Modern Map Art – Review

My dad is a map-person. He has tons of different maps. Everything from small county maps to huge atlases of the entire country. I remember when planning a trip he’d get out the map or maps he needed, spreading them out on the kitchen table. He still does this even though he has the technology not to need to. He likes to know where he’s headed.

Before I had my smartphone with my trusty maps app, I would print Google Map directions to where I was headed. Even if I had been there before, if I was going somewhere outside of my usual route, I printed a map. My mom did this too; she might still do it. Dennings do not like to get lost.

Maps are good at showing us where we are and where we are going. But they can also remind us of where we’ve been. I was recently asked by Jennifer from Modern Map Art to review one of her maps. I decided not to pick where I live now but where I used to live. I chose Columbus, our capital city and one of the several places I’ve called home in Ohio.

Kenneth and I spent the first four years of our marriage in Columbus. I can see the street where we lived on the gorgeous black and white print Jennifer sent me. A lot happened in those four years. We learned to navigate the city after growing up in a small town and going to college in a small town. Kenneth went through the most grueling academic period of his life, veterinary school. I started my first real adult job as an educator at a botanical garden. We found new favorite restaurants and parks.

Adjusting to life in the city was hard. By the time we left Columbus I had finally decided that I liked the city and that I would miss it. And I do. Columbus is unique. It’s an artistic, diverse, vibrant and energetic city. Columbus has beautiful parks, museums, and creative communities.

Check out Modern Map Art. Besides map posters of cities and countries, there are also city skyline prints. There are accessories too, iPhone cases, and map pillows. You can even create your own custom map! You could cover your wall with maps of your travels. You could decorate your couch with pillow maps showing where you want to explore in the future. You could even get a map of where you’re from and put it on a case for your iPhone. We don’t need paper maps anymore to get where we need to go. But maps are still a big part of connecting us to our past, present and future.

Thank you Modern Map Art for letting me frame the only big city I’ve ever called home!


Modern Map Art

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Thank you to Modern Map Art, for sponsoring this post. All opinions are my own.

Book Life: End of 2015 Reviews

End of Year Books

Happy New Year This Ohio Life Readers! I hope your 2016 is off to a fantastic start! I’m hoping January will be a slower month for me than November and December were, which will allow me to post here more often. Here are my final thoughts on my 2015 Reading Challenges!

November and December this year have been a blur! I have been so busy with work that I ended my 2015 Reading Challenge early, just one month short of completion. I read and listened to six books in November, but did not have time to do my usual booktography and book reviews. Instead of completely giving up the ghost on November’s challenges, I did some quick photos and very brief reviews (basically just stars and what challenges I read each book for).

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Books read:

Her Fearful Symmetry + The Little House

As for December, I’ve read a couple chapters of Mindy Kaling’s new book, Why Not Me?. It’s just been too busy busy busy for much more reading than that. I did spend a significant amount of time worrying about not finishing my reading challenges and how I could find more time in my day to complete December, as well as photograph and review my November reads.

In the end I’ve realized that it’s ok to not be perfect. These are reading challenges, after all, they are meant to challenge me. And challenge me they did!

I did complete some challenges in their entirety, including the Full House Reading Challenge 2015, pictured below. Other challenges that I fully completed include:

Let Me Count The Ways Reading Challenge
Pages Level: Multi-Diamond: 10,001+ pages. I read 14,960 pages in 2015!
Audio Level: Silver: 76 – 150 hours. I listened to 114 hours of books in 2015!

Library Challenge
Level: GOING PRO! 28 + check outs in 2015. I Checked out and read 61 library books in 2015!

Women Challenge
Level 4: WONDER WOMAN 20+ books written by women writers. I read 44 books by women writers in 2015!

Diversity on the Shelf
Level: 2nd Shelf: 7 -12 books with main character that is a person of color or is written by an author of color. I read 7 books for this challenge in 2015!

Full House Reading Challenge

Here are some 2015 Reading Challenge Stats that I found interesting:

65 books read (goal was 75): I’ve never counted how many books I read in a year before, so I don’t know if 75 was overly ambitious or not. I think I did a pretty good job though, especially considering the fact that in 2015 I worked at four different companies and moved!

Favorite Challenge + Least Favorite Challenge: my favorite challenge was the Library Challenge! It wasn’t much of a challenge for me though since I rarely buy books and have had a library card since before I could actually read. 😉 My least favorite challenge was the Birthday Month Reading Challenge. I liked knowing the birth date of the author I was reading that month, but the information is really hard to find if the author isn’t really well known.

Most common rating: 5 stars. I gave 31/65 books this year a 5 star rating. I gave no books 0 stars and only gave two books 2 stars.

Most read authors: 3 way tie between Mindy McGinnis, Suzanne Collins and Ann Aguirre. I read 3 books by each of these amazing women writers.

Quick glance at 2016 books I plan to read: Whatever I want to read. I’m taking a break from reading challenges this year. I will still read read read, but I will read whatever I want and what my book club(s) read. I want to challenge myself this year to discuss more books. I may still post reviews and I may still create booktography photos, but nothing is set in stone.

Book Life: October Book Reviews


Hello there readers! I am really really late in posting my October book reviews! I’ve been really busy lately, with the move and Kenneth and I both starting new jobs.

A quick little update on our move: we moved from the Cincinnati area to Miami County at the end of October. We moved on a Friday, the next day was the RIP Run 5K (Run in Piqua), which Kenneth and I both participated in (he ran, getting second place in his age group, my mom ran, getting third place in her age group and I walked with my dad). On Sunday we unpacked and did our grocery shopping for the week and we both started new jobs on Monday. I’d like to say that things have slowed down in the two and a half weeks since we moved into our new place, but it hasn’t. Sad Smilies

I’m hoping to get a few posts up this month and next, but I’m working extra hours at two part-time jobs during the holiday rush. I’m working at my favorite coffee-chocolate shop and the pride of Piqua, Winans, as a barista and in the candy factory. I’m also helping with office work and making gift baskets in my mom’s office.

I’m still reading and writing though! Expressive Smilies I just submitted a story I wrote for an anthology about sirens and am itching to get back to my story about Halldora, the witch who steals children and then accidentally turns them into plants. Nature Smilies

Even with the stress of the move last month, or perhaps because of the stress of the move, I managed to finish six books. Not bad for a very busy October.

Books read:

The Ice Twins

The Ice Twins

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I had a hard time putting The Ice Twins by S.K. Tremayne down. The story alternates between Sarah and Angus Moorcroft, parents of identical, blue-eyed and blonde haired twins, Lydia and Kirstie. The events in the book take place a year after one of the twins falls to her death off a balcony. The family resettles on a lonely island in Scotland’s Inner Hebrides in a now rotting cottage where Angus spent his summers as a child. The chilling climate matches the mood set when Kirstie, the surviving twin, says she’s not Kirstie, but Lydia. What follows is a fascinating thriller as Sarah tries to solve the mystery of her daughter’s tragic death and Angus struggles to keep his family together. At points the story takes on a spooky ghost story element when the surviving twin claims to see her dead sister. I love atmospheric thrillers and The Ice Twins certainly fits the bill!

I’m counting the The Ice Twins for the Let Me Count The Ways Reading Challenge and the Library Challenge.

The Martian

The Martian

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My husband, Kenneth, and I listened to The Martian by Andy Weir on Audible as we drove to Michigan and then back home in September. If I had known beforehand how much math, physics and chemistry was involved in the plot of the book, I wouldn’t have expected to like it, let alone love it enough to give it five stars (math was always my worst, most hated subject in school).

Mark Watney is an astronaut/botanist/engineer who gets stranded on Mars when the mission his crew is on is cancelled due to a massive sandstorm. During the evacuation, Watney is struck by flying debris and his crew can’t find him in the storm. The debris also struck his bio-metrics monitor, so Watney is presumed dead. Watney is indeed alive and must “science the shit out of this” situation by growing potatoes on a planet where nothing grows, burning water out of hydrogen fuel and taking a part and rebuilding millions of dollars worth of NASA equipment.

The book and the film, which was released October 2nd of this year, remind me of Cast Away and Apollo 13, minus Tom Hanks. I really think Mark Watney should have been included in the obtuse math problems I had to struggle through in high school. I still can’t get over how much I enjoyed this book when it has so much math in it. It’s insane!

I’m counting this book for the Let Me Count The Ways Reading Challenge.

In a Handful of Dust

In a Handful of Dust

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In a Handful of Dust is the sequel to Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis, which I read in August. The second book takes place ten years after the first, Lynn is now 26/27 years old and her adopted daughter, Lucy, is 16/17. An outbreak of polio in Lynn and Lucy’s community sends the two women west. There have been rumors of a town in California with desalination plants, a place that never has to worry about water. What follows is a beautiful, dangerous and gripping walk across the US. You can see the path Lynn and Lucy take, here on Epic Reads.

I loved seeing the journey through Lucy’s eyes. I have been to Colorado, once, and I flew in a plane so I’ve never seen the Midwest or the West in person and Lucy describes it in detail. From the sweeping plains of the prairie to the towering heights of the Rocky Mountains, I wanted to join Lucy and Lynn on their journey (I’d prefer to bring some fancy hiking gear though, they have it really rough for most of the journey). Hearing about the women struggle with hunger, altitude sickness, dehydration and the whims of mother nature and the weather was heartbreaking and fascinating. I hope to never experience their ordeal first hand. I think this quote from the back cover sums the book up perfectly:

“What Laura Ingalls Wilder might have penned if she’s traveled a frontier imagined by Cormac McCarthy.”
– Ilsa J. Bick, author of the Ashes trilogy

I listened to the audio book version of In a Handful of Dust and am counting it for the following challenges: the Let Me Count The Ways Reading Challenge, the Library Challenge and the Women Challenge.

The Lifeboat

The Lifeboat: A Novel

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The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan was our October read for the book club my mom, sister and I have. The story takes place in 1914, two years after RMS Titanic sank after striking an iceberg in 1912 and just a year before the RMS Lusitania was torpedoed and sunk by a German U-boat in 1915. Grace Winter and her newly wed husband, Henry, are crossing the Atlantic to return home to American when an explosion causes the ocean liner they are on to sink. Henry gets Grace on an already full lifeboat, which she and 38 other people are set adrift in for twenty-one days before they are rescued. When Grace makes it to that States, she and two other women from her lifeboat are put on trial for murder.

I really enjoy historical fiction as well as mysteries so this book was right up my alley. Grace is young, just 22 years old, but she is definitely a survivor. As she recounts the events that happened in the lifeboat she also explains how she came to marry Henry, a rich banker, in order to avoid having to become a governess like her sister after her father’s business went under. Grace is also an unreliable narrator, even after finishing the book I’m not fully certain of her guilt, or innocence.

I read that Anne Hathaway is producing and staring in a film adaptation of The Lifeboat, which I would be excited to see. In addition to reading this book for our book club, I am also counting it for the Let Me Count The Ways Reading Challenge, the Library Challenge and the Women Challenge.


The Werewolf of Fever Swamp

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I remember reading the Goosebumps series as a kid and thinking it was so cool that R.L. Stine is from Ohio. I can’t remember if I read The Werewolf of Fever Swamp before or not, but it was an enjoyable book to listen to about a kid, Grady, and his family after they move to Florida and weird things start happening in their swampy neighborhood. The book was a really quick read and it made me nostalgic for the books I used to read as a kid and excited for Halloween. I’m counting this book for Birthday Month Reading Challenge (R.L. Stine was born on October 8th, 1943), Let Me Count The Ways Reading Challenge, Library Challenge and the Monthly Motif Challenges (goblins, and ghost + ghouls theme).


A Madness So Discreet

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I loved A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis! When I read that the author of Not a Drop to Drink and In a Handful of Dust was writing a book set in an Ohio asylum, I knew I had to read it. The asylum is based on the Athens Lunatic Asylum, which still looms over Ohio University where I went to college. I was so sure I would love this book that I went to Books by the Banks to get a signed copy and meet Mindy McGinnis!

The book follows a young girl, Grace, who has been institutionalized by her wealthy family to hide her father’s crimes. She’s not mentally ill, instead she’s incredibly intelligent and has a photographic memory. She is whisked away from the cruel Boston asylum to one in Ohio by a doctor who is studying the minds of criminals. Grace becomes his assistant, though she has to pretend to be ill in order to hide from her family. I read this book slowly, savoring the writing and thoroughly enjoying the descriptions of the Athens Lunatic Asylum. McGinnis did her research and paints a detailed portrait of a hospital that treated its patients well (based on the medical knowledge of the time) and allowed them to work and freely explore the gorgeous hospital grounds. I appreciated the way McGinnis respectfully wrote the characters with mental illness, she did not make fun of them or make broad generalizations. As a college student, I spent a lot of time exploring the asylum grounds, now known as The Ridges. The property is now owned by Ohio University, some buildings are now office space, one is an art gallery and others are closed to the public. When Grace describes the asylum as looking like a castle, she’s absolutely right – The Ridges are beautiful and I enjoyed getting to “visit” again!

I’m counting this book for the Let Me Count The Ways Reading Challenge and the Women Challenge.

Challenges worked on this month:

I unfortunately did not complete the Monthly Key Word Challenge for October, just could not fit another book in!

Since we are still in the process of unpacking and deciding where our books will live in our new place, I unfortunately do not have a group photo of the books I want to read in November. I have, however, gotten a library card for my new local library and have already finished two audio books for this month!

Book Life: September Book Reviews

September Books

Fall has officially started and I’m ready to read some spooky ghost stories and creepy thrillers! In September I tried to read six books, but I only finished five. I couldn’t get into Kitty Cornered, which surprised me, because cats. 😉

Book reviews are below!

Books read:

Northanger Abbey

Northanger Abbey

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I’ve been reading Jane Austen’s work since I was in junior high, starting with Pride and Prejudice, which I’ve read several times. I have read some other of Austen’s books, but I can’t remember which ones I have finished. I used to start reading an Austen novel during winter breaks home from college, but couldn’t finish it in time before classes started. I know I’ve read part of Northanger Abbey at some point… but I have no idea if I managed to finish it the first time. Since I’m so fuzzy on which books I’ve read I decided to listen to them all as audio books.

I really enjoyed Northanger Abbey! I identify with the main character, Catherine Morland, much more than I expected to (all the quizzes I’ve taken say I’m more like Elizabeth Bennet :mrgreen: ). Catherine is obsessed with creepy Gothic novels and highly prone to suggestion. Her overactive imagination causes her to freak out on several occasions when staying with a friend in her family’s abbey. At one point Catherine convinces herself that her friend’s father must have murdered her mother based on the location of the mother’s portrait. 😯 I haven’t suspected an acquaintance of murder, but I don’t see it as being beyond my brain’s capacity to come to such a bizarre conclusion as Catherine’s did because of some odd detail I notice. 🙄 I found her naïveté and love of ghost stories charming. The story takes a while to pick up at first, but other than that I loved it!

I’m looking forward to listening to more of Jane Austen’s books! I’m counting Northanger Abbey for the Let Me Count The Ways Reading Challenge, the Library Challenge and the Women Challenge.

Very Good Lives

Very Good Lives

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Very Good Lives is the book version of J.K. Rowling’s 2008 commencement speech at Harvard University, along with illustrations by Joel Holland. It’s a quick and incredible read. It made me wish Rowling could have been my commencement speaker when I graduated from Ohio University (I used my high school tassel and cords for the above photo, they matched the cover so nicely 🙂 ). There’s so much wisdom, hope and joy packed into this little book – it’s a good read for no matter what stage of life you’re in!

I read Very Good Lives for the Let Me Count The Ways Reading Challenge, the Library Challenge and the Women Challenge.

Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

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I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up as part of my continuing quest to simplify and de-clutter my life. The book contains a lot of helpful tips along with some rather eccentric suggestions. I will not be following every aspect of the “KonMari Method” but I did take away some helpful advice. The most helpful thing I learned from this book is to ask myself if the object I’m holding sparks joy in my life. This simple question makes it a lot easier to get rid of items I no longer need, but might still be useful. Instead, I spend my time and energy taking those items somewhere that they can be used, like Goodwill or the Salvation Army.

Marie Kondo has some other helpful tips: you should start organizing your home with your clothes first and save family momentos for last. Sort everything by category so you know what you have. I did this with all the pens and pencils in our apartment recently – we had waaay too many pens, but it wasn’t obvious until they were all together.

Some of the odd suggestions included very specific instructions for folding your clothes, telling you not to keep any paper and that the “magic” of tidying up is that when you use Marie Kondo’s method you will find your purpose in life, get clearer skin or lose weight because of the toxins released by “detoxing” your home. 😕 Like I said, I won’t be using everything I read in this book, but it does have some useful ideas.

I’m counting The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up for the Let Me Count The Ways Reading Challenge, the Library Challenge and the Women Challenge.

Sharp Objects

Sharp Objects

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Gillian Flynn is amazing! My mom, sister and I read Sharp Objects for our September book club and I have already borrowed Dark Places from the library to read this month. I felt the first couple of chapters were a little slow, but other than that I couldn’t put this book down! The story follows Camille Preaker as she returns to her hometown to cover a story about the disappearance of a teenage girl for the newspaper she works for in Chicago. She ends up uncovering clues about a decades old crime with her extremely dysfunctional, psychologically damaging family at the center of it. This book is smart, well written and down-right creepy!

In addition to reading  Sharp Objects for our little book club I also read it for the Let Me Count The Ways Reading Challenge, the Library Challenge and the Women Challenge.

Kitty Cornered

Kitty Cornered

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This book has inspired a future blog post about finishing books, not finishing books and how I define a one-star versus five-star book review. I hate not finishing books. Hate it. I blame being a perfectionist and the desire to be a perfect student during school. I read every single book assigned to me up til my last year of college, with the exception of Ordinary People by Judith Guest, which I skimmed because the vivid descriptions of blood bubbling out of the wrist of a depressed and suicidal teenager was too much for my brain, heart and stomach to handle. I still feel guilty about the college class I blatantly did not read the assigned text for, the guilt being only compounded by the fact that I still received an “A” for the class.

I digress because I don’t like bashing books simply because I couldn’t get into them. I did not finish reading Kitty Cornered. Shocking, right? That’s what my one-star review means, if I give a book a single star it’s because I most likely didn’t finish it. This book made it painfully clear to me that, with the exception of celebrity cats (I love you Maru!), nobody’s cats are as interesting as your own. My veterinarian husband rolled his eyes at me when I made this declaration, since he came to the same conclusion eons ago.

I was reading Kitty Cornered for the Monthly Key Word Challenge and Monthly Motif Challenges as well as the Let Me Count The Ways Reading Challenge and the Library Challenge. Since I didn’t finish the book I’m not counting it for the challenges and moving on with my life. In addition to my epiphany about strangers’ cats, I also realized that there are too many books in the world I want to read to spend time on one I don’t like. Also I’m an adult now and I can read or stop reading any book I damn well please. 😉

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon

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I need to stop reading books about kids lost in the woods if I want to keep hiking in them (see my review of The Bear: A Novel by Claire Cameron in my July book reviews)!

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon tells the story of Trisha McFarland, a nine-year old  girl who gets lost while hiking on the Maine-New Hampshire section of the Appalachian Trail. She steps off the trail to go to the bathroom and ends up getting very turned around when she tries to take a shortcut to catch up with her brother and mom. What follows are encounters with insects, snakes, mud and swamp goo that made my skin crawl and many cold, hungry nights spent alone in the woods. As Trisha tries to find her way out of the woods she also attracts the attention of something evil in the woods.

For the most part I enjoyed this book, though it’s not my favorite Stephen King novel. It starts out slow and I found some of the Trisha’s thoughts and dialogue a bit mature for a nine-year old. I’m counting this book for the Birthday Month Reading Challenge (Stephen King’s birthday is September 21st!) the Let Me Count The Ways Reading Challenge and the Library Challenge.

Challenges worked on this month:


I love fall and Halloween so I picked ghost stories and thrillers for this month. I even picked up a book from the juvenile fiction section of the library that glows in the dark! :mrgreen: I’ll also be celebrating All Hallow’s Read this month – look for more about this budding Halloween tradition in a future blog post!