2016 Reading Challenge – Midyear Update

At the beginning of the year (almost six months ago already?!) I set reading goals for 2016 and gave myself some structure by joining the Goodreads and Modern Mrs. Darcy reading challenges. My goal was to read 40 books this year, and so far I’ve read 30 books. Most months I’ve been finishing 5 books, so I’m on track to read about 60 books in 2016. I’m really happy with my progress. It feels great to be chugging along with a hobby that’s enjoyable, good for my brain, and free (at least when I use the library and don’t rack up fines).

Some of my favorites thus far:

Although I’ve been reading at a good clip, I haven’t been keeping up with my monthly plan for the Modern Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge. It was a little too structured for my ever-changing to-read list, and I’ve decided to switch up some of my book choices. I’m allowed to do that, right? Here are the categories I’ve checked off so far and my new, less-structured plan for completing the remaining categories.

Completed Categories

√  A BOOK THAT WAS BANNED AT SOME POINT: In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. Read this one in January back when I was sticking to the plan.

√  A BOOK PUBLISHED THIS YEAR: My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout. Read this one in February.

√  A BOOK YOU CAN FINISH IN A DAY: The Fringe Hours: Making Time for You by Jessica N. Turner. Read this one early on too.

√  A BOOK YOU PREVIOUSLY ABANDONED: Originally I planned to read A World Made New by Mary Ann Glennon. Instead, this book was a delightful way to complete the category: As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes. People rave about the audio version of this book, FYI.

√  A BOOK RECOMMENDED BY YOUR LOCAL LIBRARIAN OR BOOKSELLER: Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin was a staff pick at my local library and one of my favorites.

A BOOK YOU’VE BEEN MEANING TO READ: Still Life by Louise Penny. This is the first book in the Inspector Gamache series, and I’d been meaning to read it for a while and finally picked it up. While I wasn’t wowed, I’ve been convinced by the reading powers that be to stick with the series for a big payoff and recently placed book #2 on hold.

6 Categories To Go …

A BOOK THAT INTIMIDATES YOU: Although I did find a copy of Finnegan’s Wake at a used bookstore in Brooklyn, I’ve decided that I don’t really want to read it. Does anyone really want to read Finnegan’s Wake? Instead, I’m going to dive into Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. Russian literature is intimidating but worth the effort.

A BOOK YOU’VE ALREADY READ AT LEAST ONCE: I’m sticking with my original pick, Coming Home by Rosamund Pilcher. It’s one of my all-time favorite books and a great re-read.

A BOOK YOU SHOULD HAVE READ IN SCHOOL: Instead of reading Crime and Punishment, I’m going to tackle George Eliot’s Middlemarch, which I was supposed to read in my Victorian literature class when I studied abroad in Ireland in 2001. I’m not sure how I managed to get away with not reading it then, but …  better 15 years late than never?

A BOOK CHOSEN BY YOUR SPOUSE, PARTNER, SIBLING, CHILD, OR BFF: I’m sticking with It by Stephen King, recommended by my husband Dave.

A BOOK PUBLISHED BEFORE YOU WERE BORN: Ever since we watched a TV special about the 1950s that highlighted the interesting, sad story of Grace Metalious and Peyton Place, I’ve been wanting to read the book. Plus, I’m a New Hampshire housewife, so I could pretty much write a 21st century version of this book.

A BOOK YOU OWN BUT HAVE NEVER READ: Couldn’t Keep It To Myself, a compilation of stories written by the women Wally Lamb works with at the York Correctional Institution, has been on my shelf for a long time. I am inspired by Lamb’s work with, as he calls them, our imprisoned sisters.


That’s the plan. I might make more changes as I go, but I’m determined to meet my 2016 reading goals. What have been your favorite books of 2016 so far? What are you excited to read in the second half of the year?






The Bookspired Linkup (June 2016)

Welcome to The Bookspired Linkup! Each month we share posts that fit The Bookspired Linkup theme: exploring how a book has inspired you. You can read about my inspiration for starting the linkup here. Check out the linked-up posts through the blue inLinkz button at the bottom of this post and add your own, or participate through the comment feature.

Words of Wise Women

Last Friday my favorite podcast, Sorta Awesome, released one of its best shows yet, Episode 63: What We Know Now That We’re Here. You should just download and listen to it because my description won’t do it justice, but it’s basically a pep talk from two lovely big-sister-type ladies (Megan and Kelly) about what they’ve learned about their minds, bodies, and souls thus far in life. It sounds like a heavy topic but they don’t take thylblemselves that seriously, which makes it just right.

After listening to the podcast, I guess I was in an advice-seeking mood, because when I saw that the Kindle version of Eleanor Roosevelt’s memoir You Learn By Living was on sale for $1.99, I immediately bought and downloaded it to start reading during a short road trip. I’m about halfway done with it and although I don’t love all of Mrs. Roosevelt’s advice – She once told a little boy that if he needed to cry, he should go “cry alone into the bathtub” (???) –  many of her words are wise, such as these

“Our emotional interests, our intellectual pursuits, our personal preoccupations, all change. So do those of our friends. So the relationship that binds us together must change too; it must be flexible enough to meet the alterations of person and circumstance.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

My podcast and book choices this week got me thinking about some of the other wise women whose words I’ve taken to heart lately. I’ve been into reading memoirs recently, and I’ve also taken an interest in the self-improvement genre through podcasts and books. Although I like to think I have a good head on my shoulders, I don’t claim to be an expert on most things, and I look for opportunities to learn new things every day. My favorite sources of wise words are lovely, smart, brave, interesting women. Here are just a few of the wise women I’m listening to these days:

Emily Freeman – Simply Tuesday23411600

I bought this book on a whim and thought it would be mildly entertaining or kinda good. I had no idea how connected I would feel to Emily and how much I would take to heart her words about the importance of “small moments.” I gave this book five stars on Goodreads, and I don’t award stars willy-nilly. One of my favorite tidbits:

“But Tuesday teaches me that part of living well in ordinary time is letting this day be good. Letting this day be a gift. Letting this day be filled with plenty. And if it all goes wrong and my work turns to dust? This is my kind reminder that outcomes are beyond the scope of my job description.”   -Emily P. Freeman

Sarah Bessey – Out of Sorts23492740

I joined Sarah’s book launch team for the release of Out of Sorts because A. It sounded like fun, B. I would receive an early (free) galley copy of the book, and, most importantly, C. I was smitten with Sarah’s writing, which I knew from her blog at www.sarahbessey.com. Sarah is a big picture thinker and seems to be a wonderful combination of funny, serious, and devoted to both her family and her call to preach. There’s something magnetic about her. My favorite nugget from the book:

“May we be the ones who don’t give up on radical inclusion. May we be the ones to whisper to one another, every now and then, on purpose, at the right time: You belong here. There’s room for you. There’s room for all of us.” – Sarah Bessey

Gretchen Rubin – The Happiness Projectthehappinessproject

This was another book I expected to enjoy but ended up loving. Gretchen Rubin is very different from me. She seems extremely intense and driven, and I’m just not that wound up or motivated. But I adore her, and I especially love her tips and tricks for habit formation and increasing happiness in everyday life. What I love most about her, though, is her honesty about her own self-discovery.

“I have an idea of who I wish I were, and that obscures my understanding of who I actually am.”  – Gretchen Rubin

Eleanor, Emily, Sarah, and Gretchen are just a few of the wise women who I’m tuned to these days. I’m always looking for new inspiration – Who are your favorite wise literary ladies?





The 5 Books I Finished in May

Linking up with Anne Bogel at Quick Lit

May is my birthday month, so I decided to read whatever the heck I felt like reading this month with no concern about expanding my horizons or increasing my knowledge on important subjects. The result was a diverse collection of books including true crime, an old-favorite author, a “true wuv” memoir, a thriller, and a lovable grumpy old man. Without further ado, here are the five books I finished in May:

1. The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule

My Thoughts: This is the crazy, horrific, intensely interesting true story of serial killer Ted Bundy. The book was written by Bundy’s friend Ann Rule, who was contracted to write the book before she knew Bundy was a suspect. At many points I could not put the book down. It is difficult to read because Bundy’s crimes were so terrible and prolific, but any fans of the true crime genre should read this book because it is so well done.

Length: 560 pages

When I Read It: April 30-May 17, 2016

Where I Found It/How I Read It: Placed a hold at the library; read it the old-fashioned way.

2. As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes

My Thoughts: I started this book more than a year ago and put it down for some unknown reason. I picked it back up again as an antidote to the creepiness of The Stranger Beside Me and devoured the rest of the book quickly. Elwes’s stories about life on the movie set with the amazing cast of characters (Mandy Patinkin, Robin Wright, Billy Crystal, Andre the Giant, etc.) are delightful, and fans of the movie would love this book. Several people have told me that the audio version is fantastic because the cast contributes.

Length: 259 pages

When I Read It: March 11, 2015-May 20, 2016

Where I Found It/How I Read It: Bought it at Target; read it the old-fashioned way.

3. A Week in Winter by Maeve Binchy

My Thoughts: I’ve read almost all of Maeve Binchy’s cozy Irish novels and decided to give this one a try during the long drive to and from New Jersey for my friend’s baby shower. While it’s not as good as many of Binchy’s earlier books, it was an enjoyable, light read for the car ride. Binchy is masterful at creating interesting characters and weaving their lives together, and her descriptions of the Irish countryside always make me want to jump on a plane and head across the Atlantic.

Length: 10 hours and 57 minutes

When I Read It: May 20-22, 2016

Where I Found It/How I Read It: Placed a hold through the Overdrive app/listened to the audiobook.

4. Pretty Baby by Mary Kubica

My Thoughts: I loved Kubica’s first novel, The Good Girl, so I knew I wanted to try another one of her books. When I first started Pretty Baby, I was lukewarm to it, but it picked up in the second half and toward the end I couldn’t put it down. It’s not a true thriller, but Kubica keeps you guessing about the characters: a mysterious homeless girl and baby, and the not-so-perfect family that takes them in. This would be a great beach read. I’m definitely going to put Kubica’s most recent release, Don’t You Cry, on my to-read list.

Length: 380 pages

When I Read It: May 20-30, 2016

Where I Found It/How I Read It: Bought it at Gibson’s Bookstore; read it the old-fashioned way.

5. A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

My Thoughts: I kept hearing amazing things about this book and was skeptical that it would live up to the hype. I started reading it several months ago and put it down because I wasn’t in the right mood, I guess. I heard that the audio version was fantastic, so I put myself on the hold list and finally got my copy last week. One of my Goodreads friends deemed the book “practically perfect,” and now I see why. Ove, a grumpy, hilarious, sad, lovable old man, is one of those characters you’ll never forget. I kept alternating between snorting with laughter and sniffing with tears. I loved this book and will probably read it again. That’s high praise from me because I rarely reread books.

Length: 9 hours and 9 minutes

When I Read It: May 25 -31, 2016

Where I Found It/How I Read It: Placed a hold through the Overdrive app/listened to the audiobook

Favorite Quote: “He went through life with his hands firmly shoved into his pockets. She danced.”


You can friend or follow me on Goodreads for the latest updates on my June reading picks.

Don’t forget to check out and join The Bookspired Linkup on June 15th!