Archive for category Book Recommendations

Bite-Sized: Quick Reviews of My Recent Reads

I’m happy to participate in a new monthly link-up hosted by Anne Bogel:

twitterature monthly reading link up short reviews

If you are looking for some great books to read, but you don’t want to read super long book reviews, this link up is a great place. We are all providing short and quick Twitter-style book reviews from our most recent reads.

Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers by Anne Lamott: Expect the best of Anne, unfiltered, funny, quirky, profound. Not necessarily organized.

Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans: One of the best books I’ve read in awhile, and one of the most important. Eschet Chayil!

Reached by Ally Condie: My favorite of this YA trilogy. We get to hear from Xander. Questions answered. Mystery still present. Creativity seen as vital in society.

The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Egenides: Eugenides intended to revive the marriage plot with a modern spin. I liked his premise but felt no emotional investment in his characters.

Check out Anne’s post here and find links to the other participants before heading out to the library today!



Reading Goals for 2013

Something About The Way It's Written
Yesterday, I outlined most of my goals for the year for my different roles in life. I have also made some reading goals for the year to inform you, Dear Reader, about quality books and to keep track of my progress throughout the year. And, as always, “to improve my mind with extensive reading” (anything for you, Mr. Darcy). So, here we go. Reading Goals for the Year:

1. I have joined Jessica from Quirky Bookworm with her quest to read some classics in her “Classics Catch-Up Challenge.”

2. I want to be more accountable with my reading, so I am going to track the books I read through GoodReads and Pinterest. I will also add a tab on the blog of my reading for the year and give you guys a quick way to access my reviews.

3. As far as number of books, I don’t even know where to start. I’ve never been good at keeping up with what I have read, so this year is going to be more of a benchmark year – just to keep track of my progress and then set the bar higher or lower from there.

4. As a general rule, I want to incorporate more reading aloud time with my children. I tend to get lazy about this, so reading aloud is going to be the focus of our homeschool this semester.

Here’s a List of Books in my “To Read Pile” for now:

Classics for the “Classics Catch-Up Challenge” for January-February:

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Spiritual Non-fiction Reads

A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans

Help, Thanks, Wow by Anne Lamott

Love Does by Bob Goff

General Fiction

Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

Children’s Fiction

The Voyage of the “Dawn Treader” by C.S. Lewis

Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne

A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond

Beatrix Potter The Complete Tales by Beatrix Potter

On Writing

How to Become an Online Writer by Ruth Pound

Use Your Words: A Writing Guide for Mothers by Kate Hopper

31 Days to Finding Your Blogging Mojo by Bryan Allain

Other Non-Fiction

One Bite at a Time by Tsh Oxenreider

Organized Simplicity by Tsh Oxenreider

*photo credit


The Case of the Missing Library Book

A Fine of Two Cents

My kids and I headed out to the library not long ago, mostly because I had a load of books a day past due. Of course, prior to leaving for the library, I had to turn the house upside down, looking for one remaining Berenstain Bears’ Early Reader book – the same book I renewed twice already because I had misplaced it. Of course, in the search for the rogue early reader, my 6 year old discovered a missing Biscuit book – the book I was just about to cough up twenty bucks to replace because it had been missing so long. Anyone else have this problem?

Our library books have a designated spot in our home, but the thing about books is, which is a good problem I guess, my kids tend to read them. They look at books all over the house, so they end up all over the house. What’s a girl to do? Nixing the library is just out of the question. Fewer books is not really an option either because we actually do read most, if not all of the books I check out of the library. So, the only option I came up with for now is fewer books but more frequent trips to the library. I had been going once every two weeks. We’re looking at once a week from now on, which is a tragedy really, because it means I have to leave the house. As a general rule, I really don’t like leaving the house unless we are 1) out of food, requiring a trip to the grocery store or 2) taking up someone’s offer to feed us.

As for me, I picked up Salman Rushdie’s new memoir, Joseph Anton and two John Green books. Have you guys read him? (I know, I know. All of my YA reading friends are coming up with YA-related, “Does the Pope wear a funny hat?” jokes.) Anyway, he writes contemporary YA literature, and I especially like how he creates voice. He knows how smart high school kids should talk (I should know seeing as how I was a smart high school kid). You know, kids who interweave allusions to the River Styx while playing video games and eating Cheetos. It’s awesome. His latest book The Fault in Our Stars is supposed to be the best book ever, but I’m staying away from it for now because I know it addresses cancer. Since I’m addressing cancer in real life, I’d rather stick to non-cancer related novels for now. I also picked up My Antonia, which, I don’t think has cancer references, but you never know. My friend Jessica from Quirky Book Worm comment-screamed at me first on the List of Shame post, so I promised I would read Willa Cather next.

Which reminds me…

I wanted to give some shout-outs to some of my favorite blogs:

1. Jessica from Quirky Bookworm is a great book blogger, and she’s been so kind to me during my fledgling attempts at blogging. She did a 31 days series in October, where she highlighted different kids’ books every day. She introduced several I have never read, and I am anxious to add to our library list (and then, apparently, lose).

2. Johanna from My Home Tableau is a blogger whose words consistently resonate with me. She frequently comments on this blog, too, and her thoughts are always encouraging and helpful.

3. Anne from Modern Mrs. Darcy writes about being a Jane Austen woman in a modern world. Her posts are practical and original, and she has a way to spark great discussion in her comment section.

4. Lauren from The Housework Can Wait is a friend from college. She’s a YA Lit. reviewer, and her posts are always insightful and hilarious.

5. Book Riot: This blog is made for book nerds. They point to book-related news and happenings, all while writing about why Ron Weasley should have died, what characters from different books should hook up, or how the best advice about life comes from Calvin and Hobbes. It’s great!

I hope you guys have a great week! Please reassure me that I’m not the only person who pays ridiculous amounts of money in book fines. Right?

*photo credit

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Timing and Back Burners


To all of my regular readers (Hi, family!), you might have noticed my lack of posts lately. My mom experienced some complications from chemo again (She’s the queen of chemo side effects. Seriously, she could medal in cancer-related complications. Also folding fitted sheets.) Anyway, two weeks ago, my brother called me and said Mom had been rushed to ICU. She had fluid built up on her lungs, and during a routine procedure to drain the lungs, she suddenly could not breathe. She scared the mess out of everyone, requiring all of us to head to Houston to help out my brother. Mom is now at home, receiving daily health care from a home health nurse and frequent visits from friends and family. I ended up staying for a week. My sister-in-law and our former neighbors graciously watched my children. We’ve all been home for a week, and I’m just now getting caught up with normalcy again.

I’ve been reading the Chronicles of Narnia series with my boys, and my 6 year old is reading all of the Dr. Seuss I Can Read Beginner books. His favorites are: Wacky Wednesday, A Fish out of Water, In a People House, and Go Dog, Go! My 4 year old likes Caps for Sale and Giraffes Can’t Dance, and my two year old wants me to read The Tale of Peter Rabbit daily. My husband is currently reading Quiet by Susan Cain. Plus, he and I have been watching previous seasons of White Collar, and we also started watching The Newsroom (We just can’t resist Sorkin dialogue).

Timing is a funny thing in life. I started this blog almost exactly when my mom received her cancer diagnosis back in March. My dreams of creating a space where I could write and share have had to move to the back burner at times during this journey, and that’s okay. I hope everyone understands and continues to read when I am able to write. I’ve received such great encouragement from all of you, and I’m glad to have a space where I can flesh out some of my thoughts during this storm of life. Thank you for providing this place for me.

*photo credit

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Confession: My “Reading List of Shame”

341/365 Outdoor reading

I know every self-proclaimed literary person has The List. When you want to writhe in self-loathing, you pull this list out, read over it, and call yourself a hack. Then, you go to the fridge and grab a can of whipped cream. You eat it straight from the spray nozzle while watching The Notebook or something equally horrible. Why? Because the books on The List haven’t been read. And those books are, roughly:

The most influential books of all time, and every person on earth has read them, like with awards and everything.

I keep a running mental list of all the important books I’ve never read. You know, the books considered essential, classic, and important. I even have a degree in Book-Things, not just an undergraduate degree – no, no – I am a Book-Things Person, M.Ed, and there are piles of books deemed “important” that I have never read. Important-Book-Things People even took the time to make a separate list from the last hundred years or so to say which books are important. This does nothing but further build my sense of inadequacy as a Book-Things Person, M.Ed. (In reality, most people don’t care one bit. Even the Important-Book-Things People know you can’t read every book ever. It’s hard to convince my brain of this.)

For the record, my list includes: Moby Dick, Catch 22, Invisible Man, Lord of the FliesThe Catcher in the Rye, My Antonia, Brideshead Revisited, Lolita, The Old Man and the Sea, any novel by Henry James, and many more. 

So, why do I feel the need to obsess over unread books and measure my credibility based on my not reading these books just because other people think they are important? Well, the thing about the books on The List? You can’t get away from them. I see references to these books everywhere: blog posts, NPR segments, Final Jeopardy, movies, even old episodes of Dawson’s Creek. Seriously. It becomes embarrassing and annoying.

Don’t get me wrong, there are books I have never read, deemed “essential” by those cursed Important-Book-Things People, and yet I don’t really care that much to put them on The List. Like Ulysses by James Joyce. I respect this book and recognize it as an important work, and I know it’s huge in terms of the canon and all, but meh. I just don’t care. I’ve read Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Dubliners, and I loved them both. Anyway, I feel satisfied with my Joyce quota, enough to feel legit but not too much to seem pretentious.

Still, The List eats away at me and every so often, I get the urge to conquer it. I feel a call to action, and I decide to knock out some books on The List. So, this past week, I picked up On the Road by Jack Kerouac and Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut.

All I can tell you so far is that these books were on The List, and I’m checking them off very soon! Victory.

Also, I really miss girls. I took on too much maleness in one fell swoop. My book-reading week could only have been worse had I added the entire collection of Ernest Hemingway, along with attending a gun show or one of those war reenactment things or a spitting contest or something. So, after my list-tackling feelings wane, I need to hear a girl talking again – a girl who isn’t a prop. Don’t get me wrong, I like male writers. I can read war stuff and bomb stuff and sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll stuff. I’m just saying I miss the girls. But I also have to conquer The List.

I might need some sort of book-related therapy.

OK. So I’m curious. What’s on The List for you? Come on. You can tell.


What I’m Reading This Week

This week I’m traveling down to see my mom, so I’m queuing up my Kindle for travel mode. Here’s what I have on deck:

Joy of Reading: A Passionate Guide to 189 of the World’s Best Authors and Their Works by Charles Van DorenI’m interested to see what books made this guide. I always love to hear why people like the books they like, especially when they get excited about them.

31 Days to Finding Your Blogging Mojo by Bryan Allain: This ebook is on sale for $2.99, and it’s a bargain. If you are interested in building up your blogging chops, check out what Bryan has to offer. Added bonus? He’s a humorist, so his guide book is hilarious.

Wrecked: When a Broken World Slams into Your Comfortable Life by Jeff Goins: Jeff’s blog is inspiring as well as a model for blogging success. His new ebook Wrecked tackles how to live a radical life while still dealing with daily obligations.

I’m still learning how to merge my digital reading with my paper & ink book reading. (Such difficulties I face in this life.) I’m liking my Kindle Touch for non-fiction books, especially since many of the blogs I follow offer ebooks at great prices, and I use our library for fiction.

Oh, speaking of digital reading, I wanted to draw your attention to an interview from one of my college classmates, Jason Ashlock, founder and president of Moveable Type Management. He brings an interesting perspective from inside the book publishing world. (I have super smart friends.)


Review of Work Shift (and a Give Away!)

Anne Bogel of Modern Mrs. Darcy sent me an advance copy of her new ebook called Work Shift: How to Create a Better Blend of Work, Life, and Family. This ebook discusses the rising shift of non-traditional working situations for American families, and it features examples of women who are working to create a blend of their professional careers with their home life, rather than trying to balance it all.

Anne explains how the book came to fruition in the story of her own family. Thinking she wanted only to be a stay-at-home-mom, Anne began to work part-time as a way to help pay for some medical bills. With her husband’s flexible work schedule, there was no need to pay out of pocket for child care. The situation turned out to benefit the whole family: Anne could work and get some autonomous adult time while contributing to the family’s income. Her husband could get some bonding time with their children, and her kids received the benefit of both parents sharing the role of caregiver.

Anne discusses her family as merely one example of a fast-growing trend of families who blend the roles of money-maker and caregiver. With the advancements of technology and the internet, this has never been easier.

Anne provides a brief history of the workforce, discussing how up until the Industrial Revolution, the center of the family was at home. The husband and wife worked together to run a farm or shop, involving the children in the process. After the Industrial Revolution, men started leaving the home for work, disrupting the nuclear family for most of the day. With the Women’s Movement of the twentieth century, women broke down the workplace barriers, giving new opportunities in the workplace that were never available before. However, these women had to choose between a having a career or being home with the family. There were very few options for a middle ground.

The women of today are shedding both the stereotypes of June Cleaver (stay-at-home moms) as well as Claire Huxtable (career moms) and embracing something entirely different. Anne says, “We have no feminist axe to grind and we’re not out to prove anything. We just want to create a life that allows us to do meaningful work and be there for our families.” The book highlights women on all ends of the working spectrum, from popular bloggers to Etsy shop owners to hair stylists and more, showing how women can both provide for their families financially as well as spend time with their children.

I especially like how the book addresses roadblocks, like how to address a husband who may be reluctant to change, how to work through mommy guilt, and how to accept the seasons of life while your children are at different ages. In addition, the book provides resources to help women at every stage of adult life: single, married, pregnant, and moms with every age of child from newborn to teenager. The book gives inspiration to all women who are looking to either spend more time with their families or to pull in some extra cash every month.

Anne also addresses the biggest takeaway, our children:

“Kids are big winners in the new blend, because of the emphasis on shaping a life that works for the family as a whole. Many families who have embraced less-than-traditional schedules appreciate the teamwork and mutual respect the parents model for their kids. Because many of these families have one or both spouses who work from home, kids in these households have a handle on what their parents actually do all day.”

In my short tenure as a wife and mom, I have worked full-time, part-time away from home, and part-time at home. I am currently a traditional stay-at-home mom, but I am no longer in the preschool/newborn phase of life. We are entering the elementary/preschool age with my kids, and I want to contribute to our finances again. I recently started writing in an effort to build up my portfolio, so that I could start writing for income. Reading Work Shift provided a boost of encouragement as well as offered new ideas for blending work and home as my family enters this new season.

Anne has generously offered a free copy of Work Shift to one of my readers. If you would like to win a copy of this ebook, all you need to do is comment below. The giveaway will be open until Saturday, September 22 at 9:00 PM, and the winner will be chosen randomly.

If you do not want to wait to read this book, you may purchase a copy for only $8 through this link.

Note: I received a free copy of this book for preview. The link provided for purchase is an affiliate link, so purchasing this book through my site will help to support my blog. All opinions are entirely mine. 


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