Tuesday, May 28, 2019

What Do You Think?

I've been working on coming up with some new content for the blog.  I want to use this space to connect with other readers and talk about books and writing.  However, I haven't actually been able to connect with anyone.  

What content would you like to see here?  Do you prefer the reading recaps, lists, or posts that talk about the reading life?  Your feedback will help me so much!

I would love some direction before I dive deeper with the blog this summer and I think you can help me.  Let me know in comments what's working for you--and what isn't.  

Monday, May 13, 2019

It's Monday

It's Monday...what are you reading?

Well, I seem to be starting more books than I'm finishing lately.  And, I'm itching to start more. 

Today I finished listening to The Almost Sisters.  It was a fun read that was also well written.  I would start to think, "This is a little too fluffy," and then boom--Jackson would add some compelling content about race, gender, conception, family, or illness.  And the author narrated it...impressive.

So, that's what I finished today.  But I've also cracked open my current Louise Penny book, The Nature of the Beast.  It is book 11 out of 14.  I still can't believe how long I've stuck with this series but its quality and I have a crush on the town of Three Pines.

The books that I'm 100 pages or more into but haven't opened yet today are:

Is it too much to hope that I could finish all of these by the end of the month?  

it is completely unlikely unless I get rid of my husband, kids, and dog and quit my job...hmm.

These are leftovers from my April reading to-do list and I'd really love not to carry them over into June.  

After I finish The Nature of the Beast I will focus on knocking out You're Wearing That by the weekend.  And, I may start reading Tell Me Three Things on Friday.  I heard Anne Bogel say she read it in one sitting.  Surely I can do the same...

I hope you enjoyed this little reading update/planning session.  What's on your radar for this week?  What books have you read today?  

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Reading Recap: April Edition

April is not my favorite month.  It is when the pollen count rises but it's not really that warm.  In April, there is a weird limbo of kids' activities when some things are ending and some are beginning.  April can't seem to pick a lane and I am not here for that.

I didn't get much reading done and I debated even posting a recap for this month.  Life got real and hard in ways I haven't experienced before.  My focus for the month was on putting out fires in my family, helping out when I could, and giving myself the time I need to process things.  So, I am proud of the three books I finished last month (and the one I abandoned). 

White Houses
I was not a fan of this book.  I finished it because it was small, but I did consider abandoning it.  It was chosen for my IRL book club which I didn't attend because: life.  I would have really loved to have gone and seen if everyone else disliked it or if they could have softened my opinion.

If you've been reading these little recaps each month you might detect a theme.  I read a historical retelling and dislike it.  I like historical fiction, but not playing with true things and people.  I think I just need to quit this genre.  Maybe it's my Enneagram type 1-ness, but I want either facts or fiction, thank you very much. This is a retelling of the relationship between the reporter, Lorena Hickok and Elanor Roosevelt based on their letters.  And, if you like that sort of thing, you might enjoy this, but I just can't with this genre anymore. 

The Long Way Home
After my frustration with my book club book, I needed something guaranteed to make me love reading again.  Gamache always does just that.

Louise Penny doesn't write short books and I'm always a little surprised when I pick one up by just how many pages there are.  Every time I think, this is going to take a while.  But I fly through them.  Because I have to know what happens in the next chapter.

As an added bonus this month, the themes in The Long Way Home were about bravery and courage in the face of scary things.  This was relevant to my actual life and I really believe that reading this helped me find more strength when I needed it.  Thanks Ms. Penny!

I need half of this kitten's courage #love

The Mystery of the Three Quarters

I had seen this new Poirot mystery and wanted to read it for a while.  I finally got my hands on a copy and then I was nervous.  How could it possibly live up to Agatha Christie's greatness?  It would likely be a terrible knock off that I wouldn't finish so why bother?  

But I started and I wasn't disappointed.  I'm not sure I'd say it was the equivalent of Ms. Christie's writing, but it was good.  I guessed the murderer earlier than I usually like, but as with most Poirot mysteries, the why is very important and almost always more difficult to figure out.  

It's the third in a series so I may circle back to the other two at some point, but this one was the highest rated on goodreads and could be read as a stand-alone.  

Daisy Jones and the Six

Are you sitting?  Prepare yourself. It's time for a spicy take. 

I abandoned this book.  Yep.  The book that is everywhere, that everyone is posting on their bookstagrams.  It's topping all the "must read" lists but I just did not like it.  I was about 120 pages in and decided to put it down.

The characters were unlikable and unrealistic to me. I remember this part when the lead singer is talking about a specific night years before and he starts describing exactly what Daisy was wearing.  #notreal And, a personal pet peeve is when books spend tons of time on clothing descriptions.  So that's a double whammy.

 I didn't like the "oral history" format that everyone has been raving about.  It made me feel like the author was leading me down very specific paths.  It might be an efficient way to tell a story but it wasn't enjoyable...at least not for me.

So two books I didn't like and two books I liked.  I'll just say it again--April is not my favorite month.  And now on to May and renewed optimism and maybe some warmer days, perfect for reading outside.  What did you read in April?  Do you even like April? 

and on to May, thank you very much.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Reading Recap: March Edition

We're more than halfway done with April (hello tax day) and March feels like a long time ago, but here I am with my March reading recap.  Better late than never, right? 

I know, I know, I'm getting to it

The beginning of March I was so excited!  31 days!  This would be my biggest reading month ever.  But it wasn't.  My March number (5) isn't the most I've ever read, but it was a quality month with a new lifetime favorite, a classic I hadn't read before, and the beginning of a new series I think I really like. 

So, without further ado...here are my March books:

A Gentleman in Moscow
I bought this book when it first came out after I finished The Rules of Civility.  It was such a buzz book then, and the buzz has never really faded.  I've always felt kind of guilty for ignoring it. 

I went to lunch with a friend and we were talking books and life.  I said I was looking for something good, but not super depressing or dark.  She said she just finished A Gentleman... and thought it would be perfect. 

If you haven't already read it, please do.  It's a beautiful story about a man who is sentenced to living out his days in a fancy hotel in Moscow.  The characters have my whole heart and Count Rostov encouraged me to be more adventurous, optimistic, and adaptable. 

I love Russian Literature so much so I totally should have known I would love this...the references to birches reminded me War and Peace and the grand ladies the Count knew in his youth brought back memories of Anna Karenina.  If you've never read Russian Lit or aren't a fan, don't let that deter you: this novel was a million times more accessible than some of the classics.  What are you waiting for?  Go read it, don't be stubborn like me.

You Can't Touch My Hair
My IRL (in real life) book club pick for the month.  At first, I loved this book.  The author doesn't shy from difficult conversations or swears.  She managed to teach me important things about race while also making me laugh/blush.  I would have really enjoyed more anecdotes about her life because every time she talked about her parents or her real life as an African American female stand up comedian I was riveted. 

I wouldn't give this book to my Grandmother, or my mom (aforementioned swears), but I was glad to have read it.  And, I completely agree with Robinson's thesis that if we ever get an Eagle Eye Cherry greatest hits cd it would only have Save Tonight seven times and that would be perfectly acceptable.  I would buy it. 

the GOAT

The Enchanted April
The Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club pick for the month. I had never heard of this book until it showed up in my Page One subscription box.  "Hmmm, that sounds interesting," I said, and then set it on the bookshelf.  This fell into the category of A Gentleman in Moscow, a safe book where nothing really tragic happens.  When my real life gets real stressful these are the books I seek out like a thirsty man in a desert looking for water. 

The premise of this book is some women go on vacation to Italy in 1920's.  Probably the real reason I set it aside when I got it is that my first thought was, "Yawn."  But it turned out to be a lovely, quiet novel that resonated with me.  I love to travel but sometimes I forget that I love it.  I forget that I like the broader perspective, the adventure, the relaxation, the FUN.  I usually only think about the work of travel (packing, packing, adjusting to time zones, packing, and then unpacking). 

Italian Garden > My Garden

This book should come with a warning ⚠️ Prepare for maximum saltiness if you read this book and you don't have a trip to Italy planned ⚠️  Because I did get kind of salty about my lack of travel plans. 

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
I listened to this because it was available.  This falls into the category of "books bookstagram can't stop talking about."  I got Daisy Jones and the Six which is by the same author, Taylor Jenkins Reid and also falls into the same category as Evelyn Hugo

I don't think I'm this kind of reader.  With each month I learn about what I do and do not like.  I don't like modern voice dressed up as quality fiction.  My take on this book is that it was written ok, I was never annoyed by the writing and the author made it compelling, but it lacked some depth and the insight felt forced or obvious.  The characters weren't likable (to me) and I got the impression that it was written to be a movie.

Not for me, but if you told me you like well written Hollywood dramas, I would totally recommend this.  And Now I'm reading Daisy Jones. I'm a sucker for all the hype.  🙄
Save the drama for your Mama

A Study in Scarlet Women
Another audiobook that I was mildly interested in and that was available.  I was pleasantly surprised by this novel.  It was a fun read with a female Sherlock.  

Charlotte was such a fantastic character and I really enjoyed having all my preconceptions ("let me guess...she hates people, super intelligent, with a penchant for drug abuse and belittling everyone around her") turned on their ear.   Charlotte wasn't a complete misanthrope.  She was dynamic and funny.  She also liked to eat and I was surprised by how refreshing that was.  


I will definitely be reading the second in the series, which is already on my shelf!  

Those are my March reads...now I better go get started on my April post...

What did you read in March?  Or, since that was such a long time ago, what are you reading now?  

April showers and all that jazz

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

What Saved My Life in March

Tracking what is saving my life each month gives me an extra boost of gratitude.  I highly recommend it.  Sometimes, I'll sit down with my journal and the dog at my feet and think, "Nothing.  There is nothing good right now."  And then I will tell myself, "Look around you and find something good."  And then--it's there, waiting for me to notice it.

March was a weird month.  Weird weather.  Weird feelings.  My husband traveled a ton and our family rhythms had to change. But weird isn't always synonymous with "bad," and this month found us laughing hard and making good changes. 

Here are the things that helped me through March:

Fish Oil
I have mixed feelings about supplements but I heard someone talking about the benefits of fish oil so I decided to give it a try.  The effects of this supplement are subtle, but I feel good and doing something positive for my health each morning has a great psychological benefit. 

Water Challenge
I joined a facebook water challenge.  The goal was to drink half your weight in ounces of water each day.  At first, this seemed like a ton of water.  It was.  But I did it.  And I'm still doing it.  My skin is clear, my appetite is manageable, and my pee is the right color.

The caveat to this challenge is that you wind up going to the bathroom so much more.  This was annoying in the beginning.  My body has adapted a bit and I now think the cost of spending a few more minutes in the bathroom is totally worth it. 

My husband scored a Roomba on sale during Black Friday.  I scoffed and said he was foolish for investing in a machine that won't clean well and will break.  I was wrong.

This little beauty is a lifesaver.  We have a big dog and lots of girls so there is hair everywhere.  I just hit a button and Rosie (named after the Jetson's robot maid) gets to work.  My only regret is that we didn't buy two--one for upstairs and one for downstairs.  God bless Roomba.

Michael's Craft Stores
I took the kids to Michael's so one of them could get supplies for a school project.  While we were there, we found materials for crafts that we've been wanting to do and all the stuff I needed to make a super cute terrarium.  Plus, the spring decor can't help but make you feel happy.  I only picked a few little things to spruce up our house, but those things have made the weird weather of March seem much less depressing. 

I am a huge fan of reruns.  I often blog with an old episode of Psych playing softly in the background.  I rewatch Parks and Rec while I eat lunch.  My teen daughters and I are working our way through Friends and The Office

There is something so comforting about watching reruns.  I don't have a ton of time to get invested in a long series and the way people watch TV now is overwhelming.  I miss having only one episode release each week with breaks in the summer to catch up on anything you missed.  

Binging goes against my core beliefs that watching that much TV in one sitting will rot my brain or I fall asleep after more than an hour and a half max.  One of those things is definitely true.  

I don't feel bad about falling asleep with reruns on the TV.  I've probably seen this episode at least five times anyway. 

Army Guys
My son is always asking for ridiculous things like apple watches and iPhones.  Well, the other day he asked me for army guys.  I was like, "Is that some sort of war game for the PlayStation?"  But no, he wanted a bunch of plastic army guys.  I was like, "Wish granted."  When they arrived, he went to work setting up complicated battle scenes.  We couldn't use the dining room table, but he was quiet and entertained with something other than a screen.  I felt like the best mom, he used his imagination for five minutes.  Everyone was winning.

One Thing I Can Do
When my husband travels, I tend to let things go around the house.  This time I decided to spend any time I was home after 4:00 focusing on "one thing I can do."  I wouldn't look at the whole house because that would be depressing and overwhelming.  Instead, at 4:00 I started looking around me and saying, "What's one thing I can do here?"  I'm making dinner--I can wipe the counters when I have a free minute.  I'm done signing papers for school--I can tidy the family room.  Nothing major, just little things that kept our house from feeling like it was spinning out of control. 

Those are the good things I found in March.  What was something small that saved your life last month?

Thursday, March 21, 2019

20 Things You Should Probably Know About Me

We're in a small restaurant with a small menu.  They're serving breakfast now.  The booths are cozy and there are a few old-timers adding to the vibe.  I'd have a cup of coffee (they have great coffee) and eggs (#teamsavory for breakfast y'all).  We'd talk about books and kids but then the conversation would wind around our lives.  

Before we begin asking deeper questions, here are 20 things you should probably know about me.  

1.  I have four kids.  They are 14, 13, 10, and 8.  The first three are girls and the baby is a boy.  Before you ask, we weren't trying for a boy.  When you have three girls you're expecting your fourth child to be a girl.  You are ready for a girl.  We got a boy and were delighted/overwhelmed with the change of pace.  And now...we are so busy.  

2.  My husband and I both love to read.  We're kind of competitive about it even though we read very differently.  Date nights often end with a trip to Barnes and Noble and we spend a good deal of time talking about what we're reading.  


3.  I am an English major (aka unemployable) with a focus on literature (aka really unemployable). 

4.  My faith is important to me.  Our family goes to church and some of my closest friends and best reading buddies are there.  

5.  Our family has a big dog named Ruby.  I waited 15 years to get her and she was totally worth the wait.  

6.  Every morning I teach kids in China how to speak English.  I'm pretty good at it and my job allows me the flexibility I need the rest of the day (see #1).

7.  I love crafts but am a serial monogamist.  I knit for a while.  I cross stitch for a while.  I scrapbook for a while.  Learning a new craft is half the fun for me.  When I walk through a Michaels store I feel like a kid in a candy store.  

8.  I've started my own book club a couple of times.  One of them lasted for a long time.  I'm now in a book club at my local independent bookstore and it is by far my favorite: no cleaning, no cooking, and the others always read the book.  

9.  I am the fourth child out of five.  

10.  Being outside keeps me sane.  I don't always remember this about myself, but when I do I'm much happier for it.  

11.  I started reading to each of my kids when they were in the womb and I haven't stopped.  Reading is important to me because it means connection and empathy.  Reading out loud has gotten us through some tough days. 

12.  I can't read before bed because...sleep.  

actual footage of me at 9:30pm

13.  Reading goals are my jam but I am a total mood reader.  I prefer number goals because they let me play around with what I read instead of being committed to a certain book or certain genre.  

14.  I love long books and classics the most.  Have I mentioned I read War and Peace???

15.  I only cook with a recipe.  And I cook a lot.  So a lot of planning goes into our dinners each week.  My favorites right now are Ina Garten and Pioneer Woman.  

I want to be their best friend/neighbor

16.  I love Toms shoes so much.  

17.  I am a podcast junkie.  I also listen to audiobooks.  Sometimes, if I'm not careful, I will have spent the day listening to people talk and then wonder why I feel so annoyed when my kids come home and want to talk.  

there are so many good ones and so little time

18. I am writing a novel.  It's slow going and who knows if it will ever see the light of day, but I'm 73 pages in and still going.  

19.  My husband is Persian and I try to include elements of Persian culture into our family.

20.  I am an Enneagram type 1 and an INFJ and an introvert.  Learning about personality frameworks has helped me understand some of my tendencies and be more intentional in how I approach others and myself.  

Now that you know all of these things about me we could order another cup of coffee and compare notes on personality types and reading goals and what we are knitting/cross-stitching/painting these days.  

It would be lovely.

What's something I should know about you?

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Reading Recap: February Edition

We all know that January is never-ending, but February flies by.  Every month I set aside a stack of books I'd love to get through in the month.  Every month I'm over-ambitious.  But I think that's a mix of optimism and excitement that I'm ok with.

are you following me on instagram?  this is the kind of quality content you will have access to.  trust me it's worth it. 

Looking back at my stack fills me with more optimism and excitement.  I'm optimistic about reading the ones I didn't finish some other time (maybe in the next month, maybe not) and excited that I actually finished a few of the titles I meant to read.

Here's what I finished in February:

The Wife, The Maid, and The Mistress

This novel has been featured on the What Should I Read Next podcast often.  The premise sounded intriguing and I was looking for something on Libby that I could listen to right now.  This was available so I downloaded it to listen to while I was getting ready for my day.

The more I read the more I learn about myself and this book taught me that I am not a major fan of historical retellings.  That being said, this was well written and had me on the edge of my seat until the end.  More than the dramatic plot, I was surprised by the way the author made me feel for all three women.  I really liked all three of them, flawed though they were.

I will recommend this to friends who like historical fiction because it was good but just not my jam.

The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley

I got this book for my husband because I heard that this was literary fiction with a father-daughter relationship at the center.  He liked it but didn't love it so I figured I wouldn't give it another thought.  And then my book club picked it for February.

Technically, it was well written.  Themes were woven throughout the novel and allusions to Moby Dick and Hercules popped up here and there.  The story was interesting though a little far fetched at times (almost mythical).  For me, the issue was that there was a missing connection with Samuel or Loo, his daughter.  I felt removed from them, watching them live their lives far away instead of feeling like I was there with them.  Not connecting with the characters makes reading hard work y'all.

not connecting is no fun

That being said, my book club almost universally loved it.  Different strokes, different folks, you know?

Meet Me at the Museum

This was the Modern Mrs. Darcy book club pick.  It was a gentle epistolatory novel.  I chose the word gentle intentionally.  I wouldn't call it "slow" or "dull" or "lagging."  I loved picking it up to see the unfolding of a friendship between a woman and a man that happened somewhat randomly.  The letters they write to each other are about everything and nothing and they made me want to pull out some pretty paper and write to someone (I wrote to my Grandma).

This book made me think about life and starting over, physical and emotional infidelity, and what we chose to value in the course of our lives.


My husband watched this movie a few weeks ago and told me I'd love it.  I looked for the audiobook on Libby and it was available so I figured why not read the book before I see the movie?  So that is what I did. 

It was a moving story about a young Irish girl coming to America.  I don't know exactly how the author did it, but I felt like I was with her on the boat, with her in her cramped little room in Brooklyn, and with her at the department store she worked in.  The narrator of the audiobook had a great accent and that added so much to the experience. 

I kept wondering if the story was intended for YA readers or grown-ups.  So often books are either/or but this one was very much and.  The story and writing really reminded me of A Tree Grows In Brooklyn, though this narrator is older and experiences the things that Francie's mom and dad would have experienced.  

The Color Purple

@diverseclassics on instagram made this their book of the month.  I've been meaning to read it for years and this was the push I needed.  

The book is short and told in letters.  I may have been a little naive about it at first, thinking that it would be well written but not challenging.  It was both well written and challenging.  It became clear quickly that this novel is real and raw.  

I was often surprised by the way the plot twisted on one small sentence.  There were many times I went back to reread parts to understand better what had just happened.  Walker's writing talent took my breath away.  

It was a hard book, but it was beautiful and encouraging.  There is hope as Celie continues to pen letters to God and her sister in the face of extreme adversity.  I kept thinking that if the people in the book could find beauty in a field of purple flowers and each other, then surely I could find beauty around me too.  It made me pick up my head and look around me.  

So...that was February.  What did you read in February?  What are you thinking about reading in March?  Leave a comment and we can share our bookish excitement.