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!

The Home I Left Behind, a New Pup, and a Book Review

I’m going to be honest here, I have only read one book since my last post.  My husband and I went on a vacation, we got a new puppy, and the next thing I knew, it was time for another blog post and here I am with only one book to review.  Also, I’ve been a bit consumed by the news as of late.  2020 keeps getting stranger and stranger.  However, reading is not a race.  I’m not disappointed in myself, because I’m still reading, but also living and I don’t need to reach a certain quota. 

For our vacation, we spent two nights in Asheville, North Carolina, then headed down to Wilmington for 3 nights.  I used to live in Wilmington and would often escape to the mountains.  Since moving from North Carolina back to my home state of Indiana, I have been back to Asheville several times, but hadn’t been back to Wilmington in about 4 years.  Why? Well, I like going to the mountains in the fall and it’s a much shorter drive.  Also, it breaks my heart each time I go to Wilmington, because I left a huge piece of who I am there.  You see, a piece of my heart will always be there, because it was there that I became who I am now.  I would give anything to live there again, but really, I miss the water.  I so badly want to live near the beach again.  I miss the fresh seafood, my toes in the sand, the rushing water of a wave meeting my feet and splashing against my calves.  I miss the freshness of the sea-salt air.  Wilmington also happens to have a charming downtown area.  I miss it all.  I would be lying if I said I didn’t cry on the drive home.  Luckily, my husband fell in love with it too and though we can’t move for another 10ish years, it was nice fantasizing about living at a beach town.  Jeremiah has family in Hawaii and wants to move there.  I would love to as well, but there are a lot of things to consider with a move to Hawaii.  The number one being cost. A coastal Carolina town seems a bit more doable.  Either way, I find comfort in knowing we both want the beach and it’s not too far off in the grand scheme of things.

So we also got a puppy.  Hands down the dumbest decision we’ve ever made.  I blame it on Covid. She was an oopsie.  I have wanted a Bernese Mountain Dog ever since living in Wilmington 10 years ago, when I first met Ziggy, a berner who frequented a dog friendly bar I also frequented.  When Jeremiah and I moved into our house last year, we ended up getting his dream dog, a dachshund named Popeye, and I came to the relationship with my rescue, Harls Barkley. We became a 2 dog home and I continued to daydream about a berner until one day during far too much quarantined time, I found a berner puppy and without thinking or much talk at all with my spouse (I ran to him and asked him if we could after I had already made contact) we decided to say yes.  The day after our vacation was over, I drove 2 hours north to pick up Frankie.  Frankie is adorable and I love her, but also, 3 dogs while trying to get pregnant… not smart. The first full day with her, my husband had to stay the night away for work and I was overwhelmed.  Our two dogs hated Frankie (they are warming up to her now).  Harlan went into a full depression and Popeye became aggressive toward her.  It broke my heart that my selfish desire for this puppy broke the hearts of my other fur babies. And even though she’s the best puppy I’ve ever had in that she’s basically potty trained and hardly cries in her crate, she still has accidents and needs watched.  Day 1 with Frankie = boat loads of tears.  So if you’re thinking of adding a third dog to your home, I would advise you not to.  But like I said, I do love her.  She’s not going anywhere.  Hopefully this all gets easier.    

2020.  The year of the pandemic.  The year of the BLM movement.  The year you unfollow friends on social media, because politics.  The year you say the wrong things on social media, because nothing is the right thing to say.  The year you just try to stay away from social media in general.  You know what, 2020? I’ve been trying to give up social media for awhile.  Thanks for the push.  I am actively lessening my time on facebook, because facebook is 100% the worst.  Newsflash people, you don’t get your news from facebook.  Also humanity… let’s have some.  I’m trying to move more toward instagram and even with that, I’m trying to minimalize my time.  The less time I spend on social media, the more time I have to read and write and spend time outdoors. Yes please. Sign. Me. Up.

Now onto the ONE book I have to review!

I read Shiner by Amy Jo Burns, a southern grotesque novel about a snake handling preacher’s family.  I love a good southern grotesque novel and not nearly enough of them are published these days.  This book had all of the sub-genre’s features: a southern setting, low income, families off the grid, a grotesque deformity, murder, religion, etc. But somehow it was missing something.  Some parts of this novel felt rushed and some aspects didn’t fully come together.  I felt that the first half of the book made it seem like the book was going to be about one thing, and then it turned into something else entirely.  While I enjoyed this one, with it’s southern flare, it wasn’t everything I wanted it to be.  It was just very average. 3/5.

I did just start listening to Such a Fun Age and have started reading The Last Flight.  I also have more really exciting Book of the Month books to get to before July and my book club book! My next post should have much more reviews!

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!

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!

Life Updates and My First 5 Star Read of the Year!

In my previous post, I wrote about my worry that my Morocco trip would be cancelled, and lo and behold, it was.  I’m not sure if it will be rescheduled or if I will go somewhere else or anywhere at all. There is real fear surrounding this virus and the World Health Organization officially declared it a pandemic, to which I’m like… why did it take this long? 

I can’t even buy Clorox wipes, which is comical, but at the same time, is this something we should fear? Should I be buying water and toilet paper and stocking up on food like the panic stricken Americans?  Or is everything being magnified and over exaggerated by the media?  While the news is now reporting over 120,000 cases worldwide, with over 1000 of those cases in the U.S., the news is neglecting to inform that of those 120,000 cases, almost 70,000 have been discharged or “recovered,” and almost 45,000 who currently have the virus, are seen as experiencing it “mildly.”  I think it matters how the world reacts, and right now it seems that the world is reacting in a big way.  It will be interesting to see how this all plays out in the coming months as we wait for a vaccine.  I just can’t believe I had a real fear of being quarantined.  It really makes you feel like you’re living in a dystopian novel.  Guess I won’t be reading Station Eleven any time soon. If you don’t know anything about that book, look it up and you’ll see why.

In other news, Spring Break is just around the corner and thank the good Lord Jesus, because these kids are driving me insane.  I had planned on having a sub next week, and having an extended spring break, but alas now I have to actually be present and do my job. Ughhh.  Luckily though, I’ll have (what will feel like) 2 weeks off.  The first week is half days, and the second week is sweet, sweet freedom.  I can almost taste it. 

Talking about spring, who really despises time change? Whether I’m springing forward or falling back, I cannot stand this body shift.  And it is a body shift.  I can’t seem to get tired until midnight, which is then causing me to sleep in.  The darkness doesn’t help either.  I was liking the fact that I was driving in with the sun in the morning, and now, it’s just bleak and dark and depressing.  I know I’ll eventually get used to it and that the sun will eventually join me again for my morning commute, but this week has been a struggle.

Enough about me, let’s talk books!

A Good Neighborhood by Therese Anne Fowler is my first 5 star read of the year, but it’s not for the faint of heart.  This book was told from an interesting point of view, but it didn’t put me off.  The plot was so perfectly pieced together, with the second half of the book really picking up steam.  I so strongly disliked one particular character and his selfish delusions that my reactions were somewhat visceral and if an author can create a character so vivid and unlikeable then kudos to them.  I wouldn’t say that this was an enjoyable book in that some parts were very tough to read.  However, I was completely pulled in by the drama that was unfolding and the overall themes in this novel are important and so well conceived throughout.  When I was thinking of how I would rate this book, I debated rating it a 4, because maybe it didn’t read as fast as some books or end happily, but then I was like, nope, this is a 5 star read. Matter of fact.  It just is. 5/5.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo wasn’t even on my radar until I read Daisy Jones and The SixDaisy Jones was one of my favorite books last year and while many loved Seven Husbands, it just didn’t do it for me.  The book was a quick read and the characters were likeable enough, but in a book so heavily reliant on the characters, I needed to like them more. The author, Taylor Jenkins Reid actually wrote and published The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo prior to her successful Daisy Jones, which I loved. Both books seem to have a commonality: they both tell the tale of a creative icon though an inventive format. I’m wondering what Reid will do next? Perhaps an artist?  I am excited to see what Reid comes up with. 3/5.

I listened to Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks, mostly because I knew Tom Hanks was the narrator of the audiobook and I wanted to listen to his comforting and soothing voice.  I so wanted to love his short stories, but I had waited this long to read his collection, because I had heard bad things.  Some stories were stronger than others and I even tried to validate his usage of older language like “yowza” and the phrase “hook, line, and sinker,” because it’s Tom Hanks and of course he would use that language.  Part of me even liked it, because it’s nostalgic and recalls a simpler, more charming time in our history.  A time, I often long for.  Unfortunately, too many of the stories just didn’t deliver.  Short stories really need to be beautifully written due to their conciseness.  Hanks just didn’t have that delivery.  I did really like a few of the stories though, and since this is his first effort, I’ll say it was a 3/5, but I’ll also say I’m being a little generous too.

My next book was The Two Lives of Lydia Bird by Josie Silver.  Some might remember this author from her wildly successful breakout novel, One Day in December, a book I actually hadn’t read, because I couldn’t get into it when I skimmed through it at the bookshop.  Regardless, everyone seemed to love that book. I had pretty high hopes for Lydia Bird based on the plot and thought maybe I was missing out when it came to her first book, but after reading Lydia Bird, I think there is just something I’m not connecting with regarding the author’s style.  The Two Lives of Lydia Bird was very meh to me.  Partly, the book was marketed as a love story, but in fact, it was actually more about the grieving process.  I think I was expecting something different than what I read. 3/5.

I’m looking forward to more books! Shortly, I’ll be reading Darling Rose Gold, a new thriller said to be spine tingling and twisted; In Five Years, a new book of friendship and love that is getting pretty solid reviews; and I’m thinking of checking out Sharks in the Time of Saviors, a magical realism book set in Hawaii that pushes into some Hawaiian legends.

That’s what’s been going on between the binding.  Happy reading y’all!

Waiting and Reading

Life between the binding has its ups and downs and I’d be lying if I said the last few days haven’t been more on the down side.  Fortunately, it hasn’t all been bad.  Yesterday was a fun night out with my husband and I was showered with flowers and chocolates and most importantly, love.  Valentine’s Day had previously been a dreaded holiday for me prior to meeting Jeremiah, so I don’t want to discredit an overall great night. 

What a lot of people don’t know is that my husband and I are approaching our 6th month of trying to get pregnant.  I know that some couples struggle for much longer, but it’s hard.  It’s hard each month when I get my hopes up and get negative results.  It’s hard when it feels like pretty much everyone I know is pregnant right now.  It’s hard when I see a new pregnancy announcement each day.  I wish this was an exaggeration, but it’s not.  It almost feels like a malicious taunt.   I’ve never experienced so many pregnant people in my life.  Everyone but me. 

The other day I was in Target, purchasing items for 3 separate baby showers.  I started to cry in one of the aisles and managed to get myself together until I got home, where I really let it go.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m incredibly happy for my friends.  I mean that. Some of them had their own wait just like me, but this waiting period is difficult and the more we try, the harder it gets and the crazier I go.  Case in point, I randomly read up on palm reading and tried to see where the children line was on my palm only to find out that I don’t have any “children” on my children line.   Then I realized that I was being ridiculous and moved on with my life. See, this is literally making me crazy.

The plus side is, I purchased a better ovulation kit then the one I used last month and I’m getting blood work done Monday, so hopefully there will be answers soon.  I’m trying not to feel defeated. I have faith that I will eventually get pregnant.   But again, it’s just hard.

Enough about my life, let’s talk books. 

I did end up finishing Sing, Unburied, Sing and it was absolutely stunning, writing wise.  I was completely swept up in the poetic language and it inspired me as a writer.  I did struggle with the believability that everything took place in such a short span of time.  Was it realistic? Eh, that’s debatable.  The plot itself is where the novel faltered, but the writing was some of the best I’ve ever read.  4 stars.

Next, I read my Book of the Month pick, The Holdout.  I love a good legal thriller and this one definitely read fast and held my interest.  Unfortunately, the author focused so much on moving the plot that he failed to fully develop likeable characters, setting, etc. This was likely due to his script writing background.  My big gripe with this book was that the author tried to tackle too many social topics, which made it seem like he didn’t really cover any at all.  3 stars.

One of my favorite books of the year so far was The Sun Down Motel. This was my first ghost story/horror read and I really enjoyed it! This was the first book this year that I really could not put down. It was suspenseful and thoroughly kept me engaged. Unfortunately, I guessed the twist and had imagined better ones in my head. 4 stars.

I just finished my first nonfiction book this year, When Breath Becomes Air. This book depicted a doctor’s battle with cancer and yes, I cried.  A lot. The book itself was fairly short and focused more on who the doctor was and his medical career and only focused on his cancer in the second half of the book.  I’m not sure what I expected when I picked up the book, but it wasn’t what I had in mind.  3 stars.

I’m currently listening to The Girl With the Louding Voice.  So far, there’s a lot going on in this one.  I’m not quite sure how I feel about it yet.  I’ve started reading Things You Save in a Fire and my book club’s next read is Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine.  I’m excited to get into these next reads! I’m still waiting on my first 5 star read of the year.

Until next time! Happy reading!

32, D.C., and books, of course

I started the year in a reading frenzy, but after going back to work after Christmas break (I’m a teacher), and getting back into the groove of things, it’s much harder to find the time to read as often or as quickly.  Plus, I’ve just been busy.  Since my last post, I’ve been to Washington D.C. for an all expenses paid conference on global education and I turned 32.  I’ve finished two books and started another.  More on those later. 

I’ve always been an overachiever/perfectionist.  It’s both a blessing and a curse.  I often stress myself out with the amount of work I put on myself, but it feels good to be successful and maybe I just crave the positivity of an “I’m proud of you” or a “good job!”  I also love to travel, so when an email crept in my inbox about applying for a global education program through Fulbright, I applied.  I found out I was accepted in July and then started a graduate level course on global education in September.  The next step was D.C.

I had never been to D.C. before.  I could write on this experience for quite a bit, but there are books to talk about!  The highlight reel is this: I saw all of the famous monuments, ran a refreshing 3.5 mile run with my friend (who also happens to be my boss), learned more about global education, and most importantly learned more about myself.  All in all, not a bad getaway.  Perhaps the biggest moment of the trip was my friend’s encouragement for me to be honest with the higher ups of Fulbright about my life plans.  More on this later… maybe.  Anyways, it worked out well.  I was afraid to be vulnerable and honest and damnit if it’s not hard enough being a woman, but it all worked out better than I could ever imagine.  I was originally scheduled to do my field experience in Thailand (which was my first choice), but am now going to Morocco (which likely would have been my first choice had I known it was an option).  This change will work out much better for me personally and I’m so excited!

Life between the binding has been eventful to say the least, but I did somehow manage to get my reading in.  

My sixth book of the year was The Night Circus, which started with such promise.  I was completely enchanted and I think that’s a perfect word for what this book brings to the table: enchantment.  Unfortunately, the middle of the book lagged on and the plot seemed to fizzle out.  It did pick up and finish strong though.  There was definitely a magical quality about this book, aside from the obvious.  The love story was captivating, but I wish it would have started sooner.  I wasn’t invested in many of the side players either.  This book had so much potential for me, but ultimately fell short of the mark.  However, it has stayed with me.  Initially, I might have given this book a 3/5, but I’m feeling now that it is at the very least a 3.5. 

Little Fires Everywhere was the pick for my book club this month.  Which, by the way, if you don’t have a book club, you’re doing life wrong.  I love meeting with my ladies every month to catch up and talk about our lives over snacks.  Talking about a book we all read, just makes it all better, because there’s solidarity in what we’re doing, but we all come with differing perspectives.  I digress.  Little Fires Everywhere was the hit book of 2017 and has maintained it’s popularity by continuing to be on the best-seller list.  Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington are even starring in a Hulu series depiction of the novel. Basically, people love this book. Me, not so much.  I didn’t hate the book.  I actually enjoyed it just fine and found myself more invested about half way through. The first line of the book starts with action and immediacy, however, that shortly fizzled out for me.  I felt like this book was buried in exposition.  I craved dialogue and maybe more of a sensical formal.  While this wasn’t my favorite book, man is it complex.  It’s going to be a great book to discuss at my next book club meeting and I can’t wait! 3.5/5

I’m currently listening to Sing Unburied, Sing and wow.  Jesmyn Ward is a master of poetic nuance.  I’ve previously read Salvage the Bones and both novels are similar in that they really transport you to a very specific life; characters are fully realized, lovable, and redeeming; and they are a slow burn in the best possible way with rich language that takes your breath away.  I find myself stopping and just wrecking my brain over how effortless this style seems for the author, yet how complex it is really.  She is a genius wordsmith and character builder and I look forward to finishing this book up.  Right now, this book is looking like it will end up being at least 4 stars for me.

That’s all for now.  Find a book, let life happen, and remember that all good things happen between the binding.  Happy reading!