Small Life, Slow Life: 2015 Reading Challenge + What I’ve Been Up to Lately!

Um, Happy New Year? (I know, I know, it’s March!) Sorry I haven’t popped over here in a bit!

I have a big post coming on Why Getting Your Ex Back Isn’t All You’ve Dreamed Of, so stay tuned for that.

But in the meantime, a quick update:

The first two months of this year were great! In January, I turned 33 (omg). C and I went to Yosemite (my first ever trip there!) and it was, like, so freaking beautiful.

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That’s a coyote, just chillin’ on the side of the road.

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The waterfalls! So gorgeous!

I’m not unhappy to have turned 33. I somehow even feel younger than I did at 32. Weird? But I think part of that has to do with the fact that I can feel a gentle happiness returning to my life. Last year was hard…really hard. Other than my marriage, it felt like a dark year. But once January rolled around this year, I felt the weight lift and I started doing things I really enjoy. I’m back to reading fiction (all the time, and more on that below) + playing video games (didn’t you know I love video games?), and taking time for myself. C and I also signed up in January to do the Whole Life Challenge, and while difficult (56 days!), it has been really great! It’s made me more active and I’ve really cleaned up my diet, so I feel AWESOME. My energy is out of control!

I also started this year thinking about what I want the next twenty years of my life to be about. Newsflash: I was an English major. My life is, and has always been, about reading and writing. I was an only child until I was 11, and my parents worked nights and slept during the day. That meant that books were my best friends and I read them voraciously as a kid.

Last year, I decided that I wanted to make my life more about literature, so I took the CBEST and CSET and applied to get my Masters in Education with the intention of teaching high school English. It seemed like a responsible, safe step to take and my family and friends were really supportive. All the while, a little voice was nagging me: “Jen, you want to teach COLLEGE…not high school.” That little voice got louder and louder until I finally said to my husband one day, “What the heck am I doing?! I’ve NEVER wanted to teach high school; I’ve always wanted to teach college! I hate The Crucible and Lord of the Flies — I don’t want to teach those!” He smiled at me, probably having predicted months before that I would finally stumble upon that conclusion.

So in the end, even though I applied, took the tests, and even had an in-person interview, I’m now hunkering down to study for the GRE and apply to get my MA and/or PhD in English. (Yikes. That’s a BIG goal. Makes me a little sweaty to think about it.)

But I’m really glad I went through the process of studying and taking the CBEST and CSET. I got to disprove a theory I had about myself: that I am a bad test taker. I did really well on both tests and I actually quite enjoyed the studying. I think I had to go through that so I get to the other side and uncover what my real goal was…that I was simply too afraid to chase. (The GRE has always scared the living crap out of me. I’ve tried to study for it three different times and gave up every time. Now I have no excuses.)

I’ve always dreamed of teaching English at a community college. Why? Probably because my most favorite teachers of all-time, ever, were my community college professors. Also, you only need a Masters degree to do it. (Two years versus 5-7 years for a PhD? Sign me up.) But now that I’m looking into taking the GRE and seeing that all my targeted schools offer PhD programs…well, suffice to say that I’m thinking about it…a little bit. I don’t know what this year will bring and which schools I’ll apply to in November, but I’m dreaming big and planning to go for it!

But I think the MOST exciting thing about 2015 is that I signed on to do a reading challenge with GoodreadsMy goal? I’ll read 48 books this year…or four books a month. I’m on my eighth book already. Here’s what I’ve read so far:

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The Wife by Meg Wolitzer. It was just okay for me…all the reviews talk about the “shocking twist” that anyone can honestly see coming from page 1. If you’re going to read Wolitzer, I cannot recommend The Interestings enough! I read it on my honeymoon and I was so sad to see it end. It’s marvelous!

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11/22/63 by Stephen King. A friend told me on New Year’s Eve that I would love this book. I had my doubts, but I could NOT put this down, and it is a very long book. I highly recommend this one to those who love time travel stories. (I’m a sucker for them. It’s all the Twilight Zone episodes I watched with my mom as a kid.)

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To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han. I credit this book as the one that sent me down a YA fiction rampage! I’d never heard of Jenny Han, but Lauren Conrad picked this book for her February Book Club selection and I decided to read it since it was $1.99 for the Kindle edition. (It’s still $1.99 at the time of this writing, if you’re interested.) I loved it! I couldn’t stop thinking about the characters and immediately pre-ordered the sequel, which is coming out in May. Loving this book immediately led me to order Han’s other popular book, The Summer I Turned Pretty. Sadly…I really  didn’t like that one and didn’t bother with the remainder of the trilogy.

Then Amazon decided to be friendly and told me that if I liked TATBILB by Han, I’d probably like…

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Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. I’d heard of Rowell, but clicking “Buy Now” on my Kindle was no indication of how obsessed I was about to become with her. (I now follow her on twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram. Stalker alert.)

I devoured Fangirl. Laughed out loud. Felt all the feels. Hated when it was over. Highlighted all the passages I loved. If you’re even 10% nerdy, you’ll love this book. Give it a go. Immediately after, I jumped on:

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Eleanor and Park. I liked it. A lot. I even got a little misty at the end. People REALLY love this book, so don’t tell them that Fangirl is better. (But really, Fangirl is better.) But I totally get why people are ‘shipping this book so hard.

Lastly, I read Rowell’s Attachments. My least favorite of the three, but I will still say…Rowell writes the kind of book that makes you smile the whole way through. Think of a Meg Ryan/Tom Hanks movie, but updated, and funnier, with nerd references, and with more realistic dialogue. That’s Rainbow Rowell for you. She’s fantastic. I almost jumped into her book Landline, but decided to veer off of teen writers for a while and go to…

outlander-book-coverOutlander! My friend Marianne told me to read this years ago. I don’t really like historical romance. (Correction: I don’t really like historical anything.) But I DO like time travel, so I’m giving it a shot, and I like it so far. (Disclaimer: I’m only about 10% in.) Women get really woo-ey about this book, Fifty Shades of Grey style, so I’m interested to see where it goes.

Are you doing a book challenge this year? I’ll keep you updated with mine. I also saw a really cool 2015 Book Challenge on Pop Sugar that I liked. Had I not already signed up for a book challenge, I would have totally done this one.

10398024_10103870862457413_7512123786047030337_nGot any reading recommendations for me? Leave a comment or shoot me an email!

xoxo, Jen

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8 thoughts on “Small Life, Slow Life: 2015 Reading Challenge + What I’ve Been Up to Lately!

  1. I Jen l am excited for your new 2015 plans. In one of your post ,you talked about the website the secret,so l checked it and was a chock for me bc now l understand why l have to passed for the all process of break up and bla bla. I attracted it for my life my my fears and thoughts.. So l bought the book magic ,OH May God you don’t have idea how this book help me and change me as person. I am happy with myself ,l have been working to be a better person since there. Yesterday l just bought The Power book l love it!!

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