January reading wrap-up

Just like that and the first month of 2023 is gone. Poof. On to the next.

In some ways I am glad because January was not kind to me. I received the ultimate test at work – a test of patience, perseverance and strength. I know that the talk around mental health has been at the forefront and now I know why. My mental health has severely suffered because of what has gone on at work, but I am working on correcting it and adopting tools for better stress management. It is why my word of the year is RELAX. And I am putting it to use – taking random days off when I exceed my hours for the week, giving myself pampering days and using the most important tool in my arsenal: reading.

It is so easy for me, probably like most people, to succumb to the mindless scrolling on our phones or plopping in front of the television and binge watch our favorite shows. While there have been a few days of that, I have been mindful of how much better I feel reading. Also, my determination to take a lunch break is helping. A few times, I startled coworkers who walked into my office and found me sitting on the opposite side of my desk (so I’m not tempted to check email), my feet propped up, head in a book. It only takes me 15 minutes to eat so I have a good 45 minutes of reading time. It’s perfect.

So let’s get to the books that I finished.

I knew that this book was set in Russia during World War II but I didn’t know what to expect. I had heard that it was good but I wasn’t expecting it to be so insightful and funny while also being heartbreaking. I loved the relationships that formed among the characters and how each of them overcomes their situation. Overall, this was a a great first read for the year.

This is a book that I have had on my shelf for years and while I enjoyed it, it was not my favorite. It is in some ways abstract and philosophical, which for me is always more difficult to read and wrap my head around. While I understood the essence of the story, Barnes seems to randomly throw in concepts and thoughts that I didn’t feel were relevant to the story. I wouldn’t necessarily call this a bad book but probably one that I would have to read multiple times to fully grasp at what she is trying to do.

This is biographical fiction but it might as well be nonfiction as Keneally provides a literary view of the man the world knows as Oscar Schindler. Keneally does a great job in presenting the facts about Oscar in a matter-of-fact way, while also unveiling the complexity of a man torn between his goal of making as much money as possible, loyalty to his country and saving thousands of innocent souls. Given the times that we currently live in, this book is more relevant that we realize. I will have a full review of the book later.

I am still reading this book so it will be moving onto my February TBR. The first 50 pages were a bit slow as Guterson provides a lot of backstory that I wasn’t finding relevant, but I have finally reached the premise of the novel so things are starting to turn. We shall see.

Susanna Kaysen writes an account of her time in a psychiatric institution and the people that she meets on the ward. While there is nothing necessarily wrong with the book, I found it rather flat and the non-linear plot kept pulling me out of the story. At first I was mad when I realized the changes that were made for the movie adaptation but having completed the book I can see why they were done. However, that is not to diminish the main point of the story, which is to bring light to mental health and the way people deal with it and handle it. In fact, there were some things that I found relatable.

So I was supposed to read “The Power of Now” as recommended to me and ended up reading Tolle’s other work which it seems just put the teachings into practice. I actually listened to it on audiobook as was advised, and I know I got something out of it because I have done a lot of reflecting since finishing it, especially regarding how I handle certain situations. Tolle basically outlines that there are people who live in the past or in the future, and the importance of living in the present. He provides various ways on how to overcome this and handle situations that might try to threaten it. It was definitely eye opening for someone like me and while I can’t grasp every single thing he talks about, I think I am going to be better overall for having read this.


Reading goals update:

Goodreads challenge: 5/65

Nonfiction: 2/12

Classic Club books: 1/12

Read more science fiction/fantasy: 0

Getting personal TBR below 100: 146/148 (read 4 but acquired 2)

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Authors I discovered in 2022

Since this week’s Top 10 Tuesday, by That Artsy Reader Girl, is anything we want, I figured I would do the one I most recently missed. 2022 was a really good year for me in terms of discovering authors I had never read before and there were quite a few that made it on my must follow list. I thought I would share some of my favorites.

Laini Taylor

I FINALLY read “Strange the Dreamer” at the end of last year and I am kicking myself for waiting so long. I absolutely loved the world that Taylor built and I can’t wait to read the sequel.

Patricia Highsmith

The Talented Mr. Ripley” is a book like no other and makes me wonder about Highsmith’s own mind. She definitely makes the list of authors I would love to have dinner with.

Diane Setterfield

I had to read “Once Upon A River” for book club and I really enjoyed it. Though it was a chunky book, I flew through it. Setterfield has a way of drawing you into a fairytale world that is magical and mysterious. I now really want to read her other work, “The Thirteenth Tale”.

Chelsea Abdullah

One of the debut authors of the year that I got around to and she really nailed it on the head. Abdullah blends Arab mythology into a world of her own that is as enticing as the magic that the characters long to get their hands on. I can’t wait for book two to come out in this anticipated trilogy.

Atul Gawande

Gawande’s nonfiction fiction book “Being Mortal” is a book that everyone should read as it is a topic that we are all going to have to face at some point – getting older. In the book, Gawande looks at the topic and breaks it down to analyzing how medical advances have changed the way we look at treating people, especially the elderly and uses his own personal experiences to make it relatable. I have since add another book of his to my shelves.

TJ Klune

I finally got around to reading TJ Klune and I am so glad that I did. It’s been months since I read “The House on the Cerulean Sea” and from time to time I find myself thinking about parts of the book randomly. I need to read his other books and I really can’t wait for his new one that is coming out this year.

Sebastian Barry

I had never heard of Sebastian Barry, nor do I think I would have read anything by him, had it not been for book club. We read “A Long, Long Way” which is a fictional novel but provides a realistic looks at the horrors of war. I was surprised by how much this book stuck with me and I have since started adding Barry’s other works to my shelves.

Taylor Jenkins Reid

I am officially a part of the TJR fan club. “The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo” was one of the first books I read in 2022 and it stuck with me throughout the year. Now I have to seriously get going on Reid’s backlist.

Peng Shepherd

I wasn’t sure what I would think of “The Cartographers” but it exceeded expectations. I thought she was a debut author but realized since that she has two other books out. How have I never heard of this author before?

Matt Haig

I heard mixed reviews about Haig’s “The Midnight Library“, so wasn’t going into it with high expectations. And as a result I absolutely fell in love with it. I raved about it so much that my friend ended up reading it.


What are some authors you discovered in 2022?

Monday reading check-in (1/30/23)

Happy Monday, my fellow book admirers!

I hope the first month of 2023 has been treating you well. Can you believe that we are already in the last week of January? I sure can’t but I am determined to make it better than it has been. I think I have found a renewed sense of focus and I am hoping that it will last. We shall see. Anyway, let’s get to what I’ve been reading.

Recently finished

Currently reading

Reading next


What are your reading this week? Let’s discuss!

Book Club reading list (part 2)

It’s part two of the book club list mini series where I share the titles that each of my book clubs will be reading for the year. In part one, I shared the list from the Modern Library Book Club where we mostly read modern classics. Today, we are going to the Capital District Book Club, which selects its books through a democratic process. We gather suggestions alternating between fiction and nonfiction, and then vote on the top three suggestions. We are only about five months out so I only have the selections up until May. I can do a post later probably around May when we have the rest of the year picked. December we don’t read a book. Let’s get to it.

January

Nothing to See Here
by Kevin Wilson

March

The Poisonwood Bible
by Barbara Kingsolver

April

Don’t Call it a Cult
by Sarah Berman

May

Lessons in Chemistry
by Bonnie Garmus

Monday reading check-in (1/16/23)

Happy Monday Book Admirers! It’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day which ordinarily means a day off but not for me. I have some work I have to get done. The work week has been challenging to say the least and the upcoming week is not going to be any better but I am taking it one step at a time and using the tools I put in place this year to help me get through it. Of course, one of those things is reading. I am actually enjoying my lunch breaks, taking the hour to unplug and enjoy a book. There is definitely something to it.

Recently finished

Currently reading

Reading next


What are you reading this week?

Book Club Discussion: ‘The Awakening’ by Kate Chopin

The fact that this book forced Chopin into obscurity angers me. All because a woman dares to write about what a woman really feels and desires. How dare she write about a woman who has sexual desires and decides to find her physical comfort outside of her marriage. Yet men do it all the time. Bah! And this is 40 years after the publication of “Madame Bovary” which was a similar theme but a male wrote it. Sure Flaubert had his difficulties, namely a trial, but the trial ended up making the book famous and when he got acquitted, he benefited from it. If only those critics knew how much we would love Chopin now.

Chopin tells the story about the Edna Pontellier, who realizes that the life she has been living had been forced upon her and she wants out. As she slowly discovers who she is and who she wants to be, she takes matter into her own hands, from ignoring her domestic duty, experimenting in different hobbies and exploring her sexuality. While I am not in a stifling marriage, I found Edna as woman relatable in so many ways. How many times have we just had a crying jag for no rhyme or reason? We just sit in a room alone and let out all of our frustrations. Then we are right as rain and move on with our daily lives. How many of us get sick of our mundane domestic duties and want to do whatever we like? I know two women who have gone through something similar to what Edna experiences. Everything that Chopin writes about is normal in today’s standards. It’s just that she was a woman ahead of her time.

Chopin’s writing is also something to be admired. Her descriptions of nature and even the characters themselves are absolutely beautiful. One of my favorite passages in the book was Edna looking out to sea and the description of the sea compared to her soul.

“The voice of the sea is seductive; never ceasing, whispering, clamoring, murmuring, inviting the soul to wander for a spell in abyss of solitude; to lose itself in mazes of inward contemplation. The voice of the sea speaks to the soul. The touch of the sea is sensuous, enfolding the body in its soft embrace.”

It was interesting to hear what everyone in book club thought of this book. There were eight of us in group and there were two who didn’t enjoy the book. One was a male who didn’t really want to speak on what he thought but what it amounted to was that he thought Edna was a little entitled rich woman who was complaining about her life and he really didn’t care. The other critic was a female and she thought similarly and also thought that it was slightly boring. That there was a big build up to what was going to be this big sexual exploration and she was disappointed. She thought the book could have been more radical than it already was. Could you imagine?!

For the lot that did enjoy it, everyone had their own reasons. It was nice shift from people repeating the same things. Some focused on the psychological aspects of what Edna was going through and was Chopin was trying to accomplish, others remarked on the cultural parts in the book and Creole society, while others thought were taken by the sensual writing.

While the book was short, we still managed to talk about it for a full hour. There was a lot of analysis and back and forth about each of the topics that people brought up. For a book club read, this is definitely worth it.

Monday reading check-in (1/9/23)

Good morning book admirers!

It’s the first Monday reading check-in of the year, which is always exciting. The first week of the new year was a bit busy and some parts were better than others but I have 51 more weeks to change it a more positive one. So there is that. Reading has been helping to get my mind off the more stressful aspects of my life. So without further ado.

Recently finished

Currently reading

Reading next


What are you reading this week? Let’s discuss!

Review: ‘The Answer Is…: Reflections on My Life’ by Alex Trebek

Alex Trebek has become a cultural icon as the host of Jeopardy for so many years. So when his memoir came out, it was bittersweet. At the time he was battling cancer and this memoir was like a goodbye to the world. Yet, I knew that I wanted to read it because under the sophisticated veneer that we all saw on television, I knew that there was a whole other man that we didn’t know. I just wish that I had read this sooner.

Yet, I think I read this book at just the right time. This isn’t your average memoir where Trebek just goes through the linear story of his life. He breaks up his life in little anecdotes that often have some words of advice mixed in or lessons that he learned through that particular experience. And it felt that he was speaking to me personally. There were so many lines that resonated with me.

“Yes, hard work and experience are essential. But so is timing. And luck. Don’t ever discount the importance of luck in terms of determining your opportunities and your future.”

Of course he pays homage to the role that he became famous for. Each chapter is titled with the “The Answer Is… [word(s)]. It was interesting to learn about how he ended up on Jeopardy and the behind-the-scenes stuff that we don’t know about, like how they come up with the questions and some of his favorite contestants on the show.

Trebek seems on paper, just like we, or maybe I, thought of him to be on television – a down to earth, genuine nice guy. But don’t be fooled, he is also very blunt and doesn’t pull any punches. He has his opinions – especially when it comes to politics, though he keeps that brief and to the point. And shocker of shocker, he may have, how shall we say this, colorful language. Though honestly, it just makes him all the more likeable in my eyes.

If anything, reading this book was bittersweet knowing why he wrote it. Probably the hardest part to read was about his illness and the impact that it was having. But in true Trebek style, he keeps in good taste, while providing the truth, or what he can remember. He admits right from the beginning that his powers of recall are fading. If you don’t like that, well, like Trebek says. “Tough shit.”

“Messing up on live TV taught me an important lesson about show business: learn to laugh at yourself.”

Book club reading list for 2023 (Part 1)

A new year means a whole new reading list for book clubs. This year’s book club series is going to be only two parts because as I mentioned in my January TBR post, I am down to two book clubs from the four that I was a part of last year. In some ways I am sad because at one point I was getting out of the house every week of the month to talk about books. However, in other ways I am glad because I now have time to read more of the books I have stockpiled at home.

Today we are starting with the Modern Library Book Club, mainly because I run it and because I know what the entire year of books is going to be. We have some really good ones that I can’t wait to get to. I have already finished January’s read and we are starting 2023 on a good note,

January

The Awakening
by Kate Chopin

February

A Severed Head
by Iris Murdoch

March

Song of Solomon
by Toni Morrison

April

Night Boat to Tangier
by Kevin Barry

May

The Golden Notebook
by Doris Lessing

June

Of Mice and Men
by John Steinbeck

July

Mrs Dalloway
by Virginia Woolf

August

City of Bohane
by Kevin Barry

September

One Hundred Years of Solitude
by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

October

The Jungle
by Upton Sinclair

November

The House of the Spirits
by Isabel Allende

December

Death of Ivan Illych
by Leo Tolstoy

January 2023 TBR

It’s the first reading list of the new year! It is going to look quite different than what you are used to since I will no longer be dominated by a book club TBR. One of my book clubs dissolved last year and another I stopped going to since I didn’t like the books they were reading and didn’t get enough notice between. So I am officially down to two book clubs a month (for now, lol), which means that I have plenty of time to get to the books I have been meaning to read.

Nightwood” by Djuna Barnes

I have had this book on my shelves since college when I had to purchase it for a class. However, we never ended up reading it and it has sat unread ever since. I saw that the Classics Club did a spin recently for January and while I didn’t participate in the initial launch, I used the spin number as my inspiration to pick what book from my Classics Club list I would read this month.

The Other” by David Guterson

This book is on the list simply because of the wintry cover. I wanted something that was a bit seasonal and thought that this fit. Also Guterson has become an automatic read for me so when I found this book at the library book sale, it was immediately on my priority TBR pile. The best is that the synopsis doesn’t tell us anything so I am going into it blind.

City of Thieves” by David Benioff

Another book that had a wintry cover so it got added to the list. This was a title that I received as a gift and I don’t know much about it except that it is set in World War II Russia. From what I have heard and from the reviews that are online, this a good but emotionally charged book.

Schindler’s List” by Thomas Keneally

Holocaust remembrance Day is at the end of the month so I thought it only fitting that I should read a book about the subject. I have seen the movie that was adapted from this book and it has always stuck with me, especially the cinematography. The movie is in black and white except a little girl dressed in red. Not to mention the music, which makes an emotional movie all the more heartbreaking. I have a feeling that the book is going to be just as emotional but in a different way. What we can’t see in the movies are the descriptions. At first I thought that this book was fiction as per the genre listed on the back flap but reading the author’s note, it is a nonfiction book in the form of a novel. I think it is going to be similar to what Erik Larsen did in “In the Garden of Beasts.”

A Severed Head” by Iris Murdoch

This is the February pick for the Modern Library Book Club. We read Murdoch’s “Under the Net”, which is her more popular novel and everyone enjoyed it. We figured we would give another book of hers a try. Not too sure what this is about except that its about marriage, adultery and more. It should be an interesting read.