2018: My Year in Books

It really doesn’t feel like I read very much this past year, but thankfully, Goodreads helps me keep track! Somehow I managed to read 102 books, so I thought I’d share my favorites from 2018.

2018 My Year in Books

Out of everything I read in 2018, these books are the ones that made me laugh, cry, or think, “Everyone should read this book, everyone!” (the first three books) or, some of these simply took me out of my head for a little while and provided me with complete and total distraction (audiobooks: War Horse, Pet Sematary, and Peter Pan – the narration of these books were absolutely flipping fantastic).

In 2017 read 142 books and shared my favorite reads from the year on Facebook rather than create a blog post, but I mentioned some really fantastic must-read books – so be sure to check out that list too if you’re looking for something to read!

Do you track your books on Goodreads? The 2019 Reading Challenge is now available for the new year!

Why I Have Fallen in Love with Audiobooks

Over the last 30 days, I’ve been running a little experiment. I don’t recall exactly how or why I started this journey, but once I was on it – the ball was in motion.

I’ve enjoyed the random audiobook here and there over the years, but without a commute to work I was missing the most obvious way to add audiobooks to my life. There are so many books I want to experience and enjoy that I’m always trying to read a little bit more, or faster – but I get distracted. Easily. For a short time I had a rule that before I could launch Facebook on my phone, I had to launch my Kindle app – and that did increase my reading for a little while. The thing is, I get frustrated with reading on Kindle, whether it be on my phone, or on my actual Kindle. I have trouble remembering the title name, the author, and not long after I’ve read a book – the majority of it is floating away and I don’t recall nearly as much as I’d like. This lack of recall makes me question the point of reading. I read for enjoyment, but I also read to enhance my life, and if I don’t remember much of what I’m reading… well… let’s just say I’d prefer to remember more of what I read.

On average, I read 6 books a month – give or take. Some months I won’t read anything, others I’ll read so much I’ve caught back up. By the end of the year, I’m usually somewhere in the 70s. However, this year, it looks like things are going to be a bit different. 

Audiobooks have changed EVERYTHING for me. I decided to start listening to audiobooks during all the dead spots in my day, which as it turns out, added up very quickly. Getting ready for work and the day, 20 minutes. Moments at work that don’t require my full attention (hey, I work for myself – the boss says reading at work is cool), 10 minutes. Reading during lunch, 20 minutes. Reading while putting dishes away and cleaning the kitchen, 10 minutes. That’s an hour of reading before the mid-day point right there, and the lunch reading? That’s shared with Dave, so it’s something we get to do together.

All in all, this month I read 18 books, all in audio format. Yes, eighteen. Four of those books were books I read with Dave by using meal times and time before bed. We have been reading together for years but this is the first time we’ve tried audiobooks and I can’t believe we were able to share 4 books this month! Up until now we’ve read together for a short time at night and books will often take us 3 months to a year to finish. Completing 4 books in a month was completely unexpected, and totally fantastic since we got to have some really interesting conversations after completing various passages (thank you Trevor Noah!).

The most interesting aspect of all of this is the way I remember these books. When you read a book, especially in a digital format, there isn’t much that is tangible. You may rarely even see the cover so each page looks the same and the experience is very… oh, flat. Now compare that with an audiobook and you see the cover (title and author) CONSTANTLY, and you also now have the added dimension of sound. Voices. Accents. Sometimes multiple narrators, but even with only one this extra dimension adds a tremendous amount of tangibility (even though in reality, it still isn’t anything you can actually grasp). Even though I completed, You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day almost two weeks ago, I can still remember several details as though I just finished it moments ago. Her vocal inflection in places has given my memory something to grasp on to and retain.

After about a week of reading only audiobooks I was shocked at how much I could remember of everything I was reading. I’ve always thought that I could only remember details by reading words on a page, but suddenly realized that I DO recall more by hearing than seeing and I’ve actually known this for years. I remember more of what Dave reads to me than what I read on my own. I have books that I’ve read over the years that touched me deeply but I can’t quite recall the details. Books that he has read to me however, come back to mind so much easier, faster, and clearer.

So… it’s been an interesting month. I’ve read some fantastic books (Born a Crime by Trevor Noah, My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult), had more time available for another hobby of mine (coloring!), and actually got more housework done! And I’m really, really enjoying my library membership!

Other aspects I love about audiobooks:

  • Audiobooks + Chronic Illness = Heaven. Quite a bit of my waking life is uncomfortable. It’s just the way things are for me. When I don’t feel well and I try to read, I often find myself zoning out and focusing on my discomfort. With audiobooks I find it much easier to just be in the moment and relax (as much as I can) and… read!
  • No Reading Regression! You know when you find yourself reading the same few lines, or even words, over and over again? I do that to the point where it’s excessive, and seriously time consuming. When I use some kind of pointer to lead my eye it’s reduced, but it’s still something I struggle with. With audiobooks, obviously, this doesn’t happen. I simply move forward through the narrative. Bliss!
  • Improved Housework – I sort of mentioned this earlier about cleaning the kitchen, but I have to repeat myself because I actually found cleaning the bathtub to be less than a painful experience. I hate cleaning the bathtub. But this month, I didn’t hate it. I actually didn’t mind. Credit for this goes to The Hobbit.

I had absolutely no idea I’d love audiobooks this much and only wish I had figured this out sooner!

How to Study Shakespeare: DIY Romeo and Juliet

Recently I read a book that had a profound affect on me – Shakespeare Saved My Life by Laura Bates. It’s a phenomenal book that immediately inspired me to dive into the words of Shakespeare and see if I could make sense of things. I mean, let’s face it, reading Shakespeare is intimidating.

I hadn’t looked at any Shakespearean plays in several decades, but this has been something I’ve “been meaning to do” for quite a while. You know, “someday.” It’s just that someday has taken me a very long time, because it’s hard to know where to go and how to start. The plays are PLAYS. They are scripts. It really doesn’t sound like fun to read a script but the book Shakespeare Saved My Life made it clear that there is so much more beyond the words in the scripts that I really needed to find some way to break the code. I think I’ve found some cool methods so I decided to go ahead and share what I’m doing for anyone else interested, or for my future self who wants to do this again and can’t remember what I did. Future self: take note.

Of course, the first step was to ask Google, What is the best way to study Shakespeare? –  and that kick started my journey. Thanks to my research results, I had a few stepping stones directing me, not only where to begin, but how.

Online Course

Through my research I found that I wouldn’t have to do this completely on my own. There is a great FREE online course that covers 6 of Shakespeare’s plays, kicking things off with Romeo and Juliet. Interested? The course is called Shakespeare: On the Page and in Performance and you can check it out here.

The course is the real deal – it’s a 12-week course that allows you to be a fly on the wall at Wellesley College, while English Professor Yu Jin Ko teaches. The class was filmed a few years ago so as online students, we get to take this “12-week course” on our own time frame, at our own pace. And the best part? No term papers! At least for the online audience…

Get the Play with Analysis

Once signed up for the online course, I watched a few of the introductory videos, then ordered a book from Amazon that includes the play, along with literary analysis. After a LOT of research, I decided to go with Romeo and Juliet: Shakespeare Made Clear – I love the analysis so much I am very disappointed they do not have editions of every play!

With the book safely on it’s way from Amazon, I decided it was time to watch a movie version of Romeo and Juliet. Plays are not novels, they are meant to be performed, and watched. A movie is a great way to get started when learning about a play! For some reason, the 1968 version that traumatized me in high school is still recommended as the “Go To” Romeo and Juliet. I don’t understand the sentiment behind these recommendations. That movie is… terrible.

Watch a Movie

For a movie, there aren’t many options, but even so, the 1996 version directed by Baz Luhrman (staring Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes) is excellent and I highly recommend it. The story is true to the original, complete with Shakespearean language, yet the setting is modern and the filming and directing help make the story clear to a modern day audience. Some critics of this film dislike Luhrman’s choice of using guns instead of swords and daggers, but today’s audience doesn’t have an emotional response to swords – we do however, to guns. Anyway, after watching the movie I felt it was time to dig in to the words on the page.

This is the part where having the proper edition of a play, with analysis that works for you, is very helpful. Even though I like the edition of analysis I purchased, I still wanted to supplement my text as much as possible to make this read-through very strong. Next up, study guides!

Read Some Study Guides

GradeSaver is an excellent site, and has a ton of free content. I bookmarked the GradeSaver Romeo and Juliet Study Guide on my iPad and read through the beginning material up to the point where the play begins. Then, I switched to reading my book and would read an Act through to completion, then switch to reading the analytical information provided from GradeSaver. About half way through the play, I added another analytical text to the mix – CliffsNotes! And would you believe, CliffsNotes are fully available online for free too?! So yes, CliffsNotes Romeo and Juliet got a bookmark from me too.

At this point, I almost felt like I didn’t even need the online course! That is, until I actually started the lectures. I’m learning an amazing amount from Professor Ko! He’s a great professor and very well suited for online students. His enthusiasm makes it feel like you’re actually attending a class, not just watching a lecture. In fact, I’m quite jealous of the students who get to attend his classes in person.

I’ve spent about two full weeks on Romeo and Juliet: watched a movie, read a book, some literary analysis, and watched a few lectures – yet I feel like I’ve spent 3 months on this play. And, at the same time, I feel like I could spend 3 more months studying Romeo and Juliet.

🚦Ding! Ding!

This week I had one of those, “Ah Ha” moments. I GET IT. Now I understand why people love to re-read the plays over and over again. There is so much depth to plays, much more so than you get from simply reading them or watching them performed. It takes studying the characters, their motivations, the language – so many words used by Shakespeare have double meanings that can allow an entire phrase to be interpreted in multiple ways. The deeper you dig, the more meaning you find.

So, where do I stand with all this now? For one thing, the book Shakespeare Saved My Life has most definitely changed my life. I was motivated enough to learn how to do this, got my husband involved (we are going through this together), experienced myself transition from hating Romeo and Juliet to, dare I say, loving it. And this is just the first play! 

There are 5 more plays in the online course and after that I expect to continue because I think I may just be addicted to Shakespeare now.

I really didn’t see this coming.

Bonus Content

If you’ve read this far, you may find these links interesting.

Youtube Videos – Think of these as having a guest lecturer! There is a surprising amount of literary analysis on Youtube, here are some of my favorites (so far):

Online Study Guides for Romeo and Juliet – these are all free!

Mobile Apps

  • Shakespeare in Bits (awesome on the iPad) – has the play, audio, animations, and analysis – for the entire play. It’s like a book, movie and study guide all rolled into one. It’s pricey for an app, but considering what it contains, it’s well worth the price.
  • Folger Luminary Shakespeare Apps – includes text, audio, analysis and essays. Professor Ko has contributed his knowledge to this app (along with many other Shakespeare scholars).

Why so many extra sources? Well, I think that is part of the beauty of Shakespeare. There are so many different ways you can view a passage, a scene, a theme – that the more people you encounter and learn from – the deeper your knowledge can become.

I think that about covers it. Two weeks ago I admitted that I really hated Romeo and Juliet, and it took about a full week into this intense study for me to realize how much my thoughts have transitioned. If you read this entire post, thank you, and, I’m sorry it was so long. I hope this helps any of you would like to journey down this path, it’s quite fun!

Vlogmas 2016 Day 1

Sometimes, I have no idea why I decide to do the things I do. Who decides to take on the hard things until they become the easy things? Me.

For the last several years I had heard about Vlogmas but didn’t really pay attention. For those of you unaware, Vlogmas is an event where Youtube creators upload a new vlog every day in December until Christmas. In case you hadn’t noticed, it’s December. How did that happen?!

Sometime this afternoon I went from, “I’m done with Youtube” (which is a thought I have every day), to, “I’m doing vlogmas!”

I know when I participated in the 365 Project, my photography skills leveled up by leaps and bounds within a single month. It really felt like over 2 months of daily photos increased my skills at speed that normally would have taken two years. Hence, the daily vlog project – and taking advantage of the fact that vlogmas is a public event that just happens to be starting – NOW.

The biggest issue I have with Youtube is that making videos is really, really hard for me. It is the most unnatural thing I could possibly think of to do, which is why I keep thinking of quitting. But then today, something happened. My Stepson followed me on Youtube. I haven’t even told him about the channel, so this is something he did on his own. And you know what? It makes it really, really hard for me to quit things when my Stepkids are watching. Even when the thing I want to quit is really, really hard. Suddenly, quitting is not an option.

So you know what they say right? Go big, or go home. It’s time to level up. Click Here to see Vlogmas 2016 Day 1!


Holiday Book Sale Madness

Oops, I did it again.


Apparently I can’t be trusted when it comes to book sales. To be fair though, part my recent book buying binge is because of Mollie Reads since she recently featured her favorite books on editing. And then Black Friday happened! I tripped over a coupon code to save money on paper books (my weakness), and now it’s Cyber Monday!

Between the major sale at Book Outlet, and today’s deals on Amazon, I’m lost. I’ll be swimming in books come December, but I think that’s a good thing. In fact, I think it’s a fantastic thing.

I took a few minutes to give a quick update on Youtube that you can watch here. What about you? Are you making good use of all the book sales?

Britt-Marie Was Here | Book Review + Recommendations

On Friday I mentioned that one of my Weekend Reads was Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman. I finished reading it last night and was tempted to go ahead and record my reaction then, but it’s a good thing I didn’t because I was half-asleep and it probably wouldn’t have made much sense.


I’m still much more comfortable writing reviews rather than speaking them, but I’d really like to get used to speaking on the fly more so I’m using Youtube to become more acquainted with just throwing the words out and attempting to get them to line up in the right order. Preferably the first time rather than the twentieth.

I really loved Britt-Marie Was Here and my review thoughts are now available now on Youtube, as well as some book recommendations! Click Here to see what I’ve got to say.

Nonfiction November Book Recommendation #2

Nonfiction November is still underway! So it’s time for another Nonfiction Book Recommendation.


I read quite a bit of nonfiction and enjoyed making this video to share my thoughts. What do you think of seeing book recommendations on Youtube?

If you like the video, please give it a “thumbs up” and subscribe! Click Here to get the latest book recommendation.

Book of the Month Unboxing November 2016

My first Book of the Month subscription box arrived and I am absolutely thrilled with what I received!


I have been interested in book-related subscription boxes for quite a while but haven’t signed up for any of them because in the end, I don’t think they’re worth it. Book of the Month is absolutely worth it and I share why in the video.

For any of you who already get BOTM, which book(s) did you select for the month of November?

P.S. Any fellow Booktubers out there? I’m still new to Booktube and would love to meet more of you and see your channels!