2019 Game Plan

Hi all,

We survived 2018, and 2019 is finally here. 2018 was certainly eventful for me personally, and I’m going into 2019 more happy and hopeful than I could have imagined a year ago given the circumstances. I have a full-time job that I don’t love but pays the bills, and I’m in a wonderful relationship, I have a huge pile of unread books I cannot wait to dive into this year, and I’m actually feeling slightly stable.

I wanted to take a new approach to my New Year’s resolutions this year. Coming up with a few giant goals always feels completely overwhelming, and I never usually accomplish any of them anyway. I decided to do a month to month sort of thing this year. Each month, I want to focus on improving a different aspect of my life. Hopefully, I’ll carry what I’ve learned, practice, or made a habit of into the rest of the year.

For example, in December, I focused on fixing my sleeping schedule and actually getting 6-8 hours of sleep each night. I’m hoping that since I’ve worked on teaching myself this and getting into that habit, I’ll be able to have a healthy sleeping schedule this year.  I know that it might not be feasible to complete the goal each day. My January goal is to read 50 pages a day, for example, and I know that sometimes life comes up and things happen and there will be days in January that I just won’t have time to sit and read 50 pages, but I want to at least make a conscious effort to cross that focus off my to-do list each day.

Overall, I’m just really hoping to solidify more healthy and positive habits this year.

Here is my rough list of goals for 2019 by month, though they might change as my needs change throughout the year.

JANUARY: Read 50 pages a dayFEBRUARY: Mindfulness; meditation/deep breathing
MARCH: Yoga 2-3 times a week
APRIL: Job apps daily (even just 1)
MAY: Cut down on caffeine – one cup of coffee per day
JUNE: Create a monthly budget & cut down on extra spending
JULY: Take driver’s test
AUGUST: Healthier eating – try 1-2 person recipes
SEPTEMBER: Work on a creative project for 1 hr/day
OCTOBER: Learn/practice a new creative skill
NOVEMBER: No bra November – only where a bra when absolutely necessary.
DECEMBER: Save money (10K in savings)

That’s my 2019 game plan! Wish me luck as I try to live bigger and better in 2019!

Do you have any goals you’re trying to accomplish in 2019? If so, best of luck with them! (If not, best of luck with simply surviving 2019. God knows we’ll probably need it…)

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Review: Where the Sidewalk Ends/Every Thing on It by Shel Silverstein

Published: HarperCollins, 2016
Genre: Poetry, Children’s
Pages: 380
My rating: 5/5 stars

Description: Where the Sidewalk Ends: “Where the sidewalk ends, Shel Silverstein’s world begins. There you’ll meet a boy who turns into a TV set and a girl who eats a whale. The Unicorn and the Bloath live there, and so does Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout who will not take the garbage out. It is a place where you wash your shadow and plant diamond gardens, a place where shoes fly, sisters are auctioned off, and crocodiles go to the dentist.

And Every Thing on It: “Have you ever read a book with everything on it? Well, here it is! You will say Hi-ho for the toilet troll, get tongue-tied with Stick-a-Tongue-Out-Sid, play a highly unusual horn, and experience the joys of growing down.

What’s that? You have a case of the Lovetobutcants? Impossible! Just come on in and let the magic of Shel Silverstein bend your brain and open your heart.
” (Goodreads)

Why I picked it up:
I’ve loved Silverstein’s work ever since I was younger, from The Giving Tree to his poetry to Johnny Cash’s “A Boy Named Sue” (of which Silverstein was the songwriter, in case you didn’t know!). This gorgeous leatherbound classic edition of two of his poetry books combined, Where the Sidwalk Ends and Every Thing on It, was bought for me at Barnes & Noble by my girlfriend. I had actually never read And Every Thing on It before, so I jumped at the chance to reread some of my favorites and experience a few new poems as well!

Thoughts:
I had so much fun revisiting some of my favorite childhood poems. Where the Sidewalk Ends is one of those books I could read over and over and always makes me smile when I’m feeling down. I also loved getting to rad some of Silverstein’s work that I hadn’t before. I know I’ll be revisiting And Every Thing on It just as frequently as I have his other work.

Of course, this book had me smiling and laughing out loud and feeling inspired. Even as an adult, this book is good for you. I would come home from a full day of work at a job that I, well, don’t exactly love, and crack this open to read a few pages before bed. It definitely lifted my spirits after a long day.

This is the kind of book I’d read out loud to my kids. I actually used to read my very first copy of Where the Sidewalk Ends to my little brother back in elementary school. It was the only book we had that kept him still and paying attention, and one of my favorite memories from our childhood. I think it would be great to read a few poems out of this book to kids before bed.

Honestly, there’s not much negative I have to say about this book. Of course, there’s a few poems in the 380 pages I didn’t love, but overall, I absolutely loved this and it was everything I wanted it to be.

There’s just no other way to put it—this is a feel-good, pick-me-up book that I feel like I need to have in reach like medicine during allergy season. Medicine for the heart and soul. Silverstein’s work never fails to inspire me and make me smile, and this gorgeous leather-bound edition is certainly no exception.

Buy the book: Amazon, Barnes & Noble

Thanks for reading!
Find more reviews here.

2018 in Review

Hi all,

Last year, I started doing a Year in Review, where I take a look at a breakdown of what I’ve read this past year. It’s in part for myself, just to get a better idea of exactly what kind of books I’ve been reading, and part to hold myself accountable for my reading goals.

In 2017, I really wanted tofocus on putting my money where my mouth is when it comes to diversity inbooks. I know most of what I read is pretty straight and white, and seeing thebreakdown in graphs made it all the more evident. This year, I want to seeexactly how close I was to meeting the goals I set for myself when I finishedmy 2017 in Review, and to see how my reading trends have changed, and see whatnew goals I want to set for myself for 2019.

I set a total goal of 40books for myself this year. I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to read as much as Ifinished undergrad and transitioned into working full time. Luckily, thiswasn’t a problem. I actually surpassed my goal and reached a total of 56 booksthis year! This beat my 2017 total of 39 by a long shot.

I divided my 2018 reads up byauthor gender, author race/ethnicity, and genre (further broken down by fictionand nonfiction).

As far as gender, I tend to gravitate toward books written by women, so not much changed here and I didn’t set a goal in this area for 2018. I didn’t read any books by an author who identified as a gender other than male or female, to my knowledge.

I kept my race/ethnicitybetween white and non-white because, like last year, I didn’t feel like I hadenough non-white authors to really break it down further. But I did seem toread a few more authors of color than I did in 2017, which is one of the goalsI had set for myself.  In 2017, I read 9books by non-white authors, and in 2018 I read 15. Still, that number isn’t ashigh as I want it to be, especially in comparison with the high number of whiteauthors (over double) I’ve read.

Okay, this is…a lot. I movedadded and deleted a few genres to fit what I’ve read this year. I’m fairlyproud of the variety of books I’ve read this year. I tried not to stick to mycomfort zone and try some new things. I also took a poetry class and YA Litclass where I had to read a lot of books I wouldn’t normally reach for,specifically verse novels and some middle grade novels. I’ve also been readingalong with some of my girlfriend’s books she’s been reading for grad school,which has offered me some variety as well. I never pick up a historical fictionnovel on my own, but I read a few this year thanks to her recommendations.

As far as the goals I had setfor myself early this year, I’m definitely proud of the progress I’ve made. Isucceeded in reading more poetry! This was in part thanks to the poetryindependent study I’d done where I had to read a ton of poetry books, and inpart because I did seek them out more frequently this year. I also fell in lovewith some new poets I was introduced to for that class and felt the desire tobuy literally all of their work. I definitely want to keep up this trend andread even more poetry heading into 2019.

As far as my goal to readmore diverse, I did read nearly twice as many authors of color than I did in2017. I didn’t do any graphs or calculations for main characters or diversethemes in the books, but I also did seek out a lot more queer books as well,specifically books by/about queer women. I still didn’t do as well in this areaas I would have liked, and I want to read even more diverse heading into 2019. Forexample, I had no trans or nonbinary authors or main characters in my 2018,which is definitely something I want to work on. Next year I also want to tryto keep track of the diverse themes and maybe include a new graph in my 2019 inReview post about the themes rather than just authors and genres.

And that about wraps up my2018 in Review! It was super interesting to compare my 2017 and 2018 readinghabits and how close I was to reaching the goals I set for myself. I’m lookingforward to seeing what books 2019 has in store for me!

Review: The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

Cover image from Goodreads

Published: Doubleday, 2016
Genre: historical fiction
Pages:306
My rating: 4/5 stars

Description: “Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hellish for all the slaves but especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood – where even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Matters do not go as planned and, though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted.

In Whitehead’s ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad  is no mere metaphor – engineers and conductors operate a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Cora and Caesar’s first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven – but the city’s placid surface masks an insidious scheme designed for its black denizens. Even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher, is close on their heels. Forced to flee again, Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom.

As Whitehead brilliantly re-creates the unique terrors for black people in the pre-Civil War era, his narrative seamlessly weaves the saga of America from the brutal importation of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the present day. The Underground Railroad is at once a kinetic adventure tale of one woman’s ferocious will to escape the horrors of bondage and a shattering, powerful meditation on the history we all share.” (Goodreads)

Why I picked it up:
This was heavily recommended to me by my girlfriend, who had read it for class for her master’s program.

Thoughts:
I’m not the biggest fan of historical fiction, and I rarely ever reach for it. I only picked this one up because it was recommended to me, so I was surprised to find I actually quite enjoyed it.

For starters, I absolutely loved the concept of underground railroad as actual railroad. I don’t know why this concept never occurred to me before, but I thought it was such a brilliant reimagining of the underground railroad. Each station was different, and they all told different stories.

Obviously, there’s a lot of gruesome, violent scenes. Though these scenes were tough to get through (as expected), it was also balanced out with a lot of hope. There were several moments like this throughout the book, as Cora is able to remain confident and defiant throughout all of the obstacles she faces. My favorite example of this was the slave ad Cora places for herself in the end. I don’t want to discuss this too much because of spoilers, but it was such an epic power move.

I will say I wasn’t the biggest fan of Whitehead’s writing style. I haven’t read any of his other books, so I don’t know if this is unique to the book or his style overall. There were moments in this book where I felt the descriptions were getting a bit long and boring, or sections that I felt like were way to long in comparison with the sections where more action was unfolding. We spend pages

Didn’t feel like we got to know the characters as much as I would have liked. It didn’t always feel balanced out in terms of action and intermediate parts of the story.

I also wish we had gotten to know the characters a little bit better. I think this kind of goes hand-in-hand with my previous critique. I think if the plot had been a bit more balanced instead of having drawn out scenes or chapters with very little action or anything happening, we might have had a stronger attachment to these characters. Overall, though, I did absolutely adore Cora as a heroine, and of course it was easy to love Caesar as well.

Fora genre I reach for very little, I really enjoyed The Underground Railroad. I thought this was a unique and interesting approach to such a well-known time period. It was equal parts

Some quotes:
“Every mile between her and the plantation was a victory. She would add to her collection.”

“One might think one’s misfortune unique,but the true horror lay in their universality.”

“The world may be mean, but people don’t have to be, not if they refuse.”

Recommend for fans of: The Color Purple by Alice Walker

Buy the book: Amazon, Book Depository, Thriftbooks

Thanks for reading!
Find more reviews here.

Travel Time: NYC

Hi all,

I hope you’ve all been enjoying this holiday season so far. I thought I’d start a new sort of series on my blog where I write about my travels. I don’t travel all that often, as it’s expensive and hard to get off of work, but we do a bit of road trips that I think are fun to write about. This past weekend, my girlfriend and  I took a trip to New York City. I’ve been to the city several times, but never around the holiday season, so it was definitely a new experience. We had to lug our luggage onto two commuter trains just to get into the city, so it was definitely an adventure and a half.

We stayed in a cute little hotel room with one huge, comfy bed. It was in a more residential area, so there were cheaper, less tourist-trap-y coffee places and little things to stop into. My favorite thing about going to New York is visiting as many different coffee places as I can. I tend to avoid Dunkin, Starbucks, and any other big chains in favor of smaller indie shops that I can’t have when I’m home. I forgot to take photos, but my favorite so far is definitely Joe Coffee, which I went to upon recommendation from Ingrid Nilsen in one of her latest vlogs!

We also stopped by Nintendo NY as soon as we got our stuff into the hotel and I got caffeinated. We both love Nintendo, so we always make sure we stop at the store when we’re in the city. It was super packed, as was to be expected the weekend before Christmas. I snagged a super cute Legend of Zelda shirt I absolutely love, and I spotted this very large Link as well as an adorable lil pikachu.  

Our first night in we were pretty tired from the trip and the shopping, especially because neither of us had gotten a lot of sleep the night before. We decided to do something relaxing, so we had sushi for dinner at this lovely little restaurant called Blue Ribbon Sushi and then went to see Into the Spider-verse. It was fun to see a movie that takes place in NYC while we were in NYC. By the way, we both loved the movie. I definitely recommend seeing it if you haven’t already!  

The following day, we obviously had to make a stop at the famous Strand Bookstore. It was busier than I had ever seen it. Like, there were no empty spots to stand. Everyone was shoulder to shoulder and there were literally lanes of traffic navigating between the displays. It made it difficult to browse, but I still managed to walk out with 15!!! Books. As if I needed them. I have to towering TBR stacks on my desk now, and my TBR jar is definitely in full force. We also made it up to the 3rd floor of the store, which holds their rare books. That was much less packed, and super cool to visit since I want to go to grad school for rare book librarianship.

We also visited the big Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center and the light show at Saks 5th Ave. I’d seen these online a thousand time, but had never seen them in person. If you’ve never witness the big tree or the Saks light show, they’re right next to each other, which means there’s a seemingly endless crowd of people surrounding them both. I’m glad I was able to actually see these in person, but I’m not gonna lie, it’s not an experience I plan to repeat, at least not any time soon. It was a little too busy for my taste.

Finally, on the last day, we made a few stops before heading home. We stopped at a crepe place, Viva le Crepe, for breakfast and I had a Nutella crepe with walnuts that was to. Die. For. We also stopped by a macaron shop because neither of us had ever tried macaron’s despite how much we’ve heard their delicious. And they were. We regret only buying a box of six.

Our last stop was the famous toy store, FAO Schwarz. You might know it for it’s giant floor piano. My girlfriend had gone there a lot when she was younger, but I had never been before. The store had been shut down for a few years, and recently reopened this past Thanksgiving. We were so excited to stop in for this trip, her because she wanted to revisit it, and me because I had never experienced it before. We didn’t buy much, but it was fun to see the giant piano in person and visit the store I had heard so much about.

That about sums up my holiday trip to New York City. I had a wonderful time, and it was great to experience so many aspects of the city I hadn’t had the chance to before.

Review: The Frame-Up by Meghan Scott Molin

Cover image from Goodreads

Series:The Golden Arrow #1
Published:47North, 2018
Genre: Romance, Mystery
Pages:287
Myrating: 4/5

Description: “MG Martin lives and breathes geek culture. She even works as a writer for the comic book company she idolized as a kid. But despite her love of hooded vigilantes, MG prefers her comics stay on the page.

But when someone in LA starts recreating crime scenes from her favorite comic book, MG is the LAPD’s best—and only—lead. She recognizes the golden arrow left at the scene as the calling card of her favorite comic book hero. The thing is…superheroes aren’t real. Are they?

When the too-handsome-for-his-own-good Detective Kildaire asks for her comic book expertise, MG is more than up for the adventure.Unfortunately, MG has a teeny little tendency to not follow rules. And her off-the-books sleuthing may land her in a world of trouble.

Because for every superhero, there is a super villain. And the villain of her story may be closer than she thinks…” (Goodreads)

Why I picked it up:
This was my Amazon Kindle First pick for the month of November 2018. I chose it among the 5 other First picks available because, as a book nerd, I liked the idea of using a comic book to catch a criminal. I chose to read it so quickly because it was my first TBR jar pick. You can read more about my TBR jar adventures over on my Winter 2018/2019 TBR post!

Thoughts:
I’m not gonna lie to you, ya’ll—I was not expecting to like this that much. I haven’t had great experiences with my Kindle First picks (though I keep getting them because, hey, free books, right?) and this is the first one I’ve actually read in a long time, and I’m glad I did. This is the most fun I’ve had with a book in forever, and it got me out of a months-long reading slump.

There was a lot that I liked about this book. I honestly didn’t think I’d have a hard time figuring out who the criminals were, but the story did have me guessing until the end. Though I was able to predict the Dirty Cop, there were other elements of the story that had me surprised, which I appreciated. There were lots of twists, turns, and reveals that had me constantly wondering what would come up next, which meant I never wanted to put it down.

While I felt some of the characters were a bit flat, I do have to give a shout-out to my absolute queen, Lawrence. I loved his character, and thought he was not only a great friend to MG, but also hilarious and totally supportive. I didn’t realize just how big of a role he’d play, and I loved getting to know more about him, his past, and the surprisingly large impact he had on the events that unfold in the book. Plus, I love that he and his drag family were their own kind of heroes in the end.

And did someone say…fake dating? As soon as MG and Matteo decide to fake-date, I knew it was all over for me. I was hooked. This romance is Lifetime Movie cheesy, and I could not get enough. Of course I loved Matteo, and their cute moments, and the book-long buildup of their relationship. Their fake-romance to real-romance was super cute, and I know ya’ll rom-com lovers (myself included. Hi.) can’t get enough of fake-dating.

There were also some things in this book I wasn’t crazy about. The biggest, mostlong-running complaint I have is the constant and very aggressive I Am A Girl Who Is Also a Nerd #notliketheothergirls thing being thrown at the reader. I’mall for aggressive feminism, but this was off-putting even for me. I appreciated the message, because female creators and characters definitely struggle in a lot of “nerd” industries, comics included. I just didn’t like the way this was approached in the book. It was often brought up repeatedly and aggressively for no reason—such as MG assuming that because Matteo said the characters in comics were practically real to her, that meant he thought she couldn’t tell fiction from reality because she’s a woman. It was a very odd line of logic to follow,and these instances were often followed by an aggressive internal or external rant about how she wasn’t taken seriously. I wish instead, the author had let the moments like her struggle to get her female-character-driven comic to betaken seriously or the lack of women in her office speak to this instead of the constant rants and sudden aggressive comments. It’s a classic show, don’t tell kind of rule: don’t tell us MG isn’t taken seriously as a woman in the industry, show us through her experiences.

Hand-in-hand with that, MG constantly stereotypes Nerd Boys and Normal Boys alike. She stereotypes Nerd Boys, saying they don’t take her seriously or constantly sexualize her, and she stereotypes Normal Boys, saying they put her down for her interests or eccentric style and personality. Of course, this stuff happens every day to real women, and these comments are fair. What I didn’t like was both the division between “nerds” and “normal people” as if you can’t be “normal”and “nerdy” at the same time. I found this unfair and, again, off-putting. I also hated that she stereotyped people in the same way she said she was being stereotyped. She was so firm with these lines she’d drawn, and constantly made assumptions about people based on what they liked or how they looked, just like she had accused people of doing to her, based on her purple hair or love of comics. This does get lightly addressed in the end, though, but it wasn’t quite enough for me. I hope in book #2 we see more of a progression for her in this aspect, or see this get further addressed.

Negativities aside, this ended up being such a guilty pleasure book for me. There were some pretty deep flaws and things that did bother me throughout the book like I mentioned. Still, I had a lot of fun and enjoyed the characters and story so much that I was able to put those little annoyances to the side and just enjoy the book. As I said, it brought me out of a pretty long reading slump, and it reminded me that reading is supposed to be fun. So maybe it’s just personal,but I had a great time with this book, and I’ll definitely be looking out for book #2!

Some quotes:
“Honey, that’s what real family is. They’re the people you call when the bodies pile up.”

“I spent so much time pushing people away because they didn’t fit what I was looking for, and in the end what I needed was someone to bring me out of my prejudices. Open my eyes to the world. The realize that the perfect person will support my fashion design, my wacky hair,my comics, my job, because those things are all a part of me.”

Recommend for fans of: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, Fangirlby Rainbow Rowell

Buy the book: Amazon, Book Depository, Thriftbooks

Thanks for reading!
Find more reviews here.

Get to Know Ya Book Tag

Hi all,

I hope you’re all doing splendid! I took a bit of a break and didn’t write a review for this past Saturday, and I thought it’d be fun to get back into things with a tag. This is the Get to Know Ya book tag, which I came across over on lifeandotherdisasters. I’ve been looking forward to doing this one, so I hope you all enjoy!

Favorite Book of All Time
If I had to pick, I’d probably say my current favorite book is probably The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater. I hate picking a single favorite, book, though, because my tastes change so often and there’s so many that I love!

Favorite Book Five Years Ago
5 years ago takes us back to 2013, so it was probably What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen, which remains one of my all-time favorites to this day.

Favorite Duology/Trilogy/Series
I feel like saying The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater would be cheating since I already used a book from the series, but that’s the answer. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo and The Illuminae Files by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff are close behind, though.

Last Book You Read
The last book I read was The Frame-Up by Meghan Scott Molin. It’s a cute little mystery/romance about a woman who uses comic books to help the police catch a real-life superhero, a villain, and a dirty cop. It was a TBR jar pick that I didn’t even intend to pick up this soon, but I ended up really enjoying it! (Also, I’m still kind of loving this cover…)

Last Book of Poetry I’ve Read
I just finished reading the beautiful leather-bound edition of Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends/Every Thing on It. I loved Where the Sidewalk Ends as a kid, and I had such a great time revisiting those poems as well as experiencing some that I hadn’t read yet.

What Book Most Influenced Your Life
How am I supposed to pick one! I think the creator of this tag probably meant for this to be an inspirational read or something of the sort, but I’m gonna go with Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight for this one. Honestly, if I hadn’t jumped on the Twilight hype train in 7th grade, I probably wouldn’t be the avid reader I am today, so I can’t deny that Twilight was pretty big influence on me.

Book That Made You Ugly Cry
Sorry ya’ll. I have to go with The Fault in Our Stars by John Green for this one. That’s the only book I’ve read that really had me bawling.

Book That Made You Laugh
This was a tough one, because I don’t read that many funny books. The last book I can remember that made me really laugh out loud was probably The Gentlemen’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzie Lee.

Character You’d Like to Be for a Day
Grace from Maggie Stiefvater’s Shiver trilogy. Maybe before she turned into a werewolf, though.Anyway, I related to her so much when I read that series in high school that it felt like she was made for me.

Book So Good You Dreamt About It
I can’t remember ever having a dream about a book. Welp!

Book You DNFed
I quit reading The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey pretty early into it. I still have it on my TBR shelf in hopes that I’ll pick it up again. Maybe one day!

What Book Are You Excited to Read
I have so many unread books right now that they’re piling upon my desk, but I’m probably most excited to read Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy. I’ve wanted to read it for a while now,and I’m especially inspired to read it after the Netflix adaptation has gotten so many positive reactions!

This was such a fun tag to do. As always, I don’t tag anyone specifically so if you’d like to do this tag, go for it! Thanks for reading!