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Elena’s Bookshelf: recommendations

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When I finish a book, I immediately start on another. I drive an hour to and from work 5 days a week, and it helps me feel productive. Some books have been good and some I didn’t even finish. If you’re wondering what you should read next, here are some brief synopsis of the one’s I have read recently that I would recommend:


Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. That means that if you click through and make a purchase, we will earn a commission, at no additional cost to you. Photo credit to Goodreads. 


All the Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr

booksThis book received a lot of hype when it was first released back in 2014. It’s been on my list for years and I finally got around listening to the audio version a couple of months ago. This is historical fiction taking place during WWII from two different perspectives of a blind French girl and a Nazi German boy.

Werner Pfenning is an orphan who has experience with radios and how they operate. He is recruited by the Nazi’s to track down the resistance in France during the occupation. Marie-Laure is 12 years old when the Nazi’s occupy Paris and force her and her father out to the country-side to reside with her great uncle. Her father carries with him a precious stone worth a fortune the Nazi’s seek.

Werner and Marie-Laure’s stories come together with help from radios and the Nazi occupation. Be cautious when reading, this book is long, has different parts and chapters jump to different time periods. You will need to pay attention while reading, but overall I thought it was a  decent read.

Themes: Historical Fiction, Family, WWII, Adolescence


Related Reading: Reading List for 2018What Should I Read Next?


Turtles All the Way Down – John Green

John GreenYou will have read this or have this on your list if you’ve read any other John Green books, because his fan base is huge. This novel wasn’t my favorite of his, but still worth the read as it relates to the author on a personal level.

Aza is persuaded by her best friend, Daisy, to look into a missing person’s case, whose reward is $100,000. This missing person is the father of Aza’s long lost childhood friend, Davis. To solve the case, she must get close to him once again, for Daisy’s sake. But Aza finds herself discovering more than where the wealthy, irresponsible father has disappeared to as she discovers how to reveal her true self with the help of Davis.

It’s a teen love story, but Aza has a lot of depth to her character that create her to be intriguing until the end. If you haven’t read this yet, be sure to add it to your list. You can get the audible version here.

Themes: Adolescence, Illness, Mystery, Love, Family


Yes Please – Amy Poehler

Amy Poehler

I was recommended this book and decided that it would be a nice change of pace for me. I had been reading a lot of fiction and figured I needed the switch to something more realistic.

This book is about Amy Poehler’s life, including parts before and after her careers primarily on Saturday Night Live and Parks and Recreation. She delves into her struggles and passions and it is all very engaging! I loved this because it was inspirational and funny. If you read this I would highly recommend the audio version because she reads it and has guest speakers who read different parts like her parents and Seth Meyers.


 Themes: Non-Fiction, Inspirational, Self-Love




Bossypants – Tina Fey

Tina Fey


Tina’s book came out first, but I read it second. Her book is just as inspirational and funny as Amy’s!

Both of their stories are different and unique, but they have a lot of the same struggles they overcame. And yes, of course it’s funny and Tina Fey reads the audio! If you’re looking for some motivation or inspiration, read this.


Themes: Non-Fiction, Inspirational, Self-Love






Related Reading: Elena’s 5 Favorite Books, Belle’s 5 Favorite Books


Not a Sound –  Heather Gudenkauf

Heather Gudenkauf

I chose this book randomly from my app. I needed a new read and this sounded interesting so I gave it a go and I LOVED it!

Amelia Winn is a recovering alcoholic who has burned nearly all bridges with her family and friends. An accident years before caused her to go deaf and learn sign language. She lives in the middle of nowhere practically by the river where she kayaks, paddle-boards and hikes with her service dog, Stitch. One day while she’s out, she stumbles across a body of a friend. She decides to look into the case by herself and discovers more than she bargained for.

I highly recommend this book, it was engaging until the end! Ironically I did read the audio version

Themes: Murder Mystery, Deaf Culture, Love, Medical Controversy



Small Great Things  Jodi Picoult

Jodi Picoult

Jodi Picoult is one of my favorite authors, I will always lover her books. She focuses on a lot of sensitive topics like gay rights. This book in particular hones in on racism, which may be a bit extreme, but is based off a true story and worth the read.

Ruth Jefferson is a delivery nurse at a small hospital in Connecticut. She has lost her husband to the Iraq war and now lives alone with her only son. Ruth is the ideal nurse, having years of experience and not even one hiccup. That all changes when a couple gives strict instructions that all African American personnel may not be near their newborn son. Ruth is in a predicament when she is the only one on call in the nursery and the baby starts to cardiac distress and she must make a split decision to help the infant and ignore the request or stand back and do nothing. Ruth takes action, which leads her into a huge legal mess with a white supremacy family. Now she must trust in her public attorney and her peers to get her through this situation.

You can get the audio version here.

Themes: Racism, Love, Family, Legal



Murder on the Orient Express – Agatha Christie

Agatha Christie

I recently discovered that there are two movie adaptations for this book, the most recent one starring Johnny Depp, Daisy Ridley, Michelle Pfieffer, Josh Gad, Judy Dench and Penelope Cruz.

A murder takes place on a train departing from Instanbul to Paris. The train is only on the second day when the train is stopped in a snow drift. Hercule Poirot is recruited by the owner of the express to solve the case.

I read this in a little under a week I think! It was wonderfully done and if you read the audio, the narrator talks in different accents and it’s fabulous. There’s also a Hercules Poirot series, which I will be looking into.


Themes: Murder Mystery, Family, 1930s, Suspense



Add me on Goodreads so we can talk books 🙂





March 1, 2018

7 Ways to Enjoy a Night Home Alone

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home alone to do

I live with my sister, her boyfriend, a cat, and a dog. Usually we are all home or have friends over on the weekends to play games. Last weekend I found myself in a peculiar place: I was home alone. With just the cat and dog to judge me, I decided to take advantage of this time to do things I wanted to do in solitude.

Here are just a few of the opportunities that crossed my mind:



My sister and her boyfriend always get me Lush products for gifts, which I love! Having a night to myself meant that I could use that bath bomb under my sink with a face mask on without anyone complaining how I used all the hot water. Then, when I finished with my bath, I could trim my nails and pick out some nail polish for my fingers and toes. My face would feel fresh, I would be relaxed and my nails would be beautiful!



Photo by Jacalyn Beales on Unsplash

I’m a bookworm, but I usually only find time to read before I go to sleep. Being home by 5:00 p.m. made it so I could easily dedicate some time to my book without interruption (minus the cat throwing up a hair ball). This was a good way for me to catch up on some reading for book club as well as to my own personal list (currently reading the second Harry Potter book).

Related Reading: What Should I Read Next?, We Started A Book Club!



I love to journal, but I’ve been pretty bad about it recently. However, I do have this and having a night to myself could really benefit me by having more time to write content for posts! This would be an opportune time for me to think of new post ideas, too. Or think of that next big seller that will be on the shelves in Barnes and Nobles… you never know! Sometimes it feels good just to empty your mind on paper, regardless of if there’s a point to it or not.



I could watch a chick flick while eating my take-out with a bottle of wine of my choice without any guilt or worry about what others would think! I could enjoy my movie without disruption or comments in peace while I cried during a part that’s probably not even sad… or I could binge watch that new show on Netflix that everyone is raving about, or catch up on a show I haven’t watched in a while (Outlander).



I have a couple of projects I’m slowly working on/haven’t even started yet. Having all this time gave me the time to start that travel map collage, paint the rest of my paint by numbers or color in an adult coloring book. This way I could play music or watch something in the background while I busy my mind in a productive way.

Related Reading: Creating a Bullet Journal



Photo by Lena Bell on Unsplash

I received a yoga kit as a company gift this Christmas. It came with a mat, a strap, a block and a DVD to follow. I could move furniture, plug the DVD into the TV downstairs and stretch out my muscles. At the very least, I could sit in complete silence if I really wanted to!



I preach about meal prepping all the time, but it was a Friday, which isn’t the best day to start that. Also, I had worked a full week; I didn’t want to have to think about next week yet! I could take this time to cook a decent meal, or at least preheat the oven for some hot, gooey cookies for dessert!


These are just a few of the possibilities that crossed my mind when I was home alone. Naturally I opted for take out, wine, and a chick flick (which I didn’t cry to!) on my couch with animals sleeping on me. Some other things to consider doing if you’re home alone would be to knit, play an instrument, do a puzzle, play video games, or complete a Sudoku. What do you do with your nights at home alone?

January 16, 2018

We Started A Book Club!

Posted in Books, Lifestyle by

book club


Being English majors, we were used to having a hefty reading list throughout the semester. Not just reading, but discussing important concepts in a book and talking about it with others.  Now, as graduated adults working full time, we’ve found it hard to continue reading for pleasure. We decided that one way we could stay on track with reading would to have something to motivate us. We figured the best way to go about this would be to create a book club.

Getting Started

In order to create a successful book club, we had to gather enough people. It’s hard enough in our day to day lives to meet up with others, so we did what any other millennial would do: set up an online group through social media. This way people could stay up to date on what we were reading, when we would discuss throughout the month and the poll for the following month’s book choice. Belle set up a Facebook page and we each set to inviting people we thought would want to be involved. Our page is open as well, so if you’re interested please join us!

How it Works

Life is busy, so only do one book a month. One person a month creates a poll of three options, and then the book with the most votes wins (duh)! Midway through the month, we have an online forum to discuss the first half of the book. Anyone can post questions about anything, and everyone can answer in any way.

At the end of the month, it’s fun to go out and mix things up. We picked a coffee spot somewhere in the middle of the majority of our members and talked about the book over coffee. And our lives. And tattoos. And the cute guy in the corner. It’s hard to stay focused some times.

We just started month two, but so far we’re in love with our book club. It’s small and we hope to help it grow, but it’s been amazing to have something to read and discuss again. Even if you’re not an English major like us, or even a book fanatic, we’d still encourage you to be a part of a book club! It’s a great way to stay in touch with people, meet new people, and try new things.

December 5, 2017

What Should I Read Next?

Posted in Books, Lifestyle by

what to read


Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. That means that if you click through and make a purchase, we will earn a commission, at no additional cost to you. 


When I finish reading a book, I always find myself in a sort of depression. I feel gratified that I’ve just finished another great read, but then I don’t know where to go next! If this sounds like you, I’ve composed a short list of the books that I’ve read recently/highly recommend. I’ve also added my “want to read” list at the end for even more ideas for you!


Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult

Leaving Time – Jodi Picoult

I read this book at the end of the summer. I actually listened to the book through my libraries App, on my drive to and from work during the work week. The story is about a pre-teen girl who has been looking for her mother, since she disappeared years prior. Leaving Time dives into the past of a woman who is a mother, scientist and wife who faces hardship, heartbreak and a devastating reality.

Topics: Mystery, Realism, Family, Relationships, Skepticism




Ready Player One Ernest ClineReady Player One – Ernest Cline

I read this book a few weeks ago, recommended to me by Belle. At first when she explained it to me, I was skeptical. It didn’t seem like the type of book I usually read. I was right, but I also had a hard time pausing the audio book!

Ready Player One takes place in 2044, where reality has become what everyone fears it would: poor and  damaged and people dying with the planet. However, the one saving grace is the world-wide virtual reality, the OASIS. The creator of the OASIS has died and left an entire universe full of games and puzzles waiting to be solved. Once they all are, fame and fortune awaits the winner; but there can only be one.

Topics: Mystery, Science Fiction, Relationships, Nerds, Futuristic



the perfume collector kathleen tessaro

The Perfume Collector – Kathleen Tassaro

My grandma recommended this book to me earlier this year. After reading the back cover, I decided to give it a shot. The Perfume Collector is about a newly-wed, Grace, who resides in London. She receives a letter from a mysterious woman in Paris saying she’s inherited all of this woman’s belongings. Grace must discover who this mystery woman is, and why she’s left everything in her name by digging into a stranger’s past as well as her own.

Topics: Relationships, Family, History




The Husband's Secret - Liane Moriarty

The Husband’s SecretLiane Moriarty

My sister recommended I read What Alice Forgot, but since it was unavailable as an audio book, I decided to try something else by Liane Moriarty.

Cecilia Fitzpatrick is the perfect wife and mother, and is now burdened with her husband’s dark secret. A letter will change everything for Cecilia and her family, as well as others. The Husband’s Secret is written from a different point of view each chapter. Soon, the truth has become revealed changing everyone’s lives forever.

Topics: Love, Mystery, Relationships, Family




Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden

 Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden

I decided to read this book because I remembered how it had been a best seller years back when I was younger. I wouldn’t have been able to understand then, so now seemed as good a time as ever to read.

Nitta Sayuri tells her story of how she was sold to become a Geisha at a young age. Memoirs of a Geisha covers Sayuri’s life struggles as a child, becoming a geisha and life during WWII in Japan. The story is extremely engaging and powerful; however prepare yourself for a long read.

Topics: Family, Relationships, History, Geisha, Memoir

Note: Check out the movie that came out on this book in 2005


Related Reading: Belle’s 5 Favorite Books, Elena’s 5 Favorite Books


Elena’s “Want to Read” List

The Devil in the White City – Erik Larson

What Alice Forgot – Liane Moriarty

Big Little Lies– Liane Moriarty

Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl– Anne Frank

Lilac Girls – Martha Hall Kelly

Small Great Things – Jodi Picoult

All the Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr

Harry Potter Series– J.K. Rowling


November 6, 2017

Elena’s 5 Favorite Books

Posted in Books, Lifestyle by

favorite books


There are  hundreds of books in the world, and only so much time to read through the ones recommended by others. To save time on deciding what you should read next, I’ve composed a list of my top 5 books that are a must read:

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. That means that if you click through and make a purchase, we will earn a commission, at no additional cost to you. 

  1. The Storyteller  Jodi Picoult

The Storyteller Jodi Picoult book cover

This is one of my favorite books, and not just the book, I’m obsessed with the author, too. Jodi Picoult has written over 20 books since she started publishing in 1992 (6 of which I’ve read so far). She is the author of one of the most popular tear-jerkers, My Sister’s Keeper featuring Abigail Breslin and Sofia Vassilieva. Jodi Picoult writes about sensitive subjects like gay rights, cancer, murder, race, autism and family relationships. All of her books are told from a different character’s perspective each chapter.

The Storyteller is about a woman, Sage, who befriends an old man, Josef, who is a part of her support group. One day, Josef says he has an important favor to ask of Sage. He confesses a shameful secret, altering Sage’s perspective on her newfound friend as well as on her own family. Honing in on the horrors of WWII, Sage must determine what is right and what is justified.

If you’re intrigued by WWII as much as I am, this is a fascinating read and a real page-turner.


Topics: WWII, Nazi Germany, Family, Romance, Mystery, Relationships


  1. Sharp Objects – Gillian Flynn

    Sharp Objects Gillian Flynn book cover

If you read or saw Gone Girl, Dark Places should definitely be on your list. If you’ve never read Gillian Flynn, let me warn you now: you will not be able to put this book down. Flynn’s novels are all suspenseful mysteries with female protagonists.

Camille Preaker is a journalist in Chicago who spent years in a psychiatric hospital for self harm after the unexpected death of her sister, Marian, at a young age. But after a murder to a young girl and disappearance of another in her hometown, she is assigned to cover the story. She finds herself back in her childhood home with her remarried mother and half-sister, Amma, born after Marian’s death. Amma is now a spoiled pre-teen, who behaves immaturely in front of her mother to hide her not-so-innocent personality. Camille must dig into her past to discover the mystery behind the missing and dead girls to get the story- and if she want’s to survive this homecoming.

This is really dark and a bit messed up, but that’s what makes it so compelling.


Topics: Murder, Mystery, Romance, Family, Illness


  1. Lock and Key – Sarah Dessen

    Lock and Key Sarah Dessen book cover

Sarah Dessen is one of my favorite adolescent authors. I’ve read 10 of her books (she has 14 published). Her books focus on  girls transforming into women by facing their fears, trying something new or finally accepting who they are.

Lock and Key is about an adolescent girl named Ruby, who has been abandoned by her mother and is forced to live under the care of her older sister, Cora. Ruby wears her old house key around her neck in hopes that her mother will return. With help from the cute boy next door, Ruby discovers secrets revealing the truth behind her unraveling family. Ruby must discover how to open herself up to others and determine what is right and what is easy.

Remember young love as a teen? This book is better than that.


Topics: Adolescence, Family, Romance

Related Reading: What Should I Read Next?

  1. A Great and Terrible Beauty – Libba Bray

    A Great and Terrible Beauty Libba Bray book cover

I recently started to reread this trilogy I hadn’t touched in years and I wasn’t disappointed. I plowed through the first two in a couple of months and am now on the third. A Great and Terrible Beauty was Libba Bray’s first book. It’s filled with mystery, magic, adolescent teenage girls and plenty of family issues.

Gemma Doyle is 16 and living in India with her parents until her mother is unexpectedly killed. Gemma is shipped to London to attend a private school under the watchful eye of her older brother, Tom. Spence Academy for Young Ladies is a proper school, teaching more than just academics, and holding more answers to Gemma’s mother’s past than she expected. With three best friends by her side, Gemma discovers a part of her she never knew. Step into the Realms of Spence with Gemma to unlock  the truth behind her mother’s death and the true power within herself.



Topics: Family, Adolescence, Magic, Romance, Murder


  1. The Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger

    The Catcher in the Rye J. D. Salinger book cover

If you haven’t read this American classic, I highly suggest you do. This story is about an adolescent boy who decides to figure out his life by exploring New York City. He branches away from school and his parents, encountering the everyday life of a New Yorker.  

Holden Caulfield is a 16 year old who leaves his prep school in Pennsylvania and goes AWOL in New York City. To put lightly, this book is about a teenager who wonders New York City pretending to be an adult. He goes back to remembering who he was and what he wants through his younger sister. She is the only person he truly cherishes and can find himself. Join Holden during his three days of getting intoxicated, ordering hookers and contemplating life as no other teenager has before.

If you speak sarcasm, please read this.


Topics: Adolescence, Family, Self-discovery


Related Reading: Belle’s 5 Favorite Books

October 17, 2017

Belle’s 5 Favorite Books

Posted in Books, Lifestyle by
favorite books
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. That means that if you click through and make a purchase, we will earn a commission, at no additional cost to you. 
Coming up with a list of my five favorite books was incredibly difficult, as it is for most bookworms. Three came easily, the fourth wasn’t too difficult, the fifth was almost impossible. I choose my five mostly because of their special meanings, like the first book that kept me up all night. These mean a lot to me, but I also think they’re amazing, so they’re also my top recommendations to you!

1. Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling

Book Cover of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling
Yes, yes, it’s a series, but whatever. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was the book that got me started on the bookworm trail all the way back in first grade. But if you want my favorite of the series, I’d have to say The Prisoner of Azkaban, even if it’s a tiny margin. If you haven’t read this series yet, shame on you (only slightly kidding). This series shaped my life for a love of books, magic, and fandom. 
Filled with mythology, lovable characters, and adventure, the series focuses on “the boy who lived”. At Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry, Harry faces enemies and challenges with his best friends. Even better, fans have expanded the story-verse with their own writings, so there’s always something to read related to Harry Potter
Topics: magic, mythology, England, friendship, hero quest

2. Fire Bringer by David Clement-Davies

Book Cover for Fire Bringer by David Celement-Davies
I took a liking to fantasy, adventure, and science-fiction back in elementary school. I can remember a lot of the titles I read back then but the one that stands out is Fire Bringer. It was the first book that made my up past my bedtime to read one more chapter, followed by one more chapter, and then one more. It captivated my imagination and transitioned me out of the happy-ending fairy into books about the realities of battle. Oh, I should mention, the characters are all animals.
Born on the night his father’s murder and with the sign of the prophecy on his forehead, Rannoch is swapped with a stillborn fawn to protect his life. When discovered by the new, murderous Head of the Herd, he and his friends flee in hopes of finding safety and peace. That is, until the prophecy requires Rannoch to return and face his enemies to protect himself, and all of Scotland as well
Topics: animals, prophecy, destiny, war, folklore, identity

3. Hamlet by William Shakespeare

Folder edition Book Cover for Hamlet by William Shakespeare
In the fifth grade, my class did a reader’s theater performance of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, sparking my love for the bard. Determined to read more of his works, I set out to read Hamlet by myself in seventh grade. I’ve since read it another six times, seen three different versions, memorized “To be or not to be,” and even got a tattooed
A brilliant story about identity and perception, Hamlet is about the young prince of Denmark and his search for truth. After a visit from the ghost of his murdered father, Hamlet plots to convict his uncle. written in the beautiful and inspiring language of Shakespeare, a web of pretend, corruption, and tragedy ensues.
Topics: family, royalty, love, insanity, war, ghosts

4. Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

Book Cover for Stargirl by Gerry Spinelli
“What would Stargirl do?” was the joke I wasn’t in on during my junior year of college. Classmates who had taken a class before I did would say the phrase every now and then, and at one point I heard them complimenting someone’s Stargirl tattoo. I was clueless, until I finally took the same class and read what is easily one of the most amazing, inspiring, adorable, heart-wrenching books I’ve ever had the pleasure to come across
Leo Borlock is an average kid at a school that prides itself on being average, but everything changes when an anything-but-average girl joins their class. Stargirl is unique without meaning to be: she wears costume clothing, has a sunflower painted on her book bag, carries her pet rat Cinnamon with her, and plays “Happy Birthday” on her ukulele at lunch. Everything Leo knows and values is challenged as he tries to understand this strange girl and, by extension, himself.
Topics: identity, love, growing up, high school, bullying

5. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Book Cover for The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
This book first entered my life as a summer reading assignment for AP English Literature, and I LOVED IT!! I couldn’t put it down. I was always a pro at literature and enjoyed thinking about what I was reading, but The Handmaid’s Tale took everything to a new level. Suddenly, I was faced with ideas and concepts and thoughts and it was a whole new world, a dazzling place I never knew.
Narrated by a woman whom the reader knows as Offred, The Handmaid’s Tale is set in the new Republic of Gilead (once the United States). Gilead, the result of religious radicalization focused on dramatically declining birthrates, completely reorganizes society and gender roles. Offred narrates pieces of her life, from flashbacks to before the regime, to how she became a Handmaid, to her discoveries of rebellions and secrets. A marvelous and terrifying dystopian, The Handmaid’s Tale becomes more and more of a must read with every passing day.
Topics: religion, politics, freedom, identity, dystopia

6. Bad Kitty by Michele Jaffe

Book Cover for Bad Kitty by Michele Jaffe
I know I said this would be a list of my top 5, but I couldn’t resist including this one. Bad Kitty is a teen book that I’ve fervently held onto throughout the years, partly because it’s hard to find, and because it’s just fantastic
Jasmine’s bad luck follows her to Las Vegas where she’s on vacation with her dad, too-young stepmom, annoying cousin, and the cousin’s Evil Hench Twin. When a little boy and his cat land Jasmine in the middle of a murder investigation, it’s do or die. As luck would have it (ha!), Jas dreams of a life in crime investigation. Determined to get herself out of the mess, and save the hoy guy along the way, Jas and her friends set out to solve the case. Filled with wit and silly trends you wish would catch on, Bad Kitty is hilarious and original, a must-read for everyone at every age
Topics: crime, murder mystery, teen romance, humor, friendship
Related Reading: Elena’s 5 Favorite Books
An open book with pink roses and a cup of coffee with the text "5 Books to Read and Love"
October 16, 2017