My Favorite Books of 2018

I have to be honest, I did not read a great deal of books that blew me away over this past year. It takes quite a lot for me to give a five star review, but nevertheless there are only three new books that I gave this rating to in 2018. I also re-read several favorite books so I had more 5-stars but I’m sure you’ve already heard of Harry Potter and Twilight…

While many of these books did not actually come out in 2018, they were new to me and I think worth reading. I have a good mix of genres included as well so hopefully you will all find something to add to your reading list! If you want to see what else I read, be sure to check out my Goodreads account.

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FIVE STARS


The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah


This book really gets into your soul and makes you feel like you are right there with Leni, seeing the beauty she sees but also feeling everything from hollowness to inexplicable need to the numbness that comes from denying what both our head and our heart say is right in an effort for survival. Survival of one's self and survival of love. 

I read this book so quickly because there was never a stopping point. I never found myself thinking, that's enough for today. I had to know what happened and I didn't want to extricate myself from their world. I loved the stories that this book told, stories of people who lived so remotely most of us can't even comprehend it and stories of people who loved fiercely in many circumstances and types of relationships. 

The Great Alone isn't just about a family who moves to Alaska. The Great Alone is about learning who you truly are when pushed to the breaking point and pushed to make hard choices, day in and day out.


The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden


I absolutely loved this book. It was enchanting and the writing was beautiful. In the beginning, it was difficult to follow all of the different characters as their names were foreign to me, but once I got into the story I couldn't put the book down. All of the creatures were both frightening but fascinating and some eventually became endearing. Vasilisa was a wonderful main character - she was strong and did not fear what she had to do to help her family. She didn't care what people thought of her as long as she was doing what was right. I look forward to the rest of the trilogy!


Wonder by R.J. Palacio

I read Wonder this past spring because the 6th graders that I was teaching were reading it in their language arts class and I probably wouldn't have picked it up otherwise. I am SO glad that I did! This is not a book just for kids and young adults - I learned or reinforced so many life lessons from this book. I was inspired by Auggie as well as his friends and family and most definitely cried happy tears at the end.\



FOUR STARS


The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris


I picked chose The Tattooist of Auschwitz because it has been a popular book this year and because a coworker of mine said it was amazing. She has great taste in books so, despite knowing it would have many disturbing and sad moments from being a Holocaust story, I decided it was probably worth my time and I was not disappointed. It did not take long to read and I appreciated every moment of hearing this man's story and experience during WWII. The author did a wonderful job of capturing his range of emotions as well as his desire and reluctance to do what he had to do to survive.



Ready Player One by Ernest Cline


I am actually surprised at how much I enjoyed this book. I saw that the movie had come out and I love reading books before seeing the movie so I thought I’d give it a shot. The story really pulled me in and I couldn’t put the book down - I had to know how it ended! I loved the inclusion of 80’s trivia in the future and the world within the OASIS was interesting. I also appreciated the underlying commentary on the pro’s and con’s of being absorbed in technology vs living in the “real world” with other people.


The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor

I only read a few personal development books this year, however, the Happiness Advantage was by far my favorite. I liked the overall message portrayed by the book and I have a lot of great takeaways and actionable items from my time reading it. I never agree 100% with everything in a personal development style book, but I always learn something beneficial to apply to my life.


Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

I read Dumplin’ because when I saw the movie on Netflix I decided to read the book first. I have to say, the book is far better than the movie! Sure, it was a cute movie, but the book dove far more into each character and the complexities behind their choices. There was also a lot of plot cut out to make the movie work, so I highly recommend picikng up the book if you enjoyed the movie.



Also, I highly recommend Goodreads! Below is my year in review:

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2018 Holiday Gift Guide

Well hello! Yes, I’m still here! It’s been an overwhelming fall season (and early winter…) to say the least but I’ve got quite a few blog-post ideas up my sleeve so keep an eye out! However, since we’re so close to Christmas (and I missed Hanukkah completely), I wanted to dive into holiday gift ideas for all the beautiful women in your life or just for yourself. And yes, I get myself Christmas gifts. :) Because why not?

Honestly, one of my favorite things to do is give gifts to people. I’ve said this so many times to people but if I had all the money in the world, I would love, love, love to spend it giving people gifts or experiences.

Although I’m a bit late on this post, I know many of you still have plenty of holiday shopping to do! Below are all of my gift ideas, either things that I own and love or things that I know would make great gifts this year (*cough*mightbeonmylist*cough*).

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Holiday Gift Guide 2018

1. Modestly M Kansas Candle

I love candles, I love Kansas City, and I love anything with a bee on it so when I saw this candle I absolutely had to get it for myself. Modestly M Candle Co is a local Kansas City small-batch soy candle company and I love supporting small businesses. I found my candle in a Hallmark store but you can also order them online.

2. Hydroflask Water Bottle.

I don’t actually own this one yet (on my Christmas list!) but I have heard nothing but good things about them. After asking several people (okay, really just my cousin) I’m going with the 32oz. I also want the straw lid because I’m the type of person who spills all over themselves when trying to drink out of a regular water bottle… As an FYI, you can find these a little cheaper at other stores like Dick’s Sporting Goods!

3. Athleta Elation Tight in Powervita.

Omgyouguys. These tights feel like BUTTER. I used to think that was just a saying until I tried these tights on! If I didn’t’ have to dress for like “work” every day, I would wear these constantly.

4. Beautycounter Mini Lip Gloss Vault.

While this is a lot of lip gloss for one person, it’s the perfect thing to use for stocking stuffers or add-on’s with other gifts that you’re getting friends and family. There are so many colors so you can give the perfect one to each of your friends. I’m dying to try the Peony color!

5. Cuyana Classic Leather Zipper Tote.

This gift is definitely on the pricier end, but I’ve had this bag for a few months now and I am completely obsessed. I’d been using the large Longchamp tote for over 10 years and I decided to replace it with something else. I love this bag because it has a zipper on top (easy for airports or clumsy people like me, plus one of the two inside pockets also has a zipper. That was my biggest issue with the Longchamp bag - if my bag tipped at all, EVERYTHING would come flying out. I did, however, add a base inside the bag so it’s flat at the bottom instead of “droopy” but that was super easy to do. And obviously got it monogrammed ;)

6. Stasher Reusable Silicone Food Bag, Sandwich Bag.

I've been slowly but surely trying to use less plastic and these reusable bags have been so amazing! I felt like I was using SO MANY plastic baggies and with this bag, you can rinse it out, hand wash it or throw it in the dishwasher and use it over and over again for years. It comes in several sizes as well. I have the sandwich bag size and the snack bag size. 

7. Audible Membership.

I tend to take a lot of long road trips but whether someone you know enjoys books on long walks, on their commute or just when they’re doing things around the house, Audible is a great resource for getting new books. I also use the library but you have to wait a long while for newer, popular books! With Audible you can start them off with a one, three, six or twelve month membership as a gift.

8. JCrew Tortoise Hoop Earrings.

Another wishlist item! I saw someone wearing them and can't stop thinking about getting these earrings. I actually want to plug ALL JCrew Factory earrings because they're really not expensive (especially when on sale!) and they have cute options for all different styles - fun and funky to classic and simple. Edited to add: I received THESE earrings in multicolor as a gift yesterday and am in love! A more “fun” version of tortoise!

9. A Book!

I’m a pretty big fan of books and I always think they’re a great gift. Some suggestions for this holiday season are Becoming by Michelle Obama (on my list!) or The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah (one of the best books I read all year!).

10. Best of Beautycounter Set.

This set is the perfect gift for a friend who loves skincare or someone who is interested in removing toxins from their life. This set includes four of the most popular items that Beautycounter offers: the cleansing balm, Countermatch Adaptive Moisture Lotion, No. 1 Brightening Facial Oil, and No. 3 Balancing Facial Mask. The lotion is what I’ve been using for over a year and the No. 1 oil is my favorite because it’s so refreshing on my skin in the morning - like orange juice for your face!

Every Day You Have A Choice

At the end of October, an amazing person, friend, mother, wife and aunt left this world. I would have said her light went out but her light hasn’t gone anywhere and that is exactly why I decided to write this post.

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When I stop to think about the kind of person I want to be and the impression I want to leave on those who I encounter in life, I have a handful of women I look to as role models. Each of them have certain attributes I would love to have within myself. Don’t worry, I do realize that I cannot just combine the best traits of my role models and become some kind of super woman. No one is perfect and I am certainly not. I can, however, learn things from each of them and try to apply those lessons to my own life.

The biggest lesson I have learned from my Aunt Julie, and was so eloquently shared by my cousins at her memorial service, was that each day you have a choice: you can choose to have a good day or a bad day.

While we cannot control our circumstances, as she could not control her cancer, we can control our attitude and she fought with a smile on her face and kindness to those around her. I heard countless stories of how she befriended the nurses in the hospital, went to spinning class within a day after chemotherapy and was a loving human being to everyone around her. The nearly one-thousand people who attended her service are a testimony to the lives that she touched with her incredibly bright light.

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As someone who has battled anxiety and depression for most of my life, choosing to have a good day is hard. If I’m having a bad day, I want to have my bad day. I want to wallow in it and show my pain to others. The past year or so I’ve been trying so hard to be positive instead of negative. To choose my attitude.

However, I have not tried more than I have these past few days back at work. I wallowed last week in my grief and how heartbroken I felt for her husband and children. But on Monday, I decided that I would have a good day no matter how bad I felt when I woke up. I chose to be positive, joyful and kind to others. To say I’m a work in progress is an understatement but trying is certainly better than nothing.

Julie said something to me once I will never forget and will always make me laugh: “Life is too short for uncomfortable underwear.” While sound advice in and of itself, I think it’s metaphorical as well. If something was wrong, Julie didn’t complain - she did what she could to fix it and moved forward with a smile on her face. She knew that life is too precious to let things keep you down.

Every day we all have a choice to have a good day or a bad day. What are you going to choose today? Because I’m going to choose to look at every positive aspect of my day instead of complaining. I’m going to choose to be happy and kind to others no matter what. Lastly, I’m going to choose to be grateful because gratitude leads to happiness, not the other way around.


On a separate note - two of Julie’s daughters ran the NYC Marathon to raise money for Cholangiocarcinoma, which is a rare, and unfortunately fairly underfunded, form of liver & bile duct cancer that my Aunt Julie fought for over two years. To donate to their fundraising efforts, click here. Every gift makes a difference to both their fundraising and the support that they feel from our community.

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