Monday, March 20, 2017

Books I'm Loving for The Toddler

The Toddler and I read a lot of books together. If she likes a book she wants to read it six, seven, eight times in a row. After reading a book eight times in a row, four times a day, for a week I get a little tired of the books we have. For the last couple of weeks we've been making trips to the library on Saturdays so I can have new books to read to The Toddler on a regular basis without spending a ton of money.

So far it's worked out great! I usually pick a 'theme' for the week and we pick books based around that theme, Last week it was bears. The Toddler loves pretending to be a bear and roaring at me from her closet while I fold laundry. Of course, I pretend to be terrified of the 'bear' and she giggles like mad. So anyway, we got some bear books. One of them was the funniest children's book I have ever read. I burst out laughing, I think it scared The Toddler a little.

The book was Big Smelly Bear by Britta Teckentrup. It's about a bear who never takes a bath, so if you have a little one who hates the tub this might be a good pick. Big Smelly Bear wakes up one day with an itch that won't go away, he runs into Big Fluffy Bear and the most realistic argument ensues. I won't spoil if Big Smelly Bear actually takes a bath or not, but it's definitely worth checking out.

The second book was Apples and Robins by Lucie Felix. This one wasn't really on theme with the whole bear thing, but it was such a unique book that I went ahead and picked it up anyway. This book goes through the four seasons and uses basic shapes and colors mixed with die-cuts to create the pictures in the book.
Gif is from I'm not talented enough to make gif's yet. 
Both of these books were ones I didn't mind reading over and over. In fact I might have to pick up both of them from Amazon, since we both liked them so much.

As I find really stand-out kids books in the future I might go ahead and share them here on the blog. I know I'm always on the lookout for good kid's book recommendations and I'm sure other moms are too.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Reading Habits Post #1: My Usual Reading Routine

I say 'usual reading routine' but I mean that very loosely. Sometimes the whole routine just can't happen. Sometimes it's just reading a few pages while I stand in the kitchen waiting for water to boil or the oven timer to go off so I can take out dinner. So I guess this is more like my 'ideal reading routine'.
This is what I do when I get an hour or so to dedicate to reading. Usually that's at night after everyone else is in bed, sometimes nap times but that's usually
when I clean. Or scroll through Pinterest. Some of these habits are good and some are not so good. I'm going to do this as a series so I can work on changing the bad habits into good ones, and hopefully being more intentional with my reading time in order to get the most out of it.

Step 1- Boil water. Of course this step only applies if I'm making coffee or tea. When I know I've got a bit of time to sit down and read I'll fill the kettle and get it on the stove first.

Step 2-Comfy clothes. I prefer pj pants, but leggings or yoga pants work too. No bra. I can't really relax with a bra on. Over-sized t-shirt, usually The Husbands.

Step 3: Prepare the beverage. Back in the kitchen, I get out my mug and select a tea flavor or prep the french press. Measure proper amount of tea leaves into the tea ball and usually by then the water is boiling. Pour water, insert tea ball, or put the lid on the french press for coffee, Steep/brew for proper amount of time, usually 3-4 minutes.

Step 4: While hot beverage of choice is brewing, select the snack(s). I usually go for fruit (frozen fruit is the best) or cookies. Honestly, fruit is the healthier choice, but if there are cookies in the house, I'm eating cookies.

Step 5: Sit and read. I have an armchair in the living/play room that is supposed to be my 'reading chair' but  it doesn't have an ottoman for my feet, and all the warm blankies are in the family room, so I usually end up reading on the couch. I leave the TV off, but my computer is usually close by. I read for a bit, look at Facebook a bit, read some more, check out Pinterest for a bit. You get the idea...

So, habits I want to change;
1. Computer use while reading. This is a bad one, since it's really easy to get sucked into Youtube, or Pinterest and waste all my reading time.
2. Snacks. Snacking by itself is not a problem, I want to make better snack choices. Less cookies, more fruit.
3. Cleaning before reading. This mostly applies to my 'middle of the day' reading during nap time. I tend to put off dishes and things in order to read, then I'm rushing to get things done at the end of the day, and cleaning from Monday spills over too Tuesday and then I've got double the work to do and before I know it I'm totally overwhelmed with my house and The Husband is eating dinner off one of The Toddlers plastic pink plates because all the others are dirty.

It doesn't seem like a lot of things to change, but this is stuff that I, personally, struggle with. I hate cleaning, and I love food and the internet so I've got my work cut out for me. I look at all of this as a way of becoming more mindful and fully enjoy something (reading) that I already know I love.

What I'm Reading Right Now

I feel pretty awesome about the last week. I finished three books and they all counted for the RMSC! Which puts me up too six books read out of the goal of 25! The updated 'Whole Deal' post about the RMSC can be found here.
However my TBR pile is ever growing. In addition too the books I picked up in my last 'What I'm Reading' post I got a few more at the used bookstore. And then I ordered a few (seven) books from thriftbooks, And then I went to the other used bookstore. So, altogether I've added eleven books in the last week. None of them count for the RMSC (this year) but I'm probably going to read, at least a few of them, this year.
Look at me, thinking ahead! Already planning for the RMSC next year! Although, in all honesty, I probably have enough books to keep me doing RMSC's for the next four years, without buying anything. But not buying books isn't really an option.

Here are the books I FINISHED in the last week;
The Relic Master by Christopher Buckley- I really liked this one. It got 4 out of 5 stars. Read my full review here.

Bookish by Olivia Long- This book was...not great. It wasn't terrible but it wasn't as good as it could have been either. 2.5 stars out of 5. You can read my review on Goodreads here.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky - 5 stars. I can't believe I didn't read this till now. I saw the movie when it first came out on DVD, so I knew, more or less, what happened, but as always, the book was better. I do think that I would have enjoyed it a hundred times more if I'd read it in high school, but I did love it, even as an adult.

Here are the books I'm currently reading;
Deadhouse Gates by Steven Erikson - Still working on this one. I'm going slow and taking my time, because there are a hundred new characters in this one. It picks up right where Gardens of the Moon left off time-wise, but geographically it starts on a whole other continent with a whole bunch of new info and characters and once again you are plunged into this world with little to no info about whats actually happening. Which I'm fine with. I actually like it that way, its like learning a new language by immersion. Like, just drop me off in Brazil and let me figure it out. Not really. But kind of.

Bury the Hatchet by Catherine Gayle - Sports romance! Usually I read football romances. I'm not much into hockey, but this story sounded really good so I'm giving it a try. I really like it so far. The main characters are great, Tallie has so much to figure out, like she's just floating and shes really got to get it together. And Hunter. OMG Hunter. Talk about a book boyfriend. He's got it together and everything is getting turned upside down. This is the first in a series so I might have to try the rest of the series. Maybe. I have not had good experiences with romance series.

What's up next*;
A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas
Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff
Love in Lingerie by Alessandra Torre
Three Sisters, Three Queens by Philippa Gregory
Craving Her Curves by Nora Stone
*These are books I may or may not read, or at least start, in the next week. Having a list helps me not have to stare at my shelves/Kindle for an hour trying to decide what to read.

What's up next on the blog;
I've got so many posts backed up that I might keep doing three posts a week instead of two. I don't think two is enough. Next week I'm starting a series on my reading habits. The good ones, the bad ones, and everything in between.
I'm also doing a post about kids books! The Toddler loves to read and we've gotten some really great books from the library recently and I wanted to share.
A couple of reviews might get thrown in there too, we'll see how many books I finish!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Review of The Relic Master by Christopher Buckley

Image and blurb from 
The year is 1517. Dismas is a relic hunter: one who procures “authentic” religious relics for wealthy and influential clients. His two most important patrons are Frederick the Wise, Elector of Saxony and soon-to-be Cardinal Albrecht of Mainz. While Frederick is drawn to the recent writing of Martin Luther, Albrecht pursues the financial and political benefits of religion and seeks to buy a cardinalship through the selling of indulgences. When Albrecht’s ambitions increase his demands for grander and more marketable relics, Dismas and his artist friend Dürer conspire to manufacture a shroud to sell to the unsuspecting noble. Unfortunately Dürer’s reckless pride exposes Albrecht’s newly acquired shroud as a fake, so Albrecht puts Dismas and Dürer in the custody of four loutish mercenaries and sends them all to steal Christ’s burial cloth (the Shroud of Chambéry), Europe’s most celebrated relic.

On their journey to Savoy where the Shroud will be displayed, they battle a lustful count and are joined by a beautiful female apothecary. It is only when they reach their destination that they realize they are not alone in their intentions to acquire a relic of dubious legitimacy. Filled with fascinating details about art, religion, politics and science; Vatican intrigue; and Buckley’s signature wit, The Relic Master is a delightfully rich and intelligent comic adventure.

I've read a lot of historical fiction over the years. It's one of my favorite genres, but rarely is historical fiction funny. This book was funny. There was one particular reference to 'man-jam' that made me actually set down the book so I could belly laugh without loosing my page. I loved the fast pace and the short chapters, it made the whole thing go by very quickly. Most of the characters were very well written and by the end of the book I cared as much about them as they did each other. Even the German mercenaries who had been sent with Dismas and were relatively flat characters, were very endearing by the end of the book, as their loyalty and friendship to each other, and eventually to Dismas and the others, really showed who they were. 
What I loved the most was the time that The Relic Master was set at. It's set in 1517-19. I could tell you all about what was happening in England at that time. Henry VIII was preparing for the Field of the Cloth of Gold, the summit where the entire English court would go the France and meet with Francois 1 near Calais in 1520, he was still happily married to Catherine of Aragon and his affair with Betsy Blount was just ending since she was pregnant with his son in early 1519. But for all I know about England in that time period, my knowledge of the rest of Europe, and the world for that matter, is almost nothing. So to get to see a view point of the rest of Europe during that time was very interesting for me. The fact that there wasn't even a mention of England was pretty cool for me because it put those events into perspective. The whole of Europe was not focused on the royal court of England, which is easy to loose sight of when that's all you read about. 

As far as things I didn't like; I bought into Dismas being desperate and all that as for making the shroud in the first place, but once he was in Savoy and they had a plan in place, it seemed like there was an easier way to do what they were trying to do. I kept wondering why they didn't just tell Albrecht they'd switched the shrouds and leave the Chambery shroud where it was since Dismas was so sure it was fake anyway. The plan itself was a problem for me too. It was never really a clearly defined plan. They bought the fabric in Basel, but then never talk about a plan again, and when to get to Savoy it's never really talked about either. I felt like the reader was left to figure it out through conjecture, and while that works sometimes here I felt like I was just left out and standing on the edge with no idea what was going on. Thankfully this book was entertaining enough that it didn't matter much and I didn't really think about it much until I was done reading.  
I also thought, that with the back drop of Luther and the religious climate in the book one of the main characters would go through some kind of religious awakening and decide to follow Luther on his reform, but that never happened. Luther was discussed often and Durer seemed to side with him as far as the church went but no ones attitude or religious beliefs were affected by the events in the book. Dismas went on being skeptical, Durer quietly supported reform and kept being a good catholic, and Magda's  beliefs were never mentioned. 

The things I liked far outweighed the issues I found with this book. Also it gets extra credit for using the word 'man-jam' which I'm still laughing about. I'd recommend this book to anyone who likes historical fiction, has a good sense of humor, and doesn't mind a bit of rough language and religious jokes. If you liked Lamb by Christopher Moore, you will probably like The Relic Master. 

Rating; 4 saints jaw bones out of 5

Monday, March 13, 2017

How to Purge Books and Not Regret It Later

In the first post I wrote about how I purged (sold/donated) more than half my book collection, and later came to regret it immensely. Since then I've acquired a lot of books, and I've also let go of some books.

Why would I let go of more books if I regretted the first round?

Because I decided to only have books I loved in my library. I mean really, really, loved. I didn't want to fill up my house with books I wasn't going to read, or read once and decided I didn't care for but kept simply because it was a book. I realized that what I missed wasn't the contents of the books I'd gotten rid of. It was the comforting feel of being surrounded by books, it was the smell of books, and the look of all the different spines next to each other on the shelves. I did miss some of the books. Sometimes I go to look for a book and think 'why in the hell did I ever let that go? what was wrong with me?' I know what was wrong, I was so deep in depression that I was willing to do anything to get out of it, and I did. I purged my whole house, not just the books, and the only things I've regretted letting go of are the the books and a vegetable peeler that got thrown out on accident when I was dumping kitchen drawers into bags and sending them to Goodwill.

The point being, I had to learn the right way, for me, to let go of the books. So this is the process that I use to cull my book collection in order to keep the books I love, and not regret it later.

Things you will need:
1. A box to put the books that will be leaving.
2. Method of catloging books
3. Music or a podcast
3. Dust rag/swiffer

Step 1: Gather all your books. Yes, all of them. I take a laundry basket and go through the house and pick up the books from all the rooms at once. I don't know how they seem to migrate all over the house, but they do. This step is important if this is the first time you've attempted to purge your books, since it's hard to decide what to keep if you don't know exactly what you have to begin with. I don't try to shelve all the books at this point, just kind of pile them up by genre.

Step 2: Catalog new books. I use the Library Thing app for this. I can just scan the book and its added to my library, and I know instantly if the book is a duplicate. I used to buy a lot of duplicates, not so much any more.

Step 3: Unless you have multiple copies on purpose, put the duplicates in the donate box.

Step 4; Look at each shelf. There are some decluttering methods that say you should hold each item and think about if brings you joy, or ask yourself 10 questions about the item, but that takes too long. And if you love books like I do, they all bring you joy. Pick out any books you didn't enjoy or don't intend to read/finish/ever pick up again. Ask yourself why am I keeping this? If you can't find a good answer, put it in the donate box. Even if it was a gift, even if you spent money on it, even if you're not entirely sure you want to let go of it at this point. Put it in the box.

Step 5: Shelve the books that were scattered all over the house. This is where some more purging might have to happen. I currently have two bookshelves. I don't have room for more bookshelves, two is it. So if all my books don't fit on those shelves, I either have to reorganize to get them to fit or be a little more hardcore with the purging. In all honesty, I usually reorganize and find more room. I'm not going to get rid of books I love because the shelves don't look like Martha Stewart organized them, but if you're on the fence about a book this is a good way to help make that decision.

Step 6: Once you've put all the books you don't remember why you're keeping in the box, dust the shelves quickly and pick up the box.

Step 7; Put the box somewhere that you can't see it constantly. In the back of a closet, in the garage, in the trunk of your car, it doesn't matter where you put it, just so long as the books will remain dry and bug free, and it's not somewhere you can't see all the time. I keep mine in the garage. Leave the box there for a couple of weeks. If you don't miss the books then it's okay for them to go. If you find yourself looking for a specific book each time you look at your bookshelves, then go get it out of the box. Clearly, you are not ready to let go of that book yet. If you find a book that you think might need to go in the box, go put it there. I usually leave mine for closer to a month, and there are very few books I've retrieved from the donate box.

Most decluttering methods encourage you to get rid of the items the same day, and for most things that is a good idea, but for books it's a little different. For me it is, anyway. This way you can be sure you're only sending off books that you truly are ready to let go of, and make room for more books you love.

I've also found that although I may not be ready to get rid of a certain book in June, for example, by November I've found books that I love a ton more and I'm ready to let go of that book I was on the fence about. Which is why it's a good idea to do this periodically. I try to go through my books every 3 months or every time I get a big book haul (birthdays, Christmas, a random Tuesday at the bookstore).

The most important thing to remember is that unless you are having to downsize very quickly for some reason, you don't have to be ruthless with donating or selling your books. Be gentle and cultivate your library in a way that works for you, in your own time. As I've gone through this process over that last year or so it's become easier to realize which books I love, and really add to my life and reading habits, and which ones I really don't feel the need to keep around. Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither is a book collection. It takes time to build it and it will take time to refine it to a well loved, well read, well stocked library.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Book Club Pick for March 2017 and the Buzzfeed Quiz I Took

image from
Last months book club pick was Detroit; An American Autopsy by Charlie LeDuff. The discussion around it was great. Everyone agreed that it was good but unsettling in it's honesty about the city and the darker side of where we live. I'd recommend it to anyone who likes dark, gritty stories.

This month was L's turn to pick and she chose a book I haven't read since 9th grade! It's a short month for us since the next meeting is on March 28th so the book is only 150 pages. It's Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451. I don't remember a whole lot from the first time I read it so I'm going into this one feeling like a new reader. I know its a dystopian novel and there's a quote about burning books and then burning people, but that's about it. I've always liked books in the dystopian genre, Brave New World being one of my favorite books of all time, so I think I'll probably love it.

On to the next topic-Buzzfeed! I am a sucker for Buzzfeed quizzes. I was scrolling through Facebook last night, when I should have been reading, and came across a tattoo test that reveals which book you should read next. The quiz can be found here. The result I got was The Perks of Being a Wallflower, which I happen to have gotten for Christmas two years ago and never read.
I wasn't intending to read this next. I have two Sarah J, Maas books I'm dying to get too and I told myself I'd focus on the Malazan Book of the Fallen series once I finished The Relic Master, but since the quiz told me too, I guess The Perks of Being a Wallflower just got bumped up the list. It's a slim book so I'm thinking it will be a pretty fast read. The copy I have is the movie cover, but it is one of the few movie covers that doesn't bother me. Probably because I loved the movie.

So, here is my reading 'plan' ( I use the term 'plan' very loosely and reserve the right to change it at any point.) for the next couple of weeks.
-Finish The Relic Master
-Read The Perks of Being a Wallflower
-Read Fahrenheit 451
-Make progress with Deadhouse Gates
-Start A Court of Mist and Fury
-Read a couple of fun romances in there somewhere

Most of those books are short. Romances are generally pretty short. I think I can handle that plan but I suppose only time will tell.

Monday, March 6, 2017

What I'm Reading Right Now, A Mini Review of Mary Boleyn, and How to Recharge an Introvert

This last week was full of cold, wintry, weather and showings of our house. As such I didn't get a whole lot of reading time. I did get kicked out of my house so strangers could be paraded through it and forced to spend a lot of time with people, people who I don't normally mind, but as an introvert it was very very draining. So here are the books I didn't have time to finish, and the one that I did.

Mary Boleyn; The Mistress of Kings by Alison Weir - Finished!
This one is a library book, so though I'm not able to count it for the RMSC it's been on my TBR list for a long time. Like since it came out, and I'm so glad I finally read it. I've written about my love of The Other Boleyn Girl many times before, and I was surprised to see it mentioned in this book! Of course Ms. Weir was pointing out where the book differed from what Mary's life and character were actually like, and explaining how historical fiction like The Other Boleyn Girl had helped to build the myth of Mary Boleyn into something she probably wasn't, but still...

I loved getting to see what Mary was actually like through her letters and read her family's view of her decisions and what her life was actually like, which is very different from the story in The Other Boleyn Girl. There was only one point that I disagreed with, not even really disagreed, I just thought the author used a very modern train of thought in her interpretation of Mary's thoughts about being separated from her daughter. Other than that I found it very well argued, and loved the book as a whole.

Rating; 5 brightly colored Tudor Roses

The Relic Master by Christopher Buckley  and Deadhouse Gates by Steven Erikson- Still reading
I didn't have a ton of time to devote to reading this week so I didn't make any progress with either of these. I'm thinking I'm going to focus on The Relic Master and get through it so I can read more of the Malazan series without being distracted.

So the last week has worn out my 'dealing with people' reserves. Sunday I was going to hibernate, but I knew that if I was going to do that I would need to do it completely alone, and that was not going to happen. The Husband already had plans for the day so I'd have The Toddler. I would also have the car, and since we only have one that's a pretty big deal! So I did something that very rarely happens; I went out. Just me and The Toddler. And to be honest I love getting to spend time doing things with her outside the house. We spend so much of our time cooped up here, with no car and nothing but a liquor store within walking distance. Going out with her was refreshing. We went to the bookstore! And we had lunch! And we went to the library! So it was a whole day of me, and my baby, and books. I couldn't have asked for anything better than that. I didn't talk to anyone but The Toddler, and cashiers. I didn't have to sit and listen to anyone explain how labor unions started in the industrial revolution, I didn't have to pretend shopping for crap I don't want or need for hours on end is fun, I just got to relax. Going out doesn't always to the trick, and I'm still not looking forward to the showings tomorrow, when I have to vacate my house again, but this week it was exactly what I needed. And I got new books!

Yes, it's the show cover of Outlander. It was cheaper than the normal
cover and I gave in.