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:

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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?

Weekend Link Love: June 24, 2014

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Can I just say how grateful I am that it is finally Friday? This has been a long, trying week for me – stuck at home most of the time with a sprained foot and too much time on my hands, unable to really get much done. The upside to this is that I’ve read a lot of cool things online this week in between ice packs, pain killers and constantly trying to do too much too soon.

Here are some of the best things I’ve read this week:

Nursing home makes calendar of residents posing as iconic movie roles – this is kind of breath taking and really cool.

Stop the Mommy Wars: An empowering photo series – Do you think the “Mommy Wars” are still a thing?

Aerie gets real and stops photoshopping it’s models – Such a great, empowering first step towards giving young girls more realistic role models, though I think we still have a LONG way to go.

This interview with Harry Connick Jr. at EW is a perfect example of why I adore him so and why this season of American Idol is the best I’ve ever seen (so far). I think the simple statement that “I’ve been enjoying watching the audition shows for American idol and not deleting them immediately” really says it all.

59 Slang Phrases from the 1920’s that we should start using again – This article is just darb. I wonder what my local coffee shop would think of me if I went in and asked for some noodle juice? I’m guessing they’d think I was a pretty Dumb Dora!

The 7 Phases of Taking Kids out in the Snow – Per usual, Mommy Shorts pretty much nails this one. Funny and oh so true.

We’ve got a big road trip coming up this summer (I hope) – this printable travel game at The Art of Simple looks like a must have boredom buster!

Need more? How about 100 years of fashion in 100 seconds?

Lastly, there are no shortage of funny spoofs on Frozen, but this one found at *Very Clean* Funny Pics pretty much sums it all up perfectly:

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Why I’m optimistically hopeful about this season’s American Idol.

american idol season 13I think we can all agree that the past few seasons of American Idol have been… tumultuous, to say the least. Between judging panel drama and a heavy focus on, well, craziness, and likely a lot of ploys to get extra publicity / viewers with the influx of musical competition shows all clamoring for our attention.

American Idol has definitely been getting the short end of the stick lately and after last season, I wasn’t sure if I would keep watching. I found myself completely disagreeing with the judges and getting super annoyed at the crazy that just seemed to burst from the show at high speed. It felt less about music and more about Look At ME!!! And it wasn’t for a lack of talent – last season had some amazing talent and America even managed to crown a really worthy winner. It just wasn’t an enjoyable process to actually watch. I thought I might be done.

And then the media started to talk about potential judges for Season 13 and I found myself getting increasingly hopeful. The judges that were chosen are, in my opinion, perfect.

Keith Urban was the only judge last season that didn’t annoy the crap out of me and he seems to genuinely want to be there and involved in the process. His only downside is that he’s sometimes too nice, but I was very glad to hear he was coming back this season so that it wouldn’t be an ocean of new faces. So yay there.

I was pretty disappointed when Jennifer Lopez chose not to stay on Idol as a judge as I think she did a really good job, so I’m thrilled she’s back. She’s a sweetheart, massively talented and not an egomaniac or crazy. Yay again!

And who hasn’t watched Harry Connick Jr. mentor on Idol and think, “Put that man in a chair!” I was so glad that the powers that be agreed with me and that he agreed to come on as a judge.

I think all three  judges have good chemistry together and balance each other out well. Harry does a great job of being honest without being cruel and I love that he shares more technical feedback – already just in the main auditions, he has proven what a good judge he will be.

Also the entire atmosphere of the show feels lighter and more optimistic and upbeat, something this show was in dire need of. They focused way less on the “crazies” in last night’s auditions and I really appreciated the lack of drama. Maybe this is just Idol making the obvious needed changes, but if it means being able to enjoy watching the show – how can I not be all for that?

What do you think of this season’s judging panel and the auditions we’ve seen so far?

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!

Weekend Link Love: January 3rd

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I’ve got a special delivery of Weekend Link Love for you to enjoy on this frigidly cold Friday (well it’s frigidly cold where I am, maybe you are lucky and enjoying more moderate temperatures – you lucky ducks, you!).

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So grab your favorite cuppa, pull up a chair and enjoy these links to some of the best stuff I read / saw / loved online this week.

Is anyone else as nerdily excited about the Veronica Mars movie? Another reason for me to gaze at my calendar wistfully wishing for Spring.

Hawaii is set to ban plastic grocery bags – Would you be happy or disappointed if the rest of the world followed suit? I personally would be all for this.

The Purple Resolution Smoothies at Pioneer Woman look insanely delicious – are you resolving to drink more smoothies in 2014?

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Speaking of resolutions, here are 17 New Year’s Resolutions Every Homebody Should Make from Buzzfeed. I don’t think I realized how much of a homebody I was before reading this!

According to PolicyMic, this US map redrawn as 50 states with equal populations could solve all of America’s Problems. I loved all the names for the new states – funny stuff and honestly pretty intriguing.

Still bored? Olive Us is sharing some fun tongue twisters in their newest video – sure to entertain you and the kids!

Have a great weekend guys and if you are “enjoying” the same weather as me, stay warm and stay inside!

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.

What I’m Into (December 2013)

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There are two days left in December – two days left in 2013! Ack!! As we all collectively freak out over that information, let’s take a look back at the past month. I’m linking up again with Leigh Kramer and sharing things that I’ve been into this month – kind of like a bunch of little mini reviews of all the media, food and other stuff I’ve been enjoying.

Books:

I’ve read four books this month! This may not sound like much but it’s kind of a record for me so don’t mind me while I cheer myself on. Here are the books I read and a mini review of each.

  1. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson (Nov/Dec Book Club Pick) – Finished December 9, 2013 – How do I even begin to describe this book? This book was intense and complicated and fantastic and occasionally awful, but not in a literary way so much as a “how many times are we going to torture, kill and humiliate this person?” kind of way. They say that a good author torments their characters? Well by that definition (and many others) Kate Atkinson is a VERY good author.Imagine if you could go back and relive your life over and over again – what things would you change and do differently? This is sort of the premise of the book and in the beginning the main character seems to just keep on dying every ten minutes in awful ways that made my mother heart hurt. But gradually she lives longer and longer and it oscillates between feeling like a story about all the ways you can die / be hurt / suffer and feeling like a story about all the ways we can survive / overcome / be better. It’s hopeful and despondent all at the same time. Make of that what you will! – Full Review –
  2. Christmas at Copper Mountain by Jane Porter – Finished December 10, 2013 – This was a love story that required the tiniest suspension of disbelief as looking at it face-on, it’s pretty unrealistic. However, it’s Jane Porter so the writing is stellar and the characters really suck you in and I’ll admit that I finished the book in basically 2 sittings, unable to put it down.
  3. Wish You Were Eyre by Heather Vogel Frederick – Finished December 23, 2013 – I thought this was a nice end to a really great series. It had a lot of the usual hijinx that we’ve come to expect from the mother daughter book club and some clever story lines that did a good job of tying everything together by the end. I’ll miss checking in on the Mother Daughter Book Club but I also felt like they ended it on a good note.
  4. Daddy-long-legs by Jean Webster – Finished December 27, 2013 – This book sucked me in from page one. The main character is so amiable, interesting and intelligent and the writing style so inviting. It felt like talking to a very good friend and made for a book that was read quickly and deeply enjoyed. It’s hard to believe it was written 100 years ago, it easily could have been written today. – Full Review –

Right now I’m reading Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt which my book club will be discussing at the end of next month – I know that book came out ages ago and probably everyone and their brother already read it. Everyone and their brother except all us ladies in my book club! I’m really glad that our system of picking books allows us to read such a variety of books and that I finally have a good excuse to read this one!

Movies:

We saw two movies in the theater this month, which also rarely happens! My dad came to visit for Christmas which means we squeezed in a few extra date nights while he was in town. We saw American Hustle and The Hobbit 2.

I thought the cast in American Hustle did a really good job, but it’s kind of a strange movie so I’m hesitant to say how much I enjoyed it per say, though it was very well done.

The Hobbit 2 could easily have been an hour and a half shorter and there would have been no complaints from me, but I do get a small thrill from making fun of the Tolkein movies and this one had plenty of things to make me laugh, whether they were intentionally funny or not. My favorite thing was probably realizing an hour into the movie that Bilbo Baggins is played by Watson from the BBC Sherlock series and that Sherlock plays the giant dragon.

I bought Mean Girls on dvd this month and made my husband watch it with me so that he’d understand all the jokes and lines that I still quote many, many years later. Don’t tell anyone but he enjoyed it way more than he thought he would!

TV:

I don’t know if I have anything new to say in the world of tv. I was very happy that Alex & Sierra won the X-Factor this season and totally downloaded four of their songs on iTunes, something that I rarely do. Here’s one of my favorites:

Music:

I bought the soundtrack for Frozen finally. A month after seeing the movie, I still seem to have the songs from the movie stuck in my head and I’m not the only one in the house still humming along to Do You Want To Build a Snowman. So I used some of my Amazon gift card from Christmas to buy a copy. Looking forward to enjoying that with the kids!

Food:

My doctor and I were brainstorming ideas to curb cravings at my physical this month and one of her ideas was to drink a cup of tea at night. The warmth of the tea is relaxing and also expands your stomach to give you a sensation of being full – sounds ideal to this comfort eater who is always cold! My husband and I have added this small ritual to our evenings and really enjoy it.

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My husband surprised me on my birthday this month with a marzipan birthday cake from a local bakery. It’s one of my absolute favorite kinds of cake and he completely surprised me with it so I was thrilled to say the least!

What have you been into lately?

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?

The Page 69 Test: Judging books by a single page.

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Anne at The Modern Mrs. Darcy wrote today about the Page 69 Test that she heard about in a recent podcast by Canadian philosopher Marshall McLuhan that is supposed to help you decide if a book is worth your time. The idea is pretty straightforward:

When you’re trying to decide if you should read a book, turn to page 69. If you like it, you’ll likely like the rest of the book, too. If you don’t like it, that book’s not for you.

Immediately intrigued, I grabbed a pile of books that I’ve been sitting on for years and dragged them over to my computer where I will now live-blog my reactions to eight books that at one point I *really* wanted to read but for one reason or another I haven’t gotten around to yet.

The Good Daughter by Jane Porter: I won this in a book giveaway a couple months ago, got really excited, and then essentially lost it in a pile on my desk. I knew it was there, but I’d have to clean my desk to actually get to it so there it sat. This book definitely passed the page 69 test for me. As always, I love Porter’s rich descriptions and characters who feel instantly well rounded. This is a book that should be upstairs on my nightstand, not taking up space buried under papers on my desk!

Freakanomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner: My book club will be discussing this in January so now is a good time to get an idea of how into it I’ll be (and how much time I think I’ll need to read it). I’m definitely intrigued after reading page 69 but it’s obviously much drier than the fiction books I tend to read (though not as dry as a lot of nonfiction can be), so I should probably start reading it soon (probably after I finish the book I’m currently reading) if I want to finish it in time.

Sarah’s Quilt by Nancy E. Turner: a sequel to These Is My Words, which my book club read awhile back. I can remember it taking me awhile to get into These Is My Words but once I did I really loved it. This one definitely didn’t pull me in as quickly as the others, the writing is a bit slower to digest and it felt immediately obvious that I was unaware of something important that wasn’t being fully explained at all. I won’t give up on this one, but I won’t rush to read it either.

I Know This Much is True by Wally Lamb: This book is supposed to be crazy good but it’s enormous, and thus I’ve never gotten the nerve to actually attempt to read it despite all the high praise it’s gotten. So, I can tell that this book is well written but the subject matter didn’t really draw me in or compel me so much as turn on the warning light in my brain that says “this one may not be for you.” If you’ve read this one, I’d love to hear your thoughts on it, but I am genuinely considering passing it on to a used bookstore or the library.

The Adventures and Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle: This one is on my mental Must Read in 2014 list so I’m hoping it passes the page 69 test. I got the distinct feeling after reading page 69, which appeared the be a transcript from a court trial, that it was not necessarily an indicator of the entire book – at least I hoped not, because it was pretty dry – I decided to break the rules slightly and flipped ahead just two more pages and found that the book was now in a more normal dialogue and much more interesting. I hope the book doesn’t disappoint me.

The Postmistress by Sarah Blake: This book’s plot sounded so promising that when I found it on clearance a few years back, I immediately splurged for it and then like a lot of my books, I forgot all about it. I really loved the writing style of this one – it pulled me in right away and had me wanting to flip to the beginning and start right away – very promising, this one may need to move up to my nightstand also.

Unbearable Lightness by Portia de Rossi: When I first heard about this memoir, I was impatient to read it until the book was actually in my hands and I realized the heavy subject matter that I would find inside and that the subject matter was real and actually happened and then I completely faltered and couldn’t bring myself to actually read it. I actually really enjoyed this page, enough so that when I came to the end of the page but not the end of the sentence, I turned the page to finish reading and then kept reading some more. I think I should give this one a shot.

Finally, Son of a Witch by Gregory Maguire: Why do I keep buying all the books in this series when I haven’t actually finished Wicked Yet? I have several of these books on my shelf and haven’t read any of them. Now I remember why I haven’t finished Wicked yet. It’s clear that there is an interesting story underneath the many layers of adjectives and made up words but even just one page of this book had my head spinning. I am not bailing completely on this one but I remain unconvinced.

I have to tell you, I am tempted to take this party upstairs and read page 69 of every unread book on my shelves. It would be a very efficient way to clear through the piles of books in our home, that’s for sure!

How many books do you think would pass the page 69 test?

Do you think there is any true merit to this idea?