Tuesday, February 20, 2018


My tbr list is insane.  It's so insane, I don't even keep a list.  As a person who loves books and bookstores, I often buy books with the intention of reading them and then shelve them when I get home, remember the five books I'm currently reading and the 5 books I've cued up for the next month.  Am I the only one who buys books like an addict?  

this picture makes me feel calm and frantic at the same time.  how is that even possible??

Regardless, I always have an endless supply of books I can pick up when I'm ready for another.  Friends love recommending books to me and it can be kind of frustrating.  I love talking about books but I don't really need anyone adding to my list.  I already have a dread feeling because there are just so many books and so little time.  

I'm winding down another book and was looking at one of my stacks to tbr books.  I thought maybe you could help.

I'll give you two titles that I already own, let me know what I should read next in the comments.

1. The Hate U Give
This is a YA book that deals with big issues.  My teenager read it and said I have to read it so she can have someone to talk to about it.  

2.  Little Fires Everywhere
I have had this for months.  I love the author's first novel but haven't picked this up yet.  It's look at suburbia--the good, the bad, the ugly.  

What do you think?  Have you read either?  I think I will wind up reading both by the end of the year, but which one should I read NOW?

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

My Dream Book Club

I've been a part of many book clubs through the years.  They have served a variety of purposes, but probably lowest on the list would be reading.  My former book clubs were ways for me to make connections with neighbors and friends.  They were full of talk about "family and personal experience."  Which is a gentle way of saying birth stories.  And also wine, lots of wine.  

However, as a somewhat snooty English major ("with a focus on Literature," said smugly), I would leave mostly frustrated because whenever I would start nerding out about a book I would be met with wide-eyed stares, my friends' mouths agape.  

At one point, I looked into auditing a couple of English classes at our local community college to talk books with people.  But that seemed like too much, even for my geek-self.  

Finally, I found a solution.  

Spurred on by indie booksellers on podcasts and blogs, I looked into local independent bookstores in my area.  And I found it.  A tiny bookstore with a quirky staff and even quirkier customers, myself included.  

Quickly I discovered that the bookstore hosts a few different book clubs, two during the day when my kids are at school.  Yes and yes!  

I showed up at one and sat watching the group in awe.  I had found my people.  They just happen to be 60+.  

The group was raucous and well read.  Their comments were insightful and referenced other books.  And everyone had grey hair.  Well, except for me and two other women who fell outside of the 60+ gang.  Lots of retired teachers.  Lots of laughing.  

I kept going and now I'm coming up on my one year anniversary of joining my dream book club.  There is no alcohol, but you can bring your own coffee.  No one makes elaborate snacks.  No one makes snacks at all.  We are there to talk books.  And, I love it so much.  
my indie bookstore at Christmas <3
I also love seeing a group of smart women in a different stage of life.  We giggle when one of the women talks about a racy scene, we comfort when one woman is reminded of the death of her husband by a plot line, we respect each other's opinions, even when they are different from our own.  

The bookstore owner chooses the books and she varies the selections by genre/author/setting.  I read more widely last year thanks to book club.  The book club books stretch me and then I'm not so worried about stretching my personal book choices. 

Once a month I get to go see my book club friends and really talk books.  It's such a highlight for so many reasons.  Plus, I always leave with another armful of books and next month's book club pick. Book shopping is a major benefit of having your book club in an actual bookstore.   

Friday, February 9, 2018

Game Night!

We are not a consistently "fun" family.  There were three Friday nights in a row that we managed to pull off a family movie.  They were nice.  We ate popcorn in the den and watched classic movies.  But, the kids kept laying on us and the movies were either too grown up for our youngest or too babyish for the rest of us.  We ended the "tradition."

not as fun as these guys make it look...

At one point I decided to do a regular craft day.  Each week, the kids would come home from school and I would have paints and project all set up.  We created cool jellyfish watercolor pictures and made owl drawings using our left hands.  It was glorious.  Except there was always a big mess for me to clean up afterward and I would have to display four versions of the same picture.  We ended "Crafty Fridays." 

I imagine that other families are able to do things consistently.  That we are aberrations and our kids will suffer for it.  I picture the dad bringing home pizzas and the mom popping popcorn for a family movie tradition that's lasted years.  In this imaginary family, the kids grow up to rave about their perfect childhoods to anyone who will listen and certainly don't require therapy to discuss how their parents' lack of routine made them unstable. 

But, parenting is something that you make your own.  And in my parenting, there is little consistency when it comes to "fun" activities.  ***I keep putting "fun" in quotes because, for my introverted self, fun is sitting on the couch with a book and not talking for a while, and that is not the version of fun I'm referring to here.****

Instead, I've decided to lean into my strengths.  I may not be able to pull off fabulous moments of family bonding regularly, but, I'm good at surprise fun.  An after-school ice cream cone...occasionally.  A trip to the museum...once in a while.   And, game night...every so often. 

For Christmas, we got the kids a ton of games.  We have played most of them.  Not on the same night every week, but when we have the time and energy so that by the end of the game we all walk away feeling closer, not ready to kill each other. 

Here are our favorites:

Otrio...I heard about this on instagram.  It is a little more expensive but totally worth the cost.  This is great for a quick round or two or ten.  It goes fast and is strategic.  Think higher level tic-tac-toe. 

Shifty-Eyed Spies...This is a hoot!  Each person is a spy and you're trying to deliver messages to other spies around the table without being caught.  You can only use your face to communicate.  We have laughed and laughed during this game.  Bonus points for playing with a seven-year-old, they haven't mastered subtlety yet and their winks are the best. 

Telestrations...Another great one to play with a mix of ages.  You pass mini dry erase boards around the table and try to guess what the person before you drew.  The rounds move quickly.

Codenames...I guess we like fast paced games because this is another one.  Kind of like taboo with a spy bent (maybe we also favor spy games...hmmm).  You have to get your team to guess your code words without guessing the word that will blow up the game--not literally, of course. 

Uno and Scrabble and Bananagrams are perennial favorites. 
so classic
I'm thinking if there is a tradition to maintain as the kids get older it's this one.  You learn so much about people when you play a game with them and it's a different experience every time you play.  Unless you play Clue with me, then I win.  Every.time. 

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Audiobooks: yay or nay?

I'm listening to an audiobook now.  An audiobook that I do not like.  I feel pretty confident that I wouldn't like it if I were reading a paper copy.  It would probably get set aside quickly, actually.  

Something about the audiobook format keeps me listening when I'm annoyed/frustrated/angry.  

That's not to say that I haven't discarded a few of my audiobooks.  When it says I still have 12 hours to go, that feels like an unbearable burden and the "delete from device" option seems so tempting.  

Having the time information really puts it into perspective for me.  I like knowing how long I will have to invest in a book and watching that decrease everytime I listen.  

If a book isn't too long, I'll just power through my disgust. 


Maybe I'm masochistic.  But that doesn't seem likely.  Maybe it's because I'm not actually an audible member--I just get the discount titles when I find them so I don't have to pay the membership fee.  Maybe it's because I'm listening to discount titles...

a serious perk

Right now, I'm listening to Belong to Me.  I've never read anything else by de los Santos but know she's popular among the mom crowd.  I just learned that I am not a fan.    

There are only 4 more hours so I will persist.  

However, I have listened to some stellar books that make me look forward to a long walk with the dog.  I especially love memoirs read by the authors: Steve Martin and Trevor Noah's are fantastic.  Bellwether Rhapsody and The Likeness were thrilling.  

I count audio books in my lists of books I read.  The research says I can.  It's a great way to listen to a story at times when I can't physically hold a book.  Walking the dog, doing dishes, driving. 

As a family, we often put on an audiobook for longer drives.  We listened to Because of Mr. Terrupt and everyone was completely on the edge of their seats.  The Underneath was a big hit that we still reference all the time.  Right now, we are working on From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.  Listening to a book together allows for informal family book club discussions when we make a pitstop to get lunch at Panera.  

Ultimately, I love audiobooks, despite the occasional dud.  I don't hold it against the medium that a book was not for me.  And who knows, maybe I'll sign up for audible again so I can listen to some full priced reads for a change.  

Do you listen to audiobooks?  Love 'em or loathe 'em?  Any good recommendations?  

Friday, February 2, 2018


Every now and then I mistakenly think that a sick day = lots of reading.  Today that theory was proved wrong.  

I don't have the regular flu and I'm thankful for that because I have heard stories of it lasting FOREVER.  Instead, I've caught the dreaded stomach flu.  This one flares, a few days of gastrointestinal distress and then boom, back to normal.  However, that distress can be intense.  

Today I spent the day in my bed.  I would like to think I would have finished a book or at least read more than 10 pages.  The pain, the trips to the bathroom, the naps.  I couldn't bring myself to lift a paperback.  

Maybe I'm weak, maybe some people can read a lot on days when their stomach has betrayed them.  But, I just couldn't.  I'm hoping that post dinner (which I will make, but not eat), I will have the strength to lift my book again.  I have also debated forcing one of my kids to read to me.  

Anyone else sick?  Are you able to read while you're bedridden?  

And also, maybe my day isn't a complete wash:  I am blogging after all!  Two posts in February, as promised.  Who knows, I might go for three!

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Reading Recap: January Edition

So...one post in January, not great...maybe two posts in February?  I'll try for more, I promise.

January was a good month for reading.  The cold renders me useless for anything but reading.  I can't take the dog for long walks, I can't gather up the strength to do laundry, I must read.  

First of the month was A Rule Against Murder by Louise Penny.  

"Comfort, security, ease.  None of that comes with money...you asked what I count each evening and each morning.  What I counted each day in prison while better men withered and died?  I count my blessings...we're all blessed and we're all blighted, Chief Inspector...Every day each of us does our sums.  The question is, what do we count?"

I can't find mysteries that are better written than Louise Penny and Alan Bradley.  Both have a knack for surprising me.  I haven't started the next Penny yet, but I have it, so maybe in February...

Four stars. 

Next up was The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez.  I had read this years ago and loved it.  My book club was reading it as their January selection so I picked it up and flew through it.  It is beautiful and devastating.  I finished it at a Bagel Bin and wept profusely regardless of the countless grannies sipping their tea and staring at me.  It was so good and timely.  

"I'm overcome when I think about this place and about what it's given us...One day when we go back to Mexico and people ask me what it was like here, I will tell them those things.  I will tell them all the ways I loved this county."  

Five stars.

That book prompted some deep, difficult thoughts and I fell on the ice and hit my head.  I needed something happy and silly.  I picked up Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves by PG Wodehouse.  

It is so good and silly.  If you like English humor (think Fawlty Towers) and you've never read Wodehouse then you have been missing out on life.  

"I didn't like Spode and would have been glad at any tie to see a Peruvian matron spike him in the leg with her dagger, but there was denying that he was hot stuff, matrimonially."  

This month I also picked up Infinite Jest--which I will not finish for many months--and I was surprised to see David Foster Wallace quoted on the back of Jeeves praising Wodehouse's craft.  It felt serendipitous to read the two authors in the same month.  

4 stars. 

My book of the month box arrived and I had The Woman in the Window on my doorstep.  I went against my better judgment about books that are titled something about a "woman" or "girl" and picked this one because it sounded exciting and very close to one of my all-time favorite movies: Rear Window.  

"It isn't paranoia if it's really happening."  

This is the quote on the dust jacket and the best one I could pull out.  I was not a fan.  I am getting really bored of the drunk-white lady-unreliable narrator.  I don't mind a well done unreliable narrator, but in so much of pop fiction, ladies can't get their stories straight.  It seems like an easy way out for an author in this case.  Also, I guessed one of the major plot twists right away, so that was a bummer.  

Two stars.

Finally, and brutally, I ended the month with Human Acts by Han Kang.  This is my book club's February pick.  I can't wait to go and see if everyone finished it.  It's a slim novel about an uprising in South Korea in the '80's.  I had no idea.  Reading the about the violence and connecting it with all of the uprisings that happen all over the world was devastating.  How can this happen?  How can humans do these things to other humans?  It was just over 200 pages and with 50 pages left I considered abandoning it.  I was wrecked by this book.  

"After you died I could not hold a funeral, 

And so my life became a funeral." 

I finished it and I'm glad I did.  It was hard but beautifully done.  Kang did an amazing job of telling a story that is brutal and stunning in the best and worst ways.  She used a handful of narrators who were all connected by the thread of a young boy.  The last chapter slayed me.  

Five stars.

I hope I keep up my trend and read a ton in February, too.  

What did you read in January?  I'd love to hear about it in the comments!