Book Challenge 2018 — On Fire

I decided to give audio books a try this year. Given that I can devour podcast upon podcast during a week’s time, it seemed to follow that I could listen to books just as well. I had to get over my initial idea that if I weren’t actually using my eyeballs to read the book, that it shouldn’t count as a book I’ve “read.” In the book tracker pages that I keep in my traveler’s notebook, I do make note of the books’ form. I use the short cut of “A” for audio and “K” for kindle. If I  do not denote either, it is a good, old-fashioned paper book that I held in my own two hands.

As January comes to a close, here are the books I have finished. Each one I enjoyed, but all for different reasons.

Pretty GirlsPretty Girls by Karin Slaughter
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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Dark PlacesDark Places by Gillian Flynn


Choosing to listen to Dark Places in its audio form likely helped me enjoy it more. Given that the story keeps pace by bouncing among characters and from past to present, the narrator’s skill in voicing those transitions helped me keep things straight as I moved through the book. I have a feeling this is the type of book I would have had to keep flipping back to previous chapters to refresh my memory each time I picked it up–but the audiobook version negated that necessity.
The central mystery to this story engaged me from the opening moments and held me until the end. I love the “Wow…didn’t see that coming” kind of revelations in a good book and this one was chock full. In addition to the engaging mystery, readers have an opportunity to see characters from the inside out–inner monologues plus how other characters are interpreting their behaviors and actions.
As a fan of true crime and cold case investigation media in all its forms, I also found the perspective of Libby Day as she dealt with “enthusiasts” devoted to her family’s tragedy interesting and thought-provoking.

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All the Light We Cannot SeeAll the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I had this book on my to-read list for quite awhile before I reached to top of the hold list at my library. Once I checked it out, I made it about 50 pages before life interfered and I had no hope of finishing the book before my due date arrived. I am not the type to hang onto a book past its due date when I cannot renew it, as that means someone else is waiting on me. So, if I am not close to the end, back to the library it goes and I will try again later.
In deciding to give audiobooks a chance, I realized I could check out this title immediately and did so. I found this story to be simultaneously painful and beautiful–as many stories told about wartime. The quiet bravery and depth of intelligence of Marie-Laure and the cleverness and good heart of Werner Pfennig were silver linings in what could otherwise have been a heavy, depressing tale.
Everything from the setting of the scenes to the mannerisms of the characters were made richer by the author’s thoughtful descriptions.
This is one book that I do not think lost any of its impact by being completed in audio form.

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I Am Watching YouI Am Watching You by Teresa Driscoll
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Believe it or not, I devoured this book in one day on my iPhone’s Kindle app. Who knew your kid’s hockey tournament weekend could turn into a real reading opportunity?
This book begins with an ultimate “what would you do” moment and rolls like a locomotive full steam ahead from there. A handful of important characters share the story with the reader in chapters devoted to them and their perspectives. This mystery is covered in layers of secrets that began long before Anna disappears. Once the layers are peeled away, the fate of each of the characters is also known. Just when you think you have it figured out, another fact is thrown into the mix and you have to start your analysis all over again.
I found this book to be a real page turner and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good whodunit with a twist of what would I have done.

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The ImmortalistsThe Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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Apple Butter for Days

I’m honestly not sure what possessed me to make apple butter in my Instant Pot. It may be because fall is my favorite time of year. Or, perhaps it was the abundance of apples when I went shopping for other fun food for my daughter’s midterm break. More likely, I saw something on social media about apple butter and I decided if that person could do it, I could give it a whirl too.

As I mentioned before, I am glad I purchased more apples than I needed since my youngest treated the apples like they were a meal for the better part of the week.

I thought it would be a good idea to give the apples a nice bath in the sink. I put clean, cool water into the sink with white vinegar and squeezed half a fresh lemon in for good measure.

Aside from the fact that everyone and their brothers could have touched these apples & I did not plan to peel them, I also like to remove as much of any waxy coating I can. These weren’t organic apples.

Once I had them washed and dried, I set about coring and slicing them. Again, I didn’t want to remove the skins because I had it in my head they might add to the thickness of the end product and I, personally, like to eat apple peels with wild abandon. My favorite days were when my Grandma had to peel a bunch of apples for something, but didn’t need the peels. She could cut them in one, long strip and I would share them with my sister (or eat them all–it depends on which of us is telling the story).

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Are You a Mystery Buff?

Still Life (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, #1)Still Life by Louise Penny

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I learned about this book through the “What Should I Read Next” podcast. The idea of the book intrigued me because I have always loved a good detective story, especially if the author has created a series of books involving the same detective. I cut my teeth on Nancy Drew in elementary school and spent one high school summer reading all the Agatha Christie books in my local library. I looked forward to meeting Armand Gamache and following him through his work.

Even if I did not know this book were the start of a series, I would have figured out it belonged in a series pretty quickly. Not only did it seem like Armand Gamache, the Chief Inspector and main character, would have more stories to tell, it also was clear he had a past–with a few mysteries of its own. I found myself wanting to learn more about those past work experiences that seemed to still sting him as he worked his current case.

The characters in this book proved interesting and certainly an example of the hodge podge of seemingly mismatched people who find themselves bonding in a small town. Having grown up in a “village”, I could relate.

The tension between Gamache and a rookie female inspector provided insight into Gamache’s leadership style, his personality, and foreshadowed work conflicts to come in future books.

An interesting whodunit, Still Life, revolves around the art community in a small Canadian village. A beloved, elderly community member is found dead under suspicious circumstances and it is left to Inspector Gamache to uncover the clues and find her killer.

This book moved fairly quickly for me and because of the fairly sizable collection of people who could have done it, but the constant wondering of why would they have done it, I was surprised at the end–and ready to read the next in the series, A Fatal Grace.

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Reading Challenge Continues…

The Alice NetworkThe Alice Network by Kate Quinn

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have found myself reading quite a few women-during-wars books lately. Historical fiction draws me in every time, but not every book makes the deep impression that the Alice Network made.

Wonder if this book could be for you? I enjoyed the Lilac Girls and The Nightingale, but could not force myself to slog through the Zookeeper’s Wife. I learned about The Alice Network in the Goodreads newsletter after finishing the Lilac Girls–one of those “What next?” suggestions. I also think the What Should I Read Next? podcast mentioned this one and it landed on my list. So, if you have found gems on the shelves that way, you definitely will find this book a worthwhile read.

The book focuses on the intersection between three people from very different backgrounds who intersect and form an unlikely traveling trio. Eve, a woman who fights her demons through self-medication; Charlotte “Charlie”, a young American socialite fallen from grace, and Finn, the rakishly handsome Scotsman with demons of his own.

The story glides seamlessly between Eve’s time as a member of a ring of female spies, and thirty years later when Charlie arrives on her doorstep looking for answers surrounding her beloved, missing cousin. The two women clash at first, but Charlie quickly scrambles to her figurative feet and seems to form a tenuous connection with the predictably unpredictable Eve. Finn provides transportation, protection, and the Scottish charm that Eve learned she loved in her espionage days.

If rough language is a problem for you, please know this book contains its fair share. I did not find it distracting or unnecessary. The instances involving sex were not too explicit nor were they gratuitous. The violence and recounted scenes of war were the hardest parts of this book to read. Scenes near the end of Eve’s spy career made my stomach turn and I audibly groaned reading some pages–but again, I found them necessary to fully appreciate the depth of the emotions surrounding the activities taking place in the “present day” 1940’s sections of the book.

This book stands above many I have read this year and will likely go down as a favorite from my 2017 reads. I definitely recommend it.

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Day Two of Smoothie Review

On Saturday, I had an 8-hour shift at my side hustle. I did NOT want to go, but I am not one to skip an obligation.

 I decided to try the Cold Brew & Almond smoothie for my second review.

My youngest assisted me. I’ve decided that to make future smoothie attempts easier on myself, I am going to move my smoothie of choice from the freezer to the fridge the night before I plan to make it. In the morning, it should be ready to blend without spending time in the microwave.

 

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Let’s Make Smoothies!

My Daily Harvest shipment arrived yesterday & I was super excited to try it out this morning. Day One of subscription service smoothies is in the books!

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How Much Is Your Time Worth?

Time may be finite, but I certainly try to bend the rules and cram as much as humanly possible into 24 hours. Sometimes this works, but eventually energy and motivation wane and the basics necessary for comfortable living take a hike. Namely, household tasks like laundry, meal planning, grocery shopping, cooking and cleaning become exhausting propositions. Or, those tasks are impossible to do because I am at one job or another and not even available to complete them.

Some services realize that we all have a price and have been sending me coupons with gradually increasing discount amounts. This week, two services hit the sweet spot and our family will be giving them a try.

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Spring Trip Spontaneity

This spring is my final time of having both my girls home full-time. Once fall rolls around, my oldest will start her first year as a college student and my youngest will start the high school odyssey that progresses into her being gone more than home.

I spent months kicking around the idea of taking advantage of the girls’ tandem time off and planning a family trip. Our last full family trip was in 2011 when we went to a working family ranch in Georgia. It’s been too long and I hate the idea of missing this chance.

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5 Podcasts You Should Add to Your Playlist

In my previous office environment, I was interrupted constantly by students wandering in to my office. Some days, I felt like I was on Candid Camera or someone were playing a giant trick on me because of the sea of people that flowed in and out the door. Now that I work in a quieter work environment, I find my mind wandering if it becomes too quiet.

I have developed an affinity for podcasts–and discovering new ones– and thought it worth documenting some of my new (and old) faves.

Which of these have you listened to?

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Wanna Engage In Some Bloglovin?

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

It isn’t as sketchy as it sounds! I’ve been a user of Bloglovin’ for awhile now and I wanted to share it with you! The best way I can describe it is a blog showcase, but it’s so much more than that! After I told the site what I liked, it provided me with links and previews to blog posts that fit my interests. And, every day I receive an email with 20 posts that are must reads. Most of them are also must SHARE!

I love sharing great tips, tricks, ideas, and fun with the visitors to my Facebook page and this service totally helps me find the gems of the internet.

There is even an app to use, so you can discover new blogs & read great posts anywhere anytime.

Check it out & let me know what you think!