Show Us Your Books Link-Up: January 2020



It's the first SUYB of a new decade! Whoo hoo! Looking forward to lots and lots of good books in the upcoming year/s.

After rereading this...it sounds like I haven't liked any of my recent reads. But they were all good! Nothing that I absolutely loved but very strong reads.

The Books


The Sisters of Glass Ferry by Kim Michele Richardson
This book was good...not necessarily I wanted but good. My one complaint is that the word Kentucky is used way too much. The state of Kentucky, the river named Kentucky, Kentucky whiskey...I get it. It's about Kentucky. Sadly this is a trope of a lot of Southern novels...either because we have a chip on our shoulder and feel the need to defend, or because we are still thought of as "other" by so much of the country that it's important to reminder non-Southerners every five seconds so they don't loose the vibe of the story. Either way, if you remove half of the times that shows up it would be a better book IMO. Still worth reading, just...ya know, personal gripe.



 This was a more fun, slightly creepy in a Stepford-ish way. I did not suspect the true identity of Isabelle and was a little blindsighted. The end wasn't exactly wrapped up in a way that I loved, it was still a great book. TBF I have issues with the endings of a lot of books...so maybe I just get upset when things I like end?







Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid
As expected, this was a good read. Is it Evelyn or Daisy level? No. But it was a good read. It switches back and forth between two "lives" of one character...really between two possible lives, showing the two different paths a life can take based one single choice. Interesting to see the things TJR let stay the same between the two options, and what she made seem almost trivial or easily swapped. I liked one story better than the other...but enjoyed both. Each chapter was both exciting and frustrating because I wanted to keep the current story but also check back in with the other one...an interesting experiment.


This book was...hard. It was long, and simply written. Which is fine...but I prefer slightly more emotion, and even the emotional parts were laid out somewhat matter-of-factually. Which is sometimes good to read and sometimes not as fun to read. The span of the main character's life...so long. So painful, and also joyful. So strong, and so...random, regarding the occurrences and who survived and who did not. So far this review doesn't sound like I like it, but I did! It just had a lot to chew on, and I'm not done yet. If some books are light and fluffy like cotton candy, this was more like a steak. 



 
Children of Virtue and Vengeance (Legacy of Orïsha #2) by Tomi Adeyemi
Oh, boy. This is a complicated one. Here's the thing: I did not like reading this book. It did not immediately pull me in like the first book of the series. However...it did what it did really well. Like any good dystopian rebellion...it was intense. And super frustrating at times. But what it did an excellent job at is beautifully expressing the ways our personal feelings and viewpoints can have drastic effects. It is a war, and war is uncomfortable.

 




This is another one that was a slow burn- after three in a row, maybe it was me! I was actually thinking of not even continuing the series (#3 should come out sometime this month)...but by the end I was sucked in. TBF, had I went back and read #1 I probably would have liked this more. But some things were foggy. It's very much a "whodunit" YA...and I like those books but sometimes I just don't feel like analyzing everything, so it's a slow burn until the character completely figures it out and tells me what's going on, haha.







What have you been reading lately? 
Link-up and let us know!
Life According to Steph

Books of the Decade


 original image by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash



It's standard for SUYB to do a best books of the year post, but until my local library posed the question on Facebook I didn't even consider thinking of the best books of the decade.

But, once the idea was in my head I couldn't get it out.

First are just the best books I could remember off the top of my head. Then I went to Goodreads for my challenges for each year, which date back to 2011, to see what jumped out at me from those lists. The dates listed are the dates I read the books, not the dates they were released...because I'm selfish and count it by my experience rather than a published date.

Note: My reading life definitely improved around 2017...not sure why, but returning to those books made me smile. 2015 & 2016 were also good reads, but the other years were not as happy to look back over. The few I listed are really the only ones of worth and lots of the ones from my Goodreads lists felt pointless and regrettable. It also tracks that since my overall number of books read increased as the years went on, the number of "best" books each year also increased.




The first books I thought of off the top of my head were:




2019:
As previously stated, Daisy Jones & The Six was by far the standout book for me last year. Check out the rest of my 2019 top reads here.


2018:

Circe by Madeline Miller

Puddin' by Julie Murphy
 
A Tyranny of Petticoats, edited by Jessica Spotswood

All the Ugly & Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood

Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America by Linda Tirado

Honorable mentions: Dr. Greta Helsing series by Vivian Shaw





2017:








2016:

Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

Monster by Walter Dean Myers

You by Caroline Kepnes

Honorable mentions: Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick, Scandalous Women by Elizabeth Kerri Mahon



2015:







2013 & 2014
Not sure why, but these years are sparse on Goodreads! Like, less than 10 books for two years. Not sure what happened...for 2014 especially I don't know why I didn't track more.

All I have listed for 2013 is about the first 20 books of the Stephanie Plum series. Not the best, but they were mental junk food that got me through a super hard time in my life.



2012:

Millennium Trilogy (aka The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series)

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky




2011:





2010:
Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Honorable mention: What Southern Women Know about Faith: Celebrating a Heritage of Grace and Strength by Ronda Rich

I was clearly homesick in Colorado, and needed some Southern in my life. One of the many blessings of books.



What books really stuck out and meant something to you in the last decade?

2020 Reading Goals

 Photo by Kimberly Farmer on Unsplash


I don't typically do a lot of specific reading challenges or goals. In the past, it's felt restricting and made reading not enjoyable for me.

So this isn't a challenge or resolution or goal that I'm going to kick myself over if I don't meet it every month (or at all).

But, sometimes loose guidelines are more helpful than restrictive. And the SUYB link-up has confirmed that I'm terrible at keeping up with new releases and popular reads. And sometimes that's okay, because not everyone likes everything. But I do like having general knowledge of pop culture.

So, I've come with some goals for 2020.

First, the overall goal of reading 60 books this year. That feels like a lot...but I read 64 books in 2019. Which was 14 over my goal. I've been doing Goodreads challenges since 2011 and the number of books read has slowly increased almost every year. My 2011 goal was 26, so definitely a big jump in 9 years.



My second goal is to read the winners of 2019 Goodreads Choice Awards. I've already read two of them. And for two categories I'll be reading the runner up, because the first choice is either a second in a series or I just really didn't want to read that author. My goals, my rules.



Lastly, I am going to attempt to read more new releases. Previously, my habit has been to wait on reviews and then grab a book. This leads to a lot of waitlists at my library...so I'll attempt to request books earlier and actually track new releases. This will probably be the hardest...but we'll see how it goes.

Post 2019 Holiday Wrap Up

Photo by Kat Stokes on Unsplash

Hello, internet. TBH, I can't remember how long it's been since anything appeared on this blog because I think I scheduled a bunch of posts before starting my holiday break, but I'm not sure and I'm too lazy to check.

There has been an intro to 2020 post, but in general it's been a few weeks since I blogged anything current.

 Since I work in education, I have a very long break for Christmas. This year it actually ended up being over two weeks.

It was supposed to be a little less than a week and a half, but one day was taken off early to visit my in-laws. The day that was supposed to be my last day at work, Babycakes woke up throwing up at 0430. And I was supposed to go back last Thursday, but half of my office was out and since Hubs & I have been trading a cold back and forth for two weeks, I decided to rest.

So, from that brief synopsis, you may guess that it's been an interesting few weeks and basically I have no idea what's going on either in the world at large or my own life, really. Let's go back a bit and tackle this in chronological order.

The Thursday that was supposed to be my last day of work, Babycakes woke up around 0430. This isn't normal but it's not exactly strange either, kids wake up at random times. She complained her tummy hurt, but since she didn't eat dinner the night before I figured she was just hungry. Sometimes she doesn't eat if she doesn't like dinner or is grumpy or tired...we do not do "special meals" in our house for her, because...just no. But, she hadn't even drank her milk at dinner which was weird. Anyway, 0430 and I'm half asleep so I get her a small cup of milk and an applesauce pouch. She takes a few sips of each, says she doesn't want anymore, and lays back down. Before I can get a cup of coffee made, she's calling me again. Go back to her room and she's sitting up vomiting.

Not ready for this. Take her to the bathroom, wipe her off, throw PJs and bedding into the washer, and pray it was just the cold milk on an empty stomach. Try to take her to my room and lay down, knowing I'll have to call out of work because daycare rules state she can't attend until 24 hours fever/vomit free. We lay there maybe 45 minutes, not sleeping because...she never sleeps if I'm around. Then she throws up again, manage to get her to the bathroom and over a trash can. At which point she says "Mommy I need medicine" in a super pitiful voice. I have to meekly explain that...there isn't a ton of medicine for stomach bugs, you sort of just have to deal with it, and also ya know...it's kind of early and I'm not dragging her out to the store right now. She does not take this well and sadly goes "But no, I need special medicine" because this is the first stomach bug she can remember and thankfully she actually rarely gets sick so she doesn't understand and it was that moment as a parent where it just sucks because you can't help and she doesn't understand because, hello, parents kind of know everything right?

So I have a sick kid and I'm stressing about missing my last day of work and leaving to visit the ILs the next day and my husband wasn't there so he calls to say he was on the way and when I tell him Babycakes is sick he has the same "Fuck this timing" thought I did (we are good parents, promise, but...holidays are a stressor, okay). And then he says he would just want to go anyway and I almost throw my phone because multiple hours in a car with a vomiting child sounds like torture for me and her and yeah I almost lost my shit. Anyway. 

Babycakes and I watch television because WTF else do you do when you are sick? Thankfully, I guess because she didn't have much on her stomach anyway due to not eating, there were no more incidents. And actually...by 0900 she was fine. Like, energetic and eating and talking and I'm going WHERE IS THE COFFEE I NEED AN IV because...0430 vomit wake up call, guys. She didn't even want to take a nap and I explained she had to because she was sick (and also 0430 vomit wake up call for mama) she goes "But I'm feeling better, I'm not sick" since she hadn't thrown up in a few hours. Thanks to the mom network, found out there were 2-3 other kids who either were sent home or didn't come in from her daycare class for the same thing.

Anyway. She was fine after that, thankfully it was a fluke fast stomach bug, but that ended up being an ominous start to the holiday break.

The next day we leave for my ILs. It was a good visit, especially since Hubs & I hadn't been to stay in a while. Babycakes has gone for several visits but it just hasn't worked for us to join them. We got one huge "joint" present this year instead of separate gifts, and it's really like 70% for Hubs. But, we also got cash and the joint present was expensive so I tried to smile and pretend to be as happy as he was. I do appreciate the gesture a lot, but the gift itself (a sound bar, so makes TV/music sound...super cool?) is just not something I personally care about at all. Bonus, we went to a German restaurant because my Hubs loves German food and we don't have one in our town...and I actually found something I really liked! German food just isn't my jam, but my only issue was the slight saltiness. Otherwise, it was very nice.

On the ride home I started sneezing a lot and...thus it began.

I got a weird sinus thing/cold I don't even know, so by the time Christmas rolled around and we were going to my parents I was living off of Alka Seltzer (which, btw, actually isn't bad once you put the correct amount of water...instead of half the amount suggested which is what I did for the first two days). So...more TV for Babycakes because something like loading the dishwasher zapped all my energy.

To add insult to injury, my nose was so clogged that my heart rate was already constantly elevated because I couldn't breath so I couldn't even drink coffee to try and get some caffeine energy. If I took more than 4 sips my heartbeat went crazy which made me feel worse. I had plans to be a good mom on this break...and it was just TV central.

Side note: whoever said TV was not a baby-sitter...good for you, but what-the-fuck-ever man. TV saved me. And I'm sad about it but I'm also not because...fuck, y'all. Mom-ing is hard and being sick is hard and holidays are hard and it was the best choice that allowed cuddle time and rest for us both.

Sorry if this post is more cussing heavy than normal...I've been around a small child for almost two weeks straight and have had no where to let my eff-bombs out.

Anyway. On Christmas Eve we made cookies to put out for Santa, along with beer. Hubs made a joke last year that Santa loves beer, and Babycakes took it very seriously. So that's our new tradition- a Guiness along with cookies. Obviously, Santa gets milk at all the houses and could use something special every now and then.

The next morning Babycakes opened her gifts...and y'all. Two major things. One, she loved her dollhouse and it's her favorite gift ever. Love that she is getting to the point where she can really uses her imagination and create her own stories and also that she immediately went for the biggest gift first, bahaha. Two...a watch that Hubs got her while we were all shopping together months ago made it in the Santa presents. Immediately upon opening it, she goes "But Daddy got me this, how is it from Santa?"

Three. She is fucking three. And we've already fucked up.

Insert scrambling story about mailing it to Santa and blah blah blah. People act like kids will forget shit, but let me tell you...they are smart little fuckers. With ridiculous memories. This came up at least twice after the holidays. Hoping she doesn't remember next year... but who knows.

After that, she played a little bit while we scrambled to get ready to go to my parents. It was a really nice visit, and I especially loved seeing her with my great-grandparents. All of Hubby's grandparents have passed already, and mine are definitely showing signs of aging. But they are here, and we were super close when I was younger, and I'm grateful Babycakes is getting to know them.

I started feeling slightly better, but by the time we got home Hubs started feeling sick. Y'all...it's been rough. Babycakes never got sick after that very first day, but Hubs & I have been battling something for two weeks now. He has a job with very long, weird hours and his worst shifts happened over Christmas. It's fine, we dealt, but I'm not going to lie...it was tiring. I am not a SAHM for a reason. Add in the traveling...and it was almost a week before we got our tree down. And the normal decorations haven't made it back yet. Just...whoops. Also Hubs & I just weren't on the same wavelength. This happens in marriage sometimes, or at least ours. Some days we click and sometimes we just don't. We got in an argument this past week and Hubs went to lay down in our bedroom, which he never does. He woke up four hours later and came to apologize for disappearing for that long...and I was napping on the sofa. So, we know it's been a lack of sleep and health.

He had to work on New Year's Day, so I'm pretty sure we packed it in around...1700. Don't even care. We started feeling slightly better so I think we are officially on the mend. Whether it's the weather or just run it's course or the Elderberry gummies I picked up because I'm so desperate...we're both off the Alka Seltzer at least, bahahaha. We're GETTING SO OLD.

Oh, and in the midst of all this our washing machine finally died. It's truly not even a big deal because this has been coming for YEARS. Our old one, which came with the house and was probably 12-13 years old, has been having error messages for years. It might run a full cycle with no problems, and it might stop like 4 times and require us to go poke at the wires. But seriously, at least once a year I would research a new one and we'd save up and then it would magically work for 6 more months with no issues. We looked into repairing it, but everything we could find suggested it would be 85% as much as buying a new washer, so we just did it.

Shout out to my awesome husband, who just got a raise, and whose raise + holiday pay allowed us to buy it without even super stressing financially. Overall, it was the least stressful home appliance purchase ever. We didn't even research that much and I started to feel bad when our friend asked if we knew what we wanted (he was there for muscle and to lend his truck, God bless him). But, turns out the one he and his wife just purchased last year when they built their house was on sale and within our price range, so we pretty much immediately agreed to just trust their judgement and picked it.

Everyone has gone "Oh no" when I said we had to buy a new washer immediately after the new year...but I'm honestly so happy. I knew it was coming, it's been hanging over my head for a long time. Now it's done and that's a huge relief.

Afterwards we treated him to a burger and visit to our favorite local brewery as a thank you. His wife joined us when she got off work and it was a great way to end the holiday break, with some calm friend hang out time. Also, I got a little tipsy...because I rarely drink anymore and it only took about 2 beers.

Oh, and I also did a New Year's 5K! I rucked it instead of running.

Rucking is walking with a weighted rucksack, aka backpack. Or, as GoRuck puts it, cardio for people who think running sucks. 

I've tried to be a runner, y'all. It's just not for me, I hate it so much. But rucking I can do, and do relatively well. Hubby rucks all the time, it's been a huge factor in his recent weight loss, and it's something we both actually enjoy doing together. I've been wanting a ruck sack of my own, so Hub's got me one for Christmas! I've already been...four times. So that's awesome. Lots of my FiA friends ruck, and plus this is something I/we can do with Babycakes. Overall it's very exciting. Now I just need patches!

Anyway. Tomorrow I start back to work, and I am slightly sad but also very happy to get back in the routine I know is coming. Babycakes has had a bit of a tough week at daycare/weekend at home, and I can't super blame her because things have been so weird lately.

What's up with you lately?

Hello 2020

Photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash



Happy 2020! I hope it will be happy anyway. Isn't that always the hope for a new year?

And this is a new decade. I don't know what that feels so significant this year. I don't remember every even registering decades in the past...but this time I feel much more aware of the significance of that. Age? Parenthood? General state of the world? Who knows.

I'm not really interested in looking back...really only in looking forward. That said, I did take a look back at my first post of 2019 just to see how I generally start of the year here on the blog.

It made me both sad, because 2018 was hard for me, and happy because...I think 2019 was a good year for me as a person.

So if I am choosing a word for 2019, it would be more like Replenish. The damage has been done. It's time to clean up the mess, identify the foundational cracks, and restore things back to normal. I can't and won't handle pressure to be better or different this year. I'm it. I'm me, and this version of me is just going to have to be good enough. I'm taking this year to enjoy myself and my life.

That feels true. Last night during bedtime prayers, Babycakes put her arms around Hubs & I and said "I'm so glad I have y'all."

That is exactly what I wanted when I went into 2019. I wanted to get to a place of a replenished soul. And I think I got there. My relationships feel better. My head feels clearer. While there aren't really things I can point to as accomplishments in the traditional self...I have accomplished a lot of small, personal goals.

And you know what? They don't feel small. They feel...good. They make me happy. I'm focusing on the little things and you know what...they fucking matter. They matter to me. Does anyone else care that I painted my living room after five years of regretting a paint choice or replaced some home decor or learned to accept big parts of my personality or learned to be super honest and concise about what I need?

No. But I feel so much better. And while I'm have traditionally liked doing the Word of the Year...I can't find one this year. Because I just want to enjoy where I am. I want to just...keep going in the direction.

Actually, as usual writing it out helped me figure it out. My word for 2019 will be nurture.



I don't want to focus on specific things anymore...I want to focus on the kind of life I want, and the kind of person I want to be. And things that line up with those desires will be implemented in my life.