To Be Read List

Welcome to a new year! Last year I read 21 books out of my 17 book goal. If you’re on Goodreads, I’d love to connect.


I have stepped up my reading goal for 2020 to 20 books. My first TBR of the year consists of four books. One I received as a Christmas gift, another with a Christmas gift card, one I already own, and the last is a book from my sister. Let me know if any of these books are on your TBR for 2020.

The House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig



If you like fantasy stories that include ghosts and fairy tales you will enjoy The House of Salt and Sorrows. This book is a twist on a fairy tale combined with a murder mystery. Twelve sisters have become eight. The setting is a fictitious island with a large estate on top of massive cliffs overlooking the ocean. Four older sisters have died in various ways. However, something doesn’t seem right about the fourth sister’s death. The sixth sister Annaliegh thinks she may have been murdered. Everyone dismisses her claim, but she doesn’t stop looking into the death of her sister. If you are a fan of murder mysteries and fantasy let me know if you enjoyed this book.

The 7 1/2 deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton



As you may have noticed, I’m a big fan of Agatha Christie. Especially, her Hercules Poirot novels. This book is recommended to readers who love Agatha Christie. A woman was murdered but there’s another problem. The person required to solve this murder has to live through different people to gather clues about the crime. Each day he is in a different body and must learn new facts during the investigation. I started this book earlier in 2019 and put it down. It's a book that will require my undivided attention. Last year I read it while reading another book. Big mistake. Hopefully, I will enjoy this book as much as the other murder mysteries I read through so quickly.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Burrows




Reading wartime historical fiction can be emotionally draining. That’s why I space historical fiction out between fantasy and murder mysteries. My sister recommended this book to me while we were at their house for Christmas. She’s letting me borrow it. It’s set in post World War II in London, and it’s written in a series of letters. This should be a quick read and hopefully one that I will love.

Winter Wood by Shea Ernshaw




Winter Wood is a fairy tale set in a majestic forest. A girl by the name of Nora has been accused of being a witch, but her family has always had a special connection with the forest. After a severe winter storm, a boy was lost but miraculously found alive. Nora has to discover how and why he survived. But the boy does not want his secrets revealed. I can’t wait to start reading this book.

What are your next to be read books? Let me know so I can add more to my list as well.

Happy Reading, 

Amanda

Favorite Books of 2019

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This year was a reading success. Mostly because my husband started reading fiction. I never thought this day would come. We discuss what we are reading, and it’s refreshing to share something outside of work and the kids. Kevin loves the Jack Reacher series. 

Funny story. We were at Barnes and Noble and the guy helping us with our purchase stated that he liked my choice but wasn’t thrilled with Kevin’s reading choice. I wanted to tell him to shut his mouth. I just got my husband to start reading fiction! Don’t you dare judge his choice. Thankfully, Kevin is not easily deterred when he's made up his mind.

Another success this year was seeing my eldest child’s love of reading explode. They have a reading competition at school. The children that reach 700 reading counts points get a limo ride to pick out a free book from Barnes and Noble. He has over 250 points so far. I love that he sets goals and goes after them wholeheartedly.

On to my favorite books of 2019.


A Thousand Nights by E. K. Johnston

It had been a while since I picked up a fantasy, but I was in the mood for something different. This book intrigued me so I bought it on the spot. It’s different from anything I’ve read. The characters pull at your heart, and you want them to succeed. Stuck in between some of the chapters are a few scenes told by another character. It threw me off the first time. However, you get in the rhythm, and it fits in the story nicely. Give this one a read if you're looking for a fantasy with touches of magic, sisterly love, and love story in the making.



Crooked House by Agatha Christie

If you know me, then you know I love Agatha Christie. She was a master murder mystery storyteller, and this one didn’t disappoint. In the story, a murder has happened at a stately home. The detective is invited to investigate at the request of the granddaughter. Everyone is a suspect. Even the lovely young woman the detective is in love with. It’s a classic who done it that will keep you guessing.


A Fine Imitation by Amber Brock

What is it about the Art Deco period that dazzles? This book was not in my normal reading genre, but the blurb caught my eye. Once I started reading, I didn’t want to put it down. The story is set in New York during the age of the Art Deco period. A socialite's reputation is guarded more than her money. An artist is commissioned to paint a mural in the building. He instantly falls for the main character. The problem is she must decide if she is happy as a socialite or if she wants something daring and with less security.




Hello year of stepping out of my normal genres. I’ve read two of Jenny Colgon's novels and loved them. I’m picky when it comes to contemporary love stories, but this one was perfect. The idea of a story set in a mobile bookshop was perfect for my reading slump. Books, romance, travel,  and new experiences are all wrapped up in this novel.


Serpent and Dove by Shelby Mahurin

Whoa! This book is the definition of opposites attract. A witch and a chasseur are thrown together by unfortunate events. They must marry but hate what the other represents. They must find a way to make the best of their circumstances. I didn’t want to put this book down either. The magic is described beautifully. The struggle to find your true self and let others love you as you are brings a true human element to this book. If you love fantasy with a twisted love story, pick this one up.

Let me know what your favorite books of 2019 were.

Happy reading,

Amanda

Things I'm Loving Right Now

Did you find products that you love this month? I'm loving these finds. Some have changed my life. That might be a little dramatic, but it's true. Check out my faves for this month, and there are some affiliate links below. 



Essie: Yes I Canyon nail polish
This is the perfect fall color. It looks like pumpkin pie on your nails.


Cusibox 4 Slice Toaster
OK. I know this is a weird one but stick with me. For the last 18 years we have had the same toaster. It worked great, but there was one problem. All three kiddos need breakfast at the same time every morning. It was taking forever to toast everything. So, we bought this beauty. It’s been a life changer in the mornings. The blue is pretty cute too. How did we ever survive with only a two-slot toaster?



Cafe Music BGMC
The house is really quiet during the day while the kids are at school. I was looking for something to play as background noise. I can’t write or draw if there are lyrics. I don’t want to miss anything, so it distracts from my work. Cafe Music has been the solution. Bonus! The kids love to listen while doing their homework and to fall asleep to at night.



No.8 Round brush by Master’s Touch.
It’s a fantastic brush and it holds the water and paint well. This size was recommended by a YouTube illustrator that I watch. I didn’t buy the most expensive brand, but it works beautifully.


Burt’s bees tinted lip balm in Pink Blossom
Once you find a lip balm that moisturizes, you never want to try anything else. I found the one. The color lasts for a while, and it’s pretty. I had to try a couple different colors, but this one is my favorite!

Share your faves below. 

Amanda

Living in a Tropical Tourist Town


We moved to Naples, Florida, for my husband’s job in the summer of 2017. Moving to a new state for the first time was a challenge, but it was exciting. We loaded up and headed for the lush tropics on the Florida Gulf Coast.


We had dreams of grandeur and hopes of picnics at the beach every weekend.

Ha! Ha! Ha! Let me pause here and compose myself for a moment.

There are pros to living in a tourist town. However, just like everything else there is a down side. You have to decide if the good out weighs the bad. In our case, I would say yes. 


First the Pros
  1. The beach is so close. We don’t live right on the water, but we can drive to the beach and dip our toes in the sand within 20 minutes.
  2. The weather is beautiful during the fall and the winter months. While everyone else is battling arctic blizzards, snow, or nasty cold, we enjoy the perfect weather.
  3. Everything that you can hope for is at your fingertips. There are just as many restaurants to chose from as when we lived in the big city. Naples is growing. With that growth, new eateries are opening. Yum!
  4. For a small town, there is plenty to do. Being a tourist town means keeping tourist entertained. That helps the locals stay busy too. There are museums, libraries, parks, shopping, theaters, street fairs, and something happening year round.
  5. Our allergies have never been better. In Texas, we were on allergy medicine all year long. The kids went from taking four different medications everyday (and breathing treatments with every allergy flair up) to one medication. We don't get sick from allergies nearly as much. Our overall health has improved. 

Now the Cons
  1. We don’t go to the beach nearly as much as we would like. Between the heat of summer, red tide, and the flesh eating bacteria that has plagued the shore, we hardly go anymore.
  2. The weather is a blessing and a curse. Hurricanes are rare but a real threat here. However, the heat and humidity stay during the spring and summer. There are two seasons in Naples. The rainy season and the dry season. They correspond with the snow birds that come down from the north. Rainy season is from May to October. The dry season is from November to April. You must own an umbrella if you live here during rainy season. It’s a part of life, so you get used to it.
  3. The influx of people. Kevin’s commute can double during snow bird season. There is only one freeway in Naples, and it backs up. We were pretty used to traffic coming from DFW. We laughed when people said how bad traffic would be during season. It’s not nearly as bad as a metro area.

    Most of the time we make reservations when the population swells. It insures we get a table during date night. If you are visiting, make reservations or you could be waiting hours to eat.
  4. No one is from here. We moved here. The neighbors moved here. Everyone Kevin works with moved here. We always get asked if we are local or visiting. That’s to be expected. You may have trouble making friends. Everyone has the mindset that they are here for the short term, and their attitude toward each other shows this. Everyone is nice, not Texas nice.
Overall, I enjoy living in Naples. It has been an adjustment. I wish we had a village like we did in Texas, but we are making the best of everything. We don't know how long we will live here, and we are soaking it all in. 

Amanda


YouTubers I'm Watching Now

Raising children is a full-time job, and I've tried to squeeze writing in during naps or late at night. Now that all three of the kiddos are in school, I can make writing and illustrating more of a priority. I used to draw almost every day when I was a kid, but grown-up life happened and the dream faded. I'm making up for lost time and experimenting with watercolor and gouache. To help me along the way, I have watched a few talented ladies on YouTube. Their styles are drastically different, and this allows me to learn more techniques and form my artistic style. Here's what I'm watching now.


If you love watercolor botanicals, then Shayda Campbell is the one to watch. I wanted tutorials on leaves and flowers to add to my illustrations. The instruction and techniques she offers on her tutorials can also be applied to greeting cards and seasonal illustrations. Shayda shares about being an artist and her experiences as a digital nomad. 


Take a look at Steph Seed from The Average Artist if you love the idea of using multiple media. She has written a book, a day in the life comic, and a horror comic book. I don't read horror, but I love hearing her story and getting a glimpse of her journey. She uses moody colors and isn't afraid to mix things up. I usually end up laughing at one point in the videos. Steph makes art fun while teaching tutorials. She was the first YouTuber that I started watching, and I still look forward to her videos every week. 


A recent addition to the cram as much knowledge of painting as possible binge is Jess Engle of Studio Jess. She is a fellow Texan so that automatically makes her fantastic. She's also an illustrator and children's author. Her fine art is abstract, but her illustrations are precious. She's another that's not afraid to mix things up. I think there's a theme here. Jess also gives insight into the life of a working artist and the struggles creatives face with self-doubt. She encourages her audience to keep making art. It doesn't have to be perfect. 


What do you subscribe to on YouTube? If you have any suggestions, I'd love to hear them. 

Happy Creating,

Amanda