Making Time for Reading

Good morning!

I’ve been preparing for a big book recommendation post outside of my normal monthly reviews (stay tuned for that next week!) but I thought today I would take a little time to just talk about how I actually fit reading in my days. To be honest, some days are easier than other to squeeze it in, but these are the biggest strategies I use to make time for reading.

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My happy place – so many possibilities!

Choose reading. I truly believe that you have time for whatever you choose to have time for, whether that be working out, reading, crafting, cooking, etc. I sometimes hear people say that they don’t have time to read and I just don’t buy that. You have time to do whatever you prioritize doing. If you have ten minutes to scroll through your Instagram feed, you have ten minutes to read. If you have an hour to binge something on Netflix, you have an hour to read. Reading might not be what you choose to do with the time you have, but you can make time for it if you want. For me, I just love reading so it is what I prioritize and often choose to do instead of other things (like watching TV in the evenings).

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Settle for a C+ with chores. Some days, when nap time rolls around I put housework or other tasks on pause and take a little mental escape into a book.  I feel so relaxed and refreshed and ready to jump back in to work after 30 minutes cozied up on the couch with a snuggly blanket and a good book! This doesn’t mean that I completely ignore my housework, it just means that I am okay with occasionally putting off things like folding laundry until later in the day.

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Happily reading with laundry waiting to be folded … later.

Stop reading crummy books. I used to be someone who finished every book I started, even if I didn’t like it. Then, I read The Goldfinch. Oh. My. Gosh. I truly hated this book and about 237 pages in, I realized I was dreading reading. I wasn’t enjoying the book, I was avoiding reading, and I still had over 500 pages to go. Umm, no thank you. I decided I value reading way to much to waste time on a book I don’t like and I returned it to the library. And instead of feeling like a failure, I was so excited to read again! I knew I could give myself permission to stop reading if I didn’t like the book. It’s easy to put off reading if I’m not enjoying the book but it’s so much easier to make time to read when I’m excited about the book and enjoying what I’m reading. This doesn’t mean I only read books I 100% adore because I think it’s important to stretch yourself a little, but if I’m totally dreading reading, then I stop the book.

Utilize down time. I do often read during LJ’s nap time, but I’m also not afraid to read when he’s awake and just having some quiet playtime. He is very good at independent play so sometimes I’ll sit on the playroom floor with him or in my cozy spot and read my book while he stacks blocks or plays with other toys. He likes to play with me nearby but this doesn’t mean he needs my constant undivided attention. I like that he has developed the skills to play by himself but I also like that I’m right there and can easily put down my book to engage with him if he brings over a toy to play with together. This doesn’t happen super often but it’s always nice when it does.

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Take books on errands.  If I’m in the middle of a book and leave on errands, I often take whatever book I’m reading with me. Maybe everything will run efficiently and I won’t have a chance to read a single word, but maybe there will be unexpected down time. I stopped in the pharmacy for my flu shot and had an unexpected 20 minute wait. Perfect time to read instead of just mindlessly scroll on my phone! I will especially make sure to take my book along to any type of appointment where I might have a wait before being seen – doctor, dentist, hair salon, etc. By having my book handy, I have the option to read a few pages instead of flip through a magazine there or my instagram feed.

 

What strategies do you use to fit in reading?

January 2019 Book Reviews

My first book review of 2019 is finally here!

I have been so excited for this post because this month, I picked four absolute winners. We’ve got historical fiction, some lighter, fun reads, and one captivating survival story.  I really enjoyed each book this go round and I’m so eager to share them with you, so let’s do this!january 2019 book reviews

My Oxford Year by Julia Whelan

I’ve mentioned before that I enjoy following Shay’s blog Mix and Match Mama and I particularly like following her book reviews. I feel like we have pretty similar taste in what we enjoy reading so I often add a few of her suggestions to my To Be Read list. When she named this book as her very favorite book of 2018, I immediately put it on my list and it did not disappoint! It follows Ella, an American Rhodes scholar traveling to England to study literature at Oxford despite having a promising political career opportunity back home. While there, she takes missteps, develops friendships, and meets a handsome man. I don’t want to spoil to much, but this was such an enjoyable read! I loved the characters and got emotionally invested in the plot. It was the perfect blend of lighthearted fun and serious depth and made me want to ride around on a bike exploring all the charming, quaint little nooks around Oxford.

Castle of Water by Dane Huckelbridge

This was also a top read of 2018 for Shay so I put it on my list as well and OH. MY. GOSH. This book amazed me. Two strangers survive a plane crash on a remote, virtually unknown island in the South Pacific and have to work together to survive. I wasn’t really sure what all to expect here, but I absolutely loved how the author wove this story together. The story mostly centered on their life on the island but there were also chapters that included what I can only call “extra” information from other time periods that helped tie everything together. I thought this story was beautiful, heartbreaking, uplifting, complex, and captivating – I could not put it down and it gave me a week-long book hangover (you know, when you can’t even think about starting another book because the last one you read still weighs so heavily on your mind). I loved it!

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

It’s been a hot minute since I’ve read a book from cover to cover in one day, but I did it with this one. This book follows Rill Foss, a 12-year-old “river rat” living on a houseboat in the 1930s, and Avery Stafford, a well-connected lawyer with possible political ambitions in present day. These two women have seemingly nothing in common but as their individual stories unfold, connections are made and their stories begin to weave together in ways neither would have imagined. I had this book sitting on my couch one day when my mom was visiting and after reading the insert summary she promptly declared “I could never read this book!” While I personally loved it, it can be a very heavy read, as the fiction story is based off of a disturbing real-life scandal in Memphis from the 1920s to the 1950s (one I had previously known nothing about). There were times where it made my mama heart just break into pieces; however, despite the tragic and distressing events of the past, the author spun an emotional and moving tale of  family, identity, and belonging. I couldn’t put it down and flew through it.

Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan

In October, I read Crazy Rich Asians and really enjoyed it, then in December I read China Rich Girlfriend and thought it was just okay. This month, I finished the trilogy with Rich People Problems and oh my gosh I LOVED it! I think it helped that there was one really big central story line and just a few side plots that tied together. In this story, Nick Young’s incredibly wealthy grandmother is dying and all his wacky relatives are gathering together in her mansion in Singapore to pay their last respects (and make sure they’re in her will). I loved the characters, I loved the downright zany situations they find themselves in, I loved the way everything from the previous two books came together in just a perfect way. I was really satisfied with how this wrapped up the trilogy and didn’t leave any loose ends. This was definitely my favorite book in the series, but you really do need to read the whole series in order because the plot lines build off one another.

Have you read any of these books? What did you think of them?

November 2018 Book Reviews

Hi friends!

My original plan was to get this blog post up yesterday but life happened and you know what, you just gotta roll with it sometimes.

Over the last few months I’ve been reading a lot of books and for the month of November I slowed down a bit and read three books. I enjoyed them all immensely and am excited to share my reviews with you so let’s get going!

November Book Review.jpgThe Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca SklootHenrietta Lacks.jpgI don’t remember how this book landed on my list but I’d been waiting for it at the library for a quite a while and was excited when it finally was my turn to check it out! While the book is a work of nonfiction, it reads very much like a novel and I really enjoyed it. Henrietta was a poor black woman with cancer in the 1950s; a scraping of cancer cells from her cervix was used in scientific research without her knowledge or consent. Even after she passed away, her cells became “immortal” and are still living today. They have been instrumental in developing various vaccines, medications, and other medical discoveries. The book researches both Henrietta’s life and the life of her family, who didn’t know about her cells being used for decades. The author details not only what happened throughout her own journey to research Henrietta but also lots of information about Henrietta’s life, what was happening in the field of science at various times, what life has been like for Henrietta’s family, etc. This story could have easily become a dense, scientific read but the author did an amazing job of bringing each character to life on the page. The books brings up some thought-provoking questions about ethics in scientific research and was truly an interesting read that I wholeheartedly recommend.

The Book Thief by Markus ZusakThe Book ThiefThis book has been on my “to be read” list for a really long time and I finally got around to reading it. It was well worth the wait! It is categorized as a Young Adult novel but I honestly think it appeals just as much to older adults as well. The plot is unique: it set in Nazi Germany during World War II and is narrated by Death. Death is recalling a story of a young girl who has been sent away to a small town in Germany and his encounters with her life. I don’t want to give away too much so I’ll just say this book was fantastic. It was long but the short chapters make it seem like a quicker read and it kept my attention the whole time – I kept thinking “okay just one more chapter and then I’ll go get other work done” but just kept going! I have read a ton of WWII historical fiction but this may be the first book I’ve read about what life may have been like for small-town Germans, particularly those who didn’t whole-heartedly agree with Hitler. It was a fascinating read and I highly recommend it!

 

 

The Girl Before by JP Delaney

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If you know me in real life, you are probably surprised that I have been reading so many psychological thrillers lately because I’m a natural scaredy-cat. I don’t know why I’m on such a kick right now but my interest in them is showing no signs of slowing down and I’m okay with that. The Girl Before is set in an ultra-modern, techy, and minimalistic house with an eccentric owner and unusual lease agreement. Chapters alternate between Emma, a previous tenant, and Jane, the current tenant and their eerily similar experiences. This book had an interesting premise and was just creepy enough without being overly terrifying (it didn’t make me need to sleep with the lights on but it made my heartbeat rise at several points). There were several times where I thought I had figured out what had happened and then a new revelation made me question everything. Every character had a surprise or two up his or her sleeve, whether good or bad, and it kept me intrigued the whole way through! I really enjoyed this book!

Have you read any of these books? What were your thoughts?

October 2018 Book Review {Part Two}

Good morning friends!

Today I’m wrapping up the reviews for the books I read in October – if you missed Part One be sure to check it out here.

October 2018 Part Two

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

The Alice Network

Charlie St. Clair is a college girl in search of her cousin who went missing in France in WWII. Her search leads her to Eve Gardiner, a former WWI spy harboring bitterness and regret over long ago happenings within the spy organization known as The Alice Network. Charlie and Eve (along with Eve’s hired helper, a Scottish man named Finn) set off to France to try to discover the truth of what really happened to those they’ve known. The more information they learn, the more entwined their two separate stories and searches become.

So first off, I am a historical fiction junkie. Give me historical fiction about an obscure female heroine from WWI and I am ALL over it. I absolutely loved reading about The Alice Network and devoured information about the real Louise de Bettignies and her story on Wikipedia after finishing this novel. I enjoyed the dynamic between Charlie, Eve, and Finn and thought the characters came to life throughout. That being said, the stories alternated between Eve’s WWI experience and Charlie’s post-WWII quest and I often found myself hoping perspectives would shift so things picked up. Some parts went too slowly for me and the book seemed a bit long. I kept wanting to find out more information and the slow reveals and little hints were just tantalizing. Eve’s chapters were fascinating but I wasn’t as into Charlie’s stories. I found her equations (a strange mental game she plays) unnecessary and boring and her backstory wasn’t as interesting to me. However, I was eager to find out how Eve and Charlie’s stories were connected and as truths came to light I became very invested in how things would turn out. Overall, I enjoyed this book and would recommend it, but it probably could have been a little condensed.

The Summer Wives by Beatriz Williams

The Summer Wives

In general, I love Beatriz Williams and I really enjoy her Schuyler family stories. Sometimes they connect with one another and have overlapping characters, but this book 100% stands on it’s own. This novel is set on Winthrop Island, a small New England island where the community is comprised of the wealthy summer Families and the working-class Portuguese population who live there year-round. The plot is divided into three different time periods (1930, 1951, and 1969) and events that happened over the course of the summers in each of those years. While the narrators and time periods change, I didn’t find it hard to keep the story lines straight and understand events and how everything connected. (In fact, I followed it almost too well and figured out where the plot was going around page 150, which was a little disappointing because I like to be surprised). I loved the characters, the setting, and most of the plot line, although I will say that there was a lot of unnecessary rated-R content that took away from the story for me. There were also a few times, particularly with the 1969 timeline, where I felt like the story dragged a little but for the most part I was drawn in and intrigued by how the individual stories were woven together. Overall, I thought this was a great read!

Force of Nature by Jane Harper
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Back in May, I read The Dry and was told that Harper had another book following the same main character so I immediately added it to my reading list. In this novel, Aaron Falk is working on a big money laundering case when his key contact within the company, Alice Russell, goes missing on a corporate retreat in the isolated Australian wilderness. The four other women she was in the woods with all return together and each remembers things that happened slightly differently. The story is told through Falk’s present investigations/the search for Alice and flashbacks alternating points of views from the women in the wilderness. One thing that Harper does really well in her books is to describe the scenery so well that it becomes like an actual character in her stories. I could feel the claustrophobia of being surrounded by thick bushland, I could imagine how turned around and scared I would have become had I been lost in this vast wilderness. I felt the paranoia of the women in the woods as their panic levels rose and feral instincts kicked in. As the story twisted and turned, Harper dropped enough small tidbits that I formed various ideas of how things might play out but I was still surprised by the final turn of events. I do wish the author would dive a little more into Falk’s personal life, because I love reading about his character and she doesn’t spend a lot of time on it; nonetheless, it was an exciting thriller without being too creepy and I flew through it. I recommend it, but I suggest reading The Dry first because there are a few tiny mentions of that plot in this story (plus it is just a fantastic read)!

Have you read any of these books? What were your thoughts?

October 2018 Book Review {Part One}

A couple weeks ago, I finished up reviewing all the books I read over the summer and planned to do one monthly wrap-up from then on. However, this month I have been able to read a little more than I anticipated so rather than have one huge review, I’m breaking it up into two smaller reviews. So here goes Part One of my October reads!

October 2018 Book Reviews - Crazy Rich Asians, Surprise Me, Behind Closed Doors

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

Crazy Rich Asians

New Yorkers Rachel and Nick have been dating for almost two years when Nick invites her to spend the summer holiday visiting his family and home in Singapore. What Nick does not prepare Rachel for is that his family is insanely wealthy and he is considered to be one of the country’s most eligible bachelors. A lot of family meddling and mishaps ensue and it’s all pretty amusing. This book alternates perspectives from a variety of characters – from Rachel and Nick to Nick’s cousins to Rachel’s friend’s dad and lots of others in between. There are so many perspectives but I actually think that makes it a super fun read. The way these characters live is larger than life and some chapters are downright zany. I thought this was a clever, charming, very entertaining story and I’m excited to read the next book in this trilogy, China Rich Girlfriend. If you’re looking for an amusing light read, I recommend checking this book out!

Surprise Me by Sophie Kinsella

Surprise Me

Married couple Dan and Sylvie finish each other’s sentences and know everything there is to know about each other. When they find out they might be married another 68 years, they both panic at how long that seems and decide to add some fun to that time with project Surprise Me, where the goal is to surprise one another with out-of-the-box gifts and experiences. Obviously, not all surprises go smoothly and things start to spin a little out of control. While the premise seemed interesting enough, this book was not especially fun for me to read. I did not connect with the main character, Sylvie, who seemed neurotic, desperate, and annoying. Even though the author clearly tried to build interest by dropping hints that there were things going on around Sylvie that had yet to be fully revealed, it was hard to drum up enthusiasm for how things were going to play out. There were some boring parts and some cute parts. Overall it was an okay read – I didn’t hate it but I didn’t love it either.

Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris

Behind Closed Doors

Jack and Grace have a picture-perfect marriage. Jack is a successful lawyer and Grace is a charming homemaker. They throw delightful dinner parties, take exotic vacations, and live in a gorgeous mansion. They seem to have it all, but you never really know what goes on when the guests go home and the doors close. I have read a lot of psychological thrillers lately and I have to say, this was one of my favorites! The plot is intriguing, original, and hair-raising. I don’t want to give too much away, but I felt like I was reading someone’s nightmare and kept trying to find a way for them to “escape” – it was gripping and terrifying and so so good! This book made me turn on the lights at night, even days (weeks?) after I had finished reading it. It is just haunting. I highly recommend if you want a good thriller!

As always, let me know if you have a great suggestion for what I should read next!

September 2018 Book Reviews

Today is the final installment of catching up on book reviews from my summer reading list. After this, I will just have one book review each month. I’m currently working through my October reading stack so that review will likely come in a couple weeks.

September 2018 Book Review

Let’s jump in to what I read in September – I’ve got an eclectic mix this time around!

You Think It, I’ll Say It by Curtis Sittenfeld

You Think It

I saw this collection on the featured shelf in the library and decided to give it a chance since I rarely read short stories. There is no doubt that this author is talented and the stories are well written; however, I just didn’t connect with or enjoy the majority of them. This is an unfortunate example of how sometimes it doesn’t pay off to start a book you know nothing about – from a manipulative one-night-stand to emotional/physical cheating to contemplation of extramarital affairs, there was subject material that was just not my cup of tea. After the first two stories fell flat for me, I considered stopping but ultimately kept plugging away since the book was short. I did like a few stories (like Bad Latch and Off the Record) but most just left me feeling sad or cynical for one reason or another. This is sadly not one I enjoyed or recommend.

Final Girls by Riley Sager

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Three women, Lisa, Sam, and Quincy, have never met but are uniquely bonded together as “final girls” – they are each the sole survivor of a horrific mass murder. We primarily follow Quincy, who has no memory of how she survived a cabin weekend where all her friends were brutally killed. After Lisa is unexpectedly found dead, Sam shows up on Quincy’s door and forces Quincy to deal with the past she has blocked out, which leads to a heart-pumping race to figure out the truth of what really happened that horrible night in the cabin. I have to start by saying the first 40% of this book went slower than I expected; I could tell it was meant to build suspense but it just wasn’t really working for me.  But then, the first major twist/revelation occurs and my interest level completely changed. The pace picked up, the story became more intricate and suspenseful, my heart started beating faster – I could not put it down! There were some shocking twists that kept me guessing until the very end. I gasped. I shuddered. I turned on ALL the lights. Even now just writing this review, I have literally looked over my shoulder no less than five times. This book is the perfect blend of psychological thriller + slasher movie (and I say this as someone who flat out refuses to watch any even remotely scary movie, let alone a horror/slasher flick). I loved the unique premise, the flashbacks to the night in the cabin, and the surprising twists throughout. So even with the disappointingly slow start, I did enjoy this book and would recommend it!

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

The Great Alone

In 1974, a fairly unstable Vietnam War veteran tries to get a fresh start by moving to rural Alaska with his wife and teenage daughter, Leni. They are welcomed into the small, tight-knit community and things go really well at first. Leni even starts to believe that maybe life will really be different for their family in Alaska. But then, winter comes and it turns out, even Alaska isn’t far enough away for her father to escape his demons. This book was fantastic! In May, I reviewed Kristin Hannah’s book Summer Island and it just fell short of the standard I have for her books after her excellent novels The Nightingale and Winter Garden. I was hopeful that this book would redeem my high expectations for her and it did not disappoint! It is vibrant, poignant, and captivating. The descriptions of the Alaskan wild are so vivid I feel like I have actually seen it with my own eyes. I came to love (most of) the characters and became so invested in their stories. There are some pretty heavy mental health issues included that are heartbreaking to see play out but contribute to an intriguing, emotional plot. It’s not a light read by any means but gosh, I just loved it. Highly recommend!

Reclaiming Conversation by Sherry Turkle

Reclaiming Conversation

Sherry Turkle is a trained sociologist and psychologist who takes a deep dive into how the pull of technology has led us away from conversations. She examines how our departure from conversation affects relationships with our family, friends, work, and even our own self-awareness. People are losing the ability to be empathetic and connect with others beyond the surface level. While I did enjoy reading this book and feel everyone would benefit from its message, I realize not everyone wants to read a nonfiction, heavily researched book about the effects of technology and devices on our view of ourselves, our relationships, our work life, etc. This book did get a little long and dense at times which led to me skim some of the sections. In a nutshell: while it can be a great resource, there are limitations with what technology can provide. Use of a device simply cannot serve as a replacement for face-to-face conversation. Conversations bring creativity, deeper relationships, and change and it is important for us to turn outward to others rather than downward to our phones or other devices. Turkle makes some compelling arguments for conversation and overall, I was pretty fascinated and took a lot of notes. I feel like there will be a separate blog post in the future where I can expand more on what I took away from this book so stay tuned for that!

And that’s a wrap on my summer reading! Now what do I need to include on my fall reading list?

 

 

 

July 2018 Book Review {Part Two}

Happy Friday! It’s time for another round up of some of the books I finished this summer. Because I was able to get through so many books in July, I have broken up July’s review into two parts. If you missed Part One, be sure to check it out here.

July Book Review Pt 2

Let’s get started!

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Eleanor Oliphant

Eleanor Oliphant is a quirky, lonely individual. She struggles with social interactions and has mysterious things in her past that have greatly impacted her, although we don’t initially know what those things are. The book journeys with her as she navigates new friendships and tries to find love.  Here’s the thing. I started this book knowing it was on the NYT Bestseller list and in Reese Witherspoon’s book club. My expectations before reading one single word were sky high for this to be a blow-me-away amazing book and it just fell short of that category. I felt that it started off pretty slow and even boring for the first several chapters. There is a ton of detail about really mundane parts of Eleanor’s life and I started to get annoyed with it all, particularly because I wasn’t connecting with, and therefore caring about, Eleanor. For those of you who read my review on The Rosie Project, you know how much I loved the protagonist Don and, despite their similar quirks, Eleanor is not as charming or funny as he is. However, around 40% of the way through, the tides turned and Eleanor began to endear herself to me. The story really picks up and I began to root for her. I thoroughly enjoyed the second half of the book and was especially satisfied with how everything wrapped up. I would say that despite the slow start in warming up to Eleanor, I did enjoy this book and would recommend it!

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman

My Grandmother Asked Me

This was my first book by this author and I love his writing style! This story follows a little girl named Elsa and is primarily centered around the apartment building where she lives. It has a fascinating way of weaving in and out of a fairy tale world created for Elsa by her wonderfully kooky grandmother. I don’t want to give too much of the plot away, so I’ll just say I found this book to be a charming little piece of literary magic and I am excited to read more by this author. I absolutely recommend it!

The Stars are Fire by Anita Shreve

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I happened to see this novel on a shelf as I was walking to the checkout at my library and I knew it had to be added to my stack. I’ve read The Pilot’s Wife and Stella Bain by this author and both were so good! So knowing nothing but the fact that I love this author, this book came home with me. It follows a young mother, Grace, who has a fairly unhappy marriage in Maine in 1947. A devastating wildfire comes to her little town and Grace and her best friend Rosie are left to try to save themselves and their children as their husbands go off to fight the fire. In the aftermath of the fire, Grace has to rally every ounce of her inner strength to help her family survive and thrive even when some really tragic and frustrating events take place. I really liked this book! Grace is a character that you just want to cheer on as she finds strength and freedom that she never thought was possible. I recommend checking it out (as well as Shreve’s other books)!

The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

The Wife Between Us

I don’t know how to give any sort of synopsis to this book without spoilers, so I will just say it’s about a woman and how she’s coping (or not coping) with her ex-husband’s new love. I love a good psychological thriller but this one felt a little less than thrilling. I think the overall story line is promising and there are several twists; however, I guessed the “major” twist about 20 pages before it happened which was disappointing. It made the big moment basically just a confirmation of what I already knew. I will say that there were some other twists that I did not see coming, so it was enough to keep me pretty engaged the whole way through. Overall I thought it tried too hard to be shocking and is not my favorite psychological thriller by any means, but it’s a good option if you’re looking for one that isn’t so creepy it’ll keep you up at night with the lights on.

And that’s a wrap on my July books! Have you read any of these books? What were your thoughts?