Monday, July 3, 2017

Books Lately: June '17

June started off as a really productive reading month but my reading interest sort of fizzled out by the middle of the month.  I started three different books toward the end of June but couldn't finish any of them.  I've got a few long flights coming up so I'll probably be able to get a lot of reading done during that time.

The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas

Description from Amazon:
"Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr. 

But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life."

Jana from Jana Says posted about this book on IG in the beginning of the month and I immediately downloaded it to my Kindle (app).  This was one of those books that I found hard to put down.  Angie Thomas is an amazing author who writes a story that made me feel so many strong emotions throughout.  The characters are so real and down-to-earth that it makes it hard not to love them.  This is story sends a very strong political and emotional message in such a positive, constructive way, that it forces you to acknowledge the wrongdoings in the world and empowers you to join in the efforts of making a change.  I HIGHLY recommend you read this book and then share it with everyone you know.

A Woman of Integrity, by J. David Simons
**A copy of this book has been generously provided to me by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.**

Description from Amazon:
"Finding herself to be on the wrong side of fifty for a female film star, Laura Scott's career is on the slide. She has an opportunity to reverse this downward spiral when she is offered the starring role in a one-woman play about the life and loves of Hollywood silent screen actress turned pioneering pilot, Georgie Hepburn. Laura jumps at the chance for Georgie is someone she has admired for her courage and integrity ever since she was a child. But as Laura discovers more about Georgie, she realises there is always a price to pay for integrity - in her own life as well as Georgie's.Acclaimed author J David Simons' fifth novel, this is a subtle and complex exploration of a creative life and the challenges faced when a person's desire to be authentic comes under pressure."

I really didn't think I'd love this book as much as I did.  It had been on my TBR list for a while and when I finally got around to reading it, I found it hard to put down.  The story of Georgie Hepburn was so fascinating and inspiring and I absolutely loved her character.  Laura Scott was quite a mess in the beginning of this book but her passion for learning about and retelling Georgie's life helped to put her on the right track.  It made me think about the choices in my life that I've made, good and bad, and how those decisions continue to shape who I am as a person.

The Recovery Letters, by James Whitley
**A copy of this book has been generously provided to me by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.** 

Description from Amazon:
"In 2012, The Recovery Letters was launched to host a series of letters online written by people recovering from depression, addressed to those currently affected by a mental health condition. Addressed to 'Dear You', the inspirational and heartfelt letters provided hope and support to those experiencing depression and were testament that recovery was possible

Now for the first time, these letters have been compiled into an anthology for people living with depression and are interspersed with motivating quotes and additional resources as well as new material written specifically for the book. This powerful collection of personal letters from people with first-hand experiences of depression will serve as a comforting resource for anyone on the journey to recovery."

As a person who lives with bouts of self-diagnosed depression, I appreciated this book quite a bit.  Suicide rates on Guam have been rising and it makes me wonder how many of those people could have been helped by a book like this.  I'm currently not going through a gloomy episode but I can understand how someone who is going through it can be helped by the letters written in this book.  Depression is like living in a dark and lonely bubble, where everything else around you is muted and seems unreachable, so having people who have been in their own bubbles and know what it feels like really does give you hope that one day your bubble will burst and you'll be "normal" again.  I highly recommend this book to anyone who suffers from and/or knows someone who suffers from depression.

Everything Reminds You of Something Else, by Elana Wolff
**A copy of this book has been generously provided to me by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.** 

Description from Amazon:
"Thin is the line between dreaming and wakefulness, wellness and disorder, here and there, this and that. Elana Wolff's poems illuminate the porousness of states and relations, the connective compulsion of poetic perception, in language that blends the oracular and the everyday, the elliptical and the lucent, the playful and the heart-raking. The de- and re-constructive workings of the poems in Everything Reminds You of Something Else argue for empathy and attentiveness. At the core of this work is the belief that art is the sanest rage."

I think I've burned myself out on poetry books because I wasn't really feeling this one so much.  There were a few poems and lines that I did like, but most of her references flew over my head.

Monthly Mantra 2017: July

I touched on "big changes" in my last Mantra post for June and this month is all about the adventure.  We're a spontaneous pair, Joey and I, and we've been back and forth about putting our roots down here on Guam vs. leaving the island.  There are pros and cons to both sides and while we're still not fully committed to a decision yet, we'll be going on a trip this month to help decide it once and for all.  Okay, maybe not "for all".  Probably just "for now" until we feel adventure calling us again next year.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

SammyDress - Tropical Blue Bikini

This post was sponsored by SammyDress. All opinions remain my own. Thanks for supporting the brands that support me!

Summer has just begun here on Guam and my family and I kicked it off by taking full advantage of the island life by going to the beach.  It just so happened that my birthday fell on Memorial Day this year so I took an extra day off on Tuesday to spend as much time in the sun as I could before going back to work.

It was a fun-filled, sun-filled weekend full of laughter, cool breezes, and perfect photo opportunities.  I was finally able to break out my new bikinis from SammyDress that I picked out a few weeks ago and I couldn't resist taking a few photos in this tropical printed blue bikini that I received.  I knew immediately that I had to have it when I saw it on the SammyDress website.  The print and color looked gorgeous online and it was just as vibrant in person as well.

Though I normally fit mediums, I requested a large since it is a Brazilian style bottom and shows more booty than a regular bikini bottom and also because I'm a little curvier in the hips (especially since I haven't been keeping up with my diet and exercise for the past few months) and know how I'd like my bottoms to fit on me.  I'm glad that I ordered a size up because the large fit perfectly.  I think if I'd ordered a medium, it would have been too tight so I recommend ordering a size up if you're planning on getting a bikini from SammyDress as well.

The suit goes for about $8.00 (yes, you read that right) and is a STEAL of a deal because the quality of it is the same, if not better, than some popular brand-name bikinis I currently own.  Honestly, I'm not sure if I'll ever pay more than $60 for a new suit ever again now that I know how great the ones at SammyDress are.

I've got a few more items from SammyDress that I'll be sharing with you soon so stay tuned.  In the meantime, go and check out the HUGE selection of bikinis and swimwear over at SammyDress.  For an even better deal, use one of the promo codes below for extra savings!

Friday, June 2, 2017

Books Lately: May '17

May was definitely not a great month for reading.  It was the last month of school before summer break and full of basketball games, baseball games, birthday parties, family events, school events, etc.  I honestly only read the first three books all the way through before the end of May.  The last book I finished last night but still counting it towards my May reads because, why not?

Piercing the Veil, by Nicole L. Taylor
**A copy of this book has been generously provided to me by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.**

Description from NetGalley:
I enjoyed this book because of all the mystery and family secrets as well as the magical and paranormal parts.  I really liked Alexa because of how strong she is even with all these secrets and changes going on, she still manages to keep herself together and not fall to shit.  The fact that she has a dark backstory makes her all the more intriguing.  The romance between Alexa and Roman I could do without because it's just so predictable.  Also, the whole "Cuz" thing whenever the cousins are talking to each other was kind of annoying, but then again, the characters are teenagers so I guess.  Lastly, just warning you that this has a cliffhanger ending which irritated me.  This book left me with so many more questions than answers.  Just when I was excited to learn more about Alexa's powers, family history and Aurandia, the book ends and I have to wait until the next one comes out to find out what happens.

The Chaos of Longing, by K.Y. Robinson

Description from Amazon:
"The Chaos of Longing is a prose and poetry collection draped in raw honesty, ache, and eroticism. The book explores trauma, mental illness, love, heartbreak, and the realizations from it all."

This collection of poems told an interesting story about the author through each piece.  It was a quick read, as most poetry books are, but some of the poems were pretty provocative.  I couldn't connect with this book as much as I could with the poetry books I'd read previously so it was just okay for me.

The Ship, by Antonia Honeywell
**A copy of this book has been generously provided to me by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.**

Description from NetGalley:
"London burned for three weeks. And then it got worse...
Lalla has grown up sheltered from the chaos amid the ruins of civilization. But things are getting more dangerous outside. People are killing each other for husks of bread, and the police are detaining anyone without an identification card. On her sixteenth birthday, Lalla's father decides it's time to use their escape route--a ship he's built that is only big enough to save five hundred people.

But the utopia her father has created isn't everything it appears. There's more food than anyone can eat, but nothing grows; more clothes than anyone can wear, but no way to mend them; and no-one can tell her where they are going"

I always get a little creeped out when I read post-apocalyptic stories and this was no different.  The way the author described the how the world began to fall apart seemed pretty realistic to me and the way the Paul family secured a ship and selected people to go with them while the rest of the world wasted away kinda reminded me of Noah's Ark.  Lalla's character annoyed me quite a bit because of how naive she was.  She lived such a sheltered life compared to everyone else so I understood how frustrated all the other characters were with her.  I liked how she finally realized things and stood her ground in the end though.

The Hour Wasp, by Jay Sheets
**A copy of this book has been generously provided to me by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.**

Description from NetGalley:
"This poetry collection does the unspeakable.  It takes you on a journey, in three sections, through morose, sometimes tragic imagery (the ouroboros rinsed in venom / [flickering] the shape of things unshaped // no silken moments / only that which is always breaking / [something is always / breaking here]), and finds itself, in those melancholy moments of the second section some hint of a truth, of a reason, of hope, or a hope (the hour wasp awakens // & we are the things that take shape / & we let the things without shape take shape), and then, finally, we come to the final section, the send-off, the great, all-encompassing display of universal truths, using similar images, visions Mr. Sheets has experienced himself through dreams and meditations, and gives the reader the sense of understanding, almost accomplishment as she has waded through the dark along with the author and illustrator and come to find a sense of solace, one that may stand the test of time (i see the thousandth star / she looks to the thousandth star / the thousandth star is us // & i wonder if i / or anyone i  know    should be so lucky / & i light a new fire at the end of myself)."

This one was a hard no for me.  It was very short but took me a while to get through, considering how short of a book it is.  I fell asleep reading it and couldn't keep my focus.  And I'm not sure if it was meant to be that confusing or if that's just the way the proof version is, but I was lost as to where a line started and ended so it was like reading one long-ass paragraph of nonsense at a time.  There were a lot of words I didn't understand and though I did get the feeling of the mood the author was going for, it just wasn't for me.


Also, I know I haven't updated my 52 books list in a while, so I'll put the updated one in next month's book recap.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Monthly Mantra 2017: June

Things have been brewing lately that I can't discuss on here yet.  Big changes may be in store for us in the near future and though we've been talking back and forth about it for months now, it may finally come down to putting it into action.  I'm scared out of my mind because it is a big decision and I don't want to do something that we'll regret later on, but it is also really exciting and something I know we can handle if we put in the work.

Cheers to a summer of big changes and new beginnings!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Monthly Mantra 2017: May

Things have been going 100mph in my life since April and I haven't had a chance to blog, read, or clear my mind fully until now.  There are so many things that have been going on and now that things are slowing down (though only barely) I finally have a little time to bring my creative side out again.  

I've done a lot of reflecting during those busy weeks and have learned the true feelings and motives of those around me.  The people who I drop everything for don't appreciate the effort it takes and instead choose to speak unkindly and negatively about me to others.  This realization put me in a bad place for a few days until I decided to quit feeling sorry for myself and letting the actions of others affect me so much.  I've decided that those people aren't important to me anymore and I no longer hold them in high regard because they only bring me down.  Though I can't cut them out of my life completely, I can distance myself from them and not let their opinions and actions get to me because I deserve to be treated better than that.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Books Lately: April '17

I've been extremely busy lately with work and haven't had much time to do anything else but read after a long day, so April has been a pretty good book month for me.  Here's what I read:

The Shadow Land, by Elizabeth Kostova
**A copy of this book has been generously provided to me by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.**

Description from NetGalley:
"THE SHADOW LAND blends history and the present in a suspenseful journey that spans three generations and reveals the dark secrets of a family’s—and a nation’s—history.

A young American woman, Alexandra Boyd, has traveled to Sofia, Bulgaria, hoping that life abroad will salve the wounds left by the loss of her beloved brother. Soon after arriving in this elegant East European city, however, she helps an elderly couple into a taxi — and realises too late that she has accidentally kept one of their bags. Inside she finds an ornately carved wooden box engraved with a name: Stoyan Lazarov. Raising the hinged lid, she discovers that she is holding an urn filled with human ashes.

As Alexandra sets out to locate the family and return this precious item, she gradually uncovers the secrets of a talented musician shattered by oppression —and she will find out all too quickly that this knowledge is fraught with its own danger.

Kostova’s tale of immense scope delves into the horrors of a century and traverses the culture and landscape of this mysterious country. Suspenseful and beautifully written, it explores the power of stories, the pull of the past, and the hope and meaning that can sometimes be found in the aftermath of loss."

The beginning of this book was very slow for me and it took me a while to get into the story because so much time was focused on Alexandra's back story.  Once the story picked up, it was easy for me to get lost in the book because it had a lot of my favorite elements:  history, tragedy, mystery, corruption, and strong ties of friendship.  I especially loved Stoyan Lazarov's story of being sent to work camps and the fact that he suffered it all in silence.  I also really appreciated that the author didn't give away too many hints about the bad guy, which kept me guessing until the very end.

A Spiritual Look at the 12 Signs, an Introduction to Spiritual Astrology, by Joseph Polansky
**A copy of this book has been generously provided to me by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.**

Description from NetGalley:
"A spiritual perspective on the 12 signs of the zodiac, the horoscope, healing and spirituality. People's quirks and idiosyncrasies have deep spiritual roots. The horoscope shows us what they are. What are seen as flaws are really strengths deeply disguised or not used properly. Every sign is in essence a spiritual force and function and denotes a person's deepest urges. This book explains these urges. It also contains meditations for each of the signs, and the herbs, colors, gems and reflexology points that will most benefit each sign. There are chapters on the unique spiritual path for each sign and the healing modalities that are best for each - and much more."

I used to be into Astrology, tarot cards, palm reading, etc. back in high school (who wasn't, right?) so this book really took me back and allowed me to tap into my spiritual side and get a new perspective on the different areas of my life as well as the lives of others.  Some parts of the book were repetitive, but at the same time, I can see how the author needed to reiterate certain things because some people tend to pick up books like these and only read the parts about their specific zodiac sign.  I really loved the insight I got from reading through this and am looking forward to learning more.

The Giver, by Lois Lowry

Description from Amazon:
"The Giver, the 1994 Newbery Medal winner, has become one of the most influential novels of our time. The haunting story centers on twelve-year-old Jonas, who lives in a seemingly ideal, if colorless, world of conformity and contentment. Not until he is given his life assignment as the Receiver of Memory does he begin to understand the dark, complex secrets behind his fragile community."

I'd read this book in elementary school and it was one of those stories that really stuck with me throughout my life.  Finally getting the chance to reread it made me realize just how great of a story it is that it stuck with me for so long.  I've also purchased the follow-up book to it (there are actually 4 books now I think ) and can't wait to dig into that one as soon as I finish reading all the other books I have on my TBR list.

Extracted, by R.R. Haywood
**A copy of this book has been generously provided to me by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.**

Description from Amazon:
"In 2061, a young scientist invents a time machine to fix a tragedy in his past. But his good intentions turn catastrophic when an early test reveals something unexpected: the end of the world.

A desperate plan is formed. Recruit three heroes, ordinary humans capable of extraordinary things, and change the future.

Safa Patel is an elite police officer, on duty when Downing Street comes under terrorist attack. As armed men storm through the breach, she dispatches them all.

'Mad' Harry Madden is a legend of the Second World War. Not only did he complete an impossible mission—to plant charges on a heavily defended submarine base—but he also escaped with his life.

Ben Ryder is just an insurance investigator. But as a young man he witnessed a gang assaulting a woman and her child. He went to their rescue, and killed all five.

Can these three heroes, extracted from their timelines at the point of death, save the world?"
Oh, this one was good!  I've never been much of a sci-fi fan, but this one really drew me in.  It's basically a story about time travel and the apocalypse and three people are "extracted" from their place in time to save the world before it happens.  I loved getting to know the characters and their backstories but the cliffhanger ending frustrated the hell out of me!  I need to know what happens next!!  I cannot wait until the release of the second book in this trilogy!

The Man In the Lighthouse, by Erik Valeur
**A copy of this book has been generously provided to me by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.**

Description from Amazon:
"All his life, Viggo Larssen has been haunted by the same troubling dream, which he calls the Omen—a vision of a woman beckoning to him from the surface of a churning sea. Now, as he broods over his shipwrecked existence in a remote lighthouse off the outermost coast of Denmark, he is about to be borne backward by the current to a past he thought he had escaped forever.

On the Danish mainland, the widowed mother of the nation’s prime minister mysteriously vanishes from her prestigious nursing home. As the police search for clues, evidence mounts that her disappearance is tied to an unsolved crime from Viggo’s childhood. Told through the eyes of multiple characters from Viggo’s old neighborhood, Erik Valeur’s dark, serpentine mystery is a profound meditation on the persistence of memory, the power of dreams, and the secrets we hide from one another—and ourselves."
I enjoy stories that are creepy and mysterious but in a subtle, not too over-the-top sort of way and this book was it.  So many characters with different personalities yet each has so many secrets to hide.  The mystery behind the Widow drove me crazy because there were so many suspects it was hard to pin down who was really behind her disappearance and death but I loved it.  I also really loved the Death Omen theory and how the author tied it into this story full of tragedy.  Such a good book that left me wanting to read more about the other characters and their stories.

Whiskey, Words & a Shovel I, by R.H. Sin **A copy of this book has been generously provided to me by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.**

Description from Amazon:
"Whiskey, Words, and a Shovel, Vol. 1, is about reclaiming your power on the path to a healthy relationship. It is a testament to choosing to love yourself, even if it means heartbreak.

Originally released in 2015, this re-rerelease packs the same punch as the first version, but makes an even greater connection with the soul of the reader. Each piece has been re-seen and revamped to reflect the author’s continuing journey with his partner, Samantha King, without whom this book would not exist. Samantha is the muse, the “she” the writer speaks of; she is every woman who has felt like she wasn’t good enough, and every woman who struggles to find love."

I had been itching to read this book for months after hearing and seeing so many good things about it.  Being that the first version of this book was listed for at least $100 on Amazon, I was so excited when I found a digital copy of the revised edition on NetGalley.  I enjoyed most of the poems in this book, and though they were quite short and easy to read through, they still stirred emotion in me - which I believe is what poetry should do.  I've been reading a lot more poetry lately, which in turn motivates me to write more so I'm trying to make it a point to read at least one book of poetry each month.

Girl in Snow, by Danya Kukafka
 **A copy of this book has been generously provided to me by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.**

Description from Amazon:
"When a beloved high schooler named Lucinda Hayes is found murdered, no one in her sleepy Colorado suburb is untouched—not the boy who loved her too much; not the girl who wanted her perfect life; not the officer assigned to investigate her murder. In the aftermath of the tragedy, these three indelible characters—Cameron, Jade, and Russ—must each confront their darkest secrets in an effort to find solace, the truth, or both. In crystalline prose, Danya Kukafka offers a brilliant exploration of identity and of the razor-sharp line between love and obsession, between watching and seeing, between truth and memory."
Another great mystery book that kept me on the edge until the very end!  Basically, a teenage girl (blonde, popular, perfect in every way) named Lucinda is found dead on the playground of a small town and nobody knows who killed her.  The story is told from the points of view of three different people:  Cameron (main suspect, peeping Tom, weird kid that has serious issues, aka Lucinda's stalker), Jade (complete opposite of Lucinda, tried to use magic to wish Lucinda would disappear), and Russ (police officer, used to be partners with Cameron's dad).  I loved getting to know all three of the main characters and their roles in the mystery and the ending was such a great twist!  I NEVER would have guessed who the killer was!  Cannot wait to read more from this new author!