Currently Reading: August 2018

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Apropos to my last post about balancing reading with responsibility, I haven’t blogged here in over a month. My freelance work has been consuming most of my time the last few weeks, though I did have time to sneak in a short camping trip with the family. I’m hoping with school starting in a few weeks, I’ll be able to get into a regular routine with a better balance of work and leisure activities.

I have still had time to read occasionally, so here’s what I’m currently reading:


Seven Stones to Stand or Fall by Diana Gabaldon. I’m halfway through the last short story in this collection. It’s been a fun read; I definitely liked some of the stories more than others, but overall I enjoyed getting more into the lives of some of the secondary and tertiary characters from the Outlander universe.


Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow. This is a slow read for me, but I’m enjoying it! I keep hitting the due date on my library copy and having to wait for my name to get back to the top of the wait list. I may just go ahead and buy a copy so I can finish it sometime this decade.


Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman. I picked this up because the topic sounded interesting and it was in the Available Now section of Overdrive for my local library. I’ve never read anything by Gaiman, except Good Omens (his collaboration with Terry Pratchett), which I read last month and LOVED. Despite how much I loved that book, I’m not sure I’ll keep going with Norse Mythology. I’m finding the writing style and prose really distracting. It’s so choppy; it feels like I’m reading a collection of facts in a textbook instead of a story. I can’t decide yet if I want to throw it in the DNF pile. Have you read it? Did you find the prose distracting?


Proven Guilty by Jim Butcher. This is Book 8 in the Dresden Files. I am thoroughly enjoying this series, and I’ve liked each book better than the last. This one is off to a good start, so I’m happy about that.

So that’s what I’m reading right now. How about you? What’s the best book you’re reading?

Balancing Reading With Responsibility

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I’m sorry it’s been so long since I posted. I was on vacation for a few days, and I’ve been swamped with work ever since I came back. (One of the challenges of freelancing is the lack of paid vacation: no work=no income). But, I think things are back under control, so I’m back to the blog!

Does anyone else find it a challenge to balance leisure activities (reading) with responsibilities? I do. I could read for hours at a time, but most days I can’t really justify that sort of procrastination. That’s one of the best things about vacation – I can read as long as I want without feeling guilty.

On the other hand, I don’t want to avoid reading just because I can’t dedicate hours to it every day. There were a few years, especially when the kids were really young, that I read very little because I knew I couldn’t read for more than a few minutes at a time. I didn’t want to start a book it would take me months to finish, and even though I wanted to read at night, I would fall asleep after only a few sentences.

I’ve found a good way to achieve that balance – at least, one that works well for me. I started reading several books at a time. When I have to catch a few minutes of reading here and there, picking from a few ongoing stories is easier for me than trying to limit my time reading a single book. If my head, since I’m splitting my attention between a few storylines anyway, it’s not as big of a deal if I don’t get to immerse myself in a fictional world all day.

I’ve also learned to enjoy reading on my Kindle. Sure, physical books are still my favorite, but checking out e-books from the library is so easy and convenient. Plus I’m more likely to snatch a few minutes to read when I just have to look on my phone instead of lug around a physical book all the time.

So, those are my strategies for balancing my reading life with being a responsible adult: reading several books at a time and always having at least one Kindle read in rotation. What about you? I’d love to hear your strategies for maintaining a reading life that balances well with everything else.

Food in Books

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I have a hobbit-level obsession with reading about, tasting, and sometimes cooking food. I used to watch Food Network for hours (back when it actually aired cooking shows and wasn’t the Guy Fieri Network). My Instagram is feed is chock-full of posts from my favorite food bloggers. And I’ve already confessed my love of collecting cookbooks. So it should come as no surprise that I love reading books that include lots of descriptions of food, whether they are books about food or not.

I do read food-themed books every once in a while, and I have a fair amount of foodie memoirs on my TBR list. But more often, I notice and enjoy descriptions of food when they occur in the books I read, no matter what genre those books fall into. So for anyone else out there like me, here’s a list of some of my favorite books with delectable descriptions of yummy eats.

  1. The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. You probably expected this one since I started this post describing myself as a hobbit. I love how Tolkien writes about food, not just because I want to try most of the dishes in the books, but because it’s part of a larger appreciation for simple things. One of the most central concepts of the hobbits is their ability to take great pleasure in normal, everyday things like good food and drink, gardening, and living a quiet, productive life.
  2. The Redwall series by Brian Jacques. I didn’t read these children’s books until I was an adult, but they are so much fun. Talking animals going on heroic quests? Yes, please! But along with being awesome fantasy stories, these books have some of the best food descriptions I’ve ever read. Similar to Tolkien, Jacques has his characters find their rest and fellowship around the table, enjoying simple, wholesome meals.
  3. The Chief Inspector Gamache series by Louise Penny. Set in a tiny town in Quebec, these “cozy mystery” books follow both the Inspector and his team as well as the residents of the town. The town’s bistro serves as a central meeting place throughout the stories, and Penny’s stunning descriptions of the rich French cuisine enjoyed there make me hungry whenever I’m reading. I need to learn how to make croissants!
  4. Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist. This is technically within the food genre, but it’s more than a cookbook. While there are some recipes, most of the text is dedicated to food-related essays, many of which center on the important role food plays in various aspects of life. From bolstering celebrations to bringing comfort during grief, food can be more than just sustenance. I loved the writing and the tone of this book.
  5. Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo. While food doesn’t play as big of a role in these books, I can’t think of anything that’s made me want to eat waffles and chocolate as much as these books did.

Do you like descriptions of food in the books you read? Do you have any favorites? I’d love to hear about your recommended epicurean reads!

Currently Reading: Mid June 2018

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I’ve had more time than usual to read lately because I took a little time off work (the flexibility of freelancing is awesome). Here’s an updated list of my current reads. I’ve linked this post over at Modern Mrs. Darcy.

5647399Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow. I’ve been listing to the Hamilton musical soundtrack on repeat for months, so I was excited when my library hold on this one finally came in. I’m only a couple chapters in, but it’s fascinating so far. This is the first biography I’ve read by Chernow, but I doubt it will be the last. His writing style is easy to read and interesting, so I don’t feel like I’m reading a textbook.



Seven Stones To Stand Or Fall by Diana Gabaldon. I love the Outlander universe, and I’m really enjoying this collection of short stories/novellas. They focus on secondary and tertiary characters, not Jamie and Claire, and it’s fun to find out their backstories.


The Half Baked Harvest Cookbook by Tieghan Gerard. As I’ve said before, I love collecting and reading cookbooks, so this one was one of my birthday presents. I’ve been a fan of the Half Baked Harvest blog for a long time, and I especially love Tieghan’s photography. I’m really excited to have this one in my collection.


Glass Houses by Louise Penny. This is Book 13 of the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series, which I have devoured over the last few months. I actually started this book a while ago and then put it on hold, because I prefer to read Penny’s books when I have time to get fully immersed in the world without taking lots of breaks. I’m packing this one to read on the mini vacation I have coming up.

So that’s what’s on my currently reading list. What about you? I’d love to know what books are on your list!

Book Review: The Sun Is Also A Star

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Title: The Sun Is Also A Star

Author: Nicola Yoon

I feel like I’ve been seeing this book everywhere for the last few months, so when it showed up in my library’s “Available Now” section, I figured I’d check it out. I’m so glad I did! It’s contemporary YA, which I don’t usually read. Most of the YA I enjoy is fantasy/sci-fi, but I really liked this one.

The book is about a boy and a girl who meet by chance and fall in love. Things are complicated, however, since they meet on the eve of the girl’s deportation (she is an undocumented immigrant). The story is told from multiple viewpoints: primarily the two main characters’, but interspersed with entries from other secondary characters and informational mini-essays. The format takes a little bit to get used to, but it works really well for the story.

I loved this book so much more than I thought I would, and I definitely cried at the end. The characters are extremely well-written; I read this book in two days because I just had to know what would happen to them. No spoilers, but I found the ending beautiful.

If you’re not a typical fan of YA, I’d encourage you to give this one a try. It’s engaging and sweet, and it explores some interesting topics like immigration, interracial couples, and what love means.

Have you read The Sun Is Also A Star? What did you think?

Book Review: Wonder Woman: Warbringer


Title: Wonder Woman: Warbringer

Author: Leigh Bardugo

I picked up this book from the library because 1) Leigh Bardugo and 2) I loved the Wonder Woman movie. I went into it without any expectations, because I’ve never read any comic books. I am not familiar with any of the character’s story arcs or timelines, so I can’t say how this one relates to the Wonder Woman canon.

That said, I loved this book! It was definitely more of a YA story than last year’s movie, but it was well-written and entertaining. In the story, a 17-year-old Diana goes on a quest in the World of Man to prove her worth as an Amazon. There are numerous elements of a “coming-of-age” story, but it doesn’t feel forced. I enjoyed the world-building centered on the Amazons, their island, and the goddesses who watch over them. The story had a couple twists I didn’t expect, and it was fast-paced and fun from beginning to end.

While most of the characters in the story are teenagers, they didn’t feel juvenile or melodramatic. There was a clear focus on friendships regardless of different viewpoints and backgrounds. Strong female characters and an overall “feminist” vibe didn’t devolve into man-hating. Diana’s a kick-ass heroine, but that’s not the only aspect of her character. Perhaps my favorite theme in the whole book is the idea that confidence and a sense of personal worth have to come from within instead of from others.

If you want a fun, exciting read, I’d definitely recommend this one. If you’ve read the book, what did you think? I’d love to hear your opinion!

Currently Reading: June 2018

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It’s a new month, so it’s time to post what I’m currently reading! As usual, my currently reading list includes physical books I own and digital library copies. I love being able to switch back and forth; I can sit on the couch and enjoy the weight and feel of a hardcover, but I don’t have to carry it with me when I’m going to be reading away from home. So, without further ado, here’s my list:

The Fiery Cross by Diana Gabaldon. I finished my re-read of Book 4 in the Outlander series last month, so it’s on to Book 5.

Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo. This is part of the DC Icons set of superhero novelizations, and I pretty much picked it up on a whim based on the fact that I’m a fan of Bardugo’s Grishaverse books. So far, I’m really enjoying this story. It’s fast-paced and fun with a teenage Diana going through a coming-of-age adventure quest. I’m excited to see how the end turns out. Full disclosure: I’ve never read superhero comics, so I can’t accurately compare this novelization to any comic-book canon. Most of what I know about superheroes comes from the movies released in recent years.

The Sun Is Also A Star by Nicola Yoon. I’m not technically reading this yet, as the digital copy is downloading to my Kindle right now. This is another title I picked up on a whim: I feel like I’ve seen rave reviews of it everywhere, and it was in my library’s Available Now section. It’s YA, so chances are I’ll either love it or hate it (since that seems to be my relationship with the genre). But I do love the cover art!

That’s it for now! I have several titles on hold with the library, so I’m hoping to start reading a few more things soon. What about you? What’s the best book you’re reading right now?

Collecting Cookbooks

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I think I’ve made it clear by now that one of the things I collect is books. Most of the shelves (and other horizontal surfaces) in my house hold books. Textbooks, fiction, nonfiction, series, there’s a pretty good mix. But I also love collecting cookbooks, and I definitely have many more than I will ever consistently use.

I love reading good food writing. Aside from book-related sites, the only other blogs I follow consistently focus on food. And what makes good food writing even better? Great food photography. Cookbooks are the perfect pairing. Plus, I do cook on a fairly regular basis, so I can convince myself that purchasing cookbooks is a “household” expense!

So, I have lots of cookbooks. And honestly, I have lots of cookbooks that I never use for recipes. Sometimes I use my reading time to just browse through a stack of my favorite cookbooks, looking at the pictures and reading the recipe descriptions. For example, Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home. I love reading through the descriptions and drooling over the pictures. Have I made any of the recipes? Nope. (Mostly because the ingredient cost and time commitment are too much for a standard weeknight dinner.) I have the same problem with many of the Williams-Sonoma cookbooks I have. Enjoy the pictures and descriptions, but don’t really use them to cook very much.

On the other hand, I absolutely love my copy of Smitten Kitchen Every Day. I cook dishes from the blog all the time, and I love using the hardcover cookbook every few weeks. My Cook It in Cast Iron book from America’s Test Kitchen also gets a good workout. I’ve found a lot of favorite recipes in my Taste of Home binder-style cookbooks too (The Cookbook and The Baking Book).

I also have a soft spot for novelty cookbooks. I have at least three of them sitting on my Amazon wishlist right now. My husband got me The Redwall Cookbook for Christmas a few years ago, and it’s one of my favorite ones to look through. No pictures, but it’s full of adorable illustrations.

I’ve been trying to pare down my collection in the last few years. I’ve gone through all the cookbooks and given away those that I never use and don’t enjoy as reading material. I think I still have too many. But it’s not going to stop me from buying more! I’ve just accepted that I like collecting cookbooks as a hobby, and I’m OK with that.

What about you? Am I the only one who collects cookbooks for fun, even if I don’t use all of them for the recipes? I’d love to hear about your favorites!


Confession: I’m a Christian Who Doesn’t Read Christian Fiction

I’m a Christian, and for a long time, that meant I predominantly read Christian books. Aside from the horse books I talked about here, the vast majority of my reading in high school and college was Christian fiction. I devoured anything by Gilbert Morris, Michael Pella, Lori Wick, and even <blush> Francine Rivers. My narrow reading scope fit in nicely with my legalistic education and fear of being exposed to anything “worldly.”

And then I grew up. It didn’t happen until my early 30s, but I finally moved beyond the fear and legalism and learned to enjoy books that didn’t fit into the Christian bubble. I read nonfiction about people other faiths. I picked up fantasy and sci-fi titles that weren’t the church-sanctioned Chronicles of Narnia and LOTR. I pushed against my content comfort zone and read the entire Outlander series. And you know what happened? I didn’t lose my faith or my personal moral values. Instead, I developed a more real and meaningful connection to my beliefs.

I’m still a Christian, but I don’t read much Christian fiction these days. Every once in a while, I’ll pick up something on the “fringes,” like Ted Dekker, but I have no desire to return to standard Christian fiction. For one thing, Christian fiction is kind of like Christian music: There are a few great things there, but you have to dig through a lot of mediocrity to find them. For another, I find Christian fiction completely unrelatable. The perfect characters, contrived conversion plots, and lack of any sort of real challenges now makes me feel annoyed rather than safe. And I have a real issue with the misogynistic double standards that characterize most stories (but that will have to be a different post).

Do I regret the years I spent reading within such a confining bubble? Kind of. I could have had more years to discover outstanding authors and challenging, engrossing stories. But I am thankful for the shift in my perspective. Without my experience with Christian fiction, I may not have been able to appreciate the benefits of a diverse reading list. I might not have recognized how much more I can learn, even about my faith, from reading secular books.

So here I am, a Christian who doesn’t read Christian fiction. Am I alone here? Does anyone else have a similar experience of moving beyond a tightly controlled list of “acceptable” books? I’d love to hear your perspective!

Favorite Books for Horse Lovers of All Ages

I’ve loved horses for as long as I can remember. I was also very fortunate to spend much of my childhood and early adulthood taking riding lessons. Even though I’ve never owned a horse, I’ve had a few leased and lesson horses that hold a special place in my heart.

As a horse-obsessed kid and teenager, I read everything equine-related I could get my hands on. I had spent most of my weekly library trips digging through the stack of Saddle Club titles to find ones I hadn’t read (or re-read). I still have vivid mental pictures of most of the pages in the Usborne Encyclopedia of Horses. I remember The Black Stallion as one of the first real chapter books I read as a child. I have one collector’s edition of Black Beauty and at least two different versions I want for my shelf.

As an adult, I’ve broadened my reading horizons beyond just horse-themed books, but I still feel a little thrill every time I pick up a title featuring horses. So, I figured I’d make a list of some great books for anyone else like me who primarily lives out their childhood dreams by reading about horses.

  1. Black Beauty by Anna Sewell. This classic children’s novel is narrated in first-person by the titular horse and follows his life from foal-hood through retirement. It’s beautifully written, and there are several illustrated editions that are stunning as well.
  2. Seabiscuit: An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand. In her signature style, Hillenbrand takes massive amounts of information from exhaustive research and turns it into an engaging story. The reading experience is similar to that of a novel, so it’s a great choice for people who typically prefer fiction to non-fiction. The movie adaptation was pretty good as well.
  3. The Black Stallion by Walter Farley. Outcast child develops a friendship with an outcast animal. It may be the theme of countless children’s novels, but that doesn’t mean it’s not sweet and enjoyable to read. There are other books in this series, but this one is my favorite.
  4. Misty of Chincoteague, Brighty of the Grand Canyon, King of the Wind, and many others by Marguerite Henry. These books are considered children’s classics for a reason. They feature gorgeous descriptions, interesting settings, and fascinating equine-centric stories. If I remember correctly, King of the Wind was my favorite.
  5. The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater. I picked this up on a whim and was so glad I did. It’s YA with a mild fantasy element (a style which, in my experience, is hit-or-miss), but I thoroughly enjoyed it. The mythical horse-like creatures are interesting and unique, and there’s a nice mix of coming-of-age, action, and romance.
  6. Anything by Dick Francis. Murder mystery and horses? Check. Interesting characters and diverse settings/storylines? Check. Fuel for Anglophiles? Check. I love how Francis sets his stories in the horse world but still manages to make them unique. Most books are standalone titles, but there is a set of five with the same character. (Odds Against, Whip Hand, Come to Grief, Under Orders, Refusal)

Do you have any horse books you’d add to this list? I’m always looking for additions to my TRB pile.