Books

[recently read] | november 2016

I used to be really diligent about reviewing every book I read, and I’ve fallen out of the habit. In lieu of individual reviews, I want to share my top five books I read each month.

the-careful-undressing-of-loveThe Careful Undressing of Love by Corey Ann Haydu

This new YA novel comes out in January, and I can’t wait to hear what others have to say about it!

Everyone knows that the girls on Devonnaire Street are different—are cursed. Any boy they fall in love with is doomed to die.

This story has a thread of magical realism running through it told in a voice that is fierce and tender. A beautiful coming of age story about friendship, family, faith, and first love, this novel is perfect for fans of Places No One Knows by Brenna Yovanoff or Wink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke.

vinegar-girl by anne tyler

Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler

This retelling of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew was a delightful palette cleanser of a book. The narrator is delightfully acerbic and the familiar plot moves along breezily.

In fact, it feels more like Jane Austen than Shakespeare, with it’s witty humor and comedy of manners. It certainly belongs on my list of modern books for fans of Pride and Prejudice.

I enjoyed this so much, I’m even considering going back and reading some of Tyler’s backlist—do you have a favorite? Continue Reading…

Books

What Books Comfort You?

I woke up the morning after the election in a bed littered with wrappers from Trader Joe’s dark chocolate peanut butter cups and tissues with a still half full glass of red wine sitting on my bedside table next to a copy of the only book I could fathom trying to read through last night’s tears: A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett.

I don’t have many books in my apartment. I brought a few with me, and had Mister BS mail me a box with a few more, but there wasn’t a huge selection for me to dig through last night, and none of the books I’d checked out from the library held any appeal.

I didn’t have my worn paperback of A Little Princess, and had to download it on my Kindle.

a-little-princess

It’s hokey as hell. Sara Crewe is grossly perfect, even if she is “not quite pretty.” But I read that book over and over as a child. I even remember my mom letting a seven-year-old me stay home to read it. My first mental health day.

I don’t get a mental health day today. Continue Reading…

Recipes, Sweets

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Honey Frosting

Muffins are just sad cupcakes without frosting. Don’t get me wrong; I love pumpkin bread, but pumpkin cupcakes are even better because you can add honey frosting to them and stop pretending that it’s healthy. Although I did substitute coconut oil for the butter in this recipe, because I only had one stick of butter and I knew I needed it for the frosting. So, I don’t feel too guilty eating these for breakfast. Because I am an adult.

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If you don’t like sweet, these are still good without it, too. The spices aren’t too strong, they baked to perfect peaks even in my finicky oven.
pumpkin-cupcakes-with-honey-frosting

These pair perfectly with a rainy afternoon of alternating laying in bed reading and cleaning your apartment, and are as good with a tumblr of whiskey as they are with a cup of coffee (I of course taste tested it both ways). Continue Reading…

Books

Best Books for Book Clubs

What makes the best books for book clubs?

I’ve thought about this question a lot of over the years. Every book club is different, but I’ve found that most people want to to join a book club to talk about books. It’s a great way to get to know people, but you have to get people talking. So the best book for book clubs are not necessarily the ones that everyone would like, but are ones that generate discussion and are a little divisive. You want people to have an opinion beyond “it was okay, I guess.”

Books that Get People Talking

Books that prompt conversation are often about a big issue or theme. Sometimes it’s good to choose books with interesting format or structure, as that can also be topic of discussion. Unlikeable characters are great, too—I love hearing people dissect their motivations.

Read Outside Your Comfort Zone

I also think book club is a great opportunity to get people reading outside of their comfort zone, whether that means picking up a new genre or trying books written by authors from diverse backgrounds.

The best book clubs mix nonfiction and fiction, abest-books-for-book-clubsnd occasionally try a middle grade or young adult novel. Variety keeps things interesting. Even in a mystery book club, there’s room for mixing it up with supernatural thrillers, police procedurals, and cozy mysteries. Readers may surprise themselves.

In Lawrence, I was in three different book clubs: one with teen readers, a YA for grownups book club, and a feminist book group. Now that I’ve moved, I really miss it talking books! At the top of my list of new programs to add to my new library is all the book clubs (or at least one), so I’ve been thinking about what I’d like to read for book club. Here would be my picks for a year’s worth of monthly book club meetings.

Continue Reading…

Books, Crafts, Home

Halloween Decorations Inspired by Edgar Allan Poe

Halloween isn’t my favorite holiday by any stretch, so Halloween decorations are not at the top of my to-do list.  But I am competitive, so when some co-workers decided to enter the local downtown organizations Halloween window display contest, I was all in. Someone brilliantly suggested we use Edgar Allan Poe as a theme since it was spooky and literary, and we ran with it.

edgar-allan-poe-decorations

It all came together so well, in fact, we actually won first place! Most of the items we borrowed from library staff, like the awesome jewelry tree that was perfect for perching our ravens on, and the spooky candelabra, and the bell jar or cloche to cover the “tell-tale heart” we bought from the Halloween Store.

edgar-allan-poe-halloween-decorations

I designed the posters using a creative commons transparent anatomical heart and Canva.com, plus printed a portrait of Poe. And can you believe that someone had that wonderful edition of The Tell-tale Heart and other stories? It was perfect. This is perfect for a library display or home decorating for a holiday part, and was easy and inexpensive to put together. Continue Reading…

Life

[small goals] | november 2016

I had my first (and probably only) pumpkin spice latte last weekend when my brother and sister were visiting. My sister’s bus home Sunday morning was delayed, and she requested we deliver her coffee and donuts and sit with her while she waited for hours.
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We’d been hanging out all weekend and were looking forward to sleeping in and having a lazy brunch, but we did it.

That’s love.

I feel like fall is the friendliest season. The tension of the heat has melted away and no one is bitter about the cold yet.

It’s been strange experiencing the shifting of seasons in this new California way. It doesn’t seem right that it gets dark so early when the afternoons are so sunny.

The seasons are changing in the same way, but time slips by just as fast.

I didn’t hit my past goals out of the park, but I did alright. Continue Reading…

Books

Spooky Halloween Books

It’s the time of year for spooky Halloween books! I’m not usually a big reader of horror, mysteries, or thrillers, but I do like a creepy or scary book every now and then, and I do love a good supernatural story. These are some of my stand out scary reads for all ages! There’s a mix of adult fiction, graphic novels, YA fiction, and middle grade.

spooky-halloween-books

Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

This is my new favorite vampire book! (After Sookie Stackhouse series, of course). Narco vampires control Mexico outside of Mexico City, and one is on the run from the rival gangs who killed her family. Great characters, amazing world-building based on Aztec history, and a page-turning plot make this a must-read.

Dreams and Shadows by C. Robert Cargill

Get swept away in the magic and horror of this world. Part dreamy fairy tale and part guide to the nether realm, this book is perfect for readers looking for some urban fantasy that is thoughtful, nuanced, and well-written.

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

I’ve read my fair share of YA zombie books, and this is hands down (ha ha) my favorite. Creepy, atmospheric, and full of angst. Perfect. Continue Reading…

Life

Weekend Reading | Vol. 15

I had a pretty good week. How about you? It’s been the  perfect golden hour when I’ve left work every day this week. It even rained one night, something that I hadn’t experienced since I moved.

This weekend my sister is visiting from the Bay Area, and we’re going to lounge and hang out, maybe go to the farmer’s market or pumpkin patch. I’m definitely going to make enchiladas (maybe these butternut squash and black bean enchiladas from Minimalist Baker?) and try out America’s Test Kitchen’s margarita recipe.

palm-trees-2Interesting articles this week:

What are your weekend plans? Any posts from this week I shouldn’t miss? 

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Restaurants, Travel

Best Vegetarian Lunch Spots in Downtown Santa Barbara

Moving to Santa Barbara has made me appreciate the amazing selection of affordable and delicious lunch options in Downtown Lawrence. I’m seriously missing Wheatfield’s, Taco Zone, and Rudy’s. Luckily, I’m going back to visit in November and will get a chance to visit all my favorite Lawrence restaurants.

vegetarian-lunch-santa-barbara

For now, these are the places that are in my regular lunch rotation in downtown Santa Barbara. Continue Reading…