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. ๐Ÿ™‚

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. Sรกnchez 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 Misรฉrables, 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! ๐Ÿ™‚

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. ๐Ÿ™‚ 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-Pรฉrez

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. Sรกnchez

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. ๐Ÿ™‚ 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 Misรฉrables 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. Sรกnchez, 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. ๐Ÿ˜‰

And that’s it! How was your October? (Hopefully less painful than mine!) Wishing you all the best for a beautiful November. ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ร  L’รฉcole 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. ๐Ÿ˜€

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 Misรฉrables 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. ๐Ÿ™‚

(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! ๐Ÿ˜€

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! ๐Ÿ˜€

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. ๐Ÿ™‚

memoir · nonfiction

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

When I went searching through my library’s online card catalog for Shakespeare Saved My Life: Ten Years in Solitary With the Bard by Laura Bates, I came across another book that hadn’t hit the shelves yet but was available to request, and so I did. Reading Behind Bars: A True Story of Literature, Law, and Life as a Prison Librarian by Jill Grunenwald (Skyhorse, 2019) ticked so many of my pet subject boxes: prisons, libraries, reading, reading in prison, prison libraries, books about reading. I wasn’t the only one in line, though, so I ended up waiting for probably around six weeks or so before I received the email to come and pick up my book. (Who ARE you other local readers? We could be such good friends!)

Fresh out of library school at a time when the economy stank more than a swampy landfill baking in the August sun, Jill Grunenwald applies for job after job and receives nothing, until the day she applies for a job as a librarian in a correctional facility. The ad is so vaguely worded that Jill doesn’t realize she was applying to work in a prison until later. As it stands, her first days on the job are marked by deep anxiety- what on earth is she doing as a prison librarian?

The job takes all of Jill’s wits and more; while her facility is minimum-security, there are still men who will take advantage of anything they can. Public masturbation is indeed a thing in prison (not just for public transportation anymore! Ugh); librarian-signed permission letters aren’t enough to make it okay for an inmate to take safety scissors back to his cell; breaking your elbow while rollerblading is NOT conducive to safety while working behind bars. There are good days and bad days, little wins and setbacks. Being a prison librarian is a unique job, and Jill shares the ups and downs in the pages of this memoir.

So.

Reading Behind Bars is worth a read alone for the subject matter (and if you’re interested, Running the Books: The Adventures of an Accidental Prison Librarian by Avi Steinberg is probably right up your alley as well). Working a non-security position at a prison is pretty interesting, and the ins and outs of the protocols Ms. Grunenwald had to follow in order to maintain safety standards for both herself and the inmates added a little flavor to the story…at first. And then the repetition began to feel pedantic and tiresome. What the memoir lacks is a more personal touch, of how the author grew and changed and was changed by her experiences in the prison. I didn’t feel like I knew her any better by the last page (although I liked her; she totally seems like the kind of person I’d love to hang out with!), nor did I get a true sense of what her time at the prison meant to her, and I would have liked to.

I did enjoy reading about about how she needed to update the entire (and non-existent, when she arrived) online book catalog, along with entering the enormous stacks of donated books. While she was outlining what a horrible amount of work it would be, and such drudgery, I was practically salivating over the prospect (I had to do something similar with the entire catalog of movies in the video rental store I worked in as a teenager. WHY YES, I AM OLD, THANK YOU. Another teenage employee and I tackled the project and got it done in a ridiculously short amount of time, and I enjoyed every last second of it). Personally, I would have enjoyed reading more about this project and any other efforts she made to improve the library, especially since I think it’s fairly well-known that prison libraries aren’t exactly a priority for the institutions that house them (and lately, prisons have been making the news for removing books; you can read about one such case here; I’ll be over here with my blood boiling).

Speaking of which, another section I liked was her discussion over her discomfort of the constant censorship of material in prison; I could entirely relate to and understand that. I may not agree with certain books and some subject matter, but I would never try to stop anyone from reading them, and I can imagine that being required to do that by one’s employer would start to itch like a too-tight wool sweater before long. These too are sections that make the book worth a read. I’ve come across some interesting discussions about this on Library Twitter (I really do love libraries in every form!), so if you haven’t delved into censorship as a topic of study, Ms. Grunenwald lays out some fabulous examples that will hopefully get the hamster in your head racing in its wheel, so that you’ll be as incredulous as I am that prison libraries are out there banning Born a Crime by Trevor Noah. WTAF.

Anyway, while this wasn’t exactly the book I was hoping it would be, I still enjoyed it for the look it gave me into a place I’ll (hopefully!) never be- definitely not as a librarian, because I can’t afford school and my crummy back makes me the world’s largest liability, and hopefully never as an inmate!

Visit Jill Grunenwald’s website here.

Follow her on Twitter here.

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. ๐Ÿ™‚

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. ๐Ÿ™‚

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. ๐Ÿ™‚

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! ๐Ÿ™‚

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. ๐Ÿ™‚

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. ๐Ÿ™‚

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. ๐Ÿ™‚

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. ๐Ÿ™‚

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! ๐Ÿ˜€ (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. ๐Ÿ™‚

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. ๐Ÿ™‚

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. ๐Ÿ™‚

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. ๐Ÿ™‚ 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. ๐Ÿ™‚

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???

WWW Wednesday

WWW Wednesday June 12, 2019

Here we are again, another Wednesday! Halfway through the week. I’m feeling mostly alive and still struggling to catch up with everything, but that’s what happens when you’re down for the count for so stinkin’ long. But everyone loves WWW Wednesday, right???

WWW Wednesday is a superfun bookish meme hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words. Hi, Sam! Thanks for hosting! It’s all about answering three very important questions:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think youโ€™ll read next?

Are you ready? Let’s do this!

What are you currently reading?

Based on a suggestion from a Book Riot article, I added Muslim Girl: A Coming of Age Story by Amani Al-Khatahtbeh to my TBR and grabbed it from the library yesterday. It’s a slim tome, but it’s giving me a different perspective on the aftermath of September 11th, one that I’d thought about but had never read any firsthand accounts of, so I appreciate that. I’ll most likely finish this tonight.

What did you recently finish reading?

Living More With Less by Doris Janzen Longacre has been sitting on my shelf for a few years. I finally got around to finishing it this weekend, and I’m SO glad I did. It’s thrift, frugality, and sustainability with the express purpose of better caring for our neighbors, and it was exactly what I needed to read to reset my brain. My review will be up tomorrow. And also…

I don’t always review the books I read out loud to my daughter, but I’ll probably do a write-up of Mandy by Julie Andrews Edwards (yes, THAT Julie Andrews, she of The Sound of Music and The Princess Diaries fame). This was a childhood favorite of mine and I was beyond thrilled to be able to read it out loud to my daughter, who loved it as much as I did. ๐Ÿ™‚

What do you think youโ€™ll read next?

No Matter How Loud I Shout: A Year in the Life of Juvenile Court by Edward Humes has been on my TBR list for…let’s not discuss how long. I picked up a copy from a local library branch and will start reading this next. My one reservation is that it was published in 1997, which means it’s pretty dated- the kids who were teenagers at the writing of this book are now in or nearing their forties, so… I may skip it and move onto the next thing if it’s not working for me. I have a few books on their way via interlibrary loan, and if they’re not here yet, I may dive into the book that got me into reading romance, which I’m sure will be all sorts of hideous and hilarious. I’m looking forward to seeing just how terrible it is!

And that’s it for this week! What are you reading???

WWW Wednesday

WWW Wednesday June 5, 2019

Good morning/afternoon/evening, readers! I hope you’re having a fabulous day. Would you look at that- it’s Wednesday again, so that means it’s time for another WWW Wednesday! (Again? Wasn’t it just Wednesday???)

WWW Wednesday is a superfun bookish meme hosted by the lovely Sam of Taking on a World of Words (hi Sam! Thanks for hosting!). It’s all about answering three VERY important book-related questions:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think youโ€™ll read next?

Are you ready? Let’s play!

What are you currently reading?

So, I’m still sick. I woke up yesterday feeling like I’d been run over by a bus, with pain still raging in the left side of my face, head, and jaw (and coughing! I’m still coughing!). Off to the doctor we went, and I came home with a prescription for stronger antibiotics. So far, they *seem* to be working out better (*crosses fingers*); I’m not as bad off this morning as I was yesterday. All that is to say that last night, I was half-dead and wanted to throw myself in bed and read something that I didn’t have to work for, that I could just lie there, try not to die, and get lost in the story. Second Chances by Lauren Dane, the story of a woman who returns to her hometown after years away, fit that bill. I read through 30-some percent of it and then crashed, but I’m enjoying it so far.

What did you recently finish reading?

I couldn’t resist Big Rock by Lauren Blakely; any book that can make such innuendos with both the cover and the title (and the font!) gets my inner twelve-year-old snort-laughing.

I also finished American Prison: A Reporter’s Undercover Journey into the Business of Punishment by Shane Bauer. This was utterly amazing, infuriating, and eye-opening. It’s the kind of book that makes you need to take a breather every once in a while, because some of the information in there is just so brutal and intense. I cannot recommend this highly enough, especially if you live in the US.

What do you think youโ€™ll read next?

So, usually I have a whole stack of books lined up, just waiting for me. This illness has seriously kicked my butt, and I’m plum worn out. I have no stack other than the books on my own shelves (and we all know those don’t count, right?). I’m really hoping to be back to my normal self in the next few days and get back to my regular reading. After making a stop at the grocery store today, my daughter and I are going to hit up the library in a nearby town; they’ve got a few books from my TBR list (whether they’re in stock remains to be seen), including The Solace of Water by Elizabeth Younts, Guantanamo Diary by Mohamedou Ould Slahi, and The Idea of You by Robinne Lee. So hopefully one of those will be next on the list, and hopefully I’ll be back to normal soon!

And that’s it for this week’s WWW Wednesday! What are you reading this week???

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. ๐Ÿ™‚

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. Voilร ! First completed challenge. ๐Ÿ™‚

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. ๐Ÿ™‚

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! ๐Ÿ™‚

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! ๐Ÿ™‚

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. ๐Ÿ™‚

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

Happy reading in June! ๐Ÿ™‚