Hello 2021!

It has certainly been awhile since I’ve posted an update!  I try to write a post at the beginning and middle of each month, but I’ll go ahead and chalk it up to the holidays getting in my way. 2020 was a hard year, but it’s in the past now and I’m hopeful for the future. 

I have a lot going on right now and honestly, I don’t have the energy to write about.  So for now.  Let’s talk books, and next time, perhaps I’ll have a life update or lesson to through in.

Since my last post was in November, I feel like there are quite a few books to catch up on.  I’ll just list my December reads below with my rating and then give my January reviews like usual.

This Time Next Year by Sophie Cousens 3/5

Death in Her Hands by Ottessa Moshfegh 2/5

Home Body by Rupi Kaur 5/5

Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann 3/5

The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys 3/5

The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker 4/5

The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins 4/5

In a Holidaze by Christina Lauren 3/5

Dream More by Dolly Parton 5/5

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck by Mark Manson 3/5

Deacon King Kong by James McBride 3/5

Betty by Tiffany McDaniel 5/5

When God When by Joyce Meyer 5/5

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara 3/5

JANUARY BOOKS:

My first book of 2021 was Midnight at the Blackbird Café by Heather Webber.  I really enjoyed this whimsical tale of magical pies that touched on grief.  I did unfortunately struggle connecting with the characters.  3.5/5

My second book was The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg.  I was going into this book thinking it might teach me a thing or two about healthy practices in creating habits, but it was actually a mind blowing extravaganza on all things habit down to the awful reasons we have unnecessary additives in our products and the ways in which our purchasing habits are tracked.  My mind was blown! Highly recommend.  5/5

Book number three was The Prophets by Robert Jones Jr. This novel focused on a love story between two slaves.  I really appreciate what this author was doing. Never have I read a book about queer slaves and in an interview with the author, he said something about wanting to write a book about two men who didn’t quite have the name for their love.  I appreciate that. This story hasn’t been told before.  The prose was also beautifully constructed as well.  I wanted something more though.  Often times I wanted more dialogue, and sometimes I wanted the story to remain with one perspective longer. 3/5

I was in the mood for something light, quick, and beachy, so I decided on Sarah Dessen’s Once and For All.  This book was heavy on the dialogue and read quick.  It is YA and definitely read like a YA novel.  There was a bit of a dramatic flair that felt a bit forced, but again, I had to remember the intended audience. 3/5

Tonight, I finished Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. I wasn’t anticipating this novel to span so much time.  I really enjoyed what Gyasi did here in showing the evolution of a family line and what each and every character sees as time presses on.  This is quite an impressive debut.  I’m only rating this one lower due to the fact that I personally prefer a book that doesn’t have quite so many characters to keep track of and quite so many years to pass through.  Again, I definitely understand what the author did and find it fascinating and well done, so I respect that craft here, I just didn’t enjoy it.   3/5

I’m excited to see what comes up book-wise next.  I might tackle a few older books this year.  I used to read the classics a lot.  In fact, I would read whatever grabbed my attention, but last year I got really fixated on reading current books.  This year, my hope is to find a happy medium in that regard. Happy reading y’all! Find some good books to live through 🙂

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!   

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! 

The Home I Left Behind, a New Pup, and a Book Review

I’m going to be honest here, I have only read one book since my last post.  My husband and I went on a vacation, we got a new puppy, and the next thing I knew, it was time for another blog post and here I am with only one book to review.  Also, I’ve been a bit consumed by the news as of late.  2020 keeps getting stranger and stranger.  However, reading is not a race.  I’m not disappointed in myself, because I’m still reading, but also living and I don’t need to reach a certain quota. 

For our vacation, we spent two nights in Asheville, North Carolina, then headed down to Wilmington for 3 nights.  I used to live in Wilmington and would often escape to the mountains.  Since moving from North Carolina back to my home state of Indiana, I have been back to Asheville several times, but hadn’t been back to Wilmington in about 4 years.  Why? Well, I like going to the mountains in the fall and it’s a much shorter drive.  Also, it breaks my heart each time I go to Wilmington, because I left a huge piece of who I am there.  You see, a piece of my heart will always be there, because it was there that I became who I am now.  I would give anything to live there again, but really, I miss the water.  I so badly want to live near the beach again.  I miss the fresh seafood, my toes in the sand, the rushing water of a wave meeting my feet and splashing against my calves.  I miss the freshness of the sea-salt air.  Wilmington also happens to have a charming downtown area.  I miss it all.  I would be lying if I said I didn’t cry on the drive home.  Luckily, my husband fell in love with it too and though we can’t move for another 10ish years, it was nice fantasizing about living at a beach town.  Jeremiah has family in Hawaii and wants to move there.  I would love to as well, but there are a lot of things to consider with a move to Hawaii.  The number one being cost. A coastal Carolina town seems a bit more doable.  Either way, I find comfort in knowing we both want the beach and it’s not too far off in the grand scheme of things.

So we also got a puppy.  Hands down the dumbest decision we’ve ever made.  I blame it on Covid. She was an oopsie.  I have wanted a Bernese Mountain Dog ever since living in Wilmington 10 years ago, when I first met Ziggy, a berner who frequented a dog friendly bar I also frequented.  When Jeremiah and I moved into our house last year, we ended up getting his dream dog, a dachshund named Popeye, and I came to the relationship with my rescue, Harls Barkley. We became a 2 dog home and I continued to daydream about a berner until one day during far too much quarantined time, I found a berner puppy and without thinking or much talk at all with my spouse (I ran to him and asked him if we could after I had already made contact) we decided to say yes.  The day after our vacation was over, I drove 2 hours north to pick up Frankie.  Frankie is adorable and I love her, but also, 3 dogs while trying to get pregnant… not smart. The first full day with her, my husband had to stay the night away for work and I was overwhelmed.  Our two dogs hated Frankie (they are warming up to her now).  Harlan went into a full depression and Popeye became aggressive toward her.  It broke my heart that my selfish desire for this puppy broke the hearts of my other fur babies. And even though she’s the best puppy I’ve ever had in that she’s basically potty trained and hardly cries in her crate, she still has accidents and needs watched.  Day 1 with Frankie = boat loads of tears.  So if you’re thinking of adding a third dog to your home, I would advise you not to.  But like I said, I do love her.  She’s not going anywhere.  Hopefully this all gets easier.    

2020.  The year of the pandemic.  The year of the BLM movement.  The year you unfollow friends on social media, because politics.  The year you say the wrong things on social media, because nothing is the right thing to say.  The year you just try to stay away from social media in general.  You know what, 2020? I’ve been trying to give up social media for awhile.  Thanks for the push.  I am actively lessening my time on facebook, because facebook is 100% the worst.  Newsflash people, you don’t get your news from facebook.  Also humanity… let’s have some.  I’m trying to move more toward instagram and even with that, I’m trying to minimalize my time.  The less time I spend on social media, the more time I have to read and write and spend time outdoors. Yes please. Sign. Me. Up.

Now onto the ONE book I have to review!

I read Shiner by Amy Jo Burns, a southern grotesque novel about a snake handling preacher’s family.  I love a good southern grotesque novel and not nearly enough of them are published these days.  This book had all of the sub-genre’s features: a southern setting, low income, families off the grid, a grotesque deformity, murder, religion, etc. But somehow it was missing something.  Some parts of this novel felt rushed and some aspects didn’t fully come together.  I felt that the first half of the book made it seem like the book was going to be about one thing, and then it turned into something else entirely.  While I enjoyed this one, with it’s southern flare, it wasn’t everything I wanted it to be.  It was just very average. 3/5.

I did just start listening to Such a Fun Age and have started reading The Last Flight.  I also have more really exciting Book of the Month books to get to before July and my book club book! My next post should have much more reviews!

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!

Marie Kondo-ing Life

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

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

What better time than now to better yourself?

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

Now, let’s talk books.

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

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

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

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

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!