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!

Some positive news and book reviews

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy reading y’all! 

Disappointment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s Normal Anyways?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

School Concerns and Books

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy reading y’all!

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!

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!