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What to read next

Books
what to read next
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Because I write books for a living, I may be biased. But there are few things that elevate the spirit like curling up with a good book. As I mentioned in a recent post, reading helps us combat stress, live longer, sleep better, and be more empathetic. All good things, right?

Most of my novels are uplifting works of women’s and historical fiction. However, my personal reading interests run the gamut. I read almost as much non-fiction as fiction, and like to challenge myself to try new genres and authors.  A couple of years ago, I’d started reading mystery and have found some wonderful reads. Spiritual, devotional, and self-help books are also on my regular reading list.  (I don’t care how Fierce you are, you never outlive or outgrow the need for inspiration and guidance, am I right?)

At a minimum, I endeavor to read one non-fiction and one fiction each month. Finding time to read isn’t always easy, especially when I’m juggling deadlines, triathlon training, recipe testing, dog walking, and husband wrangling.

Still, reading is a necessity for me. In the midst of my crazy, go-go life, reading is a gift I give myself and an important means of maintaining my sanity.   By penciling time for reading in my magical Living Well Spending Less planner, just as I would an appointment to get my roots done, I make time for it.

How to Pick a Good Book

So how do you decide what to read next?  No one wants to waste time with a book that isn’t a good fit, right?

Choose books that pique your interest. There’s lots of great best sellers lists and the Oprah Book Club, but what other people like might not be what you like. Find books with settings that interest you, themes you can relate to, and values that inspires you! For me, that includes books on gardening, or quilting, or glamping, or even yarn farming.

(Yes, you read that right. Yarn farming. It’s an actual thing).

Apart from a long, leisurely browse in my local bookstore, my favorite way to find books is through recommendations from girlfriends. Also, if I fall in love with a book by a particular author, I’m highly likely to read her next book, and the one after that, and the one after that.  (A particular perk to my line of work is that several of my favorite, must-read authors also happen to be my real-life friends. How great is that? I love my job!)

Here are a few titles I’ve read at the recommendation of others and absolutely loved. I think you will too!

Married to my Garden by Barbara Blossom Ashmun

This year, an unusually hot and smoky summer, a gang of ravenous deer, and the high-dessert location of my new home has made gardening a challenge for me.  Needing a gardening fix, I sought inspiration in the pages of this simply charming, beautifully written little book, Married to My Garden  (How perfect is it that the author’s middle name is Blossom? Clearly, she was born to write about gardening.)

The short vignettes throughout this book walk you through the stages of the author’s romance with her garden.

At first she’s obsessed, dreaming of plants day and night. Like a woman in love, she’s possessed-until weeds, and slugs make her question the whole affair. Yet even a brief absence makes her realize that she can’t live without her hands in the dirt. In the end, she surrenders to her garden, even with all its faults.

If you’re short on time, these brief, bite-sized essays are perfect for you.  Each one is a delightful little bon-bon, a wonderful way to reestablish a reading habit, and possibly, spark or reignite a love of gardening.  But you don’t need a green thumb to enjoy this book.  Married to My Garden is filled with wisdom, insight, and life lessons that will make you smile, pause, and reexamine everyday joys.

 

MaryJane’s Ideabook, Cookbook, Lifebook by MaryJane Butters

If I could spend a day with somebody famous, I’d want to spend that time with MaryJane Butters – preferably on her farm.

However, it’s probably is a good thing that I haven’t met MaryJane in person. If I did, I’m sure I’d turn into a dithering, stuttering, Fan Girl Mess. On the other hand, maybe I wouldn’t. Or at least not for long.  Because MaryJane seems so completely down-to-earth. She seems like someone who would offer you a cup of organic tea and some cookies made with butter from her own cow, and sit down for a nice long chat, putting you totally at ease.  One thing I am certain of, if we ever do meet, MaryJane and I will have lots to talk about. We have so many interests in common!

If you aren’t familiar with the wonderful world of MaryJane’s Farm and its fierce Farmgirl founder, Mary Jane Butters, you are in for a treat. Living on a five-acre organic farm in Idaho, she embodies the spirit of the American farmgirl, with an empowered do-it-yourself attitude.

She also publishes a magazine (my absolute favorite), sells line of organic food products and linens, and has authored an entire shelf full of books.

I own every single one of them.  (See what I mean? I’m a total fan girl.)

This month, I’ve been re-reading two of my favorites.

Like all of her titles, MaryJane’s Ideabook, Cookbook, Lifebook is written in a cozy, conversational, girlfriend-to-girlfriend style that makes me feel like MaryJane and I are besties. It’s loaded with projects, ideas, recipes, eye-candy, and inspiration for living a genuine, gracious, homespun life.  The photos are gorgeous and the instructions clear. I love everything about this book.

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you may know, I had an adorable RV a couple years back, Glinda the Glamper, that I had to sell when I moved to Oregon. I really miss Glinda, and the camping fantasy that accompanied her. The time isn’t right for me to get a new RV, or even a cute little trailer just now. But re-reading Glamping with MaryJane has allowed me to scratch that glamorous camping itch from the air-conditioned comfort of my own home.  There are so many wonderful ideas for camping graciously in these pages! I’m gobbling up inspiration for my next camp fantasy like a girl scout ’round the campfire gobbles up s’mores.

When I get my next trailer (and there WILL be a next time), I’ll be ready, thanks to MaryJane.

 

 

 

The Sunshine Sisters by Jane Green

Summer always goes way too quickly for me. But we’ve still got a few weeks until fall, just enough time for one more juicy, delicious beach read.  If you’re looking for a book to accompany your poolside lounger, lawn chair, or rocking chair on the porch, look no farther than The Sunshine Sisters.
This is the story of three sisters, Nell, Meredith, and Lizzy. The three have never been close. But when their mother, an aging movie star whose narcissistic personality marred their childhood, becomes seriously ill, the sisters return home. The jealousies, scars, and family secrets each face aren’t easy to confront but a satisfying, tear inducing redemption at the end.
I’m lucky enough to count a lot of writers in my circle of friends.  Sometimes I read their books, sometimes not, and vice versa. But Jane Green is both a friend and an author whose books I reach for again and again. When it comes to women’s fiction, she’s at the head of the class. She writes characters I want to know (and occasionally want to slap! Or at least give a good talking to), drawing me in emotionally and introducing me to new worlds, but always with a touch of glamour. Best of all, Jane always gives me that hopeful, satisfying ending I long for.

The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny

The monastery of Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups had been hidden for decades in the Canadian wilderness, with no outsiders ever entering its walls. The beautiful music – Gregorian chant – was said to be praising God in the voice of God, a musical tradition that has such a profound impact on the singer, its known as the beautiful mystery.

For monks who had taken a vow of silence, their voices merged together in beautiful harmony and eventually, their chants are shared with the world with a CD. When the world-famous choir director is found dead, Inspector Gamache and his colleague Jean-Guy Beauvoir of Surete de Quebec are called in. What they find is a not so black and white case with layers of deception they never imagined.

The Beautiful Mystery is another beautifully written and captivating novel that kept my heart racing until the very end. Until I found Louise Penny, I rarely read mystery but she turned me on to the genre. She is, quite simply, an amazing writer.  Every book she pens is a winner.

Three Perfect Recipes for World Baking Day (Plus, My Favorite Baking Cookbooks)

Books, Food for Grownups
best cookie recipes, best baking cookbooks
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Cookies, banana bread, muffins, oh my! Today is World Baking Day and it’s time to fire up those ovens, Fierce Friends. Don’t tell my Weight Watchers Freestyle Plan, but sometimes I just need sugar. And carbs. And butter. And joy.

Here are a few of my go-to recipes when those cravings hit and a few baking cookbooks that have guided me along the way.  continue reading

The Best Memoirs, Autobiographies to Read, and How to Write Them

Books
autobiography memoir how to write
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I love books.  All books. Between the pages of a book always has been and will always be my happy place.

Though I love fiction and have spent much of my life writing it, I read a ton of non-fiction, especially memoir and biography.  As I gain more perspective and wisdom about my own life story, I am even more intrigued by true stories of other people’s lives.

Reading memoir and biography gives me a chance to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, to experience other cultures through the eyes of a first-person guide.  Reading memoirs can be inspiring, eye opening, heartwarming and, sometimes, heartbreaking.  No matter the writer, tone, or subject, I always learn something. continue reading

Starting (or Joining) a Bookclub: Friends, Food, and Fellowship

Books, Friends and Community
how to start or join a book club
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One of the biggest pleasures of reading a good book is discussing it with other readers.  There’s no better place to do that than a book club.

There really aren’t any downsides to joining a book club. I mean, sure every now and then you might not love one of the books. But even that can have its benefits.  Sometimes, discussing a book or character you didn’t care for can be even more fun than talking about one you did! Who doesn’t love trash talking the villain you love to hate? continue reading

Finding Time to Read More Books (And Why It’s Important)

Books, Nurture Your Soul
finding time to read more books
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How often have you heard somebody say, “Gosh, I just have so much extra time on my hands that I have no idea what to do with it”?

Pretty much never, right? These days, it seems like we’re so busy with the things we have to do, we can’t find time for the things we want to do – like read.

That’s a shame. Reading adds so much to life.  And, especially for those of us in the years beyond 50, reading is important.

Reading helps keep our minds sharp but also elastic. Reading exposes us to new ideas and keeps us informed about changes in culture.  Also, reading is an important form of relaxation, giving us a mental break when life becomes too chaotic. continue reading

An Exciting Announcement!

Books
my new book, just in time, hits shelves March 27th!
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My most recent novel, Just In Time, hits the shelves of bookstores today!

 
I’ve been waiting months and months to introduce my characters, Grace, Nan, and Monica, three support group dropouts united by grief but rescued through friendship, to the world. The early reviews have been very gratifying — USA Today called Just In Time “time well-spent” and Booklist said “readers will be drawn in”— but the opinion that matters most comes from my readers.  
 
To whet your appetite a bit, today I thought I’d share the first chapter with you and give you a chance to meet Grace, Monica, and Nan. Enjoy!

continue reading