2016 Reading Challenge: A Book You’ve Read At Least Once

2016 Reading Challenge- a book you've read at least once

This time around, we kind of did a little throwback reading. We decided to read a book that we’d already read at least once. It’s nice to revisit stories that you’ve already read. And, if it’s an especially good book, you get something new out of it each time.

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2016 Reading Challenge: Banned Books

2016 Reading Challenge- Banned Books

Happy weekend! We can’t believe the first week of May is over already! April was a busy month for us and it seemed as though we’d never catch up, but we did. That’s why we’re sharing the books we read in April for Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Reading Challenge with you today!

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2016 Reading Challenge: March’s Picks

2016 Reading Challenge- MARCH

Happy April, everyone!! Since March has officially come to an end, we thought we’d share the books we read this past month as part of Modern Mrs. Darcy’s 2016 Reading Challenge. It was Sarah’s turn to pick the category and she chose, “A book you own but have never read.” Here are the books we read and our thoughts on each.

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2016 Reading Challenge: February’s Picks

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Can you believe it’s already March?! It was just Christmas and New Year’s and Valentine’s Day, and now here we are. In case you missed it, we’re participating in Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Reading Challenge for 2016. It’s a really simple list that just has 12 categories, so, at the very least, you’ll read at least one book each month. That’s not to say you can’t read more, though!

This month, Deborah chose the category: a book you should have read in school. Here’s the books we each chose to read.

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Deborah read Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.

I actually had a couple people recommend this one. A friend from work who is my new reading buddy (I’ve actually got a book of hers sitting in my living room right now!) said that Fahrenheit 451 was one of the books she read for school that she actually enjoyed. My brother was the other one. He likes to read as much as I do, but he’s more particular about his books. I actually borrowed his copy for this part of the challenge! It was the 50th Anniversary Edition, so it had some extra stuff in the back too.

I didn’t really know much about the book before I picked it up. I know that paper catches fire at 451 degrees Fahrenheit, and I knew it was a dystopian futuristic story where they burned the books, but past that, I knew nothing. The story is about Guy Montag, a fire man. Sadly, in this world, fire men don’t put out the fires anymore; they burn the houses of people who have books. Montag firmly believes in his job at first, but after meeting Clarisse, who thinks and speaks differently from anyone else he’s ever met, and seeing his wife Millie almost succeed at an accidental suicide attempt, he starts to second guess. It starts with him snagging one of the books from a house he burns before the flames start, and it just goes from there. He makes the unfortunate mistake of trying to talk to his fire chief and then his wife about the books, but that doesn’t go as he’d hoped. His wife calls in an alarm on their own house, Chief Beatty responds to the call, and Montag watches his wife ride off in a taxi before he’s forced to burn down his own home.

I was kinda bummed by the time I finished this book because I honestly didn’t like it. I understand the sentiment it’s trying to get across, but I was disappointed in the character development. While I was reading it, I was getting a little bored, but I thought it would end up being one of those books I’d like once I’d finished it and could look back at it. Not so. I got excited when it looked like Montag was going up against the government, but then he’d lose his cool and blow the whole thing in a second! I then just got so frustrated with the character that I pretty much just powered through the last few passages just to get it over with. Would I recommend the book for pleasure reading? Probably not. But is it a relevant message in today’s world? Definitely.

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Sarah read The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath.

When I was in high school, at the start of each school year, my English teachers would provide us students with two different lists of books. One list of books would be required reading for the year, and the other would be “suggested” titles that we would choose from for special assignments. I remember The Bell Jar being on the suggested list a few times, but I never had a desire to read it until now.

I took Creative Writing classes in middle school and we studied some of Sylvia Plath’s poetry. I knew that Ms. Plath was very talented, but she struggled with mental health issues and ended up committing suicide when she was only thirty years old. The Bell Jar, which is a semi-autobiographical account of her early life, was first published just a month before her death. Because of those things, I avoided The Bell Jar for fear of finding it depressing or disturbing. Now I can say, while it’s definitely not a feel-good read, I’m still glad I read it.

The book is very well-written—the first person narrative does an excellent job of putting you inside the narrator’s mind. At times the events seem jumbled and the thoughts become frantic, alluding to the nervous breakdown that eventually takes place. However, the voice is quite engaging. I couldn’t put the book down!

“If Mrs. Guinea had given me a ticket to Europe, or a round-the-world cruise, it wouldn’t have made one scrap of difference to me, because wherever I sat—on the deck of a ship or at a street cafe in Paris or Bangkok—I would be sitting under the same glass bell jar, stewing in my own sour air.”

I believe to understand an author’s work, you have to understand the author. Obviously, the thoughts and feelings of the book’s main character were some of the same things the author was experiencing. I commend Sylvia Plath for opening herself up in such a way, exposing the terrible realities of depression and mental illness. She wrote The Bell Jar in a time when it was common for people to be locked away for being “crazy” and then to be experimented on with lobotomies and electroshock therapy. Mental illness was not talked about in public, lest you’d become a social outcast. Thank goodness, times have changed. I’d like to think that this book is partly responsible. There’s no doubt that The Bell Jar will continue to add Sylvia Plath’s captivating, if haunting, story to the conversation for years to come.

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Stay tuned for March’s picks! We’ll be choosing books we own but haven’t read. 

What are you currently reading? Have you read either of these books? If so, what did you think? We’d love to hear from you!

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2016 Goals in Review

It’s the first week of February and the perfect time to check-in with our goals for 2016! A full month has passed since we last reflected on what we’d like to accomplish this year and we still have a long way to go. January wasn’t perfect, but we’re proud to say that progress is being made!

How are you doing? Are you still plugging away at those resolutions or have you lost your enthusiasm? We hope that our honesty and imperfections encourage you to keep trying. After all, we’ve still got eleven months to get it right! Here’s how we did in January.

2016 Goals in Review

Sarah’s Goals:

Successful.

  • Eat healthier. So far, so good! I’ve cut down my consumption of red meat to only about twice a week and now, I’m focusing on lowering my daily sugar intake!
  • Read more. Last month, I started reading The Body Book by Cameron Diaz—it’s a lot to digest, so I’m about halfway through it. I also read Rules for a Knight by Ethan Hawke as my January pick for our 2016 reading list. This month, I’m going to read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up and one more book for the reading list, TBD.
  • Have a weekly date night. It’s been so nice to connect with each other each week, free from any other distractions! We’ve gone out for dinner, taken walks, and even had a movie night.

Not-so-much.

  • Start exercising 30 minutes a day. While I’m not doing this daily yet, I am exercising a lot more than I was. In January, I averaged 30 minutes of exercise, 3 days a week. Not near where I need to be, so I’ll definitely be focusing on this in February.
  • Do a daily devotional with my husband. Not even close! We only made this happen a few times in January! Ryan has a new work schedule this month so hopefully we’ll finally get on the same page in this department.
  • Get on a cleaning schedule. Closer. I only made it one week following Clean Mama’s schedule. It definitely helped but I found it difficult to stick to. I’m in the process of tailoring it to fit my preferences, so I’ll keep you posted. 🙂

Deborah’s Goals:

Successful.

  • Read more. I’m already working on book number 4 for this year! I read Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson for January’s reading list pick. Now, I’m finishing the final book of the Ally Condie’s Matched trilogy. I’d wanted to read it for a while, and the library had the first one when I checked out Speak, so I went for it!
  • Unplug more often. This one isn’t going as well as it could, but, thanks to reading more, I’m not on my phone as much! I also haven’t been turning on the TV as soon as I get home after work either. Still, I think this one could get even better.
  • Pray with my husband. We’ve been doing pretty good with this, I’m glad to say. Right now, after we’re in bed with the lights off, one of us says a short prayer. No more than a couple minutes, and we take turns each day. We’re both also careful to not let it turn into a wish list by starting out with thanking God, even if it’s just for the little things of the day.

Not-so-much.

  • Exercise 3 times a week. Ugh. We have gone to play tennis exactly one time this year! In my defense, it’s been pretty chilly here in Charleston, so it hasn’t exactly been tennis-friendly. But, I think, instead of using the weather as an excuse, I should try to come up with some alternate forms of exercise.
  • Try new recipes and eat healthier. Let’s face it. I still am not a fan of cooking. Plus, with a change in our diet for 3 weeks in January, we weren’t doing our usual. I’m trying to branch out some though, by attempting some of those simple video recipes I keep posting on Facebook (like the Cheeseburger Cups and S’mores Pinwheels). I figure if I keep trying little things, I can work up to full meals. I hope!
  • Work on my time management skills. This one will be a toughie because it’s something I’ve always struggled with. Luckily, my husband is a stickler for punctuality, so he’s happy to guide me on this path!

 

As you can see, we’ve already succeeded and failed! But, as we said before, it’s still early. If you’re struggling with some of your goals too, don’t worry, you’re not alone. Keep working on it. A lot of our goals are things that are accomplished by forming new habits, and those don’t happen overnight.

How about you? Tell us how your goals are going so far, and let us know if you have any tips for how we can do better on ours!

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