Both Ends of the Spectrum

P.S. I Love You stack

I promised to tell you about the books I cheated on Thea Devine with.  So, after failing miserably at trying to read books I had at home rather than library books and realizing that if I don’t have a good book in my hand I’d rather not read, I went to the library.  I decided, ok let’s test this theory.  Am I just burned out on reading or is it the books that just aren’t that good?

So, at the library I picked up P.S. I Still Love You, The Girl on the Train, and Lola and the Boy Next Door.  I figured that two of the three were sequels to others I’d read and enjoyed and Girl on the Train I’d been wanting to read forever.

P.S. I Still Love You

First up, I decided to read P.S. I Still Love You first.  It is a sequel to To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, which I talked about in this post.  I started this on June 14th and finished it three days later.   This book helped me determine that my reading slump was book-specific. I easily zipped through this book, enjoying every page of it. It was just as good as the first one, if not better. Recommend.

 

Girl on the Train with Coffee

After that I decided to give The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins a go.  I picked this one up on June 18th.  I’m probably six months behind everyone in reading this, but it was worth the wait. This book was well-written and kept me guessing right up to the end.

Girl on the Train

I was afraid this book was going to be a watered down version of Gone Girl, but it wasn’t. There is a similar feel to the story (in a “if you like Gone Girl, you’ll like Girl on the Train” kind of way), but it is a very different book. I highly recommend this one and will look forward to reading more from Ms. Hawkins. I read this one in five days, finishing it on June 23rd.

Lola and the Boy Next Door

And finally, I read Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins.  I picked this one up on June 26th.   This book is also a sequel (to Anna and the French Kiss that I reviewed here).  I so enjoyed this book. While it didn’t have the benefit of being set in Paris like Anna & the French Kiss, it more than made up for it. I read this in three days because I couldn’t put it down. And strangely, aside from being a good story with excellent writing and great characters, the book gave me food for thought – how I can balance those different parts of myself that seem so incongruous, how you can live out loud in vibrant color but still feel small inside, and how the people that care about you can see past the mask and really know you.

These books spanned both ends of the spectrum – young adult romance to a suspenseful thriller.  And thank goodness they also showed me that nothing stands between me and a good book, but if given a not so good book I’d rather do anything than read.

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On My Bookshelf: Landlines and Lifelines

Landline

I’m back to share more from my bookshelf with you today.  When last we left our heroine, she’d put herself on the wait list for Rainbow Rowell’s Landline because she’d pulled it out of her TBR jar.  And then she waited.  And waited.  And finally, the day came when the email arrived saying her book was ready to pick up!

I started Landline on May 9th (remember this is 2016 we’re talking about – because our heroine is behind on her blogging) and finished it on the 14th.  I really enjoyed this book.  Rainbow’s books are always so well-written and enjoyable.  And, they are all so different. This book reminded me more of Attachments and less like Fangirl or Eleanor & Park. I love her complex but relatable characters and this storyline. Well worth a read!

After finishing up Landline it was time to pull another book from my TBR jar.

Landline and TBR Jar

And out of the TBR jar came…one of my wildcard free slips.  So, since I had checked out Feverborn (read my review of it here), I went ahead and counted that as my wildcard.  Then I decided that since I was on such an awesome reading streak, maybe I should try to read some of the books I have sitting at home.  So, I picked up a book that had been luring me – A Café on the Nile.  I started it on 5/24.  The author is a member of The Explorer’s Club, which I am fascinated by, and the book is set in Egypt.  What could be better?

Cafe on the Nile

Well, yeah.  Notsomuch.  I tried.  I really did.  My reading slowed down to a snail’s pace.  So slow in fact that I think I’d pretty much given up reading.  So, after a couple of weeks I decided to give something else a try.  Maybe I just wasn’t into this book?

So, I picked up another book on my bookshelf at home – Beyond Desire.

Beyond Desire

I started it on June 8th and attempted to read it for about a week.  This book was supposed to take place on the Orient Express, it was supposed to be steamy, it was supposed to be good.  Well, I ended up taking a break (more on that next time) and then picked this back up around the 29th of June.  Finished it on July 7th.

Once I picked it back up, re-energized, I enjoyed the story and it kept my attention. I enjoyed the journey by Orient Express and eluding the followers and the search for clues about the bracelets. I think this book would have been much more enjoyable without the sex scenes. They were ridiculous, and overburdened with words like transmogrified, termagant, profligate. I also found that I occasionally had a hard time following whose thoughts and feelings she was describing because they flipped back and forth. I think Thea Devine’s writing would be better served with more attention to how the erotic scenes fit within the whole of her story.

If there’s one thing that these last two books taught me, it’s that my reading appetite is voracious, when given a good book.  When given a book that isn’t doing it for me – I’d rather not read.  But, I have found over the past months that reading for me is indeed a lifeline – I need it.  It keeps my brain working and my creativity flowing.  It keeps me well-fed.

More next time on the books I cheated on Thea Devine with.

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On My Bookshelf: Burning Love

Cozystyle Library Book KMM Burned

I’m back to share my May reads from 2016 with you.  My library streak continued and I was excited to pick up Burned.  Feverborn had already been released, so I was itching to get through Burned  and jump into Feverborn.  Burned was so good! I started it on May first and finished it up on the 8th.  And I was glad that I checked Feverborn out of the library to have on deck when I finished this one. Moning has a way of blowing my mind even when I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop. It took me way longer to read this one than it really should have, but that’s what a busy schedule does to my booklife. I do feel like I should have gone back and reread Shadowfever before starting this one, since there was such a big gap between when I read that one and this one. Although Iced was a recent read, there were definitely things about Mac and Barrons that I was a little fuzzy on, so a refresh probably would have helped.

And I just have to share this photo from @greenletterday on Instagram.  She posted up these fantastic skeins of yarn with the caption:  “Some of my favorite book heroines in yarn form: Miss Lane, The Mega, and Smokin’ Jada by the lovely @houseofalamode.”  When I first saw this post I thought “ok, but who’s Jada?”  After reading further I left her the comment: “So…when you posted this I had no idea who Jada was.  I’m currently reading Burned.  So when I got to Jada, I was like ok now I know who Jada is.  But a few chapters later…and now my mind is blown about Jada!!!! Now I seriously need this yarn trio.”

Well, needless to say, I could not start Feverborn fast enough.

Cozystyle Library Book KMM Feverborn

And, as is often the case with KMM’s books, I find that she has the ability to pierce right through to the truth of things that goes beyond this story, beyond these books, and I nod my head and think “girl, I feel you.”

Cozystyle Library Book Quote KMM Feverborn

But seriously, I read this book (and it’s a thick one!) in about a week.  Why do I have to wait so long for the next book???? Love KMM, love this series, love the characters. This book was no different from the others in that my reading of it was complete and utter engagement – they make me cry, they make me miss my own sister, they make me want to throw the book across the room, they make me gasp in surprise, they make me talk back to them (and as much as Dani annoyed me in Shadowfever, these books even have me yelling “Dude!” at them). If you haven’t read these books – go right now and read them. Seriously. If you gave up after Shadowfever and had no interest in reading Iced (that was me), suck it up and go read Iced so that you can read Burned and then this book. Seriously, go.

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On My Bookshelf: Mysteries, Love, and Tasting Stars

Landline slip

I’m excited to share the rest of my April reads today!  So, after I finished Eleanor & Park, I went ahead and drew another slip out of my TBR jar.  I think I only had two Rainbow Rowell books in there, and I pulled them both back to back?!?  So, yes, Landline.  I went online and checked to see if it was available at the library since I hadn’t seen it there when I went last time.  Sure enough, it was checked out.  So, I placed a hold on it and figured I’d just wait until it popped up.  Meanwhile, I decided that maybe I should actually read something I own.  So…I picked up a book I’d started (barely) and never finished.  Someone recommended the Aunt Dimity books to me a thousand years ago and I went on a quest to find them at used book stores and actually think I have most of them.  So, I thought this would be a quick, enjoyable read and I was not disappointed.

Aunt Dimity's Death

I read this in a little under a week.  Although the book was written in 1992, it’s really rather timeless.  This was the perfect cozy mystery for the rainy days we were having here – a great book to curl up with. I definitely recommend this read, and I’m definitely saving Beth’s oatmeal cookie recipe to try.  Plus, I’m looking forward to the next book in the series.

No word on Landline yet, so I headed back to the library to pick up a couple more books.  Since I seem to be reading them in about 3-5 days, I thought I was safe checking out three this time.  I can’t even begin to tell you what finding the library has done for me.  It’s like the library opened up this whole world for me that I’d forgotten existed.  It renewed my love of reading.  It awoke that voracious reader I used to be.  So, I went back to the library and here’s what I got…

Second round of library books

I started with The Fault in Our Stars.  I pulled it first so that in case I didn’t like it I had two more choices.  So…this book.

Fault in Our Stars

I had really written this book off some time ago because what I knew of the plot was not something I really felt I had the emotional energy to deal with. After losing my dad to cancer, the last thing I really was interested in doing was reading about people with cancer.  Ultimately though, FOMO may have prompted me to pick it up at the library and give it a shot. I attempted to reserve judgment throughout the first third or so of the book and even posted that I wasn’t sure how I felt about the book yet.

I am tasting the stars

John Green ensnared me with the language and the dialog between Hazel and Augustus. I loved the way they spoke and interacted. But, despite my best intentions to keep the characters at arm’s length and to keep my emotions firmly disengaged, I failed miserably. This book is so well-written and definitely worth the emotional investment.

Fathom into constellations

“My thoughts are stars I can’t fathom into constellations.”

 

To All the Boys I've Loved Before

After being completely and utterly wrecked after reading The Fault in Our Stars, I decided that something lighter was in order.  I’d heard really good things about Jenny Han’s books, so when I stumbled upon them at the library I quickly added this one to my stack.  I’ve previously read a short story by Jenny Han from the book My True Love Gave to Me. I really enjoyed this book, and Han’s writing. It’s full of sweetness, teen angst, learning to venture out into the world, and the bonds of sisters. Looking forward to reading the next book.

In my next post I’ll share my May books, including Burned.

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On My Bookshelf: Library Love

Library

In April, it occurred to me that I was getting nowhere fast on my TBR jar or on my Goodreads Challenge to read 25 books in 2016.  Four months into the year and I’d read…three.  And while I love buying books, I have way more than I really need and hate to just continue adding to the problem.  And then, it hit me.  What about going to the library?  I’d half-heartedly looked into the possibility of being able to check out ebooks through my libray, but didn’t really understand how it worked and it looked suspiciously like my library wouldn’t actually be able to do that.  But, surely I could check out actual books, right?  So, off I went.  I got my first library card in like twenty years and went directly upstairs to the YA section to see if I could find any Rainbow Rowell books.  And lo and behold, they had some!  And lo and behold they had Eleanor & Park!  Woohoo!

Library Books

 

I came home with two books that day.  I wanted to check out all of the things, but figured if I’ve only read three books in four months I should probably assume I can’t get through more than two books in the three weeks I had to read them.  Of course I started with E&P first.  I’ve read a couple of Rainbow Rowell books before (Fangirl and Attachments) and loved them.

Eleanor

“Eleanor was right: She never looked nice.  She looked like art, and art wasn’t supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something.”

I read this book in basically three days. Rainbow Rowell may well be one of my favorite authors. I love her writing, I love her characters, I love that she makes me feel like I felt at sixteen. I love that she made me dig out mix tapes I haven’t listened to since high school/college. I love that although her books are shelved with the YA books and that at first glance they appear to be nothing more than a simple romantic love story – it’s the complexity of her characters and their inner thoughts and feelings and struggles that speak to me. Each book I read of hers becomes my new favorite. If you haven’t read her books, you should start one today.

Eleanor and Park

 

After finishing Eleanor & Park, I started Anna and the French Kiss.  So many people had recommended this book to me (probably because of my love of all things Paris and romances), so I was happy to find it at the library.

Anna and the French Kiss

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and read it in about three days because I had a hard time putting it down. A story of an American girl sent to the American School in Paris who begins to fall in love with the city and a boy. I loved her passion for cinema (a passion I share) and the exploration of Notre Dame, the Latin Quarter, etc. made me long to return there.  I have so many regrets about my time in Paris – so many things I didn’t see or do – and this book just made the city come alive for me again.  This one was well worth a read and I’m looking forward to reading her others.

Anna and Eiffel Tower

I’ll be back next time with more books!

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On My Bookshelf: My TBR Jar and First Finishes

TBR Jar

At the end of 2015 I started thinking about my plans for my 2016 reading and decided I would try something new and fun.  Enter the TBR (To Be Read) jar.  I’d seen this marvelous invention on Instagram and loved the idea so much I had to do it too.  I’d set my annual Goodreads challenge at 25 books for 2016 (we won’t talk about that’s been my goal for the last several years and I’ve not even come close), so I wanted to keep my TBR jar selections around the 15-20 range.  I chose a mix of books that have been sitting on my shelves forever (including one that I’ve started but never finished), books I don’t own but really want to read, and I gave myself a **Free** selection (meaning I can pick any book I want to read whenever that one gets drawn).  My plan was to draw my first book on January 1st and get started.  Oh, and I made myself a fun Harry Potter-inspired jar too!

On My Bookshelf: My TBR Jar and First Finishes

I ended up holding off on pulling my first selection from the jar on January 1 because Eric bought me Lara Casey’s book for Christmas, which I’d been dying to read.  As you already know from my previous posts, I worked my way through this book and thoroughly enjoyed it.  I actually started it on January 1 and fully expected to zip through it because it’s not a very lengthy book. This book, as Lara says herself, is an action book rather than a reading book. It took me awhile to work my way through it because it does require a lot of introspection, questioning, actioning, and praying. This book is part autobiography, part guidebook to really focusing on what matters. What makes Lara’s guidance so valuable is that not only has she been where you are, but she shows you how she started to make things happen in her own life – making changes that sometimes worked and sometimes didn’t. Her authenticity and continued journey that comes through on her blog and on Periscope really strike a chord with me. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to start making things happen in their own life. Not only did this book help me define what matters most to me, it also provided me with clear and actionable steps to move toward those things.

Story of Awkward

I took a small break from Make it Happen to read something light.  Despite being a freebie ebook, I really enjoyed this. It reminded me a bit of Rainbow Rowell’s writing. A story about being awkward, which I think we can all relate to, and learning to love what makes each of us unique.  Once I finished up Story of Awkward, I decided to go ahead and pull the first selection out of my TBR jar.  My first draw was Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell.  Since it wasn’t a book I own I was going to have to procure it, so I wouldn’t be able to start it immediately.  I sat that aside and went back to Make it Happen.

After going back to Make it Happen and finishing it up – more about that book in my other posts – I picked up The Lake House by Kate Morton.  Lake House wasn’t a book that was on my list to read and I actually hadn’t ever heard of it.  I was watching a knitting podcast (Fiber By Design) and this was the Feb/March book for the Oh Loops! book club on Ravelry. I decided to jump in and thought it would be fun to discuss the book, so I grabbed the kindle edition and got started.  I haven’t read any Kate Morton previously, but I will definitely be reading her other books. This book kept me guessing, as all the best mysteries should, while carrying me along with the storyline. I loved that the story was woven between the 1930s and the 2000s, with Alice fusing the two timelines together. I really really enjoyed this book and highly recommend it.

So, those are the three books I started off my 2016 with.  I’ll share more next time!

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What I’m Saying Yes to in 2016

Colorful Journals Image

This is the second post in my goal setting series.  First post is here

I’m continuing with my 2016 goal setting with the prompts from Lara Casey’s blog series and after taking a look at what did and didn’t work last year the next step is to determine what I’m going to say yes to in 2016 and what I’m going to say no to.

What I’m saying NO to in 2016:

  • burn out
  • mindless scroll on social media
  • comparison
  • distractions

What I’m saying YES to in 2016:

  • progress over perfection
  • building and strengthening relationships
  • unplug, rest, and recharge (physically, mentally, and emotionally)
  • weekly/monthly goals to help keep me focused on my larger goals

Rifle Paper Notebook Image

I feel really good about setting some boundaries or direction for myself by determining where I’m going to put my energy this year.  And when I look back at 2015, so much of it was full of running around with no focus and allowing myself to get completely burnt out in every sense of the word.  And with that craziness, yet another year went by where I felt like I never reached my goals.  I love the idea of choosing a word for the year, so my word for 2015 was Intention (actually, now that I think about it that may have been my 2014 word too.  :/ ugh)  And what I’ve learned about myself is that I can get so caught up in the “thinking about” and the “planning” that I never actually get around to the doing.  So, for 2016 I chose a more appropriate word, one that also embodies my intention for the year.

My 2016 Word is Action Image

 

So, now that I’ve decided what I’m saying yes to this year and what my word is for 2016, Lara then has you put together a vision board.  I’m a very visual person so this step was really important to me.  I wanted to be able to look and my vision board and have it trigger me to evaluate if what I am doing right now aligns with my goals and ensure I’m taking action to make them happen.  I’d started a vision board over on Pinterest, but I wanted to have something that I could print out and keep somewhere I will see it every day to remind me of where my focus should be.  So, I put this together this afternoon and I kind of love it!

2016 Vision Board Image

I wanted to be sure to have something that represented my marriage and its importance above anything else.  Then of course I have a few things that are great ways for me to recharge – meditation, journaling/my daily Bible study, yoga, reading.  I wanted to also show my focus on health and fitness through working out, eating whole foods, and of course my essential oils.  Throw in some travel, making a home, and creating abundance through my business and you have my vision board for 2016.

So, that’s it for this installment in my goal setting series.  Next week I’ll be back to share my goals and how I’m going to work to achieve them.

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Making Things Happen

Graphic_ThisIsTheYear1

On January 1st I started reading Lara Casey’s book Make it Happen: Surrender Your Fear, Take the Leap, Live on Purpose.  I had been introduced to Lara’s blog last year and had wanted to read this book for awhile.  I’ll spend more time reviewing the book itself in another post soon, but today I want to share with you some of the work that came out of reading that book and also Lara’s blog series on 2016 goal setting.  As with most years, the beginning of 2015 started off very promising and I even blogged about living a year of intention back in January of last year.  Somehow, as often happens, things went off course.  So, I found myself in December wondering where the hell 2015 had gone and feeling defeated that I hadn’t accomplished all those things I’d wanted to do.  So, this year, and we’re only a couple of months in, I’m already finding that the key to making things happen is 1) to take action – actually go and do stuff, and 2) tending – if you don’t monitor those goals and keep focused attention on them, you can’t actually accomplish them.

So, for 2016 I am going to work through the goal setting process and share my progress here not only as a way to be accountable, but also because hopefully someone else will benefit from it.

The first thing Lara has you do is to first check in with yourself – how are you?  I won’t share the epic novel I wrote, but the main theme is that I’m feeling very disappointed in myself for getting so off course last year and feeling like I was basically in the same place that I’d started the year at.  Also, I had a life-changing lightning bolt moment recently of discovering what my purpose is.  And although I feel this huge sense of relief from having identified where I’m going, I’m feeling a bit lost though not knowing how to get there or what it’s going to look like.  But, I’m willing to have faith that as long as I move in that direction, I’ll have the guidance that I need.

Next, it’s time to take a look back at 2015…

What worked:

  • I detailed my crafty accomplishments and new endeavors over on my Cozyegg blog here
  • I was re-introduced to essential oils through my friend Sylvia and became an independent distributor of Young Living essential oils
  • Read the Red Tent (my New Year’s planned start for 2015) and 9 other books
  • I got to reconnect with my friend Marty and visit with other high school friends, plus help raise money for Adele’s retirement
  • Eric and I celebrated our 9th wedding anniversary
  • I completed my first Whole 30
  • I made some new friends
  • I was able to take all of my vacation time and holiday time without having to check in to work at all
  • Eric and I went to visit my Dad’s grave at Christmas, which I’ve been meaning to do for three years
  • I reached out to my mom to try to begin healing that relationship
  • I had a huge attitude shift with work and on letting go of the stress thanks to my essential oils (Stress Away!)

Three Lessons I Learned from What Worked:

  1. I don’t have to kill myself with working so much, I am better if I completely unplug and rest
  2. Essential oils have changed my life and using them daily makes a difference
  3. I do better focusing on one thing until it’s done rather than jumping around. Also, I do better doing my own thing rather than being dependent upon someone else’s participation.

What hasn’t been working?

  • Allowing myself to get burnt out
  • Running around with no purpose/no focus to my actions
  • I feel like I can’t do it perfect so I don’t do it at all
  • Allowing myself to be totally thrown off course by someone else’s stuff
  • Comforting myself with things that are bad for me (eating junk, overspending, mindless internet time-wasting i.e. the mindless scroll)
  • Health challenges
  • Dealing with feeling unbalanced/unsatisfied in some areas and then getting bogged down in the sadness of everything
  • Missing my family so bad it hurts
  • Feeling burdened with the weight of financial stress
  • Procrastinating and not moving forward, staying stuck
  • Completely wrecked over some work situations and office politics
  • Feeling like I never have enough time

Three Lessons I Learned from What Didn’t Work:

  1. Don’t get sidetracked by distractions – distractions can be other people’s stuff, shiny & new, want to vs. have to, mindless scrolling
  2. Take time for me – rest – mentally, physically, emotionally. I need time to recharge.
  3. Concentrated focus is what allows me to be most productive and stay on target with my goals/purpose/projects

What Season Are You In?

I feel like I’ve been in winter – it’s been a really hard season that has stretched over the past several years. I think the beginning of last year was like a false spring, and then winter returned. At the end of the year I was able to do some reflecting and be still and really look at what’s important to me. I feel like now I am in spring, and reaching toward summer when I dig in and get my hands dirty to do the work.

So that’s my look back at 2015.  And I feel like really taking a hard look at what I’ve learned from what worked and what didn’t work will be very helpful in starting to define my goals for 2016 and what I can build on.  Check back soon for the next installment of this series and how I’m working towards defining my goals and working daily to achieve them.

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Playlist: Calendars, Planners, and To Do Lists

Rifle Paper Co

I am obsessed with calendars.  In fact, I’m kind of in love with all kinds of pretty paper.  Maybe it’s the artist in me, maybe it’s the writer, but electronic versions just don’t have the same appeal.  There is something that I just adore about flipping to a new page of a calendar each month (I bought a calendar at Versailles if that tells you anything).  I spent a few years with completely uninspiring calendars, and then I began a torrid love affair with Rifle Paper Co.

Two years ago I bought the Secret Garden calendar and enjoyed it thoroughly.  I loved seeing her signature flowers at my desk each day.  And it’s a good thing that I was in love with this calendar, because due to an inadvertent oversight on my part I ended up with no calendar for 2015 (I was trying to wait for the calendars to go on sale and they sold out of the one I wanted, so no calendar for me.)  This year, I wasn’t taking any chances and I ordered my calendar early.

Cities CalendarI absolutely love this calendar.  I love travel, so this calendar just makes me so happy.  Plus, the cover shows the Paris map that I have as my phone case.  Love love love!  And, my thought is that once the year is over (assuming I won’t have to use my calendar for a second year!), I want to save the artwork to do something like this.

Gallery Wall Rifle Paper

Don’t you love it?!  Anyway, I am excited about giving my calendar new life as prints.  These will be perfect in our office too, which I fondly refer to as the “map room”.

So, that’s my calendar at home but of course I need a calendar at the office too, right?  I usually buy one of those small desk calendars, but after using my Versailles calendar I suppose I was spoiled for anything else.  I saw a photo on Instagram similar to this one, using a clipboard and printed Instagram photos.

IG Calendar

Love the idea, so I decided to make my own.  I often need to see two months at a time at work, so I printed two to a page.  And I went through my Instagram likes and chose some of my favorite photos that were representative of the months.

I am thinking I may do this again for this year, but haven’t actually sat down to do it.  It worked really well for me though, and was something fun to look at in the office.  So, that’s what I’ve been using for calendars.  Kind of along those lines, I am trying out a planner for 2016 too.  I’ve spent the last few years working exclusively with an electronic calendar for keeping track of my appointments, events, etc.  I don’t actually use my wall calendar for that, it’s just to look at.  LOL  So, I love the convenience of having my calendar in my phone because then I always have it with me.  I also use an online/app called Remember the Milk for my to do list.  It’s great because again, it’s always with me and it is so easy to postpone tasks, mark them complete, add notes, give tasks a priority rating and due date, etc.  But, I watched a Periscope recently on the benefits of using a paper planner over an electronic calendar or to do list on your phone/tablet/computer.  One of the pitfalls of using an electronic version is that there are too many distractions on your device – social media, messages, emails, etc.  By using a paper planner, you can focus on your scheduled tasks and priorities without the infinite number of distractions on your device.

I took advantage of the Black Friday sale and ordered myself an Erin Condren Life Planner for 2016.  I spent a good amount of time comparing the EC planner with the other planners out there, like the Passion Planner, the Simplified Planner, the Plum Paper Planner, and so on.  Having never used a planner before I wasn’t entirely sure what would work best for me, but several people recommended the EC to me so I decided to give it a try.

I really liked the presentation when my box arrived.  It was like getting a present in the mail.  From myself!  The Black Friday discount was only good on the Good to Go (not personalized) planners, so that’s what I ordered.  I did get a coupon for a personalized cover that I can redeem.  I’m having a hard time choosing which cover I want though!

I do love the cover it came with, but it would be fun to have a personalized cover.  I won’t go too far into detail about the planner itself because there are a million posts and YouTube videos about that, but I’m very happy with it.  I love how creative some people are with their weekly layouts, but other than the stickers that came with my planner I haven’t gone out and spent the money to buy more.  I am mostly just using colored markers and that has been fun.  I opted for the vertical daily layout and it’s been working great for me.  My planner is looking very similar to the one below – markers, minimal stickers, and a little bit of washi tape for good measure.  Down at the bottom of each day I have been tracking my water, vitamins, and steps and I’m loving that – keeping me accountable!

top-planners-for-20151

I’ve been using the monthly view to list my goals for the month broken up into the seven key areas of Oola (Fitness, Finance, Family, Field, Faith, Friends, and Fun).  Then, I have weekly goals that I can check off in the weekly views.  That has been helping a lot to keep me on track.  And at the back of the planner in the Notes sections, I’ve listed out my reading goals and project goals for 2016 along with pages to record my accomplishments.

So, that’s what I’m doing for my calendars, planner, and to do lists for 2016.  How about you?

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On My Bookshelf: My 2015 Reads

Cozystyle 2015 Books I Read Image

Happy 2016!  I can hardly believe we’ve started a new year, much less that it’s almost the middle of January.  It’s been awhile since I posted, so I wanted to pop in and also share that I will be posting on a regular basis going forward.  I have tons of things to share, but I thought I’d start the year off by posting about what I read in 2015.

So, last year I set a goal (Goodreads challenge) of reading 25 books, basically the same goal I’ve set the past few years.  But, I really wanted to focus on good books – books I really enjoyed and wasn’t feeling like I had to slog through.

During the holidays (2014) we watched The Red Tent on tv.  I’d had the book on my bookshelf for years, literally, and had never read it.  I’m so grateful that the mini series reminded me that this book had sat for far too long unread and I decided to pick up the book and start it on January 1st.  A friend was going to read along as well so that we could discuss the book.  The book is The Red Tent by Anita Diamant.  I loved this book. I loved Dinah’s “voice”. I loved the small details like the Taweret pitcher Benia gives her, the lapis ring of Rachel’s, the widemouthed frog idol, etc. Overall I loved the pivotal role that the community of women plays – sharing, teaching, loving, comforting, grieving with each other.  This book left me with a similar feeling as from The Mists of Avalon or The Firebrand by Marion Zimmer Bradley. I highly highly recommend it.

The next book I read was the complete opposite end of the spectrum – Fifty Shades of Grey.  This was actually a re-read for me.  I wanted to read it again before seeing the movie on Valentine’s Day.  I enjoyed visiting Christian Grey again and if you’d like to check out my previous post on this series, you can find that here.  As for the movie, I’m glad I went to see it and thought it was well done.  My only comment is that I wanted Christian to have a little more…something.  More fire to him?  I only re-read the first book, I imagine I would re-read the others if/when movies are released.

Next up I decided to pick up Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell.  I was gifted this book in December and after reading Attachments, I was really anxious to read Fangirl.  I loved this book.  I loved that it was about writing fan fiction, particularly since I’d just finished reading Fifty Shades (originally fan fiction) and I’d spent a good amount of time immersed in the world of reading fan fiction.  I can’t say enough good things about her books, her characters, and specifically in this one her stories within a story. I really enjoy Rowell’s writing and will definitely be reading more of her books in the future.

After Fangirl, I moved on to a book that Eric had picked up on one of our trips and enjoyed so he recommended it to me, particularly since it had to do with art and archaeology.  He was right, I did enjoy it.  This book is actually part of a series and I haven’t read the other books in the series, but I think this book can stand on its own.   I didn’t feel I was missing anything from not having read the others.  I enjoyed this book and following the story from the Vatican to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem and all the twisting turns in between.  Coincidentally, at the same time I was reading this book we were watching a show called Dig that was excellent and had a lot to do with some of the same subject matter and focused on the Temple Mount.  If you missed the show when it was on, I highly recommend it.  Anyway, I will probably read more books by Silva in the future, likely circling around to read the other books in this series.

Next up I read Sublime by Christina Lauren.  I have read several other books from them (the Beautiful series and Sweet Filthy Boy, the first book in their Wild Seasons series), in the adult romance genre and thoroughly enjoyed them, so I was anxious to see how their first YA book was.  Sublime is a beautifully haunting and romantic ghost story, and it did not disappoint!

Sublime

After finishing Sublime, I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to read.  I dug around on my shelves and came across the last book that my friend Missy had loaned me/recommended.  So far from her I’d read a couple of the Charlaine Harris Sookie Stackhouse series, the Stacia Kane Downside Ghosts series (my post on those here), and Stacia Kane’s Megan Chase series (no post yet – coming soon!).  I’d put off reading Kushiel’s Dart because it was the lengthiest of the stack.  But, I decided I was ready for something a bit more substantial.  I ended up picking this book up, reading it for awhile, and then setting it aside.  Mostly it was because I was not getting much time to read and this book was involved enough that it did not lend itself to reading it in 5 minute increments.  So, I set it aside for a couple other ebooks that I’ll get to in a minute.  I took a trip to Michigan mid-November and had a flight and a LOT of time in the airport at both ends, which for most folks would be annoying but I was thrilled.  It felt so decadent to do nothing but sit and read for hours.  And because of my long reading stint, I was able to really sink my teeth into the book and really enjoyed it.  Never was I bored with it, never was I uninterested, but the intricacies of the plot, characters, and intrigue required a fair bit of focus which I did not have in great supply. Even after setting it aside for days or weeks at a time though, I never lost the thread of the story. Carey’s debut novel is impressive, and detailed, and shockingly not on every best seller list. I am sure that this book has been passed over by readers due to Phedre being not only a courtesan, but more predominantly an anguisette (deriving pleasure from pain). I think that’s what makes her a much more complex character and understanding her nature is exactly what makes her memorable. I will definitely be reading the next book in the series, and I am sure it will not disappoint.  If you like Game of Thrones, I think you would enjoy this book.

Ok, so I mentioned that I set Kushiel’s Dart aside at a couple of points to read some ebooks.  One was a free ebook called Club Shadowlands.  Meh.  The other was Iced by Karen Marie Moning.  You may have read my post on the Fever series (here if you haven’t), and Iced is a spin off of that series.  Same world, but you are now following Dani O’Malley rather than Mac.  I didn’t love Dani as a character previously, so I honestly never had any interest in reading Iced.  But, the quickest way to get me to read a spin off focused on a character I’m not that into?  Tell me that there’s a new book featuring Mac and Barrons that this one leads into.  KMM surprised me with this book.  It was an enjoyable read and Dani didn’t bug the crap out of me like I thought she was going to.  I feel like I understand her a bit better having been in her head now.  I’m also very curious to see where KMM is going to go with Dani’s character.  She’s far too young for her possible suitors to become anything at this point, but I feel like that’s where we’re headed.  So…maybe she’ll go through some sort of time shift and age several years miraculously?  Who knows, but it was enough to keep my attention anyway.  So, I’d recommend reading Iced…particularly if you want to get to Burned.  *evil grin*

Iced

The last book I read in 2015 was A Discovery of Witches.  I’d had this one on my to be read list for awhile and sitting on my bookshelf for far too long.  I was immediately hooked by “the combination of magic and history” as a friend put it.  As an Art History major, I found Diana’s studies about alchemy and ancient texts (which crosses over into the art history realm) fascinating.  As Diana struggled to learn more about her own history and explore her powers, I found that it was echoing a similar process I’ve been going through (not magical, obviously!) with finding and reacquainting myself with my authentic self.  I cannot wait to read the next book in this trilogy!  This one was another I would highly recommend.

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So, that’s my 2015 year in reading and I’ve got a fun plan for my 2016 reads that I’ll share soon.  Happy reading!

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