WWW Wednesdays – October 16, 2019

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What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Time for another WWW Wednesdays, which is brought to you by Sam @ Taking on a World of Words. If you too want to participate, answer the above questions and post that link on Sam’s page.

As of Monday, I officially completed my Goodreads challenge for the year. I couldn’t be happier! I am incredibly amazed that I have read that many books this year and it is only October.

2019 Reading Challenge

2019 Reading Challenge
Sarah has
completed her goal of reading
100 books in
2019!
hide

Currently Reading

Finished Reading

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson – audiobook = ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
Love Big by Rozella Haydee White – book = ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
IRL Book Club: House of Leaves by Mark Z Danielewski – book = ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ½
NetGalley ARC: Christmas in Vermont by Anita Hughes – ebook =

*Click on the title of the book to read my full review. I will be posting my House of Leaves review soon.*

Reading Next

What have y’all been reading? How are y’all doing with your 2019 reading goals? Leave a comment or your WWW link below.

HAPPY READING!!!

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Book Review: Christmas in Vermont

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Title: Christmas in Vermont
Author: Anita Hughes
Genre: Romance
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Publication Date: October 15, 2019
Pages: 304
Format Read: Ebook
Standalone or series: Standalone
Where I got the book: NetGalley ARC
Date finished reading: October 15, 2019

Goodreads Description: Emma can’t believe her luck when she finds an open pawn shop on Christmas Eve in Manhattan. She’s there to sell the beautiful bracelet her ex-boyfriend gave her when a familiar looking watch catches her eye. It’s the same engraved watch she gave her college boyfriend, Fletcher, years ago. On a whim, she trades the bracelet for the watch and wonders at the timing.

Practical Emma thinks it’s just a coincidence, but her best friend Bronwyn believes it’s the magic of synchronicity that caused Emma to find the watch. Fletcher was the one that got away, and somehow Emma never quite moved on.

When Bronwyn finds out that Fletcher is in snowy Vermont at a romantic inn for the week, she can’t help but give synchronicity a push. She signs Emma up to help the inn keeper as the children’s activity coordinator. Emma agrees that a week filled with quaint shops and maple syrup would do her good… and maybe Fate really does have a Christmas gift in store for her. That is until she sees Fletcher with his daughter and fiancée.

Suddenly, the fairytale trip seems doomed to fail… much like the innkeeper’s dwindling cashflow. It will take a miracle to save her heart and the inn. And that just might be what Fate has in mind.

Christmas in Vermont is a delightful and charming love story about the magic of second chances during the most festive time of year.

My Review: I was very excited to receive this ARC from NetGalley of Christmas in Vermont. I love a good Christmas romance. Before I dive in to writing down my thoughts, I want to take a brief moment to mention that this was poorly edited. I realize that I received a proof, but this was the worst ARC I’ve ever received as far as grammar. The grammar mistakes were constant. I think the publisher should have fixed at least some of the mistakes before releasing the proof. The timeline headers were incorrect at times; there were many errors with incorrect words (such as “hear” instead of “heart”); and the worst was during a dialog when it stated that Emma was speaking when it should have been Lola, because Emma was not even in that room or conversation. Those errors truly distracted me from the actual story. Is this typical with ARC copies?

I really enjoyed the first half of the book. I think Emma finding the watch that she gave Fletcher at the same pawn shop where she is selling a piece of jewelry that an ex-boyfriend had given her was definitely a sign or fate. It was a strong start, because it sucked me in to want to know who Fletcher was and why that watch was in a pawn shop. Then having Emma’s best friend, Bronwyn, stalk Fletcher on social media and set up a plan to have Emma vacation at the same hotel in Vermont as Fletcher for the holidays was quite entertaining. Emma ends up connecting with Fletcher’s daughter, Lola, before she connects with Fletcher. When Fletcher first sees Emma again after many years since their college romance, she is playing the piano in a talent show as accompaniment for Lola’s singing. It is a wonderful scene.

I don’t know how much I enjoyed the book after that. Lola was a great character. She was so witty for a nine year old. Her relationship with Emma was so adorable. Betty was a sweet character as well. I was not sure I cared much for the other supporting characters though. I guess Megan was a strong enough character. One of those characters that you love to hate. However, those scenes where Fletcher is talking to his best friend, I don’t see how that character or those scenes added to the story.

Once Megan was gone, the story really fizzled for me. Of course, you want Fletcher and Emma to be together, but I just did not feel that spark. There could have been more romantic moments with them. I felt that their connection seemed stronger when the story would revert to a decade earlier and share moments from their original romance in college than the present day romance. I am still happy that Fletcher and Emma ended up together in the end, but I think I would have also liked an epilogue that jumped forward 364 days as assurance for the reader that Emma did not bail on this relationship like she did in her previous relationships.

This story had some strong characters and scenes. It made me want to visit Vermont. I did like it, but I did not love it.

My Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ ½

Book Review: Love Big

LoveBig_CoverFinal_3bTitle: Love Big
Author: Rozella Haydee White
Genre: Nonfiction, Self-Help
Publisher: Fortress Press
Publication Date: May 7, 2019
Pages: 178
Format Read: Book
Standalone or series: Standalone
Where I got the book: From a friend of the author
Date finished reading: October 14, 2019

Goodreads Description: In the words of Mother Teresa, “We have forgotten that we belong to each other.” This lapse in memory has caused deep fractures and allowed fear, hatred, and division to infect our lives together. We’ve become disconnected from each other and from our very selves.

In Love Big, leadership coach Rozella Hayd’e White introduces readers to the power of revolutionary relationships. Modeled after the image of God as a lover, these relationships can heal the brokenness of our lives by crossing over the dividing lines of race, gender, religion, orientation, ability, identity, and class to provide relief and inspiration.

Revolutionary relationships will usher us into a reality marked by love, connection, and a belief in abundance.

Revolutionary relationships lead us to love big–to love despite hardships and fear; to love in the face of despair; to love ourselves and others deeply and passionately; to love in ways that change us all.

My Review: I received a copy of this book from a friend of the author. I always enjoy reading local authors’ works. Some readers might be turned off by the religious foundation of this book, but this book is more about relationships, love and faith. You don’t have to share the same religious beliefs as the author to appreciate her ideals and her guidance. If you are doing a self-evaluation and wanting to love a bit bigger and better, this is a great book for you.

“To love big is to have faith, even when you don’t understand how faith works and especially when you don’t believe that faith even matters.”

If you currently feel or have felt the following, this book is a great guide to possible ways to change your life. “Fear and hatred lead to an inevitable conclusion: that there isn’t enough. Enough time. Enough resources. Enough jobs. Enough money. Enough joy. Enough love.” Here are some key points that I took from this book:

  • You can’t truly love others unless you love yourself. This is hard for many people. This may involve a healing process from some tragic event in your life. This may involve having a better self-image, including being happy with your abilities and your body. “Restoring my soul is probably the hardest work I’ve ever done because it requires me to be excruciatingly honest with myself and to listen deeply and well.”
  • Discover your own dreams, desires, and who you are. It is important for us take time to acknowledge our likes and dislikes; to think about our strengths and weaknesses; and even establish goals or wishes for the future – what you want to get out of life. “The goal is to name your hopes, values, and dreams, claim the ways that you want to show up in the world, and have a partner that helps you do the good and hard work of staying focused on the fact that what you say matters most.”
  • Live the life you want to live. When you love yourself, you want you to be happy. If a relationship or job or responsibility is not making you happy, it may be time to reevaluate and/or make a change.
  • Live outside your own bubble. “The bubbles that we live in keep us separate from one another. This leads to an isolation so deep that we don’t even recognize how disconnected we truly are.” It is a growing experience to not only engage with your community and the people/issues within your community, but also open yourself up to know more about the world. Don’t be afraid to explore the world and other cultures. “There’s something to be said for waking up, for the moments in our life when we realize we have been asleep. … And we all have a choice, either to hit the snooze button or to wake up.”
  • Show love. Showing love may be trying to understand or relate to others, empathizing with someone else or a situation. Sometimes love can be showing some gratitude and mercy. (I just finished a great book by Bryan Stevenson called Just Mercy.)
  • Establish revolutionary relationships. The author describes the steps and qualities of revolutionary relationships. See below. You love yourself and are ready to love others. These relationships are established to not only help you love but strengthen you as a person and help you achieve the goals and desires you have for the future. “Revolutionary relationships lead me to action. I must nurture these relationships and the people I love. I can’t be selfish because these relationships continually pull me out of myself and into the world.”

Revolutionary Relationships Defined:
1. God in Relationship with God
2. Lessons from Trinity
3. Covenant, Not Commitment
4. Life-giving
5. Risk-taking
6. Vulnerable
7. Forgiveness
8. Gracious
9. Diverse
10. The Foundation – “Revolutionary relationships create the foundation for building lives of meaning, joy, connection, and love.”

I personally have spent a lot of time digging deep within myself to understand myself more and appreciate the person I am. I enjoyed learning about the author’s idea of revolutionary relationships – relationships that will help you grow not hold you back. I think the hardest part with this idea is how family fits in. There is that common phrase “I may have to love you but I don’t have to like you.” I have found that I can choose my friendships, but I can’t choose my family. The author shared some of her difficult family relationships, but every family is different. I just wonder what is the best way to handle difficult family relationships. If anyone has any input on this or reading materials they would recommend, please share in the comment section below. In the meantime, I hope to do better at loving big!

“We love big when we fall in love with ourselves, rouse our minds, reform our bodies, and restore our hearts. We love big when we engage in revolutionary relationships and seek holistic healing, as individuals and as a community.”

“When we are healed, we create new, life-giving realities; liberate ourselves and others from systems, ideologies, and structures that are oppressive; and sustain one another to live lives of peace marked by justice. This is how we love big, and this leads us to love despite differences, to love in the face of hardships and despair, to love ourselves and others deeply and passionately, to love in ways that change us all.”

My Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ 

Book Review: Just Mercy

bryan-stevenson-just-mercy

Title: Just Mercy
Author: Bryan Stevenson
Genre: Nonfiction – Social Justice
Publisher: Spiegel & Grau
Publication Date: October 21, 2014
Pages: 336
Format Read: Audiobook
Standalone or series: Standalone
Where I got the book: Library Libby app
Date finished reading: October 11, 2019

Goodreads Description: Bryan Stevenson was a young lawyer when he founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice dedicated to defending those most desperate and in need: the poor, the wrongly condemned, and women and children trapped in the farthest reaches of our criminal justice system. One of his first cases was that of Walter McMillian, a young man who was sentenced to die for a notorious murder he insisted he didn’t commit. The case drew Bryan into a tangle of conspiracy, political machination, and legal brinksmanship—and transformed his understanding of mercy and justice forever.

Just Mercy is at once an unforgettable account of an idealistic, gifted young lawyer’s coming of age, a moving window into the lives of those he has defended, and an inspiring argument for compassion in the pursuit of true justice.

My Review: I believe I first heard Bryan Stevenson 5 years ago on The Daily Show and was really impressed. After reading his book Just Mercy, I am more than impressed. Whatever your thoughts are on capital punishment – for or against – this book is bound to produce an emotional response. For me, I could only handle reading a little bit of this book everyday or I would just get too upset.

While Bryan Stevenson writes about specific cases he took on, as legal consul for death row inmates, this book is more than just about capital punishment. It highlights flaws in our justice and prison systems.

“It is about how easily we condemn people in this country and the injustice we create when we allow fear, anger and distance to shape the way we treat the most vulnerable among us.”

Bryan Stevenson in the late 1980s founded EJI, the Equal Justice Initiative. This non-profit focuses on the following: “We were assisting clients on death row; challenging excessive punishments; helping disabled prisoners; assisting children incarcerated in the adult system; and looking at ways to expose racial bias, discrimination against the poor and the abuse of power.”

Bryan Stevenson discusses a few specific cases and highlights the difficulties of fighting for broken people in a broken system of justice. This isn’t just about death row and the death penalty but about mental illness, overcrowding and abuse in our prison systems, and overall injustice and inequality. If this book teaches the reader anything, it is about the value of compassion and mercy.

This book is definitely worth the read. However, if you don’t think you can take the time, I just found out that this story, focusing primarily on the Walter McMillian case, is becoming a film, which will be released in a couple months. 

“We all need mercy; we all need justice; and perhaps we all need some measure of merited grace.

My Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ 

A Day on St. Kitts – January 2019

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St. Kitts was our 5th and final port stop on our Caribbean Cruise. After a pretty chaotic experience on Barbados, we decided to take it easy on St. Kitts. We wanted to just find a beach where we could soak up some sun and breathe in some fresh air, while on solid ground, as we would be sailing nonstop for a few days after this.

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After disembarking from our ship, we found an information desk right inside the port entrance. Everyone was so helpful, and we easily found transportation to Cockleshell Beach. This beach was on the other side of the island, so we had a nice drive around the island. I was pleased to find that the beach had a restaurant attached to it, so we immediately decided to eat and have a few drinks at the Reggae Beach Bar before lounging on the beach. This was our first time eating conch, and we both agreed that conch is not for us, but we are happy we tried it.

After we finished eating, we took our bucket of beers and went to go claim some loungers on the beach. The beach staff was super helpful and got us hooked up with an umbrella. We would relax here for most of the afternoon, and it was glorious. Secretly, we may regret not taking advantage of the jet skis and having some water fun. There is always next time.

This may not have been the most exciting part of our vacation, but it was a nice and relaxing way to end it. Plus, the beach and water was beautiful!

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Until next trip….HAPPY TRAVELS!!!

 

WWW Wednesdays – October 9, 2019

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What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Time for another WWW Wednesdays, which is brought to you by Sam @ Taking on a World of Words. If you too want to participate, answer the above questions and post that link on Sam’s page.

71684206_10156880239512986_4976047507399245824_oI recently celebrated another year of life, and I thought y’all would appreciate the amazing birthday cake that my husband got for me. He clearly gets me! I can’t get over how amazing it looked and also very very delicious.

Currently Reading

Finished Reading

IRL Classics Book Club: Adam Bede by George Eliot – audiobook = ♦ ♦ ½
Focus on Authors Reading Challenge: The Lottery & Other Stories by Shirley Jackson – audiobook = ♦ ♦ ♦

*Click on the title of the book for my full review. I will review all Shirley Jackson reads at the end of the month.*

This was an audiobook heavy week. Turns out that I got a puzzle for my birthday and have been loving my time audio-puzzling.

Reading Next

What are y’all reading? Any spooky reads for the Halloween season? Let me know what you are reading or leave your WWW link in the comments below.

HAPPY READING!!!

Book Club Review: Adam Bede

adam bedeTitle: Adam Bede
Author: George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans)
Genre: Classics
Publisher: William Blackwood & Sons
Publication Date: 1859
Pages: 624
Format Read: Audiobook
Standalone or series: Standalone
Where I got the book: Library Hoopla app
Date finished reading: October 2, 2019

Goodreads Description: Adam Bede, the first novel written by George Eliot (the pen name of Mary Ann Evans), was published in 1859. It was published pseudonymously, even though Evans was a well-published and highly respected scholar of her time.
The story’s plot follows four characters’ rural lives in the fictional community of Hayslope—a rural, pastoral and close-knit community in 1799. The novel revolves around a love triangle between beautiful but self-absorbed Hetty Sorrel, Captain Arthur Donnithorne, the young squire who seduces her, Adam Bede, her unacknowledged suitor, and Dinah Morris, Hetty’s cousin, a fervent, virtuous and beautiful Methodist lay preacher.

My Review: Adam Bede was elected as our October read for the Classics book club that I participate in. This was my first time reading anything by George Eliot (aka Mary Ann Evans). I did like her writing. However, this story did not grip me at all. While the descriptions were beautiful at the beginning, and I could truly picture what this rural area and life there was like, it was slow moving for the first half of the book. There were some interesting characters, but in my opinion Adam Bede was a supporting character and should not have the honor of the title of this book. I also had a few other issues with this story, which too would be covered in the book club discussion.

Discussion kicked off by talking about the possibilities for why Adam Bede was chosen as the title of this story. There was a belief among some individuals that some of the female characters were stronger characters, like Hetty and Dinah. It was mentioned that maybe the Adam Bede was chosen as the title as it would be more appealing to both male and female readers of that time period. A more popular feeling that there was more depth to Adam Bede than the other characters – that the reader can see a very obvious transformation and growth in this character that you don’t see in the other characters. Adam began as a proud man, suffered from a tragic heartbreak and transitioned into a humble character. While I personally understand this explanation, in my opinion this does not make this character more interesting.

Dinah, however, was a strong character as someone who was radically progressive in her vocation as a Methodist preacher, especially for that time period. She might have represented what the author may have wanted from religion – no judgments just kindness to everyone equally. Hetty may be the most shallow of the characters, but she also created the disruption of this less than exciting story. Those two characters were my favorite.

I cannot help but defend Hetty a little bit, as I am sure that most people (including some members of my book club) think she is a complete drama queen of a character. I feel that while her mother was a very strong and intelligent woman, she and her husband did not necessarily instill those qualities on Hetty but brought her up to always look nice and be in search of a good husband. She was young, naive and seemed to care solely about wealth and nice things, which I think was necessary to show the contrast between Hetty and Dinah. Plus, Hetty’s character sure livened up the story, and I wish the reader could have had more of a glimpse into her thoughts after her life was spared.

There were a couple of unique things to note. The first was that much of Hetty and Arthur’s romance is left up to the imagination of the reader. If you didn’t guess, then you were very surprised by the pregnancy revelation. The second was how Hetty managed to hide her pregnancy from her family and Adam into the eighth month. That part was a bit unbelievable to me, though I have heard stories about that actually happening.

In book club, we only briefly discussed the character of Seth, Adam’s brother. I found this character very disappointing. I disliked how the author made this character so compliant to the wishes of his brother. Yes, I believed Seth loved his brother, but Seth showed no emotion when Adam confessed his love for Dinah, who was the woman that Seth had been in love with. He just accepted that match. The author would have the reader believe he was content being Dinah’s brother-in-law. Adam went crazy with jealously when he found out that Hetty, whom Adam loved, was romantically involved with Arthur. Shouldn’t Seth have had a bit of those same feelings? I guess I find the Biblical Cain and Abel representation much more realistic. Those Biblical characters were referenced in John Steinbeck’s epic East of Eden, which I just recently enjoyed reading. I admit after that Adam Bede was a bit of a drag to me.

Opinions were pretty split in my book club regarding George Eliot’s first novel. While I was one that did not enjoy it very much, I enjoyed the writing enough to still want to try reading something else by her – maybe Middlemarch or Silas Marner.

My Rating: ♦ ♦ ½