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!

Marie Kondo-ing Life

I don’t know how long you all have been quarantined, but I’m wrapping up week 6 on my end.  My husband, who serves in the military, was away at a military class until last Friday, so it’s been great having him home (finally) this week. 

In the past two weeks, I’ve given a lot of thought to what things “spark joy” in my life.  If you know the reference then you might say I’ve been Marie Kondo-ing my life.  I’ve been thinking a lot about whether I personally value and love myself as the person I am.  If I do love and respect my person, then I need to evaluate all things in my life.  If it’s not bringing joy to me or if it’s causing problems, then keeping those things in my life is not being kind to myself, right? I’ve been pretty introspective and ultimately working towards being the best version of myself.  So my question to you, dear reader, are the things in your life– the habits, the routines, the relationships, and job—sparking joy?  Is there something you need to break away from? Maybe something you want to explore? 

What better time than now to better yourself?

I hope you’re being kind to yourself, offering yourself grace, and taking this time to create positive habits or lifestyles.  I hope you’re allowing this time of social distancing to better yourself.  Why don’t we all just Marie Kondo our lives together!  Anyways that’s all I have for you between my “life binding.”  I hope it gives you pause to think. 

Now, let’s talk books.

Godshot by Chelsea Bieker was one of my most anticipated 2020 reads.  It centered around a cult, which maybe I’m twisted, but I love a good cult story.  I have always found it fascinating how one person’s ego and search for power could culminate in several others blind fellowship.  Typically those people are easily preyed upon, which, from a psychological standpoint, makes them even more intriguing.  Unfortunately, while this book had everything I would want, perhaps my hopes were too high or the execution wasn’t quite where it needed to be or both.  The plot was fine, but it did get a little cheesy by the end.  Perhaps even cliché?  The pacing wasn’t very great either.  My heart completely broke for the main character though, and I would say the character building  as a whole was solid.  This book was decent, but didn’t really stand out as special.  3/5.

I would say Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan was my next book, but I had actually started it several weeks ago.  It was, however, the next book I finished.  I used to read several novels at a time, but don’t typically do that anymore, because I feel like it makes me lose focus.  However, I do make an exception when it comes to lengthier novels.  Anything over 450 pages is a little daunting to me, so I take my time with these longer novels.  Anyways, this particular novel was actually very closely based off the true story of Pino Lella and his involvement in WWII.  It shows the Italian side of the war, an aspect not often looked upon.  Pino is an incredibly likable character and this book definitely made me cry. Boy did it ever.  I was a sobbing mess by the end of it.  However, what really was remarkable about this book was the afterward when we learn each characters’ truth.  As it turns out, Pino Lella was a complicated man who tried to move past the war, but deep down, I don’t think he ever did.  Some of his life is less admirable, but that only made him all the more real.  I really enjoyed this novel.  It was an easy and engaging read that also turned out to be quite the adventure.  I would definitely recommend this book for lovers of historical fiction or WWII based literature.  4/5.

Just last night I finished Sharks in the Time of Saviors by Kawai Strong Washburn, a family saga with roots in magical realism and Hawaiian folklore.  The writing style was somewhat experimentally edgy in that it was so beautifully written, but also had moments of vulgarity from the characters.  I couldn’t decide if this cheapened the writing or if it made it stronger, because clearly the writing was well-done while still holding true to the characters, who, at times, were crass.  Due to this novel’s lyrical prose, it was one to savor making the pacing slower.  Unfortunately, I found myself frustrated with every character at one point or another and kept waiting for everything to culminate in a larger sense plot wise, but it never did, despite it hinting otherwise.  This debut novel had such great potential with it’s hints of magical realism and Hawaiian folklore, and while it was good, it just wasn’t great. 3/5.

Valentine is my next read!  And with this quarantine, I have a long list of books to get to! If you have subscribed to my blog, you are entered into a chance to win Miracle Creek, my favorite book of last year! I will be notifying everyone of the winner on May 1st!  In the mean time, spread the word and read on dear ones!

The Blessing and Books

Life certainly has changed since my last post.  I had included things about coronavirus in my last two posts as it was happening and now it’s certainly happened and happening.  My school is now completing e-learning for the remainder of the year, while all other Indiana schools are doing the same.  My poor cousin’s daughter, who is a senior this year, will not get to go to her senior prom or have her graduation ceremony.  If I were a senior, I would be devastated.  I would be as the parent of a senior too.  We are all practicing social distancing and life as we knew it, has changed a great deal.  Even getting groceries has changed and it’s not odd to see people out with masks and other forms of protective gear on. 

My heart breaks for my students who saw our school as a safe haven.  It breaks for their need for education and how this will negatively affect them.  I pray for them and their families.  My heart breaks for all of the seniors who didn’t deserve their last year of school to be like this.  My heart breaks for so many workers who will not have an adequate paycheck and the small businesses that will be crushed by this turn of events.  My heart breaks for the healthcare workers who are ill equipped to no fault of their own.  Mostly, my heart breaks for those who have gotten the virus and the families who have loved ones who have passed.  Loved ones they won’t get to say a proper goodbye to.  This is a very sad time indeed.

While I recognize the sadness and will continue to lift people and this overall situation up in prayer, I will also look at the blessings.  I’m on week 3 of being “quarantined” and it’s definitely been a journey.  The first week was tough.  I cried a lot and became obsessed with the news.  I ended up turning to God for guidance, which led me on a journey of rekindling my relationship with Him.  I say rekindling, because I hadn’t been doing my part.  I wasn’t praying as often as I should or reading my Bible very often at all.  Sure, I was going to church, but does that count if that’s all you do? Turning to God was the best decision I could have made.  My mood became lighter, joyful even! I made a schedule for myself and promised to be productive in this time.  In the past two weeks, I’ve repainted one of the bedrooms in our home, fixed the molding on our fireplace, ordered patio furniture for our back deck, and deep-cleaned our house.  I mean deeeeeep cleaned, y’all.  I even wiped down the baseboards.  I started an online Bible study, ran/walked 5.45 miles almost daily, got my 5K down by almost 3 minutes, tried new make-up techniques, started practicing true gratitude, and of course, read. 

The blessing is this: I’ve gotten more closer to God and I’ve reconnected with myself both mentally and physically.  This has been the much needed “break” I was too prideful to take.  I am so grateful for this time to slow down, even if it is for uncertain circumstances.  My dogs have loved it too.  My hope is for you, dear reader, to find your blessings in this madness too.  I promise there are many. 

With the current state of the world, there is definitely time now, to read.  Hopefully these reviews will help you find your next book!

In Five Years by Rebecca Serle was a really fast read.  The premise is that the main character gets a glimpse of what her life looks like 5 years in the future, which is not anything like what she had in mind.  She starts off engaged and we see through her glimpse that in five years, she is waking up next to another person entirely.  Sounds like a cute love story, right? Wrong.  While it did end up a love story of sorts, changing the book so drastically turned it into something else entirely.  Unfortunately, this left the main character and another key player very unlikeable.  The writing was well done and like I previously mentioned, the pacing was incredible, but it left a sour taste in my mouth. When it comes to a good book, it’s going to need more than fast pacing to make it so.  3/5

My next read was Writers and Lovers by Lily King.  I struggled with this one too.  I’m not sure just why it didn’t click with me.  The writing was good and the premise seemed like something I’d be into: a woman writer struggling with men and her own creative freedom.  I’ve been that woman.  I think though, the reason this didn’t resonate with me, is because I’m not that woman anymore.  The plot was slow for me and while it was about something, it seemed like it was also about nothing at all. I kept questioning myself while I read, “do I keep going?”  I did finish it, but begrudgingly.  Maybe if I had read this book 5-10 years ago, I would have been all about it.  Unfortunately, that was not the case 2/5.

I read Dark Matter, because I loved Blake Crouch’s book Recursion.  Crouch writes gripping science fiction thrillers and this one did not disappoint! The book itself is hard to explain, but basically it was about multiple dimensions.  What if you woke up somewhere in the middle of nowhere and the life you thought was yours, was not at all?  What would you do to get it back? Or would you try to at all?  The ultimate question in this book was: Are you happy in your life? This novel was fully entertaining and kept me flipping page after page.  I loved how it took the idea of success versus family.  Why can’t we have both? Can we?  There were so many talking points in this book, I wished I would have read it in a book club! I really enjoyed this book, but it wasn’t as good as Recursion by the same author.  I highly recommend both! Dark Matter is a solid 4/5!

I have to say, my mind is still reeling over Darling Rose Gold by Stephanie Wrobel.  Wrobel sets off the book with a bang and you can’t stop reading, but then she sort of slows things down to do a character study, while also showing some backstory.  I wish her character study would have gone a little deeper.  There was so much in the title character.  I wanted to know more about her layers.  Her mother was a whole different animal… sort of.  I didn’t really feel like I got to see her layers at all, though.  This book was marketed as a thriller, which it was, but it was kind of a slow burn to get there.  The last 50-60 pages really picked up steam, but the last two pages was a bit of an over explanation.  I liked this book, but I couldn’t give it a 5 star rating.  4/5 for me.

The last book I have for you is my first self-help/religious/theology book of the year, but I couldn’t recommend it more!  The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry is for anyone, yes ANYONE, who feels like they’re always in a hurry or rushing through their life.  Or maybe for that person who is sick of the fast paced culture we have built for ourselves.  While this is a Christian book, it is more about how to slow down and why that’s important.  If any non Christian were to read it, I don’t think they would be upset with the religious pieces in it.  There might be a chapter or two they would skim, but overall, the writer focuses on hurry.  This book was/is a fast read (note that I still have about 50 pages left of it).  I am not hurrying through it though!  While I have read through it rather quickly, I’m revisiting certain chapters weekly since this book is part of a study I am in.  I don’t think I would have picked this book up on my own, but I’m so glad I found it! This excellent book by John Ortberg gets 5/5!

My next post will include reviews on Godshot, Sharks in the Time of Saviors, and Valentine, and hopefully more! But that’s what’s on deck for me! Happy reading and go find your sunshine, I promise it’s there 🙂

Quick update on my first book giveaway: I will announce the winner and reach out on May 1st!

Life Updates and My First 5 Star Read of the Year!

In my previous post, I wrote about my worry that my Morocco trip would be cancelled, and lo and behold, it was.  I’m not sure if it will be rescheduled or if I will go somewhere else or anywhere at all. There is real fear surrounding this virus and the World Health Organization officially declared it a pandemic, to which I’m like… why did it take this long? 

I can’t even buy Clorox wipes, which is comical, but at the same time, is this something we should fear? Should I be buying water and toilet paper and stocking up on food like the panic stricken Americans?  Or is everything being magnified and over exaggerated by the media?  While the news is now reporting over 120,000 cases worldwide, with over 1000 of those cases in the U.S., the news is neglecting to inform that of those 120,000 cases, almost 70,000 have been discharged or “recovered,” and almost 45,000 who currently have the virus, are seen as experiencing it “mildly.”  I think it matters how the world reacts, and right now it seems that the world is reacting in a big way.  It will be interesting to see how this all plays out in the coming months as we wait for a vaccine.  I just can’t believe I had a real fear of being quarantined.  It really makes you feel like you’re living in a dystopian novel.  Guess I won’t be reading Station Eleven any time soon. If you don’t know anything about that book, look it up and you’ll see why.

In other news, Spring Break is just around the corner and thank the good Lord Jesus, because these kids are driving me insane.  I had planned on having a sub next week, and having an extended spring break, but alas now I have to actually be present and do my job. Ughhh.  Luckily though, I’ll have (what will feel like) 2 weeks off.  The first week is half days, and the second week is sweet, sweet freedom.  I can almost taste it. 

Talking about spring, who really despises time change? Whether I’m springing forward or falling back, I cannot stand this body shift.  And it is a body shift.  I can’t seem to get tired until midnight, which is then causing me to sleep in.  The darkness doesn’t help either.  I was liking the fact that I was driving in with the sun in the morning, and now, it’s just bleak and dark and depressing.  I know I’ll eventually get used to it and that the sun will eventually join me again for my morning commute, but this week has been a struggle.

Enough about me, let’s talk books!

A Good Neighborhood by Therese Anne Fowler is my first 5 star read of the year, but it’s not for the faint of heart.  This book was told from an interesting point of view, but it didn’t put me off.  The plot was so perfectly pieced together, with the second half of the book really picking up steam.  I so strongly disliked one particular character and his selfish delusions that my reactions were somewhat visceral and if an author can create a character so vivid and unlikeable then kudos to them.  I wouldn’t say that this was an enjoyable book in that some parts were very tough to read.  However, I was completely pulled in by the drama that was unfolding and the overall themes in this novel are important and so well conceived throughout.  When I was thinking of how I would rate this book, I debated rating it a 4, because maybe it didn’t read as fast as some books or end happily, but then I was like, nope, this is a 5 star read. Matter of fact.  It just is. 5/5.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo wasn’t even on my radar until I read Daisy Jones and The SixDaisy Jones was one of my favorite books last year and while many loved Seven Husbands, it just didn’t do it for me.  The book was a quick read and the characters were likeable enough, but in a book so heavily reliant on the characters, I needed to like them more. The author, Taylor Jenkins Reid actually wrote and published The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo prior to her successful Daisy Jones, which I loved. Both books seem to have a commonality: they both tell the tale of a creative icon though an inventive format. I’m wondering what Reid will do next? Perhaps an artist?  I am excited to see what Reid comes up with. 3/5.

I listened to Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks, mostly because I knew Tom Hanks was the narrator of the audiobook and I wanted to listen to his comforting and soothing voice.  I so wanted to love his short stories, but I had waited this long to read his collection, because I had heard bad things.  Some stories were stronger than others and I even tried to validate his usage of older language like “yowza” and the phrase “hook, line, and sinker,” because it’s Tom Hanks and of course he would use that language.  Part of me even liked it, because it’s nostalgic and recalls a simpler, more charming time in our history.  A time, I often long for.  Unfortunately, too many of the stories just didn’t deliver.  Short stories really need to be beautifully written due to their conciseness.  Hanks just didn’t have that delivery.  I did really like a few of the stories though, and since this is his first effort, I’ll say it was a 3/5, but I’ll also say I’m being a little generous too.

My next book was The Two Lives of Lydia Bird by Josie Silver.  Some might remember this author from her wildly successful breakout novel, One Day in December, a book I actually hadn’t read, because I couldn’t get into it when I skimmed through it at the bookshop.  Regardless, everyone seemed to love that book. I had pretty high hopes for Lydia Bird based on the plot and thought maybe I was missing out when it came to her first book, but after reading Lydia Bird, I think there is just something I’m not connecting with regarding the author’s style.  The Two Lives of Lydia Bird was very meh to me.  Partly, the book was marketed as a love story, but in fact, it was actually more about the grieving process.  I think I was expecting something different than what I read. 3/5.

I’m looking forward to more books! Shortly, I’ll be reading Darling Rose Gold, a new thriller said to be spine tingling and twisted; In Five Years, a new book of friendship and love that is getting pretty solid reviews; and I’m thinking of checking out Sharks in the Time of Saviors, a magical realism book set in Hawaii that pushes into some Hawaiian legends.

That’s what’s been going on between the binding.  Happy reading y’all!

Thoughts on the Coronavirus, Healthy Living, and Books of Course

Everyone is talking about the coronavirus and I’m sitting here thinking yeah, it’s spreading fast, but also the flu has had far more fatalities and yeah we will likely have a vaccine for it within a year or so, but how many people will really get the vaccine anyways? I got my first flu shot in years this past fall, and I’m pretty sure few people in my family got one, if that says anything about your every day American. I know that at this point, it’s this thing that we don’t really have enough information about and that’s scary. I also can’t read about it or watch too many news clips on it without getting in my head and freaking out, so there’s that too. Anyways, it turns out this coronavirus (now the Covid19), might be messing up my trip to Morocco. There is speculation that the trip may be cancelled or postponed. I’m worried that if I go, I may end up getting stuck outside of the country, unable to return. I’m also worried that if I don’t go, I may not ever go, because I’m hoping that I get a pregnant soon (which would be a good reason not to go). I’m just praying that everything works out the way God intends it to (which it will), so I guess my prayer really is to surrender my worry. Hmmm, there’s probably a lot of things I can stop worrying about…

Aside from stressing out about several things outside of my control, I have tried to gain control of my health. I went to a dietician last week, and learned a lot about my body and myself. I’ve always been obsessed with calorie counting, and my weight has always been a struggle. While I typically eat healthy and work out, I often skip meals, and when I have cheat days, they are really bad cheat days. Portion control is not my friend. Long story short, I’ve implemented healthy new routines into my lifestyle and have decided to ditch the scale (ditching the scale to an extent, that is). I also have pushed myself physically. I’ve always taken my dog on super long walks, and sometimes I get a lengthy run in, in the middle of those walks, but only recently have I been able to run 5+ miles consecutively without stopping. And I’ve since done it multiple times! So that’s going well.

There are a lot of things going well, really. I’m ridiculously in love with my husband, we are working hard to get out of debt, and I’m excited about future job prospects that could propel my career. All good things. I’ll choose gratitude and everything else, I’ll just give to God.

So that’s a little taste of what’s been going on between my binding, now let’s talk about the things going on between the binding of the books I’ve read recently.

Book of the Month came out with their February books and The Girl With the Louding Voice was one of them. I sampled it, and I knew it would be a struggle to physically read due to the heavy dialect in which it’s written. I opted to enjoy it via audiobook. The Girl With the Louding Voice was about a 15 year old who is married off without her asking, when all she really wants is to be educated and to find her louding voice. This book was highly encouraging for women and shows how far hope will take you. I did enjoy the book and what it aimed to do, but ultimately I found the main character to be naive and a little annoying. It seems that just about everyone who has read this book has fallen in love with it, but that just didn’t happen for me. I think I may have had higher hopes for it. For me it was just ok. 3/5

Things You Save in a Fire is my favorite read of the year so far. This book focuses on a female fire fighter who has sworn off love. Through various outside events, she ends up taking a job at a fire station near her mother who she has a shaky relationship with and if this plot doesn’t sound like a Nora Ephron movie plot, then I don’t know what does. I think I needed something light and fun, which this was, but it also included some heavy topics. What I loved about this book is that it navigated these topics with respect and boldness, yet it didn’t bring down the mood of the novel. I also fell in love with the main character. Reading this book felt like watching a good romantic comedy from the 80s or early 90s. I loved the feel of it. It also had a great message of feminism. Some aspects of the plot moved a little too quick, but all in all, I loved this book. 4.5/5

I read The Wives in one sitting. Talk about a book with twists and turns! This book didn’t stop until the very last line! I don’t want to say anything about the plot for fear of giving something away, so I’ll just leave that for you, reader, to look up. Throughout the first quarter of the book, I kept thinking, this is not believable. Eventually, I just got out of my head and enjoyed the entertainment of it. It turned out to all make sense in the end, but some of the twists gave me whiplash! If you’re seeking a quick thriller/mystery, I’d definitely recommend this one. It’s no pullitzer prize, but it definitely was entertaining! 4/5

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, but am I? Geez, this book really got me in the feels. This novel focuses on a 30 year old woman who has had her fair share of trauma, but has never properly dealt with it. She’s a bit reclusive until an event pulls her out of her shell. I’ve heard Eleanor described as funny, but I don’t think I would refer to her as such. She was tragically quirky and I fell in love with her, but funny isn’t the adjective I’d go with. Her friend Raymond was just as likable as the lovable goof who helped free her from her emotional strife. I really liked this book. The plot didn’t really propel my reading, but the characters did. My initial thought is this book was a 4/5 for me, but the more distance I have from the book, the more it sticks with me.

That’s all for now! Stay safe out there and happy reading!