Card Catalog: September 2016

September saw some voracious reading, including a couple of one-dayers, which are always fun. It boggles my mind sometimes that I can read an entire book AND work a full day. Having a ~1 hour each way train commute and pre-planned dinner helps! I will rarely complain about my commute, even though it’s on the longer side, because I get to read.

I actually can’t remember when I read this first book. I got all excited when I noticed that the e-book version was available from my library, but then when I downloaded it to my Kindle, it was 92% read, which meant I had read it before and completely spaced on putting it into Goodreads!

It was pretty good, but I still think What Alice Forgot is my favorite Liane Moriarty book. (Fun fact: I just learned that her name is pronounced “lee-ON.”) My favorite Goodreads comment:

Did others notice that Easter was portrayed as being in the autumn with the leaves falling and soon after school began? I found this very disconcerting and it colored the book for me. Don’t books have editors anymore?

PSA: It takes place in Australia.

This one was fine to read but it didn’t warrant a rating from me on Goodreads, and now I can’t really remember what I thought of it, which isn’t a good sign. I found the main relationship in it disturbing; well, really, I found the man in the relationship troubling. A theme I’m noticing is that I am made uncomfortable by disordered characters in books. The structure of this was interesting.

This book was sexy, y’all. It featured two highly intelligent academics talking very candidly with each other about sex and had some scenes that goldarn made me blush. This was a one-day read. I was taken aback by the sexiness at first because somehow in my head I thought this was YA, but once I got past that I really enjoyed it. And, a second book with these characters comes out on December 27!

I picked this up as a Harry Potter fangirl, but it totally stands in its own right as a mystery. I think Rowling is a great writer. It’s also interesting to read the story behind why she used a pseudonym and then how she handled it when she was outed. I’m not rushing out to read the rest of the Cormoran Strike books, but I enjoyed this first well enough.

This was September’s book club read and none of us liked it. We found it raunchier than we prefer to read (and I say this having read things like 50 Shades of Grey). We didn’t find the main character to be likable–she was selfish but never seemed to realize it. And it felt very despairing–there was no redemption or hope at all. So, womp womp.

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Not what I expected but a good book!

A thing I’ve discovered in my reading life lately is going on author binges. I enjoyed it with Liane Moriarty, so I figured why not check out some of Moyes’ other books, since I of course loved Me Before You. This one was pretty delightful, with a fun storyline that ran through time and heartwarming character connections that fell tidily into place.

I should start making notes of how I came to add books to my reading list, because I’m not sure why this one was in the queue. It was a Christian novel of the ilk I would have loved a few years ago, but I didn’t realize that until I started reading it. It took place in Atlanta and offered an interesting take on the Civil Rights movement era in my city, but I could have done without the cheesy Jesus-y bits.

Oh, and I did this re-read in September! I feel like I can’t call a book a favorite until I’ve read it more than once, but I don’t do a lot of re-reading because, duh, so many books, so little time. But I want to have a shortlist of favorites on the tip of my tongue, so I’m trying to go back to a few from recent memory that stand out to see if they hold up. This one did! I need to figure out how to make Goodreads count this toward my yearly challenge number…I don’t necessarily want to lose the data of when I first read it, but unless I change the “date read” to this year, it won’t count. As a stopgap measure I added it to a “re-read” shelf. If anyone has any thoughts, let me know! #booknerdproblems

And, just for fun, a bookish hot take from yours truly:

Now it’s fall and excited to gear up for the holidays and do some seasonally appropriate reading. :)

Card Catalog: August 2016

It’s September, which feels like time for fall and back to school, even though it was in the 90s today and kids in Georgia went back to school weeks ago. College football starts this weekend and I’m looking forward to a three-day weekend. I made it to the beach this summer, a couple of weeks ago, but I went with some friends and hardly read there at all, surprisingly! I also managed to hold book club again in August after having skipped June and July–whoops!

I heard about this book on Modern Mrs. Darcy’s podcast, What Should I Read Next?, which is a great and dangerous thing for me to listen to every week. I hear about at least 7 books in each episode, with the caller listing 3 books (s)he loves and 1 (s)he hates, and Anne adding 3 recommendations based on those. However, as book lovers are wont to do, more are often mentioned throughout the show, and the show notes are like a bibliography! Anyway, Anne didn’t say too much about this book because she thought the whole description would make it sound boring and…it kind of was to me? It had some sweet moments, but I wasn’t as blown away by it as I expected to be. It does defy description a bit, though, I’ll give her that.

August’s book club read! (Yes, we read Daring Greatly a couple of years ago, SO WHAT?) I think I am in a much more balanced place emotionally than I was when we read Daring Greatly, which covers more of the “vulnerability” part of Brown’s research, while this one focuses in specifically on shame. While I was reading it I was a little annoyed by the formulaic structure, but then reflecting back I realized that was helpful in making it very actionable. We had a great discussion about some of the guideposts, but I can’t say I had any grand revelations.

Another “boarding school novel,” this time set at a prestigious ballet school. Um, y’all, this book was DARK. It was a bit horrifying to think about ACTUAL teenage girls being like these…but one of the authors used to teach at a ballet school, so you have to think she got the basic idea somewhere. Aside from being appalled at how awful the girls were, to each other and to themselves, I enjoyed this book and am excited to see that a sequel is coming out this month.

When I went to grab this linked image, Amazon told me that this book is ranked #1 in books right now, and I can’t even. I don’t really know what to say about this book, er, script, except to say that it was sort of terrible but you should probably read it if you loved Harry Potter. It does not deserve to be called Harry Potter #8, nor can I fathom spending 200 British pounds on tickets to the play. Buy me a whiskey sour some time and ask me more about it and I will talk your ear off (not that I did that to some friends on night this week or anything).

This book left me like, “Huh, what?” I didn’t get it. It was Southern gothic magical realism chick flick literary fiction? It didn’t work at all for me, none of it. But I finished it.

And that was August! One day into September and I’ve already finished a book for this month, so stay tuned to see what else is on tap.

Card Catalog: July 2016

I read articles all the time about how sometimes we all have to go into survival mode–not literally, fighting for our lives, but figuratively, nixing any activities that we don’t absolutely have to do to stay afloat. Ordering takeout if you have to rather than cooking, etc. I determined in July, which was somewhat of a crazy month, that when I’m in survival mode my reading shoots through the roof. We moved at the end of July, so in the stress leading up to that (which included listing our current place and closing on the new one) I read 9 books. I added loads of books to my various wish lists from Book Riot over the course of the month, and that’s where a number of these came from.

This was a fun collection of short stories. I read it in a single day, on the 4th of July no less, which felt sort of appropriate. There are a lot of weird twists in these, so be prepared!

I wanted to like this more than I actually did. It was timely in a fun way, though, given that I just celebrated my own 10 year high school reunion this year. The characters were interesting, and I liked the undertones of their relationships, but it didn’t leave much of a mark on me beyond that.

This book was so fun! I am not a video game player, nor was I sentient for any of the 80s, so I’m sure many of the references went straight over my head, but I enjoyed that they were there. This to me was almost like a less dark Ender’s Game. And I loved the ending!

I didn’t feel like this book really bore any relation to its description on the jacket. It was a little bit quirkier than the plain vanilla chick lit I expected, which was okay, just surprising. I liked it enough that I then read a second Close book….

…which I liked a bit less. Both of these were written in an odd, vignette-like sort of style, when I really wished they had just let themselves be fluffy fiction.

I had a book on my library wish list that I realized was the sequel to this book, so I checked it out first, and it was terrible. It felt like it was written for even younger than YA (tween?), which usually doesn’t bother me, but this one didn’t cut it for me. It was a cute concept, and it’s neat that Picoult and her daughter wrote it together, but let’s just say I didn’t check out the second one.

Okay, but then what had happened was I finally discovered Liane Moriarty. For some reason I have resisted picking up What Alice Forgot for years, even though I kept hearing about it, and I’m so glad I finally did. It was such a sweet book. Big Little Lies was a little darker but equally good, and now I’m on the libary waiting list for like everything else she’s ever written.

I’ve discovered that “boarding school novels” is a specific sub-set of the coming of age story, and that I like it. Prep is a recent classic in that genre, but I have to say I was underwhelmed. There were certain elements of it that rang very true for me, having gone to boarding school myself, but I can’t say I really liked the protagonist. (Maybe I wasn’t supposed to?) I had a bit of trouble making it all the way through this book.

Have you read any authors lately that have been popular for awhile but you’re just now jumping on the bandwagon? What’s your favorite time of life to read about in fiction?

Card Catalog: June 2016

June saw a decent amount of travel between Andy and me, which helped me read a solid 5 books. One weekend we went backpacking with his parents and another I went to visit my parents. Even when you’re not in school and don’t have kids to force you onto the school schedule, summer still seems like the right time of year to travel!

The other excitement in June was that the movie version of Me Before You came out and I conscripted my book club into going to see it. I devoured the book last March and said “it’ll suck you in and then punch you in the gut,” which is pretty much what the movie does, too, except I was ready for it. One book club member who tends to have different taste in books than I do said, “I don’t know what you’ve done to me–I couldn’t stop reading this book!” I thought the movie was well done, and of course it made me cry.

So! On to the books.

This was recommended by another Twitter friend to help me through last month’s reading slump. It was of a good ilk to do that, but I can’t say I loved it. In general I like the southern murder mystery genre. Perhaps I was just missing too much context because I hadn’t fallen in love with Penn Cage through the character’s other books. I also tend to love books set in Mississippi, but I’m not as familiar with Natchez, so that was less exciting than normal as well.

Look, I told you last month I would probably end up reading the whole trilogy of these, so don’t act surprised. I think Born in Ice was my favorite of the three, mostly because I relate the most to Brianna’s personality and so fell the most in love with her suitor. I enjoyed how the third book kind of brought everything full circle, except it got into some Irish mysticism stuff that I had trouble buying into. All in all an enjoyable trilogy.

When I visited my college roommate Kimmie back in May, she could not stop talking about Outlander, both the books and the TV series. I wasn’t sure it sounded like something I’d be interested in, but the book was available from the library’s e-catalog one night when I was looking for something to start, so I decided to give it a try. Wow! I really enjoyed it. Fair warning in case this kind of thing bothers you, it was pretty racy in parts. I’m a little intimidated that there are now 8 more books of well over 500 pages each that I could read, but I suppose no one’s saying I have to be in a hurry about it. I can’t find the TV series included on any of my streaming services, but I may break down and buy a season at some point because I’m curious to see how they make the sex scenes approporiate!

I was 100% “meh” about this book. It was recommended by someone at work, and I specifically didn’t start it while Andy was out of town because I thought I would be freaked out by it, but I actually didn’t find it scary at all. Someone told me it was originally a short story that people convinced the author to expand into a full novel, and I think he would have been better off not having done so. It’s captured the public’s attention, though, and is being made into a movie, so what do I know?

I’ve yet to reallly hit summer beach read mode, but I AM going to the beach in August, so hit me up with your recommendations!!

Things I Am Somewhat Obsessed With: Backpacking Edition

This past weekend Andy and I went backpacking with his parents. It was his mom’s first two-nighter, and it was a challenging trail overall. From the very first we started adjusting our plans. The road to the parking area was gravel and not in the best shape, so we parked at a different trailhead than intended to minimizing the driving time. We had to criss-cross back and forth across a river, which took awhile each time, so we scaled back our mileage. To visit the waterfall we had intended to see would have necessitated an additional 8 river crossings, so we nixed the sightseeing in favor of getting to our campsite. It rained the second evening and the entire time hiking out. And yet. No one got grumpy. No one had a bad attitude. We weren’t snipping at each other. We had a great time, and I was very impressed at our family togetherness!

Packing the food up is my favorite part.

In case you’ve got a trek planned in the near future, I thought I’d share some of my favorite things that make even the toughest trips a bit more bearable.

This air mattress:

Nemo Astro Insulate Lite 20R Sleeping Pad

Just Say No™ to the egg crate/yoga mat sleeping pad. I used to always wake up on backpacking trips with aches and pains from sleeping on the ground that were worse than the aches and pains from hiking with a pack on my back. But no longer! This thing is amazing. I’m sure other air mattresses are good, too, but this is the one I can vouch for. Even as a side-sleeper, it holds me up off of the ground so I don’t wind up with a sore spot on my hip. It rolls up into a tiny stuff sack about the size of a Nalgene bottle (and it’s not difficult to get it back in there, either, which I had been worried about). Andy was so jealous of mine that he ordered himself one, too. The only caveat is that they are a bit loud when you move around. But it’s a small price to pay for actually sleeping well on the trail.

This shirt:

Columbia PFG Tamiama II Long Sleve Shirt

Okay, well the one I’m wearing is actually slightly different (or at least has a different name) from the linked one, but they don’t seem to make it anymore and this one has the same features and looks the same. It’s light-weight and I wasn’t too hot even on a sunny June day in Georgia (read: humid). I got soaked crossing a river and it dried really quickly. The zippered pocket on the body, rather than button pockets right on the boobs, is a nice touch. I bought it on a whim at the Columbia outlet and I’m glad I did! It comes in really nice colors, too, which sounds silly, but it’s nice to have something pretty when you’re feeling filthy.

This trail mix:

Wholesome Medley Trail Mix

I usually just buy the Kroger brand, but for some reason when I shopped last week I wasn’t feeling it. I found this one on the bottom shelf in the health foods section of the store. It was so good! Nothing overly sweet, just the cranberries and slightly tart cherries. Nicely toasted nuts, and really yummy dark chocolate chunks rather than candied milk chocolate pieces. It remined me a lot of my beloved Simply Almonds, Cashews, and Chocolate trek mix from Trader Joe’s.

This guy:

Andy and Laura Backpacking

Sorry, he’s not available for sale! But if you ever have the chance to bring him along on a backpacking trip, you should. One of the things I love about Andy is that he always has options available in his mind. He was so flexible and such a good sport on our trip this past weekend, and every time we needed to pivot he had a new route planned out on the map in no time. He takes such good care of me in the wilderness and assuages my anxiety over all the crazy things that could possibly happen. I doubt I ever even would have given backpacking a shot if it weren’t for him, but now I love it! Backpacking is one of the things we do the best together as a team, and I treasure the weekends we spend out in the woods.

Aside from Andys, what are your wilderness must-haves?