The Hired Girl, by Laura Amy Schlitz

the hired girl

Reading Sara Rating: 3.5/5

Print Length: 400 pages

Publisher: Candlewick (September 8, 2015)

I had a tough time rating this book because it was well-written, lovely to follow, and I enjoyed reading it. However, it wasn’t particularly memorable. I read it about two weeks ago and am already having trouble remembering some of the character names (and had to jog my memory to remember what the ending was). So, in 2016, visit http://www.readingsara.wordpress.com for a new rating system that is more than numbers – and will hopefully better reflect my views on the books that I am reading.

I picked up The Hired Girl at an airport bookstore when I realized that I had left my Kindle at home, and was going to be away for the weekend. To be honest, I was surprised that I had not heard of this book sooner, particularly on an “If you love Downton Abbey, you will love this book” list. Well, it happens that I do fancy Downton Abbey, and I love the upstairs/downstairs story line, so this was a good read for me and as good as any airport impulse purchase can be.

Joan Skraggs is 14, and before her mother passed away, she had big plans for Joan to get out of her current life and become a teacher. Joan’s path turns out to be a little different than her mother intended. She does pave a way to a better life for herself, ends up surrounded by people who care about her. As well as a world and society that she did not even think possible – all while learning acceptance, patience and the power of books.

What I loved about this book was the importance that many people played in the raising up of this young girl – she needed support, guidance, a mother-like figure, and friendship. All of these things were found in unexpected ways and through unexpected sources.

For lovers or Anne of Green Gables, and Downton Abbey (as previously mentioned), this will be a good read.

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Book & Wine Wednesday! Last Minute Gift Buying for your Book and/or Wine Loving Friends & Family!

Book & Wine Wednesday Special Feature

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I will be the first to admit that I haven’t finished my holiday shopping. I usually get a pretty good head start with most of my family, and then get distracted and fail to complete my shopping promptly and have to suffer through going to the mall around the holidays.

So, if you have not finished your shopping, or thinking about grabbing a little something extra, I bring you the first Reading Sara Book & Wine Wednesday Gift Buying Feature! Bonus: you can still use Amazon Prime and get everything in time!

For your niece: If she loved The Fault in Our Stars and all of Rainbow Rowell’s books, she would devour Everything Everything, by Nicola Yoon. I devoured it, too, so you may want to sneak in a quick read before wrapping it. Everything Everything is a great coming-of-age story about a girl who learns to explore her world inside her head and outside, and, because it’s YA, it includes a lovely love story.

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For your crafty, travel-loving friend: Paris Coloring Book by Min Heo. I picked up this bright orange Paris Coloring Book in San Diego over the weekend. I can’t wait to color everything from Notre Dame to baguettes to the Seine. Pair the book with some beautiful colored pencils and you will be giving your adventure-loving friend hours of relaxation and dreaming in the coming New Year.

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For your work BFF: She’s the one who listens to you complain and always has a hug to give you. I recommend a badass book for this badass friend. The book, You are a Badass, by Jen Sincero is a great confidence-booster and reminder to her that she is totally awesome.

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For your sister who graduated in May and has not quite figured it all out yet:  Adulting: How to become a grown-up in 468 easy(ish) steps, by Kelly Williams Brown. Adulting is a must read for any out-on-their-own-for-the-first-timer. I went to college with the author, so am biased toward her brilliance, but truly wish I had a book like this when I was 22! It is full of creative wit with sound advice.

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For your single brother: I am a huge Aziz Ansari fan, and I bet your brother is too. Help him out with Ansari’s newest book Modern Romance. Buy the hardback, not the Kindle version of this one!

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For your Mom: I think it is a fact that all women over 55 love Robert Redford and they especially loved him in the movie Out of Africa. I recommend treating your mom to the new Paula McLain Book, Circling the Sun, reviewed by yours truly here, and the Out of Africa movie for a girl’s night in. Throw in a bottle of bubbly, recommended here, some popcorn and chocolate, and you are in for a special evening!

Circling the Sun

For your Sister-in-Law: I have a sister-in-law who is the absolute best and very much like a real sister to me. If you are as lucky as I am, you will want to get her something special. For my birthday, she bought me the complete Jane Austen Book Set from Penguin. Trust me, your sister-in-law (or real sister) will love this gift. They are so beautiful and a perfect decoration for her shelf, and (obviously) classic books to pick up and read when she needs her Jane Austen-fix. She will be surprised and delighted to find a thoughtful gift like this under the tree! Jane Austen, the Complete Works can be found on Amazon.

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For your boyfriend/husband: If he has not read the Song of Ice & Fire Series by George R.R. Martin yet, the entire set is a great gift that will last him months (this is that Game of Thrones thing that all of your friends keep talking about…but the books, which are great). If he has already read them, spruce up his collection with these pretty ones!

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For your BFF: Almost Famous Women: Stories, by Megan Mayhew Bergman. First of all, the cover itself told me that this would be the next favorite book of mine. I will post a review of this one soon, but in the meantime, I plan to give it to some of my favorite women this holiday season!

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For your other BFF: Humans of New York: Stories, by Brandon Stanton. This book came out in October and is an incredible compilation of stories that will inspire and astound you. Grab a favorite bottle of wine and read the book together!

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For Your Book Club: You all worked hard this year! Don’t forget to treat your group to something special for the next meeting! I recommend California Sparkling Wine, made by One Hope. Every bottle provides 15 meals to a child in need…So you are drinking a beautiful bottle of bubbly, talking about great books, and helping kids eat…seems like a pretty good deal to me!

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Good luck with your holidays! Don’t forget to buy yourself a book (or two or three!).

Book & Wine Wednesday! Reading Sara Review: Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling

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Why Not Me? By Mindy Kaling

why not me

Rating: 4/5

Hardcover: 240 pages

Publisher: Crown Archetype; First Edition edition (September 15, 2015)

Reading Sara Review: Reading Why Not Me? was sort of like hanging out with a best friend in your pajamas watching re-runs, telling funny dating stories and laughing. It felt like the perfect Book & Wine Wednesday post because of this – though if you are an introvert like me, reading it on a Friday night with your drink to unwind from your week might be preferable.

This book is primarily made of essays that sometimes go together, and sometimes have nothing to do with each other, except that they are snippets into Mindy’s life. Whether she is telling the story of a 4-month friendship with a popular LA girl, her dating mishaps, or her encounters with President Obama, Mindy is continuously a sharp-witted, real and great writer. This book is a quick read, not in the Gone Girl page-turner sense, but the stories are fun and the writing smooth. It would be a great book for a longer flight or a Friday night in (which is how I chose to read it recently!). This book was on my fall TRB list, and I’m glad that I finally read it.

Mindy Kaling is one hard working woman. I cannot believe that she had time to write this book while writing and starring in her television show “The Mindy Project.” I assume that she was already writing this when Fox canceled her show and she transitioned it to Hulu, so that makes it even more impressive that it was finished. It is clear that she loves to write, gets energy from making people laugh and has fun telling her stories. She jokes about how often she hears that people want to be her friend/best friend and that she doesn’t understand why. I understand why. I want to be her friend too. She sounds fun, she appears down-to-earth even though she has been hugely successful (her bit about how excited she was that Malia Obama had read her first book was adorable). She is very much the everygirl’s girl. And who doesn’t want a friend like that?

If you are a Mindy Kaling fan, you have probably already read this book. If you haven’t heard of Mindy yet, I recommend her book for a light-hearted read – I promise, you too will be impressed by how hard-working she is. She deserves the accolades and the recognition because she has earned it.

Wine Recommendation: Well, it’s winter here in Colorado, so I thought I would bring you a wine mixed with something else for a fun holiday cocktail – no matter what holiday you might be celebrating or avoiding. I like a Ginger Sparkler this time of year – bubbly but sort of makes you feel healthy with ginger…sort of. You might be thinking that this is a bit fancy for a Wednesday night – well, I truly believe that any occasion can be special, even if you are drinking by yourself reading. Why not make it classy?

Ginger Sparkler, based off of a recipe from, with a few Reading Sara Additions

2 teaspoons grated peeled ginger

½ cup of sugar

1 bottle dry, sparkling wine

½ cup of Domain de Canton

Citrus Fruit for Garnish (I like grapefruit this time of year, but feel free to experiment!)

  1. In a saucepan, boil the ginger, sugar and ¼ cup of water to make syrup. Pour through a sieve and discard solid bits.
  2. In a large jar, mix sparkling wine, Domaine de Canton and juice of fruit garnish
  3. Pour about a tablespoon of syrup into glasses, top with sparkling wine mixer
  4. Add the fruit garnish and serve!

Furiously Happy: A Funny Book about Horrible Things, by Jenny Lawson

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Rating: 4/5

Hardcover: 352 pages

Publisher: Flatiron Books (September 22, 2015)

Furiously Happy was on my Fall TRB list – which I did not get too far into, but so happy that I at least got to this one before the snow began falling here in Colorado! I can’t imagine another author who could write a book so intensely personal, about her own mental health issues, and still make it funny, relatable and good. Seriously, only Jenny Lawson can do this. For those who have not heard of her, she is The Bloggess, and I highly recommend checking it out on when you need to chuckle.  I actually learned of Jenny Lawson through her first book, Let’s Pretend this Never Happened and instantly became a fan of hers.

The things that happen to her in everyday life are things that happen to most of us – but she tells them in such a funny way, and has an eye for detail that I love, as well as just simply viewing things with an eye of someone who suffers from social anxiety – so an awkward moment for me is 10x funnier when it happens to her. This book focuses on a serious issue in our world today that isn’t often spoken about: mental health. And not only does she make her story personal, but she calls to fellow comrades who suffer from all forms of mental health issues – mild to extremely seriously – and provides an outlet of hope and assurance, and perhaps equally importantly, laughter.

Her quick tidbits about dressing up the cat and forcing him to play with her taxidermy animals were hilarious. I wish that I could be as creative in planning little pranks to pull on my husband involving taxidermy animals (I would, obviously first need to own taxidermy animals, which I don’t because they absolutely creep me out).

Her second book is not as funny as the first, I still laughed out loud – and found that I could not keep reading at night for fear of waking my husband up with my snickering. It felt shorter and a little more scattered around different stories than the first. And it was more serious, which was ok because of the serious topic she covers.

For readers who enjoy Tina Fey’s or Mindy Kaling’s writing, this is a great book to pick up when you need a good laugh and reminder that the weird things that we all do, really aren’t that weird. And even if they are, it is absolutely ok to be a little weird.