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.

September 8, 2014

Weekday Reading


As I've gotten back into the routine of life with the boys in school and the boxes (somewhat) unpacked, I've been catching up on my saved blog posts and Twitter favorites.

Here are some of my favorites from the last few weeks, in case you missed them!

1. Friday Night Meatballs. This reminded me so much of the way all our friends came together over food in Oklahoma, and how I can't wait to do the same with new friends here in Connecticut.

2. On Writing (nearly) everyday. Katie spent the month of August writing by hand. Makes me wonder how getting back to basics might affect my own creativity.

3. Would you use a room color consultant? With all the paint samples I have taped up around the house, we could sure use one!

4. Fabulous school lunch ideas from Pink Parsley.

5. This is my dream writer's conference. Someday!

6. I'm dying to try this Somali Spiced Coffee from Journey Mercies.

7. Bathroom inspiration from Copy Cat Chic. The boys bathroom is the same one our guests will use in the new house…and does it ever need updating! I love this sophisticated but somewhat masculine space.

8. The history of London through maps. What I wouldn't do to see those maps in person!

9. Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote an autobiography in the 30s but it was never published…but the South Dakota Historical Society Press is publishing the annotated version now. You can get a copy here.

10. Today is my contributor day over on Life with the Crust Cut Off. Go check out the perfect side for a quick fall dinner.

11. Prince George is getting a sibling!! The #RoyalBaby hashtag has already taken over Twitter. Nice to see happy news stories for a change.

Happy Monday!!

September 5, 2014

Boxes and Boxes of Books #bookwormproblems

Last weekend I hit my limit for looking at piles of moving boxes. We were at that annoying part of the unpacking process when I had found almost all the necessities, but I haven't figured out where to put all the stuff that's left to unpack. Let's face it, I'm not hanging pictures until we get rid of the crazy yellow walls, and I'm not unpacking our serving dishes until we make friends to invite over. Right?

That left all the boxes of books. So. Many. Boxes. What's pictured above is not even half of them.

My executive decision? I'd rather look at piles of books in my living room than piles of boxes any day! I unpacked them all and divided them up into fiction and non-fiction piles and saved the big organizing for another day.

It instantly felt more like home! Of course, unpacking them led to a second #bookwormproblem…I needed to read/re-read every single one right away :)

Stay tuned…I'll post some pictures of the finished/organized shelves this week!

Joining in with Jessica at the Quirky Bookworm for her #bookwormproblems linkup. (It's also a fun twitter hashtag to follow!)

September 2, 2014

Courage, dear heart

I succumbed to a fit of the mopes this weekend.

I'm tired. Tired of boxes, tired of living in survival mode, tired of our self-imposed family separation.

Tired, tired, tired.

In frustration, I made a cup of tea, and turned to my books. I never fail to find comfort or courage in the pages of my favorites.

In the end, it was unassuming Bilbo Baggins stuck in the goblin caves, who spoke the most to me.

"Go back?" he thought. "No good at all! 
Go sideways? Impossible! 
Go forward? Only thing to do! 
On we go! 
So up he got and trotted along with his little sword held in front of him, and one hand on the wall, his heart all of a pitter and a patter." 

Going forward-it's the only thing to do. Reminders of your path, like courage, can be found in the most unlikely places.

I'd love to know what words bring you comfort and courage. Please share!

And if you are looking for a few more of my favorites (including the CS Lewis quote I used in my post title) you can find them on my "quotables" Pinterest board
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