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Julie - "Girl on the Move"

Recommended Reading: My 5-Star List

One of the questions my friends and family ask me the most often, is what is on my recommended reading list. I love sharing my love of books with others and my book ratings system reflects this passion. I keep track of every single book I read on Goodreads (A habit I highly recommend) and have created a system for how I give out stars.

A five-star book is a book I just want to talk about with everyone. If I read this book first on my Kindle I have absolutely bought a copy for my home library and I want to share this book with others. A four-star book is a book I really enjoyed and will talk about with anyone who likes this genre of book. I think it’s a really good book but I don’t recommend it to everyone. A three-star book is an average book that I may or may not remember in six months. A two-star book is a book that I didn’t like but I kind of keep my thoughts to myself. A one-star book is a book I don’t like and I actively tell others not to read this book.

So, here’s a look at some of my five-star books. Historical fiction usually rates higher for me and almost anything set in the UK gets an extra star because I love being transported there while I’m reading. You can head to my Goodreads page to see more of what I’ve been reading.

As with most of my posts, some links may be affiliate links. This means at no additional cost to you, I may make a small commission on anything you buy.

Recommended Reading: Fiction

After I Do – Many books wrap up with some version of living happily ever after. But what happens after that? Taylor Jenkins Reid (one of my favorite authors) writes about what happens after you say I do.

Beartown – Set in Sweden Fredik Bachman (who I’d also highly recommend as an author) explores what a town is willing to do to reach their big dreams. The sequel, Us Against You, is also excellent.

Daisy Jones & The Six The attention to detail in this book is almost unrivaled. While a complete work of fiction about a band in the 70’s, it feels so real that I stopped reading no less than five times to google the band. Only to be reminded that they were in fact imagined by Taylor Jenkins Reid (her books consistently land with 4 or 5 stars for me).

One True Loves – The book opens with, “I was sitting at dinner with my fiancee and my family when my husband called.” From that moment I was hooked. Another homerun from Taylor Jenkins Reid.

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend – As a lover of books, I love books about books. Books set in bookshops or about the love of books usually rank a bit higher than other books for me. And this was no exception.

British Fiction

If you want to transport yourself over to the United Kingdom, here is my recommended reading for a jaunt over to Great Britain. Brew a cup of tea and curl up while you read.

The Bookshop on the Corner Nina is a literary matchmaker and that sounds like an absolutely lovely job. Sometimes I dream of starting a new life that involves being a book seller. And getting to do it in Scotland wouldn’t be too bad. Jenny Colgan is one of my go-to authors when it comes to needing to be virtually transported to the UK.

The Bookshop on the Shore – Another Jenny Colgan delight. By the time I finished I was ready to pack all of my bags and move to Scotland. This book is loosely tied to The Bookshop on the Corner but doesn’t need to be read for this one to make sense. A third book will be coming out in June 2020.

True Love at the Lonely Hearts Bookshop Give me a book set in London and I’m pretty happy. Make that book about a bookshop and I’m even happier. Add in a main character I relate to deeply and I’ll probably give the book five-stars.

Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe Another favorite from Jenny Colgan (confession: I own at least 10 of her books). A fun book that inspired me to think about trying new things in my life. And it’s set in London which I always enjoy.

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Recommended Reading: Historical Fiction

Lost Roses – Set during World War I and based on a real-life heroine this was an excellent book. Martha Hall Kelly is quickly becoming a favorite author and I recommend reading this and her first book, Lilac Girls.

The Tattooist of Auschwitz – My favorite genre of historical fiction is World War II. Every time I start a book I can’t imagine learning about even more of the horrors during this this time period. And then I do. This is a powerful story, especially when you realize it’s based on someone’s life, and not just a fictional account.

No Woman’s Land: A Holocaust Novel – While I read many WWII books I don’t read many books set on the Eastern front of Germany or the Pacific Theater. So this was an excellent opportunity to learn about a different part of the war. I enjoyed this book so much I emailed the author afterwards. This is also another story based on someone’s life, and not just a fictional account.

The Nightingale Two sisters who each fought in their own way against the Nazis during WWII. While this book is a bit different from Kristin Hannah’s other books, it is definitely worth a read.

When We Left Cuba – One of my favorite quotes from this Cold War era book, “Do necessity and desperation change our moral fabric so much that we no longer recognize ourselves?” As I mentioned earlier, most of my historical fiction is WWII so it was a good change of pace for m.

Recommended Reading: Thrillers

The Kind Worth Killing Are any people the kind worth killing? I love thrillers with unexpected twist, and this one definitely provided twists!

The Last Mrs. Parrish – Oh. My. Word. I stayed up late. I woke up early. I could not put this book down and there were several jaw dropping moments. A thriller with some creepy twists!

Do you have any suggestions of books I should read? Please leave them in the comments below so we can all add to our TBR lists!

If you’re looking for more book suggestions, check out this book list I shared in a recent guest post about books that will transport you another time and place.

If you want to see how reading has inspired my travels, check out this post on a trip to Germany.

See the Countryside with a Bike Tour of Amsterdam

Cycling through the city and countryside on a bike tour of Amsterdam was one of the highlights of my trip to the Netherlands. As we cycled along canals and windmills I simply absorbed all the things to see in Amsterdam.

As with most of my posts, some links may be affiliate links. This means at no additional cost to you, I may make a small commission on anything you buy.

Taking recommendations from a few friends who had taken bike tours in Amsterdam, I decided to go with Mike’s Bike Tours. And I did not regret this decision! They had several different tour options for you to consider while you are in Amsterdam. As there are so many bikes in Amsterdam, biking is not for the faint of heart. So, I went with the Countryside tour because I just wasn’t sure I was ready to brave the chaos. The staff was incredibly helpful and our guide was excellent.

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Bike Tour of Amsterdam: The Tour

The tour begins at Mike’s Bike Tour shop, which is quite centrally located in Amsterdam. After a quick briefing on how to bike as a group we set off on our tour. There are important etiquette guidelines to follow as you bike so be sure to pay attention to the briefing. The first part of the tour is in the city but we fairly quickly reached more open paths.

Heading out to the countryside along the Amstel River provided excellent scenery as we biked! We saw people fishing, other bicyclists, and even a few windmills along the way. Our turnaround point was a cheese farm/clog factory where we stopped for a short tour. We were treated to a demonstration of how clogs (wooden shoes) are made, some tasty Gouda cheese samples and the opportunity to do some shopping. As a bonus, you’ll get to meet these guys! Then you’ll begin the return trip back to the city.

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Bike Tour of Amsterdam: The Details

Since the tour is about 40 km, or 25 miles, a decent level of fitness is recommended. I would also highly recommend bringing snacks and water along for your bike ride. I didn’t bring enough water and was a bit thirsty! While usually I like to book tours like this ahead of time, because of the weather in Amsterdam I would suggest booking once you can see a weather forecast. I had a gorgeous sunny day for my tour, but that is not always the case! As you are shopping remember that if you are traveling back to the United States you are permitted to bring back a wheel of cheese, provided it has not been opened!

If you’re looking for bike tours in other cities on your European adventure, I’d highly recommend this one in Salzburg. You’ll sing along as you discover the hills are alive with the sound of music.

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London Helicopter Tour: A Bird’s-Eye-View

There are countless tours you can take while you’re in London. Harry Potter tours, pub tours, walking tours, royal tours and just about every other kind of tour you can imagine. But the one that just might take the cake, is a London helicopter tour. Being able to see the iconic sights of London from a bird’s-eye-view is difficult to beat.

As with most of my posts, some links may be affiliate links. This means at no additional cost to you, I may make a small commission on anything you buy.

After doing extensive research for a London helicopter tour I decided to go with Heli Air, and I was not disappointed! I first took a 35-minute train from London Marylebone out to High Wycombe. Then I would recommend calling an Uber or cab to get from the train station to the airfield. I decided I would walk to save a bit of money and while it’s doable, I don’t recommend it! It would have been really inexpensive to grab an Uber or cab so I will definitely do that next time.

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A Bird’s Eye View of London

In contrast to the city, the beginning of the flight gives you a look at the English countryside. And I secretly got to imagine what it would be like to be the Duchess of Cambridge and travel to Kensington Palace via helicopter. As you pass by the Palace you can see Round Pond and Hyde Park with the London skyline off in the distance.

After passing by Kensington Palace we headed towards the city along the River Thames. And if I felt like the Duchess by the Palace, I felt just like Mary Poppins as we traveled above the river. Passing by Battersea Power Station, the London Eye, Buckingham Palace, Hyde Park, and Tower Bridge from up in the air was a tour like no other!

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My travel advice to people when they visit a new city is to take a walking tour and then climb to the highest point. This gives you an overview of the city and helps you really get the lay of the land. After my London helicopter tour I decided there’s an even better way to see the whole city than climbing to the highest point. Jump in a helicopter and fly over the city!

If you want to see my video of the tour, head over to Instagram!

If you want to explore London on foot I’d recommend visiting a few of my favorite London bookshops. If you’re visiting London at Christmas, be sure to visit my London at Christmas Bucket List. Or you can narrow down the list with my Top Five Things to do in London at Christmas.

Enjoy a Day at the Piers in Orange County

I think the first two things most people think of when they imagine visiting Orange County are the beaches and Disneyland. Orange County has 40 miles of coastline passing through seven cities. Any trip to these beaches should include stops at the piers in Orange County. With a total of five piers a trip to all of them gives you a pretty good look at the Orange County coastline.

As with most of my posts, some links may be affiliate links. This means at no additional cost to you, I may make a small commission on anything you buy through the links.

San Clemente

I’d recommend visiting the piers of Orange County from south to north because you’ll first want to have breakfast at La Galette. Located right across the street from the pier, this is delicious casual dining with a view. After enjoying a crepe walk across the street for a stroll down the San Clemente Pier. After you finishing your trip down the pier, I’d suggest a walk down the coastal path for views of the pier jutting out into the water.

Newport Beach

Newport Beach is home to not one, but two piers! The Balboa Pier was constructed in 1906 and is home to the original Ruby’s Diner. The Newport Pier is 1,032 feet long and is registered as California Historical Landmark number 794. While there is not a restaurant at the end, on a clear day you can see the Balboa Pier to the south and Huntington Beach to the north.

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Huntington Beach

In my opinion, this is probably the most iconic pier in Orange County. It is arguably the most photographed spot in Huntington Beach and at 1,850 feet in length, is one of the longest public piers on the West Coast. On a clear day the views from the end of the pier are simply breathtaking as you can see miles of coastline with snow capped mountains in the background. Stroll down the pier and watch the surfers below, browse the shops or grab a milkshake from Ruby’s Diner.

Seal Beach

Admittedly, the Seal Beach pier is not what it once was, but it’s still worth a visit! I remember walking out on the pier to the restaurant at the end as a kid. Unfortunately a fire in 2016 burned down the restaurant and damaged the end of the pier. While you’re no longer able to eat at the Seal Beach pier, the view of the coastline makes it a worthwhile stop.

If you’re looking for more things to do in Orange County, be sure to browse my Orange County Bucket List. The list has more than 150 things to do including a trip to the Redwoods and mining for gold.

Literary Connections

If you want to explore more of the Piers of the California Coast, I’d recommend the book by Ed Grant. If you are interested in the 840 miles of coastal California this is the book for you. The book will look gorgeous on your coffee table and is filled with historical anecdotes.

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Spending One Day in Ventura California

I believe that any trip to Southern California should extend beyond Venice Beach and Disneyland. As iconic as these places are, Southern California has so much more to offer. I’d recommend setting aside one day of your trip to venture just north of LA to visit Ventura. With so many wonderful things to do in Ventura, you won’t regret your visit.

As with most of my posts, some links may be affiliate links. This means at no additional cost to you, I may make a small commission on anything you buy through the links.

Things to do in Ventura: The Food

They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day so kick off your day with a yummy breakfast. Not only does Marie Shannon Confections have a fun vibe, you’ll get a yummy breakfast to fuel you for your day.

I would argue that you can’t go to a beach town in Southern California and not get fish tacos. Specifically, the fish tacos from Spencer Makenzie’s. Voted the best fish taco in Ventura and ranked in the top 50 Tacos in America, you don’t want to miss these!

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Be sure to stop by Beach House Fish located on the Ventura Pier for a happy hour drink and appetizer. Grab a table along the windows and enjoy the coastline views.

Why not wrap up your day with a Fish Waffle Cone from Coastal Cone?!? Located in Ventura Harbor Village this is the perfect spot for strolling by the boats and enjoying your ice cream.

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Things to do in Ventura: The Sights

To learn a bit about the history of Ventura I’d recommend beginning your exploration of the city with a stop at the San Buenaventura Mission. The missions are an integral part of the history of California. Continue your journey through the history of the city with a stop at City Hall. The architecture of City Hall makes me feel like I’ve stepped on the set of a movie. In 1971 the building was declared a county, state and federal historical landmark so it’s definitely worth setting aside time in your day to visit.

If you’re looking for an unrivaled view of Ventura I’d recommend a visit to the Ventura Botanical Gardens. Not only will you get to see a carefully curated selection of plant life but with an easy hike up to Grant Park you will be treated to stunning views of the city and beach below.

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You’ll also want to make sure you set aside time for a stroll down Main Street. I always enjoy popping into bookshops when I travel and Main Street has several great options. Calico Cat Bookshop and Bank of Books. While usually I don’t recommend a stop at the post office, you won’t want to miss the post office just off Main Street. Inside you’ll find Gordon Grant Murals painted in 1936-1937. The murals are listed on the Federal Register of Fine Arts and you don’t even have to pay to see them…just pop in the post office!

A trip to Ventura is definitely not complete unless you’ve stopped by Surfer’s Point. With a south facing point right hand waves roll in consistently throughout the day. Not only will you be able to watch surfing, but on days where the wind picks up you’ll also be able to enjoy watching kiteboarders and windsurfers.

As you’re planning your time in Southern California I would also suggest a day trip to Solvang or a trip out to the San Jacinto Valley. And if you want to explore what Orange County has to offer beyond Disneyland, be sure to check out my Ultimate Orange County Bucket List.

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Best Bookstores in London

One of my favorite hobbies is reading, so when I was planning my first trip to London I knew I needed to set off in search of the best bookstores in London. But since it was a bit daunting to research London book shops I decided to bring to life the London Bookstore Tour from Cierra of londonblockbyblock. This gorgeous map doesn’t include specific directions, so I sat down with Google Maps and worked out a plan to visit twelve of the best bookstores in London. If you want to explore the best bookstores in London on your own, download my Google Map for easy exploring.

As with most of my posts, some links may be affiliate links. This means at no additional cost to you, I may make a small commission on anything you buy through the links.

John Sandoe Books

Founded in 1957, John Sandoe Books is in one of my favorite areas of London, Chelsea. Set just off Kings Road you can stop by to browse the books after a bit of shopping.

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Hatchards

Founded in 1797, Hatchards is London’s oldest bookshop. The bookshop is located on one of the most famous streets in the world, Piccadilly. Additionally, Hatchards holds not one, not two, but three royal warrants, which you can see displayed above the entrance.

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National Theatre Bookshop

Located on London’s South Bank, the National Theatre Bookshop offers an unrivaled selection of playtexts. There are also books and gifts related to the theatre.

Stanfords

Another one of my favorite areas of London is Covent Garden. Add in a bookshop filled with maps and travel inspiration and I’m in literary heaven. The bookshop might look like a typical shop when you enter, but when you descend the stairs into the basement you are greeted by maps upon maps upon maps.

Persephone Books

A quite unique bookshop that actually does more business online than in the store. Founded in the 1990’s, Persephone Books only publishes reprints of books, and each book sold has a gray cover.

Daunt Books

There are several Daunt locations throughout London with the Marylebone location being the original. The store originally opened in 1912 and claims to be the world’s first custom-built bookshop. And the design has paid off because you’ve likely seen images of Daunt Books on Instagram.

Blackwells

Blackwells began in a single room with the trade of rare and secondhand books. Now they have been trading books for more than a century and there are Blackwells located all over the UK. With an even greater selection available online for worldwide delivery, including thousands of rare books.

Word on the Water

Floating in the Regent’s Canal Towpath this is definitely one of the most unique bookshops I’ve ever visited. Step onboard this 1920’s Dutch barge near Granary Square in King’s Cross and explore the books of Word on the Water.

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Owl Bookshop

Although Owl Bookshop is now owned by Daunt Books, the store retained its original name. Owl Bookshop has a truly terrific children’s section and regular author talks. Walking into Owl Bookshop gives you all the warm feelings you want when you walk into a bookshop and encourages you to stay a while.

Primrose Hill Books

I highly recommend a visit to Primrose Hill when you’re visiting London for the stunning views of the London skyline. Then stop by the family owned and operated Primrose Hill Books located in a Victorian terrace. After visiting this lovely shop, be sure to also browse their online selection.

West End Lane Books

An independent bookshop which prides itself on making excellent literary recommendations. In their own words, “We’ve been selling books, recommending books and drooling over books since 1994,” and that is exactly the kind of literary haven I enjoy exploring. Add in the delightful children’s section and this has everything you want in an indie bookshop.

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Books for Cooks

Notting Hill’s famous cookbook shop not only sells cookbooks but tests out the recipes in the in-store cafe. There are countless titles stored in every available space in the store plus mouthwatering aromas tempting you to taste the food and then buy the cookbook.

Literary Connections

Here are a few of my favorite books about bookshops, one of my favorite settings for a book.

Nina is a literary matchmaker in Jenny Colgan’s Bookshop on the Corner and she sets out from London to build a new life.

Another Jenny Colgan suggestion, because you really can’t go wrong with one of her books, is Bookshop on the Shore.

Although it is set in Iowa, US and not in London, The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend is an excellent book about a bookshop.

If you’re planning to visit London during the holidays, here’s a look at my five favorite things to do in London at Christmas.

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