Twitterature: Mini Book Reviews (March)

I’m linking up again with the lovely Anne of Modern Mrs. Darcy and her monthly Twitterature roundup. The goal is super simple: share some quick reviews of the books you’ve read in the last month – twitterstyle. It doesn’t have to be 140 characters or less, but that’s a good guideline to shoot for. If you feel like #hashtagging, that’s fun, too!

Here are my short and sweet reviews for the past month:

113348The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

Dinah’s story is finally told – along with many others – hardships are faced (understatement), new cultures are adapted to as Dinah continually picks up the pieces of her life and starts anew. This book is one that will stay with me for a long time.

#worstbrothersever #thefirstruleoftheredtentisnobodytalksabuttheredtent #periodsreallyaretheworst #everyoneistheworst

16068905Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

I read this book in one day – it was a mad, crazy, obsessive daylong reading spree in which putting the book down felt painful and wrong. It felt like this book was written exactly for me. I, simply put, am fangirlingoverthis book hard. – Full Review –

#fanficiscool #coolisnotcool #teamlevi4eva #iwishihadntreaditsothaticouldreaditforthefirstimeagain #socialanxietywhatup #simonandbaz

16130417The Last Word by Lisa Lutz

Book six in a series. And you thought your family was a little crazy – the Spellmans continue to be my favorite fictional family, even when they are being totally insane. This book is kind of about hitting rock bottom and learning to pick up the pieces and be whole again.

#istillmisshenrystone #seriouslyitsnotokay #okayfinemaxisprettycooltoo #idontknowhowidfeelaboutraeasanarrator #thesehashtagsaretoolongtoreadarentthey

Poppins_covers.inddMary Poppins by PL Travers

This is a hard book to judge fairly when you’ve already seen the Disney movie 800 times. There were parts I loved and parts I didn’t love either because I’m biased or because the movie was better? Not sure. I swear there were two chapters in this book that I’ve totally seen before – and they definitely weren’t in the movie but I knew them vividly and have no idea why.

#candyforfingerswhat #babiestalktobirdsuntiltheydont #marypoppinsisobsessedwithmarypoppins #notenoughbert

So what have you been reading lately?

weekend link love: february 21, 2014

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Is anybody else kind of relieved that it’s finally the weekend? It’s been a long week here with the weather generally ruining every plan I tried to make – which means another long week inside. Silver lining is that I have more great links to share with you guys this week.

Enjoy these links while we wait impatiently for Spring:

Your welcome.

Twitterature: Mini Book Reviews (February)

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We’re halfway through February which means it’s Valentine’s Day (yay!!) and it’s apparently MM’s 100th day of 2nd grade (yay!!) and perhaps even more exciting: it’s time to share with you some mini book reviews of what I’ve been reading since last month – twitter style (double triple crazy yays!!! right?). I’m linking up with Anne of Modern Mrs. Darcy and her monthly Twitterature roundup.

Since last month I’ve finished four books, which for me is a really big deal so if you want to applaud and throw flowers, I won’t mind. Really.

Here are my short and sweet reviews, just in time for Valentine’s Day:

9464733Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

Not your grandma’s beauty pageant is an understatement. Perhaps trying to do too much, but still a fascinating and fun read.

#extremesatire #beautyqueensurvivorstyle #pageantgirlsarecrazy #lovelibbabray

17349203Fortunately, The Milk by Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman at his best. A super fun book to read out loud to the kids. Terrific illustrations. The whole family loved it.

#poniespiratesanddinosaurs-ohmy! #butdiditreallyhappenmom? #wumpireswhatwhat #storytimelove

 

Check out my : Full Review

243093A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle

If you’ve seen Sherlock and think you know this story: think again. Doyle’s first Sherlock Holmes novel – definitely worth a read.

#cumberbatchfangirl #thegameison #rache #didntlovethemiddle #iamSHERlocked #stillfangirlingsorry

8113940Witches of East End by Melissa de la Cruz

Kinda liked the Lifetime show better, but still plowed through it obsessively. De la Cruz for Grownups. Loved the Blue Bloods crossover.

#bashvsbran #killianwhatwhat #thebookcharactersarelesslikeable #FYInotappropriateforteens #stilllikethetvshowbetter

 

So what have you been reading lately?

Are you a speed reader? Find out now!

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Source: Staples eReader Department

How fast can you read? Take this short speed reader test designed by the folks at Staples and see how you compare to the average person – and how fast you could read War and Peace! Turns out I’m only a 10% faster reader than the average adult, only mildly faster than your average 8th grader and quite a bit slower than a college student or a speed reader.

I’m actually totally okay with this – I would like to (perhaps naively) think that I’m focusing on quality over quantity, taking the time to actually understand what I am reading and soak it in – and if that means it takes me longer, I guess that’s okay. Also, this probably explains why I get in about 30 books a year reading nearly every night when I know other people who can read 100+ books a year with ease. I’m just slow – or at least slightly above average.

How fast can you read?

Book Review: Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman

fortunately the milkIf you mention the name Neil Gaiman in certain circles (namely literary, nerdish, Whovian and the like) you are likely to get a lot of high pitches squeals and gushing about the amazement that is Gaiman. And a lot of girls like him, too.

Wanting to raise my kids to be Proper Geeks, I thought it might be time to instill them with a love of Neil Gaiman now – you’ve gotta start them early, you know! And when I got my hands on a copy of Fortunately, The Milk by Neil Gaiman, I knew I’d found just the book to start them off with.

“I bought the milk,” said my father. “I walked out of the corner shop, and heard a noise like this: T h u m m t h u m m. I looked up and saw a huge silver disc hovering in the air above Marshall Road.”

“Hullo,” I said to myself. “That’s not something you see every day. And then something odd happened.”

Find out just how odd things get in this hilarious story of time travel and breakfast cereal, expertly told by Newbery Medalist and bestselling author Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Skottie Young.

If you or your kids like pirates, dinosaurs, aliens, ponies, vampires, cute quirky British families, traveling through time and space, breakfast cereal with milk, well illustrated and funny novels or even just one of those things – this one is a safe bet.

I read this in one sitting and knew immediately that I wanted it to be our next Family Read-Aloud. My husband offered to read it last weekend to the kids, but warned them that we might not finish it in one sitting, because it’s 100 pages and they had school in the morning and – yeah, we finished it in one sitting.

Partly because there really is no natural breaking point in the story and partly because it was just too funny to put down. My husband is a terrific story teller and he had fun voicing all the different characters and the kids adored the illustrations (though my ever observant hubby would point out that a few of the illustrations don’t quite match up accurately to the story).

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After we finished reading, I handed the book over to my seven year old so he could read it himself and properly pour over all the illustrations on his own time. There are a lot of illustrations to pore over with a lot of intricate details and as an added bonus, this book is a great vocabulary builder that will be a nice challenge for my advanced reader.

It’s not very often that you find a book marketed for 8-12 year olds that the whole family enjoyed. Gaiman throws in a few ponies for the four year old girl set and lots of fun jokes for the parents to chuckle over and all the aliens, vampires, pirates and dinosaurs that a boy (or really any kid) could ask for. This is truly a book that has it all!

What are you and your kids reading right now?

What I’m Into Lately: January 2014

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It’s kind of hard to believe that January 2014 is already coming to a close – like didn’t this year JUST start? Aren’t we still shakily recovering from ringing in the new year (and by that I mean, letting our children stay up WAY past our their bedtime and then being forced to get up with them the next morning only to discover that we are way too old for that crap and they annoyingly don’t seem any worse for the wear)? 31 days later and I don’t know about you, but I’m still recovering.

So while I ignore the morning in the comforts of a puffy robe and a second cup of coffee, let’s gossip about all the books, tv shows, movies, etc. that we’ve been into this month. I’m linking up again with Leigh Kramer to share what I’m into lately.

What I’ve Been Reading:

I read four books this month, which for me is like a major deal, but to be fair, two of them were awfully short – though still really great reads:

  1. Freakonomics by Steven Levitt (January Book Club) – I enjoyed this book a lot more than I thought I would. Very interesting, whether you agree with them and their findings or not. – Full Review –
  2. Beauty Queens by Libba Bray – I thought the premise of this book was fascinating and the plot kept me intrigued throughout. I also felt the book was attempting to do an AWFUL lot and that it occasionally read as cheesy, over done and sometimes predictable, but being a young adult novel I can kind of over look the predictable aspects. All in all, I think it was a very funny and satirical look at the commercialism and typical coming of age issues that young girls are faced with, in the midst of a very atypical story.
  3. Fortunately, The Milk by Neil Gaiman – This was such a fun, quick read. terrific illustrations also. I’m looking forward to sharing it with the kids.
  4. A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle – I don’t know if I would have enjoyed this story as much if I weren’t such a huge fan of the BBC series, Sherlock, but since I can’t (yet) go back in time and unsee the show, I’ll just have to base my feelings of the book around the fact that I’ve seen the show also and thus knew the major plot points. However, the original story is actually quite a bit different from the tv show’s version and there were things I genuinely liked about each. I didn’t really care for the middle part of the book where they leave Sherlock and Watson to further explain the back story of characters that I won’t name here, cause you know, spoilers. But at the same time, I think the backstory was necessary so overall, I did enjoy the book and I’ll definitely be reading more of Doyle’s Sherlock stories soon.

Right now I’m kind of reading three books at once but mostly just one. I got randomly sucked into Witches of East End by Melissa de la Cruz, which the show on LIFETIME was based on, somewhat loosely. This may be one of the rare instances where the tv show is a bit better or at least feels more cohesive and thought out, but maybe that’s because I saw it first? Not sure, either way I cannot seem to put the book down in a guilty pleasure sort of way.

Movies We’ve Watched:

Most of the movies we’ve been watching lately are old school children’s movies of the past – we’ve been doing a lot of family movie nights with the aim of giving our kids a “proper education” – i.e. Mary Poppins, Shrek, The Emperor’s New Groove, Night at the Museum – all massive hits and massively enjoyable. In particular it was really cool to see Dick Van Dyke dress up and act like a an old guy in Mary Poppins and then see him actually be an old guy in Night at the Museum. He is always such a great actor to enjoy in general.

TV Shows I’m Fangirling Hard:

I don’t feel I can properly begin this segment without squealing uncontrollably over Sherlock. This may be the best show on television which makes it all the more brutal that we get just three episodes a season and then seemingly ages in between said seasons. Like everyone else in the world, I’ve really been enjoying this season – just as massively enjoyable as the previous ones. I’ve been spending a lot of time with this coffee mug:

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I know, right?

When I’m not being utterly and thoroughly Sherlocked, I’ve also been enjoying:

American Idol – Is anyone else so, so, so pleasantly surprised with this season of American Idol so far and we’re still in the audition round which I usually delete because I just cannot deal with all the  drama. They’ve done such a good job keeping that to a minimum and the judges are just so amusing and wonderful to watch. I feel like they really took to heart the major complaints that I guess I wasn’t the only one making and are really delivering an upbeat, honest, funny show.

Under the Gunn – I’m still on the fence about this show but I enjoy the mentors they’ve chosen and well Tim Gunn and I think I’m a big enough Project Runway fan in general that I’m likely to stay interested in keeping watching the show even if the premise is a bit dubious to me. It kind of feels like Project Runway: The People Who Couldn’t Make It Onto the Actual Show but it’s still fun to watch.

I know Doctor Who isn’t actually on yet but I’ve really been enjoying the snippets and teasers we’ve gotten so far online and I’m preemptively really excited about the next season. We’ve also been watching more of the Tom Baker era series on Netflix and I continue to adore him.

Other shows I’m still watching and loving: Castle, Bones, Melissa & Joey (they’re finally together!!!), Reign, Big Bang Theory, How I Met Your Mother (love the mother), New Girl, 2 Broke Girls (so funny), The Mindy Project (OMG!!!!!) and probably other stuff, too.

Awesome Stuff I Read Online:

These are the things I would have mentioned in a Weekend Link Love roundup today aka I spent a lot of time on buzzfeed this week:

Time-Traveling Amazon Reviews of Next Season’s Doctor Who – Are there any better fans than Doctor Who fans? I think not.

The Sherlock Guide to the UK – Makes me want to take a field trip like immediately.

Literary Valentines for the Romantic Reader – I kind of adored these madly.

Peter Capaldi used to be in a punk band with Craig Ferguson – this made my week.

Little Girls Design Amazing Super Hero Costumes – this is just amazing.

Lastly some videos that are must sees:

Book Review: Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt

freakonomicsMy book club just met to discuss Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, a book that has been around for ages but I have somehow avoided reading up until now. I think I assumed this book would be dry, boring or simply not something that would interest me. Needless to say, I was wrong!

Another example of why I am thankful for a book club that continually pushes me outside of my literary comfort zones!

Here’s a quick description of the book from goodreads.com:

“Economics is not widely considered to be one of the sexier sciences. The annual Nobel Prize winner in that field never receives as much publicity as his or her compatriots in peace, literature, or physics. But if such slights are based on the notion that economics is dull, or that economists are concerned only with finance itself, Steven D. Levitt will change some minds. In Freakonomics (written with Stephen J. Dubner), Levitt argues that many apparent mysteries of everyday life don’t need to be so mysterious: they could be illuminated and made even more fascinating by asking the right questions and drawing connections.”

First off, this is a very readable book and I read it much faster than I would have expected. The extended / expanded edition contains a bunch of extra articles and blog posts that they’ve written since their book was originally published which makes the book look larger than it is really.

I found the book to be nowhere near as dry as you might expect and ocasionally laugh out loud funny or thought provokingly interesting. The authors touch upon subjects that would be of interest to most people like the actual effects of good or bad parenting, how to detect if a teacher is helping her kids cheat on state exams, why drug dealers still live with their parents, why crime rates dropped unexpectedly and what a baby name might tell you about said baby’s parents and the baby’s expected life.

Of course all of the “answers” in this book are just statistical probabilities and not hard and fast truths. I’m sure there are lots of exceptions to the rules and probably other angles at which you could look at some of these questions as well that might result in different answers. But I loved the overall concept of the book: the idea of looking at a question differently and not taking information at face value is definitely a useful thing to keep in mind.

The book definitely brought about a lively and interesting book club discussion. I’d say by and large, most of the members of my group enjoyed the book at least a little. I’d definitely recommend it to anyone who’s been on the  fence and considering reading it.

Have you read this book? What  did you think of it?

Twitterature: Mini Book Reviews for January 2014

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I’m linking up again with the lovely Anne from Modern Mrs. Darcy to share some short and sweet book reviews – i.e. twitter style. I seem to have read a little bit of everything this month, with three books from different genres, some more different than others.

Here’s what I’ve read since last month:

13406413Wish You Were Eyre by Heather Vogel Frederick

The last in a series of fantastic books for tweens and their moms alike. The usual hi jinx, bookish coincidences and teen romance dramas reign supreme.

#teamrochester #iwishiwereinamotherdaughterbookclub #jess&darcy4eva #bewarefrenchpeople #turnsoutpetsarentveryloyal #iwillmissthisseries

9176221Daddy-long-legs by Jean Webster

This book was written a hundred years ago and you’d never know it – I fell in love with at page one. A fresh, vibrant voice – a tale as old as time and yet totally new. I mean old. I mean – READ IT.

#sawtheendingcomingamileaway #loveditanyway #epistolarynovellove #somethingsreallyareuniversal #jerushaAKAjudyistotallyakindredspirit

527040Freakonomics by Steven Levitt

Makes connections you would never imagine seem like common sense. I sorta kinda wish I’d taken economics in college now. The overall message: Don’t take anything at face value. Explore every angle.

#arosebyanyothernamewouldearnmoremoney #coolisnotcool #realestateagentsprobablyhatethisbook #cantwaitforthebookclubdiscussiononthisone

So what have you been reading lately? If you are linking up with Anne, let me know in the comments below!

Meet the Class of 2013: Superlative Awards and The Best Book of the Year (according to little old me)

Well friends another year has come and gone and it seems the “thing to do” now is to look back on the last three hundred and sixty five days of my reading habits and to make giant claims about them in a clever, quirky way. Another blogger recapped her favorite books from the year in a yearbook format and I thought that was clever so I’m totally stealing the idea.

I spent a lot of time working on clever graphics for this post (when I probably should have been doing the laundry or paying attention to my loved ones) and the end result is a wee bit on the tiny side here on the blog, so if you can’t read my clever notes you’ll want to click on the image to view the full size. Totally worth it, I swear.

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So on page one of our literary yearbook, I’ve awarded the following books:

Cutest Couple: Like OMG August and Hazel are totes the cutest couple eva, amiright? But seriously, I some kind of adored The Fault in Our Stars by John Green along with everyone else with a pulse. The writing is sharp and snarky, the characters are just the right amount of broken and the love story is one for the ages. You’ll need a box of tissues for this one!

The Book I Was Most Obsessed With: I had a torrid love affair with The Selection by Kiera Cass – it sucked me and refused to let me go until I’d finished this and the following two books in four days. I am quite impatiently waiting for the next book in this series and will likely squeal like a tweeny bopper when it finally comes out.

Most Gossiped About Family: Bernadette’s family certainly gives their town a lot of gossipy material to work with in Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple, which my book club read in May. This is an “epistolary” novel which is always a risky move but for  “book of letters, emails and memos” this book packs a pretty big punch. I found myself relating to Bernadette a lot, which was a little bit scary for awhile there, but it also kept me rooting for her and her family.

Best Vintage Fashion Moments: I loved a lot of things about Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham  of Gilmore Girls fame. I loved to hate on her bad choices. I loved the little day planner doodles in between the chapters. I loved waiting with baited breath for her and a certain male character to finally kiss already and groan with disappointment when she pursued the wrong guy. But perhaps best of all were all the 90’s era references and extremely detailed fashion descriptions that will make a lot of us groan in solidarity.

Most Zen: There are a lot of things I could have chosen to single out when summarizing A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki  – like the horrific teenage bullying the author describes or the wacky Japanese subcultures, the heart wrenching suicide attempts, the strange quantum physics phenomena, the nosy neighbors that the other main character suffers with, the many trials and tribulations you face when you are living in a new place somewhat against your will – but I thought I’d go on the light side of things and award this book for it’s more uplifting qualities – the Buddhist Zen undertones of the book are what my book club most enjoyed referencing in our discussions of the book in September and are often what I first recall now looking back on it. Being, no being, there is no difference. This is another epistolary novel that worked out really well.

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Ready for page two?

Most Likely to Go into Foreclosure: Anyone who has bought or sold a home has their horror stories, their war stories, their nightmare tales that can keep you up at night. None of them come close to the horrific fictional events that happen in Jen Lancaster’s If You Were Here. I am a huge fan of Lancaster and have loved just about every book of her’s that I’ve ever read and this was one of my favorites – it’s one I still think of often and one that inspired me to write a book myself, under the concept of “let’s think about all the crazy things that can happen in scenario A and then amplify those crazy things by 10,000,000,000,000. Love.

The Class Clown: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling is definitely one of the funniest books I read this year. Judging by the reviews on goodreads.com people either love Mindy or loathe her, but I definitely am on the love side. This book kept me up at night laughing loudly from beginning to end, much to my husband’s chagrin. If this book were a classmate, it would be the terribly funny kid in the back of the room that says what everyone else was thinking and consequently gets you into trouble for laughing along but you don’t even mind.

The Class Prankster: Some people excel at pranks and manage to pull of their literary heists all the way to the end. The False Prince by Jennifer A Nielsen had me constantly coming up with lots of theories about how it would end but none of them were exactly right. Well done, Nielsen. I’m always impressed when a book keeps me in suspense until the end.

The Class Rebel: If Mindy Kaling is the class clown, Moranthology by Caitlin Moran is her slightly darker BFF who spends class smoking in the boys room, listening to the Stones on her busted ancient MP3 player that she loved before MP3 players were a thing. Equally as funny as Kaling’s book but in an edgier way and with lots of chapters that made me squeal with glee like “OMG, you like Doctor Who also Moran, we are SO going to be BFFs someday!”

Most Likely To Get Kid Sleeping Through the Night 1st: Bringing Up Bébé by Pamela Druckerman is one of the few “how to” parenting books that manages to not come across as pretentious or preachy and thus makes her advice actually appealing and intriguing. There were aspects of French parenting that I thought made a lot of sense, some were surprising but great ideas and of course there were some that are just not for me – but I loved reading about how differently other cultures raise their kids and the potential pros and cons to different methods.I’ve already implemented some of these ideas in my own life or plan to soon. I loved the recipe for yogurt bread included in the book – my son and I made it for his birthday last week and it was delicious.  I want to buy this one for every new mother I know.

And now for the moment we’ve all been waiting for, drum roll please…

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When it came time to decide which book to award “best of the year” – this was the first that jumped out at me. Maybe it’s not fair because it’s one of the last books I read and to be honest, it was also one of the hardest books to give a “superlative” to (like I almost went with “most likely to die a bunch” or “most likely to make you say ‘Let’s Kill Hitler!’“) – there are certainly some other amazing books that might have been entitled to this award for different reasons. The Fault in Our Stars and A Tale for the Time Being both come to mind.

But what Atkinson accomplished with this book really is extraordinary and it breaks a lot of molds in regards to writing style, chronological order, life, death, the universe and fox references. I can definitely say I don’t think I’ve ever read another book like it and likely never will. It is truly in a class of it’s own and thus I felt it deserved the distinction and honor of being called The Best.

You can read my full review of this book here in which I share with you my deepest thoughts and feelings about it complete with spunky hashtags (#notquitereincarnation #lotsoffoxes #letskillhitler #warsucks). For comparison’s sake – here is my review of A Tale For The Time Being and The Fault in Our Stars. I certainly did my share of fangirling over both of them.

For a full list of all the books I read this year and my thoughts on them, go here

-edit- At the time that I wrote this post and thought for sure that I wouldn’t read any more books, I then went on to read two more books and one of them it seems shameful not to mention because I adored it that much!! I’m too lazy to make any more graphics, but if you are looking for a great, accessible, quick, funny “classic” epistolary story to read, I definitely recommend Daddy-long-legs by Jean Webster. It was fantastic!

I’m linking up with the wonderful Anne @ Modern Mrs. Darcy – if you are looking for even more book recommendations, head over there to see what all of her readers have been loving in 2013.

Book Review: Daddy-long-legs by Jean Webster

daddy-long-legs by jean websterEvery now and then a book comes along that feels like a long lost friend or a true literary kindred spirit, that makes you wonder, “Where have you been all my life? How did it take me so long to find you?

Daddy-long-legs by Jean Webster was written in 1912, over 100 years ago, but the writing is still fresh and vibrant today – just like the main character, one Miss Jerusha Abbot AKA Judy, an orphan at the John Grier Home who is gifted a college education by an eccentric trustee who asks in return only that she send him monthly letters during her time at college updating him on her studies.

This is an epistolary novel at it’s finest – the kind of story that was made to be told by the form of letters – a style that has been known to make or break a book but usually break it. In this instance, the style is perfect and Judy’s writing voice is charming and witty from page one so that we know instantly that We Love Her.

Daddy-long-legs follows Judy through four years of college – but at just a few short letters every month the book reads quickly and I finished it easily in just a few days. Anyone with any real amount of reading time could likely read it in one sitting! Even better, like most classics, it’s available free on the Kindle!

I discovered this book while reading The Mother Daughter Book Club series by Heather Vogel Frederick – a series about a group of young teen friends who start a book club with their mothers when they are around 12, reading classics together (a really great series that I think would be terrific to read alongside your daughters) which inevitably correspond to their lives and bring them all closer together.

The girls read Daddy-long-legs in Dear Pen Pal (book 3 in the series) and all agreed unanimously that it was wonderful. Since there were only two books that the girls read in the series that I hadn’t read, I figured I’d try those two. This book was the shorter of the two on my Haven’t Read list so I tried it first and if it’s not obvious, LOVED it. Next up will be Jane Eyre, which I hope to find time to read in the new year. 

What are some of your favorite classics?

What books have you enjoyed reading with your kids / do you look forward to reading with them?

Have you ever had a pen pal?