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!
Read about it here!

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.

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!

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

How to give a giant party featuring The BFG

How to give a giant party featuring The BFG

This post contains affiliate links.

Why throw a giant party featuring The BFG by Roald Dahl?

First of all, I have always loved to read and was indeed the kid who consistently kept her head in a book on the school bus and any other place we went. This love of reading and stories is passed down to my daughter, and in the second grade she’s eating up books by Dahl, C.S. Lewis, and pretty much anything she can get her hands on. Consequently, it was not surprising when she came home from school thrilled with this book The BFG.

Also, as a family we believe it is important to kindle the enthusiasm for learning in order for kids to be successful in school and the future. There are book clubs and school groups, but why not support that love at home and promote it with a giant party for friends and family?

How to throw a giant party

When would you want to have a giant party?

This kind of party can be as elaborate as you like. It works great for:

    • a birthday party,
    • a sleep-over,
    • that long weekend off from school when teachers have their professional development,
    • a creative book club,
    • Roald Dahl’s birthday (September 13)
    • whenever you want!

Download giant party printables including reflection worksheet based on The BFG, a giant party invitation, and place cards for the table including the BFG’s curious words.

Giant party printables preview

Set the scene at a Royal Breakfast

Buckingham Palace, London

Buckingham Palace, London

Because food is imperative to a party we set the scene at the Royal Breakfast, which is also a chapter in the book. This is when the BFG sits down with the Queen and Sophie in the Great Ballroom and first tastes foods other that “repulsant snozzcumber”! There are fabulous descriptions in this section such as the ping-pong table with four 12-foot-high grandfather clocks for legs. Once in place, a nice cloth is smoothed on this “table” for the BFG with a garden fork, spade, and a sword (last used to chop off the head of King Charles the First) for silverware.

Be creative and set up your giant’s place at the table. Your other guests and place settings can either be at the same table or another smaller one to create the effect you wish.

BFG place setting

Assign each guest a character

When you first bring up the idea of coming in character your guests will either love it or try to get out of it. It is so much more fun when each guest plays and dresses a part! Therefore, I urge you not to back down! My son loved playing the part of the butler Mr. Tibbs in his little suit. Make sure if you have a shy guest not to  put them on the spot, but do give them a smaller role.

The host can give out parts beforehand when guests RSVP, and then tell them to review their character in the book and come in costume. Possibly, for a more informal party, the host could assign them as guests arrive. It is especially important in this case to provide a props box to help the group get into character. In the box provide hats, big BFG ears (link here to great ear printable), capes, a trumpet/horn, ties, scarves, military paraphernalia, or really whatever you have around the house that could possibly work.

Here is a link to a character list with descriptions: character list. If you have a large group you can use all the giants’ names as well as the staff at the palace.

Dream Country quote

Food at the Royal Breakfast

Of course you can serve breakfast any time of day, and kids love to do things out of the ordinary.  Therefore, serve the Royal Breakfast at lunch or dinner or whenever you want! Here is what we served at our event based on the book:

BFG party menu

Be creative and serve what works for you and your party!

Possible activities for your GIANT party

  • The Royal Breakfast. Complement each place setting by putting a list of Mr. Dahl’s curious words the BFG uses, and then tell the guests to try to use them in conversation. You probably will have to initiate this and use some words yourself to get it going and break the ice.
  • Catch your own dream craft. (I love this!) First give a small jar (from your local craft store or Amazon such as these), to each guest along with a small piece of colored paper. Secondly, tell the guests to imagine the perfect dream they would like  for the BFG to give them and to write it on the paper. Then roll the paper up and put it in the jar with some glitter. Lastly, decorate with a tied ribbon, and voilà you’ve caught your own dream!

  • Try a form of charades. To start, divide your guests into groups and then assign each group a chapter of the book. Next, task them to reenact the chapter, and give them 15 minutes or so to prepare. Then, give the performances. An assigned judge or judges will select the best performance, and that team will win a fabulous prize!
  • The BFG Madlibs. This is such a fun way to practice grammar and tell stories with hilarious results.
  • Have a GIANT dance party! Play the Radio For Kids station on Pandora or other music you like and bust out some giant moves.
  • End by watching the Steven Spielberg movie The BFG if you’re having a sleepover or a longer party. I always suggest reading the book first, but view and compare this beautifully acted film version to the book.

Questions for after watching the movie The BFG

Here are some questions for after the movie for you to discuss in a book club, or you might bring them up in conversation the next morning after the slumber party:

  1. Did the movie do a good job portraying the book?
  2. Is the movie how you imagined the book to in your head?
  3. Did the director cast the right actors in the character roles?
  4. What were the differences between the book and the movie?
  5. What was your favorite part in the movie? Is it the same as your favorite part in the book, and why do you think that is?

Party Favors

Finally, if you wish to give out party favors to departing guests I believe there is no better gift than a book. Perhaps the next book you intend to feature at a book club or party?! If you have a large number of guests and a book is not in the budget, give little bags with the the theme of your next gathering and the name of book they are to read. In addition, provide any help necessary in obtaining the book from a local library or other location.

Guests will also take home the small jar with a caught dream (see the “Catch your own dream” in the activities section) as a souvenir.

I hope you enjoy this book and the GIANT party featuring the BFG as much as we did.

Have a phizz-wizzing, whoopsy-whiffling time!

Resources:

              

Explorer Momma EM

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