Monthly Archives: February 2018

February 2018 Books

February 28, 2018

I had a pretty good reading month in February! Happy to say that with 15 books under my belt, I’m on track with my goal to read 100 books in 2018.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by JK Rowling

rating: 5 stars | Amazon

The plot:

Ever since Harry Potter had come home for the summer, the Dursleys had been so mean and hideous that all Harry wanted was to get back to the Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry. But just as he’s packing his bags, Harry receives a warning from a strange, impish creature who says that if Harry returns to Hogwarts, disaster will strike.

And strike it does. For in Harry’s second year at Hogwarts, fresh torments and horrors arise, including an outrageously stuck-up new professor and a spirit who haunts the girls’ bathroom. But then the real trouble begins — someone is turning Hogwarts students to stone. Could it be Draco Malfoy, a more poisonous rival than ever? Could it possibly be Hagrid, whose mysterious past is finally told? Or could it be the one everyone at Hogwarts most suspects…Harry Potter himself!

My thoughts:

It’s hard for me to be objective about Harry Potter since it feels so much a part of the fabric of my life,  but I’m gonna try. This book is a bit darker than the first, but it’s also more entertaining. There’s Polyjuice Potion, a monster in the walls, and a dragon. In all my attempts at recent rereads I haven’t made it past this one, so I’m excited to make that happen this time.

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

rating: 5 stars | Amazon

The plot:

Madeline is a force to be reckoned with. She’s funny and biting, passionate, she remembers everything and forgives no one. Her ex-husband and his yogi new wife have moved into her beloved beachside community, and their daughter is in the same kindergarten class as Madeline’s youngest.

Celeste is the kind of beautiful woman who makes the world stop and stare. While she may seem a bit flustered at times, who wouldn’t be, with those rambunctious twin boys? Now that the boys are starting school, Celeste and her husband look set to become the king and queen of the school parent body. But royalty often comes at a price, and Celeste is grappling with how much more she is willing to pay.

New to town, single mom Jane is so young that another mother mistakes her for the nanny. Jane is sad beyond her years and harbors secret doubts about her son. But why? While Madeline and Celeste soon take Jane under their wing, none of them realizes how the arrival of Jane and her inscrutable little boy will affect them all.

Big Little Lies is a brilliant take on ex-husbands and second wives, mothers and daughters, schoolyard scandal, and the dangerous little lies we tell ourselves just to survive.

My thoughts:

Nearly a year ago, I was on my way to the airport with a one way ticket to LA and this book in my overflowing, too-heavy carry on. I decided to leave it behind in my dad’s car and figured I’d get to read it another time. I picked it up when I went home in October and I finally read it! I loved it. It’s dramatic and dark and slightly unbelievable – a really great, juicy book. If you’ve read it, which is better: the book or the tv show? I still haven’t watched the show, though a few weeks ago I happened to work out at one of the filming locations! (That’s LA life, I guess.)

Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong

rating: 3 stars | Amazon

The plot:

Freshly disengaged from her fiancé and feeling that life has not turned out quite the way she planned, thirty-year-old Ruth quits her job, leaves town and arrives at her parents’ home to find that situation more complicated than she’d realized. Her father, a prominent history professor, is losing his memory and is only erratically lucid. Ruth’s mother, meanwhile, is lucidly erratic. But as Ruth’s father’s condition intensifies, the comedy in her situation takes hold, gently transforming her all her grief.

My thoughts:

I had high hopes for this one – set in Los Angeles – but they weren’t quite met. Some of the writing was beautiful, and the plot points kept making me think after I put the book down. But I just never felt connected to Ruth, the main character, and that proved to be a setback for me. It was a quick read, and I’m glad I borrowed it from the library.

The Self-Love Experiment by Shannon Kaiser

rating: 3 stars | Amazon

The plot:

Too many people seem to believe that they are not allowed to put themselves first or go after their own dreams out of fear of being selfish or sacrificing others’ needs. The Self-Love Experiment rectifies this problem. Whether you want to achieve weight loss, land your dream job, find your soul mate, or get out of debt, it all comes back to self-love and accepting yourself first. Shannon Kaiser learned the secrets to loving herself, finding purpose, and living a passion-filled life after recovering from eating disorders, drug addictions, corporate burnout, and depression.

My thoughts:

This book is a little “woo-woo” but I really liked its main message, which is that we absolutely need to treat ourselves with love. Most days I do the exact opposite, and it doesn’t feel good. This was an encouraging and motivating reminder to treat myself like my own best friend. I borrowed it from a friend, which I was glad for.

After You by Jojo Moyes

rating: 4 stars | Amazon

The plot:

Louisa Clark is no longer just an ordinary girl living an ordinary life. After the transformative six months spent with Will Traynor, she is struggling without him. When an extraordinary accident forces Lou to return home to her family, she can’t help but feel she’s right back where she started.

Her body heals, but Lou herself knows that she needs to be kick-started back to life. Which is how she ends up in a church basement with the members of the Moving On support group, who share insights, laughter, frustrations, and terrible cookies. They will also lead her to the strong, capable Sam Fielding—the paramedic, whose business is life and death, and the one man who might be able to understand her. Then a figure from Will’s past appears and hijacks all her plans, propelling her into a very different future.

My thoughts:

I got this one from the library after realizing that my Book of the Month selection, Still Me, was the third in the Me Before You trilogy. I liked this one a lot more than I expected to, given that everyone seemed to dislike it. I didn’t think this book was necessary but it was a nice easy read, and I’m excited to see where the characters end up in the next book.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

rating: 4 stars | Amazon

The plot:

In the year 2045, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he’s jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade’s devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world’s digital confines—puzzles that are based on their creator’s obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them. But when Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade’s going to survive, he’ll have to win—and confront the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.

My thoughts:

The book club I started a few months ago really wanted to read this. To be honest with you, I was kind of dreading it – video games aren’t my thing, and when I’d seen the author speak at my college a few years back (actually like 6 now, which feels like so long ago) I wasn’t super interested in the book. But I’m happy to report that this book did catch my attention. I’m genuinely looking forward to the movie now to see what they’ve done with it.

The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin

rating: 3 stars | Amazon

The plot:

During her multibook investigation into understanding human nature, Gretchen Rubin realized that by asking the seemingly dry question “How do I respond to expectations?” we gain explosive self-knowledge. She discovered that based on their answer, people fit into Four Tendencies: Upholders, Questioners, Obligers, and Rebels. Our Tendency shapes every aspect of our behavior, so using this framework allows us to make better decisions, meet deadlines, suffer less stress, and engage more effectively.

My thoughts:

I listen to her podcast Happier each week and so I had heard much of this information before, but it was nice to have it all in one place. I’m a Questioner, and she says that Questioners like to give information on a need-to-know basis, which is me to a T. It made me feel a bit better about that personality quirk, actually! I’d recommend this if you’re interested in personality types or learning about how other people’s brains work. I was definitely glad I got it from the library.

Molly’s Game by Molly Bloom

rating: 3 stars | Amazon

The plot:

When Molly Bloom was a little girl in a small Colorado town, she dreamed of a life without rules and limits, a life where she didn’t have to measure up to anyone or anything—where she could become whatever she wanted. She ultimately got more than she could have ever bargained for.

In Molly’s Game, she takes you through her adventures running an exclusive high-stakes private poker game catering to such clients as Hollywood royalty like Leonardo DiCaprio and Ben Affleck, athletes, billionaires, politicians, and financial titans. With rich detail, Molly describes a world of glamour, privilege, and secrecy in which she made millions, lived the high life, and fearlessly took on the Russian and Italian mobs—until she met the one adversary she could not outsmart: the United States government. It’s the story of how a determined woman gained—and then lost—her place at the table, and of everything she learned about poker, love, and life in the process.

My thoughts:

I read this for the Popsugar Challenge requirement of “a book made into a movie you’ve already seen.” This is one of the rare cases where I felt like the movie was better. The writing wasn’t great in the book (and I found a few typos) but the story is still really engaging. Yet another book that I’m glad I got for free.

In total this month:

Total number of books: eight
Number of fiction books: five
Number of nonfiction books: three
Books by people who are not white dudes: seven
Total number of books this year: fifteen

Top Ten Books of 2017

February 26, 2018

This post is massively overdue, but I figure better late than never. In no particular order, here are ten of my favorite books I read in 2017:

THE SUN AND OTHER STARS by Brigid Pasulka //

I loved this one because it feels like a book with a massive heart. It’s set on the Italian Riveria and the setting plays a really big role. It’s about a teenage boy named Etto whose twin and mother die within a few months of each other, leaving Etto and his father to awkwardly dance around each other as they try to figure out a new normal. Etto doesn’t like soccer, the Italian national passion, and that just leaves him feeling more and more alone. It deals with grief, but at the risk of sounding cheesy, it’s really beautiful.

YOUNG JANE YOUNG by Gabrielle Zevin // 

I love this one because of the narrative structure and the sassy characters. It’s about a congressional intern in her early 20s named Aviva who sleeps with her married boss, and the lasting affect that affair has on her life. She leaves her town, changes her name, and starts anew. I liked that it dealt with the roles women play and the roles that are assigned to them. It’s funny and inspiring, and I would absolutely read a sequel if one ever existed.

THE SONG OF ACHILLES by Madeline Miller //

This reimagining of The Iliad from the perspective of Patroclus, Achilles’ closest companion and by Miller’s account, his one true love. I haven’t actually read The Iliad but I did take many years of Latin in high school, and it was nice to return to Greek mythology. This tugged at my heartstrings and felt like a punch in the gut all at once.

CASTLE OF WATER by Dane Hucklebridge //

I bought this one after after seeing it all over Instagram, and happily it did not disappoint. If we were going to rank this list, this would probably be at the top. I feel like the less you know about this one going into it the better, but the premise is this: two people, both as different as two people can be, are the sole survivors of a plane crash on a tiny island in the middle of the South Pacific. The last person I lent this book to said it made them cry their eyes out, so make of that what you will.

BORN A CRIME by Trevor Noah //

This is Trevor Noah’s biography, and I loved it so much. I listened to the audiobook of this one, which Noah reads himself, and the voices he does for his family are hilarious. This is a hard story about his hard stories growing up in South Africa as a mixed-race child from a forbidden relationship under apartheid, and it taught me a lot.

BROOKLYN by Colm Toibin //

I read this right before I moved cross country, and it was perfect timing. Eilis is a young woman who leaves her small town in Ireland to move to New York for a job and the hope of a better life. It’s a classic immigrant story, but it had special resonance with me because she was Irish and because I read about her struggles at such a pivotal time in my life.


I have this thing where I like to buy books who have main characters with the same name as me. Eleanor has zero social skills, thrives on regulation, and hates most of the people in her office. She doesn’t fit in, and she spends her weekends with a bottle of vodka. This book is sad and also laugh out loud funny, and there were times I didn’t know where it was going. It redeems itself, and if you’re up for some hard scenes, it’s a good one.


I think this is another book that benefits from not knowing much about it beforehand. I liked it for its depictions of different types of mothering, life in a picture perfect suburb in Ohio, and rebellious teenagers. We read it for our January 2018 book club meeting, and it was universally loved.

THE NIGHTINGALE by Kristin Hannah //

I’ve read more World War II books than I can count, but this was one of my favorites. It tells the story of two sisters living in France, and the different days they deal with and confront the war. It’s genuinely one of my favorite books I’ve ever read, and it has stuck with me.

THE GOOD DAUGHTER by Karin Slaughter //

I didn’t plan for these to go together, but this book also tells the story of two sisters, both of them stuck in a modern-day tragedy of their own. 28 years ago, they were attacked at gunpoint in an incident that left their mom dead, their dad devastated, and the girls dealing with tortured memories for the rest of their lives. The majority of the book takes place in the present day, when they’re forced to deal with another tragedy. There’s a court case that reminds me a bit of Jodi Picoult novels. There are absolutely dark parts in this, and it was hard to read at times. I’d read it with caution, but if you can handle darker themes I’d recommend it.

What was your favorite book you read in recent months?

Currently || February 2018

February 7, 2018

Anne at In Residence hosts a linkup on the first Wednesday of every month and invites readers to share a few things they’re up to currently, so I’m joining in!

finishing | marathon training. or starting to finish it, really. The marathon is March 18 so we’re really at the tail end of the training plan. I wish I’d kept a weekly or even monthly log of training recaps on the blog, though I guess it’s never too late to start now. I sprained my ankle 2 weeks ago so that’s thrown a wrench into things, but that’s a whole other story.

subscribing | to all the podcasts! I tend to listen in binges. Favorites right now are Happier in Hollywood, By the Book, and The Popcast.

wishlisting | this tote (in the black and white geo pattern) that I am hoping to buy one of these days. Budgeting is hard (but worth it).

watching | The Good Place! I’m thinking of starting This is Us but I’ve never watched it so I’d need to start from the beginning and I’m not sure I’m ready for that kind of commitment right now.

hearting | that (non-filtered) view above from this morning’s workout. Love it so much.

2017 in Review

February 5, 2018

Overall, 2017 was a really great year for me. I turned 24, moved across the country, and started a whole new life. It was the defining kind of year that I’m sure I’ll remember for years to come. Here’s a quick-fire, bullet point look back at the year for me.

January 2017

  • celebrated New Year’s in Vermont with my cousin
  • started my first round of Whole 30
  • met my puppy, Gracie
  • went to Washington DC with my mom, sister, and our exchange student

February 2017

  • the Patriots won the Super Bowl!
  • went to the Patriots parade and then got a terrible cold
  • started a short-term weekend job in the birth certificate department of a hospital
  • it snowed a lot
  • read a lot of books
  • continued to work on my novel in my writing class

March 2017

  • turned 24!
  • my friends threw me a surprise birthday party
  • officially bought my one way ticket to LA!
  • worked at a film festival
  • kept reading lots of books
  • saw Bastille in concert!

April 2017

  • moved to LA!
  • signed a lease for my very first apartment
  • went furniture shopping and spent a lot of money getting settled
  • explored a lot on my own
  • felt lonely at times and let it be okay
  • interviewed for 3 jobs and spent a lot of time on job applications
  • went to the LA Times Festival of Books

May 2017

  • joined November Project LAX!
  • went to a Dodgers game
  • got a California drivers’ license and bought a car
  • started my first real adult job!!!
  • went running a lot, spent lots of time outdoors

June 2017

  • went to Tijuana, Mexico with my coworker!
  • kept going to November Project and started to feel a bit more at home there
  • kept exploring LA
  • went to the beach a few times

July 2017

  • celebrated the 4th of July with an outdoor showing of Jurassic Park
  • got probably the worst sunburn of my entire life at the beach
  • got tickets to a pre-release screening of Dunkirk, which made me feel very Los Angeles
  • started reading more books again
  • went to Harry Potter World (twice!!)
  • went to a workout at the Hollywood Bowl

August 2017

  • did a second round of Whole 30
  • saw Bebe Rexha in concert
  • started hanging out more with people from November Project!
  • went to my coworker’s wedding
  • went to Disneyland!
  • saw David Cook in concert at the Troubadour

September 2017

  • went to San Francisco to visit my friend Mallory!
  • Ran a 10k, went to Disneyland, and went to a Dodgers game – all in one day
  • The very next day, ran a 5k and then went BACK to Disneyland
  • Saw Arizona at the Troubadour
  • went on an overnight running/camping adventure in Joshua Tree
  • fell and rolled my ankle during said overnight adventure
  • saw Niall Horan in concert at the Palladium
  • saw Harry Styles in concert at the Greek
  • went to Las Vegas spur of the moment to the iHeart Radio Music Festival
  • saw Bleachers in concert at the Fonda
  • read a lot of books

October 2017

  • had my first weekend work event
  • got a tattoo for the first time!
  • went to Phoenix, AZ for a Harry Styles concert
  • saw MUNA in concert at the Fonda
  • saw HAIM in concert at the Greek
  • went to We Can Survive at the Hollywood Bowl, where I saw Niall Horan and Harry Styles again
  • went to bed at 2 am that night and woke up at 5 am to go run a 5k with my friend Bri and people from November Project
  • went home to Boston
  • my best friend got married! A bunch of us stayed at the hotel that night and it was the most fun ever
  • flew back to LA on Halloween afternoon

November 2017

  • hibernated a lot – didn’t go too many places or do too much after the whirlwind of the last two months
  • ran a 10k and got a personal best
  • adventured with new friends
  • celebrated thanksgiving at my friend Liz’s house
  • wore a different outfit every day of the month for No Repeat November – and then never wrote a blog post on it! Whoops

December 2017

  • got a half marathon PR!
  • saw John Mulaney and laughed so hard my stomach hurt
  • saw Lady Bird, one of my favorite films of 2017
  • went to Disneyland with people from work
  • saw Cam in concert at the Troubadour
  • got sick 🙁
  • my family came to visit!
  • went to Harry Potter World, Warner Bros Studio Tour (super super cool), Santa Barbara, San Diego, and a lot more
  • spent Christmas in Santa Monica riding bikes on the beach
  • ended the year in an AirBnb in San Diego, asleep before midnight

So there it is: 2017 in 108 boxes. Between the palm trees and sunset pictures, there’s been a lot of heartache and worry and anxiety. There’s also been a lot of joy and discovery and independence. It was a good year.

January 2018 Books

February 3, 2018

I read 7 books in January! Not as many as I would’ve liked, but it was a hectic month. There are Amazon links to the books in this post, but they’re not affiliate links because I don’t know how to do that.

White Fur by Jardine Libaire

rating: 4 stars | amazon

The plot:
When Elise Perez meets Jamey Hyde on a desolate winter afternoon, fate implodes, and neither of their lives will ever be the same. Although they are next-door neighbors in New Haven, they come from different worlds. Elise grew up in a housing project without a father and didn’t graduate from high school; Jamey is a junior at Yale, heir to a private investment bank fortune and beholden to high family expectations. Nevertheless, the attraction is instant, and what starts out as sexual obsession turns into something greater, stranger, and impossible to ignore.

My thoughts:
I liked this book a lot but not as much as I wanted to. The cover is gorgeous (one of those ones that feels really nice under your fingers, too) and I loved the mysterious, almost mythical elements that the summary had, but ultimately this book just didn’t live up to the (self-created) hype for me. The imagery was really beautiful and I loved that not everything was spelled out, but I didn’t like the ending. I think I’m really tired of 1980s novels set in Manhattan where there’s a manic pixie dream girl-ish character.

Sing Unburied Sing by Jesamyn Ward

rating: 4 stars | amazon

The plot:
Jojo is thirteen years old and trying to understand what it means to be a man. He doesn’t lack in fathers to study, chief among them his Black grandfather, Pop. But there are other men who complicate his understanding: his absent White father, Michael, who is being released from prison; his absent White grandfather, Big Joseph, who won’t acknowledge his existence; and the memories of his dead uncle, Given, who died as a teenager. His mother, Leonie, is an inconsistent presence in his and his toddler sister’s lives. She is an imperfect mother in constant conflict with herself and those around her. She is Black and her children’s father is White. She wants to be a better mother but can’t put her children above her own needs, especially her drug use. Simultaneously tormented and comforted by visions of her dead brother, which only come to her when she’s high, Leonie is embattled in ways that reflect the brutal reality of her circumstances. When the children’s father is released from prison, Leonie packs her kids and a friend into her car and drives north to the heart of Mississippi and Parchman Farm, the State Penitentiary. At Parchman, there is another thirteen-year-old boy, the ghost of a dead inmate who carries all of the ugly history of the South with him in his wandering. He too has something to teach Jojo about fathers and sons, about legacies, about violence, about love.

My thoughts:
I’ll be honest. I didn’t feel like I initially got this book when I read it. It didn’t make a ton of sense to me. But then I read more online (sometimes I feel like reading others’ opinions helps clarify my own) and I grew to appreciate it a bit more.

This book is so well written. It’s heartbreaking and sad and gritty and raw and it’s not a fun read, but it felt important.

All the Lives I Want by Alana Massey

rating: 2 stars | amazon

The plot:

Mixing Didion’s affected cool with moments of giddy celebrity worship, Massey examines the lives of the women who reflect our greatest aspirations and darkest fears back onto us. These essays are personal without being confessional and clever in a way that invites readers into the joke. A cultural critique and a finely wrought fan letter, interwoven with stories that are achingly personal, ALL THE LIVES I WANT is also an exploration of mental illness, the sex industry, and the dangers of loving too hard. But it is, above all, a paean to the celebrities who have shaped a generation of women–from Scarlett Johansson to Amber Rose, Lil’ Kim, Anjelica Huston, Lana Del Rey, Anna Nicole Smith and many more. These reflections aim to reimagine these women’s legacies, and in the process, teach us new ways of forgiving ourselves.

My thoughts:
I did not like this book. A few of the essays were good, but overall it was not a book for me. I appreciated most of her thoughts about celebrities and our relationships to them. Celebrity culture is super weird – we basically idolize these versions of people that are sold to us, with no real regard for whether that’s their actual persona or not. I wish she talked about this a bit more. I will admit I did skip some of the essays about people I didn’t care much for so she may have done that in those. Also, I misunderstood the title; I thought it was going to be about her actual famous friends. That’s totally on me though.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

rating: 5 stars | amazon

The plot:
A Wrinkle in Time, winner of the Newbery Medal in 1963, is the story of the adventures in space and time of Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin O’Keefe (athlete, student, and one of the most popular boys in high school). They are in search of Meg’s father, a scientist who disappeared while engaged in secret work for the government on the tesseract problem.

My thoughts:
Somehow I made it to age 24 without ever reading this book! I liked it a lot and I’m excited to see the movie. A quick, easy read and my first L’Engle novel.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by JK Rowling

rating: 5 stars | amazon

The plot:
Harry Potter has no idea how famous he is. That’s because he’s being raised by his miserable aunt and uncle who are terrified Harry will learn that he’s really a wizard, just as his parents were. But everything changes when Harry is summoned to attend an infamous school for wizards, and he begins to discover some clues about his illustrious birthright. From the surprising way he is greeted by a lovable giant, to the unique curriculum and colorful faculty at his unusual school, Harry finds himself drawn deep inside a mystical world he never knew existed and closer to his own noble destiny.

My thoughts:
I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve read this book. I’m committed this year to reading the Harry Potter series all the way through (I’ve said this a million summers now and never done it, but this year I really intend to) and this was obviously the first step!

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

rating: 5 stars | amazon

The plot:
Coates shares with his son—and readers—the story of his awakening to the truth about his place in the world through a series of revelatory experiences, from Howard University to Civil War battlefields, from the South Side of Chicago to Paris, from his childhood home to the living rooms of mothers whose children’s lives were taken as American plunder. Beautifully woven from personal narrative, reimagined history, and fresh, emotionally charged reportage, Between the World and Me clearly illuminates the past, bracingly confronts our present, and offers a transcendent vision for a way forward.

My thoughts:
I loved that this book was a letter to Coates’ adolescent son. I read it one sitting and I found it an important commentary on what it’s like to inhabit a black body in America. I absolutely recommend it, especially if that’s not your situation.

One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan

rating: 4 stars | amazon

The plot:
You want less. You want fewer distractions and less on your plate. The daily barrage of e-mails, texts, tweets, messages, and meetings distract you and stress you out. The simultaneous demands of work and family are taking a toll. And what’s the cost? Second-rate work, missed deadlines, smaller paychecks, fewer promotions–and lots of stress. And you want more. You want more productivity from your work. More income for a better lifestyle. You want more satisfaction from life, and more time for yourself, your family, and your friends. NOW YOU CAN HAVE BOTH–LESS AND MORE.

My thoughts:
I’ve been struggling a lot with focusing on one task at a time and a friend recommended this book, so I borrowed it from her. I don’t think I got as much value out of it as she did (a lot of it has to do with the business word or creating your own venture) but I still took a few good things away from it. My favorite was the chapter about setting up your ideal day. I’d love to read it again in a few months and see if I get anything else out of it.

In total this month:

Total number of books: seven
Number of fiction books: four
Number of nonfiction books: three
Books by people who are not white dudes: six
Total number of books this year: seven