Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Month of Faves - Favorite Book Covers From My Reads This Year

 Favorite Book Covers From My Reads This Year – what did you like about each one?

I love every literal thing about this cover. I love the font. I love the interesting perspective of the picture. I even love the mustardy yellow which is weird because I usually hate that color.

For a whole book that deals with how much our main character is made up of by the books that she encounters, reads and translates it just couldn't get anymore perfect. Kind of simple, absolutely great.

I love that the Viking is wood-grainy. It cracks me up.

I just love the colors and the fluffiness of the clouds and everything about how this whole thing is arranged.

Book was kinda meh (review forthcoming) but I do like that cover

This book is all about a family whose life is just awash in alcohol. So not only is this cover interesting to look at, but is incredibly apt.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Month of Faves -Top 10 Books that Blew My Mind This Year

Tue. | Dec. 29 – Top 10 Books that Blew My Mind This Year – squee worthy reads


So, the new job that I started this year involves working with people who study brains. I don't have any experience like that so I'm reading to play catch up. I learned SO many interesting things about how the human brain works (but in a fun ,easy to read book!) that I still think about it all the time.

This book photographs TERRIBLY. It's shiny silver.

What this book lacks in a photograph friendly cover it makes up for in the fact that it could save your life. It sounds ominous, I know, but this book basically tells you to listen to your intuition and to trust your instincts. If you think you might be in a dangerous situation and you're wrong you might be a little embarrassed, but if you are right you could save your own life. Review here!


First of all, cover is so interesting. The thing that I think I love most about this book is how detailed and complete the world building is. That -ish is thorough. Also, that the characters all have realistic and reasonabl feelings, which frankly is sometimes hard to come by in books. I was sucked into this book hard and read it at an almost alarming speed. Review here!


I'm incapable of describing this book well. All I can say is that you need to give this book 100 pages. If you're not intrigued enough by page 100 then you probably won't be. I was incredibly confused for awhile and then was confused and in love. Two animals owned by an asshole rapper who named them after two of the worst bombings in world history? Bring me into your twisted, crazy, ridiculousness Mount Char, it is where I want to be.


I know I've talked about this book, kind of ad nauseum, but it will always bear repeating, so here I am saying it again. This is a great book. If you think you know a lot about WWII read this book and learn about 1000 things that you didn't even know you didn't know.Etcetera etcetera etcetera, all of the good superlatives in my voabulary, and so on.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Month of Faves – Books on My Winter Reading List

Tue. | Dec. 22 – Books on My Winter Reading List 

Anyone read any of these? I've got Lazarus project to take with me to my in-laws this week.









Monday, December 21, 2015

Book Review: "I'm So Happy For You (Sort of Not Really) : Finding Contentment in the Culture of Comparison" by Kay Wills Wyma

1 sentence review: This book isn't really hoeing any new territory,  but it's all good reminders.

The best thing that this book did was be the impetus for an interesting conversation between myself and some friends about why people put what things up on the internet. We decided that while, of course, there are going to be people putting up pictures just because they are braggy mcbraggerpantses and want compliments, that isn't going to be the majority. We put up pictures of the exciting exotic things that happen in our lives because those (probably rare) moments have helped us escape our doldrums, and maybe it will help other people escape it too.

So I just got back from Mexico. I didn't put up too many pictures because I didn't want to be the braggy looking a-hole. But you would have rather have seen pictures of waving palm trees and huge waves then pictures of me hauling my behind out of bed to go into work early and then staying late every day for nearly two weeks because of my no vacation time yet, right (#newjobproblems, #firstworldproblems). We put up the pictures of the Christmas cookies that turned out perfectly because everyone has experienced the "burned to a crisp, these don't remotely look edible" cookies that are also currently in the kitchen (but in the trash).

In short, we put up the rare exciting things because everyone has the crappy boring things.

Though if I write this post on a day where I'm in a slightly less optimistic mood this post could easily turn into something less forgiving haha.

Anyway, this book.

It obviously doesn't have any magical answers to problems about being discontent. But it is heartening to know that this is a common struggle for many people.

Kay suggests trying to be genuinely happy for the person who can't stop talking about how gifted their kid is, or how nice their new car is. I think that that is a thing that will take an extreme amount of practice, but it seems worth trying, yes? (Or you can do what I do when Im super cranky about people having nicer things then me, comfort myself by thinking they're probably up to their ears in credit card debt. That's super nice of me, huh?)

She also talks about how when we compare, it sucks a little joy out of ourselves. So let's say I enjoy playing volleyball, I'm not the best at it but  I have fun doing it and it brings me joy. But then I see someone else, and they, like played volleyball in college and they look good in the short shorts and so on and so on. Suddenly I'm super conscious that I'm not as good as that other person and that takes some of my enjoyment out of volleyball. Comparison is the thief of joy.

This book really is summed up by every one of those little cliche phrases. They might be cliche but they are true.

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review

Friday, December 18, 2015

Graphic Novel Review: "The Bad Doctor - The Troubled Life and Times of Dr Iwan James" by Ian Williams

A short review of a graphic novel today.

Everyone be surprised, all of the illustrations are just black and white and very unflashy, just how I like them.

Dr James is a general practitioner in Wales. He sees all variety of things and people come through his door, and like I imagine it does to all doctors, sometimes he absorbs other people's problems and it stresses him out. His marriage is fine (but that's about it) and he finds joy on his long cycling trips through the country with his buddy.

However, Dr Williams has had a certain medical condition that has weighed on him immensely since he was a very little boy. And Im not going to tell you what it is because that would be a spoiler. But I will say that it's stressful and it can effect what kind of a doctor he is at times. And here's a nonspoiler spoiler for you, he isn't a bad doctor.

I like this graphic novel because it's just about a bunch of every day humans with every day struggles and was reflective of a lot of people's lives. 3 out of 5 stars!


Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Month of Faves – Most Useful Tools For Getting Sh&! Done

Wed. | Dec. 16 – Most Useful Tools For Getting Sh&! Done – apps, websites, journals or programs.

My new planner that is designed specifically for book blogger's from the Books and Beverages Shoppe! It has taken the place of my calendar from the Dollar Spot at Target and I'm the better for it. Especially since I've got new things on the horizon for the blog in the new year, I'm going to need to keep my sh&! together. I plan a lot of things pretty far in advance, and while I'm jealous of the bloggers who can just wing it the thought of doing that makes the anxiety start churning in my stomach.

Goodreads. Even with it's flaws, it's still the best way that I have found for myself to keep track of the books in my life. I like to line everything up so I anticipate what to order from the library next so I don't have a repeat of that time when I accidentally read too many WWII books in a row and got deeeeeepressed.

My library card. Because the magical free book fairy does not stop by my house like she should.

So I guess I keep it pretty simple! A planner, an app and a library card. And the occasional impending sense of doom. That's what keeps me on track.


Monday, December 14, 2015

Book review: "Tales of Byzantium: A Selection of Short Stories" by Eileen Stephenson

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Hola from the rooftop pool at Beach Palace in Mexico! I only have a few hours before flying home, so I thought I'd try to send the sound of the waves and the smell of sunscreen through the computer.

Speaking of exotic places...Byzantium. For me it sounds like one of those mysterious far off kingdoms that sound beautiful but that you couldn't find on a map to save your soul. (Well you couldn't find it on any current maps, but you know what I mean).

Eileen's short stories were perfect little poolside read. Tales of smart (and occasionally cunning and bad sneaky) men and women and their lives in this exotic empire. Honestly, my main complaint was that I would have liked a few more stories! I'll just have to wait for volume 2! Also, almost all of the people in the stories were noble, or at least associated with the palace in some way. I'd be interested to see what it was like for me every day "not special" citizens were like. However, the upside of having almost all of the characters be noble is that you find out what happens to them after the story ends! You find out if that sickly kid ever gets to be King, if that scary army ever makes a comeback after getting tricked in a risky military move, or if that exciting first love lasts forever.....

This slim volume is a great introduction to an intriguing empire. I know the next time I'm wandering the library i will be wandering over the Byzantine Empire section to see if I can find a follow up read to this one!

About the Author

Eileen Stephenson was born in Fort Worth, Texas but spent most of her life in the Washington, DC area. She has degrees from both Georgetown University and George Washington University (neither involving the Byzantines) and is married with three daughters. Her interest in Byzantine history all started one fateful day when every other book in the library looked boring except for John Julius Norwich’s A Short History of Byzantium.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Book Review: "Becoming George Washington" by Stephen Yochs

George Washington, action hero . . .
Long before Washington was the old man on the dollar bill, he was a fatherless boy with few resources and even less education. So how did he become the most famous person in American history?
Becoming George Washington tells the story of a young man with boundless energy, bravery, and passion, who grew from a fatherless boy into a self-confident leader. At the same time, he struggled to suppress both an awful temper and his love for a married woman, Sally Fairfax. A courageous war hero, Washington rose to the pinnacle of Virginia politics. His experiences as a young man allowed him, decades later, to lead the Revolution.
This compelling historical novel reveals the person behind the famous face and how he grew to become America’s leading Founding Father.

I want to put this out there right at the get-go, this isn't an origin story of the "Abraham Lincoln Vampire Slayer" variety. It's about real George Washington and what he really did in the years before he before he became our nation's first president. It's kind of interesting, because I never really thought about any other version of George Washington besides the presidential one. (Though there is this one YouTube video that got a lot of play in our apartment senior year in college...) Anyway....

George Washington was not a rich kid from a rich family. You know gentlemen farmers? He wasn't that, he was an actual farmer. His mother was um, a negative, imposing, unmovable force in his life. His dad was dead. But he had two older brothers - Austin and Lawrence (he was especially close with Lawrence) and a close, well-connected family friend who loved and supported him like he was one of his own children. Through lots of hard work and perseverance George gained success as a surveyor, and then later as a military man.

The talks about is treks from Virginia to Ohio sound treacherous and awful and dangerous and cold...which it was all of those things. And that doesn't even begin to cover angry Native Americans and Frenchmen. But through all of these trials, George earns his stripes. Even though he is plagued by self doubt and self consciousness about his humble beginnings and his homely appearance. (It's also kind of funny because he goes through all of this stuff and moves through the ranks and it's like "oh yeah he's only 22...because people died by 45...kind of a lot.")

One thing that happened to George (and a lot of other people) that I thought was kind of sad was that you work and fight for the Crown for years and then when American begins to struggle for her independence you could find yourself on the opposite side of the battlefield as men that you may have served with previously.

This book moved at a pretty steady clip, and if you are interested in: George Washington, early America, Virginia, or the like I think you will like this book!

About the Author

Steve doesn’t golf or fish and is a below average hunter, but his love of history and writing compelled him to pick up his pen and tell the little-known stories behind the men that made American history. After years of extensive research, Steve wrote his first book on young George Washington.
Steve lives in a suburb north of St. Paul, Minnesota with his supportive wife and two fantastic teenage sons. He graduated with honors from Boston College and the University of Minnesota Law School. He has enjoyed over two decades of practicing law in the Twin Cities, helping individuals and businesses solve complex problems.

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Monday, December 7, 2015

Books and Beverages Shoppe Launch!!!!

So, you probably have heard me talk about my friend Jamie? We co-hosted the Little Princess read a long. She guest posted for All Lady July. I also find myself over at her blog frequently for (among other things) the monthly Inklings reading (this month is the first half of The Silmarillon and it's kicking my butt up one side and down the other .After the first 3 pages I was like "oh no oh no oh no Tolkien you and I are new friends, why are you so crazy talking and I'm not used to it yet??") Anyway, so when Jamie was looking for Launch Team members for her new exciting endeavor I was like, why do you even ask, just sign me up, you know I'm down for these shenanigans.

Said shenanigans online shop! Or I should say Shoppe! 

The first thing in the Shoppe right now, with much more to come, is a planner just for book bloggers! 

Image of The Book Blogger's Planner

For real, look how pretty this is - also it feels very well made. It won't fall apart the first time you throw it in your purse because you're trying to plan on the fly.

Here's what it entails:

-6 months that are blank so you can fill it in based on what you need. January to June? Just your busiest months? It allows for customizing. Me? Im going to buy a second one so it makes one full year, because I plan stupidly stupidly far in advance.

-For each week in the calendar there is a section for "This week's notes" and "post checklist" with spaces reminding you to cross post, and share on different media platforms. One section of that I won't be using is the "update post archive". I have failed so hard and so long on doing that I'm in an unsurmountable backlog. Hopefully no one else is in that same boat and still has hope, unlike me :)

-Space for keeping track of books that you've read

-Space for your favorite bookish quotes (so later you can get on picmonkey and turn them into Pinterest worthy works of art).

Here's the kicker - Today is the last day to preorder this lovely little planner. AND if you do preorder you will get extra bookish goodies! Maybe you saw on my Instagram that I turned my sweet bookish extras into magnets for my fridge.  They're holding up some art work.

The extra double plus good thing about Jamie's endeavor - a portion of the proceeds goes to one of several charities that Jamie feels passionate about supporting. So if you're buying it for yourself or the book blogger in your life, your purchase is stretching a little farther to support good work being done here in the states and around the world.

There will be an upcoming giveaway, which you can bet I will pass along, but just preorder it so you can get the extra goodies. It is worth it! 

Friday, December 4, 2015

Book Review: "The Gap of Time" by Jeanette Winterson

I was kind of ready to not like this book. Some people who had reviewed it said that it was complex and it is based on one of Shakespeare's less famous or performed plays. But I gave it a shot. I had a lot of feelings about it, but none of them were all bad. And if you're not a Shakespeare fan, don't worry you can still read this book. The names are weird and based on Shakespeare, but I know you can handle that, right? I am a Shakespeare fan, but I have to admit that this isn't one I was familiar with.

The plot has a lot of twists and turns and a lot of the same themes that Shakespeare uses in a lot of his plays. Here's a taste of what you're in for:

-INSANELY jealous men who are craptastic to the women in their lives
-sweet, young love
-a kind of shifty but loveable scamp of a jester/kind of bad guy
- mistaken identity

Surprisingly no cross dressing in this one. That's another Shakespeare theme he uses a looooot.

Here were two quotes that I liked:

(upon the birth of a baby) "With no skills and no training, no college diploma or science dollars, we had made a human being. What is this crazy reckless world where we can make human beings?"

"What is memory but a rope slung across time?" (I can totally see that one being a tattoo)

This book was better than I was expecting, and I will be looking into other books that this author has written. However I don't think I will race them to the very top of my TBR. I give this book a 3.5 stars.

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review by Blogging for Books

Thursday, December 3, 2015

These Are A Few of My Favorite Things in 2015 (Month of Faves)

This is the description that we're working with today– eg. to eat, drink, wear, smell, see, do, enjoy, best thing I bought, most used gift received etc, favorite concert, outdoor activity, place visited, most squee worthy moment of the year, biggest change

e.l.f. makeup brushes - I'm generally not one to invest heavily in makeup brushes (or anything makeup related, if we're being honest) so when Quinn introduced these to me I was so excited. $3 for a brush? So when I inevitably drop it in a sink full of water and ruin it I won't feel too bad about it. And they still look nice and work well! Link is to my BFF stipple brush.

Nivea crème - Most important, this thick crème is rich and creamy, and not greasy (though it takes a little while to dry.) And I feel like Greta Garbo or Grace Kelly about using lotion from a glass jar. There's something old school glam about it.

Cheese plates/boards - This year on my European vacation I learned the joy of the cheese plate. The simple and real joy of eating a bunch of cheese that you don't know quite what it is or what it will taste like but you jump in anyway, accompanied by a glass or pint of something delicious and boozy. Yes. 2 cheeseboards, no entrees needed.

Attached garages - This was a thing that I didn't want when we bought a house. It wasn't something I was going to be all up in arms about, but I would have rather not have had one. Mostly a security issue. Turns out, I like the attached garage. I'm still very mindful of the security aspect but I also really like being able to go get stuff out of or put things in my car in my jammies. In the apartment, when I inevitably realized that I'd left something I needed in the car, I would have to put on real clothes/shoes and walk across our considerable parking lot to get to our garage. Now I don't even put on pants.

Prague - I was in Prague this summer, and I have to say it's basically my favorite place in the history of places. (If you want to hear about my European adventure the posts are all in one spot.) I loved the fact the oldness of everything, but then it seemed like it was full of young Czechs who make it vibrant and fun. The Czech Republic as a whole is heavy on history (and sometimes sorrow) and I was thrilled to walk the streets and learn all about it. Time for some gratuitous Prague pictures? Hell to the yes. -For the record, my second favorite place that I saw on that trip was Dresden. There is not an old building in that city, but you wouldn't know it if you didn't know it's history. I was so ready to see ghosts that day, and I don't even believe in ghosts. -





Tuesday, December 1, 2015

#AMonthofFaves {My Reading Year}

Here's the description we're working with today:
eg. Number of books read so far, genre you read the most from, picture of favorite (or most often used) reading location, most read author, % eBooks, hardcovers, paperbacks and/or audiobooks, hint at what your favorite read of the year is (let us guess), types of books you wish you read more of, month you read the most and least)

Top 5 most popular posts:
"Spotify Lists of Classic Book Characters"

"All Lady Guest Post: Jamie from Books & Beverages talks about what person and what books shaped her as a reader!"

"Cheesy Books" (This was a complete throw away post I wrote in like, 15 minutes so I'm surprised, a little horrified, by how popular this post is, tbh.

Form Letter for a Book Review Request: A Dream

Viking River Cruise Recap - Day #1

Top 5 rated books I've read this year (rated by me, yikes it was hard to narrow it down to 5!)

"The Library at Mount Char" by Scott Hawkins

"Uprooted" by Naomi Novik

"Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning" by Timothy Snyder

"Dead Wake" by Erik Larson

"When Books Went to War: The Stories that Helped Us Win World War II" by Molly Guptill Manning

5 books that were my least favorite I've read this year

"The Chosen" by Chaim Potok

"This Dark Endeavor" by Kenneth Oppel 

"Eat, Pray, Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert

"The Good Shufu: Finding Love, Self and Home on the Far Side of the World" by Tracy Slater

"Our Man in Charleston: Britain's Secret Agent in the Civil War South" by Christopher Dickey

I use Goodreads to monitor all of my reading progress. (You can be friends with me if you like!) I've knocked down my reading goal by several books because a lot of reading time has been lost to working on the house. But as it stands now, my goal is 150 books and I'm at 133. I don't think I'll make it! But such is life :)

Excited to read everyone else's posts today!

Monday, November 30, 2015

A look ahead into December...

Hi everyone! Hope that your Thanksgiving (if you celebrated) was wonderful and that all of your holiday shopping (if you partook) resulted in good parking spots and killer deals to be had.

My Thanksgiving turned out surprisingly well considering it was mine and my husbands first time hosting in our new house and there was 15 people. I didn't think our house could hold 15 people, but it did. I don't think it would want to do it again anytime soon though. Quinn made a really great brussel sprout dish that was delicious, and I'd never even had brussel sprouts before. Also, lots of wine.


Just wanted to let everyone know that the schedule for this month is going to be a bit wonky. I'm participating in #amonthoffaves, which is so much fun and I looked forward to doing. So we are going to be going off the rails with the MWF schedule, just wanted to let you know.

So this month will be: normal reviews, tour reviews, Month of Faves, looking back through the year, aaaaand some exciting news from friend Jamie regarding a new venture she is launching! All kinds of fun!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Book Review: "The Witch of Lime Street: Seance, Seduction and Houdini in the Spirit World" by David Jaher

-I know I said I was off this week but I forgot that I had this scheduled and I was too lazy to rearrange things to make it fit somewhere else. Now I'm really done. Happy Thanksgiving!_

Confession time. Does anyone watch Drunk History? When that show is good, it's sooo good. Though they have had some lame-o episodes. There was an episode where they talk about Houdini  and Arthur Conan O'Doyle and it made me laugh an unholy amount. Here's the link, there's probably swearing, so ear buds on if you're at work. Anyway, that episode is the reason that I picked up this book. I wish I had a reason that made me sound smarter but that would be a lie so here we are :)

When Houdini wasn't being the Houdini that we all know him for, he spent a borderline lot of time trying to discredit spiritualists, mediums and the like. This caused a huge amount of strain between him and his friend, Sherlock Holmes' creator Arthur Conan O'Doyle.  The tests that these tricksters were put through were rigorous and usually pretty invasive for the women? (Are you hiding something inside of your body to make noise or light or something? We are going to need to check.) Though most of the people are debunked with relative ease the titular "witch of Lime street" sessions got downright creepy AND violent.

 I thought there were 2 really compelling things about this book:

1) Learning about Houdini himself. I knew a little bit about Houdini because Wisconsin takes a little claim on him from his time in Appleton but learning about the man himself and what made him tick was really interesting.

2) It was so sad to hear about all of the lives lost in WWI and the family members who were left behind trying to reach them "in the great beyond". Especially the parents whose children were missing in action and couldn't know if they were.

This book was interesting, well researched, and full of interesting characters but it was If it was about 100 pages less it would be a 3, but as it stands it's like a 2.5.

I received this book in exchange for an honest review from Blogging for Books

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Off this week...

Jamie, over at Books and Beverages, always takes the week of her birthday off. I kind of think that's a great idea. So I'm off this week, the week after my birthday. (And also, hosting 15 people at my house for Thanksgiving, so I'll probably just be laying on the floor hyperventilating all week.) Hope you all have a fabulous week and I'll see you soon!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Book Review: "A Year of Living Prayerfully: How a Curious Traveler Met the Pope, Walked on Coals, Danced with Rabbis and Revived his Prayer Life" by Jared Brock

Jared Brock is not a good pray-er. He knows this. He knows it's a problem. So he hangs out with Jews, Catholics, Greek Orthodox (s?), nudists, Westboro Baptist Church members (which is worse than you are probably picturing, it was for me at least!), and more to get their perspectives on prayer. We're not going to talk about them all, of course.

Did you know that Pyongyang in (what is now) North Korea used to be a huge center of Protestant Christianity in the 30s and 40s? Billy Graham's wife grew up in Pyongyang, her parents were medical missionaries. After the Korean War things changed as the political power shifted. Christians were sought out and executed, or if they were lucky driven underground. Obviously now the situation is even worse for Christians there.

He spends time at a Greek Orthodox monastery high in the mountains of Greece (that apparently Prince Charles also visits). Here he talks about the 5 word prayer: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, Have mercy on me, a sinner." (The monk explains that it's only 5 words in Greek, haha). He said that he prays it several times a day, especially while doing monotonous manual labor. Breathes in "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God"- Breathes out "Have mercy on me a sinner". I think I'm going to start doing that in my yoga classes. A good way to concentrate on something good and keep your mind from wandering.

He walks over coals after a multi-hour "church service" (Wesley editorializing a little bit there) led by Tim Robbins. I don't understand what walking over coals has to do with God, or at least the Christian God. Jared seemed equally confused by the whole thing.

The book had a lot of bolded quotes interspersed in the chapters, here is one I liked the best:
"You pay God a compliment by asking great things of Him".

I'm going to be honest, there's a few things that bugged me about this book. They aren't deal breakers by any means but they struck me as odd.

1)He makes beard jokes at every opportunity. Like, I don't know if you're familiar with this guy before reading this book and he has a thing about beards and I just don't get it? But anywhere there are constant jokes and comments on people's beards. It was weird. Like, okay you think beards are really noteworthy and funny you can stop.

2)His picture appears 15 times on or in this book. This doesn't include the author picture on that back of the book jacket or the pictures that document his trip. A lot of the pictures are him in the dress of the people that he talks about in the chapter. So the chapter where they are in Rome, there's a goofy picture of him dressed as a cardinal at the top of the chapter. I felt like it was at best: weird, at worst: offensive.

Overall I give it a 3.2 stars out of 5.


Monday, November 16, 2015

Book review: "Dessert & Booze Hacks" by Peggy Wang

Between the title of this book and the fact that it's author is a founding editor of Buzzfeed, you basically know all it is you need to know about this book. That and it's awesome. If you need some fun, creative ideas to get you through your family holidays, a tedious work meeting, or day dreaming about when summer will be back, then this is the book for you!

This handy, board-booky little "hack"book is full of good ideas (that could always lead to bad ideas, because, well, alcohol). I think of the 75 recipes in the book there was only one that I was like "nope, that's not happening" - carrot cake in a glass. One I found highly suspect - pink beer (?!) but all of the others sounded pretty delightful.They also have tips like "how to make watermelon more sweet" and "how to finish off that jar of nutella".

I think the first ones I will try would be: champagne jello shots (perfect for New Years!),Cool Whip Triple-Fudge Cookies (there is not a bad word in that title!) and Cake Batter Rice Krispies.

This book was totally fun silliness and I can't wait to start trying these fun things out with my friends and family!


Friday, November 13, 2015

Book Review- "Not on Fire but Burning" by Greg Hrbek

I have feelings about this book and I'm not sure what they exactly are. If you read this and feel similarly I'd love to hear from you!

Here's the goodreads summary, who summarize it better than I could have:

Twenty-year-old Skyler saw the incident out her window: Some sort of metalic object hovering over the Golden Gate Bridge just before it collapsed and a mushroom cloud lifted above the city. Like everyone, she ran, but she couldn't outrun the radiation, with her last thoughts being of her beloved baby brother, Dorian, safe in her distant family home.

Flash forward to a post-incident America, where the country has been broken up into territories and Muslims have been herded onto the old Indian reservations in the west, even though no one has determined who set off the explosion that destroyed San Francisco. Twelve-year old Dorian dreams about killing Muslims and about his sister—even though Dorian's parents insist Skyler never existed. Are they still shell-shocked, trying to put the past behind them . . . or is something more sinister going on?

Meanwhile, across the street, Dorian's neighbor adopts a Muslim orphan from the territories. It will set off a series of increasingly terrifying incidents that will lead to either tragedy or redemption for Dorian, as he struggles to prove that his sister existed—and was killed by a terrorist attack

When I heard about this book I knew immediately that this was something I needed to get my hands on. I...I was kind of disappointed. I loved the idea. And the characters were super relatable. And I sincerely hope that our future is not like the one that was portrayed, though I enjoyed seeing how it was portrayed in such a realistic way.

I wouldn't say this is a spoiler, but the book starts pretty "normally" formatted and linear (it jumps between characters and time periods but nothing strange) but then as the book goes on, especially closer to the very end the book stops being as linear. That made me sad. I don't generally need a book to be all tied up neatly and have all of my questions answered, but I like a little bit of a stronger finish then what this book offered me.

I'm honestly at a loss with this one. I like the idea and I liked the characters and the stories. I even liked the writing. But it kind of lost me at the end, at the bums me out. I will do what I always do when this happens with me and a book. Decide which ending I like best and go with that. Hooray! Problem solved. So Ill say 3.5 for most of it and then 2.5 for the ending.


Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Library Educated Starter Kit

Do you know Shannon? You should. She's over at River City Reading. This is her post idea that I stole. Read hers here. She talks about how she always finds herself recommending the same books, and that though she should probably expand, favorites will always be favorites.

I seriously think every blogger should have a list like this on their person and when they meet someone who wants book reviews you just hand this list over. Maybe on little postcards. We should make this a thing.

We even have one in common!

Nonfiction that reads like a thriller that you can't put down:  "Devil in the White City" by Erik Larson. I honestly feel like you can't go wrong with Erik.


Fiction that you don't understand always understand what is happening but when it's done you think "That.Was.Awesome":


Ok, to be fair I read this one pretty recently but I've already recommended it to a lot of people!
Evil kids (aaaaaaaalso this would fit in the above category too):


When you need to get a handle on that overflowing closet and "how did I get so much STUFF and why do I think I need this junk to be happy?":


Pillars of Wesley's life:



I, and Shannon, would love to hear what your book recommendation starter kit wold look like!

Monday, November 9, 2015

Today, we're a food blog - Tortilla Soup Recipe

I know, I know, this is the opposite of a food blog. There will not be any pictures of beautifully separated ingredients in sweet little bowls.

I just needed a book break, and I love this soup. And it's soup season!

And it's my blog, I do what I want.

Hat tip to friend/guest poster Jen who shared this recipe with me eons ago.

Known to others as "Wesley's Tortilla Soup" known to me as "No really, this whole thing comes from cans, tortilla soup"

I'm not kidding. Everything comes from a can. If you have a fresh tomatoes use those instead, if you want no salt/low sodium or that kind of thing feel free to use it!

Here's what you need:

- Chicken (I usually make 2 or 3 breasts in the Foreman and then cut them up and throw them in. Or slice and dice up a rotisserie from the store or whatever)

- 1 can of chicken broth

-2 cans of cream of chicken soup

(If you want a more brothy/less creamy soup switch it to 2 broth, 1 COC)

- 1 can of diced tomatoes

-1/2 an envelope of taco seasoning

-1 can of black beans (these need to be drained! Or else your soup will be purple and look like something you should have made for a Halloween party)

-1/2 bag of frozen corn (I have to use a full bag because whenever I use 1/2 Josh complains there's not enough corn. Eye roll)

-Shredded cheese (for topping)

-Sour cream (for topping)

-Tortilla chips (for topping)

Throw everything that is not a topping into a pot (did you rinse your beans?!), put it on medium/medium high, walk past it occasionally and stir it while you're munching on chips that you're supposed to be putting on top of the soup when it's done. When everything looks warm and bubbly, ladle it out, top it with dairy joy and whatever chips you haven't eaten during cooking, and get at it.


Friday, November 6, 2015

Book Review: "The Love of Tzar and Techno: Stories" by Anthony Marra

I'm so incredibly mercurial about short story collections. I've had some that I just love and some that I'm incredibly so-so about. And I feel like there's no consistencies. The good news is that this collection, was a love.

(I apologize in advance, I seriously blanked on every name I tried to recall for this review).

Most of all of the stories take place in the USSR/Russia between 1940 and the 2000's. They focus on the same wide circle of people, but the stories never felt like they were forced. I think my two favorite people in the stories were the blind woman, and the former prima ballerina. My favorite story, might have actually been the very first one. Or I was just so excited because after getting through the first story I thought "yep, this will be good! I know I'll like this!".

Two most compelling things for me from the stories:

1. There's a woman who ends up leaving a small Russian town as a mail order bride and lives in Glendale California (for awhile). One of the very first things that this woman notices when she steps off the plane is the wheelchair ramps. She thinks that they are weird public art. Her husband tells her what they are and she feels a huge surge of pride and patriotism for this country who accommodates people who have these needs. It kind of makes you wonder what people with disabilities have to put up with and navigate in foreign countries.

2. From what I gathered from the stories I feel like there's not much of a safety net for those who need it. It's scary to think about how a lot of people are only one bad turn away from a life of real poverty and possible starvation. There's a lot of those types of people in this book.

If you learn nothing else from this book it's that you find out why you should NEVER EVER "like" Tom Hanks fan facebook page!

I give this book a solid 3.5 stars out of 5, and I'm pleased to have another good short story experience!

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Book Review: "A Life in Secrets: Vera Atkins and the Missing Agents of WWII" by Sarah Helm

I've said this at least 10 times, I don't do well with spy novels. But, a nonfiction book that talks about spies? Sign me up buttercup.

There was all kinds of espionage going on during WWII (hello most obvious sentence that I will probably write this week). If you were with the British, you might have made contact with a woman named Vera Atkins. This woman was mysterious with a capital M. (But not *that* M, though he's in there too). She was the last person that many British spies saw as they loaded onto airplanes that would drop them into Nazi occupied France, or one of the other lowland countries.

Vera took her responsibilities so seriously, but she wasn't this, like super loving den mother type. She was empathetic and kind but never let anyone get too close to her, and didn't get too close to too many people. To some she was even loving, but to others she was frosty and disapproving. This didn't always serve her well. The people that she was most concerned about was the young lady spies who she sent to the continent to serve.

During the war some spies were captured, or didn't make contact or any other number of other things; and lost contact with their handlers. When the war ended, Vera made it her mission to find these spies. (I was like, uh duh, of course someone has to go find out what happened to them. But she got a surprisingly lot of push back from the upper ups. They initially gave her 3 months to find something like 15 people in super chaotic post war Europe.There was some serious a*holeness going on around there though, as governments usually do.) The good news is that she found out what happened to all of them. The bad news is, there were almost no happy endings. But there were tales of bravery, courage, selflessness and honor under the worst circumstances imaginable. God bless those men and women for their incredible, astounding bravery.

Here are the cons: the book is a little tough sometimes (spoiler: one of the girls may have gotten put into a furnace alive), and there are SO many names to remember. It's a big cast of characters, and then since their spies they all have like, 4 names a piece and that gets to be a lot.

I wrestled with my rating, but I'm going to put it at a 3.5. If you have an interest in spies, World War II, mysterious women and bravery get thee to the library or indie bookseller in your area and pick this up!


Monday, November 2, 2015

Words I always spell wrong

Words I consistently spell wrong:

Words I only spell correctly because a pop song has taught me to spell it:

Word I only spell correctly because of a grade school cheerleading routine:

Word I can spell because I have to type it at work all the time:

I'm generally not a bad speller, but how can a book blogger not spell reccommend right? Isn't that our bread and butter?

What words can you never spell right?


Friday, October 30, 2015

Rapid Fire Book Review #7 and Giveaway Winner Announced!

To wrap up our Little Princess Read A Long Jamie and I are talking about the 90s version of the movie. Pop over and reminisce!

"The Good Shufu: Finding Love, Self and Home on the Far Side of the World" by Tracy Slater

I have very few good things to say about this book. The one part that I thought was interesting was the interesting cultural aspects of Japan. The author kind of drove me crazy, and I feel a little bit bad for criticizing her life because it's hers, but I wanted to throttle her a lot. It was packed full of #richwhitepeopleproblems. Other people liked this book though so...

"Church of Spies: The Pope's Secret War Against Hitler" by Mark Riebling

The Vatican STILL gets a lot of flack for not having been a louder voice against Hitler and the Nazis. This book suggests that they orchestrated a lot of spying and undercover operations, though for most (self included) a very loud, very angry "This Hitler guys is a mass murdering demon and whoever kills him first gets into heaven the fastest". Or something similar. The best part about this book was learning about a man named Wilhelm Canaris. This man was extraordinary. He joined the Nazi party early, because he thought they would stop Communism. And then once Canaris saw the Nazis for what they really were he did everything he could to destroy it from the inside. He was also close for a time with the Nazi who (possibly) makes me the angriest, Heydrich. He took a hard turn, and I think earned his redemption. He was executed the same day and the same place as Dietrich Bonhoeffer, another super compelling figure. Here's his wikipedia. I'm officially on the prowl for a biography. (Cover is not good though)


Strands of Gold and Bronze by Jane Nickerson

Am I a sucker for a fairy tale retelling? Yes, yes I am. This one takes the legend of Bluebeard and plops it in Mississippi in the mid-1800s. The main girl was a little bit slow to catch on, and I think there were a lot of characters that could have been expanded to make a more interesting story; but overall a good fast, fluff read.


Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller
I read this book because several of my book blogger friends raved about it. Were they right to rave? Indeedy. I've never zipped through a 200 page book so quickly, I really needed to know what happened next. It's tense and interesting and the end makes you choke a little.


Aaaaaaaaaaaaaand our giveaway winner is.......Jamie from Books and Beverages! Thanks for participating everyone! I really appreciate it! And so do the animals at the animal shelter where they will love the box of donated goodies! (Also I appreciate that this looks totally rigged but there were only 8 entries and Jamie did 3 so odds were in her favor, haha)