Friday, April 27, 2018

Still Reading

The Last Letter from Your Lover was two love stories in one by Jojo Moyes. There was a story taking back in the 1960s and then there was a present day tale. I did appreciate that rather than alternating chapters like so many of these do, this one did significant chunks in each time frame, and it really helped me get into the story. Also, y'all, this one had a twist that I did not see coming. Usually I get an inkling of what's going to go down, but this one was a legit jawdropping, audible gasp moment when all was revealed. 

Read this book if - You like a strong fiction read with a side of mystery. You've read other JoJo Moyes and dig her style. You don't mind a story with two plots happening that eventually intertwine.

Still Me was an unintentional back-to-back reading of Jojo Moyes. It just so happened that my hold for this came up as I finished the first read from this batch. This is the third book with Louisa Clark. The first was the well-known Me before You, then the second was After You which I read (and loved) last year. After checking out After You last year (admittedly a little reluctantly because of all the feels from the first book), I was eagerly anticipating this one. I love how this series has been framed around Louisa. Will's influence is still present at times, but above all else, this is a story about Louisa journeying through life. This one picks up where the last one left off. I don't want to say too much because I want to encourage y'all to check out After You first. I loved this one. It's a lot of self-discovery and and some relationships and just all the things that make me love a good character-driven story.

Read this book if - You've read the first two books in this series. Honestly, this one isn't going to work for you if you haven't done this first.

From The Corner Of The Oval is a memoir from Beck Dorey-Stein who was a White House stenographer under Obama. True Confession: I didn't really know what that was until I read this book. Also, you know what's wild? She got this job from Craigslist! Anyway, this book is not so much a memoir about the Obama administration, but moreso about someone making their way in a unique work environment both personally and professionally. In addition to talking about what her job was, she talks a lot about her relationships (both romantic and friendships) as she navigates being in the room where it happens. Yes, I just dropped that Hamilton reference there. It was a nonfiction read that read like fiction which was intriguing. This one won't be out until the summer (I had an ARC), and it would be a great beach read. Oh, and apparently it's going to be a movie? Do yourself a favor, and read the book first.

Read this book if - You want to read a completely different viewpoint on life in the Obama administration. You enjoy reading a pageturner focused on someone navigating a unique career and/or romantic misadventures. 

Carry On Warrior was a book I picked up for $1 at the most recent JoCo Book Sale. I know the name Glennon Doyle Melton, but I honestly know very little beyond her being married to Abby Wambach. That said, I was real confused when I opened this one up, and the first chapter talked about her husband. I took a timeout to read more about it, got caught up to speed, and I jumped back in. So, turns out Glennon is a Christian mommy blogger. However, she's so much more than that. She writes with a rawness and authenticity, and I was just amazed, especially as someone who writes every now and then. As someone who has never read her stuff before, I really liked this one. Knowing where life has taken her since writing this one, I am interested in checking out Love Warrior and/or whatever is in the works for her just to see her perspective now.

Read this book if - You tend to like essay collections grounded in faith and authenticity. You like books that provide you with realness about life and the "real talk" that you often want a dear friend to provide you, particularly when you're strugging.

Monday, April 23, 2018

You Started An Online Book Community - What does that mean?!?

You might have seen on your social media feed that I started a new venture around reading. So, what does that exactly mean?!?

Well, let me tell you.

First off, it's a work in progress. Some of what it is I'm still figuring out. However, I'm going against my typical "super planner of all the things" grain and building my vision as I go. I realized (with a helpful nudge) that I didn't have to know every single thing this would be. What mattered is that I love reading, and I love books, and I want to spend more time in that space. While I can't be a real-life librarian (yet), I can play one on TV, er, the internet.

Here is what I do know about why I decided this should be a thing - I love talking books. I love hearing what people are reading. I love telling people what they should read next. These types of conversations are some of my favorites, and I wanted to have a unique role of cultivating them virtually.

And so, Club Book Mobile was born. The name was an homage to one of my favorite childhood stops - The Bookmobile! While the library was obvs my dream location, the fact that there was a vehicle full of books traveling around the city was especially awesome. 


I mean, y'all, there could literally be a library anywhere at anytime. What more could a girl want? I mean, you probably definitely have other answers, but I sure don't.

The name is also an homage to the mobile nature of this venture. A book club is often built around the monthly, in-person meet-up. Not physically being in the same city/zip code/timezone can then be a barrier to having that club. So, instead of letting that be an obstacle, I opted to change the game in how this was organized. What if you could be in a book club no matter where you were? Well, now you can! I've actually been in a monthly meet-up for some time, and I've come to really enjoy it, and now I'll be providing a similar and expanded opportunity to those I know and love (oh, and some new friends, too).

I've got some books picked through the end of the year for club reads, and I'll be sharing those soon along with more details about how to get involved. Spoiler Alert: IT'S SO EASY. I also have some regular features planned as well as some giveaways. In other words, if you need more books and all things reading in your life, Club Book Mobile is for you. You can (and should *hint hint*) give a "like" to the page to stay updated as things get rolling.

I'm really stoked to intentionally create a space I've craved for some time and to see where it goes. So, let's get reading y'all!

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

We Are Still Reading

How To Walk Away by Katherine Center was one I walked into not knowing what to expect. Some other authors I enjoy like Jenny Lawson and Emily Giffin had mini-reviews on the cover telling me it was going to be an emotional and/or heartbreaking read. The book also hyped that the first chapter was going to hook me. So much so that my ARC (advanced reading copy if you're not hip to the lingo) had a stand-alone copy of the first chapter for me to check out and then share with a friend. In that first chapter the narrator (Margaret) has her world rocked. It starts as the perfect day and then ends as anything but. She wakes up in a hospital bed, and all of the sudden all of the things she knew for sure have changed. I don't want to reveal too much of this one because some of the joy in reading was the unexpected plot. I will say this - It was less tragedy and more love story than expected. When it comes out for real in May, it's one I'd recommend putting on your summer reading list.

Read this book if - You like a story that gives you a variety of the feels as you go. You tend to dig books that fall into the chick lit and/or beach reads genre. You have a soft spot for a love story.

You Are A Badass by Jen Sincero was a read that had been recommended to me awhile ago. Needing a bit of motivation and having a Target gift card that was burning a hole in my pocket, I picked this one up. Obvs, this comes from the world of self-help. The angle of this one was really focusing on the fact that you have the tools to do what you need to do, and you need to stop telling yourself that you can't/won't/don't do those things you want to do. It wasn't anything totally revolutionary, but I liked the way this one was packaged. It worked for me, and my copy has lots of flags in it for quotes and ideas to reference later.

Read this book if - You need a little push to get past the self-imposed barriers you often put up. You've got a dream that you'd like to make happen someday soon.

We Are Still Tornadoes is a YA read by Michael Kun and Susan Mullen. I'm trying to make my way through some of the books that have been in my queue forever, and this was one of those books. This book is a story of two friends told entirely in their letters - That's because it's the eighties, and it was either letters or landlines. There is Cath who's gone away to college, and Scott has stayed home to be in a band and work in his dad's store. Y'all, I love a good YA rom-com, and this was very much that. I devoured this one and loved the non-traditional storytelling method. Every once in awhile, I just need a read like this, and it was totally my jam.

Read this book if - You love a good rom-com like the ones in the early to mid 2000s. You love YA books with some heart and/or YA books in general.

Text Me When You Get Home was a book I went in convinced I would just love. Well, I didn't. I first heard about this one via a story I saw on NPR. Similar to my critique of Cringeworthy, I wanted this one to be more research. Instead it was more personal anecdote. What was particularly hard with this was that the author's negative experiences in some environments around friendship were ones I had very positive ones within. This dynamic throughout kind of sidetracked me as I thought, "Yeah, but. . ." with a lot of the points. There was smattering of some pop culture references of friendships, but there just wasn't enough of what I had hoped this book would be. Oh, one funny thing - Literally the day I added this to my to-read list, I met up with some girlfriends, and as I left, my friend said, "Text me when you get home!" It gave me a chuckle, so I guess there's that?

Read this book if - You want to check out someone's reflections on their experiences with friendship across their lifespan. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

The Perfect Confession of Generation Awkward

Props to me for weaving together all of the names of this round of reads into a really great blog title.

Generation Z Goes to College was a book I read primarily for work. As the new generation arrives on-campus, I realized I needed to know more about who they were and what to expect for the foreseeable future. Because the generation is so new, I think there are still some pieces TBD. Also, I own that I am a millennial as I say this, but I do feel like sometimes the worst of my generation becomes the contrast for the newest generation. Obvs, anyone is going to profess to be different than what society harps on, but only time will tell if these are enduring trends. Anyway, #endrant. I did find this to be a helpful read. There were some good pieces to help me think about how I might need to educate different to better accommodate the wants/needs of this new population of students. There is still more learning for me to do on the topic, but this was a good start for sure.

Read this book if - You're looking for an introduction to Generation Z. You work with college students/young adults in some capacity.

The Midwife's Confession was by an author who I've come to really love. Diane Chamberlain writes in the vein of Jodi Picoult, Liane Moriarity, etc. And yes, I totally hate when people say "This is just like blah blah blah," and then I just went and did that thing. Apologies. Anyway, this one is about a woman who commits suicide. Her friends are shocked, and they try to piece together her past to figure out what happened. In looking through her things, they find an unfinished note which begins their journey back as they discover there was SO MUCH of their friend's life they didn't know. This one is told in both the present and the past as secrets are revealed. I'll be honest that it wasn't my favorite DC, but it kept me reading. 

Read this book if - You like any of the aforementioned authors. You like fiction with some twists and turns along the way.

The Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs was by Matthew Dicks, the author of one of my all-time favorite books - Memoirs of An Imaginary Friend. Timeout: If you have NOT read Memoirs of An Imaginary Friend, read that rn. This one is about a woman who has an outburst at a PTA meeting. She then realizes she has some unresolved ish, and she goes back to her hometown to figure that out. This one was just okay for me. On the one hand, there is this humor in going back home. On the other hand, there is this heavy guilt that Caroline is carrying around that bubbles to the surface. It was hard for both to exist in the same space for me.

Read this book if - You enjoy books that remind you that high school NEVER ends.

Cringeworthy: A Theory of Awkwardness immediately caught my eye on the New Books shelf, but never materialized into what I wanted it to be. As someone who has an awkward streak, this seemed like a great read for me. Going in, I thought the book was going to be more application-based. Instead, the book was more anecdotal in nature. It talked a bit about Mortified which is a podcast I adore, but I didn't need a book to recap that for me. I wanted this book to tell me how to shape and reframe my own awkwardness. Rather than being the self-help I felt the cover flap promised, it was more the author talking about her own journey. That's cool, but that's now how it was totally sold, and I was left wanting more.

Read this book if - You want to read someone doing a field study in how awkwardness shows up. 

Monday, April 2, 2018

Don't You Know That You're (De)Toxic?

Okay, I'll be real. I wanted to use that play on the Britney Spears' song since I knew this would be a post, so I'm glad I got to do that.

Now, that we've got some humor out of the way, I've got to get real with y'all. I knew I needed to take this year's Lenten season to address a problematic relationship. Social media has been a somewhat regular part of my life for the last fourteen (14!) years since that fateful day I first joined As we enter the adolescence of our time together, something had to give.

As 2018 began, I realized what a drain this part of my existence had begun. There was the time aspect primarily through mindless scrolling. Rather than filling my time with what and who I enjoyed, I was filling my space with an endless skim. It was also draining my energy. There was the feelings of FOMO as I saw what I wasn't doing or experiencing. There were the feelings of comparison as I felt like I didn't have this or that. You know it's funny I know I am able to (and do) filter my online existence. However, I rarely take that into consideration as I evaluate what others have chosen to post. In all honestly, the space where I connect with those I love who are scattered all across the world had became the place that had started to separate them from me. All the connections I professed to love on social media had been strained to the point that I legit loathed the time I spent online.

With Lent, I decided to cut back. I would only use social media (So for me, that's Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. I didn't count Snapchat because I use it primarily as a messaging tool) during hours where I was at work. To be clear, when I say at work, I mean it's something I would check in on to start my day, during breaks, etc. Given I work at a computer and evaluating the positive aspects I still could glean from using these, this seemed like an arrangement that would work better than an all-out separation.

Staring the process was quite the jolt. There was one moment where I just stared at my phone as that literal black mirror it is (in case you didn't get the show title, NOW YOU DO! #mindblown) because without social media I didn't know what to do with it. I had that craving cultivated by intermittent reinforcements (For those who aren't familiar, it's the urge to do something because it could be positive, but not a guarantee. Thanks to How To Break Up With Your Phone for teaching me that one). With time, that faded. In fact, I actually felt a sense of relief some days when I could disconnect.

Here's some other happenings of note:
  • I started texting people for their birthdays and/or sending cards like I always want to do, but never actually do. I still want to get better on this, and I've now taken some steps in the right direction.
  • When I had to wait somewhere, I just sat there, and I WAS TOTALLY FINE. Those five to ten minutes of quiet were actually quite enjoyable as I people watched. I've missed that.
  • When I knew I was going to be somewhere and have a little bit of time to fill, I took a book, and then, AND THEN, I just read that book.
  • Facebook needs to settle down. When you don't log on regularly, they do all they can to cultivate the FOMO in you. This included sending me emails to see if I'd seen what random friends had posted on other friends' statuses, popping notifications in about things friends had posted that were unrelated to me, and/or reminding me to check out something that I hadn't seen. Honestly, y'all, it was a weird (and needed) look at the man behind the curtain. Taking some time away from the algorithm, I realized just what the heck they're doing, and I don't like it.
  • I got really annoyed that Instagram doesn't have a chronological feed. Seriously, fiiiiiix it.
  • Speaking of Instagram, they also need to settle down. They emailed me to make sure I wasn't having problems logging in? No, I got it. Thanks.
  • The only thing of note I nearly missed was that Target is going to have a line of Hunter boots. Y'all that could have been a catastrophe, but I find out through word of mouth, so crisis averted.
  • I had more time to cross-stitch. I have some projects I am really jazzed about right now, and I loved just spending my evenings crafting like a boss.
  • Dustin and I enjoyed a vacation without sharing a moment socially, so I guess technically we have no proof it happened. . .but y'all, it did, and it was great. 
  • I had even more time to read. Yes, I know that I already read more than most. It was great to end my workdays by stepping away from the screen, curling up in a chair, and just getting lost in a book.
  • I spent time looking at the relationships others had with my phones. I don't want to go all Judgey McJudgerson, but not having my phone to stare at allowed me to gaze at how others engaged with theirs. I was amazed at how many people opted for the glow of the screen versus the things that were happening in the literal moment. I know I've been there, and it's not a look I want to continue.
When all was said and done, I actually found an arrangement that I will (mostly keep) going forward. The growing number of alerts in that top right corner stopped bothering me a few weeks in, and it doesn't have the Pavlovian control over me it once did. 

As someone who works from home and has friends and family spread all over, I find social media to be an important way to connect. However, as Uncle Ben (not my Uncle Ben, but Peter Parker/Spiderman's) would tell us all, "With great power comes great responsibility." A few years back I read this piece about quitting the like button (Check it out) and did spend about a month trying it out. Admittedly, I then regressed back to old habits, but I've never forgotten this read. As I begin this new season, I've been thinking about it again and hope to re-integrate it into my habits once more.  Connection isn't made by seeing each and every item in my feed. Rather, connection comes in taking those moments to read the words and see the pictures that are posted. If this social media thing is going to work for me, I have to mindfully engage. I also need to keep in mind that I do have the power to opt out (and should!) when it becomes an not so great space for me. 

I'll admit that it's hard to sit and reflect on how I let technology become such an unhealthy part of my existence. It's especially hard given it relates to choices I made along the way. However, I also am thankful I gave myself the last forty days to re-evaluate, and redesign how I connect. It's still a work in progress, but I start this April feeling the best I have about this all in a long time.

Now if only they'd bring AOL Instant Messenger back. . .