Small Goals + What I’m Into, August 2018

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

As I’m writing this post, the school year is about to begin. I’m squeezing in as much enjoyment and relaxation as I can for the last few days of summer, but I know that my schedule is about to get crazy busy again (though hopefully not as busy as it was last spring!). With that in mind, I’m lowering my goals for posting book reviews. I’m going to attempt to write one book review or book roundup each week (although I won’t kid myself and guarantee that I’ll make time for this every single week!), with the occasional addition of a Top Ten Tuesday or small goals post. I love writing reviews here, but I don’t want to set a goal that I won’t be able to meet.

With that said, let’s take a look at how I did with my goals for July!

  • Study for the FTCE. Yes. I’ve done a ton of studying, and I’ve roped my husband and roommate into sharing their expertise with me to help me understand the things I’ve forgotten. I still have a ways to go, and I’m not sure when I’ll have time to study during the school year, but I will make time for it.
  • Go to the beach. No on this one. I don’t know if the algae pouring from Lake Okeechobee and onto our southwest Florida beaches has made national news, but it has made our beaches actually dangerous to visit. I made do with a trip to the pool, but I’m also putting pressure on our local politicians to do something about this harmful pollution destroying our gorgeous state.
  • Read, read, read. Yes! I’ve finished a lot of books that have been sitting in a stack by my bed for longer than I want to admit, including the beautifully illustrated Harry Potter books.
  • Make this year’s photo book. Check!
  • Celebrate our fifth anniversary! Also check! We had a dinner of steak and scallops and cracked open a bottle of champagne.

So, 4.5 out of 5? I’ll take it. As we’re approaching the start of the school year, I’m going to try to keep my small goals light and manageable.

  • Make breakfasts for school. I’m not a morning person, so my breakfast usually consists of a granola bar or hard boiled egg that I eat in my car. I want to make an effort to have tasty, healthy breakfasts this year (even if I continue to eat them in the car…).
  • Keep doing yoga. I struggled to make time for yoga during the school year last spring, but it combines the physical and mental health workout that I really need, so I’m going to make a bigger effort to continue doing yoga this fall.
  • Read one book in translation. This is part of one of my long-term reading goals, and I think one book is manageable for this month.
  • Make time for fun activities. I don’t want to get into the habit of getting home from work, putting my stuff down, scarfing down dinner while watching TV, and going to sleep. That may still be the case for some evenings, but I want to make a little time during the week to do things I enjoy, rather than only allowing myself to relax on the weekends.
  • Make time for household chores. This is the exact opposite of my previous goal, but I know that I feel a lot more relaxed when the counters are wiped down, the floors are vacuumed, and the kitchen is stocked with food. I’m going to do my best to take small steps every day when I get home from work to keep things neat and organized.

What I’m Into

Books I’m looking forward to reading: I’m finally getting around to finishing the Books of Bayern series. I love Shannon Hale’s writing, so I think I’ll enjoy these books.

TV shows I’ve watched: Everyone has been raving about the new Queer Eye on Netflix, and I finally got around to watching the first episode. I never watched the original, but this iteration reminds me of What Not to Wear.

Instagram account I’m loving: Rachel Callahan (of the blog Grasping for Objectivity) takes absolutely gorgeous photos of sunsets, nature hikes, and Birmingham.

Links I like: This chef who fed the Civil Rights movement is inspiring.

I love unusual libraries! This man packs books on his burros and takes them to rural areas in Colombia.

My favorite Instagram:

I loved how this photo turned out!

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 Popular Books that Lived Up to the Hype

The top ten books that lived up to the hype--for me, at least. | 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!

I’ve been disappointed by many over-hyped books in the past (ahem, Girl on the Train…), so I love this week’s prompt about the popular books I’ve read that have lived up to the hype. I know that these books may fall on your “over-hyped” list, just like the books I thought didn’t live up to the hype man y people clearly enjoyed, so I’m interested to hear what books made everyone else’s lists!

What books lived up to the hype for you? Leave me your thoughts in the comments!

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!

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