Products and Books I'm Enjoying in 2023
Book Recommendations, Loving and Learning Lately

Loving and Learning Lately {13}

Welcome to Round 13 of this little series I started of all the things in life I’m loving and learning lately! Here you’ll find everything from the books I’m currently reading to the products I’m loving to the shows I’m watching (which, spoiler alert–won’t be very many or very exciting, since I’m not a huge t.v. or movie watcher). If you want to check out past editions of the series, click here.

Note: There are affiliate links in this post, which means I get a small percentage of any sale made at no extra cost to you. Thanks for supporting To Love and To Learn!

Loving Lately

The Genius Blogger's Toolkit 2018
  • Blogging is something I have been doing (and LOVING) since 2008, but I’ve only been making money with it since about a year ago. One of the first big steps I took toward monetization? Buying the Genius Blogger’s Toolkit, which is a bundle containing over 75 eCourses, eBooks, videos, etc., for just $97. The contents of this bundle are worth nearly $6000 when bought separately, and TRUST ME, if you apply what you learn, you WILL get your money’s worth (and much more). Thanks to courses in the bundle, the number of monthly viewers I got on Pinterest jumped from around 1,000 to almost a million in just a couple of months, and it was through the Toolkit that I also got the names of several affiliate companies that I currently go through. Anyway, if blogging is something you’ve ever thought about doing as a side income (or if you currently blog and are wondering how to make some money with it), trust me–this one’s worth every penny.
    • Note: As this is a flash sale, it’s only available until THURSDAY (4/11), so you do have to act fast! Their next Genius Blogger’s Toolkit won’t be available until October, so take advantage of this while you still can if it’s something you’re interested in!
  • Okay, I won’t always brag about my Old Navy scores, but this week, I got another incredible deal that I just have to tell someone (other than my husband) about! So, I got two pairs of men’s jeans and two shirts (for Matt), a shirt and a dress (for Raven), and this pencil midi skirt (for me) for…are you ready for it? JUST $7.99. Total. And, if you count my Ebates cash back, I got it all for even less. (In case you missed my post about how we spent $60/family member on clothes last year, click here to check out how I manage to get so much for so little.) Also, Old Navy was having a killer sale over the weekend for cardholders where everything was 50% off if you paid with your card. Yup.

Learning Lately

Current/Recent Books

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

I have been hearing a lot of buzz about this one for months, so I was pretty excited when my hold at the library FINALLY came through on it…and I definitely wasn’t disappointed! This story of a girl who is abandoned by her family and grows up living alone in a marsh is gorgeously written, palpably atmospheric, and had me guessing right up until the end. Although there is a murder in this story (not a spoiler–you find out about it at the very beginning), this is not a “murder mystery,” but rather a superbly crafted coming-of-age novel that has you rooting for The Marsh Girl from start to finish. (My only real beef? I was a bit underwhelmed by the ending, which knocked it down to 4.5 stars for me. But the majority of readers on my Goodreads list are giving it a solid 5!)

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Funny story: When I was still teaching middle school, I requested that our librarian pick up a few copies of this for our school’s library, since it was a title that was popular with my students and I was frequently recommending it as part of our historical fiction unit. The librarian went almost purple in the face, got super indignant, and said that he couldn’t believe that I would request such a trashy novel to put in a school library. As I told him, this is NOT in the same vein as the popular 50 Shades of Gray series that made the rounds a few years ago…not in the same vein at all. This is a WWII historical fiction novel (young adult) that follows a part of WWII that you rarely see–the atrocities being caused by Stalin, and, in this book’s case, the effects of that war on Lithuania. I learned a ton about history I was unfamiliar with by reading this, and it was very well done. I do have to say though, that it made me want to take a break from this era of history for awhile, just because it was extremely sad.

Coming Clean by Kimberly Rae Miller

I had put this one on my list of 15 titles to help you get your house in order as an “inspiration” pick, but I hadn’t read it yet at the time the post went live. While this true story of a woman who grew up with not just one, but TWO hoarders did, in fact, make me want to clean and declutter my house like crazy, it also gave me a much more sympathetic look into an aspect of humanity that I personally am pretty unfamiliar with. The book made me realize that I’ve sometimes been insensitive to the psychological component that goes behind hoarding (because I sometimes joked in the past about my husband or kid being a hoarder, or that the best way to motivate me to clean my house was to watch the t.v. show Hoarders). This book showcased the real emotional and mental anguish that causes hoarding and that is caused by it, and it was a fascinating look at the resiliency of the human spirit to rise above the hard parts of our lives (especially our childhoods) to reach greater heights later. This was a solid 4-star read for me.

Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive by Stephanie Land

I just finished this one, and it ended with a solid 3-star rating, thanks to me having some pretty mixed feelings about it throughout. This is the true story of a single mom trying to raise her daughter on minimum wage, who had to rely on several different kinds of government aid and occasionally homeless shelters just to try and get by, even though she was more than willing to work hard for her living. I appreciate books that give me a different perspective on things that I (hopefully) will never experience, so the book definitely gave me a more sympathetic look at the vicious cycle of poverty. My biggest beef with this one was that the pacing felt irregular/off and the timeline sometimes confusing–I often was unsure of how far apart the events were, just because there were hardly any time markers, which really started to bug me. And while I found her descriptions of the various houses and the “personalities” they had interesting, they didn’t seem to jive well with the narrative–I almost felt like they belonged in a separate book. Also, sometimes the author’s mentality/choices got a little frustrating to read at times as well (which at times made it harder to be as sympathetic as I wanted to be), but in the end, it was mostly the choppy writing that drove this one down to a middle-of-the-road read for me.

All the Money in the World: What the Happiest People Know About Wealth by Laura Vanderkam

I’m just around halfway through this one, and it’s another one I have mixed feelings about. On the one hand, I’ve really enjoyed how Vanderkam has taken some common money expectations and philosophies and turned them on their head, trying to show that what you’ve always taken at face value about money and happiness just might not be true. However, I also disagree with quite a bit of what I’ve read so far, and I also don’t love that she implies that her readers have the financial ability to hire a cleaning service to free up their time (which is more precious, she argues) or spend their money a little more lightly on things like a daily Starbucks run in the pursuit of happiness. I think this one would make a pretty fascinating book club read though, just because it would provide a LOT of fodder for a healthy debate.

Outer Order, Inner Calm by Gretchen Rubin

I just started this title this week, which is also one I recommended in my 15 Books to Help You Get Your House in Order post. I’ve read quite a few of Rubin’s books already (as well as a lot of books on decluttering), but so far, this one is reading just different enough that it feels worthwhile. Admittedly, I’m not super far into this one, but I’m always about stuff that motivates me to clean my space (since I lack that motivation most of the time otherwise), so all these reads lately have really been giving me a boost to jump on the spring cleaning bandwagon!

Blog News

  • If you follow the blog via Bloglovin’, you might have noticed that new posts are not currently showing up in the feed (and haven’t been for a few weeks). I’m working with Bloglovin’ to fix the problem, but I have no idea when they’ll get to it. If you want to make sure you never miss a post, the best way is probably to subscribe to the RSS feed of the blog, which means that you get an email every time a new post goes up. The sign-up form for that is on the right side sidebar over there >>>.
    • (Note: An RSS feed email subscription is DIFFERENT than the email list subscription. An RSS feed subscription just means that you can read the blog posts from the comfort of your own inbox, but signing up for my email list means that you get access to exclusive content (not available on the blog) that I only send out to subscribers. I actually have a newsletter going out within the next 24 hours, so if you don’t want to miss it, make sure you sign up for that exclusive email content here.)
  • Another place that you can see as soon as new posts go live is the blog’s Facebook page. Of course, with Facebook’s algorithm, you will only see each post as soon as it goes up if you click into or “like” the first couple times the post shows up in your feed—otherwise it tends to bury it, at least as far as I can tell. (Technology, man…)
  • If you’re looking for some more decluttering inspiration, you can always check out my 50 Weeks to Organized archives, where I spent the entirety of one year going through ALL of our possessions, week by week. We ended up getting rid of around half of our stuff, and it was totally life-changing. You can click here to see all the posts with that tag on it, or you can click into this post if you want a more systematic way of finding specific posts that showcased the before/after of specific rooms.

Linking up with Steph and Jana today as part of their Show Us Your Books monthly link-up!

Life According to Steph

What are YOU reading right now? Please share!

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