January Reading Recap

January flew by and seemed to last forever, all at the same time. Looking back at January, I am happy to say that I read quite a few books and I’m on track for both my personal goal to read 50 books this year, and to complete the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge. I read 6 books in January (the picture below includes 3 that I finished in early February).

  
In addition, I completed 5 of the 24 challenges of the ‘Read Harder’ challenge in January. By the time I’m writing this just a week into February, I’ve completed a total of 7.

  
The books I read in January are:

  • The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, N.K. Jemison
  • The Revenant, A Novel of Revenge, Michael Punke
  • Fates and Furies, Lauren Groff
  • Hatchet, Gary Paulsen
  • Challenger Deep, Neal Shusterman
  • A Sense of the Infinite, Hilary T. Smith

Since I rarely finish reading a book I’m not enjoying, I’m happy to say that I really loved all of these books. I read Fates and Furies for a book club, and probably would’ve given up and stopped if it wasn’t for that, but I’m glad I finished it. It’s not an easy book, and I’m still not completely sure if I hated it or not,  but it is worth a read.

But my favorite book for the month of January is….

  
Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman

This. Book. Oh my god. I can’t even properly express how much I love this book. I had been stalking it at Barnes & Noble for months, ever since it won the National Book Award. I had heard a few reviews that described this book as confusing or complicated, but that’s not the response I had to it at all.

Backing up, this book is the story of a boy named Caden who suffers from mental illness – they never say specifically but it’s some form of schizophrenia. The narrative of the book is intertwined between his daily life in high school and his adventures aboard a ship headed to the Mariana’s Trench. And the two story lines echo each other in unexpected ways with repeating moments, characters, and story lines. It really is beautiful and rhythmic. This was one of those books that I wanted to pick up and start reading again as soon as I finished it. HIGHLY recommend.

Happy reading! ūüôā

 

2016 Reading Challenge

On the heels of writing about my favorite books from 2015, I am so excited about all the reading to come in 2016. I feel like I’ve regained my booklover status of so many years ago which was temporarily replaced by a little too much television. Granted, I still love television – but I’m so excited to get back to reading at the level I used to.

My official Goodreads¬†goal for 2016 is 50 books. 50 felt like a good, round number that just felt right. And while it seems like a lot, I’m feeling confident. Especially because I’ll be reading 24 books as a part of Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge. For the challenge, Book Riot chooses 24 categories and you select a book to read for each category (double-dipping categories is allowed). The idea is to expand your reading beyond books you would usually pick up. I’ve selected all my books for the challenge, with the right to change them as the year goes on in case I hear about something I just HAVE to read. ūüôā

Read Harder Challenge Form

I’m currently in the middle of more than a few of these on this list as I’m reading ‘A Hundred Thousand Kingdoms’ for a book club tomorrow, Fates and Furies for a book club next week, and The Revenant with the goal of finishing it before I go see the movie around the 12th. Phew!

Keep up with all my reading on my Goodreads page, and feel free to play along with the challenge!

 

My Year in Books: 2015

Beginning in June 2015, I started keeping a Book Lover’s Journal of all the books I read.

  
I got the idea from my best friend, Heather, who keeps the same journal (purchased from Barnes & Noble if anyone is interested). Every time I would ask her what she thought of a book, she’d pull out her journal to read her thoughts and her review.

  
I loved the idea of keeping such a thorough track of the books you’ve read. Seeing as I’m guilty of once picking up a book and reading about 2/3rds of the way through before realizing I had already read it, I definitely needed a tracking system. Plus, I’m obsessively organized and I love tracking things.

  
During 2015 I read 17 books and listened to 7 audiobooks (only one of which I remembered to write in my review journal). This is only since June when I started keeping the journal, but it’s still a good representation of my year.

The first thing that struck me when I looked at the list of books that I read is how many wonderful books I read this year. I’m lucky to get great recommendations from my best friend, and from Book Riot, so I didn’t read a single book this year that I hated. I also tend to stop reading a book if I don’t like it, life is too short. There is one audiobook I started this year and stopped listing to because I didn’t enjoy it – The Girl With All The Gifts. Not sure what I didn’t like about it, but it wasn’t holding my interest so I stopped. I have a huge backlog of podcasts and books that I love, so it wasn’t worth the time.

  
My Favorite Book This Year

I thought it would be easy to point to one book that was my favorite this year, but (like I said), I read a lot of amazing books. Overall, the book that stuck with me in a “Oh my God, you have to read this book” kind of way was a tie between ‘Graceling’ and ‘An Abundance of Katherines.’ I’ve talked about Graceling before but it’s a wonderful fantasy adventure with a strong, interesting main character who is female. ‘An Abundance of Katherines’ is a John Green novel about a boy who keeps falling in love with, and getting his heart broken, by women named Katherine. It’s witty and fun and interesting and quirky and all the other wonderful things that every John Green novel is. When I check the ratings in my journal, these tied for the highest at 4.5 stars each.

My Favorite Cover This Year

There are so many books I buy or keep just because they have gorgeous covers. Today at B&N I picked up a copy of The Revenant, which I wasn’t even set on reading, because I was enraptured by it’s cover. I just keep marveling at how beautiful it is. My best friend and I also set up what I can only call “a collage” of books in my living room based on beautiful covers that I plan on changing out every once in a while. Books are art.

  
Since I’m only counting books I read this year, and it still wasn’t an easy decision, my favorite cover goes to The Gracekeepers. It’s just so lovely and peaceful and I think it really captures the way the novel made me feel. It was incredible, by the way.

  
My Favorite Audiobook this Year

I listened to so many fantastic audiobooks this year but my favorite was The Descendants by Kaui Hart Hemmings.

  
The narrator had a great tone, and brought great comedy to the book. I enjoyed it so much I went out and bought and rewatched the movie from 2011 that was nominated for Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Screenplay, and Best Director. I always make it a point to watch the biggest Oscar contenders each year so I’d seen the movie but listening to the book brought a new love and appreciation for the movie that elevated it to one of my favorites.

I hope you all read some amazing books this year and will read many more amazing books in 2016!

How Chrissy Teigen Made Me A Better Feminist

There is so much “girl-on-girl” crime out there. And I’m tired of it.

I’m guilty of it too, but recently I had an awakening thanks to Chrissy Teigen.

I’m a fan of the show ‘Lip Sync Battle’ and I’m guilty of mocking Chrissy¬†most of the times I’ve watched it. Making fun of her for giggling and shaking her booty all over the stage while barely wearing a tight dress and too much makeup.

‘You’re making the rest of us look bad’ – I’ve said more than once.

Yesterday, I came across an article summarizing Chrissy’s twitter feud¬†with Donald Trump and thought to myself ‘you go, girl.’

This isn’t the first time something Chrissy has done has elicited that reaction from me. In that same article,¬†you can see¬†her response to the Planned Parenthood attacks – a very classy response, in my opinion. She tweeted out “Every time shit like this happens, john and I immediately make another donation to planned parenthood.” Now that’s a productive response to have, I thought to myself.

There are numerous examples of times where Chrissy has similarly won me over. She instagrammed a photo of herself, no photoshop, proudly showing her stretch marks and even lovingly referring to them as ‘stretchies.’¬†¬†Just check out the combination of hilarity and insightfulness that is her¬†twitter¬†feed.

She shouldn’t have had to win me over, though.

I read an interview with Natalie Dormer yesterday where she expressed frustration that Taylor Swift said she didn’t identify as a feminist “because she believes gender shouldn’t matter.” Feminism means exactly that – that gender shouldn’t matter. A guy should be able to order a fruity cocktail drink without it being “girly” and a girl should be able to have short hair and wear jeans without it being “masculine.” But more importantly, a woman doesn’t need to refuse to be beautiful to be a feminist.

Chrissy enjoys wearing tight dresses and a lot of makeup. I enjoy wearing no makeup and I don’t own a pair of high heels. These facts don’t make her any less strong and independent or me any less beautiful.

I’ve very publically admired women like Amy Schumer and Jennifer Lawrence that more fit my ideal of a feminist or strong woman – cool, laid back, outspoken. The type of woman that I aspire to be. But Chrissy is just as fierce, outspoken, and strong. I identify with Amy and Jen because I see them as more like myself in style and attitude choices, and that led me to mistakenly put Chrissy in a separate category from us. And that was wrong.

Not only do women come in all shapes and sizes but so do strong, independent women. And so do feminists.

I recently experienced a little “girl on girl” crime myself.¬†I reached out to a woman who had similar emotional trauma¬†from a guy in our pasts.¬†She ended up sharing that information with him. I’m sure she did it to gain some sort of approval from him. It stung, because I thought we had shared a moment of solidarity. Instead, she did what so many women (including myself) do and turned on each other¬†for the¬†favor of a man. We should be strengthening, encouraging, and lifting each other up – but we so rarely do. As Tina Fey’s character (and Tina, as she wrote the script) said in ‘Mean Girls’ – “you guys have got to stop calling each other sluts and whores – it just makes it ok for guys to call you sluts and whores.”

But of course, Chrissy was promoting this all along – so I’ll let her sum it up.

“Men are very tough, very critical of me. I think they expect you to basically just be a picture. They don’t want to hear you speak. Women, I love. It’s amazing to me, because I am a swimsuit model; I’m half-naked. I just love the fact that women love me, and it makes me love them so much back.”
‚Äď Chrissy Teigen, to Cosmo

You’re right Chrissy. We should all be showing a little more love, and a lot less judgment,¬†for those around us. And I’m sorry it took me this long to realize that.

You go, girl.

 

Book Riot Quarterly YA Box – October 2015

Confession: I am obsessed with the Book Riot¬†website. I get their newsletters; there are multiple: new releases in books, book-related articles and items, book analysis, and so much more. I listen to three of their podcasts: All the Books (new releases in books each week), Book Riot (book analysis and news discussions, and Get Booked (a book recommendation show). It’s a little bit of a problem.

When I first heard that Book Riot does quarterly boxes of books and bookish goods, I was immediately interested. I spent a few weeks debating with myself if I really needed to spend the money, but after reading a few summaries of past YA Quarterly Boxes¬†I felt like it was too good to pass up. Basically, Book Riot sends you a box once every 3 months (for $50)¬†with 2-3 books in it as well as a few “bookish” items, like cool posters or stationary, coffee mugs, scarves, etc. And each box is structured around a theme. I was particularly excited that my first box – October 2015 – would be horror themed. Ever since reading Slasher Girls and Monster Boys¬†I’ve been on a little bit of a horror kick and I was excited to see what books Book Riot would pick out.

So here it is: my first YA quarterly box!


Inside were two books: The Devil and Winnie Flynn¬†and Daughters Unto Devils. Oddly enough, I had just read a Book Riot article earlier in the day that said “if you like this horror movie…read this book” and listed a bunch of movies and the corresponding books and The Devil and Winnie Flynn caught my attention because it was paired up with the movie Scream, one of my favorites. The plot: a girl’s mother kills herself, and she is sent to spend the summer with her aunt who runs a reality TV show where she investigates paranormal phenomena. This particular summer, she’s in New Jersey investigating something called The Red Devil – and paranormal events start happening to Winnie that could be somehow related to the Red Devil, and possibly her mother’s death. I immediately started reading it when I got the box as I was in the middle of ‘Fates and Furies’ by Lauren Groff which is a wonderful book but is a little heavy and I needed¬†a break. I’m about 2/3rds through The Devil and Winnie Flynn and I’m really enjoying it. It’s a fun, young, take on horror that definitely reminds me of Scream and sort of reminds me of the TV show Supernatural at the same time.


The second book in the box, Daughters unto Devils, I haven’t read yet but it’s described as “if Stephen King wrote Little House on the Prairie” which has me intrigued.

Also in the box was a fun print that says “Fight Evil, read Books” which I hope to frame and put up in my “library” room as well a few temporary tattoos and some “forest” page markers. They’re like post-it notes you can stick so they pop up out of the top of the book and look like trees. I think I’d use these more if I was in college still, but they’re still fun. I’ll think up a use for them or possibly gift them to someone else.


The box also includes a letter from Book Riot explaining each item and the theme of the box.


The final verdict – I really enjoyed getting this box because it felt like getting gifts from someone who knows your love of books. Based on past boxes, I was a little disappointed in the “bookish” items as I don’t really have a use for the page markers and I’m a little old (unfortunately) for the temporary tattoos, not to say I still won’t use both. I was hoping for something more like a coffee mug or something else that felt “fall”, especially with the horror theme. But I’m loving the first book so far, and I’ll definitely stick around for the next box (January, I believe) to see what’s in store!

New Books! – With a Theme!

New books are released on Tuesdays and this past Tuesday two very exciting books were released – Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone¬†in a new, illustrated edition and Carry On by Rainbow Rowell. Also, when I went to Amazon to look those up to link to them, I realized they were way cheaper on Amazon than what I bought them for at Barnes and Noble, but going to the bookstore was more exciting. Oh well.


Until I sat down to write this, I didn’t realize the books are actually sort of linked. Carry On is a companion book to Rainbow Rowell’s book Fangirl¬†which is about a girl who writes fan fiction for a made-up series of very popular fantasy novels about Simon Snow, a wizard going off to school and fighting a great evil. Sound familiar? The book is very obviously referencing the Harry Potter fandom and I loved reading it because it felt like I was experiencing the excitement of the Harry Potter fandom all over again. After Fangirl was released, Rainbow decided to actually write the fan fiction story, Carry On, that was referenced throughout the book – and here it is!

Also, the new illustrated Sorcerer’s Stone fits so nicely on my Harry Potter shelf! And, yes, that’s a little Dumbledore keeping watch over everything.


It seems wrong to just buy the book and put it on the shelf, so I’m thinking I might re-read it and once I’ve re-read the first one I might just continue on and read the rest of the series. It’s an exciting thought, because it’ll be the first time in many years that¬†I’ve re-read Harry Potter.

Unfortunately, it’s going to have to wait a little bit as¬†I’m currently focused on making my way through my ‘To Be Read’ list on Oyster¬†as quickly as possible, as the service is unfortunately shutting down. Sad face. I only recently signed up for Oyster and I love the selection of books they have and the app has¬†really beautiful user interface. Since it’s going away soon, but I’m not entirely sure when, I’m reading as much as I can before I lose it. I just finished Graceling by Kristin Cashore¬†and absolutely loved it. Unfortunately, I loved it so much that now I kind of want a hard-copy as well as the two companion books, Fire and Bitterblue. Damn. So much for eBooks decreasing my book-buying proclivities.


I discovered Graceling through a Book Riot¬†article about “Books to Read if you Enjoyed Game of Thrones.” At least, I could have sworn it was a Book Riot article but I tried searching it to link to here and couldn’t find it. Basically, it said if you enjoy hearing about Arya’s adventures in Game of Thrones (my favorite character in the books) then you’ll enjoy Graceling and they were right! Graceling is about a young girl who has been ‘graced’ with a talent for killing and is used by the King, her uncle, as ‘muscle’ to intimidate his enemies. The story is about her finding her own sense of purpose and what she would like to do with her ‘grace’, with plenty of mystery and fantasy along the way. I highly recommend it and if the two companion novels were on Oyster I’d be starting them right away.

What about you? Read any great books lately? Read any of the above? Sound off in the comments! My ‘To Be Read’ (TBR) list is always in need of new books!

Fall Feels Like It’s Here

Hurrican Joaquin “stopped by” (more like, barely grazed us) this weekend and it feels like it’s brought cooler fall weather with it.


I spent a good bit of the weekend relaxing around the house, reading, and food prepping for the week which cats happen to be the perfect partners for. Let’s just say, if napping were an Olympic sport my cat Foxy would get gold. She’s a champ.


We did venture out of the house to see The Martian which I really enjoyed. I haven’t gotten around to reading the book yet, but I know it’s structured as Mark Watney’s (the abandoned astronaut) journals and it’s very science-heavy. They did a great job of smoothing out the science and adding in¬†a little background with other characters that made the movie really entertaining and I felt like it flew by. Matt Damon’s character has an awesome sarcastic sense of humor but it comes off as good natured and he’s very determined to use his wits to overcome the bad situation he’s found himself in. I’m hoping the movie isn’t too “main stream” to make a run at the Oscars because I think it deserves a little recognition. Not to mention, the visual effects were stunning.

I was craving grilled steaks and side dishes for dinner on Sunday but the weather wasn’t cooperating so I settled for searing some steaks on the stove and cooking up some summer squash in a cast-iron skillet. I participated in a CSA this summer from Farm Chicks Produce¬†and while I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it, I’m absolutely drowning in squash. I’ve found that my favorite way to eat it is to slice it and marinate it in an “Italian dressing” style combo of olive oil, red wine vinegar, garlic, and dried herbs (usually parsley, oregano, thyme) and then grill it. I love the tang the vinegar adds to the squash and the char of grill marks. Well, since I couldn’t grill I got a similar effect by charring the squash in a cast iron skillet. I laid each piece out and let it cook for a few minutes over high heat and then went through and flipped them all and charred the other side. It was a little more time-consuming then just saut√©ing them in a skillet – but it achieved the effect I was going for!


  
With some grilled steak, it made for a nice simple Sunday dinner to enjoy while watching football and waiting for the last of the storm to disappear.