Aug 22

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Audio Books, Historical Fiction 3

How Goes It, Bookworms?

I’m doing well, you know. Reading and thinking and whatnot. I’ve also been bridesmaiding. Since the bride in question lives a couple of hours from me, I’ve had lots of time to check out audiobooks and podcasts whilst road tripping to various pre-wedding events. Thank heaven for that because holy heck, I just finished Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, and frankly, I’m surprised my head did not explode from the awesomeness.

homegoingHomegoing centers on two branches of the same family beginning in 18th Century Ghana. Two half sisters born in different villages face shockingly different fates. One sister marries a British officer and lives a fairly luxurious life in Cape Coast Castle. The other sister is captured by a neighboring tribe and kept in the dungeon of the very same castle until she is transported and sold into slavery. (They’re unaware of the other’s existences, of course.) What follows is a story following each branch of the family generation by generation, one in the US and one in Ghana.

Y’all, this book is POWERFUL. It covers all sorts of gritty bits of history, both in the US and in Africa, that have been swept under the proverbial rug. I was at least semi-familiar with most of the things in this book, but knowing a thing is different from FEELING a thing… Like, in college I took a class on the history of criminal justice in the US, so we read non fiction on the subject of chain gangs and the hideous post slavery incarceration practices in the American South. I’m not sure if it’s just that it was required reading or that I’m typically a thousand times more engaged by fiction, but this book hit me like my school books never did. I think the generation by generation approach Gyasi took was freaking brilliant, because it smacks you upside the head with a dose of THIS WAS NOT THAT LONG AGO. Because it wasn’t. Slavery was not THAT long ago. Chain gangs were not THAT long ago. Segregation was not THAT long ago. There is still so much work to be done.

I highly recommend this book to every human on planet earth, obviously, but if you’re not the fence about your medium, the audio book is PHENOMENAL. The narrator Dominic Hoffman is sooooooooo good at setting the scenes with his use of accents and inflection. I know that audio book narration is a completely different art form than acting in a movie, but when you can’t rely on an anguished twisted facial expression to get your point across and manage to portray that simply with your vocal cords? I’m in awe. If you are interested in additional background information on the book, I must also recommend the Beaks and Geeks podcast where Gyasi was interviewed. I am kicking myself SO HARD right now for deciding not to wait in the long signing line at BEA for this book. Although, maybe it’s for the best. I probably would just have embarrassed myself, as per usual.

Talk to me Bookworms! Have you read HomegoingWere you similarly gobsmacked?

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

 

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Aug 17

The Hopefuls by Jennifer Close

Contemporary Fiction 5

Greetings Bookworms!

Prior to BEA I’d only been to two author events, but I must admit that having interacted with an author especially in person makes for a different reading experience. Fun fact: I am fond of people who are nice to me. Granted, when authors are trying to promote their books, they tend to be nice to those who might purchase and/or talk other folks into purchasing their books. Just because being nice is also in an author’s best interest doesn’t make me enjoy it any less when they compliment my penguin cardigan. All this is to say that Jennifer Close complimented my (admittedly adorable) penguin cardigan when I got my book signed at BEA. And now we have a special bond. Obviously.

thehopefulsHer latest offering, The Hopefuls, is super timely considering that we’re in the midst of a (seemingly endless) election year. Beth knew going into her relationship with Matt that his eventual goal was to work in politics and eventually run for office, but that all seemed far away when they were living in New York and he was working as a lawyer. When they uproot their lives in New York to move to DC and follow Matt’s career, Beth has a hard time adjusting to her new reality. She hates everything about the city from the traffic circles to the casual discussions of government security clearances. Things begin to turn around when Matt and Beth meet charismatic White House staffer Jimmy and his wife Ashleigh. The two couples strike up a fast and intense friendship, but things soon get complicated. Politics, jealousy, and rumors threaten to tear apart the fragile sense of normalcy Beth has only recently attained.

This book was very cheeky and a lot more fun than I expected it would be. The whole political sphere isn’t something that’s ever been a huge interest of mine. I mean, DUH, I have opinions and I CARE, but I have no interest in engaging in debates or anything. Which is why I find the desire to work in politics so baffling. (For the record, I’m super grateful that there are people who DO want to run things,  but campaigning sounds like the ninth circle of Hell to me.) Thanks to the Beaks and Geeks Podcast (which is great fun if you have the time to give it a listen) I learned that author Jennifer Close had the same reaction to DC that Beth did upon moving there. The Hopefuls isn’t autobiographical or anything, but Beth’s DC rants came straight from Close’s initial reactions. No WONDER it felt so authentic!

Is this glowing review the result of the author’s complimenting my ensemble? Not really. At least not intentionally. I really did like the book. But, you know how it is. Unconscious bias and all that. Why don’t you give The Hopefuls a read yourself and form your own opinion?

Talk to me Bookworms! Would you ever consider running for office or does it sound as awful to you as it does to me?

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission. I’ll probably use it to buy more penguin things. Because PENGUINS.*

 

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Aug 15

Fledgling by Octavia Butler

Science Fiction, Vampires 7

Greetings Bookworms!

I know I whine from time to time about how often I get bitten by mosquitoes because it is very unpleasant to be itchy. It’s not just mosquitoes, though. I’m really, really delicious to all blood-sucking insects (they ALL make me itch, the jerks.) This has led to my hard and fast belief that vampires cannot possibly exist because I would have perished long, long ago. Until, that is, someone comes along and turns vampire lore upside down. That’s right, kids. We’re talking about the incomparable Octavia Butler today. I decided to pick up Fledgling after some twitter discussions reminded me how freaking amazing Kindred (review) was. I wasn’t in the mood to pick up a series at the time (though I’ve heard some fabulous things about her series which are obviously on the endless TBR pile), so I went for Fledgling, a standalone novel. It was an excellent decision, if I do say so myself.

Fledgling kicks off with a little girl who seems to have lost her memory. Though she remembers nothing about her life prior to waking up in fledglinga cave, she displays some startlingly inhuman abilities. This, eventually, leads to her discovery that she is, in fact, a 53-year-old genetically modified vampire. I’ll let that last sentence sink in for a second. I’ve found that the story lines that sound the most ludicrous out of context tend to fuel the best books when in the right hands, and Butler is a master craftswoman. Because seriously. 53-year-old genetically modified vampire? That’s quite an ambitious starting point!

I absolutely LOVED Butler’s take on vampire lore. Most vampire stories feature vampires laughing off at least a couple of vampiric stereotypes, but Butler’s take was easily the most creative I’ve ever read. Where other authors will dismiss one or two tropes, Butler just SMASHED the dominant narrative. I want to give you all the details but that would be super spoilery and that’s not a nice thing to do. I will tell you that although the main character was significantly older than she appeared, I did get pretty weirded out by her, um, extremely mature behavior. Largely because for a decent section of the book neither she nor her companions were aware that she was, in fact, 53 years old. But you know how it is when you’re reading awesome science fiction/fantasy. You fully commit to the characters and the narrative and it’s not too hard to let your pesky real world hangups slide away.

If you have ever enjoyed a vampire novel, you need to pick up Fledgling post haste. Trust me on this one, okay?

Talk to me, Bookworms! What’s your favorite vampire superstition? I find the garlic thing fascinating myself. But, fun fact? Taking garlic pills does jack to keep mosquitoes from biting. Just an FYI right there. 

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Aug 12

4 Year Blogiversary?!

Blogging 29

Holy Smokes, Bookworms!

I have been writing this blog for FOUR YEARS. Like, an entirely different Summer Olympics was happening when this all began. I am more than halfway through an entirely new set of skin! (I think that’s how skin works, right? It cycles every 7 years? At least that’s what I remember from a Murphy Brown episode where she was dating a younger man…)

So hey. Thanks. Thank you for being my internet friends for 4 years. Thanks for reading the things I have to say and leaving comments and expanding my reading world. Y’all are the best. The traditional 4 year anniversary gifts are fruit, flowers, or appliances, and since all of those seem weird and inappropriate, I’m just going to give you all a big fat internet hug and a penguin gif full of love.

takeapenguin

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Aug 10

The Peculiar Miracles of Antoinette Martin by Stephanie Knipper

Family, Flowers 1

Greetings Bookworms!

I’ve been a busy reading bee when I’m not out watering my flowers and getting bitten by mosquitoes. Seriously, the fact that I’m so delicious to bugs and also adore gardening is like a cruel, cruel joke. But, the fact that I’m such a flower nerd was a huge part of the reason I picked up my latest read, The Peculiar Miracles of Antoinette Martin by Stephanie Knipper. I actually heard about the book at BEA during speed dating, but there either weren’t copies there or not enough or something and I ended up procuring a digital copy through NetGalley. *Which means, of course, that I got the book at no cost from the publisher for review consideration. As per usual, I’ll give you my honest opinion because I’m really terrible at lying and even if publishers were to stop working with me tomorrow, I could still get free books from the library, so. I really have no motive to lie to y’all.*

antoinettemartinLily and Rose were as close as a pair of sisters could be growing up on a commercial flower farm in Kentucky (see? I heard the setting and I was sold. I’m so predictable.) They’ve been estranged for years, but as Rose’s health declines, she reaches out to reconnect with her sister. Rose’s 10 year old daughter Antoinette has special needs. Her diagnosis is murky, but it manifests through symptoms very similar to severe autism. She also has the ability to heal with her touch. You heard me. There’s some magical realism up in this piece. Or science fiction. I don’t know what to call it, but it’s definitely  a bit peculiar. The thing is, this gift of Antoinette’s comes at a price. The more Antoinette heals people, the more health consequences she faces herself. She’s begun to have dangerous seizures as a result of her gift, and Rose is desperate to find a way to keep her daughter safe.

The whole thing had a Sarah Addison Allen vibe, but with a little less quirk and a little more emotional gut punch.  It was a decent read, I just don’t think I was in the mood for something with quite so much emotional weight? I feel like a jerk for not being all effusive in my praise of it. Maybe I’m just a little too cynical for miracle stories, which DUH KATIE, “miracle” is in the title of the book. I probably wouldn’t have picked it up had it not been for the whole commercial flower farm thing, but I’m a sucker for flowers. So. Yeah. If you’re in the mood for a whole lot of feelings and a little big of magic, check The Peculiar Miracles of Antoinette Martin out!

Tell me something, Bookworms, do you find that your mood strongly influences your opinions on the books you happen to be reading?

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Aug 08

The Fireman by Joe Hill

Plague, Post-Apocalyptic Fiction 11

Hidey Ho Bookworms!

Have you ever thought to yourself, “there really should be more books centered on spontaneous human combustion”? I’m assuming you answered with a resounding “OBVIOUSLY” because why wouldn’t you? Well, you, me, and Joe Hill are totally on the same wavelength. If it weren’t for peer pressure, I probably never would have read The Fireman. Many thanks to Care for organizing the #FiremanAlong AND for sending out fun snail mail along the way. It’s always more fun to read a book with a Twitter squad, you know? And then to get mail that’s not a bill? That Care, I tell you what.

You're MY favorite person, Care!

You’re MY favorite person, Care!

As I mentioned, The Fireman is about a plague wherein those who fall ill also eventually burst into raging infernos with little to no warning. Colloquially known as “Dragonscale” the spore to blame for this ailment is mysterious and super deadly. It’s troubling, to say the least, what with people dying left and right and taking out large swathes of town and country with them. Our protagonist, Harper, is a nurse with a bit of a Mary Poppins obsession. (And believe you me, I understand where Harper is coming from. I’m really excited that discussing this book is giving me an excuse to use Mary Poppins gifs.) After the outbreak, Harper volunteers in a hospital among the infected… Until it burns down. Because SPONTANEOUS HUMAN COMBUSTION.

areyouill

As you might expect, it’s not too long before our do-gooding nurse notices tell-tale signs of Dragonscale on her own skin, shortly after discovering she’s pregnant. Soooo. That makes things a bit complicated. PLUS, her husband goes off the deep end in a BIG WAY and their little New England town devolves into a terror filled hellscape. Your typical plague apocalypse nightmare scenario. Plus fire. The book reaffirmed my general fear of mob mentality. People in groups just get so DUMB sometimes. Quoting “Sister Suffragette” is perfect in such cases, seeing as people are typically lovely on an individual level, but when they congregate in large groups? Watch out.

sistersufragette

This miiiight be my favorite song ever.

If you’re thinking this book sounds a lot like The Stand (review), you’d be right. As it turns out, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Joe Hill is totally Stephen King’s son. BUT! Hill tempered his horror with a good dose of humor and the most delicious pop culture references. For a brick of a book, The Fireman is a quick read. If you’re in the mood for something plague-y and frightening but ALSO happen to love Mary Poppins? THIS IS YOUR BOOK!

Talk to me, Bookworms! What’s your favorite plague-apocalypse scenario? My plague book list is looking a little light these days. 

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

 

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Jul 27

Bookish and Not So Bookish Thoughts: July 27, 2016

Bite Size Reviews, Bookish (And Not So Bookish) Thoughts 18

Hey There, Bookworms!

It’s Wednesday and my head is full of thoughts. Some bookish, some not so bookish. I have been reading a lot and was planning to discuss a number of books in mini reviews. Since all my good intentions are for naught and I haven’t been blogging a ton lately, I figured I’d just smush a bunch of stuff into a single post. Got to strike while the writing iron is hot, right?

bookishnotsobookish

ONE: The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri is a good read if you dig literary fiction. It may also cause you to think waaaaaay too hard about your own name and its implications on your life. Also, I’m now two for two on Jhumpa Lahiri books that feature female characters pulling some traditionally male douchey life decisions. I can’t discuss it without getting super spoiler-y, but Lahiri fans, have you noticed this too? Fascinating stuff.

TWO: Don’t You Cry by Mary Kubica is decent if you’re into mysteries and thrillers. I’m not a huge thriller reader, so my standards are impossibly high regarding plot twists. If I can predict what’s going on too early, I’m always a little disappointed. But only when it comes to mysteries. Because I just finished a historical fiction book in which I knew what was happening super early on and I have warm feelings toward it regardless. I got this book at BEA and had it signed, and even though it wasn’t a huge winner for me, I will probably read Mary Kubica again. I like her voice even if I figured things out too quickly- I imagine one of her other books would surprise me more effectively.

THREE: Underground Airlines by Ben H Winters was fine, but I won’t blame anyone for avoiding it based on the Twitter firestorm and tone deaf response of the author and publisher. I got the book at BEA only recognizing the author’s name because of Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters (review) which I adored. I was halfway through reading it when the things got heated on the bookternet, and being oblivious, I hadn’t seen some of the articles and marketing surrounding the novel’s release. Since publishing has some pretty glaring problems with diverse representation, it bugged a lot of people to see a book about a world in which slavery was never abolished written by a white dude lauded as brave and fearless. (Look at that run on sentence. Man. I am awesome.) Apologies have been made, and I personally think Winters had his heart in the right place (because I am an optimist that way.) However, if you still feel squidgy about the whole thing, you’re  not missing the greatest book ever written or anything. If you’d rather read a sci/fi slavery story by a marginalized author, check out Kindred by Octavia Butler (review).

FOUR:  STRANGER THINGS!!! Hubs and I binge watched the Netflix original show. Actually, we got Netflix specifically so we could watch this show. It did not disappoint. Imagine if the The X-Files and a Stephen King novel had a baby and named it Jennifer because that is what you name babies in the 80s. Well, except for the ones name Katie. I digress, but it’s a really great show. Totally addictive.

FIVE: I’ve been planning a bridal shower and bachelorette bash for one of the best gals I’ve ever known. The party is this weekend. I am not good at planning things without irrationally stressing myself out, so as you can imagine, the old brain has been pretty occupied the past few weeks. Anxious is my default setting.

Alright Bookworms, I am out of words. How has YOUR summer reading been?

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

 

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Jul 22

The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman

Audio Books, Historical Fiction 11

Salutations Bookworms!

I’ve been summering hardcore, so I haven’t been in a “let’s sit in front of the computer” sort of mood lately. I mean, there are hummingbirds in my yard to stare at. Hummingbirds, you guys! But, just because I haven’t been in a computery mood doesn’t mean I haven’t been in a book mood. I am up to my eyeballs in books I’ve experienced and just haven’t told y’all about yet. Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres, as you very well know, and I will read books from basically any point in human history. Heck, I’d read books from dinosaur history if they had compelling characters… (Sidebar: How awesome would it be to read Pride and Prejudice, sans zombies, but where everyone is a dinosaur? I mean, would we assign dinos based on the characters’ personal attributes or just have to make everyone a triceratops? If you have to choose but one dinosaur, triceratops is always the correct choice. But, like Lydia’s got some raptor in her, so…) I was talking about a book wasn’t I? Oh yes! The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman! I read it… With my ears. What a delicious audio book treat. Let me tell you about it.

thedovekeepersThe Dovekeepers tells the tale of the siege of Masada from the perspectives of four different women. In case you’re unfamiliar with Jewish history, way back in like 70 CE, the Romans were being total dicks to basically everyone. They burned the temple in Jerusalem and murdered and pillaged all up in the holy land. Different Judaic sects fled into the dessert, and a group of them landed at Herod’s old mountain castle that was all imposing and fortress-y. Masada, said fortress, housed the bands of fleeing Jewish folk for months but it couldn’t last forever. According to Josephus, the ancient historian, only two women and five children survived to tell the tale.

Alice Hoffman put her own spin on the story, weaving mythology, history, and a dash of mysticism to bring history to life. Books like this are SO my jam. This book reminded me a lot of Anita Diamant’s The Red Tent (review), what with the biblical times (well, approximately, anyway) and the writing of women back into religious history. And, of course, Alice Hoffman being Alice Hoffman, the magical elements were perfection. The narrators of the audio book were fabulous too, and each of the four women were given a different voice. Literally. A lot of audio book narrators are really great at differentiating their voices to represent different characters, but you just can’t beat the differentiation that comes with actual different people reading each woman’s account. There are no triceratops in this book, but it’s still totally worth reading.

Alright Bookworms. Talk to me. If each Bennett sister were, in fact, a different dinosaur, which ones would they be? 

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Jul 18

Luck, Love & Lemon Pie by Amy E Reichert

Cozy Lady Fiction 10

Greetings Bookworms,

Dessert is one of my favorite things on planet earth. I’m pretty equal opportunity when it comes to sweets- there isn’t much I don’t like. So when you hand me a book with a dessert in the title, I’m probably going to be pretty excited about it. Of course, the dessert in Luck, Love & Lemon Pie wasn’t really the main draw for me. (Although, I must admit I am cringing every time I type the title because OXFORD COMMA 4 LIFE!) I read The Coincidence of Coconut Cake by Amy E Reichert last year and loved it so much that I’d have read another Amy Reichert regardless of dessert. This fictional lemon pie is really just a bonus. *I received a copy of this book compliments of the publisher through NetGalley for review consideration.*

lucklovelemonpieMJ Bordreaux is a Milwaukee area wife and mother whose husband of 20 years has been showing more interest in playing poker than in spending time with his wife. After a disastrous anniversary celebration, MJ decides to take up poker in an attempt to spend more time with her husband and demonstrate a shared interest. As it turns out, poker playing is not a substitute for marriage counselling, but MJ is kind of awesome at it.

The hours she spends in the casino preparing, however, haven’t done her marriage any favors. After a series of impressive tournament wins, MJ finds herself on a trip to Vegas to play poker with the big dogs. And one of those big dogs has his eye on MJ. Insert appropriate gambling metaphor here.

This novel breaks away from much of the foodie fiction that I was so charmed by in The Coincidence of Coconut Cake. Not that I can cook, mind. In fact, I was rather amused by the fact that MJ could only cook scrambled eggs and her husband did the heavy culinary lifting. As a gal who isn’t much of a cook, I SO related to MJ’s plight.  Although my husband’s specialty is frozen pizza. Whatever he’s super good at cleaning and there’s always takeout. I digress.

I’m not really into poker, so the whole poker story line was a little confusing to me. Like….Why would anyone do this when there are books and jigsaw puzzles? I know, I know, there are tons of people who are super super into poker but I’m about as interested in poker as I am in sports. Which is to say, not at all. (Unless someone is doing a backflip on purpose because that is just awesome.) Gosh, I feel like this post is taking such a grumpy turn. I really enjoy Reichert’s writing, but I think what fell a little flat for me personally was simply the subject matter of the novel.

Let’s be real for a second. The hard work of marriage and daily life is a lot less sparkly and fun than tales of falling in love. I’m not at all opposed to reading books about the realness of marriage, and I’ve railed on more than one occasion about the extreme unreality of certain romantic tropes. It’s just that I went in expecting a sweet romantic romp with a side of dessert and I got… Meatloaf. It’s good and all, just not what I was expecting. So. Yeah. I will still 1000% read Amy Reichert’s next book, I just hope it’s a little more sweet than savory.

Talk to me Bookworms! Do y’all play poker? Am I missing out on a whole lot of awesome?

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Jul 08

In Case You Were Wondering (Because I am a Lazy, Lazy Blogger.)

Flowers, Personal 18

Hey There Bookworms,

I know, I’ve been so MIA lately. I’m reading and tweeting and also (apparently) snapchatting (wordsforworms is my username!) but I just haven’t been able to gather my thoughts enough to write a blog post. I blame summer. I want to do nothing but stare at flowers and lounge and read. Computer-y things are really more conducive to cooler temps and earlier sunsets (not that I WANT those things, because I do not. I want to wring all the joy out of summer that I can. All that sunshine is FREE VITAMIN D! I have to take a supplement in the winter.) Anywho, I’m calling today’s blog post “In case you were wondering.” Just in case you were.

In case you were wondering where I’ve been, there’s been a lot of home improving going on at the Gingerbread House. Not that we did ALL the heavy lifting (we’re smart enough to know our limitations and pay people who know what they’re doing) but it’s been time intensive. We got new windows installed on the first floor and had a boatload of landscaping work done in the backyard. But even paying people to do the hard parts? You’ve still got to do the cleanup and odds and ends and play in the dirt and plant more flowers because OMG MORE FLOWERS. But BEHOLD:

yard16

In case you were wondering what it’s like to be friends with me IRL, here’s a text exchange between me and my Bestie. (I also recently told her that she reminded me of garbage, since at one point she’d given me a set of penguiny bathroom accessories complete with trash can that I still use. Sometimes I wonder why she still talks to me…)

ME: I miss you. Here’s what I’d look like if I were a Yorkie.

Snapchat. I have no idea, you guys. Although, this is what my eyebrows look like in their natural state, more or less. Also my bottom teeth are crooked because I didn't wear my retainer.

BFF: Jesus. That’s kind of terrifying!

ME: I know, right? And yet, I am fascinated. Like in Mars Attacks! when they put SJP’s head on a chihuahua body…

BFF: Yeah, I think it’s the gigantic eyes that really push it over the top…

ME: The better to see you with, my dear.

BFF: You look like you should be on Zoobilee Zoo. The kids love it, by the way.

ME: Ha! Give them my love!

BFF: Your… Puppy love? (womp womp)

ME: Yep. Lick them.

BFF: Omigod, I just drooled coffee all over myself LOL-ing at that!

In case you were wondering if my eyebrows look like this Snapchat filter when left untamed? Yeah, basically. Also, I should have worn my retainer more. My bottom teeth are back to being kind of janky and crooked. Fingers crossed my Mom doesn’t read this blog or she’ll find a way to get me a new retainer…

In case you were wondering what I did on the 4th of July, we had family over to enjoy the new back yard and watch the parade that goes right past our neighborhood.

Aunting is my favorite.

Aunting is my favorite.

Alright, you’re officially all caught up. What have you been up to? Tell me everything, Bookworms!

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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