Wednesday, July 12, 2017

I'll show you my books...you show me yours...vol.30


Yep.  I'm late to the party.  Yep, I didn't participate as much as I'd like in the previous link-up.  But, I need to forgive myself instead of beat myself up over that fact.  I probably won't interact as much as I'd like this go-around either, but why should I allow that to stop me from talking about one of my favorite topics to talk about - books!?  Plus, I know our hosts Jana & Steph wouldn't want me to be hard on myself or skip this link-up because I may not be reading and posting as often as I used to.  I read some really great books this month, and I really shouldn't deprive you from me sharing them.

What I've read since the last link up:

1.  All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood - I picked up this book at the campus bookstore when we visited Stanford.  I'd heard many things prior to reading it, yet I didn't really know what to expect.  It was written really, really well.  The story and the characters' experiences are disturbing, intense, thought-provoking, and emotional.  It deserves all the attention it has received.  5/5


2.  Violent Ends edited by Shaun David Hutchison - Another book I purchased in America.  Another book that I didn't know what to expect.  All I knew is it was about a school shooting, and Jana highly recommended it.  I didn't realize that it read like short stories, and each chapter was written by a different author, yet they all examined the same school shooting in a different perspective.  Super different and interesting way to read about a topic that I've read about before.  4/5

3.  Summerlong by Dean Bakopoulus - It is not uncommon for me to read a book in which I despise all the characters but love the book.  Unfortunately, that didn't happen this time.  My frustration and annoyance at almost every single character in this book overpowered my enjoyment factor.  Ruth saved it for me.  She is a badass.  2.5/5

4.  The Cleaner by Paul Cleave - I love reading a thriller author that is new to me whose book I picked up at a secondhand bookstore just because.  I will definitely read more from this author.  There are some messed up scenes and fucked up characters in this book.  4/5

5.  The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein - One of the reasons that I am a self-professed book challenge junkie is that I am encouraged to read books that I've been intending to read but haven't made time for.  When Bev picked the category for my challenge to "read a book with a non-human main character", I knew that I wanted to read this one.  Finally.  And, I am thankful I did.  My emotions were all over the place, and I cried big, ugly, sloppy tears.  4.5/5 
SPOILER ALERT!  PLEASE MOVE ALONG IF YOU DON'T WANT TO KNOW ABOUT ONE ASPECT OF THIS BOOK...okay, I knew the book would be about a dog and its full life and that the dog would most likely die.  BUT, for someone who had a loved one (my stepmother who entered my life when I was 15 and left it when I was 30) die after a heart-breaking battle with brain cancer, well, I wasn't expecting that part of the storyline, so I was crying big, ugly, sloppy tears a whole helluva a lot while reading this one. 

6.  Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi - What an impressive debut book from a young author!  This book tells the stories of generations from a family tree whose origins began in 18th century Ghana. It was fascinating and heart-breaking, devastating and beautiful.  The Sociology major in me especially enjoyed the final chapter.  4.5/5

Let me know if you decide to add any of these to your "to read" list, or if you've read them before, what did you think?

My dilemma

Howdy folks, remember me? 

So, I decided to take a mini hiatus while I took a little vacay back to America.  That mini hiatus has lasted much longer than planned.  Here's the dilemma.....

Time, and more specifically, prioritizing my time.

No, this is not a dilemma exclusive to me.  You see, at my previous job, I was able to write blogs, read blogs, comment on blogs, read emails, answer emails, and interact with all of you during my work day.  (Hmmm...could this be a reason the business failed?  Focusing on blog stuff instead of work stuff?  We'll leave that for another time.)  Now, at my current position, there is no time whatsoever for any of that activity.  And, I'm working longer hours than I expected.  So, prioritizing my time took a big shift.

Also, previously, I worked and commuted with my guy.  Now, I don't.  Now, after work, I want to devote a little time to him and to us.

By the time I get home from work, do household stuff, eat dinner, have some family time, do a little reading (which, by the way, had changed too because my daily commute is significantly less)...and currently, I devote some time daily to my book challenge admin duties (which I love and will not give up), then my "me" time is up. 

You see, what I enjoy most from my blogging experience is the interaction.  I've established some relationships with some of you because I've gotten to know you, we shared some genuine conversations, I took the time to read what you were putting out there, and you reciprocated.  I feel like I can't, or I don't, or I haven't found the ability to carve out the time I want to give for that kind of interaction.  And, I don't want to half ass it.  This is my dilemma.

Here's a glaring example of this ~ you all know I love Show Us Your Books day.  Last month, I posted, but I only read Jana and Steph's posts.  I don't think I answered any comments, or if I did they were quick responses that lacked any depth and didn't stick with me.  I did not feel good about this.  Then, this month's SUYB happens, and I didn't even know it was coming

I've caught myself grabbing the laptop and preparing a post.  But, I don't want to post if I can't adequately interact.  I don't want to post if I can't read yours and again, adequately interact. 

I mentioned before that I love my book challenge and won't give it up.  That is true.  It takes a bit of time, but I find the time to do it.  So, why haven't I done this with blogging?  I love blogging too.  I value the friendships and relationships that have grown from this space.  Again, I have a dilemma, and I'm trying to work it out. 

I am open to any thoughts, opinions, advice, and suggestions.  Again, I value you guys that have found your way to my space and care enough to read along and interact with me. 

Until I get this all figured out and learn to prioritize my time in a way that works, I sincerely hope life is treating you well.  Each and every one of you.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

I show you my books, you show me yours...vol.29


It's Show Us Your Books Day!  I'm still on a blog mini-hiatus, but I can't miss my favorite day in blogging month.  The day hosted by Jana & Steph, the day that makes my goodreads "to read" list grow, and the day I interact with a blogging community of readers.  I love this day (or week because it sometimes takes me a week to read all the links) of the month.

What I've read since last link-up:

So, so good. An interesting web of characters tangled in family dynamics, drugs, violence, crime, and mayhem. I was engrossed with the story from beginning to end.  Side note: I enjoyed that the backwoods Southern father was called "deddy" because that's exactly how it's pronounced, and it read perfectly in my head.  4.5/5

2.  Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira -
For YA, I loved everything about this book. Was it a perfect book? No, but I loved its imperfections. Were there some difficult scenes to read? Yes, several, but I thought it was done so well from the voice of a teenage girl. 4.5/5

I read the 2 previous books in this series and remember gobbling them up.  This one was just alright.  As Steph says, "it passed the time just fine".  3/5

This is the 27th book in the Lucas Davenport series.  I have read it since 1991.  I continue to be amazed that this author keeps every book interesting and unique enough to keep me coming back for more.  4/5

I liked this book, but I didn't love it.  I appreciated the topics that she was trying to tackle, but I was just never as invested in the characters as I wish I was.  3/5

The current goodreads rating for this mystery/thriller is 3.81.  That's a pretty adequate overall rating for it, in my opinion although, I wish a character or two had been further developed. 


Now, it's my time to pimp my book challenge.  It's a pretty fantastic place for booklovers, if I do say so myself.  Check it out with the following links:

I've shown you mine, you show me yours...

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Book Challenge by Erin 7.0


Yes, I am still on my mini blog hiatus, but you didn't think I'd forget my book challenge post, did you?

Hi, my name is Erin, and I like books.  I like to talk about books.  I'm a sucker for book challenges.  I started my own challenge a couple of years ago hosting it through this facebook group page.  My thought was this: if I host it through facebook, that's another venue to talk about books with my fellow readers.  I am already in a few challenges that link back to blogs, but not facebook.  I'm pretty happy and proud of the group I've got happening on facebook.  It's so fun to see a collection of readers that are my high school friends, friends of friends, friends around the globe, all coming together for a mutual love of books.  If you're a reader, please join us.  Even just join the group to follow along with the fun.  Or jump in and rock the challenge!

If you aren't a facebooker, that's okay too.  I have some that participate through their blogs and others through goodreads.  Participation is encouraged as much or as little as you choose.  We now have a goodreads group too.  I must admit, I'm not nearly as active in that group and I am the facebook one.  It started to become double the work for me, so I just stuck to my original medium. Just trying to create enough options for those who want to participate can in the easiest option for them to do so.

I attempt to be a stress-free, no-pressure kind of host.  This is about loving books, supporting readers, and encouragement for all who express an interest.


Book Challenge by Erin 7.0 - General Rules


·         First and foremost, have fun. Don't stress. No one is being judged, graded, or penalized. Even if you finish only one book the entire challenge, if you enjoy it and it's an accomplishment for you, then that's awesome.
·         The challenge will run from JULY 1, 2017 to OCTOBER 31, 2017. No books that are started before 12 a.m. on July 1 or finished after 11:59 p.m. on October 31 will count.  (We live in different time zones – follow this according to your own time zone.)
·         Each book must be at least 200 pages long.   Audio books are fine too.
·         A book can only be used for one category, and each category can only be completed once. If you want to switch the category of a book, or change the book you originally chose, no worries. 
·         You can read your books in any order you choose.
·         Rereads can be used only once.  If a book you love fits into a category, go ahead and visit it again.  Read it in its entirety.  But, only do this once for the challenge.
·         There will be a photo album for each category with links to books chosen.  Please comment on the photo for each of your books when you finish reading them.  A comment can include a review, a rating, a recommendation…other readers want to hear what you thought of your choice.  (if you need help with this, let me know…or there is a file attached to our group explaining what to do.)
·         There will be 10 book categories with a possibility of earning 200 points.   That’s 10 books in four months.  For some of you, this will be a BIG challenge; for others it will be easy peasy.  It’s all for fun, remember!
·         Book categories will be posted June 1st to give you time to gather books in preparation. 
·         After the categories are posted, please post a preliminary list with books of your choice according to their categories on the facebook group page by June 15th (if possible).  If you need help with a particular category or want a book suggestion, we as a community of reading enthusiasts can help each other.  (Late entries will still be accepted.)
·         The first three people who finish the challenge will be invited to contribute a category for the next challenge. The following will get a small prize from me (1st to complete 1st round; 1st to complete both rounds; most points accumulated; and WILD CARD random draw – all who finish the 10 book challenge will qualify as an entry!)  Plus, everyone who completes the challenge will gets all sorts of recognition and support!
·         Lastly, have fun.  Don't stress. No one is being judged, graded, or penalized. Even if you finish only one book the entire challenge, if you enjoy it and it's an accomplishment for you, then that's awesome.  Wait, I’ve read that somewhere before…Good luck!


Book Challenge by Erin 7.0 - Categories

·         5 points:  Freebie – Read a book that is at least 200 pages


·         10 points:  Read a book that starts with the letter “B”


·         10 points:  Read a book that has a (mostly) yellow cover


·         15 points:  Read a book that has a picture of an animal on the cover (submitted by Mattie)


·         20 points:  Read a book that was published in 2017 (submitted by Olya)


·         20 points:  Read a book with a compass or cardinal direction in the title (submitted by Mary)


·         25 points:  The ALA’s “Banned Books Week” occurs while our challenge is happening.  Read a book from this list of the most commonly banned books in America: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_most_commonly_challenged_books_in_the_United_States (submitted by Christina)


·         30 points:  Read a fictional book about mental illness (submitted by Jamie); several helpful links: http://bookriot.com/2016/05/23/100-best-books-about-mental-illness/; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mental_illness_in_fiction; https://www.goodreads.com/shelf/show/mental-illness-fiction


·         30 points:  Read a book with a non-human main character; i.e. animals, elves, gods, robots, merpeople, etc. (submitted by Bev); helpful links: https://www.goodreads.com/shelf/show/non-human-characters; https://www.goodreads.com/list/show/99906.Books_with_Nonhuman_Characters; http://forreadingaddicts.co.uk/polls-and-discussion/the-33-best-books-with-a-non-human-protagonist/3704


·         35 points:  Read a book a Disney movie was based on OR a book based on a Disney movie (submitted by Kirsten); Don’t forget to check that the book is at least 200 pages: https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Category:Novels_first_published_in_serial_form&pageuntil=Dune+Messiah#mw-pages; https://www.goodreads.com/list/show/11716.Books_Turned_Into_Disney_Movies

  If you are stuck on any of these categories, ask for help or recommendations!  GOOD LUCK!

Anddddd...my preliminary list (on goodreads):

             5 points:  Freebie – Read a book that is at least 200 pages: We Are Okay by Nina LaCour


·         10 points:  Read a book that starts with the letter “B”:  Before the Fall by Noah Hawley


·         10 points:  Read a book that has a (mostly) yellow cover:  Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi


·         15 points:  Read a book that has a picture of an animal on the cover:  Tears of the Giraffe by Alexander McCall Smith


·         20 points:  Read a book that was published in 2017:  Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough


·         20 points:  Read a book with a compass or cardinal direction in the title (submitted by Mary):  Marching Powder: A True Story of Friendship, Cocaine, and South America's Strangest Jail by Rusty Young and Thomas McFadden


·         25 points:  The ALA’s “Banned Books Week” occurs while our challenge is happening.  Read a book from the list of the most commonly banned books in America: The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls


·         30 points:  Read a fictional book about mental illness:  The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath


·         30 points:  Read a book with a non-human main character; i.e. animals, elves, gods, robots, merpeople, etc.:  The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein


·         35 points:  Read a book a Disney movie was based on OR a book based on a Disney movie:  Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter
Will you join us?  What do you think of my choices? 

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Never fear...I shall return...


This here blog and my blogger buddies have not gotten the attention they deserve in the last couple of weeks.  I'm heading to Texas at the end of this week, and I'm working long hours to prep before I go.  The blog is going to take a backseat until I return.

Book Challenge by Erin folks, don't you worry...I've already got my post scheduled to go live with the categories for BCBE 7.0 on June 1st. 

During this mini blog hiatus, I'll be most active on instagram, probably posting pics of Texas food and family photos.  Follow me there (if you don't already.)

I will miss y'all.  Actually, I miss my interaction with you already.  You are a great source of support, positivity, inspiration, humor, and knowledge.  Keep doing you, and I will catch up with you when I return.

Cheers,
Erin

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Swappin' Countries: Going Home

For anyone new around these parts, Erin is an American who lives in Australia, and Kristen is an Australian who lives in America.  The two of us regularly talk about our experiences and lives swapping countries. 

Well, not sure if "regularly" is the correct word because we both admit to being pretty inconsistent, but we have the best intentions to keep this series going.  (Is it a series if we've only had one post and one guest post?)

Both of us are traveling to our original homes in the next couple of months, so we thought we'd share our thoughts, feelings, and anticipations about that visit.


Erin's story:  It's been exactly two years since I've last been to Texas.  I am suffering from some serious homesickness, I ain't gonna lie about that.  Two years is a long time to go without a hug from my daddy, a laugh with my mama (in person), and the taste of chile con queso in my belly. 

Two years ago, my trip was planned around niece #1's high school graduation and a cousin's college graduation.  This year, my trip is planned around niece #2's high school graduation.  I will also get to spend Memorial Day in the good ol' U.S. of A.  As a bonus, my mom, my niece, my sister-in-law and I are having a quick San Francisco getaway together.  And, as a further bonus, three of my bestest girlfriends are meeting me in Northern Cali after the relatives go back to Texas, and I'll complete my trip with a couple of days in the Sonoma Valley with my girls. 

When I go home, there is no time for rest and relaxation.  I am constantly on the go, doing all the things and seeing all the people and eating all the food.  I love Texas food.  I may have an unhealthy relationship with it, but seriously, when I'm home, I gorge on alllll those things that I miss when I'm in Australia.

Neither of my parents live in Houston anymore.  I split my time between Huntsville (with my dad and stepmom) and Tyler (with my mom and her guy), and I squeeze in a little College Station time where my brother and his family lives.

Often, I get overwhelmed because I never get to see all the people I want to see or do all the things I want to do.  I have to prioritize, and in this situation, as cliché as it sounds, it's family first for me.

So, this might sound bad, but I also see the folks who are willing to be flexible and put effort in our relationship.  There are folks that I was really close to when I lived in Texas, yet I never hear from them anymore.  That's fine.  Our lives have gone in different directions.  So, I see the folks that are currently a part of my life, and not the ones that were once upon a time.

There is always some feelings of guilt.  I feel guilty by the pain in my father's voice, and the tears in my mother's eyes.  They support my happiness here, but we miss seeing once another more frequently, and I'd be lying if I didn't say I feel guilty about it.

And, when I visit Texas without my guy, I miss him.  Three weeks without your partner in life is a significant amount of time to be apart.  But, it's something we knew would be a part of our relationship with the reality of me living on the other side of the planet of so many of my loved ones.

The most difficult part of the trip?  Saying goodbye.  Especially when I don't have an exact plan of when I'll be there next.  So, so tough.  I get on that plane.  I sigh.  I reflect.  I may cry.  But, I head back to my second home where my husband, stepkids, fur babies, and life awaits. 

I feel fortunate to call two places home.  To have people that love and value me.  To love and value others.  Through the hardships, the feeling of gratitude for that love and appreciation outweighs all.

Kristen's story:  It has been almost 3 years since I last went home, and almost 5 and a half years since I left for good (though, I didn't know that at the time).


Like Erin, I am suffering from some pretty awful homesickness as well. I am very excited that I will be back in my home country, eating all the food I miss, hearing people talk like me, seeing words I recognise, driving on the side of the road I learned to drive on... all those things. But I am obviously most excited about seeing my family, especially my mum.

My mum and I have always been extremely close and living on the other side of the world has been so hard. Sometimes I wish it were different, but you can't help who you love. Mum loves America and has visited a few times since I moved here (only once to Louisville though) and her last trip was September 2016. I met up with her and a friend in LA & Vegas and we had a ball (and of course, fought a ton). The next plans were for KC and I to come home in June 2017, and then mum wanted to go to Graceland sometime in 2018.

my mum loves Toby Keith
We booked our flights for this June back in December. December 30th to be exact. As most of you know, my mum had a stroke early January. If we hadn't just booked our flights, this trip may not be happening. I probably would have hopped on a flight home immediately. I almost did, several times, but she was surrounded by family and I was able to talk to her immediately after the stroke and she told me not to come. Things got a bit worse before they got better, but she is doing really well. She is not home yet, and she is not back at work.

Before my mum's stroke, we had lots of plans - I wanted to take KC to see the Blue Mountains and the Hunter Valley. I wanted to do more touristy stuff because I didn't know when I would be back. I thought about doing another mini trip, like to Uluru or something. Busy busy busy, doing all the things and seeing all the people. Like Erin, I had friends that I was 'so close' with before I left, but they don't put any time and effort into the friendship when I am gone, so unfortunately when I am home, I don't make an effort to see them - time is far too precious for that. Moving across the world sure shows you who your people are.

Now, after my mum's stroke, we probably aren't going to go to the Blue Mountains or the Hunter Valley. We won't go to Uluru. We will probably spend most of our time at home. We had already booked New Zealand before my mum's stroke, and I don't want to waste any of the time I have with her. We will be in Australia for 2 weeks, and we are spending a few days in Melbourne like last time.


I am excited. I can't wait to see my mum, my nana, my cousins, uncles and aunties. I can't wait to see Pacey, my beautiful golden retriever. My cat Agatha couldn't give two shits about me and wouldn't come near me last time, which is definitely more than a little heartbreaking. My little brother is somewhere I'm not going to be able to visit him more than once and that also breaks my heart.

Saying goodbye is stupid hard. Flying home is crazy expensive, KC and I want to start a family soon and won't be able to travel as often. The thought of more long flights makes the butterflies in my stomach go crazy. My mum probably won't be able to travel for quite some time. The unknown, the I don't know when I will be back, when I will see my mum again, it's so freaking hard. I feel so guilty that I am not there. That my dog, Pacey, gets SO excited when she sees me (will she remember me this time?), but my cat Agatha could not care less. They are both getting older, and I am not there for them. Yes, I realise they are animals, but I'm not there for my mum, little brother or nana either.


Like Erin, I do feel fortunate that I can call two places home and that I have people who love me enough to miss me, and I them. Sometimes I have to work a little harder at my appreciation and not turn into a sulky child, but at the end of it all, there's no real solution. I am who I am because of where I've come from and where I am today. My heart - as corny as it sounds - is forever split between the two places. Instead of sulking about it, I will appreciate the visits home more than I ever appreciated actually living there.

As I'm sure you can tell, being an expat going home is all sorts of emotional. But I'm sure I speak for both of us when I say excitement about going home and doing all the things definitely outweighs all the not so great feelings. And of course, I am making Erin see me when I am in Sydney, and who wouldn't be excited about that?

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

I show you my books, you show me yours... vol.28


It's Show Us Your Books Day!  The day hosted by Jana & Steph, the day that makes my goodreads "to read" list grow, and the day I interact with a blogging community of readers.  I love this day (or week because it sometimes takes me a week to read all the links) of the month.

What I've read since last link-up:

1.  Bird Box by Josh Malerman - What did I just read? I have no idea, nor do I know how I feel about it. Did I like it? Did it annoy me? Do I feel like I have more questions than answers? This was a step out of my usual reading comfort zone, and I'm glad I read it, but I don't know if I liked it. 3/5

2.  The History of Love by Nicole Krauss - I really, really wanted to love this book, but I spent too much time confused by the connections of some of the characters to say I loved the overall reading experience. When the connections were all revealed, I still felt confused about a couple of things. The premise was lovely, as were Alma and Leo. I could've done without a couple of the support cast. 3/5

3.  We Ate the Road Like Vultures by Lynnette Lounsbury - Such a ridiculous and glorious book.  I gobbled it up.  This book is an example why I enjoy participating in the Aussie Author Challenge year after year.  I find little gems like this one that I might not have discovered otherwise. 4.5/5

4.  Missing Pieces by Heather Gudenkauf - I hate to use Girl on the Train as an example (the go-to book that other thrillers are compared to) but you know how some readers didn't like that book because they didn't like the lead character?  Well, that's how I felt about this book.  I was annoyed with Sarah and rolled my eyes at her more times than I could count.  But, the mystery plus small town-setting, family-secret dynamics was enjoyable enough to keep me reading. 3/5

5.  We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo - What a debut from a talented young author! This spirited book is full of darkness and light, pain and humor. It examines personal identities and cultural clashes through the experiences of a young narrator. Thought-provoking about the challenges of immigrants plus gains and losses of leaving home and the expectations of opportunity. 4/5

6.  Ghost Girls by Cath Ferla - I attended school for a few years that is aimed at international students and located in the Haymarket/Sussex Street/Chinatown area of Sydney. So, many of the locations described in this book and the requirements of student visa holders were known to me. Even the cover photo, I know that exact street.  I thought the author did an excellent job painting the picture of this area and these students. And, sadly, it seems very real to me that students could go missing the way the plot plays out. 4/5

7.  The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel - Not exactly sure what this says about me, but I enjoy reading books about dysfunction, and this book is filled to the brim with it.  I felt the author did an admirable job writing a riveting book that included some severe, dark, and extremely unhealthy relationships.  4.5/5

Currently reading:  Bull Mountain by Brian Panowich (and, it's fantastic, so far)
I've shown you mine...now, you show me yours...