A Reading Challenge and Books for the Beach

Even though I was up to my eyeballs in graduate work at the beginning of 2015, my daughter challenged me to work through Popsugar’s Reading Challenge with her this year.  I accepted the challenge because: 1) the categories were interesting and reasonable, 2) the list gave me a reason to chip away at my cumbersome to-be-read pile and 3) 52 books does equate to a challenge (hence the name), something I can’t seem to turn down.  Considering the state of my life during the first half of the year, I made commendable progress, finishing 14 books by the second week of May when I finally completed my degree.   (Hallelujah Chorus commences.)

Since finishing graduate school, I have been reading with abandon.  It’s been delightful to lose myself in a story without experiencing the “I should be doing something more productive” guilt I’ve felt for the last two years any time I tried to do anything that wasn’t school or work related.  Several of the books I’ve read in the last two months have been the best of the year.  I now find myself at the end of July with 23 books under my belt and 29 to go to complete the Challenge.

Books for Popsugar’s Reading Challenge 2015 (with date completed and my rating out of 5 stars):

  • The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo (January 2015)  4 stars
  • Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (January, 2015)  4 stars
  • Cinder by Marissa Meyer (January 2015)  4 stars
  • Beauty by Robin McKinley (February 2015)  5 stars
  • Skinny Dip by Carl Hiaasan (February 25, 2015)  3.5 stars
  • Thickety by J.A. White (March 3, 2015)  3.5 stars
  • North and South by Elizabeth Gaskill (March 19, 2015)  4.5 stars
  • The Space Trilogy (Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, That Hideous Strength) by C.S. Lewis  (March 23, 2015)  4 stars
  • Stephen King on Writing by Stephen King (March 26, 2015)  5 Stars
  • Dr. Sleep by Stephen King (April 1, 2015)  3.75 stars
  • The Martian by Andy Weir (April 12, 2015)  4 stars 
  • Shogun by James Clavell (April 15, 2015)  4 stars
  • Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett (May 1, 2015)  2.5 stars
  • The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen (May 15, 2015)  4 stars
  • Elegy for Eddy by Jacqueline Winspear (May 19, 2015)  4 stars
  • Leaving Everything Most Loved by Jacqueline Winspear (May 28, 2015)  4 stars
  • Falling Leaves by Adeline Yen Mah (June 1, 2015)  4 stars
  • The Golum and the Jinni by Helene Wecker (July 5, 2015)  4.5 stars
  • Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller (July 11, 2015)  5 stars
  • Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer (July 11, 2015)  4 stars
  • Me Before You by Jojo Moyes (July 13, 2015)  4 stars
  • Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter (July 20, 2015)  3.75 stars

Note: At this point, I’m hesitating to assign books to the Challenge categories.  I’m finding my reading choices often fit into several categories OR after reading a book, I realize it doesn’t fit into the category I thought it would.  For instance, Dr. Sleep wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be and Me Before You didn’t turn me into the blubbering mess I expected.  We’ll just have to wait until the end of the year to see how things match up. In a few days, I’ll be settling in at the beach for a glorious week of sunshine, saltwater, family shenanigans and reading.  Lots and Lots of reading.  When my husband saw my pile of books for the beach, he asked me (with considerable snark) if I planned on doing anything like eating, sleeping or engaging with other humans during our vacation.  I did the mandatory eye roll thing and then explained my need for a  selection of books so I can choose what to read based on my mood.  The truth is, with sharks behaving badly in the Outer Banks this summer, I’ll probably be spending less time in the water and even more time than usual reading under an umbrella.  Considering the circumstances, a small suitcase full of books seems quite reasonable. This is what I’ll be packing:

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I’ve heard great things about these books so I’m excited to get started.  It’s going to be a fantastic week at the beach! Have you read any of these books?  I’d love to hear your thoughts and any other book suggestions you have.  

Inspiration: June


Lately, my life has been filled to overflowing with celebratory madness: proms, graduations, birthday and graduation parties, the start of summer vacation, an anniversary and a much anticipated trip to Scotland. God has been raining down the blessings and it has been really good and really crazy. Now that all the festivities are over, I’m looking forward to a laid back summer with time to rest and finally process everything that’s happened in the last month and or so. Because of all the merry-making, I’m a little late with my sources of inspiration for June. Thankfully, everything should be just as inspiring in July. Enjoy!

Inspiration: June

  • My daughter graduated from high school this month.  Needless to say, it has been a big year for “Lasts” and “Good-byes”.  This reminder was something I definitely needed.
  • This advice also struck a chord with me.  I just celebrated 23 years of marriage to my best friend so I especially agree with #4.
  • Speaking of marriage, June has traditionally been the most popular month for weddings.  And weddings mean wedding dresses, right?  See some of the most iconic wedding dresses of all time here.
  • June also ushers in the summer break from school.  Which means the kids will be at home (yeah!) and the house will be perpetually messy (boo!).  Maybe this and this will inspire us to manage the chaos and protect my sanity.
  • We’ll be camping at least once this summer.  In a tent.  But I could be persuaded to forgo hard-core roughing-it for a stay in one of these.  They are just the cutest!
  • Summer is the time for travel and vacationing for the Whimsey Pie family.  I can sometimes get overwhelmed with the planning and preparations. I’m glad I stumbled across this to gain some perspective.  From now on my vacation mantra will be “High on love, low on expectations”.
  • An Inspiration list wouldn’t be complete without some book recommendations.  These suggestions focus on faith and offers some thought-provoking reads.  I’ve already read The Shack and An Altar in the World and am currently reading Blue Like Jazz – all very good.  I think I’ll be taking one of the others to the beach with me in July.  Perhaps Walking on Water or Quotidian Mysteries
  • It’s black raspberry season right now in my corner of the world.  I’ve already made some delicious seedless jam.  Now it’s time to try this.  (Just the color of it is enough to move me – seriously.)
  • And this, for a tart taste of summer.
  • And this, which I find strangely appealing.  That sweet/salty combo, probably.
  • For my monthly photography fix, this.
  • Finally:

My sentiments exactly.  Thank God for the summertime…





Inspiration: April/May


Although it’s been more hectic around here than I care to admit, I have taken time to revel in the greens and blues of late spring.  Warmer weather seems like such a treat because, after this winter, I thought it would never, ever, EVER return to my part of the world.  Between finishing up my Master’s degree and spending any free time I have outside, I haven’t done much Internet surfing for leisure.  Even so, I’ve stumbled upon a few things to inspire the heart, enlighten the mind and uplift the spirit.


Inspiration: April/May

  • Lately, my porch and patio have become my favorite “rooms” of the house. I like Houzz’s ideas for making these areas even homier.
  • Want a more luxurious way to improve an outdoor space?  Add a swimming pool.  I love the idea of these natural pools.
  • What will I be doing while I’m hanging out on my porch?  Reading, of course.  (I second Garden Spells, The Martian, Cinder and A Walk in the Woods – all great summer reads.)
  • And when I’m not reading, I’ll be cooking and eating good things from the grill.  This little chart makes the mystery of grilling the perfect steak as plain as the nose on my face.
  • Of course, there must also be dessert.  Something light and refreshing on a warm summer evening.  This looks just about perfect, I think.
  • Summer always means travel to me.  Even though I already have the family’s plans mapped out this year, these US destinations are pretty tempting.  Bombay Hook isn’t far from my home and Mount Desert Island is already a favorite I would return to again and again.
  • Finally, for a unique photography fix:

Now I think I’m ready to dive into summer.  Are you?