Archive of ‘My Reading Life’ category

March Book Report

Exciting news! I’ve decided to reorganize my bookshelves in a whole new way.

Okay, it’s not that exciting. But let me explain. Right now, tmy books are split up into fiction and non-fiction shelves and arranged alphabetically. It’s kind of boring, and I’m not inspired enough to go there and pick up my next great read. Instead, I shop online, support indie bookstores, and download titles on Audible.

And here’s the problem. I have no self control when buying books. This month alone, I bought ten new titles. Ten titles!

Ugh! Why…why do I keep buying more and more books? It isn’t that I’m lacking in things to read. I have some fantastic books sitting on my shelves at this very moment that are collecting dust. I know I bought them for a reason; I wanted them. And I spent my hard-earned, good money on them. They are deserving of my attention, and quite frankly I think they are starting to get a little jealous.

Sometimes when I’m sitting at my desk, I hear my books whisper, “pick me next.” It’s about time I heed their call.

Okay, maybe that isn’t true, but today I’m declaring a new book buying ban on myself for a few months. I vow to familiarize myself with my ever-growing TBR pile. And maybe I’ll do a little reshelving and redecorating to my shelves to make those books more appealing.

I admit that I’m pretty excited about this endeavor. And just think, my next five-star read could be a book I already own. It could be the new and shiny object I pick up — instead of my credit card.

Anyway, here is how else my reading life has shaped up this month.

What I Read

The Tobacco Wives by Adele Myers

I love history, and I love to read, so it makes sense that one of my go-to genres is historical fiction. There is rarely a novel in this category that I don’t enjoy. I love diving into a book with strong female characters set in a time period that I’ve never explored. The Tobacco Wives is that kind of a book. Set in North Carolina, Maddie Sykes is a young seamstress tasked with sewing exquisite dresses and ballgowns for the wives of cigarette company executives. Maddie must make an important decision when she accidentally learns about the health risks of smoking and the cover-up to keep people – particularly women – in the dark. She can either keep her head down, stay quiet, and do her job or share what she knows, take a stand against corporate greed, risk her livelihood, and more.

In addition to this book being a five-star read, the author has a fascinating background that she brings to the story. She is a public relations professional who grew up in this part of the country. Her focus on how cigarettes were marketed to women by trusted doctors and false advertising play a huge role in how this all shakes out. The author’s note was just as enjoyable to read as the book itself, so don’t skip it.

Everyone Has What It Takes: A Writer’s Guide to the End of Self Doubt by William Kenower

I’ve been writing since I was nine years old, and I’ve suffered from imposter syndrome ever since. Questions like – who will care what I think or write about have plagued me for years.

Today, I can say that I am in recovery from this line of thinking, but I don’t attribute that to this book. It has taken many years of learning about my craft, participating in writers’ workshops and conferences, and talking to and learning from some brilliant writers that have snapped me out of it. There was also something about turning 50 last year that made me realize how much time I’ve wasted wallowing in my anxieties. Life is too short.

Reading books also has a funny way of introducing a new perspective to whatever ails you. It was Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird that was instrumental in breaking my patterns of self-doubt. However, this book served as a good reminder and will remain in my writer’s toolbox. The author focuses on the business of writing and the parade of rejections that are bound to happen when finding an agent, getting published, and selling your work. If you are a writer experiencing self-doubt and frustration about this process, I’d recommend this guide to you.

Paperback Crush: The Totally Radical History 80s and 90s Teen Fiction – Gabrielle Moss

If you asked me what I read as a kid, I’d tell you that my strongest memories were from the Sweet Valley High books. I couldn’t get enough of the adventures of Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield – identical twin sisters in appearance with yin and yang personalities. I can still remember the adrenaline rush I felt when the next book in the series appeared in the bookstores. I had to have them. I’d spend my allowance or beg my parents to buy them.

If you asked me what else I read as a kid, my memory would be fuzzy, but after reading this book – The Paperback Crush – I saw the photos of the book covers and smiled. I remembered definitely hiding copies of “Forever” and “Sooner or Later” under my pillow. There were also so many pre-teen and squeaky-clean romance novels from companies like Wildfire and Sweet Dreams. And my sister read every Christopher Pike book she could get her hands on.

This book was a fun trip down memory lane that digs into the early days of my reading life – and if you are my age – you will enjoy it too.

What I’m Reading Now

Here is what I’m reading now and will review next month.

That’s it for me. Let me know what you have been reading lately. And if you have any good ideas for helping me redecorate my bookshelves, I’m all ears!

Happy reading!

February Book Report

How are you? How is your reading life going? It’s been a good news/bad news situation for me.

The good news is that I have thoroughly enjoyed each one of the four books I’ve read so far this year. Two of them are listed below. You can find the other two books in my January 2022 Book Report post. It is rare when I get on a winning streak like this one. So much so that it makes it hard to pick my next read because I don’t want to be disappointed.

Maybe this is why February has been a slow reading month for me. That’s the bad news. Typically, I like to have at least three books to report on here, but you are only getting two from me this month. I plan to pick up the pace in March and have already selected my next book, Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love.

But before I pick that book up, here are my reviews of the two books I read this month.

Project Hail Mary

The last science fiction book I read was The Hunger Games. It was also the first one I’ve read, although it might be considered young adult dystopian by others. But I’m not going to split hairs here. It was a book that my daughter wanted to read, and we decided to do it together. Side note: I read all three books in the series, and I don’t think she finished the first one. LOL.

The point is that while I enjoyed that series, I prefer historical fiction, family drama, mystery, and the occasional romance novel.

Having said that, I did enjoy Project Hail Mary immensely. It is hard to talk about this book without revealing spoilers. I’ll just say that it’s about a middle school science teacher who finds himself alone on a spaceship with amnesia. With that description alone, you should know that it is a story worth sticking around for to see how it ends.

Here are the things I loved about the book. The bromance between the main characters with their banter, quirks, and sense of humor made me feel like I was right there in the room as this relationship came to be.

Okay, spoiler alert – he isn’t exactly alone.

Also, while much of the story takes place in outer space, there are flashbacks to unravel the mystery of how this teacher wound up in outer space in the first place. I loved this particular storyline and might consider re-reading the book just to see what hints it may have dropped along the way that I missed. By the way, I also loved the ending – which was incredibly satisfying.

I’m glad I listened to the book on Audible because the narrator was so entertaining and kept me engaged even though I found the scientific aspects somewhat exhausting. Every time there was a problem, it took a lot of trial and error, circular logic, and self-talk for the main character to arrive at the solution.

If you have Project Hail Mary on your TBR list, I’d recommend it for the sci-fi fans and even for readers like me who like their stories to be from this galaxy. Amaze! Amaze!

The Personal Librarian

Back here on Earth, I love historical fiction. The Personal Librarian hits all the right notes. The brilliant Belle da Costa Greene is the personal librarian to American financier J.P. Morgan – a lover of the written word. Belle travels the world, securing rare manuscripts, books, and artwork to build an incredible collection. But, she has a secret that she is keeping from everyone – including Mr. Morgan. Belle is a Black woman passing as white. As she mingles with socialites and secures treasures for the library, she must tread carefully so that her true identity is never discovered. If her secret were revealed, the effects would be devastating to her career, her life, and her family.

Historical fiction is at its best when the books are well-researched, and the characters are fully developed. I didn’t know much about J.P. Morgan and had never heard of Bella da Costa Greene before picking up this book. By the end of it, I wanted to know more. I’m seriously considering picking up a nonfiction book about the life of Ms. Greene because she is that fascinating.

The story behind the writing of this book is also equally captivating. Co-written by Marie Benedict – who has written other books about strong but little-known women in history – and Victoria Christopher Murray – one of the country’s top African-American authors, these women are just as impressive as the book itself. If you read this book, do not skip the author notes from each of them.

I can’t recommend it highly enough, and if you read it, I’d love to discuss it with you.

Independent Bookstores

Zibby Owens is a podcaster for “Moms Don’t Have Time To Read.” She interviews authors, recommends terrific books, and supports indie bookstores. So much so that she has put out her 22 in 22 challenge, which is to visit 22 independent bookstores this year. As you know, I love indie bookstores, so this is the perfect challenge for me.

February is my birthday month, and I never work on my birthday. Instead, I drove to The Doylestown Bookshop and spent at least an hour combing through the stacks. I purchased four books, and because I am on their mailing list – I had a coupon for 20% off one title. Guess what – they took the discount off of the most expensive book! Happy birthday to me!

I love this bookstore because they have a large selection of bestsellers and backlist books. The nonfiction sections of the books are also well stocked, which is a bonus for me. If you have young children or teenagers, the children’s section and young adult books have plenty. And if you love jigsaw puzzles, they have an excellent selection in the back of the store.

The other bookstore I visited this month was The Story in Ardmore, PA. This place was more of a cafe than a bookstore. The coffee was excellent, but the shelves were quite limited. The prices were right – $5 for a paperback and $7 for a hardback. While it was nice to browse, I didn’t find anything I wanted that day – even with such low prices. Maybe next time.

I hope this inspires you to skip the big box booksellers and check out one of these stores instead. I’ll keep posting which ones I visit. Here is hoping I reach 22 books and 36 titles by the end of the year.

Happy Reading!



Reading Resolutions

Can you stand to read another book-related post from me? Good, because I want to talk about my 2022 reading goals. And because it is close to 9 pm and I’ve had a long day, I’m just going to get right to them.

Resolution #1 – Read More Books

Last year, I read 30 books. I didn’t plan to, but it just happened. Now that I’ve reached that milestone, I want to set a new record. Although my resolution specifies 35 books, I hope to reach 50 titles. On average, I read four books a month, which would add up to 48 books by the end of the year. But in all seriousness, I’m not putting that kind of pressure on myself. It isn’t the number of books that matters to me.

Here’s the catch – and this is what is important – half of the books I read this year must be ones I already own. Between my Kindle, my Audible and Libro accounts, and my bookshelf overflowing with physical books, I have close to 200 titles currently collecting dust.

There was a reason that I had to have these books, but because I bought them a while ago, I don’t remember that reason. Did I find the blurb on the back cover compelling? Did I read a fabulous book review in O Magazine and decide I had to have it? Did it come recommended by a friend? Or did I simply fall in love with the front cover?

Regardless of the reason, now is the time to dive in and find out. And if I’ve outgrown that reason, resolution #2 gives me the perfect out.

Resolution #2 – DNF More Books

As I go through my TBR list, I need to DNF more books. Therefore, if I read 50-75 pages and am not enjoying the book, I will put it in the “did not finish” bin. I will be ruthless about this. It isn’t a failure if I don’t finish a book. It is actually an accomplishment because, little by little, I am tackling my books and making decisions about each one.

Besides, there are too many books that I want to read. Why waste my time on books that no longer interest me?

Resolution #3 – Visit and Support More Independent Bookstores

One time, I was in Kutztown, PA, for a college tour with my daughter. My family decided to have lunch at the local brewery, and I noticed the Firefly Bookstore across the street. I remember the cheerful windows and holiday lights waiting to welcome me in. I wanted to check it out so badly, but I was also hungry. We walked around the entire campus and worked up an appetite. I decided to eat first and stop by the bookstore when we were done.

By the time we finished lunch, it was getting late, and it looked like it was about to rain. We stepped outside and felt the instant chill in the air. I glanced over at this quaint bookstore and reluctantly decided not to go in. I was so disappointed. I still haven’t forgotten about that place, and I hope someday I’ll get back there.

To make up for it, I haven’t passed up on entering an indie bookstore again. Ever since I was little, bookstores have been like a place of worship for me. (But, please don’t tell my rabbi I said so.)

Inside a bookstore, I find inspiration, enlightenment, and a sense of belonging. I’m with my people who share a faith in books and honestly believe they are a gateway to fulfillment. In 2022, I will not deny myself the opportunity to be a part of that community.

What are your reading resolutions for 2022? Let me know in the comments, and happy reading!

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