Review: Ghosts Don’t Die

Ghosts Don't Die
Ghosts Don’t Die by W.B. Alexander
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I read this book for a friend who also happens to be a friend of the author’s. She also was acquainted with some of the true events that inspired the story. To a certain extent, that means I know the story behind the story. I also promised that I would focus solely on the positive things when I wrote this review, and focus on the positive I shall.

To be fair, most of the detractors from the book are things that a good editor could take care of. They are also things I have witnessed in other authors with a much broader reach. I see a lot of potential in W.B. Alexander’s work. He creates a fascinating cast of characters that come alive on the page. He also did a good job of creating the mystery around who killed this woman.

The biggest problem I had was by the time the major plot event, aka her death, actually happened, I didn’t really care much anymore about why she was killed. However, the characters were diversified enough to keep my interest and make me want to keep reading. This book is also a great read if you want to know the true story behind what Gettysburg is like, from the ghost tours, to the tourism, to barely being able to stay afloat the rest of the year. Don’t let a few editorial errors make you miss out on a great insight into Gettysburg ghost hunts.

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Review: Blood of Dragons

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Blood of Dragons
Blood of Dragons by Robin Hobb
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It’s time for complete honesty. If given the chance, I would have read a single book about Sedric and Carson instead of the four books with all the other characters. It’s not that I don’t like the other characters. I do. I just would not have enjoyed the series as much if Sedric and Carson were not involved or if Sedric’s story had gone in a different direction. I have headcanons to fill in the gaps in their story. Headcanons that I give far too much time to when there are other things I could be doing. I guess what I’m saying is, Robin Hobb, I want more Sedric and Carson. Unless “more” entails the two of them breaking up, at which point you can keep it to yourself.

Now that everyone knows where my priorities lie, I can review the rest of the book. Blood of Dragons was a fantastic conclusion to a series that renewed my faith in the fantasy genre. I was starting to worry that I had read all the good fantasy books and nothing else good will come around. Then I discovered this series at the library. Since I had enjoyed Hobb’s Liveship Traders, I decided to give this one a chance. This is one book decision I have never regretted.

Though we still have an overabundance of character pov that carries over from City of Dragons, this book does not suffer from the same pacing problems. The only issue I had with the pov in this book was we switch over to Carson exactly once. I know, I said Sedric and Carson were the best bits, so you think that would make me happy. Except it added nothing to the book that we didn’t know. The scene would have worked the same from Sedric’s pov, and we would have lost nothing. The reason why it was so disappointing is because Carson is so inscrutable some times to readers, I was looking forward to getting inside his head to see what makes him tick. But we didn’t learn anything knew about him that we couldn’t already infer from Sedric, so all it did was add an extra pov character.

For the conclusion to a series, it wrapped everything up in a nice package, if not always in the manner I would have preferred. One character’s end disappointed me, but it was still well written. Blood of Dragons is the best conclusion possible to a worthwhile series. Definitely check this one out if you get the chance.

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Review: The Undertaker’s Gift

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The Undertaker's Gift
The Undertaker’s Gift by Trevor Baxendale
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

As a fan of the television series, it’s hard for me to judge this book solely on its own merit. So I’m not even going to try. If you are debating about whether you’re going to read this book, you’ve probably already watched the series. This book exists for expanded universe material and nothing else.

For me, this book defines average reading material. There’s nothing in it that particularly strikes me as great, but there wasn’t anything to make me want to pull my hair out either. The plot is what you would expect from Torchwood, complete with a reset button that the series overuses. Except for when you want them to use the reset button, that’s when they forget about its existence. The added non-Torchwood characters were rather bland. I never cared about what happened to them, and they monopolized about half of the book space. The only thing this book has going for it is that it’s not bad, which isn’t saying much considering it’s a tie-in novel.

The thing I really took away from this book, however, is how little Jack deserved Ianto. The book seemed to revel in this notion, or it was just trying to make us think Jack and Ianto were ill-suited for each other. Yet all I could see was Jack being an undeserving jackass who I was starting to despise by the end of the book. Run off on them again, Jack, nobody cares! Both of them are better off without you.

Basically, Ianto was dying and Jack was too obsessed to care. To be honest, it was worse than that. It was more like “You’re dying anyway, so do you mind terribly if I use you as canon-fodder while I go rescue perfect, irreplaceable, gorgeous Gwen?” Meanwhile, poor Ianto is half-dead and so in love with Jack that he just decides to go along with it. Hence, Jack never deserved Ianto. At least in this incarnation.

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Review: Pacific Rim: The Official Movie Novelization

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Pacific Rim: The Official Movie Novelization
Pacific Rim: The Official Movie Novelization by Alex Irvine
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The only thing that prevents me from giving this less than three stars is love and loyalty to the source material. Also, I begged my mom to get this book for me. Pacific Rim fanfic writers were using information from this book as canon material, and I wanted to read it myself. I don’t understand how a work of fiction could fall so far from it’s source to be non-enjoyable, but somehow this book pulled it off. Unless you are already a Pacific Rim fan and want a little more than what the movie provided, don’t read this book.

The plot is great, which is one of the few things this book had going for it. Then again, the book took the plot straight from the movie which is infinitely better and takes less time to get through. If given the choice, this is the one time I recommend watching the movie instead of reading the book. One of the few good things the book did on its own was the inclusion of supplemental documents. Between most chapters were “scanned” files, such as dossiers and newspaper clippings, that gave the reader insight into the universe. Much like the documents you can find in Resident Evil games. This was a great innovation, and I hope to see it again sometime, preferably in a better book.

I don’t know if it was because the publishers rushed to get the book out before the movie released or if they just assumed their audience was going to be dumb and wouldn’t notice, but this book is poorly edited. This might be one of the worst editing jobs I have ever seen. I’m not talking about simple grammar or wrong word choices either, although there are plenty enough of those as well. No, there are glaring continuity errors in this book, and not just from the beginning of the book to the end, but from literally one paragraph to the next.

At the mention of the pilots, service portraits of the Hansens flashed across the screen, quickly replaced by a ground-level view of Striker Eureka and Mutavore going at it. Raleigh had never been inside a Mark V. None had existed when he was a ranger….

He’d fought with Striker Eureka once, in Manila.

No, no you didn’t fight with Striker Eureka once Raleigh, because by your own admission two thought processes ago, Mark V’s did not exist when you were a Ranger. In fact, earlier in the novel you find out Striker Eureka was still being built at the time Raleigh retired. It looks like no one even thought about editing the book which is an insult to the people who are reading these books. Like we aren’t going to notice an error that glaring. You would have to be engrossed in the book to miss that one, and unless you think Raleigh is made of gold, that chapter is one of the least entertaining to begin with.

Again, unless you are desperate for Pacific Rim expanded universe, as I sadly was, give this book a pass.

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Review: City of Dragons

City of Dragons
City of Dragons by Robin Hobb
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

City of Dragons is the weak link in the otherwise fantastic Rain Wild Chronicles. It suffers from weak pacing and a short length, but is easily forgiven by the strengths of the other books and the inclusion of Sedric and Carson. At the time of this review, I have already finished Blood of Dragons, but I’ll keep my knowledge of that book from coloring my perception of this book.

Let’s get the pacing issues out of the way because I love this series and want to forget about the negative aspects as soon as possible. This book is short for both the series and fantasy novels in general, a full hundred pages shorter than the final book. The length is not a problem on its own, but it’s compounded by too many perspectives. In this book we get to hop in the heads of Hest, Sedric, Alise, Leftrin, Tats, Thymara, Malta, Selden and the Duke of Chalced. This averages out to about 36 pages dedicated to each character’s perspective. At this point you might as well be reading a collection of interrelated short stories. Most of the characters are in different physical locations, so the story crawls along. At least it seems to push them all together for the final book. The pacing problem would have been enough to drag this book down to a three for me had it not been for Sedric and Carson.

In a mainstream fantasy book, it is so rare to have a homosexual couple whose major purpose seems for them to be the well-adjusted couple of the group that I forgive any other issues I have with the relationship. Most of their relationship development happened off page and every time they had even the tiniest squabble they had resolved it by the next time we saw them. Yet, we rarely get happy, well-adjusted gay couples in mainstream fantasy who don’t die. If anyone has book recommendations that meet the above requirements, please send them my way. I would love for nothing more than to read them too.

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Review: Dexter’s Final Cut

Use Grammarly to correct grammar because you can’t tell people to learn to speak English unless you know the difference between “your” and “you’re”.  Warning: Lynne Bubbles does not endorse telling other people to “learn to speak English,” nor is Lynne Bubbles responsible for someone disliking you because you told him/her to learn to speak English via Tweet, Facebook message, face-to-face, or any other form of communication.

Dexter's Final Cut
Dexter’s Final Cut by Jeff Lindsay

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I wasn’t sure where to begin with this abomination of a book. I was a fan of the show up to about season 4 and was always an avid reader of the books. For the past three years I’ve maintained that the books are far superior to whatever the show was concocting. As the show has come to a close and the title and the ending of this book implies this is the final novel, I can’t decide which incarnation botched the conclusion of a once great series more.

This book is an insult to readers in general, to the characters, to women, but most importantly to the series itself. Dexter used to be likeable. Sure, he was a serial killer, but he only killed other killers and he had a certain charm and wit that made him relatable. All that has been stripped away in this book to be replaced with a Dexter that is unlikeable at best and downright despicable at his worst moments.

As for this book’s insulting messages to women, there’s just so much to choose from. First, I’ve always loved that Dexter was an asexual character. It added a fascinating and plausible accent to his personality. In this book, Lindsay throws it away for the chance to throw in gratuitous sex in the second half of the book. Even if Dexter had suddenly found his sexuality with some plain Jane it would have been better than what we were handed. Dexter suddenly discovers his sexuality through some beautiful, glamorous movie star while he starts to mentally note how Rita is starting to get lines around the corner of her eyes. How dare she?! Why would women ever let themselves get wrinkles? We’re supposed to stay youthful forever!

It’s called “aging,” Dexter, and it’s something that’s going to happen to your precious little star one day as well. Maybe much later in life thanks to technology and money, but it will still happen. This suggests that asexual people just need to find someone desirable enough to stir their loins and that only a select handful of women are truly desirable. I can only hope that Dexter’s change of personality and terrible treatment of women was all in an attempt to make us swallow the ending, by turning him into Despicable Douche Dexter. Oh, look, I can randomly capitalize three words in a row as well! Yes, I understand that it has always been a stable in the series, but in this book it seemed so random most of the time that it became obnoxious.

As for the plot, well, there is none. The murder plot is wrapped up about halfway through the novel while Dexter cruises on through his new star-studded life, while the real conflict doesn’t actually show up until the last third of the book. Even then Dexter misses so much of the clues that some readers might not even realize what the main conflict was until thirty pages from the end of the book.

A disappointing end to a once great series.

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Review – Passion Play

Passion Play
Passion Play by Beth Bernobich
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I watched some tips from netgalley on how to make a better and more interesting review. For the most part it was some really great advice. For instance, it said no matter how you feel about something, you have to say why. You can’t just say, “I loved it” or “I hated it” without giving the reader and to some extent the author some reason. It’s just common sense. For one thing, author’s aren’t going to know what’s working and what’s not unless somebody tells them. The other piece of advice that stuck with me was don’t tell spoilers. Don’t ruin the book for people who haven’t read it yet. Which is also really great advice. Lots of people read reviews because they want to know if they should read the book or if it will make them want to throw the book across the room in a fit of rage. Which has led me to my current conundrum, because I cannot tell anyone why I disliked this book so much without revealing important plot points. As it was a video from a highly respected reviewer, I didn’t have the opportunity to ask what I was supposed to do in this situation. Don’t read past the more if you don’t want spoilers.

This was regrettably the first book I finished in 2014, and it was a toss up between this one and the final Dexter novel as the first review of the year. Both were a disappointment, so I’m really glad I took a week off from reviewing last week to highlight the best of 2013.

So, Therez, who eventually changes her name to Isle, runs away from an arranged marriage based on a hunch she had that her intended not a good man. There were implications that he made his former betrothed disappear in an unsavory manner. The one bright spot in this book is that she isn’t magically protected from all the bad in the world just because she’s the protagonist. Bad things happen to her as a direct result of her impulsive decision to run away from home. The first fifty pages or so might be a little difficult for some readers to get past as a result, but the even brighter spot is that she is not magically cured of her trauma just because she met the hero. It takes pages and lots of therapy for her to recover from what happened to her.

Unfortunately, there were a lot of things that happened in the second half of the book that I am very outspoken about. The hero is an eunuch and openly bisexual, but neither one of these things really add to the plot. This review by Jennifer already brilliant outlines the problem with Lord Kosenmark’s depiction as a eunuch, so I won’t recover that territory. What bothered me more was the underlying thread that suggested that homosexual love should be pushed aside in favor of heterosexual love, even when in this case children are not possible in either relationship. Now, in the case of Ilse and Lord Kosenmark, I might have let it slide if only because they are the main focus of the book. Even if I never did feel the chemistry in their relationship and to me it felt like they just got together because the plot dictated it, I understand how the other man got pushed aside. Had it been an isolated incident, I might have even forgiven it. But Nadine strongly hints that she has feelings for Ilse, and her feelings are also pushed aside in favor of Ilse’s relationship with Kosenmark. Also understandable since we are informed Ilse is straight. But it didn’t end there. Continue reading

2014 New Year’s Resolutions

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I fully believe in sharing my New Year’s resolutions in a public space as it helps to keep me accountable for them.  Just look at last year’s resolutions and how many I accomplished.  Also look at how many I admitted to having failed.  The point is, by public acknowledging what my resolutions were, I then had to own up to both my accomplishments and my failures.   Here they are in no particular order, my resolutions for 2014.

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1. Deja vu! Remember these guys?  Kurogane and Fai from Tsubasa Reservoir chronicles?  If you read the update from 2013, you already know that Kurogane is still naked.   This will be year five that making his clothes has topped my resolutions.   Perhaps this will be the year that he will finally get the clothes he was always meant to have.

2.  Get even more fit.  I have a gym membership I’ve been using regularly for the past six months.   I’ve started kickboxing (brutal!) and have incorporated a running program into my routine.   I’ve also signed up for my first 5k, a zombie run in a neighboring city.  I’m also contemplating running the Dirty Girl the following week.

3.  Write even more.  I have so many book ideas floating around in my brain, it might be beneficial to get some of them down on paper.  To that end, I’m going to futher my Italian knowledge.   I have a Ferrante biography that took me forever to track down I need to read, and these masterpieeces in my head aren’t going to write themselves.

4. Continue on my quest to be financially stable.  Less bills, more security, a job I enjoy, the whole nine yards. Maybe I can sell a book in the process.  That would be amazing.

Best of 2013 – A Year of Book Reviews

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In lieu of an actual book review this week, (yes, I know I’m already a day behind), I’m going to do one of those best of 2013 things.  Instead of doing the top 10, however, we’re going to do the top 10 percent.  Here they are, the top six books I read in 2013.

nightcircus6.  This book was recommended to me by my supervisor since she knew I was doing book reviews on the side, so I ultimately decided to at least give it a chance.  Not the type of book I normally read, but I was intrigued enough by her enthusiasm.  The Night Circus is a vividly beautiful book that transports you to a world where magic is real.  There’s also a special circus that only goes on at night, which is actually the setting of an ancient feud between two magicians who constantly pit their protegees against each other in demonstrations of skill and talent until one or both participants exhaust themselves to death.  While the story can get convoluted, this book is worth the read for Erin Morgenstern’s compelling descriptions alone.

prideandprejudice 5.  Pride and Prejudice: Hidden Lusts is a fun, sexy romp through Jane Austin’s classic tale.  This was one of the books I picked up in my epic quest for Bingley/Darcy sex, and it does not disappoint, in that regard or any other type of sex you could possibly want to find in a book.  For the entertainment value alone, this book made number five on the top books of the year.

Full review here.

judeconnor4.  A free book from Netgalley that I still haven’t gotten around to reviewing but that is in no way indicative of how I felt about this book.  I just haven’t been able to properly express how much this book moved me in anything other than short blurb format yet.  This book is about a young gay Christian man and the struggles he faces trying to deal with both his faith and coming to terms with his sexuality.  It’s incredibly powerful, and definitely worth the read for anyone interested in the subject matter.

eondragoneyereborn3. Shiny!  A young adult novel made the list this year!  I was pleasantly surprised, actually, by the number of good young adult novels I read over the year, even if this was the only one that made the top ten percent.  This book follows a young woman disguised as a boy who gets thrown into a position of power that shouldn’t be granted to her in the terms of their patriarchal society.  This book deals heavily in terms of gender identity, not only through the protagonist, but a transsexual woman and an eunuch as well.

Read my full review here.

psychguidetocrimefighting2.  Psych may be my favorite show of all time, so it’s no surprise that any book Psych related would have made this list.  Although I remain intensely curious as to actually wrote the book.  I’ve been unable to find this information, and it’s just one of those things I have to know.   Was it James Roday and Dule Hill?  Was it some incredibly lucky ghost writer working under the direct supervision of James Roday and Dule Hill in what I can only assume was a dream job?  Was it one of the show writers?  Does Shawn Spencer actually exist and James Roday just plays him on tv?

Most likely not, but, regardless, Psych’s Guide to Crime Fighting is definitely one for any die-hard Psych fans out there.  Just, be warned, there isn’t a lot of practical information on crime fighting, so please don’t pick this book up on the assumption it will make you the world’s most awesome detective.

Full review here.

Dragonkeeper1. This book was one of the last I read in 2013, and, as such, isn’t even slated for review yet.  Cut me some slack, I had books I read back in the spring that haven’t made the review list yet.  Still, it’s worth mentioning that this was the best book I read in 2013.   Robin Hobb has always been a hit or miss with me, and this book was a home run.  Beautifully crafted characters, deep themes you don’t normally see in fantasy novels, and dragons.  Lots and lots of dragons.  Also, I’m rather emotionally invested in when Alise is going to figure out that her husband is gay.  I solved that one from the moment he was introduced, and by the end of the first book, she’s blissfully unaware of his real sexual preferences.  Well, maybe in book two.  Also, I’m really hoping Sedric gets some sort of redemption arc here shortly, because I think it would be rather amazing.

There they are, the top ten percent of 2013.  May the new year bring me many new books to read, and hopefully enough good ones that next year’s  best of recap will be a bit more of a challenge.

New Year’s Resolutions: 2013 Review

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2013 new year sparkler

 

Here we are, at the end of 2013, and it’s once again time to talk about resolutions.  We’ll talk about next year’s after January properly begins, but first we need to look back at 2013.  I don’t know about the rest of you, but I actually had a productive year.  So here’s the recap of my resolutions for 2013 along with a recap of what I actually accomplished.

 

  • OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is a set of Kurogane and Fai plush from Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle by CLAMP. Specifically, it is a plush version of their Holitsuba counterparts. Currently, they are snuggled in one of my bookcases. I started working on these little guys my senior year of college. You will notice that Kurogane is not wearing any clothes. That was not an artistic decision for the purpose of this photograph. Kurogane does not have any clothes. This poor doll has been naked for four years. There’s no excuse for that, other than my own procrastination, because making his clothes has been on my resolutions list for the past four years. Honestly, some people.
    • Well, this is embarrassing.   Right after publicly declaring that I had a productive year, I have to admit that Kurogane is still naked.  I briefly entertained the notion of putting aside my responsibilities for the day and rushing through the clothes making process, but it’s not going to happen.  Yes, folks, expect to see this one on 2014′s resolutions as we head into year five of doll nudity.
  • Learn Italian. This one is another that has been on my list for some time, but it used to be “foreign language.” I have now quite committed myself to learning Italian, for a very specific reason. Several, actually. I want to retire in Italy. Before that, I have a book I’m planning based on Ferrante D’Este’s life. There’s a book I want to read about Ferrante, that is only available in Italian. (Don’t ask how I’m going to acquire said book; I haven’t gotten that far in my planning.) I live a Ferrante appreciation kind of life. Unfortunately, being an English speaking expert on Ferrante D’Este is not a marketable job skill.
    • Okay, okay, so I kind of have good news on this one.  I have a rudimentary knowledge of some Italian.  Not enough to read an entire book, but I’ve been taking lessons and have slowly been working on it.  More importantly, I managed to track down a physical copy of that book on Ferrante d’Este and now have a PDF copy on my tablet to be translated at my leisure.  Just as soon as the Italian lessons start to kick in.  So I accomplished part II of my goal without ever really accomplishing part I.
  • Which leads me to number three, which is to become financially stable. I don’t want to be rich, I just want to be able to say, “Yes, I will buy that 100$ book that is absolutely vital to my research” and then not worry about how I’m going to eat for the next three months. Along with this is getting my driver’s license and getting a car. Yes, you read that right. I don’t drive. My brain never stops playing out the one hundred different possibilities that could arise from any given moment, which makes me hate and fear everyone else on the road with me.
    • Okay, so I’m not financially stable, but with my college loans, I wasn’t really expecting that to happen in a single year.  But let’s focus on the more important parts of this resolution.  I got my driver’s license!  And a car!  At the beginning of the year, it seemed like it was almost impossible, but I can now proudly say I am a licensed driver with my own dependable vehicle.  That still doesn’t stop me from getting rides everywhere though.
  • I’d very much like to write more. To that end, I’m making the effort to blog more, to read 60 books this year instead of last year’s 50 and actually review all of them, and to possibly sell a book. I would love more than anything to sell a book. But I have self-esteem issues with books and never want to send them out for fear I’m exposing myself too much. Also, my marketing skills are pretty much non-existent, but I’ve been working on them, as well as making myself as a stronger writer, so even when I do put myself out there, at least I can feel confidant about doing it.
    • Well, I think to an extent I did write more.  I finished two books over the course of the year, one of which was still in the revision stages and another that got thrown back into the revision stage.  Still, they were both technically finished by the end of the year.  As for reading the 60 books, I just finished Dexter’s Final Cut last night, which officially puts me into the 60 book range.  Next year I’ll aim for 61.
  • Finally, I want to run the Warrior Dash. And raise money for St. Jude’s while I’m at it. This falls into everyone’s basic category of getting into better shape, but mine is with a specific goal in mind. Basically, I’m a fighter stuck inside a lazy person’s body, and this is going to be the most difficult goal for me to accomplish. I will admit that I am terribly out of shape, but, keeping with my new goals of remembering that it doesn’t need to be a new year, a new month or even a new day to start your way to becoming a new you, I’m working on changing that as well. Because even more important to me than getting in shape to run the race is the opportunity to face my own shortcomings and fears head-on and overcome them. Because, basically, if I can run the race and climb those walls and cliffs and …ledges… and come out on the other side victorious, I’ll know that I have the courage inside myself to face any of the other challenges I throw myself up against. Yes, I am that terrified of the walls. Look above. I’m terrified of driving. I’m terrified of everything. I’m terrified every time I initiate conversation with someone online they’re going to think I’m nuts. Which has happened. More than once.
    • I didn’t run the Warrior Dash.  I didn’t even sign up for it.  I did join a gym.  I did start training.  And I did sign up for the Zombie Run Extreme this June, making it not only my first 5k but my first mud run.  It’s going to be awesome.  On a similar note, I also took advantage of the year to face some of my other fears.   I finally stepped on a boat for the first time in twenty years.  The last time ended with a fish hook in my knee, and I’ve been terrified of stepping back on them ever since.  But one of my friends thinks going out on the lake is incredible and dragged me with her one day.  You know what?  I actually love boating and will hopefully be going up to the lake more than once this summer.  Maybe when I finally build that nest egg and become financially stable, I’ll have a boat of my own somewhere.

 

What sort of major milestones did everyone else cross this year?  Just because you don’t complete a specific resolution, doesn’t meant that your life didn’t make great strides.  I want to hear all about your accomplishments this year, even the ones that you might not think mean a whole lot.  Maybe by acknowledging the little things, you might figure out last year was better than you thought.

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