August 31, 2018

9 Books I've Loved This Year

I think it's finally safe to say that the reading rut I've been in for almost two years is over. Last year, I fell pretty short of my Goodreads reading challenge because I hated almost everything I read. This year started off pretty slowly too and reading one too many bad books followed by morning sickness that lasted well into my second trimester kept me out of the libraries and left me with no desire to read. It's why I haven't posted any book reviews since January!

But this summer, after finally unpacking all of my books from our move in December, I started reading again and finally have some good recommendations to share!

"A Gentleman in Moscow" by Amor Towles - This book was getting a lot of hype last year and I picked it up while in London and wasn't disappointed. Do you ever read a book that moves slowly but in an absolutely perfect way? That was "A Gentleman in Moscow." The book follows the long life of the aristocrat, Count Rostov, who is put under house arrest at a hotel in Moscow for being part of the aristocracy. Amor Towles' ability to craft such a beautiful story that never leaves the four walls of the hotel is remarkable. With a main character whom you grow to love more and more by the page, this book was one that I didn't want to end and can easily be considered a new favorite.

"Big Little Lies" by Liane Moriarty - I picked this up off of my friend, Carolann's bookshelf when I was in Hawaii. I hadn't read a book in almost two months and wanted a light, easy beach read. Honestly, I had avoided reading anything by Moriarty. Her books never really appealed to me but I loved this book. It was the perfect beach read and I couldn't put it down! I love a good mystery and this one kicks off with a murder but you don't know who was murdered or who the murderer was, which definitely made for a good page turner! I haven't watched the HBO series but I've heard good things about it!

"Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood" by Trevor Noah - I listened to the audiobook of Trevor Noah's book and wasn't disappointed. It was a fascinating, funny autobiography about Trevor Noah's life growing up in post-apartheid South Africa. I normally don't read books by celebrities because I've found that they all come across as extremely self-absorbed and have made me really dislike some of my favorite celebrities but Noah's book wasn't a "how I got here" story, it was about his life growing up and made for a good read.

"The Alice Network" by Katie Quinn - Historical fiction is easily my favorite genre and I'll read just about anything written about the First and Second World Wars. I'm not sure why but I'm really drawn to these books. I picked up "The Alice Network" at a local bookstore here in Baltimore and really enjoyed it. Told from two perspectives - that of Eve Gardiner, a young woman recruited to be a spy during the Great War, and Charlie St. Clair, pregnant and unmarried who lands on Eve's doorstep 30 years later, at the tail end of the Second World War. Unexpectedly, the unlikely pair ends up on a journey through Europe trying to find Charlie's missing cousin while the plot hints at a surprising connection between the two women.

"The Beekeeper's Apprentice" by Mary Russell - I love a good Sherlock Holmes story. "Sherlock" might be my favorite television show. This novel introduces a young, sprightly, American, Mary Russell who quite literally stumbles on a much older, retired Sherlock Holmes while walking through a meadow with her nose in a book. The two become fast friends as Mary apprentices under Sherlock. I felt like this book did the Arthur Conan Doyles stories justice, adding a female voice to the Sherlock Holmes stories while maintaining some of the originality of the ACD books. While I really enjoyed this and would recommend it, I'm not sure I'll seek out the other books in this series.

"Paris to the Moon" by Adam Gopnik - I picked this up in a Little Free Library ages ago for the title alone and surprisingly, I wasn't let down. Adam Gopnik is a writer for The New Yorker who decided to up and move to Paris with his wife and their 8-month-old son (something I am now trying to figure out how to do). Each chapter is an anecdote and a glimpse into their life in Paris. It was easy to read, enjoyable, and made me want to pack my bags immediately. I loved this book and recommend it to anyone who loves traveling to Paris.

"The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society" by Mary Ann Shaffer - I reread this for our book club this summer and loved it just as much the second time around as the first. This is one of my favorite books of all time. I enjoyed the film but wish it had incorporated more of the letter writing, even just as a bit of background narration. If you haven't read this book, I highly recommend it. It's a beautifully written compilation of letters written by Juliet, a young writer in London and a group of friends she makes (via letter writing) in Guernsey, who tell their stories of living under German occupation during the war.

"Next Year in Havana" by Chanel Cleeton - Like "Paris to the Moon," I picked this up for the title. I will read just about anything about Cuba. As a Cuban American, I'm always looking to read more and learn more about the island that is so much a part of me, but that I have never been to. This is easily the best book I've read about Cuba. Alternating between two perspectives, that of 19-year-old Elena living in Cuba at the height of the revolution, and 31-year-old Miami-born Marisol, Elena's granddaughter who heads to the island for the first time to scatter Elena's ashes. This book wasn't without a few problem points that I won't get into because of spoilers, but I felt like this story so closely mirrored mine and my families that it was easy for me to forgive. If you're interested in Cuba, I recommend this book. It's a wonderful story that feels very true.

"My Life in France" by Julia Child - I'll admit that I never knew anything about Julia Child until I saw the movie, "Julie and Julia" but I've had this book on my to-read list for ages and finally dove in. This story gave me so much life. Julia Child didn't become the Julia Child that the world fell in love with until she was in her late 40s and then went on to have a fabulous career. In a world of food photography and food bloggers, it was refreshing to read a book that doesn't use any pictures to describe mouthwatering foods that had me wanting to run to the kitchen with my copy of "Mastering the Art of French Cooking." I loved reading about Julia's and Paul's fascinating life and appreciated just how seriously Julia took her craft. If you're feeling like you're in a creative rut, this might be a good read for you. Warning: Don't read it on an empty stomach!

Have you read any of these? What have you been reading lately?

August 1, 2018

Mid-Week Coffee Date

Hi friends. Happy August! I'm happy to see July behind me. Last month was brutal. I took on some extra projects at work and with my ever-growing pre-baby to-do list, just felt like I didn't have time for anything. It doesn't help that I'm super unmotivated to do much of anything these days. I blame pregnancy, but I'm pushing through. I haven't had the chance to post since my big announcement so I thought I'd ease back in with a coffee date and fill you in on what I've been up to!

If we were having coffee, I would be drinking Mommee Coffee. I found this stuff on Amazon and love it. I'm not a coffee snob but this is really tasty coffee! It's low acid, quarter caf coffee (also comes in half-caf and 3/4-caf) which is perfect for a soon-to-be mama who is limiting her caffeine intake but can't drink regular coffee because pregnancy heartburn is real.

If we were having coffee, here's what I'd share:

I'm officially in my 3rd trimester! I shared a little bit about our experience going through pregnancy loss in my last post so this feels like a huge milestone. I'm feeling surprisingly good at this point, if not a little run down but everything is looking good.

I have a mile-long to-do list of stuff I want to get done around the house before the baby comes and surprisingly, most of it has nothing to do with the baby. The list is things like...painting the laundry room, reorganizing the pantry, and hanging our bedroom curtains. It feels a little overwhelming and I wish I could take a week off to just work on house projects but unfortunately, I need to save that time for maternity leave.

I miss running. I haven't run a single mile in 2018 and I was fine with it until very recently. I always wanted to be someone who ran through my pregnancy but with my history, honestly, I was just too scared to run. I lived in a bubble my first trimester and I know that that's what I needed to do for my own well-being. I didn't feel well enough to even attempt to run until I was close to 20 weeks and by that point, I had a sizeable baby bump that I wasn't used to running with and I didn't like running the few times I tried to get out there. I hope that my return to running isn't impossible after being out of the game for a full year but I have every intention of running again as soon as I feel up to it and am cleared by my doctor!

I've finally gotten out of the reading rut I've been in all year. I'm 11 books behind on my Goodreads challenge (which I had actually set low this year) but I'm finally back to reading every day. Everyone keeps telling me I'll have tons of time to read on maternity leave so maybe I'll be able to catch up. Right now, I'm reading "Paris to the Moon" by Adam Gopnik, a New Yorker writer who moved to Paris with his 8-month-old son in the 90s. Let me tell you - if this doesn't set my wannabe expat wheels turning, I don't know what does!

I'm working on my recap of our amazing trip to Lisbon and will have those posts up next week! But I can tell you right now, Lisbon was an amazing choice for a babymoon...for a lot of unexpected reasons!

To all of you who commented on my post, thank you, I'll be responding soon now that I'm out of a busy July!

What would you share over coffee?
What's your coffee shop drink of choice?
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