The Austen Escape: Book Review

Rating: 3 Stars

Synopsis:

Mary Davies finds safety in her ordered and productive life. Working as an engineer, she genuinely enjoys her job and her colleagues – particularly a certain adorable and intelligent consultant. But something is missing. When Mary’s estranged childhood friend, Isabel Dwyer offers her a two-week stay in a gorgeous manor house in England, she reluctantly agrees in hopes that the holiday will shake up her quiet life in just the right ways.

But Mary gets more than she bargained for when Isabel loses her memory and fully believes she lives in Jane Austen’s Bath.  While Isabel rests and delights in the leisure of a Regency lady, attended by the other costume-clad guests, Mary uncovers startling truths about their shared past, who Isabel was, who she seems to be, and the man who now stands between them. 

Outings are undertaken, misunderstandings play out, and dancing ensues as this company of clever, well-informed people, who have a great deal of conversation, work out their lives and hearts. 

Review:

I always pick up books by Katherine Reay. I have loved her novels from the beginning. I love how she has figured out how to incorporate Austen/Regency-era novels with the present. Even if I had not received an early copy of The Austen Escape to review from NetGalley, I would absolutely have picked this up.

However, this novel seems a little bit rough. Perhaps I didn’t receive the finished version. The novel starts in chaos, which didn’t seem intentional. I had to reread it several times to figure out what was going on. It seemed very odd to start a book in the middle of a conversation at a tech company work place. I felt like I had landed in Oz and was trying to get my bearings.

And that isn’t the only part of the novel that feels like confusing. The middle part of the novel also includes a house-party type situation, which readers who love cozy-mysteries will be very familiar with. However, there is no mystery.

Again, as a reader, I was confused because there are so many characters that it is hard to keep them straight, which is also sort of a joke among the characters because they are all also using fake names derived from Austen novels, which makes it only more confusing. However, only a few of them are well developed enough for a reader to keep them straight.

Also, the book involves a trip to something like Austenland, so I was a little bit concerned that it would mimic a book that I liked a lot. However, Reay did a great job making her book different from that book, even though it involved play acting Austen characters during a very expensive vacation.

Overall, the novel was interesting enough for me to read the entire book in three days, which is no small feat. I really take a long time to read Kindle books, but this was great.

This is a book for:

  • Austen lovers
  • people who love a complex romance
  • fans of Katherine Reay

It’s definitely not a book for everyone, but don’t let that dissuade you, if it is up you aisle.

If you do want to pick it up, look for it on November 7, 2017!

 

***I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.***

Don’t forget that you can follow my reviews and what I’m reading in real-time here on Goodreads. Add me as a friend! I love to see what you’re reading/reviewing, too!

 

Categories: Book Review Tags: , , ,
What I’ve Been Reading: Spring Edition (Part II)

Yesterday, I posted about all of the books that I read February-Present that were part of a series or multiple books from the same author.

Today, I am going to review the rest of the books that I that I read. I hope that this organization of reviews is helpful to everyone who is interested in my thoughts on books. Again, don’t forget that you can add me as a friend on Goodreads, so that you can get real-time reviews. I’ve been told that they help people when choosing between which books to read next 🙂

 

A Portrait of Emily Price

Review: 3 Stars

The beginning was super rushed, which made me think that the whole book was going to be bad. Any book where a woman meets a man who is very similar to herself, but “hits it off,” with someone with her absolute opposite makes it seem like things will go awry, but instead the book had a greater moral message. I was glad that I stuck with it, though, because the end came together well.

However, I wouldn’t recommend this to my friends, unless I knew they had a very specific taste in books and a ton of time.

 

Abide with Me

Review: 5 Stars

After I picked up Strout’s My Name is Lucy Barton, I knew that my reading life wouldn’t be the same. Somehow, though, I let her other books fall through the crack until I saw her 2017 publication on the shelves. While I was waiting on Anything is Possible to come in from the library, I decided to pick up with the rest of Strout’s cannon.
Abide with Me was the first novel by Strout, other than My Name is Lucy Barton that I picked up. Her insight into the human character, which she displays masterfully in the short, fictional memoir of Lucy Barton is also evident in Abide with Me. Additionally, the story, which follows the pastor of a small church in New England during the time when people began to turn from the church to psychology, gave the women of the story full, wonderful inner lives full of struggle, individuality, and even sexuality during an era when women were meant to be conform and be chaste.
For such a short novel, Strout uses her characters to touch on the topics of the meaning of life and death, the possibility of an afterlife, class differences, the complexity of marriages and families, and how to love, among so many other strong topics even though the community in which the story takes place is incredibly conservative and restrained.
I simply can’t get over Strout’s masterful, for lack of another better word, ability to bring complex characters to life through their inner lives, rather than dialogue.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Review: 5 Stars

This was a great re-read. I decided to read it again after I read a book about how the movie was made. I read this book again so that I can watch the movie and see the differences, especially since I watched the movie before I read the novella.

Every Secret Thing

Rating: 4 Stars

When Every Secret Thing was originally published, Susanna Kearsley used a pseudonym, Emma Cole. I am guessing it was because the novel is a departure from her usual time travel type novels. Every Secret Thing was even titled Book #1 of a series, but it has been enough years that it is clear that Kearsley isn’t going to follow up.

Honestly, I would have loved it if Kate Murray became the central figure in a series. Most of Kearsley’s other novels are very formulaic (not that it keeps me from reading them), but this mystery series took the journalist on a world-wide search for information to keep herself alive. Also, the body count was kind of high, so it would have made sense to give her more novels where people weren’t dropping like flies.

Anyway, it was really great. I would recommend it, if you like mysteries and WWII.

Every Wild Heart

Rating: 5 Stars

I read this in one day. I wasn’t sure if it was chick lit or a psychological thriller. I loved it, overall, but thought that maybe the author wasn’t sure what genre she was writing.

Another reader compared the mom in this novel to Lorelei Gilmore, which I totally see. The daughter wasn’t exactly a Rory, but there was overlap. There was a total Luke. However, there was an active father, etc.

I was surprised that this was on the Modern Mrs. Darcy Summer Reading Guide when I’ve read other great books that have already been released this summer that were better. I guess it does have mass appeal.

Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M.: Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and The Dawn of the Modern Woman

Rating: 4 Stars

I don’t read a lot of non-fiction, but this was a fascinating look at how a highly censored Hollywood took a very racy novella and turned it into an iconic movie with the classy Audrey Hepburn. Because, in all honesty, what Capote wrote has very little to do with what we see on the screen.

Additionally, the novel also talked about how Hollywood whitewashed other books or plays that were made into movies in order to get them around the censors, which was really interesting. There were a lot of censorship rules at the time that I wasn’t aware of! Also, the movie broke a lot of rules/pushed a lot of boundaries, even with things as small as using a little black dress.

The novel was really short, but I learned a lot about Audrey Hepburn, how the movie was made, how movies were made during that time period, and how much power the censors had over what people saw at the theaters!

In Farleigh Field: A Novel of World War II

Rating: 5 Stars

I love Rhys Bowen. Her series are some of my favorite. They are generally very light hearted; however this book felt much more substantial than previous novels.

The novel begins by introducing us to an obvious love triangle. Then, of course, a mystery during the beginning of WWII ensues! I absolutely adored every character. The main character, unlike Bowen’s two most prominent series, has a man for the main character. Her other novels show that women are capable of doing what men do, and there is a young woman in this novel doing that, also, but I liked the switch in perspectives because the main character wasn’t quite the cad that the love interests her main characters usually fall for.

While there is nothing to indicate that this novel was the first in a series, it ended in such a way that there is more than enough material to make it one. And it was so wonderful that in my greed, I hope it becomes one!

Jane Steele

Rating: 2.5 Stars

This one was a bit weird. I really don’t know how to review it.

It’s like Jane Eyre except… no. She’s a murder? Maybe? It’s very morally ambiguous. I don’t recommend it.

However, if you would like something more to go on, here is the synopsis/review that Book Riot Community left on Goodreads:

This Victorian novel follows Jane Steele, an orphan whose life mirrors that of her favorite literary heroine, Jane Eyre. Their paths diverge at this one fine point, however: Jane Steele is a serial killer. She uses her wit, nerves, and slight sociopathy to off abusive men, all the while wondering what would Jane Eyre think? This book scratched all my favorite itches: Victoriana, feminist rage, and excellent, gut-punch sentences. You’ll love this Jane just as much as you love the original.

 

I highly recommend following Book Riot Community on GoodReads. They never leave a number of stars on their reviews, but someone from their team always writes a good synopsis that lets you know if it would be if is a book that you would like. That being said, I liked that synopsis, but the book was weird AF.

The Dry

Rating: 4 Stars

I will begin by saying that I picked this one up because it was part of MMD’s Summer Reading Guide. I am a member of her online book club. I read it in a day, so I could participate in the live chat with the author. So, fun news if you like the book: Reese Witherspoon has purchased the rights to the book!

It is also the first book in a series. If you’ve read this, let me know what you think: would you prefer for the second book to take place in the same small, farming town or would you prefer for it to take place back in the city where Falk is now working? I have a definite opinion. I would love to know what other people think.

If you haven’t read it, you can probably tell that I did like it. It’s a strong 4 stars. I hadn’t read a thriller in a long time until I picked this up. It really pulled me into the story because there are two separate mysteries–one from the present and one from the past. Falk, who is a detective in a big city, returns home for the funeral of a possible current victim. He looks into what has been going on in the town to see if a crime occurred and how they are connected.

It was particularly interesting because it takes place in a rural farming town that is experiencing a drought. In Australia! So, the setting and culture are just different enough from what I’m used to reading to make it fascinating.

The Night the Lights Went Out

Rating: 4 Stars

Wow. Awesome novel. I would recommend this to all of my friends. I really didn’t know anything about it when I started the novel, other than I liked the cover. Yes, I judged the book by the cover.

I also wanted to read a novel by Karen White because she cowrote a novel with two other authors who I enjoy. Fortunately, this was a good place to start. And now, I want to read more of her novels!

One reason this is not 5 stars is because it isn’t really about revealing universal truths about the human character. It doesn’t explore anything thought provoking. It’s just highly entertaining. And some highly entertaining books are 5 star worthy, but this was not one of those.

Also, White tried to pack a lot of different writing techniques and even genres into the novel, which is why it was on the lengthy side. There were blog posts, which gave it the Gossip-Girl-esque feel and flashbacks to the landlord’s childhood and adolescence, which gave a hint of Kate Morton’s influence, since crimes were committed on the land and connected to the present day.

It was definitely a Southern novel because place was important. The land was incredibly important to the novel. It may have even had Southern Gothic elements, specifically in the flashbacks, which took place during the Great Depression and some could argue that the cottage that the main character rented was a character.

There was a romance throughout the novel. And White even threw in a bit of a psychological thriller there at the end (which I would have known about, if I had read what the book was about).

Overall, the characters were endearing. I rooted for them. It was nice to see the layers of the main characters unfold. 

Aside from the novel being a bit of soup made from everything in the fridge, which oddly worked, it was good. I found it a bit slow at the start because the blog posts were confusing, even though I think they were there for comedic effect. Once I committed to it, though, I REALLY couldn’t put it down. I was listening to it in the car, when I woke up early and couldn’t go back to sleep, etc.

The Story of a Brief Marriage

Rating: How do you rate this?

I barely know how to rate this, much less review it. I think that every person who reads this novel will take away something different. At it’s core, it’s about humanity.

The novel isn’t plot driven. It’s more about memories and living in the moment. It’s gut-wrenching when you think about the fact that people are actually living in these conditions. This isn’t a book to read for entertainment. It’s a book to challenge yourself.

I really didn’t know what this book was about when I picked it up. Someone mentioned it on the What Should I Read Next podcast, so I thought it would be a good read. It was. But I don’t feel comfortable assigning value to it. Just read a synopsis:

In the last months of the Sri Lankan Civil War, Dinesh’s world has contracted to an evacuee camp, where he measures his days by shells that fall like clockwork. Alienated from language, home, and family, he is brought back to life by an unexpected proposal from an old man in the camp: that he marry his daughter, Ganga. In the hours they spend together, Dinesh and Ganga attempt to awaken to one another, to reclaim their humanity.

Anuk Arudpragasam’s The Story of a Brief Marriage is a feat of stunning imaginative empathy, a meditation on the bare elements of human existence that give life its pulse and purpose, even in the face of atrocity.

Abide with Me

The Dry

Every Wild Heart

Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M.: Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and The Dawn of the Modern Woman

The Night the Lights Went Out

The Story of a Brief Marriage

In Farleigh Field: A Novel of World War II

Jane Steele

A Portrait of Emily Price

 

 

Yesterday, I posted reviews of the other books (books in a series) that I read since January. Don’t forget to check those out. You can also read reviews of everything that I read in January here. Then you can get my take on everything that I’ve been reading so far this year. The year is basically half over!

Come back tomorrow for a full review on Katherine Reay’s newest book, The Austen Escape, which I received from NetGalley! You’ll be able to pick it up this fall.

And let me know what you’re planning on reading this summer in the comments because I have a long list that I don’t mind making it longer!

Categories: Book Review, What I Read Last Month Tags: , ,
What I’ve Been Reading: February-June (Series Edition)

I’m back! I’ve been reading up a storm. I am going to take a short break from enjoying my new Kindle Paperwhite, as well as working my way through Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Summer Reading List, to jot down a few book reviews.

Confession: None of these books were read in February. Somehow I didn’t finish a single book that month, according to my Goodreads account (you can add me as a friend there!). But, I have a sneaking suspicion that I read a some during the month, since I finished a few books in Early March!

Instead of grouping these by the date that I read them, I’m going to put the all of the series/books with with the same authors in this post, and write about the other books next!

Like always, I hope that you find something awesome to read! Most of them are easy/YA reads. And honestly, most of these are not great literature. However, you may find something really entertaining:

A Hundred Summers

Review: 4 Stars

I adore Williams. I thought that I had read all of her novels, but realized that I overlooked this one because it wasn’t available through my library. So, I spent an audible credit and enjoyed it.
It was slower to start, but I was VERY invested in the characters and outcome of the story by the end.

A Certain Age

Review: 3 Stars

Not my favorite book by Williams. I usually read her books in 2 days (or less!). I had to push to finish this one. Like usual, Williams incorporated her normal characters, even if tangentially.

 

The Wicked City

Review: 3 Stars

I would give this a 3.5, really. I wanted a slightly more fulfilling ending. I wish I could write more, but it wasn’t that memorable.

 

The Gossip Girl Series (1-3):

I watched a few seasons of the series, but it was so confusing and windy. However, I read that the books were really different from the show. In the books, the parents are barely around, which makes the books almost a different creation. I have to wonder if the show might have been better if they took the parents out.

I rated these books all 3 stars, but they were really more like 2.5 star books. They were entertaining, yet I do not recommend these unless you know that these are your cup of tea.

 

A Mourning Wedding (Daisy Dalrymple #13)

&

Fall of a Philanderer (Daisy Dalrymple #14)

Of course, I read two Daisy Dalrymple novels! I have to read cozy mysteries. I had meant to read the newest Maisie Dobbs that came out this year, but I haven’t read it yet. However, I read these two, numbers 13 & 14.

They were great novels, if you like the series. If you are looking for a new cozy mysteries series because you’ve already read all of them, read this series!

Famous in Love (Famous in Love #1)

Truly, Madly, Famously (Famous in Love #2)

 

I picked up these Young Adult novels after the TV show came out. The first book left a lot of questions, so I picked up the second one. It seemed to wrap up nicely at the second end of the novel, but a third novel would be fun!

Famous In Love: 3 Stars

A highly entertaining, easy read. At first, I was concerned that I did not read this before I watch the TV series based on the book. However, I think that the television series is actually better than the book. The writers for the TV series really created something out of nothing. They created subplots and much more complex characters than this book offers.
The only thing that was nice about writing a book was that I could actually get into the main characters head and hear her reasoning.
The setting for this book was different than the TV series, the love triangle was different than the TV series, the ages were even different from the TV series. And there was a tiny subplot forming at the end of the novel–maybe. It was not a book of lies and deceit. It was really a book about love and accidentally getting famous.
I decided to read the second novel out of curiosity.

Truly Madly Famously: 3 Stars

Again, highly entertaining. More of a 2.5 star. This was my second YA novel in a row, but these two were my first in a very long time. I was more than a little bit in awe of how “they” managed to create an entire TV show with subplots with older characters who barely resemble the ones in the books.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before #1)

&

P.S. I Still Love You (To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before #2)

 

Again, I picked up another YA series. I read a lot of books over the past few months, so it has been interesting to put all of the series books together and find out that most of them were YA! I read the first 2 of the 3 books in this series. I read them each in a day.

I enjoyed how the author incorporated the fact that the main character was Korean and her non-Korean father tried to keep her close to her heritage, despite the fact that her mother had passed away. I thought that the details about celebrating Korean holidays made the book more interesting than just a book about a girl with two sisters and who wrote some love letters!

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before #1): 3 Stars

This was highly entertaining. I definitely identified with the main character–the levels of embarrassment that you can feel as a teenager cannot be replicated in adulthood, but maybe neither can than sense of joy.
Also, I was that girl who preferred to like guys from afar, like Laura Jean. However, I never actually got close to them in HS, like her.
Overall, this was a fun YA novel. I would recommend it to anyone from 8th grade up who is looking for a fun way to pass the time without a TV. In fact, I’m surprised that they haven’t made it into a a movie or something!

P.S. I Still Love You (To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before #2): 3 Stars

Super entertaining. A great YA book and second book for the series. I would recommend this series to someone who is tired of TV, but wants a book that is equally entertaining.

Again, I would recommend this to all of my friends at large, but it is a fun series and I will be reading the third novel!

Next up, I am planning on reviewing the rest of the novels that I read February through the present. These novels were just the novels that are part of a series.

This is what I read in my last post! You can read it here.

And let me know what you’re planning on reading this summer in the comments because I have a long list that I don’t mind making it longer!

Categories: Book Review Tags: , ,
What I Read: January 2017


What I Read- January 2017

 

I didn’t read much in December, so I am combining those two books into this post, since they did not need their own post. Additionally, since I am participating in Erin’s Reading Challenge, I separated the reviews by books for the challenge and how many points they were worth and then books that I read for fun! If you read my post with my predicted reads for the challenge, you’ll see that I read almost entirely different books!

reading challenge

Agatha Raisin and the Walkers of Dembley
(Agatha Raisin #4)

agatha raisin

 

+ 5 points. Freebie book

 

Rating: 4

Review: Great mystery that didn’t differ much from the TV show, but I watched it so long ago that I had forgotten the ending.

Die Laughing (Daisy Dalrymple #12)

die laughing

 

+ 20 points. Homonym book

Rating: 4 stars

Review: Finally, maybe some new characters! I love Daisy’s new friends.

The Bookshop on the Corner

the bookshop on the corner

 

+ 15 points. Mostly green cover book

 

Rating: 4 stars

Review: I can’t figure out where the title came from. However, it was much better than I expected. It’s no great work of art, but the entertainment value was high.

I will add that the author’s forward is worth reading. It’s super cute and will resonate with all book lovers!

The Wrong Side of Goodbye

the wrong side of goodbye

 

+ 20 points. Favorite author book

 

Rating: 5 stars

Review: One of my favorite Harry Bosch novels!

What She Knew

what she knew

 

  • 10 points. Starts with a “W” book

Rating: 3.5 stars

Review: 3.5 at best. It’s not one of the better psychological thrillers that I’ve read. I chose to read this because I haven’t read a thriller in awhile. Unfortunately, it was a huge disappointment. While the ending was a surprise, I just didn’t care.

The author didn’t make me care about the mother or the detective. By including two narrators and barely flushing out the detective, I hated the police force.

I only finished it because I needed it for a reading challenge.

The Things We Wish Were True

The Things We Wish Were True

+10 points. Six word title book

 

Rating: 3.5 stars

Review: Strong 3.5. I didn’t rate it a 4 because that’s for a book that I would think about a lot. This was above average, though. I loved the way the author connected everyone in the neighborhood–even through hardships. Maybe redefining family.

other novels

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper

 

Rating: 4 stars

Review: Wow. What an amazing story. I thought it was a bit slow going at first. I didn’t love parts of it, but I was probably identifying with Arthur, who wasn’t loving parts of it either! In the end, it’s a story of enduring love and his journey to realize that. And although he may have lost someone, he gains many more people in the end. That’s not a spoiler. And it was inspiring.

Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own

spinster

 

Rating: 4 Stars

Review: While I don’t share the same worldview as the author, it was interesting to a) learn a lot about famous women of the past and b) how they shaped her worldview. In fact, I couldn’t be much more different from the author, other than my love of reading and writing. The author is a proud Yankee who has had several serious relationships in her life, but now that she is in her 40’s, she is unmarried. I am a month shy of 29, dated a bunch of guys not seriously and married my first real boyfriend when I was 25.

I didn’t take away a lot of facts and dates about the authors she researched. Instead, I took away an overall impression that a woman can be herself, artisticly or otherwise, with or without a relationship–despite what the author might have been trying to communicate.

Modern Lovers

modern lovers

 

Rating: 3 stars

Review: I wanted to love this novel, but I cringed a lot. It was like… get it together people! Why are you all so spoiled and self indulgent?

Along the Infinite Sea (Schuyler Sisters #3)along the infinte sea

 

Rating: 4.5

Review: I couldn’t put this novel down! While it was supposed to be about Pepper, it is mostly about an American who grows up in France and then marries a Nazi. I like that all three Schuyler Sister novels have different formats. Book one vacillates between the past and present, and this third book picks up where Pepper left off in Tiny’s story of book one; book two is a straight forward narrative; book three is finally the furthest in time, around 1966, but is mostly filled with the memories of a woman that Pepper meets.

The tangential connection between the Nazis, Germany, and France is that the woman that Pepper meets has American cousins, who are the very political family that Tiny married into. I loved the story, but I would have loved a novel that centered more on Pepper, since I love reading about the Schuyler sisters!

I’ve never really explained my thought process behind the criteria below, so here it is.

Read These: These are books that I would recommend to almost any friend or person without knowing much about their reading habits.

If You Have Time: These are books that I would recommend to someone, if I knew about what he or she liked to read. These books are more genre specific or niche books. Or, they are books that I would not tell people not to stay away from, but they aren’t high on my recommendation list.

Don’t Bother: These are books that I would never recommend to a friend. They are usually books that I wish that I hadn’t finished reading!

read these

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper

Along the Infinite Sea (And the entire Schuyler Sisters series)

if you have time

Daisy Dalrymple Series

Agatha Raisin Series

The Bookshop on the Corner

don't bother smaller

What She Knew

Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own

Modern Lovers

 

Please note that comments with links that are not relevant to the discussion will not be approved. Personal signatures with blog URLs will be deleted. Please use the Disqus profile to add your blog’s URL, so that I can find you.

Categories: What I Read Last Month Tags: , , ,
Fitbit: Moving on for More Endurance

Fitbit

So, I went on a short trip to New Orleans before Christmas this year. However, the stress of packing, flying, and getting to the hotel was painful. So, by the time we walked a little over half a mile to the tourist area of the city, even my abs were on fire!

My in-laws have a timeshare and are letting us use the one in NYC this spring. This is a trip of a lifetime for me. However, I don’t want to ruin my next trip by crying when the restaurant for dinner is too far away. I want to see everything there that I want to see. I only saw a fraction of what I wanted to see in New Orleans because I needed to lay down. I was able to see my old friend, take a tour around Jackson Square, and go out for a fancy dinner. I missed getting to ride on the trolley, I didn’t get to go where the locals listen to jazz, I didn’t get to stay up late.

While my next trip is a few month away, I decided to go slowly and build up my stamina. If you want to be my friend on Fitbit, add backtocarolinablog@gmail.com – I love to see what other people are doing! I started with 100 steps my first day and I’ve added at least 100 steps each day. One day, I got close to 2k steps, when we went out to dinner and saw a movie, but another night, after a poor night of sleep I may only hit 500 steps. As of writing, my goal for today is a solid 500 steps. If I add 100 steps each day, by Sunday, January the 29, I should be walking 1400 steps a day.

My goal is to show myself grace–if I get up to 2k steps a day, but fall back to 500 steps, I won’t push myself to get right back to 2k. As long as I build endurance, I am winning.

In 2014, I used a Jawbone while I was working, and it helped me lose 30+ pounds! This time I just want to build up my core muscles and leg muscles. I wouldn’t mind dropping a few pounds.

And to get everything kicked off, I bought a new pair of running (aka WALKING) shoes and Superfeet inserts. I had been using the green inserts, but the people at Fleet Feet were super helpful and found inserts with the same support but they weren’t as thick, so I didn’t come sliding out of my shoes. If you aren’t familiar with Superfeet inserts, they are amazing. The green ones have the highest arch support.

asics dynaflyte womens

They shoes are NOT my favorite colors. I mean, what’s up with alllllll the crazy colors at the running store? However, I love the lightweight shoes. They make it super easy to have the support that I need.

fitbit alta

I ended up with the purple FitBit Alta. However, I’m not loving the purple band. If you have a Fitbit Alta, have you gotten replacement bands? Has anyone gotten the really big gold plated cuff? I’m thinking about it… I would just like something that looks nicer and doesn’t capture dirt within a week. I happened to have a purple manicure when I purchased this, but I don’t want to be stuck with the same nail polish color.

gold cuff

So, as I write this, I’m far behind in my goal of 500 steps for today. So, I am going to hop off and get ready to accompany my husband to one of those office stores to get a new chair in order to get steps tonight!

Leave me your tips on getting in steps when you literally have nowhere to go (don’t have a job, don’t have many reasons to leave the house, etc.), add me as a friend on Fitbit by looking me up via email backtocarolinablog@gmail.com, and if you have any NYC travel tips, I’ll take those, too! Especially, I don’t want to dress like a tourist, but I need to stay cool and keep my arches supported. Shorts and Adias sneakers? Dresses and Adias sneakers?

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Categories: Uncategorized
What Happened in 2016?

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I was cleaning up my about me page when I realized that I had nothing written for 2016! Since I only blogged a handful of times during 2016, I made the yearly recap a little bit longer than normal, so I could include a few highlights that I normally would have posted!
On the first day of 2016, I was diagnosed with EDS III, which is a genetic condition that I have suffered from my entire life. The diagnosis explained a lot of my medical issues. You can read about that here.

After I was diagnosed, I didn’t blog much. In fact, I blogged a few times that month and then called it quits. I stopped reading, so I didn’t have books to review. I mostly watched Netflix while I suffered. I used knee braces and a wheelchair in order to leave the house and have any type of social life with my husband. Skinny jeans, while cute, don’t accommodate the massive knee braces that I need, I appreciated the 3 weeks that I could wear linen blend pants.

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This was one of the few weeks that I got to go out during the spring, without my wheelchair, but you can see the braces under my pants. However, that’s my all time favorite necklace!

A huge shout out to the band Judah and the Lion. Not only are they one of my favorite bands, but when I mentioned on Instagram that I had anticipated going to their show for my 28th birthday, but the venue wasn’t accommodating for my wheelchair.

When I emailed, the venue said that I could put my wheelchair in “the hallway” and never followed up with me, even though 6 months before that, when I emailed with the same venue about their “gold seats” for another act–they don’t always have seating–they sent a follow up email within 10 minutes of explaining the seats to me to ask if I had purchased them yet! Obviously, this venue was only interested in my business if I was paying more. The band gave me VIP tickets and their helpers/people who perform with them on the road (I don’t know the technical term) put my wheelchair in the best place in the room. I skipped the braces and hobbled up for our group shot that I’m including below because they are STAND UP dudes, who make amazing music. I figured that it was my one chance for a photo with Judah and the Lion, so I wasn’t going to be sitting!

And, per my doctor’s orders, my husband and I went all over Charlotte to find new coffee shops and things that I could do in my limited capacity. We even took the dogs one day! She enjoyed it for… 5 minutes.

spring-2016-collage

I continued to not blog during the summer because I was EXHAUSTED. PT twice a week, plus more doctors appointments! I was so tired that I was a hazard driving, so my poor mom had to drive an hour from her house to take me my appointments. It paid off because I got to dress up fancy and attend my brother-in-law’s wedding in Mississippi. I did enjoyed slow dancing, remembering some group dances (wow, those are exhausting), remembering the words to every classic song ever, and made sure that my husband fulfilled his best man duties by decorating the car. I felt so sick the next day because my husband stepped on one of my bare feet and I kicked myself in the ankle on the other foot. I was glad that I had a wheelchair!

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The fall past quickly with more doctor visits, homecoming, and our regular fall rituals. A new one, though, was getting anniversary photos taken. While I loved our wedding photographers, I wasn’t very happy with how I looked on our wedding day, so we hired a local friend to do a take 2!

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We ended the year by flying into New Orleans, where we stayed for a few nights, seeing the WWII Museum, getting beignets, visiting an old friend, and using Uber more than a normal person should–I really should have started a walking program to build up more endurance. Two days before Christmas, my in-laws, who live nearby picked us up and took us back to their home for the rest of the holidays.

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Christmas Eve Service

Overall, 2016 was a tough year. I dealt with getting treatment with something that should have been being treated for 27 years. I had to make the decision to walk away from our church, where it was the one place that I kept trying to make friends because I realized that it was hurting me, but no one there really cared or understood. No, the way that it’s hard for me to get dressed and out of the door is not the same as the way it is hard for you to get ready to go places with your 2 year old daughter. Not even the same ballpark.

2016 was a year of finding new music that I love, new authors to enjoy, new TV shows to laugh at, and still being amazed at lucky I feel to have my dogs in my life. Like, how did I literally get the two best dogs on the planet at once? 2016 meant letting go of people, letting go of possessions (donating clothes as fast as my bum arm will let me!), and saying no to things that I don’t need in my life. Not every medical treatment is needed all of the time. There is such a thing as too many appointments, especially when you need a lot of sleep.

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We are looking forward to 2017. We are hoping to move in 2018 (I’m sick, so we can’t rush these things!) and find not just better community, but any community, better medical care, and be closer to family and friends who are in similar situations to what I am in. I believe that living in an area that has a community of doctors that treat both of my conditions will lead to a better quality of life because not only will I find treatment, but I will find fellow patients. I am alone here.

I am looking forward to feeling a decluttered house. Unlike most people, I can’t just declutter. It takes a lot of time and even more help. Its one step forward and two steps back when I knock everything off of the counter because I tripped over my own feet. But, it will look good and feel even better. I am saying “no” to samples when I order beauty products online if I know that I won’t use them. REALLY.

My shoulder is getting worse, so I can’t play my flute, but I am going to try to find the energy to pick my oboe back up. I am always looking for a way to add structure, but not beat myself up when I accidentally sleep until 5 PM. Hell, I’m going to try to shower regularly. Life is an uphill battle, but I have a really good team on my side.

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He’s the most handsome member of the team.

This is just what I’ve been doing. If you follow me on Instagram, you probably saw most of what went on last year–the fun stuff–not the heartbreak. But, I hope to come back with book reviews and maybe an insightful comment or two!

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Categories: Updates Tags:
2017 Classic Reading Challenge Picks

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1. A 19th Century Classic – any book published between 1800 and 1899.

Silas Marner (1861)

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I love George Eliot. I can’t wait to read this!

2. A 20th Century Classic – any book published between 1900 and 1967. All books MUST have been published at least 50 years ago to qualify. The only exception is books written at least 50 years ago, but published later, such as posthumous publications.

A Passage to India (1924)

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I haven’t loved all of the E.M. Forster things that I have read, but I am going to finally give this a try. I started it awhile ago.

3. A classic by a woman author.

Frenchman’s Creek (1941)

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I love Daphne du Maurier! Why not read another one of her novels. I have not read this one, fortunately.

4. A classic in translation. Any book originally written published in a language other than your native language. Feel free to read the book in your language or the original language. (You can also read books in translation for any of the other categories).

One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967)

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Finally, this novel is 50 years old. I am not usually a big fan of literature that is translated into English, but, I didn’t hate the last book that I read by this author.

5. A classic published before 1800. Plays and epic poems are acceptable in this category also.

Evelina (1778)

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This novel is a little bit long, but I have ALL year!

6. An romance classic. I’m pretty flexible here about the definition of romance. It can have a happy ending or a sad ending, as long as there is a strong romantic element to the plot.

The Pursuit of Love (1945)

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A Mitford book has been on my list FOREVER! I read a great biography about the family, so it will be great to read one of her novels.

7. A Gothic or horror classic.

Rebecca

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This will be a reread for me, but who doesn’t love Rebecca?

8. A classic with a number in the title. Examples include A Tale of Two Cities, Three Men in a Boat, The Nine Tailors, Henry V, Fahrenheit 451, etc.

Two on a Tower (1882)

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This is the only Hardy novel that I haven’t read, and fortunately, it has a number in the title!

9. A classic about an animal or which includes the name of an animal in the title. It an actual animal or a metaphor, or just the name. Examples include To Kill a Mockingbird, Of Mice and Men, The Metamorphosis, White Fang, etc.

Of Mice and Men (1937)

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I have read one Steinbeck novel, which was wonderful. So, I am looking forward to this one!

10. A classic set in a place you’d like to visit. It can be real or imaginary: The Wizard of Oz, Down and Out in Paris and London, Death on the Nile, etc.

Dubliners (1914)

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I read some of these short stories a long time ago. However, it’s been 15+ years. Ireland would be my dream vacation, so what’s better than a book called Dubliners?

11. An award-winning classic. It could be the Newbery award, the Prix Goncourt, the Pulitzer Prize, the James Tait Award, etc. Any award, just mention in your blog post what award your choice received.

The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1920)

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I love Agatha Christie and this novel won Audie Award for Mystery (1997).

12. A Russian Classic. 2017 will be the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, so read a classic by any Russian author.

Lolita (1955)

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I have had this book on my list forever. Time to finally read it! I normally don’t reach for Russian authors.

Thank you to Karen from Books and Chocolate for hosting this!

Don’t forget that you can also sign up to win/read along–you can even win if you don’t finish the entire list! Just go to this site and sign up ASAP!

 

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Categories: Reading Challenge
The Classics Club: Mission Completed

The Classics Club

Well, I completed my mission on time, but I’m a few days late in posting it! Two years ago, I posted that I would read 50 classic books in 2 years. In fact, I read 51 classic books! I accomplished it!

I didn’t write a review for every single book, but I wrote a lot of reviews.

So, I won’t recap all of the reviews–if you’ve been following the blog, I parsed out contemporary and classic novels apart from each other in the monthly reviews. I didn’t write as many round up classic reviews as I would have liked, due to my illnesses!

Without further ado, here is what I read between 12/24/14 and 12/24/16 (starting with the most recently finished and ending with the first one that I read):

Lady Of Quality, Georgette Heyer

Little Women (Little Women, #1), Louisa May Alcott

Northanger Abbey, Jane Austen

Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen

Partners in Crime (Tommy and Tuppence #2), Agatha Christie

Persuasion, Jane Austen

The Warden (Chronicles of Barsetshire #1), Anthony Trollope

Why Shoot a Butler?, Georgette Heyer

Black Sheep, Georgette Heyer

The Corinthian, Georgette Heyer

Cotillion, Georgette Heyer

April Lady, Georgette Heyer

Friday’s Child, Georgette Heyer

The Bostonians, Henry James

Romola, George Eliot

The Nonesuch, Georgette Heyer

The Reluctant Widow, Georgette Heyer

Where Angels Fear to Tread, E.M. Forster

Ruth, Elizabeth Gaskell

Jamaica Inn, Daphne du Maurier

A Civil Contract, Georgette Heyer

The Way We Live Now, Anthony Trollope

Mary Anne, Daphne du Maurier

Sprig Muslin, Georgette Heyer

The King’s General, Daphne du Maurier

The Moonstone, Wilkie Collins

The House of Mirth, Edith Wharton

The American, Henry James

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, Carson McCullers

Charity Girl, Georgette Heyer

Venetia, Georgette Heyer

The Woodlanders, Thomas Hardy

Cousin Kate, Georgette Heyer

In Cold Blood, Truman Capote

The Professor, Charlotte Brontë

The Woman in White, Wilkie Collins

Wessex Tales, Thomas Hardy

The End of the Affair, Graham Greene

The Convenient Marriage, Georgette Heyer

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Tales of the Jazz Age, F. Scott Fitzgerald

Adam Bede, George Eliot

The Sound and the Fury, William Faulkner

This Side of Paradise, F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Talented Mr. Ripley (Ripley, #1), Patricia Highsmith

Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert

Lady Chatterley’s Lover, D.H. Lawrence

The Beautiful and Damned, F. Scott Fitzgerald

Cranford, Elizabeth Gaskell

Daisy Miller, Henry James

Little Men (Little Women, #2), Louisa May Alcott

The Awakening, Kate Chopin

 

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Categories: Book Review, Reading Challenge
Erin’s 2017 Reading Challenge

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I am super excited to be joining Erin’s book challenge! I spent the first few days of December putting together my list of possible books. You can join the Facebook group and read more about the 2017 Reading Challenge on her blog here.

Here are the categories and my choices!

+ 5 points. Freebie book:

The Family Way by Rhys Bowen

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+ 10 points. Starts with a “W” book

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

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+10 points. Six word title book

The Masque of the Black Tulip by Lauren Willig

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+ 15 points. Mostly green cover book:

The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan or

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The Summer Queen by Elizabeth Chadwick

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+ 20 points. Homonym book

Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye

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+ 20 points. Favorite author book:

The Wrong Side of Goodbye (Harry Bosch, #21) Michael Connelly

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+ 25 points. Book Set in City/State where you live (South Carolina):

The Underground Railroad

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+ 30 points Rory Gilmore Book

Emma by Jane Austen

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+ 30 points. Genre not usually read book (self help/non fiction):

This Is Where You Belong: The Art and Science of Loving the Place You Live by Melody Warnick

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+ 35 points. Time travel book:

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain

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So, these are my picks, but they are totally changeable. Do you have any other suggestions? What would you pick?

 

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Categories: Reading Challenge Tags: , ,
What I Read: November 2016

What I Read November 2016

 

The Vicious Vet (Agatha Raisin #2)

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Rating: 4 Stars

Review: I enjoyed this quick little story. It is nice to read one of these every few novels.

The Girls

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Rating: 5 Stars

Review: I absolutely loved this novel. I am kicking myself for waiting months to get it from the library instead of just buying it, considering the glowing reviews that my friends were giving it. Do yourself a favor and buy this. If you’ve ever been a teenage girl/woman navigating the dating scene or interacting with men in the workplace or really men in general, so much of this novel will resonate with you. Cline’s observations are spot on. Her thoughts are beautifully woven into an interesting tale of a 1970s cult and murder.

Elizabeth Is Missing

elizabeth-is-missingRating: 3 Stars

Review: I started reading this because I was in the mood for a thriller, which is a genre that I have not read and I have while. This is a touching and sad story, it is not a thriller. It’s a good book, but it would not be one of the first that I would recommend to my friends. If you are in avid reader who reads widely and is running low on things to pick up, then pick this up.

I was definitely disappointed because it had been on my list for you while and someone on MMD’s podcast said it was one of their current favorite novels, so I was expecting something a little more spectacular.

Scrappy Little Nobody

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Rating: 4.5 Stars

Review: So funny! The reading guide at the end was a treat! I listened to the audible version that Kendrick read herself, which made it even better! I could write an entire post on this book, but I don’t want to give away the good parts. Just read it.

Agatha Raisin and the Potted Gardener(Agatha Raisin #3)

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Rating: 4 Stars

Review: Loved this little book. I can’t quite remember, but I think it has a different ending than the TV show, which I watched first, so that was even better.

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis

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Rating: 5 Stars

Review: Do yourself a favor and read this. I don’t really want to give anything away, but I love how the author started his memoir with grandparents and their early lives and then followed his own life. He ties his own story into a larger narrative about people from Appalachia, using studies, statistics, and anecdotes.

Take Six Girls: The Lives of the Mitford Sisters

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Rating: 4 Stars

Review: Very thoroughly research. It was an interesting look at the sisters, as well as the time period. I would recommend reading Nancy Mitford’s novels before picking up this book, but it is by no means necessary. Two of her later and more popular novels are sitting on my bookshelf unread, and I did not know that they wore her later novels or even her more popular novels before I read this biography. I do think I would have appreciated the story more, though, if I could have drawn on the plots of her novels, which are thinly veiled stories about her family.

However, the author of this biography does a wonderful job of taking snippets from all of her novels, which I would never take the time to read or probably be able to get my hands on, and interjects them into the narrative of the biography.

When I do read Love in a Cold Climate and The Pursuit of Love, The fiction will mean a lot more to me than it would have before. Also, I am inspired to track down a few of her earlier works. Additionally, other sisters did write, so you could always pick up one of their books.

read these

The Girls

Scrappy Little Nobody

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis

 

if you have time

Take Six Girls: The Lives of the Mitford Sisters

Agatha Raisin Series

 

don't bother smaller

 

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Categories: What I Read Last Month