Wednesday, April 18, 2018

The Immortalists Review

I feel like I need to start this review off with an apology for being absent for a few of my regular M-W-F blog posts. I've been doing a lot of ruminating, and soul searching, about the blog and my writing etc...and it led to taking a few days off. But I'm back with a review for another book sent to me by the Great Thoughts/Great Readers Book Ninja Crew and Netgalley! If you follow any book accounts on Instagram, you've probably seen this beautifully covered book all over the place...or you may have already read it. This book has been talked about A LOT, so although it took me a little longer to pick it up than it should have, I needed to see what all the talk was about. Plus, I need to mention that cover again?!?

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin is the epic tale of the four Gold siblings, and how they live their lives after visiting a travelling psychic as children and being told the day of their deaths. How each deal with the impending date is slightly different, and begs the question of whether knowing when you will die would be a good thing? How would it affect your life? Would it force you to make different decisions? Do you put your faith in a prophecy given to you by someone others might say is a fraud? Do you even waste your time thinking about it, or bury it away?

Simon is the youngest of the Gold siblings. A stunningly gorgeous teenager when he runs away to San Francisco to live freely as a gay man, he lives with abandon and there's no tomorrow. And late 70's/early 80's era San Francisco isn't kind to the gay community. At times enjoyable, and other times incredibly frustrating, his story line filled me with sadness.

Klara is the bohemian sibling obsessed with her family's eccentric past. She works for years as a magician, at first on her own and then with her husband. But her problems with alcohol and what is most likely an undiagnosed mental disorder, start getting a tad out of control. Although intriguing and very mystical, I spent most of her story line wanting to give her a good smack upside the head.

Daniel is the all-american older brother and military man, although his career as an Army Doctor starts moving in a direction he didn't foresee. He becomes a man obsessed with his childhood prophecy, but at what cost? This is a man that made me As in, "What the HELL are you DOING?!?!". Good stuff...

And then you have Varya, the oldest of the Gold siblings. She has dedicated her entire life to studying aging, and trying to find a way to increase our longevity. But is she really living? And will her past decisions come back to haunt her? Her section of the book holds my favorite scene.

This novel is going to be a tough one for me to rate on a star scale, which is why I didn't give it one on Goodreads as soon as I finished it, like I normally do. It is a VERY well-written book, and I devoured it in two sittings. I read Simon's section one night, and the rest of the sibling's sections the next day. The entire premise of the book is incredibly intriguing, and really hooked me from the very beginning...and honestly would make a great book club selection because there's so much to talk about. But if you need to like the characters in your book...this one is probably going to drive you batty.

I mean it. If you need to care immensely about their outcome, really connect with them on a deep level, and like them as a person...this might not be the book for you. I'm okay with not liking my characters, or reading a book full of what I like to refer to as Gray people. Characters who aren't all good, wonderful, great, nice, sweet, terrific (Light) or evil, mean, rotten, horrible, nasty (Dark). They instead fit somewhere in the murky middle ground. I didn't necessarily "like" any of the Gold siblings, or their mother...or any of the other characters in this book. I came very close to liking Simon and Varya, and I'm okay with that. They were complex characters, for the most part.

It's funny...hands down, my favorite scene in the entire book comes at almost the very end, in a conversation between Varya and her mother. I'm not going to spoil anything for you...but my thoughts on the whole thing were pretty in line with the mom, who you generally don't like for the first half of the book...and the second half wonder if it's the same woman. But I was left wondering if things would've gone different for all of the Gold children if they'd have had this conversation with their mom a few decades earlier!!

Anyway...the book definitely makes you I'd say it was worth reading. I thought the writing was phenomenal, but it isn't an easy one for me to sum up in a cute little bundle for public consumption. I have complex feelings, so this review is probably all over the place! But a huge thank-you to the author, netgalley and the folks at Great Thoughts/Great Readers for sending me the book to read. A very complex read, where death may as well have been another character as in The Book Thief. But if given the chance to give a few whollops to some folks...I would. 😂

How do you feel about reading books with characters you don't like?? Let me know in the comments!

Monday, April 9, 2018

Here We Grow Book Review

Booksparks has blown me away, yet again, with a gigantic stack of beautiful books to try my best to work my way through. This time it's Magic of Memoir all nonfiction memoirs, which is a nice departure from what I've been reading recently. This first book I grabbed felt SO relevant to my life and the lives of so many people I know at the moment. I honestly don't think it's possible to not have your life touched by Cancer, but I have too many people I love recently diagnosed to not feel that this book arrived on my doorstep for a reason.

Here We Grow: Mindfulness Through Cancer and Beyond by Paige Davis tells the author's story of her diagnosis of breast cancer at the age of 38, and how she chose not to do battle per se but to embrace the experience with love and mindfulness. She is aware that to some it will sound a little too woo-woo, and it was refreshing to have an author come out and say that some may think her ways are a little too kooky for the average joe, but I think there's something to be taken from this book no matter where you land on the woo spectrum.

First off, I have to say that for a memoir, this book is extremely well written. Actually, I need to take that "for a memoir" out of it, and just say...for a nonfiction book, Here We Grow is very well-written, easy to read, and compelling enough to keep me reading the entire thing in one sitting. That is a pretty rare thing in nonfiction, and although it could be a case of the right book at the right time, I would read other things by the author...and I'm no meditation/yoga/mindfulness junkie or anything. Davis writes in a way that makes you feel like you're one of her friends, and yet it's not so casual that you feel like you're reading her diary entries.

As a very fit and health conscious woman, Davis is initially thrown by her cancer is everyone in her position, I'm sure. But almost immediately she decides she wants to take all negativity associated with the cancer away. She comes up with a care plan instead of a battle plan...tells her family she doesn't want to hear anyone speak negatively or talk about "doing battle", which is a VERY common I struggled to not write "A woman battling breast cancer" when typing up this review. And really, I can see where she's coming from. I had a conversation with my husband recently in regards to a family member being diagnosed, and how it must feel to be surrounded by 100+ people who are all stressed, angry and although they have the best of intentions, filling you with more dread than you already have. My husband actually said he wasn't sure he'd want to tell anyone, because in his eyes that would make it even harder to process and keep your own head on straight. I think the compromise would be to deal with it how Davis did.

I loved every minute of reading how the author dealt with her diagnosis and treatment. She was surrounded by a caring family and wonderful friends, with treatment at M.D. of the best cancer treatment facilities around (and one that a family member of mine is currently being treated at). She had the help of a mindfulness guru to come up with meditations for each major surgery and chemo, which she felt helped to keep her head in a good place and the energy around everything where she wanted it to be. She was able to put the right foods in her body to promote healing. And was healthy enough before the diagnosis to come out the other end with a body in a good place to build itself back up again.

Might it be a little too woo-woo for a lot of people either going through cancer, or with family and friends dealing with a cancer diagnosis? Perhaps. But even if it just gives you a different perspective and way of thinking about things...or one little tip you hadn't thought my mind it's worth the read. I'm okay with a little woo in my life. And there's not a big difference in my mind between a beautiful well-written healing visualization, and a healing prayer asking for God to be with your surgeon, etc. You take the information given to you, swirl it around with what is important in your life, and make it your own.

Fabulous memoir. I immediately followed the author everywhere, and had to see how she was doing now since her diagnosis was a few years back. Incredibly nice lady folks, and I can't thank Booksparks and the author enough for sending this book my way. The publication date is set for May 22, 2018 and it's available for pre-order through Amazon and other retailers. If you visit the author's website here you can actually read an excerpt of the first couple chapters, if you're curious.

I'd love to hear if anyone else has book recommendations dealing with Cancer. If you have any, please leave them in the comments section below.
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Wednesday, April 4, 2018

My Planner

Or How I'm Attempting to Be Organized This Year...

I will be the first to admit that me and organized are not normally used in the same sentence. It does not come naturally to me, and it's something I really have to work at. I'm generally more of a willy-nilly kind-of lady who spends her days putting out whatever fire pops up, and am reacting to things instead of setting my own pace and plan. It is something I am trying to work on. But since it is now April, and I've actually been consistently using my planner all year...I figured I could finally write a blog post about it without feeling like a fraud.

I previously had been doing some bullet journaling, but moved into a beautiful Filofax A5 ringed planner mid-January (you know, after I'd spent days making spreads in my bujo) and am in love. The draw to bullet journaling was just how customizable it is...and the idea that I could make any spread I might need, therefore making the ultimate planner. I think my head hadn't quite caught up with the times because between Etsy, and the computers we all have at our disposal, a ringed planner can do the exact same thing really. And I would sometimes find I'd spent so much time setting up my bullet journal, I would be too exhausted to use it. But really, I think the switch had more to do with coveting the duck egg blue filofax than anything else, if we're being truly honest.

So, I realize that truly going over my planner and how I use it would probably work best in a video and not a blog post. I plan on filming one soon, as I'm participating in #SSSVEDA this year on YouTube. What that means, for those who don't spend all of their spare time watching videos over there like I do, is that I'll be posting a video every day in April! (or at least that's the goal) I'll be sure to let y'all know when the planner video goes live, but I thought I'd write the basics of how I'm using it, and where I bought my supplies in a post to go along with any video I made.

I purchased my beautiful Filofax off of Amazon. The original version that I selected comes in an array of colors. I was torn between the blush and blue, as those are my COLORS, but the duck egg blue totally won out. They come with the regular Filofax inserts, but I knew they weren't going to fit the bill for what I wanted out of my planner, so I headed over to Etsy to see if I could find any that were exactly that I was looking for (or close to).

Now this is where the whole customizable thing comes in. What I want and need from my planner is probably going to be different than what you want and need from YOUR planner. The good thing about a ringed planner is if something isn't working for you, you can just take those pages out! more pages you don't need! If you decide you need something different, you just open those rings up, and toss some different pages in there and TADA, your setup is working again! Here's a list of the sections I have, or am working on adding, in my planner:

  • Future Calendar and Holidays
  • Month at a glance
  • Monthly habit trackers (one of my most used pages!!)
  • Week on 2 pages
  • Daily pages (I find the ones I have aren't working for me, need to find new ones or make my own)
  • Finances/Bill Tracker (moved from computer file to paper)
  • Lists Section (books to read, movies to watch, stuff to buy, gifts, groceries, etc)
  • My B's Pages (a section with goals, priorities, brainstorming, etc)
  • Bible Reading Tracker
  • Contacts (because sometimes it's nice to not have it all digital)
  • Running To Do List
  • Quotes List
  • Blog/Business Pages and trackers
  • Recipes, Meal Planning
As you can see, the choices are endless really. I chose to buy the bulk of my pages from ptpaper on Etsy because I am a fan of the style of the pages and font the shop uses. I love the Habit Trackers from there, and they are probably my favorite pages in my planner. I am also a fan of the Dated Weekly Inserts  and the Checklists (which I use in my list section).

Then, because I'm a girly girl who wants to be happy every time I open my planner, I have an extensive colored pen collection...but the ones I'm using the most at the moment are my Pilot Frixion Erasable Gel Pens that I purchased from Amazon, because a) they are colored, and b) they are erasable. Are they perfect, will they last forever in your planner, and have you thrown away every other pen you've ever purchased Christina?!?? No, but last month I used the pretty blue one...and this month I'm using the pretty purple one...and I'm happy. Also...I'm not afraid to admit that I play with stickers and washi tape sometimes. If I could doodle, I would me. I am a frustrated stick-figure drawer. So therefore I have to rely on people more artistic than I to bring the pretty to my black and white planner pages. Do you have to embellish your planner? Heck no. This is all about you doing you, we all need to remember that. But I have been known to spend a bad day placing happy llamas in various places on my planner pages just because. 😛 I have bought both good and iffy quality planner stickers from Etsy, but honestly my favorites have been from Michaels and Hobby Lobby (SALES!!). I purchased some truly STUNNING flowery ones a few weeks ago from the Michaels clearance section that made my heart SING. 

OH, the other thing I actually purchased for my planner were a few dashboards from JeePapeterieShop again for the pretty/happiness aspect, but also to add a couple distinct sections to the planner. And this elephant makes me happy.

I realize that this blog post is all over the place, and I could really use a thesaurus to find some new words to use in replacement of I said it WAY too many times. But I really wanted to express how I've taken something I have always been horrible at...namely planning my time, and being organized and intentional about how I'm living day to day...and am finding a way to work on improving at it, while also keeping my enthusiasm up and enjoying the process. Because if I told myself that I had to use a boring and restrictive planning regime, it wouldn't work for me. I think that's why digital planners have never kept me interested for very long. If planning and organizing is something that you also need to work on, my advice is to try and find a system that you will ENJOY looking at multiple times every day. Because if it doesn't make your heart sing, you aren't going to use it. Or at the very least, it's not going to be something you look forward to. And right now, I need to look forward to my planning time. And by golly, if that means I have to stick hot pictures of Michael Fassbender on the dividers for my finance section, just to get me to spend time there...then I should do it! 😂

So, my question for you today is...are you a naturally born organized individual? Do you use a planner? If so, what type are you using?? Inquiring minds want to know, y'all!! 

Hopefully I'll see you tomorrow, April 5th at 9 pm EST on my Facebook Page for our Virtual Book Club to discuss The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah!! 

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