The Blessing and Books

Life certainly has changed since my last post.  I had included things about coronavirus in my last two posts as it was happening and now it’s certainly happened and happening.  My school is now completing e-learning for the remainder of the year, while all other Indiana schools are doing the same.  My poor cousin’s daughter, who is a senior this year, will not get to go to her senior prom or have her graduation ceremony.  If I were a senior, I would be devastated.  I would be as the parent of a senior too.  We are all practicing social distancing and life as we knew it, has changed a great deal.  Even getting groceries has changed and it’s not odd to see people out with masks and other forms of protective gear on. 

My heart breaks for my students who saw our school as a safe haven.  It breaks for their need for education and how this will negatively affect them.  I pray for them and their families.  My heart breaks for all of the seniors who didn’t deserve their last year of school to be like this.  My heart breaks for so many workers who will not have an adequate paycheck and the small businesses that will be crushed by this turn of events.  My heart breaks for the healthcare workers who are ill equipped to no fault of their own.  Mostly, my heart breaks for those who have gotten the virus and the families who have loved ones who have passed.  Loved ones they won’t get to say a proper goodbye to.  This is a very sad time indeed.

While I recognize the sadness and will continue to lift people and this overall situation up in prayer, I will also look at the blessings.  I’m on week 3 of being “quarantined” and it’s definitely been a journey.  The first week was tough.  I cried a lot and became obsessed with the news.  I ended up turning to God for guidance, which led me on a journey of rekindling my relationship with Him.  I say rekindling, because I hadn’t been doing my part.  I wasn’t praying as often as I should or reading my Bible very often at all.  Sure, I was going to church, but does that count if that’s all you do? Turning to God was the best decision I could have made.  My mood became lighter, joyful even! I made a schedule for myself and promised to be productive in this time.  In the past two weeks, I’ve repainted one of the bedrooms in our home, fixed the molding on our fireplace, ordered patio furniture for our back deck, and deep-cleaned our house.  I mean deeeeeep cleaned, y’all.  I even wiped down the baseboards.  I started an online Bible study, ran/walked 5.45 miles almost daily, got my 5K down by almost 3 minutes, tried new make-up techniques, started practicing true gratitude, and of course, read. 

The blessing is this: I’ve gotten more closer to God and I’ve reconnected with myself both mentally and physically.  This has been the much needed “break” I was too prideful to take.  I am so grateful for this time to slow down, even if it is for uncertain circumstances.  My dogs have loved it too.  My hope is for you, dear reader, to find your blessings in this madness too.  I promise there are many. 

With the current state of the world, there is definitely time now, to read.  Hopefully these reviews will help you find your next book!

In Five Years by Rebecca Serle was a really fast read.  The premise is that the main character gets a glimpse of what her life looks like 5 years in the future, which is not anything like what she had in mind.  She starts off engaged and we see through her glimpse that in five years, she is waking up next to another person entirely.  Sounds like a cute love story, right? Wrong.  While it did end up a love story of sorts, changing the book so drastically turned it into something else entirely.  Unfortunately, this left the main character and another key player very unlikeable.  The writing was well done and like I previously mentioned, the pacing was incredible, but it left a sour taste in my mouth. When it comes to a good book, it’s going to need more than fast pacing to make it so.  3/5

My next read was Writers and Lovers by Lily King.  I struggled with this one too.  I’m not sure just why it didn’t click with me.  The writing was good and the premise seemed like something I’d be into: a woman writer struggling with men and her own creative freedom.  I’ve been that woman.  I think though, the reason this didn’t resonate with me, is because I’m not that woman anymore.  The plot was slow for me and while it was about something, it seemed like it was also about nothing at all. I kept questioning myself while I read, “do I keep going?”  I did finish it, but begrudgingly.  Maybe if I had read this book 5-10 years ago, I would have been all about it.  Unfortunately, that was not the case 2/5.

I read Dark Matter, because I loved Blake Crouch’s book Recursion.  Crouch writes gripping science fiction thrillers and this one did not disappoint! The book itself is hard to explain, but basically it was about multiple dimensions.  What if you woke up somewhere in the middle of nowhere and the life you thought was yours, was not at all?  What would you do to get it back? Or would you try to at all?  The ultimate question in this book was: Are you happy in your life? This novel was fully entertaining and kept me flipping page after page.  I loved how it took the idea of success versus family.  Why can’t we have both? Can we?  There were so many talking points in this book, I wished I would have read it in a book club! I really enjoyed this book, but it wasn’t as good as Recursion by the same author.  I highly recommend both! Dark Matter is a solid 4/5!

I have to say, my mind is still reeling over Darling Rose Gold by Stephanie Wrobel.  Wrobel sets off the book with a bang and you can’t stop reading, but then she sort of slows things down to do a character study, while also showing some backstory.  I wish her character study would have gone a little deeper.  There was so much in the title character.  I wanted to know more about her layers.  Her mother was a whole different animal… sort of.  I didn’t really feel like I got to see her layers at all, though.  This book was marketed as a thriller, which it was, but it was kind of a slow burn to get there.  The last 50-60 pages really picked up steam, but the last two pages was a bit of an over explanation.  I liked this book, but I couldn’t give it a 5 star rating.  4/5 for me.

The last book I have for you is my first self-help/religious/theology book of the year, but I couldn’t recommend it more!  The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry is for anyone, yes ANYONE, who feels like they’re always in a hurry or rushing through their life.  Or maybe for that person who is sick of the fast paced culture we have built for ourselves.  While this is a Christian book, it is more about how to slow down and why that’s important.  If any non Christian were to read it, I don’t think they would be upset with the religious pieces in it.  There might be a chapter or two they would skim, but overall, the writer focuses on hurry.  This book was/is a fast read (note that I still have about 50 pages left of it).  I am not hurrying through it though!  While I have read through it rather quickly, I’m revisiting certain chapters weekly since this book is part of a study I am in.  I don’t think I would have picked this book up on my own, but I’m so glad I found it! This excellent book by John Ortberg gets 5/5!

My next post will include reviews on Godshot, Sharks in the Time of Saviors, and Valentine, and hopefully more! But that’s what’s on deck for me! Happy reading and go find your sunshine, I promise it’s there 🙂

Quick update on my first book giveaway: I will announce the winner and reach out on May 1st!

Life Updates and My First 5 Star Read of the Year!

In my previous post, I wrote about my worry that my Morocco trip would be cancelled, and lo and behold, it was.  I’m not sure if it will be rescheduled or if I will go somewhere else or anywhere at all. There is real fear surrounding this virus and the World Health Organization officially declared it a pandemic, to which I’m like… why did it take this long? 

I can’t even buy Clorox wipes, which is comical, but at the same time, is this something we should fear? Should I be buying water and toilet paper and stocking up on food like the panic stricken Americans?  Or is everything being magnified and over exaggerated by the media?  While the news is now reporting over 120,000 cases worldwide, with over 1000 of those cases in the U.S., the news is neglecting to inform that of those 120,000 cases, almost 70,000 have been discharged or “recovered,” and almost 45,000 who currently have the virus, are seen as experiencing it “mildly.”  I think it matters how the world reacts, and right now it seems that the world is reacting in a big way.  It will be interesting to see how this all plays out in the coming months as we wait for a vaccine.  I just can’t believe I had a real fear of being quarantined.  It really makes you feel like you’re living in a dystopian novel.  Guess I won’t be reading Station Eleven any time soon. If you don’t know anything about that book, look it up and you’ll see why.

In other news, Spring Break is just around the corner and thank the good Lord Jesus, because these kids are driving me insane.  I had planned on having a sub next week, and having an extended spring break, but alas now I have to actually be present and do my job. Ughhh.  Luckily though, I’ll have (what will feel like) 2 weeks off.  The first week is half days, and the second week is sweet, sweet freedom.  I can almost taste it. 

Talking about spring, who really despises time change? Whether I’m springing forward or falling back, I cannot stand this body shift.  And it is a body shift.  I can’t seem to get tired until midnight, which is then causing me to sleep in.  The darkness doesn’t help either.  I was liking the fact that I was driving in with the sun in the morning, and now, it’s just bleak and dark and depressing.  I know I’ll eventually get used to it and that the sun will eventually join me again for my morning commute, but this week has been a struggle.

Enough about me, let’s talk books!

A Good Neighborhood by Therese Anne Fowler is my first 5 star read of the year, but it’s not for the faint of heart.  This book was told from an interesting point of view, but it didn’t put me off.  The plot was so perfectly pieced together, with the second half of the book really picking up steam.  I so strongly disliked one particular character and his selfish delusions that my reactions were somewhat visceral and if an author can create a character so vivid and unlikeable then kudos to them.  I wouldn’t say that this was an enjoyable book in that some parts were very tough to read.  However, I was completely pulled in by the drama that was unfolding and the overall themes in this novel are important and so well conceived throughout.  When I was thinking of how I would rate this book, I debated rating it a 4, because maybe it didn’t read as fast as some books or end happily, but then I was like, nope, this is a 5 star read. Matter of fact.  It just is. 5/5.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo wasn’t even on my radar until I read Daisy Jones and The SixDaisy Jones was one of my favorite books last year and while many loved Seven Husbands, it just didn’t do it for me.  The book was a quick read and the characters were likeable enough, but in a book so heavily reliant on the characters, I needed to like them more. The author, Taylor Jenkins Reid actually wrote and published The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo prior to her successful Daisy Jones, which I loved. Both books seem to have a commonality: they both tell the tale of a creative icon though an inventive format. I’m wondering what Reid will do next? Perhaps an artist?  I am excited to see what Reid comes up with. 3/5.

I listened to Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks, mostly because I knew Tom Hanks was the narrator of the audiobook and I wanted to listen to his comforting and soothing voice.  I so wanted to love his short stories, but I had waited this long to read his collection, because I had heard bad things.  Some stories were stronger than others and I even tried to validate his usage of older language like “yowza” and the phrase “hook, line, and sinker,” because it’s Tom Hanks and of course he would use that language.  Part of me even liked it, because it’s nostalgic and recalls a simpler, more charming time in our history.  A time, I often long for.  Unfortunately, too many of the stories just didn’t deliver.  Short stories really need to be beautifully written due to their conciseness.  Hanks just didn’t have that delivery.  I did really like a few of the stories though, and since this is his first effort, I’ll say it was a 3/5, but I’ll also say I’m being a little generous too.

My next book was The Two Lives of Lydia Bird by Josie Silver.  Some might remember this author from her wildly successful breakout novel, One Day in December, a book I actually hadn’t read, because I couldn’t get into it when I skimmed through it at the bookshop.  Regardless, everyone seemed to love that book. I had pretty high hopes for Lydia Bird based on the plot and thought maybe I was missing out when it came to her first book, but after reading Lydia Bird, I think there is just something I’m not connecting with regarding the author’s style.  The Two Lives of Lydia Bird was very meh to me.  Partly, the book was marketed as a love story, but in fact, it was actually more about the grieving process.  I think I was expecting something different than what I read. 3/5.

I’m looking forward to more books! Shortly, I’ll be reading Darling Rose Gold, a new thriller said to be spine tingling and twisted; In Five Years, a new book of friendship and love that is getting pretty solid reviews; and I’m thinking of checking out Sharks in the Time of Saviors, a magical realism book set in Hawaii that pushes into some Hawaiian legends.

That’s what’s been going on between the binding.  Happy reading y’all!