October Family Movie Series!

Every October my family also commits to watching scary (or not-so-scary when my six-year-old is awake) movies on weekends throughout month. Since I received some great feedback when I blogged about our Summer Movies Series, I thought I would put a list of the movies we pull out year after year, and a few of the scary movies we have in the queue this year.

(Read about the summer movie recommendations here https://ivejustfinishedreading.wordpress.com/2017/06/18/summer-movie-series-a-family-quest/ )

For the entire family:

  • Hocus Pocus (this is scarier for some kids than others, but our family LOVES it!)
  • ET
  • Hotel Transylvania 1 and 2
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone, Chamber of Secrets
  • Just Add Magic (Amazon original TV Series)
  • Legend of Sleepy Hollow (Disney 1930s) — find it on YouTube
  • Haunted Pumpkin of Sleepy Hollow — find it on YouTube
  • Spooky Buddies
  • Monsters Inc and Monsters University
  • Alvin and the Chipmunks and the Werewolf
  • Alvin and the Chipmunks and Frankenstein
  • Casper (Disney)
  • Daffy Duck Quackbusters
  • Toy Story Terror (2013, TV special)
  • Curious George’s BooFest
  • Dreamworks Halloween Special
  • Its the Great Pumpkin Halloween Charlie Brown
  • Scooby Doo — All of the movies and episodes are great for Halloween, but some take place on the holiday. Try the movies Goblins King, Witch’s Ghost, Frankencreepy (also episodes “Headless Horseman” “Scarecrow, “Cornfield Clem” “To Switch a Witch”)

For older kids:

  • Monster House (this is PG but it scared my kids before they were 9)
  • Goosebumps (2015)
  • The Haunted Mansion (Disney movie with Eddie Murphy)
  • The Goonies — This movie is rated PG-13 but we let our kids watch it, even our youngest, but we do cover eyes during some scenes and there are a few sex references in the opening scenes.
  • Ghostbusters (PG13)
  • Beetlejuice (PG13)
  • Fun Size (PG13 , parents should watch first as it contains lots of relationship drama)

Some movies the adults are checking out this October:

  • The Cure for Wellness
  • Get Out
  • It (we are heading to the theater to catch the remake!)
  • The Sixth Sense (we always pick a few throwbacks!)
  • Psycho (have to include this amazing classic! plan to make our teen watch to see what a true horror film looks like!)
  • Ouija
  • The Conjuring
  • Friday the 13th (got watch at least one slasher flick!)
  • Scream (and for comparison Scary Movie) which we are watching with our teen, who is convinced he is ready for horror movies.
  • X-Files — so, so many great episodes to watch. Perfect for when we’re too tired for a whole movie, but you want to be scared!









The October Book Series Continues!


I introduced the October Book Series just a few weeks after launching this blog in 2015 (read the introduction to the series here http://wp.me/p6N6mT-p ) and I have continued the tradition of reading and writing about spooky, seasonal, scary books all October long ever since. All of my picks — a collection of thrillers, mysteries, and horror novels — can be found by following the tag “October Series” on the right side of the main page of my website.

My husband and sons all have their own version of the October Book Series as well. For some of my recommendations for the little ones, you can read more here: http://wp.me/p6N6mT-N Additionally, my teenage son reviewed some of scary reads — circa 2015 — and those mini-reviews can be found here http://wp.me/p6N6mT-18

I hope you enjoy the series! Happy haunting!

“October is a fine and dangerous season in America. It is dry and cool and the land is wild with red and gold and crimson, and all the lassitudes of August have seeped out of your blood, and you are full of ambition. It is a wonderful time to begin anything at all.”

 Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain


I’ve Just Finished Reading Turns 2!

birthday 2

Today marks my second anniversary blogging about books and reading! Looking back at the past two years, I have reviewed a total of two-hundred and fifteen books and those reviews have been read by more than four-thousand people.

This blog has been a huge source of happiness for me; helping me share my thoughts about great (and not so great) books with fellow book-lovers across the country and keeping me in the habit of thinking thoughtfully about what I read and analyzing what I enjoy (or don’t) about those stories. And if I have connected just one reader with a great book, then I feel that I’ve accomplished something meaningful.

Thank you to everyone who reads, likes, comments, and follows I’ve Just Finished Reading! Happy Reading!

The Far Side Gallery by Gary Larson


One of our many, many books in the The Far Side Collection.

Around our house, in nearly every room and next to every comfy reading spot, you are very likely to find one of the many books that make up the collected works of the 1980’s and 1990’s cartoonist, Gary Larson. The one-panel strip is pure, comic genius: conveying in a few short words — often no words at all — an enormous amount about the hilarious absurdities of life or revealing the less desirable parts of ourselves that — when portrayed by Larson — are horrible and hilarious all at once. Despite the fact that the comics in the books are forty years old, the humor remains umdiminished. My family loves the books, we read them on-and-off, all year long. A rainy day, or a stressful week, might find any one of us flipping through one of the books and laughing out loud. Before long, the rest of us are drawn over to see what’s so funny and soon are all laughing.


The Far Side comic strip had a strong presence in my childhood as well, my family owned the entire The Far Side Gallery books and we were often saying to each other, “wait, wait, read this one!” When my teenage son became obsessed with following funny memes that pop up on social media, it occurred to me that he might enjoy our old copies of The Far Side books. I way, way underestimated how much he — and his brothers — would love discovering Larson’s work. The books now live permanently off the book shelves and on tables and bedsides around the house.

Since the work of Larson speaks for itself, I thought I would post of few panels that I personally love … and let them speak for themselves. Enjoy!




Summer Movie Series — A Family Quest

hello sunshine

In our family, summer is a time to accomplish some serious reading. Yes, its true that we read all year long (a lot) and that reading is at the center of all of our down-time. But in the summer, all that glorious free-time beckons us to read, and read, and read…by the pool, at the beach, on car trips, on rainy days, during half-time at soccer games and boring stretches of baseball games and any other free moment that we can find.

While reading is a major part of our summer, we realized last year that it is a solitary past-time, one that we can only share occasionally. So we instituted a Summer Family Movie Series: a list of summer-themed movies that we can watch together (some just the adults) to be entertained and spend time together. We went on a quest to make a list of all of the movies we could think of that take place during the summer, or that for some inexplicable reason seem “summery,” and decided we would watch as many as possible during the summer…whenever the familiar refrain of “there’s nothing to do” was moaned, we would go to the list and watch one.

Our goal is not to watch them all, but to see as many as possible each year and to save these titles for summer viewing only. We find that their designation as summer movies that we don’t watch otherwise during the year make them seem more special.

I thought I would post a list of our favorite summer movies on the blog, and I would welcome suggestions from readers about their favorites that we might have missed.



  • The Parent Trap — both the original, which I love, and the Lindsay Lohan version, which my kids prefer.
  • Earth to Echo
  • The Sandlot
  • Holes
  • Aliens in the Attic
  • Charlotte’s Web
  • Phineas and Ferb the Movie
  • Camp Rock
  • Teen Beach Party
  • Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer
  • Cars and Cars 2
  • Finding Nemo and Finding Dory
  • Journey to the Center of the Earth (2008 version)
  • Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (2012 version)
  • Bedtime Stories
  • Field of Dreams (this can be a bit boring for very young kids, but baseball lovers of all ages will enjoy it.)
  • All of the feature-length Scooby Doo Movies. My husband and I loved the show as kids and my kids all love it now. We own many of these movies and they are on a heavy-rotation every summer. (Side note: Scooby Doo Camp Scare takes place in summer.) Some of our other favorites include: Scooby Doo and the Samurai Sword, Aloha Scooby Doo, Pirates Ahoy, Blue Falcon, and Big Top. A full list of these movies can be found here http://www.imdb.com/list/ls070492058/


  • Super 8
  • Forrest Gump
  • Jaws — our teen is really into scary movies, this might not be a good fit for all teens. (Don’t be fooled by it’s PG rating, it was released before PG-13 designations were created.)
  • Jurassic Park 1, 2, 3 and Jurassic World
  • Indiana Jones 1-4 (our family favorite remains Raiders of the Lost Ark)
  • Independence Day and Independence Day Resurgence
  • Fever Pitch
  • Pirates of the Caribbean (our favorite remains #1)
  • A League of Their Own

FOR ADULTS (clearly some are more low-brow then others, but still watchable, some others which I watch alone because my husband refuses)

  • Rear Window
  • Endless Summer
  • National Lampoons Vacation and European Vacation
  • Before Sunrise
  • Die Hard with Vengeance
  • Dirty Dancing
  • Point Break
  • The Great Outdoors
  • Summer Rental
  • Weekend at Bernies
  • 50 First Dates
  • The Bird Cage
  • Stand by Me
  • Little Miss Sunshine
  • Friday the 13th (and to a lesser degree, Sleep Away Camp)
  • Thelma and Louise
  • The Hangover and Bridemaids — these are not an official pairing, but they are both wild wedding comedies that we seem to watch back to back every summer… definitely not for kiddos!!

Summer Reading for Kids!

Many parents I know, hope to encourage their children to use the summer months to read more, either to keep up with learning outside of school or to help them build the life-long habit of being regular readers.

Research suggests that for kids to develop the habit of reading they need:

  • Access to books, magazines, audio-books, and graphic novels. Try not to limit the content, topic, or format. Reading is reading, illustrated books and audio-books included.
  • Quiet time in their day (or week) set aside for reading, or at least without screens. Boredom can be a great motivator to read.
  • Encouragement from adults that reading is fun and valuable. The most crucial way parents can raise readers is for their children to see them reading regularly!
  • Rewards for readers — and this is critical — that re-enforce reading habits. That means reward reading with reading…more books, more trips to the library, or perhaps a purchase of a new book. Avoid rewarding them with screen time, snacks, or toys.

A favorite way that we motivate our younger kids to read: book scavenger hunts or book bingo pages! More fun than a standard book log!

My children are all very devoted readers and read all year, with the summer being a time when their reading shifts into overdrive. We do not need to encourage them to read more, per se, but we are careful to make sure that we visit the library several times a week, that we allow for quiet time for reading every day, and (this one is really important), we keep a stash a books in every car, every backpack, every pool or beach bag — so every trip, long or short, can be filled up with reading. (Side note: we stock up at the used book store in summer to prevent damage to library books.)


The Harry Potter series, enough said. If you have not read these to your kids, this summer you finally should (or alternately listen to the incomparable Jim Dale read the audiobooks to your whole family.)

The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall is a delightful book (and series) that follows a family of sisters who are always busy stirring up trouble on their summer vacations. The three delightful sequels that follow are also worth the read, readers get to see the sisters through their girlhood and into college.

My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George is a timeless tale of a boy who feels too crowded by life in the city, so he sets out to live by his wits in the wilderness. Totally fascinating stories of survival that will enchant your whole family.

The Diary of A Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney. I know, parents love to hate these books but kids LOVE them and they really are very funny. A great one to read curled up together, laughing at Kinney’s hysterical drawings.

The 13-Story Treehouse by Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton is a adorable story about the world’s most awesome treehouse — thirteen stories of pools, game rooms, junk food-filled kitchens, and more! It also has four great sequels.

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library (Chris Grabenstein) This wonderfully inventive story tells of a group of children who must work together using clues from their favorite books to find a way to escape from the new town library, built by a wacky gamemaker named Mr. Lemoncello. The sequel, Mr. Lemoncello’s Library Olpymics is just as good — maybe better — than the original.

My boys also loved classic The Phantom Tollbooth by Jules Feiffer, the story of a bored young boy named Milo who unexpectedly receives a magic tollbooth one afternoon and, having nothing better to do, drives through it in his toy car, transporting him to the Kingdom of Wisdom, once prosperous but now troubled. Also a classic to read this summer is Half Magic by Edward McMaken Eager, which will have you and your kids scrambling to do the math on just how to make the perfect wish!

Absolutely everything by Rick Riordan (by kids love the narrator of his audiobooks too!) and all of the kids books by James Patterson are sure to thrill young readers too!

How to Train Your Dragon series by Cressida Cowell, so funny and filled with ridiculous translations and tips for dragon-care.


The Amulet series by Kazu Kibuishi

Anything by Raina Telgemeier, particularly her novels Sisters and Smile.

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson

Try the gorgeously illustrated novels that re-tell the Star Wars stories, The Star Wars Illustrated Series (3 book but various authors) http://www.goodreads.com/series/150336-star-wars-illustrated-novels


Anything by Rainbow Rowell! I have reviewed all of her books (YA and Adult) on this blog and I keep begging my friends, sister, husband, son, and everyone else to read her books. For Harry Potter fans try Carry On (http://wp.me/p6N6mT-m6) and for those who love a heart-wrenching teen romance pick up Eleanor & Park (http://wp.me/p6N6mT-nD)

Another great YA read is the His Dark Materials — The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass —  series by Philip Pullman. You will be entranced by these fantasy novels about parallel worlds whose residents are locked in an epic battle with the dark side.

Lois Lowry’ slim sci-fi dystopia, The Giver, is also a wonderful book (and a wonderful series) that you can finish in one lazy afternoon. If you are a fan of The Hunger Games series, you will love this one as well. Other notable YA sci-fi: The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins are all worth read, as are Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game series, and Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One.


You can print these out full-screen to post on the fridge to help your kids keep track of reading!

Summer Reading for 2017!


Here in the US, Memorial Day weekend — which begins tomorrow — marks the unofficial start of summer: pools and water-parks open, the weather is warm, school is almost out, and the lazy days of summer are stretching out in front of us for the next three months.

Last year I published a list of books to enjoy during summer vacation, and I heard from lots of readers who appreciated the list. Here is the list for adults again, with all new books added for 2017! A list for kids and young adults will be coming soon.



I love at the Australian author, Liane Moriarty, and her books are all deliver wild, twisting, melodramas with a great sense humor. My favorites are Big Little Lies, What Alice Forgot, and The Hypnotist’s Love Story (http://wp.me/p6N6mT-g6)

Any book by British author Jojo Moyes would be perfect for summer reading. Her books tend to be emotional, romantic dramas with characters you cannot help but fall in love with. I would highly recommend her World War I drama, The Girl You Left Behind, if you like historical fiction, but her present day books One Plus One (http://wp.me/p6N6mT-dS) and Me Before You and its sequel, After You (http://wp.me/p6N6mT-1W) are also gems.


Into the Water by Paula Hawkins. The latest book by The Girl on the Train author, even better and more chilling than her first. An exploration into a river that has claimed the lives on many women over the centuries…and the secrets the nearby town holds about those deaths. http://wp.me/p6N6mT-2jB

The 12 Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti is a coming of age drama and a revenge thriller rolled into one. Really compelling and wonderfully written! http://wp.me/p6N6mT-2cW

The Perfect Stranger by Megan Miranda about a disgraced journalist trying to solve a crime that she is suspected of being involved with. http://wp.me/p6N6mT-2oB

The Girl Before by JP Delaney about a hi-tech house of the future that controls the lives of the women who are “selected” to live there. http://wp.me/p6N6mT-2hq


The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende is a family drama the covers a decades-long secret love affair; with gorgeous discussions on love, family, racism, war, grief, marriage, and aging. http://wp.me/p6N6mT-1Gx

All the Light You Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. Simply put, this is one of the best books I have ever read. An amazing tale of WW2, as explored through the experiences of two young children…utterly spell-binding. This is the blog post that I am most proud of as well, http://wp.me/p6N6mT-7C

The Blue Hour by Laura Pritchett is a story of several people living on a mountain in Colorado, whose lives are at once isolated and deeply intertwined. Gorgeous! http://wp.me/p6N6mT-1XY

Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff is a unique story of a family’s legacy as the founders of a small NY town, told in a wild and experimental style that is fresh and engaging. http://wp.me/p6N6mT-Po

The Light Between Oceans by ML Stedman is a heart-wrenching story of two people whose grief makes them raise a baby girl as their own. http://wp.me/p6N6mT-2ic


Anything by Elin Hilderbrand, whose books are all set on the island of Nantucket and never fail to deliver a great story with wonderfully written characters, a dash of drama, and lush descriptions of Nantucket and its residents. My favorites are: Barefoot, The Island, Beautiful Day, and (for a dash of magic and love) The Matchmaker.

I would be remiss if I did not add Jaws by Peter Benchley to the list, just read it by the pool not oceanside. Perfect to pair with a viewing of the classic Spielberg movie.


I know, I know almost everyone had read this book, but just in case you missed it, Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl (and also her equally stunning book Sharp Objects) are spine-tingling thrillers with diabolical female characters. You will not be able to put them down, I promise.

I also loved Girl on a Train by Paula Hawkins in which a wildly unreliable narrator takes readers along while she tries — with great difficulty — to solve a missing person case and to keep her own life from unraveling completely.

If you are up for supernatural horror novel that will keep you up at night, try Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill (http://wp.me/p6N6mT-D) which matches up two wild characters with checkered pasts and cursed artifact for a terrifying ghost story. I was so scared reading this my husband had to walk me to the bathroom every night for a week!


Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver is a book about our complex, convoluted, and ultimately beautiful relationship with nature; told with such restrained brilliance that I want to read every single sentence out loud to my husband while reading (and often do!) http://wp.me/p6N6mT-pZ

If you prefer a non-fiction exploration of our relationship with the natural world, pick up a copy of Michael Pollan’s Second Nature or The Botany of Desire. Although he is now known for his food writing, his books about nature are both outstanding and well worth reading for a gorgeously written, deeply researched, but totally accessible discussions about the great outdoors.


The Cormoran Strike books, written (under a pseudonym Robert Galbraith) by the incomparable J.K. Rowling, are three thrilling and highly literate PI murder mystery novels, with a touch of humor, page-turning story lines, and with two main characters that you can’t help but want to follow down the next dark alley. Not to be missed! (http://wp.me/p6N6mT-1l)

For those who can handle very grisly murder mysteries, I highly recommend all the books by author Karin Slaughter. Her stand alone book Pretty Girls (http://wp.me/p6N6mT-21  was so exciting that I ignored my husband for entire day on vacation to finish it, but I also adore both the Sara Linton (Book #1 http://wp.me/p6N6mT-bU ) and Will Trent ( book #1 http://wp.me/p6N6mT-hL ) series of murder mysteries by her as well.

If you prefer a mystery that has no gore whatsoever, try out the Maisie Dobbs mystery series by Jacqueline Winspear. Set between WWI and WWII in England, these wonderful written, historically accurate stories about a young, female private investigator trying to solve crimes and forward her position as a single woman in a time where women are largely kept at home. Reviews of the most recent two books in the twelve book series, here http://wp.me/p6N6mT-5n and here http://wp.me/p6N6mT-iH


My perennial favorite, Nora Roberts, is the queen of romance novels to read beachside. If you are in search of supernatural romance, try Three Sisters Island trilogy which follows three witches who must use their powers to stop an dark, menacing presence haunting their beloved island. I also adore her family saga The Chesapeake Bay Saga (four books) which follows four men as they build a business, a family, and four lasting marriages…wonderful!

If you like a large dose of humor with your romances, there is no better book series to pick up for your next trip to the pool than Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum books. These books are so ubiquitous that you can find stacks of them at any thrift shop! Start with book one, One for the Money, and read right through to number Tricky Twenty Two (http://wp.me/p6N6mT-3x ) to laugh along with bounty hunter Stephanie Plum and her largely incompetent set of companions. Are these books silly and at times nonsensical? Sure. Are they also hysterical and a ton of fun to read? Absolutely. Last summer I re-read all of them and they were still great even though I knew who-done-it.


Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert is a travelogue and memoir that I enjoy immensely every time I re-read it.

Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods and Wild by Cheryl Strayed are totally different but equally compelling stories of hiking and self-exploration. Bryson’s Neither Here Nor There about his 1980s travels in Europe is also a great read, http://wp.me/p6N6mT-1yk

Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck is a classic that tells the amazing story of an American family forced to emigrate from their home during the Great Depression. Upon re-reading it I found its themes of poverty, immigration, and farm workers rights, are all still deeply powerful and relevant.

My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem is a travelogue and a memoir, as well as a history of American feminism. Full of stories of the women and men around the country, in big cities and rural towns, and all of the amazing things they have taught her about what in really means to be an American.