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 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!

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!