Category Archives: blog note

My 5 Favorite Books I’ve Read in 2017 (so far)

At the end of 2016, I made a post about my 5 favorite reads of the year that was a hit. Since I’m on track to read more books this year than last, I’ve decided to round up a list of my five favorite books that I read during the first half of 2017 (January through June). The books aren’t ranked in any sort of way, but they were all fantastic to me in different ways. I’ve given my favorite reads mini reviews here, along with linking to their fuller reviews too. Let me know the title of your favorite book you’ve read this year in the comments! I’m already nearly done with some new reads that I feel like will make this list in December (like Mandy Len Catron’s How to Fall in Love with Anyone and the widely adored The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas)!!

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5 Favorite Reads from 2016

After a seven month hiatus, I am FINALLY back!! My personal life was a bit of a whirlwind last year (i.e. 2016 the year that magically destroyed everyone in little ways) which led me to de-prioritize this blog. I fled to Europe for a month, leaving my home country for the first time ever (!!!), and visited Paris, London, Edinburgh, and Amsterdam. I moved across the country from Brooklyn to Chicago and I became a PhD student! Lots of changes happened and now that I feel more settled in Chicago, I’ve decided to try to pick up some of the things that I allowed myself to drop in 2016.

Instead of trying to add reviews for all of the books I gobbled down in 2016, I’ve compiled a list of my favorite reads from 2016. These are not ranked in any order except for the first book being my absolute 2016 favorite! Of the 32 books I read in 2016, here are my favorite five.

alittlelifeA Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara.

While I didn’t post a full review of this book on the blog, I did blog about attending a book event with the fantastic author here. I made my book club read and love this book. It was my read during a magical winter trip to Austin, TX where I escaped the winter blues in 2016. This book deserves a longer review than this, but it’s tied to too many emotions for me. I’ll leave you with the bite that I shared with people who messaged me on Tinder in 2016: it’s emotionally brutal, but beautifully written.

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coatesbetweentheworldandme

This is the only book in the list that received a full review! My university is doing an event with the author at the end of January and I hope I’m able to secure a ticket to see him speak in person. Here’s a snippet from my longer review: The book is part memoir, part current American history and is written as a letter directly to the author’s son. Coates detailed the lessons that he was forced to learn as a black man growing up in America and contrasted them from the lessons his father had to learn and the lessons his son has already learned or will have to learn in an incredibly moving way.

Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayedtinybeautifulthings

I will come back to this book again & again. I will recommend this to friends again & again. When I am hurting, I will return to this again & again. Each piece of this book made me think of different people I know who would benefit from reading each individual excerpt. All of the excerpts are deeply particular, yet universal. I’m not really a “self help” type and haven’t read something like this in ages, but this was perfect and helped me examine all of my jagged shards and choose to hold them with my bare hands anyway.

illgiveyouthesunI’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson.

This was my favorite YA read of 2016 and I love it even more because I procured it from a magical book shop in Paris. I have never read a book quite like this — there are paint splatters on pages that add depth to the stories and emphasize certain points and it’s so DAMN BEAUTIFUL. As is the story which features siblings and first loves and first mistakes and struggling with the love (or lack thereof) of a parent. It’s perfect. I loved it. Read it.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandelstationeleven

I wish someone had made me read this sooner! This is a perfect dystopian novel that feels the most realistic of any I’ve read. Reading this will make you reflect on mortality, morality, and the potential unspooling of civilization. There were quite a few excerpts that were so well worded that I came back to them again and again because of the self reflection they encouraged. This novel could have easily been much longer, but it’s a tight, well constructed story. Read it! But probably not while flying on a plane…

& that’s all, folks! In the future, you can expect slightly more condensed reviews of the books I pursue in 2017. I’m reading and writing for fun less since so much of my daily life is reading and writing for graduate school which will be reflected in the reviews I post here. What were your favorite reads of 2016?

Mini Review: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

girlonthetrainI’ve decided to start posting mini reviews of books that I read, but don’t desire to write a full fledged review of on my blog. As I mentioned in my 2016 Book Goals post, I’m hoping to post 26 full reviews on my site this year — half of the goal that I aimed for in 2015. This is in part so I can focus on other projects (like my podcast!) and because while I might be able to read 52 books in one year, writing reviews of 52 books was an insurmountable mountain for me. Thus, I’m going to start posting mini reviews on my blog to balance the lengthier 26 reviews I’m aiming to post this year. The shorter reviews will either be dedicated to books that I felt ambivalent about while reading (aka I didn’t necessarily love or hate the book) or books that are wildly popular (like this review) and you a) have likely already read it or b) have decided whether or not you’re going to read it already. So without further adieu, here is my very first mini review of The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. 

I give this book 3.5/5 stars. This book was an extremely quick read and was very easy to jump back into after putting it down, no matter what’s going on around you aka this is a good book to read on a train! It was a decent thriller that I didn’t figure out until right before the big reveal… but I also wasn’t super curious to find out what the big reveal actually was. Was the book engaging while it was in my hands? Yes. Was it dominating my thoughts whenever I wasn’t reading it as I want mysteries to do? No. Will I remember the details of this book two months from now? Probably not.

I’ve never seen a title on GoodReads be reviewed by so many of my friends, aside from the Harry Potter series maybe, so obviously there’s something in this book that captivates a large number of people (side note: this article detailing the book’s wild success on GoodReads is worth a read of its own). I bumped it up on my To-Read list because of a strong-sell from a friend and because a promo photo of Emily Blunt starring in the film version was released. This book will be talked about a lot so I’m happy to have read it so I can participate in discussions with peers, but overall, I kind of wish this girl (me) had picked a different book to read on the train.

Publication Date: 13 January 2015 by Riverhead Books. Format: Hardcover.

Author: Paula Hawkins web/@twitter/facebook

2016 Book Goals

I originally started this blog to keep me accountable for reading 52 books in 2015 (aka a book a week). It took me until the very last day of 2015 to accomplish that goal, but I can now say that I did it! Woohoo! Very proud of myself!

In order to tackle that goal, I had to place some of my other media consumption on pause. I’m over a month behind on the podcasts that I subscribe to (check out this post for 10 recommended podcasts) and I have a pile of magazines that I need to catch up on as well.

For 2016, I am halving 2015’s goal to 26 books. I’ve decided to do this because I want to:

  • spend my free time consuming more than just books,
  • be able to dive into *HUGE* books like A Little Life and Infinite Jest instead of being deterred from them because they won’t make a dent in my reading goals despite taking up a hefty chunk of my time,
  • and write reviews for at least 26 books in 2016 (even though I read 52 books in 2015, I didn’t have time to write reviews for all of them).

For a full list of the books I read in 2015, you can check out this page on my blog or this list on Goodreads. In the coming weeks, I’ll likely put together some recommendations for books based on my previous reviews and post extended reviews of the books I finished in December 2015, but haven’t posted about on the blog yet. I’ve already jumped into 2016’s reading pool by finishing We Should All be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (thank you for sending it to me, Amy!) and starting the graphic novel Are You My Mother? by Alison Bechdel which my partner gave me for Christmas.

& That’s a wrap on my bookish 2015 and a peek into my 2016. Thank you for following me on my reading journey.

‘Tis the season of traveling: Podcast Edition

I’m taking a momentary detour of posting book reviews to share some podcast recommendations from myself and two of my groovy friends. I spend a lot of the holiday season traveling and I subsequently spend a lot of time with my earbuds firmly in place to accompany me on my travels in planes, trains, and automobiles. I either spend my time listening to audiobooks (I’ll have a post with my end of year recommendations soon!) or podcasts.

fridaynightlivespreviewRecently, my neighbor and I were bitten by the podcast bug and decided to add our voices to the massive content hole by spending our weekend mornings recording a podcast about the TV show Friday Night Lights. So first and foremost, I request that you check out our brand new podcast Friday Night Lives, which can now be downloaded via iTunes or streamed directly from Soundcloud. In each episode of the podcast, we talk about a single episode of the show. My neighbor Jeff is a huge fan of the show and I am watching each episode for the first time and discussing how accurately they portray high school life in Texas. Once the holidays pass, we’re aiming to release an episode every Friday. We’re definitely amateurs and would really appreciate your feedback! Feel free to rate the show and leave reviews or comments!

In conjunction with the release of my very own podcast, I reached out to two of my favorite people, Mariah and Yvonne, who frequently share podcast recommendations with me and wish my monthly book club meetings about Infinite Jest were about the podcasts they listened to while they were in transit to book club instead. We each recommend three podcasts below. Feel free to download them and listen as you travel this holiday season.

Yvonne’s recommendations:

An oldie but goodie: oldie because your parents have been listening to it for years, goodie because it’s consistent in it’s charm and humor. Our dear announcer Carl Kasell retired last year, but Bill Kurtis is fitting in just right. If you like dad humor, being a know-it-all, and celebrity guests (Kim Kardashian famously split NPR devotees with her June 13, 2015 appearance)… subscribe!
wtfpodI admit that I only download the episodes of people I’m a fan of/have an interest in, but every time I’m grateful for Maron’s vulnerability and knack for getting his famous subjects to open up about the things in life that aren’t so pleasant, that don’t make for fun, gif-able moments on a late show. There’s a reason why Slate called his interview with Louis C.K. the best podcast episode of all time.
A favorite because it’s a podcast about everything and anything–and it’s done with care: Philip Glass’s life as a taxi driver, the elections in Myanmar from the perspective of the emerging youth population, Minecraft, the Detroit Institute of Arts and bankruptcy, etc.
Mariah’s recommendations:

youmustrememberthisKarina Longworth’s weekly storytelling corner documents the sordid tales of the Old Hollywood elite. Each meticulously researched episode dives deep into subjects ranging from Judy Garland to Hollywood’s first openly gay marriage. I’m in love with this podcast in spite of my indifference to most classic Old Hollywood films, but Longworth’s own brand of “creative nonfiction” keeps pulling me back in.

Try: “Carole Lombard and Clark Gable,” “Lena Horne

A podcast for the murder mystery enthusiast. Host Phoebe Judge isn’t necessarily interested in solving the crimes she covers so much as she is in giving each crime a platform beyond a blotter line. It’s a podcast that’s received glowing comparisons to Serial without being remotely like it. That’s probably a good thing.

Try: “No Place Like Home,” “The Portrait

altlatinoMusic podcasts are a favorite of mine, and NPR’s Jasmine Garsd and Felix Contreras team up to make one of the best. Alt.Latino delivers a weekly mix of tunes consisting of everything from Argentinian hip hop to back catalog Celia Cruz. But what distinguishes Alt.Latino from other music podcasts is the sharp cultural insight that accompanies it. Come for the music, stay for the conversation.

Try: “Starting 2015 on the Right Foot: An Alt.Latino Dance Mix,” “De Pelicula:The Best Latin Film Soundtracks Ever

Bri’s (my) recommendations:

This lovely creation described as a “podcast about the internet” ends up being a podcast about, yes, the internet, but also about all of the EMOTIONS. So far, my favorite episode they’ve done actually isn’t about the Internet at all, but is about skipping a day off of work to explore New York City — something I should really do before I leave the city.

Try: aforementioned favorite “Today’s the Day,” “Exit & Return,” “The Rainbow Pug

nottoodeepBefore podcasts, I was completely unfamiliar with YouTube star Grace Helbig. I was exposed to Grace’s charm in a guest episode of Dear Hank & John and instantly felt like I was immersed in a perfect best friendship… albeit a one-sided friendship where I listen to one person talk and she has no idea that her hypothetical best friend exists. Grace is definitely someone that I would love to hang out with and each time I see a new episode of her podcast pop up in my feed, it feels me with the same warm feeling when I see my best friend’s name pop across my caller ID.

Try: “Ep. 36 Troye Sivan

This is a new podcast that is quickly becoming my favorite. The show centers around three friends talking about different pop culture topics. While I quite enjoy perennial favorite Pop Culture Happy Hour, I gravitate more towards The Cooler because it feels less structured, is thoroughly infused with fun, and somehow made me sympathize with Taylor Swift.

Try: “Taylor vs. Mansplainers, Taking Back Snobbery, and the Downfall of American Apparel

That’s it for this year’s podcast recommendations! Tune it soon for a year-end post about the audiobooks I’ve listened to this year!

#findabook and autumn round up!

Long time, no post! As I mentioned in my last post, I took a much needed hiatus to focus on studying for a major test. Now that I’ve taken the test, I need to shift my energy to writing applications related to that test which means I still don’t have as much time as usual to be reading books and reviewing them for my blog.

Amy's #findabook

When I’m not burrowing my head in application land, I’ve begun circulating a side project that I developed for the blog called #findabook. In order to eliminate clutter from my life, I’ve decided to put books I own in public places to share them with strangers and friends. In order to kickstart the project, I’ve sent a few books to friends via mail (fellow book blogger Amy was sent Bright Lines; my pal Shelly in D.C. was sent Fun Home; my longtime friend Lisa in Austin was sent Brain on Fire; my coworker Loulou was given Americanah) and left a few in public spaces (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-timeGone Girl, and The Martian). If you find one, please leave a comment and let me know what city you found it in and your name and be sure to pass along the book to someone new when you’re done! Speaking of projects, I’ll also be launching a podcast soon, but more on that later…

I’m still roughly on track to finish 52 books in 52 weeks, aka the motivation that led me to create this blog initially, and I hope the coziness of fall encourages me to spend some more time reading. I’m currently toggling between two books for two different book clubs. I’m listening to My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante and should have a review of that up in November and am reading 200 pages a month of Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace for a book club I’m leading. I’m thinking that I’ll post reviews of each of the 200 page chunks since it’s such an undertaking! Have any of you finished or attempted to finish this book before? I’m finding that the shared responsibility of tackling it for my book club has really motivated me through it. Feel free to join me digitally by completing the first chunk by early November or reading the first 400 pages by early December! If you’re joining, let me know and we can have an online discussion about what we’ve read so far!

During my absence, I was also tagged in some fun book blog related things (thank you Amy, Maryan, Chloe, and Alyssa!) that I’ll get to when I’ve officially left application land. I hope you’ve all had swell falls and have been able to cozy up to more books than I’ve had the chance to!

august round up! & a hiatus…

Hi friends, the August Round Up is coming to your blog feeds a little bit later because I’ve decided to take a momentary break with my blog (cue the classic, “It’s not you! It’s me!). After having a pretty eventful August, in terms of reading, posting reviews, and real life, I’ve decided to take a minor break to prioritize some major life events that are happening, like: 1. This weekend I became an aunt! 2. I should be spending my free time studying for a massive test! 3. I’m currently reading, the extremely long, but insanely enjoyable A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. I’ll likely return in mid-October when I’m no longer needing to devote my spare time to studying and will be happy to snuggle up with some fall beverages and a book whenever the opportunity arises.

In order to not feel overwhelmed with backlogged book reviews when I return, I’ve decided to update my books read list to include ratings for every book that I’ve tackled in 2015 even if a review of the book doesn’t currently exist on the blog. You can find the ratings for books read during this summer, but not yet reviewed, just below (and in my jumbo list). I’m hoping that I’ll feel motivated to include reviews of all of them when I return, but I’ll see how I feel in October. In other news, I’m still on track to conquer my goal of reading 52 books in 52 weeks! I’ve currently completed 43 books this year, so I only need to finish 8 more to succeed in my goal, which is the entire reason I started this blog!

Here’s a list of books I’ve read this summer, but haven’t had the chance to review. If you click on the book titles, you’ll be taken to each of their respective pages on GoodReads.

  1. All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven ★★
  2. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie ★★★★★
  3. The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer ★★★
  4. The Martian by Andy Weir ★★★★
  5. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews ★★★★
  6. Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen ★★★

Here is a list + links to book reviews and posts that actually got published during August.

 dontfailmenow funhomeatthebeach

idontknowwhatyouknowmefrom readyplayerone

  1. Bright Lines by Tanwi Nandini Islam: A Book Release (event; book review here)
  2. Don’t Fail Me Now by Una LaMarche ★★★★★
  3. Fun Home by Alison Bechdel ★★★★
  4. I Don’t Know What You Know Me From by Judy Greer ★★★★
  5. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (through a book conversation with Amy) ★★★★★

I also launched my #findabook project, which I may lightly continue during my hiatus, but will definitely devote a full blog post to when I return in October. I look forward to telling you all about it and sharing more books with the world!

Ciao for now! I’ll be back when the leaves start to change. Hope you all have lovely Septembers!

Off the Page Event presented by Random House

I just returned from Random House’s Off the Page Event that took place today in New York’s Hudson Valley. A few weeks ago, I won tickets to the event for me + a friend through an Instagram contest which was very exciting! Enter those digital book contests — one day you might be the lucky winner!

I had never been to upstate New York before so I was very excited to visit the rolling hills of Hudson Valley and to escape the hubbub of the city life for a weekend. Sam, one of my college friends, was game to go with me and I’m so happy she agreed! We made our way up to Hudson on Friday night and stayed with some of her family friends before departing for the event bright and early on Saturday morning.

The morning started off with a conversation between Dana Bowen, the editor of Every Day with Rachel Ray, and Ruth Reichl, the author of many fantastic food memoirs and cookbooks.

Dana Bowen, left, interviews Ruth Reichl, right, at Random House's Off the Page Event

Dana Bowen, left, interviews Ruth Reichl, right, at Random House’s Off the Page Event

The conversation was quite lovely and Ms. Reichl was extremely charming as she discussed the creation of her upcoming cookbook to be released this fall. Reichl moved to Hudson after falling upon some hard times in the city and cooked her way back to happiness, all the while tweeting about her experiences along the way. The book covers the foods that helped her find her happiness again.

After listening to that exciting conversation, Sam and I attended some of the classes they offered as part of the event. We learned different ways to brew coffee from Toby’s Estate and how to make flower arrangements! We also tried savory yogurt, courtesy of Blue Hill Yogurt, which we’d never done before! Fun photos of all of these things are at the end of the post.

We were also given a swag bag that included a summer issue of Every Day with Rachel RayTop Secret Twenty-One by Janet Evanovich, The One that Got Away by Bethany Chase, and Lucky Us by Amy Bloom.

Off the Page Swag

Off the Page Swag

Thanks for the fun event, Random House! Here’s to hoping I can win tickets to more cool events in the future! Click through for more photos from the day!

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june round up

Hi folks! This June Round Up is coming to your computer screen a little late (though I may be starting a trend here…) because a lot of summer traveling has been occupying my attention. In the past few weeks, my high school best friend, my boo, and one of my college best friends all came to stay with me on separate occasions. As I’m writing this, I’ve just returned from a July 4th trip to Washington, D.C., to visit another one of my college best friends and it’s the first time I’ve been in front of a computer in days. In fact, I originally hand wrote this blog note on the train from D. C. because I was taking a break from “screen time” all weekend.

My traveling isn’t going to stop anytime soon because this coming weekend, I’m heading up to Hudson, NY for Random House’s Off the Page event. I won two tickets to the event through an Instagram contest and am very excited about the event and visiting upstate New York! Hudson is allegedly adorable and very picturesque so I’ll be spending an extra day exploring the quaint town. You can expect a post all about the event sometime in the next week… as long as I manage to post it before I depart to Chicago for Pitchfork Music Festival… I’m a busy bee who can’t be in one place for long it seems!

In the meantime, check out the following book reviews published in June and let me know what you think:

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time Forgotten Country by Catherine Chung Fresh Off the Boat by Eddie Huang

stardust undocumented by dan-el padilla peralta Where'd You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple

My June Book Haul includes:

beyondbelief brightlines thecircle euphoria funhome theinterestings themartian meandearlandthedyinggirl modern romance

  • Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape by Jenna Miscavige Hill with Lisa Pulitzer
  • Bright Lines by Tanwi Nandini Islam (ARC from Penguin’s First to Read program)
  • The Circle by Dave Eggers
  • Euphoria by Lily King
  • Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel
  • The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer
  • The Martian by Andy Weir
  • Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews
  • Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari

I also finished a few of the books above in June that I haven’t been able to blog about yet due to the abundance of traveling and friend fun that I’ve been indulging in. You can expect reviews of finished June reads Beyond BeliefThe Circle, and The Interestings coming to the blog soon!

As summer continues to progress, I’ll strive to stay on top of my book reviews, but it’s so difficult when I’m also trying to enjoy the outdoors and spend less time hunched over my many digital screens! As soon as the boringness and limited sunlight of fall settles in, I’m sure I’ll return to being on my book review A-game.

I hope you’re also enjoying your summer as much as I am! Adventure on!

may round up

The May Round Up is finally here! I had tried to post it at the end of May right before I left for Chicago last weekend, but I was having some issues with my WordPress site that prevented me from doing so. Thanks to the WordPress gods (aka moderators), my blog is officially back on its feet and shouldn’t be crashing again anytime in the future. Thus, the May Round Up is arriving during the first week of June. Sorry about that!

This month I indulged in way more audiobooks than normally because I’ve been listening to them while walking and running around the absolutely beautiful Prospect Park. My listening will probably decrease as soon as it gets cold again, but I’m hoping to spend as much time outside and listening to audiobooks as I can for the foreseeable future.

Without further adieu, here is a round up of May’s book reviews, books acquired, and backlogged book reviews.

 May’s Book Reviews

We Were Liars by E. LockhartThe Short and Tragic Life of Robert PeaceAnna and the French Kiss

The Marriage Plot

Lord of the Flies

Our Kids

Local Girls



May’s Book Haul

sidewalk sale book haul




All Souls Giveaway

  • Stardust by Neil Gaiman
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart
  • Bad Feminist: Essays by Roxane Gay
  • Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • Forgotten Country by Catherine Chung
  • Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
  • The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness

Backlogged Book Reviews coming in June

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-timefreshofftheboat



  1. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon (I meant to post this during May, but it’s scheduled to be posted soon!)
  2. Fresh off the Boat: A Memoir by Eddie Huang
  3. The Body Project: An Intimate History of American Girls by Joan Jacobs Brumberg
  4. Hollow City (Miss Perengrine’s Peculiar Children #2) by Ransom Riggs

Are there any books in the May Book Haul that I absolutely need to read soon? I received The Book of Life from a Penguin giveaway (!!), but I haven’t read the previous books in the series yet, so I’ll need to acquire those before I can dive into the book I won. Have you read this series before?

I also won another giveaway (!!!) from Random House, but I can’t announce the details of that contest just yet. Looking forward to telling you about it soon!