Category Archives: book review

Book Reviews: Personal Development

Ever since I really committed to reading 10 pages of a personal development book every day, I’ve actually finished several of them over the past two months. It’s amazing! You all know I love to read, but I struggle feeling enthused to read anything that isn’t a novel. Although I love what I get out of these books, it’s just hard for me to sit down and focus for very long. Taking bite-sized chunks out of them each day has led to some serious accomplishment! Please feel free to take this lesson and apply to any area of your life. 😉

Today I thought I’d share my book reviews on three personal development books that I’ve read recently:

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

Goodreads Synopsis:

Readers of all ages and walks of life have drawn inspiration and empowerment from Elizabeth Gilbert’s books for years. Now this beloved author digs deep into her own generative process to share her wisdom and unique perspective about creativity. With profound empathy and radiant generosity, she offers potent insights into the mysterious nature of inspiration. She asks us to embrace our curiosity and let go of needless suffering. She shows us how to tackle what we most love, and how to face down what we most fear. She discusses the attitudes, approaches, and habits we need in order to live our most creative lives. Balancing between soulful spirituality and cheerful pragmatism, Gilbert encourages us to uncover the “strange jewels” that are hidden within each of us. Whether we are looking to write a book, make art, find new ways to address challenges in our work,  embark on a dream long deferred, or simply infuse our everyday lives with more mindfulness and passion, Big Magic cracks open a world of wonder and joy.

This is one of the few non-fiction books that I actually flew through and had no trouble concentrating on. For anyone who has ever wanted to pursue something creative, whether that’s writing, art, photography, dancing, acting, etc., this book is incredibly inspirational. I also don’t mean pursue as a career necessarily – you might not think you’re the creative type, but everyone has creativity inside them, we merely suppress it because we believe our talents don’t hold up to some standard. Creativity is something to be done for yourself, not anyone else. If they happen to love it, well then all the better.

“Trust me, your soul has been waiting for you to wake up to your own existence for years.”

Not only is this book full of great advice, wisdom and inspriation, but I love that Elizabeth Gilbert weaves all of her own experiences and stories through the books, including many, many “failures.” We often think that someone who writes a hit like Eat, Pray, Love must be producing successes all the time, but her story is incredibly relatable as she shares her own fears, her many, many works that were never picked up, and the time and effort she put into developing her craft. People who have a “big hit” aren’t any different from you and me, they just had the right inspiration at the right moment and time.

I absolutely loved Big Magic and highly recommend it if you’re looking for a little creative inspiration.

Mastering Your Mean Girl by Melissa Ambrosini

Mastering Your Mean Girl: The No-BS Guide to Silencing Your Inner Critic and Becoming Wildly Wealthy, Fabulously Healthy, and Bursting with Love

Goodreads Synopsis:

Ready to activate your dream life?
 
You know that sneaky voice inside your head telling you that you’re not good enough, smart enough, skinny enough, whatever enough? That’s your Mean Girl. And she’s doing her best to keep you stuck in Fear Town, too scared to go after the life you always imagined.
                                                                       
But enough’s enough! Melissa Ambrosini has made a life beyond her wildest dreams, all by mastering her Mean Girl, busting through limiting beliefs and karate-chopping through the fears that held her hostage for years. And now she wants to help you remember not only what you are capable of, but how amazing you truly are!
                                                                       
In this inspiring, upbeat guide, Melissa provides a practical plan for creating your own version of a kick-ass life — one that’s wildly wealthy, fabulously healthy and bursting with love. Designed to propel you out of stuck-ness and into action, this is a must read if you’re ready to let go of your Mean Girl and start living the life of your dreams.

Mastering Your Mean Girl is a book filled with both incredible wisdom, but also actionable tips and advice that you can incorporate into your life. Along with each chapter, Melissa Ambrosini includes little tidbits like “Inspo-Action,” which gets you to immediately apply what she’s saying to your own life. I found these incredibly helpful as I often read a personal development book, underline, make notes, and then feel too overwhelmed to go back through and really apply what I’ve learned. These Inspo-Action pieces allow you to take the application step by step rather than feeling overwhelmed with an entire book of ideas.

No matter where in your life you find yourself filled with fear or a lack of worth, Melissa reaches out to you with tips, advice, and a lot of cold hard truth. Whether you’re struggling to find a new job, have a negative body-image, hate giving presentations at work, aren’t happy in your career, or don’t have fulfilling relationships, this book is for you. It actually inspired me to run my own mini-challenge last month to help women conquer their inner mean girl. I learned quite a bit from this book and definitely recommend it to anyone needing a some wisdom and good dose of truth.

“It’s exciting when you finally realize that you are the director, producer, and leading actor of your own life movie… we get to create our own lives exactly how we want them, moment by moment. You have the power, my darling.”

 

The Magic of Thinking Big by David J. Schwartz

Goodreads Synopsis:

The Magic of Thinking Big gives you useful methods, not empty promises. Dr. Schwartz presents a carefully designed program for getting the most out of your job, your marriage and family life, and your community. He proves that you don’t need to be an intellectual or have innate talent to attain great success and satisfaction, but you do need to learn and understand the habit of thinking and behaving in ways that will get you there.

I originally picked up this book as a recommendation from some other women in my coaching group to help with my business, but I soon found that this book is incredibly applicable to all types of people, no matter what your daily life or career path looks like.

As you might imagine from the title, The Magic of Thinking Big really inspires its reader to push him or herself to not settle for simply being content with a life that may not bring them joy, but to really push themselves to reach for the things that many of us wish we had but don’t truly believe we are capable of achieving.

“When you believe something is impossible, your mind goes to work for you to prove why. But when you believe, really believe, something can be done, your mind goes to work for you and helps you find ways to do it.”

Honestly, I recommend this book to everyone, even if you love your life! This world could certainly use some more big players, whether that’s someone to build an amazing start-up or someone to create an enriching sunday school program at their church. Not only that, but anyone who follows the principles in this book would be a person I’d certainly enjoy to be around:

“Taking an ax and copping your neighbor’s furniture to pieces won’t make your furniture look one bit better; and using verbal axes and grenades on another person doesn’t do one thing to make you a better you or me a better me.”

 

Would you read any of these books?

What are you reading right now?

Your Holistically Hot Transformation [Book Review]

I met Marissa years ago at my very first blogging conference and absolutely loved getting to know her. It’s been so fun to see her business change and grow over the years and I’ve been so impressed with everything she’s done. When Marissa reached out to me earlier this year to read and review her new book, Your Holistically Hot Transformation, I just HAD to see what she’d put together and now that I have, I’m so happy to be sharing her book with all of you!

Your Holistically Hot Transformation

Your Holistically Hot Transformation: Embrace a Healthy Lifestyle Free of Dieting, Confusion, and Self-Judgment by Marissa Vicario

The first thing I did when I downloaded her book was to look at the contents and I was immediately thrilled to see that this book isn’t just about nutrition and fitness, but about a transformation of your entire self, including your heart and mind.

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Marissa walks through her entire healthy lifestyle, starting with how she changed her own life, how she removes the “diet mentality” from her lifestyle, and the science behind eating, to details on her diet choices, meal planning and prep, cooking, listening to your body, exercise, and having a healthy mindset.

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I really appreciate that she’s all about creating a sustainable lifestyle based on each person’s individual needs rather than following trends. She also encourages you to start small (my number one tip!) and gives tips that are easy to add into your life. I already use several of the suggestions she gives in the book, so I recommend to any of my followers and clients to read through and find some great ideas and recipes to incorporate into your own life.

One of my favorite parts of the book is an example she gives about two women who are eating out, one choosing a diet soda and the other choosing a coconut water. While yes, the coconut water contains more calories, it’s considerably more beneficial to her body than the soda, and it won’t make her crave sugar-filled sweets either. Being healthy is about so much more than calories in and calories out and Marissa does a really good job of using her own story to help her readers relate to her and to the benefits of her tips and suggestions.

 

You can find Marissa’s book, Your Holistically Hot Transformation, on Amazon! And just FYI, I was given Marissa’s book for free to review and, as always, all opinions are entirely my own!

Book Review: Gracie’s Song

I was gifted the ebook version of Gracie’s Song by Michelle Schlicher in exchange for my honest review, so here we go!

Gracie's Song

First, the Goodreads Synopsis:

“Everything can be undone.” That’s what someone tells Gracie Brannen, but she’s doubtful. After graduation, she walked away from everyone she knew with barely a word. Ten years later, she’s back. Even as familiar places and faces bring back old pain, Gracie finds hope in rebuilding old ties and forging new ones. Maybe everything can’t be undone, but perhaps everything can be overcome.

This was not only a cute story, but the novel was very well written. The story pulled me in immediately and I couldn’t stop reading it once I had started. Right off the bat I loved the main character, Gracie, and was intrigued by her story. The author doesn’t share why Gracie left home without telling anyone until much later on in the book, leaving me dying to know what had happened and how her childhood/high school boyfriend, Finn, would react when he found out.
The bond between this couple was so clear but it never felt overstated or overdone. This story felt like a story about forgiving ourselves and others and learning to move forward, rather than a romance, but the romance fit in just perfectly and naturally. No teenage or high school drama.; just life and learning how the choices you make not only impact your life but the lives of those around you. Additionally, the author demonstrates all relationships, including broken and abusive ones, so I never felt like the story was just too “perfect.” The story really makes the reader wonder about fate and if we’re really meant to be with one person.

The only thing I didn’t love about the novel was how the author used the flashbacks. Although they were necessary and helped to understand the characters’ stories, I started to get annoyed by them. About two-thirds through the book I was so wrapped up in what was happening in the current story that the flashbacks started to frustrate me. I wish more of then had occurred near the beginning of the novel and fewer near the end.

I really enjoyed reading Gracie’s Song and definitely recommend it to you all! I’m so thankful I said YES to reading and reviewing this book!

What did you read most recently?

If you could be the main character in any book, who would you be?

Are we friends on Goodreads?

March 2016 Book Reviews

It’s been a while since I’ve done any book reviews and I’ve still been reading quite a lot! I’ve been reading “easier” books recently (more beachy, chick lit type books) just to give my brain a break from the more stressful life changes I’ve been going through with losing my job and moving to Kansas City with my family while job searching in Colorado. Haha all in four weeks! So here are some of the books that I’ve been reading recently:

Yes, Please by Amy Poehler

Yes Please

Goodreads Synopsis: 

In Amy Poehler’s highly anticipated first book,Yes Please, she offers up a big juicy stew of personal stories, funny bits on sex and love and friendship and parenthood and real life advice (some useful, some not so much), like when to be funny and when to be serious. Powered by Amy’s charming and hilarious, biting yet wise voice, Yes Please is a book full of words to live by.

 

I was very pleasantly surprised by this book. I love Amy Poehler and heard good things about her book, but I’ve read biographical type books before I tend to skim them and get bored. What I didn’t realize was how impactful and “personal development-esque” this book ended up being. Amy said so many impactful things, along with some funny and interesting stories, that I left the book wishing I’d bought it in hard-copy rather than borrowing it from the library so I could highlight and take notes. If you’ve been on the fence about reading this book, DO IT! You won’t regret it!

 

Take Me Home by Nancy Herknes

Take Me Home (Whisper Horse, #1)

Goodreads Synopsis:

A big-city girl returns to her country roots for a fresh start, with the help of a wounded racehorse, an emotionally scarred but irresistible veterinarian, and a love to last a lifetime.

 

Oh my. Haha. Lesson learned: many Kindle Unlimited books are romance novels. Although this was a very good book, I must warn you before I continue that there were a few scenes that were a little more descriptive than I needed to hear. Just FYI.

Moving on, I really did love the story of this book. The author really develops the characters’ backgrounds and figures out why they are feeling or acting certain ways based on what they’ve experienced in the past. I think this connects with me a lot right now as I’m working through coaching women, as well as self-reflecting, and realizing ways that people tend to hold themselves back due to beliefs they’ve formed about themselves. I also love that the book wasn’t completely predictable. While I generally knew how it would end (especially once I figured out it was a romance), the story took a few twists that I wasn’t expecting and I really did enjoy the storyline.

 

The Girl You Lost by Kathryn Croft

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Goodread Synopsis: 

Eighteen years ago your baby daughter was snatched. Today, she came back.

A sinister and darkly compelling psychological thriller from the No.1 bestselling author of The Girl With No Past.

Eighteen years ago, Simone Porter’s six-month-old daughter, Helena, was abducted. Simone and husband, Matt, have slowly rebuilt their shattered lives, but the pain at losing their child has never left them.

Then a young woman, Grace, appears out of the blue and tells Simone she has information about her stolen baby. But just who is Grace – and can Simone trust her?

When Grace herself disappears, Simone becomes embroiled in a desperate search for her daughter and the woman who has vital clues about her whereabouts.

Simone is inching closer to the truth but it’ll take her into dangerous and disturbing territory.

Simone lost her baby. Will she lose her life trying to find her?

By the time I finished this book it actually felt similar to Gone Girl. Not in the completely twisted ending ;), but in the whole concept of the main character’s life being completely upended and delving into a mystery that she certainly wasn’t looking for. There were many, many twists and turns to this story and I definitely wasn’t expecting a lot of them. If you’re looking for a suspensful thriller, this is definitely for you. I’m pretty sure I was on the edge of my allegorical seat the entire time!

 

Ghost Gifts by Laura Spinella

Ghost Gifts

Goodreads Synopsis:

All Aubrey Ellis wants is a normal life, one that doesn’t include desperate pleas from the dead. Her remarkable gift may help others rest in peace, but it also made for an unsettling childhood and destroyed her marriage. Finally content as the real estate writer for a local newspaper, Aubrey keeps her extraordinary ability hidden—until she is unexpectedly assigned the story of a decades-old murder.

Rocked by the discovery of a young woman’s skeletal remains, the New England town of Surrey wants answers. Hard-nosed investigative reporter Levi St John is determined to get them. Aubrey has no choice but to get involved, even at the terrifying risk of stirring spirits connected to a dead woman’s demise and piquing her new reporting partner’s suspicions.

As Aubrey and Levi delve further into the mystery, secrets are revealed and passion ignites. It seems that Aubrey’s ghost gifts are poised to deliver everything but a normal life.

 

I loved the concept of Aubrey’s gift and her struggle throughout her life of how to use it and incorporate it into her own life without letting it take over her or drive her crazy. I also love things having to do with ghosts, so of course I found this fascinating. I enjoyed how the author slowly revealed the mystery they were trying to solve, as well as the unexpected backstory of it’s subject.

Similarly to the story, the author also slowly gives us tidbits and flashbacks to both Aubrey and Levi’s history, which makes them much more dynamic characters and gets the reader more invested in their own individual stories as well as their relationship with one another. If you like mysteries and ghost stories, along with a little romance, this is definitely a fun read!

 

What have you read recently?

What’s your favorite genre to read?

Remember When I Wrote Book Reviews?

Last year I had my goal of reading 100 books, but I definitely didn’t review that many on my blog! If you want to see the ratings I gave books, be sure to check out my Goodreads. But, lucky you, I put together some reviews, the first two are books I read in 2015, and a series that I read earlier this year.

Out of Sorts by Aurélie Valognes

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Ferdinand Brun hasn’t always been a grumpy old man. Many years ago, he was a grumpy young man. Now he’d much rather spend time with his canine companion, Daisy, than any of his nosy neighbors. But as his behavior becomes increasingly peculiar, his daughter grows concerned and begins to consider moving him into a retirement home.

In order to maintain his freedom, Ferdinand must submit to an apartment inspection by his longtime enemy, the iron-fisted concierge, Mrs. Suarez. Unfortunately, he’s never tidied up a day in his life. His neighbors, precocious ten-year-old Juliette and vivacious ninety-two-year-old Beatrice, come to the rescue. And once he lets these two into his life, things will never be the same. After an eighty-three-year reign of grouchiness, Ferdinand may finally learn that it’s never too late to start living.

 

I’m not going to lie, this book was a little weird at first. It took me a while to get into the narrator’s head and really understand his voice. I felt like the beginning of the story could have been a little clearer on our narrator and his current situation. The author started in the future and then went back to show how Ferdinand got there, but it was a little hard to follow. I also thought it was a little odd that this girl just shows up in an old man’s apartment to hang out with him. I get that it’s cute the author was trying to create a dynamic relationship between the two- but it was just hard to believe she would disappear from her apartment (or school!) to invite herself over without knowing anything about him.

Once I got into the story, however, I really enjoyed our main character, as well as the many other characters living in his building. One thing that I loved is how the author captured apartment living and how people tend to show their crazy side when it comes to dealing with building management and neighbors.

 

The Family by Marissa Kennerson

27778956Goodreads Synopsis:

Just like any average seventeen year old, Twig loves her family. She has a caring mother and a controlling father. Her brothers are sisters are committed to her family’s prosperity…

All one hundred and eighty three of them.

Twig lives in the Family, a collective society located in the rainforest of Costa Rica. The Family members coexist with the values of complete openness and honesty, and a shared fear of contagious infection in the outside world.

So when Adam, their Father, prophet, and savior, announces that Twig will be his new bride, she is overjoyed and honored. But when an injury forces her to leave the grounds, Twig finds that the world outside is not necessarily as toxic as she was made to believe. When she meets Leo, an American boy with a killer smile, she begins to question everything about her life within the Family, and the cult to which she belongs.

But when it comes to your Family, you don’t always get a choice.

 

Of course, I picked up this book because I find the mindset and nature of cults fascinating; it’s the part of me that wanted to switch to being a psychology major in college. I really appreciated the culture that the author created within their compound and how he demonstrated how people would end up joining a cult and then not be able to leave. I also loved the relationship that our main character, Twig, develops with Leo.

My only hesitations, however, were that the circumstances surrounding Twig’s initial connection to an outsider with her mother (don’t want to give anything away!) and then the conclusion of the story felt a little too far-fetched. Twig’s circumstances and story just ended a little too perfectly- but I can’t say more without spoiling the story!

 

The Immortal Circus by A.R. Kahler

The Immortal Circus

Goodreads synopsis:

Murdered contortionists aren’t exactly what Vivienne signed up for when she ran away to join the circus. But like most things under the big top, nothing is what it seems. With a past she can’t quite remember, Vivienne finds that running away forever might not be as appealing as it once sounded—especially not when she realizes the devilishly attractive ringleader, Mab, is the Faerie Queen of legend—and that she and the rest of the troupe are locked in an age-old rivalry between the otherworldly Courts.

Aided by her friends Kingston—a feisty stage magician whose magic is quickly stealing her heart—and his smart-ass assistant, Melody, Vivienne finds herself racing against the clock to discover the culprit behind a series of deaths that should be impossible. However, the answer she seeks might reveal more about her own bloody past—and future—than she bargained for.

The show’s just beginning. Step right up…

 

This series has been showing up in my “recommended reading” for the entire past year, and probably much longer. For some reason, I was just not interested in reading it, but when I saw that it was in Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited I decided to just give it a go. Guess what? I ended up really liking the story!

I can’t say I looooved it, but I definitely enjoyed reading the series and I think that was mostly because of the author’s writing style. The conversations were effortless and I really believed the characters and the relationships. The author also did a great job of including twists in the plot that I really didn’t expect. I do have to say, however, that by the third novel the twists started to feel like too much, but they did all make sense in the end.

 

Do you use Goodreads? (let’s be friends!)

What are you reading right now?