Saturday, November 28, 2020

2020 #ThankfullyReading Weekend Kick-Off!

2020 #ThankfullyReading Weekend Kick-Off!

How will/did you celebrate Thanksgiving? We didn't really celebrate this year, for which I am thankful. I like the idea of family and friends getting together, but am uncomfortable with calling it Thanksgiving and celebrating a checkered part of our country's history. But, I understand that it is tradition so do not begrudge those that celebrated. We did have a lovely dinner with my parents and daughter. My dinner was Indian take away, which was delicious!

What’s in your TBR pile for the weekend? I already finished Happiness for Beginners by Katherine Center and have have begun Color Me In by Natasha Diaz.

How much time do you think you’ll have for reading? I'll have a decent amount of time to read, but will definitely also take time to go for walks and watch the Great British Baking Show's most recent season. And, I always do print as I am someone who needs to see the words.

I hope everyone is having a lovely weekend with time to be with family or friends (that live with you, please!) and time to relax and read.

Friday, November 27, 2020

Review: Happiness for Beginners by Katherine Center

Title: Happiness for Beginners

Author: Katherine Center

Year Published: 2015

Category: Adult fiction (romance, adventure)
Pages: 320
Rating: 5 out of 5

Location (my 2020 Google Reading map)USA (WY)

FTC Disclosure: I bought this book with my own money

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): Helen Carpenter can’t quite seem to bounce back. Newly divorced at thirty-two, her life has fallen apart beyond her ability to put it together again. So when her annoying younger brother, Duncan, convinces her to sign up for a hardcore wilderness survival course in the backwoods of Wyoming―she hopes it’ll be exactly what she needs.

Instead, it’s a disaster. It’s nothing like she wants, or expects, or anticipates. She doesn’t anticipate the surprise summer blizzard, for example―or the blisters, or the rutting elk, or the mean pack of sorority girls. And she especially doesn’t anticipate that her annoying brother’s even-more-annoying best friend, Jake, will show up for the exact same course―and distract her, derail her, and . . . kiss her.

But it turns out sometimes disaster can teach you exactly the things you need to learn. Like how to keep going, even when you think you can’t. How being scared can make you brave. And how sometimes getting really, really lost is your only hope of getting found.

Happiness for Beginners is Katherine Center at her most heart-warming, captivating best―a nourishing, page-turning, up-all-night read about how to get back up. It’s a story that looks at how our struggles lead us to our strengths. How love is always worth it. And how the more good things we look for, the more we find.
 
Review: I am quickly learning that I will enjoy any Katherine Center book. I love that feeling. I have previously read Things You Save in a Fire, How to Walk Away, and What You Wish For, which were all good. I tagged Center in a tweet after finishing What You Wish For because there were 3 things in it that related to me: a character named Helen, a store called Murdoch's, the author went to Vassar (where my daughter attends). Center tweeted back that Helen has her own novel called Happiness for Beginners so, of course, I immediately got myself a copy.

I think this is my favorite of Center's books. There is romance, adventure, family drama, personal angst, and it moves along quickly. I finished this book in 2 days and loved every minute of it.

Center's writing style works for me, I like her characters (even the ones I wouldn't like in real life) and her stories are about real life. There is nothing that I can't picture happening or feelings I cannot imagine having, and her romances are always sweet. The world could do with sweet after the year we've all had.

So, if you'd like to get swept up in a well-told story about taking time to figure out what characters really want in life, this novel will sit well with you.

Challenges for which this counts: 

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Thankfully Reading Weekend 2020


I am going to once again join in the Thankfully Reading Weekend (November 26 to 29, 2020) since I have the time and an excuse to read more (and work on some reading challenges) sounds like an appealing idea. Want to join in? Here's the scoop from Jenn, the organizer:

Just what is this Thankfully Reading Weekend I speak of? Here are the details:

"There are no rules to the weekend, we’re simply hoping to devote a good amount of time to reading, and perhaps meeting some of our reading challenges and goals for the year. We thought it’d be fun if we cheered each other on a bit. If you think you can join in, grab the button  and add your sign up post to the link-up below. If you don’t have a blog, you can sign up the comments or sign up using a link to your Twitter account or Facebook page, or Instagram account!

Want to host a challenge? Email me directly at jennsbookshelf@gmail.com.

We’ll also be checking in on Twitter and Instagram using hashtag #thankfullyreading. Join in for the weekend or for only a single day. No rules, no pressure!"

YA Review: Darius the Great Deserves Better by Adib Khorram

Title: Darius the Great Deserves Better

Author: Adib Khorram

Year Published: 2020

Category: YA fiction (LGBTQ)
Pages: 352
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location (my 2020 Google Reading map)USA (OR)

FTC Disclosure: I bought this book with my own money

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): Darius Kellner is having a bit of a year. Since his trip to Iran, a lot has changed. He's getting along with his dad, and his best friend Sohrab is only a Skype call away. Between his first boyfriend, Landon, varsity soccer practices, and an internship at his favorite tea shop, things are falling into place.

Then, of course, everything changes. Darius's grandmothers are in town for a long visit, and Darius can't tell whether they even like him. The internship is not going according to plan, Sohrab isn't answering Darius's calls, and Dad is far away on business. And Darius is sure he really likes Landon . . . but he's also been hanging out with Chip Cusumano, former bully and current soccer teammate--and well, maybe he's not so sure about anything after all.

Darius was just starting to feel okay, like he finally knew what it meant to be Darius Kellner. But maybe okay isn't good enough. Maybe Darius deserves better. 
 
Review: I was pleased to see that a second Darius book had come out a few months ago, but somehow it has sat on my TBR shelf since then. I am glad I finally read it because I really enjoyed the first book, Darius the Great is Not Okay.

It took me a bit to get into this book, but I think that was poor timing on my part. I started it the day I drove to Los Angeles (2 hours away) to pick up my daughter at the airport so I wasn't really focused on reading. And I read less when my daughter is home. But, today I devoted time to this book and finished most of it over just a few hours. It was nice to read about Darius again.

Darius is in a better place in this book having come out to himself and his family, he's playing soccer, he's found a new best friend, a boyfriend, and a job that he likes at a tea shop. The tea. It's a big deal in this book. They make tea, drink tea, sell tea, do tea tastings, and more. I'm not a tea drinker, but it almost made me want to be.

Mental health plays an important role in this book as it did in the first and it is handled with care and respect. The characters acknowledge the depression, talk to one another about it, and handle it the best they can in the moment. Darius also talks about sex (is he ready? Does he want it?), friendship, dating, bullying, helping his little sister, and his ability to doubt himself. 

This book isn't plot driven and normally that would bother me, but Darius is a character that I like spending time with and seeing him figure life out is a great read.

Challenges for which this counts: 

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Gratitude... 2020


I am not a big Thanksgiving celebrator. We don't have family in this country so have never traveled to gather, though when I was a kid we took in all the graduate students from my dad's university department that had nowhere to go. And I have issues celebrating holiday based on a falsified history. And this year, well, we all know that this year is different. 

There will be four of us (my mom and dad, me, and my daughter) in our house this year, a first in a long time since my daughter's college sent them home already. But, mom and dad are getting a Thanksgiving take out from their favorite restaurant and my daughter and I (vegetarians) are making a Moroccan couscous with vegetables dish. And, we're eating separately because, since my daughter just traveled last Friday, we're isolating form one another. We got Covid tests today, but won't have results until the weekend. 

All that aside, this is a time of year that I turn inward and take time to be thankful and grateful for the people and things that I have in my life.

  • Family. Though only four of us are together this year and the rest of my family is thousands of miles away in the UK and Austria, I am thankful for all of them. I appreciate that I share a home with my parents and daughter, that we all get along and are fortunate to be together when so many others cannot be.
  • Health. My mother's surgery went well last Thursday and she came home today (Tuesday). I am working out and eating better, am down 40 pounds, and feel good. Again, we are fortunate to live in a town with excellent health care facilities and medical professionals at all levels.
  • Work. Yes, work. Even though it's frustrating and tiring, especially during a pandemic, I appreciate that I have a job I like with benefits and decent pay that I can do from home during this crazy time.
  • Friends. I appreciate my friends that live here in town as well as those that are farther away in this country and abroad.
  • Santa Barbara. Yes, my town. We live nestled between the ocean and the mountains, and have fantastic weather almost all year round. What more could I ask for.
  • Streaming. What would I do without streaming (probably read more). I appreciate the fantastic shows that help me escape from reality. 
  • Books and the blogging community. I appreciate that I have a fantastic local indie bookshop, that I can afford to buy the books I want, that I can read, and that I can share all of that with others who love books and reading and sharing as much as I do. So, I leave you with a photo from ten (!) years ago when I was only a year into this blogging gig. A few bloggers came to Santa Barbara for lunch. Do you recognize yourself or others?