Thursday, February 4, 2016

What I'm Reading

Before you continue reading this post about me reading books and supplying you with my brilliant thoughts on said books, you must know one thing: I am very hard on books when it comes to critiquing, recommending, and rating. Very seldom do I give books a full 5 stars. Looking back on some of my favorite 4-star books, I find myself thinking, maybe this should be a 5? But then I talk it over with myself, argue a bit, and decide, no, it's definitely a 4 1/2-star book. The following three books are perfect examples of this serious struggle.

Let's start with the book I most recently finished, Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley, which is a 2012 Printz Winner (best literature for young adults) and 2012 Morris Winner (best author debut). I added this book to my TBR list years ago when it was talked about everywhere. Finally, I got around to it. A quick summary: seventeen-year-old Cullen Witter lives in small, quiet, boring Lily, Arkansas. Nothing ever happens, except the summer before his senior year his cousin dies from a drug overdose, an extinct woodpecker has decided to resurrect itself, and Cullen's younger brother, Gabriel, goes missing. Meanwhile, a young missionary in Africa has lost his faith and has no idea what to do next. Eventually, these two stories surprisingly intertwine, creating a brilliant piece of literature.

Oh, do I have mixed emotions and THOUGHTS about this YA novel! Honestly, I'm still processing it, and need to have a chat with my co-worker to discuss some things. I did like that it made me think, and I stopped reading to do a bit of research on the religious aspect of the book (which is a sub-sub-plot, per se, but being a Christian and all, I could not just let it go by without fact checking, and finding sources, and it made me look at the movie Noah differently, which I strongly disliked...but, I digress). I liked it, the way the different stories came together, the writing style (how effortlessly easy and right it feels), the simple and complex thoughts of a seventeen-year-old, and the ending! GAH! Oh, my thoughts! Oh, my brain! I want it to be happy, yet I get annoyed when everything ends happily, wrapped up in a pretty bow. The world isn't always good with a happily-ever-after, so sometimes, dagum it(!), books don't have to be either! There are so many thoughts and expressions and things I want to say but I can't because I don't want to spoil anything because I know you will want to read this book. You must read this book, if only so we can discuss. <--- this is probably a 5-star rating reaction.

Another book I couldn't put down was our current book club read, The Magician's Lie by Greer Macallister. One of the many groups I belong to on Good Reads was reading this. It was recomended to fans of The Night Circus (one of my great book loves) and Water for Elephants (not a fan). As I've said numerous times before, anything compared to my beloved Erin Morgenstern is immediately added to my TBR list. The Magician's Lie is set around the turn of 20th century, following the Amazing Arden, "the most famous female illusionist of her day, renowned for her notorious trick of sawing a man in half on stage. One night in Waterloo, Iowa, with young policeman Virgil Holt watching from the audience, she swaps her trademark saw for a fire ax. Is it a new version of the illusion, or an all-too-real murder? When Arden’s husband is found lifeless beneath the stage later that night, the answer seems clear." (Good Reads) Yet, when questioned by the police officer, Arden finally gets to tell her story, her whole story. Is she really guilty?
With that being said, this is definitely more Water for Elephants than The Night Circus which disappointed me, slightly. Once I realized that, I found I enjoyed this magical story. I enjoyed the historical setting for the main event, the details placed me there--everything visualized easily. It was fast-paced, but not so much that the reader felt like he/she missed out on anything. I liked the POV shifts of the storytelling. Although, from paying attention, I assumed--correctly--the ending halfway through, but I still found myself caught up in the magician's tale. I wish there would have been more from Virgil and Clyde, yet I was satisfied because it was all about Arden, always had been, just as it should. I liked this much more than Water for Elephants. I think this tale would make a decent movie. (FYI, I did like the movie adaptation of Water for Elephants...this is rare.)

And my third couldn't-put-down-until-I-finished-it title is the latest from Denis Hunter, Falling Like Snowflakes. To summarize, Eden is on the run to protect her son, the only witness of a horrible crime. Her car breaks down in Summer Harbor, Main (introduced in Hunter's previous book), where she meets hunky, hero Beau--a former sheriff's deputy turned Christmas tree farm owner. There's chemistry, denial, past issues, chemistry, love, love, love.... I'm sure you can imagine. One of my guilty Christian romances. Buuuttttt, I cannot put down her books....gahhhhhhhhhh! The only reason this isn't a 5-star rating is because I am married to a sheriff's deputy, and I know a little bit about the profession, and some things seemed inaccurate throughout the book (or delayed, like the former sheriff's deputy shouldn't have taken so long to pursue, style of investigation, etc.) It bothered me a bit, and when I mentioned it to my hubby he concurred. <---this is why I'm so hard on ratings. I let the little things bother me. Ugh.

For a fun bonus title, I'm suggesting  The Year of Cozy: 125 Recipes, Crafts, & Other Homemade Adventures mhkhjkjk
.....this book had a lovely-- and cozy-- layout. and she owns a corgi!! immediately a 5-star rating! ;)

I really think I'd enjoy perusing this book often and need to add it to my birthday list. I love the idea of making a "to-do" list by month/season, with little emphasis on holidays and more focus on getting in touch with yourself, relationships, and true enjoyment of life.

Annnnnd my DO NOT READ! book selection is After You. You know, the book after the brilliant, everyone-can't-stop-talking-about Me Before You. Yes, I am 100% serious right now. Poor Jojo Moyes. This is exactly what happens when you write a sequel to a book because fans demand it, or need to know what happens to the characters. Noooo! Never, never do that! This book was a devastating disappointment. This was fan-fiction, and it felt like fan-fiction. It felt forced. I felt duped. If you have read the first one, I promise you, you need to stop there. Be completely satisfied, emotionally drained, and happy you finished a well-written (and, yes, a 5-star rated!) book. A loved book, and just wonder about the characters. There's no need to know. It's not worth knowing. I didn't abandoned the book because I felt I owed it to Moyes to finish. Me Before You was just so fantastic.

Please, share your thoughts in the comments below if you have read any of these, or if you have a suggested book.

With Love and God Bless,

Saturday, January 16, 2016


Image found on Pinterest

1. I'm okay.

2. Since I deactivated my Facebook account earlier this week, friends have been coming out of the wood-works with all shades of concern. Thank you for your thoughts, questions, and encouragement. Even though I've never been one to constantly post about my goings-on, I found myself getting too caught up in others. Taking a step back from social media has laid heavy on my heart for the past month or so. I committed myself to giving it up for Lent this year. However, I was at church this past weekend, and Pastor Mike recently started a new series called "FIT." He's talking about being fit in various areas of our lives, and last Saturday's sermon was on making your mind/soul "fit." He discussed things that rob us of a fit mind, like anger, worry/fear, comparison, and not forgiving others. His comparison example was, you guessed it, social media. It's like God *lightly* smacked me on the head. Why wait until Lent? Why not start now? My church is also in the midst of a 21-day fast, so this is perfect. I might even go beyond the 21 days.

3. I'm committed to getting back my joy.

4. Adult coloring is quickly become that outlet. I find my mind is completely relaxed. I'm not worrying about the future. I'm not going over and over my to-do list, both at home and at work. I'm not even thinking, which is why this new hobby is more peaceful than reading <--- shut the front door! (as my husband likes to exclaim). Mr. B bought me an electric pencil sharpener to aid me in this endeavor.

5. The snow makes me happy. The cold makes me happy. It means less social commitments. More evenings at home by the fireside. More time spent with my Misters. More time in the kitchen. More getting my thoughts straight. More quiet times with God and His Word.

6.And you might find this hard to believe, but I haven't been on my yoga mat since late October. No wonder I'm out of sorts! This must be remedied.

With Love and God Bless,

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

My Beautiful Month

In case you aren't on Instagram, or don't follow me, here's a peek at my Insta-Life lately.
[*All photos are taken from my Instagram account.]

While Christmas shopping, we found a humane shelter giving tree and bought a bunch of gifts for the little guy, Mr. Zub. A new tradition started!

Mr. B, these CAVS seats are excellent!

My first finished adult coloring page. It's so PRETTY!

Book Club + Hot Chocolate Bar = Good Times


With Love and God Bless,

Tuesday, December 22, 2015


1. I finished weeding the juvenile biographies today, and oh my stars, look at these! My poor young patrons. Hahaha, oh thank goodness these went out the door! Collection embarrassment. I mean just look at Britney. And do we even remember there was a Venus to Serena?

2. I'm really craving a chocolate milkshake right now. Like really, really craving one. Like somebody get over here and bring me a chocolate shake! Pleeasssseee. With a cherry on top. (But not really 'cause those things are toxic. "Don't you know that your toxic?")

3. Are we ready for Christmas? Ummm, definitely not over here. Christmas is in two days and I still have gifts to purchase and wrap and how is Christmas in two days?!

4. I have not been in the Christmas spirit at all this season. All the decorations, the baking, the carols, the lights...I don't really care about any of it this year. And I love Christmas. But right now, just bring on 2016 already!

5. Speaking of 2016...any goals or resolutions?

With Love and God Bless,

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Music Love

My latest music obsession.

I went to bed singing it, I woke up singing it. Heck, I think I might have been singing it in my sleep. However, you cannot ask Mr. B to verify this because he's a deep, deep sleeper. I mean, a car could hit our house and he wouldn't know. Oh, wait.... ha ha.

Anyhoo, my latest listener is Maren Morris' "My Church." I apologize that there isn't an official video. But just sit back and enjoy her voice and this wonderful country-country song. And turn it up. Loud. LOVE THIS.

Can I get an amen?!

With Love and God Bless,

Monday, December 14, 2015

Cookies for Days

Not to brag, but Jess and I are getting really good at this whole baking extravaganza cookie thing.

Two years running now, we succeeded in making dozens of cookies without any major disasters. No burnt Pretzel Bark, no forgotten ingredients, no cookies in a heap on the floor, no time-consuming meals, and no major messes (well almost, you see, flour is tricky thing...).

This eighth(!) year was a roaring success. At the end of the day, we had 10 different cookies and one bark. Oh, and a couple scars.


Yes, if I could sum up this year's baking day with one word, "ouch" along with a few other choice words comes to mind.

And it's a new word for us. We might have been picking up cookies from the floor for years and cleaning flour off the walls and breaking utensils, but we're pretty good at knowing things are hot.

Apparently, I forgot this at 9 am when we started making the Brown Butters. I think the name itself is warning enough. Yet, when I decided to remove the saucepan full of boiling browned butter from the stove so it wouldn't burn I forgot. I continued to stir. I continued to chat. And then some splattered out of the pan and onto my barefoot. Oh my mother-loving stars!

First off, I have to admit, this is the first baking extravaganza not to require socks or thick slippers because it's 60 freaking degrees outside. In December! In Ohio! How are we supposed to chill our extra dough if there's no snow?! Why is it not cold enough to let the bark set up outside, and instead I have to shove it in my freezer, where there is no room because Mr. B thought a half empty freezer is no good and he must stock it with meat the day before our cookie baking madness?! But I digress.

Thank you, Jesus, for lavender oil. When I was finally able to form decent coherent words, Jessica handed me the oil and I rubbed it all over the top of my foot. Within the hour the burn was gone, the mark was gone, and I was beyond grateful in a happy dance form. I was lucky, however, Jessica was not. I'm going to blame it on her pregnant brain, but she too forgot hot things are hot. Baking sheets straight from a hot oven are hot. Yeah, she pulled a Brindi. I still have the scars from last July. I'm sure she will have the scar this time next year; it's bigger and angrier. Ouch! Unfortunately, the lavender oil only soothed her. It's funny how sensitive the skin on our forearm truly is. It's also funny the words that come out of our lady mouths.

Other than the pain, we had quite the sugar-filled, fun day. The Brown Butters turned out to be the tastiest ones we've made in a while, and Mr. B can attest to said tastiness. Definitely. In fact we even tripled the batter, giving us well over 175 of these bite-sized cookies. The first cookies started, the last ones finished. As we were frosting these bad boys, Mr. B kept walking by and grabbing them. Soon I realized he was eating them faster than I was frosting them. I had to tell him to stop because we had them counted and still had to divide them up. Jessica gave me a this-is-why-we-do-it-at-my-house look. As Monica says, I know!

In the end, we ended up with 80 Brown Butters each. Yet, it was odd. When I got home from work the next evening there were only 30 of these delectable cookies in the entire house. These 30 now reside in the back of the freezer. Mr. B is verbally not happy about this.

With Love and God Bless,

Thursday, December 3, 2015

My Beautiful Month

In case you aren't on Instagram, or don't follow me, here's a peek at my Insta-Life lately.
[*All photos are taken from my Instagram account.]

Too many books and not enough time. True story.

'Tis the season for hot chocolate, and Starbucks puts crack in theirs. (Well, don't quote me on that, but it's sooo good. I'm sooo addicted.)

Magic Tree House madness at work.

Playing this on the radio?!?!?! Yesssssss!

Oh, I bought a new car. Meet Tara. Tara, this is everyone. (Bonus points if you know her namesake.)

With Love and God Bless,

Monday, November 30, 2015

Virtual Coffee Date

I pray everyone had a happy, healthy, blessed, and FILLING Thanksgiving. I know I did... If we were having coffee right now, I know you'd want to hear about the family and what craziness happened at this year's dinner table, but I'm just dying to share my Christmas baking list with y'all and I just can't wait.

But priorities first, get your coffee (and maybe a few cookies since y'all be starved for them by the time you read this post) and then take a peek at my list.

First off, I made a list. I checked it twice. I checked last year's list, and the year before that, and the year before that... and I completely ignored all of the cookies I failed to make. They will be made one day. They will not be forgotten. But I can't help it. I see a new cookie recipe the day before and my plans change. Wait. Is that something shiny?

I always make at least 8 different types of cookies (why eight? It's my favorite, it's powerful, it just happens), and this year I think I'll choose two recipes for each category and decide later on. So, here we go!

1. The one cookie that just screams Christmas: The Sugar Cookie
2. The obvious cookie: The Chocolate Chip Cookie
3. The must-have-or-everyone-gets-mad cookie: The Brown Butters with Caramel Frosting
  • The Famous Brown Butters (Obviously, except this year I might make them on their own separate day, so I can make plenty for EVERYBODY.)
  • I'm not sure if I want to go with Pretzel Bark again or maybe try a new scone recipe (possibly Maple Pecan Scones)
4. My traditional Christmas cookie: The Snickerdoodle
5. My absolute-favorite-cookie-in-the-whole-wide-world: The Almond Blueberry Cookie
6. The random cookie: Something with "Apple" (I have no idea why, but this has become a thing)
  •  Apple & Spice Cookies (found scribbled on a random note card in the back of a cookbook)
  •  No-Bake Tiramisu Cookies (no idea why I place them in this category....)
7. The "Girls Only!" cookie: Something with LEMON (this is a must for me and Mama)
8. The must-not-forget-Daddy cookie: The Chocolate [Something] Cookie
  • Chocolate Crackle Tops or Chocolate Kisses
  • Mocha Latte Logs (I've been wanting to make these all year!)
I plan to make my Raspberry Rudolph Noses for my Charlie Brown Christmas program at work. And I'm thinking about making some Earl Grey Truffles for hostess gifts this year. They sound fabulous. Instant invitation to parties ;)

Wouldn't these go perfectly with your coffee?

Happy Holiday Baking!

What's on your baking list this season?
With Love and God Bless,