Wednesday, May 31, 2017

May Wrap-Up and June Forecast

I lost momentum and motivation to blog after I participated in RESOLVE's Blogger Challenge as part of National Infertility Awareness Week last month. It was a combination of nicer weather so I'm outside more, and the fact that I needed a break from blogging because I started to suffer from burnout. Infertility is such a tough subject already, and then blogging about it took a lot of emotionally energy. Although sharing my story was a relief and big weight off my shoulders, it was still emotionally draining writing all of those posts and worrying about having my story out there in the public Internet world.

That said, I wanted to share a recap of what has happened this month.

Posts for Books Read in May

  1. Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance (audiobook, memoir) - 5 out of 5 rating
  2. Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult (audiobook, fiction) - 4 out of 5 rating
  3. The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien - review to come!

Posts for Books Read Before May

  1. Soup of the Day: 150 Delicious and Comforting Recipes from Our Favorite Restaurants by Ellen Brown (cookbook)  - no rating
  2. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (historical fiction) - 5 out of 5 rating
  3. The Paris Wife by Paula McLain (audiobook, fiction) - 5 out of 5 rating

Reading Challenge

I decided to commit to a new challenge for the year by joining the Audiobook Challenge 2017, which has different levels and lasts all year long. In May, I finished 2 audiobooks for a total of 5 so far in 2017, which means I completed the Newbie level. I am looking forward to listening to more audiobooks this year, in June especially with lots of road trips to get some listening in!

Top Five

  1. Favorite Book: Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult - not only is she one of my favorite authors, I really noticed and enjoyed how well developed the characters were on their own and in their relationships with each other.
  2. Least Favorite Book: None this month. I didn't read nearly as much as I had hoped so I have less of a pool to draw from. 
  3. Most Exciting Moment: getting a new phone so that I can do more with it, including downloading more audio-books to listen to and get closer to meeting the Audiobook Challenge.
  4. Least Exciting Moment: When I realized that I was losing my momentum and self-encouragement for blogging. I hit a slump and didn't know how to get out of it until earlier this week and noticed what other bloggers were posting at the end of the month and got the idea for this post. I've been able to learn something from this experience and still create something!
  5. Favorite Part of May: Seeing a few old friends I haven't seen much of in the last few years. Getting together and catching up with old friends is usually a good time for me and encouraging. 

June Forecast

I'm going to be driving or a passenger for about 42 hours this month so I hope to get a lot of reading and/or listening done! Since I'll be on vacation for a bit in June, I plan to get a lot of my posts written and posted or scheduled ahead of time. 
  1. The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck - currently reading
  2. Rokitasnky by Alice Darwin - currently reading
  3. Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon - currently reading
  4. Home Front by Kristin Hannah - currently reading
  5. Check-in about the Audiobook Challenge 2017
  6. Top 10 Favorite Jodi Picoult Books
  7. The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien - published June 6
  8. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
  9. The Underground Girls of Kabul by Jenny Nordberg
  10. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
  11. The Exile: An Outlander Graphic Novel by Diana Gabaldon
  12. The Diviners by Libba Bray
  13. Bag Balm & Duct Tape: Tales of a Vermont Doctor by Beach Conger, MD
  14. The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant
Which June post should I do first?

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Review: Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult

Leaving Time
by Jodi Picoult, author
Audiobook, Published October 14th 2014 by Random House Audio
Read by: Rebecca Lowman, Abigail Revasch, K├Ąthe Mazur, Mark Deakins
Dates listened: April 16 - May 12, 2017

Jenna Metcalf is a 13-year-old girl searching for her mother who mysteriously disappeared after a tragic accident 10 years earlier. She can't imagine that her mother would intentionally leave her behind and feels the urge to find out why she left without saying goodbye or even taking her only daughter with her. She reads and re-reads her mother's journals to learn more about her and feel closer to the woman she barely remembers and longs to know and love in real-time.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Review: Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis By J.D. Vance

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis
By J.D. Vance (Author and Narrator)
Audiobook published June 2016 by HarperAudio

Narrated by J.D. Vance himself, I found this book refreshing to hear a personal account of growing up in Appalachia explaining his first hand experience that they have their own mentality.  There seems to be a general cultural consensus in this lower middle class that the rich people and corporations are to blame for their circumstances. Vance proceeds to explain throughout the rest of the book his own experiences growing up in the culture, from the parade of boyfriends his mother had masquerading as father figures to his older sister playing surrogate mother as a teenager to him when their mother wouldn't be able to function due to her addictions.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Review: The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

Paperback, 214 pages
Published: 2011 by Ballantine Books
Audiobook by Random House Audio

The Paris Wife is beautifully written by Paula McLain from the perspective of Ernest Hemingway's first wife, Hadley. I felt like I was right there in the story, which took place in a very different time period nearly 90 years ago. Coincidentally, I read A Farewell to Arms at the same time for book club and now want to read The Sun Also Rises even more.

McLain writes in such a way that can make the reader feel like they're the main character, or perhaps is her best friend or reading her diary. She is a pro at character development as I felt like I knew Hadley and Ernest Hemingway intimately and felt for both of them as they toiled through life together and the later years.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Reading Challenge: Audiobook Challenge 2017

Earlier this year, I participated in the March Take Control TBR Challenge with Caffeinated Book Reviewer, which was not very successful on my part. It was my first monthly reading challenge on my own as a blogger and not directly related to Goodreads and so I lost momentum. Then, today I came across the fifth annual Audiobook Challenge 2017 that Caffeinated Book Reviewer is co-hosting with Hot Listens. I've already listened to four audiobooks this year, and am on my fifth so I am already at the Newbie level and very close to Weekend Warrior status so I thought, hey why not join? The challenge started earlier this year and runs through December 31 to either find a new love for audios or outdo yourself by listening to more audiobooks this year than in 2016. There are two updates the hosts will be doing - one on June 30 and one on December 15, 2017, which is when I plan on doing a progress update of my own of which books I've listened to so far and which level I've reached for the challenge.

The levels are:
  • 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+

I listen to the majority of my audiobooks on OverDrive through my library membership because it's free. Some books I listen to on Audible, but since I am also trying to save money I have temporarily put my account on hold until further notice, but not before downloading two books that I will check out at some point this year.

Other paid subscription audio resources include Audiobooks.com, Downpour.com, Tantor.com, and Ambling BookPlayer, and one that Caffeinated Book Reviewer doesn't mention is Libro.fm.

In addition to OverDrive, other free audio resources include LibriVox (public domain books), Audiobook Jukebox and Hoopla

While I don't have a set number of audiobooks I plan to listen to, I am tracking them on my Goodreads shelf called 2017-audiobook-challenge. So far I have listened to The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance, and I am currently listening to Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult.

Be on the lookout for more reviews and updates to come!

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Review: The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Published 2003 by Riverhead Books
Paperback, 391 pages
Dates read: September 23 - December 25, 2015

Set primarily in a changing Afghanistan over the course of 30 years, The Kite Runner tells the story of an unlikely friendship, love, and family.

Amir, a Pashtun, is the son of a wealthy merchant, and never wants for anything other than the affection of his father, Baba. While Baba clearly and openly loves both boys, he often turns a critical eye on Amir, causing him to feel resentful, jealous, and live with a growing sense of uncertainty. His friendship with his family's servant, Hassan, is even more unusual as he is a Hazara. The boys grow up playing in the field across the street from the house, flying kites, and participating in a number of different boyhood games. But as Amir's desire to appease his father intensifies amid the country's tensions increasing across ethnic, religious, and political lines, their friendship is torn beyond repair when Amir's actions come between him and his friend in one of his greatest times of need. They barely speak, unless necessary, for some time until Hassan and his father move on to other opportunities, or perhaps it's away from Amir's heartbreaking choice, despite the lifelong friendship between Baba and Hassan's father.

Hosseini's debut novel is a powerful account of love, life, family, and the turmoils of an improbable friendship amidst difficult circumstances. Highly recommend.

Rating: 5 out of 5

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Cookbook Review: Soup of the Day: 150 Delicious and Comforting Recipes from Our Favorite Restaurants by Ellen Brown

After a week of posts about infertility, some comfort food is in order. Some of my favorite comfort foods are soups and chili, no matter the time of year and most especially when I'm sick. Not only are there so many options to choose from, soup is also easily freezable to save for a rainy day or that craving that randomly kicks in for no apparent reason.

Soup of the Day is a wonderful reference any time of the year when your soup craving kicks in, whether it's a hearty chicken soup when you're feeling under the weather or a light gazpacho to keep you cool in the summer.