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!

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!