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.

The Year of the Sickness and Books that Cure

2020 has really been an adventure, which is interesting considering most of us have stayed at home for the majority of it.  There’s been so much that has taken place this year and it’s only June.  In some regard, the year is flying by.  Sometimes I forget that we’re half way through, but other times, it just feels exhausting.  What next 2020? What. Next.

I’m calling it the year of the sickness. 

Coronavirus is still a thing… I guess? Some people are acting like it is, while others are turning a cheek to it.  Some people are saying it’s a scam or blown out of proportion and other’s say that is not the case.  As for me, I’ll continue limiting my exposure to large crowds and attempt to follow CDC guidelines to the best of my ability.  I’m a homebody anyways, so it hasn’t been that difficult so far. 

The Black Lives Matter movement is, of course, the most relevant event at the moment, with more protests not just nationally, but globally than ever before, or at least it feels that way.  I’m hopeful that these protests can remain peaceful and that others do not take away from the true meaning of these protests.  I’m hopeful that there can be an answer to this sickness as well.  One day when we look back on 2020, I hope we all can see that racism, was just as much a sickness as coronavirus.  Key word “was,” because again, I’m hopeful for a future where equality is the norm.

Did you all hear about the new cases of Ebola in Africa? The swarm of locusts? Murder hornets? I mean really, this year keeps having more and more to worry about. Definitely the year of the sickness.

When all else fails, we can always turn to the comfort of a good book.  A story to take us away or to help us learn.  It’s been comforting for me to see that so many books on racism and the black experience are sold out on Amazon! That’s truly amazing! Books do change us for the better.  I will always believe that.  So without further adieu, let’s look at what I’ve been reading the past two weeks J

If you’re looking for a good memoir, I highly suggest From Scratch by Tembi Locke.  Tembi may look familiar to you.  She is an actress and has been in quite a bit!  That actually put me off from reading it, if I’m being completely honest.  Unless you’re well known and funny or someone I genuinely like, I’d rather read a memoir from a regular person who has a compelling story to tell.  Well, Ms. Locke has a compelling story and I’m so glad she told it.  From Scratch centers around Locke’s relationship with Saro, an Italian chef she met while studying abroad in Italy, before her fame.  This is not a spoiler as it’s on the back cover, but Saro dies young from cancer.  This book showcases their love, while exploring grief, but it also deals with how families deal with intercultural and interracial marriage.  It even touches on adoption.  Locke writes with authenticity.  She is real and vulnerable and it comes off the pages beautifully.  5/5!

The next book I read is perfect for PRIDE month, but also just a good story in general.  The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne is intimidating, not just because of its length.  This book tells a man’s whole life story from just before birth to the very end.  You will laugh and cry with Cyril as he navigates who he is and the different things that play out at different times and locations of his life.  He is a very likable character who grapples with his homosexuality at a time when it was deemed a mental disorder and therefor, wasn’t acceptable.  You will grow old with him and see how the aids epidemic impacts him and those he loves.   You will see relationships formed, broken, and mended.  It is a beautiful story.  Most books tend to tell you one story, but this one tells all of the stories of a life and does it well. There were some aspects of the books earlier on that fell flat for me.  This book really picks up at it’s midway point.  4/5.

The next book, I actually listened to.   The Bear by Andrew Krivek, is a novella based on a post apocalyptic world where a man and his daughter are the only humans left.  This book is actually a grand fable that contemplates grief.  Never had I been moved to tears with only one line before, until The Bear. Though this is a short book, it is one to savor.  If you are not a fan of fables or sometimes lyrically moving books, this one probably won’t do it for you, but it really did it for me.  The audiobook is pretty decent too.  The reader is very level, but once the story picks up a bit, his tone is perfect. 5/5!

Next I read Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell.  This was actually my book club’s book for May.  I had previously read Watching You by her, which was decent, but predictable, so I wasn’t that excited to read this one.  However, this one became a pleasant surprise! It had very strong Gone Girl vibes, a book I absolutely loved.  I will say the that the first half of the book was not great, but once the middle part and shift of perspective happened, I was all in.  Then She Was Gone turned out to be a unique thriller.  It also read incredibly fast.  I was very impressed by this book and would recommend to anyone looking for a fast and interesting thriller. 4/5.

My final read was Hemingway in Love.  This nonfiction book was supposed to be a first hand account of Hemingway’s love life.  As a huge Hemingway fan, I was all in, but the book ended up losing it’s focus and was more about snippets of Hemingway’s life with random aspects of his love life dispersed.  I wanted this one to be more focused as the title suggested.  Having said that, it was still an interesting read, but nothing worth going on and on about.  3/5.

In closing, I really do hope we can find not only solace in reading, but answers as well. I also want to add that we will be having ANOTHER book giveaway on July 1st of How to Walk Away, so if you have yet to subscribe to my blog, be sure to do that so that you will be entered to win!

Happy reading y’all!