Books of the Month: December 2020

December was rough. After reading 55 books for the last 11 months, I was pretty burned out and almost gave up for the month; I did not start reading until 12/7 when I decided I should at least try, and several friends recommended some quick reads. I made it to my goal of 60 which was incredibly exciting…and I’ll never do that again! Here are my December reads:

The Queen’s Gambit was….alright. I watched the show twice and was obsessed, but I felt the book didn’t measure up? I felt the characters had more of a story arc within the show, and in the book the characters, especially Beth, fell a little flat. Had I read the book before watching the show, I would have enjoyed it, I think. I still smiled with a warm feeling when the book ended, so was still worth it. For those who haven’t seen the show, “The Queen’s Gambit” is about a young prodigy’s rise to fame in the chess world; would recommend the show over the book.

Girls on Fire was a very good thriller story? It was easy to piece together what happened, but essentially it’s a story about a mouse-y teen and the angst-y friend she makes at school that leads her down some interesting paths. It begs the question, can anyone make you do something or are all your actions of your own will?

Over the Top: A Raw Journey to Self Love was fantastic, even for those unfamiliar with “Queer Eye.” It made me laugh out loud, many times, but it also made me break down and cry. JVN regales the tales of life, basically from birth to present day, and that queen went through it, multiple times. Like how JVN came out on the other side as this self assured and badass queen, like I can’t even fathom after hearing this journey. This needs to be listened to on audiobook so JVN can tell you the story, I don’t see any other way to read this.

The Midnight Library was a delightful story, well sort of. The main character decides to take her own life and ends up in a library full of books that tell the stories of her parallel lives she could have had. I really liked the theme of the book and how Nora learns to love her current life, even though it’s not “perfect” or how other people wanted her to live.

Transcendent Kingdom was a quick read and a good story, about a Ghanaian family and their trials through separation, addiction and grief. It touches a lot on the tug of war between science and faith. I would really like to read Gyasi’s first book, Homecoming, as I quite enjoyed her writing style.

The Queen’s Gambit by Walter Tevis

Girls on Fire by Robin Wasserman

Over the Top: A Raw Journey to Self-Love by Jonathan Van Ness

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi

I did manage to read 60 books by the end of 2020 (huzzah!). I think my favorite book this month might have been The Midnight Library, or Over the Top, honestly would recommend both! As for 2021, I’m setting my goal at 45 books, although after watching Bridgerton, I guess I have at least 9 books on my to be read list…

Sincerely,

Sara Ann

Let’s Go, 2021.

2020 has finally come to an end, whew. I was not one of the folks who was desperately waiting for 2020 to end, excited for something to magically change on January 1, 2021 about our current predicament in the world. But, that being said, I am happy to leave 2020 in the past and looking forward to vaccines, possibly traveling to see family more often, and not caring about what the government is doing on a daily basis…simple things really. I feel like 2021 will be a year of relaxing and getting life back in order; I am not expecting big things until 2022. And by big things I mean traveling and paying off my student loans.

Here are my goals for 2021:

  1. Be smart with finances. I am trying to pay off my student loans by the end of 2022 (3 years ahead of schedule) so I really need to be smart with my finances and make smart money moves over this year and the next. I also kind of want to get a Peloton once we move into a larger apartment, so I’m thinking about saving a bit to get one by the end of 2021. But we’ll see, debt first.
  2. Keep reading. I’m not setting a goal of 60 books again this year, as I got burned out this year by December and it wasn’t enjoyable to read any more. I’m cutting back to 40; I hope to read some series and longer length books I was unable to read in 2020 since I was sprinting to hit my 60 reads mark. I do really enjoy reading and want to keep that in my routine.
  3. Have a better relationship with LA. I lived in LA for 6 months before COVID happened and once that hit, I was unable to do anything, so I don’t have a best relationship with LA/California. I really want to take more time to go to the beach and read or walk. I also want to explore more of the parks/trails, and try some more cultural restaurants that I won’t be able to eat once I move back to the midwest.
  4. Take trips. Kind of in tandem with the above, but it’s so easy to access hundreds of small coastal towns, national parks and interesting places from southern CA. We have friends in Denver, so hoping to visit them, possibly visit a friend in SF, as well, and possibly a glamping trip in the mountains with my best friend. Will any of this happen in 2021? Who knows, I’m keeping expectations low this year, but overall, just want to leave my apartment more in 2021, even if it’s a day trip to Santa Barbara.
  5. Buy 30 clothing pieces, only. Seriously, I want to keep track of my clothing purchases and only buy 30 pieces total. I’ll write more about this in a post later, but I bought way too much this year and I want to cut back in 2021.
  6. Try new things. I want to push myself out of my comfort zone, take a baking or tennis class, try boxing, or try a new food. Not about to go sky diving but small things I can do to push myself in 2021.

What are your goals for 2021? Or after 2020, have you learned to not focus on goals/intentions and just let what will happen, happen?

Sincerely,

Sara Ann

Books of the Month: November 2020

One more month left of 2020 and 5 more books to read. I feel like the books of this month were all about discovering your inner voice and following your own path? I liked most of these books this month, I don’t think you could go wrong with reading any of them!

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue was such a great story. It was a unique tale about Addie selling her soul to live forever, the only consequence being that no one can remember her. I loved it so much; however, I am a big historical fiction fan and I feel like the author could have delved more into the story of Addie doing exciting things, like being a spy in WWII, versus just mentioning it in passing? Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like the author probably didn’t want to spend time researching history? Regardless, still would recommend the book!

A Woman is No Man might have been my favorite book of this month? It was a story about 3 generations of women within an Palestinian- American family and how their desires are quelled by their culture. I’ve seen some backlash on this book as it portrays a commonality of domestic abuse within Arab culture; this is a culture I am unfamiliar with personally, so I’m not sure, but as someone unfamiliar with Arab culture, it did give me the impression of domestic abuse being common? Just something to keep in mind . The central theme of the story is about women finding their voices, and finding the courage to follow that voice which I love!

The Star Crossed Sisters of Tuscany was a cute story about a family whose second born daughters have been cursed from finding love. A woman, her cousin and aunt set off for Italy to break the curse, uncovering family secrets along the way. It’s very much a story about learning to listen to your own heart and following your heart for your own path. Would be a cute Hallmark movie!

This Time Next Year was another cute, would be Hallmark movie. Minnie and Quinn were both born on New Year’s Day in the same hospital. They meet as adults and through flashbacks discover their paths have been intertwined their whole lives. Another story about learning to listen to your own heart and following your heart for your own path. Very cute, very fluff, quick read!

Anxious People was another knock out by Fredrik Backman, who also wrote, A Man Called Ove. This was another heartwarming story, this time about idiots. And a bank robbery turned hostage situation. Backman has this really unique ability to write about honesty of the human condition? It makes his books highly relatable and enjoyable, at least in my opinion.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V. E. Schwab

A Woman Is No Man: A Novel by Etaf Rum

The Star-Crossed Sisters of Tuscany by Lori Nelson Spielman

This Time Next Year by Sophie Cousens

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman

Overall, I would recommend Anxious People or A Woman is No Man from this month’s pile!

Sincerely,

Sara Ann

Books of the Month: September 2020

Yinz, how is it almost OCTOBER? I really can’t handle how fast this year is slipping by, is it just me? I’ve managed to read 44 books, which is still insane to me, having initially set my reading goal at 30 books for the entire year. Can I make it to 60? We’ll see! Here are the books I read this month:

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil was…okay? I had heard from several people that it was a good read, but it did not do that much for me. It was slow to read and the story was…okay? It was about a New York man who becomes wrapped up in the lives of many people in Savannah, GA, one of whom ends up on trial for murder. I was expecting some shocking twist, but nothing ever came. Would pass.

I Was Told It Would Get Easier was another home run from Abbi Waxman. This book made me want to hug my mom. It’s about a relationship between a forty something mom and her teenage daughter, as they go on a college tour trip on the east coast. I really liked that one of the main tones was that college isn’t for everyone, and it’s a rat race to get into a good college, followed by a rat race to make money until you die, which is SO TRUE and no one talks about it.

A Man Called Ove made my heart burst with joy and tears. It’s really a roller coaster of emotions, but Ove reminded me of my grandfather, a man a few words and fewer emotions. It also makes you think about how you don’t know what other people around you are truly going through and not to judge a book by it’s cover (not literally here). Would recommend ASAP.

Parable of the Sower, was OOF. Octavia Butler kills it again. A dystopian novel about 2024-2027, written in 1993, the United States are divided, climate change is mostly to cause, and it’s everyone for themselves. Water is scarce, and costs more per gallon than gasoline. Lauren, the main character, is trying to survive and make her way to safety she hopes to find in the north. It’s a crazy tale, but I could see it becoming a reality if we continue to ignore climate change and its effects on our world. It was a slow read, but worthwhile.

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things was a ugly and wonderful novel. Wavy is a young girl when she befriends Kellen, one of her father’s (adult) drug thugs. They grow close and as she gets older, they become more than friends. It made me uncomfortable since it skittered around pedophilia, but the way the story was written made me root for Wavy and Kellan’s relationship. I think, while the nature of their relationship, was, er, unconventional, they really cared for one another, and Kellan tried hard to not cross any lines until Wavy was of age.

If I had to tell you to read one book from this month, it would be A Man Called Ove. It was a wonderful story about people and connecting and made me laugh and cry. Absolute gem. I’m currently reading Pachinko, and hope to read Anxious People and A Woman is No Man in October. What are you reading?

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt

I Was Told It Would Get Easier by Abbi Waxman

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood

Sincerely,

Sara Ann

Sincerely Seven: Week 37

Another week gone by, stuck inside, this time due to wildfires and unsafe air. We did go for a beach walk today even though we probably should have stayed inside, but lung damage be damned. I haven’t been in the best space mentally from all this staying inside so it was well worth it. I love California but it’s getting a bit tiresome, one thing after another and being forced to stay inside. We did try Persian food this weekend, which was really good and I finished another book (A Man Called Ove, love!). Still trying to see the positives…

Pumpkin Swirl Muffins (FALL)
  1. Like I mentioned (don’t know how you wouldn’t have heard), wildfires are raging in California, here are ways you can help. The most important way you can help is by voting come November for elected officials who care about climate change.
  2. 9/11 was this past week, which marked 19 years since a very tragic day in American History; however, the tragic events of 9/11 will forever overshadow how the event itself fueled Islamophobia in this country, making it hell for thousands of Muslim Americans for many years to come.
  3. Stuck with student loans? Same. Worried about whether you should be paying your loans (that may have had payments paused), or saving for a possible layoff or illness? Same! I found this guide interesting and somewhat helpful in navigating how to handle this strange time.
  4. Any Great British Baking fans out there? The show is returning at the end of the month in the UK, but it has not been reported when the US fan will get to see the season. I recently discovered Portrait Artist of the Year, where 9 artists compete by painting portraits of British celebs. I used to figure draw, so it’s mollifying me until GBBO returns (give me all the British television!!).
  5. It’s almost fall ya’ll (in this house, we start 9/1)! The best way to celebrate is with PUMPKIN and BAKING. Here’s my favorite muffin recipe from Sweet and Simple Kitchen. The swirls of Nutella are optional, but why wouldn’t you add it? See above.
  6. Speaking of fall, this foliage map of the country is my new favorite thing! I love being home in Pennsylvania and seeing the beautiful hues of trees on the mountains. I’m SO excited I’ll be home in October during prime foliage time!
  7. I spent some of the weekend watching Get Organized with The Home Edit and I’m obsessed. I spent the rest of the weekend on the Container Store’s website trying to order things to get my closet in order. Also, can we talk about how they got to see and hold ALL of Reese’s movie memorabilia, especially from Legally Blonde? DED.

Happy thoughts for you this week, loves!

Sincerely,

Sara Ann

Sincerely Seven: Week 36

Three-day weekends are my absolute favorite. Why is that may you ask? Because you get a weekend that’s three days (duh) AND the following work week is only four days. Double whammy of joy. Not to say I did anything exciting in this three-day weekend. It’s boiling hot here again in LA. My boyfriend and have gotten up early to do things outside, only to return inside by mid-morning to hide out in the AC. I wanted to go to the beach, but with it being a holiday, I knew it would be busy. I think I’ll try to go next weekend…

Pillsbury biscuits, fried at 350F, dipped in sugar/pumpkin pie spice. Easy and YUMMY!
  1. This week Selena Gomez came up with her make-up line, Rare Beauty. She discusses how the main mission was to create a community around mental health. All of the products have positive names, like Bliss and Inspire, and one percent of the proceeds go to a charity that funds mental health services in underserved communities. I’ve watched a few dozen YouTube beauty reviews of the whole line, and it seems like the liquid blush and lipstick are really great products. While I am trying to shift more to clean beauty, I do appreciate a brand that is committed to bringing mental health into the conversation (and it’s affordable).
  2. Remember the hot Dalgona Coffee trend that swept through Instagram and Tik Tok in early quarantine? Well it’s back and it’s pumpkin flavored *raising hands emoji* and would go so well with those pumpkin spice sugar donuts I mentioned above.
  3. Also in beauty news, this week Glossier invested $500,000 in 16 black owned beauty businesses. I love seeing this from a well established brand like Glossier helping out a smaller business get off the ground. More companies should follow this line of thinking. Check out the 16 brands in this link and support if you can!
  4. I don’t know why I’m all about beauty this week, but Tata Harper sat down with Sophia Bush on Work in Progress to discuss her farm-to-face beauty line and all of the horrible things found in make-up and skincare these days. Like I said, I’m trying to shift more into clean beauty so this episode was really interesting, definitely worth a listen!
  5. I think I spent an hour of my life watching all of Shuba’s TikToks this weekend, impersonating other celebrities singing “Savage” and like how does she nail every single one of them? The Celine Dion ones had me cracking up. Overall, she’s incredibly talented and you should give her a follow on TikTok.
  6. Here’s a list of virtual books events happening this week like SIGN ME UP MEOW. Do these happen every week? How can I get this list all the time? Buzzfeed, I need answers.
  7. If you’re like me and run out of things to watch on all the streaming services, you might want to check out ‘Earth to Ned‘ on Disney+. It’s a new show from Jim Henson studios, featuring an alien who hosts a late night show and interviews celebrities. It’s not like the greatest show in the world, BUT it is cute and actually kind of funny. I was forced to watch it via my boyfriend but I did enjoy it especially since I basically have watched everything else…

I hope you’re enjoying your three day weekend (if you have one) and have a lovely (short) week ahead!

Sincerely,

Sara Ann