Favorite Books: From The Tween Years


Ready for a trip down memory lane? 

It’s been awhile since I did a segment of “Blast from the Past” so this week I decided to share the books that defined my tween years. The books that entertained me when I was SO BORED at home. The books that kept me up at night and taught me that books are “cool” and powerful. The books that helped me during my awkward and formative years where I was trying to figure out how to transition into a teen. 

Years later, most of these books stick with me. They were read over and over again and were very well-loved. 

What girl from the 90’s DIDN’T have a collection of The Babysitter’s Club books? Stacey was my favorite, she was so glamorous. In fact, my relationship with Kristy and the gang started back a few years earlier, when one of my first couple “real” Chapter Book was the “Babysitters Little Sister” books that chronicled the adventures of Karen, Kristy’s little sister. 

Oh the joys of reading about a little girl’s hard life as a pioneer. This would be around the same time I kept trying to forge rivers and dying of dysentery on the Oregon Trail. This book encouraged a lot of “I’m barely surviving off of a few acorns and woodchips and the snow is 10 feet deep” dramatic imaginary play for me. 

I loved all of Dahl’s books but who didn’t love little spirited Matilda? She taught me that it’s okay to be different and that reading can change your life. Most importantly, that you have the power to change your life, if you just try to believe in yourself. 

I was enchanted about this fantastical story about immortality and exploring what the risks are involved in living forever. This was a “big concept” book for a tween, allowing all those new emotions I was feeling to get out and explore a little bit. Later, as an adult, I bought the 2002 movie version starring Sissy Spacek, Alexis Bledel and Joshua Jonathan and still love watching it. 

On the other end of the spectrum was this gem of a comedy book. I can’t count how many times I laughed my way through this book series about the crazy kids, families and teachers at Wayside School. So fun! I’d sneak this into bed at night when I couldn’t sleep. 

Such a beautiful book. I loved The Secret Garden and The Little Princess equally, but The Secret Garden gets top billing because I also designed the theme of my wedding off of it. I fell in love with the richness of this book and its story of redemption, love and rebirth, no matter the circumstances. 

Does anyone do YA coming of age better than Judy Blume? This book about three best friends navigating the first year of junior high together hit close to home. I remember laughing and I remember crying, knowing I wasn’t alone in all the changes I was going through. 

Oh sweet Anne! I loved the 12 books in the series about plucky Anne. I still would love to plan a vacation to Prince Edward Island, just because of these books. Anne taught me how to deal with your disappointments, loneliness, and faults while also never letting go of dreams. A woman led series  that teaches us that we don’t have to be “empowered” to be leaders, we merely have to believe in ourselves and follow our hearts.

What little girl doesn’t love horses? I was hooked on this series chronicling the journey of Ashleigh as she nurses the weak filly, Wonder, back to life and transforms him into an award-winning thoroughbred. Story may sound trite, but I was wrapped up int he drama of life on a horse farm and racing and showing horses. 

This book blew my 12-year old self away. It’s a haunting tale of a society that gives up all emotions, feelings, memories, and depends on a monotonous “sameness”. There is no love, no hate, no warmth, no loneliness, no passion, and no color. Everyone has a role they must play and no one knows any better. Except for the Giver, the man “assigned” to hold on to all the memories and feelings of the past. That is until it is his time to pass on his “assignment” to the next generation. Love this book.

Who has seen the movie that came out this summer? I’m scared to be disappointed, it looks to science fiction (even though the book is a dystopian fantasy I never pictured it so science fiction in my young mind).


There you have it!

Do you share some of my favorite tween books? What were yours?

Other Blast from the Past posts: Favorite TV Shows from my Teen Years    |    Passing Notes     |    Back in MY Day

89th Birthday Celebration

On Sunday my Pop-Pop turned 89. We celebrated with a small family dinner at my parents house. 

He is the center of our family. Every important event I can remember from my childhood, he was there. When I think of the type of person I want to be as I continue to grow, I can think of no better role model than my Pop-Pop. 

He’s a friend to everyone he meets, treating strangers like family. He has worked hard for his whole life. He states that if only his vision would be better he’d still be working every day. He puts family first and has never wavered his faith and he has filled his life with love.

Somedays I feel like they don’t make people like Pop-Pop anymore. 

He does awesome for 89 years! He loves running errands with my mom, going out to dinner, taking long walks, and going on vacation. He joined us in Jamaica this year and is hoping to go on a Panama Canal cruise next year. 

Last year he got a kick out of the video interview of him I put up on this blog. He’s always laughing that we need to stop putting him on Facebook! When he goes to events or parties or church people always tell him they see updates about him on Facebook that my mom or I post. He keeps up with us pretty well, even toasting his birthday with a shot of Tuaca!

On Sunday evening we gathered in my parents sun room, a place where so many celebrations over the years have occurred. My mom presented him with his favorite cake, a chocolate sugary concoction made with mayo (don’t knock it til you try it!) and a to die for peanut butter icing.

This is the same cake my mom’s mother used to make. He blew out his candles with a smile of a child. 

Pop-Pop always has the best stories. Even though I may hear the same stories over and over, they never get old. They are filled with friends and family, sadly many passed, and always end with him laughing.

So, I asked Pop-Pop what he’s learned in his 89 years. His response was simple: “Well, Katie, I’ve had a lot of great years, a few hard times, but I’ve had some great years.”

I think we can all learn from that perspective. Life is never always going to be all good. But as long as you see the good more than the bad, you’re going to have a pretty grand life. Soon the bad will be events you can barely fit in your memory because your laughter and smiles of the good times will take up too much room. 

Hold on and celebrate the good. Have faith in your heart and the kindness of others. Continue living that good life, so when you’re 89 years old you can  fill the room with stories of a well lived life. 

My Love for Real Books (over E-Books) is Now Backed by Science!

I’m back talking about books again. Did you catch my recently read reviews earlier this week?

Fact: I always prefer to read real books, you know, the kind printed on paper that you hold in your hand. I’m really against e-readers and I’m not budging. Go ahead, call me a Grandma. I get all the perks and bonuses of reading on a Kindle or a Nook like the books costs less money, you can often find the books for free, they don’t take up space in your home, and they are lighter to carry and travel with. 

But to me, nothing can replace the feel of holding that book in your hand, smelling the book, and turning those crisp pages. It’s an intimate experience and my thoughts begin to live within those words in their own little world in that book. 

I also don’t like the idea of relying on technology to read. If your e-reader breaks or your run out of batteries while traveling somewhere you cannot recharge, you are out of luck. 

I own hundreds of books, and yes, they are a pain to pack and move, and yes they take up a lot of space. But I love glancing over at the familiar titles and spines in my living room. You can’t replace picking up a copy of a well-loved book and flipping to one of your favorite paragraphs and reliving that experience over again. I look at my books as artwork or a collection, something to display. 

My family and my friends have tried to sway me to the dark side. My mom and I used to regularly swap books back and forth and now we can’t because she has a kindle. Friends who know I’m on a budget don’t understand why I’d want to pay MORE for books and others can’t see the need for owning so many physical books that “may” never be read again.

Finally I have a scientific reason to back up my love for reading and owning actual books as opposed to e-readers! 

This article states facts from studies and research that show that real books are better for us than e-books, and not just for the sentimental reasons most of us value. 

A brief summary:

Researchers are learning that real books help readers in many ways that the modern technology of e-readers simply cannot. 

Real books help us with:

Comprehension: A lead researcher at Norway’s Stavanger University has concluded “the haptic and tactile feedback of a Kindle does not provide the same support for mental reconstruction of a story as a print pocket-book does.” With less of a sensory relationship, readers brains aren’t fully “committed” to the digital words on the screen like they would to printed words as well as reducing their long-term memory of the words. 

Focus: When we read on a screen we are more apt to skim the words. Admit it, you do it. You probably did it with this blog post. I do it too. When reading a printed book, we read in a linear fashion. On screen, researchers are learning that we read in a F pattern. We start out reading it all but then skim more and more the further down the page we go. Even if you don’t plan on skimming a book, your mind is so used to doing so on screens all day that when you sit down to read at night you find it hard to become engaged in a novel

Less Stress: Studies show that reading for just 6 minutes a day is enough to reduce your stress level. However, our addiction to screens and the need to be plugged in 24/7 make it hard to drop everything and truly immerse yourself to book. Reading on an e-reader that is also connected to modern technology makes it harder to simply only thinking about the book you are reading. It’s easy to be distracted. 

Empathy: We all know that reader makes us emphatic to others. Common sense right? Now studies are showing that readers who read an upsetting story on an e-reader are less emphatic than those who read a book. Can’t help but see how all the above is related to that test. 

More Sleep: You should not be viewing your phone, iPad, or TV for at least 30 minutes before you go to sleep. The lights affect your brain and sleeping pattern. Same goes for reading on an e-reader right before bed. Reading right before sleep is one of the only ways I can fall asleep easily, not about to give that up!

What do you think? Do you think e-readers are changing the way we interpret the written word? Are you a lover of books like me? Are you a die-hard e-reader? 




Recently Read Vol 1

I’m most content when cuddled up somewhere quiet with a good book.

As a previous English Major I still find myself overly enthusiastic over beautiful prose and character development. But, it’s not all about literary accolades. Believe me, I can get equally lost in a Tolstoy novel as a melodramatic beach read. I pass no judgements with books. They are my way of not only escaping but also learning about myself and the world we live in by posing questions and making me adjust my perspective.

Books are such a major part of my life, it may seem odd that I have yet to include book discussions or reviews in my blog.

But I know exactly why. And it’s incredibly selfish. Some things I like to keep private. Reading a book can be such an intimate event. I selfishly want to believe that my experience, or you may say relationship, with my cherished characters and author is one only I endure. In a way it is true, no one else will feel the same exact way as you do about say Jane Eyre or Holden Caulfield. 

Yet, another side of me loves hearing what your experiences with shared books are like. I also like getting book recommendations. (On the other hand, there is nothing worse than recommending a book that you love to a friend that ends up hating it.)

But in the end, ideas are meant to be shared. And I want to share my ideas and books and my beloved characters with you. 

After asking last week if you agreed, and many of you did, I’ve decided to start a “Recently Read” post every few books or so. Please share your thoughts and any books that you’ve recently read as well! You can also follow me on Goodreads.

Here the books I’ve read the second half of this summer:


The Secret History by Donna Tartt

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

“It’s a very Greek idea, and a very profound one. Beauty is terror. Whatever we call beautiful, we quiver before it. And what could be more terrifying and beautiful, to souls like the Greeks or our own, than to lose control completely? To throw off the chains of being for an instant, to shatter the accident of our mortal selves?”

Held at the enchanting Hampden College in Vermont in the 1980’s, reminiscent Brett Easton Ellis’s work (he and Tartt were classmates at Bennington College), The Secret History unravels a “why done it” (rather than “who done it”) murder mystery with a cast of 6 rich, privileged, and eccentric  youths obsessed with the classics and their equally eccentric teacher.

Tartt’s storytelling transforms this implausible story of murder and evil into a tale that you could imagine being told in hushed whisper among freshman classmates at any liberal arts college. I stayed up far too late many nights, enchanted by the characters, the scenery, and the gothic romanticism of Tartt’s debut novel.

I’ve heard mixed reviews about Goldfinch? Would I like it?

me before you

Me Before You by Jo Jo Moyes

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

“I thought, briefly, that I would never feel as intensely connected to the world, to another human being, as I did at that moment.” 

A heartbreaking and uplifting story about finding love in the most unexpected places. Lou is a small town girl who has lived a small life, one filled with routines and no risks. All of that changes when a quadriplegic enters her life and she begins to question everything about herself.

A spirit lifting page turner that will make you laugh and cry. I was warned before reading this book that I would be bawling my eyes out. I’m generally a big crier, but this book entertained and made me feel that “good sadness” I did not bawl my eyes out though.

A book to make you feel warm and cozy but to also question, “Am I living the life I am meant to live? Am I pushing myself to be the best me?”


East of the Sun by Julia Gregson

My rating: 2 out of 5 stars

“If you were lucky, very lucky indeed, there were one or two people in your life who you could tell the unvarnished truth too, shell and egg. And that these people held the essence of you inside them. The rest would be conversations that ended when night fell, or the dinner part ended.” 

I purchased this book on the clearance rack at Barnes and Noble. It looked like a book I’d enjoy – a historical fiction with different female character narrators taken place during a setting that I knew little about: colonial India in the 1920’s.

It’s about 3 females who depart England in route to India in hopes of getting married or figuring out who they are (or something…_) Parts were good…I learned a lot…but parts were also hokey,melodramatic, and boring. The ending was tied up all pretty with a bow – if you like that! It was still an interesting read, I don’t know if I would have bought it if it wasn’t $4.99.  


TransAtlantic by Colum McCann

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

“The tunnels of our lives connect, coming to daylight at the oddest moments, and then plunge us into the dark again. We return to the lives of those who have gone before us, a perplexing möbius strip until we come home, eventually, to ourselves.” 

Colum McCann’s one of my favorite authors (This Side of Brightness, Let The Great World Spin, Fishing the Sloe-Black River are other favorites) so I knew I was in for a treat.

TransAtlantic is a multi generational story telling various tales of people’s, you guessed it, trans atlantic voyages and new world experiences, closing the gap between Ireland and America. At first I couldn’t see how everyone was mended together but then it shown to me in all it’s beauty. I read this book, ironically, on flight.

It held me entranced with its beauty and grace. 



Summer Sisters by Judy Blume

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

“What’s the point of thinking about how it’s going to end when it’s just the beginning?”

The perfect beach read. Judy Blume’s relatable (adult) characters lifted right of the pages. I got lost in the world of Martha’s Vineyard and the friendship between two best friends over 20 years while lounging on the beach in Jamaica.

Blume gets female friendships. She demonstrates how they can be complex, simple, beautiful, obsessive, trite, and disastrous all at once. Funny, addicting, and heart breaking. I could not put it down. It caused me to buy another of her adult fiction books. 


We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

“Be sad, be sorry-but don’t shoulder it.” 

YA literature at its best. Loved, loved, loved this little coming of age book. 

I gobbled up this book in one setting, it was so good. It’s about 3 cousins and one friend who spend their summers together off the coast of Massachusetts. I can’t say much else without giving it away, but simply a short, must read.  A great mystery with a shocking twist.

I guessed the ending – let me know if you do too! 


Have you read any of the above? What are you reading right now? Let’s talk books!