Category Archives: books

read it: comfort and joy

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Title: Comfort & Joy

Author: Kristin Hannah

Book Number: 11 out of 75 (as part of my 101 in 1001 journey)

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆  (One star = couldn’t finish; two stars = didn’t like; three stars = enjoyable; four stars = great read; five stars = fantastic)

Summary: Joy Candellaro is a high school librarian whose having a tough time. She’s recently divorced due to her husband’s cheating, and is missing her best friend – her sister, who also happens to be her ex-husband’s new fiancee. She is dreading what used to be her favorite holiday, Christmas, and decides she will finally travel like she has always wanted to. Without telling anyone, she drives to the airport and convinces a small chartered plane to let her join them on their trip to a town called Hope.  When the plane crashes and Joy is stranded some distance away from the wreckage, she makes the unthinkable decision to just literally walk away. After traveling for miles, Joy finds herself in town of Rain Valley and seeks shelter at a closed inn. With the help of lonely six-year-old Bobby O’Shea, Joy convinces inn owner and Bobby’s father Daniel to let her stay. Joy learns the family is struggling with the recent loss of Bobby’s mother, and finds herself taking steps to help the O’Sheas, despite her best efforts to restrain herself.

Just when it seems like Joy is about to have a beautiful Christmas after all, her precious new world is shattered. Joy must decide what is true and what’s not, and if seizing a small chance for happiness is worth the the bigger chance of heartbreak.

Thoughts: I adore this book for a few reasons: (1) The main character works at a high school, which I can of course relate to, (2) it takes place in the Pacific Northwest, which I have never visited but love to read about and hope to see someday, and (3) the first half reads exactly like a made-for-TV Hallmark Christmas movie. I understand that description would cause some people to pass on reading it, but for me, that’s an excellent hook. However, the book does take a turn that I was not expecting and it became distinctly not Hallmark-like, in the best of ways. It was a fun book to read around the holidays, but I think would be enjoyable at any time of the year.

Have you read Comfort and Joy? What did you think? If I liked Comfort and Joy and other books by Kristin Hannah, what else would you recommend?

Are you on GoodreadsI am. Let’s be friends!

(above image source)

read it: big little lies

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Title: Big Little Lies

Author: Liane Moriarity

Book Number: 10 out of 75 (as part of my 101 in 1001 journey)

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★  (One star = couldn’t finish; two stars = didn’t like; three stars = enjoyable; four stars = great read; five stars = fantastic)

Summary: Welcome to the Australian, beachside community of Pirriwee Peninsula, where the parents of the students at Pirriwee Public School create as much drama as your favorite reality show.

Madeline is a passionate, confident woman whose ex-husband and his hippie wife have recently relocated to Pirriwee. To add injustice to annoyance, their five-year-old daughter is in the same kindergarten class as Madeline’s youngest child, and her teenage daughter could not want any less to do with Madeline.

Madeline’s friend, Celeste, is gorgeous and kind, but rather preoccupied. Everyone assumes its because she is mother to kindergarten-age twin boys – but is that all?

Together, Madeline and Celeste befriend young, new-to-town Jane and her young, also-entering-kindergarten son. Jane is shy and seems to be holding onto some secrets herself, but when on the kindergarten orientation day a line gets drawn in the sand, the three quickly become allies in what will play out as a year-long battle culuminating in a death at Pirriwee Primary School’s annual trivia night.

Told in flashbacks and pieces of witness testimony, piece by piece the secrets of Pirriwee’s residents are revealed, true natures come to light, and, finally, we learned who was killed – and why.

Thoughts: I LOVED this book. I read it in November 2014 while I was recovering from ACL surgery. It made me laugh out loud and cry. It made me fantasize about living by the sea and feel warm waves of gratitude for my wonderful family, husband, and friends. It made me wish I could write and create engaging characters with as much depth and seamlessly address difficult issues with as much grace and realism as Moriaty can. It made me text my friends who aren’t in book club with me and tell them to read this book.

Have you read Big Little Lies? What did you think? If I liked Big Little Lies, what other books would you recommend?

Are you on GoodreadsI am. Let’s be friends!

(above image source)

weekly gems

Aw, grumpy Frieda.

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things that are making me happy (and thankful)

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  • My amazing husband Daniel. He works so hard every day at his job as a teacher, is fiercely loyal to his family and friends, is ridiculously passionate about sports – both watching and doing,  adores animals as much as I do, and watches all the same TV shows as me (unless they are about crime). He is my best friend and the love of my life.
  • My awesome family. Not only do they give provide me with role models to admire and be inspired by , but I am especially grateful for all the help and support they’ve given me during this first year teaching at a high school with a new school model AND with my knee injury and surgery. I love spending time with them – they are always on my side, they always make me laugh, and they will always watch crime TV shows with me.
  • My kick-ass friends. They put up with all my random, silly, and long text messages, non-stop Snapchats of coffee and pets, my early bedtime, and my weak sarcastic ability. They are hilarious, creative, sweet, caring, fiesty, and fun. I love them to death and can’t imagine how I’d get along without them.
  • My wonderful co-workers. I have been blessed to have truly great colleagues and mentors almost every place I have ever worked, but this year having a staff that supports each other as much as this staff does is absolutely essential. I don’t think any of us would have made it this far, trying to implement his new school model and make positive changes in school culture, without each other. No one “pulls rank,” no one refuses feedback, no one is unwilling or too busy to help anyone else. We are truly a team and I am so grateful.
  • My pets. I don’t have kids, and no, my pets aren’t like my kids. My pets are my pets – they are animals who love unconditionally, harbor no bitterness or ill will toward anyone, and find happiness in all the small moments. They brighten my day and the day of everyone who interacts with them.
  • The “basics” that aren’t really so basic – a place to live with working heat and a sound structure, located in a safe neighborhood. Clean, running water I can get by walking two feet to a faucet. Enough nutritious food to eat and the ability to choose what I want to eat. Shoes, a winter coat, gloves, and hat that are all in good shape. Clothes in general that are in good shape. Safe transportation. Access to the Internet and a computer in my own home. All the things so many of us take for granted on a daily basis.
  • Health care – including vision and dental. I know this is a sore point for some people in this day and age with Obamacare and all, but I can’t imagine not having it. I have maintenance prescriptions I require for health conditions, I get sinus infections a couple times a year, I hate cavities, and you never know when an emergency or a random accident will occur – like tearing your ACL on a trampoline on a school field trip. I am so grateful I have insurance to help my family and I afford the care we need.
  • My college degree and job. My job that is my dream job. It truly feels like every experience I have had, particularly since I was in high school myself, has lead me to this teaching position. A lot of the experiences were challenging, but they all prepared me for where I am right now, which is exactly where I want to be. Not only is my job, despite its intensity, emotionally and intellectually fulfilling, but it is also contributing to my family’s financial security. I am grateful for that because I know how difficult not being in such a positive situation can be.
  • And of course, the random, little things that seem silly to be thankful for but really enrich every day life: COFFEE, funny TV shows, interesting podcasts, good books, really good books,  an evening spent cooking and baking, a hot bath, that thrill you get when you’ve had an extra productive day or when you get an unexpected compliment, a cold beer after a long week at work, finding a coupon for your favorite grocery item, a sunny day, easy traffic on your morning commute, killing it in your workout, catching your new favorite song on the radio, making someone else laugh without expecting to, beating that level of Angry Birds you’ve been stuck on for weeks, a fantastic night of sleep, no line at the gas station or drugstore when you’re in a rush, a clear night sky so you can see the stars, the existence of HGTV, listening to music while driving by yourself in the rain, seeing someone do something nice for someone else for no reason but to be nice or polite, hugs from small children, kisses from dogs, and so, so much more.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

weekly gems (a few days late)

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weekly gems

IMG_0550-0.JPGOh hey, Frieda.

 

weekly gems

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I’ve had a great spring break – which started off with seeing an awesome Indians win Monday evening!

 

Read It: The American Heiress

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Title: The American Heriess

Author: Daisy Goodwin

Book Number: 2 out of 75 (as part of my 101 Things in 1001 Days journey)

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆  (One star = couldn’t finish; two stars = didn’t like; three stars = enjoyable; four stars = great read; five stars = fantastic)

Summary: At the turn of the century, Cora Cash is the only child in the one of the richest families in America. Despite their beautiful homes and extravagant parties, her mother is not satisfied. She is determined to become part of society’s most elite, and will do whatever she can to ensure Cora enters into a marriage that will raise their family’s status from one of new fortune to unquestionable superiority. To Mrs. Cash, that means packing up her daughter, traveling to Europe, and looking for an appropriate suitor among nobility. Much to the surprise of society both in England and America, Cora Cash finds herself marrying not just any nobleman, but the Duke of Wareham. After a whirlwind proposal and wedding, Cora struggles not only to navigate the subtleties and secrets of English society, but of her new husband. After a lifetime of money dictating her choices and how people treat her, Cora must dig deep within herself to find out who she truly is and what she wants her life to be.

Thoughts: This book has gotten rave reviews, and it is about the intricacies of high society of both America and England in the late 1800s. If there are two things I’m a fan of, it’s good books and history, so I figured this book was perfect for me. I have to say, I was a little disappointed, but it was probably because my expectations were so high. The book is pretty long, and at times can feel a little slow. In other words, for most of the novel, I didn’t really have a lot of trouble finding a place to stop and put the book down for a bit – until the last 100 pages or so. By the end, the story had really picked up. All the events and tension building throughout the book come to a head and set off an intense chain of events leading to a dramatic conclusion.

I was a little taken aback by the way the book ended. It first it felt a little abrupt, but I realized it was because I had been reading this lengthy book for so long that I had become committed to the story and wanted (or maybe just expected) it to continue. I think it was also because the title of the book, and the fact that it was told from mostly Cora’s point of view (as well as that of her mother and maid), made me believe the book was supposed to be about Cora’s life. However, in truth the book is more centered on marriage – the reasons why people enter into marriage, how those reasons and the past affect the marriage, how marriage changes people, and the choices and sacrifices marriage requires. As a newlywed, I found this theme of the novel the most intriguing – despite the fact that my modern marriage took place after four years of dating someone from my native country, not a foreign nobleman I only knew for a couple weeks. The American Heiress was a wonderful novel, but because of the length and sometimes dragging of this book, I would recommend it only if the time period and gossipy, romantic elements strongly appeal to you.

Have you read The American Heiress? What did you think? If you’re a fan of historical fiction, are there any other books you’d recommend?

Are you on GoodreadsI am. Let’s be friends!

(above image source)

 

My Life: What’s Up

 

 

What’s New:

  • She’s okay now, but Madison hurt her leg playing two weeks ago. She was crying and couldn’t put any weight on it, so we took her to the ER vet. The vet said she probably partially tore something in her leg, so we’ve made sure she’s been taking it easy, not walking up and down stairs a lot, not jumping on and off furniture, etc. We also found out she has arthritis in both her back legs, so we are looking into the best ways to help her.
  • This season our team hosted an invitational meet that is annually held between the three high schools in the district and local private high school. It hadn’t been held at our school in almost ten years, but we worked really hard and pulled it off! It went well and I’m glad it’s over.
  • This winter has been brutual! Our district used six calamity days in January alone. I can’t wait for the weather to warm up!

What I am…

  • Reading: I just finished reading The American Heiress (review to posted later this week!). I am going to start reading The Friday Night Knitting Club next. I’ve heard good things about it; have you read it?
  • Watching (TV): My favorite shows are The Mindy Project, Community, Bones, and Parks and Recreation. Are you watching the current seasons of any of those shows? I love How I Met Your Mother, too, but I didn’t enjoy the first couple episodes of this season so I wasn’t anxious to keep up, and now I’ve fallen way behind! HIMYM fans, it’s gotten better, right?
  • Watching (Netflix): Dan and I started watching and quickly finished Orange Is the New Black. It’s an awesome show about life in a women’s prison. I can’t wait for season two! We are currently watching Friday Night Lights. We can’t get enough! Does anyone else love that show?
  • Listening to: Pure Heroine by Lorde. The CD has been on repeat in my car ever since Dan got it for me for Christmas. 
  • Doing for fitness: A couple months ago, Dan and I joined a gym just a few minute drive from our apartment. In addition to swimming at the gym’s pool, I also log time on the cardio machine and do Tone It Up! routines. With swim season, I am have only been getting to the gym a couple times a week. I love coaching and will miss it when the season is over, but I am looking forward to having more time to work on my fitness goals!
  • Posting: I have a fitness Twitter account I have shared on this blog before, but I changed my username recently from @getfitgetstrong to @kcdaily_fit. In addition to my personal Instagram @beagleandbear (which I am a bit obsessed with), I have a fitness Instagram @beagleandbear_fit. Feel free to follow me!
  • Loving: Madison is recovering well, the days are getting longer again, curling up on the couch with a big cup of tea and a book, the White Barn Candle’s scent Winter, snacking on pretzel sticks.

What is new with you? 

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