Month in Review: September 2020

Another month, another wrap-up of the previous month. At the beginning of the month I sped through 5 books, all of which were 4-star reads or higher. Then a reading slump/mental slump hit and I only read two more books for the rest of the month. The last two books I read – The Book of Not and Transcendent Kingdom – both disappointed me in some ways, but were still overall enjoyable reads for me. Reviews for those will be up in a week or so.

Books read:

  • Bright-Sided by Barbara Ehrenreich – 4 stars out of 5
  • Paradise Cove by Jenny Holiday – 4 stars out of 5
  • Chemistry by Weike Wang – 4.5 stars out of 5
  • Love and Other Thought Experiments by Sophie Ward – 5 stars out of 5
  • Dear Ijeawele by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – 4 stars out of 5
  • The Book of Not by Tsitsi Dangarembga – 3 stars out of 5
  • Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi – 3.5 stars out of 5

Books in progress/October TBR:

I’m currently finishing up We Want Our Bodies Back by Jessica Care Moore and Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall. I had wanted to finish these by the end of September…but my reading slump made that goal pretty unattainable.

I’m not sure if it’s realistic to finish 8 books on top of the two that I’m currently wrapping up – we will see. The books that I want to read this month are:

  • This Mournable Body by Tsitsi Dangarembga. I have been working through the Nervous Conditions series in anticipation of this novel, and am really looking forward to it! I’ve heard good things about this one so far, and am encouraged by the fact that it advanced to the Booker Prize short list.
  • Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam. This seems like a perfect spooky read for October. I get scared REALLY EASILY, but this novel just sounds too good to pass up.
  • The Lying Life of Adults by Elena Ferrante. I’ve heard wonderful things about this coming-of-age novel, and am really looking forward to it.
  • Luster by Raven Leilani. This is one of my most anticipated reads of 2020, and while the reviews I’ve read so far would suggest that this book didn’t quite live up to its hype…it’s still a must-read for me.
  • Notes from a Young Black Chef by Kwame Onwuachi. I don’t know too much about this book, but based on the title it seems like a perfect audiobook/commuting-read for me.
  • The Shadow King by Maaza Mengiste. One of my Booker Prize reads! I love historical fiction that shows history from a non-whitewashed point of view, so I’m hopeful that I’ll enjoy this Booker-shortlisted novel.
  • Redhead by the Side of the Road by Anne Tyler. Also reading this one because of the Booker Prize, even though it didn’t advance to the shortlist. Because my October TBR is unrealistically ambitious, there is a good chance that I actually won’t end up reading this one.
  • The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V. E. Schwab. This has been on my TBR for SO LONG and it also seems like a great Halloween read. So excited about this one!!

Some blog posts I enjoyed:

September photos:

Month in Review: August 2020

Just a couple days into September, and it’s already starting to feel like autumn in my corner of New England! Looking back on August, it was probably my best month of the year. The warm weather made it possible to socialize with friends IN PERSON (outdoors and distancing, but still!), and to go kayaking TWICE. I also got to have some nice virtual hangouts, including a Zoom pickling sesh with my little sibling and a couple lovely video chats with Melanie at Grab The Lapels! And while I didn’t achieve all of my reading goals (which were unrealistic to begin with), August was still a great reading month: I finished 7 books and rated most of them 4-stars or higher.

Books read:

  • Difficult Women by Roxane Gay – DNF
  • How Much of These Hills is Gold by C Pam Zhang – 3.5 stars out of 5
  • I Contain Multitudes by Ed Yong – 3 stars out of 5
  • Real Life by Brandon Taylor – 4.5 stars out of 5
  • Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga – 4 stars out of 5
  • The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi – 4 stars out of 5
  • So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo – 5 stars out of 5
  • The Origin of Others by Toni Morrison – 4 stars out of 5

Books in progress/September TBR:

Honestly, I have no business setting a reading goal of 10 books for September…and yet…here we are. This month’s reads are primarily inspired by the Booker prize longlist, books that I think would work well as audiobooks on my commute to work, and a fun read-along that Melanie at Grab The Lapels is hosting.

  • Bright Sided by Barbara Ehrenreich. I’ve been interested in this book for so long, yet never seem to prioritize it. I even incorporated it into my June reading plan, and still didn’t read it! But now I’m FINALLY reading this and really enjoying it so far!
  • Paradise Cove by Jenny Holiday. For Melanie’s read-along! A romance novel set in the tiny town of Matchmaker Bay, this seems like the book we need in 2020. There’s still time to join and read along if you’re interested!
  • Chemistry by Weike Wang. This has also been on my TBR for a while! I started it yesterday and find it incredibly moving so far!
  • We Want Our Bodies Back by Jessica Care Moore. I wanted to read this in August, but fell a bit behind on reading. Very excited to get to this in September.
  • The Book of Not by Tsitsi Dangarembga. Last month I read and enjoyed Nervous Conditions, so I’m really looking forward to the sequel!
  • Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. A short feminist manifesto by an incredible writer? Sounds like a powerful and necessary read!
  • Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi. This was my September BOTM pick! I checked BOTM literally just a couple hours after TBRing this book, and it was such a pleasant coincidence.
  • Apeirogon by Colum McCann. This Booker longlisted novel seems like it will either be hit or miss for me…so hopefully it is a hit!
  • Love and Other Thought Experiments by Sophie Ward. Another Booker title. This is one of my most highly anticipated Booker reads, but I’m trying to keep my expectations in check so I don’t overhype it.
  • Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall. This seems like it will be a great follow-up to So You Want to Talk About Race (which had one chapter about intersectional blindspots of feminist and progressive movements).

Some posts I really enjoyed:

Baking!

I made: blueberry bars, pecan cupcakes (adapted from this recipe), and strawberry cupcakes!

More photos:

Month in Review: July 2020

It’s the first of the new month, so you know the drill: time to look back on another month of reading! I’m slightly changing the format of these month-in-review posts by incorporating a small section dedicated to things I’ve cooked/baked. During a conversation with Melanie at Grab the Lapels (who I highly recommend following!), it came up that I don’t really post about baking, despite my blog being called “Books and Bakes.” So the new section is an attempt to bring baking back to Books and Bakes.

Books read:

  • Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas – DNF
  • The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell by W. Kamau Bell – 4 stars out of 5
  • Death in Her Hands by Ottessa Moshfegh – 2.5 stars out of 5
  • Hunger by Roxane Gay – 4.5 stars out of 5
  • Big Friendship by Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman – 3 stars out of 5
  • Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid – 4 stars out of 5
  • The Hilarious World of Depression by John Moe – 3.5 stars out of 5

Books in progress/August TBR:

Apparently I’m the type of person who sets a July reading goal of 9 books, doesn’t come close to completing it, then sets the same unrealistic goal for August! We’ll see how it goes. This month’s TBR is influenced by the Booker Prize longlist, which I’m going to try to read through (more or less) before the winner is announced.

  • The Origin of Others by Toni Morrison. I’m currently reading this short book of essays about how the act of “othering” people allows those in power to abuse their authority without feeling guilty about it. It’s very powerful.
  • So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo. Still reading this for a book club! It’s also incredibly powerful so far.
  • Difficult Women by Roxane Gay. After absolutely loving Hunger last month, I’m excited to read Difficult Women. I’ve heard that Hunger is Gay’s best work, but I want to explore more of her books and decide for myself 🙂
  • How Much of These Hills is Gold by C. Pam Zheng. This is from the Booker longlist, but it was already on my list of books that I wanted to finish before the end of 2020. Its place on the longlist is giving me the push I need to prioritize it.
  • Real Life by Brandon Taylor. Another one of the Booker-longlisted books that I was already really excited about (thanks in large part to Emily and Gil‘s glowing reviews).
  • Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga. This is also on my radar because of the Booker prize. The third book in this trilogy (This Mournable Body) got longlisted, but since I haven’t read the other books yet, I’m starting here.
  • We Want Our Bodies Back by Jessica Care Moore. This has been on my radar ever since reading Melanie’s excellent review, and I’m really excited to read it for myself!
  • Redhead by the Side of the Road by Anne Tyler. Honestly, this is one of the Booker-longlisted books that I’m less excited about…but I’m reading it anyway because sometimes I end up really enjoying books that I “wasn’t excited about.” We’ll see.
  • The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi. Hahaha I was saving the best for last. I have been anticipating this release for so long and I’m SO excited for this read!!!

Some recommended posts:

  • Stargazer’s clever review of Circe in the form of a fictional interview! It was super creative, and perfectly captured Circe’s character.
  • Stephanie’s moving post about how reading “Will I Ever Be Good Enough?” by Karyl McBride helped her out of a really (mentally and emotionally) rough place.

Things I baked!

This month I baked red velvet cupcakes with cookies and cream frosting, rhubarb pie bites, and a birthday cake for my husband!

Other July photos:

Month in Review: June 2020

It’s July! This INSANE year is halfway over! I’m a little late posting my June wrap-up, and that’s because I finally started a job after 4 months of unemployment. As a research technician, I work with lab equipment that can’t be taken home (for many reasons), which means that I am physically going into work. It is risky, but I feel pretty safe at work – everyone wears masks and the lab I work in is spacious enough to achieve 6 feet of distance between employees. Anyway, I’m mentioning the new job because, until I adjust to my new schedule, I will be posting less on here. Now, onto the monthly wrap-up!

Books read:

Books in progress/July TBR:

I’m not sure if reading 9 books this month is realistic, but I want to try! I bought two of these as audiobooks, which should help. I’m currently in the middle of Catherine House and The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell (seriously struggling to finish Catherine House, though). Other books that I want to read this month include:

  • Death in Her Hands by Otessa Moshfegh: I pre-ordered this AGES ago, and it finally arrived last week! I’m so excited for this (hopefully not too excited, though – sometimes I hype up books too much in my mind, and end up severely disappointed).
  • So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo: I’m reading this for a book club this month. As much as the internet and tough conversations have been great resources for unlearning some of my subconscious racist biases, I’m also eager to read a full-on book about race and anti-racism.
  • Such A Fun Age by Kiley Reid: this has been on my TBR forever, and doing the Midyear Book Freakout Tag reminded me that I really need to read this!
  • Big Friendship by Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman: This was my BOTM pick for July (and yes, I’m still supporting BOTM – at least for now – since they appear to be using their platform to promote authors of color).
  • The Origin of Others by Toni Morrison. Really looking forward to this short non-fiction book about how literature contributes to the narrative on race/racism.
  • Hunger by Roxane Gay. I’ve wanted to read Roxane Gay’s works for a while, so I’m finally committing to it. I hope to read all of her books within the next year or so.
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. This one has been on my “TBR” since my TBR was just a mental list of books that I wanted to read. It’s about time that I actually read it!

Blog posts/anti-racism resources:

Instead of my favorite wordpress posts of the month, here are some anti-racism resources that helped me this month 🙂

  1. This extensive list of anti-racism resources, including funds to donate to.
  2. This Google Doc full of resources for taking action against racism.
  3. Etiquette for white people at BLM protests.
  4. A list of anti-racist movies and TV shows.
  5. This article (from 2015) about why it is ignorant and harmful to say that you “do not see race.” If you know people who say this and aren’t sure how to talk to them, this article might help.
  6. This article about how to talk to people who always focus on “the riots and the looting!!!” in conversations about race.
  7. This article about how white women unintentionally center themselves in conversations about race, and ways to stop doing that. This one is controversial, and I have friends of color who don’t entirely agree with it, but I’m still including it because reading and discussing it with others really helped me.

June photos:

Month in Review: May 2020

Another month has passed and I can’t wrap my head around the fact that it is already JUNE. A couple great things happened this month: spring finally came to my neck of the woods in the Northeastern U.S., and I think I’m nearing the end of my job search (fingers crossed/knock on wood/hopefully I didn’t just jinx anything). It was also a pretty good month of reading! Interestingly, I didn’t give any of the six books I read the same rating, but I enjoyed most of them – especially My Dark Vanessa, which was my first 5-star read in months!

Books read:

Books in progress/June TBR:

  • Hamnet: I’m just wrapping this one up, and will have a review up soon. The novel wasn’t quite what I expected, but once I got over that I really enjoyed it.
  • Bright Sided: Barbara Enhrenreich has been on my TBR forever, and a couple people have specifically recommended Bright Sided to me, so I’m really looking forward to it.
  • Had I Known: my plan *was* to follow up Bright Sided with this more recent essay collection from Ehrenreich, but in light of recent events in the United States, I might switch this out for Another Day in the Death of America or How To Be An Antiracist.
  • Bunny: I’ve seen so many positive reviews of this novel, and it sounds very much like my type of book, so I’m super excited for this.
  • So We Can Glow: a collection of short-stories focused around the topic of obsession, with a glowing 5-star review from Roxane Gay – seems promising!
  • Freshwater: am I a million years behind on this? Yes. Does that take away from my excitement to read this novel? No.
  • The Vanishing Half: this has been on my TBR for a while, so I was very happy to see it as a BOTM offering!
  • Wolf Hall: yup, I’m finally starting this trilogy! Wish me luck!

Some blog posts that stuck with me:

May photos:

Month in Review: April 2020

Woman Shrugging on Samsung

Woohoo, we have all survived another month! I don’t have much to say about April, other than that I spent it almost entirely indoors and all the days kind of bled into each other and I shirked a lot of responsibilities. Now onto the bookish things!!

Books read:

Books in progress/May reading goals:

I’m currently reading Where The Crawdads Sing. It’s a little slow, but I like the immersive setting. I also plan to read My Dark Vanessa and Beach Read; I’ve heard great things about both books, so I’m really excited to get to them. And I got a copy of The Bridge of Little Jeremy, so I hope to get to that this month as well.

I also plan to read a couple more titles from the Women’s Prize for Fiction longlist: How We Disappeared (which didn’t advance to the shortlist but seems to be a fan favorite), and Hamnet (also a fan favorite).

And I am tentatively planning to start Mrs. Jack – a biography of the American art collector Isabella Stewart Gardner – as a buddy read with a friend. I’m a little nervous about this one, because I struggle with biographies and because art history and famous wealthy people are not exactly “my things.” But I will try to reserve judgment until I start reading it!

Some of the posts I enjoyed this month:

CAT PHOTOS!!!

Month in review: March 2020

So…March was…strange (as I’m sure you can all relate to). My husband and I are now on day 20 of quarantine, and I have mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, I worry about things like finding a new job and being able to go to my friend’s wedding this summer. I also miss hanging out with friends and going to my favorite community spots, and I feel general anxiety over the state of the world. But in the grand scheme of things, I am only moderately inconvenienced by the quarantine, and (although I feel spoiled saying this) some positive things have come out of the extended time off – like realizing that it actually isn’t too complicated to work remotely, and having more time than usual for yoga and reading.

Books read:

Books in progress/April reading goals:

I’m currently reading Actress by Anne Enright. So far, I am loving the author’s writing style; the plot has not compelled me as much as the writing, but I’m not very far into the book so things can still change. I also plan to read Red at the Bone, The Most Fun We Ever Had, and A Thousand Ships this month.

Posts that stuck with me:

I also want to shout out the bloggers who are reading through the Women’s Prize for Fiction longlist! It has been wonderful to read their takes on the novels, and to feel a sense of bookish community. You can find some great WP longlist coverage on Rachel, Callum, Gilana, Naty, Hannah, and Corey‘s blogs.

Cat photos!!!

Month in review: February 2020

February is officially over and, even though it was only 29 days, it seemed to stretch on forever! I felt this way about January, as well, so now I wonder if winter months always seem to last forever in colder places? Or maybe it was because of the extra day in the leap year? I don’t know, but I hope that March won’t drag on the way the past two months did. Anyway, I read six books and cooked and baked some things during this seemingly endless month!

Books read:

Books in progress/goals for March:

I haven’t started anything new yet! The Women’s Prize for Fiction longlist will be announced tomorrow, though, so my reading goal for March (and April and May) will be to read all the books on the list. I can’t wait!

Notable blog posts:

A few of my favorite blog posts from February were:

Favorite quote of the month:

“The thing about slow learners is they do eventually learn.” – Bryan Washington, Lot.

Some February photos:

Month in review: January 2020

Is it just me, or did this January seem to stretch on for an eternity? It wasn’t a particularly eventful month for me, and the interesting things that did happen in my life were…not great. It was a good month of reading, though, and that’s what this post is about!

Books read:

Books in progress/goals for February:

I’m currently reading Mobituaries by Mo Rocca. The book is a tribute to influential people who didn’t get the obituary they deserved, or whose accomplishments and legacy seem to have been forgotten. I’m really enjoying this book so far, and will have a review up sometime next week.

In February, I plan to read at least these three books: Lot by Bryan Washington, Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney, and Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow.

Notable blog posts:

I read so many wonderful blog posts and did a better-than-average (my personal average, that is) job of engaging with other bloggers this January. But I forgot to save my list of notable blog posts! I will remember to keep track of them in February.

Quotes/advice that helped me this month:

  • “There will always be someone who can’t see your worth. Don’t let it be you.” (this was posted on Vee’s blog, Millennial Life Crisis)
  • “Empathy without boundaries is self-destruction.” – unknown
  • “All my life had been muck and depths, but I was not a part of that dark water. I was a creature within it.” – Madeline Miller, Circe

January photo dump:

Month in review: October 2019

Happy November! While most of 2019 has flown by, October actually seemed to pass at a good pace. It was still a busy month though! Mostly because…I got married! Given that wedding planning is insane and all-consuming in the weeks leading up to the wedding, I am honestly shocked that I managed to get anything else done at all. Let’s reflect back on October:

Books read:

I finished two books this month (which is honestly two more books than I expected to finish). Lab Girl is a memoir by academic researcher and university professor, Hope Jahren. As a young scientist myself, I loved this book for its honesty about the stress of trying to “make it” as an academic researcher, and also for its beautifully written passages about how trees grow. Frankissstein is a novel that ponders how technology will change life for humankind, and particularly how it will change how we relate to our bodies. Frankissstein was an interesting philosophical read, but at the same time I didn’t particularly care for most of the characters or their “love stories.”

Bakes inspired by the books:

For Lab Girl, I attempted to bake meringues with a lime curd swirl on top. As you might be able to tell from the picture, these meringues were a baking fail. But I posted about them anyway because I wanted to review Lab Girl, and I wanted to own the fact that sometimes my bakes aren’t successful on the first try.

For Frankissstein, I made chocolate linzer cookies with cherry jam and lime curd. These were delicious and made me feel much better about the Lab Girl meringue fails. I also got to use the rest of the lime curd that I had made for the meringues.

Books in progress/plans for November:

I’m currently reading Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. I resisted this book for a long time – I’m not sure why – but someone recently gifted it to me, and I immediately got sucked in. I already know what I want to bake for this book, and I can’t wait to post.

I also want to read The Invention of Nature and Making Sense of Psychiatric Diagnosis – two books that I had initially planned (unrealistically) to read in October. Also, the comedian Ali Wong recently published a memoir and I might want to read that, too.

Great blog posts of the month:

I read so many great blog posts this month…but my brain was so fried that I forgot to bookmark my favorite posts. So here is ONE post that stuck with me so much, I remember it even without having bookmarked it: a heartwarming story called “Pizza it Forward” from Vee at Millenial Life Crisis.

Photos: