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.

This page contains affiliate links.

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!

My Cozy Christmas Books: A List

My Cozy Christmas Books: A List

This page contains affiliate links. Cozy Christmas books

There’s not a lot I like more than a good book at Christmas. Ideally, I have a big fluffy chair between the window to watch the snow fall and the burning logs of the fireplace. On the small table near my chair, I have a mug of tea or coffee. Oh, and I almost forgot, I’m breathing in the fir tree scent from the fresh Christmas tree (or the essential oils diffuser!). Add a good cozy Christmas book to all that, and I’m in heaven.

I have quite a few Christmas books on my stand right now, and I can’t wait to dive in! Some of them are oldies but goodies. Then, a few are brand new I’m super-excited to experience for the first time. One is even a Christmas novella from a very talented lady I’ve known most of my life and is the beginning of a new series for her. Let’s dive in, shall we?!

Christmas Books for Adults pin

I hope you too can pick up some of these Christmas books (or others!) to give as gifts or enjoy yourself this holiday season!

My holiday book list: Christmas books

Last Christmas in Paris Last Christmas in Paris

by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb

First of all, this book is marketed incredibly well. Who can pass up the cover with a girl walking towards the Eiffel Tower in a bright red coat and the words Last Christmas in Paris and A Novel of World War I over her? Truly, I am the ideal target reader as a history buff and former French teacher. As are many others, I’m naturally drawn to anything Paris, and World War I is a fascinating time period to explore. Good characters and the emotional upheaval of the time make for an absorbing read.

Second, I’ve read several of Hazel Gaynor’s previous books and love her writing style and delicate description. It seems to place you in the scene with all five of your senses alert and aware of the situation. I’ve not read Heather Webb before but am already intrigued by the setting, time period, and style of this book. Much of the book is told in letters back and forth between Thomas Hardy on the front line in France and Evie Elliott in a quiet suburb of London.

Pick up your copy from Amazon today by clicking here: Last Christmas in Paris.

***Update! I finished this book just before Christmas, and I oh so wanted to like it much more than I did. It is difficult to write a story in letters, and unfortunately, it just did not hold my interest. Now, it could be because we were crazy busy, and I read it in many sessions. Perhaps if read in 1 or 2 sittings it would be better. That said, I’d probably give it a 3 1/2 stars out of 5.

 

The Walnut Tree: A Holiday Tale

by Charles Todd

(Bonus book! I veered off of my scheduled reads list)

Another book I read this month set during the same World War I time period was The Walnut Tree: A Holiday Tale by Charles Todd. I’d recommend it as more of a page-turning read with characters you care about with all their problems, idiosyncrasies, and determination. It’s a part of the Bess Crawford series but focuses on one of her fellow nurses during World War I. It’s a well-written, historical, romantic mystery, and I loved it!

Order it here from Amazon.

Christmas at CarntonChristmas at Carnton

by Tamera Alexander

If you read much Christian fiction you will probably recognize the name, Tamera Alexander. Because I’ve read most of her books, I know I can always count on her to give me an uplifting, compelling story. Her characters speak from the heart, and I love the historical world she paints. (Also, as my younger self I used to babysit her children and know first-hand what a fun and amazing family they are!) This Christmas she takes us to Civil War-torn Nashville and the Carnton Plantation.

“Amid war and the fading dream of the Confederacy, a wounded soldier and a destitute widow discover the true meaning of Christmas – and sacrificial love.”

Around Christmas, this is just the kind of story I like to indulge in by the fire with my steaming mug of tea. However, I feel I have to warn you. I’ve found I don’t like to put down Tamera Alexander’s books and end up reading through the night or don’t get anything at all done until all the pages have been turned. Definitely, it’s a heart-warming addition to a list of Christmas books!

Spoil yourself and order it now on Amazon by clicking here: Christmas at Carnton.

***Update! I finished Christmas at Carnton and find myself eagerly awaiting the next book in the series! If you have any interest in the Civil War era, in Tennesee especially, this is the book for you! This inspiring story was well-told with fascinating characters and locations. I highly recommend it for yourself or as a gift for a friend. Now, I’m journeying to Paris during World War I with Last Christmas in Paris.

Greenglass HouseGreenglass House

by Kate Milford

I have a confession to make. I love mysteries. Generally English mysteries in a big house and a good who-dun-it. Greenglass House is juvenile fiction, but I’m excited to have it on my list so I can then pass it off to my daughter. Double-win!

I don’t know about you, but I usually like to preview the books she reads (although she’s getting too fast for me!). This is not to spy on her and be controlling, but more a way to be a part of her life. Because I love books so much, it is awesome to be able to discuss them with my 9-year-old daughter and watch her face light up with excitement. Of course, I want to be a part of that and know where the excitement is coming from.

So here in Greenglass House, we have a mystery with 12-year-old (the innkeeper’s adopted son). It’s wintertime, and he lives in the spooky smuggler’s inn. Secretive guests start arriving during this normally quiet period for the inn, and the cook’s daughter Meddy teams up with Milo to solve the mystery of Greenglass House. Why are things going missing? Who are all these people in conflict? They must find the secret of the house and learn about themselves at the same time. Awesome.

Order it here on Amazon: Greenglass House

Hercule Poirot's ChristmasHercule Poirot’s Christmas

by Agatha Christie

Hercule Poirot. What does the name mean to you? Funnily for me, my first thought is of the fastidious detective’s famous mustache. This is the ultimate Christmas cozy mystery because we find the great detective in a family mansion investigating what? A murder of course. Was it the random burglar? The butler perhaps? Or do we dig deeper into the animosities between the family members gathered for the “merry” holiday season?

I love it. There’s a reason Agatha Christie mysteries have sold over a billion copies in English and another billion in other languages. I really can’t resist a good mystery, so take it from me. Another one for a list of great Christmas books. Get yours today!

To get it on Amazon click here: Hercule Poirot’s Christmas

The Sibyl in Her GraveThe Sibyl in Her Grave

by Sarah Caudwell

Sarah Caudwell is fabulous. Who else could make English tax law a comedy in an old English village with a murder mystery? It sounds completely off, but it is hysterical. This is one of those books I’ve read many times and just happens to take place during the Christmas season. The Sibyl in Her Grave is one of those witty, crazy books that somehow makes complete sense, and I find myself laughing out loud every other page no matter how many times I read it.

A huge part of this book is the great cast of characters. Professor Hilary Tamar (an Oxford don) is called upon by her friend Julia at Lincoln’s Inn to help her aunt with a tax problem. Aunt Regina and her friends have pooled their resources to invest in equities and made off extremely well. Now the tax man’s come calling, and the money’s all been spent!

Add to that a psychic counselor Isabella del Camino (the Sibyl) who’s moved into the rectory of the village and plowed down a cherished garden. She also keeps an aviary of ravens and has offended everyone in the village. So what happens? Spoiler: She ends up found murdered of course.

Chaos, fun, and tax law intertwine to make a great story. Reading my description it doesn’t do it justice at all. There’s too much to the story and awesome character quirks, and it’s a fun place to escape to more craziness than your own holiday household.

Get this one here on Amazon: The Sibyl in Her Grave

Mr. Dickens and His CarolMr. Dickens and His Carol

by Samantha Silva

Last but not least, Mr. Dickens and His Carol. Every Christmas my family watches various versions of what’s probably the most famous Christmas tale ever written, “A Christmas Carol”. Have you ever wondered about the man who wrote it? Was he really hating Christmas, depressed by the failure of his last book, in writer’s block, and envisioning the poorhouse? What inspired him to write this classic Christmas story?

Mr. Dickens and His Carol is a charming, comic, and ultimately poignant story about the creation of the most famous Christmas tale ever written. It’s as foggy and haunted and redemptive as the original; it’s all heart, and I read it in a couple of ebullient, Christmassy gulps.”

-Anthony Doerr (author of All the Light We Cannot Seeanother fabulous book)

Purchase your own copy to get started on right away! Click to order on Amazon here: Mr. Dickens and His Carol.

 

Holiday reading

Create a new Christmas books tradition

Did you know they have an amazing holiday in Iceland called the “Jolabokaflod”? It’s translated as the “Yule Book Flood” and the gist of it is you search for the months before Christmas Eve to find the perfect book for family members and everyone opens up books on Christmas Eve. Isn’t that perfect?! It gets better. The tradition is that everyone then gets to read their books late into the night, or all night, all while eating CHOCOLATE!!

Yes, they do this every year, and it may be my new favorite holiday! Why not try it out for yourself and maybe even select a few books from my list of cozy Christmas books? Happy reading!

Spring Book List: What I’m Reading

Spring Book List: What I’m Reading

This page contains affiliate links. Spring Book List: What I’m Reading

The family leaves the country in a few days, and I’m in complete list-making, near panic mode. This, and the kids being home all the time made me a little behind this week. So, this post is a fun one, just a book list of what I’ve read and enjoyed lately. I love to read, and I always have. I’ve lined our basement with bookshelves of all sorts of things I cannot bear to give away. Are you the same? What sorts of books do you like to read? I enjoy a variety of genres, but most of what I read leads back to history or culture even if that culture is imagined or unknown.

Unfortunately, lately I haven’t had as much time as I would have liked to devote to this pastime, but I managed some good ones in March and April I’d like to share! So without further ado…

Here’s my spring book list, or what I’m reading

A Gentleman in Moscow

by Amor Towles

Count Alexander Rostov is found guilty of being an aristocrat in Moscow, post-Russian Revolution. The only reason he’s not sentenced to death is a poem he published seeming to support the cause of the common man. Therefore, he is not shot but given life in the Metropol Hotel across from the Kremlin. The government puts him on house arrest and not allowed to leave the hotel.

This is a remarkable story about a man and his interactions with the people who come and go in the Metropol Hotel. The book brilliantly transitions through years of his life and the people who come and go in a fascinating story. The author pulls you in and creates a likable character with interesting relationships in a difficult time. Mr. Towles shows great talent weaving the story in the limited setting. Truly, this is a book I could not put down and enjoyed immensely.

On a scale from 1 – 5 stars I give it a 5-star rating.

***** Go pick it up today or order from Amazon here!

We Were the Lucky Ones

by Georgia Hunter

This is the story of a Polish Jewish family during World War II. From the different points of view of the family members and they’re spread all over Europe and the world, you get an amazing perspective of what it was like for them during that time period. One brother is in France and at the beginning of the war and can’t get home to Poland. Another brother and his wife are sent to work in Siberia. The parents and sisters stay in Poland and go through the unbelievable with an amazing sense of optimism and determination for their family to be together again.

This is a powerful book and better than any history book on the experience of Jewish people during World War II. What makes it all the more amazing and makes a huge impact is the fact it’s based on a true story. The author of the book has researched, spoken to family members, been to these locations, and created an amazing piece of work in taking down her family story. The writing takes you back to that time and almost makes it feel like you are there with them.

This is one of the best books I’ve read in years and one that stays with you. It may not be a beach read, but I highly recommend reading it for your own education.

On a scale from 1 – 5 stars I give it a 5-star rating.

***** I would give it more if I could. See it here.

How to Make YOU Time in Your Mom Calendar

Do you love reading but have trouble finding the time? Those Mom demands can be pretty intense!

The Wise Man’s Fear

by Patrick Rothfuss

This is the second book in what is supposed to be a three-part trilogy entitled The Kingkiller Chronicles. In the first book, The Name of the Wind, the author introduces us to Kvothe. He is a hero, a villain, we are unsure what stories we can trust. The first book gives us his upbringing, the story of his family, him living as a wild child on the streets, and his entrance into the University. We hear about this as he tells his story to Chronicler, the king’s scribe.

In The Wise Man’s Fear, Kvothe continues to tell his tale to Chronicler. This time we get part of his University story, violent feud with another student named Ambrose, and his time away from University life. He trains, becomes a warrior, a man, and makes some dangerous connections.

If you’re a Sci-Fi Fantasy fan this may be the series for you. In fact, you’ve probably already read it. I love Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time and most anything written by Brandon Sanderson. Because of those interests, my brother and several other friends (all male) recommended this series to me as an amazing must-read. The writing is good, great descriptions and world building. It took me awhile, but once I go into The Wise Man’s Fear I really felt for Kvothe and felt invested in his life, friends, and world. I dove into the second book but had a lot of distractions along the way with kids and busy schedules, etc. I had a hard time staying interested as I had in the first, but that could be due to many things.

Most Sci-Fi Fantasy fans I know who’ve read it give it 5 stars hands down.

On a scale from 1 – 5 stars I give it a 4-star rating.

**** See it here. Or The Name of the Wind here.

Sanditon: Jane Austen’s Last Novel Completed

by Jane Austen and Another Lady

Sanditon is the last unfinished novel by Jane Austen, 12 chapters written the year of her death, 1817. It gives us a delightful and sensible heroine, Charlotte Heywood, and takes our setting to the seaside of what the locals hope to be an up and coming resort town. All of our normal story points are in place for a Jane Austen novel, displaying people’s character traits and flaws to the extreme. Charlotte meets and interacts with the circle in the town of Sanditon: the beautiful Miss Brereton, the pedantic and inaccurate ridiculous Sir Edward, Mr. Parker, the hypochondriac Parker sisters, the witty and wealthy eligible Sidney Parker, and a whole cast more.

I will not give away the ending; however, I thoroughly enjoyed the story development, elaboration, and ending completed by “Another Lady”. The transition between writers is quite seamless and is a great read for those craving more Jane Austen. Moreover, this paperback edition, again I will say finished quite agreeably by “Another Lady”, is one of my favorites to read just as summer approaches. It is light-hearted, funny, and a fun study of character.

Sanditon makes me laugh, cry, and cheer for our heroine. I read it almost once a year. Therefore:

On a scale from 1 – 5 stars it gets a 5-star rating.

***** Buy it on Amazon here!

That’s what I’m reading, now what are you reading?

So, there you go! These are the books I’ve read lately, actually some of the best I’ve read in a long time. Pick one out that appeals to you and escape with it for a little while. My schedule is so crazy I have to practically mark time on my calendar to get reading in, or often it just cuts into sleeping time. But it’s necessary! Learn new things and embrace new stories and characters. It’s worth a book-hangover now and then.

What books are you reading? I’m getting a list ready for summer, and I’d love to look at your ideas. In the comments please let me know your summer reading favorites or suggestions! Have fun!

St. Patrick’s Day: A few of my favorite Irish things

St. Patrick’s Day: A few of my favorite Irish things

St Patrick's Day pin

This post contains affiliate links. St. Patrick’s Day

It’s March so what do I think of? Ireland, green, March 17, St. Patrick’s Day!

Ireland. Such a powerful word filled with imagery, music, and memories. I love to travel, and Ireland is one of my favorite places in the world because of the friendly culture, rich history, distinctive music and dance, and also my own ancestry. Unfortunately I’m not making a trip to Ireland this year so instead, I’m going to share with you a few (there are too many to list them all) of my favorite Irish things. Celebrate the Irish this St. Patrick’s Day!

Shall we start with food?

Few foods say Ireland to me quite as clearly as a hearty lamb stew with Irish soda bread. Once I had one Irish woman laugh and joke with me at the American idea the Irish eat corned beef and cabbage every day of the year! “I’ve never eaten it in my life!” she said.

Irish Bed and Breakfasts for St. Patrick’s Day

 

St. Patrick's Day tea

Next, enjoy the hospitality of the Irish! One of the best ways to see Ireland is to stay at one of the numerous bed and breakfasts around Ireland. Moreover, you’ll meet new friends, get local advice, and relish a huge Irish breakfast in the morning.
St. Patrick's Day house

The shamrock story for St. Patrick’s Day

St. Patrick's Day shamrocksLong ago in the time of the druids there was a bishop named Patrick, St. Patrick. He came to Ireland to teach the Word of God throughout the island. He was loved wherever he went, but one day one of his followers told him it was difficult to understand the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. St. Patrick thought for a moment and then bent down and picked a  shamrock. He held it before them and explained the “three in one”, using the shamrock to illustrate the concept of the Holy Trinity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Since that day the shamrock has been revered throughout Ireland, and the simple beauty of the story convinced the follower. Legend has it if you find a four-leaf clover it will bring you good luck! It is said the leaves represent faith, hope, and love, and God added another leaf for luck.

Source: Irishindeed.com, but told to ever visitor to Ireland.

Celtic Thunder for St. Patrick’s Day

Take a listen to the lads, and you can’t help but get a smile on your face. When my daughter was 5 she LOVED this song, she still does but did more so then. She always wanted to play it and dance around the living room!

Right now if you have Amazon Prime you can listen to to The Very Best of Celtic Thunder through Prime Music, and even if you don’t have Amazon Prime you’ll probably want to download it anyway. Then be sure to watch for them at 10 am on March 17, St. Patrick’s Day, on the Today Show! They’ll be performing and making a “big announcement”. Hopefully that announcement’s next year’s tour schedule!

Gaelic Storm

Do you need some more Irish music for St. Patrick’s Day? Try Gaelic Storm; do you remember the belowdecks Irish dance party in Titanic? Well, that’s them, and yes they have some wonderful albums out.

           

Books for St. Patrick’s Day

The Book of Kells

Okay history buff readers out there. What is the most amazing book in the Trinity College Library in Dublin? First of all, the library itself is one of my favorite Irish things, and I could probably live there. However, getting to the particular book in the library, it is of course The Book of Kells. What’s The Book of Kells you may ask? It’s actually an illuminated medieval manuscript of the four Gospels from the Bible, and simply put, AWESOME. The colors, artistry, and painstaking effort at detail obviously put into this work by the monks during what we call the Dark Ages is mind-blowing. I’d better stop there because I could go on, and on, and on.

Click the link here to read more about The Book of Kells.

How the Irish Saved Civilization

Another fascinating book talking about Ireland in the early Middle Ages is Thomas Cahill’s How the Irish Saved Civilization. This is the perfect book for St. Patrick’s Day because it goes into the actual role St. Patrick played in the history of civilization. For history geeks like me it is a must read, and I highly recommend it.  Click the link here to take a look at it on Amazon.

1916

For more recent Irish history in novel form, 1916 by Morgan Llywelyn is a good read. This is a book I read right before actually visiting Dublin, and it really brought so much more meaning to my trip. As I crossed the Haypenny Bridge I saw Ned from the book doing the same thing. I saw the bullet marks still visible on the pillars of the Dublin Post Office where the rebels in the 1916 Easter Uprising tried to hold off the British. Truly, the viewpoint of someone actually in the fight, even a fictional character, makes events from that time period so much more real and powerful. Check it out here.

Great movies for St. Patrick’s Day

Some of these are more historically accurate than others, but interesting to watch nonetheless.

       

Oh, and don’t forget the Disney classic, Darby O’Gill and the Little People.  A fabulous chance to see a young Sean Connery!

Want some more book recommendations?

What to read next for history fans, pin

Irish fields of green

There is such a powerful beauty in the Irish landscape!

Stone fences

Driving or crossing the country by train you will grow to love the Irish stone fences.

The Cliffs of Moher

Cliffs of Moher, Ireland

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite places in Ireland. The Cliffs of Moher, on the west coast of Ireland near Galway, are on my own list of wonders of the world. If you haven’t been, you should add it to your bucket list.

Thank you so much for sharing many of the things I love so much about Ireland. Next time, we’ll make the trip and find something new. I truly love Ireland and it’s people, and hopefully you’ve learn something new to appreciate this St. Patrick’s Day!

Photo source: Pixabay, Upsplash

St. Patrick's Day, what to read, Trinity College Library

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