April Book Haul

I am OVERWHELMED with book options this month! The stack from the library is pretty darn awesome, I got THREE books with some credits at Book of the Month, a new ARC I'm OVER THE MOON about, and I decided to get back on the audiobook train thanks to a recommendation from Tara and the fact that Lincoln in the Bardo is narrated by ALL THE AWESOME ACTORS.

 I had been looking forward to Susan Meissner's latest - A Bridge Across the Ocean, as I THOROUGHLY enjoyed A Fall of Marigolds, and didn't realize it was being released in paperback. I got lucky and found it on my library's choice reads shelf and can renew it with impunity for three months! The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas is everywhere I look and I'm super pumped to delve into the hype. Dumplin' by Julie Murphy, another YA, has been out for awhile. My interest was piqued when I heard that Disney is producing the film version with Jennifer Aniston as the mother. Perfect Little World by Kevin Wilson was a prior Book of the Month pick that I passed on, but decided to pick up from the library and am REALLY enjoying right now! Many of my Goodreads friends have raved about The Nix by Nathan Hill, so I picked it up - which was rather difficult, as it's a good 600+ pages. I might just wait for the digital copy to come in (I put holds on both for most books to see which comes in first). 
For my April Book of the Month I chose Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann. I never got around to The Lost City of Z, and this (true) story of the crimes against Osage Indian Nation sounded even more compelling. I added Exit West by Mohsin Hamid and finally came around to steeling myself for When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi.
SQUEEE! Young Jane Young is the upcoming novel from Gabrielle Zevin, the writer of one my all time favorite books The Storied Life of AJ Fikry, and I got the ARC this week!

Other Digital Books in the Queue:
The Last Neanderthal by Claire Cameron (NetGalley ARC I just finished and it was GOOD!)
Sympathy by Olivia Sudjic
On Turpentine Lane by Elinor Lipman
Victoria by Daisy Goodwin
I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh
Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough
All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai
Tiny Little Thing and A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams
Church of Marvels by Leslie Parry
The Fifth Season by NK Jemisin

Audiobooks in the Queue:
The Rules Do Not Apply: A Memoir Ariel Levy
Lincoln in the Bardo: A Novel by George Saunders

As always, I am open to commentary and suggestions!


Everyday Life and Menu Plan 4.17.17

This was a nice week of getting back into the swing of things after spring break and my husband and I kicked off the weekend with a lovely brunch at The Commons on Good Friday. He had the day off work, but the kids had school - yay! Getting a warm cinnamon roll as an appetizer is required.

We don't really celebrate Easter, but we are big on traditions, especially pagan ones that involve decorated trees or bunnies that deliver presents! So after a little egg hunt around the house and baskets filled with candy and toys, we headed out to the zoo to take advantage of the lovely weather.
Also, the Grilled Chimichurri Chicken and Avocado Salad from Cafe Delites from last week's menu was DELICIOUS. We'll definitely add it to our rotation of salads, I added feta cheese and maybe will add some artichokes or roasted red pepper next time.
This week:
As always, I'm linking up with Org Junkie, and now Beth Fish Reads weekend cooking - be sure to check out all the great weekly food inspiration!


Fun Activities for Early Readers (Featuring Favorite Book Characters)

Over Spring Break, I kept the kids plenty busy with fun outings almost every day. But, we still had our fair share of downtime at home. My daughter, who is in first grade, is currently OBSESSED with the Critter Club series. A few weeks ago, I did some research on the books to see when we'd eventually run out: book 17 comes out next month, so I think we're good for awhile. And while I was clicking around Simon and Schuster's website for the series, I found printable activities! I saved them up for Spring Break and my girl was BESIDE HERSELF.
Her own clue journal! As well as a form to play her own game of MASH. Oh my gosh, I can't believe this is still a thing, and it's awesome. Now that she's got the hang of it, we play all the time. We've wasted time waiting for big brother to get his hair cut, or waiting for our dinner after Cirque du Soleil playing MASH. The 'name of the person you will marry' has been substituted with 'the name of your pet' in accordance with the theme of Critter Club.

I then went down the rabbit hole of all her favorite book series and their websites, and most have fun printable activities! Some even have educational teacher guides (which would be great for parents, too) and event kits for parties! Perhaps a book club meeting for 7 year olds is in order... So, if your first grader also loves Heidi Hecklebeck, Ivy and Bean or Judy Moody - click on the links and print away. We only got through Critter Club stuff over break, but I'm saving up some of these others for the inevitable rainy day this summer. 

Not wanting my fourth grader to be left out, I did some sleuthing on some of his favorite series and, lo, the Diary of a Wimpy Kid contingent did not disappoint. It happens to be the 10th anniversary of the series and there's a bunch of fun stuff on the Wimpy Kid website. He's growing out of some of these things, but had fun testing his book knowledge, drawing his own Greg and book cover. 
I could kick myself for not discovering these activity packs back when he was in first grade and reading Stink Moody, Captain Underpants and Big Nate. Alas, I thought it best to share this information in the event that someone else hadn't figured this out yet either, and would find it as awesome as I did! Big thanks to Simon and Schuster, Chronicle Books, Scholastic, Harper Collins, Candlewick Press and Amulet Books for enriching our kids reading lives.


Everday Life and Menu Plan - Spring Break Edition (4.10.17)

First things first, the Curried Chicken with Coconut Lime Rice from One-Pan Wonders last week was great!

It was super easy to prep and cook, but I may add a little crushed red pepper or cayenne next time. The curry on the chicken flavored the whole dish nicely, but could have been a tad spicier. 

We had a fun Spring Break staycation, although the weather could have cooperated more. At least we did get some time outside early in the week and no one was sick this year, unlike last year. This meant I was able to bring the kids to the Y every morning to get our day going, and my oldest even joined me for a workout!
As for afternoon activities, Monday we went to the park and Menchies, Tuesday was a hit with our first visit to McMenamin's Anderson School and the Lagoon pool.
They had so much fun and begged to go to the restaurant overlooking the pool after our swim session. It was three in the afternoon and we'd already had lunch, but I caved because I figured we were on vacation! 
I let them eat dinner and I got a Mai Tai, then gave them a bowl of cereal at dinner time. Ha! Next time we go, which will be soon I'm sure since it's about a five minute drive from our house, I'll try and time it around a meal.
Wednesday was haircut day and lazy movie afternoon, because you have to have at least one of those days. Thursday we went bowling, because you have to have that day on staycation, too. 
And we capped off the week on Friday with the best outing to see Cirque du Soleil!
I already gushed on Facebook and Instagram, but I can't stress enough how wonderful Luzia is and how much I loved sharing one of my favorite things in the world with my kids. This was probably the 9th Cirque show I've seen and it's definitely up there as one of my favorites.
Alright, time to hang up my cruise director hat and get back to the weekly routine!

Monday - Pizza
Tuesday - Moroccan Butternut Squash Soup with Coconut Ginger Cream (this recipe from Half Baked Harvest can easily go in the slow cooker and blended with an immersion blender!)
Wednesday - Thai Sticky Chicken Fingers with Brown Rice and Roasted Broccoli (a favorite from Iowa Girl Eats)
Thursday - Turkey Burgers on the Grill and Roasted Potatoes  
Friday - Sheet Pat Green Chili Beef Nachos (from How Sweet It Is)
Saturday - Fancy Macaroni and Cheese (tried and true recipe from The Pioneer Woman)
Sunday - Grilled Chimichurri Chicken and Avocado Salad (trying this yummy sounding recipe from Cafe Delites)

As always, I'm linking up with Org Junkie, and now Beth Fish Reads weekend cooking - be sure to check out all the great weekly food inspiration!


Books I Read in March 2017

The Dry by Jane Harper
I was impressed with this debut from Jane Harper. Oftentimes, I dislike thrillers because they can become all about the 'whodunit' and little else. The writing, character development, world building, etc. is left by the wayside. This was NOT the case with The Dry. The story of investigator Aaron Falk returning to his small farming hometown to attend the funeral of his childhood friend, after years in exile, has all the good stuff in spades - AND great suspense. It's reminiscent of Tana French's In The Woods, where there are two mysteries we are trying to pin down at the same time: one from the main character's past, and the current murders. It looks as if this was the first in a series featuring Falk, and I definitely look forward to more from Jane Harper!

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
It's been awhile since I read any YA fantasy, and I have been meaning to read Bardugo's work. This started off a little confusing for me, as there are a LOT of gangs, characters, locations, grudges, hierarchies piled into the first few chapters. I also felt as if she started the book by investing me in some characters that never resurface, and it took awhile to get invested in the main characters. But, once I did, I was hooked! I especially loved the dynamic between the female leads, Nina and Inej - this book passes the Bechdel test, for sure. This was an exciting, and also gut wrenching, romp that was like a mashup of Mistborn, Dune, and Gangs of New York. I will for sure queue up the sequel, Crooked Kingdom.

From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg
Awwww, this was just WONDERFUL. I can't believe I had never read this book about a girl who runs away from home to hide out in the Metropolitan Museum of Art with her little brother. Although, I am glad I read it as an adult, since the book is rife with so much humor that might have gone over my head in elementary school. It is truly hilarious. Claudia, our runaway, is the eldest and when she gets upset about being in charge of the youngest sibling:
"But her parents hadn't learned. She couldn't remember being anyone's charge when she was in the first grade. Her mother had simply met her at the bus stop every day." 
And Konigsburg's shrewd observations of Claudia's motivations reflect much about human nature and wanting to feel important, to have an adventure, to feel happy.
"Happiness is excitement that has found a settling down place, but there is always a little corner that keeps flapping around."
I am also so glad the Kindle edition included the foreword written by the author for the 35th anniversary edition. It was inspirational and humorous, just like the book. I can't wait to read this one with my kiddos.

Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton
I'm a sucker for literary fiction with a science-y story, especially one that involves the contemplation of our humanity and the vastness of space. This had a similar feel to Station Eleven in that it takes place during the time immediately following an apocalyptic event, but it's not really about that event. Two seemingly separate stories follow a group of astronauts stranded in space and, ostensibly, the last man on earth. The slow burn of how they make sense of, and come to terms with, their situation was gripping and poetic until the very last sentence.

One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid
This was my choice for vacation read after finishing up Good Morning, Midnight and it was exactly that - perfect for a light diversion by the pool. It wasn't exactly fluffy, as it's an emotionally charged read: basically Castaway told from the perspective of the woman left behind. It was a little predictable, a little saccharine, but an overall quick and engaging read. Of the two books I've read by this author, I'd say Maybe in Another Life was a slightly better novel.

Linking up with Modern Mrs Darcy's What I've Been Reading Lately!