Tuesday, July 9, 2024

Review: The Summer of Fall by Laura Lippman

Publisher: Scribd Originals
Pages: 62
Format: eARC

Goodreads:  “Lucky! I’M LUCKY, GODDAMMIT!” So Laura Lippman keeps telling herself throughout the course of a year when she seems everything but. Her marriage crumbles; a beloved friend dies suddenly; her sister’s health fails. Everything and everyone is falling apart. The calamities reach a symbolic climax in the summer of 2022, when she and her mother both suffer bad falls. (Her mom is ninety-one; Lippman herself is merely “exceptionally clumsy.”) Still, she insists, she is lucky.

And in many ways, she is. She has a great kid and a career she loves, and she’s healthy and more or less happy. Yet even a resilient optimist like her can’t deny that life’s catastrophes are indiscriminate and seem always to hit at once.

In this wry and honest memoir of a truly lousy time, she gives an intimate look at her private life — perhaps less hair-raising than her award-winning crime thrillers, but no less engaging. And it’s relatable. Even the most fortunate experience heartache, loss, and physical breakdown of some kind. Lippman’s account of her own hard knocks reminds us that, eventually, adversity comes for everyone.

But she has a more important message: While misfortune might not be a choice, how we respond to it is. Lippman chooses to be a happy warrior. When her friend Terry Teachout, the renowned theater critic for The Wall Street Journal, dies without warning in January 2022, she finds solace in the fact that he’d recently found joy in a new romance. When two friends make the spontaneous decision to marry during a writer’s workshop in Italy, she throws herself into the role of officiant, despite the flatlining of her own marriage. When she ruins her shoulder in a fall, she refuses to swap her fun shoes for something more sensible. She won’t let sorrow and pain get the best of her. Blessings abound, godammit, and there’s still so much to celebrate.

Kritters Thoughts:  I am a Laura Lippman fan, I have nowhere near read all of her books, but when I saw this book come across Netgalley I was excited to read some non fiction that Laura Lippman wrote and even more so wrote about her own life.  She was an avid writer but also journaled her own life and this little book came from her writing as she recounted a summer that was possibly one to not remember!  

With a separation/divorce, physical injury, family drama and more, after reading this book I wanted to go have a beverage with Laura Lippman and just gab about the ups and downs of life.  I loved that yes I read about a horrible summer, but also got a glimpse behind the curtain of the humanity of an author as they try to keep writing and working while life knocks them around.  

I would love to read more of these by other authors that I love and see both their personal life and professional life as they collide.  


Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received one copy of this book free of charge from Netgalley.  I was not required to write a positive review in exchange for receipt of the book; rather, the opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Tuesday, July 2, 2024

Review: The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

Publisher: Harper
Pages: 272
Format: eARC
Buy the Book: Amazon

Goodreads:  In April 1942, Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew, is forcibly transported to the concentration camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau. When his captors discover that he speaks several languages, he is put to work as a T├Ątowierer (the German word for tattooist), tasked with permanently marking his fellow prisoners.

Imprisoned for more than two and a half years, Lale witnesses horrific atrocities and barbarism—but also incredible acts of bravery and compassion. Risking his own life, he uses his privileged position to exchange jewels and money from murdered Jews for food to keep his fellow prisoners alive.

One day in July 1942, Lale, prisoner 32407, comforts a trembling young woman waiting in line to have the number 34902 tattooed onto her arm. Her name is Gita, and in that first encounter, Lale vows to somehow survive the camp and marry her.

Kritters Thoughts:  A book I read solely because I saw that a mini series was created and I am a stickler for reading the book before watching the movie, the show or the whatever! So I picked up this book recently and read it and what a story.  I was glad that I could see someone's interpretation of it on screen and see how even the hardest of moments would be portrayed on a screen.  

Based on a true story, Lale Sokolov was a Jew who went to Auschwitz and eventually became the man who tattooed the incoming Jews; he aligned himself with the SS soldiers and was able to help his fellow men and women through various ways to survive the horrors that took place in Auschwitz.  Because of the way he took care of others, it saved his life so many times.  

It is hard to say I loved this book because most of it took place in a concentration camp, but to see humanity still trying to take care of each other in any way possible and to see a love story emerge, it was something else.  


Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received one copy of this book free of charge from Netgalley.  I was not required to write a positive review in exchange for receipt of the book; rather, the opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Thursday, June 6, 2024

Review: The Last One by Alexandra Oliva

Publisher: Ballantine Books
Pages: 295
Format: ARC
Buy the Book: Amazon

Goodreads: Survival is the name of the game as the line blurs between reality TV and reality itself in Alexandra Oliva’s fast-paced novel of suspense.

She wanted an adventure. She never imagined it would go this far.

It begins with a reality TV show. Twelve contestants are sent into the woods to face challenges that will test the limits of their endurance. While they are out there, something terrible happens—but how widespread is the destruction, and has it occurred naturally or is it human-made? Cut off from society, the contestants know nothing of it. When one of them—a young woman the show’s producers call Zoo—stumbles across the devastation, she can imagine only that it is part of the game.

Alone and disoriented, Zoo is heavy with doubt regarding the life—and husband—she left behind, but she refuses to quit. Staggering countless miles across unfamiliar territory, Zoo must summon all her survival skills—and learn new ones as she goes.

But as her emotional and physical reserves dwindle, she grasps that the real world might have been altered in terrifying ways—and her ability to parse the charade will be either her triumph or her undoing.

Kritters Thoughts:  A little bit Survivor tv show with a pandemic on the side and while this book was published in 2016, reading it in 2024 after a pandemic has really happened felt VERY surreal and added an extra element to my reading.  

Twelve contestants are dropped into the woods with camera men and producers, but are prepped to have days and challenges alone where they may not even know they are being filmed, so suspend belief a little, but not too far off from a truth.  With chapters that bounce back and forth in time without the reader getting info made for a few times of frustration, but once I got the gist, I enjoyed going back and forth in time.  While the chapters that take place more at the beginning challenge with all the contestants battling mixed in with the chapters that focus on Zoo/Mae as she is out on her own grappling with admitting to reality and slowly discovering what could have happened beyond the challenge.  

Without spoiling the book, I will have to say in general, I didn't love the ending.  I was left in such a place where I wanted one or more chapters to really feel like I could see Zoo/Mae off onto the next part of her adventure and life.  


Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received one copy of this book free of charge from Ballantine Books.  I was not required to write a positive review in exchange for receipt of the book; rather, the opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Saturday, June 1, 2024


Not one book finished in April - so so crazy!  With warm weather, I spent more days in May at the beach in my neighborhood with a few good books.  

1. We Can Only Save Ourselves by Alison Wisdom
2. The Colony Club by Shelley Noble
3. The Churchill Sisters by Rachel Trethewey
4. Real Americans by Rachel Khong

Total pages read, clicked, and flipped: 1,456

Where Have I Been Reading?:
New York City, NY

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Review The Churchill Sisters by Rachel Trethewey (audiobook)

Publisher: St Martin's Press
Pages: 320
Format: audiobook
Buy the Book: Amazon

Goodreads:  Bright, attractive and well-connected, in any other family the Churchill girls – Diana, Sarah, Marigold and Mary – would have shone. But they were not in another family, they were Churchills, and neither they nor anyone else could ever forget it. From their father – ‘the greatest Englishman’ – to their brother, golden boy Randolph, to their eccentric and exciting cousins, the Mitford Girls, they were surrounded by a clan of larger-than-life characters which often saw them overlooked. While Marigold died too young to achieve her potential, the other daughters lived lives full of passion, drama and tragedy.

Diana, intense and diffident; Sarah, glamorous and stubborn; Mary, dependable yet determined – each so different but each imbued with a sense of responsibility toward each other and their country. Far from being cosseted debutantes, these women were eyewitnesses at some of the most important events in world history, at Tehran, Yalta and Potsdam. Yet this is not a story set on the battlefields or in Parliament; it is an intimate saga that sheds light on the complex dynamics of family set against the backdrop of a tumultuous century.

Kritters Thoughts:  There are a few reasons why this audiobook completely worked for me.  First, I love listening to non fiction, I haven't been able to find the right fiction genre to work for me in audio form, still on the hunt.  I also love all things royal or royal adjacent and Winston Churchill was surely royal adjacent and to hear more about his family was so interesting.  I also love history, so to hear about Winston's daughters but also more about the events of the time was just great.  

About this book.  I went into this book knowing nothing about Churchill's family from his wife to his daughters, so all of this book was new information to me.  To hear about the strong women that were in his family and the things they did to support him and his efforts, but also the way he encouraged each of them to have their own avenues - I loved it!  I knew nothing about his wife and while this book didn't focus on her, she made appearances and this book inspired me to go find out more and read more about the woman who stood beside such an influential man.  

This book accompanied me on car rides to run errands, many hours cleaning the house, and some time prepping the garden for this year!  I love how an audiobook can join you in life and it feels like you are accomplishing so many things at once.  


Audiobook 2024 Challenge: 2 out of 24

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received one copy of this book free of charge from Netgalley.  I was not required to write a positive review in exchange for receipt of the book; rather, the opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Monday, April 1, 2024


Just one book finished this month, ended up being a busy month with a lot of other things taking my attention - early garden prep, big projects at work, and a few other things!

1. The Children's Blizzard by Melanie Benjamin

Total pages read, clicked and flipped: 355

Where Have I Been Reading?:

Sunday, March 3, 2024

Recipe Review: Creamy Garlic Mushroom Chicken

For recipes for March, I accidentally purchased too much chicken, so March will be the month of chicken! The first recipe I tried, was my first foray into dredging and pan-frying chicken.  While the meal itself was a hit, I want to try a different technique than what was in this recipe for pan-frying chicken the next time; using no egg and just dry ingredients was interesting, but when I make a recipe I stick to the instructions the first time around!   

I made this meal on a weekend when I had my favorite handyman - my dad at my house to make some fantastic custom closets.  It was such a joy to be able to feed him while he was making three closets of my dreams!  AND thank goodness it tasted way better than it photographed!  It even reheated well as leftovers.     

I then made the meal during the work week for just myself and tried the pan fry again and tried to see if it would maybe photograph better! This is a recipe that I can now keep in my back pocket, minus the need to have mushrooms and heavy cream on hand which I don't always have.  

Friday, March 1, 2024

A month where life went a little off course, but for good reasons. My reading and workouts went off from the goals I set for this year, BUT I have not one but two brand new custom closets built by my dad and I, and the designing and building were the best experiences. SO things can take a turn and then the first of March, new goals can be set!

1. The Opera Sisters by Marianne Monson
2. Trailed by Kathryn Miles
3. Data Baby by Susannah Breslin
4. The Presence of Absence by Simon Van Booy

Total pages read, clicked and flipped: 1,080

Where Have I Been Reading?:
Appalachian Trail, VA

Sunday, February 25, 2024

Recipe Review: Homemade Pasta Sauce

Three weeks in a row with pasta, BUT this one is extra special.  One reason is because my nephew Jacob was here to help make and taste test.  AND second because the pasta sauce was made from tomatoes that I grew in my garden last year and froze.  

My hope is that this is the first of many recipes that includes things from my garden and with four garden beds and a few grow bags, my 2024 garden should be bountiful.  

Now to the recipe.  I had low expectations as I am quite opinionated on pasta sauce, but this one quickly went into the notebook to use over and over again.  With the aid of my immersion blender (first-time use!) my tomatoes were easily thinned out and adding minimal seasoning, the tomatoes were the star of the show which made me even happier that they were fresh from the garden because are always 10 times better than store-bought.  

Jacob chose penne pasta and we added some meatballs and this was a great dish for a rainy weekend.  

Sunday, February 18, 2024

Recipe Review: Slow Cooker Crack Chicken Soup

Slow cookers always make me think of wintertime meals and I was excited to try this recipe knowing from the beginning that it could freeze, so I could eat what is made and stow the leftovers for another time.  

I had heard of marry me chicken (and had it, very good!), so I was sort of intrigued by crack chicken.  A super easy recipe like most crock pot recipes are - put ingredients in turn on.  BUT mid way through, you pull the chicken out and need to shred and one of my most favorite kitchen hacks (thanks to Instagram!) is to place chicken or chunks of beef in your stand mixer and its shredded in mear seconds or minutes.  

Once your chicken is shredded put back in crockpot and then add the last few ingredients, 10 minutes and serve!  I served it as soup with some great garlic bread.  AND then the next day I added macaroni noodles to try something different and it was so good!  I was able to freeze the remainder in a few sandwich bags and froze laying down for easy storing.  

I hope to do this one once a year to eat off for a little bit and then have some in the freezer for later!

Thursday, February 15, 2024

Review: Data Baby by Susannah Breslin

Publisher: Legacy Lit
Pages: 224
Format: book
Buy the Book: Amazon

Goodreads:  What if your parents turned you into a human lab rat on the day you were born? Would that change the story of your life? Would that change who you are?
When Susannah Breslin is a toddler, her parents enroll her in an exclusive laboratory preschool at the University of California, Berkeley, where she becomes one of 128 children who are research subjects in an unprecedented 30-year psychological experiment that predicts who she and her cohort will grow up to be. Decades later, trapped in an abusive marriage to a man with a violent history and battling breast cancer, she starts to wonder how growing up under a microscope shaped the person she became and her life choices. Is she the narrator of the story of her life—or is something else? Already a successful journalist, whose published work has appeared in ForbesThe Atlantic, and Harper’s Bazaar, she decides to make her own curious history the subject of her next investigation and embarks on a life-changing journey that will expose the dark secrets hidden behind the renowned longitudinal study of personality development that she grew up believing knew her better than she knew herself.

Kritters Thoughts:   Susannah Breslin grew up in California and with two very academic professors as parents, they enrolled her into this long-term research project where her and her life were observed and theories were made based on her reaction to tests and to life itself.  Essentially Susannah and many of her peers across the country were lab rats and their response to various tests were used to make predictions on what kind of adults they would become and the life they would end up with.  

Maybe spoiling it a bit, the last chapter was it for me.  While Susannah was a lab rat, aren't we all now with big tech tracking our every moves through google searches, phone analytics and gps.  It made me remind myself that for sure the instagram and facebook ads are targeted and know exactly what I am shopping for or what life issues I need solved (dog hair in laundry!).  So maybe in the end we are all being tracked and companies are predicting the life that we want and the products that will best get us there!

A quick little memoir that really made me think about the quality of research and had me pondering all of those personality tests that affirmed what I was already thinking about myself.      


Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received one copy of this book free of charge from Legacy Lit.  I was not required to write a positive review in exchange for receipt of the book; rather, the opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Sunday, February 11, 2024

Recipe Review: DATE night

Last year my parents recommended a fun appetizer, dates with goat cheese wrapped in bacon - YES!  I made it a quite a few times last year, but after buying a container of dates, I wanted to see other options and tried out two more.  I thought it would be fun to make dates for THE DATE night of the year - Valentine's Day.  So whether your person is salty or sweet, DATE night! 

All of these were perfect to prep ahead of time and then finish and plate and be ready for your DATE night.  

One of the new ones I tried, was dates with cream cheese, some pistachio kernels, and then a drizzle of honey, SO good!  I love cream cheese, its sweet but in my opinion not TOO sweet, so its the perfect stuffing with the plain date and then the sweet addition of honey.  Now the pistachios came in a large bag and maybe on the expensive side, so going to see what else I can make with pistachios!  

The second date recipe I tried was a bit of a take on a snickers, with peanut butter stuffed inside and then dipped in chocolate melted with coconut oil.  This was so easy and so so yummy.  I loved that I could make these and stick them in the fridge to enjoy for days.  

So if you need an idea for this week of love, may I suggest one or more DATE recipes for DATE night! 

Friday, February 9, 2024

Review: The Opera Sisters by Marianne Monson

Publisher: Shadow Mountain
Pages: 352
Format: eARC
Buy the Book: Amazon

Goodreads:   Based on the true story of the Cook sisters, who smuggled valuables out of 1930s Nazi Germany to finance a daring, secret operation to help Jews find hope for a new life in England British sisters Ida and Louise Cook enjoy their quiet, unassuming lives in south London. Ida writes romance novels, and Louise works as a secretary. In the evenings, the sisters indulge in their shared love for opera, saving their money to buy records and attend performances throughout England and Europe, becoming well-known by both performers and fellow opera lovers. But when Hitler seizes power in 1933, he begins targeting and persecuting German Jews, passing laws that restrict their rights and their lives. The sisters continue their trips to the German opera houses, but soon, Jewish members of the opera community covertly approach the sisters, worried that they will be stripped of their wealth and forced to leave their homes and the country. Danger looms on the horizon, threatening to spill across all of Europe’s borders. Ida and Louise vow to help, but how can two ordinary working-class women with limited means make a difference? Together with their beloved opera community, the sisters devise a plan to personally escort Jewish refugees from Germany to England. The success of the plan hinges on Ida and Louise’s ability to smuggle contraband jewelry and furs beneath the watchful eyes of the SS soldiers guarding various checkpoints. But how many trips can they make before someone blows a whistle? Or before the final curtain falls on Germany’s borders?

Kritters Thoughts:  A set of sisters that really lived through World War II and were driven to help Jewish people who were watching the rise of Hitler and his army and their hatred for their ethnicity, so Ida and Louise Cook were drawn to help in any way possible.  

I have read a very large number of World War II books, so I think my standards for this sub-genre of historical fiction are quite high and for me this one didn't hit the mark.  The reason this one wasn't a right fit for me was mostly in the format of the book and how it was put together.  From the beginning, the way the book was written/put together made it feel like a bunch of short stories that abruptly ended and then started back up.  I didn't feel as though the book had flow and it was interruptive and hard to read.  

With that being said, I did love these sisters and wanted to hear more of their story.  I loved their determination to help people that they didn't even know and the many ways they went about trying to take care of each and every one of them no matter their age or lot in life.  The moments where the book really focused on them and their endeavors I loved, but it would stop all of a sudden and go somewhere else and it was just jarring and took me out of the story.  

I would love to find another story about these women and their fearlessness.  


Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received one copy of this book free of charge from Netgalley.  I was not required to write a positive review in exchange for receipt of the book; rather, the opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Sunday, February 4, 2024

Recipe Review: Super Bowl snacks

With the Super Bowl coming up next week, I decided I wanted to spend the last week testing out recipes that could be used for a Super Bowl party, so two versions of air fryer Fried Pickle Chips and then a from scratch cheesy dip with some pretzel bites.

I am a huge fan of my air fryer.  And I am a fan of fried pickles, so wanted to see if I could make them at home in a semi-healthy way.  The first version, I used panko bread crumbs and they were fine, but I didn't love how thick the bread crumbs were.  

So second version I used this batter that is meant for chicken, but why not try it with fried pickles - AND yes, totally worked and loved them.  Need to remember to spray some pam on the foil, but this will for sure be the way I make for Super Bowl and beyond! 

Finally.  an easy cheese sauce that you can make and then put in a crock pot to keep it going for a party.  AND it is a dupe for the cheese sauce at Shake Shack.  It was nice and easy and tasted so good.  I may have cheated a bit with frozen pretzel bites that I threw in the oven, but making pretzel bites is on a future to do list.      

Friday, February 2, 2024

Review: One in a Millennial by Kate Kennedy

Publisher: St Martin's Press
Pages: 336
Format: audiobook
Buy the Book: Amazon

Goodreads:  From pop culture podcaster and a voice of a generation, Kate Kennedy, a celebration of the millennial zeitgeist

One In a Millennial is an exploration of pop culture, nostalgia, the millennial zeitgeist, and the life lessons learned (for better and for worse) from coming of age as a member of a much-maligned generation.

Kate is a pop culture commentator and host of the popular millennial-focused podcast Be There in Five . Part-funny, part-serious, Kate navigates the complicated nature of celebrating and criticizing the culture that shaped her as a woman, while arguing that great depths can come from surface-level interests.

With her trademark style and vulnerability, One In a Millennial is sharp, hilarious, and heartwarming all at once. She tackles AOL Instant Messenger, purity culture, American Girl Dolls, going out tops, Spice Girl feminism, her feelings about millennial motherhood, and more. Kate’s laugh-out-loud asides and keen observations will have you nodding your head and maybe even tearing up.

Kritters Thoughts:  Were you born between 1981 and 1995?  Did you survive Y2K?  Do you know the exact musical melody of dial-up internet?  THEN you must listen to this book immediately!  

Kate Kennedy was raised in Richmond, VA and made me laugh out loud and even cry a few tears while listening to her dive back into time and recount all the things that millennials have survived and maybe even why we are who we are!  Her cultural references made me laugh at myself so hard and I immediately followed her on instagram and subscribed to her podcast like the fan girl millennial that I am!  

I knew before starting this book that non fiction is my pure wheelhouse of audiobooks, so I knew that I would want to listen to this one and I was right!  Listening to Kate Kennedy share her own words and hear her laugh at herself and choke up was just the right addition to my commutes and hours of house chores.  While I want to branch out this year in my audio listening, it was nice to start the year with one I knew that would be a home run. 

My first audiobook of the year and although I completely loved it, it took me a weird amount of time to finish it!  Made me realize how much I want to find more time in my days and weeks to make audiobooks a priority.    


Audiobook 2024 Challenge: 1 out of 24

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received one copy of this book free of charge from Netgalley.  I was not required to write a positive review in exchange for receipt of the book; rather, the opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Thursday, February 1, 2024


To recap January, I was ready for a new year to begin and made a few goals for the month and the year and I knocked January out of the park!  I tried and loved 4 recipes and even have some ready for February.  My reading is on track, maybe a little behind in the audiobook world, but that's ok.  And my workouts have been so good - well-rounded, inspiring, and a wonderful break from the things going on around me.    

1. Rabbit Hole by Kate Brody (audiobook)
2. A Light Beyond the Trenches by Alan Hlad
3. City Under One Roof by Iris Yamashita
4. Yours for the Taking by Gabrielle Korn
5. Seven Girls Gone by Allison Brennan
6. Diva by Daisy Goodwin
7. The Missing Witness by Allison Brennan
8. Cold Pursuit by Nancy Mehl
9. Cold Threat by Nancy Mehl
10. One in a Millennial by Kate Kennedy (audiobook)

Total pages read, clicked, and flipped: 3,474

Where Have I Been Reading?:
New York City
Los Angeles, CA
St. Louis, MO
Burlington, IA

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