Summer Reading Challenge from Semi-Charmed Kind of Life

Well, I finished the winter reading challenge in just one month, but I’m not feeling as confident about this summer reading challenge (thanks Kristen…) and also, I just had to put a bunch on hold at the library and they had a waitlist. Unfortunately, they also have to come from other counties. I even had to pick books based on what I had access too. Boo.

Summer Reading Challenge

This reading challenge is hosted by Megan at Semi-Charmed Kind of Life. I really enjoyed participating in my first challenge because it pushed me to read some new books!

5 points: Freebie! Read any book that fits the general rules.
The Pursuit of Love, Nancy Mitford [Paperback that I own and have been meaning to read.]

10 points: Read a book you have never heard of before. (Just go to a shelf and pick a book based on the cover, the title, whatever you want!)
Well, I’ll have to pick one out when I go to the library!

10 points: Read a book that has been on your TBR list for at least two years. (If you’ve had a Goodreads account for 2+ years, this will be easy to figure out. If you don’t, do your best to pick a book you’re pretty sure you’ve been wanting to read for years.)
The Black Album, Hanif Kureishi [I purchased this book in 2011 with every intention of reading it, but I only read the short story that was included at the end of the edition, so it’s time to read the actual novel! The edition I have is actually longer because it includes the short story.]

10 points: Read a book that won a Goodreads “Best Book” award in 2014.
We Were Liars, E. Lockhart I don’t read many young adult novels, so I’m looking forward to this! [I put the audio and hardback on hold at the library. Both have long waitlists. Going to have to see which comes in first!]

15 points: Read a book by an author who is completely new to you.
Yes Please, Amy Pohler [I just picked this one up from the library on audio and was going to read it anyway! If We Were Liars doesn’t come in quick enough, I may move it up to the above category and read another novel because there are plenty of authors who would be new to me!]

15 points: Read a book by an author you have read before. (No re-reads for this one.)
Home, Marilynne Robinson [I have had this one on audio, waiting to be listened to for awhile. Gilead was so much to process, so I was putting this off, even though I loved Gilead and I’ve had Robinson’s latest on hold forever at the library. So long that they added a “cancel if not fulfilled by” date…]

15 points: Read a book with “light” or “dark” in the title. (Or “lightness” or “darkness.”)
The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera [I have heard of this book a lot, but don’t know much about it, so no spoilers!]

20 points: Read a book with the name of a city, state or country in the title.
A Passage to India, E.M. Forester [I almost read this for the winter challenge – I forget the category. I have the Audible version waiting.]

20 points: Read a book with an animal on the cover.
The Civil Contract, Georgette Heyer [The Audible version that I has shows a person riding a horse on the cover.]

25 points: Read a book that is part of a series with at least four books.
Of course, I just finished the 5th book in the Dublin Muder Squad series, which would have fit perfectly… ahh…
Maisie Dobbs (Maisie Dobbs, #1), Jacqueline Winspear [My mom read this book and recommended it. She let her best friend borrow her copy. I am trying to use up my paperback swap credits and just delete my account, so I grabbed a copy on there a few months ago. So, it’s sitting on my shelf!]

25 points: Read a book that is longer than 500 pages long. — Submitted by winter finisher Kristen from See You in a Porridge.
The Way We Live Now, Anthony Trollope [I really have enjoyed most, if not all, of Trollope’s works, and this one has been on my TBR list for a long time. So, perfect chance! I snagged it on the cheap off of Audible using my how to save money on Audible versions of classic books, which you can read here.]

30 points: Read a book with an alliterative title. (All words in the title must begin with the same letter; no exceptions for articles or prepositions. Examples: Gone Girl or Nicholas Nickleby. Yes, this is tough, which is why it’s worth the most points!)
Daniel Deronda, George Eliot [This is a LONG one… so I picked it up off of Audible.]

Happy reading!

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Categories: Reading
Reading Challenge Update {Vol. 3}

I’ve been taking some time for my health (not that it’s helping, but I think the pressure to write would make it worse), but I thought I could take time to update my reading challenges! [I did grab a “summer” picture from after I cut my hair last year to update my profile. Spring cleaning?]
Reading Challenge Update Vol 3

A few weeks ago, I updated my audiobook challenge, which I already surpassed. I’ve listened to a few more, but you can see which ones I had listened to here.

You can read my last update from last month here. I noted the changes below!

reading challenges update

For the 2015 TBR Pile Challenge, I’ve read 4 out of 12 books:

Dark Places: A Novel, Gillian Flynn
Girl, Interrupted, Susanna Kaysen
The Talented Mr. Ripley, Patricia Highsmith
Lady Chatterly’s Lover, DH Lawrence
Cousin Kate, Georgette Heyer
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, Stieg Larsson

That’s two more book since last month!

For reading 52 Books in 52 weeks, I surpassed the challenge. At the time of writing, I’ve read 62 books this year! Finished!

For the Audiobook challenge, I said that I would aim for 30-50 this year. So far, I’ve read/listened to 50 audiobooks. Finished!

For the I Love Library Books challenge, I am aiming to read at least 24 books from the library. So far, I’ve read 27 library books. My last update, I was only at 8 books. I’m definitely making progress because I FINISHED!

For my Classics Reading Membership Challenge, which I started on December 24, 2014, and gave myself 2 years to read 50 books, I’ve read 32! My anticipated list is here, but it is definitely subject to change!

So far, I’ve read:

The Awakening, Kate Chopin
Little Men, Louisa May Alcott
Daisy Miller, Henry James
Cranford, Elizabeth Gaskell
The Beautiful and Damned, F. Scott Fitzgerald
Lady Chatterly’s Lover, DH Lawrence
Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert
The Talented Mr. Ripley, Patricia Highsmith
This Side of Paradise, F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Sound and the Fury, William Faulkner
Adam Bede, George Eliot
I Capture the Castle, Dodie Smith
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Tales of the Jazz Age, F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Convenient Marriage, Georgette Heyer
The House in Paris, Elizabeth Bowen
The End of the Affair, Graham Greene
Wessex Tales, Thomas Hardy
The Woman in White, Wilkie Collins
The Professor, Charlotte Bronte
In Cold Blood, Truman Capote
Cousin Kate, Georgette Heyer
The Woodlanders, Thomas Hardy
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, John le Carre
Venentia, Georgette Heyer
Charity Girl, Georgette Heyer
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, Carson McCullers
The American, Henry James
The House of Mirth, Edith Warton
The Moonstone, Wilkie Collins
Mystery and Manners, Flannery O’Connor
The King’s General, Daphne Du Maurier
Sprig Muslin, Georgette Heyer

You can read a round up of a some of my reviews here! I’ll be updating again in a few months.

Finally, for this year’s Back to the Classics Challenge, I’ve read the following books for the following categories:

A 19th Century Classic — any book published between 1800 and 1899: The Woman in White, Wilkie Collins (1859).

A 20th Century Classic — any book published between 1900 and 1965. Just like last year, all books must have been published at least 50 years ago to qualify as a classic. The only exception is books that were published posthumously but written at least 50 years ago.): The Sound and the Fury, William Faulkner (1929).

A Nonfiction Classic. A memoir, biography, essays, travel, this can be any nonfiction work that’s considered a classic, or a nonfiction work by a classic author: In Cold Blood, Truman Capote (1965).

A Classic in Translation. As in last year’s category, this can be any classic book originally written or a published in a language that is not your first language. Feel free to read it in its original form if you are comfortable reading in another language: Madam Bovary, Gustave Flaubert (1857).

A Classic by a Woman Author: The House of Mirth, Edith Wharton (1905).

A Classic with a Person’s Name in the Title. First name, last name, or both, it doesn’t matter, but it must have the name of a character. David Copperfield, The B rothers Karamazov, Don Quixote — something like that. It’s amazing how many books are named after people: Adam Bede, George Eliot (1859).

A Classic Novella — any work shorter than 250 pages.  The End of an Affair, Graham Greene (1951).

So, I added one more category. Seven down and five to go!

Don’t forget that you can add me as a friend on Goodreads or read short reviews of what I’ve read every month here!


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Categories: Reading Tags:
It’s That Time Again…

Well, in the past I used to write some extra blog posts to keep this thing going when my neck started to hurt a few weeks before the shots that I get for my neck every quarter.

That didn’t happen this time because I could barely keep up with my current posting schedule. I’ll be around, but due to the pain in my neck and shoulder, I don’t know that I’ll get to write much. I have limited energy, which was completely conserved during my December shots because I was bedridden. I still don’t have much energy to work with, but it will go to doctors appointments, helping my family help me, and dealing with all of the other life circumstances that accompany chronic pain and illness that people really don’t understand unless they have it or care for someone who does .

I hope you’ll you be back to read more in May when I can write again. Maybe I’ll get to throw a post or two up because blogging is a hobby that I truly enjoy. I have whole list lf ideas for posts, but even drafting something seems out of reach.

(Don’t worry: I’ll be keeping up with my “What I Read: April” post! It will probably be long because I’ll have plenty of time to listen to audiobooks.)


That’s all, folks!


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Categories: Uncategorized
Stitch Fix {Vol. 5}

I really loved my December Stitch Fix box. I kept the whole thing! So, I had my next box come a little sooner than my normal every other month. I only kept one thing from that box.
Stitch Fix (2)

After having a box come again so soon, I decided to push my next box (this one) off until the Spring weather. I’m glad that I waited. I also did a few things a little differently. [Forgive the really bad pictures. I am definitely not a fashion photographer!.]

  • I updated my size info. I noted at the bottom that stretchy skirts, like the maxi skirts that I would want, would need to be a size smaller. My medications are making me lose weight, so I’m back into old clothes, but I wasn’t ready to commit to a whole size smaller in my shirts on my size chart. Plus, I like comfy clothes?
  • On the main style page, I mentioned that my skin tone looks terrible in solid white, but good in yellow, since I didn’t sign up until last fall. I wanted to make sure I didn’t get any solid white shirts.
  • I completely filled out my style note with the colors I wanted, the items that I didn’t want (no more scarves, no shorts, etc.) and what I did want.
  • Finally I filled out my Stitch Fix Pinterest board with tons of outfits and just clothing that I liked. If I was on a clothing website and saw something I liked, I would just hit the Pinterest extension on my toolbar.

Here is what I received:

Bancroft: Shermineh Spiked Crescent Necklace ($28)



I really loved the arrow-like pendant necklace that I received two boxes ago. I wore it frequently throughout the colder weather with winter clothes. In fact, the day that this box arrived, I almost wore it, but it didn’t look right with my outfit, which felt more springy. I did mention that I prefer pendent necklaces, but this necklace is hardly any different than the one that I already have. If I could wear the arrow one, I could wear this. I kind of wanted something more delicate or with color.

Market & Sprice: Mati French Terry V-Neck Top ($48)

yellow shirt

I specifically asked for yellow, so it was nice to receive it. I’ve noticed that it’s in style this season, which is fortunate for me because I look good in it! This shirt is long and soft, which are both nice for me! Since I am kind of in between sizes, it was just a little bit large. It looked nice with a pair of plazzo pants and a solid navy maxi skirt, both of which I already had.

Brixon Ivy: Priya Abstract Floral Print Knit Back Tank ($48)

tank top

Again, this was just a little bit big. I’m not a huge fan of my arms, either, so I would need to wear it under a sweater. And, if I keep losing weight, it would only start to fall off during the summer. I really love the print of the front, though.

Loveappella: Woodland Scoop Neck Tee ($48)

front of shirt

back of shirtThis shirt was absolutely falling off of me. I could have wear it with some jean capris for the Spring, if I put a tank top under it – kind of like a tunic. I loved the color. However, the back is a little different… Stripes across my rear. However, I couldn’t see the shirt transitioning to the summer because it would totally cover up shorts.

Renee C: Gabe Maxi Skirt ($48)


My favorite part about Stitch Fix is that it does get me to try on clothes that I normally would not touch or try on. Like, over the winter, I got my favorite pair of jeans and a pair of skinny navy blue corduroy pants, both of which I would have passed right over at the store. I ended up wearing them a ton! Also, when I see horizontally striped skirts, I definitely never even consider them. I go straight for solids – and if the skirt only comes in a stripe, I wonder what is wrong with the people who made it and move on.

But, in the name of being a good sport, I try on everything that comes in my box. I was pleasantly surprised that this skirt was very flattering. I had even mentioned in my profile that my maxi skirts would need to be sized down, which they did. (I specifically pinned a ton of maxi skirts and asked for one because that fits my lifestyle the best right now). A larger size would not have been good! I was standing in the sunny part of my bedroom, though, and noticed that due to the light color, I could see right through it…


Kept: Market & Sprice: Mati French Terry V-Neck Top

yellow shirt

The next time, I would like to see the jewelry look more like the jewelry that I pinned on my board. However, I am sure it has to do with whatever they have in inventory, though. By my next box, in June, I would like to be more firmly in a size, so the clothes fit better. Over the winter, I kept a super cute tank, which I’ve worn under a cardigan, but was planning on wearing this summer. I hope it’s not lay flat to dry (I can’t remember…), so I can shrink it!

I know some people complain that the clothes are overpriced. I would not disagree for many of the items. However, one advantage is that when I schedule it for the start of a season, I find myself looking at clothes online/in the store, but waiting to purchase until after I see what I get in my box, in case something really awesome comes in it. Then, whatever I was looking at is usually on sale by the time I get my box, or if I’m not still interested, then I’ve saved myself from buying something I don’t love.

Also, I love the time that I was able to keep my whole box because everything in it was perfect, but if I find one thing, I think that’s successful. It’s just really fun to get the box and the yellow shirt that I kept is versatile, fits my lifestyle, and is not something that I’ve seen in stores (at least the ones that I shop at). I think Stitch Fix really nailed my lifestyle with this box, which they haven’t always done (like my last box), but even if everything fit perfectly, I just didn’t need each of the pieces!

If you’re interested in trying it out, you can use my referral link here! Don’t forget to fill out everything in your style profile and make your Pinterest board. I dabbled at it during the winter, but it was very generic. I tried to really fill it up this time and the stylist even mentioned it in her note. The only thing I would change would be more delicate jewelry for the spring!

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Categories: fashion Tags:
April Goals: Yeah, I Know…

April Goals
I know that I said that I used to hate posts about goals, but that was because I didn’t have any. I realized I was a person, even though I mostly stay in bed and all of my old goals are gone, so I still need some. They are like the little goals that could help me reach big goals, like having local friends or some semblance of normalcy in my life.

I’ve been working on organizing my papers, goals, and schedules, but because my health changes all of the time – I never know when a medication will stop working or I’ll have to start a new one, which will mean pain from going off the old one, or if my Botox will run out early – I don’t want to set unrealistic goals. I used to think that I could be a runner, but then I tried it and my neck hated it. What will be will be.

I found that cool printable to track if I do something every day. I tried my hardest to embed the pin, which seemed like a cool idea, but it didn’t work. Here is a clickable screenshot?

monthly goal tracker final


My goals for April include:

Wearing my Jawbone everyday: I don’t know how many steps I currently take, but I want to use the buzzing function to make sure that I at least get up to refill my water every 45 minutes or something. Once I get a baseline for how many steps I take, I can slowly increase.

Eat 3 meals a day:  I am on 2 medications that suppress my appetite. Unfortunately, this means headaches, hangry-ness, feeling (more) sick, and even generally horrible. While this wouldn’t seem problematic (weight loss!), it is. Plus Google is REALLY unhelpful. Fortunately, I belong to a great online support group and within 10 minutes, the lovely ladies had tons of suggestions. Some were more practical for me than others, due to certain mobility issues – I heated up some frozen soup the other day and spilled it on my hand, thanks to a tremor, which means that I spilled it on an area where I had a scar already, and have recut myself, gotten blisters, etc., – but I plan on sharing all of the ideas because when you try to search for help on getting enough meals/calories/food in when you’re on medications that make you not hungry, you don’t find helpful information. I rely a lot on my husband for preparing the things that I eat and several reminder systems, but I do have to make sure that I eat.

Average one nice thing a day for someone else: I wrote about how other people can be a good friend to people with chronic illness, but even though I might not have many local friends or be able to get out and see people, that doesn’t keep me from being a good friend or family member. Not every day is a good day, so I’m going for an average! Sending a card, a funny picture, calling my grandma, or whatever–it counts. I love to be remembered, so I want to make sure that I am remembering other people, too.

Fill out my gratitude journal (thank you to my grandmother for giving me one that I didn’t fill out almost every year and Emily for writing about her’s) everyday: and also working toward writing in a regular journal daily. I’ll be happy if I fill out my gratitude journal, but a regular one would be nice, too.

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Categories: Goals Tags:
What I Read Last Month: March

What I Read March
This month, in addition to sharing quick reviews, I thought I would add a quick “Definitely Read This, Skip This, and ‘If You Have Time'” list of the best and worst at the bottom. So, read all the way to the bottom!


 The Invention of Wings

The Invention of Wings

 Rating: 4/5 Stars

I absolutely loved this book. I can’t wait to read some further books about the real women who inspired the main characters of the novel. I had no idea that it was based on a true story when I started reading the novel, but I did know that the author resided in South Carolina!

Under Magnolia: A Southern Memoir

Under Magnolia

 Rating 4/5 Stars

This review is a little longer, but I LOVED this memoir.

I will say that it started off a little bit slow, but as Mayes’s life story progressed, or rather, she delved further back into her memories, the book became more interesting. While she grew up in an entirely different era from me, it still resonated with me because I lived in a small Southern town, went to a small Southern college, and where I studied English. Like Mayes, I having a deep sense of place, which is also very prominent in Southern literature, is important in my life. I have a love for the South, yet, like her, I still have to reconcile things that I don’t like with the strange sense of belonging I feel.

The memoir had some humorous antidotes about being in the South during a period of great change, attending a women’s college, and her thoughts on life, which tempered nicely with the heartbreaking parts of her family life. I think that if there was too much humor or too much heartbreak, the memoir would not have struck such a chord with me.

Finally, wait for the “Coda” at the end. The summary; the epilogue; the final thoughts. They make the entire memoir crystallize and touch your heart – regardless of where you live. They are thoughts on life and the human experience, but specifically Mayes’s experiences. This is a memoir that will stay with me, much in the same way that Bastard Out of Carolina (although it is more of a autobiographical novel) will.

[I listened to a version narrated by the author.]

The Book of Joe

the book of joe

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Ugly tears. Loved this. Like all of the Tropper novels that I’ve read, it’s about a dysfunctional family. In this case, it’s about a man’s dysfunctional family that extended to a dysfunctional relationship with his entire hometown. And family is extended from biological and family by marriage to family that is chosen – friends.

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride

as you wish

Rating: 4/5 Stars

This is a must-read for any fan of The Princess Bride movie. Also, I know basically nothing about making movies, so it was also interesting from that standpoint. I won’t give anything away, but to get you interested: Did you know that Collin Firth was almost Westly?!

[I listened to the audio version, which I think added a lot to the story because the individual actors, directors, etc., read their quotes!]

Still Alice

still alice

Rating: 5/5 Stars

I cried some ugly tears as I read this novel, but it was well worth the read. There are people who suffer with this every single day. I loved that the story was told from the perspective of the woman who developed early onset Alzheimer’s. Genova’s writing style helped to reinforce just a tiny portion of what it would be like to live in a world of forgetfulness and repetition. It’s a heartbreaking story, but ultimately a story of love. I HIGHLY recommend this novel!

[I listened to a version narrated by the author.]

One Plus One

one plus one

Rating: 4/5 Stars

One Plus One is a heartwarming story that shows Moyes amazing talent as a versatile writer. None of her books “feel” the same, but they’re all great! I teared up. I laughed. I found myself cheering along. I found myself depressed when the characters were depressed. It was an all around engrossing novel with relatable characters.

Into the Tangle of Friendship : A Memoir of the Things That Matter

into the tangle of friendship

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Loved this. Friendship is something that is so near and dear to my heart. Kephart beautifully addressed so many different angles of friendship. I highly recommend it, especially if friendships are on your mind.

Never Let Me Go

never let me go

Rating: 3/5 Stars

I’m glad I read it, but I wouldn’t rush to read it, if I to do it over again. The story was a fairly predictable dystopian/sci-fi novel about medical advancements. Who has a soul? Who doesn’t? All the typical ethical questions and a little love story. The end.

As of 3/23/15, the Kindle edition was on sale for $2.99.

The Bookman’s Tale: A Novel of Obsession

the bookman's tale

Rating: 4/5 Stars

I read Lovett’s second novel first. It was ok. I really preferred this novel to his second novel. Not only did I love the love story that unfolds from the main characters past (I’m not giving anything away!), but the mystery, conspiracy, and sense of danger lurking around the corner was super cool.

Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: The Untold History of English

Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue The Untold History of English

Rating: 2/5 Stars

The title was pretty misleading. If you have no background in the history of the English language you will be utterly lost. I haven’t looked at foreign languages in awhile, so I struggled a bit, too. Mostly, it seemed like McWhorter just picked some things he disagreed with from the linguist community at large and wrote a book to refute them, which is his right, but to title it “The Untold History of English,” is misleading. He threw in a dirty joke here or there to keep it light, but overall, it isn’t a book I’d pick up for fun reading again.

classicsThe Woman in White

The Woman in White

 3/5 Stars

“Crime” novels from the 19th Century are so fascinating. Seriously. No forensics, no problems! I’m glad that I read it, because I can appreciate it for what it was during the time period. The story is told after the “crime,” from the point of view of multiple narrators and witnesses, which, honestly, I didn’t realize was a technique used so long ago! However, there are a lot more fascinating novels out there.

The Professor


 Rating 3/5 Stars

This novel reminded me a lot of Charlotte Bronte’s Villette, although it was told from the male’s perspective and had a slightly happier ending.

In Cold Blood

in cold blood

Rating: 5/5 stars

Wow. I loved this story. I love crime novels, but this was a whole new level. Even though it should have felt dated because the crime took place so long ago, it didn’t. I loved how Capote interspersed the stories of the killers with the story of the search, which I usually hate.
I think I found the story of the lives of killers more interesting because I knew they were real people. I also found the murders more heartbreaking, though, because they were real people. It was also an interesting look at life in the rural midwest during the time period.
After reading In Cold Blood, I could recall many instances from more modern novels that were likely very influenced by In Cold Blood. So, if you love crime novels (or even TV shows), this would be great for you!

Cousin Kate

cousin kate

Rating: 3/5 Stars

I can see why this was Heyer’s only Gothic novel. It was an interesting mix of Rebecca and The Castle of Ontranto. All the Gothic elements were there, so it would be great for teaching, if you wanted to be like “THIS IS EVERYTHING A GOTHIC NOVEL IS. SHE DIDN’T LEAVE A SINGLE THING OUT.”

The Woodlanders

the woodlanders

Rating: 4/5 Stars

As usual, this is a tale of people who marry each other, but figure out that they wish that they were married to other people. Little things from the past, which seemed meaningless at the time, actually set in chain a whole course of actions that ruin people’s lives. Sad, depressing, and if they could have just gotten divorces, the novel wouldn’t have even needed to be written.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

tinker tailor soldier spy

Rating: 3/5 Stars

This novel was a little confusing. Amazon says that it’s the 5th novel of a series. Goodreads says that it’s the first of a trilogy. I chose this novel, of course, because it was made into a movie. I was able to understand it more than the average reader, probably, because of my work experience in the intelligence community. If I didn’t have prior work experience, I might have been completely lost.



Rating: 4/5 Stars

I’m glad that I took the time to read this one! In typical Heyer fashion, it’s about a beautiful woman who considers herself beyond marriageable age, but then forms a close friendship – probably too close for the time period – with a man who is known for being a womanizer. I found this one funny and entertaining.

Charity Girl

charity girl

Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

Honestly, this novel felt more like a short story. While it was too long for a single sitting, it definitely didn’t feel as complex as most novels. The characters were funny, but not many were well developed. I feel like Heyer missed a chance to give more dimensions to the main characters, especially Charity!

The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter

the heart is a lonely hunter

Rating: 4/5

I really enjoyed this novel. Mostly, I picked this up because when I graduated, my professors gave us a list of their favorite novels, and my Southern Lit professor included this. It felt a little bit like an extended O’Connor novel, but different, of course. If you like Southern Literature that takes place in the rural South during the 1930’s or so, I would recommend this novel.

 read these

The Invention of Wings

In Cold Blood

One Plus One

Still Alice

if you have time

The Book of Joe

Under Magnolia: A Southern Memoir

don't bother smaller

The Professor

Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: The Untold History of English

What I Read

You can read my past monthly round ups:

February 2015
January 2015

December 2014

November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
And other archived roundups here!

Also, you can find other individual book reviews, tips on saving money on Audible books, book recommendations based on genres and all things related to literature here!

Don’t forget that you can add me as a friend on Goodreads so I can steal ideas on what to read next–or see your ratings, so I know what to stay away from!

This post contains Amazon Affiliate links that helps defray the cost of running the blog.

Will be linking up with The Modern Mrs. Darcy for Quick-Lit!


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Categories: What I Read Last Month Tags: , ,
Moving Audiobook CDs to Mobile Devices

Moving Audiobook CDs to Mobile Devices
moving audiobooks

If you are like me and love audiobooks, you may have discovered how great it is to have them be portable. I love Audible because they automatically download to my iPad, plus I can increase the speed up to two times the regular speed. However, I read so many books (you can read how to get classic books on the cheap and apply the same principle to other books, too), that sometimes I just need to get audiobook cds to put them onto my iPad. You can pick them up with 2 credits on or lots of other places. I would love if I could fit them on my phone, but it’s really full! So, you’ll be able to see at the bottom how I manage my iPad because it’s also kind of full, too!

Step One: Import CDs

01 white oleander import FINAL

Even if you are importing a bunch of cds from one box, they won’t always be consistently titled with the author or album. Some might be missing the information all together. Some are consistent in how they name the tacks, but others are not. I used to care and make the titles all match the albums, like 01a, 01b, and so on, but then I realized later that I could just sort by date added, so I let that go to save time.

You can give every album same title and a different disc name or you can name them things like White Oleander [Disc 01], White Oleander [Disc 02], and so forth. Again, that’s personal preference.

021 white oleander rename FINAL


Create a Playlist: By Artist or Album

If you have multiple books by a single author, you may want to sort by album, or you can do this anyway.

white oleander create smart playlist FINAL

Personally, I name all of my audiobooks “Audiobook – Name” for consistency purposes. It makes them easier to find, plus keeps them out of my music playlists.

04 white oleander rename playlist FINAL

After naming the smart list that I created, I sort by date added, so that the first track or the first album is first and down the line, then copy to play order. This can be accomplished by sorting, right clicking on the playlist on the lefthand side bar, and clicking “copy to play order.” This is important so that you listen to the book in order!

Creating Podcasts:

This is what will allow you to speed up your playing speed! I select everything in the smartplaylist and change it from music to podcast! You cannot listen at a faster speed in iTunes, but you can on an iPhone or iPad. My example will be on my iPad because my iPhone is full of pictures, but I’m too lazy to move them. Playlists are important if your device is nearing full/you have more audiobooks than your device can hold.

05 white oleander change to podcast FINAL

If your device is nearly full, instead of syncing all podcasts, just check sync “selected playlists.” Then you can check the ones you want to listen to next and that will fit on your device!

06 white oleander sync playlists FINAL

When you use Podcasts, you can change the playspeed and sleeptimers. Also, don’t forget to play your book through the playlist!

change play speed

I think the best part about putting it on a portable device is that I can move it around the house with me, plus, I can play it in the car or use headphones. I don’t have an auxiliary cord in my car, so I use one of those cool cassette adapters. It works great!

Do you like audiobooks?  Do you prefer e-readers? Paperback?

Don’t forget that you can add me as a friend on Goodreads here!

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Categories: How To, Reading Tags: , , ,
Audiobook Challenge Update



This post is to update my progress on the audiobook challenge!

I said I would listen to 30-50 books between January 1 and December 31, 2015. Let’s see how I’m doing (all titles are clickable to go to Goodreads!):


Never Let Me Go

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

One Plus One

Still Alice

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride

The Woodlanders

Cousin Kate

In Cold Blood

The Book of Joe

The Professor

Under Magnolia: A Southern Memoir

The Invention of Wings

Wessex Tales


The End of the Affair

Only Time Will Tell

Moral Disorder and Other Stories

One Last Thing Before I Go

Astonish Me

First Impressions: A Novel of Old Books, Unexpected Love, and Jane Austen

Careless People: Murder, Mayhem, and the Invention of The Great Gatsby

King and Maxwell

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Tales of the Jazz Age

This is Where I Leave You

I Capture the Castle

Adam Bede

The Sound and the Fury

This Side of Paradise

The Girl on the Train

The Talented Mr. Ripley

Madame Bovary

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

The Beautiful and Damned


Well, I’ve listened to 35 audiobooks so far this year! That’s way over half of the novels that I’ve finished this year. Without audible and the library, I definitely wouldn’t read as many books. It was able to swap out a lot of my paperback books at paperbackswap, so I do have some that I want to read, but I usually opt for an audiobook first because I find them the most relaxing. I really liked As You Wish and Still Alice because both were read by the author!

What do you think about audiobooks? Do you love it when the author reads the novel?

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Categories: Uncategorized
My 10 Practical Relaxation and Soothing Techniques

My 10 Practical Relaxation and Soothing Techniques

If you know me in real life, you wouldn’t be surprised to know that I’m easily overwhelmed, especially when I’m easily upset. Years of chronic pain have left me unable to relax, sleep, or even get into a comfortable for a myriad of reasons. For a long time, and even now, I am still trying to find the best treatments for my underlying conditions, but I also ignored the emotional aspects of what chronic pain and illness have done to my life.

The long-term consequences of chronic pain… “negatively impacts multiple aspects of patient health, including sleep, cognitive processes and brain function, mood/mental health, cardiovascular health, sexual function, and overall quality of life. Furthermore, chronic pain has the capacity to become increasingly complex in its pathophysiology, and thus potentially more difficult to treat over time.” –NIH Study

I started to notice things like friends abandoning me, the lack of motivation to do anything outside of my comfort zone, and how poorly I coped with stressful situations. These are serious issues that I needed addressed. And as I work on them on my own and with help, I put together a relaxation list. After reading books on chronic illness, doing workbooks, etc., and this is still a work in progress. While there are techniques to cope outside of the house, these are my favorites for at the house.

You should note that I have been through a lot of biofeedback and neurofeedback and I am backwards, so to speak. The things that they do to stress people out (like counting backwards by 7) or reading actually slows my brain down and relaxes me. I find it physically painful to try to lean back in a recliner, shut my eyes, and clear my mind. So, naps are not relaxing (or possible) for me.

  1. Listen to my favorite music. Before I got married, when I lived by myself, I had music playing if I wasn’t watching TV. So, basically all of the time. It’s pretty interesting to look back at my account and see how my music consumption dropped dramatically. Once I thought about it, even if it’s not my husband’s favorite band (Fireworks, Man Overboard, Fall Out Boy), I can still listen. And it really does relax and distract me, if I’m upset.
  2. Put on headphones while I listen to an audiobook. This prevents multitasking and encourages relaxing. My husband had an old pair of headphones that aren’t noise canceling, but they block out a ton of noise, so I can recline back and focus just on the book.
  3. Go through my Feedly. I love to read lifestyle blogs on Bloglovin and comment, but I use Feedly to set up searches for topics that interest me and that I want to learn about. I also follow a lot of news, books, and other websites on there where I find inspiration, something funny, or just get distracted from anything upsetting and relax! Learning is fun?
  4. Do something for myself. Sometimes this is plucking my eyebrows (it hurts, but self care was one of the first things to go when I got sick), trying to paint my toe nails, or putting on a little make up before my husband comes home, even if he’ll be the only one to see it.
  5. Make a special coffee drink or tea. I love London Fogs, fancy coffees, or iced coffee, depending on the season. So, if I am not full or too tired, I at least attempt to make one of these. The easiest is to have iced coffee ready to go these days, since I’ve had a few accidental nasty burns recently.
  6. Bubble bath! I use Epsom salts (unscented) and a scented bubble bath. Sometimes I turn on my favorite music or an audiobook because I have a hard time sitting still, having something for my mind to focus on helps me relax.
  7. Light a candle. I love florals in the spring, beachy scents for the summer, and heavier scents for the winter. I can’t go wrong with a candle.
  8. Pet my dog(s). If I grab Josie for a hug, Rylie will definitely be part of the dog pile, but Josie plays harder to get. However, if I am really upset, Rylie runs away, and Josie is the one in my lap. Rylie is smaller and friendlier, so sometimes I just grab her. Either way, petting them or watching them play with each other relaxes me.
  9. Make a list. I know this stresses some people out, but if I make lists of everything that I need to do, I feel better. Even if I can’t do anything like reschedule an appointment until the office opens on Monday, just having it out of my system and down on paper helps!
  10. Treat myself to a TV show. You would probably think that I watch a lot more TV than I do. But, between reading, filling out paperwork, and going to the doctor, I honestly don’t watch much.

What do you do to relax? If you’re in chronic pain, do you do anything special?


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Categories: Chronic Illness Tags:
10 Important To Do When You Start a Blog (Checklist!)

starting a blog

This is definitely not a technical post on how to set up a blog. Can’t help you there! However, there are plenty of resources out there. However, this is just a short checklist for things to do once you start a blog.

Recently, I was talking to Megan, who I met on Instagram because we both have dystonia (different types). After reading her brand new blog, I had a few suggestions for her, so I thought I would come up with a quick checklist for new bloggers!

  1. Create a new email. This email should only be used for blog communications. You can list it on your blog, email other bloggers, and interact with brands through this email. Don’t mix your personal email and new blog email. I was able to set my email up through my domain (I don’t know how – my husband did it), but a simple gmail that is related to your blog’s name should suffice.
  2. Get a headshot! You will need a picture that you can use everywhere. Even if you just have a friend try to take a few flattering photos of you or crop a photo from someone’s wedding, pick a flattering photo, make any edits (the ability to make it square is important because a lot of places want square photos) is important.
  3. Limit yourself to two “usernames.” Your Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and all social media should go together. I know it’s not possible to always get the same name everywhere, but try to keep it consistent. Shorter names are better, so if you’re having a Twitter conversation, half the tweet won’t be take up with your handle. Also, use the same profile picture everywhere.
  4. Since most people already have social media accounts, decide if you’re going to incorporate your current accounts or create new ones. I never thought about this at first. After a few months of blogging, I was interested in growing my blog through my Instagram, so I started to promote it. However, later, I realized that it was kind of creepy that people could just scroll back through years of pictures. So, I created a separate account. In hindsight, I wish that I’d made my handle shorter. It’s easy to change, but that would require updating a lot of profiles.
  5. Set up a Gravatar account with your new email and new profile picture. That way, when you leave comments, which you’ll find out how important that is later, your picture will show up! Pictures will make you stand out and keep your brand consistent. This will help you when you comment on any system.
  6. If you are NOT on Blogger, read up on how NOT to be a no-reply blogger. This took me several attempts, but I finally got it. Basically, you make a fake blog (you will need a gmail address to get started, but you can use any email as your reply email later) and use your new email and picture, so when you comment on a Blogger blog, you’ll know if the person replies. Go to this post and look at the third section. The screenshots are PERFECT.
  7. Start reading blogs! You don’t have to comment, yet. You can start by reading “big” blogs. Then start checking out other commenters, people on the sidebars, etc. Over time, you’ll start to read people who you connect with. I’ll have a follow up post on this!
    >>> You don’t need to copy these blogs, but the more you read, the more ideas you’ll get. You’ll start to see what you like and don’t like.
  8. Research Link Ups. These are premade content for you, plus you’ll have a chance to find new blogs because most ask you to comment on a few others. They change a lot, based on the hosts’ schedules, but a few that I like are:
    Grateful Mondays
    Wednesday Wishes
    Weeks End (your favorite post you wrote from the last week)
    Blogger Love (share 5 favorite posts from other bloggers)
    Between the Lines (a monthly book club link up with good discussion questions)
    Top Ten Tuesdays (if you LOVE books like me, these are prompts about books. The topics are posted in advance, so you can get several ready!)
    > Basically, the link ups are endless. There are link ups for recipes, crafts, and any interest you might have. Things like Weeks End, Five on Friday, or any type of Currently or Coffee Date link up will expose you to new bloggers. You could probably have a blog of nothing but link ups, but it’s nice to mix it up.
    Here are tips on finding more!
    > Check out the top of blog pages because some people keep lists.
    > Google!
    > Check out Twitter hashtags. You might miss the first one, but you’ll know when the next one is.
    > As you read blogs, you’ll see people participating and you can put it on your calendar to participate in ones that interest you.
  9. Make sure your blog is visually appealing. Have your headshot at the top, links to social media under that, and any other things you want on your sidebar. Less is more, but don’t leave it bare. A busy blog is a blog that people don’t want to read. (I’m not kidding, I read a post about that, but only about 20% of the page was dedicated to text. The orange and blue didn’t help, either).
  10. Have fun! This is your hobby! Maybe you’ll make money. Maybe you won’t. But, if you do it right, you’ll make friends. Stay tuned for how to find your blogging community from scratch!


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Categories: blogging Tags: ,