YA, KidLit, cyborgs, & more {reading update!}

what i'm reading 2016 It was a good summer of reading! Now that we've entered fall, I thought it was time to update the ol' reading list here on the blog. I had a lot of fun with the audioblog in my last book update and after so good feedback, I decided to do another one. This audioblog will be available in my free newsletter, which will hit inboxes on Saturday, October 29th. (The newsletter is meant to be seasonal, but as it turns out this will be my first one of 2016-- oops!).

Read More Coverget the scoop

If you haven't already signed up, you can do so here. When you sign up, you will receive a free copy of my eBook, Read More, and you will also have access to my second audioblog... where I discuss all these books including which series has surprised me most (which will hit inboxes soon)!

So without further adieu, here is what I've been reading lately:


I'd love to hear your thoughts if you've read any of these books! And don't forget you can listen to all my thoughts on these in my audioblog which will arrive via email on Saturday morning, Oct. 29, 2016. If you're reading this post after the newsletter goes out, just send me a quick email (hello @ nicolevbennett . com) and I'll forward it to you! :)

This post includes affiliate links; thank you for reading and for your support.

Summer book club: Eight Hundred Grapes

Our lovely little book club met again this summer; this time to discuss the novel Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura Dave. sebastopol-ca

I really loved this book, not in the least due to my personal experience with the setting. The book takes place in the Northern California town of Sebastobol, which just happens to be the area where David grew up. He lived in Santa Rosa as a kid and went to an adorable little school in Sepastopol, so we have visited up there several times, and it's a beautiful place. It was very easy for me to picture the setting in my head, and I have a tendency to love a good setting like a character.


We had a charming night discussing the book out on my back patio under the twinkle lights. Our book-themed meal was one of our best yet, so thanks Ms. Dave, for putting so many yummy things in your book! As usual we didn't all feel the same about the book but we had a great conversation around the story, theme, and character's choices.


If you're curious about my book club, and are thinking about starting your own, I have just the resources for you. In addition to the post I wrote a while back on Mom Advice, I was a guest on The Simple Show podcast this summer and discussed my book club with my friend Tsh Oxenreider.

Disclosure: This post has affiliate links; thanks for your support and for reading!

What I'm reading 2016: vol. 2 {audioblog experiment!}

what i'm reading 2016 The year is half over, which is to say, it's a fun time to take stock and see how much I've been reading. It's been a good year of reading for me although I haven't been sharing my books here very frequently. I last updated this blog with what I've been reading in March, at which point I had read fourteen books. Now that three more months have zoomed by, I figured it was about time to share again.

This time, however, I'm doing something a little different, just for fun. I'm listing the books I've read in the last few months, and then I'm recording a fun little audioblog for you to listen to where I give some little blurbs about what I thought of these books.

reading on the beach

(long live beach reading!)

Of note: I hated one (perhaps surprisingly?) and quit it at 51%, which, while I support quitting books that don't resonate, it's not something I do often. Listen below to find out which one it was.

Here are the books; scroll down for the audio!

Wildflower by Drew Barrymore (on audio, read by Drew)

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah (our spring book club pick)

The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy by Jeanne Birdsall

Three Wishes by Liane Moriarty

The Bronte Plot by Katherine Reay (currently $1.99 for kindle!)

Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan

Four Seasons in Rome: On Twins, Insomnia, and the Biggest Funeral in the History of the World by Anthony Doerr

Girl Online by Zoe Sugg

Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson

Girl Online on Tour by Zoe Sugg

Masterpiece by Elise Broach (read aloud to my kids)

Eligible: A Modern Retelling of Pride and Prejudice by Curtis Sittenfeld

The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson

Blackmoore by Julianne Donaldson

Oops! I forgot to mention one book: Falling for You by Jill Mansell (pretty cute, nothing too exciting about it, but an enjoyable British chick lit book).

Click below to listen to me share all about these books! You should be able to listen right in your browser. (And don't mind the timer going off about halfway through, I was baking bread while recording. Also, sorry if I get a little repetitive at times. Must find synonym for cute.) ;)

[audio m4a="http://nicolevbennett.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/audioblog-6.22.16-med.m4a"][/audio]

I'd love to know what you though about these books and my little audioblog experiment, and of course, let me know if you have any book recs of your own!

Amazon affiliate links included. Thank you for reading, and for your support!

Changing course, and embracing where I'm at

fiction galore For years I have wanted to write fiction.

In 2007, I participated in NaNoWriMo and "won," which means I completed a 50,000-word novel. Of course, it had lots of holes in the middle and not much of a plot, but hey, I "finished" something, which says a lot for me. ;)

Since probably my grad school days I have been interested in writing some kind of chick lit or women's fiction, and writing YA has also always been on my radar, basically since my own days of being a YA.

But recently I had this realization that as much as I love reading those kind of stories and still dream of writing my own, that's really not the world I'm immersed in right now in real life.

In addition, I see authors cranking out a book a year and I think to myself, if I actually somehow was able to write something really good, get an agent and get published, am I even in a place where I'd actually be able to be a working writer?

I don't want to give up homeschooling and as of now, I don't have any days (or even daytime hours) in my week where I am kid-free and could really devote myself to writing. That could change, maybe even next year, but that is all still as of now unknown, and not something I can count on.

All I can do is be right where I am. 

And where am I? I'm smack dab in the life of mainly-elementary-school-age child-rearing. I'm reading kids' chapter books aloud and studying classics and children's literature with my kids.

So my new plan and project?

I'm writing a middle-grade novel, and I'm hoping to have it finished and printed to gift it to my kids for Christmas this year. (People who know my kids: please don't tell them!) :)

outlining my novel

Tools I'm using to whip my lazy self into shape:

  • I'm attempting an outline for the first time ever, in hopes that having the general skeleton of the book laid out for me will help me know where I'm going in the story, and actually finish it. I recently read K.M. Weilands's book, Outlining Your Novel, and I'm following her guidelines for creating a novel.
  • Starting tomorrow, I'll be tackling the month-long project called Camp NaNoWriMo, which is a modified, customized version of the November challenge. My personal goal is an extended outline of my book, with a minimum of 10,000 words written (either in the outline or in the beginnings of the actual novel).
  • I'm starting in a spiral notebook where I've already begun brainstorming, but soon I'll move to Scrivener, the program I like to use for writing projects.

I'll share a more about my book in the future after I develop it a bit more, but I'll tell you now that it's about a set of 10-year old triplets who go to summer camp. :) I'll probably share more detailed updates about my book project in my newsletter, so if you haven't subscribed to The Scoop, you can do that (it's free, and I don't bother your inbox too frequently, and you get a free ebook if you subscribe).

If you're looking for a month-long writing challenge (doesn't have to be a novel in April), come join me at Camp NaNoWriMo-- there's room in our virtual cabin for you! (For reals, let me know if you join and I can see about getting you added to our "cabin.")

What I've been reading: Early 2016

spring Winter has come and gone (praise hands from the summer-lover!), spring has officially sprung, and I realized I haven't shared the books I've been reading, or rather devouring, with you, not even once yet this year. Oops!

(I did share a bit about what we've been reading with the kids, and in our homeschool over on my homeschool blog, so you can check that out if you're curious.)

what i'm reading 2016

As for me, I have had the pleasure of enjoying some great books this year so far, including some good YA which has been fun to dip back into. I'll go ahead and dig right in to my recent books list...

Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen

I have enjoyed all of SAA's books and this one did not disappoint. It had a slightly darker feel to it (just in the sense of tackling deeper issues of the heart), which makes sense considering this was her first book after her battle with cancer (she's in remission now!). I loved the characters, and the setting, and I'm hoping she revisits them in another book.

Silver Bay by Jojo Moyes

Another good Moyes romance; I especially loved the setting-- on the water's edge in a seaside South African town, where the location was as much a character as the people. I always enjoy her multi-POV stories, as she has a real knack with changing voice seamlessly.

Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg

Lots of great writing inspiration in this book, even if it means wading through some serious zen-mumbo-jumbo to find it. The chapters are short, the writing prompts are fun, and she's very encouraging to the writer-dreamer. I was greatly inspired to start writing in a notebook-- someday I hope that will actually become a daily discipline.

First Frost (Waverley Family, #2) by Sarah Addison Allen

A friend who is also a big SAA fan couldn't get into this one as much but I really enjoyed it. Similarly to The Girl Who Chased the Moon (my fave of her books), she follows both an adolescent (Bay, grown up from when we met her in Garden Spells) and some adult characters in this one, giving it a little YA flair. (I always love returning to characters I befriended before, so I'm probably not as critical as some when it comes to follow-up novels.)

Mr. Kiss and Tell (Veronica Mars, #2) by Rob Thomas

I was incredibly disappointed to find that Kristen Bell did not read this audiobook like she did the first. I almost had to turn it off because the narrator started out so droll, but as I got into it, I found she did a great job of changing her voice for different characters. The story was captivating and well-written but would probably say I liked the first one better. Here's hoping Rob Thomas keeps going with these books because I love Veronica so much that I don't want this series to end.

The Lake House by Kate Morton

This was our last book club pick. It was a great title to discuss-- Morton always gives us lots to talk about. I don't want to say too much because that's just how her books are, but this was more of an actual mystery (and the main character was in fact a mystery writer). Lots of people love this one, but I'll go on record and say it was really good, but I liked The Secret Keeper better. I prefer to read her books in actual paper form because I constantly feel the need to flip back and review things.

The Royal We by Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan

Favorite novel I've read this year so far. These two authors are so good at telling a story and crafting characters, and after reading a bit about them, I found myself wanting to find a friend to write a book with (Amy has a great interview with them on MomAdvice). I sincerely hope they write a sequel, because when the book ended, I was downright depressed to let go of the characters, and I felt a bit obsessive about them and their story for a while. I don't go ga-ga for Will-and-Kate mania but I loved this fairytale story and the rawness and "real" struggles the authors brought to it.

Paper Towns by John Green

A great YA read-- Green is a wonderful storyteller, and I was glad to read a less-depressing book by him. ;) This wasn't all sunshine and rainbows of course; it had plenty of YA angst and a good dose of getting-to-know-your-real-self. But it was a fun mystery, with a fair share of adventure, and I look forward to watching the movie now (after sobbing through The Fault in Our Stars, I had no desire to watch the movie, so this is a big improvement in my book).

Side by Side: Walking with Others in Wisdom and Love by Edward T. Welch

We read this with our church, discussing it in our community groups. It was easy to read and incredibly encouraging as we strive to live in community and interact with each other the way Jesus would want us to. Very practical help on how we counsel one another, and come alongside one another as we walk with the Lord. I'd say a must-read for small group leaders and people who want to really live out the gospel.

Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success by K.M. Weiland 

I picked this up at the writer's conference I went to last year and I'm so glad I did as it's exactly what I needed as someone who's not very good with following through. I read it all the way through and now am working through it to outline a new project. I'll share more about the project and the book soon. :)

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling

I read the Harry Potter books probably about 15 years ago or so, so it's really fun to revisit them now with kids. We read this aloud to our kids (and listened to a big chunk on audio while road-tripping), and they fell in love with Harry and the wizarding world-- especially Brody. We intend to take our time (we didn't jump right in to book #2 yet) and only read books 1-3 until the littles are a bit older. They loved reading the book and then watching the movie.

First & Then by Emma Mills

I definitely picked this up because I was drawn to the cover (isn't it so pretty?!), but then when I read the jacket cover I was convinced to check it out. I really adored this story-- a story "about falling in love--with the unexpected boy, with a new brother, and with yourself." Quintessential (non-fantasy) YA. Plus, the author is a young grad student and vlogger, which is pretty fun.

Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella

Another spontaneous find of the YA library shelf. I had no idea SK had written a YA book- how fun (and another cute cover, too)! This was another great read. I don't know how realistic its treatment of anxiety and mental illness is, but I appreciated that it was raw, without being depressing. I do love how Sophie Kinsella tells a good British story, too. ;)

Follow Me: A Call to Die. A Call to Live. by David Platt

This was a super legit book at what it really looks like to follow Jesus. Lots to think about, lots of evaluation of the heart and what life looks like. This was a great companion/followup to Side by Side.


So that's what I've been reading so far this year-- whew! I should really write these posts more often I think so they aren't so loaded with titles.

And again, if you are interested in more of what we've been reading with the kids and in our homeschool time, you can visit my recent post over on my homeschool journal, February in books, pictures, and a few thoughts.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on these books if you've read any of them! And here's what I'm currently reading...

Affiliate links included; thanks for reading and for your support of this blog.

And then I got a (real, outside-the-house) job for a few months...

teaching spanish It happened surreally fast. One minute I was lounging around on the couch, baseball on TV, texting a dear friend in Iowa. The next I was filling out an application for a part-time, short-term job because... well, why not?

It was back in October-- I heard through a grapevine of friends that a local Christian high school was in desperate need of a Spanish substitute while one of their teachers went out on maternity leave. My knee-jerk reaction was something along the lines of oh, how fun... wish I could. In another life season I'd totally go for that.

But then, as I took a beat and decided to get a bit more info, and all the pieces of the puzzle starting falling into place at an almost-alarming rate, I actually applied. Within days I interviewed, got the job, and after an eight-plus year-hiatus from teaching, I entered the classroom as Profe Bennett for a Spanish II and a Spanish IV class.

(The teacher had her baby the day I started!)

Everyone involved in the process and the transition could see God sovereignly working all the details out. It was strange and yet a pretty darn perfect fit.

I felt totally out of practice, unprepared (hello, whirlwind), and in some ways unqualified. I had never taught high school (but rather college), but I love high schoolers and I was really excited to use my education again. I had to go shopping because um, no jeans allowed, and I had to wear actual shoes each day (the horror!). Oh, and I had to switch from hoop to stud in my nose (boo). But I did it, and it's been really fun.

It probably makes sense now why I took a few months off from writing here. I decided that I would not even try to maintain a writing habit during this time because I needed most of my free time to prep, grade papers, and get familiar with the system. I missed writing, but I knew this was a short season so I was able to commit fully for the time.

I got in a groove with childcare (despite an odd rotating schedule where my two classes fall at a different time each of the four days of the week I work) thanks to my gracious mom, David's flexibility, and the help of several friends.

And now, I'm approaching my last week. I love the students and will definitely miss them, along with the chance to get out, get dressed like a real grownup, and do my own thing for a few hours a day.

But I'm also excited to settle back into normal family life. Our homeschool routine has been (obviously) kittywampus but the kids have been really good about working around my schedule and doing schoolwork with David and my mom.

in the classroom

The whole thing has been quite a learning experience. And I don't just mean in getting back some Spanish skills, although that has been awesome. I didn't know if it would come back and it really has, yay!

But it's also given me the chance to see what it's like to be a "working mom," even if it's just a few hours a day for a few months.

And I've been reminded how much I love what we are doing for our own kids' education, and it has confirmed that we are doing the right thing for our family for right now.

It's shown me that I can do this sort of thing if I want to. It turns out I can juggle an outside-the-home job a few hours a day; I can handle the responsibility. It's been busy (and at times stressful), and I don't think it's something that I want to do right now long-term, but if I ever did want to, or if I needed to for some reason, I could. That's fairly empowering.

I love teaching Spanish. I'm a total grammar nerd, and languages fascinate me. I love interacting with students (except when they get too rowdy ;) --I'm looking at you, junior boys).

But I still want to be a writer. I'm totally open to more teaching opportunities in the future, but I feel that spark of passion deep-down to dig into writing. (I'm hoping that this time of teaching has instilled in me a bit of discipline in getting things done that I can carry into my creative pursuits.) It's time to stop talking about writing, and start doing it.

Fallish Quick Lit + my last books of 2015

too busy to read Life has been busy, but not too busy to read. ;) Even if it's only for a minute or two, I just don't feel right turning off my light without my eyes resting on the pages of a book (or ebook, as it were) before I fall asleep.

And in the moments when I had time to take a breath and chill for a minute amidst the craziness of life, it was usually to pick up either Instagram or a book.

So here's what I spent my reading time indulging in during the autumn of 2015.

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton

(So good and, whoa, that twist at the end! Just thinking about it gives me goosebumps.)

The Summer Girls by Mary Alice Monroe

sarah addison allen covers

The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen

The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen

The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen

(I fell in love with SAE's books-- can you tell?? They are delightful stories with just the right amount of magic. The Girl Who Chased the Moon is my fave so far.)

The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton

A Window Opens by Elizabeth Egan

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell (yep, again. I just love it so much.)

After You by Jojo Moyes

(I just loved After You. It completely redeemed Me Before You for me, which had an ending I did not love. After You had a wonderfully satisfying ending, if not perfectly "happily ever after.")

Veronica Mars: An Original Mystery by Rob Thomas: The Thousand Dollar Tan Line by Rob Thomas & Jennifer Graham

(I listened to this (read by Kristen Bell, which was perfect), and I can't imagine reading it any other way. If only every beloved canceled series could be followed up by a movie and 2 novels. I loved getting more of a Veronica fix, and can't wait to read/listen to the second one.)

In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume was our fall book club pick. Reading Judy Blume again reminded me how wonderful a storyteller she is, but it also reminded me what I discovered when I read Summer Sisters years ago-- she can actually be a bit, well, almost graphic in her non-children's novels, especially when writing from a guy's perspective. I was unsure if the plane crashes would be too much for me to read but they weren't too traumatic for me-- the story captivated me enough to make up for them. Overall a good book, which gave us a fun discussion, and a great 5os-themed meal to enjoy.

With the kiddos

The Year of Bill Miller by Kevin Henkes

Oh how we love Mr. Henkes' writing and illustrations. This was a delightful book-- the first chapter book of his that we've read and recently Hallee asked me, "When can we read more stories about Billy Miller?" Maybe there'll be a sequel??

The Bad Beginning,The Reptile Room, and The Wide Window by Lemony Snicket

David read the first book from the Series of Misfortunate Events (which he and I had both read years ago) to the kids, and then we checked out the audiobooks of the next two for some very fun entertainment on a road trip-- especially the one read by Tim Curry.

stuart little

Stuart Little by E.B. White (currently)

I started reading this to Hallee (mostly when the big kids are at school) but Brody has wanted to get in on it too (he was a baby when I read it previously to him and Gigi). The vocabulary in this little book astounds me! And it's just so cute.

Unwrapping the Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp (love this beautiful advent storybook!)

Currently reading

Honorable mention (books that I've been "reading" for way too long):

  • On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder (Read-aloud time got pushed to the back burner a lot late fall. Hoping to ramp it up as we start the new year after Advent kick-starting us into a good evening routine and finally have more down time with the kids during the day.)
  • Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg (Writing has really been on the back burner but I'm looking forward to getting back into this with its short chapters, writing prompts and general bits of encouragement and butt-kicking.)
  • Encore Provence by Peter Mayle (I may wait till spring to pick this one back up. I tend to feel like reading travel lit in spring/summer.)
  • Follow Me by David Platt (This is a super solid book; I just need to get back in a rhythm of reading it-- probably a bit in the mornings after I finish Side by Side.)
  • Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan (I bought this for David for Father's Day in '13 and we started out having him read it to me in bed out loud (he does a good Jim impression), but considering it's been on my Goodreads shelf for 2.5 years, we apparently don't do this "ritual" very often. We both were loving the book but are better at watching TV late at night. Must finish in 2016!)

Up Next

My little book club is reading The Lake House (Kate Morton's latest) next for our winter pick and we are all super excited for our library hold numbers to come up; and I also plan to grab First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen from the library on Kindle as soon as I have a moment. Stay tuned!

what i'm reading in 2015  nicolevbennett.com

Hopefully next year I will do more frequent (and less gigantic) reading updates! ;) Have you read any of these books? Let me know what you thought. 

10 {faves} on 10

Today is the 10th, while this isn't a traditional 10 on 10 post, I thought it'd be fun to show 10 of my favorite happenings that have been going on around here as we rounded out summer and jumped on into fall Indian Summer. 10 on 10 faves 1

I started a tiny book club with a few friends. We read our first book, and had a great themed evening, where, afterwards, we all liked the book even more based on our discussion. Looking forward to our next book.

10 faves on 10 2

I participated in #mugswap15 and had a lot of fun packing up a crafty package for my swap partner (who happens to live one mile from one of our old houses!) and received the cutest package ever from my sweet partner in Michigan.

10 faves on 10 3

We spent a super-fun weekend in Laughlin, NV with my parents and my brother's family. The hot weather and cool water felt great and the kids loved everything about boating (which warms my heart as that is such a big part of my growing up) and hotel-ing (which is a very rare treat for us). Super grateful for great family time.

10 faves on 10-6

A few days after that last trip, we headed up the coast a bit for our annual church camping trip to San Onofre. This is one of my favorite campgrounds around. We enjoyed great fellowship, beautiful sunsets, and even got to watch some awesome surfers at the Hurley Pro up at Trestles.

10 faves on 10-14

Gigi started up softball again for the "fall ball" season; we love our softball community. Go Diamond Rakers!

10 faves on 10-8

We took Daddy to Legoland on a Saturday to show him the Lego Movie exhibit (it's the actual basement display) and then hit the waterpark for a few hours.

10 faves on 10-9

Hallee and I found a new favorite coffee shop downtown. So good and so pretty inside. Its full of awesome textures and industrial materials, succulents, bikes, and that table has the word COMMUNITY going down the middle of it-- so you know I'm all over that vibe.

10 faves on 10 4

We finally put up the girls' shelves and what a difference it makes! Their desks are more usable now and it looks all put-together. We flipped Gigi's bed frame so Hallee has some more head space, and their room is done! Now to finish Brody's bedroom re-do...

10 faves on 10-1-3

We took our kids down to downtown San Diego to see Wild Kratts Live at the Civic Theater. They were so surprised and excited-- it's their favorite show hands down and they have learned so much about animals from it. They loved the whole experience. Side note: no matter how much you prepare those kiddos, it's still hard when mom & dad don't buy you a toy at the merch table.

10 faves on 10-7

I haven't been blogging much but I did get a post published on The Art of Simple this month. It was a fun one to write, and it proclaims a trick that is helping me all the time get more housework done. If you missed it, head on over to see how I make my passions help me do my chores...

So that's all for now! If I'm not back here in the near future, please know that I'm so thankful that you take the time to read my blog and there are lots of good things filling my plate and making my writing take a spot on the back burner for now. But that's okay, God is sovereign and He knows my heart and my dreams. He is the one who changes times and seasons after all (check out Daniel 2:20-22 for some awesome truth).

In the meantime, check me out on Instagram, my homeschool blog, and get the inside scoop with my newsletter (which may be hitting inboxes sometime this month).

Affiliate links included; thank you for reading and for your support.