Reading Round Up: End of Summer

It might be the unofficial start of fall this weekend but it’s still plenty hot here in SC.  I’m planning to stay inside and read my Book of the Month books if they get here in time.  Fingers crossed.  Here’s some reviews so you can start planning your weekend reading.

When Life Gives You Lululemons by Lauren Weisburger

I never read The Devil Wears Prada but I saw the movie so I figured I could read this sequel with no problem.  And I was right.  I listened to the audiobook and while that’s not my preferred method, I absolutely loved this presentation.  This book is delightfully bitchy.  It’s like a girl-talk gossip session with no guilt because the people aren’t real.  I wouldn’t want to know Emily Charleton in real life, and I think she makes some bad decisions but she’s a thoroughly entertaining book character.  And getting even with a man who does a woman wrong was an unusually satisfying plot.  This book wasn’t really relatable in the details of the people’s lives, (Upper class NYC and Greenwich bunch) but you know people like this wherever you are.  I’m sure of it.  Because we all have a little bit of bitch in us.  If you’re looking for pure escapism, I recommend it.

Her Last Flight by Beatriz Williams

New Beatriz Alert!  If you’ve been reading this blog, you know I love Beatriz Williams and will preorder anything she writes.  It’s rare to find an author who can do it all and this one didn’t disappoint.  It focuses on a female aviator in the early twentieth century a la Amelia Earhart.  I wasn’t sure that would interest me, but in Ms. Williams’ capable hands it kept me turning pages.  Janey, a journalist, tracks down the missing aviatrix Irene Foster in Hawaii.  An exotic setting, beautiful writing, and characters with ulterior motives make this a compelling read.  If you haven’t checked out her books, you need to.  I recommend this one.  Obviously.

A Good Marriage by Kimberly McCreight

I wasn’t that impressed with Kimberly McCreight’s earlier work Reconstructing Amelia, but when her new book came up on Book of the Month, I thought I’d give her another chance.  And I’m so glad I did.  A Good Marriage is part mystery, part legal thriller, and part domestic drama.  A lawyer gets pulled in by a client she’s apprehensive about representing while clinging to a crumbling marriage.  I was super impressed that she wrote a 400 pager and managed to avoid the soggy bottom.  The characters felt real and developed and I didn’t feel cheated by the ending.  So, a big win for Ms. McCreight.  I’ll be keeping her on my radar, and I recommend this one for sure.

The Last Flight by Julie Clark

This was a Book of the Month dice roll.  Historically, that hasn’t worked out too well for me but this time I’m happy to report it did.  This wasn’t your typical mystery.  Two women trying to escape bad situations meet in a chance encounter where one ends up assuming the identity of the other.  But she has no idea what awaits her when she starts trying to live someone else’s life.  It makes you think about just how hard it is to disappear in the modern world and how appearances are usually deceiving.  I found both sides of this story engaging and enjoyed the plot twists.  I’d pick it up if you’re spending your weekend avoiding the heat.

Stay cool and enjoy the holiday.  And as always, happy reading y’all!

Reading Roundup: Out on a Limb

It’s that time again.  That time when I realize I haven’t written anything for this blog in a long time and I start kicking myself.  It’s also that time when I realize no one’s actually waiting for this blog so I stop kicking myself.  But all the same here’s some reviews.  I chose to cover the ones over the past six months that I went out on a limb for, meaning they aren’t my usual fair.

Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

A girl gets a free ride to Yale because she can see ghosts.  Um, what?  I took a chance on this one from Book of the Month and I’m really glad I did.  Trust me it all makes sense when you get into the world of Alex Stern.  She reluctantly takes a position monitoring the secret societies of Yale who don’t just party.  Alex has the ability to see ghosts which is really useful when you’re policing frat boys dabbling in the occult.  And when a town girl is murdered, she’s the one with the heart to pursue the case.  This is intended as a series and I actually can’t wait to see what happens to Alex and Darlington.  It’s a little bit Harry Potter and a little bit Veronica Mars and I’m in.

The Banker’s Wife by Cristina Alger

This one is half whodunit and half international espionage.  I’m not usually a big spies and governments fan but this one was okay.  Our character Annabel is a naïve wife of a banker who goes missing.  Determined to find out what happened to him, she’s pulled into a web of high finance and offshore accounts.  Unknowingly aided by Martina, an intrepid journalist, she risks her life with terrorists and blood money.  I listened to the audiobook and enjoyed it.  I would recommend it, but I enjoyed Alger’s new novel Girls Like Us more.

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katerine Arden

In January I was in the mood for something completely different, so I got this one from the library.  Set in a fantasy medieval Russia, this story reads like a fairy tale where a girl must fight for her identity and to save her village.  Like all fairy tale stepmothers, Vasilisa’s is cold and unloving and against anything having to do with the old magic.  But it’s the old magic that Vasilisa must tap into to stop the evil that’s threatening her home.  Rich language and tons of atmosphere make this a fun read for a cold winter night.  I recommend it if you’re looking for something off the beaten path.

Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty

I love the Big Little Lies series on HBO.  So, I decided to see what else Liane Moriarty had.  I have to say I was bit disappointed.  This one started out good with the non-linear timeline circling the events of a barbeque attended by three couples.  We gradually learn their secrets and motivations culminating in a traumatizing event.  I think this book just went on too long.  I kept waiting for it to end and it seemed like it just wouldn’t.  Are we going to just keep following these people forever?  Some editing would have helped.  I don’t think I would recommend this one.

Beartown by Frederik Backman

This is another one that’s pretty out there.  I loved Backman’s A Man Called Ove, so I wanted to see what else he had.  He spends a good bit of time introducing his characters which works here because then he hits you over the head with tragedy and it hurts.  It really does.  It’s really impressive how he makes you care so much about what happens to this tiny town in the woods and about hockey.  This is a book about people and no matter what sports we’re playing or where we are in the world, we can relate.  I recommend it and going in knowing as little as possible.

That’s it for now.  Until next time, happy reading y’all!

Dreading the Soggy Bottom

Have you ever made a pie?  You work so hard making the crust and preparing the filling, only to have the middle of the bottom come out wet and yucky.  It ruins the whole pie.

There’s such a thing as the soggy bottom of a book too.  It’s that point about two thirds in where the author starts circling.  You know that book, the one where you’re loving the characters and you’re caught up in the mystery and then nothing happens for a hundred pages.  We keep going over the same clues and our characters spend a lot of time doing irrelevant things.  It’s enough to make you throw the book across the room.

I’ve been enjoying Michael Connelly’s new series about Renee Ballard and I really liked the recent crossover with Bosch, Dark Sacred Night.  I’m a big fan of the Amazon series but this was my first experience with Connelly’s writing.  I recently borrowed one of his called The Poet, a one-off from the mid-nineties.  At five hundred pages, this book had the soggiest soggy bottom I ever did see.  I skimmed the last two hundred pages and by the end I didn’t even like the characters anymore.  It was quite disappointing.

Of course, a book doesn’t have to have a soggy bottom to get ruined.  Case in point, the one I just finished, that will remain nameless, that had the granny menacing everyone with a blowtorch before revealing why she did it.  No, really.

So, it has not been the best few weeks for me in reading.  I hope y’all are faring better with your endeavors.  Maybe next time I’ll have better news and recommendations to share.  Until then, happy reading, y’all!

Book Review: Into the Water

I got the new Paula Hawkins novel, Into the Water, thanks to Book of the Month extras.  Just like her debut, The Girl on the Train, I couldn’t put it down.

It’s a quick read and it looks longer than it is in hardback format.  The type is large and the chapters are short.  It moves back and forth between narrators with speed and skill.  I’m normally not a fan of that but Ms. Hawkins does it really well.  I do admit that it was a little confusing at first trying to place everyone into the narrative but I think that was part of the point.  This book really makes you lose your bearings, very much like the characters.

I enjoyed the tight family drama and the suspense.  It kept me reading and I’m sad it’s over.  That’s what a good book should do.  I definitely recommend Into the Water to lovers of grip-lit like myself but I also recommend it to anyone who likes a well-told story.

Who Am I?

It’s been nearly a month since I left my job and it’s been both awesome and stressful.  I keep going back and forth from “I’m so glad I left” to “Holy crap! Why’d I leave the comfort of a full-time job?”

After a recent church class I realized that my angst is tied up in identity.  Who am I now? Who am I if I’m not Kim the tax accountant?

I’m Kim, Who Lives at Home.  I’m Kim, the aspiring author.  I’m Kim, who volunteers with kids. I’m Kim, who wants to work with kids.  I have to remind myself of that everyday, sometimes several times a day.

I do have plans but I want to take it one week at a time.  God has told me he wants me to spend more time in prayer and I’m making an effort.  I realize that I have to be patient and wait for Him to tell me where to go next.  The last thing I want is to screw this whole thing up.  This time is a gift from God and I’m not going to squander it.

Book Review: Orange is the New Black

Having seen the series, I’m not sure why I wanted to read the book, Piper Kerman’s memior, Orange is the New Black, about her time spent in a Federal women’s prison.  I suppose I wanted the real story.  To say the Netflix series takes liberties is an understatement.  I enjoyed the first two seasons but all the backstories in the third became a bit tiresome.

I thoroughly enjoyed Kerman’s writing and you can tell this wasn’t ghost written.  That’s something I always appreciate.  She did her time in Danbury, Connecticut and she writes about it with surprising affection, though going to prison was a traumatic experience for her, as it would be for anyone.  Prison is degrading and humiliating but she writes about the women she met there with love and grace, giving them back some of the dignity the institution took away.  She also writes about the importance of having people in your life on the outside who make life worth living.  The letters, the visits, the books, all kept Piper going through a horrible experience.  That’s a lesson we can all learn without spending any time in the clink.

Overall, this was an enjoyable read.  In fact, I really enjoyed comparing it to the series and turning each page to see what crazy, funny, horrible, or happy thing was going to happen next.  I would recommend it if you’re a big fan of memoir like me.

Next Chapter: A List

Now that I’ve given notice on my job, my mind has turned to what won’t be happening anymore.

Things I won’t do in the next 12 months:

  1. Tax Season (oh, sweet relief!)
  2. Take only a couple days off at a time because of work obligations (and the fear of being told I’m not good enough)
  3. Try to make up an excuse to get out of the Christmas Party
  4. Stand around in the conference room and celebrate every other thing (birthdays, Boss’s Day, Administrative Assistant’s Day, these people really like to celebrate)
  5. Listen to whining from people who have no right to whine (well, that may still happen, just different people)
  6. Listen to my bosses blame me for things that aren’t my fault (again, could still happen but different bosses)
  7. Feel guilty that I’m not doing enough
  8. Beat up on myself
  9. Be paranoid about what others think of me
  10. Do everything for everyone else and never for myself

There’s a lot of work on me that has to be done.  It starts with taking a break and then figuring out how to move forward.  God has a plan and my job for right now, is trusting Him.

Next Chapters and Such

So, I, uh, well… I kinda quit my job.  Yikes.  I actually wrote it.  I quit my job to be a writer!  Yay!  Just kidding.  Kind of.

Let me back up.  I ran into a friend of a friend at Barnes and Noble the other weekend.  I went to buy a copy of Thirteen Reasons Why and drink iced coffee in the cafe like a legit hipster.  She’s going to a local college to get some kind of Masters and working there to make ends meet.  I asked her how she was doing and she said she was happy doing that.  Happy.  I had a total epiphany.  I have savings and I hate my job.  What am I doing?

I’m just so over it.  I’m over accounting, I’m over the utter crazy that is the management and I’m over being depressed about how my life turned out.  So I didn’t get married in my twenties and get stuck in a job I hate because I’ve got bills to pay and kids to buy stuff for.  That was the dream, right?  Well, screw that.  I just turned 30 and I’m going to take this opportunity to make myself happy, because I’m so tired of being practical and sucking it up for everyone but myself.  And I may never get this opportunity again.

I also feel like God has something more for me.  More than just this job and all the crap that goes with it.  More than being single and yearning and all that blah, blah, blah.  God is leading me away and I have to follow that no matter what.  Like I’ve said it’s about trusting him even if others think you’re crazy.  And trust me, there are some people who think I’m nuts for doing this.

So, anyway, I decided I’m going to take a gap year to find myself before I start the next chapter and find my bliss.  Carpe diem, y’all!

 

Hello, Darkness, My Old Friend

If you’ve been reading this blog this year, you may have noticed a running melancholy in the posts.  I realize they haven’t been exactly upbeat.  Even though I’ve tried to put a positive spin on my angst, they’re kinda downers.

So far this year, I’ve written about the horrors of tax season (that’s not an exaggeration), my dog’s untimely death (seriously, why?), my teenage self vs my current self (like looking in a mirror), being persecuted for following my own path (probably paranoia, but you know what they say about that), turning 30 unmarried (and thinking about it way more than is healthy), and my crushing loneliness and restlessness.

So, what’s left to write about?  Oh, yeah.  My descent into depression.  Depression is a horrible disease but it can be funny, too, right?  Well, last night as I swallowed my shiny new Lexapro through snot and tears (again, not an exaggeration) it was really not funny.  But today it is because, you know, Buzz Feed.

God bless Buzz Feed.  Seriously, how many times has it just made your day?  Like today with this article.  Spoiler Alert:  It’s stuff people posted on Tumblr about being really not ok.  It spoke to me because there’s nothing worse than having to tell people you’re “fine” when you are really, really far from fine.

And a lot of people don’t get it.  Which is why I appreciated this article.  It puts a humorous spin on being supportive to a person going through depression.  And it makes some great points.  There’s such a stigma around depression and yet so many people suffer from it.  The disease causes enough shame; we shouldn’t be getting it from the people around us, too.  I feel misunderstood under normal circumstances so it’s ten times worse when I’m depressed and people think I’m just being weird and anti-social.

Laughter is good medicine but if you’re depressed or suspect you might be, please get help.  This isn’t my first rodeo and I know that waiting only makes it worse.  There will be days when you can laugh about it and days when you can’t.  Let’s hope there are more of the former.

How To Give Your Blog a Facelift

June:  Go on WordPress while bored at work.  Think about how your blog could use a facelift.  Decide to look around at the themes.  Try one out and do some customizing.  Abandon it.  Pick another and play with customizing.  Abandon it.  Think that you really need to pick a new theme but they all seem to require you to actually take a picture and upload it.  Go on Goodreads and look at your recommendations.

July:  Get notification that it’s your third Blogiversary!  Think that you should really get serious about updating your theme.  It’s been two years since you picked the old one.  Look at the themes again and write down three that you like.  Make a mental note to do it on the weekend when you’re bored.

August:  Go on WordPress while bored at work.  Decide to look at the themes again.  Search one that is good for text and doesn’t focus on photos.  Find a good one and start customizing.  Decide you don’t like the suggested header images.  Search for a header image.  Abandon search when you can’t find one in the right dimensions.  Look at Facebook.

September:  Go back to the theme you played with last month.  Change the color scheme.  Decide there is one suggested header image that really is kinda cool.  Change your title font.  Update your tagline because even though you’re not 30 yet it took you this long to get a new theme, so.  Click Activate.

Et voila!  Hope you like it!