Top Ten Books I’m Looking Forward to Reading in 2018

I'm linking up for the last Top Ten Tuesday of the year. These are the books I'm most looking forward to reading in 2018! | Book reviews by NewberyandBeyond.com
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This post is part of the Top Ten Tuesday meme by The Broke and the Bookish.

It’s the last TTT of 2017! I have so many books that I’m looking forward to reading next year, but these books made my top ten list.

  1. Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America
  2. Redefining Girly
  3. Sourdough
  4. Year of Yes
  5. Peas and Carrots
  6. The Eleventh Hour: A Curious Mystery
  7. Bellweather Rhapsody
  8. Heartless
  9. Putin Country: A Journey Into the Real Russia
  10. When Dimple Met Rishi

What books are you looking forward to reading in 2018? Let me know in the comments!

Book Challenge Wrap Ups!

It's time to wrap up both of the book challenges I completed this year! Classics + Newbery books. | Book reviews by NewberyandBeyond.com
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It’s the end of the year, and somehow I was able to finish both of the book challenges I started! I joined Smiling Shelves for the Newbery reading challenge and read 75 points worth of Newbery winners and honor books (and one Caldecott!). You can find the reviews for these books here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. Whew!

I also completed the Books and Chocolate classics challenge, which was definitely more difficult for me. Listed below are the books that I read for each category and a link to my review of that book. I earned all three entries into the drawing–woo hoo! (Contact email for this drawing–monica@newberyandbeyond.com)

1. A 19th century classic – any book published between 1800 and 1899. The Awakening; Kate Chopin

2. A 20th century classic – any book published between 1900 and 1967. Dead Man’s Folly; Agatha Christie

3. A classic by a woman author. Murder at the Vicarage; Agatha Christie

4. A classic in translation. Any book originally written published in a language other than your native language. Feel free to read the book in your language or the original language. Candide; Voltaire

5. A classic originally published before 1800. Plays and epic poems are acceptable in this category. Translations can be modern in this category also. Othello; Shakespeare

6. A romance classic. It can have a happy ending or a sad ending, as long as there is a strong romantic element to the plot. Lady Susan; Jane Austen

7. A Gothic or horror classic. Dracula; Bram Stoker

8. A classic with a number in the title. An actual number is required — for example, Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None would not qualify, but The Seven Dials Mystery would. 1984; George Orwell

9. A classic about an animal or which includes the name of an animal in the title. It can be an actual animal or a metaphor, or just the name in the title. Swallows and Amazons; Arthur Ransome

10. A classic set in a place you’d like to visit. It can be real or imaginary: The Wizard of Oz, Down and Out in Paris and London, Death on the Nile, etc. The War of the Worlds; H.G. Wells (London)

11. An award-winning classic. It could be the Newbery award, the Prix Goncourt, the Pulitzer Prize, the James Tait Award, etc. A Raisin in the Sun; Lorraine Hansberry (Tony Award for Best Play)

12. A Russian classic. 2017 will be the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, so read a classic by any Russian author. Crime and Punishment; Fyodor Dostoyevsky

These book challenges were so much fun! I’m not going to sign up for any this year, but I loved how these challenges pushed me to read more of the classics and Newbery books that have been lingering on my TBR list.

Did you participate in any book challenges this year? Let me know in the comments!

Top Ten Books I Want to See Under My Christmas Tree

I'm linking up to share the top ten books that I want to find under my Christmas tree this year. | NewberyandBeyond.com
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This post is part of the Top Ten Tuesday meme by The Broke and the Bookish.

I’ve already received a couple of books from my Christmas wish list (thank you, Secret Santa!), but there are always plenty more I’d like to add to my shelf. Here is this year’s edition of the ten books I want to find under my Christmas tree.

  1. All Clear. You guys know how I feel about this book. I have a copy of Blackout, so I really need the second book in the duology.
  2. Texts from Jane Eyre. This book is hilarious. It would cheer me up when I’m having a rough day and need something easy to read.
  3. The Year of Living Danishly. This sounds so fascinating!
  4. The rest of the Septimus Heap series. I’ve acquired copies of the first three books in the series. I know I want to re-read it in the future, and one day introduce the series to my children, so I need a complete set.
  5. The Complete Stories of Dorothy L. Sayers. I haven’t read any Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries (crazy, right??), so why not just get them all at once?
  6. Neverwhere. I’ve been wanting to read this Neil Gaiman story for a long time.
  7. Pioneer Girl. I think it would be really interesting to read Laura Ingalls Wilder’s autobiography–this time written for adults.
  8. Black Dove, White Raven. I loved Code Name Verity, and this book has been on my TBR list for a long time.
  9. Accidental Saints. To someone who spent a fair amount of time reading about non-traditional Christianity this year, this book sounds super interesting.
  10. The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook. Because of course.

What books are you hoping to receive this holiday season? Let me know in the comments!

Top Ten Favorite Books of 2017

Today I'm linking up to share my favorite books of 2017. Love these books! | NewberyandBeyond.com
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This post is part of the Top Ten Tuesday meme by The Broke and the Bookish.

I can’t believe it’s already time for end of the year lists! I’ve read some good books this year (and a ton of mediocre ones), but here are my favorites of 2017.

  • The Big Book of Christmas MysteriesThis enormous anthology kept me occupied for the entire month of December last year. I loved it.
  • InterruptedI read a huge amount of Christian books this year, and this was one of my favorites. Powerful and relatable.
  • The Septimus Heap seriesThe more I think about this series, the more I love it! I can’t believe it took me this long to finish reading it. Now I just need to acquire my own copies of these books so I can re-read them.
  • Misreading Scripture with Western EyesThis was another favorite from my dive into Christian living books. If you want to understand the Bible more accurately, this is a must read.
  • Fragile ChaosMythology + Beauty and the Beast = Fragile Chaos. I don’t really like mythology or romance, but somehow this book made it work beautifully.
  • The Last Dragonslayer seriesThis is another series that made my list of book series I wanted to finish this year, and I am officially current! Jasper Fforde, as always, is such a creative, fun writer, and I love this YA series.
  • Stars AboveI was sad to say goodbye to the Lunar Chronicles series, so I greatly enjoyed this related collection of short stories.
  • Doomsday BookYou all know how much I love Connie Willis, and this book set in her time travel world is no exception. It’s sad and beautiful and amazing.
  • The Inquisitor’s TaleThis was my favorite Newbery book of 2017 (which is saying something, because there were some really good Newbery books this year!).
  • GeekerellaThis book is just pure fun. It’s a great Cinderella retelling, set in the modern, geeky world.

What are your favorite books of 2017? Share your thoughts or links in the comments!

Small Goals + What I’m Into, December 2017

The last small goals and what I'm into for the year 2017! | NewberyandBeyond.com
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As always, I’m linking up with writes like a girl for my December small goals, and Leigh Kramer for my monthly what I’m into.

It’s hard to believe that December is already here! I’m looking forward to the rest of the holiday season (and a two-week break from work), so I’m keeping my goals simple this month. But first, let’s see how I did on my November goals:

 

  • Dentist. Check! My teeth are still sore, but I’m starting to recover. So glad I can cross this one off the list!
  • Shop sales for Christmas gifts. Yesssss. I delivered several presents to my family when we visited for Thanksgiving, and we spent the Black Friday weekend hitting up sales and finishing out our shopping lists.
  • Related: Shop for Secret Santa gifts! Also finished! This required making a stop by Books a Million at the end of an eleven hour drive in order to use a coupon I had, but it was worth it.
  • Finish watching Sherlock. Oops again. I didn’t have the emotional energy to deal with this. Maybe December will be the month?
  • Study for an upcoming Praxis exam. Yes!

Phew, glad those are over with! Now for some December goals:

  • See the Christmas lights at a nearby historical house. They always have a lot of Christmas trees decorated by local schools, too, and it’s a fun (and free) way to get into the holiday spirit.
  • Finish learning music for my church’s Christmas program. It’s only a few weeks away–yikes!
  • Reevaluate work, volunteering, and other activities for the coming year. This is a big project and might involve some big changes, but I’m ready for it! The end of the year always feels like a good time for evaluation and reflection.

What I’m Into

Books I’m looking forward to reading: I just got my hands on the latest two books in the Thursday Next series! Can’t wait to finally read them.

TV shows I’ve watched: My husband and I sped through the latest Great British Bake Off season that was just posted on Netflix. It was lovely to have that show to take my mind off more stressful things.

Instagram account I’m loving: Josie Lewis posts lots of watercolor art as well as resin and collage.

My favorite Instagram:

It’s Christmas in SWFL!

Happy holidays from Fort Myers… #floridaproblems #fmbsand #itsonlyeightydegrees

A post shared by Monica Fastenau (@monica.fastenau) on

If you’d like to follow me on Instagram (I post lots of book pictures and the occasional selfie), you can do so here.

If you want to see more of what I’m into every month, along with sneak peeks and my favorite posts from the blog, sign up for my email newsletter! It’ll show up in your inbox about once a month and bring you the latest blog news and the things I’m loving.

What are you all up to this month? Let me know in the comments!

Top Ten Books on My Winter 2017 TBR List

These are the ten books on my TBR list that I really want to read this winter! | NewberyandBeyond.com
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This post is part of the Top Ten Tuesday meme by The Broke and the Bookish.

Although it never really gets cold here in southwest Florida, I still find my reading habits changing as the holidays approach. I don’t want heavy novels or important nonfiction; give me dystopias and lighthearted mysteries! Here are ten of the books on my TBR list this winter.

  • On the Edge of Gone. A dystopian novel starring an autistic character? Yes please!
  • The rest of the Aunty Lee series. I really enjoyed the first book in this mystery series set in Singapore, and I’m excited to read the next books.
  • The rest of the Junior Bender series. There’s even a Christmas-themed book, so this read is right on time!
  • Death by Darjeeling. Why not spend the winter months getting into a new mystery series?
  • Shadows on the Moon. This is one of the books that has been on my TBR list for so long that I can barely remember why I put it on there in the first place. I need to read this soon.
  • Howl’s Moving Castle. I have still never read a Diana Wynne Jones book (I know, I know!), and this one seems like a good one to start with.
  • Attachments. Because Rainbow Rowell never seems to disappoint.
  • A Tale Dark and Grimm. What fits these short winter days better than some dark fairy tales?
  • Neverwhere. I don’t always enjoy Neil Gaiman’s work, but his creepy, surreal worlds also seem fitting for winter.
  • The Black Lizard Big Book of Locked-Room Mysteries. This anthology of Christmas mysteries kept me happily occupied during Christmas break last year, and I think this anthology might do the trick this time.

What books are on your winter TBR list? Leave your links in the comments!

Ten Books I Want My Children to Read

I love these books I want my children to read someday! Linking up with Broke & Bookish to share my list. | NewberyandBeyond.com
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This post is part of the Top Ten Tuesday meme by The Broke and the Bookish.

Today’s TTT is all about the books I want my children to read, which I love! I’ve already written a similar post about the books I want my daughter to read and one about the books from my own childhood that I’d like to revisit, so today’s list is a bit of a mashup of the two (with a few new favorites for good measure!).

  1. Pictures of Hollis Woods. This Newbery book, about a girl in foster care who wonders if she’s blown her only chance at having a true family, is one of my all-time favorites. It made an impression on me as a child, and I’d love my children to have that experience too.
  2. Hope Was HereA 16-year-old girl with a history of leaving the people and places she loves makes the move to small-town Wisconsin, where she and her aunt have been hired to turn a small diner into a bustling restaurant. Hope is a strong character and she knows how to fend for herself, but she also learns to rely on the family that she has built.
  3. Code Name VerityThe unbreakable friendship between two girls during their military work in WWII England is powerful and heart wrenching. A focus on the importance of female friendships and the actions of women working dangerous and important jobs makes this tear-jerking YA book a must-read.
  4. Hattie Big Sky16-year-old Hattie gets a chance to create a new life for herself when her dying uncle leaves his Montana homestead for her to prove up. Hattie experiences and learns from hard work, cold winter days, new friendships, failure, and even death. This Newbery book is a powerful look at what young women can do, and a reminder that failure doesn’t mean the end.
  5. Walk Two MoonsThis Newbery book by Sharon Creech is one of my favorite books, period (but you guys probably already knew that!). 13-year-old Sal and her grandparents are going on a cross-country trek to find Sal’s mother. Sal passes the time by telling her friend Phoebe’s story, and in doing so, Sal reveals her own struggles of life without her mother.
  6. A Long Way from Chicago and A Year Down YonderThe grandmother in these two Depression-era books is the star–she’s larger than life and seems a little crazy, but she isn’t afraid to stand up to anyone or to flout social norms for what women should wear, or do, or say. She ignores social niceties in order to take care of those who need her help, and her two grandkids get dragged along with her schemes. Hilarious and heartwarming at the same time.
  7. Ella EnchantedThis book is way better than the movie version (of course). Ella is unable to ignore any direct command given to her–her curse means that she must obey every order. However, she is strong willed and struggles against her curse for years, until (*spoiler alert!*) she learns how to break it herself. There is a prince involved (what Cinderella retelling doesn’t have a prince?), but Ella doesn’t need his help to free herself.
  8. The Penderwicks series. These books offer the classic childhood adventures that many of my favorite books from childhood did, but without the problems that come from reading books published in the 1930s. The Penderwick family is warm and loving but isn’t afraid to get into mischief.
  9. El Deafo. This graphic novel about a girl growing up deaf is funny but also thought provoking. Kids can enjoy the art while still learning about being deaf and about inclusion of others.
  10. The Casson family series. The Casson family is flawed, more so than the Penderwicks, but they share a sense of fun and adventure, even in the midst of family difficulties. Each of the very different children gets a book focused on them.

What books do you want your children to read? Share your thoughts or links in the comments!

November Small Goals + What I’m Into

It's my monthly wrap up and my November small goals! | Book reviews by NewberyandBeyond.com
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As always, I’m linking up with writes like a girl for my November small goals, and Leigh Kramer for my monthly what I’m into.

I’ve been busybusybusy doing the most boring things, so I apologize ahead of time for pretty much the lamest October goals ever. However, if you’re like me, even checking off these boring goals is a real energy booster!

  • Get an eye exam and an oil change. Check!
  • Get my piano tuned. Also check! (Bonus: I found out that my piano is worth a loooot more than I paid for it at the thrift store!)
  • Plan a Harry Potter-themed murder mystery party! Okay, this has been postponed until January. I’ve been incredibly busy, and our friends keep getting sick, so we’re going to reschedule in the new year.
  • Finally make it to the beach! Yep! Although we didn’t do much swimming, since we were in the midst of a rare cold snap. We got to watch surfers doing their thing (usually the waves aren’t big enough in the Gulf for this to happen) and have a picnic lunch.
  • Contact insurance companies, credit card companies, and transportation services. Check!

4.5/5 feels pretty good! I completed my overall goal, which was to do as many boring chores as possible in the hopes of freeing up some time to rest and relax and enjoy the holidays. With that in mind, here are my November small goals:

  • Dentist. *heavy sigh* It’s time for me to go back and get those problem teeth taken care of. This is the heaviest thing on my to-do list and the main thing keeping me from enjoying the holiday season, so I’m hoping to get it over with soon.
  • Shop sales for Christmas gifts. I have a lot of businesses that I love to support, and many of them have a lot of great Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales that I want to shop.
  • Related: Shop for Secret Santa gifts! This is one of my favorite things to do every year, and this year I’m signed up for three bookish or geeky swaps. I can’t wait to do some shopping for this!
  • Finish watching Sherlock. I watched the first episode in the latest season and it totally stressed me out, which is why I still haven’t finished watching it. Oops.
  • Study for an upcoming Praxis exam. (Details later!)

What I’m Into

Books I’m looking forward to reading: I have all three of the illustrated Harry Potter books, and I’m soooo slowly making my way through them. They are lovely! And I’m always surprised to remember how sweet the first few books in the series are.

TV shows I’ve watched: Basically nothing (other than the first episode of Sherlock season 4, see above). But I’ve been watching old favorite kids movies–everything from Muppet Treasure Island to Hotel Transylvania to How to Train Your Dragon. It has been pretty great.

Instagram account I’m loving: This ink pen art is so lovely!

My favorite Instagram:

As mentioned above, I’m loving the illustrated Harry Potter books!

If you’d like to follow me on Instagram (I post lots of book pictures and the occasional selfie), you can do so here.

If you want to see more of what I’m into every month, along with sneak peeks and my favorite posts from the blog, sign up for my email newsletter! It’ll show up in your inbox about once a month and bring you the latest blog news and the things I’m loving.

What are you all up to this month? Let me know in the comments!

Top Ten Food-Related Books

This top ten post is all about food! I'm linking up with the Broke & Bookish to share my favorite food-related books. | NewberyandBeyond.com
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This post is part of the Top Ten Tuesday meme by The Broke and the Bookish.

I’m taking today’s Top Ten Tuesday theme in several different directions. Some of these books are actual cookbooks. Others are novels that feature food, or even books with foodie covers. A couple are even books about food that I haven’t actually read yet but reeeeeally want to. I hope you’ll share with me your favorite cookbooks or your TTT lists in the comments!

(P.S. Several of these books are ARCs which I have already reviewed, but as always, all opinions are my own. These books made the list not because I received a free copy of them, but because I truly enjoyed them.)

  • The Coincidence of Coconut Cake [ARC]. I didn’t actually enjoy this book that much (please click through if you want to read one of my more rambling, off-topic reviews), but the cover is amazing.
  • Redwall. This suggestion comes straight from my husband. He has fond memories of reading this series as a child and drooling over the feast descriptions.
  • The Pho Cookbook [ARC]. Andrea Nguyen is my go-to source for all things Vietnamese food-related, so I was super excited to read this ARC when it came out earlier this year. (And, of course, to ask my husband and resident chef to make me some pho!)
  • Hope Was Here. This book, a childhood favorite and one of the few books I’ve re-read more than once, is set in a diner where Hope is a waitress. She sprinkles her viewpoints on being a waitress and loving food throughout the book, and every major event centers around the diner and the people Hope meets there.
  • A Scone to Die For [ARC]. You guys know I love this cozy mystery series about a tearoom in Oxford (I’m even on the author’s review team!), and the first in the series is packed with food references and even a recipe.
  • Around the World in 80 Purees [ARC]. I loved this book. It offers so many good ideas for helping even your little ones enjoy different flavors. As an adventurous eater myself, I’ll try anything to help my future kids start to love food and avoid becoming picky eaters!
  • Pretty Good Number One [review copy]. This is the book that made me want to explore Japan and basically eat everything. The book isn’t all about food (but it kind of was for me!).
  • The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. I’m eagerly awaiting the second cookbook from my favorite food blogger!
  • The Little Library Cookbook. I haven’t read this cookbook yet, but I love this food blogger also. She takes inspiration from books (both childhood favorites and adult fiction) to create her recipes.
  • The Cardamom Trail. This is another cookbook I haven’t read yet, but as a big fan of the Great British Baking Show, I really want to! I loved Chetna’s unique flavors on the show, and I’d love to try them for myself.

Small Goals + What I’m Into, October 2017

I'm sharing my small goals and what I'm into for October 2017. | Book reviews by NewberyandBeyond.com
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As always, I’m linking up with writes like a girl for my October 2017 small goals, and Leigh Kramer for my monthly what I’m into.

It feels like only a few days ago that I wrote my small goals for September, and now we’re already into October! The couple of weeks of chaos surrounding Hurricane Irma definitely threw off my schedule, but I’m grateful that it wasn’t nearly as awful for SWFL as predicted, and I’m focusing on praying for and supporting Puerto Rico, who are much worse off than we are here.

  • Go for a walk every day after work. Haha, nope. Sadly, I didn’t even get close on this goal.
  • Finish a couple of book series I’ve started but have yet to finish. Yes! You can read about the book series I finally finished reading here.
  • Listen to In the Heights. Yep, and I’ve started listening to Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812 as well.
  • Spend time connecting with friends and family. This is the goal that the hurricane interrupted the most. I was in contact with a few friends and family, but only surrounding hurricane plans, and after that things were too crazy and communication too limited for me to even think about doing this. Maybe next month.
  • Scrapbook. Yes, mostly. I found out that I don’t have any photo mounting stickers, so I didn’t actually stick anything down. But I did trash all the photos and mementos I didn’t want and organize everything by event, so all I have to do when I get the stickers is stick things on a page.

So 3/5 during a ridiculously chaotic month? I feel pretty good about that! Now that we’re in October, this is my last month of relative freedom before my schedule gets booked up with holiday-related parties, travel, and rehearsals, so I’m hoping to get a lot of boring household stuff done.

  • Get an eye exam and an oil change. Yeah, these don’t seem related, but they’re actually located close enough to each other that I can drop off my car and get my eye exam done while I’m waiting.
  • Get my piano tuned. During the events of the hurricane, we found out that my neighbor is a piano tuner! I’m hoping to have him over to tune my beloved thrift store piano.
  • Plan a Harry Potter-themed murder mystery party! TBD if this will fall around Halloween or if I’ll have to postpone it until November…
  • Finally make it to the beach! I keep trying this without success. Maybe this will be the month!
  • Contact insurance companies, credit card companies, and transportation services. I want to get all this annoying paperwork and phone calls off my list before the craziness of the holidays starts.

What I’m Into

Books I’m looking forward to reading: I have a stack of Newbery books waiting to be read.

TV shows I’ve watched: Have I mentioned my obsession with Father Brown? It has been keeping me sane lately.

Instagram account I’m loving: This hair stylist does crazy amazing colorful hairstyles that I love.

My favorite Instagram:

I didn’t post a single picture on Instagram in September (oops), so here’s a cute photo of my husband and our guinea pig Zoe from August.

Guinea pig snuggles 🙂

A post shared by Monica Fastenau (@monica.fastenau) on

If you’d like to follow me on Instagram (I post lots of book pictures and the occasional selfie), you can do so here.

If you want to see more of what I’m into every month, along with sneak peeks and my favorite posts from the blog, sign up for my email newsletter! It’ll show up in your inbox once a month and bring you the latest blog news and the things I’m loving.

What are you all up to this month? Let me know in the comments!

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