Third Time’s the Charm, eh? oh and Books

My husband and I completed our final IUI today.  We’ve been struggling with infertility for over a year and have previously tried two other IUIs, which were, unfortunately unsuccessful.  We met with our doctor last week and he advised us to move onto IVF if this final IUI doesn’t work.  Apparently, there isn’t much of an increase in odds after the third attempt, plus we have some other aspects that make it less likely to work for us. I’m really hoping it does, though.  As far as IUIs go, this one has the best odds of being successful so my fingers and toes are crossed, and most importantly, I am praying. The third time’s the charm, right?

Aside from that, my school, as well as every other school in Indianapolis, is going completely virtual starting November 30th.  All week, we’ve been prepping our in-person students for this shift and next Monday and Tuesday they will be working on packets from home while the staff preps for a full virtual shift.  I. Am. Elated. While this may not be the best thing for students academically, it is the best thing for them physically right now, and we have a really great plan set in place this time.  At this point, if students do not perform, that will be on them. We have done the leg work to make this successful.  Now, it’s on them. Which is hard, but I do feel okay about it. 

The choice to go fully virtual does positively impact me.  I am excited to work from home.  My husband and I set up a cheap work from home station for me this past week and I think this will be really good for my overall mental health. 

Thanksgiving is coming up and that is my favorite holiday.  I can’t wait to cook everything for my family.  We are still planning to meet together to celebrate the holiday, but there will only be 5 of us, so I’m not too concerned about the spread of covid for us.  With all of these positive things happening, it’s hard to feel down, which I had been for awhile.  I’m glad my mood has taken a step up.

This month so far, I’ve finished 6 books and am only 5 away from reaching my goal of 100 for the year.  I think I will be surpassing that goal, which is insane to me as I have never read this much in a year before! So, without further adieu, let’s talk books.

My first read of the month was The Midnight Library by Matt Haig and wow. 

Have you ever read a book that was just exactly what you needed and hit you right at the perfect time? Well, that was this book for me. I’m so glad I read this one.  This one is definitely a favorite of the year for me and possibly in my top 5.  The story centers around a woman who essentially wants to kill herself and somewhere in between, she ends up living multiple versions of her life based on the books of her life in the midnight library.  Through this, she not only sees her regrets and mistakes and gets to play out “if” scenarios, she also learns to love life again. (5/5)

The next book I read was a very forgettable thriller called The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell.  I had previously read two other books by this author: one that I loved, and one that was predictable and unimpressive. This one, unfortunately, was more like the latter.  The novel was fine and it was fast paced, but I just wasn’t invested in the characters or the plot.  Jewell is an author that has proven she can write a great novel, but I worry she has fallen prey to the publishing world that insists she push book after book out. 3/5. 

The Invisible Life of Addie Larue by V.E. Schwab was a book that took me far longer to read than I had originally expected.  The book itself was long, but the problem with my attention was due to the book not gripping it.  I was about to give up on the novel if it weren’t for everyone and their mom screaming about how much they loved this book.  Finally, about half way through, I started to love the novel, but the build was so slow that I became frustrated.  The main love interest doesn’t even come into the picture until the midway point, which meant that the first half was just a lot of set-up.  Too much in my opinion.  3.5/5.

After reading and loving The Midnight Library, I decided to check out some more of Matt Haig’s work.  The first of these was his novel How to Stop Time.  This one was not as big of a hit for me. The premise of the story focuses on time.  The main character has some sort of medical condition that makes him age at a much slower pace so he has seen centuries of life. I loved the concept, but the execution was a bit cheesy for me.  As soon as the main character kept meeting real celebrities and historical figures, it felt far-reaching for me.  The end was a bit too sappy and rushed as well.  I do hear this is being turned into a movie.  I actually think it may be better as film than book. 3/5.

My next Matt Haig book was a collection of essays and observations titled Reasons to Stay Alive.  This book is for anyone who has ever experienced depression personally or though someone near to them.  I found the raw writing to be an essential look into the trials of when that darkness invades your mind.  As someone who has struggled deeply with depression, I found solace in this book with the reminder that A) I’m not alone and B) it gets better.  This is a book I will definitely be recommending to people. Plus, it’s about time the world better understands this disease. 4/5    

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong was some of the most beautiful prose I’ve ever read.  I was absolutely taken away by the poetic writing.  Unfortunately, the story itself was lacking.  Vuong writes his novel in the format of a letter from a son to his mother.  This felt deeply personal and pulled me in initially, but about half way through it became jarring and felt pretentious to me.  The writing was so damn beautiful though.  I have to give this 4 stars, despite the lack of a fluid plot. 4/5.

I’ve just started This Time Next Year by Sophie Cousens and so far I am enjoying it.  It’s reminding me a bit of The Unhoneymooners and One Day.  I’m excited to finish it.

I’ll catch you again at the end of the month for more book reviews.  Until then, happy reading y’all!   

Simple Book Reviews

While September ended up being a major letdown reading wise, I overcompensated in October, having read 14 books, my highest amount for one month yet! I am 10 books away from my goal of 100 books throughout the year and I really feel like I can do it!

I don’t want to get into my personal garbage in this post.  I’ve been through a lot and I’m tired of sounding like the perpetual sad girl with all of the sad things going on.  I’m working on my relationship with God.  I’m working on being hopeful in my tribulations.  I don’t want to dwell on or think about all of the negative things in my life right now, so I’m going to say this: there is so much beauty in this life even when things are hard.  There are things like cozy blankets, beautiful candle smells, baked goods, dog cuddles, cheese (I mean I’m super grateful for cheese), nature, and above all there is love.  There is always something to be grateful for.

I’m grateful that this is my blog and I can move on to my book reviews whenever I want to… like now!

My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell was close to a 4 star read for me.  This novel focuses on a young girl’s sexual relationship with her teacher and the implications that has in her adulthood, especially when said teacher is under fire for sexual allegations.  This book was very well-written and definitely exposed the rawness of a teenage girls emotions as she is being manipulated by her teacher.  The author made sure to not make this “sexy” and also made sure that the teacher was seen as a creepy monster, but did so in a way that was delicate so that the reader could see how easily a young girl could be put under his spell.  I struggled with how little emotional progress the girl made though.  In her early 30s, she still seems far from making progress and even though she does start to move forward, I became really frustrated with Vanessa.  I wanted her to mature and heal more, which I do feel is realistic, but unfortunately, she stays pretty stagnant.  3.5/5

Next I read two books by B.A. Paris.  Behind Closed Doors follows the life of a woman who is the primary caretaker for her sister with downs syndrome and how her life makes some major changes as a result of getting married.  Somewhat a thriller, without the mystery or shock and awe values, this book felt very safe.  It was a solid read, but nothing to write home about.  3/5. 

Since B. A. Paris is a well-loved author, I decided to try one more book of hers.  Also, it was available at the library so I went for it.  Bring Me Back, however was far worse.  While this book had more of the thriller aspect and aimed for the shock and awe value, it really just felt quick and easy and very lowbrow.  The ending of this book was so utterly ridiculous and unbelievable, I can’t see how anyone could forgive this author.  I think it’s safe to say, I’m not a fan of this author’s work and will not be seeking out anymore books by her.  While they are quick reads, they are cheesy, fluff thrillers when I need something with substance. 2/5.

The Girl in the Mirror, a thriller by Rose Carlyle was actually not much of a thriller initially.  Once the book started to fit the genre, the ending was so sped up it nearly gave me whiplash.  This novel was so dependent on characterization, which is ironic as the author really neglected that aspect.  The ending was a bit contrived.  Perhaps I just need to take a break from thrillers for awhile 3/5.

The next book I read was The Devil All the Time by Donald Ray Pollock.  I actually picked this book up three years ago at a southern literary festival.  I started it then, but forgot it in my car, where it had been living every since until recently when a friend told me this book was made into a movie on Netflix.  I found my book and started reading so that I could watch the film version (which was good, but with so many things cut out).  This novel was dark and sinister and brought to mind mastermind writer Cormac McCarthy, an author I love.  I really enjoyed this epic novel and would definitely recommend it to lovers of literary fiction and the southern grotesque genre.  Though this novel takes place in Ohio, it takes place in the holler near the Appalachian mountains.  A truly intriguing and upsetting novel sure to stay with you long after that contemplates religion and humanity, The Devil All the Time gets a very shiny 4 stars from me. 4/5.

A Long Petal of the Sea by Isabel Allende is a beloved book of Spain and focuses on war and loss and heartache.  I enjoyed the historical aspect of this novel, but by the midway point, I was about done with all of the telling.  This author did nothing but tell, tell, tell.  Nothing was shown and there was minimal dialogue.  It seems like most people really love this book though, so perhaps it’s just me, but this book was a low 2/5 and I feel like I’m being generous.

My final read of October was Dandelion by Gabbie Hanna a collection of poems, thoughts, and letters.  This book has received many bad reviews as some were bothered by her random observations being seen as poems.  They certainly are not poems in my book, but I don’t think they had to be? This book felt like reading someone’s private journal entries, not something literary.  The heart of this book was the vulnerability in her letters at the end.  I would have been really into this in my early twenties, but I grew out of the mindset she had. 3/5. 

I’m excited to go into the Holiday season! It means more time off, which means more reading 🙂

Happy reading y’all!

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!

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!