5/22/17

The Hate U Give - Angie Thomas - REVIEW




Whenever I write a book review for a book that I enjoyed reading, I often say that it's a book I feel others need to read. Whether if it's because they might learn something, or because the story is told so well - I find I'm often writing something urging others to read a particular book. It might seem redundant, but I assure you, it's always genuine. I love reading, and the books I review on here, are often the ones that I feel a stronger need to share with others. It's harder to write a review for a book I maybe didn't like as much. I don't want to offend! So while I might come off as a broken record, I assure you - it's authentic.

With that being said, everyone needs to stop what they're doing, and order this book. Better yet, go to your closest book store (I hope that there is one), and buy it. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas is astounding. I knew early on that it was going to be the kind of book I would want to review - and shout about from the rooftops.

The Hate U Give shares the story of a girl named Starr who grows up in a black urban neighborhood rife with poverty and violence. She attends a fancy private school in another area of town, which contrasts with her life in Garden Heights sharply, leaving her feeling strained by the mores of these different worlds. When she is the witness of her friend being murdered in Garden Heights, all things change. The story chronicles what comes after this both for Starr, as well as for her family, friends and neighbors.

Angie Thomas wrote a novel that needs to be read. It offers up diverse characters, which are so sorely needed in YA novels - and in general. It discusses issues of racism and prejudice and the police brutality and criminal justice issues that are inherently intertwined with these issues. Thomas tackles these current events in a way that made it nearly impossible for me to put down. While the book is fiction, it reads like it isn't. Perhaps that is because the story it presents could easily have happened yesterday - or it could happen tomorrow. It addresses subjects that are relevant because they are current conflicts within our society, and it presents this topic to a younger audience - giving them a story that goes beyond adolescent romance and cohort drama (not that there isn't a place for this either sometimes).

It doesn't matter your age - The Hate U Give is one of those books that everyone really should read. It gives the reader a lot to think about and does so in a way that draws you in - to the setting and the characters. I found that it moves quickly as you read and despite being quite lengthy, it doesn't take long to finish.

No matter your preferred genres, this is certainly a book I encourage you to read. I found myself reading slower in the beginning of the book, but I often do that as I get used to the characters and the story being presented. It was well worth the lag time though. I gave The Hate U Give a full five stars on Goodreads - where you can follow along with all my reading as I don't always write full reviews here.

I'm also always looking for more diverse books to read, so if you have any suggestions, send them my way!

5/21/17

Six Eco-Friendly Things To Do In Your Garden This Year + GIVEAWAY



Living in Upstate New York, summertime is something to be savored. It doesn't last quite as long as I always want it to, and as someone who loves being outside relaxing or gardening, I don't know if I'd want it to end. Honestly, if I could have a really long summer and fall, and a shorter spring and winter,  I'd be totally down for that!

Our gardens, both veggie and flower are ever-evolving. Every year I make changes, adding plants and (sadly) sometimes eliminating them. Decor comes and goes, and I *try* to learn from my mistakes from previous seasons. Through it all, there are certain rules I go by: with my veggie garden I go for non-GMO always, and organic whenever possible and I don't use pesticides or any sort of weed killers in any of my gardens (veggie or flower). We try to conserve water, and plant things that make different animals happy so the gardens aren't solely for our own benefit.

Personally, I find gardening to be not only a rewarding experience, but also a therapeutic one. I feel like I have an overactive brain sometimes and when I'm working outside it seems to quiet the noise inside my head - at least somewhat. It's also a good form of exercise (trust me - lugging soil and mulch wears on you!) - and it gets you out into the fresh air!!  It's also nice to just sit and enjoy your work from time to time. :)

While the act of gardening might seem like an Eco-friendly activity on its face, there are ways in which our actions can actually be more detrimental - like using harmful pesticides and chemicals to rid our yards of weeds and bugs, or watering your grass (seriously - grass is overrated - plant a garden!). The list below is meant to help you find ways to make your yard work for both you and mother nature!

  • Plant herbs for warding off mosquitoes - mosquitoes are annoying - and scary to be honest. You can try to deter them naturally by planting herbs like lavender, rosemary, and peppermint. All of these are perennial too so you can enjoy them year after year! You can also plant citronella to ward of mosquitoes! 
  • Set up a rain barrel - allowing rain water to collect in a rain barrel is a great way of conserving your water usage. You can easily make one yourself, or buy one. Check your local municipalities - they might even sell them. If you live in Erie County, NY - there is currently a sale on for rain barrels and compost bins - hurry though, orders need to be placed by May 31st!
  • Watch what you plant! I love checking out different nurseries throughout the season, and I can easily buy plants anywhere, but you really need to watch where you're buying them from. This past weekend I went to Lowes and had amassed a cart full of plants I wanted to add to my garden. But then, when I was looking at a shrub, I saw an odd disclaimer that stated that the plant may, or may not have been treated with pesticides that might be harmful to the bee population. Say what??? I knew that Lowes and Home Depot had both come under fire for their use of pesticides that were found to be killing bees, but last I had heard, they had decided to stop using them. However, what I didn't know, was that while they do plan to stop using these harmful products, they are phasing them out over a period of years. Needless to say, I left my cart full of plants and went elsewhere. We need bees. Our plants - need bees. Why would I want to plant flowers that could possibly kill the partner-in-crime that they need??!?!
  • Compost - if you have the space to start a compost pile or bin, do it! If you live in an area where you can contribute to a town/city wide compost - do it! There are plenty of ways to compost, and doing so is a great way of reducing waste and also making your own soil amendment. 
  • Plant milkweed! The Monarch butterflies and milkweed are best friends. The Monarch butterflies are endangered so planting milkweed gives them one more chance to thrive. It's a perennial plant so it should come back for years to come! 
  • Perennial food - This one depends on what zone you live in, but if you live in an area with four seasons, you might think that there aren't many foods that you can grow which come back year after year. Not true!! There are plenty! Many herbs - like parsley, oregano, chives, mints, thyme, and rosemary are perennial. Fruits like blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, and grapes can be planted one year and enjoyed for many years after. If you've got the space for trees, you can grow apples, peaches, and pears. Asparagus is a perennial food as well! Planting perennial foods one year can give you a harvest for many seasons after! 
I'm definitely no expert when it comes to gardening - I love to experiment and learn from experience. I don't always follow all the ~gardening rules~ and I enjoy seeing what I can do differently. I do try to make sure that what I'm doing outside isn't having any sort of detrimental impact on environment though so I hope that this list helps or inspires you. If you have any other recommendations, please share them in the comments! Happy gardening!


Help the Monarch Butterflies!! WIN SOME SEEDS! I'm giving away one pack of milkweed seeds so you can plant your own Monarch butterfly haven! Want to win them? All you have to do is leave a comment on this post and you will be entered to win. A winner will be randomly selected - must be in the United States to win. Contest ends May 31st, 2017 - so you'll have plenty of time to start your milkweed plants no matter what zone you live in! Good luck!

5/9/17

Elizabeth Warren: This Fight Is Our Fight (REVIEW)

 

When I heard Elizabeth Warren had a new book coming out, I pre-ordered it right away. When it arrived, I rushed through the book I had been reading so I could get to it quicker and it definitely did not disappoint. I've been a fan of Senator Warren for many years now. I think she is genuine, wildly intelligent, compassionate, and without waver in her dedication to fighting for those who's voice is rarely, if ever, heard. I find her intensity and passion to be refreshing in the world of politics as a whole. I think there are many politicians out there who have grown cozy in their bubbles and who do not truly care for their constituents back home or the average American *cough cough* I'm looking at you, Chris Collins! *cough cough* This Fight is Our Fight blends together Warren's scholarly style with her humanistic compassion and understanding of what it looks like to be an average American in our society. The book provides statistical insight, with the real-life challenges of many Americans through anecdotal evidence.

This Fight is Our Fight takes the reader on a journey - chronicling much of our history since the Great Depression, and what it took to help build a strong middle class. It also explores the ways in which that strong middle class has been challenged, and effectively destroyed. Warren looks at how we built up our middle class and the efforts we made to ensure that all citizens had a fighting chance at the American Dream, some stability, and opportunity. She also details the many ways in which these supports have been weakened, or in some cases, eradicated entirely, in order to serve the richest Americans, large corporations and industry. Warren argues that these actions - primarily at the hands of republicans, have allowed for our middle class to weaken, and that now with trump as president, our middle class is threatened with extinction.

I think that Warren does an excellent job of highlighting the many ways in which corporations, the mega-rich, and industries as a whole have manipulated the government over the years in order to make it work for them, and not the average American. While much of the book was not surprising, and I was aware of bits already, it was still enraging. Her breakdown of how big business has been screwing workers over the years drives me mad. It certainly makes me rethink the types of business which I will patronize... which I think is exactly the type of reaction that readers should have. This book should make you think twice...even thrice.

In This Fight is Our Fight, Elizabeth Warren not only looks at the past, but also at the future. The book is a rally call - it is meant to energize and wake up those who care about the future of this country. It is required reading for anyone who wants to see America thrive. The book is truly an excellent read which balances facts with slices of humor, and glimpses into real American life. The only thing that I would have done differently, is that I would have included more anecdotes. I think that in order to truly understand the plight of the average citizen, we need to hear their stories. Warren does this, just not to the level that I would have really appreciated. It doesn't make the book any less important though!

Honestly, if you care about the future of this country, you need to read this book!