January: Books Plus

I’ve decided to start sharing a version of my monthly wrap-ups over here on the blog because, even though maybe I don’t like thinking about how long some things take, even just cataloging things I like does take time and I want to give a little more value to that time.  I think sometimes it’s easier to pretend like everything is casual and fun, but most of the time there’s hard work of at least some kind behind the fun.  As our one year old gleefully echoes us saying, “amIright?”.

I’ll be sharing highlights of different things throughout each of my months. IT’S BECAUSE I AM THE GREATEST TASTEMAKER OF OUR TIME. It’s because I like looking back and seeing these things for myself. It’s because I hope you might find something you’re interested in or can avoid. It’s because I so enjoy hearing from other people in these spaces about what they’ve been loving or what doesn’t work for them. There is so much good to the Internet, too, my friends.

As always, some of these are affiliate links and, as always, I’m so grateful to those of you who use them and those of you who are here reading. It means so much.

My Reads

➕  Mary Oliver’s Felicity
My New Year’s morning tradition is to read this beautiful book of poetry.  The words I linger over seem to have become a litmus test for my state of mind at the beginning of each year.
➕  Shannon Messenger’s Legacy
This is the 8th in a series and 789 pages, so obviously I like it. Average writing, but fantastic world-building and, at this point, I’m in it for the long haul.
➕  Neal Shusterman’s Thunderhead
Been reading about death before bed each night.  This is the second in a YA series that explores the idea that in a future where technology has taken care of most kinds of deaths, we need scythes to control the population. It’s both thought-provoking (humanity, technology, ethics, oh my!) and fast-paced.
➕  Erin Morgenstern’s The Starless Sea
I admire Morgenstern’s brain, but sometimes it shows too much. Does that make sense? Basically, I think she has brilliant settings (I mean, The Night Circus setting is one of the best ever) and some beautiful quotes, but there’s a cerebral heaviness that, for me, interferes with her characters and plot and makes me, well, a little angry.
➕ Christiane Ritter’s A Woman in the Polar Night
Chelsey recommended this book in her interview for her podcast ages ago. She had stumbled on it in a thrift store and it was out of print, but it’s back in print now! So cool. Anyways, this one is fascinating.  It’s about a woman who, in 1934, goes to live with her husband and one other man in a shack in an extremely remote Arctic Island.  The descriptions of nature and reflections about life are beautiful.  I would like to know what’s happening with their child and also the bathroom situation, though.  Anyways, reads like a classic and definitely one to pick up this winter.
➕ Gary D. Schmidt’s The Wednesday Wars
Ashley and Emily had me so excited to read this one. Some scenes in this are so powerful that I immediately reread them a couple of times. It’s a book I won’t forget and one that made me not want to pick up another. That being said, though, I don’t know how much I would have liked it as a kid. Just me? What does that mean as far as it being middle grade? Nonetheless, count me in with the people who adore it.

New To Us Toddler Reads

The new clarification is because most of the books we read are ones we are reading over and over and over again, to the point that even that cute little baby knows the words and “reads” them to herself while we do our “own book” time.
➕  Emily Winfield Martin’s “The Littlest Family’s Big Day”
Such cute details in these illustrations. It’s such a cozy little world and, even though this was initially from the library, we ended up purchasing our own copy because we liked it so much.
➕  Stephanie Parsley Ledyard and Chris Sasaki’s “Home Is a Window”
I always appreciate seeing a mixed race family featured. The story is very sweet, about what makes a home, and also has the family moving, a topic I don’t see as often.
➕  Margaret Wise Brown’s and Kirsten Richards’ Count to 10 with a Mouse
Much thanks to Silver Dolphin Books for our review copy! This one comes out March 19 and is a winner of the Teachers’ Choice Awards…not to mention that you saw who it’s by, right? It’s a quirky take on your traditional counting book and the goofy rhyme makes it fun to read aloud, which we all know is key.
Much thanks to HMH Books for our review copy! This one comes out February 4.  I don’t know about you, but I find Curious George so darn cute, and so does our toddler. Each page spread contains a poem about a specific topic that’s making us look ahead excitedly to the beauty of spring. I really like books that have concrete, observable details to help kids learn, and this one has plenty of just that.
➕   Rachel Isadora’s Say Hello!
This book features a little girl, Carmelita,walking around her neighborhood with her dog, Manny, and greeting everyone in their own language. The collage style pictures are absolutely fantastic and a lovely bonus is that you’ll get to hear your kid say greetings like “konichiwa” and “shalom” in their cute little voices.


If you’re missing GoT, this is a fun listen.
Now I just like Lizzo all the more.
First of all, not just about kids for those of you who don’t have them! I was blown away by this, particularly at the end where they talk about their reasons for being on social media.
The Heir Pod
With her commentary, Kayla got me more into the Royal Family than I’d ever thought I’d be.


TV and Movies

➕ The Bachelor Season 2,987
I’m here for the right reasons.
➕ Making It Season 2
Nick Offerman and Amy Poehler can host everything. This show is so heartwarming.
A couple who travelled to 100 countries.  Warning:  this will give you serious wanderlust.

What’s Not Working For Me

➕ Finding myself feeling aimless during my daughter’s naps.
This is my biggest chunk of time to get things done and relax, but lately I’ve been feeling some ennui during this time. I’m trying to sort this out; suggestions welcome.
➕ Marvelous Mrs. Maisel season 3
Too dark, guys. Not why I watch.
➕ Booksmart
The commentary I heard about this movie was much better than the movie itself. Too weird for me and lacking more of the heart I wanted.
Finding a good muffin recipe.
Why are there no recipes that make muffins taste like the ones in a bakery? Do you know what I’m talking about? That moist crumb. Help!
➕ Finding a good apple tea.
The Celestial Seasonings one is gross. Help!
People not letting themselves lead their own lives!
I love the celebrity home tours on Architectural Digest, but this home tour by Shay Mitchell made me sad. I know things can be edited and obviously I don’t know her life at all (I actually know nothing about her) and maybe she’s different in other areas, but I need to see some more backbone! Basically, I’m using her to speak to the bigger idea that YOU ARE THE LEADING LADY IN YOUR LIFE. Men, talking to you, too.

Working For Me

➕ Doing my own thing on social media.
Sometimes I feel awkward or even offended by comments made my people I know in real life and sometimes I wish that I was strictly a bookstagram account because I feel like then I’d be more a part of the community. BUT, that angst is minimal and I’ll just keep trucking along doing what I’d like. Not my paid job! Not my super ability to control opinions!
➕ A newly crowned victor in our quest for the ultimate chocolate chip cookie.
It’s a sourdough one. I want one right now.
➕  Figuring out what I like at Trader Joe’s.
Whenever people talk about Trader Joe’s, they seem to just rave about it, but I’ve actually disliked a lot of their products. Finally, I’m getting to a place where I’ve figured out more. Also, please do yourself a favor and get the orange chicken and the cultured butter. Suhhhh good.
➕ I kind of hate this one, but some shopping on Amazon for toddler clothes.
I won’t even get into my complicated feelings about this, but  I’ll just say this dress is a recent favorite find.
➕ Lots of joyful playing in the snow and this quote found thanks to Keely:
but I don’t ever hope to have a heart
that doesn’t leap with astonishments
too big to contain, like fireworks

Please do join in however feels fitting to you!

If you would like to join in on the fun, please go to the submissions page!


  • April says:

    Good morning Erin,

    First of all, I’ve decided this is my favorite blog of all time and I’m going to need a week to catch up on all that I’ve been missing. I’ve added A Woman in the Polar Night to my TBR, a story right up my alley. I’m so happy to hear your thoughts on A Starless Sea. I’ve felt the same way about this one…feeling a lack on interest in the story which annoys me a little since I really loved Night Circus. For now, it’s been put back on the shelf until I can muster the energy to finish it. I must start reading the Kate Milford series, I think my daughter would love these for our nightly reading ritual. Happy reading and thank you for devoting so much time to this engaging and inspiring space!

    Enjoy the day!
    ~ April

    • Erin says:

      April, You have me grinning and blushing away! So, so sweet of you to say all that. Have you listened to the audiobook for Night Circus? It’s Jim Dale, so I adore it. Kate Milford would be the perfect read-aloud with your daughter. It’s not in order, but I’d probably say start with The Greenglass House. Her world-building is one of my favorites. Looking forward to hearing what you think about A Woman in the Polar Night. I really think you’ll like that one. Thank you so much for your kindness! You made my week.

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