September goals

I am so excited that today is September first! I love New Year’s day because I establish new goals for the year. The first of each month is a miniature reboot of New Year’s goals.

This month I want to concentrate on just a couple of areas.

Back to School
My daughter starts her senior year of high school on Wednesday. She is excited and nervous at the same time. She’s thrilled that she’ll be able to hang out with her friends again. But she’s nervous because this is the start of the end of her high school experience.

Lazy summer days

My goal is to help make this back to school transition as easy as possible. This afternoon we’ll visit a salon to get her all prettied for the first day of school. A new haircut is definitely a confidence booster!

Smart Girl Edits
I am in the process of preparing a proposal and quote for several potential clients. If either of them signs a contract with me, I’ll be busy this month working toward their deadlines.

If neither client signs a contract with me, I want to continue developing connections on LinkedIn. I also want to resume one of my business classes so that I can refine my business niche and make a plan for the rest of this year.

Travel
My third and final focus this month is my Prince Edward Island trip! Last month, I posted several goals I want to complete in preparation for my vacation. I have selected and purchased a book to read on my flight. I have also selected my knitting pattern but still need to go yarn shopping. I will post about these things later in more detail.

Hoping to pack lighter…

Here’s to a productive and fun September! What are your September goals?

Wish list item #3 – a new book

A few days ago, I posted a wish list of things that I hope to accomplish before I leave for Prince Edward Island, Canada.

Wish list item #1 – a haircut
Wish list item #2 – a new knitting project
Wish list item #3 – a new book
Wish list item #4 – assemble a trip itinerary

Today I have been happily perusing my to-read list on Goodreads. My to-read list is quite long, coming in at a hefty 1,756 books.

SO many options!

The photo above shows just how many books caught my eye today, each tab open to one book on Goodreads. I even took this screenshot after eliminating a few options. I am noticing a trend – bookstore or library themes, mysteries, historical fiction, time travel, and the occasional memoir.

I thought it would be fun to share a couple of the books under consideration in hopes that someone might chime in with, “Hey, I’ve read that book! It was great!” or “That one was pretty good but I found a similar book that was even better.” If you look at my list and have any thoughts, please share! I’d love to read your bookish thoughts.

Goodreads photo

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah – set in France, 1939. This novel was recommended by my bookclub as a recently written novel with tons of character development. I lean toward character driven novels rather than plot driven, though it’s a huge bonus if the novel has both strong character development and a great plot!

Goodreads photo

The Heroine’s Bookshelf by Erin Blakemore – essays about inspirational women in literature. I really want to read this book but I’m not sure it’s a good pick for a flight and then trying to relax after a long day of traveling.

Goodreads photo

The Bookshop of Yesterdays by Amy Meyerson – a contemporary novel featuring a bookshop scavenger hunt! This might be a really fun read though the reviews are all over the place, mainly due to readers disliking the main character.

Goodreads photo

The Lumby Lines by Gail Fraser – I know so little about this book, only that it’s part of a series and I know that people love the series! The cover reminds me of Jan Karon’s Mitford series, which I love.

Goodreads photo

Time Between Us by Tamara Ireland Stone – time travel!! Need I say more? I know very little about this, other than the fact that it involves romance, time travel, and it’s rated fairly well on Goodreads.

While writing this post, I somehow managed to reduce my overall to-read list by one. Let’s see how many more books I add as I try to finalize my book decision. And if you have any suggestions, please let me know! Maybe someday my to-read list will grow to 2,000 books.

Getting ready for PEI

Next month I am traveling to Prince Edward Island, Canada, and I am so excited! My last getaway was in March, a two day women’s church retreat in Fall City, WA. For this trip, I’ll be gone for an entire week!

This week, I’ve been working on a to-do list specifically for my trip. This list is more of an “I hope I can get all this done” list rather than a list based in reality. But I’m still going to see what I can get done. Maybe I should just call it a wish list.

Wish list item #1 – a haircut

I tend to cut a lot of inches off my hair and then not get another haircut for years. I cut about 12 inches off around Valentine’s Day 2018 and have not gotten a haircut since. My hair is now almost down to my elbows and looks rather scraggly. I hope to take a lot of pictures on my trip and hope to actually be in some of those photos. I want to feel more confident in my photos and a haircut would go a long way toward that confidence.

Wish list item #2 – a new knitting project

Current knitting project

My current knitting project, a cowl, is almost complete! (Side note – the pattern designer is really nice and answered several of my questions about her pattern). I really hope to take a new knitting project on my trip, knowing full well that I may be overwhelmed by everything else going on and may not actually knit. On the other hand, I did knit in both Taiwan and China, so…

For my new knitting project, I am looking for a pattern that reminds me of autumn. We are headed to Canada at a time when the leaves should be changing colors and I want to knit something that reflects that season change. I’m not sure if I want to incorporate falling leaves in my pattern or just knit in fall colors. If you have a pattern suggestion, please let me know!

Wish list item #3 – a new book

I definitely need a new book to read while waiting for my flight and while relaxing in the evenings. My husband suggested that I take my e-reader but I want a book I can hold in my hands. I have no idea what specific book I’m looking for, but I have a few ideas. I’m hoping for a lighter read, but not complete brain candy. Good character development. Again, something that reminds me of autumn. A cozy book, heartfelt. I’m open to suggestions!

Wish list item #4 – assemble a trip itinerary

Photo by Element5 Digital from Pexels

Neither myself or my best friend want to be locked into specific activities on specific days. However, we have already made Airbnb reservations in different towns along our route. Between now and our date of departure, I want to compile a list of places to see, things to do, and food to eat in each of the cities we’ll be visiting. Of course, my number one priority is going to be a list of coffee houses to try! This list will just give us options to choose from based on how we’re feeling that day. I think a list of options will be beneficial so we aren’t completely aimless, but both of us will be approaching the list as “suggestions” rather than “requirements.” If we spot something along the way, I want the freedom to say, “Hey, let’s go check that out!”

Reality

I am well aware that my current reality may not allow me to accomplish every item on this list. I don’t have a hair stylist and will have to find one. I may not own the right knitting needles for my project and will have to buy those in addition to yarn. Each item on this list requires multiple steps and the next month already looks quite busy.

In the next month, my daughter is starting her senior year in high school. Before school starts, we need to stock up on homework supplies, shop for school clothes, get a haircut for her, and visit her school for the “taking care of business” day.

I also have to get my daughter’s last name changed with the school system (we just completed her WA state readoption!), make an appointment for senior photos, and possibly visit the doctor for a sports clearance.

Our car is due for some transmission work. I’m currently in a back and forth discussion with the State of Arizona over previous tax years. Plus, I’m trying to get my editing business off the ground!

Life is busy. I will have to prioritize what gets done and then just do my best.

Deadly Proof – A book review


Deadly Proof
Rachel Dylan

As far as modern Christian fiction is concerned, this is one of the better novels I’ve read. Kate is a fairly realistic character, a woman lawyer who struggles with depression. She obsesses over her career, immersing herself in her work for long days to cope with the emotions that rise when she has downtime. Kate genuinely cares about her clients and works hard to ensure they receive the justice they deserve.

I did struggle with Kate’s attitude toward her clients. It came across as if Kate would only accept clients who she believed were genuinely innocent of any wrongdoing. I don’t know enough about the law industry to know if it’s possible for lawyers to only accept certain clients, especially when they work in a firm and have other lawyers above them in the pecking order. Kate switched from defense to prosecution because she wanted to protect those who had been wronged. But what about those individuals who had been wrongly accused of a crime? Don’t they deserve a lawyer who believes in them?

The legal aspects of this novel were extremely well explained. The author took care to explain various laws and court procedure but was able to explain things without talking down to the reader. This is difficult to do well! I appreciated that. I have read a few legal thrillers and have watched a LOT of legal thriller television and movies. So the novel didn’t teach me anything new in that area but I also didn’t feel as if I was wasting my time reading legal explanations for the lay person.

The romantic relationship was a bit… sappy. Landon’s character was slightly girly. He is a former Army Ranger and yet his internal thoughts were not very manly. He came across more like a romcom lead than an ex-military private investigator. This made the relationship development seem cheesy and unbelievable. It felt more like how a woman daydreams about a man’s thoughts toward her rather than how a man actually thinks.

Overall, Deadly Proof was a great read! I just put the second book on hold at the library and can’t wait to read other novels by the same author.

Thank you to Bethany House for a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion!

The Nephilim Virus – A Book Review

First of all, I owe a huge apology to both the author and the publisher of this book. Life got crazy, I wrote down the wrong date for the blog tour, and now I’m late in getting my review published. But I wanted to make sure I honor my commitment, though it’s late, so here goes.

The Nephilim Virus, written by John T. Prather, is not my normal choice of reading material. I generally gravitate to historical fiction, Christian contemporary romance, or nonfiction. However, I’ve really been wanting to branch out in my reading, choosing other genres in hopes of finding some new favorites. When I saw this book available as a review copy, I decided that it was a good choice in my attempts to branch out.

Nick Reese wakes from a three-year coma to find the world he once knew is gone. An ancient virus has infected two-thirds of the world’s population, turning humans into either incredibly intelligent super-humans or large and indestructible animalistic creatures. For the survivors, there is no government, no antidote, and no safety. With the help of a beautiful hematologist named Faith and a man they call the Commander, Nick must survive long enough to discover the origin of the virus and learn how his blood could hold the key to a cure. But he has to do it while being hunted by the infected. And failure means the extinction of the human race. (description from Prather’s website)

The Nephilim Virus is an intense book! It is entirely plot driven and the action never stops. I’m a mom to two teens (demanding and time intensive parenting for sure!) and yet I could barely put the book down. It was suspenseful! I had to keep reading to find out what was going to happen next. Was Nick going to find the other virus survivors? Was he going to be able to save the human race or was life hopeless? Events kept happening, never a dull moment in Nick’s life. I felt the novel sacrificed character development for constant plot development, but that may be more common in the thriller genre.

My only real criticism about the novel is that the ending felt entirely too rushed. Until the last 25 or so pages, I thought for sure that this was going to be a series. Then all of a sudden, the novel ended and everything was wrapped up. A sequel might have been a good idea to help the ending feel more realistic. I’m also curious if this book was written with the intent to bring it to film. The chapters were short, quick scenes that advanced the plot. Dialog was short and snappy. Since the author is also an actor, I can easily see how he could write the book intending it to someday be on the big screen.

I am definitely glad that I read this book. While supernatural thriller will never be my favorite genre, The Nephilim Virus was definitely worth the read. It’s an adventure story that kept me at the edge of my seat.

Reading Goals

In all the everyday demands of life, my reading has taken a backseat. It’s so hard for me to balance everything that I want to accomplish. This week I logged into Goodreads to update my reading and found this:

13 books behind schedule! I’m not sure that I can, nor do I want to try to, catch up with my reading goal. However, I would like to reduce some of my time wasters *ahem, Panda Pop and mindless Facebook browsing* in order to add in some meaningful reading. This week I am tackling these three books.

These Is My Words – A random selection from my enormous to-read list. I’m about 30 pages in and overwhelmed at the sheer number of tragedies this girl endured. I can’t tell if this will be a motivational read or a depressing one. I would like to finish within a week or two.

The Count of Monte Cristo – I have a reading buddy with whom I am going to try to complete the novel. I’m trying to nudge my best friend into joining me as well! This will be a slow but steady read. We set a pace of three chapters a week and we’ll see if it’s the right pace and adjust as necessary.

Guns, Germs, and Steel – This one has been on my shelf for at least a year. I started reading it, completed the first third, and stalled due to life. It’s actually a really interesting book so I’ve committed myself to reading 3-5 pages a day. That way I can continue to make progress and eventually finish it.

There are so many books out there and not enough time. Must read more!

2017 reading challenges

One of my absolute favorite things about New Years is the opportunity to brainstorm a reading list for the upcoming year. I’ve always had a lot of fun with this. The past few years, I’ve picked a couple series of books to read, as well as standalone titles from my to-read list. This year I’m doing the same, except I decided to read a few specific titles along with my best friend.

Here’s my list for 2017.

Standalone titles
Anna Karenina by Tolstoy
Mornings on Horseback by David McCullough
Count of Monte Cristo by Dumas
Mao’s Last Dancer by Li Cunxin
All of Jane Austen’s books
A book by Agatha Christie, title undecided

Series
Narnia by C.S. Lewis
Lord of the Rings by Tolkien

Reading challenge
7 Keys TJEd reading list

The TJEd list isn’t a reading challenge, per se. It’s actually a self-education outline, reading a lot of the great classics in a specific order. I have no plans to finish this list in 2017, as it is quite long and involved. But I would like to get started and make a dent in the list.

I also set a Goodreads goal of reading 100 books. I far exceeded that last year. My total is unknown, as I’m still entering a few books from December. Some of those were readalouds I did with my daughter, but I read a lot for myself. If you want to be friends on Goodreads, please add me! I love meeting new readers.

Here’s to a wonderful year of reading!

A Tapestry of Secrets – a book review

Tapestry of Secrets

Now in her eighties, Perla Phillips has carried a secret since she was eighteen years old. When she sees her granddaughter, Ella, struggling for perfection, she decides to share her secret to show that God can use even the biggest mistakes for good. But before she can reveal what happened during that summer sixty years ago, she has a debilitating stroke.

Carrying a secret of her own, Ella arrives back in Wise, West Virgina, to help her aunt Sadie care for Perla. Both know the woman wanted to tell them something, but she’s now locked in silence. Together they begin looking into the past, but they may learn more than they expected.
Will they have the courage to share their hearts? Or will the truth remain buried forever?

I love reviewing books by Bethany House! I eagerly read over each and every monthly email, trying to figure out if they are offering a book that I would enjoy reading. I chose A Tapestry of Secrets because of the cover. I adore quilting and novels about quilting.

Sarah Loudin Thomas is a new-to-me author. When I requested this book, I think I knew that this was in the middle of a series but thought it would be ok to read out of order. In that regard, I was correct. I have no idea which characters the two earlier novels are about. This book can be read on its own, without having to read the other novels. Unfortunately, that’s about the only good thing I can say about it.

The main character drove me insane. I wanted to reach into the pages and slap her until she developed some common sense and decency. Ella was recovering from a bad relationship and yet she continued to drool over multiple men at the same time. I understand looking around and contemplating your options. But if you are seriously considering dating one man, please do not talk about how the other one is a hottie and maybe you should date him! One at a time. Evaluate a man based on his own qualities, not compared to someone else in your circle of acquaintances. From her internal dialog – “then again, maybe she shouldn’t be too quick to lean in any one direction.” Really? When you cannot stand the main character, it doesn’t matter how well written the story is; it’s painful to read.

I wish that the author had spent more time talking about Ella’s art. That was what I was most interested in. She designed quilting art. Wall hangings, quilts, but with a nontraditional flare. Some of the descriptions of Ella’s work were very vivid and I was intrigued to learn more about the process of how Ella gained her inspiration, chose her materials, and created her art pieces. But other than a couple of short passages, the book never delves into the quilting aspect. I was disappointed.

Still, thank you to Bethany House in exchange for my honest opinion! All thoughts are my own.

The Queen of Katwe

The Queen of Katwe, One Girl’s Triumphant Path to Becoming a Chess Champion

Katwe

I have very mixed feelings about this book. Overall, I’m glad that I read it. It was an insightful look at Uganda’s culture, the living condition of the poorest of the poor, and how the chess program started in Uganda. However, the book took a long time to really get started. There were life sketches of people whose names meant nothing to me and I wasn’t sure why they were included in the book. There was a detailed history of the establishment of the chess program, which was interesting, but I wasn’t yet hooked because Fiona’s story had not yet started.

Even after Fiona’s story started, I still didn’t feel connected to her. It was almost like the author didn’t really know her and was only doing an outsiders summary of her life. It’s entirely possible that Ugandan culture, specifically that of the slums, does not allow outsiders to get to know someone. But I long for details, thoughts, and feelings of the people who are being written about. Not just a fact sheet. The details of life in the slums were absolutely heart breaking, but that didn’t give much insight into Fiona herself.

I will be interested to see the movie when it is released. I’m sure the movie will be a tearjerker, as it shows the horrible living conditions that Fiona is accustomed to. I enjoy real life movies, inspirational films about people who come from a rough past and overcome huge odds to make something successful of themselves. Hopefully Fiona is able to rise above her circumstances as well. It seems too early to really tell.

Much thanks to The ravū Collective Team for a free copy of the book in exchange for my opinion. All thoughts are my own.

King’s Folly – a book review

The gods are angry.

Volcanic eruptions, sinkholes, ground shakers–everything points to their unhappiness. At least that is what the king of Armania believes. His son, Prince Wilek, thinks his father’s superstitions are nonsense, though he remains the ever dutiful heir apparent to the throne.

When a messenger arrives and claims that the town of Farway has been swallowed by the earth, the king sends Wilek to investigate. But what Wilek discovers is more cataclysmic than one lost city. Even as the ground shifts beneath his feet, Wilek sets out on a desperate journey to save his people and his world. But can he do it before the entire land crumbles?

Kings Folly

I am really not sure how to review this book. Overall, I was extremely frustrated. But as I outlined my complaints to my husband, he told me that everything I am describing is normal for the fantasy genre. As I rarely read fantasy, I’m not used to these particular characteristics.

1 – The plot is massive. There are many events going on at the same time and it was difficult to keep everything straight in my mind.

2 – There are way too many character POVs. The characters kept changing. There were even a couple chapters written from the perspective of very minor characters, simply to present a minor detail that could not be shown from another character’s perspective.

3 – The book had no ending. The story just cut off! It is clear that this is intended to be a series. I read plenty of series and each book is usually a complete story in itself. The next book usually continues with the same characters or tells another story about a minor character from the previous book, that minor character now being a main character in the current book. King’s Folly, however, cannot be read on its own. If you want to know how the story ends, you have no choice but to buy or borrow the next book.

My final complaint is one that is independent of the fantasy genre. This book was published by Bethany House, a Christian publishing company. However, the book is not Christian in the slightest. Other reviewers have written that it is an allegory, but I don’t see it. It’s not like either Narnia (allegory) or LotR (religious themes). Maybe the second book will contain “conversion scenes” that turn this into a Christian story. But King’s Folly (in my view) was not a Christian book. I was disappointed.

Thank you to Bethany House for a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.