interaction and connection.  Without it, we can feel untethered and lonely which can lead to dire consequences.  Since I've read it, I have talked about it in a variety of conversations and contexts.  I am thankful for the way this book has made me seek connection with my family and community despite cultural pressure to do the opposite.  

Moloka'i.  I read this for a book club ages ago.  I was kind of salty about it at the time.  My book snobbery was at an all-time high and I felt like it was fluff fiction. Looking back, it was good, solid historical fiction, written for ladies in book club.  And yes, there is a place for that, even on the biggest book snob's shelf.  So anyway, I read it, felt "meh" about it and put it away.  Years later I was writing to my grandmother and she talked about loving the book Hawaii.  I told her about this story.  She got very excited.  I sent her my copy and she devoured it and then proceeded to tell everyone she knows about it.  My mom decided she should read it too.  She did and she also enjoyed it.  My mom sent it back to me after she was done.  I love knowing this book has a connection to three generations.  I love that we can talk about it.  I'm grateful for this book for sparking book talk with me, my grandmother, and my mom.  And I'm grateful to have the physical copy of this in my house to give to one of my daughters someday.  

What books are you thankful for during this season?  Leave a note in the comments, I'd love to hear your stories too. 

Monday, November 18, 2019

Monday Moods

Another weekend in the books, another week on the horizon. Let's do this!

Here are my Monday moods.

Things I Love:

1.  Date nights.  We used to only go on date nights occasionally.  Babysitters are expensive and it just seemed like a lot.  Nowadays we are going weekly.  We have two teen daughters who alternate babysitting.  We pay them a small amount and they make dinner and hang out with their siblings.  My husband and I can go out and have a nice meal and a real conversation and come home to happy kids.  The only problem is that the kids are never in bed when we get home...but as long as they're all smiling, I'll take it!


2.  Reading "fun" books.  I love classics, but after finishing a big, serious book, I really love curling up with a book that does not take too much brainpower.  This weekend was full of "fun" reading and it was good.  

3.  An hour of cleaning.  On weekends, I usually sit with my book, thinking about how the house is getting dirtier and I'm the only one who will clean it up.  This weekend when that thought popped into my mind I called my family around and instituted one hour of cleaning.  It is amazing how much 6 people can get done in one hour.  I need to remember this and do it every weekend.  After, we all went back to doing our own things, but the house was cleaner and today I don't feel like there is more for me to do than is humanly possible.  

Things I Don't Love:

1.  Super healthy baking recipes.  I often get suckered into trying these and I really want to like them.  But they are just rarely good.  The ingredients are expensive and the odds that I will use them again before they expire are small.  Healthy recipes are one thing, but I think I will be avoiding super healthy baked goods for a while.  

and tastes like chicken feed too.

2.  Working on Saturday.  I had the bright idea to schedule classes early on Saturday morning.  This is good because it means the house is quiet.  But waking up so early messes with my sleep routine and means I will hit a hard stop around 1pm.  I have learned my lessons and will not be teaching before 6am on Saturdays going forward.  

3.  The smell of curry days after you made it.  The other night I made a delicious curry.  It. was. so. good.  But now, days later, every time I walk into the house I'm greeted by a wall of smell: curry.  I'm burning candles and leaving the windows open (despite the cold weather) but I just can't seem to be free from the curry.  Any suggestions?    

Those are my Monday moods.  This week I'm looking to finish Kingdom of the Blind, Here and Now and Then, and Forest World.  What are you reading/feeling this week?