Sunday, September 17, 2017

Review: Commonwealth by Ann Patchett

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett
Audiobook, 8 hours
Published September 13, 2016 by HarperAudio
Dates Read/Listened: Aug. 8 - Sept. 17, 2017

This was the first book I've read or listened to by Ann Patchett. The story followed Bert Cousins and Beverly Keating, who married after they fell for each other at a christening. Patchett seemed to sensitively address the issues of two individuals who fell in love despite being married to other people and both having children from those marriages. Relationships are complicated as it is, let alone adding infidelity and children to the mix.

While the story had many interesting points, I often found myself zoning out and not really paying attention to the story so when I did tune back in, I was lost and not sure exactly what "time" it was in the book. This is why it took me 6 weeks to get through it, which in turn also added to my inability to keep track of where I was because I'd forget details after so much time passed between listening sessions. Although, there did seem to be quite a few chronological "leaps" in the story and Patchett assumed the reader would follow along without clarifying exactly when events were taking place. She'd also reference certain events that happen in the past as a flashback or a memory, but then come back to present day, which left a reader (or listener) utterly confused as to what exactly happened when.

One thing I did find interesting was the concept of the book being read by the characters. It was a story about the characters being read by the characters, which then had a movie made about them and what their reactions were to both the book and the movie.

Overall, I'd rate this a 3 out of 5 - it's okay. Not for me, though I can see why others enjoy it.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Infertility: You Are Enough

A little back story...

Earlier this month I went to a writers workshop in Middlebury, Vermont as part of the Burlington Writers Workshop that I am a member of. I had submitted a poem to be critiqued, about softball, and I plan to submit it to some literary journals for publication.

The feedback I got was amazing and I am ever grateful for the group of people in that group because they are raw and mindful of the importance of constructive feedback. Normally we have two people who have their pieces "workshopped" and critiqued but this particular evening it was just me so we spent the first hour or so going over my piece. I was "in the box," which means I could not say anything while the other group rest of the group was discussing my piece. I came out of the box when they were done, loving the feedback and have a lot to work with to tweak the poem.

Next, we worked on a prompt - we were to write about something you wish somebody had told you. The member who gave the prompt has been leading writing workshops or writing groups for probably 20-25 years if not more. He said that my poem had inspired him to bring this prompt to this group that night because the theme of the poem was something that was obviously to him something that I had wish I had been told when I was playing softball when I was a kid, but were things that I have learned over the years on my own.

The prompt inspired me to write about what I wish I had known about my infertility diagnosis.

I wish I knew it was a possibility. I wish during sex-ed that infertility was mentioned as something that happens. I wish that sex-ed, specifically around puberty and periods, was not taught in such a way that it is assumed that people would all develop the same way, and that all women would start their period by a certain age or have the same flow as each other every 28 days. As we all know by adulthood, that is just not the case and I wish that was pointed out during sex-ed or told to me by my parents or somebody. As it turns out, I learned all of this the hard way when I hadn't started my period before I was 15. I went through all kinds of tests to figure out why and I ended up being diagnosed with MRKH, a form of primary infertility.

And so I am here to tell you what I wish I knew when I was younger. I want to tell you that you are enough. You are everything that you are supposed to be in this life. Despite your flaws, despite your inability to do what the female body is supposedly supposed to do, you are enough. You are one hundred percent who you are supposed to be. This struggle, this infertility struggle that you are going through is making you stronger, it is making you more compassionate, and it is a test you will pass.

You are not alone. Your infertility journey, by society's standards, makes you feel like you're alone, like you're living in isolation and nobody else knows what you're experiencing. I am here to tell you that while not everybody's experiences are the same, there are people who empathize and understand what you're going through without you having to explain it to them. You are more than your infertility journey because it is only one piece of the pie, it is only one fraction of your life and who you are as a person.

You are everything you are meant to be in this life.
You are loved.
You are not alone.
You are enough.

This video, titled Not Alone, sums it all up. It's produced by American Greetings as part of their "Give Meaning" to relationships campaign. It's what convinced me to share my answer to the writing prompt with you.


Tuesday, July 4, 2017

June Wrap-Up and July Forecast


Well, I think I was a bit overambitious for June considering I was traveling for half the month. I was really hoping I could get some books read in the car if I wasn't driving and listening to some audiobooks. Turns out I didn't have as much down time as I had anticipated!

Books Read in June

  1. The Alchemist by Paul Coelho
  2. Silence: The Power of Quiet in a World Full of Noise by Thich Nhan Naht

Posts for Books Read in June

None!

Posts for Books Read Before June

  1. The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien
  2. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
  3. The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant
  4. Bag Balm & Duct Tape: Tales of A Vermont Doctor by Beach Conger, M.D.

Reading Challenges Updates

No new challenges in June.

Audiobook Challenge 2017

This challenge goes all year along, so any audiobooks in 2017 count. Since I listened to 7 books so far this year, I am at the Weekend Warrior level.

Read Women 2017

This is a challenge on Goodreads that lasts all year long. I have completed 8 of the 13 books I plan to read this year.

2017 Goodreads Reading Challenge

12 books completed out of my 55 to read goal, which means I am 15 books behind schedule. Ahhhh!

Top Five

  1. Favorite Book: Silence: The Power of Quiet in A World Full of Noise by Thich Nhat Nahn because of it's content about cultivating mindfulness and the author's ability to break down the practice into manageable steps, and providing real life examples. This is my first time reading this book and I've had it book for a couple years, and I think that was subconsciously intentional because I wasn't ready until I was. I also just happen to participate in a 4-week Cultivating Mindfulness Workshop Series this spring, which helped give me some context for mindfulness practices.
  2. Least Favorite Book: The Alchemist by Paul Coelho - only because I had forgotten I had listened to it until I checked my Goodreads for the books I read in June. It didn't make a good enough impression on me for to even remember that I had listened to it.  
  3. Most Exciting Moment: being at my cousin's wedding and witnessing her perfect day marrying her best friend. They are made for each other. I am so happy I was able to be a part of it and witness their love for each other. 
  4. Least Exciting Moment: Realizing I had been in the car for a total of 48+ hours for a road trip just in travel between destinations, not including driving around said destinations. That's a lot of car riding without reading as much as I'd hoped!
  5. Favorite Part of June: I'm listing a few here:
    1. Attending my cousins wedding
    2. Launching my Pampered Chef Consultant business
    3. Making a weekend out of seeing 2 Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds concerts
    4. Seeing friends and family I rarely get to see

July Forecast

I plan to finish reading or listening to the 4 books on my Currently Reading List:

  1. The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
  2. Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult 
  3. Rokitansky by Alice Darwin
  4. Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon
At least 1 post per week - content is TBD!

Happy Reading, and most of all Happy 4th of July!

Friday, June 30, 2017

Review: Bag Balm & Duct Tape: Tales of a Vermont Doctor by Beach Conger

Review of Bag Balm and Duct Tape: Tales of a Vermont Doctor by Beach Conger, M.D.
Paperback, 272 pages
Published September 1989 by Fawcett
Dates Read: March 30, 2015 - November 8, 2016

As you can see by how long it took me to read this book, this was a difficult book to get through. It was chosen for book club out of about 5 selections with a Vermont theme because it seemed to be the most appealing. Since the book club is based in Vermont, we wanted to read something based in the state.

The book started out slow as he's describing the countryside and transition to living in Vermont, in a "slower" pace of life than he was accustomed to previously. It read like a journal that was adapted for publication for the serious reader and the casual reader. The serious reader notes were a bit hilarious and at times unnecessary because it could've easily been worked into the story instead of being added to it to be published.

Many of the chapters (or should I call them journal entries?) seemed to be mostly him complaining about everything that is wrong with Western medicine. About halfway through the book is when it got better when he learned how to treat patients rather than the disease. It took him moving to a small town to learn that everything he learned in med school and practiced elsewhere isn't necessarily the right way of practicing medicine. He learned that he needed to treat the person and earn their trust rather than treat the disease.

I don't remember the specific point in the book when it happened, but I do remember suddenly enjoying the story and appreciating his humor, grace, and appreciation for the hardy lifestyle of Vermonters who don't take shit from outsiders they call flatlanders.

The book was obviously dated with there being references to specific treatments and medications that are no longer recommended, which will happen with many books on the topic of medicine.

Because I felt like the book read as a journal and it was dated, I got bored easily and had trouble getting back into it at first. I did not finish it in time for book club, but did pick it back up when a friend and I started talking about it. I finished it so that we could discuss it more in depth and he felt similarly disappointed in the title being misleading.

Rated: 3 out of 5 on Goodreads. My definition of 3 out of 5 is that it was an okay read. It's not for me, but I can see why others enjoy it.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Review: The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant

Review of The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant
Paperback, 320 pages
Published December 2014
Dates Read: September 5-9, 2015

Addie Baum tells her 22 year old granddaughter, Ava, her story growing up in the North End of Boston to Jewish-Russian immigrant parents who had a distrust for the changing American values. Reflecting on her 85 years when Ava asked her how she got to be the woman she is today, she starts her story in 1915 when she was just figuring out her own voice and view on life. Because of her parents distrust and their suspected affects on their three daughters, a lot of tension arose between them trying to maintain tradition and the ways of the old world and the girls trying to take advantage of the new opportunities for women during the time.

Addie's intelligence and curiosity gets the best of her as she explores the new culture her parents don't understand - movies or "moving pictures," short skirts, the celebrity culture, and eventually the right for women to vote. At a time when women are expected to marry right out of high school, she's determined to go to college. She also wants a career of her own and like any 15 year old, she wants to find true love. Addie explains that's the year she found her voice and made new friends who would have a profound affect on the course of her life.

Goodreads description explains, "from the one-room tenement apartment she shared with her parents and two sisters, to the library group for girls she joins at a neighborhood settlement house, to her first, disastrous love affair, Addie recalls her adventures with compassion for the naïve girl she was and a wicked sense of humor."

In true Anita Diamant fashion, The Boston Girl is a detailed historical fiction account of a young woman's struggle and resilience in an ever changing twentieth-century America. We get a glimpse through Addie's eyes of a generation of women figuring out what it means to be a woman in the new landscape of America, and the world.
I enjoyed reading this book for book club, not only because it's historical fiction, but because it reminded me of the conversation I had with my own grandmother, at about the same age, when she told me about growing up in New York City in the 1920's and early 1930's as the daughter of Italian immigrants.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Review: A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini


Audiobook published 2007 by Simon and Schuster Audio
Paperback, 372 pages, published by Riverhead Books
Dates listened: December 10-30, 2016

I enjoyed reading The Kite Runner so much that I read A Thousand Splendid Suns not too long afterwards - it was in fact a year later, but for me that's a quick turnaround to read another book by the same author that I love so much unless it's Jodi Picoult.

If I had actually read the book rather than listening to it, I would've enjoyed it a lot more. I felt like I kept zoning out and couldn't focus so I kept missing important details. That may have had to do a lot with the actors voices being hard for me to listen to as well. As a result, I had to refer to the description on Goodreads and some other reviews to jog my memory.

The description of A Thousand Splendid suns on Goodreads is, "Born a generation apart and with very different ideas about love and family, Mariam and Laila are two women brought jarringly together by war, by loss and by fate. As they endure the ever escalating dangers around them—in their home as well as in the streets of Kabul—they come to form a bond that makes them both sisters and mother-daughter to each other, and that will ultimately alter the course not just of their own lives but of the next generation."

Mariam grew up isolated and verbally abused by her mother. She was an illegitimate child and her mother never let her forget it, always calling her a harami. She longed for more attention from her father whom she only saw occasionally, and begged him to take her in - yearning for the attention and things that come with being a member of a real family. Then, at the age of 15 she is married off to Rasheed, a shoemaker old enough to be her grandfather and described so horrifically she might as well have been marrying an ogre. Soon Mariam is subject to Rasheed's violent and abusive behaviors - only this time it wasn't limited only to verbal abuse like her mother. Rasheed took advantage of the patriarchal culture, subconsciously or not, and physically, verbally, and sexually abused Mariam. When he wanted sex and she didn't, he'd guilt her into sex by telling her "There is no shame in this Mariam...it's what married people do. It's what the prophet himself and his wives did," and would then force himself onto her.

When Mariam is around 30-40 years old, Rasheed marries 14-year old Laila. Laila's childhood was similar to Mariam's, having suffered abuse in the patriarchal society of Aghanistan only to be married off at a young age to a man just as abusive if not worse than what she endured as a young child. While Mariam feels sorry for Leila because she knows what it's like be in her shoes, she is also relieved that Rasheed has someone else to beat.

The women bond over their shared experiences and try to navigate their unforeseen relationship that is a combination of mother-daughter and sisters. They do try to use their relationship to their advantage to not only take care of themselves, but also prioritize their children's lives. In an attempt to run away, Rasheed discovers their plans and beats both of them while also verbally berading them. One threatening and powerful thing he says to Leila is, "You try this again and I will find you. I swear on the prophet's name that I will find you. And, when I do, there isn't a court in this godforsaken country that will hold me accountable for what I will do. To Mariam first, then to her, and you last. I'll make you watch. You understand me? I'll make you watch." This signifies just how much he thinks of them as property and not as humans or partners.

These are just a couple examples of the abuse Mariam and Laila suffer at the hands of their husband. This is a difficult book to get through, yet it's also captivating and keeps a reader wanting more. I kept asking myself why they didn't just leave, but that's the point of the book in many ways. It's hard enough to leave an abusive relationship in the U.S. where women have rights, let alone in a country like Afghanistan where the women have very few right if any.

As Melissa Firman writes in her review, "A Thousand Splendid Suns is that rare book that is both heartbreaking and uplifting. It is an emotional journey through decades and with women who may be worlds away, but who are similar to so many of us in so many ways."

Rating: 4 out of 5. Enjoyed it, not quite loved it. Recommend, even though I did prefer The Kite Runner and felt that A Thousand Splendid Suns didn't live up to the same expectations and quality. 

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Review: The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien

Hardcover, 233 pages
Published 1990 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Dates read: March 10-May 7, 2017

When I first started reading this book, I downloaded a copy on Amazon Kindle and read it on my phone, then because it was a small screen I couldn't handle it so listened to part of it as an audio book. That still didn't do it for me so I was able to get my hands on a hardcover book from the library! I prefer the physical copy for this book because it was so riveting and attention grabbing that I wanted more of it and the sooner the better (I tend to get through books faster reading the paperback/hardcover over Kindle or audio).

Through this compilation of award winning short stories, O'Brien recounts the experiences the members of Alpha Company: Jimmy Cross, Henry Dobbins, Rat Kiley, Mitchell Sanders, Norman Bowker, Kiowa, and of course, O'Brien. First published in 1990, The Things They Carried has become an American classic and testament to the trials and tribulations the men endured during the Vietnam war.

Some stories made me sit in disbelief, while others made me cry, and most broke my heart that these young men experienced such horrors only to come home to a country full of hate and anger towards them. The first short story (chapter), aptly titled the same as the book, contained many quotes that made my heart ache, such as "They carried all they could bear, and then some, including a silent awe for the terrible power of the things they carried." Then later in the same chapter, this quote summed up the entirety of the book for me before it was even finished, "They shared the weight of memory. They took up what others could no longer bear. Often, they carried each other, the wounded or weak."

Although there were many scenes full of intense gory violence, there are plenty more that are funny, humane, and relatable. Even decades after the war, O'Brien still carries things with him (hence the title), something that many people don't understand unless they went through it too. It's evidenced through the few times he shares that his daughter makes comments about why he lingers on the past. It's clear that he is bothered by her comments but doesn't know how to explain it to her or if he even wants to or can.

As Writer's Relief wrote in their review on Goodreads, "There are moments in the book when you wonder if what he remembers actually happened or if he’s rewriting his memories as a coping mechanism. His vivid storytelling abilities will have you suffering alongside the soldiers; so much so that, when you finish the book, you also carry a bit of the burden of war."

While reading these stories I couldn't help but wonder if he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and/or whether or not he is getting help. It's something that he didn't touch on, nor would I have expected him to address in this book given the purpose of the stories being more about sharing his stories than about the follow-up care. After reading the descriptions of his other books on Goodreads, it doesn't seem like he addresses PTSD directly head on - it's definitely addressed at least indirectly through showing the aftermath of coming home from a war.

Rating: 4 out of 5 - Enjoyed it, not quite loved it because while it gave some insight into his experience, I didn't like the disconnectedness of a compilation of short stories. At the same time, I think the format was necessary because his memories and the events were disconnected.

Highly Recommend.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

May Wrap-Up and June Forecast

I lost momentum and motivation to blog after I participated in RESOLVE's Blogger Challenge as part of National Infertility Awareness Week last month. It was a combination of nicer weather so I'm outside more, and the fact that I needed a break from blogging because I started to suffer from burnout. Infertility is such a tough subject already, and then blogging about it took a lot of emotionally energy. Although sharing my story was a relief and big weight off my shoulders, it was still emotionally draining writing all of those posts and worrying about having my story out there in the public Internet world.

That said, I wanted to share a recap of what has happened this month.

Posts for Books Read in May

  1. Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance (audiobook, memoir) - 5 out of 5 rating
  2. Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult (audiobook, fiction) - 4 out of 5 rating
  3. The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien - review to come!

Posts for Books Read Before May

  1. Soup of the Day: 150 Delicious and Comforting Recipes from Our Favorite Restaurants by Ellen Brown (cookbook)  - no rating
  2. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (historical fiction) - 5 out of 5 rating
  3. The Paris Wife by Paula McLain (audiobook, fiction) - 5 out of 5 rating

Reading Challenge

I decided to commit to a new challenge for the year by joining the Audiobook Challenge 2017, which has different levels and lasts all year long. In May, I finished 2 audiobooks for a total of 5 so far in 2017, which means I completed the Newbie level. I am looking forward to listening to more audiobooks this year, in June especially with lots of road trips to get some listening in!

Top Five

  1. Favorite Book: Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult - not only is she one of my favorite authors, I really noticed and enjoyed how well developed the characters were on their own and in their relationships with each other.
  2. Least Favorite Book: None this month. I didn't read nearly as much as I had hoped so I have less of a pool to draw from. 
  3. Most Exciting Moment: getting a new phone so that I can do more with it, including downloading more audio-books to listen to and get closer to meeting the Audiobook Challenge.
  4. Least Exciting Moment: When I realized that I was losing my momentum and self-encouragement for blogging. I hit a slump and didn't know how to get out of it until earlier this week and noticed what other bloggers were posting at the end of the month and got the idea for this post. I've been able to learn something from this experience and still create something!
  5. Favorite Part of May: Seeing a few old friends I haven't seen much of in the last few years. Getting together and catching up with old friends is usually a good time for me and encouraging. 

June Forecast

I'm going to be driving or a passenger for about 42 hours this month so I hope to get a lot of reading and/or listening done! Since I'll be on vacation for a bit in June, I plan to get a lot of my posts written and posted or scheduled ahead of time. 
  1. The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck - currently reading
  2. Rokitasnky by Alice Darwin - currently reading
  3. Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon - currently reading
  4. Home Front by Kristin Hannah - currently reading
  5. Check-in about the Audiobook Challenge 2017
  6. Top 10 Favorite Jodi Picoult Books
  7. The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien - published June 6
  8. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
  9. The Underground Girls of Kabul by Jenny Nordberg
  10. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
  11. The Exile: An Outlander Graphic Novel by Diana Gabaldon
  12. The Diviners by Libba Bray
  13. Bag Balm & Duct Tape: Tales of a Vermont Doctor by Beach Conger, MD
  14. The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant
Which June post should I do first?

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Review: Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult

Leaving Time
by Jodi Picoult, author
Audiobook, Published October 14th 2014 by Random House Audio
Read by: Rebecca Lowman, Abigail Revasch, Käthe Mazur, Mark Deakins
Dates listened: April 16 - May 12, 2017

Jenna Metcalf is a 13-year-old girl searching for her mother who mysteriously disappeared after a tragic accident 10 years earlier. She can't imagine that her mother would intentionally leave her behind and feels the urge to find out why she left without saying goodbye or even taking her only daughter with her. She reads and re-reads her mother's journals to learn more about her and feel closer to the woman she barely remembers and longs to know and love in real-time.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Review: Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis By J.D. Vance

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis
By J.D. Vance (Author and Narrator)
Audiobook published June 2016 by HarperAudio

Narrated by J.D. Vance himself, I found this book refreshing to hear a personal account of growing up in Appalachia explaining his first hand experience that they have their own mentality.  There seems to be a general cultural consensus in this lower middle class that the rich people and corporations are to blame for their circumstances. Vance proceeds to explain throughout the rest of the book his own experiences growing up in the culture, from the parade of boyfriends his mother had masquerading as father figures to his older sister playing surrogate mother as a teenager to him when their mother wouldn't be able to function due to her addictions.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Review: The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

Paperback, 214 pages
Published: 2011 by Ballantine Books
Audiobook by Random House Audio

The Paris Wife is beautifully written by Paula McLain from the perspective of Ernest Hemingway's first wife, Hadley. I felt like I was right there in the story, which took place in a very different time period nearly 90 years ago. Coincidentally, I read A Farewell to Arms at the same time for book club and now want to read The Sun Also Rises even more.

McLain writes in such a way that can make the reader feel like they're the main character, or perhaps is her best friend or reading her diary. She is a pro at character development as I felt like I knew Hadley and Ernest Hemingway intimately and felt for both of them as they toiled through life together and the later years.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Reading Challenge: Audiobook Challenge 2017


Earlier this year, I participated in the March Take Control TBR Challenge with Caffeinated Book Reviewer, which was not very successful on my part. It was my first monthly reading challenge on my own as a blogger and not directly related to Goodreads and so I lost momentum. Then, today I came across the fifth annual Audiobook Challenge 2017 that Caffeinated Book Reviewer is co-hosting with Hot Listens. I've already listened to four audiobooks this year, and am on my fifth so I am already at the Newbie level and very close to Weekend Warrior status so I thought, hey why not join? The challenge started earlier this year and runs through December 31 to either find a new love for audios or outdo yourself by listening to more audiobooks this year than in 2016. There are two updates the hosts will be doing - one on June 30 and one on December 15, 2017, which is when I plan on doing a progress update of my own of which books I've listened to so far and which level I've reached for the challenge.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Review: The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Published 2003 by Riverhead Books
Paperback, 391 pages
Dates read: September 23 - December 25, 2015

Set primarily in a changing Afghanistan over the course of 30 years, The Kite Runner tells the story of an unlikely friendship, love, and family.

Amir, a Pashtun, is the son of a wealthy merchant, and never wants for anything other than the affection of his father, Baba. While Baba clearly and openly loves both boys, he often turns a critical eye on Amir, causing him to feel resentful, jealous, and live with a growing sense of uncertainty. His friendship with his family's servant, Hassan, is even more unusual as he is a Hazara. The boys grow up playing in the field across the street from the house, flying kites, and participating in a number of different boyhood games. But as Amir's desire to appease his father intensifies amid the country's tensions increasing across ethnic, religious, and political lines, their friendship is torn beyond repair when Amir's actions come between him and his friend in one of his greatest times of need. They barely speak, unless necessary, for some time until Hassan and his father move on to other opportunities, or perhaps it's away from Amir's heartbreaking choice, despite the lifelong friendship between Baba and Hassan's father.

Hosseini's debut novel is a powerful account of love, life, family, and the turmoils of an improbable friendship amidst difficult circumstances. Highly recommend.

Rating: 5 out of 5

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Cookbook Review: Soup of the Day: 150 Delicious and Comforting Recipes from Our Favorite Restaurants by Ellen Brown

After a week of posts about infertility, some comfort food is in order. Some of my favorite comfort foods are soups and chili, no matter the time of year and most especially when I'm sick. Not only are there so many options to choose from, soup is also easily freezable to save for a rainy day or that craving that randomly kicks in for no apparent reason.

Soup of the Day is a wonderful reference any time of the year when your soup craving kicks in, whether it's a hearty chicken soup when you're feeling under the weather or a light gazpacho to keep you cool in the summer.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Seven Books About Living with Infertility and Beyond

As a bibliophile, book reviewer, and now a self-outed MRKH Warrior, I am compelled to share with you a few books about infertility. I have not read all of these books, only started the first two about MRKH, both of which I have read multiple reviews and synopses. Those I have not read are about infertility in general and are accompanied by other reviewers accounts and/or descriptions.

Look for these today at your local bookstore because April 29 is Independent Bookstore Day. What if they don't have it, you ask. Answer: ask the owner to order you a copy and carry the book to help spread awareness about infertility. But what if they refuse, you say. Answer: Ask again. No? Not comfortable asking? Okay fine, these are also available on Amazon unless otherwise noted.

Friday, April 28, 2017

I or My Partner Just Received An Infertility Diagnosis. Now What?

Take a deep breath. Repeat after me: I Am Not Alone.

Say it again. I Am Not Alone.

But I feel so alone. So ashamed, so isolated, and so heartbroken. My/my partner's identity as a man or a woman is in crisis. I feel like nobody understands. Nobody is listening.

I know. We've all been there and still feel this way sometimes. Did you say we? Yes.

We're all over the place. Some of us are no longer in hiding, and we want to support those who still are, while still protecting your privacy.

Some of these resources are MRKH and women specific because that what I know. If you don't find what you're looking for here, you can use these ideas to seek them out.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

How Infertility Has Taught Me to Listen

Infertility is a blessing in disguise because it has taught me to listen. I know, it sounds crazy that infertility can be a blessing in disguise when it's an emotional struggle. It sounds even more crazy since the emotional affects are not visible to others, even to those in our inner circle, making it that much more of a struggle. Because it's not visible, it doesn't look like we have anything to be upset about and we occasionally get told that to our faces. This attitude towards our "invisible" struggle has taught me that it's not a good idea to judge a book by its cover so to speak, even though that is human nature. It's taught me that not everything is as it appears, and so I do my best to listen.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Celebrating National Poetry Month with Mud Season Review

Writing poetry has been my private outlet of mine for many years. It's been overshadowed on this blog by my book reviews and infertility posts, and that is something that will change eventually. Even though poetry has been so important to me over the years in coping with my infertility diagnosis, and really life in general, I have failed to bring attention to the fact that April is National Poetry Month. It is also known as NaPoWriMo online, and is sponsored by Poets.org.

Perhaps I have forgotten to share my love of poetry with you because my lust for this written form has been satisfied through being a Poetry Reader for the last eight months for the Mud Season Review. It is a literary journal that grew out of the Burlington Writers Workshop in Burlington, Vermont. Just last week we celebrated the publication of our 28th monthly online issue, and Volume 3 print issue. The Mud Season Review publishes fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and artwork, and accepts submissions through Submittable.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Things Your Infertile Friend Wishes You Knew

So your friend just told you she has some form of infertility. This is a moment in your friendship where it's time to listen to her and support her. She may or may not have told you specifics of her situation. It doesn't matter. What matters is that she told you because she trusts you. She may have also been so overwhelmed about telling you, for fear of your reaction, that she didn't think to tell you some of the things she wishes you knew all along, and hopes you will remember. Perhaps you were overwhelmed by the news to ask what you could do to be there for her as a friend.

This is where the list below may come in handy. While it's not comprehensive, it's a list of some things I wish my friends and family knew, and what my MRKH Sisters wish their networks knew. MRKH is a form of primary infertility I talked about in an earlier post that affects only women and mainly affects the reproductive system. In sum, according to Genetics Home Reference, "this condition causes the vagina and uterus to be underdeveloped or absent. Affected women usually do not have menstrual periods due to the absent uterus," though I'd like to point out that many still ovulate due to the presence of ovaries (we get the PMS without the period, yay! *sarcasm*)

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Listen to Understand (Infertility), Not to Reply

For several months I've been planning this idea in my head that I would write this well researched blog post about infertility to kick off my participation in RESOLVE's National Infertility Awareness Week. Infertility is an emotionally raw diagnosis. I realized that the research wasn't getting done because I just wasn't ready to dive deep into a topic that is so sensitive already without the added stress of research. I subconsciously realized that dealing with infertility and combing through tons of information and writing a well-researched blog post was too much for me to handle.

What I can handle is telling you my own infertility story and reasons behind participating in this year's National Infertility Awareness Week. And writing from the heart is less likely to make me cry. I hope. So grab your favorite beverage, maybe some tissues, snuggle up on the couch, and listen up because what I've written here to share with you is emotionally raw and important.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Review: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

At just under 20 hours, I think Gone Girl is the longest audio-book I've listened to, and the actors did an excellent job. One of the reasons I was drawn to reading (or listening to) Gone Girl is because I've always enjoyed when an author writes a story with each character's perspective. It gives readers insight into what each of them might be feeling and thinking. I also heard The Girl on the Train, which I read last year, dubbed as the "next Gone Girl" and since I thoroughly enjoyed listening to that book, I figured why not give Gone Girl a try?

Monday, April 17, 2017

April is National Poetry Month

Did you know that April is National Poetry Month? It was started in 1996 by the Academy of American Poets, and according to poets.org, "Over the years, it has become the largest literary celebration in the world with schools, publishers, libraries, booksellers, and poets celebrating poetry’s
vital place in our culture."

Although we are halfway through the month, there are still some things you can do to celebrate poetry!

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Review: The Rumor by Elin Hilderbrand

The Rumor by Elin Hilderbrand
Published by Blackstone Audio Inc.
OverDrive Listen audiobook narrated by Kathleen McInerney, Erin Bennett, and Rick Zieff
Duration: 10 hour 48 minutes
Released: June 16, 2015
Dates listened: Oct. 4-16, 2016

As the weather is starting to turn warmer, I am starting to think about my summer reading list and my thoughts turned to this one I listened to last fall when I was in denial that the weather was getting colder. This being my first novel by Elin Hilderbrand I got the sense that this is a cookie cutter plot line and an easy quick beach read. There wasn't much character development and the plot was a bit too predictable. That said, I could tell she has some kind of writing talent and I hope that her other novels are better.

Set in present day Nantucket, The Rumor follows scandalous news between best friends Madeline King and Grace Pancik whom seem to have picture perfect marriages with standing double dates on Sunday evenings. Their children and homes appear to be picturesque Nantucket beach town, described in such a way that made me want to jet down to the beach as soon as possible.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Review: Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness

Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness
2nd installment of the All Souls Trilogy
Paperback, 583 pages
Published May 28th 2013 by Penguin Books (first published July 10th 2012)
Dates read: January 10, 2015 - April 6, 2017

Shadow of Night took me over 2 years to read because I felt it was very slow moving to start despite picking up immediately after the cliffhanger ending of the first book, Discovery of Witches. Part of Libri Persona: The People of the Book, which names the characters in each part and who they are.
me wishes I stuck with it so I could remember more details, but part of me is okay with that because most of those details aren't necessary to still enjoy the book. I didn't find it as difficult to keep up with the details as I did in Discovery of Witches, perhaps due to the structure of the book being broken up into 6 parts, and also providing a section in the back called

Luckily, I took copious notes at the beginning so I could remember it enough to write a review eventually, and did read the majority recently enough to remember it well enough.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Results: Take Control TBR Challenge 2017

Well, the challenge didn't go nearly as well as I'd hoped. I only managed to finish 2 books in March, when my goal was to finish my currently reading pile of 7 books at the beginning of the month. My original post of the challenge was published on March 1st.

The books I planned to read or finish reading were:
  1. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah (completed March 4)
  2. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (completed March 4)
  3. Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness (since completed, but too late for the challenge)
  4. The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien (book club book that of course I didn't finish in time for the discussion)
  5. Rokitansky by Alice Darwin
  6. Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult
  7. Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Review: Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline
Published April 2, 2013 by Audible Audio
Narrated by Jessica Almasy and Suzanne Toren
Dates listened: March 26 - April 5, 2017

Kline’s Orphan Train is a “captivating story of two very different women who build an unexpected friendship: a 91-year-old woman with a hidden past as an orphan-train rider and the teenage girl whose own troubled adolescence leads her to seek answers to questions no one has ever thought to
ask,” as Goodreads describes.

Molly Ayer, a Penobscot Indian, feels like an outsider being raised by complete strangers as she has been in and out of foster care homes – her father died in a car crash and her mother is a drug addict in jail. She is just a few months of aging out of the foster care system and quite close to being kicked out of her current foster home. Just when she’s about to go to juvie for a seemingly minor offense, she opts to do a community service position helping an elderly woman - her only alternative to avoiding jail. Like any 17 year old, she thinks she couldn’t possibly have anything in common with a 91-year old. Little does she know that the service hours are only the beginning of the stories and lessons she’ll learn from Vivian and the keepsakes hidden away in trunks in the attic.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Review: Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

King Henry VIII
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
Published 2009 by Henry Holt and Co.
Hardcover, 532 pages
Dates read: September 20 - October 31, 2016

Published in 2009, Wolf Hall is the first installment of the Thomas Cromwell Trilogy by Hilary Mantel. It starts out in 1500 England with a brief history of Thomas Cromwell. Fast forward 20 years to a time when the country is on the brink of disaster if the king dies without a male heir. Henry VIII wants to annul his 20-year marriage and marry Anne Boleyn. Goodreads does a much better job at finishing the description, "the pope and most of Europe opposes him. Into this impasse steps Thomas Cromwell: a wholly original man, a charmer and a bully, both idealist and opportunist, astute in reading people, and implacable in his ambition. But Henry is volatile: one day tender, one day murderous. Cromwell helps him break the opposition, but what will be the price of his triumph?"

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Another Review of The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

The Nightingale
by Kristin Hannah
Published 2015 by St. Martin's Press
Hardcover, 440 pages
Dates read: January 1 - March 4, 2017

Because I enjoyed The Nightingale so much when I listened to it last summer, I recommended that my book club read it. We had a discussion about it in January, and I didn't feel the need to finish re-reading it by then because so much of the book had stuck with me and I wanted to take my time with it. The second time around, and this time actually reading it vs. listening to it, is just as amazing if not better. Perhaps I should say that the audio version does the written version justice.

Kristin Hannah does an amazing job telling the story of two young women, sisters, and what they've endured through WWII. So often we hear or read of the men who have gone away to war, but what of the women and children who were left behind? Hannah begins one of these tales by starting the story in 1995, when an elderly woman is packing up her things to move into a retirement home. We don't yet know who she is as she is going through the contents of an old trunk. As she comes across an old ID badge, she flashes back to 1939 Paris, France, just before her world is turned upside down by war.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Three Small Steps that Could Change the World

This post is related to: One Thing the World Needs More Of: Compassion. Both subjects started out as journal prompts, and I had an easy answer for both. Three words immediately popped into my head: education, compassion and tolerance. These three things are needed more than ever in the world today. These three "small" steps are more important than ever, and could easily change the world considering the amount of hate and crime in the world in recent years, and more recently with the backlash to President Trump's election in the U.S. and his subsequent inauguration and executive orders.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Review: A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

A Discovery of Witches
By Deborah Harkness
Published 2011 by Penguin Books
Paperback, 579 Pages
Dates read: June 15, 2014 - January 9, 2015

A Discovery of Witches is an annoying yet fun read that immediately got my attention when I learned that the protagonist, Diana Bishop is a professor of alchemical history at Yale. Even more intriguing is when she finds a bewitched manuscript in Oxford while doing research there for a year. Many different kinds of creatures show up throughout the story, proposing many different real and possible supernatural conflicts.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Take Control TBR Challenge 2017


As I mentioned in my 2017 Reading List post earlier this year, my goal this year is to read 55 books. I'm already 6 books behind schedule because 55 books translates to about 1 book a week! So, I have decided to participate in Caffeinated Book Reviewer's Fifth Annual March Take Control of your TBR Pile Challenge for some accountability. I'm competitive by nature so by having something an incentive, challenging and competitive will keep motivated.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

One Thing The World Needs More Of: Compassion

One word: Compassion. In the dictionary, it's a noun defined as "sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others."

Forget hate, anger, fear, and anti-whatever. Remember to have some compassion for your fellow humans, your neighbors, strangers, and your loved ones.

In this current day and age, we need more compassion for ourselves, for each other and especially for those who are less fortunate than us.

With compassion, comes so many other things too, like empathy and understanding. Many times the urge to help others is strong with the people who are compassionate, empathetic, and understanding. They are often synonymous, turning compassion into a verb because it drives people to act. 

When I Google'd compassion for the definition, I also found that there is an organization called Compassion International, which is a Christian humanitarian aid organization dedicated to the long term development of children living in poverty around the world through sponsoring opportunities. I'd have to do some research on it before forming an opinion, but it's a great example shown just in their name, short mission statement, and actions that they have compassion for children living in poverty. They have created opportunities for the children by creating the opportunity for other compassionate people to help them who may not otherwise know how to help. 

Compassion drives out fear and misunderstandings because it shows that the people who are compassionate are also educated, selfless, and will do what they can to help others. We need more people with compassion in this world to drive out the fear, to educate others to drive out the hate, and to be pioneers and lead by example. And then, hopefully one day, sooner rather than later, we'll finally see more peace, love, and harmony in our world.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Survivor Love Letter

Dear Survivor of Sexual Abuse,

This Valentine's Day and every day, celebrate that you or a loved one, are a survivor of sexual abuse. Remind yourself that what happened is not your fault. You are better than what happened. You are loved. You are beautiful. You are enough. You are a survivor. You are a warrior. You are still here, still alive, still fighting for yourself and that makes you strong and worthy of everything good in this world. I hope you realize that it is okay to not be okay, and just as important to not stay there in those shitty moments. Keep making the choice to get back up and battle against your inner demons.

Make today the day you take a step towards healing. Try to answer the question, what does self-care mean to you? An article on Bustle speaks about Tani Ikeda's version of self-care that included writing her own Survivor Love Letter in 2015. She later created the #SurvivorLoveLetter hashtag on social media on Valentine's Day 2016, "to empower survivors of sexual violence." Simply search #SurvivorLoveLetter on any given social media site, and you'll see that it has taken the sites by love storm again today on the third anniversary. I hope that reading those messages on social media shows you that don't have to get through this alone. The world loves you, and knows that you are enough. Together we will prove that victim blaming is wrong.

If you feel up to it, I recommend reading a personal account of sexual abuse called Invisible Target: Breaking the Cycle of Educator Abuse by Andrea Clemens. She is a survivor of sexual abuse at the hands of a then-admired teacher and wrote this book to tell her story as part of her healing process and in the hopes of helping others with similar experiences.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

What I've Learned So Far About My 2017 Goals

January 2017 has come and gone so quickly that in reflection, I notice that I kept up only a little bit with posting and even less with reading. Since reading books is a large contributor to content for this blog, I better get right on it now shouldn't I?

In reflection, I did spend quite a bit of time networking with other bloggers, researching how to market my blog, on social media management, creating a Facebook page, researching domain hosts and content management systems, and ways to track my ideas and scheduling content.

Photo Credit: Shawn Campbell
I also realized that in creating a goal of reading 55 books this year, I hadn't really thought it through enough to realize that would mean reading 4.5 books a month, or a book a week. Which means every time I log-in to Goodreads, the 2017 Reading Challenge app glares at me with how many books I'm behind schedule. At the moment, it's a measly 3 so it's manageable. But still so overwhelming considering I just barely surpassed my goal of 30 last year.

What have I learned so far? Nothing is set in stone. It's okay to not have accomplished something in the set time frame. I realize now that 2017 is already full of lessons and has more to teach me in the world of blogging. I haven't even set a schedule yet and I already know that something I might want to post one day may not work because of external factors, planned or unanticipated.

That said, I think my best bet is to schedule something with pencil and paper so it's easily changeable. Or in an editable document if I ever get comfortable to be that technologically advanced with my scheduling.

One thing is for sure, be on the lookout in the near future for a post about The Nightingale by Krisin Hannah from my book club's January discussion, and one about Invisible Target: Breaking the Cycle of Educator Abuse by Andrea Clemens for our discussion later this month.

Do you have any suggestions on what I should read next? Check out my 2017 Books to Read post to pick and let me know your suggestion in the comments below.
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Monday, January 30, 2017

Poem: A Bucket List Consists of Peace & Happiness

create your own happiness
love yourself first
go to bed early
get up early
wake up with a smile

exercise
drink water
treat your body like a temple
you are its god
worship yourself

be modest
treat others the way you want to be treated
give respect to get respect
give love to receive love
read. write. educate yourself.

be kind.
create a bucket list.
complete your bucket list -
before you kick the bucket
travel

be happy alone
learn to live alone happily
be honest, yet tactful
be the person you needed when you were younger
understand that it's okay to not be okay

you are stronger than you realize
breathe deep
indulge yourself
find a healthy stress reliever
don't rely too heavily on any one person or thing

meditate
find balance
you're going to be okay -
because you already are

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

In The News

I have tried to keep politics to a minimum on my social media accounts, particularly Facebook, because of the heated "debates" that can ensue. That said, I can't keep quiet anymore about these important issues. If you don't like or agree with what I'm posting, please say something maturely and respectfully, or simply scroll on by.

Just in the last FIVE DAYS, in addition to the obvious inauguration and Women's March on Washington, we've heard in no particular order that:

1. Congress has devalued public lands, which means they're transferring ownership to states making it easier for public lands (i.e. National Forests, wildlife refuges, etc.) to be developed. More info at Business Insider, http://read.bi/2knIQit

2. The "Personhood" bill is being pushed through Congress, which essentially makes abortion illegal in addition to "many forms of contraception, in vitro fertilization, and health care for pregnant people." This is a new version of a bill that has failed to pass every time it's been pushed through the system in the last 20 years (kindly correct me on the timeline if i'm wrong). Call your congressman/woman and state reps to let them know it should never pass!! More info at Rewire (http://bit.ly/2jvgyyD) and Romper (http://bit.ly/2jPzmtg).

3. Trump's administration has essentially ordered a media blackout of the EPA and USDA. Of all the organizations that should be transparent, they are at the top of the list for obvious reasons. Sources: pretty much anywhere you look. It's all over the news, which is ironic.
These 3 things alone (and nowhere near a comprehensive list) are more than a little overwhelming and scary to say the least.

Then of course there are the executive orders on the ACA (aka Obamacare), and infrastructure projects (ahem, the Dakota Access pipeline and Keystone XL pipeline among others). And more to come!

I for one am not happy about any of these situations and will be doing more research on how I can be more active. As a fellow American citizen, I ask that you do the same!

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Review: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Great Gatsby
By F. Scott Fitzgerald
Audible Audio version
Dates read: January 1 - 8, 2017

Jake Gyllenhaal did a great job narrating this book, one that I personally would've had difficultly following and enjoying if I had chosen to read rather than listen to on Audible. Having just read A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway, I felt inspired to stick to the time period and read/listen to another classic written by one of his contemporaries.

I wonder if I didn't really get into the story because it was written from the perspective of a character, Nick Carraway, who didn't really understand the situation himself? Maybe that's the point? I mean, he's a young guy from the Midwest who moves to West Egg, NY, fresh out of college and looking to make a name for himself in the bond business. I mean, talk about culture shock, right?

Carraway becomes Gatsby's neighbor, trusted friend, and attends many of his lavish parties during the roaring 20's. He's witness to the love triangle between Gatsy, Daisy - his distant cousin, and her husband Tom who also has a girl in New York. A story that captured the 1922 Prohibition era lifestyle, The Great Gatsby became one of the greatest classics of twentieth-century American literature.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Review: Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

Photo Credit: Walter Lim
Eat, Pray, Love
By Elizabeth Gilbert
Published January 30th 2007 by Riverhead Books
Paperback, 400 pages

This has to be the first book that I read after the movie that I still enjoyed after seeing the movie. I mean that I am NOT disappointed that I saw the movie first. I saw the movie in theaters in 2010 with about 10 female relatives, some of whom had read the book beforehand and some hadn't. We all came away feeling inspired in one way or another. I vividly remember wanting to rush out and get a copy of the book - a feeling I had never felt before after seeing a movie. Normally the film adaptation doesn't inspire me like that.

I finished listening to this book while on a road trip and I wanted to continue the road trip for another year. My destination doesn't necessarily matter, although I would love to go to Italy and South America. I have a lot of respect and appreciation for someone who can pick up and leave for a year and travel with no or little support from friends and family.

I think I related to this story so much because of the phrase in the description, "In her early thirties, Elizabeth Gilbert had everything a modern American woman was supposed to want—husband, country home, successful career—but instead of feeling happy and fulfilled, she was consumed by panic and confusion." I am single, living in the country, and by my own standards have a moderately successful career and am filled with panic and confusion over not having what I am "supposed to have." I tell myself I'm happy, but am I really happy because I don't have what society tells me I'm supposed to have at this point in my life? Reading/listening to Gilbert's account of her journey to rediscover and explore herself for a year gave me the motivation I needed to do the same for me in my own way. I love her style of writing because she's telling a story as if to a friend yet she's writing for herself and readers, especially women, can relate to what she has to say.

This has to be the first book that I read after the movie that I still enjoyed after seeing the movie. I mean that I am NOT disappointed that I saw the movie first. I saw the movie in theaters in 2010 with about 10 female relatives, some of whom had read the book beforehand and some hadn't. We all came away feeling inspired in one way or another. I vividly remember wanting to rush out and get a copy of the book - a feeling I had never felt before after seeing a movie. Normally the film adaptation doesn't inspire me like that.

I finished listening to this book while on a road trip and I wanted to continue the road trip for another year. My destination doesn't necessarily matter, although I would love to go to Italy and South America. I have a lot of respect and appreciation for someone who can pick up and leave for a year and travel with no or little support from friends and family.

I think I related to this story so much because of the phrase in the description, "In her early thirties, Elizabeth Gilbert had everything a modern American woman was supposed to want—husband, country home, successful career—but instead of feeling happy and fulfilled, she was consumed by panic and confusion." I am single, living in the country, and by my own standards have a moderately successful career and am filled with panic and confusion over not having what I am "supposed to have." I tell myself I'm happy, but am I really happy because I don't have what society tells me I'm supposed to have at this point in my life? Reading/listening to Gilbert's account of her journey to rediscover and explore herself for a year gave me the motivation I needed to do the same for me in my own way. I love her style of writing because she's telling a story as if to a friend yet she's writing for herself and readers, especially women, can relate to what she has to say.

I recommend this to anyone who is ready to do some self-discovery, travel the world, and is not happy about having what they're supposed to have and is panicked and confused by that unhappiness. Recommendations will also go to my book club.

Rating: 5 out of 5

Thursday, January 5, 2017

A Poem About Excuses

A poem I wrote using the single word "excuses" prompt  for a holiday dinner with the Burlington Writer's Workshop Middlebury Chapter.

Excuses.
Excuses?
What? I don't get it.
I'm too tired.

Excuses.
Nah. I've got other things to do.
I'll do it later.

Excuses.
It's later. Shit. I wanna read.
Now I'm tired. I'm going to bed.

Excuses.
I'll work on it in the morning...
Or maybe on my lunch break.

Excuses.
I thought of some good lines in the shower. Now I don't remember what they were.

Excuses.
Damn it. More good lines in the car driving to work.

Excuses.
I ate too much. I can't move.

Excuses.
Now I know there was something I was supposed to do. If only I could remember what it was...

Excuses.
I'll just wing it.

Excuses.
I don't want to. Not anymore. I have no inspiration to write about excuses...

Excuses.
I don't understand the point.  What is it again?

Excuses.
I don't have easy access to anything to write with.

Excuses.
I was born 2 weeks past my due date so because I came into the world late, I am inherently late to everything.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Review: A Farewell To Arms by Ernest Hemingway

Farewell To Arms Farewell To Arms by Ernest Hemingway
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Published 2004 by Arrow Books (first published 1929)
Read: Nov. 4 - Dec. 18, 2016

As much as I enjoy books set in wartime, I had a difficult time getting into A Farewell to Arms. I attribute that to Hemingway's style, which is a lot more simple and conversational than I am accustomed to reading. When I started listening to an audio version, I couldn't get enough of it though I think that is because of his simplistic/conversational style. In written form, it is difficult to follow along, keep track of who is speaking during conversations, and remember the point of many of his run-on sentences.

And besides style, the story itself didn't reel me in; reference not intended towards Hemingway's love of fly fishing. I didn't care enough about the self-absorbed, unfeeling protagonist of Lieutenant Frederic Henry, let alone his girlfriend (Catherine Barkley) who didn't seem to have the ability to form an opinion on her own. When a male author has any sort of dislike for women, or obvious hate for them in this instance, it's obvious in their writing because of how they portray their female characters. The points I felt like I was physically there in the story were when Lt. Henry was with his unit, not when he was with Catherine. The other men in his unit actually had some substance to them, unlike Catherine. My opinion of both Henry and Barkley were most likely biased by my reading of The Paris Wife by Paula McLain just before reading A Farewell to Arms. The Paris Wife is a fictionalized story of Hemingway's marriage to his first wife, Hadley Richardson, from her perspective - review to come in a different post.

Readers will be left wondering how much of the story was based on truth and what Hemingway experienced during and after WWI.

View all my reviews

Sunday, January 1, 2017

2017 Reading List Challenge

This year I plan to do a lot of reading to keep up with my love of reading, blogging, and getting out of debt. The logic behind picking these books is to read some things that will help me in different ways, such as getting out of debt and career advice, and also to clear off my bookshelf. There are a handful of books on this list that I got in swaps with my book club and have been collecting dust. If I don't like them, then I'll gift them to a new and better home.

To start, I have hyperlinked the book titles to the Goodreads description and will update the links to my reviews when they are moved to the Read list. The section for Book Club Books will remain as such, and you can assume that if the month has passed the link will be updated to the blog post.

Read

  1. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  2. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
  3. Invisible Target: Breaking the Cycle of Education Abuse by Andrea Clemens (February book, post pending)
  4. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah (January book)
  5. Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness
  6. Orphan Train by Christina Baker Klein (April book)
  7. The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien
  8. Hillbilly Elegy: a Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance (May book)
  9. Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult
  10. Home Front by Kristin Hannah (not originally planned to read this year)

Currently Reading

  1. Rokitansky by Alice Darwin
  2. Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon
  3. The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck (bookclub for June)

To-Read

Alphabetical order by author last name
  1. Quitter by Jon Alculf
  2. Rhinoceros Success by Scott Alexander
  3. The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
  4. Dodgers by Bill Beverly
  5. The Art of Waiting by Belle Boggs
  6. The Guest Room by Chris Bohjalian
  7. The Dharma of Star Wars by Matthew Bortolin
  8. Alec: How to be an Artist by Eddie Campbell
  9. Deadly Heat by Richard Castle
  10. Raging Heat by Richard Castle
  11. The Perks of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
  12. The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy
  13. Sweetness #9 by Stephan Erik Clark
  14. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
  15. Love Your Life Not Theirs by Rachel Cruze
  16. The Legend of the Monk and the Merchant by Terry Felber
  17. A Time to Kill by John Grisham
  18. Silence by Thich Nhat Hanh
  19. The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness
  20. Catch 22 by Joseph Heller
  21. The Castaways by Elin Hilderbrand
  22. Silver Girl by Elin Hilderbrand
  23. Summerland by Elin Hilderbrand
  24. A Summer Affair by Elin Hilderbrand
  25. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
  26. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
  27. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson
  28. The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson
  29. Travel Writing: Expert Advice from the World's Leading Travel Publisher by Lonely Planet
  30. Wicked by Gregory Maguire
  31. Son of A Witch by Gregory Maguire
  32. Under The Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes
  33. The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears by Dinaw Mengestu
  34. Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult
  35. Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult
  36. Six Characters in Search of an Author and Other Plays by Luigi Pirandello
  37. Dave Ramsey's Complete Guide to Money: The Handbook of Financial Peace University by Dave Ramsey
  38. The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness (Classic Edition) by Dave Ramsey
  39. EntreLeadership by Dave Ramsey
  40. Learning Curves by Gemma Townley
  41. Last Night I Dreamed of Peace by Dang Thuy Tram

Vermont Books 'n' Brews Book Club Books

I will add to this list as we decide each month's books, and the links are to Goodreads descriptions unless otherwise noted.


January
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah - audio-book review, August 2016.
Another Review of The Nightingale - March 2017 review

February
Invisible Target: Breaking the Cycle of Education Abuse by Andrea Clemens (read, post pending)

March
The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien

April

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Klein

May
Hillbilly Elegy: a Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance

June
The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
*I can't wait to read The Good Earth again! This is one of my favorites from my teenage years.

July -
August -
September -
October -
November -
December - we don't read for book club in December because it's so hectic with holiday festivities.

If I get to them

The Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldon
1. Outlander (completed April 3, 2016 - post pending)
2. Dragonfly in Amber (currently reading)
3. Voyager
4. Drums of Autumn
5. The Fiery Cross
6. A Breath of Snow and Ashes
7. An Echo in The Bone
8. Written in My Own Heart's Blood
9. Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone (not yet published)


In Conclusion

In all, my goal is to finish reading 55 books by the end of 2017. This list shows more than that, and that's okay! It gives me some flexibility. With your encouragement and involvement in my blog posts, I'm sure I can complete it! Thanks for reading.