Books I Read in November

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
This classic Gothic novel is one that I never got around to reading and I found it somewhat slow and repetitive - there's only so much information about the mullioned windows of Manderly that is necessary. It was mostly atmospheric, which is not my favorite, but it does build a nice slow burn. I eventually got sucked into the mystery of Rebecca, and the truth about her was not what I expected. Incidentally, I find it odd that this is shelved in the Teen Classics section of the library/on Amazon. I suppose the narrator is young, but that does not a YA make...

Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple
I adored Where'd You Go Bernadette and this is very similar and VERY different. As with the first book, there is a harried mother with some major issues, a precocious child, a distracted husband and annoying school parents set in Seattle. However, with this story, I felt as if Semple let her creativity and her 'freak flag' fly, in the best way. It started out rather odd and disjointed, kind of like main character Eleanor's life. I was sort of confused as to whether I should laugh or cry over her character. She is sort of infuriatingly self-absorbed and then the heart of her character becomes incrementally clearer as the reader is taken down the crazy rabbit hole of her life. We are introduced to some amazingly odd and complex characters, as well as some graphic novelization to bring the story to a dramatic and untidy conclusion. I felt winded after finishing this book, it's crazy and unique.

It Ends with Us by Colleen Hoover
At the get go, I felt as if this was going to be a Twilight/50 Shades read-alike. There is the very obvious Edward/Christian/man that cannot love and the quirky Bella/Anastasia/woman who can change him. Even some of the peripheral characters smack of the aforementioned novels. However, it turned in an unexpected direction and tackles some tough subjects including gun violence, homelessness and above all domestic abuse. It was riveting stuff, after I got over my initial hesitation. Straight up romance novels are not usually my bag, but I like to change things up every once in awhile. This novel by a renowned romance author was apparently a very personal departure for her, and I would definitely read more of her work.

The Couple Next Door by Shari LaPena
This book! This is the kind of thriller I enjoy! It kept me up all night turning the pages. I haven't felt like I've read a novel this crazy since Gone Girl (yes, I liked Gone Girl). The narratives are not at all the same, they were just both jaw dropping, holy crap reads. Now, it's not exactly amazing prose, and you have to really suspend some disbelief, but it sure was a fun ride. Hopefully this isn't a spoiler, but the plot reminded me of my favorite Oscar winning Coen brothers movie. Let me know if you've read it and we can discuss!

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
Oh man, I wasn't sure what I was in for with this book - I just knew it was going to tug on my heartstrings. It was beautiful, and I luckily received the illustrated version from the library.
So gorgeous and haunting, it added so much to the reading experience. I was bereft after reading Conor's story of surviving his mother's battle with cancer. As a mother, and as a daughter of a mother with cancer, it was a gut punch on so many levels. It's so worthwhile and exquisitely written - like a modern day fairy tale. I just feel that so many middle grade books tackle tough subjects these days, and I now need to go read something fluffy - like an adult romance perhaps... 


Everyday Life and Menu Plan 12.4.16

Sigh. All the leftovers have been eaten. Perhaps we'll make another turkey for Christmas...

No more DELICIOUS Turkey Cranberry Salad Sandwiches. Or stuffing topped with fried eggs, another favorite.
Our week started off with a couple of sick kids. 'Tis the season!
Thankfully they rallied pretty quickly and we had a nice week of relaxing and doing advent activities. The house is filled with paper chains, new Christmas books and these easy jar fillers from Target were fun.
And one of our first advent activities is always a 3D viewing of The Polar Express.
Today we got out for a family stroll before we MIGHT get hit with a little snow tomorrow. 
Since it's been a very long time (I think over three years?) since we've had any significant snow, we all have our fingers crossed. Either way, I got my usual Monday grocery shopping done today, just in case!

As always, I'm linking up with Org Junkie - be sure to check out all the great weekly menus!


The Stack - November Book Haul!

A little late, but still squeaking in my haul for November - it's a good one! I've already read and enjoyed three of these...

Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging by Sebastian Junger was one of those books that I had added to my queue earlier in the month and got lucky with the two week checkout shelf! It's a short and powerfully interesting read.
The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau is one of my ALL TIME FAVORITE books and it's the next book we're reading with my nine year old!
When Santa Fell To Earth by Cornelia Funke is also for the nine year old, as I stocked up on some holiday books for him as well as Henry and Mudge and a Very Merry Christmas for the six year old. 
I'm Judging You: The Do-Better Manual by Luvvie Ajayi has been on my TBR for awhile and I'm even more excited to read it after listening to the podcast of the Seattle Public Library event she did with Lindy West. This was also a choice reads pick, so I may take advantage and keep it for a few months.
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness is coming to theaters next month, and although I'm not sure if I will see the movie, the buzz about the book (and author) had me curious. So far, it's beautiful stuff.
The Wangs vs. the World by Jade Chang got a lot of hype when it first came out, but the reviews I'm seeing aren't stellar. So, we'll see...
The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena was a Book of the Month selection I passed up, but was curious enough to put a hold on and IT DID NOT DISAPPOINT.

New digital books in the queue:
Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys 
The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness 
(I put both of these on hold after listening to Anne Bogel's week of children's literature podcasts, particularly this one. Both books have been on my radar, and this podcast put them over the edge for me.)
Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones (Brit Bennett was featured on one of my favorite Instagram accounts, Subwaybookreview, reading this book. Her description and enthusiasm for it sent me straight to my library holds.)

Still in the queue:
Good as Gone by Amy Gentry (the Book of the Month description got me curious!)
The Sleepwalker by Chris Bohjalian (a NetGalley ARC)
The Animators by Kayla Rae Whitaker (another NetGalley ARC, also out in January)
The Raven King by Maggie Steifvater 
Shelter: A Novel by Jung Yun
Moonburner by Claire Luana 
You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott
Your Heart Is a Muscle the Size of a Fist by Sunil Yapa

As always, I'm interested in any thoughts/if you've read the books on this list or others I should know about!


Everyday Life and Menu Plan 11.27.16

It's the most wonderful time of the year!

Like many people, it's our tradition to put up the tree the day after Thanksgiving.
We had a lovely meal and a relaxing day, followed by a trip to the Y and a nice walk to opt outside on Black Friday.
I spent a good chunk of my Saturday talking to runner peeps while helping out with the Hot Chocolate 15K/5K booth at the Seattle Marathon expo! So much fun!
And today we continued our tradition of hitting up our local gardening store to pick out ornaments, eat kringle, and take a family picture for our holiday card. We couldn't see our usual Santa at the store, so we went to a Santa just down the street at our local Windermere office and it was perfect!
By our standards, it was a pretty busy week, so I'm anticipating a low key one this week...

As always, I'm linking up with Org Junkie - be sure to check out all the great weekly menus!


Happy Thanksgiving! (Thankful Tag)

Happy Thanksgiving y'all! I thought it'd be nice to take some time out from laying around, watching parades, watching football, reading and (of course) eating, to flex my gratitude muscles. Thanks to Megan and Wendy for the prompts!

1. Name a color you are thankful for.
I love the Oiselle 'Burgen' version of burgundy - it's really rather versatile and just a cool color.
I especially love pairing it with the Oiselle 'fresh green' color.

2. Something your spouse does that you are thankful for.

This is hard to narrow down! Hmmm. Well, other than the fact that he's an equal contributor to this household (cleans, does laundry, cooks, has all the kid routines down), he makes me laugh, challenges me and we have the best conversations - for fourteen years and counting. 

3. Something your kids do that you are thankful for.
They also make me laugh and we have great conversations! I love that we created this family of humans that we like to HANG OUT WITH. How cool is that?
4. A food you are thankful for.
Would I be a total cliche for saying avocados? But... avocados. I eat avocado almost every day (in leftover tex mex, on toast, sandwiches, in soup...) and life would be pretty bleak without guacamole.

5. What recent good news are you thankful for?
I don't have a good answer for this one... The Cubs winning the World Series! Really, everyone in our family is healthy, so I am thankful that there is NO NEWS.

6. Name a drink you are thankful for.
Another 'basic' answer, but COFFEE.

7. Name a restaurant you are thankful for.
Surprising absolutely no one who knows us, I am thankful Daniel's Broiler. Just thinking about our next date night makes me happy.

8. Talk about an animal you are thankful for.
Um, pugs!
9. Name a beauty product you are thankful for.
My flat iron.

10. Name a cleaning product you are thankful for.

Really?? I guess I'm thankful for the pet hair attachment to my vacuum hose..

11. What social media platform are you thankful for?
Instagram, hands down. It's just such a happy place to be and I think we should all have to give up everything else and be forced to go hang out there.

12. Tell us why you are thankful for the last person who texted you.
Group texts from the BESTEST friends are the best. I'll be able to talk to these three about everything, always.

13. Name a candy you are thankful for.
I'm thankful that it's time for HOLIDAY BARK!

14. Name an app on your phone that you are thankful for.
Besides Instagram, I'm gonna have to agree with Megan and Wendy on the Starbucks app. The roll out of the mobile order feature happened here in the Seattle area a LONG time ago and I became addicted to immediately. The convenience of being able to order on the go is HUGE. No waiting in line! Also, no worry about getting tongue tied with indulgently specific orders! 

15. What are you looking forward to that you are thankful for?
We just bought tickets for our first family outing to Cirque du Soleil and I cannot wait to introduce our kids to one of the things in life that my husband and I love, and brings me SUCH JOY. The latest tour is coming to our neck of the woods this spring!

Well this was an uplifting exercise and I think I should incorporate some thankful on a more regular basis... All the best to you and yours!

“‘Thank you’ is the best prayer that anyone could say. I say that one a lot. Thank you expresses extreme gratitude, humility, understanding.” Alice Walker


Everyday Life and Menu Plan (11.21.16)

A day late on the menu posting because we went to see Jeff Kinney (Diary of a Wimpy Kid author) last night!

Kinney was super fun and engaging and very gracious during the signing.
I'm very glad to be on the mailing list for every local bookstore, because I snatched up a ticket to this sold out event within an hour of the email going out. Thus, we were in the first group of people to get our book signed - I think we were about fourth in line. So we had plenty of time afterward to go out for a nice little mother son dinner date at the bar and grill next door and gab about our experience, which was priceless.
Meanwhile, my daughter got to have a Yahtzee and Candy Land marathon with daddy, followed by a trip to good old Red Robin. The kids definitely had a banner week, because they also had the school dance on Friday, which is an absolute hoot. They learn all sorts of fun dance moves in PE during the week leading up to the event and we get to sit back and enjoy. Well, and get roped into doing YMCA by the end of the night. 

Today I got the Thanksgiving shopping done and my kitchen smells like homemade Chex mix!
I'm looking forward to a few cozy and lazy days around the house with the kids having time off from school for Thanksgiving, and to EAT!
roast turkey breast - We buy a 5lb breast and have used Alton Brown's brine recipe for about the last seven years - DELICIOUS.
classing New England style stuffing (with sausage and chestnuts) I also add granny smith apples to this recipe we've been using from Cooking Light for more than ten years. 
hash brown potato casserole - I use this Cooking Light version of a dish that's been a favorite since I was a kid.
mixed greens salad - I use the bones of this recipe, omitting chicken/bacon and add Trader Joe's spicy/sweet pecans and apples.
crescent rolls - I HATE working with yeast, but I thought I'd give these another go, as they are also a favorite since I was a kid.
cranberry sauce - I caved to the jellied stuff this year because the kids actually like it - oh well.
pumpkin pie - I just pick one up from the store as the kids are really the ones who eat it and they're not very particular about their pie.
As always, I'm linking up with Org Junkie - be sure to check out all the great weekly menus!


Middle Grade Graphic Novels My Kid is Loving Lately

It's no surprise to anyone that reads my posts that my nine year old loves graphic novels. The other day, I found myself domineering a friend's Facebook post about her daughter's discovery of Raina Telgemeier's book Smile. I began GUSHING over it and started giving other recommendations. I find myself doing this with other parents ALL THE TIME. So, rather than cornering you during a casual conversation that turns to kids books, taking over your Facebook post, or running up a Tweetstorm, these are some recommendations I love to share.

As for the reading level, my kid is your average fourth grade reader. He's enthusiastic about reading, and not at all categorized as a 'reluctant' reader.  Books litter the floor around his bed as he drifts off to sleep at night. But he's in this transitional space where he certainly has the comprehension level to tackle more advanced middle grade like Harry Potter, but the small font filling ALL THOSE PAGES, with nary an image to break things up, intimidates him (and many readers his age, from what I gather). So we read these types of books together - Harry Potter, The Land of Stories, A Wrinkle in Time, The Chronicles of Narnia, etc. Inevitably, we'll get to an exciting point in the book and he'll finish it on his own, sometimes late into the night. To be honest, I like having the excuse to read to him - and I think he does, too. As I discovered when I read Connecting Boys with Books, I should keep up this practice for as long as possible. It's an invaluable way of building vocabulary, and also spending that one on one time with your kids. 

On his own, my son is enjoying a nice little middle ground of books that are still challenging and age-appropriate. Somewhere beyond The Magic Treehouse and Stink/Judy Moody, but not quite ready for an entirely solo read of The Warriors or Percy Jackson. Graphic novels are a great segue, and if they whet you kid's appetite to read, all the better! Here's the evidence in support of letting them READ WHAT THEY WANT. Yes, some of his choices make me roll my eyes (I'd rather he spend less time on Calvin and Hobbes anthologies). However, it all fosters a love of reading. 

Now, some of these might not technically fall under 'graphic novel' at the library: they are just heavy on the cartoons like Diary of a Wimpy Kid (another favorite). Hopefully there is something new in the list that the young reader in your life will love - and, as always, give me your recommendations!

My kiddo picked up Dream Jumper: Nightmare Escape at the school book fair and it has a pretty cool premise, with the protagonist having the ability to enter the dreams of his friends and save them from the dream monster.

We've read Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book together, but, Fortunately, the Milk is one he read on his own and LOVED. It's crazy silly Gaiman at his finest.

Many kids love the Star Wars: Jedi Academy series as much as my kiddo, and he just finished the latest book in the series. I'd recommend the Strange Case of Origami Yoda  as a good step up. It's more challenging material that still has ties to everyone's beloved Star Wars. Plus, each book has fun origami projects!

The Creature from My Closet Series is a fun recent discovery wherein a hybrid creature, emerges from the books in protagonist Rob's closet that he must take care of - the first being a Wonka Frankenstein creature, Potter-Wookie being a favorite.

Lunch Lady series is a little on the easy reading side, but my kid gobbled up these stories of a renegade Lunch Lady engaging with cyborgs, bake sale bandits and mathletes, to name a few.

The Misadventures of Max Crumbly is the Dork Diaries answer for boys. Not that I haven't brought up the latter to my boy for reading, but he demurred. Just as he did for the graphic novels of The The Baby-Sitters Club, even though he loves Raina Telgemeier's memoirs and her latest novel Ghosts. Max went over quite well, and it looks as if there will be more in the works. 

Timmy Failure with his domestic polar bear and failure of a detective agency is laugh out loud funny.

My son blew through Secret Coders (and of course wants to code now) after he chose this as one of his books for the Global Reading Challenge.

It's rather serendipitous I pushed this post back to this week, as Modern Mrs. Darcy is devoting a whole week to kid lit with #ReadingForALifetime Twitter chats, an Instagram challenge and DAILY What Should I Read Next podcasts. I highly recommend checking it out if you have young readers in your life, or are a 'young at heart' reader!