Thursday, January 4, 2018

Books Lately '17: December

I swear I thought I read more last month, but I actually started on books toward the end of the month but didn't finish them yet.  Oh, well.  Cheers to new reads in 2018!

Dark Places, by Gillian Flynn

Description from Amazon:
"Libby Day was seven when her mother and two sisters were murdered in “The Satan Sacrifice of Kinnakee, Kansas.” She survived—and famously testified that her fifteen-year-old brother, Ben, was the killer. Twenty-five years later, the Kill Club—a secret society obsessed with notorious crimes—locates Libby and pumps her for details. They hope to discover proof that may free Ben.

Libby hopes to turn a profit off her tragic history: She’ll reconnect with the players from that night and report her findings to the club—for a fee. As Libby’s search takes her from shabby Missouri strip clubs to abandoned Oklahoma tourist towns, the unimaginable truth emerges, and Libby finds herself right back where she started—on the run from a killer."

I enjoyed reading Gone Girl and had heard this was supposed to be more thrilling and dark but it wasn't as great as I thought it would be.  Sure, there were creepy satanic references and plot twists, but it wasn't as thrilling as I had hoped.  It was a long read and the going back and forth between characters and time periods was cool, but it kinda dragged for me.

A Discovery of Witches, by Deborah Harkness

Description from Amazon:
"Deborah Harkness’s sparkling debut, A Discovery of Witches, has brought her into the spotlight and galvanized fans around the world. In this tale of passion and obsession, Diana Bishop, a young scholar and a descendant of witches, discovers a long-lost and enchanted alchemical manuscript, Ashmole 782, deep in Oxford's Bodleian Library. Its reappearance summons a fantastical underworld, which she navigates with her leading man, vampire geneticist Matthew Clairmont."

I listened to the Audible version of this and really enjoyed it.  It was REALLY long, but interesting.  This story was a lot different than what I usually read and it had a lot of sci-fi, magic, and mythical creatures in it along with a romance, but it was written in a way that wasn't too unbelievable or over-the-top.  I don't know if I'll ever be able to get through a romance book without rolling my eyes and this one was no exception.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Books Lately '17: October & November

The past few months have been busy and I only "read" two books in October, so instead of writing a full post about my measly 2 books, I decided to put it off an combine October and November's reads so that it looks like I accomplished more reading than I actually did.  I mean, not like anyone is keeping score or anything.  Besides myself.  Anyway, here's what I've read recently:


We Should All Be Feminists, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Description from Amazon:
"The highly acclaimed, provocative New York Times bestseller—a personal, eloquently-argued essay, adapted from the much-admired TEDx talk of the same name—from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, award-winning author of Americanah. Here she offers readers a unique definition of feminism for the twenty-first century, one rooted in inclusion and awareness. Drawing extensively on her own experiences and her deep understanding of the often masked realities of sexual politics, here is one remarkable author’s exploration of what it means to be a woman now—and an of-the-moment rallying cry for why we should all be feminists."

Such an amazing and powerful book that I think everyone should read.   Though it was short, it definitely opened my eyes to things I say and do that have a negative effect on the female gender.  Being a mother with two daughters, I want them to grow up knowing that they are equal to men, despite what society may insinuate.  It's never too late to change the way we think and the way we act.

Start with Why, by Simon Sinek

Description from Amazon:
"In 2009, Simon Sinek started a movement to help people become more inspired at work, and in turn inspire their colleagues and customers. Since then, millions have been touched by the power of his ideas, including more than 28 million who’ve watched his TED Talk based on START WITH WHY -- the third most popular TED video of all time.

Sinek starts with a fundamental question: Why are some people and organizations more innovative, more influential, and more profitable than others? Why do some command greater loyalty from customers and employees alike? Even among the successful, why are so few able to repeat their success over and over?

People like Martin Luther King Jr., Steve Jobs, and the Wright Brothers had little in common, but they all started with WHY. They realized that people won't truly buy into a product, service, movement, or idea until they understand the WHY behind it. 

START WITH WHY shows that the leaders who've had the greatest influence in the world all think, act, and communicate the same way -- and it's the opposite of what everyone else does. Sinek calls this powerful idea The Golden Circle, and it provides a framework upon which organizations can be built, movements can be led, and people can be inspired. And it all starts with WHY"

I listened to the audio version of this and I didn't care much for it.  There were some strong points and I learned a lot about companies like Apple and Walmart, but the author references these companies a LOT throughout this book and it got so redundant that I started to lose interest in it.   I feel like the whole point of the book (WHY to start with why) was in the first few chapters and the rest of it was just trying to drill it in.

Golden Son (The Red Rising Series, Book 2), by Pierce Brown

Description from Amazon:
"A New York Times Bestselling Author The Red Rising Trilogy (Book 2) As Reds, Darrow and his kind have been betrayed and denied by their elitist masters, the Golds. In the name of the greater good for which Eo, his true love and inspiration, laid down her own life, Darrow becomes a Gold to destroy their privileged realm from within. On a path fraught with danger and deceit, Darrow must strive not for violent revolt but hopeful rebirth, and choose to follow Eo's principles of love and justice to free his people. He must live for more."

So many crazy things happen in this book which begins a couple years after Darrow finishes at the Academy.  There were so many new characters introduced along with the old characters so it confused me just a bit in the beginning.  Also, it had been a couple months since I read the first book so my memory wasn't as clear.  In the first book, Darrow was so clear on his goal and his reason for trying to destroy the Golds.  In this second book, the lines are blurred because he considers some of them friends and sees the human side to their race since he has been living among them for so long.  The ending really surprised me and made me want to dive into the third book right away.

The Silent Child, by Sarah A. Denzil

Description from Amazon:
"In the summer of 2006, Emma Price watched helplessly as her six-year-old son’s red coat was fished out of the River Ouse. It was the tragic story of the year – a little boy, Aiden, wandered away from school during a terrible flood, fell into the river, and drowned. His body was never recovered. Ten years later, Emma has finally rediscovered the joy in life. She’s married, pregnant, and in control again... ... until Aiden returns. Too traumatized to speak, he raises endless questions and answers none. Only his body tells the story of his decade-long disappearance. The historic broken bones and injuries cast a mere glimpse into the horrors Aiden has experienced. Aiden never drowned. Aiden was taken. As Emma attempts to reconnect with her now teenage son, she must unmask the monster who took him away from her. But who, in their tiny village, could be capable of such a crime? It's Aiden who has the answers, but he cannot tell the unspeakable. This dark and disturbing psychological novel will appeal to fans of The Widow and The Butterfly Garden."

I read this book from cover to cover in one sitting.  This is one of those stories that pulls you in from the get-go and won't let you breathe until the end.  There were so many interesting twists and secrets that I could not put it down until I finished it, all the while wondering what secrets Aiden was keeping and when he would finally talk.

Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert

Description from Amazon:
"Readers of all ages and walks of life have drawn inspiration and empowerment from Elizabeth Gilbert’s books for years. Now this beloved author digs deep into her own generative process to share her wisdom and unique perspective about creativity. With profound empathy and radiant generosity, she offers potent insights into the mysterious nature of inspiration. She asks us to embrace our curiosity and let go of needless suffering. She shows us how to tackle what we most love, and how to face down what we most fear. She discusses the attitudes, approaches, and habits we need in order to live our most creative lives. Balancing between soulful spirituality and cheerful pragmatism, Gilbert encourages us to uncover the “strange jewels” that are hidden within each of us. Whether we are looking to write a book, make art, find new ways to address challenges in our work,  embark on a dream long deferred, or simply infuse our everyday lives with more mindfulness and passion, Big Magic cracks open a world of wonder and joy."

I did the audiobook of this one and I enjoyed it enough.  A little woo-woo for my taste, but it was interesting to listen to.  Thinking back on it, there wasn't really one part that stuck out and inspired me but maybe it's because I listened to the audiobook instead of actually reading it.  All in all, it was an okay book.  Nothing big or magical about it, but a good way to pass the time.

Monthly Mantra 2017: December

For the past few months I've been extremely focused on my goals.  I have been working quietly on building my business, creating a brand, and setting myself up for success.  Once opportunities came knocking on my door however, I was scared shitless.  I thought, "No, I'm not on that level yet!  I can't possibly do that right now, I'm not ready!"  I was afraid of starting something I didn't know how to do.  It was scary and nerve-wracking and I had no idea what I was doing.  I said yes anyway.

During the past month, my items have been showcased in a fundraiser fashion show, I have been featured on a local news segment, and just recently delivered some items to be sold at a local surf shop.  I'm doing the things I had dreamed of doing and reaching the goals I had set for myself much faster than I thought possible because I started before I thought I was ready.  The people who came and presented me with those opportunities KNEW I was ready because they saw potential that I couldn't.  I am so thankful for them and am excited for what the future has in store for me.

Though I'm not where I want to be yet and still have a long way to go, I am confident that I will accomplish my goals by pushing past my self-doubt and seizing the opportunities that come my way.

This is the last month of 2017 and it has been a crazy/fun/exciting year and I cannot wait to enter 2018 with a clear mind and a new set of goals than what I started with in 2017.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Monthly Mantra 2017: November

I've been distant from this blog in the recent months (hell, the last year really) because I've come up short on what to write, what to say, and just overall inspiration to post anything.  I don't even know if anyone still reads this blog or follows my updates, or even really gives a shit about what I post - and that's okay.

When this blog first started picking up momentum a few years ago, I was obsessed with it.  I put my heart into writing posts, coming up with ideas, hosting giveaways, connecting with other people, and actively participating in the blog world.  Since Instagram and Snapchat became popular, the blogging community has turned into something entirely different.  We don't read as many blogs, write as many posts, or comment as much as we used to before.  People seem to prefer imagery over written words and I have given up on trying to keep up, let alone compete.

I've been working on so much in my life lately that I neglected to even write a post at all last month and that's just the way life is sometimes.  I do want to keep this blog active and I do want to continue writing posts, if only to document little snippets of my life and books I've read or poems I've written.  I don't have high hopes of being a professional blogger or collaborating with big brands anymore because it's not my passion but I will continue to write posts when the whim hits me.  Until then, follow your passion.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Real American by Julie Lythcott-Haims

I received a free copy of Real American: A Memoir in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

To be published by Henry Holt & Co. on October 3, 2017

Lythcott-Haims (How to Raise an Adult) has written a bold, impassioned memoir that explores the emotional and cultural divide imposed by American racism on people of mixed race. Born in 1967 to an African-American father and a white British mother, she was proud that her parents “broke the rules” despite the racial sneers and ridicule she experienced growing up in Palisades, N.Y., and Madison, Wis. However, the steadfast support of her loving mother and of her father, an accomplished physician appointed by President Carter as assistant surgeon general in 1977, couldn’t prepare the insecure, mixed-race teen for navigating a white world (“I don’t think of you as Black. I think of you as normal,” says one high school friend while the two were watching Gone with the Wind). Upon graduating from Stanford University (she would serve as dean of freshmen there years later), Lythcott-Haims married a white Jewish man and gave birth to “quadroon children,” which further complicated her quest for self-understanding. Later, she became empowered through her determination not to let hate define her or the lives of her children. Riveting and deeply felt, Lythcott-Haims’s memoir sheds fresh light on race and discrimination in American society.

This book appealed to me because...

I've read Ms. Lythcott-Haims' previous book, How to Raise an Adult, and learned so much from her about how parenting styles have changed over the years and how it affects child development.  So when I heard she was coming out with a memoir, I was so intrigued because she is such an accomplished and intelligent woman.

Upon reading it...

This book is a memoir by the author, who tells her story of growing up as a black woman in America.  Each chapter talks about different periods of her life and how she grew up in mostly white neighborhoods all her life and was ashamed at being black and having a white mother and black father, who tried too hard to make her accept herself.

I truly loved the way the book was written and I found myself getting lost within the pages of the memoir.  Constantly going back to mark pages and sections that resonated with me.  Though I am not black, Ms. Lythcott-Haims writes of feelings and doubts that any person who has ever felt like an outsider can understand and connect with.

She not only explains racism as it appears on the outside, but also how it feels to have to carry that extra burden of being different around all her life.  I cannot even imagine what it would be like to have to explain to my children about what to do if they ever get pulled over by the police, because since their skin is different everything they do is suspicious.  What kind of a world is this!?  Where people have to talk to their children about the possible dangers of the people who are supposed to be protecting them?

This book talks about the truth that we cannot understand.  I am glad to have read it and I have learned so much from it that I never knew before.  With everything going on with the world now, this is one of those books that will help us build a better future.  To make us better Americans.


"There's love at first sight.  There's American at first sight.  And from dozens of "where are you from" interactions with Americans over the years, I've learned that American at first sight is about looks - primarily skin color and hair texture - not nationality."


"These newly emboldened "Real Americans" issue angry orders to the rest of us: "If you don't like it, go back to where you came from."

There is no back to where I came from.

You stole my homeland from me.
Me from my homeland, I mean.
I don't even know where it is.


I was selected for this opportunity as a member of CLEVER and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Monthly Mantra 2017: September

August was such a productive month for me.  After years and years of having this dream of owning my own company and designing my own swimwear line, I've finally done it.  Well, I'm not officially licensed and launched yet, but I got started on putting in the work to make it happen.  I've created some sample products already and will begin punching out more inventory this month to do a full collection launch toward the end of October.  I'll be posting more about it here eventually, but maybe not until after I launch.  If you want, you can follow the IG page:  @halia.and.jade for updates and to see what styles I've got so far.

Also, I'm doing this all on my own right now and using my own money to purchase supplies little by little in order to build up my inventory and collection, so if you'd like to donate and support me, it would mean so much:

Friday, September 1, 2017

Books Lately: August '17

This month has been a pretty decent one for reading.  Much better than July, where I didn't finish a book at all, but still not my best month.  I've been spending most of my nights working on my side project this month (will post about all that next week) instead of reading so I wasn't able to get through as many books as I would have liked.  I'm currently in the beginning of another book and will try to read more this month, but no promises.  Anyway, here's what I read:

Feminine Genius, by LiYana Silver
**A copy of this book has been generously provided to me by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.**

Description from NetGalley:
"What would happen if we took all the energy we spend self-bashing, self-improving, and chasing impossible standards and instead channel it into our true passions? HuffPost and Forbes writer LiYana Silver teaches how getting to know, listen, respect, and work with your body will lead you down an enlightened, powerful path to tapping into your deepest wisdom—for work, relationships, parenting, and every aspect of living. Through exercises, self-assessments, and journaling, readers learn how their “masculine” strengths are overused and how to embrace their sexuality in a way that radiantly balances their masculine and feminine strengths in order to achieve enormous effectiveness and fulfillment in life."

I'm all about Feminism, girl power, and self-love so this book intrigued me.  The first couple chapters were good but then I started to lose interest.  The author talks a lot about her life and how she found her "Feminine Genius" but it gets a little confusing when she throws in her client's stories along with hers.  And even without the client's stories, I feel like she's more than one woman because she talks about all these different experiences (standing in a river in Sedona, vacationing in Mexico, dinner party in New York, etc.) that just turned me off a bit.  The message of the book as a whole was great but wasn't really as empowering for me as I thought it would be.  Maybe it's because I started reading it and then put it away for a month before reading it again?  I'm not sure.  It was okay, just not my favorite read this month.

The Play of Death, by Oliver Potzsch

Description from Amazon:
"It is 1670 and Simon Fronwieser is in the town of Oberammergau to bring his seven-year-old son to boarding school. As he bids his boy a tearful farewell, news comes of a shocking murder: the man who was to play the part of Christ in the town’s Passion Play has been found dead, nailed to the set’s cross. As there is no doctor in town, Simon is brought in to examine the body. The chance to spend more time with his son and to investigate the murder quickly convince him to stay.

Soon he is joined by his father-in-law, Jakob Kuisl, the Schongau hangman, and the two begin piecing together the puzzle of the actor’s death. Was he murdered by a jealous rival? Are the recently arrived and unpopular immigrant workers somehow involved? Or is it a punishment from God for the villagers’ arrogance in trying to schedule the play four years earlier than prescribed by ancient custom? Once again, it looks like it is up to the Kuisls to unravel the mystery and bring a town’s dark secrets to light." 

I've been in love with The Hangman's Daughter series since the first book back in 2011 and I loved this one just as much as the others.  If you're a fan of history and mystery, you MUST read these books.  Oliver Potzsch does such an amazing job at telling a truly believable story that it's hard to discern the truth from the fiction.  There are so many different twists and turns in his stories to keep you guessing who the killers are until the very end which makes it so hard to put down!

Basic Witches, by Jaya Saxena and Jess Zimmerman
**A copy of this book has been generously provided to me by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.**

Description from NetGalley:
"Tap your inner sorceress and channel the magical arts with this bewitching lifestyle guide. Need to exorcise a toxic friendship? Say the right symbolic curse and banish it from your life. Want to enhance your attractiveness? Pick the right power eye-shadow color and project otherworldly glamour. Interested in boosting your self-confidence? Whip up a tasty herbal “potion” to strengthen your resolve. All that plus historical and pop culture sidebars that situate today’s witchcraft trend within a broader context. With humor, heart, and a hip modern sensibility, this charming guide dispenses witchy wisdom for the curious, the cynical, and anyone who could use a magical boost to get through the day"

This was a cute, quick read. I enjoyed the illustrations throughout and the fun, girl-power vibes I was getting while reading it.  I wouldn't particularly purchase this book for myself right now, but I could see myself purchasing it when I was in my late teens/early adulthood.  The "spells" throughout were cute and though not really magical, they seemed like a fun way to meditate and focus on or shift focus from certain issues.  All in all, not something I would particularly read for myself, but definitely something I would gift to a niece.

Real American, by Julie Lythcott-Haims

See tomorrow's post for my full review of this book.