Archive of ‘My Reading Life’ category

Book Confessions

Let’s get right to it, shall we?

Confession #1: I went shopping for a book by myself

The book haul from Barnes and Noble

I should never be left alone in a bookstore with a credit card and no chaperone. But yesterday, I went with good intentions for a specific purpose—to buy my daughter a birthday present. There is a particular book I want to purchase for her that was just published in paperback. I planned to find the book and go straight to the cashier. I promised myself not to look at or even pick up any other books along the way.

Well, things didn’t go quite as planned. I was greeted at the door with several signs that read “50% off hardback books.”

Shit.

But I kept walking past those tables and searched through the stacks. I couldn’t find that damn book for her anywhere. I looked in the social sciences, psychology, self-help, and essay collection sections. Yes, I could have asked the bookseller for their assistance, but what fun would that be?

After 30 minutes of looking, I worked my way back to the front of the store to leave. I passed by those signs again and of course, I looked. And, I may have accidentally come upon a few titles on sale that I would up buying. Sigh.

Also, did I mention I was shopping at a Barnes & Noble instead of an indie bookstore? In almost every book review I write, I implore all of you to support your local independent booksellers. They need our support for their own survival, and that’s no exaggeration.

And then, I caved.

I texted my good friend and frequent bookstore chaperone, Janis, to fess up to crime. I asked her, “Am I a fraud?!” She forgave me for my transgression and assured me that I wasn’t an imposter.

“You are a person who loves a good sale. I would never fault someone for that!”

Janis is such a good friend in many ways, especially when I need to justify my book-spending habits.

Confession #2: I’m cheating on my books.

After my busy December reading eight books to reach my Goodreads goal, I wanted to start the year off with something easy. My friend, Meryl, told me about “Things You Save in A Fire.” It’s definitely a good story, but the protagonist is pretty grumpy, and I was getting a little annoyed at her and how she was treating her mother. I’m only eight chapters in, and she seems like the kind of character who turns her life around and gets much happier. Or, she gets laid, who knows… But I had to put this book down for now.

So, I switched to nonfiction and am now reading “The Life Council: 10 Friends Every Woman Needs.” I love this self-help book and will likely finish it tonight. And then, I’ll go back to the novel.

But then the library texted me to say actor, author, and icon Henry Winkler is waiting for me at the pick-up window. The Fonz (or, more accurately, his best-selling memoir) is at the library. I’ve had it on hold for a while because I’ve been so excited to read his book. It is only 230 pages so I can sneak it in, right? Shh…don’t tell my other books.

As an aside, I once wrote a piece about the books I already own sitting on the shelf talking shit about me. They were jealous of the chosen books in my hands and sat silently protesting with no real plan or method of retribution. It was quite creative, but now I think they are all staring at me and seething. Sweet dreams, Elisa!

ANYWAY…

Confession #3: My Kindle Got Lonely

I told my writing coach, Rachel, I wanted to review craft books for her blog. I thought this would be a good way to produce new content for her website and social media pages. And, as a writer, I’d find some new sources of inspiration as well. She suggested I start with the gold standard of writing, “Becoming a Writer” by Dorothea Brande. So, I downloaded it for 99 cents on my Kindle.

And then, I downloaded two more books.

I know. I’M OUT OF CONTROL!

But that’s it. I’m done now. The shopping spree is over, except for one small problem.

I still need to buy that book for my daughter.

XO,

Elisa

December 2023 Book Report

Hi friends! I am participating in the Ultimate Blog Challenge, where I will post a daily blog post all month. That’s 31 blog posts! I look forward to reading other people’s blogs who are doing this challenge with me. I also really appreciate the likes and comments you bestow upon me. It helps to know I have a real live audience and that I’m not writing into cyberspace. I promise to respond to every single one of them! Thanks in advance for reading.


At the beginning of December, I was eight books behind on my 2023 Goodreads goal. I thought there was no way I’d read that many books in one month.

I thought wrong.

Knowing that listening to a book is much faster than reading them on the couch, I figured I had a chance to reach my goal. In case you are someone who thinks listening to books is cheating or not really reading, just imagine being read to by a talented narrator while making dinner or running errands. And then, imagine that the story is so good that you tack on a few more errands just so you can finish another chapter.

Convinced? Well, I tried. 🙂

This month, I read four books on Audible, one Kindle download, and three in print. To reach my Goodreads goal, some of the books I selected were less than 200 pages and were just as enjoyable as the others. I can’t remember the last time I read eight books in a month, but I’m proud of myself for not only reaching my goal but being able to enjoy each of these titles. Here are the books I read in December.

Fiction

Nora Goes Off Script by Annabel Monaghan
272 pages/Kindle

I was afraid to read this book at first. It received a lot of hype, and when that happens, I’m often left disappointed. But the title kept coming up in the reading-themed podcasts that I listen to, so I gave it a shot. I’m so glad I did.

Nora is a romance channel writer who turns the story of her failed marriage into a big-screen, blockbuster movie. When the actors and crew film at her home, the tables are turned on her life. She finds herself falling for the lead actor who happens to be playing her husband. Of course, he is nothing like her husband, but it all gets complicated in the most entertaining way. Add in a few adorable and inquisitive children and you’ve got yourself a great read.

Romantic Comedy by Curtis Sittenfeld
309 pages/Audible

Go behind the scenes of an SNL-type show and step into the shoes of a writer who pulls back the curtain on how sketches are selected and produced each week. The author did not leave out any details, making it so easy to get into the book.

On top of this, the relationship between the writer and the guest host did not disappoint. Add in the COVID-19 pandemic and the accompanying neurosis in a typical partnership, and you’ve got yourself a great read. The narrator was excellent, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The Leftover Woman by Jean Kwok
288 pages/Audible

When someone in my book club recommended this to the group, I was all in. Historical fiction is my jam, and surprisingly, I haven’t read a lot of it this year. This is something I will rectify in 2024.

Here is the setup: Jasmine comes from a rural Chinese village where she left her controlling husband to search for the daughter she was told had died in childbirth. Meanwhile, Rebecca appears to have the perfect life in NYC with a fantastic job, a wonderful husband, and a beautiful adopted Chinese daughter. The story that unfolds for each woman has many twists and turns. I was fully invested in their storylines. When their lives intertwine, the result is both surprising and captivating.

I also learned a lot about Chinese culture and the “one-child policy,” where women were subjected to sterilization and abortion and abandoning daughters for sons. The historical context, along with modern themes of women’s empowerment and economic and cultural differences, drew me into this story and left me wanting more.

This is one of the books that I added miles on the car just to keep listening. 🙂  Highly recommend! I can’t wait for book club to discuss this one.

The Mostly True Story of Tanner & Louise by Colleen Oakley
352 pages/Audible

I chose this as my last book of the year. It was a fun ride as I felt myself sitting in the backseat of a classic Jaguar, enjoying the banter of Tanner, a 21-year-old woman with an uncertain future, and a not-to-be-underestimated elderly woman named Louise. They are on the run, but only Louise why. Tanner is behind the wheel, but Louise is doing all of the steering throughout this road trip. Parts of the truth unfold in rest areas, diners, bars, and hotels until they finally reach their destination.

Tanner and Louise are accompanied on this trip by side characters who are just as intriguing as the protagonists. Everyone has a backstory and plays a sizeable role in the plot. I’d definitely recommend this one to people who enjoy a little mystery, romance, and humor rolled up into one excellent read.

Nonfiction

I Could Chew on This: And Other Poems by Dogs by Francesco Marciuliano
112 pages/Print

This little book of poetry will have dog lovers and owners laughing out loud. Some of my personal favorites include: “I Lose My Mind When You Leave the House,” “Purse Dog,” and “Halloween.”

For cat lovers, this author has a companion book of poems called “I Could Pee On This.” I haven’t read it because I’m highly allergic to cats, but I’m sure felines are just as funny. Maybe…

Nothing Like I Imagined (Except for Sometimes) by Mindy Kaling
118 pages/Audible

I love it when a celebrity is also a brilliant writer. Mindy Kaling’s smart collection of essays addresses everything from single parenting to social anxiety. This is the first book I read about her and by her, but definitely not the last.

No Crying in Baseball: The Inside Story of A League of Their Own by Erin Carlson
320 pages/Print/Library Book

This year, I read three behind-the-scenes books about some of my favorite movies. The first one was “The Church of Baseball,” which was about the making of Bull Durham. I loved that book because I’m a fan of both the movie and the sport. Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy “Surely You Can’t Be Serious,” about one of the funniest movies I’ve ever watched, Airplane! This book was more about getting the movie made and sold rather than great stories about the film itself. (I do a full review this book, here). After I finished the book, the only thought I had was that it looked like I picked the wrong week to quit drinking. 😉

When I heard about this book, I was thrilled. I loved this movie and watch it often. The author did her homework about this movie and leaves nothing out. From Penny Marshall’s directing style to Madonna’s diva-like attitude on set to giving Tom Hanks his second chance in movies, there were so many anecdotes. It was hard to pick a favorite, but I’ll say the story behind casting Geena Davis instead of Debra Winger was a winner. Minor characters and plot lines were also discussed in the book which made this book that much more enjoyable.

I finished this book in two days and will probably reread it and then watch the movie again.

The Art of Living: Reflections on Mindfulness and the Overexamined Life by Grant Snider
144 pages/Print

How do I even begin to explain this book? For once, I’ll have to go to the Goodreads description because I can’t do it justice. “Beloved cartoonist Grant Snider has created a humorous, uplifting look at mindfulness in this collection of one- and two-page comics that map his inner thoughts, poetic observations, and frequent failures at living mindfully.”

In a word, this author/cartoonist is brilliant. I also enjoyed “I Will Judge You by Your Bookshelf,” which should be on every book lover’s shelf if it isn’t already. Each of his cartoons in “The Art of Living” makes you think a little and smile a lot. He has a way of breaking down his thoughts into small moments that truly capture my heart. I highly recommend this, especially at the start of a new year.

What did you read in December? Let me know in the comments!

XO,

Elisa

Reading Goals: Then & Now

Hi friends! I am participating in the Ultimate Blog Challenge, where I will post a daily blog post all month. That’s 31 blog posts! I look forward to reading other people’s blogs who do this challenge with me. I also really appreciate the likes and comments on my posts. I promise to respond to every single one of them! Thanks in advance for reading. 


As many of you may know, I’m a big ole book nerd, so I wanted to start the new year by reflecting on my reading life over the last 12 months. I had high hopes and managed to check a few things off of my bookworm to-do list.

  • More library visits: I borrowed more books and saved a lot of money. I’m there so often now that the woman at the drive-up window recognizes me. I don’t know her name, but she always greets me with a smile and grabs my books off the reserved cart before I can get out my library card. She also knows I’ll ask for the latest issue of Book Page, a free library magazine with many recommendations. Most libraries carry them; just ask!
  • Discovered a new indie bookstore: We vacationed in Bar Harbor, Maine, in September and stayed at an Airbnb located a few blocks away from Sherman’s Books. I hung out there almost every night after a long day of touring, perusing their shelves that reached from floor to ceiling, talking to the friendly staff, and supporting their business. If I could have found a way to hide myself in that bookstore overnight, it would have been amazing.
  • Summer book project: I reorganized the bookshelves in my house. Now, I have curated shelves in the office, bedroom, and living room. I also cleaned out my kids’ shelves and got rid of several thick SAT guidebooks. The shelves all look so nice, and it has been a joy to rediscover the books I forgot I owned.
  • Book blogs: I wrote many book reviews last year and learned that several readers learned about some great books from my posts. In fact, some of my highest open rates were from my book blogs. If you want to read them, search for “book report” in my blog search bar. And stay tuned for my December book report coming soon. 
  • No Book Buy July: Between borrowing books at the library, organizing my shelves, and refraining from buying books for a month, I enjoyed the books I had instead of buying new ones. It wasn’t easy because I’m always looking for the “it” book that everyone is reading. Plus, July was Amazon Prime Day, where the books were super cheap. And yet, I didn’t buy one book and lived to tell about it.
  • Book stats: I completed 34 books this year. My Goodreads goal was originally 40 titles last January, but then I reduced it to 35 and then again to 33 as the year went on.

2024 Reading Goals

  • Number of books: Today, I set my book challenge to 40 books, hoping to finally reach that magic number.
  • Backlist books: I signed up for the Backlist Book Challenge where each month I read a book or two published in a specific year. Preferably, the books I pick are ones I already own. January has been assigned the year 2012, so I will read The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton and a nonfiction book still to be chosen.
  • Track my books: I downloaded a Google spreadsheet from the women who host the Currently Reading podcast. I want to dig into my reading habits a little more this year, such as where I get my book recommendations, whether I bought or borrowed it, and why I liked or didn’t like specific titles. The more details I provide, the better I’ll know myself as a reader at the end of 2024.
  • Buy less and borrow more: When I buy a book, it has to be from Audible or an indie bookstore, not a big box store or downloaded to Kindle. This way, I’ll have to go out of my way to get to the store and buy it. I will also only buy physical books if there is a long wait at the library or if no one has it and I must read it by a certain date (like for book club). I will keep in mind that I have plenty to read already and learn to tune out the hyped books that everyone is talking about. This is going to be my hardest goal, but I’m putting it out here and willing to give it a shot.

How was your reading year? What bookish goals are you setting for 2024? Let me know in the comments.

XO,
Elisa

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