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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!

Waiting and Reading

Life between the binding has its ups and downs and I’d be lying if I said the last few days haven’t been more on the down side.  Fortunately, it hasn’t all been bad.  Yesterday was a fun night out with my husband and I was showered with flowers and chocolates and most importantly, love.  Valentine’s Day had previously been a dreaded holiday for me prior to meeting Jeremiah, so I don’t want to discredit an overall great night. 

What a lot of people don’t know is that my husband and I are approaching our 6th month of trying to get pregnant.  I know that some couples struggle for much longer, but it’s hard.  It’s hard each month when I get my hopes up and get negative results.  It’s hard when it feels like pretty much everyone I know is pregnant right now.  It’s hard when I see a new pregnancy announcement each day.  I wish this was an exaggeration, but it’s not.  It almost feels like a malicious taunt.   I’ve never experienced so many pregnant people in my life.  Everyone but me. 

The other day I was in Target, purchasing items for 3 separate baby showers.  I started to cry in one of the aisles and managed to get myself together until I got home, where I really let it go.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m incredibly happy for my friends.  I mean that. Some of them had their own wait just like me, but this waiting period is difficult and the more we try, the harder it gets and the crazier I go.  Case in point, I randomly read up on palm reading and tried to see where the children line was on my palm only to find out that I don’t have any “children” on my children line.   Then I realized that I was being ridiculous and moved on with my life. See, this is literally making me crazy.

The plus side is, I purchased a better ovulation kit then the one I used last month and I’m getting blood work done Monday, so hopefully there will be answers soon.  I’m trying not to feel defeated. I have faith that I will eventually get pregnant.   But again, it’s just hard.

Enough about my life, let’s talk books. 

I did end up finishing Sing, Unburied, Sing and it was absolutely stunning, writing wise.  I was completely swept up in the poetic language and it inspired me as a writer.  I did struggle with the believability that everything took place in such a short span of time.  Was it realistic? Eh, that’s debatable.  The plot itself is where the novel faltered, but the writing was some of the best I’ve ever read.  4 stars.

Next, I read my Book of the Month pick, The Holdout.  I love a good legal thriller and this one definitely read fast and held my interest.  Unfortunately, the author focused so much on moving the plot that he failed to fully develop likeable characters, setting, etc. This was likely due to his script writing background.  My big gripe with this book was that the author tried to tackle too many social topics, which made it seem like he didn’t really cover any at all.  3 stars.

One of my favorite books of the year so far was The Sun Down Motel. This was my first ghost story/horror read and I really enjoyed it! This was the first book this year that I really could not put down. It was suspenseful and thoroughly kept me engaged. Unfortunately, I guessed the twist and had imagined better ones in my head. 4 stars.

I just finished my first nonfiction book this year, When Breath Becomes Air. This book depicted a doctor’s battle with cancer and yes, I cried.  A lot. The book itself was fairly short and focused more on who the doctor was and his medical career and only focused on his cancer in the second half of the book.  I’m not sure what I expected when I picked up the book, but it wasn’t what I had in mind.  3 stars.

I’m currently listening to The Girl With the Louding Voice.  So far, there’s a lot going on in this one.  I’m not quite sure how I feel about it yet.  I’ve started reading Things You Save in a Fire and my book club’s next read is Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine.  I’m excited to get into these next reads! I’m still waiting on my first 5 star read of the year.

Until next time! Happy reading!

32, D.C., and books, of course

I started the year in a reading frenzy, but after going back to work after Christmas break (I’m a teacher), and getting back into the groove of things, it’s much harder to find the time to read as often or as quickly.  Plus, I’ve just been busy.  Since my last post, I’ve been to Washington D.C. for an all expenses paid conference on global education and I turned 32.  I’ve finished two books and started another.  More on those later. 

I’ve always been an overachiever/perfectionist.  It’s both a blessing and a curse.  I often stress myself out with the amount of work I put on myself, but it feels good to be successful and maybe I just crave the positivity of an “I’m proud of you” or a “good job!”  I also love to travel, so when an email crept in my inbox about applying for a global education program through Fulbright, I applied.  I found out I was accepted in July and then started a graduate level course on global education in September.  The next step was D.C.

I had never been to D.C. before.  I could write on this experience for quite a bit, but there are books to talk about!  The highlight reel is this: I saw all of the famous monuments, ran a refreshing 3.5 mile run with my friend (who also happens to be my boss), learned more about global education, and most importantly learned more about myself.  All in all, not a bad getaway.  Perhaps the biggest moment of the trip was my friend’s encouragement for me to be honest with the higher ups of Fulbright about my life plans.  More on this later… maybe.  Anyways, it worked out well.  I was afraid to be vulnerable and honest and damnit if it’s not hard enough being a woman, but it all worked out better than I could ever imagine.  I was originally scheduled to do my field experience in Thailand (which was my first choice), but am now going to Morocco (which likely would have been my first choice had I known it was an option).  This change will work out much better for me personally and I’m so excited!

Life between the binding has been eventful to say the least, but I did somehow manage to get my reading in.  

My sixth book of the year was The Night Circus, which started with such promise.  I was completely enchanted and I think that’s a perfect word for what this book brings to the table: enchantment.  Unfortunately, the middle of the book lagged on and the plot seemed to fizzle out.  It did pick up and finish strong though.  There was definitely a magical quality about this book, aside from the obvious.  The love story was captivating, but I wish it would have started sooner.  I wasn’t invested in many of the side players either.  This book had so much potential for me, but ultimately fell short of the mark.  However, it has stayed with me.  Initially, I might have given this book a 3/5, but I’m feeling now that it is at the very least a 3.5. 

Little Fires Everywhere was the pick for my book club this month.  Which, by the way, if you don’t have a book club, you’re doing life wrong.  I love meeting with my ladies every month to catch up and talk about our lives over snacks.  Talking about a book we all read, just makes it all better, because there’s solidarity in what we’re doing, but we all come with differing perspectives.  I digress.  Little Fires Everywhere was the hit book of 2017 and has maintained it’s popularity by continuing to be on the best-seller list.  Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington are even starring in a Hulu series depiction of the novel. Basically, people love this book. Me, not so much.  I didn’t hate the book.  I actually enjoyed it just fine and found myself more invested about half way through. The first line of the book starts with action and immediacy, however, that shortly fizzled out for me.  I felt like this book was buried in exposition.  I craved dialogue and maybe more of a sensical formal.  While this wasn’t my favorite book, man is it complex.  It’s going to be a great book to discuss at my next book club meeting and I can’t wait! 3.5/5

I’m currently listening to Sing Unburied, Sing and wow.  Jesmyn Ward is a master of poetic nuance.  I’ve previously read Salvage the Bones and both novels are similar in that they really transport you to a very specific life; characters are fully realized, lovable, and redeeming; and they are a slow burn in the best possible way with rich language that takes your breath away.  I find myself stopping and just wrecking my brain over how effortless this style seems for the author, yet how complex it is really.  She is a genius wordsmith and character builder and I look forward to finishing this book up.  Right now, this book is looking like it will end up being at least 4 stars for me.

That’s all for now.  Find a book, let life happen, and remember that all good things happen between the binding.  Happy reading!

First Five of 2020

Does anyone else have a complete meltdown every so often over the state of the world? Nope? Just me? Ok.

Yesterday morning I received some news I didn’t want and after a long day of working with troubled youth and trying desperately to hide my emotional strife, I went to see Just Mercy, a movie recounting the true story of Walter McMillian, a man wrongly convicted of murder. And it broke me. It was the wave pushed onto shore and I was the sand pebble taken away.  On my ride home, I prayed about my life and the upsetting things in the world.  And I cried.  A lot. I got home and continued to cry for an hour about literally everything from racism to Koalas.  I think I scared my husband, because he didn’t know what to do, but he was a champ and eventually the tears stopped. 

I’ve been reading a lot of heavy books lately and seeing a lot of heavy movies.  What we consume can tarnish the way we view the world, or clear the lens a little too much.  Sometimes it does both.  Either way, it can really get you down if you’re not careful.  I think my first 5 books of 2020 were a little heavy. 

I started with A Woman is No Man by Etaf Rum.  This novel told by three women exposes the truth behind what it means to be a middle eastern woman.  I feel like this topic has been explored before, but never has it been felt so deeply.  The characters were beautifully built and fully realized. This book was 4/5 stars for me. 

Next up was Topics of Conversation by Miranda Popkey, which I would highly not recommend.  Oh man.  Never have I hated a book more.  The premise of this book is that each chapter is a little vignette with feminist lure.  The premise I was fine with, but the writing style, not so much.  Popkey writes almost entirely in run-on sentences and then randomly follows it up with fragments.  The whole thing is pretentious and easily forgettable.  What gets me the most is that critics are applauding this work with special notice of her writing style.  However, most non-critic people who have read it, favor my opinion.  Don’t waste your time.  1/5

After that terrible read, I listened to Watching You by Lisa Jewell, my second audio book ever.  I had just recently decided to try out audio books and the first one I listened to was in first person.  This one, however, was in third. I feel that audio books work best with first person novels and nonfiction books.  Regardless, Watching You was an interesting enough thriller, but was also fairly predictable and I felt like something was missing.  I’ve read that if I want to experience Jewell at her best, I should check out The Family Upstairs. This one gets 3/5 stars for me.

My fourth read was This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger.  I really enjoyed this one and something about it stayed with me long after.  This novel reminded me of Huck Finn.  It’s an adventure with heart.  The thing I really enjoyed about this book was that the main character has this ever ending search for who God is and I think it’s lovely that this motif found it’s way in a mainstream book published in 2019.  The pacing, however, was slower than I would have preferred. 3.5/5.

Just last night I finished book number 5, Three Women by Lisa Taddeo.  This nonfiction book follows three women in different stages of life, but also explores female desire and sexuality.  I found this book to be very gripping and it read quickly. The writing was fluid with moments of poetic lyric, but sometimes it tried too hard.  There was also a little too much gratuitous sexual descriptions, that I eventually felt was overkill and would pass over.  3.5/5

I just started The Night Circus and am excited to finish it! I’m hopeful that it won’t be as heavy as my first 5 reads, and if it is, I’m going for the fluffiest, predictable chick-lit book next!

Happy reading and remember that life always happens between the binding!

It’s 6:00 a.m. and it’s raining

It’s 6:00 a.m. on a Saturday and it’s raining. The dogs are restless. I can’t sleep. What better time to create that blog I’ve been talking about! I’ve been in a reading mood lately. I go through phases. I read at least one book a month, but some months I devour books. In the past 25 days, I’ve read 15 books. Granted, I was on Christmas break for some of those days and had the time to actually sit down and read. It didn’t hurt that I kept picking up four and five star reads. My adrenaline would pump with each flip of the page, because I couldn’t read fast enough. A slight flutter of the chest propelled me as the characters and their actions pulled me deeper in. And I came to this conclusion: I can’t keep it to myself.

I’ve been working on a novel of my own for a few years now. Well, I should say, I have a novel that I have previously worked on and want desperately to finish, but have not actually been working on it for about two years. At one point in my life, I was being paid to write personal essays and had poems and other articles published. I would like to think I’m a writer, but in complete honesty, I haven’t been doing the work. I read once that “good writers read,” so for the past two years I’ve been telling myself that, while I may not be writing at the moment, reading is part of the craft. Which, of course, I believe, but I also think I’ve been using that saying as a cop out. There is no reason why I could not read and write at the same time. Well, not physically at the same time, but you get the gist. I need to write.

So how about both? How about I read, and then write about it? Maybe it will push me to do some additional writing along the way. Because really, how many of us make excuses for our dreams? How many of us have great dreams, that risk never being fully realized due to our own self-invented road blocks? I can’t be the only one, right? RIGHT?!?! I’m tired of excuses.

I’ve created this blog so that I can share some thoughts on the books I read and hopefully provide some great recommendations for other readers out there. But this blog won’t solely be about books. Sometimes it will be about life. The life of a book takes place between the binding. In a way, our lives exist between binding, too, even though sometimes it can feel like there is nothing keeping us together.

It’s also a gentle nudge to get me writing again.