Everyday Tidbits...

Be Kind. Do Good. Love is a Verb.

Friday, October 20, 2017

10 Years Blogging!

I started this blog on October 19, 2007. That's 10 years ago, yesterday. My very first post was a review of Persuasion. In fact, most of those first reviews were of books I'd already read.

I did not get into this for the reviewing or the books. I started this book blog because I couldn't remember books that I'd read. Once I discovered Goodreads, that changed, but by then, I'd gotten used to blogging and reviewing and free books. I fell into the reviewing part of blogging by accident. I discovered other book blogs and I began participating in reading challenges. I found weekly recurring posts like Sunday Salon, Booking Through Thursday, What's on Your Nightstand.

I will forever be grateful to those people who hosted challenges and weekly memes. Because of them, I met other bookish people and I learned that publishers and authors will send you books to review. That was so cool!

I think the first actual book I read that came from an author was in June of 2008.

At first, I accepted nearly every book I was offered, because it was a novelty and I wanted to get more exposure as a reviewer. I quickly learned what genres I preferred and what I did and didn't like in reading.

I started tracking my book stats in 2009. My high was 163 books read in 2010. Holy book alert Batman! Obviously that was a lot, even for a "professional" reader. Not that I'd classify myself that way. My reading dropped after that with my all-time low being 2016. I read a whopping 18 books last year. We'll see how I end 2017.

2017 = 11
2016 = 18
2015 = 39 (1 DNF)
2014 = 74 (2 DNF)
2013 = 76 (3 DNF)
2012 = 113 (2 DNF)
2011 = 160 (5 DNF)
2010 = 163 (11 DNF)
2009 = 128 (3 DNF)

I think I got burned out. I've decided that I hate reading for deadlines, so I stopped accepting books with scheduled tours. I have also become more discerning and only accept/request books that truly interest me.

Before reviewing, I didn't pay much attention to new releases or specific authors. I just found books in the library or at used bookstores that interested me and I read them. Blogging put more books on my radar and as social media came into play, that put authors on my radar. Social media has given reviewers a fantastic opportunity to interact more with each other, with publishers and with authors. And, I'm happy to say that, for the most part, readers on social media tend to be nicer than the general public. Oh, you get your occasional troll and I've discovered authors I won't reread because of their thin skin and volatile opinions. But, I have met some amazing people and formed friendships I cherish. Acquaintances and friendships I never would have found, if not for blogging.


I finally joined Twitter in 2014 and created a 2 Kids and Tired Facebook page last year. I've become more adept at social media, and I'm not as concerned about blog stats as I used to be.

Today I do a few weekly and monthly posts with a group of bloggers who have become cherished friends. I do some recurring posts on my own. I have started talking about things other than books. My Weekend Reflections posts are more personal as are some of my Пятница Ponderings posts. I still love to write and I appreciate the outlet blogging has given me to do that, even if it more sporadic than steady these days.

After resisting for several years, I acquired a tablet and the Kindle App. I prefer print books, but I adore the convenience of ebooks. The Doctor is allowed to say, "I told you so".

I don't have as many DNF books because I think I'm more discerning in what I choose to read now. I tend to stay within certain genres, but I'm not above branching out if a book really catches my eye or I trust the recommendations.

I've seen the good and bad of the Internets over the last 10 years and how people behave when they have some anonymity behind a keyboard. Blogging has brought me stress, but also a great deal of joy. I've discovered so many new books and authors and I have made some fantastic friends.

For however long you've been here with me, I thank you. For reading. For commenting. For befriending. For sharing.

Here's to another 10!

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Cover Crush: The Perfect Recipe for Love and Friendship

I will freely admit that I judge books by their covers. The cover is usually what first captures my attention when browsing Goodreads or Netgalley. Actually, in all honesty, it isn't just usually, it's pretty much all the time. The cover determines if I look at the synopsis and reviews.

I'm a sucker for stories that center around food and cooking. How can you resist a cover like this one? Seriously? I want to pick it up just to see if there are recipes included. I love it when fiction writers include the recipes mentioned in the book.

What about you? Any book covers capture your attention this week?

Cover Crush is a weekly series that originated with Erin at Flashlight Commentary. If you want to check out some other terrific bloggers and what their Cover Crush posts look like, you can do that here: The Maiden's CourtFlashlight CommentaryA Bookaholic SwedeLayered PagesA Literary VacationOf Quills & Vellum.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Cover Crush: The Book Worm

I will freely admit that I judge books by their covers. The cover is usually what first captures my attention when browsing Goodreads or Netgalley. Actually, in all honesty, it isn't just usually, it's pretty much all the time. The cover determines if I look at the synopsis and reviews.

I have no idea what this book is about. I don't know if it's historical fiction or a thriller. And honestly, I don't care. I just love it because of the cover. My friend Magdalena shared it several months ago on Facebook and I instantly fell in love with it. Who is this woman? She is in Russia, but is she Russian? Is she visiting? Obviously the story revolves around books, but why? How? What is her story?

What about you? Any book covers capture your attention this week?

Cover Crush is a weekly series that originated with Erin at Flashlight Commentary. If you want to check out some other terrific bloggers and what their Cover Crush posts look like, you can do that here: The Maiden's CourtFlashlight CommentaryA Bookaholic SwedeLayered Pages, A Literary Vacation, Of Quills and Vellum.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Weekend Reflections 10/7

Looking outside...it's sunny and cool. 

Listening...to the sounds of home.

Loving...the ability to travel. But, it was sobering to be in Las Vegas this week. As we flew into the airport, we could see the broken window of the Mandalay Bay hotel. As we drove down past the hotel on Friday, there was still a strong police and FBI presence. The row of crosses, the memorials and tributes. It was very sobering.

Thinking...that I don't love Las Vegas. Sorry, but it's true. I love people who live in Las Vegas, but that city has a weird vibe. 

However, the wedding and reception we traveled there for were so awesome. Three years ago, two young women walked into our lives as LDS missionaries. And immediately became the daughters we never had. We tried to adopt them, but they have parents. So we adopted-by-love. We have stayed in touch and surprised one at her wedding last year and yesterday witnessed the wedding of the second. 

It was such a fun occasion. Both the bride and groom are big comic fans and they incorporated their love of comics and fandoms into their wedding reception. Best reception I've ever been to, including my own.

Loved sharing the day with people I love. Lots of laughter, love and fun.

In my kitchen...Crio Bru right now, because I haven't had any for two days.

Wearing...denim skirt, green and tan shirt, barefeet.

Reading...working on The Atomic City Girls by Janet Beard. Posted a review for The Life She Was Given by Ellen Marie Wiseman on Friday. 

Today...we flew home from Las Vegas. We flew down Thursday evening for a wedding yesterday. It was an awesome trip.

Quoting..."I would rather spend one lifetime with you than spend all of the ages of this world alone." -- Arwen to Aragorn , Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings

Feeling...tired after two nights of not much sleep on hotel beds, happy to have been part of a wonderful wedding and grateful for friends who are like family.

Planning...looking toward the week.

Gratitude...for my husband, who is great traveling companion. Grateful to our boys, who are old enough to be left alone and who are responsible. They get along, they can fend for themselves and I came home to a clean house. They're awesome.

From my world... 

I thought the detail on a random Las Vegas overpass was pretty.

What about you? What are you reflecting on this week? How has your week gone?

Friday, October 6, 2017

The Life She Was Given... #BookReview

About the book:
From acclaimed author Ellen Marie Wiseman comes a vivid, daring novel about the devastating power of family secrets--beginning in the poignant, lurid world of a Depression-era traveling circus and coming full circle in the transformative 1950s.

On a summer evening in 1931, Lilly Blackwood glimpses circus lights from the grimy window of her attic bedroom. Lilly isn't allowed to explore the meadows around Blackwood Manor. She's never even ventured beyond her narrow room. Momma insists it's for Lilly's own protection, that people would be afraid if they saw her. But on this unforgettable night, Lilly is taken outside for the first time--and sold to the circus sideshow.

More than two decades later, nineteen-year-old Julia Blackwood has inherited her parents' estate and horse farm. For Julia, home was an unhappy place full of strict rules and forbidden rooms, and she hopes that returning might erase those painful memories. Instead, she becomes immersed in a mystery involving a hidden attic room and photos of circus scenes featuring a striking young girl.

At first, The Barlow Brothers' Circus is just another prison for Lilly. But in this rag-tag, sometimes brutal world, Lilly discovers strength, friendship, and a rare affinity for animals. Soon, thanks to elephants Pepper and JoJo and their handler, Cole, Lilly is no longer a sideshow spectacle but the circus's biggest attraction...until tragedy and cruelty collide. It will fall to Julia to learn the truth about Lilly's fate and her family's shocking betrayal, and find a way to make Blackwood Manor into a place of healing at last.

Moving between Julia and Lilly's stories, Ellen Marie Wiseman portrays two extraordinary, very different women in a novel that, while tender and heartbreaking, offers moments of joy and indomitable hope.

Born with what some would call an anomaly or defect, Lilly is locked in an attic until her mother sells her to a circus sideshow. In the 1930s, those who were deemed different or deformed were often considered monsters. Many were ashamed that their child was different or not normal. PT Barnum was the first, I believe, to gather together these societal misfits and put them on display. For some, the circus life was all they knew and for others it was a horrific ordeal. Lilly's experiences in the circus aren't easy to read and abuse was rampant, but she found a life and love there as well. She tried to make the most of the life she was given as long as she was able to.

Julia's life mirrors Lilly's in some ways and as she discovers more about who the mysterious young girl in the photos is, she learns about her own strengths and who she is.

Some books are easy to read, enjoyed and then forgotten. Other books are difficult and you have to muddle your way through them and force yourself to continue. And then there are books that tug at your heartstrings and make you think and ponder as you continue reading what should simply be defined as plot and characters, but what is really a study of life and human behavior.

While mostly Lilly's story, the movement between both women's experiences strengthens their bond and enriches the novel. At times heart-wrenching, this is not always an easy story to read, but it is compelling and begs the reader to continue.

The story isn't inherently happy, but there are moments of hope and the title is appropriate for both Lilly and Julia. There is a mildly graphic instance of animal abuse that is central to a plot in the story.

Thanks to Netgalley and Kensington Books for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Ellen Marie Wiseman on her website, Facebook and Twitter.

Read 10/17

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Night Shift...Spotlight

About the book:
A stunning black and white illustration book with simple text,follows a young girl who is haunted by dragons. These are not just your average fire-breathing dragons, either. These dragons represent the depression the young girl battles using her ‘night skills’: skills that give her both the ability to survive inside her own darkness and the knowledge that nothing - not even long, dark nights filled with monsters - will last forever.

Author and illustrator of over 80 picture books and the winner of two Kate Greenaway Awards, Debi Gliori, brings the struggle of fighting depression to life by drawing from her own personal war with the illness in Night Shift. She pens a brave and powerful book that’s perfect for both young and old dragon fighters, and any reader who needs an uninhibited reminder that they’re not alone.

About the author:
Debi Gliori is well known for both her picture books and her novels for children and has been shortlisted for all the major prizes, including the Kate Greenaway Award (twice) and the Scottish Arts Council Award. Debi was the Shetland Islands' first Children's Writer-in Residence. She has written and illustrated No Matter What, The Trouble With Dragons, Stormy Weather, The Scariest Thing of All, What's the Time, Mr Wolf?, Dragon Loves Penguin and, most recently, Alfie in the Bath and Alfie in the Garden as well as the popular Pure Dead fiction series for older readers.

Gliori says the book is for “... anyone who needs it, anyone who thinks they might be going into a depressive episode, anyone who is in the middle of one, anyone who is watching someone they love go through it and is desperately trying to understand what they are going through, anyone who has come out on the other side, really anyone who is interested in understanding what the illness is.” Gliori hopes that by sharing her own experience she can help others to find that subtle shift that will show the way out.


October 5 is National Depression Screening Day. This year, the focus is on the importance of seeking help. Depression is a common and treatable mood disorder, and spreading awareness about the different ways those dealing with it can get help could save lives. Please join us this National Depression Screening Day and help us spread the word to increase awareness of mental health. You can take an anonymous screening here.

Thanks to Pamela Crossan of Wunderkind PR for the opportunity to spotlight this book. You can learn more about Deb Gliori on her website and connect with her on Twitter.

Cover Crush: Without Benefits

I will freely admit that I judge books by their covers. The cover is usually what first captures my attention when browsing Goodreads or Netgalley. Actually, in all honesty, it isn't just usually, it's pretty much all the time. The cover determines if I look at the synopsis and reviews.

A bouquet of red roses, left on a table. Petals are falling and they look rather forlorn. Who brought them? To whom were they given? How does the title figure with an abandoned bouquet of roses? What is this story?

What about you? Any book covers capture your attention this week?

Cover Crush is a weekly series that originated with Erin at Flashlight Commentary. If you want to check out some other terrific bloggers and what their Cover Crush posts look like, you can do that here: The Maiden's CourtFlashlight CommentaryA Bookaholic Swede, Layered Pages, indieBRAG, A Literary Vacation, Of Quills and Vellum.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Books I Have Forgotten

Each month I revisit some of my past reviews. One of the reasons I started this book blog was to remember what books I have read. My memory isn't the greatest anymore and I found that I would read a book and then not remember if I liked it or what it was even about.

Maybe one of these will prompt you to seek out an older, but amazing book. Or, if you've read one of these and your review was different, please share!


The Cottage at Glass Beach by Heather Barbieri
2/5 Stars

"I enjoyed The Lace Makers of Glenmara and so I was excited to read Heather's next book. Unfortunately, it just wasn't something that grabbed me. The setting had promise, but I kept feeling as if something was missing. I also struggled with the narration style and never really connected with the characters. I couldn't stand Nora's daughter Ella. She wasn't just a rude pre-teen, she was horrible. This was just one story that tried too hard to be something special and didn't live up to its potential. My review is one of many and is in the minority, as usual. You will see other, more positive reviews on the tour shown below. "

I don't remember anything about this.

In the Bag by Kate Klise
3/5 Stars

"I liked the characters well enough. The chapters alternate characters and part of the narration is told through email. Very contemporary. The story is light, but entertaining. An interesting premise. Funny. Mild profanity. Not one I'd necessarily re-read. Perfect for a beach read. "

I have no memory of this one either.
Where the Trail Ends by Melanie Dobson
4/5 Stars

"Melanie Dobson has created a terrific story set against a familiar backdrop. The story is realistic and thrilling and the characters are likeable. Although billed as a romance, we don't see the hero and heroine together until nearer the end of the story, which actually worked. The story became, instead of a sappy romance, a tribute to the strong men and women who braved the Oregon Trail. Completely enjoyable and easily recommended."

Apparently I enjoyed it. Quite a bit.


What about you? What are some of the books you've read in previous years?

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Weekend Reflections 9/30

Looking outside...it's drizzly, but clearing.

Listening...to LDS General Conference. I love General Conference.

Loving...the family together, watching and listening to conference. I love our time together.

Thinking...that I'm tired. I'm always tired. Ms. Snark is quiet this morning.

In my kitchen...Crio Bru now and I'm not sure about dinner. That seems to be my standard answer.

Wearing...purple pajamas.

Reading...what's that again? 

Today...some laundry in between conference sessions. The Artist has to mow lawns. He may need to wait until Monday.

Quoting...“ "If you can't treat someone with dignity and respect--then you need to get out." -- Lt. Gen. Jay B. Silveria, Superintendent, USAFA

Feeling...I posted this on my Instagram account this week and it reflects where my thoughts have been this week.

I went to a funeral today for a beautiful young woman. I knew her from church and her husband has been one of my son's youth leaders. In fact, I excused JB from school today, at his request, so that he could attend the funeral as well, because he loves Jake. JoAnna was 27 and far too young. She had valiantly fought cancer and was recovering well from a liver transplant. But, the outcomes from trial and illness that we want, aren't always what happen.

As I sat in the church today, I listened. I listened as people talked about her life and her goodness and kindness. Her humor and her love. And I reflected and wondered, "what will people say at my funeral? Probably that I was snarky. But, I hope for better. And if I hope for better, I need to be better. I need to be more like JoAnna; to have less judgment and more compassion; less snark and more kindness. It was a privilege to be there today. It was a privilege to provide food for the family luncheon after the burial. It was a privilege to know this sweet woman and learn from her example.

Planning...for the upcoming week.

Gratitude...for so much.

From my world... 

Watch. Listen. Learn.
Dialogue and discussion is important. Listen to hear, not to correct or condemn. Treat people with dignity and respect. Be kind. Do good. Love is a verb.
That is all.

What about you? What are you reflecting on this week? How has your week gone?

Friday, September 29, 2017

5 Books I Want to Read...Chocolate

I keep a wish list on Goodreads called "want to read". Currently, it's up to 2877. Yeah. I also have several stacks of books tucked against walls throughout my house. Each is probably at least 3 feet high of books I haven't read yet. I periodically go through my list and purge it, but it still is not slowing down. Nor are the books that keep appearing on my Kindle. They're all still on my wish list, I just haven't gotten to them yet.

Each month I highlight 5 books I want to read. I don't set out to plan themes, but somehow patterns creep into my viewing.

This month it's Chocolate and specifically books about the history of chocolate. God bless the first person who ever looked at a cocoa bean and said, "Let's chop this up and add sugar to it."


A Brief History of Chocolate by Steve Berry and Phil Norman

An illustrated guide to chocolate that every self-respecting chocoholic should read.

Do you remember when a Snickers was a Marathon? And when you could burst in to a sweet shop and ask for ‘an Oliver Twist, two Tiffins and a Big Wig, please!’ and keep a straight face? Those were the good days: when a Dairy Milk bar was 22p and you’d never seen anything as big as a Wagon Wheel.

Revisit some of your forgotten favourites and current addictions, as Steve Berry and Phil Norman take you on a tour of cocoa’s finest moments. Fully illustrated with hundreds of wrappers, ads and pack shots, A Brief History of Chocolate brings together research from the archives, factories and warehouses of some of the leading chocolate manufacturers in the country to create a book that is packed full of fascinating historical research…

… and lots and lots of chocolate.

Warning: may contain nuts

A Brief History of Chocolate originally featured in The Great British Tuck Shop, the ultimate book of sweetie nostalgia.

The True History of Chocolate by Sophie D. Coe and Michael D. Coe

This delightful and best-selling tale of one of the world's favorite foods draws upon botany, archaeology, and culinary history to present a complete and accurate history of chocolate.

The story begins some 3,000 years ago in the jungles of Mexico and Central America with the chocolate tree, Theobroma Cacao, and the complex processes necessary to transform its bitter seeds into what is now known as chocolate. This was centuries before chocolate was consumed in generally unsweetened liquid form and used as currency by the Maya, and the Aztecs after them. The Spanish conquest of Central America introduced chocolate to Europe, where it first became the drink of kings and aristocrats and then was popularized in coffeehouses. Industrialization in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries made chocolate a food for the masses, and now, in our own time, it has become once again a luxury item.

The second edition draws on recent research and genetic analysis to update the information on the origins of the chocolate tree and early use by the Maya and others, and there is a new section on the medical and nutritional benefits of chocolate.

The Emperors of Chocolate: Inside the Secret World of Hershey and Mars by Joël Glenn Brenner

Corporate candy giants Milton Hershey and Forrest Mars built business empires out of one of the world's most magical, sought-after substances: chocolate. In The Emperors of Chocolate, Joël Glenn Brenner--the first person to ever gain access to the highly secretive companies of Hershey and Mars--spins a unique story that takes us inside a world as mysterious as Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory. Packed with flavorful stories and outrageous characters that give the true scoop on this real-life candyland, The Emperors of Chocolate is a delectable read for business buffs and chocoholics alike. Start reading and you'll soon be hungry for more.

Chocolate: History, Culture, and Heritage by Louis E. Grivetti and Howard-Yana Shapiro

Chocolate. We all love it, but how much do we really know about it? In addition to pleasing palates since ancient times, chocolate has played an integral role in culture, society, religion, medicine, and economic development across the Americas, Africa, Asia, and Europe.

In 1998, the Chocolate History Group was formed by the University of California, Davis, and Mars, Incorporated to document the fascinating story and history of chocolate. This book features fifty-seven essays representing research activities and contributions from more than 100 members of the group. These contributors draw from their backgrounds in such diverse fields as anthropology, archaeology, biochemistry, culinary arts, gender studies, engineering, history, linguistics, nutrition, and paleography. The result is an unparalleled, scholarly examination of chocolate, beginning with ancient pre-Columbian civilizations and ending with twenty-first-century reports.

Here is a sampling of some of the fascinating topics explored inside the book:

Ancient gods and Christian celebrations: chocolate and religion

Chocolate and the Boston smallpox epidemic of 1764

Chocolate pots: reflections of cultures, values, and times

Pirates, prizes, and profits: cocoa and early American east coast trade

Blood, conflict, and faith: chocolate in the southeast and southwest borderlands of North America

Chocolate in France: evolution of a luxury product

Development of concept maps and the chocolate research portal

Not only does this book offer careful documentation, it also features new and previously unpublished information and interpretations of chocolate history. Moreover, it offers a wealth of unusual and interesting facts and folklore about one of the world's favorite foods.

Candyfreak: A Journey through the Chocolate Underbelly of America by Steve Almond

A self-professed candyfreak, Steve Almond set out in search of a much-loved candy from his childhood and found himself on a tour of the small candy companies that are persevering in a marketplace where big corporations dominate.

From the Twin Bing to the Idaho Spud, the Valomilk to the Abba-Zaba, and discontinued bars such as the Caravelle, Marathon, and Choco-Lite, Almond uncovers a trove of singular candy bars made by unsung heroes working in old-fashioned factories to produce something they love. And in true candyfreak fashion, Almond lusciously describes the rich tastes that he has loved since childhood and continues to crave today. Steve Almond has written a comic but ultimately bittersweet story of how he grew up on candy-and how, for better and worse, the candy industry has grown up, too.

Candyfreak is the delicious story of one man's lifelong obsession with candy and his quest to discover its origins in America.


What about you? What books are on your "want to read/wish" list?

5 Books I want to Read is a monthly meme started by Stephanie at Layered Pages. If you want to check out some other terrific bloggers and what their wish lists look like, you can do that here: A Bookaholic Swede, Layered Pages, The Maiden's Court, Flashlight Commentary and A Literary Vacation.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Cover Crush: We Were Strangers Once

I will freely admit that I judge books by their covers. The cover is usually what first captures my attention when browsing Goodreads or Netgalley. Actually, in all honesty, it isn't just usually, it's pretty much all the time. The cover determines if I look at the synopsis and reviews.

A couple standing under a New York bridge. Muted colors on what is likely a spring day. What are they watching? Are they waiting for something? Have they just paused on a quiet walk? Who are they? What is their story?

What about you? Any book covers capture your attention this week?

Cover Crush is a weekly series that originated with Erin at Flashlight Commentary. If you want to check out some other terrific bloggers and what their Cover Crush posts look like, you can do that here: The Maiden's CourtFlashlight CommentaryA Bookaholic SwedeLayered Pages, indieBRAG, A Literary Vacation, Of Quills and Vellum.