July Reading Roundup

July was… quite a month. What else can I say? At the beginning of July I was with my parents and cousins exploring Berlin and by the end I had accepted a (great, amazing, awesome!) job offer and mentally preparing for life in Pittsburgh again. I’m still a little shell-shocked my all of the changes my life is still going through, which might account for some of the radio silence on the blog, and it seems like all I could do in July was just ride the wave of turmoil for a while until it settled down. Heck, it’s the middle of August and I’m still riding that wave.

But I did get a few books read in the between. Hopefully I’ll be able to say the same about August, which is not turning out to be much calmer. In due time, which I should hypothetically have a lot of, right? Right.

Portrait in Sepia by Isabel Allende

Fiction / Recommended

I can’t say that this story really influenced me very much, but it was an enjoyable read and it… flowed. I loved that the story revolved largely around identity (or lack thereof) and that there was so much variety of lifestyles described; it made for a good read.

Thanks Colleen from Colleen Brynn Travels for recommending this to me!

A House in the Sky: A Memoir by Amanda Lindhout and Sara Corbett

Nonfiction / Recommended (with trigger warnings)

If you’re easily disturbed by descriptions of torture or rape, then I don’t recommend this book for you. Others who can stomach it, this is an honest and heartbreaking account of a woman kidnapped in Somalia for ransom. It broke my heart in the way hearts sometimes need to be broken, to remember what the rest of the world can be like.

Stasiland: Stories From Behind the Berlin Wall by Anna Funder

Nonfiction / Recommended

Me and German history get along really well, so no surprise that I recommend this. The accounts of Stasi men and the interrogated were not just intriguing but also disturbing, plus disturbingly timely. I’d advise anyone who lives in the USA to check out this book and keep an eye out for parallels with the current NSA and privacy situation.

I can tell you now that August’s reading roundup will very likely be sad. But I’m doing my best over here, and once my schedule is a bit more solid and consistent, then I’m sure my reading schedule will come back to life. Until then, read a book or two for me!

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If you’ve got book recommendations, I want to hear them, as always!

You can also find me on the ABOFA Facebook Page or subscribe to the email list, if you’d like.

April Reading Roundup

You’ve already read about my (book-wise) pathetic February + March, so you know that I was dead set on reading more in April. That happened not just because I was trying to read more, but also because of a very tragic situation at my parents’ new house in Germany: no Internet.

I’ve already explored much of the main sights of Halle an der Saale and though I found the town adorable, I didn’t have much energy to go exploring everyday. I was on antibiotics. I was exhausted from London and Paris. And I was in the perfect situation to read for hours everyday: in the morning, in the afternoon, at night. Being a reading machine for a few weeks felt great.

First, I finished all of the Harry Potter books. Seven books? That deserves its own reading roundup post, so I wrote that up separately. (See how productive I am with Internet again?!) Once those books were finished, I dove into a few other books, fiction and memoirs, and really enjoyed them. Switching off of fact-heavy non-fiction for a little bit was a good decision. Sometimes you need to be wrapped up into another world for a time to better appreciate your own.

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

Nonfiction / Recommended

What a crazy life some people lead. This book is worth it if for no other reason than to shake your head in disbelief, thinking “what the hell…”

Thank you Steve from Twenty First Century Nomad for the recommendation!

Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver

Fiction / Recommended

The best way I can describe Kingsolver’s writing is “mature,” and while it took me a bit to really get into the book, I was then quite stuck. Her incorporation of thoughts about marriage were intertwined with scary realizations about the health of our planet, which sounds like a weird combination, but it was masterfully done.

Thank you Liz from Tumblr for the recommendation!

Overall, nine books in a month? I’m feeling good about that. May the good reading continue.

Have book recommendations for me? I’m always, always looking for more! Contact me here.

You can also find me on the ABOFA Facebook Page or subscribe to the email list, if you’d like.

Reading Roundup: The Harry Potter Series

After February and March slipped away with no books read, and I wrote the most pathetic reading roundup of my blogging career, I got to work. And somehow in the back of my head I knew that as soon as I got my little reading paws on the entire Harry Potter Series, it was going to go the same way as The Wheel of Time Series: light speed. I was right.

I had a four hour ferry ride and a (torturous) ten hour bus ride in the middle of the night on my way to London, England. On a ferry across the English channel is where Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone began. Highly appropriate.

Somehow over the next 11 days, between sightseeing throughout London and Paris and my homecoming of sorts (now that my parents live there) to Germany, I fit in a disgusting amount of reading. My previous excuses of not having enough time in Spain? Self delusion. I just wasn’t picking the right books. Although realizing that I indeed don’t get motion sickness when I read in the car was another wonderful revelation. The hours between London and Paris have never passed so quickly… of course I’ve never driven that route in my entire life, so of course it’s never passed so quickly, but what I’m trying to say is that Harry Potter sucked me in.

And yes, believe it: I’ve never read Harry Potter before this. I know that blows your mind, but just let it sink in and then continue on. Really, people like me exist! I can say that I watched all of the movies, though maybe not in order and definitely not on time. But I’m officially in the Harry Potter club now! (Someone send me my “Potter Stinks” badge, when you have the time.)

Let’s look at the numbers:

Seven books

Eleven days

4,224 pages

Four countries
(Ireland, England, France, Germany)

384 pages per day

One ferry

One bus

One fever

Two cars

A lot of people asking “You’re quiet, are you okay?”
“Yeah! I’m just reading.”

Platform 9¾ in London. I was too busy eating delicious things to go visit in person while I was there, but that’s okay: that’s what someone else’s photos are for!

And what was the verdict? Well, the books were great. They were a little easier to read than I’d have liked, but they are seven children’s novels so I really have no room to complain. They’re written that way on purpose. The story line is of course fantastic, the characters lovable (Luna, dawww!) and the ending quite perfectly executed. I don’t think I’ll be doing any yearly rereads like some other Potter fans do, but I also didn’t grow up with the books so they don’t have any nostalgic significance to me. (The Wheel of Time Series on the other hand…) Still, a quick but great read as far as series go.

Best of all, though, is that Harry Potter brought me to the reading train platform and I jumped right on board. And it feels good.

Have you ever read the Harry Potter series? What’s your reading record for the seven books? Have recommendations for more book series?

You can also find me on the ABOFA Facebook Page or subscribe to the email list, if you’d like.

February + March (Pathetic) Reading Roundup

Ever since I put my travel feet back on, my reading routine has gone right down the drain. It started with a few bad beginnings back in February, when I tried to read two books that I just couldn’t get into before setting off to Europe, and I left them unfinished and felt bitter about it. Then Spain took over, with about a billion things to see in such a short time. You’d think I could find downtime while I traveled from one place to another, but alas, I have motion sickness and reading is one of the best ways to put my tummy in a foul mood while I’m on my way to or fro. When February turned to March, I realized that I’d not finished a single book that month. Ugh.

So I turned to fiction. And I was able to read one book during a lazy day in Seville, then later, during my two weeks in a hostel in Ireland, I devoured a science fiction novel a friend recommended to me. And with two books under my belt, that’s a good enough excuse to write a very pathetic roundup of these past two months. What else can I do, except admit my defeat? I’m sorry, books, I’ve abandoned you. I’ll see you when I can.

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

Fiction / Recommended

The story focuses around the premises that this girl can relive her life, over and over, doing it better each time. She dies a ton of times, and it’s interesting to think that small choices might change your life in giant ways. For such a far out concept, the writing was well done and it felt realistic, strangely.

Dune by Frank Herbert

Fiction / Recommended

Written in the 60s, this book is one of the great classics of science fiction novels, and I can easily tell why. I picked this book up and didn’t put it down until I was finished, some 500 pages later. The only bad news is that it’s part of a series, so even though the book is done, the story isn’t. Ahhhh!

I think the only way to remedy my lack of reading is to get a hold of some really addicting fiction, science fiction and fantasy books and indulge my inner nerd. The travel and foreign language I encounter on a daily basis exhausts me (although I love it!), and nonfiction reading doesn’t help. At all. I need to listen to my brain and give it the creative, fun reading it’s asking for.

What do you like to read while you’re on the road? Recommendations are always, always appreciated!

You can also find me on the ABOFA Facebook Page or subscribe to the email list, if you’d like.

November Reading Roundup

I started this November out with some gung-ho reading habits.

Then I slowed down (way down, one book in two weeks down) and acted much more like a normal person; seeing friends, running errands and cleaning my house. Part of the reason I read so much, so quickly, is because I rented several library books all at once, and then realized I needed to read them all within two weeks. The thing about rented eBooks is that they return themselves when the time is up… both great and terrible. Needless to say, I learned my lesson, I will only be renting one eBook at a time from here on out. (Okay, maybe two. But never again four!)

November was full of nonfiction, but the reading was far from dry. I learned a lot about a huge variety of subjects (as I like to do), so I’m pretty happy with this month’s mental exercise. If I had to pick a favorite for November, then I’d choose Woman: An Intimate Geography. It’s a book that I can feel will stay with me for a while.

Ready to see the list? Take a look:

Throw Them All Out by Peter Schweizer

Nonfiction / Recommended

The topic is a fiery one: political corruption. The author does an excellent job of using both Republican and Democratic examples of corruption. I think we all know there are shady dealings at the top, but he spells out exactly how they happen, how they’re legal and why it’s not okay. At times, reading this made me sick to my stomach.

Cutting For Stone by Abraham Verghese

Fiction / Recommended

There were tears, smiles and vigorous page turns while I read this book. It’s fascinating because of its descriptions of Africa and it’s captivating in the way good fiction should be. Oh, and profound, quotable life lessons galore.

Lovely Quote: “In all things, especially when it cost little and did no harm to others, Ghosh was his own man.”

Thank you Steve from Twenty First Century Nomad for the recommendation!

Woman: An Intimate Geography by Natalie Angier

Nonfiction / Recommended

This was one of those rare books that really made a noticeable impact on my soul, I just feel different having read it. On my required reading list for every human on the planet, especially women, this book would be front and center. A top Amazon reviewer described the book perfectly: “scientific poetry”. Indeed.

Zen Under Fire: How I Found Peace in the Midst of War by Marianne Elliot

November reading roundup review zen under fire

Nonfiction / Recommended

Amazon says this book was over 300 pages, but it felt like a lot less. The memoir was interesting, emotional and a much-needed window into Afghanistan’s humanity and culture. And if you wanted someone to convince you of the benefits of yoga and meditation, I think you’ve found your book.

Tent Life in Siberia by George Kennan

Nonfiction / Neutral

Kennan recounts two years spent exploring Siberian Russia, living in tents, traveling on dog sleighs and spending time with indigenous populations. It’s an adventure book, with tidbits of fascinating information about what he saw, written in the late 1800s. I’m neutral on recommending it, just because adventure books aren’t really up my alley and I didn’t love it, but if you like this genre, then you’ll enjoy this book.

P.S. It’s free!

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Have book suggestions? I want to hear about them!

As always, you can find me on the ABOFA Facebook Page or subscribe to the email list, if you’d like.