Showing posts with label Books. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Books. Show all posts

How I Listen To Audiobooks For Free (Or Cheap)





Sometime last year I became aware of the vast array of audiobooks that are available these days - and I also became aware of how much more "reading" I could sneak in through audiobooks!  Who says you can't read and drive at the same time?

I listen to audiobooks while I drive places, while I fold laundry, while I cook dinner, and while I clean out closets (the current project).  I've listened to them while doing yard work.  I've even listened to them before I go to sleep when all the lights are out.  On top of all that, there are a lot of books I know I would never even get around to reading that I've been able to cross off my list because of the wonder of audiobooks.  I'm a big fan!

So for those of you who might be interested in giving audiobooks a try, I wanted to share how I've obtained quite a few books to listen to for free (or very inexpensively).  Here are all my secrets.  You are welcome.


Overdrive

If you have not heard of Overdrive pull out your phone right now and sign up!  It's an app that works through your public library, so you do need a library card.  Once you are all signed up, you have access to an unbelievable array of ebooks and audiobooks!  I really got started through this app, and it's so nice because if you come across an audiobook that just isn't doing it for you, you've invested no money and there are many more waiting for you to try.  

Audiobooks.com

I signed up for Audiobooks.com because I saw a book I wanted to listen to on there, and realized that Audiobooks.com gives you a free audiobook credit for signing up!  Shortly after signing up, I also got an email with an offer for another free credit for leaving an iTunes review.  That's two free audiobooks!  It is a monthly subscription membership, but you can cancel anytime, so I just cancelled before I got charged for another book credit.

Audiobooks.com also has a fantastic selection of free audiobooks that you can download and listen to through the app.  These include a lot of classics!  Some are Librivox recordings that have been compiled into an audiobook format through the app, which is the most convenient way I have found to access Librivox audiobooks.  Some of the free books I am most excited about (for myself and for the kids) are Under The Lilacs by Louisa May Alcott, The Wind In The Willows by Kenneth Grahame, Chronicles Of Avonlea by Lucy Maud Montgomery (never read this one), Dr. Doolitte, Little Bear, The Bobbsey Twins books, and more!

Audible

Most people think of the monthly membership fee with Audible, but in case you weren't aware, you can download the Audible app and use it without creating a monthly membership.  And why would you do this?  Download the app now and go to the "Channels" tab.  Look at the top and choose "Featured".  Scroll down a bit and you should see a banner for free audiobooks to stream for Amazon Prime members!  I'm listening to Pride and Prejudice right now, under "Celebrity Voices, Classic Stories".  They have a selection of 20+ free, high-quality audiobooks that you can stream right now.

You can also sign-up for a membership trial for two free books, and if you don't decide to keep it, you can cancel anytime (even before you are charged the first time).  I haven't used the two-free-books deal yet, because I'm waiting until I finish more of the audiobooks I already have, but rest assured, I will be taking advantage of that in the future!

ChristianAudio

ChristianAudio is another audiobooks service much like the two listed above, and they also offer a free book for signing up for a membership (haven't taken advantage of this yet either, but I will eventually).  However, ChristianAudio is great because they actually offer a free audiobook each month, just for entering your email.  No other strings attached!  They also have a reviewer program that you can sign up for to receive free audiobooks - this is open to you even if you aren't a blogger!

Amazon Whispersync

This is the option where you have to pay, but at a deeply discounted price.  Amazon often offers Whispersync audiobooks as a package deal with their Kindle books - this is neat because you can switch between the ebook and audiobook anytime, and Whispersync will save your place.  If you are interested in a book, check the Kindle version on Amazon, and then look underneath the price.  If Whispersync is available, there will be a checkbox to "add Whispersync audio for $______."  These deals are often great for audiobooks, especially if the Kindle book also happens to be on sale.  The best deal I've gotten was probably the Anne Of Green Gables audiobook and Kindle book combo for $2.  Read the ebook in the Kindle app, and be sure to download the Audible app to listen to the audio - all of your Whispersync audiobooks will show up under your Amazon account in the app!

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And to finish this off, I wanted to answer a common question:  

"Isn't it hard to listen to audiobooks with kids running around?  I wouldn't be able to focus."

While I understand why you might think that, I don't have a problem with this for two reasons.  

First, I don't expect to be able to sit with my eyes closed and focus on every word of my audiobook (which is the only way I would hear every word of my audiobook).  You can enjoy an audiobook without being 100% focused on it, and you might just have to realize that even if you miss a sentence here and there, you are will still hear and understand and enjoy 95% of what's going on.  The question is, is it okay if you lose 5% of non-critical words through listening to the audio version as a mom of young kids, with all the distractions that entails?  I say it's okay.  It's okay with me.  It's the tradeoff for getting more books in through taking advantage of audiobooks.  And if the thought of missing a few sentences really bothers you, try picking a book you aren't as invested in from among some of the free options I listed here!  Sometimes I'll choose to listen to books I've already read, or books I feel a little more casual about, to ensure I don't feel like missing that 5% robbed me of something.

Second, earbuds.  A lot of audiobooks, even Christian ones, aren't necessarily appropriate for young kids, so most of the time I listen through my earbuds.  This also helps me to be able to still hear my book when I'm cooking dinner and the kids are running through the house driving fire trucks on the wood floors (very noisy).  I really want to get some sort of wireless earbuds (like these maybe? I can't afford Airpods, so these look like an acceptable alternative), because that will make my audiobook-listening even more accessible and convenient!  I'm thinking these would be great for situations like working out and listening without wires connecting me to my phone, or sneaking my earbuds in while waiting for a doctor's appointment.  This will open up even more audiobook listening opportunities!

So there you go, all my audiobooks tips and secrets!  

Do you listen to audiobooks?  What has been your favorite audiobook?

The only other word of caution is that a narrator can really make or break an audiobook, so I'd be interested to hear if anyone has a favorite!









The 10 Books I Am Bringing On Vacation




Let's talk about the books I am planning on bringing with me on vacation this year!  I hope I'm not the only one who puts a lot of pressure on myself to pick the perfect books to bring on vacation.  I went so far as to include book-buying purchases in my vacation budget this year.  It's that important to have a good book to read on a road trip! (Let's just overlook the fact that I can't even read in the car without feeling nauseous these days.  I still need the books.)

I typically like books that are light-hearted, quick reads on vacation - the typical beach read, but I went a slightly different direction this year.  This time I chose books that I knew would probably not disappoint me.  After spending last year's vacation on a book that ended with a not-great message, I wanted to skip over moral depravity and choose something a little more likely to contribute to my intellectual growth.  And of course something that I'd enjoy reading.  So here we go!

(I hope you don't mind that I used affiliate links below.  Trying to up my chances of recouping some book costs, since I spent too much on vacation books...yikes!)


Fiction/Non-Fiction Books

The last time we took this particular trip, I made it through five books on my vacation.  That's alot, even for me! However, I chose five books for this trip as well.  I highly doubt I'l get through all of these since they are all a bit more meaty than the books I brought with my the last time we went to Arizona, but still, it's best to be prepared when it comes to books.



Persuasion - Ever since I finished my third Jane Austen book in high school, I've been hesitant to pick up another one.  Not because I didn't enjoy it, but because I had precious few Jane Austen books left, and if I read them all I would never again have a new Jane Austen book to read.  I realize now how silly this was, since I've been itching to pick up Emma as a re-read.  I am not a re-reader, but I will re-read Jane Austen and probably enjoy it every bit as much as the first time.  Still, Persuasion is one of her books that I haven't read yet.  I've decided I need to just go ahead and read all of Austen's works instead of trying to spread them out.

Deal Alert!! You can actually get the kindle version of Persuasion for free and add the Audible narration for $0.49, as of the last time I checked!  Get yourself over there and grab it if you are a fellow Austen fan!

My Cousin Rachel - I picked this up because I read Rebecca last year.  And despite that book ending rather horribly (it's not really a spoiler because you kind of get that sense of impending doom from the start), I somehow weirdly really liked it.  I feel like maybe it's not a great book for a Christian girl to enjoy, but I kind of did.  Even the ending was a weird sort of poetic justice that was weirdly satisfying.  In a weird way.  Anyway, Du Maurier's writing is just fun to me because in Rebecca there was just the right amount of creepy, so I decided to just go for it and try My Cousin Rachel.  I'll keep you posted on how it goes.

The Big Four - You just cannot go wrong with Agatha Christie.

The Choir Immortal - This book was still in the mail when I took the picture above.  Several years ago I read House Of Living Stones, and I loved it and then forgot about it...until I realized that Schuermann's third book in the series was coming out and I hadn't read the second!  I remember liking the characters and small-church-in-a-small-town atmosphere in the first book, and I'm looking forward to seeing what happens next.  This is just my happy book, in case I get tired of the potential tragedy and crime from the other books on this list.  

The Life-Giving Home - Two different people recommended this book to me recently, and then I saw that Elizabeth was reading it too...so I decided to go for it!  I've read a bit by Clarkson, but this will be my first full book by her.


Activity Books

And of course, no road trip is complete without some fun activity books, right?



Wipe-Clean Usborne Books (this is my blog friend's consultant link, just FYI) - I wanted something for the kids to do in the car that wouldn't get too messy or complicated, and I thought these books looked fun! They include a bunch of mazes, tracing, etc, with a dry erase marker that wipes clean.  I think the kids will love them.  I got four, even though I'll probably confiscate Clarice's pen...or give her a washable marker that matches her shirt.  But she would be indignant if I left her out.

True North Guide To The Grand Canyon - We're going to Arizona this year, and I remembered these guides from the homeschool conference I went to last year.  I hold to a young earth creationist perspective, and was excited to see these guides from Ken Ham's publishing company (I'm a Ken Ham fan).  I'm excited to take these along as we tour the Grand Canyon on vacation!  It'll also give me some interesting things to tell the kids about what we're looking at (since I don't think they'll be as awed by the Grand Canyon as we are.)



Audubon's North America Field Guide To Wildflowers: Western Region - This one is me trying to sneak a little more nerdy nature study/science in on this trip, for me and the kids. Plus, I've been dying to have this guide for a while, and I figured this was a good chance for me to use it!

Sodoku - I haven't done a Sudoku puzzle in forever, and I'm horrible at them, so I'm not sure what possessed me when I picked up this book.  I am hoping I won't get quite as carsick with this, as opposed to regular book in which I will be sick for an entire day if I dare read a chapter.  We shall see.  I am also packing pencils and erasers.

Brain Games - Unlike me, Derek is the Sudoku master, and whizzed right through the extra-super-hard puzzle book I bought him last time, so I'm hoping some of these will stump him.

What kind of books do you like to bring on vacation?





Fraying At The Edge Review (Enjoyed It)

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I haven't read an Amish fiction book in so long, and the description of Fraying At The Edge piqued my interest.  The story is about two girls, one Amish and one secular, who were switched at birth.  The mistake is discovered, lawsuits are threatened, and the girls are forced to go live with their biological families...and experience a whole new world that they know nothing about.

I really enjoyed this book, and thought the author did an excellent job with some of the internal struggles with the characters.  Even the character that I didn't want to like, a drug addict with an attitude, I couldn't help but sympathize with.  She made the characters really believable and at the same time likable.

I listened to the audio of this book, and I think they picked a great narrator.  I thought she really brought out the characters emotions well.  Often with women narrators I think it sounds creepy when they read the male characters' lines, but this narrator did an excellent job at reading male characters.  She did a different voice for each character, but in such a natural way that it didn't feel ridiculous or weird at all.

I didn't realize this book was part of a trilogy until I got close to the end and couldn't figure out how the author was going to wrap everything up!  Now I want to pick up the next book to see what happens!  This was not your typical Amish fiction, because it brought in both worlds in such an interesting way, and I really enjoyed it!

Note: I received the audiobook for Fraying At The Edge for free from christianaudio in exchange for a review. This is my honest opinion.

Craving Connection Review

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So through no fault of it's own, this book was not what I thought it was.  I picked up Craving Connection thinking it was formatted more like a traditional book.  When I read the back cover more closely later, I realized that this book is actually written by multiple authors and contains personal stories about how these women have found connection with others.

Overall, I thought the book was good.  It was hard to get past the initial "this is not what I was expecting", but once I did get over it I started to enjoy it.  Since each chapter is written by a different author/blogger, it was more like reading a collection of blog posts than a book...and with that came a lot of variety.  Some of the chapters I really enjoyed and felt challenged by, and some were just okay.  

After each chapter are a couple quotes and some short "challenges" to help you get started in connecting with your community.  I liked those sections, but found myself skipping past them a bit toward the end of the book, but mostly because the format was different in the version I read.  I'd love to see how pretty everything looks in the print and finished Kindle versions of this book!

This is more of a devotion type book, so if you pick it up I'd say to expect to read it in short sections.  It's not the type of book you can sit down and read several chapters at once, at least for me.  However, I enjoyed it overall!

Note: I received a digital galley of this book for free in exchange for a review.  This is my honest opinion.

Quick Tips For Busy Families Review (Thumbs Up)

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This book - Quick Tips For Busy Families - caught my eye when I saw it on a book review list a couple months ago.  It has taken me forever to finish it - not because it isn't good, but because it's just what the title says, quick tips!  

Each chapter is short and to-the-point, but every page is also full of great ideas for ways to use teachable moments with your kids, fun stuff to do together, creative discipline ideas, and encouragement to use every opportunity to train your child in the way they should go.  I found myself not necessarily wanting to skip to the next chapter, because I wanted to remember some of the things he had just shared!  Not all of the chapters pertained to me (a lot of them included school/teacher-realted tips, which I probably won't need since we're homeschooling), but I still got a lot out of this book.

This definitely isn't a book to read once and put forever on the shelf, it's a book that could be a reference when you need a quick shot of encouragement or creativity in parenting.  I really enjoyed it!

Note: I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for a review.  This is my honest opinion.

The Illusionist's Apprentice - Great Book

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I wasn't sure what to expect going into The Illusionist's Apprentice by Kristy Cambron.  I don't know much about 1920's vaudeville, and I don't even know that much about Harry Houdini (besides that he was an amazing illusionist).  This book sucked me right into that world though!

This book opens with a man named Stapleton supposedly raising a man from the dead - only to have him die moments later.  Wren Lockhart, a famous illusionist, is very skeptical and dislikes when performers feed off of other's grief...so she agrees to help Elliot Matthews, an FBI agent who is investigating the supposedly-raised-to-life man's death.  However, it quickly becomes clear that this mystery goes a lot deeper than a trick, involving Wren's past that she would rather keep buried.

While this book is subtly Christian, with passing references to Christ being the only man to truly conquer death, the story itself wasn't rooted in the Christian faith.  Sometimes it bothers me having a book with hardly any trace of Christianity coming from a Christian publisher, but the way Cambron handled her story made it seem more natural.  If she had forced in too many faith references it would have been awkward, so I understood it in this book, and it seemed to work.  I'd say this book isn't overtly "Christian", but has some Christian influences since the author is a believer.

I thought this book was so well-written.  The whole thing had a mysterious air about it, before we even got to the mystery part of the story, and I credit that to Cambron's ability to create atmosphere.  The author weaves in so many elements to the story but really manages to make it all cohesive.  I was rooting for Wren and Elliot right from the start, and their romance was full of old-style flair.  The author also seemed to take a lot of care with her historical facts, and wove in so many pieces of history that I didn't recognize them all until I read her Afterword - still it gave a really authentic feel to this book.  I also liked what the author did with some of the secondary characters, and everyone's personality was colorful and distinct.  I'll definitely be keeping an eye out for more books by Cambron!

Note: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a review.  This is my honest opinion.

Treasured Grace (Not Recommended)



1/5 stars.

I have to admit, I didn't enjoy this book.

The back cover of Treasured Grace by Tracie Peterson sounded interesting, which was why I picked it up.  I had read a book by Peterson in the past, and though I didn't remember loving that one, I thought I'd give her another shot.  I probably would have thought better of it if I had realized this book was about a massacre.

I don't have a problem with books that deal with tragedy, but I have little patience for historical fiction books that portray historical events by heaping one tragic event after another upon the characters, with no lighthearted moments to break it up.  That's what this book did, and by the end I was just so tired of the book.  It felt like every time something got slow she'd throw another death or other difficult situation in there to try to keep it interesting.

This book also just dragged on and on to me, and I think that is because I just don't personally like Peterson's writing style.  I felt like a lot of the deaths and tragedies felt cold, because I never felt like we really got into the character's heads and emotions.  The author was just telling us how the characters were feeling instead of letting us feel things with them, if that makes sense.  The characters seemed one-dimensional, and any personal histories that were woven into the story seemed like an afterthought, instead of something that was incorporated from the beginning.  There was nothing really driving the plot forward, it just felt like a bunch of historical events and personal tragedies were strung together, and that was it.  

I also felt like Peterson tried to address too much in this book.  This book tried to address loveless marriage, alternative medicine, hypocrisy, racism, death and grief, r.ape, abortion, adoption - all in one book, and it was too much.  I couldn't pick out an overall theme or point to the story.  

I also had little confidence in Peterson's portrayal of historical events.  Some of the historical figures were portrayed in less than flattering ways, and she provided no historical research to back up her representation of their personalities.  I'm thinking particularly of Dr. Whitman, the missionary involved in the massacre, who came off like a total jerk.  When I read historical fiction, I like to know that the author tried her best to get it right, and I didn't see the effort here aside from a short note at the beginning of the book.  There was no explanation of her research and why she included certain figures/events/conversations.  It felt careless.

On top of that, I find the main character very unrelatable, and almost unlikeable.  She acted like a know-it-all and got on my nerves.  This is obviously just a personality conflict between me and the character (that does happen, and I don't blame the author for that).

Finally, and this was disturbing to me - there was also a comment on page 89-90 where a character made a very sympathetic statement about someone wanting to marry their dog...I think it might have been a joke, but the context didn't seem like that statement was a joke.  No characters laughed after he said it.  Some people might not take this seriously, but I do, because I know in many countries around the world people do actually marry animals.  And it's animal abuse, and it's sick.  That sentence came out of left field and made me very uncomfortable.  We no longer live in a global culture where a sentence like that can automatically be counted as a joke, and I have no idea what she was getting at by including it.

The one thing I did think she did well was to incorporate the salvation message into her story.  She did it very naturally I thought, and I like when Christian authors take that kind of effort.  However, I can hardly give the author any points for that considering my other problems with the book, especially the seemingly sympathetic reference to be.asti.ality.

Overall, this book just really wasn't for me at all.  Others with different tastes may like it more.  I will not be reading Peterson again.


Note: I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for a review.  This is my honest opinion.

Love Story Book Review

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I was so excited that I got the chance to read Karen Kingsbury's new novel before it comes out in June!  Many years ago I got sucked into the world of the Baxters through Kingsbury's books, and it's been exciting to see her writing more books about them again.

In Love Story, we finally learn the full story of John and Elizabeth Baxter, how they met and fell in love, and how Elizabeth was sent away to have their first baby out of wedlock, forced to give the baby up for adoption.  That sounds terribly sad if you haven't already read the rest of the Baxter Family books and know how it all worked out, so I wouldn't recommend reading this book at all unless you've read the rest of the books in those series.  A lot of the characters and stories in this book won't make sense or mean as much if you don't already have the backstory from the other books.

I also liked how Kingsbury gave us updates on Bailey's marriage and Cody's life through this book.  Bailey and Cody were some of my favorite characters from her series, and it was fun to see how things are working out for them.  

The only thing I haven't loved about Kingsbury's books in the past is how she will have God "speak" to her characters.  At times she has even said that the characters heard God's voice audibly, and I have had concerns with whether she is giving the correct impression of how a Christian can expect to hear from God.  I'd hate to have a Christian who was younger in their faith feel like they must be missing some way that God is speaking to them, instead of realizing that God speaks to us through His word, the Bible.  There were a couple instances in this book, but I do appreciate how she almost always has God "speak" something that comes from a Bible verse at least.  Thankfully I find that Kingsbury has been toning down that aspect of her stories in her more recent books, which has let me enjoy them even more.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and finished most of it in one sitting on a Sunday afternoon. Kingsbury's writing is done in a  way that keeps you reading, and I'm a sucker for a happy ending.  If you have read any of the Baxter books in the past, I definitely recommend catching up with the Baxters and Flannigans with this book!

Note:  I received a digital copy of this book for free in exchange for a review.  This is my honest opinion.

Deep Undercover (Highly Recommend)

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I didn't really make New Year's resolutions this year, but I mentioned before that an unofficial "goal" for me is to read more about the Cold War.  The Cold War was kind of a big deal, and it's pretty amazing when you think about that we fought an entire war without any official shots being fired back and forth.  Like many millennials though, I didn't understand it that well, so this is the year I chose to remedy that.

Deep Undercover is the story of Jack Barsky, a former KGB spy turned proud American citizen and Christian.  I loved this book!  Barsky's story is written as narrative non-fiction, so it reads more like a novel, and it is fascinating.  This book gave me a really good idea of what it was like in East Germany in the post-World-War-II era, and how many East Germans thought their communist government was anti-Nazi, and the answer to the world's problems.  Even though Barsky doesn't realize until much later the atrocities that have been committed by communist regimes, it was fascinating to get a glimpse into how this ideology was explained to those who had to live under it, and how the American way of life was demonized and the truth hidden under government propaganda.  

Barsky is eventually recruited by the KGB, and the stories of his "spy training" were so interesting.  I think we have this glamorized view of spies in our culture, but this book made me see that a lot of these spies are just normal people, and their tasks are rather mundane.  Dangerous, but not necessarily glamorous.  It was so interesting.  The way he ended up defecting from the KGB was really clever too!  I didn't see it coming.

The best part of this book was reading about how Barsky's view of the US (and Christianity) started to change when he actually started living here, how he developed a love of freedom through experiencing it in America and realized how much of that freedom the people in East Germany did not have.  

After many personal and family struggles, Barsky ends up hiring an assistant who is a Christian.  He researches the Christian faith and eventually comes to know Jesus as His Savior.  This was the coolest part of the story to me.  Barsky never found out why exactly he was recruited to the KGB, but if he hadn't been recruited, he never would have formed a life in America, and perhaps never would have come to Christ.  It was amazing to see God working through his life, even as a KGB spy.

I highly recommend this book.  Even if you aren't particularly interested in the Cold War, this book was an absolutely fascinating read!  I couldn't find a big enough chunk of time to finish it in one sitting, but I was sorry every time I had to put it down!

Note: I received a copy of this book free from the publisher in exchange for a review.  This is my honest opinion. 

Noah, Noah, What Do You See? (Children's Book Giveaway!)



I have been gathering a lot of classic picture books for the kids over the years, and one of them is "Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?"  I find that book to be a little repetitive (I know, I know, that's the point).


(Affiliate link below.)

However, Tommy Nelson just came out with a Christian version of that book called "Noah, Noah, What Do You See?"  And I have to say, I like this one so much!  It's written by the same people act wrote "Brown Bear", but this one is focused on Bible stories!

Each page features a major Bible hero and asks them "what they see".  Then a snippet of each Bible story is given.  At the end, all these people are gathered together with Jesus, and Jesus "sees" all these people seeking after Him.

The illustrations in this book are gorgeous, it's a board book (always a plus for me), and the Bible references are given on each page as well so it is easy to look up the full story in the Bible.  The thing I love best about it is how it keeps the spirit of "Brown Bear, Brown Bear" but is so much more meaningful (and a lot more fun to read, in my opinion).  It's definitely a winner around here!



HINT: This would also be a great space-filler for Easter baskets!

And the great news - Tommy Nelson is giving away a copy to one of YOU! You can enter either by commenting here and telling me your favorite children's book, or by entering on Instagram (or both).  I'll announce the winner next week!

(Giveaway open to US residents only.  Ends 4/2 at 11:59 PM.)


Note: I received a copy of this book for free as part of the Tommy Mommy program.  This is my honest opinion.

The Simplest Way To Change The World




If you are a Christian, read this book!

You might remember that the main goal I have chosen for this year is to reach out to those around me more.  So when I say that a book on hospitality was up for review a couple months ago, I requested it immediately.

The Simplest Way To Change The World (affiliate link) discusses biblical hospitality, both in terms of biblical teachings on hospitality and in terms of practical way we can become hospitable people.  I got so much out of this book.

What I really liked about this book was the way the authers discussed theological topics relating to hospitality, and alternated those chapters with practical suggestions.  

On the theological side, they framed the gospel in terms of hospitality in one chapter, writing about how in Scripture God is a hospitable God, and I found that really interesting.  They discussed the truth of the Gospel and what Jesus did in dying to save us, and expressed how that is what motivates us to reach out to those around us with biblical hospitality.

Some of the best chapters were definitely on the practical suggestions though.  The authors know that opening your home and lives to those around you is hard in this culture, in which it is more normal to lock yourself behind closed doors to "relax" than to open the doors and invite people in.  They gave so many practical and fun suggestions for starting to open your homes to other people.  I loved how they encouraged you to incorporate hospitality into the regular rhythms of your life, and how they made it seem easy and desirable to become more hospitable (even while acknowledging the parts that are hard and sharing their own mistakes).  

The end of the book includes a group study guide - I think this would make an amazing small group study.

Everything the authors had to say on how hospitality can be the most effective way to reach other people for Christ was spot-on.  You don't have to preach from the sidewalk, give a "gospel presentation", travel to foreign countries, or do something "radical" to reach other for the Lord.  Through simply being hospitable, we "share our lives" with people and naturally let them see how important Jesus is in our lives through words and actions - and God can use that to stir their hearts to know more.

Highly, highly recommend this book!  Easy and enjoyable to read, convicting and motivating!

Note: I received a digital copy of this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for a review.  This is my honest opinion.

Behind The Scenes Review




When I was a teenager, my sister and I had a couple groups of friends who like dot write stories.  We would labor over those stories when we got together or between seeing each other, and then we'd read them to each other and laugh and laugh.

(Affiliate links below - you know, so I can buy more books.)

Behind The Scenes by Jen Turano reminded me of those stories, in the best possible way.

In this book, the main character, Permillia, is an official wallflower, relegated to the edges of all the exciting society events.  However, that's just fine with her since she writes an anonymous society column for a local newspaper and is more interested in business than marrying well. However, on the night of a certain ball she not only makes better acquaintance with a gentlemen named Asher Rutherford, but she also learns of a murder plot with him as the target.  She is determined to either figure out who is trying to murder Asher, or at the least make him take the threat seriously.

What I Liked

This is one of those books with over-the-top characters and situations, but done in a really fun and comical way - and I loved that!  I love light-hearted historical fiction that avoids that "tragedy" formula and takes a comedy route instead.  That was the part that reminded me of the stories I used to write with my friends, because I have always loved a story or book that can make me laugh, and this one delivered!

The ending of this book was nearly perfect too, with almost every loose end tied up in a nice bow.  Some people don't appreciate that because they like their fiction to be more true to real life...I am not one of those people, and if you are, this is probably not your book!  I loved everything that was slightly over-the-top, and I loved that everything came out alright in the end.  It was just fun!

What I Didn't Like

Permillia's character was a little too ambitious for me at times, and it seemed she expected everyone else to recognize her value.  She came off as lecturing other people when she really wasn't in a position to be lecturing.  All this was framed within the context of the women's suffrage movement, since this story takes place during that time.  However, Permillia did not come off as pursuing a good cause (like women's right to vote, etc.), but instead she just seemed arrogant, which is a character flaw not really addressed in this book.  She seemed like a know-it-all in places.  Despite that, I still liked her character overall.

The only other thing that I had a problem with was in the scene where Permillia learns her father and stepmother were really only married because they were using each other.  Her stepmother used her father to escape financial ruin, and her father used her stepmother to help Permillia become more accepted in society.  When this all officially comes out, there are tons of accusations and very hurtful words hurled between the parents, and between Permillia and her stepsister, with a couple of side characters even joining in with the verbal thrashing.  It was probably meant to be amusing, but I did not find this scene funny.  Even though this book wasn't meant to be realistic, even over-the-top fictional characters would have a hard time coming back from that.  

In the end, this sad conflict with Permillia's family was the one loose end that wasn't tied up well.  I wanted relationships to be repaired, especially in the marriage of Permillia's father and stepmother, because the careless words they flung at each other really seemed to bring down the whole view of marriage itself within this book.  So I'm taking off a star for that.

Conclusions

Even though those last two books sound fairly bad when they're all typed out, just take my word for it that the book overall was fun and funny and lighthearted!  Despite my couple of bones to pick, I really enjoyed reading it, and I'd still recommend it if you want some not-too-serious reading!  It comes out in April if you want to check it out, or preorder here!

Note: I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for an honest review.  

Speaking Of "Spring"...




From Winter To Spring


In one way or another springtime here always disappoints me.

I used to truly hate springtime, mostly because where I live the season inevitably means one thing - mud. Lots and lots of mud.  However, springtime in the mountains has started to surprise me.  The last couple springs have been unseasonably warm, with blue skies and flowers that have started to sprout early.

This last week I thought we may be in for another uncharacteristically nice spring, but I'm still on guard because the air as I type this on Saturday has a bit of chill sneaking back in.  So even during "nice" springs, you just never know when we will be right back to winter.  I'm dubbing it the springtime blues.  You are happy that the weather is so beautiful, but you are sad because you know it's not going to last that long.

It's an emotional roller coaster, I tell you.

In-Between Seasons Clothing

Regardless, I thought I'd just talk today about transitioning from winter to spring, in more ways than one!  First clothing, and in particular, shoes.  I am so happy that laced suede flats are a trend right now, because I think they are perfect for those transition seasons, when you don't really know what to wear.






Floral Tank: Papaya
Drapey Utility-Inspired Jacket: TJ Maxx
Jeans: JustFab (my referral links here)
Shoes: JustFab

All About Birding

For the uninitiated, "birding" is the modern term for "bird-watching".  Don't let a birder catch you saying "bird-watching", because I hear it's a major faux-pas.  I've mentioned before that one of my favorite movies is The Big Year, and every time I watch it I get in the mood to break out my binoculars and find some birds.  Last year when we went to Yellowstone was when it started, because there were so many varieties of birds there.  I saw an American White Pelican!  I don't think I've seen a pelican in my life before that.

As if I needed another reason to just give birding a try, I saw in one of my homeschool Facebook groups that the Great Backyard Bird Count is starting right now.  This is a citizen-study put on by Cornell every year.  It helps them gather information on bird migration patterns, and it helps citizens (like me) get outside and identify some birds.  I decided we would participate and incorporate it into our school days.  

Our first day out was not overly successful.  I heard a chickadee and saw a Dark-eyed Janko.  But to be honest, I was just guessing as to what bird it was.  I poured over websites and books for almost an hour trying to figure out what it was that I saw.  It was a 7-9 inch bird with a chestnut-colored back, and blackish and white tail feathers.  I settled on the Janko, because it's very common and also the only bird that even vaguely fit that description.  

I'm sure I'll get better at this whole thing eventually and won't have to spend an hour identifying each bird, right?

The Book-Buying Urge

Even though I wouldn't say spring has officially started at all, this spring-like weather is conjuring spring-like thoughts.  Spring makes me think about saving money for the homeschool conference, and preparing for next school year (oh, the life of a homeschool mom), which makes me think about picking curriculum for first grade (even though we are still in the midst of kindergarten).  And since I am an eclectic homeschooler with an emphasis on "living books", it makes me want to buy books for the kids.

My Usborne party was a declared success, and I have a big 'ole batch of books coming my way from them soon (more on that when they arrive!).  Last Saturday I also took a shopping trip by myself, and there is a local thrift store that has a particularly good selection of books.  Seriously, every time I go there I find a bunch of classic children's books.  I am baffled.  Who is giving away all these good books?  I must be in a sweet-spot, surrounded by parents with kids just a little older than mine who give all their good children's books away to this one thrift store.  This is my haul (excuse the fact that I'm talking so fast, Derek was waiting for me and I was in a rush!).





I may have gone a little overboard.  It's hard not to do when you can get each book for $1.50 each! This batch of books would have cost me at least $160 on Amazon, and that's if I bought each one of them used.

Old School Blogger Shout-Out

Just one today, for the sake of time!  Alex from Inspiration Clothesline is a long-time blog friend.  Go check out her most recent post where she announced being pregnant with her FOURTH baby!  So cute!

What I'm Drinking: Still to be determined.  Coffee?  Peppermint tea?  Something that will wake me up and give me energy for our homeschool playdate this morning.


Of Stillness And Storm



2/5 stars

So I just finished this book, and I'm sitting here with my mind whirling, trying to decide how to describe it.  I'm torn between knowing what the author's aim was and thinking she accomplished her goal really well, and also thinking that I am not completely thrilled with the final tone of this book.

I was going to try to keep this spoiler-free, but then I realized that if it were me reading this review, I would want enough spoilers to decide if it was going to be a book that was worth reading to me personally.  So there are some slight spoilers below.  You've been warned.

What I Liked

The best way to describe this book is a cautionary tale, on three fronts, and I guess what I liked about the book was that the author got her points across in a really powerful way.  

1. The first is a cautionary tale about what can happen when Christians put a supposed call to ministry ahead of their families.  This book follows Lauren and Sam as they meet, fall in love, and have a baby...then as they proceed onto the mission field.  However, it becomes clear pretty early on that "the call" is really Sam's exhaustive drive to bring about his own vision of what he wants to do with his life - and to bring his family along without regard to whether they are also feeling the same "call".  The results are disastrous and heartbreaking.  We watch Ryan, a happy six year old, slowly descend into a sullen teenager who feels rejected by his father in favor of Nepali villagers, and consequently rejected by God.  This brings him to a very dark place, and he attempts suicide.  This was especially hard for me to read, since I currently have a happy six year old.  However, I thought this is where the author made her point so well. The first ministry that we are given by God is to our own family, and any other ministry comes second to that...and mixing up the order can destroy lives and even faith.  This book is a sobering story, even chilling.

2. The second cautionary tale was about how easily one can slip into an emotional affair if they aren't careful.  In the process of the story, Lauren starts communicating with a childhood friend, and eventually becomes so infatuated or in love with him that it has negative effects on her marriage and family.

3. The third caution seems to be about submission, and how a wrong understanding of it can lead wives to submit to things that they know in their hearts go against God's plan.  This happened when Lauren kept submitting to Sam's missionary plans instead of listening to the Holy Spirit's still small voice that told her this wasn't right.  Unfortunately, Sam's character in this book is pretty single-minded in the worst way when it comes to the getting on the mission field (and though the book doesn't say it, I think it's for his own glory, not God's), and if Lauren stood up to him he would have gone without her.


What I Didn't Like

Appropriately, what I didn't like about this book can also be separated under those three points the author was trying to make.

1. First, with regards to priorities in ministry - I felt that in the process of making this point, the author didn't do a satisfactory enough job (to me) in clarifying that God does not call us to sacrifice our families for the sake of ministry.  The book talked about how Lauren and Sam neglected Ryan, but I thought the author could have done a better job explaining how Sam's "call" really wasn't from God if Sam was willing to sacrifice his family for his own idea of what mission work should look like.  Phoenix attempts to show this in the end when she writes about how Lauren turns back to "her God", the God who loves His children and is grieved by all they excused in His name, as opposed to "Sam's God".  But it wasn't quite good enough for me, because it wasn't God at all who "called" Sam to abandon his family, and I wish that was shown more clearly.

2. Second, on emotional affairs - I felt that what Lauren did was never really presented as wrong.  Sure, Sam was totally neglecting and disregarding his family for his own glory, but I still think Lauren should have been more on guard, and at least recognized what she did wrong with regards to getting so involved with Aidan.  I don't feel like she ever did.  We as the reader are just left to our own devices on the morality of her emotional affair (note: it's not okay).  The consequences are seen, but the repentance is not.

3. Third, I kind of hate how this book threw in phrases like "the tyranny of submission", without really explaining more about biblical submission.  It makes submission the bad guy, when really I think it was a misapplication of submission.  I don't think the command for wives to submit to their husbands involves standing by and doing nothing while your child is neglected and goes down a dangerous path because of his parents' poor choices.  Lauren's character acted like she was helpless because of "submission", when really she just didn't want the conflict that would result if she stood up for what God was showing her about the effects of Sam's plan on their family.  And instead of seeking God about her struggle, she just distracts herself with her emotional affair (see above).  Not a great example of biblical submission at all, and maybe that was the point, but again, I wish it was clarified more.

Conclusions

I'd also just like to note that while there was a lot of talk of "reaching" people, there wasn't a lot of talk about what the characters were trying to reach them with.  Only passing references to the Gospel and Christ, but the characters themselves didn't seem to personally recognize what Christ did in dying to take away our sins and rising again, not in a way that impacted their lives - they were just going through the motions of "ministry", either to keep the peace (Lauren) or to do something "great" (Sam).  

Once again, maybe that was the point, but the bottom line is, I wouldn't recommend this to someone who didn't already know what it means to believe in Jesus to take away our sins, or have a strong foundation in their knowledge of what it means to be saved.  I appreciated what the author was trying to do here in presenting us with the perils of jumping recklessly into missions, but only because I am grounded in my faith.  For someone who doesn't really know what Christianity is about, this book presents a very negative view of "Christian" intentions gone amuck.  

I wish the salvation message had been presented more clearly through the ending in this story in case any non-believers pick it up, because without that this book lacked a shot of the Truth that I felt it desperately needed.  I wouldn't necessarily recommend it because of that.  I would recommend it with caution to believers in Jesus if they want a book that gets them thinking about the kind of struggles missionaries may face, and a book that gives a good shot in the arm about the importance of ministering to your own family - but don't expect to leave this book feeling encouraged, because you will be disappointed.

Note: I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for a review.  This is my honest opinion.

Silent Songbird Review (It Wasn't Great)



2/5 stars.

I picked The Silent Songbird by Melanie Dickerson because I love a good fairytale retelling, and I had never read one of Dickerson's before. However, I have to admit, I skimmed the second half of the book because it just didn't grab me and I found myself getting annoyed at a few things.

Positives

I really liked the idea of this story, which was somewhat of a fairytale retelling...the main character was like a mix of Ariel from The Little Mermaid and Merida from Brave (let's just ignore the fact that both of those are at the bottom of my list of favorite Disney Princesses).  The bones of the plot had a lot of potential.  The part I liked best about this book was that I thought the author did a pretty good job of incorporating faith into this book in a really natural way, including a brief presentation of the Gospel.  A lot of times this feels forced into Christian fiction, but I thought it was done pretty well in this book.


Negatives

There are a few reasons I wouldn't recommend this book.

(One) - I didn't like the way this book represented men.  For the most part, all the male characters were either villians, had questionable character, or were made to look ridiculous or unreasonable at some point. This was also reflected in the way some of the female characters talked about men.  The only man who was not portrayed negatively was Westley, and even he was made to look occasionally clueless. 

They also made him apologize to Eva a little excessively, in my opinion.  Why does he have to apologize for not unquestioningly accepting her word?  He didn't even know her!

(Two) - I also found many (really, a lot) of the situations in this book really not believable.  If Westley was supposed to be some sort of a noblemen, I just don't think he would be fraternizing so much with the servants in his house.  Whenever anything happened to Eva, he was always right there.

One particular scene stood out as a little ridiculous to me.  Eva is practicing her archery (and of course Westley happens to be there), and a friend of Westley (who Eva saw trying to kill Wesley earlier in the book), comes up and greets them in a friendly way.  Eva swings her arrow around and points it at the man, to "protect" Westley, and accuses and threatens the other man. 

Let's go over why this bugged me: 1) In the real world during this time, I'm pretty sure she would have been fired on the spot for the way she handled that, even if she was right about the man. 2) I hate how this situation made Wesley seem clueless and helpless.  Once again, it felt like a negative view of men being reflected in this scene.  3) I have a HUGE pet peeve about women "protecting" men in fiction or film, with the clueless man standing there doing nothing.  This always seems to me like a cheap ploy to make the heroine seem strong and "empowering", and it just really irks me.  It's a lazy way of making a woman seem "strong".  And I don't know what's particularly strong anyway about foolishly threatening to shoot a nobleman and accusing him without any proof!

And finally, I just have to mention how at one point the characters end up walking, eating food at a festival, and laughing together about how they just fended off the bad guys who almost murdered them.  Like they had just finished watching a movie instead of fighting for their lives! Oh boy.

(Three) - On top of all that, the writing in this book left much to be desired.  The characters felt really one-dimensional, and the plot didn't have a lot of internal tension, it was mostly driven by external situations.  It felt like the author just thought of a bunch of characters and events, and wrote it all out linearly without taking time to paint the scene or develop the characters or relationships.  Many of the scene-shifts were jarring (like the above scene for an example - one minute we're practicing archery, the next we are threatening to shoot somebody, with no real transition or glimpse into Eva's thought process for this rather foolish move).  It also felt like there was a lack of historical research for a book that was supposed to be set in 1300's England.  Dickerson threw in a couple nods to history and a few old English words, and seemed to think that was good enough, but I think even the intended audience of teenagers appreciates a well-researched and well-thought-out book.


Bottom Line - Though this book had the potential to be a cute story, the writing was not great, and the portrayal of men was troubling to me.  I wouldn't recommend this book to adult women because of the lack of depth, and I wouldn't recommend it to the intended audience (preteen/teen girls) because of the (in my opinion) generally negative portrayal of men.

Note: I received a digital copy of this book for free in exchange for a review.  This is my honest opinion. 

A Homeschool Usborne Book Wishlist (First Grade)



One of the most fun things about homeschooling so far has been researching and trying to decide on different curricula.  For Kindergarten we haven't really done a curriculum per se, we've just been working our way through a bunch of different books, doing crafts, and working on reading and math skills.  I haven't quite made up my mind what curriculum we will use for first grade this next year, but I've been searching through different options, and I've come to a conclusion - whatever we pick, I want to use (or build) a curriculum that uses real books.



We got Wyatt the Usborne Children's Encyclopedia for Christmas, and he poured over it for two days.  He asked me questions about all the pictures, and I told him what the words on the page said, and he was just fascinated.  It was so fun to watch him learning just for the joy of it.  While I think we will follow some sort of curriculum, I want to make sure we have plenty of interesting books around that fit in with what we are learning, to make the whole year more fun.

I've been making book lists galore, but today I wanted to focus on Usborne books!  A friend of mine, Brittney, asked me if I would host an Usborne Facebook party, and it sounded like a lot of fun - so I've been going through their thousands of books and making a list of the ones I'd like to get for school next year.  I'll share the ones I'm thinking about getting, but first, let's talk quickly about the ones I have, shall we?

Usborne Books We Already Have




The Children's Encyclopedia - Like I said above, this one has been a hit.  I think it's the full-page gorgeous illustrations that have really sucked Wyatt in.  I'm not going to lie, there were a few pages I felt the required more explanation (like the world religions or aliens pages), but they are easy enough to skip if you don't agree with or your child isn't ready for some of it.







How Things Work - This book is just so cool.  It's a flap book, and under each flap it gives pictures and descriptions about how the different things in this book work. 






Horses & Ponies and Weather - I bunch these together because they are the same type of book.  These books have fun illustrations and less text because they are meant for younger readers - but I love it because the few words are used really well, and these books get a lot deeper into the topics than you would expect them to.  They have a bunch of these on different topics, and I'm hoping to get more!




Birds Pocket Book - Have I mentioned that our family is really into birds?  We don't know a lot about distinguishing birds, but we would like to learn more.  All of my kids love flipping through the Audubon bird app on my phone, and this is like the book form!

Starting Chess (not pictured) - I forgot I had this one until I sat down to start typing!  Derek is very good at chess, and I picked this up as a supplement for when Wyatt is ready to start learning (which probably is sooner than I think).

So those are the books I have, now on to the books I want.

Usborne Books On My Homeschool To-Buy List

These are the books that I would love to have as we introduce different subjects over the next few years, in addition to the ones I already have.


Science And Nature

The Outdoor Book - I think we would love this for ideas of activities to do outside and nature study!

Human Body Reference Book and Shine-A-Light Human Body Book - This is my area of interest (biology), so I think this looks fun.  And the shine-a-light book adds an interesting element!

Poisonous Animals (etc.) - This is one of those great books for young readers!

How Things Grow - I think I need this book to help my black thumb.

Astronomy And Space Reference Book - I don't know if I even need to explain this. Yay for space!

100 Science Experiments - Someone told me I need this, and I think I do!

History

Big Picture Atlas - I think this will be good for context with different historical events.

Living Long Ago - I'm still not sure my kids grasp how different life was 200 years ago, so this looks great!

Christopher Columbus - One of the few American history books.  Usborne, I know you are British, but more on the American History front please!

See Inside Exploration And Discovery and The Story Of Inventions - These looked really interesting to me.


Reading and Writing

Illustrated Grammar And Punctuation - We are a way off from needing this yet, but my grammar nerd is coming out!  I love this idea!


Illustrated Classics: Huckleberry Finn And Other Stories - This is one of a few classics collections that are condensed and rewritten for young readers, and I am really curious about them.


Miscellaneous (aka. Just For Fun)

Over 50 Secret Codes - I would have loved this as a kid.

Fingerprint Activities: Animals - This just looks adorable, and would be so fun for everyone, including the little two!

First Book About The Orchestra - The kids love Maestro Classics (#affiliate), and I think this book would be a great visual to understand the different instruments.

Big Keyboard Book - We are still hoping to teach our kids how to play the piano, and this looks useful!



I could go on, but you get the idea! There are just a lot of really fun books.  Clearly it's probably going to take me longer than the next year to collect all these!  Maybe I should retitle this post "Usborne Books For Early Elementary", because I think all of these will last well beyond first grade!

Now for a little plug - the Facebook party is tomorrow night at 8 PM EST, and Brittney has a bunch of fun things planned - including a drawing for a book prize!  So if you want to check Usborne out, this is a good chance! If you comment below saying you want to join, I'll send you an email to add you to the party!  Or if you have your eye on something and want to buy without attending the party...can you purchase through any of these links and select my eShow on the left before checkout? Because then I can earn discounts on books! (Shameless plug, I know.)  Party is open until next Monday!

Do any of you have some Usborne books?  What would you recommend to me for the elementary school years?  

I'd love to hear!




P.S. Brittany also made me this handy graphic for Usborne books that go with different curricula!  Pin this!






I Suffered Through This One



1/5 stars.

I snagged this book because I have been listening to a lot more audiobooks over the last year while I work on other things.  This one peaked my interest because I like a good food-related fiction book every now and then.

Bottom line - I kind of suffered through this book.  Not for any one reason, but for a bunch of things, and I honestly found myself skipping chunks toward the end of the book just to get through it quicker.  Read below if you must know why.

Language: Several uses of the f-word, other curse words, and Jesus' name in vain (which I never appreciate as a Christian).

Sexual Content: From the very start of the book we learn that the main character is having an affair with a married man, and generally sleeps around a lot.  That kind of soured the book for me right from the start.  No lesson ever seemed to be learned related to this relationship either, even though I think people generally agree that having an affair with a married man is not a good thing.  Other sexual references. An extended and pretty explicit sex scene that I skipped past.  Another almost sex scene.  I honestly started skipping through the book after this because for other reasons I list below, I was just so tired of this book.

Politics:  Spoiler Alert - near the end of this book the main character finds out she's pregnant, and the doctor presents her with her "options".  Then we have an extended debate about whether she'll abort or not, including an older lady who suggests some herbs that could "take care of it" (an older lady who had an abortion earlier in her life and regrets not having children, so it felt like a weird character to have giving her this talk).  I am strongly pro-life and know that abortion ends the life of an unborn child, so I just cannot stomach casual abortion talk like this in my books.  Thankfully the character decides to keep her baby, but the serious abortion consideration put a sour taste in my mouth.

Plot:  This was my main problem with the book - there was really just no plot to speak of for most of the book.  I kept waiting for something big to happen, but there was just nothing until the character found out she was pregnant, and you already know I wasn't thrilled with all the abortion talk.  Even after that one big plot point, the book seemed to move slowly.  I guess you could say this book was more character-driven, but I typically don't like audiobooks that are character driven.  I need a clear plot to drive the book forward when I am listening on audio, or I have a hard time paying attention.

Characters: The second prong of my disappointment was that I liked none of the main characters in this character-driven book.  From the start I felt like the protagonist was unlikable.  I felt like her personality kept changing, and I couldn't decide if it was the author's fault or the narrator's fault (I'm thinking a little bit of both).  Was she supposed to be high-spirited and sarcastic, or introverted and reflective?  I guess she could be both, but I felt like it was hard to see her growth in the book because I couldn't figure out who she was to begin with.

My second beef with the characters - the two main characters were so immature (once again, was this the author's fault or the narrator's fault?  I don't know!).  If I had read the book without any ages being mentioned, I would have guessed early twenties...but no, the girl was 32, and the guy was almost forty.  This was a big pet peeve of mine in this book.  I felt like both of them should have had their lives together, or at least had a direction, at this age.  Maybe almost-forty-year-olds aren't really expected to have their life together in this culture anymore?  But in fiction, I like my characters to be a little more age-appropriate.

Narrator:  I don't think I would have liked this book much even if I had read it on paper, but to me the narrator didn't do a lot for this book.  And I think that is honestly just a personal thing.  I didn't like the way she read certain lines (I think she added more sarcasm than I would have gotten from print, and her dictation made the main character feel more stuck up).  Her voice for the male characters came off as creepy to me as well (in all fairness, I think a lot of female narrators have this problem though, at least to me).

What I Liked: The positive about this book was definitely all the food descriptions.  Whenever I listened to it I would start to get hungry, and nothing I ate seemed quite up to snuff after hearing about all the food in this book! Books like this make me want to bake and cook more, which is a good thing because sometimes I need that extra motivation.

The ending was sweet, as it seemed like the main character finally found a place where she belonged and got the guy, so it all worked out.  I do love a happy ending.  However, this book was just really not for me.

Note: I received a copy of this audiobook for free in exchange for a review.  This is my honest opinion.


Remember How I Started A Literary Society?



(Those specks in the picture are crumbs on the table.  I didn't clean it before I staged this pic, and it's too late now. It's been that kind of morning.)


I have no idea where the phrase originated, but I'll go ahead and say that I woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning.  I opened my eyes with a scowl on my face, shuffled into the bathroom to fix my makeup, and shuffled upstairs for some coffee.  I would like to say that I am feeling slightly better now, but as I sit here assessing, I'm not sure if that's accurate.  On a day like this, you break out every item that normally makes you smile (light the candles - check), snuggle a couple children, and just make it through.

3rd Literary Society Meeting

You also go the path of least resistance when writing an old-fashioned blog post, and share what you did yesterday - which for me, was our third literary society meeting! In case you missed it, last fall I started a literary society, not to be confused with a book club.  Book clubs have everyone reading the same book - literary societies get together and talk about books in general.  Books that are our favorites, books we are reading lately, recommendations - anything goes.

Our society meets every other month, and last night was our largest meeting with eleven people!  I was hoping we could get a circular table, but instead we were seated at a long table, so I floated between sides to make sure to talk with everyone.  As usual, it was so fun!  We talk about a myriad of books, but these are the ones that made it onto my to-read shelf on Goodreads.

Far From The Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
An Ember In The Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
Here Be Dragons by Sharon Kay Penman
The Power Of One by Bryce Courtenay
The Story Of The World - Vol. One

Have you read any of these?

My Non-Goalish Reading Goal

Now I'll go ahead and just tell you what I am currently reading, though I first want to step back and remind you how last year I set goals to be more purposeful about what I was reading.  

Yeah, that didn't go so well.  

I didn't stick to my categories at all through the year, and I swiftly decided that no such goals would be made for 2017.  Along with my growing annoyance with words like "purposeful" and "intentional" (because they are so overused these days), 2016 led me to a conclusion - not everything has to be intentional.  Why are we wearing ourselves out by having a plan for every little area of our lives?  Doesn't that suck some of the fun out of it?  For me, it does.  I am perfectly fine not being intentional with certain areas of my life and just going with the flow.  I'll save my intentionality stress for things that matter more than what books I read.

This year I've decided to read things that are currently interesting to me, and forget about categories.  I think I will get more out of my reading if it's something that's currently relevant in my life, and I'll probably read more books this way as well because I won't be forcing myself through something I'm not enjoying.  No intentional reading here this year.

However, all that is not to say that I won't still have some sort of theme to my reading, based on my interests, and one of my unofficial, interest-based goals is to read more about the Cold War.  I've always found the idea of the Cold War fascinating, and last year when we saw Bridge of Spies, it sparked my interest to learn more.  I know the basics of what the tension was about, but I don't know many specifics.  How did it start?  How and when did we realize that we were in a Cold War with Russia? What did people think about it?  What was it like living during the Cold War?

So what I'm currently reading: A Brief History Of The Cold War by Lee Edwards.  The title makes it sound terribly dry, but it's well done in my opinion.  It's a straight-up history, but written in an engaging way, and I'm learning a lot.

Next up in the Cold War queue:

Red Storm Rising by Tom Clancy 
The Tunnels by Greg Mitchell
Deep Undercover by Jack Barsky
Killing Reagan by Bill O'Reilly

I've asked around, and most people have no suggestion for me - but hey, there is no harm in trying again!  Do you have any recommendations for books that have to do with the Cold War?  I'd love to add more fiction to the list.

So what are you all reading lately?  

On the queue for the rest of my day?  I'm off to finish my coffee, read between taking care of children, eat my chocolate croissant (are you aware that yesterday was croissant day?), and fold a ton of laundry for the pregnancy resource center.  Oh yes, and Derek and I have a long overdue date tonight (I think I'm going to try to talk him into bowling)!

Old School Blogger Shoutout

I'm not sure if these bloggers would technically describe themselves as "old school" - but I am, because I feel like they have a spirit of the old school about them.  Their posts, though sometimes more on the professional side of blogging, are not cold and impersonal, and through reading their blogs I feel like I have gotten to know them!  They are two of my favorites to read, and these ladies are so sweet and always respond to comments via email, if not by reciprocating the commenting on my blog.

Rebecca from Caravan Sonnet - Rebecca is just a sweetheart, and has so many insights into walking with the Lord through the trials of life.  She is also having an anniversary giveaway that ends TODAY, so get yourself over there and scroll down to find that post!

Elizabeth from Teaching Sam And Scout - Elizabeth used to blog at E, Myself, And I, but switched to Teaching Sam And Scout a couple years ago...her blog is focused on her job as a teacher, but I feel that she has done a good job of keeping the personal touch too.  Her links and likes posts are my go-to for keeping up on whatever is popular in blogland.  She does the leg work so I don't have to.

What I'm Drinking: Coffee.  Just coffee.  With whipped cream.  I'm hoping it's enough to break me out of my funk.


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