What I've been reading

Almost a year ago (although it was only a few posts ago because I'm so good at this blogging thing) I shared a stack of books I had to read.

I had managed to get out of the habit of reading and missed it, so I bought a few books that looked fun and pulled the ones off my shelf I hadn't read yet for inspiration.

The good news: I've read plenty.

The bad news: I haven't made that much progress on my stack of books.

See, I have a Kindle Fire and discovered the Overdrive app. It let's me check out books from my public library without ever leaving my house (or couch).

And I've taken advantage of it.

I think I speak for all of us when I say none of us have time for me to go through every single book I picked up in the past year. But I did want to highlight some of my favorites.

Take a look at my picks and let me know if you think I've left any must-read books out. I'm always looking for a good book to add to my never-ending list.

The Glassblower

Synopsis: In the village of Lauscha in Germany, things have been done the same way for centuries. The men blow the glass and the women decorate and pack it. But when Joost Steinmann passes away unexpectedly, his three daughters must learn to fend for themselves. While feisty Johanna takes a practical approach to looking for work, Ruth follows her heart, aiming to catch the eye of a handsome young villager. But it is dreamy, quiet Marie who has always been the most captivated by the magic of the craft of glassblowing. As the spirited sisters work together to forge a brighter future for themselves, they learn not only how to thrive in a man’s world, but how to remain true to themselves in the process.

What I thought: My immediate reaction to this book was "you go girls." I'm all for strong female characters -- a theme you'll see in a few of these books. And I was really drawn into the world of this village and into the art of glassblowing. This book is actually part of a trilogy, but so far I've only read this one.

The Paper Magician

Synopsis: Ceony Twill arrives at the cottage of Magician Emery Thane with a broken heart. Having graduated at the top of her class from the Tagis Praff School for the Magically Inclined, Ceony is assigned an apprenticeship in paper magic despite her dreams of bespelling metal. And once she’s bonded to paper, that will be her only magic…forever.

Yet the spells Ceony learns under the strange yet kind Thane turn out to be more marvelous than she could have ever imagined. But as she discovers these wonders, Ceony also learns of the extraordinary dangers of forbidden magic. An Excisioner—a practitioner of dark, flesh magic—invades the cottage and rips Thane’s heart from his chest. To save her teacher’s life, Ceony must face the evil magician and embark on an unbelievable adventure that will take her into the chambers of Thane’s still-beating heart—and reveal the very soul of the man.

What I thought: I got this book as part of the Kindle First program, which allows you to "buy" one new book at month for free. If you have a Kindle and haven't signed up -- you should.

As for the book, I really enjoyed the two main characters. Ceony and Thane were how I imagine magicians, quirky and a little bit off-beat. Plus it was fun to see their connection develop. The book kept me totally engaged to the end. And I ended up pre-ordering the second book in the series (because what young adult novels come as stand alones anymore). The second book was okay, but this first one is the real star.

The Night Circus

Synopsis: The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des RĂªves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway: a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this game in which only one can be left standing. Despite the high stakes, Celia and Marco soon tumble headfirst into love, setting off a domino effect of dangerous consequences, and leaving the lives of everyone, from the performers to the patrons, hanging in the balance.

What I thought: I ended up loving this book, though it took me a little bit to get into to. The world within the pages was truly magical and there was a sweetness to the story that was unexpected, but that really drew me in. Now if only this circus were real and I could visit it.

Me Before You

Synopsis: Louisa Clark is an ordinary girl living an exceedingly ordinary life—steady boyfriend, close family—who has barely been farther afield than their tiny village. She takes a badly needed job working for Will Traynor, who is wheelchair bound after an accident. Will has always lived a huge life—big deals, extreme sports, worldwide travel—and now he’s pretty sure he cannot live the way he is.

Will is acerbic, moody, bossy—but Lou refuses to treat him with kid gloves, and soon his happiness means more to her than she expected. When she learns that Will has shocking plans of his own, she sets out to show him that life is still worth living.

Me Before You is a heartbreakingly romantic novel that asks, What do you do when making the person you love happy also means breaking your own heart?

What I thought: This book got me in the heart. This is probably the only one I'm sharing here that's likely to make you cry. But it was also so good, even with all the feelings. I liked Louisa and what she brought out in Will, and I liked that this book didn't shy away with the nitty gritty of a tough, real life situation.

Where'd You Go Bernadette

Synopsis: Bernadette Fox is notorious. To her Microsoft-guru husband, she's a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she's a disgrace; to design mavens, she's a revolutionary architect, and to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, simply, Mom.

Then Bernadette disappears. It began when Bee aced her report card and claimed her promised reward: a family trip to Antarctica. But Bernadette's intensifying allergy to Seattle--and people in general--has made her so agoraphobic that a virtual assistant in India now runs her most basic errands. To find her mother, Bee compiles email messages, official documents, secret correspondence.

What I thought: The humor in this book was right up my alley. I liked the uniqueness of the characters and the relationship between Bee and Bernadette. Plus, it's pretty fun to read a book set where you live.

The Boys in the Boat

Synopsis: It was an unlikely quest from the start. With a team composed of the sons of loggers, shipyard workers, and farmers, the University of Washington’s eight-oar crew team was never expected to defeat the elite teams of the East Coast and Great Britain, yet they did, going on to shock the world by defeating the German team rowing for Adolf Hitler. The emotional heart of the tale lies with Joe Rantz, a teenager without family or prospects, who rows not only to regain his shattered self-regard but also to find a real place for himself in the world. Drawing on the boys’ own journals and vivid memories of a once-in-a-lifetime shared dream, Brown has created an unforgettable portrait of an era, a celebration of a remarkable achievement, and a chronicle of one extraordinary young man’s personal quest.

What I thought: Hands down my favorite book of the year. I'm actually to own in paperback. It was so well written. The story was so engaging. I'm a bit of a WWII fiction junkie, love the Olympics, and it was about the major university here in Seattle. So I guess I had every reason to love it. I do think that even if you're not a sports fan, this is a story that is really enjoyable.


Cabin in the woods

Last fall my mom and aunt purchased a little cabin up in the mountains. It's a couple miles away and nothing fancy, but a nice place to get away.

It doesn't have electricity, but is on a septic system and has propane powered appliances.

Just a couple hours out of the city, I'm already dreaming of summer (and winter and fall and spring) getaway weekends.

With no cell phone signals, surrounded by forests and on the banks of a river, it's the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of daily life for a little unplugged R&R.

And I can't wait for some hiking adventures (like this or this).


The unexpected expected

I had other posts planned for this space that I hadn't gotten around to writing yet, but life got turned upside down this past weekend.

My Grampie (ok, I shared him with a few other people) died on Saturday.

It wasn't completely unexpected -- he wasn't a spring chicken (at 91!) and suffered from dementia -- but it hit me harder than I thought it would.

Grampie had been in a nursing facility for almost three years when he moved in with my parents around Thanksgiving.

And for almost three months, he got to be home.

Then early in the morning on Saturday, with some of his family gathered around him, he took his last breath.

It's been a sad few days, but we've also spent some good time together as a family, laughing, crying, and reminiscing over some of our favorite Grampie memories.

I've written before on the blog about how I wanted to remember this giant of a man.

Today mostly I wanted to say how lucky I am to have been loved by a grandfather who took such delight in his grandchildren.


Catching up

Hi all! I'm alive!

I've been thinking about this space a lot and am more than a little sad that I got out of the habit of posting here. In part because I miss you all but also because I miss having my life documented. 

So why not start now?!

The end of 2014 and the first part of 2015 have been crazy -- so crazy that I'm about 100 blog posts behind. Because I have been reading, just not commenting. (Loser, I know.)

While I get this space back up and running (and organize my thoughts), I thought I'd do a "currently" post to catch you up on life at the moment. 

So here's what I'm currently:

Reading: I actually just finished The Zookeeper's Wife and am probably starting Miss Peregrine's School for Peculiar Children next. A friend suggested a movie themes book club, so we've selected the books that will become movies that we each want to read and then we'll go together to see them in theaters. I'm excited!

Watching: I finally caught up on Downton! A friend and I meet every week for dinner and the latest episode but I was out of town a few weeks in a row. It was so fun to catch up on all the family and servant drama. 

I also finished Parenthood and was really happy with the season finale. Did you watch? What did you think?

Making: Homemade bread. I'm actually waiting for it to finish baking so I can go to bed. So excited to enjoy this for breakfast tomorrow!

Looking forward to: a news trivia night tomorrow. I'm no trivia geek but this one is right up my alley and with a fun group of people. Plus, it's hosted by Ken Jennings. So excited!

Listening to: I've become anti-music in the car and have been listening mostly to podcast -- The Moment with Brian Koppelman is a fave -- but I just started the audiobook Wallflower at the Orgy about Nora Ephron. Any audiobook or podcast recommendations? Send 'em my way!

Wishing: That the Seahawks had won. Yeah, I know that is so a week and a half ago, but it's still sad. I was actually in Phoenix at the stadium for work (more on that later) and it is still shocking to me to think of how the game ended. 

Ready for: my four day weekend. Is tomorrow really only Wednesday? I'm headed up to meet my parents at my mom and aunt's new cabin. It's a little basic but cozy and I'm excited for lots of mountain adventures in our future. 

That's it for me! What's new currently for you?


Summer reading list

First of all, hi. Life has a way of taking over sometimes -- funny how that happens. 

I didn't mean to disappear from blogging for months. A few days turned into a week, etc., and then I felt like I should have some big reappearance post. 

Instead, I'm skipping that. Too much pressure. I'd much rather just start blogging again. 

Today, a visit to a book store netted me three brand new books. I start browsing and it's hard for me to say no.

But I also knew I had one or two books at home I'd been meaning to read. 


Make that 19.

So I've officially banned myself from buying new books. 

Really, I blame my Kindle. It's too darn easy to pick new books to read without leaving my bed. 

No longer. 

Instead it's time to get serious about this stack. 


A reminder to be thankful

I'm drained -- physically and emotionally. It's been a hard few weeks in our area -- news you may have heard about where you are. A news helicopter crashed a week then a pretty major landslide. Added to that I've taken on some freelance work (which I'm enjoying, but is one more thing to manage).

After the Seahawks season followed by Olympic coverage (and only a couple extra days off to recover a little), I could not be looking forward to this weekend more.

And while I may share more about life recently in the coming days/weeks/whenever I actually get to it, for now I wanted to focus on the positive -- on the things I am so thankful for amid all the tragedy we've been covering.

(As an aside, while it's been a tough few weeks for me, I know there are others personally impacted and suffering in ways I can't even imagine. And I've been humbled to help tell some of their stories.)

Things I am oh-so thankful for:

- Air popped popcorn: I know this seems silly, but a couple weeks ago I impulsively bought an air popper at Fred Meyer (a trip that accidentally resulted in three new kitchen appliances -- a story for another day). It may be the best purchase I've made in months. I've definitely indulged in a bowl or to for dinner recently.

- My amazing coworkers. People have stepped up, worked longer hours, taken on extra responsibilities without complaint and done such great work. Additionally, our parent company (which only acquired our group of TV stations a few months ago) has sent in reinforces. We couldn't have done it alone.

- Time with friends and family. Not only did I get to spend a few days last week up at my parents relaxing and enjoying puppy snuggles, but I've also had a few fun get togethers with friends, including one who visited from the other side of the country.

- A new vacuum that didn't cost a thing. My old vacuum was a Craigslist purchase my dad tracked down. It was starting to smell like the motor was burning out. While I (a.k.a. my dad) had started looking for something better, a friend of my dad's gave me one he was selling in a garage sale. So wonderful.

- Amazon Prime. Another silly one, but so helpful. My new vacuum needed bags and while it took two tries to buy the right ones, coming home today to vacuum bags and getting a chance to actually clean my carpets made me ridiculously happy (my 16-year-old self would just be shaking her head).

What have you been thankful recently?


1 down, 39 to go

Don't look now, but two days in a row. (What you don't see is me giving myself a premature pat on the back.)

Just kidding. Sorta.

With today being Ash Wednesday, I thought I'd share my plans for Lent.

I know this isn't a place I usually get very personal, but every once in a while I go there. This is one of those times.

Duh, duh, duh.

Sorry, it felt climatic.


I don't always observe Lent, at least not in terms of giving something up.

But this year I feel different about it. First, of all, I've let my faith take a bit of a back to life in the past year.

And secondly -- let's be honest -- I spend way too much time on my phone. Especially in the evenings if I'm home alone.

So I've decided I want to make better use of my time. My hope: to put down my phone in the evenings (unless it's to communicate with someone) and to spend time doing other things, including a quiet time to read my Bible.

And hopefully, by the end of 40 days, I won't find myself reaching for the phone every chance I get.

Night one hasn't been the smoothest. But I have caught up on blog reading and commenting a little, written this and am off for a little quiet time.

And hopefully it will only get better.

Do you observe Lent? Any plans to this year?