Inspirational Reads

Inspirational Reads

I’ve read some great inspirational books throughout 2017 and 2018. I’m one to give just about any book, and I have a special place in my heart for inspirational or I guess what could be classified as self-help books. Below are my reviews of some of the ones I have loved, and also some that I have picked up from the library and are on my list!

You’re Not Lost by Maxie McCoy // This is the most recent book I’ve read and I have recommended this book to everyone! Maxie has such an inspiring and energizing writing style that makes you want to go out and tackle the world.

Her book is an action plan to help you figure out what the next steps in your life should be, based entirely on how the steps she presents as her plan are answered by you. Her book is funny (she is not shy about her love for Oprah at all) and she also discusses her own path through adulthood and career transitions to exhibit just how the action plan affected her own life.

I read this book at probably the best time I could have, because it helped push me to try a new project at work that I am so excited about. If I hadn’t read this book, I may not have agreed to try something new, so this book is definitely one I recommend to those who may feel slightly lost.

Goodreads stars: 5/5 (AKA I hope you’re already on your way to your local library/Barnes & Noble/used bookstore/ account to rent/reserve/purchase it!)

Rising Strong by Brené Brown // This is the only book of Brené Brown’s that I have yet to read, but I enjoyed listening to it and am eager to pick up her other books whenever I get through the few other hundred on my to-read list.

In this book, the main idea is, “If we are brave enough often enough, we will fall.” Brown goes on to show throughout the book how if you can own those feelings of disappointment or failure that inevitably come along with a fall, whether the fall be in your professional or personal life, then you can turn those feelings into the new motivation for you to continue on learning or succeeding. I definitely think I enjoyed listening to this book more than I would have reading it, but overall the book was entertaining and gave me a new perspective on some of those feelings of failure and how to cope with them.

Goodreads stars: 3/5 (AKA I enjoyed the book, but I would not recommend it as highly as other ones I’ve read.)

Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges by Amy Cuddy // This was another one I listened to (If you read my post about how I make time for reading, you probably remember that I’m very much an audiobook lover for my commutes to and from work.) and supremely enjoyed the book for that very reason, because essentially it was an extended TED Talk!

Cuddy’s book is a mix of the science behind the human body-mind behavior, as well as ways that you can better yourself and present yourself confidently in those terrifying situations like elevator pitches, job interviews, and other oftentimes scary instances.

The biggest takeaway of the book for me was that the changes we make do not have to happen overnight. You can work slowly or in stages to improve your confidence during big, momentous times.

Goodreads stars: 4/5 (AKA I truly enjoyed reading it and I highly recommend you add it to your to-read lists!)

Books I’m Looking Forward To Reading //

Some more self-help-esque books I’m looking forward to reading are below!

Goodreads: Why I Love It and How I Use It

Goodreads: Why I Love It and How I Use It

People today, including myself, want to organize every aspect of their lives. I love to organize – my apartment, my finances, and even my books and reading lists. One website that has changed the game for me is Goodreads.


Goodreads is a social media website dedicated to books. I mean, does it get any better than that? For other people, probably, but I can’t seem to get enough! You can send friend requests to your existing friends on Facebook or contacts in Gmail, or follow users, where their updates will show up on a timeline on the homepage. Each user has a profile similar to Twitter or Facebook, only each update is dedicated to recent books they have marked as “Want to Read,” or books they have started and finished.

I find ~90% of the books I want to read from Goodreads. Not only do I take note of recommendations from friends or people I follow, but I also check out the Goodreads blog, where they post new content every day. Some of my favorite blog posts are their most popular book club picks, new or upcoming releases, and their author interviews.

Each Goodreads user starts with three generic shelves: Read, To-Read, and Currently Reading. At the moment, whenever I stumble upon a book that I find interesting, I add it to my To-Read shelf. I have considered making separate lists, such as To Read Now and To Read Eventually, but I’m still working out how I would define now and eventually. It’s pretty simple, but once I start reading a book or listening to an audiobook, I add it to my currently reading shelf. At times this shelf will have upwards of five or six books on it as I pick up some more books from the library or have multiple audiobooks in the rotation. After I’ve finished a book, I’ll mark it as Read, rate it, and write a short review of it. One extra shelf that I created was 101-in-1001, which is a challenge called 101 things in 1001 days that I started April 1, 2017. The first thing on my 101-in-1001 challenge is to read 101 new books, so as I mark books as Read, I also add them to this shelf in Goodreads.

Goodreads is not the most beautifully designed website out on the Internet, but it has revolutionized the way I find and organize new books to read. A notable feature in the Goodreads app is the scanning feature – if you find an interesting book you want to add to your (Goodreads) shelves, you can use a page in the mobile app to scan the barcode that will automatically find the book in Goodreads for you. You can also set a goal for a yearly reading challenge in Goodreads. 2018 is my second year working towards a yearly reading challenge, and I can say that it 100% helped motivate me to get through some reading ruts in 2017. Seeing that tangible goal every time I logged into Goodreads made me want to pick up all of those books sitting on my bookcase or on my nightstands.

Thanks for reading and I hope you all enjoy your weekends!

Favorite Historical Fiction Novels: World War II

Favorite Historical Fiction Novels: World War II


Hands down, my favorite genre of books to read is historical fiction. Growing up, about every other book I read was a historical fiction novel, alternated with Nancy Drew mysteries and other typical young adult reads. Ann Rinaldi wrote some of the most entertaining and relatable historical fiction novels that I read as a young girl. Does anyone else remember The Fifth of March or Finishing Becca? Anyone…? It is safe to say that without her novels and many others, like L.M. Elliott’s Annie, Between the States for example, I may not have loved historical fiction quite as much as I did and still do. (My roommate feels the same way!) It is safe to say that if I ever sit down and try to write a book, which sounds more and more appealing each and every day, it would a historical fiction novel. My favorite time periods to read about are (1) the American Revolution; (2) the Civil War; (3) Tudor England; and (4) World War II. My fascination with historical fiction novels has continued into adulthood and I’ve (relatively) recently read some incredible ones I want to share with you. I’m thinking this might turn into a series I post about every now and then, where I break down my list of favorite novels by time period into separate posts. This is part one of a TBD number of posts. I hope you enjoy this first installment about World War II-era novels and that maybe you’ll add a book or two to your to-read lists!

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn// I cannot say enough good things about this novel. It had me engrossed within the first two sentences and I could not put it down to save my life. (Each morning before work I would set my alarm to go off an extra 20 minutes before I needed to get up just so I had a bit more time to read this book.) Charlie St. Clair finds herself pregnant and unmarried post-World War II, and is in search of one of her best friends and cousin, Rose. She sets off for London, where she meets Eve Gardiner, who was a spy for the Alice Network during World War I. Together, the two of them embark on a journey together, though each is looking for her own type of closure. The format and writing of the novel were some of the best I have ever experienced, and each major character had a powerful story to tell. I could not put this book down and was truly sad when it was over!
Goodreads stars: 5/5 (AKA I hope you’re already on your way to your local library/Barnes & Noble/used bookstore/ account to rent/reserve/purchase it!)

Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly // Lilac Girls was a powerful read with articulate, emotional writing that I believe conveys the worries, fears, and overall mood of the women’s time spent at Ravensbruck Concentration Camp, a little known piece of history. Lilac Girls is based on the true story of Caroline Farriday, a New York socialite who fought for Polish women rescued from Ravensbruck. The novel tells the stories of three women – Caroline Farriday, Kasia Kuzmerick – a young Polish teenager – and Herta Oberheuser – an ambitious young German doctor – and how they ultimately converge because of Ravensbruck. As each woman’s story progressed, I was intrigued to see how the pieces of the puzzle would eventually fit together.
Goodreads stars: 4/5 (AKA I truly enjoyed reading it and I highly recommend you add it to your to-read lists!)

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr // This post continues with yet another World War II-era novel, which is shocking because World War II is definitely at the bottom of my favorite historical fiction genres. What can I say? I guess authors have been really doing a phenomenal job with the WWII-era novels recently! All the Light We Cannot See is about a young blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France during World War II. Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris, but soon they must flee to Saint-Malo, a walled city on the water, where her uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. Werner is a young German boy who grows up with his younger sister in a small mining town as an orphan. He becomes an expert at building and fixing radios, and soon is recruited to track down resistance fighters. When I first picked this book up, I thought it was going to be a love story between Werner and Marie-Laure, but what I read was honestly even better than what I anticipated. Instead of a usual significant-other-goes-off-to-war-or-gets-separated-and-they-must-find-each-other-storyline (which don’t get me wrong, I TOTALLY love and appreciate in so many novels), this novel focused on the growth of Werner and Marie-Laure and how they each individually struggled with the war and its consequences.
Goodreads stars: 5/5 (AKA I hope you’re already on your way to your local library/Barnes & Noble/used bookstore/ account to rent/reserve/purchase it!)

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah // The last and final entry for this post is a novel I finished in three days and could probably read over and over again. This might be the best book I have read so far in 2018. And that is a bold statement, I would say, because I have read some great books so far this year. The Nightingale is about a pair of sisters in France, Vianne and Isabelle Mauriac, who each play their own part in helping the resistance during WWII. Vianne’s husband, Antoine, is called off to join the war effort, and she is left to care for her family even as an enemy stays under the same roof as her. Meanwhile, Vianne’s rebellious sister Isabelle is heartbroken after meeting a young man who ultimately betrays her, and she finally finds herself as part of a family and with a sense of belonging. Kristin Hannah’s descriptions, dialogues, and storytelling kept me glued to the couch I was on for most of the three days. (Anyone else find that they spend whole weekends reading books? No? Just me? Oh well.) I cannot wait to read Kristin Hannah’s next novel, The Great Alone, which is on my nightstand and ready to be read, just as soon as I finish the four or five books ahead of it.
Goodreads stars: 5/5 (AKA I hope you’re already on your way to your local library/Barnes & Noble/used bookstore/ account to rent/reserve/purchase it!)

Please let me know what your favorite World War II-era novels are and I will definitely add them to my list!

How I Make Time for Reading

How I Make Time for Reading

Confession: I have always enjoyed reading books. Growing up, and even today, it doesn’t take much for me to pick up a book instead of watching TV or browsing the web. Another confession: sometimes I’ll use my lunch break to sit in my car and read my book – I consider it my time to decompress and take time for myself. Anyway, when I was younger I was that student who would read a book in the middle of class in school and who could finish one book in a day during school vacations (I may or may not have finished Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix after it was released in one sitting…). Some of the tips I talk about below may work for you, and some may not. I wanted to share them though, in case they do help make reading more enjoyable for you.

My nightstand – aka current holding station for books on my to-read list.

Always have a book handy // Given that I carry a rather large purse to and from work every day, a paperback or hardcover copy of a book generally fits in my purse. Otherwise, I have the Nook for Barnes & Noble app, the Libby app, and the Kindle app for Amazon on my phone. Now, I won’t go so far as to read a book on my phone while I’m out with friends/family/my boyfriend, but if I have a few minutes of waiting either for a metro, at a doctor’s office, or the like, I’ll open an app to read a few minutes here and there, or pull out my headphones to listen to an audiobook. The Libby app by Overdrive is helpful to have on my phone because it allows me to listen to audiobooks I’ve rented and downloaded from my local library. On commutes to and from work or while running errands around town, I tend to listen to audiobooks as opposed to music.

Pick a book you think you’ll enjoy // As obvious as this tip sounds, it’s the truth. The glorious thing about reading as an adult is that, unless you’re in graduate school or your job makes you read a lot of books for work, you can read anything that piques your interest on your own schedule. If you know that you enjoy reading murder mysteries or science fiction novels, there is nothing wrong with reading more of those, as long as it gets you reading. Along this same vein, I am a believer that it is okay to put down a book if you have given it a fair chance and it is not keeping you engaged. Now how many pages is a “fair chance” depends on the reader, but I give it at least a few chapters before deciding whether or not to continue or put it down in lieu of another book.

Some may say I need to cut down on the books, but I say I need a new bookcase. 

Learn where to get books for free (or almost free) // A common misconception is that to read, you have to buy all of your books in hardcover or paperback form from Barnes & Noble or Amazon or similar places. I borrow 95% of the books I read from the local library, even digital copies. Sure, you don’t get to keep library books when you’re done with them, but a girl’s gotta save money wherever she can. My next favorite place to get books are from the Nook Book Deals section of Barnes & Noble’s website. They often have recently-released books to download to your Nook or Nook app for seriously reduced prices. Finally, I am a sucker for a used bookstore. There are a couple of good ones in the DC area that I can’t help but pop into whenever I’m around them, and usually can’t resist buying a book or two.

Read before bed // One of my favorite times to read is before bed. According to research, it is better for your eyes right before bed than staring at a phone/tablet/laptop screen. I have found that it also helps to calm my brain after a busy day. There are very few feelings better than climbing into bed in my pajamas with a candle burning on my nightstand table and getting to end a busy work day, or even relaxing weekend, than with a good book. Before bed is a great time to build in some reading time, even if your goal is only to read five pages at a time.

Set a goal for yourself // Setting a feasible goal to achieve anything makes you more likely to want to work towards something, like reading more. A way that I set reading goals for myself is by using the site Goodreads, where you can set a yearly reading challenge goal and keep track of books you’ve read towards that goal by marking them as “read” on the site. I treat my reading challenge goal the same way I do my to-do lists – it feels good to cross off items on my to-do lists, and it feels good to read one more book that gets me closer to my goal.

There are so many other useful tips out there that could help make reading easier and more enjoyable for some people, but these are some of the basic ones that have helped me throughout the years, especially recently as a busy young professional!

Favorite Podcasts

Favorite Podcasts

Today I want to talk about some of my current and past favorite podcasts. Now there are a number of other podcasts that I have listened to and that I enjoy, but the four I talk about below are the ones I either (a) am currently obsessed with or (b) top my list of favorites. Please leave a comment below with any other podcasts you recommend and think I should add to my queue to listen to!


Awesome Etiquette // This is a podcast recorded by Lizzie Post and Daniel Post Senning, cousins and co-presidents of the Emily Post Institute. Each week, Lizzie and Daniel record an hour-long episode answering questions about 21st century etiquette submitted by listeners. The co-hosts are great to listen to, especially when Lizzie gets becomes super passionate with her answers, and the two go back and forth throughout the episodes, often bantering and going off on tangents. Listening to this podcast has definitely changed the way I treat other people and try to consider other people’s situations. Not only is it an entertaining podcast, it is an invaluable resource for modern day etiquette.

How I Built This // This is a recent find for me, but I definitely cannot get enough of this podcast. How I Built This is an NPR production and each week the host, Guy Raz, interviews the founder of some of the world’s best-known companies. This series is a fascinating look into the minds of some of the most brilliant entrepreneurs. It is inspiring to hear about how some of the world’s most popular brands and companies were created by normal people selling fax machines (Sara Blakely of Spanx) or how to the couple who created the wedding website The Knot had a disastrous (their word, don’t worry) wedding. (Fun Fact: Listening to this blog actually inspired me to write more blog posts because so many of the founders spoke about following your dreams and not giving up, and how will I know if this blog is something I’ll want to pursue if I don’t give it a chance?)

 Serial Season One // I was definitely late to the game with this podcast, but it was so good that I finished it in three days. The plot of the crime is intriguing, and the way Sarah Koenig, the host, breaks down and analyzes pieces of the case each week is what really kept me around for each chapter of the podcast. There are recorded phone calls and interviews interspersed with Koenig’s reporting. I felt invested in the story throughout the entire series, and that’s what kept me hitting that “Next Episode” button.

 Dirty John // “When something seems too good to be true, that’s because it probably is” – this is the opening sentence of this podcast’s description. Dirty John is an investigative report of swindler John Meehan by Christopher Goffard from the L.A. Times. Debra Newell, a divorcee, meets John Meehan on a dating website, and he seems perfect. Newell is head over heels, but her family does not like John, and goes to great lengths to tell her so, but soon there is this giant cycle of lies, denial, and forgiveness. Goffard narrates the podcast, but there are also interviews with Newell, her family members, and Meehan’s ex-wives and siblings. The podcast is seven episodes, so it was easy to breeze through, and I highly recommend it!

There are some other podcasts I have in my Podcast app library to listen to in the coming days and weeks, such as The Goal Digger Podcast by Jenna Kutcher, Pursuit with Purpose by Melyssa Griffin, and Lady Lovin’ by Jilly Hendrix, Greta Titelman, and Lo Bosworth. Again, please let me know of any other podcasts that you recommend!

Books I Read in Montego Bay

Books I Read in Montego Bay

I brought three books with me on vacation: Eligible, Surprise Me, and Modern Lovers. Originally I only had two books packed for my trip, but I knew that with how much we would be lounging by the pools and the beaches, I would be kicking myself if I only packed two and finished both of them. Now some of you are probably thinking, I’m lucky if I only finish ONE book while on vacation, let alone THREE. Granted, I was already halfway finished with Eligible when we left for vacation, but I did finish Surprise Me in the five days we were at the resort.


Eligible // If you are unfamiliar with the plot of Eligible, it’s a modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice written by Curtis Sittenfeld, the author of Prep and American Wife. I couldn’t put down either of Sittenfeld’s prior novels I read, so I was super excited to pick this one up from the library. This book got off to sort of a slow start for me, but after about 75 pages, the pace picked up and the story started falling into place. It was entertaining reading this retelling, especially because I’ve read the original book by Jane Austen. Having read the original book, it was almost like game or scavenger hunt to pick up on certain details that were similar to the original story. The novel kept me glued to my seat – I was tuning everything out in the busy airport and on the beach just to try to finish this book.

Goodreads stars: 4/5

Would I recommend? Definitely – especially if you enjoyed Prep or American Wife.

surprise me.jpg

Surprise Me // When I think of fun, lighthearted books to read, one of the first authors that come to mind is Sophie Kinsella. I have read all of the books in the Shopaholic series, as well as some of her standalone novels, so when Surprise Me popped up on my Goodreads account, I quickly placed a hold for it at my local library. Surprise Me is about a couple who find out that they could be married for another 68 years, so they set out to try to surprise each other in their everyday lives, which lead to some equally funny, awkward, and dramatic moments. This book was exactly the sort of read I wanted for the beach.

Goodreads stars: 3/5

Would I recommend? Yes, especially if you are looking for an easy, funny book.

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Modern Lovers // I am still only a quarter of the way into Modern Lovers, but it has been a bit tough to personally connect with the characters. The writing itself is enjoyable and a good pace for easy summer reading (yes, I know it’s still only April, but I am over the cold and ready for some warm weather, along with the fun books to go with it). I will keep you updated on how the rest of the book turns out!

Spring Break Getaway to Montego Bay

Spring Break Getaway to Montego Bay

My boyfriend and I just got back from a five-day, four-night stay at Montego Bay Sunscape Resorts in Jamaica. I have never been more grateful to have a boyfriend who, thanks to his job, gets a spring break, and I was also fortunate enough to be able to take a week off from my job.

We spent a good month trying to decide where we should spend our spring break. What we did know was that we wanted to book a vacation through a travel agency called Cheap Caribbean. A friend of a friend mentioned that they booked a recent trip to an all-inclusive Mexican resort through Cheap Caribbean, so we decided that since we are young professionals on a budget, this was the best way to go about booking a fun spring break getaway. We finally decided on Montego Bay, Jamaica, as our destination, and began searching for all-inclusive resorts. For certain destinations, Cheap Caribbean offers a package called the Deal of Fortune. The catch for such a discounted rate is that you do not know which resort out of four options you will be vacationing at until the week prior to your departure date.

The Deal of Fortune package we purchased flew Spirit Airlines round-trip direct from BWI to Montego Bay’s Sangster International Airport, and the true miracle of the trip was that my boyfriend and I managed to pack two people’s worth of clothing for five days into one suitcase and kept it under 40 pounds (Spirit’s weight limit for checked baggage). Okay, okay, we were packing for summer weather instead of winter weather, but that’s still a pretty cool feat.

We landed at MBJ in the early afternoon, so by the time we arrived at the resort, we still had plenty of hours of daylight left to spend by the pools and the beaches. Everyone who worked at the resort was pleasant and friendly, and the check-in process was super smooth and easy.


The best part of the resort, beyond the beaches and pools? The all-inclusive part – endless drinks and endless food (yes, you read that right). There were four restaurants to choose from for dinner, including a buffet that was also open for breakfast and lunch. The resort has a handful of bars, both above ground and swim-up, and a café that is open 24 hours a day with snacks, ice cream, coffee, and desserts.

We spent each day lounging by either the pools or the beaches, and we also took advantage of the on-site water sports rentals and kayaked along the bay. One of the pools had waterslides and a lazy river, so we spent a good amount of time on the lazy river (probably longer than any self-respecting adults without kids should have…).

Below are some snapshots from our trip!


Thanks for reading!

Disclaimer: My life is not always this exciting; this was our big yearly trip that I will be dreaming about until next year! I can’t wait to see where else 2018 takes me!