Top Ten Tuesday: Holiday Reads


My Annual Re-Reads


The Joyous Season by Patrick Dennis is one of my all-time favorite books. It is not up to modern PC standards I suppose, but no racial slurs are used or anything like that. It’s set in very upscale Manhattan in the late 1950s/very early 1960s, so you can use your imagination. Everything about it just “right.” From the dueling society grandmas to the horrible “we were on a break” partners, to the Raygun that shot freezing cold water–it is all a big hoot! It’s not Christmas until the model house has played the Battle Hymn of the Republic and Mom has modeled her feathers!

I’m so glad John Grisham needed a break from lawyers at “year-end” [law-firm speak for December]. This story is a short, easy read, but it is so worth it. The movie version, for once, is just as good–yes, JUST AS GOOD. I rarely say that.  Skipping Christmas: A Novel by John Grisham.

Other Good Grown-Up or Any Age Christmas Books



You can read more about each of these books in my post A Few More Grown-Up Christmas Books



Philp Gulley’s wonderful Home to Harmony and the rest of the Harmony series are so good. The series’ Christmas books are especially fun. If every church had a pastor like this and held their elder’s meetings on the folding table next to the noodle freezer there’d be more people in church each week. Christmas in Harmony by Philip Gulley.


I’ve never been into Tolkein’s books. Not my brother’s beloved Hobbit, nor his beloved Lord of the Rings. The Hobbit has put me to sleep each time. But his Letters to Father Christmas are fabulous–simply the best.


Historical fiction is a favorite genre of mine. This novel, set in one of my favorite eras–between the First World War (one storyline goes up to 1968 briefly) was so wonderful. I loved it.  Last Christmas in Paris: A Novel of World War I.


I’ve gotten away from reading an annual Christmas novel–usually a romantic one. This was my choice ain 2017. Christmas in London by Anita Hughes.


What do you like to read each Christmas? or for Chanukah?




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Top Ten Tuesday: Thankful Freebie: Fictional Families I’m Thankful to Know


Thanksgiving is a time of families, food, and football. My own family is very small, so for this week’s freebie, I thought I’d “invite” some of my favorite fictional families to join us!

master MARM943Norman Rockwell


I’ve been participating in Top Ten Tuesday for so many years I’m always afraid I’m repeating the same books over and over, but this time I do not mind because new children are born every day and new parents and new grandparents love to share books!


  1. The Penderwicks: What’s not to love about a widowed dad, his 4 cool daughters, their wonderful dog, the boy they all love, and eventually, a happy re-marriage and a loved step-mom, new half-brother and a new Penderwick?


2. The Cassons: High society artist Bill lives a tony life in London, while wife Eve pays the bills painting pet portraits. The children take all of this as normal. I love this family so much that I asked author Hilary McKay to write a grow-up novel of the parents’ marriage! The Casson family books.


3. The Melendy family: New York in the years before World War II and then during it, provides a wonderful backdrop for this family. Another widowed father, a kindly housekeeper, a career for one child as a radio actress and more! Love and fun. The Melendy Quartet.



4. The Weasleys: Molly Weasley is such a great Mum! Her kids, her husband–all drive her mad, but she’s always there for orphaned Harry. Love her. [Hate the new book coveres]. Harry Potter series.


Charles Addams/New Yorker

5. The Addams Family: I don’t think there has been a version of this family I didn’t like! I haven’t seen the newest offering, but I imagine I’d enjoy it, too. The World of Charles Addams book.



5. The Peanuts Gang, Snoopy, Woodstock, and everyone. It wouldn’t be a holiday in America without this “family,” now would it? A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving book.


Happy Thanksgiving!



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Top Ten Tuesday: Changes In My Reading Life


This week’s topic relates to three changes in my life:

Change # 1:

11 years ago I moved and took my current job. I have about 2 1/2 hours in the car each day commuting.  When I started my old car had a cassette drive! Today I still love books on cd because I can get them much faster from the library, but I also listen to e-audio on my phone. So…..

Audiobooks are the majority of my reading now. Yes, I count that as reading!

Change # 2

A few years after that change, Downton Abbey and the fan fiction movement led me back to my lifelong desire to write. I have three works in progress and one “Facebook serial”. The WIPs are heading toward agent-shopping thanks to working with a developmental editor. One starts its journey in the new year. So….

Fiction is now the majority of my reading–I used to read mostly nonfiction, especially history.

Change # 3

When the Kindle Fire was introduced, a friend updated and gave me her Kindle Paperwhite. [I’ve since bought a Kindle Fire, too]. Sadly, I didn’t love the Kindle, but I DO love having the Kindle App on my large Android phone. I always have a book with me, but don’t have to carry a satchel of a purse to do so! So….

I now read e-format as well as print.

My reading has also been affected by a few decisions I’ve made regarding what I will no longer try to read.

Books I’ve Decided I’m No Longer Interested In Reading

Click HERE to read the full list


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Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Books About Books


Ok, ok, the topic is supposed to be “Favorite Bookmarks,” but I always end up using a grocery receipt or a piece torn off a pizza coupon flier or something like that. I own bookmarks, but they are never handy (no matter how many places I stash them) when I need one. It says more than I should say about my housekeeping standards that junk mail and cash register tapes are at the ready.



For the record, this is my favorite of all my bookmarks. My parents gave me this silver Winston Churchill bookmark. (This is someone else’s photo of theirs). Mine lives in his daughter’s biography of Lady/Mrs. Churchill.



Books About Books and Books About Reading Books



That a great American writer (one of my favorite authors) had a mother who read, and a mother who liked some of the same books my mother liked–and that she recommended them to him, as my mother did to me is just way too cool. Gone With the Wind, of course, yes flaws and all, is in here–it is his favorite novel and mine, too, though I am descendant of men in blue, not gray. So are important moments in his reading and writing life. That he included talk of The Great Santini–my favorite of his books, made it even more enjoyable.

My Reading Life by Pat Conroy



Queen Elizabeth II had an education typical of very upper-class girls of her day. That is to say–not much of one. Well, except for the lessons in British Constitutional History with a celebrated history master at Eton, that is. She and her sister Princess Margaret are said to regret this. Both saw to it that their own children received a far more conventional type of education–boarding school, exams, and in the case of Charles and Edward, University degrees.  This little book imagines the Queen rectifying this lack of education by reading books from a bookmobile parked outside the Palace to serve all levels of staff. The problem lies in staff not sure they want Her Majesty more literate!

An Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett




My mother gave me this delightful book and thereby started a lifelong love of epistolary novels–stories told in “episodic” form thru letters, diaries, e-mails, or, today even in  Tweets. Surprisingly, the movie is great, too. I learned of all kinds of books in here that would never have reached my ears. Sadly, I did not share Helene’s love of such antiquities, but her own books delighted me.

84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff



When a parent is dying we have to find comfort somewhere. Will and his dying mother make a book club for two. It sustains them. I didn’t always enjoy this book, I’ll be honest. The choice of books in their “book club,” though was superb. Marjorie Morningstar, a favorite since my teenage self read it, is in here. So is Josephine Tey’s Brat Farrar, Suite Francaise, and The Reluctant Fundamentalist as well as a few books I did not like or did not finish. No matter, it is Will’s story–and his mother’s, so it is about their books.

The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe



I’m a competitive reader. I love to check books off lists of “should/must-read” books. I track all of this in Goodreads on different “shelves” within my account. As to this book, I’ve never actually seen it! It is the mother of all reading challenges, reading lists and similar.  I read from it by looking at the lists online and in the Boxall’s 1001 Books group in Goodreads. I’ve found some excellent reads this was–Muriel Spark’s Driver’s Seat is one that comes immediately to mind from it.

1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die by  Peter Boxall



I use a video clip describing How to Read A Book as part of a frequently given Student Success Skills workshop. Too many people never get beyond decoding words and getting the surface meaning of the words. They do not know how to dig deeper. They do not have the breadth and depth of vocabulary to appreciate the beauty of well-written prose. This is not an easy read. I do not assign it. I just use it to give the idea of what reading can be. This book IS tremendous and I get something new out of it any time I’ve picked it up. It is not a list of books, but a discussion of how to train your mind to read–fully, immersively READ.

How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren


A Book About the Joy of Falling Fully into the World of a Book



My daughter and I lost ourselves into the world of this book many years ago now. We listened to it during several weeks when we were in the car an awful lot together. We both remember it fondly. As we are very, very, different people this speaks volumes for the quality of the writing–of the story-craft of this book.

Inkheart by Cornelia Funke



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Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Give Off Autumn Vibes





  1. Copper Beech: A Novel by Maeve Binchy. The title brings to mind copper-colored Autumn leaves. I’ve read and enjoyed most of her books.




2.  Walking With Henry: The Life of Henry David Thoreau. Although a children’s book, this is an excellent Autumnal read for any age. (Hint: The whole series is lovely).



3. At the Edge of the Orchard: A Novel by Tracy Chevalier. While I despised one character in this story, the tale of apples and orchards is pure Autumn! My review is here.




4. Southern Living Soups, Stews and Chilis: Comfort Food in a Bowl Fall eating at its best! [I’ve chosen this to represent all such cookbooks. I do not own this one]. I could have chosen a Crock-pot cookbook or a bread book or even a hot drinks cookbook.




5. Game-Day Fare: Over 240 Recipes. The other type of Fall food–tailgating food! [Again, I’ve chosen this one to represent all such cookbooks. I do not own this one, either]. My alma mater could certainly tailgate, even if they couldn’t win a football game most years. Indiana University has always done much better in basketball season.



6. NFL Century and The College Football Book. What comes to mind in Fall? Football! Including Lucy always tricking Charlie Brown! [I don’t own either of these]. There aren’t many marching band books–I’d love those instead.



7.  It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and Charlie Brown’s Thanksgiving. We grow up with these shows, don’t we? I was in the original generation to watch them! They are part of every Fall of my life. I’ve picked the book versions for this post since many families have them as well as copies of the shows.



8.  Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War by Nathaniel Philbrick. Of course, we in the USA celebrate our Thanksgiving Day in late November–but it is still definitely Fall.  You can read my review here.




9. Top-Down Sweaters. Fall is “Sweater Weather.” This choice intrigues me. I’ve only knit sweaters starting with the ribbing–the bottom. I could have chosen sock knitting patterns or scarf patterns or maybe a book of odd ways to tie-a-scarf diagrams.



10. Death By Pumpkin Spice by Alex Erickson. Unless the product is topped with cream cheese and real butter frosting, I don’t really care one way or the other about PPS. I don’t even drink coffee, let alone do so in a sweater with an unnecessary scarf tied in a weird fashion that requires diagrams! This book about sums it up for me. I might even read it!



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And One Song…

Top Ten Tuesday: Halloween Freebie


It’s Great Pumpkin Time! Or, Halloween to nonbelievers! Here are some of my favorite Halloween things. This post first appeared on this blog October 26, 3015.



Like any 60’s kid, I liked trick-or-treating. Chocolate. It was all about the chocolate! This week the Broke and the Bookish selected a “Halloween related freebie: ten scary books, favorite horror novels, non-scary books to get you in the Halloween/fall mood, bookish Halloween costumes, scariest covers), scary books on my TBR, etc” for this week’s topic.

1. Favorite Halloween Decoration

14670753_10157930996095643_628853966945232893_nThis is our old haunted house! It has well-loved, hard-played-with soft Frankenstein, Dracula, Mummy, Black Car, Goblin, a witch, a huge spider and a bat! Both the green goblin and the mummy have done time as cat hunting trophies and have the teeth marks still to prove it. I think this came from Chinaberry in 2003. The nice thing–beyond the hours of happy play my kids enjoyed with it–is that all the inhabitants of the house are stored in the house. Very nice feature. I’m keeping it for my future grandchildren.

2. Favorite Halloween TV Show–as if there’s really more than this one!

91pvlwdhmfl-_sy445_I am a charter member of the generation this, and the Charlie Brown Christmas, were created to entertain. Happily, we have this on DVD, so though my children are adults I can still enjoy it once a year. It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.

3. Favorite Halloween Story

orphananniepoemLegendary Hoosier Poet (I spent most of my life in Indiana) James Whitcomb Riley, wrote the poem Little Orphant [spelling is Riley’s] Annie. While today it does suffer from old age in some regrettably un-politically correct ways, I still treasure the memory of it being read at school nearly every Halloween season. That was back when you could be a witch or a mummy for Halloween and no on cared. Yes, that long ago. Here’s a link to the real poem and here’s a link to a friend of mine who portrays James Whitcomb Riley.

4. Favorite Halloween Candy


5. Least Favorite Halloween Candy

2255448.jpgYep, the dreaded Dollar Store Peanut Butter in Waxed Paper “Candy.” Here’s a funny blog post, Still the Worst Halloween Candy Ever by the Rambling Reverend. I’ve NEVER, ever–not as a kid, not as a parent, not as a Trunk or Treat Candy Giver have I ever seen a kid make any but the “Oh, gross…” face on getting these. I’m pretty sure Starving Children in Where-Ever would make that gross face even. Maybe it’s the after taste of the waxed paper. Or maybe its that they were manufactured in 1957 in such quantities that they’ve never had to rev up the ole’ p.b. extruder and make more–that aging in a warehouse flavor, perhaps? Yuck. Just yuck. I love REAL peanut butter. But this stuff? Use if for potholes in the street.

6. My Favorite Childhood Memory of Halloween # 1



Since I’m a 60s kid, photos are pretty rare. Most likely anyone in your family who was alive then still have a basket like my Mom’s, stashed in the back of a closet, of film to be developed when the budget allows. Yeah. Those would be MY childhood. So, no picture. But it was a simpler time. You bought a mask and that was about it. Then around 2 or 3rd grade people began going “overboard” and buying those tacky one piece costumes with a mask. My favorite wasn’t the darling kitty costume my Mom made me (though as an adult I love it) but the time I got to wear my big brother’s outgrown red blazer and be a “Buckingham Palace Guard.” No Disney princess crap back then. We saw a Disney movie ONCE per movie in those days. But, at least I didn’t have to go as a witch, bride or old lady like the other girls.

7. My Favorite Childhood Memory of Halloween #2

popcorn_balls_lMy parents made popcorn balls for us. They gave out candy, of course, but we got to have homemade popcorn balls too. Usually, we had chili for dinner. I never did like other people’s popcorn balls–I think simply because like the dressing (aka “stuffing”) at Thanksgiving, the popcorn balls were something my Dad helped make. That made them special. He was a typical 60s Dad who played catch with a football or baseball and watched tv with us. He didn’t cook! Here’s a recipe if you want to try some.

8. Spookiest Music On Bald Mountain–it was still spooky when my high school band played it in the 1970s!

9. Favorite Spooky Book

dracula.jpgBram Stoker’s Dracula. Possibly the only spooky book I’ve ever finished.

10. Spookiest Place I’ve Ever Visited

wtbhpoegrave1.jpg In the early ’90s co-workers and I visited Edgar Allan Poe’s grave late at night. At that time, the neighborhood was, shall we say “none too savory” so there was that type scary added, too. Happily nothing “untoward” happened. A co-worker rattled off much of the raven and we went back to the hotel. No photo of my own, because it was the early 90s. Point and shoot 35 mm’s were very hot, but no one had one with them on the trip. I don’t think disposables were a thing yet, either.

Bonus–Favorite Black Cat:



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Top Ten Tuesday: Books I’d Give Different Titles To


New Title and New Cover Needed


This book was done such a disservice by both its title and its cover!  The cover looks like a prairie story! Yet the book tells of the romance between John Bunyan, of Pilgrim’s Progress fame, and the young woman who becomes his second wife.  They were Puritans–descentors from the established Church of England. The folks who left to settle New England. Sorry, I have no great suggestions, but at least put the cover art in the era of the story. And let the title not be as smarmy as Preacher’s Bride is!

The Preacher’s Bride by Jody Hedlund

New Titles Needed

1. Across the River and Into the Trees by Ernest Hemingway


New Title: The Last Muse of the Man [trying to sound Hemingway-ish]

Read my review here.

2.  Mrs. Fletcher by Tom Perrota


New Title: The MILF (you don’t want to know what it means)

Read my review here.

3. Tigers in Red Weather by Liza Klaussman


New Title: The Privileged Summer Life of Boring People

My copy cat covers post is here.

4. Colorless Tsukuru Tarzaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by HrukiMurakami


New Title: Weird Guy With Crappy People Skills

That’s all I’ve got this week!


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Top Ten Tuesday: Extraordinary Book Titles


First a mini-rant!

Before I give you my updates to this topic, I have to say I am really tired of book titles like this:

The Something-Something Life of Somebody-Somebody

I am also tired of really, really long titles that tell the entire story.

There. I got that out of my system.


My Top Ten Extraordinary Book Titles Updates

  1.  The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds by Paul Zindel


2. Turtles All the Way Down by John Green



My review

Here are the others–we did this topic two years ago.

Click Here


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Top Ten Tuesday: Character Traits I Love



This weeks topic is: Character Traits I Love. This one is more challenging than merely coming up with books on a topic. I had to really stop and think about what I like in a character.

Favorite Character Traits

  1. Confident women–confident, not overbearing!
  2. Manly men. Men who think wax goes on cars.
  3. Men who don’t want to talk about the relationship or feelings, but who let the woman know how he feels in real ways.
  4. Women who want more than just a man but not women who want to break a man.
  5. Characters with strong inner lives. I like to see them think, reflect, ponder.
  6. Characters with an interesting backstory.
  7. Characters that are not describes as gorgeous, don’t have changeable eye color or a perfect this or that. Normal looking is good.
  8. Characters who are true to their story’s time and place.
  9. Characters with flaws, but not repulsive flaws.
  10. Friend groups that are believeable, not ones that look like stock photos on HR brochures.

Bonus: Characters with believable jobs. We can’t all be billionaires, book shop owners, cupcake bakers, or small seaside town detectives. Nor, thankfully, can we all be serial killers, hedgefund managers, celebrities or royalty.

I predict 2 and 3 will be wildly unpopular.

A few turn-offs to balance these.

  1. Manly men who trample women are a NO.
  2. Men who expect women to serve them and shut-up are a NO.
  3. Women who give up everything for a man are a NO.
  4. Women who think of nothing but a man are a NO.
  5. Flaws that make the story ridiculously hard to follow are a NO.
  6. Unreliable narrators that make the story ridicuously hard to follow are a NO.
  7. Finding out someone is a shape-shifting lizard or similar is a NO.
  8. People with stupid nicknames are a NO.
  9. People who lick each other’s eyeballs are a NO.
  10. People who can’t do anything together but have porn-film-ish sex are a NO.




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Top Ten Tuesday: Book Titles with Numbers In Them


I’m only looking at books I’ve READ with numbers in the title.

I’ve omitted books with years in the title or things like WWII or George V in the title.

My favorite books with numbers in the title?

44 Scotland Street,  which includes The Importance of Being Seven

and The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, both by Alexander McCall Smith

Stephanie Plum by Janet Evanovich [All have consecutively numbered titles]

And now, the other books I’ve read with numbers in the title


Dick Francis’ books are an escape I enjoy from time-to-time. 10lb Penalty.


Ninety-nine [99] Glimpses of Princess Margaret by Craig Brown. My review.


The 19th Wife: A Novel by David Ebershoff


Thirteenth Tale by Diana Setterfield

My review from my old blog:
While I did find passages that could have been whittled down a few hundred words, about 80% of this book was tremendous. My soul mate was not the reclusive author who has never told the truth about herself in an interview, but rather the would-be biographer finally chosen to tell the story. Part Grimm’s Fairy Tales, part life of a book loving, perfect-vacation-is-a-trip-to-an-archive biographer’s story of writing the story of the author’s life, this book has the feel of Daphane De Maurier’s classic Rebecca. There’s no Mrs. Danvers but that lurking “someone” is always present. It also presents the dark gloom of Heathcliff’s moors in Jane Eyre–in fact that book is almost a “character” in this story.  This is not a book for someone who doesn’t love research and doesn’t love books. It’s not for someone wanting a cheery happy families story. The family part is more Glass Castle than Elizabeth Enright, but that was ok to me.

Speaking of Elizabeh Enright…

Spiderweb for Two, The Four Story Mistake, and Then There Were Five by Elizabeth Enright are all part of the Melendy Quartet–a series I absolutely love! If you love the Penderwicks, you’ll love the Melendy family, too. Like the Penderwicks, you need to read them in order. (Note, then go on and read Hilary McKay’s Casson Family seires–a artsy, modern, British version.)


The Three Weissmanns of West Port by Cathleen Schine


I loved this one almost as much as I did Me Before You. One Plus One by JoJo Moyes

My review


Fourteen: Growing Up Alone in a Crowd by Stephen Zanichkowsky

Forget the crazy Duggars and Bates families on tv–this family had clucked eggs and brother who was sent to a mental institution. Dysfunctional times fourteen.


A lifetime favorite of mine–probably the origin of my love of stories told in letters, diaries, e-mails, notes or tweets (See epistolary novels in the word cloud sidebar). 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff.


Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

A few more I just had to include:




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