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!

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!