Small Goals + What I’m Into, July 2018

As always, I’m linking up with writes like a girl for my July 2018 small goals, and Leigh Kramer for my monthly what I’m into.

June rushed by in a whirl of day trips, catching up with friends and family, and lazy days off. This summer has been exactly what I needed to recover from a season of working long hours. So let’s see how I did on my goals from last month!

  • Prepare for vocal camp. I did this, but then the camp was cancelled. So… check, I guess?
  • Organize paperwork. Yes. Everything is finally in its proper place.
  • Go to the beach. No, but I’ve done a lot of other fun, summery things. I’m putting this back on the list for July!
  • Watch The Good Place. Check! I finished this show in a hurry, and I can’t wait for season two.
  • Read just for fun. Yes, and it has been so rejuvenating! I’ve read buckets over the past few weeks, and I’m hoping to keep on for the rest of the summer.

4 out of 5 seems like a win to me! I’m continuing with a mix of fun and serious goals for July:

  • Study for the FTCE. This is my most serious and weighty goal for this month. I have a teaching degree, and from what I understand, I can just take this test and get certified to teach elementary. It’s a lot of work, but I’m excited for this possible next step in my career!
  • Go to the beach. Let’s try this one again!
  • Read, read, read. Yes please.
  • Make this year’s photo book. Every summer, I make a photo book on Shutterfly to commemorate the past year. I’ve gathered all the photos; now I just need to put the book together.
  • Celebrate our fifth anniversary! It’s hard to believe my husband and I have been married for five years this month! He has been such a support for me this whole year, and I want to do something special to celebrate our anniversary (something we rarely do).

What I’m Into

Books I’m looking forward to reading: The hosts of one of my favorite podcasts, Pantsuit Politics, are writing a book! I can’t wait to get my hands on it.

TV shows I’ve watched: Season 5 of Great British Bake Off is on the PBS website. You know I’m into it.

Instagram account I’m loving: The crochet projects of @supercutedesign really are super cute!

Links I like: Why should you get to know your neighbors?

If you, like me, put off tackling the doorstoppers on your TBR list, this post is for you.

Is it possible–could we get another children’s book from J.K. Rowling??

I love these drawings of Disney princesses as career women.

My favorite Instagram:

My summer book stack! I’m so proud at having whittled this down significantly–I’ll post an update on Instagram at the end of the summer.

If you’d like to follow me on Instagram (I post lots of book pictures and the occasional selfie), you can do so here.

What are you all up to this month? Let me know in the comments!

Top Ten Books I’ve Read in 2018 (So Far)

Today I'm linking up to share the top ten books I want to read this spring. | Book reviews by NewberyandBeyond.com
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I’m linking up with That Artsy Reader Girl for Top Ten Tuesday to share my top ten list!

Today’s TTT post is the top ten books I’ve read so far in 2018. Last year, I felt like most of the books I read were okay but not spectacular, and I had a difficult time filling out a top ten list. But this year (and specifically this summer), that has changed! These are some of the best books (and comics!) I’ve read this year, and I expect you’ll see many of them on my top ten list at the end of the year, too.

What books have been your favorites this year so far? Have you read any of the books on my list? Let me know in the comments!

Small Goals + What I’m Into, June 2018

Linking up to share my June 2018 small goals + what I'm into. | NewberyandBeyond.com
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As always, I’m linking up with writes like a girl for my June 2018 small goals, and Leigh Kramer for my monthly what I’m into.

It has been ages since I’ve written a post, so I’m coming back from my hiatus with my small goals and what I’ve been up to lately. What with working 60 hour weeks and dealing with all the other issues that always seem to crop up during a busy season, I can’t even remember what my goals were from February!

  • Design a library bag. Okay, I did design it, but I’ve been unable to get my hands on an ink jet printer to use my iron on transfer. I’m counting this as completed, but there’s still one more step!
  • Start meditating again. Not at all. I dropped every extra thing that wasn’t essential to my life during the past three months (and, um, maybe some that were… I’m looking at you, yoga practice). Maybe I’ll be able to get back into this over the summer.
  • Go on a spending freeze. Yep!

Hey, 2/3 is pretty decent, all things considered. For June, my first month of summer “break” (I’m still working, just not nearly as many hours), I’m going for a mix of practical, catch-up items and fun, relaxing goals.

  • Prepare for vocal camp. I signed up to teach vocal camp at my studio again this year, and I need to prep my materials. I’m hoping to use a lot of the same activities I used last year, but I need to get everything out and take stock of what I have.
  • Organize paperwork. My method of just jamming everything into a drawer and out of sight worked temporarily, but now I need to put things where they belong before I lose something important.
  • Go to the beach. Need I say more?
  • Watch The Good Place. I was really enjoying this show, but I only got about six episodes in before the crazy hit. I want to get back into it this summer.
  • Read just for fun. Now that I have time to read again, I want to hit the library and take out a bunch of great beach reads and children’s books that I can fly through.

What I’m Into

Books I’m looking forward to reading: I just started Pioneer Girl, the annotated original manuscript by Laura Ingalls Wilder, and it has been fascinating so far.

TV shows I’ve watched: My husband and I have been getting into The Big Family Cooking Showdown on Netflix. It’s fun and sweet, almost like a Great British Bake Off for families cooking savory meals.

Instagram account I’m loving: Patrix15 posts gorgeous pictures of colorful houses, plus the art that others have made based on those houses.

Links I like: It’s been a while since the Super Bowl, but this article about the sound design is fascinating.

So Tana French is having her books made into a BBC series?

I love unexpected kinds of libraries.

A French carpenter wrote his diary on the boards of a chateau in 1880, and we’ve just discovered it.

My favorite Instagram:

Over Memorial Day weekend, my husband and I had a Bob Ross painting party. Our paintings turned out surprisingly decent!

If you’d like to follow me on Instagram (I post lots of book pictures and the occasional selfie), you can do so here.

What are you all up to this month? Let me know in the comments!

Top Ten Books on My Spring TBR List

Today I'm linking up to share the top ten books I want to read this spring. | Book reviews by NewberyandBeyond.com
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I’m linking up with That Artsy Reader Girl for Top Ten Tuesday to share my top ten list!

Readers, you might have noticed that I’ve been AWOL for almost a month now. That’s because I got a new job–without quitting my old job! While my schedule will eventually settle down, right now I’m working nonstop, so I haven’t had much time for blogging. But I had to jump on today’s TTT prompt. In no particular order, these are the books I’m looking forward to reading this spring.

  1. Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
  2. The rest of the Junior Bender series by Timothy Hallinan
  3. The rest of the Books of Bayern series by Shannon Hale
  4. The rest of the Howl’s Moving Castle series by Diana Wynne Jones (yep, I’m still working on finishing my unfinished series!)
  5. A Murder Hatched by Donna Andrews
  6. Ordinary Magic by Caitlen Rubino-Bradway
  7. Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
  8. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
  9. An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
  10. Emily of New Moon by L.M. Montgomery

Have you read any of these books? What books are on your spring TBR list? Let me know in the comments!

Top Ten Books that Have Been on My TBR List the Longest

These are just a few of the books I've had on my TBR list for way too long. | Book reviews by NewberyandBeyond.com
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I’m linking up with That Artsy Reader Girl for Top Ten Tuesday to share my top ten list!

Some of these books have been on my TBR list for so long I’ve forgotten what they’re about or why I even put them on my list. I’m going to try to explain why these books are on my TBR list, and maybe that will prompt me to finally read them!

  • A Grown Up Kind of Pretty. I have absolutely no idea why this book is on my list…
  • While Beauty Slept. Gothic Beauty and the Beast retelling.
  • There is No Dog. Quirky MG (or possibly YA).
  • The Escape from Home. I always love Avi’s work.
  • The Broken Teaglass. Murder mystery + tea.
  • Orlando. I want to read a lot more of Virginia Woolf, but I struggle with her writing.
  • Will Grayson, Will Grayson. Because I’ve only read one John Green book, and I feel like that’s not enough for me to judge if I like his writing style or not.
  • You Don’t Look Like Anyone I Know. Crazy but true neurological issue that keeps the author from recognizing faces.
  • The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents. Why was this the first Terry Pratchett book that made it to my list? (It wasn’t the first I read, obviously.)
  • Human.4. I’m always a sucker for dystopian YA.

Have you read any of these books? What books have been lingering on your TBR list the longest? Leave your thoughts and links in the comments!

Small Goals + What I’m Into, February 2018

I'm sharing my February 2018 small goals + the things I'm into right now. | Book reviews by NewberyandBeyond.com
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As always, I’m linking up with writes like a girl for my February 2018 small goals, and Leigh Kramer for my monthly what I’m into.

What a whirlwind January was! It was stuffed with craziness, some of it good, a lot of it… not good. To be honest, I totally forgot what my small goals were until I re-read my post this morning!

  • Make appointments for upcoming events. I’m working on it. Some appointments finished, some scheduled, some still waiting to be decided. But I’m counting this one finished for now.
  • Read at least three books in the towering TBR pile by my bed. I actually did great on this one! I read five books from my TBR stack, I only checked out one book from the library, and I requested only four ARCs (usually I go a little crazy and request a bunch at the beginning of the year), two of which I’ve already finished.
  • Make dinner more often. Well… mostly. I’ve made dinner twice, which doesn’t seem like a lot, but it’s a start.
  • Do a digital declutter. Sigh. Yes. I hated it, but I did it.

I am amazed that amidst the stress and busyness of January, I was able to complete all four of my goals! Here’s hoping my February goals go even better:

  • Design a library bag. I need a big canvas bag to carry all my library books. I saw an adorable one on Etsy that sadly is no longer for sale, so I’ve ordered a plain canvas bag and iron-on transfer paper. Now I just need to design it!
  • Start meditating again. Whether you call it mindfulness or meditation, it helps keep my anxious thoughts from spiraling. And I’ve been neglecting this lately. I want to get back into meditating more consistently.
  • Go on a spending freeze. It’s that time again! Whenever a particularly large bill hits, I like to go on a spending freeze so we can start rebuilding our savings.

What I’m Into

Books I’m looking forward to reading: The one new thing I have requested recently is comics! I have several digital copies awaiting me, and they’ve been a really nice, relaxing thing to read in between heavier books.

TV shows I’ve watched: I just started watching The Good Place, and it is bizarre and wonderful.

Instagram account I’m loving: I’ve been laughing at Overheard New York‘s hilarious (and often swear-filled, so be aware!) overheard conversations.

My favorite Instagram:

Curious what my TBR stack looked like at the beginning of the month? Here it is:

If you’d like to follow me on Instagram (I post lots of book pictures and the occasional selfie), you can do so here.

If you want to see more of what I’m into every month, along with sneak peeks and my favorite posts from the blog, sign up for my email newsletter! It’ll show up in your inbox about once a month and bring you the latest blog news and the things I’m loving.

What are you all up to this month? Let me know in the comments!

10 Books I Can’t Believe I’ve Read

I'm linking up to share the ten books I can't believe I've read, for one reason or another. | Book reviews by NewberyandBeyond.com

.I’m linking up with That Artsy Reader Girl for Top Ten Tuesday to share my top ten list!

Today’s Top Ten Tuesday prompt is all about sharing the books I can’t believe I’ve read. Combing through the past couple of years of books I’ve read, I was surprised at how many books I have read recently that are either out of my comfort zone or from genres that I typically don’t care for.

  • Crime and Punishment. Even after reading and loving Anna Karenina, I never thought I’d pick up another Russian classic. But I did, for the 2017 classics challenge.
  • Wild. I had been aware of this book for a long time–who hasn’t?–but I never wanted to read it. I finally gave in when my book club decided to read it, and I enjoyed it a lot more than I anticipated.
  • Dracula. I tried reading this classic in college and was totally freaked out by it. But I decided to give it another shot in 2017, and I’m glad I did.
  • The Husband’s Secret. I read this book for book club as well. It wasn’t my favorite, but I can see why it has been so popular.
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. This is one more book club read, one that I had seen floating around for years before I finally read it. And it was fascinating! This is one of my favorite things about the book club I’m in: it forces me to read popular books that I otherwise wouldn’t have tried.
  • Anna and the French Kiss. I don’t usually like YA romances. And I didn’t like this one, either, despite the assurances of many bookish friends that I would.
  • American Gods. This is another book I tried in college and quickly abandoned. This time I listened to this monster of a book on audio, which helped me get through it.
  • The Beautiful and Damned. I can’t even remember why I picked this book up. I felt like it was just a rehashing of the themes from The Great Gatsby (even though this book was written and published before Gatsby), and I didn’t much care for it.
  • Middlesex. The incest in this book totally freaked me out. But I still finished it.
  • Bare Bones. I actually read this book for a challenge, which required you read a book that was a recommendation from a stranger. I had never heard of this guy before, so it was really weird reading his memoir, but I didn’t hate it.

What books are you amazed that you’ve read? Leave your thoughts and links in the comments!

Small Goals + What I’m Into, January 2018

I'm linking up to share my small goals and the things I'm into in January 2018. | Book reviews by NewberyandBeyond.com
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As always, I’m linking up with writes like a girl for my January 2018 small goals, and Leigh Kramer for my monthly what I’m into.

December was a crazy month for me, despite all my planning to make it a little easier! I was so glad to have some time off work at the end of the month to hibernate and prepare for the new year.

  • See the Christmas lights at a nearby historical house. Done.
  • Finish learning music for my church’s Christmas program. Yes, and it went so well! This is always one of my favorite events of the Christmas season, even though it means a lot of extra work for me.
  • Reevaluate work, volunteering, and other activities for the coming year. Yes. I spent some time during the last few days of 2017 to plan how I want my 2018 to go. Time to make some changes!

I kept my goals simple for December, but now that it’s January, I’m feeling a little more ambitious!

  • Make appointments for upcoming events. This goal is vague because this encompasses a lot of things. Basically, I want to get started putting plans in motion for those changes I mentioned earlier!
  • Read at least three books in the towering TBR pile by my bed. This stack of books has gotten out of hand. I really need to read some of the books I own before I go back to the library…
  • Make dinner more often. Since I get home super late most nights, my husband ends up doing most of the cooking. He enjoys it, but I’d like to take some of that work off his hands this month.
  • Do a digital declutter. Delete old files, change passwords, back up photos, organize bookmarks… It needs to be done. This is my boring goal for the month.

What I’m Into

Books I’m looking forward to reading: That. huge. stack of books by my bed. There are so many good books in that stack (Tana French, Dashiell Hammett, Emily Henry)!

TV shows I’ve watched: I’m rewatching Psych with my husband–he has never seen it all the way through!–so we can watch the movie. So fun!

Instagram account I’m loving: Guinea Pig Lovers always posts such cute photos and videos!

My favorite Instagram:

This Page Habit box was one of my favorite gifts this year:

Got this awesome Page Habit box for Christmas! #mypagehabit

A post shared by Monica Fastenau (@monica.fastenau) on

If you’d like to follow me on Instagram (I post lots of book pictures and the occasional selfie), you can do so here.

If you want to see more of what I’m into every month, along with sneak peeks and my favorite posts from the blog, sign up for my email newsletter! It’ll show up in your inbox about once a month and bring you the latest blog news and the things I’m loving.

What are you all up to this month? Let me know in the comments!

Top Ten Books I’m Looking Forward to Reading in 2018

I'm linking up for the last Top Ten Tuesday of the year. These are the books I'm most looking forward to reading in 2018! | Book reviews by NewberyandBeyond.com
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This post is part of the Top Ten Tuesday meme by The Broke and the Bookish.

It’s the last TTT of 2017! I have so many books that I’m looking forward to reading next year, but these books made my top ten list.

  1. Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America
  2. Redefining Girly
  3. Sourdough
  4. Year of Yes
  5. Peas and Carrots
  6. The Eleventh Hour: A Curious Mystery
  7. Bellweather Rhapsody
  8. Heartless
  9. Putin Country: A Journey Into the Real Russia
  10. When Dimple Met Rishi

What books are you looking forward to reading in 2018? Let me know in the comments!

Book Challenge Wrap Ups!

It's time to wrap up both of the book challenges I completed this year! Classics + Newbery books. | Book reviews by NewberyandBeyond.com
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It’s the end of the year, and somehow I was able to finish both of the book challenges I started! I joined Smiling Shelves for the Newbery reading challenge and read 75 points worth of Newbery winners and honor books (and one Caldecott!). You can find the reviews for these books here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. Whew!

I also completed the Books and Chocolate classics challenge, which was definitely more difficult for me. Listed below are the books that I read for each category and a link to my review of that book. I earned all three entries into the drawing–woo hoo! (Contact email for this drawing–monica@newberyandbeyond.com)

1. A 19th century classic – any book published between 1800 and 1899. The Awakening; Kate Chopin

2. A 20th century classic – any book published between 1900 and 1967. Dead Man’s Folly; Agatha Christie

3. A classic by a woman author. Murder at the Vicarage; Agatha Christie

4. A classic in translation. Any book originally written published in a language other than your native language. Feel free to read the book in your language or the original language. Candide; Voltaire

5. A classic originally published before 1800. Plays and epic poems are acceptable in this category. Translations can be modern in this category also. Othello; Shakespeare

6. A romance classic. It can have a happy ending or a sad ending, as long as there is a strong romantic element to the plot. Lady Susan; Jane Austen

7. A Gothic or horror classic. Dracula; Bram Stoker

8. A classic with a number in the title. An actual number is required — for example, Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None would not qualify, but The Seven Dials Mystery would. 1984; George Orwell

9. A classic about an animal or which includes the name of an animal in the title. It can be an actual animal or a metaphor, or just the name in the title. Swallows and Amazons; Arthur Ransome

10. A classic set in a place you’d like to visit. It can be real or imaginary: The Wizard of Oz, Down and Out in Paris and London, Death on the Nile, etc. The War of the Worlds; H.G. Wells (London)

11. An award-winning classic. It could be the Newbery award, the Prix Goncourt, the Pulitzer Prize, the James Tait Award, etc. A Raisin in the Sun; Lorraine Hansberry (Tony Award for Best Play)

12. A Russian classic. 2017 will be the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, so read a classic by any Russian author. Crime and Punishment; Fyodor Dostoyevsky

These book challenges were so much fun! I’m not going to sign up for any this year, but I loved how these challenges pushed me to read more of the classics and Newbery books that have been lingering on my TBR list.

Did you participate in any book challenges this year? Let me know in the comments!

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