Instagram Burnout - Take Back your Power

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

18 comments



Consider this scenario:

You start blogging, but you soon realize that a blog with no readers is destined to remain secluded in an "alterweb" reality.  You then discover that being active on Social Media will grant you the powers (visibility cloak?) you have been searching for.  Here comes Instagram, the photo-sharing platform with thousands of different communities worldwide and enviable perfect pictures.
WOW!
You start following people and they follow you back.
Yay!
You get inspired to take better pictures.
Write better captions.
Research #hashtags.
Post at a certain time of the day.
You spend the entire Sunday taking pictures for the week ahead.
Come Monday, you're tired. Burned out. Only had 5 hours of sleep and need to go to work.
And you haven't been writing lately. As a matter of fact, it's been over 2 weeks since you wrote a blog post...

Does that sound familiar?
Welcome to my world!

I started questioning myself when I realized I was spending too much time focusing on my Instagram feed instead of writing for my blog.  I allowed Instagram to take over my time. I did that.  It was nobody's fault but my own.

We talk so much about work/life balance, but where do we draw the line with Instagram (or Twitter, or Facebook)?
How much of our own personal worth is determined by how many followers we have?

I love to read and I truly enjoy talking about books, meeting authors and actually, just writing.  And I have met some incredible people thru Instagram.  I wouldn't want to lose that, but I think it's time to take my Power back, so I consulted with 4 fantastic #Bookstagrammers (let's call them FUNtastic 4) and asked them for help answering a few questions...


CASSIE @happybooklovers

1) You mentioned something in your stories the other day that truly touched me. It was kind of a reminder that what we see on Instagram is not “real”...like, we book reviewers don’t read one book a day, even though it might look like we do.  What inspired you to write that message?

I have a lot going on in my personal life right now: I bought a house, work is very busy, and I work multiple jobs so my hours have been booked! Plus I have quite a few weddings and showers right now. Between all that and making time for myself, my breaks have needed to be shorter and easier on my brain. For me, that means watching a quick episode on tv, walking, or yoga class. I haven’t had a lot of time to read! I felt like I was letting my followers down by not having a new book a day to talk about, but I knew I couldn’t be alone, so I thought I’d throw it out there and see how many of us felt like that!

2) What piece of advice would you give to others who are dealing with self-doubt when they’re on instagram?

I’m still dealing with this myself, so it’s definitely a work in progress, but my biggest thing I stress to others and myself is that this is FOR FUN! The minute it’s not enjoyable, I need to take a step back. I love books so much, and I don’t ever want that passion to die, so sometimes when I feel stressed, I make myself take a step back so I don’t resent this community or books, because ultimately those are not the cause of my stress! They’re my escape, and I always want this to be fun.

3) How can we use Instagram as a tool for positivity?

To use this positively, I actually have a few rules for myself, and I think it’s important for me to remember. If I don’t like a book, I never post about it. I always want to be truthful, but instead of hate-posting, I just talk more about other books I love rather than one I hate. I also always try to leave nice, thoughtful comments. It sounds silly, but I love each and every comment that people leave, and we all get tired of the “hi follow me!” comments. When someone takes the time to leave a lovely thought or response, it makes my day and I can engage in meaningful conversations with that person! So I always try to do the same with others, starting engaging convos rather than a quick heart emoji (but fun emojis are also always appreciated!)!


JENA @jenabrownwrites

1) You have a beautifully curated Instagram feed, one that keeps me curious just to find out what your latest creation is.  How do you remain authentic while dealing with Instagram pressure?

First, thank you so much! My feed is a constant work in progress, figuring out what works for both my followers and me. The hardest thing is not succumbing to “peer pressure” and posting only popular books. Those are the posts that tend to get the most “likes”, but it becomes difficult to be your true self that way.
Social media is a very intimate thing. I had to decide how much of myself I was comfortable sharing, and then really open those parts of myself up. But when I did, my followers responded, and my overall experience has been much more satisfying. It doesn’t mean I have to show everyone everything, just what I’m comfortable with. But the more honest I am, the more fun I have, and the more I get to know people. Which is really my goal. I want to connect with people and find genuine friendships that carry over into the real world. I think remembering that, instead of going after likes is what keeps me grounded and focused.

2) How long does it usually take for each picture to go live - from concept to final product?

That actually varies on the photo! Some come to life very quickly, I have an idea and it all works. But some take more time. Either figuring out the angles, or how to fit things in, or how to create the entire thing in reality versus my brain. The more complex the photo, the more time it takes to set up and get right. But I probably spend around an hour per photo. Set up, taking the photo, and editing. I try to take photos in advance too, so that I can simply post every morning. That doesn’t always work, but when it does, life is good :)

3) If you could start your Social Media “life” again, what would you do differently?

What a fantastic question!!! Oh, past Jena, please take this advice. Stop worrying about what other accounts are doing. Don’t let FOMO take over and have you accepting books you really aren’t interested in. Take the time to really decide what your brand is, and stick to it! People like you, people will interact with you, but it’s important to find the right audience.
I definitely would have had a theme earlier. I fought it for almost a year. And I’d be more myself. I was trying to be too something for everyone, and it showed. I think the biggest thing would be to be more my true self. And to figure out what my goal was. I think at first I wanted to be a big account and get all the books. Which, ironically, made it less about the books. When I stopped accepting everything and requested less, I began to enjoy what I was reading and posting became easier. Kudos to those huge accounts for juggling all those demands, but it quickly became something that overwhelmed me. So I would for sure skip that learning process if I could.


JENNIFER @jennsbookvibes

1) What’s your relationship with Instagram like? 

I love it! I don’t know if any other social media platform has the ability to do what “bookstagram” has done in connecting book lovers all around the world.

2) As an influencer, do you feel the pressure to always post “perfect” pictures ? 

I don’t really consider myself an influencer 😂.  And I don’t necessarily feel pressure to take perfect photos but I do feel pressure to take a lot of photos. Posting a crafted picture and clever caption every single day can get overwhelming.

3) Do you think it’s important to take breaks from it? Why?

YES! For me personally bookstagram is a hobby. I don’t have all the time in the world to commit to it so it is something I do for fun.  The second it feels not fun or like a job I take a step back. It’s really important to me to get joy from it not stress or I don’t think I would be able to stick around.


NIKKI @saturday_nite_reader

1) Do you feel the pressure of posting every day?

I used not to worry about the pressure of posting everyday until I heard that the algorithm and your engagement is reflective upon your instagram participation. Now I stress every now and then about posting everyday. It is very hard to keep up, especially since you still have to read in order to share books!

2) Did you ever feel overwhelmed by it all?

It is very overwhelming. When you realize how much time and energy you put into: taking a picture, writing your review or introduction of a book, determining what time to post, and then keeping up with comments. I work full time and #bookstagram is my hobby. I do not get paid to post or share my thoughts and I constantly ask myself if my input is worth it. I am still trying to figure out a balance.

3) Any tips on how to balance work/reading/writing reviews/instagram & family?

I don’t have any profound tips, but recently found myself in a reading rut and took a weekend break from social media. It was really nice to not feel like I have to keep up, read on my own time, and pay attention to things I’ve been neglecting. When I came back on Monday I was lighter and didn’t take myself too seriously or overthink photos or posts, I just focused on fun. So my best advice is if you find yourself overwhelmed more than finding enjoyment: take a break. We will be here with open arms when you return.

🤩👏🏼

A BIG Thank You to these ladies!!!  Seriously, you're all SuperStars 🤩
Please visit them when you have a chance!

In my case, I needed to remember why I started doing this in the first place: to have FUN, talk about books and creatively develop my writing skills.  I am unable to be creative when I'm stressed out, so I need to prioritize and consider my goals.  That's the right answer for me.

As a matter of fact, working on this piece, getting in touch with the FUNtastic 4 already helped me regain my focus!❤️

I'll leave you all with some Food for Thought:
  Any time you think Instagram or any other social media is doing you harm, take a break from it.
Disable notifications.  Go for a walk.  Call a friend and go out for coffee. Set time limits.
And if you're feeling anxious and/or constantly questioning if you're good enough,  please don't be afraid to ask for HELP.


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Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

Sunday, March 17, 2019

12 comments

Book Review

BOOK REVIEW

Release Date: June 28th, 2011
Genre: Fantasy / Fiction / Humor
373 Pages (Kindle Edition)
Published by HarperCollins ebooks (first published 1990)
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️  My Goodreads Rating


BOOK BLURB:

According to The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch (the world's only completely accurate book of prophecies, written in 1655, before she exploded), the world will end on a Saturday. Next Saturday, in fact. Just before dinner.

So the armies of Good and Evil are amassing, Atlantis is rising, frogs are falling, tempers are flaring. Everything appears to be going according to Divine Plan. Except a somewhat fussy angel and a fast-living demon—both of whom have lived amongst Earth's mortals since The Beginning and have grown rather fond of the lifestyle—are not actually looking forward to the coming Rapture.

And someone seems to have misplaced the Antichrist . . .


MY THOUGHTS:

I loved the concept of an Angel and a Demon joining forces in order to stop the predicted Armageddon from happening. Why? Because they each like living among humans and eternity will be rather boring when this world ends.
No more sushi. No more books. No fast cars. Ugh!
And so they start their journey to find the Antichrist, “the Destroyer of Kings, Angel of the Bottomless Pit, Father of Lies and Lord of Darkness”...

Written with the funny & intelligent lines that are common in all Gaiman’s novels, except this one was written with Terry Pratchett, and the result is a satirical novel that makes you keep thinking how crazy some of the lines sound, because they actually make sense...

“God does not play dice with the universe; He plays an ineffable game of His own devising, which might be compared, from the perspective of any of the other players [i.e. everybody], to being involved in an obscure and complex variant of poker in a pitch-dark room, with blank cards, for infinite stakes, with a Dealer who won't tell you the rules, and who smiles all the time.”
― Terry Pratchett, Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch

Remember the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse? Here we have the Four Bikers of the Apocalypse (because times have changed)...and what if the AntiChrist disagrees with his role in the whole plan?
Teenagers do tend to think for themselves, do they not?

Good Omens the TV series is one of the most anticipated shows of 2019. I’m looking forward to watching this book adaptation!


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On The Come Up by Angie Thomas

Thursday, February 28, 2019

9 comments


#BookReview

BOOK REVIEW

Release Date: February 5th, 2019
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
464 pages
Published by Balzer + Bray
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️My Goodreads Rating


BOOK BLURB:

Sixteen-year-old Bri wants to be one of the greatest rappers of all time. Or at least make it out of her neighborhood one day. As the daughter of an underground rap legend who died before he hit big, Bri’s got big shoes to fill. But now that her mom has unexpectedly lost her job, food banks and shutoff notices are as much a part of Bri’s life as beats and rhymes. With bills piling up and homelessness staring her family down, Bri no longer just wants to make it—she has to make it.

On the Come Up is Angie Thomas’s homage to hip-hop, the art that sparked her passion for storytelling and continues to inspire her to this day. It is the story of fighting for your dreams, even as the odds are stacked against you; of the struggle to become who you are and not who everyone expects you to be; and of the desperate realities of poor and working-class black families.


MY THOUGHTS:

This book was PHENOMENAL!!!
4 syllables…rhymes with…
Nominal
Abdominal
Comical…huh, I’m obviously not good at this :-(

Seriously now, #OnTheComeUp has propelled Angie Thomas to stardom !
 
You know how we constantly see book reviews stating how “the story flows”?  Well, here it actually does.
The story moved without disruption, made me feel the struggles, hear the battles (emotional & musical) and when it finally came to an end, left me satisfied at getting to know the characters.  All of this in 2 days, because I was unable to put it down (and I only read at night).

The characters were so real.  Sixteen year-old Bri, our main character, is a funny, sometimes moody teenager, who loves video games, Star Wars and hip-hop.  She’s talented and she wants to be a rap star.  She worries about a boy she might have a crush on.   What she shouldn’t be worried is if the food in the fridge will spoil because the electricity got cut off.  Her family struggles.  Her mom lost her job and her brother can’t get a decent one even with his college education.  It’s tough for a teenager (hell, it’s tough for anyone) to see her mom and brother trying to do everything right and being unable to pay the bills…while some other people in the neighborhood seem to be doing just fine.

“I’ve always had this theory that God is a sitcom writer who loves to put me in ridiculous situations.”

A racial profiling incident in the school infuriates Bri and when she decides to turn her anger into lyrics, she is faced with the impact that her song has on the community.  The challenges Bri and her family face escalate to larger proportions after that, and the decisions that each of them makes bring us deeper into the reality and unfairness of the world we live in. 

Angie Thomas has repeatedly stated that this book was “her love letter to hip-hop” and it is, in some ways, a #1 hit song.

If you’re reading this review, go and get this book.  Buy extra copies and give them to the people you care about.  You won’t regret it and they will thank you for it!


“Just recognize when you say brilliant that you're also saying Bri.”

📚📚📚📚📚


Quick Note: I got my Signed First Edition copy of On The Come Up + a specially curated playlist inspired by the book, with my box subscription of NowInBooks 💙 
You can get $10 off your first box when you use my code 10REPMP

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A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J Maas

Monday, February 25, 2019

11 comments

BOOK REVIEW: A Court of Thorns and Roses

Release Date: May 5th, 2015
Genre: Fantasy, New Adult
419 pages
Published by Bloomsbury USA Childrens
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️My Goodreads rating


BOOK BLURB:

Feyre's survival rests upon her ability to hunt and kill – the forest where she lives is a cold, bleak place in the long winter months. So when she spots a deer in the forest being pursued by a wolf, she cannot resist fighting it for the flesh. But to do so, she must kill the predator and killing something so precious comes at a price ...

Dragged to a magical kingdom for the murder of a faerie, Feyre discovers that her captor, his face obscured by a jewelled mask, is hiding far more than his piercing green eyes would suggest. Feyre's presence at the court is closely guarded, and as she begins to learn why, her feelings for him turn from hostility to passion and the faerie lands become an even more dangerous place. Feyre must fight to break an ancient curse, or she will lose him forever.


MY THOUGHTS:

I’ve had A Court of Thorns and Roses on my #TBR for a while.  I’ve seen all the hype around the series but kept pushing it aside.

To my luck, one of my book club buddies also wanted to read #ACOTAR so we decided to do a Buddy read.  You can find her review here  https://www.instagram.com/p/Btro9okBM3o/

A Court of Thorns and Roses is the first book in the fantasy series by Sarah J. Maas.  It’s constantly labeled as a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, being the tale of a kidnapped girl, two Faerie High Lords and a curse that needs to be broken. I’d like to think it’s Beauty and the Beast meets Twilight, but that’s just me.

I will admit that the first half of the book was slow and didn’t quite impress me. I guess because it was clearly inevitable that Feyre and her captor, Tamlin would eventually fall in love (him being super handsome and all),  I wished their love story would develop a little faster.  That said, once the story picked up, I couldn’t put it down.

The attention to scenery and character development in this book is incredible.  Feyre started out unimpressive.  And by the end of the book, this simple mortal girl had grown into a confident warrior, who was not afraid to face evil while trying to break the ancient curse.  Tamlin, the shape-shifting High Lord and hero in the story, is stubborn, smart and sometimes a beast.  One of my favorite characters was Lucien, the loyal High Lord emissary.  He is funny, brave and downright adorable.  Oh, but let’s not forget Rhysand, the other High Lord in this story.  We’re never really sure of his intentions and the mystery behind his actions only makes him interesting and is the build-up we needed for book 2.

A few things I appreciated:  This is not a children’s book.  There is sexual tension and love making.  It was also refreshing to read a fantasy book where the heroine is not a virgin that needs to be saved.

Overall, I really enjoyed #ACOTAR and am looking forward to starting book 2, A Court of Mist and Fury.


“It’s a rare day indeed when someone thanks you for bringing them to their death.” 


“A High Lord who loved to fly - trapped under a mountain.
Shadows not of his own making still haunted those violet eyes.
I wonder if they would ever fade.” 
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Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

10 comments




Book Review

BOOK REVIEW

Release Date: February 7th, 2017
Genre: Historical Fiction / Cultural
502 pages
Published by Grand Central Publishing
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ My Goodreads Rating


BOOK BLURB:

In the early 1900s, teenaged Sunja, the adored daughter of a crippled fisherman, falls for a wealthy stranger at the seashore near her home in Korea. He promises her the world, but when she discovers she is pregnant--and that her lover is married--she refuses to be bought. Instead, she accepts an offer of marriage from a gentle, sickly minister passing through on his way to Japan. But her decision to abandon her home, and to reject her son's powerful father, sets off a dramatic saga that will echo down through the generations.

Richly told and profoundly moving, Pachinko is a story of love, sacrifice, ambition, and loyalty. From bustling street markets to the halls of Japan's finest universities to the pachinko parlors of the criminal underworld, Lee's complex and passionate characters--strong, stubborn women, devoted sisters and sons, fathers shaken by moral crisis--survive and thrive against the indifferent arc of history.

MY THOUGHTS:

This was, quite simply, one the most memorable books I have ever read (right up there with The Kite Runner)!

It's an extraordinary novel about perception, prejudice and above all, the resiliency of women and the loyalty of their family.  Even though this is a Korean-Japanese historical fiction, make no mistake, the emotional impact is universal... 

The story spans over 7 decades and it tells the epic saga of a Korean family in Japan.  The author managed to provide us with such a rich cultural experience.  I had no idea that Ethnic Koreans born in Japan were not Japanese citizens and were under constant threat of deportation (I don't know what the current state in Japan is), so the book was also a reminder that discrimination and prejudice are present everywhere (Ugh!). 

Even the book's opening line is profound enough as to warn you to be prepared for the masterpiece you're about to read:
“History has failed us, but no matter.” 

The character development is flawless in his book.  The psychology of each character is detailed in such a way that it drew me closer to understanding their angst and suffering.  It's also very interesting how the author touched so many different topics: disability, pregnancy, shame, suicide, hope, organized crime, wealth...that were somehow linked to the main theme, which was search of identity and acceptance.

“Living everyday in the presence of those who refuse to acknowledge your humanity takes great courage” 

Can we talk about the title now?  
Pachinko is the name of a very popular arcade game in Japan.  By comparison, life is a game of chance, and just like a pinball machine, it can spin you out of control and randomly drop you in different situations...

“Sunja-ya, a woman’s life is endless work and suffering. There is suffering and then more suffering. It’s better to expect it, you know. You’re becoming a woman now, so you should be told this. For a woman, the man you marry will determine the quality of your life completely. A good man is a decent life, and a bad man is a cursed life—but no matter what, always expect suffering, and just keep working hard. No one will take care of a poor woman—just ourselves.”

This book is also on the #SOMAbookclub list for 2019.  

While reading this book, I had both the paperback book and the audiobook from the library, which I used to go back and forth.  Do you ever do that?
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Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

Friday, February 8, 2019

7 comments


Book Review

BOOK REVIEW

Release Date: August 14, 2012
Genre: Fiction/Humor
330 Pages
Published by Little, Brown and Company
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ My Goodreads Rating



BOOK BLURB

Bernadette Fox has vanished.

When her daughter Bee claims a family trip to Antarctica as a reward for perfect grades, Bernadette, a fiercely intelligent shut-in, throws herself into preparations for the trip. But worn down by years of trying to live the Seattle life she never wanted, Ms. Fox is on the brink of a meltdown. And after a school fundraiser goes disastrously awry at her hands, she disappears, leaving her family to pick up the pieces--which is exactly what Bee does, weaving together an elaborate web of emails, invoices, and school memos that reveals a secret past Bernadette has been hiding for decades.

Where'd You Go Bernadette is an ingenious and unabashedly entertaining novel about a family coming to terms with who they are and the power of a daughter's love for her mother.

MY THOUGHTS

Captivating and whip-smart!
A remarkably funny novel with a clever mixture of cultural jabs, social inadequacy and over-the-top private school politics. 

Even the writing style here is unconventional, in the form of e-mails, letters, FBI classified documents and a famous TED Talk.  I have to confess that at first I thought this style would be boring and I’d lose interest, but, Semple manages to weave all this information together, while keeping it funny and adding one tumultuous event after another.

The story is told by Bee, as she tries to piece together the puzzle that her mom has left behind.  Her dad is an Executive at Microsoft and works crazy hours.  Bee and Bernadette have a loving relationship.  What people see in Bernadette as inclusive and anti-social, Bee thinks it’s normal.  When Bernadette disappears, Bee decides to find her at all costs.

I liked Bee. She was my favorite character.  A sassy, smart teenager that actually understood her mom, even with all the eccentric/weird acts.

I also found it fascinating how the author was able to give us a few characters that started one way (one sympathetic/another hateful) and then changed completely throughout the book.  Some might say that’s not realistic but I think that in reality, people change their opinions and minds all the time, so the fact that a few of the characters here changed, made the book more relatable to me.

Bee’s obsession with Antarctica was also cute and eccentric in her own way (she is her mother’s daughter after all).

But who is Bernadette and why did she disappear?
…You’ll need to read the book to find out. The movie comes out in March, so hurry up!

Oh, and after you read it, let me know if you’re a Subaru or a Mercedes…
🚗

“People like you must create. If you don't create, Bernadette, you will become a menace to society.”

“I can pinpoint that as the single happiest moment of my life, because I realized then that Mom would always have my back.
It made me feel giant. I raced back down the concrete ramp, faster than I ever had before, so fast I should have fallen, but I didn't fall, because Mom was in the world.”



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And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

Monday, February 4, 2019

8 comments

Book Review

Release Date: First published in November, 1939
Genre: Mystery
300 Pages (paperback)
Published by Harper Collins
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ My Goodreads Rating

BOOK BLURB:

A PBS Great American Read Top 100 Pick

One of the most famous and beloved mysteries from the queen of suspense, Agatha Christie!  More than 100 million copies sold and now a Lifetime TV movie.

"Ten . . ."
Ten strangers are lured to an isolated island mansion off the Devon coast by a mysterious "U.N. Owen."

"Nine . . ."
At dinner a recorded message accuses each of them in turn of having a guilty secret, and by the end of the night one of the guests is dead.

"Eight . . ."
Stranded by a violent storm, and haunted by a nursery rhyme counting down one by one . . . one by one they begin to die.

"Seven . . ."
Who among them is the killer and will any of them survive?


MY THOUGHTS:

An invitation.  A nursery rhyme.  10 Strangers with nothing in common, except...

My first Christie's novel and now I understand why she is in the Guinness Book of World Records as the best-selling fiction writer!

Anyway, remember playing the game Clue? Well, this book starts a bit like that, where the reader tries to figure out whodunit from the little bits and pieces the author provides us with.

The plot is suspenseful, easy to follow, yet, it's neither graphic nor bloody, so it's safe to say it won't give you nightmares. It's also clever and a quick read.  The more you learn about each of the 10 strangers, the more you think that the murderer could be any one of them.   

And the ending made me consider the possibility of re-reading it...maybe I missed a few clues?

Can't wait for my #SOMAbookclub discussion this month, but first, I will watch the BBC miniseries!




"One of us in this very room is in fact the murderer". - Agatha Christie
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January Reading Wrap Up

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

11 comments

Trendy Simple Life


Holy Cakes!
January was an extremely busy month for me, but somehow I’ve managed to log in 7 books!
What a FANTASTIC way to start the year!

Surprisingly, instead of feeling sorry for myself that I was so busy and could barely squeeze an hour here and there to read, I took an entire different approach to the matter and found blocks of time to listen to audiobooks 🎧 which worked out perfectly!
Grocery Shopping? No problem.
Daily walk? Got it.
Driving to work? Yup.
Sitting in the car waiting to pick up my child from sports practice? Turn on the bluetooth!

5 audiobooks + 2 books later = a very successful January 💙

Here's what I read and/or listen to:

📘THE WICKED KING by Holly Black - 5/5 (click on the title for my full review)

🎧ONE DAY IN DECEMBER by Josie Silver - 5/5 (click on the title for my full review)

🎧 CLOCKWORK PRINCE by Cassandra Clare (book 2 of The Infernal Devices) - 5/5
I just LOVED this book so much and I was actually sad when it ended. I don't know why it took me so many years to discover Cassandra Clare's books and this one truly won me over. The story was fast-paced, we got to learn a lot more about the characters since the first book and the suspense meter was a nice touch.
BTW, the narrators did an incredible job with this book and made me weep listening to Will's voice in the last chapter 😢

🎧 CLOCKWORK PRINCESS by Cassandra Clare (book 3 of The Infernal Devices) - 5/5
       Let me start by stating the following: Clockwork Princess was the BEST series finale I have ever read!  I cried multiple times during the last chapters, and I was equally happy with how the trilogy came to an end.  I would've rated 10 if I could...
By the angel, this was perfection! Clare pulled it all together. Tied every loose string and made me cry.
Just like Tessa, I felt in love with both Will and Jem. How could we not? This was not your usual love triangle. This was a beautifully crafted tale of love+friendship+respect. A masterpiece.
I does help that the writing is easy to follow and the characters developed seamlessly. The added sarcasm is a gift also. I have to admit that I didn't expect to love this trilogy so much and to actually be quoting pieces of the books to my family (they don't get it anyway)...
And the fact that all 3 books are already out there, I didn't have to wait to devour one after the other. Another extra perk :-)



📘THE WOMAN INSIDE by E.G. Scott - 4/5 (click on the title for my full review)

🎧TODAY WILL BE DIFFERENT by Maria Semple - 3/5
     This book was a 3.5 up until the middle of it, and then it became a 3 for the second half, so I adjusted my rating to 3.
I know a lot of readers compared this book with the author's other book, about Bernadette Fox, but I'm actually glad I didn't read that one yet...
The entire book takes place in one day and Eleanor starts the day with the best intentions of improving herself.
The first half of the book was hilarious. I laughed out lout a few times with Eleanor's descriptions of her life after motherhood, being a woman in her late forties, with possible depression, lack of self-steem and nonexistent sex life. Her interaction with a group of younger/fit/well-dressed moms at the school her son goes to, reminded of the movie "A Bad Moms Christmas", so for the first the most part, it was a fast and funny read.
But then, the chaotic events become more difficult to follow, and we jumped back to her past, which should have helped us understand her family turmoil but it took too long and was way too convoluted.
I didn't appreciate the ending either. It felt like an unrealistic mid-life crisis.

🎧UNCOMMON TYPE: SOME STORIES by Tom Hanks - 3/5
     I really wanted to love this but although it was enjoyable, I didn't love it. Maybe it's me and I just don't like short stories...

📌
And that, folks, is my official wrap up!  Did you read any of these books?  What's the favorite book you've read in January?

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The Woman Inside by E.G. Scott

Monday, January 21, 2019

14 comments


BOOK REVIEW: The Woman Inside by E.G. Scott

Release Date: January 22, 2019
Genre: Suspense, Thriller
335 Pages
Published by Dutton
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ My Goodreads Rating

BOOK BLURB:
Rebecca and Paul have been married for nearly twenty years.  A marriage rooted as much in love as shared trauma from dark pasts, their pain drew them together with an irresistible magnetism.  But now, Paul and Rebecca are drowning as the trauma and secrets that ignited their love begin to consume them.  Paul's professional life has taken a major hit, leaving him feeling inadequate, something he remedies by having an affair with an attractive neighbor.  But things get messy, and fast.  Rebecca, on the other hand, appears to be killing at work.  That is, until her boss lets her go as her growing dependency on the opiates she sells for a living becomes a liability to the company.  In a panic, Rebecca turns to their joint life savings only to discover the account has been completely wiped out. She begins investigating Paul and discovers his plan to build a new life without her.  As she spirals deeper into the throes of addiction, she devises a devious plot of her own.

What follows is an unpredictable game of cat-and-mouse as the lies and tension between Paul and Rebecca mount.  Is anyone telling the truth?  Can their marriage be saved?  And, just who is the woman inside?


ABOUT E.G. SCOTT:
E.G. Scott is a is a pseudonym for two writers, who have been friends for over twenty-years, and have been writing plays, screenplays, and short stories separately since they were kids. They've collaborated on multiple projects from the beginning of their friendship, but The Woman Inside is their first published work together. This book came out of their shared love of thrillers and noir and wanting to collaborate on a novel for a long time. They are currently working on their next thriller.

MY THOUGHTS:
I don't usually reach for thrillers, but The Woman Inside surprised me.  I could not put this book down.  High on the suspense meter.  A true page-turner.

The story takes place in Long Island, NY.

Paul and Rebecca, the main characters, are very far from being a "perfect couple".  As a matter of fact, it's kind of hard to believe they've been married almost 20 years (although I could say the same for some real life couples)...
Paul is a player, used to get what he wants, but when his business takes a turn for the worst, he can't cope with being unemployed.
Rebecca has the perfect job at a pharmaceutical company. Perfect for her, who is addicted to the drugs she sells.  Not so perfect when she finally loses her job.
That's when everything starts getting out of control.  Told in "before" and "after" timelines, we are able to slowly see the road these characters took to become who they are: unreliable, cheating, addicted selves.

There are so many unpredictable twists, so many secrets,  that, at some point I was really lost in their web of deceit.

But there are 2 extra characters that I need to mention, because they made me laugh, which added some very needed balance after some of the thrilling scenes: Wolcott and Silvestri, the 2 cops investigating the neighbor's disappearance.  These 2 characters played out so well in this story and made it more realistic.

From the get-go you know there's going to be a murder, but you don't know who will murder who.  It's how we get there that makes this story so addictive to read.  Oh, and the final twist was SO rewarding!

The Woman Inside was already picked up for a major TV series, and I can't wait to watch how the book-to-TV adaptation will play out!

Overall, this is a remarkable book.
My recommendation?
Read it before the TV show comes out!


Note:
I received a copy of the book from Kathleen Carter Communications in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions are my own.

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The Wicked King by Holly Black

Monday, January 14, 2019

13 comments


BOOK REVIEW: The Wicked King by Holly Black

Release Date: January 8th, 2019
Genre: Fantasy
336 pages
Published by Little Brown for Young Readers
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️My Goodreads rating


BOOK BLURB:

You must be strong enough to strike and strike and strike again without tiring.

The first lesson is to make yourself strong.

After the jaw-dropping revelation that Oak is the heir to Faerie, Jude must keep her younger brother safe. To do so, she has bound the wicked king, Cardan, to her, and made herself the power behind the throne. Navigating the constantly shifting political alliances of Faerie would be difficult enough if Cardan were easy to control. But he does everything in his power to humiliate and undermine her even as his fascination with her remains undiminished.

When it becomes all too clear that someone close to Jude means to betray her, threatening her own life and the lives of everyone she loves, Jude must uncover the traitor and fight her own complicated feelings for Cardan to maintain control as a mortal in a Faerie world.


MY THOUGHTS:



Well, well, well.
The wait was finally over and I couldn't wait to get my hands on The Wicked King. 
I was not disappointed. This book surpasses The Cruel Prince (and I didn't think that was even possible).

Holly Black is a master story weaver. Nothing in this book is cookie cutter.  When you think you're into what's going on, she takes you out for a spin! There were times that I hated Jude, then I hated Cardan. Next chapter I loved both of them. I never felt a love/hate feeling so strongly towards the characters in a book such as this and without even going into everything else, I'm rating it 5 stars.

We go thru the stages of seeing Jude recognize the power of her current state in the High Court. Being the "King Maker". She enjoys it, even though it's supposed to last only 1 year and 1 day. There are more secrets now than before and Jude can trust no one.

Cardan, oh Cardan. What do I say about you? Who are you? You're up to your old tricks but did I sense something else behind those dark eyes? Do you even have a heart? Are you able to love? 

"Go against me, and I'll show you what this boy would do."

Faerie can't lie but they can twist their words in a special way that makes the reader's mind spin. There are enemies everywhere. The amount of political intrigue and attention to detail is phenomenal. It's clear that the first book was setting the stage for the twists, plotting and betrayals of this one. Oh, and the last pages, I didn't know what hit me. I had to re-read them to believe them. I can't go into details because everything is a spoiler here but since nothing is what it seems in the land of Elfhame, I'm pretty sure the biggest surprise/twist is yet to come.

THAT's how good this book was. 

My sixth sense tells me that the grand finale on the third book will end with a bang.
I have so many questions and I can't believe that now I have to wait another year :-(


One advice that comes to mind is:
I feel sorry for any enemy (mortal or immortal) of Holly Black!
Think about it. She is able to orchestrate the plots, twists and evil strategies behind this book...I don't want to think what she can do to an annoying neighbor...or critic...or fan.... 
Just saying :-)


“The three of you have one solution to every problem. Murder. No key fits every lock.” Cardan gives us all a stern look, holding up a long-fingered hand with my stolen ruby ring still on one finger. “Someone tries to betray the High King, murder.
Someone gives you a harsh look, murder.
Someone disrespects you, murder.
Someone ruins your laundry, murder.”
― Holly Black, The Wicked King
 
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10 Ways to Find Inspiration When You Feel Stuck

Sunday, January 13, 2019

14 comments

 Katie Jenison



GUEST POST by Katie Jenison



Have you ever felt like you were on a roll with your side hustle, online business, or blog, only to have it come to a screeching halt? One minute, you’re totally rocking task after task and feeling like you’re on top of the world. The next thing you know, you’re hit with a creative block and no matter what you do, you feel stuck and unsure of how to overcome it.

When you stop feeling inspired, you may find yourself in a creative funk that can be hard to shake off. While it feels awful, the truth is everyone loses their inspiration at some point. The good news? Getting caught in a creative rut is only temporary. Here are ten ways to find inspiration when you’re feeling stuck.

Power Through It


There will be times when the fear of starting a new project can hold you back from starting at all. When that happens, it’s easy to confuse a lack of inspiration with procrastination. In order to truly identify whether the culprit is procrastination or a lack of inspiration, you need to make an attempt to work through it.

This is where the Pomodoro Technique comes in handy. Set a timer for 25 minutes and focus on solely on the project you’ve been putting off until the 25 minutes is up. If the time seems to fly by, you probably just needed to make yourself sit down and really focus. On the other hand, if the time seemed to drag on without accomplishing anything, there’s a good chance you’re in a creative rut and need to explore other options for finding inspiration.

Listen to a Podcast


Podcasts have grown in popularity and for good reason. They’re easy to listen to while multitasking and they can be a source of inspiration when you’re feeling stuck. These days, there’s no shortage of podcasts for creative entrepreneurs, so finding one that resonates with you should be easy enough. Try looking for a podcast that features interviews with other creative entrepreneurs like Jenna Kutcher’s The Goal Digger Podcast or Rachel Hollis’, RISE podcast. Hearing inspirational stories from those who have grown a successful business can help to get your creative juices flowing again.

Chat with Someone


If you’re having more conversations with your cat than with real people, it might be time to take a break and interact with the outside world. Meet up with a friend for coffee, join a mastermind group, or connect with a coach or mentor. Regardless of who you chat with, taking the time to foster personal connections can do wonders with shaking off the loneliness that can accompany hustling 24/7. Talking with someone, especially someone outside of your business, can give you a brand-new perspective and inspire a project or idea you may not have thought of otherwise.

Read


When you find inspiration lacking, reading can give you the motivation you need. Sit down with good, like Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic or use Pinterest to find interesting blog posts to read. Whatever you choose to read, checking out other people’s work can give you the kick in the butt you need and can leave you feeling inspired.

Get a Change of Scenery


Spending most of your time holed up at home working can start to feel monotonous and have a negative impact on your creativity. When that happens, a change of scenery is in order. For some, this may mean taking a walk around the neighborhood and enjoying the fresh air, but others may prefer to pack up their laptop and work out of their favorite coffee shop for the day. Either way, mixing up your daily routine can give you a fresh perspective and help you find inspiration in your new surroundings.

Journal


Try boosting your creativity through journal writing. Carving out five minutes of your day to put pen to paper is a great way to find inspiration when you’re feeling stuck. You don’t need a plan going in, either. Just start writing and see where your thoughts lead you. Taking the time to sit by yourself and write whatever comes to mind can be helpful in identifying the blocks in your inspiration and help you overcome them.

Review Your Goals


Remembering what inspired you in the first place can help you get back on track, so take some time to review your goals. Ask yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing and what you can do to bring yourself closer to accomplishing your goals.

Struggling to remember your why? Don’t let it stress you out. As time goes on and both you and your business grow, your why may shift. Over time, may find yourself out of alignment you’re your original goals, which might be why you feel uninspired. If that happens, revise your goals to reflect the new direction you see yourself and your business heading in.

Collaborate with Someone


Another great way to find inspiration when you’re feeling stuck is to collaborate with a fellow creative entrepreneur on a new project. Why? Creativity is contagious! Spending time brainstorming and bouncing ideas off another person can help bring back the excitement that’s gone missing. Whether working on a small project like starting a Facebook group or launching a Podcast, your creativity is sure to start flowing again.

Change Your Mindset


Your thoughts can either have a positive or negative impact on your life. As Jen Sincero says, “Our thoughts become our words, our words become our beliefs, our beliefs become our actions, our actions become our habits, and our habits become our realities.”

Identify the negative thoughts holding you back and work on shifting your focus. Dig deep and ask yourself why you feel the way you do and turn it around. For example, instead of telling yourself no one cares what you have to say, recognize if what you have to say connects with even one person, your story is worth telling. Changing your mindset can have a profound impact on not only your creativity but on how you live your life.

Rest


As hardworking creatives, we’re prone to burnout. If you’re feeling uninspired, unfocused, or stuck in a rut, you might just need to take a step back and let yourself rest. Take some time for yourself and do something you enjoy. Whether that’s taking a day to recoup by bumming around in your pajamas all day or just catching up on sleep, it’s important to practice self-care. No matter how you choose to unwind, remember to let yourself enjoy it without feeling guilty. Sometimes we just need a little R&R to come back feeling better than before.

-------

Author Bio


Katie Jenison is a freelance writer and blogger from a small town in North Dakota. She started her freelance writing business in 2017 after graduating from North Dakota State University with a bachelor’s degree in English Studies and has since quit her job to freelance full-time. In 2018 she launched her blog, The Quiet Type, where she gives readers tips and advice on freelance writing, blogging, and creative entrepreneurship. Download her workbook, A Freelancer’s Guide to Setting Rates, here.

Blog - www.thequiettypeblog.com
Business Site - www.katiejenison.com

Social Media


Instagram - www.instagram.com/kjenisonwrites
Facebook - www.facebook.com/thequiettype
Pinterest - www.pinterest.com/kjenisonwrites
LinkedIn - www.linkedin.com/in/katiejenison

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One Day in December by Josie Silver

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

16 comments

AUDIOBOOK REVIEW: One Day in December by Josie Silver

Release Date: October 16, 2018
Genre: Romance, Fiction
10 1/2 hours
Published by Penguin Random Audio House Publishing Group
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️My Goodreads rating

BOOK BLURB:

A love story about what happens after you meet, or rather, don't meet the one.

Laurie is pretty sure love at first sight doesn't exist anywhere but the movies. But then, through a misted-up bus window one snowy December day, she sees a man who she knows instantly is the one. Their eyes meet, there's a moment of pure magic...and then her bus drives away.

Certain they're fated to find each other again, Laurie spends a year scanning every bus stop and cafe in London for him. But she doesn't find him, not when it matters anyway. Instead they "reunite" at a Christmas party, when her best friend Sarah giddily introduces her new boyfriend to Laurie. It's Jack, the man from the bus. It would be.

What follows for Laurie, Sarah and Jack is ten years of friendship, heartbreak, missed opportunities, roads not taken, and destinies reconsidered. One Day in December is a joyous, heartwarming and immensely moving love story to escape into and a reminder that fate takes inexplicable turns along the route to happiness.

MY THOUGHTS:

LOVED IT!

This book was an incredible, addictive, romantic story. One that will make you laugh, cry and believe in love & friendship all over again.

I fell in love with the characters, the story, the relationships, and the voices...oh the narrators were really perfect here!  I'm not kidding, the audiobook was phenomenal!

Even though I don't usually read romances, this book felt so realistic, with the characters starting out their adult lives, trying to put a footprint on the earth.  Laurie was looking for her dream job and Jack showed up at a bus stop.  They looked at each other but Laurie's bus took off.  So did their lives.  Took off in different directions I mean, but there was always that feeling of "what if"...

Every new year Laurie writes down her resolutions and that's another very realistic fact.  One that we can all relate to.  The story spans over 10 years and we grow to love these characters as if they were our best friends!

This book grabbed my heart and I couldn't stop listening to the story, but when it ended, even though I had tears in my eyes, I wished it hadn't.

Beautiful. Compelling.  A Holiday book (or not).  Just the kind of book you should give to your best friend.


“You tread lightly through life, but you leave deep footprints that are hard for other people to fill.”
― Josie Silver, One Day in December


“I know how painful it can be letting someone you think you love go, but that I don’t believe there’s only one person in the world for each of us. It’s too fanciful, too limiting.”
― Josie Silver, One Day in December


🎧
Thank you Penguin Random Audio House Publishing Group - @prhaudio for the free copy in exchange for my honest review.

I loved this book SO much that I created a #playlist to listen and remember it 🎧




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Best Fiction Books of 2018 - SheReads.com

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

No comments

 Best genre fiction of 2018



2018 was really an incredible year! 

I read a total of 57 books, went to several Book Festivals (including BookCon), met some incredible authors AND was invited to be a contributing blogger for SheReads.com , which was such an honor to me!

I can't think of a better way to wrap-up 2018, other than having my list of best fiction books going LIVE on the last day of the year!!!⠀

Please check out my first article at SheReads.com titled The Best Genre Fiction of 2018 and let me know what was the favorite fiction book you read in 2018.

Happy New Year everyone!
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