Friday Favorites: Guilty Pleasure Reads

Hopefully you’ve received and opportunity this summer to go to a beach or a pool or at least somewhere you can relax in the sun. One of my favorite things to do on a warm summer day is to relax in the shade of the little pergola next to our pool. It is a wonderful work, writing, and reading space that I have really come to treasure in the time we’ve lived here.

And honestly, summer is the time for beach reading. Something I also call candy reading. Those books that you can read in a highly distracting environment and still take in. It’s easy and simple and sweet. These kind of books may also be known as guilty pleasure reads.

So now I expose to you some of my top favorite candy reads. The unintelligent stuff I enjoy with slight embarrassment that you may actually like as well. If you’re looking for a semi-good book for the beach or pool-side, here’s what I got:

1. Anything by Sophie Kinsella
No, it’s not literary by any means, but Sophie Kinsella (of Confessions of a Shopaholic fame) has numerous
romantic comedy novels that are truly funny. Her heroines are sweet, snarky, and super relateable. I always find myself smiling like an idiot as I read the hi jinx of these sassy characters and hope you might as well.

Some of my favorites include Can You Keep A Secret, Remember Me, and I’ve Got Your Number.

2. Odd Thomas–Dean Koontz

Koontz’s market is usually middle-aged men, but I picked up this novel as a kid in high school and loved it. (It was recommended to me by a middle-aged man, if that helps…) Odd, Koontz intriguing main character with a supernatural ability, has a GREAT voice. The novel is told through his perspective. Though the Koontz thriller is a mass-market commercial phenomenon, there is a fabulous sense of symbolism and subtle foreshadowing that no book-snob should dare turn their nose up to. Also, there is an ending that you probably won’t see coming unless you are a careful reader. And if you are a careful reader, you will be so impressed at how he leads up to such a pay off.

Apparently there is a movie adaptation of this on Netflix. I haven’t seen it, but I’m leery because I don’t recall it ever going to theaters… Book is most likely better.

3. the Percy Jackson series–Rick Riordan
So I pretty much read like a middle school boy. I love that books marketed to this demographic always have action, start to finish, as well as a decent amount of humor. You got to keep this rowdy bunch entertained, right? And I find myself in that ADD, keep me stimulated all the time camp.

Enter Percy Jackson! This modern exploration of Greek mythology is brilliant. Told through the eyes of Percy Jackson, a regular boy who discovers he is a demigod, we get to explore Camp Half-blood (Pretty much Hogwarts for the children of gods) and even venture on a quest across America. Great storytelling, wonderful characters, and a simple, fast-paced read. This seriously is one of my favorite series ever. Five books in all. Start with Percy Jackson and the Lightening Thief.

There is a movie adaptation of this one too. Just ignore that.

4. Blink–Ted Dekker

So any time I’ve mentioned that I don’t like Christian fiction here in Bohemia, it has been shortly followed by a recommendation of Christian fiction…huh. Well this is no exception. Blink is a fabulous, action packed, sci-fi thriller, laced with a love story. Seriously love this book. You can also find a second edition under the title Blink of an Eye.

Seth is a brilliant, but directionless young man who develops the mysterious ability to see multiple outcomes of the future, only a few second before it happens. He and a runaway Saudi princess cross paths and must depend on one another to decide the fate of the future. (How’s that for cheesy back-cover-copy synopsis!)

Could not put this one down and I know you won’t be able to either.

There is not a movie adaptation of this one. There probably should be…Unless it is the same quality of the ones listed above. Then no. No one should touch it!

5. Teen Idol–Meg Cabot
Travel back to high school with one of my childhood favorites. This was a fluff read that totally changed how I viewed my relationships with people when I was in middle school. That said, don’t expect anything profound. Instead, just enjoy some of the good parts of those awkward years through this wonderful little story.

Teen Idol is about a girl Jen in her junior year of high school. She writes the anonymous advice column for her school paper and has become the confidant of most of the students in her small Indiana high school. Teen heartthrob Luke Striker comes to town to research a role, undercover, at her high school. And only Jen knows his secret. Great book that can be read in one sitting…a whole day sitting at the beach.

Hope these recommendations are helpful for any of you looking for the brainless but fun book to take to the lake!

March Favorites: March’s Reading Month

So it’s not Friday… and this is the fourth week in March, not the third. But here is March’s Friday Favorites post! (Better late than never right? Besides, I was on a roll with the Mexico post cards!)

I remember in elementary school always loving March. March is National Reading Month! In school, we always got more reading time, and would be read-aloud to more often, and got prizes for reading books through the month. It was heaven for little book-worm me!

Fast forward to this month, and this has been a sad reading month. My favorite bookstore closed.*sniffle* I was stuck in an airport with a rather disappointing novel–the only novel I brought with me! *sob* I missed some of my favorite writing people at the Jot conference held a couple weeks ago. *wail*

So to bring this pity party to an end, I complied a small list of books I hope to read in the very near future. Here’s the list!

What I’m Looking Forward to Reading in the Coming Weeks:

1. American God’s–Neil Gaiman
Gaiman is just brilliant. Can we all agree to that? I actually started this one last week and am pretty hooked. It’s a little odd and not for the kiddos, but I am enjoying the read.

2.Sense and Sensibility–Joanna Trollope
I love retellings. I love Jane Austen. Anybody there with me? The Jane Austen Project is an attempt for fairly popular authors to tackle a modern re-telling of each of Austen’s works. This was the first one out there and I’m pretty excited to get my hands on it!

3.Adam and Eve After the Pill– Mary Eberstadt
This one is a non-fiction book recommended by a mentor after talking about the current state of sexual deviance. It sounds interesting.

4.The Brother’s K–David James Duncan
A friend told me that this book was one of her favorites. She said she had never cried so much or laughed so hard at the hands of a novel.

5.The Sentinels of Andersonville–Tracy Groot
Tracy is a wonderful writer who is gifted in historical fiction. Her latest novel focuses on the Andersonville prison during the Civil War. I am itching to get to this one.

What’s on the top of your to-read list right now? Let me know in the comments!

Enjoying the Local Fare

I hate Wal-Mart.

It is a terrible soulless place that is eating our local economies alive!… That may be somewhat of an overstatement, but not by much… but that is just my opinion. (But we’ve been over this: my blog, my opinion!)

And Wal-Mart is not really the source of our economic woes. It’s big business in general that has made it so difficult for local shops, farms, and restaurants to be successful at such a difficult time in our economic history.

I think it is so important to support local businesses and restaurants  Going to farmer’s markets for produce, rather than big name grocers. Getting coffee from the local cafe` rather than Starbucks.

Supporting local takes more work and sometimes more money. But it is vital for communities to survive while maintaining their identity. Part of the reason one must go out of her way to buy local is because of big businesses. Large corporations drive up the prices of mom-and-pop places and make it difficult for them to stay in business. Chains are easy. They are everywhere and are usually more affordable.

I have had the privilege of being involved with Local First, an organization in Grand Rapids that focuses on helping local businesses in the West Michigan area. They have begun a 10×10 pledge campaign that I would love you guys to look into!

What they are asking is that you take $10 of your food budget that you would otherwise spend at a chain or big-name grocer and instead spend that money at a local grocer, farmer’s market, or restaurant. We are hoping people will pledge to do this for the next ten weeks. You can sign up to join here! When you sign up, they site asks for your email address. No worries! Local First will not spam your inbox. You will receive a once-a-week email giving you tips on how to shop local, recipes to be made with local ingredients  as well as awesome local places to try out. We’re hoping for 2,000 participants.

It’s so easy and it requires nothing but $10 of what you have already budgeted for food. Even if you aren’t in the Grand Rapids area, I would love to challenge you to try this. You can try out a local restaurant you’ve never been to, get to know your community a little better at a farmer’s market, or try out a different local coffee place.

If you’re in West Michigan and want to try something local and awesome, here are my recommendations:

  • Red Ball Jet Cafe`
  • Clique Coffee Bar
  • Cherie Inn
  • Rockford Brewing Company
  • Herman’s Boy Coffee Ranch

Sign up and tell me how your pledge goes!

Friday Favorites: July

Today I’m trying out something new. I’d like to have a once a month post on Friday’s featuring some awesome that’s stumbled into my life. I’ll admit it, I’m kind of a stamp tramp. If I find something I like, I’m ready to recommend it to everyone. So I have my picks for the month and I have my stamp ready to tramp, so here are the favorites for July!

1.) Songza

For the first two, I’m stealing recommendations from my friend Brittney. She introduced me to this awesome music website. Usually when I’m at work, I have Pandora going at my desk. Thing is, after a while, Pandora gets really repetitive. Enter Songza! You enter what time of day it is, what you’re doing, and what you’re in the mood for and you are given a playlist based on that information. A couple of my favorite playlists are “Songs from Apple Commercials” and “That Sweet Mumford Melancholy.” And like Pandora, it’s free. Not like Pandora, It’s commercial free! If you have an account or sign up for one, you can follow me; my handle is aldeweese.

2.) Stabilo

Brittney has also always had these amazing pens I’ve lusted after since I met her. I finally bought a set of my own and they are worth every penney. (BTDubs, they do not cost very many pennys. My set cost about $13 on amazon.) They are a fine tip colored marker made by a German company. The colors are vibrant and make really neat lines. You can purchase your own here!

3.)Herman’s Boy Chai

I’m a loose leaf junky… and a chai addict. Combine the two and there is no way I can turn down a good set of leaves! In my small hometown, I frequent Herman’s Boy Coffee Ranch. Located in an old farmhouse, the shop itself has a wonderful, sunny atmosphere and the best price for drinks I’ve seen anywhere. I have never spent more than three dollars on any of their specialty drinks. Not only do they have a great coffee shop, but they have a splendid selection of loose leaf teas. (And yes, they have coffee, but I don’t like coffee and this is my blog!;-] ) This month, I decided it was time to try out their chai and I was not disappointed. It has a wonderful spicy flavor and makes a mean latte. I may never purchase Tazo again! Plus it’s from a local company and you can’t beat that.

4.)  Canturbury Classics

While on the writing retreat with the Inklyrks this month, we were at a bookstore where I found the most beautiful leather-bound editions of some classics. They are published my Canterbury Classics from Thunder Bay Press. The edition is World Cloud Classics. They offer many popular classics such as Pride & PrejudiceLes Miserables, and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. For myself, I purchased The Count of Monte Cristo, one of my all-time favorites. Each of these books features a soft leather cover with quotes engraved around the title. They books are all beautiful and colorful and I think a great way to build up the classics section of your home library.

5.) The Joy Dare

Ann Voskamp is a wonderfully profound author and blogger. (You can check her out at A Holy Experience.) I find great thinking material for my journey from her daily postings. Part of her writing focuses on finding he simple gifts in the every day. As part of her blog, she offers a joy dare which is an opportunity to find three gifts a day for a year as an exercise in finding the joy in all circumstances. I am a fairly negative person and was becoming bothered by the behavior. In search of a way to shift my attitude toward gratitude, I found the joy dare and have been incredibly blessed by it. I highly recommend checking it out.

So those are my five favorites from the month of July! Check ’em out and tell me what you think!

Building the Summer Book Pile

I start out each summer feeling very ambitious. I have a mental list of everything I want to accomplish during the summer and somehow magically none of the things on that list get done.

Well this year, that will not be the case!… perhaps.

I know I want to finish Part I of my novel. I’m about ten chapters out from this, so I’m thinking a chapter a week… we’ll see if my characters are feeling the same pace.

I also want to redecorate my bedroom and go through all of my boxes in the storage area in my parents basement. I think it’s odd that I haven’t lived at my parents for three years, and yet I have seemed to accumulate a lot of crap in that window of time. Consolidation must happen or I will end up on hoarders. 

As I thought over this summer, I began to think less and less of these things I wanted to accomplish and more and more about what I wanted to read.

So I thought I’d clue you in to my reading list for the summer. I’m pretty excited about it!

  • The Daylight War – Peter V. Brett
  • Byzantium – Stephen R. Lawhead
  • Green Economy – Bill McKibben
  • I’ve Got Your Number – Sophie Kinsella
  • The Fault in Our Stars – John Green
  • The Equation – Oliver Learnt 

This is my list so far, but it will continue to grow in the next couple days. Feel free to comment with what you are planning to read over the summer as well as recommendations! I love to hear about a new book every now and again… or all the time!

          – Lex