Can you back off, Mercury Retrograde? Plus books

It’s funny to me how people can look like they have a picture perfect life.  How the literal pictures they take and post on social media accounts can make things look like everything is fine when it’s not.  I’m guilty of that.  Not all of the time, but I have shared pictures that would make it seem like everything is wonderful, when in reality I’m an emotional wreck.  Why do we do that? Are we afraid that our friends can’t handle the honest truth? Maybe that they just don’t want to? Is social media turning us into the stepford wife where we have to save face and look perfect, when deep down that’s not the case and everyone really knows that, but everyone still continues to live as if they don’t? Social media might just be the devil.

I’m finding myself in a place in my life where uncomfortable changes need to be made.  Decisions that don’t feel great have to be decided upon.  It’s really, really hard.  Life has been hard recently.  It started with small little upsets and annoyances and then certain aspects of my life became really hard.  Forget small little upsets, more like giant teethy monsters to ward off.  And then I found out we are smack dab in the middle of Mercury Retrograde.  When I saw that, my mind went ohhhhhh.  That makes sense.

Now, I am a good Christian woman or at least I try to be, and some of my Christian brothers and sisters may think that putting any stock in the planets isn’t Christian, but you know what? God created them too and when Mercury is in retrograde everything is awful.  Believe me, I know.  Every time Mercury is in retrograde something bad has happened in my life.  Mercury was in retrograde when I lost a job several years ago.  It was in retrograde when I had my first large breakup.  It was in retrograde when I’ve had money issues.  I’m telling you. Beware of Mercury retrograde.

If you don’t know what Mercury retrograde is, let me explain it.  About 3 or 4 times out of the year Mercury shifts it’s direction and moves in an opposite direction to Earth.  People say that life gets tougher each time Mercury retrogrades.  It could be a bunch of small stuff like waiting in traffic, being late to meetings, forgetting important documents, etc. But often times it also will hit people in a large way too.  Like losing a job, or having relationship woes, or business troubles.  Most astrologers would suggest you not make any big decisions during this time.  They would say don’t make a large purchase or sign papers during this time either.  However, they would also suggest that this is a time where there is also a large lesson.  So if you have a major upset to your life, what is it? How will you handle it? How can you turn it for good?

Just a heads up: this retrograde is from June 18-July 12th and the next one is October 14-November 3rd.

Anyways, if you’ve managed to read past all of the kookiness, then let’s talk books!

My last blog post only had one book review and I felt pretty bad about it, so I more than made up for it with my largest single review yet!  We have 7 books to talk about!

Such a Fun Age more like such a fun book! But seriously.  I fell in love with this book.  Kiley Reid gives an authentic look at the black experience while also being lighthearted.  Emira is a 25 year old who hasn’t quite figured out adulthood.  She babysits for a prominent white family, which she enjoys and has a relationship with a white man whom she met in a less desirable circumstance involving the police.  When two worlds collide, there is friction, which sets up the plot for this discussion worthy book. I actually listened to this novel and loved the reader/performer of this audio.  I didn’t want to stop listening to this story, so I literally started and finished all in one day. Emira was very likeable and written with raw honesty and authenticity.  I fell in love with her and her friends.  While the book was enjoyable, it also tackled some tough issues, but in a way that felt fresh and light.  Reid, who was not only a good storyteller, also has the art of dialogue down pat.  Even toddler talk, where so many authors try and fail. Such a Fun Age wasn’t poetic per se, but Reid does have a way of painting a scene so that the reader can truly visualize what’s happening and a lot of that is through dialogue and characters that come alive.  This one would be a great book club pick! 5/5!

I finally got around to one of my June Book of the Month picks, The Last Flight by Julie Clark.  This thriller had my heart racing by page 30 and continued to be a real page-turner.  Clark tells the story of two women who want to disappear from their life.  The story is told with alternating perspectives of the two women.  Typically when this is done, I end up preferring one character over the other, but I liked both women pretty equally!  Perhaps the thing I loved the most about this book was the ending.  A lot of thrillers today try so hard for the shock and awe factor that they end up with loose ends.  While this novel didn’t have a huge shock or awe aspect, the ending was very satisfying with every loose end tied up.  I respected that this was a solid, enjoyable thriller and had zero complaints! 5/5.  

I listened to The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates and also thoroughly enjoyed the performer of this audio!  The novel… well, that’s another story.  I so wanted to love this book.  I have been wanting to read it for awhile.  The cover is beautiful, Coates is a well-loved writer, and it’s even endorsed by Oprah.  Unfortunately, I was bored to tears.  This novel aims to give a fresh perspective of slavery by adding magical realism, but what this book was missing was heart and raw emotion.  I did enjoy the magical realism element, but Hiram, the main character is living an emotional story without ever getting emotional.  I needed this book to give me edge and vulnerability, but all it gave me was a history lesson I’ve had before. 2/5.

The Mothers by Brit Bennet is one of my favorite reads this year so far.  The plot line didn’t initially seem so intriguing to me, but Bennett has such a way with words that her novel became intoxicating.  I rarelt underline in fiction books, or at least, but I had underlined two sections within the first 30 pages.  This was one of the best written books I’ve ever read.  The narration is done in a Greek muse style and each section of the book starts off with impeccable hooks.  I can’t even suggest one edit, because the novel was just so perfect.  Each character was flawed, but likeable.  The book read quickly, but I wanted to savor it.  Honestly, Bennett is a writer I will follow now and continue to read her works. 5/5! Go get a copy ASAP!

Which leads me to The Vanishing Half, Bennett’s most recent novel.  This novel did not have the inventive narration and the writing didn’t make me pause and think as often as it did in The Mothers, however, this story was more layered with complex themes that built upon themselves throughout.  I’m not sure that I necessarily liked the characters in this book better than the ones in The Mothers, as some of the characters in The Vanishing Half were unlikeable and even worse, not truly redeeming, however the story was more complex in this novel, which, of course, drew me in.  The storytelling in this novel put The Hearts Invisible Furies to mind as the novel spanned an extensive amount of time and truly told the story of characters lives, rather than merely a chapter.  The whole time I was reading, I kept thinking, I wish this was a book club pick, because it is a novel that begs to be discussed.  Ultimately, I wish the writing, stylistically speaking, was as strong as it was in The Mothers, but this novel still gets 5/5.  Brit Bennett is one to watch!

My book club pick of the month was A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman.  While I wouldn’t say this book was beautifully written or deeply thematic and layered, I did really enjoy the story.  Ove reminded me of the old man from Up. He was an old curmudgeon you just had to love. This book was dialogue heavy and read very quickly.  Be warned, if you choose to read this one, you will need a box of Kleenex. 4/5.

The last book of June for me (unless I finish another one in the next few days) was The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes.  When I first started this one, I was not into it at all.  I even restarted it a few times.  Eventually, about a third of the way through, it got a little more interesting and as the story continued, it continued to be interesting and I started to really like Alice and Marjorie.  For me, this was a slow burn and one that ended up being slightly above average.  3.5/5

I will have a special blog post on July 1st to announce the winner of my second book giveaway! All you have to do is subscribe to my blog and you’re entered to win How to Walk Away by Katherine Center! I’ll also use that post to share what he next book giveaway will be!

Happy reading y’all!

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!

The Knockout Marriage where You’re Happy and You Know the Bright Side of Disaster because We’re all HERE FOR IT

I’m sitting here thinking how to start this blog.  What has been going on in my life? Much the same as last time.  Quarantine is still very much a thing, and while it seems it may be lightening up soon, I will likely still try and stay in as much as possible.  Honestly, I’m a homebody anyways and I’ve been killing it reading wise this year.  What can I say? I’m enjoying myself.  But there’s not much of an update on my life this time around.  So maybe we should look at what I’m not doing.

I’m not writing. Ugh.  I hate that I’m not writing.  I plan to.  I swear.  The novel will get worked on this summer if it’s the last thing I do.  With so much extra time, I’ve found myself getting more creative in the kitchen and reading more, but writing still isn’t happening aside from these blog posts, so I’ve decided to give myself a goal.  I’m going to submit at least 5 works/times to small literary journals in the month by July 1.  I’m also going to get at least 1000 words added to my novel (hopefully far more that that) by July 1.  That gives me a month and a half to get back in the groove.  I can do it.  What else have I got to do?

We’ll keep what’s going on between my binding short this time.  I’d hate to bore.  So let’s dive right into the books!

I had pretty high hopes for my first book finished in May.  I read The Knockout Queen, by Rufi Thorpe, which is basically your run of the mill indie film.  It had quirky characters and dealt with big issues like LGBTQ, absent/poor parenting, and bullying.  While the narrator was likeable, I felt like topics changed too quickly and the knockout queen herself (who was not the narrator) became pretty unlikeable by the middle of the book and stayed that way all the way into the end.  Maybe the author was making a point of her being a product of her environment, but overall this book was a downer and I just wasn’t invested in the plot line or the majority of the characters.  It was a quick read and I do like that it tackled tough issues and it definitely gets points for originality.  (3/5).

Everyone seemed to love A Good Marriage by Kimberly McCreight.  Maybe I’m a tough critic.  I did really, really enjoy the book, but I can’t give it 5 stars.  This book took me a little while to get into, though, once I was about 75 pages in or so, I couldn’t put it down.  It focuses on the murder of a woman, who of course has a past and is married to a successful businessman.  The husband requests his old law school crush to represent him, even though she has no interest in doing so.  I have to say the book was a real page-turner and had me up until the end.  While some felt satisfied by the end, I felt there were too many unanswered questions and some aspects brought about in the last few chapters (I’m assuming to throw the reader off), were completely unnecessary and never fully explained.  I just wasn’t satisfied with the last 50 pages.  There were too many unanswered elements.  I also can’t give this book a 5 star review, because the book title lends itself to a theme of looking into marriages and what makes a marriage good.  While the author did explore some other marriages, she only ever approached the surface.  Had McCreight went a little deeper with her ending and message of marriage, this surely would have been a 5 star read, but she didn’t. 4/5.

My Next read was Happy and You Know It by Laura Hankin.  I didn’t really know what to expect with this book, but was hooked by the first page.  Imagine if “Sex and the City” and When Life Gives You Lulu Lemons made a baby and that is this book.  It had just the right amount of scandal too and while it is a light and easy read, that didn’t change my enjoyment of it.  My only complaint is that none of the characters were incredibly likeable.  Other than that, I don’t have much to say about this one.  It was an enjoyable escape. 4/5.

I was excited to read The Bright Side of Disaster by Katherine Center, because I’m fast becoming a big fan of hers.  This is one of her earlier books and focuses on a pregnant woman whose baby daddy leaves her just before her labor.  The book follows what happens after.  Unfortunately, this book just didn’t have the shimmer and sparkle as her newer books have.  The Nora Ephron-esque feel of her more Things You Save in a Fire and How to Walk Away was missing in this one, taking the 90s rom-com feel with it.  Honestly, this book lacked an upbeat peppiness, which left it kind of depressing.  Not to mention, I loathed Dean.  Oh did I loathe him.  Similarly to Happy and You Know It, I also struggled to really like the main character. 3/5.

I happened upon Here for It by R Eric Thomas and am SO glad for stumbling upon it!  Earlier this week, I was getting ready for my run and decided I wanted to start a new audiobook.  I opened up my Libby app (which if you don’t have that, get it… seriously) and saw that they had recently uploaded over 1000 new audiobooks, so I started scrolling down the list and all of them were checked out.  Finally, a book was available and it was Here for It, a book I had never heard of.  I thought, why not? And ended up pleasantly surprised.  This book is a collection of essays on American identity by a black gay Christian man, so of course, many of the essays go much deeper.  And did I mention, he’s hilarious?  Thomas reads the audiobook, which I love, because I feel like I really connected more with the material.  I would be in the middle of a run and literally laugh out loud at his quick wit and humor.  It’s also vulnerable and heartfelt.  I loved this book and look forward to seeing more from R Eric Thomas in the future. 5/5.

I will be doing another book giveaway at the end of July.  This time, I will be giving away my recent favorite rom-com, How to Walk Away by Katherine Center! Please share this blog and tell others to follow/subscribe so that they can be entered in for a chance to win! Congratulations again to our previous winner, Dawn, all the way out in California! She won a copy of Miracle Creek and I hope she’s enjoying it!