I can’t believe that June is almost over and that 6 months have gone by since 2020 started. Time really has lost a lot of meaning while living in this new social distancing pandemic life. I don’t know about you but I have had periods of time where I am reading A LOT of books. And then I have some days/weeks when I can’t focus and reading seems like a chore.
I think I have been making pretty good progress in reading more from my unread shelf. I have completed the prompts for every month so far, although I did struggle with June’s prompt. If I had stuck to my “rule” of only reading one Louise Penny book a month in May this prompt of “a book from a series” would have been easy.
My local library opened up this month for curb side pick ups of books on hold. And I may have gone a little crazy putting books on hold. I have been able to put holds on and have read a couple of books from the Modern Mrs Darcy Summer Reading Guide this year. Some I have liked, some I haven’t but none of them have been books that I have loved.
I have noticed that since the pandemic started I have been reading a lot of mysteries. I have especially liked reading books in a series, there is something comforting about them (even though they usually feature a gruesome murder). I have also noticed that I don’t enjoy “chick lit” or women’s fiction books as much as I used to. I don’t know whether my tastes have changed or I’ve become a different reader, or my mood/stress level has been different this year or a combo of all of the above.
Some of my favourite reads from the first part of the year: ** book from my unread shelf
A Rule Against Murder- Louise Penny **
Little Fires Everywhere- Celeste Ng
The Book that Matters Most -Ann Hood**
The Brutal Telling- Louise Penny **
The Janes- Louisa Luna
Recipe for a Perfect Wife- Karma Brown
Bury Your Dead- Louise Penny**
All the Ways we Said Goodbye- Beatriz Williams
Two Girls Down- Louisa Luna
Other People’s Houses- Abbi Waxman **
Bibliophile – Jane Mount**
Comfort Me with Apples and Tender at the Bone: Two Culinary Treasures- Ruch Reichl
A Little Princess- Frances Hodgson Burnett**
A Garden of Small Beginnings- Abbi Waxman
How the Light Gets In- Louise Penny**
A Great Deliverance- Elizabeth George
The Watsons go to Birmingham- 1963- Christopher Paul Curtis
The prompt for this month was the book you most recently acquired. Right before everything closed down because of the pandemic in March I was lucky to make a visit to Indigo (ohh book shopping in a store, how I miss you very very much). While I was there I bought a few books, and the one that I picked for this month was Other People’s Houses by Abbi Waxman. I really enjoyed this book, I love stories about families and women and their daily lives. By the end I was wishing that I lived in Frances’ neighbourhood (and that I lived in LA). I hope to be able to read The Garden of Small Beginnings another book by the same author that I think features some of the same characters.
This prompt was great this month because I am like many other people who seem to think that they shouldn’t read their new books before they have read books that have been sitting on their selves for far (far) longer. I say read what you like, because reading is reading 🙂
The Unread Shelf challenge for March is to read the book that has been on your shelf the longest. I did a lot of thinking about what book that might be and I figured out that it was The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton. I pulled if off of my shelf (well book cart) at the beginning of the month. And I opened it up and…. I haven’t gotten past the first couple of pages. I don’t know if it is the size of it (over 800 pages) or something about the characters names and the way the first page was written but I have NO desire to read this book. None whatsoever. I think this might get a pass and go to a Little Free Library where someone else might appreciate it more. So did I fail the challenge for this month? I don’t think so because I am making room on my unread shelf and I am learning about the type of reader that I am and the types of books that I enjoy reading in this season of my life.
I also don’t feel too bad about not reading this giant hardcover book. I didn’t buy it, and it wasn’t a gift from anyone in my life. I won it from the library in a summer reading contest a couple of years ago. So I have no guilt about letting this book go. It feels pretty good!
Even though February is a short month I am still pretty pleased with the amount of books that I was able to read this month. In total I read 11 books, 7 books from my Unread Shelf, 1 short story that I bought on Kobo and 3 library books. I bought 2 Elin Hilderbrand books on sale from Kobo ($4 for both) and on Family Day I stress bought 3 Louise Penny books from Book Depository. I am finding that I am really paying more attention to the books that I choose to read as well as the books that I buy. I did a lot of recon on the Louise Penny books before I decided that I in fact deserved them, so I bought them.
The books that I read this month are:
The Lost Letters of William Woolf – Helen Cullen. I basically read this in January but finished the last couple of chapters on February 1. It wasn’t what I thought it would be. It focused more on the marriage of William Woolf and less on solving mysteries of the Lost Letters of England (which is what I thought it would be from the back cover).
The Book that Matters Most- Ann Hood. This is my pick for a book gifted to you from the unread shelf challenge. My friend Alicia gave this to me a couple of years ago. I’m glad that I read it this month. I love books about book clubs and reading and I wish that this one had had a little more of that but I still enjoyed the storyline with Ava and her daughter Maggie. At times I was frustrated with those two characters but I still enjoyed this one.
The Brutal Telling- Louise Penny. I enjoy this series a lot. I feel like things are starting to happen to the beloved people of Three Pines and I like it. I can’t wait for March to be here so I can read the next book in the series (I’m only allowing myself to read one a month because I would just blow through them if I let myself).
The Summer ’79- Elin Hiderbrand. This short story was just alright. I really enjoyed The Summer ’69 this past summer and I was looking forward to seeing what the characters were up to 10 years later. And while you do find out what they are up to, it all seems too short. It would have been better as a full length novel.
Daughter of Empire-Pamela Hicks. I had heard about this book on Twitter a couple of years ago. I finally found a copy in the Fall and bought it after watching the latest season of the Crown. I needed to to know more about “Dickie” Mountbatten and I thought that a book written about his daughter would be a good start. This was at times really interesting. The stories about Pamela’s childhood were fascinating. But I found it to be a bit boring once she started to reminisce about her young adulthood. It was interesting to see what all happened on Royal Tours in the 1950’s. Such a different time for travel, especially royal travel.
Meet me in Monaco- Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb- I had started to read this back in September but found it wasn’t for me. I put it back on my shelf because I knew that at some point it would be the book for me as I had read a biography about Grace Kelly when I was in Grade 8 (I was a nerdy kid who loved royals, and Hollywood). I loved reading about Cannes, Monaco and Grasse. My love of essential oils really tied into the perfume making that Sophie’s family made. I think this year is going to be the year for Grace Kelly historical fiction so I was happy to start it off with this book.
The Language of Bees- Laurie R King. I haven’t read this series in order, and I feel like you don’t have to. I might be wrong about it but previous cases and books were referenced enough that I didn’t feel too lost when I was reading it. Once I got into this story I really liked it. Was that because Sherlock and Mary spent most of the book apart? Probably. I find Sherlock Holmes to be rather exhausting, even more so as a 60 plus year old, married to a 24 year old. Mary is far more enjoyable when she isn’t jumping through the mental hoops that Sherlock puts her through. By the end I was intrigued enough to want to read the next book.
The Scent Keeper- Erica Bauermeister. I was surprised that I was able to read a Reese Witherspoon book club pick in the month that it was picked. But somehow a copy became available quickly on Libby. After reading the first two chapters or so I wasn’t really feeling this book. But having a chance to read it for a couple of hours really helped immerse myself into the story and I found myself reading until I was done. If you have been reading this blog since I first started it you know that I love essential oils and how scent is tied to memory. This books is all about scent and memory and the scent industry and I really liked it.
The Janes- Louisa Luna. I loved this book. I heard about it during the Winter Book Preview that Anne Bogel did with the Modern Mrs Darcy Book club and What Should I read Next Patreon supporters. I saw that it was on Libby so I thought “why not?”. I couldn’t put it down. There were so many twists and turns. I am now waiting for the first book in this series because I need to know more about Vega and Cap and how they became partners.
First Impressions- Charlie Lovett. This premise for this book is what made me add it to my “to read” list and ask for it for Christmas a couple of years ago. What if Jane Austen didn’t come up with the idea of Pride and Prejudice herself? What would that mean? And I love a good literary mystery. But this just fell a little flat. The main character makes a lot of bad decisions that anyone who has ever read a mystery would know are wrong. It was disappointing. However, I am probably going to watch Clueless, Pride and Prejudice (2005) and maybe Sense and Sensibility this weekend.
Recipe for a Perfect Wife- Karma Brown. I really enjoyed this one! I liked the duel narrators of Alice and Ellie in 2018 and 1956 and how we had a chance to look into both of their marriages. I love historical fiction and cooking so I really found the chapters about Ellie to be really interesting. And I think my Grandma and Mom have some of the cookbooks that are referenced in this book!
Wow, January is finally ending! This month has seemed like it was a million days long. Being sick for the last week or so has made it seem even longer. Boo. It’s now time to take a look at how my Unread shelf project is coming along!
I read 11 books in January, 4 from my unread shelf and the rest were from the library- either books that I had out at the end of December that carried over or holds that became available. I didn’t sweat the library book ban because at the beginning of the month I was on a roll reading from my unread shelf. And then I got hit with a cold that has now turned into a sinus infection and my attention span has left me along with my healthy immune system booo. The goals for the UnRead Shelf this month were to read one book from your unread shelf and to go on a library and book buying ban. I did buy one book this month BUT it was a copy of a book that I read a few years ago from the library, and it was $8 at the bookstore. Oh and I picked up Gold for $1 from the discard bin at the library (But Anne Bogel had just recommended it and I figured if the library was selling it and I wanted to read it, then it needed to come live with me. I have noticed that I am paying far more attention to the books that are available to read from the library, in the bookstore and in the different book emails that I get every day. I am finding that the books that I already own look far more appealing now.
Books read in January
The Break – Marian Keyes- library ebook from December
The Golden Hour- Beatriz Williams- from my unread shelf
Criminal- Karin Slaughter- library ebook from December
Ghost Ship- James Rollins- ebook from my digital unread shelf
A Rule Against Murder- Louise Penny- from my unread shelf
Fall of Poppies- various authors- library ebook
The Wicked Redhead- Beatriz Williams- library ebook
We All Fall Down- Daniel Kalla- my unread shelf
Bryant &May: The Lonely Hour- Christopher Fowler- library book
Twice in a Blue Moon- Christina Lauren- library ebook hold from 2019
Little Fires Everywhere- Celeste Ng- library ebook (skipped the line).
These six books are books that I would really like to read in 2020. I should say that I want to read all the books that I own, that’s why I own them. BUT I tend to pick my books based on what I am in the mood to read and sometimes that means a book from the library rather then a book I own. So I’m sure that at a different time during the year this stack would look different but right now these are books that I am really looking forward to reading!
I spent part of 2019 watching how Whitney from The UnreadShelf was reading through her unread books in 2019. I decided that I was tired of by passing the books that I own for shiny new to me library books (or gulp newly purchased books). So I am taking part in the 2020 Unread Shelf Project. Whitney has been kind and shared a lot of ideas on how to get started because it can seem a little daunting and overwhelming. How do you start reading books that you haven’t read yet? You count them (136 unread), you put them all in one area. I have kind of done this, thank goodness for the Ikea cart (pictured above) that my friends gifted me for my birthday a few years ago! and then pull some of the books that you really want to make sure that you read this year (stay tuned for that picture soon!).
There are also some great prompts for this year, in January- any unread book, August- a buddy read (I would love to do this one, so bookish friends, let’s talk!), November- a book from your favourite genre. And if the prompt for that month doesn’t work you are free to choose something else. There isn’t any pressure, which is ideal for me, I tend to be a mood reader, so it’s good to switch it up, even if that switch up is small.
I’m excited to read more from my unread shelf in 2020!
Wow, looking at my little desk calendar today and it is day 361 of the year. In some ways this year has seemed very very long. And in other ways it has flown by. I was able to read a lot of books this year, more then previous years and I think that is because I procrastinated on the things I should have been working on and read instead. So in 2020 I need to find a balance but that is for 2020 to figure out.
Today I wanted to share some of the books that I really enjoyed reading this year. So in no particular order here we go!
A Bitter Feast- Deborah Crombie- this is like 16th in a series but it reminded me of how much I love Duncan and Gemma (British Mystery series)
Dear Girls- Ali Wong- I laughed SO hard at parts of this book I was crying. I’m not anyone mother’s and I still found it to be very relatable.
Still Life- Louise Penny- I finally started the Inspector Gamache series in September of this year and I don’t know how it took me this long. So atmospheric.
Veronica Mars- Rob Thomas- I re-read the two novels that were released after the movie in 2014, still enjoyable, especially as I was getting ready for the new tv series (I am still not ready to talk about the last episode).
Delicious!- Ruth Reichl- a fictional novel by the former New York Times restaurant reviewer. I really loved this one. It was like a nicer Devil Wears Prada- but only because it takes place at a magazine, but it is quickly shut down and it is a food magazine. So not like Prada at all.
Save me the Plums- Ruth Reichl’s nonfiction about her last days running Gourmet magazine. I am not an adventurous eater at all, but this book had me wanting to eat some of the meals that Ruth described.
Veronica Speedwell series by Deanna Raybourn- I don’t even know how to describe this series. Veronica lives in the late 1800’s but has very modern ways of thinking. She solves mysteries with Raker and there is some romance and will they/ won’t they and it’s delightful.
The Proposal- Jasmine Gulliroy I have really enjoyed the whole world that she has created with her characters and her books, this year I read a lot more romance then I have before and I think that Jamine’s books were the gateway.
The Paris Spy- Susan Elia MacNeal- The Maggie Hope series was another new discovery for me this year. I liked this one because it takes place in Paris during the Occupation, I always like books that tell the story of what women were doing during major historical events and this one has the added bonus of spies.
The Huntress- Kate Quinn. I didn’t want this one to end, but I also had to keep reading to find out what was going to happen. Before reading this book I didn’t know anything about the Night Witches.
Next Year in Havana- Chanel Cleeton. I really enjoyed this book and it’s sequel this year. I didn’t really know anything about Cuba or what happened when Castro came into power and I feel like I learned so much from this book.
I’ll Be Your Blue Sky- Marisa de los Santos- so this is the third book of a trilogy but I read them out of order and started with this one. And I really loved it.
As this year, and decade (I can’t believe THAT fact) is coming to a close I have been thinking more and more about my reading life. What I want to get out of it, how I want to share it and how I’m going to do that. So I have decided that in 2020 I am going to make a HUGE effort to read more from my unread shelves.
There is an bookstagram account on Instagram that called @theunreadshelf that inspired me. I can’t wait to see the prompts for 2020 and hopefully I can incorporate some of them into my own unread shelf project!
I think I am going to try to read almost exclusively from them and I am going on a bit of a book buying ban. I own a lot of great books and it is silly that I push them aside to read a book that is popping up all over Bookstagram to only read it and be disappointed. A book buying ban just makes sense when I own a lot of great paper and ebooks already. I am not saying no to books as gifts, just me buying books for a while. I’m sure it won’t last all year, but I am going to make an effort to only buy really special books.
I’m also going to try to read less library books as well because I put off reading books that I own because there is a chance to get a new book RIGHT now. Does anyone else have a fear of missing out when it comes to books or is it just me?
One of the biggest changes that I am looking forward to starting before 2020 starts is to slowly start changing over my @essentiallymeagan Instagram account. I made it to share my love of essential oils, and while I still love them, I find that I am wanting to share a lot more things that I find essential on that account. Books, oils and natural products, cool local spots in my community, pictures that made me smile during the day, craft projects, these are all things that I find are essential to a happy life and I’m looking forward to sharing them in a specific spot.
Do you have any plans for 2020 and your reading life?
I am a re-reader. I love revisiting my favourite characters and stories, there is something comforting in the familiar. I just started a re-read and that got me thinking about why I decided to do that. I have a LOT of books in my “to read” pile, both physical copies that I own, and ebooks that I have purchased or are waiting patiently on my bookshelf in the Overdrive app. But none of them appealed to me. I didn’t want to be in a reading slump, I like always having something to read.
I am also trying to limit my screen time before bed, I am a terrible sleeper and for the past couple of months I have been a REALLY terrible sleeper. Maybe all of those articles about the blue right were right?
My current re-read is The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. I read it for the first time many summers ago, half of it aloud with a group of friends and then finished it on my own (after NEEDING to own my own copy). I think I have read it a total of two times and each time I laughed and cried as I was sucked into the little world created on a Channel Island. A friend reminded me of the fact that there was supposed to be a movie version of the book, and we both have wondered what happened to those plans. I am torn about a movie version. On the one hand yay! One of my favourite stories will be brought to life on the big screen, and on the other hand, no one of my favourite movies will be brought to life on the big screen. There is always something left out in movie versions, or something that doesn’t look like it did in your head when you were reading.
Sometimes it is just nice knowing what to expect of your reading choice.