Reading Roundup: What I Read in May

I somehow plowed through four books this month. Four books I read in May 2017While a few sleepless nights didn’t hurt the cause,  May was full of page-turning winners! My top two reads are as follows:

The Dollhouse

By far the best book I’ve read thus far this year is The Dollhouse by Fiona Davis, the one title that was not on my TBR list. I was in a browsing mood and clicked the “Try Something Different” link on my local digital library site. The Dollhouse showed up, and I was immediately intrigued by the synopsis:

Fiona Davis’s stunning debut novel pulls readers into the lush world of New York City’s glamorous Barbizon Hotel for Women, where in the 1950s a generation of aspiring models, secretaries, and editors lived side by side while attempting to claw their way to fairy-tale success, and where a present-day journalist becomes consumed with uncovering a dark secret buried deep within the Barbizon’s glitzy past.

When she arrives at the famed Barbizon Hotel in 1952, secretarial school enrollment in hand, Darby McLaughlin is everything her modeling agency hall mates aren’t: plain, self-conscious, homesick, and utterly convinced she doesn’t belong—a notion the models do nothing to disabuse. Yet when Darby befriends Esme, a Barbizon maid, she’s introduced to an entirely new side of New York City: seedy downtown jazz clubs where the music is as addictive as the heroin that’s used there, the startling sounds of bebop, and even the possibility of romance.

Over half a century later, the Barbizon’s gone condo and most of its long-ago guests are forgotten. But rumors of Darby’s involvement in a deadly skirmish with a hotel maid back in 1952 haunt the halls of the building as surely as the melancholy music that floats from the elderly woman’s rent-controlled apartment. It’s a combination too intoxicating for journalist Rose Lewin, Darby’s upstairs neighbor, to resist—not to mention the perfect distraction from her own imploding personal life. Yet as Rose’s obsession deepens, the ethics of her investigation become increasingly murky, and neither woman will remain unchanged when the shocking truth is finally revealed. (Goodreads)

The Barbizon is not only the setting of the story, but also a character in the book. The hotel plays a central role, evolving over time as much as Darby and Rose do. Like its effect on Rose, the Barbizon would not leave me alone; and days after tearing through the book, I found myself pouring over articles about the historical building and its famous residents.

Barbizon Hotel

photo by Dmadeo

A mixture of fascinating history, rich characters, and suspenseful mystery, this is a five-star story. I can’t wait until August, when Davis’s next book is released!

The Princess Diarist

I wonder how different the experience of The Princess Diarist would have been had I read it prior to Carrie Fisher’s death, especially considering the several references she makes to her own “future” obituary. Though her stream of consciousness sometimes bordered on rambling, I found myself wanting more. More sordid behind-the-scenes tales from the filming of Star Wars. More heartfelt (and surprisingly beautiful) poetry about her feelings for Harrison Ford. More Carrie Fisher period. It’s hard to come away from this book and not want to be Carrie’s friend.

What did you read in May? Let me know in the comments – I’m always looking for the next great book!


This Week in Books: My first five-star read of 2017

I never intended for this blog to be solely about books, but reading is pretty much all I’ve been doing outside of work and mommying. Cold, wet weather and time changes will do that.

Then: Have you ever read a book that you liked soooo much you simultaneously wanted to see how it ends but you never want it to end? Yeah, that’s how I felt reading Jennifer L. Armentrout’s The Problem with Forever. I finished the book late one night; as soon as I woke up the next morning, I reread the ending – not because I didn’t remember it, but because it was Just. That. Good. I thought about the main characters, Mallory and Rider, throughout the day and was reluctant to start a new book that night because I wasn’t done relishing Armentrout’s perfectly angsty love story.

Now: When I went to update my rating for The Problem with Forever on Goodreads, I discovered that Armentrout released another Lux novel, this time from Daemon’s point-of-view. Needless to say, I downloaded Oblivion (Lux 1.5) five seconds later and am enjoying my return to the world of Luxen and Arum.

Next? I’m in the middle of two other books (The Chemist and A Million Miles in a Thousand Years) that I’ve been ignoring during this latest YA bender, so perhaps I’ll pick one of them back up. Or maybe I’ll just stay off the wagon.

What does your Week in Books look like?


Mama’s Losin’ ItWriting Prompt: 2. Book Review!

This post is also linked to #TWIB.








This Week in Books: Trouble Maker

My friend stumbled upon my blog for the first time the other day and said she really liked my Year in Books review and she found a good read from my post that she’s currently enjoying. It reminded me that as challenging as it sometimes is for me to write about books (English major PTSD?), I find the majority of books I really like from friends’ recommendations. Thus, I’m going to try to do a better job of highlighting what I’m reading on my blog this year.

Now: I’m finishing up Leah Remini’s Trouble Maker. It’s rare that I can’t put down a nonfiction book, but the actress’s tell-all about her experience in the Church of Scientology has been a page-turner. It should be noted that I’m fascinated by stories about people who live for decades as part of an extreme religious group and then leave the community. Remini’s tale is even more riveting than those I’ve read about the Amish or the Hasidism, perhaps because her story includes many A-list celebrities who are associated with the faith. Also, her BFF is J-Lo (not a Scientologist) , and who doesn’t want to read what J-Lo is really like? If you’ve ever wondered what the deal is with those people on Hollywood Boulevard who ask if you want to take a personality test, I highly recommend this book.

Trouble Maker On Duty with the Queen

Then: I FINALLY finished Dickie Arbiter’s On Duty with the Queen. After obsessively watching The Crown, my friend and I NEEDED. MORE. We saw a suggested reading list for fans of the show and decided to have a little book club about the Queen. This first title that we picked was meh. Reading about Princess Diana from the perspective of someone who knew her intimately was a delight. The behind-the-scenes look into the days spent planning her untimely funeral was heart-wrenching, but admittedly fascinating. Unfortunately, there was too much time spent on the author’s personal history, which I didn’t find as interesting as his profession and thus made the book drag for me.

Next? There’s a part of me that wants to continue down the rabbit hole of Scientology exposés. Going Clear or Beyond Belief are two intriguing possibilities. But I also have Veronica Roth’s new Carve the Mark burning a hole on my shelf.

What does your Week in Books look like?


Mama’s Losin’ ItWriting Prompt: 3. Book Review!

This post is also linked to #TWIB.






My Year in Books

If social media posts are any indication, most of us can agree that 2016 was a strange year. I’m not entirely sure what I accomplished besides keeping a toddler alive, which, considering my inability to keep plants alive, I consider a huge deal. But I do know that I read. A lot. Thanks to some insomnia (and aforementioned toddler), I read 37 (and a few halves) books this year!

Perhaps more impressive than the number is the diversity of books I read. While my passion for Young Adult Literature still burns, I found myself drawn to a lot of memoirs and (non-YA) suspense novels.



My top ten (in no particular order) are:

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

This series, slightly reminiscent of a soap opera, is highly entertaining with a healthy dose of voyeurism. There are so many characters, I was concerned about keeping them straight, but each one’s crazy is unique. I started reading the second book as soon as I read the last page of the first.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

You know how you wanted to re-watch The Sixth Sense immediately after watching it the first time? Yeah, this book was like that.

I Was Here by Gayle Forman

In typical Gayle Forman fashion, this was an emotional roller coaster from beginning to end. What I didn’t expect, though, was how good – and complex – the mystery would be.

Yes, Please by Amy Poehler

I was so surprised by this book. I expected to like it, yes, because I love Amy Poehler, but I never expected to connect with it the way I did. I think had I read it when it first came out, it wouldn’t have spoken to me the way that it did now, given where I am in my career, in my life, and in my head. Her writing spoke to me much more profoundly than anticipated, while still – of course – making me laugh out loud. I enjoyed her behind-the-scenes look at Parks & Rec and got all the feels from Seth Meyers’ contribution about their friendship. Also fun was finding out the little things we shared growing up: “The scene when Sodapop comes out of the shower in The Outsiders was a very important moment in my adolescence.”

Favorites from Amy (yep, we’re totally on a first-name basis now) on the way the universe works:

“People help you time travel. People work around you and next to you and the universe waits for the perfect time to whisper in your ear, ‘Look this way.’ There is someone in your life right now who may end up being your enemy, your wife, or your boss. Lift up your head and you may notice.”

“I also found a song that I wrote when I was seven. It is a poem that has numbers written about it, so it can be played the special way on my special organ. I wrote it in the past and put it in the sacred bench so I could pull it out at just the right time. Time is just time. Time travel, y’all.”

Favorites from Amy on work:

“We did the thing. Because remember, the talking about the thing isn’t the thing. The doing of the thing is the thing.”

“Treat your career like a bad boyfriend. Here’s the thing. Your career won’t take care of you… Creativity is connected to your passion, that light inside you that drives you. That joy that comes when you do something you love… Career is different. Career is the stringing together of opportunities and jobs… Career is something that fools you into thinking you are in control and then takes pleasure in reminding you that you aren’t. Career is the thing that will not fill you up and never make you truly whole… Ambivalence is key. You have to care about your work but not about the result. You have to care about how good you are and how good you feel, but not about how good people think you are…”

Down the Rabbit Hole by Holly Madison

As a one-time fan of the show Girls Next Door about Hugh Hefner’s girlfriends, I was intrigued by this memoir. It turned out to be less of a tell-all and more of an inside look into Holly’s psyche while at the Playboy mansion. I never thought I’d find myself feeling badly for someone who seemed to have such a luxurious lifestyle that she presumably chose, but the book is a reminder: you never know what has led someone to where she is; “reality” television doesn’t show the whole story;, and getting out of a situation may not be as easy as it seems.

Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson

This is a thriller I could not stop thinking about; as I sat down to dinner, I thought, “Only two more hours before I can get back to reading!” It’s like a really dark marriage between 50 First Dates, Next to Normal, and an action movie from the 90s whose title would give away a major plot twist.

Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter

Talk about suspense! I was able to overlook the grittiness – gruesomeness, if I’m being completely honest – because I HAD to know what really happened. Just when I thought I knew what was going on, the plot twisted. A page-turner indeed!

Anatomy of a Misfit by Andrea Portes

This story received so many negative reviews, but I was too intrigued by this story to let that stop me. After reading – and loving – the book, I was surprised to find that a common reason for the negativity is the main character, Anika. She is what did it for me. I loved her snarky voice, and I loved that she acted very much like a real adolescent. There are a lot of criticisms of Anika “slut shaming” girls that aren’t even “sluts.” I recommend these people hang out with middle or high school girls for a day and get back to me on this one. Why do all of our YA protagonists have to be good role models? Who wrote that rule? Anika is an imperfect, complicated character, just like real humans are, and her story (which shockingly is based on something that really happened while the author was in high school) is a great conversation starter for numerous issues that adolescents face everyday, from bullying to violence to family relationships.

Joshua: A Brooklyn Tale by Andrew Kane

This book gave me all the feels. Centered around the Crown Heights Riots in the 90s, this story of the relations between a young black man and Hassidic Jews speaks to identity and humanity in the most heartbreaking and touching of ways.

Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

This innocent YA story, told in alternating voices, is simply adorable, sprinkled with humor and tenderness. If you’re looking for a quickly read, feel-good holiday story, this is it!

What were your favorite reads of 2016? Let me know in the comments – my To Be Read list can never be too long!

14 of 2014: the book edition

The silver lining to the cloud that is my child’s aversion to sleep is the amount of reading I’ve done this year. Hoping to read two books a month, I surpassed that goal, reading an average of three books a month for a total of 37 books at the time this was written (a 38th may appear depending upon the next few nights of sleep).

Screen Shot 2014-12-29 at 9.41.25 PM

My favorite 14 books read in 2014 are as follows (ordered by date read):

1. Allegiant by Veronica Roth

Whereas I felt Suzanne Collins’ ending to The Hunger Games trilogy was a copout, I thought Roth ended the Divergent series bravely and perfectly.

2. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

I was surprised to find this touted tear-jerker rather uplifting.

3. Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins

A fun read, this had a Buffy, the Vampire Slayer type of campiness to it.

4. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Romance is not my favorite genre; however, Stephanie Perkins does it right. She made me want to grab my passport and book the next flight to France.

5. City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare

While not her best in the series, I enjoyed how Clare ended her epic tale.

6. Run to You by Clara Kensie

Told in six installments, this paranormal thriller was full of unexpected twists. It kept me on my toes, as well as the edge of my seat.

7. Lux: Opposition by Jennifer L. Armentrout

A page-turning end to a creative sci-fi series, Lux, Armentrout makes me want to have a close encounter.

8. Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman

This was an eye-opening read about our justice system. Though the TV version has been greatly dramatized, I found the tamer real-life account to be more harrowing.

9. Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler

Having a great fascination with Zelda Fitzgerald since high school, it was fun to read this (admittedly fictional) interpretation of her unusual life.

10. The Eternity Cure by Julie Kagawa

Two of my favorite genres, dystopian YA & vampire YA, are a beautiful marriage in the hands of Kagawa.

11. The Future of Us by Jay Asher

A thought-provoking coming-of-age story about how the present affects the future & how our dreams for the future can affect the present and what it means to be happy. Having been a HS junior in 1996 like the female protagonist, I also loved the nostalgia of this great read.

12. Looking for Alaska by John Green

This book stayed with me. For weeks.

13. Just One Year by Gayle Forman

Forman does a brilliant job showing how just one day can affect a greater expanse of time in one’s life – in this case, one year.

14. A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines

This moving story, reminiscent of To Kill a Mockingbird and Shawshank Redemption, is so well told, I now want to read everything Gaines has written.

What are your favorite reads from 2014?

FALLing in Love Friday: Powell’s

This fall, I’ve decided to dedicate Friday blog posts to things with which I’m falling in love. You can read more about what I’m falling in love with here.

It’s time to clean house. I mean really clean house. I want it all gone! OK, well not all of it, but most of it. Though we’ve cleaned house several times over the last few years with our numerous moves, it’s always an overwhelming task. To minimize that “OMG, what have I gotten myself into?!” feeling, I’m attacking the house one (very) small area at a time. The other night, I got a hankering to reduce the pile of to-be-read (that I will never read) books on my bookshelf nightstand. Half an hour later, two-thirds of the books were boxed up and ready to be ousted from the house.

As I looked at all the money that was once spent on said books, I began wondering if I could get a few bucks for them. I went to Amazon’s marketplace and realized that too many people had the same idea, and I’d be lucky to sell the books at all, let alone for more than a penny. So on a whim, I Googled “selling books online.” The first hit was Powell’s Books, a Portland-based bookstore that I had actually heard of and from which Hubby had purchased books a few years ago. “Why not?” I thought and gave it a go. Minutes later, I was selling books and falling in love.

All you have to do is type the ISBN numbers into a search box, and within seconds, Powell’s tells you how much they will pay for the titles they want.

Now, don’t get me wrong: Out of a box of 40ish books (yes, just from my bookshelf nightstand – don’t judge), Powell’s only wanted to buy four titles for $1.50 each. BUT it costs me ZERO to send them those four books, and, in return, I will get $6 in my PayPal account that I otherwise wouldn’t have had. And before you tell me not to go spending the money all in one place, I use PayPal enough to make purchases that it will be like getting a $6 discount the next time I buy scrapbooking supplies or something from Etsy. And knowing that I have at least another 40 books to cull, there may be a few more dollars in my account before the month’s end.

Update: Since first drafting this post, I went through another bookshelf and fared much better: Out of 20-25 books, Powell’s accepted eight and deposited $11 in my PayPal account. Now I’m officially addicted, and Hubby is nailing down books in the house.

2013: The Year of Balance

As was probably evident in yesterday’s visual year in review, 2012 has been a fun but busier-than-before year. Thus, to say that I bit off way more than I could chew with my goals this year is an understatement. That said, I still have a lot to show for oh-twelve.

In the midst of the crazy that was my work life this year, which included planning and executing three community-wide events, writing three English units and editing two language arts textbooks, designing and editing six newspapers and twelve newsletters, and launching and maintaining several social media campaigns, I still (though it beats me how) managed to accomplish just shy of half of my 12 of 2012 goals:

My happiest victory is that I actually read 12 books – WOOT! I’m hoping to do the same (or better) in 2013.

Equally exciting for me is that I continued practicing Hebrew so that I can read it – albeit SLOWLY – and more importantly understand some when it is spoken. I’m already signed up for another Hebrew class in January, so I’m hoping that my communication skills in this language will continue to improve in the new year.

In addition, I finally made a decision and temporarily closed my Etsy store, enjoyed more date nights with Hubby, and wrote. A LOT. YAY!

Moving onto my one little word, I experienced renewal of spirit, relationships, budget, and home. Renewal of body is an ongoing challenge, as is renewal of balance. Which brings me to my one little word of 2013…

This year, I will have ONE goal: to practice (not achieve) balance. I have a feeling that by practicing balance, other goals will incidentally be achieved as a result. More importantly, though, is the knowledge that a focus on balance will make for a happy Cheryl.

What is your focus for 2013? Whatever you choose, I hope it makes you blissfully happy!

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