Reading, Reviews, Top Ten Tuesday

My Top Beach Reads

Is there any felicity on earth that compares to reading a great book on a quiet beach? No. There is not.

I’m linking up to the Top Ten Tuesday meme over at to share my five favorite beach reads from the past and the five books I’ll be reading this summer. What’s even better is I’m also including the five books you must read with your kids at the beach! Fifteen for the price of ten! Hang on to your sunhats.

Favorite Past Beach Reads

  1. The Pilot’s Wife – Shreve is like Piccoult: she may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but read at least one of her books. Her writing is beautiful.
  2. Jacob Have I Loved – YA that you’ll never leave behind
  3. The Light Between OceansThe Light Between Oceans – I think this will be considered a classic in fifty years. (more about this book here!)
  4. What Alice Forgot – Light hearted, yet thought provoking.
  5. Orphan Train – A great piece of historical fiction!

Bonus: If you have not read these, these two off my Favorite Books List are best by the beach!

  1. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
  2. Anne’s House of Dreams

What I plan to read this summer:

(though probably not on the beach—I have three kids 7 and under…reading on the beach is a thing of the past and the future, but not the present).

  1. The Forgotten Room – Karen White is best read by the ocean! I especially loved Long Time Gone
  2. Everyone Brave is Forgiven – The book of the year, apparently! It’s often compared to All the Light We Cannot See.
  3. At the Edge of SummerAt the Edge of Summer – A new book by the author of Letters from Skye.
  4. Birds of a Feather – I read the first Maise Dobbs book a while ago, and it’s high time I moved on with this fabulous series.
  5. Deerbrook – An old book I’ve never heard of til recently! It’s compared to works by Gaskell and the Brontes, so sign me up! Also, it’s available for free on Project Gutenberg.


Great beach reads for you and your kids!

  1. The Maggie B. – I am in love with this book.
  2. Jonathan and the Big Blue Boat – Great for little boys!
  3. Amy's EyesAmy’s Eyes – I read this chapter book in an old beach house when I was 10 or so and thought it was awesome.
  4. The Nickelplated Beauty – Such a good book about a family who lives near the sea, their rusty stove, and their love for their mama.
  5. The Golden Venture – Out of print, but an absolute treasure. I checked it out repeatedly in the library as a kid. It’s about a girl who stows away to follow her dad to the California Gold Rush and ends up living in San Francisco.

I think I could go on forever! Beach reading is absolutely the best. I’m looking forward to a great summer of books and beaches. Share your favorite beach reads for you or for children!

[Side note: My brain is already on vacation. Seriously, it thinks it’s lounging on a beach chair sipping lemonade in a tropical oasis. The only problem with this is, it’s totally not true. We are not done with school yet (two more days), we are still in the middle of a million house projects, and life is very busy. I am trying my hardest to focus and get motivated to get stuff done, but my brain is saying, “Sorry. I’m done. DONE.” And my body is not far behind it. I’m tired, and it’s a weird tired. An “I’ve been sitting by the pool for three hours and can’t will myself to move” kind of tired. Except I have most certainly not been sitting by the pool. I’ve been staring at unfolded laundry and stirring macaroni and cheese. Hence the quiet on the blog. I can’t think an original thought, even though I’m off Facebook, so hang tight…something will come to me eventually. But maybe not til the rest of me joins my brain at the beach.]

Reading, Reviews

Update on the Spring Reading List

Time for a quick catch up on some recent reading! As always, my reading list is mishmash of novels and a little bit of nonfiction. A couple of months ago, I put out my Spring TBR list of 9 books. Here’s how it played out.

  1. The Summer Before the WarThe Summer Before The War, Helen Simonson – I loved the setting and the characters of this book. One the one hand, I wanted to read about them forever. On the other hand, the pace of the novel was uneven and it was hard to pull out the overarching themes that take a book from just a story to something worth recommending. Not as good as Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand.
  2. The Song of Hartgrove Hall, Natasha Solomons – Also did not meet expectations. Very gloomy characters. Very gloomy setting. The main character is a moody young man in some parts of the book and a grumpy old man in others, who doesn’t seem to have developed much of a moral compass or compassion for others in between times. The back and forth between time periods disjointed the book. Solomons’s The House at Tyneford was much better.
  3. Keep Me Posted, Lisa Beazley – Surprisingly, this one was my favorite. It was PG-13 rated in my opinion, and sometimes got a little too gossipy in tone at the beginning when the two main characters, sisters living in different countries, start writing letters back and forth. However, this book was actually one of the catalysts that led me to Give Up Facebook. I liked its themes of true friendship and authenticity. It’s not a literary masterpiece, but it has redeeming value, likable narrators, and it was just what I needed to read at the time I picked it up.
  4. Flood Girls, Richard Fifield – Abandoned early because of excessive crudity.
  5. Lilac Girls, Martha Hall Kelly – I want to go back to this one…but I’m scared. I got about 1/8 of the way in and chickened out. Why? Well, I’ve read quite a few books set in WWII. Now, I get to a certain point in the story and think, “Oh, no. No no no. I know that place. I know that name. I know how this is going to play out…and it isn’t going to be pretty.” Lilac Girls is in a stack with The Nightingale right now, waiting for me to recover enough bravery to go on.
  6. Present Over Perfect, Shauna Niequist – Didn’t get an early copy, so it’s still high on the list this summer. It has an August release date.
  7. Longing for Paris, Sarah Mae – Still in the middle of this one! I’m struggling to engage with it, but I don’t think it’s because it’s not a good book. I think it’s because it hits pretty close to home. Sarah Mae is presenting an idea and a challenge that requires hard consideration on my part. So I keep putting it off, saying, “Maybe tomorrow.”
  8. High Rising, Angela Thirkell – Haven’t gotten a hold of a copy yet. Thirkell isn’t exactly floating around libraries and used bookstores in the U.S.
  9. Last Stop on Market Street – Still on the holds list at the library for this one!

And now for some short reviews of books that got added to the Spring reading list as I went along!

A Place We Once Knew Well, Susan Carol McCarthy

SA Place We Knew Wellet in Florida in 1962 during the Cuban Missile Crisis, this is the story of how the missile crisis was the tipping point for many other crises in a small town near McCoy Air Force Base. Before reading this book, I knew nothing about the Cuban Missile Crisis. The historical accuracy of the book combined with the emotional story depicting how many Americans must have felt during those 13 days of uncertainty in 1962 was fascinating. The actual story and characters delve into some other themes of the time like women’s healthcare and mental health. Those were not as thrilling, but all in all it was good enough to make it a solid 3 star book.

Land Girls, Angela Huth

I thought I’d love this book. I hated it. It is set in the English countryside during WWII, and follows the experiences of three young women who signed up to be Land Girls. These women did the farm work that the men would have done if they hadn’t been called to war, and then some.  All that sounds fascinating, right? Sadly, that is where the historical accuracy of this book ends. Angela Huth imposed a college co-ed dormitory lifestyle of today onto characters and situations from the 1940s. The amount of “shagging” going on was ridiculous. The amount of food these girls ate was also ridiculous (rationing, hello?). Beyond the historical inaccuracies, the amount of time spent in the secondary characters’ thoughts was jarring and unpleasant. If Huth had stuck to developing the three main characters and kept their actions in line with other literature of the period, this could have been a great book. Unfortunately, it is loathsome. And the original Land Girls think so, too.

Heidi's ChildrenHeidi Grows Up and Heidi’s Children, Charles Tritten

I need large doses of Old Fashioned Goodness in my reading life, and these were perfect. They made for excellent bedtime reading.

Stars Over Sunset Boulevard

I grabbed this one up when I saw it was a new release by Susan Meissner, who wrote one of my favorite books of last year, Secrets of a Charmed Life. Set in the late 1930s, Stars Over Sunset Boulevard follows two women as their unlikely friendship progresses. The theme of motherhood is big in this book, and I appreciated how Meissner presented it tenderly and as something of great value, but also shattered the myth that it will complete a woman. The book is on the cusp of the change in what a woman expects from her life — from children and marriage and a life firmly rooted at home to a career. The two main characters present opposite sides of that shift. The complexity of their friendship as they navigate their differences points to the most important theme in the book — nothing you strive for in life will take the place of being truthful and living with love for others greater than love for yourself.

All in all, I haven’t come across anything work more than 3 stars this Spring. The search for the great summer read of 2016 is on!

Everyday Life

Why I’m Quitting Facebook: A Quest for Less Inspiration, More Action and True Connection

I love Facebook. In fact, I drafted a post a few months ago titled, “How to Make Facebook Awesome for You.” I follow some pretty great friends and public figures, and I have benefited from the community, especially for young mothers. Yet, here I am, becoming more and more convinced that I need to step away from FB. My reasons are probably not be the ones you would think. I’m not suffering from comparison problems. After all, it’s not Pinterest I’m quitting. I’m not overly fed up with the election year posts. I’m not hating the haters (much). But I’m quitting Facebook for personal use, and here’s why.

The Inspiration Overload

Play with rocks more, make rainbow sensory bins less. Win, win.

I like new ideas and reading all sorts of words and thoughts, which is why I’ve told people I prefer Facebook over Instagram. I can’t even count how many awesome articles and posts I’ve found through my friend’s posts on Facebook. I mean, wow. So many great thoughts and ideas, or funny antecdotes, or highly practical tips on how to cut up veggies to look like mermaid tails. Seriously, I am a sucker for inspiration to do great things and plan delicious meals and conquer clutter, or what have you. And that has become a problem. Ironically, Kat Lee, the author and podcaster at pointed this out on an early podcast I went back to listen to while doing the dishes last night. I already had the sense that I was thinking other people’s thoughts too often instead of my own, but then, ironically, Kat Lee said, “We need to be inspired less and do more.” Yes. I should stop looking around and do exactly what I already know I want to or need to do. When I feel the least bit bored, I don’t need to turn to my phone. I need to stay in my own head, think my thoughts through completely, turn ideas into action. I need less outside inspiration, and more of my own creativity and action.

Passive Consumption Gets Me Down

If you think you’re ever going to be a creative person and/or a true learner of new skills or pursuits, you probably aren’t the kind of person who spends a ton of time taking in other people’s ideas and opinions on everything under the sun. I mean, yes, everyone needs inspiration and to surround themselves with greatness in order to achieve greatness. But I’m learning that the best way to gain inspiration and glean wisdom is to intentionally pursue it in one place – not in absorbing short snippets of all kinds through Facebook posts and links. The sad news is, Facebook is not always so full of greatness. Facebook is a passive experience, wherein you are fed whatever your friends post. Yes, you can choose who and what to follow, so you get some say on what you’re going to see, but only some. Even though I truly enjoy most of what I see from my friends, in the end, I come away from a Facebook viewing feeling like I just opened my brain to whatever brain food any poster I follow felt like pouring in, junk or wholesome. I need to turn to books or specific websites if I’m serious about gaining information or inspiration.

Only Connect

It’s true, Facebook makes it easy to connect. When I think about Facebook connections, though, I think of thin, fragile threads. A comment on a post or a “like” can connect you to someone , yes, but it’s a tenuous connection, easily snapped off and forgotten about in an instant. An email or a text is a stronger thread of connection, and a face to face conversation is like a rope. People get to know each other and build relationships through the stronger threads of connection, not through the fragile threads of social media.

sistersOf course, social media threads can be a beginning! I think many people, especially those who are on the extrovert side of personalities, excel in using social media to form real life friendships. I’m finding my tendency as an introvert is to turn to social media when I feel a little tug inside that I need to connect with somebody, and then actually feel like the social media connection was enough. I don’t go deeper. Facebook should be an appetizer in the meal of forming friendships, but it’s all I eat some days. That’s not the case for everyone, but for me, I know I need to quit the chips and salsa appetizer and go for something meatier – a text to a specific person, an email, or (gasp) a phone call.

Mostly, it comes down to this: I’m leaving Facebook because I like it too much. Sad, but true. It is clouding my original thoughts, filling my mind, and keeping me from connecting well with people because I don’t seem to have the discipline to only check it every now and then. That’s the true bottom line, isn’t it?  So I’m starting now and planning on a Facebook free summer.  I’m excited to see what comes of it.

[The Mia The Reader FB page will still be up and I’m on Instagram, too.  Instagram doesn’t suck me in, so I’m calling it safe for now. =)]

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