Friday, July 28, 2017

Reading People Review

You all should know by now how much I love reading nonfiction books. I haven't reviewed one on the blog in a while, but I am a personal development/self help junkie. I am a better person when I have one of these books going, which is why I'm usually reading a nonfiction all the time along with a fiction. I have zero problems mixing up the plots!! But I have a new one for you that I'm so excited to share!!

I believe I have mentioned Anne Bogel on the blog before. She writes the blog Modern Mrs. Darcy and is the woman behind the What Should I Read Next Podcast. Her blog is honestly what I aspire's the site I sent my sister to when I wanted to illustrate what my goal was for my blog. She's the reason why I bought my first pair of Tieks. I'm a fan.

When she posted that she had a nonfiction book coming out in September, and was looking for readers to be on her launch team, I jumped at the chance to apply...and literally jumped out of my seat and did the happy dance when I found out I was picked!! I honestly didn't have a clue what the book was about, but knew that if she wrote it I needed to read it as soon as possible. So, as part of the launch team I was sent the e-book, and will later get a hard copy. (Thank you thank you thank you Anne!!!)

So, the beautiful book that has me so excited and already using tons of exclamation points like an amateur writer, is called Reading People. What Anne has done is taken a myriad of personality frameworks and put them all into one easily digestible book that reads like a good chat with a girlfriend. The conversational tone and her easy demeanor translates so well into this book that it makes even the most confusing of topics (cognitive functions anyone?!?) easy to understand.

If you've ever clicked on one of those quizzes shared on Facebook that claims to tell you how your 10 favorite GoT or Disney characters can enlighten you about your inner personality...this book is for you. If you've ever been curious what exactly that Myers-Briggs test you took had to do with ANYTHING...this book is for you. If you're a fan of Gretchen Rubin and her Four Tendencies Framework...this book is for you. Or if you're just interested in delving a bit into the inner workings of yourself and how/why you tick the way you do...this book is for you.

I unashamedly can't pass up a FB quiz...and have always been curious of why I am the spazz that I am. So I devoured this book, and it left me begging for more (and texting my sister to discuss it, which is a sure sign I LOVED a nonfiction book!). Some of the tests discussed in the book I was already familiar with, but the way Anne describes them and the different types of people was just new enough to keep me highlighting like a mad woman.

There is a chapter on: Introverts and Extroverts, (10 points if you can figure out which one I am!) Highly Sensitive People (of which I am not, but it helped me understand friends who are), Love Languages (I am words of affirmation and my husband is acts of service), Keirsey's Temperaments, Strengths Finder 2.0, The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (ENFP here!), MBTI Cognitive Functions, and The Enneagram (Type 4 here). Plus insight galore.

I think one of the best things I can say for this book is that when I finished it, I immediately went on a quest to learn even more. She packs a lot of information into this book, but there's no way she can give you everything you ever wanted to know about all of these frameworks. But she does a great job of giving descriptions that really speak to you, and that make it easy to pick yourself out of the crowd. So, for me what it did was give me a topic to research for a little while...and I learned from her book that I'm a woman who LOVES to research! 😁

So this book gets 5 stars from me. It's one I will pick up and read again. I've already copied some notes into my journal. I purchased a book on the ENFP personality type so I can learn a bit more about that...and another one about my Enneagram type. I did the Strengths Finder 2.0 quiz so I could do a little focusing on my strengths instead of weaknesses for a change. This book has me fired up!!

Reading People comes out on September the 19th, but if you pre-order from her website there are a few little perks waiting for you!! And I'd love to hear in the comments here or over on my Facebook page, if you've taken any of these personality tests before and what your results were...and if you found them to be true to type?!?

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Hello, Sunshine Review

Not the sunniest of days for me as I've been sick, but wanted to quick get out this review before y'all thought I'd dropped off the face of the earth. My daughter was home for a few weeks, and the hubby had taken off work my computer time had been a bit limited. But I have some really exciting reads to talk about in the upcoming weeks, so don't give up on me yet. (I have said that a lot lately haven't I?!?)

I have obviously been super lucky with my summer reads from Netgalley because I have another good one for you today called Hello, Sunshine by Laura Dave. I definitely picked this book for it's cover...and was so happy that it didn't turn out to be a dud!!

Sunshine Mackenzie had it all. A wonderful husband, a great apartment, a cooking show that was about to jump from YouTube to The Food Network, best-selling cookbooks and legions of adoring fans. But when a hacker reveals that it's all a sham, Sunshine loses everything and is forced to return back home to the only family she has left...a sister who wants nothing to do with her, and a niece who only knows her from the checks she sends on her birthday. Can she come to terms with the fraud she's become?? And what does she want for the future??

I loved this book. I think it's a great summer or vacation read...not too deep, addictively paced and full of a lot of nonsense that is so far removed from my life that just reading it felt like a vacation!

The idea that someone could basically curate a personality for a food show, coming up with a person's backstory and everything...and put someone in front of a camera just feeding bullshit to viewers (she can barely cook)...makes me think a little more about the people on YouTube and Food Network! And I say that as someone who has spent way more time than I'd care to admit watching Beauty Guru's vlog and Food chicks make dishes on YouTube. And the lying!! This book really is another light-hearted read that masks some serious social commentary (just like Fitness Junkie!!).

Sunshine tells you from the beginning that she's not a nice person and has done some horrible things...and she's right. Yet, I liked her character in a way. And the budding relationship with her clearly gifted six-year old niece was really great. I was a bit shocked by a revelation towards the end of the book, and wanted everyone to be more angry than they were...but it didn't take anything away from my enjoyment.

And I really loved Laura Dave's writing style. I'm going to have to take a look at what other books she's written because I knew within the first few paragraphs that this book was going to be a hit for me...and that is pure writing finesse. Something about her style just clicked with me. It was smart and sassy but didn't go too far into the cleverness. Occasionally it feels like writers are trying too hard to show you how clever they are, and their sarcasm comes off as too biting. This book didn't go there...for me it was just right. (If I felt better I would throw in a Goldilocks analogy in here, but I don't have the energy!)

So, if you're looking for another good contemporary clever beach read, that's just the right amount of chick-lit...pick this one up. Just looking at the cover will automatically make your day brighter!!

Thanks again to Netgalley and the author for sending it my way!! Let me know in the comments here or over on my Facebook page what you've been reading so far this summer.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Fitness Junkie Review

Seems like a fitting time to write the review for the astoundingly clever new book Fitness Junkie by Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza which was given to me by Netgalley. I have started back up my epic quest to get my body slim and trim again. The recent move had caused a bit of a minor derailment. This round of my weight saga began in May when the hubby came back, and took a big hit when we were staying in hotels and eating out virtually every night. So it's good to be getting back on track...although I can barely move after my 5 1/2 mile walk this morning. What barely caused my husband to break a sweat virtually destroyed me. Both me and the dog looked at the stairs up to my front door with abject horror...and both flung ourselves on the kitchen floor by the water bowl for at least 30 minutes upon making it up those stairs. But it was a start. Wish me luck!!

But back to the book...

Fitness Junkie is such a bombastic look at our culture's obsession with weight, and the laser focused and sometimes dangerous lengths people, mainly women, will go to be skinny. And now that skinny has to be obtained by some Zen means also, no matter how outlandish. This novel is filled with all that and then some, combined with biting wit and cunning humor. 

Janey Sweet is the CEO of an extremely successful company that sells uber posh wedding dresses that only come in size 6 and under. Her business partner and the creative designer of the company Beau, has been a fixture in her life since childhood. So when he sits her down over a breakfast that he doesn't eat to tell her that he's removing her from the company because she dared to eat a Bruffin (combination brioche and muffin) while sitting in the front row of a fashion show, and that she can't return unless she's lost at least 30 pounds, she is devastated. How is the company going to run without her, especially when she's the one who handles everything?? But more importantly, how is she going to lose all of that weight (and more importantly, DOES she need to lose it)??

This book takes a jab at so many facets of the fitness world, it's hard to know where to start when describing it! We have women eating clay instead of food, fitness instructors being paid to cuss out the people in their classes, drinking broccoli-infused water, taking free the nipple yoga classes...the more absurd the better. It also has something to say about those fitness gurus whose followers will do absolutely anything they tell them to do, no matter how ludicrous. I can't decide if it's funnier because it's so true to life, or whether that makes it a little more sad. At this reading I'm choosing funny. Maybe if I was in a different frame of mind while reading I would've felt different.

Janey goes through a terrific evolution in the book that we can all stand behind...and I really enjoyed reading about it. I'm giving this one 4 stars on Goodreads. I was happy that they never say how much Janey weighs, or how much her equally size-obsessed friends weigh. I think that would've taken me out of it some, and only because of my own weight issues. But this is a great summer read really. It's not too heavy, although it says a lot about society now. And it's written by two authors with a little insight into the world they are writing about, which makes one think there's probably more than a couple nuggets of truth in the novel somewhere.

So, make a few yummy cocktails and sit in a lounge chair with this one. And for the record, no matter how much weight I want gone I will never eat clay, or pay for a fitness instructor to yell at me and call me a bitch while I spin.

Huge thanks again to Netgalley for sending this one my way!!

Monday, July 10, 2017

Reader Spotlight: Kris Anglin Barney

This, my second Reader Spotlight, is both heart-breaking and inspiring...and is one I have had in the works for quite some time. This lady is actually the impetus for doing a spotlight on the blog, if I'm being truly honest with you. But it's one that I wanted to make sure I did right...I couldn't half-ass it in any way. Her story deserves far more than that, so the writing and publishing of it has been a long time in the making. 

I met Kris Barney when she moved across the street from me. An impeccably dressed, sassy lady from Louisiana...I knew I wanted to be her friend from the first day we properly met. That basically translates to me acting like a comedic jackass in the hopes of wooing her to hang out. Once I'd got to know her a bit, I learned of her story...and I witnessed her decision to yet again use her pain and resiliency to help other people...and I found it truly inspiring. Hopefully this Reader Spotlight will reach out to someone who needs to hear it. 

So meet my friend Kris, one of the strongest women I know.

(warning: this post is long and does contain violence but it's for a good reason)

T&T: Hello Kris!! Why don't you tell us a little about yourself? 

Kris: Ok! My name is Kris Anglin Barney and I grew up in Shreveport, Louisiana. I am a military wife and mom and have traveled the world for the  past 18 yrs with my husband and children. I am a Domestic Violence advocate and resiliency speaker and I like to travel around telling my own story of DV and how I survived and how I am a continuous work in progress trying to heal after my 3 yr old daughter Miranda was murdered by my ex-husband and her father back in 1999. At the same time, another woman, Michelle Riley, was also murdered by Charles Salley. She was the mother of 2 young daughters at the time. I have made it my life's mission to be not only the voice for Miranda and Michelle, but for all women who may be suffering from abusive relationships who may be too afraid to leave. I want to to be the lighthouse in their ocean of abuse and let the victims know that they too, can and will survive.

T&T: You lived through such a horrifying ordeal that deeply impacted your life and it's purpose. Would you care to share your story with us? 

Kris: It is a long story, and I know it is not easy to sit through and I know it's uncomfortable. I am going to share with you a personal tragedy that changed my life forever and the lives of my family and everyone we knew. I want to warn you that this is not a pleasant story to tell but I tell it in hopes of helping someone else find their way through this life no matter how crazy or hard it may be. 

Back in 1996 I was in the process of leaving a very unhealthy relationship. I was divorcing my husband for mental abuse, threatening behavior and cheating. I was in fear for my life and the life of our 3 year old daughter Miranda so much so, that I had to obtain a restraining order after telling him to leave the house. His name was Charles Salley. And he was a Bossier City firefighter/paramedic in Bossier City Louisiana.

From the moment I asked Charles to leave our home, he began harassing me constantly. First it began with phone calls every day, all hours of the day and night. He made it his life’s mission to stalk me even using the Bossier City ambulance he was driving to follow me. He would call me early in the morning and give me a blow by blow of what I had done the night before. Who I was with and where I went. 

It became so exhausting and so scary that I decided to press charges to have him arrested for stalking and for violating the protective order. I had to document every single thing that happened from the ungodly amount of phone calls to the time we exchanged Miranda and every conversation and every unexpected visit. 

In the meantime we were fighting over custody. I wanted supervised visitation for our daughter and he wanted full custody. It was nasty and terrifying. I was terrified for her life and mine and I could not convince a judge that Charles was DANGEROUS. He would take her and not return her at the designated time. He would have her and then he would call me and say he was going to kill her and then himself. 

After many months of this and after documenting everything and after nearly losing my job,  I finally had enough evidence to have Charles arrested for stalking. After months and months of calling the police, after pleading with his boss to please talk to him and hold him accountable, and after trying for months to get his parents to talk to him, he was finally in jail and he was going to realize I was not going to take anymore of his harassment. 

Within an hour of being arrested, he posted bail and was outside my house sitting in his truck watching. Again…another pat on the back and sent on his way. NO ONE listened to me, no one in authority would listen. NO ONE would believe that this man was dangerous. You see…with Charles being a member of the Bossier Parish fire dept. he got special treatment. He was a member of “the brotherhood”. He was free as a bird to do anything he wanted and to terrorize at will. He used the uniform and the ambulance to inflict a fear like you’ve never known and they allowed it. I thought the torture would never stop, I was always on high alert, he was always stalking, threatening and lurking outside my home and my backyard. He was EVERYWHERE!

It wasn’t until he met someone else that the torment somewhat subsided. I too, had met someone and was trying to live a normal life. Things became quiet and for the first time in a year I thought we had finally made it to a point where we were able to get along. He turned his attention to a new woman and I was in the process of remarrying. I am not going to lie, I was so relieved he was leaving me alone. He had moved on to another victim. Her name was Michelle. She was a respiratory therapist at one of the hospitals in Bossier City and the mother of 2 teenage daughters. 

After about 6 months, their relationship started to deteriorate. Later I found out that she too became afraid of Charles but was too afraid to cross him. She was too afraid of what he might do. He had become possessive, delusional and overall too controlling and she felt bullied into doing things she was not comfortable with. Michelle contacted his parole officer, he was put on paid leave and encouraged to see a doctor. After she contacted his parole officer, he was furious, his behavior once again became erratic and increasingly unpredictable. He threatened to kill her and then himself. 

During the time this was all happening I had been working for the Caddo Parish Tax Assessor’s office and I had finally gained my Deputy Assessors certification. I had recently gotten married to my husband, Jeff and we were headed to New Orleans for my pinning ceremony. New Orleans is about 6 hours south of Shreveport. Since Charles had joint custody, I was forced by the judge to leave Miranda in his care until my return 4 days later. It was gut wrenching having to turn around and leave her and it turned out to be the biggest mistake of my entire life. 

On a cold Tuesday evening, January 12, 1999 Charles picked Miranda up from daycare and drove to the hospital where Michelle worked. Michelle was in a staff meeting with a bunch of her co workers and was due to leave the building at 5pm. Charles pulled into the parking lot but parked his vehicle on the other side of the building so as not to be seen by Michelle as she was leaving. As Michelle was walking out surrounded by her co workers, Charles confronts her and begs her for just one minute of her time. She refuses, she tells him he’s not supposed to be there, he’s violating her restraining order. If he didn’t leave, she was calling the police. Charles pulls out a 38 Smith and Wesson hand gun that he got from his father and shot Michelle point blank in the face 3 times. Michelle drops to the ground dead and unrecognizable.

Charles drags her lifeless body to a nearby median in the parking lot. He then calmly walks to the truck where he left Miranda sitting alone. He carries her from the vehicle to where Michelle’s dead body lay. He holds Miranda on his lap, whispers something in her ear, then shoots her in the temple. He turns her over and shoots her again in the other temple. He lays Miranda’s body next to Michelle’s. He then pulls out a hunting knife and begins to stab Michelle over and over and over, slicing and mutilating her body. 

Police were on the scene within 2 minutes. The ambulances were there waiting to try and get to the victims, but Charles refused to put down his weapon. He brought his gun up slowly and pointed it at police. The officers had no choice but to shoot. After 14 rounds, Charles was dead. He had killed my only child. He had taken a precious life that was not his to take. He had taken the mother of 2 young girls. The scene was like nothing anyone could comprehend. None of us would ever be the same. 

Charles murdered Miranda just 4 days shy of her 4th birthday. I had already planned her party and sent out the invitations. 

At 9:30 that Tuesday night, I got the call from the Chaplain of the Bossier City Fire Department that Miranda was dead. And thus began the process of grief, acceptance and healing. 

T&T: Thank you for sharing your story with us. I'm sure that it's not an easy one to tell regardless of how many times you tell it. The Passion that brought about me asking you to "speak" to the blog today is your work as a Domestic Violence Advocate and Resiliency Speaker. What are the biggest nuggets of wisdom you need to get out to the world? 

Kris: The best advice I can give as a DV advocate and resiliency speaker is:

To a Victim
  • Please take advantage of your resources. There are many out there and readily available JUST FOR YOU! 
  • DOCUMENT EVERYTHING. The power of documentation is essential when trying to get an arrest or conviction. I can't stress this enough. There always needs to be a timeline of events, when you are harassed, followed, terrorized, beaten, called numerous times at work and home, This also goes for your children and pets. DOCUMENT EVERYTHING.  Keep track of all text messages too, mail and voice mail. 
  • Keep a bag packed with birth certificates and important documents, restraining orders, extra clothes for you and your children and cash in case you need to flee instantly. Keep this in a safe place or a trusted friends place. Hide car keys under the seat or keep a set on you at all times so that you don't have to go back inside to get them once you try to escape.
  • YOU WILL survive and learn to navigate this world on your own. It may be challenging but you can do it. NO ONE deserves to be abused in ANY way, form or fashion. Not YOU or your CHILDREN.
  • Abuse is a LEARNED BEHAVIOR. Your abuser learned to abuse. It is not "in their blood" or "inherited".
  • And RELIGIOUS beliefs DO NOT give any man the right to beat or abuse his wife or children. NEVER let law enforcement leave you alone if your husband or significant other claims it is his religious right. If the police do not help you with this, it is pure negligence on their part. 
  • Most of all....abuse is NOT YOUR FAULT. IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT. An abuser makes the choice to abuse. It is not your fault, or anyone else. It is a CHOICE HE IS MAKING. 
To all others: Friends, family, police officers, judges, and attorneys

  • TAKE THE VICTIM SERIOUSLY! If she says she is afraid, BELIEVE HER. 
  • Educate yourselves on how to respond and communicate with a victim. Many times, the victim has been stripped of all identity and self confidence that she no longer knows who she is anymore. Many times, when someone is exposed to trauma and years of abuse, the brain rewires itself and the thought processes of the victim have been changed so significantly that what may seem like high risk situations to most of us, are only insignificant risks to a victim. BE PATIENT! BE KIND!
  • Get her to a safe place if she and her children call for help. She may go back to him. KEEP GOING BACK TO HELP HER! Some women have been beaten so often and severely that their fear mechanism has been dulled. A lot of times women go back for financial reasons, hope and the thought that maybe he will change.
  • To police officers: DO YOUR JOB. Assault is a crime. Even if she does not want him arrested for assaulting her, ARREST HIM.
  • Attorneys and Judges: if she says he is dangerous, BELIEVE HER! No one knows her abuser better than she does. DO NOT make her have to repeat it or make numerous police reports. IF YOU KNOW HE IS AND SHE IS TELLING YOU HE IS DANGEROUS, ARREST HIM  and keep him in jail til a trial is set. 
  • And also: Sometimes a simple “I am so sorry” is best. Or just a heartfelt and sincere hug is comfort enough. In reality, you don’t have to say anything, because there is absolutely nothing you can say at that particular moment that could soothe someone who is in the throws of grief. 

T&T: Since this is a book blog, do you have any book recommendations for my readers?

Kris: My very favorite book that I have read a couple of times is: The Gift of Fear: By Gavin De Becker. This book literally changed my life and how I view everyone around me, including fellow victims/SURVIVORS. Our stories are all unique and each have suffered different traumas but this book hits ALL points of Domestic Abuse. No one walks away from this book having not learned a plethora of great things. I am also in the process of reading Dangerous Exits: Escaping Abusive Relationships in Rural America by Walter S. DeKeseredy and Martin D. Schwartz. This was a gift to me from a lovely friend who invited me to speak at Minot State University. It reflects the difficulty and challenges ALL women face when leaving abusive relationships, from economic blackmail to psychological mistreatment. " challenges the perception that rural communities are safe havens from the brutality of urban living."

Thank you so much Kris for letting me interview you for the blog, and for putting yourself and your pain out there in the hopes of helping others. If you'd like to follow Kris' efforts to get the word out, and remember Miranda, please follow her Miranda Faith Memorial Page on Facebook. You can also watch her give a very moving talk at Minot State University on YouTube Here. And if you or anyone you know needs help...or you'd like to get involved in anyway...please check out the National Domestic Violence Hotline's website here

I know this was a long post, and only included two book recommendations, but I want to help give a voice to people's passions...and this story is a very important one to share. 💛

Friday, July 7, 2017

The Best of Adam Sharp Review

I have decided this review needs one of my Instagram pics to accompany it because this shot perfectly captures what my life has looked like recently.  It has been full of chaos and stress, and I am so ready for a regular routine and a house that isn't a have no idea. But...I am writing on my computer set up in what will be my new I am happy and hopeful that there is indeed a light at the end of the tunnel.

Mind you, y'all should see what the rest of the office looks like. I am wedged into a tiny cleared off spot in front of the window. My view is beautiful magnolia trees in bloom...but behind me leaves a lot to be desired.
Why yes, that is an upside down topless Tahitian dancer behind me
Anyway, I have a review for another book sent to me by Booksparks for their Summer Reading Challenge! I was incredibly excited to see The Best of Adam Sharp by Graeme Simsion  arrive in the mail from them because I am a HUGE fan of Simsion's previous book The Rosie Project. If you've never read that one, it's an incredibly unique tale of a man with Aspergers and his quest to find a mate. It was great, add it to your list if you haven't picked it up yet. But this I started off with too high of expectations??

First off, let me just say that I am not a fan of writing negative reviews. I drag my feet and put them off until the last minute, mainly because I know that not everyone has the same taste in books. What I like or love, and what you like or love, may be completely different. It is all subjective. So let me just say that I may not be the target audience for this particular book. And it's the only one I've received from Booksparks that I feel wasn't the right fit for their Summer Reading Challenge.

The Best of Adam Sharp tells the story of an IT guy nearing 50 who is waxing nostalgic about the 3 month affair he had in his 20's with an actress in Australia after she sends him an e-mail out of the blue. His long-term relationship has gone stale and he's bored, so the idea of rekindling some sort-of "thing" with his long lost love brings Adam back to life. What happens from there is pure man fantasy.

Let me start with the good. I am a big music fan, so I loved that the book was filled with music...and included a playlist in the back of every song mentioned in it's pages. That right there was a giant plus. I hate when books have a heavy focus on music and don't include a playlist. If Fifty Shades of Grey had included a playlist, I would've probably given it another star (I'm only halfway joking). Yes, a halfhearted perusal of Google can usually give you a fan made list, but authors...if you're reading this...add a playlist in the back of the book. Your fans will love you for it.

Now, as for the rest of the book...if I'm being brutally honest with you, the first half was pretty bland and boring to me, and the second half was just weird, and came off as a man's midlife crisis fantasy. I struggled to read it, and normally I'm a reader who hates to put my book down until I'm done...dinner, dishes and life be damned. But for this one, I'd read a chapter and put it down...then a few hours later pick it back up again for another chapter. It just wasn't the book for me. Even in the sections that were fantastical, the writing seemed repetitive and after awhile I started to skim. And that right there should tell you a lot.

So, who do I think might love this book? A middle-aged man who loves music. Who probably won't love this book? A middle-aged woman named Christina, clearly. I am trying very hard to not make this a review that could be quoted on the next "Authors Read Mean Reviews" video...but I'm struggling to find something good to say besides the fact that I'll never forget that Bruce Springsteen AND Patti Smith wrote the song Because the Night.

And that factoid is negated by me having the song Angel of the Morning stuck in my head for a week.

Maybe the chaos of my office has made me cranky. 😜

But the next book up for review should be a positive one because I'm halfway through it and absolutely HOOKED. And hopefully the posts should be coming to you more regularly again...pending I don't get lost trying to get to my computer desk! Have a great weekend folks!!