April 2020 TBR

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I’m still participating in the Unread Shelf Challenge hosted by Whitney at The Unread Shelf, and this month’s Unread Shelf Challenge is to read the books that you have most recently acquired, so I’m building my March TBR with this thought in mind.

To help me whiddle down my books, I have a few categories I’d like to try to hit each month:

Other books up for consideration:

There you have it! What’s on your list of hopefuls for the month of April?

Q1: Top Reads & Recommendation Sources

The first quarter of 2020 has sure been interesting. While the global pandemic is scary and unsettling, it has given me quite an abundance of reading time.

Top Reads:

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Honorable Mentions:

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Top Recommendation Sources:

(I’m not sure I track these correctly, so these results may or may not be accurate. I am going to try to focus on this a little better over the next quarter and we’ll see how much these recommendation sources change, if at all.)

Libro.fm: #SHOPBOOKSTORESNOW

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These are unprecedented times.

We don’t know the impact COVID-19 is going to have on small businesses, so Libro.fm is doing their part to help ease the uncertainty many bookstores are facing right now.

Through the end of March, when you use promo code SHOPBOOKSTORESNOW, you will receive two audiobooks for the price of one. The ENTIRE purchase price ($14.99) goes to the independent bookstore of your choice (shout out to my closest indie: Tattered Cover Book Store!)

Listen, no pressure. Some people feel compelled to help where they can while others are also uncertain of their personal finances and prefer to save until we know more of the impact this is going to have on ourselves and the economy.

The offer is there if you’re looking for a place to support. 💛

Some personal favorite audiobooks:

#partner #Librofm

It’s St. Patty’s Day: Irish Authors To Read

St. Patrick’s Day has always been one of my favorite days of the year. I’m not sure why that is – I’m not Irish, I don’t like corn beef and cabbage…but I do love the leprechauns, rainbows, four-leaf clovers, and pots full of gold! 🍀🌈💰

As it turns out, some of my favorite books are written by Irish authors!

  1. John Boyne – I will read absolutely everything John Boyne writes! One of my all-time favorite books, The Heart’s Invisible Furies, is written by him and I highly recommend starting with it.
    • Screen Shot 2020-03-15 at 9.49.57 AMThe Heart’s Invisible Furies (2017) – As mentioned above, this is one of my all time favorite books. It’s the beautiful story of Ceril Avery. His biological mother put him up for adoption when he was just three days old, so from the very beginning, Avery searches for a place where he feels like he belongs. Complicating things, he knows from a very young age that he is gay. This is literally against the law in post-WWII Ireland. What follows are the tragedies and triumphs of a life, and it has a special place in my bookreader’s heart.
    • Screen Shot 2020-03-15 at 9.49.22 AMA Ladder to the Sky (2018) – While not as good as The Heart’s Invisible Furies, A Ladder to the Sky is still quite exceptional. In this book, we’re introduced to a villain everyone loves to hate: Maurice Swift. Handsome, charming, and hungry for success, Swift is the ultimate con-artist. He doesn’t care who he hurts in the process; his only concern is for himself. Boyne’s masterful writing skills are on full display in this book as he creates a narcissistic character that fully engages his audience!
    • Screen Shot 2020-03-15 at 9.51.11 AMThe Boy in the Striped Pajamas (2006) – I read this book year’s ago and it wasn’t until a few months after finishing Heart’s that I realized it was the same author. Though very different than his later writing style, this is a story that’s hard to forget. Set in a WWII concentration camp, a young German boy (who is free) befriends a young Jewish boy (who is a prisoner in the camp). From there, their friendship blossoms and eventually concludes with a heart-breaking ending that I didn’t see coming.
  2. Emma Donoghue – Orginally from Dublin, Ireland, Donoghue entered my radar with the release of her award-winning book, Room.
    • Screen Shot 2020-03-15 at 10.05.06 AMRoom (2010) – For seven years, Ma has been held captive in a room and her son, Jack, has never known a world other than this room. Despite Ma’s efforts to create a life for Jack, he begins asking questions when he turns five. Ma explains to him that there is a whole world beyond the four walls he’s familiar with. She devises a plan to escape that rests entirely on Jack’s help and bravery. I always love a book with mother/child bonds and this book particulary stands out because of Ma’s fierce love for her son. By creating a fairly decent early childhood for Jack (all things considered), her resilience under the circumstances is admirable. Room was adapted into a feature film in 2015 and went on to win four Academy Awards.
    • Screen Shot 2020-03-15 at 10.15.24 AMThe Wonder (2016) – An English nurse, Lib Wright, is sent to Ireland in 1859 to observe what many are calling a miracle and a medical anomoly. Eleven-year-old Anna O’Donnoll has seemingly survived for months without eating any food. Is she doing it for religious reasons? Her parents certainly believe she can survive without food; therefore, sounding alarm bells to many outsiders. As journalists descend on the village and people flock there in hopes of experiencing Anna’s miraculous power for themselves, things start to spiral out of control. With a bit of psychological thriller vibes, this book definetly made for an interesting read!
  3. C.S. Lewis – Clive Staple Lewis was born in Belfast, Ireland in 1898. When his mother died in 1908, he was sent to England for school. So maybe technically more British than Irish, I’m still including him as an Irish author!
    • The Chronicales of Narnia
      • Screen Shot 2020-03-17 at 11.06.19 AMThe Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe (1950) – I think most people have heard of Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia books, especially The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe (even though it’s the second book in the collection). Narnia is an eternally frozen world centered around the common trope of good vs evil. I foun this book to be magical and unforgettable (Aslan!). (I wasn’t as enraptured by the first book in the series, The Magician’s Nephew, and stopped reading the series after The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.)
  4. Sally Rooney – Born in Castlebar, Ireland, Rooney seems to be one of those devisive authors that you either love or hate.
    • Screen Shot 2020-03-18 at 10.27.57 AMNormal People (2019) – This is actually Rooney’s sophomore novel, but the only book of hers I’ve read. I admit: I’m not the biggest fan of this book – though all the elements were there for a book I should love – something just didn’t work for me. Having said that, I think about it a lot (still after almost a year since reading it – and that really is a good sign of writing and plot development).
    • Screen Shot 2020-03-17 at 10.59.41 AMConversations With Friends (2017) – Rooney’s debut novel, but I haven’t read it and I’m not sure I will because of my opinion about Normal People.

 

 

  • And here are a few Irish authors/books I haven’t read yet, but am looking forward to doing so soon:Screen Shot 2020-03-18 at 10.39.53 AM
  • Anne Griffin (2019) – When All Is Said
  • Emelie Pine (2019) – Notes to Self: Essays
  • Sinéad Gleeson (2019) – Constellations

Who are some of your favorite Irish authors and what books would you recommend by them?

 

7 Books To Take With You On Your Spring Break Vacation (Staycation?)!

Spring Break starts today in my neck of the woods!

When I think about Spring Break, all things tropical pop into my head: palm trees, slushy drinks, sandy beaches, and endless ocean views. I wish my views included some of these things, but alas, my family is staying put this year. We may try to add in a fews days out of town doing something fun, but there won’t be any beaches in my near future.

What’s constitutes a “spring break” book for you? I also like something that’s on the lighter side, easy to pick up and put down, and doesn’t have such intricate characters or storylines to keep straight.

So whether you’re heading somewhere warm and tropical or you’re enjoying a much needed staycation, here are some book suggestions to get you through the week!

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You Are Not Alone by: Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

“You probably know someone like Shay Miller.
She wants to find love, but it eludes her.
She wants to be fulfilled, but her job is a dead end.
She wants to belong, but her life is so isolated.

You probably don’t know anyone like the Moore sisters.
They have an unbreakable circle of friends.
They live the most glamorous life.
They always get what they desire.

Shay thinks she wants their life.
But what they really want is hers.”

I loved this thrilling ride through ups and downs, twists and turns. While I’m not well-versed in the thriller genre and I NEVER guess the correct villian, I found myself thinking I knew where this story was headed, only for my theory to be upended…again and again…and again! This is what made the book so fun and unputdownable for me! It would be the perfect book to read on the beach or poolside!

The Sun Down Motel by: Simone St. James

“The secrets lurking in a rundown roadside motel ensnare a young woman, just as they did her aunt thirty-five years before, in this new atmospheric suspense novel from the national bestselling and award-winning author of The Broken Girls.

Upstate NY, 1982. Every small town like Fell, New York, has a place like the Sun Down Motel. Some customers are from out of town, passing through on their way to someplace better. Some are locals, trying to hide their secrets. Viv Delaney works as the night clerk to pay for her move to New York City. But something isn’t right at the Sun Down, and before long she’s determined to uncover all of the secrets hidden…”

I LOVED this book! The perfect amount of mystery and spookiness and pacing. It took me less than 24 hours to devour; I couldn’t put it down!

The Holdout by: Graham Moore

“Young juror Maya Seale is convinced that African American high school teacher Bobby Nock is innocent of killing the wealthy white female student with whom he appears to have been involved and persuades her fellow jurors likewise. Ten years later, a true-crime docuseries reassembles the jurors, and Maya, now a defense attorney, must prove her own innocence when one of them is found dead in Maya’s room.”

In The Holdout, readers get an inside look at what serving on a sequestered jury may look like while also get a nuanced look at the American justice system and the flaws within it.

It’s best to go in blind on this one, but it’s a page turner you won’t be able to put down!

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Long Bright River by: Liz Moore

“In a Philadelphia neighborhood rocked by the opioid crisis, two once-inseparable sisters find themselves at odds. One, Kacey, lives on the streets in the vise of addiction. The other, Mickey, walks those same blocks on her police beat. They don’t speak anymore, but Mickey never stops worrying about her sibling.

Then Kacey disappears, suddenly, at the same time that a mysterious string of murders begins in Mickey’s district, and Mickey becomes dangerously obsessed with finding the culprit–and her sister–before it’s too late.

Alternating its present-day mystery with the story of the sisters’ childhood and adolescence, Long Bright River is at once heart-pounding and heart-wrenching: a gripping suspense novel that is also a moving story of sisters, addiction, and the formidable ties that persist between place, family, and fate.”

This book is full of mystery, addiction, and cop drama. While it’s classified as a thriller, I found it to be more mystery as Mickey searches for her lost sister, Kacey. It also takes a nuanced look at addiction and the opioid epidemic that seems to affect so many communities these days. There are twists and turns throughout, so you’ll be changing your mind several times before it’s all said and done!

In Five Years by: Rebecca Serle

“Where do you see yourself in five years?

When Type-A Manhattan lawyer Dannie Cohan is asked this question at the most important interview of her career, she has a meticulously crafted answer at the ready. Later, after nailing her interview and accepting her boyfriend’s marriage proposal, Dannie goes to sleep knowing she is right on track to achieve her five-year plan.

But when she wakes up, she’s suddenly in a different apartment, with a different ring on her finger, and beside a very different man. The television news is on in the background, and she can just make out the scrolling date. It’s the same night—December 15—but 2025, five years in the future.

After a very intense, shocking hour, Dannie wakes again, at the brink of midnight, back in 2020. She can’t shake what has happened. It certainly felt much more than merely a dream, but she isn’t the kind of person who believes in visions. That nonsense is only charming coming from free-spirited types, like her lifelong best friend, Bella. Determined to ignore the odd experience, she files it away in the back of her mind.

That is, until four-and-a-half years later, when by chance Dannie meets the very same man from her long-ago vision.

Brimming with joy and heartbreak, In Five Years is an unforgettable love story that reminds us of the power of loyalty, friendship, and the unpredictable nature of destiny.”

I initially thought this was a romance – and it does have romantic elements- but it’s so much more than that! Ultimately, this is a story about friendship and loyalty and connection. It explores the messiness of relationships and causes the reader to meditate on the ideas of fate and destiny. I connected with Serle’s easy, yet profound writing style, and she quietly put me in a position to contemplate one of my favorite questions: “what if”?

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Open Book by: Jessica Simpson

“Jessica reveals for the first time her inner monologue and most intimate struggles. Guided by the journals she’s kept since age fifteen, and brimming with her unique humor and down-to-earth humanity, Open Book is as inspiring as it is entertaining.

Now, America’s Sweetheart, preacher’s daughter, pop phenomenon, reality TV pioneer, and the billion-dollar fashion mogul invites readers on a remarkable journey, examining a life that blessed her with the compassion to help others but also burdened her with an almost crippling need to please. Open Book is Jessica Simpson using her voice, heart, soul, and humor to share things she’s never shared before.”

Simpson is very open and honest in this memoir, and I really appreciated it. I listened to the audiobook and it was powerful to hear her read her own story. I was especially struck by her insecurity – always feeling not good enough and fighting her bodyweight to make the music industry happy. Though most of us aren’t celebrities, I think a lot of us can relate to those insecurities and battles with our bodies. I loved feeling like Simpson was relatable, and this would be the perfect memoir to lose yourself in during vacation.

Becoming by: Michelle Obama

“In a life filled with meaning and accomplishment, Michelle Obama has emerged as one of the most iconic and compelling women of our era. As First Lady of the United States of America—the first African American to serve in that role—she helped create the most welcoming and inclusive White House in history, while also establishing herself as a powerful advocate for women and girls in the U.S. and around the world, dramatically changing the ways that families pursue healthier and more active lives, and standing with her husband as he led America through some of its most harrowing moments. Along the way, she showed us a few dance moves, crushed Carpool Karaoke, and raised two down-to-earth daughters under an unforgiving media glare.

In her memoir, a work of deep reflection and mesmerizing storytelling, Michelle Obama invites readers into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her—from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work, to her time spent at the world’s most famous address. With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private, telling her full story as she has lived it—in her own words and on her own terms. Warm, wise, and revelatory, Becoming is the deeply personal reckoning of a woman of soul and substance who has steadily defied expectations—and whose story inspires us to do the same.”

I devoured this book clear back when it was first released, but I can honestly say there’s hardly a day that goes by that I don’t reflect on Obama’s powerful story. She may well be one of the most eloquent speakers of our time and I am in awe of her compassionate nature. I learned so much about the Obama Administration, but I was more struck with the former First Lady’s strength and commitment – not only to her family, but to our country.

Running With Sherman by: Christopher McDougall

“A heartwarming story about training a rescue donkey to run one of the most challenging races in America.

When Chris McDougall agreed to take in a donkey from an animal hoarder, he thought it would be no harder than the rest of the adjustments he and his family had made after moving from Philadelphia to the heart of Pennsylvania Amish country. But when he arrived, Sherman was in such bad shape he could barely move, and his hair was coming out in clumps. Chris decided to undertake a radical rehabilitation program designed not only to heal Sherman’s body but to heal his mind as well. It turns out the best way to soothe a donkey is to give it a job, and so Chris decided to teach Sherman how to run. He’d heard about burro racing–a unique type of race where humans and donkeys run together in a call-back to mining days–and decided he and Sherman would enter the World Championship in Colorado.

Easier said than done. In the course of Sherman’s training, Chris would have to recruit several other runners, both human and equine, and call upon the wisdom of burro racers, goat farmers, Amish running club members, and a group of irrepressible female long-haul truckers. Along the way, he shows us the life-changing power of animals, nature, and community.”

I’m not gonna lie – the above description from the publishers doesn’t make me want to run out and read this book. But if I had to descibe it in one word, I’d call it absolutely delightful!

McDougall writes narrative nonfiction so well. As a reader, you become totally immersed in his storytelling. By the end, you feel inspired and hopeful and darn right lucky to have crossed paths iwth such a great book!

This lighthearted read would make the perfect companion on your Spring Break trip!

Whether you’re going somewhere or staying closer to home, I hope you find at least a few books that sound like something you might enjoy!

Drop me a comment below and let me know what book you’re taking with you!

 

Nonfiction Reader Challenge 2020 (Vol. 1)

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I love nonfiction, so I might as well participate in Shelly’s Nonfiction Reader Challenge this year! The challenge will run from January 1 – December 31, 2020. Participants may join at any time up until December 1, 2020.

There are three levels to choose from and I’m going to particpate in the Nonfiction Know-It-All category: Read 12 books, one for each category.

Here are the categories (categories in bold have already been fulfilled – with those reviews below):

  1. Memoir
  2. Disaster Event
  3. Social Science
  4. Related to an Occupation
  5. History
  6. Feminism
  7. Psychology
  8. Medical Issue
  9. Nature
  10. True Crime
  11. Science
  12. Published in 2020

Somewhere admist all the posts and life, I’ve not linked up to this challenge yet…so here’s my catch up post! (I’ll do better about participating each month at the appropriate time! 🤞🏼)

Me by: Elton John ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Screen Shot 2020-03-06 at 9.53.29 AMMe is the first and only autobiography available. In it, Elton John holds nothing back. He spills it all – from his horrifying parents to his drug use to juicy celebrity gossip to his beautiful family with David and their two sons. It is unflichingly honest, even when it makes himself look terrible. He was an addict and it made him treat some of the people closest to him poorly, but he checked himself into rehab and completely changed his life around, all while managing a career that has spanned over fifty years!

Also quite inspiring to me is Elton John’s work within the HIV/AIDS community. Since his nonprofit, Elton John AIDS Foundation, was started in the early 1990s, it has raised over $450 million dollars “to challenge discrimination against people affected by the epidemic, prevent infections, provide treatment and services, and motivate governments to end AIDS”.

Me fulfills the Memoir category for the Nonfiction Reading Challenge.

The Library Book by: Susan Orlean ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Screen Shot 2020-03-06 at 9.56.29 AMI have heard high praise for this one, and while I mostly agree, I was a bit bored. There is  A LOT of research and information about libraries (specifically the Los Angeles Public Library), and after awhile, I found myself skimming parts of it. (It also talks about the fire of 1986 that decimated the LA Public Library which was absolutely fascinating!) This book truly is a love letter to libraries, librarians, and even LA itself. It’s worth the read, but also not as good as I was hoping!

The Library Book fulfills the History category for the Nonfiction Reading Challenge.

Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle by: Emily and Amelia Nagoski ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Screen Shot 2020-03-06 at 10.16.26 AMBecause of all the hype this book got on #bookstagram last year, I was expecting (and wanting) so much more than what I got. I can understand how this book was helpful to many women; for me, it fell flat. I have spent the better part of the last six years exploring my health and so many of the concepts presented in Burnout were not new news for me. Also, the patriarchy aspect was a little too over-the-top for me. I didn’t totally understand how it fit into the rest of the book and its inclusion felt a little forced, in my opinion.

Burnout fulfills the Medical Issue category for the Nonfiction Reading Challenge.

The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World by: Jeff Goodell ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Screen Shot 2020-03-06 at 10.03.52 AMI was blown away by this well-written book about the looming consequences of the global warming crisis. The bottom line is that sea levels are rising. Many people throughout the world already know this from firsthand experience, but for those of us who live inland and haven’t personally been affected by it, this book puts that information out there in a straight forward way that demands some action…not today, but yesterday! Already a few years past its publication date, this book NEEDS to be read by everyone…because we will ALL be affected soon. We owe our children and grandchildren a better future than what they currently stand to inherit.

The Water Will Come fulfills the Science category for the Nonfiction Reading Challenge.

March 2020 TBR

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I’m still participating in the Unread Shelf Challenge hosted by Whitney at The Unread Shelf, and this month’s Unread Shelf Challenge is to read the books that have been on your shelf the longest, so I’m building my March TBR with this thought in mind.

To help me whiddle down my books, I have a few categories I’d like to try to hit each month:

Other books up for consideration:

There you have it! What’s on your list of hopefuls for the month of March?