• Book Reviews,  mental health

    Checking In: book review

    Title: Checking In

    Author: Michelle Williams

    Publisher: Thomas Nelson

    Publish date: 5/25/21

    Pages: 240

    Genre: Depression/Anxiety Help, Celebrity Biography

    Synopsis

    “I need help.”

    Acclaimed musical artist Michelle Williams shares the intimate, never-before-told story of how, even in the midst of enormous fame and success, she battled depression, leading her to find her true calling as an advocate for mental health–especially her own.

    As a member of Destiny’s Child, one of the top female R&B groups of all time, Michelle Williams felt blessed. After the group disbanded, she continued to create bestselling albums, appear on television shows, and star in theater productions. Though she had always struggled with low moods, in 2018 her depression deepened, and when she found herself planning her own funeral, she checked herself into a treatment facility. There she found the help she needed to live out the incredible story God was writing for her life.

    In her first book, Michelle courageously shares the hidden secrets that nearly ended her life; the importance of her faith, family, and friends; and the lessons she learned about prioritizing her mental health. She is on a quest to increase mental health awareness and urges others to understand the importance of “checking in” with themselves, God, and others. Her candid, often humorous, and incredibly brave book will inspire readers who desire hope for their own difficult times.

    Review

    This book is an honest and refreshing look at depression. I have personally battled depression for many years and anytime I can read something and fell less alone, it’s a good read for me.

    To be upfront, I’m working my way through this book and I’m not finished with it yet. It’s that kind of book – it demands your attention, thoughts, and an honest look at your own life.

    I love the idea of checking in with yourself – a foreign concept to me. I’m not good at self-assessing my own feelings and struggle with prioritizing my mental health.

    That previous sentence – it caught up with me in a big way in the past year but I’m getting better everyday at setting boundaries and paying attention to my physical health and my mental health.

    Michelle also writes about checking in with others – something similar to what I wrote about last week. Many of us have lost touch with each other.

    This book is one I would recommend to anyone that struggles with trauma, depression, and/or anxiety. The author tells her own story beautifully and provides a feeling of hope to the reader.

    Want your own copy of Checking In?

    Enter my giveaway on Instagram or Facebook! 

    Thanks to TLC Book Tours and Thomas Nelson for the gifted copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

    Purchase Links

    Thomas Nelson | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

    Connect with Michelle

    Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

     

  • Bookish,  mental health,  Writing

    Mean Girls & Mental Health Awareness

    Mean Girls: the cult classic

    Mean Girls: the memes

    Mean Girls: the musical

    Mean Girls: the pandemic


    March, 2020

    I remember when everything shut down a little over a year ago.

    There was lots of talk of when we could be back together, how things would be different, and the appreciation for human contact.

    But as the year continued another storyline developed – the mean girls (and guys) who emerged from the pandemic.

    Plot twist

    It was easier to be a Mean Girl.

    Hiding behind a computer keyboard in an email.

    Texting passive/aggressively and ending said text with a smiley face.

    Or the worst, hiding in plain sight on Zoom calls. Prime time to say things in a public forum to someone’s face without in-person consequences.

    All because of distance and screens.

    I loathe Zoom

    The last scenario recently happened to me and it was a virtual face slap that hurt worse than a real one.

    Why?

    I was alone. I had no one sitting next to me in that meeting.

    And because we have all grown so numb to these virtual interactions, no one knew what to say.

    No one stood up for me as a person.

    No one told this woman to stop her baseless attack.

    It was only after she finished her attempted assault on my character and reputation that I was able to get a word in to defend myself.

    I am convinced that this never would have happened had this been a meeting where we all physically occupied the same space.

    And even if this person had been so bold, I believe the consequences would have been very different without screens to separate us.

    Eventually one person did speak up and told this woman why she couldn’t get her way. But the damage had already been done.

    Mission accomplished, drama mama.

    Context

    We have lost our context, our human frame of reference.

    We get our groceries delivered, we wear masks, and we stay home to hide behind technology.

    Here’s some context for the Zoom interaction I had: my mental health was at its lowest point in over a year.

    I struggle with depression and anxiety and always will. I have PTSD that will never fully resolve.

    Guess what is a trigger is for me?

    Being blindsided and attacked. And all this happened at a time where pulling myself out of bed some days was an accomplishment.

    Did this woman feel bigger? Better? More important in that square on the computer screen? You bet.

    But back to the context. Did anyone know where I was coming from?

    Sure, a few knew that I had spent the better part of the year being bullied by this person.

    But no one knew the context – where I was standing or functioning on a daily basis.

    Or how I felt that night in the meeting, alone in my study, facing a screen of many who I thought to be friends.

    Or what it’s taken in these past weeks to pick myself up and move on for my own health.

    Off/Mute

    When this incident happened to me on Zoom, I was mortified.

    People who didn’t know me at all and certainly had no context saw me as someone called out, questioned, and attacked.

    I was in tears but I could turn my camera off, hit mute and exist in a dark square that only displayed my name.

    But the day is coming where that won’t be possible and these pandemic mean girls won’t be so brave.

    Half the time I dread this and the other half – bring it, girls.

    Mental health awareness month

    So why share this story and parts of my own mental health struggles?

    May also happens to be the month we focus on mental health.

    The month we talk about removing the stigma.

    The month we talk about having open conversations with our friends.

    The month we acknowledge that many struggle with mental illness.

    This month – as the pandemic hopefully is winding down – is the perfect time to really be aware of those around us.

    Because some of us have been wearing more than one mask during COVID.

    Return to “normal”

    As life slowly returns to whatever our normal is going to look like, be gracious with one another.

    We have little or no context for the lives we are entering back into for the first time since COVID began.

    Take the time to understand. Talk. Ask questions. Don’t assume that everyone came out of this the same as you.

    And certainly don’t continue the entitlement some felt as they were hiding behind technology, doors and masks.

    Enough hiding.

    No books, no sequels, no musicals, no memes… Mean Girls: the pandemic is coming to an end.

  • ARC's,  Recommendations

    The Stepsisters: excerpt tour

    Welcome to my stop on the excerpt tour for The Stepsisters by Susan Mallery. Her books are the perfect beach reads and last summer her book, The Friendship List, was one of my favorite poolside books.

    Today I’m super excited to be sharing an excerpt of The Stepsisters. I’m reading the book right now and it’s got me in the mood for summer already!

    Summary

    #1 New York Times bestselling author Susan Mallery pens a love story of a different sort…a heartfelt tale of friendship between two women who used to be sisters.

    Once upon a time, when her dad married Sage’s mom, Daisy was thrilled to get a bright and shiny new sister. But Sage was beautiful and popular, everything Daisy was not, and she made sure Daisy knew it.

    Sage didn’t have Daisy’s smarts—she had to go back a grade to enroll in the fancy rich-kid school. So she used her popularity as a weapon, putting Daisy down to elevate herself. After the divorce, the stepsisters’ rivalry continued until the final, improbable straw: Daisy married Sage’s first love, and Sage fled California.

    Eighteen years, two kids and one troubled marriage later, Daisy never expects—or wants—to see Sage again. But when the little sister they have in common needs them both, they put aside their differences to care for Cassidy. As long-buried truths are revealed, no one is more surprised than they when friendship blossoms.

    Their fragile truce is threatened by one careless act that could have devastating consequences. They could turn their backs on each other again…or they could learn to forgive once and for all and finally become true sisters of the heart.

    Excerpt

    Adam returned carrying a plate stacked high with the crispy snacks. He smiled as he set it between them.

    “Why are you working in retail?”

    “Because I don’t have the training to be a jet pilot,” she said, reaching for a taquito. She thought about mentioning her tutoring, but that wasn’t impressive, either.

    “Seriously, why? You’re rich. You don’t need to work.”

    She licked her fingers as she stared at him. “I’m not rich. Where did you get that idea? I have a small settlement from my ex-husband and that’s it. I’m paying my mom rent and I enjoy eating, which means I need to be a working girl.” She frowned. “Not in a hooker sense.”

    “I just assumed you’d married money,” he said, then raised a hand. “Not in the hooker sense. Just in the beautiful women tend to gravitate toward wealthy men sense.”

    “It didn’t work out that way. My first husband was a race car driver, but then he crashed and if you can’t drive, you can’t earn money. My last husband made me think he was rich, but he was lying.”

    And hadn’t that been a bitter discovery, she thought, telling herself she’d moved on from the disappointment. She reached for another taquito.

    “You have a sweet ride for a working girl,” he said, grabbing a taquito and dipping it in the guacamole.

    She smiled at the mention of her BMW 3 Series. “She is pretty, isn’t she? She cost me a Hermes Birkin crocodile handbag, but she was worth it.”

    Adam frowned. “I don’t understand,” he admitted.

    “I sold a handbag and bought my new-to-me car with the proceeds.”

    “No handbag is worth a car.”

    “You say this as a women’s accessory expert?”

    His confusion morphed into complete bafflement. “But it’s just a purse. My mom has a purse. How can there be one worth thirty or forty thousand dollars?”

    “It’s a Birkin bag. A crocodile Birkin bag.”

    “But…”

    She patted his hand. “You’re going to have to trust me on this. When I leave, you can look them up online and later you can apologize.”

    He still looked shell-shocked, which was kind of sweet. She liked that the world of high fashion and ridiculous prices was foreign to him. No doubt he would assume that one of her husbands had given her the bag, which was fine with her. She saw no need to tell him how she’d earned it. She might enjoy his company, but she didn’t know him well enough to trust him with a secret like that.

    “You live a life I can’t imagine,” he admitted.

    “I did, but not anymore. Now I’m just a regular person.”

    “How does that feel?”

    No way she was going to get into that pit of failure. She gave him a bright smile. “I’m ready to be back in the States. I’m not excited about starting over, but this time I’m determined to make better decisions. And that’s enough about me. Tell me about yourself, Adam. You live here alone?”

    He smiled. “I wouldn’t have invited you over for drinks if I was involved with someone.” He picked up his drink. “Let me clarify that by saying I’m offering information, not assuming this is anything more

    than friendly. I’m smart enough to know my place in the universe and mine is not with the likes of you.”

    She waited for the jab that was sure to follow, but he didn’t seem to have anything else to say on the topic.

    Details

    Author: Susan Mallery

    Publisher: Mira

    Release Date: 5/25/21

    Pages: 416

    Genre: Contemporary Romance/Friendship Fiction

    Purchase Links

    MIRA | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

    Thanks to TLC Book Tours and MIRA for the gifted copy of this book!

     

     

     

  • ARC's,  Book Reviews

    Stormland: review & feature

    Author: John Shirley

    Publisher: Blackstone Publishing

    Date: April 13th, 2021

    Pages: 368

    Genre: Post-apocalyptic, climate change

    Publisher Synopsis

    They call it Stormland: a sprawling, largely abandoned region of the southeastern coast of the USA, where climate change’s extreme weather conditions have brought about a ”perfect storm” of perpetual tempests; where hurricane-strength storms return day after day, 365 days a year.

    The heart of Stormland is Charleston, South Carolina, a flooded ruin where hundreds of people remain for their own peculiar reasons; where thugs prey on the weak, and a strangely benevolent cult tries to keep everyone insanely sane. Here, plutocratic evil takes advantage of Stormland’s lawlessness to cultivate a weirdly puppeted theater of cruelty.

    Swept into the turbulent vortex of Stormland is an unlikely duo — a former serial killer and a former US Marshal — who must work together to bring light to America’s late twenty-first century heart of darkness.

    A cyberpunk detective thriller set in a maelstrom of climatic upheaval, classism, and corrupt power, Stormland paradoxically dramatizes the resilience of the human spirit.

    Review

    This book is a page-turner! I couldn’t put it down. I’ve really been liking books that tackle global warming and climate issues and this book took it all on in such a creative way.

    The characters were complex and drove this story. I enjoy that in a book but be aware that there are a lot of characters introduced that made things difficult to keep track of, especially in the beginning. This was my one issue with the book.

    Post-apocalyptic books haven’t been my thing recently – hello, global pandemic – but this story arc was so unique that the time period didn’t bother me.

    There’s something for everyone here and I could really recommend Stormland to anyone – it has such a broad appeal. A sequel would be perfect and I hope that is on the horizon.

    Thanks to TLC Book Tours and Blackstone Publishing for the gifted copy in exchange for my honest review


    Purchase Links

    Blackstone Publishing | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

     

  • Audiobooks,  Book Reviews,  Recommendations

    Don’t Give the Enemy a Seat at Your Table: review & feature

    Author: Louie Giglio

    Publisher: Thomas Nelson

    Date Available: May 11, 2021

    Genre: Christian Growth

    Pages: 224

    Summary

    Louie Giglio helps you find encouragement, hope, and strength in the midst of any valley as you reject the enemy voices of fear, rage, lust, insecurity, anxiety, despair, temptation, or defeat.

    Scripture is clear: the Enemy is a liar who will stop at nothing to tempt you into poor decisions and self-defeating mindsets, making you feel afraid, angry, anxious, or defeated. It is all too easy for Satan to weasel his way into a seat at the table intended for only you and your King. But you can fight back.

    Don’t Give the Enemy a Seat at Your Table outlines the ways to overcome those lies so you can find peace and security in any challenging circumstance or situation. With the same bold, exciting approach to Scripture as employed in Goliath Must Fall and his other previous works, pastor Louie Giglio examines Psalm 23 in fresh ways, highlighting verse 5: “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.”

    You can find freedom from insecurity, temptation, and defeat—if you allow Jesus, the Shepherd, to lead the battle for your mind and heart. This spiritual warfare book for those who are leery of spiritual warfare books will resonate with Louie’s core Passion tribe as well as with Christians of all ages who want to live a triumphant life in God.

    Review

    I am an extremely anxious person. I also battle depression and want to be upfront that this book is not a substitute for professional mental healthcare.

    With that being said, this book is very valuable for fighting those invasive thoughts of shame, loneliness, comparison with others, etc – basically not allowing those harmful & negative thoughts to live rent free in your head.

    I chose to receive the audiobook and it was a welcome respite from the stress & strife that have seemed to have consumed our world. And an added bonus, the audiobook was narrated by the author – something I really enjoy when done well.

    Having Louie Giglio in my ears for several hours was an immersive experience and the biggest thing I took away from this book was freedom from fear. That is something I have never believed to have existed – especially for me.

    But after listening to this book I felt more hopeful, a bit more bold, and encouraged.

    I enjoyed the use of the framework of Psalm 23 and while this is a Christian book, it’s applicable and practical for anyone who struggles whith the daily stressors of life.

    This book was both timely and practical and I highly recommend the audiobook. It’s an experience to hear an author read their own words and Giglio does it well.

    Thank you to TLC Book Tours and Thomas Nelson for the gifted copy of this audiobook in exchange for my honest review.

    Purchase Links

    Thomas Nelson | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

    Connect with Louie

    Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

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