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What I Read: Summer Edition

The weather is cooler and it is September, so time for a wrap up of my thoughts on what I read this Summer. I had a goal to try and read at least one book each weekend. So this is a long post.

Flex: Reinventing Work for a Smarter, Happier Life by Annie Auerbach

Flex was so interesting. I found that the info was sparking ideas in my head for future research areas (i.e. the first chapter talks about creativity). I thought it was going to talk about working from home due to the pandemic, but it was so much more informative. It delves into worklife, home life, gender issues, body issues, sleep! A definite read to add to your professional development list.

Find Your Unicorn Space: Reclaim Your Creative Life in a Too-Busy World by Eve Rodsky

Find Your Unicorn Space: reclaim your creative life in a too-busy world by Eve Rodsky is the type of book I want to write. It is all about taking time to do things that fuel your fire. It is filled with discussions about different research from the fields of psychology, creativity, productivity, and more. But it is also a discussion of Rodsky’s pandemic project of brining women together in a virtual space to support their quest to carve out those unicorn spaces. The people she includes in the book come from many diverse backgrounds. I admit that while reading the book, I had a discussion with my sister about the trend of books from white women who write from a place a privilege about how hard their lives are and how they fixed it. I was enjoying the book until that conversation and then found myself analyzing it through that lense. Well, Rodsky actually addresses her own privilege with a statement at the end of the book about the effort she made to include other perspectives. The statement reminded me of Brené Brown’s use of Grounded Theory qualitative research. There was an academic, but approachable vibe of “don’t just take my word for it”. At the conclusion of reading, I bought some more art supplies, took more me time, became inspired for new professional development projects, but I am still not sure what my uni space is. Libraries and education are so much a part of who I am, I am not sure what I am outside of that, so still to be decided. #Netgalley #December2021

As If on Cue by Marisa Kanter

I really enjoyed Marisa Kanter’s As If On Cue. This young adult book bridges the worlds of high school drama club and band. Only in this world, the band is the most important extracurricular in the school. Natalie and Reid have a love hate relationship that has been going on for years. It has resulted in an on going prank war that has actual documented (though secret) rules of warfare. Only this time, the pranks go too far and end up affecting other students. Forced to work together on a project to save all the art clubs from having their funding cut, Natalie realizes that Reid isn’t as bad as she has always thought. There is lots of family drama and introspection happening as well as both middle school and high school drama. An interesting part of the book was the inclusion of Natalie’s sister’s bat mitzvah as well as other Jewish holiday related depictions. Plus, Natalie’s friends, Fitz and Henry, are awesome. I really want to see a movie version of this if for no other reason than the music of their school musical Melted, a Frozen inspired parody, come to life. #Netgalley #Sept2021

Betting on Love By Mary Beesley

Betting on Love by Mary Beesley reminded me of a modern take on the Doris Day and Rock Hudson rom-coms like Lover Come Back. It also had some soap opera style twists. For the most part it was a clean read with some Christian undertones. The main female, Tempest, has a psalm tattooed on her ankle and they say grace before family meals, but it is there more for characterization than anything else. The characters just seemed like real people. The camping jokes were a little much though. Like seriously middle school humor. —This may not be where the author was going, but in my mind, Leo resembled Prince William, Blair was Melissa McCarthy from her Gilmore Girl days, and Silvia looked like Debbie Reynolds. I couldn’t get a clear picture in my mind of Tempest though. Tempest is a bit of a numbers nerd and sci-if addict. She doesn’t seem to have a filter when it comes to what she says and she tries to live her life without risk. Leo is a big risk for her. Overall, she felt very genuine. Though her obsession with healthy eating was a little much for me…to the point that she fakes an allergy so she doesn’t have to eat a slice of cake.

Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know By Adam Grant

One of my favorite nonfiction authors is Adam Grant…seriously, I would love to work on a research/teaching project with him one day. When my husband went into the hospital in December, I started reading his new book Think Again while waiting between doctors visits schlepping him back and forth from DC for three months. Then I decided I would only read the book during my lunch break. Since it was on my Kindle Paperwhite this meant no internet to distract me. It was completely a form of self-care. I really enjoyed it, but not as much as Originals. However, it has prompted me to “think again” about some things. I feel like listening to the the podcast between Grant and Brene Brown (another writer/professor idol) helped me to digest the content since I spent such a long time between reading the book. It has inspired me to consider the idea of Forced Creativity as being a viable concept. That sounds a bit like an oxymoron, but it is all about creating environments where you need to reframe and think outside the box…very much our past year and a half.

Your Time to Thrive: End Burnout, Increase Well-being, and Unlock Your Full Potential with the New Science of Microsteps by Marina Khidekel

Your Time to Thrive by Marina Khidekel was full of such great tips! I took notes of my favorites to remember. Each chapter is introduced by Arianna Huffington since the book was created through her Thrive Global website. I loved the tips throughout the book from various authors, influences, CEOs, and such. It was also timely with lots of references to the pandemic and how it has affected our habits and mental well-being. Of course getting enough sleep was one of the microsteps…definitely need to work on that one.

Better Than the Movies by Lynn Painter

I loved Better Than The Movies by Lynn Painter so much I couldn’t put it down. The main characters reminded me of my favorite rom-coms. There was definitely a Kathleen Kelly and Joe Fox dynamic going on with a bit of 90s teen rom-com vibe underlaying it. Fake relationships and enemies to lovers are my two favorite romance tropes, so this was a win win for me! I loved the movie quotes at the start of each chapter and was only unfamiliar with one of the referenced rom-coms. Plus there is an homage to Julia Quinn and the Bridgerton books! To be published in December 2021. #netgalleyARC

Mr. Wrong Number by Lynn Painter

I read another Lynn Painter novel, Mr Wrong Number. This one was an adult rom-com taking place in Omaha. I didn’t enjoy it as much as her previous teen centric book, but I still got the same movie-feels from this book. The premise is that a text to a wrong number sparks some flirtation unknowingly between a woman and her brother’s best friend, who also happens to be the pain in her side growing up. Olivia is a walking disaster in the eyes of her family and burning down her apartment building certainly cements that in their eyes…but really, it was the opossum’s fault. So she moves in with her brother and his roommate (i.e. the best friend) while she tries to get her life on track. Only a series of miscommunications and accidents throw everything into chaos. It very much reminded me yet again of You’ve Got Mail. I think that must be a favorite of Painter’s since that was the vibe I got from her last book. Overall, it was a good read and I am looking forward to the sequel featuring the brother’s romance. #NetgalleyARC #March2022

When We’re Thirty by Casey Dembowski

When We’re Thirty by Casey Dembowski came out in April, so this one is already available for purchase though my copy was through NetGalley (of course!). Best college friends, Hannah and Will, make a pact after college graduation that if they are still single at 30, they will get married. There are a couple of Asian dramas that I love that have used this same trope. Though the trope can become cringy, this is not a friend-zoned story nor is it exactly a marriage of convenience story. It is more of a timing story with some crappy family members thrown in to complicate things. Actually, now that I think about it, except that this story took place mostly between New York and New Jersey (they even mention the Stone Pony in Asbury!), it is right out of kDrama-land…the ML’s father is super rich, cold, and manipulative. There is family inheritance drama. The FL is “not good enough” and the family patriarch tries to buy her off. There is a scheming ex…Honestly, I loved it and being from the area found it even more enjoyable since it realistically talked about NY and NJ, the realities of renting, and working a job you love but having to make decisions about things like healthcare (been there done that!).

How Not to Fall in Love by Jacqueline Firkins

How Not to Fall in Love by Jacqueline Firkins was delightful! It is set in New Hope, PA which is one of my absolute favorite places. Many of my own teen days were spent exploring the shops and I could immediately picture Main Street and the bridge over the Delaware. The two main characters are only 17 and it is the summer before the start of their senior year of high school. Harper has sworn off love, but her best friend Theo is a sensitive soul who always falls hard but gets his heart broke. So Harper decides to teach him how not to fall headfirst over heels in love and he agrees as long as she also agrees to give dating a try. When I read the description of the book, I thought that meant dating each other, but the story took a different path towards finding love. Sometimes you have to make some mistakes first. The book is marketed as a YA book for 14 and up, but sexuality is a very open topic in the book. The characters are diverse and all uniquely crafted. I think part of the big appeal for me was how familiar I am with the location and being able to picture the scenes, but the story was woven with so much detail that I had no trouble envisioning everything else. It was a feel good story even if it did start out in the friend-zone… I am also thrown by the fact that dating apps for teens are real and do exist. Who knew?

The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy

I had been on the waitlist for this one…The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy. OMG! This book is so beautiful! It reminded me of a cross between The House at Pooh Corner and The Little Prince. I seriously want to find art prints of so many of the pages. It is short and simple with watercolor and ink drawings, but the style is so interesting and the sayings are so uplifting. The horse is wise, as is the mole (who can argue that cake is the answer to all things?!). It is about acceptance, friendship, and love. We need more books like this.

For the Wolf by Hannah Whitten

For the Wolf by Hannah Whitten was everything I wanted Spinning Silver and Uprooted to be. The cover caught my eye first, I love the artwork. The story is about two twin sisters, one who is heir to the throne (Neve) and the other (Red) destined to be a sacrifice to the Wilderwood and the Wolf. The sisters have grown up with the tales of the Wilderwood and the fearsome Wolf, but like all myths, there is always more to the story than is known. Like in Uprooted, the Wilderwood is a dangerous place, the trees have fangs and thirst for blood. There are elements of traditional fairytales woven through the story like Beauty & the Beast and Snow White & Rose Red. The story feels familiar and yet not. There are brief glimpses into the tale of the First Daughter, Neve, but for the most part this book centers around the Second Daughter, Red, and her relationship with Eammon, the Wolf. I loved the story and can’t wait until Book 2 when the continuation of Neve’s tale is out.

The Wolf and the Woodsman by Ava Reid

This book leaves me a little troubled…I read The Wolf and the Woodsman by Ava Reid. The book is based on Hungarian myth and Jewish history, so of course it is compared to Spinning Silver and The Bear and the Nightingale. I thought it was going to be a twist on Red Riding Hood. It wasn’t. It was similar to the last book I read that had Wolf in the title…a girl is a sacrifice and forests and blood magic play a part, but that is where the similarity ends. There are obvious overtones to Celtic and Christian beliefs/history, but they are not called that. There is enough worldbuilding that it seems different. If you are familiar with the history of both, then you can infer what inspired it, but it doesn’t come across as a retelling. The worldbuilding is there. However, the Yehuli are obviously based on Jewish myths and history. The golem, Queen Esther, Rabbis, and temples. None of that was changed or called something else in the storytelling. That is what troubles me…I can’t decide if it was lazy storytelling or if Reid was trying to honor the religion by being so obvious. This was a fantasy, not an alternative history, so I feel like this could have been handled better in the storytelling. Spinning Silver was great at that when it came to the religious parallels. I did enjoy the analyzing the main character, Évike, does when she learns more about the Yehuli and the Patrifaith and how similar all the stories and beliefs are to her own pagan beliefs. The overtones to the history of European use of religion to control and conquer…I wish that had been explored a little more, but it is a definite feather ruffler; so maybe Reid was trying not to poke the issue too much. Overall, I did enjoy the book which came out in June. I would enjoy more stories set in this world and a continuation of what happens next though I do not know if there will be a second book. This is the author’s debut work.

How to Survive a Scandal (Rebels with a Cause Book 1) by Samara Parish

The next book is a Historical Romance set in the Regency era, How to Survive a Scandal by Samara Parish. The plot reminded me a little of the Grimm’s fairytale King Thrushbeard where a beautiful but shallow princess is forced to marry a commoner who turns out to be a king. Parish’s version was a refreshing take on the setup to most romances…in other words, it opens right in the heart of disaster rather than a long buildup. Benedict Asterly came across Lady Amelia’s carriage overturned in the snow with no sign of a coachman or chaperone and the lady frozen and incoherent. He rescues her by taking her to a nearby (and conveniently empty) house to try to warm her up. Typical to the tropes of most historical romances, they are discovered by her father, her fiancé, and the local gossip. Her fiancé abandons her rather than face the scandal of what the scene hints. Asterly does the gentlemanly thing and marries her (even though she has no recollection of their ever having met three previous times before the incident). The part that reminds me of the fairytale is that after they are married, he forces her to do household chores and pinch pennies. But things of course are not how they seem and she proves to be very resourceful and eager to find her place in her new married life. Slowly the ice queen melts and of course they find love, but not until there are some misunderstandings, a bit of political economic unrest that results in death and explosions, and of course a house party or two.

It All Comes Back to You by Farah Naz Rishi

It All Comes Back to You by Farah Naz Rishi reminded me a little of Ten Things I hate About You as well as a webcomic I am reading called Goodbye, In-Law. Kiran’s sister believes she has met The One. There is just one problem, his younger brother, Deen, is the guy Kiran secretly dated three years ago…the guy who broke her heart when he ghosted her and moved away. She knows it had something to do with his older brother. So she is determined to prove that her sister is making a big mistake. Deen on the other hand wants to do whatever he can to make sure his brother gets a happy ever after. Sparks fly when the two exes come back into each other’s lives. -Again it was the cover art that caught my attention. Like most of the contemporary YA books I have read recently, this one is about the struggles of first generation teens bumping heads with their families. In this one, the culture is Muslim Pakistani-American from the Philly and Jersey area. It was an interesting glimpse into marriage customs and dance. I can totally see it working as a Netflix film. The ending was not my favorite, but overall it was a good read.

Plan a Happy Life™: Define Your Passion, Nurture Your Creativity, and Take Hold of Your Dreams by Stephanie Fleming

Plan a Happy Life was written by Stephanie Fleming, creator of the Happy Planner. I always wanted to be one of those people who can keep a planner filled with notes and art. I buy one every year, but eventually stop using it. I have had more luck using my iPad with a combination of apps. So I wasn’t expecting much I could use when I opened the book, but Stephanie stresses that you use whatever method works best for you even if that is a wall calendar with post-its . What I loved is her advice echos lessons I have read from various sources like Stephen Covey, Shawn Achor, Nataly Kogan, Brian Tracy, and David Allen. She doesn’t say that is her influence, but it is definitely a combination of productivity gurus mixed with happiness science. She also starts out talking about the connection between creativity and happiness. Seriously, this is the book I have in my head! It even talks about SMART goals and is filled with pictures from her Happy Planner. I highly recommend you check it out.

How Sweet It Is by Dylan Newton

This book was so good! Imagine Stephen King secretly wants to write romance novels and you have the main male lead author “Knight of Nightmares” Drake Matthews. Kate Sweet is a Hallmark-esque heroine from the big city plopped in the small town of Wellsville to plan the book launch event for Drake’s latest book. There are classic misunderstandings, but of course there is a happy ever after for the “Queen of Happy Ever Afters”. There are also nods to tough subjects like suicide, homelessness, and wounded veterans.

What to Do with Your Money When Crisis Hits: A Survival Guide by Michelle Singletary

Michelle Singletary’s book on What to Do with your Money when Crisis Hits is a book of questions and answers about what to do if you find yourself with not enough money to pay the bills as well as tips on investing during a recession. While she uses different terms, I found the information very similar to Dave Ramsey’s except that her explanations on why to do something were grounded more in current reality (i.e. if you borrow money from Momma, pay Momma back before you pay back MasterCard. MasterCard doesn’t come to the family BBQ).

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