Miscellaneous

Family Relationships Reads – Poignant, funny, relatable!

Todays’ review is a book about a single mom with 2 teenagers working as a librarian in a private school. When her estranged husband shows up after being AWOL for 3+ years, she gets a chance to spend an entire week in New York city alone to allow her kids to “bond” with their father.

This mom’s emotional conflicts and experiences in NYC form the crux of the story? Will she forgive her husband and get back with him? Will she find NEW love? How will the kids cope? At times poignant, at times hilarious; the book is a mass of emotions, prejudices, insecurities, and a messy soup of drama, just like real life!

  • Title – The Long Overdue Life of Amy Byler
  • Author – Kelly Harms

Side note, I had seen the cover on NetGalley and saw this book mentioned by some of my bookstagrammer friends. Only after reading the book, when I logged in to review the book on Amazon did I also realize that this book is a bestseller on Amazon Charts AND the Washington Post as well as a GoodReads Choice Award finalist!

REVIEW SCORE = 4.5/5

Thoughts on the Book:

Honestly, the book portrays human emotions extremely well. Think Jane Austen style understanding of how people behave, just modified for the 21st century social media era! Additionally, concepts like #Momspringa and “flexthology” and “mom-figure” are quite intriguing. I wish they could be implemented for real, too!

The characters are the strength of the book. I love how well the author can write from so many different perspectives!

  • The heroine of the story, Amy – She has every right to feel resentful towards the husband who abandoned her and left her without money, job and 2 kids to feed. However, does she have the right to hold the grudge forever, especially when he is doing everything possible to correct his mistakes and improve their lives?
  • The husband – flawed, genuinely remorseful, painted in shades of gray, instead of 100% black and evil. You realize that bad husbands can be excellent dads, the two are not mutually exclusive.
  • Talia and Lena, Amy’s friends – They act partly as alter egos for Amy, sometimes as voices of reasons, sometime even as her guardian angels! How? Read the book, dear reader! 😊
  • Cori, Amy’s daughter – sweet, opportunistic, insecure, competitive, confused – a complex dichotomy of emotions like any normal teenager.

Overall, I loved the book and the storyline.

A couple of concepts did put me off though. Amy is portrayed to be a regular nerdy mom with a rounded figure, yet she is suddenly able to look stunning via a makeover and lands some gorgeous dates! Seriously? Yes, it is a fictional book, but this part jarred a bit.

The husband is ready to pay child support and pay for expensive tuitions and child camp, but never thought to send any for 3 years. The author weaved this well into the story, but my logical brain could not fully accept it. I am deducting a half point for the tiny gaps in the story, with the disclaimer that these do not detract from the book or the reading experience.

Still, the book was amazing – well worth the money! Excellent book.

Similar Works

  • Books – “The Marriage Clock” by Zara Raheem, “America for Beginners” by Leah Franqui, “The Notebook” by Nicholas Sparks.
  • Movies – Mrs DoubtFire, I Don’t Know How She Does it, The Intern.
  • Genres – Women’s Humorous Fiction, Family Life Fiction, Urban Romance

Until next time, Adieu and Happy Reading!

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This year’s reading goals have been quite easy thanks to #StayatHomeLife. I realize how privileged I am to have a job that allows me to work remote, good health (no sniffles yet) and and an amazing family who use tech to keep in touch everyday and prevent any depression from a month-long isolation period.

Apart from reviews, I’ve also decided to add monthly reading stats. That way even the books which don’t receive a blogpostat at least receive an honorary mention. Plus, it is a good reminder to me to add reviews on Amazon/Goodreads.

Monthly Reading Stats

  • Audiobooks: Just one book for 08:51 hours.
  • Ebooks: 10 books. Of these, 5 were Advanced Review Copies (ARC) all thanks to #NetGalley! 🙂
  • Books: 7 books totaling 2,556 pages.
  • Avg. Rating: 4.55*

Audiobooks

  • Women Still Dont Get the Corner Office. 5*

Ebooks

  • Squeezed 4*
  • Head over High Heels 4*
  • Hype Yourself 5*
  • Creative Careers 4*
  • How to Handle a Crowd 4*
  • Thailand 5*
  • Island Affair 5*
  • To Winter at Wildsyde 5*
  • The Side Hustle 4*
  • Make Money from Non-Fiction Books 4*

Physical Books

  • Presence 5* 352p
  • You are a BadAss 4* 244p
  • Why Not Me 5* 240p
  • Beyond Indigo 5* 392p
  • House of Spies 5* 576p
  • Capture of Earl of Glencrae 4.5* 448p
  • Husband Material 4* 304p

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Here is an updated list of the books I have read in this year to complete the challenge. Sadly I did cave in and buy more books and also borrowed some new books that were displayed in my library.

Some of these belong to my reading list from March women authors, and also from my Marie Kondo-style Clear the clutter GoodReads challenge.

Books, books, books!

Completed:

a. From March Women Authors:

  1. Presence, by Amy Cuddy.
  2. Women Still Don’t Get the Corner Office. Author Lois Frankel.
  3. Squeezed by Alyssa Quart
  4. America for Beginners. Author = Leah Franqui. (Fiction)
  5. Head over Heels, Lila Monroe. (Fiction)
  6. Husband Material. Author = Emily Belden. (Fiction)
  7. You are a BadAss, by Jen Sincero.
  8. To Winter at Wildsyde, by Emma Leech. (Fiction)
  9. HBR’s 10 Must Reads on Women and Leadership. Harvard Business Review.
  10. Secrets of Six-Figure Women. Barbara Stanny. Non-fiction business.
  11. The Capture of the Earl of Glencrae. Stephanie Laurens.
  12. The Marriage Clock: A Novel. Zara Raheem.

b. GoodReads Challenge:

  1. The Black Widow. Daniel Silva. Thriller.
  2. House of Spies. Daniel Silva. Thriller.
  3. The 30-Day Money Cleanse. Ashley Gertsley. Non-fiction business.
  4. Smart Women Love Money. Alice Finn. Non-fiction business.
  5. The Truth About Managing People. Stephen Robbins. Non-fiction business.
  6. End Game. David Baldacci. Thriller.
  7. Nice Girls Still Don’t Get the Corner Office. Lois Frankel.
  8. Unlocking Potential. Michael Simpson. Self-help.
  9. How to Market a Book. Joanna Penn.
  10. Tools of the Titans. Tim Ferris. Self-Help.
  11. Stylist Takes Manhattan. Rosie Nixon. Romance.
  12. To Dare A Duke. Emma Leech. Romance.
march reading list
march reading list

Currently Reading:

  1. You Woke up Worthy. Britny West. Health & Living.
  2. You Can Heal Your Life. (Gift Edition) Louise Hay. Health & Living.
  3. Why Not Me? Mindy Kaling. Memoir/Self-Help.
  4. Achtung Baby. Sara Zaske. Health & Living.
  5. Creating Personal Presence. Diana Booher. Non-fiction business.
  6. The Education of an Idealist. Samantha Power. Memoir.
  7. Iris Apfel: Accidental icon. Iris Apfel. Memoir.
  8. Creating Personal Presence. Diana Booher. Non-fiction business.
  9. 365 Days of Facebook. Author = Nirupama. (Fiction)
  10. Mirror Work, Louisa Hay. Health & Living.
  11. Blitzed, Alexa Martin. (Fiction)

So happy to have completed 25 books in this first quarter, and about 10 books in limbo.

Happy Reading!

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Happy International Women’s Day!

March 8th is International Women’s Day, so this month is dedicated to all the amazing women authors out there, as well as books that advocate for women. Below is my reading list for the month, so also hoping to accomplish a good chunk of my reading goals and “clear the clutter” Goodreads challenge. So many birds with one stone! 😉

March 2020 Reading list

  1. Presence, by Amy Cuddy.
  2. Women Still Don’t Get the Corner Office. Author Lois Frankel.
  3. Squeezed by Alyssa Quart
  4. America for Beginners. Author = Leah Franqui. (Fiction)
  5. Head over Heels, Lila Monroe. (Fiction)
  6. Husband Material. Author = Emily Belden. (Fiction)
  7. You are a BadAss, by Jen Sincero.
  8. 365 Days of Facebook. Author = Nirupama. (Fiction)
  9. Achtung Baby, by Sara Zaske.
  10. You Woke up Worthy, Britny West.
  11. To Winter at Wildsyde, by Emma Leech. (Fiction)
  12. Mirror Work, Louisa Hay.
  13. The Profitable Content System, by Meera Kothand.
  14. Evening is the Whole Day. Preeta Samarasan. (Fiction)
  15. HBR’s 10 Must Reads on Women and Leadership. Harvard Business Review.
  16. Secrets of Six-Figure Women. Barbara Stanny. Non-fiction business.
  17. The Big Book of Juices. Natalie Savona. Health & Living.
  18. Why Not Me? Mindy Kaling. Non-fiction business.
  19. The Capture of the Earl of Glencrae. Stephanie Laurens.
  20. The Marriage Clock: A Novel. Zara Raheem.
Go Girl Power!

Happy Reading!

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more time, more reading!

Since I posted about my reading goals for 2020, and a new reading list, it feels like I’ve been bombarded with Qs about finding time to truly accomplish that goal. So I wanted to share some tips I use to create time for my life’s top priorities.

Of course, you might want to know why I am qualified to dole out productivity advice and time-saving hacks! After all, TIME is that elusive elixir that we all want to have, but never seem to find! However, in the last year, I’ve been a little more mindful about my time, and found that I was able to accomplish so much more:

  1. Published a book on DataScience jobs, which hit the Amazon bestseller charts for almost 2 months!
  2. Grew my blog from 5k views per month, to 10k views, compared to last year.
  3. Won an all-expenses paid Diversity scholarship to KubeCon San Diego!
  4. Completed my MBA Finance with a 3.4 GPA, while holding a full-time job.
  5. Traveled to Everglades National Park, ticking off a long-listed item off my bucket list.
  6. Took over the reins of a 1500+ member meetup group!
  7. Read 25+ books over the year!

Many of the time-saving hacks that helped me achieve these are also valuable techniques to find chunks of time to read more, even for the most hectic schedules. Here are my Top 15 favorite tips:

Use 2020 wisely – read more books!
  1. READING GOALS – Have a weekly/ monthly goal and decide what you are going to read. Just wanting to read is too vague, and will get drowned by other “firefighting” priorities. With the goal in mind, keep books handy – by either keeping light paperbacks in your bag or on mobile apps like Kindle and BookShout.
  2. Use Waiting Rooms wisely. We all have these “wasted” moments, 10 minutes at the doctor’s clinics, 30+ minutes at airports, 5-10 mins waiting for a kids class to get over or just a serpentine queue at the grocery stores. Most people use it to check social media, or browse clickbait articles or the never-ending stream of office emails. I use it to read books. I have to admit this is harder, and takes willpower. Sometimes its hard to remember, too. I normally go “offline” and force myself to read. TRY IT, you will be surprised how much reading can be integrated into these invisible pockets of time.
  3. Schedule 20 minutes in the morning with coffee / breakfast. Yes, there are a 1001 chores pending, fidgety kids and spouse and 250 emails from work that need your attention. But here is a secret. They will wait another 20 minutes, too! But not spending time on your personal development and expanding your mind (or just down time) is making you less smarter, and decreasing your productivity, joy and creativity far more than you know. If you prefer, do it way early in the morning before others wake up. I was scheduling 45 minutes way early in the morning, when everyone is asleep for my MBA and now that the degree is over, I’ve replaced it with reading, exercise, prayers and other personal priorities.
  4. 20 minutes “offline” time before bed. Seriously, all the “blue light” from electronics devices is not good for health. Reading a physical book before bed forces me to step away from my devices, promotes better sleep and makes me feel amazing about myself.
  5. Use your commute time. Instead of listening to the radio or taking office calls, commit half of your commute (or one way) to audiobooks. Hubby and I have committed 25% of all long-drives and road trips to audiobooks. I hated the thought at first, but he picked some truly interesting titles like “Freakonomics” and “12 rules of life” and now I am hooked!
  6. Listen to Audiobooks at 1.5x or 2x speed. Seriously, this one tip (from my MBA phase) has made me so much more efficient. You will need to work your way up to such high-speeds, but I’ve found the increased speed forces me to focus more. Downside – now I can rarely listen at 1x speeds, even for Youtube videos!
  7. Make chores interesting. Who likes making the bed, or doing dishes or folding clothes? I don’t so I grab my lovely Bose headphones and make them interesting by listening to escaping to the world of audiobooks!
  8. Read faster. It’s amazing that schools teach you to read, but not how to read faster. So try to consciously increase your speed without compromising on retention. There are many tools out there, and reading apps like BookShout calculate it for you automatically. Comes easily with practice, and you’ll get more achieved, at work and your personal goals.
  9. Read more efficiently. You don’t need to read word-by-word. Not every chapter is useful or important, and you won’t remember it in 3 months anyway! Life is too short to waste on bad books, so make sure you read what is truly remarkable, entertaining, valuable in practice, or all of the three!
  10. No monkey behavior. Don’t jump from 1 book to another. Even with my reading speeds, I find myself with a large list of incomplete books. So I stick to two book at a time (one ebook/audio + 1 hardcopy). If you want to do more, make sure they are from different genres, so it is easier to follow the various content tracks.
  11. Use your lunch hour. This was advice from an amazing mentor, who emphasized the importance of using the lunch hour for networking or reading. If I am in office, I force myself to get out of my cube and chat with 1 new person everyday. But since I work remote a lot, I do spend 20 mins on lunch while reading a good book. It’s amazing how this “clean” 20 minutes break from work helps me relax better, complete more pages on my goal, and improves my efficiency when I resume work.
  12. Leverage your smart phones for some good – if you cannot carry physical books, then there are many amazing apps like Kindle, Bookshout or GooglePlayBooks. Audible for audiobooks. Most offer metrics – how many days/weeks you read continuously, cute badges for reading sprints, reading speeds and much more. All these add motivation to help you read more!
  13. Scared of breaking the bank? – visit your library. In the US, all have dedicated mobile apps, which allow you to read ebooks and listen to audiofiles. In India, there are some amazing local libraries that provide vast number of titles at very reasonable rates. Plus, I’ve noticed that the more I read and buy on Google and Amazon, I seem to get more credits to encourage more spending!
  14. Keep a time log. Phantom slots keep slipping away. Don’t schedule every minute, but at least be aware of where your time-sucks are. Chances are, some of these can be used to slip in reading time.
  15. Say NO. The world does NOT hand out Nobel Prizes to super-moms or super-dads. So get off your invisible hamster wheels, and spend time on yourself, in self-development goals and reading time!

Those were my reading hacks. You don’t need to use all 15 techniques, but incorporating even 3-4 will help you reclaim valuable slots of time that might otherwise be frittered away on low priorities, or worse without your knowledge.

Happy Reading! 🙂

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