Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Tasty Tuesday: Mustard Roasted Potatoes

I know it's 500 degrees outside with 1000% humidity right now (or at least it's been feeling that way in Nebraska lately) and the last thing you probably want to do in such stifling weather is turn on your oven, but I'm sharing this recipe today anyway for a couple of reasons.

First, I rarely share side dish recipes. To be perfectly honest, I usually focus on the main dish and stick with easy sides: salads, Steamfresh veggies, and, yes, even boxed Rice-a-Roni. Eric and I both like all of these things, but I have to admit that sometimes we get a little bored having the same sides over and over. So sometimes it's nice to change things up a bit and try something new.

My second reason for sharing this recipe today is that, despite the fact that it involves roasting potatoes, it feels like a summer side dish to me. It could be that the mustard and potato combination reminds me of potato salad. It could be the knowledge that these potatoes are the perfect compliment to a burger. Who knows? All I know is that it felt right to share this recipe today.

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I know that a lot of people don't love mustard. I don't know how that's possible, but I know it's true. (Just kidding. I hate a lot of things that most people enjoy, like cinnamon buns and watermelon. I get that everyone's tastes just aren't the same.)

Anyway, the point is that although these potatoes do have a bit of a tangy flavor, I didn't think they really tasted strongly of mustard. (Eric agreed.) We both love mustard, but, even though that flavor didn't shine through as much as we'd hoped, these potatoes were still damn good.

If you hate mustard, obviously you probably wouldn't want to try these potatoes in the first place. (And I can't say that I blame you.) But, if you even just like mustard a little, I'd say give these a try. (You can always cut the amount of mustard down to 2 tbsp if you're still concerned the flavor will be too strong.)

Mustard Roasted Potatoes

Adapted ever so slightly from an Ina Garten recipe on The Food Network.

Ingredient List:
  • 1 1/2 lbs small red potatoes, quartered
  • 1 small yellow onion, cut into short, thick strips
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp garlic salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper


1.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

2.  Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and coat with cooking spray. 

3.  Place the quartered potatoes on the baking sheet and toss with the olive oil, Dijon mustard, garlic salt, and black pepper.

4.  Bake the potatoes for 50 minutes to 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

5.  At about 15 minutes before the end of cook time, add the yellow onion to the potatoes and stir well to combine. Once you've added the onions, you'll want to check on the potatoes a little more frequently to ensure the onions don't burn.

I personally think that side dishes should be easy, and these potatoes are no exception. Although they require quite a bit of time in the oven, the prep work is minimal and there aren't a lot of complicated instructions or fancy ingredients involved. And, once they're in the oven, you can focus on your main course (as long as you continue to check on your potatoes and stir them once in a while!).

Friday, July 22, 2016

June 2016 Goals and Results

I've been trying to get caught up with blogging related stuff lately, but I know I'm still pretty far behind. However, the moment I realized I still hadn't posted my June goals and results was the moment I realized just how far behind I actually am. I mean, it's already July 22. I need to get it together. At least I wasn't just putting it off because I totally crapped out on my goals (again), right?

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June 2016 Goals and Results

1. Stick with the Read My Books challenge, reading only books from my own shelves.

PASS. I'm sure a lot of you have already seen my results post for this challenge, but, if not, you can find it here. If you don't want to read that entire post, my TL;DR summary is as follows: I read a total of 6 books for the challenge and most of them were pretty shitty.

2. With the exception of Eric's birthday dinner, go out to eat/get takeout only if we have a gift card or coupon.

PASS. We really didn't eat out much last month. I guess technically we did get Dunkin' Donuts once without a gift card or coupon, but Eric paid for it and it was like $5 or $6 ... So obviously it didn't break the bank. Oh, and we got food at the College World Series game we went to, but I won the tickets in a drawing at work, so I justified the food and drink purchases that way. We also went to Qdoba for lunch one day (but we had a buy one entree get one free coupon), and to dinner with Eric's parents for his birthday (but they paid). Looking back at my first statement makes me laugh because I'm sure eating out/getting takout 5 times in a month is a lot for some people. We just usually eat out a lot more than that. Honestly, I was just tired of making any excuse to go out to eat and spending so much money on meals out. (It definitely adds up!) We both like to cook (and are both pretty good at it!), so it doesn't make sense to go out several times a week. 

3. Do at least 15 minutes of activity/exercise every day of the month. Every single day.

PASS. I still can't believe I actually stuck with this! Some days it was really tough, but most of the time it just sort of felt like the usual routine. I didn't always push myself really hard, but I worked out much longer than 15 minutes most days. I also didn't utilize the gym much (again), but I'm slowly hoping to work that back into my routine. Right now it's just so fucking hot that I prefer not to go back out once I've made it home from work. It's quicker and easier to just roll out my yoga mat in the living room and work out using a video on YouTube.

I made a very short list of goals last month because I really wanted to focus on them and stick with them. Obviously my second goal was kind of 50/50, but I'm still giving myself a pass because we really did much better than we usually do. (By comparison, I've already eaten out 6 times this month. Obviously that's only one more time than last month, but there's still a week left in the month and who knows what will happen between now and then? Plus, last month was Eric's birthday month, so eating out a little more often is to be expected.)

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I realized about halfway through June that I should have written down which videos I did so I could share that here. (And so I can easily find them again when I'm searching YouTube!)

As it is, this list is probably pretty boring. I mean, it's literally just a bunch of dates, times, and types of workouts. I'm posting it anyway, though. If nothing else, it helps me stay accountable since I know I'll be posting this on my blog each month, and it's nice for me to add everything up and actually see how much time I spent doing something good for myself.

June 2016 Workouts

Week 06/01 - 06/08:

06/01: Yoga video (35 minutes)
06/02: Yoga video (35 minutes)
06/03: Yoga video (25 minutes)
06/04: Two yoga videos (25 minutes and 20 minutes)
06/05: Two videos - pilates and yoga (25 minutes and 18 minutes)
06/06: Yoga video (30 minutes)
06/07: Two yoga videos (17 minutes and 30 minutes)
06/08: Yoga video (30 minutes)

Total Time: 290 minutes (4 hours, 50 minutes)

Week 06/09 - 06/16:

06/09: Yoga video (30 minutes)
06/10: Yoga video (28 minutes)
06/11: Yoga - gentle stretching before bed (18 minutes)
06/12: Two videos - arm toning and yoga (8 minutes and 33 minutes)
06/13: Yoga class (60 minutes)
06/14: Yoga video (30 minutes)
06/15: Yoga video (35 minutes)
06/16: Yoga - gentle stretching before bed (19 minutes)

Total Time: 261 minutes (4 hours, 21 minutes)

Week 06/17 - 06/24:

06/17: Yoga video (27 minutes)
06/18: Yoga video (37 minutes)
06/19: Light walking outside (20 minutes; 0.8 miles)
06/20: Yoga video (25 minutes)
06/21: Yoga video (35 minutes)
06/22: Yoga video (30 minutes)
06/23: Yoga video (30 minutes)
06/24: Yoga - gentle stretching before bed (20 minutes)

Total Time: 224 minutes (3 hours, 44 minutes)

Week 06/25 - 06/30:

06/25: Yoga video (35 minutes)
06/26: Yoga video (40 minutes)
06/27: Yoga video (25 minutes)
06/28: Yoga video (17 minutes)
06/29: Yoga video (40 minutes)
06/30: Yoga video (33 minutes)

Total Time: 190 minutes (3 hours, 10 minutes)

It's obvious I was getting kind of tired by the end of the month because each week my total time spent working out decreased. It's okay, though. My goal wasn't to spend 6 hours every week working out. My goal was to simply force myself to put down the book/computer/whatever and do something active for a minimum of 15 minutes every day. I achieved that.

I would like to say that all this activity resulted in weight loss, but I'm sad to report that I actually gained 1.2 lbs last month. Whomp whomp.

To be fair, I didn't eat well 90% of the time. I drank tons of Doubleshots. I ate donuts (at home and at work). I drank beer and lots and lots of wine. I ate fried shit. It's not surprising that the number on the scale didn't go down. And, although I'd love to drop a few pounds, I at least didn't feel horrible about eating all of that stuff because I was (sort of) counteracting it with exercise. I didn't work out hard enough to burn off all those calories, but I was attempting to do something good for my body and health ... So that should count for something, I think.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Tasty Tuesday: Thai Turkey Meatballs in a Red Curry Peanut Sauce

Meatballs are one of my favorite things, but I don't make them as often as I'd like. They're not as time consuming as some dishes, but they're also not something I generally feel like making after a long day at work or a busy weekend day running errands.

When I do make meatballs, I stick with the classic Italian variety a lot of the time. I mean, spaghetti and meatballs is total comfort food. However, I also really like to switch it up and experiment with different flavors. (And as I was writing that I realized that I've never posted a recipe for classic Italian meatballs, nor have I even posted any meatball recipes using anything other than turkey. I guess I'll have to change that at some point!)

Today's meatballs once again fall under the turkey category. And, as you probably guessed from what was said above (and the title of this post, obviously!), they're not classic Italian meatballs.

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It's no secret that we love curry in our house. I've only posted a couple of curry recipes in the past (including the ridiculously simple Green Curry Chicken that is Eric's absolute favorite meal), but we make it quite a bit. We also get Thai and Indian food out a lot, and often order different types of curry at those restaurants.

Anyway, the point is that we love curry ... So obviously I'm always very open to trying new curry recipes at home.

I'll admit, though, that I really wasn't expecting to be blown away by this recipe. I thought it would be pretty good, but sometimes peanut sauces are too sweet or overpowering. I wanted to give it a try (mostly because we had all of the ingredients on hand with the exception of green onions, fresh cilantro, and coconut milk), but I didn't know if it would even end up on the blog. 

I have a few other recipes I made a while ago that I still need to post, but I bumped this one up to this week because it was that good. I felt like I had to post it immediately! 

The sauce wasn't very spicy at all (though you can certainly make it spicier by adding more Sriracha), and it was sweet without being too sweet. The flavors of the coconut milk, red curry paste, and peanut butter blended perfectly so that one ingredient wasn't overpowering the rest. Eric even commented that he liked that the flavor of the peanut butter wasn't too strong. You can taste it, of course, but it's not the only thing you'll taste. 

As far as meatballs go, this recipe came together pretty quickly. I read somewhere (probably a food blog, but I can't remember which one) that Asian style meatballs should be blended in a food processor instead of being mixed by hand like a more traditional meatball. I have no idea whether or not this is actually true, but I took that advice and mixed these up in my food processor. I was kind of worried that they wouldn't stay together as I was shaping them because they seemed pretty fragile (and wet and mushy, but that just sounds completely unappetizing), but they were fine after I baked them. 

The sauce was also really simple. It only uses a few ingredients, and is done in just a few minutes. (Clearly a win!)

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Thai Turkey Meatballs in a Red Curry Peanut Sauce

Adapted ever so slightly from a recipe on Jo Cooks.

Ingredient List (Meatballs):
  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 3-4 green onions, white parts removed (You can chop these if you want, but since I mixed my meatballs in the food processor, I didn't bother. They'll get chopped up and mixed in with the rest of the ingredients so you really don't need to chop them yourself unless you're planning to mix your meatballs by hand.)
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro (Again, you can chop this up if you're planning to mix by hand, but otherwise I say be lazy and dump it into the food processor. Why do more work when your kitchen appliances can do it for you?)
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp red curry paste
  • 1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper

Instructions (Meatballs):

1.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

2.  Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, coat with cooking spray, and set aside.

3.  If you're using a food processor to mix the meatballs, add the ground turkey, green onions, fresh cilantro, fish sauce, red curry paste, Panko breadcrumbs, egg, sea salt, and black pepper to the food processor and blend until everything is combined. (This shouldn't take long.) If you're mixing the meatballs by hand, simply add all of the ingredients to a large bowl and start combining them with your hands.

4.  Once the ingredients have been mixed together, begin shaping the meat mixture into meatballs. I'm not great at making meatballs that are perfectly uniform, but I managed to get a total of 18 meatballs out of this.

5.  Place the meatballs on the prepared baking sheet, making sure to keep them as evenly spaced as possible.

6.  Bake the meatballs in the oven for 30 minutes, or until the meat is fully cooked and the meatballs are beginning to brown a bit. (30 minutes was the perfect amount of time for mine.)

Ingredient List (Red Curry Peanut Sauce):

  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 14 oz. can coconut milk (I used lite coconut milk.)
  • 1 tbsp red curry paste
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 heaping tbsp peanut butter (I used crunchy because that's the variety we always buy. I worried that it might make the sauce too chunky, but I really didn't notice the tiny pieces of peanut while I was eating so I think it blended into the sauce pretty well. You can kind of see the peanut pieces in the pictures, but, like I said, they didn't make the sauce too chunky or crunchy. I say use whatever type of peanut butter you normally like to eat.)
  • 2 tsp Sriracha (You can always adjust the heat of the sauce by adding more or less. I know everyone's definition of "spicy" is a little different, but neither Eric nor I thought the sauce was very spicy at all at this level.)

Instructions (Red Curry Peanut Sauce):

1.  Heat the sesame oil in a large skillet over medium heat.

2.  Once the oil is heated, add the red curry paste and cook for about a minute.

3.  Add the coconut milk, brown sugar, peanut butter, and Sriracha, stirring constantly until the peanut butter, curry paste, and brown sugar have blended well into the coconut milk.

4.  Turn the heat to low and allow the sauce to cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. (Since it only takes a few minutes for the sauce to cook, you don't really need to start making it until about 10-12 minutes before the meatballs have finished baking.)

5.  Once the meatballs are done, add them to the sauce and gently stir. Add additional fresh cilantro (if desired), and allow the meatballs to simmer in the sauce for about 3-5 minutes.

I served these meatballs over jasmine rice with a side of steamed broccoli and cauliflower. So good!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Sticking to My Shelves: My Read My Books Challenge Experience

Erin and Dani co-hosted a challenge during the month of June with a very simple, straight-forward premise: read only books you own. Easy enough, right?

I'm happy to report that I actually stuck with this challenge! Need proof? See my screenshot below:

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(You can ignore the 8 books I have on hold, though. They were all paused for the month of June, so I didn't have to worry that something I'd been waiting for would suddenly become available.)

Seriously, though, this challenge was harder than I thought it would be. As I said in my last post, I think there was probably a reason a lot of these books had been sitting untouched on my shelves. 

Sometimes their size intimidates me (I'm looking at you, Carrion Comfort ... I didn't even consider attempting that one in June!). Sometimes I'll reread the blurb on the back and feel very "meh" about it (Mister Sandman is a great example). Sometimes I have every intention of reading it, but just get sidetracked by a shiny stack of library books (I've seriously packed The Silent Wife in my bag on the last five trips I've taken, and every time I've chosen to read one of the library books I've packed instead).

When I started the challenge, I didn't have a definite goal in mind. I really just wanted to finish as many books as possible. I think my ideal was 8 or 9 (as you can see from one of my book "photo shoot" pictures below), but I didn't get through quite that many.

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Before I share my final book count, though, I feel like I should tell you three things:

1. I didn't officially start this challenge until June 2. I was finishing up a library book (Hurt People by Cote Smith, which I highly recommend!), and couldn't get through it until June 1. I don't consider that "cheating," but I was technically reading a library book at the beginning of the month.

2. I didn't finish my final book until July 9. I started it at the very end of June, and it was honestly so boring that I wasn't inspired to pick it up most of the time ... So it took me forever to finish it. I'm still counting it as a book completed for this challenge, though, because it's a book I own and I started it in June. 

3. Half of the books I read were newer purchases. (I bought them in April.) They obviously still qualify as books I own, but I probably should have focused a little more on some of the books that I've owned for years. 

Now that that's out of the way, here's my final list:

1. Wreckage by Emily Bleeker - 4 stars

(Read my short review here, in-depth review here, and check it out on Goodreads here.)

2. The Magic Toyshop by Angela Carter - 2 stars

(Read my short review here, in-depth review here, and check it out on Goodreads here.)

3. Forsaken by Andrew Van Wey - 2 stars

(Read my short review here, in-depth review here, and check it out on Goodreads here.)

4. The Silent Wife by A.S.A. Harrison - 4 stars

(Read my short review here, in-depth review here, and check it out on Goodreads here.)

5. Hillary: Tail of the Dog by Angel Gelique - 3 stars

(Read my short review here, in-depth review here, and check it out on Goodreads here.)

6. Mister Sandman by Barbara Gowdy - 2 stars

(Read my short review here, in-depth review here, and check it out on Goodreads here.)

As you can see, half of the books I read were only worthy of 2 star ratings. I guess it's nice to know that I don't need to keep them (I clearly won't be rereading those), but it's also a little frustrating. I mean, who wants to waste money on shitty books? 

I know I won't stop buying books, but this challenge made me appreciate my library even more than I already did. If I check a book out from the library that sucks, it's no big deal. Yes, I wasted some of my time, but it's not taking up space in my apartment and I didn't spend any money on it. 

Overall, I'm happy with my results. I stuck with the challenge, and managed to cross off three categories for the Semi-Charmed Summer 2016 Book Challenge (including one of the two book categories) in the process. I would have been happier if I'd loved all of the books I read, but at least I got through them.

Thanks to Erin and Dani for co-hosting this challenge! 

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Recently Read: In-Depth Reviews - July 2016 Edition

As I mentioned in my most recent Show Us Your Books! post, the last month(ish) has been kind of "meh" for me when it comes to books. I stuck to reading only books I owned throughout the month of June for the Read My Books challenge with Erin and Dani, but apparently there was a reason some of these books had been collecting dust on my shelves. (And, if you're wondering, I do plan to post about my experience with this challenge tomorrow. The end of this week was just kind of busy and I didn't have the time to write a post and link up on Thursday.)

I feel like I usually have more to say about a book when I don't enjoy it, so these reviews are long. (And this is exactly why I started posting shortened versions for the link-up this year!) I mostly write these reviews as a way to work out my thoughts and feelings on the books I've recently read, but I always hope that maybe someone will find these reviews useful (particularly if they're on the fence about a book).

And, if you think they're boring, that's okay too. As I said earlier, I'll be posting at least one book related post next week, but I'll also be posting other stuff ... So you can always just check back for that.

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Forsaken by Andrew Van Wey - 446 pages

Completed on 06/20/2016

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I honestly felt a little bad about giving this book a 2 star rating because I had mixed feelings about it before I even picked it up.

In general, I'm not a huge fan of supernatural horror/thrillers. I think they can be well done, particularly if the supernatural element involves demonic possession. For example, I loved The Exorcist (though I still haven't read the book!) and A Good and Happy Child by Justin Evans is one of my all-time favorite books (and one of the only books that actually frightened me enough to give me nightmares). That shit really freaks me out.

I'll also admit that I enjoy a good vampire story now and then (though not if the vampires are of the sparkly variety). Interview With the Vampire has been one of my favorite movies for years (I didn't really care for the book, though), and Let the Right One In is one of the best vampire movies I've ever seen. (And I'll be reading the book soon for the Semi-Charmed Summer 2016 Book Challenge!) Vampires don't frighten me, but I find the idea of them fascinating.

So, that being said, I knew I might not like Forsaken even before I picked it up. However, I was intrigued enough by the premise to not only add it to my "To Read" list, but also purchase it when I realized my library didn't have a copy. (Thankfully my "purchase" was actually free ... I used a gift card!) Something about it kind of reminded me of the movie Sinister, which I was surprised to find I enjoyed quite a bit (even with the appearance of Vincent D'Onofrio, whom I really dislike as an actor).

I didn't have high hopes for Forsaken, but I at least thought I might find it unsettling or interesting. And, while it started off strong and definitely had a few unsettling moments, I was mostly just filled with the overwhelming feeling that Van Wey was in need of a good editor.

I'm assuming that this novel was self-published. Now, before I go on with this already long review, let me say that I have nothing against self-publishing. I think it's a great way to get your name and your work out there. However, if you're going to go this route, I think it's important to have people look over your book.

No one is perfect. It's easy to make an error while typing, to forget something about a character or description as you move through your novel (especially if you've been working on it for a long time!), etc. That's why editors are so important. Even if your "editors" are simply friends or family members you trust (and not professional editors), they may pick up on things you don't.

While I was reading Forsaken, I found countless errors. And, while it bothers me much more to find multiple errors in a novel from a major publishing house, errors in general annoy me because they pull me out of the story. I know that it may not bother everyone in the same way, but when I see an error in a novel, it's all I can focus on for at least a couple of minutes. I think of different ways the sentence could have been phrased. I turn back a few pages to make sure I'm remembering things correctly and that the author did, in fact, completely fuck something up. I stare at a typo and wonder how no one noticed it. I know it's probably ridiculous, but I slightly obsess over it until I finally have to tell myself to just move on and continue reading the story. (And it's okay if you think it's weird that I do this ... It is.)

Even if I could forgive the errors (and I tried, I really did), I still couldn't quite get into this book. Van Wey had an interesting idea with a lot of potential, but it just didn't work. The biggest issue I had with the story was that he used way too many cliches. If I'm reading a novel for the first time but it still feels very familiar, that's a problem.

He also created a subplot around infidelity. I know that this storyline bothers some people, but it honestly doesn't bother me. I've read plenty of really great books with plots or subplots centering around this topic. That being said, his use of infidelity in this story felt tired and unnecessary. I understand that he wanted to tie the girl into some events that happened later, but he could have completely omitted the affair and it would still make sense. (Sorry, I know I'm being vague, but I hate spoilers!)

I could maybe even overlook most of these issues if the book had been scary, but it wasn't. Not at all. As I said earlier, there were a few unsettling moments. But, for a horror novel, Forsaken was really lacking in, well, horror.

I like horror stories because I like to feel scared. It's an adrenaline rush for me. When people ask me about it, I compare it to riding a rollercoaster (and, for the record, I also love rollercoasters!). I don't want to be scared all the time or anything, but if I'm in the mood for an adrenaline rush, I might pick up a horror novel or watch a scary movie.

That's exactly why I chose to read Forsaken: I was in the mood for something scary. When I looked at the summary on Goodreads, it promised that it was "the scariest book ever." I didn't really expect it to be the scariest book ever, but I did expect to feel that adrenaline rush I was craving. And, as you can probably guess based on the rest of this review, I didn't. The only thing I felt was disappointment.

The Silent Wife by A.S.A. Harrison - 326 pages

Completed on 06/26/2016

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When I originally picked The Silent Wife up at Half Price Books a couple of years ago, I was expecting a taut psychological thriller. I think I fell into the trap of picking books from lists with titles like "The Next Gone Girl" or "If You Liked Gone Girl, Read This." While it annoys me that nearly every psychological thriller published in the last few years has been heralded as "The Next Gone Girl" (I mean, really ... Don't these authors deserve some credit of their own? I have to assume that everyone isn't hoping to simply publish "the next Gone Girl."), I still sometimes look into the books on those lists because those are the types of books I enjoy most.

That being said, The Silent Wife wasn't really what I was expecting. It definitely has some elements of a psychological thriller, but I thought it was more of a study of a toxic relationship and the dissolution of said relationship than a true psychological thriller. You know what's going to happen if you read the summary. (And, if you skipped that, you'll still know by the second page). There's a bit of suspense since you don't know when/how the murder will happen until further in and you don't know whether or not she'll get caught, but overall I expect more suspense in a thriller. (And that's why I don't classify this as a "true" psychological thriller. You know, just in case you were wondering.)

I wouldn't say I was really disappointed in that, though ... Mostly just surprised. I think that because I actually enjoyed the book, I was able to readjust my expectations and just go with it.

The biggest issue I had with The Silent Wife is that it had a very slow start. As I was reading, I kept thinking, "It's going to take me forever to make it through this book!" The author chose to share nearly every mundane detail of her characters' lives. And, while it does help shape them into actual people with habits and hobbies and flaws, I think some things could easily have been left out to keep the story moving.

Despite the slow start, I was hooked once the book picked up a bit. I loved to hate Todd (the husband) because he was a gigantic asshole. Jodi (the wife) wasn't a particularly likable character either, but maybe that's what happens when you're in a shitty, toxic relationship for many years. Who knows?

The only other thing I didn't really like about this book was a subplot that was never fully developed. There are several flashbacks from an experience Jodi had with a therapist years ago scattered throughout the novel, and there's sort of an allusion to something that happened to her as a kid, but it was never really explored further. It also didn't seem to have much relevance to the rest of the story, but I think the author could have potentially found a way to work it in. As it was, it was just sort of there. (If you've read this book and thought it was significant to the rest of the story, please feel free to discuss it with me in an email to avoid any potential spoilers in the comments section. I may be missing something, so I'd love to know your thoughts!)

Overall, I really enjoyed The Silent Wife (enough to give it a 4 star rating). Harrison did an excellent job detailing a crumbling relationship, and the main characters, though unlikable, felt pretty realistic. It may not appeal to all fans of thrillers (particularly since it's not fast-paced or overly suspenseful), but I think it's worth reading if you can overlook the slow start.

Hillary: Tail of the Dog by Angel Gelique - 251 pages

Completed on 06/29/2016

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Very rarely do I read a book that makes me feel physically ill, but Hillary: Tail of the Dog did just that. In fact, I felt a lot like this through a good portion of the book:

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Many of you know that I like dark and disturbing entertainment. However, Hillary: Tail of the Dog was a little much ... Even for me.

One of the major issues I had with the book, though, wasn't the fact that it was disgusting. It was the fact that I felt like Gelique was just throwing shit in for shock value. Yes, I knew the book would be shocking: it literally comes with a warning on Goodreads because some of the content is not suitable for all readers.

However, I felt that some of the things in the story were completely unnecessary (particularly the cannibalism). As I was reading, I wondered if the author simply thought, "What else can I add to this to really freak people out?" And, if you're curious, I'm saying this as a person who doesn't really mind cannibalism in a story. Although I've only seen the movie versions of the series, Hannibal Lecter is one of my favorite fictional villains. That is an example of cannibalism done right. The cannibalism in Hillary?  Not so much.

There was also an obscene amount of what many people call "torture porn." These scenes go on and on and on and on. I don't think it would be an exaggeration to say that the last third or so of the book is almost exclusively made up of torture porn. It was uncomfortable at best and nauseating at its worst. (This is where I really started to feel sick, though there's an eyeball related scene near the beginning that made me a little queasy as well. I don't do eyeballs or excrement. Those two things make me want to throw up. And, if you're wondering, this book had both.)

If all of that wasn't enough, Hillary: Tail of the Dog also includes sexual abuse of a minor (Hillary is only 15). I wouldn't say that this topic was handled lightly (which I appreciated), but it made for some uncomfortable reading at times.

So why the 3 star rating?

Honestly, this book wasn't amazing. I'm pretty sure it was self-published, and, like Forsaken, desperately needed some editing. There were multiple typos, the description of one of the main characters changed drastically from the beginning to the middle of the book (so much so that I had to assume Gelique meant to use another character's name in the beginning), and some of the writing was sloppy (particularly the eyeroll inducing dialogue).

All that being said, I wanted to keep reading the story. When I give a book a 2 star rating, that's usually an indication that I could barely bring myself to continue reading because it's boring, stupid, etc. Yes, this book could be completely over-the-top at times, but it was gripping enough that I wanted to know what happened next. I also found myself thinking about it a lot when I wasn't reading it, and I think that helped bump the rating up a bit as well.

Several of you have asked if I would recommend this. I've responded to each person via email (unless they were a no reply blogger), but I'll share that answer here as well: no, not really. I was curious enough to give it a try, so I understand if your curiosity gets the best of you. I doubt very seriously that I'll read the other two books in the trilogy, though. While a part of me wants to understand more about Hillary's past and the events that led to all that happened in this book (the second book is the prequel), I just don't know if I can handle more of this crazy shit. I may just read some spoiler filled reviews on Goodreads and be done with the series.

Mister Sandman by Barbara Gowdy - 268 pages

Completed on 07/09/2016

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I purchased Mister Sandman several years ago after searching online for a book that was at least somewhat similar to one of my all-time favorite novels, Geek Love by Katherine Dunn. I knew nothing would probably ever come close to that book, but I wanted something with similar elements (particularly eccentric characters and a completely dysfunctional family).

I probably knew deep down that Mister Sandman would never live up to my expectations because it sat on my bookshelf for years before I ever bothered to pick it up. While it definitely had the eccentric characters and highly dysfunctional family, it fell flat for me in a lot of ways.

The biggest disappointment was the fact that I actually really loved Gowdy's writing style, but the novel was poorly executed. The story seemed like it was sort of haphazardly slapped together. Many of the events tied together throughout the novel and really came together at the end, but it was an awkward and often boring read. There's really no other way to describe it.

Maybe "awkward" was exactly what Gowdy was going for, though, because nearly every sexual encounter (and there were a lot!) was incredibly awkward as well. In some ways I felt the emphasis on sex worked, particularly when it came to the theme of "true self versus what is shown to others." (Even though this wasn't a great book I'd recommend, I'm still trying to be somewhat vague to avoid any potential spoilers.) However, because the book was about a dysfunctional family (and incest was not involved), the amount of sex included sometimes felt like overkill. I wanted to read more about the family's interactions with one another and less about each member's random hookups.

While the book did have some funny and interesting moments, I couldn't seem to look past the fact that it was so boring. And, to make matters worse, there were several racist comments and "jokes" that I personally found offensive. Maybe I'm too sensitive to that sort of thing, but it never fails to get under my skin. I will say that while I'm not really okay with that sort of thing, I can at least understand its inclusion in certain types of stories. For instance, if I were reading a book about the 1960s Civil Rights Movement, I would probably expect to encounter racist comments. I wouldn't like it, but, in the context of the story, it would make sense. In Mister Sandman, it just felt completely unnecessary. Yes, the book was set in the 1950s-1960s, but I think Gowdy could have omitted those comments and "jokes" and nothing would have been lost.

I disliked this book enough to give it 2 stars, but I wouldn't say I've completely given up on Barbara Gowdy. According to several reviews I've read, this isn't one of her best novels. There's at least one other book she's written that intrigues me (The Romantic), and I know it's available at my library ... So I may eventually give it a try. I think I could potentially enjoy her work, but there were just too many things that didn't work for me in Mister Sandman.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

From the Bookshelf: Recently Read - July 2016 Edition

I've kind of lost my reading groove lately, and I think it really shows with this month's contribution to the Show Us Your Books! link-up with Steph and Jana.

Since the last link-up, I've only read four books. I've had slow book months in the past, but this felt really slow. (I think this was probably because I couldn't really get into the majority of the books I read.)

To be perfectly honest, I don't have a lot of good things to say about most of the books discussed in this post, so I tried to keep my complaints to a minimum reviews pretty short here. As usual, I'll be posting my more in-depth reviews on Sunday. 

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Forsaken by Andrew Van Wey - 446 pages - 2 stars

When art professor Daniel Rinehart receives a mysterious painting, he's determined to find the artist and uncover the secrets behind the unsettling artwork. But the more Daniel studies the painting, the more he realizes something is off ... And before long, he finds his family in danger and himself teetering on the brink of insanity.

I'll admit that I'm not a huge fan of paranormal horror. However, I do think that, on occasion, it can be well done. Unfortunately, this was not one of those occasions.

The reviews on Goodreads led me to believe that Forsaken would be a terrifying, nightmare inducing book. I know that for a lot of you, that would be a bad thing ... But I actually like really scary books (and movies). I wanted to be scared. 

As I'm sure you can probably guess from my low rating, I didn't find Forsaken scary. Not at all. Yes, the book started off strong and there were a few unsettling moments, but overall it was just sort of blah. I honestly had a hard time getting through it because it just couldn't hold my attention. 

The Silent Wife by A.S.A. Harrison - 326 pages - 4 stars

Jodi and Todd have been together for years, but lately they both just seem to be going through the motions. As their relationship continues to deteriorate, Jodi realizes the only satisfactory ending involves ending Todd's life. (Oh, and don't worry ... This isn't a spoiler. Every summary of this book tells you this right from the start!)

Reading The Silent Wife was kind of like watching a car crash in slow motion: you know something bad is going to happen, there's nothing you can do to stop it, and, although you can already predict the end result, you're still not exactly sure how everything will play out.

This wasn't a book that immediately captivated me, but as I continued to read, I suddenly found myself unable to put it down. I read most of it in a single sitting.

Hillary: Tail of the Dog by Angel Gelique - 251 pages - 3 stars

When 15-year-old Hillary wakes up naked and bound to a bed with no memory of who she is or how she got to this unfamiliar place, she's crippled by fear. Desperate to piece together her past and the reasons she's being held captive, Hillary waits for the perfect moment to escape ... And she'll do anything to go home.

I think by now many of you know that I like really dark, disturbing books. Well, let me just say this: there's dark and disturbing and then there's Hillary: Tail of the Dog

I can't pretend I didn't know what I was getting myself into before I opened this book. The warning is right there on the Goodreads page at the very top of the summary. I knew it would be gruesome and uncomfortable and intense. And I read it anyway.

Books like this are nearly impossible for me to rate. I mean, can I really say I liked it? (For the record, I got so queasy at one point that I thought I might actually get sick. Sick. From words on a page.) 

I'll try to explain my reasoning for the 3 star rating in my more in-depth review, but for now I'll just say that this book is very much not for everyone. After I finished it, I just kept thinking, "What the fuck did I just read?" And then I wished for some brain bleach.

Mister Sandman by Barbara Gowdy - 268 pages - 2 stars

The Canary family is an unusual and mysterious bunch, each eccentric member keeping secrets from the rest. That is until Joan, the youngest daughter, arrives. Although she ages, Joan never grows and never speaks. Each family member is inexplicably drawn to her, spending hours confessing their obsessions and secrets ... After all, Joan is the one person they're certain will never say a word. 

For me, Mister Sandman felt like it was haphazardly slapped together. There were moments of brilliance, but there were also pages and pages that were so dull I could barely stay awake. There were laugh out loud moments, and then there were racist "jokes" that really bothered me. (The novel is set in the 1950s-1960s, so maybe that was considered "okay" at the time ... But that kind of shit still gets under my skin.) 

And the sex ... Wow. I don't think I would be exaggerating if I said that a good 85-90% of this novel revolved around sex. Don't get me wrong ... I'm no prude. The sex itself didn't bother me. I think it was the fact that it was so prominent in a story about a family. It just felt a little weird, especially considering this isn't a story about incest. 

I was honestly very torn when it came to this book. The writing was lovely, there were some hilarious moments, and I love a good quirky, dysfunctional family ... But that just wasn't enough for me this time.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Currently I'm ...

I haven't written a "currently" post since May, and it's once again time for the "What's New With You?" link-up with Kristen and Gretchen ... So it seemed like the right time for a post filled with random thoughts and updates. I would have preferred to write a more detailed update of the last few months (I haven't written one of those since February), but, once again, I just ran out of time. It happens.

What's New With You

This post is kind of all over the place. I've been so up and down lately (more down than up, unfortunately), and I feel like this post kind of reflects that.

Currently I'm:

Reading: Mister Sandman by Barbara Gowdy. I really should be reading books for the challenges I'm participating in, but I wanted to read at least one more book I owned but hadn't yet read. I'm almost finished, and I'm still not sure how I feel about it. I'm not 100% sure what I'll read next, but it will be something from the small stack of library books I posted on Instagram last Friday.

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Listening To: Some old favorites I haven't listened to in a long time. Sometimes it's nice to put on a playlist from 5 or 6 years ago (yes, my iPod is that old!) and rediscover bands and songs you once had on heavy rotation. Below you can find a couple of the songs I've been listening to most often:


Wishing: I had an endless supply of money. As you'll see below, I've been spending like crazy. And, unfortunately, most of the things I've been spending money on haven't been "fun" items.

Spending: $1,000,000 on car repairs. Okay, that's obviously a major exaggeration, but that's how it feels. It's just one thing after another. Why must everything need to be replaced and/or decide to go wrong all at once? Why did I buy a European car with expensive parts? The world may never know.

Trying: Not to allow myself to get sucked back into the black hole of depression. I spent most of May feeling incredibly depressed, but I started feeling a little better in June. Lately, though, I haven't been doing so well. I hate to make this a downer post, but I always try to be as real and honest as possible on my blog ... And right now I'm struggling. My sleeping patterns are all fucked up, I'm incredibly irritable, I cried for almost two hours straight last weekend (and that's not an exaggeration), I'm not finding much pleasure in any of my hobbies ... The list goes on and on. I really just want to feel better, but I know that's not going to happen overnight.

Thinking: About so many things that I can't wrap my head around. It feels like every time I turn on the news, I see yet another story about innocent people losing their lives for no good reason. It feels like every time I log in to Facebook (which isn't often), someone is sharing ignorant, hate filled thoughts. It makes me wonder how I can possibly know and care about people who feel that way. I don't think these things are necessarily triggers for my depression, but I know they don't help. But, on the other hand, I also know I can't live under a rock and ignore the things going on in the world around me.

Craving: Ice cream, frozen yogurt, and gelato. Finally, I'm coming to a topic that isn't sad or heavy!

Loving: That I somehow managed to do a minimum of 15 minutes of exercise every single day in June. (I'll be posting the rest of my June goal results soon.) I still can't believe I managed to stick with that goal, and I'm beyond proud of myself for doing it!

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As you can see, I attempted to take some workout selfies (using a self timer, obviously) so I could throw a few pictures on my blog when I talked about my 30 days of exercise. As you can also see, these didn't turn out very well and I just look kind of silly. (Oh, and I never actually took any of these while I was working out ... It was an afterthought once I'd finished.) Whatever. It's fine.

Planning: To enjoy myself at a couple of concerts this month. It's honestly a little difficult to want to go out and be around a bunch of people right now, but I love music so much and have always relied on it as a form of therapy ... So I think it might be just the thing I need. Eric and I are going to see Garbage tomorrow and Chris Cornell next Thursday! I haven't seen Garbage live since I was 14 or 15, so it should be a really fun, nostalgic show. And Chris Cornell? I've wanted to see him live for what feels like forever. I love everything he's ever done, from Soundgarden to Audioslave to his solo work, and I can't believe I'm finally going to see him perform!

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Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Tasty Tuesday: Chickpea Shawarma Salad

Like many Americans, I spent the majority of the holiday weekend stuffing my face with fattening food. Enchiladas smothered in tons of cheese, ice cream, macaroni and cheese, burgers, fried onion rings ... Those are just a few of the delicious (but very unhealthy) things I ate.

I'm not going to pretend that I only eat healthy food most of the time because I don't. (If there was any doubt, just look at my blog name: the word "indulge" should give you some clue that my eating habits aren't always that great.) I do have some good eating habits, like working fruits and veggies into my meals, going completely vegetarian at least one day each week, and eating more chicken and fish than red meat. But, if I'm being completely honest, I eat a lot of things that aren't so great for me as well.

The thing is, I'm not that young anymore. My metabolism isn't as awesome as it used to be. (Ah, how I long for the days when I could eat a 3 lb box of chocolates in one sitting and not gain a pound!). These days I actually have to balance unhealthy and healthy eating and spend more time working out if I want to maintain and/or lose weight. 

Eating healthier doesn't mean I have to sacrifice flavor, though. This is something I've been realizing more and more as I scour the internet for recipe ideas. 

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I mean, just look at that picture! Yes, it's just a salad with roasted chickpeas, but it was amazing. I couldn't believe that something so simple could be packed with so much flavor! 

This salad is surprisingly filling as well. Eric and I just ate some pita chips with some hummus as our "side dish," and that was plenty. (And yes, I realize that that's a lot of chickpeas for one meal, especially considering the dressing for this salad also contains hummus ... But chickpeas are just so damn good.)

If, like me, you're a huge fan of chickpeas, you need to try this recipe. My meat loving husband even commented multiple times that this meal was really good and flavorful ... So I knew it was a real winner!

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Chickpea Shawarma Salad

Adapted ever so slightly from a recipe on Minimalist Baker.

Ingredient List (Chickpeas and Salad):
  • 1 15 oz. can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp coriander
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp garlic salt
  • 4-5 oz. spring mix packaged salad
  • 12 grape tomatoes, quartered
  • 1/4 cup red onion, thinly sliced
  • Pita chips for serving

Instructions (Chickpeas and Salad):

1.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

2.  Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, coat with cooking spray, and set aside.

3.  Combine the chickpeas, cumin, smoked paprika, turmeric, coriander, cinnamon, ginger, black pepper, and garlic salt in a medium bowl, mixing well to coat the chickpeas as evenly as possible. 

4.  Add the olive oil to the chickpeas and spices, and stir a few more times to coat. (I recommend tasting a chickpea at this point and adding more spices if necessary. I added a little more cumin, smoked paprika, and turmeric, but didn't measure out the exact amount.)

5.  Pour the chickpeas onto the prepared baking sheet. Be sure to spread them out in a single layer across the baking sheet.

6.  Place the chickpeas in the oven and allow them to roast for 20-22 minutes. I'd suggest checking them once about halfway through, and stirring them a bit.

7.  While the chickpeas are roasting, begin assembling the salads. I added everything to the bowls except for the pita chips at this point.

8.  When the chickpeas are finished, allow them to cool slightly. (I just let them sit at room temperature for about 3 minutes.) After they've cooled a bit, add them to the salad bowls. Pour the dressing (recipe below) over the salad and garnish with pita chips.

Ingredient List (Dressing):

  • 1/2 cup garlic hummus (I used Sabra roasted garlic hummus.)
  • 1 tsp dried dill
  • 1 lemon
  • Water to thin the dressing 

Instructions (Dressing):

1.  Add the garlic hummus and dried dill to a small bowl, stirring well to combine.

2.  Squeeze the juice from the lemon into the bowl, once again stirring well to combine. 

3.  Add water, 1 tsp at a time, until the dressing is of desired consistency. (I only had to use 2 tsp of water because my lemon was so large that it produced quite a bit of juice. I highly recommend using a larger lemon in the dressing because the juice gave it a really nice vibrant, tangy flavor.)

This made enough for two large dinner salads and one lunch sized portion of salad. If you find yourself with leftovers, I highly recommend placing everything into separate containers. I'd also suggest eating the leftovers within a day or two. 

Friday, July 1, 2016

Book Challenge by Erin 5.0 Picks

Erin announced the categories for her latest book challenge a month ago, and I'm finally posting my picks. As usual, I spent a lot of time searching my "To Read" list, Goodreads, and my library's website for the perfect book for each category. Several of these categories were tough for me, though, so it took a little longer than I anticipated. (A category that was surprisingly difficult? A book that begins with the letter "R." Apparently I don't want to read very many "R" books.)

I've also been ridiculously behind on all things blog related lately, so I hadn't had much time to sit down and write this post until now. I swear I'm going to get caught up one of these days!

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1. A Book That Is At Least 200 Pages Long - 5 pts

The freebie categories are always tough because there are just so many books I want to read. My "To Read" list is almost at 500, and it's always growing. I eventually chose a book that I've actually checked out from the library previously but never read. I had to return it because the waiting list was long and I just didn't have the time for it. I really want to read it, though, and I've had my hold at the library paused for so long that I should get it pretty quickly once I resume my place in "line" ... So it seemed like the best choice.

My pick: Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter

2. A Book That Begins With The Letter "R" - 10 pts

As I said before, this was an oddly difficult category for me. There were a few books on my "To Read" list that would work, but I opted for something that sounded entertaining, fun, and maybe even a little trashy. I've been reading a lot of really dark novels lately, and, while I love them, sometimes I just need something completely different.

My pick: Real Happy Family by Caeli Wolfson Widger

3. A Book With A Five Word Title - 10 pts

I almost chose another book for this category, but it's under 200 pages (according to Goodreads). So instead I went with a book that has intrigued me ever since I stumbled across it on my library's website several months ago. I don't know why it's taken me so long to pick it up, but I'm glad I could fit it into one of these categories!

My pick: The Truth and Other Lies by Sascha Arango

4. A Book That Has A (Mostly) Blue Cover - 15 pts

I was hoping I'd be able to work the last book in the Deanna Madden trilogy into this challenge, and, thanks to its blue and black cover, it will actually be worth more than 5 points!

My pick: If You Dare by A.R. Torre

5. A Book Featuring Twins As Characters - 20 pts

Last year I read several books featuring twins, so it was actually kind of difficult to find a book I'd be interested in that I hadn't read recently. One of my all-time favorite books, Geek Love by Katherine Dunn, has twin characters, but I was saving my one reread in this challenge for another category. (I highly recommend that book if you haven't read it, though! I've read it three times, and I will happily read it again in the future.) Anyway, after looking through lists on Goodreads and changing my pick a couple of times, I finally settled on a book that sounded really unusual and unlike anything I've read before. Hopefully it doesn't disappoint!

My pick: Among Others by Jo Walton

6. A Book From This List Of Books Being Made Into Movies - 20 pts

I'd actually already read quite a few of the books on this list, and had even chosen The Silent Wife for the other book challenge I'm currently participating in. As I was scrolling through the list, I was thinking, "I think I'm just going to have to pick something random for this category." Then I noticed a book that I'd recently added to my "To Read" list and got excited ... Any time I can cross something off that list, I'm happy!

My pick: The Merciless by Danielle Vega

7. A Book Set In A Country I've Always Wanted To Visit - 25 pts

I love traveling, but I still haven't experienced so much of the world. There are a lot of places I dream of visiting. In the end, I chose a book set in England for two reasons: I've wanted to visit London since I was a little girl and I've had my hold on this book paused at the library for a while so I should be near the top of the list. I really need to clear out my paused holds (I have 8 paused right now), and this is a great way to do it!

My pick: What She Knew by Gilly Macmillan

8. A Historical Fiction Book - 30 pts

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I don't love historical fiction. However, that doesn't mean that I never enjoy it. The Nightingale, for example, was absolutely amazing. I'm hoping I'll have similar success with this book.

My pick: Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

9. A Music Related Book 30 pts

The book I chose for this category has literally been sitting on my bookshelf for years. It was given to me as a gift a long time ago (I can't even remember who gave it to me), and, for whatever reason, I just never bothered to read it. I didn't read it during the Read My Books challenge last month, so it's nice to continue getting through some of my own books while participating in other challenges.

My pick: Love is a Mix Tape by Rob Sheffield

10. A Book Originally Published Over 100 Years Ago - 35 pts

As I said earlier, my "To Read" list is insanely long (and it just keeps growing). However, I still like to revisit books I've previously enjoyed from time to time. I think I reread at least a couple of books last year, and I planned to do the same this year. Since it's allowed in this challenge, I've decided to reread one of my favorite classic novels. I got a beautiful copy of this book from my mom for Christmas last year, and I've been looking forward to reading it again. I haven't read it since my senior year of college (2005/2006), so it's almost like reading it for the first time. Almost.

My pick: Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

I'm really excited to start working through the books on this list!