Maid by Stephanie Land|| ARC Review

Date Published: January 22, 2019

Publisher: Hatchette Books

Genre: Non-Fiction/Memoir

Synopsis: Evicted meets Nickel and Dimed in Stephanie Land’s memoir about working as a maid, a beautiful and gritty exploration of poverty in America. Includes a foreword by Barbara Ehrenreich. 

“My daughter learned to walk in a homeless shelter.”

While the gap between upper middle-class Americans and the working poor widens, grueling low-wage domestic and service work–primarily done by women–fuels the economic success of the wealthy. Stephanie Land worked for years as a maid, pulling long hours while struggling as a single mom to keep a roof over her daughter’s head. In Maid, she reveals the dark truth of what it takes to survive and thrive in today’s inequitable society.

While she worked hard to scratch her way out of poverty as a single parent, scrubbing the toilets of the wealthy, navigating domestic labor jobs, higher education, assisted housing, and a tangled web of government assistance, Stephanie wrote. She wrote the true stories that weren’t being told. The stories of overworked and underpaid Americans.

Written in honest, heart-rending prose and with great insight, Maid explores the underbelly of upper-middle class America and the reality of what it’s like to be in service to them. “I’d become a nameless ghost,” Stephanie writes. With this book, she gives voice to the “servant” worker, those who fight daily to scramble and scrape by for their own lives and the lives of their children.

Thoughts + Feelings: Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay and a Mothers Will to Survive was incredibly frustrating to read. Stephanie Land was dealt challenging cards in life. She became pregnant in an abusive relationship, left that relationship without a steady income, struggled to find affordable housing, entered into more unstable and unreliable relationships, continued to make poor choices with any extra source of income, and so on and so forth.

I was really looking forward to reading this memoir because I was expecting to learn more about the profession of being a maid — crazy right? I was disappointed in the lack of story revolving around being a maid.

One piece of the story that has stuck with me is that Stephanie didn’t appear to fit the “stereotype” of the individuals we associate with needing to go to the government for help. Often times we jump to conclusions about individuals who use government services, although the services are there for a reason and there is absolutely nothing bad about utilizing the services that we have provided to us. It was a big check to my own privilege – things can happen to anyone; it doesn’t matter who you are, what you look like or where you’re from.

However I was left with quite a few questions… Why does Stephanie have zero savings? Why does she buy herself a $200 diamond ring when she receives a $4000 tax refund instead of moving herself and her daughter, Mia, out of an apartment with black mold??

I tried not to judge while reading the memoir because each person gets to make their own decisions and its hard to say what choices you’ll make when faced with a challenging question. But there is also a point where you have to stop and reflect on your choices in the moment and figure out what the heck you’re doing.

I originally rated this book as an average novel, but now I feel like it was 2/5 stars. While I understand that this is representative of Stephanie Land’s life, she was repetitive in her novel and quite irresponsible with her child. I hope that as her success takes off, both as a student and a writer, that Stephanie has learned how to manage her time, money and lifestyle.

Rating: ⭐⭐

The Sky Alone for Us by Kristin Russell || Book Review

Date: January 8, 2019

Publisher: HarperCollins

Genre: Young Adult/Contemporary

Synopsis: In Strickland County, there isn’t a lot of anything to go around. But when eighteen-year-old Harlowe Compton’s brother is killed by the Praters—the family who controls everything, from the mines to the law—he wonders if the future will ever hold more than loss. Until he meets Tennessee Moore.

With Tennessee, Harlowe feels for the first time that something good might happen, that he might’ve found the rarest thing of all: hope. Even as she struggles with the worst of the cards she’s been dealt, Tennessee makes Harlowe believe that they can dare to forge their own path—if they only give it a shot.

But as Harlowe searches for the answers behind his brother’s death, his town’s decay, and his family’s dysfunction, he discovers truths about the people he loves—and himself—that are darker than he ever expected. Now, Harlowe realizes, there’s no turning back.

A powerful story of first love, poverty, and the grip of the opioid crisis in the rural South, Kristin Russell’s gorgeous debut novel asks a universal question: When hope seems lost, are dreams worth the risk?

Thoughts + Feelings: My thoughts about A Sky Alone for Us is complicated because Kristin Russell was attempting to tackle some very difficult issues: grief, the Opioid epidemic, police corruption. Like I said… complicated. For a young adult fiction novel, Russell tried to throw so many different issues into a 330ish page book and she wasn’t quite able to execute tackling these issues to the extent that she was hoping to hit.

The book opens with Harlowe Compton’s brothers murder on the front porch of their trailer. Immediately we’re thrown into the complex nature of small towns in rural Appalachia. We learn about the Prater’s and their control of the town, including the major source of work (mining) and the police force. No one wants to stomp on their toes or it’s possible that your family will be left without income, or worse.  

The most redeeming quality of A Sky Alone for Us was the support system that Harlowe had built around him in the wake of his mother’s drug addiction, his father’s absence and his brother’s death. His support system was built around the Draughn’s (family friends), but also the small-town members including the woman from the grocery store and his new neighbors, Tennessee and Omie. I have a hard time classifying this as a romance novel in any capacity, but there are small moments of friends, love and intimacy between Harlowe and Tennessee. This was another piece that seems thrown into the novel and didn’t quite work. 

Like my review, this book was all over the place. 

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐ (3/5 Stars; Average)

It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? #31

Hello friends!~ I’ve been gone for a couple weeks. It’s the middle of February and I’ve read a whopping ONE book since the end of January (and I finished it this morning). It’s not a funk; it was a well-intentioned break brought on by the fact that I couldn’t get through The Red Tent. I have not given up because it came highly recommended to me by several people.

I finished Two Can Keep A Secret this morning and I loved it. It was a wild, thriller with a twist at the end that you definitely didn’t see coming.

The past few weeks have been dedicated to going to the gym, watching YOU on Netflix, relaxing and planning out our summer vacation. I love writing and reading, but there are also many other joys in life.

What I Read Last Week

Two Can Keep A Secret by Karen McManus

5/5 Stars — Review is upcoming!

What I’m Reading This Week

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

I started The Red Tent at the very beginning of February as my read from my bookshelf choice.. and it has been hard to get into. Has anyone read this and loved it?

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.

2019 || January

At the beginning of January I wrote a post titled Reading Resolutions + Challenges 2019. At each months end, I’m going to evaluate how I’ve been doing with my goals in order to keep myself accountable. After all, if I don’t keep myself accountable, how will I ever reach my goals?

The first resolution that I made in 2019 was to slow down and enjoy the books that I’m reading. In January I focused on this piece in two of the three books that I finished. The first was The Lost Girls of Paris, which I read to understand and piece together. Part of my critique was that in the version I read there were a ton of grammatical errors, so I took note of them to provide back to the publisher. The second book that I slowed down on was Educated: A Memoir. After waiting several months for a copy of Tara Westover’s masterpiece, I wanted to take the time to enjoy the effort she put into her work… and it was worth it.

The second resolution that I made was to focus on the books that I previously owned. Part of the way through January, I posted a TBR List || Reading My Own Bookshelf where I made a list of books I’ve owned and need to read. My January book was There Will Be Stars by Billy Coffey. If you read this Monday’s IMWAYR post, you’ll see that I actually decided to DNF that novel. Instead of placing it back on my shelf, I put it in a donation bag to go to the library.

Resolution number three was to read more genres so I decided to participate in the Diversify Your Reading challenge. It just so happens that this month’s challenge was my favorite genre: Memoirs + Autobiographies. I read Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover for the challenge this month. February’s genre is romance!

I finished four novels in January. This year is about quality, not quantity so I am excited to see the incredible books that I connected with during the next eleven months of 2019.

Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover || Book Review

Date: February 20, 2018

Publisher: Random House

Genre: Non-Fiction/Memoir

Synopsis: Tara Westover was 17 the first time she set foot in a classroom. Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, she prepared for the end of the world by stockpiling home-canned peaches and sleeping with her “head-for-the-hills bag”. In the summer she stewed herbs for her mother, a midwife and healer, and in the winter she salvaged in her father’s junkyard.

Her father forbade hospitals, so Tara never saw a doctor or nurse. Gashes and concussions, even burns from explosions, were all treated at home with herbalism. The family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education and no one to intervene when one of Tara’s older brothers became violent.

Then, lacking any formal education, Tara began to educate herself. She taught herself enough mathematics and grammar to be admitted to Brigham Young University, where she studied history, learning for the first time about important world events like the Holocaust and the civil rights movement. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge. Only then would she wonder if she’d traveled too far, if there was still a way home.

Educated is an account of the struggle for self-invention. It is a tale of fierce family loyalty and of the grief that comes with severing the closest of ties. With the acute insight that distinguishes all great writers, Westover has crafted a universal coming-of-age story that gets to the heart of what an education is and what it offers: the perspective to see one’s life through new eyes and the will to change it.

Thoughts + Feelings: I began seeing Educated: A Memoir pop up on Goodreads back in February 2018 before I ever started Arguably Alexis. And I truly mean that I began to *see* it – I never clicked to see the synopsis. I wasn’t initially interested in what the story was about. From the cover I knew it was a real-life story about someone’s education, but I wasn’t immediately drawn to know the story.

I’m honestly a bit surprised by myself that I didn’t take an immediate interest. It combines several of my favorite things in life: memoirs, education and learning about survivalist (and people who compare themselves to Ruby Ridge/Waco). I should’ve picked this memoir up a year ago. I should have listened when it became known as a wildly popular book.

I was behind the band-wagon on this one, but let me tell you… I have hopped on the Educated bandwagon and I am not looking back.

Educated: A Memoir is the story of Tara Westover and her dysfunctional and extremist/survivalist family. Tara grew up in Idaho to a radically Mormon* family who did not trust the government, the medical establishments or the school system. Tara never went to school, nor was she home-schooled. Her first experience with our modern day education system was at age 17 when she entered her freshman year of college at BYU.

This memoir depicted a life in the United States that I cannot imagine existing in this country during the 21st century. I mean, I know that this happens. I know that there are other families of survivalists who don’t vaccinate their children, don’t have birth certificates and bury food, fuel and weapons under the ground near their homes. The abuse and mistreatment that Tara underwent at the hands of her family broke my heart each time. Educated was filled with beautiful, and painful memories. It’s quite remarkable the magic that she was able to include in this memoir.

“First find out what you are capable of, then decide who you are.”

The part that struck me as the most magnificent is how Tara began to educate herself, after following in the footsteps of her older brother. She taught herself enough grammar and mathematics to pass the ACT and be accepted into BYU. She beat the learning curve in college and learned how to study and retain information. She learned about her own ignorance and how inaccurate it seemed to many of those surrounding her. Tara had a desire for more. She didn’t want to work in the junk yard for her entire life. She didn’t want to become a midwife. She wanted something different for herself, so she built her life towards it.

I loved Educated: A Memoir. The story it told us was not only unique to Tara. Accessibility to education is not equal across the United States, or the world. Resources are not equal. Tara broke down the barriers to her own education, and I applaud her endlessly for that.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Recommend? If you haven’t had the opportunity to read Educated yet, don’t even wait on the list at the library. Just go out and buy this beautiful, powerful memoir. 10/10 would recommend.

The Value of the Public Library

I am a huge supporter of the public library. I talk about the library and the books I receive on an almost daily basis because I love what they have to offer. There is something incredible and unique about being able to walk into a space and take an item without paying for it, but rather scanning your card and being given a due date. You can place a hold on as many books as you’d like, on whatever topic seems to interest you at the time. You can check out books, e-books, DVDs, and a variety of other materials.

Last week, I checked out a DVD for the first time from the library. I had been wanting to watch Patriots Day, so it seemed like a great idea to find it at the library instead of paying at Target/Walmart or Amazon. When my check out receipt printed I noticed a new feature located at the bottom:

**YOU SAVED**
 $22.49
Value of Materials Checked Out

The librarian was sitting at the counter so I decided to ask whether this was a feature just on the receipts of the DVDs or if this would be appearing on all check out receipts. She said it was a brand new feature that would be located on the bottom of every receipt. She also mentioned that there were mixed opinions about the new feature…

However, it’s possible that I squeaked with happiness because I love seeing how much money I’m saving by using the free public resources that are available to me. I’d be spending a huge amount of money by purchasing books if I didn’t have the library available. I feel that it’s a great feature to show everyone using the services the worth of the library in hopes of sparking more love and interest in helping out with the library.

The other side of the argument is that people don’t like to have the amount rubbed in their faces that they are saving by using the library?  I don’t quite understand that perspective because nothing is changing when you are checking out your items – you’re merely just seeing how much you are saving by using these services that are paid for by your tax dollars.

I’m 100% for showing the patrons the value of the public library and I plan on tracking how much money I save over the course of the year by loaning out library books.

If the amount you saved began popping up on the bottom of your check out receipts, how would you feel? Do you think that this is a beneficial feature?

Twelve Newest Additions to My TBR || Top Ten Tuesday

I spent a good chunk of 2018 going through my To-Be Read list to par it down to the books that actually had interest in reading. I removed many of the books that were added when I was entering Goodreads giveaways, and a slew of novels that I just knew I would never get to.

So tell me now how 2019 started and I began adding books to my TBR by the boatload?! I began exploring different genres of books; began reading more and more book blogs and honestly got clicker-happy. So many different types of books were catching my eye — after all, this was the year that I wanted to diversify my reading!

So here we are… the twelve newest additions to my Goodreads TBR. Each of these twelve novels were added to my TBR since January 1, 2019.

Have you read any of the books that I recently added to my To-Be Read list?

I’m currently in the middle of Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay and a Mother’s Will to Survive by Stephanie Land. I have my hands on several of these books already. I was quite excited for them to be published!

It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? #29

In times of stress, I find that cleaning, organizing, reading and cooking is the best way to de-stress. In the last week I’ve begun to organize my bookshelf and purge the books that I am never going to read. I’ve developed my spreadsheet** to encompass many different aspects of my reading life, and it is just one of those things that puts little hearts in my eyes. While I don’t really want to *schedule* the order of the books that I am reading, this year my focus is prioritizing my ARCs and library books, while also focusing on slimming down my unread shelved books.

“It’s Monday! What are you reading?” is a weekly meme hosted
by Book Date.

What I Read Last Week

Words cannot describe exactly how much I loved Educated: A Memoir. There will be a full review coming in a few weeks.

If you haven’t read this memoir yet, pick it up from your local library or bookstore ASAP!

What I’m Reading This Week

There Will Be Stars is my priority this week. This is my January book from my personal unread bookshelf. We’re getting towards the end of January — how did that happen??

I’m about 100 pages into this novel, but it is a slow read. This isn’t my first time picking it up and I’m wondering if it’s worth giving this much attention to. In the past, I’ve read the first 30 pages about three times, but I couldn’t make it over the hump.

Have any of you read There Will Be Stars? It looks like it is going to be a light and airy novel, but it is not… I’m open to any insight you all might have!

**I wish I could remember the exact person I found the spreadsheet template from that I adopted mine from (shout-out and HUGE thank you to whoever you are!)