What I Read in January 2018

Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin

This book has had praise all over the internet which is generally a good sign.  When I read the premise, a young intern has an affair with a congressman, I was intrigued to find out what all of the buzz was about that made this book special.  Young Jane Young was unexpected, well-told, and all around a wonderful book.  It was a great way to kick off my 2018 reading life.  If you haven’t read it yet, add it to your list.

The Rooster Bar by John Grisham

I’m always up for a John Grisham book and in my opinion, this one was one of his better recent books.  It was a quick read that kept me guessing.  In the Rooster Bar, three law students who are deep in debt struggle to find a way out after they learn more and more about their law school and the system behind it.  I have to admit that there were more than a few things that didn’t seem totally plausible or places where I wanted to yell to the characters “STOP making bad choices!”.  Even so, I enjoyed this one as a John Grisham fan.

The next two books that I read are from The Diverse Books Club as reads for February.  I meant to wait until February to read them, but then the library had them available when I checked and I didn’t want to wait.

Caleb and Kit by Beth Vrabel

Caleb and Kit is a middle grade book about a young boy, Caleb who has cystic fibrosis as he struggles to find independence through a new friendship.  As a Child Life Specialist, I appreciated so much that this book explored a bit about cystic fibrosis and what it means to grow up with a chronic illness.  I would LOVE to read this book with a group of kids and hear their thoughts from chronic illness to family struggles, making friends, peer pressure and so much more.  This would be a great read-aloud!

Left Neglected by Lisa Genova

Left Neglected is the story of a woman who is a mother and holds a major role at her company.  She is always busy and overworked when one day she gets into a car accident which leaves her with a condition called Left Neglect.  With Left Neglect she is suddenly missing everything on her left side (her arm, leg, and anything that is happening on the left side of her).  I’ve read a few of Lisa Genova’s books and this one did not disappoint.  It gave a real sense of some of the issues happening for this Mom with her brain injury, brought up lots of thoughts about the importance of family and support, and so much more.  I cannot wait to discuss this one!

 

What I Read in December

December was full of Hallmark Christmas movies, celebrating the holidays, and so much more.  I made sure to add some Christmas books into the mix and I also listened to one of my favorite audio books of the year.  

Christmas Bliss by Mary Kay Andrews

I picked this one up the airport because Mary Kay Andrews is a favorite author and I was excited to add her to my Christmas rotation.  About halfway through the book, I realized that I had read it before, but I kept right on reading.  Christmas Bliss tells the story of two best friends, one who is expecting her first baby and one who is about to be married.  The book is set around Christmas and while it isn’t the best book I’ve read, it is a fun one to keep in mind if you are looking for a quick winter read.

Winter Solstice by Elin Hilderbrand

I’ve read the other three in this series over the past few winters and  I was thrilled to see that a fourth was out this winter.  I know that these books have some polar viewpoints.  Some people love them and some people aren’t a fan.  I definitely fall into the category of loving them.  I’m not sure I would want to read all four in a row, but I’ve enjoyed keeping up with the Quinn family.  If you haven’t read the series, the four books tell the story of a family of adult siblings, their spouses, and their parents over several years.  The books are primarily set on Nantucket and take place in the winter around the time of the winter stroll.  They are quaint, easy, slightly dramatic, fun reads that are a favorite part of my holiday reading.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

This was one of my favorite audiobook listens of the year.  Eleanor Oliphant is a woman who is used to her particular ways and routines.  After an unusual occurrence and chance meeting, she begins to explore new friendships, relationships and all of the things that make Eleanor Eleanor.  It is touching, thoughtful, awkward, and when it was over I felt like a friend had moved away.  I loved this story.

The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

We all know that I love a good book with twists and turns and this one did not disappoint.  I didn’t see the twists coming and they kept right on coming until the very end.  The Wife Between Us seems like a book about a wife and a mistress, but it is so much more.  If you like twisty thrillers that hold your attention, this is a good one!

What I Read in October and November

These fall months have flown by!  With Halloween, a first birthday, a family trip to Asia, and Thanksgiving things have been busy around our house.  My reading has been light, but I think that I read my favorite book of the year this year this month!  Here are my reads for October and November.

The Identicals by Elin Hilderbrand

I love Elin Hilderbrand.  Her novels are fun and fairly predictable, which is sometimes exactly what you need.  The Identicals tells the stories of identical twin sisters who live on two different islands.  The sisters used to be incredibly close and as teenagers split apart when their parents divorced.  Following the death of their father, their lives intersect again.

I just realized that the description might sound like a downer, but the overall tone of the book isn’t that.   If you are a fan of Elin Hilderbrand or looking to try one of her books, this one did not disappoint.

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew J. Sullivan

I went into this book knowing very little other than that it was a creepy mystery  It seemed perfect for October and it was!  I don’t think I was entirely prepared for just how creepy it would be.  There were plot twists galore and I really loved learning more about the characters and their backstories.  I’m going to skip the description and just leave it at this because I think that it was a great way to go into this book.  I actually didn’t get to guess the ending of this one, so if you are up for a creepy mystery this one could be for you!   

Beartown by Fredrik Backman

Bear Town might be the best book that I have read all year.  It was seriously so good.  Have you ever read a book and suddenly felt like the book was a speeding train and you couldn’t get off, but in a good way?  It took a little to get moving and then suddenly, I never wanted to put it down.  I’m sad it is over.

Bear Town is a small town and a hockey town and hockey is almost a character on its own in this book, but you don’t have to like or care about hockey to enjoy this book.  When an incident divides the town, people are picking sides, there are moral issues galore, and so much more.

I will say that if you have triggers, you might want to learn a little more about the book before reading.  Otherwise, this book should be read by all.  It’s timely, wonderful characters and great storytelling.

What I Read in September

September was a little slow for my TBR pile, but I still have a few to share.  As we enter into October, I am SO excited for some thrillers to get me in the mood for Halloween.  I’m dreaming of cozy days as the weather changes where I can curl up with a book during nap time.

Still Life by Louise Penny

This was my first Louise Penny and from what I have heard, the Inspector Gamache series really finds its stride in book 3.  I liked it enough, but I’m not jumping up and running to the library for book 2.  I REALLY want to love Louise Penny, so I will definitely keep reading, but this one was good and yet maybe a little slow for me?

In small-town Three Pines, a beloved woman is found dead in the woods.  Inspector Gamache comes to town to begin solving the mystery and he is everything you might wish for in a detective.  He is thoughtful, insightful, supportive of colleagues and stands up for his beliefs.  As he navigates the relationships in Three Pines, you learn more and more about human behavior. Still Life is a thoughtful, slow and steady mystery that kept me guessing until the end.

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

This one was a recommendation from my younger cousin. I’m always up for a good YA book and I decided to add this to my audible downloads.  I love audiobooks.  Sometimes, I know that the narrator makes the book for me and other times it feels like the narrator just is not the right fit for my liking.  For this one, I would recommend reading the physical book vs. the audiobook.  It felt like maybe the reading was more juvenile than the subject matter and I had a hard time believing that the character (although very sheltered) was 18 with the way the narration was happening.

Madeline is an 18-year-old who has lived her entire life diagnosed with a disease that leaves her unable to leave her home.  One day, a new family moves in next door and Madeline sees their son who is about her age.  The rest is history.   There are twists and turns, some that I saw coming and some that I did not.  It is a story of family, grief, loss, and romance.  Overall, I really liked the storyline and would love to talk more about it with someone, but I don’t want to give away any spoilers!

 

What I Read in August

August was full of twisty thrillers, audio books, and some of my very favorite reads of the summer.   I made a commitment to myself to put my phone down and pick up a book more, which helped me get through so many more books.

The Sisters Chase by Sarah Healy

This one was a quick read, which is always nice.  But, overall, it just wasn’t for me.  I could see where things were headed from the beginning, so there weren’t a lot of surprises and the main character made my skin crawl a little bit.  I felt like I wanted to cover my eyes for part of it!  Books that make me uncomfortable just aren’t my favorite, even when they hold my attention.

The story centers around two sisters (Mary and Hannah) and their lives before and after their Mom dies unexpectedly.  It focuses on the choices that the older sister, Mary, makes to survive and the power of Mary’s love for Hannah.

If you liked Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll, I wouldn’t be surprised if this one is for you!

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

I am behind the curve on Wonder and just listened to it when I saw it go on a huge sale thanks to Anne Bogel of Modern Mrs. Darcy and her daily deals!  I LOVED this book.  As a Child Life Specialist who has worked with kids in hospitals and beyond, this book spoke to my heart.   Although I’m sure I would have loved it just as much in physical book form, the narrators were fabulous and made the story come alive.

Wonder if the story of Auggie, a boy about to start middle school and school in general for the first time.  Auggie has spent his life being home schooled due to medical conditions and a facial deformity and the book follows him, his friends, and his family throughout his first year of school.  It is the story of kindness, friendship, bravery, and is relatable on so many levels for kids (and people) of all ages.

If you like a heartwarming story that isn’t always easy, this book is for you.  Honestly, I think maybe it should be required reading to be a human and everyone should at least try it!

The Child by Fiona Barton

This was one of my Book of the Month choices and I enjoyed it!   Even when I thought that I had things figured out, I could never quite guess the how or why of it all!  I also generally love a book with multiple narrators, so this was right up my alley.

In The Child, a newborn baby is discovered buried near a building and it sets journalist Kate Waters out to uncover the story.  Meanwhile, the story switches between a family whose baby was kidnapped many years before and a woman who used to live in the building.  I’m really not sure that a plot synopsis is going to sell this book.

I’m really not sure that a plot synopsis is going to sell this book.  It might sound too depressing and truthfully, there were a few moments in the book that I chose to skim right through, but overall I found it to be a twisty read that kept me guessing and wanting to read well into the night!

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

I’m still not sure how I felt about this one.  For most of the book, I was confused (and not necessarily in a good way).  There were multiple narrators (which I usually love), but for some reason, these were tricky for me to follow.  I felt like I spent the first 100 pages flipping back and forth trying to remember who was who and what on earth was happening.  By the end, I was still a little confused, but things also came together.

In Into the Water, a woman is found dead in a river and her death is suspicious of suicide.  Multiple characters related to this woman (her daughter, sister, neighbors, friends, police officers, etc.) narrate different parts of the book as you learn the history of the river, about the deaths of other women in the river, and about the complicated relationships of family and a small town.

If you like to be on your toes and paying attention, this one might be for you.

I Found You by Lisa Jewell

My theme for this month must be multiple narrators of twisty mysteries because I Found You is just that.  I really enjoyed this one.  Even when I was guessing, I wasn’t able to figure out the nuances of this book.There were maybe a few pages that I skimmed (what can I say, sometimes I don’t love the more hair raising details), but overall this one was a quick read. 

In I Found You there are three narrators telling different stories.  In one, Alice discovers a man on the beach who has lost his memory.  Twenty-three years earlier, a brother and sister go on a family vacation in the same town.  The third narrator is a woman whose husband disappeared and never returned from work.   The book takes you through all of the stories of these three scenarios leading you to unravel the mystery.

Castle of Water by Dane Huckelbridge

Castle of Water has been all over bookstagram lately and receiving rave reviews, so I knew that it had to get on my list.  When I heard that the audible version was also getting a thumbs up, I jumped on and used one of my audible credits.  I know that I would have loved this book if I had read it in physical form, but the audio version truly brought Barry and Sophie to life.  Castle of Water gives alllll of the feelings.  There were cheers and tears and I was captivated.

When a small plane crashes in the South Pacific, Barry and Sophie are the only survivors and find themselves on a small island, far from any other human life.  What unfolds is more than you expect and the depth of the backstory is wonderful.  If you are looking for a quick read that will suck you right in, grab this one!

 

Favorite Audio Books

I am a huge audio book fan. When I was a kid, my family would buy the Harry Potter books on CD before a trip to my grandparents and listen together (even though we had all read the books!).  It was one of my favorite things.

As an adult and when I commuted to work, I used audio books as a way to decompress on my drive. Audio books were a huge piece of my self-care.  Now, I listen to them as I take care of things around the house, when I run errands, and a lot of the time when the baby is sleeping.  I cannot wait to listen to audio books that we will both love when she gets older!  For now, here are a few of my favorite audio books from the past years.

For now, here are a few of my favorite audio books from the past years.

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Narrated by Diana Steele, Nick Podehl and Kate Rudd

I am behind the curve on Wonder and just listened to it when I saw it go on a huge sale thanks to Anne Bogel of Modern Mrs. Darcy and her daily deals!  I LOVED this book.  As a Child Life Specialist who has worked with kids in hospitals and beyond, this book spoke to my heart.   Although I’m sure I would have loved it just as much in physical book form, the narrators were fabulous and made the story come alive.

Wonder if the story of Auggie, a boy about to start middle school and school in general for the first time.  Auggie has spent his life being home schooled due to medical conditions and a facial deformity and the book follows him, his friends, and his family throughout his first year of school.  It is the story of kindness, friendship, bravery, and is relatable on so many levels for kids (and people) of all ages.

If you like a heartwarming story that isn’t always easy, this book is for you.  Honestly, I think maybe it should be required reading to be a human and everyone should at least try it!

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Narrated by George Newbern

A Man Called Ove took me a little bit to get into, but once I was in I couldn’t stop.  The characters in this book are great and the ending made my heart feel so much.  Also, I surely would have made up my own way to say “Ove” and the narration helped me learn the correct pronunciation so that I can talk about it with others and maybe not feel silly.

A Man Called Ove is the story of Ove, an older man who is a little rough around the edges and very particular.   When new neighbors move in, Ove is pushed past his comfort zone.  The story flows between present day and Ove’s history.

If you are looking for a great story that makes you want to run out and buy more of the author’s work, a story that pulls your heart strings, and a story that makes you laugh, A Man Called Ove might be for you.

Inside the O’Briens by Lisa Genova

Narrated by Skipp Sudduth

Inside the O’Briens is the story of a family coping with Huntington’s Disease.  I listened to this one in 2015, shortly after listening to Lisa Genova’s well-known Stil Alice.   Lisa Genova writes so well about some of the struggles that families coping with illness go through, particularly from the angle of adult children.

If you liked Still Alice, I would highly suggest Inside the O’Briens.

The Lake House by Kate Morton

Narrated by Caroline Lee

It takes a really wonderful story for me to put this in my favorites when the audio version is over 21 hours long.  I have to admit, that somewhere in the range of 8-12 hours is generally more my speed.  Kate Morton’s books are always some of my favorites.  They tend to start out slow and often take me a bit to get into, but then suddenly I cannot wait for more.

The Lake House tells the story of the disappearance of a young boy during a family party approximately 60 years ago.  The story goes back and forth between the past with Alice, a teenager, at the time of her brother’s disappearance and present day with a detective, Sadie, who stumbles upon the estate from which he disappears.

If you enjoy any of Kate Morton’s work, books that have a gentle, slow climb and wonderful stories with a mystery attached you might like this one.

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

Narrated by Tamara Lovatt-Smith

This was my first Liane Moriarty book, I listened to it back in 2014 and it still might be my favorite of her books.

What Alice Forgot tells the story of a woman who suddenly loses are a large chunk of her memory (10 years).  Her life at 29 was much different than her life at 39 and Alice is forced to review the last ten years almost from the perspective of an outsider.

Despite some of the seriousness, this was a fun listen and made me want to jump in the car.  If you are a fan of Liane Morarity, interested in trying her books, or maybe a fan of Jojo Moyes, What Alice Forgot is a great audio book to try.

Are you an audio book listener?  I’d love to hear your favorites to add to my list!

 

 

 

Our Favorite Touch and Feel Books

mama and little bookworm

My almost 10-month-old is obsessed with touch and feel books.  So much so that the first time we read any book, she checks the pages to see if they have any good textures for her to check out.  We have I thought that I would share some of our favorites in case you are in the market for books for your little one or gifts!

That’s Not My Puppy by Fiona Watt (Author) and Rachel Wells (Illustrator)

This is an Usborne book and a little trickier to find online, but can be purchased new here.  This one has some big touch and feel areas (not tiny ones that are hard for a baby to find).  We have a dog at home, so it gives us all sorts of new things to talk about!

Llama Llama Sand and Sun by Anna Dewdney

This is hands down my little’s favorite touch and feel book.   Anna Dewdney will forever be a favorite author in my house.  I just think Llama and his Mama are so relatable and give so much room for supporting kid’s emotions.  This touch and feel gives so many different “real” textures.  It keeps my baby occupied for a long time and she knows exactly where to find her favorite pages!

Baby Touch and Feel by Dawn Sirett

The DK Baby Touch and Feel books are probably the easiest to find.  They have a ton of variety and topics, so if you have a baby who is super interested in something particular, I bet you can find it!  I have to admit, these aren’t necessarily my favorite because some of the textures are tiny and hard to find.  But, my baby loves this size book and enjoys reading it solo when we are in the car or she is playing.

Sophie’s Busy Day by Dawn Sirett 

As I’m putting this together, I just realized that this is another one published by DK (see, I told you they were plentiful!).  This is another one that my baby loves. Sophie is her favorite toy and the textures throughout the book have a pretty good variety!

Animal Kisses by Barney Saltzberg

Kisses are a big topic at our house (my little loves giving out kisses to our family!), so any book that talks about kisses get us big smiles.  We don’t currently own this one, but we’ve read it and she loves it!  It might be the next to add to our library.

There are SO many more touch and feel books and they create such a wonderful, interactive way to read with your little.  If you have any favorites that you think we should add, let me know!

 

 

DIY Family Board Book

 

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Babies love pictures of babies and they love pictures of the people they love. My baby is no exception.  She could walk around our house with us looking at pictures all day.  I have been eyeing some of the companies that print board books for of names and faces, but the cost is a little hard to swallow. I have plans to make her a few different board books, so I wanted to explore a way to make it myself.

I searched online and found a few examples of other DIY board books and used those to give my inspiration.  I want to be able to sit and read it with her, but not worry about handing it to her in the car or play with on her own.   So, I pieced it together with a little time in the craft aisle.  I had a good amount of supplies at home but did need to grab a few things that I can reuse in the future to create more books for her.

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Supplies:

  • Newsboard  – Newsboard comes in 8.5 x 11 sheets.  I used my cricut to cut the pages to the desired size and shape.  If you do not have a cricut, just create a template and use an Xacto knife!
  • Pictures – I printed my pictures at Costco and chose the 5×5 option
  • Double Sided Tape – I actually used a different kind to start the project, but switched when  I ran out of the first tape.
  • Xacto Knife
  • Heavy Duty Hole Punch – My regular hole punch was not strong enough to get through the newsboard, but this heavy duty one made it so easy!
  • Binding Wires
  • Self Healing Cutting Mat

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Steps:

1) Edit your pictures and send them to be printed.   I used the website Picmonkey to make all of the images that I wanted to use square and add each person’s name to the bottom.  I saved the images to my computer and uploaded everything to Costco to print in 5×5.

2) Cut your newsboard to size and shape.  I used my Cricut to do this, but you can create a paper template using any of your board books and an Xacto knife.

3) Use double sided tape around all of the ages of the newsboard and attach the images.

4) Use the Xacto knife to trim your pictures, if you want the rounded corners.

5) I used the book binding wires and a permanent marker to mark where I wanted the holes to go for my book.  If you have access to a heavy duty book binding machine, this would be much cleaner!  If not, hole punch away like me!

6) Insert book binding wires and press to close.  Again, a book binding machine would do this much cleaner for you.

7) Enjoy the book with your little!  Talk about the family members, make comments about anything else in the picture, memories from the day the picture was taken, etc.  Talk, talk, talk!

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Favorite Reads of the Summer (so far)

Last week, I posted my July reads, which included a few of my summer favorites.  Before my July reads, I read some really great books.  Books that made me think, books that made me feel, and books that gave an escape.  I tend to prefer books that I can read relatively quickly and that I just can’t put down (but, doesn’t everyone?).  Here are my favorite reads from earlier this spring/summer that could be a perfect fit for August.

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

I have heard about this one on and off for awhile, so I decided on a whim to download it one day when I was needing something on my kindle.  It was fun, it was wild, it was an escape and I really enjoyed it!

Crazy Rich Asians is the story of one girlfriend who goes to visit her boyfriend’s family in Singapore. Unbeknownst to her when she leaves New York for the summer visit, his family is beyond wealthy and what awaits is all kinds of crazy.  It was a little hard to keep track of all of the characters at first  (I wish that I had read it on paper because I could have flipped back and forth easier).

If you like books that take you away to a different world and that are a fun little escape, this one might be for you.  There are two other books in the series that I am adding to my list, but I am a little nervous because I have heard that they aren’t quite as fun.

One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid

This was my first Taylor Jenkins Reid (my second was The Seven Husbands of Eveylyn Hugo in July).  It was quick, fun and I found myself rooting for everyone!

One True Loves is the story of a woman who is newly engaged and suddenly her previous fiancee who had been presumed dead for years shows up.  Throughout the book, you see the different perspectives and travel along with her as she navigates the challenges of her past and present loves.

If you like quick books that you can read in an afternoon that are sprinkled with a little romance and you can root for all of the characters, I recommend this one!

It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover

I really loved this book.  I’ve heard mixed reviews (although, it has a 4.4 on goodreads) and I’m guessing that it very much depends on the sensitive nature of the book.  This was my first Colleen Hoover and I’m really interested in reading more.

It Ends With Us tells the story of Lily and her relationships.  It’s the story of the course of a relationship, reminders of a previous relationship and so much more.  It’s really about the ways that relationships shape us and all of the complexities that can bring along.

If you are someone who has triggers and is cautious of sensitive material for your own mental health, I am going to say that you might want to avoid this one or at the very least do a bit of research before diving in.

Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum

This is my YA pick for the summer.  In my professional life, I have worked with grieving teens and this book hit so many nails on the head.  I found myself wanting to talk with grieving teens who had read it and found a place to relate.  I sure hope it makes it into some of their hands who need it.

Jessie is a teen who just moved to a new city after her Dad remarried.  Jessie’s Mom died two years ago and her whole life has been changed in that time.  One day, after moving, Jessie gets an e-mail from someone anonymous who offers to help her in her new school.  Throughout the book this relationship evolves and you are never quite sure if the anyonymous person is who Jessie needs in “real life”.

If you like YA and haven’t picked this one up, it is a great quick read that I highly recommend!

This is How it Always Is by Laurie Frankel

As I am typing this, I just realized that Laurie Frankel has two other books and I cannot wait to read them.  This is my favorite book of the year so far.  It is a sensitive subject, but is mostly about the ways in which we make decisions.

I really do not feel like I can do this story justice by talking about the plot.  It is so much more than that.  This book is about family, relationships, parenting and the ways in which secrets evolve.  I loved this book.  I didn’t want to put it down.   Even when there was one part that I didn’t love quite as much, this is still my favorite.   I cannot recommend it more!

Have you read anything spectacular this summer?  I’d love to know and I’m always looking to add to my pile.

– Chelsea

Favorite Newborn Books

I’m joining Friday Favorites and thought that newborn books are the perfect way to start.

Even before my baby was born, I was reading her books.  I would pick my favorites off of the shelf and read them out loud to her, knowing that stories were one part of parenthood that made me so excited.  These books are baby approved and wonderful for newborns!

High contrast books

Newborns love to look at high contrast anything and there are plenty of options.  These pages used to amaze my little when she was a newborn.

Hello Baby High Contrast Book

Baby Faces

Anything with babies or faces is great for very young babies, older babies, toddlers, all of the tiny readers!  My little LOVES baby faces books and we have plenty of them.  Some of our favorites are:

Smile Baby Faces Board Book

Baby Faces

Photo Albums

Our baby loves this album of pictures of our family.  She loves it more now that she is older, but it was always fun to look at with her when she was tiny. Without the pictures, it also makes a great high contrast book!

Sassy Look Photo Book

Really anything can be a book for a newborn.  I read plenty of books to her that are typically for “older” children.  Do you have any favorite newborn books?  Share away!