July Reading

I worked really hard to read a lot this month. I had a strong month in reading what I enjoy and finding some books that were total winners for me. Working at the library has helped me expand my reading life, but also taught me how to select the right books for me.There’s Something About Sweetie by Sandhya Menon⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

What a sweet and endearing YA romance with a strong heroine who I want to be my best friend! She is so kind and confident, has great friends, navigates hard family relationships well, meets a sweet boy, and just sees the best in the world around her. She is also a fierce athlete and what the boy likes about her is her strength and power and kindness – he doesn’t care about the body image issues that her mother is preoccupied by.I cannot recommend this book enough. Another home run by Sandhya Menon – hands down one of my favorite authors right now. She does tender teen romance so well and creates multidimensional characters who feel authentic and who act their age.She’s great. This book is great. I’m just enjoying that post book high that comes when you’ve thoroughly enjoyed what you’ve been reading.Southern Lady Code by Helen Ellis⭐⭐⭐

This essay collection had me laughing out loud and relating to the author on some of the stories, while being entertained by all of them. What a fun read that Annie from The Bookshelf in Thomasville recommended. If you enjoy humurous essay collections, check this one out.Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes⭐⭐⭐⭐

It took me awhile to get into this book, but what wonderful character development that eventually hooked me. I enjoyed that the author allowed her characters to be flawed and broken and used that to tell a beautiful story about grief, pain, secrets, friendships, family, and relationships. There was so much authenticity to the story that made these characters feel like neighbors in my town. I definitely will encourage library patrons and friends to pick this one up.Ayesha At Last by Uzma Jalaluddin⭐⭐⭐⭐

I read a lot of Pride and Prejudice inspired stories; there is something so timeless and endearing about misunderstanding who someone is in your initial interaction only to find yourself drawn to them over and over again.This was definitely not a retelling, but rather a loose inspiration that I simply adored. I enjoyed the characters and family dynamics, I loved that the characters were Muslim and learning more about their cultural traditions, I love that it was set in Toronto – one of my favorite cities. I just really enjoyed this book.If you’re looking for a book that has complicated family dynamics, love stories, misunderstanding, and even some mistaken identity, I would encourage you to read this book.The Wedding Party by Jasmine Guillory⭐⭐⭐⭐

I have deeply enjoyed every book of Jasmine’s I’ve been able to read and waited rather impatiently to read this book from the library; I convinced my coworker who handles processing our new books to rush process this one for me before we left town for the week. Luckily, she enjoyed my enthusiasm and rushed it no problem!This book totally lived up to the excitement and expectation I had for these characters! You’ve met both Theo and Maddie before as they’re the best friends of Alexa, our lead character from The Wedding Date. I really enjoyed these two falling into relationship and how they tried to keep it a secret, but we’re rather obvious. My only complaint is that it felt like they are pizza all. the. time. I get it – I love pizza too, but that much pizza felt excessive.If you love a good rom com with a little bit of steaminess and stories about what it means to support and love your friends, this is a great one to pick up!

From Twinkle, With Love by Sandhya Menon

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This book feels like it was written by an awkward teen for an awkward teen, which was fun, but different than the other two books by Sandhya I’ve read and loved. It was told through emails and diary entries mostly, which was an interesting format, though not my favorite. I enjoyed that it took place in Colorado Springs and that Twinkle learns to stand up for herself and what she deserves in a friendship – maybe those friendship tensions are what made the awkwardness so palpable? Having attended three high schools and having to make new friends every year, the growing pains of high school friendships perhaps feel too real still in my mind 15 years later. I know poor communication is a common trope in both YA and romance novels, but as a trope it really seemed to bother me in this one. I enjoyed this book, but it was definitely mediocre relative to her other two in my opinion.

Class Mom by Laurie Gelman

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This book was hilarious. Totally my style of humor. I thought the characters were entertaining and the setting around being class mom and field trips and parent dynamics was engaging and so fun. I read this in one sitting and laughed out loud often. I look forward to reading more from this author.

Park Avenue Summer by Renee Rosen

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This historical fiction about Helen Gurley Brown and the beginning of her reign as EIC of Cosmo was so much fun!

I loved Alice and the journey she went on of what it means to find strength in yourself, assert Independence, what family means, how to make choices that are best for you and how to follow your dreams was so relatable. The characters were all so dynamic and engaging, and I loved the glimpses of real people who we know and adore today in the worlds of magazines, photography, publishing, and Hollywood.

Seeing the early journey of how Cosmo switched from a dying magazine to the “Bible” as Elle Woods would say was so interesting; what a vision Helen Gurley Brown had for what women wanted to read and how to deliver that to them.

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

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The chemistry between these characters is SO good! The tension reminded me a bit of the Netflix film, Set It Up, but this book was better. I enjoyed the games the characters played and how there was a nod to Pride and Prejudice in their initial perspective of each other and how they had to overcome these preconceptions. I enjoyed the office setting and the antics of their coworkers. I loved the tenderness Josh shows and the sweet backstory of where and how Lucy grew up. I just thoroughly enjoyed this delicious rom-com and it made for the PERFECT beach read!

Recursion by Blake Crouch

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What a fantastic science fiction thriller that’s perhaps a bit too easy to picture in the real world. If you’re interested in the theory of time and memory, psychology, physics and brain chemistry, this book is for you. The plot was fast paced, the writing was engaging, the threat felt real and made me feel vulnerable, and I just could not put this book down! It was the perfect fast-paced beach read and I could easily envision this being adapted to the screen. Definitely recommend!

Meet Cute by Helena Hunting

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This was a cute, steamy beach read. I loved the dynamic of law school rivals who reconnect years later and fall in love in the midst of some deep heartbreak. I loved the dynamic between the siblings. This was such a fun rom-com if that’s your thing!

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

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Exit West was beautifully written. I loved the description and sentence structure that brought this story to life. It felt dystopic, but not. It was a story that felt so timely in our current political climate as it discussed civil war, unrest, migration, refugees, what it means to leave, what it means to belong to a place and to another person. It left me thinking and processing and I see why everyone was talking about it last year.

Unmarriageable by Soniah Kamal

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This was such a charming adaptation of Pride and Prejudice! I loved the Pakistani setting and learning more about their culture while drooling over all the food mentioned. I found the characters thoroughly enjoyable, and the misunderstandings that are the backbone of Pride and Prejudice to be so relatable. Alys was a delight and I loved how strong she was. If you enjoy Austen, or adaptations of her works, definitely check this one out.

Dingle Peninsula

Dingle was probably my favorite day of our trip. Driving around this beautiful peninsula, stopping at different locations to explore or hike around, spending all day surrounded by the sea and awe-inducing sights. I just cannot get over how amazing this day was and need to share so many pictures to try and capture the deep peace and joy this day provided during our time in Ireland.

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A gorgeous overlook on our way out of Killarney and to the Dingle Peninsula.

We first stopped at the beach in Inch – it reminded me of Hawaii with the beach and mountains around us. What a beautiful way to start the day.

The peninsula was so green and lush with lots of cows and sheep! Dad was in love with the group of cattle lounging by the road, and mom caught this funny picture of the three of us taking pictures.

We stopped at a cafe with the most beautiful view for lunch. I had a delicious squash soup and they had delicious scones that we had with tea while we enjoyed the view. There was also a friendly cafe dog that loved having ear scratches.

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We hiked out to a filming location for Star Wars that was just breathtakingly beautiful.

Next we headed down to the beach for a couple minutes.

After the beach we found this rocky hike that again had views that just left you in awe. If I could recommend one place to go in Ireland, it would be the Dingle Peninsula. It also happens to be home to my new favorite gin, Dingle Gin, which I fell in love with while on this holiday. Ireland truly is even more beautiful than everyone says that it is, which continues to leave me in a state of wonder.

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We ended the day back in Killarney. We enjoyed walking around the grounds of Ross Castle before we ate a tasty supper at Celtic Whiskey Bar and Larder, where I was able to try several new gins and eat a delicious cheese & meat board for supper.

After dinner we headed out to enjoy music at Scott’s, which we couldn’t resist since my dad’s name is Scott. I enjoyed a few more gin & tonics while Dad and William enjoyed a few beers and we listened to these two young guys play some awesome folk music.

It was such a fun day and truly stands out as a favorite of our time in Ireland.

2019 Reading Progress

We are seven and a half months in 2019 and I’ve already hit my Goodreads reading goal for the year – 52 books down, and hopefully I can keep it up and read 52 more!

I always find it interesting to see the breakdown of what a reading life looks like, so I thought I’d take a closer look at what I’ve been reading in 2019.

What I’ve read each month:

January:

Dog Songs – Oliver

Whiskey in a Teacup: What Growing Up in the South Taught Me About Life, Love, and Baking Biscuits – Witherspoon

I’m Still Here: Black Dignity In a World Made for Whiteness – Brown

Giant Pumpkin Suite – Hill

The United Methodist Way: Living Our Beliefs – Carder

Darius the Great is Not Okay – Khorram

Searching for Sunday – Evans

Half Truths: God Helps Those Who Help Themselves and Other Things the Bible Doesn’t Say – Hamilton

Upstream – Oliver

Becoming – Obama

February:

The Wondering Years – McCoy

Lizzy & Jane – Reay

A Thousand Mornings – Oliver

El Deafo – Bell

Happy as a Dane: 10 Secrets of the Happiest People in the World – Rydahl

Life on the Leash – Schade

Playing With Matches – Orenstein

Gmorning, Gnight!: Little Pep Talks for Me & You – Miranda

She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World – Clinton

She Persisted Around the World: 13 Women Who Changed History

Homebody: A Guide to Creating Spaces You Never Want to Leave – Gaines

I Think You’re Wrong (But I’m Listening): A Guide to Grace-Filled Political Conversations – Holland & Silvers

Shameless: A Sexual Reformation – Bolz-Weber

Sweet Home Cafe: A Celebration of African American Cooking

March:

A City Baker’s Guide to Country Living – Miller

The Gown – Robson

We Are the Gardeners – Gaines

Real Food, Real Simple: 80 Delicious Paleo-Friedly, Gluten-Free Recipes in 5 Steps or Less – Riggs

Sonya’s Chickens – Wahl

What is Given From the Heart – McKissack

Where Is Home, Little Pip? – Wilson

Loving Hands – Johnston

April:

American Primitive – Oliver

Save Me the Plums – Reichl

Gift From the Sea – Lindbergh

American Housewife – Ellis

Mr. Nice Guy – Miller & Feifer

Jane of Austin – Lodge

Cravings: Hungry for More – Teigen

Why I Wake Early – Oliver

May:

Puddin’ – Murphy

Garlic and Sapphires – Reichl

Eligible  – Sittenfield

It’s Not Okay: Turning Heartbreak Into Happily Never After – Dorfman

June:

99 Percent Mine – Thorne

Waiting for Tom Hanks – Winfrey

So, Here’s The Thing… – Mastromonaco

The Bride Test – Hoang

The Accidental Beauty Queen – Wilson

The Serial Dater’s Shopping List – Bailey

July (thus far):

There’s Something About Sweetie – Menon

Southern Lady Code – Ellis

Evvie Drake Starts Over – Holmes

Genre Breakdown:

Fiction: 23

Nonfiction: 29

Children’s: 7

Middle Grade: 2

YA: 3

Memoir: 8

Poetry: 6

Faith-based: 5

Food & Home: 6

Politics: 1

Historical Fiction: 1

Essay Collections: 3

“Chick” Lit: 13

Author Breakdown:

Women: 46

Men: 4

POC: 9

Modern Mrs Darcy Reading Challenge:

A book you’ve been meaning to read: Gift From the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh (April 20)

A book about a topic that fascinates you: The Gown by Jennifer Robson (March 3)

The Royal Family, history, inter-generational friendship, fashion & embroidery. This was a true delight!

A book in the backlist of a favorite author: Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans (January 14)

A book recommended by someone with great taste: I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World of Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown (January 10)

Recommended by Rachel of RAD Reads, Megan of Too Cool for Middle School & Rachel Held Evans

Three books by the same author: Why I Wake Early by Mary Oliver (April 30), Dog Songs (January 3), American Primitive (April 1), A Thousand Mornings (February 4), Upstream (February 4)

A book you chose for the cover: Giant Pumpkin Suite by Melanie Heuiser Hill (January 11)

A book by an author who is new to you: Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram (January 14)

A book in translation:

A book outside your (genre) comfort zone: El Deafo by CeCe Bell (February 4)

A book published before you were born: Gift From the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh (April 21)

RAD Reading Challenge 2019

A book of poetry: Dog Songs by Mary Oliver (January 3)

A classic you didn’t read in school:

A memoir from someone you admire: Becoming by Michelle Obama (January 31)

A fun or beautiful children’s book: She Persisted & She Persisted Around the World by Chelsea Clinton (February 15)

A book with a cover in your favorite color: The Bride Test by Helen Hoang (June 24)

A book by an author who shares a name with you: I Think You’re Wrong (But I’m Listening) by Sarah Stewart Holland & Beth Silvers (February 17)

A book about food or a cookbook: Save Me the Plums by Ruth Reichl (April 21)

A book blowing up your insta feed: Waiting for Tom Hanks by Kerry Winfrey (June 24)

A book published the year you were born:

A book your bff recommends: Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving and Finding the Church by Rachel Held Evans (January 14)

What are your reading goals looking like this year?

 

 

Cork & Blarney Castle

After our time in Kilkenny, we drove to Cork. Our Airbnb in Cork was our first apartment of the trip, and the location was centrally located to be able to walk around the city centre and get out to explore.

We wandered around city centre for a bit before grabbing some drinks at The Oliver Plunkett. What a fun vibe the pub had and some tasty gin and tonics too. This is where my gin explorations of the trip began when I asked for something local. I thoroughly enjoyed trying a variety of gins throughout our time in Ireland – especially drinking the ones local to the counties or towns we were in.

After enjoying our beverages, William, Dad and I walked around a bit more before heading to Market Lane for supper. For my starter I enjoyed a tasty carrot and butternut squash soup with brown bread, while William and Dad both had the chicken liver parfait, rhubarb and apple chutney, and hazelnut toast. For our mains Dad had the roast hake, potato and seaweed gratin, roast beetroot, sprouting broccoli and wild garlic veloute. William had the beetroot, walnut and feta cakes, fondant sweet potato, carrot hummus, pickled apple and watercress. I enjoyed a decadent roast marinated chicken, apricot stuffing (incredible!), braised cabbage, creamy mash and gravy. I can’t remember what Dad and William enjoyed for dessert, but I loved my rhubarb and ginger cake with pecan butter crumble and custard alongside my cappuccino. Reflecting back on the meals we enjoyed throughout our time in Ireland, this stands out as one of my favorites.

We headed back to the apartment after supper where we all slept soundly.

The following morning we woke up and wandered around a different area of city centre and enjoyed breakfast at The English Market before walking over to Saint Fin Barre’s Cathedral and enjoying the intricate carvings and pretty architecture. The church had a meditative maze which was a really enjoyable way to pray that morning.

After enjoying our morning stroll around Cork, we were off to Blarney Castle.

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It was on Mom’s bucket list to kiss the Blarney Stone, so we helped make sure she was able to do just that.

Then we split up to explore the grounds since we wanted to enjoy different things.

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William and I enjoyed a relaxing stroll down to the lake before reconnecting with Mom and Dad. Before we left Blarney, we stopped at the Blarney Woolen Mills where William found a beautiful sweater that I know he will enjoy for years to come.

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It was a beautiful day to spend enjoying nature and the sunshine before we ended our night in Killarney at the Killarney Brewing Company where William and Dad tasted their beer offerings and we tried at least half their pizza offerings. It was so relaxing and enjoyable. I enjoyed the view out back surrounded by the mountains. With the river through town and the mountains around us, Killarney felt so much like Missoula, where I went to university.

Next time we’ll be driving out to the Dingle Peninsula – one of my favorite days of our holiday!

Kilkenny

Our last day based in Mooncoin we headed to the city of Kilkenny and spent the rainy morning exploring Kilkenny Castle.

What a beautiful estate the Butler family had! I loved the touches of restoration to wallpapers, tapestry’s and recreations of carpeting and silk wallpapers – so much was visually so beautiful and really did transport you back to the 1830s.

Even though it was very wet and rainy, I loved the rose garden and how the castle grounds are now a city green-space. We passed many runners and bikers, and while the weather kept the playground empty, what a great space for families to enjoy.

Kilkenny was such a cute city and somewhere I wish we’d had more time to explore. We really enjoyed the feel of Kilkenny and would love to go back to this community if we find ourselves in Ireland again.

It’s also where I bought my claddagh ring I’ve been contemplating since we started planning this holiday. It’s the perfect size and gold and I’m so pleased to have this new daily piece of jewelry.

We drove from Kilkenny to Cork in the afternoon and stayed near city centre, which made for a great night and morning that I’ll share about in my next post.

 

June Reading

We spent half the month abroad, so my reading was dominated by chick-lit, which is my summer go-to genre.

99 Percent Mine by Sally Thorne

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This book was the perfect summer romance! It was steamy and full of tension. The characters weren’t immediately likable, but the more you got to know them, the more you loved them. What a fun and enjoyable summer read!

Waiting for Tom Hanks by Kerry Winfrey

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What a cute rom-com! This book was such a fun read to be my first poolside companion of the summer. The characters were fun and had just enough depth to make them relatable in they way characters in a traditional rom-com are. The main character has an obsession with rom-coms and waiting for her own life to become one and it provided such a fun framework for the story. This was a light enjoyable read perfect for a couple hours binge session on your porch, by the pool or at the beach. Definitely recommend!

So, Here’s the Thing by Alyssa Mastromonaco

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I really enjoy Alyssa’s humor and essays. She has led such an interesting life and they way she wrote about our shared issue of IBD had me crying I was laughing so hard. I was thoroughly entertained reading this second work by her and would recommend it for a fun nonfiction essay collection.

The Bride Test by Helen Hoang

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I really enjoy the way Helen Hoang tells a story. Last summer I adored The Kiss Quotient, and this summer The Bride Test kept me smiling, engaged and I finished it in one sitting. It was so charming. I love that her characters aren’t perfect and have depth and struggles that makes them sore more real and relatable. There is a little steaminess, but it’s mostly just a sweet love story of two people trying to figure each other out.

The Accidental Beauty Queen by Teri Wilson

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I deeply enjoyed this sweet story of sisters, pageants, and feeling seen. There were elements of The Prince and the Pauper as one sister takes the other’s place in a beauty pageant, but it was more than that. It was about discovering new things about yourself, being honest in familial relationships, healing from betrayal, and falling in love. This was a charming summer read and perhaps my favorite of this month.

The Serial Dater’s Shopping List by Morgan Bailey

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This was a fun and quick read that focused on the dating adventures of a reporter for a local paper over then course of a month. She used a dating app to go on as many dates as she could and offer guidelines and checklists based in her experience to the readers. It was a cute read that didn’t require much investment from the reader.

Waterford

Day two in Mooncoin we woke up early to assist with the morning milking at the farm. We were able to join Paddy to bring the cows in from pasture and I was able to help hook one up to be milked. It was such a technology driven operation and I enjoyed learning about his 70 head of cattle, fwirm lands, Irish laws surrounding the industry, how long his family has been dairy farmers, a d the other information he shared with us. The farm dog, Sammy, was so good at his job of herding and settling the girls down – it was fun to watch him work.

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Our day in Waterford was centered around Mom’s desire to tour the Waterford Crystal Factory. We made sure to make our reservations online the day prior and to be one of the morning groups through the factory.

We were there on a bank holiday, so the work floor was less busy than it normally was, but we still were able to see several of the master craftsman at work.

I really enjoyed the opportunity to see them creating pieces for such a well known company, and learning more of the history of how Waterford Crystal came to be. While William and I did not purchase any souvenirs here, Mom and Dad bought two beautiful crystal Christmas ornaments that I know will catch and refract the twinkle lights beautifully! So many of the pieces were so beautiful – I took so many pictures of such stunning work.

After the factory tour, we wandered around the town of Waterford. We found Mom some new trainers as her chucks weren’t supportive enough, and enjoyed exploring the Viking Triangle. It’s so interesting to see something that has been standing since the time of the Vikings next to a recently built restaurant or store front. The juxtaposition could be a but jarring, but it was really beautiful too to see how history was valued by the community and honored by still standing. We loved sitting in the seats at the marriage spot of Aoife and Strongbow.

We enjoyed our meal at The Reg, named because it is directly beside Reginald’s Tower. We chose to eat there because my Pappy was and Uncle is called Reginald, Reg or Reggie. I thought that was too fun not to take advantage of! We were surprised by how large the portion sizes were and were stuffed when our meals were over. I enjoyed a tasty Tom Collins alongside my seafood stew and brown bread appetizer and mussels with chips main. I wasn’t able to finish all my mussels because of how generous the portions were, but I enjoyed every bite I did eat.

 

After the meal, Mom headed back to the car to rest, Dad wandered off on his own, and William and I explored a bit more of the city centre before calling it a day and heading back to Mooncoin.

The weather was brisk but sunny and it was a fun day of wandering the oldest town in Ireland – full of so much history and conflict. We really enjoyed our time in Waterford and loved how cute and easy to navigate on foot the city centre was. We’d definitely recommend spending time here on your trip to Ireland!