2019 Reading Goal


Hey everyone!

Despite my absence in the blogosphere, I had a decent last year of reading! I didn’t quite reach my goal of 50 books, but with a new baby, a cross-country move, taking on way more work than ever before, and a somewhat spontaneous vacation to Italy, I’m pleased! It was a busy year, and I still made time to read. However, my “books read” goal doesn’t exactly tell the whole story of my reading life this past year.

If you’ve been around these parts for awhile, you’ll know that I am a huge proponent of the DNF (Did Not Finish). I even wrote a blog post about it a few years ago, which you can find here. I fully believe that if you aren’t in love with a book, you should feel no regrets about closing it, setting it aside, and picking up something else. My reading life is for me and no one else, which means I do not suffer lemons. The issue with this belief, however, is that the many books I set aside are not properly represented in my year-long goal. The hours I spend reading the first few chapters of these books (sometimes even more than that!) are lost.

Is this a big deal? No.

Does it still bother me? Obviously.

I am not a very goal-oriented person. I don’t like to set a lot of goals for myself because, honestly, they overwhelm me. But having this one reading goal really helps me focus my reading and have something to work towards. The issue is that I didn’t reach my 50 book goal even though I know that if it were possible to combine all of the pages from the books I DNF’d into average-sized novels, I would have more than reached my goal. Is this making sense? Probably not. Basically, I feel like I read enough to reach my goal, but I still didn’t reach my goal. It’s a bummer.

The books read goal is not working for me anymore, so I’m going to switch things up in 2019. I’m going to make a “Pages Read” goal. This way, each and every page I read counts towards my goal. I do not have to feel bad about reading a few chapters of a book and then setting it aside. I can just jot down how many pages I read and move on, guilt-free. The dream. Plus, I can also pick up big books without worrying about how it will impact my overall goal. I can read a few of Stephen King’s tomes and some of the classics I’ve been meaning to get to and not stress about how long it takes me to get through them.

I really think a “pages read” goal will be a better reflection of how much I’m reading and will help make it so my reading life serves me rather than the other way around. As of now, I’m planning on a goal of 20,000 pages, but I may increase that as the year goes if it becomes obvious I’ll reach it without issue. Though I want my goal to be achievable, I also want it to be a challenge.

So, that is my large and not very important update.

Do you have any reading goals or do you like to keep it loosy goosy? Let me know! Also, let me know which book I HAVE to read in 2019!

Happy Reading,

My Labor Story

Hey everyone!

The wonderful thing about having a blog is that I am free to overshare about my life without anyone being able to complain. They clicked the link, they read the story, and they did not have to. I am thus scrubbed of all responsibility related to feelings of TMI. So, you've been warned. 

Almost two months ago, I gave birth to an adorable, talented, wise, prodigy of a baby boy. And no, I'm not biased. Forrest Joseph Burgey came into this world weighing 9 lbs. 4 oz. at approximately 9:15 AM on November 16, 2017. It was a marvelous moment. The moments preceding that moment, however, varied in their levels of marvelousness. In fact, several of those moments were, dare I say, decidedly unmarvelous. Below, I shall spin you the tale of my birth story. 


At 5:00 PM on November 15, 2017, Cody and I checked into the hospital for an induction. I was several days past my due date, and with us living 12 hours away from our families and Thanksgiving approaching, we wanted to ensure we wouldn't be in the hospital over the holidays. We went back and forth on this decision a lot. I wanted to go into labor naturally and avoid some of the drawbacks of an induction, but I also knew if Forrest hadn't arrived by Thanksgiving, it would be at least a month or more before my family would be able to make it down to see him. Plus, my doctor seemed very keen on me having Forrest before I reached 41 weeks. So, induction it was (though, spoiler alert, I didn't end up being induced).

We were shown into the labor suite--Cody and I naively brought along a couple card games and books to keep us entertained during the long night--I was hooked up to monitors, and the nurses inserted Cervidil a little after 7PM. Now, I am no doctor, but to my understanding, Cervidil is NOT an induction drug. It is used to prep a woman's cervix prior to receiving the induction drug (Pitocin). After the nurse inserted the Cervidil, several different nurses expressed that Cody and I were in for a very long night. 

"First time moms normally spend a lot of time in the labor suite," one of the nurses, whose name I have entirely forgotten, said. "You'll probably be here until tomorrow afternoon."

So, the nurses emptied the room, and Cody and I settled in. Because it was a planned induction, his parents were able to come down to be there with us and take care of our dog, so they hung out with us in the room until visiting hours were over. Soon after they left, we decided to go to bed in preparation for what promised to be a very long day. Around 10 PM, we went to sleep. 

Correction: Cody went to sleep.

I tossed and turned on what I thought was the world's most uncomfortable mattress. My back was killing me. No matter which way I turned, the pain would not subside for even a second. I put pillows under my side, and at one point I was laying on my clenched fist, trying to massage a giant knot in my lower back. Worse yet, every time I moved, the monitors strapped to my stomach would slip and slide, prompting a nurse to come in and reposition them so they could monitor Forrest's heartbeat. So, despite my tremendous discomfort, I tried my best to lay still, and I languished for the next four and a half hours. The thought that I was in labor never even crossed my mind.

At 2:30 AM on November 16th, I had finally drifted into a fitful sleep when a huge popping sound woke me up, followed by a gush.

I had no precedent for what it would feel like when my water broke, but in that moment, I knew it had. I called in the nurse and told her. She looked at me rather dubiously, lifted my covers, and shook her head.

"I don't see any fluid," she said. Then she left.

Despite what she'd said, I knew my water had broken. As soon as the nurse left, I stood up and water gushed down my legs. I called her back in and pointed to the proof puddled on the floor. She checked me and I was dilated to a 2.5. (I'd come into the labor suite already 2 cm dilated.)

Since every nurse we'd seen up to this point had told me that I was in for a long labor, I believed them. I assumed it would be ten hours, at least, before I was ready to start pushing. So, I laid back and tried to get some sleep.

Tried is the operative word. Within fifteen minutes, the pain I'd been feeling in my back for the past four and a half hours was one hundred times worse, and it had spread to my entire midsection. I was hooked up to a monitor that tracked my contractions, and they were continuous. Everything I'd read mentioned contractions being four or even five minutes apart, but mine were coming every minute, and I felt like I couldn't breath.

I've always considered myself to be rather tolerant of pain, but a few minutes into the endless contractions, I was writhing on the bed, holding onto the rails and praying for it to ease up. The nurse came in and, noticing my pain, mentioned an epidural. It had only been thirty minutes since she'd told me I was dilated to a 2.5, and I knew epidurals could slow down labor, so I opted to wait. Even though it was already hurting worse than anything I'd ever experienced, I didn't want to mess with my body while it was doing it's thang.

Cody was relentlessly sweet during this time. He massaged my back and encouraged me, all the while I just kept whimpering, telling him over and over "I don't want to do this anymore. I don't want to do this."

It wasn't my proudest moment.

Forty minutes after I'd turned down an epidural, I called the nurse back in and asked for one. The contractions had been coming every 60 seconds for almost an hour, and I was finished. Up to this point, I assumed I was just a giant baby. That the pain tolerance I'd prided myself on had been nothing more than a figment of my imagination. 

But then the nurse checked and her eyes actually widened with surprise.

"You're at 4.5 cm," she said. "I'm going to call the anesthesiologist right now, because I am almost certain you are going to be way past a 4.5 by the time she gets here."

I'd dilated 2 cm in just over an hour, and she said it would be at least 30 minutes until the anesthesiologist would arrive with the epidural. 

Longest. Thirty minutes. Of.  My. Life.

I religiously checked the clock, and when the anesthesiologist arrived and ushered Cody out of the room, I called her "a beautiful angel."

I'd heard a lot of people talk about how painful the epidural was, but I honestly didn't even feel it. The needle sliding between my spinal column was NOTHING compared to the contractions. 

The anesthesiologist told me it would take a couple contractions for the epidural to take effect, and she left. My nurse checked my dilation again, and in the forty minutes it took for the anesthesiologist to arrive and administer the epidural, I had progressed from a 4.5 to an 8!

Several contractions later I was in as much pain as ever, wondering if the epidural was even working. The nurse told me I was progressing so quickly that my pain was increasing at the same rate that the epidural was taking effect, meaning my pain level didn't begin to decrease at all for another thirty minutes, and I wasn't pain free for almost an hour. By this point, it was 6 AM.

Mercifully, the epidural did slow down my labor, and this is where everything gets pretty hazy for me. I was exhausted, and now that my pain was managed, I slept. I vaguely remember the change of nurses at 7AM, and a few people waking me up to reposition a monitor or check my blood pressure, but that is the extent of it. I didn't begin to actually wake up until closer to 8:30. But again, this is all pretty hazy.

My doctor arrived and was a little ticked off that no one had told her my water had broken in the night, but then she checked me and said I was ready to push. A nurse grabbed my left leg, Cody grabbed my right, and I lifted myself into a weird crunch position and away we went.

I remember the doctor telling me to push for ten seconds, and then her preceding to count to ten as slow as is humanly possible. Honestly, I thought I was going to pass out. Cody later told me I was turning a little purple, which is probably why they put an oxygen mask on me. Between every push, I fell asleep, so I have absolutely no idea how far apart my contractions were.

Towards the end, the doctor told me he was almost here, and then asked if I wanted to touch his head...while it was still inside of my body. That was a hard pass. No thank you. I told her, "I'm good. I'll wait until he is out of me to touch his head."

Everyone kept saying, "he's almost here. You're almost done. Just a few more pushes."

But I'd been hearing this for awhile, and I'd basically stopped believing it. On one of the last pushes, though, I looked up at Cody just as the doctor said, "His head is out." And I finally believed them. Cody's eyes were ginormous (which is understandable considering he'd just seen a rather shocking image) and he looked down at me with a mixture of shock and disgust on his face. It was a beautiful moment, just like they describe in all of the movies...(:

A few seconds later, about thirty minutes after I first started pushing, Forrest was screaming and covered in goo, lying on my chest. The doctor was still at the foot of my bed doing all sorts of different things, but I don't remember it at all. I was too busy staring at the tiny human who had been growing inside of me for nine months. It was pretty wild. 

They weighed him, and the room was rather shocked to hear he was 9 lbs 4 oz. My doctor kept saying she had no idea where I'd been hiding a 9 pound baby. Even at my six week postpartum appointment, she reemphasized that she never would have guessed my baby was over 9 pounds. (At just over 7 weeks old, Forrest now weighs 14 pounds. He eats like a Hobbit--Breakfast, Second Breakfast, Elevensies, Lunch, Tea Time, Dinner, Supper, etc.)

All in all, I had a wonderful labor experience. I was able to go into labor naturally, it progressed quickly, and at the end of it, I had a healthy baby boy. (He was a little big for his gestational age, so they monitored his glucose levels for the first 24 hours, but everything came back perfectly normal.) I have no complaints.

Before we left the labor suite to head to the recovery room, the nurses who had initially told me to prepare for a long labor, warned me that with future pregnancies, I need to get to the hospital ASAP because my body moves quite rapidly through the labor process. Here's to praying I don't one day have a baby in the back of a car on the way to the hospital. 

If you made it through this entire story, thank you. And if you were one of the many people I know were praying for me and Cody and baby Forrest, thank you!! I'm positive your prayers were heard, because we couldn't have asked for a more perfect little boy. 

20 Historical Fiction Recommendations

A few days ago I reached out to the bookstagram community for some historical fiction recommendations, and oh boy did they deliver! (All quoted descriptions are from Goodreads.)

1) Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel

(I just ordered these two books, and definitely plan to read them ASAP.) These two are the first two books in a trilogy (the third has yet to be released), and they BOTH won the Man Booker Prize. I'm not sure how much more of a recommendation you need. The series charts the rise and fall of Thomas Cromwell, minister in the court of Henry VIII. 

2) The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
(I just bought this as an ebook, and can't wait to read it. It was, by far, the highest recommended historical fiction book.) Despite their differences, sisters Vianne and Isabelle have always been close. Younger, bolder Isabelle lives in Paris while Vianne is content with life in the French countryside with her husband Antoine and their daughter. But when the Second World War strikes, Antoine is sent off to fight and Vianne finds herself isolated so Isabelle is sent by their father to help her. 

As the war progresses, the sisters' relationship and strength are tested. With life changing in unbelievably horrific ways, Vianne and Isabelle will find themselves facing frightening situations and responding in ways they never thought possible as bravery and resistance take different forms in each of their actions."

3) The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry

"Set in Victorian London and an Essex village in the 1890's, and enlivened by the debates on scientific and medical discovery which defined the era, The Essex Serpent has at its heart the story of two extraordinary people who fall for each other, but not in the usual way."

4) Emperor: The Gates of Rome by Conn Iggulden (First in a series of five)
In a true masterpiece of historical fiction, Iggulden takes us on a breathtaking journey through ancient Rome, sweeping us into a realm of tyrants and slaves, of dark intrigues and seething passions. What emerges is both a grand romantic tale of coming-of-age in the Roman Empire and a vibrant portrait of the early years of a man who would become the most powerful ruler on earth: Julius Caesar."

5) Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

Sue Trinder is taken in as a baby by a family of thieves (Fingersmiths), and is taught the art of thievery. One day, Sue is offered the opportunity to help one of the most beloved thieves trick an old woman out of her inheritance so Sue and the thieves can all share in it. She wants to pay back the only family she has ever known for taking her in, however, she also finds she has a soft spot for the old woman. Goodreads described it as a "Dickensian novel of thrills and reversals."

6) Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly

"Inspired by the life of a real World War II heroine, this debut novel reveals a story of love, redemption, and secrets that were hidden for decades." Read the full description here.

7) The Memoirs of Cleopatra by Margaret George
"Bestselling novelist Margaret George brings to life the glittering kingdom of Cleopatra, Queen of the Nile, in this lush, sweeping, and richly detailed saga. Told in Cleopatra's own voice, this is a mesmerizing tale of ambition, passion, and betrayal, which begins when the twenty-year-old queen seeks out the most powerful man in the world, Julius Caesar, and does not end until, having survived the assassination of Caesar and the defeat of the second man she loves, Marc Antony, she plots her own death rather than be paraded in triumph through the streets of Rome."

8) Fates and Traitors by Jennifer Chiaverini

"The New York Times bestselling author of Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker returns with a riveting work of historical fiction following the notorious John Wilkes Booth and the four women who kept his perilous confidence...Mary Ann, the steadfast matriarch of the Booth family; Asia, his loyal sister and confidante; Lucy Lambert Hale, the senator’s daughter who adored Booth yet tragically misunderstood the intensity of his wrath; and Mary Surratt, the Confederate widow entrusted with the secrets of his vengeful plot."

9) Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

Katey Kontent is in a jazz bar at the tail end of the 1930s when she runs into a handsome banker who will catapult her into the upper echelons of New York society. It is there that she "experiences firsthand the poise secured by wealth and station and the failed aspirations that reside just below the surface."

10) Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate
"Based on one of America’s most notorious real-life scandals—in which Georgia Tann, director of a Memphis-based adoption organization, kidnapped and sold poor children to wealthy families all over the country—Wingate’s riveting, wrenching, and ultimately uplifting tale reminds us how, even though the paths we take can lead to many places, the heart never forgets where we belong."

11) Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline
"A captivating story of two very different women who build an unexpected friendship: a 91-year-old woman with a hidden past as an orphan-train rider and the teenage girl whose own troubled adolescence leads her to seek answers to questions no one has ever thought to ask."

12) All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

"A stunningly ambitious and beautiful novel about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II."

13) The Alice Network by Kate Quinn
"In an enthralling new historical novel from national bestselling author Kate Quinn, two women—a female spy recruited to the real-life Alice Network in France during World War I and an unconventional American socialite searching for her cousin in 1947—are brought together in a mesmerizing story of courage and redemption."

14) The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

The Paris Wife follows the passionate and tumultuous relationship of Ernest Hemingway and his wife, Hadley, as they navigate the fast-paced, hard-drinking lifestyle of Jazz age Paris, all while facing the ultimate crisis of their marriage.

15) Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan
"Mesmerizing, hauntingly beautiful, with the pace and atmosphere of a noir thriller and a wealth of detail about organized crime, the merchant marine and the clash of classes in New York, Egan’s first historical novel is a masterpiece, a deft, startling, intimate exploration of a transformative moment in the lives of women and men, America, and the world." Find the full description here.

16) Necessary Lies by Diane Chamberlain

"Set in rural Grace County, North Carolina in a time of state-mandated sterilizations and racial tension, Necessary Lies tells the story of these two young women, seemingly worlds apart, but both haunted by tragedy.  Jane and Ivy are thrown together and must ask themselves: how can you know what you believe is right, when everyone is telling you it’s wrong?"

17) Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark T. Sullivan
This one is based on a true story. Here is the full description:

"Pino Lella wants nothing to do with the war or the Nazis. He’s a normal Italian teenager—obsessed with music, food, and girls—but his days of innocence are numbered. When his family home in Milan is destroyed by Allied bombs, Pino joins an underground railroad helping Jews escape over the Alps, and falls for Anna, a beautiful widow six years his senior.

In an attempt to protect him, Pino’s parents force him to enlist as a German soldier—a move they think will keep him out of combat. But after Pino is injured, he is recruited at the tender age of eighteen to become the personal driver for Adolf Hitler’s left hand in Italy, General Hans Leyers, one of the Third Reich’s most mysterious and powerful commanders.

Now, with the opportunity to spy for the Allies inside the German High Command, Pino endures the horrors of the war and the Nazi occupation by fighting in secret, his courage bolstered by his love for Anna and for the life he dreams they will one day share."

18) Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

"In an unnamed South American country, a world-renowned soprano sings at a birthday party in honor of a visiting Japanese industrial titan. Alas, in the opening sequence, a ragtag band of 18 terrorists enters the vice-presidential mansion through the air conditioning ducts. Their quarry is the president, who has unfortunately stayed home to watch a favorite soap opera. And thus, from the beginning, things go awry.

Among the hostages are Russian, Italian, and French diplomatic types. Swiss Red Cross negotiator oachim Messner comes and goes, wrangling over terms and demands. Days stretch into weeks, the weeks into months. Joined by no common language except music, the 58 international hostages and their captors forge unexpected bonds. Time stands still, priorities rearrange themselves. Ultimately, of course, something has to give."

19) North and South by John Jakes (trilogy)
"Part history, part novel, this book chronicles two great American dynasties over three generations. Though brought together in a friendship that neither jealousy nor violence could shatter, the Hazards and the Mains are torn apart by the storm of events that has divided the nation."

20) The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls by Anton DisClafani
This recommendation is my own, and the book that prompted me to search for more historical fiction books. Here is my full review

Have you read any of these books? Which is your favorite? Which of these do you now plan to read? Have any other recommendations? Let me know in the comments!

Happy Reading,


Literary Link Round-up: Short Fiction and Prose Edition

I recently wrote a blog post about things that inspire me to be creative (find that post here); however, as soon as I posted that blog, I realized I made one glaring ommission: literary links. I love following literary websites and magazines on Twitter because every morning I can skim through my timeline and find a wealth of bookish news and goings-on. This makes me feel connected to the larger literary world, even when I spend all day sitting on my couch in my sweatpants writing and not talking to a single other soul. So, I thought I'd share with you the three articles I read this morning in hopes you can find some inspiration from them. Or, at the very least, a good book to add to your TBR.

1) 18 (More) Amazing Novels You Can Read in a Day
If you love this link and are looking for even more short novels, I wrote a blog post awhile back in the same vein entitled "10 Short Books to Read in One Day," which you can find here

What are your favorite literary sites and places to find bookish news? Let me know in the comments!

So long,

Things to Inspire

Some days, I wake up in the morning and I am ready to get work done. Not only do I want to get words on the page--I HAVE TO. It is like every creative nerve in my body is itching to be put to good use. Those are great days.

Then, there are the other days. The days when my eyes barely open at the sound of my 6 AM alarm. The days when I struggle to sit down in front of my computer before mid-morning because there simply aren't any words in my head. The days when I finally do sit in front of the computer and try everything short of amputating a limb to find some sort of creative juice inside of myself. 

We've all been there. Regardless of what field you are in or whether it is for your profession or a hobby, some days are simply better than others. Well, I've put together a small list of inspiration for the days when you can't find it on your own.

1) Music
Music is such an amazing motivator. Whether you are exercising or trying to open the creative floodgates in your brain, the right song can be all the push you need. Here are a few of my favorites (you will need to have Spotify downloaded in order to listen to these) :

2) Photography
Photography has always been a place for me to find inspiration, but this category can be expanded to include any sort of art form you like. Anything that stirs your brain and makes you think is useful. Here are a few of my favorite photographs that have inspired me to write. 

3) Interviews/Podcasts
Listening to people within your profession or hobby talk about your profession/hobby can be a great motivator to get to work! And the beautiful thing is, the internet is wide and vast and there is a podcast, blog, or YouTube channel for almost any topic you can imagine! As a writer, I love listening to author interviews and podcasts, learning about their writing process and even what inspires them to write. Here are a few of my favorites:

A) George Saunders: On Story, originally launched on Atlantic.com

B) Neil Gaiman's 2012 Commencement Speech which was eventually turned into a book entitled Make Good Art

C) Writing Excuses Podcast
I love a good writing podcast. It can provide you with helpful tips, and help you improve your writing. Writing Excuses is one of my favorites. It is short, very easy to listen to on a commute or an evening walk, and the hosts all come from different genres and backgrounds, creating a really well-rounded podcast. Click the link above to go to the Writing Excuses website, but you can also find Writing Excuses almost anywhere podcasts are available. 

4) Great Books
Last, but certainly not least in the list of things that inspire me to write on days I'm simply not feeling it: Books. Reading the well-crafted, beautiful writing of an author you especially admire can help turn the rusty wheels in your brain. A few books I pick up over and over again for inspiration are: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, On Writing: A Memoir by Stephen King, Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut, and Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. 

However, even beyond the realm of fiction and non-fiction books on writing, some of my best story ideas have come to me while I was reading a completely random non-fiction book. For instance, true crime, history, biographies, psychology studies. While these books have nothing to do with writing specifically, great writing and great ideas can come from a million different sources. Reading a book about psychopaths can help you craft a psychopathic character. Learning about a certain period in history could inspire your next historical fiction piece. You get the idea. Basically, be open to inspiration, and often, you'll find it.

Now that you've seen my list, I want to see yours. Regardless of your profession or hobby, let me know what inspires you to work hard and keep going, even on days when all you want to do is lounge on the couch and binge trash tv.

So long,


My Most Anticipated Books of Fall 2017

Hello all!

It is nearly September, which means it is time for my most anticipated books of Fall 2017 list! I love making these lists because there are so many amazing books that need to be highlighted and it gives me something to look forward to while I'm sweating it out in the heat of a Texas summer. So, without further ado, here are six books I plan to pick up this fall!

1) Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng (September 12, Penguin Press)

I'm currently making my way through Celeste Ng's first book, Everything I Never Told You, and it is beautiful. So, I shall waste little time picking up a copy of her latest work when it releases in mid-September. 

Little Fires Everywhere follows the story of the Richardson family, who live in an idyllic suburb of Cleveland, and their collision with the mysterious family (mother Mia and daughter Pearl) who rent a house from them. When the town and the two families are divided by a custody battle over the adoption of a Chinese-American baby, Elena Richardson will uncover secrets about Mia's past that could have devastating consequences.

2) Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado (October 3, Graywolf Press)

Her Body and Other Parties is a short story collection that has been compared to Karen Russell and Kelly Link, which, if you didn't know, is all it takes for me to want to pick it up. (Kelly Link's short stories are fabulous and I recommend them to everyone). The description for Machado's book says that it "bends genre to shape startling narratives that map the realities of women's lives and the violence visited upon their bodies." Basically, count me in.

3) Dogs at the Perimeter by Madeleine Thien (October 3, W. W. Norton & Company)

Dogs at the Perimeter.jpg

Dogs at the Perimeter was published in Canada in 2011, but this fall it makes it's American debut! Her other novel, Do Not Say We Have Nothing, has received very high praise and it is still on my TBR; however, not reading her first book hasn't stopped me from adding her next book to my list already. Want to know why? Read the description:

Set in Cambodia during the regime of the-Khmer Rouge and in present day Montreal, Dogs at the Perimeter tells the story of Janie, who as a child experiences the terrible violence carried out by the Khmer Rouge and loses everything she holds dear. Three decades later, Janie has relocated to Montreal, although the scars of her past remain visible. After abandoning her husband and son and taking refuge in the home of her friend, the scientist Hiroji Matsui, Janie and Hiroji find solace in their shared grief and pain―until Hiroji’s disappearance opens old wounds and Janie finds that she must struggle to find grace in a world overshadowed by the sorrows of her past.

4) Where the Past Begins: A Writer's Memoir by Amy Tan (October 17, Ecco)

If you love Amy Tan's fiction, you won't want to miss her memoir, Where the Past Begins. In it she dives into her childhood and adolescence, her family history, her beginnings as a writer, and her process now that she has established herself as a powerful voice in literature. I, for one, can't wait to read about her life and her craft.

5) A Secret Sisterhood: The Literary Friendships of jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, George Eliot, and Virginia Woolf by Emily MIdorikawa and Emma Claire  Sweeney (October 17, HMH)

I discovered this book on HMH's website, and knew I needed to read it. Female authors are so often described as lonely and depressed and depicted with no friends or life beyond their writing, but Emily Midorikawa and Emma Claire Sweeney seek to dispel these myths. I can't wait to learn more about some of my favorite authors. Here is the description:

Male literary friendships are the stuff of legend; think Byron and Shelley, Fitzgerald and Hemingway. But the world’s best-loved female authors are usually mythologized as solitary eccentrics or isolated geniuses. Coauthors and real-life friends Emily Midorikawa and Emma Claire Sweeney prove this wrong, thanks to their discovery of a wealth of surprising collaborations: the friendship between Jane Austen and one of the family servants, playwright Anne Sharp; the daring feminist author Mary Taylor, who shaped the work of Charlotte Brontë; the transatlantic friendship of the seemingly aloof George Eliot and Harriet Beecher Stowe; and Virginia Woolf and Katherine Mansfield, most often portrayed as bitter foes, but who, in fact, enjoyed a complex friendship fired by an underlying erotic charge.

Through letters and diaries that have never been published before, A Secret Sisterhoodresurrects these forgotten stories of female friendships. They were sometimes scandalous and volatile, sometimes supportive and inspiring, but always—until now—tantalizingly consigned to the shadows.

6) The Savage by Frank Bill (November 14, FSG Originals)

The Savage.jpg

I want to say a lot of things about how excited I am to read this book, but I'm going to let the description do the talking for me, because honestly, I don't think I could explain it any better.

Frank Bill's America has always been stark and violent. In his new novel, he takes things one step further: the dollar has failed; the grid is wiped out.
Van Dorn is eighteen and running solo, dodging the bloodthirsty hordes and militias that have emerged since the country went haywire. His dead father's voice rings in his head as Van Dorn sets his sights not just on survival but also on an old-fashioned sense of justice.
Meanwhile, a leader has risen among the gangs-and around him swirls the cast of brawlers from Donnybrook, with their own brutal sense of right and wrong, of loyalty and justice through strength.
So, this is not the distant postapocalyptic future-this is tomorrow, in a world Bill has already introduced us to. Now he raises the stakes and turns his shotgun prose on our addiction to technology, the values and skills we've lost in the process, and what happens when the last systems of morality and society collapse.
The Savage presents a bone-chilling vision of America where power is the only currency and nothing guarantees survival. And it presents Bill at his most ambitious, most eloquent, most powerful.

Epic, right? Like, I need to read this book. Since reading Haints Stay by Colin Winnette a few years ago, I've had a kind of obsession with literary westerns and what some have endearingly referred to as "Hick Lit," and I hope The Savage will be everything I dream it will be.

What do you think of my list? Are you excited about reading any of these? Which books are you most excited about this Fall? Let me know in the comments!

Happy reading,


Benefits of a Book Buying Ban

The only six books I've purchased in 2017. I don't count the books I've received from Book of the Month, because I bought that subscription in November 2016 and just recently cancelled it because I didn't want to pay to resubscribe.

The only six books I've purchased in 2017. I don't count the books I've received from Book of the Month, because I bought that subscription in November 2016 and just recently cancelled it because I didn't want to pay to resubscribe.

As an avid reader and book collector, there are few things I love more than buying a new book. It's a thrill to hunt through the shelves in your favorite bookstore and find the perfect book. The one with the gorgeous cover you know you're going to love and read immediately.

However, how often does that really happen? How many beautiful books have sat unread on your shelves for embarrassingly long amounts of time? For me, that number is very high. Towards the end of 2016 I realized I was buying books at such a rate that medical science was going to have to advance a whole heck of a lot before I'd have enough years to read them all. So, at the start of 2017, I instituted a book buying ban.

That's right, I banned myself from doing my most favorite thing. Why, you ask? Because buying books shouldn't be my favorite part of books. Reading them should be! And somewhere in all of the madness, I'd lost sight of why I started my blog/bookstagram to begin with. So, six and a half months deep into 2017 I've only purchased...*drumroll*...six books!!

That number is insanely low for me! And the best part? I've discovered some real benefits of a book buying ban.

1) I visit the public library way more
The library is such an underutilized tool. It is a building full of books, and you can take home as many as you want! It's like being able to walk into Barnes and Noble and buy anything you want (except you have to return them all within four weeks, of course). The truly amazing thing about the library is that you don't just have to pick up books you know you will love. The library grants you the freedom to step outside of your comfort zone. You can try out a new genre or a graphic novel without having to worry that you've just wasted your money on a book you'll hate. Plus, the library has way more than just books. We're talking CDs, audiobooks, magazines, DVDs. Plus, most libraries now offer eBooks, which you can check out online from the comfort of your own couch as long as you have a library card. It's a beautiful beautiful thing.

2) No debilitating reading slumps

When I was constantly buying new books, I found myself crippled with indecision over whether to read one of the dusty books on my shelf or one of the crisp new ones the postman had just delivered. Even worse, I found myself feeling guilty every time I set aside a book I'd bought months prior in favor of a new release. Honestly, I started to feel like my reading life was all flash and no substance. I could post pictures of all of the pretty books I'd just purchased, but in all likelihood most of them went unread. Now, I find myself sitting down with books I've long been meaning to read, but never found the time for. Truly, I'm reading much more regularly and there is zero guilt involved, which is how it should be. 

3) Money money money
I've saved so much money. So. Much. Money. Between frequent trips to the library and receiving more ARCs and galleys from publishers, I've spent so much less money this year than I did last year. And with a baby on the way, every penny counts! 

I originally instituted my book buying ban with every intention of caving one month in and going back to my old ways, but honestly, I may extend my ban well beyond 2017! I'm saving money, reading more often, and enjoying what I read more without all of the buyer's remorse. It has been a wonderful change.

Would you ever implement a book buying ban? Have you implemented one before and what benefits did you see, if any? Let me know in the comments!

Happy reading,

My Most Anticipated Books of Summer 2017

My posts have been few and far between lately. Sorry about that. However, I break my radio silence to alert you to six books I feel are too good to miss this summer! And, spoiler alert, I have ARCs of four of them, so be expecting full reviews. Okay, here we go.

1) The Gypsy Moth Summer by Julia Fierro (June 6, St. Martin's Press)
(click here for my review)

I'm reading this book right now, and wow...there is so much going on. And I mean that in the best way possible. A gypsy moth infestation is raining down on Avalon Island, but the bugs are the least of the islander's worries. Fierro flutters between several different perspectives, managing to weave together stories of young love, an evil corporation, gangs of outsiders, familial abuse, and an aging matriarch eager to cling to her lifestyle while her husband succumbs to delusions. Truly, so far, it is masterful. A full review will be posted when I'm finished, but right now I can firmly say this book has not disappointed.

2) The Changeling by Victor Lavalle (June 13, Spiegel & Grau)

Honestly, Goodreads said it best, so I'm just going to paste in this crazy intriguing book description:

"Apollo Kagwa has had strange dreams that have haunted him since childhood. An antiquarian book dealer with a business called Improbabilia, he is just beginning to settle into his new life as a committed and involved father, unlike his own father who abandoned him, when his wife Emma begins acting strange. Disconnected and uninterested in their new baby boy, Emma at first seems to be exhibiting all the signs of post-partum depression, but it quickly becomes clear that her troubles go far beyond that. Before Apollo can do anything to help, Emma commits a horrific act—beyond any parent’s comprehension—and vanishes, seemingly into thin air. 

Thus begins Apollo’s odyssey through a world he only thought he understood to find a wife and child who are nothing like he’d imagined. His quest begins when he meets a mysterious stranger who claims to have information about Emma’s whereabouts. Apollo then begins a journey that takes him to a forgotten island in the East River of New York City, a graveyard full of secrets, a forest in Queens where immigrant legends still live, and finally back to a place he thought he had lost forever. This dizzying tale is ultimately a story about family and the unfathomable secrets of the people we love."

3) Final Girls by Riley Sager (July 11, Penguin Group Dutton)
(click here for my review)

Confession: I already read this book. I received the ARC back in May and I couldn't resist diving in because it sounded too amazing to wait until July. Second confession: I LOVED it. A full review will be posted closer to publication, but this is not a book you want to miss. It surprised me at every turn, and I read it in one sitting. 

Quincy Carpenter went on a weekend trip with her college friends, and returned the sole survivor of a massacre. This tragedy swept her into an elite club of survivors: the final girls. Despite her past and the foggy memories she has of that horrible night, Quincy manages to form a life for herself. She has a fiance, a baking blog, and a quiet existence she keeps neatly separated from that bloody night she experienced ten years prior in Pine Cottage. However, when one of her fellow final girls turns up dead, and the other turns up on her door step, Quincy begins to come to terms with her past in ways she never expected. Memories long forgotten resurface and she is left to rethink everything she thought she knew about that night in the woods, and whether or not someone has come back to finish what they started.

4) See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt (August 1, Atlantic Monthly Press)

See What I Have Done presents a fictionalized account of what happened that fateful day in August 1892 when Andrew and Abby Borden were found bludgeoned to death. Schmidt, using the alternating perspectives of Lizzie Borden, her older sister Emma, the housemaid Bridget, and Benjamin (a stranger to the family), spins a tale of an ill-tempered father, a spiteful stepmother, and two spinster sisters desperate for their freedom. I personally have very high hopes for this story. The Lizzie Borden story has been done over and over, but I'm anxious to see what new spin Sarah Schmidt has put on this harrowing tale. 

5) The Blinds by Adam Sternbergh (August 1, Ecco)

Westerns aren't typically my genre of choice (thought Haints Stay by Colin Winnette is one of my favorite books of recent years), but The Blinds by Adam Sternbergh sounds fascinating. The Blinds is a town in rural Texas filled with criminals, though these particular criminals have had their memories altered and been assigned new identities. A fresh start, if you will. When the typically quiet town experiences a murder and a suicide in quick succession, the town's sheriff, Calvin Cooper, is left to handle the revolting citizens. In the midst of the chaos, mysterious outsiders and a new deputy arrive on the scene, and a series of secrets are revealed that shine a light on the reality of The Blinds. Underneath the facade of a fresh start lies a hotbed of violence, deception, and betrayal. 

6) Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward (September 5, Scribner)

Again, I'm going to let Goodreads speak for me. Sing, Unburied, Sing sounds incredible (and reminiscent of every Toni Morrison novel I've ever fallen in love with!!), and I can't wait to read it in a few months.

"Jojo and his toddler sister, Kayla, live with their grandparents, Mam and Pop, and the occasional presence of their drug-addicted mother, Leonie, on a farm on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. Leonie is simultaneously tormented and comforted by visions of her dead brother, which only come to her when she's high; Mam is dying of cancer; and quiet, steady Pop tries to run the household and teach Jojo how to be a man. When the white father of Leonie's children is released from prison, she packs her kids and a friend into her car and sets out across the state for Parchman farm, the Mississippi State Penitentiary, on a journey rife with danger and promise.

Sing, Unburied, Sing grapples with the ugly truths at the heart of the American story and the power, and limitations, of the bonds of family. Rich with Ward's distinctive, musical language, Sing, Unburied, Sing is a majestic new work and an essential contribution to American literature."

There you have it. The six books I'm most anticipating this summer. Are there any books you think I've missed? Do any of these books sound like something you'd be interested in? Let me know in the comments!

Happy Reading,


10 Short Books to Read in One Day


Long time, no post. I've been away from the blog for awhile because life has just been a little hectic. Between work and life changes and illness....well, you get the idea. And, since I know you are all so familiar with the craziness life can often dish out, I decided to craft a list of 10 short books you can read in one day (some of them in just a couple hours!). Because I think we can all find a few hours once every two or three weeks to dive into a great story. This list has everything: romance, comedy, horror, science fiction, historical fiction, classics. I can almost guarantee there is something on this list for everyone. So, give it a read, let me know which of these books most interest you, and then let me know if there are any amazing awesome great fantastic short novels you've read that I left out.

Happy Reading,

1) If You’re Not Yet Like Me by Edan Lepucki

Jocelyn tells her unborn daughter how she met her father. It’s a romantic comedy with more comedy than romance. Also, it’s only 55 pages long and it’s $4.99 on Kindle right now. Not a bad way to spend an afternoon.

2) The Lover by Marguerite Duras

The story of a star-crossed romance between a French teen and her Chinese lover in a French colonial Saigon. Love, war, familial drama…what else is there?

3) Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote

I read this book last year, and while the plot is a bit thin, Holly Golightly’s naïve charm and outgoing nature contrast with Fred’s extreme practicality to create a lovable duo you can’t get enough of. It’s 100 pages long and an absolute classic. Well worth the read.

4) Mermaids by Patty Dann

I’ve talked about Mermaids by Patty Dann more times than I can count. And that’s because it is such a great book. It’s less than 150 pages, but the characters are vibrant, the story is charming, and the writing is beyond hilarious. Spend an afternoon reading about the life of Charlotte Flax—a Jewish teenager whose only desire is to hear the word of God and become a nun—her flirtatious always-on-the-move mother, and her water-obsessed younger sister, and I can promise you won’t regret it.

5) Maud Martha by Gwendolyn Brooks

The only novel by poet Gwendolyn Brooks, Maud Martha follows Maud Martha as she traverses childhood and adulthood in her predominantly black Chicago neighborhood. The language is sharp and beautiful, and Brooks’ observation of human behavior is phenomenal. One of my favorite books of all time.  

6) The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin

A science fiction novel following George Orr as he discovers his dreams have the power to alter the violent and polluted world around him. A short novel that addresses the dangers of power and humanity’s penchant for self-destructive behavior.

7) Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

Just over 200 pages, Slaughterhouse-Five follows Billy Pilgrim as he recalls his World War II experiences and moves through time. I read this book last year and absolutely fell in love. It is one of my all-time favorite books, and there is honestly no way to accurately describe it. Read it and then immediately message me to let me know your thoughts. That’s an order.

8) The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

An adult man goes back to his childhood home for a funeral where he begins to recall a repressed memory too fantastical and too horrible to have ever been true. Told in a uniquely Neil Gaiman fashion, Ocean at the End of the Lane is as charming as it is terrifying. It’s a rollercoaster ride packed into 178 pages. Perfect for a lazy weekend.

9) We the Animals by Justin Torres

Told in a series of vignettes, We the Animals unravels the story of one family, three brothers, and “the mythic effects of this fierce love on the people we must become.” The story is powerful, poetic, and only 128 pages long.

10) We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

After a fatal dose of arsenic ends up in the sugar bowl and whittles the Blackwood family from seven to four members, Merricat must protect her sister Constance from the curiosity and animosity of the local villagers. When cousin Charles arrives to visit the isolated family, Merricat is the only one who sees the danger. This dark tale is told in 160 pages, and is perfect for a dark night when you’re safe and cozy under the covers.

Friday Favorites: Writing Music


I've been writing a ton this week, which also means my Spotify account has been working overtime. Music has been playing nearly non-stop, and these five songs have been played the most. So, I thought I'd share them with you. Let me know what you've been listening to lately in the comments!

So Long,

1) In A Week by Hozier
Really, this entire album has been playing non-stop. It's phenomenal. 

2) The Rain by The Suitcase Junket

3) Grave Digger by Matt Maeson

4) I Wish I Was by The Avett Brothers

5) Love by Lana Del Rey
Lana Del Rey is Queen, so you know I had to add her new single to the list. 

What I'm Reading in March: Lady Power Edition


February was a really good reading month for me, even though I technically didn't stick to the TBR I set for myself AT ALL. Honestly, I didn't expect to abide by my list. I rarely ever do. My reading life is entirely dependent on my mood, so I often don't know which book I will read next, let alone the book I will read in four weeks. Despite that, I've noted the five books I read in February and the five I intend to read in March. My March TBR is full on lady power--books about women by women--and I'm pretty excited about it!

February Wrap-Up
I didn't review every book I read in February, but I provided links to the two I did review. Click them, read, enjoy :).

1) History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund
2) The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen
3) Unravel Me (Shatter Me series #2) by Tahereh Mafi

I didn't review these books, though I did review the first book in the series, Shatter Me. Overall, this series was very interesting, if melodramatic, and it only took me three days to read the last two books in the trilogy. Basically, no harm, no foul.
4) Ignite Me (Shatter Me series #3) by Tahereh Mafi
5) Shadow and Bone (Grisha Trilogy #1) by Leigh Bardugo
5.5) Ill Will by Dan Chaon

I started reading this book, but couldn't quite get into it. I may come back to it eventually, but I've decided to shelf it for the time being.

March TBR
Four of the five books on this list are books I checked out from my public library. I'm really bad about utilizing the magical resource that is the library, so I'm trying to be better about it. When I visited this weekend to pick up these books, I saw an endless amount of books on the "New Fiction" shelves I've been dying to read. I foresee myself visiting the library much more frequently in the months to come.

1) Siege and Storm (Grisha Trilogy #2) by Leigh Bardugo
I jumped into the second book of the Grisha Trilogy right after finishing the first book, and I'm sad to report that my interest in the story is waning a touch. I can't quite put my finger on the issue, which makes me believe that I may have just had a small overdose on Young Adult fantasy books. So, I'm going to take a break before reading the third and final book in the trilogy in hopes I will enjoy it more than I have the second.

2) The Idiot by Elif Batuman
The Idiot is a new book that will be released on March 14th. It follows Selin, the daughter of Turkish immigrants, as she embarks on her Harvard college experience in 1995. She begins a correspondence with a mathematics student from Hungary, Ivan, and befriends a Serbian classmate, Svetlana. At the end of the year, Selin heads to the Hungarian countryside to teach English close to Ivan, but takes a two week detour in Paris with Svetlana. The story follows Selin as she tries to understand the American college experience, the confusion of first love, and what she will do with the rest of her life.

3) The Last Summer of the Camperdowns by Elizabeth Kelly
This book has everything I love: dysfunctional families, eccentric characters, a faraway beach setting, and mystery. Riddle James Camperdown is the twelve-year-old daughter of Camp and Greer Camperdown, and she is busy juggling her parent's expectations. Mix in The Devlins, a mysterious family full of secrets that could unravel the Camperdown family, and you have yourself the recipe for one crazy summer. As if that wasn't enough, Riddle witnesses a crime, and, as the summer continues, the consequences of her silence multiply. "As an old love triangle, bitter war wounds, and the struggle for status spiral out of control, Riddle can only watch, hoping for the courage to reveal the truth."

4) Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller
Our Endless Numbered Days is about a little girl, Peggy, who is abducted by her father and taken to a hut deep in the woods where she is told everyone else on earth is dead. She lives there with her father until she discovers a pair of boots in the woods and goes searching for their owner. Narrated by a seventeen-year-old Peggy, this story follows a young girl's climb to freedom from the grips of madness, and the secret Peggy has carried with her ever since.

5) The Hundred-Year House by Rebecca Makkai
I won't pretend to be able to describe this book, so I'll let Goodreads do it for me:
"Meet the Devohrs: Zee, a Marxist literary scholar who detests her parents’ wealth but nevertheless finds herself living in their carriage house; Gracie, her mother, who claims she can tell your lot in life by looking at your teeth; and Bruce, her step-father, stockpiling supplies for the Y2K apocalypse and perpetually late for his tee time. Then there’s Violet Devohr, Zee’s great-grandmother, who they say took her own life somewhere in the vast house, and whose massive oil portrait still hangs in the dining room.

The Hundred-Year House unfolds a generational saga in reverse, leading the reader back in time on a literary scavenger hunt as we seek to uncover the truth about these strange people and this mysterious house. With intelligence and humor, a daring narrative approach, and a lovingly satirical voice, Rebecca Makkai has crafted an unforgettable novel about family, fate and the incredible surprises life can offer."

Have you read any of these books? Which book sounds the most interesting? Let me know in the comments!

Happy Reading,

February: New Fiction


I never made an official "New Years Resolution" post, but I did make a few New Years Resolutions. One of which is to read 30 books in 2017. I set my goal low, so I'll be sure to reach it (and hopefully exceed it). In conjunction with that, another goal for this year is to be better about reviewing the ARCs (Advanced Reader Copy) I receive from authors and publishers. So, this month I'm planning to read four books I received as ARCs, all of which were or will be published in January or February 2017. These four books span the globe, from a commune in Minnesota to Ho Chi Minh City and from a private college on the East Coast to Oaxaca.

Let me know which book interests you the most. Or, if you've read one of these books already, let me know what you thought!

Happy Reading,

1) History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund (January 3)

"Linda has an idiosyncratic home life: her parents live in abandoned commune cabins in northern Minnesota and are hanging on to the last vestiges of a faded counter-culture world. The kids at school call her 'Freak', or 'Commie'. She is an outsider in all things. Her understanding of the world comes from her observations at school, where her teacher is accused of possessing child pornography, and from watching the seemingly ordinary life of a family she babysits for. Yet while the accusation against the teacher is perhaps more innocent than it seemed at first, the ordinary family turns out to be more complicated. As Linda insinuates her way into the family's orbit, she realises they are hiding something. If she tells the truth, she will lose the normal family life she is beginning to enjoy with them; but if she doesn't, their son may die.

Superbly-paced and beautifully written, HISTORY OF WOLVES is an extraordinary debut novel about guilt, innocence, negligence, well-meaning belief and the death of a child."

2) The Refugees (Stories) by Viet Thanh Nguyen (February 7)

"With the coruscating gaze that informed The Sympathizer, in The Refugees Viet Thanh Nguyen gives voice to lives led between two worlds, the adopted homeland and the country of birth. From a young Vietnamese refugee who suffers profound culture shock when he comes to live with two gay men in San Francisco, to a woman whose husband is suffering from dementia and starts to confuse her for a former lover, to a girl living in Ho Chi Minh City whose older half-sister comes back from America having seemingly accomplished everything she never will, the stories are a captivating testament to the dreams and hardships of immigration. The second piece of fiction by a major new voice in American letters, The Refugees is a beautifully written and sharply observed book about the aspirations of those who leave one country for another, and the relationships and desires for self-fulfillment that define our lives."

3) The Animators by Kayla Rae Whitaker (January 31)

"At a private East Coast college, two young women meet in art class. Sharon Kisses, quietly ambitious but self-doubting, arrives from rural Kentucky. Mel Vaught, brash, unapologetic, wildly gifted, brings her own brand of hellfire from the backwaters of Florida. Both outsiders, Sharon and Mel become fervent friends, bonding over underground comics and dysfunctional families. Working, absorbing, drinking. Drawing: Mel, to understand her own tumultuous past, and Sharon, to lose herself altogether.

A decade later, Sharon and Mel are an award-winning animation duo, and with the release of their first full-length feature, a fearless look at Mel's childhood, they stand at the cusp of success. But while on tour to promote the film, cracks in their relationship start to form: Sharon begins to feel like a tag-along and suspects that raucous Mel is the real artist. When unexpected tragedy strikes, long-buried resentments rise to the surface, threatening their partnership—and hastening a reckoning no one sees coming."

4) Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran (January 10)

"Solimar Castro Valdez is eighteen and dazed with optimism when she embarks on a perilous journey across the US/Mexican border. Weeks later she arrives on her cousin's doorstep in Berkeley, CA, dazed by first love found then lost, and pregnant. This was not the plan. But amid the uncertainty of new motherhood and her American identity, Soli learns that when you have just one precious possession, you guard it with your life. For Soli, motherhood becomes her dwelling and the boy at her breast her hearth.

Kavya Reddy has always followed her heart, much to her parents' chagrin. A mostly contented chef at a UC Berkeley sorority house, the unexpected desire to have a child descends like a cyclone in Kavya's mid-thirties. When she can't get pregnant, this desire will test her marriage, it will test her sanity, and it will set Kavya and her husband, Rishi, on a collision course with Soli, when she is detained and her infant son comes under Kavya's care. As Kavya learns to be a mother--the singing, story-telling, inventor-of-the-universe kind of mother she fantasized about being--she builds her love on a fault line, her heart wrapped around someone else's child. 

Lucky Boy is an emotional journey that will leave you certain of the redemptive beauty of this world. There are no bad guys in this story, no obvious hero. From rural Oaxaca to Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto to the dreamscapes of Silicon valley, author Shanthi Sekaran has taken real life and applied it to fiction; the results are moving and revelatory."

My Writing Playlist

Hey y'all! 

It has been a good long while since I've shared some music, so I thought today was the day. It's the first month of a new year, we're getting a new president, and I've added some new (and old) songs to my writing music playlist. Let me know what you're listening to in the comments!

Happy listening,

1) Half The World Away by Aurora

This song has been providing some serious inspiration to fuel my writing days. I heard it for the first time a few months ago and it perfectly described one of the characters in my book, so I've been listening to it anytime I feel a bit stuck.

2) Raised by Wolves by Voxtrot

3) Winter Song by The Head and the Heart

4) Wait for Me by Motopony

5) You Were a Kindness by The National

6) Stuck On the Puzzle by Alex Turner

This song was written by Alex Turner, the lead singer of Arctic Monkeys, for the movie Submarine. If you haven't seen the movie, I recommend it. It was pretty hilarious. (For your convenience, I've embedded the trailer below. Enjoy.) Also, the movie is based on a book of the same name by Joe Dunthorne. I haven't finished the book yet, but I feel I can also recommend it. 

10 Bookstagrammers to Follow

Discovering the Bookstagram community has been my favorite part of starting a book blog (find me @literberry). I get the chance to talk with people who love books just as much as I do, and it's where I get most of my book recommendations from! Here are ten bookstagrammers I recommend following. 































So long,


How to Throw a Gilmore Girls Revival Party

If you're anything like me, then this Gilmore Girls revival news has been fueling your life the way caffeine fuels Lorelai Gilmore. Amy Sherman-Palladino (the writer and creator of Gilmore Girls) sadly didn't write the final season of Gilmore Girls, meaning that it was basically garbage. So, this revival is going to be the closure that all of the die-hard fans have needed since the show left us with a whimper in 2007. 

The revival, Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, will consist of four 90-minute episodes that will be released on Netflix on November 25th. And you know what that means. You HAVE to binge watch all of the episode in ultimate Gilmore Girls fashion. This means you'll need to learn the Gilmore Girls movie-watching rules, gather supplies by buying all the right snacks, and train your stomach for a smorgasbord of epic proportions. Here are my tips to make your watch party the most successful. 

P.S.: Before we get started.....#TeamJess.

1) Movie Watching Rules
To make things easy, I'm just going to let Lorelai explain it for me. 

2) Snacks
You may be thinking that this is the easy bit, but that is far from the case. Snacks are almost as important as the episodes themselves. Snacks will be there to fortify you when you are weak from laughter or tears (RIP Richard Gilmore) or both. Snacks will be there for you when you get jittery from all the coffee you'll be drinking. Snacks will be there for you when the final episode fades to black, probably with a pan away shot of the girls sitting in Luke's diner drinking coffee, and you need something to hold. Now, when the time comes, do you want to be left cuddling up to a Necco wafer or do you want a Mallomar? Do you want to bite into a bran muffin or do you want an iced donut? Stick with me and take notes. 

A) Pizza.
No Gilmore Girls movie night is complete without pizza. Slather it in whatever toppings you want, just make sure you have some.

B) Red Vines
I don't care if you grew up in a Twizzlers house. The Gilmore's favored Red Vines and, for the purposes of this revival, you will, too. 

C) Pastries
This can take many different forms. A cherry danish, an iced donut, or a Pop-Tart (because they taste like "freedom and rebellion and independence"). Whichever vehicle of baked deliciousness you choose, you can't go wrong. (Though, just to be safe, maybe throw in one apple. Okay?)

Looks like a well-rounded meal to me (: 

Looks like a well-rounded meal to me (: 

And finally, in the words of Lorelai Gilmore, "if there's any impulse buying, make it chocolate."

3) Coffee
I don't think I even need to say it, but...drink some coffee. Tea, you say? Sure, mix it in with the coffee. I repeat: coffee coffee coffee.

4) Prepare for the Pain
After all of that eating and crying and coffee drinking and laughing, you will be feeling the pain. It will hurt. You will likely resemble Lorelai and Rory after they had not two, not three, but FOUR Thanksgiving dinners in a single day. That doesn't matter. You know why? Because Gilmore Girls style living isn't for the faint of heart. 

There you have it. What you need to have a Gilmore Girls marathon that Lorelai and Rory would be proud of. Let me know if I missed anything important in the comments and tell me about how you plan to enjoy the revival of what could very well be the greatest television show to ever grace our eye-holes. Here's to hoping the next twenty-one days fly by!

Oy with the poodles already,


P.S.: Check out the Rory Gilmore Reading List where I list all 339 books referenced on Gilmore Girls. I'm currently making my way through the list, so any books not italicized or in bold are game for Christmas presents! (: ALSO, I will be taking note of every book referenced in the new episodes, so be on the lookout for that post at the end of November.

Books I Loved as a Kid

If you're here on my blog, then you must know how deeply I love books. For as long as I can remember, reading has been important to me. My parents read to me when I was unable to do so for myself. And as soon as I learned to read and write, I devoured everything I could get my hands on and even wrote my own little stories. In fifth grade, I checked out and read 100 books from the school library. This love of reading wasn't something I was born with, though. Rather, I learned to love reading by reading a lot of books and finding the ones that sparked my imagination. Frank Serafini said, "there is no such thing as a child who hates to read; there are only children who have not found the right book." I believe this to be absolutely true, so I thought I'd share the books that were right for me in the hopes that someone reading this will be encouraged to find their own right books or will share some of these books with a child who is still developing their love of reading. 

1) Love, Ruby Lavender by Deborah Wiles

This was the first book I remember staying up all night under the covers to read. I could not put it down. Ruby Lavender is a nine-year-old girl who has a very special relationship with her grandmother, Miss Eula. The two loaded a getaway car full of chickens from a slaughterhouse and rescued them, painted Miss Eula's house entirely pink, and write each other daily letters that they exchange by stuffing them into the knot hole of a silver maple. When Miss Eula leaves for the summer to go to Hawaii to meet her new grandchild, Ruby is certain she will have the most boring summer ever in Halleluia, Mississippi. However, a reluctant Ruby makes a new friend, saves the school play, and finally learns to stop blaming herself for her grandfather's death. 

2) Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder

I read all of the Little House on the Prairie books multiple times throughout elementary school. I still have vivid pictures in my head of scenes from On the Banks of Plum Creek. The Little House books are based on the childhood of Laura Ingalls Wilder growing up in the northern Midwest during the 1870s and 80s. The stories are all about life during the time period and the way Laura and her close-knit family survived through every good and bad time. It may sound dull, but reading these books was a magical experience.

3) Bunnicula: A Rabbit-Tale of Mystery by James Howe

There are seven books in the Bunnicula series, which follows the story of three family pets: a dog, Harold; a cat, Chester; and a vampire bunny who sucks the juice out of vegetables, Bunnicula. The family found the bunny in a movie theater where they'd gone to watch the movie Dracula, hence the name Bunnicula. Soon after Bunnicula arrives in the home, however, the family cat, Chester, becomes convinced Bunnicula is a blood thirsty vampire and begs Harold to help him save the family from the perceived threat. The books were hilarious, endearing, and ever so slightly spooky. I read the first book in the series, Bunnicula, at least five times during elementary school. 

4) Soon Be Free (Steal Away Home series) by Lois Ruby

Soon Be Free is actually the second book in the Steal Away Home series, though I don't think I actually ever read the first book. However, I remember reading Soon Be Free countless times. The story follows thirteen-year-old Dana Shannon from Lawrence, Kansas as she tries to discover the secrets her family's bed and breakfast (once a stop on the underground railroad) and two shady guests are hiding. Alternate chapters follow the story of James Baylor, a thirteen-year-old boy from 1857, as he tries to fulfill the promise he made to a runaway slave, Lizbeth, before her death. The story is a historical mystery that captivated my imagination while teaching me a thing or two about the underground railroad. Not a bad combination.

5) The Winter of Red Snow: The Revolutionary War Diary of Abigail Jane Stewart, Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, 1777 (Dear America series) by Kristiana Gregory

"In her beloved diary, eleven-year-old Abigail Jane Stewart chronicles the despair and the hope of the winter of 1777 and 1778, when she witnesses the struggles of George Washington and his soldiers on the fields of Valley Forge." The Dear America series of books have stories from every conceivable time period that were written to engage young readers, while also teaching them about different moments in history. I know I read several of these books, but The Winter of Red Snow has stuck with me. 

6) The Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket

I don't know a single person my age who didn't read at least one of these books, so I'm not going to go into much detail. However, I will say that the woes of Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire, while quite woeful, were immensely entertaining to this young reader. Also, if you haven't already heard, let me be the first to inform you that Netflix is currently working on adapting these books into a series starring Neil Patrick Harris as Count Olaf, and I can barely contain my excitement. 

7) Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan

Esperanza lives on a beautiful ranch in Mexico where she wears extravagant dresses and has servants to wait on her. However, when tragedy strikes, Esperanza and her mother are forced to flee to California during the Great Depression and live in a camp for Mexican farm workers. Esperanza now faces a life of hard labor, financial struggles, and a lack of acceptance, but she must find a way to rise above her circumstances to save her own life and the life of her mother. 

8) Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes by Coerr and Himler

"Two-year-old Sadako Sasaki was living in Hiroshima when the atom bomb was dropped. Sadly, ten years later, she was diagnosed with leukemia, also known as "atom bomb disease."

There is a Japanese legend that says that if a sick person folds 1,000 paper cranes, the gods will make her well again. Sadako spent long hours in bed, folding those paper cranes, and never giving up that hope. When Sadako had folded six hundred and forty-four cranes, and they hung above her bed on strings, her classmates folded the rest.

Today there is a memorial in Hiroshima Peace Park dedicated to Sadako. Children come there and leave the paper cranes they make in her honor. Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes is based on a true story."

9) Surviving the Applewhites by Stephanie Tolan

I remember my teacher reading this book to the class and being almost devastated when reading time was over. Sitting in a circle and hearing this story was my favorite part of the day. Jake Semple is a notorious trouble-maker. He has been kicked out of every school around, and the only one left that will take him is a home school run by the Applewhites, an eccentric family of artists. With both of his parents in jail, Jake must learn to embrace the Applewhites and himself or risk being kicked out of yet another school.

10) The Man Who Loved Clowns by June Rae Wood

"Delrita likes being invisible. If no one notices her, then no one will notice her uncle Punky either. Punky is a grown man with a child's mind. Delrita loves him dearly and can't stand people making fun of his Down's syndrome. But when tragedy strikes, Delrita's quiet life—and Punky's—are disrupted forever. Can she finally learn to trust others, for her own sake and Punky's? This story captures the joy and sorrow that come when we open our hearts to love." 

What books did you fall in love with as a kid? Do you still re-read them as an adult? Let me know in the comments!

Happy Reading,


8 New Books to Cozy Up With this Fall

Fall is the magical time each year when the world goes gold and all of your favorite drinks come hot and covered in cinnamon. It is also the time of year when staying indoors with a good book is more appealing than ever. So, grab your favorite blanket, a spot next to the window, and a cup of hot chocolate because here are eight novels you can't miss this Fall. 

1) Here I am - Jonathan Safran Foer (Sept. 6)
"Unfolding over four tumultuous weeks, in present-day Washington, D.C., Here I Am is the story of a fracturing family in a moment of crisis. As Jacob and Julia and their three sons are forced to confront the distances between the lives they think they want and the lives they are living, a catastrophic earthquake sets in motion a quickly escalating conflict in the Middle East. At stake is the very meaning of home--and the fundamental question of how much life one can bear."

2) Another Place You've Never Been - Rebecca Kauffman (Sept. 13)
"In her mid-thirties and living in Buffalo, NY (where she is originally from), Tracy spends most days at the restaurant where she works as a hostess, despite her aspirations of a career that would make use of her creative talents. Tracy’s life is explored not only though her own personal point of view, but also through the viewpoints of other characters, wherein Tracy may only make a peripheral appearance or even emerge at different periods in her life.

Kauffman subtly exposes the lives of these characters—alongside the presences of spiritually mysterious Native American figures that appear throughout—and gradually reveals the true purposes of both as their paths intersect."

3) The Lesser Bohemians - Eimear McBride (Sept. 20)
"Upon her arrival in London, an 18-year-old Irish girl begins anew as a drama student, with all the hopes of any young actress searching for the fame she’s always dreamed of. She struggles to fit in—she’s young and unexotic, a naive new girl—but soon she forges friendships and finds a place for herself in the big city.

Then she meets an attractive older man. He’s an established actor, 20 years older, and the inevitable clamorous relationship that ensues is one that will change her forever.

A redemptive, captivating story of passion and innocence set across the bedsits of mid-1990s London, McBride holds new love under her fierce gaze, giving us all a chance to remember what it’s like to fall hard for another."

4) The Angel of History - Rabih Alameddine (Oct. 4)
"Set over the course of one night in the waiting room of a psych clinic, The Angel of History follows Yemeni-born poet Jacob as he revisits the events of his life, from his maternal upbringing in an Egyptian whorehouse to his adolescence under the aegis of his wealthy father and his life as a gay Arab man in San Francisco at the height of AIDS. Hovered over by the presence of alluring, sassy Satan who taunts Jacob to remember his painful past and dour, frigid Death who urges him to forget and give up on life, Jacob is also attended to by 14 saints. Set in Cairo and Beirut; Sana'a, Stockholm, and San Francisco; Alameddine gives us a charged philosophical portrait of a brilliant mind in crisis. This is a profound, philosophical and hilariously winning story of the war between memory and oblivion we wrestle with every day of our lives."

5) The Wangs Vs. The World - Jade Chang (Oct. 4)
"Outrageously funny and full of charm, this debut novel is an entirely fresh look at what it means to belong in America—and how going from glorious riches to (still name-brand) rags brings one family together in a way that money never could."

6) The Mothers - Brit Bennett (Oct. 11)
"It is the last season of high school life for Nadia Turner, a rebellious, grief-stricken, seventeen-year-old beauty. Mourning her own mother’s recent suicide, she takes up with the local pastor’s son. Luke Sheppard is twenty-one, a former football star whose injury has reduced him to waiting tables at a diner. They are young; it’s not serious. But the pregnancy that results from this teen romance—and the subsequent cover-up—will have an impact that goes far beyond their youth. As Nadia hides her secret from everyone, including Aubrey, her God-fearing best friend, the years move quickly. Soon, Nadia, Luke, and Aubrey are full-fledged adults and still living in debt to the choices they made that one seaside summer, caught in a love triangle they must carefully maneuver, and dogged by the constant, nagging question: What if they had chosen differently? The possibilities of the road not taken are a relentless haunt."

7) Him, Me, Muhammad Ali - Randa Jarrar (Oct. 11)
"Bouncing between Cairo, New York, Palestine, Sydney, and Istanbul, these stories explore the worlds of ‘accidental transients’ or displaced people. There’s a complicated relationship between a distinguished Egyptian feminist and her lackey, an emerging writer. A little girl is kidnapped in a toy store and raised by a tribe of women. Zelwa the Halfie is part human, part ibex, and considering surgery. This book is tender, caustic, and wise at all the right moments."

8) The Terranauts - T. C. Boyle (Oct. 25)
"From master storyteller T.C. Boyle, a hilarious, incisive deep-dive into human behavior through the eyes of eight young Terranauts, four men and four women voluntarily sealed inside a glass enclosure designed to serve as a prototype for a possible off-earth colony, who become entangled in much more than the game of survival."

Let me know which of these books you are most excited for in the comments below!

Happy Reading,


Musical Fuel

Nothing inspires me to write more than hearing the perfect song. So, I always keep a few songs in my back pocket for those inevitable days where the words just won't flow. This past week, these have been the songs that helped me power through my long days of writing. Some of them remind me of characters in my story, others just make me feel good. Either way, I hope they can help you, too.

1) Mountaintop by Relient K (from their newest album Air For Free)

2) Runaway by The National

3) Freak by Lana Del Rey 

4) Tiger Striped Sky by Roo Panes

5) Whistle for the Choir by The Fratellis

Happy Listening,


Miscarriage: The Missing Stair

“It is a curious thing, the death of a loved one. We all know that our time in this world is limited, and that eventually all of us will end up underneath some sheet, never to wake up. And yet it is always a surprise when it happens to someone we know. It is like walking up the stairs to your bedroom in the dark, and thinking there is one more stair than there is. Your foot falls down, through the air, and there is a sickly moment of dark surprise as you try and readjust the way you thought of things.” - Lemony Snicket

Two weeks ago, I thought there was one more stair than there really was. You see, I was pregnant. I’d been pregnant for exactly 8 weeks. I had the “What to Expect” app downloaded on my phone—it sent me an update every week on what was happening to my body and to the teeny tiny sweet pea-sized body inside of me—and my jeans had starting getting too tight. Normally, this would be a cause for concern, but under the circumstances, I was thrilled. Then, I noticed some blood. Normally, this wouldn’t be a cause for concern, but under the circumstances, I was terrified. 

I called the doctor, they scheduled an ultrasound, and things didn’t go according to plan. The plan was that I’d go to the doctor, they’d do an ultrasound, I’d see a healthy sweet pea, and my husband and I would go celebrate our first-time parent freak out with steaks and ice cream. Instead, the doctor told me she didn’t see anything. 

It wasn’t until later that I learned what a Blighted Ovum was, or that it was the cause of almost half of all miscarriages. It occurs when a chromosomal problem causes an embryo to never develop or to stop developing and be absorbed by the gestational sac.

At the time, all I could think about was how swiftly our future had changed. After four weeks of excitement and anxiety and more excitement, the last stair had been ripped out from under my feet. I was left with all of the things I wouldn’t get to do for this baby. We wouldn’t get to announce how excited we were for their arrival, or find out their gender, or have a baby shower. In fact, I was left with the truth that there may not have been any baby at all. I could have spent eight weeks nurturing an empty sac. 

As reality settled in, though, my pragmatic side took over. I thought of all the things I’d done to take care of this baby. Months of prenatal vitamins, too many spinach and cucumber salads to count, humid walks in the middle of a Houston summer, and avoiding lunch meat, regardless of how badly I was craving a Jimmy John’s sandwich. I realized I hadn’t done anything to cause this. It was a cruel twist of fate that so many couples go through, a mis-numbering of chromosomes that didn’t allow for life. I took comfort in knowing I’d done my best to be a good mom for the short time I was one.

The true discomfort came when I began to feel like I couldn’t talk about the life-altering event we’d been through. People announce happy things: engagements, marriages, career moves, babies. No one wants to hear the sad, yet commonplace, story of my miscarriage, I thought. I felt alone, more alone than I think I’ve ever felt in my life. In this isolation, I realized how badly I wanted to know someone else’s story. Statistics told me 20% of pregnancies ended in miscarriage, but my Facebook feed told me everyone else was having successful pregnancies. I didn’t want to be a dark cloud over everyone else’s happiness.

Then, two nights ago, I had a dream I was holding a baby. I loved this baby so much. I kept staring at his little face and holding him in my arms, and even though the dream didn’t explicitly say so, I knew he was mine. I wanted so badly to take care of him, but I realized I didn’t have a car seat or diapers or a bottle or a blanket. I didn’t have anything necessary to take care of him and, even though I was surrounded by people, no one would help me. I started to cry and I held the baby close to my face and told him I was sorry. I was sorry I couldn’t take care of him the way I was supposed to. Sorry he had such a rotten mom. Then, I woke up, my arms folded across my chest like I was cradling a tiny baby. 

After that dream, I knew I had to share my story. I didn’t want to be one of those people from my dream who stood by and did nothing to help. I didn’t want to stay quiet and let someone else feel as alone as I had felt. Miscarriages happen so often, yet people don’t talk about them. In fact, we avoid announcing a pregnancy too early in case a miscarriage does occur. I understand the need for private grief and emotional healing, but I also understand the need for community. 

So, this isn’t because I want sympathy. I realize my story is commonplace, and I know many people have stories much worse than mine. Instead, this is for anyone who is going through or has gone through the loss of a pregnancy, to let them know they aren’t alone. To let them know they can talk about their story if they need to. A miscarriage doesn’t have to be a secret thing. Your baby doesn’t have to be a secret.

Thanks for listening, and sorry if I was a dark cloud.


The Beauty of a Half-Finished Book


Summer is my favorite time to read books. To be clear, I love to read books every month of the year, but staying inside with a book on a blisteringly hot summer day is magic to me. (Because I hate summer. Sweaty hands wrinkle book pages. That's reason enough for me.) However, for all of my good intentions, I've finished very few books so far this summer. In fact, I currently have five different books half-finished and one I'm currently reading (The Girls by Emma Cline).

Every time I glance at my stack of current reads a cold chill of shame runs down my spine. I'm a book reviewer and a writer…I shouldn't half-finish books. I begin to berate myself, calling myself a failure. What if I'm a poser? What if I don't like to read as much as I say I do? On and on the spiral continues.

Whenever I find myself in this endless shame spiral, I have to remind myself of one thing: Reading is fun.

Or, it should be, right? I maintain that the reason most people claim they don't like to read is because they had a bad experience with one book. So many kids in school are forced to read The Scarlet Letter or some other equally old and dry novel (no offense, Hester Prynne), and decide reading isn't for them. To anyone for whom this rings true, I say this: Have you seen how many different genres there are? Romance, mystery, western, science fiction, poetry, comic books, true crime, biographies, historical fiction, non-fiction. The list goes on. There truly is something out there for everyone.

Maybe you don't know what genre you like. Well, may the half-finished books you start and abandon pave the pathway to your favorite book. Or maybe you do know what genre you like, but you stumble upon a truly awful writer or a cliché plot or stereotypical characters. CLOSE THE BOOK! Why waste your precious time consuming something unenjoyable? This isn't work or school. Reading is supposed to be a hobby.

Perhaps, like me, you have a quality novel between your hands, but your current mindset is making it impossible to dive fully in. Again, put the book down! Many a good book has been ruined because it was read at the wrong time. Wait until your heart is in it. Try it again later and you may be able to add a new book to your favorites list (this is what happened with me and The Book Thief).

Basically, life is short. We are all going to die and my To Be Read list is already way too long for me to ever complete. So, I plan to waste very little time reading books I don't enjoy.

Who knows, maybe one day I'll come back to some of the books I half-finished and, with a little time and space, find them to be much more enjoyable. Or maybe they'll sit on my shelf collecting dust forever, reminding me that sometimes it's okay to quit.

Do you have any half-finished books? What books have you never been able to get through? Let me know in the comments!

As my novel reading struggle continues, I may begin posting short story reviews or do a weekly poetry round-up, as I'm on a quest to increase my knowledge and familiarity with poetry. Let me know if you'd be interested and what short stories/poems are your favorites!


Happy Reading (or quitting!!),