Thursday, August 13, 2020

Quick Lit - August

Happy August Quick Lit!  I've had a really good reading month, lots of 4 star reads and feel like I am finally, maybe, checking books off my TBR faster than I am adding them!  It's a good feeling.  We had a vacation week at the lake too where I racked up, not quite as much reading as I'd like, but definitely my best week so far this year.  That's always exciting and a sign of a good vacation!  As well as sleeping 8 hours a night, running consistently, and lots of family time!

I'm on Goodreads here, Instagram here, and linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy!

One other book post in the past month:

And now everything else I've read!
I've read most of her recent non-fiction work, which usually combines faith and family and humor.  This was less that, more of the "you can live your own wonderful life and make it yours" encouragement variety but in a lot more words.  She advocates getting involved and doing what you can and as well as the "find the real you" stuff.  This sounds like a put down and I did find it inspiring in parts and overall a worthwhile read, just not a lot stuck with me almost a month later. 3 Stars

The next Molly Murphy mystery and a short story that followed it, chronologically.  I don't read many mysteries because I am easily spooked and I like sleeping at night.  I don't think I mind these as much because they are set 100+ years ago (around 1904 now, a year which always makes me think of Samantha Parkington, of the American Girls and I am amazed that I just pulled her last name out, I didn't know I still knew that).   And because they are set 100+ years ago, the crimes that Molly faces OBVIOUSLY aren't happening now.  I know, it makes very little sense but whatever helps me sleep at night, literally.  I appreciate reading how the role of women has changed/not changed and seeing a little bit of NYC history take place (they are digging the subway tunnels in one of the books!). 3 Stars
Not Like the Movies by Kerry Winfrey
This was a really fun follow-up to Waiting for Tom Hanks, which I super enjoyed last summer.  I only had a vague recollection of what happened in that book but it didn't matter a whole lot.  This one also drops a bunch of rom-com movie references which is fun and made me wish I had a little more time in my life for rom-coms. There's a romance that you knew was coming if you read the first book (I guess I remembered more of it than I thought) and it was fun and charming and perfect for summer. 3.75 Stars

Carolina Breeze by Denise Hunter
I always count on Denise Hunter's books to be charming with chaste romances but pretty quick to get through.  This was that.  Rom-com esque but less on the rom.  Movie star is hiding from life in a North (??) Carolina B&B on what was supposed to be her honeymoon.  She (gasps) falls in love with the innkeeper.  It was exactly what I expected it to be and I enjoyed it. 3.25 Stars
Her Last Flight by Beatriz Williams
I really enjoy one of her earliest books, A Hundred Summers, but a lot of her recent ones have been hit or miss for me.  I still put them all on hold at least a month in advance though!  This one was my favorite in awhile - the story of a fictional aviatrix who disappears in a flight around the world.  Not a fictional telling of Amelia Earhart even though a few things are inspired by her.  Parts reminded me of The Flight Girls, with it's early female flyers, but also, it was fun and adventurous and shocked me more than once. 4 Stars

Stepping Stones by Lucy Knisley
I'm pretty sure I've read all of Lucy Knisley's graphic novels, all her previous ones have been autobiographical, so I knew I was going to pick this one up.  It's a fictional middle grade graphic novel about a girl who is forced to move out of the city to live in the country and work on farm with her Mom and her Mom's boyfriend.  It is based on Lucy Knisley's real childhood but it's not strictly autobiographical.  It was charming, as middle-grade tends to be, and a quick read.  I'll definitely pick up the next in the series!  3.75 Stars
I've been listening to The Popcast with Knox & Jamie for 4 years now I think?  I even pay to listen to them.  So when Knox wrote a book, I was going to read it, once the library got it and I got to it.  We all have reconsidered choices in our lives and this outlined some that he's reconsidered and made me think about some maybe I should reconsider.  It was good, and sometimes humorous, food for thought. 3.5 Stars

The Heir Affair by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan
This was my 100th book for the year and the book Matt got me for my recent birthday.  I enjoyed The Royal We the handful of times I've read it and so I figured buying this one before reading it was a safe bet.  And it was!  It's LONG, 400+ pages and I appreciated the occasional (and obvious, if you pay attention to the royals) nod to Wills and Kate (like the Canada tour that happened both in real life and in the book).  It was really fun and perfect reading for lake vacation! 4 Stars 
This Won't End Well by Camille Pagan
I was expecting Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine vibes and it was not that which was fine.  A woman lost her job for stupid reasons and then picks up cleaning houses.  Her fiance has also run away to Paris for an extended trip and she has a mysterious new neighbor next door.  Life is taking new directions and I appreciated showing that sometimes life works out, even outside of carefully laid plans.  3.5 Stars
The Honey-Don't List by Christina Lauren
This was not their finest effort.  It's about two assistants to a Chip & Joanna Gaines type couple except this fictional version is on the verge of divorce and the two assistants have to keep that under wrap while they release their marriage book.  It was a really short read, 300 pages and was still super fast.  I don't mind short but this felt like it should have been fleshed out more and was hastily written.  It made for a quick read but quick doesn't mean good. 2.75 Stars
On the opposite end was this book that took me much longer to get through than I expected!  It goes through a calendar year and has a fashion reference for every single day.  Some are very well known: Di & Charles' wedding, 9/11, Jackie Kennedy's pink suit in Dallas.  Some are much more obscure and go very far back.  There were pictures for maybe 1/3 of the days and I really wish there would have been one for every day because I didn't often know the reference.  It was interesting but probably took 5 hours to read.  It was a lot. 3.5 Stars

Read with Luke (age 7)
Home Again by Kallie George
This is a reread to finish the Heartwood Hotel series, a second time.  He really enjoyed this but it took us a bit to get through. I think knowing the ending didn't make us rush to pick it up.  But this is a charming 4 book series that follows the seasons, starting in the fall.  Good place to start when reading full chapter books to kids! 3.75 Stars

Betsy and the Boys by Carolyn Haywood
We got through this book faster even though it was about the same length.  We've been slowly reading the Betsy series and they are very dated (written in the 1940s) and I change a few words here and there when reading aloud but they mostly hold up.  Times were VERY different back then - the next door neighbor quit her teaching job once she got married and has a full time maid even though she doesn't work or have kids.  But Betsy is also trying to get the boys to let her play football with them and I appreciated that, even if it was short lived and I never wanted to play football. 3.75 Stars
What have YOU been reading??

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Book Love: Florance Adler Swims Forever by Rachel Beanland

It is rare that I add a book to my "to be read" and get to it within a month.  Usually it's a few months and sometimes over a year, if it's a book I'm waiting to be released.  For this book, I added it to my list on June 30th. I picked up my library hold on July 17th.  Took it to the lake for our lake vacation a week later but didn't get to it then.  Finally picked up it on August 2nd and finished in a little over 48 hours.  That is a VERY fast "I want to read this book and then read this book" timeline for me! 

From what I had heard, I was thinking it would have as similar tone to A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams, one of my all-time favorite books (I am constantly playing the game of "what 3 books I would I pick as my favorites if I went on the What Should I Read Next? podcast and A Hundred Summers is one of the two I've come up with.  There are too many possibilities for book #3!  And, sadly, too many possibilities for the book I dislike.)

I have been disappointed by books having a different tone or feel more than once but this time.  This time I think I guessed pretty close.  It was a delightful read that felt perfect for summer.  I really enjoyed my time with the Adler family.

Florence Adler Swims Forever by Rachel Beanland tells the story of Florence Adler's family.  It is Atlantic City, 1934.  The world is on the cusp of World War II and the worst of the Great Depression is behind America.  Florence Adler is 19 years old and is training to swim across the English Channel.  She has a real shot because she's a fantastic swimmer and has been training for this. 

Then she drowns on a training swim in Atlantic City.

This happens within the first chapter or two of the book.  I knew it was coming but I was also sad to see her character gone.  She only briefly appears but seems to be a dynamic and interesting person. 

The rest of the book covers how her family handles her death.  Or doesn't handle her death.  Florence's only sister, Fannie, is on bed rest in the hospital, still a few months from delivering a baby.  Fannie has a living daughter who is 7 and a year previous lost a baby boy who was born a few weeks early (reading about what they did with babies in incubators back then...YIKES, VERY different from NICUs now!).  The family is concerned she'll lose this baby too and thus, the bed rest.  Florence and Fannie's mother is VERY concerned hearing of her sister's untimely and unfortunate death would cause Fannie to lose this baby as well so everyone is put on strict orders NOT to tell Fannie.  And an elaborate ruse begins.

And if that feels far fetched, the author based it on a true story from her own family, where her great-great aunt did drown and it was kept from her sister while the author's grandmother, 6 at the time, witnessed the whole thing.  But the whole story isn't a historic retelling, the author changed a lot of details and characters even though the basis of the stories are the same.

The story is told from multiple perspectives, all of whom I found interesting.  There's Fannie stuck in her hospital bed.  Her husband, Isaac, who is in a bit of financial trouble.  Fannie and Isaac's daughter, Gus, who witnessed her aunt's drowning.  Esther, Fannie and Florence's mother who started the whole charade and their father, Joseph who is somewhat reluctantly going along.  Anna, a Hungarian born German woman whose family had connections to Joseph in Germany and who the Adlers are sponsoring and hosting to keep her out of Germany and away from the Nazis.  And then Stuart, Florence's lifeguard coach and possibly suitor.  They were all connected to Florence in different ways and her death impacted each of them in different ways.

Some of the story is told with memories, going back to when Florence was alive but mostly told over the course of that summer in Atlantic City.  The glamour and fun of living near the beach.  The possibilities that summer brings and how choices made can affect the rest of our lives.

The Adlers are Jewish and 1934 is a hard time to be Jewish, even in America.  I appreciated how their faith was respected and given space, especially in regards to death and how they tried to respect customs, even while keeping this secret. 

I was a little leery to pick this up, knowing it started with a drowning and that did NOT seem like a cheery summer read.  And drowning is not cheery, not at all.  However, even while the Adlers were in the midst of grief, there is still a positive tone and a determination to survive and finding a way forward.  It was ultimately hopeful even if it was horrible circumstances that got them there.

Most of us aren't traveling this summer but this was a good way to take a little vacation while still in Indiana.  This could easily become a frequent reread for me.  It felt light but also a little heavy, just like most of this summer has felt!

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Monday, August 10, 2020

Mixed Drink Monday: Tropical Margarita Sangria

Here's the thing about sangrias.  You generally need to make them a bit ahead of time so the flavors can all blend together.  Here's something else about this particular sangria recipe, it's pretty easy to throw it together.  I got it all in a glass once we had unpacked at the lake and then stuck it in the fridge.  The next morning I opened the fridge and was ready to rage at whoever had left a weird looking drink in the fridge.  Then I realized it was me and the weird looking drink was this sangria.  In my defense, I hadn't ever made a sangria with kiwis before and wasn't expecting how they looked.  I later strained it before taking these pictures and drinking it but just be warned, kiwis soaking in wine and alcohol overnight might make them look a bit like a science experiment.

Regardless of that initial look, I was curious to try this one since it billed itself as a "margarita sangria".  I've had sangrias.  I've had margaritas.  I've never combined the two although that turned out to be pretty easy.  It was basically a margarita with some chopped fruit and wine.  Or sangria with tequila and triple sec. And also contained my most frequently used mix-ins of pineapple juice.  All of that made for a delightfully colored drink (after some straining) and a unique and delicious drink.  If you have some wine to use up (raises hand), this is an excellent use for it (that's also assuming you have a lot of other things sitting around though).  This might be the first time I've used kiwi in a drink.  Nice to have finally tried that!

One year ago: Frozen Peach Lemonade
Two years ago:
DIY Sweet & Sour Mix
Three years ago: Coconut Lemonade

Four years ago: Pina Colada
Five years ago: Blackberry Rum Fizz
Six years ago: Raspberry Mojito & Peach Lemonade

Tropical Margarita Sangria
yield: one drink
-8 ounces (1 cup) white wine
-4 ounces (½ cup) pineapple juice

-½ ounce (1 TB) triple sec
-1 ounce (2 TB) tequila
-juice from one lime (about 1 TB)
-1 kiwi, peeled and sliced thin
-½ cup strawberries, sliced thin

Combine all ingredients besides ice in a glass and stir well.  Let sit in the fridge for at least a couple hours and add ice before serving!  Enjoy!

Source: Modified from Wine and Glue
In the summer I aim to make a new drink every week and share them all here, good or bad!  See them all in chronological order by following the "Mixed Drink Monday" tag here or check out my favorites by scrolling down to "Mixed Drink Monday" on my recipes page

Friday, August 7, 2020

Looking Back at July

July is my favorite month of the year, partially because it's my birthday month and partially because it's the Saturday of Summer (I don't know where I originally saw July classified like that but it is 100% true).  We had summer temps all month, school is still a bit off (although not that far off by the time this posts) and we were in full summer mode.  Even with mostly being home (and at the lake), it still felt like summer.  The boys swam and did the slip n slide in the backyard, we read lots of picture books, went back to the zoo (with masks and social distancing), and ate gobs of ice cream and fresh produce.  It was less busy than past Julys but it was still pretty great!

Looking back:
1 year ago: {5} Times I Got the America Feeling
2 years ago: On Fridays I Wear Blue

3 years ago: Book Love: The Shark Club
4 years ago: Travel: Weekend in Holland, Michigan
5 years ago: Blueberry Crisp
6 years ago: Reasons Why The Drive-In is Awesome and You Should Go

7 years ago: From Being an Accountant to a Stay-at-Home MOM

1) Canoeing down a "river" near the lake.  There is a scene in Jurassic World where people are floating down a river next to dinosaurs and this looked like that, minus the dinosaurs.  Sam even napped for part of it!
2) The boys were handed down some power wheels from Matt's brother and sister-in-law and drove them ALL OVER the neighborhood (with parents close behind).  They love these.
3) Blueberry picking!  Luke actually did pretty well, Sam ate whatever he managed to pick.
4) Ice cream in the backyard, we did this a lot!
5) Back at the zoo.  It was SO NICE to be back, even with masks. 
6) Sunset up at my sister's, beautiful!
7) Fireworks at the lake, beautiful!
8) Sam loves coloring with chalk on the tiny bit of cement at the lake!
9) At the zoo, again, the giraffes were definitely the most crowded part but we did get to see them up close.  Extra exciting for Sam to see all the animals this year because I don't think he remembers much about them from last year!
10) My morning glories are blooming!  It's always so exciting.
11) Home from a library run and Luke was checking out our haul.
12) Birthday margarita sunset cruise.  It was lovely.
13) Another sunset cruise!  They are beautiful.
14) An afternoon on the pontoon, that's rain, not a good thing to see.
15) We hung string lights at the lake too since we like our ones at home so much.  Only these were free but more dangerous to hang.
16) String lights and sunset at home to close out the month!

Books finished: 13, hit 100 for the year!
Miles ran:
60.2!  My goal was 60 and the weather (95° the first half of the month) and Matt's early schedule made it tough but I ran A LOT the second half of the month!
Currently watching:
Matt and I are occasionally watching Space Force and season 7 of Agents of SHIELD but it also just took us 3 nights to get through a movie.  His early mornings aren't real conducive to tv watching in the evenings!
Most read post this month:
Stripping: Laundry Style is still going strong.  It's, BY FAR, my most read post ever and July I had the most blog hits ever, thanks to it.  Glad so many people are interested in laundry stripping!
Luke's current favorite song:
Sweet Home Alabama by Lynyrd Skynyrd, I never realized how many Ys were in that name before right now.

August is bringing us school (I am MUCH more sad than I expected about Luke going back, I've liked having him home the last 5 months!) and, sadly, the end of summer.  Really, school is the dominating thing.  It's weird/normal to think about it starting up again!

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Summer Books of Elin Hilderbrand

When I am looking for a reliably good summer read, I know I can, almost always, count on Elin Hilderbrand to deliver something that I will thoroughly enjoy.  I even have a recurring reminder on my phone to put a hold on her newest book in early April, before it comes out in mid-June.  This was more crucial in prior years when we only got 5 holds per library card.  Giving up one of my holds for over 2 months was a sacrifice but I am serious about getting them as soon as the library gets them in!

The books aren't always the most memorable, I've read ever single one of hers and I could only give plot points for maybe half and that's being generous.  But they make up for that by being reliably entertaining, thought-provoking, and engaging.  I know when I crack one open that I am in for a good reading experience.  I will enjoy my time spent with these fictional people, even if I don't like them or all of their decisions.  I always end up reading them pretty fast, the kind of fast where I find extra time in my day to sneak in more reading.  I love being swept up in a good book.

Her books always have strong female protagonists and most of her recent ones (I can't think of a single exception right off) are told from multiple perspectives.  Occasionally some men too but women drive the story.  The characters have complex lives that don't just revolve around their romantic relationships.  They often have jobs, kids, close friends, and hobbies (often food or gardening).  The books model (usually) healthy female friendships and a closeknit community on Nantucket.

Ahhhh...Nantucket.  I've never been but I'd really like to go some day.  Every single one of her summer books are set on Nantucket, most go off-island too but Nantucket is the main setting.  I always end up searching Google or Instagram for pictures of Nantucket while reading these books, just to get a better sense of what it looks like and how big it is.  It's small but seems to hold a lot of big (fictional) personalities!  It's an expensive place to be - both to get to and to stay on, since it's out at sea and the characters are often, but not always, wealthy.  Since I'll definitely never live on Nantucket and most likely never be rich, it's enjoyable to visit it through other peoples' (fictional) lives.

I read a lot of books, especially in the summer, but I so appreciate always knowing I'll be getting something good when I open Elin Hilderbrand's latest.  I never buy them before reading but I do end up owning quite a few eventually.  I wrote a whole post on her Christmas series here and it is also a delight.

If you are looking for a starting point here are some of my favorites (aff. links below):

If you are interested in reading about food...
The Blue Bistro
My absolutely favorite of hers and one of the rare ones that is just told from the perspective of one character.  Adrienne is new to Nantucket, looking to make some quick money after a bad boyfriend experience in Colorado.  She knows hotels.  She's looking to work at a hotel.  But she ends up at the famed Blue Bistro restaurant.  The manager-owner is confusing, the cook-owner doesn't want anything to do with her, but the food is AMAZING.  (I always wish the Blue Bistro was real so I could try their food.)  This is the last summer for the Bistro, for reasons unknown at the beginning and Nantucket wants to make the most of it.  I so enjoy the food descriptions and the fast paced restaurant setting.  And a few characters are from South Bend and Notre Dame gets some mentioned, I'm not any particular fan of the place but I do like anytime Indiana gets mentioned!  I read this about every other year.

If you are interested in sister relationships...
The Island
I read this book every single Memorial Day weekend and have for at least 6 years now.  Two sisters are spending a month on Tuckernuck with their mom & aunt, in their family's ancestral vacation home.  Tuckernuck is a smaller island, privately owned, off the coast of Nantucket and has no electricity, just generators, and to get hot water you have to heat it on the stove.  All three women are going through different romantic entanglements back home for a month, it's just the 4 of them on Tuckernuck, with twice daily visits from their caretaker who brings them groceries, collects the trash, and maybe has a romance with one of the girls.  I love the rusticness of it, the sister bonds, the women sticking together.  You find out what brought them all to the island together for a month and why they all leave the Island different than when they came.  It's wonderful.

If you are interested in life long secrets and friendships...

28 Summers
This is the most recent one but I really enjoy it and I think it's going to be my "read every Labor Day" book.  The Island feels more optimistic for the start of summer while this one feels a little more melancholy for the end.  A woman is dying and tells her son to call a number on a piece of paper in her desk.  The man who answers the phone is the husband of the woman who is probably going to win the presidential election in the fall.  The son has NO IDEA why his Mom knows this man or why she wants to call him from her deathbed.  Then we go back to the beginning, 28 summers ago.  As to how these people met and how they became so entwined in each other's lives, even if just for one weekend a year.

If you are interested in death and weddings...there is sentimental death decades before a wedding or a surprise death at a wedding weekend...

If you are interested in death bringing together the many parts of a complicated family...

If you are interested in the slightly wild life of teenagers...
If you are interested in friend groups...
If you are interested in running a hotel at a vacation destination...

And plenty more!  Heads up that there is generally a little language but most of the romance is closed door, hinted at but not seen.

I appreciate her smart summer reads, where I get a little more insight to characters that feel real without denigrating into too much material that feels like it's rotting my brain.  They are usually, a near perfect summer read.

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