Buzzwordathon Wrap-Up | 7 Books in 7 Days | Did I Succeed?

Last week I attempted to read 7 books in 7 days and WOW… that was a lot of reading. I was participating in Buzzwordathon, a readathon hosted by Booktubers BooksandLala and ChelseaDolling Reads with the goal of reading as many books with the designated buzzword(s) in the titles as possible. This round’s words were Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How. I went for all of the words plus one extra – 7 books in total.

Did I succeed? Technically no.. but I was SO close. I’m still extremely happy with and proud of the reading I got done and even may have found my new favorite book…. 😊 Read on to find out what books I got through and my thoughts on each of them!

Title: The Woman Who Smashed Codes
Author: Jason Fagone
Genre: Historical Nonfiction
Pages: 341
My Rating: 4 stars

Brief Summary: This historical nonfiction/biography is about Elizebeth Friedman, a codebreaking expert who decoded enemy messages for the US throughout both World Wars. She and her husband, William Friedman, also a code breaker, essentially invented the modern science of cryptology and are now regarded as the “Adam and Eve” of the NSA. This book tells Elizebeth’s story from her very first job deciphering hidden messages within Shakespeare’s works through her most secretive work unmasking Nazi spies and playing a large part in winning WWII.

My Thoughts: Ummm, I want to be Elizebeth Friedman when I grow up. I find the subject of cryptology extremely interesting (The Imitation Game being one of my favorite movies), and Elizebeth’s intelligence, bravery, and humility is super inspiring. This book is pretty long and sometimes reads like a textbook, but the story is very interesting and I’m really glad I got to learn about Elizebeth’s life.

Title: What We Saw
Author: Aaron Hartzler
Genre: YA Mystery/Contemporary
Pages: 321
My Rating: 3 stars
Content Warnings: Rape and Sexual Assault

Brief Summary: We jump into this story the day after a big high-school party at which the main character, Kate, got so drunk that she had to be taken home early. While Kate is recovering from her hangover and piecing together the previous night’s events with her friends, it becomes clear that much more went down than Kate had originally thought. The next week, a charge of sexual assault is filed by one of Kate’s classmates against some of the school’s star basketball players, which causes uproar from the school and community. Kate then finds herself looking for answers – did it actually happen, and if so, who is responsible?

My Thoughts: This book is clearly important, as it covers a highly sensitive topic so relevant in today’s society. I think it does a great job of keeping the story and descriptions appropriate for young readers, while still being clear with its message. I found some parts of the writing repetitive (so. much. fist bumping.) and the ending was predictable, but I can definitely appreciate the book’s intent and would absolutely recommend it to a young adult audience.

Title: Where’d You Go, Bernadette
Author: Maria Semple
Genre: Contemporary
Pages: 347
My Rating: 4 stars

Brief Summary: Through a string of letters and emails, 15-year-old Bee is piecing together her mother, Bernadette’s, life from before she went missing. The fact that Bernadette is so mysterious and secretive with her identity has put a serious strain on her relationships with neighbors and other moms at Bee’s school. But would she really abandon Bee and her husband right before they’re supposed to leave for an Antarctic vacation? Bee’s determined to find out not only where her mother is, but what she’s seemingly been hiding from everyone in her life.

My Thoughts: First off, I love the format of this book, told primarily in emails and letters. It allows us to get a little glimpse into each the characters’ perspectives, without reading all of their thoughts – we only get to know the things they’re willing to reveal to put down on paper. I thought the storyline was great, fast-moving enough to stay interested in the mystery at hand but with enough detail to feel like we know the characters pretty intimately. I agree with all of the high praise I’ve seen about this book, and think it will make a great movie!

Title: Little Fires Everywhere
Author: Celeste Ng
Genre: Contemporary
Pages: 336
My Rating: 5 stars

Brief Summary: This story takes place almost exclusively within Shaker Heights, an affluent neighborhood with strict aesthetic guidelines and expectations of its residents to maintain a pristine image. We first meet the Richardson family, made up of 4 children in high school, a hard-working lawyer for a father, and a mother who is filled with a sense of pride and generosity by renting a nearby home to a struggling artist and her high-school aged daughter. The two families get to know each other quite well, but suddenly find themselves on two different sides of a custody battle between a Shaker Heights couple attempting to adopt a baby whose birth mother is putting up a fight. Everyone in the community seems to have a different opinion on what’s best for the baby, which proves to be a much more complex question than it appeared upon first glance.

My Thoughts: I think this might be my new favorite book. I loved it SO much. All of the characters were well-developed through extensive backstories (I think this is where some people might find the book to be slow, but I really enjoyed reading the backgrounds) and the plot connected with me deeply. It made me think hard about what I would do in the situation, who I would most likely side with, and how easily opinions can change once you know personally the people on both sides of the argument. Celeste Ng did a really nice job interweaving multiple story lines in a realistic and impactful way – and I already can’t wait to reread this story!

Title: When to Rob a Bank
Authors: Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
Genre:Nonfiction/Economics
Pages: 350
My Rating: 3 stars

Brief Summary: This book is actually a collection of blog posts taken from the Freakonomics blog, created by the authors who originally wrote the book Freakonomics. These blog posts speak on similar topics – interesting ways that economics shape our world and ways we can use that knowledge to our advantage.

My Thoughts: I had seen a lot of negative reviews on this book, perhaps because some of the blog posts are not politically correct or present an unpopular viewpoint. I actually really enjoyed it for that reason – it made me look and think differently about a number of issues I previously thought were pretty black-and-white. For example, it talks about why we shouldn’t necessarily be looking to eliminate all plastic packaging when it comes to food items, and in another post about the actual environmental effects of car emissions and whether walking short distances is as environmentally-friendly as we’ve been taught to believe. Other sections were purely entertaining, like a collection of 6-word mottos for America and the best aptonyms of all time, which are names that sound similar to the person’s profession (e.g. a funeral home director named Eikenberry (“I can bury”) or an insurance guy named Justin Case). Yes, there were a number of articles that I skimmed because I was disinterested and some that I did not agree with, but in my opinion the good outweighed the bad and made it worth the read.

Title: Why We Broke Up
Author: Daniel Handler
Genre: Contemporary
Pages: 354
My Rating: 2 stars

Brief Summary: This book is told as one long letter from high-school-aged Min to her now-ex-boyfriend Ed, detailing all of the reasons they – spoiler alert – broke up. She’s writing it to go along with a box of things she is returning to Ed, so each chapter highlights a different item and explains how it specifically contributed to their breakup.

My Thoughts: After reading this book, I have to wonder if I’m just not a fan of YA contemporaries. I found myself the whole time thinking “you should have broken up with him a long time ago because this guy is a complete d-bag.” I think the concept of this book is great, love the breakup letter accompanying the box full of returned stuff, and I really enjoyed the illustrations done by Maira Kalman. I just didn’t like the story or the characters, too much immaturity for me to feel like I could relate at all!

Title: How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking
Author: Jordan Ellenberg
Genre:Nonfiction/Mathematics
Pages: 437
My Rating: TBD!

Brief Summary: This book is described by Goodreads as the Freakonomics of math – aka how math is everywhere in the world and how by understanding it a bit better, we can understand trends and explanations for social, economic, and environmental activities all around us.

My Thoughts: Unfortunately, this is the one book I did not complete this week. I am about 300 pages in though, so I’ve gotten a decent feeling for it so far – and as an engineer I’m loving everything about this book. I loved math growing up, especially calculus because it really does explain so much of the world. This book is doing a really great job of taking those complex concepts and simplifying them so that even people who are not mathematically-minded can understand and appreciate how much the mathematical concepts are reflected in the real world. Waiting for the aha-moment that this book promises: how we can use this information not just to understand our world but to really shape our own lives and start to make different decisions because of it!

Other than finishing this last book, I think I’m a little burnt out from reading and probably will take the rest of March off. But I had a lot of fun creating this TBR for Buzzwordathon and definitely will be taking part in more readathons going forward!

Book Tag: Two Truths and a Lie

Image by Reader Voracious – feel free to use in your post!

I was tagged to do this by What’s She Reading? – thanks, girl!

How to participate:

  • Create a post with your two bookish truths and one bookish lie – but be sure to keep it a secret so your readers can guess!
  • Reveal the lie in a spoiler at the bottom of your post – you can use this HTML code:

(unfortunately this code isn’t working for me… so I improvised!)

That’s it! Here are my statements:

  1. I have recorded several introductory Booktube videos but have been too afraid to post any of them.
  2. There’s something inside of me that does not let myself DNF books, even if I’m not enjoying them.
  3. I prefer buying books used rather than brand-new, even though I know that it provides less support to the authors.

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This is time for you to think about your guess…

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Which one’s the lie?

Number one! I LOVE watching Booktube and I’ve toyed with the idea of starting a channel, but I haven’t gone so far as to actually film anything – yet!

Did ya get it right? 🙂

I tag the bloggers below – apologies if any of you have already been tagged or have even already done it! Happy Friday!!

10 Things That Make Me Happy | International Happiness Day

Who knew International Happiness Day was a thing? Not me… but I’ll use it as an excuse to write about ten things that just make me happy! 🙂

Number 1: MY FAMILY!

I feel extremely lucky to be so close with my family – which includes both of my parents, two brothers, my husband, my in-laws (seriously, I love them), and a whole bunch of supportive aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents.

Number 2: Making Spreadsheets

Nope, not a joke. It’s probably a good thing my full-time job is being a project engineer (project manager) where I pretty much have to make budget and timeline spreadsheets on the daily. But my love for organization spreads to wherever I can make it: wedding planning, books I own/want to read lists, now blog planning!

Number 3: Escape Rooms

There is something SO FUN about escape rooms to me. I love solving puzzles and playing games, and this is a nice combination of the two. Highly recommend doing a Google search to see if your city has any and doing one if it does! Pictured above: my cute extended family after a day of multiple rooms in Des Moines, IA.

Number 4: Halo Top Ice Cream

I am NOT a healthy eater. I’ve never eaten more than a few bites of a salad and vegetables don’t exist in our household unless they’re technically a starch. BUT I have fallen in love with the “lower-calorie” ice cream that is Halo Top and it makes me feel just a liiiiittle bit better about my eating habits. Chocolate chip cookie dough is the way to go, but my husband likes the PB cup one best.

Number 5: The Amazing Race

I LOVE THE AMAZING RACE. I love competition TV shows in general, but if I could choose one to go on, it would definitely be The Amazing Race. I have competed in two of my own versions, one being when I was an intern at a big company and they organized an Intern Amazing Race as a way to explore the city, and once on our honeymoon – we did the Amazing Cozumel Race as our excursion in Cozumel, Mexico 🙂

Number 6: Crafting

I grew up with an engineer for a father, always bringing home projects to work on with his large-scale vinyl cutter and 3D printer, and a crafter for a mother, who made scrapbooks for every phase of my life and all of my childhood halloween costumes. I’ve been trained well, and now there isn’t a DIY I don’t think I can tackle!

Number 7: Playing Softball

I have played softball since I was VERY little (t-ball age) and played fastpitch competetively through my senior year of high school. Since then I’ve continued playing slowpitch through coed leagues, which has been a really fun activity to do with my husband in the summer.

Number 8: Watching YouTube Videos

My watch history contains a bunch of different categories: makeup gurus, book reviewers, cleaning videos, daily vloggers, gamers (cough cough, Sims 100 baby challenge videos), and more. It’s a near addiction at this point.

Number 9: Tailgating

I went to college at a school where football is life. And so is tailgating 🙂 Nothing like waking up at 5 AM to eat and drink and get excited for a football game, especially with all of your closest friends, family, and giant stuffed bison!

Number 10: Beach Vacations

I mean… is there anyone out there who DOESN’T enjoy these?

So with that, Happy International Happiness Day! What things in your life make you happy?

Buzzwordathon Kickoff: Attempting 7 Books in 7 Days!

I’m so excited for this week!! Today marks the kickoff of Buzzwordathon, a readathon hosted by booktubers Booksandlala and Chelseadolling reads. The goal of the readathon is to read as many books with the selected buzzword (or in this case, buzzwords) in the title as possible within 7 days.

This round’s buzzwords are Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How. I’ve picked one book with each word in the title, plus one extra. I do have physical copies of each book, but I think I’ll end up supplementing with the audiobook formats if I start falling behind throughout the week!

See my picks below and let me know if you’ll be participating in this readathon – if so, what books are YOU planning to read?

The Woman Who Smashed Codes by Jason Fagone – a historical nonfiction about a woman who cracked enemy codes and played a meaningful part in WWII.

What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler – a thriller/mystery (I believe) about what happened at a crazy party.

Where‘d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple – a contemporary about a mother who suddenly goes missing.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng – a character-driven contemporary highlighting family dynamics and small-town politics.

When to Rob a Bank by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner – an economic nonfiction with insights and essays from the Freakonomics blog.

Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler – an illustrated contemporary/romance about exactly what it says – why a couple broke up.

How Not to Be Wrong by Jordan Ellenberg – a nonfiction described as “the Freakonomics of math,” unveiling the secrets of math and the value in using them to your advantage.

Check back in on the 25th to see if I succeeded! Happy reading this week 🙂

He Will Kill You: Spoiler-Free Book Review

The Book

Title: He Will Kill You
Author: Charlie Gallagher
Genre: Thriller
Pages: 289
Release date: TODAY! March 15, 2019
Content Warnings: Domestic abuse, rape

The Synopsis (Spoiler-Free)

Grace Hughes is a victim of domestic abuse and a prisoner within her own home. Although she has spoken with the police before, she’s too scared to seek the help she needs in order to escape and become safe from the danger she’s in.

Maddie Ives is the detective with a passion for saving abused women and is doing everything she can to bring Grace to safety. Maddie’s also on the police team for an unrelated crime within the same city: a car bomber on the loose and sure to strike again.

Told through multiple perspectives, this thriller follows the victims, and police, and multiple other civilians that all work together to tie this story together.

My Review

I LOVED the first half of this book. Many different storylines and characters were continually introduced, and I was immediately captivated by Grace and wanted nothing more than for her to break free from her abuser. Unfortunately, about halfway through the book, things happened that changed the main storylines (the big twist I suppose, hard to give any details without spoiling!) and I kind of lost interest. The book became more heavily focused on the police-chase aspect of the story and less on the civilians, which were the characters I personally felt more connected to.

The storytelling and pacing of this book were great to the end, and I think there are a lot of people who will really enjoy this entire book. I would certainly recommend it to the people who are into police-focused mysteries. I do think it noteworthy to mention that the book is pretty heavy with police and European jargon, which went over my head a lot of times – but there is a glossary in the back that defines all of the acronyms and specific terminology, which is very helpful! Wish I would have known about it going in!

My overall rating of this book is 3/5, and I do think I would pick up another novel by Charlie Gallagher if the synopsis were of interest to me!

Disclaimer: This book was provided to me in ebook format by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to NetGalley and Joffe Books!

WWW Wednesday – March 2019

Welcome to my first WWW Wednesday! This meme/tag (not sure exactly what the difference is) is hosted by Taking on a World of Words. To participate, you just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments of other people’s for them to look at. If you don’t have a blog, you can just leave a comment with your responses. Onto the questions!

  1. What are you currently reading?
  2. What did you recently finish reading?
  3. What do you think you’ll read next?

I’ve recently discovered the wonderful world of NetGalley and reading eARCs on my iPad. Because of this, and because I’m saving most of my monthly TBR books for next week’s Buzzwordathon, all of my current reads are actually eARCs.

I am currently reading a delightful little book called Things My Son Needs to Know about the World by Fredrik Backman. This book is a collection of short essays written by Backman intended for his infant son to read in the future. I have already read A Man Called Ove by Backman, and this is a really great way to get to know him better as a person and a father. The essays I’ve read so far are very sweet and actually pretty funny.

On Sunday I finished a book called Not All Migrate by Krystyna Byers. I wish I had good things to say about this book.. but it was just NOT for me. It’s a story about a man who recently lost his wife and two daughters in a car accident caused by his wife. The autopsy report comes back saying that his wife was on some unknown drug, so the man decides to go hunting for the drug itself and the person who sold/gave it to his wife. This sounded like an interesting premise to me, but in reality the book was confusing, graphic, and all-around strange. I could go on about the things I didn’t like about it, but I think that’s unnecessary – I’ll be posting a more in-depth wrap up at the end of the month with all of my thoughts. I’m sure there are readers out there who would actually enjoy this book, but it left me feeling extremely confused and uncomfortable.

The next book I’ll be picking up is a thriller called He Will Kill You by Charlie Gallagher. I don’t know much about the plot, as I like to go into my thrillers blind, but I’m hoping it’s more straightforward than my last read and that I really enjoy it! I plan to post a full review of it on Friday, as March 15th is the book’s publishing date.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers of these books for providing me with the electronic Advanced Reader’s Copies in exchange for honest reviews!

Let me know if you think any of these books look interesting to you, or if you participated in this meme and have a link to share!

The Girl He Used to Know: Spoiler-Free Book Review

The Book

Title: The Girl He Used to Know
Author: Tracey Garvis Graves
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 291
Release Date: April 2, 2019

The Synopsis (Spoiler-Free)

The Girl He Used to Know is the love story of Annika and Jonathan, told through two different timelines. The first is the year the couple first met, in college at a chess club meeting. The second is ten years later, when the two unexpectedly meet agian in a grocery store and their love rekindles. As the book alternates in timeline and perspective, the entire story is revealed including what happened within those ten years and all of the struggles Annika and Jonathan have had to face, both as a couple and individually.

My Review

This was EASILY a 5-star read for me. I fell in love right alongside the characters and was completely engrossed in the story until the very end. As charming as the story is, it’s also raw and deeply vulnerable at times, and I could not get enough.

The topic of mental health is addressed beautifully in my opinion, as Annika struggles with an autism-spectrum disorder that makes it difficult for her to pick up on social cues and read other people’s emotions. I love that it is not depicted as Annika’s entire identity, nor as a disability. In fact, Jonathan – and I as a reader – fall in love with Annika not despite her disorder, but because of the way she copes with it. The way she navigates social situations and treats other human beings is special.

Before reading this book, I truly didn’t think I was a fan of romance books. Something about this one, however, is different, and the word romance doesn’t seem appropriate for the level of respect, love, and trust these two characters have for each other. I see myself rereading this book several times in the future, and am looking forward to exploring more novels written by Tracey Garvis Graves.

Disclaimer: This Advanced Reader’s Copy was sent to me by St. Martin’s Press and the SheSpeaks program in return for an honest review. Thank you for allowing me to #ReadTheGirl!