Tuesday, August 14, 2018

10 Best And Worst Things About Living in the South

Even though they're in the same country, the north and the south are two totally different worlds in a lot of ways. (And by north I mean midwest and by south I mean southeast US). The following are some comparisons that have really stuck with me over the past three years since I first became a resident of the south. (How has it only been three years??)

1. There are monograms EVERYWHERE.  If you like monograms, that is a definite plus, but y'all, I can't stand monograms. They don't make sense to me.  I'm a very logical thinker, and it just does not make sense to write your initials first-last-middle.  But also it would be dumb to put them in order first-middle-last and make your middle initial the biggest. Therefore, no sense.

2. The weather, obviously. Hello, mild winters! (And also hello a week's worth of snow days when it snows >1".) Tornadoes, however, am I much less of a fan of... But I do love having a pool that I can swim in six months out of the year!

3. The drivers.  Growing up, we made fun of Wisconsin drivers, but I would take Wisconsin drivers any day.  Originally I thought it was just where I had moved to, because both places I have lived in the south have a pretty transient population, but after enough road-tripping, I've learned its definitely just a southern thing in general. It is rare that I make an hour long drive without seeing at least one small wreck. (Looking at the stats from 2016, I found the following info for Deaths per 100,000 Population- Minnesota: 7.1, Wisconsin: 10.5, Illinois: 8.5, Tennessee: 15.7, Alabama: 21.3.) It's no wonder car insurance costs so much down here!

4. This is specific to Tennessee, but NO STATE INCOME TAX. The downside- sales taxes are twice as much and there is sales tax on food.

5. Recycling is virtually non-existent. There is no roadside recycling like there is for garbage and very few public places offer recycling receptacles.  I've been here for three years now and it still makes me cringe every time I have to throw a soda can in the garbage.

6. Cracker Barrels err-where! I will pass on the over-hyped Chick-fil-a for Cracker Barrel pancakes and cornbread any day! Also add the fact that I can get a Sonic water (or slushie or popcorn chicken) 17 hours a day.

7. The sense of style. My absolute favorite fashionistas to follow are my Nashville blogger girls! On the other hand, I do not understand the southern obsession with Matilda Jane and Vera Wang.  The first time I saw a Vera Wang bag, I assumed it was a like a $5 bag from Wal-Mart.  Then I saw them EVERYWHERE and I thought it was so bizarre that people here were so obsessed with these Wal-Mart bags.  I soon found out they did not come from Wal-Mart... Cue the exact same thoughts for Matilda Jane.  And don't even get me started on adults wearing those ruffly pants... Some things I just don't understand.

8. Smoking.  First off, smoking in bars is still legal down here.  The first time I was in one it really threw me off considering it has been illegal in Minnesota for over a decade, well before I was even able to get into a bar.  Also, there are more smokers in the south in general (and I've found they typically aren't very respectful in regards to where they are smoking), which unfortunately means more interactions with secondhand smoke and the stench that comes with it. (Curious, I looked up the stats from 2016 and found that the national average of adults who smoked was roughly 16%.  In Minnesota it was 12% and Tennessee was 25%.)

9. There is so much history in the south! I am a self-declared dork (though a lot of other people have declared it to), and I love visiting the places that have helped to shape our world today.

10. Nobody in the south knows what duck, duck, grey duck is. When I showed my friend a duck, duck, grey duck t-shirt from Target (shout out to my favorite MN based corporation!) she asked me if it was a FRIENDS reference... *facepalm*

There ya have it! Though there are tons of differences, these are definitely the ones that have stood out the most to me!

Monday, August 6, 2018

#gretchensbooks2018 - July

July was another fun and busy month, but I tried to squeeze as much reading in (at the pool!) as I could before school started! My head was in a crazy spot this month, so reading physical books was tough to do.  The great thing about audiobooks however, is that you can listen to them while keeping busy and working on your "to do" list, so this was definitely an audiobook-heavy month. Also, all the books I read this month were awesome!

*This post may contain affiliate links, which means when you purchase something through that link, you're helping support this blog at no additional cost to you!*

(Summaries are from Amazon, but all reviews are my own!)

52. Choose Wonder over Worry by Amber Rae (5/5 ★)

WONDER is what we’re born with.
WORRY is what we learn.
Why do we hold back from pursuing what matters most? Why do we listen to the voice inside our head that tells us we're not good enough, smart enough, or talented enough? How can we move beyond the fear and doubt that prevents us from creating a life that reflects who we truly are?
CHOOSE WONDER OVER WORRY is your official invitation to face your fears, navigate your discomfort, and rewrite the "worry myths” in your mind that keep you from being your best and truest self.
Journey with inspirational speaker and artist AMBER RAE as she connects you with your voice of worry and wonder, teaches you to listen to your emotions rather than silence them, and encourages you to seize your dreams. Through a thoughtful blend of vulnerability, soulfulness, and science, Amber Rae guides you in expressing the fullness of who you are and the gifts you’re here to give.
You don’t have to be held back by Worry when Wonder awaits you every moment of every day.
Worry or Wonder: which will you choose?

I had received this book months ago from Goodreads, but only just now got around to reading it. It's funny how things work out like this.  Had I read this book when I first received it in the mail, I don't think I would have cared a whole lot for it, but because I read it when I did, it hit me pretty hard.  I loved how this book really made you think about life, and the things and the people around you.  It helped me to acknowledge a lot of things that I knew, but haven't quite been ready to accept. Also, though I haven't utilized them yet, I really liked that it included journal prompts throughout.

53. Everything We Keep by Kerry Lonsdale (4/5 ★)

A luminous debut with unexpected twists, Everything We Keep explores the devastation of loss, the euphoria of finding love again, and the pulse-racing repercussions of discovering the truth about the ones we hold dear and the lengths they will go to protect us.
Sous chef Aimee Tierney has the perfect recipe for the perfect life: marry her childhood sweetheart, raise a family, and buy out her parents’ restaurant. But when her fiancé, James Donato, vanishes in a boating accident, her well-baked future is swept out to sea. Instead of walking down the aisle on their wedding day, Aimee is at James’s funeral—a funeral that leaves her more unsettled than at peace.
As Aimee struggles to reconstruct her life, she delves deeper into James’s disappearance. What she uncovers is an ocean of secrets that make her question everything about the life they built together. And just below the surface is a truth that may set Aimee free…or shatter her forever.

I really enjoyed this story! It was mainly mystery with a bit of romance mixed in, but not so much that I didn't want to read it.  There was plenty of suspense and a lot of twists and turns and I definitely continued to wonder and guess about the details until the very end. I recommend this book if you love suspense stories!

54. Her Final Breath by Robert Dugoni (4/5 ★)

Tracy Crosswhite returns in the second book in the page-turning series by New York Timesbestselling author Robert Dugoni.
Homicide detective Tracy Crosswhite has returned to the police force after the sensational retrial of her sister’s killer. Still scarred from that ordeal, Tracy is pulled into an investigation that threatens to end her career, if not her life.
A serial killer known as the Cowboy is killing young women in cheap motels in North Seattle. Even after a stalker leaves a menacing message for Crosswhite, suggesting the killer or a copycat could be targeting her personally, she is charged with bringing the murderer to justice. With clues scarce and more victims dying, Tracy realizes the key to solving the murders may lie in a decade-old homicide investigation that others, including her captain, Johnny Nolasco, would prefer to keep buried. With the Cowboy on the hunt, can Tracy find the evidence to stop him, or will she become his next victim?

(review of this book after  #58)

55. In the Clearing by Robert Dugoni (4/5 ★)

Detective Tracy Crosswhite has a skill, and a soft spot, for tackling unsolved crimes. Having lost her own sister to murder at a young age, Tracy has dedicated her career to bringing justice and closure to the families and friends of victims of crime.
So when Jenny, a former police academy classmate and protégé, asks Tracy to help solve a cold case that involves the suspicious suicide of a Native American high school girl forty years earlier, Tracy agrees. Following up on evidence Jenny’s detective father collected when he was the investigating deputy, Tracy probes one small town’s memory and finds dark, well-concealed secrets hidden within the community’s fabric. Can Tracy uphold the promise she’s made to the dead girl’s family and deliver the truth of what happened to their daughter? Or will she become the next victim?

(review of this book after  #58)

56. The Trapped Girl by Robert Dugoni (4/5 ★)

When a woman’s body is discovered submerged in a crab pot in the chilly waters of Puget Sound, Detective Tracy Crosswhite finds herself with a tough case to untangle. Before they can identify the killer, Tracy and her colleagues on the Seattle PD’s Violent Crimes Section must figure out who the victim is. Her autopsy, however, reveals she may have gone to great lengths to conceal her identity. So who was she running from?
After evidence surfaces that their Jane Doe may be a woman who suspiciously disappeared months earlier, Tracy is once again haunted by the memory of her sister’s unsolved murder. Dredging up details from the woman’s past leads to conflicting clues that only seem to muddy the investigation. As Tracy begins to uncover a twisted tale of brutal betrayal and desperate greed, she’ll find herself risking everything to confront a killer who won’t go down without a deadly fight. Once again, New York Timesbestselling author Robert Dugoni delivers a taut, riveting thriller in the fourth installment of his acclaimed Tracy Crosswhite series.

(review of this book after  #58)

57. Close to Home by Robert Dugoni (4/5 ★)

While investigating the hit-and-run death of a young boy, Seattle homicide detective Tracy Crosswhite makes a startling discovery: the suspect is an active-duty serviceman at a local naval base. After a key piece of case evidence goes missing, he is cleared of charges in a military court. But Tracy knows she can’t turn her back on this kind of injustice.
When she uncovers the driver’s ties to a rash of recent heroin overdoses in the city, she realizes that this isn’t just a case of the military protecting its own. It runs much deeper than that, and the accused wasn’t acting alone. For Tracy, it’s all hitting very close to home.
As Tracy moves closer to uncovering the truth behind this insidious conspiracy, she’s putting herself in harm’s way. And the only people she can rely on to make it out alive might be those she can no longer trust.

(review of this book after  #58)

58. A Steep Price by Robert Dugoni (4/5 ★)

Called in to consult after a young woman disappears, Tracy Crosswhite has the uneasy feeling that this is no ordinary missing-persons case. When the body turns up in an abandoned well, Tracy’s suspicions are confirmed. Estranged from her family, the victim had balked at an arranged marriage and had planned to attend graduate school. But someone cut her dreams short.
Solving the mystery behind the murder isn’t Tracy’s only challenge. The detective is keeping a secret of her own: she’s pregnant. And now her biggest fear seems to be coming true when a new detective arrives to replace her. Meanwhile, Tracy’s colleague Vic Fazzio is about to take a fall after his investigation into the murder of a local community activist turns violent and leaves an invaluable witness dead.
Two careers are on the line. And when more deadly secrets emerge, jobs might not be the only things at risk.

I chose these books from Kindle Unlimited because I had listened to the first book in the series a couple months back and really enjoyed it.  There is one more book but the audio version wasn't available and I wasn't in the mood to read the physical copy via kindle. The narrator is awesome and does a great job distinguishing characters with her voice.  There is continuous suspense and mystery that build throughout the stories. I also like that the novels are fairly current, so they're able to bring in current events (to an extent, not in detail, but enough to make the stories more relatable).  I highly, highly, recommend this series to any reader who likes mystery and suspense.  The only thing I didn't like about these stories was that there is a tinge of romance throughout them with some of the characters which I can absolutely do without.  It wasn't overwhelmingly much however, so it didn't distract from the overall story line.

59. How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish (4/5 ★)

The ultimate “parenting bible” (The Boston Globe) with a new foreword—and available as an ebook for the first time—a timeless, beloved book on how to effectively communicate with your child from the #1 New York Times bestselling authors.
Internationally acclaimed experts on communication between parents and children, Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish “are doing for parenting today what Dr. Spock did for our generation” (Parent Magazine).  Now, this bestselling classic includes fresh insights and suggestions as well as the author’s time-tested methods to solve common problems and build foundations for lasting relationships, including innovative ways to: ·Cope with your child's negative feelings, such as frustration, anger, and disappointment·Express your strong feelings without being hurtful·Engage your child's willing cooperation·Set firm limits and maintain goodwill·Use alternatives to punishment that promote self-discipline·Understand the difference between helpful and unhelpful praise·      Resolve family conflicts peacefully
Enthusiastically praised by parents and professionals around the world, the down-to-earth, respectful approach of Faber and Mazlish makes relationships with children of all ages less stressful and more rewarding. 

Though this book is technically a parenting book, I bought it after my first year teaching because I wanted to know how to more effectively communicate with my students, and only just finally got around to reading it.  It definitely hit a lot of points that I learned and knew about prior, but that are so easy to forget when you're not consistently trying to use them.  I'm not a parent, so I know I'm in no position to tell those who are how to do their job, but I loved how this book shared how to interact with your child based on their developmental age and how to effectively get your point across. It also had mini workbook parts where you could respond to a (real life) situation. I didn’t use this part yet, but it’s definitely something I may go back to once school starts and I am dealing with kids again. I highly recommend this for any teacher or parent who wants to build a relationship of respect with their child/student.

60. Sister of Mine by Laurie Petrou (3/5 ★)

Sisters, like secrets, are best kept close.

Penny and Hattie, orphaned sisters in a small town, are best friends, bound together to the point of knots. But Penny, at the mercy of her brutal husband, is desperate for a fresh start. Willing to do anything for her older sister, Hattie agrees to help. A match is struck and a fire burns Penny’s marriage to the ground. With her husband gone, Penny is free, and the sisters, it seems, get away with murder. But freedom comes at a cost. 

More than a year after the fire, a charming young man comes to town. Hattie and Penny quickly bring him into the fold and into their hearts but their love for him threatens the delicate balance. Soon long-held resentments, sibling rivalry, and debts unpaid boil over, and the bonds of sisterhood begin to snap. As one little lie grows into the next, the sisters’ secrets will unravel, eroding their lives until only a single, horrible truth remains: You owe me. 

A compelling novel of suspense from a talented new voice, Sister of Mine asks us to consider the bonds of family, what it takes to commit the unthinkable, and how far you’ll go to protect the ones you love.

I received this book as an early release copy, but it is released on August 7th. I'm really torn on how I feel about it.  The story didn't seem to have a huge plot line, but at the same time there was suspense and I was drawn into the story and found myself slurping it up as fast as I could because I wanted to know what happened.. I really, truly can't decide if I enjoyed this book or if I thought it was dumb. It's just bizarre.

61. The Exes' Revenge by Jo Jakeman (4/5 ★)

A wickedly dark debut thriller about three women who've all been involved with the same man and realize the one thing they have in common is that they all want revenge against him...

Divorces are often messy, and Imogen's is no exception. Phillip Rochester is controlling, abusive, and determined to make things as difficult as possible. When he shows up without warning demanding that Imogen move out of their house by the end of the month or he'll sue for sole custody of their young son, Imogen is ready to snap. 

In a moment of madness, Imogen does something unthinkable--something that puts her in control for the first time in years. She's desperate to protect her son and to claim authority over her own life.

But she wasn't expecting both Phillip's ex-wife and new girlfriend to get tangled up in her plans. These three very different women--and unlikely allies--reluctantly team up to take revenge against a man who has wronged them all.

Apparently the theme this month was suspense, which is fine by me because that is one of my favorite genres.  This was another early release book, and it will be published and available for sale on September 11th.  It was set in England, which usually makes it harder for me to follow because I'm not super familiar with the area/culture there, but it wasn't extreme and didn't include too much geographical information, so it didn't distract from the story. There were some plot twists, and I finished reading this with my window open at 2AM which wasn't the smartest (I'm a scaredy cat), but I definitely enjoyed the story!

Reading Challenge: 61/52 books read in 2018

You can find previous book reviews here!