Some positive news and book reviews

Well, I’ve definitely done more reading this month than last month, so at least I’m feeling accomplished in that respect.  Life does happen between the binding, as I like to say, and there are a lot of things going on in my little world.  I think they are all good for the most part, but only time will tell. 

I’ve been very open and vulnerable in my blog posts and I plan to keep it that way.  It would be a lie to act like everything is wonderful all the time and it’s the harder things in life that tend to shape us as individuals.  All of this to say: read on for a little vulnerability. 

My dad is currently in the hospital and will get to come home tonight.  He had his prostate removed yesterday to get rid of the cancer that is in his body.  The doctor felt good about the surgery and were able to spend more time on it due to not having any other surgeries to do aside from his.  He will have a follow up appointment next week and another appointment on December 9th to ensure the cancer is gone.  I would say this is all in all a positive report on my dad.  It feels great to know that his cancer is likely gone and will just need close monitoring now. 

Coincidentally, while my father was in surgery yesterday, I was busy having a procedure done as well.  Again, this is a positive thing and only time will tell if it stays positive or not. I am fervently praying that it remains positive!

Another positive thing is that my husband and I took a short trip to Door County, Wisconsin and it was absolutely beautiful.  We hiked, kayaked, rode bikes through the woods, and ate well.  We even got to see some family members from a safe distance on our way home. I’m so glad we were able to take that trip.  It’s a place we’ve wanted to go for about as long as we’ve known each other and a place we first heard about together. 

The only negative thing going on is money.  So much money has been spent this month.  I knew it would be an expensive month as we had some home projects and a trip.  I hadn’t planned, however, on the cost of another procedure.  On the plus side, we’ve gotten a new bathtub (which I love), light fixtures in rooms where there were none before, and we now have working lighting outside!  We’ve gone on our trip and soon our roof will be fixed, where there was some major water damage before.  This is all good, it’s just costly and has us watching our pennies a little more closely now. Such is life.  I’m just happy, we’ve been fortunate enough to cover these costs.  Any time I stress about money, I am reminded that it is mentioned more than 800 times in the Bible.  While it’s not good to be in debt, I don’t want money to rule my life or give me undue stress. Everything will be better soon. 

Now let’s talk books! I’ve read quite a few so far this month.  Seven to be exact, and I’m currently reading two and listening to one.  I’m hoping for double digits by the end of this month, but I also hoped to finish a book during Fall break (usually my biggest reading time of the year), and I didn’t finish a single one.  To be fair, we had a lot going on. 

The first book I read this month was The Mother-In-Law by Sally Hepworth.  I was really engrossed in this book.  The back and forth between daughter-in-law and mother-in-law was very interesting, and I kept being shocked by how the mother-in-law acted.  She was a fascinating, but very unlikeable character. Unfortunately, the mystery’s end was not as shocking and left a bit of a sour taste in my mouth.  Initially, I felt like this book would be a 4 or 5 star read, but it started to fall flat.  One thing that really bothered me about this book was the portrayal of a woman with fertility issues.  It hit a little too close to home, but my real problem is that they made this woman seem absolutely crazy all due to her infertility.  That felt harsh and unbelievable. 3/5. 

Next up was A Nearly Normal Family by M.T. Edvardsson, a book that was marketed as a legal thriller, which I was very excited about.  Unfortunately, this book was not really a legal thriller at all.  The courtroom scenes didn’t even start until 3/4 of the way through the book.  The ending, again, fell flat.  It just didn’t feel clever like so many good thriller endings are. While the author’s writing kept me reading, this book felt pretty forgettable.  3/5.  

Then I read The Last Story of Mina Lee by Nancy Jooyoun Kim, a book that at some points, captivated me with it’s use of language, however, the storyline was not captivating.  This may be due to recently reading a book about a mother figure’s relationship with a daughter, which this book was also about, but I just could not get into this book. The chapters change perspectives from Mina to her daughter Margot.  I definitely found Mina more compelling, but again, this book just fell flat and felt forgettable. 3/5. 

After some three star reads, I finally got to a book that caused a reaction within me: Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb.  This nonfiction book takes a look at a therapist, the counseling she gives, and the counseling she receives.  I really loved that this book shows us all so deeply human.  We are so flawed, yet there is something redeeming in all of us. There were a lot of little life nuggets in here that really stayed with me.  There were also little pieces of psychology history/fact sprinkled throughout and as someone who really enjoys psychology, I loved that aspect of the book.  4/5. 

Book 5 was Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell, which I listened to. I loved the audio actors by the way and really loved that there was a male and female to add to the characters.  The characters, by the way, were so perfectly thought out.  I did get frustrated with them at times, but then I just had to remind myself that they were teenagers. This book focuses on first love and how intoxicating it is, but it also shows the relationship between two outcasts. The chemistry was strong and everything felt so raw and real.  There were also just so many beautiful lines that didn’t feel cheesy to me, but accurate for two outcasts to share.  The ending felt rushed and I didn’t love it, so this one gets 4 stars for me, but they are 4 very shiny, bright stars! 4/5. 

I also listened to Leave the World Behind, a book that fully enchanted me.  Author, Rumaan Alam left me in a book hangover for sure.  I read a sample of this book and felt like I wouldn’t be into the language, so I opted to listen instead to see if I could look past the heavy vocabulary and I’m so glad I did.  The book focuses on two families forced to share a home for the end of the world and asks Can any person be trusted? How would you spend your last minutes? I know a lot of people haven’t loved this book. Some were disappointed by the end, but I loved it.  For me, there was no other way for this book to end.  Leave the World Behind was a cerebral atmospheric novel that wholly pulled me in.  It made me think of that quote “This is the way the world ends, not with a bang, but with a whimper.”  Think of all of the things we’ve experienced, forest fires, intense hurricanes, advanced warfare, extreme weather, etc.  Those are the bangs. By the time the world actually ends, it likely will be a whimper.  I don’t really think the world is ending, but I enjoyed reading this novel and just how deep it really was.  Not only is this a 5 star read for me, but it is also a top contender of mine for best book I’ve read all year! 5/5. 

My last read was Modern Lovers by Emma Straub.  I tried and tried to get into this book, but I couldn’t.  The story focuses on the relationship between former band mates and the lack of one of them in modern day.  The novel is structured in a way that shows the past and present pretty clearly.  Unfortunately, I just did not like any of the characters.  They all felt like has-been hipsters who never got around to growing up, but might just might be begrudgingly doing it in present day. I just wasn’t into it.  I was more annoyed than anything, while reading this one. 2/5. 

I’m currently listening to My Dark Vanessa, reading Betty, and The Invisible Life of Addie Larue.  All of which are amazing so far.  I hope to have them finished by the end of the month! 

Happy reading y’all! 

Disappointment

I don’t think anyone really reads these blogs aside from a few friends and family and they already know what’s been going on in my life, so I’m going to get pretty vulnerable with this post, because honestly, I need to write out my feelings.

I’m not happy today. In fact, I feel pretty foolish. My husband and I have been trying to get pregnant for a year. After about 10 months of trying, my OBGYN directed us to a fertility specialist. I really like my fertility specialist, because he seems like a no-nonsense doctor. Basically, I was thinking it would be months before we would try something invasive like an IUI or IVF, but he didn’t want to waste any time. We had already been trying certain things through my OBGYN. When my specialist heard that Letrozole wasn’t working for us, he had us immediately get set up for an IUI where I would be taking Clomid, which is a stronger medicine.

I was really, really hopeful. It seemed like everything was turning around for the better in my life recently, so why wouldn’t this? I have previously written about my dad who was recently diagnosed with stage 4 prostate cancer, but that diagnosis changed to stage 2 due to more scans showing what was thought to be the spread of cancer, was really just a degenerative issue. Needless to say, I was feeling good. My dad’s news is excellent and it came right around the time I was getting set up for my IUI. This would work. I just knew it would.

When people who were praying for me would ask me about how I was feeling, I would tell them that I was at peace and I really felt like it was all going to work. At the specialist’s office, I kept saying things like, “this is gonna work!” when they told me about how billing would work in the event of a second IUI.

It was supposed to work. You see, on the actual day of our IUI, we did not have a single known fertility issue thanks to medicine and vitamins. In fact, both of us were above average on that day. Obviously, things were working. Prior to the IUI, I had started acupuncture, something I had never done before, because it was supposed to help the IUI to work. When I had my progesterone levels checked a week after the procedure, they were really high, which was a great sign. A sign that could mean pregnancy. I even started to feel “symptoms” My breasts had never felt more tender.

Unfortunately, those symptoms must have been in my head. Perhaps I was more acutely aware of my body, because I was looking for symptoms. I don’t know. All I know is, it didn’t work.

And I just feel foolish. Not only did I tell people that I just knew it was going to work. I also cut off caffeine and baths for fear that it may hurt the baby that was apparently never in my womb in the first place. I’ve been having really bad allergies with the seasons changing, and you know what? I haven’t been taking my medicine or the one thing that helps me (Benadryl) when my allergies get really bad. All because I didn’t want to ruin things. All because of hope.

How am I supposed to go into my second IUI with high hopes? How am I supposed to believe it will work this time? I just feel so defeated. Other women can get pregnant on accident. How come I can’t get pregnant with all of these other ways of helping me to do so? I think I would be a really great mom, but I can’t even get the chance to try. Does that mean I wouldn’t?

All my life, I’ve been in a season of waiting. I waited and waited for my first date, my first kiss, then for a significant other. All of which, I was a late bloomer. Those things didn’t happen for me in high school. But somehow, I naively thought I would be married with kids by 25. When that didn’t happen, I thought it would for sure happen by age 30. When that didn’t happen, I read and did Christian studies on waiting. Eventually, I found a sense of acceptance, but shortly after, my husband did come along. And now here I am again, in this season of waiting. I don’t know what you want me to learn God! I’ve been in this stage all my life it seems. I’m tired of waiting. I’m tired of getting my hopes up only for them to be squashed. I’m tired of a lot of things, that I just won’t mention on here, because I’m worried it would offend others. I’m. just. tired.

Anyways, I think I got so wrapped up in my IUI and my hopes of being pregnant that I just didn’t find the time to read this month. I was looking up cute ways to announce my pregnancy around Thanksgiving instead of reading. How stupid is that. As a result, I only read 4 books this month, when I had been averaging 10. There’s another disappointment to add to the list.

If you’ve made it this far, I’ll be kind and make these reviews short. I’m exhausted and think I’ll take a bath after this.

The first book I read this month was The Honey Don’t List, which also was my favorite. This book is written by the same author team (Christina Lauren) that wrote The Unhoneymooners, which was a book I really loved a little while back. The novel follows two people who work for an HGTV type couple who just had me thinking of Chip and Joanna. Just as fun to read, but not as comical, this book receives 4 stars from me and a glowing recommendation for anyone who enjoys a light chick-lit/rom-com read. 4/5.

The second book I read was Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi. Transcendent Kingdom is the second book by Gyasi, following her wide success of Homegoing (which is on my TBR list). This book, while beautifully written, just didn’t grip me. It was certainly more of a thought piece on depression and not a plot driven novel. I had high hopes for this one, but it did feel like a sophomore slump to me. 3/5.

The next book I read, has been a book I’ve been reading with my church small group called, The Me I Want to Be by John Ortberg. I read ahead a bit as we are still discussing this in my group. I don’t know how to really feel about this book. Some chapters are great, while others just feel too “surface level.” The format is weird for me too, since there are big sections that are repeats of the text. It’s meant to make those passages stand out, but it happens so frequently, that it’s a bit off-putting. 3/5.

My final read for September was Memorial Drive, a memoir by Natasha Trethewey. This memoir was quick, but definitely not painless. The author experienced some really traumatic things with the whole premise being about her mother’s murder. The trauma did not start there, however. Her upbringing was not ideal and while this book is not for the faint of heart, I do find it an important memoir to read. 4/5.

After realizing I had only read 4 books in the month of September, I’ve made a point to start strong in October. I finished 2 books that I had started in September and read another book over the weekend. I’ve also just started the so far phenomenal novel, Betty by Tiffany McDaniel. All of this to say, I plan to have some really great reads for you in my next post. I hope that post will be a little more uplifting too.

I’m trying to remind myself that not all days are good, but there are good things in each day and while it’s okay to be distraught, it’s not okay to be destroyed. Life is what happens between the bindings, and with that, I wish you happy reading.

What’s Normal Anyways?

It’s been almost a month since I last blogged about my readings.  I typically try to blog twice a month, but here we are. Life returned to normal in that I am physically going to work each day, but life definitely is not normal.  My students each have plastic shields around their desks, staff and students wear masks at all times, almost all of the curriculum is online (to reduce paper handling and to keep consistent with e-learners), and I travel by cart now, while my students stay put.  That’s only some of the changes experienced this year. So while I am back to “normal,” nothing is normal about it. 

Needless to say, I’m exhausted.  I barely find 30 minutes to read, because I’m just so tired all of the time.  I come home after a long day, and usually end up accidentally falling asleep on the couch, which turns into me groggily taking myself to bed and then the whole day starts over again. 

I thoroughly enjoyed quarantine.  I mean, I wish it were under different circumstances, but I liked being home and working from home. I straddle the line of extrovert and introvert, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve become much more introverted. When school closed on March 12th, I was worried and scared.  We all were living with so much uncertainty.  We still are, only we’ve become used to this “new normal.”  Believe me, I want things to go wholly back to normal. I want to be able to go out on dates, go to the movies, travel, and also toss my masks in the trash, but this is where we are now.  It will eventually get better. I know.  However, during the last four-ish months of being home, I completed multiple home projects, including planting my own garden.  I’ve read more than I’ve ever read before.  I finally had the time to workout and treat my body better.  I became spiritually more healthy.  Unlike many, while I did watch a few Netflix shows, I didn’t consume myself with television.  I would spend whole days without the TV on.  I was able to spend time with my dogs and they were able to be out of their crates almost entirely.  The past four months, I was able to breathe again and find the joy and beauty in life. 

When I work, while this is a valuable job I do, and I do enjoy it, it just takes too much time out of my day when you consider the commute.  I hate going home drained.  Being so exhausted that I can’t do the things I love.  Living for the weekend.  This is not how we were meant to live.  Americans have always been overworked, but I didn’t understand just how badly we were until I got a taste of the other side of things.  Life is so short.  Should we be killing ourselves over a paycheck?

Maybe I’m contemplating life so much and how to enrich it and live my best life, because my dad was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer.  The doctor told him that at this point, he has 8 months to a few years, which does not sound promising, but there is still hope and I believe in a God who does miracles. All this to say, I look at my dad who was (and still is) a workaholic. He’s spent most of his life working his way up in a small town heating and air company.  He doesn’t want to retire until he’s 66 so he can get his full retirement benefits. 

My father is 62.  62.  I can’t believe we are talking life and death with a man so young.  If I knew I was only going to live to be 62, would I live my life differently? Would I put less emphasis on work and money? Would I instead, find a way to live comfortably so that I could enjoy simple luxuries? Maybe I wouldn’t be a teacher. Maybe I’d do some sort of work that I don’t have to take home with me. Maybe I’d go back to school and work on the career I really want.  Maybe I’d work part time.  There are so many things to consider.  Have I been praising the almighty dollar too long? Storing away my money so I can live in a house that’s too big for me?  At what cost though? What is the price of a life unlived? A life of stress and anxiety and exhaustion?  I’m glad I’m finally thinking about this. It’s time I did. 

Anyways, I have read quite a few books, but I’ll keep my reviews brief this time.  Mostly, I listened to a lot of comedic female nonfiction.

I started with Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me and then followed it up with Why Not Me? Both by Mindy Kaling.  I love Mindy.  She’s so funny and real and smart actually, which you probably wouldn’t expect. Some of her essays were stronger than others.  I really enjoyed “Soup Snakes” from her latter book. However I would rate her first book better as a whole.  She seemed to tell more of her growing up and back story in her first book.  Her second book was a little all over the place with a random fiction piece thrown in.  Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me gets 4 stars, but Why Not Me will sit with 3.

Next up, I read a fiction book by one of my favorite authors, Jesmyn Ward.  Where the Line Bleeds was to no surprise lyrically beautiful.  I didn’t enjoy it as much as Sing Unburied Sing, which is my favorite of hers so far. I found myself stopping to re-read a line or sentence just to really savor her unique metaphors. She also created very real characters who spoke in believable dialogue.  The problem, as always is with her books, is that she has yet to master plot.  Once she masters plot, her books will be sheer perfection. 4/5.

I listened to Yes, Please by Amy Poehler. I actually really enjoyed her humor here.  The way this audiobook was set up reminded me of a comedic podcast, which I really enjoyed and she had some good life nuggets in here too.  Clearly, she’s not a book writer, which is what I found with all of these comedian’s books, but this one, listening wise, was really enjoyable. 4/5.

I devoured The Unhoneymooners by co-author group Christina Lauren.  I found myself laughing out loud and rooting for the characters in this rom-com.  As I’ve wrote before, I don’t love this genre, because often it comes across as cheesy or over the top sexual for no reason.  This book reminded me of those great 90s and early 2000s rom-coms I so love. Needless to say, this was a pleasant surprise. (5/5).

I listened to Bossypants by Tina Fey next.  I have to say, her humor and writing is great, but her innocent, everyday voice doesn’t match.  I wonder if I would have enjoyed this more had I not listened to it.  This was the most cohesive collection and also had me laughing out loud.  Though, the beginning essays were not as strong as her latter ones, which made me dislike it initially.  I did end up liking it by the middle and end. (4/5).

My final read this round was Into the Water by Paula Hawkins.  I really enjoyed this thriller.  It was calm and had a slow build, but I was still curious as to what would happen next.  I liked the unique concept of a place with a bad history.  The downside of this novel was that there were just too many characters to keep track of. (4/5).

I’m currently reading Night Swim, which is really good so far, and will start Luster soon.  I’m trying to get my reading speed back, but battling exhaustion is hard.

Keep up the good fight y’all and happy reading!

Uncertainty and Books

I’m ready for life to stop being hard, because right now, I’m about tired of this uncertainty.  Currently, I’m experiencing uncertainty with my parents health, uncertainty with my fertility and journey to get pregnant, and uncertainty with my school situation.  Uncertainty requires faith, and my faith tank has been running dry lately. 

I don’t really want to write my sad story down, because I feel like I’ve been a downer the last few posts, so instead, I’ll highlight some good things.

I cleaned out my laundry room and garage.  Yep.  I did it.  I finally got myself off the couch and drew myself out of my pity party where I was watching far too many sad TV shows and movies and eating far too much Nutella straight from the jar.  This was a big deal.  Not only because I needed to physically do something, but because both spaces were frightful.  I was even able to give away some high quality things on my town’s Buy Nothing page.  Looking at these clean spaces and knowing my generosity maybe helped someone makes me feel good.  And I need to feel good right now.  Maybe I’ll just go hang out in my garage or laundry room… but probably not haha.

Look, it’s okay to feel sad.  It’s okay to absorb it into your bones and rest in your darkness.  But eventually, and you’ll know when, you have to step out of it, if only for a minute or an hour.  Eventually you’ll step out of it more and more.  Right now, I’m stepping out of it.  I don’t know for how long, but for right now, I am.

Now, let’s talk books.

High hopes.  I had such high hopes for my reads and quite frankly, I’m tired of wasting my time reading duds, which a lot of my reads this time were.  Even the ones I wouldn’t consider duds, were still not great.  I need a great books.

My first book this time was Separation Anxiety by Laura Zigman.  This book seemed quirky and fun and definitely caught my interest from the first page.  A woman straps her dog to her in a baby sling as a midlife crisis. Unfortunately, the narrator was highly unlikeable.  Not only that, but it was written in an active voice, which was especially jarring for me.  I kept waiting for the book to take off, but ultimately it was directionless.  The narrator is struggling with her child growing up and her marriage is failing.  But then there was irony and sarcasm, only it wasn’t actually funny, it was just the author trying too hard. 2/5.

The second miss of a book was What You Wish For by Katherine Center.  You’ve seen me rave about her work.  In fact, I loved her previous book How to Walk Away so much, that it was my most recent book giveaway!  Imagine my surprise to jump into her newest novel and really, really dislike it.  I picked it up at least three different times and just could not get into it.  Eventually, I got to reading and found the writing to be lazy.  Center used this shock factor to introduce one of the main characters by saying “the Duncan Carpenter” and “my Duncan Carpenter” multiple times within 5 pages.  I didn’t love this book.  Maybe one day I’ll pick it up and try again since I do love this author, but for now, I’ll just await her next work and hope she gets her groove back. 2/5 (which is being generous).

My third book was The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce.  As a music lover, I was very excited for this book that centered around a record shop owner who knew just what song his customers needed.  The cover alone is beautiful.  I know, I know, don’t judge a book by its cover.  This book initially reminded me of High Fidelity, but those vibes went away after a few chapters.  After Ilse, the love interest, was more prominently in the picture, the book fell flat.  There were a lot of words with not a lot of action.  The whole idea of the record shop owner knowing what each customer needed went away quickly and the story centered around a love story that wasn’t all that thrilling.  3/5.

Next up, I listened to The Dutch House by Ann Patchett.  I know I wouldn’t have continued this book if it weren’t for the magic of Tom Hanks and his peaceful voice.  The book certainly told a story, but it just wasn’t one I found all that entertaining.  I wanted more excitement and more going on.  The book centered upon Danny and follows him from boyhood to fatherhood.  Danny grows up in a beautiful stately home, to which the novel contemplates wealth and status and how quickly that can change.  Moreover, this book was about the bond between two siblings, Danny and his sister Maeve.  They needed each other and relied upon one and other at multiple points in their lives.  This book was a purposefully slow novel that focused on theme rather than an enticing story.  It was fine, but I love a juicy, un-put-down-able plot be it thriller or literary fiction.  If the story is going to be more meditative and slow, then I expect stellar, poetic language to keep me engaged, which this lacked. 3/5.

My last read this month was Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia.  I was mostly intrigued by this because of all of the buzz It was getting.  I’m not sure I would have picked this one up on my own.  This novel focuses on a young woman who goes to visit her sick cousin who had sent an alarming letter.  What followed was a House on Haunted Hill vibes horror story where the author was not afraid to go there.  By go there, I mean, she did not shy away from being descriptive to make the reader uncomfortable.  I was completely okay with this.  What I was not okay with was the slow build, however, I can respect the slow build.  She Morena-Garcia spent a long time building the atmosphere and characters, but it did make me want to give up early on.  3.5/5.

So there it is folks.  My very mediocre reads this go around.  I’m really hoping for some 4 and 5 star reads next time! I have high hopes for Night Swim and Luster, which were some of my BOTM picks for August!

Keep calm and read on!

School Concerns and Books

Things continue to be uneasy in my life.  And quite frankly, I’m too exhausted emotionally to talk about it.  But if any of my blog readers are praying people, I would love some prayers.  What I will talk about is school.  I had initially planned to write about my concerns for schools to be opened again.  As a teacher, I just don’t feel safe. 

It’s different than other essential jobs.  As a teacher, I am shut into a room with 25 students and then swap those students out for another 25.  I see 100+ students a day and in small spaces.  I move around a classroom and get near students to check their work.  It’s different.  Not to mention, the sheer magnitude of how difficult this will be.  Students who already didn’t have supplies can’t borrow supplies.  Students are not adults.  They already struggle to follow rules.  Their brains are not fully developed. There’s so much to consider.  Are students better taught in person? 100%.  But is this a time where health takes precedence? 100%. 

I received an email last night that said our school would be pushing our opening date.  This gives me a bit more hope.  I hope that in the next few weeks either numbers decline or leaders come up with a clear, concise plan to keep all involved safe.  And when I say leaders, I mean all leaders (beyond schools).  I would hate to be part of a team trying to piece this together right now.  I know it cannot be easy, so I pray for wisdom for all involved.

Now to the books.  I wish I could say I was excited by this batch of books, but most of them were flops for me.  I am hopeful for better books next round!

My book club pick for this month was How I Made a Huge Mess of My Life by blogger Billie Best.  I have to say, I didn’t love this book.  Unfortunately, I could tell why this was a self-publish.  Best tells the story of her husband’s death, infidelity, and her personal rebuild.  The memoir topic is intriguing, but the book itself is directionless and feeds off a sporadic joking tone that doesn’t deliver. (2/5).

My next book was A Burning by Megha Majumdar.  I was impressed that the author took on such a large plot, but it was certainly a heavy read. This book was written with an active voice, which was somewhat jarring for me.  I struggled to make connections to any of the characters though.  It ended up average for me. 3/5.

Next up was The Beauty in the Breaking by Michele Harper.  This one has gotten a lot of rave reviews, but it was a miss for me.  The premise sounded intriguing.  A woman with a hard past rises above and becomes a doctor even in the midst of a failed marriage.  I was into that concept.  What the book was actually about was individual medical cases that expose the reality of the American healthcare system.  I saw less of the author’s personal life, which is what I personally wanted.  The book came off a little pretentious and preachy. 2/5.

Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes reminded me a lot of Katherine Center’s books.  I’m not much for romance or chick lit.  Don’t get me wrong, I love a sweeping love story, but most of the romance genre is either Harlequin or chick lit and they end up being very cheesy.  If I can read a lighthearted love story and it has heart and isn’t trying too hard, etc. I will love it.  If you don’t understand what I’m trying to say, imagine a Hallmark movie versus You’ve Got Mail or When Harry Met Sally.  Sure their both romcoms, but You’ve Got Mail and When Harry Met Sally are exponentially better.  They have heart. They aren’t over the top or cheesy.  Do you get it?  Evvie Drake was not a sappy Hallmark movie.  The novel focuses on a woman who’s obviously starting over and a famous ball player who is also starting over.  Only one of them was asking for a “do over” and not in the way she got it.  It had great characterization and the author really built tension between the two characters.  It also went deeper than the surface, which a lot of romcom books fail to do. I really enjoyed this book and will definitely keep on eye on this author’s work. 4/5.

My last book this time was Untamed by Glennon Doyle.  Let me just say, I was super into this book for the first 50 pages.  While I didn’t agree with everything the author believed, I still found myself underlining a lot of her sentences.  The latter part of this book focused on motherhood, and since I am not a mother yet, I struggled to relate.  I will also say that I did start getting annoyed by Doyle.  The more I read, the more I thought that this woman is just rambling and honestly, why should I care? It seems like she struggles with grass is always greener syndrome.  Everything has to be perfect all the time and if it isn’t she runs away and chases perfection.  So the more I read, the less credible she became. 3/5.

I forgot to inform the winner of my book giveaway on July 1st.  Like I said, life has been rough.  However, the winner, with permission, will be formally congratulated in my next post! The next book giveaway will be October 1st! The book is TBD, but am welcoming suggestions!

Happy reading y’all!

Can you back off, Mercury Retrograde? Plus books

It’s funny to me how people can look like they have a picture perfect life.  How the literal pictures they take and post on social media accounts can make things look like everything is fine when it’s not.  I’m guilty of that.  Not all of the time, but I have shared pictures that would make it seem like everything is wonderful, when in reality I’m an emotional wreck.  Why do we do that? Are we afraid that our friends can’t handle the honest truth? Maybe that they just don’t want to? Is social media turning us into the stepford wife where we have to save face and look perfect, when deep down that’s not the case and everyone really knows that, but everyone still continues to live as if they don’t? Social media might just be the devil.

I’m finding myself in a place in my life where uncomfortable changes need to be made.  Decisions that don’t feel great have to be decided upon.  It’s really, really hard.  Life has been hard recently.  It started with small little upsets and annoyances and then certain aspects of my life became really hard.  Forget small little upsets, more like giant teethy monsters to ward off.  And then I found out we are smack dab in the middle of Mercury Retrograde.  When I saw that, my mind went ohhhhhh.  That makes sense.

Now, I am a good Christian woman or at least I try to be, and some of my Christian brothers and sisters may think that putting any stock in the planets isn’t Christian, but you know what? God created them too and when Mercury is in retrograde everything is awful.  Believe me, I know.  Every time Mercury is in retrograde something bad has happened in my life.  Mercury was in retrograde when I lost a job several years ago.  It was in retrograde when I had my first large breakup.  It was in retrograde when I’ve had money issues.  I’m telling you. Beware of Mercury retrograde.

If you don’t know what Mercury retrograde is, let me explain it.  About 3 or 4 times out of the year Mercury shifts it’s direction and moves in an opposite direction to Earth.  People say that life gets tougher each time Mercury retrogrades.  It could be a bunch of small stuff like waiting in traffic, being late to meetings, forgetting important documents, etc. But often times it also will hit people in a large way too.  Like losing a job, or having relationship woes, or business troubles.  Most astrologers would suggest you not make any big decisions during this time.  They would say don’t make a large purchase or sign papers during this time either.  However, they would also suggest that this is a time where there is also a large lesson.  So if you have a major upset to your life, what is it? How will you handle it? How can you turn it for good?

Just a heads up: this retrograde is from June 18-July 12th and the next one is October 14-November 3rd.

Anyways, if you’ve managed to read past all of the kookiness, then let’s talk books!

My last blog post only had one book review and I felt pretty bad about it, so I more than made up for it with my largest single review yet!  We have 7 books to talk about!

Such a Fun Age more like such a fun book! But seriously.  I fell in love with this book.  Kiley Reid gives an authentic look at the black experience while also being lighthearted.  Emira is a 25 year old who hasn’t quite figured out adulthood.  She babysits for a prominent white family, which she enjoys and has a relationship with a white man whom she met in a less desirable circumstance involving the police.  When two worlds collide, there is friction, which sets up the plot for this discussion worthy book. I actually listened to this novel and loved the reader/performer of this audio.  I didn’t want to stop listening to this story, so I literally started and finished all in one day. Emira was very likeable and written with raw honesty and authenticity.  I fell in love with her and her friends.  While the book was enjoyable, it also tackled some tough issues, but in a way that felt fresh and light.  Reid, who was not only a good storyteller, also has the art of dialogue down pat.  Even toddler talk, where so many authors try and fail. Such a Fun Age wasn’t poetic per se, but Reid does have a way of painting a scene so that the reader can truly visualize what’s happening and a lot of that is through dialogue and characters that come alive.  This one would be a great book club pick! 5/5!

I finally got around to one of my June Book of the Month picks, The Last Flight by Julie Clark.  This thriller had my heart racing by page 30 and continued to be a real page-turner.  Clark tells the story of two women who want to disappear from their life.  The story is told with alternating perspectives of the two women.  Typically when this is done, I end up preferring one character over the other, but I liked both women pretty equally!  Perhaps the thing I loved the most about this book was the ending.  A lot of thrillers today try so hard for the shock and awe factor that they end up with loose ends.  While this novel didn’t have a huge shock or awe aspect, the ending was very satisfying with every loose end tied up.  I respected that this was a solid, enjoyable thriller and had zero complaints! 5/5.  

I listened to The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates and also thoroughly enjoyed the performer of this audio!  The novel… well, that’s another story.  I so wanted to love this book.  I have been wanting to read it for awhile.  The cover is beautiful, Coates is a well-loved writer, and it’s even endorsed by Oprah.  Unfortunately, I was bored to tears.  This novel aims to give a fresh perspective of slavery by adding magical realism, but what this book was missing was heart and raw emotion.  I did enjoy the magical realism element, but Hiram, the main character is living an emotional story without ever getting emotional.  I needed this book to give me edge and vulnerability, but all it gave me was a history lesson I’ve had before. 2/5.

The Mothers by Brit Bennet is one of my favorite reads this year so far.  The plot line didn’t initially seem so intriguing to me, but Bennett has such a way with words that her novel became intoxicating.  I rarelt underline in fiction books, or at least, but I had underlined two sections within the first 30 pages.  This was one of the best written books I’ve ever read.  The narration is done in a Greek muse style and each section of the book starts off with impeccable hooks.  I can’t even suggest one edit, because the novel was just so perfect.  Each character was flawed, but likeable.  The book read quickly, but I wanted to savor it.  Honestly, Bennett is a writer I will follow now and continue to read her works. 5/5! Go get a copy ASAP!

Which leads me to The Vanishing Half, Bennett’s most recent novel.  This novel did not have the inventive narration and the writing didn’t make me pause and think as often as it did in The Mothers, however, this story was more layered with complex themes that built upon themselves throughout.  I’m not sure that I necessarily liked the characters in this book better than the ones in The Mothers, as some of the characters in The Vanishing Half were unlikeable and even worse, not truly redeeming, however the story was more complex in this novel, which, of course, drew me in.  The storytelling in this novel put The Hearts Invisible Furies to mind as the novel spanned an extensive amount of time and truly told the story of characters lives, rather than merely a chapter.  The whole time I was reading, I kept thinking, I wish this was a book club pick, because it is a novel that begs to be discussed.  Ultimately, I wish the writing, stylistically speaking, was as strong as it was in The Mothers, but this novel still gets 5/5.  Brit Bennett is one to watch!

My book club pick of the month was A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman.  While I wouldn’t say this book was beautifully written or deeply thematic and layered, I did really enjoy the story.  Ove reminded me of the old man from Up. He was an old curmudgeon you just had to love. This book was dialogue heavy and read very quickly.  Be warned, if you choose to read this one, you will need a box of Kleenex. 4/5.

The last book of June for me (unless I finish another one in the next few days) was The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes.  When I first started this one, I was not into it at all.  I even restarted it a few times.  Eventually, about a third of the way through, it got a little more interesting and as the story continued, it continued to be interesting and I started to really like Alice and Marjorie.  For me, this was a slow burn and one that ended up being slightly above average.  3.5/5

I will have a special blog post on July 1st to announce the winner of my second book giveaway! All you have to do is subscribe to my blog and you’re entered to win How to Walk Away by Katherine Center! I’ll also use that post to share what he next book giveaway will be!

Happy reading y’all!

The Home I Left Behind, a New Pup, and a Book Review

I’m going to be honest here, I have only read one book since my last post.  My husband and I went on a vacation, we got a new puppy, and the next thing I knew, it was time for another blog post and here I am with only one book to review.  Also, I’ve been a bit consumed by the news as of late.  2020 keeps getting stranger and stranger.  However, reading is not a race.  I’m not disappointed in myself, because I’m still reading, but also living and I don’t need to reach a certain quota. 

For our vacation, we spent two nights in Asheville, North Carolina, then headed down to Wilmington for 3 nights.  I used to live in Wilmington and would often escape to the mountains.  Since moving from North Carolina back to my home state of Indiana, I have been back to Asheville several times, but hadn’t been back to Wilmington in about 4 years.  Why? Well, I like going to the mountains in the fall and it’s a much shorter drive.  Also, it breaks my heart each time I go to Wilmington, because I left a huge piece of who I am there.  You see, a piece of my heart will always be there, because it was there that I became who I am now.  I would give anything to live there again, but really, I miss the water.  I so badly want to live near the beach again.  I miss the fresh seafood, my toes in the sand, the rushing water of a wave meeting my feet and splashing against my calves.  I miss the freshness of the sea-salt air.  Wilmington also happens to have a charming downtown area.  I miss it all.  I would be lying if I said I didn’t cry on the drive home.  Luckily, my husband fell in love with it too and though we can’t move for another 10ish years, it was nice fantasizing about living at a beach town.  Jeremiah has family in Hawaii and wants to move there.  I would love to as well, but there are a lot of things to consider with a move to Hawaii.  The number one being cost. A coastal Carolina town seems a bit more doable.  Either way, I find comfort in knowing we both want the beach and it’s not too far off in the grand scheme of things.

So we also got a puppy.  Hands down the dumbest decision we’ve ever made.  I blame it on Covid. She was an oopsie.  I have wanted a Bernese Mountain Dog ever since living in Wilmington 10 years ago, when I first met Ziggy, a berner who frequented a dog friendly bar I also frequented.  When Jeremiah and I moved into our house last year, we ended up getting his dream dog, a dachshund named Popeye, and I came to the relationship with my rescue, Harls Barkley. We became a 2 dog home and I continued to daydream about a berner until one day during far too much quarantined time, I found a berner puppy and without thinking or much talk at all with my spouse (I ran to him and asked him if we could after I had already made contact) we decided to say yes.  The day after our vacation was over, I drove 2 hours north to pick up Frankie.  Frankie is adorable and I love her, but also, 3 dogs while trying to get pregnant… not smart. The first full day with her, my husband had to stay the night away for work and I was overwhelmed.  Our two dogs hated Frankie (they are warming up to her now).  Harlan went into a full depression and Popeye became aggressive toward her.  It broke my heart that my selfish desire for this puppy broke the hearts of my other fur babies. And even though she’s the best puppy I’ve ever had in that she’s basically potty trained and hardly cries in her crate, she still has accidents and needs watched.  Day 1 with Frankie = boat loads of tears.  So if you’re thinking of adding a third dog to your home, I would advise you not to.  But like I said, I do love her.  She’s not going anywhere.  Hopefully this all gets easier.    

2020.  The year of the pandemic.  The year of the BLM movement.  The year you unfollow friends on social media, because politics.  The year you say the wrong things on social media, because nothing is the right thing to say.  The year you just try to stay away from social media in general.  You know what, 2020? I’ve been trying to give up social media for awhile.  Thanks for the push.  I am actively lessening my time on facebook, because facebook is 100% the worst.  Newsflash people, you don’t get your news from facebook.  Also humanity… let’s have some.  I’m trying to move more toward instagram and even with that, I’m trying to minimalize my time.  The less time I spend on social media, the more time I have to read and write and spend time outdoors. Yes please. Sign. Me. Up.

Now onto the ONE book I have to review!

I read Shiner by Amy Jo Burns, a southern grotesque novel about a snake handling preacher’s family.  I love a good southern grotesque novel and not nearly enough of them are published these days.  This book had all of the sub-genre’s features: a southern setting, low income, families off the grid, a grotesque deformity, murder, religion, etc. But somehow it was missing something.  Some parts of this novel felt rushed and some aspects didn’t fully come together.  I felt that the first half of the book made it seem like the book was going to be about one thing, and then it turned into something else entirely.  While I enjoyed this one, with it’s southern flare, it wasn’t everything I wanted it to be.  It was just very average. 3/5.

I did just start listening to Such a Fun Age and have started reading The Last Flight.  I also have more really exciting Book of the Month books to get to before July and my book club book! My next post should have much more reviews!

Happy reading y’all!

The Year of the Sickness and Books that Cure

2020 has really been an adventure, which is interesting considering most of us have stayed at home for the majority of it.  There’s been so much that has taken place this year and it’s only June.  In some regard, the year is flying by.  Sometimes I forget that we’re half way through, but other times, it just feels exhausting.  What next 2020? What. Next.

I’m calling it the year of the sickness. 

Coronavirus is still a thing… I guess? Some people are acting like it is, while others are turning a cheek to it.  Some people are saying it’s a scam or blown out of proportion and other’s say that is not the case.  As for me, I’ll continue limiting my exposure to large crowds and attempt to follow CDC guidelines to the best of my ability.  I’m a homebody anyways, so it hasn’t been that difficult so far. 

The Black Lives Matter movement is, of course, the most relevant event at the moment, with more protests not just nationally, but globally than ever before, or at least it feels that way.  I’m hopeful that these protests can remain peaceful and that others do not take away from the true meaning of these protests.  I’m hopeful that there can be an answer to this sickness as well.  One day when we look back on 2020, I hope we all can see that racism, was just as much a sickness as coronavirus.  Key word “was,” because again, I’m hopeful for a future where equality is the norm.

Did you all hear about the new cases of Ebola in Africa? The swarm of locusts? Murder hornets? I mean really, this year keeps having more and more to worry about. Definitely the year of the sickness.

When all else fails, we can always turn to the comfort of a good book.  A story to take us away or to help us learn.  It’s been comforting for me to see that so many books on racism and the black experience are sold out on Amazon! That’s truly amazing! Books do change us for the better.  I will always believe that.  So without further adieu, let’s look at what I’ve been reading the past two weeks J

If you’re looking for a good memoir, I highly suggest From Scratch by Tembi Locke.  Tembi may look familiar to you.  She is an actress and has been in quite a bit!  That actually put me off from reading it, if I’m being completely honest.  Unless you’re well known and funny or someone I genuinely like, I’d rather read a memoir from a regular person who has a compelling story to tell.  Well, Ms. Locke has a compelling story and I’m so glad she told it.  From Scratch centers around Locke’s relationship with Saro, an Italian chef she met while studying abroad in Italy, before her fame.  This is not a spoiler as it’s on the back cover, but Saro dies young from cancer.  This book showcases their love, while exploring grief, but it also deals with how families deal with intercultural and interracial marriage.  It even touches on adoption.  Locke writes with authenticity.  She is real and vulnerable and it comes off the pages beautifully.  5/5!

The next book I read is perfect for PRIDE month, but also just a good story in general.  The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne is intimidating, not just because of its length.  This book tells a man’s whole life story from just before birth to the very end.  You will laugh and cry with Cyril as he navigates who he is and the different things that play out at different times and locations of his life.  He is a very likable character who grapples with his homosexuality at a time when it was deemed a mental disorder and therefor, wasn’t acceptable.  You will grow old with him and see how the aids epidemic impacts him and those he loves.   You will see relationships formed, broken, and mended.  It is a beautiful story.  Most books tend to tell you one story, but this one tells all of the stories of a life and does it well. There were some aspects of the books earlier on that fell flat for me.  This book really picks up at it’s midway point.  4/5.

The next book, I actually listened to.   The Bear by Andrew Krivek, is a novella based on a post apocalyptic world where a man and his daughter are the only humans left.  This book is actually a grand fable that contemplates grief.  Never had I been moved to tears with only one line before, until The Bear. Though this is a short book, it is one to savor.  If you are not a fan of fables or sometimes lyrically moving books, this one probably won’t do it for you, but it really did it for me.  The audiobook is pretty decent too.  The reader is very level, but once the story picks up a bit, his tone is perfect. 5/5!

Next I read Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell.  This was actually my book club’s book for May.  I had previously read Watching You by her, which was decent, but predictable, so I wasn’t that excited to read this one.  However, this one became a pleasant surprise! It had very strong Gone Girl vibes, a book I absolutely loved.  I will say the that the first half of the book was not great, but once the middle part and shift of perspective happened, I was all in.  Then She Was Gone turned out to be a unique thriller.  It also read incredibly fast.  I was very impressed by this book and would recommend to anyone looking for a fast and interesting thriller. 4/5.

My final read was Hemingway in Love.  This nonfiction book was supposed to be a first hand account of Hemingway’s love life.  As a huge Hemingway fan, I was all in, but the book ended up losing it’s focus and was more about snippets of Hemingway’s life with random aspects of his love life dispersed.  I wanted this one to be more focused as the title suggested.  Having said that, it was still an interesting read, but nothing worth going on and on about.  3/5.

In closing, I really do hope we can find not only solace in reading, but answers as well. I also want to add that we will be having ANOTHER book giveaway on July 1st of How to Walk Away, so if you have yet to subscribe to my blog, be sure to do that so that you will be entered to win!

Happy reading y’all!

The Knockout Marriage where You’re Happy and You Know the Bright Side of Disaster because We’re all HERE FOR IT

I’m sitting here thinking how to start this blog.  What has been going on in my life? Much the same as last time.  Quarantine is still very much a thing, and while it seems it may be lightening up soon, I will likely still try and stay in as much as possible.  Honestly, I’m a homebody anyways and I’ve been killing it reading wise this year.  What can I say? I’m enjoying myself.  But there’s not much of an update on my life this time around.  So maybe we should look at what I’m not doing.

I’m not writing. Ugh.  I hate that I’m not writing.  I plan to.  I swear.  The novel will get worked on this summer if it’s the last thing I do.  With so much extra time, I’ve found myself getting more creative in the kitchen and reading more, but writing still isn’t happening aside from these blog posts, so I’ve decided to give myself a goal.  I’m going to submit at least 5 works/times to small literary journals in the month by July 1.  I’m also going to get at least 1000 words added to my novel (hopefully far more that that) by July 1.  That gives me a month and a half to get back in the groove.  I can do it.  What else have I got to do?

We’ll keep what’s going on between my binding short this time.  I’d hate to bore.  So let’s dive right into the books!

I had pretty high hopes for my first book finished in May.  I read The Knockout Queen, by Rufi Thorpe, which is basically your run of the mill indie film.  It had quirky characters and dealt with big issues like LGBTQ, absent/poor parenting, and bullying.  While the narrator was likeable, I felt like topics changed too quickly and the knockout queen herself (who was not the narrator) became pretty unlikeable by the middle of the book and stayed that way all the way into the end.  Maybe the author was making a point of her being a product of her environment, but overall this book was a downer and I just wasn’t invested in the plot line or the majority of the characters.  It was a quick read and I do like that it tackled tough issues and it definitely gets points for originality.  (3/5).

Everyone seemed to love A Good Marriage by Kimberly McCreight.  Maybe I’m a tough critic.  I did really, really enjoy the book, but I can’t give it 5 stars.  This book took me a little while to get into, though, once I was about 75 pages in or so, I couldn’t put it down.  It focuses on the murder of a woman, who of course has a past and is married to a successful businessman.  The husband requests his old law school crush to represent him, even though she has no interest in doing so.  I have to say the book was a real page-turner and had me up until the end.  While some felt satisfied by the end, I felt there were too many unanswered questions and some aspects brought about in the last few chapters (I’m assuming to throw the reader off), were completely unnecessary and never fully explained.  I just wasn’t satisfied with the last 50 pages.  There were too many unanswered elements.  I also can’t give this book a 5 star review, because the book title lends itself to a theme of looking into marriages and what makes a marriage good.  While the author did explore some other marriages, she only ever approached the surface.  Had McCreight went a little deeper with her ending and message of marriage, this surely would have been a 5 star read, but she didn’t. 4/5.

My Next read was Happy and You Know It by Laura Hankin.  I didn’t really know what to expect with this book, but was hooked by the first page.  Imagine if “Sex and the City” and When Life Gives You Lulu Lemons made a baby and that is this book.  It had just the right amount of scandal too and while it is a light and easy read, that didn’t change my enjoyment of it.  My only complaint is that none of the characters were incredibly likeable.  Other than that, I don’t have much to say about this one.  It was an enjoyable escape. 4/5.

I was excited to read The Bright Side of Disaster by Katherine Center, because I’m fast becoming a big fan of hers.  This is one of her earlier books and focuses on a pregnant woman whose baby daddy leaves her just before her labor.  The book follows what happens after.  Unfortunately, this book just didn’t have the shimmer and sparkle as her newer books have.  The Nora Ephron-esque feel of her more Things You Save in a Fire and How to Walk Away was missing in this one, taking the 90s rom-com feel with it.  Honestly, this book lacked an upbeat peppiness, which left it kind of depressing.  Not to mention, I loathed Dean.  Oh did I loathe him.  Similarly to Happy and You Know It, I also struggled to really like the main character. 3/5.

I happened upon Here for It by R Eric Thomas and am SO glad for stumbling upon it!  Earlier this week, I was getting ready for my run and decided I wanted to start a new audiobook.  I opened up my Libby app (which if you don’t have that, get it… seriously) and saw that they had recently uploaded over 1000 new audiobooks, so I started scrolling down the list and all of them were checked out.  Finally, a book was available and it was Here for It, a book I had never heard of.  I thought, why not? And ended up pleasantly surprised.  This book is a collection of essays on American identity by a black gay Christian man, so of course, many of the essays go much deeper.  And did I mention, he’s hilarious?  Thomas reads the audiobook, which I love, because I feel like I really connected more with the material.  I would be in the middle of a run and literally laugh out loud at his quick wit and humor.  It’s also vulnerable and heartfelt.  I loved this book and look forward to seeing more from R Eric Thomas in the future. 5/5.

I will be doing another book giveaway at the end of July.  This time, I will be giving away my recent favorite rom-com, How to Walk Away by Katherine Center! Please share this blog and tell others to follow/subscribe so that they can be entered in for a chance to win! Congratulations again to our previous winner, Dawn, all the way out in California! She won a copy of Miracle Creek and I hope she’s enjoying it!

Sunshine Gets Your Body Moving and Books

It has been absolute nourishment to my soul to have warm weather and sunshine.  I’m so grateful for this change in weather and what comes along with it.  Suddenly, there is color again and I absolutely love it. 

I’ve been running a 5K almost daily, followed by a 2.3 mile walk, so long as it’s not raining out.  My dog, Harlan, loves it.  The other day it was raining and he was so confused that I hadn’t taken him out yet, that he actually brought me a leash.  It was adorably sad. I had pretty steadily walked him in the winter months, but temperature definitely affected that and when we did go out, our runs/walks were much shorter.  Anyways, I’m really pushing myself to get my 5K time under 30 minutes.  For some of you out there, you may be thinking that’s very doable and easy and may even scoff at my efforts, but my 5K started at 36 minutes and in the course of about 6 weeks, I’ve gotten it just under 32.  12 minute miles have become 10:30 minute miles. Just because I’m slow, doesn’t mean I’m not working hard, that’s for sure. Now, to get those miles under 10 minutes…

Talking about working hard, since my last post, my husband and I have been killing it when it comes to our home projects.  We moved into our home a year again May 6th.  We knew we would be focused on the inside of the house first and then, eventually, work hard on the outside of our home.  We’ve been dreaming up our front and backyard renovations for at least 9 months, and now, it’s all finally coming together.

  1. We had the deck sanded and stained a beautiful gray color
  2. Put solar powered lights on our deck posts
  3. Got nice patio furniture
  4. Built a stone patio in our side yard
  5. Spray painted our bistro set and got some potted plants to fancy up our new stone patio
  6. Continued fancying up the side yard by cleaning the chaises, adding cute cushions, and putting up a pretty bird bath
  7. Outlined two garden spaces in the side yard and planted hostas
  8. Weeded, mulched, and framed our trees in the front and back yard with stone
  9. Dug up a long row along our fence line and planted blueberry and raspberry bushes
  10. Had large raised garden beds put in
  11. Began the process of planting vegetables and fruit
  12. Dug up two large ugly plants that were by our garage

Now all there is left to do is have the trim on our house painted and weed and plant flowers in our flowerbed in the front of our yard.  It feels good to have accomplished so much in the past two weeks.  I don’t think I even realized just how much we’ve done, until I typed this out. Whew! I’m tired just thinking about it!

Aside from completing a million yard projects lately, my husband and I have been doing a lot of grilling out.  I mean, why wouldn’t we? We have spent so much time working on the backyard, now we want to enjoy it!  It’s been a nice change of pace, cooking and eating outside, and based on what my weather app says, it’s supposed to be in the 80s tomorrow, here in Indiana. 

This time of quarantine or social distancing has made me very thankful for my quiet little life.  It has made me appreciate the little things, and has obviously made me pretty productive.  Well, it made me productive reading wise too.  Let’s catch up on my recent reads 🙂

Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore has received a lot of mixed reviews.  I was initially excited to read it, but then had my reservations due to so many negative reviews.  The book was marketed with the plot being centered around a young girl who has a brutal crime committed against her, and how that crime then shakes up this old Texas oil town. When I first started the book, I was like, I don’t understand how so many people didn’t like this book!  The first 30-50 pages completely sucked me in and the writing was stylistically pleasing.  Sure, the author didn’t use quotation marks, but neither does Cormac McCarthy and I love his books. Anyways, I was sold, but just like my initial excitement turned to reservation expectation wise, so did my reading enjoyment.  Wetmore started throwing in multiple other women’s perspectives and the heart of the story changed and for me, it was lost entirely.  Some readers have suggested that this book is really about a Texas oil town and not a horrific crime that set the plot in motion.  I would agree, but I wish the author would have stayed with the crime aspect.  She missed an opportunity in exploring Mary Rose, one of the main characters, in making this more about the town than the tragic event.  Mary Rose was fighting for Glory/Gloria, the young girl who had been assaulted, when no one else was or seemed to even care.  Her heart was bleeding for this young girl and I loved those scenes, but the rest of the characters I honestly didn’t care about.  I wanted the book to be about what it was marketed as and what it started out as, but it wasn’t.  This could have been a 5 star read had Wetmore not changed direction. 3/5.

How to Walk Away by Katherine Center was nearly perfect.  This is the second book I’ve read by her.  Earlier this year, I read Things You Save in a Fire, which was also amazing.  This one was even better. And now, I’m a full fledged fan, so I need to read more of her books ASAP!  She has a new one coming out this summer.  I will definitely be getting it.  Anyways, How to Walk Away is about a young woman who becomes injured after a proposal goes wrong.  She has to learn how to emotionally and physically walk away from her old life and I was in tears before page 30.  Books make me emotional sometimes, sure, but before page 30?! Are you kidding me?!? That’s how real it felt though.  Center pulls readers in so affectively and kudos to her, because this book required quite a bit of research.  My only gripe about this book is that the Ian character changed too abruptly and perhaps his tragic past was a little too far fetched or too much.  Still, this book otherwise, was so good, I can overlook those gripes and give it a 5 star rating.  I highly recommend this one! 5/5!

Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough, a novel about Adele, her troubled marriage to David, and the woman who comes between them, was a compulsive read. I was addicted to the relationships being built, but moreover, was waiting for the fall.  The build up was really great.  There haven’t been many books where I was reading and got upset that I couldn’t read faster, but this one was definitely one of those books.  There was some shakiness when it comes to character development in one character in particular, and the ending, while shocking was honestly a little too far fetched.  I will say as little as possible about the ending in hopes of avoiding spoilers, but I felt that I wasn’t all that surprised by who was ultimately behind everything, and while the concept of how they were behind everything was new, it was almost too outlandish and I could have assumed that something would have come from where that came from.  That probably reads very confusingly, so maybe re-read this review after you’ve read the book and you’ll get what I’m saying.  I also feel that Adele’s true character was revealed far too soon.  For these reasons, this one gets a 4/5.

I decided to read Beach Read by Emily Henry after seeing so many glowing reviews for the book. This light read was basically a Hallmark movie.  Now, I love Hallmark movies.  They are light and fun.  The acting may not be great and the script is typically meh, but it’s mindless enjoyment.  I can be doing other things around the house while watching a Hallmark movie, or I can be doing work on my laptop, and regardless of what I’m doing, it doesn’t matter.  It’s predictable and I know exactly what’s going to happen.  Initially, I was not interested in Beach Read, because I felt like that’s what this was going to be, but again, there were just so many good reviews! Unfortunately, this was my Hallmark movie.  It was a light and easy predictable read.  It was enjoyable, but the writing wasn’t amazing and the characters weren’t amazing and everything was just OK. Some people cited that they loved this book, because it was laugh out loud funny.  I didn’t find that to be the case.  I actually felt like the attempts at humor were attempts that tried too hard.  If you’re looking for humor, look into some Jonathan Tropper books.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not bashing on romance or chick-lit.  As you read earlier, I loved How to Walk Away, but Katherine Center’s books have so much more in them and are like watching classic rom-coms from the 80s and 90s.  Beach Read, while enjoyable and overall fine, was your basic Hallmark move. (3.5/5)

I just finished High Achiever by Tiffany Jenkins.  You’ve probably seen her videos on social media.  I would imagine you’re living under a rock if you haven’t.  Her page is called “Juggling the Jenkins.” I’ve always thought she was funny, so when I heard she had a book that was more or less her tell-all regarding her past addiction, I was intrigued.  I got the memoir and devoured it.  It was an incredibly easy read.  I felt like she was just telling me the story and could easily visualize and “hear” her as she did, just due to my familiarity with her.  Her story, though, broke my heart in the best possible way.  Even though I know she’s clean, I still found myself rooting for her as a I read.  This woman has been through so much and really is an inspiration.  I’m happy that she has overcome her addiction and has changed her life.  She seems really grateful for her sobriety as well.  This one won’t win any big awards, and may not be a profound piece of literature, but it is well worth reading.  Especially if you or someone you love struggles or has struggled with addiction.  (4/5).

As promised, I did draw a winner for my first book giveaway.  They have until next Thursday to claim their prize.  If they don’t, then I will re-draw!  I hope your days have been as blessed as mine.  Happy reading y’all!