Hidden Surprises

I know many of us struggle to find time to read the books that we really want to read.  We “must” read books for book group.  We have books that we need/want to review for Goodreads, our blog, etc.  We have books lent to us by friends and colleagues that we feel an obligation to hurry up and read so we can return them.

I understand that the use of the phrase “must read” sounds ominous, like we have homework. I get that we kind of do it to ourselves, but occasionally we crave to read something that strikes our fancy rather than something with a deadline. Nevertheless, out of all these books that we “must” read, we find ones that are truly surprising.  There are books we never would have picked up if someone hadn’t forcefully thrust them into our lives.

One of these reads came to me as a Christmas gift from my mother-in-law.  My husband, Scott, and I are planning a trip to England and Scotland this year, so she purchased me a book called Call the Nurse: True Stories of a Country Nurse on a Scottish Isle by Mary MacLeod.

I can honestly say I wouldn’t have read this book up if left to my own devices, but, finding myself in possession of it, I felt that it deserved a fair shake. After finishing Brandon Sanderson’s 1300-page tome Word of Radiance—awesome in spite of its length—I felt that I needed a change of pace. It seemed like the perfect time to give Nurse a go.

I admit that the writing style isn’t the most eloquent or masterful, but it is genuine and straightforward. I found the short, simple anecdotes charming and interesting. MacLeod’s descriptions created a great picture without being overly burdensome.

I grew up in the middle of nowhere Iowa so on certain levels I identified with the simplicity of country life MacLeod portrays.  Although, I was a bit luckier to have a few more modern convinces. If anything, it inspired me to jot down some of the crazier stories of my childhood.  Perhaps people would like to read about working in a corn maze or learning about the concept of beer chips.

Anyway, Call the Nurse turned out to be a nice read that I’m really happy my mother-in-law picked up for me.  I find I’m now more interested in exploring other memoirs. Sometimes those “must” reads turn into “glad I did” reads.

Are there any hidden treasures you’ve discovered?


A Booked Christmas

Going to my parents’ house is like going to the library, but better.  There are no late fees or “check out limits” and once a year I get to keep all the books I’m given.  This Christmas was no exception. I was not only graced once again with my yearly box o’ books, but also borrowed another stack from my mother.

On Christmas Eve, I found eight lovely tomes in my yearly box o’ books:

  •             The Rithmatist by: Brandon Sanderson. I’ve actually already finished this!
  •             Sense & Sensibility by: Jane Austen
  •             Brave New World by: Aldous Huxley
  •             Killer of the Flower Moon by: David Grann
  •             Caesar’s Last Breath by: Sam Kean. (And I’ve finished this one too!)
  •             Words of Radiance by: Brandon Sanderson
  •             Rebecca by: Daphne du Maurier
  •             Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by: Phaedra Patrick

As you can see, I hit the books right away because I’ve already finished two of them.  They were both terrific!

I was also able to pilfer (with permission) an additional seven books:

  •             Naked Once More by: Elizabeth Peters
  •             A Column of Fire by: Ken Follett
  •             Hardcore Twenty-Four by: Janet Evanovich (currently reading)
  •             The Cuban Affair by: Nelson DeMille
  •             Origins by: Dan Brown
  •             Z by: Therese Anne Fowler
  •             Lovers of the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932 by: Francine Prose

My mother-in-law also added to my reading list with a memoir of a Scottish nurse because my husband and I are planning a trip to Scotland later this year. It sounds interesting, and I’m really looking forward to it.

It was a very bookish Christmas and I loved it! It’s going to be an exciting year of reading, and I’m off to a good start. Luckily, while I’m already two books down, the Editor and a friend of hers have plenty of reading material to keep me busy once I get low, but I should be good for a couple more months.

Is there any that I should move to the top of my list?

Until next time, happy reading!

Box o’ Books

The past few Christmases my parents have given me a box of books instead of just a Barnes and Nobles gift card. To be clear, there is nothing wrong with B&N gift cards, but there is something truly delightful about getting actual books for Christmas.  Maybe it’s because there is no delay in being able to thumb through them, smell their pages, and ogle their pretty covers.  Wow…that’s creepy.  But you get the idea.

Since this has become a tradition of sorts, and I’m just about to finish the last book from last years box.  Yes, I’m still reading  The Brothers Karamazov, but I’ve almost conquered the beast. Woof.  But that’s another blog post.  However, since the Christmas season seems to be upon us (even though it’s only November), I thought I should start making this years list.

Yes, every year I give my parents a list.  I read too many books for my mom to stab in the dark.  This year the process of making the list has been much harder.  There are just so many wonderful books out there, and I struggled with what I should ask for specifically. Nevertheless, after much contemplation I have the list.  Like any wish list I will not obtain the full list and my mom may throw in one or two she thinks that I might like, and naturally this makes it all the more fun!

Okay, I’ll shut up. Here’s the Box o’ Books  list of 2017:

Rebecca by: Daphne du Maurier- A former roommate mentioned that this was one of their favorite books and for whatever reason, it’s been stuck in my head ever since.

Brave New World by: Aldous Huxley- I’ve seen this book appear numerous times on lists of books everyone should read, so I thought perhaps I should see what everyone is on about.

Caesar’s Last Breath: Decoding the Secrets of the Air Around Us by: Sam Kean- Mr. Kean is my favorite non-fiction writer, so his latest book was an absolutely must on this years list.

The Rithmatist by: Brandon Sanderson- I’ve again see this book recommended quite often, and I’ve liked Sanderson’s other work.

Words of Radiance by: Brandon Sanderson- This is the second book in the Stormlight Archives series.  I really enjoyed the first one which I received in last year’s box.  Naturally, I want to find out what happens next.

The killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by: David Grann- This book was recommended to me by my aunt and uncle-in-law. They said it was a tremendous read and apparently many others agree.  This book was originally on my book date list, but it didn’t make it into my basket that day.

Sense and Sensibility by: Jane Austen- I’ve only read one other Austen novel: Pride and Prejudice while it wasn’t my favorite. I’ve decided I need to give Austen another go.

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper  by: Phaedra Patrick.  This book also was on my book date list, but I could not find a copy in our search.  The title has me very intrigued.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by: Benjamin Alire Saenz- I know nothing about this book, but I thought the title and cover were amazing and thus on the list it went.

When the Moon was Ours  by: Anna-Marie McLemore- Yes, I also shamefully picked this book because of its cover.  It looks so magical.

Otherland by: Tad Williams- I have been meaning to read this book for years.  It was recommended by a few friends, and I thought maybe it was high time that I get around to reading it.

There it is folks! Thoughts?  Did I pick some doozies or duds?  Let me know your thoughts below!

Happy Friday!


Some Serious Wordiness

I really like science. I find it generally fascinating and wonderful, but there are certain topics within science that really get me giddy.  One such topic is cephalopods. I did my science fair project involving the bacteria that make squid glow when I was in ninth grade, and I’ve been gaga for the creatures ever since.  They’re just so nifty.

Whenever I see articles about new discoveries regarding this magnificent group, I’m all in.  I mean what isn’t cool about squid having a symbiotic relationship with bio-luminescent bacteria that reflects moonlight, so it can move about without casting a shadow on the sea floor and thus protecting it from predators?  Or that Octopi have this crazy ability to change shape and texture to blend in with their environment?

Anyway, the other day I was scrolling through my Facebook feed, and I saw an article regarding the octopus.  I was instantly excited. What other coolness could I learn? But then, sadness struck. I couldn’t take this article seriously.  They had spelled the plural of octopus as “octopuses.”

What dopes, I thought.

Anybody who knows anything knows that octopus becomes octopi.  This article obviously had no credibility. But something in me just couldn’t let it go.

I soon found myself on Merriam-Webster’s website and to my sheer delight I learned that octopuses is indeed an acceptable plural of octopus. In standard English, octopus would be pluralized to octopuses.  But because people wanted to be more in-line with Latin root words they pluralized words ending in “us” with an “i.”  The rub is that the root word of octopus is not Latin, but Greek, making the plural “octopodes” which is really weird and confusing. In conclusion, technically all three plural forms−octopuses, octopi, and octopodes−are correct.

This was great news! I could read the article after all.  I will still default to octopi, but this is captivating stuff.  See, even the words used to name these wonderful beings are crazy fascinating!

Happy wordy Friday!




Playing Booky: A Re-Cap

Last Friday was the much-anticipated book date, and it was magical!  It was a beautiful day.  We visited three amazing bookstores.  I came home with about ten books and Kelsey obtained nine.  I haven’t done a book haul of this magnitude in years, and it felt divine.  I hope to have the pleasure to repeat it.


We started the day off with brunch at the Bongo Room with fabulous brunchy cocktails. Since the Bongo Room is about 45 minutes from my house I had plenty of pre-reading time on the way.  It won’t be the last time I bring a book to a book haul.


After brunch we went to Myopic Books.  It is a used bookstore and an absolute magical place.  It’s gigantic and smells of that delicious bookish smell.  The only bad news is that they asked that no photos be taken in the shop.  So, I can’t show you just how expansive and impressive their collection is, but that just means you will have to visit yourself which we would certainly recommend.

Kelsey and I would also recommend that you create a list like we did. It can be overwhelming, so having a list will help you keep your wits about you in this lovely labyrinth.  We also recommend making a slightly longer list than we did. (We had a list of about 10 books each) This is especially helpful if your only stop is Myopic. It is a used bookstore and while their collection is large, they do have their limits.

Kelsey, for instance, struck out on quite a few of her list items.  I was luckier and was able to obtain copies of:

The Lord of the Flies by William Golding

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

The Storied Life of A.J. FikryI by Gabrielle Zevin

The Gunslinger by Stephen King

However, Kelsey was able to get Little Women by Louisa May Alcott and The Alienist by Caleb Carr off her list.  She also added Dead Wake by Erik Larson to her acquisitions.


After Myopic we decided we needed a little refreshment, so we grabbed a tea and proceeded to take pictures and ogle over our new found reads. Once we were slightly more hydrated we went off to Quimby’s



We didn’t know what to expect at this second stop given that it is a very niche bookstore.  It has many unique reads and focuses on local authors.  They had some absolutely gorgeous books and a few hilarious ones such as the well-named Cocktails for Ding-Dongs. In retrospect, I should have probably purchased it despite its price tag. I did, however, purchase The Mirror Thief by Martin Seay which was not on my list, but seemed like an intriguing read.  Kelsey also made an off-list purchase of The Circle by Dave Eggers.



After Quimby’s, we found a local pub for a quick bite and brew.  We took more bookish pictures and had some Instagram story fun.  We then hopped an Uber and landed outside Unabridged Books which is an awesome, locally owned bookstore.


Here we were able to procure many of the books on our list and a couple that were not.  After much searching, perusing, and decision-making I left with five wonderful books:

The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco

The Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson


Kelsey left with five great books as well:


Van Gogh: The Life by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith

Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

My Grandmother Asked me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman

In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson

Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare

All the books

At this point, we took our backpacks and hoofed it to my neighborhood to a bar where we ordered a drink and with no shame unpacked all of our book purchases onto the bar.  It was a glorious sight.  Luckily, we were in an arcade bar so nerds be welcome.

We have some serious reading to do in the coming months, but I’m so excited to read our treasures and compare notes. We will update you along the way.

So, what do you think of our picks?  Did we get some hum-dingers? Let us know in the comments below!


Playing Booky Today

Today is the day!! We are beyond excited!  A budget has been set. A loose itinerary has been established. Backpacks for easy carrying are ready to go.

The first stop is the Bongo Room for a delicious boozy brunch to fuel up for the day.  We will also be comparing book lists.  The idea is for us to buy different books and then do a big swap-a-roo.

We will then be off to our first book stop.

Once we have discovered all there is to find at Myopic Bookstore, we will push directly ahead to book stop number two:  Quimby’s.

At this point, we will most likely be thirsty and in need of a little refreshment and thus we shall find the nearest pub for a little nom-nom and a little brew to re-energize us for the afternoon.

We will then take a bit of a bus ride to Unabridged Books (one of my favorite bookstores) in my old neighborhood.  Back when I was a single lady, I spend a lot of time perusing here.  It will be a delight to re-visit.

At this point we will assess our leftover time and budgets.  There are a couple of used bookstores that we might pop into; otherwise, it will be on to finish line cocktails where we re-cap this bookish day!

We will be sharing our journey, book finds, and delightful cocktails as we go, so feel free to be a part of the fun via Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook.


It’s a Date- A Book Date!

It was just a couple of weeks ago that I realized my “to-be-read” pile sitting on my bookshelf at home is dangerously low…as in only five books left low! This is terrifying and unacceptable, so next Friday, September 29th my good friend (and superb editor of this blog) Kelsey and I are going on a book date…all day!

We are starting off the day properly with a boozy brunch and will then proceed to several locally owned bookshops here in Chicago. We will be sharing our adventure and finds along the way (here comes the shameless social media plug).

So please follow along as we attempt our very first instagram story! We will also be sharing our adventure via Twitter and Facebook. We -by which I mean mainly me- are new to this social media game, so Friday will be a real learning experience.

Come along for the ride; it’s going to be absolutely wonderful and probably hysterical. Kelsey and I are both stoked about this, and will be breathing a huge sigh of relief once we have secured more reading material.

Speaking of reading material, if you have any book recommendations let us know so we can check them out!