My 30 By 30 List

I like the idea of a bucket list, but it’s just too big for me. I don’t know where I’ll be decades from now, or if my goals will have changed. I recently came across a bucket list that I made as a teenager, and some of the things now seem silly and precious and very clearly written by a 15 year old (Drive a motorcycle, for real on the road).

Others are random and I have no idea why I ever wanted to do them (Own a pet bird).

And there are also some that, while they seemed cool to a teenager thinking about an unknown future, now seem unlikely or unappealing (Live in another country).

So, about a year ago, I came across the idea of a 30 by 30 list, and thought that sounded a little more do-able. Since I made the list, I’ve completed 10 of the items. So I’m ahead of schedule!

So here’s the list!

Completed –

Go Ice Skating β›Έ

Completed Fall 2018. I totally knew I would not go 5 years without ice skating. Ayan and I used to go to Steinberg Skating Rink in St. Louis all the time in the winter. Downtown Ice in San Jose is not quite as nice, but much warmer.

Buy a Piano

Completed Summer 2019. I purchased an Alesis Keyboard. While I would like to upgrade it someday, it’s so nice to be able to play again. It’s such a stress reliever for me. 🎢

Visit India

Completed Winter 2018. We stayed with Ayan’s family in Kolkata for about a week and a half and had a beautiful reception to celebrate our marriage. It was so cool to see where he grew up and to meet his extended family. (The photo below is of the Victoria Memorial, one of Kolkata’s most famous landmarks.)

Take a Class

Completed Summer 2019. I took a chocolate making class! Hosted by an awesome diy workshop called WorkshopSF. We made chocolate bars from the bean and learned about the history of chocolate making. In this photo I’m grinding chocolate beans for a tea that ancient Mayans drank. β˜•οΈ

Get a Tattoo

Completed Summer 2019. So I’ve thought about getting a tattoo for years and was just too afraid to commit, but one day I decided that life is short and just went for it. πŸ€·πŸ»β€β™€οΈ

Go On A Road Trip

Completed Fall 2018. So Ayan and I have made 3 drives between St. Louis and the Bay Area (one with everything we own including our dog and cat packed in our cars), and I really enjoyed them, despite the stress. But that was before I made the list πŸ™‚. I decided to count our drive to LA as a road trip, although it’s only 5-6 hours. Here’s a photo of our babies in the car. They’re road trip veterans at this point. πŸš—

Go To Disneyland

Completed Fall 2018. I completed this one on the same Thanksgiving weekend as our road trip πŸ™‚. It was seriously the most magical day. I was amazed at how big the park is. We were there for like 12 hours and still didn’t do everything. (We’ve been back since and spent 3 days doing alllll the things.)

Visit New York City

Completed Spring 2019. I had a work trip to Philadelphia and my coworker and I took a few extra days off to see NYC. This was only my second time there (the first time was a few years ago with Ayan) and my coworker had never been, so we pretty much did all the touristy things. It was great. πŸ—½

See a Broadway Show

Completed Spring 2019. Obviously on the same NYC trip. We saw Mean Girls! If you know me you probably already know that I love musicals and worked at The Fabulous Fox for several years – which came with the perk of frequent free tickets to touring shows. Sadly, those days are over. But I still try to stay somewhat informed about the world of musical theater.

In spite of this, I had never actually seen a show on Broadway (on my last NYC trip I saw Avenue Q, which was great but already off Broadway at that time). So, needless to say, I was really excited. There are a lot of great shows right now, but we wanted to see something fun and light, and being millennials, Mean Girls called to us. It was a super fun show and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who loves the movie.

Lose 20 Pounds

Completed Spring 2019. So my last blog post went into great detail about my weight loss, and if you’re interested you should check it out πŸ™‚.

Incomplete –

Visit St. Louis

I started my list shortly after my last visit to St. Louis, and I’ll actually be visiting again next month and get to mark this one as done 😊. St. Louis is the best city in the world. If you’re wondering why I want to visit. Also my parents got a new doggo so of course I NEED to meet her.

Read 200 Books

So I underestimated my reading habits (or overestimated my social life) because I’m already at over 100 books. I’ve also been reading a lot more lately due to my commute and Facebook book club. So yeah, this one will definitely happen. πŸ™‚

Dine at a Restaurant With 3 Michelin Stars

There are only 15 in the United States, but lucky for me, five of those are in Northern California. They’re all pretty swanky and expensive, so I’ll wait for a special occasion. I’m also spoiled for choices and have to decide which one I want to try. Currently I’m thinking The French Laundry in Napa.🍴

Pay off Credit Cards

I’m on track to do this within a year if nothing crazy comes up.

Make Macarons

I’ve never tried to make them because it seems kind of involved, but I also love a baking challenge. I tried to make my list a combination of big picture goals and more easily obtainable ones, so this is one of the latter.

Visit Europe

So this is definitely a more challenging goal, but I think I’ll definitely get it done by 30. It’s more difficult for my husband to visit Europe because he’s an Indian citizen and will have to get a Schengen visa. In a perfect world, he’ll become an American citizen before I turn 30 and booking a European vacation won’t be such a challenge. 🧳

Visit the City Museum

If you’re not from St. Louis, google the City Museum right now. It’s amazing. But weirdly I’ve never been there with Ayan, so it’ll have to happen on a visit to STL. πŸ™‚

Visit the Exploratorium

The Exploratorium in San Francisco is described as a “hands-on museum of science, art, and human perception.” They have evening events with drinks and no kids so I’m thinking that might be a fun date night. 😊

Have a Dinner Party

I have thrown a barbeque, but I decided that doesn’t count. We have lovely shared spaces at our apartment complex that would be perfect for hosting a party. I just need to make it happen.

Have a Birthday Party

I haven’t really had a birthday party as an adult, but it would be fun to go to dinner with friends and maybe have a game night or something. I think it’s too late to plan something for this year, but maybe next. πŸŽ‚

Visit Tartine Bakery

Tartine Bakery is a famous bakery in San Francisco. This is definitely an easier one to complete and I don’t know why I haven’t done it yet. πŸ€·πŸ»β€β™€οΈ

Visit the Winchester Mystery House

This allegedly haunted house in San Jose is a bit of a tourist trap, but I still want to go. πŸ˜‚

Visit Yosemite

It’s a 3-4 hour drive from us and we’ve been wanting to go for a weekend trip. The main issue is that it’s apparently always super crowded.

Go Camping

I’ve never been on a camping trip with Ayan but it would be fun. I just hate to buy a bunch of camping equipment and only use it once. πŸ€”

Volunteer

No real plan yet on when or where to volunteer, but I’m sure an opportunity will arise.

Have a Picnic

This will be an easy one. I think it would be really nice to bring a picnic lunch to our favorite park in Dublin (Donlon Point). 🧺

Have a Spa Day

This might be a nice birthday present to myself.

Visit Lake Tahoe

This has a similar issue as Yosemite… it would be a great weekend trip but it’s apparently always crowded.

Go Zip Lining

Idk it just seems really fun. πŸ™‚

Visit Seattle

I’ve always wanted to go to Seattle, it just seems cool. And coffee is life. And we have friends there, so I’m sure we’ll make a trip in the next few years. ✈️

Okay, so now that I’ve posted this list I think I’ll be more likely to follow through with everything. πŸ˜‚ I still have four years, but I know it’ll go by fast!

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August 2019 Unplugged Book Box Unboxing *Spoilers*

This is by far my favorite Unplugged box yet. 😊 There are some great products and an awesome book selection. The theme this month is…

… and, as always, it includes a link to a Spotify playlist with songs related to the theme. This one also includes a card with some tips on practicing mindfulness. So, on to the products:

Mermaid Magic Vitamin C Spray created by Crunchy Mama

Fandom: The Little Mermaid πŸ§œβ€β™€οΈ

This is a spray that’s supposed to prevent dry or damaged skin or hair after swimming in a chlorinated pool. It has a nice mild scent and I think it really works! We use our apartment’s community hot tub a lot and sometimes my legs get so dry from the chemicals, so I’ll definitely use this little bottle up quickly. It really helps keep your skin soft.

Bookmark from Book Art Bookmark

Fandom: vaguely gothic?

I love this, it’s so cute! Not much to say about it though. πŸ™‚

Notebook – an Unplugged exclusive

Fandom: The Night Circus

I just read this book last month, so it was cool to get something from this fandom. The notebook is recycled and comes with a pen. Maybe I’ll use it for the journaling prompts Unplugged sometimes includes.

Refrigerator magnet – an Unplugged exclusive

Fandom: The Kiss Quotient

I read this book a few months ago and really enjoyed it. I would recommend it to anyone looking for a somewhat smutty romance. And I like when the boxes include things I can display in my apartment. It’s fun to have bookish decor around. πŸ™‚

Marsh Girl Wine Slush from Mimi’s Vintage

Fandom: Where the Crawdads Sing

I haven’t tried this yet, but it sounds delicious and I’m looking forward to sipping it by the pool. 😊🍷 I’ve been on the library waitlist for Where the Crawdads Sing for weeks, so I can’t wait to read it!

And the book…

The Arrangement by Robyn Harding

This book is such a page turner. I’ve already read most of it. If you love suspenseful thrillers like I do, you should definitely read it! It’s about Natalie, a young art student struggling to pay her bills in NYC, who gets pulled into the world of sugar daddies 😬. She becomes obsessed with her client, and the situation spirals into an intense thriller involving deception and murder. Not sure how it exactly relates to the theme of relaxation, since it is stressing me right out. πŸ€·πŸ»β€β™€οΈ But in a good way!

Next month’s theme will be…

Memories

September will be their anniversary box, so I’m very excited to see what’s included! Also looking forward to the more eco friendly packaging they’ll be using!

What I Learned When I Lost 4 Dress Sizes in 6 Months

So I’m writing this post to address what I’m realizing has become a bit of an elephant in the room for some of the people close to me… my weight loss.

What I will not be doing is writing about my diet or going into specifics about how I lost weight. Diet culture can be very toxic and triggering, so I’m going to try to steer away from “diet talk” as much as possible, while still writing honestly. If reading about weight loss will not be good for your mental health, please stop reading!

A recent photo of Ayan and me at Disneyland. (We’re childless millennials who go to Disneyland. Sorrynotsorry.)

(This is a listicle because I love listicles.)

1. It’s hard to talk about weight loss while remaining body positive.

Can you even be body positive and also want to lose weight? Of course, I think you can. But I also understand why some people disagree. There’s a constant message from our society that, for women at least, you have to be thin to be acceptable. Like most people my age, I have watched friends starve themselves and destroy their health in pursuit of that unreachable goal of “thin enough.” The last thing I would ever want to do is become one more bearer of such a harmful and false message.

The easiest solution would be to simply not talk about my weight loss, which is what I’ve basically been doing.

But, when I talk to an old friend or family member, they almost always eventually bring it up. And it becomes clear that, for them, it has been an awkward unspoken topic in the room.

OR, they start the conversation by raving about how awesome it is that I’ve lost weight, and go on and on about how much better I look (so, basically saying I didn’t look good before losing weight?). I 100% understand that everyone is coming from a good place, and am not offended by either of these reactions. But I always find it sort of difficult to navigate these conversations.

2. Losing weight will not solve all your problems…

If you had asked me a year ago if I believed that losing weight would solve all my problems, I would have denied it; and on an intellectual level, of course I didn’t believe that it would. BUT, there was a little voice at the back of my mind that truly truly did. I low-key viewed “thin” women as a different species from myself, and basically thought that any problems they have must just roll off their backs, unable to withstand the shining light of their thinness. This mindset was mostly subconscious, and obviously false and toxic af.

I don’t know if I quite qualify as thin, and I’m not going to share my actual weight, but I’m not overweight like I was a year ago. And shockingly, I still don’t have a perfect life. I still sometimes feel bad about my appearance and struggle to be kind to myself.

A lifetime of society telling me I wasn’t good enough couldn’t be erased by weight loss, because my weight was never really the problem. Misogyny and fat-phobia and women’s magazines were the problems, and unfortunately, they aren’t going to disappear any time soon (well, maybe some of the magazines). I’m very lucky in that I have a husband who is a constant source of body-positive compliments and pep talks, but even he sometimes gets annoyed with my constant need for validation about my appearance (which is how I know when it’s time to chill the eff out πŸ€·πŸ»β€β™€οΈ).

3. But people will treat you differently.

To clarify, my friends don’t treat me differently. I’m talking more about strangers and acquaintances – store associates, people I meet through work, people on the train, etc.

Men are nicer to me. Experience is making that more and more undeniable. I don’t think that they necessarily realize that they’re doing it. It’s just that I’m not as invisible to them anymore. For example, if I have my hands full on a crowded train, a man is now more likely to notice and offer me his seat. I don’t think anyone was ever sitting there thinking to themself “hmm… she’s carrying a lot of things… but due to her BMI, I think I’ll just keep my seat.” It’s more that they wouldn’t have even noticed me before. This has been a disheartening thing to learn, but I’d be lying if I said I don’t sometimes enjoy my newfound privilege. On the other hand, I’ve also become more suspicious of good deeds. It’s all very confusing.

Interestingly, women have possibly become less friendly towards me. Not that anyone is outright unfriendly, but I think they’re less likely to make small talk, or offer assistance in a customer service setting. Possibly they felt bad for me when I was overweight, and were friendlier for that reason? I have no idea, but I’m just a weirdo who likes to analyze these things πŸ€”.

The most upsetting aspect of this is that I often feel like I’m treated with more respect at work. People are just more likely to assume I’m competent, and I’ve gotten compliments on my professional appearance, even though the type of clothes I wear are the same and, if anything, I’ve slacked off a bit on doing my hair and makeup for work. Weight shouldn’t matter in my job. It has no impact on my ability to be a good insurance adjuster. But, I’m realizing that people don’t turn off their biases when they go to work. πŸ™

4. Shopping is easier, and more fun.

I’ll start this one by saying that I was never at a size that confined me to only plus size shopping. I was always able to shop at most stores, so I don’t completely understand the struggle. But shopping is about a thousand times easier as a size medium than it was as a size xl. Especially at “younger” stores like Forever 21 or Urban Outfitters, which run smaller. I read somewhere that clothes are designed for a model size – so a tall 00, and just scaled up for larger sizes. But obviously, when people wear a bigger size, their body shape is usually curvier. So the further you are from the model size, the more “off” the cut will be. Also, the average American woman wears a large or xl, yet there are less options in these sizes, so they frequently sell out in stores. In addition to these problems, add a dose of self hatred, and you’ll understand why I used to absolutely hate shopping.

But now I love shopping. I can shop at any store and know I’ll be able to find something flattering. It’s good but also bad… it’s probably time to stop spending all my money on clothes. πŸ˜’

5. People are not at all concerned about disordered eating if you’re overweight.

So FYI I don’t have an eating disorder. But there was a point when I lost about 20 pounds in a month (from a 5ft 2in frame), and while I think some of the people around me were concerned by this, the overwhelming response I got was reinforcement that I was doing something amazing and healthy by dieting. πŸ€·πŸ»β€β™€οΈ Once again, I totally understand that everyone was coming from a good place. It’s just not a great message to send, since there are so many people who do have eating disorders.

(While I would still like to lose a little bit more weight, now I want to do it in a healthy way. Please don’t send me a concerned Facebook message. Is what I’m saying.)

6. People want you to tell them that weight loss is easy.

I think most overweight people just really want to hear that there’s some easy secret way to lose weight. And people who are naturally thin sometimes believe that overweight people must be doing something wrong or eating horribly every day. But the reality is that I didn’t become overweight while eating super poorly and never exercising… I ate a pretty average diet, and for a while was a frequent jogger. Our weight is determined by a lot of factors that are both within and out of our control. As I said, I’m not going to get into the specifics of how I lost weight. I’m just saying that we should all be compassionate and keep in mind that weight loss is not easy and there’s no wrong way to have a body.

Final thoughts…

Weight loss is hard, and thin privilege is real. So just be kind! (And thank you if you read through this whole rambling post.)

July 2019 Unplugged Book Box Unboxing *Spoilers*

Alright so no video this month, but I received my July Unplugged box! πŸ™‚ The theme this month is independence – perfect for July! So, without further ado, here are the items…

Mini Mason Jar created by team Unplugged

Fandom: Peter Pan

Very cute Peter Pan themed mini mason jar… could be used as a shot glass or a cute way to store something small :).

Tealight Candles created by Get Fictional Candles

Fandom: Red Rising

So I am not familiar with this fandom, but each pair of tealights represents a character Darrow and Mustang. I personally prefer the scent of the Mustang candles – the scent notes say cool water, cinnamon and leather. It reminds me of a men’s cologne with a fresh scent. The Darrow scent notes say sweet vengeance, sharp citrus and hot spice. This has a spicier smell and to me it feels a bit medicinal, but still nice.

Mug Rug from Clockwork Heart Co.

Fandom: Fight Club

So I’ve neither seen nor read Fight Club, but somehow I know the plot by osmosis. It relates to the theme of independence because Tyler represents the person the narrator wishes he could be. I suppose it’s supposed to look like blood and steel.

Soap from The Witch’s Bath

Fandom: A Discovery of Witches

This is a blackberry and vanilla scented soap based on Diana Bishop from A Discovery of Witches. I was excited to receive this as I just recently read the book. It has a nice sweet and fruity scent and looks very pretty – that’s glitter in the purple part :), and a brain made out of pearlescent white on top.

Aloe Vera created by team Unplugged

Fandom: Good Omens

This is a nice product that I’ll definitely get some use out of when I inevitably forget to wear sunscreen at some point this summer. It doesn’t have a strong scent, and I like that it doesn’t feel greasy on your skin like a lot of aloe vera products.

Playlist and journaling prompts.

As with previous boxes, this one includes a list of songs related to the theme, and some journaling prompts.

The Book…

The Daughters of Temperance Hobbs by Katherine Howe

I have actually read a previous book by Howe – a YA novel called Conversion, which was also about the Salem Witch trials. So I was excited to open this one 😊. You can read the summary on Goodreads, so I won’t include it here, but it’s a book about Connie, the descendant of a Salem witch, who must race against time to break a curse placed on her family. It jumps around in time, mainly focusing on Connie in the year 2000 and her ancestor Deliverance Dane, a woman who was tried as a witch. The book itself is a beautiful hard cover, and a signed bookplate and letter from the author are included, which is always cool.

This is actually the sequel to The Physic Book of Deliverance Dane, but can be read as a stand alone, which is what I plan to do.

And (drumroll please) next month’s theme will be…

🌴 RELAXATION 🌴

Very excited to see what will be included for that one!!

I’ve Completed my 2019 Reading Challenge!

Last year it took me almost until December to read books that fulfill all 52 prompts on the MommyMannegren reading challenge, so I guess I have one reason to be thankful for my new train commute πŸ˜‚. I found this challenge randomly last year and have had a lot of fun with it. There’s also an active Facebook group for people to discuss and suggest books for the various prompts, which is a great way to waste time.

Because the goal of this challenge is to read a wider variety of books, and things outside of my comfort zone, I made a rule for myself that I would only read books that fit prompts – and this year I actually followed that rule. So, while I enjoyed the challenge, I’m glad I can get back to my regular reading (horror, crime, sci-fi, and trashy melodrama).

I used Google Sheets to track my reading, so here is the entire list of prompts and which books I chose for each one. Making a spreadsheet to track my reading habits is probably one of the top five nerdiest things I do (top ten, at least). I don’t use Excel because I’m a rebel and I live on the edge. My favorite thing to do with spreadsheets is make charts. So here is a pie chart of which genres I ended up reading for this challenge:

As you can see, I’m going through a crime/thriller phase πŸ€·πŸ»β€β™€οΈ blame Netflix and all of their excellent serial killer documentaries. (I haven’t reached the depth of nerdiness required to make a spreadsheet for which movie I watch. Yet.)

Usually, horror is one of my top genres, so I’m a little sad that I’ve only read two horror books – 20th Century Ghosts and Strange Weather, both short story collections by Joe Hill. And although I classified them as horror, the stories varied in genre. So I need some legit horror novels in my life soon. I think my next book purchase will be A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay – it’s been on my list forever, but the library doesn’t have it πŸ˜•.

I definitely read less genre fiction in general because of this challenge, and I also think I read more bestsellers, because I chose a lot of books based on recommend from Facebook groups I’m part of. I’ve always read a lot, but I used to just go to the library and grab whatever looked good, which I still sometimes do; but, I’ve started to feel a lot more knowledgeable about what’s going on in the book world because now I actually read what others are reading, and have people to talk about books with (even if they’re only Facebook friends).

Anyway, here are some observations about the books I read for this challenge:

5 Star Books:

I only rated four books at five stars, so I thought I’d write a little about why I love them. Spoiler free.

In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

Prompt: Gothic fiction novel (I don’t know if this book would strictly qualify as gothic fiction, but it definitely has some gothic inspiration, and definitions of genre vary, so I declare it gothic.)

This book blew me away. I didn’t expect to love it as much as I did, but Ruth Ware is a 21st century Agatha Christie. If you don’t like Agatha Christie, you might not be a fan – a lot of the criticism I read on Goodreads was about the somewhat rote format and predictability. I didn’t find it predictable, but I’m not the type of person who tries super hard to solve mysteries while I’m reading them. This book stressed me the f out in the best way – it was a great page-turner.

Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Prompt: Related to music

This is an amazing book that I would probably not have picked up if not for this challenge and my Facebook book groups. It’s told in the format of an interview with the members of a fictional rock band – one of the biggest rock bands of all time – Daisy Jones & The Six. I would describe them as a slightly more rock & roll version of Fleetwood Mac. They suddenly broke up at the height of their fame, and they’ve never given an explanation in interviews – until now. It sounds hokey, and I didn’t have high expectations going in. But this book is an amazing exploration of fame, passion, love, trauma, and addiction. I fell in love with these characters. They feel real. I cannot recommend this book enough.

I’ve heard rumors that there might be a movie or mini series coming, and on one hand that’s scary, because I don’t want anyone to ruin this story. But, on the other hand, it could be absolutely amazing if done well, and it would be really cool hear the songs.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Prompt: Book picked out for you by someone else (I posted my Goodreads profile to my favorite Facebook book group and asked them to pick out a book for me, and this was the first suggestion.)

So I’m officially a Taylor Jenkins Reid fangirl. Can’t wait to read her other books. This book tells the life story of fictional Hollywood legend Evelyn Hugo – and her seven husbands. It’s another one that I might not have chosen for myself – based on the description, it sounds like it might be the kind of boring drama that I don’t end up finishing. But it’s so much more than that – Evelyn and those she loved are flawed characters, but I cared deeply for them by the end of the book. I actually cried at the end, and I’m not usually a crier over books and movies. It’s hard to describe books without either including spoilers or getting super vague, but this book deals with issues of ambition, power, fame, sexuality, love, and loss. All against a backdrop of old Hollywood glamour.

Recursion by Blake Crouch

Prompt: One word title

This book is an absolute mind f*ck. It lives up to, and maybe even exceeds, the reputation of Crouch’s previous book, Dark Matter. It’s a sci-fo thriller about a New York detective named Barry and a brilliant scientist named Helena, who must save the world as time and reality shift beneath their feet. It raises thought provoking questions about the nature of time and memory while never losing its intensity as a thriller. The characters are realistic, and by the end I really cared for them. Even if you don’t normally like science fiction, I think you will love this book.

Surprising Books:

These are the books that exceeded my expectations in one way or another.

No Exit by Taylor Adams

Prompt: Strong female lead

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

This is a heart pounding thriller about a college student named Darby, who is stranded by a blizzard at a remote rest stop in the mountains of Colorado, along with a handful of strangers. She goes outside in search of cell service, and spies a little girl, trapped in a dog cage, in the back of a van. One of the people in the rest stop must be the kidnapper, and Darby is the only one who can save the girl. She has to decide who to trust in order to save the girl and survive the night.

Becoming by Michelle Obama

Prompt: Memoir of someone you admire

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Political memoirs are usually not my favorite, and I kind of expected this to be the same as all the others I’ve read – dry and tactlessly pushing an agenda. But, it turned out to be a really inspiring book, and a fascinating look into what it takes to be president and what goes on in the lives of a first family. My admiration for Michelle Obama has only grown upon reading it, and I would recommend it to anyone. I listened to the audiobook, which is read by the author, and I think that definitely added to the experience.

In a Dark, Dark Wood and The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

Prompts: Gothic fiction; Character with a job you wish you had (travel journalist)

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ and ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ respectively

I already talked about In a Dark, Dark Wood above, and I love The Woman in Cabin 10 for the same reasons. This one is about a travel journalist on a small luxury cruise ship who witnesses a murder. I stand by my opinion that Ruth Ware is a modern day Agatha Christie.

The Mountain of the Moon by Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay translated from Bengali by Jayanta Sengupta

Prompt: A family member’s favorite book

⭐️⭐️⭐️

This is the only book my husband has ever read for fun (when he was a teenager) so by default it is his favorite book πŸ˜‚ (we are an opposites attract kind of pair). It’s a Bengali book, written in the 30s, with a definite Indiana Jones vibe. It’s about a young man named Shankar, who takes a job with a railroad company in order to escape his boring life in a small village in Bengal, and travels to Uganda. However, shortly after he arrives, he meets an intrepid Portuguese explorer, and they travel together through an unexplored mountain range, in search of a fabled diamond mine, facing many perilous situations along the way. Although it was a little corny and predictable, I really enjoyed the journey of reading this book. It’s a quick read, and in a way it made me feel more connected to Ayan – we had very different childhoods, and it’s sometimes sometimes a little hard to relate, so it was fun reading a book that little Ayan read πŸ˜‚. Now if I can only convince him to read a second book for fun…

Maya’s Notebook by Isabel Allende translated from Spanish by Anne McLean

Prompt: A book about organized crime/the mob

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

This was originally going to fulfill the “Set in South America” prompt, but as I was reading it I realized that organized crime is a big part of the plot. The book is about a young woman named Maya, who has come under the influence of a very bad guy who involves her in counterfeiting and drug dealing. When she wants to turn her life around, her grandmother sends her to live with old friends on the Chilean island of ChiloΓ©, hoping that she will be able to lay low there until the criminals and FBI have forgotten about her. While there, she slowly recovers from her life of crime and forges deep connections with the island community. Family secrets are revealed while on the island, but I’ll stop there in order to avoid spoilers. The characters in this book were so great, and I think it could have been a five star book for me if it didn’t sometimes get a little too close to an after-school special.

Disappointing books:

These aren’t necessarily the worst books I read, but they’re the ones I was expecting more from. I rarely rate a book below 3 stars, because if I really hate a book that much, I don’t finish it. Life is too short. So I did enjoy these books enough to finish them.

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

Prompt: A teen as the main character

⭐️⭐️⭐️

This one just didn’t live up to the hype for me. I felt like the author was trying really hard to be ground breaking, but the characters just sort of felt flat and forgettable. It was good, just nothing really special, and the poetry didn’t strike a chord with me. But maybe it would have if I’d read it at the right time, and maybe it will for you. πŸ€·πŸ»β€β™€οΈ So I would still recommend it.

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel GarcΓ­a MΓ‘rquez translated from Spanish by Gregory Rabassa

 Prompt: Set in South America

⭐️⭐️⭐️

This is the last book I read for the challenge, and I think it’s kind of growing on me as I mull it over. But, when I first finished it, the overwhelming feeling I had was disappointment. It’s a classic that I’ve been meaning to read for awhile, so I admittedly went into it with high expectations. I listened to the audiobook, which I think was a mistake, as it made it harder to keep track of the complicated family tree. It’s a trippy book and it’s possible that I just wasn’t in the right mood for it. I do understand why it’s a classic, though.

Strange Weather And 20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill

Prompts: An audiobook;Author who uses a pseudonym

⭐️⭐️⭐️ for both

I love Joe Hill, but I think most amazing authors write either great short stories OR great novels. And he writes great novels. πŸ€·πŸ»β€β™€οΈ

So…

I’ve read a lot of great books because of this challenge. I’m also doing BookRiot’s Read Harder Challenge, but it has fewer prompts and I’m approaching it in a more relaxed way. I’m looking forward to reading some books that I’ve been putting off because they didn’t fit into the challenge, but I’m excited to participate again next year!

May 2019 Unplugged Book Box Unboxing

Sometimes I wonder why people don’t take me seriously, and then I hear a recording of my own voice and understand 😬. But the point of this blog is to try new things outside of my comfort zone, so I’m forcing myself to post the cringey video above anyway πŸ˜‚.

So, my thoughts on the Unplugged Book Box… this is a subscription box that contains a book and 3-6 bookish or fandom inspired self-care items each month. I got a six month subscription for myself as a reward for reaching a weight loss goal. I researched all the options for book subscriptions and narrowed it down to this one and Bookish Box.

The main appeal of Bookish Box is that each one comes with a book-themed t-shirt, and I love a good nerdy t-shirt. But I went with Unplugged because I like their focus on self-care and support of small businesses and handmade goods. It also seems like most of the products are usable/consumable items, like beauty products, candles, tea and coffee. I’m not trying to collect more clutter, so that is a plus.

You can select either a young adult or adult subscription, and they each have different products. Each box has a theme, and genres vary. The theme for May is grief, probably because of Memorial Day. The June theme is Pride, but unfortunately I had to skip that box. July’s theme will be independence.

I already have a subscription to Book of the Month Club (love it), which is just a book each month, so I wanted a box with other goodies. I have a train commute and no life, so I definitely won’t have a problem reading two books a month.

So, on to the products:

This tea towel, featuring a quote from Les Miserables, was made by Etsy shop Three Arrows Apparel. Not much to review about a tea towel except that it’s very cute. πŸ™‚

This smoke, spice, and orange-scented candle from Etsy shop Cozy Light Candle Co was inspired by Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. It reminds me of a bonfire in Autumn. Probably a much nicer scent than an actual post-apocalyptic hellscape would provide.

These are organic, vegan coffee candies. I’m pretty sure I’ve tried these before at some point. It’s coffee and sugar, so obviously delicious. Here’s their website.

This is a scent created by Etsy shop Perfectly Imperfect, inspired by Susie Salmon from The Lovely Bones. It’s an essential oil blend that’s supposed to help ease anxiety, depression, and insomnia, which is hippie nonsense, but it does smell nice.

The ingredients are grapefruit, patchouli, ylang ylang, frankincense, coconut oil, and rose quartz crystals (which are floating in the bottle). It’s a nice citrusy smell with a subtle patchouli scent – not so much that you’ll smell like a head shop, which is always a danger with patchouli.

This face mask from Pure Bliss Body Confections has a nice scent and I think it did moisturize my skin. I wish I had saved half of it in a ziplock bag because I totally could have gotten two uses out of it.

And finally the book itself:

Saving Meghan by D.J. Palmer. It’s a beautiful hard back book, and came with a signed book plate and letter from the author 😊.

I’m super excited to read this, it sounds like such an interesting read. I’ve been on a true crime kick lately, and while this is fiction, I think it will be in the same vein. It’s a thriller about a mother who has the rare behavioral disorder Munchausen by Proxy (or does she?) and is medically abusing her 15-year-old daughter (or is she?).

I recently finished watching The Act on Hulu, about the real life case of Gypsy Rose Blanchard, so I think this will be similar. I really enjoy twisted thrillers like this, so I can’t wait to read it.

The box also includes a notecard with tips for how to deal with grief, some journaling prompts, and a playlist of songs to go with the book, which is a really cool idea.

Overall I’m really happy with this book. The products are things I’ll actually use and are mostly handmade by small businesses on Etsy. The value is great and the book itself is one that I think I’ll enjoy.

Although grief is a heavy topic, and some people might think it’s a strange choice of theme, I actually really love that they’re focusing on a subject that is often avoided in our society, despite being a completely normal part of life and something that everyone experiences. Surely we would all be just a little bit better adjusted if we knew how to talk about grief instead of avoiding it.

I’m really looking forward to future boxes, and I’ll try to post about each one 😁.

Welcome to My Blog

Hi friends,

I’ve found myself wishing for a place to document my life without the limitations of Facebook, so I thought I might as well jump into blogging. Thank you for reading!