February 28, 2015

March Reading Challenge


Every Saturday this year the boys and I have gone to the library together. I often pop over there during the week by myself to pick up a hold, or browse the stacks without small, sticky hands pulling on my sleeve, but the weekend visit is for all of us.

We stock up on books and movies to get us through the never ending snow days. I pick up a new mystery or try something from the new arrivals shelf.

Today I was preparing my list of books from my giant to-read list on Goodreads and I realized something. I already have a TON of these books, most of them sitting on my Kindle. I'm in the habit of snagging something I've been wanting to read when it goes on megasale, or adding a book when I order dog food or some other necessity from Amazon.

Then a due date nears and I turn back to my big stack of library books.

Today is the last day of February. I am almost finished with the only library book I have left at home, and there are no holds likely to come in soon.

This March I'm going to challenge myself. I am only going to read books that are already in my house or on my Kindle. Frankly, I think I really need to focus solely on my Kindle! (I did something similar last year but couldn't quite give up my library books). Next week I'll share the books I'm starting with.

Tell me I'm not the only one with this problem! Anyone want to join in? 

February 24, 2015

February Reading Roundup

Being stuck inside with all this snow has at least been good for my reading. I'm even a few books ahead on my goal for the year on Goodreads! It might also have something to do with the fact that all my library holds came in at once. I think I need to spend March playing catchup on the stacks of books in  my house and on my kindle that I've been ignoring because of looming due dates. Tell me I'm not the only one who does that! 

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

A group of my dear friends from our last assignment are doing a long-distance book club and this was our first selection. It was perfect for discussion, for both plot and literary devices. The book follows multiple stories from the 1960s Italian set of Cleopatra to a present day Hollywood production office, and eventually winds them all together. I loved seeing the way everything interconnected in the end.

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes

The Princess Bride is one of my all-time favorite movies and this charming book was a love letter to the  movie and all those who made it. Elwes tells the tale of how the film came to be, filming and it's eventual cult status. He interviews other cast and crew members, shares fun tidbits of filming that you can see when you watch the movie and more. I guarantee you will immediately want to go re-watch the movie as soon as you finish! (We did, and now I send me boys off to school every morning with "Have fun storming the castle!")

Cut to the Quick by Kate Ross

I've been hearing about the Julian Kestrel mysteries from several of my favorite writers for years now, and I'm so glad I picked this up. The first novel finds Julian a guest at a very awkward engagement party at a country house, where pride and arrogance war with the truth when a murder takes place. He has to unravel the family secrets before he can find the murderer. Kestrel is a regency dandy on the surface, but so much more below and he makes for a unique take on a regency sleuth. The writing felt like a smart, updated version of Georgette Heyer. Great start to a series (though sadly the author passed away a few years ago, and there are only 4 Kestrel novels).

Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen

I was craving Allen's sweet southern magic when the weather turned really cold this month, and picked this up from the library. Gentle as always with a happy ending of course, but not as engaging as the other Allen books I have read. Kate needs a place to recover after the death of her husband, and a chance postcard leads her and her daughter to Lost Lake, a resort run by her great aunt Eby. Here Eby helps them heal, and they help remind Eby of just what she (and Lost Lake) mean to the community.

Murder at the Brightwell by Ashley Weaver

Possibly my favorite book this year (so far) and it was a chance find at the library- I picked it up solely because of the cover! Set between the wars in England, Amory Ames is tired of her marriage to playboy Milo and when her former fiancé Gil shows up asking for help, she says yes. A trip to the seaside turns deadly and she must work with Milo to clear Gil's name. In doing so, they must also figure out what's happened to their marriage. The writing is sparkling, the mystery was just right and I'm so glad that a second in the series is coming out this fall. And it turns out that Ashely Weaver is a librarian-what more could I ask for?

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

This book is everywhere lately. I first read about it a few months ago, and patiently worked my way up the very long library waiting list. While interesting, I won't say this was life changing for me. Some aspects were really practical and I can easily see myself putting into practice (new ways to fold clothes and storing all like items together rather than spread around the house) but others I'll never agree with-her take on books for example! The idea is that you only keep what brings you joy and that you need to go through everything once and get rid of everything that doesn't. Some of it is a little loopy to be honest though I suspect part of that is the translation and the cultural differences between Japan and the US. On the other hand…it does make me want to clean out my kitchen cabinets. Who else has read this? I'm dying to discuss it!

What have you been reading lately? 

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February 22, 2015

Weekend Reading

We're digging out from yet another storm, but February is almost over. Just the fact that March is that much closer to spring gives me hope for next month, despite the fact the March weather is really still messy and unpredictable. I'm clinging to signs of green wherever I can find them, and indulging in books set in warm places. (Currently reading the Vish Puri mystery by Tarquin Hall-set in India. I can almost feel the sunshine!)

What I think we all really need is a breather and a chance to remember a time when our lives didn't revolve quite so heavily around the weather forecast!

Here are some of the articles that pulled me out of my snowy bubble this week:

I don't think I managed to see any of the nominated films, but I'm still excited to watch the Oscars tonight.

With my husband traveling quite a lot this month, cooking has been pretty basic for me and the boys. These Middle Eastern Spiced Turkey Sliders from Pink Parsley look perfect for shaking up our routine.

Why I bring my Boys to the Ballet: This post from The Mom Edit strikes right to the heart of my hopes and worries as the mother of boys.

Simple but genius menu planning from Breanne at A Vintage Moment. (She is also running a giveaway for a copy of Brown Eggs and Jam Jars, once of the cookbooks I am most looking forward to reading this year!)

On Burnout. Anne from Modern Mrs Darcy shares what keeps her from going over the edge of burnout. Good stuff in the comments too!

Photos from my instagram feed (you can find me there @hearthandhomefront)

January 14, 2015

Quick Lit (January 2015)

Between snow days and a whirlwind trip without kids (two flights worth of uninterrupted reading time!) January is off to a great start, book wise. Today I'm sharing short reviews of my latest reads and linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy's Quick Lit (formerly known as Twitterature). Pop over to her site for more suggestions!  You can also check out what I'm reading or adding to my enormous to-read list over on Goodreads, and say hello while you're there!

Garden Spells-Sarah Addison Allen

Allen weaves magic into all of her stories, but it is the kind of gentle, believable magic that we all can connect with. In Garden Spells, Claire Waverley has her very structured world turned upside when her rebellious sister Sydney returns home with a daughter of her own. The three learn to trust and support each other, and make peace with their special gifts. This is one of those books that I started reading, and the next thing I knew I was 100 pages in! There's a sequel coming out soon too…

Dying in the Wool by Frances Brody

Kate Shackleton takes on her first professional case as a private investigator when a friend from her days as a nurse in WWI asks her to find her missing father. As she goes deeper into the mystery, Kate struggles to create an identity for herself, rather than just her husband's widow. While the tone is very different, Brody's England post WWI is just as evocative as the one Jacqueline Winspear creates in her Maisie Dobbs mysteries. It's the first in a series, and I'm looking forward to reading more.

Queen of Hearts by Rhys Bowen

Her Royal Spyness is back! In this outing, Lady Georgiana (35th in line to the throne!) heads to America with her mother. A typical 1930's English country house murder mystery transplanted to Hollywood, with a nice blend of humor and romance. A solid mystery (I didn't figure it out too early) and always fun.

Sidney Chambers and the Perils of the Night by James Runcie

The second book in the series, this is another set of short stories. This time covering a wider time period, but it moves Sidney's sleuthing further into the Cold War, which is an interesting side note to his growing romance with a German widow. The Masterpiece Mystery series called Grantchester premieres this weekend and is based on the series, so I'm very curious to see how it is adapted for tv.

Season of Storms by Susanna Kearsley

This was originally published years ago under a different name, but Kearsley's new American publisher re-released it this past year. In the early 1900's an actress named Celia Sands disappears on the night she is to premiere a play written for her by her famous playwright lover in Italy. In the modern day, another actress named Celia Sands is asked to star when the playwrights grandson revives the infamous play. There are mysteries in the present and the past, as well as romance and like every other book I've read by Susanna Kearsley,  I couldn't put it down and was totally bereft when I finished.

Beauty by Robin McKinley

I don't know how I missed reading this when I was growing up! A retelling of Beauty and the Beast, I read this one for the Young Adult Book and Movie Club with Jessica from Quirky Bookworm (you should join in!)  It was lovely and such a fun escape-I'm so glad I finally found it.

Next up…Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter! I'm only about half way, but loving it so far.

What are you reading right now? 

January 9, 2015

Making the little moments special

This week isn't just the start of the new year for our family, but a whole new direction for us. My husband left the active duty Air Force at the end of the last year. While he will still be flying with a National Guard unit part time he will be spending most of his time now as an airline pilot.

This means new airplanes, trips to training and a whole new batch of acronyms for all of us to learn.

We spent the last year focused on getting to the end goals of new house and new jobs, forgetting to look back at how much we accomplished in the meantime.

Rather than make resolutions, I just hope to be kinder to myself in the New Year, and a big part of that this year needs to be celebrating the little milestones and moments, even the teeny tiney ones. I'm a list maker. The thrill of crossing something off is always there for me, and is a good chunk of my motivation some days. Stopping for just a few moments beyond the time it takes to cross something off the to-do list acknowledges the effort it took to get there, and I don't do that nearly enough. It's cross something off and move on to the next thing in almost the same breath.

So in that vein, this week the boys and I have been celebrating. We picked up cupcakes to celebrate the first day of school in 2015 on Monday. Today we had hot chocolate with breakfast because it's an unexpected snow day.

Neither the hot chocolate nor the cupcakes are that unusual to be honest. We often have them as a treat after school or when we randomly need a pick-me-up.

Stopping for just a moment and assigning them a reason though, no matter how tiny, gives us all a moment to breathe and smile. Who can argue with an excuse to smile more often?

How do you celebrate the little moments? 

January 1, 2015

Tallying Up and Moving Forward

Everywhere I look the changing of the year reckoning has begun. "Best of" lists abound (even I couldn't resist!), goals are being reviewed and new ones set.

I realized pretty early in the year that the intentions I originally set for 2014 did not stand a chance of completion. Looking back our family accomplished an awful lot despite the chaos. Maybe even because of the chaos. Reading is my happy place, and I think the stats below show that this was a year of comfort books!

Nerd out with me for a moment :) 

This year's book stats:

68 books total

30 mysteries

16 non-fiction

3 different continents  as settings (North America, Australia and Asia)

14 (!) books set in the 1920s alone,  and only 2 fiction books were set in the present day

33 female protagonists, 11 male, 10 with multiple viewpoints

12 re-reads

6 Young Adult (this surprised me-I thought I read more YA this year)

So where does that leave me? 65 books was my goal this year, and I felt pretty comfortable with that. I had hoped to read more of the books that have been languishing unread for years around the house, but considering the circumstances (and the fact that those books were in boxes for several months!) I'm not beating myself up over it. 

Now on to 2015! 

Read 70 books. 

Review them on the blog (in a timely manner-ha!)

Read at least 3/4 of the books for the Young Adult Book and Movie Club (YABMC) hosted by Jessica of Quirky Bookworm. It's a great list this year so this should be an easy goal!

Find a book club locally. I really miss the monthly connection with my bookish friends. 

Try to read books set in places or times that I don't normally gravitate towards…so less Victorian England basically. 

And a repeat from 2014-Try to read a few of the books that are sitting unread on my bookshelves. 

Do you set reading goals? What are you hoping to read in 2015? 

December 30, 2014

My favorite books of 2014

Hello strangers!

2014 has been one long, crazy year that pushed my family miles beyond our comfort zone, sapped my creativity and ended stronger and a bit more melancholy than we ever expected last New Years Eve.

About a month ago, I started to miss writing.  I began scribbling in my journal in the quiet hours in the margins of the day. Nothing earth shattering. Nothing worth sharing. But writing nonetheless.

Now I'm quietly back to Hearth and Homefront. I've missed you all, though it's been so long I'm not sure if anyone is still out there.

I'm figuring out what this space will look like in 2015. My life is very different than it was a year ago and things need to change to better reflect who I am now.

There will still be food, cute kids and dogs…and always books. THAT is one thing that will never change :)

In that spirit, I'm going to round up my favorite books of 2014. Later this week I'll pop back in to chat about my reading goals and book totals, maybe even throwing in nerdy stats or charts (totally inspired by The Quirky Bookworm's reading stats!)

Without further ado and in no particular order, here are my favorites!

Bread and Wine by Shauna Neiquist

This book made everyone's "Best Of" lists last year, and I snagged it on sale for the kindle. Moving, comforting, and heartbreaking in turn, this is a book that will come back to again and again in the next few years. I read this with friends, and discussed it while devouring several of the recipes in the book. Perfection!

The Shadowy Horses by Susanna Kearsley

I stumbled onto Kearsley late last year and tore through her whole back catalog. This was by far my favorite. It's a gentle romance set at an archaeological dig in Scotland. They are searching for the lost Roman Legion (the 9th Hispana) and they have only the ghost of a lone centurion to go on.

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

I adore Bryson. I read this as we moved cross-country and it was the perfect silly but occasionally serious foil to the craziness of our life this summer. My new commute to work crosses over the Appalachian Trail at one point, and every morning I giggle about Bryson's plan to fight a bear off with toenail clippers.

Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death by James Runcie

Stumbled on this mystery series about a vicar in post-war (WWII) Cambridge, trying to reconcile his involvement with solving mysteries and his duties to his parish through Katie's blog. Sometimes a little slow, but the overall effect is lovely. Each book has interconnected short stories, and I'm currently savoring the second in the series.

The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie

My first time reading one of the Tommy and Tuppence mysteries and I think they might just beat out Miss Marple for my favorite sleuths. Set in the 1920s, these are light and witty and follow the adventures of this young couple who discover a talent for solving mysteries.

Inquiry into Love and Death by Simone St. James

I'm a wimp when it comes to scary books, but St. James has the knack for writing ghost stories that are just the right amount of spooky. A young girl must sort out her ghost hunting uncle's belongings after his death, and stumbles into his final case. I also read Silence for the Dead by St. James this year, and that one is excellent as well. She does such a fantastic job portraying England at the end of WWI.

A few others that I really enjoyed but didn't quite make the list are The Silkworm, The Blood of Olympus, Where'd You Go Bernadette? and Dying in the Wool.

What were YOUR favorites this year?

I'm linking up at Modern Mrs Darcy-go take a look at more recommendations there. Your to-be-read list will explode :)

Some of these links are affiliate links. Thanks for supporting Hearth and Homefront.
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