Why We Can’t Sleep: Women’s New Midlife Crisis, by Ada Calhoun

Goodreads synopsis: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/50387513-why-we-can-t-sleep

My thoughts: As an (almost) middle aged woman who has been battling insomnia, I felt like I had to read this book. Calhoun dives into the issues surrounding middle aged women who are part of Generation X, often the most overlooked generation. Although I was born in the early 1980s and therefore not technically considered part of Generation X (defined as those born in the 1960s and 1970s), I felt like I could still relate.

The main premise around this book is that women of this generation are told from a very early age that we can have it all; we can get married, go to college, and be whoever it is that we want to be. But when we actually go out into the real world, we realize that that is often an unrealistic standard. And when we try our best and work as hard as we can and still don’t get to live out our dream lives, it’s an incredible disappointment. We feel like losers and that there must be something wrong with us.

Calhoun does a wonderful job of dissecting the many different aspects of women’s lives. It really puts into perspective all of the different struggles that women of Generation X have to deal with. Reading this book didn’t make me necessarily feel better, but it made me feel less alone in knowing that I’m not the only one who feels like maybe this was all a little too much to live up to.

My 2020 Reading Challenge – A Little Less Challenging

For the past few years, I have done the Goodreads Challenge by pledging how many books I plan to read within the year. Usually, it’s around 50ish. I shoot for a book a week so 50 seems like a realistic number (with a couple of weeks cushion).

This year, however, I am setting my goal to be much lower… like, to 30. Why? Because a book a week is great when I’m having a typical, normal week. But far too often, my weeks have not been typical or normal. And on those weeks when I can’t finish the book I’ve been reading, I don’t want to feel guilty about it.

My Goodreads goal for 2019 was 55 books (originally). I’ve since had to change it to 53 because I knew by December that I wasn’t going to reach my goal. Life happened and suddenly reading didn’t become a priority anymore. In November, I ran into some health issues and suddenly my focus and desire for reading diminished significantly. As a result, I was spending my usual reading time binge watching Jane the Virgin on Netflix. (To be fair though, Jane the Virgin is an amazing show!)

There’s another reason why I set my goal a good bit lower. I want to be able to pick books without worrying so much about the page count. If there’s a book that is unusually long, I don’t want that to prevent me from reading it because I know I won’t be able to finish it within the week.

I also would like to feel less restricted with my books. I want to try out books that I wouldn’t normally read and have the freedom to put them down if they don’t work for me and I’m not interested. I don’t want to feel like I have to finish a book I don’t like simply because I’ve already started it.

So this year the pressure’s off. This doesn’t mean I love reading any less. If anything, it means I love reading more.

Kindle Unlimited – Is it worth it?

I recently saw an ad for Kindle Unlimited which offered a deal: get three months of Kindle Unlimited for only 99 cents. It’s about $9.99 per month after that. I figured this might be a good time to try out the service for the first time.

For anyone unfamiliar with Kindle Unlimited, it’s a book subscription service through Amazon which lets you access books through the Kindle store. According to Amazon, the subscriber has access to a large selection of titles including books, audiobooks, and magazines. The user has access to up to 10 titles at a time, but these are borrowed titles, you don’t own them.

For years I’ve known about this service, but I’ve been reluctant to subscribe. It didn’t seem worth it to me because of my own reading habits. I read about a book a week. I also have a subscription to Book of the Month. Plus, I’m a heavy library user. So if you account for 1 month of reading, that would be 1 book from my Book of the Month club, probably 1 book from the library, and let’s say 2 books from the Kindle Unlimited service. Most of the books from Kindle Unlimited are between $3 and $5 and they are independent books, many of which I’ve never heard of. If I had just bought the books I would probably only pay a total of $10 a month at most. That happens to also be the full price of the subscription. This is why I assumed the service would not be worth it to me.

But then… I found that the Kindle Unlimited service included many books that were a little more well known. For example, I discovered that all of the Harry Potter books are now available through Kindle Unlimited. I also saw a Jodi Picoult book, “The Storyteller,” that is also available. It would cost me $12.99 to purchase the book through Amazon, so borrowing it through the subscription would be cheaper.

For readers who burn through multiple books a week and are open to new and independent authors then this service is likely for you. But for casual readers (like me) who read 4 or less books a month, the decision on whether to subscribe or not to subscribe becomes a little more complicated.

I still haven’t decided whether I’m keeping the subscription or not. If I keep seeing books that are of interest to me and if these books cost more to purchase than to borrow with the monthly fee, then maybe I’ll keep on subscribing.

For now, I will enjoy my 3 months of Kindle Unlimited and try to get the most bang for my buck. If I find I’m not using it as much as I hope, I will reluctantly cancel. In the meantime, I will keep reading. FYI… that Jodi Picoult book is amazing so far! If you decide to get the subscription for yourself, be sure to check that one out!

The Night Circus and My Insomnia

As of the beginning of September, for absolutely no apparent reason, I have developed horribly severe insomnia. I’m not exaggerating. I didn’t sleep for three nights straight and that was WITH sleep aids. Since then, I have gotten some nights where I sleep a few hours here or there, but the insomnia has never really gone away. I’ve tried all types of over the counter medications… Niquil, ZZzzquil (which I gather is kind of the same thing), Melatonin, Unisom, and Sleepytime Tea. I tried going without any screen time at night. No lights, no phone, no TV, no Kindle. I’ve meditated, listened to Podcasts and light classical music, exercised everyday until my body became exhausted, and still have gotten nowhere.

So I did what any avid reader who can’t sleep would do. I picked up “The Night Circus,” by Erin Morgenstern. No, it didn’t cure my insomnia, but I felt like it would be a good read since it falls into the theme of my life right now: dark, sleepless, and mysterious (the mystery in my life being… why the hell can’t I sleep right now?)

The Night Circus is about a circus that is only active at night, much like my brain these days. When it was published in 2011, it gained a lot of hype and is still very popular with readers 8 years later.

Although it’s often categorized as a fantasy/romance, I figured I’d give it a try despite not being a fan of either one of those genres. Currently, I’m about 300+ pages into this and I would personally say it’s more fantasy than anything else. There’s a little bit of romance, which I can only assume escalates further along in the book, but it’s not what drives the plot.

Speaking of the plot: it’s slow. Lots of things happen, but I’m not seeing a lot of movement. I’m guessing these plot points get tied up at the end, but I can’t say until I actually finish the book. I still have a good 150 pages or so to go. Yeah, it’s long. My paperback edition is over 500 pages.

The main story line follows two magicians, Celia and Marco, who are competing against each other in a mysterious battle, much of which is not known to the reader. Despite this rivalry, the pair fall in love.

I found some of the minor characters to be far more interesting than Celia and Marco. There’s Widget and Poppet, a pair of red-haired twins who possess magical powers; the German clock-maker, who creates clocks that are more like pieces of artwork; and Prospero the Enchanter, Celia’s father, who is also a magician. These are just a few, but each of the characters in The Night Circus has something interesting to add to the story. It seems like nobody is just plain ordinary.

The thing I love about this book is the descriptions of all things strange and bizarre. Morgenstern has an amazing imagination and her attention to detail really brings the magical scenes to life.

I felt like this was a good book to pair with my insomnia. It’s strangely comforting to read in the late hours when I can’t sleep. And even though I’m not dreaming, my mind is travelling into a new fantasy world that is stranger than any dream I could ever imagine.

Burgerfi and the Beyond Burger

Yesterday afternoon, I asked Ramon if he wanted to go out for lunch; he could choose where (as long as it has vegan options for me). “Let’s try Burgerfi,” he said. That’s the new burger place that just opened up in town. I double checked online to make sure there was something for me and there was. Perfect!

I ended up ordering the Beyond Burger. I was curious to see if it lived up to the hype. When the burgers came out, his meat burger and my vegan burger, they looked almost identical.

“Which one is yours?” Ramon asked.

“Mine is the one that’s not destroying the Amazon Rain Forest!” I laughed. Ramon rolled his eyes and shook his head. I thought it was funny…

I took one bite and was happy to discover that it tasted just like the burgers I used to enjoy in my youth.

My overall thoughts: the Beyond Burger definitely lives up to the hype. I was beyond impressed. 😋