Quick Lit . March 2017

Ah, books. I promise, I’ll start writing about other topics soon (like my family, my new interest in sewing, or my upcoming trip to England!!!). But today is a Quick Lit link-up with Modern Mrs. Darcy.

Here is a look at what I’m reading in March…

This Is The Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett

I’m reading this collection of essays slowly. After reading Commonwealth last month, I decided I am going to become an Ann Patchett complete-ist and read all of her work. This came up first at the library. A bit different from what I’m used to, but still intriguing. There are also ties to Commonwealth and her upbringing, which I love!

Enchanted Islands by Allison Amend

I loved this book! This was a Book of the Month Club pick from last year (like a year ago) but it finally felt like the right time to read it. If you like stories about friendship, history, and adventure this novel is perfect. It’s just over 300 pages, so a quick read, and I couldn’t put it down.

Enchanted Islands

Here I Am by Jonathan Foer

Sigh. I have such mixed feelings on this. Overall, I liked the story about the Bloch family and their family dynamics. But…it was too long. I listened to the audiobook (Ari Fliankos narrated and he is amazing) but I found myself wanting it to end sooner. So, mixed feelings on this one.

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

I feel like you had to be living under a rock if you haven’t seen the cover of this book on Instagram!! This is a debut, YA novel which typically isn’t something I would rush to get. But the audiobook came in at the library so I figured I would check it out. I’m about 1/3 of the way through and am intrigued. I’m being reminded why I don’t always love YA books (angsty teens) but the Caraval game is definitely intriguing. I’m looking forward to how this plays out!

This is a quick look at the books I’m reading (and listening to!) lately. I’ve also finished Pines by Blake Crouch and am finishing up Stranger in the Woods and can’t wait to share my thoughts with you later this month!

What are you reading lately?

Continue Reading

George Saunders at the Parkway Theater

George Saunders is amazing!

Ok, let’s back up. Jason and I went to see George Saunders speak about his new book, Lincoln in the Bardo, at the Parkway Theater in Minneapolis last Wednesday. The event was hosted by Rain Taxi (check them out because they are amazing) and was more than I hoped it would be.

George Saunders

Picture courtesy of Rain Taxi

It’s funny because I wasn’t super familiar with Saunders until I heard of Lincoln in the Bardo earlier this year. Jason (my husband, a writer, and general writing aficionado) is quite familiar with his work, particularly his short stories. When I mentioned wanting to attend this reading and book discussion, I didn’t have to ask twice!

We live about 40 minutes outside of Minneapolis, so after I got home from work Jason and I drove into the city and enjoyed dinner at Town Hall Tap before the event. Note: Town Hall Tap was amazing – it was packed, but there were a variety of beers on tap and our dinner was incredible. I had the Rachel (a spin on the Ruben), and it was in my top sandwiches I’ve ever had. I would go back in a heartbeat!

KimandJason George Saunders

George Saunders and Lincoln in the Bardo

I had never been to the Parkway Theater before, but it was smaller than I expected (at least for an event with George Saunders). But its coziness led to the feeling of the event.  Eric Loberer, Rain Taxi’s editor, led off the event with some words about Saunders. Saunders then began, talking about his journey of writing what we now know as Lincoln in the Bardo. Did you know it took him 20+ years to write this bad boy? Wow.

His opening was followed by a reading. Until last week, I wasn’t familiar with the formatting of the book. I knew it is centered on Abraham Lincoln grappling and dealing with his son’s death. I knew there were ghosts. But I didn’t realize the book is written in a semi-theater/play format. Regardless, the reading was great. Rain Taxi arranged for local talent to play various characters, which added a richness to the reading. I haven’t read Lincoln in the Bardo yet, but I’m excited to dig into it.

The reading was followed by a discussion. Full disclosure: this led to me being infatuated with George Saunders and wanting to read everything he has ever written #notastalker Seriously though, he is so engaging. I always have the fear that writers won’t be as engaging in person as they are in their writing, but this definitely wasn’t the case. Saunders is reflective and funny and engaging and honestly, I could have listened to him talk for hours longer than we had. He’s dedicated to his wife, he is a writer that works hard and often, and he has a humor that makes him seem not so — untouchable.

George Saunders autograph

It’s been a long time since I’ve been to a literary event and I’m so glad that we left our comfort zone for a fun evening. Hearing Saunders speak reminded me about why I love books so much – they aren’t necessarily a story alone on an island, but rather a piece of work that’s representative of the writer who put time, sweat, and love into its final piece.

Have you ever been to an event with an author? What were your thoughts?

Continue Reading

Book Review – February 2017

In 2016 my goal was to read 60 books over the course of a year – I ended up reading 62. I didn’t set a goal for myself in 2017, but am way ahead of where I was last year. I can’t tell if it’s the caliber of books I’m reading or just a general love of throwing myself into the world of fiction, but I’ve been reading a lot lately. Hence, the monthly book review beginning now! In February, I ended up making it through a whopping 8 books. #proud

In reviewing my February reads, three of the books I read are written by women of color and one takes a deep look at a transgender child and her family. One of my goals for the year is reading outside of “comfort zone” (or rather books written by those who have had different experiences than me) and I’m proud of the progress I made this month.

Monthly Book Reviews

February Book Review

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

Wow. I’ll be honest, I didn’t quite realize that this entire book was written in verse. Part of me wishes that I listened to the audiobook, rather than reading it. Regardless, it was fantastic. As someone who typically shies away from anything that possibly resembles poetry, I was immediately drawn in to Brown Girl Dreaming. It was emotional and telling of Woodson’s life and provided me a perspective into a world of which I do not have much experience.

4/5 stars 

The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez

This is book has been on my TBR list for quite some time, after hearing it raved about over the last year. When I saw it at my campus library, I grabbed it and devoured it in a few short days. It’s about family dynamics, and love, and race and prejudice. It’s beautifully told and the characters were well-developed and relatable. I smiled and cried and I questioned the world around me. It’s on the shorter side and a quick read – I’m glad I finally got to it!

4/5 stars

Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough

I feel like you had to be living under a rock to not have heard about Behind Her Eyes and the SHOCKING, TWIST ENDING! Seriously, January hit and I felt like I couldn’t escape this book. It was featured on Book Riot, Book of the Month Club…everywhere! I’m not sure I would have picked it up so quickly, but my mom bought it so I immediately borrowed it.

Overall, it’s an engaging mystery/thriller. I enjoy an unreliable narrator, and I felt as if I couldn’t quite trust Louise and her actions or her perspective of the events unfolding around her. The book jumps from past to present and kept me engaged. I thought I figured out the ending, but the reviews are right – it shocked me at the end. Great thrill factor!

3.5/5 stars

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett

OMG. This is the first Ann Patchett book I’ve read and it’s made me want to read every other book she’s ever written. Commonwealth, by far, was the best book I read this month. And that is coming from someone who had very high expectations after how well it was reviewed last year. Basically, it’s a story about a family – but then it’s so much more. The story was engaging – it felt real yet not something that would happen in my world. I felt as if I knew the characters, and they could be people who are in my life. It was a beautifully written novel, with a story that was well-developed.

5/5 stars

This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel

I read this book as part of the Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club. First, the cover is beautiful – it’s bright orange and I love it. But I don’t think I would have picked this up unless it was recommended to me. I am not very knowledgeable about the transgender population. This book opened my eyes, not necessarily to knowing every single fact, but rather the need to be understanding and open to everyone you meet. The book opens upon a family, much like a family I’m sure you know in your life – they are loving and they fight and they fiercely support each other. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about the world Frankel created and considered my own views along the way. I cannot recommend highly enough!

5/5 stars

Version Control by Dexter Palmer

I wanted to like this book. I was so excited when it popped up in my library queue. The mixture of sci-fi and time travel and a family tragedy – it seemed like the perfect fix. But as much as I wanted to love it, I….liked it? Tolerated it? I felt like it was trying to be too much – sci fi and a novel. It dove into the science but also wanted to appeal on a lovey-dovey romantic tragedy level. I feel as if it would have committed to one genre, it could have been much better. Instead it was broad and gave me a little bit of everything, but not much of anything.

2.5/5 stars

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

I’ll be honest – this book has been on my TBR for quite some time, but I avoided it. For some reason, the premise of the book didn’t quite connect with me. I was wrong. This is the story of two sisters, born in Africa, who are forced into two different lives. The novel traces each sister’s family lines and provides a sweeping and emotional telling of their experiences. I devoured this book – I read it in just a day or so and was sad it ended so quickly. It’s short (just around or under 300 pages) and quickly read.

5/5 stars

The Nix by Nathan Hill

Finally, the only audiobook I listened to in February. In my defense, this book is like 19 hours long!! That being said, it was worth the time I devoted to listening to it. First, Ari Fliakos is an amazing narrator and I’ve already begun listening to another book he narrates because he’s so amazing.

More thought, this is just a good book. It’s sweeping – it spans just over 40 years and is told through multiple perspectives. The story is told slowly, yet well, and pieces together a mystery of what happened to a family. There’s no shocking twist, but rather the slow unraveling of figuring out what happened in the past and why it’s important in the present. I loved it and recommend it.

4. 5/5 stars

February was an amazing reading month (as you can tell by my lengthy book review!) and March is already shaping up to be pretty great as well. If you’re interested in learning more about any of these books, below are their Amazon pages.

What did you read in February? Did you have a favorite (or not-so-favorite) read?

This site uses affiliate links. Thanks for your support!

Continue Reading

Favorite January Reads

I didn’t set a goal for how many books I want to read in 2017, however I must say I got off to a great start this year. In 2017, I finished 9 books, which is way above average. I’m not sure how I managed to read so much, but I’m proud of the progress I made. Plus I read some amazing books. I’m not going to recap every book I read (you can find the full list here), but wanted to share my five favorite January reads.

The Circle

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

I got this book through Book of the Month Club (which I adore) late last year. I held on to this book like an amazing piece of chocolate, waiting to read it until I could slowly read and enjoy it. It met every one of my expectations. The characters were well-developed, the plot was intriguing and complex, and I could not put it down. Plus, the writing is superb. I highly recommend this book. (And if you haven’t read Rules of Civility by the same author, do so. Now!).

Hillbilly Elegy by JD Vance

After the events of the election in November, I bought this audiobook on the recommendation of everyone (well, NPR and the New York Times). I don’t think this book provides any sort of special insight into the mind of Americans. But, I still enjoyed it. The book, narrated by Vance, is a memoir, richly and intricately told, describing his life growing up in Kentucky and Ohio. The ending felt a bit rushed, but overall, I enjoyed this as an example of a life different from my own.

The Circle by David Eggers

I am on the Common Read Committee at the university I work at and this book is one of our contenders for 2018. I have not read any David Eggers prior to The Circle and had mixed expectations going in. It seems people either love or hate his work. I really enjoyed The Circle. It was an easily read, quick paced book that provided the reader a variety of questions to consider regarding the role technology plays in our lives. The ending was interesting – I think people will love or hate it – but I liked it for staying true to the narrative of the story overall.

So You've Been Publicly Shamed

You’ll Grow Out Of It by Jessi Klein

This audiobook was phenomenal. I’ll admit, I’m a sucker for most books written by a celebrity talking about their lives. Many of these books, often but not always written by white comedians (Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Chelsea Handler, Mindy Kaling to name a few) provide a comedic view to the happenings of life. I enjoyed Jessi Klein’s book because I felt like I could relate to her stories. Her writing is accessible and humorous. She provided insights that weren’t repeated in similar types of books.

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson

I also read this book as part of the Common Read Committee. Our focus is technology and this seemed like a clear contender. I enjoyed it and was honestly a bit horrified by it. The thought of having my life overturned by one bad decision is terrifying. One lapse in judgement, one joke that I think is funny but someone else doesn’t – well, there were too many examples in the book of people impacted by this. I think the point of the story is don’t be so quick to judge. Remember there is a person behind the tweet or the post, and they probably had a lapse in judgement. This was good and made me think about how I conduct myself online, consciously or unconsciously.

Looking for more recommendations? Head over to Modern Mrs. Darcy to see others participating in today’s Quick Lit!

What books are you reading that you’ve loved lately?

Continue Reading

Why I Read In The Morning

I have a bucket list of habits I would like to create, but to be honest, I have a hard time making any new habit stick. Maybe it’s my personality, or a lack of commitment, or something else entirely, but habits are just not my thing. That being said, there is one habit I started back in October that has stuck: I read in the morning.

While I studied for the GRE, one of the recommendations I received to prepare for the verbal section was to read. A lot. Read anything and everything to expose myself to a wider vocabulary. Since I spent my evenings diligently studying my GRE Prep Book and taking practice quizzes or tests, the only time I truly had to read was in the morning.

Read In The Morning

It turns out, I love reading in the morning. Each morning I wake up, shower, grab my cup of coffee, then head right back to bed. I snuggle under the covers with Hoss (who is an excellent morning reading companion) and I pick up whichever book I’m currently in the middle of. I typically read anywhere from 10-30 minutes, depending on what time it is. Then I close my book and continue on with my morning.

One of the reasons I love to read in the morning is because it calms everything down. For me, the morning always seems to be GO! GO! GO! Instead of worrying about running late or what I need to do before heading out the door, I get a small pocket of time that is just for me, where I get to do something I love. Some people meditate, others work out, and some do their morning pages. For me, morning reading is now an integral part of my morning.

The other reason that reading in the morning has become such an indulgent treat is because Jason works the early morning shift. So, morning is really the only time I have to myself in the house. This is an adjustment from our normal schedule and it’s taking some getting used to. As an introvert who truly treasures quiet time to myself, reading in the morning is also an activity I can do just for me, that contributes to my well-being and overall happiness.

Morning Reading

Find more morning reading pictures on my Instagram!

Besides starting my day off well, the other upside of beginning to read in the morning is I have increased the number of books I read overall. So far in 2017, I’ve finished 12 books and am in the middle of 3 of others. This is definitely ahead of how many books I finished as of this time of year in 2016! As someone who loves to track how many books I read and what those books are, this is a huge motivator to keep this habit up.

So this is my not-so-secret trick to starting off my day right and to read more. Even if reading may not be your go-to activity, I really recommend figuring out what you can do, even if just for 5 minutes, to start each day off in a positive and calming way.

Do you have any morning rituals that you must do each day?

Continue Reading