Honey and Peanut Butter Energy Bars

I always seem to be on the move…and though I often fail, I try to pack my purse with healthy snacks.  Energy bars, fruit, or cheese sticks are my go-to’s…but those energy bars and power bars are often packed with tons of sugar and carbs and may not be as healthy as they seem…

So I’ve decided to start making my own!

energy-bars

Packed with protein and natural sugars for a burst of energy, these Honey and Peanut Butter Energy Bars actually taste delicious and are super filling.  The addition of dates helps give these bars a great chewy texture, and they’ll last a good 2 weeks in the fridge.

One batch will make about 8 large bars or 10-12 smaller bars.  I go smaller with these because they are filling, but they are great for breakfast on the go or a snack before a workout.

Honey and Peanut Butter Energy Bars

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 10 dates, pitted
  • 1 cup peanut butter (the drippy kind works best)
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 scoops vanilla protein powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 cup chocolate chips (optional)

Instructions:

Prep an 8 in. or 9 in. square pan with parchment paper, letting excess paper hang over edges.  If you don’t have parchment paper, you can also spray the pan with non-stick cooking spray.

Place rolled oats in food processor and process on high for about 1 minute, or until oats have been turned into oat flour.  Remove and set aside.

Combine the dates, peanut butter, honey, vanilla extract, protein powder, salt, and walnuts in food processor and pulse a few times to chop up the dates.  Add the oat flour and process until well combined.  Pour into prepared pan and press into cake pan.  Top with chocolate chips, if desired.

Place in freezer for 30 to 60 minutes to set.  Remove and cut into bars.  Store in fridge in plastic bags for up to 2 weeks.

Every Monday is a “Reci-bee” post, where I share my favorite recipes, recipe collections, and cooking and baking hints and tips. 

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24 Authors Share Their Favorite Books

Good writers know the secret to writing…they read. They read a lot. When I took writing classes in college, most of our time was spent reading and analyzing various novels and poems to help inspire a jolt of creative energy – and your favorite writers are no exception.

Below is a list of books well-loved by some of our most popular writers, both past and present. J.K. Rowling, Maya Angelou, Mark Twain, and many more share their top pick of favorite book. Do you share any favorites with these authors?

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24 Authors Share Their Favorite Books

Ayn Rand (Atlas Shrugged)
Favorite Book:  Calumet K, Henry Kitchell Webster
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A novel about the problems encountered in building a grain elevator in Chicago. It’s a refreshingly honest portrayal of labor unions and morality.

Ernest Hemmingway (A Farewell to Arms, The Sun Also Rises, The Old Man and the Sea)
Favorite Book:  Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
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A story about a woman who has an affair and is given a choice between going into exile or remaining with her family and abiding by the rules of discretion.

Joan Didion (The Year of Magical Thinking, Slouching Towards Bethlehem)
Favorite Book:  Victory, Joseph Conrad
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Axel Heyst, a dreamer and a restless drifter, decides to cut himself off from humanity on a remote island. When he rescues a young English girl, their relationship becomes a perceptive study on power and love.

Ray Bradbury (Fahrenheit 451, Dandelion Wine)
Favorite Book:  John Carter: Warlord of Mars, Edgar Rice Burrough
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John Carter is the greatest hero of two worlds! Marvel at these classic tales of danger and daring as Carter battles deadly opponents, warring civilizations and a host of Barsoomian beasts.

George R. R. Martin (A Game of Thrones)
Favorite Book:  The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien
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You know the story…hobbits, rings, friendship, talking trees…

Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl)
Favorite Book:  And Then There Were None, Agatha Christie
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First, there were ten – a curious assortment of strangers summoned as weekend guests to a private island. Their host is nowhere to be found. All that the guests have in common is a wicked past they’re unwilling to reveal. One by one they fall prey…and only the dead are above suspicion.

Vladimir Nabokov (Lolita)
Favorite Book:  Ulysses, James Joyce
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Ulysses stands as an inventive, multiple-point-of-view (there are eighteen) vision of daily events, personal attitudes, cultural and political sentiments, and observations of the human condition.

Mark Twain (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)
Favorite Book:  King Arthur, Sir Thomas Malory
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In a time when there were damsels in distress to save, and mythical dragons to slay, King Arthur and his knights of the Round Table were there to render justice in the face of any danger. From the incredible wizardry of Merlin to the undeniable passion of Sir Lancelot, these tales of Arthur and his knights offer epic adventures with the supernatural, as well as timeless battles with our humanity.

Meg Wolitzer (The Interestings)
Favorite Book:  Old Filth, Jane Gardam
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An old man slips back into the past with ever mounting frequency and intensity, and on the tide of these vivid, lyrical musings, he approaches a reckoning with his own history. Not all the old filth, it seems, can be cleaned away.

Erik Larson (The Devil in the White City)
Favorite Book:  The Maltese Falcon, Dashiell Hammett
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Sam Spade is hired by the fragrant Miss Wonderley to track down her sister, who has eloped with a louse called Floyd Thursby.

F. Scott Fitzgerald (The Great Gatsby)
Favorite Book:  Sister Carrie, Theodore Dreiser
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The tale of Carrie Meeber’s rise to stardom in the theatre and George Hurstwood’s slow decline captures the twin poles of exuberance and exhaustion in modern city life as never before.

Samuel Beckett (Waiting for Godot)
Favorite Book:  The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger
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Through circumstances that tend to preclude adult, a young boy leaves his prep school in Pennsylvania and goes underground in New York City for three days. Insanity ensues.

R.L. Stine (Goosebumps series)
Favorite Book:  Dandelion Wine, Ray Bradbury
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A magical, timeless story about summer in the life of a twelve-year-old boy named Douglas Spaulding.

J.K. Rowling (The Harry Potter series)
Favorite Book:  Emma, Jane Austen
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Nothing delights Emma more than interfering in the romantic lives of others. But when she ignores the warnings of her good friend Mr. Knightley and attempts to arrange a suitable match for her protegee Harriet Smith, her carefully laid plans soon unravel and have consequences that she never expected.

Maya Angelou (I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings)
Favorite Book:  Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
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Following the lives of four sisters on a journey out of adolescence, Little Women explores the difficulties associated with gender roles in a Post-Civil War America.

Henry Miller (Tropic of Cancer)
Favorite Book:  Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte
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Wuthering Heights is a wild, passionate story of the intense and almost demonic love between Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff, a foundling adopted by Catherine’s father.

John Steinbeck (Of Mice and Men)
Favorite Book:  King Arthur, Sir Thomas Malory
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In a time when there were damsels in distress to save, and mythical dragons to slay, King Arthur and his knights of the Round Table were there to render justice in the face of any danger. From the incredible wizardry of Merlin to the undeniable passion of Sir Lancelot, these tales of Arthur and his knights offer epic adventures with the supernatural, as well as timeless battles with our humanity.

Cheryl Strayed (Wild)
Favorite Book:  The Dream of a Common Language, Adrienne Rich
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A powerful collection of poetry about power, sexuality, and violence against women.

Joyce Carol Oates (We Were the Mulvaneys, Blonde, The Gravediggers Daughter)
Favorite Book:  Crime and Punishment, Fydor Dostoyevsky
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Through the story of the brilliant but conflicted young Raskolnikov and the murder he commits, Fyodor Dostoevsky explores the theme of redemption through suffering.

Judy Blume (The Romona Quimby series)
Favorite Book:  American Pastoral, Philip Roth
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In American Pastoral, Philip Roth gives us a novel of unqualified greatness that is an elegy for all the twentieth century’s promises of prosperity, civic order, and domestic bliss.

Jeannette Walls (The Glass Castle, Half Broke Horses)
Favorite Book:  A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Betty Smith
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The beloved American classic about a young girl’s coming-of-age at the turn of the century, Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is a poignant and moving tale filled with compassion and cruelty, laughter and heartache, crowded with life and people and incident.

Emma Donoghue (ROOM)
Favorite Book:  Far From the Tree, Andrew Solomon
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Solomon’s startling proposition in Far from the Tree is that being exceptional is at the core of the human condition—that difference is what unites us. He writes about families coping with deafness, dwarfism, Down’s syndrome, autism, schizophrenia, or multiple severe disabilities; with children who are prodigies, who are conceived in rape, who become criminals, and who are transgender.

Paula McLain (The Paris Wife)
Favorite Book:  The Snow Child, Eowyn Ivey
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A couple living in Alaska build a child out of snow. The next morning the snow child is gone…but they glimpse a young blonde-haired girl running through the trees.

Garth Stein (The Art of Racing in the Rain)
Favorite Book:  The Music Room, Dennis McFarland
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In an incredible novel of devastating beauty, Martin Lambert must come to terms with the aftermath of his brother’s suicide. Replaying sad melodies of his affluent youth, Martin embarks on a poignant journey through his family’s haunted past.

Looking for a new book to read? Check in every Friday for a “Bee Happy” post, where I share reviews of books I’ve read or other book-themed lists.

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13 Fun Facts about As Good as it Gets

Nothing makes you feel older than realizing how old some of your favorite movies are…in December of this year, As Good as it Gets will be 20 years old…

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Jeebus.

I loved this movie then and I love it even more now.  Filled with some of the best quotes in cinematic history, this movie was probably one of the last times a romantic comedy pretty much dominated the Oscars.

Starring Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt (both won Oscars for their performances), AGAIG tells the story of a man with OCD who falls in love with a New York waitress.  It was a movie that could only exist in the time it was made, making sexual and racial jokes that would NEVER have the same impact in today’s culture.

Still, this is maybe one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen, and surely was one of Nicholson’s best.  To celebrate it’s almost 20th birthday, here are 13 Fun Facts about As Good as it Gets.

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13 Fun Facts about As Good as it Gets

At the 1998 Oscars ceremony when Jack Nicholson won for Best Actor, he gave a little nod to his character of Melvin Udall by carefully stepping over the cracks between the tiles on stage.  He dedicated his Oscar to his A Few Good Men co-star, J.T. Walsh, who died shortly before the ceremony.

The scene where the dog mimics Melvin’s movements as he walks over the cracks was done by placing obstacles on the sidewalk so the dog would have to step over them.  Those obstacles were then later digitally removed.

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Melvin’s response to the question about how he writes women so well (“I think of a man…then I take away reason and accountability.”) was an actual response given by author John Updike when asked the same question.

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Only seven films have won Oscars in both the Best Actor and Best Actress category, with As Good as it Gets being the most recent addition.  The other movies include It Happened One Night (Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert), One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (Jack Nicholson and Louise Fletcher), Network (Peter Finch and Faye Dunaway), Coming Home (Jon Voight and Jane Fonda), On Golden Pond (Henry Fonda and Katharine Hepburn) and The Silence of the Lambs (Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster).

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Nicholson must be some type of golden ticket – Both he and Helen Hunt (Carol) won leading Oscars for As Good as it Gets, while Greg Kinnear (Simon) was nominated for Best Supporting Actor, but did not win.  The same thing happened in 1975 when Nicholson and Louise Fletcher both won leading Oscars for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, while Brad Dourif was nominated for Best Supporting Actor, but did not win (but he should have!!).

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The light-upbeat soundtrack to the film was composed by Hans Zimmer (Pirates of the Caribbean, Gladiator, The Dark Knight Trilogy).

As Good as it Gets was a box office hit, opening at #3 (behind Titanic  and Tomorrow Never Dies).  It is Nicholson’s second most lucrative film behind Batman.

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Nicholson also wasn’t supposed to kiss Hunt at the end of the film, but director James L. Brooks yelled, “Kiss her, man!” from behind the camera.

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The couple Melvin insults at the restaurant (“Appetites aren’t as big as your noses?”) is played by Peter Jacobson and Lisa Edelstein, who would go on to star together in the TV show, House.

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The dog Verdell was played by six Brussels Griffons: Timer the Dog, Sprout, Debbie, Billy the Dog, Parfait, and Jill the Dog.  Jill got the most screen time.

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Nicholson said that playing Melvin was difficult, but the character was “the most loveable character I’ve ever played.”…which, when you think about it, isn’t wrong…

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Similar to his character Simon, Greg Kinnear had a hard time getting along with Verdell the dog.

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As Good as it Gets was also actor Maya Rudolph’s first speaking role.

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Sometimes you just need a little fun in your life! Check back every week for a new “Just Bee-cause” post, where I discuss everything from celebrity news to favorite videos and websites!

 

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Patronus Wreath

As I’ve gotten older and wiser in my years, I’ve come to appreciate the story of Harry Potter differently.  When I first read it, I loved the friendships and the imaginative writing.  I loved the use of allusion and symbolism and had a deep appreciation for the amazing plot development that this series undertakes.

But the more I read it, the more I came to appreciate and relate to other smaller elements of the story…namely, the Dementors.

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For those who are unaware, Dementors are ghost-like demons who guard the wizard prison, Azkaban.  They are the physical manifestation of author J.K. Rowling’s experience with depression…and they “kill” their victims by literally sucking the joy out of them.

The only way to get rid of a Dementor is to cast a spell (Expecto Patronum!).  The spell admits a Patronus, or a silver-like animal guardian that is also symbolic of each witch or wizard.

A few weeks ago, I did a post on how to make your own collection of felt Patronuses, and today I’m FINALLY going to share how I used them!

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I decided to create a Patronus Wreath to keep bad thoughts at bay.  I’m hoping it acts like a Dream Catcher…protecting my safe space and removing the negative and bad thoughts that every so often crowd my mind.

This wreath was made with a bunch of Christmas items that I got on sale last year, so shop the clearance section and see what you can find!

Patronus Wreath

Materials:

  • Felt Patronuses (see how to make these here)
  • Gold stick wreath (if you can’t find a gold stick wreath, you can spray paint a regular stick wreath with gold glitter spray)
  • Various gold ribbons
  • Chipboard star ornament
  • Paint colors of your choice (I used black and purple)
  • Paintbrush
  • Gold letter stickers
  • Mod Podge
  • Hot glue gun and glue sticks

Instructions:

  1. If your wreath needs to be spray painted, do that first. If it’s already gold and glittery, let’s get started!
  2. Cut out your patronuses. You can find the tutorial for them here.
  3. Wrap your wreath with various gold ribbons. The ribbons I used came in a set, so they worked together, but use whatever you’d like to add various texture to the wreath.  You could even add color ribbons if you want.  You can tie the ribbons or use the hot glue gun to secure them.
  4. Paint your star chipboard ornament however you’d like. I wanted a galaxy print to add some color, but you could paint it gold with glitter or just leave it as is.  Place “Expecto Patronum!” stickers on star; secure with thin layer of Mod Podge, if needed.
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  5. Arrange your star and felt patronuses around the wreath. Secure with hot glue.  Hang it on your door to keep away the bad thoughts!
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Celebrate creativity every Wednesday with a “Creativi-bee” post, where I share easy craft tutorials, project ideas, and craft collections.

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Whiskey, Won’t You Come and Take My Troubles

whiskey

“Whiskey, won’t you come and take my troubles
Cause I can’t seem to do it on my own.
In the morning there is hours and infinity
The starlit evening’s come to take me home.”
Trampled by Turtles

 Come back every Tuesday for “The Bees Knees”, where I post the best quotes from my favorite movies, TV shows, songs, and books.

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8 Apple and Honey Recipes for Rosh Hashanah

It should come as no surprise that Jewish people love food.  We have holidays that celebrate the fall harvest, we eat doughnuts and other foods cooked in oil to celebrate Hanukkah, the Passover story is TOLD with food, and we even deny ourselves our one great pleasure (eating) on Yom Kippur when we have to repent our sins.  Needless to say, there are going to be a lot of HANGRY Jews roaming the streets come September 30th…

But one of my favorite culinary traditions in the Jewish culture is eating apples and honey to celebrate the new year.  The Jewish calendar is lunar for reasons I still don’t understand…but that means we celebrate our new year in September or October rather than December and January.  This year Rosh Hashanah, or head/beginning of the year, is September 21st…and what better way to welcome in a sweet new year than with these tasty apple and honey recipes!

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The tradition of eating apples and honey goes back several years and is meant to fill the new year with sweetness.  The reasoning behind the apple is most likely because it’s associated with the Garden of Eden and the honey is not only sweet, but could be symbolic of Israel.  Whatever the TRUE reason, I love the tradition and, honestly, these two flavors go so well together that reasoning shouldn’t matter…it’s just delicious!

So here are 8 tasty apple and honey recipes that you can enjoy to welcome in the new Jewish new year…or just to eat because these are all amazing!

 Apple and Honey Recipes for Rosh Hashanah

Honey-Glazed Apple Crumb Muffins

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Apple and Pear Spinach Salad

apple salad

Apple and Honey Baklava

apple bakalava

Apple and Cinnamon Pancakes

apple and cinnamon pancakes

Honey-Baked Cinnamon Apples

cinnamon apples

Yogurt Bowls with Apples and Honey

yogurt bowl

Apple and Honey Crostini

apple crostini

Apple and Honey Bimuelos

apple bimuelos

Every Monday is a “Reci-bee” post, where I share my favorite recipes, recipe collections, and cooking and baking hints and tips. 

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20 Spooky Thrillers to Read for Halloween

The leaves have already started changing colors in Chicago…which means I’M READY FOR HALLOWEEN.

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I love me a good spine-tingling spooky thriller on a blustery fall night…and while I could easily populate this list with Stephen King novels alone, I’ve gathered a few of my favorite books perfect for reading in the weekends leading up to All Hallows Eve…

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Best accompanied with a blanket and a BIG cup of hot apple cider (having a guard dog on hand probably isn’t a bad idea, either), these spooky thrillers are sure to get under your skin and just sit there, lurking, until they crawl into your dreams at night to play…

20 Spooky Thrillers to Read for Halloween

Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn
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The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins
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Room, Emma Donoghue
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The Never List, Koethi Zan
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World War Z, Max Brooks
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Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Seth Grahame-Smith
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Bird Box, Josh Malerman
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Haunted, Chuck Palahniuk
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The Haunting of Hill House, Shirley Jackson
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The Road, Cormac McCarthy
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We Have Always Lived in the Castle, Shirley Jackson
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The Boy Who Drew Monsters, Keith Donohue
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The Girl With All the Gifts, M.R. Carey
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Something Wicked This Way Comes, Ray Bradbury
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The Corn Maiden and Other Nightmares, Joyce Carol Oates
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Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Ransom Riggs
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The Road Out of Hell: Sanford Clark and the True Story of the Wineville Murders, Anthony Flacco
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Booked to Die, John Dunning
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Nocturnes, John Connolly
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Into the Wild, Jon Krakauer
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 Looking for a new book to read? Check in every Friday for a “Bee Happy” post, where I share reviews of books I’ve read or other book-themed lists.

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