Friday, August 23, 2019

Book Reviews - Self Care and Short Stories

I have some time off in between jobs this week, so I decided to take some time to read on self care. Going into round two of remote work is a chance for me to re-assess how I'm doing in this regard, and I wanted some resources to help that process. I also read two collections of short stories. You should know that short stories aren't really my jam, and I promise to stop requesting advanced copies of them because it's not them, it's me. So, anyway, here's what I read:

How To Not Always Be Working: A Toolkit for Creativity and Radical Self Care by Marlee Grace was outstanding. This is a book I immediately wanted to read when I saw the title, and the content inside totally delivers. The power of this toolkit is its simplicity. The book itself is only 100ish pages, but there is so much included. The book focuses on the essential need for self care, the realities of work, and how to find a balance that works for wherever you're at with your own life. The book is a combination of tips, reflections, and journaling prompts, and throughout, there is a tone of empathy which is really needed when covering this topic. The author acknowledges the importance of finding your own "fit" when it comes to self care, but also continues to stress that you have to find something that fits. I read this one quickly initially, but already have plans to re-read and really sit with the ideas that are presented. I also checked this out from the library, but anticipate I'll get my own copy as I want to deep dive and take on the prompts. If you need a quick shot of self care, I would recommend this book as one of the first places to look to find that!

Read this book if - You're looking for a simple, yet impactful look at self care. You want a realistic guide to implementing self care strategies.

Make Yourself Cozy: A Guide for Practicing Self Care by Katie Vaz is a fun, illustrated guide to self care. I love that this is a guide that focuses on choice. It doesn't prescribe one brand or type of self-care, rather it presents options and asks you to reflect on where you land on each topic. The illustrations in this one are spectacular, and they contribute to the "mood" that the book is seeking to cultivate. Reading and working through this one is really building an action plan for self care as it comes at the topic from a variety of angles. Some of that is looking at barriers, others are looking at what gives you energy, and some of it is looking at where you need to build capacity in your habits. In addition, I found this one to just be full of ideas and reminders of what self care could entail. This is something that I want to go back through and reference again, and I could see it being of particular benefit when I'm having an "off" day and need a little pick me up.

Read this book if - You want a guided reflection on self care. You're looking for a self care read focused on choice.

It's A Whole Spiel: Love, Latkes and Other Jewish Stories was a YA collection of short stories centered on Jewish teens. Each is at a different place with their faith, and the story somehow connects with that faith journey. I'll own that I have a base knowledge of the Jewish faith, but this exposed me to so much more. I loved the focus of religious identity in these stories, and how this was used in so many different aspects of each main character's relationships and life. With each story, I found I wanted to know so much more about each of the characters - in a good way! Each story was unique, and they each did a great job of building character connection with the reader (me) in a short time. I assume (and given my own identities, I name this as specifically an assumption) this is a going to be a collection where many see themselves in one or more of these stories which is something that is so important. I am excited for others to check out this collection. Thanks to NetGalley for the early look at this mid-September release!

Read this book if - You want an identity-focused short story collection. You'd like a fiction/YA read that centers the Jewish faith.

She Was Like That: New and Selected Stories by Kate Walbert was not for me. The actual technical writing was good, but from a connection end, I wasn't there. I can appreciate the sentences that were written, but I didn't ever feel anything as it relates to what was shared. I am someone who likes a story with depth of character as the driver of a story, and these short stories just aren't that. It's hard for me to even review this one because there wasn't ever anything that "stuck" with me from the stories. The summary of this book (and actually why I requested it) was that these were stories about women yearning for connection. The reality is that's what I felt as the reader throughout. Thanks to NetGalley for the early look in exchange for my honest review.

Read this book if - I'm honestly not sure, and I cannot offer anything here without being sarcastic and negative.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Book Reviews - 3 of 4 Reads Exceed Expectations!

For this round of reads, I'd say all of these books have had some kind of "hype" around them. Is a hype still a thing people talk about? I don't know anymore. Anyway. For 75% of these, the hype it received not only met or exceeded how I thought it'd go. For one, I just was a little unsure of how I felt. With that, here's the latest quartet of books in my life.

Stay Sexy and Don't Get Murdered: The Definitive How-To Guide by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark was so, so different than what I thought it was going to be - in a good way. While I regularly listen to the My Favorite Murder podcast, I somehow missed ever hearing what this book was actually about. Anyway, this isn't a review about me. This is more Karen and Georgia's memoir. It is a real and authentic exploration of the experiences in their lives that made them who they are. It is honest and emotional in a way that I loved. What I also loved was that it wasn't just them sharing these experiences, but it was also connected to how it shaped their lives, what they learned, and even how it relates to who they are now. While this wasn't about the podcast, it also was about the podcast. It was about how they found their way to each other, as well as why they have chosen to focus on the topic they have. I would absolutely categorize this as a memoir, but I would also say this is a guide to self care. They have such a unique way in which they tell their stories that is so relatable. I would have guessed I would love this one, but I also found I took so much more from it than I anticipated!

Read this book if - You're a murderino/MFM fan. You want something that's got some really great self care advice.

The Dinner List by Rebecca Serle was such an intriguing premise. Sabrina shows up for her thirtieth birthday dinner. This seems pretty standard fare except when she sees who's showed up. Seated at the table are five people Sabrina had chosen when the question was posed, "If you could have dinner with anyone dead or alive, who would you choose?" It seems like a dream, but Sabrina goes with it. Throughout the evening, you learn why Sabrina has chosen each person, what their history has been, and where their relationship is now. The story is told through the dinner, but also in flashbacks in Sabrina's life. This one was such an interesting story. First of all, it made me consider who I would put at my own table. Second, I loved how the dinner told Sabrina's story. There were big moments and little moments with each of the characters, and it wove a story that kept me captivated. I also found I was quite wrapped up in the emotion of Sabrina's story, particularly with some of the reveals that went down later in the story. I appreciate a book that wraps you up in its characters, but also how it makes you think about your own, and this was so much of that.

Read this book if - You want a book that focuses on relationships. You like a book that takes a unique spin on something unexpected (but often considered) coming to fruition.

One Day in December by Josie Silver was a long and winding road of a love story. Laurie doesn't believe in love at first sight, and then she sees him. Gazing out the window of a bus, she sees a man waiting at the stop, and she feels an instant connection. She knows that he's the one, and she must find him. Well, she does eventually. Only problem? He's her best friend Sarah's boyfriend Jack. From there, the book chronicles the next decade of Jack and Laurie. Told from each of their points of view, it's about where they find love, where they get it wrong, and how they stay connected, as well as lose touch. What I loved was the twists in this story. While it was a love story, and there was a way I hoped/thought it might end, there was enough plot along the way to keep me invested throughout. With each year, there was more about where Laurie and Jack were at as both individuals and with their relationship, and I loved seeing the progression and added complexity. I really dug how this story had depth and twists, but at its core, it was all about love in a unique way.

Read this book if - You like love stories with some bumps along the way. You like stories grounded in people and relationships.

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green was something. . . I spent much of the book deciding if I really liked the book. The story revolves around the arrival of Carl statues around the globe - Imagine a bunch of Optimus Prime replicas, and that's what goes down. They show up unexplained one evening at a variety of locations, and April May and a friend film their interaction with one. Overnight (literally), April becomes an internet sensation as buzz about the Carls goes viral. Throughout the story, April navigates her newfound fame and perceived expertise, as everyone tries to figure out who the Carls are, what they mean, etc. I liked the pieces of the book that focused on how April tried to navigate being thrust into the spotlight and all that came with that experience. It was some intriguing commentary on how social media can accelerate a story and the role it plays in news and real life happenings today. Overall though, this wasn't one that totally captivated me. I kept reading because I wanted to know what was happening with the Carls. However, I wanted more character development and depth. I was more driven to know what was happening because of the mystery, and I wanted it to be because I was drawn into what was happening to the characters. This was an interesting enough read that kept me turning the pages, but wasn't fully and totally my jam. Thanks to NetGalley for letting me have a look at this one that's now available in paperback.

Read this book if - You want something that dabbles in science fiction while also being a commentary on the role of social media in our lives.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Book Reviews - Compelling Main Characters

Guess what y'all?!?! I finally read on a theme. I'd be lying if I said I'll keep this up, but it was neat to have a common theme for this round. This quarter was united in that the main character was just a really compelling human with an engaging story that kept me reading. Two were fiction, and two were real life, and all four are definitely worth checking out.

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman was just a gem of a read. I absolutely loved Nina Hill because well, I understood her life. She works in a bookstore (#goals), she is all about her trivia team (#YES), and she LOVES plans and her planner (#AllTheYES). Then, things start to go down a route of the unplanned. First off, she founds out that the father she never knew has died, and with that, she's now got a whole family she never knew in her life. Then, there is a rival trivia dude who she has an "evolving" relationship with, and she's not sure what to do with that. This book is such a fun exploration of what it's like to expand your comfort zone, but also the real fears that come with making that happen. Throughout, Nina has this authentic emotion with a brand of humor only a trivia loving, book obsessed, planner kind of woman could. She's a character that made me nod and smile, as I rooted for her throughout and related to so many of her feels through her adventures. There was never any doubt that I'd love this one y'all!

Read this book if - You like books about bookworms. You want a unique kind of character in a unique kind of love story.

The Best at It by Maulik Pancholy is an upcoming #ownvoices release. I so loved the way Rahul's story gave voice to a story around intersecting identities that aren't often told. Rahul is a gay teen who is working through mental health issues while growing up in rural Indiana who is navigating all that middle school brings. He's trying to figure out where he fits in, as he tries to manage his own feelings and reactions to life. Y'all, this was a real trek through middle school. The social dynamics of middle school are a lot, and Rahul definitely has to navigate quite a bit of them. I appreciated that these dynamics (while always a hard read because it can be rough stuff) were used to show how Rahul was trying to figure out his fit to feel fulfilled, but also so he wouldn't be ridiculued. Y'all, it's such a true conflict that kids go through! This book for me is a conversation starter. I finished wanting to know more about Rahul's story. What's next? Where does he go? How is he doing? I think that was a note of how I connected, as well as how it gave voice to a story I haven't heard often enough. The stories of #ownvoices are so important. Thanks to Balzer & Bray for the early look at this one!

Read this book if - You want an #ownvoices middle grade read that looks at middle school through a powerful perspective.

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah is a piece that is a memoir, but also a really strong and needed history lesson. While sharing incredibly honest stories from his childhood, this is a story of what it was like to live in apartheid South Africa. For me, this was such an important and impactful story. It was the reality of what history was really like through the eyes of a kid (told in his adult reflection), and I found I learned so much. Given Trevor Noah is a comedian, there was humor throughout as he recounted a variety of stories from his childhood. I appreciated even more that each was ultimately grounded in what was happening in the country, and his story never lost that thread. This was such a powerful piece. Trevor Noah is someone who I find brings such insight to the news in such a unique way, and I gained so much through this deep dive into this background way before he was on The Daily Show. This was a memoir that I couldn't put down, and it's also one that'll stay with me.

Read this book if - You want to read about an important and critical part of history told via a unique and compelling memoir. You are a fan of Trevor Noah and want to know the rest of the story.

The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch is the book companion for a professor's last lecture. It's an older piece that was recommended to me as part of my #36booksfor36 challenge. She mentioned that she read it at the start of each school year, so I thought an August read would be perfect. If you're not familiar (or need the refresh), Randy Pausch was a computer science professor diagnosed with terminal cancer. Faced with his own mortality, he built his own final lecture full of all the messages he'd want for his students, his colleagues, and especially his wife and kids. It's a powerful reflection on what really matters in life and where to focus time and energy. If you need some inspiration with a side of feels, this is a quick read. In all the other "stuff" I read and how I fill my days, this was a worthwhile read grounded in things that really matter. It also made me think what I would say in my own last lecture, as well as consider what I can do with the lessons and wisdom shared.

Read this book if - You need some inspiration, reflection and/or perspective on life.

Onto the next round!

Friday, August 9, 2019

Book Lovers Day - Inside the Life of a Book Lover

It's Book Lovers Day y'all! I mean, let's be real, every day is in my life, but for today, I'll be sure to read and celebrate more than usual.

I thought I'd take this opportunity to answer some of the most common questions I get as a book lover.

Q: What is your favorite book?

A: Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary.

My mom gave me her childhood copy when I was a kid. I loved it then, and I love it just as much (if not more) now.

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Q: Do you speed read?

A: Yes. That's not a #humblebrag, rather it's just the truth. It's a gift I'm real grateful to have.

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Q: Do you read paper books or e-books? Which is better?

A: I do read both. Paper will always be superior for me. I like being able to flip ahead and see how many pages I have left, and to just see progress. I like the feeling of opening and closing a book. It's just better in all the ways.

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I have come to love my Kindle Paperwhite, too. When I travel or am on the go, I love being able to bring it along, and it holds a charge for-ev-er. I certainly don't mind the digital convenience of the e-reader, and it's a nice addition to the reading life. 

Q: When do you read? 

A: I'm an evening and night reader. I read around an hour (or more) before going to bed. I also have learned to walk and read around my house. So rather than sitting, I pace around and take in a book!

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Q: How much money do you spend on books?

A: I pride myself on being a cost-effective reader. Most new releases, I'm getting from the library. I buy most everything else used. I don't spend over $5 in that regard, and most of what I have in my to read pile was $1 or $2. I also read a lot of advanced copies which are completely (and awesomely) free. I would estimate I buy less than five books a year at full price/brand new. For such an intense hobby, I really keep it on a budget!

Q: How do you decide what to read? 

I tend to read as the mood strikes me. Because I have high empathy/emotions, I try not to read too many intense things like thrillers and/or sad books in a row. I am trying to get better at reading on a theme in a more ordered way some of the time, so we'll see how it goes. 

As far as what books I add to my list, I really just add what sounds interesting. I always like recommendations from friends because I get a window into what they like and then we have that connection. I also am on quite a few book mailing lists, so I find out about things i might dig that way, too.

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Q: If you don't like a book, do you stop? Or stick it out?

Y'all, I stop. A book gets 50 pages - 100 if I'm feeling especially generous to hook me. If it hasn't by then, I'm out.

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Q: Do you keep everything you read?

I don't. If I don't think I'm going to read something again, I go ahead and donate the book back. I most often donate back to the Friends of the Johnson County Library (who I also most often buy used books from) because the book(s) and money will go to a cause I support. I also will give books to other readers who I know might enjoy something I've read. I'd say I keep around 40ish% of what I read.

Q: Do you remember everything you read? 

Sort of. I cannot always remember all the details, but usually it'll come back to me eventually. If I can find a summary on Goodreads, something can usually jog my memory. I definitely am not great at recalling character names.

Q: Have you always loved reading?

YES. I learned how to read when I was four, and I haven't stopped since. I don't remember a time that being a bookworm, bibliophile and/or just lover of all the books wasn't a part of my identity.

Q: Where can I find out more about your love of reading?

Well, I'm glad you allowed me to end this post with my shameless plug. Follow along with my life as a bibliophile on the Club Book Mobile Facebook and Instagram.

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Thursday, August 1, 2019

Club Book Mobile: The Tune Up

Y'all, can you believe Club Book Mobile has been around for sixteen months. It's been fun to have dedicated space to talk about books. However, I can also acknowledge that I don't always give it the attention I really could and should.

Could and should are funny words in that they're quite relative. Who is defining what these are? Why do I feel the need to do more? Anyway, I didn't write this post to be philosophical, so let's talk facts.

I started Club Book Mobile because I wanted to create a space to share the books I love. I wanted to build a place where I could share out (and allow others to do the same) around books that are worth spending time with in life. I wanted to cultivate conversation around a shared love of reading. 

I think I've gotten there to a point, but I also want and need to dedicate more time. I want to not as a could or should, but as a want and even a need. I know I am capable of actually putting more energy into this all than I do. I know that part of the reason I don't is that it's a protective strategy. If I don't put everything in, I can't be let down. I can rationalize if I don't get the outcomes I envision that it was because I wasn't all in. But y'all, what kind of strategy is that?

Spoiler Alert: It's not a great one.

I know I don't need to do an intense overhaul, and I won't. What I can do is just do a bit of a "tune up" on what I'm doing now. It's about intentionally creating, maintaining and just being in this space I love.

So, here's what to expect from here? I'm putting this here for both y'all and me. It grounds me in an actual plan of action. Yes, I have to actually follow through, but this is the start. Chapter Two, if you will. #seewhatididthere #iknowiknow

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  • #drivethrureviews: For books that I woud rate as 4/5 or 5/5 stars, I do an individual spotlight on IG and FB. It's a chance to give an extra spotlight to something I really liked and think folks should check out.
  • Quartets of Book Reviews: I review in quartets because it keeps me in a rhythm. It gives me a stopping (and starting) point for a post. I'm probably going to change up how I photograph these, but it's been working for years, so why change it?!?
  • #sayhellotyourfriendsfriday: So, this is new, but y'all, I'm so excited. As you might recall, I've re(built) a strong Babysitters Club connection. I want to actually make my way through these. So, as I do, I"m going to reflect on my journey back into Stoneybrook.
  • Memes and Book Humor: I am going to carve out specific time to look for these. I tend to do these here and there, but I am going to actually carve out some space that will allow this to be a more regular share.
  • Themed Lists: With all the books I read, I have plenty to pull from to create more cohesive lists around shared subjects/topics/themes. 
  • Booksgiving: Okay, so this is big. I've had an in-person event in mind for some time. My goal is to make it happen in the next three months. Stay tuned! 
  • Book Club-ish: Long ago, I'd hope to have an online book club. Ultimately, it didn't go because I just wasn't behind my own idea. So, I'm going to think and see where this could go.
  • ARC Giveaways: I'm going to continue these. Also, if you won from my last round, I still owe you your winnings. July was very much a doozy! 
  • Real Life: In addition to book blogging, I want to make sure to take the time to write about my life beyond the pages. Aspirationally, I'd like to do that weekly. In reality, two per month seems like a good start?
I'll see you out on the road y'all!

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