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I like choosing my next book based on my mood. Do I want an engrossing YA book? A long epic tale? A classic? An intriguing Science Fiction story?

This spring I needed a lighter book to take a break from all my dark Science Fiction novels. Everything I wanted from the library was already checked out. Nothing on my personal shelves sounded good. Then a friend recommended NetGalley. NetGalley is a site where I get an advanced reader copy (ARC) or a galley book in exchange for a review. Not a bad gig. Galley books are a gamble, because there aren’t many reviews to see if I will like a book or not. All I have to go on is a cover and little synopsis. This spring I read two netgalley books and thankfully I liked them both.


Here is my disclosure statement: I received these two books for free in exchange for my honest opinion. I’m a Candor at heart and I can’t lie.

Both RADIO GIRLS and THE MEMORY OF US take place around England in 1920s and 1930s, so I thought it would be appropriate to review them together. I think having Big Ben on both covers got me. I love stories set in London. One story focuses on a woman in a professional setting and the other focuses on a romantic relationship. Both stories are hindered by political circumstances and society’s limited roles for women. I don’t want to give too much away and spoil the stories.


RADIO GIRLS by Sarah-Jane Stratford

I was looking for a good Historical Fiction novel when I saw this beautiful cover and interesting story. RADIO GIRLS certainly rekindled my joy for Historical Fiction. Late 1920s London after WWI is a fascinating window into the history of the BBC. We know what’s going to hit London in 1940, but the characters can’t see the future.

The story of Maisie and the other characters feels like Mad Men meets Mr. Selfridge. I would even say RADIO GIRLS could have been set in the seventh or eighth season of Downton Abbey if Edith went into radio.

I enjoyed the book very much and finished it within a week. Maisie is a strong character. I appreciated her generous appetite. Everyone else adds their own spice into the mix. I enjoyed the fast and snappy dialogue. I also appreciated how the male relationships weren’t the sole focus of the novel. I don’t want to give too much away, but it was intriguing to see some of the struggles of women in 1920s London.

There were a few parts when it felt like the story wasn’t moving, but when things got going I couldn’t put it down. Be sure to read all the way through the very end. Some of the best bits are in the back.

Definitely giving this one two thumbs up and recommending it! There are also book club questions listed in the back which definitely help book club leaders.


THE MEMORY OF US by Camille Di Maio

I requested this book for two reasons. First the cover of the book is so pretty. Second, the author is a homeschool mom in San Antonio, Texas. I’m also a homeschooling mom in San Antonio, Texas and I want to support a local author.
The Memory of Us begins in 1930s England with a young debutant, Julianne Westcott, who doesn’t ignore reality, but also wants to follow her heart. I think readers who enjoyed Colm Toibin’s BROOKLYN will also enjoy this romantic tale.

The book has a Catholicism theme, but it’s reminiscent of Jane Austen using clergymen in her stories. I liked looking at the Catholic aspects through Julianne’s perspective, because I’m not Catholic and have only attended mass a few times. The balance of the church and priesthood with the overall story was done very well.

The book is romantic without being gross or bawdy. So if you are looking for a book with heart and intrigue while being clean then I would definitely recommend this one!

The book starts in the middle of the story. The mystery of what happens keeps you turning pages until very end. This book would be nice summery read.

What is your favorite book set in London? What is your favorite city to read about?


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Blogging and Books Update – May 2016

I blogged everyday for a few months in 2015. I loved creating small posts with interesting photos and sharing my art with the world. Then I simply ran out of words. I started living my life offline and my life became less complicated. For a while my husband and I blogged about paying off debt and traveling. We traveled a bit and we are still deciding what comes next for our family. We don’t have the funds to make any real decisions so we are just schooling our kids and working. Living a normal life doesn’t make for sensational blog posts.

One other reason I haven’t been blogging is because my health revolted against me. When I’m stressed out my body lets me know with small, annoying symptoms. One symptom caused me to see 5 different doctors last year. My issue could only be cured with a prescription which required a doctor visit. Sometimes I would ask for refills, but they weren’t always given. I hated the prescription, because it limited my diet and activities for two weeks. Doctors have no idea what causes the issue and can only treat the symptoms.


My main doctor prescribed yoga and said I need to chill out, because the issue could be caused by stress. I found a natural cure at my local health food store which completely cured me and I decided to chill out. I don’t “work” after the kids go to bed anymore. I like to relax while playing WordBrain, reading a book, or catching up on a show. Since I’ve stopped working after the kids go to bed I haven’t had that specific health problem in 6 months.


Still Reading


I haven’t been writing online, but I have been reading a lot of books. Reading will always be a constant in my life. I love books. At the start of this year I listed 17 books I wanted to read. It’s been 4 months so let’s see how I did on those 17 books.

Science Fiction & Fantasy


READ! A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab (Pseudonym), Victoria Schwab – 4 stars. I think the sequel will be better than the first.

READ! Seveneves by Neal Stephenson – 3 stars. I feel like I have a degree in astrophysics after reading this one. Not an easy read, but I did like the premise a lot.

READ! The Final Empire (Mistborn #1) by Brandon Sanderson – 5 stars. So far it is my favorite book of the year.

NOT YET. The Deed of Paksenarrion (Paksenarrion #3-5) by Elizabeth Moon – I still plan on reading this one this summer.

READ! The Diamond Age: or, A Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer by Neal Stephenson – 3 stars. I liked how it messed with my mind, but I didn’t love it. I did start learning how to code in Python after reading this one.

NOT YET. Ender’s Shadow by Orson Scott Card

READ! The Rule of Thoughts and The Game of Lives (The Mortality Doctrine series) by James Dashner – 4 stars and 3 stars, respectively. Fun reads, but forgettable.

NOT YET. Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank

Non-Fiction Books


ALMOST DONE. Jesus, The One and Only by Beth Moore, Dale McCleskey – I’m procrastinating, but I don’t know what study I should do next.

DID NOT FINISH. Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World by Joanna Weaver – I have such a difficult time getting through Non-Fiction.

NOPE. The Best Yes: Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands by Lysa TerKeurst – I still think it is a great premise, but I’m not going to read it.

Book Club Picks


READ! Brooklyn by Colm Toibin – 3 stars. I liked it, but I wanted more historical fiction.

CURRENTLY READING. Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard – I didn’t like it at first, but now I can’t wait to finish this one.

READ! The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood – 2 stars. I think this is a love it or hate it kind of book. I didn’t like this one at all.

SOON. Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner – This is June’s book club pick, so I will get to it.

READ! Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier – I’m glad i read it, but I didn’t love it. It did keep me up into the night to finish.

So that is 9 out of 17. That’s half my list and I’m pleased with my progress. I’ve also been reading a bunch of other books including some advance reader copies. I’m looking forward to telling you about those two galley books in my next post.

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17 Books I Want to Read in 2016

Happiness is found in a pile of books waiting to be read. My To-Be-Read shelf in 2016 is already stacked to the ceiling. These are not books being published in 2016. They are simply books I want to read. I’m in a Science Fiction & Fantasy phase, so at least half my list falls in those genres. I’ve already read 5 books this year, but here are 17 more I’m excited to read.

Science Fiction & Fantasy


A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab (Pseudonym), Victoria Schwab – I just started this one and I like this twist on magic in parallel Londons. The minimalist cover is really cool.

Seveneves by Neal Stephenson – I bought the ebook and audible book with my Amazon gift card money. I adore Stephenson’s Reamde and I can’t wait to dig into this one.

The Final Empire (Mistborn #1) by Brandon Sanderson – It’s classic Fantasy and the reviews are really good. It’s been recommended by many booktubers as one of their favorite books. It’s been on my TBR list too long.

The Deed of Paksenarrion (Paksenarrion #3-5) by Elizabeth Moon – While Christmas shopping I went through the Fantasy section of Barnes & Noble. I saw a lot of Elizabeth Moon books. I looked her up on Goodreads and found Deeds of Paksenarrion very highly rated. I had started the book 2014 and didn’t finish it, because I wasn’t in the mood for Fantasy. My friend Topher recommended the book to me years ago and I need to finish this one.

The Diamond Age: or, A Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer by Neal Stephenson – Classic Science Fiction

Ender’s Shadow by Orson Scott Card – I’ve read Ender’s Game three times and I’ve read Speaker for the Dead, but I’ve never read the story from Bean’s perspective.

The Rule of Thoughts and The Game of Lives (The Mortality Doctrine series) by James Dashner – I love the way James Dashner writes books. I liked The Maze Runner series for it’s fast paced, mind bending stories. I read The Eye Of Minds earlier this month and I can’t wait to finish this YA series. If you like the movie Blade Runner, then you’ll like these books.

Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank – I read this book in high school and I really liked it as a teenager. I’m curious to see if I still like this book as an adult. I started watching The 100 and it kind of reminds me of this book.

Non-Fiction Books


Jesus, The One and Only by Beth Moore, Dale McCleskey – Each chapter has an assigned reading from the Bible. Then Beth Moore writes a narrative and commentary about the assigned section of scripture. This book follows the life of Jesus in the book of Luke.

Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World by Joanna Weaver – This was super popular a few years ago, but I never read the book. I feel like Christians get pushed to serve and do a lot of things. I’m curious to see what this book has to say about a Christian culture of actions and serving.

The Best Yes: Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands by Lysa TerKeurst – I already feel like I’m good at saying no, but the book was $3 over the holidays so I bought a copy.

Book Club Picks


The book club I participate in picked a lot of good books for 2016. These are 5 books I’m glad we selected.

Brooklyn by Colm Toibin – I’m dying to see this Oscar nominated movie, but only if I’ve read the book first.

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard – This is my book club’s YA pick for the year. My high schooler niece is a big fan. The cover is really cool. Fingers crossed, this one is good.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood – I bought this as a Kindle book over a year ago. I’ve been too afraid to read this one, so I’m glad book club is pushing me to read it.

Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner – 1940s, England. I’m sold.

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier – This was thrown in as a joke at our book club selection party. We kept joking about it’s horrible cover so much we decided to read it. I’m 10% in and I’m picturing Max as Jon Hamm and Mrs. De Winter as Lady Rose MacClare from Downton Abbey. I’ll be glad to have this classic read.

What are you excited to read this year? 

Are you on Goodreads? Find me at AmandaEspi and add me as a friend! I love talking about books and seeing your updates on Goodreads.

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2015 Annual Review

My husband, Daniel, did a 2015 Annual Review on his blog and I’m totally copying him. Here is my 2015 Annual Review:

What went well this year?


Schooling through the summer, because they didn’t have a chance to forget everything I’ve taught them!

Schooling only 4 days a week. I get to create my own schedule, so why not give myself a three day weekend every week?


I switched my 8 year old daughter’s reading curriculum to All About Reading. She is finally reading with confidence.

Joining a Homeschool Group. We joined Hill Country Christian Homeschoolers in the fall. I love all the field trips and the Friday afternoon park meet-up where dozens of kids battle with lightsabers and nerf guns. I didn’t realize how much I needed homeschool mom friends. I feel like I found my people.


The Gym

I loved trying new classes like Barbell Strength and TCX. I worked on my running speed and ran a 7:30 mile. I also reached my goal to run a 5K under 30 minutes. I could do it around 27:00 minutes. I learned about squats, lunges, planks, burpees, more core exercises, free weight exercises, and nutrition.


I wrote 106 blog posts in 2015. Nearly 80 of them were written all in a row when I tried blogging everyday. I also published my first blog series, because I had a lot to say about marriage.


My youngest is fully potty trained! No more overnight pants or traveling potty seat. In a related note, NO MORE DIAPER BAG! I can leave the house with only my purse. This may be a small logistical change, but not carrying around a 200 pound bag is glorious in the life of a mother.

My oldest learned how to swim. Thanks swim lessons at the gym.


I have fallen in love with tabletop games and enjoy playing them with my family. Now I want to move into a large home so I can have a game room with squishy chairs at a grand table and a beverage cabinet. So anyone can come over eat dinner and play a tabletop game comfortably for four hours. Squad goals!


I read 35 books in 2015. I discovered fun graphic novels and conquered many long books including THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO. My two favorite books of the year THE NAME OF THE WIND and A DANCE OF DRAGONS are both Fantasy novels.

What did not go well this year?

Weight Loss

I’m not sure how many pounds or inches I lost last year. My scale at home is broken. I don’t like weighing myself in the evening at the gym. I felt great in August, but I didn’t maintain my 3-4 times a week gym schedule and I started gaining again. After the holidays my clothes don’t fit as well anymore.

No Travel

For a long time I was depressed we couldn’t afford to take a long, family trip. I’m sure my friends appreciated my entitled whining about the subject.


You can take a look at the bar graph on Daniel’s blog to show the roller coaster of our income. We didn’t make a lot traction toward our financial goals. Daniel’s post describes the changes we are making in 2016.

Online Live Show

I tried hosting a live show with Victoria Wilson called Blog Toast. It was super fun to try and I’m glad we did it. I learned a lot about Google Hangouts, setting up lighting, and getting more comfortable in front of a camera.


Several months after my youngest son was potty trained we tried to fix his carboholic diet. I’ve tried so many methods and failed. He still doesn’t want to try new foods.

What am I working toward?

Over the holidays I was kind of depressed how 2015 felt like a failure. A year passed by and we weren’t any closer to being a traveling family again. I believe we will take more month long family trips, but it probably won’t happen in 2016.

I thought about the things I love doing – running/working out, writing, and reading. I realized I did improve in each of those three areas and 2015 wasn’t a waste of time. So for 2016 I want to more of what I love.

Doing More Of What I Love


Running. I started a 12 week training program to run a Half Marathon in March. I’ve only completed 2 of my 48 training runs, but I think I have the time and energy to make this happen.


I’ve decided to write more essays about my personal struggles with family and body image. I may not publish these essays, but I think it will be cathartic for me to write and process. Four years ago I wrote one about my son’s hearing loss and I’m glad I have the essay to remember that moment in time. In addition, I also want to publish blog posts about the books I’m reading.



I was once asked in a life coach survey, “What are three things people cannot stop you from doing?” My immediate answer was reading. It doesn’t matter if I am discouraged or full of joy I will always be reading. Of course, my mood dictates what I read. Looking forward to tackling many books on my TBR list.



Homeschooling my kids is my main job and in 2015 I really embraced my role as a home educator.

My youngest starts Kindergarten this Spring. I think he’s ready. I like starting Kindergarten early, because now I have 1.5 years to get it done in case it doesn’t go well. If it goes well and we finish it quickly, then we start 1st grade early.

I plan to school through summer again and my daughter will be ready for fourth grade in the fall. Yay!

I didn’t think about the long term effect of catching up my 6 year old son with his older sister. Technically, he will be starting fourth grade in the fall even though he would only be in second grade at public school. I’m not entirely sure how this will work out.


In 2016 I get to continue homeschooling my kids, taking care of my family, running, writing, and reading. It’s a great life.

What are you working toward in 2016?

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