Is It A Mom Thing?

There's been a lot of hashtag mom life around here,

but not so much on the blog. Maybe because I think you'll be bored? In any case, today I wanted to talk about one of the accidental benefits I have found in having a baby -- I am reading SO MUCH. Seriously. I'm writing this on a Wednesday night (spoiler alert -- I don't get a lot of writing time, so I'm writing out as many posts as I can in advance) and I've already read one book start to finish since Monday and completed five books last week. It's awesome. When I had Pasha I did not read this much.

I was really confused by this until I really took the time to think about it. Before it was just me and him, so I could watch whatever tv I wanted because I didn't have to worry about young impressionable toddler ears and he was easily kept facing away from the screen. But now I have someone running around who picks up on every word and visual, so we've had to restrict our tv watching to Sesame Street and Thomas the Tank Engine (with some forays into Blackish). And after you've watched through all the Sesame Street Hulu has to offer your kidlet is probably quite content to start over, but I'm finding it a little harder to enjoy. So books it is.

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I Instagrammed this picture last week and realized that I have not done any kind of blog post about my reading since Summer. What? That can't be right. Reading is usually the geeky in Faithfully Geeky, but I've been remiss in sharing. I need to catch you up. But how? I've already read over books in 2018 and I don't really think you want to read a post detailing them all. But what about a list? With the most memorable titles highlighted? Yeah, a list might work. 

Books Read in 2018 (so far)

  • The Dry, Jane Harper -- I read this one in a day and was so excited to know that the second book was already published and would be available in February
  • Beneath the Sugar Sky, Seanan McGuire
  • Kushiel's Dart, Jacqueline Carey -- My friend Jenny is helping me get back into Fantasy with some really great titles that are not as problematic as some of the ones I read in high school. This is an excellent book, the first in a trilogy, and a great look at how the sexual themes that are so often found in fantasy can be handled in a conscious and feminist manner. 
  • A Wrinkle in Time, Madeline L'Engle (reread)
  • I Know How She Does It, Laura Vanderkam
  • The Music Shop, Rachel Joyce
  • The Yarn Whisperer, Clara Parkes
  • The Emotional LIfe of the Toddler, Alicia F Lieberman -- I'm so glad I finished this before we had Vanya specifically for the section that deals with transitions/special issues. Pasha loves his brother, but it was a struggle for the first few weeks, and having an understanding of how toddlers process and deal with big changes was immensely helpful. This is the updated version that was just published and the first in my personal goal of reading one parenting book a month.
  • The Woman at the Window, A.J. Finn
  • The Spider and the Fly, Claudia Rowe
  • Siblings Without Rivalry, Adele Faber
  • I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter, Erika L. Sanchez
  • My Life with Bob, Pamela Paul
  • The Immortalists, Chloe Benjamin -- I wasn't sure I'd want to read something that dealt with darker themes and family dynamics right after giving birth, but I could not put this book down. Because the story is broken down into multiple parts, one per sibling, every time I reached the end of a section I had to walk away. I kept thinking I'd go find something else to read, but I always came right back.
  • Truth and Beauty, Ann Patchett
  • The Patron Saint of Liars, Ann Patchett -- I'm on a bit of an Ann Patchett bender. I've read three of her novels and two of her non-fiction books since Summer and I am on the hunt for more. My biggest difficulty is deciding which one to read next. This one came up as a Kindle deal in February so I read it largely in the middle of the night. Like each of the books I've read so far, this one went places I was not expecting when I started. I love that her books read like a journey, but also are very grounded in reality. She looks at human nature in a way that I find continually fascinating.
  • Force of Nature, Jane Harper -- Book two totally lived up to the hype!
  • How to Manage Your Home Without Losing Your Mind, Dana K White
  • Instructions for a Heatwave, Maggie O'Farrell -- Another novel that deals with ordinary people and family life but goes to unexpected places. Only this time set in Scotland. I seem to have a type right now.

Ok, so that's only January and February's reading. But thanks to ebooks, audio books, and just being stuck in a chair for hours on end, I've managed to accrue quite a list. You can find links and the latest updates on my Goodreads 2018 shelf.

What have you been reading this year? Anything from your list I should consider? Please tell me! I'm always looking for more books (even when I shouldn't).

 

Book Bingo

It's been a while since I checked in with my 2017 word of the year -- intentional.

One of the ways I planned to incorporate that into my life was through my reading. Well, we're nine months into the year and I definitely have read a ton, and most of it has been intentional. As of this writing I have read 73 titles this year, which is a significant increase over the 48 or so I have read every year before since I started tracking.

This summer our local bookstore, Page 158, ran a Book Bingo promotion. It started on Memorial Day and ended on Labor Day. Everyone got the same card, and you earned store discounts based on how many titles you read. I came up three books short from completing my entire card, but we had a busy summer so I'm rather pleased with how much I read. It's been a while since I geeked out about books with you, so I thought I'd share some of my favorites from Summer. Now I realize that all of these are new releases, but between visiting the bookstore and library every week with Pasha and getting a Book of the Month box most months I was susceptible to new titles.

A Book Written by Someone Under Thirty -- Chemistry, Weike Wang

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I got this in my Book of the Month box despite the fact that I was a little apprehensive, but I ended up loving it so much I read it within 24 hours. This is a fairly quick read, all written from a unique first person perspective.  At first the narrative flow made no sense, but the more immersed I became in it the easier it was to follow. I found myself really connecting with the fact that the narrator is a grad student and all of the pressure and apprehension she has, even though my field was History and hers is Chemistry.

A Book Based on a True Story -- American Fire, Monica Hesse

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This was another quick read for me, probably because I listened to the audio version. I've been taking a narrative tour this year of what I like to refer to as "overlooked and oppressed America", starting with GhettosideEvictedHillbilly Elegy, and now American Fire. I find that these investigative nonfiction books are easier for me to take in as audio rather than print because I can listen while chasing Pasha. Because the author is a journalist it was more like listening to an extended NPR story than a heavy work of nonfiction.

Free Square / A Book with Non-Human Characters -- Every Heart a Doorway, Seanan McGuire

I'm combining this with the sequal (prequal?) Down Among the Sticks and Bones because I read them both in quick succession. These are very quick YA reads that I don't know how I missed, but they were a ton of fun. In the creepy, cannot put them down kind of way. I was a morbid child growing up, at times much to my mother's dismay. I had an illustrated copy of Hans Christian Anderson stories (that Chris has been reading to Pasha and then coming downstairs horrified by the "real" Cinderella), and as soon as I could read chapter books I devoured books like Mary Poppins (much darker than the film version). These books filled that need in my reading life without going full Gillian Anderson dark.

A Funny Book -- Brush with Death, Ware Wilkins

Probably my favorite book of the summer was Brush with Death. This got filed as my funny book, but it really could have gone into a lot of categories. You guys know I love Urban Fantasy, though I'm rather hesitant to start new series, and I've been at loose ends for a new one since The Hollows ended a few years ago. Well, turns out I was just waiting for this book. Full disclosure, Ware is the pen name of a friend of mine, but she's a newer friend and we had not gone full book nerd with one another just yet. Brush with Death is about Sadie Salt, a paranormal dentist who lives in a small town in the North Carolina mountains. She is in debt to some scary magical folk, has the necessary tragedy in her past, and finds herself becoming more entangled with the secret magical community as the book goes on. Where this book really shines is the witty writing, which I can attest continues into book two. How do I know this? Well I can't really disclose, but I may or may not have gotten a sneak peek at Bad Impression, which should be published next week. If you are in our area Ware will be doing an author event at Page 158 and she'll have copies of both her books there.

What have you read lately? I'd love to hear your recommendations.

Shelved: Nostalgic Dead Girls

It's always fun to notice unintentional trends in my reading.

We've already established that I tend to read books by female authors, but now I'm finding myself reading books with even more in common. For example, the last two books I read featured female characters who went to high school around the same time I did. That's probably not a huge thing to most people, but they came out last month and thus have a nostalgia for that time. A nostalgia for the early to mid 2000s? That's a bit different.

The first book is Marlena by Julie Buntin, which I got in my March Book of the Month box. It took me a little while to get in to the story, but once I got reading I was hooked. It's a coming of age story, which is rather done to death, but it is framed through the narrator, Cat's memory. When the story starts we know that Cat's friend Marlena died while they were teenagers, but we don't know the events leading up to it. We then spend a few days with Cat while she tells us about the year she lived next door to Marlena, becoming friends and falling in with the "bad crowd." 

I'm struggling to describe this book to you because I think what did it for me was the atmosphere. There are a ton of books in the coming of age genre, but the fact that Cat is discussing it as an adult and is recognizing the impact the events have had on her life gives it a different flavor. It almost reads like a confession or a therapy session. At one point she comes out and tells the reader she is glossing over events and goes back to change some aspects of the narration. I don't want to spoil it for you, but it's not a mystery or a thriller, just a really good gut punch of a book. And like I said, the atmosphere is spectacular. 

Immediately after finishing Marlena I read Dead Letters, which initially turned me off due to the cover art, but the description was interesting and my hold number came up fast at the library. Like Marlena, the narrator of Dead Letters is also a woman in my general age range. This time our protagonist is Ava, who has returned home to rural New York after her twin sister Zelda is believed to have died in a fire. From there she finds herself following clues left by her sister in a game that is very reminiscent of early Pretty Little Liars if A was (spoiler) actually Allyson.

This one seems to be defying categorization with some arguing for mystery or thriller and others for literary fiction. Regardless of category I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this. I found all of the characters insufferable, but all in very believable ways. And while I myself did not drink while reading this book I find myself feeling a little tipsy thanks to all of the wine that flows through the story. I'm on the record as someone who often figures out the answer before the end of the book, but not with this one. I was guessing the entire time and even found myself batting around some loosely conceived theory of astral projection based on a Lois Duncan novel I read as a kid. But there is nothing more mysterious than technology at play as you fall down this rabbit hole.

So that's a bit about what I've been reading lately. What have you read recently that you enjoyed? Tell me about it in the comments!

Shelved: What I've Been Reading March (Part 1)

There was a time when I was an obsessive reader

And then I went to college and got buried in school for the next five years. Like many students I was completely burned out and had no desire to read anything for quite a while. I made half-hearted attempts to start reading more, but for a while it seemed like I was never again going to read like I used to. Well, that seems to be changing.

The Versions of Us, Laura Barnett

This was supposed to be my Kindle book for the month, but I got the audio as well in a deal of the day and became completely consumed by it. I listened to it constantly. While cleaning, while taking Pasha for walks, while knitting. I've always loved the idea of diverging timelines, and this one really pulled me in because it set what is generally a sci-fi concept in a literary romance. The story centers around two protagonists, beginning with a specific moment in their lives and following the various paths their lives could have taken based on how that moment played out. The gothic romance-loving teenager in me was particularly pleased that there was no perfect version. Each had its joys and its tragedies.

The Pediatrician's Guide to Feeding Babies and Toddlers

For those of you not keeping track at home, Pasha is fast closing in on his first birthday, which means that we've started experimenting with solid foods. We began with the requisite smashed peas and banana several months ago and have slowly added in more and more foods. As a guide to when and how to mix more foods this book was ok. Mostly it dealt with allergies and how to deal with various health issues. Not really what we are dealing with, but it was nice to have our progress reaffirmed.

Getting to Yum, Karen Le Billon

I'll confess, I didn't read all of this book. I waffled on telling you about this one because I honestly did not like it. Some of it contained good advice -- give your kid healthy choices from the outset, teach them to try everything -- but a lot of it focused on "French parents are awesome, you Americans need to be more French." I'm sure there are a lot lessons we can take from French-style parenting, but I don't think anyone's time was well served by all of the stories of her French friend who served her kid elaborate and unusual foods that a lot of people cannot even access, let alone afford to feed their toddler.

The Turn, Kim Harrison

I devoured Kim Harrison's Hollows series, so when I heard that she had written a prequel I pre-ordered it without a second thought. There really is no way for me to explain the premise without spoiling large chunks. That, unfortunately, is the nature of prequels. I personally really enjoyed it once the titular event began to unfold. The protagonist is another strong female, but this time she is not a witch, which was a fun change from the previous novels. I don't know if it would be as fun of a read if you have no working knowledge of the world of The Hollows. I saw some reviews on Goodreads that asked why certain things were left unsaid, but which were plainly obvious if you had read the other books. So if you are a Harrison fan, give it a read. Otherwise start with the original series.

Homesick for Another World, Ottessa Moshfegh

Short story collections are something that I am starting to turn to more often. They are easy to pick up during nap time and drop when the dog goes crazy because the mailman dared to stop in front of the house. They also fit nicely in my purse for those times Pasha falls asleep in the car. I'm still trying to process this collection, because it was largely unsettling. Most of the stories were about unhappy people living what appear to be ordinary lives but with some sort of uncomfortable twist. And be prepared, they often end in medias res. It was good, just really weird and often disturbing. I highly recommend it. As long as that is your kind of thing.

Shelved: What I've Been Reading February (Part 2)

I could also call this post "So many books, so little time"

One of the latest episodes of the What Should I Read Next Podcast featured a discussion of the competitive nature of the online reading community, which I have totally struggled with lately. Now that I'm discussing my reading more I feel the need to always have new and interesting things to talk about, but that's a self-imposed pressure and not beneficial at all. I read what I like and sometimes it is deep and profound non-fiction and sometimes it is a light and frothy novel.

Fangirl, Rainbow Rowell

Ok, I don't know if I would call this a light and frothy novel, but after finishing Ghettoside I needed something that was more fun. Fangirl totally fit the bill. I have read it several times and opted for the audio version this time around. Even though I am *gulp* more than ten years removed from my Freshman year of college I still find something to connect with every time I return to this novel. The story of a girl who struggles with a penchant to isolate herself and exist in a fictional world of her own making is very relatable, especially now that I have the very real isolating circumstance of new motherhood.

The Animators, Kayla Rae Whitaker

I'm still not sure how I feel about The Animators. It was the pre-selected option for my February Book of the Month box, and the description intrigued me enough that I decided to add it on even though I selected The Possessions as my official book (seriously I still cannot stop thinking about that one). There was a lot in this book that I should have loved -- strong female characters who are friends and creatives, interesting world building, realistic portrayal of the rural South -- but it often just didn't quite click for me. Quite possibly because there was so much story that it was surprising when things fell into a rather standard formula. That is not to say that it is not a good book. It was. Just of a specific style. I will say that it was the book I was reading when I had the stomach virus and gave me a lot of perspective on how things could be when I felt like I might be dying.

Design Mom, Gabrielle Stanley Blair

An impulse library check-out, I may be purchasing a copy of Design Mom to have in my home library as Pasha grows older. This is intended as an interior design book, but I found it full of great ideas for parenting kids of all ages. Blair has experience on all ends of the housing spectrum and believes that practicality and beauty are not mutually exclusive as long as you approach your home with intention. The book is set up by room/area, so you can go to the chapter you need or you can do what I did and read the entire book in a day.

Let's Pretend This Never Happened, Jenny Lawson

A friend gave me Furiously Happy for my birthday, and with a new publication on the horizon I decided it was high time I read Lawson's first book. I got the audio and found myself so charmed by Lawson's narration that I think I might need to get Furiously Happy on audio as well. I found the stories of love, parenthood, and mental illness to be particularly compelling because of my own struggles with PPD. I will issue a language advisory for the cautious, but if you are looking for a witty memoir I recommend this one.

Have you read anything fun lately? Tell us about it in the comments!