I ACCOMPLISHED MY GOAL OF READING THIRTY BOOKS IN 2018!! This year's list, much like the last couple, is a hodgepodge of genres with a little more exploration into non-fiction and historical fiction. My reads this year kept me on my toes as I trapezed between physical and audio books. Hopefully you enjoy this year's list and find your next great read. Leave me a comment to let me know your thoughts on any of the titles you may have read. Also, let me know what you are currently reading or looking forward to reading in 2019! I upped my goal by one book this year so clearly I need to get back to my current read (Michelle Obama's Becoming) - Happy Reading!
*EROTIC STORIES FOR PUNJABI WIDOWS - BALLI KAUR JASWAL | Do not be fooled by the title, this book is a great story of generational and cultural differences. It helped continue my streak of picking great books to start off the new book club year.
*OUR LADY OF THE PRAIRIE - THISBE NISSEN | I do not have much to say about this book except that no one in my book club enjoyed it so I'll leave it at that....if you happen to read it let me know what you think.
THOUSAND STAR HOTEL - BAO PHI | My first poetry book of the year was filled with moving words about a minority group that is often ignored. I won't spoil it all for you but this is a good, quick read.
THE ROSIE PROJECT - GRAEME SIMSION | This book had been suggested to me a few times over the last couple of years so in 2018 I finally decided it was time to give it a read. I laughed out loud a few times throughout this great story and am upset it took me so long to read. It has a psychology background but is not hard to understand/follow.
ALL THE MISSING GIRLS - MEGAN MIRANDA | I picked up this book because of the cover without realizing it was a psychological thriller. I did not see the ending coming and found this to be a good slightly brain bending read as you try to sleuth out what happened.
READY PLAYER ONE - ERNEST CLINE | This book was recommended to me by a co-worker who then subsequently told me about the upcoming movie so I set out to read it before it hit theaters. This story is AWESOME if you like tech/gaming and I find the book to be way better than the movie. Bonus points for being set in Columbus, OH - my hometown!
ALL THE SINGLE LADIES - DOROTHEA BENTON FRANK | The easiest way to describe this book is old lady shenanigans. A good light-hearted read that provides both a few eyerolls and giggles.
*WE'RE GOING TO NEED MORE WINE - GABRIELLE UNION | While we we're all very excited to read this book for book club the reviews were very mixed. I learned a lot of things about Gabrielle Union while reading but felt pretty indifferent overall about the book.
*ELEANOR OLIPHANT IS COMPLETELY FINE - GAIL HONEYMAN | I laughed right through this entire book because it felt so real. This book is super relatable for millennial women and definitely one I'd suggest you read.
RED QUEEN - VICTORIA AVEYARD | I finally started the Red Queen Series this year and I was not disappointed. The first book sets the stage nicely for the rest of the series which I cannot wait to dive into.
*AN AMERICAN MARRIAGE - TAYARI JONES | This book was another popular one that we read for book club and created seemingly endless discussion. It is fiction but rivals reality in the stories of marriage and love and discovering one's self.
*LONG SHOT - KENNEDY RYAN | This book reminded me of the ones I read back in high school which provided a great nostalgia factor. It is a big book but once you start you really cannot put it down.
EDUCATED - TARA WESTOVER | Tara's story is powerful and this book tells it in the most amazing and page turning way. I had the opportunity to hear from her shortly after reading and it was almost cooler than the book.
ARMADA - ERNEST CLINE | I loved Ready Player One (RPO) so much I decided to pick up another Ernest Cline novel. This one was also good but not as exciting to me as RPO.
DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY - ERIK LARSON | If you like historical fiction this book is a great read. Even though this is not my favorite genre I like the history of Chicago and the World's Fair which is how I picked this one up.
*THE SEVEN HUSBANDS OF EVELYN HUGO - TAYLOR JENKINS REID | Grab a glass of wine and dive into this great read. Have your friends read it to as it is also perfect for discussion.
WHEN LIFE GIVES YOU LULULEMONS - LAUREN WEISBERGER | This book is a continuation or after of The Devil Wears Prada focusing on Emily. This is one to pick up for summer or early fall reading, also a good suggestion for vacation.
BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME - TA-NEHISI COATES | I don't know that this book needs much explanation, it is a non-fiction account of current day issues in America. You should read.
CRIMES AGAINST A BOOK CLUB - KATHY COOPERMAN | Read this on vacation, you will get quite a few laughs and it is an easy read. Book clubs are never quite what they seem.
*LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE - CELESTE NG | (This was a re-read so reposting my thoughts from last year) Family is the center theme of this book and connections to those around us. Drama and mystery abound in this book. Is anyone who they seem or who you think they are? You'll have to read this book to find out!
TODAY WILL BE DIFFERENT - MARIA SEMPLE | After reading about and loving Bernadette last year I decided to try another Maria Semple novel but this one did not quite catch my attention like Bernadette. Eleanor has similar quirks to Bernadette but her day, while at times funny, was just not for me.
THE FEMALE PERSUASION - MEG WOLITZER | I will admit that the cover of this book drew me in then the story kept me flipping page after page. I'd suggest this one for cooler months because it is a little longer and perfect for a cup of coffee/tea and blanket on the couch or in your favorite chair.
HEART TALK - CLEO WADE | A book of poetry that hits you right in the heart and soul. If you do not read any other books on this list please please read this one.
*MY NOT SO PERFECT LIFE - SOPHIE KINSELLA | They say you should never envy what others have because you are only seeing one part of their life and this book embodies that notion. It is a great book club pick and a good read overall.
*MY ABSOLUTE DARLING - GABRIEL TALLENT | I will start by saying I absolutely did not enjoy this book. After failing to progress on the print version I had to switch to audiobook and it was still a huge struggle to finish. It has some very tough themes so I may also need to provide a trigger warning if you are thinking about picking it up.
WHAT TRUTH SOUNDS LIKE - MICHAEL ERIC DYSON | An on time and critical lens of racial politics in America. If you are interested in the current political climate you should definitely read this book.
*CHILDREN OF BLOOD AND BONE - TOMI ADEYEMI | This book is the start of a series and I cannot wait for more. If you are a fan of fantasy fiction this is a great read for you as it is filled with lots of magic.
SURPRISE ME - SOPHIE KINSELLA | The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry is the perfect description for this book. This book is a good middle of the road, if you want an easy read to feel a little indifferent about this is a great place to start.
ALL WE EVER WANTED - EMILY GIFFIN | I was so hooked on this book that I finished it super quickly. Values, family, and allegiances are all tested in this multiple viewpoint book. Pick this one up for vacation or a lazy read.
BIG GIRL PANTIES - STEPHANIE EVANOVICH | So I bought this book on a clearance rack binge in late 2017 and finally opened it in 2018. I'm not so sure what took me so long to read it but it was a very enjoyable story about new beginnings. I'm happy I finally read it and think you should too.
* - book club selections
Summer is officially here (hello Summer Solstice!) and I thought this would be the perfect time to post my summer bucket list. While fall is my favorite season I do also love the freedom that summer brings. Below you will find my list of summer must dos and I would love to hear yours in the comments so feel free to leave me some suggestions. Cheers to an amazing summer!
My goal for 2017 was to read 30 books, while I fell short by two I still feel great about the accomplishment of reading 28 books in a year. Since I didn't quite reach my goal and I will also be turning 30 this year, I am going to challenge myself to read 30 books in 2018. I look back on this list fondly and enjoyed every read, I once again surfed through various genres but my love of fiction books is clear. Enjoy my list & let me know your thoughts on any of these titles if you've read them. Also, feel free to leave me a note about your reading challenge for 2018 (if you're setting one) and/or what book you are currently reading or want to read.
*THE SUN IS ALSO A STAR - NICOLA YOON | This book is young adult fiction but the story is great. It is a mix of science and love, practical and fantasy and it was the perfect way to start the year.
SWEETBITTER - STEPHANIE DANZLER | I love wine...then I found this book about wine and I had to check it out. The story is of a young woman that gets a job in one of NYC's hottest eateries. Life lessons & wine lessons are beautifully intertwined throughout the book.
OPENING BELLE - MAUREEN SHERRY | This book takes on the age old question "can women have it all" with the main character working on wall street while also married with children. This one was pretty middle of the road for me, I didn't hate it but I also didn't absolutely love it.
THERE IS CAKE IN MY FUTURE - KIM GRUENENFELDER | This is one of the books I laughed through as I read it, basically just know the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. This would be a good beach/vacation read.
*I AM MALALA - MALALA YOUSAFZAI | I think everyone knows what this book is about, Malala is an education advocate from Pakistan. This book is her autobiography and while an interesting read I wished for more details in the later parts of the book versus the beginning.
MODERN ROMANCE - AZIZ ANSARI | This was a friend's recommendation because quite a few of us are working on this whole dating thing (lol). This book is more relatable than you would first think since it is written by a comedian and I actually found some of the tips to be helpful. Maybe one day I will apply them to a real world situation.
*A MAN CALLED OVE - FREDRIK BACKMAN | I see this book as a tale on usefulness, there are some funny parts & plenty of sad parts as we follow Ove through this book. He is quite the curmudgeon but his surliness is really what makes the book. This read is very applicable to life in general and was enjoyed by not only my book club but also my mom's.
*THE GOOD GIRL - MARY KUBICA | This book is very Gone Girl-esque, and that book royally pissed me off (the movie too even though I knew what was going to happen) just about as much as this one did. I did enjoy the read, just had some emotions going because sometimes I just cannot with the characters. Guess that is a sign of good writing if a fictional person can make you mad.
MILK AND HONEY - RAPI KAUR | Beautifully written, emotion evoking poetry with line drawing doodles serving as illustrations throughout. This is a quick and enjoyable read.
*THE QUIET ROOM - LORI SCHILLER & AMANDA BENNETT | This is a tough read because of the topics addressed not the story. A memoir of Lori, a woman that suffers from mental illness, that does not glaze over the struggle of dealing with mental illness for both the person suffering from it and the people that surround them. I do not suggest you listen to this on audiobook as the reader does various voices for the voices that Lori hears in her head and it actually makes the book feel even darker, but I do suggest you read it. We read it in honor of mental health awareness month.
CRAZY RICH ASIANS - KEVIN KWAN | My new book obsession for 2017 was Kevin Kwan's Crazy Rich Asians trilogy. This is the first book and I devoured every word to the point of losing quite a few hours of sleep and productivity. A look into the lives of mega rich Asian families that are basically dynasties because of their power and influence I definitely mark this as a must read. The movie comes out in August so get to reading ASAP!
*YOU ARE A BADASS - JEN SINCERO | The title is probably quite explanatory but just in case, this is a self help book about learning to accept yourself and walking confidently in your awesome-ness. She's straightforward and if you are looking for a kick in the butt to get things accomplished (or boost your confidence) you should probably pick up this book.
BORN A CRIME - TREVOR NOAH | Apartheid in South Africa ended in 1991, Trevor Noah was born in South African in 1984, he has a black mother and a white father, his conception and birth were a crime. He tells stories of growing up in South Africa and of course there is lots of humor tied in. My dad even enjoyed this book!
THE HATE U GIVE - ANGIE THOMAS | A young adult novel that touches on one of the most sensitive topics of the last few years, police brutality. Specifically, this book talks about the killing of unarmed black boys & men by police. I actually cried a couple of times while reading this book but it was so good. Filming of the movie adaptation started in fall 2017, I definitely recommend reading the book prior to the movie release.
*CITIZEN: AN AMERICAN LYRIC - CLAUDIA RANKINE | The microagressions that plague everyday life in America are front and center in this book of poetry. I had to put this one down a few times and think about what I had just read, it is thought-provoking and a great book for discussion.
THE SANTANGELOS - JACKIE COLLINS | I cannot remember when exactly I became obsessed with Jackie Collins' Santangelo series of novels but they are a true guilty pleasure. This is the final book of the series and the last book she wrote before she died. It was just as awesome and thrilling as all of the others (there are nine books in the series, the first was published in 1981).
THE WOMAN IN CABIN 10 - RUTH WARE | A book to make you ask what in the heck just happened?! I actually had to go back and re-read a section or two after I got to the end of the book because I was trying to figure out how I missed seeing the ending coming.
THE SIMPLICITY OF CIDER - AMY E. REICHERT | Author of my favorite book last year I, of course, had to read as many of her other works as possible. This book stays with the familiar themes of midwestern familiarities and food. Instead of coconut cake this time we have hard cider and an apple orchard. I loved the familial theme that was also the base of this book and of course there is a love story.
*ONE PERFECT LIE - LISA SCOTTOLINE | *insert mindblown emoji* This was one of those novels that you pulls you into a plot then totally flips it and you are left with your mouth open (or at least I was) with no choice but to sacrifice some sleep to get to the end because you must know what is going to happen.
I'M JUDGING YOU - LUVVIE AJAYI | Do-better! This book is broken down into four sections, life, culture, social media, and fame. Luvvie is to the point and quite hilarious. If you watch Real Housewives of Potomac I would call this the book equivalent of an etiquette mirror.
*THE HANDMAID'S TALE - MARGARET ATWOOD | A tale that doesn't seem very far off based on the current climate toward's women and our bodies. Once you read this book you will understand the emergence of women dressed as handmaids at state capitols across the country as bills to restrict women's reproductive rights are being introduced. The story is dystopian fiction and definitely one to read. There is also a series on Hulu which I will soon begin watching.
*THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF GUCCI MANE - GUCCI MANE & NEIL MARTINEZ-BELKIN | Read it, enjoy it, reminisce on the music. I sped through this book and every time he shared a backstory for a song I instantly heard it in my head.
HILLBILLY ELEGY - J.D. VANCE | I had the opportunity to hear J.D. Vance speak late in 2017 which led to me finally picking up a copy of this book, something I had been putting off for a few months. I am so happy I finally read it! The popularity of this book increased after the 2016 presidential election when the voter demographics were released, once you read it you will totally understand why.
CHINA RICH GIRLFRIEND - KEVIN KWAN | The second book in the Crazy Rich Asian's Series, this time we take a more in-depth look at Rachel. This book was just as much fun to read as the first and only increased my love for the series. It continues with the themes of mega rich families, influence, but also introduces more secrecy and spilling of family secrets.
THE LAST BLACK UNICORN - TIFFANY HADDISH | I ended my 2017 with this book and it was perfect! In this autobiography humor is brilliantly combined with tough childhood and life stories. I found myself talking out loud to this book more than once and it was a very easy read. There are themes of perseverance, strategy, and attraction that make you think about your own life even though you may not have had the same experiences.
RICH PEOPLE PROBLEMS - KEVIN KWAN | The final book of the Crazy Rich Asians trilogy goes out with a new bing, a funeral, and just as many rich people shenanigans as the first two. The scale of the shenanigans definitely increases and there seems to be more money (if that was even possible) and crazy family secrets.
LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE - CELESTE NG | After looking at the cover of this book over and over I finally picked it up and I was not disappointed. Family is the center theme of this book and connections to those around us. Drama and mystery abound in this book. Is anyone who they seem or who you think they are?
LOVE, LUCK, & LEMON PIE - AMY E. REICHERT | The last of the currently published books by Reichert stays true to the themes of Midwestern familiarities and food. This one does differ from the others as it does not have a new love story and instead focuses on an already established marriage with the world of poker mixed in. Next I want to try the lemon pie recipe from the book, it sounds amazing.
Note: an asterisk (*) denotes book club selections in 2017. We usually have a book for each of the first eleven months of the year then celebrate the holidays together with an outing. There are only ten listed here as I previously read one of this year's selections so it does not count toward my reading goal. The omitted book is The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty, I discovered her books 2-3 years ago and quickly read through most of them. If you haven't already I suggest you read her books Big Little Lies (+ watch the HBO series) and The Husband's Secret.
The holiday season is under way and for many that means hitting the malls, shopping avenues, and interwebs to find the perfect gift for everyone on your list. I happen to be one of those people that finishes most of their Christmas shopping by October but I know that is not normal for most people so I wanted to share some of my holiday gifting tips to hopefully help make your holiday shopping a little less stressful. So without further adieu here are some of my gifting secrets....
I tend to find the best deals and most thoughtful gifts by shopping in local stores. Local stores have some of the coolest things on their shelves and you won't have to worry that someone else will gift the same thing. I also get a joy out of talking to the shop owners and their families who are many times staffing the store in addition to a few employees. If you want to get a gift with a story look for local stores that upcycle, or rework old things into new ones. These types of unique gifts work really well for close friends and family members. Places to shop:
Another great place to snag deals and great gifts are global stores. These stores bring trinkets, treasures, and everything in between from all over the world right to you. If you have a friend that loves to travel or a family member that likes to try new things you may want to spend some time in one of these stores. My favorite things to get here are the small packages of flavored coffees, hot chocolates, or teas then all the things to go with it like honey or mugs or airplane liquor bottles. I also really like the wine selection in the stores along with the trinkets and accessories that can be found throughout the stores, think beautiful scarves, colorful tapestries, and unique holiday ornaments & home decor. Places to shop:
DIY IT (aka Build A Bag/Basket)
One of my favorite things to do is to combine little treasures I have found in my shopping adventures to create a custom gift. If you plan to go this route you can choose to follow a theme or just combine the things that the person you are gifting loves into one package. When you create a gift you also have the power to choose how large or small it will be along with being super flexible on budget. I tend to shop throughout the year for pieces that I know will be great in these gifts, getting things during various sales (summer clearance sales are great for beauty pieces) at some of my favorite stores. Nordstrom Rack, Saks Off Fifth, and HomeGoods have great multipacks that can be used to split across gifts. Ulta has great holiday deals & Anthropology always has the perfect little touches for both personal and home. Some of my favorite basket/bag ideas:
Happy Holidays & Happy Gifting!
Fall is my favorite time of the year, and not just because my birthday happens to be during this warm and cozy season. It is the changing colors of the leaves, the appearance and prevalence of jewel tones, the (usually) temperate weather, and all the fun that comes along with football season. I know you were waiting for me to say something about pumpkins but....I'm not that big on pumpkin flavored things *gasp* so that is one part of fall I could do without. When the calendar finally begins to edge into late September there is also a surge in bucket lists or fall essentials because there are so many things that are essential fall & happen only during this season. I now bring you my fall bucket list along with some suggestions on where and how to cross them off. If you have things you think should be on the list let me know! I also would love to know where you go to mark things off on your fall list.