bookish mama; 50 books in 2016

Reading at Soho House Chicago…. This daydreaming-style photo is by my hubby, Ian Toye. Click on the photo to head to my bookstagram.

Every year I pledge to read at least 50 books. The past few years I have surpassed this goal–by a lot– (2014, 2015) but this year I hit 50 right on the dot.

2016 was an incredible, challenging, and fun year for me personally. My husband and I watched our baby boy grow into a charming, spirited, hungry, hilarious one-year-old before our eyes. I was lucky enough to have over one year off work, learning how to learn to be a mom and adjusting to our new way of life. As I have said in previous posts, we are adaptable beings. We were built to rise to the occasion and embrace a new way of life. That being said, I still wanted to make sure that I kept up with things that made me… well,  me. Mentally, it was important for me (and my sanity) to have an outlet. Up until recently, my writing was put on the back burner, and rightfully so. But I never stopped reading.

I re-read a few of my favorite books and discovered some new gems, especially during those few nights when I was up late feeding Xavier in the first two months of his life. When he was three to seven month old, I loved going to cafes when Xavier was napping in his stroller; I’d read a novel on my Kindle while sipping a vanilla coconut milk latte as sun streamed through the windows. As he grew and started napping on a more routine schedule at home, I adjusted when I would read, and managed to keep little bits of time for it, here and there, in my schedule. Plus, I had such a great time bringing Xavier to classes, the park and brunch with friends and other babies, that sometimes there just wasn’t time to read as much, or at least, I made other activities a priority.

But, I hit my goal. I wouldn’t have been too hard on myself if I didn’t make it this year, but I’m glad I succeeded. If anything, achieving my goal makes writing this post a lot easier, given I have new material to work with. Below I have included some of my reading highlights this year. Hopefully one or two of my highlighted books inspires you to pick up a new read as well.

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My 2016 Reading Highlights:

The Book That Will Make The Best Screen Adaptation: The Nest. Filled with dramatic family dynamics and realistic relationships, The Nest would make a great Netflix series or movie. (Check out my review of The Nest here).

Best Health Book: The Longevity Book, by Cameron Diaz and Sandra Bark. In her second book, Diaz doesn’t pretend to be a doctor; instead she and her co-writer Sandra Bark investigate the science of aging. They tour the United States and interview doctors, scientists and experts in their fields. Diaz and Bark are simply the messengers; messengers on a topic that is widely talked about, but not a subject that many people truly know that much about: aging. (Click on the book title to read my review!)

Best Thriller: Unexpectedly, K.A Tucker‘s stab at a thriller, He Will Be My Ruin, won out in this category over The Girl on the Train. I absolutely loved this mystery. It was addictive, thrilling and compelling; there were twists and turns in every chapter, and Tucker kept me guessing the entire time. And the icing on the cake? In true Tucker fashion, there are a few steamy scenes to keep the intensity and intimacy engrossing. (Click on the book title to read my review!)

Creepiest Audiobook: The Girl on the Train. A chilling tale, especially in audio book format, the voice actors combined with the stream of consciousness writing in The Girl on the Train left me looking over my shoulder long after I finished listening. (My review blog post coming soon!)

Favorite Non-Fiction Book: The Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer. Unapologetically raw, real and -at times- hilarious, Schumer’s book was so much more than I expected it to be. (My review blog post coming soon!)

Tear-Jerker Award: It Ends with Us by Colleen Hoover. Jam-packed with engrossing plot-twists and harrowing truths, It Ends with Us cogently demonstrates the devastation associated with abuse—and the resilience and bravery of those who survive it. Read this story for romance and devastation, loss and hope. (Click on the title to read my review).

Best YA series: Hands down, The Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare. This was hugely unexpected for me, as I claim not to love historical fantasy, however that is exactly what this prequel series to The Mortal Instruments is. (My review blog post coming soon!)

Best Outside-My-Comfort-Zone Book: The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up. Author Marie Kondo has made it her life’s mission to be the tidiest person in the world, and I think she has succeeded. Her best-selling book is a unique take on organizing, and is different from any other book on home organization and clutter that I have read to-date. And it’s a book that actually inspired action. (Click on the book title to read my review!)

Writing That Made Me Most Nostalgic: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K Rowling. I found the play enchanting; I envisioned myself sitting in a London theater watching Albus Potter’s story come to life. I could picture the set changes when the time traveling device was used, and could envision actors entering and exiting the stage. Reading the story was magical in my own head, so I can’t imagine how exciting the live play must be. (Click here to read my full review).

Best Meditation Book: A Mindful Morning by David Dillard-Wright, PHD. I was not a person who meditates; but then again, this book proved I didn’t know what meditation entailed. What I most enjoyed about the introduction to this book is that Wright knows his audience. While he acknowledges that many of his readers may be rolling their eyes when he suggests that we try to become ‘morning people’, he also realizes that smaller changes, every day, work best for most people to create positive change in their lives. A Mindful Morning is the perfect solution: it includes 150 inspiring quotes, paired with easy mediation exercises to try every day, wherever it suits you best. (Click on the title to see my review).

Series I am most excited for in 2017: This one is a tie! In 2016, I read two fantastic books that start off two compelling series’. The first is Lady Midnight, by Cassandra Clare. This novel takes place five years after The Mortal Instruments ends, so it is a perfect read for all TMI fans. The second is The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye.  The Crown’s Game is a historical fantasy novel that takes place in Russia in 1825. The Tsar of the Imperial Empire has a son named Pasha who is an unenthusiastic heir to the throne and this novel follows his rise to power during a powerful magical competition…. I never thought I would love a novel set in ancient Russia, but this year was full of surprises! (Click on each title to read my review of the books!)

Best Romance: November 9, By Colleen Hoover.  November 9 is about two complicated characters: Fallon O’Neill, an ex-child star with a once-bright future ahead of her, and Ben Kessler, a mysterious boy who enters her life with impeccable timing. Click here to read my full review on this beautifully put-together love story.

Best Re-Read (And a Series That I Hope Becomes a TV Show!): Bloodlines, by Richelle Mead. I have talked about this series again and again, so I’ll it at that. Click here to learn more.

Most Impactful Read of 2016: The Weight of Zero, by Karen Fortunati. The Weight of Zero isn’t your typical Young Adult novel… and I loved it. The foreword mentions that current Young Adult stories are failing teens with mental illness, and it’s true. Most of the related novels recently published feature the protagonist being ‘saved’, whether it be from a sudden love interest or a new best friend. We all know this isn’t necessarily how life works and The Weight of Zero is so much more than that. It focuses on the stigma attached to mental illnesses, the internal dialogue one may struggle with, medications and the fear around which ones to take, and the therapist sessions that can feel useless, but also beneficial. (Click on the title to read my full review).

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Those are my favorites from the year. Take a gander through the site to see if there are any more that spark your interest. This coming year I am going to try my best to read as many books as possible, but I’m at the point where I don’t want to be too hard on myself either. I am no longer taking transit to work any more, and that definitely cuts into my reading time. And I really want to focus on writing this year too, so it will be an interesting challenge trying to balance those two passions with everything else I have going on, while making sure to focus on my family. I’m excited for the challenge though! And I’ll be sure to let you know how it goes…

Oh, and drop me a line with some of your new favorite books from the past year!

Happy reading in 2017,

Kelly

xx

 

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