Thursday, January 2, 2020

2020 Reading Resolutions & Goals

Last year I made ridiculously lofty goals and resolutions. And I failed. But who cares? I read more than I did the year before. Sometimes setting hard goals you may or may not meet is still a good thing. For this year, however, I want to keep it simpler.

Here are my reading goals and resolutions for 2020:

1. Read 104 books. 104 isn't a magic number. That's two books a week, which should be doable. It's a realistic goal that shouldn't challenge me, but it's also a goal I haven't hit for a few years.

2. Complete the Around the Year in 52 Books challenge (and try to stay in order.) Of all the reading challenges I attempted last year, Around the Year was the only one I stuck with until the end. I also love that we suggest and vote on prompts, so I had a hand in helping pick many of them. For me, it's the right amount of challenge. A lot of books I would normally read satisfy its parameters, but it also pushes me somewhat. And the social community on Litsy and Goodreads is fantastic.

3. Post some sort of review/quick thought about every book I read on Instagram, Litsy, Goodreads, and this space. This space might be the hardest. As I've moved my more immediate bookish content (pictures of what I'm reading) onto Litsy and Instagram, I've often abandoned this space. I'm not sure what it will look like in 2020, but I do want a better, more consistent record of my reading here.

Other than that, I want to read what I want to read. I continue to enjoy my Book of the Month subscription, Reese Witherspoon's book club picks, the Read with Jenna picks, and my prize list reading, but if those selections don't sound good to me? I have plenty of other books to read.

What are your reading goals, resolutions or priorities in 2020?

As an affiliate, I receive a small commission when you make a purchase through any of the above links. Thank you for helping to support my book habits that bring more content to this blog!

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

My Favorite Reads of 2019

In 2019, I read 93 books. These are my favorites, in the order I read them:



As an affiliate, I receive a small commission when you make a purchase through any of the above links. Thank you for helping to support my book habits that bring more content to this blog!

Monday, December 23, 2019

Welcome to the Hall of Fame, Jami Attenberg!

Two of my favorite things about having a blog, even one I don't post to nearly often enough lately, are:

1. Having a record of my thoughts on books for the last (almost) 13 years.

2. Making all the rules

These two favorite things converge in My Hall of Fame. There are two ways to get into My Hall of Fame. First, write a book I love so much that it defies my rating scale and earns 6 stars out of 5. Second, write (at least) two books I rate 5 stars. (Because I make the rules, authors can be in the Hall of Fame for both reasons.)

Today, I'm thrilled to induct Jami Attenberg into My Hall of Fame! Yesterday, I had the pleasure of reading her latest novel, All This Could Be Yours, in a single day. The novel itself takes place in a single day, so it was fitting to spend a day with this dysfunctional family and Jami's gorgeous writing. All This Could Be Yours is the second Jami Attenberg book I've rated 5 stars. The first was All Grown Up, which was one of my favorite reads of 2017. I already considered Attenberg one of my favorite authors, and one whose next book I always eagerly anticipate. I'd been waiting to read All This Could Be Yours so I could savor it in a single day, near the holidays. But it's also to know there's a book by an author you love that you have yet to read. I do, I realize, still have her first three books to read, as I started with The Middlesteins. One of my 2020 reading resolutions is to read more of the backlists (and in some cases frontlists) of my list of favorite authors and Hall of Fame authors.

Welcome to the Hall of Fame, Jami Attenberg! I'm already eagerly awaiting your next book, but I'll try to patiently wait a few years while you write it.

Want to read Jami Attenberg? Buy her books from Amazon:

As an affiliate, I receive a small commission when you make a purchase through any of the above links. Thank you for helping to support my book habits that bring more content to this blog!

Monday, August 5, 2019

Audio Interludes: British & Irish narrators

Often I find myself listening to audiobooks that fit together, either by narrator, genre, theme or setting. As I find myself staring at a long list of them to review, I decided to start writing Litsy-length reviews and grouping them together in a new recurring series I'll call Audio Interludes. Today's installment features a trio of contemporary novels narrated in British and Irish accents.

When All Is Said by Anne Griffin
narrated by Niall Buggy

If an old maudlin Irishman narrator is your thing: do I have a book for you! Maurice Hannigan, over the course of one night, orders five different drinks a hotel bar and toasts each one to a different person who impacted his life. Through these five (very long) toasts that are more like stories, we learn about his life in interesting, and non-linear ways. For a debut novel, this book is bravely told, but for such an emotional book, it also felt like it was trying to be a little too clever. Is a lovely goal, but it didn't fully work for. I'm certainly glad I listened, as a man telling his life's stories is the ideal format, and Buggy's Irishisms were pitch perfect. For an audiobook that was only eight hours, it also felt like it could have shorter and achieved the same goals. I listened to this for book club, and there will be lots to discuss.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Length: 8 hours 5 minutes (324 pages)
Publication date: March 5, 2019
Source: library
Treat yourself! Buy it from Amazon or an independent bookstore.

The Flatshare by Beth O'Leary

narrated by Carrie Hope Fletcher and Kwaku Fortune

If you're looking for a somewhat predictable but also endearing and charming romantic comedy: do I have a book for you! I listened to this while driving across Nebraska and Colorado, and it kept me entertained. The premise is modern and relatable: Leon is palliative care nurse who works nights and spends weekends and at his girlfriend's apartment. He's looking for extra income to pay for a lawyer to exonerate his brother, who is in jail for a crime he didn't commit. He comes up with the idea to sublet his flat to someone who works days, so they'll never see each other. Tiffy needs a cheap place to live quickly after a breakup. The two start communicating via notes at the flat. There aren't a ton of surprising twists in this book, but it's a good story and it's well-told. Tiffy and Leon are great characters, and both narrators shine. I was proud of myself that I correctly guessed Tiffy was from Essex based on her accent sounding exactly like Georgia Harrison's. Bonus: there's an interview with Carrie Hope Fletcher and Beth O'Leary at the end that made me wish audiobook narrators always chatted with the author about the book at the end. This is O'Leary's debut, and I liked it enough to give her next one a lesson.

Rating: 4 out of 5
Length: 9 hours 39 minutes (321 pages)
Publication date: May 28, 2019
Source: library
Treat yourself! Buy it from Amazon or an independent bookstore

The Cactus by Sarah Haywood
narrated by Katherine Manners

I listened to this after Reese Witherspoon picked it for her book club in June, and I loved every minute I spent with it. Katherine Manners is a superb narrator and Susan Green is a delightful character. Susan is on the autism spectrum, over 40, and pregnant. Pregnancy can be a baffling thing, and to see it through Susan's mind was fascinating and what I liked best about the book. There were a lot of other storylines, all centered around Susan and this time in her life, but the pregnancy and preparation for single parenthood felt like the book's heart and trajectory for me. Susan made me laugh and cry, but she also made me think about neurodiversity in a different way.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Length: 10 hours 24 minutes (368 pages)
Publication date: May 1, 2018
Source: library
Treat yourself! Buy it from Amazon or an independent bookstore

As an affiliate, I receive a small commission when you make a purchase through any of the above links. Thank you for helping to support my book habits that bring more content to this blog!

Friday, August 2, 2019

A love letter to Ruth Emmie Lang, author of Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance

Dear Ruth Emmie Lang,

I'm sorry it took me so long to read Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance, but I'm so glad I finally did so I can tell the world how much I loved it. I've had it on my shelf since October 2017, when Steph Opitz picked it for Book of the Month. It wasn't a book I would picked without Steph's recommendation. It didn't sound like something I would like. I don't usually like magical realism. I don't really animals or nature very much (I know, I know.) But Steph introduced me to Taylor Jenkins Reid with The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, so I vowed to always choose her picks when she was a Book of the Month judge. But on my shelf it sat, unread. Then I signed up for the sixth Litsy Markup Postal Book Club, and I thought, why not use one of the (many) Book of the Month books sitting on my shelf unread? So I picked six and had my group pick, and they all picked Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance.

The choice was made for me: I had to read it in July. So I put it in my bag to read at my favorite happy hour. From the first page, I was in love. It's a magical feeling to be immediately under a book's spell. It's even better when you get that feeling from a book you didn't think was your thing. I sat and read over 100 pages and sipped my sparkling rose and laughed and underlined and smiled. When the bartender asked me what I was reading, I said, "I don't even know how to describe it. Here: read the jacket copy." Also during that happy hour, I texted one of my best friends this picture and asked if she'd read it. She hadn't and asked if she should. I said, "I'm only on page 38, but yes. I don't think a book has ever made me think of someone as much as this one makes me think of you." And I still feel that way after finishing. If I, who does not really like magical realism, nature, or animals, can love this book, then she, who loves all three will love it (I hope. I trust.)

For all those things I don't love that this book has, it also has a lot of things I love: multiple locations, time jumps, characters who feel like real people, an interesting narrative structure, and books, both real and imagined. This book made me marvel, but it also made me smile. While I impatiently wait for you to finish writing The Wilderwomen, I'll keep telling everyone I can to read this gem of a novel and delight not only in its wonder but also that it's your first novel. I don't even need to hear a description of it, or any novel you write, to know I'll read it. And before it collects dust on my shelf for over a year. But first, I'm mailing it to LitLogophile, umbrellagirl, and BookishBelle. I can't wait to get it back in November and see all of their notes and underlines and re-read it.

Your Newest Fan

Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Length: 346 pages
Publication date: November 14, 2017
Source: Book of the Month (Try a free month!)

Want to read for yourself? Buy Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance from an independent bookstore or Amazon (Kindle edition.)

As an affiliate, I receive a small commission when you make a purchase through any of the above links. Thank you for helping to support my book habits that bring more content to this blog!

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Happy August!

Well, July is done. At the beginning of the month, I told you about my mind and body challenge. August is a new month, so I'll focus on the positives and where I want to go from here.

  1. Exercise: In July, I did 44 miles on the elliptical. That's more than any month except January, when I managed 53. Seven and a half months into my fitness journey, and that's something worth celebrating. It's also worth noting the pitiful 2 miles I put in during the entire month of June helped kick start the fitness part of this challenge. Every day I worked out, I did 3 (or more) miles. I'm proud of that. Here's what I'm not proud of: I haven't been to the gym since July 16th. 
  2. Reading: I have my reading mojo back. I read fourteen (!) books. And I have less than an hour left in my audiobook, so if we didn't have houseguests, I would have finished fifteen books. Did I read for an hour each day without looking at my phone? Not after the first week. It turns out that's easier to do when I'm home alone. But I read for more than an hour most days. I re-prioritized reading in ways that feel sustainable. 
  3. Drinking: The first half of July I did really well at what I thought might be the hardest of the these three challenges. So I'm excited about the progress I made, even if I fell into summer habits the second half of the month. 
It turns out July was a hard month. On July 13th, my grandmother died. It was expected and in many ways a blessing. She would have turned 97 this fall, and that's a lot of life. And yet emotions are unpredictable, and her death hit me in ways I wasn't expecting. More than once, my response to deciding to go to the gym or not have a second glass of wine was "fuck it, enjoy yourself!" And I did, and I'm okay with that. I worked out more, I read more, and I drank less. Those are three things worth celebrating, even if I didn't meet my challenge.

Here are my goals for August:
  1. Exercise: I want to do 60 miles. Realistically, that means 20 trips to the gym, with 3 miles each trip. I think that's doable. And it will be the most miles I've done since I started working out in mid-December.
  2. Reading: I want to read every day. I hope to read at least 10 books, but I have two chunksters I hope to read (Ducks, Newburyport and The Most Fun We Ever Had), so I don't want to focus on number of books. And for many good reasons, some days I read more than others, so I don't want to standardize my different types of days.
  3. Blogging: I want to write 10 posts.
Fingers crossed for August and my 60-10*-10 challenge!

As an affiliate, I receive a small commission when you make a purchase through any of the above links. Thank you for helping to support my book habits that bring more content to this blog!

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

A letter to Mia Barron, audiobook narrator of Good Riddance by Elinor Lipman

Dear Mia Barron,

I just finished listening to you read Good Riddance, the latest novel from Elinor Lipman. I remember reading and enjoying some of her novels in the 1990's and early 2000's, but I haven't read one in years. The premise of this one (a yearbook thrown away, a nosy neighbor, a documentary film!) sounded so fun, and its length (8 hours 7 minutes) is my audiobook sweet spot. Immediately after I started listening, your voice sounded so familiar. I searched Audible to see if you'd narrated another audiobook I listened to. Nope. I read your IMDB page, and the most likely reason your voice felt so familiar is one episode of Grey's Anatomy in season six. Or maybe your voice is one of those that feels familiar for no reasons. Either way, I kept finding excuses to listen and finished in a week.

Then, about half-way through, after what passes for a twist in this book, I realized (can I be honest?) I didn't really like this book very much, but I wanted to keep listening. I even liked the twist, but it made me realize this was not a quirky comedy. It made me realize this book has an identity crisis and doesn't know what it wants to be. Perhaps, I thought, something will happen that will make the timeline make sense. Did I miss something? I don't understand how Daphne is 31, when her mother was born in 1945 (she was 23 when the class of 1968 graduated). The book is clearly set in the recent years, as the second season of Riverdale has aired, Hamilton tickets are expensive, and Marie Kondo is referenced. Yes, Daphne's mom could have given birth in her 40's, but that's not at all how it happens in the book, and Daphne even has a younger sister. How did an editor not fix the timeline? There are so many possible easy fixes. Also, didn't it seem odd to you that Daphne is a 31-year-old woman who talks a lot about the size of her cable package and expands her channels to get the CW to catch up on Riverdale? It's on Netflix. The CW has an app. How is the CW not included in a basic cable package? I kept reminding myself of Daphne's age, as at times she seemed impossibly immature and at times she seemed very old. Overall, this book had a lot of potential, but the only reason I kept listening was because you narrated it so well. You made me not hate Daphne (well, most of the time--which is still quite a feat), which I don't think would be the case if I read it.

While I didn't like this book, I do like that it brought you into my audiobook life, and I look forward to spending more time with you on my headphones (and on my tv!)

Carrie (nomadreader)

Rating: 2.5 out of 5
Length: 8 hours 7 minutes (303 pages)
Publication date: February 5, 2019
Source: library

Want to read for yourself? I wouldn't recommend it, except perhaps to listen, but you can buy Good Riddance from an independent bookstore or Amazon.

As an affiliate, I receive a small commission when you make a purchase through any of the above links. Thank you for helping to support my book habits that bring more content to this blog!

Monday, July 22, 2019

a love letter to Jasmine Guillory

Dear Jasmine,

After reading and enjoying your first two novels, The Wedding Date and The Proposal, and hearing you speak at ALA last summer, I was excited to revisit those characters in your third novel, The Wedding Party, but also get to know new characters in this fictional universe. I wouldn't consider your books a series (would you?), but I do love seeing the characters pop up in the other novels. It's so much fun. This book features Maddie and Theo, the two best friends of Alexa, the heroine of The Wedding Date, but I admit, I didn't remember much about either one. Thankfully, your reminders helped me remember without feeling like you were re-telling key scenes from The Wedding Date. And I fell so in love with both of them, but especially Maddie, that I might even go back and re-read The Wedding Date knowing what I know now.

I'm a reader who doesn't read many romance novels (perhaps I just haven't found the right ones?), but I love your romance novels. Your characters feel like real people, and I loved that the narration in The Wedding Party allows the reader to go inside the minds of both Maddie and Theo. Even though I presume a happy ending involving the two main characters falling in love in your books, I always enjoy the journey. It takes a great storyteller to write a book that's entertaining and fun and suspenseful when you already know guess the ending. I also think each book has been better than the last one. I know you wanted to write Maddie's story second, but I'm glad it worked out this way because I think this novel is even better. As I read, I laughed (out loud and in public), I teared up (more than once in public), and then I read the last 10% through tears streaming down my face (thankfully on my couch where I was happy to let you make me a blubbering mess). I love the way you tell stories, but your characters are what I love most. They feel like real people, and I love that the characters recur in your books in ways that feel organic. Even though I knew it was coming, I actually squealed (out loud) when Nik appeared. And she stole the first scene she was in, not necessarily because of anything in this book, but because of how much I loved her in The Proposal. I hope we see more of her in the future, and I dream of her two best friends each getting their own turn as a main character in future novels. While I'm over here dreaming up ideas of novels I don't even know if you plan to write, I'm so glad I don't have to wait long for your next novel. Royal Holiday, featuring Maddie's mom Vivian. Vivian shines in her scenes in The Wedding Party, and it will be wonderful to see her get a turn for some romance (out October 1st.) Tempting as it may be to read it the day it comes out, I might wait until Thanksgiving to stay in the holiday spirit. But perhaps when it's not the hottest part of July, when Christmas and winter seem so very far away, October will feel close enough to the holidays. Until then, I'll keep following your journey on Instagram, where I love to see what you're writing, baking, where you're traveling, and how many hundreds of days of yoga in a row you've done.

Carrie (nomadreader)

Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Length: 351 pages
Publication date: July 16, 2019
Source: publisher

Want to read for yourself? Buy The Wedding Party from an independent bookstore or Amazon.

As an affiliate, I receive a small commission when you make a purchase through any of the above links. Thank you for helping to support my book habits that bring more content to this blog!

Monday, July 1, 2019

Introducing my July Mind & Body Challenge

I didn't plan to write about my July challenge on July 1st. I wanted to, of course, because I want everyone to tell me how awesome I am, but I also admit receiving congratulations before actually beginning is pretty meaningless. So I thought I'd wait until I was half-way through to tell y'all I've been doing this challenge. That way, if I failed, no one would even to have know. But I posted a sweaty selfie on my Instagram story after my workout this morning and captioned it "day one of July fitness challenge done." And then a few people asked what challenge I was doing, so I thought, why not make myself vulnerable and write a little about what I'm doing and why?

I made up a challenge for myself for July. Here's what I pledge to do each day:
  1. At least three miles (probably always on the elliptical, but I might switch it up)
  2. Read for at least 1 hour (leave my phone in another room and set a timer)
  3. Have no more than one alcoholic drink
It's a mind and body challenge for me, and I think it's the right mix of being challenging (no days off from the gym, no not prioritizing reading, and no saying, "sure, I'll take another!") while also being doable. Will I always like it? No. There will be days I do not want to go to the gym. There will be days I make it to the gym and want to leave after two miles. There will be days when I want to have more than one drink (okay, that will be most days.) But I hope that this challenge will help me refresh and re-prioritize. I don't entertain dreams of getting to August 1 and saying, "why not keep going another month?" Okay, I do hope I keep reading for an hour each day. But I hope I will take in how I look and how I feel and make new and different goals for August. Also, July is my least favorite month. The summer heat seems neverending. Autumn seems so far away. It's often the time of year when even at 6 a.m., it's too hot outside. July feels like an endurance event for me every year, so why not flip it to enduring something that makes me feel good and feel like I'm accomplishing something? This year, for the first time, I'm more cognizant that the year is half-over. Working in academia, July doesn't feel like a significant month, but it really is. Why not use July to refocus and make new goals? I do it every January.

Now tell me: do you like to challenge yourself? Do you make mid-year goals in July?

As an affiliate, I receive a small commission when you make a purchase through any of the above links. Thank you for helping to support my book habits that bring more content to this blog!

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Sunday Salon: We're Halfway Where?

The Sunday Salon.comHere I am again, despite a strong January of reading and blogging, finding myself wondering how and when to come back to this space. Do I announce my return and hope it sticks? Do I pretend I haven't been gone? The half-way part of the year seemed like the perfect time to stop and write about my favorite books of 2019 and reflect on my year in reading so far. Because really, I don't have a good story. The truth is, I'm been doing other things. I work full-time. I have a very talkative almost five-year-old. I'm working on a second master's degree. Many days, I find myself so terrified about the state of our world and my country, I can't let my mind rest long enough to sit and read or write. Some days I feel too guilty about not doing enough to let myself find joy in the things I love. Some days, everything I do feels futile, so I delight in playing board games with Hawthorne and hoping I'll feel better about the state of the world before he's too much older. Before the oversimplified answers no longer satisfy his curiosity and his ability to read social cues. Before I expose him to the news. But lately, I've come to really miss this space and writing here about (mostly) books. But I also feel a pull to simply write more, so I might do some of that here too.

But you're here for the books, right? So far this year, I've read 34 books, which despite being a small number (to me), feels pretty good considering how little it feels like I read most weeks. Given that, it's not surprising almost half (15) are audiobooks. My audiobook listening is more routine. I listen when I drive to the gym. I listen when I drive to work (after I drop Hawthorne off at school). I listen when I cook dinner or wash the dishes. I listen when I can't decide what to do and want to play a matching game on my phone. Because so much of my reading has been on audio, and I tend to prefer nonfiction on audio, I'm not terribly surprised a third of my reads (13) are nonfiction.

This year, I feel as though (even more than usual), I read when I love what I'm reading. I also have no problem setting a book down if I'm not enjoying it. Given that, I'm not surprised all but three books I've read I rated 4 stars or more. Seven books are five star reads. That's a really high percentage, but it makes sense.

Here are my favorite reads of 2019 (So Far):

Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid (my thoughts)
I read a galley of this novel last summer, but I got it on Audible to listen to this spring, and I loved it just as much, but I also appreciated the rare experience of re-reading. The audiobook cast is stellar, and it's one I could listen to again and again.

Good Talk: A Memoir in Conversations by Mira Jacob
 I tend to avoid platitudes such as, "Everyone should read this book," but I admit, as I finished, I do wish everyone would read this memoir. In this intimate, brilliant, and searing memoir, Jacob recalls conversations, mostly with her six-year-old son. It's a masterful capsule of the complicated political issues of our time, and Jacob navigates raising her half-Indian, half-Jewish son, her interracial marriage, and the complexities of parenting beautifully. The art is also extraordinary. It's another one I could read again and again.

Cribsheet: A Data-Driven Guide to Better, More Relaxes Parenting from Birth to Preschool by Emily Oster
I read Oster's first book, Expecting Better: Why the Conventional Pregnancy Wisdom is Wrong when I was pregnant. It transformed my pregnancy, and it's a book I recommend to everyone who is pregnant or trying to get pregnant. (Seriously, I handsell this book to everyone, including most recently, a bartender at my favorite neighborhood spot, who a week later reported back how amazing the book is and has now become a friend.) So even though Hawthorne is almost five (!), I knew I wanted to read her new book about parenting the baby and toddler years, and I love it. For me, it was more about reinforcing all the great decisions we made as parents (ha!), but it still is a great resource for parents.

Things My Son Needs to Know About the World by Fredrik Backman
I admit: I made time for this one because the audiobook is just over three hours, and I loved the first 100 pages of Beartown, which I still haven't finished because I was reading it for book club and I didn't finish in time, and then it hasn't felt like a priority, but I really should get back to it because it was a book I didn't think I wanted to read, but I was blown away by his language and characters. But this memoir/collection of essays is wise and funny and charming. I loved it so much for the ways it made me laugh outl oud and ugly cry. I bought two copies: one for my spouse and one for my favorite podcast host who became a dad this spring. Backman speaks to this generation of new fathers in ways that are expected, but also unexpected, as I kept reminding myself that this book was translated into English. The IKEA piece is one of the greatest essays I've ever read.

All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung
This memoir, about what it's like to grow up Asian adopted by white parents in a very white town, is a gift. It's beautifully written and a story that is incredibly special and unique, while still providing much-needed lessons and commentary about race and love. It's filled with wisdom, kindness, and often tough love, but it's filled with lines that had me highlighting what felt like half the book. That it is Chung's first book is hard to believe, but I'll be in line for every book she writes.

Atomic Marriage by Curtis Sittenfeld
Sittenfeld is one of my favorite authors, so while I semi-patiently wait for her new novel, I was ecstatic for this Audible orignial novella. I loved every word, and I still think about it, months later.

And Now We Have Everything by Meghan O'Connell
The most recent addition is the most recent audiobook memoir. We each gave birth to a baby boy the same year, and while we had very different experiences, I crave memoirs where women write honestly and unapologetically about the complicated emotions and realities of parenthood. O'Connell narrates this herself in a way that takes this intimate memoir and makes it feel as though I'm simply listening to a friend, albeit one who may have told this story a few times because her phrases are so eloquent and quotable, but it's also still raw and clear she's still processing and articulating how to best tell these stories.

Now tell me: what are your favorite reads of 2019 (so far?)

As an affiliate, I receive a small commission when you make a purchase through any of the above links. Thank you for helping to support my book habits that bring more content to this blog!