Wednesday, January 3, 2018

2017 Book Round Up

Swinging back by my blog to share the rest of my 2017 reads! 
Never mind the fact that I haven't posted on here in months...

You can read what I read in January-June of last year HERE.

Last year, my goodreads reading goal started with 15 books, and when I quickly passed that, I bumped it up to 30. When the year was all said and done I ended up reading a grand total of 45 books  (or 14,868 pages)! A few of these were chapter books I read aloud with M, but I think they count! Below I'll list each book and the rating I gave it on goodreads (here's my profile, I'd love on be friends on there!). You can go to my profile to read a more thorough review of each, and at the end of this post I'll round up my top 5 favorites from the whole year, along with 3 honorable mentions!

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon 3/5 stars
He Said She Said by Erin Kelly 4/5 stars
Bear Town by Fredrik Backman 5/5 stars
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid 5/5 stars
Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan 4/5 stars
Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson 3.5/5 stars
Hourglass: Time Memory, Marriage by Dani Shapiro 2.5/5 stars
Castle of Water by Dan Hucklebridge 4/5 stars
Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder 4/5 stars
Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham 3.5/5 stars
Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid 3/5 stars
Stuart Little by EB White 2/5 stars
Windfall by Jennifer E. Smith 3/5 stars
Refugee by Alan Gratz 4/5 stars *
Little House on The Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder 4/5 stars
At Home In The World by Tsh Oxenreider 5/5 stars
After the Eclipse: A Mother's Murder, A Daughter's Search by Sarah Perry 5/5 stars
Heating and Cooling: 52 Micro Memoirs by Beth Ann Fennelly 3.5/5 stars
The Alice Network by Kate Quinn 2.5/5 stars
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders 2.5/5 stars

Obviously, if I rated this with 5 stars, I'd recommend it to you! All of the 5 star books on this list I'd suggest to pretty much anyone. And the 4 stars were pretty great, too!

Now...the moment you've all been waiting for, my year end favorites. I really don't think I can rank these, so instead I'll order them in the order I read them.

  1. The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner This book rocked me in the best way possible. I flew through it in a few days staying up late at night to finish. I love a good memoir, and this has probably been my top recommendation to friends this year.
  2. Homegoing Yaa Gyasi I actually only gave this 4.5 stars, but I really think it was because it was painful to read. But gosh, 11 months later, and I still think about it regularly. It'll put you through the ringer, but it'll also give you hope. One goodreads review said it's an "incredible and horric look at history" and I think that says it all. Go read this book.
  3. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas This book is everywhere right now on end of the year best of lists, and there's a reason for that. It's SO GOOD. It's YA and you'll read it quickly, and you'll finish it and be thinking about it for days and weeks, and months to come. It's extremely relevant to the time we're in right now, and if I could buy everyone a copy to read, I would! I went to a favorite things party in December an brought three copies of this as my "thing"'s so very good.
  4. Bear Town by Frederick Backman When I read the jacket cover description of this book, I didn't think it would resonate with me the way that it did, but good gracious. I LOVED this book. I think I'd have to say this is my very favorite read of 2017. It's a book about hockey , but (stick with me) it's truly about so much more. I read one review after I read it saying it's the Swedish version of Friday Night Lights, but ice hockey and Sweden instead of football and Texas. That felt about right. It's excellent. 
  5. After the Eclipse by Sarah Perry  Another memoir, so different from The Sound of Gravel. But the one thing they both have in common is excellent writing. I don't even remember what it is about this book that made me add it to my library list, or where it was I first heard of it, but it blew me away. It's a gritty, raw story, and if you can't handle violence and graphic details, I wouldn't recommend it. But Perry's story, of her life before and after her mother's murder (she was in the room next door when her mother was stabbed to death), was one that was just so raw and so beautiful. 
Honorable Mention
  1. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid This book is nothing life shattering, but it's really really enjoyable. It's light but it's not stupid, if you know what I mean. She also tackles a bigger issue in this book that I didn't see coming from the jacket cover, but her approach to it was great. 
  2. At Home in the World by Tsh Oxenreider This was just such a beautifully written book. Tsh's story of her family of 5 making their way around the globe over the course of a year was such a quiet and easy to read story. I am so glad I read this. It also made for a great change of pace in my reading this year as it was nothing like anything else I read. And again, her way with words was just captivating.
  3. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel If you want a book that'll suck you in from the very beginning, read this. It is quite different from my usual fiction pile, but the haunting plague apocalyptic tale will stick with me forever. I also think this one would make a fantastic movie or TV mini series. Bonus points for having what I felt to be one of the most satisfying endings of all the fiction I read this year
  4. And I know I said 3 books for honorable mention but I'm adding a 4th! Columbine by Dave Cullen. This is an older selection, but I finally got around to picking it up in 2017. It's not easy reading this book, but I learned so much. Things I thought I knew, I was completely wrong about. It's engrossing, despite the hard subject matter.
So there you have it! My book list for 2018 is already too long to even keep track of. Hoping to read 50 this year...I think I can do it if I do a good job throwing in some audio books in there too!

Now tell me...
What's your favorite read from 20217?

**All thoughts and opinions are my own. Amazon Affiliate links are included above**

Friday, August 11, 2017

Westport 2017

Another year at Westport is in the books. 

I know I've already shared majority of these on instagram, and if we're being real, I am the worst blogger ever these days. But I still want to jot up a little post with a few pictures to help us remember this adventure. It's not one we want to forget!

We arrived in Westport on July 29 after three long days of traveling. It felt so good to get out of that car though and feel the cooler air in the Adirondacks.

Sunday morning we woke early and after breakfast we hiked to Rose Point. You can see below that M's Moana doll came too!

On Monday, we hiked Merlin's Peak. Grampy and our big cousins came too.

M spent as much time as she could on a paddle board with either myself, Granny, or a cousin. She loved it. Even though she's a great swimmer, we bought her a new life jacket before the trip which gave us all so much more freedom for her time on the lake. I never feared her paddle boarding across the bay with her cousins.

We rented a boat from the marina on Wednesday and had fun cruising the lake and it came to no surprise that M loved tubing.

We visited the town library for reading and fun one morning

 M spent a lot of her down time coloring and writing and giving "spelling bees" to any and everyone who would participate

T discovered the barn on the property that held green canoes inside. On day one he decided those green canoes were alligators and every time anyone would talk about the barn, he would super seriously "chomp" at you to tell you about the alligators. 

A highlight for M was playing with second (I think?) cousins who are a tad older than her and learning all their ways in the art of frog catching!

We hiked up Coon on Thursday morning. Poor T was NOT happy to ride in the pack on the way down, but as you can see from his face here, he loved the view at the top!

It was a truly a memorable and fun week. I would definitely not call this trip a vacation like we once did for a week on the lake, but we still had a ball making memories with cousins and J's family. 

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

2017 Reads So Far...

The year is halfway through, and instead of waiting a full twelve months to do a book post, I thought I'd check in now and share what I've been reading since January...

I went into 2017 with a book goal of 15 books, which honestly is pretty high for me. But by about mid April I had breezed past it, and by the end of June my book tally was up to 25 books and I'm still going strong. My whole perspective on reading has changed and evolved so much over the last six months, and I'm going to try to write about that later this week or next. Reading has gone from something I would try to squeeze in for a few minutes before bed 3-4 times a week to something I crave during my day. I'm loving the change it has brought in my life, and I'm hoping to squeeze in at least 15 more books before the end of 2017! 

I'm not going to do a write up on each book here, but I will share each book title with the stars I gave it on goodreads, and if you want a more thorough review, go to my goodreads page HERE and you can read what I had to say about the book! I left written reviews for almost all of these!

So...let's begin! I'm going to list these in the order I read them:

The Mothers by Brit Bennet 4/5 stars
The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner  5/5 stars
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi 4/5 stars
Looking for Lovely by Annie Downs (audiobook) 3/5 stars
Before the Fall by Noah Hawley 4/5 stars 
A Fall of Marigolds by Susan Meissner 4/5 stars
One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid 4/5 stars overall, 5/5 for chicklit
Grownup by Gillian Flynn 3.5/5 stars
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi 4/5 stars
Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist (audiobook) 5/5 stars
Commonwealth by Ann Pachett 3/5 stars
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel 4.5/5 stars
The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena 2/5 stars
Dark Matter by Blake Crouch 4/5 stars
Columbine by Dave Cullen 5/5 stars
Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult (audiobook....highly recommend audio version!) 4.5/5 stars 
This is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel 3.5/5 stars
Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum 4/5 stars
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead 2/5 stars
My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout (audiobook) 3/5 stars
The Dry by Jane Harper 4/5 stars 
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood 3.5/5 stars
Bossypants by Tina Fey (audiobook) 4/5 stars
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas 5/5 stars
Into the Water by Paula Hawkins 2/5 stars

So now you're probably wondering, "Okay, this is a nice list, but Rachel...what would you recommend from this list?" And the answer in short is MOST of these! Really anything I gave 3.5-5 stars are books I'd recommend. And if we're being honest the only two books I wouldn't recommend from my list are the three books I gave two stars to. Let me break down my favorites for you...

Non Fiction:'s a  HEAVY read and it's long, but it's fantastic. One of the best nonfiction books I've ever read that wasn't a memoir. This book revealed so many truths to me about the Columbine shooting that I never knew about before. It's excellent. 
 The Sound of Gravel...I gave this one five stars for a reason. I LOVED it. This is a memoir about a woman who grew up in a polygamist compound in Mexico. I can't say enough good things. I couldn't put this book down. It's so sad but it's also powerful and inspiring. And if you do read, visit the author's webpage for more info and photos when you're done.
Bittersweet...I love Shauna Niequist after hearing her podcasts and doing her bible study this past fall, but this was my first book of hers to read. It's one of her older books, but y'all. It's great. Don't get hung up on the fact that she's a "christian author" if that's not your normal read. I think this book is great for any woman in her late 20's to late 30's. It's wonderful. Bonus points if you like food!

Fiction (non YA):
Station Eleven...disturbing in some ways, but a great story. A page turner I couldn't put down.
Small Great Things...I'm sure the written version of this is good too but the audio version is amazing. It's classic Jodi Picoult in formula, but the content is something EVERYONE needs to read. Go to goodreads and read the description of the book and I can almost guarantee you'll want to read. This is one book I've recommended to almost everyone I've talked to since reading it this year.'ll tear your heart apart but it's wonderful. An amazing piece of fiction that will haunt you and educate you.
One True Loves...if you want light and fluffy but not total brain mush, this was so fun! I loved this one!

Fiction (YA): 
The Hate U Give...possibly my favorite book I've read all year, only to be tied with The Sound of Gravel. I loved this book. It's 450+ pages but I read it in under 3 days. It is one of the most timely books I've ever read (I could say the same about Small Great Things), and it is a must read for everyone living in America today. It is YA, but don't let that stop you if you don't usually like YA. In fact, I feel like it almost had to be a YA book for the story to work. Go buy this one today if you're looking for a contemporary fiction book to get lost in. 

So....what is the best book you've read in 2017?
 Please share! I'd love to find some new reads I don't have on my list already! 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Random Recent Favorites!

Long time no blog. That's just how it goes these days.
Jumping back into the swing of things with a few recent favorite purchases I've made. 
Warning...these are all over the place! This is a crazy mix of things!

1. This Pottery Barn Kids style pool towel from Amazon for $7 cheaper and free shipping with prime!

Here it is on Amazon for $16, and here's the exact same towel at PBK for $29! We have several PBK towels and the quality is the same. There's a mermaid version of the Amazon one too!

2. This jersey swing dress from Old Navy. I have it in 3 colors and I love it. It's so light and airy on a hot day, is the perfect length, can be dressed up with a cute necklace or can be worn with flip flops around town for errands with my kids. I love it. And it's cheap!!

Up until a few months ago, M could hold the tablet in her lap for road trips and watch movies happily for hours and hours, but within the last 6 months she has started to feel a little sick on road trips when looking down at her lap (just like her mama!). We bought this mount for the car and it's actually working really great on road trips for BOTH kids. We put up T's rear facing mirror so it's angled at the tablet, and they can both watch a movie or a show together. We tested it out this past weekend on a trip to Tennessee and it worked like a charm!

I am LOVING the ease of this sunscreen stick for my kids faces and necks and ears before the pool or a playdate outside. It does go on pretty white, but rubs in very easily. The price has gone back up on Amazon, but two weeks ago I got a 2 pack for $15. I keep one in my diaper bag and one in the pool bag. It smells so good, and as a bonus it gets a 1 rating from the EWG. 

I know. This is a weird one. But if you have dogs who are prone to getting filthy outside, get one of these! We put it in our utility room off the patio where the dogs come in and out and it has been a game changer. It absorbs any water they carry in, it cleans their feet a little, and it's so durable. I wish we splurged on this sooner.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

This is four and a half

M turned 4.5 last week (which J claims half birthdays are dumb and made up...but whatever), and I know moms say this at every age, but right now might be one of my most favorite stages with her. The last few weeks have just been good and I'm seeing a big change in her.

A few little notes from this age...

The other night J was out at a work thing, so I was putting both kids to bed myself. There was a moment when it was clear that everyone needed my help and attention at the same time, and M just looked at me very matter of fact and said, "You know mom, it's really hard having two kids when they both need you at the same time." True fact, kiddo.

Current job aspirations...a horse rider who also works in the tall buildings uptown. And maybe a part time chef on the side.

Mastered riding a two wheeled bike this past weekend. Three cheers for the balance bike we bought her back when she was two! Her ability to balance on that made the transition to the pedal bike so much easier. We never even put the training wheels on. If you have a little one and you're debating a balance it. They're 100% worth it!

Asks BIG questions. Her mind is like a million little gears that are constantly turning and moving, and she's asking questions all the time to keep those gears oiled and moving. Questions about how we're made, about animals in the deep sea and how they communicate to one another, about death, about how America became America, about what our brains look like and are made of....I love her inquisitive little mind and I hope it never changes and she continues to search for answers and ask her questions to the people she trusts in her life.

Feeds the dogs all on her own for us. This is her biggest chore that she helps with regularly, and honestly, it really is a huge help in the mornings and evenings when we're trying to get food on the table for everyone. She's also been getting herself dressed in the morning if I help her pick out her clothes the night before. This has been a big help on school mornings! 

Favorite new food of the moment....hard boiled eggs. We have my mom and dying Easter Eggs at her house to thank for this one! 


I can't believe we're more than halfway to FIVE. 
The rate at which babies and kids grow and change is pretty amazing!