Sunday, January 20, 2019

Review: Rokitansky by Alice Darwin

This book. All the feels. The only non-textbook I've highlighted and marked up. The first book in a long time that took me a journal entry and a day and a half to mentally and emotionally process before I could talk about it. I have the same condition (Rokitansky, also known as MRKH), and reading this book made me grateful for all the support I've had regarding my syndrome and yet pissed that any woman has to suffer the emotional and physical trauma of infertility and resulting shitty relationships.

Rokitanksy by Alice Darwin captures the ups and downs of MRKH so well, I definitely recommend this to anyone and everyone who'll read it. My only advice is to make sure you have tissues nearby, especially for the twist at the end! I had this for 4 years and I was finally able to get through it, even though I had to take a break every 20 pages or so to breathe and remind myself that I'm okay! I wonder if it took me 4 years to get around to reading this because I needed to be in an emotionally strong enough place in my life to be able to handle the roller coaster of emotions.

Darwin does an amazing job of portraying the emotions of an MRKH diagnosis at every stage of life, even when it seems like the older woman isn't affected by it. She's at a stage in her life where it doesn't bother her anymore - the diagnosis is hardly even mentioned until the end.

Moira is trying to navigate college life and figuring out who she is as a person, while fighting an internal battle of constant reminders of what she doesn't have since she's living with female roommates. She throws herself into a shopping addiction instead of dealing with the problem head on because she feels so ashamed of who she is and can't bring herself to share her experience with others. She has internalized her mothers feelings towards the condition, and believes that she can't make the decision for herself of who she can and cannot tell.

Tori yearns to be a mother at any cost. She wishes the cost of her dreams was only financial, and not also the price of her marriage. She wishes she and her husband Harry could go back to what life was like before they hired a surrogate. Harry wants their journey to parenthood to end because he sees how it is destroying her - the beautiful woman he once fell in love with has been taken over by a stranger, a brokenhearted woman he does not recognize and does not know how to help. Yet, somehow they figure out to communicate again and come to a decision with which they could both be happy about. 

Mrs. Brown is tired. So very tired of everything, of life. She misses seeing Mr. Brown more often, and hopes that something will give and they'll be able to spend more time together. Rokitansky is not mentioned in her story line until the every end of the book, which makes me wonder if she's come to terms with the condition and is "okay with it."

It is the last chapter when we understand why Rokitansky was at the forefront of Moira and Tori's stories, but not with Mrs. Brown. It is a twist that I saw coming roughly 3/4 of the way through, but wasn't entirely sure how it would play out.

Darwin shows us the heartbreak, anger, confusion, strength, love, and courage that are synonymous with Rokitanksy, and any infertility diagnosis. Out of pain, comes beauty. Out of the ashes, a phoenix rises.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Reading Challenges for 2019

I am participating in 10 reading challenges this year, with the possibility of more. While this is a lot of challenges, there is also A LOT of crossover between the challenges. For example, a book that is in translation that qualifies for the Modern Mrs. Darcy challenge could also be by an author from South Asia which would then qualify for both the Read Women (Goodreads group) challenge and the Reading Women Podcast challenge.

Click on the title of the challenge to visit the site or social media post for more information.

2019 Goodreads Reading Challenge

This challenge is run by Goodreads, and is a great way to track how much and what I've read this year. My overall total goal for the year is 40 books, and I may increase it if I reach 40. Last year my original goal was 20, I increased it to 35 and then surpassed it by reading 38 books.

Goal: 40
Rules: none. Any format, genre, theme, setting, author. Basically any book I read counts!

2019 Read Women

This is another challenge on Goodreads, though it's hosted in the Read Women group. Overall goal: 20 books by women.

Goal: 20
Rules: read books by women.

2019 Read Women Around the World

This is another challenge by the Read Women Goodreads group. They have an ongoing challenge to read women authors around the world that doesn't have a time limit. My overall goal is 30 and so far I've read 8 in the last few years towards this goal.

Goal: 5
Rules: read women authors from other countries than your home country, or the setting of the book is primarily in a country other than your home country.

2019 Read Women Winter Challenge

This is a new challenge this year in the Read Women Goodreads group

Goal: 5
Rules: women authors from Nigeria, Oceania and Canada read between January 1 and March 31

2019 The Unread Shelf Project

Hosted by Whitney on Instagram. This is the first year that I am participating in this challenge, and I need it because I have so many unread books on my shelves and I keep buying more or borrowing others from the library.

Goal: 12 (1 per month)

Rules: the book has to come from your unread shelf, and you have to finish the book by the end of the month, or GET RID OF IT. The hope is that having a deadline will help us decide whether or not the book is worth of a spot on our shelves. 

Monthly theme (if you want to participate):
▪️January - any unread book
▪️February - a book gifted to you
▪️March - the book that’s been on your shelf the longest
▪️April - the book you most recently acquired
▪️May - a book you bought because of the movie/TV/theater adaptation
▪️June - a book about travel or set in a country you’ve never been to
▪️July - a book from a series on your shelf
▪️August - a book voted for you to read by Bookstagram
▪️September - a book you can buddy read with someone
▪️October - a book that scares you, whether because of length, content, or actual horror level!
▪️November - a book from your favorite genre
▪️December - the shortest book on your shelf

2019 Tackle My To Be Read Challenge

This is hosted by another book blogger - Kimberly Faye Reads. This the first year I am participating in this challenge as well. The purpose of this challenge is to read books on our to-be-read pile! While there are plenty "to-be read" challenges out there, this one is the most appealing to me because it's low-key and has some flexible guidelines that you can follow if you want to make it more difficult for yourself.

Goal: 12 (1 per month) 
Rules (copied from her website):
  •  The 2019 Tackle My TBR Challenge runs January 1, 2019 – December 31, 2019. You can join at any time.
  • The goal is to read at least ONE book from your TBR every month. It can be an ARC, ebook, audiobook or print – your choice. Any reading is good reading!
  • If one TBR book a month isn’t enough, set your goal higher! Do you think you can read five a month? Ten? Go big or go home! Just for fun, I’ve added some levels below.
  • You don’t have to be a blogger to participate. You can track your progress on Goodreads, Insta, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube… wherever you want!
  • Use #TackleMyTBR2019 on social media.
  • Feel free to use the banner graphic on your posts and/or social media.
  • Link up below to declare your intentions.
  • Tell your friends!
Levels: check out her post to see what they are!

Monthly Themes - if you want to participate, are pictured above

2019 Audiobook Challenge 

Hosted by Hot Listens! and Caffeinated Book Reviewer, this is the 3rd consecutive year that I'm "link-up" post goes into more detail about the challenge and my goal.
participating in this challenge. The goal is to find a new love for audiobooks and/or outdo yourself by listening to more audiobooks this year than last year! My

Goal: 20
Rules: must be audio format, any genres count, re-reads or crossovers from other challenges count

2019 Modern Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge

This is the 9th year this challenge is being hosted by Anne Bogel, and the second year I'm participating. But 2018 didn't really go well for me so I'm hoping that by using her fun printout guides that I can make some kind of progress this year! I've already printed them out and put them in my journal - her love for journaling and reading are two reasons I love this challenge! To get your printouts, visit her 2019 reading challenge post where she also gives some great tips on how to stay on track and motivated.

Anne'll be using #MMDchallenge and #MMDreading on Twitter and Instagram, and you can tag her @annebogel. Most of all, let's have FUN!

Goal: 12
Rules: books that meet any of the 12 themes in the challenge.

2019 Reading Women Podcast Challenge 

Not to be confused with the Goodreads group, this challenge is hosted by the women behind the Reading Women Podcast. What I love about this one is that there are themes that weren't listed on any other challenge that I had found so far - like one about a woman athlete for example.

There are 26 challenges (including 2 bonus challenges) in this one, but you don't have to do every single one! It's really just a great way to get readers out of our comfort zones. The hosts will be doing mini giveaways along the way to help with motivation!

They also have some great recommendations in their post on their website. They also have a Goodreads group called the Reading Women group.

Share your progress on social media by using the hashtag, #ReadingWomenChallenge 

Goal: 12
Rules: All books read this for challenge have to be by or about women, and you can complete as many challenges as possible. Books can count for two categories. Additional rules in their post!

2019 PopSugar Reading Challenge

This is a new to me challenge and I listed this one last because I'm not sure how much I'll be able to accomplish of this one since there are 40 different challenges, plus 10 advanced prompts! I think I'll do what I can and read books for other challenges and if they happen to meet this one too, then that's good enough for me for this first time! To help readers, they have a Goodreads group, printables (found in their post), and book recommendations that fit the prompts in a list at the end of their post (or in a slideshow).

Also, you can share your progress on social media using the hashtag, #popsugarreadingchallenge.

Goal: 20
Rules: no rules other than books that meet the themes. The purpose is really to read more books and less popular genres.

Additional Challenges?

I may add 3 additional challenges throughout the year if the Read Women Goodreads group does them and I feel like I can easily meet the criteria. Those challenges would be the spring challenge, summer challenge, and the autumn challenge if they decide to keep doing the seasonal challenges similar to the winter challenge.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Reading Challenge: Audiobook Challenge 2019

2019 marks the third year in a row that I am participating in this challenge hosted by Hot Listens and Caffeinated Reviewer. This challenge has helped me gain an appreciation and love for the audio book format. I didn't used to like audio books because I didn't think listening to a book really counted as "reading." It felted like cheating. I have since learned that while it technically doesn't count as reading the words, it still counts as absorbing the story. Listening to audio books has helped me to "read" more than I would have otherwise, and also books I wouldn't have read otherwise such as classics like Jane Austen novels that are hard to read. One of my favorite authors to listen to is Elin Hilderbrand because her writing is so easy to enjoy while I am multitasking.

That said, I enjoy a challenge and I am super competitive so I enjoy trying to outdo myself. So far I've been able to do that with this challenge. In 2017, I was the Stenographer (see below) and in 2018 I skipped a level and achieved the Binge Listener level by listening to 24 audiobooks (as of Dec. 15). For 2019, my goal will be 25 to achieve at least the same level as 2018, if not more.

There are seven Achievement Levels:
Newbie (I’ll give it a try) 1-5
Weekend Warrior (I’m getting the hang of this) 5-10
Stenographer (can listen while multitasking) 10-15
Socially Awkward (Don’t talk to me) 15-20
Binge Listener (Why read when someone can do it for you) 20-30
My Precious (I had my earbuds surgically implanted) 30+
Marathoner (Look Ma No Hands) 50+

In the blogger-sphere, signing up is called "linking up" so if you'd like to link up for this challenge, hop on over to Caffeinated Reviewer's link up post where you'll also find the rules. You do not need to be a blogger to join - you can link up using your Goodreads, Facebook, LibraryThing or other account.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Reading Challenge: Audiobook Challenge 2018

This is the 2nd year I've participated in the Audiobook Challenge hosted by Caffeinated Reviewer and Hot Listens! They do a giveaway at the end of every year for anyone who participates in the challenge and "links up" in their year end posts. Link up means signing up for the giveaway by submitting your link to a list of the books you've listened to throughout the year. Most people either submit a blog post or a link to their Goodreads shelf or list. This blog post counts as my sign up once I link to Caffeinated Reviewer's Final Check-In post. Interested participants can link up anytime through December 31, 2018.

The reason I'm signing up now instead of on December 31 is because I know I'll stay in the same level as I am now, which is Binge Listener, which is 20-30 books and I won't have time to write a post between today and the end of the year because of how crazy schedules get with Christmas approaching. As of December 15th, I've listened to 24 complete books out of my goal 25 for the calendar year. My original goal was 15 for the year and when I finished my 23 audio book I decided to up my goal. It's possible I may surpass 25 before the end of the year by 2-3 books because I have 4 hours left on one book and a 14 hour round-trip road trip ahead of me.

These are the levels:
Newbie (I’ll give it a try) 1-5
Weekend Warrior (I’m getting the hang of this) 5-10
Stenographer (can listen while multi-tasking) 10-15
Socially Awkward (Don’t talk to me) 15-20
Binge Listener (Why read when someone can do it for you) 20-30

My Precious (I had my earbuds surgically implanted) 30+
Marathoner (Look Ma No Hands) 50+

These are the books I've listened to:
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
Winter Street by Elin Hilderbrand
Winter Stroll by Elin Hilderbrand
Winter Storms by Elin Hilderbrand
Second Glance by Jodi Picoult

Undying by Corina Bishop

Winter Solstice by Elin Hilderbrand
And Still I Rise by Maya Angelou
The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

Love Your Life, Not Theirs: 7 Money Habits for Living the Life You Want by Rachel Cruze
Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology by Leah Remini

Fly Away: Firefly Lane 2 by Kristin Hannah

Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

July: none

The Art of Living: Peace and Freedom in the Here and Now by Thich Nhat Hanh

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson
You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero
The Identicals by Elin Hilderbrand

The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World by Dalai Lama XIV

The Beautiful Struggle by Ta-Nehisi Coates
A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult
The Home Front: Life in America During WWII by Audible Originals, Narrated by Martin Sheen

Winter in Paradise by Elin Hilderbrand

Currently Listening to:
Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands by Chris Bohjalian - 4 hours left and will finish today
Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis - starting today and will finish this week

May also finish this year:
You Are a Badass at Making Money by Jen Sincero

I'll update this post at the end of the year with how many I officially finished.