A Cuppa Cosy Reads – February 2020

“I need books like I need oxygen” – Ellery Adams, The Book of Candlelight

Welcome to my library, my domain, my happy place. It is time to, once again, wrap up the books that I have read in the past month.

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Photo by Angie at A Cup of Grace Photography

February was a bit all over the place with reading. I read a total of 8 books, listened to 2 books on audio, and DNF’d 1 book and honestly, I felt like my reads were either incredible or mediocre (to bad). Looking at my rating I gave mostly either 3 Star or 5 Star ratings to each book and it was definitely something that played a role both in the books I picked up and in how I felt while reading each subsequent book.

So, let’s just break down all of the books I read in February. Starting with my completed physical books:

A Heart so Fierce and Broken by Brigid Kemmerer: (Goodreads/Purchase) 5/5 Stars. This is the second book in a Trilogy that has really impressed me. In the first book we follow a young girl as she is thrust into a Fantasy world that parallels our own, and she has to fight for her new home to survive. In this second book we follow the same characters as the first, meet some new characters, and have the stakes increased once again. I think I preferred this second book to the first one as we get to delve more into the politics of these different towns, we get to see a different side of our characters as well as continue to see strong female characters navigating society. I loved the first book, but I think I’ve loved this second one even more.

The Bronte Plot by Katherine Reay: (Goodreads/Purchase) 3/5 Stars. Ah, I think my most disappointing read of the month. In The Bronte Plot we follow a young lady who seems to have it all, only to have everything crash down around her. As she works to try and pick up the pieces she goes on a trip that will change everything for her. This was my third Katherine Reay novel and I think I’ve liked each one less and less. In this story I did not connect with our main character, Lucy, in any way. I found her to be quite…annoying. I didn’t care for the love interest, nor did I understand why certain elements were added within the book. Quite honestly, the book wasn’t bad necessarily (and wouldn’t be bad if you just wanted something light and fluffy to read), but it felt half assed at times.

Bunny by Mona Awad: (Goodreads/Purchase) 3/5 Stars. I don’t even know where to begin with this book, including how to summarize it. We follow Samantha who feels like she doesn’t “fit in” with the other students in her master’s Program. One day she receives an invitation to join into an exclusive salon held by the other women in her program, called The Bunnies. All is not what it seems though and as Samantha falls deeper she starts to take part in some dangerous rituals with a deadly outcome. (All per the inside flap of the book). Honestly this book had me saying “WTF” from start to finish and I still don’t even know what was really going on. There is something sickly sweet and funny about this book, but also just really out there and really confusing.

Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer: (Goodreads/Purchase) NR. I really wanted to listen to the audiobook for this book as I had heard such rave reviews for the audio, but alas it was not meant to be. Eating Animals is a nonfiction book talking about the animal industry. It follows one man as he works through his education about the industry, his feelings towards eating animals, and ultimately what he decided. Honestly, I think someone that I really appreciated about this book was that while it was focused on the ethics (which is something that I already knew about going into this book), BUT it shared multiple perspectives. We get to hear testimonial from Cattle Ranchers, Factory Farmers, PETA, and someone who is vegetarian (I believe) but runs a ranch. I think something I took away from this book is that ultimately everyone has to do what is right by their own moral code.

The Wives by Tarryn Fisher: (Goodreads/Purchase) 3.5/5 Stars. Ah this book was a conflicting one- on one hand a wild ride, but on the other a bit of a disappointment. The Wives asks you “What if your husband was married to two other women and what if one of those women shows signs of abuse.” So, this book was an easy read, contained some good twists, and had a really great concept. HOWEVER, I did not care for the main character for 2/3’s of the book and found the ending to not entirely fit with the rest of the story.

The Book of Candlelight by Ellery Adams: (Goodreads/Purchase) 5/5 Stars. Another sequel has made the list! This is the third book in the Secret, Book, and Scone Series, a series which follows 4 women who have found friendship with each other. Each books presents a mystery in their little town of Miracle Springs and we follow them as they try to solve that mystery. Gosh, I just want these books to continue to come out and we can continue to just live in this little world. I love the vibe of the bookstore and town that these stories take place and I love that are characters are starting to grow and open up more and more.

World Without End by Ken Follett: (Goodreads/Purchase) 5/5 Stars. This is a sequel or companion novel to Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth, and I loved it just as much as the first one. In World Without End we are still in Kingsbridge, although we are a couple generations removed from the first story. When a mysterious fight occurs in the forest, 4 young children and one adult end up being bound together for much longer than they ever thought. Let me just say this, Ken Follett knows how to weave a saga. I loved every single page of this 1000+ page book and I loved that we got to follow a few women who worked hard to follow their passion/dream and didn’t cave to demands of others. I really liked the strength of our characters and that we get to see a little bit more of the town politics. I’m looking forward to the next book in this series.

Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls: (Goodreads/Purchase) NR. Man, Lily was one heck of a woman. In Half Broke Horses we follow the grandmother of Jeannette Walls as she grows up on the frontier. Lily is an incredible woman, from breaking horses at a young age, to growing up learning how to fight for what she believes at a time when women weren’t really fighting. Jeannette wrote this book in first person, which not only makes the book easily readable and relatable, but adds a power and insight to the era’s that she lived in. I thoroughly enjoyed this story and would highly recommend.

Now on the books I listened to on Audio:

The Only Plane in the Sky : An Oral History of 9/11 by Garrett M. Graff: (Goodreads/Purchase) NR. This was the most incredible book I’ve listened to in my life. This spans out September 11 and the days following in the words of those who experienced it. You hear from survivors, their families, pilots of other planes, people in the Capital, members of Air Traffic Control, and so many others. I think this is one of those books that is just the greatest tribute and memorial we could ever have. I highly, highly recommend listening to the Audio book, but I will also be purchasing the physical book because it was just that good.

Come Tumbling Down by Seanan McGuire: (Goodreads/Purchase) 5/5 Stars. Listen, I just love diving back into these novella length stories, and I don’t think anything will change that. In this 5th installment we get to meet back up with some of my favorite characters and see a new world within this world. The Wayward Children series is a really fun series of novella length stories that talk about what happens when children return from these other worlds (like Alice in Wonderland, Narnia, etc.). They are really just good fun to read.

And Finally, the one book that I “gave up” on:

Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson: (Goodreads/Purchase) I’ll be honest, I was hoping that this book would be along the same vein of the Charlotte Holmes series, which is one of my favorite school set mysteries in the Young Adult genre. The premise sounds great, a kidnapping at a school that leads to a famous cold case. We follow two different timelines as our main character tries (with some fierce determination) to solve the kidnapping. I got about 130 pages in when I realized that I just wasn’t connecting to the story or the characters and everything just felt a bit…meh. Instead of trying to push through, I just put it down as the feeling I was getting was one of “the whole story is going to be a bit meh” rather than “maybe I just need to get through this set up portion first”.

So, those are all of the books that I read in the month of February! As of the time that I am writing this I am in the process of deciding what to read next as I’ve just finished Half Broke Horses. What was your favorite book that you read in the month of February?

 

 

A Cuppa Cosy Reads – January 2020

Welcome to my library. My domain. My happy place. In my library I’m in my element. Let’s talk books…

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Photo taken by Angie at A Cup of Grace Photography

I said that something I wanted to introduce a little more regularly on my little slice of the internet was books. I’m an avid reader and while I have an entire blog dedicated to books, I felt like that having such a big part of my life be so separate from my personal blog, was…strange to me. I’ve been sharing my reads as I am reading them on my social media, but I think I am also going to wrap up each month with a little post talking about what I’ve read that month. I’ll have the title, links to goodreads/purchasing options, my rating of the book, and then my thoughts of the book. (If you are curious about my library/office, you can see that post HERE).

In January I read a total of 7 books and listened to 1 audio book. Overall it was what I would consider a really good reading month, the lowest rating I gave out was a low 3 star and on the whole I actually enjoyed most of the books that I read. This month was the month of Dark, Thrilling, In One Sitting reads. I have added a new favorite genre (I’ve always loved it, but I have a name for it now and a narrowed down taste) and I’ve added an author to my “try some more” list. And now, I’m going to stop aimlessly waffling and start talking about the books…

*** I apologize for the Purchase links going to Amazon Audible options, you can select the physical or e-book version using the same link. I will have a different link moving forward***

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Desire by Haruki Murakami (Goodreads/Purchase): 4/5 Stars. This is a collection of short stories that revolve around desire (as the title would suggest). Murakami is a new to me author that I’ve been wanting to try for a while now, but haven’t pulled the plug on reading his book. In his own words, he takes quite a bit of inspiration from Kafka, Carver, Vonnegut, and Jazz Music. All of his works are also translated from the original Japanese text. I’ll be completely honest, it was the “inspiration from Kafka” that worried me. I’m not the biggest Kafka fan (which is putting that very lightly) and I have become wary of authors that pull inspiration from him. All that being said, I really enjoyed this little collection! It was a pleasure to read and I only had one Kafka-esque instance. I’ll definitely give another one of his full-length novels a try later this year to see if I still feel the same about his writing in a longer setting.

The Deal of a Lifetime by Frederik Backman (Goodreads/Purchase): 4/5 Stars. I have yet to read a Backman book that I haven’t enjoyed. This book is especially touching as we follow a man who is facing…a crisis of conscience (trying to figure out wording on this without giving away plot). It is written as a father to son letter and allows the reader to question some life decisions within the safety of “knowing the outcome”. Really enjoyed this read, as I always do, and I’m looking forward to picking up the last couple Backman books I have left on his published list.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt (Goodreads/Purchase): 4/5 Stars. This is THE BOOK of dark academia. The book that kind of “revived” the genre, gave it a name, brought it to the forefront. We are following a group of snobby Classic Majors at a prestigious university as they try to find a life beyond the humdrum. They become very much wrapped in the subject that they are studying (Latin/Classics) and very quickly things start to unravel. This book just has it all, a friend group, dynamic well-crafted characters, a storyline that follows through, a mystery (I wouldn’t go so far as to say Thriller), and some incredibly beautiful writing. This was my second Donna Tartt book and I enjoyed this one vastly more than The Goldfinch (my first of hers). I found sometimes the narrative would be a little meandering, or the writing would get a little too much, but overall I really enjoyed it.

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern (Goodreads/Purchase): 3/5 Stars. Oh boy. It’s been a couple of weeks; I’ve had my book club discussion and I still don’t know what to really say about this book. Gear up, this is going to be a fun one. So much fun in fact that I am struggling to come up with a good description of what the book even is. We are following a young man who stumbles on a moment from his life that has wound up in a strange book. This book leads him and us down a rabbit hole (not entirely figurative) and into a world of stories. We follow his story, the fairytale stories, and a slew of side characters as they are trying to figure out the story. Confused yet? That’s how I was for a good amount of this book. I enjoyed the world (scratch that I loved the world, probably the one thing I really loved about this book), I enjoyed the characters (for the most part), but it was just too much story for one book. I would have preferred if she had stuck with one storyline and followed that through, instead of going on so many side stories that we, as readers, are left feeling like we’ve been chewed up, spit out, and no real conclusion. Just too much for one book and I think that that is why I struggled with it so much.

Lock Every Door by Riley Sager (Goodreads/Purchase): 5/5 Stars. This was the first book that I read in January that I would classify as a “thriller” and I loved every minute of it. Lock Every Door follows a young woman who has found herself in a bit of a tough life spot. That is until she stumbles upon an apartment sitting ad for an exclusive building. After a quick interview she lands the job, but not all is as it seems. Covering the span of just two weeks, the tension amps up quickly and doesn’t let go until the very last chapter. I read this book in basically one sitting because I just couldn’t put it down. I needed to know what was going to happen next, and even though I predicted who the “bad” person was, I couldn’t predict how everything would unravel and just how tense things would get. Highly, highly recommend this one if you are looking for a quick, captivating, read.

If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio (Goodreads/Purchase): 5/5 Stars. Dark Academia that is Shakespeare centered? Give me all of it!!!! Pulling a lot of inspiration from The Secret History, If We Were Villains follows a group of Shakespearean Actors at a prestigious college of the arts as they navigate their final year of school. As you would expect, things don’t quite go to plan, and one student ends up in jail. I have to say, this book did it all for me. I loved the Shakespeare references (of which there are too many to even begin), I loved the theatrical element, the school in the woods dark setting, and the twist towards the end. The level of drama was also incredible. I would say that if The Secret History daunts you, or if it you felt like it was too wordy, too long, but otherwise you like it (or the idea of it), then this will be a really good fit. It’s a much more palatable version of Dark Academia.

The Kept Woman by Karin Slaughter (Goodreads/Purchase): 4.5/5 Stars. After reading Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter towards the end of last year, I’ve been anxious to pick up another of her books. I found this one by chance in our local library (where I also picked up Pretty Girls) and it sounded along the same vein as Pretty Girls in terms of pacing and storyline (although they are quite different). In the Kept Woman we follow a detective, Will, as he sets to solve a crime that he is way too connected to. As things start to get clearer in regard to the crime, they only seem to get “muddier” in his personal life. This book is excellently paced, and the characters have a depth to them that makes you feel like they are really standing in front of you. I enjoyed seeing the growth the characters showed, even if it seemed a little…forced at times (or easy at other times) and found that the author conveyed their personalities all too well. This wasn’t quite a 5-star read for me, but it is really up there and after reading, I actually found out that this book is part of a larger detective series (although it is not necessary to read previous or subsequent novels). I don’t think I’ll read any of the previous books, but I may end up picking up the next one in the series just to see.

The Husband Hunters by Anne de Courcy (Goodreads/Purchase): NR (No rating- I do not rate Nonfiction books). This was a random “I really want an audiobook to listen to” pick and I’m not mad about that. A nonfiction selection, this book details the lives of several young ladies (and their moms/families) in the late 19th/early 20th century who would travel to Europe to find husbands in the aristocracy. I don’t have too much to say about this, as it’s pretty straight forward, but I did really actually enjoy it. The author did a great job at giving the insight into WHY each of these girls found husbands in another country, background on the both the woman and man and their respective families, AND a little look at what happened after they got married. Some of the stories are wild and full of drama, others are fairly tame, but all were interesting.

And finally, I figured I would end this post (and future ones) with what I am currently reading. I am currently reading Eating Animals by Jonathan Safron Foer. I’ve only just started this, so I don’t have any thoughts quite yet, but I hope to enjoy this one. I think no matter what your ideals are, it’s good to see other aspects and points of view. It’s all about continuing to educate yourself and grow.

 

And now, that’s a wrap on all the books I’ve read in January! A couple questions…Did you enjoy this post? Did any of these books pique your interest, and if so, which ones? What did you most enjoy reading in January? Let me know!

Raising Readers

It’s no secret that I am a massive reader. I devour books the way people devour food. I spend most of my time reading and it is my dream that my kids read books as well. I don’t expect them to read like I do, but I would hope that they turn into little bookworms in their own ways. I’ve noticed over the past year, they both have been turning to books more and more and it is something that I’ve gotten comments on in the past when others see that.

First, the importance of reading.

Reading has such an impact on our lives in ways that we don’t even realize. Reading is a form education and escapism, a way of gaining new insight and knowledge on a vast amount of topics from a vast amount of voices. As human beings we read in some form every single day, whether that is reading a book, a news article, a blog post (are you reading this post?), or even a caption on social media. And with those words, knowledge is conveyed to us. Knowledge about the person who wrote them, knowledge from the words themselves, knowledge in our reaction and understanding of them.

Basically, reading is important beyond just being able to actually read signs, directions, and other things. Even if the only reading you do is reading directions, or Instagram captions, it still has an effect on your life.

Of course, I prefer to read books. For me personally reading is a form of education and escapism. I learn from everything that I read (even just the light and fluffy novel, even if I’ve just learned that I don’t like what I just read, there is always something to be gained) and I truly love to just curl up with a good book in the afternoon and read till the late evening.

Anyways, all that aside now, let’s talk about how my little boys are starting to turn into little readers. Now, they are too young to actually be able to read the words on the pages (that’s coming though), but they love to a)be read to and b) flip through the books they have themselves and tell us what is on the pages. We’ve started to slowly introduce the longer chapter books to Colton (our older son, a few months shy of 4 years old), starting with Winnie the Pooh.

One of the top reasons why I think they are starting to get much more interested in books is that they see Mommy reading. Kids watch the adults that are around them, especially parents, for cues. They pay attention to what we do and what we say and they model some of their behaviors off of ours. For some reason, when I am sitting and reading a book, the boys are reasonably well behaved (allowing me to actually read the book) and often times they will pick up a book and sit with it as well.

Another reason I think they are starting to get more into it, is that if they want to read, we will stop everything and read. Everything stops if they want to pick up a book and read it. We will read whatever, whenever and always give it our full attention.

There are two reasons in regards to buying books that I think has helped. The first being that if we are out and about at the library or at a store that carries books, the boys can each pick one book out for themselves. We will usually always buy them a book if they want it (as long as we don’t already have it at home, at which point I will usually see if they want a different book). This may not have always worked our in our personal favor (those noisy sound books are obnoxious), but it still encourages them to continue reading and shows them how great books can be. The second reason is they have full control over the books that they want (again as long as we don’t already have it). If it is age appropriate, then they can pick the book that they want. I find that just by simply encouraging them to read what they want, makes them more likely to pick a book up. I’m sure this will play a much larger role later on in their lives when they are actually reading. At the present though, it means we have a lot of Paw Patrol and Dinosaur books in our home.

Honestly, what it comes down to is just offering books to your children. Showing them that reading is enjoyable and allowing them to explore books and reading in their own little ways. If they are given the freedom to read what and when they want (aside from bedtime, but that’s going to be a later battle I feel like- Colton is already trying that), it encourages them to want to read.

Self Care Pt. 2 : My Forms of Self Care

Last week we talked about Self Care, what it means, what it can look like, and how to figure out what it looks like for you. Today I want to share a little bit of what Self Care looks like for me, just to give you an idea of the different forms it can take.

For me, Self-Care is a way to just check in with myself, to check in with my soul, to make sure that I am doing ok, and then to re center myself if I am not doing ok. There are a couple different ways that I do this depending on what my needs are at that time. There are things I do daily, things I’ll do monthly, and things that happen just every once in a while.

Daily:

There are several things that I do daily that I view as forms of Self Care.

Yoga. I start my mornings off with a yoga flow that is typically anywhere from 20-50 minutes (depending on what time I have). I find that this gives me the perfect amount of time of quiet (before my early riser descends the stairs), along with the perfect amount of time to re center myself. I’ve done a whole long post about what yoga means for me and what it has done for me (you can read that HERE), but it is the one time that my brain simply stops. My brain goes quiet and all that I feel is the stretching of my muscles and the calmness steadiness of my breathe. It is pure heaven and I am able to carry that peace throughout the rest of my day. It really just centers me both physically and mentally. I can always tell if I’ve gone even a couple days without doing some form of yoga.

Journal. I try to journal every morning, over that first cup of tea after I’ve gotten ready for the day. Lately I’ve been trying to do my own form of morning pages, which I may share later on after I’ve done it for some time, but basically I try to take a little bit of time every morning to just get everything out of my head and onto paper. Usually Yoga clears my mind and journaling is just the icing on the cake for getting any last little rumblings out. Writing can just be incredibly cathartic, and I find that it really not only helps me gets the feelings off my chest, but I can also go back through and pinpoint various things that I may not have been able to see at that time.

Read a book. This is the final thing that I do daily that I would say is Self-Care. Reading is just everything to me. It is relaxation, education, escapism, a way of communicating, and so much more. I have several reading central posts coming up, but it is on the same level as Yoga for me.

Something I try to do weekly is go for a nice long walk. Now, I’m still learning our immediate area, so rather than walks we’ve just been doing nice long bouts in the backyard, but over the past couple weeks, walks have become a thing again. I found that not only is getting the exercise and sunshine such a mood booster (and a big hit for the kids), but just feeling that breeze, seeing the beauty of the countryside around us, is a really good form of self-care. It ticks all the boxes for me.

Finally, there is one thing I do monthly (almost bi monthly) that is my form of Self Care, it is also the thing that if I really just need to take care of myself I will try and do more frequently. That is take myself out to the shops or a local café. Just me, myself, my current read or my computer or my camera and some quality alone time. Often times I will just go to a local café and sit there for a few hours, eating some fresh baked goodies, sipping on a cappuccino or tea. Sometimes I’ll head to the library or to the bigger shopping center. The key thing is that it is just ME and I (and I alone) choose what to do. Occasionally my husband will take the boys out for a daddy and son day and I’ll get the house to myself, but mostly this form of Self Care is alone time at a café or the library. This to me is the ultimate of ultimate’s and it is one of my favorite things to do. I really crave the alone time (some of which simply comes from this season of life, some of which is the introvert in me) and this is the best way for me to get that. A couple hours to myself and I feel like a new wife, mom, woman.

 

I do want to also mention that I have done therapy before (as someone with my adolescent trauma it was necessary) and I highly advocate for therapy. It is so incredibly important and even if you feel like “I don’t have any issues”, it is still worth going to. A lot of times we use our friends or family as therapists (even if we don’t mean to or realize it) and while that is ok from time to time, that is not really what our entire friendship is for. I find that therapy is just a great form of release in itself and it can really help to have an outside party give you some insight. I wanted to mention it as I know that a lot of what I listed does fit into the “romantic ideal” that I talked about previously, but therapy is one of those forms of Self Care that maybe isn’t shared or pictured, but is so incredibly important and I definitely view it as a form of Self Care for myself.

 

So, that’s my basic self-care. What do you do to practice self-care?