5 Things I’m Grateful For (October 2021)

So much to be grateful for.

  1. A beautiful book called The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune. One of my favorites of 2021 in a year that’s been full of wonderful books.
  2. A new chapter book series that Edgar and I have been reading together – the Eerie Elementary books by Jack Chabert. They are spooky, so I was a little concerned they might be scary for Edgar, but he loves them and hasn’t seem scared at all – possibly because the premise of the book is silly enough that he finds it all funny and entertaining rather than scary. The books are silly, spooky, and perfect for the Halloween season.
  3. Light seasonal decorating! Tamara and I have never been big on seasonal decor. However, as Halloween approached, the boys started getting excited to make our house festive/spooky. We started out with little orange foam pumpkins – they drew jack-o-lantern faces and hung them in their bedroom windows. Tamara made a giant spiderweb in the front yard and we tied tiny spider rings to it; then we slowly started adding bigger homemade spiders to the web. I love this slow-paced, all-season-long manner of decorating; making the house festive is an enjoyable, activity-based affair, rather than a mad dash on a single day.
  4. A weekend packing up and saying good-bye to my childhood home. More on that at some point.
  5. The creeping approach of the holidays. While I’m not feeling great about the approach of daylight savings time and winter, I am so excited for the holidays – time for family and general merriment.

Happy October – and happy almost Halloween!

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books + reading

In search of a “light read”

There are times when I want to read a book that’s a “light read.” A book that isn’t going to make me cry or have me peeking around corners for psychopath serial killers. An easy read – a beach read, perhaps.

With this particular genre of books, it’s difficult for me to find a title I like. In a recent post (Books I Couldn’t Put Down), I wrote about my reading life as a parent – how I really need books to be compelling page-turners to maintain my interest. That works really well with genres like murder mysteries or psychological thrillers. But with books that we’d call a “light read”? It’s trickier for me to find one that keeps me turning the pages. I’m not a big fan of romance, and if the plot of the book doesn’t contain a little bit of mystery or suspense, then I lose interest quickly and end up abandoning the book.

When I find a light read that’s enjoyable for me and keeps me turning the pages, it’s a happy surprise. Which is why I wanted to share a few of those favorites for others who might share in my quest.

If you’re looking for a light read that’s still a great book, I recommend:

  • Supreme Courtship by Christopher Buckley.
  • Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple. (This is my number one recommendation anytime someone is looking for a light read.)
  • Young Jane Young, by Gabrielle Zevin.
  • Boomsday by Christopher Buckley.
  • The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde. 
  • Anxious People by Fredrik Bakman.
  • The Readers Of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald. 
  • No Way To Treat A First Lady, by Christopher Buckley.
  • The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer.
  • An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green. 
  • Confessions Of A Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella.
  • Bridget Jones’ Diary by Helen Fielding. (I often gift this book to people who say they aren’t readers – such a funny, enjoyable read.)
  • The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin.
  • About A Boy by Nick Hornby. (I think other Hornby books would probably fit in this category; I remember also liking Juliet Naked, How To Be Good, and A Long Way Down.)

Feel free to share your favorite easy, light reads. Happy reading!

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books + reading

YA/middle grade novels adults will love

Recently, I read two amazing middle grade novels that I loved, both by the author Rebecca Stead – When You Reach Me, which was first published in 2009, and The List Of Things That Will Not Change, which was published in April 2020. The books were beautiful.

I sometimes forget that it can be wonderful to read a well-written middle grade or young adult novel. If this isn’t a habit you’re in, I’ll share that if the book is well-written, you do not feel like you’re reading a “kids book” – you simply get lost in the story and enjoy the writing. Oftentimes, the novels I read that are aimed at younger readers have simpler, clearer language and fewer lengthy descriptions of settings – and, TBH, I’ve been a skimmer of lengthy descriptions of settings ever since my days of reading Anne of Green Gables for the first time. (Don’t get me wrong – I love the AOGG series. But sometimes, Anne would describe a beautiful tree for three pages and those parts were not my jam.)

I’ve been sorting through my Goodreads list and sharing recommendations in various genres. Here are a few of my favorite YA/middle grade novels:

  • The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin – one of my favorite books of all time in any category. 
  • The List Of Things That Will Not Change and When You Reach Me, both by Rebecca Stead.
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.
  • Wonder by R.J. Palacio.
  • The Giver by Lois Lowry.
  • The Truly Devious novels by Maureen Johnson. 
  • How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon; The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas; and Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes. (These are all great books about a heavy topic; all three stories are about the aftermath of the shooting of a young Black boy.)
  • The Higher Power Of Lucky by Susan Patron.
  • Feed by M.T. Anderson.
  • The Gospel According To Larry by Janet Tashjian.
  • Cheaper By The Dozen by Frank Gilbreth Jr. 
  • Weetzie Bat by Francesca Lia Block.
  • Matilda by Roald Dahl.
  • The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart.

These books are all great choices for either an adult to read solo or for an adult and older child (appropriate age depending on topic) to read together. (Read aloud! Even as kids get to be 8, 9, 10, and older, reading to them out loud can be wonderufl family time.) Happy reading!

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books + reading

Books I couldn’t put down

I have always loved to read, but my reading life has changed since becoming a parent.

I’ve always loved reading the kind of book you can’t put down – a page-turner, a book that’s so good I want to keep it on the passenger seat of the car so that I can read a paragraph during red lights. (True story.) However, since becoming a mom, I’ve found that “can’t put down” is practically a requirement.

For me, I typically don’t have an endless amount of time to read. I read in little pockets of time – ten minutes while the boys play cooperatively in the backyard, and then I pause to help the boys navigate a sibling squabble. Twenty minutes at bedtime, and then I remember I need to pack lunch for the next day. It’s rare for me to be able to sit and read for an hour or longer.

And so – I need these books to pull me in with an element of can’t-put-it down suspense. If there’s no dead body, no compelling mystery that I am dying to find the answer to, the book simply doesn’t grab my attention strongly enough. I lose interest, and I end up abandoning it in favor of a new title.

A thriller can be a great read for someone like me; they can be incredibly suspenseful and compelling, and I do often enjoy this category of books. But I also don’t want to only read books that are thrillers. That said, I am often in search of books that are can’t-put-down page-turners that are NOT thrillers.

If you’re like me and occasionally want a can’t-put-down book that I wouldn’t label as a murder mystery or thriller, here are a few of my favorites:

  • An American Marriage by Tayari Jones. 
  • The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett.
  • The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz.
  • Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano.
  • Such A Fun Age by Kiley Reid.
  • Before The Fall by Noah Hawley.
  • The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid.
  • Fleishman Is In Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner.

If you DO love a thriller – and believe me, I do! – here are a few of my favorite thrillers:

  • The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides.
  • Darling Rose Gold by Stephanie Wrobel.
  • Dark Matter by Blake Crouch.
  • Falling by T.J. Newman.
  • The Flight Attendant by Chris Bohjalian. 

I have many other recs for thrillers I’ve enjoyed, so feel free to reach out if you want more! If you have recommendations, please share. Parenting is hard – we need good books to give our brains a break.

Happy reading!

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Currently: October 2021

Currently reading:

I’ve been on a big reading kick lately and just recently finished Escape From Mr. Lemoncello’s Library – loved it. I’m currently reading The House in the Cerulean Sea and loving it oh-so-much. All recommendations for middle grade/YA fiction are welcome!

Currently reading to my kids:

Edgar and Jonas have both been loving the Olive and Beatrix books by Amy Marie Stadelmann. Edgar also has been enjoying the Schubert books, a series of Conscious Discipline books that he’s been listening to at school; we have a few copies at home and he loves them all. We found a great book at our newly-opened-after-renovation library called Shark and Bot, which is a graphic novel for young readers. While I definitely prefer a traditional book to a graphic novel, I am finding that the kids graphic novels we’ve read together are great for this age – a more advanced storyline, but with lots of great visuals to keep the kids engaged. (There is a graphic novel version of the first two books in the Magic Treehouse series and Edgar really enjoyed the first one.) Recently, they are BOTH (!!!) enjoying re-reading all the Princess In Black books. They are also both equally obsessed with a silly and semi-spooky book called I Want To Be In A Scary Story by Sean Taylor – they literally argue over it at bedtime. We read it all together on the couch, then Jonas takes it to his bedroom for Tamara to read it again, and when they’re done they deliver it to me and Edgar so WE can read it one more time. Don’t love it when they bicker – love it when they’re literally fighting over a book.

Currently listening to:

My newest favorite podcast is Home School Hood, which is a new listen from Erica Ladd of The Girl Next Door podcast. I have a secret obsession with learning about all things homeschooling and education, and it’s all very much on my mind with Edgar starting school. I’ve also been reading a book called The Homeschool Alternative by Dr. Myiesha Taylor and that’s been extremely informative and insightful.

Currently the boys are:

Getting settled into their new routine! Edgar had homework for the first time – homework. (I imagine I’ll have some thoughts and feelings about homework as he gets older, but right now, while it consists of tracing a page full of numbers? It’s adorable and new and we both love it.) Jonas is still so excited to be going to school “all by myself.” He loves his two teachers and having things to tell us about his day. He also gets REAL bummed on Tuesdays and Thursdays when it’s not a school day. A super-sweet brother moment was Edgar gently telling him last Tuesday, “It’s okay, Jo Jo! You’ll have a really fun day at home!” Heart melting.

Currently grateful for:

Two hours spent simplifying my “Want To Read” list on Goodreads. This task was a happy surprise during a season when I am trying to simplify and declutter many areas of my home and life.

I was having trouble falling asleep one night, and I looked at my WTR list on Goodreads, and it had over 600 books on it – TOO MANY. Typically, if I see a book that sounds interesting, I immediately add it to this list without thinking much about it. It ends up being way too long of a list. and not necessarily books that I truly want to read – so very unhelpful.

That night, I went through the books and deleted a whole bunch that I couldn’t even remember adding to the list. Once it was culled down a little, I went through it again (insomnia much?) and looked at the descriptions more closely. If it really sounded like something I might want to read, I left it; if I wasn’t sure, I deleted it. Now, the list is just under 100 titles – so it’s actually a real resource I could use if I’m in one of my reading ruts and don’t know which book I should read next. I’m also hoping this simplifying will help with my habit of over-requesting library books; sometimes, I hear about a book, and I immediately request it from the library. Now that my WTR list is under control, I can add a book to that list instead. That way, I won’t end up with 35 books on the hold shelf at the library, 10 of which are books I don’t even remember ordering. (True story – multiple times over, true story.)

Currently looking forward to:

While I am bummed about the end of summer, I’m loving the cooler fall weather and getting excited about the seasonal fun of October, November, and December. Especially with Edgar and Jonas experiencing the festivities through their school communities as well.

Happy October – and happy fall!

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