Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Changes to the Blog!!

If you follow me on any of my Social Media accounts, you have probably noticed that I'm changing things up a bit. It's come after an awful lot of soul searching, and deep pondering. And also WAY more worrying than is healthy for a woman. I wanted to let y'all know my thought process behind the changes, and what you can expect here on Tomes and Tequila in the future. Because now that I've made up my mind, I'm actually VERY excited to start adding content again...which is good, because I'd been in a slump. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

I love this blog. I have been playfully accused by my husband of occasionally loving it more than him. I enjoy writing, and sharing the many thoughts I have with other people. I wish I would've started something like this years ago, but hindsight is 20/20. Unfortunately, I'd found myself in a bit of a reading slump recently...and it had morphed and caused the blog to become a chore.

This should not be a chore for me.

This blog has always been a passion project of mine. But for years my life revolved 24/7 around books. And now, it doesn't. I am no longer working at a library. I'm currently not working at all, actually...which should translate into me having TONS of time to devote to this blog and creating all sorts of really cool content for y'all. But instead, I found myself reading things I didn't really want to read...and the procrastination had become quite epic.

So, I went back to the drawing board and started brainstorming what I love about this blog, and that is communicating with my friends (and I consider all of you to be my friends). If the big attraction for me is interacting with people, and sharing information with you and generally bs-ing...then perhaps I should take the focus off 100% books, and expand to everything that I love. As my children keep reminding me, this is MY blog, and I can write about whatever I want on it!

All of this thinking, debating, pondering and self-reflection has come at a time when I'm also trying to really focus on myself for the first time in my adult life. To get a little deep for a minute here, I've always been one of those women who takes great care of everyone else, but hasn't taken very good care of herself. I recently had what some people refer to as a "come to Jesus" moment, where I came to realize just how important it is that I stop saying I'll start making improvements in my life starting next Monday, or next month, or next year...and start NOW, before it's too late. So I joined Weight Watchers, and as of this writing I'm down 16 lbs, with a whole lot to go...but it's a start. I've also been trying a lot of the other hints and tips that I've gleaned from the self-help books that I love so much. Actually TRYING, and not just filing away for future use.

But all of this bundled up into a neat Christina-sized ball means that I decided I wanted to add more ME to the blog, and take the focus off the books.

Are there going to be book reviews still? There absolutely will be because I am a huge reader and always will be. But I'd like to go back to being in charge of what I'm reading. I had way too many books coming in that I felt I HAD to read, as opposed to WANTED to read. I will be way more selective in the future.

What else can you expect to see on the blog? I plan on adding more beauty and lifestyle features. I am a HUGE makeup addict, and I love trying new I think it would be fun to share with you what I'm loving and using, and which things you could probably steer clear of. I'm also really trying to treat my skin better, as a 42 yo woman who had horrible acne as a teenager, and wasn't great at treating my face well in my 20's and 30's. I have a giant bucket of skincare products that I have been playing with, and have also received a few items to review that I'd like to share with all of you. There will also be more essays and random stories on the blog. OH, and I feel I need to make it clear that when I say Lifestyle, I admit to everyone that I usually stay in my pajamas all day at least once a week...and live in a rental property with an old dog. It will be realistic, and probably look nothing like the stories I enjoy perusing on Instagram. 😀 (If you're on Insta, you know what I'm talking about!!)

I would also like to share with everyone my journey on Weight Watchers, as a means of both keeping myself motivated, and hopefully helping to motivate a few of my friends and anyone else who has struggled with their weight. I am trying to lose a good sized adult human's worth of weight. There is a certain amount of shame and embarrassment that comes along with publicly stating that. It will be a long-haul journey for me. I need to find a way to stay focused on my end goal, and I've always done better when I was helping other people. My heart says that if I'm honest with y'all, and if I write maybe once a week after my weigh-in and talk about how my week went, and what I I can improve and do better the next week, etc., will both help myself and maybe help someone else too.

All of it can be bundled into me wanting to make 2018 the best year I possibly can. I would like to take all of you along with me. Hopefully you will be as excited by the changes to the blog as I am. If you're not, I hope you will at least come visit for the book reviews! For those hanging around, I have big plans to make more videos on both Facebook and YouTube. They scare me, but I love them...and I am a huge fan of watching other's videos so I'd like to get in on the action a bit! I've created a Tomes and Tequila YouTube channel that presently only has one old FB Live video on it...but if you'd like to hop over there and subscribe, it would make me feel great and let me know that you want videos!

OH, and I also want to briefly talk about Affiliate Links for a minute. I've signed back up to be an Amazon Affiliate (and I'm still an Etsy affiliate). If you go to my Review Policy page, I have a write-up on these links, but I wanted to explain how they work a bit. As an affiliate, if you purchase from my links, I will receive a small commission. How small? Between 2% to 7% depending on the program, and it is at NO additional cost to you. There is NO FEE to you for buying from my link. I will ALWAYS put an asterick and a note in my posts letting you know that there are affiliate links in the post. Why am I doing it? I said earlier, I'm not working right now...and I spend a lot of time working on the blog and finding links etc. If I can make a couple of bucks off of it, then I can devote even more time to working on it! To put it all in perspective, I have been an Etsy Affiliate for over a year now and have never received a check because I haven't earned enough. I believe I have made about $13 so far, and you need to make over $20 to get your first check. I was kicked out of the Amazon program before because if no on purchases from you after 180 days they kick you out, and no one had ever purchased from my links. I, personally, don't mind using affiliate links...and became aware of them when shopping off my favorite beauty guru's videos on YouTube. It takes time to look up products and put links into posts...something I wasn't aware of until I started doing it myself! But I can promise you...and those who know me in real life will know how honest I am, the rest of you will just have to take me at my word...I will never send you to shop somewhere that I wouldn't buy from. I will also never use an affiliate link for something I didn't like...a book I gave 2 stars to, or an item I thought was crappy. I will only ever use them for products I like because this blog is me, and it has to stand for something. I hope all of that makes sense!! In short, I'm not making a million off of you if you purchase, and you're not being charged more if you follow one of my links. I'm just trying to value myself and my time, and help all of you out at the same time.

I hope this giant rambling mess of a post makes a tiny bit of sense. I also hope that you all will stay with me to see what 2018 has in store for Tomes and Tequila!! If there is anything that you'd like to see on the blog, please leave a comment to let me know about it! I'm very open to suggestion. I'd love to hear if you like videos, FB Live chats, YouTube, Instagram Stories, and any of the other things I've mentioned adding to the mix!! And once again, thank you for making 2017 a great year for me and my blog.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Breath Of Life Devotional Review

 Breath of Life by Karen Ferguson review on Tomes and Tequila, Amazon Link

I have to preface this lovely devotional review with an apology for going so long between blog posts. I'll be writing up a full post detailing what's going on, but for those who haven't noticed the changes on my social media accounts...I'm planning on tweaking the blog some. The lack of posts has basically been me trying to wrap my head around what I wanted to do, and how I was going to do it. So, big ole apologies for disappearing right before the holidays. All I can really say for now is...I'm back!!

So, author Karen Ferguson contacted me about taking a look at her devotional Breath of Life: Living God's Promise of Peace in the 7 Dimensions of Wellness * and I thought I would give it a read for a couple of reasons that I think are important before I get too far into the review. The big one is that, although I love the IDEA of a devotional, I have found very few that I actually like. I will see a beautiful picture of one on Instagram, with a passage highlighted that I find incredibly inspiring...then I buy the book and can't connect with it, for whatever reason. I'm sure the problem in this scenario is me, but I REALLY would like to find one that I love.

Enter Breath of Life.

The book is pretty small at only 138 pages, and covering twenty-one days, but I honestly think I would've read a 365 day copy. For whatever reason, I really connected with this book and loved the message that author Karen Ferguson was trying to get across.

Her twenty one days are split up to cover what she calls the "7 Dimensions of Wellness": spiritual wellness, physical wellness, mental wellness, emotional wellness, social wellness, vocational wellness and financial wellness. And my favorite part of the whole book is the section at the end of each day featuring a contemporary worship song, a scripture verse to meditate on, a question for reflection, and a wellness tip. I can honestly tell you all that I've never really listened to contemporary christian music, but I have actually looked up each of the songs in this book and listened to them. And I may never have given it a chance if it weren't for this little nudge.

 Breath of Life by Karen Ferguson, review on Tomes and Tequila, Link to Amazon

The author is quick to point out that this devotional is for anyone, regardless of where they are in their "relationship with Jesus". But it is, of course, a very Christian book. So if you're looking for a devotional that isn't quite so full of God and Jesus...and those books ARE out there...this selection isn't going to be the one for you.

But if you are in the  market for a new devotional, one that is short and sweet, and covers every area of your life...I think this is definitely one to pick up. It left me feeling reinvigorated, and bolstered in my faith. It also gave me hope that there may be other devotionals floating around in the bookosphere that I'll enjoy! And I really connected with how she focuses on you as a whole person, in all of your facets. It really resonates with my recent efforts to take better care of myself...ALL of myself, including my spirit.

So, if you read devotionals and know of any others that you love and think I should read, please let me know in the comments. And be on the lookout for a post detailing the changes I'm planning to make to the blog!!! (I think they're good ones...)

OH!! And if you didn't happen to catch it yet, I did a Facebook live video with my daughter on the 21st of December that you can watch on my FB page HERE. We discussed our top 3 books of all time, along with some other silliness. I've also put an old video I did talking about getting the most out of your library up on YouTube, which you can find HERE. Let me know if you'd like me to make some more videos...and if you have any video suggestions (even if they're not about books!!).

*This post contains affiliate links, please see my review policy if you have any questions!

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The Good Widow Book Review

 The Good Widow on Amazon, review by Tomes and Tequila

Sorry for the long delay in content on the blog. It has been one thing after another recently, and I've been in a blogging slump. I'm thinking about changing things up a bit after the new year, and adding some other content in addition to the book reviews that I love so much. Hopefully those of you who have been reading me for a while won't mind the change, and will enjoy the addition of some new content that will come from my heart. And there will always be books. 😁

For my book club this last month we read The Good Widow by Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke*. This isn't the first book of theirs that I've reviewed on the blog. You can find my reviews for The Year We Turned Forty Here, and Your Perfect Life over Here. I love that these books are written by two best friends, and most of them center around women close to my age, and are just all around great book club selections.

The Good Widow had a different feel than their previous books, as it's more of a mystery/thriller. Teacher Jacqueline "Jacks" Morales has been reasonably happily married to James for eight years, and although things haven't gone exactly as she'd hoped they would, her life isn't bad. But when the cops show up on her doorstep to tell her that her husband has died in a car accident in Hawaii, when she thought he was on a business trip in Kansas, her life is turned upside down. Things only get worse when she finds out he wasn't alone in the car, but was with a beautiful younger woman.

 When Nick, a good-looking fireman, shows up at her house and tells her his fiance is the woman who died with her husband, Jacks is intrigued. Can he help her figure out what was going on with the deceased couple, and what they were doing in Hawaii together? Will Jacks be able to figure out the man she thought she knew so well? And will her life ever be the same again?

I really enjoyed this book. As someone whose husband has traveled for work a LOT over the years, this has to be a woman's worst nightmare. Not only to lose your spouse, but then to find out that he's possibly led an entire life that you didn't know about? How do you even recover from something like that! And since he's passed away, you can't even beat him upside the head until you get all the answers you want! And you can't beat the other woman upside her head either because she's dead too!!! Worst...........nightmare.

I thought Jacks was a likable character, who occasionally made questionable decisions, but I'm sure if you were in her situation, you would also. The mood swings she suffered, and most definitely her guilt over laughing and smiling again, were I think spot on for what a lot of people feel after the loss of a loved one. Because no matter what she discovered about James, he was still her husband of eight years, and she loved him. That doesn't go away because someone did something wrong. So, I came out of this book loving Jacks.

I don't think I'd categorize this as a fast-paced thriller, but it definitely kept me interested enough to keep flipping pages until way past my bedtime. I was right there with Jacks, wanting to get to the bottom of things, and desperately thinking that there was some missing piece of the puzzle that we might not have seen yet. I wasn't necessarily looking behind every literary shower curtain, but I had a feeling that the authors probably weren't laying all the cards on the table for us to see. (that's an odd sentence, but I'm keeping it!!)

All of the ladies in my book club enjoyed this one, and I think it's a great book for people who read mysteries and thrillers, but are also fans of contemporary women's fiction and chick lit. It's not a heavy thriller, if that makes sense. But it's definitely a great book club selection because it's not a horribly long or hard book to read, and yet it has conversation fodder up the ying-yang. (that sentence works better in person I think)

So, if you haven't read this one yet, put it on your Christmas list. Or buy a copy for your friend who reads things by Liane Moriarty, Ruth Ware or B.A. Paris.

 *This post uses affiliate links. Please visit my review policy for more information.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

You Do You Review

As I've mentioned on the blog before, over here and here, I'm a big fan of Sarah Knight's books. Well, I'm actually just a big fan of Sarah Knight. I love her TED talk, her tweets, her writing style, her sense of humor, and her newsletters. So when I saw that she had a new book coming out, I could not WAIT to read it! And when Netgalley sent me a copy to review, I practically jumped out of my skin, I was so excited. HUGE GIGANTIC thank-you's to Netgalley and Little, Brown and Company for sending me a copy...and making this fan girl's day.

I'll try to mop up my drool, stop swooning, and write a proper review now. 😁

You Do You: How to Be Who You Are and Use What You've Got to Get What You Want is the third in Knight's No F*cks Given trilogy of fabulous self-help guides, following The Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck and Get You Sh*t Together.

In this book, our favorite "anti-guru" details how to let your freak flag fly, and be yourself...eschewing the norm, and figuring out how to respond to the pressures of well-meaning (and some not so well-meaning) people who always have an idea of what you should be doing, wearing, how you should be behaving, etc.

Although I would say that, out of all of her books, this one is maybe the least pithy? Or maybe it's the one that I personally have to do the most work with?? I felt like I needed to highlight more, and probably need to give this one a third reading, instead of just a second one, like I did with the other two. Now, that's not saying that it isn't as good...or that I didn't enjoy it as much as the other ones. I just felt like it maybe hit more of a nerve, or was a little more serious than the other ones??

But this is still the same construction cone-wearing, swear word tossing lady...and this time she's really trying to get us to stop listening to "Judgy McJudgerson". I personally need to hear things like "There is nothing wrong with liking things the way you like them and asking for what you want." and "You don't get what you don't ask for." It doesn't matter how many times I read those things in books, I seem to need to hear them a few more times. And Knight's trademark sassy delivery seems to resonate so well with me, that for some reason her sayings stick.

The book goes over Do's and Don'ts, Wills and Won'ts, Shoulds and Shouldn'ts, along with a whole lot of discussion on why it's not a bad thing to be labelled "difficult". I think one of the stories that stands out to me the most involves her discussing the issues she's had with anxiety. I have a very good friend who struggles with debilitating panic attacks. Anyway, Sarah Knight shares that she snuck a litter box and craft sand into her office at work, so that when she got overly stressed, she could take her shoes off and place her feet in the sand...close her eyes, and imagine she was on the beach. She used that tactic to help ease her anxiety, so she could get over it and get on with her day. Did people probably think she was weird because she had a litter box full of sand under her desk?? I'm sure they did. Did she give two craps about it?? Nope. That is something to ASPIRE TO.

So, I highly recommend this I do the other two in her No F*cks Given trilogy. I think they're amazing books that tell some terrific truths in a unique and saucy voice that speaks to me, like the girlfriend/sister you always wanted. Plus, she makes me laugh weird times, which tends to scare my dog and weird out my husband. Buy yourself a copy, and then buy a copy for your best friend. They'd make good Christmas gifts. 🎄

I may not get another review up this week because it is both my favorite daughter's 20th birthday (EGADS!!) and Thanksgiving!! I want you all to know that I'm eternally grateful for all of you. I'm still amazed that anyone reads my thoughts about books, or anything else. So Thank You again, and I hope you all have a fabulous holiday.

Monday, November 20, 2017

A Beautiful Work In Progress

I love self-proclaimed Plus Size Ultramarathoner Mirna Valerio. She is an incredibly intelligent, well-educated, grown-ass woman, who is kicking stereotypes to the curb left and right. I've enjoyed periodically reading her blog Fat Girl Running, although she doesn't update it as much as she used to, now that she's writing for things like Women's Running Magazine. I also recently watched a show on t.v. documenting a run of hers, which was incredibly inspiring for someone like me.

When I saw that she had a memoir coming out, I honestly couldn't wait to pick it up and give it a read. Other than her being a plus sized runner, I didn't really know a whole lot about her or her journey. I follow her on Instagram and Twitter, so I know that she's tireless in sharing her story in the hopes of helping others who might feel that they can't do something like run, because they don't look like what they think a runner should look like. But other than that, I didn't know much.

A Beautiful Work In Progress is a very inspiring read of a woman from a fairly poor but hardworking family in New York City, who as a gifted child ended up attending boarding schools and now works as a choral director and Spanish teacher at a boarding school herself. She was a runner and athlete as a teen and young adult, but gained weight as an adult. When she had a health scare, she started running again. She gradually went from run/walking 5Ks to regularly running ultramarathons and coaching cross-country. She also teaches diversity and speaks out on body positivity around the country.

If I were writing this review as a book critic, I would say the memoir probably needed a little more editing before it went to press. It hops all over the place, and is occasionally hard to follow. The timeline bounces around so much, and in a manner that doesn't follow any discernible pattern, that you spend a lot of your reading time trying to figure out when the story takes place and if the race she's in is the same one she was talking about earlier or if she's in a different one now?? It would've been a better book if the flow made more sense.

BUT, I don't think many of the people reading this book are going to be reading it as a critic. Because I write a book blog, and I certainly didn't read it as such. One part of my brain made a tiny mental note, but it wasn't the impression that stuck with me...and I didn't think much about it until I went on Goodreads before writing this review. I got a lot out of this memoir...and I enjoyed it, which I think is what Mirna was going after. I don't think she was expecting to win any awards for her writing style. I believe she was probably trying to get her story into more people's hands.

I had no idea that racing involved so much work and preparation. I also can not BELIEVE there are people out there who enjoy running as many miles as some of these folks do. It blows my mind. I also love that this woman, who has watched so many people in her family give and give and give of themselves to the detriment of their own health, has decided to focus her life on a healthy pursuit in spite of not having a body type that society deems "ideal" for the task, is also incredible. If, in sharing her story, she makes even one of us decide to go for a walk...or join a gym...or sign up for a 5K...or any other healthy activity, that we wouldn't have done for fear of what we look like, then she deserves all the praise and kudos that she has received and then some.

My big take away was to never keep myself from doing something fitness related for fear of what someone else might think of me for doing it. That may sound like common sense, but I have been afraid to go to the gym for fear of what I would look like. This is a thing for some people, but it's not going to be a hang-up of mine anymore. (If you know me in real life, hold me to this one!!!)

So, the best written memoir I've ever read? Probably not. Inspiring? It is to me, a plus-sized woman who is working to get healthy and take better care of herself.

You would probably like this book if you've ever struggled with weight, or you are part of the fitness and running community.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Origin Review

My son beat me to the punch, and read Origin by Dan Brown within days of it being released. He then preceded to hound me until I finally picked it up, and then stared at me...and peppered me with questions for the entirety of my time reading the book. We do this to each other sometimes. It's a "thing" in our house. I think it was punishment for my not having picked up The Lord of the Rings for a re-read yet, like he wants me to do. 

We have read all of the Dan Brown/Robert Langdon books, and both have different favorites. They are slightly tainted by which cities in Europe we call our favorite. I have purchased the Illustrated editions because it's not fun having to look up the art work and architecture that's referenced CONSTANTLY while reading, and much easier to have the work done for you. Of course, those are purchased AFTER we've already read the regular novel. 

I guess what I'm trying to say is, I enjoy the Robert Langdon book series. I find them entertaining, which is what fiction is trying for...most of the time. I have a half-finished blog post about genre bias in fiction, and my issue with people who think certain books are better than other books...and I feel that the Dan Brown novels get tossed into the mix of authors who are snubbed, and treated as less than in the bookosphere. I don't want to go on a gigantic tangent, but there are a lot of folks out there who missed the fact that 1) his books are fiction, and labeled as such, and 2) if the formula works, why tweak it. 

Origin once again finds Robert Langdon in the middle of a crazy turn of events, this time in the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao Spain, and once again has to solve a mystery to help a former student who was killed reveal a discovery that he's promised will "change the face of science forever" and destroy religion as we know it. With the help of the lovely Ambra Vidal, the museum director and fiance of the future King of Spain, he hopes to reveal the discovery and keep the two of them alive. 

That is probably a horrible summary, I'm sure Goodreads has done a much better job of it! Langdon is running around with a smart and beautiful woman trying to solve a mystery, with a bad guy chasing after him. 

I thoroughly enjoyed seeing Spain through the eyes of Robert Langdon. I Googled a LOT while reading this book. I found a few sites to add to my bucket list, and I really liked that it wasn't a location that had been covered in his books before. 

I analyzed the crap out of this book while I was reading it! At one point in time, I thought everybody was the bad guy. Well, everyone but Langdon himself. I sussed it out earlier than I'd liked to have, but was still guessing...and when I realized I'd hit the jackpot I practically jumped up and down! I was so damn proud of myself for figuring something out before it happened, because it NEVER happens. 

Now, although I enjoyed this book, as I've done all but The Last Symbol, this wasn't my favorite Langdon novel. I thought the first half of the book was pretty good, but it fell apart towards the end...and I found myself skimming, which is never a good thing. The big reveal wasn't nearly as exciting as I'd hoped it would be, and it all got a little too wordy and convoluted. 

So, if you're a fan of the Dan Brown books, I would say definitely pick this new one up to read. It's not the worst one in the series, in my opinion. But it's also not the best, by a long shot. Angels and Demons is still my favorite of his, but that's also the first one I read. If you've never read a book of his, I'd go with that, or Da Vinci Code before this one. 

But it was still entertaining, folks. 

And it did nothing to change my faith in God, thank you very much. Fiction, ladies and gentleman.

Monday, November 13, 2017

The Dirty Book Club

I am a HUGE fan of Book Clubs. I think everyone should be in one, and I'd be in 20 if I could find enough people to be in them with me. So, this book by bestselling author Lisi Harrison, of YA Monster High and The Clique fame, really caught my eye. A big Thank You to Netgalley and Gallery Books for sending it my way!!

The Dirty Book Club starts off by introducing us to a group of girlfriends in the 1960's who start a secret Dirty Book Club. They will wrap their books with the cover of a prim and proper housekeeping title, and meet once a month at the full moon to discuss what they've learned. And once all their husbands have died (because the men always go before the women), they vow to drop everything and run away to Paris together.

The book then skips to modern day, and we meet M.J., a career woman in New York who is grieving for both the loss of her family in a car accident and what she perceives as the loss of her career. She decides to relocate to her hot boyfriend's home in California, and lick her wounds. In an effort to meet people, she befriends Gloria...the mature woman next door. When Gloria drops everything and runs off to Paris with her girlfriends after her husband dies of a heart-attack, she leaves a letter on M.J.'s doorstep...passing on her membership to the Dirty Book Club.

We are then introduced to a new generation of the Dirty Book Club. Four women who have nothing in common, and aren't sure they want to be in a book club...or be friends. Can they learn anything from the notes that the previous generation left behind? Is there wisdom to be found in Fear of Flying or Fifty Shades of Grey? And can M.J. truly become a happy and fulfilled California girl, or will she run back to New York??

I really enjoyed this book, although I think I found the bits surrounding the older generation of women a bit more interesting than the present day ladies. I liked the idea of these ladies secretly meeting, martini and Salem Light in hand, discussing all of the things they'd read in whispered giggles with each other. The whole idea reminds me of late nights at my house in North Dakota, drinking wine with my girlfriends at my Wine & Words book club, laughing over something incredibly naughty. It's the best of the Book Club cliche, really.

But to me, this was a fun book. It had it's serious moments, and at times it was a little disjointed, and the plot/dialogue got a little wonky. But if any of you ladies out there are looking for pure entertainment, this book has it. It made me want to start my own Dirty Book Club, complete with Ya-Ya level smoke-blowing ceremonies under a full moon.

And I may be a little nutty, but I've never handed out a gift-bag like one of the characters in this book did. Feel free to thank me for that later. Or maybe depends on how you look at it.

This novel really has a little bit of everything in it, from infidelity and work/home drama to domestic abuse and hidden homosexuality. It really covers a lot, but does it in a way that doesn't feel too heavy handed or melodramatic, with some of the bigger issues coming in letters that were written by the older ladies, that are being read by the younger ones during their meetings. I think it was a clever way to keep that generation of original DBC women still in the picture, while staying in the modern timeline.

For me...I considered this book to be one for the win column. One could probably pick at it...and some of the things others found issue with, I found endearing. You can maybe tell the author has been writing YA books for a while. But, I was just smirking so much while reading it, my eyes didn't rest long on the flaws.

So, how do you feel about Book Clubs? And would you ever consider a Dirty Book Club?? Oooh, and more importantly, do you think you can learn anything from Fifty Shades?!? LOL 😁 Let me know in the comments!!

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Christmas at the Graff

If you're a regular reader of the blog, you know that I have a friend named Kaylie who writes books. I call her a friend because we grew up together in Southern Oregon, but we haven't seen each other since I was it's more of a long distance acquaintance admiration really. I just like calling her my friend. Her kids and dogs are adorable. I love that she's best friends with one of my favorite people in the world (I love you A!!!). So, because of this long-distance admiration, I've done an interview over here and she did a guest post over here, if you missed them. 😀

So, when Kaylie offered me a chance to read her new book Christmas at the Graff, I jumped at the chance.

I should put my love of Christmas in context for you, before I get into the review. I am a HUGE fan of the holiday season. I love listening to Christmas music, my house is very decorated, I enjoy watching old movies like White Christmas and It's a Wonderful Life...but I've never watched a Hallmark Christmas movie. And I only occasionally read Christmas themed literature. I'm a fan, but not obnoxiously so.

Christmas at the Graff made me want to rethink my aversion to Hallmark and Lifetime Christmas movies. Now, don't get me wrong...there's some hanky-panky in this book. Kaylie is great at writing sections that garner her romance moniker. But this book had me ready to pull my decorations out of our attic, and it's not even Thanksgiving!

Christmas at the Graff tells the story of Jemma and EJ. Jemma has come to Marietta, Montana to help care for her father following a surgery. He left her mother during the holiday season when she was 15, and their relationship has been strained since. She wouldn't be there if he had anyone else. Jemma's plans are to protect her heart, and stay until he's healthy enough to take care of himself...and then get out of Marietta.

EJ is the physical therapist who's helping Jemma's father get back up and moving, but is also his friend. He has seen a side of Joe that she's never seen, and considers him to be the father he never had. EJ talks Jemma into helping him with his charity Christmas tree decorating project since her father is unable to, and sparks fly. Will Jemma find a reason to stay in Marietta a little longer? Will she be able to build a new relationship with her father? And will she decide she likes Christmas again?

I think Kaylie really hit this one out of the ballpark! This book is a warm and fuzzy ball of Christmasy goodness. It made me want to make a peppermint hot cocoa, a warm fire, put some xmas tunes on, and canoodle snuggle. This is the perfect book to put you in a Christmas mood, while still having a great plot including family and relationship issues.

The struggles Jemma's character goes through, trying to figure out how to get past the hurts of her childhood while worrying she's treading on the memory of her mother who's passed away, was dealt with very realistically. And everything wasn't perfectly wrapped up in a bow at the end.

The historical Hotel Graff is pretty much it's own character, and is probably my favorite in the entire book. I could picture it in my head, all decked out in it's holiday finest, ready for the Mistletoe and Montana Auction. With Bob at the counter, ready to check in guests.

And also, having a Hemsworth-looking snowboarding, physical therapist as the hunk, while still keeping him a well-rounded human, took mad skills. Honestly, you can tell from this review that I don't read a constant stream of romantic type books! LOL I just kept, he's a stud...but he can't ice-skate...which is GREAT! 😁

But really, I loved this book. I enjoyed everything about it, and can't thank Kaylie enough for sending it to me. It was the perfect read for me, especially while I was miserably sick. If Marietta, Montana was a real place, I would want to visit and stay at the Graff. And you can't really get a better recommendation than that, can you?

Let me know if you're already in the Christmas mood, or if you think it's WAY too early?? And also, do you watch Hallmark Christmas movies?? Did you think that was disparaging of either the movies, or to Kaylie?? 😉

Friday, October 27, 2017

At Wave's End

I picked an incredibly fitting time to read the novel At Wave's End by Patricia Perry Donovan. We have seen some horrific devastation caused by hurricanes this year, and my extended family have been hit hard in previous when the author wrote me asking if I'd be interested in reading her book, which has a plot line centered around a hurricane, I jumped at the chance.

The novel centers around Faith, a chef in New York City. Her eccentric mother, who spends most of her time entering contests and sweepstakes, wins a B & B after writing a prize-winning essay about her struggles being a single mother and raising Faith. It sits on the Jersey Shore, so Faith takes Connie to go see the fabulous Inn she's won, and make sure it's all that it appears. When they find a slightly ramshackled  old Victorian, Faith wants Connie to give up on her dream and go back to the safety of her factory job. Connie says she'll spend a few days getting to know the place, and then make up her mind. So Faith goes back to work.

But when a deadly Hurricane hits the East Coast, Faith rushes down to her mother, afraid for the mess she may have got into. In the aftermath of the storm, Faith is left with no job in Brooklyn, and decides to stay with her mother and help the displaced residents of Wave's End get their lives back in order. Little does she know that, in helping them, she may find the family she's always wanted and reconnect with her mother in a way that she never thought possible.

I really enjoyed this feel good novel. I think the author did a great job of handling both the complicated dynamic between the mother and daughter, and the story of a community hit hard by a natural disaster. To me this book was all about community and family...and how your family isn't always the people you were born into. You see strangers helping people out, and bringing out the best in each other...struggling to rebuild and have a normal life again. The barriers that people put up around themselves being torn down, and the building of friendships that are stronger because of the common endeavor they have faced together.

During the last two hurricanes to hit the states, what really stood out to me were the stories of folks helping each other out. Of people coming in from all over because they felt compelled to do what they could for their fellow man. Donations being sent, food being cooked, animals being reunited. I choose to look at the good that comes out of the destruction. At Wave's End stands out to me for being such a feel-good novel that really focuses on that resiliency. I think we need more of it in the world!

OH, and I also have to comment on the food!! With the main character, Faith, being a chef...this book is filled with yummy food and menus being described in detail. The author has GOT to be a major foodie because I was drooling all over my Kindle while I was reading. It wasn't over the top, it was just enough to make me hungry for some home-made gourmet goodness!

So, if you're a fan of feel-good women's literature, you'll probably enjoy this one. There is also a domestic violence subplot that might interest folks. And if you like to mix your hobbies of reading and eating, this book should be right up your alley. There is also a smattering of romance for the oooh-la-la among you.

A huge thanks again to the author for sending me a copy of this book!! I apologize that it took me eons to get it in my rotation. Once again I will state that I'm a bad book blogger. 😁

Thursday, October 26, 2017

How I Changed My Life in a Year Review

A lot of folks have very different ideas about New Years Resolutions, but the majority of people I know make them in one form or another. The classic "style" was to pick one BIG thing you'd promise yourself you were going to work on or do better in the upcoming year. And then, for most folks, within the first couple weeks you'd have forgotten about it...or flubbed up enough that your well-intended goal becomes a thing of the past.

Recently I've noticed an upswing of different ways of going about the whole Resolution trend. Author and Blogger Shelley Wilson details her idea for doing it a little different, and her results, in the book How I Changed My Life in a Year and on her blog. As most of you know, I'm a big self-help fiend, and I found the whole idea intriguing enough that I had to buy the book and see what it was all about.

What the author did was pick twelve different things she wanted to work on in the new year, and devote a month to wholeheartedly working on that one resolution. Some she broke down even farther into weekly tasks. For instance, in the month that was focused on exercising more, she picked a different type of exercise for each week as a means of keeping from being bored, and finding out what she loved enough to keep doing after the month was over.

I really love the idea behind this book, and spent most of my time while reading it searching my brain for what I would pick if I decided to do this project for 2018. So for me, maybe I'd pick working on becoming better at speaking French one month. During that month, in addition to dedicating time daily to language practice, I might add in watching French movies and cooking a few classic French meals to the make that focus even more fun and all encompassing.

One of her month's focus involved NaNoWriMo, which I plan on taking part in this year. For those who have never heard of it, it's National Novel Writing Month and your goal is to write 50,000 words during the month of November. I am actually going to try my hand at writing fiction, and have devoured other's blogs involving their prep and experiences participating in previous years. So, her chapter about writing a book was intriguing to me.

But, although loving the idea behind this book and a lot of her ideas for each month...the transition from blog post to book didn't go as smoothly as I'd hoped it would. Some of the sections still felt a little too much like the blog post it originally was...full of links and pacing that work well in a one off on a personal website, and not as well in a book chapter. When I hit those parts, I found myself skimming a lot more than I'm comfortable admitting.

So, in the end I only liked this one. I loved her ideas and her passion for the subjects she was writing about. I found it all incredibly inspiring, and I believe it could really be a great way to change how you execute resolutions in the future. But as for the actual book, I think it could've probably used a little more tweaking to take it from blog to bound pages.

With my curiosity heavily piqued, how do y'all feel about New Year's Resolutions? Do you make them? Do you keep them? One big one, or a few little ones? I'd love to know in the comments!!

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Get To Know Me...

Remember a few years back, when every other week someone would share a note on Facebook promising to tell you Ten Things You Didn't Know About Me...or Song Titles on My Ipod That Describe These Moments In My Life?? For some reason I've had those floating around in my mind. I think it's because a few friends have shared posts that are similar, stating neat details about their marriage or their kids. I've always found them fascinating, although I know others who hate when they appear in their feed.

I continually want to know more about my friends and extended family, and will gladly consume every little tidbit they're willing to share. I'm very particular about who I'm friends with on FB, so my feed is mainly filled with people I really care about. And my memory is not what it used to be, so these list type posts are occasionally a good way to fill in important I actually have notes for a few friends on my phone, to help when buying future gifts. (For example, my Aja list includes these gems: Purple, dark chocolate and aloe juice) I'd recently thought about mailing my friends a form to fill out to help me in the future...a fill in the blank that had things like Favorite color, flower, collectible, fandom...but I worry they would think I was weirder than they already do.

Sorry for the tangent y' point, and I honestly DID have one...was that I thought it might be fun to write a little post of some goofy info that would help y'all get to know me better, in the vein of those old FB notes. I figure if I enjoy them, there has to be a few of you out there who enjoy reading them also. I've tried to find the most off the wall and random questions possible, because I'm me...and I thought it would be more fun that way. So here goes...

1. Are you named after anyone?

When my mother was in high school and she went out, she would tell people her name was Christina...that way whatever she'd done didn't get back to either her parents/siblings or her boyfriend (my father)!! So, I guess you could say that I'm named after my mother's alter-ego. 

2. What is your favorite food?

Okay, maybe not the most random question ever...but I LOVE Pizza. When I say that I love pizza, I mean that on my wedding and my husband ate pizza in a hotel room. We ate pizza on prom night. We have gone for pizza on what many would deem to be "important" anniversaries. I am a fan. 

3. What is your favorite way to pass time?

Putting reading a book in here would be silly. My biggest guilty-pleasure time waster would be watching makeup tutorials on YouTube. I had casually watched them in the past, but became a serious viewer with favorite Gurus when recovering from a surgery. I thought I would read while off work, but instead I watched tutorial after tutorial, clicking madly on the affiliate links in the description, buying VIB Rouge amounts of product off of Sephora. I have tamed the purchasing beast, but still love the videos. I am a big fan of a good Chit-Chat Get Ready With Me. 

4. What is something you are gifted at?

This is the sort-of question I find impossible to answer, so I'm going to go for the ridiculous. I can sing virtually every Disney song up until about the mid-2000's...with a few exceptions. I love Moana way more than Frozen, and will belt out Shiny at any possible opportunity. But what I really love are songs from things like The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and Hercules. I am a HUGE fan of that era of Disney films, and will sing my favorite songs whenever I can...still. It was much worse when my kids were small, but I even made mix cd's for the daycare I worked at, and would sing to my room of munchkins. I have passed on my love to my kids, who include the songs in their random Spotify playlists...which makes me proud. There's nothing like a good Mulan song popping up in the middle of a car trip to keep your spirits up. 

5. What is your favorite nickname?

We are a family of nicknames. I rarely call my kids by their given name...and my husband goes by his middle name (although we both just call each other baby, which is pretty nauseating really). I have one major nickname that most friends and family call me. But if I had to pick a favorite for the list, I would have to go with the name my father calls me to this day. Grunt. I am old enough to like it, although if you'd have asked me between the ages of 12 and 16, I would've told you I despised it...mainly because my Dad had a habit of calling me that around boys. And I was all about the boys when I was young. I have embraced the fact that, to my Dad, I am Grunt and will always be matter how old I am. 

6. Do you have a tattoo?

I wanted a tattoo from childhood, but had refrained from getting one for YEARS because my husband isn't a fan. BUT, a couple years back, I had the absolute joy of getting my first and only tattoo with two of my favorite women in the world. AND, my daughter designed it. I have a very simple bird and flower on my right ankle, and it means a lot to me. Every time I look at it, I'm reminded of the special bond I have with these 2 ladies that I love. And the fabulous times we've had over the years. 

7. What is the last thing you bought? 

Next week, my husband and I will be celebrating our 24th anniversary. So, the last thing I purchased was his gift...which I debated over for DAYS. I love buying him things, but he's very hard to shop for...and would hate pretty much every thing that shows up on those gift guides for anniversaries. He tells me not to buy him stuff, or spend a lot of money on him, but the man still puts butterflies in my belly when I look at him...which is pretty damn good considering we've been together since I was 15 and he was 17. Hopefully he'll like his gift. I'll let you know. 

8. Who is your role model?

I would have to say my biggest role model would be my mother in law, who passed away in 2005. To this day, I still measure my actions by the incredibly high standard that she set. She raised 11 wonderful people after being an only child, and was my best friend for years. I miss her horribly, and regularly wonder what she would think about things that are happening in and around my life. 

9. Who is a current celebrity crush?

I had to answer this one, as I haven't mentioned Michael Fassbender on the blog in a bit. My celebrity crushes wax and wane, but this one has been going strong for quite a few years now. That man is sex on a stick, and I occasionally go on a Fassy tangent that gets a bit out of control. As a matter of fact, I would like to take this opportunity to publicly apologize to my daughter's two best friends who were forced to listen to me talk about my feelings for this man while watching Alien Covenant, after drinking a couple glasses of wine. It was bad...just thinking about it makes me hang my head in shame. Oh I'm thinking about the movie Shame. 😳

10. Where is the farthest you've been from home?

Okay, because I'm technically a military nomad still...I had to do some mileage calculations. I based them off where I'm currently located, as that's home for the time being. Measuring from where I'm at in Northern Virginia, Turkey is the farthest I've been from home. Over 20 years ago now, I went on a shopping excursion to a base in Turkey with some girlfriends. We hopped on a plane, shopped, dyed our hair over alcohol in our hotel room (sorry ladies), and then flew back home. It was fun...and tiring. I'm fairly sure we spent more time in airport security than we did anywhere else. 

So there ya go...basically a Throwback Thursday Get To Know Me...which told you everything and yet nothing about me. Just like those glorious Facebook Notes of yore. I hope you enjoyed it!! Tomorrow I promise to have another book review for you. 

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

A Throwback Thought on Being a Little Nuts

This post would probably be better for a Throwback Thursday or a Flashback Friday, but in keeping with the topic, I figured Wednesday was as good a day as any to share some thoughts with y'all.

After disgustedly turning off the news the other night, I had a short but sweet conversation with my oldest about how...depressing the world appears currently. You will probably never hear me write anything even remotely political on here, as that's just not my thing...but everything going on in the world right now is all a bit much for me. There is so much negativity and bad juju floating around, and we both decided...after laughing over how silly a Disney-themed Dancing With the Stars episode was...that maybe what the world really needs right now IS some silliness. A few light-hearted and joyful stories. A little goofiness, and less drama.

It reminded me of an e-mail I'd sent to my mother and sister 15 years ago, that I stumbled upon when sorting out my tiny rubbermaid box of mementos I've carried around from base to base (which includes such important things as a love letter to my then boyfriend, now husband, discussing how bad I wanted to kiss him after French Class, and a biography I made in 8th or 9th grade with an interview of me done by my good friend and stationery lover K!). I must've felt the e-mail was important because I'd printed it out. It's really one of the first bits of "writing" I'd ever done.

I'd like to share it with y'all, because I really think the idea I was trying to express is both a good one, and one that we maybe need to embrace a bit more. Plus, it will give you yet another example of the woman you've been reading. (and a reminder that I have always loved Disco) I will try very hard not to edit it whilst transcribing. 😁
My Craziness
I just had a thought, an epiphany really, and I felt I should share it with the two women I love the most. It came to me really last night, as I was dancing while cooking spaghetti in front of a very large window facing a fairly frequented street, and numerous strange foreign neighbors who I'm sure like to look out of their windows every once in awhile. As I was gyrating like a banshee while seasoning the ground meat I thought...I enjoy being a little crazy, a little eccentric. I mean, who wants to be boring and normal really? People associate craziness with all sorts of bad and nasty things, but really...who would want to be the opposite? Personally, I'm the first one to raise my hand and say...I know, crazy old mom at it again...but from now on I'm going to take PRIDE in that. I mean, if I weren't a bit "off" (for lack of a better word) I wouldn't get to spin my son around the living room while singing old Doobie Brothers songs at the top of my lungs, when he should be eating his lunch. And personally, the only way I can tolerate mundane household shores is by putting a little fun into it. So, if you were a fly on the wall in my house this morning you might have found me doing the funky four corners to the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack while simultaneously folding my laundry and bathing my 2 dirty munchkins. My fat butt pretending to do a strip tease, while folding socks that I know were once supposed to be white. So, the next time you find yourself moaning, or begrudging yourself for doing things a little different than the average woman...instead I ask of you to take PRIDE in the fact that you can see the world around you in much brighter colors than everyone else...and smile. Think of me, having my own personal disco in the kitchen while the Germans whisper about how odd that woman who just moved in next door is. And I will sign off this letter with a poem from one of C's millions of books: My Mother Has Gone Crazy by Suzanne Wunder. (from the book I Invited a Dragon to Dinner
My mother has gone crazy. I think she's lost her head. She toasted all my socks. And she washed a loaf of bread. She put jelly on my toothbrush and said, "Scrub between your toes.". Then she gave me her best tablecloth and said, "here, blow your nose." She put my little sister in the yard and told the cat, "Don't go out unless you're wearing some mittens and a hat." She kissed the dog good-bye two times, and told my dad to stay. My mother has gone crazy but...I like my mom this way. 
When T read this he said "That sounds like you Mom!!" to which I replied, "You're right, it does!"

So, without analyzing my writing skills, I just want to remind everyone to make sure you're putting a little fun in your daily life, especially right now. When the world feels the most dark and insecure, it's even more important to keep some light and silly in your routine...especially if you have little ones at home still. Buy that silly coffee cup. Make pancakes piled with strawberries and whipped cream for dinner. Put that Jon Snow or Batman Funko Pop Toy on your desk at work. Wake your teenager on their birthday by obnoxiously playing The Beatles You Say It's Your Birthday, while screaming the lyrics! Whatever it may be...I really think it's something the world needs more of right now.

Or just be like me, and have regular dance parties at your house. I find dinner to be the PERFECT time for one...and it's a time when most people are uber stressed out. Grab your kids, or your spouse, and spin them around the room...while singing crazy (that's the most important part!). I recommend I Will Survive by Gloria Gaynor. 😁

Because there's certifiably crazy (the bad kind) and then there's socially acceptable crazy (the good kind), and we all need a little more of that in our lives. 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Retrograde Review

This review needs to start with a few apologies and asides, which most might not deem necessary...but I'm occasionally neurotic and not "most people".

First off, for regular readers of the blog, I will start with my apologies that I have a tendency to read a lot of books that are eerily similar. I have always said that I will read anything, regardless of genre, as long as the story sounds interesting. But, occasionally I become hyper self-aware, and start to wonder whether the reason that last grief-filled book of loss didn't strike a cord is because I've read SO many books recently with similar plots that they've got somewhat boring, no matter how good the writing is. Some of it is because I have been reading a lot of books recently that I didn't pick out. And some of it is because I am prone to ruts. I find something I enjoy, like thrillers...and then I read them to death. But I need to remember that variety is the spice of life, and has always been my reading motto. So, I will strive to add a better mix in the future. (Right now some of you might be thinking, but it IS a mix Christina?!? In which case, I say thank you, and you now have a small taste of the crazy lady that my husband has lived with for almost 24 years.)

Now the second has more to do with this review. I don't read very many Science Fiction books. As I said in my review of Dark Matter, it's just not a genre I regularly pick up...not for any particular reason really...but when I do read one, I'm never analyzing the science in it. So with Retrograde by Peter Cawdron (which was sent to me by the publisher, thanks!!), I devoured the book with lightning speed...and then wanted a second opinion.

I had recently been discussing books with one of my daughter's best friends at college, an extremely intelligent cutie of a guy with a wry sense of humor. In fact, I believe he was at the house when I received Retrograde in the mail. Anyway, he mentioned that he'd read quite a few Science Fiction books, and enjoyed them. So, as soon as I finished this book, I shoved it into my daughter's hands and asked her to please give it to R so I could hear what he thought of it. (after grilling her to be sure it wasn't too weird...)

But, I hadn't taken my photo of it yet. 😢 And despite it vexing me at times, I really do enjoy taking my own photos of any books I have physical copies of. So instead, you guys get my first try at making my own backdropped cover photo. I'm reasonably happy with it...reasonably.

And now to my actual thoughts about Retrograde...finally.

Retrograde is a fairly small (256 page) novel about an international colony on Mars in the near future, filled with scientists, engineers and medical personnel, who are forced to deal with the repercussions of a massive nuclear war on Earth. It is told in the first person, through American who is in a relationship with a Chinese doctor. There is something of a twist in the plot, which I don't want to spoil in any I'm going to keep the details sparse.

Mars is a popular place in Fiction, with the book/movie The Martian being enjoyed by just about everyone. A big difference between the two stories is that in Retrograde we have an entire colony that is unprepared to sustain itself for the long haul, and may never have help from an Earth that has been plunged into chaos. And this book really made me think about what would happen with an international group of colonists, who regularly work together in harmony (for lack of a better word), if a war broke out between the nations that were forced together in the group. Would the discord travel to the colonists? Should it impact them? I know that this is a quandary that has been in play probably since people have been around...but the Sci-Fi element just amplifies it to a much higher degree. Because a massive War is taking place on Earth, does that mean it also needs to happen on Mars? (My second opinion agreed with this, I think.)

But then, about halfway through the book, you realize there is something else at play. And although I read this book incredibly fast, totally intrigued, I honestly feel that this is where the size of the novel negatively impacts the story. Things get very complicated, and in a way it felt like there was just too much jammed into too small of a space, if that makes sense. The plot was a bit much for less than 100 pages. Hopefully R won't hate that I'm quoting him here, but he said "It's a pretty short book, and he tried to do a lot with it, so it felt a bit convoluted at points." And I agree, wholeheartedly.

My only other, somewhat minor issue, is that with the book being told in the first person, I didn't really feel like I got to know any of the characters very well...including the main character, Liz. For loss to have much of an impact, you have to care about your characters, and that requires more than a little time, attention and background. Although I think an effort was made, I didn't have as big of an emotional response as I might have if it weren't told in the first person. But I also know that's more a personal preference thing.

So, I enjoyed Retrograde...and a huge Thank-you to the publisher (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) for sending it my way! From what I can tell, I think it was very well-researched...which isn't so important to me but I'm sure is important to others. It was a fast-paced, entertaining read that definitely kept me thinking. If you're a fan of Science Fiction, I would add it to your reading list. My second opinion said "It was a really interesting book, with a pretty well built world." and I agree with his sentiments. Today you got two reviews instead of one!! (Thanks again R for humoring me, and finding the time in your busy schedule to not only read this book, but to also let me know what you thought!)

But in the end, I'm really just curious if anyone else gets in a reading rut, and finds that they've been reading too many of the same type books?!? Let me know in the comments!!

Monday, October 16, 2017

Love Reconsidered Review

I have another Booksparks Fall Reading Challenge selection for you today, and a HUGE thank you again to them for letting me be a part of their program. While I'm convinced I will never unbury myself from the reading hole I got in when we moved, I am so appreciative that they...along with others...have faith in my abilities, and continue to send me books! 😁 What I really need is a vacation that involves me with no smartphone or television, sitting in a comfy chair with my stack of To Reads and zero interruptions. A girl can dream, right??

Love Reconsidered by Phyllis J. Piano is a story of love, loss and grief. Sunny and Stu are high schoolers in love. When Stu's parent, Ted and Gerrie, sit him down and explain that they are divorcing...he is devastated. But his mother's confession of her love for Sunny's father Durk sends Stu rushing out of the house on his motorcycle, where he's promptly struck by a car and killed. Sunny, who has had the same conversation with her parents, has hopped in her car to see her boyfriend...but finds him dying on the side of the road. Filled with grief, she blames her father and Stu's mother for her boyfriend's death. Ted, and Sunny's mother Aleen, come together to help each other heal. What follows is a tale of people trying to find their way following a tragedy.

Honestly, the description sounds a little like a soap opera...and at times, the book felt eerily similar to one. Or maybe I've read too many books recently with people grieving, but I don't think that's my issue with this book really. I've been racking my brain to figure out why I didn't connect with it, and I'll try to work my way through that for you, while being sensitive to the fact that this book is someone's baby.

I think a lot of my feelings stem from the dialogue, because I have read books with way more drama and coincidence than this book have, but haven't felt as schmaltzy. But the conversations between characters in Love Reconsidered felt unrealistic and at times overly saccharine sweet, even during arguments. It just didn't read realistic. So when you have a very optimistic character like Ted, he ended up coming off as more Ned Flanders from The Simpsons than a genuinely great guy. And this became a problem, because this is a highly emotional, dialogue heavy book...and the conversations between a heartbroken father and his philandering wife should tug at your heart, and not leave you analyzing your lack of feeling.

BUT...this book does have a few good things going for it. I loved how Ted and Aleen were there for each other, and forged a friendship that pushed each other to grow and get some good out of an extremely difficult situation. They realized that although they weren't the ones stepping out on their marriage, nothing happens in a vacuum...and so gently nudged each other to work on becoming the people they truly wanted to be in life. It showed a loving relationship between a man and a woman that stayed purely platonic, and was better for it.

So, not my favorite read of the year...but I find you get something out of every book you read. Even the ones that don't make your top 10. Dialogue is super tricky...and I think writing believable conversations has to be one of the hardest things when writing fiction. I believe it has to be a tweak, tweak and tweak some more task. And it's also probably extremely subjective, because everyone talks in a different fashion. So, what sounds normal to me may not sound normal to my neighbor. I'm an odd duck, and conversations in my house occasionally border on Whedonesque, so in the end my issues with dialogue might just be ME.

But, if you are in the market for a feel good, hope-filled dramatic book about getting over loss...maybe check this one out from the Library. 💛

Friday, October 13, 2017

Dark Matter Review

For the first time in quite a few months, I can write a review for a book club selection! You have no idea how happy this makes me. A few ladies from North Dakota have moved here within a couple weeks of each other, and decided to form a displaced "DC by way of ND" book club as a means of keeping in touch! Of course, I missed our first get together...but I DID read the book (of course). We are all fans of thrillers, so decided to pick from that genre initially. I'd had Dark Matter by Blake Crouch on my To Read list for quite some time, so figured this was the perfect opportunity to give it a read...and for some reason the rest of the ladies went along! 😁

Dark Matter is one of those thrillers that probably reads more as Sci-Fi than I'd originally realized when I picked it out...and I don't read many books of that genre. So, just know that I'm never analyzing the science behind anything, as that's just not me. I read for enjoyment, and rarely do I let plausibility get in the way of my entertainment!

And now to try and review this without any dreaded spoilers...

Jason Dessen loves his wife and son, and the life they've built together, but has always had the niggling 'what if' thoughts in the back of his mind. Years ago he chose to work as a college professor and devote his time to building a family instead of following the path of his old best friend, and becoming a dazzling celebrity scientist whose name is recognized by others. He was the smarter of the two, but now that his old buddy is winning prizes and the accolades are piling up, he's starting to wonder if he made the right decision. Following an argument with his friend, he wanders the city internally debating his life choices, when he's accosted by a man whose identity is hidden. When he wakes up, he finds life isn't as he remembered. There is no son...and he's the famous scientist. Is it all a dream? And if it's not, is there any way for him to return to his old life? And does he even want to??

This book was a total binge read for me. Once I started it, I had to keep reading until the end...and spent a good deal of the time scratching my head, wondering whether I was mentally keeping pace with the plot as it does get a bit complicated. In high school, I read a book with a slightly similar premise, although for the life of me I can't remember what it was called...and can't seem to find it online with my stilting description of "parallel universes and airplane". But this book took it all to such an extreme level that it hits a point where you're wondering if it could get any more messed up!

But in the end, this book is all about your choices in life, and owning them. Being present in your life, and not spending it looking back and constantly analyzing decisions you've made and wondering how you could've done it differently. If you take all of the science out, that's what you're left with...which makes for a compelling book club read. I'm super irked that I missed getting together with the other ladies who read it, because I'd have loved to pick their brains and see if they felt the same way, although I'm pretty sure they all at least enjoyed the book.

Don't get me wrong, this is a fast-paced thriller, filled with a scientific premise that I'm sure loads of people analyzed. There were a couple of sections that had me literally holding my breath! But, broken down and stripped of the science and suspense, for me it was about owning your decisions.

I would most definitely recommend this book, for a big ole cross-section of people. I think it will appeal to fans of science fiction, suspense, mysteries, thrillers and psychological/philosophical dramas. It was a very quick read for me, but at 354 pages it's not teeny-tiny. And it's just compelling and dark enough that you won't want to put it down.

I'd love to know if I'm the only one who doesn't analyze the science in a science fiction...who could care less if Dan Brown is telling the truth or not...who normally reads for entertainment, without delving too much into the analysis (beyond good discussion). Let me know in the comments!!