Monday, January 1, 2018

Goals for 2018


This is my main goal for 2017 to work on family togetherness.  As my parents grow older I need to spend more time with them and help them.  I also need to work on helping my boys to get along with each other as well. Family Drama is in every family but I would prefer less drama during the holidays.  So I am making it my goal this year to work towards family harmony.

My second goal is to continue to work on my health.  I need to make exercise my number one priority. No more excuses!!  My house, my hobbies, reading and blogging will all take a back seat to exercise.  Each month I am going to have a monthly challenge to encourage myself to do better.

I am participating in two reading challenges this year, Modern Mrs Darcy 2018 Reading Challenge and The Unread Shelf Project 2018.  My goal is to read about 10 books a month.  Also I am trying not to buy new books I am going to try my best to read the books I already own.  I do own a lot of books that I have not read yet. 

My goal for this blog for the year is to try my best to write here once a week.  Please keep in mind if you are still reading this blog that I use this space to record my thoughts and projects.  This year my big project I hope to write about are:

  • Scrapbooks for the boys
  • Update my Gluten Free/Dairy Free/FodMap Recipes
  • Continue my journey to declutter and simplify my house
  • My Reading Challenges

I hope you will stick around to read more.  Happy New Year!
Sue   

Saturday, December 30, 2017

My Top Ten Books for 2017

After reading 91 books this year I have narrowed my list to my top ten picks.  I didn't pick these books because they were popular with others, I picked these books because I really enjoyed these books.  There is not a particular order to this list it is just ten books I loved.  


 WE WERE LIARS, by E. Lockhart, is an interesting book it was hard to put the book down.  I wanted to take the book with me everywhere so I could read one more page.  I have recommended the book to several people.  The story is about a couple of cousins who get together each summer at their grandparent's summer home.  However one mistake can change everything.  That's all I can say without giving away the story.  This is a ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐/5 star book.  


The Book Thief by M. Zusak, is one of those books you cannot put down.  I was caught up in the life of the characters and their circumstances.  I just had to know what happens next.  Even after I finished reading the book I still wanted to know more. The story takes place in Germany during WWII.   I would give this book ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐/5 stars


 The Nightingale, by K. Hannah, takes place in France during WWII.  It is about two sisters whose lives are impacted when the Nazis invade France.  Each sister without sharing with the other does her part to help others during the war. One sister helps her Jewish best friend and the other sister works with the French Resistance and aids Allied Pilots to escape to Spain. This is a ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐/5 star book.  Be prepared with lots of tissues because this story will tug at your heart in several places.  


 Leaving Time, by Jodi Picoult, was an amazing book.  This book was very interesting and held my attention. I couldn't wait to read the next chapter each day.  There was a lot of information about elephants because Jenna (the main character) parents both research and worked with elephants. As I read the story I felt like there was two different stories going on Jenna's, Serenity and Virgil search for the truth and Alice's (Jenna's mother) looking back over the events and recalling her research on how elephants cope with loss. In the end I was very surprised at the outcome, no more said without giving away the ending.  This is a ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐/5 star book.  
 Inside the O'Briens, by Lisa Genova, is an amazing story about Joe O'Brien and his family.  It is a heart breaking story about how Huntington Disease takes away so much from you, your job, your friends, your respect, and your life.  As Joe struggles with all of this he has to live with the fact that he has passed this disease down to his children and possible grandchildren.  The book is just a great reminder to not judge people....treat others with kindness and respect.  ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
 All The Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr is outstanding.  I guess that is why it won the Pulitzer Prize.  It it a complex story about two different lives during WWII in France. A young, blind, french girl (Marie-Laure) and a young german boy(Werner).  The chapters alternate telling their stories and perspectives during the war until one day their lives collide.  You will hold your breath during the last few chapters unable to put the book down. I give this book ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ /5 stars. 
 I started the mystery series by Louise Penny that takes place in Three Pines.  The main character is Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and he is a thoughtful, caring person who solves crimes.  What I like about the series is that you get to know the characters in the story and how they relate to each other.  One of my favorite quotes from Chief Inspector comes when one of the characters asks him why he doesn't carry a gun and he says, "because they are dangerous."  Yet he is able to arrest all his suspects without incidents. I have read the first four books in the series and all of them have been excellent.  I plan on reading the other books in 2018.   
  Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, by Robin Sloan, was a book I found by accident on Overdrive and I loved it. I picked this book because it had the word "bookstore" in it and I thought that I would at least give it a try as an audiobook.  It has a bit of mystery with a conspiracy and lot of high tech references. There was even a bit of a romance and humor.  I absolutely enjoyed this book.  I couldn't wait to get in the car to listen to this book each day. Don't tell my family but I took the long way home several times just to listen a bit longer.   I gave this book ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐/5.   
The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey, takes place in 1920 in Alaska.  The main characters, Jack and Mable are finding life in Alaska rough.  During the first snowfall of the season Jack and Mable build a snow girl.  The next morning the snow girl is gone however they spot a little girl in the woods.  What I enjoyed about this book was reading about what life was like during this period and time in Alaska.  I enjoyed reading how the community looked out for one another.  This is a ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ /5 star book.  The book is well written and the characters are very interesting especially Faina.  The book keeps you guessing all the way to the end of the story.  



In June I went on a Jane Austen Marathon.  I had never read her books before and I fell in love with them.  I think Pride and Prejudice is my favorite.  

Here is how I would rank the stories:
1.  Pride and Prejudice
2.  Sense and Sensibility
3.  Emma
4.  Northanger Abby
5.  Mansfield Park
6.  Persuasion

Friday, December 29, 2017

December Reading Log 2017

It's the end of the year and I hit personal record in my reading log since I started recording my books, I read 91 books this year.  I have cut down A LOT on my television watching and began listening to books while driving and working around the house.  I have found some wonderful readers on Instagram that recommend lots of great books and I have taken advantage of their knowledge.    
 I have even found book decorating inspiration on Instagram as well and reorganized my office bookshelves.  
 My favorite book this month was The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey.  This book takes place in 1920 in Alaska.  The main characters, Jack and Mable are finding life in Alaska rough.  During the first snowfall of the season Jack and Mable build a snow girl.  The next morning the snow girl is gone however they spot a little girl in the woods.  What I enjoyed about this book was reading about what life was like during this period and time in Alaska.  I enjoyed reading how the community looked out for one another.  This is a ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ /5 star book.  The book is well written and the characters are very interesting especially Faina.  The book keeps you guessing all the way to the end of the story.  
 Winter Solstice, by Elin Hilderbrandt, is the fourth  and final book in the Quinn family story.  It also tied in some characters from another book I read by Ms. Hilderbrandt, The Rumor.  I enjoyed the book however I felt the book was just recapping or wrapping up things.  This is a ⭐⭐⭐ /5 star book in my opinion.  What I liked about this book was the caring feeling you felt between Margaret and Kelly.  At times I wished there was more about Margaret and less about her children.  

In the fictitious coastal village of Mount Polbearne, is where the story Christmas at Little Beach Street Bakery, by Jenny Colgan takes place.   Polly is preparing her little bakery for Christmas.  She is excited to celebrate the Holiday with her boyfriend and best girl friend.  

Although life is a bit crazy for Polly and she ends up catering Christmas for her best friend.  Many events around her feel very strange and Polly can't quite put her finger on it.  As things begin to unravel around Polly and she is sure the Holiday is ruined her friends pull together to give Polly the ultimate Christmas surprise. Although I found this story to be very cute I would only give it ⭐⭐⭐/5 stars.    

A Redbird Christmas, by Fannie Flagg, is a charming story about a community coming together to help one little girl.  The story takes place in a rural little town in Alabama along a river.  Oswald, moves there from Chicago, because he has some health issues and his doctor recommends this little town for healing.  There he meets a town of wonderful people all willing to help a little girl. This is a magical ⭐⭐⭐/5 star Christmas story that will not disappoint you. The story brings out the best Christmas spirit in the entire community.   
The Light We Lost, by Jill Santopolo, is a love story for all ages.  Lucy and Gabe fall in love in college.  After 911, they decided that want their lives to mean something.  They some how want to make a difference in the world.  Gabe and Lucy have to make a choice between love and their dreams and of course they decide that their dream to make a difference is more important than love.  But now thirteen years later, do they still feel the same way???? And is it to late???? Although I was unhappy with decisions the characters made throughout the story I still think this is a ⭐⭐⭐⭐/5 story.  
Dashing Through the Snow, by Debbie Macomber, is a typical Winter romance story.  Unusually circumstances bring Dash and Ashley together on Christmas Eve however by the end of their car ride to Seattle they find themselves in love with each other.  However now they must get over this misunderstanding with the FBI.  This a cute, fun and a quick read it is a ⭐⭐⭐/5 star story.

I  know another book about Paris and a bookshop....what could be better???  The Little Paris Bookshop is about Monsieur Perdu who can just look at a person and find the perfect book for him/her.  However, he can not let go of his own personal  hardship.  The love of his life left him and passed away. She only left a letter, which he never opened.  

After twenty years, he reads the letter and impulsively takes his boat down the Seine toward the South of France to make peace with the past.  He meets lots of interesting characters along the way and eventually his heart begins to heal and he is able to find love again.  

 Chief Inspector Gamache and his wife Reine-Marie are celebrating their wedding anniversary at an isolated inn not far from Three Pines in A Rule Against Murder.  The well-to-do Finney family is there as well celebrating their father who passed away years ago.  Peter and Clara also come for the family reunion, Peter belongs to the rich Finney family and all the drama that goes with them.  During a terrible storm one night one of the Peter's sister is killed and everyone at the inn becomes a suspect.  We learn a lot about Peter and Clara in this book.  This is a ⭐⭐⭐⭐ /5 book.     



A murdered body has been found in Olivier's Bistro, but how did the body get there?  Chief Inspector Armand Gamache comes to Three Pines again in, The Brutal Telling, to solve the case, however Olivier is lying....but why????   Gamache is following all the clues, but each clue uncovers another lie of Olivier.  This case will shake Three Pines to it's core.   This is a ⭐⭐⭐⭐/5 star book and it will keep you guessing all the way to the end.  

Saturday, December 2, 2017

November Reading Log


November was a busy month.  I tried my best to read as much as possible but family keeps me busy.  I enjoyed the books I did  read several of them were really good.  I read three mysteries and four books about books.  That sounds strange but I am obsessed with reading books about books/bookstores/libraries.  

My favorite book of the month was Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, by Robin Sloan.  I found this one by accident on Overdrive and I loved it. I picked this book because it had the word "bookstore" in it and I thought that I would at least give it a try as an audiobook.  It has a bit of mystery with a conspiracy and lot of high tech references. There was even a bit of a romance and humor.  I absolutely enjoyed this book.  I couldn't wait to get in the car to listen to this book each day. Don't tell my family but I took the long way home several times just to listen a bit longer.   I gave this book ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐/5.   
A Fatal Grace, by Louis Penny, was a wonderful mystery.  I just love the character Inspector Armand Gamache.  The rest of the characters in Three Pines are interesting as well if not quirky.  This story takes place during the winter around Christmas and I found it interesting how all the pieces fell in place. I give this book ⭐⭐⭐⭐/5 stars.    
Of course, I quickly downloaded the audio version of the third story in the Louis Penny series, The Cruelest Month.  What I liked about this story was that it focused a bit more on Inspector Armand and his family.  As with all the stories, it takes place in Three Pines, but I found the supporting characters of Three Pines a bit frustrating and somewhat unbelievable in this story. I gave this book ⭐⭐⭐⭐/5 stars.  
The third mystery book I read this month was A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas.  The title really has nothing to do with the story.  The story was about a young lady who intensionally lets herself become a women who becomes an outcast in her society.  She runs away from home and tries to find her own way in London.  She is unable to find a job because she has no recommendations.  However she does have a talent, she can read people and solve crimes.  This book has so many turns and twists it keeps you reading.  I give this book ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐/5 stars.  I cannot wait to read the second book in this series.  
The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend, by Katarina Bivald, was a pleasant surprise.  When I read the review on Amazon, I thought, I'm not so sure what to expect.  However,  I really did enjoy this book.  I found it to be humorous and fun to read.  It takes place in a small town in Iowa and you think no way would this happen but that is what makes the story funny.  Of course any book that has a book store in it get extra stars in my rating system.  I gave this book ⭐⭐⭐⭐/5 stars. 

I read Dear Farenheit 451, during Thanksgiving break and I was a bit disappointed.  I read a lot of wonderful things about this book and how humorous it is and yes I did have a couple good laughs.  However there were lots of times were I just skimmed through the letters because I just didn't have much interest.  I do like the idea of writing a letter to a book with your response.  I gave this book ⭐⭐⭐/5 stars.  
The Borrower, by Rebecca Makkai, was yet another story about books and a librarian.  The story was so heart-warming at first about how the librarian helps a young boy read books after school, however when the little boy decides to run away that's when I started to go crazy as an educator.  As a read I kept saying, What??? No!!!! She wouldn't do that!!! That's not realistic....somebody would have put two and two together.  All and all it was a somewhat happy ending but I would still give it ⭐⭐⭐/5 stars.

My last book of November was, One Summer Day in Rome, by Mark Lamprell.   I won this book in early fall from @bookwormeverlasting and @flatiron_books.  I have been looking forward to reading this book for awhile.  The story takes place over several days in Rome with three different couples and at the very end the author ties the couples together.  I have to be honest, there were several times in the book where I lost my focused.  Maybe my mind is on Christmas and struggling with the idea of summer right now but I had a hard time with this story.  Maybe because there was not a bookstore or a library or no reindeer, but for not I gave this story ⭐⭐⭐/5 stars.   




Wednesday, November 1, 2017

October Reading Log


I read some really good books this month.  It was really hard for me to pick a favorite because a couple of these books were really good for different reasons.  However when it all came down to it, I read for entertainment and Where'd You Go, Bernadette won that category hands down.  


My favorite book this month is Where'd you Go, Bernadette, by Maria Semple, it is an humorous and exciting audiobook. I enjoyed listening to this book so much.  I laughed so much throughout this story it reminded me so much of many of the interactions and conversations I have with my daughter.  I give this book ⭐⭐⭐⭐/5 stars.  
Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay, is an amazing story.  The story alternates between the lives of Sarah a ten year old living in Paris in 1942 and Julia, a mother and wife, living in Paris in 2002.  Sarah's story is heartbreaking and I was completing unaware of this part of history. Julia's story was equally enlightening, it was surprising to me that most french people tend to pretend the round up didn't happen. I give this story ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ /5 stars.  
Still Life, was my first Louise Penny book.  I have been reading a lot about the books by Louise Penny on Instagram and I wanted to find out what the hype is all about.  I just loved the characters from Three Pines and Chief Inspector Armand Gamache is adorable.  I am not the only person who wanted to read the book because I signed up on Overdrive to read the book and I was 227 on the wait list so I broke down and purchased the book.  The book was well worth the money, it was a good mystery story, I give it ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐/5 stars.  


The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson, is a unique and intriguing book. Kitty Miller, the main character, has an amazing bookstore and a great best friend.  However her dreams are starting to take over her life to the point where she is beginning to confuse her real life with her dream life.  This book will keep you on the edge of your seat reading and reading.  I give this book ⭐⭐⭐⭐/5 stars.  
Small Blessings by Martha Woodroof, is just a feel good story.  It was just heartwarming and adorable.  The plot was predictable however I continued to read because I really liked the characters and wanted to read the happy ending.  I give this book ⭐⭐⭐/5 stars.  
I read another, Elin Hilderbrand book, The Rumor, it was a charming story.  The characters were easy to identify with and the plot has several turns in it that kept me reading.  It was a wonderful reminder that friends are truly important people in our lives.  I give this book ⭐⭐⭐/5 stars. 


I read, Eat Pretty Every Day: 365 Daily Inspiration for Nourishing Beauty Inside and Out by Jolene Hart, for my morning reflection this month.  I loved the cover of the book, however I was a bit disappointed with the actual book.  I picked up a few suggestions to improve my living:

  • Little Daily habits become your foundation of your lifestyle, mindset and identity...and this....will add up to dramatic change.  
  • I need to slow down and make time for yourself.  
  • I need to add daily stretching back into my morning routine: it improve circulation and it calms the nervous system.  
  • Eat more veggies and drink more tea!!!!!!
  • Create a new reward system for yourself.
  • Create an indoor garden for peaceful, healthy living.    
I give this book ⭐⭐⭐/5 stars.