Book Reviews: October

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Meh ... I've been struggling with reading the last few months.

I'm sad to say that I really just didn't enjoy this one.  It was a slow build and the ending was just disappointing.  Also, I didn't like either of the main characters.  Overall, just a dud.


Although it wasn't exactly what I thought it was going to be, I still really enjoyed this memoir.  It did feel more like a family history than a memoir, but I enjoyed learning about the women in her family and what they did to survive.   I did expect a little bit more social commentary, but it was so lacking that I was disappointed.  Definitely an interesting read.  I also feel like the author did a great job narrating the audiobook.

The only reason I decided to read this book is because I LOVED A Curse So Dark and Lonely, so I was interested to see if her contemporary YA would be as good as her fairy tale retelling.  It wasn't AS good, but it was definitely enjoyable.  The characters were very realistic and I like that everything wasn't tied up in a pretty bow at the end, but the ending was satisfying.  I really enjoy character driven novels and she did a great job of developing the characters.  Fast paced and very enjoyable overall.  

Book Reviews: August/September

Monday, November 11, 2019

Man, school starting really got me into a reading rut.  I only read one book in August and one in September :(  I also took forever to write reviews so these are coming super late!

I had very mixed feelings about this book at first.  On one hand, I didn't relate much to two of the main characters because I never had the overwhelming desire to be a mother.  I can't relate to wanting a child so bad I'd be willing to spend thousands to make it happen. I've also never given a child up so I have no idea what that must feel like.  However, this book offered some insight into both of those circumstances, so it was interesting to read about.  What I found most interesting was Asha's story.  I think the author did a good job of pointing out the difficulties of international, interracial, and intercultural adoptions and how hard it can be on the child and the adoptive parents.  I also learned a bit about Indian culture - I didn't know about the widespread infanticide of baby girls in the 80's.  Although I did know about the class disparities in India, it was still sad and hard to read about.  So, although it was hard to relate to the parents in the novel, Asha's story made up for it.  I think the author did a great job of weaving together all the themes; motherhood, adoption, parenthood, marriage, family, and culture.

I'm sad to say that I was a bit disappointed by this book.  I loved the Butterfly Garden - I read it in one night, so I had high expectations.  This one was very slow and tedious, and I figured out "who-dun-it" as soon as the character was introduced.  I did enjoy the parts that Inara and Bliss were in, and the last 50 pages or so were good.  Overall, it was kind of meh.  I'll read the next one though because I've read that it's really good.

I honestly don't know what to say other than I really enjoyed learning more about Mr. Rogers.  He was definitely an interesting person.  It was interesting learning about what made Fred Rogers into the Mr. Rogers we all loved as kids.   The only thing I didn't like was that some information felt unnecessary.  I appreciate that the author was thorough but I didn't need the life story of everyone he ever interacted with.  It also got a bit repetitive at times.  I listened to this on audio and I think the narrator did a great job, though I did have to listen to it at a higher speed or I never would have finished.

Book Reviews: July

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Another great month, mostly because of Audiobooks!  I enjoyed all of the books I read/listened to this month and August is already off to a great start!

Lets be honest, this was never going to get less than 4 stars from me.  I just love Chip and Joanna and respect them as people.  I loved hearing about how they built their businesses from the ground up and what their lives were like before fixer-upper.  I LOVED the story about the houseboat and how it basically secured them a spot on HGTV.   Having Chip and Joanna narrate the audiobook was a fantastic choice, they did a great job!  The only negative for me was how OK they seemed to be about borrowing so much money (my Dave Ramsey cult following self was cringing).

I may not be religious anymore but religion was a huge part of my childhood and so was christian music.  I remember the first time I heard the song, I Can Only Imagine - it was one of the first songs that ever made me cry.   I saw the movie of the same name on Netflix a few months back and decided to watch it, and stayed up way too late watching.  When I saw that he had also written a memoir, I knew I had to listen to it.   This book gives a more in depth and chronologically accurate look at Bart Millard's life and the events that lead to MercyMe forming and to Bart writing I Can Only Imagine.   It also gives a peek into the bands musical journey and how they kind of paved the way for mainstream worship music (the initially tried to be a CCM band but that just didn't work for them).  Having Bart read this on audio was a great choice!  I could hear the emotion in his voice when he read about certain events. I'm so glad I chose to listen to this.  If you haven't heard the song, go listen to it ... like, now.

I knew I'd end up reading the rest of this series, I just didn't think it would be so soon!  I've been having a bit of trouble getting through the other book I'm reading, so I started this one.  I didn't like this one as much as The Real Cinderella, but it was still enjoyable.  There were just waaaay too many high school stereotypes in this book.  Usually I can take books about high schoolers for what they are and still enjoy it, but the stereotypes were brought up over and over and it got a bit annoying.  Other than that, it was another quick, enjoyable book.

This is the shortest of the series ... I read it in about 2 hours.  Same as the last two, super easy to read and enjoyable.  Not enough depth and character building to be super good, but passed the time just fine.

If you liked To All The Boy's I've Loved Before you'll probably enjoy this book.  It was very similar, just not as well developed.  It was still enjoyable, though.

Wow, what a story! I had heard of Malala before reading this book - I knew she was shot by the Taliban but I really didn't know anything about her fight for education.  This was so much more than just Malala's story.  She talked about Pakistan's history, the history of Swat, government corruption, the Taliban's movement into the Swat valley, her family's history, and about how she and her father became voices for those who desired an education, especially girls.  Aside from learning about Malala, I loved learning about her father.  He was a man who valued and encouraged his daughter in culture that values son's over daughter's.  Malala's story is inspiring and 100% worth listening to.

My sister warned me that this book was a bit slow, and man was it ever!  The first quarter of the book was good and the middle was super slow, but the last 40ish pages made the slowness worth it!  I can see how she was setting things up for the next book and how the slower chapters were necessary.  I'm excited to read the third and final book in this series, I think it's going to be great!

Objectively speaking, this book wasn't actually better than all of the other ones - it was about the same.  A cute, easy read that passed the time just fine.  BUT the main character is basically me - a bookish potter-head who'd rather read and write than deal with people or real life.  So I definitely connected to the main character way more than in any of the others from this series. Glad I finished this series - it was cute and got me out of a bit of a rut.

If you want to be mad about something (I believe the kids call it "hate reading") this book will do the trick!  The whole profits over people idea is rampant in the pharmaceutical world and this book calls them out.  Opioid addiction is scary and destructive and this epidemic could have been prevented.  I could go on and on about the facts and statistics presented in this book and the stories from families, but no one has time for that.  I will say, if you choose to read this book you'll learn a lot, you'll get angry AF, you'll be frustrated, and you'll probably cry. 
Also, in this case, I don't think the author was the right choice to read this for the audiobook - like, at all!

Book Reviews: June

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

I've become a little bit obsessed with audio-books lately!  I don't think I'll ever listen to novels (Daisy Jones was an exception), but I love listening to non-fiction!  I've been wanting to read more non-fiction but I have to be really into the subject matter in order to get through the book - audio makes them a way easier to get through.  June was a great reading month for me, in part because of audio-books!

 I listened to this on audiobook.  I think having Lauren Graham read it was a great decision!  
 This is one of those books that only specific people will like.  If you didn't watch Parenthood or Gilmore Girls, this book probably isn't for you.   Gilmore Girls is my favorite show.  I re-watch it usually once a year-ish and could probably quote the entire show from start to finish.  I really enjoyed hearing Lauren's favorite things about each season, but I do wish there was more "behind the scenes" stories.  I loved hearing about why Gilmore Girls ended the way it did, and about how the Gilmore Girls reunion came to be. Very enjoyable book and perfect for a boring drive!

Anne continues to be a easy character to love and to cheer for.  While some of the childish whimsy is lost as Anne starts maturing and taking on new roles at Green Gables and in her community, this series is still delightful and I can't wait to read the next book and follow Anne to college.

 I listened to this on Audiobook - the narrator was fantastic!
I found this book fascinating and I didn't want it to end!  I knew next to nothing about firefighting and even less about wildland firefighting before I started this book.  Ramos gives a small history lesson on both firefighting and smokejumping which was fascinating in itself.  I even learned something new about WW2 that I had no clue about (you'll have to read to find out).  He then went through how he became a smokejumper and what jumper training is like - I learned about Helitack crews and Hotshot crews in this section.  Throughout the book I learned about the tools used in firefighting, how political BS caused fires to become worse than they should have been, how climate change is affecting fires and firefighting, and about the "science" of fire.  He also talked about some of the deadliest/most destructive fires in US history and what went wrong.  Some people don't like his opinions and critiques which are found throughout the book, but honestly, he's the one I'd want to hear from when getting an opinion on things regarding wildland firefighting, so I didn't mind.  Highly recommend!

Another re-read for me this year.  I want to read the Lord of the Rings trilogy and wanted to re-read the hobbit since it's been so long (I read it in 7th grade).  I basically forgot what happened and really enjoyed traveling along with Bilbo Baggins again.

I tried not to get my hopes up too high for this one because I loved Dumplin' so much - I just didn't want to be disappointed.  Lucky for me Puddin' was great!  I think I may have liked it a little bit more than Dumplin'.  I really loved the friendships in this book (Julie Murphy seems to focus a lot on friendships, which I love), and I loved seeing Millie grow into someone who can stand up for herself a bit.  Very enjoyable and solid YA read.

I am usually weary of Witch books because they're usually hit or miss - this one was very unique and I really enjoyed it!  The concept of world walking and fire walking was really neat and unlike anything I've read before.  I really loved all of the characters - even the supporting characters were well done.  My only issue was that I don't think enough was revealed about Lillian to make her a "scary" villain.  There are two more books, though so I'm hoping to learn more about her.   Highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys fantasy or witches.

Interesting look into Appalachian culture, the poor white working class, and the hardships that come with upward mobility.  Some of his opinions may be controversial but they are a direct result of his upbringing, his tumultuous childhood, and his struggles with upward mobility.  I learned a lot about this history of Appalachia and the rust belt and how that history affects the people who live in those areas today.  I didn't really like JD Vance as a narrator for the audio-book, but was interested enough in his story that I was able to get past it.

I needed something quick to pass the time while I wait for BCBE to start on July 1 - this was perfect. Cute, quick, enjoyable, and easy read. I'll actually probably end up reading the rest of the books when I need something quick to read.  

Military Minute #1

Thursday, June 27, 2019

I'm so excited to be participating in this new link-up today!!

Today's prompt is Where was your first duty station, and what are your best tips for adjusting to a new place. 

Our first (and only, so far) duty station is Fort Drum, New York.  We've been here since 2016 and there is a good chance we'll spend my husbands entire enlistment here, much to our dismay.  Honestly, this would be the perfect place if it wasn't winter 9 months out of the year.  The summer months are gorgeous, there are so many outdoor activities to do, and Canada is so close!  But the constant cold and snow has kind of ruined it for us.

I only have two tips for adjusting to a new place.  One, get out and explore.  Even though the winters here suck, we've managed to do a good bit of exploring in the summers.  We've been to Alexandria Bay/Thousand Islands, Canada, and Syracuse.  This summer we're making a point of doing a new hike each week since there are so many great trails around here (the Adirondacks are really close).  We'll also be going to Niagara Falls and Toronto in August. 

My second tip is to either get a job or find somewhere to volunteer.   I am not a social person.  If I didn't have a job I'd probably only leave my house to go to the gym and walk the dogs.  I met all of my friends through work.  It also gives me something to do while my husband is gone, other than dwell on the fact that he isn't here.

Debt Free Update #5

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Y'all I didn't realized it's been a year since my last debt free journey update!  Last time I did an update we were still working on paying off a personal loan, I feel like that was another lifetime!  

We definitely did finish paying off the personal loan which freed up $320 per month!  It was our largest payment and such a relief to have out of our lives! We've also paid off Josh's Ford Explorer which was $310 per month making it our second largest payment!  We paid the Explorer off on valentines day this year.  We took the next few months to save up for upcoming events.  Josh was in a wedding and I went to Bookcon in NYC, both were the same weekend.  We also went home in May for a friends wedding which wasn't too expensive but we did need a hotel and to board the dogs.

We've recently starting chipping away at my Discover student loan.  It's payment is $126 per month at 9.3% interest! Ugh.  As of right now we owe $6,932 on it (when we started pay off Josh's car, they were about equal in amount due, we chose to pay off the car because of the monthly payment).  While we've been saving for other stuff, we've still managed to throw about $600 extra on to this loan in April and May.  We're hoping to have it totally paid off by the time I start school in August.  However, we have to save for when my Mom comes to visit (we're going to Niagara Falls and Toronto), and I have to pay for some of my school fees and books.   So, it may take us until September or October - it really just depends on how much I make at work this summer.   I thought about getting a summer job at a seasonal restaurant, but Josh is deploying later this year, so I want to spend time with him.  Some things are more important than paying off debt.

After this student loan is done, we just have the giant behemoth student loan.  The payment on that one is $225 per month at 11% interest (thanks, Navient).  We currently owe $19,405 on it and I don't think it will go down much before we get to it.  Only about $40 of that monthly payment goes towards principal (original payoff date is January 2043!!!).  I hate this freaking loan so much. 

We're hoping to be debt free by the time Josh comes home from deployment, but I have a HEAVY course-load (6 classes) for the fall semester, so I'll only be working 3 days per week from September to December.  So we may not be debt free until the fall, which I'm coming to terms with.  Either way, 2020 is the year we will be debt free!  We're super excited and can't wait to start saving for our future. 

Once we finish paying off our debt, we plan to save a 6 month emergency fund which will be $10,000.  Our monthly expenses come to a little below that, but we want an even number.  That shouldn't take more than a few months to save (especially if Josh gets promoted and if I get a Paralegal job when I get out of school).  After that, we plan to open two Roth IRA's and pay 15% of our income to them monthly.   We don't plan to use Josh's TSP while he's in the Army because he's getting out at the beginning of 2022 and we don't want to have to deal with rollovers.  Plus, with our current income the Roth's are perfect.

We also plan to start saving for both new (to us) cars and a house.  Once Josh is out of the Army, he will be using his GI bill to finish school  (he's taking classes now).  While he's in school, we plan to rent until we're sure of where we'll be living and what his income will be.  We have plenty of time to save for a house, so we want to take advantage of that time.  Both of our cars are in the 130-150,000 mile range so we know we'll need new cars in the semi-near-ish future.  We plan to pay cash for any future cars, so we'll start saving ASAP. 

I'm so ready to actually have money again and use it to prepare for our future rather than pay for our past!  Hopefully I'll do a better job of keeping y'all updated on our progress, but if not you know I'll be posting once we're debt free!

Book Reviews: May

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

I finished up school in May and am excited to start reading more over the summer! These are the few I was able to finish while finishing up school.

I wanted to like this book way more than I actually did.  The cover is amazing and I loved The Book Jumper which was written by the same author.   I felt like this story had a lot of potential, but the effort was just put in to some odd places.  Most of the "action" happens in the last 30ish pages of the book and happens way too fast.  I feel like if some of the silly details from the beginning were left out or shortened, more meat could have been added to the more exciting parts.  This is not to say I didn't enjoy the book, I did, I just feel like it could have been amazing and it didn't live up.  I will say that despite her young age, I found Emma to be pretty likeable.

I just adore this book!  I read it for the first time in middle school and loved it so much.   I decided to read more of the books in the series, so obviously I had to re-read this one.  It's such a delightful, and sometimes heartbreaking, book.  Anne is such an easy character to love and I can't wait to read more about her adventures!

I listened to Hidden Figures on Audiobook.  I wanted to like this book more than I did.  I thought is was going to be more about the ladies, their contributions, and what it was like to be a woman, black, and a black woman during the space race.  The book didn't even get to the space part until chapter 20ish.  It was bogged down with history of NACA/NASA, and a lot of technical jargon which I totally didn't understand.  While some of the history was important, a lot of it felt irrelevant.  I did really enjoy hearing about the history of the women involved, how their roles at NACA/NASA evolved over the years, and how NASA played a role in workplace integration.  I wouldn't say don't read this, but be prepared for a lot of history and technical terms. 

Hayley Larue Design