Rethinking Possible – Review

“For a family who knew so much – whose faith was so deep, love so abiding, and minds filled with mottos designed to keep us focused on the possibilities that were surely ahead – we knew nothing that could have prepared us for that kind of loss.”

Rethinking possible is listed as a memoir. A reflection of one woman’s journey into readjusting her expectations after life decided it wasn’t going to go along with her plans. But more than a story of her journey, there is a message of resilience and optimism that is stunning to read.

Becky Galli was raised as a preacher’s kid in the South. With two strong parents determined to raise their children with a sharp focus only on the possibility of life and a knack for finding the silver lining in any situation, her childhood was full of predictability and hope. Their family motto was ‘what’s planned is possible’ and they firmly believed it.

Even after an accident put her brother in the hospital, she believed he would make it, that he would achieve everything he planned. The shock of his death forever changed their family, tearing it from the solid unit they were to something different.

“I was in a life that wasn’t my own. Didn’t even have the wardrobe for it.”

It’s easy to get up after getting knocked down once, though, and life progressed for Becky according to her now revised plan. After graduating, she married and began to work on her career. With two type A personalities focusing on their life goals, they were determined that nothing would stand in their way. She even gave birth, on schedule, after Joe received his MBA and before she was 30. Everything was right on track. Until it wasn’t.

Galli faces several devastating hits when she learns two of her four children are disabled, and one developmentally delayed. The struggle of facing the extraordinary challenges in raising a family like that is remarkable, but had it’s costs. In her case, it was her marriage. As if divorce isn’t devastating enough, she was hit with a rare inflammation that left her paralyzed from the waist down. Nine days after her divorce finalized.

“After all we’d been through, adventure had become our family’s euphemism for plans with uncertain outcomes. Forget plans; we mostly clung to possibility. Our lives had become one steady stream of rethinking possible.”

The most remarkable thing about this memoir isn’t the amount of tragedy in Rebecca Galli’s life, although she gets more than her fair share. The thing that moved me the most is that she isn’t a saint and she isn’t a victim. She does the best she can every day. Some days are good, and some days aren’t. But every day she does the best with what she has.

“You allow yourself the luxury of wallowing in your own self-pity. You are entitled. Go ahead, experience your pain. But don’t stay down there too long because you can drown, I’ve learned.”

Often when I read memoirs, I can feel a bit chastised. Not because of anything that the author did, or wrote, but because of the way they present their attitudes on life. Some days I throw myself giant pity parties of one. I try not to, but I do. And then you read about someone’s life and how optimistic, or cheerful, or stoic they can be about tragedy and trauma. Sometimes it’s inspiring, and sometimes it’s a bit of a punch to the gut.

But Galli lets you see the good and the bad. She vents. She questions. She wallows. And then she gets up. She finds a new perspective. She moves forward. I get that. I relate to it. I identify with it. She doesn’t always show herself in the best possible light, and so she feels real to me. She’s the woman I would want to call when life gets a little shaky. She may not have the answers, but you know she’s going to at least listen and try. She isn’t going to judge your pain or minimize how you feel.

“Life in all it’s unfairness can never take your attitude. That alone is yours to keep and change. No one does that for you. That is power.”

Life can often feel overwhelming. It can feel hard and big and just too much. There is laughter and happiness and the thousands of tiny moments worth living. But there is also pain, and with pain can come suffering. Galli was hit with a lot of pain, both physical and emotional. But she weathered each storm, and managed to accomplish some impressive feats regardless of the difficulty. She learned acceptance, and she learned that sometimes we have to accept things more than once.

“I found a new motto: ‘Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional’.”

This book came to me at a time when I really needed it the most. Life can sometimes feel like you’ve been thrown into a cage match with no training or warning and are expected to somehow survive. You get up only to get knocked right back down. It is a constant barrage of learning, and adjusting, and accepting. It isn’t easy. But rather than make your struggles feel trivial in comparison to hers, Galli makes them relatable. She makes you feel understood.

And because she writes about her journey in such an honest way, you find that she makes you feel like you’ve just received the pep talk you needed. Her revelations about her own struggles are pointed and clear. Reading through this book, I felt like I was being cheered on, even though this wasn’t about my life. Galli gives you permission to accept life day by day, to be kind to yourself, and to realize that no matter what, you may never have all the answers.

This is a quick read. I was shocked at how fast I read through it. Though the subject matter is heavy, Galli writes with a skilled levity that brings light and warmth to even the toughest of passages. Sometimes the only thing you can do is laugh, even when you want to cry.

Regardless of what you’re going through in your life, or have gone through, this is a book that will reach everyone. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll stop and ponder the wisdom she offers. I know I will be thinking about her words for a long time.

Thank you Booksparks and She Writes Press for sending me a copy to read and review!

Army Wife – Review

“There’s nothing better than welcoming your husband home from war — nothing except welcoming your sons.”

Army Wife is the perfect name for this memoir describing how being married to a soldier really is. Her voice really shines through in this telling memoir, and she strikes me a very fun and sassy woman. That spark made reading the book fly by.

Cody doesn’t hold back or glamorize her life as a military spouse, and later as a military mom. She fully admits to her doubt and frustration over moving and living alone during deployments. Fear as her husband and then her sons deploy into combat zones. Life in the military isn’t easy, and life as a military spouse isn’t any easier.

“Life is full of surprises, but I don’t think we fully understand and appreciate that until we are pushed out of comfort zone, backed into a corner, and tested in ways we don’t expect or anticipate.”

We are taken through the story of her life, from the moment she met Dick Cody forward. Cody writes with a fast paced cadence, sprinkled with a sharp sense of humor, a trait that I’m sure held her together numerous times. Strength is one thing. Being able to laugh at your trials is quite another. Perhaps she wasn’t laughing at the time, but her humor shines through in hindsight.

I was continually amazed at her emotional maturity and just how self-aware she comes across. She is very blunt and honest with her entire spectrum of feelings, talking openly about the honeymoon period that welcoming her husband often triggered to the struggle of readjusting to him in her daily life always triggered. And what shines through the brightest, is her knowledge of herself as an individual outside of being a mom or a wife. I think that awareness is what made living her (sometimes) tumultuous life possible. She never lost herself in the craziness and so she could weather any storm.

“But I never lost sight of who I was, as a woman and as a person. When they boys let home, I just had to shift gears and find my inner self again. (I think it was always there — I was just busy being a mom.)”

There are some heavy issues happening within these pages, and she doesn’t come across as flippant or superficial, but she doesn’t dwell on them either. If anything, Cody comes across as a woman that probably is a solid shoulder to cry on, is handy to have in a tight situation, and would give excellent advice. While her husband led an illustrious career, she doesn’t dismiss or forget that others were not as lucky. Her humility opens us up to a graciousness and gratefulness that is admirable.

One touch I really liked is her PS notes at the end of some chapters. She makes reference to the fact that often when her husband was deployed overseas, they couldn’t manage the time zones along with expensive phone bills, so letter writing became their primary method of communication. Letters that she still has to this day, that can bring her back to those moments in time just by looking at his handwriting. Those little PS notes felt like she was writing little letters to us in each chapter. They summarized and offered a more personal touch. They really made those notes feel like she was reaching across a table and grasping your hand.

But this book isn’t just about life as an Army Wife. It is also about life as an Army Mom.

“It was an important life lesson for all of us: we don’t always get what we want, and sometimes we have to change course.”

Reading the chapter on September 11, and how her boys were transitioning from their college lives into life as an active military member is emotional. It’s one thing to be a mom to soldiers during times of peace. It’s another during times of war. This time, she felt the sorrow of knowing people lost at the Pentagon, and the terror of her husband and both sons possibly deploying.

The reality of the her oldest’ deployment is once again told to us without restraint. It’s understandable that she feels angry at her husband for not going with him, combined with fear over what might happen and the lack of control. But it is a tender thing to read that for the first time her husband actually experienced what she felt every time he deployed. Every mother can understand that while watching her husband deploy was difficult; watching her sons deploy was excruciating.

“When you marry a soldier, you pretty much marry the Army and everything it stands for.”

Vicki Cody married a soldier. She married the Army and then she mothered it, both literally and figuratively. This book is her experience of that life. I’ve never been an Army wife, or an Army mother, but I expect that this is an honest and in-depth look at the reality of it.

While her life was filled with emotional ups and downs, it’s hard to deny it is an incredible one. Meeting First Lady’s and Presidents, living in historical houses, watching your husband on TV while he is a half a world away, meeting Wynona Judd and other celebrities; are all incredible moments for anyone to experience. Her life is her own, but is also intertwined with major historical milestones made very personal for her. But she didn’t simply sit and bask in her husband’s success. She worked hard to contribute to the support of not just his solders, but their families as well. It’s a fascinating journey.

One thing that struck me is not just how the Army is a massive network comprised of soldiers. We don’t really see that side of the Army in this book. Rather we see the network of civilians who support one another in amazing ways. Support groups, and newsletters, and monthly meetings. The human touch that makes living with all that fear and worry a little more bearable. You marry the Army, but that means you get a spouse in return.

Sometimes it’s easy to think of the Army as a nameless faceless entity. It’s easy to get lost in the political commentary surrounding that entity. Army Wife brings back the point that the Army, the Navy, the Air Force; they are all filled with people. Men and women, husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, daughters and sons. These are people, who worry, who love, who are willing to face unknown threats anywhere in the world. This was the perfect book to read this weekend.

“I had come to realize that being a soldier is more than a job, more than a career; it’s an affair of the heart, a way of life.”

Thank you to all the soldiers and their families for your service. We wouldn’t be the country we are without you.

Thank you as well to Booksparks and She Writes Press for sending me this book to read and review!

After Midnight – Review

“Alix knew she was in trouble.”

We open with that line, immediately pulling us into a story full of scandal and intrigue. Alix, blackmailed into impersonating her twin sister Lily, begins her misadventure by thinking Lily’s husband Nicholas to be an oblivious fool. Lily has assured her he pays no attention to her and will be completely unaware that she isn’t Lily. Alix agrees because she has to, and only hopes she can find the piece of paper hiding somewhere within the house that will free her of the ridiculous sham.

“It was not a dream that memory returned to her, but the deplorable act of the outrageous scheme that ensnared her.”

It’s difficult to unthread all the plots within this novel, without giving too much away. The base of the story, the blackmail, is very well done, and feels realistic when reading. It is easy to see the scandal Lily creates, the selfish person she is, and how she can corral Alix into participating in this scam.

“She was worse than a siren, simply devouring any man foolish enough to look at her.”

Nicholas, however, is far from dull, obtuse or unaware, and quickly begins to notice that things with his dear wife are not at all what they should be. It takes him quite awhile though to fully piece together what he thinks is happening. I really enjoyed how his disgust and contempt for his wife clouds his judgement and thinking. Not because it simply works to move the plot along, but also because I felt his struggle. What would it be like to live with someone you couldn’t ever trust, so much so, that you constantly second guess and are suspicious of every little thing they say or do?

“She turned to her minions and left him gazing after her in puzzled silence. He could barely stand to look at her, and yet he was as dazzled as if he had glimpsed the sun eclipsing clouds in her eyes.”

While impersonating Lily, Alix begins having nightmares, and her murky past starts to become somewhat clear to both us, and to Alix herself. Her uncle, Quentin, makes a journey to France in order to help uncover the secrets that Alix is desperate to remember.

There are a lot of side plots happening in this novel, and for the most part, they were easy to keep track of, and made the novel much richer for them. The one I didn’t quite understand was Robert’s role. I didn’t really understand role he played in the grand scheme of the novel, and within the specific plot he was written into. Most of the pieces with him felt unnecessary to me, and it felt like the pieces of the puzzle that he revealed, could have been more impactful through Quentin.

I also got frustrated with Quentin’s story. After all the time we spend with him, I felt like there still weren’t many answers of what actually happened that caused him to flee to England with his niece in tow, and live as a servant for two decades. It felt very vague, and everything in France wrapped up a little too easy for him to have been worried literally about dying if they came back.

The history, the touch of romance and all the scandal and intrigue made the book fun to read. I wanted to know what happened to Alix the entire time, and the pacing of that story unfolds nicely. I also really enjoyed Jenny, her maid. The relationship they develop, even knowing that Jenny has been in on it from the beginning, was quite lovely to read. In upcoming books, I hope that the tiny nugget of mystery that was written about why Jenny works for Lily comes out. That tiny detail drove me crazy. I wanted to hear more about that story!

“Times change.”

“And history remains.”

“It depends on who’s writing it.”

Overall, this book was very enjoyable. It ends rather abruptly, which felt less like a cliffhanger and more like hitting a brick wall, but there is a sequel coming June 2018, so at least there are answers coming! There are many, many things I need to know about. And if the book picks up where this one left off, I have no doubt that more scandal, mystery and intrigue is sure to follow!

If you enjoy historical fiction full of multi-threaded plots and mystery, this book is definitely for you. The added scandals of nobility make it even more fun to read! I look forward to reading the sequel next summer!

Thank you BookSparks for sending me a copy to read and review!

Ocean’s Fire – Review

“Your beliefs shape the world we see. Change your beliefs, change your world.”

Ocean’s Fire follows the journey of Skylar Southmartin picking up the pieces of her life after her mother’s death. Choosing to stay closer to home to finish her degree, Skylar wants to figure out why the plan to resurrect her mother didn’t work. She did everything right, and still it didn’t work.

The good news is that her position at the local University reunites her with her childhood love, Argan, and their connection from childhood graduates to a far more adult relationship. Unfortunately, local rockstar, Joshua, also has an alluring connection to Skylar that she can’t seem to fight. To top it all off, there is a powerful force working to ensure a centuries long prophecy comes true.

“Everyone is capable of great love and great destruction. You feed one flame or the other.”

I am decidedly on the fence about this book. On the one hand, I really enjoyed the supernatural premise and mysticism that the author created. On the other, there were so many side plots and rushed character development that I spent most of the book very confused.

I’m not against romance, or love triangles, or even a steamy sex scene in books. However, they have to serve a purpose in driving the plot forward. The triangle between Joshua, Argan and Skylar just felt like it was there to write a few sex scenes (a few that bordered on abusive in nature), and nothing else. I understand what the author was trying to do with these characters and the tension, but I just didn’t feel it.

The pacing of the story also lends to the rushed feeling. We jump forward in time quite a bit, so we are told that dramatic things are unfolding, but we don’t really feel it. The emotional connection to the entire story, and specifically to Skylar’s struggle wasn’t there for me at all, which made the book feel very flat and one-dimensional to me. Insane things happen but rather than build into these discoveries, we are presented them in a sentence or two and everyone accepts it and moves forward. It’s a case of too much “telling” and not enough “showing”. We are told a lot, but the depth of emotion just isn’t shown so that we feel it along with the characters.

There were a lot of great moments in the book. And for those parts I was swept away into the reading. But there was just so much happening in this plot, it was hard to stay in that swept away feeling.

It’s difficult to give examples of what I liked and what I didn’t, because they are so mixed together and intricate to the plot, that I feel I would be giving away massive spoilers if I tried. I really think this is an example of why Stephen King famously says, “Kill your darlings”. There is a lot to process, in terms of plot, unnecessary characters and side interactions that don’t drive the overall story forward or help with individual character development. This book could have been so much better with those moments removed and the plot line tightened up so that we felt this tension and stress and more of the supernatural feel of the novel. Too much of it felt like a contemporary novel with the characters playing at mysticism, rather than actually being about the mysticism.

Ocean’s Fire is the first in a trilogy, and perhaps the second and final book will help develop the characters to be more in depth so that all the details in the first book make sense. I am curious about how the story progresses, and what happens next. Especially that with the ending we are given, who is good and who is bad seems a little undefined. I’m not sure if that’s to set up for future redemptions but would like to find out. I hope the original disaster that we are presented with gets more explanation too, as I really have no idea what happened there.

Thank you BookSparks and She Writes Press for sending a copy to read and review.

The Balance Project – Review

“You’ve got to make your own dreams happen, Lucy,” Ty says. “Sounds a lot like you’re helping to make someone else’s dreams happen.”

The Balance Project is such a fun read! Very reminiscent of The Devil Wears Prada and The Nanny Diaries, The Balance Project is about the life of a working woman who earnestly and whole-heartedly believes that women can have the perfect life, everything they’ve ever wanted. If only they balance everything just right.

That woman is Lucy Cooper’s boss, Katherine Whitney, COO of a juice empire. Her new book, The Balance Project, has launched her into a new level of success with millions of women dying to know how they too can successfully have it all.

Lucy on the other hand, does not have it all. She doesn’t want to be an assistant forever, so her career isn’t exactly moving on the right track. And she doesn’t want to get married, which her boyfriend Nick is adamant about, so relationship may also be slightly unbalanced. When Katherine begins to fall apart at the seams, it falls even more on Lucy to hold it all together for her. Which is fine, until Katherine betrays Lucy unexpectedly. Not Lucy has to make a choice, and that choice will impact the course of her life. And Katherine’s.

“It sure doesn’t seem like your life is all that balanced, and you’re at ground zero of this balance operation.”

This book is a very fun read! And very funny! Lucy has an internal dialogue that is sarcastic and witty, which made her very enjoyable to read. Even when she makes the wrong choices, or doesn’t stand up for herself, she’s written in such a way, that it doesn’t feel cliche. She feels very real to me.

I think we’ve all had moments in our lives when we actively justify things that are happening, or make decisions we instantly regret, or even decisions we later regret. The thing I enjoyed about Lucy was it didn’t matter if you didn’t agree with how she processed things, or her decisions. The point was you understood. And were usually entertained along the way.

“It feels like there are crack-addicted trapeze artists in my stomach, and they are just beginning their routine.”

I really liked how we are introduced to the situation and characters without a giant info dump at the beginning. The flashbacks and narration is well paced and done so that it feels very natural to the progression of the plot. We learn a lot about Lucy and Katherine in the first chapter through a clever use of an interview. We also get a very real sense of the pressure Lucy feels as Katherine’s assistant in that first chapter. I loved that the tone and pace were introduced and maintained very consistently throughout the entire book.

Ava, her best friend is probably my favorite character. She’s the only one who I liked the entire time. It would be easy to hate the best friend who loved her job and made everything look easy while also posting an inspirational quote daily, but Ava is so kind and awesome you just want to be friends with her. I really loved that, because it’s so easy to go Mean Girls these days. It was nice to not have that cliche love/hate your best friend trope, and to also have a character that I genuinely adored throughout the entire book.

“Ava works at Cosmo – she is a fun, fearless female – as an associate features editor. She loves her job, and by love I mean she would make out with her job if she could.”

Nick, I wasn’t a fan of. And this part may get a touch spoiler-y so BEWARE! I didn’t like how the author managed to hold every other character accountable to their shitty behavior EXCEPT FOR NICK! Somehow he gets to act like a complete jerk to Lucy, give her a really intense ultimatum and in the end, he gets off the hook. Something about his list and how he handled her rejection just really didn’t sit well with me. It reeked of control issues and a refusal to compromise that didn’t fit with the rest of the books message.

Lucy is a complex character for me as well. She is willing to admit her fears and her weaknesses, but is also willing to allow people to treat her pretty poorly at times. Namely her boyfriend and her boss. And while their behaviors can be rationalized, Lucy doesn’t seem to be able to stand up for herself in healthy ways until extreme situations hit. The interesting part is I actually really liked Lucy, so maybe I just wanted her to be a bit more of her own advocate. I wanted her to see her worth more than if felt she did.

I realize that we all have to go through bad jobs, and bad relationships, and bad friendships to learn where our boundaries are. This book is a good exploration of that process. I think Lucy did forgive Nick way easier than Katherine, and wish that Nick would have offered a little more reflection on his bad behavior like other characters.

Overall though, I really enjoyed this book. It was a very fast read, I finished in an evening, and there were multiple laugh out loud lines. Even though that part with Nick really bothered me (obviously because I can’t seem to let it go), the book was a good presentation on how important it is to balance your life when you’re young.

Lucy explores some very relevant issues facing most women at all ages. How do we balance work and personal lives? When is too much too much? Is marriage and being a mother right for you? These are all very real things that most women struggle with. I was really happy to have a book that is enjoyable to read without seeming preachy, but still gives a thoughtful examination of some of these struggles. I think that most women will find a lot of it relevant and relatable, not to mention sassy and thoroughly entertaining!

Thank you BookSparks and She Writes Press for sending a copy to read and review!

The Outskirts of Hope – Review

“During the height of the civil rights movement, my family moved to a small, all-black town in the heart of the Mississippi Delta, where my father opened a clinic and mother Aura Kruger, taught English at the local high school.”

This book is a memoir, written by the youngest daughter Jo, but mainly told through the diaries of her mother Aura. At the time, the Kruger family was one of the only white families living in Mount Bayou. Aura kept journals from the time she lived there, so the book is built on those. Jo destroyed her own, but recreated her entries.

I have some seriously mixed emotions on this book. I understand that this is a memoir so this is her telling the story of her family. However, it comes across at times as very privileged and skates dangerously close to perpetuating racist stereotypes. Which is where I struggle, because I don’t think that was the intention of the author. Obviously no one intends on coming across as borderline racist, but I actually don’t even think they had racist views, privilege aside. It just comes across the way this is pieced together.

First, let’s touch on the privilege.

The first few chapters are from Aura’s perspective on her sudden move from a nice middle-class life in Boston to living in a trailer in Mississippi. The change is drastic, and according to her mother, she didn’t even have a vote. She simply went along with her husband, who decided this was what he wanted to do with zero input from his wife. Yes, it was the 60’s, but it doesn’t make him likable at all.

I had issue with how she complained, extensively, about her concern for where they were going to live. When offered that they should live in a “shack” like the rest of the town population, she nearly had a stroke. Coming from the perspective of someone who wanted to help end racism and bring change during this tumultuous time, she seems very self-centered. Even after she gets two trailer (not one, but two), and they have carpenters build them a connecting room, plush with all the luxuries of water, AC, power, heat and indoor plumbing, she never takes any time to consider how to help the town.

The most frustrating part of reading this, is that she makes friendships with people in this town. Yet, it’s never discussed or talked about how her family lives in drastic luxury compared with most of the other people. Or at least, that is how it comes across.

She mentions quite a few times her “worry” for their lack of heat, shoes, clothes that fit, etc. But, there isn’t any mention of her trying to do anything about it. She has connections to get three students full scholarships to an east coast college, yet she can’t raise money to buy shoes or clothes?

Which is my major problem with the underlying privilege of the book. She has her own views and standards, and insists on everyone meeting them. Take the three page example of teaching phonetics and the word ‘ask’ for a glaring example of that. Education was important to her. And I agree, and even see where she is coming from. But, shoes are probably an immediate problem she can help with.

Where we come near perpetuating racist myths is in Jo’s entries. Nearly every entry she talks about boys grabbing her and trying to reach down her pants. Of the 8 entries she has from her childhood perspective, 4 of them are about this type of molestation. She certainly makes it seem that every teenage boy in that town grabs her in inappropriate ways except for her three friends. Again, I understand this is her perspective, but she’s writing this from memory. If she didn’t want to perpetuate that racist myth, she could have worded these entries differently, or added a few that actually talked about other experiences.

Overall though, they just aren’t very likable. I think the biggest piece of enjoying a memoir is actually enjoying the people you’re reading about. I didn’t like the husband at all. He seemed cold and indifferent to his wife and children and never noticed their struggles. Either this portrayal didn’t do him justice, or he simply cared more about helping people other than his own family.

Aura doesn’t come across as very likable frequently either. She seemed spoiled, privileged, slightly arrogant and very self-centered. She complains about how her husband is oblivious to her unhappiness, yet seems absolutely just as clueless about her own children. The scene where she made her injured daughter get out of bed to create a “scene of familial tranquility” is absurd. Her attitude is described as Pollyanna positive but seems to be very passive-aggressive instead. She complains but then tries to spin it after complaining. It gets old.

Yet, when Jo revisits the town decades later, the scene she paints are like reading an entirely different book. People remember her cleaning tables for pinball money, and she seems to have good childhood memories. Yet, all that was recreated was the bad. For someone trying to bridge the gap in race relations, painting living in an all-black community as terrifying and miserable probably isn’t the right angle to take.

Her students even had more powerful stories about how she helped them. These memories from the students takes away from the self-righteousness and savior type attitude, and highlights more of what they remembered. It makes her seem actually more giving and helpful than she made herself sound. The journal entries were maybe focused on her own view of what was important, but again, perspective matters.

Of course, her own encounter with a boy who assaulted her left a bad taste in my mouth. But, that whole last section of the book was infuriating all around.

 

It’s probably not surprising that I didn’t particularly enjoy this book. I would have preferred to read a book that was less reliant on only journals and memory, and perhaps had included some of the impressions the students themselves had. It would have taken more of the white savior feel out of it, and made it more in depth and meaningful.

Thank you to BookSparks and She Writes Press for a copy to read and review as part of your pop up blog popportunity!