Trying to get a handle on my reading

So this is going to be a quick rant but at the moment I hate going on Goodreads. Why? Because I am reminded by how much I am failing in my reading this year. Right after logging in, I am met with the large purple sticker that marks the Goodreads 2021 Reading Challenge and the number of books I have currently read – 24! An average of 3 books a month.

I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise since every single month this year I have failed to read the full number of books on my TBR. It’s probably one of the worst reading years I have had in a long time.

To make matters worse, Goodreads then has to promptly remind me that I am 13 books behind schedule. With five months left out of the year how the hell am I going to make up this deficit?

But I need to calm down. All is not lost – at least not yet.

There are still 5 months left out of the year. A quick math calculation shows that I only need to read 8 books each month for the rest of the year to not only make up the deficit but reach my goal of 65 books.

So here goes nothing.

Happy Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. monument, Albany, NY

“Be a bush if you can’t be a tree. If you can’t be a highway, just be a trail. If you can’t be a sun, be a star. For it isn’t by size that you win or fail. Be the best of whatever you are.”

—Speech before a group of students at Barratt Junior High School in Philadelphia, October 26, 1967

When you get an unexpected bookish care package

So the other day, I got an unexpected surprise. I came home from work to find a package had been delivered and was waiting at my door. My husband was home, but I guess he never came down to check the mail so I got the honors of finding it. I didn’t remember him saying he ordered anything and I know I didn’t. I then thought that someone sent us a wedding gift.

Despite postponing the big wedding to July, we got married on our date, May 16, in a small civil ceremony at the local park. It was more than I could have dreamed. My dad and brother surprised me by coming up from New Jersey the morning of and my maid-of-honor’s husband took awesome photos capturing the day. Anyways, only that morning we had received a delivery of flowers from my husband’s job. Then we received a wedding gift from another friend of the family. When I saw the package on our doorstep on Monday, I just thought it was another gift.

I immediately looked at the return address and was startled to see that it was from Northshire Bookstore. Now I was confused because I honestly had not ordered any books, and for this to be a wedding gift would be a bit one-sided since my husband is not the reader. I am. But I’m not going to lie, I was excited. I double checked that the package had my name on it, which it did. Books for me? YASSSS!!!

I tore up the stairs, threw my stuff down and cut into the box wanting to see what books I received. Oh, the torment, they were individually wrapped, but they filled the box! This person, whoever they were, was sneaky.

I dug into the box and finally found the receipt to see if it held the anonymous giver. It did along with a special note. This package was from my book club and it wasn’t a gift, but a care package to make me feel better because April and May have been a rough time.


Books always help with rough patches.” 

In April, both my parents were diagnosed with COVID-19. While my father recovered quickly in a week, my mother ended up in the hospital on Easter Sunday and was in ICU twice due to pneumonia. Then when we thought she was getting better, she came home at the beginning of May but was back in ICU before the end of the week. She had pneumonia again and found out she shouldn’t have been released the first time. I had been running back and forth to New Jersey where my parents live and I was emotionally drained. Thankfully, my mom is now officially on the mend and in rehab to rebuild her strength but it’s been an emotional month and a half. My book club knew all this and knew that books were my go-to these last few weeks to help escape, which explained the note.

A smile lit up my face. I couldn’t help but hug the box to myself before tearing through the wrapping paper. To say I felt like a girl on Christmas is an understatement. I was actually impressed because I owned only three of the eight books in the box. This is what I got:

The Library Book” by Susan Orlean

This book couldn’t come at a better time because my other book club just chose this title for its nonfiction read in October. I have wanted to read it since it came out but never got around to it. I don’t have a choice now lol.

The Diviners” by Libba Bray

I had never heard of this book before but after reading the summary on Goodreads, I am intrigued. Ever since reading “The Ninth House” by Leigh Bardugo, I have been trying to get into more fantasy reading. And this seems just along similar lines.

The Cuckoo’s Calling” by Robert Galbrath

This is one of the books that I already own, having bought it last year at the local library book sale. However, this new copy is much better as I have the mass paperback version, so I will be swapping it out. I haven’t read the book yet but it is definitely on my immediate TBR. Another mystery novel for the days when I don’t have something else to read.

Strange the Dreamer” by Laini Taylor

I knew I had heard of this book before but didn’t know how until I realized that I had a different edition. I recognized the yellow and blue cover and remembered that this was another book that I had on a TBR list. Funny because on Goodreads, it says for those who enjoyed Neil Gaiman and Leigh Bardugo. Haha. I guess I’m established a theme here.

An American Marriage” by Tayari Jones

I have been wanting to read this book forever and now it’s in my hands. I can’t wait. When I saw this in the box and coupled with the note, I thought for a moment that my book club had sent the box as a wedding gift and were trying to tell me something. You know, rough patches in marriage. LOL. Then I realized the order was placed before anyone knew we were getting married on our original day.

Big Little Lies” by Liane Moriarty

This is another one that I own but one that I have already read. I loved it and have even watched the first season of the HBO series, which I also loved. This edition of the book is much better and I will be switching it out. Yet again, the version I have is a used mass paperback version I bought at the library book sale.

Oryx and Crake” by Margaret Atwood

As you know, I absolutely love Atwood at the moment and trying to get through all of her books. So while I already own a copy of this book, I was so glad that someone thought to include one of her books in the package. I have not read it yet so they weren’t completely wrong to include the book either. But now I want to read it all the more, especially since I see what it’s about. And it’s part of a series, even better.

Caraval” by Stephanie Garber

After all the hype from this book, I have been wanting to read this book. But it wasn’t a top priority. When I got around to it, I would read it. Now I own it and I want to know what all the hype is about. Too bad I am already in the middle of another super hyped book that I don’t want to put down. Ugh the torment.

I couldn’t thank my book club enough for such a well thought out care package. It definitely made me smile and filled my heart to bursting. The love and support that people are showing at this crazy time amazes me every day. And it just proves. We are all in this together.

My top 5 anticipated reads

It may only be January but I already have a quickly growing list of books I can’t wait to get to this year. The real test will be if I actually get to all of them.

For the purpose of this post, I will focus on my top 5 anticipated reads for the year, mainly because I had originally planned to write this for the Top 5 Tuesday post yesterday. Unfortunately, I missed it, so here we are. Without further ado:

the starless sea

Starless Sea” by Erin Morgenstern

I so can’t wait to pop this book open. I absolutely loved Morgenstern’s writing in the “Night Circus.” From what I have heard both from the reviews I read on here and from people who I recommended “Night Circus” to, “Starless Sea” is just as good, if not better. Since I received it for Christmas (my fiancé is awesome!) I don’t have to wait.


Becoming” by Michelle Obama

So this was my anticipated read for 2019 but I never got around to it because it was constantly checked out at the library. Though I wanted to read it really bad, I really didn’t want to spend $30 on one book, especially since I wasn’t sure how I was going to like it. But once again, thanks to my fiancé, I got “Becoming” for Christmas. The fact that its nonfiction is an added bonus since I am always trying to expand my nonfiction reads.


Circe” by Madeline Miller

At first I was kind of meh about reading this book. I had heard the hype but I really didn’t care whether I read it or not. Then the Capital District Book Club picked it for April’s book and now I can’t wait to get to it. Funny how that works huh? I have heard nothing but good things about this book so I am sure I am going to love it.

wide sargasso sea

Wide Sargasso Sea” by Jean Rhys

As you may know, “Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Bronte is one of my all time favorite books. So when I found out that we were reading “Wide Sargasso Sea” in my Modern Library Book Club, I was so excited. It tells the story of Rochester’s mad wife. I can still remember reaching that point in the book. I was completely shocked and even though she wasn’t a main character I couldn’t help but wonder what her story was. “Wide Sargasso Sea” is on the list for March’s read and it’s taking everything I have not to skip February’s book to read this. It is rather short so I can probably get to it.


March” by Geraldine Brooks

Speaking of retellings. Since watching the new “Little Women”, I have a new obsession with everything Little Women. Thus “March” by Geraldine Brooks went right to the top of my list. It’s a story about Mr. March and his time in the war. For those who have read “Little Women” know that Mr. March is not a prominent figure in the story, at least not in the forefront. We know that he is at the war, he gets injured and he eventually does come home, but these mentions merely take a few paragraphs. He is more of a shadow that has an indirect influence on the girls lives. It will be interesting to read about him in more detail.




Another trip to Vermont has come and gone

Every fall, at least for the last three years, my fiancé and I get away for a four-day weekend to Manchester, Vt. We stay at the same hotel and there is only one goal for the weekend….relax.

We stay at the Kimpton Taconic, which is not a typical hotel, at least to me. For one thing it doesn’t feel like a hotel with its lodgy and comforting feel with warm colors, a wood burning fireplace lit at all hours. Not to mention the hotel rooms, some of which are equipped with fireplaces and the beds are like sleeping on a cloud. In fact, their hotel rooms are so comfy that they even have a website where you can buy their products. The other thing is that the hotel is dog friendly, so I get my puppy play time in for the year while we are on this trip.


We arrived at the hotel on a Thursday to a surprise that my future mother-in-law had paid for three meals at the hotel. It was actually perfect since we had arrived at the hotel later than we expected, so we didn’t even have to leave for dinner. But first, we had to go to social hour, which is where hotel guests are treated to a free glass of wine or beer and get to socialize with other hotel guests. For me, it’s the hour when I meet all the pups, like these handsome men, Ellington and Max.


On Friday, it was time to shop. We hit the outlets and the downtown. Then it was time to hit the Northshire Book Store. If ever in Manchester, Vt., you need to go. It has a bunch of nooks and crannies, different levels, and even a used book section. In the words of my fiancé, who is not a reader, “This bookstore is really cool.” He usually will find a nook to hang out in while I go wander among the shelves to my heart’s content. I ended up buying two books, “The Secret History” by Donna Tart and “Anne of Green Gables” This year, we even hit up the café at the book store to eat some lunch and it was delicious.

Saturday was all about relaxation so we seriously stayed at the hotel all day. We went to the gym to work off some of the lush foods we had been eating. Then we played a board game to pass some time before my surprise for my fiancé…in-room spa service. That’s right, I treated us to 50 minute massages. And oh how we needed it. We ended up napping afterward before going to dinner and then coming back to just enjoy the rest of the night.

I have to admit, I didn’t plan accordingly in terms of reading time. I finished the two books I had brought with me, which is shocking since I normally don’t read that much. I didn’t want to start “The Secret History” yet because I had books at home I wanted to get to. So I hit up the library at the hotel and found “The Wife Between Us.” Of course, by the time I was ready to call it a night, I was already 80 pages into it. Now, I’m invested so I took the book with me, to the horror of my fiancé. I tried to reassure him that the hotel libraries are filled with books that people leave behind. He just made me swear that I would return the book next year when we return. All I could was shrug and agree.

Sunday we headed back home after breakfast, sad that it was over. As always, it goes too quick. Luckily, I had cleaned my house and did the laundry before leaving so I didn’t have to do anything but continue to relax and go to book club. Vermont will continue to be my happy place and I can’t wait to go back next year.

Cashing in at the BandN #BookHaul

As you know, I am not one to go on a crazy spending spree at the book store. I will buy a book here and there, if I need it right away for book club but normally I wait until the library book sales, where I can get the books I really liked throughout the year for my shelves.

However, a sale is a sale and Barnes and Noble is currently having their blowout sale, where they have books 50 percent off. I couldn’t resist so I stopped on my way home from work. Since I am a member, I had access early. I was able to score five books plus a free tote but there were somethings I wish I had known before going.

  1. The blowout sale is not throughout the whole store. There will likely be 3 or 4 tables near the entrance that will have signage. There will be employees hanging around to direct people. This could differ from store to store.
  2. You may be able to score a free tote, but there is a condition: You have to buy at least three books. They can be any three books from the store, not necessarily from the sale.
  3. Circle a few times because you may not see everything the first time around. I must have circled three times and each time I found a book I didn’t see before. Either I’m blind or the book store elves were having fun with me.
  4. The biggest deals will probably be at the classics table. The sale at my store had one whole table dedicated to classics. Most of the paperbacks are $5.99 normally so the books are $3. I just happend to need Turn of the Screw for my book club in October.
  5. There may be a hidden table somewhere. I was at the end of my browsing, ready to check out, but I decided to go in search of With the Fire on High. I couldn’t find it but knowing that they usually have books on random displays, I decided to ask customer service. It just so happened that they had put these books on a cart at the second entrance to the store. I found a whole new selection to choose from. Not only did I get With the Fire on High but I was able to also get the latest Markus Zusak book half off! Sweet!
  6. Compare prices. Before purchasing the hard cover books marked down, I checked to see if they had the paperback versions and compared to make sure I was getting the biggest bang for my buck. Some of the hardcovers are $27 which is $13.50 on sale. Trade paperbacks are about $16 and a regular paperback is about $10.
  7. The book haul is also available online. I didn’t check it out so I don’t know if there are offers that differ from the store but if you don’t feel like physically traipsing to the store, there is that option.

My literary weekend with the Alcotts and Emersons

So obviously I didn’t actually spend the weekend with the Alcotts or the Emersons, but I spent one helluva literary weekend walking in their footsteps in Concord, Mass.

Remember, back in June when I mentioned that my best friend created a literary weekend for me to visit Orchard House, where Louisa May Alcott wrote Little Women? Well, I cashed that present in two weeks ago and it was one of the best presents ever. If you want a relaxing weekend that also fills your bookish barometer, then this is it.

It all started when we arrived at our Airbnb, a house that rested along the pond.  I am not going to lie, I had brief misgivings about it. The house is in the middle of the woods and set so far back that you have crazy long driveway to go up before you get there. We arrived at night so as my friend navigated the car up the narrow lane, I could only think of the movie “Get Out.” But my misgivings were unnecessary. Our host was a sweet old man who welcomed us warmly and the next morning had coffee and homemade scones waiting for us. We took them out to the chairs that overlooked the pond, and peaceful is putting it mildly. I could have sat out there all day. While it wasn’t Walden Pond (we didn’t get a chance to go), it was close enough. No wonder Emerson and Thoreau were so inspired.

After our wake up treats, we set out on our adventure, hell bent on getting to Orchard House early so we would get into the tour. With time to kill, we took a quick drive through the downtown area to get the lay of the land, grabbed some bagels and coffee and sat in the parking area of Orchard House until it opened.

Visiting Orchard House

We weren’t allowed to take pictures inside the house so these exterior shots will have to do, but the tour was amazing. The most surprising thing was how much they had preserved. Usually when you go on tours of old historical buildings, a lot of it has been recreated. At the Alcott house, everything was the original, right down to the wallpaper on the walls. You couldn’t help but get goosebumps as you walked through the house, and see exactly how Louisa May Alcott lived. Louisa’s sister May, was the artist in the family (you may recognize her as Amy in Little Women) and her drawings are still on the walls in her room. She used to recreate paintings taken from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s house to practice. Her paintings she created in Europe hang on the walls throughout the house. When you get to Louisa’s room, you can stand near her desk that her father built between windows overlooking the road, the same desk she wrote the book that made her famous. As you go through each room, you are given the history of each of the family members and their impact on Concord.

After the tour, we were back in the gift shop where I did some damage. It took all of my strength not to buy every single Alcott book, since I have made it my mission to read everything she ever wrote. But I settled for her book, Hospital Sketches, which is her account of being a nurse during the Civil War as well as a biography by Madeline Stern, one of the better known biographies of LMA.

We didn’t want to leave the beautiful grounds but there was much more to do and see. Our next literary stop was Sleepy Hollow Cemetery to visit Author’s Ridge where Louisa May Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau and Nathaniel Hawthorne are buried. You can’t miss their graves because visitors have laid literary gifts at the grave sites.

To take a break, we decided to go to the downtown area, where there two book stores, one of which was a used book store. The used book store was interesting to walk through simply because of their rare edition collection. They had first editions of the authors, which were way beyond my budget. I think Emerson’s book was priced at $3,000. *sigh* Oh to dream. Though I am not going to lie. I almost bought an autographed copy of Little Women I found in the antique shop down the street for $125. I thought better of it and kept walking. I did find a bookish mug that I just had to buy.

After an awesome lunch at a small market and café in downtown, we went off to the Emerson house, which we learned was open for tours. Just like the Alcott house, everything in the house was owned and used by Ralph Waldo Emerson and family, including the books that still line his books shelves in his study. What was even more astonishing is that the Emerson family still owns the house, so the staff at the museum work for the family. In fact some of the family still live in Concord. I was blown away.

The rest of the day was just spent hanging out back at our lodging, relaxing, reading and just enjoying the rest of the weekend before heading home. Because we had so much fun, we decided that these literary and educational trips were something we want to continue doing, so I am sure I will have several more of these posts in the future.

My literary purchases.


Top 5 books I’ve read so far this year

Hey all,

We are a little more than halfway through 2019. Can you believe it?As I was thinking about what to write for today’s post, I realized that I was halfway to completing to my Goodreads challenge of 75 books. So I thought I would look back at what I read so far this year and share my five favorites.

I have read some really good books this year, but there are a few that really stand out and I can’t stop talking about them. These are the books that made the list.

I had to read this for book club and I really enjoyed it. There are so many themes that Lee touches on in this family saga from ethnicity and identity to family and loyalty. You can read my full review here.

Another family saga I absolutely loved. Gyasi unfolds a story about two half-sisters and their parallel stories, one that is based in Africa and one that is in America. The book is setup more as a series of vignettes as each generation of each family is impacted by pivotal moments from British Colonialism in Africa to the Civil War and Civil Rights Movement in America. You can read my review, but just know, I read this in February and I still think about it.

Apparently this is the year for family sagas. I was actually surprised by how much I liked The Invention of Wings. It totally snuck up on me and closed the book with tears streaming down my face because my heart was overflowing. This story weaves two storylines about a white women and her African American slave to create a powerful story that blends slave rights with women’s rights. You can read more in my review.

Everyone knows Margaret Atwood because of “The Handmaid’s Tale” but I highly encourage people to read this one as well. This book is a slow read but it ends up delivering a powerful punch in the end that you were not expecting. You can read more in my review, but I am now on a serious mission to read Atwood’s other books.

I just finished reading this book a little while ago but I can’t stop talking about it. In fact, I was at the pool the other day and it came up in conversation because another person had read it. Westover’s story is definitely inspirational and reaffirms how important an education is. See my review here.

Looking at this list, I am surprised that only one of these books were from book clubs. Usually, it is because of book club that I find great reads. I can’t wait to see what the rest of the year brings.

Until then…keep reading.


Book Admirer

A look back at my spring TBR

There are two days left of spring and then we will officially be in summer. Oh how the seasons fly by. It occurred to me that I had made a spring TBR when spring started so I decided to take a look back and see how many books I actually managed to knock off the list.

Out of the 12 books I said I would try to read, I only managed to get to a third of them. Truth be told, I actually forgot about some of the books I actually put on the list. Guess I should have checked on the list a little more often.

What I read:

I finally managed to check out Ready Player One from the library, now that the hype from the movie is over. I really wanted to read it because I heard the book was better (always is) and there were a lot of things they changed. While that turned out to be true and the book was in some ways better, it didn’t ruin the movie for me. It almost felt like I got two stories in one. You can read more about my thoughts on the book here.

I actually liked The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society more than I thought I would, considering the mixed reviews about the book. I am not one to read a book of letters but this one was well done and it only enhanced the story, especially in the second half of the book. Read the full review here.

In my Spring TBR post, I said that I wanted to read more Margaret Atwood because I had only read The Handmaid’s Tale. I managed to get to The Blind Assassin, which was amazing. It was a slow read for me but that only made the story that much better. Atwood definitely shows her range as a writer in this book as she uses different writing styles and multiple story lines. Read the full review here.

I just finished Educated the other day so I don’t have a review yet, though it won’t be different from what many people have already said. This book is powerful in the sense that it really defines why an education is so important and how it helps to mold an individual into what they will become. It is hard to believe that stories like this are still unfolding in the 21st century but I guess that is why it’s so important that people read this book.

What I didn’t read:

This book is still hard to come by at the library as it is on hold. And that is at all three libraries that I go to. I actually considered buying the book but I don’t like to spend money on books unless I have to. This is more of a curiosity read for me in that I am interested in her story. I will get to it one of these days.

I keep forgetting that I haven’t read this book yet. I wasn’t impressed with the second book, but as many people have said, the third book is better. Since I actually unhauled the first two in the series from my shelves, I have decided to check it out of the library when it becomes available.

I do want to get to Morton’s books soon since I loved The Forgotten Garden. However, with all other required reading and books that I want to get to, this one just keeps getting pushed down.

I didn’t get to this one yet but I am definitely putting on my list of summer reads. Especially because I want to watch the show at some point.

I just bought this book the other day so I am going to get to it sooner rather than later. However, I have not finished rereading the rest of the series yet. I just started The Lost Symbol last night and am halfway through it. I expect to finish it tonight followed by Inferno before the end of the week. I expect to get to this by the weekend.

Due to the previous mentioned series, I have not gotten to the Harry Potter series, yet. As soon as I finish with the Langdon series, this will be next, I promise. Though half of it will be a reread since I have read books 1-4 back in the day. I just never made it to the rest of them.

I usually don’t make a seasonal TBR because what I plan to read vastly changes to what I actually get to. Normally I don’t even get to one of the books on the list so I am happy that I got to the four that I did. Now what to read over the summer. Hmm…



My birthday was filled with literary surprises and so much more

Another birthday has come and gone. Usually for me, it is just another day. This year didn’t seem like it was going to be any different, especially because I had work all day. In fact, our Legislature meeting fell on that Monday and we had some hot button issues that were going to be discussed so it was going to be a long night. However, my friends and family made my birthday one of the best yet.

What I bought with my B&N gift card. Home Fire and Eleanor Oliphan is Completely Fine are book club reads this summer. Origin is the latest in the Langdon series by Dan Brown that I have been wanting to read.

It started Monday morning when I woke up to find a birthday card resting against my TV and gift cards laid out on my dresser. Two were for shopping but the third was for Barnes and Noble. OMG! A gift card so I can buy new books! YES! My fingers twitched as it longed to grab it and run right to the book store with it. But alas I had to get ready for work. (I have since used that gift card as pictured).

I expected the birthday wishes from coworkers but I was not expecting to be handed a birthday card filled with lottery scratch offs (wasn’t a winner) and a dozen Cider Belly donuts (YUM).

The meeting that night didn’t go as well as expected as things we were trying to get passed got voted down (so much for birthday luck). To make a long night even worse, I came home to a power outage due to the high winds from storms that had passed through the area. Yet, my fiancé shocked me with yet another gift I found lying on my pillow via the flashlight. He bought me 3 private ballroom lessons, which has always been a bucket list item. I love dancing! To say that I felt love on my birthday is understatement but I didn’t know that the best was yet to come.

My best friend took me out for a birthday dinner on Thursday because that is the first day when both our schedules actually lined up. And that is when she handed me over the gift bag. Inside was a “My weekend is all booked” t-shirt. Then I open the card and got the shock of my life. She had set up a literary weekend for the two of us.

I have to set the date but I am going to Concord, Massachusetts to tour Orchard House, the house that Louisa May Alcott lived in and where she wrote “Little Women”, one of my all-time favorite books. Then we are going to picnic at Walden Pond and visit Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, which has the graves of the Alcott family along with Ralph Waldo Emerson and others. She even laid out some required reading including “Little Women”, “Walden” by Henry David Thoreau and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving. The fact that she went to all the trouble to plan something so detailed .. and for me… is amazing.

It was the icing the on the cake of what has been an extraordinary birthday. I couldn’t have asked for anything different.