Friday, August 7, 2020

What I Read in June & July

After a major slump during quarantine, Summer swooped in and revived my reading life. Yay for Summer, for its multitude of reasons - but especially time for books!

Because I had such a slump, I didn't keep up with my monthly What I Read updates and decided to group June & July together here to help me get back on track. SO, here's what I read!

What I read in June + July 2020 |

This stack is considerably smaller than it normally would be because A LOT of the books I read over these two months were ebooks. I'd avoided reading ebooks in recent years, but had to resort to them during quarantine with the libraries closed. So, the first batch of books I've read have already been reviewed in a post about some of the Ebooks I read during quarantine. Those are:

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid
Wallbanger by Alice Clayton
Rusty Nailed by Alice Clayton
If I Never Met You by Mhairi McFarlane
Untamed by Glennon Doyle
In Five Years by Rebecca Serle

You can find my reviews for that entire list HERE.

Here are my thoughts on all the rest:

I had this little book on my TBR list for such a long time - slowing down and stopping to smell the roses is my jam and I wanted to see what this meditation guru had to say about it. I didn't realize the book was written in quick little thoughts to digest and mull over - like a yummy hard candy. But of course it was - it was the perfect way to present these ideas, and reading it ignited a special kind of inspiration in me. I really enjoyed it and definitely recommend - especially for a cozy morning study.

A Whack on the Side of the Head by Roger Van Oech (4 stars)
I passed this book a few times at my library's book sale before I decided that I should probably just get it. It was so goofy looking, but I loved the idea of stretching my imagination for the sake of creativity. This book was so much more than that, though - it dove into the deep discussion of how traditional schooling, indoctrination into society, and attempting to be "be normal" and keep up with others dims our creative process. I consider myself to be a fairly creative person, but even I was hung up on some of the mental block exercises. I really appreciated the message that this book carried, as well as some of the practical exercises for stepping outside the norm to find something great.

Beach Read
Beach Read by Emily Henry (5 stars)
I obsessively loved this book. It was a bit less summery and beachy than I expected it to be, but spending time in the daily lives and struggles of two writers is my idea of a good time. January and Gus write very different books, but their rivalry has its roots back in college where they were unspoken enemies. Life brings both of them some speed bumps and the fallout makes them neighbors in the small beach town where January's Dad lead a double life before his death. The tension between them, the personal journeys they go on, and the stories they write through it all are so perfect and I never wanted it to end! 

The Bro Code by Elizabeth A Seibert (2 stars) (NetGalley Ebook)
So I got this book through NetGalley because I'm a sucker for a forbidden romance (in this case, a guy in love with his best friend's sister), but it was not the exciting, juicy YA romance I expected. Nick and Eliza were members of a friend group that I really could not stand. For kids that were so committed and driven to perform well both academically and athletically in college, it seemed like they should have had more mental presence and depth to their thoughts. And while I understand why it was done, the constant use of the word "bro" and the chauvinistic views of the boys in this book were difficult to digest. I had a hard time believing that their actual words were coming from boys that were more than 15 years old. I'm not sure that your average 18 year old willingly accepts groundings from parents nor do they directly pick on Freshman or speak so toxically considering they are so driven about their futures. I also lost a lot of respect for them and their story when I found out that they used their "bro code" to cover up that they sexually assaulted women - one of them still being forced to tolerate her attacker as part of her brother's friend group. Their likeability took a nosedive after that, and though there was redemption in the way they rewrote the rules of the bro code in the end, I didn't like that they got there through such unhealthy means. Overall, I was excited for Nick and Eliza, but because of the voices and underdevelopment of the characters, I had a hard time getting through it.

We Are Called to Be a Movement by William J Barber II (5 stars) (NetGalley Ebook)
This small but mighty little book was incredibly impactful. Passionate and smart, Reverend Barber bridges the gap between scripture and social movements - impressing upon the oppressed and rejected to stand and create momentum that urges our society towards equality and acceptance. This is an incredibly important read for our time!

Alex and Eliza by Melissa de la Cruz (3.5 stars)
This is ridiculous, but I actually had no idea that this book was about Alexander Hamilton & Eliza Schuyler when I bought it years ago. I'd heard it recommended as a good YA story, but didn't pay very close attention. After being thoroughly intrigued after watching Hamilton, though, I was excited to spend time with them as young adult characters falling in love. Their story in this book was largely fictionalized, but still centered around actual historical events. It was really fun to read - if you like Hamilton, you'll like this one!

Judy Blume Classics
Can you believe I hadn't read this before? I had a copy in my stash of "future classroom library" books that never made it to a classroom and always wanted to read it. I'm so glad I did! Despite being a bit dated in some aspects, Margaret's struggles are still very relevant to every young girl growing up. Her hurdles and milestones felt very familiar, and it was interesting to see her navigate the larger life and social struggles going on around her with an oblivious eye. Her perspective as a child old enough to get the basics but not yet capable of seeing the roots in life's problems was unique. Such a great point of view - both for tweens and parents of tweens!

The Noticer by Andy Andrews (4 stars)
The major theme of this book is perspective, and it was beautiful to see that explored in multiple ways. A mysterious character named Jones pops in and out of a small Alabama town just to care for and encourage its residents. His suggestions and advice change people's lives and he expects nothing in return. At the root of everything he does is changing perspectives, and that carries through to how people see him. Depending on a person's background, they know him by other names and appearances. At lot of the themes in the book were things I've heard before, but seeing them tied up in this lovely, giving little story was really great and you can't help but feel good after reading it!

Oh Fredrick Backman, you incredible artist, you. As with all his books, this one cuts deep! Seven year old Elsa is best-best friends with her Grandmother, who passes away in the early chapters of the book. She is left feeling lonely, naturally, and has only the grand fairy tales that her Grandmother has taught her and a series of letters that send her on an adventure through her own apartment complex to navigate life without her Grandmother. Through this adventure, she gets to know her neighbors and the way their lives are all intertwined, and together they continue on her Grandmother's legacy of helping and caring for others. This is definitely a book to take your time with - there are a lot of characters, and the substory of Elsa and her Grandmother's fairy tale is woven into real life, and it's best to savor all of it. There are some actual laugh out loud moments, and of course, emotional ones. The one that got me at the very end is finding out what Elsa's new half-sibling is named, and I won't spoil it...but eep that was a beautiful moment. Pick it up and enjoy!!!

You'd Be Mine by Erin Hahn (4 stars)
I really really enjoyed this book and devoured it in less than a day. Centered around two country music superstars touring together for the summer, this book deals with some of the harsh realities of living life in the spotlight. Country Music RomanceI love books centered around fame because it's such an indulgent contrast to my own life. Watching Annie and Jefferson juggle their careers, their histories, and their relationship with each other was so entertaining and rewarding, and if you're looking for something really angsty and indulgent, this is a great one!

The Switch by Beth O'Leary (4 stars) (NetGalley Audiobook)
I was so excited to read this book after loving The Flatshare (Beth O'Leary's first book), and it was even more fun to be able to listen to the audiobook. Hearing the character's accents and the emotion in their dialogue added a familiarity and attachment to the characters that was really enjoyable. The premise of swapping homes and communities was so much fun - I loved listening to Leena and Eileen (Granddaughter and Grandmother, respectively) experiencing life in each other's shoes in an attempt to get their lives back on track after their mutual loss of a family member. There was a great balance between the hard, real moments, and the literal laugh out loud moments. Even more satisfying, though, was seeing how each of them made a mark in their new lives as they stepped out of their comfort zones and into exciting experiences. My only wish is that the romantic relationships had been a more prominent part of the story because the chemistry between Leena and Jackson was so, so good - I would have liked to see more of it. I know the story was supposed to focus on multi-generational growth and healing so I don't fault the book for that, I'm just a sucker for the romances! :)

Big Summer by Jennifer Weiner (4 stars)
In my early 20's, I was very into "chick lit" as it was formerly known. It was a growing genre in the early aughts, and Jennifer Weiner was one of the biggest names. I read through all of her early books and felt like I knew her voice and storytelling style, and this book was so very different from those older ones and I loved it! The story sets up with a Summer Sisters vibe - Instagram influencer Daphne is approached by her childhood frenemy with the request to be the maid of honor in her wedding. Hesitant and baffled, she agrees for the 'gram, and an unexpected murder mystery ensues. So many of the details in this book were indulgent and fun - the extravagance of the ultra rich on display, seeing the world through a successful plus sized influencer, navigating the complications of relationships and the consequences of reacting to negative life experiences. I loved it!

In a Holidaze by Christina Lauren (5 stars) (NetGalley Ebook)
This book was incredible!! I went into it somewhat blind - only registering that it was a new one by Christina Lauren and obviously had something to do with the holiday season, but I knew nothing else. I was pleasantly surprised to find some magical realism and a heavy dose of friends-to-lovers, including a very long unrequited crush coming to light which, if you ask me, is the very best kind of angst and longing. The main character, Mae, is in love with the holiday tradition of coming together with her chosen family for a week at a beloved Utah cabin. The book opens at the end of one of these trips where some not-so-great things have happened, inspiring her to send a desperate plea to the Universe for clarity. Suddenly, she's back on the plane that brought her to the cabin earlier that week, and she has to relive her trip - tidying up her mistakes as she goes. In her attempts to save the cabin and her holiday traditions, she also owns up to her feelings in more ways than one, and finds some romance along the way. This was an "interrupt your meals and sleep" kind of read - un-put-downable! It's everything you wish a Hallmark movie would be, in all the steamiest ways!!! I can't stop thinking about this one!

Summer reading has been so much fun this year! I'm working through my August TBR now - 1.5 books done so far, finishing up that half plus Midnight Sun. I'm going to miss having all this reading time when my kids have to get back into school!

What have you read this summer that you've loved? What are you finishing up Summer with? 

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Monday, August 3, 2020

My Morning Personal Development TBR

I love quiet. 

I love peaceful stillness, the vibration and magic of dawn, and the soft slow way about the world in the early morning. One of my very favorite ways to marinate in those things is to roll out of bed wildly early, pour a hot cup of coffee, and sit by a window with a book.

Personal Development books to use during your early morning study. |

Not with just any book, though, but one that will fill my mind with the wonders of the world. Priming my brain with themes like creativity, self-love, nature, spirituality, lifestyles, and writing create a focus for my days and weeks that makes me feel like I'm truly living.

I think this is largely understood as personal development, but I prefer to call it morning study. 

I've been working my way through these and wanted to share my stack in case you're looking for a little inspiration or enrichment for your days.

books to enrich your life

- This great little book is a perfect place to start - full of quick reminders about all aspects of life from a meditation guru, it gave me little bursts of inspiration to focus my days and my creativity. 

Writing Magic by Gail Carson Levine
- This is the second book by this author that I'm working through, and I love her perspective on creativity and weaving stories specifically for magic-infused children's literature. There are great writing exercises and suggestions in here if writing is something you'd like more practice with.

Finding Your Element by Ken Robinson
- For a long time, I was really hung up on the concept of finding my purpose in this lifetime, and while I think I've finally gotten to a comfortable place with that, I love reading things that solidify those ideas. This book highlights our skills and talents and helps the reader find the best use of those things.

Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
- You know when you really find your groove with something and some might call it "getting into the flow"? This book is all about that concept, and how to work your way into flow regularly to do your best work and be your best self.

- A bit more on the woo-woo side, this book encourages you to find your essential power to improve all aspects of your life. I love a good energy-centering book for re-focusing my days, so I'm excited to get to this one.

good reads to learn about habits, creativity, and writing

Millenneagram by Hannah Paasch
- I'm a nut about the the Enneagram, and I think a lot of people in my generation find themselves easily defined by this framework. This book was written for my generation, in a modern, real-life way, and I'm excited to learn even more about it.

Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg
- This is a widely regarded book by writers of all types, and I even attempted to get through it years and years ago as a library rental. I wasn't ready for it. I really want to dig deep into it, though, because she mixes and likens writing with meditation and that sounds so very perfect for me. Matt bought me this copy for my birthday last year and I'm just sorry that it's taken me so long to get started with it!

- This is a silly looking book - from cover to illustrations - but it was so, so good. I loved learning about creativity and the way that school and society creates mental blocks in our pursuit of sameness and how to break free of that. I loved the little mental block tests and suggestions for creative growth. This is a great book for getting the gears turning!

- Write what you know is the most essential writing advice out there. This book takes that even further - showing how a writer can shape personal experience and little life moments into pieces of a fictional story. I've had this book for a long time and only gotten through bits of it, so I'm excited to learn more from it.

How I Resist by Maureen Johnson
- This is an anthology of all types of creative works that explore and discuss change and growth in our modern world. This is one of the books I chose for my social education and I'm really looking forward to experiencing these perspectives.

Atomic Habits by James Clear
- Gretchen Rubin is to blame for my fascination with habits, and while I think this book will cover a lot of the things she's already taught me through her works, I'm looking forward to reading this take on them. Matt read this one before and not only liked it but continuously told me I'd like it, so I'm expecting this one to be helpful.

We Are Not Yet Equal by Carol Anderson and Tonya Bolden
- I chose this book for my stack because I believe it was written with a young adult audience in mind and I wanted that perspective for teaching my children about acceptance, systemic racism and obviously, equality.

All of the above are either recent reads or books that I'm working towards, but I also have some recommendations for things I've read in the past that were incredible resources. I'm working on a roundup post of all of my favorite self-help reads and I'll be sure to share that with you soon, too.

Enjoy, and let me know if you've read anything along these lines that I should check out!

This post contains affiliate links at no cost to you. That means if you click through or make a purchase through one of them, I may make a small commission. It's teeny tiny, but it helps me support my blog and I am so very grateful for that! Thank you so much for being here!

Friday, July 31, 2020

My August TBR

Here's the most annoying thing about being both a Virgo and a Rebel: I love to plan, but I hate to follow the plan. It's a whole mess.

August 2020 To Be Read StackI know, you're thinking of "well then why don't you just..." solutions but don't bother, because I've tried it already. So let's just get on with the plans-I'm-not-going-to-follow acceptance and dive into some plans, hmm? :)

I have SO many books waiting for me and when I consider picking them up I often find myself saying things like "I definitely want to read that in Summer" or "oh that's for sure a fallish book" - you know, typical mood reader stuff. But then I forget about them or get new books, and again, it's a whole mess.

SO I'm going to try the whole monthly TBR thing and see where it gets me. 

To the right is my end-of-summer August TBR - all of full of light, summery goodness and one moody vampire book that I plan to read through the month. (The vampire one isn't on the pile yet because it's pre-ordered but will be here by Tuesday, yay!)

Here's what's in the stack:

- my august book club pick, socially poignant, black authored, book of the month choice (see more here)

Well Met (Contemporary / Romance)
- summer romance, small town, hate to love, book of the month choice (see more here)

Head Over Heels (Contemporary / Romance)
- olympics theme, romance, book of the month choice (see more here)

- coming of age, young love, photography

Small Town Hearts (YA Romance)
- summer romance, small town, LGBTQ

Midnight Sun (YA Romance)
- twilight re-telling from Edward's perspective (I don't need to say anything else here, do I??)

The Crowns of Croswald (Middle Grade Fantasy)
- magical world, school life, quest, NetGalley ebook (so obviously not in the stack)

Most anticipated? UH, Midnight Sun, duh. I CANNOT WAIT to spend time with Edward again. I know this is expected and maybe embarrassing for my age, but he is my favorite literary boyfriend of all time. My fictional one true love. Fight me.

Did you know I named a cat after him? His story is heartbreaking. Yikes, don't read it if you don't want to tear up.

ANYWAY, I have a few other books that I'm sort of hanging onto like "bonus" reads that I'd love to get to if I still have time. I doubt it, but we'll see. 

August Bonus Books

My birthday is in August (yay) so I'd love to flip through the Virgo one. The other two are both summery stories that I'd love to get to - I'm thinking if I run out of time I may carry over The Summer I Met Jack to the early, warm weeks of September.

I'll keep you posted on how yummy these books turn out to be. Keep an eye on my Bookstagram account @jennsbookshelf for reviews! Happy Summer Reading! 

This post contains affiliate links at no cost to you. That means if you click through or make a purchase from one of them, I may make a tiny commission. It's itty bitty, but it still helps me support my blog and I'm wildly grateful for it. Thank you!!!

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

The Reading Rush 2020 Recap!

Last week was one of my favorite weeks of the year - topped only by Christmas, Thanksgiving, and the week of vacation Matt takes every Summer. The Reading Rush feels like Summer Camp for adults - all full of activities and community, but also the heaps of guilt-free reading time that I spend getting totally lost in books. It's my favorite, favorite.

TRR 2020 finished

I read less books this week than I have in previous years (8.5 both years!) but I read more pages this year than either of the previous two years. I definitely picked some longer books this time, and that was based solely on the fact that I didn't use the library at all for this challenge. 

I normally do my research and find the quickest little novellas and transcripts-turned-books or books written in prose and I had to make do with what was at home this time. The good news is, I finally got through some things that have been waiting on my shelf for a very long time!

Here's my stats for the week:

Reading Pages Read Graph

Reading Rush Stats 2020

CHALLENGES COMPLETED: All 7, Plus 7 extras

I'm not sharing the photo of the badges I earned this year because they're mixed in with last year's and too hard to sort out, but if you're curious you can see mine here. :)

It's a tie between My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She's Sorry and You'd Be Mine. I rated the first one higher, because it was gorgeous and a literary work of art (as to be expected from Fredrik Backman), but I just hardcore enjoyed You'd Be Mine the most.

Probably My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She's Sorry just because of how long it was. And it wasn't just the length, but the type of deep-thinking that was woven through it that makes the reader not want to rush. I'd found myself wishing I had waited to read it outside of a reading challenge more than a few times.

Reading Rush TBR TRR Instagram Read-In

 My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She's Sorry (372 pgs)

Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret. (149 pgs)

Always coffee, but also tea, lemon lime seltzer, berries, and Sweedish Fish.

The Reading Rush Journal Reading Buddy

My answer is sort of a cheat, because my favorite challenges are self-imposed and not actually a part of the reading rush. Those are to finish 7 books, and to read something by Fredrik Backman. Those two bring me the most satisfaction every year! But I guess if I had to pick from this year's seven, I'd go with...reading a book totally outside. I read mine from like 6:30am - 8am before my kids were up, just hanging out with the sunrise and the birds and it was perfect.

I always love the Twitter Sprints, but this year I also really loved the Instagram live read-in's, and some of the "extra" things I did to take a break from reading. Like working in a Paint by Sticker book while watching Reading Rush vlogs or listening to an audio book while I played Animal Crossing. Those things made the week feel like a whole experience.

Twitter Sprint Reading Snacks

I sprinkled in pictures from my reading week throughout this post, but if you're interested, I tracked my reading week through daily updates and mini-reviews on my book Instagram account. Look for the TRR 20 highlight bubble on my profile, or try this link to see it (I think this will work?).

Yesterday was the first day back to normal life and I legitimately didn't know what to do with myself without the urge to jump right into reading every morning. I was like a lost puppy all day! haha I love this whole experience so much. Until next July!

PS - If you participated and have a post or vlog to share, let me know!

Friday, July 24, 2020

Summer Reading List for Kids (Ages 5-12)

Recently I shared the method that we're using in my house to keep my kids reading over the summer, but I didn't really talk about which books we were using. There's so much out there - it's really hard to know what works and what kids will like, especially if you have to purchase books rather than utilize your library as many are still closed or not running at full capacity.

SO, I thought I'd share with you some of the books that I put in each of my kids' stacks.

Book Recommendations for Summer Reading with Kids Ages 5-12 |

The two most important things to consider are: variety and fun. There should be a range of reading levels, lengths, genres, and topics, as well as some books that feel like pure entertainment to your kids. Getting exposure to the written word is what counts - even if they're reading the same graphic novels and comic books on repeat. It helps them develop a love of learning and curiosity that encourages them to choose books over other activities or in times of boredom. Over the years, I've watched my 11 year old become fascinated by the knowledge within books by catering to his interests and praising him for his efforts. He was mostly disinterested when he was younger. It works!

Here are a few things in each of their stacks:

Books for 5-6 Year Olds Learning to Read |

Jake's Pile (6 Years, Starting 1st Grade)
Eli, no! by Katie Kirk (this is his favorite book and he can read it largely himself)
Go, Dog. Go! by P.D. Eastman (this book is almost 100% sight words so a great one to practice with!)
Biscuit by Alyssa Satin Capucilli (very easy to grasp, just a couple words to sound out)
The Berenstains' B Book (he needs a little help, very repetitive, but a good one)
The Fat Cat Sat On The Mat by Nurit Karlin (lots of sight words and rhyming, needs help in some places)

Some we read together:
Lunch by Denise Fleming (he can read some of it with me)
The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
My Book of Rocks and Minerals (his favorite topic)

Book Ideas for 3rd & 4th Graders |

Henry's Pile (9 Years, Starting 4th Grade)
Press Start! Series by Thomas Flintham
Mighty Robots Series by Dav Pilkey
Dog Man Series by Dav Pilkey
I Survived Series by Lauren Tarshis (Luke loved these)
Anything about Sonic the Hedgehog
The Undead Pets Collection by Sam Hay
The Keymaster's Quest by Jason Lethcoe

Reading Recommendations for 5th-7th Graders |

Luke's Pile (11 Years, Starting 6th Grade)
The Hardy Boys Series by Franklin W Dixon (he loves these!)
The BFG by Roald Dahl
Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech
Hatchet by Gary Paulsen (he warns that this one was a little unsettling to him)
Chains by Laurie Halse Handerson
The Turtle of Oman by Naomi Shihab Nye
Harry Potter & all the extras - The Cursed Child, Fantastic Beasts & Where To Find Them, Tales of Beedle the Bard (he finished the series and is enjoying working through the extras now - and yes I'm looking past the JK drama for the sake of literacy)

This isn't everything in their box, just some favorites and some that I recommend after they seem to work well for my guys.

I know that these lists are very boy-centric but I don't at all think that any of these books are just for boys. That's why I didn't title this post that way - books are for everyone!! But obviously, just know that I didn't have any typically girly books, so if your young reader prefers them you may want to do some more digging!

Let me know if you've got any other suggestions, and happy book hunting!

This post contains affiliate links at no cost to you! That means if you click through or make a purchase from one of these links, I may make a small commission. It's seriously teeny tiny, but every little bit helps me support my blog. Thank you so, so much! xo