Wednesday, February 28, 2018

2017 Book Challenge, October, November, and December Update!

So this is really late, but I'm finally getting it up here. Today, I'm combining my October, November, and December reading updates from last year in an attempt to finally catch up with this blog.

In the beginning of October, I was in a wedding, with the rest of the month being dedicated to the final push of getting things ready before my move and editing another book.

In November, I finally moved. Because of the move, editing, and health issues, I decided not to participate in Nanowrimo last year. I don't regret my decision, but I am a little sad I didn't take part in Nanowrimo, as I had a lot of fun the three years I did (I wrote about my thoughts during my first Nanowrimo on this blog, if you want to check it out). I do hope to be able to participate this year.

Anyway, onto the reading update!

I was able to read quite a few books in October, including a brand new book by Gretchen Rubin.

1. The Four Tendencies*, by Gretchen Rubin

Rating: ***

Gretchen Rubin builds on the ideas of the four tendencies she introduced in Better than Before, and gives a more detailed description of each, as well as how to deal with the tendencies in your life.

I didn't like it as much as her other books. Perhaps it was because the topic was introduced in her previous book, I felt like I had read it already, even though there was a ton of new content which I found interesting. It could be too that part of me questions the validity of the whole system (yeah, according to the system, I am a Questioner). It's an intriguing idea, and it's worthwhile to try out her tips for the tendency you appear to be, but I'd refrain from placing yourself into one of the "tendency molds."

I also question the actual statistics of tendency distribution. According to her, Obligers are the most common, followed by Questioners, Upholders, and finally Rebels (page 8). But the book doesn't say how the study was conducted or if it was solely based on the quiz she had on her website. Because unless there were no refusal rates from people asked to participate, how would you be able to get a true idea of the tendencies distribution? Obligers would be most likely to take it (resulting in the high amount recorded) but Questioners and Upholders might only take it if it fit with their agenda, and Rebels wouldn't be likely to take it at all.

2.  Aurora Abroad, by Karen Kiefer

Rating: ****

After her aunt attacks her home on her eighteenth birthday bent on destroying her, Aurora flees her pursuers while trying to come up with a way to rescue her imprisoned guardians. And trying not to strangle the obnoxious Emperor Lyric.

I love mashups of fairy tales. Karen Kiefer does a wonderful job combining different elements of fairy tales into one exciting story. While some of the humor is a little crude for my taste (such as what size leaf a man needs to cover his...ah...well, you know) and there were some swear words, it was still an enjoyable read.

3. Darkshore, by Megan Jendrick and Nathan Jendrick

Rating: ***

The people of Darkshore has had a powerful nemesis over the millena: people of the fog known only as Icia, who lurk in the woods outside the village during the colder months and cannot be killed. It has become law that no one can enter the forest, because no one comes back alive. Until Noelle Overstar does. As she seeks to discover why these monsters can't kill her, she starts to unravel why exactly the Icia kill her people, and that they weren't always enemies...

This book was a little out there for me. It reminded me a little of Into the Trees, and the Nickelodeon series Avatar. And while the story itself was pretty good (if I ignore the "out there" elements), I was left a little confused as to who the book was for. Noelle is only thirteen, and while most of the time I think the author did a great job of keeping her actions and thoughts age appropriate, some of the monologues she has with herself seem a little too grown-up for such a young girl (maybe she was supposed to be a very mature thirteen-year-old?). And to me it read more like it was for an older teen to young adult.

4. Read No Evil, by Steven W. White

Rating: ***

People can't stop talking about a new fantasy novel ebook. And while opinion is divided, with some loving the novel and others hating it, weird things seem to happen to those who read it, some catastrophic. When the ebook's effects start reaching into her high school English class, Jan Fitsgerald decides to look into this story her students are talking about while she still has students left.

Interesting concept, with the story being rather dark (I'm assuming it's borderline Dark Fantasy, but I'm not too familiar with that genre). There was some profanity sprinkled throughout the book, including F-bombs. I wish the author had done a better job of making sure character details stayed consistent (at first, Jan's sister is older than her, but then in the second half of the book she's younger than Jan).

5. The Princess, the Knight, and the Knave, by R. D. Ferguson

Rating: ***

Matt has practiced magic since he was a young kid. Now as a teen trying to make it on his own as a magician, honing his skills are even more important. But when an evil wizard switches bodies and worlds with Matt, the fourteen year-old will have to unravel Crius's magic if he hopes to see his own world and body again.

It was a cute story that I deem appropriate for about nine years old and up. The story was engaging and while I didn't find the characters too unique, it was still fun to read about them. It could have used another edit though (in some places one character is called by a different character's name).

Those where all the books I read in October. As for November...well...I read about half of Les Miserable (I do not know if I'll be finishing it, considering my kindle copy seems not to open for me any more). As for how December went...well, I don't even remember if I cracked a book open that month.

So in conclusion: did I read 42 books? Yes, I read 45 total, at least according to my Goodreads. Did I finish my list? No, I still had a few on there because I found other books I wanted to read.

So would I do a reading challenge again? Yes, I had a lot of fun doing it. But I wouldn't give myself a list of books to read necessarily, as some of them I lost interest in before getting a chance to read them, and my list left little room for new books I learned of or that came out that year.

This year, I've set myself a smaller goal of 25, since I started the challenge late, and I'm hoping to get out two books this year (the first in a new series and the sequel to Thorn Changer!). I'm also hoping to post more on schedule on this blog (I'm aiming for every two weeks on Tuesday). And I've started posting again on my other blog.

Thanks for reading. Have you read any of these books? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!

*For the sake of brevity, I have not included the subtitles of these books.

Links to books may not be the same format, version, or edition that I read.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

2017 Book Challenge, September Update!

Today I'm finally going to share the books I read in September. It was a busy month for me, helping prepare for a wedding, packing for moving, and editing another book (not the sequel to Thorn Changer, but another novel series). I read three books this month, two of them by indie authors.

1. Super Immunity*, by Dr. Joel Fuhrman

Rating: ****

Everyone hates getting sick, but there's no way to stop it from happening. Or is there? In this book, Dr. Joel Fuhrman takes a look at what foods can actually help us stay well, and possibly avoid the colds, flus, and other bugs around us.

I love that he bases this book on scientific studies, not just hearsay. I feel like it's all too common in the health/nutrition sector for people to share information and make assumptions about what works, rather than looking at the evidence. It's an interesting read, and if you enjoy reading about nutrition, then I'd check this book out. If that's not really your thing, and you've already read Eat to Live and follow its recommendations, then you might want to skip this one as a good chunk of it is just giving more reasons why you should eat the way he recommends.

2. Wish*, by C. H. Aalberry

Rating: ***

When the Wish Stone shattered millenia ago, scattering its fragments across the Seven C's, everyone it touched was blessed with differing gifts. And also cursed with differing gifts. "Wish Monsters" Dak, Lae, and their friends seek the answers of how to become like "normal people" again. Or at least on how not to be hated by everyone else.

It was a cute story about friendship, and I enjoyed it. The thing that drove me nuts were the saying common nowadays that didn't feel as if they fit in the story (such as "uhoh Pinnochio"). Each time I read one, it dragged me back out of the book. But the story itself was enjoyable. The characters weren't super original but I think it's a good story for younger kids (I cannot recall a single swear word, or anything really bloody or inappropriate for kids 10 and up).

3. Into the Trees, by J. Alastair Nash

Rating: ***

The village of Locke is pleasant most of the time for its inhabitants, except for once a year, when giants known only as "Puritans" come to steal any baby born with a defect. When Evan's younger brother is taken, and his family torn asunder, he decides to head into the trees and get his brother back. And hope he can come back from the woods, when no one else ever has.

This story was wild, very creative. Parts of it reminded me of an anime series I watched one time, although the story was completely different. There were areas that were a bit macabre for my taste, and considering the hero is just thirteen, it was darker than I'd want my young teens to read personally. As an adult, though, I enjoyed most of it.

I've also left reviews on Goodreads and Amazon (although probably not for the same editions).

It's hard to believe it's already the end of November, and that the year's almost over. Next time, I'll post my October and November Update. I'm combining the two because I didn't get much read in November. I have five books left on my original list (although I might not read Thorn Changer after all, since the sequel won't be coming out until next year).

Thanks for reading. Have you read any of these books? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!

*For the sake of brevity, I have not included the subtitles of these books.

Links to books may not be the same format, version, or edition that I read.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

2017 Book Challenge, August Update!

Because September and October were busy months for me (I was in a wedding in the beginning of October, and am finalizing my move), I'm a little behind on these posts. Today I will finally be posting what I read in August, and hope to post my September reads next week before October runs out.

A few weeks ago, I read something quite interesting, and I'm not sure whether I agree or disagree. A blog author mentioned that he felt it better to avoid posting negative comments on social media. I can agree. Because of the political/social situation in the U.S.A. right now, many of my friends on Facebook post rants about policies, happenings in which all of the facts may or may not have come out yet, etc. Honestly, I find a lot of it rather childish, because most of those posts only serves to pour fuel on the fire, rather than actually looking at constructive ways to fix the situations (and technically, I think I just posted something negative, whoops).

He goes on to include making negative comments about someone else's work (which I'm guessing would include products and books), and whereas I can agree with part of that (why on earth would you go online and just rant over how much you hate a book?), another part of me is unsure. I read reviews for different products I'm interested in because I respect the posters' opinions, and want to get an idea of how that product affected that person's life. And although I don't always read book reviews before I get the book, there are some books I've started that I wished I had read the reviews before I picked it up, or that a review had warned me of the content (such as tons of profanities or sex scenes).

I agree with him, though, that we need to consider carefully what we post on social media (including blogs and review sites like Goodreads or Amazon). So for now I'll keep writing reviews for books I don't like, but I will try to make them constructive criticism rather than I-hate-it rants.

Fortunately for this month, I have no negative reviews to leave. All three books I read I really enjoyed.

1. The Happiness Project*, by Gretchen Rubin

Rating: ****

Gretchen Rubin embarks on a one-year project to determine whether she can become happier without undertaking a huge life change, and discovers it's the little things which add up in the happiness equation.

After reading a couple of her more recent books, I decided I needed to read this one again. I love the simple tips she gives, the cute stories, and the practical applications. Her writing is entertaining, and yet I feel like I'm learning something. If you don't like anecdotes, you might not like this book, because it is full of them. But I find it helpful when people talk about different things they tried, and whether it worked for them or not.

2. Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen

Rating: ****

With her father's estate to go to a male cousin after his death and her mother's income not enough to support them, Elizabeth and her four sisters have the best chance of security if they marry well. But Elizabeth is convinced there must be love and respect in a marriage, something which she and a certain gentleman definitely do not hold for each other...

Emma is my favorite of Jane Austen's novels, but I love this one too. It teaches the importance of looking beneath the surface. Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy both mistake the other for being worse than they truly are because they were too quick to judge each other. Both of them judge others either better or worse than they truly are based on surface relationships. And of course, the absolute ludicrous behaviors of certain characters makes this book hilarious in a cringe-worthy way.

3. A Girl of the Limberlost, by Gene Stratton-Porter

Rating: ****

Desperate to go to high school and afterwards college while her mother is either unable or unwilling to help her pay for it, Elnora discovers she can sell moths and other things from the Limberlost Swamp in order to pay her way.

I'm honestly not sure why I enjoy this book so much. I've read it three or four times. Elnora's life and situation growing up isn't even one I can relate too. I think I enjoy it because of her sheer determination to find a way to reach her goals, no matter what (something which I definitely can relate to). Although it's a very long book, it engages you throughout Elnora's journey through high school and her growing up.

I've also left reviews on GoodReads and Amazon (although probably not for the same editions).

Thanks for sticking with me as I try to find time to post these. The rest of the year seems like it might slow down a little (haha), so I'm hoping to post my Reading Challenge Updates the first Tuesday of each month, and go back to posting once a week in January. I hope you enjoyed my reviews. Which of these books have you read? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments!

*For the sake of brevity, I have not included the subtitle of this book.

Links to books may not be the same format, version, or edition that I read.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

2017 Book Challenge, July Update!

I confess, despite how easy it was for me to keep up with this challenge in the beginning of the year, now I'm finding it to be a little bit of a struggle. I think I'll be fortunate to reach 42 books this year. The last several months have been busy with my nephews, moving, taking care of my cats, and both work and writing. Hopefully I'll be able to read more in September (I think August is going to look similar to July).

1. Better than Before, by Gretchen Rubin

Rating: *****

This book explores habits, how we develop them, the different habit-forming personality types, and different ways to strengthen your habit-building skills.

Like the other two books by Rubin that I've read, I really enjoyed this book. If you've never read a book by her, I suggest picking one up. This book helped me understand some things about my own personality (like how a stuffed fridge stresses me out, I'm a simplicity lover) as well as the people around me (like my mom's desire to have a full fridge, she's an abundance lover). I'm still not sure about my habit-forming type (when I was younger I was definitely an Upholder, but I'm not sure I still fit that mold). But even if you don't figure it out on first read, you can still pick up several good tips (such as her chart to track progress, I love that!).

2. Emma, by Jane Austen

Rating: *****

Emma Woodhouse has fortune and good position, and no intention of marrying. But when she sees the success of "her matchmaking" between her governess and Mr. Weston, she decides to try her hand at finding young Harriet Smith a husband.

This has long been my favorite of Austen's books (and Mr. Knightly, Emma's longtime friend, one of my favorite characters). I love the gentle, not overdone transition of Emma's character from being rather silly to a little wiser although not fully mature. Emma is a character easy to relate to, for who hasn't misread signals of attraction from the opposite sex, and who hasn't said things that they regretted when they thought their words more thoroughly through?

3. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll

Rating: ***

Alice follows a white rabbit down a rabbit hole, and finds herself in a strange land where nothing is quite like she is used to back home. This was the only book I read this month originally on my 2017 Reading Challenge List.

This book was okay. I don't remember ever reading it before, so I picked it up so I could say I'd read it. I plan on reading Through the Looking Glass*. But I don't think I'll be reading it again anytime soon. Parts of it were confusing, and unless you research the history and culture of the time when Carroll wrote it, you'll likely to be as perplexed as I was. But if you're already pretty familiar with Victorian England, you should be fine understanding the different references Carroll makes.

I've also left reviews on GoodReads and Amazon (although probably not for the same editions).

In order to keep up with everything I have going on, for the rest of the year I might only be posting Book Challenge Updates once a month. If I can, I may post more often, but I would rather say once a month and post more rather than say every week and post only once a month.

*For the sake of brevity, I have not included the subtitles of these books.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Why 15 Minute Work Blasts Are Awesome

Usually, I keep my posts book-related, but today I decided to go life-related.

A lot of us have goals we want to accomplish, projects we want to work on. Some of us just want to read more. Others of us want to write novels, clear out our bedrooms, start a get buff program, eat healthier, or maybe even just finish our school projects on time.

For any of those goals and pretty much anything else I can think of, working in 15 minute intervals can be super effective.

Here's some reasons why.

1. It's too short of time to psych yourself out.

I'm sure you know the dread of having a project to do that you really don't want to work on. This especially happens to me when I'm already tired, or not feeling well. My gut reaction is to forget about it, to get it over with when I feel better. And sometimes this is the case, and we're better of resting and working on the task later. But a lot of the time it's a convenient out, and tomorrow will see the same thing happen if we're not careful.

Often, this sense of overwhelm is because we set too big of goal in front of ourselves. It looks huge, and it's so much easier to just say "Forget it, I don't need to do that today."

But 15 minutes is so short, it's too easy not to do. Instead the shame factor starts kicking in, where you actually feel ashamed if you don't do it for such a short amount of time. And each set of 15 minutes adds up.

2. Usually a start was all you needed.

Again with the psychological, it can be hard to get working when the goal is so huge.

Writing a book can seem overwhelming. Writing a chapter can also be daunting. But writing for fifteen minutes isn't that scary.

And a lot of times I'll find that, when that timer goes off, I'm not ready to quit yet. I've gotten into the zone, and I want to keep editing my novel, or keep writing another chapter, or keep sorting through my back log of email.

Last night, I was exhausted and felt sick, and I didn't want to do things as simple as unload and reload the dishwasher, and fold laundry. But I told myself I could do it for a few minutes.

This morning I was glad I'd taken the time to just do those tasks.

Set a timer, and give yourself permission to quit after 15 minutes. But keep going after it dings if you want.

3. You can get a lot done in that time.

You probably can put away a week's worth of laundry in less than fifteen minutes. Or pack your lunch for the next day so you don't just eat whatever the nearest restaurant has to offer.

I often find it takes only 15 minutes to clean my bedroom. Or do a HIIT workout (and for those of you with joint issues, they even have low impact ones). Or read a chapter. Or draft half of a blog post.

I can usually write 500 words in fifteen minutes. If I did that every day, I'd have a 180,000 draft (about the length of Thorn Changer) in a year. A 100,000 word draft would only take about 8 months. Granted, that's still a rough draft, with a lot of editing to do, but that's not bad for just fifteen minutes a day.

4. It's super easy to accomplish.

Sometimes the goals we set for ourselves are too big to get done all at once.

Say you want to get up at 5:00 AM each morning so you can workout before heading to work, but you currently drag yourself out of bed at 7:00 AM. Instead of just setting your alarm for 5, you can work backwards by fifteen minutes every few days to a week until you are waking up at 5, and do a short workout in the time you have (check out YouTube, there are tons).

Conversely, if you never hit the hay before 2 AM, but want to start getting in bed at 10 so you're able to get up earlier for classes, you can go to bed fifteen minutes earlier and get up fifteen minutes earlier and reduce the times until you are where you want to be.

5. It helps you make use of "useless" time pockets.

Sometimes fifteen minutes is all we have before we have to move on to another task or appointment. Often we don't consider that enough time to get any "real" work done, so we fritter it away on Facebook or Instagram.

But we've just looked at how much stuff you can actually get done in fifteen minutes.

You can make up some flashcards for your upcoming SATs in fifteen minutes (or better yet, study those you already made up). You can put away dishes. You can make a phone call or two. You can arrange your space for whatever task you have after your appointment. You can take a short break from your phone, and just close your eyes and relax (just make sure you set an alarm).

Those time pockets don't look quite so useless.

Fifteen minutes might not seem like a lot of time to work with. But you can really get a lot done in such a short time. And if you have a smart phone, chances are you already have a built-in timer (though I still love using my large digital timer you see in the picture).

So go ahead. Tell yourself you'll work on listing old clothes you no longer want on Ebay, or learning Latin, or getting down the basics of coding, for just 15 minutes each day. And see how much you can get done.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

5 Popular Series That I Haven't Read

I love to read. If you told me I had to choose between being able to read or having the ability to watch TV, I would choose reading, no hesitation. After all, I get bored with TV after a while. But reading opens up such a wealth of experiences. Unless I find the book uninteresting, I could read for hours.

I read a lot, and quite often. However, there are several popular book series that I haven't read. I haven't even seen all the movies or TV shows for them. Here's a list of five of those series.

1. Harry Potter 

I listed this one first because I imagine it's going to be the most surprising. My friends are surprised when I tell them I've never read Harry Potter. Of all the series on this list, this is the one which appears to be the most popular among children who are just starting to read them and adults who grew up reading them. So why haven't I read them?

In all honesty, I did read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, and watched the movie based on it. I think J. K. Rowling is a very good writer, and I enjoyed it. It was an interesting read, and it did keep my attention.

However, the subject matter doesn't really interest me. I'm not really into books about witches and wizards. And maybe I don't hold the same attachment to them that a lot of other people my age seem to have because I didn't read them as a child. I might pick up the series again someday, because I did enjoy the first one. Right now, though, there's other books I'm interested in reading.

2. The Twilight Saga

This is the second series that's been really popular among my friends. But it's one I've never even turned a page in.

I haven't read this series for the same reason I haven't finished Harry Potter, lack of interest. Except whereas I may finish Harry Potter someday, I've no interest at all in picking up Twilight. I've no interest in vampires. They actually kind of creep me out (the reason why I've never read Dracula). Love triangles (such as the one which from what I've heard of the series is between Bella, Edward, and Jacob) actually are kind of annoying to me. What I've heard of the plot just doesn't interest me as well.

3. A Song of Ice and Fire (also known as Game of Thrones)

Unlike the first two series, this one does sound interesting to me. I enjoy history-based fantasy stories (my own book, Thorn Changer, is very loosely inspired by my readings of the Middle Ages), and from what I've heard, George R. R. Martin works very hard to write his books so they sound like they actually took place. I probably would give it a try, except that my mom has read some of the books, and told me enough about them for me to realize this series isn't for me.

From what she told me, Martin has done too good of a job of making these books seem like historical fiction.

I'm not a fan of obscenities of any form. I try to keep them out of my own writing, and I try to avoid them in the books I read (and if you've ever wondered why on earth I would mention profanities in my book reviews, that's why: I try to mention them so you can avoid them if you wish to). From what my mom has told me, and from what I've heard other people talk about with this series, there is too much swearing, sex, nudity (TV series), etc. for me to really enjoy it.

I don't doubt stuff like that happened back in medieval times. If I'm honest, his portrayal is much more accurate than my own of how life probably was back then (one of the reasons I say Thorn Changer is very loosely inspired by those times). But I like to read books that I could read to someone else and not blush during, that I could leave not and not be embarrassed if someone found it and started reading it.

Another telling thing: my one cousin was embarrassed to watch an episode of the TV series with her father. I'm more conservative about such things than she is, so I think that's a good sign I should leave it for other people to enjoy.

4. The Hunger Games

I've seen bits of the movies (though they never interested me enough to actually sit down and watch the entire thing). Because of all the hype, I actually started listening to the first book on my iPhone. But I never finished it, and I'm not certain I'm going to return to the series.

Honestly, I'm not into dystopia.

I know it's been a hot genre for a while. I know a lot of people who really enjoy this kind of books. But I'm just not interested. Plus, I don't really relish reading about children killing each other. For now, I'll skip this one.

5. The Divergent Series

Of all the series I mentioned, I know the least about this one (although I know precious little about The Hunger Games as well). My sister has watched at least two of the movies, so I've seen pieces of them. I've never picked up one of the books. My friends are more into Harry Potter and Twilight. But I know that in the book people are sorted into different groups based on their skills or something like that. And that the main character, Tris (whose name I had to look up), is consider "divergent" because she doesn't quite fit their sorting mold.

Based on that, I haven't read them because they don't sound very interesting to me. And since I've found other books I enjoy reading, I haven't looked into them more.

Most of these five series I haven't read because of a lack of interest. And whereas I might read Harry Potter in the future, and possibly even Divergent and The Hunger Games (if I can convince myself to try dystopia), I don't plan on ever reading Twilight or Game of Thrones.

But like I said, I don't know a lot about them. If there's a reason you love one of these series, please let me know.

Have you read any of these series? Do you think I should read them? What about them do you like, and think I might as well?

None of the links above are affiliate links (although of course if you buy Thorn Changer, I get some royalties). I'm not going to try to get you to buy books I haven't read myself and enjoyed. I provide the links so you can find out more about them if you wish (and so I don't have to make this post super long by giving a short overview of each).

Thursday, July 6, 2017

2017 Book Challenge, June Update!

June was a much better month of reading for me. The craziness of work in May eased into a slightly less crazy beginning of June, with the second half being pretty laid back. I read four books, and continuing my non-fiction trend, they were all non-fiction. I'm really missing fiction, though (especially fantasy), so I'll probably switch back to fiction in July.

1. The Curated Closet*, by Anuschka Rees

Rating: ***

If you never really knew what to wear, or constantly buy things that later you can't stand wearing, Ms. Rees walks you through how to find your personal style and revamp your wardrobe so it reflects your taste. She teaches you how to shop and choose clothes you like so you can always wear your favorite things.

This book gave a lot of practical style advice I never heard of (and revisited some things I already practiced, like wearing clothes and styles that I liked, regardless of whether I was "supposed" to or not). The one issue I had with this book was that, of all the example styles and color palettes, there wasn't a single one I liked. In fact, I think all except one I absolutely hated. Granted, this book is about finding your own style and color palette, so the fact that I didn't like any of her samples is irrelevant to the purpose of the book. I just found it really disconcerting that there wasn't a single outfit idea which intrigued me (I shuddered at most of them), and not one of the color palettes would I desire to play with by tweaking the colors. If I would get over that hang up, I think I would find the book very useful.

2. How to Get Dressed*, by Alison Freer

Rating: ***

Costume Designer Alison Freer reveals the secrets she uses to help actors look amazing on camera. She goes over what alterations are worth the money and which are not, how your clothes should fit, special tips and tools you can use to make the fit and feel of your clothes better, as well as how to take care of your clothes so they last.

I learned some interesting tricks and tips from this book. Some of them (like her use of moleskin and toupee tape) I plan on using this autumn when I'm in a wedding. Others I probably will not use at all (I don't think her trick of finding your natural waist is very useful, because at least on me wearing pants there would be super uncomfortable). Her writing voice annoyed me so much in the beginning that I almost put the book down, but after a while I got used to it and it wasn't so bad. Her washing and stain removal tricks are great. Overall, I think this book is worth checking out (just read a sample before you commit to make sure you can stand her writing voice).

3. The Millionaire Next Door*, by Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko

Rating: ****

More people are millionaires than you think, and some of them might even live next door to you. Chances are, they are not the people you'd guess. In this book, Stanley and Danko study what qualities millionaires have, the differences between those who accumulate wealth and those who don't, and ways you can work on becoming a millionaire yourself.

I enjoyed this book. Even though it's almost twenty years old, a lot of the tips still hold true, and I imagine most if not all of the qualities of proficient accumulators of wealth (which they term "PAWs") hold true as well. It's inspired me to work on my own habits surrounding work and money in order to gain the true financial independence they described in the book (I never thought about it before, but in a way they're right: anyone working for someone else is dependent on keeping that job, unless they've taken steps and precautions in order to ensure they could survive for some time without it). I'd give it a read, and see if there's any areas in your life to work on in order to gain financial freedom.

4. Happier at Home*, by Gretchen Rubin

Rating: ****

This is my second book I've read by Ms. Rubin (I previously read her The Happiness Project* and really enjoyed it). I think her tips are wonderful (some of them, like her "suffer for 15 minutes," I'm working on incorporating into my life), and I really enjoy her writing style and voice. I love reading self-improvement books by authors I can relate to, and many of the struggles she shares in the book I can relate to. I found this book a simple yet enjoyable read, perfect for reading before bed or when you want to relax. Yet her tips and suggestions are great for working on your own life.

I'm very happy with my progress in June. I wanted to read about a book a week, and I've succeeded in this month. But I'm ready for a shift from nonfiction to fiction, so in July I plan on reading books such as Alice in Wonderland and A Girl of the Limberlost.

I've also posted reviews of these books on Goodreads.

*For the sake of brevity, I have not included the subtitles of these books.