HAPPY NEW YEAR!

We have almost made it to 2019! 2018 has been an incredible for year – I can truly say it has been my happiest and healthiest year yet, and that is something I want to carry in to 2019.

Last year around this time, I wrote about how I wanted 2018 to be my year of intentional actions – being intentional with this blog, with my friendships, with my job, my travel schedule, etc etc. Practicing this throughout 2018 has been a game changer and has evolved in to so much more.

I also had a private list of resolutions that I kept in my desk drawer – this included either committing to my old job and going to our LA office monthly.. or quitting. I’m so glad I was able to find my new job and commit myself to this new direction.

What I’m most proud of is that I finally took deliberate steps to be healthy – to exercise, to meal prep, to get braces for my future dental health, and to sleep enough every single night.

So with that said, here are some of my goals for 2019 — bookish and other.

  • Drink more tea. This would be up from 0 cups of tea I currently drink. Tea is so healthy for you and more interesting than water, so I’m looking forward to drinking more tea in the new year.
  • Continue meal prepping every single week.  Meal prep has been such a game changer for me in the past six months. I love it! I want to continue through next year.
  • Run a distance race. I’m not sure what distance, but between 10 and 13.1 miles. I used to love running, and while Orangetheory has been great for me, I’m looking forward to running outside and training for a race once the mornings get a little lighter.
  • Read 2 books from my Unread Shelf every month. Going in to 2019 I have 20 unread books (and a $50 gift card to my favorite local bookstore!). That translates to about 2 per month to finish them all in the next year + whatever I pick up in 2019.
  • Buy< 5 books! Looking back at my Unread Shelf post, I realized that I don’t need to buy books to have something to read. I’m lucky that I have friends with similar reading taste who enjoy lending me books, plus a few publishers who send books my way, not to mention the local library! I’m going to try to buy less than 5 books this year.
  • Visit both of my Grandmothers. I’ve been pretty delinquent since moving across the country, but I don’t want to take their good health for granted, so the top of my list of travel priorities is to go see them. Extra special: My granny will be 100 years old on September 7th of this year! ❤

 

Do you have any New Years Resolutions – bookish or otherwise? Drop them in the comments below and we can keep eachother accountable!

2018 Favorites

Can you believe we’ve almost made it to the end of 2018? I absolutely hate the saying, or any allusion to the concept, of time going by without us realizing it. I just want to live every moment and have so many moments to come! Call me sentimental, but what this means is that I love to look back on the year that just past and recognize the length of it and all the great books I’ve read along the way.

At this point I’ve reviewed almost all of the books I’ve read this year on this blog (since I started keeping up with it in April!) Instead of reminding you which of (ALL) the books I read this year I loved the most, I decided to keep my wrap-up to books published in 2018 only.

Of the 22 books I read published this year, I gave 10 of them five stars. That’s pretty high praise for the books that came out this year! And so as to not leave any out, I’m going to be quick and organize them by genre for you. Hopefully this will inspire you to pick one of them up in early 2019.

One of my favorites questions I’ve seen going around Bookstagram recently was “What was your favorite book of 2018/What should be my first book of 2019?” I loved that this question was one in the same, because I love this community of sharing book recommendations and enthusiasm. I hope you decide to pick up one of these great books and I hope to hear what your favorites of 2018 include!

My FAVORITE Genre going in to 2018: LITERARY FICTION

When it’s good, it’s SO good: NONFICTION

A (Generally) Less Well Liked by me genre: Historical Fiction

 

Your turn! Let me know which books you’ve enjoyed this year, and which of these, if any, you think you’ll pick up!

#UnreadShelfProject2018 Wrap Up!

What’s better than an end of year wrap-up? If you ask me, not much. 🙂 I’ve been loving reading all the “End of Year Best Of…” lists, but before I get to my favorite books of 2018, I want to look back at my goals for this year — specifically how did the Unread Shelf Project 2018 go?!

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This was my original photo of the seven books I absolutely promised myself I would read this year. Update: I read them all!

Let’s start with the stats:

Unread books owned as of January 1st 2018:
Read: 10
Donated: 6
Remaining: 0 (HORRAY!!)

Books purchased in 2018:
Books purchased AND read in 2018: 13
Books purchased and NOT read in 2018: 13

Here’s a little more of the breakdown —

READ 2018 UNREAD 2018
Owned Pre 2018 10
Purchased New 2018 5 8
Purchased BOTM 5 4
Purchased Used 3 1
Library Books 7
Audiobooks 9
Lent by Friend 6 4
Gifted by Friend 2 2
Gifted by Publisher 11 2

And now, on to how I feel about it:

The fact that 20 out of the 58 books I read this year are books that I purchased tells me two things: I did a great job of reading books that I didn’t pay for and I also made some serious progress on my unread shelf. Overall, I’m happy with the progress I made!

This little study is also a great way for me to see that while I did a great job this year reading books lent or given to me, I also bought more books than I can read. I’m going to set a rule of only FIVE books outside of Book of the Month selections for all of 2019, and I can only get a Book of the Month pick if I’ve finished the selections I already chose. The bottom line is that I have so many sources of receiving books, and I really don’t need to purchase books (except when sometimes I definitely do….), so I’m going to limit but not restrict that number.

And what about the specific Unread Shelf Challenge?

Overall as a challenge, I really liked the specific prompts that each month presented. A lot of the times the books on our unread shelf are books we’ve been avoiding for one reason or another, and the little kick in the butt is exactly what we need to read them!

One challenge that surprised me was ‘read the book you most recently purchased’. I loved that one because it made me realize how frequently I get a book and add it to the bottom of the pile, and then end up losing the anticipation that had caused me to hit purchase in the first place.

I’m not sure if I will participate again, but if not this challenge maybe another to help me check off some books. As I hinted to in my Gift Guide, I’m very interested in the Read Harder Challenge!

If you’re interested in the challenge and how it broke down from month-to-month, you can check out all the challenges and reviews here! Let me know if you participated in a similar challenge this year and how it went for you!

Here’s to continuing to read our shelves in 2019 🙂

Feel Learn Wonder Bookish Gift Guide

Happy Holidays Readers! If you’re anything like me you love the holidays and all that comes with them. This year I wanted to share a few bookish items that would make great gifts whether you’re treating yourself, putting together a list for your fam, or trying to get ideas for that other bookworm on your list!

Year of Wonder

[Full Disclosure: I received this book from Harper Books for free, but this is not a sponsored post. This book, The Year of Wonder, was the inspiration for this post in the first place, so I figured I’d just throw it out there first.]

I think this book would make a great gift for anyone with an interest in classical music, whether they’re a newbie like me or a certified expert! The idea is that each day of the year has a dedicated song and essay in this book, and throughout the year you can grow your knowledge and appreciation of classical music. I want to save most of it to enjoy throughout 2019, but I will say that I read the page for January 1st and listened to the song about 7 times. The music seems to be available on Spotify and there is a dedicated Apple Music playlist you can download!

Books!

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And now, on to the obvious. My criteria for giving a book as a gift is pretty simple in theory, but can sometimes be a little limiting. In short a book cannot be too sad, too violent, too potentially offensive, or too racy. That doesn’t mean it needs to be boring! For those on your list who need books meeting those criteria, here’s my list of six favorite books of 2018 that gift well to others:

Totes!

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If 2018 was the year of anything in the book world it was the year of totes from publishers! I personally love my Riverhead Books tote and have seen a whole bunch of designs out there by others.

Book Journals!

Trust me, book people love to journal and track. 🙂 I saw two new designs for 2019 that piqued my interest, including one by Book Riot for their Read Harder Challenge that they host annually, but never had a formal tracker for before!


And there you have it – there’s a quick rundown of some of my favorite things for every bookworm on your list 🙂

 

What I’m Reading: December

While November was full of nonfiction books for me, I’m looking forward to an entertaining (fiction filled) December. I had been holding off on getting new Book of the Month books until I read the two I had, but I was eager to get two selections this month! So I’m thinking of doing a bit of a Book of the Month Readathon this month with titles I’m really excited about —

Circe by Madeline Miller

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I got this from Book of the Month when I got The Silence of the Girls. Apparently I was feeling the Greek Mythology Retelling genre that seems to have sprung up recently!

Calypso by David Sedaris

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I got this one back in July I think! I was so excited to see it as a selection and immediately added it to my box. David Sedaris is a favorite author of mine, I find all of this work absolutely hilarious and am excited for this new collection, which I hear is a little more serious than his others.

Severance by Ling Ma

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This one was a December pick for Book of the Month, but not a recent release. When they took this strategy last year, I ended up with Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine and I’m so glad I did. I’ve been seeing Severance around #bookstagram and decided to give it a go despite not always totally loving the distopian thing. I hear great things about this one!

For Better or Worse by Margot Hunt

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This was a November selection for Book of the Month that I passed up on mostly because I hadn’t heard anything about it and wanted to read a few reviews first. The reviews were great and now I’m excited to add it to my library, and a marital thriller sounds like an entertaining way to end the year!

Have you read any of these? Let me know what you’re planning to read next month!

November Reading Recap

November was a slow reading month for me. I really wanted to participate in Nonfiction November, but in order to do so I had to slow things down. I tend to read nonfiction more slowly than my usual reading speed, and I also spent a lot of time blogging to keep up with the NN blog prompts! Not to mention some extra long days in the office that kept me away from my books. 🙂 I learned a lot and am really glad I did it, even though I only got through three books this month.

Here they are!

Bad Blood by David Carreyrou
Rating: 5/5
Genre: Nonfiction
Tone: Intriguing, Suspenseful, Shocking
Structure: Linear timeline, told mostly in the third person until the author gets involved
Read if you like: Investigative Journalism, American Fire, Killers of the Flower Moon

Playing Through The Whistle by S.L. Price
Rating:
2.5/5
Genre: History/Nonfiction
Tone: Reverent
Structure: Linear timeline – detailed history interspersed with scenes of sporting events
Read if you like: American history, Janesville

Fun Home by Allison Bechdel
Rating: 4/5
Genre: Graphic Novel/Memoir
Tone: Thoughtful, Literary, Tragic Humor
Structure: Graphic novel spelling out a nonlinear history of a father daughter relationship
Read if you like: Family dynamics, LGBTQ stories, Graphic Novels (sorry for the lack of comparisons – this book is so unique to me!)

And that’s it! Despite being a slow month, it was a pretty good month and I’m really happy with everything that I read. What did you read this month?

Reads Like Fiction

I get requests for this type of book all the time (particularly from my mom. Hi Mom!), and my response is always one of two answers. 1) DEADWAKE BY ERIC LARSON or 2) You’ve read Deadwake? Well, books like this don’t really come along that often…

Seriously though, I think Deadwake is one of the best narrative nonfiction books of our time. This is one book where the realness of it adds value.

Imagine being in a submarine, so literally far below the ocean’s surface, where humans shouldn’t exist, and your two options outside of 100% perfection and sucess are either being discovered and bombed by the British causing immediate death, or fearing discovery, losing oxygen due to not being able to surface for more air, causing a slower death. The writing in Deadwake that exposed me to the conditions of submarine warfare truly blew me away but in a way where I wanted to keep reading and experiencing the story.

Aside from the haunting truths about marine life, Deadwake also a love story. Not only that, a presidential love story. I’m sure how many  of you are fans of The American President (the movie) or Scandal (the tv show) but to be there’s no better plot line than a presidental love story.

And finally there’s the story of the rich and famous – of the people who get to sail on a luxury ship from New York to London. We all loved the Titanic for the glitz and the glam and the Lusitania is no different in that regard.

So glitz, glam, love, shocking nonfiction, and of course one of histories greatest disasters. Deadwake is truly one of my favorite narrative nonfiction reads and can confidently say it reads like nonfiction.

 

Book Review: Playing Through The Whistle

Author: S. L. Price
Published: October 4, 2016
Genre: Nonfiction
FLW Rating: 2.5/5

Aliquippa, Pennsylvania is a fascinating place. It’s one of the top two towns in the country to produce NFL players, but with one of the lowest average incomes. It’s a town that has truly been through it all and is a great way to learn about the last century of American History. That being said, the breadth of this book was both too wide and too narrow to be an enjoyable reading experience. I’ll explain more but first, the synopsis:

Playing Through The Whistle is the story of  Aliquippa, a suburb of Pittsburgh in Western Pennsylvania, that has been through it all. From steel mills and labor unions, to becoming WPIAL and State champions in both football AND basketball, to handling racial tensions and gang violence in the 80s, Aliquippa can serve as a microhistory of the 20th century in the rustbelt of America.

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To me a nonfiction book needs a cohesive plot, and in this case that storyline that flowed throughout the book was a modern day football game. But throughout the 450 page book, the modern day plot line only popped in to cover about 4 pages, and honestly didn’t add any value in my opinion because I didn’t really get enough of it to understand it’s significance. Part of me is also a little upset that the book was started with the modern day scene because I got excited about that aspect and then I never felt like it was fulfilled. Long story short, I felt like this book just lacked a story. (You won’t find this in my “Reads like Fiction” post later this week!)

To come back to what I said in the beginning – I felt like this book was both too wide and too narrow. The book spanned from the early 1900s to present day, but as the plot progressed through the century, the writing was incredibly detailed. I struggled with this because it meant there were so many names, and I wasn’t sure whose names to remember and whose names I could forget. Trust me, remembering all of them is not an option. Since the plot was so laser focused at times, it had to move quickly and I felt like I was both a little bored and a little rushed. I didn’t like the tempo!

Since I guess what I’m saying is that I wish this book were a little more focused on the story and told from a little higher of a level. I do think Aliquippa should receive the attention it deserves, so while I’m not sure I would tell you to read this whole thing, I want to share some of the highlights. If these pique your interest then by all mean, pick this one up! And let me know how you like it!

  • Aliquippa is on the forefront of labor unions – as the steelworkers needed to unionize to protect the worker’s rights
  • Aliquippa remained (relatively) above racial conflict until 1978!
  • Once the steel mills closed, there was a white migration out of Aliquippa that the town had to adjust to
  • The options for Aliquippa youth became football success or dealing on the streets
  • Two of the NFL players to come out of Aliquippa were Mike Ditka and Tony Dorsett

This (obviously) only skims the surface of what is covered in this book, but if it piques your interest check out this book! In my opinion, the book could have been done better and wasn’t my favorite book to read, tempo-wise, but there is so much to learn about Aliquippa and so much that can be learned from this story.

Be the Expert/Become the Expert

This is a post written for link-up post for the month of Nonfiction November! It’s hard to say what I’m an “expert” in, but I’m going to choose a topic that I think I stumbled upon pretty randomly, but am enjoying — OKLAHOMA CITY.

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What a place.

Now, I must admit I’ve never been to Oklahoma City. It’s not a place I’ve ever particularly wanted to go, but in the past year or so Oklahoma City has seemed to spring to life in my… reading life.

I read two of the most facinating non-fiction books on the topic and interestingly enough, I had new downstairs neighbors move in who moved here from Oklahoma City! You bet I’ve been asking them to confirm all the crazy things I’ve been reading!

So about the books:

Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann

David Grann is a fantastic nonfiction writer – he’s a NYT reporter by day, and in his free time he’s written two best selling nonfiction books, one of which was adapted as a movie last year! Killers of the Flower Moon is a work of investigative journalism in to the mysterious murders of indigenous people in Oklahoma.

What this teaches us about Oklahoma: As many of you may know, outside of California, Oklahoma is the most seismically active part of the United States. Why? Fracking. Which means that there’s oil in Oklahoma, and where there’s oil there’s almost always conflict. In this case the indigenous people claimed control over the oil based on land rights, and the white men didn’t want to see that happen. I’ll leave you in suspense about what went down in Oklahoma over the land rights and the oil, but I’ll let you know that this issue prevails to present day and I have it on pretty good authority, that the state of Oklahoma is still pretty divided along racial lines over this issue.

Next Up: Boomtown by Sam Anderson

Will I ever stop talking about Boomtown? It’s unlikely. Boomtown is the fantastic history of Oklahoma City from the founding of Oklahoma to the 2016 season of the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team. Did you know that the team is named Thunder because Oklahoma City allowed Boeing to test their supersonic jets over the city. Just another example of the city’s search for greatness.

What does this teach us about Oklahoma City: Pretty much everything! We learn about the founding of Oklahoma that literally involved everyone running in from all of the surrounding states at “noon”, bearing in mind that noone had synchronized clocks back then. We learn about the fantastic city plan by I.M. Pei that never took hold. We learn about the Oklahoma City bombing and all of its tragic affects on the population. And we learn about a basketball team that tried its hardest to reach greatness.

I feel like I know a lot about Oklahoma City at this point, but I can’t be a true expert until I’ve seen it with my own eyes. Maybe one of these days I’ll get there and I’ll definitely let you know what I think!

Book Review: The Nightingale

We made it! Thanks for hanging in there for four reviews this week! Back to Nonfiction November next week!


Author: Kristin Hannah
Published: February 3, 2015
Genre: Historical Fiction
FLW Rating: 5/5

If I’ve learned anything this year it’s that Kristin Hannah books are hard to pick up, but are so so worth it. They’re tough for two reason – the expectations are high and the page count feels astronomical. I’m so happy to say that The Nightingale lived up to the hype and the pages flew by, as I couldn’t get enough of the story.

The Nightingale is the story of two sisters during the German occupation of France in WWII. Each has different experiences, coming from completely different places in life.  Isabelle, the younger sister, has to flee from Paris and develops a great interest in joining the resistance, whereas Vianne, the older sister whose husband is off fighting in the war, would prefer to keep her head down and stay safe until the war is over. Their individual struggles during the war illustrate the heartbreaking and, honestly, terrifying years of WWII in France.

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Part of the hesitation for me in picking up this book is that I just feel so. damn. saturated on WWII historical fiction. I’ll do a post on all that I’ve read and my recommendations on that another time, but in general I’m enjoying learning about other periods of history and parts of the world. This book, however, was better than I could have hoped for a WWII historical fiction read. The characters were so compelling and the plot moved quickly through the time period, not leaving you time to dwell on the already known facts. There was love, there was loss, and I loved both the intensity of the scenes and the way the book was able to move on to keep spirits relatively high.

One of my favorite things about this book is that there is a twist in the end. Don’t worry, these reviews are always spoiler free, but I didn’t expect to enjoy the ending quite so much (I can get bored of tidy endings to historical fiction novels), and this one kept me tied in to the story until the final minute.

If you’ve read The Great Alone and aren’t sure you can handle another experience that’s quite so emotional, I would say this one is less emotional.  I teared up a little at certain parts, but it wasn’t like The Great Alone where I straight up bawled for the last 100 pages.

Overall, I would suggest you cast all doubts aside and pick up The Nightingale. This book was truly readable and compelling despite all my greatest reading fears! I’m glad I finally bit the bullet, so to speak, and went for it.