Favorites, Travel

Gearing Up for Spring Break

pexels-photo-219014.jpegSpring Break, for many of us, is almost here. In fact, if you are a college student, you may have already had your break! Once I’ve decided where I am going to travel, the first thing I think about is what I’m going to read while I am on the plane, by the pool, or on the beach. A vacation book should be enjoyable (no textbooks or business journals), fast-paced, and hard to put down. Here’s a few recommendations for your next trip:

If you haven’t read Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Liesread-book-reading-literature-54578.jpeg yet, you are in for a treat. Secrets, competitive parents, and different points of view make this novel a perfect beach read. Two of her earlier books, The Hypnotist’s Love Story, and What Alice Forgot, are also perfect for tucking into your beach bag.

One book that has gotten a great deal of buzz lately is A.J. Finn’s The Woman in the Window. Anna Fox is a lonely agoraphobic with secrets in her past who spends her days and nights spying on her neighbors, drinking, and watching classic movies, especially Hitchcock films. One night, she thinks she sees a crime committed, but will anyone believe her?

You can’t go wrong with a classic mystery like Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile, Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, or The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey.

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What are you planning on reading on your next vacation?

England

It was a dark and stormy night…

pexels-photo-414491.jpegToday is March 2nd, Dr.Seuss’s birthday. Can you imagine how many children he has started on the road to reading? It’s been stormy and cold today, the perfect recipe for time spent in front of a roaring fire, with a hot beverage and a book. I realized that I had the PERFECT book to read during the storm – Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz. I started this mystery several days ago, and I am hooked. Editor Susan Ryland is given a manuscript to edit from a famous author of an English mystery series, similar to Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot. The manuscript starts the mid-1950’s in a sleepy English village. There’s a mysterious death, colorful characters, and a wise detective. But the novel may be hiding another mystery within its pages…

What are you reading this blustery March weekend?

This and that

A Hint of What’s to Come…

6639CC6A-69CF-4C65-9F5D-0BCB7001478BCrisp fall days, meandering drives through mill towns, and a stunning college campus…  When I started this blog in November, my goal was to post a book and travel guide every week. And then, I found I couldn’t read and research that fast! However, I can tell you that recently I finished Hometown by Tracy Kidder, I’m starting Commencement by J. Courtney Sullivan, and I’m brushing up on my knowledge of Sojourner Truth, Sylvia Plath, and maybe even a little bit of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Can you guess where the next post takes place…?

Favorites

My Year in Books-Favorite Books of 2017


5FD4C003-FF00-4D5D-B25B-79AB1D883D4F.jpegAs of today, I finished up my last two books of the year, and I ended up reading 90 books! I’ve never read that many books in a year before, but this year, I found reading to be a welcome respite from everything going on in the world. Conversely, I added online subscriptions to both the Washington Post and the New York Times this year to my reading life, an addition I have greatly enjoyed. The one thing I did less of was watch tv, one of my favorite pastimes. I’m woefully behind on current shows, but I’m making time to start watching The Crown, which EVERYONE has recommended. However, for tonight I’m curling up with a glass of bubbly and Glass Houses, by one of my favorite mystery writers, Louise Penny. My husband, Rich, is reading The Green Mile by Stephen King, and is glued to it. Not an action-packed NYE, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Some of my favorite books of 2017 include the atmospheric mystery The Dry by Jane Harper set in drought-plagued Australia, the moving time-travel novel Kindred by Octavia Butler, written in 1979 but so relevant today, and the eerie novel by Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go. For sheer fun, try The Litigators by John Grisham, the historical fantasy, The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker, and The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman, featuring a kick-butt librarian who travels to alternate worlds to save books. Note: As of today (12/31/17), some of these books like End GameSleeping Giants and The Invisible Library are $3.99 or below for Kindle on Amazon. Click the pictures below to find out about these books and more.

Mysteries:

                       

                                     

Science Fiction:

                     
Fantasy:

             

Realistic Fiction:

               

Non-Fiction:

                    

Audiobooks

My Year in Books-The Audible Version

05FF122D-8E1B-4DD7-83F6-A205CA55ECDESince 2012, I’ve been doing the Goodreads Reading Challenge, and I highly recommend it. You set a goal of how many books you want to read during the year, and then log them on the Goodreads site as you finish. At the end of the year, you can look back and see all your books and your reading trends. This year, I’ve read some amazing books, a few clunkers (I usually put a book aside after 50 pages if it is not appealing to me, but there’s a few I powered through), and I can certainly see areas I want to improve for next year, such as non-fiction and books for 8-12 year olds. Over the next few days, I will highlight some of my favorites, starting with books I especially liked on Audible.

If you want to increase your reading time, audiobooks are the way to go. My commute to school is 15 minutes each way, so I can get in about 30 minutes a day of listening time. I have an Audible membership for one book credit a month, but you can also get books on CD at your local library, and even get downloadable audio books from some libraries. Check out the app Libby – it’s a great way to find some new books to listen to!

Memoirs/Autobiographies/Biographies:

I find this category to be full of noteworthy books, often read aloud by the author. The three below are my favorites from this year:

The Princess Diarist read by the author, Carrie Fisher, and her daughter, Billie Lourd. A dishy inside look at the making of Star Wars from the late Carrie Fisher. It’s funny, a little sad, and a fantastic listen, whether or not you like Star Wars.

Gloria Steinem My Life on the Road-introduction read by the author, Gloria Steinem and book read by Debra Winger. This insightful book covering Gloria Steinem’s travels, starting with her vagabond days as a child with her restless father and continuing into her adulthood, is a must for anyone who loves the road.

You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) – book read by author, Felicia Day. I’m not a gamer and don’t really watch internet series, but I LOVED this brave, funny memoir by The Guild star and creator, Felicia Day. Trust me on this, and take a leap of faith on this audiobook. You won’t be disappointed.

Mysteries/Action-Adventure:

I find listening to a fast-paced book while cleaning out my closet or classroom to be a fun way to get through a dreaded chore. The Women’s Murder Club series is entertaining with added sound effects and dramatic music. There are several narrators throughout the series, and I recommend starting with the first book due to some plot developments that occur.

1st to Die – The Women’s Murder Club by James Patterson, narrated by Suzanne Toren. A serial killer is murdering newlyweds in San Francisco, and all efforts to capture the killer have failed. A homicide inspector, a coroner, a newspaper reporter, and an assistant D.A. join forces to track down the killer before he or she targets the next couple.

My current listen is The Demon Crown by James Rollins, the newest book in his Sigma Force series. The series is a mix of science, adventure, and a lot of action. I recommend you start at the beginning of the series with Sandstorm, but there is enough information on characters’ backstories to start with any in the series. The narrator, Christian Baskous, is adept at all the different voices and accents of the characters.

What were your favorite audiobooks this year? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section!

 

 

California

Sacramento

IMG_6783.jpgSacramento is the nearest city to where I live. While it doesn’t have the sophistication of San Francisco, or the glamorous allure of Los Angeles, Sacramento has its own unique personality. It sounds like I’m bashing Sacramento, but I’m not – Sacramentans are proud of their city and all the things that make it stand out from California’s other cities. It’s the state capital of California, full of gold rush history, leafy, tree-lined streets, a thriving craft beer scene, and an incredible minor league baseball team, the Sacramento River Cats. Sacramento is also a river town, with one of the best bike trails in the nation. Check out the books below to get a feel for Sacramento.

The Reads

Where I Was From by Joan Didion  Writer Joan Didion is one of Sacramento’s most famous native daughters. Her book, Where I Was From, examines her family roots in Sacramento and the surrounding area. Parts of the book also delve into the changing landscape of California, but the most powerful parts of the book deal with her family and ancestors.

Lost Restaurants of Sacramento and Their Recipes by Maryellen Burns and Keith Burns  When I started to research books about Sacramento, I found this guide to past restaurants of Sacramento. I feel like I missed out on some amazing places! From Posey’s, a downtown hot spot for lawmakers, to Dunlap’s Cafeteria at the old state fairgrounds, these local restaurants were a common ground for the city’s citizens. Included in the book are many photographs and recipes from the gone-but-not-forgotten restaurants.

Abducted by T.R. Ragan –  Abducted is the first book in the Lizzy Gardner series. Lizzy Gardner is a typical teenager, sneaking out to visit her college-bound boyfriend, until she is abducted by Spiderman, a serial killer. Fourteen years later, Lizzy is a private investigator living and working in Sacramento. She was the only one of Spiderman’s victims to escape, and has worked diligently to put her life back together. Then one day, she gets a call from someone claiming to be Spiderman, promising to finish what started fourteen years before… This thriller is a fast-moving read and takes place in and around Sacramento.

Planning

Sacramento has several online resources to plan your trip. The Visit Sacramento website is an excellent place to start your planning your trip. For information on visiting the Capitol building and grounds, check out the official site.

If you go, don’t miss:

There’s lots to do in Sacramento, such as biking on the American River Bike Trail, visiting the train museum, or taking a stroll through the Capitol World Peace Rose Garden. However, for this post, I am focusing on BCC aka Beer, Coffee, and Chocolate.

Breweries:

Sacramento has an active craft beer community. Here are a few of my favorites:

Track 7 – Track 7 has a fun, relaxed atmosphere and food trucks every evening. It’s also dog-friendly and kid-friendly, making it an ideal place to gather with the whole family. All the beers are tasty, but I especially recommend the Bee Line Honey Blonde Ale and Panic India Pale Ale. I’ve only been to the original Curtis Park location by the railroad tracks, but I’ve heard nothing but praise for their other location in Natomas. I think a field trip there is in order!

Other breweries that are popular around the area are Fieldwork, Bike Dog, and Device. If you can’t make up your mind, the Federalist Public House is a fantastic place to try a variety of local beers, and order up one of their tasty pizzas. Plus, it’s in a unique building – a shipping container.

Map of Sacramento Area Breweries

Coffee:

Sacramento also has some incredible coffee places. Temple Coffee is an experience, and offers coffee that is hard to beat. There are several locations around town, and all of them have their own distinct vibe. My favorite is the one on 9th. Another favorite is Old Soul Coffee, with three different locations.

Chocolate:

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the chocolates from Ginger Elizabeth. The chocolates are dreamy little squares, with flavors such as Caramelized Milk & Coffee, Raspberry Rose Geranium, and Buttermilk Lime. When I have friends visiting from out of town, I always plan a stop here. If you visit Ginger Elizabeth in the winter, don’t miss out on the specialty hot chocolate, especially the Oaxacan Spicy Hot Chocolate.

Do you have a favorite book that takes place in Sacramento? A special place around the city? Let me know!

Gift Ideas

Bookish Gifts for the Traveling Family


It’s that time of year! I’m not a Black Friday 4 a.m.-in-the-morning person, but I do like to snuggle up on the couch with one of my dogs and a cup of coffee, and peruse the offerings online. Books are wonderful gifts, and I have a few to recommend, but here are some other ideas for things that you might tuck under the Christmas tree too.

For Everyone

I LOVE my Paperwhite Kindle, and I never travel without it. Amazon has some great deals running on all their Kindles before Christmas. I especially like this one designed just for kids with no advertisements and a vocabulary builder. You can even set reading goals, track progress, and pick a color for the free cover.

Board Books for Babies and Toddlers


These adorable, colorful board books by Ashley Evanson (New York, San Francisco, London, and Paris) will keep a baby or toddler engaged while you travel to your next destination. Plus, because they are board books, they are sturdy and easy for little hands to hold.

Books for Kids 

If you are traveling to New York, be sure to pick up a copy of E.L. Konigsburg’s From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler before you visit The Metropolitan Museum of Art. This children’s classic about two children who run away to live in The Met, and end up discovering a mystery is one of my favorite read-alouds.

On the opposite coast, San Francisco is a fantastic getaway to celebrate the holiday season. We usually try to get an overnight there just after Christmas and before the New Year. You can find some great last-minute deals on hotels, and visiting the grand Christmas tree in Union Square and eating dim sum in Chinatown are two of my favorite ways to spend time in San Francisco. Oh, be sure not to miss the antics of the puppies and kittens up for adoption in Macys window displays. If you go, be sure to read Book Scavenger by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman. I’ll be featuring this book in a future post. The book takes place in San Francisco and includes two friends, a mystery, and a hunt for clues all over the city. This book is a good fit for readers age 10-14.

For the Family

Not necessarily book-related, but these car trip bingo cards keep everyone’s eyes of devices and observing things on the road. I had these as a kid, I bought them for my kids when they were young, and they are still in my car.

A road trip can be the perfect time to listen to an Audible book together. Our family favorites include Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling (narrated by the incomparable Jim Dale), Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder (including a fiddler playing Pa’s songs on the fiddle) and The Bad Beginning, the first book in The Series of Unfortunate Events, by Lemony Snicket. These books can be enjoyed by everyone in your family.

I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving! What are you thankful for this year? I’m thankful for the people in my life, and especially thankful to the Smith College and Denison College parents who are driving and hosting our daughter and her boyfriend back east for Thanksgiving. This is their first Thanksgiving away from family, and I can’t wait to hear about their East Coast Thanksgiving experience.  We’re celebrating at my friends’ home with their family and our family, and I’ll be back on Sunday with another installment of Open Road Reads.