The 5 Best Books I Read This Year

Now that 2014 is nearly drawing to a close and I find myself reading a book that I certainly won’t finish before the new year, I thought this would be a good time to get all superlative and name the best books that I found myself reading this year.

The List of Contenders:

booksread2014

And Here are the 5 Books I Loved Most:

The Hands Down Can’t Stop Squealing About Fave:

16068905Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

I read this book basically in one day – it was a mad, crazy, obsessive daylong reading spree in which putting the book down felt painful and wrong until I’d finished. My apologies to the children, husband and pets neglected on February 19, 2014.

In many small ways, it felt like this book was written exactly for me – like the author had captured a piece of my soul and put it on paper. While I can’t necessarily relate to the WHOLE story (don’t have a twin sister or a psychologically diagnosed mental illness – also don’t write fanfiction and am significantly older than 18) – so much of it I could definitely relate to and I quickly found myself rooting for Cath and waiting for certain plot events to come about. I, simply put, loved this book and kinda wish I could read it all over again today.

The Lofty Historical Fiction Book I Loooved:

113348The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

I’m glad I finally took the time to read this book – I started it once years ago and left it unfinished, balking at the complexity of the many stories being told in one book. I think appreciated it now more than I would have back then anyway. This is a fantastic story that touches on a lot of subjects that anyone can relate to – from being a mother to a daughter, a sister, a wife – hardships faced, adapting to new cultures and continually learning to pick up the pieces of our lives and start anew when needed. I think this will be a book that stays with me for a long time.

The Classic Book I Finally Got Around to Enjoying:

15729983A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle

How have I never read this book before? I instantly fell in love with this series and this family. It’s equal parts coming of age story / amazing science fiction time / space travel story. Can’t wait to read the rest of the series!

The Kids Book I Might Have Loved More Than My Kids:

17349203Fortunately, The Milk by Neil Gaiman

This was such a fun, quick read and immensely ‘read out loud – able’. The illustrations are adorable, if not always terribly consistent with the story and Gaiman’s story telling continues to be superb. The whole family loved this one.

The Series That Keeps Getting Better:

8131227One of Our Thursdays is Missing by Jasper Fforde

I was absolutely blown away by this book which is impressive when you consider it is 6th in a series. The fact that the author was able to surprise and delight me in book six is really rather remarkable. There are so many elements to this book (and this series) that it seems impossible to describe but I particularly loved the descriptions of Bookworld and also the description of experiencing the real world for the first time through a Bookworld character’s eyes.

What was the best book you read this year?

You can read reviews for the rest of the books I read in 2014 here.

Books Read in 2014

(now with handy star rating so you can tell at a glance how much I liked it)

  1. **** Freakonomics by Steven Levitt (January Book Club) – Finished January 12, 2014 – I enjoyed this book a lot more than I thought I would. Very interesting, whether you agree with them and their findings or not. – Full Review –
  2. *** Beauty Queens by Libba Bray – Finished January 23, 2014 – I thought the premise of this book was fascinating and the plot kept me intrigued throughout. I also felt the book was attempting to do an AWFUL lot and that it occasionally read as cheesy, over done and sometimes predictable, but being a young adult novel I can kind of over look the predictable aspects. All in all, I think it was a very funny and satirical look at the commercialism and typical coming of age issues that young girls are faced with, in the midst of a very atypical story.
  3. ***** Fortunately, The Milk by Neil Gaiman – Finished January 24, 2014 – This was such a fun, quick read. terrific illustrations also. I’m looking forward to sharing it with the kids. – Full Review –
  4. **** A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle – Finished January 28, 2014 – I don’t know if I would have enjoyed this story as much if I weren’t such a huge fan of the BBC series, Sherlock, but since I can’t (yet) go back in time and unsee the show, I’ll just have to base my feelings of the book around the fact that I’ve seen the show also and thus knew the major plot points. However, the original story is actually quite a bit different from the tv show’s version and there were things I genuinely liked about each. I didn’t really care for the middle part of the book where they leave Sherlock and Watson to further explain the back story of characters that I won’t name here, cause you know, spoilers. But at the same time, I think the backstory was necessary so overall, I did enjoy the book and I’ll definitely be reading more of Doyle’s Sherlock stories soon.
  5. *** Witches of East End by Melissa de la Cruz  Finished February 4, 2014 – It’s hard to judge this book fairly having already seen the Lifetime tv show based on the book, however loosely. There are some things about the show I liked better and some things I liked in the book, but having seen the show first I couldn’t help but prefer it. I found the characters on the show to be more fully fleshed out and well rounded and a little more likable to boot, but there were aspects to the book that I found really interesting and I love how it intersected with another of Cruz’s series, the Blue Blood books. The cliff hanger ending has me intrigued to read more, but maybe not right away.
  6. **** The Red Tent by Anita Diamant (February Book Club) – Finished February 17, 2014 – I’m glad I finally took the time to read this book – I started it once years ago and left it unfinished, balking at the complexity of the many stories being told in one book. I think appreciated it now more than I would have back then anyway. This is a fantastic story that touches on a lot of subjects that anyone can relate to – from being a mother to a daughter, a sister, a wife – hardships faced, adapting to new cultures and continually learning to pick up the pieces of our lives and start anew when needed. I think this will be a book that stays with me for a long time.
  7. ************* Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell – Finished February 19, 2014 – I read this book basically in one day – it was a mad, crazy, obsessive daylong reading spree in which putting the book down felt painful and wrong until I’d finished. My apologies to the children, husband and pets neglected on February 19, 2014.In many small ways, it felt like this book was written exactly for me – like the author had captured a piece of my soul and put it on paper. While I can’t necessarily relate to the WHOLE story (don’t have a twin sister or a psychologically diagnosed mental illness – also don’t write fanfiction and am significantly older than 18) – so much of it I could definitely relate to and I quickly found myself rooting for Cath and waiting for certain plot events to come about. I, simply put, loved this book and kinda wish I could read it all over again today. – Full Review –
  8. **** The Last Word (Spellman Book 6) by Lisa Lutz – Finished March 2, 2014 – I always enjoy the Spellman Files books though I’ll confess this one was a little harder for me to get into initially because I was still a little shell shocked by the last book. However, once I settled into the story it was fantastic in all the ways that Lutz’s books usually are. I cannot tell from the way this book ended if it will be the last one or not, but I hope that it isn’t.
  9. *** Mary Poppins by PL Travers – Finished March 8, 2014 – There were some things about this book that I really loved and other things that I didn’t but I can’t really be fair to the book given that I read it after having viewed the Disney movie at least two dozen times. I couldn’t help but compare the two by both plot and characters and Disney definitely creates a kinder and more likeable Mary Poppins (not to mention a much more frequently appearing Bert). But PL Travers is a wonderful writer and there are some stories in her books that don’t occur in the movie at all that are definitely worth a read.
  10. ****** Eleanor and Park by Rainbow RowellFinished April 24, 2014 – I think it’s safe to say that Rainbow Rowell is becoming a new favorite author of mine. This book sucked me into the story and its characters in all the same ways that Fangirl did. I found myself anxiously waiting to continue reading the story during the day, as though Eleanor and Park might do something drastic or need me there badly during my non-reading hours and it would ruin everything. And much like Fangirl, I found myself eventually just sitting down and ignoring everything for a few hours so that I could finish it – and then being sort of sad it was over, because now what?full review
  11. ***** A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’EngleFinished May 1, 2014 – How have I never read this book before? I instantly fell in love with this series and this family. It’s equal parts coming of age story / amazing science fiction time / space travel story. Can’t wait to read the rest of the series! Full Review
  12. **** The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom (May Book Club) Finished May 24, 2014 – I think this was a book that will stay with me for a long time. It was slow going at first and the subject matter often kept me up at night – maybe not the best night time reading because it’s a book you can’t help but dwell on. I became very attached to the characters after awhile which made the second half of the book fly in comparison to the first, as I became more and more concerned about how it would all end. Fascinating.
  13. ****** The One by Kiera Cass Finished June 18, 2014 – I’ll admit, I totally set aside the book I was reading to read this the day I finally broke down and bought a copy and then read it in like 3 sittings. Like the previous books in this series, it was addictive and completely sucked me in. Though in some ways the end of the book felt a little easy, as though half the obstacles facing them throughout the series just sort of magically worked themselves out, overall I think this is actually fitting. Sometimes when one thing comes together, everything else falls into place. One thing I was struck by was the feeling of hope and optimism that radiate from this story, which is rare for a dystopian story but I think much needed.
  14. **** Veronica Mars: The Thousand Dollar Tan Line by Rob ThomasFinished July 10, 2014 – I think my favorite thing about this book was that it really did read just like an extended episode of Veronica Mars, but it didn’t necessarily feel like you had to have seen the show to enjoy the book. It was a natural transition from the screen to the page and the story really pulled me in. I definitely plan to continue reading the series.
  15. **** Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Book Store by Robin Sloan (July Book Club)Finished July 22, 2014 – This book was a lot of fun to read. It felt kinda like a Rainbow Rowell book from a male perspective with lots of computer programming / social media stuff. I thought the contrast of old technology and new was really interesting and the story itself was compelling. Parts of the story felt formulaic but not in a bad way.
  16. ***** One of Our Thursdays is Missing by Jasper FfordeFinished August 10, 2014 – I was absolutely blown away by this book which is impressive when you consider it is 6th in a series. The fact that the author was able to surprise and delight me in book six is really rather remarkable. There are so many elements to this book (and this series) that it seems impossible to describe but I particularly loved the descriptions of Bookworld and also the description of experiencing the real world for the first time through a Bookworld character’s eyes.
  17. **** Girl Walks Into a Bar by Rachel DratchFinished August 27, 2014 – I really enjoyed this one. I didn’t know much about Rachel Dratch before reading this aside from “that funny girl on SNL” but her stories both made me laugh and truly resonated with me. From the cool tidbits about her time on SNL to stories about her dating life and family life, this had a little bit of everything.
  18. *** Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Long Way Home by Joss WhedonFinished August 28, 2014 – The artwork in this graphic novel is beautiful and of course I enjoyed getting a glimpse into what happens to all the main characters after the series finale, but the overall storyline was very difficult to follow and overall I just felt it didn’t compare to the television show, not that this is surprising really.
  19. *** Requiem by Lauren OliverFinished October 5, 2014 – I read the last book in this series so long ago that some of the details were fuzzy by the time I picked up this final installment in the Delirium series but on the whole I still enjoyed it. It was interesting to see how the story would wrap up – who would end up with who? Would Lena consider love worth fighting for in the end? I think she nailed the ending perfectly all in all.
  20. **** Reached by Ally Condie – Finished October 2014 – I thought this was a fitting ending to the series. The concept for the book’s overlying truths was fascinating and struck close to home – there are a lot of small details of this book that made it stick with me and linger throughout the day even when I wasn’t reading and days later I still think of it often.
  21. *** Gnarr: How I Became the Mayor of a Large City in Iceland and Changed the World by Jón GnarrFinished November 10, 2014 – I saw Jon Gnarr interviewed on Craig Ferguson a few months ago and found his story fascinating. I finally got my hands on a copy of his book about forming his own political party, The Best Party in Reykjavik. Some chapters of this book were more interesting than others and occasionally it felt a little overly self praising, but overall I found the book interesting and informative and definitely know a lot more about Gnarr, Reykjavik and politics than I did before reading. At the end of the day – it’s a nice short read so if you are interested, definitely give the book a shot!
  22. **** Attachments by Rainbow RowellFinished November 11, 2014 – Much like the other Rainbow Rowell books I’ve read, my only complaint with this book is that I’d love to sit and linger over this for weeks but her writing tends to turn me into an obsessive junkie that must read the entire book in basically one sitting. Rowell’s characters have a way of becoming very dear to you very quickly and I cannot help but relate to them, even if we have little in common. This is another one that will stay with me for awhile.
  23. *** Bedknob and Broomstick by Mary NortonFinished November 11, 2014 – I remember loving this movie as a child but after reading the book I’m realizing that I either remember VERY little about the actual plot or the movie is vastly different from the book (or books as apparently Bedknob & Broomstick was originally two books). I thought the stories were interesting but something in the writing fell flat for me and it took me awhile to finish reading.
  24. ***** The Rosie Project by Graeme Simion – Finished December 3, 2014 – This book has gotten a lot of buzz around the internet and I think the buzz was well deserved. I really enjoyed this book. It took awhile to get used to the narrator’s voice which is as methodical and cool as you’d expect from a scientist with Asperger syndrome who decides for scientific reasons to find a wife. Not a girl friend, not true love, just a wife. He makes a questionnaire for potential prospects to fill out to determine their qualifications for said position and conducts the whole thing like a scientific study. Then in true rom com fashion, he meets the perfect girl who doesn’t match any of said qualifications. The story really clings to your heart after awhile – the author does a good job of fleshing out the characters, while remaining true to their inherent selves. I really, really enjoyed this one.
  25. *** Christmas with Anne by L.M. MontgomeryFinished December 9, 2014 – I enjoyed this collection of short stories about the holidays. There are two “Anne” stories and then several others that Montgomery wrote for magazines and newspapers over the years. And each story is good, but the truth is they all tell basically the same story. Be good to people, even when they don’t deserve it. It’s better to give than to receive. Unexpected kindness is the best kind of kindness. Etc. So it did occasionally border on repetitive, but it was still a nice book to read around the holidays and if you enjoy Montgomery’s writing (and who doesn’t?) you’ll probably enjoy this.
  26. **** The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson Finished December 13, 2014 – I think I read this once before as a kid but it was even better reading it as an adult and parent. I read it with my 8 year old who thought the antics of the Herdmans was hysterical and I agree. It’s a really cute story that will remind you of your own family and childhood even if you never knew a family like the Herdmans.
  27. **** When You Reach Me by Rebecca SteadFinished December 25, 2014 – This was a really interesting book. It’s both a coming of age story, a mystery story, a story of time travel and first loves and love of literature. I adored the references to A Wrinkle in Time and how the author laced the novel throughout hers. I found the book gritty in all the right ways, it felt intensely real even when it was fantastical.

The Land of Abandoned Books

*** American Gods by Neil Gaiman – I honestly only didn’t finish this because I’m lazy – I didn’t finish before my book club discussion and blatantly listened to enough spoilers that I lost the motivation to continue. It’s a fascinating book and it has a lot going on, if a bit on the strange side. My husband is really enjoying it so don’t avoid it just because I didn’t finish or anything.

* The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway – I’ll give it one star because the words are properly spelled and there is a legitimate story being told and they used a typewriter instead of crayons.

*** The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt – This was another case of “didn’t finish it in time for book club but went to the meeting anyway and had the ending sufficiently spoiled to make me not feel like finishing it. Tsk Tsk. I liked parts of this book but absolutely detested others and I’m not convinced I would have enjoyed the ending anyway.

*** Outlander by Diana Gabaldon – I was enjoying this book but somewhere near the middle the story started to wane for me and the sheer size of the book became too daunting. I may finish it someday but for now I’m moving on.

*** I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai – Yet another book club book that I didn’t quite finish by the meeting day. I actually read a good 80% of this book and it was good in parts and I’m glad I read what I did but at the end of the day, I had no desire to finish it. The subject matter is obviously heavy and I needed a change of pace. Malala’s story is fascinating though so I’m glad I read some of it at least.

** The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton – I read less than a chapter of this one before calling mercy. Nathaniel Hawthorne flashbacks pretty much sums up the experience. I’m told that the story really picks up in the second half but for an 800+ page novel that just seems unacceptable to me.

Books Read in 2008 | Books Read in 2009 | Books Read in 2010

Books Read in 2011 | Books Read in 2012 | Books Read in 2013

A Very Merry Rant & Well Wishes for the Season.

holidayecard2014blog

This year I spent months planning these awesome handmade greeting cards that the kids and I were going to make together to send to friends and family for Christmas. It wasn’t so much about being crafty as it was about being frugal tbh. I had a wake up call this year or a serious case of Bah Humbug, not sure which, but I came up for air for the first time since the first photo card was sent eons ago and thought:

“Wait a minute? Why are we spending like $80 on Christmas cards? Aren’t those store bought holiday cards sold for like $2.50 for a box of 12 or something? This is insane.”

So I thought about doing boxed cards but then I felt like an underachiever and then Dan said “Why not have the kids make cards?” And my Pinterest Mind went nuts and came up with this whole half baked concept of having the kids decorate “ornaments” on cards for everyone and then I’d come in with fancy markers and washi tape and make them look gorgeous. The end result was… nice if you know my children. But I stuck with it and carefully made one for all the people and found gorgeous envelopes and had just enough stamps and got them all out in the nick of time. The Nick of it, I tell you.

And then a few days later my sister in law told me that hers was being held at the post office due to insufficient postage. Dismayed at the thought of ALL OF MY FRIENDS AND FAMILY being nagged and blackmailed by the Postal Service to pick up their ransom packages of half scribbled masterpieces at the post office in December when everyone knows that going to the post office in December is worse than going to Target on Black Friday… Yeah I went to a dark place.

“I’m never making Christmas cards again. Next year everyone is getting an annoying e-card posted on Facebook and if you don’t have Facebook, whatever man.  I’m done.”

I even made an ecard (see above) to post as an apology to all the people with cards being held hostage or otherwise and shared it on Facebook and then thought about getting a stiff drink and finding a chaise to faint on when a friend commented, “Oh I just got your card in the mail.”

Seriously. Did I forget a stamp? Was her card a quarter of a millimeter thicker somehow? Is the postage to Maine tremendously more expensive than the rest of the United States? What is going on guys?

How can I rant incessantly on my blog about the damned postal service and the cost of photo cards today when the whole thing might have been a one off fluke? How can I justify day drinking and fainting couches now?

The point is: Merry Christmas guys. Whether you send your loved ones carefully put together handmade cards, perfectly posed photo cards made on Minted or are wondering where you can get a chaise lounge to faint on – I hope the holidays are awesome for you and involve as few trips to the post office as possible.

The 10 Book Gif.

world-without-books-gifs-beauty-and-the-beast

Alison at Hardcovers and Heroines shared this fun Book Gif Tag that looked weirdly fascinating and I’ve never blogged in Gifs before because I’m old and boring but I don’t want to luddite out and miss all the fun so here goes. Here be the rules:

The person who tags you gives you a list of ten books. Then you respond with one sentence and one gif to show how you feel about each book. Then you tag other people and leave a list of ten books for them.

Here are the 10 books that Alison listed and my thoughts/gifs for them:

The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak

giphy (13)

I think I’m the last person on Earth who hasn’t read this. I even OWN it and haven’t read it.

Unwind, by Neal Shusterman 

idk

I have literally never heard of this.

Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell

giphy (1)

Basically the title sums up perfectly how I feel about the book. I’m mildly obsessed.

Mockingjay, by Suzanne Collins

giphy (3)

Cannot think about Mockingjay without wanting to go cry in a corner.

Twilight, by Stephanie Meyers

giphy

Shut up, I loved it.

We Were Liars, by E. Lockhart

giphy (5)

Sooo… haven’t read this one either.

Every Day, by David Levithan

giphy (7)

OOOhhhh I saw this one in a book store once and almost bought it. I only resisted the urge because I have seriously too many books and my husband gave me slanty eyes about it.

Paper Towns, by John Green

giphy (9)

Well it’s John Green, so I’m going to assume it’s fantastic.

Ella Enchanted, by Gail Carson Levine

giphy (10)

Loved the movie. Haven’t read the book. Please don’t take my nerd cred away.

Anna and the French Kiss, by Stephanie Perkins

giphy (11)

Yup. Haven’t read this one either.

So that was actually really fun. If you want to play along, consider yourself tagged. If you don’t want to play along, no worries, you weren’t invited anyway.

And if you have never searched for a gif before and don’t know where to start, I found this website super helpful. Here are 10 books you can Gif me about if you want to play:

  1. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
  2. The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
  3. Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
  4. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
  5. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle
  6. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simion
  7. Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman
  8. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
  9. Divergent by Veronica Roth
  10. The One by Kiera Cass

A few links for today.

fangirlingjen

Here are a couple things online worth reading this week:

I’m a new fan of Carolyn Hax who writes an advice column at The Washington Post. Here’s some advice she gave about dealing with friendship and politics not mixing well on Facebook.

Here are the best books of 2014 according to Goodreaads.com – my favorite place to track my reading habits.

Lastly, for anyone else who’s kids have asked to learn more about Hanukkah: instructions for how to play the dreidel game. It’s pretty simple and addictively fun. Heck, even if you don’t have kids – this could be your next game night idea.

I’ve made my list and checked it twice.

christmaslist

It’s kind of a blogging tradition to share Christmas gift ideas and I wouldn’t want to mess with tradition. But I don’t quite have the energy or time to make a list for all the different people you might be shopping for, so I’m just focusing on the most important person on your list: me.

So for the Jen in your life (the bookworm, the nerdy girl, the kid at heart, the lover of pretty things), here are a few the things to consider:

81yvgylbotL._SL1500_My dream big item this year is a color laser printer, perhaps with all the bells and whistles? This one is a printer, scanner, copier and fax machine which means I can remove two big bulkies off my desk and replace it with this one with excellent reviews.

With this baby I can stop crossing my fingers and praying for cooperation whenever I need to print something in color.

This Brother Printer is $530 right now.

71Gkd+SgfkL._SL1500_I am a sucker for pretty tea or coffee mugs and this one by Tea Forte doubles as a tea kettle with a built in stainless steel brewing basket and travel lid. It’s microwave and dishwasher safe and would look super cute in my kitchen or place of employment.

Price varies from $15-25 depending on color and availability.

il_570xN.192307229This 5 Golden Rings necklace by Lemonadehandmade at Etsy is pretty, seasonal, classically chic and humorous. I  love the literal interpretation of everyone’s favorite line from the 12 Days of Christmas.

She’s selling hers for $48. It’s made with 14 karat gold .21629_zoom1

These Warm or Cool Face Coffee Mugs from uncommongoods.com make me laugh every time I look at them. Apart from being funny, they also seem pretty useful for those of us who need a snack to go with our warm beverages.

And at only $35 for a set of two, I’m gonna go ahead and call this one a bargain.

0.largeThere is a safe bet that anyone shopping for me is going to consider getting me books or gift cards to buy myself books (a good plan). Why not go the extra mile and add this Bibliovore tote bag so I can haul them around in style? From the creative geniuses behind my favorite comic strip, Unshelved, this bag is currently out of stock but if you love me you’ll keep checking back so you can buy me one when they get more.Quarterly_BKR02_01And since we’re talking about books, a subscription to Book Riot would be a great way to make sure that tote bag is never empty. $50 for a box of bookish goodies would be a pretty awesome indulgence and if you are feeling generous, you can subscribe to send me a box every three months. I won’t hate you.

I’m linking up with Mama Kat’s World Famous Writer’s Workshop. You should join in on the fun – share your Christmas Wish List or answer one of her other 4 prompts here.

3 Books to Read Before 2015

I’m linking up with Anne @ Modern Mrs. Darcy‘s linkup formerly known as twitterature. Now dubbed Quick Lit, the goal of the game is still the same: Share some mini book reviews for what you’ve been reading over the last month. 

Here are 3 books I’ve read since last month, all three definitely worth fitting into your reading time before the new year rolls into town.

The Book Everyone’s Buzzing About: 

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simion

17925125This has been a much loved book around the blogosphere and I can see why. Although it took awhile to get used to the narrator’s voice which is as methodical and dry as you’d expect from a scientist with Asperger syndrome who decides for scientific reasons to find a wife. Not a girl friend, not true love, just a wife.

He makes a questionnaire for potential prospects to fill out to determine their qualifications for said position and conducts the whole thing like a scientific study. Then in true rom com fashion, he meets the perfect girl who doesn’t match any of said qualifications.

The story really clings to your heart after awhile – the author does a good job of fleshing out the characters, while remaining true to their inherent selves. I really, really enjoyed this one.

A Christmasy Classic: 

Christmas with Anne by L.M. Montgomery

543138The perfect book for Anne Fans to curl up with during the holidays. There are two “Anne” stories and then several others that Montgomery wrote for magazines and newspapers over the years.

Each story is good, but the truth is they all tell basically the same story: Be good to people, even when they don’t deserve it. It’s better to give than to receive. Unexpected kindness is the best kind of kindness. Etc.

It occasionally borders on repetitive, but I still enjoyed each story and if you are a fan of Montgomery’s writing (and who isn’t?) you’ll probably enjoy this.

And One To Read With Your Kids: 

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson

2797624I think I read this once before as a kid but it was even better reading it as an adult and parent. I read it with my 8 year old who thought the antics of the Herdmans was hysterical and I agree. This story has a lot of laugh out loud moments and a few heart string tugging moments as well. It’s a really cute story that will remind you of your own family and childhood even if you never knew a family like the Herdmans. Plus it’s a nice quick read with good flow for a read-a-loud.

What have you been reading lately?

Celebrating St Lucia Day.

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We’re continuing the tradition of celebrating Saint Lucia Day or Saint Lucy’s Day with our kids. Dan’s parents did it with their kids growing up and our kids loved celebrating last year so we did it again this weekend.

The story is that Saint Lucy secretly brought food to persecuted Christians in Rome, who were forced underground into the catacombs. Lucy would wear a crown of candles so she could use both of her hands to carry items. Lucy also means “light,” and December 13th falls close to the winter solstice, so the name “Lucy” also has much significance.

We don’t do the full traditional celebration – no music is involved and we just picked up tasty looking pastries at the supermarket rather than tracking down or making the sweet, saffron-flavoured buns (lussekatter).

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Like last year, I was so not about to put a crown of candles on the head of my 5 year old (although it looks like Amazon sells crowns with light bulb style candles for around $15-20). We used the same floral garland headband that she wore last year and a white shawl and she thought that was fabulous. We put out candles on the table to symbolize Lucy’s candles and served tea for mommy, apple cider for the kids and coffee for daddy. I also wasn’t quite ready to put her in charge of carrying all those breakable mugs, so I just had her serve the pastries.

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We put MM, our Star Boy, in charge of bringing the platter of pastries and serving plates to the table so he wouldn’t feel left out and I made him a quick construction paper Star Boy hat. One of these years I am going to do a better job of making him a nicer hat to wear!

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I have found the holiday seasons to be more meaningful when I take the time to teach my kids about different celebrations and stories from around the world and focus more on learning new traditions and stories of giving and love – and less on presents, though there will be plenty of time for presents, too!

Next on my list is to teach the kids a little bit more about Hanukkah this week. Any suggestions for good videos / websites / books to share with them?

Tell me about your family’s favorite Winter Traditions and celebrations!