Currently Reading

Typical.

Typical.

There was a point in my life when reading more than one book at a time seemed like cheating- unfair to the characters and to my frazzled brain that was trying to keep track of everything. Welp. That is certainly not the case anymore. To me, books are like chihuahuas- the more, the merrier! I'm able to sink into one story like a hot bath, and then just as easily curl up with a different book before bed. I was going to share my review of Yaa Gyasi's Homegoing today, but I'm re-reading parts of the book that I couldn't stop thinking about... so I'll save that for next week. Instead, I'll share what I'm reading and what I'm about to put on my nightstand next.

  • Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi: This is a book that will stick with you long after you've closed the back cover. Gyasi brilliantly shows how we are not as removed from our ancestors as we may believe, and the impact of every generation. Per Goodreads, "Written with tremendous sweep and power, Homegoing traces the generations of family who follow, as their destinies lead them through two continents and three hundred years of history, each life indelibly drawn, as the legacy of slavery is fully revealed in light of the present day."

  • A Manual for Cleaning Women: Selected Stories by Lucia Berlin: My sweet friend gifted this book to me and I'm so grateful she did. I'm also embarrassed I wasn't familiar with Lucia Berlin. The woman can craft a sentence. It's simple and smart and makes me crazy that not everyone knows about her.

  • Books Can Be Deceiving by Jenn McKinlay: I just started listening to this on Overdrive- potentially my favorite app. It's the first in a series titled the Library Lover's Mystery... that's me, I'm a library lover. It seems like a wonderful series to listen to as the weather starts to cool and we all start to spend more time indoors. 

Books I'm about to crack open- in no particular order: Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas; The Love That Split the World by Emily Henry; Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by (duh) J.K. Rowling; The Hotel on Place Vendome: Life, Death, and Betrayal at the Hotel Ritz in Paris by Tilar J. Mazzeo; and On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephan King.

What are you reading right now? Nothing? Well get thee to a library!

Cover to Cover: Letters to the Lost

Letters to the Lost is a love story- two love stories, actually- and Gray weaves those stories together sweetly. We meet Stella and Dan in 1942 in London. Dan is an American airman who strikes up an improbable friendship with Stella- one that keeps them alive in more ways than one. We hop over to London in 2011, where we watch as Jess and Will cross paths time and again. After running away from a horrid boyfriend, Jess finds Dan's letters to Stella... and then finds Will. The meet cutes are definitely screen worthy, and the end had me reaching for the tissues. If you liked The Notebook, I think you'll like this one. 

 

What I liked: I love love. So a book about finding love in sometimes bizarre places already has an advantage. Gray wrote simple characters, but had you cheering for them right from the start. Dan definitely has the dreamboat role down pat.

What I didn't: It's always hard to see how few choices women had back then, especially during the war. There were times I had to close the book for a bit out of frustration but I'm glad I kept going. Gray also touches on mental health issues, but doesn't stay very long. I especially wish there would have been more attention paid to on particular incident that the characters seem to gloss over.  

I gave it 4 stars on Goodreads for a great escape and because sometimes you just need a good cry.

3 Times It's Okay to Fail

Failure. The other f-word I don't like.

It doesn't feel good, can be super awkward, and usually leaves you wanting to just lie in the road. Right? Aside from being super humbling, failure can actually be good for you and your goals.

Wait! Don't go!

Failing at something- no matter how epic or small the fail-scale- can be huge for personal growth. If you let it, failure can actually spur creativity because it forces you to come up with a different approach to solving the problem at hand. Failure can give you the opportunity to try something new- the opportunity you didn't know you needed.

Of course, it's what happens after the failure that is really cool. When I say cool, I really mean tough, gritty, not Instagram worthy and plain ol' hard work. Because, yes, failure provides the opportunity at trying something again, but you have to do the work. It's the proverbial picking-yourself-up after failing that shows your tenacity. There are many ways to solve the problem in front of you, just remind yourself that through failing, you've eliminated a possible solution and move on.

With that, there are 3 times when it's okay to fail. Not just okay, actually, but great! In these instances, failing is a natural step in the growth and development process and can teach you a lot about how far you can go.

3 Times It's Okay to Fail

  1. When you try something brand new.
    Learning a new hobby, developing a new skill or trying out a new language gives us ample opportunities to fail. Why wouldn't it? It's a brand new experience for us! As frustrating as it is to be a beginner at any stage of our lives, eventually- through trial and error- we learn what works and what doesn't. When I was learning to clip my shoes into my pedals, I fell over 99% of the time... still clipped in to my bike. I looked kind of like a turtle on it's back... in lycra. Fail. But I eventually tried using my OTHER foot to un-clip and voila! I didn't fall over (as much, anymore). Success.
  2. Working out at the gym.
    Muscle failure. It hurts so good because your muscles are working to their full ability. Once you work them to this threshold, they let you know they're done and can do no more. This is when the magic happens and you build strength. I know this from working with coaches and trainers for years and years, and won't get into the science of it here. **Note this doesn't mean collapsing on the treadmill because you're not listening to your body. It does mean getting the muscle group your working on to experience muscle failure by targeting it with controlled exercises. 
  3. Making a "big ask."
    I saved this one for last because it scares me the most. Yesterday I reached out and asked for something I really want, because if I can't do this myself, why should I encourage you to do it? I lost nothing by asking, and even though it was not 100% the answer I wanted, I'm confident. My husband and I knew a woman who was the epitome of this- she got friends into sold-out shows, talked with fascinating people, had these really incredible experiences all because she made "big asks" all the time.

Think about this the next time you fail. If you failed and it didn't bother you, ask yourself why you tried whatever it was. Were you just checking off an item on your "should-be-a-goal" list? I've found that when you fail, you're provided with a little bit of clarity about what you really want. 

Want more? Here's JK Rowling's TED Talk about failure: The Fringe Benefits of Failure. Take 20 minutes this afternoon to watch it- she may give you a new perspective on the topic.

 

Cover to Cover: The Secret Place

The Secret Place (Dublin Murder Squad, #5) by Tana French

 

The Secret Place is the 5th book in Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad. They all stand on their own, but I highly suggest you start with the first one: In The Woods. The Secret Place takes us into the world of teenage girls and the familial bonds formed during boarding school.

A cold case is reopened and Detectives Conway and Moran head back to St. Kilda’s to look for anything Detective Conway may have missed when she first investigated. Two rival groups of friends are in the center of the investigation, and the detectives have to see through the smokescreens each and every girl is putting up in order to solve the crime.

What I liked: French nailed the urgency and value in being with your friends during middle and high school. There’s an undercurrent of danger, though, that keeps the friendships from reading as too sweet or tweeny. French definitely gets the teenage tone across, and there were some parts where I just, like, couldn’t take it? These novels move along quickly and I love her story telling. I also enjoy the series because as you progress, you get to know the Murder Squad from different points of view.

What I didn’t like: There was a hint of the supernatural. Lights exploding and shadows that maybe aren’t shadows… that sort of thing. I had a hard time suspending my disbelief— shifting focus from a boy’s murder and the investigation surrounding that, to the elements of supernatural abilities. I couldn’t do it. I do understand the force and energy surrounding girls, especially tight-knit groups, but that’s a different type of magic. Give me Hogwarts or give me reality… I have a hard time combining the two.

I gave it 4 stars on Goodreads because I love this series but didn’t enjoy the maybe-magic.

Psst: The link to the book is an affiliate link, which means I may earn a few cents if you purchase it using the link. However, I'm also a huge fan, HUGE, of the local library. So if that's more your style then go forth and support your library!

Cover to Cover: Station Eleven

 

Happy Thursday, everyone! 

I'm starting a new series here which I'm calling Cover to Cover so I can write a little bit about a book I recently finished. If you're looking for your next book to add to your TBR shelf this may be a great fit for you. Or, have you read it already and want to share your thoughts? Get to commenting- I'm definitely down for a little electronic book-club chat.

As I figure out what to share here, please let me know what kind of book reviews and write-ups you like to read. 

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Station Eleven is a post apocalyptic novel that didn’t leave me feeling hopeless. Scared? Yes. Researching survival skills? Absolutely. But not hopeless.

Station Eleven follows a traveling symphony and Shakespeare troupe around the Great Lakes region twenty years after a super flu wipes out most of humanity. Through memories, shared stories, and glimpses into the past, we’re shown what the characters have endured for the 20 years following the end of civilization as they knew it. 

 

 

What I liked: Not feeling utterly hopeless when I turned the last page. I liked how full the characters felt, despite not knowing their back stories. It was a wake up call to how much I take for granted: seeing airplanes in the sky, being able to reach my husband whenever I want to, the internet... I also appreciated the lack of zombies or zombie-like creatures— the flu made it more realistic. Which leads me to...

What I didn’t like: EVERYONE DIED FROM A SUPER FLU. Too realistic and had me reaching for a breathing mask.

I gave it 5 stars on Goodreads because the characters still managed to find the humanity in survival— as Star Trek says, “because survival is insufficient.”

Psst: The link to the book is an affiliate link, which means I may earn a few cents if you purchase it using the link. However, I'm also a huge fan, HUGE, of the local library. So if that's more your style then go forth and support your library!