Sunday, January 29, 2017

Life: It Goes On - January 29

Sorry to use this space as a counseling session, but I'm down folks, I'm really down. I'm having to force myself to do anything and having a hard time finding joy. The backlash against the Women's March really took me by surprise. I get that people may not agree with all of the things that people marched for or with some of the women who spoke. But I do not understand how people can blanket attack everyone who marched, knowing that my family marched, knowing that I will read what's been posted. They've essentially attacked me without taking the time to ask me why it was important enough for me to step out of my comfort zone and participate. The one family member who did address us directly called us "idiots," destroying what was left of my relationship with that person. That makes me sad. And now, I believe my hour is up. Thanks for letting me vent! Moving on...

Victoria Woodhull
This Week I'm:

Listening To: I'm about two-thirds of the way through The Emperor's Children and still enjoying it. When I've been working out, I've been listening to podcasts including The History Chicks talking about Elizabeth Keckley (who I first learned about in Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker) and Victoria Woodhull, the first woman to run for U. S. President.

Watching: Oh my lord, we are (slowly!) switching from cable t.v. to streaming t.v. which has meant no television for part of a couple of nights. We did manage to work in a couple of episodes of Orange Is The New Black and I caught a tribute to Debbie Reynolds Friday night which meant that I got to watch Singin' In The Rain and The Unsinkable Molly Brown [insert heart emoji!]

Reading: Still plugging away on Victoria: The Queen by Julia Baird which is fascinating but so packed with information about the queen and her family, the political scene during her reign, and history of the time that it is slow going. When I finish it, I will catch up with the PBS series "Victoria" and I may well need to have a rewatch of "Young Victoria" starring Emily Blount.

Making: Chef's salad, tosadas, baked chicken and homemade rolls, chicken noodle soup. It was a week to make use of what we had on hand.

Planning: Some home improvements because wedding. Nothing like a big event to get you to do the things around your house you've been wanting to get done. New kitchen sink and faucet, new kitchen hardware and some painting on the first floor are first up.

Thinking About: Ways to continue to support the resistance without allowing it to get me so down.

Enjoying: An evening out with some of our oldest friends. Politics were mostly not allowed. Except that I did find out that my friend's eighty+ year old mother had marched which warmed my heart! Lots of talk about their four-month-old granddaughter was allowed!

Feeling: See above.

Looking forward to: Finally catching up with Game of Thrones, since we now have HBO.

Question of the week: Feminism - what do you think about the way this word is viewed? I'm really planning on upping my feminist reading this year, which is to say any book about women who step out of traditional female roles.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

On The Sickle's Edge by Neville D. Frankel

On The Sickle's Edge by Neville D. Frankel
Published January 2017 by Dialogos
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher and TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review

Publisher's Summary:
A sweeping masterwork of love and loss, secrets and survival, On the Sickle’s Edge is told through the voices of three characters who lay bare their family’s saga: the endearing, scrappy South-African born Lena, transported to Latvia and later trapped in the USSR; her granddaughter Darya, a true Communist whose growing disillusionment with Soviet ideology places her family at mortal risk; and Steven, a painter from Boston who inadvertently stumbles into the tangled web of his family’s past. Against the roiling backdrop of twentieth-century Russia and Eastern Europe, the novel delivers equal parts historical drama, political thriller and poignant love story.

My Thoughts:
When the ladies at TLC Book Tours sent me an email about upcoming tours a couple of months ago, the buzz worlds for this book were: Jewish literature; interest in Eastern Europe, Latvia, Russian Empire, Bolshevik Revolution, Stalinist era, Soviet-era life and politics, Moscow. So. Many. Interesting. Things!

When the book arrived, I began to have some doubts. I know, I know, I'm not supposed to judge a book by its cover. But I could not understand what that cover had to do with a book about Russia, for one thing.  And it made me wonder if this was going to be a very religious book, not exactly what I was expecting. Eventually, I came to understand why the cover shows a woman looking at a giant work of art; it's an integral part of Lena's story.

The book opens with Steven lying in wait outside a dacha, with a gun. We won't know why for several hundred pages because we almost immediately start Lena's story. Frankel moves along at a good pace explaining how a Jewish Russian family came to be living in South Africa (hint: the Tsar's men were involved and the Jews weren't much liked - surprise!) when Lena was born and why some of them returned to Russia, leaving two of Lena's brothers behind. But life for Jews in Russia was, unbelievably, even harder for those who returned and the family had to make a life saving decision that would have ramifications through the next two generations.

Lena just becomes a more and more interesting character as the book progresses, passionate about her family, resilient, fierce and fearless. In her life she loses brothers, a sister, a husband, a child. Which makes her all the more determined to do things the right way when her granddaughter, Darya, is placed in her custody. Much to Lena's dismay, Darya becomes a perfect little Soviet citizen which lead her to fall under the spell of a man who will cause long held secrets to be revealed and put the entire family in grave danger.

Just as I'd suspected from that initial email, there was so much to learn in this book about the history of Jews in Russia, the evolution of Russia into the Soviet Union and back again, life in the Soviet Union for average citizens. I couldn't help but wonder throughout just how much of the novel was based on Frankel's family's own history. Did that painting hold some special place for his family? Did they get separated by a revolution, a religion, and continents as the Shteins did? And how many other Jewish families were torn apart in this way?

Thanks to the ladies at TLC Book Tours for including me in this tour! For other opinions about this book, check out the full tour here.

About Neville D. Frankel 

Born in Johannesburg, South Africa, Neville Frankel immigrated to Boston with his family when he was 14. After graduating from Dartmouth College, he pursued doctoral work in English literature at the University of Toronto. While in Canada, he wrote The Third Power, a well-reviewed political thriller about the transformation of Rhodesia to Zimbabwe. He also received an Emmy for his work on a BBC documentary, The Mind of a Murderer: Part 1. In 2005 he returned to South Africa for the first time in 38 years. Over the next decade he went back several more times, researching what would become Bloodlines. He has recently completed work on his newest novel On the Sickle’s Edge, set in 20th-century Eastern Europe, South Africa and the United States.

Neville is a 2013 Jewish Book Council Author and has participated in speaking engagements around the country. A highlight of his Bloodlines book tour was addressing the Board of South Africa Partners and the South African Ambassador to the United States. When he’s not writing, Frankel works as a financial planner. He also has a keen passion for painting. Frankel has three grown children and lives outside Boston with his wife Marlene.

Find out more about Neville at his website and connect with him on Facebook.

Purchase Link: Di├ílogos Books 

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Life: It Goes On - January 22

For me, as with many of you, this was a tough week. I generally try to keep this blog free of politics but it's been tough in the past few weeks to stay quiet. I cannot remain quiet about a man who, in his inauguration speech, painted this country as the blackest hole in the world. Yesterday I watched a lot of the Women's March on Washington on the Facebook Live feed; they kept me inspired and kept this homebody convinced to leave the house and join the march here. I'm proud to say that Miss H and The Big Guy joined me (and Mini-him would have joined us but had to work late). Our crowd, in this red state, wasn't anything like the big cities but we did have 18,000 people (15,000 more than was expected) marching through downtown Omaha on a Saturday night, carrying signs, chanting and coming together to inspire each other to continue to make their voices heard to their elected officials. It made my heart

This Week I'm:

Listening To: I'm about a third of the way through The Emperor's Children and enjoying it but it is starting, sort of, to remind me of The Interestings in that it is about a group of people living in NYC where not much, so far at least, is happening.

Watching: Several episodes of "Orange Is The New Black," a couple of episodes of "Longmire," football and college basketball (of course), and the season (series???) finale of "Sherlock." Damn, that was twisty greatness! Oh, and Kate McKinnon as Kellyann Conway as Roxie Hart. Hilarious!

Reading: Reading? What's reading? Yeah, I know I'm meant to be participating in a readathon but it is so not happening. Not even on my unexpected day off from work due to an ice storm on Monday when I spent the entire day watching "Orange Is The New Black." I don't know why I can't make myself read right now. And I have so many great books lined up to read!

Making: Chicken noodle casserole, stir fry, Cuban sandwiches, pork roast, chicken salad - yeah, I cooked a lot of chicken and a pork roast last weekend and we used it in all kinds of ways this week.

Planning: On getting my hair colored today. Holy crap, does it need it!

Thinking About: Too many things. I can't (see Reading) concentrate on any one thing for any length of time.

Enjoying: That extra day off this week. It's the first time my company has EVER closed down. Since none of us had to go anywhere, I was able to enjoy how beautiful the ice was. I even slid down the lawn to take some pictures.

Feeling: Empowered.

Looking forward to: The Big Guy's birthday this coming weekend. Family dinner will be involved - I wonder if we can FaceTime eat with Mini-me and Miss S while we do that?!

Question of the week: Please give me your best tip to get me out of my reading slump!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

A Winter's Respite #Readathon

Michelle, of Seasons of Reading, a.k.a. the queen of readathons, is once again hosting A Winter's Respite Readathon. This winter the readathon lasts two weeks. An excuse to read as much as I possibly can for the next two weeks! I'm starting off with On The Sickle's Edge, which I hope to finish in the next couple of days. Then it's on to Aravind Araga's Selection Day, followed by Julia Baird's Victoria: The Queen. C'mon, it's the depths of winter now - you know you'd love nothing more than to curl up in your cozy reading spot and reading for the next couple of weeks!

Monday, January 16, 2017

Shrill: Notes From A Loud Woman by Lindy West

Shrill: Notes From A Loud Woman by Lindy West
Published May 2016 by Hatchette Books
Source: purchased for my Nook

Publisher's Summary:
Coming of age in a culture that demands women be as small, quiet, and compliant as possible--like a porcelain dove that will also have sex with you--writer and humorist Lindy West quickly discovered that she was anything but.

From a painfully shy childhood in which she tried, unsuccessfully, to hide her big body and even bigger opinions; to her public war with stand-up comedians over rape jokes; to her struggle to convince herself, and then the world, that fat people have value; to her accidental activism and never-ending battle royale with Internet trolls, Lindy narrates her life with a blend of humor and pathos that manages to make a trip to the abortion clinic funny and wring tears out of a story about diarrhea.

With inimitable good humor, vulnerability, and boundless charm, Lindy boldly shares how to survive in a world where not all stories are created equal and not all bodies are treated with equal respect, and how to weather hatred, loneliness, harassment, and loss, and walk away laughing. Shrill provocatively dissects what it means to become self-aware the hard way, to go from wanting to be silent and invisible to earning a living defending the silenced in all caps.

My Thoughts:
Last year I kicked off the year with some Caitlyn Moran. It felt like the perfect way to start the year; and, I must say, it kind of inspired me to be more vocal, to make my voice heard. If we are Facebook friends, you may have gotten quite tired of it. I decided starting the year with feminism again would be a good idea.

Do you know Lindy West? West has been very active on the internet and has even appeared a couple of times on one of my favorite radio programs, This American Life. But I had never heard of her. Which may have been a good thing going into this book. I had no preconceived notions nor did I have any idea that so much of it was going to resonate so strongly with me.
"...when you're a fat person, you can't hide your vulnerability, because you are it and it is you. Being fat is like walking around with a sandwich board that says, "HERE'S WHERE TO HURT ME!"
West put into words so much of what I've felt in my life. She spent most of her life feeling bad about her weight, being made to feel bad about her weight. And then she started to get mad.
"America's monomaniacal fixation on female thinness isn't a distant is a constant, pervasive taint that warps every single woman's life. When you raise every woman to believe that we are insignificant, that we are broken, that we are sick, that the only cure is starvation and restraint and smallness; when you pit women against one another, keep us shackled by shame and hunger, obsessing over our flaws rather than our power and potential; when you leverage all of that to save our money and our time - that moves the rudder of the world. It steers humanity toward conservatism and walls and the narrow interests of men, and it keeps us adrift in waters where women's safety and humanity are secondary to men's pleasure and convenience."
West is angry about the world treating women as second-class citizens. I mean, she uses A LOT of caps! But she is also extremely funny, and vulnerable (in the good way!), and honest. It's not a perfect book; as with all collections, some pieces are stronger than others. But I loved this book; it gave me all of the feels. Plus, I'm really pissed these days about the way our culture  treats the most vulnerable of its citizens but West gives me hope knowing that there are loud women out there fighting the good fight.
"My little victories - trolls [the internet variety], rape jokes, fat people's humanity - are world-building. Fighting for diverse voices is world-building. Proclaiming the inherent value of fat people is world-building. Believing rape victims is world-building. Voting is world-building. So is kindness, compassion, listening, making space, saying yes, saying no. We're all building our world, right now, in real time. Let's build it better."

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Life: It Goes On - January 15

We've spent much of the past two days prepping to be icebound and possibly without power. Whenever I'm this prepared, it generally means that not much will happen. An unplanned day off of work could mean a day curled up with a book, which would be nice. But it might also mean I'm doing it by candlelight in a house that has no heat, except for what the fireplace can put out.

It will be what it will be, I guess. We're well stocked with junk food, propane for the grill so that we can still cook, batteries are in the flashlights and I've brought out plenty of candles. Just don't let the power go out until we're done watching football and tonight's episode of "Sherlock!"

This Week I'm:

Listening To: Show tunes on Spotify, The History Chicks and Reading Women for podcasts, and I started Claire Messud's The Emperor's Children, which is marvelously read by Suzanne Toren.

Watching: Football (of course), the weather forecasts (incessantly) and The Great British Bake Off. That last comes on Saturday mornings, after the other shows we enjoy end, and the past couple of weeks it's featured the two experts making the recipes they've challenged the contestants with. They spend a lot of time explaining the how-to's and why's of the recipes and I've been busily printing off recipes for the things they've been making.

Reading: Major oops this week! I was meant to have posted, on Tuesday, a review for On The Sickle's Edge. But, this being January, I had not gotten my sh*^ together yet about what needed to be done when so I didn't even notice that I did not receive the book. Until Wednesday. Yesterday when I looked to see when I was meant to review it, I was a little surprised. Quick email off to Trish at TLC Book Tours and I've been plopped down reading it when I haven't been doing storm prep. Review this week!

Making: Pork roast, beef stroganoff, bean enchiladas, ginger snaps. Cold weather stuff.

Planning: See above.

Thinking About: Ways to resist. Pretty sure I will join the March on Washington's sister march in Omaha next weekend.

Enjoying: Entirely too many hours of Two Dots. I may need to remove it from my phone. It's seriously impacting my reading time.

Feeling: Better now that I finally have my 2017 bullet journal up and running. I didn't realize exactly how much I had come to depend on it to keep me on task.  

Looking forward to: The Green Bay Packers game today.

Question of the week: For those of you who've been snowed (or iced) in before, what's the one thing you absolutely have to stock up on before it hits to keep you sane throughout?

Thursday, January 12, 2017

My Happiness Project - January

Last year I chose, for my one word, the word "happier" to be my focus. Other than putting out little notes, listening to "Happier" podcasts, and spending months reading Gretchen Rubin's The Happiness Project, I didn't actually do much to make myself happier. But when I finally raced to finish the book, I was inspired to put together my own happiness project.

I've spent hours in the past week thinking about what I wanted my resolutions to be for the coming year, one a month. I'm not entirely set for the entire year but I'm most of the way there and solid on the first six months of the year. The biggest problem so far? Once I decided what my resolution would be for each month, I really want to put all of them into effect right away. But I know from experience that I can't try to change everything at once. So, one thing at a time. I hope you don't mind coming along on the journey with me. Rubin's podcast has taught me that I need to be accountable to someone in order to be successful. Each month, I'll be sharing my resolution for the month, along with the things I'll be doing that month to make it happen.

For January, my resolution is to "Get More Energy." Exactly how am I going to make that happen?

  • Get more sleep - I'm trying to make sure I'm getting 7 hours of sleep during the week, but I'm a night owl so this is a tough one for me. Eights on the weekends is the goal and if that doesn't work, I'm planning to make time for a nap.
  • Get moving - I sit at work and I can often find that I haven't gotten out of my chair in a two or three hours. I'm working to make sure that I'm getting up at least every hour, even if it's just to get copies or to grab a file.
  • Act more energetic - this one's a little harder to define but I'm thinking it will mean things like dancing while I'm making supper, talking myself into doing some cleaning even though I'm really tired and just want to sit down at the end of the day...that kind of thing.
  • Drink more water - I'm a soda girl. I love me some Diet Coke. But it's not good for you and water is. A lot more water than I usually drink, especially in the winter when cold beverages aren't necessary what I want. But I'm also dehydrated all winter, so...
  • Eat better - specifically eat more fruits and vegetables. Starting with taking a piece of fruit every day for lunch, more salads, making sure we having vegetables with every dinner.
  • Schedule appointments - I'm long overdue for a visit to the doctor and the eye doctor but I hate to take the time to go in. Gotta make that happen. 
To remind myself to stick with it, every month I'm adding the month's resolution and actions to my monthly tracker in my bullet journal. You'll notice that I've also included my word for 2017 on this page as well. For January, the actions are the same since they all also contribute to a healthier heart.

What would you do to add more energy to your life?

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer
Published April 2013 by Penguin Publishing Group
Source: I bought both an audio and hardcover edition, as one does

Publisher's Summary:
The summer that Nixon resigns, six teenagers at a summer camp for the arts become inseparable. Decades later the bond remains powerful, but so much else has changed. In The Interestings, Wolitzer follows these characters from the height of youth through middle age, as their talents, fortunes, and degrees of satisfaction diverge.

The kind of creativity that is rewarded at age fifteen is not always enough to propel someone through life at age thirty; not everyone can sustain, in adulthood, what seemed so special in adolescence. Jules Jacobson, an aspiring comic actress, eventually resigns herself to a more practical occupation and lifestyle. Her friend Jonah, a gifted musician, stops playing the guitar and becomes an engineer. But Ethan and Ash, Jules’s now-married best friends, become shockingly successful—true to their initial artistic dreams, with the wealth and access that allow those dreams to keep expanding. The friendships endure and even prosper, but also underscore the differences in their fates, in what their talents have become and the shapes their lives have taken.

My Thoughts:
In 2013, The Interestings showed up a lot of end-of-year best-of lists. You won't see it on my best-of list at the end of this year. Which is not to say that I didn't like a lot about the book, I did. And there's a lot about it the strives to be great. But, for me, it just feel short of that in too many places.

In the beginning of the book, I was all in; I was fourteen when Jules and Ash, Kathy and Goodman, Jonah and Ethan were all fourteen. When Julie (who became Jules as soon as she became one of the group) finds herself suddenly a part of the "cool kids group," I knew exactly how she felt, out of place, afraid to say the wrong thing and be discovered for the interloper she was, thrilled that they found her witty, came to call her the funny one.

But life is hard, bad things happen and our dreams don't always come true. As Jules will learn, like the Rolling Stones sing "you can't always get what you want, but if you try sometime, you just might find, you get what you need." For Jules, getting there is a long journey and, as this is largely a novel that revolves around her, its a decades long journey we're on with her.

Wolitzer has made it clear that she thinks male writers get cut a lot of slack and she wants people to know that women can write great, sprawling novels every bit as well as men can. Maybe that's what she was going for her. The Interestings does span decades. It tackles a lot of tough subjects: rape, homosexuality, drug abuse and alcoholism, mental illness, autism, feminism, life passions, friendship, marriage, AIDS, truth and secrets. So much of it is handled so well.

So why didn't it knock my socks off?

Maybe because, as Jules' husband says at one point, The Interestings weren't as interesting as I thought they were going to be. They just felt a little...flat, with only flashes of deeper emotions. I really wanted to care more about them as adults than I did (although there were definitely times when I became more involved).

Some the problem had to do with the structure of the book. Two of the group largely disappear relatively early on. Another seems to flit along the periphery. Their stories almost seem to interrupt the flow of the other characters' stories, rather than add to them. And maybe there was just too much telling and not enough showing.

Then again, Wolitzer has certainly crafted a book that should make a wonderful book for book club discussions (at least, I'm hoping so, since my book club will be discussing it next week). What happens to people who's dreams don't come true? When do you give up on them? Who do you owe a greater allegiance to - your parents or your spouse?

Is it perfect? Not for me. But it's a book worth reading, if only to make you wish for that group of friends you would be friends with for life. It will make you think and ask questions.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Life: It Goes On - January 8

Hmmm, what did I do this week that's even worth talking about today? I'm hard pressed to come up with much; I've been something of a hermit, in no small part thanks to a brief bitter cold spell. I have spent a lot of time this week thinking about the coming year, starting the hard work on getting my body where I want it to be, and putting my money where my mouth is.

I've about finished up the details of my own Happiness Project, inspired by Gretchen Rubin's Happiness Project and her Happier podcast. I'm already working on January's resolutions, working on my theme for the month of Energy (totally stole this one from Rubin). Once I've got everything in place, I'll share more. Honestly, just thinking about what I want to do in the coming months has me thinking about the way I do (or don't do) some things now. I'm surprised about how much this all ties both my one word for 2016 (happier) in with my one word for 2017 (heart).

This Week I'm:

Listening To: I finished Meg Wolitzer's The Interestings on Friday and I'm looking forward to talking about it with my book club next week. A lot of lists had it as one of the best books of 2013; I'm not sure I'd include it on a "best of list" but it certainly has a lot for book clubs to talk about. Tomorrow I'll start Claire Messud's The Emperor's Children, which I picked up based on JoAnn (Lakeside Musings) high praise (she named it as her favorite fiction book of 2016).

While I've been working out, I've been listening to the playlist Spotify put together for me, my Top Songs of 2016.

Watching: All the football I can watch while I still have it, college basketball (our favorite teams both had a great week!), and the season (finally!) of Sherlock on PBS.

Reading: So much time, so little reading. I've been preoccupied with other things. But I am LOVING Lindy West's Shrill. I find myself thinking about things she's said throughout my days and talking about it with my hubby.

Making: Potato soup, cheese fondue, baked chicken with peanut sauce, pancakes and eggs. Today I'm going to put together a menu for the coming week so I can get meats precooked where possible.

Planning: I've been doing a bullet journal for the past six months in a makeshift binder and love the flexibility of it and having everything in one place. For Christmas, The Big Guy gave me a Moleskin journal so I can amp up my journal game. I spent a good part of yesterday thinking about what worked for me in the journal I've been keeping, looking at ideas I'd like to try,  planning how to set up the new journal. Today I may actually, finally, write something in it!

Thinking About: Mini-me's and Miss S's wedding - less than six months away! Because they are doing the wedding and a wedding dinner on one day in one town and a reception for the next day in another town, their wedding presents a unique set of logistics to be tackled. Having so much fun working with them and my mom (my parents are hosting the wedding dinner) to make sure the weekend is everything they want it to be. Save The Dates went out this week!

Enjoying: Helping Miss H house/dog sit for my sister this week. Sorry, sis, but we may have gotten into your bar one night but the dogs made us do it!

Feeling: Inspired on so many levels.

Looking forward to: More of the same this week. It's that quiet time of year and I must admit to really liking the slow pace (although not the cold that accounts for a lot of it!).

Question of the week:  What's your favorite "winter" food or drink?

Thursday, January 5, 2017

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

The Happiness Project: Or Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun by Gretchen Rubin
Published December 2009 by HarperCollins Publishers
Source: bought this one

Publisher's Summary:
Gretchen Rubin had an epiphany one rainy afternoon in the unlikeliest of places: a city bus. “The days are long, but the years are short,” she realized. “Time is passing, and I’m not focusing enough on the things that really matter.” In that moment, she decided to dedicate a year to her happiness project.

In this lively and compelling account, Rubin chronicles her adventures during the twelve months she spent test-driving the wisdom of the ages, current scientific research, and lessons from popular culture about how to be happier. Among other things, she found that novelty and challenge are powerful sources of happiness; that money can help buy happiness, when spent wisely; that outer order contributes to inner calm; and that the very smallest of changes can make the biggest difference.

My Thoughts:
Well, who wouldn't want to add more happiness in their life, even those who already feel pretty darn happy?

Apparently me for the first six years after this book was published. In my defense, I'm not much of a "self-help" reader and the idea that you could make yourself happier by reading Aristotle didn't necessarily pull me in. But when I found an inexpensive copy, I picked it up anyway and when I decided to make the word "happier" my word for 2016, I put the book on my nightstand. Where it languished for months as I read a few pages every once in a while until I decided that I had to finish it in 2016.

*Note to anyone who has not already read this book and might be interested: do not drag out the reading of this book for six or nine months. Rubin hits you with a lot of stuff early on that will come up again and again throughout the book and you will not be able to remember it if you take to long to read the book. Trust me on this one.

**Second note to anyone who has not already read this book and might be interested: use a highlighter, dog-ear pages, take notes, use sticky notes...whatever it takes to help you reference back to things as you read and, even more importantly, find them again if you decide, as I have, that you want to give your own happiness project a go.

I'm not necessarily a fan of self-help books. I think the last one I read and felt like I learned usable information from was Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus, which was published before the turn of the century (that's not really that long ago, but it sounds like it, doesn't it?). The Happiness Project does not succumb to the pitfalls that so many self-help books do.

Rubin does not purport to have discovered the magic one-size-fits-all solution to living a happy life. As she writes about her own happiness project, Rubin also gives readers the framework on which they might build their own project but she is clear throughout that everyone's project will be unique and needs to be catered to their own interests and goals. In fact, her number one commandment for herself was "Be Gretchen." In other words, while it's a good idea to challenge yourself and learn new things, if you try to be someone you're not, you won't succeed long term.

A lot of research went into The Happiness Project (seriously, who would have thought there would be so many books about happiness?) so while Rubin may not be a so-called "expert" on the subject, she kind of is. But because she is self-deprecating, shares her failures as well as her successes, and admits, in the end, makes her ideas more appealing for me than someone who purports to have all of the answers.

Which is why I'm currently working on setting up my own happiness project. Because, even though "happier" is no longer "my" word, this is a project that ties in perfectly with my word for 2017, "heart."

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

2017 Challenges

Remember when I used to sign up for 10-13 challenges at the beginning of every year? Yeah, that's not happening any more. I'm listening to my daddy, who long ago reminded me that reading is something I love and he didn't want to see it become a chore I no longer loved.

A couple of the challenges I've enjoyed the past couple of years don't appear to be running this year. I'm okay with the Women challenge; I don't really seem to need that push to read books by women. But I am disappointed not to be able to find a one year nonfiction reading challenge for 2017. I suppose I could run one but this is going to be a busy year for me and I don't have time to add anything more to my responsibilities. I'll set up my own individual challenge, simply as a reminder that I own a lot of great nonfiction books I'm wanting to get read.

I've added a couple of new-to-me challenges, both for fun and to push myself to read the books that need to be read. I looked at a couple of others but, even though I know that point is to challenge yourself, I don't want to add to much challenge to my life.

2017 Monthly Motif Reading Challenge
For this challenge, each month is assigned a motif or theme. Your challenge is to read one book per month that fits in with the assigned motifs…
 JANUARY – Diversify Your Reading Kick the reading year off right and shake things up. Read a book with a character (or written by an author) of a race, religion, or sexual orientation other than your own.
FEBRUARY – Undercover Thriller Read a book involving spies, detectives, private investigators, or a character in disguise.
MARCH – Time Traveler Read a book set in a different dimension, a book in which time travel is involved or a dystopian or science fiction book where reality looks very different than what we’re used to.
APRIL – Award Winners Read a book that has won a literary award or a book written by an author who has been recognized in the bookish community.
MAY – Book to Movie or Audio Read a book that has a movie based off of it. For an extra challenge, see the movie or listen to the audio book as well.
JUNE – Destination Unknown Read a book in which the character(s) take a trip, travel somewhere, go on a quest, or find themselves on a journey toward something.
JULY – Believe the Unbelievable This month it’s all about fantasy. Epic fantasy, urban fantasy, fairytales, magic, etc.
 AUGUST – Seasons, Elements, and Weather Read a book in which the season, the elements, or the weather plays a role in the story.
SEPTEMBER – Creepy, Chilling, & Frightful Cozy mystery ghost stories, paranormal hauntings, murder mysteries, weird and scary creatures- it’s up to you!
OCTOBER– Games, Challenges, & Contests Read a book that involves a game of some sort. Video games, war games, psychological mess-with-your-mind games, characters who participate in a contest, or a story in which the character takes on a challenge.
NOVEMBER – Last Chance Read a book you’ve been meaning to get to all year but haven’t yet or read the last book in a series you started.
DECEMBER – Picking Favorites Read a book by one of your favorite authors or read a book that Girlxoxo has recommended this year.


It's time again for #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks, a TBR reading effort. Why not a challenge? Because how many challenges bog us down? Not this one!

You make the rules Be as hardcore (or not) as you want We're a community to support you, not chastize you Define your own damn goals or don't. Vow not to buy books, or whatever. This event is really that loosey goosey. You know your stacks and your challenge agility better than we do.

There will be a link-up here so you can share your progress posted on the final day of every month!

Foodies Read 2017
There is no link up yet for this challenge. My goal with this one is to read my cookbooks this year. Pointless to have them if you forget what's in them, right?

Netgalley and Edelweiss Reading Challenge

Challenge Guidelines
The challenge will run from Jan 1, 2017 – Dec 31, 2017. Anyone is welcome to join. You do not need to be a blogger, just post your reviews and come back every month to link them up. Any genre, release date, request date, length, etc. counts so long as it came from Edelweiss or Netgalley. At the beginning of each month there will be a roundup post for you to add your reviews. If you forget to link up one month it’s not a problem just add your reviews next month. If you would like to move up or down levels that is completely fine and at your discretion. If you have any questions tweet me @BookishThings or e-mail! Hashtag: #NGEW2017 Levels Bronze – 10 Books Silver – 25 Books Gold – 50 Books Platinum – 75 Books Diamond – 100 Books

Monday, January 2, 2017

One Word - 2017

Sheila, of Book Journey, has invited everyone to again choose a word for the year. In 2013 she found this site that suggested choosing one word to live your new year by rather than setting resolutions. In 2014 I saw a man named Jon Gordon talk about doing this and I was as enthused about it as Sheila was the year before.

In 2014, I picked the word "self." And then I forgot all about it (kind of like those resolutions I previously picked). It was a good word and it was a shame I didn't follow up with it. I didn't even think about a word for 2015. Maybe because 2014 was a bust? Last year, I picked the word "happier." I did a better job with it, helped by the little notes I put up all over with the word on it. Still, I wish I had done better and vowed that I really needed to choose a word this year that is perfect for what I want from myself this year, one that can really be a driving goal.

I probably considered 20 different words for 2017, thinking of the way they would apply to me, looking at their dictionary definitions. I looked at other people's words for the past few years. I thought about exactly what my goals are. I have to get some (a lot) of weight off, I need to eat better, I want to reduce stress - all of which improve my physical well being, especially my heart health. As soon as I thought of it that way, I knew what my word for 2017 would be - "heart."

1. Anatomy. a hollow, pumplike organ of blood circulation
2. the center of the total personality, especially with reference to intuition, feeling, or emotion
3. the center of emotion, especially as contrasted to the head as the center of the intellect
4. capacity for sympathy; feeling; affection
5. spirit, courage, or enthusiasm
6. the innermost or central part of anything

1. after one's own heart, in keeping with one's taste or preference
2. at heart, in reality; fundamentally; basically
3. break someone's heart, to cause someone great disappointment or sorrow
4. by heart, by memory; word-for-word
5. cross one's heart, to maintain the truth of one's statement; affirm one's integrity
6. do someone's heart good, to give happiness or pleasure to; delight
7. to have sorrow or longing dominate one's emotions; grieve inconsolably

"Heart" suits me for 2017 for the physical reasons but it also suits me for it's other meanings. I want my heart to be the center of my personality and I want it to guide me to show my feelings in more concrete ways. I want to live with spirit, courage, and enthusiasm. I want to do the things that do my heart good, that give me pleasure and happiness.

I have a goal this year, a wedding in six months. It's important to me that this celebration of the heart be my focus in taking care of my own heart in 2017.

Are you picking one word for 2017? If so, what is your word?

Sunday, January 1, 2017

The First Book of the Year 2017

Sheila, of Book Journey, is once again hosting First Book Of The Year, asking readers to share what will be the first book they read in 2017.  This is always a tough choice, but even more so when I think about sharing it with you. Not like you wouldn't have figured it out anyway (duh, sidebar). I'm not sure how much the first book I read in a year really sets the tone for my reading year (although I did open 2016 with a nonfiction book and it did serve as a good kickstart on remembering to  read more nonfiction last year. I spent a good part of an evening last week considering my choice. I knew I wanted it to be fairly short (although I have every intention of pushing myself to read big books this year) and I decided I liked the idea of kicking off the year with nonfiction again. This is also the year that my bookclub's theme includes the word "feminism." I just so happen to own the perfect book to fit all of those requirements.

This year's first book is...drumroll, please...

Lindy West's Shrill! Because this is the year I want to get loud and make my voice heard.