May/June 2018 Reads

It's been pretty obvious that I haven't been spending a lot of time on my blog lately (or, to be completely honest, reading/commenting on other blogs).  The main reason is definitely a good one (in my opinion anyway!), but I'm slowly trying to ease my way back into blogging and all of the things that go along with it.

I seriously considered not linking up with Steph and Jana again this month because I was completely unprepared to write this post.  (Not to mention the fact that I never got around to responding to comments from my link-up post in May.  Ugh.)  Last month I didn't join the link-up because I knew I didn't really have the time/energy for it, but I should have still been keeping up with taking notes on the books I was reading since I knew I'd want to share my thoughts in one big post.

Well ... I didn't do that.  I'm relying solely on my memory for these reviews and I plan to keep them pretty short, so hopefully they'll capture the main reasons I liked/disliked each book.  


Amazing Books I Highly Recommend

2018 has just really not been my year for reading books that I fall in love with.  I've read some pretty enjoyable books in the last couple of months, but none were what I'd consider five star worthy.

Very Good Books That Are Worth A Read

Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira
Completed: 05/01/18
My Rating: ****
Challenge Category: A book about death or grief for the 2018 PopSugar Reading Challenge

I actually should have included this book with my April Reads, but I forgot.  At least I remembered to talk about it now!

This is a YA book, and it's obvious that that's the intended audience.  It's not as "young" as some YA books I've read, and it definitely touches on some pretty heavy topics -- but I do think I would have enjoyed it more if the writing had felt a little more mature.  (And maybe also if the main character wasn't constantly obsessing about the oh-so-beautiful-and-mysterious boy she likes.  I felt like that kind of took away from the more important parts of the story.)

Despite its flaws, Love Letters to the Dead was an overall quick and enjoyable read.  I initially thought it would be a three star book, but it actually moved me to tears at one point near the end.  If a book can stir up that much emotion, I think it's worthy of at least four stars.

99 Red Balloons by Elisabeth Carpenter
Completed: 05/23/18
My Rating: ****
Challenge Category: A book with song lyrics in the title for the 2018 PopSugar Reading Challenge

I wasn't really expecting much from this book.  It was one of those books I chose because it sounded like it could be potentially interesting and it satisfied a category in one of the reading challenges I'm participating in.  Luckily, I found myself really captivated by the story and wound up really enjoying the book.

While some parts lagged a bit and certain aspects of the story seemed a little too far-fetched, I liked that 99 Red Balloons brought some fresh ideas and twists to the "child gone missing" plot.  I can usually guess a lot of twists, but I wasn't as sure about this one ... It definitely kept me wanting to know more!

I should also note that this was yet another book that made me cry ... And not for any of the "expected" reasons with a book like this.  I won't share what it was (I don't like spoilers), but I will say that I was surprised that a subplot in a thriller could move me so deeply.

The Other Mother by Carol Goodman
Completed: 06/09/18
My Rating: ****
Challenge Category: N/A

By the end of this book, I kind of wanted to give it a lower rating.  It wasn't that the ending was awful or anything ... It was just that the book kept getting more and more batshit crazy.  Don't get me wrong -- batshit crazy can be entertaining.  (And, for the most part, this was.)  I think I just got a little frustrated because it eventually felt so over-the-top and unrealistic.

That being said, I mostly enjoyed this crazy ride.  I was able to figure some things out, but there were a few twists that really surprised me.  (Which is always a good thing!)  And even though I thought about giving it a lower rating, I think The Other Mother probably deserved the four star rating it received -- it kept me entertained, and I thought about it quite a bit even when I wasn't reading it.

Not That I Could Tell by Jessica Strawser
Completed: 06/18/18
My Rating: ****
Challenge Category: N/A

As with The Other Mother, I was also really on the fence about my rating for Not That I Could Tell.  I liked the book quite a bit, but it was difficult for me to really pinpoint what it was that made it so enjoyable.  It could have been a case of "right book right time," though I remember really liking the characters and wanting to know how everything played out for each of them.

This book reminded me of something Liane Moriarty might write (and that's not a bad thing), so I think it could appeal to fans of her books.

Decent Books That May Work For You

Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepard
Completed: 05/06/18
My Rating: ***
Challenge Category: N/A

I specifically chose to read this book because I wanted something quick and easy that I didn't really have to think about.  Pretty Little Liars definitely fit the bill.

The TV show is one of my guilty pleasures, but I didn't enjoy the original book as much.  I'll probably read some of the other books in the series just to see how they differ from the show, but reading the first book was essentially like rewatching the first episode -- several parts were even word for word identical.  I've actually rewatched the series a few times (yes, I like it that much), but I was hoping for something different from the book.  That's the reason I sometimes like to read a book even after seeing the movie/TV show -- it can often give some additional insight into certain events in the story to make things more clear.  That really wasn't the case here.

And, even though this is kind of dumb, I was a little annoyed that some of the characters looked and/or acted so differently from the way they were portrayed on the show.  I know that things change a lot when books are adapted to movies/TV shows, but I couldn't get over the fact that book Emily had a bunch of siblings (and red hair!), book Hanna was really smart while book Mona was kind of ditzy (and blonde!), or even that the girls were so much younger when Alison disappeared.  Like I said, these are all dumb things ... But they distracted me from the story and made it less enjoyable.  (Also distracting: when the author mentioned Hanna's Adam's apple.  What the fuck?)

The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen
Completed: 05/16/18
My Rating: ***
Challenge Category: A book written by two authors for the 2018 PopSugar Reading Challenge

The Wife Between Us was really an average thriller.  It's not a book I would warn people against reading, but it's also not a book I would tell people they need to read.

I guessed most of the twists, but that wasn't necessarily what turned this into a "good, not great" book.  I think I just never really got into the story the way I thought I would.  Add to that the fact that I can't even come up with much to say about the book (good or bad), and that pretty much sums up why I'd call this an "average thriller."

Oliver Loving by Stefan Merrill Block
Completed: 06/03/18
My Rating: ***
Challenge Category: N/A

I wanted to like this book much more than I actually did.  While the writing was in no way what I would consider "bad," there was a lot of repetition -- I often felt like I was reading the same thing over and over without receiving any additional information.  I can appreciate a slower novel that unravels the truth of the story a little at a time, but this was brutally slow.  I found myself wondering if the author would ever get to the "big reveal."

I did appreciate the timeliness of many of the topics that formed the backbone of the story, though.  Unfortunately, school shootings, racial tension, and immigration issues are at the forefront of our news forecasts, and Oliver Loving incorporated them into the story in a very natural, believable way.

I think it's possible I may have just chosen to read this book at the wrong time.  Maybe I would have appreciated it more if I'd read it at another time ... Maybe not.  Regardless, this book had a lot of promise but just didn't quite deliver.

The Perfect Mother by Aimee Molloy
Completed: 06/30/18
My Rating: ***
Challenge Category: N/A

The Perfect Mother is yet another book that I wanted to like much more than I did.  It's strange ... So many of the books I've read during the last couple of months were just sort of "meh."  They're not really that great, but they have enough redeeming qualities that I feel okay about giving them a three star rating.

While I can honestly say that I didn't know which direction the story would take, I was a little disappointed that some of it fell under the batshit crazy realm.  And, unlike in The Other Mother, this batshit crazy was just kind of annoying -- it was almost as if the author didn't really know how she should end the book so she just threw out an idea and ran with it.

Although it had its issues, I enjoyed the book enough ... Some parts even (surprisingly) made me laugh!  I also liked that I didn't know exactly what was going on throughout the book since that prevented me from guessing the ending.  I do wish the characters had been a little more developed, though.  I think I would have connected with the story more if I had been more invested in what happened with the characters.

Mostly Awful Books I Wouldn't Recommend

I may have been a little generous with a few of my three star rated books, but I don't think I disliked any of them enough to force them under this category.

Books That Should Never Have Been Published

I'm happy to report that I also have nothing to share here.

My challenge tallies for the months of May and June:

2018 PopSugar Reading Challenge:
3 books completed
Total books completed (January-June): 6 books

So, You're Pregnant ...

I've gotten a lot of questions since I started telling people about the pregnancy.  I would say that most people are probably just curious, though I would also say that sometimes the questions are at least a little rude.  (Even though I'm 100% sure they aren't meant that way.)

Since this is my space to share things on my own terms, I've decided to cover everything you'd want to know in this post.  I've been asked all of these questions at one point or another, so I assume they're the things people most want to know about.  And, if you're feeling nosy, you're welcome to ask me anything else in the comments.  I'll most likely answer the question.


Were you trying to get pregnant?

Yes.  This was 100% planned, though it did happen significantly earlier than we thought it would.

When did you start trying?

I went off birth control and all medication that could potentially harm a fetus (I'd already spoken with my doctor about this) in late November.  We used backup birth control until we decided to start actively trying in January.

How far along are you?

I'm 20 weeks this week, so I'm right at the halfway point.

When is your due date?

November 19th.

Did you do anything special to prepare for pregnancy?

I started taking prenatal vitamins when I stopped birth control.  I stopped drinking alcohol on January 2nd.  I cut way back on caffeine and stopped eating anything I knew I couldn't eat while pregnant (like sushi and soft cheeses) in early January as well.  I was trying to lose a little weight beforehand, but I didn't really have much success there.  (I felt like I gained a lot between my mom's visit in October, vacation in November, and the holidays.  In reality it wasn't that much, but I definitely wasn't at my ideal weight prior to getting pregnant.)  Eric and I also tried to eat plenty of fertility boosting foods (like kale and spinach), and I used a fertility app to track my cycle.

Do you know the sex of the baby?

No, and I'm not going to find out.  I could find out at my appointment next week during the big anatomy scan, but I want it to be a surprise.

Do you have names picked out?

Eric and I have had names picked out for years (even while I was still on the fence about having kids).  I'm not super secretive with them, but I'd prefer to share the name once the baby is born and we know if it's a boy or girl.

How much weight have you gained?

Honestly ... Not much.  I've gained a total of 8 lbs.  I really haven't been as active as I'd like (I blame the exhaustion I mentioned yesterday), but I've been eating pretty much the same portion sizes as I always have.  I eat more if I'm really hungry and less if I'm not, though I do tend to snack a little more than I normally would.  I've also still been wearing my regular clothes, though I have to use a band for my pants since I can no longer button them.

Have you had any cravings?

I started off craving french fries and meatball subs, and have since moved on to spicy food in general, broccoli cheddar soup, Indian food (I literally ate this four times in one week about a month ago!), brownies, pickles, and, most recently, apples.  I don't go overboard with the cravings, but we'll usually make a point to eat at least a couple of the things I really want each week.

Have you had any aversions?

So far I've only had to stop eating one thing, but it's a pretty big thing to remove from a diet: chicken.  Even the thought of it disgusts me, and I haven't eaten it in at least two months or more.

Have you had morning sickness?

Not really.  I got really nauseated several times during the first trimester, but I never actually threw up.  I tried to curb the sickness by eating salty foods earlier in the day (popcorn, chips, or crackers), and that worked for me.

Have you felt the baby move?

Yes.  I wasn't sure about it at first, but there have been a few times that it was unmistakable.

Are you going to keep working?

Yes.  I know it will probably be hard to go back to work after my maternity leave, but I'm not really interested in being a stay-at-home mom.  While part of me thinks it would be great to stay home and spend time with my kid, I also know myself well enough to know I would lose my mind if I wasn't regularly interacting with other adults and focusing on things other than the baby and housework.  (And, let's be honest ... I would make a shitty housewife.  I despise cleaning and laundry and chores in general, and that's part of the package if you stay home while your spouse works.  I mean, the same expectations would be there if I were working and Eric stayed home.)

Have you found a daycare?

Yes.  We're enrolled at one place and on the waiting list at another that we liked slightly more.  I felt like we started the daycare search pretty early, but we actually didn't -- a lot of families start looking as soon as they find out they're pregnant.  Waiting lists are common (and sometimes very long), so we were very thankful that one of our favorites happened to have an opening around the time we would need it next year.

Do you feel prepared?

Not at all.  We've bought a few things, but we have a long way to go.  We're also in the process of figuring out when to buy new cars and a house ... So that's kind of stressful.  We were planning for both of those things anyway, but we're definitely feeling more of a push now that I'm pregnant.

I think that probably covers most things people would want to know (and probably some things they didn't).  I swear my next post will not be all about this stuff -- it just feels good to finally be able to write about it!

The Best Things Happen in November

If you follow me on Instagram, you've probably already seen my big announcement.  But, if you've missed it, here it is:

I'M PREGNANT!

It's no secret that I've been very inactive when it comes to blogging lately.  This is why.

Not only was I keeping it a secret until I was sure I was ready to share such big news on such a public space (which is really hard when you're trying to think of interesting things to blog about and all you can really think is, "Holy shit, I'm going to be a mom!"), I was also too exhausted to even consider spending time and effort on blog-related stuff.  

And, to be perfectly honest, I'm still exhausted all the damn time.  I thought that might fade after the first trimester, but no -- I'm pretty much spent after I come home from work most days and want nothing more than to curl up with Eric on the couch and binge watch cooking competition shows.  

This has clearly affected my reading as well ... I've only finished 27 books so far this year, which is really not a lot for me.  It's rare if I don't fall asleep after reading for just a short time, regardless of what time of day it is.

So ... That's the reason for my absence around here.

I'm not going to pretend like I'm never going to share stuff about the pregnancy or baby on this blog.  I will.  It's inevitable.  I mean, this is a huge change, and it's about to become one of the biggest parts of my life.  I don't, however, want this to become a mommy blog.  Not only do I feel like I'm completely unqualified to give any kind of tips, recommendations, or advice regarding motherhood, I'm also just not interested in writing primarily about my kid.  (And, just to give you an idea of how completely unqualified I really am, I'll let you know that I've never even changed a diaper!)  

Eric and I are both incredibly attached to the baby already (which is both exciting and terrifying), but I want this space to continue to be for me -- a place for me to share my love of books and music and travel and food.  So, while the baby (and pregnancy) will undoubtedly make an appearance on the blog from time to time, it is not my intention to shift all of the focus to that area of my life.

That being said, tomorrow's post will also feature pregnancy-related stuff.  Sorry not sorry.

The image at the beginning of this post represents why I chose the title I did -- nearly every important event in my relationship with Eric has occurred in November.  We got engaged in November 2012.  We got married in November 2013.  We always take our bigger trips in November to celebrate our anniversary (NYC/Amsterdam/Brussels/Bruges/Paris in 2014, New Mexico in 2015, Rhode Island in 2016, and Barcelona in 2017).  And now this: our first child arriving in November 2018.

I'm excited and terrified to start this new chapter of my life, but I'm glad I finally felt ready to share it here.

April 2018 Reads

I thought that February and March were slow reading months, but April was ridiculous.

I don't consider myself an extremely fast reader (not at all!), but I feel like three books in thirty days is an insanely small amount.  I know that's either a lot or a normal/average amount for some people ... But, for me, it's pretty abnormal.

Today I'm linking up with Steph and Jana to talk about my measly three books and to (hopefully!) get some reading inspiration from some of the other bookworm bloggers sharing their April reads.  


Amazing Books I Highly Recommend

April was the third month in a row that I didn't read any five star worthy books.  I'm starting to wonder when I'll finally pick another book that I absolutely love.

Very Good Books That Are Worth A Read

Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney
Completed: 04/10/18
My Rating: ****
Challenge Category: N/A

Sometimes I Lie was listed as one of my top picks for future reads in the thriller genre, and it didn't disappoint! 

I really love when something within a story shifts and makes me question everything I thought I knew ... And that was definitely the case here.  I read a lot of thrillers, so I can often guess the twists (and am often disappointed as a result), but I didn't see any of the twists coming in this book. 

This is a difficult book to review because I think it's important to go in knowing as little as possible.  When an author manages to blow my mind with interesting twists that keep me furiously turning the pages, I want others who read the book to experience the same thing.  Obviously that won't happen if I give too much away in my review.

I will say that it took me a little while to really get into this book, which is the main reason for the four star rating.  I thought the writing was good (especially considering it was the author's debut novel!), but it didn't immediately suck me in the way I thought it would.  Once it picked up, though, it grabbed me and wouldn't let go.

Decent Books That May Work For You

The Leaving by Tara Altebrando
Completed: 04/28/18
My Rating: ***
Challenge Category: N/A

This was very much a "right book at the right time" kind of situation.  I read the majority of it on the plane ride to visit my family in West Virginia, and I specifically chose it because I thought it would be a pretty easy, good for vacation kind of read.  (And it definitely was.)

If I'd read The Leaving at a different time, I doubt I would have liked it as much as I did.  It was very much a "young" YA book, and that's generally something I don't enjoy.  Because I really wanted something I didn't have to think about much while I was traveling, though, it worked.

The mystery part of the story kept me intrigued, but, as I said, the writing wasn't the best.  I think the author had a really interesting idea, but her execution was just a little ... Off.  Characters who should have played a major role in the story barely made an appearance, some of the subplots were kind of out there (and slightly annoying), and the ending felt rushed.  The author had 400+ pages to build suspense and share pieces of the puzzle -- and it still felt like a ton of information was frantically shoved into the final few pages.

While this definitely wasn't an amazing book, it served its purpose and entertained me while I was traveling.  I'm not sorry I read it, but I also know I probably would have written a very different review if I'd read it at a different time.  I think some people would enjoy it regardless, but if you're not a fan of "young" YA and/or you're not looking for an easy read that doesn't require much thought, it probably won't be the right book for you.

Mostly Awful Books I Wouldn't Recommend

Entanglement by Zygmunt Miloszewski
Completed: 04/24/18
My Rating: **
Challenge Category: A book that was originally published in a different language than your own for Book Challenge by Erin 8.0

I originally had the two other books in this series on my "To Read" list, but decided to start with Entanglement since it's the first book.  I'm giving this background information because I think it's only fair to admit that it was never a book that I was dying to read.  To be perfectly honest, I thought the other books in the series sounded more interesting.  But I read it anyway.

This book has a lot of really high ratings on Goodreads, but it clearly didn't work for me.  It wasn't that it was awful ... It actually was one of the "better" two star books I've read this year.  (If I can call anything about any of them "good.")  The story itself was interesting, and the big reveal in the end was something I didn't see coming at all.  (Which is always a good thing!)

My biggest issue was the writing.  It was dry as fuck.  I understand that the author wanted to set the scene (and, for all I know, this is how writers do that in Poland), but I felt like he was practically laying out a map of the city of Warsaw.  I didn't need to know which streets a character took to get to a park or cafe. 

The author was just as dry when it came to his characters.  Nothing about the main character really stood out or made me interested in his personal or professional life.  And, for the most part, the other characters just felt like props to help move the story forward.  I like characters who seem like real people, and that was certainly not the case here.

One reason I didn't read as much in April was because I was busy with other things and couldn't find as much time to read.  The other reason was this book.  It took me two fucking weeks to slog through it.  I'd go for a day or two without reading it at all because it was just so dull.  I'm glad I finished it because, as I mentioned before, the ending was a surprise ... But I hope that I can avoid such dry, boring books in the future.  (And, if you couldn't tell from this review, I'm no longer planning to read the other two books in the series.)

Books That Should Never Have Been Published

While I haven't been picking five star books lately, I (thankfully!) haven't been picking one star books either.

My challenge tallies for the month of April:

Book Challenge by Erin 8.0:
1 book completed
30/200 total points
Total books completed (January-April): 10 books
Total points (January-April): 200/200 points
Challenge Completed!

2018 PopSugar Reading Challenge:
0 books completed
Total books completed (January-April): 3 books

Just a Quick Update

I think I'm going to start referring to April 2018 as "the lost month."  I didn't really mean to just abruptly stop blogging, responding to comments, commenting on other blogs, etc.  But that clearly happened.  (And I swear I will eventually get caught up on responding to comments -- so don't be too surprised if you get a reply to a comment you left a long time ago in the near future!)

In addition to checking out of all things blog-related, I sort of checked out of a lot of things at home as well.  Again, it wasn't intentional ... It just happened.

I didn't make and post meal plans for the majority of the month.  It sounds like a small thing, but it drove Eric crazy!  He's not even a big planner -- he just really likes having a meal plan posted so we're not tempted to just say, "Fuck it, let's just get takeout."  (And trust me ... We did that a lot last month!)

I also didn't use my planner much during the month of April.  Again, this sounds like a small thing, but I think anyone who uses a planner to keep track of all the things they need to do will understand that "hot mess" feeling that washes over you when you haven't been writing down obligations and generally keeping up with things.

We also went out of town to visit my family in West Virginia at the end of the month.  Obviously this was a good thing (and Eric and I had a lot of fun!), but it was just one more thing that added to my lack of structure in the month of April.  I generally don't stay on any type of schedule when I'm on vacation, and this was no exception.

I'd like to try to get back into my usual groove this month, but we'll see how things go.  For now, I just wanted to give a quick update.  I doubt anyone really noticed that I kind of checked out for a while, but you never know.  I didn't want anyone to think something was wrong.  I'm fine (really good, actually!).  I've just had other things on my mind, and, to be honest, I was starting to feel a little overwhelmed with everything I wanted (and needed!) to do ... So I backed off from some of the things I felt were less important (like blogging and social media).

I'll be back tomorrow with some book talk.  (Though don't expect much ... I only read a whopping three books during the month of April!)