Category Archives: Top Ten Tuesday

TTT: Top Ten Favorite Books of 2017

Today’s Top Ten Tuesday is about favorite books of 2017.   This is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.   There were so many great books I read this year.  To keep this post current and about 2017, I’ve stuck to my favorite books read this year that were published this year as well. Have you read any of these?  If so, what were your thoughts about these books?  What is your favorite book of 2017?  Please share!

  1.  The Animators by Kayla Rae Whitaker (Published January 2017) – This is a wonderful roller coaster ride of a book, a complete delight.  It is about the power of art to transform and redeem, to heal and reconcile the past.  My review.
  2. The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen (Published February 2017) – An incredible collection of short stories about the experience of Vietnamese refugees in America.  The writing is excellent and the stories are emotionally intense. My review.
  3. Things We Lost in the Fire by Mariana Enriquez (Published February 2017) – This is a collection of short horror stories, all based in Argentina.  Through these works there is plenty of social commentary.  Additionally, the tumultuous horrific history of Argentina’s Dirty War keeps creeping into present day.  My review.
  4. Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (Published March 2017) – An excellent mediation on immigration.  In this well written novel, Mohsin describes the relationship between a young couple and how it evolves as their country becomes embroiled in a civil war.  They flee and become refugees in other lands.  Their roles, personalities and relationship are all in flux as a result.  My review.
  5. The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti (Published March 2017) – A beautiful novel which at it’s heart is about a father-daughter relationship. The daughter is coming of age and discovering more of the history surrounding her father.  Despite her father’s shady past, he is also a hero, surviving 12 bullets, appearing to be a Hercules of sorts.  A mystery unfolds, and love and understanding deepens, as his past is revealed.  My review.
  6. Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout (Published April 2017) – This collection of short stories each focus on characters that grew up in Amgash, Illinois where Lucy Barton did from Strout’s earlier novel, My Name is Lucy Barton.  Elizabeth Strout is a magnificent storyteller and with each story, the reader gets a better view of the town, the social millieu and an understanding of the darkness surrounding Lucy Barton and her family at the time.  My review.
  7. The Leavers by Lisa Ko (Published May 2017) – This novel is an epic tale told in alternating perspectives from a mother and in a third person voice about her son.  This book is about Chinese immigration, the experience of illegal immigrants, adoption, and feelings of identity crisis once adopted.  
  8. The Changeling by Victor LaValle (Published in June 2017) – In this novel, a modern day fairy tale turns into a horror story.  A young couple is living in New York City with a baby.  The father is overjoyed, takes lots of pictures, is very involved.. until the baby is killed by the mother and he is left chained to the radiator.  Now enter a world of witches, trolls, and changelings.  Victor LaValle is masterful storyteller who also weaves in plenty of social commentary regarding race and everyday horrors that have nothing to do with supernatural beings.  My review.
  9. We Shall Not All Sleep by Estep Nagy  (Published July 2017) – This novel occurs over a span of several days on a Maine island inhabited by two families who typically avoid each other.  During this period their pasts and presents collide in this wonderfully written novel that is somewhat historical in it’s incorporation of McCarthyism, but is also a coming of age novel and a mystery.  My review.
  10. The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld (Published in September 2017) – This is a thriller about missing children and a woman who spends her life looking for them.  She herself was a victim and she seems to understand the captors and victims well.  The author, herself, writes from tremendous experience both in her personal and professional life.  This is a thriller that feels honest and real, representing all sides justly.  My review.


TTT: Top 10 Bookish Settings I’d Love to Visit

Today’s Top Ten Tuesday is about bookish settings I would like to visit.   This is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. The following are 10 bookish settings that are on my list of places I would love to visit or vacation in.  Maps are from Lonely Planet.  What places would you like to visit based on bookish inspiration?


One.  Mallorca, Spain.  In The Vacationers, the dysfunctional family vacations in Mallorca, an island off the coast of Spain.


Two.  Spain – Of course I would also love to visit mainland Spain, so The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway serves as a lovely inspiration for this future visit as the main characters visit Pamploma, San Sebastian and Madrid.


Three.  Guernsey (UK) – Reading The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society made this island an intriguing vacation destination for me.  Located in the English Channel, this island is rich in history and beauty.


Four.  Australia – There are many books taking place on this continent I would love to visit.  The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman is one.












Five.  ColombiaLove in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez takes place in this beautiful country that I have long wished to visit.

Six.  EgyptThe Alchemist by Paulo Coelho takes place in this country with so much beauty and history to explore.


Seven.  Greece – Like Egypt, Greece is so rich in history and beauty.  Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres takes place here.


Eight.  India – In The Resurrection of Joan Ashby, Joan visits India in the second half of the book to resurrect herself through Indian culture.


Nine.  Brazil – In Ways to Disappear by Idra Novel, the protagonist takes off to Brazil for a hilarious wonderful journey.


Ten.  KenyaOut of Africa by Isak Dinesen takes place in Kenya, a place I would love to visit.  I would love to explore this area on a safari.




TTT: Top Ten Books on My Winter TBR List

Today’s Top Ten Tuesday is about the winter’s most anticipated reads.  This is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. The following are 10 books I hope to read this winter for various reasons.  Some are book club picks, some fulfill requirements of Bookriots 2017 Read Harder Challenge, some are books I will enjoy reading with with my children, some are netgalley requests, and a couple are ones I’ve been meaning to get to.  Next to each book, I will include an excerpt from Goodreads as well as explain why I chose that particular book.  What is on your winter TBR list?  Have you read any of these?  Or are any of these on your list as well?

  1.  The Leavers by Lisa Ko“One morning, Deming Guo’s mother, an undocumented Chinese immigrant named Polly, goes to her job at the nail salon and never comes home. No one can find any trace of her.  With his mother gone, eleven-year-old Deming is left with no one to care for him. He is eventually adopted by two white college professors who move him from the Bronx to a small town upstate. They rename him Daniel Wilkinson in their efforts to make him over into their version of an “all-American boy.” But far away from all he’s ever known, Daniel struggles to reconcile his new life with his mother’s disappearance and the memories of the family and community he left behind.”  – Goodreads    Why?  This was a book club choice that I’ve started and am very much enjoying.  It is definitely a great book choice for book clubs.
  2. A Gentleman in the Streets by Alisha Rai“Since the moment the sexy, sultry socialite sidled up to him years ago, there hasn’t been a time when Jacob didn’t crave Akira. But as guardian to his younger siblings, responsibility has controlled his life. Confining his darkest desires to secret, stolen moments maintains his carefully disciplined world…but a cold bed is the price he pays.  A single touch is all it takes for their simmering need to explode. As secrets and fears are stripped away one by one, shame becomes a thing of the past. They find themselves becoming addicted to each other, in bed and out—a frightening prospect for a man just learning to live…and a woman who thinks she doesn’t know how to love.”  – Goodreads  Why? This will satisfy the requirement to read a LGBTQ+ romance novel on the 2017 BookRiot Read Harder Challenge.  I’m not normally into romance or erotica, but this book seemed to get great reviews and it’s nice to break out of the typical mode.
  3. Soonish:  Ten Emerging Technologies that will Improve and/or Ruin Everything by Kelly and Zach Weinersmith “In this smart and funny book, celebrated cartoonist Zach Weinersmith and noted researcher Dr. Kelly Weinersmith give us a snapshot of what’s coming next — from robot swarms to nuclear fusion powered-toasters. By weaving their own research, interviews with the scientists who are making these advances happen, and Zach’s trademark comics, the Weinersmiths investigate why these technologies are needed, how they would work, and what is standing in their way.” – Goodreads       Why?  This book will satisfy the BookRiot Read Harder Challenge requirement to read a nonfiction book about technology.
  4. Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate – “Memphis, 1939. Twelve-year-old Rill Foss and her four younger siblings live a magical life aboard their family’s Mississippi River shantyboat. But when their father must rush their mother to the hospital one stormy night, Rill is left in charge—until strangers arrive in force. Wrenched from all that is familiar and thrown into a Tennessee Children’s Home Society orphanage, the Foss children are assured that they will soon be returned to their parents—but they quickly realize that the truth is much darker. At the mercy of the facility’s cruel director, Rill fights to keep her sisters and brother together—in a world of danger and uncertainty.” – Goodreads   Why?  This is a book club choice.
  5. The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin“It’s 1969 in New York City’s Lower East Side, and word has spread of the arrival of a mystical woman, a traveling psychic who claims to be able to tell anyone the day they will die. The Gold children—four adolescents on the cusp of self-awareness—sneak out to hear their fortunes.  Their prophecies inform their next five decades. Golden-boy Simon escapes to the West Coast, searching for love in ’80s San Francisco; dreamy Klara becomes a Las Vegas magician, obsessed with blurring reality and fantasy; eldest son Daniel seeks security as an army doctor post-9/11, hoping to control fate; and bookish Varya throws herself into longevity research, where she tests the boundary between science and immortality.” – Goodreads   Why?  I’ve been hearing great things about this book, so I requested it from netgalley.  That request was granted.
  6. All the Names They Used For God by Anjali Sachdeva “Anjali Sachdeva’s debut collection spans centuries, continents, and a diverse set of characters but is united by each character’s epic struggle with fate: A workman in Andrew Carnegie’s steel mills is irrevocably changed by the brutal power of the furnaces; a fisherman sets sail into overfished waters and finds a secret obsession from which he can’t return; an online date ends with a frightening, inexplicable dissapearance. Her story “Pleiades” was called “a masterpiece” by Dave Eggers. Sachdeva has a talent for creating moving and poignant scenes, following her highly imaginative plots to their logical ends, and depicting how one small miracle can affect everyone in its wake.” – Goodreads   Why?  I had read a couple of wonderful reviews of this collection of short stories, so I requested it from netgalley.
  7. Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder“On the island, everything is perfect. The sun rises in a sky filled with dancing shapes; the wind, water, and trees shelter and protect those who live there; when the nine children go to sleep in their cabins, it is with full stomachs and joy in their hearts. And only one thing ever changes: on that day, each year, when a boat appears from the mist upon the ocean carrying one young child to join them—and taking the eldest one away, never to be seen again.” – Goodreads   Why?  This is a book my oldest child picked out for our family to read together.
  8. Wonder by R. J. Palacio – “August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school—until now. He’s about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, and if you’ve ever been the new kid then you know how hard that can be. The thing is Auggie’s just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he’s just like them, despite appearances?  R. J. Palacio has written a spare, warm, uplifting story that will have readers laughing one minute and wiping away tears the next. With wonderfully realistic family interactions (flawed, but loving), lively school scenes, and short chapters, Wonder is accessible to readers of all levels.” – Goodreads    Why?  I am desperately hoping to read this book with my children in time to see the movie in the theater afterwards.
  9. Let Me Lie by Clare Mackintosh“The police say it was suicide.  Anna says it was murder.  They’re both wrong.  One year ago, Caroline Johnson chose to end her life brutally: a shocking suicide planned to match that of her husband just months before. Their daughter, Anna, has struggled to come to terms with their loss ever since.  Now with a young baby of her own, Anna misses her mother more than ever and starts to question her parents’ deaths. But by digging up their past, she’ll put her future in danger. Sometimes it’s safer to let things lie…” – Goodreads  Why?  Having loved I Let You Go by this author, I look forward to reading her newest thriller.  I find these are excellent books for listening to in the car.
  10. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas“Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.  Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.”  – Goodreads    Why?   I’m not sure why I seem to be the last one to read this book, but I think it’s about time I did!

TTT: Top Ten Middle Grade Books I’m Excited to Read with my Children

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  Each week there is a suggested topic from which bloggers build their  posts.  Today’s post is about books we look forward to our children reading.  Here are the ten books I am most excited to read with them in the next few years.  I’ve included only books published in the last 5 years that I have not yet read.  Many of these have intrigued me for a while.. but I’ve been holding out to enjoy them with my children.   The quoted blurbs about each book are taken from Goodreads.  I welcome any further suggestions or commentary on the books I’ve chosen!

  1.  Wonder by R. J. Palacio (ages 8-12) – August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school—until now. He’s about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, and if you’ve ever been the new kid then you know how hard that can be. The thing is Auggie’s just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he’s just like them, despite appearances?”  – Published 2012
  2. Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder (ages 8-12) – “On the island, everything is perfect. The sun rises in a sky filled with dancing shapes; the wind, water, and trees shelter and protect those who live there; when the nine children go to sleep in their cabins, it is with full stomachs and joy in their hearts. And only one thing ever changes: on that day, each year, when a boat appears from the mist upon the ocean carrying one young child to join them—and taking the eldest one away, never to be seen again.”  Published 2017
  3. The Wild Robot by Peter Brown (ages 8-12) –When robot Roz opens her eyes for the first time, she discovers that she is alone on a remote, wild island. Why is she there? Where did she come from? And, most important, how will she survive in her harsh surroundings? Roz’s only hope is to learn from the island’s hostile animal inhabitants. When she tries to care for an orphaned gosling, the other animals finally decide to help, and the island starts to feel like home. Until one day, the robot’s mysterious past comes back to haunt her….”  Published 2016
  4. The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate (ages 8-12) –
     “Ivan is an easygoing gorilla. Living at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, he has grown accustomed to humans watching him through the glass walls of his domain. He rarely misses his life in the jungle. In fact, he hardly ever thinks about it at all.  Then he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from her family, and she makes Ivan see their home—and his own art—through new eyes. When Ruby arrives, change comes with her, and it’s up to Ivan to make it a change for the better.”  Published 2012
  5. Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk (ages 9-13) – “Growing up in the shadows cast by two world wars, Annabelle has lived a mostly quiet, steady life in her small Pennsylvania town. Until the day new student Betty Glengarry walks into her class. Betty quickly reveals herself to be cruel and manipulative, and while her bullying seems isolated at first, things quickly escalate, and reclusive World War I veteran Toby becomes a target of her attacks. While others have always seen Toby’s strangeness, Annabelle knows only kindness. She will soon need to find the courage to stand as a lone voice of justice as tensions mount.”  Published 2016
  6. Pax by Sara Pennypacker, Jon Klassen (ages 9-13) – Pax was only a kit when his family was killed, and “his boy” Peter rescued him from abandonment and certain death. Now the war front approaches, and when Peter’s father enlists, Peter has to move in with his grandpa. Far worse than being forced to leave home is the fact that Pax can’t go. Peter listens to his stern father—as he usually does—and throws Pax’s favorite toy soldier into the woods. When the fox runs to retrieve it, Peter and his dad get back in the car and leave him there—alone. But before Peter makes it through even one night under his grandfather’s roof, regret and duty spur him to action; he packs for a trek to get his best friend back and sneaks into the night. This is the story of Peter, Pax, and their independent struggles to return to one another against all odds. Told from the alternating viewpoints of Peter and Pax.”  Published 2016
  7. Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan (ages 9-14) – “Lost and alone in a forbidden forest, Otto meets three mysterious sisters and suddenly finds himself entwined in a puzzling quest involving a prophecy, a promise, and a harmonica.  Decades later, Friedrich in Germany, Mike in Pennsylvania, and Ivy in California each, in turn, become interwoven when the very same harmonica lands in their lives. All the children face daunting challenges: rescuing a father, protecting a brother, holding a family together. And ultimately, pulled by the invisible thread of destiny, their solo stories converge in an orchestral crescendo.”  Published 2015
  8. Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo (ages 9-14) – Raymie Clarke has come to realize that everything, absolutely everything, depends on her. And she has a plan. If Raymie can win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition, then her father, who left town two days ago with a dental hygienist, will see Raymie’s picture in the paper and (maybe) come home. To win, not only does Raymie have to do good deeds and learn how to twirl a baton; she also has to contend with the wispy, frequently fainting Louisiana Elefante, who has a show-business background, and the fiery, stubborn Beverly Tapinski, who’s determined to sabotage the contest. But as the competition approaches, loneliness, loss, and unanswerable questions draw the three girls into an unlikely friendship — and challenge each of them to come to the rescue in unexpected ways.”  Published 2016
  9. The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill (ages 10-14) – “Every year, the people of the Protectorate leave a baby as an offering to the witch who lives in the forest. They hope this sacrifice will keep her from terrorizing their town. But the witch in the forest, Xan, is kind and gentle. She shares her home with a wise Swamp Monster named Glerk and a Perfectly Tiny Dragon, Fyrian. Xan rescues the abandoned children and delivers them to welcoming families on the other side of the forest, nourishing the babies with starlight on the journey.  One year, Xan accidentally feeds a baby moonlight instead of starlight, filling the ordinary child with extraordinary magic. Xan decides she must raise this enmagicked girl, whom she calls Luna, as her own. To keep young Luna safe from her own unwieldy power, Xan locks her magic deep inside her. When Luna approaches her thirteenth birthday, her magic begins to emerge on schedule — but Xan is far away. Meanwhile, a young man from the Protectorate is determined to free his people by killing the witch. Soon, it is up to Luna to protect those who have protected her — even if it means the end of the loving, safe world she’s always known.”  Published 2016
  10. Ghost by Jason Reynolds (ages 10-14) – “Running. That’s all that Ghost (real name Castle Cranshaw) has ever known. But never for a track team. Nope, his game has always been ball. But when Ghost impulsively challenges an elite sprinter to a race — and wins — the Olympic medalist track coach sees he has something: crazy natural talent. Thing is, Ghost has something else: a lot of anger, and a past that he is trying to outrun. Can Ghost harness his raw talent for speed and meld with the team, or will his past finally catch up to him?”  Published 2016

TTT: Books For Foodies

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  Each week there is a suggested topic from which bloggers build their  posts.  Today’s post is about delicious food in books.  In preparing for this week’s topic, I was amazed at the number of books in which the food is barely mentioned. Below are some books in which food plays a prominent role.  At times I have provided links to recipes.  Many of these books could make for delicious book clubs where each member brings a dish from the book.  Daeandwrite’s blog is an excellent resource  for those wishing to enhance their bookclubs, particularly in regards to food.  What are your favorite books that feature food?

  1.  Nightbird by Alice Hoffman – In this magical middle grade book, Twig is a 12 year old girl whose mother left her father.  She moved out of the city back to the house she grew up in with Twig and her brother.  Her brother, a product of the Fowler family curse, has wings, and is kept hidden (except at night when he sneaks out).  Their home has an apple orchard and her mother is well known for her amazing Pink Apple Pies. (My review which includes the recipe from the book)
  2. Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler – This novel is about the demeaning stature yet exciting life of being a backwaiter in one of New York City’s most famous restaurants.  It is also a gustatory exploration of fine foods and beverages.  In this novel a variety of fine wines and liquors are tasted and consumed.  The author discusses the 5 senses: sweet, bitter, sour, salt and umami.  “Umami:   uni, or sea urchin, anchovies, Parmesan, dry-aged beef with a casing of mold. It’s glutamate. Nothing is a mystery anymore. They make MSG to mimic it. It’s the taste of ripeness about to ferment. Initially, it serves as a warning. But after a familiarity develops, after you learn its name, that precipice of rot becomes the only flavor worth pursuing, the only line worth testing.”  Some of the food consumed includes Oysters on the Half Shell; Greens Salad with Vichyssoise; Pork Chop on the Bone with Rice Salad and Gratin Potatoes; Sardines; Roasted Half Duck with Risotto;  White Bean Soup with Escarole, Chicken Stock and Sausage; Truffled Tagliatelle.   (My review)
  3. The Hundred Foot Journey by Richard C. Morais – After a family’s restaurant is destroyed in Mumbai, they flee political unrest to France.  They settle in Lumiere opening a restaurant across the street from a fine French restaurant.  They are a boisterous family and the cultural differences abound between the two restaurants.  However, Hassan Haji crosses this “one hundred foot” divide to bridge the gap and develop his own unique culinary style.  Some dishes from this book include:  Madras Mutton; Daurade aux Citrons Conits; Omelet with Codfish Cheeks and Caviar;  Lobster Lollipops and Truffled Ice Cream; Poached Halibut in Champagne Sauce and many more.   Many recipes from the book can be found, here.
  4. The Temporary Bride:  A Memoir of Food and Love in Iran by Jennifer Klinec In this memoir, Jennifer Klinec, describes how she gave up her lucrative corporate job to pursue her passion: cooking.  She is particularly interested in cooking native foods to various regions and enjoys traveling to gain better insight and understanding of cooking methods from natives of these lands.  She travels to Iran and is invited into a kitchen where she learns many recipes from a woman while at the same time building a secret romantic relationship with this woman’s son.  The dishes discussed in the book include:  Chicken Kebobs, Fesenjun – Chicken with Walnut and Pomegranate Sauce, Persian Gulf Fish Stew with Tamarind and Fenugreek, Rosewater Lemonade, Jeihoun Herb Salad with Lavosh Crisps, Mutton, Lentil and Carmelized Aubergine Puree.  The recipes can be found here.  (My review.)
  5. Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel – In this Mexican novel, Tita falls in love with Pedro and seduces him with the magical food she cooks.  According to Mexican tradition, Tita, being the youngest daughter, is forbidden to marry and must look after her mother instead.  In desperation, to stay near Tita, Pedro marries her sister instead.  Deep emotions are inspired by 3 particular foods in this novel:  eggs (pain and grief), onions (chopped fine to cause weeping), and roses (sexual desire).  
  6. Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid– The cinnamon bun plays a very prominent roll in this novel as Gabby’s favorite food. It is employed frequently by friends, family and boyfriends to win favor with Gabby.  (My review.)
  7. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl –  The hero Charlie Bucket, his parents and his 4 grandparents live in a small wooden house eating the same meal each day “…bread and margarine for breakfast, boiled potatoes and cabbage for lunch, and cabbage soup for supper.”  Charlie was able to have chocolate once a year on his birthday, until he wins a trip to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory.  There he is able to taste wondrous chocolates and other candies.
  8. The Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins – “I’m starving and the stew is so delicious—beef, potatoes, turnips, and onions in a thick gravy—that I have to force myself to slow down. All around the dining hall, you can feel the rejuvenating effect that a good meal can bring on. The way it can make people kinder, funnier, more optimistic, and remind them it’s not a mistake to go on living. It’s better than any medicine.”  –Katniss Everdeen.  This is the stew served in the Hunger Games series prior to going off to the games.  Many have developed lamb stew recipes based upon the description.  Here is one of those recipes.
  9. My Life in France by Julia Child –  This is Julia Child’s memoir in which she describes how she reinvented herself at the age of 37.  She moved to France with her husband, not speaking any French and not knowing anything about cooking.  She realizes her passion for  French Cooking and works so hard to master various recipes.  Many of her recipes can be found in her cookbook,  Mastering the Art of French Cooking.
  10. A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles –  The descriptions of food in this novel are incredible.  Count Rostov is a gastronome extraordinaire.   He goes to great lengths to accurately describe his food, name the flavors he tastes, discover the recipe through enjoyment of food.  Some examples of food from this novel are:  Whole Bass Roasted with Black Olives, Fennel and Lemon;  Vodka and Caviar;  Osso Bucco; Cucumber Soup and Rack of Lamb with Red Wine Reduction.   (My review.)

TTT: Ten Fall Themed Children’s Books

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  This week the topic is fall themes.  I have chosen to focus only on children’s books.  Do you have a favorite fall themed children’s book?  If so, what is it?  Please share!

  1.  Rattlebone Rock by Sylvia Andrews, Illustrated by Jennifer Plecas – This musical, rhyming story in the form of a song takes place in a graveyard with various spooky and creepy characters. Eventually, friendly more familiar animals and people join in as well, to join the celebration and dance that lasts all night.  It is a fun, musical book with a great syncopating beat and high entertainment value, recommended for children ages 3-8.2.   Thanksgiving Day Thanks by Laura Malone Elliott, Illustrated by Lynn Munsinger – This book depicts a classroom experience of students pondering the question of what it is they are thankful for.  As a class assignment, each student needs to create a project with a Thanksgiving theme.  Some of these projects give insight into the deeper meaning of the history of Thanksgiving while others help the students better understand what they are thankful for.  At the end of the story interesting history and fun facts about Thanksgiving Day are provided.

3.  Ten Timid Ghosts by Jennifer O’Connell – This is a Halloween themed counting book.  There is a haunted house in which 10 timid ghosts live.  A witch moves in and wants them out.  She scares each with a different disguise, until the last one discovers the witch’s costume coming undone.  Then, ten angry ghosts exact their revenge and retrieve the house.  This is a fun repetitive rhyming counting book in which small children are able to anticipate how many ghosts are left.

4.  Fall Ball by Peter McCarty – This is a simply written children’s book aimed at what matter’s most to children:  free time to play on their own.  The illustrations are absolutely stunning.  The children are riding home from school on the bus and plan to play football when they get there.  Jimmy is one exception who decides to rake leaves instead.  The children play ball, however Sparky, the dog, is quickest to retrieve the ball.  he crashes into Jimmy’s pile of leaves, as do all of the children.  It’s so early, yet getting dark and cold, and all the children must go home.  A beautiful book about fall and things to love:  football, cozy pajamas, warm blankets, good things to eat…  Highly recommended!!

5.  The Pumpkin Book by Gail Gibbons – This is a nonfiction children’s book about pumpkins.  It is highly informative and very interesting.  It describes the life cycle of the pumpkin from seed through mature pumpkin, as well as the various pumpkin varieties.  There is history tied in, with the relevance of pumpkins to Halloween as well as Thanksgiving, making this an excellent educational  book for fall. 

6.  The Best Thanksgiving Ever by Teddy Slater, Illustrated by Ethan Long – This is a hilarious, rhyming, loving thanksgiving book about a family of turkeys celebrating together.  They practice gratitude, celebrate togetherness and sit down to enjoy Thanksgiving…. corn!

7.  Sophie’s Squash by Pat Zietlow Miller & Anne Wilsdorf – This is a beautiful children’s book about a little girl, Sophie, who chooses a squash from a farmer’s market.  This squash is the perfect size to hold, to bounce on her knee, to put a face on with marker, to fall in love with.  The squash begins to become freckled and less bouncy, and in an effort to heal her squash, Sophie buries it in dirt.  After the snow melts, a squash plant grows and eventually Sophie has two new squash to love. The humor is subtle and enjoyable.  This book is thoroughly unique and a great read for the fall!

8.  Humbug Witch by Lorna Balian – This classic book from 1965 is adorable.  This witch with the handmade black scarf, the orange gloves, the crumpled black hat, the BIG nose, the striped stockings is having a very difficult time getting her spells to work.  It has a perfectly unexpected ending for a children’s book.  My daughter asked me at the beginning of the second reading what “humbug” meant.  It means “deceptive or false behavior.”  It is a lovely title for a quirky fun halloween story.  Highly recommended!

9. Beneath the Ghost Moon by Jane Yolan, Illustrated by Laurel Molk –   This is a beautifully written, poetic rhythmic rhyming book about mice who are excited for the Halloween dance.  However, in the night as they slept, a creepy crawlie crew entered, destroying their costumes and taking over their lair.  The small mice decide to stand up for themselves taking on the creepy crawlies with music, banners and battle cries.  It ends with a creepy crawlie and a mouse forging a friendship beneath the ghost moon, dancing into the night. Beautiful poetry and illustrations, lovely lessons taught, and highly entertaining… a perfect book for fall!


10.  The Legend of Spookley the Square Pumpkin by Joe Troiano, Illustrated by Susan Banta – This is a rhyming story about a pumpkin patch wherein all the pumpkins are round, except for one square pumpkin.  The night before Halloween, there is a storm, and pumpkins are rolling off the vine and into the bay.  Spookley has to work hard to turn onto his side, over and over, but is able to eventually move himself to close the gap in the fence where the pumpkins are rolling out.  The next morning the farmer sees the value in this odd-shaped pumpkin and uses Spookley’s seed in every row the following year to grow pumpkins mostly square, but also of different shapes and colors.  The moral of the story being that variety is the spice of life and great value can be found in our differences.

TTT: Top 10 Fictional Novels that Feature Characters with Autism

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  A topic that is usually open to individual variation is offered up for people to post about.  This week’s topic was “Top Ten Books That Feature Characters __________ . ”   Have you read any of these?  What did you think?  Are there any other books you’ve read featuring characters with autism?  Please share!

1. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon – This is, for me, the classic book I think of when I think of ficitional books featuring a character with autism.  In this novel, Christopher, who lives in a world of numbers, patterns, rules and diagrams sets out to solve a murder mystery.2.  The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion – In this novel, Don Tillman, an oddly charming and socially challenged genetics professor, having never been on a date, embarks on The Wife Project, having conceded to the statistical probability that there is someone for everyone.3.  The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stiegg Larson – This is the first book in the trilogy that is a murder mystery, family saga and love story.  Mikael Blomkvist, a crusading journalist, works together with Lisbeth Salandar, a tattooed genius hacker, to get to the bottom of Harriet’s disappearance.  Blomkvist describes Lisbeth as “Asperger’s syndrome, he thought. Or something like that. A talent for seeing patterns and understanding abstract reasoning where other people perceive only white noise.”4.  Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood – Within this dystopian novel there is a university labelled Asperger’s U, where almost every student appears to have Asperger Syndrome or autism in varying degrees of severity and form. People in the university refer to non-autists as neurotypicals and seem to view them as something altogether different (and perhaps inferior) to themselves. The end of the human race is brought about almost entirely by the character Crake, who attended Asperger’s U and was no exception to their rule. He believed that the human race was, by the end of the novel, doomed to extinction simply because of its overuse of resources and the corruption of the social elite.5.  Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen So Odd a Mixture by Phyllis Ferguson Bottomer published in 2007 examines multiple characters in Pride and Prejudice finding autistic traits in 8 of them, 5 in the Bennet family and 3 in the extended family of the Fitzwilliams.  Autism was not a recognized disorder in Jane Austen’s time.   Phyllis Ferguson Bottomer proposes that Jane Austen wrote about people with this condition, without knowing exactly what she was describing.6.  Mindblind by Jennifer Roy – Fourteen year old Nathaniel Clark, is told he is a genius with sky high IQ and perfect SAT scores.  However, he has read that a true genius uses his talent to make a contribution to the world.  Thus, begins his quest.  The character in this novel is inspired by Jennifer Roy’s son who inspired the “Amazing Race” charts and the narrative at the back of the book.7.  The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon – In this science fiction novel, Lou Arrendale is part of a lost generation that did not reap the benefits of being born during the disease-free era.  He has autism and it is part of who he is and his quiet life.  However, a new treatment becomes available.   If he accepts this treatment, will he still be the same person?  How will it affect his life, his relationships, and perceptions of the world?8.  Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco S. Stork Marcelo Sandoval hears music that no one else can hear, part of his autism-like impairment that doctors can’t quite identify.  He attends a special school where his differences have been protected.  However, the summer after his junior year, his father demands that he work in the mail room of his law firm to experience the “real world.”  Here he learns about jealousy, anger, suffering, injustice…9.  Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan – This is a middle grade novel about being an outsider, coping with loss and discovering the true meaning of family.  Willow Chance, a 12 year old genius, has found it hard to connect with anyone except her adoptive parents.  Her life is tragically changed when her parents die in a car crash.  Willow is able to push her way through grief and find a surrogate family.10.  Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine –  Winner of the National Book Award for young people’s literature in 2010, this novel is about Caitlin, an eleven year old girl with Asperger’s.  In her world, everything is black and white, good or bad.  Anything in the middle is confusing.  When her older brother passes away, she looks up the definition of closure.  In her search for it, she discovers a messy beautiful world.


TTT: Top Ten Books on My Fall TBR List

  1.  The Changeling by Victor LaValle – This is a fantasy novel, a modern day adult fairy tale of sorts that is also a retelling of Maurice Sendak’s children’s book, Outside Over There.  I requested this book from netgalley and have just started.                                                                                                                                                                        Why?  This was a netgalley request and it also fulfills the Book Riot 2017 Reading Challenge of reading a fantasy novel.  I also really enjoy fantasy and look forward to this story, especially being familiar with Sendak’s creepy, but brilliant and beautiful children’s book.


2.  Tales of a Severed Head by Rachida Madani – This is a volume of poetry by this Moroccan poet that addresses modern day issues of women in society.  It compares their situation to the experience of women in The Thousand and One Nights and finds many similarities.                                                           Why?  For Book Riot’s 2017 Reading Challenge I need to read a collection of poetry in translation on a theme other than love.  This is not a book I would have chosen on my own, but I love reading outside of the box and look forward to this experience.



3.  The Resurrection of Joan Ashby by Cherise Wolas – In the words of Goodreads this is a novel about “sacrifice and motherhood, the burdens and expectations of genius.”                                                       Why?  I requested this book from netgalley after reading so many glowing reviews from fellow reviewers.  The description seemed very interesting and appealing to me as well.  It is a long book and I am happy to say, I’m just about finished (but still adding it to this list – since it is fall).



4.  Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough – This is a thriller told from the perspective of two women who become friends.  One is the wife of David and the other is having an affair with David.                                                       Why?  I love listening to books in the car and thrillers are really the easiest, most entertaining types to listen to.  If I listen to something more heavy, I worry that I am not concentrating enough or it would be better read.



5.  For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf by Ntozake Shange – A book and also a major broadway production about what it is to be of color and female in the twentieth century.                          Why?  This will satisfy the requirement of reading a classic by an author of color which is part of the Book Riot 2017 Reading Challenge.   This is also a book I am very interested to read both for content and style.



6.  A Gentleman in the Street by Alisha Rai –  A romance/erotica novel that one reviewer describes as “feminist, sex-positive erotica that says fuck you to rape culture, slut-shaming, and totally flips the traditional gender roles of the billionaire shiterature that has flooded the market since The Book That Shall Not Be Named was first published.”  She further goes on to say “the female lead, Akira Mori, is unapologetically sexual. Men, women, multiple partner sex, she’s down for it all.”                                                                                                                            Why?  This will satisfy the requirement of Book Riot’s 2017 reading challenge to read a LGBTQ+ romance novel.


7.  A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki – According to Goodreads, “In Tokyo, sixteen-year-old Nao has decided there’s only one escape from her aching loneliness and her classmates’ bullying, but before she ends it all, Nao plans to document the life of her great-grandmother, a Buddhist nun who’s lived more than a century. A diary is Nao’s only solace—and will touch lives in a ways she can scarcely imagine.”        Why?  This will satisfy the requirement of the Book Riot’s 2017 Reading Challenge to read a book where a character of color goes on a spiritual journey.


8.   Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy by Cathy O’Neil – According to Goodreads, “A former Wall Street quant sounds an alarm on mathematical modeling—a pervasive new force in society that threatens to undermine democracy and widen inequality.”                              Why?  To satisfy the Book Riot 2017 requirement to read a non-fiction book about technology.




9.  The  Child Finder by Rene Denfeld – According to Goodreads, “As Naomi relentlessly pursues and slowly uncovers the truth behind Madison’s disappearance, shards of a dark dream pierce the defenses that have protected her, reminding her of a terrible loss she feels but cannot remember. If she finds Madison, will Naomi ultimately unlock the secrets of her own life?”   Why?  I loved Rene Denfeld’s previous novel The Enchanted, so I cannot wait to read this latest novel of hers.




10.  Exit West by Mohsin Hamid – This novel, shortlisted for the Man-Booker Prize has been described by Goodreads as “Exit West follows these characters as they emerge into an alien and uncertain future, struggling to hold on to each other, to their past, to the very sense of who they are. Profoundly intimate and powerfully inventive, it tells an unforgettable story of love, loyalty, and courage that is both completely of our time and for all time.”                   Why?  The topic of the book is interesting to me and I have had it recommended to me repeatedly.



Today’s Top Ten Tuesday is about the fall’s most anticipated reads.  This is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  Many of my reads here are dictated by Book Riot’s 2017 Reading Challenge which I have a love-hate relationship with.  I love that it makes me read books that I wouldn’t normally.  My reading selections are much more diverse as a result.  However, it gives me less time and opportunity to read the books I most desire to read.  I have not decided yet as to whether or not continue with these challenges or abandon them.  How do you feel about these reading challenges?  Did you create a Top Ten for today?  If so, please link your top ten below!




TTT: Required Summer Reading for Incoming US College Freshmen 2017

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  This week’s theme was “back to school,” which was a bit of a freebie as there are many directions this one could take.  Having read an article recently about what books college freshman are reading this summer and finding it fascinating, I decided to create a list of some of the most popular required reading titles of the summer for incoming college freshman.  I’ve included my two most heavily relied upon sources below.  I’ve read only two of these books, but the others on the list (some of which I had heard of and others I had not) sound thought provoking and will be added to my ever-growing TBR list.  Have you read any of these books?  Which sound interesting to you?  Do you remember what you were required to read the summer before entering college?  I remember reading Don DeLillo’s Libra, a fictional account of John F. Kennedy’s asassination.

  1. Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson – At least 70 colleges have recommended this book to incoming college freshmen over the past 3 years.  According to Goodreads:  “Just Mercy is at once an unforgettable account of an idealistic, gifted young lawyer’s coming of age, a moving window into the lives of those he has defended, and an inspiring argument for compassion in the pursuit of true justice.”  (published in 2014)
  2. Hillbilly Elegy: A memoir of Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance – Chosen by several colleges, this memoir explores issues of social breakdown including poverty, drug abuse and isolation in working class whites living in middle America.  (published in 2016)  My Review.
  3. The Circle by Dave Eggers –  chosen by several universities, is about a young woman drawn into the nefarious practices of a global tech company she works for.  (published in 2013)
  4. So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson –  is an exploration of high profile public shaming.  (published in 2015)
  5. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates is this year’s choice for at least 10 colleges.  Goodreads says, “In a series of essays, written as a letter to his son, Coates confronts the notion of race in America and how it has shaped American history, many times at the cost of black bodies and lives.”  (published in 2015)
  6. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline is a dystopian novel whose Goodreads description is as follows:  “In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he’s jacked into the virtual utopia known as the  OASIS. Wade’s devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world’s digital confines, puzzles that are based on their creator’s obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them. When Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade’s going to survive, he’ll have to win—and confront the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.”  (published in 2011)
  7. Make Your Home Among Strangers by Jennine Capo Crucet is about a young Cuban-American woman torn between her working class family in Miami and life at a liberal arts college.  (published in 2015)
  8. Citizen:  An American Lyric by Claudia Rankin – Goodreads says, “Claudia Rankine’s bold new book recounts mounting racial aggressions in ongoing encounters in twenty-first-century daily life and in the media.”  (published in 2014)
  9. Evicted:  Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for general non-fiction, is about 8 families in Milwaukee living on the edge in extreme poverty.  (published in 2016)
  10. Becoming Nicole:  The transformation of an American Family by Amy Ellis Nutt is a biography of a transgender girl and the journey her family goes on to nurture her and find support in their community.  (published in 2015)  My review.



Depenbrock, Jane.  “Summer Reading for the College Bound.” NPREd, June 30, 2017.

Goldstein, Dana.  “Summer Reading Books:  The Ties that Bind Colleges.” New York Times, July 1, 2017

TTT: Ten Book Recommendations for Lovers of Magical Realism

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  Anyone can play.  Each week there is a suggested topic, usually with some wiggle room for individual variation.  This week the suggested topic was “Ten Book Recommendations for_____________.” I chose to do recommendations for lovers of magical realism, a genre I have loved over the ages.  Magical realism lives somewhere between fantasy and reality.  It doesn’t create new worlds as fantasy does, but it suggests the magical within our own world.  What is your favorite book that contains magical realism?  All of the books listed here, I’ve read prior to starting my blog.  Clearly, I need to read more again from this genre, so would greatly appreciate any recommendations you might have.

  1.  One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez – tells the story of the rise and fall of a mythical town through the history of a family.
  2. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison – a journey and coming of age story of Milkman Dead through a black world, full of many varied and sometimes mystical beings.
  3. The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende – a familial saga spanning generations of a family in politics, but also touched by magic.
  4. Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel – a romantic story where food and cooking plays a magical role.
  5. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston – Janie at 16 is forced into marriage, however 2 marriages later, she falls in love with a man who offers her a packet of seeds.  A feminist novel written in 1937, much ahead of its time.  
  6. Beloved by Toni Morrison – Sethe was born a slave, but escaped to Ohio. Eighteen years later she is still not free, haunted by the ghost of her baby and memories of the farm where she worked, Sweet Home.
  7. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez – A love story set in Columbia where the girl, Fermina, chooses the doctor rather than the man, Florentino, she had been exchanging love notes with.  Florentino has hundreds of affairs but his heart remains loyal to Fermina.
  8. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman – a middle aged man returns to his hometown for a funeral.  He visits the home of a childhood friend and the memories and stories that haunted as well as protected him come flooding back.
  9. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz – Things have never been easy for the overweight Dominican nerdy Oscar, but may never improve due to the Fukoe curse that has haunted his family for generations.  
  10. The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld – set in an ancient stone prison where a man is on death row visited only by a priest and the Lady, an investigator.  Evil and magical collide in the novel where dark truths are uncovered.