What’s the Point of Healthy Living?

I’ve made a concentrated effort to not talk about healthy living on my blog as much as I used to. Mainly because my attempts to write about this topic never seemed to have much use, other than to complain about how hard it is. And to make excuses for why I’m not losing weight. I could write an entire post doing both right now, if I wanted to.

But I don’t want to. Because I’m tired of complaining and making excuses. I’m tired of feeling that I’m just not good enough because I can’t seem to get it. I’m tired of feeling sad when I look in the mirror, discontent about who I am as a person because there’s too much of me in my reflection.

I think the crux of any healthy living journey is not so much about the physical. It’s not about exercising more, drinking more water, eating more fruits and veggies, eating less processed food, calorie counting, or portion control.

The crux of a healthy living journey begins when we start taking a good, long, hard look at ourselves and discover that the way we treat ourselves, the way we talk about ourselves, and the way we believe our worth has more to do with the number on the scale than who we are inside is where it all begins.

I’m not very kind to myself. I berate myself when I mess up and don’t work out on a day I said I would. I whisper lies to myself when I’m standing in the bathroom, looking at my naked reflection and hating every single inch of my skin. I tell myself that I am not worthy to be loved. That I am useless because I’m not following a healthy lifestyle. I wonder on a daily basis why people even like me – because I am fat. And fat equals unlikeable somehow, at least in my mind.

The truth of the matter is that I know these are lies. I know I am a wonderful person. I am smart and funny and kind to others. I make people laugh, I lift their spirits. I’m a hard worker and a go-getter. I’m understanding and trustworthy. My weight has no bearing on the person I am inside. If I lost 50 lbs and really embraced a healthy lifestyle like I keep saying I want to, my worth would not change. Skinny people are no more worthy of love, attention, and affection than overweight people. We are all worthy. We are all deserving.

For the longest time, my attempts at losing weight have been less about being healthier and more about finding my worth on the scale. I thought that if I was skinnier, if I didn’t have weight problems, my life would magically be better. As if the only thing holding me back from living a life I loved was my weight.

It’s probably because I’ve been told this, time and time again, in the media and on reality TV shows (The Biggest Loser is such a dangerous show to watch when you struggle with weight-related self-image problems). I’ve been told that being overweight holds us back from so much – love, friendship, travel, happiness – and that once we lose the weight, everything will fall into place! Like magic.

Now, in a sense, that’s true. Because you develop more self-confidence and a greater appreciation for your life and yourself by going through a tough weight loss journey. I’m not denying that. But I also think the true weight loss journey begins when we begin to unpack the lies we tell ourselves about who we are. And realize that healthy living is a form of self-care, not a form of self-torture.

Healthy living is not about denying ourselves what we want. Or pushing our bodies to the absolute limit in our workouts, yet feeling incredibly guilty for missing one day of exercise. Or following a restrictive diet (a diet that seems all too prevalent in the healthy living blogger community, if I must be honest.)

Healthy living is about choosing to take care of ourselves. It’s one of the greatest acts of self-care. That’s the point of health living. And when healthy living becomes more about feeling better inside than it does about looking better outside, that’s when change happens. That’s when we begin to restructure the way we talk about ourselves and our bodies. And, in turn, begin to choose whole foods and find exercise routines that fulfill us because we want to, not because we feel we have to in order to live up to some skinny ideal.

do want to lose weight. But more than that, I want to be kinder to myself. Because I deserve that. Because my worth doesn’t change, no matter what the scale says. Because good god can we stop being so damned obsessed with our bodies and our weight and how we look? Does it really matter in the long run? Is this what people on their death beds worry about? No. Not at all. Not even a little bit. What matters is how we lived, how we treated others and ourselves.

The point of healthy living is about so much more than the calories we consume and the workouts we accomplish. I don’t need to lose weight because it means I’ll be a better human being if I do so. It’s not about checking off a goal on the list. The point of healthy living is feeding my body good, whole foods because I appreciate my body and all it does for me, and because I want to treat it well. It’s about exercising in a way that makes me feel good – not because I feel I have to, but because I want to, because I know I am improving my heart health and overall well-being.

And the point of healthy living is also about how we treat ourselves. The words we say to ourselves, in the quiet of a bathroom as we stare at our reflection. And the berating? The whispered lies? That is something I’m no longer going to accept. I wouldn’t be friends with someone who called me fat or lazy or worthless or dumb. So why do I not hold myself to the same standards? We have to hold ourselves to the same standards.

Healthy living? It’s something I don’t have a complete grasp on. But I’m continually working towards it. And I’m working towards it because I want to treat my body – and myself – well, not because I have to in order to prove my worth.

On Being a Good Girl

I was the kid who never needed a curfew. Who once grounded herself because she wanted to know what it felt like. Who never stepped foot in detention or a principal’s office. Who rarely talked back to her mom… and would feel intense amounts of guilt anytime she did.

My mom never once worried about where I was, who I was with, what I was doing. I was the quintessential good girl. I didn’t drink, I didn’t party, and I’ve never done drugs. I’ve never been grounded, and the only time I was ever in serious trouble (I can’t even remember the reason), my mom opted to take the computer and my books away from me. (IT WAS AWFUL, YOU GUYS. AWFUL. AWFUL. AWFUL.)

I’ve been thinking a lot about the plight of the good girl, lately. It’s part of my identity and there are times that I wear my good girl persona as a badge of honor and times when I wish I had been a little more badass, gotten myself into a little more trouble, had cooler stories to tell friends.

Being a good girl is something that has followed me into adulthood. I am a bona fide rule follower. My library books are never late. I only cross the street if the pedestrian signal is flashing. I pay my bills on time. I won’t even jay walk!

I wonder a lot about how I ended up the way I did. Why didn’t I veer off onto a different path, especially considering my childhood. I’ve written about it a few times on the blog, so I don’t want to rehash all of that. My home life was messy. I didn’t have a normal childhood, which is what makes me wonder how I decided to veer on the straight and narrow, to harness the personality of a good girl, rather than something… else.

I think the easiest explanation is that I needed control. There was a lot about my childhood that felt out of control, so being a good girl was something I could have total control over. I could control my schooling and being the best student possible. I could control being the best child, to lessen the stress my mom was under and to hopefully earn my dad’s love. And that’s what I did. I threw myself into schoolwork and I tried to be the very best daughter for my parents. That I could control.

And it worked out for me. It really did. I graduated from high school with honors. I paid my way through college, graduating with honors. I’ve held down two post-grad jobs, excelling in both. I’ve forged friendships with people who are similar to me – I don’t have time for people who are more concerned with drama or getting wasted on the weekends or any of that. I just don’t. It doesn’t appeal to me. And sure, maybe I could have had more interesting stories to tell if I’d been less of a good girl. My good girl persona extends to my dating life and how I am very selective about the type of people I choose to date, to which someone once told me, “That’s boring.” Yep. It is. And I am proud to be boring to some people. Bring on the boring.

Being the good girl is just who I am. I’m proud of that child who threw herself into school and being good, rather than boys and finding her worth in other people. I’m proud of the woman I have become – someone who appreciates who she is. Someone who has created a life she really loves. And, though I know rules are meant to be broken every now and then, it also doesn’t mean my story is any less interesting if they aren’t.

Book Review: About a Girl by Lindsey Kelk

About a GirlAbout a Girl by Lindsey Kelk is the perfect beach read. It’s a chick-lit novel that is light and fun and hilarious, but also has incredible character development and a fast-moving plot. This novel gave me this insatiable desire to keep reading and reading. In fact, I think I read the last 40% in one sitting – and that rarely happens with me. I typically read in pockets of time – 10 minutes here, 5 minutes there – but with this book, I spent a Friday afternoon curled up in bed, reading. It was perfect.

What I loved the most about the novel was the characters. They were so well-developed, so easy to like, and the development they went through throughout the novel felt very natural. I adored the main character, Tess, so much. She was such a fun character, and I could completely relate to her.

I felt like the plot moved along at an authentic pace. It was a bit slow in the beginning, but that was necessary for scene setting and understanding the character better. But once the meat of the story hit, it didn’t slow down and I just devoured the novel. I loved the situations that Tess got herself into, and I really appreciated it wasn’t silly-stupid stuff that authors tend to want their chick-lit heroines to get into (I’m looking at you, Sophie Kinsella!) The situations felt pretty normal and really added to the crux of the novel.

I think the only thing I didn’t like was the cliffhanger ending. I don’t really like cliffhanger endings – I always think there is a more natural way for authors to end a book that is a part of a series. And this ending seemed a bit contrived.

I still gave this novel 5 stars because of the way it gripped me and the fact that I had such trouble putting the novel down! A must read, if you love chick-lit type novels!

About a Girl summary from Goodreads:

Tess Brookes has always been a Girl with a Plan. But when the Plan goes belly up, she’s forced to reconsider.

After accidently answering her flatmate Vanessa’s phone, she decides that since being Tess isn’t going so well, she might try being Vanessa. With nothing left to lose, she accepts Vanessa’s photography assignment to Hawaii – she used to be an amateur snapper, how hard can it be? Right?

But Tess is soon in big trouble. And the gorgeous journalist on the shoot with her, who is making it very clear he’d like to get into her pants, is an egotistical monster. Far from home and in someone else’s shoes, Tess must decide whether to fight on through, or ‘fess up and run…

You can connect with Lindsey Kelk on her website, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Her book is available to buy from Amazon, IndieBound, and Barnes & Noble

Click here to add this book to Goodreads!

I received this book for free from TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review. All words and opinions, unless otherwise stated, are my own.

No affiliate links were used in this post.

Do you like cliffhanger endings?

Book Review: I Don’t Have a Happy Place by Kim Korson

downloadI Don’t Have a Happy Place by Kim Korson is a memoir, a collection of personal essays on Korson’s life, starting with childhood and continuing through adulthood. The essays are eclectic and you get a glimpse into Korson’s mind – the way she thinks, the way she reacts, the way she imagines. It’s funny, but there’s this underlying sadness and melancholy that envelopes each essay. (Not surprisingly, as the tagline for the book is “Cheerful Stories of Despondency and Gloom.”)

I really enjoyed reading about Korson’s childhood. She had an interesting one, and I especially loved reading about her time in summer camp. I have this insatiable curiosity about summer camp and reading stories about that time in a person’s life – mainly because I never had the chance to go to summer camp and wish I could have gone! (Though I’m 99% sure I would have been insanely homesick, haha.) I found my attention waning a bit while reading about her foray into the entertainment world (I just don’t respond to stories about people being outrageously awful at their jobs… it’s not humorous to me) and her marriage.

For me, this book was just okay. I didn’t love it, but I didn’t hate it. It reminded me a lot of Let’s Pretend this Never Happened by Jenny Lawson (aka, The Bloggess), especially towards the latter half of the book where she wrote about marriage and family. So, if you loved that book, then you would definitely enjoy this one!

This is Korson’s first book, and while I thought it was very well-written, but I didn’t find it to be super engaging. I never fully embraced the book, and at a certain point, it all started to feel a little contrived and a bit forced. Still, it was an interesting read and I think if you love reading humorous memoirs, you would definitely enjoy this one.

Goodreads summary: When a trip to the therapist ends with the question “Can’t Kim be happy?” Kim Korson responds the way any normal person would—she makes fun of it. Because really, does everyone have to be happy?

Aside from her father wearing makeup and her mother not feeling well (a lot), Kim Korson’s 1970s suburban upbringing was typical. Sometimes she wished her brother were an arsonist just so she’d have a valid excuse to be unhappy. And when life moves along pretty decently–she breaks into show business, gets engaged in the secluded jungles of Mexico, and moves her family from Brooklyn to dreamy rural Vermont—the real despondency sets in. It’s a skill to find something wrong in just about every situation, but Kim has an exquisite talent for negativity. It is only after half a lifetime of finding kernels of unhappiness where others find joy that she begins to wonder if she is even capable of experiencing happiness.

In I Don’t Have a Happy Place, Kim Korson untangles what it means to be a true malcontent. Rife with evocative and nostalgic observations, unapologetic realism, and razor-sharp wit, I Don’t Have a Happy Place is told in humorous, autobiographical stories. This fresh-yet-dark voice is sure to make you laugh, nod your head in recognition, and ultimately understand what it truly means to be unhappy. Always.

I received a copy of this book for free from Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review. All words and opinions, unless otherwise stated, are my own.

Do you enjoy humorous books/novels?

Currently in April

feeling happy and so darn satisfied with my life right now

anticipating my upcoming cruise (33 days!)

obsessively researching the stops on our cruise and what we’ll do while we’re in port

reading A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra

thinking about my spring/summer capsule wardrobe and what pieces I need to make it complete

finished with apartment hunting – we looked at 13 apartment communities, so I think we were plenty thorough

happy with my workouts lately – lots of cardio intervals on the stationary bike & elliptical at the gym and strength training; I am sore and sweaty following each workout, which feels so good

writing for one hour each morning on the weekends

planning to take a social media/blogging break sometime this summer

using a cash budget system effectively this month

hoping to take two more vacations this year (North Carolina and a short weekend cruise)

cleaning off my makeup each night using makeup removal wipes + cleanser and moisturizer, in the hopes this clears up my skin (it seems to be doing the trick)

wanting to dive back into the online dating world (I needed a break from it all, but I think it’s time to get back out there)

working on my blog a ton, so I can launch my new blog theme sooner rather than later

watching Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

preparing my workload so being gone for a week next month doesn’t put me too far behind (and very thankful that April is 4.5 weeks long, so I can finish up my April deadlines early, and get started on my May deadlines in April!)

wondering if I should get a waterproof case for my point-and-shoot camera for taking pictures underwater during my snorkeling excursion

What are you currently reading, anticipating, and planning?

Five for Friday (v. 41)

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1) Have you heard of Crusoe the Celebrity Dachshund? If not, you should definitely follow him on Instagram and/or Facebook for the cutest pictures and funniest videos. It’s one of my favorite accounts – and not just because Crusoe looks exactly like Dutch. Some of my favorite videos are Cops & Robbers, Fifty Shades of Grey, and Crusoe watching football. (I’m glad to know he’s not a Patriots fan! Haha!) Anyway, Crusoe is vacationing in Florida right now, and he “hosted” a meetup at Fort Desoto Dog Beach, which is a hop, skip, and a jump from me! So, last Saturday, my mom, Dutch, and I met Crusoe and got some pictures. It was so fun! Crusoe was super chill and posed for so many pictures. And it was super nice for his parents to do this for him! :)

2) I had a really wonderful Easter. It was super low-key, which was nice. My mom and I invited my grandparents over, as well as my brother and his family, for sandwiches. (My mom also made homemade potato salad, which is SO YUM and I’ve been eating leftovers of it all week!) My newest nephew slept the entire time, but I was able to have some special one-on-one time with my older nephew. We hunted for eggs and then he decided he wanted to play some games! It blows my mind that he is now old enough to play games AND understand them. He requested for my mom, my brother, me, and him to have a game night soon, and that warms my heart more than anything. My brother, mom, and I used to have regular game nights before Jovy was born, but gave them up once he came into our lives (because Jovy time > game night!) And now we can have game nights again – with the most special little boy! I can’t wait!

3) Did you hear that there’s a new podcast coming that further explores Adnan Syed’s case (a la Serial)? I am really, really excited, and have already made plans with my two coworkers who listened to the podcast to listen to this one together. Obviously, it won’t be nearly as good as Serial and it won’t have the same journalistic appeal that Sarah Koenig brings (and it’s probably going to be incredibly one-sided, since it’s hosted by the attorney that brought the case to Sarah’s attention and who fully believes in Adnan’s innocence), but I am intrigued to hear more about the case and Adnan and the latest happenings.

4) I’m listening to an audiobook currently (Heart of the Matter by Emily Giffin) and I love the reader on this novel so, so much. It’s read by Cynthia Nixon (yes, the Cynthia Nixon!) and she has such a soothing tone to her voice. Plus! She does not make up funny voices for the characters. Her voice may go up a little when she’s reading a line from the little girl or one of the snooty mom’s, but she doesn’t make up these weird low-pitched voices for the men which. I. love. so. much. It’s really so distracting to me when the reader makes up voices. So, yay Cynthia Nixon! Rock on, sister.

5) This weekend is going to be a fun one! Today, a few coworkers and I are going thrift shopping. Tomorrow, I have plans to work on my novel, sit by the pool, and attend a cousin’s birthday party. And Sunday will be low-key: cleaning, grocery shopping, more novel writing, and maybe more pool sitting. Yay!

How was your Easter? Any fun weekend plans?

photo credit

46 Days

It wasn’t until the day before Lent began that I decided what I wanted to give up. I hadn’t even been really thinking about giving up something for Lent because I’m not Catholic and every other time I’ve tried giving something up, I’ve failed miserably.

But the night before, I was sitting in the living room chatting with my mom and I just decided: I would give up sweets at work, and I would also give up soda (all the time, not just at work).

I am so proud to say that I made it through the entire Lenten season without drinking soda or eating sweets at work. Giving up sweets at work wasn’t too much of a struggle. I set up my work-from-home days so I wasn’t in the office on the days where we had cake for birthdays (something we do once a month), and I stayed far, far away from all my coworkers who have candy jars on their desks. (And, thankfully, I think there were only a handful of times where someone brought in a treat to share. I just stayed out of the kitchen until they were gone!)

Giving up soda, though… was so, so tough. I remember when I gave up soda in 2013 for 30 days that once I got over the hump of caffeine withdrawal and cravings, I was fine. No such thing happened this time around. While I didn’t go through caffeine withdrawal (since giving up soda the first time around, I don’t drink it nearly enough to be addicted to the caffeine), the cravings did. not. stop.

I really wanted to come to the end of Lent and feel as if I could cut soda out of my life completely. That was my ultimate goal. But I discovered through this journey that I derive joy from soda. And I know that’s maybe not a good thing, but it’s true. I just enjoy the taste of an ice-cold Dr. Pepper. It makes me happy. That’s what I kept realizing every time a craving hit me – I missed the joy and happiness that Dr. Pepper brings me.

So, I craved soda almost every single day. And goddddd, it was so hard to make it through those cravings. I couldn’t think of making it through six weeks without soda. I had to take it one day at a time. I just had to make it through Monday or Friday or Sunday. That was the only way I made it through the cravings because I honestly wanted to give up within the first week.

I am so proud of myself for not giving in. Because usually, I am the type to give in. Life is too short to not eat/drink/do the things you want, right? Well, sometimes. And sometimes, there’s no more empowering feeling than not giving in. To shutting down the cravings. To telling yourself no.

It’s funny how you don’t really know how capable and strong you are until you give yourself the chance to be that way. I think that’s what I learned the most from these past 46 days. I learned that I can be strong and I can see myself through a challenge, even when it’s so hard that I don’t know if I can make it through the next moment.

I guess it’s a good metaphor for life. Because life gets hard. And you have to keep going on. You have to make it through the difficult moments… the moments when you don’t think you can walk a single step further. But you do. Somehow, you do. And that’s the beauty of life.

Reviewing the First Quarter of the Year

The first quarter of 2015 is complete! These past three months have been really, really good. I’m just very happy with my life right now and where it is going. I think 2015 is shaping up to be a fantastic year.

I thought I would take the time to review the first three months of the year – looking back to detail the successes and the challenges – and to look ahead to the second quarter.

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Q1 Review – What Went Well

  • Giving up a relationship that wasn’t serving me

It wasn’t hard to make the decision to break things off, but there was an initial pang of Oh-my-god-what-have-I-just-done. The realization that I was, once again, single. The worry that I would be single forever, that nobody would ever love me, that I am too much of a mess to handle being in a relationship. And some of that worry is still there, but more than anything, I feel complete peace at being single and I am 100% certain that ending the relationship was the right idea. He wasn’t the person I needed him to be. Simple as that.

  • Going on two super fun trips – St. Augustine and Savannah

Okay, so maybe the trip to St. Augustine was with the aforementioned boy, but we still had lots of fun! I really enjoyed exploring St. Augustine, and I’d love to go back again with my mom (my favorite travel buddy!) to check out the fort and the lighthouse again, along with some other places I didn’t get to see.

And what else can I say about Savannah? It was a wonderful weekend away. That city has a piece of my heart, and I’m glad I was able to enjoy even more of it the second time around. Next time, I want to rent out an apartment or stay at a B&B in the historic district.

  • My nephew was born!

Dominic is the most delightful thing I have ever seen. Well, aside from six-and-a-half years ago when my first nephew was born! Dominic was born a few weeks early at the end of February, and he is a chunker. Which is my favorite. He’s got baby rolls for days.

  • Giving up soda for 46 days

This was such a tough challenge. It was tougher than the time when I quit soda for 30 days back in 2013. But I saw it through to the end and I am so proud of myself!

  • Running a 5k

I didn’t develop a love of running through training for this 5k, but I did it! I’m so glad the race is behind me, and I can focus on other forms of exercise that I like more.

Q1 Review – What Was Challenging

  • Budgeting

Spending within my means, saving money, and paying off debt. It was all hard, hard, hard for the first three months, and I don’t see this tough thing getting any easier over the next 3-6 months as I have a cruise in May and then a move in July. I want to put myself on a strict no-spending “diet,” but I’ve tried that before and I’ve failed miserably time and time again. Something’s gotta give, though.

  • Eating well

I’m trying. I really am. But I’m stuck on this 5-lb plateau where I lose a few pounds and then gain them back, lose a few pounds and then gain them back. While I did give up soda for Lent, as well as eating sweets at work, I still slipped up more than I should have. And while my goal is to one day eat healthy 80% of the time, I’m nowhere near that right now. I’m not meal planning, not making recipes, eating out too often, and allowing myself too many “cheat meals.”

  • Dealing with Dutch’s injury

Dutch is 13 years old, and I am scared on a daily basis of losing him. So, when he injured one of his hind legs in March, I was terrified. Dachshunds have notoriously fragile backs; because their backs are so long, they are at greater risk of injuring them (this is also why an overweight dachshund is such a hazard.) So I was worried he injured his back. But it was simply a pinched nerve and within a week, he was back to his old self. He’s running up and down the stairs like a champ, and even went on a long walk recently and to the dog beach this past weekend so I know he’s back to his old active self.

Looking ahead to Q2 (April, May, and June)

The next three months have a lot to look forward to! In May, I am taking a cruise with my mom and sometime at the end of May or early June, it’ll be time to make a decision on where I’ll be living next. I also really want to focus on budgeting and healthy living. These are two areas of my life that need so much work, and I sometimes get lazy with myself. It’s time to stop making excuses and to start putting in the effort in order to see the results I want.

All that said, I’m setting five manageable goals to accomplish over this next quarter. I decided on four goals that have a definite end date; these are goals that just require a check-mark – Yep! Done! They are somewhat related to the goal categories I set for my monthly goals, and you might see them end up on those monthly reports, but we’ll see. The last goal I set is more of a habit-based goal; something that will take daily or weekly commitment and doesn’t have a specific end date.

Here are the goals I want to accomplish in Q2:

  • Refinance my auto loan.
  • Schedule an appointment with a therapist.
  • Launch a brand-new blog theme.
  • Make a decision on an apartment.
  • Start writing fiction again.

I really like the method of setting quarterly goals rather than yearly goals. Three months gives me enough time to make them ambitious, but I also have to be super specific with them so they are easy enough to accomplish in this time. I think the goals I set are definitely achievable, and I’m excited to see how this next quarter of the year unfolds for me!

What were the highlights of the first quarter of the year for you? What do you have to look forward to over the next three months?

What I Read // March

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And we are in April! I had a fabulous month of reading in March – 10 books read. Though 3 of those books were listened to on audio, which helped bump up my reading count. So far in 2015, I have read 23 books, and am 10 books ahead of the goal I set to read 52 books (which was a low ball number anyway). I’m hoping to reach 75 books read, but we’ll see! I’m also trying to take my time with the books I’m reading, not try to rush through to finish as fast as I can to get to the next book on my list. This month, my favorite book was In the Blood and my least favorite book was The Elite.

Book club selection: In the Blood by Lisa Unger (5 stars)
This book was goooood. It was so, so, so good. It’s a psychological thriller that has a crazy twist about 3/4 of the way in that threw me for a complete loop. It was unlike any kind of twist I could have ever imagined. I finished the novel and wanted to tell everyone in the world how much I loved it. Just… go read this book. Now. It’s fantastic.

Book Riot Read Harder Challenge (audiobook): The Selection by Kiera Cass (3 stars)
This ended up being the first of three audiobooks I would read in March! Readers of audiobooks can make or break the experience, and this one took a little getting used to, but once I did, I found myself easily following the story. The story is impossibly silly and ridiculous… like The Bachelor meets The Hunger Games, maybe? The main character, America, is sassy and easy to like, as is Prince Maxon. I loved the interactions between the two of them. Since this is YA dystopian, obviously there’s some terrible overarching plot to bring a hint of danger into the novel, but I don’t think that was very well-thought-out or well-written. It just seemed… silly? Immediately after finishing this book, though, I requested the second book. This series is complete brain candy, but I can’t quit it!

Book Riot Read Harder Challenge (a book by someone whose gender is different from your own): The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion (4.5 stars)
I had read a lot of mixed reviews about this book, so I went into it with low expectations, which was maybe helpful because I ended up really enjoying it! I just love the character Simsion has created in Don Tillman – he’s so quirky and so unique and I can’t help but love him to pieces. This novel moved at a slow pace, but I found that I didn’t mind it. I just settled in and read slowly. The only thing I didn’t enjoy was Rosie’s character. One of the reviews I read of the novel was that she lost all of her charm from the first book, and I think that is 100% accurate. I just didn’t enjoy her character at all.

TLC Book Tours read: An Uncomplicated Life by Paul Daugherty (4 stars)
You can read my review of this book here.

Others (read for fun!)

Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight (4 stars)
This novel got 4 stars from me because it was fairly impossible to put down. I had to keep reading it until I finished! It’s a mystery, where a mother tries to figure out what happened to lead her teenaged daughter to commit suicide by jumping off the roof of her school. (She’s especially concerned because she gets an anonymous text that informs her that her daughter didn’t jump.) I found the mother to be incredibly unlikeable and a bit unrealistic. And some of the revelations were a bit cliche and one was especially… weird. And made me feel squirmy. But still… if you’re looking for a fast-paced read, this is your book.

The Guy Not Taken by Jennifer Weiner (3 stars)
This was a book of short stories, and it was an okay read. Nothing earth-shattering, no stories that made me especially enthralled. I did like how Weiner brought back some characters from her past books, especially Ruth from The Next Best Thing (my favorite Weiner novel).

The Elite by Kiera Cass (3 stars)
I listened to this novel on audiobook, as I did the first one in the series. This one wasn’t as good as the first one, and I felt like the author was really trying too hard to find conflict and make the novel move forward. Honestly, I think this series would work fine as a stand-alone book. I think there’s way too much unnecessary plot that could have been cut out to make the book more concise. America was a bit more bratty in this novel, which annoyed me, and Prince Maxon did a few things that seemed inauthentic to his character from the first novel.

Delirium by Lauren Oliver (4 stars)
I liked this book all the way up until the ending. The ending left me with mixed feelings, and it makes me a bit hesitant to pick up the next novel in the series. This novel, which is YA dystopian, has an interesting premise: the idea that love is a disease that needs to be cured. At the age of 18, everyone is administered the “cure,” in which they do not have the capability for love any longer. It made me think of everything we do/say/think/feel based on love. I found Lena, the protagonist, to be a bit one-dimensional and a little underwhelming (especially with how she wanted Alex to keep saving her), but I’m hoping she develops more with the second and third book.

Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg (4 stars)
I listened to this on audiobook, and this was the first time I “read” nonfiction this way. While I don’t mind fiction audiobooks, I don’t think nonfiction audiobooks work for me. I think it’s because I’m a visual learner and with nonfiction, I want to take my time to digest the information and highlight and mark passages that resonate with me. That said, I thoroughly enjoyed this novel – much more than I thought I would. I’m not a high-powered career woman (and don’t aspire to be), but I appreciated hearing Sandberg’s thoughts on feminism, the work/life balance, family, and career. I also like how she doesn’t think women just need to lean in to their careers more, but men need to lean into their families more. (I am just as icked out when a father talks about “babysitting” his children as she was!) Anyway, a good read and very thought-provoking!

The Next Best Thing by Kristan Higgins (4 stars)
And then a sweet romance novel to round out my month of reading! I love Kristan Higgins and her novels. They are just feel-good romances that are a bit cheesy, but also a lot of fun. While I didn’t love the main character in this one (she was a little over-the-top at times), I couldn’t put this book down until I got to the end.

book stats // march

# of books read: 10
# of pages read: 3,444
quickest read: The Guy Not Taken (5 days)
longest read: The Elite (9 days)
multicultural: zero
formats: ebooks (2), physical books (5), audiobooks (3)

What was the best book you read in March?

Monthly Goals // April

april goals

Happy April Fool’s Day! I am not much of a prankster, so no jokes from me today. We’ll see if anyone “gets” me, though!

I can’t believe we’re already done with the first quarter of 2015. Next week, I’m planning to review the successes and challenges of the first three months of the year, and set some intentions for the second quarter of 2015. But for today – let’s discuss March and the goals I set:

> finances: utilize a cash budget system for toiletries, eating out, and other entertainment

Nope, this did not happen again this month. This month was a weird one for budgeting because I had some expenses crop up (like a pricey visit to the vet for Dutch) and a vacation at the end of the month. I am going to keep trying to use a cash budget system, but I’m going to move on to some other budgeting goals I want to shoot for.

> nagging task: launch a new blog theme

This did not happen, either, but it mainly relates to the fact that I found the blog theme I want to use, but it requires me figuring out how I want to lay out my blog with categories, pages, etc. The theme has two different navigation bars, and I want to utilize them in the best way possible, which requires cleaning up my categories and tags so I can figure out how best to lay out my blog. I worked on this for hours one weekend and only got about halfway through.

> health: eliminate soda completely from my diet 

Success! As long as I remain strong until Sunday, I will have gone 46 days without drinking one drop of soda. I’m so proud of myself for getting through this huge challenge.

> exploration: enjoy Savannah and eat at Olde Pink House

Success! While my mom and I didn’t get the opportunity to eat at Olde Pink House (they were completely booked on Saturday night, and I waited too long to try and get a reservation), we did enjoy our short trip to Savannah so, so much. I’m thinking we may make that race an annual “girl’s weekend” thing.

> personal habit: buy an alarm clock and stop using my phone right before bed and right as I wake up

I did not do this. To be honest, I didn’t find myself having an issue with being on my phone too long at night and in the morning (I struggled more in February, when I started to use my phone to check the weather, which devolved into my email then Facebook then Instagram then Twitter…)

Okay! So not the best month for my goals. Two out of the five goals completed. But one of those goals was eliminating soda, something I craved throughout the entire month, and I am insanely proud of myself for sticking to this goal. But let’s hope April is more successful, yes? Here are the goals I set:

> finances: don’t use my credit card for any purchases

> nagging task: organize my blogging categories

> health: exercise 5x a week or more

> exploration: enjoy my lady date with Emilie in Orlando

> personal habit: take my vitamins daily

What are you hoping to accomplish in April?