Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Memoir Review: The Dream

Harry Bernstein began writing his first memoir, The Invisible Wall, when he was 93 years old! In that book, Harry wrote about the first 12 years of his life, spent in a small English mill town on a cobblestone street that had Christian families on one side and Jewish families on the other, at the beginning of the 20th century. His second memoir, The Dream, picks up the story there and is just as engaging and well written as the first book.

As The Dream opens, Harry’s mother’s long held wish has finally come true – their family in Chicago has sent tickets for Harry’s family to travel across the ocean and join them in America.  Harry, his mother, and his brothers and sister all imagine that life in America will be like they’ve seen in the movies, with huge gardens and swimming pools and wealth available to all. Of course, the reality is quite a bit different. Though they do experience modern miracles like electric lights and telephones for the first time, they also see that poverty is just as present in America as it is in England.

The family manages somehow through ups and downs – family weddings, unemployment, family secrets, and the Great Depression, which brings the same sort of economic troubles they suffered through in England. All the while, Harry’s father continues to struggle with his alcohol addiction and his temper, and Harry’s siblings get jobs, lose jobs, and fall in love. However, Harry’s mother still believes that Harry will be the one in the family who will finally achieve The Dream: to go to college and make something of himself.

As with The Invisible Wall, Bernstein is a talented writer with a remarkable memory who makes these distant times and places come alive. The book reads like a novel, and his story is a compelling one, with his family’s history mirroring that of our entire nation. Toward the end of the memoir, Harry meets his future wife, Ruby, the love of his life, and the book also becomes a beautiful love story. I thoroughly enjoyed both The Invisible Wall and The Dream and can’t wait to read his third and final memoir, The Golden Willow.

260 pages, Ballantine Books

Monday, November 25, 2013

It's Monday 11/25! What Are You Reading?

This is pretty late for me - I usually write my Monday post first thing in the morning. I had to take my son to a doctor's appointment in Philly this morning, about an hour away, so that was a big expedition! Very busy week here, with planned travel to see family in Rochester, NY, for Thanksgiving, though this huge Nor'Easter storm may get in the way of those plans. It was only 20 degrees F when I got up this morning!

Amidst the hustle and bustle, we always enjoy our books:
  • I finished The Dream by Harry Bernstein, a follow-up to his first memoir, The Invisible Wall, which I read earlier this year and loved. This second memoir is about Harry's family's move from England to America in 1922 and their realization (after much struggle) of his mother's dream of a better life. It was excellent, just like the first memoir, and this one was also the beginning of a beautiful love story of Harry and his wife. I can't wait to read the third book. Harry began these memoirs when he was in his 90's!
  • I am now reading a middle-grade novel, Flyaway by Lucy Christopher, about a young girl named Isla whose father is obsessed with birds and especially the whooper swans that winter near their home each year. When Isla's father collapses while they are out looking for the swans, her world seems to fall apart. It's very good so far.
  • I am still listening to Rotters by Danial Kraus on audio, a teen/YA novel about grave-robbing, bullying, and the meaning of family. It's a long one, but I have started on the last packet of discs now! It's good but very dark and sometimes disturbing.
  • My husband, Ken, finished Starvation Lake by Bryan Gruley on his Kindle. It's a suspense novel, and he enjoyed it.
  • Ken is now reading Rebel Heart by Moira Young, book 2 in the teen/YA post-apocalyptic Dust Lands trilogy that began with Blood Red Road. This one is on my list to read, too.
  • Jamie, 19, is busy with college and is still reading the third and final book in the Night Angel trilogy, Beyond the Shadows by Brent Weeks - he absolutely loves this series!
  • Craig, 15, just started The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon for his British Literature class. Although he doesn't often enjoy reading, he likes this wonderful novel so far, just like the rest of us did.
Not a lot of time for writing last week, but I managed a few posts:

Review of Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys, an amazing teen/YA historical novel.

Book Page's 10 Best Mysteries and Thrillers of 2013, one of many "best of" lists coming out.

Weekend Cooking post, with several easy, tasty weeknight meal recipes.

(What Are You Reading Monday is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, with a kid/teen version hosted by Unleashing Readers.)

And, remember, Book By Book is now on Facebook, so you can get updates and join in some fun bookish conversations there.

And now Great Books for Kids and Teens has its own Facebook page, too!

What are you and your family reading this week?  

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Weekend Cooking 11/24

Each weekend, Beth Fish Reads hosts Weekend Cooking.  This is perfect for me since I love food and cooking almost as much as I love books!

I started the week out well but by Tuesday afternoon was back to feeling awful (due to a flare-up of my chronic illness that's been hanging on for the past two months), so I stuck with simple, quick meals and lots of leftovers this week.

Tuesday, we had a simple Beans & Rice recipe that I made up for camping trips. It cooks in just one pot and is ready in about 20 minutes, so it's great for camping...and hectic weeknights when I don't have much energy for cooking! I make it with 2 cans of beans (I used black beans and pinto beans this time), some 10-minute brown rice, onion, bell pepper, plus salsa and canned tomatoes (and a bit of water) for liquid. I add chili powder and cumin for seasoning. It's a simple meal, but we like it. My son like to put shredded cheddar cheese on top.

Photo © Family Fun magazine
The best meal of the week was Thursday when I made my own Shrimp Etouffee recipe (it was published in the February 2012 issue of Family Fun magazine as part of a feature I wrote about food from New Orleans). This is true comfort food, New Orleans style, and it was delicious.

Last night, my son had three friends from his soccer team sleep over, so I made a big pot of Chicken Cacciatore in the crockpot and served it over plenty of spaghetti - perfect for a group of hungry teen boys. This is an old standby for us when we have house guests or when kids sleep over because it is fast, easily doubled, and simple enough that even picky eaters usually like it. I took elements from my own stovetop Cacciatore recipe plus some ides from a traditional crockpot recipe and came up with this recipe:
Crockpot Chicken Cacciatore
serves 4-5

1 large onion, chopped
1 medium green or red pepper, chopped (note: red peppers are better for picky eaters – they don’t show much in the cooked sauce)
2 tsp crushed garlic
2 16-oz. cans of tomato sauce
1/4 cup red wine
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 to 1 1/2 pounds boneless chicken breasts
8 oz. button mushrooms, sliced (for picky eaters, dice mushrooms into small pieces)
1/2 package of spaghetti or your choice of pasta, cooked according to package

1.     Put all ingredients except chicken into crockpot and mix well.
2.     Add chicken to crockpot. If breasts are large, cut them into halves.
3.     Cover crockpot with lid and turn on HIGH for 1 hour.
4.     Reduce heat to LOW and cook for another 4-6 hours (alternatively, could start at LOW and cook longer).
5.     Add mushrooms 30 minutes before end of cooking time.
6.     Serve sauce and chicken over pasta.

Makes about 4-5 servings (can double all ingredients for a larger crowd).

© 2013 Suzan L. Jackson

Hope you enjoyed some good food and cooking this week! 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

BookPage's 10 Best Mysteries and Thrillers of 2013

And, with over a month still left in 2013, the Best Of lists have officially begun! Even though it's still a little early and 2013 books are still being released, I do enjoy these end-of-year lists.

Today, BookPage posted their list of 10 Best Mysteries and Thrillers of 2013. This one is of particular interest to me since my husband loves to read mysteries and thrillers, and I love to give books as gifts!

The top one on their list, Ghostman by Roger Hobbs, is the only one my husband has already read. I gave it to him for his birthday this fall, and he said it was good. So, I have nine more to choose from for Christmas!

So, if, like me, your holiday gift list includes a loved one who loves suspense (or you do yourself!), check out this list.

Have you read any of the books on the list? Or some other amazing mystery/thriller this year? I would love to hear your recommendations!

Monday, November 18, 2013

It's Monday 11/18! What Are You Reading?

Ah, I love the peace and quiet of a Monday morning! I know most people hate Mondays, but after a busy weekend with everyone at home (which I enjoy, too!), I like to get back into my weekday routine and dive into the week's projects. I am especially happy this Monday morning because I seem to be finally feeling better, after two months of struggling with a flare-up of my chronic illness. I am hoping this improvement continues this time!

We all enjoyed our books last week:
  • I finished Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys and was absolutely blown away by this emotionally powerful teen/YA novel. It's about a teen girl in Lithuania in 1941 whose family is deported to a Soviet labor camp in Siberia. I knew nothing about these horrible events that took place at the same time as World War II (and apparently, neither did most of the rest of the world who were focused on the Nazis). I just can't stop thinking about this incredible novel.
  • I am now reading The Dream by Harry Bernstein, a follow-up to his first memoir, The Invisible Wall, which I read earlier this year and loved. This second memoir is about Harry's family's move from England to America in 1922 and their realization of his mother's dream of a better life. Like the first book, this one is excellent so far.
  • I am still listening to Rotters by Danial Kraus on audio, a teen/YA novel about grave-robbing, bullying, and the meaning of family. Yes, still listening! It's a long audio book, and I didn't have much time to listen while my son was home sick.
  • My husband, Ken, is reading Starvation Lake by Bryan Gruley on his Kindle. It's a suspense novel, and he's enjoying it.
  • Jamie, 19, started to feel better last week and moved back into his dorm on Tuesday, after more than a week at home sick. He is still not feeling quite back to his normal baseline and now he is trying to catch up at school, so his reading time has mostly disappeared again. He is still reading the third and final book in the Night Angel trilogy, Beyond the Shadows by Brent Weeks - he absolutely loves this series!
  • Craig, 15, has just started reading The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon for his British Literature class. I love how the English teachers at his school incorporate contemporary fiction into the curriculum as well as classics (though I still don't understand how you can teach Brit Lit and skip Dickens!) Although Craig doesn't enjoy reading much, we keep telling him he'll like this book. My husband, older son, and I have all read it and loved it.
 I posted a couple of reviews last week:

Review of Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple, a hilarious and warm novel about family.

Review of Tell Us We're Home by Marina Budhos, a middle-grade/teen novel about recent immigrants trying to find their place in their new world.

I also wrote a Weekend Cooking post, with links to several delicious and nutritious recipes.

(What Are You Reading Monday is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, with a kid/teen version hosted by Unleashing Readers.)

And, remember, Book By Book is now on Facebook, so you can get updates and join in some fun bookish conversations there.

And now Great Books for Kids and Teens has its own Facebook page, too!

What are you and your family reading this week? 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Weekend Cooking 11/17

Each weekend, Beth Fish Reads hosts Weekend Cooking.  This is perfect for me since I love food and cooking almost as much as I love books!

My college-aged son recovered from whatever virus had hm down last week (it's less likely now that it was mono, though we are still waiting for one more set of blood test results) and returned to school on Tuesday, so my comfort food cooking frenzy of last week settled down a bit! I was still feeling bad myself, from a lengthy flare-up of my chronic illness, so I stuck with very simple and quick meals.

Here are the highlights from this week - all favorite recipes from Cooking Light that we have made before:

I was going to make mini meat loaves on Tuesday using a very traditional recipe from Cooking Light that we have used for over 20 years, when my oldest son surprised me and announced he was going to try going back to school. So, I switched to a less-traditional recipe with horseradish and cheddar, Cheesy Meat Loaf Minis, that the rest of us love (my oldest son is the traditionalist!). I made simple mashed potatoes with a bit of parmesan and some Trader Joe's frozen veggies (Balsamic Roasted Vegetables - yum!). The meal was delicious. That is definitely our new favorite meat loaf recipe - it is full of flavor.

On Wednesday, I did one of those "what can I make with the few things left in the fridge/freezer/pantry?" meals and settled on Tuscan Chicken Stew. This is a super-simple, tasty meal that goes together in less than 30 minutes start to finish. Unfortunately, the recipe is from the March 2000 issue of Cooking Light and doesn't seem to be online. It starts with chopped chicken breasts tossed with a blend of salt, pepper, and ground rosemary. You saute that and then add the rest of the ingredients: a jar of roasted red peppers (chopped), a rinsed can of white beans,  a half cup of chicken broth, and some chopped spinach. Then it simmers for about 10 minutes and is done. Super quick and a nice blend of flavors.

Thursday, I had a real treat! My local bookstore hosts a monthly book group called Eat, Drink, Read. A local chef who runs cooking classes makes a meal for the dozen or so readers (who sit at counters around the kitchen area) based on the book they read! We got to watch the chef prepare the meal and then discuss our book while eating a delicious meal. This combined my favorite things, so I really enjoyed it! We read Where'd You Go, Bernadette which is set in Seattle. The meal included Canlis Salad (not specifically mentioned in the book but the chef said it is a salad that's very popular in Seattle), Baked Salmon with a Garlic Herbed Aioli served over Sauteed Kale and Chard with Carmelized Leeks and a mixture of black and Jasmine rices, and, for dessert, Apple Tarte Tatin with Rosemary (which was specifically mentioned in the book). It was all amazingly good, and I enjoyed the discussion, too.

And, tonight we are having one of our family's top favorite meals, Beef Bourguinonne. The recipe calls for using a pressure cooker, but I just use a regular Dutch oven on the stove top and simmer it for double the amount of time. The combination of flavors in this classic but lightened dish - red wine, shiitake mushrooms, bacon, and fresh thyme - are just fabulous! We eat it over whole wheat egg noodles. I'll be making double tonight so we have leftovers for tomorrow.

I hope you have enjoyed good food and cooking this week!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Snapshot Saturday 11/16

Snapshot Saturday is hosted by West Metro Mommy Reads.

The leaves are almost completely gone from the trees here now - I took a walk yesterday and only saw a few small bursts of remaining color. Thankfully, I got our for a walk last week and enjoyed the colors at their peak. Here are some of my favorite shots from our neighborhood:
I love the way the colored leaves look in the sunshine.

Bright colors all over our neighborhood!

One of my favorite bursts of color each fall.

Portent of things to come - a few bright leaves clinging among the bare branches.

Sunshine, blue sky, and fall colors!

A row of eye-popping bushes along a neighbor's driveway.
Hope you have a great weekend! 

Friday, November 15, 2013

Fiction Review: Where’d You Go, Bernadette

Last night, I had a wonderful experience attending an event sponsored by my local bookstore, Hockessin Bookshelf. It is a book discussion group called Eat, Drink, Read, held at a local shop owned by a chef. The chef cooks dinner for the group – a dinner based on the book! – and the participants discuss the book while enjoying their meal. It was a fabulous evening – great company, good discussion, and amazing food, a winning combination. The book we discussed last night was Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple, and everyone enjoyed both the book and the discussion (and the dinner!).

Where’d You Go, Bernadette is a completely unique novel filled with hilarious satire yet also warmth.  The entire novel is told through a wide variety of media, including e-mails sent between the characters, letters, receipts, and other documents. Bernadette is the mother of a daughter, Bee, who is in 8th grade in a small private school in Seattle. Having moved from L.A. twenty years ago, Bernadette has still not acclimated to life in the Pacific Northwest. She’s something of a shut-in, avoiding interacting with other people as much as possible, though she clearly loves Bee and is a good mother to her.

Bee’s husband, Elgie, is a big shot at Microsoft (a rock star who gave the 4th most popular TED talk ever, as one of his admirers gushes), working in its iconic Seattle campus where he clearly does feel at home. Elgie, Bernadette, and Bee live in a ramshackle building on a hill that used to be a girls’ reform school. Under Bernadette’s neglect, the house is falling apart, but she has a new approach to life – she has hired herself a virtual assistant in India who does everything for her from arranging for yard work to making a dinner reservation to ordering her prescriptions (we all agreed last night that we’d like our own virtual assistants!).

We know from the first page of the novel that Bernadette disappeared two days before Christmas, so all of these various documents that make up the novel go back and gradually fill in the blanks as to what happened in the weeks and months (and years) leading up to this upsetting event. Hearing from the different characters’ perspectives helps to slowly build a picture of who Bernadette is and what she’s done. Though her actions seem odd at first, learning about her past helps the reader to feel some empathy for Bernadette.

Plot summary alone doesn’t do this novel justice; what you can’t tell from this description is that this book is hilariously, laugh-out-loud funny and extremely clever.  Semple’s satire focuses, in turn, on the Pacific Northwest in general and Seattle in particular, Microsoft’s unique corporate climate, being a parent with school-age kids in today’s world, and even modern life in general. As a parent, I loved the satire about schools and over-involved parents and was laughing right from the very first page, where Bee’s report card shows that the worst grade a child at Galer Street School can get is a W for Working Toward Excellence!

Here’s how Bernadette describes Seattle in a letter to an old L.A. colleague:

“Greetings from sunny Seattle, where women are “gals,” people are “folks,” a little bit is a “skosh,” if you’re tired you’re “logy,” if something is slightly off it’s “hinky,” you can’t sit Indian-style but you can sit “crisscross applesauce,” when the sun comes out it’s never called “sun” but always “sunshine,” boyfriends and girlfriends are “partners,” nobody swears but someone occasionally might “drop the f-bomb,” you’re allowed to cough but only into your elbow, and any request, reasonable or unreasonable, is met with “no worries.”

Have I mentioned how much I hate it here?”

I wondered if this book would appeal mainly to parents of school-aged kids, but there were plenty of non-parents in the group last night who thoroughly enjoyed the satire also. While the humor in this novel is a big part of its attraction, that’s not all it has to offer; the novel  is also clever and warm and even a bit of a mystery. The author spotlights family relationships, using satire to deal with some very serious issues. Relationships between mother and daughter, between spouses, and between father and daughter are all explored here. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, as did all of our book discussion participants (I think the lowest rating out of 5 was a 3 and many gave it a 4 or 5). After such a unique, clever, and hilarious novel, I look forward to seeing what Semple comes up with next.

326 pages, Back Bay Books (Little, Brown & Company)
P.S. If you read the novel, do not skip over “Dear Mountain Room Parents” in the back, after the acknowledgments. This essay by Semple, originally published in The New Yorker, had me – and my husband – laughing hysterically. The phrase “nondenominational potato prints” still cracks us up!

P.P.S. Oh, and we heard last night, that this novel is being made into a movie! Semple herself is writing the screenplay, since she used to write for TV (Mad About You, Ellen, Arrested Development) before she became a novelist. Can't wait!

Monday, November 11, 2013

It's Monday 11/11! What Are You Reading?

Happy Veteran's Day! My grandfather is on my mind today. He served in the Marines during World War II and was at Iwo Jima (in fact, he was injured there), and that experience shaped the rest of his life. He was forever fascinated by everything related to the War, and the Marines he served with became his lifelong friends. All of the men and women who serve and protect us should be honored, not just today but every day.

So, I was feeling better last week and back on my feet, for the most part. But, our college-aged son came home sick on Monday evening, and he is still here. He probably has mono (we are waiting for blood work to confirm), which is a serious issue for someone with the immune system disorder that he and I both have. So, he is living at home for now and could be for quite a while.

As always, books provide all of us with comfort and escape during rough times:
  • I finished Tell Us We're Home by Marina Budhos, a middle-grade novel about the daughters of maids and nannies living in a wealthy town where their classmates are mostly the kids of families their moms work for. It was very good, and I will try to post a review this week.
  • Next, I read Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple for an upcoming book discussion/dinner this week hosted by my local bookstore (a local chef prepares food related to the book being discussed - I can't wait!). This book is clever and hilarious, filled with delicious, spot-on satire of modern life, especially life as a parent of a school-age child. I was laughing out loud from the first page to the last, though it is also a warm and tender story about love and families.
  • Last night, I started Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys, a highly acclaimed teen/YA novel about a young Lithuanian girl in 1941 whose family is taken by the Soviets to a Siberian labor camp. I recently gave this book to my 14-year old cousin for her birthday (she is an avid history fan), so I wanted to read it myself so we can talk about it at Thanksgiving time!
  • I am still listening to Rotters by Daniel Kraus on audio, a unique, dark novel about grave-robbing and bullying. It's a bit of a downer, but the story is compelling.
  • My husband, Ken, finished Ghost Man by Roger Dobbs, a thriller by a first-time author that I gave him for his birthday last month. He said it was interesting how the author gets you rooting for the main character, even though he's a very bad guy.
  • Now, he has gone back to finish Starvation Lake by Bryan Gruley, an e-book thriller he started on his Kindle while traveling two weeks ago.
  • Jamie, 19, was home sick all week. The only silver lining to that is that he finally had some time to read, though catching up on all the TV shows he's missed while at college occupied a lot of his time, too.  He finished Shadows Edge by Brent Weeks, book 2 of the Night Angel trilogy, a favorite of his.
  • Next, he read Infinity by Sherrilyn Kenyon, the first book in the Chronicles of Nick series, a book I gave him for Christmas last year.
  • Now, he is reading the third and final book in the Night Angel trilogy, Beyond the Shadows by Brent Weeks.
With Jamie home last week (lots of cooking for me and the TV on all the time!), I didn't manage to write any reviews, but I did write some fun posts last week:

Top Ten (Actually, Seven) Sequels I Can't Wait to Read

Top Ten Kids/Teen/YA Sequels I Can't Wait to Read

Summary of Books Read in October and Challenges Progress

Catching Fire Movie Trailer

Weekend Cooking post, with recipes for lots of our favorite comfort meals.

(What are you reading Monday is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, with a kid/teen version hosted by Unleashing Readers.)

And, remember, Book By Book is now on Facebook, so you can get updates and join in some fun bookish conversations there. 

And now Great Books for Kids and Teens has its own Facebook page, too! 

What are you and your family reading this week?

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Weekend Cooking 11/10

Each weekend, Beth Fish Reads hosts Weekend Cooking.  This is perfect for me since I love food and cooking almost as much as I love books!

Family Favorites Week
After a couple of months of only cooking quick, simple meals and relying a lot on leftovers, frittatas, and take-out, I cooked up a storm this week! I was finally feeling better and had some energy back, my younger son finished the soccer season so we didn't have to run off to 5 pm games, and my older son came home from college on Monday night. That last part is not good - he's been too sick to take care of himself (we suspect mono on top of his chronic illnesses but are waiting for bloodwork to confirm). As a mother, I did the only thing I could do - took care of him and cook him his favorite foods. I'm hoping that at least gives him a little bit of comfort and pleasure.

So, we had lots of our favorite meals this week and lots of flavor (as usual, all of the recipes are from Cooking Light):

I started the week with an empty fridge because I haven't been able to go to the grocery store in weeks. From the scraps we had left in pantry and fridge, I discovered we had the ingredients for Jamaican Chicken Stew. We tried this once last year while my son was away at college, and I thought he'd like it because he loves soups and stews and he loves spicy food. I added a chopped red bell pepper and sliced carrots (sauteed with the onion), and it was absolutely delicious! The flavors in this dish combine into something magical. Everyone loved it, and I also enjoyed it for lunch the next two days! (Note: my kids aren't fond of capers, so I left them for my husband and I to add on at the table.)

One busy day this week, I needed a crockpot meal, so I turned to another recipe we tried while my son was away that I knew he'd love: Tiny French Beans with Smoked Sausage, from the Cooking Light Slow Cooker Tonight Cookbook (link included below). Again, I added extra veggies, as I tend to do - a red bell pepper and sliced carrots, sauteed with the shallots (and used navy beans). When we returned from a late doctor's visit, the house smelled wonderful. This dish is the very definition of comfort food - the beans are creamy and soft, and the smoked sausage adds fabulous flavor. As I suspected, my older son loved it....and he and I both had leftovers for lunch!

Another night, I made one of our family's all-time favorite dinners: Chipotle Tamale Pie. I love anything flavored with chipotles, and this casserole with cornbread topping is delicious - more comfort food. (Can you tell this photo was taken by me rather than a professional? I need some practice!)

Finally, last night, I made another of my son's favorite meals, Chicken Piccata. This is another very tasty meal and also quick, especially if you start with thin-sliced chicken and can skip the pounding step. I always serve it with whole wheat egg noodles, and last night, we had cauliflower on the side.

Tonight I am making a classic corned beef dinner, since our last CSA pick-up a couple of weeks ago included a giant head of cabbage. This is another favorite meal at our house, though we often eat it just once a year, for St. Patrick's Day, so this will be a treat. I like the New England Boiled Dinner recipe from (yes, you guessed it) Cooking Light.

So, there you have it - a week full of flavor, with many of our favorite meals. I hope you have enjoyed some good food this week, too!

Book by Book is now on Facebook!

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Snapshot Saturday 11/9

Snapshot Saturday is hosted by West Metro Mommy Reads.

Last weekend, my husband and I finally had a chance to get away alone together for a mini 24-hour getaway - we've been trying to do this for over a year, and finally, the stars were all aligned!

We went to one of our favorite local towns, Rehoboth Beach and enjoyed the beauty of the ocean and the time alone together:

The drive down to the beach was gorgeous with fall color!

We love visiting the beach in the off-season.

You can see the cold front moving in! Saturday was 72F and Sunday only in the 50's!

The quintessential Rehoboth boardwalk view.

That cold front brought in clear blue skies!

We enjoyed our time together!

Hope you are having a great weekend!

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Books Read in October

October is one of my favorite months - I can't believe it's over already! It was a rough month for me - lots of sick days (weeks), but that means I had lots of reading time.

October was also Dangerous Reads Month (inspired by Tanya at Girl xoxo), and I thoroughly enjoyed reading and listening to lots of creepy books! Here's what I finished reading in October:
  • Dreams of My Russian Summers by Andre Makine, novel (Russia)
  • Unbroken by Paula Morris, teen/YA ghost story novel (Louisiana)
  • City of Women by David Gilham, historical fiction (Germany)

  • In the After by Demitria Lunetta, teen/YA post-apocalyptic/dytopian audio book (Illinois)
  • UnWholly by Neal Schusterman, teen/YA dystopian novel (Arizona)
  • In the Woods by Tana French, mystery novel (Ireland) 

So, six books total, all fiction, evenly split between teen/YA and adult novels and one was an audio book. No nonfiction or middle-grade books this month. I think you can see just from the covers that most were creepy good fits for Dangerous Reads Month! I missed a couple of reviews early in the month while I was sick. It's hard to choose a favorite, but I think for this month it was City of Women.

Update on 2013 Reading Challenges:
I added four new locations for my 2013 Where Are You Reading Challenge: Louisiana, Arizona, Ireland, and Russia. That brings my totals up to 26 states and 11 countries. Three of these book were from my TBR shelves, bringing my total up to 16 for the 2013 TBR Pile Reading Challenge. I listened to one audio books for the 2013 Audio Book Challenge, bringing my total up to 11 for this year so far.

Oh, and in October, I started Facebook pages for both of my book blogs: Book By Book and Great Books for Kids and Teens. Check them out and click "Like" to get updates on new blog posts and reviews and have fun chatting with other book lovers!

All in all, it was a great reading month! What were your favorite books read in October?

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Top Ten Sequels I Can't Wait to Read

It's Tuesday and that means it's Top Ten Tuesday over at The Broke and the Bookish. Head over there and check out all the top ten lists! Today's topic is Top Ten Sequels I Can't Wait to Read. At first, I was going to skip this topic because I don't often read adult series (hop over to Great Books for Kids and Teens to see my list of kid/teen/YA sequels I am looking forward to). But, in looking through my reading journal, I realized there are some books I've enjoyed that have follow-ups - not always typical sequels per se but still - follow-ups I am looking forward to reading. I still couldn't come up with ten, but I got close.

So, without further ado, here are Top Ten (er, Seven) Sequels I Can't Wait to Read:
  1. Sequels to In the Woods by Tana French, which I just finished last week!
  2. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Aneglou – not sequels exactly but I am looking forward to reading her other memoirs.
  3. Book 3 after The Passage and The Twelve by Justin Cronin – one of the few adult trilogies I’ve gotten into.
  4. The Dream, sequel to The Invisible Wall by Harry N. Bernstein, memoirs.
  5. Dragonfly in Amber, sequel to Outlander by Diana Gabaldon.
  6. Stuck in the Middle with You: a Memoir of Parenting in Three Genders, sequel to She’s Not There, memoirs by Jennifer Finney Boylan.
  7. How to Wake Up: A Buddhist Inspired Guide to Navigating Joy and Sorrow, sequel to How To Be Sick by Toni Bernhard, a wonderful book by a good friend of mine.

Some of these are already sitting on my shelf, waiting patiently! there is just never enough time to read all the books I want to read.

What sequels are you looking forward to?

Monday, November 04, 2013

It's Monday 11/4! What Are You Reading?

Eeek! November already? It seems to sneak up on me every year, on the heels of all the Halloween excitement. I had another week sick on the couch, which was very frustrating. "Just" a flare-up of my chronic illness this time, but that makes almost a full month of not being very productive. So, I am hoping that November is a fresh start! And it's certainly been good so far...my son was invited away for the weekend with a friend's family, so my husband and I got away together for a mini 24-hour getaway to the beach. We've been trying to do this for over a year, so we thoroughly enjoyed the little break and the time together.

Sick time always means plenty of reading time for me (the silver lining) - here's what we read last week:
  • I closed out Dangerous Reads Month and finished In the Woods by Tana French, a compelling mystery that is also beautifully written. Here's my review.
  • I am now reading (and almost finished with) Tell Us We're Home by Marina Budhos, a middle-grade novel about three young girls who bond as friends because they are all daughters of maids in a very wealthy town where their classmates' families are their mothers' employers. It's been a very engaging story about the experiences of recent immigrants - can't wait to see how it ends today.
  • I am still listening to Rotters by Daniel Kraus, a teen/YA audio book that won the Odyssey award for audio excellence. While it fit in well with Dangerous Reads Month (it deals with grave-robbing), I was surprised to learn that it is also about bullying. Its very good so far - I just started Part 2.
  • My husband, Ken, was away on business last week, so he chose a book on his Kindle, Starvation Lake by Bryan Gruley, a mystery/suspense novel, to read while he was traveling.
  • Now that he's back home, he's returned to Ghost Man by Roger Dobbs, a birthday gift from me last month. It's a fast-paced thriller by a first-time author, and he's enjoying it so far.
  • Jamie, 19, is still reading Shadows Edge by Brent Weeks, book 2 of the Night Angel trilogy. He loves this series but hasn't had much reading time at college lately.
  • Craig, 15, has been reading Beowulf for his Brit Lit class; I saw he had written an essay about the novel last night, so I think they are almost done with it.
Last week, I posted two new reviews:

In the Woods by Tana French

UnWholly by Neal Schusterman

What are you and your family reading this week?

(What are you reading Monday is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, with a kid/teen version hosted by Unleashing Readers.)

And, remember, Book By Book is now on Facebook, so you can get updates and join in some fun bookish conversations there.  

And now Great Books for Kids and Teens has its own Facebook page, too! 

My husband and I at Rehoboth Beach this weekend.

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Snapshot Saturday 11/2

Snapshot Saturday is hosted by West Metro Mommy Reads.

Since Halloween was this week, I thought I'd share some photos of our Halloween fun last week - going to our favorite pumpkin farm (they have the most amazing homemade donuts!), carving jack-o-lanterns, and Halloween night:

A colorful selection of fall squashes

Our family - picking out pumpkins!

Our finished jack-o-lanterns (mine's on the left!)

All lit up!

Our front door - one little boy came to the door and said, "I like your big skull"!

My son (the caveman, on the right) with two of his friends

Hope you had a great Halloween and are enjoying this lovely weekend!

Remember that Book By Book is now on Facebook!