Happy Summer! It has been a while since I posted a reading roundup, so here is a collection of thoughts on books I read this past Spring. April was a very prolific reading month for me. Most of this included YA novels featuring small town football teams…I am not a sports person but I am a romance person. Enjoy!
The Power of Rituals: Turning everyday activities into soulful practices by Casper Ter Kuile features a very interesting discussion about the podcast Harry Potter and the Sacred Text which is a group that reads the novels and discusses the themes and how they relate to their lives. It is similar to bible study and was actually inspired by something they started with Jane Austen’s books. Being that JKR is so problematic right now, it makes me wonder what other books do you think could be considered Sacred Texts?
I am always on the lookout for signs. So when a book I was reading and a vendor I am working with both mentioned the work of James Clear, I decided it was time to finally read Atomic Habits. The book starts out with a story about Clear almost dying after being hit in the face with a baseball bat. If you are squeamish, keep reading past the first chapter, that really is as gross as it gets. But he uses the story to illustrate why habits are so important to him. The book is full of grey stories and tips on how to make small improvements in your life through habits. It reminds me of other authors I have read like Shawn Achor and Adam Grant. I really like how each chapter ends with a summary list and there are downloads on his website to help enforce the learning. My favorite part is the idea of habit stacking. But the idea of creating systems for your habits is very intriguing. I like routines but have never really thought of them as habits. My brain just never made that connection.
Heartstopper by Alice Oseman was perhaps the sweetest thing I read this year. When I read the series, I had had yet to watch the series on Netflix, but the graphic novel is adorable! I love all the couples in the series (Paris Squad!!!) and can now say that thankfully the live adaption does them justice. Nick and Charlie are adorable together. I am actually caught up on what is available from Webtoons which goes beyond what the adaption has and definitely beyond the print volumes. There are some serious issues represented in the series, but they are handled so well that it is obvious that mental health is an important topic to the author. Poor Charlie, your heart really goes out to him as the series goes on. However, it is great to read something where both LGTBQ and Mental Health issues are represented in such a positive and supportive way! And the parents! They are seriously parenting goals for the support and understanding they provide their children (yes, there are some exceptions, but for the most part the adults are supportive). Highly recommend!
Another addition to the clutter tackling reading list…The Clutter Fix by Shannon Acheson. While the advice was not new to me, I did find it helpful for outline some steps to take to tackle the clutter problem in my house (we have Warhammer items in five different rooms…it is taking over!). The most organized room in my house is my kitchen and that is because I use zones just as the author recommends. However, I don’t really have zones in the rest of my house. It makes sense to. What I found most helpful was the outline of a 10 day declutter challenge. I think I might create my own challenge to tackle the house. While the author is religious, she acknowledges that scripture might not be for everyone, but that is who she is, so it is present in her writing. However, also present are bits from psychology experts on why we have clutter and why it is so hard to get away from. There is also advice from experts on habits and routines. I have been reading a lot about routines lately. Dana K White from A Slob Comes Clean is one of my favorite decluttering experts and her work is referenced frequently. So I have already started to utilize some of her tips, but it was nice to read about how others are using them. Still working on getting that laundry mountain caught up, but, hey, the kitchen sink is empty! #NetGalley #sept2022
Happiness is a choice and how you choose to spend your time has an impact on that happiness. We all get the same amount of hours in our day. True some have better opportunities and resources available for spending that time, but happiness is individual and dependent on the scope of our exeriences and our intentions. For example, if your day does not fill you fill a sense of purpose or joy, then why spend it that way? Why be miserable when you can be happy? How can you live a more fulfilled life? That is the premise of Happier Hour by Cassie Holmes. The author refers to several studies on time management and positive psychology throughout the book. She gives great examples and exercises that are reminiscent of Franklin Covey’s productivity work such as The 5 Choices of Extraordinary Productivity, however, the scope is slightly different. Rather than talking about spending your time efficiently, the book is about examining how you are intentionally spending your time and if it not only aligns to your goals but if it makes a positive impact in your life. Life is not only about scheduling the big rocks (or in Holmes’ example- golf balls), but also about fitting in space for a drink with a friend or stopping to smell the roses on your way. #NetGalley #Sept2022
Decided to read something for fun yesterday. One of my favorite tropes is marriages of convenience. Even Better Than the Real Thing by Melanie Summers is a modern day regency romance. Hayden needs to be married to inherit his father’s earldom. Finley needs access to his family’s art collection to be accepted into her Art History PhD program. If you are fan of Bridgerton, you will enjoy this read. Honestly though, I found the idea of paintings being used to “patent” scientific inventions and discoveries to be the best part. Great STEAM connection!
“All grown-ups were once children . . . but only a few of them remember it.” —ANTOINE ST. EXUPÉRY, THE LITTLE PRINCE
I didn’t read The Little Prince until I took International Children’s Lit as part of my masters program. However, I grew up with an animated HBO series that followed the adventures of The Little Prince. Even so, it is an iconic story that has been translated into hundreds of languages and media forms. How to Live Like the Little Prince: A Grown-Up’s Guide to Rediscovering Imagination, Adventure, and Awe by Stephanie Garnier is a quick read similar to other books that examine the philosophy or life lessons of popular children’s stories (Think of titles like The Tao of Pooh). It uses the framework of The Little Prince to impart life lessons. At heart, the lesson is to maintain an innocence similar to what we had as children. Ask questions, look at the world differently, take awe and curiosity in everything. While not a deep dive, this quick read with the iconic illustrations would make a great gift for adults who are fans of the original.
Before I finished reading Get It Done by Ayelet Fishbach, I thought this would be along the lines of time productivity type books, but it was actually more about motivation (yes, I must have missed that subtitle…). I found the information fascinating. Fishbach discusses several different studies and papers which can get overwhelming at times but I appreciated the fact that she was acknowledging the work of others and bringing attention to the fact that this work was not fluff and in fact deeply rooted in research. I read the book as part of a subscription to The Next Big Idea Book Club. They have supplemental videos from the authors they select each quarter. I prefer reading first and then watching the videos, so hope that will help me feel a little less overwhelmed. One concept that intrigued me was the idea of an anti role-model. The idea is that this is someone you have in mind that you will not be like. In a way, this is my parents for me. I am very straight-laced because of my experiences growing up. For example, I vowed at a very early age that I would never touch cigarettes because my parents were such heavy smokers. Another idea is to break down goals into small targets.
The Power of Fun: How to Feel Alive Again by Catherine Price was very interesting. Price uses the acronym SPARK (short for make Space, Pursue passions, Attract fun, Rebel, and Keep at it) as a system for creating what she calls mindsets of True Fun. She references several authors and psychologists such as Brené Brown, Ingrid Fetell Lee, William James, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Eve Rodsky, and more. According to her research, I fall into the category of a Fun Organizer. I think that fits considering that I organize trainings. She even “sparked” an idea for me…now to see if I can get our CEO to let me order hula hoops for the training lab…
I love Lilly Singh and since she has a new book coming out based on the content of her TEDTalk, I decided I should read her previous book How to be a BAWSE: a guide to conquering life. The book is awesome! It is part autobiographical and part personal improvement tips manual. Delivered in Lilly’s quirky style, it is very similar to her YouTube videos. I recommend that this be added to your reading lists!
Once again I was reading simultaneous nonfiction books at the same time…and finishing none of them…when will I learn? So I decided to read something quirky and light last night. My Netgalley app said the license for the ARC for Life’s Too Short by Abby Jimenez was about to expire unread. I did not remember what it was about, but I had been hearing the author’s name a lot recently (Check out her bakery!). Ugh! This book had me laughing and crying. I really try not to read sad books, I did enough of that in highschool with the dying teen novels by Laurene McDaniel. This was like an updated version for adults. The irony is that I just said on Friday how I couldn’t read books like The Fault in Our Stars and this was inspired by a real life person just like that was. Vanessa is a highly successful YouTuber with a very messed up family history. ALS a runs in her maternal side, so she has a fifty percent chance that she will also have it. When symptoms start, she is convinced she only has a year left. Life gets more complicated when her sister leaves her with her newborn and never returns. Her neighbor Adrien jumps in to help out on one particular night of 4am nonstop crying. Both their lives begin to change. Vanessa begins to let love into her life and Adrien learns to be a little less regimented. Mental health plays a big part in this book. There is addiction, hoarding, dementia, anxiety, but also lots of positivity. Vanessa’s view is to live each day to its fullest. The book was a little triggering for me as I know what it is like to grow up with a parent who has very similar mental and physical health issues. The Office jokes feature prominently and pretty sure Vanessa’s brother Brent was modeled after David Rose from Schitt’s Creek. There is also a dog named Harry Puppins because there should always be a dog! Yes, I recommend, but have tissues ready.
Making my way through the multiple items on my in-process reading list…I have a goal that I read every week if not every day. I usually strive for at least three completed books a week with at least one over the weekend. I realized that I did not have a completed book for this particular weekend (I had Friday off, so can’t count the book I stayed up way too late reading Thursday night!). So I picked one of the multiple books I am in the process of reading. The Lazy Genius Way by Kendra Adachi really speaks to me. It is about finding systems that work for you, not because someone says you need to do it that way, but rather because it helps you protect what matters. Adachi discusses the importance of routines, small wins, habits, and batching as ways to get stuff done. She also talks about creating “house” rules, such as starting a new book within 24hrs of finishing reading the last one because reading is important to her. I love her parting thoughts at the end of the book “never feel guilty about what matters to you”. PS there is also a cookbook! I already added it to my holds list from the library.
I am not on TikTok (yet) but I notice lots of them cross-posted to Pinterest. I like to say that if I come across a TikTok there, then it is something I should pay attention to. Lately, I have been adding several BookTok pins to my book board to look into later. Lots of them are available through the KindleUnlimited program. One author I was inspired to read was Emma St.Clair. She has a series of books about best friends who each end up having a love story that is a romantic trope. The first book in the series is Falling for Your Best Friend’s Twin. It sounds corny, but I admit the cover was what caught my eye for this one. There was something about the image of the girl with blonde and pink hair. I wanted to know her story. Abby has been friends with Zoey since college…she also has a crush on Zoey’s twin Zane. But she won’t go there because she doesn’t want to ruin her friendship. Abby falls deeper for Zane while working closer with him as a computer programmer hired to weed out the bugs in his startup’s new software prior to launch. There is of course a mystery to be solved as it looks like the bugs are actually deliberate sabotage. I think this one may qualify for the STEM list…lots of computer programming talk. One of my favorite features of the book though is that Abby’s inner monologue is voiced by Gibbs from NCIS. Zane’s inner monologue is his twin arguing with him, though he is pretty sure it isn’t actually her or part of a twin thing. I like that the characters defy expectation (I really want a story with Charla even though she is not one of the featured friends in the series!). It was a cute, clean read. At the start of chapter one, I was ready to hate Zoey, but she redeemed herself. Book two is her story…Falling for Your Boss.
I read Ninja Girl by Cookie O’Gorman and it was so good. There was romance, action, mystery, drama! It is the third book I have read by the author and I have to say she is quickly becoming a favorite. The books are loosely connected with characters from other books making cameo appearances. It kinda reminded me a little of Ally Carter’s Gallagher Girls books. Strong kickass heroine and smart mouthed politician’s son. Read after Adorkable.
Wallflower by Cookie O’Gorman was very cute. It is the sequel to Adorkable, so make sure to read that first. Though it can be read as a standalone if you don’t mind knowing how Adorkable ends. It features the trope of fake dating. It very much reminded me of romcoms from the 90s like 10 Things I Hate About You. Soccer is a big part of the book, as with previous books by the author. I love the way this author portrays parents too. The family dynamics are so good. Plus this one has dogs as a big part of the story!
Surprise! Cookie O’Gorman is one of my current favorite authors. Mostly because she has embraced geekdom in her writing from comics, to novels, to movies…to weddings? Her characters are obsessive fans and she is not afraid to show it. She also has several novels that revolve around the fake dating trope, which you probably know by now is a favorite. Her latest is Fauxmance and it is awesome! It starts with a meet cute on an elevator. Magnolia is obsessed with weddings and as the maid of honor for her sister Jasmin, it is a role she takes of the highest importance. One jerk of a boyfriend (correction, ex-boyfriend) is not going to ruin that for her. So what if she doesn’t have an escort for her sister’s wedding and has to walk down the picturesque staircase alone? It will still be beautiful, her sister will forgive her. But before she has to test her Bridezilla sister, the boy from the elevator appears. Hayden has good reason to be jaded on weddings, but meeting Maggie has him rethinking things. -this was seriously cute, but I really want more stories featuring the other band members from Hayden’s band HERS.
The Quantum Weirdness of the Almost Kiss by Amy Parks is another one going on the STEM RA list. Evie and Caleb have been best friends since kindergarten. They are inseparable…partly because Caleb is in love with Evie and he would rather be friends than be nothing. Evie sees Caleb as the only person who truly gets her and she doesn’t want to lose that. The story takes place at an exclusive boarding school in the Midwest that focuses on Math and Science. Evie is a math genius and Caleb a coder. It is their senior year and Evie develops an interest in another classmate, Leo…they notice each other because of how they each solved a complex math problem. Evie has a lot of issues because of childhood trauma and anxiety. So when she partners with Caleb’s coding skills for a submission to a national math competition, it creates a lot tension between not only the new couple, but also with Evie’s parents. I will admit, I had no clue which direction the relationships would end up by the end of the book. There is a lot of math talk in this book…physics too. In a lot of ways, Evie reminded me of my son. The main way was that Evie does not appreciate her humanities classes. She is very analytical. Mental health is as much a part of the story as the math. I picked up some tricks for dealing my anxiety attacks too. Highly recommend!
I had a YA novel on my kindle, a self-help book downloaded from Netgalley, multiple completed webcomics in my browser tabs, and had just finished yet another STEM based romance novel. Because of reading so much at once, it took me some time to finish reading The Love Solution by Ashley Croft. Well, I fully intend to share this book with my STEM in Libraries students when we talk about adult STEM books, something I am adding to the class this summer. I love the trend of science based romance novels. This one was a little different from my usual. It was very British, which took some getting used to. There is a lot of genetics type science talk. Have to say there was one scene taking about love spells and it brought to mind that “Magic is just Science that Hasn’t Been Explained Yet” (I have a print with that quote). The book blurb said it was for fans of The Kiss Quotient…well, not quite the same level (that series is still unmatched), but once I got through the first three chapters, I was hooked and kept reading to see what would happen next.
I think all my YA Rom-Com football related books are starting to run together in my head…I could have sworn I wrote a review for the Upside of Falling by Alex Light, but I can’t seem to find it. Anyway…this book has one of my favorite tropes…fake dating. Becca doesn’t believe in love after her parents very messy divorce and her father being basically out of the picture. She is however an avid romance reader because in books there is always a happy ending. However, she gets into a heated discussion during English class because thinks the romance of Romeo and Juliet was not worth it (can’t say I disagree…I actually declined to teach it during my student teaching because I think it is the worst). When she is confronted by a former best friend about not knowing what she is talking about because she has never been in love, she lies. She claims that she does know because she is in a relationship. Thankfully, the star of the high school football team swoops in to rescue her from her lie with a kiss and a claim that he is the mystery boyfriend. So starts Brett and Becca’s fake dating plan. Becca is a character I can really relate to. She always has a book with her and reads whenever she can. I was the same way in high school. When my husband and I were first dating, I would bring books to his softball games and the pool hall. I was that meme about not minding waiting because holds up book. At least Becca puts the book down for the football games. This is a teen romance, so of course there is heartbreak. There are some books that are sadly lost in the fallout. The fathers in this book are pretty much scum, that seems to also be a theme in these football romance books. But A+ for the moms who always try to do the right thing. Stress baking is also an indirect feature…again something that was in the last YA football romcom! Even if it was full of clichés, this was a cute fun read.
How to Keep House While Drowning by KC Davis was the book I needed to read…and maybe you do too. Davis is a licensed therapist who suffered from postpartum after having her second child during the start of the pandemic. She is also a former addict and has ADHD. The book is not so much about the right way of keeping your house orderly, but rather giving yourself permission to find systems that work for you…even if that means never folding the laundry. She developed the book with neurodivergents in mind and acknowledges her privilege by having other experts chime in where needed. Chapters are short but impactful. Mental health is at the forefront of the book. Sometimes surviving and making it to tomorrow is more important than doing the dishes. If your sink is full of dirty dishes, congratulations, you fed yourself and your family!
I saw a review for The Poorcraft Cookbook by Nero Villagallos O’Reilly on the MarySue Blog. It looked interesting, so I decided to check it out. The illustrations remind me of an old cartoon and bring to mind depression era frugality, but it is set in modern times. There are descriptions on stores to shop at to stretch your dollar like dollar stores and outlets for your food and equipment supplies. Also, tips on the best way to organize everything when you get it home. What surprised me was most of the recipes used alternatives to traditional proteins. That intrigued me because of how hard it is to find a pack of chicken at the grocer right now. However, eating on a budget with these recipes doesn’t really mix well if you have food adversions. Many of the recipes use eggs as the main protein and that is something that is just a no in my book (exceptions made for chocolate cake). I am also curious on where fresh tuna is considered a cheap purchase…overall, the tips were good. I really liked the idea of backwards engineering your favorite recipes from restaurants to try at home as an exercise in mindfulness. Something to try!
While my internet was down, so I took a mindful moment to sit in the sun and read Mindful Sketching by Peggy Dean. It talks about the basics of sketching like vanishing point and perspective. However, it also dissusses how the mindful part is about being observant and being aware of what is around you. She discusses how sketching is more about the feeling than perfection. Sketching in pen is her preferred method because it embraces mistakes. She also give some prompts for mindfulness exercises that utilize sketching such as tools such as Blind Contour where you sketch an object without looking at your paper. Many of these, I had already heard of, but for someone new to the concept, it would be a perfect introduction. She also gives other mindfulness and mental health resources to refer to for more information on the practice.
I just read the best book…Only a Monster by Vanessa Len is a time travel book. But it is unique in how that time travel happens. It is also a story about the ties of family. About history and tradition. About myth and fairytale. And about what truly make someone a monster…or a hero. The vibe will remind readers of Dr Who meets Harry Potter. There is timey-wimey stuff as well as something very similar to Diagon Alley. Fair warning…while no mention of it, there feels like there may be a book 2 in the works and this one just came out.
I usually don’t read Christian romances because they tend to drive me a bit crazy with the WWJD moments. But I was intrigued by the premise of Jenny B. Jones’ A Charmed Life series. The trilogy takes a teenage Manhattan socialite and dumps her in rural Oklahoma after her mother remarries. Not only is she adjusting to life with step siblings and a new school, but she has a long distance romance and a position on the school paper. There is a cultish football team mystery in the first book, a prom mystery in book two, and a dangerous carnival in book three. Each book gets progressively more dangerous for the main character, but Nancy Drew has nothing on her. Ruthie is my favorite side character, but you won’t meet her until book 2.
I read another book by Christian author Jenny B Jones, I’ll Be Yours. This one was an YA Rom-Com featuring the issues of troubled family life, dating lessons, and hardcore dog rescuing. Football also takes center stage in that it is a football family and a college football town. The football parts reminded me a bit of Remember the Titans, but with a current day setting. I loved how the guys on the Eagles football team were described and how they are basically an extension of the family. Marcus is a keeper! The two main characters both have serious trauma. The main female was adopted after entering foster care for neglect. So she has a range of issues stemming from that. The main guy also has family issues, but is trying to keep his family together at all costs. The issues were very relatable. You never know what a family is going through based on what you see on the outside. I am not a fan of the dad in the story and I am still unclear on how his scandal was resolved…it may have been ambiguous, but that could have been a result of staying up very very late to finish the story and me not paying attention to that part (I read it over the weekend). I would definitely watch this if Netflix or Hallmark made a movie version. One of her other books is a movie, so it could happen!
I decided to start a new book during my lunch break, From To-Do to Done by Maura Thomas. I can’t believe I read the whole thing on my lunch hour! The concepts at points reminded me of GTD or The Five Choices to Extraordinary Productivity, but the author pinpointed what always got me about those methods…scheduling tasks and time blocking. I am very much a task list person. I don’t like moving them to a specific time on my calendar because when priorities shift, that means shifting the schedule. It is extra work. I make lists and break down the tasks. That is what the author says to do here, but she takes it a step further by catagorizing the tasks. I made a note of her categories and plan to take a blank notebook and start listing my tasks as she did: Next Actions, Future, Projects, Someday/Maybe, Waiting For, Location, and Talk To.
City of Hooks and Scars by Estelle Laure is the sequel to City of Villians. Characters are based on Disney classic characters like Ursula, Captain Hook, Mad Hatter, Malificient, Belle…but this is not Once Upon a Time. The Narrows are the haves and the Legacy who live in the Scar are the have nots, but they have magic in their blood and that magic is coming back. At the heart of this fantasy novel is a political conspiracy and corruption where no one is who they seem. Belle and Mary Elizabeth join with reporter Jasmin to untangle all the pieces. I love the nods to all the Disney classics. Though I found reading this time that Mary’s aunt in my mind was Marisa Tomei’s version of Spider-Man’s Aunt May and villainous Kyle Attenborough had some parallels to a certain ex-president. Reading book one, I had thought Mary Elizabeth may have been written as a Mary Sue, but more of her is discovered in this volume. Fair warning, this is book two, but the story is only getting started.
Your Work Wellness Toolkit by Ellen Bard combines info from so many of my favorite authors. There were so many great tips in the book that I will be implementing. One of my favorite is a spin on affirmations. Repeating affirmations as part of a daily practice helps positively rewire your brain. Bard’s recommendation is to use it as your password or screensaver on your work computer. I love that idea!
Stayed up way too late reading Love on the Brain by Ali Hazelwood. It was better than her first book! The protagonists are a NASA engineer and a NIH neuroscientist working on a joint project. They knew each other in grad school. So there are lots of misunderstandings that have been stewing for years. There is an underlying mystery at the heart of the story and a ”phantom” cat who saves the day. Lots of background on the romance of Marie and Pierre Curie. Lots of talk about STEM toxicity and politics. There is even a You Got Mail twist. I will read all things by Hazelwood! #NetGalley #August2022
Just in time for Groundhog’s Day is a book based on the movie Groundhog Day! The Redemption of Philip Thane by Lisa Berne is the sixth book in her Penhallow Dynasty series, but it can be read as a stand alone. The book is a regency era historical romance take on the aforementioned Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell film. In fact, the main characters are Philip and Margaret…in the movie, it is Phil and Rita. They even have a travel companion in journalist Lawrence (i.e. Chris Elliott’s Larry). While many of the movie’s scenes have been recreated with a historical twist, I regret that the line “Don’t Drive Angry” is not used somehow. However, I found the novel to be delightful and the philosophical discussions between the characters are intriguing. I have not read others in the series, but am now curious if they too are based around movies or myth.
Nataly Kogan had Joe Sanok on one of her Awesome Human Hours. He was talking about his book Thursday is the New Friday. I admit that this one was in my NetGalley queue to read and review, but I was dragging my feet for some reason. I thought the book was going to be along the lines of the 4-hr work week or something, but it was so much more. In the AHH session, he was taking about how our concept of work time was developed by the Industrialists and how we have seven days in the week because the ancient Greeks needed better telescopes. That had me intrigued. In the book, there were a lot of mentions of not just the history of work but also the psychology. Examples such as the theory of how work will fill the available time you have for it as well as the number of staff. A lot of the book was about mindset shifts and habits. I am very intrigued by the idea of how it takes 26 minutes to reset after interrruptions from work. It concepts back to a lot of concept I have read from other authors. I highly recommend managers read this book because the workforce is changing since the pandemic started (and even before that!) and this helps explain a little of why that is.
Of Silver and Secrets by Sylvia Mercedes is part of the Whispering Woods world. It is the sequel to Wolves and Wardens, but can read as a standalone. There are elements that link back to other books by the author. I think in particular the connection to the Prince of the Doomed City books though the existence of the Noswraiths. I thought the pacing was a little too fast towards the end, but it was enjoyable and I liked reading more about Mother Ulla who features in a lot of the Candlelight and Shadow books.
Well, that was a lot. All these reflections were shared with my friends on Facebook. So I apologize that many of them seem to ramble. They are very much stream of consciousness writings. I have felt out of sorts for the past couple of weeks and I have realized that June has not included many finished books and definitely no reflections. Next week is my birthday, so I am going to make a birthday resolution to return to my book a week schedule. Any recommendations?