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I am a 24 year old Christian, bookworm, lover of all things chocolate, and soon to be knitter from Upstate New York, currently residing in sunny New Mexico (thank you U.S. Air Force). I spend my days as a Children's Librarian Assistant in a public city library and my nights working towards my MLS degree.
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1. Thankfully Reading Day 2

I managed to avoid the turkey coma. I set out to eat until I was full and I did exactly that. No stuffed feeling! We ate dinner with friends and ended up eating in 3 waves, because of all the food! Roasted turkey and sides first, smoked turkey and smoked mac and cheese second, and dessert third, including this ridiculous Mile-High Apple Pie topped with caramel and pecans. Yes.

That was easily the best apple pie I have ever consumed. My friend said it was a Paula Deen recipe, so if you're interested in recreating that amazing deliciousness, I'm sure you could Google it!

On the reading side of things, I managed to get quite a bit done yesterday! We didn't head to our friend's home until 4:30, so all morning and E's nap time were spent occasionally fitting in 10 or so pages and when we got home and the little one was off to bed, I sat for a couple hours and sped through The Book of Strange New Things. Almost done with that one and it's 500 pages! Hoping to finish that and maybe 2 more of the course of this long weekend. 

For today's update, Jenn asked us to answer the question "what book are we most thankful for this year?" I didn't even have to think about my answer, as it's the one book that brought back my love of reading this fall. The Best Yes by Lysa Terkeurst. 

I had too much on my plate, signing up for event after event and though most of these things were fun and I had a great time while I was out, it definitely took away my reading time and often left me exhausted. I didn't have time to read, because I wasn't ever home and when I was home, I just wanted to sleep. The Best Yes spoke truth into my life and made me realize that I was craving the ability to slow down and return to the quieter life I loved... and how to be ok with saying no. 

I have started slowly taking myself out of obligations that were making me exhausted and that I felt like I absolutely had to do and sticking with the things I truly love. My dinner club and book club are sticking around, but the second book club and my Bunco group had to go. I've taken leave from the bookstore, so I'm no longer working on weekends, and amazingly my reading numbers have gone up and I'm just happier. So, thank you Lysa Terkeurst, you changed my year. 

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2. Thankfully Reading Weekend Kick-off

I'm thankful for a lot of things this year. The special parts of my life that I give thanks daily for: family, friends, my home, the resources we've been blessed with, etc. But, I'm also thankful for my love of reading. In the first half of this year, I lost it a bit. I couldn't pick up a book and want to finish it... couldn't seem to keep my attention on anything. For the first time in my life, I didn't want to sit down and read at the end of a long day. I didn't want to browse books online or talk about books with my other book nerd friends. No podcasts, audiobooks, or long visits to the library to browse. I sort of lost myself for awhile.

Around September, I got it back and I realized that loving books and reading is a gift. I am truly thankful that I have this little world -- really, a big world -- of bookish friends and book clubs and awesome podcasts to listen to. I'm so thankful for audiobooks and people to talk about them with. I'm just thankful for books. Period.

I'm spending my weekend participating in the Thankfully Reading Weekend, hosted by Jenn at Jenn's Bookshelves. Relaxed weekend, reading when I can, and focusing on the important things rather than Black Friday shopping madness. Amen for that.

I'm starting off with The Book of Strange New Things by Michael Faber and if I get through that with a 3-year-old running around, it will be a Thanksgiving miracle!

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3. Thankfully Reading Weekend and 2 quick reviews

One of my blogging besties, Jenn, over at Jenn's Bookshelves, is hosting her annual Thankfully Reading Weekend (starting tomorrow!!)

and I just signed up! I wasn't sure if we'd be traveling for the holiday, but since we're just staying at home and eating with friends, I know I can spend some time relaxing and reading. I'd love to get another 10 books or so read before the end of the year and this is a great, laid-back, way to starting that challenge off.

Let me know if you decide to sign up!

I recently received a couple of books from BookLook to review and I wanted to sneak them in here before Thanksgiving.

The first, Every Bitter Thing is Sweet by Sara Hagery is one I'll be giving to several of my friends this Christmas! Her writing, reminiscent of Ann Voskamp, made me tear up in the middle of every chapter, speaking truth to my soul. Despite every setback - no matter how big or small - the hope the author exhibits is both intense and inspiring. She constantly recognized that God was present in her life and helped lead her to the adoption of her beautiful children. If you have a friend going through a rough patch (or you are!), read this book and it will change your heart.

The First Christmas Ever, illustrated by Dennis Jones, a book sent for Elliott to "review," unfortunately didn't please either of us. Though he seemed intrigued by the silly illustrations, the text was much too wordy to hold his attention. I was disappointed in the writing style, as the words and message seemed too 2014 (possibly to reach for higher appeal...?) and dumbed down. There are lots of excellent books on the Christmas story out there, so we'll pass on this one.

Not every book can be a winner!

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4. Put Me in the Story giveaway!

One of my very first memories is unloading the entire Berenstain Bears shelf at the library into our book bag to take home. The librarian didn't say a word and despite the length and wordiness of each book, my mom and I sprawled out on the living room floor and read every single one over and over. It was hours of reading, without a single complaint from my mom about spending so much time in the land of that bear family, and an awesome memory was implanted.

Many of my memories of growing up include books and the reading lifestyle I created for myself. Books make amazing memories and they're instantly what I go to when needing to buy gifts -- as do most of you! Finding that special book for each child on my list is my favorite part of shopping during the holidays.

When Sourcebooks contacted me about hosting this contest for Put Me In a Story, I jumped on it. Personalized books make that gift even more special, as it's obvious you were thinking exactly of that particular child when you chose it. Books were such a treasured position in my own childhood, that I really wanted to help one of you make a great memory with your own kids. They have a huge range of titles for you to chose from and below you could win one of 50 copies or a $500 shopping spree!

I had the chance to chose a book to be personalized and because a very special little girl in our lives is having a birthday soon, Doc McStuffins: A Knight in Sticky Armor  is being personalized just for her! I know she's going to love it.

Simply fill out the Rafflecopter below to enter to win! All winners will be chosen on December 6th. If you choose to Tweet about this contest, be sure to use #BookMagic! 
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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5. While Beauty Slept review

A reimagined telling of the famous Sleeping Beauty story, Blackwell has given us a beautiful novel filled with backstory and details on all the characters within reach of who "Sleeping Beauty" really was. Told from the perspective of a young girl, Elise, raised in poverty and eventually ending up in service at the castle, we are able to watch the story unfold from the eyes of an insider to royalty. 

Fairy tale retellings are some of my very favorite books and with While Beauty Slept, Elizabeth Blackwell has rocketed to the top of my favorites list. I loved the story, with the cozy feeling it managed to evoke despite the darkness in the story, and managed to read it in one sitting -- no small feat with an almost 3-year-old. The setting, the incredible descriptions, and an amazing cast of characters has made this a book I'm going to recommend again and again. 

Thanks to Penguin for the review copy! 

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6. Brave Mom by Sherry Surratt

As most of you know, I'm the coordinator for my local chapter of MOPS International. It's an amazing position to hold -- leading over 40 women in biweekly meetings of fellowship, prayer, crafts, speakers, and just a good, relaxing experience. I feel completely overwhelmed with the passion I have for helping these women experience a couple hours of escape from mom-life. It's amazing.

Sherry Surratt is the President of MOPS International and Brave Mom is the theme book this year. It's filled with great advice for the us moms, battling through the trenches of raising little ones, and focusing on ten of our biggest fears as mothers. I can always use encouragement direct from Scripture, as well as from a seasoned mom.

Nothing in the book was new information to me or totally attention-grabbing, but it was a nice read to confirm that my fears as a mom are completely normal and reiterated practical ways to get over them and move on. Would make a great gift for a new mom!

Thanks to Zondervan for the review copy!

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7. Readathon: End of Event Meme

This 24hrs went by so quickly! I ended up going to sleep around 12am, but was back up at 5:30 when E decided to wake up for the day. Typically, Sunday is my day to sleep in (meaning 7:30), but today the husband got a 2nd day of extra rest, so I could finish up a book!

I had a lot of fun, knocked a bunch of books off my TBR, and had a great time connecting with new bloggers around the world. This readathon is unlike anything else I participate in and I'm definitely going to make it a priority from now on. Thanks to all the hosts and cheerleaders and organizers -- you guys are fantastic!

End of Event Meme

1. Which hour was most daunting for you?

Around 11pm I began to really lose interest in my book. I just didn't want to look at pages anymore, so I slowly read a few more pages while watching an episode of Call the Midwife before crashing.

2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?

Both Boxers and Saints were quick, graphic novel reads that kept me turning pages quickly.

3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?

Nope, you guys are great! 

4. What do you think worked really well in this year's Read-a-thon?

I haven't participated for a few years, so this might not be new, but it seemed like the variety of mini-challenges was great. I didn't participate in a lot of them, just because I preferred sticking with my book, but they were fun!

5. How many books did you read?

5.5, plus some audio. 

6. What were the names of the books you read?

Boxers by Gene Luen Yang
Saints by Gene Luen Yang
Brave Mom by Sherry Surratt
Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer
Small Victories by Anne Lamott
2nd half of The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey

7. Which did you enjoy least?

The Infinite Sea. The beginning was great, the middle and end totally lost me. 

8. How likely are you to participate again?

I absolutely will, as a Reader. 

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8. Readathon: Mid-Event Survey

Well, I've made it to the halfway mark! It's just about time for the little guy to go to bed, so I'll have to take a break here soon to tend to my bedtime duties, but otherwise, I'm going strong. I plan to read as long as I can tonight - probably 11-ish - and then get back up early tomorrow and finish up. I'm so glad I've checked all these books off my list!

From the main Read-A-Thon site:

1. What are you reading right now?

I'm about 1/4 into Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer and totally hooked. Glad I waited until this point to pick it up.

2. How many books have you read so far?

Belzhar will be my 5th. I've had a great mix of graphic novels and short non-fiction to keep me going, but the novels will definitely take me longer.

3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-Thon?

Saints by Gene Luen Yang. Loved Boxers, so Saints will be next!

4. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those?

My husband was kind enough to take charge of our son for the day and planned lots of fun adventures out of the house. They did come back for nap time and now bedtime, and E insists I do those, so I've just taken short breaks. It's refreshing to look up from the pages for awhile anyway.

5. What surprises you most about the Read-a-Thon, so far?

I'm surprised with how many books I've gone through. I've always been a fast reader, but in recent months I seem to have slowed way down. Guess staring at pages all day long has helped me speed back up!

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9. Readathon: Update #1

Well, it's about 7.5 hours in and I'm loving this. It's such a great feeling to be back, enjoying this awesome readathon event with all of you!

I started with (and finished) Boxers by Gene Luen Yang and read the rest of The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey. Started and just finished Small Victories by Anne Lamott.  I've also been listening to Sarah Addison Allen's Garden Spells while reading blogs and scrolling through Twitter.

My husband had the child out for the morning -- guy date! -- but, quickly ran back home with a "readathon porch delivery" for me. Flowers from the farmers market and more coffee. The man knows the way to my heart. Let me read all day and deliver me coffee?? He's a keeper. They're heading back out soon for more fun, while I keep it parked here!

I did get outside for some exercise and audiobook listening. Walked to my library to pick up another graphic novel and when my book didn't want to cooperate, I listened to the awesome Read Aloud Revival podcast. I love that one and highly recommend checking it out!


Pages read: 814
Books finished: 3
Time spent reading/listening: 6 hours 35 minutes

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10. Readathon: Starting Line

It's here! It's here! As I mentioned in my post yesterday, I haven't done a readathon in just about 3 years, so this one is a big deal for me. Having a husband willing to take total control of our toddler is awesome and I'm looking forward to a full day of reading and connecting with all of you. Ya'll are my people. :)

Coffee is brewed, book pile is stacked (and ebooks ready), and snacks are in the fridge! The opening meme was just posted and my answers are below. I'll do a few updates throughout the day. Happy reading, friends!

What fine part of the world are you reading from today?

I'm reading from Northern Virginia, just about 20 miles outside D.C. It's going to be a beautiful October day, so I'm sure I'll spend some time with my books on our back porch!

Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?

Probably Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer. I've heard so many great things about it and I finally got my hands on a copy. I'll probably wait until I'm getting tired to start it and hope it wakes me up.

Which snack are you most looking forward to?

Eek. I don't have any interesting snacks this time around. I used to go all out with my readathon snack stash, but I'm happy enough to just be reading this year. I'm sure I'll have some popcorn at some point in the day, so I'll go with that one.

Tell us a little something about yourself!

I'm a self-proclaimed coffee addict, wife to an occasional reader, mom to a super-reader, and loved by an 8-year-old pit bull who will spend most of the day at my feet. She doesn't read, but she's a great cuddler. ;)

If you participated in the last readathon, what's one thing you'll do differently today?

It's been a few years, but I'm sticking with my past rules of taking lots of breaks to connect via Twitter and all of your blogs. That's part of the fun of this day! Can't wait to meet some new bloggers!

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11. 24 Hour Readathon and what we're reading lately

Up until Elliott was born, I always participated in Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon events with all my blogger friends. Once he arrived, my free time obviously took a drastic nosedive and I just couldn't give up even a few hours during the day to just read -- no laundry, no cooking, no cleaning, no playing, etc. It just didn't happen. Well, E will be 3 next month and I've decided it's time for me to once again join the masses who participate in this awesome event. Tomorrow, starting at 8am (EST), I'll be reading all.day.long. My awesome husband has graciously told me he'll have a "man day" with our little guy and I won't have any responsibilities other than finishing my pile of books. If you're participating, let me know!

My blogging has definitely been put on the back burner lately, so my reviews have been nonexistent. We're reading, just not talking enough about the books! Below are a few we've been loving lately. 

Bear Sees Colors by Karma Wilson, illustrated by Jane Chapman

Wilson is one of our favorite authors and this is probably my favorite from the Bear series. The illustrations are fabulous and the color theme is great for the stage of learning we're in. The rhymes are always spot-on in these books and this one is no exception. 

Is There a Dog in this Book? by Viviane Schwartz 

I have never witnessed my child laugh at a book quite as hard as he laughs at this one. He finds hilarity in the cats being afraid of the cute little dog in the first few pages and is always excited to help "find" the dog in the last few pages, despite how many times we've read it. We've yet to check out the first two in the series, but they'll be added to our library list, for sure. 

Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld

I read the entire Uglies series years ago and loved them, but this book was even better! It was suspenseful and had me totally sucked in from the first few pages. I loved the alternating chapters and the book-within-a-book concept. 

The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

I should have known by the 2 authors that I would love this one. Though the concept isn't necessarily new (boy finds out he has a magical background, not sure he wants it), the writing is great and the plot thrilling. The characters were realistic and the setting well-described. Younger Percy Jackson fans will love it! 

The Sacred Year by Michael Yankoski

The author takes a whole new look at what it means to be a Christian, refreshing himself and me, as his reader. It's one thing to talk about all the goodness God brings us, but a whole other to actually experience that goodness. I was fascinated by the journey Yankoski took and was left thinking about my own spiritual life in a whole new light. 

Five Days Left by Julie Lawson Timmer

I have a feeling this is going to my "it" book of the year. I loved every single minute of my experience with this story and cannot stop recommending it. It will completely wrench your heart, but it's so beautifully done, you can't help but love it. The characters could be anyone you know -- they could be YOU -- which makes the relationships feel all the more real. Definitely check this one out. 

I do tend to talk a lot about our current reads via Twitter, so if you're looking for more frequent book talk, start there. 

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12. The night before.

I started running 2 years ago and chronicled my journey here. How excited I was to be able to run 3 miles without stopping, the struggles I had, and the pounds I lost. However, my true love of running didn't show up until just about a year ago when it also became my form of cheap therapy. All of my insecurities and stresses poured out of me while I was running and so I just ran. A lot.  

I felt so much better when I was moving, but I don't think I ever truly let go of those things that were powering my legs to go. I just used them as fuel. Every day stresses, major insecurities, hurts, family drama, work stress, etc. I'd run and get out the frustration and anger, but it would always show back up, worming its way into my optimistic nature and positive attitude and leaving me mentally tired. 

This training has been amazing. Hard -- brutal some days -- but so worth it. I'm in better shape than I've ever been and most of all, I'm proud of myself. I haven't felt that way in a very long time and I know I deserve it. I've worked so hard and have fought against asthma, humidity, heat, time constraints, and my own brain telling me I'm not good enough, but I am. I am good enough for this. 

Tomorrow, when I reach that finish line (and I WILL reach the finish line) in all of my hot pink glory, I'm finally letting it go. I'm leaving it all out there on that course. It's going to be one of the hardest things I've ever physically done, but one of my very best friends, an ultra-marathoner, sent me a text today that said "when your legs and body get tired, run with your heart. Run with your spirit. You know why you're running, so just do it." And that's exactly what I'm going to do. I'm going to run. And I'm going to run for me. 

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13. Three Story House by Courtney Miller Santo

Nearing thirty and trying to avoid the inescapable fact that they have failed to live up to everyone’s expectations and their own aspirations, cousins and childhood best friends Lizzie, Elyse, and Isobel seek respite in an oddly-shaped, three-story house that sits on a bluff sixty feet above the Mississippi.

As they work to restore the almost condemned house, each woman faces uncomfortable truths about their own failings. Lizzie seeks answers to a long-held family secret about her father in her grandmother’s jumble of mementos and the home’s hidden spaces. Elyse’s obsession with an old flame leads her to a harrowing mistake that threatens to destroy her sister’s wedding, and Isobel’s quest for celebrity tempts her to betray confidences in ways that would irreparably damage her two cousins.

Told in three parts from the perspective of each of the women, this sharply observed account of the restoration of a house built out of spite, but filled with memories of love is also an account of friendship and how relying on each other’s insights and strengths provides the women a way to get what they need instead of what they want. (description from publisher)

Check out the rest of the tour here

You can also head to Santo's website Facebook page or Twitter

I loved The Roots of the Olive Tree and can't wait to read this one! I was thrilled to be part of this tour, but just couldn't get the book finished in time. If this one is just as good as her first, you'll enjoy it for sure. 

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14. Sisters' Fate by Jessica Spotswood

I'm so sad to see this series end. I have to admit, I was a little skeptical when I first picked up Born Wicked 2 years ago, since witches aren't normally my thing, but I fell in love with the world Jessica Spotswood had created and the characters she nurtured into such strong women. When Star Cursed came out last year, I was happily at the launch party (complete with cupcakes for readers and a tiara for the author), and now comes Sisters' Fate.

I read this book in one day, despite my attempts to make it last. It's filled with action as Cate attempts to fight against the Brotherhood, rebuild her relationship with Finn, and save her sisters from destruction - both self-inflicted - and not and the emotional hits just kept on coming. I couldn't put the book down once I started, so I just gave in and read it all through. Such beauty in the writing, yet the plot twists just kept coming.

Can we just talk about Cate and Finn for a moment? This is not your typical teen-book romance. It had depth, crazy complexities, and yet felt entirely realistic despite all the magical elements floating around. Their relationship is one I cheered for and may have even shed a few tears for throughout this series and I really love how Spotswood ties things up. Sorry for being a bit vague, but no spoilers here. Just read the series!

I love Spotswood's writing style and her easy ability to pull you into the story from the very first pages. I can't wait to see what she has up her sleeve next!

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15. All I Know and Love review

For years, Matthew Greene and Daniel Rosen have enjoyed a contented domestic life in Northampton, Massachusetts. Opposites in many ways, they have grown together and made their relationship work. But when they learn that Daniel's twin brother and sister-in-law have ben killed in a Jerusalem bombing, their lives are suddenly, utterly transformed. 

The deceased couple have left behind two young children and their shocked and grieving families must decide who will raise six-year-old Gal and baby Noam. When it becomes clear that Daniel's brother and sister-in-law had wanted Matt and Daniel to be the children's guardians, the two men find themselves confronted by challenges that strike at the heart of their relationship. (Description via Goodreads)

Such a heavy, heavy read, but so beautifully done. I was pulled into Matt and Daniel's story from the very first pages and found myself crying along with them as they suffer a terrible tragedy and their entire lives are turned upside down.

The characters each had a special sort of depth that is missing in a lot of books and I appreciated the realistic flaws in each. Each character was still likable, despite the flaws, which I feel is the mark of a true-to-life character.  I can't stop thinking about the horrors they faced and the crazy circumstances Matt had to endure in the midst of the tragedy. He was totally out of place in Israel, with Daniel's family, with everything really, and it just felt perfect. That's how life is... messy. 

Brimming with topics for discussion (religion, same sex marriage, family drama, politics, etc), I can definitely see this one being used for book clubs with huge success. It's a long read, but so, so good. 

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for the review copy! Check out the rest of the tour here

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16. Manhunt by Kate Messner

I love Kate Messner and I love this series! Manhunt is the third book, following Capture the Flag and Hide and Seek and I think it's the best one yet. This time around, the young members of the super secret Silver Jaguar Society are tasked with finding the stolen Mona Lisa painting, which takes them all over Paris.

The setting was well-described and appropriately detailed for the desired age group. Lots of cool Parisian landmarks were used in the plot and it definitely made me want to take a trip. I can't imagine reading this and not wanting to hop on a jet plane to that city!

The characters were complex, diverse (#weneeddiversebooks) and realistic making for great detectives that kids are going to love reading about. Hopefully, when they've finished the story, they'll want to look up more cool facts about Paris. I love when fiction encourages non-fiction research.

If this is your first Kate Messner book, definitely check out her others.

Thanks to Scholastic for the review copy!

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17. 2 new Christian reads

I've been spending a lot of time with my Bible lately and in books that are an encouragement to me as both a Christian and a woman. They're my refreshment after a long day with a cranky toddler or even just a normal, happy day. I need to be in the Word and these two books are my most recent "refreshing" reads. 

Love, Skip, Jump by Shelene Bryan is all about saying "yes" to the things that typically scare you and take a true leap of faith. It was a great reminder at taking care of the things we have and not taking them for granted, as well as how others are living without many of our luxuries and we're called to care for those with less. 

Jumping into the adventure our Creator has planned for us is essential -- but much easier said than done. Bryan did an excellent job at using personal experience to inspire. 

Living Life Undaunted by Christine Caine has quickly become my new favorite devotional. It contains 365 readings to challenge us to help change the world. She is an incredibly powerful speaker and has a great writing style -- simple, but direct. I love opening this up with my Bible each morning to see what Caine has in store for me to chew on. 

Thanks to BookLook Bloggers for the chance to review these fantastic books. I hope to be featuring more from them in the near future! 

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18. A beach book giveaway!

I just returned from 4 glorious days at the beach with my friends. It was a much needed mama-break and I enjoyed every single minute of doing almost nothing except lounging in the sand with my book.  SO relaxing!

Though I really enjoyed my alone time, I know Elliott would love the beach, so I'm hoping to take him to a closer one sometime this summer. We've been reading a lot of books about the beach lately and our favorite has been Duck & Goose Go the the Beach by Tad Hills. Who doesn't love this sweet pair of friends??

In their latest adventure, the excited pair head to the beach where Goose loves the sand and the surf... but, poor Duck is a little scared. It's the perfect blend of sweet and silly and kids will laugh all through the antics of these two crazy birds. 

For us, it's also a great intro for Elliott as to what life at the beach might be like. Sand, big waves, little tide pools, etc. The illustrations are fantastic, as Hills' always are, and he loved laughing at Goose being so silly. 

Random House has kindly sent an extra book and some Duck & Goose goodies to give away to one of you! Leave a comment on this post by Friday night and I'll pick a winner Saturday morning. Make sure you leave a way for me to contact you! U.S. only please. 

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19. A break of sorts

Life got crazy and blogging, once again, took a backseat. I'm hoping to be back before much longer, but for now, I'm enjoying my family and LOTS of books. See you soon!

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20. To blog or not to blog.

This year has been a tough one for me. Lots of changes with our extended family, friendships ending, and just a whole lot of chaos that I wasn't quite expecting to have to deal with, all while I attempted to lead a group of 50 women and be their encourager... plus mom to a toddler and working at the bookstore more. Whew. I'm just tired writing it and it has truly been mentally and emotionally exhausting. It wasn't all bad things happening -- though there were definitely some of those -- but, just a lot in general and something needs to give.

Lately, I've been doing a lot of reading whatever I want and just reflecting on my days, along with a little journaling, and it's perfect for my current state of mind. I'm not passionate about blogging right now and I'm not sure if it will return. I'm not sure what that means for this blog... I've been at it 7 years and letting go would be a very difficult decision. So, for now, I'm going to blog when I feel like it and start to say no to review copies, so obligations will be gone. Maybe taking any pressure off will help. This is supposed to simply be a hobby, after all. 

If this year has taught me anything, it's that I want to be ALL IN with everything I do in this short life. I want to love every aspect of my days (even the temper tantrums), because I'm only on this earth for so long. That meant letting go of a difficult friendship. It meant deciding to make the right choices for our family, despite my own opposition. It may mean being done with this blog, so I can just focus on reading what I want, when I want. 

I'm not putting a timeline on this decision, because I'm just honestly not sure. I'm going to finish up a few review obligations and then see what happens. If I just write once in awhile, maybe the passion for reviewing books will come back. If not, I'm still on Twitter constantly chatting up what I'm reading, so I won't totally disappear. Can't get rid of me that easily! 

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21. The Year She Left Us review

Thank you all for your kind comments regarding my thoughts in my last post. I'm still not sure what I'll do, but taking things slowly is definitely my plan. I don't want to give up something I love, but I do want to make sure I have plenty of time for enjoying books without obligation. You all are amazing!

Today, I have a review of a book that will make those readers who are drawn to detailed characters very happy. I found myself totally wrapped up in this family and their journey of healing and growth. 

From the publisher:

The Kong women are in crisis. A disastrous trip to visit her "home" orphanage in China has plunged eighteen-year-old Ari into a self-destructive spiral. Her adoptive mother, Charlie, a lawyer with a great heart, is desperate to keep her daughter safe. Meanwhile, Charlie must endure the prickly scrutiny of her beautiful, Bryn Mawr-educated mother, Gran--who, as the daughter of a cultured Chinese doctor, came to America to survive Mao's Revolution--and her sister, Les, a brilliant judge with a penchant for ruling over eery thing's lives.

The story is, at times, humorous, while being an incredible family story. There's a bit of mystery, a lot of heartbreak, and a great examination of what one's culture means to daily life. I loved the book and can't wait to see what this author brings to us next! 

To stop by the rest of the tour, check out the other blogs participating here.

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22. Mrs. Hemingway review

Summer, 1926. Ernest Hemingway and his wife Hadley take refuge from the blazing heat of Paris in a villa in the south of France. They swim and play bridge and drink gin with abandon. But wherever they go they are accompanied by the glamourous and irrepressible Fife. Fife is Hadley's best friend. She is also Ernest's lover. Hadley is the first Mrs. Hemingway, but neither she nor Fife will be the last.

I was absolutely fascinated with this story. I fell for the life of Ernest Hemingway after reading Hemingway's Girl by Erika Robuck a couple of years ago and now I love to read anything I can about him and his lifestyle. Though fiction, this novel was a great look into the world of the women who surrounded him and what their thoughts of the famous man may have been as they were caught up in his lavish life and eventually tossed aside. 

The writing was atmospheric and beautiful, though, at times a little confusing with the back and forth of present and past. I felt the flow was sometimes a little off. Once I made it a few chapters in, I found the rhythm and enjoyed the story. 

Thanks to Penguin for the review copy!

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23. The Bookman's Tale review and giveaway!

From the publisher:

Nine months after the death of his beloved wife Amanda left him shattered, Peter Byerly, a young antiquarian bookseller, relocates fromNorth Carolina to the English countryside, hoping to outrun his grief and rediscover the joy he once took in collecting and restoring rare books. But upon opening an eighteenth-centrury study of Shakespeare forgeries, he discovers a Victorian watercolor of a women who bears an uncanny resemblance to Amanda. 

Peter becomes obsessed with learning the picture's origins and braves a host of dangers to follow a trail of clues back across the centuries -- all the way to Shakespeare's time and a priceless literary artifact that could prove, once and for all, the truth about the Bard's real identity. 

This one definitely kept me up at night! The plot was fascinating, mixed with all sorts of twists and turns, along with the awesome literary points. Though I don't personally get a thrill from antique books, I do love reading about them. 

The time shifts were done well and kept me interested in the story. I didn't particularly care for Peter as a main character -- his melancholy was a bit overdone -- but I did love his emotions when it came to the actual mystery. 

Intrigued? The publisher is kind enough to give one of you a copy! Just leave a comment here telling me a summer reading recommendation and you'll be entered to win a copy. U.S. only. Enter by Friday night, 6/6. 

Make sure you leave me a way to contact you!

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24. The Dog Year... interview with Ann Garvin

You all know I love a good dog book. The Dog Year follows Dr. Lucy Peterman, a woman struggling to keep her head above water after losing her husband and unborn child in a tragic accident. She's caught stealing from the hospital she works in and is sent to a twelve-step program to attempt to help rebuild her life. 

She adopts a stray dog and slowly starts bonding with the people in her group while at the dog park. Proving that dog-people really are the best people, right? (just kidding, cats are cool too)

I thought it would be great if Ann Garvin would provide us with a little background that went into The Dog Year -- in the form of its playlist! 

What is the musical soundtrack you imagined to go along with The Dog Year?

This is a wonderful question and since there is a discovered iPod in the book where my protagonist listens and tries to feel connected to her husband after his death, it’s a perfect question for me. If I were to fill an iPod with music for listening while reading THE DOG YEAR, I would fill it with.

·         Everlasting Love by Gloria Estefan
·         Give Me Everything by Pitbull
·         Say Hey (I Love You) by Michael Franti
·         My First My Last My Everything by Barry White
·         It’s Raining Men by The Weathergirls
·         Bad Day by Daniel Powter

I’d also add to this list
·         Just Give Me a Reason and Blow Me (one last kiss) by Pink (Lucy has Pink’s attitude so often it seems to fit.)
·         The Show by Lenka (would be perfect for either Sara or Sidney)
·         Me and Mrs. Jones by Billy Paul
·         Hard Candy by The Counting Crows
·         You and I Both by Jason Mraz
·         At Last by Etta James
·         A Thousand Years by Christina Perri
·         Club Can’t Handle Me by Flo Rida
·         I’m Yours/Somewhere Over The Rainbow by Straight No Chaser (for closing credits)

And I would like nothing better than Thrift Shop by Macklemore to be playing while Lucy is stealing all the strange stuff she doesn’t need. How awesome would that be?

Thanks for joining me, Ann! And thanks to Penguin for sending a review copy along. If you're a dog lover, be sure to add this one to your summer reading list -- just be sure to have a box of tissues nearby!

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25. The Care and Management of Lies by Jacqueline Winspear

From the publisher:

By July 1914, the ties between Kezia Marchant and Thea Brissenden, friends since girlhood, have become strained -- by Thea's passionate embrace of women's suffrage, and by the imminent marriage of Kezia to Thea's brother, Tom, who runs the family farm. When Kezia and Tom wed, just a month before Britain declares war on Germany, Thea's gift to Kezia is a book on household management -- a veiled criticism of the bride's prosaic life to come. Yet when Tom enlists to fight for his country and Thea is drawn reluctantly onto the battlefield, the farm becomes Kezia's responsibility. Each woman must find a way to endure the ensuing cataclysm and turmoil.

I absolutely love Winspear's Maisie Dobbs series and was thrilled to see she had a stand-alone coming out. Though I wasn't quite as entranced with the characters as I had been with the series, I still found myself pulled into the time period and setting just as deeply. Winspear has a knack for creating an ugly beautiful -- the Great War being a terribly ugly time in history, yet her descriptions of life, place, and emotions are truly beautiful.

This one wasn't a quick read, but worth savoring. Add it to your beach bag if you're looking for something with depth, but also bits of humor. I loved it!

You can check out the rest of the tour here or head to Jacqueline Winspear's website or Facebook page. And if you haven't read a Maisie Dobbs book, YOU MUST.

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