It’s Monday, What Are You Reading #34

First week back and I accomplished my reading goal for the week! My Dark Vanessa was one of the best books that I’ve read in a very long time. And after many weeks of slowly making my way through Becoming, I finished it yesterday afternoon instead of making my weekly grocery list..

What I Read Last Week
What I’m Reading This Week

I put Dear Martin on hold a few months ago at the library and it popped up earlier last week that it was available to download. As a young adult novel, it shouldn’t take too long to read this week, and then I’ll make my way to what was originally an ARC but has since been published back in February… Buy Yourself the F*cking Lilies. I would like to read it so that I will be 100% caught up on my ARCs from NetGalley.

Posts from Arguably Alexis in the Past Week

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones|| Book Review
Top Ten Dishes for My Quarantine Book Party || Top Ten Tuesday
It’s Monday, What Are You Reading #33

Looking forward to reading what all of you read this past week and what’s upcoming in your lives – Leave a comment below and link your posts.

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a place to meet up and share what you have been, and are about to be reading over the week. It’s a great post to organize yourself. This meme started on J Kaye’s blog and then was hosted by Sheila from Book Journey. Sheila then passed it on to Kathryn at The Book Date.

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones || Book Review

When it comes to An American Marriage, it was my first jump back into the world of fiction. Books two through five of 2020 were non-fiction novels surrounding the criminal justice system and the CIA, so I thought I would lighten it up a bit and pick up a novel that was recommended to me by multiple people. This review is out of order of the books I read due to the complicity of this story and the time it took me to put my words on the page.

Roy and Celestial were a newly married couple who were quickly faced with an impending trial. Roy is arrested for a crime that he didn’t commit and is sentenced to 12 years in prison. What follows in this novel is a story of love, loyalty, and an exploration into the idea of marriage.

“Much of life is timing and circumstance, I see that now.” 

I would say that An American Marriage is an interesting read that left me thinking a lot about the meaning of marriage. I flew through this book – Tayari Jone’s descriptions of characters and emotions drove me to need to know how Celestial and Roy were going to react in certain situations.

“None of this proposing via billboard or at halftime at the Rose Bowl. Marriage is between two people. There is no studio audience.”

One aspect that really stood out to me was how incarceration can change relationships. A large portion of the novel was letters between Roy and Celestial. (I loved the style of this!) In the beginning of his incarceration, the letters are full of love and longing to be back together, but over time the letters become angry and eventually Celestial stops writing letters all together. When two individuals take vows to love each other — for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health — there is an expectation that this means forever.

An American Marriage was focused on relationships and communication, just as much as it was on race. Jones did an impeccable job at marrying the themes together to allow the reader to embrace the story. I loved the complexity of the relationships, and how it made me think about my own life. Originally, I rated this book a 4/5, however after reflecting on it, I changed my rating to a 5/5

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5

Top Ten Dishes for My Bookish Party

We are spending more time at home than ever before. We’re eating out less to limit contact which means we are endlessly cooking and washing dishes. My top ten Tuesday today is focused on my ten favorite dishes we are enjoying during quarantine.

Basil-Parmesan Salmon

Chicken and Lentil Soup

One-Pan Garlic Butter Chicken

Pesto Chicken Bake

French Toast

Tacos

Chicken and Asparagus Teriyaki Stir-Fry

Omelette with Hash Browns

Asian Glazed Boneless Chicken Thighs

Vegetarian Chili

I favor the SkinnyTaste website and cookbooks, but I just plain enjoy cooking. The cleaning… I could do without. What have been your go-to and favorite recipes to cook during your time at home?

Monday’s lunch: Chicken, Broccoli, Roasted Sweet Potato and Hummus

It’s Monday, What Are You Reading #33

It has been over a year since I participated in this weekly write-up, but I wanted to reengage and this seems like the best way! I’ve spent the last few weeks trying to reconnect with books – luckily, I seem to be having a little luck and I have a slew of book reviews scheduled to post.

This would be the ideal time to focus on books from my at home library, but my library ebook trigger finger got the best of me and my holds keep popping up as ready (yay!). During May I’m hoping to catch up on my library holds, my ARCs and then switch over to finishing books from my personal library.

As for setting a new at-home schedule, how are all of you holding up? Has your reading changed at all since being at home?

What I Read Last Week
What I’m Reading Now

This week that is all that I want to focus on – what I’m reading right now. I’ve been in the middle of Becoming for three weeks now and I just haven’t been able to press through because my library ebook loans keep popping up as ready. This week it’s finishing My Dark Vanessa before it expires, and then finishing up Becoming.

Posts from the Previous Week:
Open Book by Jessica Simpson || Book Review

My last IMWAYR Post from April 1, 2019

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a place to meet up and share what you have been, and are about to be reading over the week. It’s a great post to organize yourself. This meme started on J Kaye’s blog and then was hosted by Sheila from Book Journey. Sheila then passed it on to Kathryn at The Book Date.

Open Book by Jessica Simpson || Book Review

“I kept a promise I made to myself a little over a year before to show up in my own life. To feel things, whether they were the result of bad memories, or good ones in the making.”

It is easy to write Jessica Simpson off as a ditzy blonde, and while in some cases this may be true, her memoir painted a clear picture of her as someone who is incredibly resilient. I typically enjoy celebrity memoirs, and this one was no different. In memoirs, you get to pick and choose the stories that you share with your readers so you have the opportunity to leave out anything that would make you unappealing. 

Simpson chose the perfect title for her memoir: Open Book. Let’s all be honest with ourselves – Could we write a book airing out all of our dirty laundry and come out of it in the end even more likeable? Because that’s entirely what she was able to do. I never followed her love story with Nick Lachey, John Mayer or Tony Romo. Do I believe that there are two sides to every story? Absolutely. But the way she defined her relationships didn’t exactly seem one-sided (except in the John Mayer case, but man he seems like a jerk.)

The most remarkable portion of this memoir, to me, were the stories about Jessica’s cousin, Sarah. In 1996, her older cousin Sarah was killed in a car crash. Her cousin was one of her best friends, and it was devastating to Jessica. Sarah kept journals of her thoughts, feelings and prayers for other people. Honestly, I cried through the various sections of the memoir that were about Sarah – It felt emotional and raw, and it was the most memorable piece of those story.

“It was a powerful lesson in creating a legacy by choosing your words with intention. We are on this earth such a short time, cruelly short in Sarah’s case. What message did I want to leave behind?”

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5

The Light of the Fireflies by Paul Pen || Book Review

The Light of the Fireflies is one of those books that I had to restart on multiple occasions. I started it once back when I first downloaded it after a World Book Day, and then again in November 2019 and for the last time in mid-March. I just couldn’t push myself past the first few chapters. 

When I began the book in March, I told myself I was going to finish it this time or I was going to DNF it and remove it from my Kindle. It was the push I needed to make it to the halfway point (around page 170) when things are finally explained and you learn why these people are living in a basement. 

The story itself revolves around a 10 year old boy, and his family who live in a basement. No one ever comes in and no one ever goes out. None of the characters have names, and they are all referred to by their relationship with the boy. 

It was dark and disturbing.

Key Themes: Child Abuse, Incest, Manipulation, Physical Abuse

There’s no creature more amazing than one that can make its own light.

The only redeeming characters in the story are the young boy, and his recently born nephew. Every other character is a horrible human being. They claim to commit despicable acts in the name of familial love, but I couldn’t get on board with that. I don’t want to go into too much detail because it will give away key plot points. 

It’s one redeeming quality, other than being very well written, is that Paul Pen had some remarkable one-liners that made me catch my breathe. They were insightful and heartfelt.

I ended up giving it a 3-star review because I couldn’t tell if I truly liked the book or if I was just so thankful to be done with it. Once I got the ball rolling, it was a quick read. I needed to know piece after piece because of how horrified I was at what I was reading. Paul Pen is a talented writer, but I just found this set of characters to be too manipulative and the story line to be too dark for me to thoroughly enjoy it.  That being said, I understand why some people loved it — if you can get over some of the horrifying things, or they don’t bother you — you’ll probably enjoy the intense twists of this novel.

COVID-19 + Life During Quarantining

We are currently in very strange and unprecedented times in the United States. States are ordering citizens to shelter in place and to practice social distancing. Some people are able to work from home, while many others are losing their jobs and ways of making an income.

The SARS-CoV-19 (more colloquially known as COVID-19) pandemic is wrecking havoc on the world, and in turn has left me with a lot of extra days at home.

Life During the Quarantine

I took time on Saturday to finally take the Enneagram Personality Test. “The Enneagram is a personality system that aims to reveal how emotions drive our lives and how we engage with others in an effort to get what we want and need. The Enneagram defines nine personality types, each with its own set of strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities for personal growth. Your Enneagram type reveals what motivates you on a very deep level, and illuminates the path you must take to achieve a higher level of self-actualization.”

Not surprising at all once I read the personality types, I received a 99% match to type one, also known as The Perfectionist. It’s all about following rules and doing things correctly, which is me to a tee. A friend sent me the hierarchy of needs of an enneagram one and it honestly made me chuckle because it made sense; it told me absolutely nothing that I didn’t know about myself already.

The hierarchy of needs for different enneagram types see above can be found @justmyenneatype. If you haven’t taken the enneagram test and you’re interested in learning more about your personality, I linked it above the picture! The Instagram linked above is just one of many instagrams that share photographs of different enneagram personality types.


What does this mean for me? How does this help me cope with the stress of recent life changes due to COVID-19? Am I coping or just existing?

You know, I knew about my personality before taking this test. But by seeing how this specific personality type lays out its needs, it has allowed me to think about the best ways of reaching personal satisfaction and success in this strange time. It’s spending some time alone, making a schedule, checking up on loved ones and falling deeply into the world of books.

As for making a schedule, with my current employment I live on a very strange schedule to begin with. I work weird hours making my sleep schedule all over the place. I eat at weird times. I have random days off. I want to use this unforeseen break to create a new routine (one that I hope will be broken soon).

So I made a to-do list for myself while I’m home. One thing per day or more on one day and lazy time a full day later (I’m working on being flexible). All things I would’ve needed to accomplish anyway, but this way I don’t spend 10+ days on the couch mindlessly bingeing television/Netflix/Disney+.

  1. Finish taxes (yes, I know the deadline has been extended).
  2. Clean off back porch to create workout space.
  3. Write blog posts about finished books (2 behind).
  4. Finish bridesmaid boxes.
  5. Reach out to more florists + djs.
  6. Clean up + out guest bedroom.
  7. Dust the house.
  8. Read 2+ books.
  9. Take a walk/exercise every single day.

These are all achievable tasks. It’s just going to take time and effort to make them all happen.

More About Where I’ve Been

Some times working on a blog can be challenging (ie why I’m on + off this blog more frequently than most). I often feel like I don’t have enough to contribute to the conversation, whether it’s about books or life. I know that this is just my own insecurities coming to the brim as I type posts and then delete them for fear of judgment. But I’m working on that. Less insecurity, less fear of judgements of others.

So for now, I am here. Where are all of you? How are you coping with the new and changing stress in the pandemic environment?

2019: The Year of Movies

One of the best investments we made this year was our monthly subscription to AMC A-List. For $19.95 a month (it just increased to $21.95 in 2020) we were able to buy 3 movie tickets a week, every single week. From our original purchase date on December 30, 2018 until December 30, 2019 we have seen 44 movies. FORTY-FOUR MOVIES.

We could see movies all over the country. When I travelled to visit my dad in April, I saw Pet Semetary. Michael goes to see movies while he’s traveling for work. We saw a movie in the middle of nowhere CT during our road trip this summer. It became one of our favorite *free for included* activities.

There was no favorite genre, and some movies we saw separately – but holy cow. AMC A-List allowed us to see far more movies in 2019 than I have ever seen before.

Coming in to 2020 I wanted calculate about how much each of the movies cost us in 2019 – They cost a whopping $5.44 per movie ($19.95 x 12 / 44). It was a great investment for us and an easy thing to keep budgeted for 2020.

Below is my list of movies in 2019.

  1. Aquaman
  2. Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse
  3. Vice
  4. Captain Marvel
  5. Ralph Breaks The Internet
  6. Mary Poppins Returns
  7. Glass
  8. The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part
  9. What Men Want
  10. Isn’t It Romantic
  11. Fighting With My Friends
  12. A Star is Born
  13. Green Book
  14. Us
  15. Five Feet Apart
  16. Shazam!
  17. Pet Semetary
  18. Avengers: End Game
  19. Pokemon Detective Pikachu
  20. The Hustle
  21. Aladdin
  22. Booksmart
  23. Rocketman
  24. Godzilla: King Of The Monsters
  25. Toy Story 4
  26. Spider-Man: Far From Home
  27. The Secret Life of Pets 2
  28. Yesterday
  29. The Lion King
  30. The Farewell
  31. One Upon A Time… In Hollywood
  32. The Art of Racing In The Rain
  33. Good Boys
  34. Dora And The Lost City Of Gold
  35. Ad Astra
  36. Joker
  37. Zombieland: Double Tap
  38. Last Christmas
  39. Ford v Ferrari
  40. Frozen 2
  41. A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood
  42. Dark Waters
  43. Jumanji: The Next Level
  44. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

For the first time last night I had seen a large number of the movies nominated for Golden Globes which has never happened before! Congratulations to all the winners last night.

I have a loose goal of seeing 52 new movies in theater this year. We’ll see what happens, but I think anything is possible.

The Year of Less: How I Stopped Shopping, Gave Away My Belongings, and Discovered Life Is Worth More Than Anything You Can Buy in a Store by Cait Flanders || Book Review

Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir
Number of Pages: 189
Rating: 2.5/5 stars


Synopsis

In her late twenties, Cait Flanders found herself stuck in the consumerism cycle that grips so many of us: earn more, buy more, want more, rinse, repeat. Even after she worked her way out of nearly $30,000 of consumer debt, her old habits took hold again. When she realized that nothing she was doing or buying was making her happy—only keeping her from meeting her goals—she decided to set herself a challenge: she would not shop for an entire year.

The Year of Less documents Cait’s life for twelve months during which she bought only consumables: groceries, toiletries, gas for her car. Along the way, she challenged herself to consume less of many other things besides shopping. She decluttered her apartment and got rid of 70 percent of her belongings; learned how to fix things rather than throw them away; researched the zero waste movement; and completed a television ban. At every stage, she learned that the less she consumed, the more fulfilled she felt.

The challenge became a lifeline when, in the course of the year, Cait found herself in situations that turned her life upside down. In the face of hardship, she realized why she had always turned to shopping, alcohol, and food—and what it had cost her. Unable to reach for any of her usual vices, she changed habits she’d spent years perfecting and discovered what truly mattered to her.

Blending Cait’s compelling story with inspiring insight and practical guidance, The Year of Less will leave you questioning what you’re holding on to in your own life—and, quite possibly, lead you to find your own path of less

Review

It had been a while since I opened a book (or in this case an e-book). I was on day 3 of scrolling through the library books available online at that exact moment when I stumbled upon The Year of Less. In my time away from blogging, I thought a lot about my spending habits (i.e. buying books that I wasn’t reading yet!!) and how it was impacting my overall life. I was putting money into savings every month, paid off my student loans, began really saving for buying a house — but I was (and still am) stuck with the question: Am I doing enough for my future financially?

I flew through the pages of The Year of Less not because it was a well-written book, but rather the underlying message spoke deeply to me.

If I could describe the writing style of The Year of Less in a single word it would be: whiny. This book was mainly memoir of a 20-something who made some major mistakes in her life and overcame huge obstacles to get back on her feet, but the writing was not good. There were sections of the novel that repeated the same line multiple times. I had to flip back and forth to make sure I wasn’t having double vision.

The 5% of the book focused on decluttering your life and saving money for your financial future sparked a little light under my butt. I came home and grabbed a garbage bag and sat in the bathroom to begin to throw away all of the extra, superfluous items in my life. I made my way through one cabinet and needed a break… could be my sleep schedule, could be my interest or maybe I just completely overwhelmed myself. But I began the process of clearing out the clutter.

“But there were really only two categories I could see: the stuff I used, and the stuff I wanted the ideal version of myself to use.”

The concept in the memoir that I found the most interesting (and unrealistic) was how she emptied her closet down to something nutty like 25 articles of clothing. She lived in Canada — are there not TWO+ seasons in Canada where you need different styles of clothing? Can you really function with only one pair of shoes?? (Says the girl who ordered a new pair of boots from Kohls last night…)

So for those of you who have made it this far, could you pare your closet down to 25 articles of clothing/shoes? At this moment, that is truly just unrealistic for me, and likely most people. I have 25+ articles of clothing specifically for work. Is that overkill? Yes, likely. But oooooof – This is the one place that I couldn’t jump on the decluttering band-wagon (You could also ask Michael who painfully threw away 15 pairs of my old, ratty vans and converse a few years ago when he was helping me pack to move… RIP SHOES).

If I’m feeling generous (which I am because she sparked a light under my butt), I would give The Year of Less a 2.5 out of 5 rating. Her editor could’ve pared down the stories; she could’ve been less whiny in her writing and poor me attitude. If I didn’t take away bits and pieces of her message, I would’ve likely rated it a 1.5 or 2.

146 Days

It’s been 146 days since I last logged onto WordPress. The app fell by the wayside on my phone and notifications were deleted from my email. It’s not that I stopped thinking about writing; but I was unsure of what I wanted to contribute. I longed to be part of the book and blogging community and I was frustrated by my lack of progress and my inability to put words onto the page.

I could see the hiatus coming from a mile away – the amount of time lapse from post to post, my non-desire to crack open a book. 2019 has been the year of change and growth figuring out who I want to be and for the last five months, books hadn’t been a part of it. I’ve grown to understand that changes looks different for everyone and for me part of the time I felt like I was treading water trying to figure out what the new normal looked like.

But I’m back (again). I wanted this post to serve as a reintroduction to all of my old followers and any new ones that I acquired in my absence.

Things To Know About Me:
– I have a fiancé (Michael) and a cat (Harper).
– Up to this point, I have seen 41 movies in theater this year (an updated Movie Stubs post will be coming).
– I love to cook and exercise; I am getting back into my love of reading.
– I watch a lot of television every week thanks to my DVR.
– My favorite foods are chicken fingers (or wings) and curly French fries, extra crispy.

I scrolled back to my January 3, 2019 post titled Reading Resolutions + Challenges 2019. I am not surprised that I have not met my goals or participated in the challenges that I set out to complete – and honestly, that is okay by me. My resolutions for 2019 are going to roll into 2020 next month. I still plan on being intentional with my posts and my words.

The one thing I’m going to do in 2020 is not actively participate in any group reading challenges. Throughout 2018-2019 when I was picking out items that I wanted to read I felt pressure to read a book that fit the qualifications for those (many) challenges. So in 2020, I am going to read what I want to read. My reading goal is going to be slightly smaller: 24 books in 12 months.

One of the things I realized is that I stopped doing some of the things that I loved (i.e. reading and bullet journaling) because of the extra stress I was placing on those areas to be perfect. That seems unhealthy to me. So we start over from the beginning.

I’ve read two books in the last week:

  • The Year of Less: How I Stopped Shopping, Gave Away My Belongings, and Discovered Life Is Worth More Than Anything You Can Buy in a Store by Cait Flanders
  • The Perfect Couple by Elin Hilderbrand

Let me rephrase that – I flew through these two books this week. I couldn’t put either of them down. The Year of Less is a whiny millennial memoir with an undertow of a deep message that brought me back to my blog and The Perfect Couple was a mystery page turner. It no longer mattered the genre or number of pages when I was scrolling through the books available on the library website for online viewing. It was the 1) synopses and 2) covers that carried me in.

I am still sticking with my word of the year: intention. I don’t feel like I’ve done it justice and I want to do better.

I just wanted to thank you for reading my welcome back blog post whether this is your first time visiting Arguably Alexis or you are a returning visitor. I hope that you all had a great Thanksgiving holiday with your families and that you have a safe rest of the Holiday season.

xx Alexis