On March & Intentions

It’s the end of yet another month and once again I find myself saying “where did the time go?”. That phrase seems to be uttered more and more frequently as I get older….

This past month it was fairly easy to tell where the time went: two of my dear friends had babies (one boy, one girl) so Knight and I were busy taking food to the new parents, holding babies and making sure our friends didn’t feel too alone during those first few weeks. I also celebrated one of my high school BFFs at her bachelorette party and bridal shower, both of which were superbly planned and a lot of fun. It’s so clear how in love she is with her future husband, and he with her; I can’t wait for the wedding over Memorial Day weekend. This friend also asked me to be a reader in her wedding which is a honor I’ve yet to have bestowed upon me; I’m taking it very seriously and have asked for the reading so I can practice. (I may be searching for the perfect dress to wear to the wedding, too.) A three-day weekend with my handsome husband which was full of everything and nothing all at once. He makes me laugh and smile, we work together so well and I just love having time with just him (a rarity these days between crazy work & working out schedules, lots of weekend plans and etc.) March saw a lot of highs for me because there is something about new life and celebrating love that can’t make you too sad, but there were a few lows.

Celebrating my mom’s birthday without her which really isn’t much of a celebration at all and more of a weep fest. Getting really teary-eyed meeting the two new babies and realizing if Knight and I walk down that path together, my momma won’t be here to see it, to hold the baby, to throw my shower. Just writing that sentence makes me cry. Finding out a couple close to us is getting a divorce. Finding out someone close to my family has cancer.

As one of my dear blog friends, San of the In Between is Mine, said last month in my February recap, my recaps are about what life is: full of highs and lows. So true!

The close of this month also means that we are at the end of the first quarter of the year which has no significance to me other than the fact that it’s been three months of me working on my intentions.

Intention #1, to walk 10-15 miles a week on the Treadclimber: I accomplished this by mid-February and then decided to switch it up. I’m doing cardio 3-4 times a week with strength built in and then strength only several times a week. (I blogged about my current Cardio loves last week and will be talking legs & buns later this week.) I’m averaging 6 days of working out a week and I L.O.V.E it. I’m feeling strong, toned and sexier (well, most days).

Intention #2: Read 62 books. Don’t think this will be a problem as I’m at 23 for the year. Reading is one of my escapes and coping mechanisms (more on that later) so there is no shortage of reading in my world right now.

Intention #3: Take a real lunch hour one to two times a week. Big. Fat. Fail. I’ve done it maybe two or three times a month? I prefer to eat at my desk and leave at 4pm rather than take a lunch hour for myself but I need to change this, I know I do. It’s better for my productivity, focus and it is just a nice break. Needs improvement for sure!

Intention #4: Get back to journaling. Score of 50% on this one. Right now my one-sentence-a-day journaling is sporadic at best so I need to step it up.

Intention #5: Take no crap? Yup, I’m doing really well with this one. I’ve untangled myself from a few sticky situations and I have to say, I love it. Life is too short to be in situations that make you unhappy, make you feel uncomfortable or repeatedly hurt you.

Intention #6: No TV two nights a week. I think we’ve been doing this about 75% of the time. Each time we do it, Knight and I realize how much we have to talk about and how quiet the house is. We love it!

The other hopes I have (crafting, t-shirt quilts) haven’t happened yet but I think by the fall they will. I’m also happy to report that Knight and I have made sure to have a few date days/nights a month. I’m always amazed at how much fun I have with my husband, how he never bores me and how I just love being with him (I know, totally cheese-fest here right now). Overall I’m pleased with my progress, most especially my dedication to working out which has always been one of my favorite stress relievers.

How was your March? How are your New Year’s goals/intentions shaping up? 

Children’s Book Review: Horse Valley Adventures

The Three Little Horses and the Big Bully DonkeyThe countdown to when my bonus daughter’s will be with us for the summer is on so, in my true to bookworm self, I’ve been looking for new children’s books to share with them that I know they will be able to relate to.

Enter the Horse Valley Adventure books, written by Liana-Melissa Allen, a young author.

The fist book in the series, The Three Little Horses and the Big Bully Donkey is a spin on the classic tale of the Three Little Pigs. Jack, Lax and Max, the three little horses, are brothers who find themselves without a home. As they go about trying to find a new location, building materials and etc. for their house, they encounter the Big Bully Donkey who takes it upon himself to thwart their new-home efforts. This book teaches great values and morals about never giving up, dealing with a bully and it includes great illustrations by Allen herself! This story would lend itself to read-aloud sessions to younger children and for kids who are at a first grade and higher reading level. Parents reading this book will get a kick out of the illustrations as Allen makes them a bit comical at times!

The second book in the series, Donkey’s Kite, Jack, Lax, Max and Donkey are back for a kite flying adventure. Now that the Three Horses are friends with Donkey (thanks to the first book), they decide to go on a picnic and fly kites. Donkey is quickly disappointed when is kite doesn’t work like everyone else’s does. Through friendship and teamwork, kindness and lending a helping hand, (and thanks in part to a goose named Gusty), Donkey's KiteDonkey is able to fly his kite and the three little horses learn an important lesson about being selfless., Donkey is able to fly his kite and enjoy the day with his friends. The second book by Allen incorporates more morals and values, presented in a fun and colorful way that is sure to engross children. The illustrations in this book are more colorful and vibrant that perfectly complement the story.

I love that these books are written and illustrated by a young author; sends a great message to kids who want to write, draw, and be creative!

Book Description for The Three Little Horses and the Big Bully Donkey (Book 1):

A tale (based on the “Three Little Pigs”) about three little horse brothers who suddenly lose their house that is destroyed by a fire. The young horses are totally alone and thrust into the reality of having to depend on themselves and each other against a bully donkey, who wanders the forest wrecking homes and bullying the other animals. This warm-hearted tale promotes strong values and has a fun premise. Written and humorously illustrated in vivid color throughout by Liana-Melissa Allen, the story is a proven winner for reading aloud to children.

Book Description for Donkey’s Kite (Book 2):

The three horses Jack, Max, Lax and their friend Donkey are back!

In Horse Valley, it’s a perfect day to go kite flying. Jack, Max, Lax, and Donkey decide to get creative by putting together their own homemade kites. However, Donkey’s kite doesn’t work. No matter how hard he tries to get it to fly, it just keeps tumbling to the ground. How will poor Donkey get his kite to fly? A friendly goose named Gusty is delighted to help him out.

In this Horse Valley Adventure, Donkey learns not to give up when all seems hopeless. The friends all learn a lesson about helping others and true friendship.

Author’s Bio:

Liana-Melissa Allen is a young author and illustrator of children’s books and books for youth. She has written, illustrated and published six books. Her most recent one is the colorfully illustrated children’s book “Donkey’s Kite”, the second book of “A Horse Valley Adventure” series. The first was “The Three Little Horses and the Big Bully Donkey”. The lovable cartoon characters, Max, Lax, Jack and Donkey makes them a favorite of first and second grade students. She is now working on her third book of “A Horse Valley Adventure”.

The magical world of fantasy has inspired Liana’s imagination since as long as she can remember. Part of this was fueled by her dad reading aloud to her every day when she was younger. As a result, reading is her primary passion along with music. These two passions feed her imagination into stories and drawings, which she joyously sketches out into storyboards for a potential book.

Liana-Melissa is also a dedicated classical/jazz pianist, and mostly enjoys older music, especially from the big band era and the 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s. While playing the piano, her imagination often leads to a great amount of improvising. Frequently, Liana will improvise a theme for one of the stories she is writing. Capturing this improvised music became a priority, which ultimately resulted in theme music for “A Horse Valley Adventure”. The “Horse Valley” theme will be used for a short animated video featuring her Horse Valley characters.

Liana-Melissa loves to hear from her young readers. Please visit her website at www.lmabooks.com for more information, and to contact her by email. Visit her on Facebook too.

Where to buy the books: On Author’s Website | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

​Enter the giveaway:  a Rafflecopter giveaway

Win one of ten sets of A Horse Valley Adventure books! One winner will also get a $30 Amazon gift card. Open internationally.Ends April 17.

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Disclosure: I was provided complimentary copies of these books for the purposes of my review. All opinions are my own. I was not otherwise compensated. 

Good Things Friday (v3)

* I’m not working today! I wrapped a big project that I’ve been working on since November yesterday so figured that meant a celebratory vacation day was in order. Knight has the day off, too, and while the weather is chillier than I’d like (mid-40s) for spring, we’ll find something fun to do. We have no real plans, either, just taking it as it comes.

* I have a cold/allergy/sinus thing going on but no fever. This is a very good thing because usually my sinuses make me sick as a dog and I can’t do anything for a few days. I’m attributing this goodness to the supplements I’ve been taking, the exercise I’ve been doing and the fact that maybe, finally at the age of 31, I have a knack for how to prevent really horrible sinus infections.

* Cute books. Those are worth being mentioned on Good Things Friday, yes? I’m reading a really fun one called “Read Bottom Up,” written all in texts and emails from the perspective of a couple who just started dating, as well as their best friends. It’s fun, it’s quirky and I’ve even dog-eared a few pages because it’s very real-life-y.

* Because of my awesome meal planning over the weekend, I haven’t had to cook a single meal yet! Leftovers for the win in a big, big way (especially since I’m a little under the weather).

* My dad is out of town for a few days visiting my Godparents which means I get to drive his car with SiriusXM (and he gave me his gas card to fill up with, too!). I love the variety of stations and not having to listen to painful commercials all the time. I love my 2007 paid-off, totally functioning & awesome car but there are moments I wish I had cool radio and Bluetooth features in my car.

Happy Friday, friends. What would be on your good thing list for today?

Work it Out: Cardio

I’ve had a few people ask me in the last month what my workout routine looks like these days which got me thinking, maybe others are interested, too! (Also, thanks to Stephany for the blog-spiration to share this. Check out her post on the workouts she loves for more workout ideas!)

A few things about what works for me/us:

* I don’t belong to a gym. I did for a few years but the payment I was making relative to how often I actually went wasn’t making sense for me anymore. I love the fact that I can work out at home, morning or evening, no drive time. It just works for me.

* We have a home gym in our basement: free weights, resistance bands, a “cage,” , a weight bench, barbells and dumbbells, huge rubber/foam matted exercise area and a tread climber (purchased on Craigslist for 1/3 of the price of a new one) and my favorite workout equipment: YouTube and Pinterest along with the fact that Knight set-up the basement so that I can stream music if I’m doing videos or circuits or watch Netflix if I’m on the Climber.

* I like to mix up my workouts every few weeks or so by either adding more rounds to a Tabata, more weight, or a whole new workout entirely.

* I love running but my knees hate it so I’ve had to find other ways to get in my cardio.

* Each week I write out my workout plan and decide which workouts I’m going to do and when; I do “cardio” three to four times a week. I put cardio in quotes because even on my strength days, they are circuit workouts that include bursts of cardio, and even these cardio workouts combine body weight strength. I mark off the workouts as I go and I write them down in two spots on my planner so I can keep myself accountable.

My current cardio routine is comprised of me alternating between three workouts that I found on Pinterest. These workouts combine cardio with body weight strength exercises and are great for getting & keeping your heart rate up.

1. Killer Cardio Workout, repeat 3 times. I’ve shaved a lot of time off this workout so I’m adding a 4th round of the workout this week and plan to do so going forward. I’m a sweaty mess any time I do this one but oh how I love it so. It’s the workout that I credit with amping up my push-up game!

2. Killer Cardio (Air) Jump Rome workout. If you don’t like to sweat, don’t do this workout.

3. Super Sweaty Tabata Supersets with cardio & strength intervals. Because it’s easier for me and the Tabata Timer I have on my phone, I do 4 rounds of each exercise (even the strength ones) and in between each round I rest for 35 seconds. I will also add this arms + abs circuit after this Tabata for some extra oomph – and soreness- once a week.

I have goals for myself on each of these workouts, some are time goals, others are getting in a specific number of reps in a set; once I reach them then I will either add weight, more reps or sub-in some other exercises from Pinterest for my weekly cardio fix.

Stay tuned next week for my Work It Out: Legs/Buns edition.

What’s your favorite cardio workout? Feel free to share links or recommendations as I’m always adding to my workout list! 

Book Review: Mademoiselle Chanel

Mademoiselle Chanel by C. W. Gortner is a stunning work of historical fiction. It is clear that Gortner put his heart and soul into writing this story, imagining the lines in between the history books, the press, the first hand accounts, of what Coco Chanel’s life was like. He captures the reader from page one, until the very end of this novel, with tales of a woman who is hardened against the world (and for good reason, she endured so much tragedy throughout her lifetime), who has a determination and resolve unheard of in the world today, and who, despite ever being truly happy, created a legend, a dynasty and if I may say so, fashion.

I knew next to nothing about Coco Chanel apart from her signature scent (No.5), that she created and made popular the little black dress, and that she designed and re-imagined suits for women, but after reading Gortner’s book, I have a sense of what she endured, who she was, what she feared and what she wanted. I wanted to weep with her when she cried, wanted to hold her hand and tell her it would be o.k. I was shocked to learn of her involvement with a German Officer during World War II and surprised to know she was good friends with Winston Churchill. This book focus mostly on the woman behind Chanel but you’ll gain some interesting insights as to the brand itself, such as where the intertwining C’s in her logo come from, why her perfume was named number of five and her thoughts on true fashion and accessibility.

This isn’t a happy book but one of perseverance, of finding happiness where you can, love when you can, and making a name for yourself. It’s a gratifying story, one I’m truly glad I read. If you enjoy historical fiction like The Paris Wife or Z, or are simply interested in learning about Coco Chanel, add this to your list. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Mademoiselle ChanelAbout Mademoiselle Chanel

She revolutionized fashion and built an international empire . . . all on her own terms

Born into rural poverty, Gabrielle Chanel and her sisters are sent to a convent orphanage after their mother’s death. The nuns of the order nurture Gabrielle’s exceptional sewing skills, a talent that would propel the willful young woman into a life far removed from the drudgery of her childhood.

Burning with ambition, the petite brunette transforms herself into Coco, by day a hard-working seamstress and by night a singer in a nightclub, where her incandescence draws in a wealthy gentleman who becomes the love of her life. She immerses herself in his world of money and luxury, discovering a freedom that sparks her creativity. But it is only when her lover takes her to Paris that Coco discovers her destiny.

Rejecting the frilly, corseted silhouette of the past, Coco’s sleek, minimalist styles reflect the youthful ease and confidence of the 1920s modern woman. As her reputation spreads, her couture business explodes, taking her into rarefied circles of society and bohemian salons. But her fame and fortune cannot save her from heartbreak as the years pass. And when Paris falls to the Nazis, Coco is forced to make choices that will haunt her always.

An enthralling novel about an entirely self-made woman, Mademoiselle Chanel tells the true story of Coco Chanel’s extraordinary ambition, passion, and artistic vision.

Read an excerpt of Mademoiselle Chanel.

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Purchase Links

Amazon | IndieBound | Barnes & Noble

CW GortnerAbout C. W. Gortner

A former fashion executive, C. W. Gortner is a lifelong admirer of Coco Chanel. His passion for writing led him to give up fashion, and his many historical novels have been bestsellers, published in more than twenty countries. He lives in San Francisco.

Find out more about C.W. Gortner at his website and connect with him on Facebook and Twitter.

 

tlc tour hostDisclosure: I received a copy of this book for the purposes of my review through TLC Book Tours; I was not otherwise compensated, nor am I including any affiliate links in my post. All opinions are my own. 

Good Things Friday (v2)

Everyone loved the Good Things Friday post last week so why not do it again? I vote we do.

1. I made it through Monday, the day that would have been my lovely momma’s 63rd birthday. There were tears, lots of tears but there was also love. My circle of friends never ceases to amaze me: the cards, texts, phone calls. I felt the support and emotion from every single one of my blog-turned-real-life friends, so thank you.

2. While Monday have been rather sucky the weather was anything but. EIGHTY FOUR Degrees. 84! I mean, what? (It’s not chilly-ish and gray with light rain but at least we had a good weather start to the week.)

3. It’s spring break for a lot schools in the area which means an easy peasy commute all week long (and a quieter work week in general since most of the town appears to have taken the week off).

4. Holding newborn babies. That never ceases to make me smile.

5. The promise of a relatively unplanned weekend; it is so very needed.

6. Being a rebel and wearing jeans to work on Thursday AND again today.

7. Managing to a complete set of Frog Squats (1 minute, repeated twice). Sure my inner thigh and outer glute muscles are screaming but job well done either way.

Your turn: Share your Good Things Friday with me! 

 

Good Things Friday

A list of good things… because, Friday!

Health Good Things

* Pants that didn’t fit me last fall now do and look great. Love it when a few diet changes + exercise finally pay off.

* Earlier this week I managed to shave two minutes off this circuit workout. When I started doing this workout about a month ago it took me 34 minutes. Then I got it down to 30. Then to 27 minutes and on Tuesday night? 27 minutes. My goal is to try to get down to 23-25 minutes and then add a fourth round of the circuit at that point.

* I know some people poo-poo supplements but I’ve found some that really do make me feel better: grapefruit seed extract (keeps the sore throats away & keeps my sinuses more clear); turmeric with black pepper (keeps inflammation down throughout the body) Apple Cider Vinegar (good for allergies, heart burn), and green food pills. There are a few more I want to add to my regime thanks to the success of these but man, it feels good to take all-natural supplements that make me feel better. I’m prescription and modern medicine free, have been for about a year and it feels awesome.

Reading Good Things: 

* I’m way ahead of my reading goal for the year and managed to knock out two more books towards the Read Harder Challenge: romance and a book written in another language/translated to English.

* My library has an awesome digital borrowing program and lately the ones I’ve wanted have been available with no wait. That’s kind of a big deal.

Other Good Things: 

* In the past week, my college best friend and my good neighbor friend each had their baby. I love baby snuggles! It’s so fun to see my friends as momma’s; they are so good at it!

* One of my best high school friends is getting married in May and asked me to be a reader at her wedding; I’m all sorts of excited to be a part of their special day in this way. Even more excited for the bachelorette party and bridal shower this weekend. I also love that we are doing a classy bachelorette party, going to see Phantom of the Opera, rather than going bar hopping. (That’s a sure sign I’m old, yes?)

* Lent is halfway over and while there are moments where all I want is a piece of chocolate, for the most part it’s been easier than I thought to give up desserts. I do confess that I had one piece of cake last weekend during a fancy dinner out with dad and hubs, but otherwise I’ve been 100% compliant. I’m much more aware of how I was using sugar/desserts as a crutch previously and that it’s not something I need to do nor do I want to continue that habit.

* I think spring may really be here. We’ve had beautiful weather, some spring showers and even full sunny days. I’m sure we’ll have one more cold snap before Old Man Winter is gone for good but really, between it being lighter at night + the warmer weather, I feel a bit like a changed woman.

* Last week my mom was a Tribute to Success for a large, local non-profit that she was involved with over the years. They asked me to the luncheon, gave me a beautiful tribute plaque with a photo of me and my mom (tears!), published the write-up I wrote about her in the tribute book and they have been kind enough to start a new fundraiser in her honor (more tears). These moments are so bittersweet but I also kind of love that mom is still so loved. The good here is that this group was kind enough to honor her and I got through the luncheon with only a few tears.

What’s on your Good Things Friday list? Any fun weekend plans?

 

Book Review: Dog Crazy

I’ve read all of Meg Donohue’s books, starting with How to Eat a Cupcake several years ago and I instantly fell in love with her writing style, her character development and how she weaves serious topics with mystery and love all into one novel.

Dog Crazy: A Novel of Love Lost and Found is no different. I devoured this book in less than 36 hours, most of it with Jack resting his adorable little dog head on my lap. I laughed. I cried (several times, in fact). I cheered. I sighed. And when the novel was over I was sad… I love the characters, I love the story, I love that the main character loves dogs as much as I do. This book touches on love and loss in all forms: canine and human and some of the passages felt like Donohue was talking directly to me. A few of my favorites (there were many other moments and passages in this book that I swear were meant for me, having lost several dogs in my life and of course my mom):

“…it is true that one of the hardest things about losing someone that you love is that you have to allow yourself to seek and accept comfort in other areas of your life.” (p.120)

“… I think that losing our parents made us all become slightly different versions of the people we used to be — or the people we would have become.” (p.191)

“We carry our loves and our losses with us, and even though we can’t know what is ahead, along the way we learn– it really doesn’t matter from whom, dog or human– how to keep moving.” (p.210)

This story is about Maggie, a recent transplant to the San Francisco area trying to make a new life for herself. She’s lost her dog to cancer, her boyfriend on the East Coast turned out to be a bum (and non-dog lover!) and she finds herself terrified to leave her apartment. Before she knows it, Maggie is entrenched in helping a patient find a lost dog and whether she realizes it or not, herself. I won’t go into too much detail so that I don’t give anything away but if you love dogs, stories of personal struggle and triumph, mystery and love, or a good vacation/beach read that has substance, pick this book up. You won’t be disappointed, I promise.

About Dog Crazy

The USA Today bestselling author of How to Eat a Cupcake and All the Summer Girls returns with an unforgettably poignant and funny tale of love and loss, confronting our fears, and moving on . . . with the help of a poodle, a mutt, and a Basset retriever named Seymour.

As a pet bereavement counselor, Maggie Brennan uses a combination of empathy, insight, and humor to help patients cope with the anguish of losing their beloved four-legged friends. Though she has a gift for guiding others through difficult situations, Maggie has major troubles of her own that threaten the success of her counseling practice and her volunteer work with a dog rescue organization.

Everything changes when a distraught woman shows up at Maggie’s office and claims that her dog has been stolen. Searching the streets of San Francisco for the missing pooch, Maggie finds herself entangled in a mystery that forces her to finally face her biggest fear-and to open her heart to new love.

Packed with deep emotion and charming surprises, Dog Crazy is a bighearted and entertaining story that skillfully captures the bonds of love, the pain of separation, and the power of our dogs to heal us.

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About Meg Donohue37962

Meg Donohue is the author of How to Eat a Cupcake. She has an MFA in creative writing from Columbia University and a BA in comparative literature from Dartmouth College. Born and raised in Philadelphia, she now lives in San Francisco with her husband, their two young daughters, and their dog.

Find out more about Meg at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.
I’m a sucker for a good book that includes/features dogs; any topic or element to a story that you just can’t say no to? 

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Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book for the purposes of my review; all opinions and reviews are my own.

Watch & Listen

I talked about a few of the books I’ve read so far this year earlier this week (all for the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge, though there have been others) so in keeping with the entertainment theme, today I’m chatting about the music I’m listening to and the shows/movies that have caught my eye.

Music to my ears

Shut Up and Dance by Walk the Moon. I just heard this song for the first time last week and I can’t get enough. Anytime it comes on the radio I turn it up as loud as I can.

Homegrown, Zac Brown Band. There’s no official video for this one, yet, but I can’t wait to see it. I have yet to dislike a song by ZBB and the crew.

Sugar, Maroon 5. I’ve been a Maroon 5 fan since their first song snippets were included in the movie, Love Actually. While I don’t love all their modern music, this one has renewed my love for their music.

On my podcast list, I’ve got the Dear Sugars ready to go (I tried to listen to one at work last week but was too distracted) and the podcast by Vinny G., one of the former (and my favorite, because he is intelligent, kind and does good work) cast mates of Jersey Shore.

Pleasing to my eyes

Our DVR is full of the drama but I just can’t get into it right now. Suits and Scandal sit waiting for me but lately all I want is funny, family and enjoyable. This means there’s been a whole lot of reruns going on in our house…

* Last Man Standing, Tim Allen’s latest sitcom. The show pokes fun at itself, is about family, and is full of good laughs.

* Mike & Molly. Thank goodness for FX running this show on a regular basis. I haven’t seen them in any sort of order but I always laugh out loud.

* and my usual rotation of Gilmore Girls, Friends and Melissa and Joey. I am so very original, aren’t I?

* Knight is into Peaky Blinders, a Netflix original about gangs and cops and spies for Winston Churchill. It’s a little intense for me, but the accents are captivating.

On the movie front, I highly recommend Kingsman, The Secret Service. What a film! Full of sexy British actors, a riveting plot, surprises at every turn, and a good balance of comedy, action and thriller. Excellent date night movie!

I finally got around to watching My Week with Marilyn and I have to say, it was nothing like I expected it to be. Very well done and compelling, definitely gave you an idea of what her life was like and those around her who fell for her, hook, line and sinker.

What’s your favorite music or tv show/movie these days? 

Reading Harder

Like many of my counterparts, I decided to tackle the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge this year.

My thoughts so far:

* I love a very specific kind of book, it seems.

* I’m finding it rather hard to read some of the books on the list (I may have already started and returned a book by someone written over the age of 85) due to subject matter OR

* I’m finding it tricky to locate the books I want to read, even within the vast library system in the STL.

* I can’t decide what book I want to read for some of the categories, such as the book published before 1850. Dickens? Shakespeare? Something else? Let me know what you are picking if you’ve already got your list going.

I am loving that…

* a few of the books I’ve read can count for more than one category

* some of them are really “easy,” to accomplish in the sense this challenge has me reading books that have been on my TBR shelf for some time.

As to the books I’ve read so far (including the category or categories they count for):

1) A book by or about someone who identifies as LGBTQ: Everything Leads to You, by Nina LaCour. This one could also count for YA as it’s geared towards younger audiences (I think?) but at the same time, I found it rather hard to believe that a high schooler worked on a movie set and had parents that let her stay in her own apartment. Overall, four stars for good writing and subject matter.

2) Written by an author of a different gender than mine: The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion. The long-awaited sequel to The Rosie Effect. I had to remind myself that Don is sometimes an ass as that is just part of his personality and character, but occasionally it really bothered me in this book. I was also kind of annoyed with Rosie because she didn’t seem to remember who she married. In the end, four stars because the last half of the book was better than first and I warmed up to both Rosie and Don once again.

3) A YA Novel and a book recommended to me: Just One Day, Gayle Forman. I know a lot of people my age just can’t do YA but let me tell you, sometimes I absolutely adore it. Maybe it is because I am one of those people who feels all the feels a lot, or the fact that stories remind me of my “younger,” days but this story, this book, was just what I needed to read when I picked it up. (You know how some books speak to you when you pick them up?) I can’t wait to read the second book in this series and I gave this one five stars. (I could have counted this for the guilty pleasure category, too, but why should reading a book I enjoy be something that gives me guilt!?)

4) A Retelling: Cinder, by Marissa Meyer. A very modern and futuristic take on Cinderella, well-written and creative. I was hooked from the beginning, even though I figured out what was up halfway through the story. Curious about the other books in the series and glad I read it. (Also, I think this is YA, too. Maybe I have a YA problem.) Four stars.

5) Guilty Pleasure: The Peach Keeper, by Sarah Addison Allen. I’ve seen her name floating around my Goodreads for a long time, this one on my TBR for over two years and I read it in less than 48 hours. I’m listing this a guilty pleasure because many others consider this a “light,” read. This story is full of mystery, love, family, friendship and a little bit of Southern Charm.

6) Published this Year: Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. This book had me staying up well past my bedtime for several evenings and reminded me a bit of Gone Girl, though the story is entirely different. If you like psychological thrillers, you’ll enjoy this one (and likely reaching for something a bit lighter when it’s over… perhaps one of the other books I’ve listed above!).

Total books read in relation to this challenge: Six.
Total Categories accounted for: Seven!

If you’re doing this (or another challenge) how’s your progress going? Any books that I absolutely should read for one of the other categories? I’ll take what you are reading for Sci-Fi if you want to share (I’ve already read Age of Miracles in 2014 so I can’t use it for this year)!