A Book & A Cup of Tea

Tuesdays are always tough for me. It is typically my day of work meetings, and today was no different. It started with a fundraising campaign planning session, then touched base with the website team about an upcoming launch. This was followed by a sales call to run ads for an upcoming program, and then I ended the day with a 30-minute calendar update.

And then, I have just about an hour or so to catch up with my family over dinner and walk the dog before my writing workshop begins from 7-10 pm.

On top of all of this, I have a sore throat, and I’m not feeling the good writing vibes this evening. For tonight, I’m going to curl up with a good book and a cup of tea with lots of honey. I’m sure I’ll get my voice back – both physically and literally – in the morning.

Good night friends!

The April Book Report

I used to look forward to packing my weekends with people to see and places to go, but thanks to COVID, I’m delighted with quieter Saturdays and Sundays. After a busy week at work, all I want to do is curl up on the sofa with my favorite blanket and a good book. Luckily, I used my downtime wisely because April was another busy month of reading.

Today, I have three books to review – I thoroughly enjoyed one of them. I managed to finish another, but sadly one might land in the dreaded DNF (did not finish) pile. It is rare for me to add a book to the DNF list, but it is one of those books that I had high hopes for, but it just isn’t doing it for me. But let’s get to the good ones first!

As a side note, I do not receive any commission if you buy a book from these links. All I ask is that you consider buying the book from your local independent bookstore. Amazon has enough of our hard-earned money, don’t you think?

Writers and Lovers by Lily King

Writers and Lovers paperback bookIt was the opening scene that hooked me into this book right away. Casey’s landlord catches her outside and peppers her with intrusive questions about her book. And then, he has the nerve to say the most obnoxious thing that no writer wants to hear. “I just find it extraordinary that you think you have something to say.”  I wanted to slap him. Once I have someone to root for in a book, the story has my complete and undivided attention. Casey is a writer and a waitress who is dealing with the grief of losing her mother and juggling her feelings for two men – all while trying to get a book published. I loved the details of her writing process and her posse of supporters that have her back. I finished this book in less than a week. Whether you are a writer or not, this is one novel to add to your TBR pile.

The Power of Writing Things Down by Allison Fallon

I picked up this book because I enjoy receiving the author’s weekly emails on writing. She is a reliable source of excellent prompts when I can’t think of anything to write about in my blog. I also enjoyed her recent webinar on how to write a memoir. I thought her book would be equally brilliant. Honestly, I finished the book but can’t remember if I learned anything – which means I probably didn’t. Not because she isn’t a wonderful speaker and writing coach – but because I’ve read too many other books on writing, and she wasn’t saying anything I hadn’t heard before. This made me realize that maybe I need to stop buying so many books about writing and just sit my ass down and write! 🙂 If someone is a new writer, I think this book has a lot to offer and is a good place to start. But, if you are someone like me who has been doing this for a while and has read writing books from Anne Lamott, Stephen King, and others of that caliber – this might not be the right fit for you. But, her Monday Motivation emails are superb.

The Library Book by Susan Orlean

When I buy a book, I’m pretty committed to reading it – maybe not right away – as noted by the size of my TBR pile. But I will get around to it. I was so excited about this book because I love libraries. If independent bookstores are my guilty pleasure, libraries are a safe haven to explore new genres and authors without buying the books. This particular book is a nonfiction account of the largest library fire in the United States. It happened in Los Angeles, and there are a lot of unanswered questions. But instead of drawing me into the big mystery, I’m reading more about the ins and outs of library systems and how they operate. Maybe the mystery is still in there somewhere – but after about 50 or so pages – I’ve lost interest, and I’m tired of waiting for the juicy part.  So, I’m going to put it aside for now and pick it up at another time.

No time to waste, my next new read is The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid. I’ll review it in my May book report.

What book did you read in April? Have you ever DNF-ed a book? Which one and why?

Summer Reading Guides Are My Downfall

Springtime means three things to me – nice weather, allergy season, and summer reading guides. May is typically the month when these lists of new releases and paperbacks are splashed across every analog and digital platform known to man. The New York Times and Washington Post will have their lists ready to roll out any day now. Some magazines are already recommending their “best beach reads.” And for someone like me who loves buying books and recently quit cold turkey, these lists can be pure torture.

Reporters and insiders take books that they loved and add them to their summer reading lists. Not to mention all the bibliophiles out there who have platforms of their own – which I subscribe to that share their own suggestions. And why – you might ask – should I believe these total strangers? Well, they haven’t steered me wrong yet, and I have the books to prove it.

Last year, Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid was everybody’s summer darling – and rightfully so. I know because I bought it, of course. 🙂 And if you haven’t read it yet, it recently came out in paperback.

Another favorite of mine from last year was The Midnight Library by Matthew Haig. I stumbled upon this book after listening to an interview with the author. Now, I recommend it to everyone.

But here is the real reason (or reasons) the 2021 summer book lists cannot suck me in. I want to get through last year’s recommendations first. I have 11 books from 2020 and 7 books from 2019 that I haven’t read yet. And I’m still reading books I purchased in 2018!

Pictured above is a small fraction of my TBR pile. A few weeks ago, I picked the books that I REALLY wanted to read, and I’m still making my way through the pile. I’ve already read three out of the five titles and just started the bottom book a few days ago. As I tackle the larger shelf of unread books, I find that building these smaller piles-  and keeping them in plain sight so I don’t get distracted – makes the task much more manageable.

I will say that my reading stats are improving. I have read 20 books in 2020 and six books so far this year. As these 2021 titles come out and scream, “BUY ME! BUY ME!” – I will put those new and shiny books on my list for later. Much later.

What are some of your favorite reads from the past few years? I promise I won’t go out and buy them – but I am wondering if I already have them. Maybe if you say they are good – I’ll bump them up on my reading list. And if you are a big reader like me, please follow me on Goodreads – where I am tracking and sometimes reviewing books.



Challenging Myself

Today marks the beginning of two new challenges for me. One is the Ultimate Blog Challenge (UBC for short) – a 30-day blog challenge that I have been participating in (on and off) for several years. One of the best things about this challenge is that it feels like a Facebook family reunion. I see familiar faces that welcome me back with open arms. We say hello and catch up as if no time has passed. We are connected not by blood but by our passion for writing and dedication to the craft. And, the only thing I need to bring to this get-together is my best writing and a plethora of good cheer and never-ending support for everyone in attendance.

During UBC, I always meet long-lost “relatives” who I don’t know but almost instantly connect with over favorite books, authors, and of course, secret writing fantasies that we wouldn’t dare share with our real families. C’mon, who among us here doesn’t dream of being locked in their favorite independent bookstore for an entire weekend surrounded by nothing but amazing stories and plenty of coffee? Who is with me?!

Regardless, this virtual “family” reunion is full of friendly faces and endless encouragement. There are no crazy aunts or uncles in attendance that tell you to get a real job here. Everyone gets it, and we have a blast sharing our stories and experiences with readers from Day 1 to Day 30. And, we never really say goodbye. In the end, we say the Hebrew word “L’hitraot” – until we meet again because we know it’s true.

The other challenge I am taking on this month is possibly more personal than blogging. It is called The Unread Shelf Project. This project is for avid and out-of-control book buyers like me who LOVE to read and support writers everywhere. Unfortunately (or fortunately), my TBR pile is over 100 titles (153 to be exact). They are either sitting on a physical bookshelf in my office, downloaded to my Kindle, waiting patiently in my Audible account, or strategically spread out on nightstands, in closets, and other random places in my house (and yes, maybe in the trunk of my car).

The first step is recognizing the problem. I saw a quote on Facebook the other day that read, “It isn’t hoarding if it’s books.” I firmly believe that this is true. But I also have an uncle who has a dedicated room full of books from floor to ceiling, and I don’t want it to come to that. And it won’t.

Immediately after signing up for this project, I knew it was the right decision. The introduction itself was like looking in a mirror. Yes, I love the high of buying a new book, but it wears off rather quickly once I’ve made my purchase. Yes, I want to dive into my own shelves instead of constantly adding to them. Yes, I need to get my reading life under control, and now is as good a time as any.

This challenge has a few parts. First, I have committed to not buying or borrowing any books for one month. That will be hard, but not impossible. I am actually looking forward to taking a break because every time I buy a book, I feel guilty knowing that I didn’t really need it.

Second, I went through my stacks and determined which books I no longer wished to read. There are some books I have acquired that are not my cup of tea, so this was a fairly easy process. I also felt a lot lighter knowing that my bags of books would be donated to people who would enjoy them.

Third, I am selecting the books I want to read based on a monthly challenge from The Unread Shelf Project. For May, I was asked to pick a title from my pile that I bought as a new release. I chose The Library Book by Susan Orlean. A few years ago, I wanted this book so badly that I bought the hardcover version. I couldn’t wait for the paperback to come out. I had to have it! And, guess what, it has been collecting dust ever since. Today, I am already 50 pages in and loving it.

At the end of the month, I want to give you a good report. I want to say that while I was tempted to buy a new book(s) – many times – I did not cheat on my TBR pile. Instead of buying a book, I will write about this challenge here. I have a feeling that combining these two challenges will be a match made in heaven.

I’m excited about completing both of these challenges this month, and I’ve set some personal goals. For UBC, I love to write, share my thoughts, and then write some more. I have a book in me that is dying to come out, and every word and sentence in this blog is a step toward accomplishing that goal.

I also know that I have some wonderful stories right at my fingertips. I remembered a few years ago that I picked up a book off my shelf called Beneath a Marble Sky. It sat there for at least two years before I decided to actually read it. This historical novel about the building of the Taj Mahal is still one of my favorite all-time reads. I was kicking myself for not reading it sooner. I’m excited to find the next story right in front of me to add to my favorites list.

So, two challenges in one month. I’m ready to get started!

Are you taking on any big challenges this month? Tell me all about it in the comments!


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