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. 

101 in 1001: One Year Update

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

I haven't done a 101 in 1001 update in a while and since I'm coming up on my one year mark, I figured this would be a good time to share my progress.


Pay off Josh's Car:  We paid off Josh's car on Valentines day!  Which gives us an extra $310 per month.  That $310 is now going towards my student loan, but it's nice to know that the extra money is there in case something comes up!

Read a Book in a Day:  I read Anna and the French Kiss on 03/13/19 it was such an easy and enjoyable read.

Attend Bookcon in NYC:  My sister and I attended in June of 2018 and we had so much fun that we've decided to go again this year.  Josh and I may not be in New York anymore (God, I hope we're not) in 2020, so my sister and I decided we had to go this year just in case.

Read a Total of 200 Books: I'm at 38 right now.  I think this was a bit ambitious, especially with me going to school.  But summer is just around the corner.

Read a book with more than 500 Pages: I read Winter by Marissa Meyer on 12/17/18.

Read a book set somewhere I've always wanted to visit: I read Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton on 01/27/19.  Obviously, it takes place in Havana, Cuba.

Meet a Famous Author and Get a Book Signed by the Author: I was able to check both of these off at BookCon where I met and got books signed by V.E. Schwab, Kody Keplinger, Scott Westerfeld, and Siobhan Vivian.  This year at Bookcon I will be getting more books signed by V.E. Schwab.  I tried to get tickets to get books signed by Leigh Bardugo, but she sold out in like 2 minutes.

Make a list of 50 places I'd like to visit in my lifetime:  I posted the list here.

Visit NYC: This was kind of a cheat one because I knew that in order to go to BookCon, we'd have to visit NYC.  I can't wait to visit again in June!

Get Rid of 100 Items:  I honestly stopped keeping track around 45 items.  But we've gotten rid of so much stuff over the last few months, and we're still purging.  I know I'm well over 100 things at this point.

Try 5 New Vegan Recipes:  When I made this list I just wanted to try more vegan things, I never intended to go Vegan completely.  But things changed and I'm so glad that I had this on my list because trying new recipes helped me to be more prepared when I did go vegan!

Don't eat out for a month:  I completed this in January of 2019.  I went vegan on January 1st and it was easier for me to transition if I didn't go out to eat.  Trying to find vegan food at restaurants around Northern NY is hard, man.

Eat at Tin Pan Galley:  Everyone raved about this restaurant in Sackets Harbor, NY so I put it on my list of places to try.  Everyone said the breakfast was incredible, but sadly both my Mom and I were really let down.  But I'm glad I tried it when I did because there is nothing there that I can eat now.

Eat Completely Vegan for a Week and A Month:  I completed both of these in January 2019.  I'm still going strong!  Switching to a vegan diet was the best thing I ever did for myself (and, of course, for the animals).  Even though it takes more work food-prep wise, it's been so worth it.

Have a Harry Potter Marathon:  This one was kind of a cheat one too.  I've probably had 3 or 4 HP Marathons in the last 6 months.  If there is nothing I'm in the mood to watch, I watch HP.

Begin School (Paralegal):  I actually just finished my first semester on the 9th!  I began on January 22, 2019.



Pay of my Discover Student Loan: Due to having a lot going on this summer, some things in our control and some not, we're not as far along on this as I would have hoped, but we should still have it paid off before Josh deploys.

Pay off my Chase Student Loan: I mean, this is technically in progress, too since I am making the monthly payments.  The interest on this one is killer and I can't wait to get it out of my life!  Hopefully we'll be done with it and debt free by time Josh gets home from deployment!

Complete an Around the World in 80 Books Challenge:  I mean, technically this is in progress, but I'm not doing very well, ha.  I've read 6/80 so far.

Read All of the Books Currently on my Shelf:  HA.  I have read 5 books that I had on my shelf ... but I also bought 11 new books *facepalm*.  I don't see this one happening, but I'm still going to try.

Read a book beginning with each letter of the Alphabet:  I'm actually doing really well with this one and I'm aiming to finish it this year.  I've read 16/26 so far.

Visit 5 New Cities: We have actually planned a short trip with my Mom which includes visiting Toronto (already booked), which is a new city for all of us.  Josh and I also hope to make it up to Kingston, ON this summer.

Visit Niagara Falls: This is also part of the trip with my Mom.  We have this portion of the trip all book already and I'm excited.  I haven't been since I was 8 and Josh has been dying to go.

Maintain a 3.5 or higher GPA:  So far, so good!

Maintain a 4.0 in all Paralegal Classes: I just finished my finals,  but unless I totally bombed them all, which I didn't, then so far I'm on track with this!

Book Reviews: April

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

April looked like it was going to be a great reading month, and then school happened.  The two books I read were great though and I flew through them!  My last day at school was Thursday, so hopefully May will be better!

I've read a lot of reviews by people saying they liked On the Come Up better than THUG.  I am not one of those people.  I enjoyed On the Come Up and I think it also had an important message, but one thing set THUG apart from this book, the characters.  I honestly did not like Bri until the very end of the book.  I get the whole "I'm a teenager and I know everything and Imma do what I want" attitude, we've all been there, but Bri took it a little too far.  Luckily Angie Thomas is a fantastic writer and storyteller, so I was able to look past Bri's character and really enjoy the overall plot of the book.  If you loved THUG, definitely give On the Come Up a chance!  Bri isn't as likeable as Starr but the book itself is very well done.

This is probably one of my favorite fairy tale retellings ever.  I was hooked right from the start and I couldn't put it down.  I honestly loved everything about this book - the characters (GREY!), the world, the events that took place.  I feel like Kemmerer described Emberfall with the perfect amount of detail - she didn't go into so much detail that it got boring, but just enough that I had an idea of what it looked like but the rest of it was filled in by my imagination.  I also like that it was loosely based on Beauty and the Beast, but it didn't feel unoriginal.  The general idea was there but the story as a whole didn't feel like a rip off.  After reading this, I found out that my favorite character, Grey, is the main focus of the next book and I am so excited to for it to come out!  Definitely read this if you like retellings or Fantasy!
Hayley Larue Design