Monday, April 3, 2017

Books Lately: March '17

March is usually such a busy month for me that I don't have time to relax at all, let alone read a book.  Thankfully, I was able to finish 4 books, and am just about finished with the book I'm currently reading.   Hopefully, April is a little less chaotic and I have more time for reading!



Red Rising, by Pierce Brown

Description from Amazon:
"Darrow is a Red, a member of the lowest caste in the color-coded society of the future. Like his fellow Reds, he works all day, believing that he and his people are making the surface of Mars livable for future generations. Yet he spends his life willingly, knowing that his blood and sweat will one day result in a better world for his children.

But Darrow and his kind have been betrayed. Soon he discovers that humanity reached the surface generations ago. Vast cities and lush wilds spread across the planet. Darrow—and Reds like him—are nothing more than slaves to a decadent ruling class.

Inspired by a longing for justice, and driven by the memory of lost love, Darrow sacrifices everything to infiltrate the legendary Institute, a proving ground for the dominant Gold caste, where the next generation of humanity’s overlords struggle for power.  He will be forced to compete for his life and the very future of civilization against the best and most brutal of Society’s ruling class. There, he will stop at nothing to bring down his enemies . . . even if it means he has to become one of them to do so."

I had no idea what this book was about before I started reading it.  I read reviews that said it was similar to Hunger Games, but this was much darker than Hunger Games.  The beginning was really confusing trying to imagine the scenes and characters in my mind and then trying to figure out the different color classes (and I'm still confused about most of it) but once you get into the heart of the story and the battle between the houses, it gets a little easier to follow.  I really enjoyed it, much more than I thought I would and I cannot wait to dive into the second book so I can read what happens next!  I can see the similarities between Red Rising and The Hunger Games, but they are also very different.  Same, same...but different. ;-)


Pen Pals, by Martin S. Gore
 **A copy of this book has been generously provided to me by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.**

Description from NetGalley:
"Jean Murgatroyd passes away in the northern industrial town of her birth, and her death re-opens old wounds surrounding the ownership of the family business. James Murgatroyd seeks to regain control of Murgatroyd Pens. Brenda Arkwright, the current Managing Director, has worked for the company all of her working life. But Brenda has secrets... 

Events from the her past that are now coming back to haunt her. She passes on a monogrammed fountain pen to her daughter, a present from Jean. Both Jean and Brenda know that there is another identical pen, and that the person now in possession of it holds the future of Murgatroyds in their hands... 

A heart warming family saga based in a Yorkshire town in the strike torn, class ridden seventies."

I really enjoyed the actual story that the author was telling in this book.  However, because of the way it was written, I found myself all sorts of confused and frustrated.  There are SO MANY characters in this book and it goes back and forth between viewpoints within the same chapter which made it harder to figure out what exactly was going on.  The chapters also go back and forth between different eras so I found myself re-reading certain parts over and over to figure out what was going on.


A Collapse of Horses, by Brian Evenson

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

Description from NetGalley:
"A stuffed bear beats with the rhythm of a dead baby’s heart; a crew on a space mission are dying of exposure to alien dust and at the hands of a killer among them; and a town keeps receding to the east as a man travels back to the father who drove him away. 

In these stories, Brian Evenson unsettles us with the everyday and the extraordinary—the terror of living with the knowledge of all we cannot know."


This book of short stories was haunting and creepy and I loved it!  It reminded me of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark which were some of my favorite books when I was a kid.  If you enjoy creepy books that make you think twice about being home alone at night, you'll enjoy this one.

 
Milk & Honey, by Rupi Kaur 

Description from Amazon:
"The book is divided into four chapters, and each chapter serves a different purpose. Deals with a different pain. Heals a different heartache. Milk and Honey takes readers through a journey of the most bitter moments in life and finds sweetness in them because there is sweetness everywhere if you are just willing to look."

I had heard such great things about this book and was so excited to read it, but it kinda fell short of my expectations.  Of the whole book, only a couple poems really stood out to me and evoked the kinds of feelings that I think a poem should.   Very easy read of poetry and prose, didn't take me more than an hour to get through.
 

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Monthly Mantra 2017: April

If you haven't figured it out, April's mantra is all about health and fitness.  I was doing pretty good at eating healthy and working out consistently up until my surgery in December.  After my surgery, I allowed my body some time to heal but have been trying to get back into the habit without much success.

This month, I plan to wean myself off the wheat again and start eating small, healthy meals regularly.  I'll also be changing my workout times from lunch to mornings since I've been using my lunches to run errands lately and I don't want that to deter me from reaching my goals.

As far as numbers go, my goal is to run at least 4 miles per week, and workout for at least 30 minutes 3 times per week using my Sweat app.  I'll be weighing myself, but will also be taking photos of myself (yikes!) to document my progress.

And because I like to document things and hold myself accountable to them, I'll be keeping a journal of the things I eat, my runs, workouts, feelings, accomplishments, new goals, etc. to keep myself motivated.

What about you?  Got any health/fitness goals to smash this month?

Monday, March 20, 2017

Mid-March



We're halfway through March and I feel so exhausted already.  Anyone else been getting sick lately?  Feeling like life is getting too busy to keep up with?  February flew by in such a flash, I didn't even have enough time to do a mid-month post.  Oh, well.  Here's what's been going on lately...

Eating //  All the bad things.  I really need to start back on my wheat belly diet because that is exactly what I've been growing - a wheat belly.

Drinking //  Coffee, water and soda.  Yes, soda.  I don't normally drink carbonated drinks (unless they're mixed with alcohol) but I've been craving them for some reason lately.

Listening to //  The local radio stations.  These days I listen to Power 98 on my way to and from work because the hosts in the mornings and afternoons are so funny.  The only time I use Pandora or Tidal now is when I workout (which hasn't been very often).

Reading //  NetGalley books.  I love that I'm able to read new books for free, but having to read and review them with a deadline is kind of a bummer.  Once I get through all of the books currently on my NetGalley shelf, I'm going to take a pause and get back to my reading challenge list books.

Writing //  A few poems here and there and continuing my #52Lists.

Watching //  Still on Grey's Anatomy.  Haven't really been watching much since I've been reading more books lately.

Wearing //  Basic pieces (dresses, tops, tanks, jeans, etc.) in neutral and muted colors (black, grey, white, olive, mauve, denim blue, etc.).

Buying //  Ordered some goodies from Ulta, planner stickers, books, a few sewing patterns, and some clothes from Homecoming Honolulu.  #noregrets

Looking forward to //  Chloe's 9th birthday this Sunday (March 19th) and Joey's 35th birthday on the 30th.  Also looking forward to the craziness of March to be over.  April seems like a vacation compared to this month.

Stressing over //  Chloe's birthday party on Sunday, work shit, Joey's birthday, summer plans, life.

Hoping for //  A little down time to finish my current projects and start on a new project, sunshine and a little salt water therapy before the month ends.

 

Friday, March 3, 2017

Studio DIY "Can't Clutch This" Review + Giveaway!


For those of you who know, I'm a huge fan of subscription shopping.  I've subscribed to ipsy, Julep, FabKids, JustFab, Fabletics, ShoeDazzle and the Planner Society.  Over the past few months I cancelled several subscriptions because I hardly used any of the products I'd gotten and it wasn't worth the money for me anymore.  So, when Studio DIY launched their Can't Clutch This subscription I was hesitant at first but ended up giving in because the clutch was just too cute to pass up!

After receiving my first month's clutch (and add ons!), I was instantly hooked!  The design is so cute, and fun and true to the spirit of Studio DIY which I absolutely loved.  The clutch itself exceeded my expectations as far as quality goes.  It is very sturdy and easy to clean and the hardware is legit!  No need to worry about pulling the zipper too hard on these!

My Snap of December's Clutch

In my opinion, at $20/month it's totally worth it.  Plus, you can add on some awesome flair that coordinates with the clutch each month as well!  ALWAYS get the add-ons.  You won't regret it.


Though I really, truly love the subscription and I think it's totally worth it, I have a few things I thought I should share with you about my shopping experience so far with Studio DIY.

When I first signed up, there wasn't much to go on.  It was quite a confusing experience because it was fresh and new.  I had no idea when the clutches would be revealed, when they would ship, what the deadline was to select add-ons, etc.  I'm the kind of person who needs to have those things laid out in plain view, bold letters, all caps, flashing lights, animation and reminder emails.  Studio DIY doesn''t have all that.  You kinda have to search around for that info which I didn't find out until a few days ago.


Also, another thing I should note is that you can't skip a month.  If you don't care for that month's clutch, you'll have to "start a conversation" with them and cancel your subscription.  And, if you forget to put aside money in your "subscriptions account" for that month, your order will be voided but your subscription won't be.  So, if you get an email saying your subscription payment failed and your order was voided and you log in to purchase that month's clutch because you completely forgot about it and had no idea when you'd be billed for it anyway, you'll end up creating TWO subscriptions.  That means, every month thereafter you will be charged for two clutches and will have to "start a conversation" to cancel one of them.

If you haven't already figured it out, I ended up creating two subscriptions in January.  So, when February came around, I was charged twice and received two clutches.  Instead of sending it back and going through the whole process of a return, I figured it would be great giveaway prize to go along with my review, so my loss is your gain!

This is the first giveaway I've hosted in quite a while so I'll make it easy for you:  Just comment below and tell me what your favorite subscription service/box is!  That's it, that's all there is to it!  I'll be picking the winner at random, so if you don't have a blogger account, or your email is not connected to your account, please be sure to include your email address in your comment so I can notify you if you've won!


GOOD LUCK!

**This opinions expressed in this review and the prize included in this giveaway are 100% my own and paid for by me.  This post is not endorsed or sponsored by Studio DIY in any way.***

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Books Lately: February '17




February was a good book month for me.  Being sick in the beginning of the month meant a lot of time spent curled up in bed with a book.  I also bought a few real books too because I missed the feel of having an actual book in my hands.  Ebooks are great and so convenient, but there's no comparison to holding, reading and smelling a real book in your hands.  And, since I'm still clearing out instead of collecting, my books are being housed in my office's conference room so that other people can read them and add their books to the collection as well.  It's like our own little office library - that has nothing to do with law books.



Sisters One, Two, Three, by Nancy Star

Description from Amazon:

"After a tragic accident on Martha’s Vineyard, keeping secrets becomes a way of life for the Tangle family. With memories locked away, the sisters take divergent paths. Callie disappears, Mimi keeps so busy she has no time to think, and Ginger develops a lifelong aversion to risk that threatens the relationships she holds most dear.

When a whispered comment overheard by her rebellious teenage daughter forces Ginger to reveal a long-held family secret, the Tangles’ carefully constructed web of lies begins to unravel. Upon the death of Glory, the family’s colorful matriarch, and the return of long-estranged Callie, Ginger resolves to return to Martha’s Vineyard and piece together what really happened on that calamitous day when a shadow fell over four sun-kissed siblings playing at the shore. Along with Ginger’s newfound understanding come the keys to reconciliation: with her mother, with her sisters, and with her daughter.

At turns heartbreaking, humorous, and hopeful, Sisters One, Two, Three explores not only the consequences of secrets—even secrets kept out of love—but also the courage it takes to speak the truth, to forgive, and to let go."

I loved this book because of all the unexpected twists and secrets uncovered!  Ginger was a very annoying character, so much so that I wanted to punch her in the face sometimes because of her constant worrying about every little thing.  Her sister Mimi was also annoying, trying to force people to do things her way.  Basically, I wanted to punch almost all of the characters at one point or another, but I realized that's how family is - you want to punch them in the face but you can't help but love them in the end.  The secrets in this book are so crazy that it's hard to understand how nobody knew the truth, but the major events happened in the '70's and that was a different time, when people weren't so open about tragedy and kept family matters quiet.  Definitely a good book to read if you like a story with a lot of unexpected twists!



A Stolen Life, by Jaycee Dugard

Description from Amazon:

"In the summer of 1991 I was a normal kid. I did normal things. I had friends and a mother who loved me. I was just like you. Until the day my life was stolen. 

For eighteen years I was a prisoner. I was an object for someone to use and abuse.

For eighteen years I was not allowed to speak my own name. I became a mother and was forced to be a sister. For eighteen years I survived an impossible situation.

On August 26, 2009, I took my name back. My name is Jaycee Lee Dugard. I don’t think of myself as a victim. I survived.

A Stolen Life is my story—in my own words, in my own way, exactly as I remember it."

This book gave me goosebumps at some parts and I literally had to take a break from the book once or twice because of the graphic retelling of her experiences.  Whether you're a parent or not, you really can't read through this thing without getting goosebumps or chills down your spine.  How she was able to survive for so long in those conditions I'll never know.  I'm so glad that the Garridos are behind bars and will remain there for a LONG time.  The death penalty would have been better, but that's just my opinion.



The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot

Description from Amazon:

"Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor black tobacco farmer whose cells—taken without her knowledge in 1951—became one of the most important tools in medicine, vital for developing the polio vaccine, cloning, gene mapping, and more. Henrietta's cells have been bought and sold by the billions, yet she remains virtually unknown, and her family can't afford health insurance. This phenomenal New York Times bestseller tells a riveting story of the collision between ethics, race, and medicine; of scientific discovery and faith healing; and of a daughter consumed with questions about the mother she never knew."

By far one of the most unexpectedly amazing books I've ever read.  I've had this book for quite some time but never got around to reading it partially because it had been buried under a bunch of crap on my nightstand, but mostly because I was intimidated by it since it is listed as a non-fiction book about science.  Science and math have never been my jam so I wasn't excited to read a boring book about the history of some cells.  YOU GUYS.  I was SO wrong about this book.  Though it is listed as non-fiction, the author did such an amazing job and wrote it in the first person in a way that it reads like fiction.  The characters in the book are actual people and the author portrays them honestly which makes them so relateable.  Learning about the HeLa cells and the scientific breakthroughs they caused was not confusing or frustrating at all because the author broke it down in a way that was easily understandable.  The end of this book had me wanting to learn even MORE about the HeLa cells, DNA, tissue rights and the Henrietta Lacks Foundation.



Neon Soul, by Alexandra Elle
**A copy of this book has been generously provided to me by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.**

Description from NetGalley:

"In short, powerful verses, Alexandra Elle shares a hard-won message of hope.

Alexandra Elle writes frankly about her experience as a young, single mother while she celebrates her triumph over adversity and promotes resilience and self-care in her readers. This book of all-new poems from the beloved author of Words From A Wanderer and Love In My Language is a quotable companion on the road to healing."


It has been so long since I've read a book of poetry and this book was exactly what I needed.  I've followed the author on Instagram for quite some time now and the images, affirmations, poems and quotes in her feed always inspire me to write, spread love and take action.  I haven't read her first two collections but after reading this one, I'm definitely planning on getting them.



Scrappy Little Nobody, by Anna Kendrick

A hilarious autobiography by Anna Kendrick.

Celebrity autobiographies are always so fun to read, especially if that celebrity is sarcastic, funny, and down-to-earth.  Anna Kendrick is like the weird little white girl who lives up the street.  She's loud, awkward and a little pushy, but you can't help rooting for her.  Such a fun book that made me laugh out loud at certain parts (at which times I had to close the book because Chloe looked over and tried to read what was so funny - warning: this is not a book for minors).



Ensnared, by Rita Stradling
**A copy of this book has been generously provided to me by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.**

Description from NetGalley:


I have to admit that it took me a while to get into this book.  I started reading it and it was so slow and a bit confusing through the first few chapters that it took me a couple days until the story finally picked up and got me interested.  There were still a lot of parts throughout the whole thing that were confusing as hell and could have been omitted from the book altogether because it didn't add to the story and most of the time it was hard to visualize the scenes and characters, but all in all it was an interesting read for me.
 

I Love My Love, by Reyna Biddy
**A copy of this book has been generously provided to me by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.**

Description from NetGalley:

"In short, poignant verses, Reyna Mays' poems explore pain, emotional reckoning, and the power of self-love.

The debut collection from 22-year-old poet Reyna Mays, I Love My Love tells the story of Reyna's childhood, her parents’ toxic relationship, and how, against all odds, she learned to love herself."


Oh, how I love I Love My Love!  Full of emotional and powerful (and some really short) poems that really resonated with me.  You can feel the love, anger, self-doubt and growth that the author portrays.  I loved and re-read so many of the poems contained in this book that I stopped adding bookmarks to my digital copy and decided to just buy the hard copy to keep on my nightstand.  The author, Reyna Biddy, is still pretty young and finding herself and it shows in some of her poems, but I still highly recommend this to anyone who has ever felt lonely, unloved, or taken for granted.



Love & Misadventure, by Lang Leav

Description from Amazon:

"The journey from love to heartbreak to finding love again is personal yet universal. Lang Leav's evocative poetry speaks to the soul of anyone who is on this journey.  Leav has an unnerving ability to see inside the hearts and minds of her readers. Her talent for translating complex emotions with astonishing simplicity has won her a cult following of devoted fans from all over the world.

Lang Leav is a poet and internationally exhibiting artist. Her work expresses the intricacies of love and loss."


I enjoyed this collection of poems but not as much as the others I've been reading lately.  These poems are very short (some only two lines) and simple so if you're looking for a long, complex poem that spills emotion, you won't find it here.


 
Citizen, by Claudia Rankine 

Description from Amazon:

"Claudia Rankine's bold new book recounts mounting racial aggressions in ongoing encounters in twenty-first-century daily life and in the media. Some of these encounters are slights, seeming slips of the tongue, and some are intentional offensives in the classroom, at the supermarket, at home, on the tennis court with Serena Williams and the soccer field with Zinedine Zidane, online, on TV-everywhere, all the time. The accumulative stresses come to bear on a person's ability to speak, perform, and stay alive. Our addressability is tied to the state of our belonging, Rankine argues, as are our assumptions and expectations of citizenship. In essay, image, and poetry, Citizen is a powerful testament to the individual and collective effects of racism in our contemporary, often named "post-race" society."

It's hard not to feel some kind of emotion after reading this book.  I don't read the news, I don't follow politics or pay much attention to what's happening around the world but reading this made me realize how much I've been blind to.  This author really sheds light on the things I've never noticed and opened my eyes to things that we as a society need to change.  Fear, hatred, racism and oppression are real, and ignoring it or thinking it doesn't affect us and the bubble we live in only makes it harder for things to change.


Someone Always Robs the Poor
 **A copy of this book has been generously provided to me by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.**

 Description From NetGalley:  

"A long-awaited new collection of stories from one of Scotland’s most acclaimed writers.

A young man returns from London, facing the prospect of reunion with a young daughter he’s never met. A woman recounts her family’s doomed attempt to emigrate from Poland to America 70 years before. A creative writing tutor is shocked by the story of one of his students, who is connected to a past atrocity in Bosnia. A former architect fights a losing battle with alcoholism and the ghosts from his past.

Here is a new collection of brilliant stories from the multi-award winning elder statesman of Scottish literature, exploring themes of poverty, migration, alienation, accountability and alcoholism, with an impressive depth and emotional range."


I didn't think I would enjoy this book as much as I did, but I absolutely loved it.  I started off not liking it because I got a little confused about whether or not someone was speaking and which character was speaking because the author does not use quotation marks in his stories but once I got used to his writing style, it was so easy to look past that and really get into each story.  These stories are so emotional without being overly dramatic which really surprised me because I didn't think that stories so short could be that powerful.  Definitely recommend this book!!



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Currently Reading:




Monthly Mantra 2017: March



Writing has always been a way for me to calm down and reflect on things when life gets crazy.  It allows me to express my feelings in a productive and positive way and it's just so freeing.  Sometimes, when I'm really angry I'll let it all out on paper and then shred it up and throw it away.  Just doing that makes me feel so much better.

Before smartphones and social media, I would use my free time to read and write.  I used to write poems, short stories and songs just for fun.  When I was a teenager, I'd lock myself up in my room and just write.  It didn't matter what I was writing, as long as I was putting pen to paper.  These days, it's harder and harder to sit down and concentrate enough to write something.

This month, I plan to start writing more.  Poems, lists, short stories, even just little positive affirmations to reflect on.  My goal is to write at least once a day.  One line, one paragraph, one poem, whatever - as long as I'm writing, my heart will be happy.

What about you?  How does writing make you feel?

Monday, February 20, 2017

#52Lists: Four

The 52 Lists Project



52 Lists for Happiness