2014 Book Favorites and Stats


I read 59 books this year (that’s 3 more than last year!), 23 of them being audio books.

Fiction 46, Non-fiction 13 (that’s 1 less non-fiction book than last year, surprised!)

Female authors 39, Male authors 20 (on par with last year)

This year I tried to read authors that I already knew and loved but I did manage to read 15 new to me fiction authors and that’s a good thing since 4 of them ended up on my favorite list!

Series books- continuing series 13 (Jack Reacher, Sarah Woolson, Kathryn Dance, Kinsey Millhone, Vanessa Michael Munroe, Lincoln Rhyme, Bailey Weggins, Robert Langdon, Milan Jacovich), new series 4 (Blue Heron, Cormoran Strike, All Souls Trilogy, Andy Hayes)

Oldest book read? Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

Longest book? A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness at 579 pages

Most read author? Taylor Stevens (4-The Innocent, The Doll, The Vessel, The Catch)

Least Favorite book? The Invisible Man by HG Wells

Best audio book?  The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith, read by Robert Glenister

My 5 favorite books this year

Gift from the SeaGift from the Sea

I cannot possibly do this book of poetic beauty justice.  The views of Lindbergh can be considered old-fashioned and antiquated, and they are, but that should not diminish the truth behind her words.  As women, we all still struggle with finding time alone, relationships, midlife, aging.  This slim memoir is to be savored one small chapter at a time and by those who can appreciate that it was written in a different, but no less significant period.  Lindbergh lived a privileged (and in some ways tragic) life, but her words can be appreciated by every woman.  I set aside time to fully appreciate each chapter with no outside noise or time constraints (a difficult task), and felt that I had visited and been restored by the sea.

The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress: A NovelThe Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress 

This book really did have a little bit of everything. There were really bad bad guys, politicians without morals, the glitz of New York City, sexy showgirls, hardworking people trying to better themselves, lies, heartbreak, and, of course, murder.  I loved it.

The Best ManThe Best Man

This was not all light and breezy, there were some somber issues like guilt, class, and abandonment and that added a nice layer to the story. The only thing keeping this from a higher rating is the mention Faith’s ‘rack’ more than once.  But the tone and characters of the book left me happy and looking forward to the next in the series!

The Storied Life of A. J. FikryThe Storied Life of AJ Fikry

I spent a few years working in bookstores and loved the experience and, most importantly, the people I worked with.  Book people are the best kind of people, diverse in all ways but their love for the written word.  So, it is no surprise that I loved this book about small town bookstore owner, A.J. Fikry.

The House We Grew Up InThe House We Grew Up In

The Birds, thanks to matriarch Lorelei, are a colorful and life-loving family.  Lorelei loves to savor the beautiful moments and because she attaches these moments to actual objects in her mind the Bird home slowly starts to collect more things than it needs.  When tragedy strikes and dysfunction ensues, the clutter becomes something much worse.  


2014 Movie Favorites and Stats


I watched 66 new to me movies this year (that’s up 4 from last year).  I wrote two Book vs. Movie posts (Jack Reacher & Gone Girl –still time to vote in the polls), wrote a few Friday film talks and continued my 5 word movie reviews asking for your participation and help for charity.  Please consider adding your thoughts to these reviews since they count towards money for charity, maybe even yours!

2014 was my most watched movie year with 26.

The oldest movie I watched was The Man Who Knew Too Much, 1956

Favorite animated film was The Lorax.

Favorite non-human character was Olaf from Frozen.

Two documentaries everyone should see – Fed Up and Happy

Best sequel was Horrible Bosses 2.

Cutest couple- Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis in Friends with Benefits

Most watched actor- Jason Bateman with 4 films. (Horrible Bosses 2, This is Where I Leave You, The Switch, Identity Theft)

Most watched actress was a 2 way tie with 3 movies each- Jennifer Lawrence (Winter’s Bone, Mockingjay, American Hustle)

Jennifer Aniston (Just Go With It, Horrible Bosses 2, The Switch)

My 5 favorite movies this year

St Vincent poster.jpgSt. Vincent. One of my two favorite movies this year had humor, redemption, and a surprising amount of heart.

A man and a woman, wearing battle armour with big guns, and looking battle-worn, stand against an urban background devastated by war. The sky is golden, meteors are falling and in the background Nelsons column can be seen.Edge of Tomorrow.  My other favorite movie was Groundhog Day with guns and aliens.

Two adults and two children in a group hugThe Impossible. Based on the true Thai tsunami, this movie drew me in from the beginning and didn’t let me go until I’d gone through a few tissues.

Austenland Poster.jpgAustenland. Sweet, funny and perfect for Austen lovers.

MockingjayPart1Poster3.jpgMockingjay. Katniss still kicking ass and winning respect.

My most hated movie this year- Lucy.

December’s Movies

If you have a few minutes to browse my past movies or look at the list I hope you will.

Now it’s your turn.  Add your 5 words (or less!) to mine and earn $1 for charity.  Once we get to $100 the person with the most reviews will choose the charity.  Click here to see the past winners, the charities they chose and the other reviews you can add to.  Anyone is welcome to join in at any time.

I hope that you will take a few minutes to participate when you can each month.  It’s fun for me and for everyone else who reads it.  I’m not looking for a critical review, just a few words about how you felt about the movie.  This is ongoing so you can leave your 5 words anytime.

We’re up to $62

Whiplash poster.jpgWhiplash, 2014 (Cast-JK Simmons, Miles Teller, Paul Reiser)          Grade B+

True greatness takes bloody sacrifice.

The music teacher sells insurance.  (Brendan)


Horrible Bosses 2.jpgHorrible Bosses 2, 2014 (Cast-Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis, Charlie Day, Chris Pine, Jennifer Aniston, Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz      Grade B+

I laughed, laughed and laughed.

The Hobbit - The Battle of the Five Armies.jpgThe Hobbit:The Battle of the Five Armies, 2014 (Cast-Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Evangeline Lily, Lee Pace, Orlando Bloom)   Grade B

Lukewarm ending to good trilogy.


Inventing the abbotts poster.jpgInventing the Abbotts, 1997 (Cast-Joaquin Phoenix, Liv Tyler, Billy Crudup, Jennifer Connelly)     Grade B

 Brothers fall for rich sisters.


The Double Poster.jpgThe Double, 2011 (Cast-Richard Gere, Topher Grace, Martin Sheen)                  Grade B-

Gere always fun to watch.


At First Sight.jpgAt First Sight, 1999 (Cast-Val Kilmer, Mira Sorvino, Kelly McGinnis, Nathan Lane, Steven Weber, Bruce Davison)     Grade C

Blind man finds true love.

Merry Christmas!

I love Christmas cards and appreciate every one that friends and family take the time to send.  Every year I choose a favorite and this year my favorite arrived today all the way from Moscow, Russia.  I hope you all have quality time with family or friends.


A Wedding in December by Anita Shreve

A Wedding in DecemberA Wedding in December. Finished 12-22-14, rating 3/5, fiction, pub. 2005

Unabridged audio read by Linda Emond. 9 hours, 50 minutes

At an inn in the Berkshire Mountains, seven former schoolmates gather to celebrate a wedding–a reunion that becomes the occasion of astonishing revelations as the friends collectively recall a long-ago night that indelibly marked each of their lives. Written with the fluent narrative artistry that distinguishes all of Anita Shreve’s bestselling novels, A Wedding in December acutely probes the mysteries of the human heart and the endless allure of paths not taken.

from Goodreads

I find Shreve so hit or miss and this one is probably my least favorite of her books that I’ve read so far.  It seemed like all of the stories led nowhere but to adultery.  It was weird.

He had never been unfaithful to Evelyn, a fact that occasionally had seemed a kind of failure on Harrison’s part, a failure of the imagination. (Sunday)

That line kind of sums up for me how Shreve saw her characters and she decided to let them all imagine.  It rubbed me the wrong way that almost every storyline came to this point.  I’m the same age as these characters (43) and there is certainly more to looking back on life’s missed opportunities than to decide to act on those opportunities no matter the cost.  Don’t misunderstand, infidelity is often part of a story but when there are 6 ‘storylines’ and 5 of them involve infidelity it gets old.

I realize this isn’t a proper review, but it’s almost Christmas and I need to finish wrapping, but I wanted to post my initial thoughts this year!

Mailbox Monday-December 21

mmb-300x282Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came in their mailbox during the last week.Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists.

I’ve only received a few books during the past few weeks but both look fantastic!

The Magician's LieThe Magician’s Lie by Greer McAllister (received from the publisher)  Goodreads has a current giveaway if  you want to try and win your own copy!

Water for Elephants meets The Night Circus in The Magician’s Lie, a debut novel in which the country’s most notorious female illusionist stands accused of her husband’s murder –and she has only one night to convince a small-town policeman of her innocence.

The Amazing Arden is 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.

But when Virgil happens upon the fleeing magician and takes her into custody, she has a very different story to tell. Even handcuffed and alone, Arden is far from powerless—and what she reveals is as unbelievable as it is spellbinding. Over the course of one eerie night, Virgil must decide whether to turn Arden in or set her free… and it will take all he has to see through the smoke and mirrors.

The Dress Shop of Dreams: A NovelThe Dress Shop of Dreams by Menna van Praag (received from the publisher)

For fans of Alice Hoffman, Sarah Addison Allen, and Adriana Trigiani, The Dress Shop of Dreams is a captivating novel of enduring hopes, second chances, and the life-changing magic of true love.

Since her parents’ mysterious deaths many years ago, scientist Cora Sparks has spent her days in the safety of her university lab or at her grandmother Etta’s dress shop. Tucked away on a winding Cambridge street, Etta’s charming tiny store appears quite ordinary to passersby, but the colorfully vibrant racks of beaded silks, delicate laces, and jewel-toned velvets hold bewitching secrets: With just a few stitches from Etta’s needle, these gorgeous gowns have the power to free a woman’s deepest desires.

Etta’s dearest wish is to work her magic on her granddaughter. Cora’s studious, unromantic eye has overlooked Walt, the shy bookseller who has been in love with her forever. Determined not to allow Cora to miss her chance at happiness, Etta sews a tiny stitch into Walt’s collar, hoping to give him the courage to confess his feelings to Cora. But magic spells—like true love—can go awry. After Walt is spurred into action, Etta realizes she’s set in motion a series of astonishing events that will transform Cora’s life in extraordinary and unexpected ways.


The Crime Writer by Gregg Hurwitz

The Crime WriterThe Crime Writer. Finished 12-1-14, thriller, pub. 2007

Unabridged audio read by Scott Brick. 9 hours, 50 minutes

Drew Danner, a crime novelist with a house off L.A.’s storied Mulholland Drive, awakens in a hospital bed with a scar on his head and no memory of being found convulsing over his ex- fiancée’s body the previous night. He was discovered holding a knife, her blood beneath his nails. He himself doesn’t know whether he’s guilty or innocent. To reconstruct the story, the writer must now become the protagonist, searching the corridors of his life and the city he loves.

Soon Drew closes in on clues he may or may not have left for himself, and as another young woman is similarly murdered he has to ask difficult questions not of others but of himself. Beautifully crafted and heartbreakingly told, The Crime Writer confronts our inherent fear of what we might truly be capable of—good or evil.

from Goodreads

I am not a fan of amnesia stories but this one was different since it involved a convenient brain tumor, one that appeared in a jar on a counter just a few pages into the book.  Drew goes on trial for the murder of his ex-girlfriend, but this isn’t a courtroom thriller.  Drew doesn’t know if he killed her, but he thinks he could have and sets out to prove his innocence for his own peace of mind.  Along the way the isolated writer makes a few new friends and relies on some old ones as he is pegged for another murder.

I really liked this Los Angeles noir thriller.  Drew was an unreliable narrator because of his memory loss and I could never quite rule him out as a killer.  Was he?  I think it’s worth a read to find out 🙂

I think the perfect narration by Scott Brick helped create Drew for me and his gravelly voice gave the story the bleakness and urgency it needed.

I think this will appeal to fans of noir, unreliable narrators, books about writers and Los Angeles.  I’ll definitely be reading more books by Hurwitz.

Gluten & Pregnancy mini reviews

The Kind Mama: A Simple Guide to Supercharged Fertility, a Radiant Pregnancy, a Sweeter Birth, and a Healthier, More Beautiful BeginningThe Kind Mama:A Simple Guide to Supercharged Fertility, a Radiant Pregnancy, a Sweeter Birth, and a Healthier, More Beautiful Beginning by Alicia Silverstone

Finished 12-17-14, 4.5/5 stars, pregnancy & health, 368 pages, pub. 2014

The Kind Mama will cover fertility, pregnancy, and post-pregnancy. In other words, it will help you get knocked up, have a goddess pregnancy and birth, and grow the healthiest, happiest child! I’ll be including valuable and inspiring information from doctors, friends, and other women (as well as a section for kind-dads-to-be) and, of course, my own journey through pregnancy, birth, and raising my little one. I hope that it will be a great resource for families looking to bring their baby into a happy, healthy, and natural world.  (from Goodreads)

I don’t remember why I requested this one from the library because I have no plans to get pregnant again (I could write a whole post on how I wish I were one of those women who just breezed through pregnancy and childbirth) but I’m glad that I took the time because I can’t really recommend it enough.  Silverstone is on point with so many of the things going on with our diets and chemicals in our homes that it may not be what you want to read but it will be beneficial.  The beginning section is to help women who may be having trouble getting pregnant prepare their bodies for pregnancy and having a friend who has just gone through this I can say that not only is Silverstone correct, but she’s not the only one saying it.  The books itself is beautiful and it covers pregnancy, birth and what to do after.  The girl is vegan and very much on the natural bandwagon, but I think every new mom will be helped by this book.  This would make a great gift for the pregnant woman in your life.

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Gluten-Free Vegan CookingThe Complete Idiot’s Guide to Gluten-Free Vegan Cooking by Julieanna Hever & Beverly Lynn Bennett

Finished on 8-23-14, 4/5 stars, cooking, 352 pages, pub. 2011

– With more than 200 recipes, this guide offers more delicious dishes than other cookbooks.
– Simplifies preparing delicious gluten-free meals.

(from Goodreads)

Well, I finished this one in August and, although I made copies of some recipes I wanted to try, I haven’t even tried one.  That could be because I tend to have great intentions and less than great follow through 😉 The book itself was easy to understand and it walked you through the basics of going gluten-free AND vegan.  We are not vegan here but we are gluten and dairy free so I did learn a few new things.  One thing I wish more gluten-free sites and books would mention is how difficult it can be to find truly gluten-free beans, especially of the healthy dried variety.  We were using them in a sensory bin six months after we took Gage off gluten and it took me weeks to figure out that his behavior was due the beans. Are beans gluten? No, but when I called the company they admitted they are processed right next to barley, which is gluten, so they are contaminated.  Even my local, healthy grocery store admitted that none of their beans were truly gluten-free.  It’s this kind of stuff that until you or a loved one has a high gluten sensitivity, seems liked hocus-pocus.  It’s not.  Be thankful if you don’t have allergies!




K-3 Climbers – Great Gift Idea!

I don’t typically review anything that’s not book or movie related but I have something special for you.  A friend of mine recently launched her own educational business (her story here) and she let me try it out and give some feedback.  I admit that at first I was skeptical about it because I think of myself as a creative person and I do have a degree in education so I know how to make a lesson plan, but now that I’ve started using the kit Gage and I are both sold!

This is  why I think it’s a great gift idea!  Sometimes moms and dads just don’t know what they should be doing to prepare kids for school.  This makes it so easy!  It’s a subscription service so you could just gift the kit and one month of activities and see how much the person likes it.  Check out their different plans here.  This is a perfect gift for grandparents to give because both grandkids and parents will benefit.

Here’s the deal-You buy a kit for your Pre-K to 2nd grader (there are 2 choices) and it comes with everything you need for daily 5-10 minute learning activities for you and your child.  Here’s what the kit looks like.

IMG_1341[1]It comes with everything you need for a month of activities and it is all planned for you and easy to use.

Here are a few of the activites

IMG_1346[1]Gage liked the spinning but it was also teaching him sight words and graphing.  We did this activity quite a few times.

IMG_1421[1]Working on fine motor skills is big around here so this was perfect.

IMG_1457[1]Some of the activities I’ve made harder for Gage, like this one.  He cut the strips for the puzzle himself and then used the numbers to put it back together.

IMG_1500[1]Telling time, learning about the small and big hands on the clock.  I was amazed that once I explained the concept of the ‘game’ he got them all right.

He loves all of these activities and there have only been 2 that he had trouble completely with the concept and I’m glad.  I think it’s great to encourage learning new things and to know where the problem areas are (for Gage that has been rhyming and estimating).  We’re still on the first month, but I do plan on signing up for the service. It’s learning made fun and easy and it comes delivered to my door.  What’s not to like?

If you have any questions just ask or you can go directly to the website for more info. K-3 Climbers

The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell

The House We Grew Up InThe House We Grew Up In. Finished 12-10-14, 4.5/5 stars, fiction, 386 pages, pub. 2014

Meet the Bird family. They live in a honey-colored house in a picture-perfect Cotswolds village, with rambling, unkempt gardens stretching beyond. Pragmatic Meg, dreamy Beth, and tow-headed twins Rory and Rhys all attend the village school and eat home-cooked meals together every night. Their father is a sweet gangly man named Colin, who still looks like a teenager with floppy hair and owlish, round-framed glasses. Their mother is a beautiful hippy named Lorelei, who exists entirely in the moment. And she makes every moment sparkle in her children’s lives.

Then one Easter weekend, tragedy comes to call. The event is so devastating that, almost imperceptibly, it begins to tear the family apart. Years pass as the children become adults, find new relationships, and develop their own separate lives. Soon it seems as though they’ve never been a family at all. But then something happens that calls them back to the house they grew up in — and to what really happened that Easter weekend so many years ago.

from Goodreads


I received this book courtesy of the publisher and  She Reads and I was supposed to have my review posted by the end of November.  Well, life happens and I didn’t even finish reading it until a few days ago.  My tardiness is not a reflection on the book because I LOVED IT!  If you like family drama with a large side of dysfunction then this is the story for you.

The Birds, thanks to matriarch Lorelei, are a colorful and life-loving family.  Lorelei loves to savor the beautiful moments and because she attaches these moments to actual objects in her mind the Bird home slowly starts to collect more things than it needs.  When tragedy strikes and dysfunction ensues, the clutter becomes something much worse.  Lorelei, beautiful and sparkly, needy and dark, is powerless as her family starts to unravel. Each of her children affected in different ways by what happens.

I don’t want to give too much away.  There is enough drama for ten families but it was told in such a way that it was both light-hearted and surprisingly deep without ever feeling too heavy.  The Birds are going to stay with me for awhile and possibly help me with my penchant for clutter.