Products and Books I'm Enjoying in 2023
Book Recommendations, Loving and Learning Lately

Loving and Learning Lately {14}

Products and Books I'm Enjoying in April 2019

Welcome to Round 14 of this little series I started of all the things in life I’m loving and learning lately! Here you’ll find everything from the books I’m currently reading to the products I’m loving to the shows I’m watching (which, spoiler alert–won’t be very many or very exciting, since I’m not a huge t.v. or movie watcher). If you want to check out past editions of the series, click here.

Note: There are affiliate links in this post, which means I get a small percentage of any sale made at no extra cost to you. Thanks for supporting To Love and To Learn!

Loving Lately

  • Other than the current season of Relative Race (which just finished, coincidentally), we don’t watch much t.v. However, I have been getting into a couple You Tube channels lately, like the Jenna Sue Design channel (which is all about two renovations her and her husband are doing) and the Laura Hoyda channel (who does lifestyle videos as a mom of two). Jenna Sue also has a blog, which I’ve recently started following and love. A small part of me has been tempted to try some vlogging lately, so if I ever get going on that front, it will largely be because I’ve been inspired by these and a few others that my husband follows.
  • Grill season has officially started again, and I HAVE to tell you about this amazing meat marinade recipe. It came together in about two minutes from ingredients we already had in hand, and it was DELECTABLE.
  • If you subscribe to my email list, you’ll already know that life has felt extra hard lately. One post that seemed to come just at the right time was this one, and I fully intend to memorize the poem in it over the next few weeks.

Learning Lately

Recent Books

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

This book has been on my to-read shelf forever, but it was thanks to my book club that it was finally bumped up the stack. On the surface, it wouldn’t seem like this biography-of-sorts would be up my alley at all—the medical field (and books about it) have never held much appeal for me, but overall, I found this study of the largely unknown woman, whose cells medical researchers took without her family’s knowledge and that still live on (well past her death, which happened soon after) surprisingly page-turning. It was the kind of book where I felt both entertained AND smarter after having finished it, which is a pretty hard thing to pull off.

How to Manage Your Home Without Losing Your Mind by Dana K. White

This was a re-read of an old favorite, which I reviewed more fully in this post. Basically, Dana White is my spirit animal when it comes to housekeeping, and whenever I find myself getting lazy about housework and needing a good kick in the pants to get going again, I read her.

Outer Order, Inner Calm by Gretchen Rubin

Since I’d put this newer release on my round-up of 15 Books to Get Your House in Order, I figured I’d better actually read it. And all in all, I liked it, though it felt very random to me—more just a collection of general snippets of advice rather than a methodical way of getting your house under control. This is the kind of book I’d read for quick shots of motivation, but not if I needed a whole housekeeping philosophy overhaul.

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

You guys, it only took me nearly six months, but I finally finished this one…and I was pretty underwhelmed. I’ve mentioned multiple times here on the blog that I’m pretty burned out of the dystopian genre, but I was hoping that revisiting a classic might reinvigorate some of my old excitement about it. Nope. I found this futuristic world, with its weird attitudes about sex and class and relationships to be particularly disturbing, and as with many dystopias, it felt like so much of the beginning was devoted to simply building the world that it dragged quite a bit. The ending held some particularly meaty sections that would be awesome to discuss (and are what pulled this up to a 3-star rating), but overall, I’m glad to cross this one off my list and never revisit it again.

America’s Cheapest Family Gets You Right on the Money by Steve Economides

I was looking for a book that would give me encouragement to continue on in our frugal journey, which this book did provide. While most of the tips were things we already do, I did come away with some new insights (like how to save money while hiring contractors and plumbers to work on your house and ways to cut monthly utility costs), and I also got the push I needed to call our insurance and Internet providers and negotiate better monthly rates. However, the writing style did start to bug me after awhile, so by the end, this was a middle-of-the-road book at 3 stars.

Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry

I’m about three-fourths through this one, and though this kind of book won’t be for everyone, I’m loving it–I’m fully expecting that it will be at least a 4.5-star read, if not the full 5-stars. This short novel is basically just the story of an old woman who is looking back over her lifetime, and while the slow build and meandering reflections would perhaps not appeal to a general audience looking simply to be entertained, I have found myself wanting to buy my own copy of the book just so I can mark up all the insights and the poignant thoughts on life. I can see this one being a book that I’ll want to re-read down the road.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby

This book was a total surprise for me. All I’d heard about it was that it was totally depressing, which didn’t make me overly enthused to read it. But, as it was my book club’s pick for April, I decided just to give it a shot, especially as it is so short. While the circumstances of this true memoir are certainly depressing (a massive stroke hits the former editor of French Elle in his 40’s and leaves him paralyzed and unable to communicate at all except for blinking his left eyelid), this was a totally inspiring read for me. Firstly, it’s incredible to me that the entire book was dictated by him blinking his left eyelid, and it was also incredible to me how imaginative the thoughts in the book were, as well as the overall appreciation of life found in most of the chapters. This book made me want to stop and appreciate the tiny little daily things that we all take for granted, and it made me want to sit up and appreciate all the good I enjoy at any given moment. A solid 4-star read.

We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter

Sigh. This book. A fellow reader who recommended it to me described it as “simply a must-read,” and I now know exactly what she meant–I want to recommend this book to EVERYONE now. If you just read this WWII-era book without knowing anything about the backstory, you’d probably find the plotline too implausible to totally buy into. But then when you find out that this story is based on the true family history of its author? That changes everything. Basically, Georgia Hunter didn’t find out until she was a teen that her beloved grandfather was a Holocaust survivor. He passed away soon after that, but she started to become intensely curious about her family’s story, and she started interviewing family members near and far about what had happened. What she found out was incredible–while 90% of the Jews living in the city where her grandfather’s family lived were killed, somehow, her entire family had survived, though the war flung them far and wide over different continents. The writing and plot of the story would have been enough to merit 4 stars in my opinion, but the fact that this is based on true events easily vaulted this into 5-star territory for me. A fabulous, fabulous read.

Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield

This is my current read, and I’m only about 10% of the way in. I loved Setterfield’s The Thirteenth Tale, and this one promises to be another blend of magical storytelling and captivating writing. After so many heavy/depressing/more serious reads, I was in desperate need of a book to simply escape into, and I think this should fit the bill nicely.

Other Links

This is one of my favorite times of the year in the blogging world because it’s the time when summer reading guides are published! Perhaps one of these years, I’ll put out my own, but for now, simply enjoy the awesome guides put out by others:

  • The only guide that’s officially already out is Modern Mrs. Darcy’s, which was just released last week. It holds 30 titles, 6 or 7 which I immediately added to my TBR list (and put holds on at the library), and others of which I’m waiting for more buzz to decide for sure.
  • The Everyday Reading guide will come out by the end of the month (and I like hers particularly because she includes backlist titles as well), but she released a free printable summer reading chart today that looks pretty awesome.
  • Sarah’s Book Shelves also comes out with an official reading guide soon, but if you want a preview of some summer titles coming out, she just released a podcast and blog post of some books she’s particularly excited to get her hands on. Her tastes are pretty different from mine (she definitely favors more thriller-types than I do), but I’ll occasionally find a new favorite via her site.

Blog News

  • I’m sure you’ve noticed that I haven’t been posting much lately. As mentioned above, if you’ve signed up to be on my email list, you’ll already know some of the reasons why (and if you haven’t signed up yet, click here to get on that). Basically, I’ve had to let blogging take a backseat in order to get some health stuff in order, mainly with my autoimmune disease flaring up again and my anxiety finally reaching the point where I’ve had to go to a doctor about it.
  • I *think* I’ve finally started to turn a corner (my anxiety is at least under control, it seems, since my doctor found out it was due to a carnitine deficiency and wasn’t “typical” anxiety, which explains why my experience with anxiety wasn’t matching up with anyone else’s that I had asked about, as it wasn’t constant, or even the majority of the time). Note: If you’re experiencing anxiety/panic symptoms but it’s not all the time (mine was only about 20% of the time), then have your doctor check all your carnitine levels. You can actually buy L-Carnitine over the counter (I get mine through Amazon) as it’s an amino acid produced by your body, and many of my siblings actually were taking it anyway just because it’s supposed to help with energy levels and energy/metabolism regulation. Anyway, just thought I’d pass it along, since I never would have known my anxiety wasn’t “typical” had I not gone in to get tested.
    • This is all to say that while I hope to start posting a little more regularly, I make no promises. I am, however, at least posting somewhat more regularly on my Instagram, so you can follow me there to keep up with us a bit more during this season.

And that’s a wrap! Make sure to tell me of any good titles you’re reading lately, and if you know of any other bloggers who put out Summer Reading Guides, PLEASE SEND THEM MY WAY! 🙂

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