A Look Back on 12 Months of Nonfiction

Last week I shared with you some of my all time favorite non-fiction books, but I for the first “challenge” of Nonfiction November I’m going to take a closer look back on the nonfiction reads I’ve read over the past year.

When I look through my list of non-fiction reads since last November, the things that jump out to me are a) a lot of them are backlist titles with pub dates backing back 1999, and b) these are some of the best books I’ve read in the last twelve months!

In total, I’ve read fifteen nonfiction books, which I’m stoked about! I’ve talked about them a lot recently so I’m just going to organize them by mood here. I’ll link to another blog post if I’ve raved about it recently!

If you’re looking for….

A peek in to military culture, coming from a place of love: Ranger Games by Ben Blum

A book that will change your views on rape culture forever: Missoula by Jon Krakauer

A way to understand what goes on behind closed doors in North Korea: Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick

Nightmares for days (seriously though), but via an incredibly compelling tale: I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara

A way to indulge your inner whale lover: Spying on Whales by Nick Pyenson

A story about a city, that’s really about a team, and will warm your heart forever: Boomtown by Sam Anderson

A cautionary tale that teaches you to respect the danger of backpacking: Into Thin Air by John Krakauer

A way to understand the side of America who’s voting for Trump: Janesville by Amy Goldstein

An escape in to the middle of the ocean: Love with a Chance of Drowning by Toree DeRoche

A front seat to the 2016 election: Unbelieveable by Katy Tur

A coming-of-age slash fundamentalist mormon memoir: Educated by Tara Westover

History with a side of comedy along the Apalachian Trail: A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

A calm and collected version of the 2016 craziness: What Happened by Hillary Clinton

An irreverant memoir of the military and christianity all at once: A Girl’s Guide to Missiles by Karen Piper

An often untold history of the largest city in America: The Mirage Factory by Gary Krist

Let me know if you’ve read and enjoyed any of these titles! I truly recommend them all!

October Reading Recap

You guys, I have totally failed you! (If you want to know why, check out Monday’s post!) I read five books last month and reviewed ONE. But anyway, here we are. I still think it’s worth summarizing the books from last month — and believe me, reviews are coming soon! Gimme a couple weeks to write them, but they’re all scheduled so in theory they will be written very soon.

Here’s what I read!

The Silence of the Girls
Rating: 4/5
Genre: Greek Mythology Retelling
Tone: Optimistic through trying times
Structure: Told mostly through the perspective of Achilles slave, with some other scenes thrown in there
Read if you like: Greek mythology, Circe, strong women

Where the Crawdads Sing
Rating: 5/5
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Tone: Dramatic, hopeful
Structure: Told primarily through the eyes of Kya, the protagonist
Read if you like: All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, Beartown, The Great Alone

Our Homesick Songs
Rating: 2/5
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Tone: 
Structure: Told from two points of view in two timelines – when the parents met and in present day
Read if you like: Little Fires Everywhere, Unique writing styles, Station Eleven

Come with Me
Rating: 3/5
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Tone: Sexually charged, sardonic
Structure: Told through the perspective of each family member
Read if you like: Books set in Silicon Valley, The Circle, Sourdough, Startup

The Nightingale
Rating: 5/5
Genre: Historical Fiction
Tone: Adventurous, loving, emotional
Structure: Told through the perspective of two sisters in different parts of France during WWII. They sometimes overlap, but are often separate
Read if you like: The Alice Network, All The Light You Cannot See, WWII historical fiction in general

Where I’ve Been

Hello my lovely readers,

I have been pretty absent on the blog for a while now. While I was keeping up with some posts and reviews in September/October, they were getting shorter, less heartfelt, and less consistent as the days went on. I finally decided to take a break until I wanted to write again, because producing bad content was worse than producing no content, in my mind.

I’ve spent the last six weeks or so working on myself, and I wanted to share a bit of that with you by way of a catch up. I have a ton of bookish posts in my mind for you, so keep an eye out for that as I work back towards a more regular posting schedule.

So here’s what I’ve been up to:

I doubled down on my job.

20181101_164456-01I’ve had a rocky year with work. For the first three months, I was absolutely miserable at my job, and luckily was able to find a new one. As this was only my second job out of school, no surprise here, that transition was hard. To make things worse, less than two months in to my new job, I found out I had to take two licensing exams within, effectively, two months. I studied for them, but honestly, I didn’t give my all to the test or my job during that time. I ended up failing the first test, and decided not to take the second because I wasn’t prepared for it. By the time all of that was over, I realized I hadn’t given my work my full attention in a very long time.

I want to succeed in my professional life, so I decided to commit to that. One of the best things I did was buy an Erin Condren Life Planner JUST for work. It makes so much sense to me now that I would need this, but so often we use planners for school work or personal life things and not for work. Buying a planner for work, setting daily goals, and achieving them has been huge for me. I’m working hard, feeling successful, and if I do say so myself, impressing myself for the first time in a long time.

I started Meal Prepping.

If you’re like me, you want to eat healthy. I’ve always struggled with eating healthy — I find it so weird that feeding ourselves is one of our biggest struggles as humans, but I’ve decided it’s relatively universal because think about how many services there are out there to help people feed themselves. I’ve been super anti formal “meal plans” for a long time, but somehow fate brought the Workweek Lunch Meal Prep Program and I together. (To be clear WWL is not a diet program and is sooo customizable/flexible so that’s a huge reason I decided to go for it!)

By fate, I mean the instagram algorithm. I was following WWL hoping it would inspire me to start eating the way she did, and a couple weeks in to following Talia, she started her Meal Prep Program. It’s only $8 per month so I put it on my personal card (aka I didn’t ask my boyfriend to pay for it) and got started. It’s an investment at first (I spent about $60 on meal prep containers from costco) and a learning curve (my first prep took me over 3 hours and most things tasted bad), but four (?) months later, I couldn’t be happier.

I’ve become more comfortable in the kitchen, I look forward to cooking every week, I save so much time and so much money, and I finally am able to eat the way I’ve always wanted to eat – healthy meals that make me feel full without feeling bloated. If you’re at all interested, feel free to ask me any questions, or just try Workweek Lunch for yourself

I participated in the Transformation Challenge at my Orangetheory Fitness Studio.

The basic rules are work out 3x per week for six weeks (I  did this!), weigh in at the beginning, middle, and end (I  missed the middle weigh-in), and then do some other challenges (I didn’t do any of these). As you can tell I’m not going to win. I violated 2 of the 3 rules, but the one that I did stick to is, in my opinion, the one that matters.

Three times a week may not seem like that much, but trust me it was surprisingly challenging. There was a time when I was going away for the weekend and went to a 6:50 – 7:50 pm class on Thursday night and was back at the studio for my third class of the week at 6:10 am the following morning. To that end, I attended my first (ever?) 6:10 am gym class. And not only that I attended MANY of them throughout the challenge. I got back in a routine and it felt really good. It may not sound like much but I’m extremely proud of myself for doing 3 classes per week for 6 weeks, and as an added bonus and I can totally feel the difference in my strength levels and the way my clothes fit. Horray!

I got braces.

This is the big one in terms of my mental health over the past month or so. Braces are something I’ve been thinking about for a long time — probably since I moved back from New Zealand, so 3 years ago! I never felt secure enough in my life to take the plunge until recently. I now know that I will be staying in San Diego for long enough to have the treatment, I’m at a new job where people know me, have friendships that I feel secure enough in, and am in a relationship I feel comfortable in (I should hope so haha It’s been 4 years!).

These things may sound vain, but getting braces has really rocked my confidence and I don’t think I’d be able to do it if I knew I had to make new friends or interview for a new job in the near future. I felt like I was at a comfortable place in my life to take the plunge and change my appearance for a year and a half for the greater good of the rest of my life. (I’ll be 30 1/2 when I get them off!) All that being said, it’s been incredibly difficult – physically and mentally – over the past week, but I think I’m starting to come around on the other side of it now.

So that’s it. That’s where I’ve been for the last six weeks – exercising, eating well, getting braces, and working hard at work. And all of that hasn’t allowed for a lot of time or energy to write passionately, consistently, and meaningfully about books on this page. But that’s something I want to change. And as I’m settling in to these new routines, I’d like to start again with this blog. So I hope you’ll keep reading! Thank you for being here!

What I’m Reading: October

I have been talking about “all the books I’m going to read in October” since…. July? Pretty much since I found out that July – September would be totally crazy busy and I didn’t set my hopes very high, outside of reading books from publishers. Well OCTOBER is finally here and I’m so excited to get cozy with some of the books on my shelf! This month is all about BOOKS FROM OTHERS. Borrowed, Traded, and Gifted!

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Borrowed

Having been focused on books from publishers over the summer, I made my grand return to the library last week for two books I’ve been waiting on for what feels like a while.

Our Homesick Songs by Emma Hooper

I love reading contemporary fiction in the fall. Maybe it’s because everyone in my family has a September birthday but it seems like a good time to reflect on family. I’ve seen a few great reviews of this book, and am excited to read it.

Goodreads Description: The Connor family is one of the few that is still left in their idyllic fishing village, Big Running; after the fish mysteriously disappeared, most families had no choice but to relocate and find work elsewhere. Aidan and Martha Connor now spend alternate months of the year working at an energy site up north to support their children, Cora and Finn. But soon the family fears they’ll have to leave Big Running for good. And as the months go on, plagued by romantic temptations new and old, the emotional distance between the once blissful Aidan and Martha only widens.

Between his accordion lessons and reading up on Big Running’s local flora and fauna, eleven-year-old Finn Connor develops an obsession with solving the mystery of the missing fish. Aided by his reclusive music instructor Mrs. Callaghan, Finn thinks he may have discovered a way to find the fish, and in turn, save the only home he’s ever known. While Finn schemes, his sister Cora spends her days decorating the abandoned houses in Big Running with global flair—the baker’s home becomes Italy; the mailman’s, Britain. But it’s clear she’s desperate for a bigger life beyond the shores of her small town. As the streets of Big Running continue to empty Cora takes matters—and her family’s shared destinies—into her own hands.

Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

This book is the hot book of the moment — after being selected for Reese Witherspoon’s book club in  September, this book has been on everyone’s radar. I’m proud to say that I requested it from the library before it was chose, but here we are. Part beautiful scenic writing, part murder mystery – I’m ready to have all the feels!

Goodreads description: For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life–until the unthinkable happens.

Traded

I love doing book swaps with friends! Both of these are were traded to me (temporarily) by friends who read and loved them, in exchange for a book I read and loved!

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

I borrowed this book from a neighbor months ago after raving about The Great Alone by the same author. I have heard nothing but amazing things about this book, and I think Hannah’s writing style combined with a WWII backdrop, will make for a beautifully gripping novel!

Goodreads description: In the quiet village of Carriveau, Vianne Mauriac says goodbye to her husband, Antoine, as he heads for the Front. She doesn’t believe that the Nazis will invade France…but invade they do, in droves of marching soldiers, in caravans of trucks and tanks, in planes that fill the skies and drop bombs upon the innocent. When France is overrun, Vianne is forced to take an enemy into her house, and suddenly her every move is watched; her life and her child’s life is at constant risk. Without food or money or hope, as danger escalates around her, she must make one terrible choice after another. 

Vianne’s sister, Isabelle, is a rebellious eighteen-year-old girl, searching for purpose with all the reckless passion of youth. While thousands of Parisians march into the unknown terrors of war, she meets the compelling and mysterious Gäetan, a partisan who believes the French can fight the Nazis from within France, and she falls in love as only the young can…completely. When he betrays her, Isabelle races headlong into danger and joins the Resistance, never looking back or giving a thought to the real–and deadly–consequences.

Sing Unburied Sing by Jesmyn Ward

Ok – I have been hoping to read this book for SO long. I tried listening to it on audio twice, but couldn’t focus. But I heard incredible things from friends, and I mean, it won the National Book Award, so I plan to persevere and read the hardcopy a friend lent me.

Goodreads Description: Jojo is thirteen years old and trying to understand what it means to be a man. He doesn’t lack in fathers to study, chief among them his Black grandfather, Pop. But there are other men who complicate his understanding: his absent White father, Michael, who is being released from prison; his absent White grandfather, Big Joseph, who won’t acknowledge his existence; and the memories of his dead uncle, Given, who died as a teenager.

His mother, Leonie, is an inconsistent presence in his and his toddler sister’s lives. She is an imperfect mother in constant conflict with herself and those around her. She is Black and her children’s father is White. She wants to be a better mother but can’t put her children above her own needs, especially her drug use. Simultaneously tormented and comforted by visions of her dead brother, which only come to her when she’s high, Leonie is embattled in ways that reflect the brutal reality of her circumstances.

When the children’s father is released from prison, Leonie packs her kids and a friend into her car and drives north to the heart of Mississippi and Parchman Farm, the State Penitentiary. At Parchman, there is another thirteen-year-old boy, the ghost of a dead inmate who carries all of the ugly history of the South with him in his wandering. He too has something to teach Jojo about fathers and sons, about legacies, about violence, about love

Gifted

I love getting books as gifts, and I usually try to read them soon after I get them. One of these is new and unfortunately, the other I’ve been dragging my feet on for almost a year.

Fun Home by Alison Bechdel

For my birthday last week I said “no books!” when my boyfriend asked what I wanted. So what did I get? A graphic novel! I’ve never run one of these, but I’m really excited about this one. It’s the graphic novel behind the Tony winning musical, so you know after I read it, I’m gonna be listening to all the tunes!

Goodreads Description: Distant and exacting, Bruce Bechdel was an English teacher and director of the town funeral home, which Alison and her family referred to as the Fun Home. It was not until college that Alison, who had recently come out as a lesbian, discovered that her father was also gay. A few weeks after this revelation, he was dead, leaving a legacy of mystery for his daughter to resolve

Playing Through The Whistle by S. L. Price

I got this book as a Christmas present last year and it really is right up my alley – you may not know this about me but I’m form Pittsburgh and I love the Pittsburgh Steelers. This book is about a football town across the river from were I grew up which is notorious for producing stars from an underprivledged community. I’ve been swamped with other books I want to read this whole year, but I think it’s time for me to pick this one up!

Goodreads Description: In the early twentieth century, down the Ohio River from Pittsburgh, the Jones & Laughlin Steel Company built one of the largest mills in the world and a town to go with it. Aliquippa was a beacon and a melting pot, pulling in thousands of families from Europe and the Jim Crow south. The J&L mill, though dirty and dangerous, offered a chance at a better life. It produced the steel that built American cities and won World War II and even became something of a workers’ paradise. But then, in the 1980’s, the steel industry cratered. The mill closed. Crime rose and crack hit big.

But another industry grew in Aliquippa. The town didn’t just make steel; it made elite football players, from Mike Ditka to Ty Law to Darrelle Revis. Pro football was born in Western Pennsylvania, and few places churned out talent like Aliquippa. Despite its troubles—maybe even because of them—Aliquippa became legendary for producing football greatness. A masterpiece of narrative journalism, Playing Through the Whistletells the remarkable story of Aliquippa and through it, the larger history of American industry, sports, and life. Like football, it will make you marvel, wince, cry, and cheer.

What are you reading this month? Are you usually good about reading books lent/gifted to you??

 

September Reading Recap

September was… busy! Although, for all the right reasons – I traveled to the East Coast for my grandmothers 99th birthday and to meet my newest (and only) nephew! Then continued on to Portugal for my very first solo international trip. It went really well, and as you can see below, I got a lot of quality time with my kindle and a glass of wine 🙂 When in Portugal, right!?

I read six books which is a ton for me considering none of them were audiobooks! Some great, some not as great, but overall a pretty good reading month — here’s what I read:

A Place For Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza
Rating: 5/5
Genre: Literary Fiction
Tone: Slow, Thoughtful, Tragic
Structure: Non-linear but with a relatively chronological timeline, before turning to a first person reaction
Read if you like: Beautiful writing, Family Sagas, Pachinko, An American Marriage

The Queen of Hearts by Kimmery Martin
Rating: 4/5
Genre: General Fiction
Tone: Bingeworthy, Dramatic, Youthful
Structure: Two points of view in two timelines
Read if you like: Greys Anatomy, Gossip Girl, The It Girl

The Witch Elm by Tana French
Rating: 4/5
Genre: Mystery
Tone: Dark, Gothic
Structure: Chronological first person from a single point of view
Read if you like: Tana French, Robert Galbraith, The Death of Mrs. Westaway

A Girl’s Guide to Missiles by Karen Piper
Rating: 3/5
Genre: Memoir
Tone: Quirky, Sarcastic, Long
Structure: First person chronological, although the voice changes as Piper grows up
Read if you like: Priestdaddy, Educated, Memoirs in general

Autumn by Ali Smith
Rating: 3/5
Genre: Literary Fiction
Tone: Contemplative, Hopeful, Sweet
Structure: Many stories blended together, no quotations around dialogue
Read if you like: Man Booker Prize Winners, Prose, Slow reads with a little humor

My Year of Rest and Relaxation
Rating: 3.5/5
Genre: Fiction
Tone: Repetitive, Sarcastic, Quirky, Repetitive (get it?)
Structure: First person with a linear timeline during periods of being awake over the year
Read if you like: Millenials – otherwise this book is totally unique.

August Reading Recap

HAPPY END OF AUGUST! I cannot believe it is here, and honestly am not sure that I’m ok with it being here!! August was full of milestones – one of my best friend’s weddings, my first building I designed being sent to the building department (!!), and, notably, the month before September (aka when all hell breaks loose in my life)! My goal for August was to read four titles with pub dates this month, without going too crazy with the pressure. I got through three of them and I feel pretty good about that!

I also listened to two of my #UnreadShelfProject2018 books on audio, read my Book of the Month pick from this month (which never happens), and (almost) completed another monthly challenge for The Unread Shelf Project 2018! So…. BOOM – I feel like I crushed it! Summaries below and links to reviews where available!!

 

The Distance Home by Paula Saunders
Rating: 4/5
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Tone: Dark, Somber
Structure: Generally told chronologically from one perspective, with flashes to the future
Read if you like: Little Fires Everywhere, Enchanted Islands

What Happened by Hillary Clinton
Rating: 4/5
Genre: Political Memoir
Tone: Campaign-y, Friendly
Structure: Told first person from Hillary Clinton per topic of campaign challenges
Read if you like: Hillary Clinton, Politics, Unbelievable by Katy Tur

Chariot on the Mountain by Jack Ford
Rating: 5/5
Genre: Historical Fiction
Tone: Strong, Suspenseful
Structure:  Chronological, Third person from two perspectives
Read if you like: Civil War History, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Underground Railroad

Sweet Little Lies by Caz Frear
Rating: 3.5/5
Genre: Mystery
Tone: Procedural, Scheme-y, Curious (idk these are hard)
Structure: Chronologically in present tense, with a few flashback diary entries
Read if you like: Tana French books particularly Faithful Place, Law and Order

Ohio by Stephen Markley
Rating: 2/5
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Tone: Dark, angry, complex
Structure: Four distinct points of view on one night, with flashbacks to high school years
Read if you like: Let The Great World Spin, Hillbilly Elegy, The Immortalists

Modern Lovers by Emma Straub
Rating: 3/5
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Tone: Hope, longing, depair
Structure: Three intertwined story lines – two adult couples, and one teenage “couple”
Read if you like: Unique stories of growing up

What’s the best book you read this month?! And – are you ready for fall??

 

March Speed Reviews!

March was a busy reading month for me! I read 6 books! This may be a record – and I have to say, my reading pace was strongly assisted by embracing my Scribd audiobook subscription (more on that in a later post!). None of these books totally jumped out at me as amazing reads, so my average rating for March is 3.7. My quick reviews are below!

Janesville by Amy Goldstein

Genre: Nonfiction
Feel Learn Wonder Review: 4 Stars
Review: I read this book for my new San Diego book club. Correction: I listened to this book for my new San Diego book club. This was my very first audiobook! Janesville tells the stories of several people living and working in Janesville, Wisconsin. A huge GM plant shut down in the city in 2008/2009, and left the population devastated – both those who worked for GM and those who did not. The unexpected twist in this book (although not a spoiler) is that Janesville is also the hometown of Paul Ryan, the current Speaker of the House. During the book he was a successful congressman and also pursued a vice presidential bid. Weaving Paul Ryan’s story in to the story lines of the other citizens, added a layer of depth to the story, but I also felt like it overshadowed and politicized the stories of the Janesville residents. Nonetheless, I learned a lot about what happens in midwestern cities when the major industry ceases to exist, and I would recommend it to someone interested in broadening their awareness of some underlying factors influencing the current political climate. Needless to say, this book lead to a lively discussion!

Stay with Me by Ayobami Adebayo

Genre: Historical Fiction
Feel Learn Wonder Review: 3 Stars
Review: Stay with Me was a book I wanted to love, but unfortunately just didn’t. The story covers the life of a woman in Nigeria, a society practicing polygamy. She and her husband decide to remain monogamous for life, but they are unable to have children, which introduces an unbearable amount of outside critique and pressure for the husband to take more wives in the hopes of having children. The consequences of living through this situation take its toll on everyone involved, and while many of the plot points were big and deserved attention, the book was on to the next before the reader could process. As I talked about in my Unread Shelf post for February, since the writing was rushed and didn’t provide the context I needed, I felt ostracized and ignorant, which felt a little unfair since I was interested in learning.

The Leavers by Lisa Ko

Genre: Literary Fiction
Feel Learn Wonder Review: 4 Stars
Review: The Leavers was a understated and very real portrayal of the personal impacts of illegal immigration policy. I wish I could say that The Leavers was “heartwrenching” but to me that implies an event, or a singular moment when my heart was pulled out of chest. Instead, The Leavers slowly demonstrated the life long impacts of a family being pulled apart. Based on the way I felt closing the book, I’d say that style was even more effective. I highly recommend the book, but I will say you may not always want to pick it up and continue following along with Demi’s story.

The Confusion of Languages by Siobhan Fallon

Genre: Mystery
Feel Learn Wonder Review: 3.5 Stars
Review: The Confusion of Languages is a book I bought last summer and then couldn’t bring myself to pick up. I ended up listening to the first 100 pages on audio since I had several hours of driving by myself for a work trip. I have to say, I was very surprised by this book – not necessarily “pleasantly surprised” but just surprised. It was not the literary fiction novel that would teach me about life in Jordan, but rather a fast paced mystery novel set in Jordan, which added an element of danger to the plot. While this wasn’t an ideal genre for me, I think it was a fun genre-bending story that I was able to rush through and was thoroughly entertained by.  I wrote a little more about this one in my Unread Shelf post for March.

A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Cline

Genre: Art History/ Historical Fiction
Feel Learn Wonder Review: 4 Stars
Review: A Piece of the World was an impromptu library pick for me! I went to pick up a library hold, saw this in the New Books section, and fell in love with the cover (#duh its a famous painting for a reason). Then I read the description, which boasted an interesting look at an often untold time in American history and knew I had to take it home. This book was very much a novel – it told a story without too much suspense or intrigue, and had a tidy ending that pulled it all together. So often today, we read books that push us or thrill us and this was an excellent read in between all of those. It was slow and thoughtful and in the end I really liked it! I would recommend it to anyone, especially someone willing to slow down and smell the roses.

Still Life by Louise Penny

Genre: Mystery
Feel Learn Wonder Review: 3.5 Stars
Review: Still Life is the first of a 13 (and still going) part series following a detective, Inspector Gamache, in a small Quebec town, Three Pines. While this is a detective novel, don’t be fooled in to thinking it is a thriller. While there are twists and turns, this is one that is totally okay to read after dark and won’t keep you up all night (unlike some Ruth Wares!). That said, it was an enjoyable read with great character development and some fun mystery components. I will definitely be picking up the second book (probably in May because my April TBR is already packed!)

 

January/February Speed Reviews!

February was busy. My boyfriend and I spent two and a half weeks in New Zealand so preparing for, doing, and recovering from the trip took up pretty much the entire month. I got some reading done, but not many reviews. So I wanted to post my speed reviews here!

Sourdough by Robin Sloan

Genre: Fiction/Magical Realism
Feel Learn Wonder Review: 2 Stars
Review: Robin Sloan is the great writer who brought us Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Book Store, which I, and so many other readers loved! I expected to be taken on a similar journey this time, but the plot and character development never got me fully immersed in magical world. It ended up feeling a bit flat and forced, which was a dissapointment after loving Mr. Penumbra’s so much! For those looking for a quick palate cleanser between heavier books, this is certainly an option, but I wouldn’t expect to be sucked in to another world as much as you were with Mr. Penumbras.

Left Neglected by Lisa Genova

Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Feel Learn Wonder Review: 3 Stars
Review: I read this one as a the Diverse Book Club pick for their February topic of Chronic Illness. Left Neglect is a chronic illness in which your brain cannot imagine the left side of anything – your plate, the TV, your body, or even the room you’re sitting in. Imagine someone telling you to turn left, and you having to tell them that that’s impossible because there is no left. You know its not correct, but you just cannot find the left. Left Neglected follows the life of a busy working mother-of-two who suffers from this chronic brain injury following a car accident. The book is well done, and paints the picture of what it would feel like to be in the position of both the victim and the support system, but the plot lacks an overall arch. I felt like each chapter could have been a 40 minute tv show episode, and it definitely would be a show I would  tune in to each week, but it didn’t quite work for me as a book.

Hamilton The Revolution by Lin Manuel Miranda

Genre: Theatre
Feel Learn Wonder Review: 4 Stars
Review: I went to see Hamilton the Musical on broadway in January and I LOVED it! I went in totally fresh only knowing the song “My Shot” and not even really knowing what that meant. I requested Hamtilton: The Revolution and learned so much more about the characters, the cast, and little jokes Lin Manual Miranda through in to the lyrics. This book was such a great way to fully experience the show and by the end of the book, I had the soundtrack memorized!

Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller

Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Feel Learn Wonder Review: 3 Stars
Review: Swimming Lessons was lent to me by a friend and that usually moves a stack to the top of my TBR since I want to return it quickly. The first half of this book really worked for me. I loved the alternating narrators and the budding love stories on both sides was making this slow burn really enjoyable. Unfortunately, in the second half I became more impatient with the slow burn, and the plot seemed to drag and not come together. The ending left me wanting more, and so I had to give this one a 3 star review.

Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick

Genre: Nonfiction
Feel Learn Wonder Review: 5 Stars
Review: READ THIS BOOK! You may notice this is my only five star review in the batch and it would seriously be 10 stars if that was an option. I loved this book. I found the writing so well done, with a great balance of historical information and personal histories. I can’t even express to you how much I learned and how glad I am that I dug a little deeper to learn about the living conditions in North Korea. I don’t want to give too much away here, because I think some of the power of this book is being blown away page after page.

 

Speed Catchup!

It’s been a while! I haven’t posted on here in maybe six weeks? Life and work both got crazy at the same time, which didn’t leave much time to write. Since it’s the end of October, let’s speed through some catch up of bookish news!

  • I read some books! Quick reviews:

The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne – 5 Stars

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng – 4.5 Stars

The Animators by Kayla Rae Whitaker – 4.5 Stars

Where the Water Goes by David Owen – 5 Stars

Unstoppable: My Life So Far by Maria Sharapova – 5 Stars

After the Eclipse by Sarah Perry – 3.5 Stars

  • I started a book club in San Diego! We read the Animators and had a ton of fun discussing it, while drinking some wine 🙂 Our next book will be Into Thin Air.
  • I (kind of) started a book club at work! We have a women’s group at work since I work in engineering, and we decided to read books about the work place and discuss it at our next meeting. This will just be a quarterly book club! Our first book will be The Confidence Code.
  • I had a birthday! I’m officially 28! For my birthday I bought myself What Happened by Hillary Clinton, and received Unstoppable by Maria Sharapova (Already read it! 5 Stars!) and Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng.
  • I’ve been focusing more on #bookstagram interaction and have started messaging more with others on there. It’s been great to get to know more of the community!

I think that’s about it!

Looking forward, I have an ambitious TBR for November

  • Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (2017 Man Booker Prize Winner)
  • Into Thin Air by John Krakauer
  • What Happened by Hillary Clinton
  • The Confidence Code
  • and of course, my November BOTM book!

Happy Reading! And Happy November! I cannot believe 2017 is almost over!

 

August Rundown

August was a great month for reading for me. I finished four books – and two of them were over 500 pages (woah). I also made my third trip of the summer to Denver to watch one of my best friends get married, and had a house guest from New Zealand stay with us for nine days. I’d say August was busy, and September’s about to be even crazier!

I thought I’d try a new style of monthly post this month — direct and to the point. This month I wrote a lot on the blog, so instead of rehashing it all, I’ll just point you in the direction of those posts. I hope you enjoy!

Books Read

  • American Fire (July BOTM) – 4 Stars – Review here.
  • The Secret History – 5 Stars – Review here.
  • The Alice Network – 3 Stars – Review coming soon
  • The Lying Game – 4 Stars – Review coming soon

Bookish Updates

I read a lot of #backlistbumps this summer and LOVED it. Definitely going to be a new part of my routine – thoughts here.

I read two books from the Reese Witherspoon online book club, and did some digging in to other online book clubs – thoughts here.

I lost my phone for two weeks, and it made me do a lot of #bookstagram soul searching – thoughts here.

I’m starting a real life book club! I’ll write a post on it soon but I’m really excited

Book Buzz

The hottest books of August 2017 ::drum roll please::

  • Castle of Water by Dane Huckelbridge
  • The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne
  • The Ressurection of Joan Ashby by Cherise Wolas

September TBR

  1. The Hearts Invisible Furies by John Boyne (August BOTM)
  2. Castle of Water by Dane Huckelbridge
  3. Where the Water Goes by David Owen
  4. My September BOTM
  5. My new book club’s first pick!