40 Next Books Reading Challenge

40 Next Books Reading Challenge

Preview: Join me in my New Year 40 next books reading challenge! I’m turning 40 this year, and this booklist looks back at the past and is motivation for new learning.

Welcome, 2019!

This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small percentage if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.

It’s here, it’s here! It’s finally 2019! Actually, 2018 seems to have gone by in a flash, and my kids are no longer babies or toddlers. What’s more, this is a significant year for me as I’m turning 40! How did that happen?!

Rather than dwell on the negative, I’ve decided to embrace this 40th year and look to the future. With the New Year, my resolutions vary with health, exercise, nutrition, and family goals. Also, I’ve decided to add a fun resolution just for me!

Because I love books so much I will commit to getting organized and focus on a reading goal for the year. Rather than haphazardly pick out books, this booklist is perfect to broaden my reading choices. Do you get in a reading rut? I admit it, I do! I look to my favorite authors and series and well-loved characters. It’s where I’m comfortable, and I’ll always go back to my favorites, sometimes I need a little push to try new things.

That’s where the challenge comes in!

40 Next Books Reading Challenge

40 next books reading challenge. Booklist for all, join us! #booklist #40nextbooks

Are you ready to read? I am so excited to continue picking out books for this year! It’s fabulous to have an excuse to take some time to explore new and past books you’d like to read. I can disappear for hours at a library or on online book websites just getting ideas and coming up with books I’d love to read.

I almost always have a long list of to-read books. What about you? With the 40 next books reading challenge, I’ve been inspired by my own 40th year and making time for my own personal growth. So often as moms we are pulled in so many directions and focus on everyone but ourselves.

What’s best for the kids, the family, our home? But do you know what? Taking care of yourself and growing your own mind and outlook will help everyone. You can make yourself a priority!

40 Next Books Reading Challenge booklist #40nextbooks #2019booklist

Credit where credit is due

Now, I have to give credit where credit is due. The 40 next books reading challenge was inspired by my friend Marci from my Peace Corps days. She pointed out how fortunate it is to be 40 and started her own reading challenge. Of course, I thought this was a fabulous idea and have joined her challenge but tweaked the list slightly. I plan to read several of the books she has on her own list and have many of the same categories in my list of forty books.

What I’m reading: the first 5 books

To begin the year, I’ve picked out the first 5 books for the 40 next books reading challenge! Select your own in the categories or read along with me. Use the hashtag #40nextbooks and join the book discussion in the blog comments. I’d love to see what you’re reading and add to my own booklist!

1. Published in 1979 (the year I was born!)

I have a couple of books in this category I feel like I should have already read and still want to. Therefore, let’s remedy that and start with one.

The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

by Douglas Adams

This book is on so many booklists of best books ever. Have you read it? Does it live up to its reputation and how would I feel about it? I guess I’ll find out!

2. Set in Colorado

I grew up in Colorado and kept leaving, but I’m always drawn back. Truly, I love my Rocky Mountains, and it’s the perfect place for our family. This is a book I read long ago but feel like I’ll have a new perspective on it now.

Centennial

by James Michener

Here’s another non-fiction book I love about an amazing lady that reads like an adventure novel. I highly recommend it!

A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains

by Isabella Bird

3. Animal Book

This book is in honor of my childhood love of animals in nature, and now my son’s obsession with peregrine falcons, panthers, and learning about all living things. To be honest, it’s an unusual pick for me, but I’m branching out. Moreover, I’ve heard good things about this book and can’t wait to dive in!

The Animal Dialogues

by Craig Childs

Want some more book suggestions?

Spring book list book with a flower. What to read next. Book suggestions. #readingchallenge #booklist

4. A book about an artist

This book was recommended to me as a fun read with the history in the background I would enjoy. Have you read it? What do you think?

The Masterpiece

by Fiona Davis

5. Family

This story is more of a woman searching for her family’s past in India after her own heartbreaks with miscarriages and family struggles in New York. Interpret this category however you want for your book, but this is one I’ve been seeing over and over again and just hadn’t gotten around to reading.

The Storyteller’s Secret

by Sejal Badani

Join the 40 next books reading challenge!

Do you make a reading goal for the year? This list is not to limit or pass judgment if you don’t get through all 40 books, but a tool to help motivate and explore. No matter the time you have to commit or the number of books, I’d love for you to join in our book conversations! If nothing else I hope you find a fabulous new book to read and learn something in the process.

If you can, follow along with the challenge! I’ll be posting on Instagram and other social media with #40nextbooks, and I hope you do the same. Who doesn’t love to talk about books and share stories? It’s a part of human nature and helps us grow! I can’t wait to hear about your books and reading journey.

Post your reads for the challenge at #40NEXTBOOKS!

Happy reading!

More books suggestions:

Women’s What To Read Next: A Cold Weather Booklist

Summer What To Read Next

What To Read Next For History Fans

Christmas Mystery Books to Read Next

Christmas Mystery Books to Read Next

Preview: Here’s your list of fun historical Christmas mystery books to read next! Grab a cushy seat by the fire, a blanket, and spiced tea. Now, read!

I don’t know about you, but at Christmastime, I naturally like to read books set in the same season. There are so many fabulous traditions and fun characters to be found, and so many problems to get mixed up in and hopefully then fixed at the family manor! Yes, one of my favorite genres at Christmastime is the historical mystery.

So, come on snow! Let’s get those yuletide fires going, spiced scents filling the air, and time to enjoy some good Christmas mystery books. Let’s go back to the Downtown Abbey Christmas mood with a twist of mayhem and detective work!

This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small percentage if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.

Do you love a good murder mystery at the manor? Christmas mystery books are one of my favorite genres and fabulous for de-stressing during the holidays. #christmasmysteries #christmasbooks

Why Christmas mystery books?

The historical mystery is always one of my favorite genres for de-stressing and getting a break from daily life. I find it especially important to make an escape a during the holidays and take some time out for myself. Also, I tend to be more of an introvert and so crave and need that time by myself to regroup and be ready for the next thing. What about you?

If you also need that time to yourself to recharge, don’t be afraid to send the crowd away for a while and enjoy a good book. Suggest they go on a fun ice skating outing or to a movie. Then you can take that time and dig into a stress-free murder mystery.

Christmas mystery books to read next

Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas

by Stephanie Barron

Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas is a very enjoyable peek into an 1814 Regency Christmas with some detective work and murder thrown in. Jane and her family are invited to The Vyne, the ancestral country home of the prominent Chute family. Other friends and well-wishers join the Christmas party, and we have a traditional snow-bound Christmas.

With so many people unable to return home, one of the guests comes to an unfortunate fatal accident. But is it an accident? Jane and others investigate the politics, personal conflicts, and all the house suspects.

I found it delightful and fun to see Jane developing the characters for her next book, Persuasionon the heels of the successful Mansfield Park. Jane Austen is one of my favorite authors, and I’ve read all of her books multiple times and like Bridget Jones, obsessed on the BBC’s miniseries version of Pride and Prejudice. Therefore, I’m preparing you before you read this book. Be warned! Jane Austen is being turned into a character here. I personally feel it’s fun, well-researched, and excessively diverting, so don’t let the real-life author turned character bother you.

Explorer Momma’s rating: ***** 5 stars

Spoil yourself and order it now on Amazon by clicking here!

12 Days At Bleakley Manor

by Michelle Griep

Don’t you just love this cover? It immediately invited me in because I think I know what to expect. It’s cozy and comforting and another snow covered Christmas at the manor! Set in the Victorian Era, there’s a twist to this one. In the case of Bleakly Manor, the guests are invited for various reasons and enticed with personal motivations, but alas the host is absent!

I read a review of this book that said it was reminiscent of a mystery dinner theater, and who doesn’t love that? In fact, I’m a huge fan of going a step further to the mystery dinner parties where you’re assigned a character, but I digress. With just a hint of romance and almost exaggerated characters, I had a wonderful time reading this book. Perhaps I’m being generous with the rating due to the Christmas season, but it was a fun escape to the English manor and an enjoyable read.

Explorer Momma’s rating: ***** 5 stars

Why not order it now on Amazon by clicking here?! (You know you want to)

Murder for Christmas

by Francis Duncan

Oh, look! Another Christmas party at a country home. Now we’re in the Golden Age, and with Murder for Christmas, we are introduced to amateur detective Mordecai Tremaine (if you haven’t already met him before in the series). Mordecai Tremaine reminds me of a mix between Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot. He’s well-known for solving mysteries and murders, but when people meet him, he comes off as harmless and maybe not completely capable of comprehending what’s happening around him.

However, of course, he’s not the tottering old man perceived! Will he aid the police to discover the Christmas Eve murderer or be a thorn in their side? Who killed the man dressed as Father Christmas found at the foot of the Christmas tree?

This book is another good distraction and amusement, although because the writing does jump around slightly making it not quite as easy to follow, my rating is slightly lower.

Explorer Momma’s rating: **** 4 stars

Would you like to pick it up now on Amazon by clicking here? Enjoy!

The Mistletoe Murder and Other Stories

by P.D. James

P.D. James, or rather Phyllis Dorothy James White, Baroness James of Holland Park, was born in Oxford, England in 1920. She is best known for her detective Adam Dalgliesh of Scotland Yard, and this book indeed includes two of his stories. 

The Mistletoe Murder and Other Stories is a compilation of four stories by this great mystery novelist. With a more serious and sinister tone than the first books in this list, yet with a sly humor, these stories reveal the good, bad, and difficult aspects of human nature. A novelist recounts the story of a crime she herself was a party to 50 years previously, Dalgliesh’s godfather asks him to re-investigate the details of an inheritance, and so forth.

A good set of whodunits for the Christmas season, although the holiday aspect of them is not as in your face as some of the others.

Explorer Momma’s rating: **** 4 stars

Order it on Amazon by clicking here!

Do you need more Christmas book suggestions?

What Christmas Mystery book list is complete without Hercule Poirot? I’m always up for a good Agatha Christie novel!

Mistletoe and Murder: A Daisy Dalrymple Mystery

by Carola Dunn

It’s December of 1923, and Daisy Dalrymple Fletcher is the daughter of the imperious Dowager Viscountess Dalrymple who’s decided they will all spend Christmas at, wait for it…the ancestral home of Lord Westmoor in Cornwall. Daisy is her own woman and displeases her mother by writing articles for publications such as Town and Country.

On this occasion, Daisy arrives at the home before everyone else to complete an article on the house itself and it’s history. When more guests and colorful characters arrive, although Lord Westmoor is absent, our scene is set for a colorful set of ghosts, schemes, and murder.

Daisy and her husband Detective Chief Inspector Alec Fletcher of Scotland Yard investigate along with the help of their two children and Lord Westmoor’s poorer relations. I had fun with Daisy and the characters in this book and series.

Explorer Momma’s rating: ***** 4 1/2 stars

Treat yourself and order it now on Amazon by clicking here!

The Twelve Clues of Christmas

by Rhys Bowen

What can I say about The Twelve Clues of Christmas? Set in 1936, this is the sixth book in A Royal Spyness Mystery series. It can definitely be read as a stand-alone, and score! Once again we have a house party, but this time it’s the local villagers who are being murdered.

Penniless Lady Georgiana Rannoch finds herself stuck in her brother’s castle in Scotland facing a bleak Christmas with her penny-pinching sister in law and family. Her MIA boyfriend is exploring somewhere in South America so she gets herself a position as a hostess for a large house party in Devon, in the quaint village of Tiddleton-under-Lovey. Unfortunately, the villagers keep having fatal unrelated accidents.

Georgie begins her own investigation, of course, and looks into her list of house-guest suspects. A bonus in this book is the description of all the traditional English Christmas fare and joy! an appendix with recipes. I’m hungry.

Explorer Momma’s rating: ***** 5 stars

You need this book. Find it here on Amazon!

A Christmas Revelation

by Anne Perry

Now, what Christmas Mystery Books list is complete without representation by Anne Perry? I love a good Anne Perry mystery, her Charlotte and Thomas Pitt series, the Monk series, and my favorite the WWI series. Truly, I’ve read a lot of Anne Perry’s novels, and most Christmases I read at least one of her novellas or, in this case, Christmas novels.

The Christmas stories often make a supporting or side character of one of the series into the main character with their own Christmas mystery adventure. In this sentimental book, a nine-year-old former river urchin named Worm enlists the help of Squeaky Robinson to go to the aid of a kidnapped woman just before Christmas. Squeaky works in Hester Monk’s clinic and so here we have a new adventure with lesser-known characters in the Monk series. How can they help a woman who doesn’t want to be rescued?

I’m always happy with her Christmas books and really any of her novels. They are familiar friends, with characters I can depend on.

Explorer Momma’s rating: **** 4 stars

Order it now on Amazon by clicking here!

Give me some good Christmas mystery books

Now some of you, in fact, many of you, will say, “Give me a good Hallmark Christmas story”. I can do that. Sweet girl from the city has some major failure and fight with big city boyfriend. Girl goes to small town USA and falls for the local boy in a Christmas sweater who helps everyone in town. However, I can only do a couple of those a year and truly love that escape.

Give me some variety! Manor houses with snowbound guests, English puddings, and murders. Oh, yes. Throw a couple of those into your yearly Christmas readings. It’s the season for traditions and cozy family time. Take some time out of the Christmas rush and start another tradition, a good Christmas mystery. Cheers to you!

Merry Christmas!

Check us out on Instagram @explorermomma!

Pin it for later here!

Do you love historical mysteries? Christmas mystery books are some of my favorites around the holidays. Families stuck together in manor houses with lots of English Christmas goodies, what's not to love? Great Christmas booklist. #christmasbooklist #christmasmysteries

Women’s What To Read Next: A Cold Weather Booklist

Women’s What To Read Next: A Cold Weather Booklist

Preview: In this booklist, you’ll find my current version of women’s what to read next. Strong women, powerful women, good stories, and inspiration. This is what I’ve been reading lately.

This post contains affiliate links which means I make a very small percentage if you click through and purchase something. All opinions are strictly my own!

We’ve made it to that time of year it’s actually starting to feel like fall. The high is a mere 54 fabulous degrees Fahrenheit today, and it’s a little cloudy. I don’t know about you, but that signals tea and book reading time to me! So naturally, I took myself off to Barnes and Noble. I made the excuse to my husband that Children’s Place is right there too, and the child really needs new jeans since his are two inches too short with holes in the knees.

I love bookstores

Like I really ever need an excuse to go hang out in a bookstore.

I love visiting bookstores, and it makes me very sad there are so few of them about nowadays. I’m sounding old, but many moons ago when I was in high school my best friend and I used to spend our Friday nights at bookstores. We’d get our latte or tea (I wasn’t doing black coffee at this time), listening to the new music, going through every book and picking just the right one. It was fabulous, and hey, you can’t get into a lot of trouble at a bookstore now, can you?

Women's what to read next booklist. Looking for the perfect book for chill weather? Literature, historical fiction, tragedy, comedy, pick one here! #booklists #whattoreadnext #whattoread #womensbooks #reading #explorermomma

 

Women’s what to read next

After a while of not being thrilled with my book choices (something was off), I’ve recently had a fabulous run of winners I’d strongly suggest to anyone. There are tales of inspiration, ghosts of the mind, difficult circumstances, powerful, intelligent women, and great storytelling. You know when a book pulls you in, and your mind won’t let you, and indeed you don’t want to, leave that world until those final pages have been turned? That happened to me on almost all of these books.

So let’s get started.

The Great Alone

by Kristin Hannah

This was a book recommended by someone in a Facebook group I’m in, and yes, I’m in several bookclub type groups. It caught my eye because of the location, to be honest. The setting is on the Kenai Peninsula of Alaska in 1974, and the book begins with the main character’s family arriving from the Lower 48. My grandparents used to live in Homer, Alaska, a key location in the book and a place I’ve visited several times myself, so it naturally piqued my interest.

I agree there is this idea that if you need to get away from society you can escape to Alaska. In The Great Alone, after the Vietnam Conflict, one family is given land near Homer and their adventure begins. They have no idea what it will take to survive off the grid in an untamed wilderness. They encounter all types of people, all with their own stories and reasons for being there. It is the story of the family, a father fighting the demons of the Vietnam War, his wife who will do anything for him, and their daughter and her coming of age and survival story. A beautifully written book and one I stayed up until 3 am one night to finish! It’s engrossing with good story-telling, and I highly recommend it.

Women’s What to Read Next Rating: ***** Five out of five stars.

 

The Girls at the Kingfisher Club

by Genevieve Valentine

Imagine a well to do New York family in the 1920s. The father is a determined businessman who wants an heir and son. He and his wife have daughter after daughter until they have a collection of them upstairs he won’t admit to society. They don’t go to school, don’t go out, don’t visit others socially, they are kept in the house.

“Dressed up in the thrill and sparkle of the Roaring Twenties, the classic fairy tale of ‘The Twelve Dancing Princesses’ has never been more engrossing or delightful. Valentine’s fresh, original style and choice of setting make this a fairy tale reimagining not to be missed” (Library Journal, starred review).

So what do they do? It’s the roaring 20s! They learn to dance, and organized by their eldest sister Jo they sneak out at night to the clubs and find a home at the Kingfisher Club. Put on some 20s music as you read for there are bootleggers, raids, and drama. The story goes deeper focusing on each girl and is a fun read.

Women’s What to Read Next Rating: ****1/2 Four and a half out of five stars.

 

The Alchemist

by Paulo Coelho

The Alchemist I happened upon I believe through my library app suggesting it to me. I read it, and it was interesting because I then noticed it on the PBS list of top books to read and in my Barnes and Noble promo email. Quelle coïncidence! It seemed fated for me to read it.

This is the sweeping story of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who yearns to travel. We already have something in common. But he wants to travel in search of worldly treasures. What does he truly want? How can he get it? Will he give up? Santiago learns many lessons along this mystical journey. He reads and listens to omens that come to him and follows his dreams. We all need some inspiration every now and then, and The Alchemist certainly delivers.

I liked this book very much and appreciated the positivity and determination in Santiago to never give up. Live your life and your dreams.

Women’s What to Read Next Rating: ***** Five out of five stars.

Ready for the holiday season?

Are you ready to start your pile of cozy Christmas books by the fire? Here are some I recommend.

Cozy Christmas books, a Christmas booklist #christmas #christmasbooks #fireside #explorermomma

Cold Sassy Tree

by Olive Ann Burns

I picked up Cold Sassy Tree on the recommendation of a friend, and it was indeed a hilarious journey and character study. In the small town of Cold Sassy, Georgia news and/or gossip spreads like wildfire. It’s 1906 and Grandpa E. Rucker Blakeslee announces only three weeks after Grandma Blakeslee’s in her grave that he’s going to marry the young milliner in his store, Miss Love Simpson. Yes, half his age and a Yankee! Gasp! His grandson, young Will Tweedy finds himself in the scandal while having adventures of his own. At 14, he’s growing up and has to deal with class and place, is run over by a train (literally), and does his best to keep the peace in his own household.

There are lots of characters from all over town in this one and an amusing read. I took this one about a chapter at a time and had fun with it.

Women’s What to Read Next Rating: ****1/2 Four and a half out of five stars.

 

The Woman Who Smashed Codes

by Jason Fagone

I have to say, I came upon this book quite by accident, and I consider myself lucky to have done so. This is not a novel but a popular history book that reads like a spy thriller, about a real-life character hidden in history in government secrets. This era of codebreaking is fascinating, and while I’ve seen movies and read books about the British side in Bletchley Park with Alan Turing and others, I didn’t know much about the American efforts in codebreaking in World War II.

The Woman Who Smashed Codes is the true story of Elizebeth Smith Friedman. We are introduced to her when she meets her partner in cryptology and future husband, William Friedman, at an eccentric tycoon’s estate just outside of Chicago where they both worked in 1916. They become an unstoppable team in codebreaking, or cryptology, in WWI and WWII.

See a part of the Amazon summary:

In The Woman Who Smashed Codes, Jason Fagone chronicles the life of this extraordinary woman, who played an integral role in our nation’s history for forty years. After World War I, Smith used her talents to catch gangsters and smugglers during Prohibition, then accepted a covert mission to discover and expose Nazi spy rings that were spreading like wildfire across South America, advancing ever closer to the United States. As World War II raged, Elizebeth fought a highly classified battle of wits against Hitler’s Reich, cracking multiple versions of the Enigma machine used by German spies. Meanwhile, inside an Army vault in Washington, William worked furiously to break Purple, the Japanese version of Enigma—and eventually succeeded, at a terrible cost to his personal life.

Due to the secrecy of Elizabeth’s missions and work, her story had never been told before, and she herself never spoke of it. She was true to the oaths she made to the government, and only recently have some of her records be declassified.

I LOVED this book, and if you have any interest in codes, codebreaking, espionage, and the history of World War II, you need to read this book. Elizebeth Friedman was a dynamic and powerful woman who was not afraid to use her mind. Read it!

Women’s What to Read Next Rating: ***** Five out of five stars!!! Maybe more.

 

The Thirteenth Tale

by Diane Setterfield

The Thirteenth Tale is a book for those of you, like myself, who love the brooding stories of the Bronte sisters such as Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, with perhaps a bit of Wilkie Collins thrown in, The Moonstone. (And by the way, if you haven’t read those three books, by all means order them all now or get to your local library and remedy that error in your book reading ways).

Our main character, Margaret Lee, is summoned to the country to write the biography of famous author Vida Winter. Throughout her life, Ms. Winter has invented many versions of her origins and life story to shield the truth. Now is the time to share her tale with Margaret, who has her own clouded and troubled story of her birth and childhood.

In this book, you get great characters, abandoned country houses, destroyed topiary gardens, ghosts, wild twins, a great house fire to conjure up scenes of Jane Eyre, and so much more. It’s a way of bringing those past ghosts to light and freeing those in the present of their haunting.

I know those who absolutely obsess over this book and how good it is. Yes, I enjoyed the book very much and a return to the feel of some of those Victorian novels. Each character (and there are quite a few of them!) is well-developed and well-placed in the setting. I don’t obsess over it, but I do definitely recommend reading it! It is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time to really transport me back in time through good storytelling.

Women’s What to Read Next Rating: ***** Five out of five stars.

Sugar free latte with almond milk at Barnes and Noble #booksandcoffee #ilovebooks #explorermomma

Books and coffee

So now, this is me telling you, go to your local bookstore! Enjoy your sugar-free almond milk latte (that’s mine above) or coffee, or tea, or whatever! Take some time for yourself and just breathe in the books. Wander about the bookstore and find the perfect one for your mood or pick one on my list above.

Today I found myself perusing the military history section of the bookstore. Why? Well, why not? I love history, and read a lot of historical fiction, but sometimes the true stories are even more compelling. If I hadn’t hung out in the military history section I might never have found The Woman Who Smashed Codes. Of course, you can do this section hopping on your phone or online too, I just happen to enjoy the luxury of doing it in a real bookstore!

So I challenge you! Try a new genre or section to choose your next read. You just might find your new obsession.

Summer What To Read Next

Summer What To Read Next

What books do you read during the summer? I usually go through books so fast it seems I’m always on the lookout for what to read next. So here’s to my summer what to read next edition.

This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small percentage if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.

My summer booklist

How’s your summer going? We’ve been crazy busy and someone’s always in need of Mom. Therefore, it’s been quite awhile since I’ve posted book recommendations in my what to read next series. For a while, I went through a period of books that didn’t necessarily click with me. I never put a book on my blog I wouldn’t recommend to someone else or give at least four out of five stars. Why is this you may wonder, why don’t you warn us not to pick up these other books!? Quite simply, I know what goes into writing a book and the blood, sweat, and tears involved! Just because I’m not a fan doesn’t mean someone else won’t like it. That’s just my optimistic personality.

Enough of all that! Get to the goods! This summer, since I did have a spell of disappointing book choices I’ve stuck to a few tried and true series. I threw in some great historical fiction, a Jane Austen classic, and an account of the making of my favorite movie ever, written by its very own Dread Pirate Roberts (or Westley, depending on your mood).

Summer what to read next pin with books and Monet mug

Summer what to read next

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

by Mary Ann Schaffer and Annie Barrows

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society begins when a native of Guernsey writes a letter to our main character, Juliet Ashton, in England. Guernsey is a British island that was under Nazi control during World War II. The author of the letter owns a book Juliet once owned, and he sends her a request. She’s looking for a subject for her next book, and they begin a correspondence which brings her into the Guernsey world.

This wonderful book lover’s book is a few years old, and I can’t believe I missed it at the time! I thoroughly enjoyed it, it’s characters, informative historical setting, and depth of story. I strongly recommend it for history and book lovers or for just anyone who loves a good story.

Where is Guernsey?

Have you even ever heard of Guernsey? I had but didn’t know much about it before reading this book. Dependent on the Crown of England, Guernsey is part of the Bailiwick of Guernsey with several other small islands located in the English Channel off the coast of Normandy. Our book takes place as the area is dealing with coming out of WWII, the memories, experiences, and dilemmas of what to do next. It’s well-written, moving, and made me smile. Read it!!

Summer what to read next rating: ***** Five out of five stars.

Beneath A Scarlet Sky

by Mark Sullivan

 I’m a little behind the crowd on this one, but I definitely wanted to include Beneath A Scarlet Sky on this booklist. I’m in complete agreement with all the other stellar reviews out there. Several people recommended it to me, and I was not disappointed!

The story is fascinating because it’s based on a true story. Also, it’s not at all from a perspective of WWII I’d seen or thought a lot about in the past. We’re in World War II Italy under the Germans, and Pino Lela is a jazz-loving 16-year-old kid. His parents force him to enlist in order to protect him, although they hate the Germans and the occupation of their country. He leads Jews to safety over the mountains into Switzerland. He becomes a spy as a driver for the German leadership representative in Italy. In addition, he translates for Mussolini, the list goes on. This is an action and intrigue packed book perfect for anyone interested in the Italian occupied viewpoint of World War II.

Summer what to read next rating: ***** Five out of five stars.

The Atomic City Girls

by Janet Beard

 The Atomic City Girls is a story of everyday life inside the Manhattan Project. I thought it was a good choice to have the book start out with June’s grandfather. He’s forced off his land for this government project. Is it a project, a city, a base? Whatever it is, they’re all unsure. Eventually, June, looking for work, moves back to almost the same location of her grandfather’s farm to work the giant machines with the other girls. What exactly do they do? None of the girls know, and anything they do know is not to be talked about outside the city. It’s not supposed to exist, until one day someone slips up, and the truth opens up to June.

When you know the truth and what it will do, where do loyalties lie? To yourself, your country, what is this war anyway? This is an interesting read from several viewpoints with a good bit of drama thrown in about those working in the city.

Summer what to read next rating: **** Four out of five stars.

As You Wish

by Cary Elwes

As You Wish is a fabulous summer what to read next for anyone who obsessed on or is still in love with that fabulous movie, The Princess Bride. The swordfight scene between the man in black and Inigo Montoya is and will most likely ALWAYS be my favorite scene from any movie. The cast of characters was put together brilliantly, there’s an amazing script crossing genres, and it’s become a true classic.

Movie quotes

Have fun stormin’ the castle!

As you wish.

Inconceivable!!

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means. 

Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.

No more rhymes now I mean it! Anybody want a peanut?

I found this book a while back and had just never gotten around to it. I knew it was written by Cary Elwes about his experiences with the part of Westley, the filming, the antics and interactions with the other actors. So, of course it sounded like something I’d enjoy. Recently, I discovered the audio version. I was thrilled to find it read by none other than Cary Elwes, Rob Reiner, and many of the other actors giving their own quotes. It was perfect!

Yes, I’m the person who’s always wanted Buttercup’s red riding dress and cap to wear at Halloween. Truly, I’ll most likely sew my own one day. Of course, I’ll force my husband to be the man in black, but back to the book. The Princess Bride is a true favorite of mine and As You Wish is a fun, nostalgic look back on how it all came about, with a great deal of humor. It was an excellent summer read (or listen!), and I highly recommend it!

Summer what to read next rating: ***** Five out of five stars.

In This Grave Hour

by Jacqueline Winspear

In This Grave Hour is the latest in the Maisie Dobbs mystery series by Jacqueline Winspear. I’ve read this entire series as each one comes out. I find them a good mix of interesting characters, historical fiction, and mystery.

Maisie Dobbs is a psychologist and investigator, and we follow her story from childhood, as a nurse in World War I, the aftermath of the Great War, and into World War II. In this 13th book in the series, Britain just declared war on Germany, and there are those who once again need Maisie’s help.

This is a comforting series for me, and one I know I can always go to for a good mystery story in a historical setting. Maisie sometimes does drive me crazy, but we’re good friends now and no good friend does EXACTLY what you want them to all the time, do they? I love how this author finishes each book and ties up all possible loose ends in the mystery for a very satisfactory ending.

Summer what to read next rating: ***** Four and a half out of five stars.

Persuasion

by Jane Austen

Ah, yes, Persuasion. Each summer I try to read a book by Jane Austen and enter the world of her heroine. This summer I decided to pass by my summer usuals (Pride and Prejudice and Sanditon) and go for one I read less often but love just the same!

Persuasion is set in England in 1806, and in this book, our heroine, Miss Anne Elliott, is a young woman of twenty and seven years. Of course, there is some urgency to see her married and settled, although some have given her up for a spinster. The family tries to lower expenses and has to rent out their large home. By chance, the renter’s brother, dear Captain Wentworth, comes back from being in the English wars at sea.

He and Anne were engaged previously and parted seven years ago. In typical Austen fashion, you can imagine what comes next. I love the language and flow of Jane Austen, and any of her books are always a great read.

Summer what to read next rating: ***** Five out of five stars

Edgedancer

by Brandon Sanderson

 Edgedancer is a lighter-hearted fantasy novella in Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive series. It takes place between book 2, Words of Radiance, and book 3, Oathbringer. In this book, he focuses on one specific character, Lift, who we’ve met but have yet to see much from.

Lift is a street urchin with power. She’s not what she seems and is herself a Knight Radiant. I found her to be a fun and caring character to get to know.  So indeed, I’m glad I read Edgedancer before beginning the epic Oathbringer.

If I’m to be completely honest, I’d planned to include Oathbringer in this post.  However, with its massive size and all the books within the book, I get distracted and read other books in between! Definitely read Edgedancer, and once I’m completely through Oathbringer I’ll let you know how that goes too. 😉

Summer what to read next rating: ***** Five out of five stars

Proof of Guilt

by Charles Todd

Proof of Guilt is the latest in the Inspector Ian Rutledge mystery series by Charles Todd. Inspector Rutledge started his career at Scotland Yard before the Great War and returned to his duties after. The war gave him scars he deals with every day and a Scotsman in his head who died on the battlefield. The series is not only a good cozy British murder mystery but an interesting look at the aftermath of the war and mental health.

In this installment, an unidentified man is found run down by a car, and it’s up to Inspector Rutledge to find out who he is an why. He’s carrying the watch of a man he resembles and has disappeared. Unfortunately, there are few other clues. When the watch owner’s cousin goes missing also we have a classic who done it with a twist. Was it the neglected sister? The business clerk? The scorned fiancee?

I always enjoy the Ian Rutledge mysteries and have come to rely on them when I need a quick, engaging read. With the series, I already know the characters and their histories. If you haven’t read any or Charles Todd’s Inspector Rutledge or Bess Crawford books, pick the first one up today!

Summer what to read next rating: ***** Four and a half out of five stars

Need more book suggestions?

Check these out!

What to read next for history fans, pin

What’s your summer what to read next list?

You’ll notice my summer reads are still in my favorite genres, mystery, historical fiction, and fantasy. Now, if you are like me you always wish you had more time to read, but we do what we can! Would you like to make my life easier and recommend some fabulous books from each of these genres? I LOVE getting book recommendations so please, PLEASE, puh-lease put your favorites in the comments.

Happy Reading!

What To Read Next For History Fans

What To Read Next For History Fans

When I created the title for this post I struggled with a term to pull these books altogether. Historical fiction? No. A Year in Provence is based on experience and considered non-fiction, even though it reads like fiction. Also, a couple of them are more of a blend of historical fiction and science fiction. If I boil it all down it’s simply what I’ve read lately and enjoyed so I decided to go with the general what to read next for history fans.

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When I pick out a book I tend to gravitate to anything that looks period, a good mystery, another culture, or another world. If the story is a mix of those things, even better. It’s not often I’m interested in a book about where I am now or my daily problems and experiences. With a book I like to be transported somewhere else, which I suppose in many ways all books do, but there you go.

So what to read next?

The War That Saved My Life

by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Set on the British home front in World War II, this book was not what I expected from the description. Ada has been a prisoner in her mother’s third-floor apartment building for her entire life because her mother is embarrassed and does not want to deal with her. She has a club foot and can’t walk so she crawls around to do the chores. She flinches in fear she’ll be hit or locked in the dark cupboard every time her mother comes near. Often when alone, she stares out the window longing to be free to run around outside like her brother.

Ada and her brother sneak out to travel with the other children to the country as the threat of bombs become more real in town. Of course, they want to escape more than just the bombs.

This is a beautiful story with an amazingly honest heroine in Ada. She’s isolated and uneducated and makes mistakes. However she learns so much about herself, others, kindness, and love.

This is a Newberry Award-winning book for middle grade, but I think it’s one good for anyone to read. Whether you’re interested in history, human character, or whatever, there’s something in it for you. This is one I’ll gladly pass on to my daughter. What to read next?

Explorer Momma’s rating: ***** 5 stars

Buy it here on Amazon.

Lilac Girls: A Novel

by Martha Hall Kelly

I came across this book after reading We Were the Lucky Ones, and once again the book is based on a real-life heroine.

Lilac Girls is told from three different female perspectives during World War II. Caroline is a New York socialite, Kasia is a Polish teenager sent to a concentration camp, and Herta is a German doctor trying to prove herself in a world of Nazi men. It’s amazing how the author follows these three viewpoints throughout the war experience and even after. 

The first half of the book I didn’t think there was any way these women’s lives could possibly intersect as we learn their loves, passions, and experiences. Magically, the threads of the story do come together, and I’ll not spoil it. However, it was powerfully written and especially effective to see the three drastically different points of view.

This is not a light summer read, but definitely worth your time. What to read next?

Explorer Momma’s rating: ****1/2  4 and 1/2 stars

Buy it here on Amazon.

The Unkillable Kitty O’Kane

by Colin Falconer

Kitty O’Kane is a fierce Irish girl who’s made her way out of the tenements of Dublin. She’s determined no one should suffer like she did, and no man should have such power over others as her abusive father did. Youthful Kitty is determined to change the world.

This book is all over the place as we follow Kitty on the Titanic, the sinking of the Lusitania, and in the suffragette movement in New York. She becomes a journalist and travels to Russia, actually ending up in the Winter Palace as it’s stormed. Then, after several years of travel, she goes back to Ireland where she helps in the Irish Civil War.

There’s a lot more to it, including several love interests, and may seem like a lot to throw into one story for one person to experience.  Nevertheless, I enjoyed it, and I’d recommend it. What to read next?

Explorer Momma’s rating: **** 4 stars

Buy it here on Amazon.

A Year In Provence

by Peter Mayle

When I sadly heard the news Peter Mayle died in hospital in January, I immediately became nostalgic for his brilliant book, A Year In Provence. I pulled it out after not having read it in over 10 years, then decided to try the audio version, and was not disappointed.

This book is popular for a reason. Peter Mayle has the uncanny knack of transporting you to another locale, pokes fun at his own culture, and embraces a new. He relates his experiences as he and his wife relocate from England to Provence. It made me want to jump on an airplane to Provence and immediately find a local restaurant. I then would dine on a simple 5-course lunch with a wine from rolling hills of beautiful lines of grapevines visible from the window. I’m currently planning a trip to Provence. At least in my head.

If you’re traveling to France or even thinking about it, I highly recommend reading this book. I loved it in high school, and I appreciate it in different ways today. What to read next?

Explorer Momma’s rating: ***** 5 stars

Buy it here on Amazon.

Would you like some of my other book recommendations?

Spring book list book with a flower

The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter

by Theodora Goss

I picked up this book as a new mystery and flipped through to discover characters such as Sherlock Holmes, Mary Jekyll, Edward Hyde, Frankenstein, and more. Admittedly, I was hesitant, but a quick read of the first few pages pulled me in. How in the world Ms. Goss pulled all these characters together is still a mystery to me! 😉

Mary Jekyll is left penniless except for a huge, empty house when her parents pass away. She hears her father’s old associate Edward Hyde is in the neighborhood and meets up with his daughter Diana. They manage to consult Sherlock Holmes on some personal matters and end up helping to solve a series of murders all over London introducing literary characters right and left as the story moves along.

This was an interesting book, and I enjoyed the literary references. The development of so many characters did slow the story, which would be my only complaint. At any rate, it was diverting and really anything with a fairly accurate Sherlock has me hooked. What to read next?

Explorer Momma’s rating: **** 4 stars

Buy it here on Amazon.

To Say Nothing of the Dog

by Connie Willis

This is my throwback book of the day and truly a trusted favorite close by on my bookshelf. I read it when it first came out in 1998, and every time I’ve read it since I can count on an intelligent, witty, time-traveling, jaunt to Victorian England and beyond. I’d call it a historical sci-fi, and it’s a lot of fun.

Ned Henry is sent back in time looking for the Bishop’s birdstump, an atrocity of a statue/vase? from Coventry Cathedral as a part of the cathedral’s restoration project. He can’t get back to the correct time and ends up picking through the rubble after the WWII Nazi bombing.

Another time traveler, Ned’s associate Verity Kindle, is working on another part of the restoration and somehow brings something from the past to the future. Boom! We have a classic ahh! we’ve changed something in the past and have to restore it storyline, but with oh so much more. There are so many things going on in this book you’ll wonder how they’ll all come together make any sort of sense, but it’s perfect. At least for me. And I love jumble sales. What to read next?

Explorer Momma’s rating: ***** 5 stars

Buy it here on Amazon.

What are you reading lately?

What are your favorite books so far this year? Do you have suggestions what to read next? They can be old or new, classics, young adult, whatever. I love to read, and I hope you do too and encourage it with your kids, friends, relatives, or random strangers.

Until next time!

 

 

Best of 2017: My Favorite Things

Best of 2017: My Favorite Things

 This week I reflected back on 2017 and took the time to indulge in thinking about my favorite things from the year. It’s been a great year, and I’ve been super-involved in my kids’ lives, but sometimes it’s good to think about yourself too. While it may appear I should be a little old lady in a cottage in England, these are some of my favorites and what I consider my best of 2017.

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Best of 2017 pin

Best of 2017: Food

My Favorite Recipe

Low Carb Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups

This is my most-used recipe this year, and it has gotten me through a lot! In case you didn’t know, I started following a keto diet/lifestyle this fall, and it has been amazing! However, I have a gigantic sweet tooth, which was a huge part of my problem and one of the main reasons for going keto. As a matter of fact, I’ve dropped the sugar but kept some of the sweet with this awesome recipe. Because who doesn’t like peanut butter cups?! I can’t recommend the blog All Day I Dream About Food enough. Truly, I’ve made a ton of the recipes on the blog and loved every single one of them. For example, the Low Carb Gluten-Free Brownie Cheesecake was an especially huge hit with the family.

My Favorite Food Box

ButcherBox unboxing ground beefButcherBox is an awesome mail order food box. It comes once a month (or less depending on what you select) frozen in dry ice, with great quality meats. Already, I’ve ordered the grass-fed beef, free-range organic chicken, heritage breed pork and loved the selections sent. My husband especially thought the rib-eye steak was amazing. You can read my blog post about it, and see my unboxing video, here.

Also, if you’d like to try ordering your own box you can use my affiliate link here to get $20 off and free bacon in your first box. 

Best of 2017: Travel

My Favorite Trips

Tbilisi, Georgi with Kids

Tbilisi, Georgia

This summer we took the kids to the former Soviet Republic of Georgia south of Russia on the Black Sea. My husband’s family lives there so it was an amazing opportunity to visit family, expose the kids to a different language and culture, and visit new places. We visited the Black Sea city of Batumi, family cities and villages in between, but for the kids, the capital of Tbilisi was a truly amazing experience. Read about Batumi here, doors and windows of Tbilisi here, and traditional Georgian bread making here.

 

Ruidoso, New Mexico, best of 2017Ruidoso, New Mexico

One of our favorite family destinations in summer is Ruidoso, New Mexico. Because we live in Northern Colorado we love our Colorado mountains, but traveling south to New Mexico is an entirely different mountain experience. It’s awesome to see the terrain change, the earth colors change from tans, to reds and browns, and explore a new area of the country. Ruidoso is up in the mountains and a fun place to get a cabin and hang out with family.

Look for the Top 10 things to do with kids in Ruidoso coming soon!

 

Grand Lake, Colorado best of 2017

Grand Lake, Colorado

Grand Lake moose, best of 2017

One of my favorite places on this earth is Grand Lake, Colorado. It’s the perfect place for families to enjoy the ideal Colorado mountain, hiking, fishing, etc. experience right on the lake. We usually stay at one of the cabins at Lemmon Lodge right on one of the beaches of Grand Lake. There’s a play area, the perfect fishing spot where the river enters the lake, and even a campfire spot for making s’mores.

Roundup River Ranch best of 2017

Roundup River Ranch

This year we had the most amazing experience to be a part of Roundup River Ranch near Gypsum, Colorado. Roundup River Ranch is a camp is for kids with chronic illnesses who otherwise would never be able to experience a true traditional summer camp. Doctors and nurses provide support along with many other amazing volunteers to make these kids feel like a “regular” kid, forget about their troubles for a week, and enjoy camp with their friends. I won’t go into detail, but my daughter was able to attend and had the most awesome time. These people and this place bring joy to others, and if you are looking for a cause to support this might possibly be the one. Check out the Roundup River Ranch website.

Roundup River Ranch best of 2017

Best of 2017: Learning

My Favorite Books

We Were The Lucky Ones

The book is set during World War II and told by the viewpoints of various members of a Polish Jewish family. It’s based on a true story making all the more amazing and a true picture into some of the horrors of our history yet the powerful love and strength of family. Read my review about it here or check it on Amazon here.

 

Arcanum Unbounded

Arcanum Unbounded comes as a book of short fiction in his Cosmere world by acclaimed author Brandon Sanderson. For me, the best part was the novella “The Eleventh Metal”, a part of the Mistborn Saga. If you’ve read the Mistborn Saga and then read “The Eleventh Metal”, a whole new dimension is opened up.  Amazingly, an entirely new story revolving around Kelsior is presented. Moreover, this story took place at the same time as the trilogy, yet you were unaware of it when first reading. It is mind-boggling and completely awesome the way Mr. Sanderson wove something he knew was there all the time but didn’t choose to tell his readers (except for clues here and there) until this novella. Loved it. See it on Amazon here.

A Gentleman In Moscow

I loved the history and characters involved in this book and how everything plays together until an ending I was not at all expecting. Great writing. See my review here or find it on Amazon here.

 

A Duty to the Dead

The Bess Crawford series by Charles Todd has been my go-to series this year for familiar characters and an engrossing mystery. Set in World War I, Bess Crawford is a British army nurse in France tending to the wounded and dying. In A Duty to the Dead, she’s injured when her ship is sunk crossing the Channel, and she must return to England to convalesce. Ultimately, I’ve enjoyed all the books I’ve read in this series. They’re sometimes a bit unbelievable, sometimes predictable, but always a great cozy mystery and a page-turner. Moreover, the characters you grow to love and see as a family in their world. Read more about it on Amazon here.

My Favorite Podcasts

Writing Excuses

Writing Excuses is like a class in writing genre fiction, hosted by Brandon Sanderson, Mary Robinette Kowal, Howard Tayler, and Dan Wells. It’s a great motivational podcast for any aspiring or even published writers. Topics include world building, character development, character voice in the first person, switching genres, and so much more. Every season, different hosts pop in with their own expertise as well.  http://www.writingexcuses.com/

Simple Pin Podcast

“Kate Ahl is the owner and founder of Simple Pin Media, a Pinterest management company that specializes in managing Pinterest pages for businesses and bloggers. She is passionate about teaching simple, actionable Pinterest marketing strategies to help business owners and bloggers boost their business using Pinterest without wasting their time. In her podcast, The Simple Pin Podcast, she interviews people who are using Pinterest in creative ways to drive traffic to their website and increase revenue. She’s on a mission to rid the world of Pinterest myths, crazy hacks to ‘game’ the system and rabbit trails that waste valuable business-building time. She wants to give her audience solid Pinterest Marketing advice using data-driven results. Keep it simple, be authentic, and pin with purpose.” Check it out on iTunes here.

Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History

In college, I majored in History, French, and International Studies. I admit to being a complete history geek, and I LOVE this podcast. Hardcore History is just that, and I’ve listened to several of the series. Right now I’ve gone back to an older one and am listening to “Blueprint for Armageddon”, a series of episodes on World War I. Each podcast, or episode, is about four hours long brought to you by Dan Carlin, who sounds like a super-excited history professor, although he claims not to be a formal historian. His voice is great for the topics, he pulls references and drama from everywhere and just creates a fascinating study of history. History buffs, don’t miss this one! Click here for Hardcore History.

Best of 2017: Fun

My Favorite TV Shows

First of all, to be honest, I don’t watch a lot of TV except for a daily dose of Wild Kratts (highly recommended) with the 5-year-old. What I do watch is on Amazon Prime or Netflix, and these are some of the favorites discovered this past year.

The Dr. Blake Mysteries

“Dr. Lucien Blake left Ballarat (Australia) as a young man. But now he finds himself returning, to take over not only his dead father’s medical practice but also his on-call role as the town’s police surgeon.”

This is a fun mystery series with great characters, acting, and Australian point of view. The series becomes addictive after the first few, and I’m eagerly waiting for seasons 4 and 5 to come to Netflix.

Click here to see it on Amazon.

Shetland

“Eight puzzling murder cases keep good-natured Detective Inspector Jimmy Perez busy – and keep you guessing – in the breathtakingly beautiful Shetland Islands. As Perez and the viewer quickly come to realize, not all is what it seems in this close-knit island community. Based on the best-selling Shetland novels by author Ann Cleeves (Vera).”

Click here to see it on Amazon.

Rebellion

“Ireland natives face emotional and physical turmoil as they decide to take up arms against the British.”

This was an intriguing version of the 1916 Easter Uprising with strong female points of view and great acting.

Click here to see it on Amazon.

Julian Fellowes Presents Doctor Thorne

“From the creator of Downton Abbey. Dr. Thorne lives a quiet life with niece Mary in Greshambury, home of the wealthy Gresham family. Unbeknownst to others, the Greshams have lost their fortune and matriarch Lady Arabella has a scheme to regain it via an arranged marriage with her son and an American heiress. However, her son plans to elope with Mary, which complicates Lady Arabella’s plans.”

This was a fun series for those who love British period drama. While it was not Downton Abbey, it was well-acted with beautiful scenes of the big British houses and countryside. I enjoyed it very much.

Click here to see it on Amazon.

The Great British Baking Show

This is one of those shows that’s just relaxing to me. Even though I’ve pretty much gone gluten-free, I’ve always been a huge baker and love to see these traditional European recipes. The British just do everything better, don’t they? 😉

Click here to see it on Amazon.

Interested in Ireland?

Read about all my Irish favorites. What do you love about Ireland?

Cliffs of Moher, Ireland

Your Best of 2017

Do you love British drama? Where did you travel in 2017? Or maybe what was your favorite recipe? Take a second and let me know if you’ve liked my favorites or give me some ideas for 2018. What were your favorites? Write them out in the comments below!

Here’s to a great year!

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