Tuesday, September 19, 2017


I wish I could say that Anne at My Head is Full of Books tagged me in a longest books meme just a few days ago. However, in reality, she tagged me back on August 18th and it is just now that I'm getting around to writing my own post sharing the five longest books I've read.

It has been fun to look back through my book logs and remember some of the great books I've read over the years. I've also noticed a trend: the books I'm reading are getting shorter. At least there are fewer really, really long books I am picking up.

Here are five really long books I'v read:

And Ladies of the Club by Helen Hooven Santmyer weighs in at over 1000 pages. This isn't a fast, action plot book, either.  This book focuses on the members of a book club as they grow and change through the years. I read this in my twenties, so maybe I should try to find time to re-read it now that I'm at a different point in my life.

Roots by Alex Haley - I remember reading this book in the span of one weekend while I was in high school.  I've never seen the movie and was disappointed by Haley's novel, Queen, but Roots remains one of my favorites nearly three decades since I read it.

The Thornbirds by Colleen McCullough - I love a good saga and this one set in the Australian outback. I spent plenty of time in eighth grade reading this one while everyone else was round robin reading our science textbook.

I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb - an Oprah Book Club selection from 1998, this story centers around twin brothers - one who is a schizophrenic.
I've read an enjoyed Lamb's other books, which aren't short, but I think this might be his longest novel.

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara - this is the most recent chunkster I've read and it is a book I won't soon forget.  Four college friends and their lives - mostly centering around Jude, who is badly broken as the result of an abusive childhood.

And some other books that still sit on my TBR that are just a little too long (and perhaps literate) for me to want to start:

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy and The Winds of War by Herman Wouk. I own them both (and have had them on my shelves for years). Maybe someday I will feel a need to crack one open.

What are some chunksters you've read and recommend?

Monday, September 18, 2017

YA Books Based on Real Events

I love history. I love YA books. And I love a combination of those things.  Recently I've come across three books based on real events.  They are all pretty different from each other, but I enjoyed each of them.  

No Saints in Kansas by Amy Brashear- this is a fictionalized retelling of In Cold Blood by Truman Capote.  Brashear allows Carly, a girl new to Holcomb, Kansas, and trying to befriend Nancy Clutter to tell the story.  After Nancy's death she becomes curious enough to uncover some clues herself.  I especially liked Carly's encounter with Truman Capote who is in Holcomb to investigate the crime. And there's a brief appearance by Jack Kennedy who is planning on running for president, but who visits Kansas and catches up briefly with an old friend (who happens to be Carly's mom). To be published in November.

The 57 Bus by Dashka Slater - this is a true story of two teenagers whose chance encounter changes both of their lives.  Sasha and Richard both happened to be on the same bus one day in Oakland, California, despite coming from different worlds.  Sasha was a middle class white girl, and Richard was a black teen living in a crime-infested area of the city.  For eight minutes their lives intersect and after that time has passed, Sasha is seriously burned and Richard is charged with hate crimes.  I first heard about this book at Book Expo and am excited to have my middle school kids get their hands on it.  To be published in October.

Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside of Shorty by G. Neri- This is a graphic novel (way outside my comfort zone) depicting the real life story of an eleven year old boy, Yummy, and his involvement in a Chicago gang.  This book is one our eighth grade teachers use and I can see why the students love it. Because it is a graphic novel they are initially drawn in, but the story is intense and thought provoking and something they can relate to.  I probably wouldn't have picked it up on my own, but last week two people asked for it within a matter of minutes, so I decided I needed to see for myself what this book was all about.

What other books would you add to this list?

Friday, September 15, 2017

Friday Five

Today is our first teacher professional development day of the year.  That means a lot of meetings.  I'm still new to the middle school game, so I have no idea what these meetings entail or how they are different from the long and boring elementary meetings I was accustomed to sitting through. I have a book packed in my bag just in case an opportunity to read presents itself, along with a notebook to jot down the many things I keep meaning to add to my "to do" list. 

I did find some great things online this week - and despite it being nearly 90 degrees here today, most of them scream "fall."

1.  Breathe Logo T - I have plenty of old, icky t-shirts to work out in. But this shirt is what I wish I had to exercise in. I think I'm due for a t-shirt upgrade soon, and new t's from Gapfit would be perfect.

2.  Women's Floral Tiered Ruffle Blouse - I saw this at Target and wish they would have had it in my size.  I have an outdoor wedding to attend next weekend, and I don't really feel like wearing a skirt to something outdoors when it might be cool - especially since I think the evening activities are also outdoor ones.  I might try a different Target this weekend with the hopes that they have this same shirt in stock. (BTW I have navy dress pants from my most recent StitchFix delivery that would work well with it).

3.  Slouchy Crop Denim Overalls - it feels like not that long ago that I had a few pairs of Gap overalls in my closet.  They are long gone, but lo and behold, the overalls are back in style.   I don't think they would be something I'd pick right now to add to my closet, but I still like them.

4.  Women's Sherpa Lined Twill Parka - who wouldn't love a camo jacket to wear in the winter?!

5. Asymmetrical Snap Pullover - I actually ordered this for myself and was excited it arrived yesterday. It's cozy and warm which isn't something I need right now since the temps are supposed to reach the upper 80s today, but soon I will be happy to reach for it.

6.  Patchwork Salutation 7/8 Tight - there are some new tights at Athleta for the fall. I like a lot of them and I'm thinking that when I upgrade my t-shirts, I might need to upgrade my leggings as well.

7.  Library Card Mug -these are sold individually or in a set of four different colors for $30 for the set. I so want these.  

8.  TOMS Classic Aplargata Crepe Slip-On - and I've found a new pair of shoes that I've ordered and worn already.  My heels are super narrow and I always have a problem with shoes slipping. These do slip a little on me, but they're not bad.  I've never had TOMS before, and so far I'm happy with them.

9.  Women Fluffy Yarn Fleece Full Zip Jacket -Uniqlo is a store I wish I had more access to.  I like looking online but I like seeing their products even more in person. This fuzzy jacket looks like I'm getting ready for winter.

10.  The Home Front Audible - I like anything about World War II a lot.  Listening to Martin Sheen and the various people share their experiences during the war is so interesting.

So how about you? What's caught your eye this week?

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday: The Senator's Children

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly post featuring a soon to be released title I can't wait to read.

This week's selection: The Senator's Children by Nicholas Montemarano
Due out: November 7, 2017

Synopsis taken from Amazon:

In a country that loves second chances, are some transgressions simply unforgivable?
Sisters Betsy and Avery have never met, but they have both spent their lives under the scrutiny of prying cameras and tabloid journalists. Their father, David Christie, was a charismatic senator and promising presidential candidate until infidelity destroyed his campaign and his family’s life. In the aftermath, Betsy grieves her broken family, while Avery struggles with growing up estranged from her infamous father yet still exposed by the national spotlight. Years later, as David’s health declines, Betsy and Avery are forced to face their complicated feelings about him―and about each other. With delicacy and empathy, Nicholas Montemarano brings these sisters together in a parallel of grief and grace.The Senator’s Children brilliantly distills the American family under pressure.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Releasing Today: The Far Away Brothers and The Four Tendencies

Two great books come out today.  The Far Away Brothers: Two Young Migrants and the Making of an American Life by Lauren Markham is a book I've read already and enjoyed. The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin is also out today and is a book that is on my TBR stack at home. 

The Far Away Brothers

I thoroughly enjoyed this work of narrative non-fiction that tackles the touch topic of immigration.  Markham's recounting of the Flores brothers' story is heartbreaking and hopeful at the same time.  Sharing their story makes the topic of immigration personal.  Although there were decisions  the brothers made that I cringed at from time to time, working with immigrant children and their families in my current job, I could identify with the thought process of the brothers and find many similarities between them and the children I know.

Markham's book certainly brings an awareness to the growing issue of undocumented and unaccompanied minor children seeking a new life in the United States.  In addition to the story of the Flores brothers, I also appreciated the research about immigration that is shared throughout this book.

The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin

I met Gretchen Rubin at Book Expo in June and have a signed ARC of this book at home. I feel like Gretchen and I could be friends with all the time I've spent listening to her podcast.

So, if you're looking for something great to read, check these out!

Monday, September 11, 2017

I Love You, Michael Collins

I was a little disappointed in my reading this past weekend. I had some great books started, but just didn't have time to sit around and read them. Plus, the weather was lovely, and that always makes it harder for me to justify curling up with a book instead of enjoying sometime outside.

I Love You, Michael Collins is the middle grade book I picked up after my girls were in bed last night.  I had only twenty pages left this morning to finish off.  It was a perfect read.

Set in 1969, Mamie is excited for Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to walk on the moon. She and her neighbor are gearing up for the launch, and at school they have been assigned to write to one of the astronauts. Of course everyone wants to write to Aldrin and Armstrong, but Mamie decides to write to Michael Collins, the astronaut who will stay with the spaceship while his colleagues walk on the moon.  

The entire story is told in Mamie's letters to Michael Collins as she writes of her struggles as the youngest in her family.  Her older sisters have both left home and her parents are struggling a bit in their marriage as her mother tries to test out what it would be like to not have to conform to the gender stereotypes she has always grown up knowing.  

I liked everything about this novel. I liked the 1969 setting. I liked Mamie's letters to Michael Collins. I liked learning more about Apollo 11 and the day to day life surrounding that event in history.  I can only hope that Lauren Baratz-Logsted will write another fantastic middle grade novel that is such a pleasure to read.

Friday, September 8, 2017

TLC Book Tour: The Other Alcott

I have been meaning to reread Little Women for years because I loved it so much when I read it for the first time when I was in high school.  This novel was a great look at Louisa Alcott's sister May and her life.

Despite the fact that I haven't found the time to re-read Little Women,  I have done a bit of reading about Louisa May Alcott and her family - especially her father who seemed a bit eccentric to me. (Stuff I Missed in History Class has done a fantastic podcast on their father).

Hooper's interest in Alcott stems from her childhood in Concord, Massachusetts, where the Alcotts once lived.  I enjoyed the personal connection Hooper felt for her subjects, and the way she chose to focus on May, a lesser known member of the family.

May illustrated Little Women, but Louisa's writing received accolades while May's artwork was panned.  Hooper chose to focus on this aspect as a starting point for her novel and how that must have made May feel.

I love books that are centered around a real person that I know of and build on that knowledge.  This is a book that fans of Louisa May Alcott will enjoy but it is also one that can be read and enjoyed by people who have yet to read anything by her and are just looking for a good book.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for providing a copy of this book for my review.  All opinions expressed are, as always, my own.

For more information visit the HarperCollins website.

Friday Five

It's been a little cool for the beginning of September here in Iowa.  I'm not complaining, though.  Cuddling up with a book and a blanket is nothing to be upset about.  With Irma looming near Florida and wildfires in Montana (my brother-in-law and his family live there), along with a few more natural disasters, cool weather is nothing to complain about.

It has caused me to look a little more closely at some cold weather clothing since it appears I will be needing it soon.

Here are the items I found this week:

1.  Crane Collector T-shirt - JCrew Factory had some great Labor Day sales. I'm a sucker for an interesting T-shirt.  So cranes? Yep.  Looks like a conversation starter to me.

2.  Funnelneck Sweatshirt - this sweatshirt comes in a few colors - all of which I would be OK with.  Plus it looks cozy.

3.  Excursion Vest - I'm a vest lover. Long ago (probably 1995) my mom tried to tell me vests were just a fad. And here it is, 2017, and vests are everywhere.

4.  Classic Camo Women's T - I think camo is a pretty standard appearance on my Friday Five list. Milk and Honey is a great place to get a nice, soft T.

5.  Camo Logo Pullover Crewneck - and yet another bit of camo to end the week.  

6.  Ryka Elita Women's Cross Training Shoes - I'm looking for some black tennis shoes to wear to work and with black jeans.  I would have to see how tight the elastic strap is on my foot.  That could be a deciding factor for me, but I do like the look of these.

7.  The Classic Shirt - Going to London would be a dream for me.  I might have to just be satisfied with this shirt.  I just wore one of Boden's classic shirts to school this week (blue with polka dots) and love the fit of it.

8.  Adidas Originals Women's ZX 700 Fashion Sneaker - after I find some black tennis shoes, I wouldn't mind having a pair of burgundy or maroon ones.  My daughters' school colors are maroon and gold and slowly I'm adding things in these colors to my closet. 

9.  Cross T-shirt Crazy Cool Threads is a new to me company that manufactures faith inspired T-shirts. They have a lot I'd love to add to my wardrobe.  

10.  I remember watching Princess Diana and Prince Charles taking Prince William to his first day of school many years ago. Now William and Kate are taking George.  So cute.

So, what's caught your eye this week?

Thursday, September 7, 2017

A Beach Book That Can Be Enjoyed Any Time of Year

I had so many fantastic beach books to read this year that I am still picking up books to read that would have been great to take along to the pool while I had time off from work.

Happily, Nancy Thayer's latest, Secrets in Summer, is a novel that can be enjoyed any time of year.  

Darcy is living in her grandmother's house on Nantucket. She's the children's librarian at the public library and in a new relationship with a man who does construction work, Nash.  Their relationship is new so she's not exactly sure how serious things are yet.  The summer gets interesting when Darcy's ex-husband, Boyz, rents a home behind her and their back yards adjoin. Although Darcy is over Boyz and happy with her current situation, she does run into him and his new family frequently which adds some drama to the quiet life Darcy has made for herself.

The story centers around Darcy. I liked the relationships she formed with women of various ages and the way Thayer included that as a part of the story.  The setting is lovely, no matter the time of year.  Her romance with Nash is fun to read as well, and I could relate to what Darcy felt as she attempted to navigate the early stages of a relationship.

Thayer's novel are ones I normally enjoy and this is no exception.  This would have been a great book to bring along to the swimming pool, but even though I didn't have a chance to read Secrets of Summer while lying next to a pool and soaking up the sun, I enjoyed it while curled up on my couch this past weekend. 

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Waiting On Wednesday: The Girls in the Picture

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly post where I highlight a soon to be published title I can't wait to read.

This week's pick: The Girls in the Picture by Melanie Benjamin
Due out: January 16, 2018

Synopsis taken from Goodreads:

An intimate portrait of the close friendship and powerful creative partnership between two of Hollywood’s earliest female superstars: Frances Marion and Mary Pickford. An enchanting new novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Swans of Fifth Avenue and The Aviator’s Wife.

Hollywood, 1914. Frances Marion, a young writer desperate for a break, meets “America’s Sweetheart,” Mary Pickford, already making a name for herself both on and off the screen with her golden curls and lively spirit. Together, these two women will take the movie business by storm.

Mary Pickford becomes known as the “Queen of the Movies”—the first actor to have her name on a movie marquee, and the first to become a truly international celebrity. Mary and her husband, Douglas Fairbanks, were America’s first Royal Couple, living in a home more famous that Buckingham Palace. Mary won the first Academy Award for Best Actress in a Talkie and was the first to put her hand and footprints in Grauman’s theater sidewalk. Her annual salary in 1919 was $625,000—at a time when women’s salaries peaked at $10 a week. Frances Marion is widely considered one of the most important female screenwriters of the 20th century, and was the first writer to win multiple Academy Awards. The close personal friendship between the two stars was closely linked to their professional collaboration and success.

This is a novel about power: the power of women during the exhilarating early years of Hollywood, and the power of forgiveness. It’s also about the imbalance of power, then and now, and the sacrifices and compromises women must make in order to succeed. And at its heart, it’s a novel about the power of female friendship.