DIY Floating Bookshelves

Today I want to branch out into something a little different for my blog – DIYs. Making things for myself and others, whether it be custom t-shirts, home décor, or miscellaneous arts & crafts, is something I have always loved to do and is definitely one of the biggest ways I find I can express myself creatively. Most of my ideas are inspired by other DIYers (s/o to Pinterest), but I figured I might as well document and share my own process off in hopes that it might inspire someone else to try making something themselves that they’d otherwise go out and purchase!

My first project was something I’d been envisioning in my home office since we bought our new house in April: wall-to-wall floating bookshelves. When I originally expressed this idea to my husband, he had a few concerns including the strength of the shelves – these are intended to hold books, after all, which are not exactly light. So I went ahead and did my research, found this helpful blog post from a couple making heavy-duty floating shelves for their kitchen, and modified it to fit my space and my needs. Below are the materials we used, steps we followed, and some pictures of the process!

Step 1: Determine Sizing and Location of Shelves

Originally, my idea was to have wall-to-wall, extra-thin floating shelves, as I thought this would be the most aesthetically pleasing. However, it didn’t take long to realize that logistically this wasn’t the best idea –  for a couple of reasons:

  • Plywood comes in 8-foot sheets. Anything longer and I wouldn’t get the seamless look I was going for across the front of the shelves, so we opted for 8-ft long shelves. This would leave a little space between the edge of the shelves and the edge of the wall (because my wall is 9.5 feet long), but would make the building process easier and the end product nice and seamless.
  • These shelves are intended to hold books – a lot of them. If I wanted them to be floating, they’d need to be much more than an inch thick or I’d risk them falling (or ripping) off of the wall. We decided on 4 inches of thickness as enough to hold all of my books and keep the building process relatively simple, because I could still use 2x4s and plywood as my materials. (Again, this idea was reinforced by this blog post, as they used 2x4s and plywood and used their shelves to hold kitchenware!)

With these decisions made, I used strips of painter’s tape to mark out each shelf out on my wall and make sure I liked the size and spacing of the shelves in my room. I highly recommend this step if you’re making any sort of large-scale shelves or other statement piece (like a gallery wall with picture frames, for example) because this gives you flexibility to move things around before you do any building or drilling into the wall! If the sizing or spacing looks off, you can adjust your plans accordingly.

Step 2: Find Studs and Design Wall Support Frame

The most common method for building and installing floating shelves is to do it in two parts: first, you have a “wall support frame” that mounts directly onto your wall first and consists of one long back piece and several smaller perpendicular supports you need to give your shelf strength and rigidity. Then, you have an “outer box” that slides nicely over the support frame and gives your shelves a clean, floating appearance. This next step is all about designing and building your wall support frame.

Wall Support Frame substeps:

  • Locate all of the studs on your wall that will intersect with your shelves. Mark them as a “mount to wall” location on the wall and copy the measurements onto a piece of paper. I went ahead and marked every single stud location that I found so that my shelves would have as much wall support as possible.
    • I ended up with 6 stud locations approximately 16 inches apart (which I believe is standard stud spacing, but always good to double-check with a stud finder!)
  • In between each of these “mount to wall” locations, determine where you want your perpendicular supports to extend out from the wall, and how far. It’s very important that these are between the “mount to wall” locations – if you overlap them, you won’t be able to drill into the wall into the stud because there will be a 2×4 in your way.
    • I decided to have 7 perpendicular supports: one directly in the middle of each of the “mount to wall” locations (five of those), and one on each end of the shelves.
    • I also decided to make these supports 8 inches long, which when added to the 1.5” back piece made my shelves stick out about 9.5 inches from the wall. How deep you want your shelves to be depends on what you plan on using them for!

Step 3: Design Outer Box

Again, the outer box is the piece that slides nicely over your wall support frame to hide all of the mounting bracketry and give your shelf a nice seamless, floating appearance. We decided to make ours completely out of ¼” plywood.

To design your outer box, you will need to determine three different sets of dimensions:

  • Top & bottom pieces – determined by the overall depth and length of your shelves.
    • Mine are 9.5 inches deep by 8 feet long.
  • Left & right side pieces – determined by the depth of your shelves and the height/thickeness of your perpendicular supports.
    • Mine are 9.5 inches deep by 4 inches tall.
  • Front side dimensions – determined by the height and length of your shelves.
    • Mine is 4 inches tall by 8 feet long.

Step 4: Buy Materials

With all of the sizing and measurements planned out, it’s finally time to go to the hardware store and buy your materials!

We ended up buying the following materials for TWO shelves:

  • 1 – 1/4″x4’x8′ sheet of plywood cut to the following sizes:
    • 4 – 9.5″x8′ (top and bottom pieces of outer boxes)
    • 2 – 4″x8′ (front pieces of outer boxes)
  • 1 – 1/4″x2’x2′ sheet of plywood cut into:
    • 4 – 9.5″x4″ (side pieces of outer boxes)
  • 2 – 2″x4″x8′ boards (back piece of wall support frames)
  • 2 – 2″x4″x8′ boards cut to the following sizes:
    • 14 – 2″x4″x8″ (perpendicular pieces of wall support frames)
  • 24 metal L-brackets
  • Small, medium, and large screws
  • Wood filler
  • 1 quart – gray paint (can also use stain or paint in any color)

Step 5: Build Your Shelves

I think the photos above are the most helpful for seeing how to assemble everything, but some notes on how I built these shelves:

  • For the wall support frame, we screwed the perpendicular support pieces directly to the back support piece with at least two medium-sized screws each, plus added two L-brackets to each perpendicular support. This isn’t necessarily required, but the L-brackets added some peace-of-mind that the perpendicular supports wouldn’t disconnect from the back support piece.
  • Also when assembling the wall support frame, we marked right on the wood where all of the “mount to wall” locations (or stud locations) would fall on the shelf. This will help remind you to keep those spots clear of perpendicular supports and L-brackets, but also will come in handy for mounting.
  • For the outer box, originally we were planning on leaving the inside completely open to slide over the support frame, but because the shelves are so long the plywood started bowing and becoming hard to work with. We just used some scrap pieces of wood to add some rigidity to the inside of the box in locations that wouldn’t interfere with the perpendicular supports.

Step 6: Mount Your Shelves

To mount your wall support frame, have one person hold the shelves level on the wall while another uses the “mount to wall” locations marked on your shelves to drill your support frame directly to the wall. We used three of the largest screws we could find per mounting location so that there was no risk of it ripping out from the wall.

Once your support frames are mounted, slide your outer boxes over the perpendicular supports and push them all the way until touching the wall. Then I recommend using some small screws to fasten the outer box to the support frame in a few locations so that it doesn’t slide itself out over time.

And that’s it! For us this was definitely a big project, but we had very few mistakes or road bumps thanks to all of our planning beforehand. I definitely think it pays off to take your time, double- and triple-check your measurements, and have a helping hand available (thanks, husband)!

This being my first DIY post, there’s a great chance that I missed a step or wasn’t very clear about something – please comment with any questions that I can answer or help clarify! I’m excited to keep doing projects and share my steps with the internet to hopefully help or inspire someone else to try their own DIYs. Let me know if you have any projects on your radar or if you’re more of a buyer than a DIYer!

August 2019 Reading Wrap-Up

I started out my September TBR post last week by saying how excited I am for it to be September and all of the exciting things I have to look forward to this fall! I’m sure I’m not alone in that love for fall activities and cozy fall weather – but August has definitely been a whirlwind, trying to cherish these last bits of summer while I still have them.

For those reasons, August was a bit of a slower reading month, and I only have 7 books to wrap up (4 of them were actually audiobooks, so that’s really telling of my reading habits!), but still a good reading month in itself and I definitely found some great reads to recommend. As usual, my reading stats and then mini-reviews for each book are below!

This month’s reading stats:
7 books (4 audiobooks)
1,171 pages
7 authors (4 female)
1 nonfiction | 6 fiction
Year-to-date quick stats:
66 books (12 audiobooks)
17,018 pages
61 authors (34 female)
21 nonfiction | 45 fiction

Title: Swapping Purples for Yellows
Author: Matthew Duffus
Genre: Contemporary
Pages: 285
My Rating: 4 stars
This ARC was provided to me for free by SFK Press, but I am under no obligation to review positively or otherwise. All thoughts are completely my own and are posted on my own accord!

Brief Summary: This book follows the Sutherlands, your typical middle-class family with plenty of drama but trying to hold it together, if not for their own sakes but for everyone else’s. Alternating between Rob, the father and professor at the local university, Molly, the mother struggling with her identity and gambling issues, and their two teenage daughters, this slice-of-life story dives into each character’s thoughts, feelings, and problems over the course of an action-packed weekend.

My Thoughts: At the very least, I thought this was an entertaining slice-of-life story in which readers can find at least one character to relate to. At the most, though, I think this story is a real teacher of empathy and reminder that you never really know what is going on behind-the-scenes of someone else’s life. With the length of this story only spanning three days, you get such an in-depth view to all of the characters’ perspectives and nuanced situations that you can’t help but root for all of them and none of them at the same time. Do I think this book had such a profound message that I’ll be thinking about it every day for months to come? No, but I can appreciate a story that gets me out of my own head and into the shoes of a person/family with a life as complex as mine.

Title: The Unhoneymooners
Author: Christina Lauren
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 0 (audiobook)
My Rating: 2 stars

Brief Summary: This is a very popular contemporary novel that features an enemies-to-lovers romance plotline. Olive and Ethan are the maid of honor and best man in a wedding where every single OTHER person – including the bride and groom – gets food poisoning and becomes violently ill. Because of the illness, the bride and groom cannot attend their non-refundable honeymoon, so Olive and Ethan step up to redeem the trip – even though they hate each other.

My Thoughts: Like I said, this book is super popular and I’ve seen it hyped everywhere on the bookternet, and I wanted to love it. I actually think that if I watched this book as a movie, I’d love the light-hearted cheesiness of it, and I’d appreciate that it only took up an hour and a half of my time. But I listened to the 10-ish hour audiobook instead, and it just felt like a waste of my time. If you love rom-com books and are looking for a light summer read, this probably would be right up your alley! I just didn’t find anything great about it. Plus – I’ve lived in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, which is where these characters are from, and at first I thought it was cool hearing them mention places I know and have been to myself. But I don’t know, when the audiobook narrator mispronounces Mankato and Menards… it loses its charm pretty quick. Overall just not my cup of tea, and I will probably steer clear of rom-com books like this one in the future.  

Title: Gone
Author: Michael Grant
Genre: Dystopia
Pages: 558
My Rating: 3 stars

Brief Summary: This book, probably intended for a middle-grade audience, is a dystopia that follows a group of kids all under the age of 15 after every single adult instantaneously disappears. Nobody knows why it happened, where they went, or what they are supposed to do now that the kids are completely on their own.  

My Thoughts: I’ve said it before, but there is a special place in my heart for dystopias, no matter who they are intended for. I really loved the focus on kids in this one – no adult characters for us to follow even if we wanted to. The story was super intriguing and kept me turning the pages. I was disappointed in the middle and ending though – absolutely zero questions were answered. There are something like 5 more books in the series, each of them probably consisting of 500+ pages, and I just don’t want to have to read all of them to get to the bottom of the mysteries uncovered here. So I will not be continuing, but I would recommend this book to any dystopia-lovers ready to dive into the whole, long series.

Title: On the Island
Author: Tracey Garvis Graves
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 328
My Rating: 5 stars

Brief Summary: This contemporary novel alternates between perspectives of teacher/tutor, Anna, and student, T.J., the two victims of a tiny plane crash between islands in the Maldives on the way to T.J.’s family’s vacation home for the summer. When their pilot has a heart attack and dies on the way down, Anna and T.J. land in the water alone and eventually wash up onto shore with nothing more than the clothes on their backs. As they struggle to live on the island until the authorities can locate them, their relationship becomes possibly the most important factor in their survival.

My Thoughts: This is the second novel I’ve read by Tracey Garvis Graves (first was The Girl He Used to Know), and my second 5-star rating. I just love her books – her character development is amazing and I always end up caring so deeply for both characters in the relationship despite all of the flaws they inevitably have. This story particularly is also incredibly suspenseful – I spent every page wondering if Anna & T.J. were going to survive, and if they did, what was going to happen to their relationship. Can’t wait to keep on reading TGG’s books.

Title: Influencer: The Power to Change Anything
Author: Kerry Patterson, et. al.
Genre: Business/Nonfiction
Pages: 0 (audiobook)
My Rating: 4 stars

Brief Summary: This book is a non-fiction guide to identifying the vital behaviors that lead to any rapid and profound change, whether in an individual or organization. It teaches how to apply strategies for changing both thoughts and actions, making change not only possible, but inevitable.

My Thoughts: I always enjoy self-help-type books that offer real stories and case studies showing how the strategies being highlighted actually work in the real world, and this book definitely had a lot of that. I thought the information was simple and clear and presented in a helpful way. Definitely recommend to anyone looking to make changes happen on an individual or organizational basis.

Title: Forever, Interrupted
Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid
Genre: Contemporary
Pages: 0 (audiobook)
My Rating: 4 stars

Brief Summary: This book is about Elsie, a young woman whose husband is suddenly killed after only two weeks of being married. After his death, Elsie has to deal not only with her grief, but also with getting to know her mother-in-law who never even knew her son was in a relationship – let alone married. We alternate between reading about the early stages of Elsie and Ben’s relationship and Elsie’s present-day struggles.

My Thoughts: This book was HARD to rate! On one hand, it’s a really nice love story that we get to see develop between Elsie and Ben. But then we are constantly thrust back into the tragedy of his death, and those sections are really, really hard to read. Ultimately I think the fact that this book made me feel so much is a testament to the storytelling and writing, so it deserves a good rating – but readers should definitely know going in that the story is extremely sad.

Title: Jane Steele
Author: Lyndsey Faye
Genre: Classic Retelling
Pages: 0 (audiobook)
My Rating: 3 stars

Brief Summary: This is a retelling of the classic novel Jane Eyre, centered around a character named Jane Steele. Though her life and personality are like Jane Eyre in many ways, there is one major difference – Jane Steele is a serial killer.

My Thoughts: I had some mixed feelings about this one. The things that I liked include the fact that Jane Steele is a fan of Jane Eyre, and even references the classic novel several times throughout the book. I thought it was a clever way to incorporate the old story and help me relate to the main character with our mutual enjoyment of Jane Eyre. I also ultimately enjoyed the story of Jane Steele’s life and particularly liked the ending. However, for a non-classic, I thought this book really dragged on. One of the benefits of being a classic retelling, in my opinion, is the option to keep the interesting parts/themes of an old story but take out all of the wordiness and unnecessary description that classics are known for. Also, I thought that the fact that Jane Steele was a serial killer ended up being a much less exciting and prominent part of the story than I expected. Some people may find that to be a positive, since there are many other key plot points that make the story unique, but it’s used as such an attention-grabber that I just expected it to be more of the focus. I still would recommend this story for lovers of Jane Eyre, but anyone else may want to skip it!


Let me know if you have read any of these books, if they are on your TBR, or what you are planning on reading this fall!

September TBR: Catching Up on my Physical TBR

Hello, September! And with that, hello FALL!

I have many reasons to be excited for fall this year – we live in a new state that should (hopefully) be warmer than the North Dakota/Minnesota falls I’m used to (glorified winters), I’m planning on attending LOTS of football games ranging from middle-school level all the way up to a couple of NFL games, and best of all, we’re having a baby around the end of November/early December!!

With all of this busy-ness happening in real life, I’m finding myself with much less time to devote to reading, and I don’t want to commit to a bunch of new books within a fun theme that I’ll inevitably fail to read and then feel indebted to for months to come (foreshadowing August’s wrap-up a little bit…)

So instead, I’m committing to September as a catch-up month for my physical TBR. Here’s a list of 12 books that I own physically and are my highest priority to finally get to. Some of them you may recognize from past TBRs, some are newish to me and I’m too excited to wait to get to, and some I have been pushing off but I really just need to finish them off. Let me know if you have a backlist of TBR books you’re still hoping to get to this year, and if any of you are joining me in making September a catch-up month!

Bonus – for the next 3-ish days, Jana at Reviews from the Stacks is running a giveaway on her blog to celebrate hitting her Goodreads reading goal! Definitely give her blog some love and enter the giveaway by commenting on her post here if you’re interested in winning a gift card!


My one ARC

Appalachain Book of the Dead by Dale Neal

Why I want to read it: This book comes out on September 3rd, and as usual with ARCS I’d love to get a review out on Goodreads and Amazon on or before that date. I’ve started this book already and have about 190 pages left – my opinion is still very much up in the air!

Brief Summary: This is a fictional book that’s been described as a “metaphysical thriller,” following many characters in the middle of nowhere questioning the location of a killer on the loose.

Books that have been on my bookshelf for FAR too long

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

Why I want to read it: This is a book that has been recommended to me many times by my husband. It’s a hefty book based on sports, but I’m optimistic and excited to finally get into it.

Brief Summary: This fictional story follows members of a collegiate baseball team and other members of the college as their lives entertwine throughout the baseball season.

The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell

Why I want to read it: Leftover from my July (Reading Rush) TBR, this is one book I’m surprised I haven’t read yet. I read and enjoyed Outliers and am sure this one by Malcolm Gladwell will be worthwhile.

Brief Summary: This nonfiction book centers around the magical moment when a small idea or behavior crosses a threshold and becomes a massive phenomenon – how we can recognize that point and use it to our advantage in personal and business settings.

Hatchet by Gary Paulson

Why I want to read it: As did probably everyone else, I read this book in middle school and have very fond memories. I’d love to reread this one since it’ll be a short, easy read.

Brief Summary: Brian is a young boy and the sole passenger on a small plane when the pilot has a heart attack and the plane crashes. Suddenly Brian finds himself completely alone in the woods with nothing but a hatchet to survive.

The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands by Dr. Laura Schlessinger

Why I want to read it: I bought this one last year as a recommendation from one of my favorite lifestyle/family bloggers, Jordan Page. Hoping it’s not too problematic and actually offers some good marriage advice.

Brief Summary: This nonfiction book suggests that wives play a huge role in ensuring a successful marriage and offers the advice needed to nurture and feed their husbands accordingly.

Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty

Why I want to read it: I bought this one on a whim from Barnes & Noble a while ago and it’s been taunting me from my shelves ever since. I have consistently found other books to knock it out of my priority list, but finally getting this one read will feel like a big accomplishment.

Brief Summary: I don’t know much about the plot of this book and actually don’t want to – but I believe it follows several different adults, couples, and families and how their lives entertwine.

A couple of thrillers by an author I’m dying to get to

Final Girls by Riley Sager

Why I want to read it: I haven’t read any Riley Sager yet, but obviously the bookternet loves his thrillers. I’m very excited to give this debut novel a try and make my way through all of his books!

Brief Summary: All that I really know about this one is that it centers around the idea of the “final girls” or sole survivors of horror movies.

The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager

Why I want to read it: Ditto. I’m also excited because both of these books are on Scribd, so could be easy audiobooks to squeeze in.

Brief Summary: Again, I know nothing about the plot of this book and would love to keep it that way!

August books I just didn’t get to

Golden State by Ben Winters

Why I want to read it: Plain and simple, this book looks right up my alley and I’m expecting to love it!

Brief Summary: This book is a science-fiction, alternate reality story based in a California-like society.

The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth by Alexandra Robbins

Why I want to read it: Started this one, really liked the intro and the format the book takes, very interested to see what other points it makes.

Brief Summary: This nonfiction book studies quirk theory, or the reason why some individuals are outcasted in school settings but just may be more set up for success in the future.

The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

Why I want to read it: No strong pull to the story itself, but I’m very interested in this non-Harry-Potter JK Rowling read.

Brief Summary: This mystery/thriller is about a mysterious death in a small town – classic.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Why I want to read it: Fantasy is very outside of my comfort zone, so that’s why this one has been slipping for me. Not sure if I’ll end up loving it or hating it, but I’m willing to give it a try!

Brief Summary: I believe this is some sort of Romeo and Juliet-inspired fantasy story.

Bullet Journal Setup | 2019 Reading Trackers

I have always loved all things stationery – notebooks, planners, and lately looking at beautiful bullet journal spreads all over Pinterest and Instagram. I wanted to start one myself to have a place to keep my reading information that isn’t just an Excel spreadsheet – though we all know how much I love my spreadsheets, too.

At first I thought I’d wait to start a reading bullet journal until 2020, but then I figured there was no harm in trying it out yet this year – this way I can test out different trackers and art styles and hopefully have a few more skills come January!

It may not be much yet, but I wanted to share my first few spreads in the bullet journal. I have it updated through July and plan on keeping it updated throughout the rest of this year, possibly adding more spreads if I feel like something else is missing!

Spread 1: 2019 At-A-Glance

This first spread is something I see at the start of most bullet journals online – a very basic overview of the entire year. I think this is helpful to have as a reference to check dates and as a beginning to the bullet journal to indicate that it is for the 2019 calendar year.

Spread 2: 2019 Reading Challenge and Page Tracker

On this second spread I decided to test the waters on my illustration skills. I saw a bookshelf spread somewhere online and decided to modify it to track my progress against my new 2019 reading goal of 100 books. Each month has a designated color, and at the end of the month I will color in the number of books I completed that month. Hopefully by the end of the year all of the books will be colored in!

On the right side you’ll see my version of a page tracker. This helps me see with a quick glance how many days out of the year I have been reading. I wanted to try to incorporate a gradient system so that the darker the block is, the more pages I read that day. I don’t think this system is quite perfect, but I think it still looks aesthetically pleasing.

Spread 3: 2019 Reading Statistics

I love tracking reading statistics every month and throughout the year to see if I am favoring any genres in particular or what other trends emerge. This page is an easy way for me to keep a tally and make those comparisons without having to go into my spreadsheet and count everything up. If you’re also a statistics lover, take a look at my Mid-Year Reading Summary post for some pretty graphs with a lot of the same information!

At this point you may notice that I do not have any sort of over-arching theme for my bullet journal. I really wanted to focus on getting used to the materials, color combinations, and different writing/illustrating styles before committing to just one.

Spread 4: 2019 Books Completed

And lastly, my fourth spread is simply a list of all of the books I have completed so far this year. The spreadsheet I keep on my computer lists out each book’s genre, number of pages, Goodreads rating, and more – but this is a quick reference just to see the titles, authors, and dates completed.


That’s all I have so far – safe to say I’m already hooked. I didn’t want to overwhelm myself with monthly spreads and trackers yet, because I think that functionality and practice are the two main goals for the rest of this year when it comes to bullet journaling.

BUT! I would LOVE to see any reading trackers or beautiful spreads you have done or have seen – please leave me links to check out for inspiration and for me to connect with different people as I start this fun new hobby!

July 2019 Reading Wrap-Up

July 2019… AKA my biggest, and possibly best, reading month so far of the year! 14 books completed, 9 of them being either 4- or 5-star reads. I’d call that a success!

In my July TBR post, I mentioned that not only was I planning on participating in The Reading Rush readathon, but I loosely set my entire month’s TBR based on the readathon’s prompts. I didn’t read every single book on that TBR, nor did I read the 7 books in 7 days for the readathon itself, but I think this month overall was still a resounding success. See below for all of the books I completed and my thoughts!

This month’s quick stats:
14 books (4 audiobooks)
3,026 pages
15 authors (7 female)
5 nonfiction | 9 fiction
Year-to-date quick stats:
59 books (8 audiobooks)
15,847 pages
56 authors (32 female)
20 nonfiction | 39 fiction

Title: Foolish Hearts
Author:
Emma Mills
Genre:
Contemporary
Pages:
320
My Rating:
4 stars

Brief Summary: This young adult contemporary is about Claudia, a high school girl who finds herself accidentally eavesdropping on the breakup of her school’s “it” couple, Iris and Paige. This puts her on rocky terms with Iris right before being assigned her partner for multiple English class assignments and to work their school’s play together, making for a very interesting senior year filled with drama, rumors, boy band fandom, new friends and relationships.

My Thoughts: Just adorable. I don’t read a lot of young adult because of how ridiculous and dramatic I find some of the characters and storylines, but this one actually broke through the cheesiness and reminded me of exactly the type of story I would have read when I was in middle school – in a good way!

Title: A Keeper
Author:
Graham Norton
Genre:
Mystery
Pages:
221
My Rating:
3 stars
Release Date: August 13, 2019
Thanks to NetGalley and Atria Book for the eARC in exchange for an honest review!

Brief Summary: Elizabeth is a divorced, single mom stuck with the unfortunate task of going through her late mother’s home and belongings. In doing this, she finds a collection of old letters that she can only assume are from her father, a man she was never told much about. This book flashes back and forth between the two women’s lives to reveal the events that actually happened all those years ago, and what Elizabeth is going to do about it after finding out.

My Thoughts: This book is definitely a page-turner. I was super intrigued by the story and enjoyed it alternating between past and present. I wish some of the mystery’s reveals were more shocking or suspenseful, but I enjoyed the story altogether. I would specifically recommend this book to people who like slow-burning mysteries that aren’t necessary thrillers!

Title: 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
Author:
Stephen R. Covey
Genre:
Self-Help
Pages:
319
My Rating:
2 stars

Brief Summary: This book, originally published in 1989, is a very highly-regarded self-help book promising to share the seven habits that successful individuals implement in their everyday life to achieve that success.

My Thoughts: I felt extremely “meh” about this one. I found it to be outdated, preachy, and long-winded. I do think it has some fundamentally good advice, but I can think of at least one or two other books that say what this book was trying to say, but in more concise and impactful ways. If you’re an avid self-help reader, I’d skip this one – you can find the principles elsewhere.

Title: The Perfect Stranger
Author:
Megan Miranda
Genre:
Thriller
Pages:
337
My Rating:
4 stars

Brief Summary: This thriller follows Leah, a former journalist who moved out of Boston and into rural Pennsylvania to become a teacher. Strange things start happening to the people around her – her roommate suddenly goes missing, and a different woman who looks eerily like Leah is found assaulted by a nearby lake. She works with police officer named Kyle, who she also happens to strike a romantic connection with, to solve these mysteries and find out if they are connected in any way.

My Thoughts: I had a great experience reading this thriller – very creepy and twisty, great pacing, and I really didn’t know which characters to trust. I enjoyed the entire plot along with the ending and at first was planning to give this read 5 stars. The only reason I lowered it down to a 4 is because it was pretty quick to leave my memory in the days after putting it down – but overall very enjoyable and I’d highly recommend for thriller fans and/or fans of Megan Miranda. Planning on getting to more of her books soon!

Title: Brave, Not Perfect
Author:
Reshma Saujani
Genre:
Female Nonfiction
Pages:
0 (audiobook)
My Rating:
4 stars

Brief Summary: This book is written by Reshma Saujani, a lawyer and politician who gave a popular TED Talk about her experience running for Congress (and losing), and later starting the non-profit organization Girls Who Code – two difficult life choices that have shaped her life and success to this day. This book relates those experience to a lesson she thinks should be taught to girls everywhere at every age – to strive for bravery, not perfection, in a world that historically has encouraged the exact opposite.

My Thoughts: I picked up this book for a book club at my workplace and found it INCREDIBLY relatable and inspiring. I absolutely love the Girls Who Code organization, so I’ll admit I probably was biased because of my admiration for the author to begin with, but I think she makes excellent points about the way girls are raised today and gives plenty of actionable tips to help prevent the perfectionist tendencies engrained within ourselves and that we want to avoid passing on to future generations.

Title: Sometimes I Lie
Author:
Alice Feeney
Genre:
Thriller
Pages:
262
My Rating:
4 stars

Brief Summary: Another thriller, this one follows Amber, a young woman who regains consciousness within a hospital bed, where she has been stuck in a coma for several days. Though she cannot open her eyes or speak, she can hear the people around her – the doctors, her husband and sister, and a mysterious individual who sneaks into her room at night. This book alternates between three timelines: present day in the hospital, the days leading up to the accident that brought her there, and twenty years in the past to help solve the puzzle of Amber’s life and those around her.

My Thoughts: I’ve been known to really dislike thrillers that give the main character memory problems – the only ones that I’ve enjoyed (this one and What Alice Forgot) I think do it in the best way, though, with an actual accident that can be attributed to causing memory loss. Aside from the gap in Amber’s memory, I think this story was well-crafted and I enjoyed putting all of the pieces together that relate Amber’s family, coworkers, and others to her accident and the current state of her life. Maybe a little predictable, but still overall enjoyable.

Title: The Astonishing Color of After
Author:
Emily X.R. Pan
Genre:
Contemporary
Pages:
460
My Rating:
5 stars

Brief Summary: This contemporary story follows Leigh in the months following her mother’s suicide. In the midst of her grief, she is given reason to believe that her mother has actually returned as a bird and is urging her to travel to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents for the first time. Believing she is following her mother’s wishes, and believing that doing so will bring her mother closer and possibly offer some insight to her death, Leigh goes on a journey between past and present, real and fantastical, to find out more than she thought possible about her mother, her family, and herself.

My Thoughts: This book is undeniably beautiful – on the outside (because the cover IS gorgeous) and on the inside. I couldn’t help but fall in love with the writing and the story, even though magical realism is not my usual cup of tea. All of the characters are super well-developed, and I feel like I learned a lot about people and cultures different from me and my own. I also think this book covers the delicate topics of suicide and loss in a way that will resonate with a lot of different people, as hard as it is to address.

Title: Holes
Author:
Louis Sachar
Genre:
Contemporary
Pages:
0 (audiobook)
My Rating:
5 stars
RR Prompt Fulfilled: Read a book and watch the movie adaptation

Brief Summary: This middle-grade story is about a boy named Stanley who is sent to a correctional camp after being accused of stealing a pair of tennis shoes. At the camp, Stanley and the rest of the campers are forced to dig one hole, each, every day – five feet in diameter and five feet deep. The book alternates between Stanley’s experience and the historical story of the campsite, which may be more closely related than Stanley first realizes.

My Thoughts: I mean, how could I rate this any fewer than 5 stars? I grew up LOVING the movie, which follows the book almost identically. The nostalgia combined with the humor and life lessons this book provides makes it a classic and a book I can’t wait for my future kids to read!

Title: Maxed Out: American Moms on the Brink
Author:
Katrina Alcorn
Genre:
Family
Pages:
262
My Rating:
5 stars
RR Prompt Fulfilled: Read a book with 5+ words in the title, Read an author’s debut book

Brief Summary: Kristina Alcorn was a 37-year-old mother with a great husband, three healthy kids, and a thriving career when she suddenly found herself pulling her car over to avoid having a major panic attack on the freeway – with her kids in tow. Wondering how someone like herself, with a supportive partner and flexible workplace, could possibly be struggling with work-life balance, she tried to look both within herself and to her peers to see if she was alone or if parenthood is a bigger struggle than anyone makes it out to be. Turns out it is, and Kristina set out to find if there’s anything that can be done about it, if only to help herself out of the breakdown she was spiraling into. This book is a recollection of that time in her life when she re-learned how to be a mother PLUS truly thrive in her professional and social lives.

My Thoughts: As a mother-to-be (due in December!) this book highlighted all of the fears I have about having a kid and planning to keep the rest of my life (marriage, job, social events) intact. While it was a little scary to read about this seemingly perfect mother completely break down under the stress, it ultimately showed me that I won’t be alone in ANY of the feelings I might have in motherhood. And that is a REALLY comforting feeling. I found this book entertaining, relatable, reassuring, and most importantly helpful. Highly recommend to all moms (and dads!) out there just trying to stay above water.

Title: The Number Devil
Author:
Hans Magnus Enzensberger
Genre:
Miscellaneous/Math
Pages:
255
My Rating:
3 stars
RR Prompt Fulfilled: Read a book with a non-human main character

Brief Summary: This fictional story is about Robert, a school-aged boy who hates math but is visited in his dreams by a “number devil.” The devil leads him through all kinds of mathematical theories and makes them fun and interesting, putting fun cartoonish twists on them and creating easy ways to remember and utilize them later on.

My Thoughts: I love that this book tries to make math fun. I absolutely love finding patterns and things within numbers and found myself pleasantly surprised by learning a few things myself from the number devil. I do think it’s a LITTLE over-the-top with the whimsy, subtly renaming some of the terms, which I think would make it confusing to carry things from this book over into math class (for example, the book always calls prime numbers “prima donnas,” which is catchy and easy to remember, but it might take a while for a kid to make the connection when their teacher tries teaching prime numbers for the first time). But I think that if this book can convince someone that math/numbers are fun, then that’s a great thing!

Title: The Color Purple
Author:
Alice Walker
Genre:
Classic
Pages:
288
My Rating:
4 stars
RR Prompt Fulfilled: Read a book with purple on the cover

Brief Summary: This classic novel is about Celie, a young, woman of color living in the southern United States writing letters first to God, then to her long-lost sister separated from Celie at childhood. She tells of her experience bearing children at an extremely young age, being married off to a man who is in love with another woman, and eventually finding true love herself. The book covers absolutely everything from sexism and feminism to racism to LGBTQ+ rights to sexual and domestic abuse.

My Thoughts: I first read this book in high school I believe as an optional AP English assignment. Reading it again now, I actually can’t believe I was encouraged to read it then – it is extremely graphic with its sexual descriptions and has some really disturbing subject matter. But if you can get through all of that, it’s really incredible how hopeful the narrative still is, even with all of the abuse and hardship Celie goes through she still has the strength to hope for a brighter future and for health and happiness for those around her. I don’t know if I have much else to say about this book that hasn’t already been said, because it is such a classic, but if you have not yet read this book and are prepared for the powerful yet disturbing story of Celie’s life, then I agree with everyone else that this is a must-read.

Title: Moneyball
Author:
Michael Lewis
Genre:
Sports
Pages:
0 (audiobook)
My Rating:
3 stars
RR Prompts Fulfilled: Read a book you meant to read last year, Read a book in the same spot the entire time

Brief Summary: This book primarily is about the Oakland A’s, a baseball team that has had to overcome budgetary challenges to stay competitive with the best teams in the MLB. They must get creative with drafting strategies, finding recruits with talents invisible to the big-budget teams but that they can rely on to produce winning results for the A’s.  

My Thoughts: At the risk of sounding like a complete idiot, I honestly didn’t expect this book to focus quite so heavily on baseball. This book was recommended by a top executive at my company, so I thought there would be parallels drawn between the baseball world and the business world – but no, this is a baseball book through and through. If you know that going in, and if you’re interested in learning about baseball statistics and strategies, then I do think there are a lot of really interesting stories in here and facts that I had no idea about, as a pretty casual baseball fan.

Title: Stargirl
Author:
Jerry Spinelli
Genre:
Contemporary
Pages:
0 (audiobook)
My Rating:
4 stars

Brief Summary: This middle-grade contemporary is known as a celebration of nonconformity, a story about a teenager named Stargirl who transfers to Mica Area High School and completely throws everyone for a loop. The other students don’t know whether to marvel at her confidence or shun her for being so different – and one boy named Leo is the most confused of all as he ends up falling for her and her unconventional ways.

My Thoughts: Again, hard not to love this one if you read it as a child or teen, which I did! I think everyone can relate with wanting to fit in in high school and having conflicting feelings about those who choose to stand out, and this book does an excellent job of describing those complexities and teaching the lessons of accepting others even when it doesn’t seem like the popular choice.

Title: The Science of Harry Potter
Authors:
Mark Brake and Jon Chase
Genre:
Miscellaneous/Science
Pages:
202
My Rating:
2 stars

Brief Summary: As the title suggests, this book dives into some of Harry Potter’s most intriguing magical elements (Platform 9 ¾, flying broomsticks, talking paintings, etc.) and evaluates whether any of them would be feasible today or in the future as backed by science.

My Thoughts: I was unfortunately super disappointed by this book. I picked it up on a whim, as someone who has enjoyed all of the Harry Potter movies (unfortunately not yet the books!) and a lover of all things science-y and analytical. But I found myself REALLY bored by some of the book’s sections and skipped ahead just to the ones I was interested in, and unfortunately even those weren’t as interesting as I’d hoped.


Note to self: Next time I plan on reading 14 books in a month, maybe try writing some of these summaries/reviews as I go instead of leaving them to the very end. That was a lot for one night!

Whew – and with that all done, on to August and yet another ambitious TBR! Definitely let me know how your July went, if you have read any of the books I mentioned above, and what your plans are for the next month and rest of the year! Happy reading!

August TBR: 99 Cent Books

I’ve had the idea for a while to start doing themed TBRs every month… and while I don’t want to give away what that means for the future, I can say that this month is the start of that – and what better thing for books to have in common than being really, really cheap?

While searching Alibris (one of my favorite book-buying sites) for books on my “someday” TBR, I found that a large number of them cost only 99 cents – typically it’s because the book has been well-loved by a library or other previous owner, so the books are by no means in mint condition – nor are they brand-new releases. But I don’t mind small wear and tear at all – I actually really like giving books a new home and second (or third, or fourth) life!

Full disclosure, once shipping is added these books cost more than 99 cents each – but the good news is that the more I buy from the same seller, the less each book’s shipping costs end up being. This haul ended up costing me about $4 to $5 per book, which I would still consider extremely affordable.

Also, I know there is some controversy over used books and whether we should be buying old copies when we can afford new, full-priced books and support the author with the purchase. Although I see both sides of the argument, ultimately I think reusing and recycling things does good for our planet. So I’m happy with buying a mix of brand-new books, which I buy to support the authors, and used books, which I buy to give a second life.

With ALL that being said, time to get into the TBR. Below are 8 books that I’m planning to read in August, all of which were purchased online for 99 cents!

A Contemporary

On the Island by Tracey Garvis Graves (2012)

A Classic

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier (1938)

A Classic Retelling

Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye (2016)

A Dystopia

Gone by Michael Grant (2008)

A Fantasy

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor (2011)

A Miscellaneous Nonfiction

The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth by Alexandra Robins (2009)

A Science Fiction

Golden State by Ben Witners (2019)

A Thriller/Mystery

The Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling (2012)


Many of these are out of my comfort zone or were purchased on somewhat of a whim, so I would LOVE to know if you’ve read any of the books above and what you thought!

Mid-Year Reading Summary

And just like that, I guess 2019 is already halfway over! Because my reading goal has been going SO well and I’ve already read 45 of the 52 books I wanted to complete by the end of this year, I thought now would be a good time to recap all of that reading, mention some standout favorites so far, and set some new goals for the remainder of the year.

General Reading Summary

Books Completed: 45
Pages Read: 12,821
Authors Read: 41
Overall Genre Breakdown: 30 fiction, 15 nonfiction

Detailed Reading Summary

Reading Statistics

Female: 25 (61%)
Male: 16 (39%)

Physical Books: 36 (80%)
eBooks: 5 (11%)
Audiobooks: 4 (9%)

Contemporaries: 14 (31%)
Thrillers/Mysteries: 7 (16%)
Female Nonfiction: 6 (13%)
Memoirs: 4 (8.9%)
Miscellaneous: 4 (8.9%)
Classics: 3 (6.7%)
Dystopias: 2 (4.4%)
Historical Fiction: 2 (4.4%)
Science Fiction: 2 (4.4%)
Sports: 1 (2.2%)

1 star: 1 (2.2%)
2 stars: 4 (8.9%)
3 stars: 13 (29%)
4 stars: 18 (40%)
5 stars: 9 (20%)

Favorite Reads

In the table up in the detailed reading summary, you can see that the nine books I rated 5 stars are written in pink. I could say that all of those are my “favorites” so far of the year – and that would be true – but I really want to highlight the 5 books that really stand out in my mind as must-reads.

  1. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
    This book, when I read it, immediately stood out as a new possible favorite book of all time. The writing was great, the characters were interesting, and the storyline included a lot of sensitive topics that I felt connected to and enjoyed reading the different sides of (custody disagreements, parenting styles, general feelings of inclusion and belonging). I actually don’t think this book would be everyone’s cup of tea because it is a pretty slow-moving contemporary, but I really, really enjoyed it.
  2. The Girl He Used to Know by Tracey Garvis Graves
    This was another emotional one for me. I’m not a big crier when it comes to reading, but this book got me about as close to tears as possible. I also don’t consider myself a romance lover, but the storyline of the couple in this book is really special. I think people could learn a lot about empathy by reading this book, so it’s a big recommendation from me. You can find my full review of this book here.
  3. I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This by Kate White
    This is the only nonfiction book on my favorites list – in fact, it’s the only nonfiction book that I’ve rated 5 stars so far this year. It is full of extremely useful and relevant tips for any woman with a career – whether you’re in the magazine industry like her or the engineering industry like me. It’s long enough to really dive into important topics but moves fast enough and covers enough different topics to keep it from getting too drawn-out or preachy. It includes both entertaining anecdotes to give context to her points and actionable pieces of advice to feel like you’re actually getting something out of it. Overall a great read for anyone, whether you’re just starting in a career or you’re already in management or beyond.
  4. Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
    This is by far one of the most-hyped books I’ve picked up this year, and to me it totally lived up to all of the great reviews. It’s primarily science fiction, but reads like a thriller and makes you contemplate your own life like a hard-hitting contemporary might. I never felt bored, but I also never felt like it got too over-the-top with action or unbelievability.
  5. The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
    I originally went into this book with very little knowledge about the plot – and I’d recommend that anyone wanting to read this book do the same. All I’ll say is that this book is similar in vibe to The Perks of Being a Wallflower – nostalgic, a little slow-moving, with a really powerful ending. I was shocked by how much the story impacted me and how much I was left thinking about it days, weeks, and now even months after finishing it.

Rest of Year Goals

Considering the fact that I only have 7 books to read before completing my 2019 Reading Challenge, I definitely think it’s necessary to up my goal, at least unofficially (I’ll probably leave it alone on Goodreads). The logical next goal would be 90 books, which is double what I read in the first half. But part of me wants to go for 100 🙂

Other goals I have for the rest of the year include:

  • Continuing to post monthly wrap-ups on my blog so that I can keep all of my thoughts and reviews in one place.
  • Starting to do monthly challenges to read certain types of books (keep an eye out for my August TBR for an example).
  • Continuing to read primarily female authors
  • Continuing to read at least 2 non-fiction books every month

But mostly, my goal is just to keep reading as much as I possibly can!


January-June Monthly Wrap-Ups

Book Reviews

Book Recommendations