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What I Read This Month: May 2017

May 26, 2017

I cannot be the only one who is shocked to see the end of May staring me down, right? We have a huge event next weekend for my day job and I pretty sure I need approximately 18 more days this month to get everything done! Because of the craziness at work and with the shop, reading took a bit of a backseat this month. So much so that I barely finished two books! Luckily, they were both really good ones.

Girls in the Moon by Janet McNally

“Everyone in Phoebe Ferris’s life tells a different version of the truth. Her mother, Meg, ex-rock star and professional question evader, shares only the end of the story—the post-fame calm that Phoebe’s always known. Her sister Luna, indie rock darling of Brooklyn, preaches a stormy truth of her own making, selectively ignoring the facts she doesn’t like. And her father, Kieran, the co-founder of Meg’s beloved band, hasn’t said anything at all since he stopped calling three years ago. But Phoebe, a budding poet in search of an identity to call her own, is tired of half-truths and vague explanations. When she visits Luna in New York, she’s determined to find out how she fits in to this family of storytellers, and maybe even to continue her own tale—the one with the musician boy she’s been secretly writing for months.”

I wasn’t really sure what to expect from Girls in the Moon, but I ended up really liking it! Phoebe had enough teenage angst to provide some drama, but not so much so that she became annoying (which is a fine line, in my opinion). I’m not sure I really related to many of the characters, but found their stories engaging and would read a sequel if there ever is one. That was my one critique: I felt like there was too much left hanging and I didn’t get closure.

Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann

n the 1920s, the richest people per capita in the world were members of the Osage Indian nation in Oklahoma. After oil was discovered beneath their land, they rode in chauffeured automobiles, built mansions, and sent their children to study in Europe. Then, one by one, the Osage began to be killed off. The family of an Osage woman, Mollie Burkhart, became a prime target. Her relatives were shot and poisoned. And it was just the beginning, as more and more members of the tribe began to die under mysterious circumstances.”

Oh my heavens, y’all, this book was so good. I really like nonfiction that reads like fiction and this is exactly what David Grann did. The writing is compelling, it’s thoroughly researched and the story moves really quickly. And that’s before you even get to the story itself, which is mind-blowing. Grann outlines a series of coverups and systematic corruption that you don’t want to believe ever existed in our country. It certainly puts you in the shoes of another group of people and I very much recommend this one.

With one vacation and one cross-country work trip ahead in June, I’m hoping that I will have more read by the end of next month. What did you read this month? Any recommendations?

Books

What I Read This Month: April 2017

April 21, 2017

Woo hoo, it’s finally Friday! Even though this week was a short one, it has straight up worn me out, so I’m very much looking forward to a quiet weekend at home.

Dinner with Edward by Isabel Vincent “When Isabel meets Edward, both are at a crossroads: he wants to follow his late wife to the grave, and she is ready to give up on love. Thinking she is merely helping Edward’s daughter–who lives far away and has asked her to check in on her nonagenarian dad in New York–Isabel has no idea that the man in the kitchen baking the sublime roast chicken and light-as-air apricot soufflé will end up changing her life.”

I liked this book, but I wish there was more to it! I didn’t really feel like their relationship was explained well enough for the reader to get it. I’m not sure if it being longer would have helped or if the author needed to focus more on the interaction between her and Edward. I finished it and felt incomplete.

You Are A Badass by Jen Sincero “If you’re ready to make some serious changes around here, You Are a Badass will help you: Identify and change the self-sabotaging beliefs and behaviors that stop you from getting what you want, blast past your fears so you can take big exciting risks, figure out how to make some damn money already, learn to love yourself and others, set big goals and reach them – it will basically show you how to create a life you totally love, and how to create it NOW.”

I wasn’t really sure what to expect with this one, but saw so many people reading it that I had to try it. And I’m really glad I did! Most self-help books are a little much for me, but this one didn’t come off as preachy. It was entertaining and I definitely took a lot away from each chapter. I’d recommend this one for people who don’t normally like self-help books.

The Vacationers by Emma Straub “For the Posts, a two-week trip to the Balearic island of Mallorca with their extended family and friends is a celebration: Franny and Jim are observing their thirty-fifth wedding anniversary, and their daughter, Sylvia, has graduated from high school. The sunlit island, its mountains and beaches, its tapas and tennis courts, also promise an escape from the tensions simmering at home in Manhattan. But all does not go according to plan: over the course of the vacation, secrets come to light, old and new humiliations are experienced, childhood rivalries resurface, and ancient wounds are exacerbated.”

I have mixed feelings about this one. On one hand, I hated 95% of the characters and could not bring myself to root for them in any way, shape or form. On the other hand, Lawrence and Carmen were two characters who I actually really liked. But the author didn’t give me enough of them, instead choosing to focus on the whiny characters for most of the book. I don’t think I’d recommend this one to friends.

The Hopefuls by Jennifer Close “When Beth arrives in D.C., she hates everything about it: the confusing traffic circles, the ubiquitous Ann Taylor suits, the humidity that descends each summer. At dinner parties, guests compare their security clearance levels. They leave their BlackBerrys on the table. They speak in acronyms. And once they realize Beth doesn’t work in politics, they smile blandly and turn away. Soon Beth and her husband, Matt, meet a charismatic White House staffer named Jimmy, and his wife, Ashleigh, and the four become inseparable, coordinating brunches, birthdays, and long weekends away. But as Jimmy’s star rises higher and higher, the couples’ friendship—and Beth’s relationship with Matt—is threatened by jealousy, competition, and rumors. ”

One description of this book called it “brilliantly funny”, but I probably would change that to “generally predictable”. The characters turned out to be exactly who you expected them to be: good, bad or somewhere in between. I actually wish the story had been told from Ashleigh’s point of view as she actually seemed to be more interesting than bland Beth, whose lack of passion was actually a bit frustrating for me. But it was a fast and easy read that was pretty entertaining.

What have you read this month?

Books

The Gratitude Diaries Reflection

March 13, 2017

How was your weekend? We had the funkiest weather and woke up to snow yesterday morning. And while it never warmed up to the 70+ degrees we’ve become used to, the weather did make for a perfect day to stay inside curled up with a good book.  And I’m very happy to say I did just that!

I picked up The Gratitude Diaries on the suggestion of another blogger and am so glad I did.  I loved following Janice Kaplan’s year of gratitude and she definitely inspired me to approach life with a more grateful attitude.  She approached the act of being grateful very scientifically and sought advice from numerous experts, learning the many different approaches to and positive benefits of expressing gratitude on a regular basis.

Kaplan focuses on a different aspect of her life each month: her marriage, her children, her job, her health and so on. Along the way she finds reasons to be grateful, even in the unlikeliest of circumstances. She also discovers that by being grateful, those around her also start to view their lives with more grateful eyes.

My favorite chapter was definitely the one where she focuses on her marriage. Although much longer than mine, I felt like her concerns echoed mine. By all accounts, her husband was fantastic, but she found herself focusing too much on his quirks and voicing her complaints more often than her appreciation.  I often hear the words coming out of my mouth as negative, but can’t stop them. And while I don’t think I’m a bad wife by any means, I can certainly work to be a more grateful one.

For me, one of the biggest takeaways was that just feeling grateful isn’t enough to gain the health benefits. You need to actively express it, either out loud or in writing.  I have taken that piece of advice to heart and am trying to more actively express gratitude throughout the day, especially to the people around me.

So in that same vein, I would like to tell you all how grateful I am for you! I started this blog on a whim and am so exceptionally grateful for it to have turned into something bigger than I could have ever hoped for. Thank you sweet readers for coming on this journey with me.

What are you grateful for today?

Books

What I Read This Month: February 2017

February 24, 2017

Woo hoo, it’s finally Friday! Hopefully the gorgeous weather we’ve had all week continues into the weekend. I’ve got big plans and they all involve keeping the windows open as much as possible! I may even take a book outside and soak up a little extra sunshine. I actually had a really good book month; what I lacked in quantity, I made up for in quality.

Home Fires Burning by Karen Houppert “As taps echoes across the cookie-cutter housing areas of upstate New York’s Fort Drum, the wives turn on the evening news, both hoping for and dreading word of their husbands overseas. It’s a ritual played out on military bases across the nation as the waiting wives of Karen Houppert’s extraordinary new book endure a long, lonely, and difficult year with their husbands far from home. Houppert, a prize winning journalist, spent a year among these women, joining them as they had babies, raised families, ran Cub Scout troops, coached soccer–and went to funerals.”

I liked this book so much I dedicated a whole post to it.It was really interesting to see just how far we’ve come since the book was written and how much more work there is left to do. I would highly recommend it to all my civilian friends who want a better idea of what military spouses go through. I would highly recommend it to all my military spouse friends who feel like they’re all alone.

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney “She took 1930s New York by storm, working her way up writing copy for R.H. Macy’s to become the highest paid advertising woman in the country. Now it’s the last night of 1984 and Lillian, 85 years old but just as sharp and savvy as ever, is on her way to a party. On a walk that takes her over 10 miles around the city, she meets bartenders, bodega clerks, security guards, criminals, children, parents, and parents-to-be, while reviewing a life of excitement and adversity, passion and heartbreak, illuminating all the ways New York has changed―and has not.”

This book was my Book of the Month Club book from January and I really liked it! I wasn’t sure I would at first, but Lillian was a much more complex character than I initially gave her credit for. Lillian was the old lady that I want to be when I’m that age: independent, brave and very sure of herself. She overcame everything in her path and created quite the legacy. Of course in her older age, she struggled with watching the advertising industry change and grow beyond her, proving that inner conflict doesn’t ever really go away.

The Cavendon Women by Barbara Taylor Bradford “It all begins on a summer weekend in July of 1926 when, for the first time in years, the Earl has planned a family weekend. Everyone is intrigued by the invitation, and everyone has their own reasons for accepting it. As the family members come together, secrets, problems, joys, and sorrows are revealed. And as old enemies come out of the shadows and the Swanns’ loyalty to the Inghams gets tested in ways none of them could have predicted, it is up to the Cavendon women to band together and bring their family into a new decade-and a new way of life.”

I posted before about Cavendon Hall, the first book in this series, which I loved. I was very excited to read the two other books. The second one definitely had fewer Downton Abbey plot points, but it was still very much a page turner.

The Cavedon Luck by Barbara Taylor Bradford “It is 1938 in England, and Miles and Cecily Ingham have led the family in bringing the Cavendon estate back from the brink of disaster. But now, with the arrival of World War II, Cavendon Hall will face its biggest challenge yet―one that is filled with intrigue and romance, sorrow and strife…and will push the Inghams and Swanns to protect each other and the villagers, and reveal their true capacity for survival.”

This was my least favorite of the three books in the series. The plot was a bit slow, but overall it was a good read. I would definitely recommend the entire series.

What have you read this month?

Books Military

Home Fires Burning Reflection

February 9, 2017

As uniform as the military strives to be (pun intended), there is a huge amount of variation from branch to branch, post to post and job to job. Each individual has a unique military experience based on a whole variety of factors.  The same can be said for military spouses, perhaps even more so than the actual military personnel. Karen Houppert explores this wide variety of experiences and just what it means to be a military wife in Home Fires Burning: Married to the Military-For Better of Worse.

Houppert shares the stories of seven Army wives at Fort Drum right as the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2004/2005. Many of their husbands are deployed, but the few who are home aren’t necessarily the same men these women married. Each woman has a unique story, a unique set of challenges and a unique perspective on the military.

I was most fascinated with the historical context Houppert put each wife’s story in, drawing from Army wife handbooks from as far back as the 1940s. For a lot of the women profiled, it didn’t seem that much had changed since WWII, despite the military’s (best?) attempts.  Isolation, money troubles, domestic violence and lack of employment all affected the wives’ satisfaction with the military.

I found myself most drawn to the women who were actually a bit contradictory in nature. There’s Ulli Robinson, a 27-year-old German who, after an adjustment period, went whole hog into the Army lifestyle: volunteering with the FRG, attending all the social functions and being terribly satisfied with being a military wife. But she doesn’t necessarily support every aspect of the war and questions whether it’s right or not.

Heidi Klaus-Smith is seemingly the exact opposite. Volunteering didn’t come naturally to her and she’s not certain that the military wife lifestyle is for her. She feels isolated from living so far from post and even though she loves and supports her husband, she’s not sold on the war. She suffers backlash for voicing these concerns and publicly criticizing the military, which leads to a lot of self-doubt. All she really wants is to belong to a community and feel as if she has a purpose.

Despite their seemingly inherent differences, all of the women profiled sought connections, support and meaningful lives beyond their relationships. That’s something we’re all after, even today. But I do believe the military spouse community has come a long way since 2004. Just look around on the Internet! Social media and blogs have created virtual communities that allow people to widen their support networks. Thanks to the Internet, women (and men) are finding careers and starting their own businesses.

All that being said, there’s definitely room for improvement, especially when 20% of spouses would prefer their spouse left the military and only 64% of spouses are satisfied with military life.

Have you read Home Fires Burning? What were your thoughts? Do you think the military spouse community is better off now than they were in 2004? What do you think is the one area that needs the most attention when it comes to military spouses?