Thursday, April 15, 2021

Quick Lit - April 2021

I like feeling a bit on top of things and lately I have been feeling...not that way.  It feels like more of an accomplishment than it should to actually have this posting on the 15th!  And in the morning!  I've been doing a lot of reading lately, I don't know how (maybe less reading would help me feel on top of everything else in my life...should consider that) because life has felt pretty busy since the weather has warmed up.  Even if our plans mostly consist of playing outside, family bike rides, running, and walking to pickup (which isn't far but does take longer than driving).  Plus, Sam has realllllly not been a great sleeper (nighttime and naps) since we took the side off his crib so that has been...not fun.  Not fun at all.  

Linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy, I'm on Instagram here (where I sometimes post about books) and Goodreads here (which I keep very updated).  

One of my three posts since my last Quick Lit was actually book related:

Everything else I've been reading! 

Birds of a Feather, Pardonable Lies by Jacqueline Winspear
These are Maisie Dobbs books #2 & #3.  I am still working through the series and getting more used to her writing and the setting.  I liked #3 the best of the 3 so far, maybe I found the mysteries more interesting and easier to track?  I'm going to keep going but for some reason there are no available copies of #4 in the library system, crazy for a book more than 10 years old! 3.5 Stars

Come Fly the World: The Jet-Age Story of the Women of Pan Am by Julia Cooke
I was really looking forward to this book because I really enjoyed the TV series PanAm.  And we took this trip right after I had watched the premiere of the show and it just made flying seem more glamorous than it had before.  This book was some the history of PanAm and what stewardesses jobs and requirements were like back then, but also some of the moments in history that PanAm was a part of (they did routes for years of taking soldiers to Vietnam as well as ferrying them to Hawaii or Australia for leave).  It wasn't quite what I was expecting but I mostly enjoyed it.  Cover is great. 3.25 Stars

Everything After by Jill Santopolo
This book really reminded of Grace Grows and Last Night at Chateau Marmont, all books where musicians are getting famous and NYC plays a prominent role.  This was a girl who had broken up with her college (?) boyfriend when later (nearly a decade) she recognized a song playing on the radio as one he had sung to her.  They were back in each others' lives.  I was halfway through the book and I had three very viable options for how the book would end, which was good.  Also, there was a character named Diana which I always like to see.  This was pretty much exactly what I expected it to be. 3.75 Stars

The Duchess of Cambridge: A Decade of Modern Royal Style by Bethan Holt
The British Royals are the only "celebrities" I will admit to being fascinated by.  I got up at 4:30am, on my first day off in 4 months, to watch Will & Kate's wedding.  We went to London 13 months later, largely because I decided I wanted to while watching their wedding.  I am definitely interested in books on Kate's royal style.  This was a better book so if you feel drawn to read about the British Royals' style but just want to read one book...read that and not this. 3.5 Stars

Fighting Words by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
This was a engrossing but hard book to read, covering topics such as foster care, abuse, parental abandonment, and self-harm.  BUT it was a worthwhile read if those are not triggers for you.  Two sisters, in foster care after bad situation after bad situation.  Obviously some harm and hurt in their past.  It was not a cozy pre-bedtime read (which is mainly when I read it) but I appreciated it and really felt for the girls.  I feel like I still need updates on these (fictional) characters to make sure they are ok.  (They are fictional...so...it doesn't matter.) 4 Stars

The Ex Talk by Rachel Lynn Solomon
I try to balance out my historical and current day (ish) set books, so I am not drowning in historical fiction, which is what my TBR seems to be full of, fiction wise.  This was a modern book I could get quickly from the library so I read and enjoyed it.  Two work enemies of sorts pretend to be ex's for the sake of a radio show/podcast.  Then they might stop being enemies and maybe something more.  I don't listen to radio shows but I do love some podcasts which made this extra fun.  3.75 Stars

Dragon Hoops by Gene Luen Yang
Almost every graphic novel I've read has been great and they are always quick reads, just a heads up if you are trying to sneak in some more books.  This was about a California high school basketball team who keeps coming up just short in the state finals game.  I know.  I wasn't immediately gripped either by the topic but I heard it was great so I picked it up.  And it was great.  Graphic novelist blow me away with their ability to draw AND tell a story (I'm not sure I can do either) and I really felt for all these kids. 4.25 Stars

Sustainable Minimalism: Embrace Zero Waste, Build Sustainability Habits that Last, and Become a Minimalist without Sacrificing the Planet by Stephanie Marie Seferian
Luke will tell me "Mom, you love getting rid of stuff." and he's right, I do.  There is something so calming and freeing about newly cleared space where space didn't used to be clear.  I am also getting more interested in reducing what we throw away and using less plastic, especially one time use plastic I don't see a way we will ever fully eliminate it from our lives but little changes we make can help.  So I appreciated that this book focused on both those things and how to do them together.  The zero waste tips start easy (many of which we already do) and get harder (most of which we don't) but I'm trying to implement 5 actionable items from the book and then in a few weeks/months/year, slowly do more.  This book was very inspiring. 4.5 Stars

The Lieutenant's Nurse by Sara Ackerman
I've read all of Sara Ackerman's released books (3) this year and have really enjoyed them all (if I get to it, there will be a blog post coming about them).  All have been set on Hawaii during World War II.  This one was mostly set on Oahu (and on a boat on the trip to Oahu) in the days before and after the attack on Pearl Harbor.  About a nurse who came to Oahu to follow her Minnesotan boyfriend but became friends with a lieutenant on the boat ride over.  I really enjoyed it.  It made me miss Hawaii, cruises, and be glad I'm not living in real war-time. 4 Stars

Growing Boldly: Dare to Build a Life You Love by Emily Ley
Emily Ley is another author I've read all her books (adult books, I think she has one for teen girls too which I haven't read) and I'm on my 3rd year of her Simplified Planners.  I have read A LOT of books in this "take control of your life and live your dreams" books in the last ~5 years.  I don't know if that just means it's a popular genre or if subconsciously I just have dreams I should follow but am not.  It did make me think about a few things I could do that have been simmering in my mind though so that's something.  Apparently I'm all about actionable steps this month! 3.75 Stars

Cleo McDougal Regrets Nothing by Allison Winn Scotch
This was not exactly the book I wanted to be reading over Easter, political set doesn't exactly scream "He is risen!" to me.  BUT, it's the book I had here so it is what I was reading.  Cleo McDougal is a young senator (37, my age) who is considering running for president when a former close friend from high school speaks out against her.  That leads to Cleo's team wanting her to come up with 5 regrets from her past that she's make amends for/take some step against (she's all about actionable steps too).  I appreciated that it was a political novel that actually wasn't very political (you can assume which party she represents but it never actually says) and looks at how our representatives and senators run their office (even fictional ones) and think through things is interesting to me.  I really enjoyed it. 3.5 Stars

Minimalist Moms: Living and Parenting with Simplicity by Diane Boden
I was on a minimalism streak this month and also for the last, say, 6 years.  I've been listening to the Minimalist Moms podcast for awhile and appreciated her book by the same name (she lives in Ohio, which is close to Indiana and her name is Diane which is very close to Diana!).  I liked that she emphasized getting enough sleep and zero waste as well as the usual topics of clearing your schedule and shelves.  Both minimalism books I read this month were black and white paperbacks which I supposed is easier on the environment but strange not having the pretty glossy colored pictures.  I just found it noteworthy in books on minimalism.  3.5 Stars

Read with Luke
The Fuzzy Apocalypse by Jonathan Messinger
A long time ago, over 3 years, I wrote about liking the Finn Caspian story podcast for kids because Luke liked it so much which was helpful for me.  Quiet time went a lot better when he had a stack of episodes to get through.  He still listens to Finn, there are still new episodes being made and I think he's listened to all of them multiple times.  This is the first novel that I don't think is direct from a podcast episode but I haven't listened to nearly all of them so I can't be sure.  Luke didn't seem to know what was going to happen next so I'm assuming original story.  Finn is 10ish and lives on a spaceship and him and his friends are given a lot of freedom in exploring space.  Just go with it.  They have adventures, this one on a planet that is about to explode.  Quick chapters and we already have the 2nd book in the series to go when we finish our current read aloud.

What have YOU been reading?

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Looking back at March

March 2021.  It has been, from what I remember, a much warmer March than we got last year.  I've run to school pick-up maybe 5 times and walked a few more.  The boys have spent a lot of time in the backyard, so much so that I appreciate the occasional rainy afternoon because it makes homework easier when a certain kid isn't itching to get outside.  School stayed open all month!  That's very exciting.  It was a little eerie living the 3rd week of March especially, the week when it all happened a year ago.  So many memories of a year earlier came back, what our lives were like on these days in 2020.  Life is very different now, I think I see a vaccination card on social media or in a group text nearly daily now!  

Both boys have March birthdays so we open and close the month with celebrating those.  Those have been nice markers for what I previously thought of as a "nothing" month.  Flowers are blooming, trees are budding, and our grass is looking actual green.  I spent many afternoons/evenings doing yard clean-up, which I never want to do but always appreciate having done.  It was a good month.  Luke went to school every day!

Looking back:
1 year ago: Adjusting to this New Normal, Corona Quarantine - Week #2 (March 2020 gets two because...March 2020)
2 years ago: Dingle
3 years ago: Book Love: Castle of Water by Dane Hucklebridge (I still think about this book often)
4 years ago: Double Chocolate Muffins
5 years ago: Dark Chocolate Raspberry Cobble
6 years ago: NOLA & Cruise #2
7 years ago: IKEA
8 years ago:
Making Room for Baby & Some Other Stuff (where I'm writing about prepping for a potential baby who, turns out, has already been born, we just didn't know it yet)
9 years ago: Foot & Adoption Process (where I had my first foot surgery on a Thursday (during tax season), we threw a bridal shower for my sister on Sunday and afterwards told my sisters we were adopting.  I spent that March recovering, working on adoption paperwork, and planning our Europe trip.)

1) 6am on March 1st, the last time the lights were on!  They came down later that day as part of my transition to spring.  We are finishing up our dark month with no porch lights and no string lights (we plan to put them up over spring break next week!).
2) Prepping a balloon garland the night before Sam's birthday!  These are fun to have up every spring!
3) Birthday bike ride for Sam!  And Luke is comfortable doing longer rides without the tagalong but we'll probably still use it if we, say, can bike to a baseball game downtown this year (those late nights coming home...tagalong will be appreciated).
4) Sam wanted to take pictures...of my water bottle and the balloons apparently.
5) Luke at the library, diving right into books!  I love to see this! 
6) The first time we ran to pick-up.  I had done a couple solo runs at this point but stroller running is a whole other thing!
7) We got good strawberries and made shortcake and it tasted like summer.
8) Beautiful backyard sunset.
9) Day before St. Patrick's Day, wearing my green sweatshirt, had green nails, and made green cookies.  We leaned in pretty hard this year and we loved it.
10) This was my first 2000 piece puzzle.  It took me 3 weeks and it gave me a lot of time to listen to podcasts.  I was AMAZED that all the pieces were there by the end, after it sat out for 3 weeks!
11) Sam got an umbrella from his godfather for his birthday and was the HAPPIEST kid when he woke up a few days later to rain.  I was less excited.
12) If homework goes well the boys get Dude Perfect before bed.  It's extra motivating the nights there are new episodes.  I really appreciate this.
13) We, for SOME REASON, took the railing off Sam's crib.  He had been napping 4-5 days a week still (we attempted every day).  WHY did we do that to ourselves!?!?!?!? (Because he's 3 and was still in a crib.)  Guess who has mostly stopped napping and prefers to make messes all over the upstairs? 
14) Darth Vader seems a bit out of place with the balloons.
15) WE GOT HYMNALS BACK AT MASS.  They had announced it the week before but I forgot and literally gasped when we walked in and saw them.  Science has shown we're unlikely to get COVID through surfaces (and I've checked out over 1000 library books since they reopened and haven't gotten it from those either).  Even with many safety precautions still in place, this is the most normal Mass has felt in over a year.  And just in time for Easter!
16) Working hard on his new Lego set! 

Books finished: 15!  Good month of reading!
Miles ran:
10.6 miles!!  But in 9 runs.  Yes, do that math.  These haven't been long runs but we started family runs with the boys (Sam is in and out of the jogging stroller about 5 times per run) that have been under a mile so far.  Then I never seem to get out of the house as early as I should for my runs to school pick-up.
Currently watching:
I was briefly caught up on The Office (only 1.5 episode behind now) with The Office Ladies podcast AND I'm caught up on Grey's which RARELY happens (it's the most depressing season ever, I KNOW they are working at a hospital in a pandemic but....it's still super depressing).  Matt and I switched to watching House Hunters while we had a free month of Hulu but we'll be back to Community soon.
Most read post this month:
Still Stripping: Laundry Style although definitely way fewer than it's peak last summer.  Followed (far behind) by Quick Lit - March and Mixed Drink Monday: The Fizzy Flamingo.
Luke's current favorite song: You've Got a Friend in Me by Randy Newman is still a heavy favorite when I am willing to play it (got burnt out on that song quickly) which we did a lot on his recent birthday. 

April brings Easter, spring break (somehow Matt got the whole week off...so we can be home together and do family things, get things done, and turn off the 5:30am alarms).  More flowers and rain and being outside and enjoying spring!!

Friday, March 26, 2021

Books the Luke (8) and Sam (3) Like

It's again the end of a quarter (dates of which will forever be burned into my brain thanks to all the quarterly payroll taxes I prepped in my accounting days) which means it's time to share some books that the boys have been loving lately.  Reading them picture books has been a struggle since the weather has gotten nicer.  Let's rephrase that.  Reading LUKE books has been a struggle.  Most days Sam and I are home right from drop-off or for at least part of the morning and we sit to read a stack of books.  So far all of our outside play has been saved for after school since the mornings are still pretty chilly.  However, often by the time Luke is home from school it is GORGEOUS outside or at least tolerable and thus getting him to sit still long enough to do homework is a challenge, much less sitting AGAIN for books.  I honestly don't mind a rainy afternoon once or twice a week because it makes our homework process SO MUCH EASIER.  Like infinitely easier.  Really, if I could just get some rain from about 3:30 - 4:30 twice a week that would really help.

Luke is doing more independent reading too and I've been shifting which picture books I still read to him.  I believe STRONGLY in still reading picture books to him but a lot of the more simple ones I read to just Sam and then read a lot of picture book biographies and seasonal ones to both boys.   Or any that Luke picks up and is interested in I'll read to him but there are many that go through the house without being read to Luke which is fine.  I generally have a chapter book going with him too and then he reads on his own as well.  And reads to us for school.  There is still A LOT of reading in his life!

Luke
Dog Man by Dav Pilkey
Hands down, Luke's current favorite.  I've never read a single word of any of them but they are what usually picks from the school and public libraries (although we also have some volcano books he picked out too).  I like the sound of them better than Captain Underpants (by the same author) and I'm ok with almost anything that gets him excited to read on his own.  The picture books I read at least keep him getting some quality!  He's even copied me, staying up too late reading a few nights.  It's not great but I still am a little proud.

Hello, Hello by Brendan Wenzel
This is a simpler picture book that I'm not sure why I read to Luke, probably one of the boys picked it from the library pile.  Luke liked it for one major reason.  It had lemurs in it and Luke is ALL IN on any book with lemurs.  Are there any graphic novels with lemurs???  I need to investigate that.  I was asked to read this many times solely for the lemurs.

If Elephants Disappeared by Lily Williams
This is a neat picture book series that looks at endangered animals and what could happen to the Earth and ecosystems if they disappeared.  We've read all 3 that are released and they've all been fantastic.  Luke is interested in science and animals so these really appealed to him too.

I am Anne Frank by Brad Meltzer
We've read nearly all the books in this series and every one we've read has been fantastic.  This one especially stuck with Luke and gave me a reason to talk a bit more about the Holocaust with him.  He asked for it a few times and then brought it up again weeks later when we were rereading I am Albert Einstein so I guess it really stuck!  I think this one really stood out to him because Anne was always a kid, there is no adult story for her.  She lived to be older than Luke is but the fact that she died as a kid really stood out to him.

Energy: Physical Science for Kids by Andi Diehn
Like I said, Luke is interested in science and this has been a great series for introducing some concepts to him.  I don't expect them to really stick but at least he's getting an introduction so if we read another book or they come up at school then he will be familiar.  These are easy and kid friendly.

Sam
The Three Little Aliens and the Big Bad Robot by Margaret McNamara, illustrated by Mark Fearing
This is not the first time this book has appeared on this list but it is the first time it has appeared for Sam.  Sam LOVES this book.  We read it before every nap time for what felt like a month before I finally started to refuse.  Then Sam got Luke to read it to him before some weekend naps.  It's the Three Little Pigs story but in space with aliens.  I still don't know why this appeals to my boys so much but they LOVE it. 

Daniel Gets Scared by Maggie Testa, illustrated by Jason Fruchter
Sam has been on a big Daniel Tiger kick lately and when he gets screen time outside of family movie night or family Dude Perfect time, then it's almost always Daniel Tiger.  When Sam gets to pick a few books at the library they are almost always Daniel Tiger.  This episode "Big Storm!" is free on Prime right now and Sam has watched it many times while I've been working from my office so of course he loved the book version.  He keeps talking about how he wants us to get a big storm even though the one in Daniel's world was a bit destructive. 

Plant the Tiny Seed by Christie Matheson
A spring pick that Sam has really liked.  He likes all the books that have kids turning and clapping and tapping and interacting with it.  We haven't planted any seeds yet this year but maybe he'll be a bit more prepared once he do?  Always one of his picks when I sit down to read with him.

Sammy Skunk's Super Sniffer by Barbara deRubertis, illustrated by R.W. Alley
My good friend told me about these and now Sam and I have been reading the series (some of those books we read without Luke).  There are 26 animals in Alpha Betty's class and each one's name starts with a different letter of the alphabet.  OF COURSE, this one was Sam's favorite.  They are simple stories with a lot of words in the book that start with the letter of the featured animal kid.  They aren't amazing must reads but Sam and I have enjoyed them.

Won't You Be My Neighbor?: A Mister Rogers Poetry Book by Mr. Rogers, illustrated by Luke Flowers

I didn't know this one had stuck with Sam until he started quoting it to me weeks after we read it.  It's Mr. Roger's "Won't You Be My Neighbor?" song written out with pictures.  That's it.  He's probably heard it too on Daniel Tiger but this was a sweet book.  Maybe why he often prays for "our whole neighborhood!".

Those are some books the boys have been loving lately, I'm always up for any more book recommendations! 

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

My FabFitFun Experience

Subscription boxes aren't really my thing.  Or I didn't think they were my thing even though I had never tried one until recently.  I am always aiming to buy intentionally and have less in my house.  I am somewhat resistant to spending money.  The idea of paying a set amount of money for things I might not need or want seemed a little ridiculous.

But I also like getting mail.  I get excited to get packages even when I picked out and paid for them (it is incredibly rare that we get any other kind of package).  Most packages I open excitedly and then remember "oh...this is what I ordered for myself."  I remember a lot of things but what is arriving in packages seems to completely slip my mind once I hit "place order".

FabFitFun (this is not sponsored, they are welcome to send me free boxes!) is one company I've heard of for awhile.  I think they have been a sponsor on the Popcast (back before I started skipping all ads in podcasts, sorry, not sorry as the kids say).  People seemed to like the stuff they got from them.  So when I saw a deal to get a $50 box for $20 I was tempted enough that I placed an order.  Another podcast had also been talking a few days earlier about a magical blanket someone had gotten through their box.  Do we need another blanket?  Absolutely not.  But I was intrigued (spoiler alert: I didn't pick the blanket). 

I knew very little about what came in these boxes before I did this, other than general beauty things.  I made an account and went through all the steps.  Then I got to do some customizing.  I was able to pick among 5-6 items two different times.  So they showed me 5-6 items and I got to pick one (this is when I picked something else over the blanket).  Then showed me 5-6 completely different items and I got to pick one.

This may have happened a third time?  I'm not entirely sure.  I wasn't thinking about blogging about the experience when I was doing it.  

Then they asked me some questions about products I like and what I might use.  Like somewhere I said yes to being interested in jewelry but not earrings since I don't have pierced ears.  I said I wasn't interested in many beauty products since I have been battling so many skin problems on my face for 2 years.  I had finally found a mascara I really like and then had to stop using it because of my skin allergies.  That was a real loss.

I think it was mid-January when I placed my order.


Mid-February my box arrived.  I had checked the tracking more times than I care to admit.  I was very excited.  But not too excited because then I didn't open it for over a week.  There were a few nagging tasks I had been putting off for too long that I told myself I had to get done first.  Then I wanted to open it when I had some time to myself but Sam's precious naps are getting shorter and there is a lot I try to pack into that time (including too much time on my phone but that's a post for another day).

I finally opened it in late February while finishing The Notebook.  

It was really exciting to open a box where I had no idea what was inside but I also didn't have to fake reactions for a gift giver.  There were 8 items.  The booklet that came with it valued my total at $265.00.  I had paid $19.50.  That seems like a great deal!  But would I have ever paid $265 for these 8 items?

No, I wouldn't have.

Here's what I got for my $20:

1) The Lilly Pulitzer mugs are very pretty although more purple in person than showed in the picture.  That is one of the items I picked.  Do we need more mugs?  No, we do not.  But they are pretty even though I don't think I can microwave them (to warm up my water for tea) because of the gold on the handle which adds a step to my tea making.

2) There was a Vera Bradley "compact organizer" which is the other item I picked.  I felt a slight obligation since Very Bradley is from here and I certainly have a few (more than a few) of their items.  I'm not sure what I will use this for and it's in about my least favorite color.  I wish it was more pink because I can't get myself too excited about this purple.

3) There was an eye shadow palette which I hear a lot of people talking about on the internet (not this specific one, just in general) that I will at least try.

4) The one item I have actually used is the hair mask.  I've been using that once or twice a week in the shower and it does make my hair feel very smooth in the shower although I can't say I've noticed a difference once I am out.

5) I was excited about the "daily facial dry brush" because I love some good exfoliating but then my dermatologist told me I shouldn't exfoliate because of my psoriasis soooo...I used that once or twice before she told me that and now it's just sitting by my make-up.

6) There is a dry shampoo powder I should try because I do like NOT washing my hair but I haven't yet.  I have a homemade version I used more when I straightened my hair but I rarely do that now so I haven't used dry shampoo in a few years.

7) I have NO IDEA what the "croc card case is".  I guess to fit in credit or ID cards?  But I have a little (Vera Bradley) change purse I use for that when I am using a smaller purse so I don't need another, although I do like the color.

8) And then liquid eyeliner which I will try but haven't yet.

So there you go, 8 products worth $265 that I spent $20 on and so far, almost a month in, have used one.  

Was it worth $20?

Yes, I don't regret it for $20 and getting to try something new.  Maybe another one of the items will be a hit and then it will be doubly worth it but even if I just keep using the hair mask it was worth $20.  I immediately canceled my subscription (before my box even arrived) because I didn't want to pay $50 for a next one.  I don't need a box of surprise items sent to my house quarterly.  Some of these will probably end up in a donate box within a few months. 

But it was a fun experiment.  I'll try a few new things and maybe something will stick!

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Quick Lit - March 2021

This is one of those months where things just didn't go to plan.  I meant to have this up yesterday.  Then I didn't really start writing it until last night so a day late it is! Side note: we have a new 3 year old who seems determined to give up his naps.  Those two things might be related.

I'm linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy here, spend too much time on Instagram here, and ditto with Goodreads here.  

Two other book posts in the past month:

Book Love: The Last Train to Key West by Chanel Cleeton


Now everything else I've been reading!

 

The Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan
I had picked this one to read over Valentine's Day, I like having a romance-ish book to read then.  Multiple storylines with multiple characters over many decades.  I found them all pretty interesting and engaging.  Also dives into the diamond industry nearly 100 years ago when diamonds were really becoming a big thing (thanks to the marketing).  I didn't see how the many story lines could possibly all fit together.  3.5 Stars

This is a Book for People Who Love the Royals by Rebecca Stoeker
This was a super quick but fun read about the British Royals.  I knew a lot of what was in here but it was fun to see it presented this way and with cute little drawings (I can't draw).  It took maybe an hour to read all together and it was just fun.  Recommend if you are also interested in the British Royals!  3.75 Stars

Share Your Stuff: I'll Go First: 10 Questions to Take Your Friendships to the Next Level by Laura Tremaine
Laura Tremaine has a podcast I listen to pretty regularly and I appreciated her book that elaborated on the topic of opening up and going deeper with family, friends, yourself.  Like the title says, she gives her own life examples on each which I found fascinating and interesting, she is a good storyteller.  I have since forgotten all of the questions but I did enjoy this read. 4 Stars

Maisie Dobbs, Birds of a Feather by Jacqueline Winspear
These are the first two Maisie Dobbs books and I just cannot get into these.  I'm going to keep trying for at least a few more books but I felt like Molly Murphy had me more hooked by 2 books in (I might be remembering wrong).  The mystery aspect feels very similar to Molly, just maybe 45 years later or something and set in London and the surrounding countryside instead of NYC.  I liked the flashback part of the first book, that told of Maisie's time serving during WWI.  Then the second half of the second of the book that I mostly read within 24 hours did seem to move faster, I probably need to dive in more than a chapter or two before bed each night for a week.  3 Stars

This Time Next Year by Sophie Cousens
This is a New Years Eve set book that I didn't get until February so that's when I read it.  British rom-com, heavy on the rom.  It was fine and I liked how the potential couple's timeline kept overlapping before they realized it but I also have little patience for people who won't just talk about their obvious feelings so I didn't enjoy it as much as I hoped I would.  3 Stars

Alone Time: Four Seasons, Four Cities, and the Pleasures of Solitude by Stephanie Rosenbloom
This was a travel book that also focused heavily on time alone while traveling.  I've never traveled solo and found it a bit interesting but also her reflections were more than just being alone.  It made me miss the trips my husband and I took before we had kids even though that wasn't what she was writing about.  And Paris, I hadn't been to many of the same places as her but I could tell she really enjoyed it there and spent the most time of the 3 cities she visited (the 4th city was NYC where she lived).  3.5 Stars

Love & Olives by Jenna Evans Welch
This is the third in a series and I had mostly completely forgotten the previous two (other than the second was set in Ireland and very closely followed the same path we took in Ireland almost 9 years ago).  However, if this had any ties to the previous two I didn't find them at all and this one turned out to be a very fun family/romance/adventure set in Greece.  Almost everything I know about Greece comes from Mamma Mia and this book, like those movies, make me really want to go there.  It was fun YA with a huge bit of travel included. 3.75 Stars

That Sounds Fun: The Joys of Being an Amateur, the Power of Falling in Love, and Why You Need a Hobby by Annie F. Downs
The That Sounds Fun podcast is one I listen to from time to time, when the guest or topic intrigues me.  I certainly am familiar enough with it and Annie F. Downs to make this an enjoyable read.  It doesn't really have anything to do with the podcast other than mentioning it from time to time but I really enjoyed her essays on being an amateur and having a hobby and how maybe we all just need to be a little more laid back with things (that's what I got out of it at least).  Annie is a great story teller and has a writing style that made me feel like her friend.  It was a really enjoyable read. 4 Stars

Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers by Sara Ackerman
This is her second book I've read this year and have really enjoyed them both!  This one, like the first, was set on the Big Island of Hawaii during World War II, post Pearl Harbor.  I count that movie among my top 10 favorite ever but hadn't given much thought to what those war years were like for the people who lived on the islands until I read the other book of hers.  They lived a very different war from most people in the continental US, especially with the number of Japanese people who lived on the islands with a strong allegience to the US (before the US kinda turned on them).  I immediately added her other two books to my list.  They are a bit of a slower burn (like life in Hawaii, from what I know about it) and are also pretty chaste, if that interests you.  4 Stars

Love at First by Kate Clayborn
Another romance book that I remember reading and debating if it was a 3 or 4 star book but now it's been over a week and I remember very few plot details (I had settled on 3 stars on Goodreads, that seems appropriate now).  There was an condo building in Chicago and people who initially hate each other but then don't.  But still don't talk about their feelings.  I liked picking it up but obviously wasn't highly memorable. 3.25 Stars

Leave Only Footprints: My Acadia-to-Zion Journey Through Every National Park by Conor Knighton
I really enjoyed this memoir-esque book of the author's journey of visiting all the National Parks (not national monuments or lakeshores or any of those, strictly the parks) in one calendar year.  I hold a huge affinity for the National Parks, my childhood vacations were largely based around them and I've been to quite a few of the big ones (Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Rocky Mountains, Smoky Mountains, another 5 at least) and it still took until chapter NINE before he wrote about one I had been to.  This book made me want to visit/revisit a whole bunch of them and also realize there are many I will very likely never get to (almost all of them that you can only reach by boat or plane, besides Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park, I really do hope to make it to that one!). Some of them are really hard to get to!  He's a good writer and made the journeys and the people and the parks all so interesting, I learned new facts about every single one!  Highly recommend to Americans who appreciate the National Park system.  4.75 Stars

Read with Luke
Betsy's Winterhouse by Carolyn Haywood
This was a read aloud with Luke that we both really enjoyed but had trouble making time for so it took us nearly a month to finish...and there were only 9 chapters.  I thought I had only read two of the Betsy books as a kid, the two that I owned, but so much of this seemed SO FAMILIAR that I must have read this one too.  This one spanned much of a year (winter through spring) and hardly mentions school which is nice so they feel more broadly appealing that way.  I think we have 4 left in the series that we started a year ago.  I am looking forward to reading more, maybe I'll find another I had forgotten that I read?  Very old, this was written in the late 1950s, so a bit dated but nothing really problematic.  I change a few words when reading aloud and have to clarify a few things to Luke.  I enjoy the simpler time.  4 Stars

What have YOU been reading?