Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Quick Lit: Mini Reviews of Some Recent Reads - January Edition

I'm trying to read more books that I choose for my own reading enjoyment. Not for review, but because I've been wanting to read them or they caught my attention. Most of them have been talked about ad nauseam or have been on my to-read list for a long time so they don't really need a full review. But, I'd still like to give them some space here on the blog.

I'll be linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy and her monthly Quick Lit link up. Be sure to head over to see others link up their Quick Lit posts. 

I'm finally back into a reading groove and I've got SO MANY books that I can't wait to dig into. I've got some full reviews coming up soon and below, I'm sharing some mini-reviews from books I read in the last month. 

Dealing with Your House's Dirty Little Secrets
By: Dana K. White
Published: November 8, 2016
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Format: eBook

I've been a fan of Dana's blog and podcast for a while. Her blog A SLOB COMES CLEAN is funny yet she tells it like it is. She doesn't have the perfect house or the perfect life. Nor does she make everything look like the perfect Pinterest or Instagram picture. She is just like you and me, trying to stay ahead of the mess and maybe, be able to have people over without hiding all the mess in a closet at the last minute. 

Her book talks you through the basic steps of handling the daily care and upkeep of your home, starting with doing the dishes...every day. Waking up with no dishes on the counter or a dishwasher of clean dishes makes a huge difference. Her book is hilarious yet spot on. "Methods don't clean your house. You have to clean your house." She also tackles the clutter and helps you get rid of all the stuff that makes cleaning your home harder. The end of the book offers a 28 Day step-by-step process for tackling your mess. 

It's practical, it's funny, and it's straightforward. A good read and motivator for getting stuff done.  

How to Build a Grace-Filled Life, Life-Giving Morning Routine
By: Kat Lee
Published: December 5, 2017
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Format: Audiobook

I remember several years ago, finding Kat Lee's blog and following her simple action plan for handling a morning routine. My life was much different then. I was a stay-at-home mom and had young children. Then I saw this book recommended by Sheila at The Deliberate Reader and it piqued my interest. I didn't realize the author was the same person until I went to her website. 

Lee approaches her morning with a three-minute process of God - Plan - Move. Obviously, this approach will eventually take more than 3 minutes, but it starts with building a habit of these three things, every morning. 

Lee reads her own audiobook and I found her voice calming and reassuring during my morning listens. I wish I had a physical copy of the book but her website has several printables and tips that are from the book. I haven't necessarily put her whole plan into place, but I have started every morning with a glass of water since I listened to her book. It's a good read if you are looking to create a new structure or routine for your morning. 

By: Fredrik Backman
Published: October 31, 2017
Publisher: Atria Books
Format: Hardcover

A quick read (under an hour) to remind you that every life is a gift. Backman wrote this in one evening while reflecting on his own life and family. Since it is set on Christmas Eve, it felt like a great choice to read during the Christmas season. 

It's a novella and is read quite quickly, but it packs a powerful punch to the gut. A young girl is suffering on a hospital floor from cancer. A man has survived a car crash. Can one life be exchanged for another? The woman in the grey sweater with the file folder says no....or can it? Is one life more valuable than another? Can you redeem your life choices by saving another? 

It was a thought-provoking read, but I wouldn't recommend purchasing the hardcover version unless you are adding it to your Backman collection. It wasn't worth the $12 or maybe not the $4.99 Kindle either. I think it is more a $1.99 Kindle Deal. 

By: Paulo Coelho
Published: December 8, 2017
Publisher: Audible Studios
Format: Audiobook

This was a free download from Audible. I like choosing books to read around the Christmas season that involve a Christmas story. Unfortunately, the only enjoyable story from this collection was Zip Code 12345. It was the type of story I was hoping to hear during the Christmas season. This story involved a group of employees at GE that give of themselves to make sure they bring the spirit of Christmas to children all over the world. The rest of the stories, I lost interest pretty quickly. 

This post includes affiliate links. If you choose to purchase from the above links, I may receive a small commission without you having to pay more for your purchase. Thanks for supporting 

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Book Review: Just Between Us By Rebecca Drake

A Novel

By: Rebecca Drake

Published: January 9, 2018

Publisher: St. Martin's Press


I think what makes suspense novels such a thrilling read is when you can picture yourself in the story. Four suburban moms who meet every morning and afternoon at the bus stop become quick friends. Even though their backgrounds are a bit different, they soon become dependent on the friendship and support that each one offers. Julie, a high-profile realtor, and Sarah become friends first. Then Alison moves in. Even though she keeps her past a secret, she soon becomes friends with Julie and Sarah but always feels like the third wheel. Then Heather, a former model and wife of a plastic surgeon, seems like the perfect addition to their group. Soon their lives become intertwined and three of the friends begin to suspect that one of their friends is being abused by her husband. When they finally confront her, the ripple effects of that revelation result in a murder and a downward spiral that none of them would have expected. 

Some of my closest friends are moms that I met because our children have been going to school together since preschool. While reading this book, I could picture myself being wrapped up in the care and concern of a friend being abused. But, would I have gone to the lengths that these women did to protect her? I can't say, but it did make for a thrilling page-turner. 

The novel is told from the perspective of each of the women. In each chapter one woman shares just enough of their past, as well as their regrets regarding the decision they all made, to keep the reader guessing as to what that horrifying choice was that forever changed their lives. I appreciated that the top of each page-spread had the character's name since especially in the beginning, it was tricky to keep all the women straight. Even though parts of the plot are predictable, the author adds in just enough surprises and twists to keep the reader interested. Although some of the particulars made have felt a bit far-fetched and I had to keep reminding myself to overlook the details, I still became enthralled with the story. Once the twist is revealed, I did find some of the material a bit graphic, but I easily skimmed the details and moved on to the next chapter as I got the gist of what happened. 

Fans of suspense novels and a bit of the unreliable narrator will be intrigued by the secrets each of the characters are hiding from their friends. Once doubt creeps into the minds of the women, the fear of what's to come grows among the pages. I believe that most of us feel like we would never be able to commit such a horrific crime, but that line that separates us from those who have committed a crime becomes blurred very quickly. You really have no idea what you would do if you were thrown into a situation of protecting your best friend. 

Drake's fast-paced novel shares the lengths that women would go to protect their friends and their families, how secrets can creep into the psyche and affect the ways we interact with others, and the shame we feel when everything begins to fall apart. 

Rebecca Drake - source

Rebecca Drake is the author of the novels Don’t Be Afraid, The Next Killing, The Dead Place, which was an IMBA bestseller, and Only Ever You, as well as the short story “Loaded,” which was featured in Pittsburgh Noir. A graduate of Penn State University and former journalist, she is currently an instructor in Seton Hill University’s Writing Popular Fiction M.F.A. program. Rebecca lives in Pittsburgh, PA, with her husband and two children.

To purchase a copy of JUST BETWEEN US, click the photo below:

Thanks to the publisher for sending a copy of this book for the purpose of this review. This review is my honest opinion. If you choose to purchase the book through the above links, I may receive a small commission without you having to pay a cent more for your purchase. Thanks for supporting 

Monday, January 15, 2018

My Bout of Books 21 Wrap Up

Bout of Books

I participated all last week in the Bout of Books 21 Reading Challenge. It's a low-pressure way to jump-start your reading and have fun with other readers at the same time.

There were twitter chats and daily challenges and LOTS of encouragement to keep reading. Since I can't shut off the rest of the world and my responsibilities, I still had to do other things this week. But, I really tried to focus my spare moments on reading. Here is how my week turned out.

These are the books I had decided to focus on during the Bout of Books 21 week. You can see the full list, HERE. They were all books I wanted to read so I thought that would help push me to keep reading. 

Day 1 - January 8, 2018

The challenge today was to describe yourself #insixwords. 

I had a hard time choosing just 6 words because I am so much more than these 6 words. But this is what I shared anyway.

There was also a Twitter Chat that evening that was a lot of fun. 

Minutes listened: 0

Day 2 - January 9, 2018

The challenge today was to post your reading goals.

My reading goal this year is 100 books. Last year I read 120 (including children's books) so this should be manageable. It is basically one regular book and one children's book a week if you figure it that way...with 2 weeks off. I will also be participating in the Modern Mrs. Darcy 2018 Reading Challenge.  I should have goals related to reading my own books from my own shelves, reading books from my Kindle and then deleting them, getting reviews done on time, etc. But, that is pretty much just setting myself up for failure. LOL!

Pages read: 15 - from THIS IS HOW IS ALWAYS IS...ugh....I was gone all day and then at a basketball game all evening
Minutes listened: 90 minutes - driving in the car throughout the day listening to FIRST WOMEN

Day 3 - January 10, 2018

The challenge today was to make a book rainbow. I chose to make two book rainbows.

The on of the left is from random to read books off my shelves. The other is from my collection of The Reader's Digest Best Loved Books for Young Reader's Collection.

Pages read: 120 page in JUST BETWEEN US
Minutes listened: 35 minutes on audio of FIRST WOMEN

Day 4 - January 11, 2018

The challenge today was all about favorites. Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to participate today.

It was a busy day. I had a lunch date with my husband and our nephew and we had a little winter storm blow through and we celebrated our daughters 13th birthday. So, not as much reading as I would have liked.

Pages read: 10 pages in THIS IS HOW IT ALWAYS IS until I fell asleep
Minutes listened: 35 minutes on audio of FIRST WOMEN

Day 5 - January 12, 2018

The challenge today was a Newspaper Headline. I didn't have a chance to get something done for this one.

Pages read: Zero - too many things going on today and basketball in the evening. I was too tired when I went to bed.
Minutes listened: 2 hours on audio of  FIRST WOMEN- I had appointments and errands to run so I listened while driving.

Day 6 - January 13, 2018

The Challenge today was Book Spine Poetry.

I've never been very good at poetry, reading or writing it. But, I thought this left a lot to the imagination.

Fingerprints of you
Words get in the way
Promise not to tell

It gave me the image of an abused woman. Probably because I'm dealing with that subject in the book I'm reading, but the woman is thinking of fingerprints that he left behind...maybe on her neck. His words get in the way - his apologies his excuses - of her leaving him. He constantly is asking her to promise not to tell anyone. 

There was also a twitter chat, but I wasn't able to participate.

Pages read: 179 pages read and finished JUST BETWEEN US.
Minutes listened: 30 minutes on audio of FIRST WOMEN while getting ready to head to more basketball.

Day 7 - January 14, 2018

Today's challenge was to write a book review for a book you finished this week.  I didn't have a chance to do that today as we were at my parent's house all day for a family gathering. I'll be posting two reviews this week.

Pages read: 32 pages in THIS IS HOW IT ALWAYS IS
Minutes listened: 30 minutes on audio of FIRST WOMEN while getting ready to head to my parent's house.

So, I didn't reach my goal of finishing 6 books and instead only finished one book, JUST BETWEEN US. But, I am very close to being finished with my audiobook and can focus on the others this week hopefully. I have some review books looming so we will have to see how the week plays out.

I just really appreciate these read-a-thons because it forces me to THINK about reading during any spare moment. It rekindles a love for reading. It gets me talking about books on social media. It introduces me to other readers, writers, bloggers, and book lovers out there as well. And, the best part is it always introduces me to new books I should read.

Thanks to the Bout of Books crew for hosting and if this sounds fun to you, be sure to check out Bout of Books 22 that begins on May 14. That is graduation week for our son, so I KNOW I won't be able to participate in that one. But, if you have a chance, I would highly recommend it.

This post contains affiliate links. If you choose to purchase the book through the above links, I may receive a small commission without you having to pay a cent more for your purchase. Thanks for supporting 

Friday, January 12, 2018

Children's Book Review: Hey, Baby By Stephanie Warren Drimmer

A Collection of Pictures, Poems, and Stories from Nature's Nursery

By: Stephanie Warren Drimmer

Published: November 14, 2017

Publisher: National Geographic Kids


No matter whether they are human babies or animal babies, they take a lot of work, but they are sooooo cute! Through poems, stories, folktales, and descriptions we are introduced to some of the most amazing and adorable baby animals from all over the world. The book is divided into geographic areas like Mountains and Plains, Jungles and Savannas, and Ocean and Sea Babies for example. Then animals from each region are shown through pictures with an accompanying tale, poem, or description about its life.

This sweet baby bobcat made me want to cuddle him! I learned numerous facts about baby animals and their parents, but my favorites were the folktales and legends in the story. I had never heard the legend of the pink dolphins or how the zebra got its stripes and the baboon got its bare bottom. I had no idea Paul Bunyan had a connection to why whales aren't found in lakes. The back of the book also gives a bit of background on each of the legends and folktales and how their stories have continued for generations.

The photography is amazing, of course. The babies are just the cutest and the photos of moms with their babies remind the readers that animal or human, mothers just want to protect and love their babies. This is a coffee-table-sized book that can be pulled out and looked through over the course of several weeks or read in a few sittings. The pictures alone will keep kids looking through the pages over and over again.

Stephanie Warren Drimmer - source
Stephanie Warren Drimmer writes about science and nature for kids. Seh is a regular contributor to magazines like National Geographic Kids. Stephanie studied science journalism at New York University's Science, Health, and Environmental Reporting Program. She lives in Los Angeles, California, with her husband, dog, cat, and five chickens that she raised from teen baby chicks.

To purchase a copy of HEY, BABY!, click the photo below:

I will be linking up this review on Booking Mama's regular Saturday feature, Kid Konnection. This is a place for bloggers to share posts related to children's and YA books. You will find spotlights, reviews, and sometimes even giveaways by clicking HERE, every Saturday.

Thanks to the publisher for sending a copy of this book for the purpose of this review. This review is my honest opinion. If you choose to purchase the book through the above links, I may receive a small commission without you having to pay a cent more for your purchase. Thanks for supporting  

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

The 10 Most Popular Posts from 2017

2017 was a busy year on the blog as far as visits were concerned. I think it was the year of most visits to the blog and for a variety of posts. I was surprised to see which posts were the most popular and surprisingly, not all of them were book related.

2017 was also the year the I wrote the least amount of posts, 119. The last time I had fewer posts than that was my first full year of blogging in 2008. But, I would like to think that even though I had fewer posts, my content was much improved. I can tell that my writing style has changed over the years and my posts are definitely prettier.

I'm so thrilled that I have a space to write and people that read it. Thank you to each one of you readers that take time out of your busy lives to read anything that interests you here in my tiny little corner of the internet.

So, without further ado...

Top Ten Most Popular Posts from 2017.

1- Product Review: Brazilian Hammock Chair

Every once in awhile, I have the chance to review products and this was my most popular post of 2017. I am guessing it got quite a bit of promotion from the company, but either way, it was a much-viewed post. The hammock is a great asset for readers to get cozy and read outside during the summer. Our daughter loved sitting and swinging in it. Unfortunately, I didn't get much of a chance to sit in it last summer.

2 - Product Review: Stainless Steel Water Bottle

I still use this water bottle today. I like it a lot and apparently, it got a lot of promotion from the company as well. I would still recommend this water bottle to anyone looking for a water bottle that keeps your water closed and has a no-spill lid.

3 - Children's Book Review: Two Presidential Books from Time for Kids and National Geographic Kids

I am so fortunate to be able to promote children's books and especially the quality books I frequently receive from Time Inc and National Geographic. They never disappoint.

4 - Children's Book Review: Freddy the Frogcaster and the Flash Flood

This children's book got a lot of traffic on Twitter mostly because the author is Janice Dean of Fox News. But, it was also timely due to the crazy weather that was happening all over our country. It is a well-written book that gives children important information without scaring them.

5 - Celebrating iRead Book Tours 3 Year Anniversary

I often join in on book tours to help promote a new book or author. I haven't joined in for awhile because of my schedule, but if I do join, this company is one I frequently join. The book tours with iRead are always well-organized and great books I maybe wouldn't have necessarily heard about. I was happy to help promote their 3 year anniversary. Since this was cross-promoted and had a giveaway attached, I am sure that helped my numbers.

6 - My Favorite Books of 2016

This includes a great round-up of my favorite books including fiction, thrillers, non-fiction, historical fiction, and children's books.

7 - Children's Book Review: History Series from Carole P. Roman

Roman writes a fabulous children's non-fiction series that I regularly feature on the blog. This particular post got a lot of visits and I'm not sure why this one over others except that it included three new additions to her series.

8 - Children's Book Review: Animal Bites Books

This was a giveaway post (now closed) and also part of my promotion for Children's Book Week so that may be why it received a lot of visits. But, also, this is an excellent series of non-fiction children's books from Animal Planet. It's a favorite when I take it into the classroom.

9 - New Books from March 2017

Every month I share all the books that arrived over the course of that month on the blog. I'm not sure why this particular monthly round-up of books was so popular, but I'm guessing it has to do with some sort of social media promotion. A lot of times if an author sees you posting about their book, they are likely to promote it as well. It is a great round-up of books though!

10 - Book Review: Navigating Indieworld by Julie Gerber and Carole P. Roman

This book is a must-read for writers who need help navigating the publishing process. Roman and her daughter have given all the tips for those authors who may want to look into the self-publishing route.  I'm even mentioned in the book as a go-to blogger!

Two bonus posts that were too close in numbers not to mention:

What is Saving My Life Right Now

Half-Way through the winter, it's fun to share what is helping us get through the long cold, dreary days of winter.

Currently 4.18.17

It's fun to shake it up once in awhile and write a different type of post. This one gave you a peek into what was going on in my life personally. It's fun for me to look back through the post and be reminded of what was happening 9 months ago.

Many other posts were very close in numbers to these and I'm just in awe that my posts are even read, let alone by hundreds and thousands of readers. I'm so thankful that I have a place to share about books, about things I love, my family, and any other tidbits of life I think you might enjoy. This blog brings me joy and I hope it brings a bit of joy to you as well. Thanks for reading!

Monday, January 8, 2018

My #OneWord for 2018

I love choosing ONE WORD to narrow my focus for the year. Sheila at offers a space for us to share our ONE WORDS each year. I chose ONE WORD in 2015 and 2016, but never landed on one for last year. I missed having that focus last year and was determined to find one this year. My previous words were Balance and Begin and I found them to be helpful in keeping me focused on my goals. 

This year is going to be an emotional one for me. Our oldest will be graduating from high school in May and heading off to a yet-to-be-determined college in August. Our second child will start his senior year in August and the cycle will start all over again. It's already been difficult going through several "lasts" with our oldest during his senior year. Watching the boys compete and perform together has been so special for our family and knowing this will be the last time has been tough for me. They are best friends and I know they will miss each other deeply. 


I've been trying to find a word that encompasses my emotions and thoughts about this coming year. Then I hugged my son and I knew what my word should be.

The word Embrace has two definitions and both are meaningful to me this year. 

Embrace (verb) - to hold someone closely in one's arms, especially as a sign of affection.
(noun) - an act of holding someone closely in one's arms.

This photo above is one of my favorites. It's Patrick embracing his good friend Kam after he crowned him Homecoming King. Kam was Homecoming King last year and it was a special moment for Patrick to be crowned by him. 

I have been doing a lot of embracing lately. Not just with our children, but with friends as well. There are a number of moms that I am close to that are sending off their first, last, or middle child this year. As we travel together through the "lasts", it's been comforting to know that we have each other to go through it with. I've also been embracing our children and my husband more lately. I've needed the physical contact of the embrace to center and calm me. Did you know that the minimum time necessary to promote the flow of oxytocin and serotonin during an embrace is six seconds?  In order to encourage those mood-boosting chemicals, hold on to that loved one for at least six seconds. 

Embrace (verb) - to accept or support a belief, theory, or change willingly and enthusiastically.
(noun) the act of accepting or supporting something willingly and enthusiastically.  

I am embracing the idea that there will be a change in our family, in our home, in our lives. I am enthusiastic about the experience of choosing a college. I look forward to visiting him there and sending him packages after he moves in. I am excited to support him as he competes at the college level for Cross Country and Track and performs in their music program. I'm in awe of all the opportunities ahead for him and can't wait to see what he is going to be.

I'm embracing the idea of only two children in our home (for one more year) and then knowing that it will just be Pat and I and our daughter. I'm embracing the change that is to come from watching our children leave the protection of our home and begin their lives as adults. I'm embracing the idea that sooner rather than later, my focus will be less about our children and their schedule and more about me and what I want to do.

I may be a bit emotional in the next days, weeks, and months. But, I am bursting with pride over all our little family has created and the changes that are ahead for us. In Ecclesiastes 3, it states that there is a time for many things, one of them being a time to embrace. This is my time and I am going to embrace all of it that I can.

Don't fear change - embrace it.
Anthony J. D'Angelo

Life is all about embracing each moment that is given to you.
Evangeline Lilly

It's not complicated to embrace life. 
You just have to make the choice. 
Faith Hill

Sunday, January 7, 2018

My Bout of Books 21 Reading List

I'll be participating in the Bout of Books 21 Reading Challenge this week. I'm being overly optimistic as now my week is looking a little crazy. But, I'm still hoping to get a few of these finished. Since I've got physical books, an audio book, and a Kindle book, I have lots of options.

I'm still finishing up JUST BETWEEN US.
I've started listening to FIRST WOMEN on audio.
I just received THIS IS HOW IT IS on Kindle through my library Bridges account so I have 12 days left to get that read.
The boys loved READY PLAYER ONE and since the movie comes out soon, I want to read it too and see the movie with them.
THE WAR THAT SAVED MY LIFE is one I just purchased and I really want to read.
OUR STORY BEGINS has been a review book that has been waiting for me and I've been anxious to read it.

This post contains affiliate links. If you choose to purchase through these links, I may receive a small commission without you having to pay a cent more for your purchase. Thanks for supporting