Hello 2021!

It has certainly been awhile since I’ve posted an update!  I try to write a post at the beginning and middle of each month, but I’ll go ahead and chalk it up to the holidays getting in my way. 2020 was a hard year, but it’s in the past now and I’m hopeful for the future. 

I have a lot going on right now and honestly, I don’t have the energy to write about.  So for now.  Let’s talk books, and next time, perhaps I’ll have a life update or lesson to through in.

Since my last post was in November, I feel like there are quite a few books to catch up on.  I’ll just list my December reads below with my rating and then give my January reviews like usual.

This Time Next Year by Sophie Cousens 3/5

Death in Her Hands by Ottessa Moshfegh 2/5

Home Body by Rupi Kaur 5/5

Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann 3/5

The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys 3/5

The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker 4/5

The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins 4/5

In a Holidaze by Christina Lauren 3/5

Dream More by Dolly Parton 5/5

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck by Mark Manson 3/5

Deacon King Kong by James McBride 3/5

Betty by Tiffany McDaniel 5/5

When God When by Joyce Meyer 5/5

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara 3/5

JANUARY BOOKS:

My first book of 2021 was Midnight at the Blackbird Café by Heather Webber.  I really enjoyed this whimsical tale of magical pies that touched on grief.  I did unfortunately struggle connecting with the characters.  3.5/5

My second book was The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg.  I was going into this book thinking it might teach me a thing or two about healthy practices in creating habits, but it was actually a mind blowing extravaganza on all things habit down to the awful reasons we have unnecessary additives in our products and the ways in which our purchasing habits are tracked.  My mind was blown! Highly recommend.  5/5

Book number three was The Prophets by Robert Jones Jr. This novel focused on a love story between two slaves.  I really appreciate what this author was doing. Never have I read a book about queer slaves and in an interview with the author, he said something about wanting to write a book about two men who didn’t quite have the name for their love.  I appreciate that. This story hasn’t been told before.  The prose was also beautifully constructed as well.  I wanted something more though.  Often times I wanted more dialogue, and sometimes I wanted the story to remain with one perspective longer. 3/5

I was in the mood for something light, quick, and beachy, so I decided on Sarah Dessen’s Once and For All.  This book was heavy on the dialogue and read quick.  It is YA and definitely read like a YA novel.  There was a bit of a dramatic flair that felt a bit forced, but again, I had to remember the intended audience. 3/5

Tonight, I finished Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. I wasn’t anticipating this novel to span so much time.  I really enjoyed what Gyasi did here in showing the evolution of a family line and what each and every character sees as time presses on.  This is quite an impressive debut.  I’m only rating this one lower due to the fact that I personally prefer a book that doesn’t have quite so many characters to keep track of and quite so many years to pass through.  Again, I definitely understand what the author did and find it fascinating and well done, so I respect that craft here, I just didn’t enjoy it.   3/5

I’m excited to see what comes up book-wise next.  I might tackle a few older books this year.  I used to read the classics a lot.  In fact, I would read whatever grabbed my attention, but last year I got really fixated on reading current books.  This year, my hope is to find a happy medium in that regard. Happy reading y’all! Find some good books to live through 🙂

Uncertainty and Books

I’m ready for life to stop being hard, because right now, I’m about tired of this uncertainty.  Currently, I’m experiencing uncertainty with my parents health, uncertainty with my fertility and journey to get pregnant, and uncertainty with my school situation.  Uncertainty requires faith, and my faith tank has been running dry lately. 

I don’t really want to write my sad story down, because I feel like I’ve been a downer the last few posts, so instead, I’ll highlight some good things.

I cleaned out my laundry room and garage.  Yep.  I did it.  I finally got myself off the couch and drew myself out of my pity party where I was watching far too many sad TV shows and movies and eating far too much Nutella straight from the jar.  This was a big deal.  Not only because I needed to physically do something, but because both spaces were frightful.  I was even able to give away some high quality things on my town’s Buy Nothing page.  Looking at these clean spaces and knowing my generosity maybe helped someone makes me feel good.  And I need to feel good right now.  Maybe I’ll just go hang out in my garage or laundry room… but probably not haha.

Look, it’s okay to feel sad.  It’s okay to absorb it into your bones and rest in your darkness.  But eventually, and you’ll know when, you have to step out of it, if only for a minute or an hour.  Eventually you’ll step out of it more and more.  Right now, I’m stepping out of it.  I don’t know for how long, but for right now, I am.

Now, let’s talk books.

High hopes.  I had such high hopes for my reads and quite frankly, I’m tired of wasting my time reading duds, which a lot of my reads this time were.  Even the ones I wouldn’t consider duds, were still not great.  I need a great books.

My first book this time was Separation Anxiety by Laura Zigman.  This book seemed quirky and fun and definitely caught my interest from the first page.  A woman straps her dog to her in a baby sling as a midlife crisis. Unfortunately, the narrator was highly unlikeable.  Not only that, but it was written in an active voice, which was especially jarring for me.  I kept waiting for the book to take off, but ultimately it was directionless.  The narrator is struggling with her child growing up and her marriage is failing.  But then there was irony and sarcasm, only it wasn’t actually funny, it was just the author trying too hard. 2/5.

The second miss of a book was What You Wish For by Katherine Center.  You’ve seen me rave about her work.  In fact, I loved her previous book How to Walk Away so much, that it was my most recent book giveaway!  Imagine my surprise to jump into her newest novel and really, really dislike it.  I picked it up at least three different times and just could not get into it.  Eventually, I got to reading and found the writing to be lazy.  Center used this shock factor to introduce one of the main characters by saying “the Duncan Carpenter” and “my Duncan Carpenter” multiple times within 5 pages.  I didn’t love this book.  Maybe one day I’ll pick it up and try again since I do love this author, but for now, I’ll just await her next work and hope she gets her groove back. 2/5 (which is being generous).

My third book was The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce.  As a music lover, I was very excited for this book that centered around a record shop owner who knew just what song his customers needed.  The cover alone is beautiful.  I know, I know, don’t judge a book by its cover.  This book initially reminded me of High Fidelity, but those vibes went away after a few chapters.  After Ilse, the love interest, was more prominently in the picture, the book fell flat.  There were a lot of words with not a lot of action.  The whole idea of the record shop owner knowing what each customer needed went away quickly and the story centered around a love story that wasn’t all that thrilling.  3/5.

Next up, I listened to The Dutch House by Ann Patchett.  I know I wouldn’t have continued this book if it weren’t for the magic of Tom Hanks and his peaceful voice.  The book certainly told a story, but it just wasn’t one I found all that entertaining.  I wanted more excitement and more going on.  The book centered upon Danny and follows him from boyhood to fatherhood.  Danny grows up in a beautiful stately home, to which the novel contemplates wealth and status and how quickly that can change.  Moreover, this book was about the bond between two siblings, Danny and his sister Maeve.  They needed each other and relied upon one and other at multiple points in their lives.  This book was a purposefully slow novel that focused on theme rather than an enticing story.  It was fine, but I love a juicy, un-put-down-able plot be it thriller or literary fiction.  If the story is going to be more meditative and slow, then I expect stellar, poetic language to keep me engaged, which this lacked. 3/5.

My last read this month was Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia.  I was mostly intrigued by this because of all of the buzz It was getting.  I’m not sure I would have picked this one up on my own.  This novel focuses on a young woman who goes to visit her sick cousin who had sent an alarming letter.  What followed was a House on Haunted Hill vibes horror story where the author was not afraid to go there.  By go there, I mean, she did not shy away from being descriptive to make the reader uncomfortable.  I was completely okay with this.  What I was not okay with was the slow build, however, I can respect the slow build.  She Morena-Garcia spent a long time building the atmosphere and characters, but it did make me want to give up early on.  3.5/5.

So there it is folks.  My very mediocre reads this go around.  I’m really hoping for some 4 and 5 star reads next time! I have high hopes for Night Swim and Luster, which were some of my BOTM picks for August!

Keep calm and read on!

School Concerns and Books

Things continue to be uneasy in my life.  And quite frankly, I’m too exhausted emotionally to talk about it.  But if any of my blog readers are praying people, I would love some prayers.  What I will talk about is school.  I had initially planned to write about my concerns for schools to be opened again.  As a teacher, I just don’t feel safe. 

It’s different than other essential jobs.  As a teacher, I am shut into a room with 25 students and then swap those students out for another 25.  I see 100+ students a day and in small spaces.  I move around a classroom and get near students to check their work.  It’s different.  Not to mention, the sheer magnitude of how difficult this will be.  Students who already didn’t have supplies can’t borrow supplies.  Students are not adults.  They already struggle to follow rules.  Their brains are not fully developed. There’s so much to consider.  Are students better taught in person? 100%.  But is this a time where health takes precedence? 100%. 

I received an email last night that said our school would be pushing our opening date.  This gives me a bit more hope.  I hope that in the next few weeks either numbers decline or leaders come up with a clear, concise plan to keep all involved safe.  And when I say leaders, I mean all leaders (beyond schools).  I would hate to be part of a team trying to piece this together right now.  I know it cannot be easy, so I pray for wisdom for all involved.

Now to the books.  I wish I could say I was excited by this batch of books, but most of them were flops for me.  I am hopeful for better books next round!

My book club pick for this month was How I Made a Huge Mess of My Life by blogger Billie Best.  I have to say, I didn’t love this book.  Unfortunately, I could tell why this was a self-publish.  Best tells the story of her husband’s death, infidelity, and her personal rebuild.  The memoir topic is intriguing, but the book itself is directionless and feeds off a sporadic joking tone that doesn’t deliver. (2/5).

My next book was A Burning by Megha Majumdar.  I was impressed that the author took on such a large plot, but it was certainly a heavy read. This book was written with an active voice, which was somewhat jarring for me.  I struggled to make connections to any of the characters though.  It ended up average for me. 3/5.

Next up was The Beauty in the Breaking by Michele Harper.  This one has gotten a lot of rave reviews, but it was a miss for me.  The premise sounded intriguing.  A woman with a hard past rises above and becomes a doctor even in the midst of a failed marriage.  I was into that concept.  What the book was actually about was individual medical cases that expose the reality of the American healthcare system.  I saw less of the author’s personal life, which is what I personally wanted.  The book came off a little pretentious and preachy. 2/5.

Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes reminded me a lot of Katherine Center’s books.  I’m not much for romance or chick lit.  Don’t get me wrong, I love a sweeping love story, but most of the romance genre is either Harlequin or chick lit and they end up being very cheesy.  If I can read a lighthearted love story and it has heart and isn’t trying too hard, etc. I will love it.  If you don’t understand what I’m trying to say, imagine a Hallmark movie versus You’ve Got Mail or When Harry Met Sally.  Sure their both romcoms, but You’ve Got Mail and When Harry Met Sally are exponentially better.  They have heart. They aren’t over the top or cheesy.  Do you get it?  Evvie Drake was not a sappy Hallmark movie.  The novel focuses on a woman who’s obviously starting over and a famous ball player who is also starting over.  Only one of them was asking for a “do over” and not in the way she got it.  It had great characterization and the author really built tension between the two characters.  It also went deeper than the surface, which a lot of romcom books fail to do. I really enjoyed this book and will definitely keep on eye on this author’s work. 4/5.

My last book this time was Untamed by Glennon Doyle.  Let me just say, I was super into this book for the first 50 pages.  While I didn’t agree with everything the author believed, I still found myself underlining a lot of her sentences.  The latter part of this book focused on motherhood, and since I am not a mother yet, I struggled to relate.  I will also say that I did start getting annoyed by Doyle.  The more I read, the more I thought that this woman is just rambling and honestly, why should I care? It seems like she struggles with grass is always greener syndrome.  Everything has to be perfect all the time and if it isn’t she runs away and chases perfection.  So the more I read, the less credible she became. 3/5.

I forgot to inform the winner of my book giveaway on July 1st.  Like I said, life has been rough.  However, the winner, with permission, will be formally congratulated in my next post! The next book giveaway will be October 1st! The book is TBD, but am welcoming suggestions!

Happy reading y’all!

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!