Books I Read This Week 2019 – 38

Very few books this week. It was a long, long week. Here are my goodreads reviews. If you’re on goodreads, add me as a friend so I can see your books too! I’ve also started an instagram account where I join my love of reading with my love of art.

The Practicing Mind (4 stars): “Habits are learned. Choose them wisely.” 

I’ve highlighted so much of this book. I picked this book up because someone at work recommended it to me and even though it’s a tiny book, it took me a while to read it because I knew pretty much right away that this is one of those books that I need to read slowly to keep reminding myself of what I know to be true but can’t seem to remember when it matters.

“….life itself is nothing more than one long practice session, an endless effort to refine the motions, both physical and mental, that compose our days.”

isn’t that a wonderful perspective? If life were a practice session and there was no end goal, we could focus on the present moment so much more.

“… the practicing mind is quiet. It lives in the present and has laser-like, pinpoint focus and accuracy. It obeys our precise directions, and all our energy moves through it. Because of this, we are calm and completely free of anxiety. We are where we should be at that moment, doing what we should be doing and completely aware of what we are experiencing. There is no wasted motion, physically or mentally.”

I have experienced this before and it’s magical. Being in the present moment, and focusing on what matters most right now is an incredible feeling. 

“You cannot control what you are not aware of. Awareness must come first.”

This is the biggest truth for me. There’s a whole section in the book about observing yourself. Seeing what you do/think and correcting it. If you don’t pay attention, if you’re not aware, nothing else matters because you’ve missed step 1.

“When you focus your mind on the present moment, on the process of what you are doing right now, you are always where you want to be and where you should be. All your energy goes into what you are doing. However, when you focus your mind on where you want to end up, you are never where you are, and you exhaust your energy with unrelated thoughts instead of putting it into what you are doing. In order to focus on the present, we must give up, at least temporarily, our attachment to our desired goal. If we don’t give up our attachment to the goal, we cannot be in the present because we are thinking about something that hasn’t occurred yet: the goal.”

I love this. I wish I could do this more and better. Let’s say I am still practicing getting better at this.

“The problem with patience and discipline is that developing each of them requires both of them.”

Ain’t that the truth. 

“Regardless of the stage of growth and evolution you are in, in every moment you are perfect at being who you are.”

And this is the best part for me. Because it’s also the truth. We are each constantly evolving and growing and changing. And we are also each perfect at being who we are. I love the idea of adopting the practicing mind and being better at observing and correcting myself so I can continue to focus on the practice and not the goal. 

It’s going to require daily practice and discipline.

The Turn of the Key (3 stars): This was a perfectly satisfactory thriller. I have read several books by Ware and haven’t always loved them so I wasn’t jumping to read this one but I was in the mood for a thriller and this was next up in my queue. I ended up really enjoying it. The “haunted” parts of the book were actually more interesting and chilling than the mystery itself and by the time the reveal happened I had guessed a bunch of the book. (Though I hadn’t guessed the killer, even though it was pretty obvious in retrospect.) There also were bits of the story that didn’t wrap up that I wished had. But overall it was a satisfying and quick read.

A Bend in the Stars (4 stars): I usually try not to read novels set around WWII but this particular story takes place during WWI-era Russia and the ratings were so high that I decided I had to give it a try. I am so glad I did. It was a great story mixing history with science and feminism and romance and highlights the complexities around being a woman (especially in science) and being Jewish and highlights all the complexity and hatred during this time. It was a beautiful, at times harrowing, at times uplifting story to read. I also really loved that it centered around a real solar eclipse in 1914. I really enjoyed reading this one and recommend it to fans of historical fiction.

And there we go, an ok week of reading. Here’s to a great week next week.

Books I Read this Week 2019 is a year-long project for 2019. You can read more about my projects for 2019 here. I am also tracking my books in real time on Good Reads here. If you’re on Good Reads add me so I can follow you, too! I’ve also started an instagram account where I join my love of reading with my love of art.

Books I Read This Week 2019 – 37

Here are my goodreads reviews. If you’re on goodreads, add me as a friend so I can see your books too! I’ve also started an instagram account where I join my love of reading with my love of art.

We Are All Good People Here (3 stars): So much happens in this book. It is the story of two women who meet in college in the early 1960s. It follows their lives all the way to when they have kids of their own, and the kids’ lives, too. There are a lot of issues the book addresses including racism, anti-semitism, anti-war (Vietnam) and feminism. The women weave in an out of each others’ lives for a while but then end up back together like when they were young, though not close in the same way. I enjoyed the wide range of historical times covered in this book and liked the characters but didn’t connect with it as much as I usually do with stories that go over such a long period of time like this one did. Liked it but didn’t love it.

Say Say Say (3 stars): Say Say Say is the story of a caregiver named Ella. While the book has many musings about relationships and grief and loss. Overall, I didn’t feel like the novel was long or deep enough for me to connect with it the way I usually like to. But I really loved the parts that revolved around her caregiving. The small bits of deeply intimate life you glimpse into as a caregiver, the ways in which you care and also struggle with how/when to care all felt really realistic and touching to me.

Because You’re Mine (3.5 stars): I don’t usually like twists in my mystery novels. They often feel like the author assumed the reader was stupid and came up with a completely implausible twist. Or it was so easy to tell that I could guess the twist. Or the characters are so dislikable that I don’t even care about the twist. This book, however, did none of those for me. The characters were each flawed but also likable in their own ways. The twists (and there were several) were not easy to guess, for me, and yet reasonably believable. I didn’t care for any of these characters all that much but I really enjoyed the story. If mystery and twists are your thing, you will like this one.

No Happy Endings (3 stars): This author was new to me. I haven’t read her previous books, i don’t follow her on instagram, nor have i listened to her podcast. I wasn’t sure how to rate this book. I felt like while there were several touching parts to it, and some gold as well, but overall I didn’t come away with that much. She has endured unspeakable grief between losing a baby and her husband weeks away from each other. The book did a great job of showing both the deep grief and the incredible joy life can bring. Life is complicated, you should make sure to make the most of your days, we don’t get happy endings but complicated, beautiful and textured lives. I admire the courage of the author and her honesty and I am truly happy for her. Maybe I just read this book at the wrong time and didn’t connect with it as much as I could have. If you’re a fan of her work, I am sure you will love this book.

All the Water in the World (2.5 stars): I should have DNF’ed this book. I could tell at around 10% in that I wasn’t connecting with the book and neither of the characters were resonating with me. And yet I kept reading to see if something would make me change my mind. Alas, it wasn’t so. Sometimes it’s the wrong time for a book and I can’t tell if this was one of those. Either way, this book didn’t really work for me unfortunately. If you’ve read it and liked it, I’d love to hear what made you love it that maybe I just missed.

And there we go, an ok week of reading. Here’s to a great week next week.

Books I Read this Week 2019 is a year-long project for 2019. You can read more about my projects for 2019 here. I am also tracking my books in real time on Good Reads here. If you’re on Good Reads add me so I can follow you, too! I’ve also started an instagram account where I join my love of reading with my love of art.

Books I Read This Week 2019 – 36

Here are my goodreads reviews. If you’re on goodreads, add me as a friend so I can see your books too! I’ve also started an instagram account where I join my love of reading with my love of art.

The Right Swipe (3.5 stars): I have read more romance books this year than I have read in the last five years combined. Romance is not usually my go-to genre and I still wouldn’t call it my go-to genre but this new trend of cutesy-romance is working for me when I am in the mood for a lighter story. This particular story gets a higher than average rating for me because of the incredible diversity in its characters. The main character is an African American woman, her love interest is Samoan, her assistant is Southeast Asian, there’s also a Thai character. There is a character with agoraphobia. I can go on and on. I enjoyed both the main and secondary characters. I will say this is like the 6th romance book I’ve read this year that has an ex football (or baseball) player in it. Not sure why but I’d love a bit more diversity in the male character’s jobs too. If light romance is your genre, you’ll find this one to be your cup of tea.

If You Want to Make God Laugh (4 stars): I loved this book. It takes place in post-apartheid South Africa and covers a lot of the current events of the time either in the background or directly. Including events like Mandela’s presidency, the AIDS epidemic, the racial divide, homophobia, and religion. There are a lot of tough topics covered in the book including several different occurrences of rape.

This is the story of three women whose stories start separately (an ex-nun, an ex-stripper, and a pregnant teenager) and become interconnected. This is a story about motherhood, about the scars we carry with us, about identity and the stories we tell ourselves, about what it means to be family, about how circumstances can unite people in the most profound ways.

I loved all the minutes I spent with this book. It started strong but only got better and better.

The Ten Thousand Doors of January (4.5 stars): ‘”The trouble with you people,” I observed, “is that you believe in permanence. An orderly world will remain so; a closed door will remain closed.” I shook my head, reaching for the door. “It’s very … limiting.”‘

If you like to get lost in stories that take you to other worlds and have adventures and wonderful characters, this book will be worth every delicious minute you spend with it. Just the fact that it has a kid and doors, made me think about The Wayward Children series but about halfway through the book, I realized I loved it for the same reason I love Laini Taylor’s books. Even though the imagery in her books is unparalleled, this book was the closest I have ever come to that type of feeling. This is one of the highest pieces of compliments I can give a book. It’s rare for me to come upon a book that’s unusual and this one managed to surprise me, keep me engaged, make me mad, sad and happy all at once.

“I spent years after the blue Door doing what most willful, temerarious girls must do: becoming less so.”

This book started slow for me. It was interesting from the very beginning but not super-engaging, for me. Just as I was getting sucked into January’s story, the book started alternating chapters between the two books and that didn’t work for me. I was invested in January now and did not want to be distracted by the other story. Even though it all came together, of course, and by midpoint I was fully engaged and fully invested, it took me a while to get there.

“Once we have agreed that true love exists, we may consider its nature. It is not, as many misguided poets would have you believe, an event in and of itself; it is not something that happens, but something that simply is and always has been. One does not fall in love; one discovers it.”

At its core this book is about love, identity, belonging, and family. It’s such a fantastical and beautiful story and it’s a joy to get lost in its pages. Each of the characters is memorable in its own way and you get enough of each of the backstories to see their perspective of the story, to understand their motivations, even if you don’t agree with them.

“Because the place you are born isn’t necessarily the place you belong.”

The love that binds this whole story together was wholly believable to me. I could feel the joy, the sorrow, the longing coming off the pages. That coupled with the visual and magical nature of the story makes this a pure pleasure to read.

“It depends which weighs more: a life, or a soul.”

There’s so much in this gem of a book and I highly recommend it.

Thank you to netgalley and redhook books for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

The Floating Feldmans (3 stars): This family story set on a cruise is setup to be an impending disaster where each family member has a secret they’ve been holding back on, bubbling up. Put all these family members on a boat together for a week and of course things start boiling and spilling over. The story has funny and poignant and tension. The ship exacerbates the typical family get together that’s usually filled with tension and years of stories and resentments. It all comes together, as it always does in these stories and the reader is left feeling whole and a bit better off.

Things You Save in a Fire (4 stars): Katherine Center’s novels always leave me more hopeful about the world. Not in the unrealistic “things are just perfect” way but in the “people are messed up and we are all struggling but also trying to be better” way.  This story is no exception. The main character has some deep-rooted experiences that are causing her to show up a particular way in the world and make certain choices but in her core she’s a good person who’s trying to be a better person so she continually does things that are hard for her but are the right thing to do. At her core, the value of doing the right thing and caring about others’ is so ingrained in her that it shows up again and again in this story.  It made me fall in love with the main character and it made me believe that she would make these choices because I was bought into this being a core value for her. So I was rooting for her the whole way and I loved the way the whole story came together. As with all her novels, the story is funny, serious, heartwarming all at once. It leaves you feeling full and optimistic. I enjoyed my time with this story and if you have read Center’s other books you will not be disappointed.

Turbulance (3.5 stars): This was a short and interesting book to read, mostly because of its format. It’s a very short book of connected stories. There’s no time or space for the reader to get attached to each character. But each story is very short but about intense/meaningful/relatable experiences in the characters’ lives. Often painful. So the stories pull the reader in quickly and keep you feeling an emotional attachment to the situation more than the characters. Many of the stories have two main characters and then one travels on a plane to another story with another person and then there’s another plane connecting one of those characters to the next story etc. Each chapter header is a airport code to another airport code to help guide the reader through the flow of connections. At its core, it’s about how people are connected and slivers of our lives overlap and touch each other. Many of the stories have something sad at their core: abuse, infidelity, death, illness, etc. Most are not explored deeply since each story is short. Just enough for the reader to sympathize but not likely enough to empathize.

You’ve Been Volunteered (3 stars): If you liked Gelman’s first novel, I am reasonably confident you will enjoy this one, too. It has the same humor around what it means to be a class-mom and much of the similar conversations around marriage, mid-life, school-parent dynamics etc. These novels are a notch about meh for me. They are funny but not hilarious and they have heart but not enough for me to feel really good afterwards. Which is totally fine. I listened to this during a long car ride and it was perfect for that.

And there we go, an ok week of reading. Here’s to a great week next week.

Books I Read this Week 2019 is a year-long project for 2019. You can read more about my projects for 2019 here. I am also tracking my books in real time on Good Reads here. If you’re on Good Reads add me so I can follow you, too! I’ve also started an instagram account where I join my love of reading with my love of art.

Books I Read This Week 2019 – 35

Here are my goodreads reviews. If you’re on goodreads, add me as a friend so I can see your books too! I’ve also started an instagram account where I join my love of reading with my love of art.

Never Have I Ever (3.5 stars): 3.5 stars mostly because I was surprised more often than i usually am

I enjoyed this book more than I thought I was going to. I appreciated a mystery without the unreliable character trope or even the dislikable character one. The main character had secrets to hide and she was flawed but she also was real and reasonably realistic in my opinion. Roux was a bit more complicated in that I had to buy into some of her past and present and motivations. Some seemed plausible but others were a bit harder for me to believe. There were several times I was surprised in the story mostly because it went in a direction I just hadn’t really thought of for this type of story. The fact that it wasn’t like all the other mysteries I’ve read in the last two years helped in this case. Overall, it was an enjoyable read, especially if domestic mysteries are your thing.

Pretty Guilty Women (3 stars): There have already been quite a few comparisons between Pretty Guilty Women and Big Little Lies and there are indeed many parallels. This story takes place over a wedding weekend in a resort spa. One of four old friends is getting married and none are really that close anymore. There’s also an older woman whose husband is related to the wedding party. These four women (excluding the bride) are involved in a crime, and the book goes from one character to another telling bits of their back story and then telling bits of what happened over the weekend to culminate in the crime. Each chapter opens or closes with short police interrogation. Each woman has her secret or personal drama so each of those also unravels throughout the story. So the structure and the plot are quite similar and some of the subplots are, too.

But I still enjoyed reading it. It was a fast-paced read that kept me up late at night waiting to find out what happened and who died and how each character’s back story unfolds. If you enjoyed Big Little Lies, and are looking for something similar, you will enjoy this.

Thank you to netgalley and Sourcebooks Landmark for an early copy in exchange for an honest review

The Great Unexpected (3 stars): I think I was an outlier for this book. All the reviews are glowing and yet I really struggled with it. This was a bit like Ove for me where a disgruntled, old man finds friendship and then changes over time. It’s about the value of friendship and how life changing that can be. There are some really heavy themes in this one around abuse, suicidal ideation, etc. But it just never really landed with me, I didn’t feel connected to the main character and didn’t find myself rooting for him. I did love the secondary characters but in the end, it was reasonably predictable so that mixed with my lack of connection meant this wasn’t a standout for me.

Lanny (3.5 stars): 3.5 stars on uniqueness alone. I started this book months ago and then had to put it on hold because I was having such a hard time following it. I finally came back to it, and it was still hard but I decided to stick with it and I am glad I did. It is an incredibly unusual book. I can’t even say I loved it but I loved its uniqueness and it will stay with me for quite a while. I love books that do that. This book is about so much but most of all it’s about society, connection, mankind. Loss, too. I don’t want to give too much away. It’s a short book. It was an interesting audio experience and I have no idea how it is in print. If you’re adventurous I’d recommend trying it and seeing if it resonates with you.

And there we go, an ok week of reading. Here’s to a great week next week.

Books I Read this Week 2019 is a year-long project for 2019. You can read more about my projects for 2019 here. I am also tracking my books in real time on Good Reads here. If you’re on Good Reads add me so I can follow you, too! I’ve also started an instagram account where I join my love of reading with my love of art.

Books I Read This Week 2019 – 34

Here are my goodreads reviews. If you’re on goodreads, add me as a friend so I can see your books too! I’ve also started an instagram account where I join my love of reading with my love of art.

Chances Are… (4 stars): I really enjoyed reading this story of three male friends who have one last get together on Martha’s Vineyard before their lives wind in different directions. At the time, they have this female friend, Jacy, with them, too. She’s engaged to be married and this is also a getaway weekend for her. But then she disappears and none of the boys (as far as we can tell) know what happened to her.

These three friends meet again on Martha’s Vineyard 40+ years later and through winding back and forth we learn about each of the characters (and Jacy) by the end of the book. Russo is a great storyteller and his characters are three-dimensional and feel so real and familiar. 

The part of this book that resonated with me so much is that feeling many of us carry with us as we get older and choose certain paths over others (or certain options are not available to us) and we keep wondering what would have happened had it gone this other way. Each of these men think about Jacy and what would have happened if she chose one of them. 

There are many other themes in the book, one of the most dominant being Vietnam which played a huge role during the formative years of these characters and the choices they made because of it. I also enjoyed the Vineyard setting since I was familiar with all the neighborhoods.

All in all, I feel you can’t really go wrong with a Russo book.

That’s what Frenemies are For (3.5 stars): I enjoyed this book much more than I thought I was going to. Even though most of the characters were reasonably stereotypical and the story of Manhattan socialites is not new to me, I still had fun seeing the main character go through all the different changes and grow in the process. Another reminder that it’s best to be who you are and do what matters to you and find the real people who matter. The rest is all a waste of time.

The Book Charmer (3.5 stars): I really enjoyed the time I spent with this book. It’s about a small town with a small twist of magic thrown in there. The characters are all lovely and developed. Even though the story went to a predictable and sweet place, I really enjoyed the stroll I took down with all of these characters and this story. I usually round down but this story was so charming and the extra twists with the books was the clincher for me. If you’re looking for a sweet read and small towns are your thing and books are your thing, you will love this book.

On the Corner of Love and Hate (3 stars): This story is billed as a hate-to-love story but I think it’s a bit more subtle than that. The two main characters have been [best] friends from childhood and they are now working together. The entire story is told from Emmanuelle’s story and even though she’s saying certain things, the reader can still see beneath her conversation to see the slow build and the residual feelings here. Even though we don’t read Cooper’s perspective, we can also tell that he cares for her and there’s likely more there from Cooper’s side, too. The story builds slowly and there are parts where Emma feels a bit too hysterical for me but on the whole this was pleasurable and interesting the whole time and I stayed up two hours past my bedtime because I didn’t want to stop reading. I was rooting for the characters the whole time and really enjoyed when they finally came together.

This is not a super-steamy romance, it’s more sweet than it is steamy and if politics is interesting to you, that’s a bonus fun layer to the story.

thank you to netgalley and gallery books for an early copy in exchange for an honest review.

And there we go, a good week of reading. Here’s to a great week next week.

Books I Read this Week 2019 is a year-long project for 2019. You can read more about my projects for 2019 here. I am also tracking my books in real time on Good Reads here. If you’re on Good Reads add me so I can follow you, too! I’ve also started an instagram account where I join my love of reading with my love of art.

Books I Read This Week 2019 – 33

Thanks to travel, some awesome reading this week. Here are my goodreads reviews. If you’re on goodreads, add me as a friend so I can see your books too! I’ve also started an instagram account where I join my love of reading with my love of art.

The Most Fun We Ever Had (4.5 stars): This is exactly the kind of book I love. It’s a long multi-generational family story so you get completely immersed in each of these characters. I loved each character and I also loved that the story goes back and forth in time so that their stories unveil piece by piece and there are moments the reader knows more than a particular character and other moments where you’re confused and wondering what happened in the past that made this characters be where they are in this present. As all the pieces came together, I had already fallen in love with each character and didn’t want the story to end. I loved this one. It’s the perfect book to immerse yourself in during a long day.

The Dutch House (4.5 stars): “Disappointment comes from expectation, and in those days I had no expectation that Andrea would get and thing less than what she wanted.”

Ann Patchett’s novels are always a journey and this one is no exception. This story starts with two siblings Maeve and Danny who live in a giant house with their family and some help. The mother leaves and the dad ends up marrying another woman who has two younger daughters of her own. Everything in the story winds backwards and forwards in time from there. 

This story told from the little boy, Danny’s, perspective takes the characters from their child years all the way to old age. There is so much here to talk about, but there were three most resonant themes for me. One is about the strong bond between the two siblings. The way their lives were completely intertwined with each other. The way they would drop anything at the drop of a hat and be there for each other. The way their love and support for each other was 100% unwavering and unconditional. It was palpable in the whole story.

“Mothers were the measure of safety, which meant that I was safer than Maeve. After our mother left, Maeve took up the job on my behalf but no one did the same for her.”

The second theme was of sacrifice. The theme of saints. Is a parent leaving her kids but then out there saving the world a good parent or a bad parent? What does it mean if she is helping those who need help but abandoning her kids in the process? So many questions that are hard to answer here.

“In the city of constant stimulation, we had failed to give them the opportunity to develop strong inner lives for those occasions when they would find themselves sitting through the second act of The Nutcracker

And finally, the theme that was most resonant for me: living your life in a particular way just out of spite. There’s so much in this book done out of spite. Done out of resentment and anger. When we carry all this with us, it shapes our whole life and then these terrible things people did to us end up continuing long after they are not in our life. And this book has such strong examples of what it looks like to live with all that.

Every character in this book is 3-dimensional and you can feel them moving in the story. The house itself is definitely another character and looms over the story just like many of the paintings mentioned. It shapes everything. I loved every page of this book even if the ending wasn’t all I wished it were. 

Thank you to netgalley and HarperCollins Publishers for an advanced copy in return for an honest review.

Notes to Self (3.5 stars): These essays were raw and honest. Even though the author and I have very little in common in the paths we’ve taken, choices we’ve made, and misfortunes we’ve encountered, what I appreciate the most here is that she’s willing to write openly about subjects we usually are not “supposed to” talk about. She is willing to be vulnerable and real about some of the toughest moments of our lives. There are things that happen to us and things that we chose to do and in both of these categories, our worthiness gets revisited again and again. This collection is a reminder to me that one of the ways we heal is by choosing to talk about such things. We make it less of a mystery, we release the shame associated with it, and most importantly, we feel less alone. Any book that makes me feel less alone in the world is a gift.

Has Anyone Seen the President? (3 stars): This is a super-super short read. It’s a tiny glimpse into one day in Lewis’ life where he gets to go to Washington and spends the day with Bannon. Nothing new here at this point. I have his longer book, too, which I assume will not be very different but might at least have a bit more depth. I always enjoy a Michael Lewis article so it was still a worthwhile read.

Searching for Sylvie Lee (3 stars): While I read this whole book in one breath and enjoyed it very much, I didn’t end up connecting with any of the characters and I also didn’t feel like I had enough context, depth, or development of character for the resolution of the story to feel satisfying. Having said that, I really loved the juxtaposition of all the different cultures in this story and I enjoyed the fact that it alternated between the two sisters. I loved many of the details that highlighted the cultural choices the characters were making. It’s a story about family, betrayal, and love but I think above all, it’s a story about how things are not how they seem and how we don’t know much about even the people we’re closest to in our lives. And how secrets can be so damaging to our relationships, our lives, and our perspective.

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous (3.5 stars): The language in this novel was wonderful. Lyrical and visual. The story was also an amazing read but it was so sad and so tough that I had a hard time reading it. I had to put it down several times. This book covers many issues from immigration, race, gender, identity, language and grief. It has parts that are graphic and some really heart-wrenching scenes. I am glad I read it but it was a hard read and I didn’t find myself connecting to it. Still really glad I read it.

Limitless Mind (5 stars): “In every moment of our lives our brains have opportunities to make connections, to strengthen pathways, and form new pathways.”

I’ve highlighted almost every page of this book. None of the concepts around growth mindset were new to me. I took a course by the amazing teachers at Stanford almost 5 years ago when my son was in elementary school and the concepts resonated with me then. I believed in it and wanted to encourage my kids to think this way.

“This approach illustrates a key takeaway – when you hit a barrier, it is advantageous to develop a new approach and come at the problem from a new perspective.”

But none of it brought it home the way this book did, for me. Even though parts of it were repetitive, I needed that repetition, I needed to hear the ideas again and again so I could internalize them in the right way. I’ve been taught the opposite messages my whole life, it’s going to take a long time to unlearn and repetitive exposure to these ideas and examples is a start.

“The difference between positive and negative interactions frequently depends on three aspects of being unlocked: having an open mind, asking analytical questions, and embracing uncertainty.”

There are parts of a growth mindset that I think I already do naturally. I am not afraid to ask questions, try new approaches, and I will often work on having an open mind. But uncertainty is almost never my friend. And yet, even there, I have many examples in my life when I’ve taken a big uncertain risk and have learned more in the process.

“If you settle into routines and do the same thing everyday, it is unlikely that your brain will grow new pathways and connections.”

This one was hard on me, I am a person of routine. I do so much of the same thing every day. So it’s a reminder for me to try one new thing every day. However small or big, it means I am growing and creating new connections in my brain. 

“So my final advice for you is to embrace struggle and failure, take risks, and don’t let people obstruct your pathways. If a barrier or roadblock is put in your way, find a way around it, take a different approach…Do not accept a life with limits. Instead of looking back on things that have gone badly, look forward and be positive about opportunities for learning and improvement. See others as collaborators, with whom you can grow and learn. Share uncertainty with them and be open to different ways of thinking.”

I am going to print this quote and frame it both at home and at my desk at work. I don’t want a life with limits. I want to grow and learn and thrive every single day of my life in every area of my life. I am eternally grateful to Jo Boaler for the reminder of the mindset I need to practice to ensure my life can be limitless.

with gratitude to netgalley and harper collins for an early copy in return for an honest review.

Do the Work: Unf*ck Yourself Workbook (4 stars): “When you’re in a constant conversation about why you’re stuck, you’ll embolden and embellish it. It will become the altar at which you’ll sacrifice your entire life experience.”

Gary Bishop’s no nonsense approach works for me. There’s nothing he says that I don’t know deep down or haven’t heard before. But he cuts to the chase and gives it to you straight. I don’t mind the cursing, in fact, it helps me get to the point faster.

“You have to hold yourself to account for your own purpose; no one is coming to save you or lift you up or inspire you. That’s your fucking job.”

No one. I do the work, or it doesn’t get done. I keep having to learn this again and again.

“You are a space for life to happen, a wild and wondrous environment for miracles and hardships and everything in between. You are a moment, a loud bang in a burst of time that trails to a whisper and then disappears into the abyss.”

In the end, this is the truth that matters most. No one is coming to save me and I can’t save anyone else. I owe it to me to live my best life because I only get one. And I am here for a moment, I want to make that moment as magical as it can be. I don’t want to waste it with anxiety or worrying about how I look to others or all the other noise in my head. I want to feel alive and I want to breathe every one of those moments I get.

“Do the work.”

And here I go. Off to do the work.

Thank you, Gary, thank you edelweiss and HarperOne for the advanced copy.

And there we go, a good week of reading. Here’s to a great week next week.

Books I Read this Week 2019 is a year-long project for 2019. You can read more about my projects for 2019 here. I am also tracking my books in real time on Good Reads here. If you’re on Good Reads add me so I can follow you, too! I’ve also started an instagram account where I join my love of reading with my love of art.

Books I Read This Week 2019 – 32

Solid reading this week. Here are my goodreads reviews. If you’re on goodreads, add me as a friend so I can see your books too! I’ve also started an instagram account where I join my love of reading with my love of art.

Callings (4 stars): I have never heard of StoryCorps but I loved the title of this book when it showed up at my library so I knew I wanted to read it. It turned out to be a total gem. It’s full of very short stories from real people’s lives and how they ended up or chose with the career they love. It’s very touching and very real. There’s a section specifically for the military as well. I loved each of the stories in their unique way. The variety is what makes this collection even more of a joy to read because you can tell it’s not trying to impart a perspective or a lesson. It’s just giving you glimpses into real people and their real moments. It was exceptionally lovely on audio.

The Wedding Party (3 stars): I enjoy Guillory’s novels and know that they will be funny, a bit sarcastic and land squarely on sweet. I felt this one was lighter (or maybe more predictable) than usual so I started and stopped it a few times but once I got into it, it was a fun ride for the few hours it took me to read it. If you’ve read the other two, you’ll likely also enjoy the cameo.

The Confession Club (4 stars): “It’s all well and good to congratulate someone on something good that they did, or to acknowledge what’s wonderful or exceptional about them. And we should do that; we should never be spiritually stingy. But to say out loud our missteps or inadequacies – to _confess_ in an honest way and to be lovingly heard – well, that’s the kind of redemption we need on a regular basis.”

Elizabeth Berg’s novels are a joy to read. They are quiet and sweet and kind and wind their way through your heart and soul. Her characters are richly layered and multi-dimensional and human. They have flaws, fears, delights and everything in between.

“Apparently, sometimes when you feel yourself done with something, you’re not done with it at all.”

This lovely story is just like what we’ve come to expect from Berg, it’s about women aged 20 to 70 who meet regularly for “confession club” where they confess to something they feel bad about. Something they are ashamed of or embarrassed to admit out loud. There are a wide range of confessions, from funny to sad to serious but they all have a lot of heart, of course.

“She envies Nola for the way she is always in a rush to do everything, the way she rises so quickly to the possibility of joy. Most of all, she envies Nola her default setting of goodwill toward man, beast, or weather.”

It’s also about a homeless Vietnam Vet who is finding his way through and meets one of the main characters in the novel. I found him to be a great addition to the story, and really enjoyed his chapters, his journey, and his struggles.

“There are quite a few design flaws in us humans, you know. More than in animals and plants. And I guess we have to cope with them. Don’t have to like them, just have to cope with them.”

There is some plot in this story but really it’s about people, it’s about getting old, it’s about being lonely, it’s about navigating life or marriage or motherhood or friendship. It’s about what it means to be human.

“That’s what life is, at its best. A confession club: people admitting to doubts, fears and failures.”

I am always left with a deep feeling of gratitude when I read Berg’s novels. This one is no exception. They make me feel less alone, softer and kinder.

“We forget how ready people are to help. You can talk all you want about the evil spirit of man. But I don’t think it’s true. I think most of us are just dying to be good. And one way we can do that is to forgive the bad in others as well as in ourselves.”

So many good reminders in this story, about taking risks, giving people chances, giving ourselves chances, and most of all about forgiveness. So grateful for writers like Berg.

Huge thanks to netgalley and Random House for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

The More or Less Definitive Guide to Self-Care (4 stars): Self-care can be (and has been) defined many different ways. Many of the resources I’ve seen over the course of the last year have all been focusing on the “pampering” aspect of self-care. Things like taking baths, getting a pedicure, etc. I’ve also seen examples around practicing gratitude, journaling, etc. What’s great about this book is that is has both and then so much more. I think it’s relatively true to its title in that it’s pretty exhaustive.

“The goal of self-care is an ever-morphing target, so concentrate on getting to know yourself and your needs instead of thinking in terms of cures and fixes, solutions and antidotes.”

This book doesn’t pass judgement on how to define self-care and what’s acceptable and what’s not. It casts a wide net and gives you so many options that you feel empowered to pick what works for you at different times in your journey.

There are so many awesome ideas in this book that I can’t imagine there won’t be one that speaks to you. I’ve read several books and hundreds of articles on self-care in the last few years and there were several new-to-me ideas in this book. Many of which I was excited to try immediately.

If self-care is an area where you’re interested in exploring or if it’s an area where you’ve explored for a while and would like fresh ideas, I think you will love this book.

thank you to netgalley and the experiment for an advanced copy in return for an honest review.

The Gifted School (3 stars): My children attend a “gifted” school so I was both curious and reluctant to read this. I finally got myself mentally and emotionally prepared and then…. well and then it was a bit of a letdown. I feel like the book could have been (and tried to be, at parts) about the ramifications on bringing a public gifted school into a community and whether that’s a good idea or not (from the perspective of educational policy, using tax dollar money, etc.) I get that, it might have made the book less salacious but it would have been more thoughtful and interesting, in my opinion. The book does have some of that but, especially towards the end, it devolves into the increasingly poor decisions made by the parents and shocking revelations in their community, etc.

In the end it’s a book about how people can be backbiting even if they are “best” friends when they perceive a situation to be competition between their kids and someone else’s kids. If there’s a way to stack rank our kids or put barriers, then people can make really poor decisions morally. I didn’t find this at all to be surprising (maybe because i’ve seen it first hand?) so the plot of the book sort of fell apart for me as it became more soap opera and less an interesting take on the impact on community, etc.

The Lager Queen of Minnesota (4 stars): I read Strada’s previous novel Kitchens of the Great Midwest and loved it so I was not surprised that I loved this one, too. This novel has a fantastic blend of 3-dimensional, interesting, quirky-but-real characters with a plot that circles back in to itself, just like real life does. It’s full of heart, joy, and hope. It’s about real people, in real life situations, who show resilience, support, and strength for each other. I loved every single moment I spent with this book and cannot wait to read more from this author.

And there we go, an okay week of reading. Here’s to a great week next week.

Books I Read this Week 2019 is a year-long project for 2019. You can read more about my projects for 2019 here. I am also tracking my books in real time on Good Reads here. If you’re on Good Reads add me so I can follow you, too! I’ve also started an instagram account where I join my love of reading with my love of art.

Books I Read This Week 2019 – 31

Solid reading this week. Here are my goodreads reviews. If you’re on goodreads, add me as a friend so I can see your books too! I’ve also started an instagram account where I join my love of reading with my love of art.

The Huntress (4 stars): I usually stay clear of historical fiction, especially ww2 fiction and this book was over 18 hours on audio so I kept trying to convince myself not to read it. But the ratings were so high and the reviews were so raving that I kept coming back to it. Finally this week I decided it was time to tackle it.

And I am glad I did.

Like many others, I had never heard of the Night Witches and learning more about them was one of my favorite parts of the story. In fact Nina’s portions of the story were the very best in my opinion. The story is told from the perspective of three different characters: Nina, Ian, and Jordan and they all come together in the end. Nina’s chapters start way in the past and build up to today so we learn the most about her backstory. Ian’s chapters are about moving the plot forward so not a ton of character development in those sections, they are more plot driven. And Jordan’s sections are really more about the Huntress. I wanted to know more about the huntress too, and how she ended up being who she was. I felt she was the least layered character in the story. 

Regardless, this was a fantastic story and I am really glad I read it.

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill (3 stars): This book was really sweet and I enjoyed reading it, but like many others in this genre, I am not sure it will stay with me past this year. I have read many books like this where I find I am enjoying it in real time but then it won’t really stick with me. If you’re looking for something sweet and fun, this one will do the trick.

The Expectations (3.5 stars): “Price turned toward Ben now as they walked. ‘Your opponent is always going to want to avoid pain, but you run toward it, you go looking for that pain. Then you’re not afraid, and you win.’ He turned to look ahead again.”

This story takes place in a Prep School on the East Coast and it has some of the themes of “Prep” and “Old School” and other similar novels around the quiet richness, the entitlement, the “properness.” But at its core this novel is about growing up and finding your own identity, your ability to navigate peer pressure, struggling between fitting in and standing out. It’s about what’s said and what’s not said. It’s about the lives of quiet desperation many live. It’s about the things we don’t share especially during teenage years. 

‘”When I was thinking about people to photograph, I just thought that you seem pretty self-conscious a lot of the time, as though you aren’t sure” – snap – “how you come off to other people, and that difference between how you suspect you might come off” – snap – “and how you actually come off is interesting. It gives you” – snap – “a sort of vivid look, and I wondered f I could get that” – snap – “on film.” Snap.’

What I loved most about this story is that nothing gets resolved. There are many threads in the story and the author could have easily been tempted to follow them. But many of them are left unsaid. We don’t know what will happen and that makes this book so much more real to me. I usually like my plot lined buttoned up but I loved that it wasn’t so here.

The urge to belong, the yearning to understand, the struggle to be cool vs being kind, and the angst of having some freedom and yet not quite being an adult are all portrayed beautifully in this story.

Thank you to netgalley and Little, Brown and Company for an early copy in return for an honest review.

What I Wish I Knew When I was 20 (4 stars): I had heard about this book a long time ago and had intended to read it. More than ten years later, I am finally able to finish it and I am so glad I did. It was a fantastic read with lots of great stories, tangible/practical advice, great shift in mentality and perspective. It’s great for a teen going to college, but it’s also great for those of us who are older and could use an injection of new perspective and energy. Well worth the read.

The Players Ball (2.5 stars): I read this because there were parallels to Billion Dollar Whale and Bad Blood and I was in my twenties for much of this story so I thought it would be interesting to read about all the craziness during the birth of the internet and domain registration craze. As it turned out, I think this book didn’t end up being nearly as interesting as the other two. Maybe the author thought the salacious nature of the topic would be enough to carry the book, or the quirkiness of the main characters. But, for me, neither did the trick. I felt like the nuance, the richness of layers of research, and the depth was missing. It didn’t turn out to be as interesting nor as insightful as I would have hoped.

I Am Her Tribe (4 stars): “my hope for you is that you greet your reflection with kind eyes. that you never look to someone else for your belonging.”

i have highlighted so much of this book. Danielle knows how to put vulnerable feelings into words so well. Her simple poems are deep and profound.

“do not fast forward into something you’re not ready for or allow yourself to shrink back into what’s comfortable growth lives in the uneasiness the in-between the unfinished sentence you are a season of becoming”

some pieces resonated more with me than others, of course, but those that did jumped off the page and made me feel less alone.

“give yourself permission to be where you are and to still be loved for it”

these are words i will carry with me and pass on to my kids and remind myself of when i am in those dark moments.

“how you choose to show up magnetizes what shows up for you”

and they are words i will hold near my heart to remind myself to stay open and show up as my full self in the world. so i can make room for others to do the same.

“my heart serves as an invitation for others to show up + share their brightest, most authentic light what a gift i give to this world when i choose to remain open”

they are words that remind me of who i want to be. who i long to be. and what i yearn for.

“there is no greater love story than you in all that you are.”

i loved every moment of this book.

The Nickel Boys (4 stars): Another masterpiece from Colson Whitehead. This story based on Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys is heart wrenching and eye opening. It breaks your faith in humanity and doesn’t sugar coat the truth. It’s a brutal story and it’s beautifully written. Not having grown up in the United States, I know very little of all this horrible history and feel the need to educate myself. Elwood’s internal hope and the hopelessness of his real life are beautifully intertwined in this novel but in the end you are still left broken and angry and sad for his horrible and unjust life.

State of the Union (4 stars): “The trouble is, marriage is like a computer. You can take it apart to see what’s in there, but then you’re left with a million pieces.”

I don’t think it’s possible for me not to like a Nick Hornby book. There are so many reasons why from his sarcastic/bitter/clever humor to his witty dialogue. But what makes him stand out, for me, is the humanity his characters have. They are always flawed, always full of quirkiness, and always so very real.

This book is very short. It’s about a couple and we get to experience their dialogue as they meet at the bar across from the marriage therapist’s office ten times. It’s almost totally dialogue and neither of them are super likable. 

But they are both human. And I think like many of his other books, Hornby has some acute observations about marriage and people in this short short book. 

“…I think we should acknowledge that we have a flawed marriage. We live on a fault line, and the house might collapse at any moment.”

I laughed, I winced, and I had to pause and think. I loved every moment of getting to experience some Nick Hornby again.

And there we go, an okay week of reading. Here’s to a great week next week.

Books I Read this Week 2019 is a year-long project for 2019. You can read more about my projects for 2019 here. I am also tracking my books in real time on Good Reads here. If you’re on Good Reads add me so I can follow you, too! I’ve also started an instagram account where I join my love of reading with my love of art.

Books I Read This Week 2019 – 30

A decent amount of reading this week. Here are my goodreads reviews. If you’re on goodreads, add me as a friend so I can see your books too! I’ve also started an instagram account where I join my love of reading with my love of art.

Drawing Home (3.5 stars): Sometimes a book comes at the right time, you’re ready for it and you fall right into the story. This is not how Drawing Home was, for me. I kept putting off reading it, thinking it was going to be too fluffy and I’d already filled up on fluff for a little while. 

But then I couldn’t decide on what else to read and it was coming up due in the library and next thing I knew, I had started listening to it. Within about ten minutes, I was so engrossed in the story that I had no idea what made me wait so long. 

It’s not a deep, richly layered, exquisitely told literary masterpiece. It’s a delightful, real, sweet, and genuinely enjoyable read. It’s written well, the setting is rich and meaningful and most of the characters will stay with you. I found myself wishing I could read more about several of the smaller characters and by the end, I could have spent another ten hours in Sag Harbor. 

I loved reading this one.

Biased (4 stars):  I started this book back in April but was unable to finish it before it was due back at the library. My turn finally came back and I managed to read the rest of it. This is a really solid mix of wide statistics and studies around race with tangible results. There is a lot of historical setting as well as the author’s personal stories. You connect with the book both on a intellectual level and on a personal level. 

There is such a wide variety of useful information here that it’s a book I can see myself coming back to again and digesting in stages. I have so much to learn and Eberhardt’s book is one of the best and most comprehensive I read in a while.

Olive, Again (5 stars): “It was as though waves swung her up and then down, tossing her high – high – and then the darkness came from below and she felt terror and struggled. Because she saw that her life – her life, what a silly foolish notion, her life – that her life was different, might possible be very different or might not be different at all, and both ideas were unspeakably awful to her, except for when the waves took her high and she felt such gladness, but it did not last long, and she was down again, deep under the waves, and it was like that – back and forth, up and own, she was exhausted and could not sleep.”

I can praise this book from so many different angles: the writing is exquisite, the character development is exceptional, especially for short stories, each story is so different and yet so similar that it creates unity without getting repetitive. But while Strout’s craft is impeccable, what makes her stand out is her perceptiveness. Her ability to zero into the human part in each of us and in all of us, is incredible. These stories are touching not in the superficial-sentimental way and not even in the raw-exposing-human-pain way but in the tiny truths of what it means to be human. How ordinary days are laced with sorrow, regret, and longing. What it means to be human and lose bits of yourself, lose bits of potential futures you though you had. Realizing all the ways in which life gets ahead of you and you end up in a place you never intended to but now it’s too late.

These stories are subtle, textured, and layered. These characters are complex and hard to understand because let’s be honest, humans are complex and hard to understand. There isn’t a clean line between cause and effect in our lives. We do things, we choose paths, we say things and it’s unclear what led to those. 

Strout has a unique ability to weave all this into her characters and stories. She has a way of exposing a moment in their lives in such a way that we get a peek into the complexity of what it means to be human. I might not like these characters, I might not relate to their individual characteristics or choices but I see their humanity. I see their struggle. These stories give me permission for the complicated bits of my life. They help me feel connected and understood. 

“People either didn’t know how they felt about somehing or they chose never to say how they really felt about something.”

The character here, including Olive, are not the most likable characters. They are petty, selfish, boring, rude and many other human characteristics. But that’s the whole point. Most people in life aren’t just purely likable. We all have parts of us that are petty, selfish, boring, rude, and more. We are not cartoons. Maybe some of these characters are a bit more unlikable than average. But even that’s not the point, for me. It’s that they are all human and even as they struggle, they touch each others’ lives and they make a difference. 

“And it came to him then that it should never be taken lightly, the essential loneliness of people, that the choices they made to keep themselves from that gaping darkness were choices that required respect.”

There are many themes in these stories but what I felt most acutely were the themes of loneliness and aging. Especially since Olive herself is aging throughout the story, these themes weave through many of the stories. Each story manages to weave a glimmer of hope through the sadness/reall-ness of life.

“You all know who you are. If you just look at yourself and listen to yourself, you know exactly who you are. And don’t forget it.” 

I knew all along that I would love this novel and Strout did not disappoint. Even if every single story didn’t speak to me equally, the collection will stay with me for a long, long time. 

Huge thanks to Random House and netgalley for an advanced copy in return for an honest review and to Elizabeth Strout for brining our humanity to the surface so very beautifully.

Evvie Drake Starts Over (3.5 stars): This is the third book I’ve read in the last month that features a basketball player, I don’t know what that means but I thought that was an interesting trend. I really enjoyed this story. I connected with the story and the characters pretty quickly and the novel flew by. I didn’t want to stop listening to it. Even though I don’t think I will remember much of it a year from now, I will remember how it made me feel and smile again. If you’d like an enjoyable and sweet summer read, you can’t go wrong with this story.

Apollo Leadership Lessons (4 stars): This book has lots of ideas around leadership in multiple dimensions. The ideas are presented in a simple way with tangible examples from NASA’s own projects and especially the journey to landing on the moon. The stories, lessons and examples are told through the lens of different people (the execs, flight directors, astronauts and more.) Each chapter has sections where the author goes one layer deeper into the story. These were some of my favorite sections either for some interesting NASA fact or how one idea might seem interesting but then the flipside is also interesting. For example there’s a chapter around learning from failure but then the author highlights how it’s important not to over index on this and that NASA does post-mortems for both failures and successes. This book can seem deceptively simple but sometimes the most profound ideas are the simplest ones. Just because they are simple to understand doesn’t mean they are simple to do. I really enjoyed the juxtaposition of leadership and learning more about NASA, especially at such an interesting time in history.

The Islanders (3.5 stars): I loved this sweet and fun to read story. It’s the story of 3 people on the island for different reasons and their lives intersect. Each has his/her own healing to do. As they intersect and grow and go through experiences, we are there along with them, cheering them on and crossing our fingers. This is a generally feel good book with some real life issues thrown in but not a ton of depth in any of them. Lovely summer story.

Heads of the Colored People (4 stars): I don’t usually read short story collections because I prefer character-driven stories and like to get to know the characters and see them grow and learn throughout the novel. But every now and then there’s a magical short story collection that’s written so well that it stands out. Heads of Colored People is one such example. Several of the stories here have the same character or a tie to a minor character in another story. Each story is poignant, sharp and well-written. There are layers of thought-provoking messages in each of these stories and I enjoyed every single one of them. But my very favorite was “Belles Lettres.” It made me laugh and wince and be sad as many of the stories in this excellent collection.

The Last Book Party (3 stars): I’ve been trying to figure out my thoughts on this book. It’s a coming-of-age story that involves writers and poets. A big dress-up book party, and a girl realizing that people aren’t as glamorous as they might seem and everyone has issues even if they are amazingly talented and revered, etc. There was nothing wrong with this book. It read reasonably smoothly and the characters were somewhat interesting. But I also feel like I’ve read many books like this before. This was not a new spin on it, or even such amazing standout characters or writing that it will be memorable in some way. So I liked it just fine, just didn’t love it.

And there we go, an okay week of reading. Here’s to a great week next week.

Books I Read this Week 2019 is a year-long project for 2019. You can read more about my projects for 2019 here. I am also tracking my books in real time on Good Reads here. If you’re on Good Reads add me so I can follow you, too! I’ve also started an instagram account where I join my love of reading with my love of art.

Books I Read This Week 2019 – 29

A decent amount of reading this week. Here are my goodreads reviews. If you’re on goodreads, add me as a friend so I can see your books too! I’ve also started an instagram account where I join my love of reading with my love of art.

Disappearing Earth (4 stars): 4 stars just for the beautiful, beautiful writing in this story. There are many reviews that outline what happened so I won’t repeat more than just to say two girls suddenly disappear from a town and the novel follows the year after. Each chapter is a month into the disappearance and it’s centered around a different character. Each chapter could easily be a standalone chapter of its own and each chapter will both give you a bit of hope and break your heart into pieces. The atmosphere, the characters, the misogyny are all alive in this novel but nothing is as extraordinary as the author’s incredible writing. The descriptions and the use of language are unlike any other and will stay with you long after you finish this book. So will the ending.

Painting Masterclass (5 stars):  When I was in high school, Art History was my favorite elective, so it was with great excitement that I requested this book in netgalley. It easily managed to surpass my expectations. This book is broken down to sections by the subject of painting (nudes, figures, still life, etc.) and for each subject, it presents a wide array of masters using many different styles. Regardless of what your favorite style is, you are likely to find something you love here.

Each page has four sections: the art, a short background of the artist (often with interesting additional tidbits), the story and details of the art including the symbolism, and then a callout section with different techniques the artist used. This isn’t really teaching you the technique or breaking it out in enough detail for you to copy. It’s mostly calling attention to it and explaining it in a handful of sentences.

If you buy this book thinking it’s an art book to learn the masters’ techniques, I think you will be disappointed. If you buy it as a book to learn more about each amazing art piece and to dive into each maters use of different techniques, all the while getting a fantastic art history class, you will love this book.

huge thanks to netgalley and Quarto Publishing Group for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

Ever After (4 stars): I have taken several of Tamara Laporte’s classes (in fact, I am taking a class from her right now) and I have always loved her kind, thoughtful and generous approach to both doing and teaching art. I have not taken the Ever After class, mostly because Fairy Tales do not interest me. But since she’s an excellent teacher, and I’m always working on developing my own personal style I wanted to see how much I’d like the book. 

This book has three main types of content: 
– examples of art she and some contributors have made where they share their thinking and how they made a fairy tale their own. These come with step by step instructions to recreate the art. Not in a lot of detail but I’d say more than average. You can likely copy them using the steps.
– advice on things like how to work around your negative self-talk, find inspiration, develop your own symbolism, etc. on the way to finding how to work on listening to things that speak to you.
– and finally ways to make the art your own, i think this content is a bit thinner than i’d like. but in the end, there’s no magic to developing your style, it’s hard work and consistent work just like everything else in life, so I wasn’t super surprised by the type of advice around this.

I can always use more Tam in my life. Her kind and supportive message is always just right for me. Her art, while different than mine, is always loving and kind and I learn a lot from her each time. When I am stuck or just want to feel encouraged and supported, all I have to do is pull out a Tam book and I know I will feel the warmth of her support.

with gratitude to netgalley and quarto publishing group for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

This is How You Lose the Time War (5 stars): “Some days Blue wonders why anyone ever bothered making numbers so small; other days she supposes even infinity needs to start somewhere.”

When I first started reading this novel, I was wildly confused. I didn’t understand the characters, the world building, or even what was going on. Had I not read about the time travel in the blurb, I am not sure I would have picked up on that at first either. 

As I started pondering what I had gotten myself into with this novel, I slowly found myself falling in love. After a few chapters, I didn’t even care a bit about any of those things. I wasn’t trying to figure out the plot or the world anymore. Not even the characters all that much.

“Blue sees her chosen name reflected everywhere around her: moon-slicked floes, ocean thick with drift ice, glass churned to liquid”

I completely fell in love with the writing of this story. With the imagery, the colors, the incredible choices of words. It was like reading poetry in prose format. It was like reading a painting. I can’t even describe how beautiful this story felt to read. 

“…every evening I see a red sky bleed over blue water and think of us.”

I fell in love with the characters and how they fall for each other. I fell in love with the ways they expressed their love and the creativity in the way they shared their letters with each other. The creativity in the way they solve the conundrums they find themselves in. The juxtaposition of the beauty of the world they create for each other vs the violent one they actually live in.

“But when I think of you, I want to be alone together. I want to strive agains and for. I want to live in contact. I want to be a context for you, and you for me.”

I can tell you that this story is weird and confusing and I am not sure I understood many of the things that happened in it. The world building was still blurry for me by the end. The plot, outside of their love for each other, had too many parts that left me unclear, too. But, alas, none of that mattered for me. The way this book made me feel surpassed anything else that mattered about the book. 

I fell in love with it hook, line and sinker.

Red, White, and Royal Blue (3 stars): Really enjoyed this sweet, cute, and funny story. It’s wonderful to see more and better representation in novels and this was my first m/m romance story to read. I enjoyed the characters and the storyline. The pace was fast and uplifting and yet still covered some serious topics. I hope this book’s success encourages even more and wider representation!

A Nearly Normal Family (3.5 stars): I found this novel very readable, especially considering how much I disliked most of the characters. I liked the pivoting from character to character in three sections instead of every chapter like most novels seem to do these days. I liked how each went back and forth in time but not in a systemic way as much as in a way that built up suspense. I also liked some of the moral questions posed by the story even if I didn’t necessarily like the way the novel resolves them. I think books that make you think are good. I don’t mind when I dislike the characters and I appreciated that while there was some sort of a twist here, it wasn’t one of those “i fundamentally think of this story differently” twists that assume the reader is stupid. It was windy but all within the range of plausible and interesting, to me. I also liked some of the content that was left open ended especially to emphasize that it wasn’t the point of the story. In the end, none of these characters will stay with me, I didn’t find myself empathizing with any of them even if I did empathize with the situation as a parent. Net, net it wasn’t one of my favorite reads but it was interesting and will stay with me a while.

Tea and Cake with Demons (4 stars): “Ambition that’s born from shame and self-loathing is powerful, but unfortunately it’s a fuel that doesn’t burn clean.”

This book is a great combination of Buddhist tenants laced with the perspective of self worth and practical exercises to try out some of the concepts and incorporate the ideas into your daily life. Some of these concepts weren’t new to me but others were. In some parts, I found myself getting confused about different titles and systems but the concepts underlying them were always interesting and valuable and she did a fantastic job tying them to tangible examples.

“We are all deeply significant, and not at all special. We are all profoundly valuable, whole, complete, and sufficient, and there is nothing unique about this. This distinction can bring us back down to earth and to a sense of steady humility that doesn’t diminish our worth.”

If you’re struggling with self-worth, or even just trying to build out more awareness and intentionality in your life, there is so much gold in this book.

Thank you to Sounds True and Netgalley for an advanced copy in return for an honest review.

And there we go, an okay week of reading. Here’s to a great week next week.

Books I Read this Week 2019 is a year-long project for 2019. You can read more about my projects for 2019 here. I am also tracking my books in real time on Good Reads here. If you’re on Good Reads add me so I can follow you, too! I’ve also started an instagram account where I join my love of reading with my love of art.

Books I Read This Week 2019 – 28

A lot of reading this week! Here are my goodreads reviews. If you’re on goodreads, add me as a friend so I can see your books too! I’ve also started an instagram account where I join my love of reading with my love of art.

Fix Her Up (3 stars): This is a fast and cute read. If romance is your cup of tea and you can overlook some of the shortcuts the author takes on behalf of the characters, you will enjoy this sweet novel. Fair warning that this is much steamier than the many of the similar looking romance novels that are popping up. I wasn’t a huge fan of the main character being a clown, it just seemed unnecessary and distracted from the story in my opinion but otherwise, I was perfectly happy reading this one. Light, easy and fun.

One Strategy (3.5 stars):  I read this book at the recommendation of someone at work and I knew it wouldn’t be a light read but, for some reason, the first part felt exceptionally dry to me. I didn’t connect with the content until the second part where the ideas were laid out more clearly with a combination of idea and then application (blog post) example. When he started talking about planning specifically, I finally connected with the book and was fascinated. I with it had been sooner than 36% into the book. The last 60+% went fast, was enjoyable and interesting and thought provoking. In fact, I likely could have just started there and still gotten most of the value out of this book. 

This is Home (3 stars): This story managed to both be light and still cover some serious topics. I enjoyed the variety of characters in the story even though I felt like there wasn’t enough depth in any of them. I still liked seeing them come together, form a community of their own and help each other. It’s not a story that will likely stay with me for a long time, but I still enjoyed reading it.

The Ruin (4 stars): Loved this book. This author is new to me but the reviews indicated that this would be a character-driven mystery novel which was spot on. I really enjoyed reading it despite some of the dark content. The story and character development was rich, the pacing was fantastic and unwinding all the lies and deceit and the flawed characters in this story made it a fascinating read. 

I really enjoyed that every single character was flawed in some way, which made them all so 3-dimensional and real to me. The dialogue and writing were also fantastic. I look forward to reading more of this series and author.

Celestial Watercolor (3 stars): This book has beautiful paintings and a lot of information on each of the zodiac signs. It is a light and quick read, and worthwhile if you’re interested in zodiac constellations. While it has a lot of paintings and some quick steps, I would say it’s pretty light on the instructions on how to paint so if you’re looking for step by steps, this is not the ideal book for you. If you’re mostly looking for inspiration, this is your cup of tea.

Thank you to netgalley and Quarto Publishing Group for an advanced reader’s copy in exchange for an honest review.

How Not to Die Alone (3 stars): I think the cover of this book led me to think it was different than it was. Not in a good or bad way just somehow I thought it would either be much more serious or much much lighter. Instead, it was somewhat in the middle. The story was relatively light with serious undertones and it was sweet. I enjoyed reading it but I am not sure any of the characters or the plot will stick with me for a long time, which is perfectly fine.

Own Your Everyday (3 stars): I had never heard of this author. Apparently she has quite the following online and she’s a Christian author. I picked this book randomly from the library and liked the title and the cover. Once I started reading it, I liked the author’s voice and her down to earth style. Much of this book is not amazing new findings or a completely different perspective. I’ve read a lot on subjects like these so I wasn’t expecting it to blow my mind but it was touching and honest and open. It reinforced many of the ideas I am working on and I really appreciated reading it. 

The part that will stick with me the most is this one quote: “one can’t be 99% free and call it freedom.” This really rang true for me and made me think about all the areas of my life where I am still not choosing freedom over other possibilities.

The Friend Zone (3 stars): Hmm ok, let’s talk about this one. On the surface, this is another cute romance story like many others that have come out for the summer of 2019. In some ways, it’s more than that. The characters are more complex and there are serious issues being discussed and addressed in this book. They are not addressed deeply but they are there and make the lives of the characters more 3-dimensional and less like a glossy magazine. Some really sad things happen in the story. I liked the characters, I loved their chemistry, I enjoyed reading about their stories, their interactions and especially the main female character being both a little fragile and a lot sassy.

And. It had all that and, it also had a few trite tropes I wish weren’t there. I am trying to not give away any spoilers so I will say it has a few literary devices that are common to how people shift their thinking and make change in their lives. More significantly there are some serious issues in this book that are then handled as if by magic they are less serious. This, to me, is a big no no. I don’t want to say too much but I am absolutely not ok when a writer takes a serious subject and swings a magic wand all over it. You do not have to handle serious topics in your book, but if you choose to, please give them the respect they deserve.

Other than that, I really enjoyed my time with this novel and I am looking forward to her next book, hoping is has a little less of what I didn’t love and more of what I did.

For the Love of Books (3.5 stars): As a person who loves reading and books, I knew there was no chance this book would not be enjoyable for me. In my family, we have books that we like to keep in the car because they are perfect books for reading in snippets and it gives us the joy of having an option in case we find ourselves stuck somewhere and with nothing to read. This is a perfect car book. 

This book is organized by themes and each theme has lots and lots of snippets of stories about different books or authors. Each story is about a paragraph or a page. It’s not an essay collection, it’s not the author’s feelings or thoughts about these stories, it’s the stories themselves. For me, this was perfect. 

I was reading my book over 4th of July and had family visiting. There were so many fascinating bits in here that I couldn’t stop quoting them out loud to my family. If you’re a book nerd and like reading about authors, the stories behind the books or the characters, I have no doubt that you’ll find something to treasure in this book.

Thank you to netgalley and Skyhorse Publishing for an advanced copy in return for an honest review.

Dawn (3.5 stars): I don’t usually read short story collections. Since my preference lies in character-driven plots, I generally don’t find short stories as satisfying. But I wanted to make an exception here because of my own roots even though I knew nothing about this author except what I found out from the blurbs. I knew the collection was short and decided to give it a try.

I really liked the first story, the symbolism, the strength and the writing. But then the second story was so over the top that I worried I made a mistake. Not sure why I kept going, maybe it’s because the stories are very short and compelling enough that I was willing to continue even if I didn’t care for one or two of them. There’s a good mix of optimism and tragedy in the stories. 

I listened to the audio version which was narrated by two Turkish narrators because they clearly knew how to pronounce all the names and places properly which was great. However, there were also many, many turns of phrase in the book that were clearly transliterated instead of being translated properly. For example, in Turkish we have something called bird language which a lot of kids use to talk to each other. It’s made up by adding an extra syllable between syllables of a word so it sounds like gibberish but is not. The author refers to this in the first story as how he can still remember it and understand the birds in the story. This concept doesn’t really exist in America. Kids here have something similar in called pig latin which does a similar play on words by “transferring the initial consonant or consonant cluster of each word to the end of the word and adding a vocalic syllable.” Even though the concept is similar, clearly what they call it here has nothing to do with birds. A proper translation would have referred to it as pig latin so it makes sense to the local audience but then the whole correlation to the birds would have fallen apart. Hence the conundrum I assume.

This is one example but there are many examples in the book where I could clearly tell that the translation was a turn of phrase that makes sense in Turkish but doesn’t really translate and thus its power is lost in translation. 

For me, this didn’t take away much from the powerful stories since I could switch back to Turkish in my head. Many of these stories are thought-provoking and profound and enjoyable. Despite the handful that I really didn’t connect with, I am glad I read this collection. 

And there we go, an okay week of reading. Here’s to a great week next week.

Books I Read this Week 2019 is a year-long project for 2019. You can read more about my projects for 2019 here. I am also tracking my books in real time on Good Reads here. If you’re on Good Reads add me so I can follow you, too! I’ve also started an instagram account where I join my love of reading with my love of art.

Books I Read This Week 2019 – 27

Between travel and vacation, I got a reasonable amount of reading done this week. A few good ones and a few mediocre ones. Here are my goodreads reviews. If you’re on goodreads, add me as a friend so I can see your books too! I’ve also started an instagram account where I join my love of reading with my love of art.

The Flatshare (4.5 stars): How I love love loved this book. Sometimes a book comes at the right time for the exact story that you need. From the moment I started this sweet story, I didn’t want it to finish, I just kept reading and reading so I could stay in their world a little bit longer. 

This story reminded me of the British movies like Four Weddings and a Funeral or Notting Hill etc. It’s sweet, quirky in all the good ways and puts a big big smile on your face even as it deals with serious life issues like abuse and wrongful imprisonment. It’s a romance story at its heart and it’s an absolute joy to read.

Definitely recommended. 

Stop Doing that Sh*t (3.5 stars):  I liked this book because while there’s nothing new in here for me, there’s so much good reminder and this is the kind of book I have to read every few months to knock some sense into myself. I find that a reminder that I get to charter my own path and that it should be influenced by the future I want to create and not the past I’ve had never comes at a bad time. This is my life, i’ve got only one that I get to live and I am in it right now. I get to decide how this goes. I get to build the life I want. This means making a million little choices every single moment in every single day. And I get to make every single one of them. And then they accumulate into the life I want for myself. Easy and difficult as that. 

I liked Bishop’s previous book for it’s no-nonsense tone and this one doesn’t hold anything back either.

The Scent Keeper (4 stars): I loved this beautiful book. The writing, the atmosphere, the characters all came together to create the kind of story I enjoy deeply.

For many, this might be a slow book, but I love these kids of books, especially when they can get both the atmosphere and the characters right and this one does both wonderfully. 

I discovered this book randomly through my library, so grateful for such lovely surprises.

City of Girls (4 stars): Elizabeth Gilbert’s books make me so happy. They are beautiful journeys into other worlds and deep, beautiful character studies. I go on their journeys with them and experience the ups and downs of the choices they make. I learn about new ways of living, perspectives, and find myself cheering for these amazing characters.

City of Girls was pure joy to read from beginning to end. I loved all of the characters and did not want the story to end. I loved all the color from the 40s of New York, the bits of history integrated into the story and the ways in which affects (and doesn’t affect) Vivian’s life. I loved all the variety in the characters and the journeys each of them took in their lives.

I will miss these characters so much and can’t wait until Gilbert gifts us with another story.

When We Found Home (3 stars): This is a sweet book about three step siblings who find each other later in life, two of them are grown ups and one’s twelve. The story is about what it means to become siblings, create a family and learn to trust. It’s sweet and kind and and easy read.

The Perfect Date (2 stars): Ok so this is the weirdest thing I’ve ever experienced in the over 400 books I’ve now read from all the different libraries in California. I checked out and thought I was reading a book called The History of Living Forever but alas once I started listening to the book it turned out to be this one instead. So I just kept reading instead of stopping when I should have. This book is fine if you like books that are not substantive and you don’t care about character development or even likable characters much. Each character is quite unlikeable in that they are not nice to each other at all. Plot is predictable and doesn’t really go anywhere imho. It’s a quick and easy read. Just not sure it’s worth the time.

Boy Meets Depression (4 stars): It is rare to read an honest and open book about depression. I hear this is based on a TED talk but I have never watched it nor have I heard of the author. Nonetheless I am grateful to have read this book and his perspective and learnings will stay with me as I go through my own light and darkness.

Magic for Liars (2.5 stars): I was really looking forward to this book. Magic is my word for 2019 and I thought this would be a great fiction story but alas it was too disjointed for me. 

The main character wasn’t likeable, in fact none of them really we’re except one or two. The world building didn’t really exist. Normally I don’t love books spending half the book world building but this one had no explanation at all and just felt like the magic bits were planted into a normal world with no explanation. 

The ending was totally weird and off. I didn’t even get what the author was trying to do. Quite a lot of serious subjects here and yet all are glossed over. Meh.

Still gave it a few stars for the unusual story and solid writing. Just wish it was more magical than that.

And there we go, an okay week of reading. Here’s to a great week next week.

Books I Read this Week 2019 is a year-long project for 2019. You can read more about my projects for 2019 here. I am also tracking my books in real time on Good Reads here. If you’re on Good Reads add me so I can follow you, too! I’ve also started an instagram account where I join my love of reading with my love of art.