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May Book Reviews

fairestwinterFairest and Winter by Marissa Meyer

4/5 stars (for both) (spoiler, do not read if you’re reading this series)

These two books are a continuation of The Lunar Chronicles series. Again, I know they sound super geeky, but they are action packed! Fairest tells the back story of Queen Levana (think: mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all). It details her childhood and her slow but powerful rise to being queen. She is the embodiment of the beauty movement today. I questioned while reading this book, how many women wake up every day determined to paint a face on, style their hair perfectly, in order to put a specific image out to everyone and how at the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter how beautiful you are if you are rotting on the inside. I thought that her back story would make me feel sympathetic toward her, but it really didn’t. Her past didn’t really define her future, she seemed to always be above others. In Winter we see the end of the long battle between Cinder and Levana, good vs evil, of course. I did feel that it was too long, too many hiccups and roadblocks and I really felt like the build up was too long, a lot could’ve been edited out. However, I was surprised that no main character died. I kept waiting for someone to die because it just didn’t seem possible that everyone would live, although Princess Winter (Snow White) didn’t make it out unscathed. While this was not my favorite YA series, it was a great play on the classic stories we grew up with. It was also a great display of how too much power certainly corrupts.

renewedRenewed: Ten Ways to Rediscover the Saints, Embrace Your Gifts and Revive Your Catholic Faith by Robert P. Reed

4.5/5 Stars

I read this book with my MOMs group at church (Saint John Vianney Catholic Church). We read a chapter every week, so I read it over a couple of months. Each chapter compared two Catholic saints that in someway related to each other in the way they lived out their lives for God. It is a very simple read, it’s not hard to get through a chapter or to understand the message. I loved how it related the saints of the past to today, it truly showed that nothing is new, nothing has changed, we are still fighting the same battles. This book forced you to look at how you (or your church) is being present in today’s society. We must be a church in the world, but not of the world, be innovative but also unchanging. I enjoyed learning about the background to many saints I didn’t know much about. It was great to see that often times they took life one day at a time, not being overwhelmed by the bigger picture and that often times we can only help one person, but that that can make all the difference. My only criticism is, as the book progressed I felt like the content/length/meat dropped off some, about half way through I felt like there wasn’t as much to the book as there had been in the beginning.

pretties specialsPretties and Specials by Scott Westerfeld

3.5/5 stars (both)

I read the first in this series (Uglies) a few years ago and recently had noticed my friend Sheryl reading the series. I decided to go ahead and finish it (although I’m still waiting on the last installment). This is a YA series that is set in the future where many wars have made society collapse, on which a new society has emerged, where there is no war, no strife and everyone has a surgery to become pretty (and basically brainless). I love how much this series makes me think about how we should live our lives, what society should look like, what we are wiling to give up (power?) in order to have peace and what the human condition really looks like. I’m not going to go too much into the actual stories, too much happens but the story follows Tally, the main character and her ability to fight against the surgeries that she has undergone to remain her true self, that even though we are flawed as humans and many people do horrible things, that at the heart of our society we can still be good.

lucy bartonMy Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout

3/5 stars

I have to be honest with you (the 1-2 people who are still reading this), I have absolutely no idea what this book was about, I remember NOTHING. Let me go read the premise. OH okay. I feel bad because I actually related to this book a lot, it’s very short but poignant. This story is mostly set in the hospital where Lucy is recovering from a minor illness, her mother, whom she hasn’t seen in years comes to sit by her bedside. The story flashes back to the past, Lucy’s childhood. I related to the mother/daughter aspect and the struggle to form a meaningful relationship after too much time/hurt has set in. I find it hard to understand how a mother allows time and space to get between them and their child, but I suppose I can’t understand every circumstance that others go through. I don’t remember enough of this story to really give you a sense of it, it’s a short and easy read but not super exciting. I did feel at times that I was reading the story from the point of a view of a child, the syntax seemed immature.

troublemakerTroublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology by Leah Remini

4.5/5 stars
(I actually finished this in June, but want to write about it while it’s fresh in my head)

Please note, reviewing this book probably means I can never join the “church” (CULT) of Scientology and that is just fine with me. Leah Remini, whom you probably know best from her role on “The King of Queens” writes about her time as a member (over 30 years) of Scientology (you know that strange religion that Tom Cruise is a member of too). I honestly didn’t know much about this group/church/cult before reading the book, however it had always rubbed me the wrong way. I’m huge into religions (big and small), I minored in religious studies in college. I find it fascinating how people buy into certain things and follow it without question (yeah, I know some of you are shaking your heads right now saying, “But Isha, you’re Catholic, you buy into it too!” (haha)). Remini gives you insight into her time with Scientology and all I can say is, “Thank God she made it out alive!” I enjoyed that she was very self-effacing, she spoke openly about her own mistakes and downfalls, the book wasn’t all about exposing Scientology.  Scientology is very controlling, they don’t care if you go into severe debt, they don’t care if you break up your family and/or never see them again. They want you 100% into the church, using every resource you have for it, you know so you can help “clear” the world. I question if this religion is even that anymore or if it’s really just a power trip from those who are in charge.  It’s bizarre and honestly, I’m still not sure I understand their point entirely. I will say that if you know someone in this religion, you should be wary. I fear for the lives of those who are in very deep, who couldn’t walk away if they wanted to. Read this book!

April Book Reviews

I hit bit of a reading slump/we’ve been enjoying the weather outside a lot and I’ve been in Spring cleaning mode, so I didn’t get as much reading done in April as I did in the winter months. One book I read in April (Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter), I am choosing not to review. It was too graphic, too dark. I don’t even want to think about it again. My curiosity was the one only reason I finished it, I wanted to see if the main characters survived.

 

scarcressScarlet and Cress by Marissa Meyer

3.5./5 stars (both)

(Contains spoilers)

These were the 1st and the last books I read in April, it’s hard to remember where one ends and the other begins. These are the 2nd and 3rd installments of The Lunar Chronicles. Scarlet (Little Red Riding Hood) and Cress (Rapunzel) continue with Cinder’s  (Cinderella)  story to save Prince Kai from marrying Queen Levana. I felt like both, at times, did drag. Scarlet meets Wolf, they venture to try to save Scarlet’s grandmother, who has been kidnapped by Queen Levana’s forces, as they believe she has information on the missing (assumed dead) princess, Princess Selene (Queen Levana’s niece). Of course they fall in love, there is betrayal and then Cinder swoops in and basically saves the day. Cress is a Lunar shell stranded on a satellite to do Queen Levana’s bidding. She gets in touch with Cinder’s ship and a plan is made to save her. But it goes wrong, Cress and Captain Thorne (who broke out of prison with Cinder) crash land on Earth. Eventually everyone links back up with Cinder and Prince Kai is kidnapped. There is way too much going on in Cress and I found the events far fetched at times. That being said, the story is still intriguing and keeps you rooting for the characters to overcome evil (and to fall in love).

oursouls

Our Souls at NIght by Kent Haruf

4.5 / 5 stars

I absolutely loved this book. It’s very short but it’s so…poignant, so human.  The two main characters, Addie and Louis are in there seventies, long time neighbors and acquaintances. One day, Addie shows up at Louis’ door and asks him to sleep with her. Don’t misunderstand. She means exactly what she says, she wants someone to sleep next to. They have both lost their significant others many years prior. She is lonely, she wants the warmth of a body next to her. Such a simple desire, that many of us probably take for granted. Often times, I think we (the younger generation) think that the older generation simply don’t understand us, but this book really made me feel like it’s us that don’t understand them. Addie’s son finds their arrangement to be inappropriate and demands that Louis stops coming over at night to sleep with his mother. This, I found outrageous. All people long for companionship, a warm body. Do we forget our older generations too easily? Ship them off to a home and let them become lonely? This book was just so real, the people were so real. The dialogue was real. It felt very tangible.

ps i stillP.S I Still Love You (To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, #2 by Jenny Han

5/5 stars

I again fell in love with this book (just as I did the first in the series). Lara Jean (a high school student) and Peter have committed to be in a relationship, which of course (being in high school) isn’t without it’s complications. Peter’s ex-girlfriend still hangs on to Peter and a boy from Lara Jean’s past makes a reappearance in her life. They both grow to understand that relationships aren’t easy and that communication and honesty are hard but key in any successful relationship. It’s a sweet coming of age story and makes me reminiscent of my young loves.

i was hereI Was Here by Gayle Forman

3.5/5 stars

I don’t know why, but I keep coming across books (unknowingly) that deal with suicide. Cody has recently lost her best friend Meg, who chose to commit suicide. Cody is left with so much guilt, she had no idea Meg was depressed or suicidal. There had been some distance between them since they had graduated from high school and they had not been in constant contact. Meg’s parents ask Cody to go to Meg’s college to retrieve her things and Cody comes across some emails Meg had not been able to delete from her computer. Through this, Cody discovers that Meg has been on a suicide support (supporting a person’s right to commit suicide) and interacting with someone who inadvertently encourages Meg to commit suicide. Cody eventually realizes that what she is hoping to do is find someone else to blame (besides herself, besides Meg) for Meg’s death. Through this journey Cody forgives herself, forgives Meg and comes to a greater understanding about what Meg had been dealing with for years. This is a great book for young adults (older high schoolers too) to read. This is such a misunderstanding about depression , we hide it away because it’s we feel embarrassed, we don’t treat it, to help prevent it’s repercussions. Or we miss the signs in others. It puts a face on suicide/depression–it happens to normal, strong people .

With that being said, it wasn’t the most exciting book, but the message outweighs the missing thrill.

If you or someone you know is battling depression or having suicidal thoughts, there is help for you, you are not alone. If you’re reading this and you need someone, please leave a comment/contact me. You can also visit American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

March Book Reviews

ready player oneReady Player One by Ernest Cline`

5/5 Stars

This novel is set in the future, a time in which virtual reality is most people’s every day reality. People choose to basically live in “The Oasis” which is an all consuming virtual reality that they can slip into and basically escape their lives and go anywhere and do anything. The story follows the main character Wade (AKA Parzival in the Oasis), a gunter trying to complete a huge quest to find missing Easter eggs hidden by the legendary Jim Halliday (co-created of the Oasis). I hesitated to read this book at first because I am not a huge video game enthusiast, nor do I know much about the 80s (I was only alive for 2 years during the 80s) but this story was an amazing adventure, it was hard to put it down, there really wasn’t a slow moment. There is a plethora of 80s references, from movies, to video games to music. If you’re a fan of the 80s, you would really love this book, if you’re a fan of arcade games and/or old school games, you would really love this book, if you love a great adventure with a handful of anticipation, you would love this book. Basically, you should read this book. Look for it on the big screen in 2018, directed by Steven Spielberg.

tgwtg
The Girl With All the Gifts
by M.R. Carey

2.5/5 stars

(Does contain spoilers, but you could find a better book to read, so you mizewell read my review)

I read this book as part of a book club I am in on Goodreads. I didn’t read a summary beforehand, I had no idea what it was about.  When I initially started the book, I was pretty drawn in, it was intriguing. It follows Melanie, a young girl (kind of), who is locked up and escorted to class every day. My mind went in a lot of different places; was she a murderer or insane? No, the world has been basically taken over by a virus that broke out and turned humans into zombies/cannibals. However, Melanie and a few other children don’t have the impulse to eat others unless they encounter human pheromones. After the first 50 pages I lost a lot of interest. Much of the dialogue felt forced or unrealistic, like I doubt some of the characters would actually say the things they said. The ending wrapped up pretty quickly, basically almost all of the characters died in 5 minutes and the cannibal children take over.


luckiest

The Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll

4/5 stars

(Mild spoilers)

I have read a lot of negative reviews about this book. Apparently this book was posed as the next Gone Girl and a lot of people felt like it didn’t live up to the hype. I disagree, I liked this book, a lot, I read it quickly. I understand how it may be hard to relate to the main character, Ani. She’s very negative, pretty shallow and the book itself is dark. If you’ve been through sexual trauma or lived through other traumatic events this book may be hard for you to read. The book is set in present day but flashes back to Ani’s high school experience.  She attended an upper class private school, wanting desperately to fit in, she hangs out with the jocks and popular girls. The boys invite her over to a party one night and she is gang raped, which severely traumatizes her, which then influences who she becomes as an adult. One of her less popular friends, ends up participating in a school shooting, which Ani witnesses and lives through. As an adult, every single thing Ani does, is to distance herself from her past, to show that she has risen about and is better than the girl every one knew in high school. It makes her seem stuck up and shallow. However, she does go through quite a change and by the end of the book she is ready for the next chapter in life and ready to truly grow as a person and rise above her past in the right way. It hits on bullying, eating disorders, sexual abuse/trauma and severe traumatic events. This book is also headed to the big screen.

Recently the author, Jessica Knoll opened up about her own gang rape experience. You can read the article here. Thank you, Ms Knoll for using your horrible experience to help others. Thank you for your truth.

5thwave

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

3.5/5 stars

(Partial spoilers)

Y’all I’ve got to stop it with the post apocalyptic books. In this one, aliens have come to destroy all humans. The annihilation of the human race has come in waves (hence the title), very few people are left, one being the main character Cassie. Just a teenager, she is out in the wilderness alone, hiding from the aliens which now look just like humans, with no outward distinguishing characteristics. She has been separated from her brother who ends up running into her former crush. Cassie’s only goal is to find her brother, even if it means dying in the process. Luckily (or unlucky) she ends up with Evan, their relationship changes everything.  You can’t trust anyone in this book, it leaves you second guessing everyone’s intentions. It certainly doesn’t slow down, it’s a wild ride. It’s currently a major motion picture (with bad reviews) in a theater near you.

glass swordThe Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard

4.5/5 stars

The Glass Sword is the 2nd book in the Red Queen series, picking up with Mare fleeing newly instated, murderous King Maven. If you’re looking for a happy and upbeat book, this isn’t it. It’s depressing and full of heartbreak, but it’s unavoidable. I did sometimes feel that we were in Mare’s head too much (kind of how I felt we when we were in Harry’s head too much in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix). Mare and her friends set out to find more of her kind, Red blood, Silver power and so does the deadly Maven. Mare faces a choice, giving up herself or continuing her fight which means losing others along the way.

saint anything
Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

3.5/5 stars

I must preface this by letting you readers known I read the last 10% of this on April 1st, my husband threatened to rat me out if I didn’t admit to this. While this book doesn’t have any crazy adventures, it was still a quick and quality read. The main character Syndey, has been under a lot of stress, her older brother Peyton’s life spun out of control resulting in a prison stay. She has been carrying around guilt, unsure of how to cope with the outcome of his mistakes, it’s a lonely place to be. She decides to switch schools where she becomes friends with a new group of people,  who truly embody the meaning of friendship: loving without expectation and forgiving easily. It also reminds you to follow your instinct and to take care of yourself. Also it will leave you craving pizza and French fries. I enjoyed the hearts that the characters had, a reminder that there are good and true people in the world. Syndey learns a lot about herself and learns it’s okay to put yourself first sometimes.

Forgiving the Unforgivable

image1

I’ve been mulling over how to put into words everything going on in my brain this week/month/year. My heart is heavy, my spirits are low and my mind is so full. I posted a Facebook status on Monday, that I deleted shortly after. It was emotional and personal and I find Facebook to be a bad platform (for me personally) to express those types of emotions (although blogging about it makes me feel vulnerable too). It essentially said that I was heartbroken about a recent news story, that 2016 has truly felt so heavy between deaths, illnesses and other stresses. We are only 3 months in and it has been so emotionally overwhelming. I have felt pretty low. But I also said that I have never held on to Jesus, like I have this year. After deleting the status, I did still feel like I needed to write and get some of this out, so here it goes. 

Last week, I went to confession (I’m Catholic, we must go at least once during Lent). I brought up a situation and individual who has done something, that I feel is unforgivable (it wasn’t done to me, but to others, to people who are defenseless, the sin/hurt they’ve committed is deplorable). I told Father that I did not feel that my unforgiveness was a sin, my heart is not harden to it, but that I just don’t understand what forgiveness looks like for this person, I don’t know how to reach forgiveness, to just let it go and not feel like I’m saying that what’s been done is okay or that they are off the hook. Forgiveness right now feels like I’m handing out a free pass. In most cases when we forgive, we are forgiving someone we love or care about. We forgive them because we want to, because they deserve it, because we want to keep the relationship whole. In this situation, I’m trying to find forgiveness for someone who isn’t remorseful. But I have built up a wall of anger around my heart because of everything that has transpired and feeling such despair is no place to live.

After I was done speaking, Father agreed that this lingering unforgiveness isn’t a sin/wrong but that the anger could become a footstool for it. That the way evil continues to win in this situation is to allow my anger to become more, consuming too much of me. That for him, pity should replace anger. Pity, because people who choose such severe evils, without remorse, without shame, are people so lost, who need redemption the most. And that forgiveness here doesn’t look like a loving embrace, but a letting go, a release.

I have thought, prayed and done several Bible studies in the past week, I mean serious soul searching. I have thought about the people I have hurt in the past (although never to quite this caliber, so it’s hard to even tell myself that others have forgiven me, why can’t I just get over it.) and how I have received forgiveness for my wrongs.  It’s funny how God has seemingly handed me exactly what I needed to read. Here are some points that have really struck me.

  • “Forgiveness frees us of the bitter demand of restitution.” (Author unknown) It means we don’t have to feel like what they’ve done is on our conscience anymore. It frees us. Sometimes unforgivness fees like a jail cell, we are trapped by injustice and hurt, making us (the innocent), the prisoner, essentially being wronged/hurt over and over. 
  • Forgiving can feel like allowing a wrong to go unpunished. It’s hard to forgive (especially when there is no remorse from the perpetrator) because we feel like some sort of justice needs to be served. But this means we hold on to anger, we continue to play everything out in our minds. Our unforgiveness ends up hurting us.
  • Unforgiveness/anger or nursing your hurt is a heavy burden to bear. You may allow the situation to consume more of you than it should.
  • Laying down everything, the pain, the unforgiveness, the anger, it does not mean that there is no justice/vindication.
  • “Never avenge your selves, but leave it to the wrath of God.” And when you lay it down, “God will pick it up.” (John Piper)

After reading through these thoughts while studying I felt like I finally grasped this different/harder level of forgiveness, the “undeserved forgiveness”. I hadn’t achieved forgiveness, just by reading all of this, but I felt like I understood what it looked like and maybe I could get to what it feels like. But I also felt like this applies to more than just forgiveness, but to any strife or struggle our hearts have (anxiety, heart break, anger, self loathing). Unburden yourself and be free of the constraints of negativity. Don’t let anger consume you, don’t let it destroy you. Although 2016 has had a little black cloud floating around, I know that a new dawn will come, that joy, hope and light will return. And in the mean time, I will mourn but grow in this storm.

February Book Reviews

the grown up

The Grownup by Gillian Flynn

3/5 stars

This book is a short story. It can be read within a couple of hours (or 1). It was…different. Flynn also wrote Gone Girl which was a pretty big hit. All of Flynn’s novels are dark mysteries. The main character in this story, lives a fraudulent life as a palm reader/spiritual healer and meets a woman who asks her to come cleanse her home of evil spirits. She goes to the home and comes in contact with the son of the home owner who seems to be possessed. It gets weird and has an interesting and unexpected twist at the end. I can’t decide if it’s worth your time, but it’s a short enough book that if you’re looking for something quick and easy, it’s not the worst choice.

to-all-the-boys-ive-loved-before-9781442426702_hrTo All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

5/5 stars

You guys, I seriously loved this book. It’s a young adult novel and probably reads like such, but I loved getting wrapped up in it. I needed something lighthearted, easy and upbeat and this was perfect. It took me back to high school and made me want to be more like Lara Jean, who for a teenager, has such a great head on her shoulders. I loved the relationships she had with her family. Lara Jean has written letters to all of the boys she has ever loved and they “accidentally” get mailed out. The story doesn’t really focus on this but it’s the catalyst for everything else.  Great, easy read. I’m excited to read the next in the series.

 lakehouseThe Lakehouse by Kate Morton

3/5 stars

It took me nearly half of the book to really feel invested. I have a hard time starting and then stopping a book, although it’s not beneath me. I felt like this book made me just curious enough to keep reading. However, I figured out the plot twists pretty early in the book and I wasn’t surprised by the ending. I am not sure if it was obvious in the book or if it’s because I read a lot. The story is a mystery that jumps between present day and the past, focusing on one event, the day baby Theo went missing, a crime that has never been solved. The mystery catches the eye of a detective who is on leave from her job. I can’t decide if I should recommend this book or not, I think maybe it is better than I felt and it just didn’t capture me as much as it should have. Maybe I’ve read too many similar books to love this one.

red queen

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

5/5 stars

It took me next to no time to read this. It’s a YA novel, that has the same kind of lure that The Hunger Games or Divergent did for me. The story follows Mare, a Red girl (her blood is red) living in a world where the Silver (silver blood) rule. The Silver have different powers (super strength, mind reading, etc) while the Red do not. However, Mare is about to discover something about herself that changes everything. I’m excited to continue her story, full of adventure, mystery and betrayal.  Trust no one.

steel scars

Steel Scars  by Victoria Aveyard

5/5 stars

This is book 0.2 of the Red Queen series. It follows a secondary character-Farley and provides information for her backstory and how she fits into the story. It also follows Mare’s older brother as well, which gives you a lot of insight you didn’t have in Red Queen. It’s short and really just a supplemental. (I wish JK Rowling did short supplemental stories like this for Harry Potter!)

queen song

Queen Song by Victoria Aveyard

4/5 stars

This is considered book 0.1 of the Red Queen series, however it doesn’t matter if you read Steel Scars before or after it.  It’s the backstory of the Queen (Coriane, mother of Prince Cal) that reigned before the current one (the wretched Queen Elara). It’s short and simple and sad. I don’t feel like it was as important as Steel Scars but it was still interesting to read what took place and how Queen Elara came to reign. I was slightly confused by the ending and I’m not sure I entirely understood what took place. Was everything in Queen Coriane’s head or was it Elara? (I technically finished this book on 3/1/16, but most was read on 2/29)

Note: Read Red Queen before you read either supplemental.

little prince

The Little Prince by Antoine De Saint-Exupery

5/5 stars

I have been meaning to read this book for so long and finally did (thanks for the loan Kayleigh!). This is one of those stories that will be so great to read aloud to the kids as they get older. It’s full of allegory (some that may have went over my head) and makes you look at the world/life through a child’s eyes again. A little boy has left his little planet to travel through the universe and he meets an array of characters. The one that really stuck out to me was the man who was just so “busy”, so busy he didn’t even know what he was busy with. How often do we get caught up in things that make us busy but aren’t important? Many of the stories focus on adult behaviors, that when you really look at them, are such time wasters. It’s a good reminder to live life with the heart and spirit of a child.

cinder

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

5/5 stars

This is the first book of The Lunar Chronicles, recommend to me by my friend Sheryl.  I didn’t even realize that it’s a retelling of sorts of the classic Cinderella (thanks for pointing that out to me Jason!). It follows a cyborg named Cinder, who lives life basically as a slave to her ward/step-mother, as a mechanic. She meets Prince Kai and slowly falls in love. However, there is a deadly virus that has spread every where, there is no cure and once you have it, you are sent away to die, slowly and alone (alone with other dying people). Cinder learns a lot about herself in this book, much of which completely changes her life and could change the fate for all of humanity/cyborgs/lunars. I realize how sci-fi and geeky it sounds, but it’s great.

memory o flight

The Memory of Light by Francisco X. Stork

3.5/5 stars
(mild spoilers)

This book was hard for me to read, having just lost a friend to suicide. I put a request in for it in January, before the death happened. Even though I wasn’t sure I should read it right now I’m glad I did. I think it has a lot of great insights on suicide, depression and mental illness in general. All of which aren’t something you just get over, something that can just be ignored. The story’s main character, Vicky wakes up in the hospital after just nearly dying of an overdose. Vicky truly wanted to die, her attempt wasn’t a cry for help, it was a miracle she was found in time. The story follows her recovery and 3 other teenagers who are also at the hospital for different illnesses/problems (anger management, manic depressive and possible schizophrenia).  I felt like this book did a great job of showing that even thought you have a mental illness (which is nothing to be ashamed about), that you can overcome it, by therapy, making plans for what your life can look like, etc. There is always hope.

I plan on diving into some longer reads in March!

January Book Reviews

I read A LOT. Any free time I have (when I’m nursing Peyton or during nap time/before bed at night), I read, read, read. I am going to attempt to review or just do some free thinking about the books I read. I realize I’m pretty late on the January books (8 in total!), but life has been happening lately and I haven’t had a ton of time to sit in front of the computer. Here goes!

potatopie

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shafer and Annie Barrows

4/5 stars

This was a cute little book (is that the proper way to review a book? Ha!). It’s comprised entirely of letters written among friends, set just after WWII. They bond over their love of books. The characters are clever and witty and it left me longing for a time before the loud hub bub of social media. It’s not that drama didn’t exist before social media (because it certainly exists in this book) but it just didn’t sound quite as loud. It made me want to find a bunch of people who were committed to writing letters, who have a great love of books and form my own Potato Peel Pie club. Maybe I will just move to Guernsey, it sounds like a lovely place.

all the bright places

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

5/5 stars

(Spoiler warning!)

I read this book with my best friend Kayleigh (we’ve been reading books together, it’s so much fun) and this was such an emotional book for us, we both hoped, laughed and eventually cried. It felt odd, after the fact, that this was one of the books we chose to read, because we ended up losing a friend to suicide shortly after reading this book. The story’s main characters are Violet and Theo (aka Finch), Theo is battling a mental illness (he is Bipolar), but has such an amazing personality, he truly lives life to the fullest and on his own terms. Violet and Theo become friends (and then lovers), they wander around Indiana for a school project and Theo changes Violet’s life forever, giving her a new perspective about life she didn’t have before. Unfortunately, the demons Theo faced became too much, his mental illness goes untreated and he commits suicide toward the end of the book. This book very much reminded me of John Green’s novels. I absolutely loved this book and could not put it down.

the dinner

 The Dinner by Herman Koch

2/5 stars

What. The. Heck. Plain and simple. This isn’t a terrible book, so maybe it deserves more stars, but the entire time I was reading it, I just wanted it to end. It takes place over a dinner between two brothers and their wives. They meet to talk about a terrible event that their sons perpetuated. It goes back and forth between the present and flash backs over several years. The characters were bizarre and not likable. I felt like the plot jumped around a lot and I was left with so many questions. I couldn’t tell if some of the events actually or if it was just in the main character’s mind. I was left with so many questions at the end of the book and thankful it was over (even though it wrapped up too quickly).

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Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

5/5 stars

(mild spoilers)

First off I must say, I completely disagree with the ending and the choice the main character (Will) decides to make. But this story was beautiful. This was another book Kayleigh and I read together. We were cheering both main characters (Will and Lou) on the entire story. We wanted Lou to break through Will’s tough exterior, to change his life, to make him believe that even though he hated his  new circumstances  (he can not walk, and has lost most function of his entire body), that his life is precious and worth living. I feel that the story between Will and Lou does prove that all life is precious but that the message is never received by Will, which is so unfortunate. He impacts Lou’s life in such a big way, he makes her stop just existing and makes her start living. He opens her eyes to the world and everything it has to offer. And she gives him back some of the life he felt he had lost. This book was addictive, so hard to put down. I’m looking forward to seeing this on the big screen and reading the next in the series to see what happens next.

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Dead in the Water by Stuart Woods

2..5/5 stars

This is the type of book I call a “formula book”. Woods’ has a series of books with the character Stone Barrington, who is a retired NYPD officer turned private detective. Although the story lines are all different, the books are essentially all kind of the same, with slightly different secondary characters or plot lines. It’s easy to guess what is going to happen. I’m not sure I will continue reading these books, they are easy reads but they don’t evoke much thought. I don’t even really want to go into what this book was about. It’s not worth your time.

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Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah

5/5 stars

This is the second book I’ve read by Hannah and while I didn’t love this as much as the first one (The Nightingale, which is amazing and you should stop what you’re doing and start reading it), it was still such a beautiful narrative. It did seem to start slow for me but I was eventually consumed by the story line. This book is really a story within a story. The three main characters (2 daughters and their mother) are on a journey of self discovery and self forgiveness. It is set in present day and flashes back to the mother’s early adulthood. It’s heart wrenching and has an incredible ending. I don’t want to say too much because it’s really such an intense story that it must be felt through reading the story, not by reading a mediocre summary by Isha. The lesson I learned from it: It’s never too late to apologize, to try to set things straight. Sometimes people aren’t what you think they are, you just need to take some time to listen to their story.

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Friendship by Emily Gould

1/5 stars (although I would feel comfortable saying 0/5 stars)

Kayleigh, I am so sorry I suggested this book! Seriously. I don’t get it. It was just so blah. The characters are so into themselves, they are awful friends to one another, it was boring, it had no real plot line. It seemed to skip around. It wasn’t solid. I’m not going to waste anymore time thinking about it.

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Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

5/5 stars

Another Kayleigh and Isha book club book. This was short and sweet, very to the point. The main character, Madeline was diagnosed with a disease in which she is allergic to basically anything, it’s hard for her to know what will set her off so she is confined to her home and has only her mother, a nurse and a teacher or two that she comes into contact with. But new neighbors move in next door and Olly comes into her life. I don’t want to spoil too much about the book, but it leaves you asking yourself, “Am I really living my life to the fullest extent?”

That’s it for January. Hopefully I can tackle February’s books soon!

Happy Birthday, Princess Peyton


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It doesn’t seem like a year ago, that we made our way to the hospital, as the snow lightly fell and you were telling me, “Mama, it’s really time! I promise I’m not joking anymore, I’m on my way.” And oh my goodness, we had no idea how much we would love you, how much our hearts would grow. You came so quickly, so fast, sunny-side up and ready to greet the world. And your cry, was ferocious, everyone in the hospital knew you had arrived and I prayed you would always hold on to that ferocity.


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Daddy said, “It’s a girl!” And I thought, oh my little Peyton, please love me. And do you ever. You probably love me more than anyone has ever loved me. You’re smart, you’re beautiful, you’re funny, you’re perfect. You were ready for this world and you haven’t stopped, you crawled early, walked early, you always need to be doing something, you’re a learner. You follow your big brother everywhere and as much as you’re mama’s girl, you’re daddy’s girl too.


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We love you our little Princess Peyton (you live up to that nickname and we wouldn’t change a thing about you).

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You’re Easy to Love

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Happy Valentine’s Day, Joshua. Here are 14 ways you make it easy to love you. I’m sure there is more but this is all I could come up with.

  1. Your feet

That’s a joke, I’m not a fan of feet.

  • You always know what to say. Whether it’s to calm my anxieties or to make me laugh.
  • You think logically. This probably goes along with #1, but you don’t let your mind get ahead of itself. You don’t let worries or crazy thoughts cloud your judgement (unlike your wife).
  • You always say “yes” to me. I’m spoiled and I know it. But thank you for putting my happiness first even if it means you have to play Qwirkle with me for the 50th time in one week (and lose to me AGAIN). 
  • You are a great dad. Our children are so incredibly lucky to not only have a hard working dad but one who loves them completely, who puts them first and who wants them to know what is truly important in life. 
  • You are forgiving. But not only forgiving, but you don’t harp on my shortcomings, you don’t bring up past wrongs. 
  • You’re good with your hands (keep your minds out of the gutter, friends!). You know how to fix things, take care of our house, garden, you’re an amazing artist, you are able to create something out of nothing.
  • You are passionate about your beliefs and convictions. You aren’t swayed by what society wants if you. 
  • You are a good person. It’s just who you are, right to your core.
  • You love food almost as much as I love food. I love trying new foods with you and I love when you make me breakfast burritos.

Well that’s 9 things, I can’t think of anything else. But you’re an okay guy.

Just kidding, here are 5 more.

  • You’re smart (smarter than me even!). You are a wealth of knowledge and I’m always pleasantly surprised by some of the things you know.
  • You’re funny (but not funnier than me). And even more so, you’re incredibly silly, people would be so surprised if they knew just how goofy you are. 
  • You see life as an adventure and you’re always ready to go on one, either on vacation or simply a hike in the woods, searching for creatures in the stream.
  • You’re always willing to get me water and/or food, even if you’re tired. Simply put: you put me first.
  • You take pride in your work (as you should, you create beautiful spaces) and at the same time you remain humble.

Hopefully that’s 14 things, I’m not good at counting. It’s our 6th Valentine’s Day. I remember one year I told you not to get me anything and you listened! I’m glad you’re no longer that naive. I love you, Charles-y.

Suicide: Let’s Talk About It

I’ve been trying to figure out how to write about suicide. It feels like such a delicate topic, the elephant in the room and even shameful, to admit you have attempted it or had a loved one die by suicide. It’s so prevalent, yet we often times only hear about it when someone famous chooses it. It’s like a quiet black cloud that moves through the world, sometimes we can even ignore it. We feel the sorrow when we hear about it on the news, but that comes and goes. Sometimes we question, “But how? That person had the whole world, why would they choose to end their life?” Unfortunately it’s not that easy, there are no simple answers. 

Why aren’t we talking more about suicide?

Here are some statistics:

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in America.

Every year 42, 773 people die from suicide.

For every 1 suicide, there are (approx) 25 attempts. 

In Indiana it’s the 2nd leading cause of death for individuals aged 25-34.

 On average (in Indiana) over all age groups,  1 person commits suicide every 9 hours.

 

I write this today because I recently lost a friend to suicide and my heart is shattered, each piece feels something different: anger, grief, confusion. It’s hard to imagine that he isn’t out in the world laughing and joking, which is how I think about him most. Laughing. Happy, bright and shining. I think about those who were closest to him and their lives have stopped, their grief is unlike anything they have felt before. Suicide is a hurricane of devastation that never ends.

He wasn’t the first person I’ve known to die by suicide, but it never gets easier, it never makes sense and if past experience dictates future, then I will forever wonder what more I could’ve done. I will lay awake at night for the years to come and think about him, wondering how he felt that final day and wondering, how we could have saved him. I will think about all of the life he could’ve lived. All of the things he is missing.

Here are some warning signs:

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It is hard to read them because it feels like there are often signs when there is no thought of suicide but also because it’s hard to look back, to see what was missed, to feel helpless about an action that has already taken place. It instills such despair. A life ended when it wasn’t supposed to.

I write today to start a conversation about suicide.

I write today, for you, the mourner, you the person left behind but mostly to you, the person who has contemplated, who maybe has even planned it out, who have wondered if life is worth living anymore. It is. I promise you, it is. Taking your life, away from the many many people who love you, it will devastate them. But it will also take away your chance to live. Even if you feel that you’re up against a wall, I promise you, there are people that will help break down that wall. You may not see or feel it, but there are so many people who love you, who want and need you to live and be in their lives. You are loved. You are worthy of life.


There is help for you.

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Simple Comforts

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One (of many) thing I love about living in Indiana (and the Midwest in general) is the ever changing weather. I know, some people make such a fuss about how cold it gets, how much snow we get, how hot it gets or how it changes so drastically so quickly, but I think it keeps things interesting.

Winter time in particular leaves me feeling so cozy. We keep our house on the cooler side, we are always bundled up in warm pjs or snuggling under blankets next to the fire with coffee or hot choc (as Henry has come to call it). This time of year totally puts me in a “enjoy these simple comforts” kind of mind frame. I’ve not been able to get over this awesome funk ever since the cooler weather hit. That’s right, a good kinda funk.

Other simple comforts that have hit me recently (some are kinda strange, I know!):

  • Pulling on a warm fuzzy bathrobe after a steaming hot shower
  • The heft of a new bottle of shampoo, conditioner or bath soap
  • Our down comforter
  • How Josh smells
  • Cleanliness and organization
  • Reading great books with great friends (and falling in love with them together)
  • Frosted window
  • Winter skies, winter sunsets
  • Josh’s ease about life
  • The first big snow
  • Reading wrapped up in a blanket as it rains (or snows)
  • Sitting down to a hot dinner
  • The familiarity of a best friend
  • Familiar hymns at Mass
  • Freshly painted fingernails
  • Sleeping babies (especially when they are asleep on my chest)
  • Empty laundry baskets
  • The sound of the dryer, tumbling clothes
  • The first sip of coffee of the day
  • When Peyton falls asleep while nursing
  • Receiving mail (real mail, you know, delivered by The United States Postal Service!)

What are some simple comforts you enjoy? I would love to hear them. Take time every day to embrace the simplicity in your life.

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