Monthly roundup

Monthly (year end!) roundup: December 2019

Happy New Year! Welcome to 2020! That number sounds straight out of a science fiction novel or movie from when I was young, but here we are.

And if you’re reading this, congratulations on making it through another year. It’s been a tough one for so many reasons and I don’t know that it’s going to get easier, but you’re here and I’m glad. The book blogging community is pretty amazing at taking care of each other and being supportive, and I’m happy to be a part of it. Thanks for always being here, whether it’s to talk books, reading slumps, fandoms, or the absolute garbage that real life can be. Y’all rock. πŸ™‚

December was ridiculously busy, but it’s that way every year. There are always a millionty things scheduled and still only 24 hours a day, some of which must be devoted to sleep, so I feel like so much of my time went to running errands and getting nothing else done! The kids go back to school in a week and I still feel like we’ve gotten so little downtime, but I think I just need to accept that’s how life is these days. At least there are always books for comfort, right?

Let’s get to recapping!

What I Read in December 2019

  1. The Chai Factor by Farah Heron

2. Before They Pass Away by Jimmy Nelson

3. Becoming Eve: My Journey From Ultra-Orthodox Rabbi to Transgender Woman by Abba Chava Stein

4. What the Wind Knows by Amy Harmon

5. Les MisΓ©rables by Victor Hugo (no review, read as part of my own personal Read Harder program)

6. Guest House for Young Widows: Among the Women of ISIS by Azadeh Moaveni

7. Dating by the Book by Mary Ann Marlowe

8. The Newish Jewish Encyclopedia: From Abraham to Zabar’s and Everything in Between by Stephanie Butnick, Liel Leibovitz, and Mark Oppenheimer

9. Made From Scratch: Discovering the Pleasures of a Handmade Life by Jenna Woginrich

10. This Land Is Our Land: An Immigrant’s Manifesto by Suketu Mehta

11. All-American Muslim Girl by Nadine Jolie Courtney (review to come)

12. Inheritence: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love by Dani Shapiro (review to come)

The first set of books has no links because, remember, I was playing catch-up and did a post full of mini-reviews. If you’re interested in seeing my quick takes of those books, go here and here.

Not the longest list I’ve ever had at the end of the month, if we’re going by numbers, but in terms of quality, I’m happy with it. There were a lot of great reads in there.

Reading Challenge Updates

The 2020 reading challenges are out! I spent a lovely Sunday poring over a bunch of them and making out lists of books that fit in with the challenge prompts (cross-referenced with what’s available from local libraries, of course, as well as what’s on my TBR lists). I’m definitely going to do Book Riot’s Read Harder 2020 Challenge, since I loved last year’s so much, and I’m also taking on PopSugar’s 2020 Reading Challenge! The PopSugar is significantly longer, but I’m not worried about that. I’ll be doing the two challenges concurrently, reading from what’s available at the library and crossing things off as I go along. And when I finish those two, I’ll probably do the Modern Mrs. Darcy 2020 Reading Challenge, just for funsies. I’m feeling ambitious this year!

If none of these tickle your fancy (where that’s located…), here’s a fabulous master list of all the 2020 reading challenges! Check them out and find something that stretches your brain.

State of the Goodreads TBR

And we’re back up to 81 books on the TBR, but the five books I have checked out of the library are all on that list, so January may see that number decrease, but only if you people stop posting about such interesting books! *sobs*

Books I Acquired in December 2019

Christmas day was weirdly warm, so while my husband and daughter played at the park, my son and I went for a four mile walk, which included stopping by a Little Free Library. I dropped off two books and picked up two more: a copy of Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures by Emma Straub (chosen solely because the heroine hails from Door County, Wisconsin, where we vacationed with my mother two summers ago), and Looking Back: A Book of Memories by Lois Lowry, who was one of my favorite childhood writers. My bookish friend in Michigan, with whom I trade books back and forth by mail, has that on her TBR list, so that’ll probably be off to her place once I read it. πŸ™‚

Bookish Things I Did in December

The only thing I did this past month was help tear down my daughter’s school’s book fair. I was supposed to help set up as well, but that was during my three day migraine (actually less fun than it sounds; I ended up having to go to the doctor for stronger meds, and I came back from throwing up in the kitchen sink to find that my insurance company didn’t think I actually needed the anti-nausea drugs my doctor had prescribed, which was fun, because I was kind of scarily dehydrated at the time). My husband stayed home to take care of me and also went in my place to help set up the book fair, for which I’m extremely grateful. πŸ™‚ Otherwise, it was a quiet month with no other bookish events.

Current Podcast Love

Still very much loving Tablet Magazine’s Unorthodox, which adds to my reading list exponentially, and which I also mentioned in my review for The Newish Jewish Encyclopedia. It’s fun, it’s interesting, it’s informative, at times it’s sad and contemplative, and other times it’s joyful and life-affirming. I’ll be so sad once I’m through with all the back episodes, but I absolutely plan on keeping up with all the new ones as they come out.

Stephanie’s Read Harder Challenge

1463 pages, DONE. WHEW!

I can’t say that this made me love Victor Hugo any more than I did before (which was bordering on not at all, if I’m being honest. The Hunchback of Notre Dame wasn’t exactly a favorite here either). His fifty page asides and ranting tangents are headache-inducing and meandering at best (dude either really liked the sound of his own voice or the clicky sound the typewriter made. I’m feeling generous, so maybe it was both…). Cosette has the personality of a dollar store mop, Marius is irritating in his ‘Woe is me, I’m soooooooo in love with this girl I saw like twice and if I can’t have her I’ll DIIIIIIIEEEEEEEEEEEEEE’ (seriously, there’s nothing romantic about that, it’s just obsessive and weird, and it’s a testament to Cosette’s complete lack of personality that she didn’t run screaming), and while I did like Jean Valjean for the most part, by the end, his incessant need for self-sacrifice became tiresome. And what is with everyone giving speeches that last five or more pages as they lay dying??? Holy unrealistic, Batman! And, of course, let’s not forget Hugo’s weird overuse of the word ‘cloaca.’ Yeah. Ew.

But Gavroche. Gavroche was good. I loved him. Scrappy little dude. He was the best part of the novel. And the musical is, of course, stunning. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it. I saw a gorgeous production of it let’s-not-discuss-how-many-years-ago with my high school French club and adored it. There are stark differences between the novel and musical, though, but I have no problem with that and find that both can be enjoyed for what they are.

What’s next in my own personal Read Harder Challenge? Last year, I got a copy of Opera For Dummies by David Pogue and Scott Speck. I’ve always enjoyed classical music (we listen to a lot of a local classical station in the car these days and I actually recognized a piece my son’s school’s orchestra played at their last concert as something I’d heard on the radio, which made me feel pretty cool, as it wasn’t a super well-known piece), and I’ve loved the bits and pieces of operas that I’ve heard, but it’s not really a subject I know much about and I’ve always wanted to learn. The book, which I bought cheaply at a yard sale, came with the CD, so I think I’m going to go through it, maybe a chapter per day, and listen to the tracks on the CD as I go along. Let’s get some culture up in this place!

Real Life Stuff

Whew, what a month! Total whirlwind of activity. My daughter has now lost her two bottom front teeth and looks like a tiny late-season jack-o’-lantern. My son had multiple choir concerts this month, both for Concert Choir and Madrigals (yes, he wore the costume and looked fabulous, and is glad he doesn’t have to wear it again but is sad the Madrigal season is over. Crossing my fingers that he makes the spring a capella group!). We traveled four times to spend Christmas with family, and I was fortunate to spend time with my son when we went to see the movie A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood with Tom Hanks, about Mister Rogers (I have ALL the Mister Rogers love, as evidenced by my writing about him in the past). Super sweet movie, and it was great to do something relaxing and fun with my son, as he’s usually out and about with friends. πŸ™‚

January will be busy as usual. The kids go back to school on the 7th; my daughter’s Daisy Scout troop is visiting an animal shelter (if you hear squealing, it’ll be me, because ANIMALS!!!!). I’m going back to my local library’s reading group- SUPER excited about that! I got away from it last year due to a combination of illness and schedule conflicts, but I’m really looking forward to returning. And, something I’m even more excited about, I signed up for an Introduction to Judaism course at a local-ish congregation. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, and this wasn’t too expensive and is within driving distance, plus it’s at a time when I can attend with little disruption to the family routine. All the right criteria, and I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t. That starts at the end of January, and I could not possibly be more excited (it also includes a crash course in Hebrew, so I’m out-of-my-mind jazzed about that!!!). The course runs through May and I can’t wait!

2019 was an excellent year for reading for me. I’ve finished the year at 203 books, which is a pretty big number (my highest number of yearly reads was the year I reached, I believe, 254, but that was the year my son and I spent a LOT of time at the park, so I had a crapload of time to just sit and read), but more than that, it was a year of quality reads. I’ve really learned that it’s okay to put a book down, to walk away if it’s not doing it for me, even if it’s a book from my TBR list. I used to grit my teeth and force my way through it, but I’ve learned that that’s not necessary. Life’s too short to read books that aren’t right for you, and not every book is going to be right for you. I’ve read books this year that made me cry, that made me think, that made me laugh out loud and that added joy and changed the way I go about my life. I’ve deepened my understanding of certain subjects, deepened my empathy, grew as a person, read inside and outside my usual genres, and learned about myself. No matter how much I ask from books, they always give me more than I ever expected. It’s been a good year for reading.

May your 2020 be filled with love, light, laughter, peace, and the joy of reading excellent books. Happy New Year, friends. πŸ™‚

Monthly roundup

Monthly Roundup: November 2019

Welcome to December! Can you believe we’re in the final stretch of the year?

November was a much, MUCH better month for me than October. No major pain flares this month (although I’m starting out December with a migraine, uggggghhhhh), which means my reading picked back up to normal levels. I’ve got such a massive stack of library books right now that I feel like I’m perpetually behind, but it’s not a reading slump, so hey, I’ll take it!

November has felt like a pretty good month for me, so let’s get started on this recap, shall we? (And, of course, as always, I’m a few- heh- books behind in terms of reviews.)

What I Read in November 2019

  1. Be A Perfect Person in Just Three Days! by Stephen Manes (no review, read out loud to my daughter)

2. Tell Me Who You Are: Sharing Our Stories of Race, Culture & Identity by Winona Guo and Priya Vulchi

3. Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

4. Things You Save In a Fire by Katherine Center

5. All the Walls of Belfast by Sarah J. Carlson

6. Surprised By God: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Religion by Danya Ruttenberg

7. Resist: 35 Profiles of Ordinary People Who Rose Up Against Tyranny and Injustice by Veronica Chambers

8. The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld

9. Dying of Whiteness: How the Politics of Racial Resentment Is Killing America’s Heartland by Jonathan M. Metzl

10. Unfollow: A Journey From Hatred to Hope by Megan Phelps-Roper (review to come)

11. Love from A to Z by S.K. Ali (review to come)

12. Love Thy Neighbor: A Muslim Doctor’s Struggle for Home in Rural America by Ayaz Virji (review to come)

13. No Laughter Here by Rita Williams-Garcia (review to come)

14. Jesus Girls: True Tales of Growing up Female and Evangelical by Hannah Faith Notess (review to come)

15. To Life!: A Celebration of Jewish Being and Thinking by Harold S. Kushner (no review, this was a reread for me)

16. An Unorthodox Match by Naomi Ragen (review to come)

17. Here All Along: Finding Meaning, Spirituality, and a Deeper Connection to Life- in Judaism by Sarah Hurwitz (review to come)

Seventeen is definitely better than last month’s eleven (which included several read-alouds to my daughter and one book I’d been reading chapter-by-chapter since August). I enjoyed so much of what I read this month that it just feels like a really great month for reading!

Reading Challenge Updates

I’m not currently participating in any reading challenges, but I’m soooooooooooooo excited that the 2020 reading challenges will be here soon!

State of the Goodreads TBR

Currently, my Goodreads TBR stands at 75 books, which is pretty good for me. I have at least five books from the library out right now that come from that list, so it’ll dwindle even more (until I add more, that is). I added ten books to the list this month, which seems like a lot, but I’ve never actually looked at what I added by month, so that may be normal for me. πŸ™‚

Books I Acquired in November 2019

I don’t think I actually acquired any books this month! I’ve had such an enormous stack of library books to deal with (including one from interlibrary loan that’s so big and heavy, the older librarian needed help lifting it down from the holds shelf! That’ll be in my reviews in December, and I’ll include a picture, because it’s hilariously enormous).

Bookish Things I Did in November 2019

Terrible photo- I’m seriously the worst photographer in the world- but my son and I were able to go listen to author Erika L. SΓ‘nchez speak about her young adult novel, I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter, at a local high school. She’s a moving and engaging speaker, and I’m all for anything I can get my seventeen year old son to attend with me!

Not entirely bookish related, but we had parent-teacher conferences for my daughter, and her teacher is absolutely thrilled with her reading level! (The conference overall went fantastically; my daughter is doing really well in kindergarten and her teacher had only positive things to say, which was a relief!)

Current Podcast Love

I caught up on a few episodes of What Should I Read Next?, then listened to a ton of Behind the Bastards, which is so funny and interesting and informative. And just the other night, I began listening to Unorthodox, a podcast that covers all things Jewish. It’s funny and informative, and I’ve added two books to my TBR thanks to this podcast (not only that, but within two podcasts, they’d either mentioned or interviewed two or three authors I’ve read lately!). It’s a great blend of news, history, food, religion, and basically all other topics, and I’m really enjoying it.

Stephanie’s Read Harder Challenge

This is an entire mood right here. I’m currently on page 1039 of Les MisΓ©rables, and…whew. I’m enjoying the book, but the constant 50+ page asides about French history, politics, love, and apparently sewers (or so I’ve been warned; haven’t reached that section yet) drag the book down. I don’t think this book will have endeared me to Victor Hugo any more, but I’m glad I’m getting through it, and I’ll be glad to finally placed the entire thing in my brain. Crossing my fingers that I’ll finish it in December!

Still haven’t gotten any farther with my Norwegian book this month, but I will! πŸ™‚

Real Life Stuff

Busy month yet again! My son and mother and I attended a high school performance of the play Eurydice, which was awesome. My dentist appointment went well (PHEW), and we took my daughter to her first stage play, a high school production of The Little Mermaid. She loved it and said she definitely wants to see more theater plays, which made me very happy. Thanksgiving was lovely as always- two thumbs up to the Gardein Holiday Roast- and it was nice to see so many members of my family.

What’s next in December? I need to get Christmas shopping, I only have a handful of things for my daughter and like one for my son- why are teenage boys so difficult to buy for??? My husband and I don’t really do traditional gifts, but I’ll have to think of something small for him. He’s also difficult to buy for…

I volunteered to help out with my daughter’s book fair this first week in December, but as it’s also concert week for my son, the only times that worked well for me to help out were the days where they’re setting it up and taking it down, which is fine by me. I’m a better behind-the-scenes helper anyway. πŸ™‚ My son has multiple concerts and performances this month with his choir and Madrigals group, so that’s going to keep me busy and driving him around everywhere. He has a performance several hours away next week that my mother and I may travel to, depending on the weather. And of course, all the December holidays, which means baking and cooking and travel and the kids off school. We’ll see how that affects my reading!

May you all have a beautiful, warm, light-filled December, full of family, friends, good food, and great books!

How was your November???

Monthly roundup

Monthly Roundup: October 2019

Welcome to November!

Another month in the books. (Heh. Book blogger pun.) October has been a doozy of a month, friends, and not the greatest month of reading for me. I tend to get a little reading slump-ish around this time of year, but this year, that was eclipsed by the nasty pain flare I had that started the second week and which was triggered by a massive temperature/weather change. It’s normal for my pain to flare during that time, but it’s never fun, and instead of spending my evenings reading, I went to sleep every night at around 8:30 in order to escape the pain. And that, friends, is the reason why this is the month that I’ve read the least in so far this year. It happens.

October wasn’t a completely terrible month, though. Good and fun things did happen, so let’s get this monthly roundup on the road!

What I Read in October 2019

  1. Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado-PΓ©rez

2. A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn (no review, read as part of my personal Read Harder challege, but highly recommended)

3. The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai

4. The Difficult Child by Stanley Turecki (no review, read to help tackle some of my daughter’s more intense behaviors)

5. All-of-a-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor (no review, read out loud to my daughter)

6. In Defense of the Princess: How Plastic Tiaras and Fairytale Dreams Can Inspire Smart, Strong Women by Jerramy Fine

7. I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. SΓ‘nchez

8. When Islam Is Not a Religion: Inside America’s Fight For Religious Freedom by Asma T. Uddin (no review, solely because this book was so jam-packed full of information- much of it legal, obviously- that I didn’t have the mental bandwidth to properly sum it up. If this topic intrigues you, however, check it out. I did enjoy it!)

9. The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren

10. When I Was White: A Memoir by Sarah Valentine (review to come)

11. More All-of-a-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor (no review, read out loud to my daughter)

So yeah, this was absolutely my slowest month of the year, but I feel no shame for that. For me, a pain flare as bad as this last one is like trying to watch the television, but someone is blasting the radio at top volume directly into your ear at the same time. It’s next to impossible to focus on anything when the pain is blaring away like that, so it’s amazing that I got any reading done at all!

Reading Challenge Updates

I’m not currently participating in any reading challenges, but only two more months before the 2020 Challenges begin! I really enjoyed Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge, so I’ll do that, and probably the Modern Mrs. Darcy one again too. As much as I enjoy free-reading and tackling my TBR, I do enjoy a good challenge! Speaking of which…

State of the Goodreads TBR

I’m currently at 80 books (it was 79, but during the time it took me to write this post, a literary agency tweeted about a book it acquired based on a premise I’d always thought would make a fabulous book, so of course I had to stick it on my TBR immediately). Three of these books are currently on their way to me via interlibrary loan or the hold system, and I’m super excited about all of them. I did add seven- NOW EIGHT- books this month, however, and I only read one book off the TBR this month, so hopefully next month will be better!

Books I Acquired in October 2019

The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld and Working by Studs Terkel came from a walk to a Little Free Library a few streets over, on one of the last really nice days, to drop off two books (so of course I had to come home with two more…). The Child Finder looked good, and I enjoyed the writing of Studs Terkel in an English class I took years ago, so I was pleased to find these books. The other books came from a half-off sale at the thrift store (where adult softcover books are only a quarter anyway!). Hawaii’s Story by Hawaii’s Queen by Liliuokalani came home with me because I’m fascinated (and saddened, and angered) by Hawaii’s history, and who better to learn more from than Liliuokalani. I’ve never read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, but it keeps coming up in all the urban farming books that I read, so I figured it was time to bite the bullet. The Joy of Sects: A Spirited Guide to the World’s Religious Traditions by Peter Occhiograsso is actually a book that was on my TBR for ages and I ended up taking it off, but when I recognized it in the thrift store, I actually said aloud, “No way!” I was pretty excited to find it on the shelf.

I also won an e-copy of Can’t Escape Love (Reluctant Royals #2.6) by Alyssa Cole from @melon_reads on Twitter! I need to read #2 in the series first (A Duke By Default), but I loved A Princess in Theory, so I’m really looking forward to reading this. Thanks, Mel!!!

Bookish Things I Did in October 2019

At the beginning of the month, a local church had its autumn rummage sale. I mean serious business when I go to this sale, as it’s where the majority of my daughter’s clothing comes from (I can clothe this kid for an entire year for less than fifty bucks, which is pretty awesome). When I was there the first day, I noticed they had a solid wood bookshelf for sale, discarded from their preschool classrooms, and when it was still there the next day- AND half price, so only five bucks!- I threw my money at them and made my husband drive over to pick it up. πŸ™‚ I’d been wanting to get a bookshelf for my daughter’s room anyway, and this was perfect. It’s on wheels, it folds shut, and the shelves are super deep. My daughter, being into all things traditionally girly, demanded that we paint it pink, and my husband was only too happy to oblige.

Not the clearest picture, but you get the idea. The shelf had been brought upstairs by my husband, but cleaning her room to this level of tidiness and then bringing the books upstairs from the living room shelves and then organizing them- all of this took two and a half hours. PHEW. (And that table? Only blue because it’s a hand-me-down from my son.)

I was also lucky enough to go hear author Julissa Arce speak at a local school. I haven’t had the chance to read her books yet, but I will. She’s a really engaging speaker and I loved hearing her tell the (abbreviated) story of her life. Her story, told in books, is being turned into a television series by America Ferrera, which is pretty exciting!

For real, I’m a terrible photographer, but she was a great speaker!

Current Podcast Love

Did you know that the show Dateline NBC is available as a podcast??? A friend in a parenting group clued me in to this and I’ve been listening to it all this past month as I fall asleep. To be fair, it’s kind of an odd thing to fall asleep to- the show is almost entirely centered on true crime, and I admit to being a little more paranoid now that my podcast time is full of murders and poisonings and missing people- absolutely not my normal jam! But there’s something about the calm narration of the hosts that puts me out, and most nights I have to start mid-episode somewhere so I can find if they caught the killers.

Stephanie’s Read Harder Challenge

I finished A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn. With index, my copy has 675 pages, and while it wasn’t an easy read, I’m glad I plowed through it. It went way more in depth than any other general history book I’ve read as an adult, and I found myself wanting more when I finished! It’s an intense book, full of pain and deception and all the hideous things that Americans have done to each other, but it’s an important read.

As of right now, I am 507 pages into Les MisΓ©rables by Victor Hugo, which is further than I got during my attempt to read it when I was 17. Hugo never met a backstory he didn’t like, and he has no problem droning on for 50+ pages about a topic about which is only relevant to the rest of the story for a paragraph or two. Most days, I read a 30-page section (30 pages or to the next chapter break); I do this in order to not burn out, especially in those long sections on, say, Waterloo, or French convents (I’m currently in the middle of this part!). I do find these long-winded asides extremely tedious to read, but the cats don’t seem to mind if I read aloud, so I’m expanding their literary world as well as mine. At 1463 pages, I’m hoping to finish this before the new year, but we’ll see.

I haven’t gotten much Norwegian study done this month, mostly due to the pain flare up and general busy-ness, but I’m still slowly plugging away when I can!

Real Life Stuff

Midwestern autumn be like:

Not even kidding, you guys. Two days before I took this, I killed a mosquito outside. Nature, you have seriously got to get yourself together, because trick-or-treating this year was cold, cold, cold, and involved all of us wearing multiple layers of clothing and snow boots. Eeeeesh.

This month was obviously dominated by my pain flare, but there was also the magical church yard sale, where I procured probably fifty or sixty items of clothing for my daughter for less than $15. I attended a local university performance of the musical Cabaret, which was stunning and left me feeling like I’d been punched in the gut- which is exactly what excellent theater does. That ending, man…

My son had his first school choir concert, which was lovely, and he performed with his Madrigals group at a different local university (and their performance of Look Out Above by Dessa and Jocelyn Hagen got the most applause out of any performance of the night! They were so, so good). My mother and daughter and I attended a semi-local Scandinavian event that we hit up every year and had a great time. We got our flu shots- not without some drama in trying to get them scheduled, but they’re done for the year, thank goodness (my son has asthma that only ever acts up when he’s sick, and I don’t mess around with taking chances with the flu when it comes to any potential complications). And Halloween was super fun, even though it was like 31 degrees when we were out trick-or-treating, and it snowed all day. (This morning, it’s so cold that the handle on my back screen door is frozen shut, a fact I only learned when I tried to come back in after taking the recycling out this morning. Fortunately, my daughter let me in!)

What’s next in November? My son’s school is putting on a performance of Eurydice (he’s not in it), so I’m looking forward to that. I have a dentist appointment (uuuuuuuuugggghhhh), and later on that week, I’ll go hear Erika L. SΓ‘nchez, author of I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter, speak. And then, that weekend, a local high school is putting on a special children’s performance of The Little Mermaid, so my mother and I are going to take my five year-old daughter to her first stage play! (My husband isn’t really into theater.) I’m already talking to her about what her behavior needs to look like, about being quiet and not talking when the actors are on stage. I think she can do it. Wish us luck!

And then we have Thanksgiving, and then it’ll be a whirlwind of holiday events. I’ll be busy, that’s for sure, but hopefully I’ll be able to squeeze in a little reading here and there. πŸ˜‰

And that’s it! How was your October? (Hopefully less painful than mine!) Wishing you all the best for a beautiful November. πŸ™‚

Monthly roundup

Monthly Roundup: September 2019

Welcome to October!

For real, though, how is it October??? I just sat down to write September’s post! This whole year has just gone by at rocket speed…

This has been the first full month of my daughter being in school full-time, and it’s been interesting. I’m still at home and will be for the foreseeable future, and I’m kind of getting into a little bit of a routine, which is nice. I have a lot less free time than I figured, though, since I still have SO much to do. It’s not bad, though, and I have a new reading-related category to add to this month’s monthly post. I’m enjoy my quieter days, that’s for sure!

I’m still ridiculously behind on blog stuff, though. I’m really hoping that once it cools off, things will settle down around here and I’ll be able to jump back into the book blogging world a little more. For now, it’s all I can do to get posts written (as you’ll see!).

Anyhoodle, let’s get this recap started!

What I Read in September 2019

  1. Shadow of the Titanic: The Extraordinary Story of Those Who Survived by Andrew Wilson

2. Good and Mad: The Extraordinary Power of Women’s Anger by Rebecca Traister

3. Ribsy by Beverly Cleary (no review, read out loud to my daughter)

4. The Suburban Micro-Farm by Amy Stross

5. The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World by Melinda Gates

6. Opposite of Always by Justin A. Reynolds

7. Reading Behind Bars: A True Story of Literature, Law, and Life as a Prison Librarian by Jill Grunenwald

8. Winnie l’Ourson by A.A. Milne (no review, more on this later)

9. City Farmer: Adventures in Urban Food Growing by Lorraine Johnson

10. The Sparrow Sisters by Ellen Herrick

11. Just Visiting by Dahlia Adler

12. The Polygamist’s Daughter by Anna LeBaron (review to come)

13. Gated by Amy Christine Parker (review to come)

14. Without a Prayer: The Death of Lucas Leonard and How One Church Became a Cult by Susan Ashline (review to come)

15. Socks by Beverly Cleary (no review, read out loud to my daughter)

16. The Silence Between Us by Alison Gervais (review to come)

Only slightly better than last month! I’ve still been ridiculously busy, so not as much reading time as I would have liked (and barely any reading time some days!) Bring on the colder weather where I can huddle under a blanket and just READ!!!

Reading Challenge Updates

I’m not currently participating in any reading challenges, but I’m already looking forward to these starting up again in the new year!

State of the Goodreads TBR

Currently, my Goodreads TBR stands at 77 books! Some of the books I had placed on there last month were cookbooks, which I checked out of the library and went through, then took off my list, so that helps to explain the slightly reduced number. Also aiding in TBR reduction is the fact that eleven of this month’s books came off my TBR list. Yay me!

Books I Acquired in September 2019

The only book I brought into the house this month was a copy of Save the Cat! Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody, which I bought with a Barnes and Noble gift card. I’ve actually gotten a tiny bit of writing done this month, but not a ton, and not with any regularity. Possibly when the weather turns…

Bookish Things I Did in September 2019

I was able to go listen to author David Grann (author of Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI) speak at a local school.

I didn’t want to be rude and snap a picture when he was speaking, so here’s a pic of the stage with the cover of his book as backdrop.

I feel so lucky whenever I get the opportunity to listen to authors speak! There’s a bookstore semi-local to me that often has authors come speak; I need to follow their schedule more carefully. They’re a bit of a drive from me, though, and with needing to pick my husband up from the evening train, being at the bookstore on time might be a bit of a stretch…

Current Podcast Love

I’m currently going back and forth between Cults on Parcast (seriously, it’s starting to feel like everything’s a cult, haha! There are so many more out there than I ever imagined. What the heck, humanity???), and Behind the Bastards (no, seriously, what the heck, humanity????), which I’ve absolutely fallen in love with. The host, journalist and author Robert Evans, reads a script of his weekly research on a terrible, terrible person from either history or modern days, going in depth as to exactly why and how that person was/is awful as he reads to a comedian or fellow podcaster who is coming in cold and knows little about the subject. It’s funny, it’s entertaining, it’s educational, it’s full of incredulous swear words… I’m learning so much from this podcast and it’s seriously fascinating in its depth and breadth of information.

Stephanie’s Read Harder Challenge

New category!!!

So, now that my daughter (who is my intense child, the one who makes a bid for my attention every three seconds and has sizzled my brain into a charred, shriveled crisp) is in school full-time, I have some quiet time- most days, anyway- to sit and read some of the things I’ve been putting off because they take more brainpower to get through, and who has that when you’re answering questions about unicorns and responding to “Mama, I’m done pooping!” every other minute? I was never able to finish college, which is a major sore spot for me, so it’s really important to me that I keep learning and keep expanding my world in an intellectual sense. And so my afternoons, after I finish dinner prep, are spent in a reading-and-study session, with books from my own shelves that I’ve wanted to get to for ages.

We’re a bilingual, French-English family (my husband bringing the French via his Belgian-born self), and in the past, I’ve always tried to read at least one book in French every year. Last year, I did this at night and got through Harry Potter Γ  L’Γ©cole des Sorciers (the first Harry Potter book). But then my husband wanted to watch a bunch of stuff on Netflix with me, so there went my quiet reading time, and I only now got around to reading my French book for the year, grabbing Winnie l’Ourson by A.A. Milne off of my French shelf (Winnie l’Ourson being, of course, the French translation of Winnie-the-Pooh). I did a chapter almost every day, writing down unfamiliar words and then plugging them into Anki, a flashcard app, so I could memorize them. It feels good to be back into language study! Winnie l’Ourson is adorable in both English and French, although I have to say that I found French-speaking Eeyore an entire passive-aggressive pain in the ass. πŸ˜€

Along with improving my French, another of my goals for my alone time is to improve my Norwegian, especially my grammar, so I’ve started slowly working my way through Norsk, Nordmenn Og Norge by Kathleen Stokker and Odd Haddal (Norwegian, Norwegians and Norway). This is a hefty tome of Norwegian grammar and vocabulary. I’m on my fourth trip through the Duolingo tree and use that mainly to keep my skills fresh every day, but I’ll be using this book to build more on what I’ve already learned. I’m hoping to find enough time this winter, too, to finally watch season 4 of Skam, a fabulous Norwegian TV series that follows a group of teenagers through their high school drama. I adored seasons 1-3 and just never got around to finishing it.

In heavier English-language reading, I’m twenty chapters into A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn. This book has been sitting on my shelf for years and I’m so grateful that I finally have the ability to delve deeply into it. It’s an intense read, shining light on perspectives in American history that we’re never taught in school (for real, I have never, EVER said WTF so many times in one single book. Most pages have something that makes me drop at least one F-bomb; for instance, when a multi-millionaire wrote his son a letter, urging him to pay a fee in order to have someone else drafted for the war in his place because “there are other lives out there that are worth less.” DUDE. WTF!!!). I’ve read quite a bit of history over the years since I left school and am still aghast at how horrible we can be to each other. If you haven’t read this illuminating book yet and you have the time and mental space for it, I highly, HIGHLY recommend it.

I’ll finish A People’s History…probably around the end of the first week of October (I try to read a chapter each day, but there are some days, like when my mother comes up to visit, that I don’t get to it), and after that, I’m going to finally tackle Les MisΓ©rables by Victor Hugo in full (in English!). I got through about 400 pages when I was in high school, and then abandoned it during one of Hugo’s long rants on Napoleon. This time, I’ll complete it. I’ve already glanced through my copy, which is 1463 pages, and I’m planning to read around 30 pages a day (give or take, depending on how close the next chapter or nearest break is). I can read 30 pages at a time of anything, so while this will be a lengthy read, I have faith in myself that this will be the time I complete it.

I’m excited about this new project and look forward to sharing with all of you the new things I’m working on each month. This will, of course, be subjective to school vacations and whatnot; maybe I’ll move my more intense reading to nighttimes then. Who knows. πŸ™‚

(Also, I may change the name of this section if I come up with a better one…)

Real Life Stuff

September was, as always, a busy month, but we’re settling into new routines around here. My son is busy with school and choir commitments; my daughter is making new friends and this upcoming weekend will attend her fourth birthday party since school began! I’m busy running after both of them, of course, but I try to spend most mornings working on a household project of some sort, before moving on to preparing dinner and my afternoons with my personal Read Harder Challenge. The shelving units we had in the kitchen were bowing, so we replaced them with heavier metal shelves, which I put together and then switched out all our stuff. That took almost an entire school day (SO MUCH CLEANING to go along with it), and my thighs were killing me afterwards, but the shelves look so much neater and better now. And I spent another two hours folding the FOUR BASKETS of my husband’s clean laundry that had been living on my bedroom floor for MONTHS (yes, I’m laundry-shaming my husband!) and tidying up his shelves. The bedroom looks so much bigger now without four heaping baskets of laundry on the floor! πŸ˜€

October’s going to be another busy month. A local university is putting on a performance of Cabaret, so my mother is coming up and we’re going to see that. My son has Homecoming (his girlfriend’s dress is so pretty!), and his choir will have two shows (both of which my mother will come up to see and she and I will spend the day together, which is always wonderful). I’m going to see a documentary put on by the school system’s parent education group, my mother and daughter and I are going to go to a local craft/Scandinavian fair that we visit every year, my daughter’s school is putting on a huge Halloween bash, and then we have Halloween itself (my daughter wants to be something she’s calling a Rose Fairy Princess, and she was amenable to the idea of my doctoring up one of her dress-up dresses with fake flowers, so I’ll have to find the time to do that). Will there even be any time to sit down and read, much less blog? And then we’ll start in with the holidays…

I’m exhausted just thinking about it! I’m about ready for the snow and cold of January and February at this point! πŸ˜€

How was your September? How did your reading go? Do you find you have more time to read this time of year, or less?

Happy reading, and may your October be beautiful. πŸ™‚

Monthly roundup

Monthly roundup: August 2019

Welcome to September!

Summer is winding down, and the kids are either back in school or are headed that way. Hard to believe the summer went by so fast, but it does every year, doesn’t it? I barely had a single chance to catch my breath this month; I spent so much of the summer getting all the appointments made that my daughter needed before starting kindergarten (doctor, dentist, eye doctor- dentist had to be cancelled TWICE due to illness, and eye doctor took multiple attempts to find glasses that fit her), getting the house back in order from being sick all spring, preparing for vacation/vacation/getting the house back in order from being gone on vacation, etc. We had so few days to just relax…and now whoooooosh, summer’s over! So it goes.

It took me most of July and a good part of August to get caught up on my reviews (and I’m still a few behind); I did nothing at night but write out two and sometimes three reviews, for about a week and a half, so my list looks a little smaller this month than usual- less reading time! But that’s okay. Let’s get started with this recap.

What I Read in August 2019

  1. A Serial Killer’s Daughter: My Story of Faith, Love, and Overcoming by Kerri Rawson

2. Henry and Ribsy by Beverly Cleary (no review; read out loud to my daughter)

3. Kindred by Octavia Butler

4. The Love & Lies of Rukhsana Ali by Sabina Khan

5. Shakespeare Saved My Life by Laura Bates

6. Salaam, Love: American Muslim Men on Love, Sex, and Intimacy by Ayesha Mattu and Nura Maznavi

7. Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann

8. Titanic: Voices From the Disaster by Deborah Hopkinson

9. A Different Time by Michael K. Hill (review to come in September as part of a blog tour)

10. Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali (review to come)

11. Henry and the Clubhouse by Beverly Cleary (no review; read out loud to my daughter)

12. Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid (review to come)

I think August has been my slowest month yet, reading-wise! That’s a combination of using my nightly reading time to catch up on reviews and having less time to read during the day as we tried to cram in all the necessary back-to-school activities. I’d hope that my reading would pick up in September, but I’m not sure that it will, since I have a TON of projects that I’m trying to get done around the house. Eight of these books were on my TBR, though, so that’s eight books down!

Reading Challenge Updates

I’m not currently participating in any reading challenges, other than trying to tame the beast that is my TBR.

State of the Goodreads TBR

Uhhhhh…

About that.

My Goodreads TBR currently stands at 89 books, up from 80 last month. I CAN EXPLAIN!!!

So, now that my daughter is a little older and can be kind of trusted not to throw herself in front of a passing truck if we blink while we’re outside with her, we’ve started ripping up some stuff in the yard in order to use the land more wisely. My husband tore down a giant ugly fir bush, and I raked up all the crap left behind (and toted it to the backyard; we’ll eventually burn it), and we’re going to turn that (sizable!) patch into a native flower garden in the spring- although right now we tossed down some kale seeds in hopes of a late kale crop. Once my back calms down a little bit, I’ll be out there with heavy-duty work gloves, ripping out old, sad cacti and other various spiky weeds so we can plant stuff in those spaces. All that is to say that I put a bunch of books on urban farming and growing food on my TBR, so that’s why it exploded the way it did this month!

Books I Acquired in August 2019

I received a copy of A Different Time by Michael K. Hill for a blog tour! Other than that, I don’t think I brought any books into the house this month. πŸ™‚

Bookish Things I Did in August 2019

No real bookish events, but my husband did get me a new Kindle Paperwhite for my birthday! My elderly Kindle Keyboard had been having issues for about a year already, so this was a fabulous surprise. I haven’t even had the chance to use it yet, because I’ve had a steady flow of physical books, but as soon as I get these cleared out, it’s Kindle time, baby! Check out my gorgeous cover:

Current Podcast Love

After floundering a bit, I discovered Cults on Parcast, with Greg and Vanessa, whose voices are SO soothing that it would sometimes take me five or six tries to listen to an episode, because I would just fall asleep (and I’ve seen other people talk about that as well!). Cults is super fascinating and freaky, a look into often deadly religious groups, a few of which I’d heard of but (to their immense credit, because this is one of my biggest pet subjects) most of which I hadn’t. If you’re at all interested in cults and seriously weird religious groups (SERIOUSLY weird, like dudes claiming to be God or Jesus on earth, and the followers who actually take them seriously and hand over their teenage daughters to this guy because they’ve totally bought into it instead of running away screaming like most people would- SO many stories like this), give this a listen, I really felt like I learned a lot.

I listened to all the back episodes that Podbean offered, and today, I started listening to Behind the Bastards, a podcast about some of the worst people in history. So far, it’s really interesting and I’m looking forward to delving into it more next week (after the long weekend, when the kids are back in school).

Real Life Stuff

PHEW.

My son is now a senior in high school (so he’s ridiculously busy), and my daughter officially started kindergarten! The first three days were half days, but this past week was full-day. She has two friends from her gymnastics classes in her class, she made another friend who sits next to her, and a girl in first grade who was in preschool with my daughter when she was 3 remembers her and seeks her out on the playground all the time, so no worries there. She’s pretty tired when she comes home, though, which has led to some…rather screechy evenings around here. Poor kid. It’s a long day for five year-olds.

We live about a mile away from the school, so in the mornings, I walk her there and walk her back. If the weather is okay and I don’t have to pick my son up, I walk to pick her up and then we walk home. During school hours, I’ve been trying to find a balance between getting done all the BAZILLION house projects that I couldn’t do with my daughter interrupting me every three seconds and taking some time for me, and all that is to say that I’ve had some days with step counts like this:

Remember when I said my back hurt? Yeah. That’s a lot of walking.

So what have I been doing? The first few days were half days, so that didn’t leave much time to get stuff done, but come Monday, even though it was raining, I was bound and determined to start tackling my Hoarder-style garage. It’s looked like this pretty much since we moved in 4.5 years ago; after falling out there late last fall, I swore I would tackle it once my daughter went to school. Before:

Yeah. I felt exactly as embarrassed as you think I would every time my husband opened the door- and this is after I’d already done a little cleaning (albeit in the back right corner, not really visible in this picture). UGH. After 2.5 hours of absolutely disgusting work (combined with the 30 minutes I did earlier, on a different day), here’s the not-yet-finished-but-looking-better result:

I stopped working at this point because A., my back was entirely done, and B., both the garbage can and the recycling can were full to the top. My plan is to work on this on the days before trash pickup days in order to leave *some* space for household trash throughout the week (although we’re lucky if we have a single bag most weeks, along with some smaller bags from when I scoop the litterbox; the majority of our food-based garage goes into our compost, and I try to recycle as much as I can). The right side of the garage is going to be a little more difficult; it’ll be a lot of heavy lifting and I’m not sure how my back will take to that, but I guess we’ll find out when I get to it! The project isn’t complete yet, but I’m ridiculously happy about how it’s turned out so far. I’ve been out to that freezer probably fifteen times since I did this and didn’t have to worry ONCE about falling- whereas before, it was a constant worry, and like I said, I fell last fall, which is a huge concern with my bad back. So yay for me. πŸ™‚

I’ve also organized all my cabinets, my drawers (including vacuuming them out), and my kitchen island; I cleaned out the coat closet (and ripped up the dry-rotted mat that sat in front of it and scraped all the pieces off that had stuck to the floor, GROSS) and cleaned off one of my daughter’s bookshelves in the living room. And since I had space, I organized everything out in my garage freezer (the only things I could stand stocking up on are corn and spinach…). We bought new shelves for our kitchen, so once my husband puts those together, I’ll be busy reorganizing my pantry goods, so I’m looking forward to being able to do that!

What’s next? I need to clean out the laundry room again; it’s not too bad, but could stand a little reorganization and a sweep for cobwebs. My daughter’s room is getting a complete overhaul; that’ll take at least one full day, and possibly more. After the garage is totally done and I clear some stuff out of the yard, I’ll have more time for myself, and then I’ll get started on some ME projects. πŸ™‚

Speaking of which, my Blue Blanket Project (or what I’ve started thinking of as my Frozen blanket!) is coming along, slowly but swimmingly:

If anyone is interested, I’m using this pattern. It’s a nice, mindless project to work on while watching something with my husband or visiting with family.

So that was my August! Not as much reading going on as I would’ve liked, but such is life sometimes, and I’m looking forward to a long, cold winter of plowing through book after book after book this school year. I have no idea how long it will take for me to clean up the yard the way I want, or when I’ll actually get the garage finished- this is all both weather-dependent and my back-dependent, but I’d rather tackle those completely and quickly, so I can stop thinking about them! πŸ™‚

I wish you a lovely September, full of great reads and beautiful weather no matter where you are. How was your August???

Monthly roundup

Monthly roundup: July 2019

Welcome to August!

My goodness. July absolutely got away from me. I’m ferociously behind in regards to book reviews (to the tune of…*checks Goodreads* ELEVEN BOOKS), and I’m completely feeling like a hamster in a wheel. Not the hamster who’s trucking along nicely, making the wheel turn and turn, mind you. No, I’m the hamster in the back, flopping along and never quite able to get itself situated and upright while its furry little buddy trots happily in front without a care in the world. I’ve been desperately trying to take care of everything in real life (house, laundry, errands, cooking, etc) while driving my son places and keeping my daughter entertained by taking her to the park and other fun summer places, and I’ve started a few other projects around the house, along with exercising more regularly. All of this means I haven’t had much computer time lately!

I’ll get back up to speed, though, I promise! The kids go back to school in twenty days, and I’ll spend some of my alone time getting caught up here, so keep your eyes peeled for an eventual onslaught of reviews. πŸ™‚

So let’s get started on this recap, shall we?

Books I Read in July 2019

  1. Flames of Glory- Patricia Matthews

2. Leaving the Witness: Exiting a Religion and Finding a Life- Amber Scorah

3. Ramona’s World- Beverly Cleary (no review, read out loud to my daughter)

4. Eyes On Me- Rachel Harris

5. Love, InshAllah: The Secret Love Lives of American Muslim Women- Nura Maznavi and Ayesha Mattu

6. Internment- Samira Ahmed (review written, will be posted tomorrow)

7. Better Than Homemade- Carolyn Wyman (review to come)

8. I Believe In a Thing Called Love- Maurene Goo (review to come)

9. Henry Huggins- Beverly Cleary (no review, read out loud to my daughter)

10. The Emergency Teacher: The Inspirational Story of a New Teacher in an Inner City School- Christina Asquith (review to come)

11. The Drowning of Stephan Jones- Bette Greene (review to come)

12. Holy Envy: Finding God in the Faith of Others- Barbara Brown Taylor (review to come, LOVED THIS!!!)

13. All the Rage: Mothers, Fathers, and the Myth of Equal Partnership- Darcy Lockman (review to come)

14. Waiting for Tom Hanks- Kerry Winfrey (review to come)

15. Henry and Beezus- Beverly Cleary (no review, read out loud to my daughter)

16. Their Pretend Amish Courtship- Patricia Davids (review to come)

17. Awkward- Svetlana Chmakova (review to come)

18. Icebreaker- Deirdre Martin (review to come)

19. Burma Chronicles- Guy Delisle (review to come)

Numbers-wise, that’s not a bad month! So much of my reading has been done outside the house this month, either at the park or at a library play area (on those super hot days); I finished two books on vacation (and DNF’d two others that just didn’t work for me); three were read-alouds to my daughter. I don’t see any patterns in here, necessarily; a bunch of these books, however, were from my TBR pile, so yay for me on that. πŸ™‚

Reading Challenge Update

I’m not currently participating in any reading challenges, other than the constant challenge of taming my TBR. Speaking of which…

State of the Goodreads TBR

Remember last month when I said I couldn’t seem to get my Goodreads TBR below 80 books?

80 is the magic number, because 80 is where my Goodreads TBR sits at this very moment! The book I’m reading right now is from that list, though, so I AM trying!!!

Books I Acquired in July 2019

These were acquired from a used book sale last weekend (everything you can cram into a bag for $10; my husband and daughter also brought home some treasures). I was pretty happy to find the copy of Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon, as she was recently added to the list of authors coming to speak to my community this school year! I’ll definitely get that one read before her appearance (the date hasn’t been announced yet, so I have time).

My friend Sandy mailed me two ARCs; I’ve never read Alisha Rai before, but I’ve been wanting to, so I’m pretty excited about The Right Swipe! Tracey Garvis Graves’s The Girl He Used To Know was a bonus in the book envelope; what a nice surprise! Thanks, Sandy! As soon as I get to the store to buy an envelope, I’m shipping her my copy of Burma Chronicles by Guy Delisle. Bookish friends are the best. πŸ™‚

My mom gave me Such a Perfect Wife by Kate White, which she had just finished and said it was good, so I’m looking forward to that. And then…

A few weeks ago, I recalled an author I’d read when I first moved to Tennessee (as in, as soon as I got my library card, after rushing there from the DMV with my brand new Tennessee driver’s license, I picked her book up off the new books shelf!). Jerramy Fine’s Someday My Prince Will Come: True Adventures of a Wannabe Princess is an adorable tale of her infatuation with royalty, romance, England, and the intersection of all of those things. She had retweeted my review of that book (this was something like ten years ago!), and I was wondering what she was up to these days when I happened upon In Defense of the Princess: How Plastic Tiaras and Fairytale Dreams Can Inspire Smart, Strong Women (sadly, at the Dollar Tree). Since I have a daughter who somehow fell in love with all things princess and wears a crown or a tiara almost everywhere we go, I figured this was some sort of sign, and the book came home with me. I’m very much looking forward to reading this!

Not pictured: yesterday, I grabbed a copy of Out of Africa and Shadows in the Grass by Isak Dinesen from the thrift store, where I stopped to grab my daughter some water bottles for school. This was on an old want-to-read list, and it’s piqued my interest again after reading Circling the Sun by Paula McLain.

Bookish Things I Did in July 2019

The only thing I can think of is the book sale I mentioned earlier. It’s the one held by an association that uses the profits made from the sale to fund college scholarships for women. I’m on their mailing list (which is dangerous!), so I was happy to show up, browse, and bring home a sack full of books. As I was perusing the general fiction table, a guy next to me reached for a copy of Alaska by James Michener, and of course I had to gush, “That’s an incredible book.” He kind of laughed and said that it was his favorite book, and he always looks to see if a copy he finds in the wild is better than the copy he has at home. I suggested he also read Hawaii (he said he owns it and that’ll be his next read); he mentioned (I think it was!) The Covenant, but it might have been Centennial! It had a C in the title! Either way, I think I own both of them and definitely need to read them. James Michener has long been a favorite of mine and I need to read more of him. It’s always nice to have a bookish conversation about a favorite author with a complete stranger. πŸ™‚

Current Podcast Love

I finished up all the episodes my podcast player (I use Podbean) would load; sadly, it only went down to like Episode 212, out of 361 episodes. I’ll continue to listen to new episodes in the future, as I love this podcast!

I’ve also been catching up on episodes of What Should I Read Next? with Anne Bogel, another podcast I absolutely adore. This one is SO dangerous to the TBR, though (one of the books I have checked out from the library right now ended up on my TBR list because of these episodes I’ve been listening to lately!). If you’ve never listened to this, I highly recommend it. Fascinating guests with awesome life stories and excellent reading lives, great book suggestions, and Anne is a wonderful, charming host.

Real Life Stuff

The biggest highlight of the month was the kids and I going to Branson, Missouri with my mother. We usually travel somewhere with her every year, and she’s so much fun. She likes to GO, so we ended up doing a TON of stuff while we were there. We visited their downtown area and went through a bunch of the shops, visited the mall, sunburned ourselves half to death swimming at Moonshine Beach, visited Ripley’s Believe It or Not! museum and the Titanic museum, rode the Runaway Mountain Coaster and the giant Ferris wheel, rode the rides at Silver Dollar City, splashed around at the White Water water park, swam in our resort’s indoor pool, we took a road trip and ate at Lambert’s Cafe, Home of the Throwed Rolls… I’m probably still forgetting a few things! There’s very little downtime when you’re on vacation with my mother! πŸ˜€ (And the only place my back really gave me trouble was the Titanic Museum, since standing without moving is difficult for me. As long as I’m walking, I’m okay, though my back might spasm- that’s normal. Painful, but expected, so it’s not a huge deal.)

Finally, a roll of toilet paper big enough! The world’s largest roll of toilet paper, at Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Museum, Branson, MO

But even though there was little downtime, I still managed to work out three of the days we were there in the resort’s gym. I *really* let my exercise routine slack this year, being sick for so long, and as a result, I wasn’t happy with the way some of my clothes were fitting, so I made a commitment before we left that I was going to get back in better shape. And so far, I’ve been doing awesome. I do yoga on the days we’re home, and in the evenings I’ve been walking either three or four miles. When it gets too cold and dark to walk, I’ll go back to using my exercise bike in the bedroom, along with yoga. It feels good to be doing something good for my body again (especially since- guess what?- we got sick AGAIN. My daughter had a runny nose and a cough and some congestion on our last day, and of course, since she spent a few days coughing directly into my eyeballs, I got it, too. I never felt too run down with this one, though, so I’ve still been trucking along!).

I also purchased the best pair of socks in the world:

I am 1000% ready to sob my eyes out at A Beautiful Day In the Neighborhood, the Tom Hanks movie about Mister Rogers, in November!!!

My husband and I have, of course, watched all of this summer’s season of Stranger Things, and now we’re going through this final season of Orange Is the New Black. And just before we left for vacation, I started on this (and continue to work on it while we watch at night):

Now, usually, I’m a knitter. I’m not the world’s greatest crocheter, and I haven’t crocheted more than a few hats for my son since before my daughter was born (crochet uses up way more yarn than knitting does, so I choose my crochet projects carefully). But I was struggling to figure out what to do with this HUGE skein of variegated blue yarn my mother-in-law gave to me (she’s a knitter). It’s this weird texture and difficult to knit with (which is exactly why she gave it to me! We had a good laugh about that this weekend), and finally, I realized that I have SO much blue yarn that I should just make a huge blue blanket, and thus, the Blue Blanket Project was born. I dug up a bag full of different kinds of blue yarn, some full skeins, some scraps, and I’ve been working on it while we watch TV and visit with family. Might as well get something else done while you’re sitting there, right? I’ll keep crocheting until it gets big enough or I run out of yarn, whatever comes first. πŸ™‚

August will be an interesting month. My birthday is coming up on the 5th (last year of my 30’s!), we’ve got a playdate with a friend we haven’t seen for a while next week, and then on the 21st, the kids go back to school!!! My son will start his senior year in high school, and my daughter will traipse off the kindergarten for the first time. His last first day, her first first day. Bittersweet, but exciting for both of them, and exciting for me! My daughter goes a half day for the first three days, and then on Monday, she’ll go full day, all the time. I have SO many projects I’m looking forward to doing, including cleaning out my seriously-you-guys-it-looks-like-Hoarders garage, ripping out huge parts of awfulness in my yard (cactuses! Whose idea was it to plant cactuses in this yard? We’re in the Chicago suburbs, for cripes sake!!!), overhauling my daughter’s room, cleaning out all my cabinets, cleaning and organizing my closet… I have a huge list of projects that I’m planning on working on, and then I’ll focus more on the stuff I want to do, like reading, writing, learning new things/studying old things, spending more time with my sewing machine, etc. Who knows, I may even get to watch a movie here and there- I haven’t watched TV during the day that didn’t involve animation for five years, so all of this is pretty exciting for me. In the two years between my son going to public school for the first time after homeschooling and the birth of my daughter, I was home full-time and was never, ever bored, so I’m really looking forward to all of this. πŸ™‚

And that’s about it for me this month! I wish you all a happy and productive August, full of great reads, low-priced books, and book reviews that flow easily from your brain onto the computer. How was your July???

Monthly roundup

Monthly Roundup: June 2019

Once again, a month is ending, and I’m sitting here going, “Holy crap, where did it go???”

No big surprise. I was sick for so long that quite a few months blew right past me. Thankfully, I’m feeling MUCH better lately, and because of that, my reading time has definitely gone down, as I’ve been busy playing catch-up with all the many things I wasn’t able to do when I was sick or taking care of my sick kiddo. And there’s a LOT of it, but that’s okay. Everything in good time. πŸ™‚

We had a nasty start to the summer, weather-wise. Rain, rain, more rain, and weirdly chilly temperatures- up until about 9 days ago, I still wore a cardigan when I went out to do the grocery shopping. And just like that, the weather turned this week and we now need the air conditioner on, because the temps have gotten into the low 90’s. Make up your mind, Midwestern weather!!!

But let’s get down to the more important business at hand: BOOKS.

Books I Read in June 2019

  1. American Prison: An Undercover Reporter’s Journey Into the Business of Punishment- Shane Bauer

2. Big Rock- Lauren Blakely

3. Second Chances- Lauren Dane

4. The Idea of You- Robinne Lee

5. The Solace of Water- Elizabeth Byler Younts

6. Living More With Less- Doris Janzen Longacre

7. Mandy- Julie Andrews Edwards

8. Muslim Girl: A Coming-of-Age Story- Amani Al-Khatahtbeh

9. Tikka Chance on Me- Suleikha Snyder

10. Stalking the Divine: Contemplating Faith With the Poor Clares- Kristin Ohlson

11. Raising the Griffin- Melissa Wyatt

12. On the Outside Looking Indian: How My Second Childhood Changed My Life- Rupinder Gill

13. Ramona Forever- Beverly Cleary (no review, read out loud to my daughter)

14. How Not to Hate Your Husband After Kids- Jancee Dunn (no review)

15. The Wrong End of the Table: A Mostly Comic Memoir of a Muslim Arab American Just Trying to Fit In- Ayser Salman

16. Flames of Glory- Patricia Matthews (review to come)

17. Leaving the Witness: Exiting a Religion and Finding a Life- Amber Scorah (review to come)

I figured my reading would slow down once summer picked up, and sure enough, this is my slowest month of the year so far. Still not bad, but that’s what happens when you’re finally able to crawl off the couch and start hosing down the house and working on projects you’ve been putting off for months due to being sick. Not necessarily a bad thing, though. πŸ™‚ Eight fiction, nine non-fiction; that’s more non-fiction than I expected, especially given that I end up reading more fluffy stuff when I’m feeling crummy.

Reading Challenge Update

I’m not currently participating in any reading challenges. It’s a reading free-for-all!

State of the Goodreads TBR

I’m adding this as a new category here this month in order to be better accountable for my reading!

Goodreads is where I keep my TBR list; it’s so convenient to be able to hit that want-to-read button. Currently, my Goodreads TBR list stands at 81 books. It seems impossible to get it below 80; the second it gets close, all the other book bloggers conspire against me and start posting amazing reviews and I’m all, “Oooooooh…”

Books I Acquired in June 2019

Slow month for buying books, but I’m okay with that, as I also need to focus on reading things from my own shelves. I did, however, win a copy of If It Makes You Happy by Claire Kann, from a blog tour (and dang it, I seem to have deleted the email that reminded me which blog it was! If it was yours, let me know in the comments and I’ll give you credit and link back to you. Thank you!), so that was awesome! I love the cover.

Bookish Things I Did In June 2019

Would you believe not much? I had a scheduling conflict with the library book club, so that was out. There was a used book sale, but the more I thought about it, the more I figured I didn’t really need to go. I already have a zillion books on my own shelves that I desperately need to read, so I saved money, saved gas, saved wear and tear on the car and the environment, and I stayed home. I did grab my son and his best friend and make them walk to the library with me one night, though. It’s about a 3 mile walk, round trip, so that was good exercise for all of us, plus both the boys checked out books (my son’s friend recently got a library card for the first time- he apparently really got into reading The Martian by Andy Weir, to the point where he was excitedly texting my son with updates on what he’d read, which is awesome, and he decided he wanted a library card! It always makes me happy to hear about someone finding a book that makes them enjoy reading. Rock on, Seth!).

I did participate in TheWriteReads’ Ben Galley blog tour, a first for me! If you missed my first chapter review of Bloodrush, check that out. πŸ™‚

I’ll miss the library book group discussion in July as well, since we’ll be out of town. I’m halfway through my fourth sheet of ten books for the summer reading program (you can only fill out five!), so hopefully I’ll finish this next month. Must find more time to read!!!

Current Podcast Love

I’m still digging Smart Podcast, Trashy Books. This past month, I’ve enjoyed interviews with Thien-Kim Lam from Bawdy Bookworms, Alisha Rai, Bea & Leah Koch of The Ripped Bodice, Beverly Jenkins, Jennifer Lohmann of NoveList (check your library website for access!), and two absolutely hysterical live shows recorded at the Romantic Times convention. There’s always something fascinating in this podcast; three of the authors I read this month came from suggestions mentioned in one or several episodes. (It’s a TBR killer, for sure!)

Real Life Stuff

Busy, busy month. In the beginning of the month, I was still in recovery from the sinus infection that wouldn’t die (I ended up needing two rounds of antibiotics to finally send it packing; I’ve still got the accompanying cough), and then I had an easily-fixable-but-still-painful issue with my left ear the next week! I’m just going to pack up and move into my doctor’s office; it would make life a lot simpler… Fortunately, we’re all on the mend right now. I’ve gotten a little bit of energy back and have done a few projects around the house that I’ve been putting off due to feeling like garbage, so that’s a start. I’ve got two blog posts to write up yet that I missed out on when I was sick, so to the people to whom I owe posts, they’re coming!!!

My daughter had her pre-kindergarten eye exam and we found out that she’ll need glasses to correct the astigmatism in her left eye. We had to visit a different optometrist to get her fitted with properly-fitting frames, since her head, face, and nose are so narrow, but they’re in and we’ll be picking them up this morning!

My son was away from home for over a week, attending both his Madrigal retreat and then getting dropped off at a week-long summer music program at a university downstate. He celebrated his birthday (17!!!) while at the Madrigal retreat, and the concert his group put on when my mother and I picked him up from the music program was beyond phenomenal. One of the kids who had a solo in one song is apparently going to be on America’s Got Talent, from what my son said. My son seems to have learned a lot from the session, and I’m so thrilled that he had the opportunity to go (I’m also happy he’s home, I missed him!).

July’s going to be another busy month. We usually attend the 4th of July parade in my sister’s town, and at the end of the second week, the kids and I are traveling with my mom to Branson, Missouri for a week. We usually go somewhere with her every summer, and Branson is a new destination for us. My mom loves to get out and explore new places, so this will be a fun trip. That will also mark the cut-off point for my daughter: no more naps! She still naps in the afternoon most days, mainly because she’s often up before 6 am and we all need a nap after that! But with full-day kindergarten coming up, she’s got to learn how to function without a nap, so we’ll have a month to adjust before she’s off to school.

And that’s it for June! How did you do this past month???

Monthly roundup

Monthly Roundup: May 2019

Another glorious month of reading is in the books! (Heh. Pun intended.) These monthly roundup posts are probably my favorite kinds of posts to pull together. Seeing everything I read throughout the past month, reflecting on the things I’ve learned…it feels kind of cool, you know?

This hasn’t been the easiest month. My daughter was sick, AGAIN. Two doctor appointments later, she was finally diagnosed with a sinus infection…and then I got sick (which is what happens when you spend an entire week mopping up your kid’s snot and catching her coughed-so-hard-she-puked vomit in your bare hands). It was a pretty awful three-day weekend over Memorial Day (yes, we have urgent care, but it’s still $100 bucks just to walk in the door, but suffering and misery for three days until you can see the regular doctor means only a $25 copay! Yay, American healthcare…). I was able to get into the doctor Tuesday morning; she peered into my ears and up my nose and threw a crapload of antibiotics at me, because my ears and sinuses are a hot mess. I’m still experiencing some discomfort, but it’s not as fierce as it was in the beginning, thank goodness.

Fortunately, this was a pretty great month for reading, so let’s get down to the business of what I read this month, shall we?

Books I Read in May 2019

1. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie- Alan Bradley

2. Ramona the Brave- Beverly Cleary (no review, read out loud to my daughter)

3. Sold on a Monday- Kristina McMorris

4. The Trauma Cleaner: One Woman’s Extraordinary Life in the Business of Death, Decay, and Disaster- Sarah Krasnostein

5. Ramona and Her Father- Beverly Cleary (no review, read out loud to my daughter)

6. Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Love, Identity & So Much More- Janet Mock

7. Welcome to Temptation- Jennifer Crusie

8. Love and Other Words- Christina Lauren

9. Ramona and Her Mother- Beverly Cleary (no review, read out loud to my daughter)

10. Everything On It- Shel Silverstein (no review, read out loud to my daughter)

11. Yes Please- Amy Poehler

12. Going Doolally: An honest tale of anxiety and motherhood- Katie Pickworth

13. Just the Way You Are- Ann Roth

14. In Other Words- Jhumpa Lahiri, translated by Ann Goldstein

15. Landline- Rainbow Rowell

16. All You Can Ever Know: A Memoir- Nicole Chung

17. Ramona Quimby, Age 8- Beverly Cleary (no review, read out loud to my daughter)

18. Voices from Chernobyl: An Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster- Svetlana Alexievich

19. History of Wolves- Emily Fridlund

20. Behind the Scenes (Daylight Falls #1)- Dahlia Adler

21. Breaking Free: How I Escaped My Father– Warren Jeffs– Polygamy, and the FLDS Cult- Rachel Jeffs

22. Everything I Know About Love I Learned From Romance Novels- Sarah Wendell

23. This Will Be My Undoing: Living at the Intersection of Black, Female, and Feminist in (White) America- Morgan Jerkins (no review due to illness)

24. What the Witch Left- Ruth Chew (no review, read out loud to my daughter)

25. The Butterfly Mosque: A Young American Woman’s Journey to Love and Islam- G. Willow Wilson (no review due to illness)

26. Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic- Alison Bechdel (no review due to illness)

27. The Best We Could Do- Thi Bui (no review due to illness)

Doing nothing but hanging out at home and being sick gives you a lot of time to read…

Book Challenges Update

This is the month I finished both the reading challenges I took up at the beginning of the year! Having never finished a challenge in the past, this feels like a big deal for me. πŸ™‚

First off, I finished up the Modern Mrs. Darcy 2019 Reading Challenge. Here’s my completed task list!

For a book in the backlist of a favorite author, I read Welcome to Temptation by Jennifer Crusie; for my third book of the year by the same author, I read Love and Other Words by Christina Lauren; and for a book I chose for the cover, I read Sold on a Monday by Kristina McMorris. VoilΓ ! First completed challenge. πŸ™‚

And then, because I have to get everything done as fast as possible in order to prevent my anxiety from flaring because there are THINGS LEFT UNDONE, I also completed Book Riot’s 2019 Read Harder Challenge! Here’s what that list looks like:

Yay me!!! I’m pretty proud of myself for being able to stick with these tasks until completion. I’ve discovered a ton of new authors, learned some fascinating and disturbing things, opened my mind to new ways of thinking, visited far away places in distance and time, read new-to-me formats… I started the Modern Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge because I wanted to see if I could even complete a challenge at all, and I picked up the Read Harder Challenge because I felt like it would help me grow as a reader. It definitely did, and I’m planning on taking up this challenge in the future as well.

And now I’m completely challengeless! What’s a girl to do? Well, I’ve got 97 books on my Goodreads TBR (it WAS down to 50, thank you SO much, fellow book bloggers, for constantly posting about interesting books that I just HAVE to read… :D), so I’m going to focus on plowing through that for a bit. I’ve got so many books on there I’m looking forward to!

Books I Acquired in May 2019

There was this book haul:

from that used book sale, which was unbelievably magic because it was the place where I found the book I’d been looking for since I was TWELVE YEARS OLD. I still can’t get over that, and I’m soooooooooo looking forward to reading that book (which I’m entirely sure is going to be all kinds of early 1980’s romance problematic) as soon as I finish with my current stack. This is going to be FUN.

And then I was lucky enough to win The View from Alameda Island by Robyn Carr from Always With a Book! Kristin always posts such interesting content and hosts fantastic giveaways; Robyn Carr has gotten a lot of mentions on the podcast I’m listening to lately, so I’m really looking forward to reading this. Thanks, Kristin!

Bookish Things I Did in May 2019

The aforementioned book sale was the absolute highlight of my month! I don’t know if I’ll ever stop being happy I found that book and can stop wondering what the heck it is! Once I read down what my library has of my TBR stash, I’ll start reading the books I got from that sale while I wait for interlibrary loans to come in. πŸ™‚

I wasn’t able to make this month’s library book discussion group (my son had a choir concert that night), but I did go in on the first day and sign up for the adult summer reading program! There’s not a ton I want in regards to prizes (I’m putting all my tickets in for the Kindle Fire, but I assume most everyone else will be as well, so I’m not holding my breath), but I’m thrilled just to participate and help bump the library’s numbers up. Each sheet has ten spaces to fill in; after that, you can pick up a new sheet, up to five sheets. I figure I’ll get pretty close, if not finish it; I’ve already turned in two sheets…

My blog got a fantastic shout-out on Twitter and Facebook from Eileen Truax, author of How Does It Feel to Be Unwanted?: Stories of Resistance and Resilience from Mexicans Living in the United States. This was such a powerful book, and I always appreciate having my blog and reviews noticed. Thanks, Ms. Truax! πŸ™‚

Current Podcast Love

Smart Podcast, Trashy Books is fabulous!!! I’ve added a buttload of books to my TBR and learned a whole lot from the amazing variety of guests they have on- authors, bloggers (the episode with Kristy, aka Caffeinated Fae, talking about the #copypastecris scandal is so interesting!), podcasters, publishing industry people, there’s really something here for everyone. If you’re a writer (especially of but not limited to romance), there’s also a ton of great advice to be found in this podcast (which I’m mentally squirreling away for when my daughter goes to kindergarten and I have quiet time once again!). I’m SO enjoying every second of listening to this podcast.

Real Life Stuff

Again, not the greatest of months. We *just* had the pukes mid-April, and then my daughter started coughing the day of her birthday party, April 28. The cough lingered for a few weeks…and then came the snot. Rivers and rivers of it, and then a nasty fever that wouldn’t die. We had a few more episodes of puking (snot and coughing, they’re not great together), and finally, on her second doctor trip, they diagnosed a sinus infection. I was already coughing with a sore throat then, but eight days later, I was back in the office, feeling as though someone had kicked me in the face. Antibiotics for everyone! Great googly-moogly, we need a healthier month around here.

My daughter finished preschool!!! I don’t often post photos of her online, but this is too cute not to. First day of preschool:

And the last day (she still had a mega-runny nose here, but had been on meds long enough that I felt okay with her attending the hour-long goodbye party):

She’s changed SO MUCH these past two years! She won the Sweetheart Award, for being sweet and kind and polite to everyone at school (which thrills me and makes me mildly irritated that they’re getting such a different version of my child than the one I get! :D). Onward to kindergarten in August! πŸ™‚

My son finished up his junior year; he’ll be attending some choir-related camps in June, which will include being gone for his birthday, which is a bummer for me, but I understand. He made Madrigals for his choir next year, which is a HUGE deal, and I’m so proud of him (and can’t wait to see him dressed up in Madrigal clothing).

Coming up in June, my son will turn 17 (NOT ACTUALLY POSSIBLE), and he’ll do one and possibly two choir camps. I’ll have another book sale put on by the same people who did the last magical book sale, so who knows what I’ll find there???

My daughter and I are going to be working on her reading this summer. She can read Level 1 books at a slow pace (although she does a lot of guessing. She knows how to sound things out, but she’d rather take what she thinks is the faster route), so my goal is to just keep swimming with her and increase her fluency and fluidity. She’s not a huge fan of the process, but she’s super excited having DONE the reading, and she does enjoy a good story, so hopefully we’ll start her off on the right foot in kindergarten. πŸ™‚

And that’s it! How was your May? Hopefully much healthier than mine!!!

Happy reading in June! πŸ™‚

Monthly roundup

Monthly Roundup: April 2019

Where did April go? (I feel like I start off every post saying something like that, but seriously, this year feels like it’s flying by.) Last month, I figured I would read fewer books once the weather started warming up, and so far, that’s been true. Of course, I spent a bunch of days being sick this month, and then spent several more cleaning up after being sick (have you ever seen pictures of, say, Buckingham Fountain or Niagara Falls? That’s pretty much what my daughter looked like for four days straight, except with vomit and not water. Picture that and you’ll have an idea of the amount of cleaning and laundry I had to do. Even when she made it to the bucket in time…she usually didn’t make it alllllllllllll the way in the bucket. Laundry, laundry, laundry). I’ve also been spending some time working outside in the yard that’s been badly neglected the past four years (due to my daughter being too young and not a great listener. I couldn’t trust that she wasn’t going to run off into the road while I yanked weeds!). I’ve been ripping out dead and unsightly plants and s.l.o.w.l.y. moving wagonful after wagonful of rocks from in front of my house to behind my yard. When that’s done, the area will look nice, but I’ve got a start on it! However, it does eat up my reading time, so BOO to that.

Let’s start this recap party with a list of all the things I’ve read this month!

Books I read in April 2019

1. Janesville: An American Story by Amy Goldstein

2. Flocks by L. Nichols

3. Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator by Roald Dahl (no review; I read this out loud to my daughter)

4. Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

5. River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey

6. To Kiss the Blarney Stone by Kate Curry

7. Accidental Jesus Freak: One Woman’s Journey From Fundamentalism to Freedom by Amber Lea Starfire

8. Circling the Sun by Paula McLain

9. Ahimsa by Supriya Kelkar

10. Summer of the Mariposas by Guadalupe Garcia McCall

11. James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl (no review, I read this out loud to my daughter)

12. The Beekeeper: Rescuing the Stolen Women of Iraq by Dunya Mikhail

13. Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary (no review, I read this out loud to my daughter, who finally understands why I call her Ramona all the time)

14. Doing Time: 25 Years of Prison Writing- A PEN American Center Prize Anthology, edited by Bell Gale Chevigny

15. Chasers of the Light: Poems From the Typewriter Series by Tyler Knott Gregson

16. The Real Lolita: The Kidnapping of Sally Horner and the Novel That Scandalized the World by Sarah Weinman

17. They Come At Night by Nick Clausen

18. Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary (no review, read out loud to my daughter)

19. Jesse’s Girl by Tara September

20. Rabbit-Proof Fence: The True Story of One of the Greatest Escapes of All Time by Doris Pilkington (review to come)

21. Watched By Ancestors: An Australian Family in Papua New Guinea by Kathy Golski (review to come)

Not too bad! Poetry, fascinating nonfiction, thought-provoking middle grade and adult fiction, plenty of new-to-me authors, and some childhood rereads that I was able to share with my daughter (who both adores Ramona Quimby and is horrified by her behavior…which mirrors my daughter’s behavior SO often!). The numbers are okay, but in this list are two novellas, a bunch of children’s books, a slim volume of poetry…yup, my reading definitely slowed down this month!

Book Challenges Update

I’m closing in on completing Book Riot’s 2019 Read Harder Challenge! I blasted through a ton of books from that this month, and here’s what my list looks like now.

Three books left! I’m working on the cozy mystery right now, my library has a copy of a novel by a trans author, and then I’ll pick out a humor book and be done!

I completed some tasks from Modern Mrs. Darcy’s 2019 Reading Challenge this month as well. I finally read Watched by Ancestors: An Australian Family in Papua New Guinea by Kathy Golski (review to come). This came to me via my friend Sandy, who read and recommended it to me (and then sent me her copy! Thank you again, Sandy!), so I’m counting that as task #4, a book recommended by someone with great taste. πŸ™‚ And as for a book published before I was born, I’m counting Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator by Roald Dahl, which I read aloud to my daughter. Bonus points because I never finished this one as a kid (probably because it wasn’t one of Dahl’s best). Here’s what my challenge looks like now:

Three more and I’ll have completed this as well! πŸ™‚ For someone who used to start challenges and then immediately fizzle out, I’m pretty proud of myself. πŸ™‚

Books I Acquired in April 2019

I won the copy of The Woman in the Dark by Vanessa Savage from a giveaway at Always with a Book. Thanks, Kristin! (Okay, technically, I won in March, but the book arrived in April, so I waited to count it for this month.) And I picked up a copy of Purity by Jackson Pearce when I stopped by the thrift store in search of books for my daughter’s birthday. Their children’s’ books, YA included, are ten cents apiece, so I figured for that price, it was worth it!

OMG!!!! I’m a huge fan of the Dummies books, along with the Complete Idiots Guides. They give great overviews of broad topics, and I always enjoy delving into something new. I found this copy of Opera for Dummies at a church yard sale- it even has the CD!- and I could NOT be more excited about this. I enjoy listening to opera, but I don’t know much about it, so between this and my copy of 100 Great Operas and Their Stories (which has been on my shelf for a while), I’m ready to learn! The copy is pristine and only set me back fifty cents. πŸ™‚

Bookish Things I Did in April 2019

My library takes part in the Reading Without Walls challenge every year. The challenge is to read a book about someone who doesn’t look like you or live like you, read a book about a topic you didn’t know much about, or read a book in a format you don’t normally read. I figured my reading of The Beekeeper: Rescuing the Stolen Women of Iraq by Dunya Mikhail counted for this, filled out the paper (which looked like a brick), and turned it in to the librarian at Adult Services. I’m eligible to win a raffle prize of some sort, but really, I’m just glad that my brick/paper will be displayed as another sign in the fight against ignorance. πŸ™‚

Book discussion group this month covered Circling the Sun by Paula McLain, and as I predicted, we did have a great discussion. Overall, everyone seemed to like the book. One woman enjoyed the horse racing aspect of it, because it reminded her of visiting the racetracks with her father when she was younger, while others of us were more like, “Wow…that’s a lot of horses in there…” We were all surprised and fascinated to learn how Gatsby-esque colonial Kenyan society was during this era. I’m sad I’ll be missing next month’s meeting (my son has a choir concert scheduled that night); they’ll be reading The Last Castle: The Epic Story of Love, Loss, and American Royalty in the Nation’s Largest Home by Denise Kiernan. Whatever they’re reading in June hasn’t been announced yet, so I’m looking forward to that!

On April 23rd, @the_WriteReads featured my post on books I love about Mister Rogers as their review of the day. I’m really proud of this post and am happy that @the_WriteReads helped me to spread the Mister Rogers love a little. πŸ™‚

I also logged my 2000th book on Goodreads!

Current Podcast Love

I’ve finished up listening to all the back episodes of All the Books! from Book Riot! This is such a great podcast, where Liberty Hardy, super reader extraordinaire, and her rotating cast of fellow Book Rioters choose several of the week’s new releases to gush over. I’ve read a bunch of books I learned about from this podcast and added plenty more to my TBR. If you’re looking for something book-related to listen to, you really can’t go wrong with All the Books!

I floundered for a few days before finally settling on my next bookish listen, and it’s:

I listened to my first episode of Smart Podcast, Trashy Books yesterday, and OMG WHERE HAS THIS BEEN ALL MY LIFE? *sobs with joy* I LOVE these women. They’re smart, funny, they talk about books in a way that speaks to my soul (swear words! Feminism! Ridiculous euphemisms for genitalia! Picking apart romance novels for the good and the laughable!). I am in LOVE and I totally want to ignore all the rest of my life and binge all 347 episodes that I have left.

Real Life Stuff

We started out the month recovering from my daughter getting a case of the pukes, only to have both of us throwing up mid-month. NOT my favorite thing. Wedged in around both of us looking like the little girl from the Exorcist, we attended my daughter’s kindergarten orientation. She’ll go to full-day kindergarten in the fall and we’re both pretty excited! (I’ll miss her, but she’s a tornado wrapped in a hurricane wrapped in an earthquake, so it’ll be nice to have some time when I’m NOT on damage control.) Her school is within walking distance, so when it’s warm out, we’ll be able to get some exercise, and her classroom is suuuuuuuuuuper cute. They even hatch chicks in the spring, and they have the best little reading corner with a TON of books. I kind of want to go back to kindergarten…

My daughter turned 5! Seems like just yesterday I was throwing up in the bathroom…and the kitchen…and the living room…and dry-heaving in Walmart (pregnancy and I are NOT friends), and now she’s half a decade old. For the third year in a row, her chosen birthday activity was to eat lunch at Ikea (what can I say? She’s both a creature of habit and a weird little kid :D). We got really lucky in regards to her party, because we had a bounce house scheduled for Sunday, but Saturday, it snowed the entire day because apparently we live in Siberia now? Oh, Midwestern spring, what the actual. Sunday turned out to be lovely, in the upper 50’s with full sun, so the snow was mostly melted by party time and all the kids bounced to their hearts’ content.

My son’s school put on stage performances of Romeo and Juliet, and it was incredible. I say this every time, but his school’s Fine Arts Department is phenomenal, and I’m blown away at every musical and stage performance we attend.

Aaaaaaaaaaaand my cat brought me a mouse. A live one, small, only about two inches long. (Which I prefer over the one she killed in the basement and left for me to find via its overpowering odor who-knows-how-many days later.) It lives somewhere outside now, far away from the house. Here’s a picture of the mouse after I caught it in the plastic container that lives next to my chair in the living room. This plastic container is known as ‘the mouse bucket,’ which lets you know that this is not my first mouse gift rodeo. Thanks, cat…

And that was my April! Summer reading starts at my library on May 1st and you know I’ll be there to sign up. πŸ™‚ I’m going to finish off these two challenges in May and I’m looking forward to that. My daughter will finish up preschool, my son will wind up his junior year of high school (NO! GET BACK ON THE COUCH AND WATCH BLUE’S CLUES WITH ME, THIS IS NOT ALLOWED), and I have a book sale to go to this upcoming weekend. And maybe, MAYBE it will finally stop snowing, but who knows around here. πŸ˜€

Happy reading in May! How was your April?

Monthly roundup

Monthly Roundup: March 2019

Whew! I really didn’t think I could possibly outdo last month’s reading, but my Amazing Reading Streak of Amazingness (yeah, I’m going there) continued this past month. It didn’t hurt my reading binge that it’s still been ridiculously cold here and all I’ve wanted to do was huddle under a pile of seventy-three blankets and read while shivering away. (Don’t get me wrong; when it’s hot, all I’m going to want to do is sweat half to death and read, but I just don’t want to move at ALL when I’m so chilly! Doing anything that involves getting out of my cozy chair is an exercise in fortitude, I’m telling you.)

So let’s get this party started, with a recap of everything I’ve read this past month!

Books I Read in March 2019

1. Ghosted by Rosie Walsh

2. Bread Is Gold by Massimo Bottura and Friends

3. When Dimple Met Rishi- Sandhya Menon

4. Call Numbers by Syntell Smith

5. Welcome to Halcyon (Dead Mawl #1) by S.G. Tasz

6. Every Breath by Nicholas Sparks

7. Daughter of Gloriavale: My Life in a Religious Cult by Lilia Tarawa

8. Duped: Double Lives, False Identities, and the Con Man I Almost Married by Abby Ellin

9. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

10. Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay

11. The Truth Book: Escaping a Childhood of Abuse Among Jehovah’s Witnesses by Joy Castro

12. I Hear the Sunspot by Yuki Fumino

13. An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace by Tamar Adler

14. Quiver by Julia Watts

15. Apocalypse Chow: How to Eat Well When the Power Goes Out- Jon Robertson and Robin Robertson

16. Make Do and Mend: Keeping Family and Home Afloat on War Rations (foreword by Jill Norman)

17. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl (no review for this one, I read it out loud to my daughter at bedtime, and we watched the movie with Johnny Depp this past weekend, when she had a stomach virus)

18. The Cider House Rules by John Irving

19. On the Come Up by Angie Thomas

20. Lessons in Letting Go by Allison Janda

21. Bell-Bottom Gypsy: A Jessie Morgan Novel by Maggie Plummer

Phew! That was a lot of reading! And so. many. great. books!!!

Book Challenges Update

I haven’t made any progress with the Modern Mrs. Darcy 2019 Reading Challenge this month, so it still looks the same as last month.

But I’ve done pretty well when it comes to Book Riot’s 2019 Read Harder Challenge, ticking off six categories. Here’s what my challenge looks like now.

Books I Acquired in March 2019

Aren’t they lovely? *wipes away a tear*

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley came from a thrift shop and is my pick for Book Riot’s 2019 Read Harder Challenge: Cozy Mystery. Once again, something that’s totally outside my normal reading genres, so this should be interesting.

And speaking of Book Riot, How to Make Friends With the Dark by Kathleen Glasgow came from a Book Riot giveaway! Totally made my day when I got the email letting me know I won. Thank you, Book Riot!!!

And the other book…see below.

Bookish Things I Did in March 2019

One of the libraries around here has a book sale every few months, and of course I had to stop by! It was there that I acquired Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlanksky. Two of my friends on Goodreads have given this five stars, so I’m expecting to enjoy this as well. I also grabbed a copy of Where’s Mom Now That I Need Her?: Surviving Away From Home by Kent P. Frandsen, to give my son for his birthday. He’ll be 17 and (sniff!) it’s time to start thinking of the days in the future when he’ll be off on his own.

I also made it to my library’s book discussion group again! This month, we discussed The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware. I seemed to enjoy it more than everyone else did, but as I said in my review, I don’t often read in this genre, so it may be that their more experienced tastes found flaws that I didn’t. (I do have to say, though, some of the criticisms of Lo stung a little bit, since I was able to identify with her anxiety so strongly! Those of us with anxiety aren’t trying to be annoying, we promise…)

Current Podcast Love

I’m still adoring All the Books! from Book Riot (lot of Book Riot love in this post, huh? I seriously adore them). I’m somewhere around the 130’s (out of 200), so I still have a ways to go before I can catch up their episodes about the newest releases. Liberty’s enthusiasm for reading is so infectious, and Rebecca has such an informative manner about her when she’s talking about the books she loves (she and I have really similar tastes, so I really look forward to hearing about her picks and have added several to my TBR list). I’ll be sad when I’m done with all the back episodes! (Image borrowed from Book Riot’s website for the express purpose of being eye-catching and advertising the fact that they have a bahzillion awesome podcasts. Go check them out!!!)

Real Life Stuff

Busy month ’round these parts! We registered my daughter for kindergarten; we’ll go for orientation in early April. Seems like just yesterday I was miserable and pregnant with her (pregnancy and I are NOT friends). My cat scared the crap out of me with her constant vomiting, which required a vet trip (she’s fine and is currently covering my pillow with fur during her day-long nap, and I let her because I love her that much). I attended a play with my son, and attended one of my son’s choir concerts- seriously, his school is AMAZING when it comes to their Fine Arts program. Every production is practically professional (they did Cats a few years ago and you wouldn’t have any idea that this wasn’t some big name theater. They’re THAT good). Still cold here, so nothing has been planted yet in our Lazy Backyard Garden, nor have I been able to attack the jungle of weeds and overgrowth that is my backyard, but that’s also in part thanks to the flare-up of dyshidrotic eczema I’ve been experiencing on my feet. It’s slowing down now, but at one point we counted and I had 45 blisters on my feet (which made wearing shoes very, very painful- but not wearing shoes hurt as well). We ended the month with my daughter puking on pretty much every surface of the house, which resulted in so. much. laundry (which in turn killed my lower back). Bodies are so fun, aren’t they?

In good news, we did have a resolution of a major problem that has been causing a LOT of stress for the past year. I don’t want to go into details, because it’s a seriously long story, but it involved bank card fraud with the account where my son’s college money is stored. YEAH. That was about as fun as you’d might expect (especially since the company wasn’t exactly helpful about it), but everything was resolved in our favor mid-month, FINALLY, and I am so, SO thankful for it, because it was for a LOT of money (like, so much that it could potentially cover all of my son’s community college costs. THAT much money). So hurray! πŸ™‚

Looking forward to April, I’ve got a stack of library books to get to (four more books for that Read Harder Challenge!), and several review books that sound pretty awesome. I still haven’t started the book for my library book discussion group either, and the meeting is on the 18th, so I need to get on that! My daughter will turn five, my son’s school is putting on a performance of Romeo and Juliet, and hopefully the weather will start to warm up so I can stop shivering!

How was your March??? What are you looking forward to in April?