Quickie Reviews: A Little of Everything

Less than two months into the year and I’ve already read so many interesting things! Here’s the highlights.

The Bone Clocks

The Bone Clocks, David MitchellThis is our February book club read, and boy was it a doozy. We’ve read one of David Mitchell’s other books, Cloud Atlas, and I’m pumped to discuss it in a few days. Mitchell’s writing style stays consistent throughout this book, which made it easier to read, and the concepts and themes are fantastic. The last section fell flat for me, but overall a fabulous read.

Sofia Khan is Not Obliged

Sofia Khan is Not Obliged, Ayisha MalikI’ve had this on my TBR for a few months, and was lucky enough to get it for Christmas. The book follows Sofia, a Muslim woman asked by her publisher boss to write a book about Muslim dating. Although some readers have compared it unfavorably to Bridget Jones’ Diary, I thought it was great. Author Ayisha Malik busts stereotypes about Islam and portrays Muslim women as funny, thoughtful, flawed, and loving — in other words, like humans. In a happy coincidence, this book fulfills the January criteria for the Monthly Motif challenge.

The Magnolia Story

The Magnolia Story, Chip and Joanna Gaines with Mark DagostinoWhile I don’t like their decorating style (cool it with the shiplap, please!), I am a big fan of Chip and Joanna Gaines’ story. Chip in particular strikes me as this goofy dum-dum I wouldn’t trust with a nail gun, but turns out he’s an incredibly smart, hard-working entrepreneur. It was a fascinating read.


Incendiary, Michael CannellAuthor Michael Cannell’s incredible dive into the history of criminal profiling and how it was used to crack the case of “the Mad Bomber.” This book sits comfortably at the intersection of history, psychology, and true crime — my favorite place to spend my reading time. This one kept me up late. Highly recommended! Also meets the February criteria for the Monthly Motif challenge.

2018: A Year of Kicking Ass

It’s been quiet on the blog since the end of the year. Originally I planned to hop right back into reviews, but the holidays cascaded, then I had to work myself out of the email/task black hole at work, and before I knew it I’d unintentionally taken all of January off from blogging.

At first this made me feel bad. I had set my schedule, and each deadline I missed was a sign of failure. Then last week I realized that is my blog, and I can post as much or as little as I want. And let’s not kid ourselves, I don’t have zillions of followers waiting with bated breath for my next post.

I’ve scaled my schedule back, which feels great. It lets me savor every book I read, because I’m not rushing to review it. It’s also helped me dedicate more time to reading for book club — the stuff we’ve read recently has been involved, and I want to spend more time working through my thoughts on those selections.

This doesn’t mean I’ve been sitting my laurels. I spent January putting together my 2018 goals, and have already reached a couple.

It started with this article on performing a life audit. I had vague ideas for goals, most of them work-related, but this article kicked me into gear.

Using the article as a starting point, I did the audit then set up my goals in a way that makes sense for me. I have about 40 goals spread over 12 months. Some of them are recurring (like giving a Toastmasters speech every other month), but they’re all set up as separate goals in my Trello account. They’re organized into different categories (like Personal Development or Fitness), and they’re all assigned due dates.

(Have I mentioned that Trello is the best damn thing in the world? Oh my god I love it.)

Writing out and tracking my goals has forced me to hold myself accountable. It’s early days and I know a lot of resolution-type stuff falls by the wayside before March, but I’ve already accomplished multiple goals:

  • I did an extreme clean of my iTunes music. I deleted hundreds of songs I never liked/don’t like as much as I used to. Now I’m able to carry all my music on my phone, and am listening to it more.
  • I completed a 30-day yoga challenge! This is huge for me, and I’m so proud of myself. I’ve got other fitness challenges on the calendar, but for now I’m celebrating by scheduling a massage.
  • I gave my third Toastmasters speech. It was the first time I felt vaguely comfortable speaking to a crowd, and I crushed it.

There’s lots more on my list, and I love seeing it all and planning how I’ll tackle each one. Here’s to kicking ass in 2018!

2017 End of Year Book Survey

2017 End of Year Book SurveyEvery year seems more crazy than the last, and I’m ready for this one to be over. I’m taking some time over the holidays to reflect on what I’ve done well and what’s brought me joy — including books.

Best Books in 2017

1. Best book you read In 2017?

2. What was a book you were excited about & thought you were going to love more but didn’t?

Witches of America was disappointing. I didn’t really like the author, and couldn’t connect with her point of view.

3. What was the most surprising (in a good way!) book of the year?

Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? was surprisingly deep and nuanced. It struck chords I wasn’t expecting.

4. What book did you read and recommended to people most?

I told multiple people about Unmentionable and The Devil in the White City.

5. What’s the best series you discovered?

Crocodile on the Sandbank was so much fun! I’ve already read the second in the series, and have 18 more go to.

6. Who’s your favorite new author you discovered?

Andy Weir. The Martian was amazing. My book club is reading his second novel, Artemis, in January.

7. What was the best book that was out of your comfort zone or was a new genre for you?

I got a little comfortable this year. Akata Witch and Love, InshAllah were my “stretch” reads, and I didn’t love either of them. Fortunately my book club is chugging along, and we’re planning to read some things that are different than my normal choices.

8. What was the most thrilling, unputdownable book of the year?

Gotta be The Devil in the White City. Oh, sweet Jesus, and Hex.

9. What book did you read this year that you are most likely to re-read next year?

Looking back over my list, there’s nothing I think I’ll re-read so soon. I read many good books this year, but there are so many more to discover.

10. What’s your favorite cover of a book you read?

An unpaved road surrounded by trees that disappear into the fog? Nothing good is happening here.

11. Who’s the most memorable character you met this year?

Miss Amelia Peabody from Crocodile on the Sandbank. I love me a sassy Victorian lady.

12. What’s the most beautifully written book you read?

Probably Hex. It’s absolutely horrifying.

13. What book had the greatest impact on you?

All of the professional development things I’ve been reading lately. It’s been a crazy few months at work, and I’m so ready for what’s coming up.

14. What book do you can’t believe you waited until this year to finally read?

Nothing jumps to mind. Most of what I read this year hadn’t been on my TBR for long.

15. Favorite passage/quote from a book you read?

This passage from Unmentionable!

You are a prize to be won. He must work to capture your affections and approval. Only the stupid and slutty trout leap out of the water to gain the fisherman’s attention. The virtuous trout simply allows the sun to gleam briefly on her shining scales and then dives back to the shadowy depths. Only a skilled man with the finest of fake bugs can ream a metal hook through her mouth. You are that trout, and the metal hook you are about to be impaled on is holy matrimony.

16. Shortest & longest book you read?

17. What book had a scene in it that left you reeling and dying to talk to somebody?

My book club read Cloud Atlas and had a fabulous conversation about it. It’s a meaty read, one I was glad not to have attempted without having some people to talk with about it afterwards.

18. What’s your favorite relationship from a book you read this year (be it romantic, friendship, etc.)?

Amelia and Radcliffe from Crocodile on the Sandbank. I’m a sucker for a Beatrice-and-Benedick relationship.

19. What’s your favorite book you read this year from an author you’ve read previously?

As always, Clive Cussler. A friend introduced me to his books in high school, and I read a couple new ones every year.

20. What’s the best book you read based solely on a recommendation from someone else?

Everything we’ve read for book club this year:

While I’d never say I enjoyed all of these books, I did enjoy discussing them with my club. Looking forward to more interesting stuff in 2018!

21. What genre did you read the most from this year?

To no one’s surprise, it’s mystery/thriller.

22. Who’s your newest fictional crush from a book you read?

Mark Watney from The Martian. Smart and funny? Sign me up.

23. What’s the best 2017 debut you read?

I have no idea. I don’t pay attention to publication dates.

24. Which book you read this year had the most vivid world/imagery?

Tie between The Lies of Locke Lamora and Hex.

25. What book was the most fun to read?

All books are fun to read for different reasons. I enjoyed Pleating for Mercy for its lightness, Option B for its ideas about resilience, and The Best Place to Work for its sheer nerdiness.

26. What book made you cry or nearly cry in 2017?

Good Night, Mr. Wodehouse. My husband found me crying on the couch after I read the last couple pages.

27. What book did you read that you think got overlooked this year (or the year it came out)?

I think Laughing all the Way to the Mosque is flying under the radar. It was published in 2014, but I think it’s an important book to make visible.

Looking Ahead

1. What’s one book you didn’t get to in 2017 that will be your biggest priority in 2018?

I need to get my butt in gear for book club. We’re reading The Casual Vacancy and Artemis. I also want to dive into Build Your Dream Network, which just arrived on my doorstep.

2. What book you are most anticipating for 2018 (non-debut)?

I don’t plan my reading in advance much, other than book club, so pretty much anything.

3. What 2018 debut do you anticipate most?

This isn’t something I care about. If I hear about a book and it happens to be a debut, that’s neither here nor there.

4. Which series ending in 2018 do you anticipate most?

I haven’t read many series this year, and none of them are ending in 2018.

5. What’s one thing you hope to accomplish in your reading/blogging in 2018?

I’m not sure. I’m feeling a little rudderless when it comes to this blog. Part of me wants to close it down, but I enjoy using it to keep track of my reading and hone my writing skills. Maybe I’ll continue with The Write Stuff challenge. We’ll see.

What are your 2018 reading goals? Let’s talk!

2017 State of the Blog and Wrap-Up

State of the BlogIt’s four days till Christmas, and I’m heading out the door to celebrate with family — mostly by eating an embarrassing amount of tamales. But first, some end-of-year stats!

First, the basics

  • Books read in 2016: 56 (13 since 10/1)
  • Audiobooks: 0 (0 since 10/1)
  • Ebooks: 6 (0 since 10/1)
  • Pages read: 17,725 (3,414 since 10/1)
  • Books reviewed: 31 (3 since 10/1)
  • Books not enjoyed: 5 (1 since 10/1)
  • Books not finished: 1 (1 since 10/1)
  • Library books: 21 (3 since 10/1)
  • Re-reads: 4 (0 since 10/1)

Genre breakdown (year totals)

  • Fiction: 31
  • Non-fiction: 25
  • Young adult: 3
  • Fantasy: 3
  • History: 8
  • Memoir: 4
  • Mystery/Thriller: 22
  • Humor: 3
  • Gender/sexuality: 4
  • Paranormal/supernatural: 4
  • Period piece: 6
  • Children’s literature: 2
  • Reading for work: 4

Reading challenges

  • Charity Reading Challenge: 56 books @ $2/each = $112 donated to Camfed
  • Monthly Motif Challenge: 11/12
  • Off the Shelf Reading Challenge: 2/9
  • The Write Stuff: 3/4

I’m so excited to give to Camfed again this year. My company matches donations as well, which means I’ll be able to put one girl through an entire year of school. She’ll go on to earn 20% more as an adult, and be less likely to die in childbirth. Want to change the world? Educate a girl.

I also really enjoyed The Write Stuff. I met most of my goals, including finishing two short stories and the first chapter of a novel. Once you add in all the “in-character” snippets I wrote as part of a Dungeons and Dragons campaign, it’s more creative writing than I’ve done in almost a decade. Crazy! Definitely going to keep this challenge going in 2018.

Some thoughts

  • It’s the end of the year, which means my brain is mush. I’m trying to give myself permission to stop pushing, and focus on what I’ve done well and what’s made me happy this year.
  • Book club is awesome. It’s a group of bright, insightful women, and I’ve loved our conversations.
  • Professional development has been the name of the game these last few months. Lots of lessons learned.

Looking ahead

  • Excited to see what we read and chat about in book club this year.
  • I’m hoping to enjoy more creative writing challenges.

How did your 2017 reading turn out? What are you looking forward to in the new year?

Hello Holidays, Goodbye Focus

For ten-and-a-half months of the year, this is me:


But as soon as Thanksgiving hits, I morph into something different:


Trying to get me to concentrate on anything is like herding cats. I give up on being productive and spend inordinate amounts of time watching cheesy holiday movies and skipping around through podcasts. I’m tired of the current year, but too exhausted to get excited about the next.

This is unfortunate, of course, because now is the time of year I really should be paying attention. I need to finish up Christmas shopping, plot holiday travel, plan year-end blog posts and 2018 challenges, read for book club, and somehow remember to slow down long enough to enjoy time with family and friends.

It’s also hard for me because I’m a big fan of finishing strong. But my creative writing has fallen off, as has my reading. I’m not doing as well with my 2017 reading challenges as I’d hoped. The world is colder and darker, things are slowing down, and I’m in a bit of a funk.

One of the my favorite lessons from Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant’s Option B is to think about the things you’ve done well, and the things that bring you joy. You’re supposed to note a couple of each every day, but I think it’s a great idea to reflect on larger chunks of time, too.

Things I’ve done well this year:

  • Spearheading an advisor feedback program at my office. I just presented at a big meeting about how successful it’s been so far.
  • Rolling over three straggler retirement accounts into my current 401(k). Very adult, and gives me such a sense of accomplishment and relief.
  • Joining Toastmasters. I was scared, but I did it anyway. I’m actually the tiniest bit excited to give my third prepared speech in January.

And some things that bring me joy:

  • My husband introduced me to Trello and I. Am. Obsessed. The lists! The check boxes. I can’t even. The man just gets me.
  • Joining my first book club! Our conversations have been wonderful so far.
  • Finally accepting that I’m a minimalist. I’m having fun finding out what that looks like for me.

What have you done well this year? What brings you joy? Share in the comments!