Month in Review: April 2018

April has been a crazy month! I spent the last two weeks exploring Europe, but I am now home and very tired. In fourteen days I visited 5 countries (France, Belgium, Netherlands, Ireland + Northern Ireland) and walked 125+ miles. I loved seeing new places, eating delicious food and drinking lots of beer. However, I’m happy to be home now and be back with my kitten!

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I didn’t read as much in April as I have in the previous months of 2018 because I was gone for so long. I honestly thought that I would read more while I was on the airplanes and trains, but I used that time to watch the world go past and rest my eyes a little bit.

Books I Read in April

The Bright Hour: A Memoir of Living and Dying by Nina Riggs

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

School for Psychics by K.C. Archer

Seriously… I’m Kidding by Ellen DeGeneres (will be published on Wednesday 5/02)

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs (will be published on Thursday 05/03)

Currently Reading

The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row is one of the books that I received from NetGalley a couple months ago. In the last few days, I’ve made some serious progress on it. I found the beginning to be a little slow, but now I’m into it and find Ray’s story fascinating and heartbreaking. I honestly downloaded Eat, Pray, Love this morning because it’s the next book that I want to read on my Around the Year in 52 Books Challenge. I guess I haven’t technically started reading it yet, but I’m going to start today!

Coming Up Next

I made very little progress in completing all of the books that I’ve received from NetGalley during April, which was supposed to be my catch-up month… and I’ve fallen behind on my ATY52 Books Challenge… so this month will be a modge-podge of books from both lists. During World Book Day I also downloaded 10+ free books from Amazon, so those might make their way into May also!

I’m also planning on doing some reformatting to Arguably Alexis over the next month. Since starting the blog two months ago I’ve definitely figured out some things that I really like on my blog and others that I could do away with! Stay tuned for new updates coming soon 🙂

Down the TBR Hole #4

Each week I make one of these posts, I feel very grateful to Lia at Lost in the Story who started Down the TBR Hole. I’m trying to remove clutter from my real life, so it definitely helps removing it from my digital life as well. Cleaning out my to-read shelf feels so good.

For me, it works like this. I have three shelves on my Goodreads account to separate the read now, from the someday maybes and the educational reads that would be smart to read for my career.

The Rules:

  • Go to your goodreads to-read shelf.
  • Order on ascending date added.
  • Take the first 5 (or 10 (or even more!) if youre feeling adventurous) books. Of course, if you do this weekly, you start where you left off the last time.
  • Read the synopses of the books
  • Decide: keep it or should it go?

The Books:

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

This is another one of those books that I added to my to-read shelf because of the Goodreads giveaways. I’m going back and forth on whether or not I should keep/delete it from my shelf. It’s highly rated, but something about the synopses rubs me the wrong way. I think I’m going to delete it because this down the TBR hole is about clearing away extra books, not holding onto them for dear life.

Shift: The End of the War on Drugs, the Beginning of the War on Terrorism by Richard L Canas

Whoops – I honestly thought this was going to be a non-fiction book and I was SO excited. Upon further investigation, it’s a fiction book… which takes away all of the appeal for me (on these topics). Goodbye Shift!

Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic by Sam Quinones

The opioid epidemic in the United States is running rampant. I’m going to keep this book on my someday maybe shelf because it looks interesting and I love true crime and I think that this will be a good fit in the future.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Americanah was suggested to me a couple times by the same person. I ought to read it eventually because the story sounds interesting. It’s going to the someday maybe shelf because one day it’ll fall into my lap at the right time.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Last year when I was falling back into the world of reading, The Night Circus  was the most highly suggested book to me. The synopses sounds truly remarkable, so I am looking forward to reading this book this year!

Fieldwork by Mischa Berlinski

This is one of the rare books that none of my friends have read before (or at least not put on Goodreads). I found it at a library book sale for $1! How could I possible resist? I’m going to keep it on my someday maybe shelf because I own it and I like the cover.

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett

I think I added this book because it seemed to be really popular on Goodreads for a couple weeks. I also liked the oranges on the cover. However, it doesn’t sound interesting to me right now. Delete.

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

I love a good thriller!! The synopses of The Woman in Cabin 10 is exactly the kind of thing that I love to read. Since discovering more types of novels, thrillers have become some of my absolute favorites.

Tree of Smoke by Denis Johnson

I truly think I added this book to my to-read shelf because I liked the cover of it. (That is definitely what happened). The synopses of Tree of Smoke looks a little interesting, but I’m not going to read this any time soon. Delete.

Divisible by Randy Anderson

I read the synopses of this book and I’m still not quite sure what its about. Delete.


Keepers:

ARC Review: School for Psychics by K.C. Archer

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Well this was supposed to be an Advanced Readers Copy (ARC). But I’ve been really bad at staying on top of getting them read. So this was published a couple weeks ago, but I still wanted to read it. And I am so glad that I did.

Release date: April 3, 2018

Publisher: Simon Schuster

Genre: Fiction/Young Adult

Premise: Theodore (Teddy) Cannon seems like your regular twenty-something year old woman. Living in Las Vegas, Nevada, Teddy makes some questionable choices. She’s witty, bright and loves to gamble. She’s a daughter, an ex-student and what she doesn’t realize… Teddy is also a psychic.

From the synopses – When a series of bad decisions leads Teddy to a run-in with the police, a mysterious stranger intervenes. He invites her to apply to the School for Psychics, a facility hidden off the coast of San Francisco where students are trained like Delta Force operatives: it’s competitive, cutthroat, and highly secretive. They’ll learn telepathy, telekinesis, investigative skills, and SWAT tactics. And if students survive their training, they go on to serve at the highest levels of government, using their skills to protect America, and the world.

In class, Teddy befriends Lucas, a rebel without a cause who can start and manipulate fire; Jillian, a hipster who can mediate communication between animals and humans; and Molly, a hacker who can apprehend the emotional state of another individual. But just as Teddy feels like she’s found where she might belong, strange things begin to happen: break-ins, missing students, and more. It leads Teddy to accept a dangerous mission that will ultimately cause her to question everything—her teachers, her friends, her family, and even herself.

Thoughts + Feelings: I didn’t want to love School for Psychics as much as I did. I’ll admit that I was initially thrown off by some reviews that I had previously read (I know you shouldn’t do that, but it happened). Teddy initially started out as a not-great person. She gambled away her parents retirement fund; she was blackballed from all of the casinos on the Vegas Strip; Teddy lied and cheated her way through life. Despite all of this, I thoroughly enjoyed Teddy’s character. By making her a bad friend and daughter in the beginning of the novel, it was easier to see how she began to transform throughout the first book of the series. Surprisingly, I connected with Teddy when she joined Whitfield. Given one last chance she decided to focus on her education. She ignored the friends she made and practiced her skills and meditation. It reminded me of when I was in undergrad and just focused on studying. I thought her change in behavior was astounding when she realized it was her last choice.

Marked as a ‘fantasy’ novel I loved the paranormal aspects of School for Psychics. The story-line makes you wonder what mystical things happen in the world — Can people really move things with their minds and astral bodies? Can the person sitting on the other side of the room read my mind and know what I’m thinking about her?

Overall, this was just a great read. I wanted to keep reading and not put it down. It wasn’t one of the best books I’ve ever read, but it was enjoyable and a book that I would recommend to friends.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Recommend? I would recommend School for Psychics to a younger adult who doesn’t mind a few instances of adult content within a novel.

Top Ten Books I Want to Re-Read

Top Ten TuesdayTop Ten Tuesday is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl
This is a play on the Top Ten Tuesday from February 26, 2018.

From my memory, I have never re-read a book. Except those books I read as a child that were picture books. Since I fell back in love with reading within the last year and a couple months, I’ve developed a list of books that I read growing up that I would love to re-read now that I’m an adult.

  1. The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
  2. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
  3. It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini
  4. The Catcher and the Rye by J. D. Salinger
  5. Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult
  6. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  7. The Hunger Games Series by Suzanne Collins
  8. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
  9. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
  10. If I Should Die Before I Wake by Han Nolan

Do you like to re-read books? Which are your favorite books to re-read?

It’s Monday! What are you reading? #5

Even though this is posting at 10:00 AM EST on Monday, April 16th, it was definitely not written today (sorry bookworms). I’m currently running around Paris – doing some site seeing, some cheese eating and wine drinking and lots + lots of walking.

But I didn’t want to leave my blog sad and empty, so I queued up a couple posts over the next two weeks so it didn’t get lonely.

I’ve decided to remove Things Fall Apart for a couple weeks because I wasn’t choosing to read it over some other books that I wanted to read more. And since I am reading for my own personal happiness and enjoyment, why read a book that I keep hiding so I don’t have to read it yet? Being fair though, I will probably read it once I finish my list of ARCs because that is what I am tackling for the next two weeks!

Last week, I finished almost all of the books that I had planned for (YAY)!

The only book that I haven’t finished (at the time of writing this on Friday afternoon) is The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row by Anthony Ray Hinton. But that’s fine because I have started it (plus there are two more days in the week, technically to maybe finish it).

Here are my remaining ARCs to read in the next two weeks. I figure all of my train rides and long flights will be a great time to get caught up on my reviews (and some zzz’s).

 

How do you cope with requesting too many ARCs? Is there a such thing as too many ARCs? Let me know what you think!

Down the TBR Hole #3

I have become a HUGE fan of Down The TBR Hole which was started by Lia at Lost in the Story.  It revolves around cleansing your TBR of all those books you’re never going to read and sort through it all to know what’s actually on there. My problem is… I have a hard time letting things go. I’m a collector of ideas, t-shirts, random knick-knacks. Down the TBR Hole is allowing me to think through my collection more clearly and remove the books that honestly, I am never going to read.

For me, it works like this. I have three shelves on my Goodreads account to separate the read now, from the someday maybes and the educational reads that would be smart to read for my career.

Ultimately — it looks like this:

  • Go to your goodreads to-read shelf.
  • Order on ascending date added.
  • Take the first 5 (or 10 (or even more!) if youre feeling adventurous) books. Of course, if you do this weekly, you start where you left off the last time.
  • Read the synopses of the books
  • Decide: keep it or should it go?

I am hitting the point of my to-read shelf when I started entering all of Goodreads giveaways and felt like I had to add all of the books to my to-read shelf in order to win. Not surprisingly, for the books that don’t require you to add it to your shelf – you can still win! (I’ve won several books that I thought I may read one day but wasn’t super in love with).

The Books

In the Absence of Angels by Elizabeth Glaser

I know the exact moment I added this book to my to-read shelf. In my emerging infectious disease class last spring, we watched the movie And the Band Played On which (briefly) is about the discovery of AIDS in the U.S./Africa and how it spread among the men who attended the local bath houses in San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles. In the Absence of Angels written by the Elizabeth Glaser is the story of how her Hollywood family contracted HIV through a blood transfusion in the 1980s and breastfeeding. As lovely as that book sounds, I just don’t feel like I need to read it anymore.

Amerithrax: The Hunt for the Anthrax Killer by Robert Graysmith

The Amerithrax case was one of my favorite case studies throughout college and my masters program because it still hasn’t been solved 17+ years later! It’s been moved to educational reads because I think it’s absolutely fascinating.

Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics by Joseph S. Nye Jr.

This was probably mentioned in one of my homeland security readings and I was like “YEAH I’M GOING TO BECOME A SUPER GENIUS AND READ EVERYTHING ABOUT EVERYTHING.” Okay, that’s not ideal and hard power vs soft power has always confused me. Delete.

The Paradox of American Power: Why the World’s Only Superpower Can’t Go It Alone by Joseph S. Nye Jr.

Merp — Same thing happened with the previous Joseph S. Nye book. I was obviously in a mood when I added this to my to-read list. Goodbye!

At the Center of the Storm: My Years at the CIA by George Tenet

I think it’s interesting that a memoir can be written about your time at the CIA when everything that you do is pretty much supposed to be top-secret. This concept amuses me and I like secret things and hearing about the intelligence lifestyle — so someday maybe I’ll read this.

A Mother’s Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy by Sue Klebold

One of my best friends from high school studied school shootings before this huge wave of mass shootings and school shootings began. While I was studying the Branch Davidians in Waco Texas, she was looking why this happens. While the Parkland shooting is the most recent, painful shooting experience… for a long time the shooting at Columbine took the cake as the worst shooting in school history. I can’t imagine being a parent of one of Dylan Klebold. I want to read this book one day.

Asking For It by Louise O’Neill

I almost just removed this from my to-read shelf based off of the cover. But I’m a rule follower so I read the synopses of the book and wow(!!) I think I would’ve really missed out on a great book. I’m going to leave this on my to-read shelf!

The Human Cost of Welfare: How the System Hurts the People It’s Supposed to Help by Phil Harvey

I was in a criminology mood one day, apparently. I have zero desire to read this book. Goodbye!

Prison Break: Why Conservatives Turned Against Mass Incarceration by David Dagan

Added this book the same day as The Human Cost of Welfare. I know that because a) the date on the website b) this book is also focused on criminology theory. I think that mass incarceration is such a huge problem in the United States and other locations around the world, but no one likes the idea of it – so why do we have it? Keeping this to read someday maybe.

Dirty War: Rhodesia And Chemical Biological Warfare 1975-1980 by Glenn Cross

When people come across my to-read shelf they must think that I’m absolutely nutty based on some of the books that I have added. I studied a scary thing in graduate school and absolutely loved it! Sitting next to me on airplanes last year was a little frightening while I was working on school assignments on the way to go home and visit family members. It’s not my fault that I loved to study Ebola and other scary potential things that could destroy our world. I’m going to move Dirty War to educational reads because I think that Chemical Biological warfare is very real and very frightening.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr – keep keep keep

I’m keeping this on my to-read shelf, right now. I need to read it. I’ve only heard good things about All the Light We Cannot See. It will be read when I get back from my trip!

The Biology of Doom: The History of America’s Secret Germ Warfare Project by Ed Regis

Just like Dirty War, one day I will read this book. Germ warfare?? Sign me up to love this book. It’s an educational read.

There Will Be Stars by Billy Coffey

I’ve tried reading this book a couple times. I’ve made it through the first 2-3 chapters twice before putting it down for something better. The issue is that I own the book and I hate not finishing a book! I might have to get over it, but for now… it’s a someday maybe.

It IS About Islam: Exposing the Truth About ISIS, Al Qaeda, Iran, and the Caliphate by Glenn Beck

Similarly to There Will Be Stars, I own It IS About Islam. I found it in the back of a secondhand bookstore in Tampa, FL. I’m interested in reading about Glenn Beck’s view on Islam and ISIS, but it can be saved for another future day.

Killing Reagan: The Violent Assault That Changed a Presidency by Bill O’Reilly

I found Killing Reagan the same day as It IS About Islam in a clearance bin at the back of a bookstore. (I love clearance bins). Scored this book for $1 and I’ll read it eventually. I just can’t give books that I own to a new owner until I read them!

Ultimately, I’m only keeping two books on my to-read list! A couple made their way onto the someday, maybe and educational reads lists and several were deleted. It feels good to clean out the lists.

Book Review: Wonder by R.J. Palacio

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Release date: February 14, 2012

Publisher: Knopf

Genre: Fiction / Young Adult

Premise: “I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.” August Pullman was born with facial difference that kept him out of mainstream school until entering fifth grade at Beecher Prep. August (Auggie) just wants to be a regular kid. This young adult book is told from Auggie’s perspective, along with his sister and a few of his classmates.

Thoughts + Feelings: Always be kinder than necessary. I didn’t expect to love Wonder as much as I did. Having heard great things about it over the last couple years, I finally got my hands on an OverDrive copy from the library. I don’t often say that I love a specific book. I have a hard time picking favorites and saying that a book has inspired me, but that feeling completely disappeared with Wonder.

I think the main reason I loved Wonder so much was because of how simple and beautiful R.J. Palacio made kindness and friendship seem. I remember being the out-of-the-ordinary little kid in school – that one kid where school came pretty easily, but making friends was a whole different thing? The moral of this story was to be kind and accepting. We learn through Jack Will what it means to use your words and how powerful they can be – even if you don’t mean for someone to overhear. Summer teaches us that no matter how hard it is to be brave, you may find a friend sitting all alone at a lunch table. We learn the best lessons in life through kids — at least, that’s how I think we learn the best lessons. They’re willing to be accepting, if we give them the opportunities to be accepting instead of running away scared.

I was moved by the power of R.J. Palacio’s words: “The things we do are the most important things of all. They are more important than what we say or what we look like.”

In my mind I’m thinking… ‘well yeah, obviously the things we do are going to get us remembered,’ but to a child (and honestly, some adults), the idea that our actions are more important than anything doesn’t hit home. This is something we have to work on as a society. We need to be more welcoming and less assuming.

“no, it’s not all random, if it really was all random, the universe would abandon us completely. and the universe doesn’t. it takes care of its most fragile creations in ways we can’t see. like with parents who adore you blindly. and a big sister who feels guilty for being human over you. and a little gravelly-voiced kid whose friends have left him over you. and even a pink-haired girl who carries your picture in her wallet. maybe it is a lottery, but the universe makes it all even out in the end. the universe takes care of all its birds.”

Sometimes I (we) feel like the universe is out to get us. Things feel out of our control and overwhelming — it feels like nothing is going is our favor. I love the above quote because it serves as a reminder that the universe is a good place and is on our side. And at the moments when it seems like nothing can go right, we have to remember all of the people who love us and support us through the hard times.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Recommend? If you haven’t read this book, I suggest adding it to your library holdings immediately or order it off Amazon or run to your brick & mortar store or Barnes & Noble. Get this book, read it and think long and hard about how you treat your fellow classmates, friends and colleagues.

Book Review – The Bright Hour: A Memoir of Living and Dying by Nina Riggs

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Release date: June 6, 2017

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Genre: Non-Fiction/Memoir

Premise: The Bright Hour: A Memoir of Living and Dying was written by Nina Riggs in 2016-2017 as she was battling cancer that metastasized from her breast through her bones and into her lungs. In another heart-wrenching memoir, we learn about relationships with ourselves, our families – child, spouses, parents, our friends and the world around us. The Bright Hour showcases the beauty in life which is often times paired with pain.

Thoughts + Feelings: I find it awfully challenging to read a memoir when you know the author was on the cusp of death or having already passed by the time of it’s publishing. My heart ached for Nina Riggs and her family, just as it ached for Paul Kalanithi’s family when I finished When Breath Becomes Air. These books are not just about cancer and dying, but rather the life that we live and how absolutely beautiful our time on earth is. We each have our own battles and until we live in a situation it’s hard to imagine what it feels like. Nina Riggs did a magnificent job at portraying the beauty that is life, while also acknowledging the pain and sorrow that happens too.

Her story is powerful and shocking. She’s moving and authentic. The way her writing comes together is much like the environments she uses Emerson to describe. We imagine love and belonging in the home, but also a little bit of tough love and challenging to who you are.

She reminds us again and again to clear our vision of expectations, to try to see without understanding.

In a Memoir of Living and Dying, we have to remember that life isn’t always what it seems. Our expectations may be clear to us, but it may not be the destiny that we have. Clear our vision of expectations – go in with open eyes and an open heart. It may shock you the beauty that is in front of you.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Recommend? It’s a beautiful memoir, but it’s hard to read. Your heart has to be in the right place because otherwise it may be too painful. But it is beautiful.

It’s Monday! What are you reading? #4

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a weekly post to share what you recently finished reading, what you’re currently reading, and what you plan on reading this week. It’s hosted by Kathryn at Bookdate.

It’s been one of those weeks… so now I’m sitting in between jobs on Monday afternoon trying to compile my thoughts about the book I read last week and figure out what my focus is going to be this week. It’s one of  “those weeks” that just ranges for several weeks in a row without ever feeling like the first week has ended. Luckily though, I’ll be heading off on a two week vacation throughout Europe (Paris, Brussels, Ghent, Antwerp, Amsterdam and Ireland, mainly Dublin) on Saturday!

Last week I only finished one book (like I said, it was a little hectic). I finished reading The Bright Hour: A Memoir of Living and Dying by Nina Riggs. It was about as humorous as a book can be about dying from stage 4 cancer. Nina had the ability to discuss how beautiful life can be while staring her own mortality in the face.

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Upcoming this week:

Finish listening to Seriously… I’m Kidding! by Ellen Degeneres. I’m about 1/3 of the way through it. Complete Wonder by R.J. Palacio. Hop on board with finishing all of the ARCs I’ve received from NetGalley beginning with School for Psychics by K.C. Archer and The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row by Anthony Ray Hinton.

 

It’s gonna be a great week! How is your second week of April going?

 

Down the TBR Hole #2

Two weeks ago I joined in on the Down The TBR Hole which was started by Lia at Lost in the Story that revolves around cleansing your TBR of all those books you’re never going to read and sort through it all to know what’s actually on there.

I’ve created three places to put my books if I decide to keep them: the original TBR shelf (meant for books I will be getting to in the next 52 weeks, I hope), a someday maybe shelf and an educational reads shelf.

It works like this:

  • Go to your goodreads to-read shelf.
  • Order on ascending date added.
  • Take the first 5 (or 10 (or even more!) if youre feeling adventurous) books. Of course, if you do this weekly, you start where you left off the last time.
  • Read the synopses of the books
  • Decide: keep it or should it go?

BOOKS

The next fourteen books on my TBR were all moved to educational reads. I went through a phase in January 2017 when I added in every single book I thought I was going to read for graduate school (and my previous graduate classes) into my Goodreads account. I still want to read all of them, but I know it’ll take some time and its not of the utmost importance. (Also, you can see from the titles some of the crazy things that I studied in undergrad/graduate school).

Understanding Terrorism: Challenges, Perspectives and Issues by Clarence Martin

Friction: How Radicalization Happens to Them and Us by Clark McCauley

Debating Terrorism and Counterterrorism by Stuart Gottlieb

System Under Stress: Homeland Security and American Politics by Donald Kettl

Lessons of Disaster: Policy Change After Catastrophic Events by Thomas Birkland

Dealing with Disaster: Public Management in Crisis Situations by Saundra Schneider

Typhoid Mary: Captive to the Public’s Health by Judith Walzer Leavitt

Introduction to Emergency Management by George Haddow

Introduction to International Disaster Management by Damon Coppola

Biosecurity and Bioterrorism: An Introduction to Homeland Security Principles by Jeffery Ryan

Physician’s Guide to a Terrorist Attack by Michael Roy

Medical Microbiology by Patrick Murray

Bioterror in the 21st Century: Emerging Threats in a New Global Environment by Daniel Gerstein

Making the Nation Safer: The Role of Science and Technology in Countering Terrorism by the Committee on Science and Technology

 

Have you ever added every single book from your personal library to your Goodreads account? How did you manage all of them?