When I plan my reading for a month, I typically add one too many books to my monthly TBR. And this is fine, unless I have a book review due and miss the deadline, as I’ve done with Netgalley reads. (Anyone else have this problem?) It’s been helpful for me to remind myself when I’m doing my bullet journal planning each week to list the books that have to be read and a review written.
This month I have two ARCs from Celadon Books (Thank you, Celadon!!!) that I’m reading. I just finished the first one, Good Boy: My Life in Seven Dogs by Jennifer Finney Boylan, and I LOVED it! I actually didn’t think I would because I’m not a dog person, but the main story is about the author with dogs woven throughout. (More on this book when I write the review.) The publishing date is April 21. The second one, Hollywood Park: A Memoir, is being released on May 6, but it’s a longer read, so I will start that one in a few days.
Then I have two books with a focus on sustainability that I’m reading for myself and as part of a community reading initiative for my job at a local nonprofit. The first one is From What Is To What If by Rob Hopkins, founder of the Transition movement. I’ve been reading and following this movement for nearly a decade and all I can say is, I wish our town was a Transition Town–we’d have a lot more resilience in dealing with this new economic downturn and food supply disruption. But it’s better late than never, so I’m reading this book to help stimulate my imagination to think how life can be different. The second one is Wendell Berry’s The Art of Loading Brush: New Agrarian Writings. These are essays critiquing modern American culture. In my mind, there is never a better time to read Berry’s words than right now.
I’m also reading a novel along with my husband, Alan. It’s called Angel of Darkness by Caleb Carr. Did any of you see the tv series The Alienist that was out a few falls back? It was pretty freaky, and I don’t do scary books/movies/tv shows, but I was able to watch it with my hands over my eyes during some scenes. Actually we both watched it. So when Alan picked up this book, written by the same author, and had me read the first few pages, I said I’d get the kindle version so we could read along together. One chapter in, and I’m hooked.
I’m also reading poetry which I’ll share here, as well as a few other books I’ll get around to sharing soon. So what are you reading this month? Whether you are reading any of the ones listed here, or have a list of your own going, please share in comments!
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With so much of everyday life feeling upside down right now, I am doing my best to keep my life as normal as possible. This includes getting up early for yoga and meditation, eating meals at nearly the same times each day, and reading as much as I did before. (Or maybe a little bit more!) Reading relaxes, comforts, takes me out of my own story, and connects me with people past and present whose stories and experiences are different than my own.
My lovely boss recommended I read this to better understand the way our local non-profit works and to help me see what can happen when local residents are engaged in projects that bring improvements to their community. (Thank you, Theresa!)
These pages contain stories of what worked and what didn’t. I learned that it is much better to go into a community that may have high poverty and crime rates, for example, and look for the assets already there, rather than simply focusing on the needs. What might those be, you ask?
Local people have untapped practical skills and know what they would like to change, but they have to be asked, to be consulted, rather than ignored in favor of bringing in “the experts”. They need encouragement in order to be confident enough to speak out, because they don’t want to appear foolish in front of others in their community. Engaging local residents requires patience and careful listening as people share their ideas. It requires connecting people to each other. It requires long-term thinking. If you’re involved with your community in any way, I highly recommend this book!
For a fast-paced thrilling read, here is Hide Away by Jason Pinter. Introducing Rachel Marin, a strong woman with a violent, tragic past that she is trying her best to forget. She is doing her best to care for and protect her two children and live as normal a life as possible. But she has this impulse to stop crime when she sees it. So she gets involved in helping the police with a murder investigation and things get a little scary.
I enjoyed the ease and pace of reading, Rachel’s strength of character, as well as the personalities and dialogue of the two police officers working on the case. This is going to be a series, apparently. It reminds me a bit of Dean Koontz’s Jane Hawk series, so if you like those books, you will probably like this as well!
Did I tell you I’m reading through the Bronte sisters’ novels this year? So far I’ve listened to the audio versions of Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, and Shirley. The first two were re-reads, but I’d never read Shirley before.
Set in Yorkshire, on the moors, during 1811-1812. There was a lot happening then: the Napoleonic Wars, the War of 1812, an industrial depression focused in the mills, and the Luddite uprisings. If you’re interested in history, this novel could be a springboard into all of these subjects. Against all of this political and economical upheaval is the story of two young women who are finding their place in the world, falling in love, dealing with family, suffering losses, and discovering their inner strength. I’m glad I read it and, if you’re a Bronte fan, put this novel in your TBR pile.
So that’s a little taste of what I’ve been reading lately. What have you been reading?
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Yay! It’s finally Friday. (Did you know my favorite day is actually Thursday?) Anyhoo, I’ve got some favorites podcasts and books to share with you!
My favorite new podcast: Wildly Aligned Podcast with Natalie Brite. Thanks to my friend Britt for sharing a post on Instagram with Natalie’s positive voice. I’ve listened to this episode twice and am going to listen a few times more.
Do you ever get into a funk (aka depression) and just need to renew your mind? Yeah I was in one for two solid weeks and was wondering if I was going to be able to pull myself out or if it finally was time for meds.
Then I listened to this podcast and it was like the clouds parted, angelic choirs sang overhead, and I saw the light. It was as if my whole being was saying a big “Yes!” to every word.
Beyond Aromatics Podcast by the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy or NAHA (of which I am a member). On this episode, Tiffany Carole shared about AromaPoint Therapy, which she developed, in which different diluted essential oils are placed on specific energy points on the body. She shares three points where anyone can apply the recommended oils. I applied diluted Bergamot to the Shen Men point on my ears and actually felt a calm release about 10 minutes later. Don’t knock it till you try it!
Visual Marketing With Tailwind is a podcast mostly devoted to Pinterest. Until a few months ago, I was barely using Pinterest and hardly ever for business. Then I started a marketing course and the instructor drilled into us that Pinterest was more important than Facebook or Instagram, and indeed, reminded us that Pinterest wasn’t actually a social media platform–it’s a search engine.
So, I started using Tailwind, which is an app which lets you schedule pins for a month or two at a time. And my views went from 1K-31K in 3 months. You better believe I want to know all I can about how to use Pinterest to get traffic to my website and Etsy shop! This episode is one of many that will provide useful info for those who want to grow a following and get more traffic to their site/blog/shop.
It’s been too long! With all the other things I’m juggling (Ayurveda classes, aromatherapy classes, Etsy, website, blog, social, our music duo) I haven’t been keeping up with telling you what I’ve been reading and loving. But here are a few (I’m currently at 103 books read for the year, so I’m breaking a personal record.)
The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbie Waxman was the most light-hearted book I read this year so far! If you like to read about people who love books, this one’s for you.
Nina is a quirky, introverted twentysomething who lives in L.A., works at a bookshop, discovers a family she never knew she had, and meets a very promising man.
The author’s way with words is clever and unusual–no cliches here. And there are parts that made me laugh out loud, which is not something that happens often. (Unless I’m reading David Sedaris.)
Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield is my top pick out of all the books I read this year. I listened to the audio version read by Juliet Stevenson and I absolutely recommend you read it this way.
The story: one cold Winter Solstice night, a man appears in the doorway of The Swan, an inn on the Thames. In his arms he holds a small girl and nobody knows where she came from.
Three different stories unfold that include a missing child. Which family does the girl belong to? Or is she someone else entirely? And what did happen to those other children? Exquisitely written, woven with mystery, magic, and myth, this book will enchant you.
The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware was the scariest book I read this year. Here are some of the scary bits: a nanny alone in a house with children who hate her, the house is in the Highlands of Scotland, the house is also a “smart” house so everything from lights, to the refrigerator, to music is controlled by an app and is under constant surveillance from the parents who are away on business. Oh, and there are malicious, ghostly happenings that are directed at the nanny, as they were at her predecessors.
OK, I’m a wimp and don’t read horror, but this came close. I had to read this during daylight hours with people around. So if you like thrillers, this one is for you!
It starts like a film, zooming in to the fictional Caribbean island of Saint X. It’s the mid-1990s. The reader is introduced to a well-to-do white family from New York vacationing at a luxurious resort for their New Year holiday.
Alison, the elder daughter, is eighteen, pretty, self-absorbed, bored, and typical of girls of that age. The unusual one and the heroine is the younger daughter, Claire, or Clairey, as the rest of the family affectionately calls her. She is seven years old, has an unusual appearance, is shy, socially awkward, and appears to display possible OCD tendencies. The parents remain on the periphery of the story, and what we know of them is seen through the eyes of Claire.
The other main character in the novel is Clive Richardson, a young man who was born and lives on Saint X, and who, along with his friend, Edwin, becomes a suspect in Alison’s death. In comparison to the comfortable lives led by Alison and Claire, Clive is without the advantages that wealth can provide. He grows up without many prospects for the future, so after high school, he and Edwin find employment serving the rich white people at the resort. Which is how they meet Alison and become involved with her on the night she goes missing.
As the novel unfolds, we glimpse some of what Alison gets up to and who she interacts with in the days and nights leading to her disappearance and death. After her body is discovered, Alison and Claire’s parents are frantic to find answers, to discover who is responsible for their daughter’s death. Although Clive and Edwin did spend some time with Alison on the night she disappears, not enough evidence is found to charge them with her supposed murder, so it goes unsolved.
The novel moves forward to when Claire is in her mid-twenties and living a fairly normal life in New York City complete with a good job and friends. She calls herself by her middle name–Emily–in an attempt to put the past behind her. Except she can’t. She still longs to learn more about Alison, and more about why and how she died.
We flash back in time to the months immediately following Alison’s death when Claire’s parents are wrapped up in their own grief and she feels forgotten. Then we see her as she grows up, through all the awkwardness of adolescence and into young adulthood, and how she must deal with the way people treat her when they discover who she is. And even though she wishes she could forget, Alison haunts her wherever she goes.
So Claire is in NYC, trying to live like other people do. As a way to assuage her guilt for her affluent background, she moves into an apartment in a part of Brooklyn that is mostly inhabited by economically disadvantaged people of color. She is still socially awkward, so she doesn’t interact much with the other tenants in her apartment building, but she wishes she could.
Then, out of the blue, while taking a taxi home one day, Claire looks in the rearview mirror and is shocked to find that her driver is Clive Richardson–the man that she has always believed was involved in Alison’s death! Everything she lived through as the sister of a murder victim comes flooding back in that instant. She becomes obsessed with getting Clive to confess. She relentlessly stalks him every night after work. She finds out everything she can about him. Then she pretends to befriend him.
What comes of this obsession with and connection to Clive? Will he eventually confess to his involvement in Alison’s murder? Will Claire ever be able to heal and let go of the past? Ah, but that would be telling! That is what you’ll find out when you read Saint X for yourself.
I was very fortunate to receive an Advanced Reading Copy of Saint X from Celadon Books; however, all opinions are entirely my own. Saint X, written by Alexis Schaitkin, will be published on February 18, 2020 and I absolutely recommend this novel to lovers of mysteries, crime thrillers, and really good fiction.
I should like to live in a sunny town like this Where every afternoon is half-day closing And I would wait at the terminal for the one train Of the day, pacing the platform, and no one arriving.
At the far end of the platform is a tunnel, and the train Slows out of it like a tear from a single eye. You couldn’t get further than this, the doors all opened And the porter with rolled sleeves wielding a mop.
Even if one restless traveller were to arrive With leather grip, racquets under the arm, A belted raincoat folded over the shoulder, A fishing hat, and a pipe stuck in his mouth,
There would be nowhere for him to move on to And he would settle down to tea in the lounge Of the Goat Hotel, doing yesterday’s crossword, And would emerge later, after a nap, for a drink.
You meet them in the bar, glassy-eyed, all the time. They never quite unpack, and expect letters From one particular friend who doesn’t write. If you buy them a drink they will tell you their life history:
‘I should have liked to live in a sunny town like this, Strolling down to the harbour in the early evening, Looking at the catch. Nothing happens here. You could forget the ill-luck dogging you.
‘I could join the Fancy Rat Society and train Sweet peas over the trellised porch Of my little slice of stuccoed terrace. I could Be in time for the morning service at Tesco’s.
‘I expect death’s like this, letters never arriving And the last remembered failure at once abandoned And insistent, like a card on a mantelpiece. What might it be? You can take your choice.
‘ “I shook her by the shoulders in a rage of frustration.” “I smiled, and left the room without saying a word.” “I was afraid to touch her, and never explained.” “I touched her once, and that was my greatest mistake.” ’
You meet them before dinner. You meet them after dinner, The unbelieved, the uncaressed, the terrified. Their conversation is perfectly decent but usually It slows to a halt and they start to stare into space.
You would like it here. Life is quite ordinary And the self-pity oozes into the glass like bitters. What’s your poison? Do you have a desire to drown? We’re all in the same boat. Join us. Feel free.
And when the bar closes we can say goodbye And make our way to the terminal where the last (Or is it the first?) train of the day is clean and waiting To take us slowly back to where we came from.
But will we ever return? Who needs us now? It’s the town that requires us, though the streets are empty. It’s become a habit and a retreat. Or a form of justice. Living in a sunny town like this.