Category Archives: books

Favorite Books of 2020


Anyone who knows me, knows I love to read a lot. Like, all the time. As a kid, I never went anywhere without a book. Nothing has changed as, as an adult, my purse has to be big enough for my Kindle and I always have an audio book queued up on my phone. While I try to vary what I read, 99% of what I devour is contemporary romance books and I have zero apologies for that- they bring me joy, especially during such a dark year like the one we’ve had.

11 year old me, my grandmother, my mullet and my book at a family party.

My Facebook feed has been full of memories of my yearly book reviews from years past and I wanted to share my *most* favorite books of 2020. There is a quiet romance in this book, but it’s really a book about hope and acceptance and learning to love yourself. 

 The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune is pure, complete joyous, hopeful perfection. This is the story of a man who lives a lonely life, following all the rules, just trying to get through each day. He has his cat and his job and very little else. His employer knows he’s a rule follower who never deviates from the manual, so they send him to inspect a home for magical children to evaluate how well the rules are being adhered to. The house is run by a man who cares for his charges with his whole soul; someone who has been deeply hurt by the world. The children in the house are extraordinary in their own way and these two men have to come together to figure out how to keep them safe from a world that doesn’t allow for differences.

I read this book in June, on the way home from a vacation we booked before the world stopped. The vacation was wonderful, but coming home was a stark reminder that nothing was the same. No sports. No camps. No hugging. Nothing really to do and so much fear. We had been in our “2 week” lockdown for 3 months at that point. The world seemed to be teeming with hate and anger as Covid was on the tip of everyone’s tongue. To read a book about a group of misfits who found each other – who found acceptance in each other – was a balm for my heart and exactly what I needed to read at the moment of time. I simply cannot recommend this sweet, funny, poignant, gorgeous book enough.


When I listen to audiobooks, I typically like to listen to books I wouldn’t normally read. This usually includes non-fiction books and memoirs. The biggest standout for me this year was Michael J. Fox’s No Time Like the Future. This man has been dealing with Parkinson’s for 20+ years, raising his family and living his best life. This book was an introspective look at how freaking hard that has been – and how to still find the joy even when things suck. I adored it.

The other standout for me was Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid. Anything by Reid is a one-click buy for me, but I purposely bought this one as an audiobook because it had a hell of an ensemble cast reading it. I hadn’t listened to a book like this with so many different narrators before so I figured I’d give it a whirl and I wasn’t disappointed. It read like an episode of VH1’s Behind the Music in the best way!

So tell me, what was your must-read of the past year?


The Best Books of 2017


Full confession here: 2017 was long year. There were job changes, crazy schedules and the general upheaval in the world. There were times when I was hanging on by a thread, trying to keep the balls in my life from crashing spectacularly to the ground – and days that, despite my best effort, they crashed anyhow.

So this year was the year of comfort books. I subscribed to Kindle Unlimited. I revisited the romance genre- contemporary and historical.  I didn’t read much that strained my brain and while part of me feels badly for that- I mainly just enjoyed the hell out of everything I read this year. And I plan on doing the same thing this year.

Addicted to reading

So, here’s what I loved last year:

My Most Favorite of 2017

Beartown by Fredrik Backman. Beartown is the story of a small town on the edge of being forgotten. The only thing the town is proud of is its junior hockey team full of talented high schoolers. Hockey is life and these boys are raised up – more myth then almost-men. So what happens when one of does something unthinkable?

As a mom raising a male athlete, this one hit me right between the eyes. I still think about this book months later and cannot wait until I can slip it into both my kids hands so we can talk long and hard about it.

A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah Maas:
I preach my love of Sarah Maas loudly and proudly- and this series shows exactly why. An engrossing, far reaching novel with amazing character development, twists and turns- it’s pure escapism at its finest.

Honorable Mentions

Stand-Alone Books

  • Kulti by Mariana Zapata: truth be told, I loved most of the books by Zapata that I read this past year. Wonderful slow-burn romances filled with grown up who talked about problems, reacted appropriately and are sexy as hell.
  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas: The Hubs is a police officer and, the past few years, the way police officers have been portrayed has broken my heart. That said, this book- about a police related shooting- was outstanding as it examined the repercussions of such a shooting.
  • The Alice Network by Kate Quinn: this story was about the strength of women during WWI and WWII- their grace, their passions and their sheer determination to make a difference. Much like The Nightingale, this book wasn’t always easy to read- it was it was well worth it.
  • The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer: I’m not a huge Amy Schumer fan- I didn’t care for her TV show and thought she was OK in her movies- but this book made me laugh out loud. I read it as we were stuck in traffic trying to get to our beach house at the very tip of Corolla, NC. I laughed so hard I had tears in my eyes and I seriously wondered if the Hubs was going to kick me out because he was so mad at the traffic as I laughed like loon next to him.
  • Something like Happy by Eva Woods: I am, at my core, an optimist. This book grappled with how to hold on to that optimism when your world crumbles around you. How do you keep that sense of wonder and joy when the worst has happened. I laughed and cried .


  • Rock Kiss by Nalini Singh: Super sweet, super sexy rock-star romance.
  • Fever by Karen Marie Moning:  This series went up and down for me, but the last book came out in 2017 and it tied things together really well!
  • Wraith Kings by Grace Draven: I don’t even know how I found this series, but I listened to it on audio book and it was outstanding. I inhaled all 3 books and cannot wait until the 4th comes out.
  • The Wallflowers by Lisa Kleypas: This series was my first taste back into historical romances and the whole series was sweet, funny, saucy and sexy.
  • Lost and Found by J.M. Madden: This series, about a detective agency that employs injured vets, was smart, funny and suspenseful.
  • Cainsville by Kelley Armstrong: I preordered this book when it was released in October and I sat on it for 2 months. I adore this series to the point I didn’t want it to end so I simply didn’t read the book. But once I did, I’m so glad I made the leap. While it wasn’t everything I hoped it to would be, it was a great ending to a fantastic series.

So tell me- what you have loved? What can’t you wait to read in 2018?

The Book Battle – May the Odds be Ever in Your Favor


The summer before 4th grade, my family moved to a new house. There were a lot of amazing things about this place- the trees perfect for climbing, the reflective window that was featured in an architectural magazine, the graveyard boarding our property – but the absolute best were our neighbors, Mrs. and Mr. A.

To my 9 year old brain, they were elderly – but I’m sure they weren’t that old when we moved in. They had grown children with families of their own and an inground pool. Now, if I were over a certain age and I had a family consisting of a 9 year old, a 7 year old and 2 year old moving in next to me, I wouldn’t exactly be thrilled. But Mr. and Mrs. A welcomed us with open arms, introduced us to their kids and their families (still family friends to this day!) and gave us free reign over their pool, letting us host a slew of birthday parties there. I can remember Mr. A only swimming in the pool exactly once- but he maintained it like it was his job, keeping it clean for anyone who wanted to be there.

Mrs. A dealt with health issues over the years and, as I grew older, she spent more time at home. She loved her family, Elvis Presley, colorful jewelry and books (and not necessarily in that order). She’d spend a lot of her summer days on her covered back deck, reading a book by the pool and chatting with with whomever was swimming.

I’ve always been a reader – that child who took a book everywhere. Mrs. A saw that love and nurtured it by slipping me paperback after paperback over the years. If she wasn’t home, I’d find books on her love seat on the porch with a note with my name taped to the cover. I gobbled up every book she sent me and relished being able to talk books with someone who loved them as much as I did.


My, my mullet, my Grandmother and my book- most likely not socializing at a family party.

As I grew older, the books became a bit more….adult. I owe my love of all romance novels to Mrs. A and she’ll always have my undying love for introducing me to the Outlander series. I vividly remember our VC Andrews phase – when the books would come with a note inside that stated DO NOT SHOW YOUR PARENTS! underlined twice. I’d have to smuggle them into my room, stash them under my bed and read them late at night. Those books were crazy and my parents would have freaked out if they knew what I was reading- but that was part of the fun.


Anyone else remember this creepy, awful book??


Scorch goes to a nature camp that has different themes each week. His all time favorite week is Hunger Game week.

<Yes, I know. Let’s not think too hard about who in their right mind models a camp off of those books and what kind of crappy parent sends their kid there. *cough*>

We went to the library this week and Scorch was hell bent on reading the Hunger Games, claiming he was the only one in the whole camp who hasn’t. I hemmed and hawed and talked to the librarian about this. Just because my kid can read at a grade level 2+ years above his, doesn’t mean he should, you know?? The violence, the love triangle, the back stabbing and brutality just didn’t sit right with me – I wasn’t convinced that Scorch was mature enough to handle this series.

And then I remembered Mrs. A and how important she made me feel when she trusted me with books that were way above my maturity level. Reading those books didn’t seem to warp me too much….right?

After much research that night, I finally decided to allow Scorch to read Hunger Games. We agreed that I’d read it along side him and that he could only read the first book in the series, a compromise that made us both happy. So far, it’s been a joy sharing this book with my boy and I’m thrilled to see him dive into a book with such enthusiasm.

Here’s to you, Mrs. A for sneaking me horrible books that I had no business reading- ensuring I’d love reading forever – and for giving me the guts to share that love with my kiddos.


Rebel Girls


The interesting part, at least for me, in raising both a boy and a girl is ensuring both my children understand their importance. I want to fully elevate my daughter- I want her to know down to her marrow that she is worthy, intelligent and as capable as any man out there. Period. But, I don’t want to do this at the expense of my son because he is just as worthy, intelligent and capable as any person out there. I struggle with the stereotypes of men as bumbling idiots or hostile assholes only out for one thing just as much as I struggle with any stereotypes of women. They aren’t true and falling back on them is harmful to everyone. I will always support female empowerment, but I firmly believe that empowering women doesn’t mean dragging men down (see the infuriating trend in young girls clothing to promote girls while dragging down boys).

My job, as a parent, is to raise my kids to be empathetic, kind, caring individuals who kick ass and take names at whatever they set out to do.

And yet, girls don’t always feel that way. Did you know that by age 6, most girls feel less smart than boys? At 5, when boys and girls are told a story about a super smart, high achieving person and then asked to share if they think the main character is a boy or a girl, boys picked boy and girls picked girl. At 6, girls thought the main character was a boy because only boys could do those super smart things.


My kids read in fits and starts, each preferring different genres. But one series they have both have consistently loved over the years is the Who Was? series– biographies on everyone from George Washington to Walt Disney and Harriet Tubman to Sally Ride. Scorch owns a few of these and even now, when he’s between the latest James Patterson book for tweens, he’ll pick one up.

When I first learned about the book Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls from a blog I frequent, I was intrigued. A book filled with 100 stories about women in all walks of life—inventors, doctors, dancers, pilots, protestors, abolitionists, writers, artists—complete with illustrations, sounded perfect for my kids. So I ordered them a copy and the book arrived this week.

You guys, I went from intrigued to in love. First, this book is gorgeous. From cover to cover, it’s visually lovely, with a butter soft cover. The stories are short—only a page long per person. I have read some complaints about that, but for me and the kids, it’s the perfect glimpse into each woman’s life, allowing us the freedom to do more research as we see fit. For example, after reading the article on Amelia Earhart we looked up more about her—how she got into flying, what she ate on her flights, how she disappeared and on and on.


Every night before bed, the Bean reads about 3 or 4 women to Scorch and me. I truly, truly cannot recommend this book enough. It sits in the living room now and I find each kid thumbing through it at least once a day, stopping to read a story when a name or an illustration catches their eye.  I love that the kids are getting exposed to women who have changed the world in such a captivating way—proving in a subtle way that girls are just as smart and capable of just as much.

If you have  grade school aged child in your life- boy or girl- this book is a must.


Favorite Books of 2016


My love of books is no joke. One of my greatest joys is finding a book so good that I’m willing to feed my kids cereal for dinner and let them watch TV while they eat so I can keep reading. The type of books that keep you up at night- the ones you can’t put down even when you know there will be hell to pay the next day.


That love of reading, combined with my love of audio books, means I read a lot in 2016. According to Goodreads, I’ve read / listened to 169 books this past year. That’s awesome. Please note, I don’t read crazy hard books, I read for the sheer pleasure of it. My philosophy is that life is too short to read books you don’t fall into. One day when my life isn’t overflowing with kids, sports and work I’ll have the time to challenge myself. But for now? Now I just read for the fun of it.

And here are the books I loved the most this year:

  • Throne of Glass series, Books 4 and 5, by Sarah Maas: Sarah Maas has fast become my favorite YA fantasy author. I feel like attaching YA to the description discredits how very, very, VERY good these books are- I worry that people won’t take them seriously because they are YA. Don’t make that mistake; this series is simply outstanding. The first book is good, but each one takes it to the next level with the world building, the character growth and the plot. (Honorable mention: Sarah Maas’s Court of Thorn & Roses series. Again book 1 was very good. Book 2? AMAZING.)
  • Morning Star by Pierce Brown (last book in the Red Rising series). This was straight up sci-fi and it was spectacular. Each book in the series was good on its own, but together they added up to a well plotted, intense, totally enthralling series. Morning Star tied the series up perfectly.
  • Becoming Nicole by Amy Ellis Nutt. Scorch’s orchestra instructor self-identifies as queer…a term I thought was passe and offensive, which clearly shows how much I had to learn. And that led me to this book and the fascinating, scary, intimate look at  what trailblazing for LGBTQ rights looks like when it’s your child you’re fighting for. This book combined a compelling family story with the history of transgender rights in America.
  • One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid. I wrote about this book back in August when the Hubs and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary and it’s stuck with me ever since. Emma fell in love with her husband, Jesse, when they were in high school and years later, they married and started building their dream life together. The dream shattered when Jesse disappeared in a plane crash. It took Emma years to piece her life together again, but she did it- and finally fell in love again. But on the eve of her second marriage, Jesse came home. Melodramatic? Yes. But also thought provoking, funny, sad and ultimately full of hope.
  • The Year of Yes by Shondra Rhimes. This book should be required listening for every working mom out there because in this book, Shondra learns how to unapologetically own her shit and it’s amazing. There is no balance – there is no magic formula for being a kick-ass mom and an amazing employee. There is just all of us doing the very best we can and giving a fat ton of credit to the people that help us along the way. Do yourself a favor- *listen* to this book, don’t read it. Trust me on this.
  • City of the Lost by Kelley Armstrong. I love Armstrong’s Cainsville series- a little bit paranormal, a little bit detective story, a lot sexy- but I wasn’t sure how I’d like her mystery book. I shouldn’t have worried- this was a great book in the vein of Jeffrey Deavers. Very much looking forward to book 2.
  • Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman. I adored A Man Called Ove, but wasn’t a huge fan of My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry so I approached this book with some trepidation. Admittedly, it took me a while to sink into this book, but once I did, I loved it. Loving, sad, heartwarming and uplifting- the perfect book to curl up with for the weekend.
  • The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon. A sweet story with a surprising bite about a young girl on the eve of being deported and the love she finds. I love stories where all the lines intersect and this was a perfect example of how we touch each others lives without even realizing it.
  • Dirt Roads and Diner Pies by Shonna Milliken Humphrey. Shonna is an old friend with a hell of a story to tell. As I wrote when I first read this, I hate books that show me real life monsters—give me a werewolf anytime. But sometimes the monsters ARE real and the horror they inflect ripples out and that cannot be ignored. Without a doubt, this was the most important book I read all year.

I also devoured a bunch of fantasy series (urban, mostly)- all of which were fantastic in their own right but may not appeal to everyone: The Others, Alpha and Omega, Mercy Thompson, Charley Davidson, October Daye, Kate Daniels, and Fever.

So, here’s to more books in 2017—I’m already 9 books in! What are you reading? Please, share your favorite—I’m always on the look out for something new!



Real Life Monsters


Anyone who knows me- even if it’s only through this blog- knows I like to read. A lot. I’ve read 79 books in the past 7 months, so a real lot. My taste skews towards fantasy- fairies, vampires, demons- I’m usually all in for anything in that genre. I don’t usually read crime stories or mysteries- heck, I don’t even watch the news. I much prefer the make-believe monsters, because usually they are a lot less scarier then the real life monsters.


Many, many moons ago when I got engaged, I joined a wedding planning website and hung out on a message board full of brides getting married the same month I was. One of those brides was Shonna who married her husband, Travis, the same day the Hubs and I got married. 16 years later, we’ve stayed friends. She’s seen me at my lowest, knows crazy details about my family and has cheered me during my successes.

I’ve had the privilege of watching Shonna’s career flourish when she published her first book in 2011 and have seen how well Travis’s career as a signer/song writer has taken off. This is one seriously talented couple with huge hearts, a wicked sense of humor and unparalleled compassion.

Shonna’s latest book, Dirt Roads and Diner Pies, was released this summer and, frankly, it’s not a book I’d typically pick up because it deals with the real life monsters that I’d like to pretend didn’t exist. But, I love Shonna so I happily started to read it out of of loyalty to her.

What I didn’t expect was to love this book. I didn’t expect to be sucked in and I didn’t expected to be moved to tears and laughter.


When Travis was a child, he had the opportunity to attend the American Boychoir School in NJ. If you’re a child of the 80’s, you’ll know this school and its talented students from the Kodak commercial featuring the choir signing Cyndi Lauper’s True Colors. While at the school, Travis was repeatedly sexual abused by those in charge. He and his fellow classmates were forced to both endure and witness the abuse for years.

In her book, Shonna details how her marriage started to unravel under the stress as Travis started to remember and deal with the details of his time at the school. Travis is a successful musician, a reiki master and an animal whisperer- but he still sleeps with a body pillow between him and his wife with a machete by his head. He doesn’t like to be touched and rarely sleeps through the night. Travis has been diagnosed with a host of mental illnesses and battles through his demons on a daily basis.

And sometimes? Sometimes- hell, a lot of the time- that is really hard on a marriage and a spouse. Dirt Roads and Diner Pies details Travis and Shonna’s road trip one winter as they try to reclaim their marriage and find their solid ground. It’s unflinchingly honest- both in its humor and the scariest aspects of Travis’s abuse and aftermath. I inhaled this book in under a day even though I already know most of the story from our years of friendship.

In a perfect world, monsters don’t really exist and all children are cherished and adored. But this isn’t a perfect world. Shonna’s books shows us not only that the monsters are real- but that the monsters can be defeated. It’s not easy and it takes guts, grace and strength – but the monsters don’t have to win. Travis is a shining example of that, as is the life he and Shonna are making together.

Bottom line- read the book. Give the victims a voice and educate yourself on the startling statistics around sexual abuse. The monsters can only live in the dark- and this book shines the light right on them, their devastating affects and the resilient human spirit that refuses to stay down and let the monsters win.




Book Recs for 10 Year Olds Needed


Ah, Scorch. He’s thisclose to turning 10, assuming we let him. As in- let him survive that long. I have a feeling we’re officially starting to move out of our parenting sweet spot and starting to enter a land full of mood swings, hormones and pure batshit craziness. My sweet, easy going boy has cried more, fought more and come this close to being grounded for life more in the past few weeks then he has since he was 3.

Let’s all say a prayer for the mothers of soon-to-be tweens everywhere, shall we?


A few months back, we banned all electronics in the morning before school which has been amazing. Not to sound all preachy – but really, it’s made our morning so much easier as I don’t have to wrestle the kids away from a show or game. Scorch normally gets up a lot earlier than the Bean, so he’s been reading like a mad man.  Given what a complete and unabashed bookworm I am, this makes me happier than I can tell you.


The issue is we’re starting to hit a really odd stage where Scorch’s reading ability (roughly 6th-7th grade level) is butting up against his maturity level. He wants to read bigger, better books- but we’re having a hard time finding books that hold his attention while still being age appropriate (no sexual related themes, no crazy violence, no mature topics).

He’s all over the place in what he likes to read. Here are some of Scorch’s recent favorites- if they spark any other ideas about what he may like to read, please let me know!

  • I Survived Series: 99% sure he’s devoured all these book and loved each one
  • Who Was I/ What Am I? Series: both he and the Bean love these books!
  • Percy Jackson and the Olympians: Scorch could not read these books fast enough- begging to stay up late/ getting up early to read them.
  • Amulet series: Scorch went through a time when he loved graphic novels and these, hands down, were his favorites.
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid: (ugh) I hate these books, but he laughs so hard, I’m afraid he’s going to hurt himself.

Together, we’ve read the first 3.5 books of Harry Potter– midway through Book 4, he started to lose interest as the books just got too old for him. We also read aloud Wonder, which was a big hit. He just finished the first Lemony Snicket book and was not a fan at all.

Any other suggestions? I’m all ears and we’re willing to try just about anything!

Favorite Books of 2015


I read a lot this past year. Like, a lot. According to Goodreads, where I log my books, I read 119 books in 2015. That stupid stat gives me more joy than is healthy. (I’m obsessed).


So with all those books, you have to figure at least some of them are worth recommending. Here were some of my favorites:

  • Ship of Brides – Jojo Moyes. This book looked at a very little slice of history- namely, how Australian women married to British soldiers during WWII got to England to be reunited with their husbands when the war ended. It was short, sweet and incredibly interesting.
  • I listened to some memoirs by some of my favorite funny women, including both of Mindy Kaling books and Amy Poehler’s Yes Please. I think listening to these women’s words in their own voices made these books 1000x more interesting. The books were funny, touching and much more engaging than I would have thought.
  • I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrois. Oh this book, how it stuck with me. Skylar is a smart, feisty girl on the brink of leaving home for good – something she can’t wait to do.  She grew up poor and knows that college is her best escape option.  Josh was nothing but trouble and when he came back injured from serving overseas at age 19, not much changed. This book captures the yearning of first love, and the yearning of wanting to get out and start fresh so very, very well. Loved it.
  • The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. An amazing book about two sisters and the life they lived in occupied France during WWII. This book broke my heart – it was so, so brutal. I had never given much thought to what life was like for those who lived through the war- the every day person who was just trying to survive- and this book brought all that home in vivid detail. Smart, sad and full of the determination of the human spirit to survive, it was a great read.
  • A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman. Out of all the books I read this year, this one is my favorite. Quiet and funny and sweet and full of so much love, the story of Ove and his extraordinarily ordinary life hit me in all the feels. I truly laughed and cried and cannot wait to read it again.
  • I read a fat ton of Urban Fantasy this year and while I feel like I should be embarrassed about that, I loved the books too much to be. My favorite series is still the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews but the October Daye series by Seanan McGuire came in a very close second.
  • A few honorable mentions:
    • Dumplin‘ by Julie Murphy- great audio book about a 17 year old finding her place in a world where being skinny and looking good counts for so very much.
    • The Wrath & The Dawn: YA book with a twist. Not my favorite of the year, but intriguing enough that I can’t wait to read the next.
    • Memory Man by David Baldacci – so many of his book run together for me, but this one had a very unique premise and I enjoyed the hell out of the ride.
    • The Cainsville series by Kelley Armstrong. If you don’t mind slightly supernatural books, this series is great. Eagerly awaiting book 3 from the library.
    • The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan. What happens when a British prince falls in love with an American girl? How much does she have to change to fit into his world? Great read that will make you look at Kate Middleton in a whole new light.

So many good books, so little time! Got any favorites? Please let me know!

Thankful Heart: Days 1 & 2


Oh November, how did *you* get here already? Since you came in with 70 degree temperatures, I’ll be welcoming, but I have my eye on you.

We all know that November means a month of highlighting what we’re thankful for. Which is good because, lord knows, I need to do this. For some reason I’ve been more on the whiny side of the street than the thankful side these past few months which is no good for anyone. But let’s be real, posting each and every day just isn’t going to happen- my life just isn’t that organized. But I do promise to post 30 things I’m thankful for before the end of the month. So without further ado, here we go:

Day 1: Traditions

I don’t like Halloween. I never really have- I just am not creative enough (nor do I care enough) to come up with elaborate costumes for myself. But having the kids has forced me to embrace the holiday because itty-bitty kids are ADORABLE when you dress them up.

HalloweenBabiesSadly, at 9 and 7, my kids are too old to want me to pick out ADORABLE costumes for them any more and now insist on being independent and wearing pop-culture related costumes (*grump*). Thankfully, the Halloween tradition we have with friends means that Halloween hasn’t gone back to being my least favorite holiday. Friends of ours who live in our city take in all us country bumpkins and invite us over to their house. We eat, drink and play like mad before we get all 12 kids changed and ready to take on the neighborhood.

You guys- it’s the best. Potluck dinner, lots of fun and kids that are still young enough to be so very excited! We walk through this most gorgeous neighborhood, bumping into friends and talking about how lucky we are- it’s straight out of Mayberry, y’all. Because of these fantastic friends and their amazing kids, Halloween ranks up there as one of my favorite nights of the year- and the fact that it was on a Saturday this year was icing on the cake.

Day 2: Audiobooks

On the days I go to the office (as opposed to working from home), I’m in the car for over 1.5 hours a day. When I started this job, I thought I was going to lose my mind because there are only so many radio stations to flip through and 85% of them play the same songs over and over. I had listened to a truly terrible audiobook years ago and never had the desire to pick up another one after, but at a coworker’s urging, I gave Audible a whirl.

It. Was. Life. Changing.

Ok, that may be a little bit of an exaggeration, but my commutes (or really any time I’m solo in the car) are so much more enjoyable.  I’ve listened to everything from YA to historical non-fiction and a bunch in between and while I have had some stinkers, most of the books have been fantastic.

Some favorites include:

  • Anything narrated by Edward Herrman, but Unbroken and The Boys in the Boat are two of my all time favorites
  • Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty, read by Caroline Lee. Amazing narrator, compelling chick lit with a twist.
  • Mindy Kaling’s books Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? and Why Not Me?  Smart, funny and wickedly hard working- what’s not to love?
  • The Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. Adore the books, love the series, really enjoyed listening to the books- the series may be an obsession. Don’t judge.
  • American Sniper by Chris Kyle, narrated by John Pruden. John just got the drawl and brought such life to Kyle, it was impossible not to get sucked into the story.
  • An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir, narrated by Fiona Hardingham & Steve West. I’m not normally a fan of the duel narrators, but this one clicked on all levels.

Favorite Books of 2014


This has been, without a doubt, the Year of the Book. I’ve read 90 books and listened to 8 audio books, as well as listened to numerous books with the kids. That’s all sorts of awesome! In case anyone is looking for some new reads, here’s what resonated with me this past year.

Read more.

Kids Audio Books
Scorch and Bean are 8 and 6 and these audio books have made all our time in the car so much more enjoyable! This year we listened to chapter books- the funnier the better in according to the kids. Here are their favorites:

> Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume. This was, by far, the kids favorite book – I think we listened to it twice. Two huge thumbs up from all 3 of us. Too bad the next book in the series, SuperFudge, covers some topics that I’m just not ready to go into with the kids (Santa, specifically).
> Sideways Stories from Wayside School. Honestly, I couldn’t stand these books, but the kids loved ’em.
> Ramona Quimby series by Beverly Cleary. These books were wonderful. Sweet, funny and full of good hearted sass- we loved the Quimby family! That said, the books are read by Stockard Channing- she’s an acquired taste as a narrator.
> James at the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl. I may have enjoyed this one more than the kids. The book was read by Jeremy Irons- can you blame me?!

Adult Audio Books
Audio books kept me sane during my 1.5 hour round trip on the days I worked in the office. I listened to some OK books but when I got a good one, they were amazingly good.

> Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, read by Edward Herrman. I actually tried to read this a few years back when I bought it for the Hubs, but I couldn’t get into it. However, Edward Herrman’s telling of it made Louie Zamperini’s story come alive. A truly remarkable story that I recommend for anyone. (Side note: we saw the movie last night. While great, the book is so much better. Do yourself a favor and read it even if you did see the movie.)
> The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and their Epic Quest for Gold in the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown, read by Edward Herrman. After listening to Unbroken, I knew I’d be happy listening to Edward Herrman narrate the phone book- thankfully this book was a million times better then that. Another true story, this one set pre-WWII about grit, determination and the force of the human spirit.
> Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty, read by Caroline Lee. I started out entirely unsure of this book for a variety of reasons, one of which being the narrator is Australian. But once I got sucked in, there was no turning it off. A biting, often funny look at parenting and the silly competitions between moms- but with a dark side dealing with a startling tale of domestic violence.

I’ll be the first to admit my book list is all over the map, so these books may not be to everyone’s liking. However, these are the books that stuck with me all year long and that I’d recommend to just about anyone regardless of genre:

> Written in my Own Heart’s Blood by Diana Gabaldon. There are two authors whose books I’ll pre-order and pay full hardcover price for and Diana Gabaldon is one. Book 8 in her Outlander series, WIMOHB was well worth the 2+ year wait. Reading her books are like finding old friends again and catching up their exciting adventures. If you haven’t read them, do yourself a favor and pick up Outlander to see what the fuss is about.
> Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline. The book itself wasn’t amazing- it was good, but it wasn’t a spectacular piece of writing. However, it introduced me to the Orphan Train Movement- the practice in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s that took over 250,000 homeless, abandoned or orphaned kids from east coast cities and shipped them to the midwest to be adopted out. Absolutely fascinating period of history!
> Wonder by R.J. Palacio. This book is about August, a 5th grader born with some very visible cranio-facial differences. Told from the point of view of August, his sister, his best friends among others, it’s a really eye-opening portrayal of  what it means to be different in today’s society. Cannot wait to read this with my kids!
> We Were Liars by E. Lockhart. This is the book that stuck with me the most. Yes, it’s YA and yes, it’s not for everyone. But its heartbreak combined with ultimate hope hasn’t left me since I finished it in June.
> The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin. This was a simple sweet tale of A.J. Fikry and his life. The life he lead wasn’t the one he set out to lead, but it was a great one nonetheless.
> The Kate Daniels Series by Ilona Andrews & Fever Series by Karen Marie Moning. I discovered Urban Fantasy this past year and these are the two series I couldn’t get enough of!

So tell me, what did you read that stuck with you this year? Hit me with your favorites!