A Year of Books (& other things) / by Chakriya Phal

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January through April consisted of watching Gilmore Girls and its revival (eh), and the Great British Baking show- anything to offset the obscene amount of Law & Order: SVU consumed during my pregnancy. The early half of this year was spent in bed, recovering from a c-section and navigating the challenges of motherhood. I remember snow on the ground, the air being chilly, and a baby that wanted to sleep on me. Reading was barely in the picture. I went back to yoga after five weeks and, after flailing miserably when told to "roll like a ball," realized that my core was still very weak. Strenuous exercises were also out of the picture. In January, my sister came to visit and my husband and I went to see Lala Land. It was good. We nearly fell asleep due to pure exhuastion.

May saw me finishing The WildWood Chronicles with Wildwood Imperium. This is my favorite series to date and I recommend it for the illustrations alone. We're in 2018 and I'm still thinking of Prue and the magnificent creatures of Wildwood. I might have picked up a few other books here and there but it was a huge blur. End of May, I finally felt like I was in my own body again and the pain was gone.

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In June, I remembered Good Reads and decided to track my reading. I joined the reading challenge and opted to read 35 books for the remainder of the year. I picked up a light read by Sophia Kinsella called The Undomesticated Goddess and it was exactly what I needed. Silly, easy, and fast reading. 

July and August were spent under the sun, swimming in creeks and walking barefoot on grass. I joined Book of the Month and read too many thrillers and was afraid to get up to pee at night. I found the premise Behind Her Eyes terrifying and it had the best surprised ending of all the books I've read this year. I re-read the ending three times before throwing the book in a junk drawer so the madness wouldn't find me. I read The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo and enjoyed the complexity of its central character. Evelyn seemed real (you hate her, you love her) and I'm a sucker for old Hollywood gossip. I also read Woman No 7 and Goodbye Vitamin, one ironically made me miss home and the other, my father.

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September found us in Maui for our first family holiday. Birdie ate sand and enjoyed the waves. We went to the lava fields, drove the road to Hana, and got way too much sun. TJ left the cooler on top of First True Loves, and I would have cared if I haven't finished reading it and found it disappointing. Okay, I found it stupid. Well... maybe stupid is too harsh. I'm still mad at it though. I abandoned it at our airbnb. I cried ugly tears over Castle of Water and continue to sob every time I think about the ending. I stayed up late to read Emma in the Night and my heart ached for my baby. My husband gifted  IT for my birthday and it has sat on the bookcase ever since because no one told me it was 1,000 freaking pages. #babybeforebook. First They Killed My Father came out on Netflix and I cried for my parents and a country that could have been. It felt good to cry alone and I need to do it more often.

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In October, I joined a buddy read on bookstagram for Practical Magic and was surprised how much more in depth and serious in tone it was compared to the movie. It's one of my favorites of the year. I also found Christine of Reading Is Magical, my first bookstagram friend in real life. Birdie and I started going to Baby Time at the library and she quickly surpassed me in amount of books read. I started listening to audiobooks while working in the soap shop and couldn't understand why female narrators opted for unrealistic gruffy voices for the male parts. Sure takes the fun out of a love scene real quick.

I started November with Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstances and was delighted by its magical realism and Weylan. Fangirl over here. I picked up the play Buried Child and was simultaneously intrigued and horrified. I was touched by The Heart's Invisible Furies- more tears. I finally joined in the Diverse Book Club monthly picks and laughed till I cried over Ginny Moon. Don't be fooled, the book touched on heavy subjects. We left for California and ate a lot of Khmer food. I read The Jane Austen Project and realized I don't care for the word horny. Does that mean I'm old?

Two standouts for December were Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine and The Snow Child , the latter being my favorite read of 2017 (review coming soon). I ended up reading 43 books from June to December, more than I thought I would. We had snow for Christmas and it was a quiet but lovely celebration for our little family. We also celebrated Birdie's first birthday with our friends. I ended the year reading Are You Sleeping which you should pick up if you're a fan of true crime podcasts.

It was a big year of reading and learning how to do it skillfully while the baby was asleep. Next year, how to find time to read with a toddler. Happy New Year!