Book Challenge by Erin 9.0 Selections

Is it that time again, Audrey?? Yes. Yes, it is.

Erin released the prompts for her next book challenge and I’m so excited! This four month reading challenge goes from July 1 to Oct. 31. I have a few work trips in there so fingers crossed I get some travel-reading done.

Ok, I’ll talk rules and dets after I share my choices 🙂

Book Challenge by Erin 9.0

|5 points| Freebie (at least 200 pages): One Dark Throne by Kendare Blake
|10 points| Starts with the letter N: Nine Women, One Dress by Jane L. Rosen
|10 points| Has a mostly orange color: A Tyranny of Petticoats by various authors
|15 points| A book with an unlikable character: The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling
|20 points| One of the 100 books PBS calls “The Great American Read”Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban (illustrated version) by J.K. Rowling
|20 points| Something related to water in the title: On A Cold Dark Sea by Elizabeth Blackwell
|25 points| A book you’ve owned the longest (GoodReads list) but haven’t read yet: The Astronaut Wives Club by Lily Koppel
|30 points| An emotion word in the title: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
|30 points| Each word in the title begins with the same letter: After Alice by Gregory Maguire
|35 points| A book featuring a character who shares your profession or similar one (i.e. does the same kind of thing as you do day to day): The Wall of Winnipeg and Me by Mariana Zapata

Ok… on to my sales pitch 😉

Just kidding, it’s not a pitch. Erin hosts the most supportive and encouraging challenges, though. I use them as motivation to put down the remote or phone and pick up a book or Kindle. I read ONE book in my very first challenge- it’s not about how fast or many you read. It’s about enjoying the stories along the way. Absolutely ZERO pressure.

If you do want to partake, select your books and have them to Erin’s FB page before July (the earlier, the better- but she takes late joiners, too). Reading starts at 12:00am on July 1st and ends at 11:59pm on October 31st. One book can be a reread for you, but all categories must be different books (no doubling up to check off two categories) and all books must be 200+ pages. You can use audio and ebooks as long as they meet those requirements. Any questions? You can check out Erin’s FB page or ask me!

So tell me what you picked or would pick for each category. I won’t lie- I struggled a bit. Almost all of these are from my TBR list, though, so I’m crossing my fingers that I’ll FINALLY finish a challenge.

What I Read…

At the beginning of the year I was a reading machine….then I wasn’t. I didn’t finish Erin’s Challenge (part way through I knew I wouldn’t), I barely cracked a book in April, and I often chose sleeping or TV over reading. I was sick and we traveled quite a bit. I’m not making excuses- I fully own up to all my distractions. I’m back on the horse for now, though, and the horse is galloping.

(Obviously linking up with Jana and Steph today for Show Us Your Books!)

In other news,  I joined a book club at my church in May! We read Carry On, Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton. I’m the youngest by quite a few years (10), but nevertheless I enjoy the company & discussion.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows
★★★★★/5 
At the close of WWII Juliet Ashton, a charismatic and fiery authoress, is looking for her next book topic. After exchanging a few letters with some literature-loving islanders of Guernsey she’s both curious & inspired.
Everyone I know who’s read this book has loved it. I’m not here to contest that. I want to be best friends with Juliet and I want to discuss literature with the Literary Society and I want to run through the fields and build sandcastles on the beach with Kit. It is a gorgeous story of a strong women who is dedicated to her career and her loved ones and reporting a true but entertaining story. It’s also about rebuilding one’s life after bombs have reduced all the one loves to rubble. Gosh, it was a crazy gorgeous story. I was never bored and I teared up a few times and I’m very grateful for everyone who encouraged me to read it!
Should you read it? Please do. It’s lovely and heart-warming and sad in a warlike way but so cozy.

Carry On, Warrior by Glennon Doyle (Melton- at the time)
★★★★/5 
Carrying over from her blog Momastery, Glennon Doyle Melton shares her youthful struggles, stories of motherhood, and lessons on finding her own version of faith and God’s grace. 
(Honest rating is 3.5 stars but I round up.) This book was picked for me. When I joined my church’s book club they had just started this one- so I jumped right in. Glennon and her love-based faith reminds me of Jen Hatmaker and Brene Brown (although, admittedly, I’ve only read excerpts from and about them. I don’t know their backstories). Glennon is a recovered/ing alcoholic, drug addict, bulimic, & smoker. When she found out she was pregnant she stopped everything cold turkey (damn), married the baby’s father, and started writing to keep herself sane. Her stories are raw and honest and 100% rooted in love/grace/kindness. I loved that. She made me want to be a better person- but also emphasized that “better” is a term of worth and we’re already 100% worthy.
Should you read it? If what I said appeals to you, then yes. She’s not perfect, her past is spotty, and she takes a pretty liberal approach to loving Jesus- which I believe is 100% His kind of disciple.

Favorite Quotes:

“Brave is a decision. It is a decision that compassion is more important than fear, than fitting in, than following the crowd.” p.123

“…when in doubt, mercy triumphs judgement.” p.140

“Everybody has the answers right inside of her, since we’re all made up of the same amount of God.” p.117

“Be confident because you are a child of God. Be humble because everyone else is too.” p.176


Arrogant Devil by R.S. Grey
★★★/5
Meredith is desperate for a new start- so desperate she leaves her million dollar life behind in California. Jack just so happens to be desperate for a house cleaner. Despite a rocky first impression and gruff boss, Meredith is determined to rebuild her life here at Blue Stone Ranch and win Jack over.
I don’t know if romances are my thing… That said, I stayed up until 2:30 AM ON A WORK NIGHT to read this book. So I enjoyed it… but I don’t know how to rate it in regards to other spicy novels because I hardly ever (possibly never?) read them. But I really, really loved Meredith. She was hilarious. I laughed out loud several times during her self talks & conversations with Alfred. I also appreciated that she was kind and friendly and never in competition with anyone else. Also, considering her life in California, I found her humble. I genuinely loved her character. While rough around the edges (because he was supposed to be), I enjoyed Jack, too. He was a hardworking ranch owner but he never looked like a hillbilly or heathen. I liked that. The story made sense and the side characters were fun. (Edith is probably the absolute best ever.) I think Meredith had a lot of growth confidence-wise and independence-wise, but she was never an unlikable character to start with. Based on the other reviews I’ve read, Grey tends to write great characters so I’ll probably pick up another of her book someday.
Should you read it? If you like romance novels or you want to try reading a romance, then yes.

Renegades by Marissa Meyer
★★★/5
Nova hates the Renegades and knows that average people can be their own heroes- why should they lean on the inflated Renegades Council and the prodigies they employee? When the opportunity to take down the superhero establishment presents itself, Nova jumps at the chance and is immersed in the world of “good”,  but things aren’t always as they seem.
This was the definition of three stars. It didn’t blow my mind and I had plenty of issues with it, but it was entertaining and I enjoyed the story and I will definitely give the next book in the series a chance. Nova and Adrian are both great characters. Flawed but genuinely good at heart. There are secrets and lies and hidden identities, but fortunately no love triangles or anything that makes my eyes roll out of my head. There are way too many similarities to X-Men for me to ignore (but maybe that’s because I’m a big X-Men fan). I’m hoping that book #2 brings some depth to the Council and the Renegades as a whole. I want Nova (and Adrian, for that matter) to discover something shady within the all-too-perfect organization. I’m also curious about Max- I hope we get more on his past. This was a +550 page book, but it didn’t feel that long to me.
Should you read it? Only if the description really appeals to you. It’s action-y and a little YA. If you liked Meyer’s other books you might like it.

It Takes One to Tango: How I Rescued My Marriage with (Almost) No Help from My Spouse- and How You Can, Too by Winifred M. Reilly
★★★/5
Fed up with her husband’s behavior and on the verge of divorce, couples therapist Winifred M. Reilly stumbles upon a new approach. Can changing her own behavior and attitude really alter her partners destructive habits?
My marriage isn’t in trouble, but I like reading books on relationships and parenting and things like that. This one was interesting. (Steph mentioned it once and that’s how it came across my radar.) I think it could have been half as long. The last 25% is what really resonated with me. I think this marriage book would be helpful for longtime couples who find themselves having the same fights over and over again. It’s a book about a) finding happiness within yourself, not within your spouse and b) making changes to the daily script and not falling victim to the same old fights with the same old reactions and the same old results. Honestly, it made sense and I think the advice would work for two people stuck in a rut who still might love one another. I compared the stories and results to my own marriage, and I think there are some things I’d like to do going forward that might change the outcome of our two or three “consistent” arguments. I liked how the book focused on the reader- not the reader’s relationship. I think that made it helpful and applicable.
Should you read it? If you’re looking for creative ways to communicate and respect your spouse, it might be worth your time. Skim the first 50%, though. It’s mostly about the author’s marriage and failed reparation attempts.

Favorite Quote:

“When a prevailing belief in our culture is that people should either leave a relationship that doesn’t make them happy or pressure their partner to improve his or her performance, no wonder so few of us have any idea where to begin.”


Did you see that Erin’s 9.0 Challenge prompts are finally available? The challenge doesn’t start until July but obviously I’ve already picked out my reads. (Sharing those on Thursday!) If you’ve been on the fence about dipping your toes in the book challenge pond I’d encourage you to join in this summer! I can’t sing Erin’s praises enough as a host and the categories are so fun to match with books!

I honestly can’t believe I finished five books this month. I finished zero last month. I’ve been working on a few of these for quite some time, but I’m still happy with this month’s results.

What did you read?

Life According to Steph

The Roaring Swinging Fabulous Groovy Blog Collaboration | The 1950s

Hello! Fair warning- you will not find Grease on my list of recommendations. Welcome to the 1950s! While girls and boys were sipping on shakes in the malt shop the rest of the world was fighting in the Korean War, racing to space, and whispering behind closed doors about communism and capitalism.

On the first Tuesday of the month, February through November, we’re highlighting books & films from/about specific eras that we recommend! (Television shows, too, sometimes!) There’s no commitment or link-up during those months on your end, but in December we’ll host a recap/link-up for the entire year!

I’ve mentioned this before, but music from the 1940s makes me happy. Some of those same artists trickled into the 50s (Sinatra, Crosby, Martin, …) but when the mid-century rock n’ roll starts I lose interest. (Which is funny, considering my father-in-law plays bass in a nationally recognized Elvis band.)

Alright, on to the recommendations…

B O O K S

I only have one book to recommend but it’s one of my favorites.

It’s the only TJR book I’ve read: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo (Taylor Jenkins Reid) is so entertaining and engrossing. It spans a few decades, but it starts in the 50s. This book has star power, small twists, romance & friendship, and lovable yet flawed characters. I really loved it.

M O V I E S

(1953) I didn’t see it until I was in my 20s, but Roman Holiday is cute and fun and it includes Audrey Hepburn & Gregory Peck. When Peck was hired his contract gave him solo star billing. Halfway through filming he suggested newcomer Audrey be billed equally. (That didn’t happen in the 50s in Hollywood.) I really love both of these actors and their work outside their films.

(1954) If you’re new around here you might not know that I LOVE Clue. It’s one of my all-time favorite films. It’s silly and eerie and mysterious and star-studded.

I don’t have an exact year for this film’s settings, but many of the flashbacks in Big Fish are set in the 50s. I watched this movie a long time ago, but I need a refresher. I read that it’s based on a book and that the book/the plot is based on the Odyssey and 12 Labors of Hercules.

(1959) Again, it’s been way too long since I’ve seen it, but obviously Dead Poets Society makes the list. It’s a sad movie (especially now after Williams’ passing) but the message is good.

(1959) Another film I waited until my 20s to see, Chocolat is seriously so sweet (pun intended) and beautiful. It’s about the way we have faith and lose faith in other people, though in the end there is always something to connect us- even if it’s simply a love of chocolate.

*dates indicate setting, not release

B O N U S

I’ve only watched a few episodes of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel but I loved them! I love the constant dynamic between upper class and lower class, male and female, Jewish and not Jewish. The show is very progressive for 1958 and that’s 100% the point.

On the shelf…

Books I want to read include…

Television shows I want to watch are…

Now be sure to hope over to Alexandra’s blog and check out her 1950s recommendations, too!

The 1960s was a time of revolution and political unrest. From the rise of the Vietnam war to the death of President John F. Kennedy to the birth or hippies, the 60s were quite the time to be alive! Join us next month for our entertainment recommendations from the era!

Did you miss our previous decades-themed posts? Find them here: 1910, 1920, 1930, 1940

Odd Things About Aud: Book Edition

I have some odd reading habits. (I imagine all voracious readers do, though I don’t consider my reading style to be “voracious.”) Perhaps you do some of these things, too. Maybe you think I’m a total nut who doesn’t know how to read properly. Either way, today I’m a open book. (Pun so intended.)

I always look to see how many pages a book has. Sometimes I even read the last page or paragraph of the book. I know I’m spoiling it, but sometimes my anxiety needs to know. Also, when I really love a character, I check the last page or chapter to make sure they’re still alive. #sorrynotsorry

I don’t enjoy thrillers. They make my whole body shake and I dream about them and I try to figure out “who done it” the whole time… but after reading The Woman in Cabin 10 I can accurately conclude that I tend to breeze through them much faster than any other genre. (And I definitely didn’t enjoy that one!)

I work better with a challenge. I like making a summer reading list or participating in Erin’s challenges because they give me a direction and a “to do list” for book reading. Even if I read things off that list, I have something that I’m working toward. I read best that way.

About halfway through a book I decide what I’m going to rate it on Goodreads/my blog. Then I give it the second half to up its score (or, unfortunately, wreck it).

If a book is good enough, I scour the internet for fan art/more details/background stories. I don’t think that’s too out of the ordinary, though, right? (I am all about the fan art with The Lunar Chronicles.) I try to curb the searching if I feel like it might ruin the ending/next book.

When I’m super into a book I typically force myself to put it down… even if I pick it up again 5 minutes later. I think my brain just needs a few minutes to process what I read or feel that urge to HAVE to jump back in. If someone were to watch me read they’d see me read for 30 minutes or an hour, set the book down and look out the window or toss the dogs’ toys a bit, then crack it open for another hour of reading.

I have a serious love/hate relationship with my Kindle. K gave me a Paperwhite for my birthday last year. I love it because it’s portable AND it’s backlit (that’s the term, right?) so I can read in bed while he’s sleeping. And therein lies the hate… If I’m not tired I will open up that Kindle and read for hours. Last week I read from 9:30pm to 2:30am. I have always been more productive at night, but I tried to change my ways after I graduated college. Kindle is making me regress…

I need to have at least 2 books going at the same time (and they can’t be similar). Also, there’s no limit to how many books I have going… Right now I’m reading seven. I switch based on what I’m in the mood for (like how one would pick a movie) and I scatter them all over the house so something is always at my fingertips 🙂

To be clear, I don’t always let myself spoil books. There are times I avoid GoodReads reviews or skip over a book during the #SUYB link-up. I’m not a total monster.

Do you have any strange reading quirks? Do we share any?

*I’m going to take next week off from blogging. I’ll still be hopping around and reading your posts, but my creative juices are lacking and I think a week off will help! 🙂

Books I Want to Read – Summer 2018

This is supposed to be a book review day where I link up with Steph and Jana, and share all my opinions on books. Well, I finished an impress ZERO books since the last Show Us Your Books so I’m flipping the script today.
Before I dive in, HAPPY 25th BIRTHDAY to my baby brother! ❤

I did a post like this last year in May and I’m impressed with myself that there were only two books I didn’t end up reading. With my last book challenge ending in April and the next one starting in July, I feel like I have some time to tackle a few of these!

Hopefully what I don’t finish I can squeeze into Erin’s next challenge somewhere.

One Dark Throne //#2 in the Three Dark Crowns series (Kendare Blake)
I finished the first books in the series earlier this year & I’m pretty motivated to read on and find out what happens… I’m avoiding all spoilers so I don’t know what it’s about.

A Court of Thorns & Roses (Sarah J. Maas)
I meant for this to be my next fantasy series, but I got sucked into the TDC series. Whoops. I own the first book in this series and the Throne of Glass series so hopefully I pick one up soon.

After Alice (Gregory Maguire)
You know I love me a good Alice in Wonderland spin-off/retelling. I picked this up from a bookstore a few months ago and put it on the short stack.

The Magnolia Story (Joanna & Chip Gaines)
I know this will be a quick read. I need to set aside a warm afternoon in the sunshine.

One of Us is Lying (Karen M. McManus)
I’ve heard nothing but good reviews with this book. I can’t wait to crack it open!

The Alice Network (Kate Quinn)
I remember hearing this was good. I bought it on a whim months ago.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows)
I feel like everyone loves this book. I think it’ll be a quick read.

Crazy Rich Asians (Kevin Kwan)
This has been on my TBR list for a while and now it’s going to be a movie. Gotta read the book first, though.

The Casual Vacancy (J.K. Rowling)
Can you believe I haven’t read this yet? I’ve tried but I couldn’t get into it. I’ll try again.

I own all these books except ODT, Guernsey, & CRA. I’ve got no excuse to not read the ones in my possession. Lol

What’s on your summer reading list? Have any strong feelings about these books?

I promise I’ll have some reviews for June’s #SUYB post!

Life According to Steph

The Roaring Swinging Fabulous Groovy Blog Collaboration | The 1940s

Ahhh. My favorite era! I love the music and fashion of the 1940s. I know the 40s are often associated with World War II and the Holocaust- especially the first half. I tried to offer a mix but many of my suggestions circle around those themes.

On the first Tuesday of the month, February through November, we’re highlighting books & films from/about specific eras that we recommend! (Television shows, too, sometimes!) There’s no commitment or link-up during those months on your end, but in December we’ll host a recap/link-up for the entire year!

This is a weird one… I really like this era but my recommendations don’t reflect that, lol.

B O O K S

How do I have NO books to recommend?! I’ve read stories from this decade, but I couldn’t think of any that were recommendable. Sorry, guys. *shrug*

M O V I E S

(1940) I don’t know why, but I just love The Philadelphia Story. I think Katharine Hepburn is such a stunning, inspirational human being and I remember loving her fire when I saw this movie for the first time. I also think it’s a cute romance. Plus, Cary Grant. Me-OW.

(1941) No beating around the bush, Pearl Harbor is definitely a war movie. But it’s another one that we just really love. Plus, the musical score from this movie is incredible. I love the music.

(1943) You don’t get to be a member of our family unless you’ve seen A League of Their Own half a dozen times. My husband loooves this movie and we always watch it when it’s on. I have a HUGE crush on Geena Davis and I love the different roles and personalities from all the women in this film. If you haven’t seen it YOU SHOULD!

B O N U S

I haven’t seen many episodes, but I agree with the vast population that loves The Crown. For some reason the royal family sucks me right in. (Yes, I will be waking up at the crack of dawn for Harry & Meghan’s wedding.) I can’t wait to watch more episodes of this show!

On the Shelf…

There are so many things I want to read & see set in this era!

The Alice Network (Kate Quinn)
The Book Thief (Markus Zusak)- My aunt just recommended this one to me on Sunday!
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows)
Code Name Verity (Elizabeth Wein)- I’ve seen this book rated highly on reviews everywhere!
We Were the Lucky Ones (Georgia Hunter)- I’ve only heard amazing things about this book.

Foyle’s War– a British mystery television series set during WWII
Fleming– a mini series about the man behind Bond: Ian Fleming
Bomb Girls– I watched an episode or 2 and loved this. I need to finish it!
Island at War– another wartime mini-series

I know, I know. I need to get busy!

Be sure to hope over to Alexandra’s blog and check out her recommendations!

Throw on your poodle skirt and leather jacket, and meet us at the sock hop next month to dive headfirst into the 1950s! We’re rockin’ and rollin’ our way into the next decade and we hope you’ll join us!

Check out our recommendations from the 1910s, 20s, & 30s, too!

What I Read…

Woot woot! It’s book day!! April is the final month for Erin’s 8.0 Book Challenge, too.

I’m linking up with my favorite book gurus (Steph & Jana) for Show Us Your Books!

And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer by Fredrik Backman
★★★★★/5
In his old age, a grandpa looks back with fondness and regret over his relationships with his son and grandson. 
This entire story destroyed me. I read it in on sitting one a quiet Saturday afternoon. Thank goodness K wasn’t home because I bawled like a baby for the last half. I think that if you’ve ever seen someone close to you slowly (or quickly) age and fade from the person they used to be, this book will move you. This was my first Backman book and I enjoyed his writing and storytelling. I’m definitely going to check out some of his more popular books next.
Should you read it? Yes. But brace yourself.

The Hangman’s Daughter by Oliver Pötzsch
★★★/5 
In 1659 Bavaria ostracized hangman Jakob Kuisl is tasked with torturing a friend accused of witchcraft and murder… unless he can prove her innocence. With help from his daughter and her suitor, the town’s physician’s son, can Jakob stop the madness before it escalates? 
This was a long book that felt even longer. (I really rate it 2.5 starts but I round up.) I half wonder if the translation made it drag on so terribly…? Sometimes the plot was repeated, similar to a TV show recaping what had happened before the commercial break. I’m not sure… something just made it feel slow and labored. The story itself was great! I loved the setting and the mystery and murders sent chills down my spine. Don’t even get me started on the devil character. ~eek~ I think the title and cover look a little playful, but be warned there are some torture details and most of the murder victims are orphan kids. Definitely not a light and fluffy tale. I know there are four or five more books in this series but I don’t think I’ll be reading on.
Should you read it? No. You can skip this one.

*I think both of these books were written in a different language. Lol


Now for an update on the book challenge… (It ends April 30th at 11:59pm.)

|5 points| Freebie: The Murder on the Links (Christie)
|10 points| Starts with the letter L: Last Christmas in Paris (Gaynor)
|10 points| Has a (mostly) red cover: Girl Waits With Gun (Stewart)
|15 points| A character’s name in the title: HP & the Chamber of Secrets (Rowling)
|20 points| From this list: Three Dark Crowns (Blake)
|20 points| “House” or “home” in the title: The House of New Beginnings (Diamond)
|25 points| Author’s first & last name begins w/ the same letter: Renegades (Meyer, M)
|30 points| Originally published in a different language: The Hangman’s Daughter (Potzsch)
|30 points| Most of the action takes place on a form of transportation: Dead Wake (Larson)
|35 points| A character suffers from a debilitating illness: Finding Audrey (Kinsella)

Up to 125 points.

Honestly, I think I’ve come to terms with the fact that I won’t be finishing Erin’s challenge this time. When I first started doing her book challenges I was barely reading two books a year. I typically average two or three books a month now so I’m not the least bit upset about not completing the challenges 🙂 I’ll get the next one, though. For some reason I left the +400 page books for the end. Even if I don’t get them done before April’s end, I plan to finish Dead Wake and Renegades.

So that’s all I’ve got. Tell me what you read this month!

Life According to Steph