To say that this post is overdue is quite an understatement. So many times I meant to sit down and type out an update on my 2021 reading goals and progress, to mention new books I’d read, to share my spiritual journey. But life got busy and I began opting for self-care like naps, workouts, and attending daily Mass instead of blogging. I did share many of my adventures from 2021 on my social media pages, so if we’re connected there you’re in the loop on what I’ve been up to. My biggest accomplishments of 2021 were meeting my goals of reading the entire Bible and still accomplishing my Goodreads goal for the year! That’s a whole lotta reading, and I’m so thankful I was able to complete both goals.
After a couple of years considering joining Book of the Month, I finally did it! I was so excited to get my first blue box. Picking my first book was not easy, but when I read about a new book that is a reimagining of Jane Eyre, I couldn’t say no.
When I heard the title The Wife Upstairs, it definitely reminded me of Jane Eyre and for good reason. The Wife Upstairs is a contemporary reimagining of Jane Eyre set in the American south, Birmingham, Alabama to be specific. I’ve always loved Jane Eyre. I read it once in my twenties at my mom’s insistence that it was an amazing book (she was right!). Then I read it a couple more times in college while studying women in literature and English literature. Jane Eyre is one of my all-time favorite protagonists. In a time when women, especially young ladies, were expected to be silent and compliant, she was vocal, independent, and brave. Realizing that The Wife Upstairs drew inspiration from this classic and personal favorite, I couldn’t wait to start reading.
It’s hard to believe it’s March already! The first couple of months of 2021 turned out to be…shall we say…challenging? Of course I realized that things weren’t going to change drastically overnight with the turning of the calendar page, but I had high hopes for some return to normalcy. I do think we’re getting there. It just takes time. I’m going to cling to my optimism throughout the year and allow my faith to give me hope. And the year hasn’t started off all bad. I had two new books just release from Capstone Press! It’s always exciting to see a completed project in print!
I’m also happy to share that I’m sticking to my reading goals for this year. I’m current on episodes of the Bible in a Year podcast which means I’ve already read all of Genesis and Job, Exodus and Leviticus, parts of Proverbs and Psalms, and am currently reading Numbers and Deuteronomy. I have learned so much, and I can’t recommend this podcast enough! I’ve also read a cozy mystery, which was unfortunately a miss for me, a nonfiction book written by visionary Mirjana Soldo about her apparitions of the Blessed Mother in Medjugorje, and I just finished a terrific memoir by actress Maureen O’Hara about her life and career during the Golden Days of Hollywood. It proved to be funny and entertaining. I love her feistiness and her spirit!
In addition, I’ve been reading a lot of picture books for work, and today I’ll be reviewing a new picture book that I think needs to be read in every home and classroom in America. It’s called We Disagree by Bethanie Deeney Murguia. Truthfully, I’d love to see this book in the hands of several adults I know as well!
Well, 2020 is finally winding down. What a crazy year it’s been! Around this time last year, most of us were setting goals and resolutions and looking forward to what 2020 might bring. I don’t think any of us would have ever imagined the year that lay ahead. I had high hopes for 2020, and now looking back, I realize that while it was a difficult year, it was also a beautiful year for me personally.
2020 is the year I found my faith and was received into the Roman Catholic Church. In 2020, I maintained a healthy workout routine all year, not just for the first month or two, and that’s even with the closing of gyms during quarantine. My hubby and I welcomed two new fur babies into our home this year. The Buffalo Bills won their division for the first time in 25 years! And, to top it all off, I needed an unexpected surgery this fall (hence my long break from the blog), and as shocking as it was to need the surgery, it ended up bringing incredible healing to my body. I’m now living pain-free! So while it’s easy to look back on 2020 with contempt and dismiss it as “the worst year ever,” I’m trying my hardest to find the joy amid the sorrow.
Since converting to the Catholic faith, I’ve found myself splitting my reading time between entertainment and faith-based books. I find it’s a good balance between growing in my faith but also allowing myself time to relax and indulge in my favorite pastime. Lately I can’t seem to get enough apologetics! Catholic Answers and Dynamic Catholic are at the top of my list. I do have some fiction reads coming soon, including another new picture book. But today, I’d like to talk about a new faith-based favorite of mine, a book I think everyone should read: Why We’re Catholic, Our reasons for faith, hope, and love by Trent Horn.
I’ve been enjoying a variety of new books lately covering everything from children’s picture books to teen and YA to Catholic apologetics. I spent most of August checking out new releases in the YA genre. Some were hits, others were misses. But overall, summer YA releases were strong in my opinion. I loved Parachutes by Kelly Yang. It’s Ms. Yang’s debut YA novel, and I only hope she writes more. On the other hand, My Summer of Love and Misfortune by Lindsay Wong fell way short for me. I couldn’t connect with the main character or get into the story. It actually ended up being the rare DNF (did not finish) for me.
Fortunately, I finished the month strong with Girl, Unframed by Deb Caletti. This was my first read from Caletti, but I’m excited to see that she has many more books available. Girl, Unframed was a typical yet unique YA novel. All the elements were there – teens, first loves, relationships, drama. But the setting and the dynamic of the parent/ child relationship is different from most, which created an intriguing background for the story.
In June, I highlighted a phenomenal new picture book, Taste Your Words. It was the debut picture book from author Bonnie Clark. This month I am thrilled to recommend her new picture book, Catching Thoughts.
Catching Thoughts is an equally touching story about a young girl who learns an important lesson in self-care. Mental health and well-being is crucial, especially now as we all deal with the stresses and anxieties of this pandemic. Catching Thoughts is ideal for any kiddos who struggle with anxiety. I honestly think this book could help anxious youth and adults as well.
I love books set in the ‘40s-60s. I prefer Hollywood for the setting, but I’m not too picky. I just love stories set in that era. I lucked out with Brooke Lea Foster’s debut novel, Summer Darlings. It takes place during the summer of ’62 on Martha’s Vineyard. Summer Darlings offers a peek into the lifestyles of the wealthy who summer on the island through the eyes of one wealthy family’s babysitter, Heddy.
Heddy has certain goals for herself and for the summer – mainly to figure out how to pay for college in the fall and how to incorporate herself into this glamorous world by finding a husband. But we all know how the old saying goes about the best laid plans. Heddy soon finds herself thrust into a world of wealth, privilege, movie stars, gossip, love, lust, backstabbing, and scandal.
Real life scandals can provide some of the best inspiration for novels. Admission by Julie Buxbaum draws from the real-life college admissions scandal in which several wealthy celebrities paid to have their kids’ SAT scores changed and fabricated a web of lies to gain entry into top colleges. Admission was intriguing because we’ve all heard about this scandal and can’t help wondering, “What were they thinking?” Well, Buxbaum attempts to reveal what they might have been thinking as she takes a peek behind the curtain of privilege to examine the lives of the rich and famous.
The last couple of weeks have held a lot of uncertainty and I, like everyone, have been adjusting to this new normal. Since I work from home all the time, my day-to-day Monday through Friday routine wasn’t interrupted too much. I do miss going to the gym though as it provides not only a physical outlet for my stress but also gets me out of the house. Social distancing is getting to me, like it is for many, and I’m just so thankful that I have my hubby home with me. I can’t imagine how difficult this time is for those who live alone. One suggestion I can offer for anyone who is struggling with staying in and staying alone is to read.
As Mason Cooley once so wisely said, “Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.” I’ve never felt the truth of this sentence more deeply than during this time of quarantine, isolation, and social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Many of us in the bookish community have taken Mr. Cooley’s words to heart these last couple of weeks and have engaged in binge reading. I read two celebrity memoirs last weekend (see my Instagram for details and mini-reviews!) and read two YA novels last week by Katey Taylor, Inebriated and Neon Nights. These two books were great examples of why I love YA, and I’m excited to share my reviews with you!