Epic Reads Strikes Again!

I am a lover of bookish things, quite obviously. I’m also a chronic subscriber and a lover of giveaways so it should come as no surprise that I get a lot of bookish emails each day. One of my absolute favorite daily emails is the Epic Reads First 5.

If you do not know what Epic Reads is, let’s educate you shall we. Epic Reads is a site that feels like a YA movement. It’s full of lists and entertaining videos, quizzes, and articles about upcoming Young Adult authors or books. Epic Reads is the YA part of Harper Collins and holy crap, do they publish some amazing books.

The First 5 newsletter is literally the first 5 chapters of a book in the Epic Reads/HC family. This was how I used to pass my time at my horribly boring hotel reservation gig. I’d just go through the Epic Reads site and pick out the “read a preview of insert-book-title-here” and read a chapter or five.

This resulted in me racing to my local Books-A-Million after work to grab Queen of Hearts because five chapters was not enough.

I signed up for the newsletter and have been adding books to my TBR rather steadily ever since. I enjoy this newsletter so much because you aren’t just going by a synopsis, you get to actually get into a story and then decide if you want to continue.

Well! I’m catching up on my emails today, as is a usual Sunday event as of late, and the first five is fannnnntastic! This time its Dividing Eden and I am hooked. This one is about twins in a kingdom where their Father is the King. Their brother is next in line for the throne but apparently something is going to happen to him. And there are secrets and intrigue. IIIIIII like it. So much so that at the top of Chapter 3, I went and searched for it on my library’s website and requested it.

Good on you, Epic Reads! You win again!

Review Time! The Wonder by Emma Donoghue

Guess who finally got into a book she could finish? THIS CHICK!

I picked up The Wonder by Emma Donoghue while waiting in line to pick up a book I had on hold for Mom at my library. I read the first little blurb and decided I needed to check it out.

Disclaimer: All of the opinions expressed are my own and this review may contain spoilers. 

General synopsis: A child is turning into a bit of an oddity and miracle in a small town in Ireland in the 1800’s. She is in her fourth month of fasting and is somehow still alive. A nun and a nurse are sent to determine if the fast is fact or fiction. The nurse, Lib, is incredibly skeptical and can’t wait for her week of nurse duty to be up.

Thoughts!

The child, Anna, is so adorable. She is devout in her religion and is praying constantly. She is also wasting away and somehow still kind of chubby. I loved her from the get go and also felt like she needed one giant hug.

Lib, the nurse sent from England, is a hard pill to swallow at first. She is skeptical. She is determined to make this child into some kind of villain. All in all, She’s a bitch. BUT! Here’s the beauty of this story, the character development for Lib alone is amazing. By the end of the book, I wanted to be her best friend. Her callousness made sense. Her sense of needing to prove herself in some way was so relatable.

Emma Donoghue has this beautifully, haunting vibe to her writing. I fell in love with it 10 pages in. I loved the descriptions of Ireland and the historical aspects that were thrown in.

All in all, it was an excellent read. I mean I honestly had no idea what was going to happen until those last few pages.

I rated it four out of five stars because I found sometimes that Lib as a narrator was a little too dry. It was a totally haunting read though. I found I’d put it down and then need to pick it up again because I couldn’t stop thinking of Anna.

I’ve been trying to clear room on my shelves by reading books by the same author (if I have them) so my next read is Room by Mrs. Donoghue and let me just say, I will read anything she chooses to write because she is just phenomenal at building a world you can just fall into.

Sober

I absolutely love Buzzfeed. Most of the workouts that I do I find on You Tube. Both Tone It Up and Blogilates have You Tube pages, so when I finish up my routine, I’ll just pop through my subscriptions for a little break to bring my heart rate back down.

Today, I stumbled on My First 30 Days Sober and it was 100% relatable. Sometimes, Buzzfeed just hits the nail on the head, so to speak, and this was certainly one of those times.

Almost 3 years ago now, I did what this man did. I was stressed out and emotional and I was using alcohol to get me through it. I am also someone that due to stress, has vertigo and IBS. Both of these ailments increase with alcohol consumption (Note: if you get super dizzy and unbalanced when you drink–chances are you also have vertigo. Yay!).

I always enjoyed drinking. I rarely declined a drink when out with friends. It was my crutch to get through social situations. I spent most of my twenties drunk. Like really drunk. My tolerance was always pretty high (Mom says she was the same way) so I could drink 3 drinks and have a little bit of a buzz or I could have 6 and be what I deemed, “tipsy fantastic.”

First of all, at the time that I was drinking I made decent money but I have never been affluent. Drinking is friggin’ expensive if you actually know what you like. Me. I love top shelf tequila, whiskey, and Belvedere. And when I drank, if I was getting a refill, I tended to get the more expensive drinks after my first three were gone.

I am a dramatic drunk. I’m also a super funny drunk. That dramatic drunk. That one always bothered me.

Sober, I hate drama. I mean hate it. Have I caused it before? Of course I have. That doesn’t mean it’s enjoyable.

Drunk, I seemed to thrive on it. Especially if I was in a more emotional state than I cared to share before I started drinking.

Watching this video brought me right back. About three years ago, I went out to a restaurant with a friend to bitch about work. And about boys. And life in general. I drink 5 margaritas because the waitress loved us and just kept refilling. I got in my car and remember sitting there for more than 10 minutes because I suddenly remembered that I was an adult.

A living breathing adult who knows better than to drive right now.

So I sat until I felt less like I was tipsy. I rolled my windows down and took a deep breath. I dug out the Dramamine from my purse because my vertigo was kicking in. I felt my eyes well up when my stomach clenched. Just letting me know tomorrow was going to suck.

I drank half a bottle of water and then I drove the 10 minutes to my house from the restaurant. In that 10 minutes I decided that I needed to take a break.

Drinking wasn’t fun anymore. It made me feel worse and not better. I was trying to be healthier in general and hangovers impeded workouts. Not to mention, there is no nutritional value to hard liquor-my alcoholic beverage of choice.

The next day I was dizzy, cramping, and exhausted.

I spent my twenties drunk. Did I really need to spend my thirties that way too?

So I stopped. The next time I went out, I didn’t drink. The entire table stared. “WHAT?” That moment where his friends boo’d. I know what that feels like. When suddenly everyone stares at you like you’re insane because you don’t want a drink? Yup.

I went on vacation to see one of my best friends. When she went to the liquor store to pick up supplies for the party, I had to tell her that I wasn’t drinking anymore. It had been six weeks and I liked the clarity. That party was a testament to how incredibly awkward I am socially. But I did it. I was uncomfortable. I had no clue what to do with myself. And this was a group that knew me as someone that partied. But I did it.

Even now, when it comes up, people are still a little shocked that I don’t drink.

A lot ask me why and I simplify it by saying that is just wasn’t fun anymore.

That video. Those reasons he gave are 100% it.

Waking up doesn’t suck as much.

My face isn’t flush or puffy.

My body can show the definition of muscle when I’m working out.

I can work out longer (sometimes).

My vertigo is less constant.

I am less stressed.

I am able to process my emotions fully.

I feel better.

I’ll say that again.

I. Feel. Better.

I believe that I spent enough of my life drinking so I still don’t. I don’t intend to. It’s much like when I quit smoking. I’m just over it.

Good on Buzzfeed for capturing the clarity that making a decision to be sober, even just for 30 days, can give you.

Some actual genius needs to steal my ideas

I spend a lot of time in my car. I love her. Her name is Bea. She’s kind of a princess. She is a 2008 Mercury Milan.

If you don’t know, they no longer make the Milan. Actually, they stopped making Mercury’s all together the year I got her.

I call her a princess because her wiper blades are weird, her oil filter baffles Walmart mechanics, and her battery is the only one AAA doesn’t carry on their truck.

She is also a techie car. She has power windows and mirrors. Air bags every where. Folding seats. That awesome little I’m-locked-in-my-trunk pull latch. The side mirrors defrost. The rear mirror dims when it senses a bright light behind it. Oh, and I talk to her.

She’s Bluetooth enabled so you can control your phone, the stereo, and all that by talking to her. When she understands me its pretty fantastic. When she doesn’t, I get aggravated. The car also constantly checks on itself. Like right now, it’s determined my left headlight needs to be replaced.

Now, that is a car that is almost 10 years old.

More recent cars have those amazing back up cams, built in GPS systems, that really interesting park assist feature.

But! With alllllll these advancements someone tell me why no one has added the features I want most yet? I mean, they made a feature so a car can put on its own brakes. An alert for when you drift lanes! So cool and useful.

So why do I still have to turn on my own headlights when it rains? Why isn’t there a feature yet that when you turn on your wipers, the headlights automatically come on?

That is 100% serious. My car has those auto lights and sometimes when it’s raining, I don’t even think to be sure the lights are on. I happen to live in a state that requires by law for your headlights to be on if you are using your wipers.

So again I say, why hasn’t someone created lights that come on the moment you turn on your wipers? Get on that!

Another amazing idea I have but have no idea how to make it regards grocery shopping.

I do a lot of grocery shopping. I am the only driver in my home and my mom isn’t huge on going to the grocery store due to her anxiety. Thus, I go once for the grocery list and usually another time in the week to grab little things. Like creamer or if Mom is craving a treat, ice cream or something from the bakery.

So here’s my idea. A feature in the trunk to keep your groceries cold on the drive home. Right!? How great would that be!? My thought is you hit a little button and it activates an air conditioner type thing in the trunk and boom! Ice cream isn’t melting on your way home.

I think it would be especially helpful for people that don’t live a hop away from their store. Personally, I’m super close but! One of the stores I work in happens to be a grocery store and if I chose to do my shopping there it’s 30 minutes home and on a hot day, I worry about my ice cream, milk, yogurt, etc. Some kind of function to allow my groceries to remain cold would be amazing!

I have one more car related idea. I’ve had it for years. I love taking drives. You know, the aimless adventure kinds? I love those. I love the scenic route. I love road trips.

I live in New England and scenic routes are boundless. The other day, the sky was gorgeous. Big giant clouds on the left and then these layers and layers of stripey clouds on the right. There’s been a ton of rain so all of the trees are vibrant green and flowers are popping up everywhere.

I want someone to invent a camera that is built in to the car. A view camera. So that you can photograph what you are seeing when you drive. I want this to be an easy push button. For safety’s sake, you wouldn’t be able to look at the pictures taken until your car is in park and off. Perhaps, connected to an app or an easy jump drive.

It would be set up so it can see what you as the driver can see out of your windshield. The gorgeous skies I have seen when I’m driving up or down the coast at sunrise, OH how I would love to have a photo of them.

The last time I drove to South Carolina, I drove WITH a hurricane. She and I were steps apart from each other. The clouds, the rain, the fallen trees. All of it was crazy pants. BUT the sky the moment the hurricane passed was this gorgeous purple and the clouds were electric. That-that would have been a gorgeous photo.

Alas, I don’t find pulling over on the highway to be particularly safe. Or on mountain roads. Or really much of any road. So getting photos like this is damn near impossible unless you want to try while driving which is completely unsafe and in my state, considered distracted driving and therefore an offense that equals a hefty fine.

IIIIIII think these are fantastic ideas. I want a car with these functions so bad. So someone steal my ideas and get to making them a reality.

Go on, go be a genius.

 

Slump?

I have been trying to read ALL week.

I mean really trying.

Like sitting down with my book in my lap for a solid hour, trying.

Somehow, I have not finished one book though.

I read about 50 pages in Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow. Then I skipped around and decided I just couldn’t read this right now. However, I really do find Chernow’s writing style to be enchanting and inviting. I believe I will actually read that entire book someday but right now, I just can’t get into it the way I’d like to.

So! I picked up the next book from my latest library haul The Petticoat Affair. I sat with that for 4 hours yesterday. I read maybe 60 pages. To be honest, the actual synopsis- a historical and factual based book about Andrew Jackson’s run in the White House and more specifically about some crazy love triangle that essentially ruined his presidency-was far more interesting than the book itself.

I gave up on it.

Then I read 40 pages of The Wonder by Emma Donoghue. If the name sounds familiar, it’s because she was the author of Room. I have that one on my shelf and intend to pick it up after I get through this one. So far, at least this is keeping my interest.

The Wonder is about a child who is fasting but somehow in perfect health and the nurse who is sent to examine her. The nurse, Lib, is full on skeptical and thinks the child is totally faking. She’s so mean and blunt. The book has her train of thought as she is the narrator and she’s just super bitchy and determined to make a liar out of this beautiful, spiritual, innocent, little girl.

The fact that I can give you that much information about the book shows that I’m actually engaged. I’m just hoping I can push through this start of a reading slump and finish a book.

OH! I’ve also been inching along in The Paper Magician. I can’t decide if I like it or not. Currently, I don’t hate it but I’m not sure I’m quite following the world we’re in. So we’ll see.

Slump Be Gone!

 

 

 

Bout of Books: Wrap Up

Twitter chats were fantastic.

Challenges were fun.

I had a hefty goal and neglected to really make time to read and thus…I am still not done with the first book I picked up.

I am finishing it this evening since its due back and the library tomorrow and I have 30 pages left.

All in all, I like it!

I will certainly participate again in August!

Yoga Flow!

I started working out not when I was on an actual track team or when I was being bullied for being the larger of my adorably petite or naturally slender friends but when I was in college.

Instead of gaining weight when I went away to school, I lost 20 pounds in the first semester. I didn’t really see it but I did start showing off my assets. Instead of long skirts, I wore tiny skirts. Instead of mens wide leg pants (because JNCO) I wore juniors low rise (WHY WAS THAT A THING!?) jeans. Suddenly, I had curves and I was starting to like them.

So in an effort to balance my drinking and smoking, I started working out with my roommate. She had been quite an athlete in High School but lost it in college. The school I attended for my first two years of college had these 4 to 6 week fitness related activities you could sign up for. My roommate and I did all of them. First it was Hip Hop, then it was Salsa (my favorite by far), Pilates, some weird guide to weights,, and Yoga.

Between that and my constant walking due to not having a license or car until I was 20; I discovered moving my body was fun for me. I actually enjoyed it. Even more so when I could do it without anyone watching me. (That’s a whole insecurity thing for another day)

By our second semester of my sophomore year in college; my roommate and I had quite the falling out. So I drank and I worked out and attempted to get through my classes. I discovered the fun of Tae Bo and started doing that and some insane number of crunches during lunch so I wouldn’t be in the café the same time she was.

Because I was one hell of a chain smoker and drinking was a daily thing. I was working out with little results beyond my legs getting more sculpted. When I returned home from school, I continued with Tae Bo and added in Pilates.

I would workout for an hour on week days and then work my full time job. I stayed pretty much the same for a couple years and then Yoga.

I forgot how much I enjoyed the act of getting my body into Yoga poses. For me, it had the same effect as a long walk does; I could clear my head and move my body at the same time.

I stuck with Yoga being my main “thing” for a year or so. I quit smoking because I found that I was winded walking up stair cases and hacking during forward folds. Somehow, I lost the routine of working out and for a few years it was more sporadic then routine.

Then I did The Firm workout, The Zip Trainer workout, P90X made an appearance. I loved FIT TV and I’d tune in to that and use their daily workouts as mine.

I lost weight. I was suddenly feeling healthier and sometimes not so much due to a list of ailments brought on by stress.

In more recent years, Blogilates and Tone It Up have become my favorite workouts to tune into. YouTube is a fantastic resource and guess what, it’s free!

Don’t get me wrong, I spend money on my fitness. I love these two particular programs so much, I own water bottles from Blogilates and both of the books. I actually met Cassey Ho at a book signing years ago and she is just as lovely in person as she is in her videos.

Currently, I’m in the midst of Tone It Up’s 8 week Bikini Challenge. They do it every year to get you ready for summer. The structure they have seems to work for me lately so I’m down for whatever challenge they throw at me.

Last week, they added a Beautiful Yoga Flow and I’m loving it so much. It’s kind of my favorite. I did it for the second time today and I love that it feels so much like a strength workout while stretching out my body.

I am trying to get myself back into a real workout routine. At one point, I worked out six days a week and I was sleeping and generally happy.

So! In an effort to keep finding ways to reduce stress, I am getting in my workouts. If you are a yoga fan-click that link and try it out. It’s fast paced and 15 minutes long. It’s just such a nice flow. I find myself relaxing into it as it goes–the entire point of yoga typically.

I have a feeling the more I stick to things like reading, moving, and perhaps even cooking and baking; the more I’ll be here updating.

I like that feeling.

Bout of Books: Day 4

Did I read yesterday? Pretty sure I did. At least a little. Not much. Not much at all.

OY.

I WILL finish one book this week. I WILL!

I just renewed two of my library books and managed to acquire another when I was returning one of Mom’s.

Seriously! That woman has been blowing through books.

Tiny bit of background. My Mom is retired and yes, we live in the same home. A year or so ago, she went from being super independent and cheery to being despondent and in declining health.

Thanks to a never ending slew of tests, it was determined that her thyroid was not functioning which resulted in memory loss, depression, paranoia…need I go on?

Now! She is back to being cheery and silly. Still anxious and sometimes she is a bit of a homebody but! she is much better.

When she was sick or as I tend to put it “gone,” she suddenly hated reading. My mother, the woman that taught me to read when I was a baby and always had a book kicking around, hated reading. She was in this place where she rarely remembered the day of the week and found it incredibly difficult to read a book.

She loves Nicholas Sparks so when his new book came out this past year, I picked it up for her for Christmas. She was watching me read in the chair a couple months ago and said she needed a book to read. I reminded her about her new one and in three days, she had it done.

So I’ve been picking up books for her when I go to the library. And! She’s putting me to shame!

Which is awesome.

So yeah, I didn’t read all that much on Day 4 but, Mom started a new book.

Bout of Books: Day 3

I have the luxury of writing my own schedule for work (for the most part) due to it being an independent gig so I took yesterday off. Tuesday had been a long day due to my lack of sleep and I just felt better curled up with my book.

However, that whole lack of sleep for the last few days caught up to me and I ended up sleeping more than reading. I did get another 20 or so pages of Mindy Kailing’s lovely book read. I am really enjoying it too. I will definitely be checking out her other book as well. (Currently reading Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? She also has Why Not Me?)

I have a soft spot for comedic essay collections. Although! Sometimes, I get stuck in them. Example, I’ve been reading My Booky Wook by Russell Brand for, what?, 3 years now. I mean, I read a chapter and then push it aside for months on end. And I love him! Love him! But something about memoirs. It totally depends on my mood.

This one I think it’s more the I keep wanting to sleep causing me to not be through it yet and I am really enjoying it. So, I’m kind of doing that thing where you just read one part and then move on to something else.

I’m thinking I may actually do the thing I always say I’ll do on long work days: take breaks that last a chapter long. I mean, it is a readalong week and I really wanted to return some of these books rather than having to renew them.

Poor Hamilton, I had decided to focus on finishing Mindy and then losing myself in Hamilton again. And yet, it is at the bottom of a pile of notebooks.

The determination and interest I have in reading this giant book is amazing. Despite how slowly its going. Ron Chernow does one hell of a job writing history in a way that’s completely engaging.

So! I have not completed any books yet during this readathon. I did participate in two challenges ( I think) and I did read two magazines and a lot of blogs.

OH annnnd NetGalley seems to love me this month; I was approved for four more reads on there.

I need to figure out a system so I can utilize my library, read my own books, and get my NetGalley reads going. Help? Please. Any ideas?

Bout of Books: Days 1 & 2

I started Bout of Books by continuing with Is Everyone Hanging out Without me? by Mindy Kailing. I haven’t really dedicated much time to reading thus far this week. Day 1 was a day with working with my boss and her boss’ boss for a few hours. Then I was feeling horrible so I went home early. I read about 10 pages before I passed out.

Day 2 I spent the morning helping my friend move in a new table. Then worked. Then moved some TVs for the same peep. I read a few more pages when I got home. Currently, I am cuddled in bed with a slight injury and seriously sleep deprived. Gilmore Girls season 3 is on in the background and Mindy Kailing is right next to me. So hopefully I may get a few more pages in before I fall asleep.

Speaking of reading in bed! Does anyone have a suggestion for a good book light? I had this awesome one and then it went missing. I replaced it with one I picked up at Books A Million but its downright horrible.

I prefer a clip on one that is bright but light weight. Suggestions in the comments plllleeeease!