2017 Reading Challenge…Complete!

Last January, I started a reading challenge on Goodreads to fulfill #100 on my 101 in 1001 list. I can officially say that I have completed it and then some!  My goal was to read 40 books this year and I have already read 50 with three months to go! It has been a while since I have posted my latest reads but there have been some good ones!

Some of these were extremely heavy books. Evicted by Matthew Desmond, Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance, and The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner all non-fiction books that tackled the tough topics of race and poverty.  All three are important books.

Obviously, it being summer I added a bunch of “summer reads” from some of my favorite authors that were just quick, fun reads.  I can almost always count on Lisa Scottline and John Grisham to give me exactly what I am looking for.  Another really great read that I devoured this past weekend was The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware.  I will be looking for more books by her, for sure.

My other two favorites from this collection were Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly and Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson. I have read a lot of WWII historical fiction and just when I think I can’t read anything new about the Holocaust, I am surprised. Lilac Girls did just that.  And Brown Girl Dreaming; an incredible memoir written in poetry. I loved Jacqueline Woodson before and I love her even more after reading this book.

I expect my reading to slow down at this point, but I have a few books on my to-read stack that I plan on getting to before the year is done!




The Essential Instant Pot Cookbook by Coco Morante

I was SO excited when I saw this book on the Blogging for Books list!  I have been using my Instant Pot quite a bit lately but I am always looking for recipes that I can try and possibly add to our favorites.

This cookbook has a lot of recipes but I found something about myself. I don’t like multi-step recipes for the Instant Pot. The whole reason I have an Instant Pot is so that I can put ingredients in the pot, set it, walk away to do something else before I need to serve dinner and then eat. Many of the recipes in the book have multiple steps where you would have to come back to the pot several times. Too much work for what I am looking for.

There are a couple of recipes I am very excited to try.  I would say though that the favorite parts of the cookbook, weren’t the recipes but the other information. There is a whole section at the beginning of the book that shared the different tools that are helpful.  For instance, I learned how to steam things using the Instant Pot.  I had no idea that I could use my steamer in there…now maybe it will be used for something other than a hat!

At the end of the book, there were several REALLY helpful charts about cooking times. Honestly, one of the biggest things I have been trying to do is convert the recipes I love but take a long time to bake. With the charts this book has, it made it much clearer how I can figure out cooking times.

I would rate this book 4 out of 5 stars.

I received this book for free from Blogging for Books in exchange for my review.

The Heirs by Susan Rieger

I have started being pickier about the books that I am reading for Blogging for Books after a couple of books that I didn’t enjoy very much…and boy am I glad I did.  I waited for awhile to find a fiction book that sounded really good and The Heirs was a great pick.

The story centers around Rupert Falkes, a father and husband who has died, leaving behind a widow and five sons.  There is an inheritance that has been counted on by several of the sons and the whole thing gets thrown into disarray when another women comes forward claiming she has two sons fathered by Rupert. The story unravels from there, revealing little by little that Rupert Falkes isn’t necessarily the man his family thought he was.

There were some very unlikable characters in this book. The idea of somebody being owed an inheritance is foreign to me so the shallow behavior brought about because of the entitlement some of the characters felt was a turnoff. I don’t know if that was the author’s intent or not, but the characters were all so well-developed it was hard to not have an opinion about it!

I gave this books 3 out of 5 stars.

I received this book for free from Blogging for Books in exchange for my review.

This Month I Read…June 2017

This month was another great reading month! Three of the books I read this month were written by authors I have read (and loved) before. The other three were brand new to me. Here’s what I thought of them all…

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins was a mystery/thriller that was full of twists and turn. If you are afraid of drowning, you should not read this book. The story centers around a woman that is found dead at the bottom of a river. Hers is not the first death connected to the river that runs through the town and as the story unfolds, you find out just how connected the other deaths are. I gave this book 3 out of 5 stars.

White Fur by Jardine Libaire was a book that I received from Blogging for Books. You can see my review of it here!

Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson was an absolutely beautiful book. I have been a fan of Woodson’s writing for many years; my first introduction being a children’s book. This story starts with August returning to Brooklyn after many years of being away and running into an old friend on the train. The encounter sparks the memories of four girls growing up together in the 1970’s. This is a coming of age story that should not be missed. I gave this book 5 out of 5 stars.

We Never Asked for Wings by Vanessa Diffenbaugh was another favorite of mine this month. One of my top five favorite books was written by Diffenbaugh so when I saw this book, I grabbed it immediately. I didn’t love it as much as her first novel but I still loved it. Letty is a teenage mother that, for years, depended on her mom and dad for support to raise her children. Her world changes when her parents decide to return to Mexico and she has to step up. Letty and her two children, Alex and Luna, are hard not to fall in love with in this story. I gave this book 5 out of 5 stars.

Language Arts by Stephanie Kallos was a book that I bought on Independent Bookstore Day and really wanted to love. Charles Marlow is the main character that the story follows both in present day and in flashbacks to his childhood. Charles is a high school language arts teacher at a pivotal point in his life and we watch as he tries to find a path for himself. The story was a bit tedious at times and I didn’t love it all that much. My friends agreed. I gave this book 3 out of 5 stars.

Behind My Eyes by Li-Young Lee was a short poetry book I found at the library. I chose it for no particular reason other than I liked the title. It is not hard to see that Lee’s own story inspires his poetry. Of the four sections in this book, I enjoyed the poems in the third section the most. I gave this book 3 out of 5 stars.

Have you read anything lately that I need to add to my to-read list?  Let me know in the comments!

White Fur by Jardine Libaire

White Fur by Jardine Libaire is a book unlike anything I have read in awhile. It grabs you right at the beginning and then has you racing through to figure out what in the hell was going on at the beginning.

Jamey Hyde is a Yale student and heir to a family fortune. Elise Perez didn’t graduate high school and grew up in the projects. They meet, fall in lust (often) and change each other’s lives in ways that neither of them could have ever suspected. Jamey’s family, of course, doesn’t approve of Elise and Jamey reacts accordingly.

This book is set in the ’80 and I get the feeling that the New York 80’s party vibe was supposed to come screaming through. What came through seemed to be very much what I have read in other books and have seen in movies, all the say, I have no idea if it’s at all accurate.

While I am no Mother Theresa, there was a lot of abrupt sex scenes in this book and there was excessive cursing. I got used to it about a third of the way into the book but it took me awhile before it stopped shocking me.

Overall, I liked the story. I read it in a couple of days, some of it poolside, so I think it could be considered a quick summer read. At least that’s what it was for me! I gave this book 3 out of 5 stars.

I received this book for free from Blogging for Books in exchange for my review.

2017 Summer Reading Challenge

It will come as no surprise to anyone that I love books. I always have and I think I always will. This school year was a pivotal year for Taelin, in terms of reading, so I really wanted a fun way to keep her going this summer. We have done the summer reading program at the library (and we are still doing that this summer) but that program counts all minutes spent reading. So the audio books we listen to on road trips and the books we read to her before bedtime all count. Which is great. But I really wanted her to be able to see what she is really capable of all on her own.

I also did not want to go all crazy Pinterest with this. There are so many great ideas (and I’m not knocking anyone who does them) but I know myself well enough and it just wanted to make this one simple. We talked about it for a long while and finally came up with the idea of just picking a number of books we were going to read by ourselves. I decided I am going to try and read 20 books (which is half of my 2017 goal) and Taelin decided she is going to read 40 chapter books.

When we get done with a book, we are just recording it on our paper and moving on to the next book. Now, a goal wouldn’t be a goal without something to sweeten the deal a little bit. So, if we both reach our goal, we get to go to the beach overnight. (I might have wanted a reason to plan a girl’s night at the beach.)

We have been trying to convince others to join us and, so far, we haven’t had any takers. So…if anyone wants to join us in the challenge, please do. We picked a number of books, but you could record time or pages or different genres. Anything you want! Just read!!!

I can tell we have already both added books to our list since I took this picture, but we both better get cracking if we are going to make our goal! In fact, I have a poetry book that is due to the library tomorrow that I should go and finish right now. Happy reading!

p.s….if you have an recommendations for a quick, fun summer read, tell me in the comments.

This Month I Read…May 2017

What a wonderful month May was! I spent a lot of time reading and it was incredible…for the most part!

Ink and Bones by Lisa Unger had been on my to-read list for awhile. It is a creepy, thriller that I thought I would really love. But…it starts out with an 8 year old little girl getting kidnapped. A little too close to home. The story is told from a few different perspectives and it really kept the story moving. There is an element of fantasy in the book in the form of psychics and while it was central to the story, I didn’t enjoy it all that much. Honestly, I think I probably would have liked the book just fine except I couldn’t get past the girl being Taelin’s age. I gave it 3 out of 5 stars.

A Work of Art by Micayla Lally is the book I received when went to a class at Young at Art. I wrote about the class but didn’t review the book. I hate to say this but I really didn’t like this book. And it wasn’t just me…the friend that I took the class with didn’t like it either. The characters were shallow and I didn’t really like any of them. The writing was often rushed. Just, no.  Don’t read it. I went to re-sell it back to the bookstore and they didn’t even want it back. I gave this book a 1 out of 5 stars.

Finding Nouf by Zoe Ferraris was a book that a friend lent me. A friend that knows books and knows me and recommends great books. This book was set in Saudi Arabia and was steeped in the culture. I found myself fascinated by how the culture impacted the actions of all the characters in the book. A young girl, Nouf,  from a prominent family is found dead in the desert and the story follows the case to find out how this could have happened. This book was fantastic. It kept me guessing and I was totally and completely wrong when I found out at the end who-done-it.  I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars.

Bright Dead Things by Ada Limon was a short poetry book I picked up at the bookstore on Independent Bookstore Day. It is organized into four sections and I found that I enjoyed the poems in the third section the best. Her poems covered many themes; grief and loss, family, culture, feminism. I enjoyed the book but only found a few that really made me stop and reread. I gave this book 3 out of 5 stars.

The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck is a historical fiction that was recommended to me by a friend. It tells the story of several women during and after WWII. The castle, before the war, was a place of beautiful parties. It was also where a plan the assassinate Hilter was hatched. The plan was foiled, men executed and three widows come together, back at the castle. The writing in this book was beautiful and captured the struggles of the women and their friendships over time. I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars.

One Perfect Lie by Lisa Scottoline was a book that had me from the first page. Things are not as they seem in this book. Set in a suburban city, the story centers around a man, Chris Brennan, who comes to teach at the local high school. He seems to be particularly interested in 4 boys, each with their own story. The twists and turns in this book kept me reading quickly and I finished this book in two days, surprised by how it ended. Scottoline is quickly becoming a go-to author for me. I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars.

The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney was my Blogging for Books book this month. You can find my review here!

The Girl Before by J.P. Delaney was another thriller that I picked up at the library. This book told the story of two women, both who found themselves living in an unusual situation after both of them experience traumatic life events. A house that has a huge list of rules and requirements by the architect is where both these women end up living, Emma first and then Jane. Jane learns early on that Emma died in the house but the details surrounding the death are sketchy. As the story unfolded, I was left trying to figure things out…and again was wrong, which I kind of like! I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars.

Have you read anything good lately that I need to add to my to-read list? Summer is here…which means more time to read!



June Classes @ Young at Art

How is it June already!?! It seems like we just started 2017!  But the beginning of a new month means new classes at Young at Art. This month, I am doing one regular class and one 2-day camp. It is going to be so much fun!

One Watermelon Seed is the going to serve as the inspiration for the first class of the summer. This adorable counting book will get us in the mood for summer and then we will paint! If you are interested, you can sign up here. The class is on June 14th and is only $10!

My first camp for the summer is on June 28th and 29th from 10:00-11:30. I am going to read some of my favorite Dr. Seuss books during these two days and then have activities inspired by the books. I know for sure we will do one canvas using The Lorax but I am still trying to finalize the other projects.  I do know it will be fun! You can sign up here for only $25.

And, of course, there are many other classes available this month at Young at Art.  Check out the class schedule page if you are interested!

The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney

The title and cover of this book grabbed my attention and I am glad it did. Just the idea of something being a glorious heresy is even to get my interest piqued. I am not ruined anything by telling you this book starts out with a murder.

Maureen, who ended up being by far my favorite character, kills an intruder in her home and calls her criminally savvy son, Jimmy, to help clean things up.  We also meet a fifteen year old boy named Ryan who deals drugs and his share of family issues.  Georgie, a prostitute turned born-again Christian (kind of) is another character we follow from the beginning. And I would say, the Catholic Church is a bit of a “character” so to speak takes more than a few hits in this book, as you might guess from the title.

McInerney is an Irish author and the story is set in Cork, Ireland which honestly made the book a bit tricky for me to read. There were more than a few times that I had to figure out some of the slang included in the book and sometimes the dialogue was hard for me to read because it just didn’t seem natural. I enjoyed the story but it was a little long in some parts and there were a couple of times that the characters just happened upon one another that felt a little forced.  I wasn’t sure where the story was going but in the end I enjoyed it well enough. I gave this book 3 out of 5 stars.

I received this book for free from Blogging for Books in exchange for my review.


A night of painting

Earlier this month, I signed up for a class at Young at Art that was different than others they had offered in the past.  It was a party celebrating a local author and her first published book.  One of my best friends and I decided to sign up and we had a great evening.  We got to meet the author and get her new book autographed, paint a canvas inspired by the cover of the book and got to sample some yummy wine!  It was a bit out of the ordinary for a weeknight but that is part of what made it so fun!

Here is my canvas at the beginning of the night.  When I looked at the finished product I was a little worried about how I was going to get there but with great instruction and a glass of wine, it turned out not half bad!

I might have made a bit of a mess of myself.

I already read the book we got and will include that in my month wrap-up.  I will say I didn’t love it.  I feel a bit bad saying that but it’s true.

One of my favorite finds of the evening was the wine that I sampled.  I am not a huge wine fan and don’t know a lot about it so I always feel a bit weird when put in a situation like wine tasting but the lady doing the serving was really quite laid back.  I actually enjoyed the wine so much that I bought a bottle to bring home and it made a lovely addition to a steak dinner we had later that week.

 All in all it was a fun night. A little uncomfortable at times, but fun.  All day before the class, I was feeling like I didn’t want to go.  There were all kinds of reasons I was thinking up about why I should stay home instead but I sucked it up and went.  And I am glad I did!