January 2018 Reading Recap

Ever since starting my Instagram account dedicated solely to books (aka bookstagram), I’ve been getting a LOT more reading done. And since I could talk about books all day every day, I figured posting a monthly reading recap would be a good way to give this ol’ blog a little much-needed revival. So let’s get to it!

Beartown by Fredrik Backman –I’m not sure where to even begin with how to talk about my love for this book. Everyone said it was amazing, yet it still took me by surprise. The depth of feeling it evoked, the love I developed for every single one of the characters — I simultaneously didn’t want it to end but couldn’t wait to see what happened. In the beginning I was a little frustrated with how slow the story was to develop, but I quickly recognized — and came to appreciate — how necessary and intentional that was. The time Backman spent developing each character, as well as Beartown itself, made you know them intimately and care for them deeply. This was quite a first book for 2018. I’m not sure how anything else I read this year can live up to it — it has earned a firm place in my top 10 books of all time. All I can say is READ IT.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman — I read this immediately after Beartown so it had a lot to live up to. To my surprise, it exceeded my expectations; I LOVED this book. Eleanor is a troubled girl with a more than quirky personality that made me laugh and cry. It didn’t take long to fall in love with Eleanor and it was impossible not to root for her. Watching her discover herself, and develop a truly special relationship with Raymond, made this one of the most charming, heartfelt, and delightful books I’ve read in a while. We could all stand to be a little more like Eleanor.

Invisible: How Young Women with Serious Health Issues Navigate Work, Relationships, and the Pressure to Feel Just Fine  by Michele Lent Hirsch — As a young woman living with a chronic illness, I jumped at the chance to read this. Living with cystic fibrosis has had an enormous impact on every aspect of my life, both in the tangible sense and in the way I view my life and plan for the future. It can be incredibly isolating to live a life that feels so different from your peers, and I’m always searching for any kind of media in which I might be able to get a glimpse of myself. (Thank you to Beacon Press for providing my copy in exchange for an honest review! Full review on Goodreads.)

By the Book by Julia Sonneborn –A loose translation of Jane Austen’s PersuasionBy the Book is a light, fun, entertaining read from author Julia Sonneborn. If you like a charming romance and are a book nerd, this might just be the perfect palate cleanser for you. (Thank you to Gallery Books for providing my copy in exchange for an honest review! Full review on Goodreads.)

The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin (audiobook) — This was my first audiobook and it was perfect. As someone who has trouble staying focused, listening to fiction has proven difficult. But the subject matter combined with Rubin’s calming voice kept me engaged and interested. Plus, I found this book to be incredibly helpful — I’m for sure an Obliger who falls prey to rebel tendencies when I reach burnout. I feel like now I’m better equipped to establish systems to help keep me accountable and from reaching burnt out so quickly. I highly recommend The Four Tendencies for anyone, especially those interested in learning more about personalities.

Red Clocks by Leni Zumas — I had a copy of this book for a couple months before I finally picked it up, I only wish I’d read it sooner. Red Clocks tells of a harrowing future, one that feels eerily close and all too possible. With short, powerful chapters, Zumas tells the story of five women and the impact of the Personhood Amendment, a law that governs women’s bodies to an extreme (a very real extreme). I flew through this book, both eager and terrified to find out what happened to the biographer, the wife, the mender, and the daughter. As a woman who has pondered the ways in which our government could dictate what I do with my body, I read this book with a lump in my throat, unable to stop turning the pages.  (Thank you to Little Brown for providing my copy in exchange for an honest review! Full review on Goodreads.)

A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny — The second book in the Inspector Gamache series was equally enjoyable as the first. I like how we’re starting to get to know the key players better, especially Armand. Losing myself in Three Pines will always be a treat, but I’m eager to keep reading since most fans say the books tend to get better with each one. (If you’re an LP fan, let me know if you agree!) Even though I’m only two books in I’m glad I started the series and am excited that there are still many more ahead of me.

The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care by T.R. Reid — As someone with a chronic illness, health care is a necessity. My life depends on medications that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars each and every year, not to mention doctors appointments, hospital stays, lab tests, bloodwork, etc. The issue of access to affordable health care has been on my mind for years, particularly during the past 12 months as the current administration tried to repeal the Affordable Car Act. (Full review on The Bookly Club.)

All in all it was a great month of reading. In the meantime, you can follow what I’m currently reading on Goodreads or at @kathareads. Come let me know what books you’re reading and loving!

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The Lying Game by Ruth Ware

I’ll admit upfront that I’m a little disappointed to only be giving this book three stars. BUT, that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it, just that it didn’t live up to my expectations. (Read the synopsis.)

I read In a Dark Dark Wood by Ruth Ware last summer, and liked it, and I’ve heard The Woman in Cabin 10 is even better, but it’s been sitting on my shelf making me feel guilty for months. I plan on reading that next month, so it’ll be interesting to compare all three. Stay tuned!

But, back to The Lying Game. I started this on a Tuesday night and stayed up way too late, blowing through 125 pages, and finished it the next night, when I stayed up late again. Needless to say, it had me hooked from the beginning.

And it stayed that way through the entire first half, making me feel like I was at the Mill with Isa, Fatima, Thea, and Kate, reliving their boarding school days and the drama from that was resurfacing in their present lives.

But somewhere around page 250, it started getting a little tired, and I had to push myself to keep going. And while the ending was satisfying, it wasn’t jaw dropping or heart pounding or any of the adjectives I’d give a four-star thriller. In fact, I’m not sure I’d even label it a thriller. It fits better in the mystery category, or even general fiction, due to its lack of suspense. The setting and mood of the book are ripe for a terrifying roller coaster of a read, but that isn’t what you get. Instead it’s a well-written and intense story of friendship and the secrets we keep.

And maybe that’s where this book gets a little off track. Comparing this to her other books, as well as the thriller genre in general, makes it feel a little lacking.

Atmospheric and slow burning, The Lying Game is a fast-paced and quick read with well-developed and relatable characters. Fans of mysteries, stories of friendship, and family dramas will find this book enjoyable, just don’t go into it think it’s a thrilling ride.

The Lying Game comes out on July 25, so be sure to stop by your local bookstore and pre-order a copy, or pick one up when it comes out. Big thanks to Gallery Books for sending me an advanced copy!

As always, you can check out more of the books I’m reading, loving, and hoarding over at @kathareads.

June Reads

If you couldn’t tell from my previous post, I’m attempting to make reading more of a priority. I used to DEVOUR books, starting one as soon as it entered my house. But over the years, probably thanks to #adulting, reading has taken a backseat. Don’t get me wrong, my love of books is still going strong, as evidenced by the hundreds — yes, hundreds — of books I’ve continued to accumulate with the intention of reading them.

In order to create the space to read more, I’ve drastically cut down the amount of television I watch. I canceled almost ALL of my DVR recordings, and instead of watching a show while doing my daily treatments, I read.

I’m also trying to read more of the (many, many, many) articles I save to Pocket. Are you sensing a theme here? #overlyambitious #contenthoarder

So, here’s what I’ve read in the month of June! Follow along with more of the books I’m reading, buying, and hoarding at @kathareads on Instagram.

Books

Hunger by Roxane Gay. HarperCollins was kind enough to send me an advanced copy of this gem and I’m so glad they did. This book will stick with me for a long time. (I reviewed this book in a standalone post a couple weeks ago.)

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys. This was the May/June pick for The Bookly Club and surprised myself — I LOVED it. You can read my full review over there.

The Assistants by Camille Perri. I picked this up on a whim, needing a reprieve from the heavier subjects (see above). This was PERFECT. I read it in two days. Yes, TWO days. The full review is on Goodreads.

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew J. Sullivan. June was full of good books, and this one was no exception. This will definitely end up being one of my favorite reads of the year. My full review is on Goodreads.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. This critically acclaimed book sat on my shelf for FAR too long. After finding some extra time at the end of the month, I finally picked it up and I’m so glad I did. Again, full review on Goodreads.

Articles

9 Things Readers Do Better Than Anyone Else

Why Venmo is My Favorite Sympathy Card

YES PLEASE: S’mores Slab Pie

The Best Ways to Support Independent Publishers

I Don’t Know How to Explain to You That You Should Care About Other People

How to Be a Contemporary Writer

Read It Forward’s Favorites of June 2017

Women’s Friendships, in Sickness and in Health

Tell me: What did you read and love in June? Come chat with me in the comments!

Spine of Roxane Gay's Hunger

The Story of a Body

“What does it say about our culture that the desire for weight loss is considered a default feature of womanhood?”

I’ve been a fan of Roxane Gay‘s for a while — it started with Bad Feminist, then I followed her on Twitter (trust me, you want to, too), and then Difficult Women. They are all varying in genre: nonfiction, fiction, memoir, and Gay brings her unflinching honesty + powerful voice to each of them. But Hunger might be the most vulnerable and important of them all.

“Writing this book is a confession. These are the ugliest, weakest, barest parts of me. This is my truth. This is a memoir of (my) body because, more often than not, stories of bodies like mine are ignored or dismissed or derided. People see bodies like mine and make their assumptions. They think they know the why of my body. They do not.”

Gay’s experience is not mine, which, aside from wanting to read all of her work, is why I was so eager to get my hands on a copy. It’s important we read books that aren’t always echoing our own lives — especially in our current society. Approaching someone’s personal story with an open mind and heart is crucial to creating a more open and accepting society. Gay’s raw vulnerability makes it impossible not to feel empathetic, and to think differently about the way we view others and the assumptions we make.

At times painful and heartbreaking, Hunger should be required reading for all humans.

“I hope that by sharing my story, by joining a chorus of women and men who share their stories too, more people can become appropriately horrified by how much suffering is born of sexual violence, how far-reaching the repercussions can be.”

Big thanks to Harper Collins for sending this — I have no doubt it will stick with me and be one of my favorite reads of 2017.

For more of what I’m reading, follow me on my bookstagram (aka books on Instagram) at @kathareads.

(Fair warning, this book deals with difficult subject matters like rape, drugs, and eating disorders.)

Don’t miss her interview on NPR’s Fresh Air!

headphones for listening to podcasts

On Podcasts

I love podcasts. I’m starting to hoard them the way I hoard books — with the intent to listen, but in denial of how many hours I actually have to do so. There are a select few of which I never miss an episode, while the rest of them I pick and choose which episodes to devote time to based on topic/interest.

Podcasts keep me entertained anytime I’m in the car, when taking walks, while I do laundry, when I cook, and even when I can’t fall asleep. So here are a bunch that I think are worth checking out! Tell me: What podcasts have your ears?

If you like true crime…

Accused* — I devoured this in a matter of days.
Criminal — Short episodes, perfect for a commute.
Missing Richard Simmons* — This has since wrapped up, but it’s 100% worth the few hours of listening.
S-Town — From Serial and This American Life, all seven episodes will be released on March 28. I obviously can’t personally vouch for this, but I’m excited to see what it’s about.

If you like politics, news, current events, and culture…

NPR Politics* — I love love love this one. It’s a great way to stay up to date
Pod Save America* — Hosted by Obama’s former speechwriters, this is a no BS political podcast for those of us trying to stay sane during 45’s presidency.
On Point with Tom Ashbrook* — A good way to stay on top of current events. Plus, Tom has a very soothing voice.
On the Media — “The smartest, wittiest, most incisive media analysis show in the universe.”
This American Life  — I hope this one needs no introduction!
Code Switch* — Honest, at times uncomfortable, and always important conversations on race.
With Friends Like These — A new podcast from Ana Marie Cox, a political columnist and culture critic.
Pop Culture Happy Hour — A roundtable discussion about books, music, movies, TV, and anything else pop culture related.

If you like women-run podcasts…

Another Round* — Heben and Tracy are funny, have fantastic guests, and talk about everything from race and gender, to squirrels and mangoes.
Dear Sugar* — Hosted by Cheryl Strayed (and Steve Almond) and based off of the Dear Sugar column. Need I say more?
The Broad Experience* — Conversations about issues facing women in the workplace.
Call Your Girlfriend* — As they say, “a podcast for long distance besties everywhere.” And their theme song is Robyn’s “Call Your Girlfriend.”
Death, Sex, and Money* — “A podcast about the big questions and hard choices that are often left out of polite conversation.”
Embedded — “Hosted by Kelly McEvers, Embedded takes a story from the news and goes deep.” This season tackles video of deadly police encounters.
Nerdette — Interviews with everyone from authors to astronauts.
Note to Self* — Host Manoush Zomorodi tackles the effects technology on our everyday lives.
Women of the Hour — A miniseries about friendship, love, work, bodies, and more, hosted by Lena Dunham.
Magic Lessons with Elizabeth Gilbert — Anything Elizabeth Gilbert does, I’m there.
Stuff Mom Never Told You* — Even though this podcast has come to an end (insert sadface emoji), it’s still worth listening to the archived episodes, all about what it’s like to be a woman.

If you like books…

All the Books!* — A Book Riot podcast that comes out every Tuesday to discuss the best of that day’s new book releases.
Lit Up — Interviews with authors on life, love, and all things literary.
MashReads* — I just started listening to this one and I’m obsessed. Definitely go into the archives and listen to some of their earlier episodes, too.
That’s What She Read — Again, new to me but liking it so far. They did a re-branding of sorts and are focusing on books that “spark conversation and community around pressing social justice issues.”
Book Club Appetizer — Dubbed a “snackable podcast to enhance your reading adventures.” Yes, please!

Believe it or not, I subscribe to more than those listed… BUT those are the ones I listen to the most frequently. I’m happy to reveal others if you’re curious 🙂

* top 15… because narrowing it down any further gives me anxiety. Don’t make me choose!

On Life with CF

Next month–March 27, to be exact–will be 16 years since my diagnosis. Sometimes, I feel like I’m managing okay. Other times, like the past few weeks, I feel like I’m drowning.

I worry that I’m not doing enough. That I could be fitting in more treatments. Working out more. Getting more sleep.

But I also have a beautifully full life, which means I constantly feel torn in a million different directions, with my health–and this constant fear of the “what if”–at the center of it all.

I have a full-time job that I enjoy. Freelance gigs I want to continue. Stacks of books calling out, “Read me! Read me!” Advocacy work that I love and is fulfilling.

I have a husband who I love and want to spend time with. A puppy who needs my attention–and whose cuddles I want to hoard while I can. A sister, a mother, a father, an aunt, a cousin, relatives in far away places. Friends here in Baltimore, Chicago, Ohio, California, New York.

And what I’m giving never feels like enough.

It took me years to get to a place where I understood the importance of taking care of myself. Some of that was denial–not wanting to admit the reality of all that “taking care of myself” entailed. And now that reality is all too clear.

I rarely miss a treatment, I participate in clinical trials, I regularly visit my CF clinic, I get a yearly flu shot, I do my best to stay away from people who are sick, I wear a mask whenever I’m at a doctor’s appointment. And, most recently, I’ve committed to working out–weight lifting, training for a 5K, weekly cycle classes.

But it takes an enormous amount of time and energy, both mental and physical, it never feels like enough.

This disease is relentless. Despite my best efforts, CF still rears its ugly head. And I never get used to that part.

This morning I woke up to my latest sputum culture results: a new bacteria. I immediately called my clinic to see what they had to say. Thankfully, they aren’t overly concerned–but they do want to treat it: a month of antibiotics. The last time I took this drug was a little over two years ago (which is awesome–I’m reminding myself of that) and it was rough. The first week, each dose–a powder I inhale through a handheld device–sent me into fits of coughing, making the twice-daily doses take 20 minutes to get through, leaving me feeling sicker than before, and giving me a serious case of laryngitis.

All things considered, it’s not that bad. I can get through the first week, and the following three. I’m just tired.

Tired of doing all the right things and still watching this disease win. Tired of never getting a break from CF. No day off, no babysitter I can call, no vacation I can take. Cystic fibrosis, and all that it asks of me, is with me every single day.

I have a truly incredible support system–which helps immensely and makes the rest of my life possible. But I still have a hard time knowing that everyone else can walk away from CF.

I know I’m lucky. It could be much worse. But every time something like this happens–my PFTs decline, I culture something new, my symptoms worsen–I worry. I worry that the worst is happening. That I won’t bounce back. That this is my new normal.

After 16 years of (knowingly) living with this disease, I’m still not used to it. I still find it impossible to accept my reality. I know how easy it is to look at me and think I can’t possibly be living with this ticking time bomb inside me, because I look in the mirror and think the same thing.

This bacteria is a minor setback, one that we can hopefully defeat thanks to the power of medicine. And eventually I’ll find my footing again. For now I’m going to go easy on myself, try to relax as much as CF will allow (think lots of tea, maybe a book purchase or two, some binge watching, and some delicious food), and hang on to hope ❤

On Loss and the CF Community

The CF community has been hit hard the past couple of months. Many have lost the fight, while others are spending the holiday fighting as hard as they can. No matter how close we are, or how well we know each other, the loss of one of our own never gets easier.

This morning I learned that a man I had only started to get to know passed away. He was an incredible force in the community and had dedicated his life to advocating for this devastating disease.

The news popped up on my Facebook feed in the middle of a meeting, tears immediately springing to my eyes. I silently slipped out, took a few minutes, got a hug from a coworker, and went back in. But this sadness has stuck with me. Sadness for him. For his family. For his community that ran wide and large.

And sadness for those of us with CF. It’s impossible to explain what it’s like to watch your friends die. To know that it’s only going to keep happening. That the older we get, the more friends we’ll lose.

To watch people die from the very disease you have is its own kind of torture.

Sometimes it’s enough to make me want to shut it all out. To turn away and not face what’s happening. But these are the people who understand me the most. Who know my fears and frustrations and anger. We NEED each other–we provide a support that no one else can.

Which is why we have to keep fighting. Even when it feels like an uphill climb we can’t win. ESPECIALLY when it feels like we can’t win.

My CF BFF and I made a pact: that we’ll be here, supporting each other, until we’re 80. And I’m going to do my damnedest to make that happen–for every. single. one of us. And I can’t wait for the day we can celebrate our win, together.