Book Review

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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The Slight Edge: An Introduction and a Concept Worth Considering

October 19, 2016

I just started reading a new book called The Slight Edge and wanted to share my very first takeaway with all of you about how the little habits in our lives are what make us successful. Because you know I'm all about changing our small habits to make a big change in our lives!

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In the introduction to The Slight Edge, the author, Jeff Olson, says that when we’re close to or at the point of failure, we do daily little actions to bring us back to a level of average, or survival mode, which is where we feel comfortable.

But the problem is that we then STOP doing these actions, leading us slowly back down towards failure, only to recognize what's happening and start back up with our positive habits again until we get back to average. Can you see how this becomes a cycle of oscillating between the levels of comfortable and falling apart?

BUT if we KEEP UP those daily little actions even when we’re feeling comfortable and average, we can get up to  the level of success...

... and if we KEEP DOING THEM at the level of success, then we can actually STAY there. Jeff Olson says that everyone is an average person, but we don’t have to live an average life. We get to choose to become successful by simply working hard and doing these simple little actions every day and doing them with a positive philosophy, which then trickles down into our attitude, our actions, and the rest of our life.

This concept translates so well into exercise.

Often, we find the right way to start losing weight and once we’ve lost a few lbs we think, oh great! And those little habits start to slip. We skip a few workouts, we have a few days where we skimp on the veggies, and sooner or later we find ourselves back where we started. BUT if we had just kept up those positive habits like getting enough sleep, eating lots of vegetables every day, exercising 5-6 times a week, etc., then we can reach a level where we feel AMAZING rather than just average or comfortable.

Again, this idea applies to any goal in our lives, not just exercise. Whether you want to succeed in school, in your job, make a difference in your church, create a great homeschool for your children, remodel your house, save money, etc. You CAN be really successful, you just have to keep up the habits that get you there past the level of being comfortable.

But why don’t we do that?

I believe we all have a level of fear of success within us and I've definitely recognized it within myself. Many of us have this deep down fear of what will happen if we do succeed? Then what? What if we can’t live up to everyone’s expectations or keep it up? It’s so much easier to stay in a realm where we KNOW we can handle the circumstances and we feel comfortable. But is that where you want to live all aspects of your life? Or do you want to give success a try? I know I do!

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Just reading the introduction of The Slight Edge has created so many revelations for me in various areas of my life. It inspired me to sit down and really think about where I’m stopping and letting myself be average, and what habits I can work on to improve in the future and head towards success. Some of mine include:

  • Connect with a new person every day.

  • Workout/move six times per week.

  • Eat 5 servings of vegetables every day.

  • Do visualization and meditation every morning.

  • Center myself and prepare well before every call with a client.

  • Get outside every day.

  • Apply to a new job every day

  • Read my bible every day.

  • Write down things I’m grateful for every evening.

The key for me is to KEEP doing these things after they start working, rather than think I'm good now and stop doing them every day. Hopefully, this book will have some tools to help me do just that!

What I'm Learning About Visualization, Affirmations, and Meditation

October 14, 2016

I realize I haven't been blogging as much lately and especially not much about the real things that are going on in my life. I started this blog as a way to really connect with women and let them know they aren't alone in their struggles, so more of that will be coming your way in the future!

I feel like I've been spreading my creative energy thin with working on my coaching business, trying to write more thoughtful Instagram posts, newsletters, and making live videos on Facebook. But this blog is important to me and such a great creative outlet that it's time to put a little more time into it!

Today we're going to talk about some things that are very new to my life, but that I've been finding to be helpful with my mindset:

Visualization, Affirmations, and Meditations.

My journey in this realm actually started with meditations. I've been dealing with worse than usual anxiety over the past few months and I decided to give meditation a tray as a way to just calm down and breathe. I downloaded a few apps, my favorites so far being Headspace and Calm, and started meditating when I was feeling overly anxious and needed to calm down. I also found it to be a great way to help me clear my head and fall asleep at night.

What I love about these guided meditations is that it helps you to ground yourself in your physical body (they tell you to feel your feet against the ground and the weight of your body in your chair) and then to focus on your breathing and start counting breaths. But my favorite part is that you're allowed to have thoughts, but you let them come and then you let them move on. I like to imagine I'm floating on a cloud and all my thoughts are like clouds that pass me in the sky and keep on moving so I can go back to focusing on myself and my breathing. I would never have been able to just "meditate" by sitting down and being silent on my own, so I highly recommend starting out with some of these guided meditations to teach you how to do it.

Remember, you are a beginner at anything new and you should expect to be great at meditating the first time you try.

A couple of weeks ago, my coach, Anna, suggested that I get the book Creative Visualization, after I had read a chapter in You Are A Badass about visualization that I absolutely loved.

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This book has reintroduced the ideas of visualization and affirmation into my life and I'm really enjoying seeing them with a whole new perspective.

Visualization is now one of my favorite things to do in the morning.

Why? Because what I visualize is the life that I want most for myself, and it's pretty fun to imagine I'm living that life. It makes me excited for the future because I know I'm capable of creating a world around myself that I love.

I do love many aspects of my life NOW and I think gratitude is SO important as a daily ritual, but we're allowed to dream for more, right? That's what my visualization is for - something to work towards.

My visualization for my life includes my future job and business, what my home looks and feels like, what kind of people I've surrounded myself with, and how I feel on a daily basis.

Another thing I've been doing along with visualization is saying affirmations. And let me tell you...

I used to think affirmations were silly.

But that's mostly because I felt silly doing them, so I chose to write them off. An affirmation is a present-tense, positive statement that you make about yourself and your life. Usually, it's helpful to say them out loud, but you can also think them in your mind throughout the day. This is where the feeling silly part comes in. When you're saying a statement that you may not 100% believe, you feel uncomfortable. Our best affirmations come from the places where our inner-critic is hardest on us, so if you feel uncomfortable saying the affirmation, then you probably need it the most.

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Here are a few examples:

I am loveable.

I deserve to be prosperous and happy.

This is an abundant universe and there is plenty for all of us.

I deserve the best in life.

I am willing to be happy and successful.

Creative ideas and inspiration are coming to me every day.

I am deeply relaxed and centered.

God is doing his perfect work in this situation now for the good of all concerned.

God is guiding me now.

I am confident in my job and my workplace.

I love and accept myself just the way I am.

Get the idea? Did reading any of those make you really uncomfortable or think, nope, not me? Guess what? You CAN believe each and every one of these things about your life, but I've learned that it takes a lot of practice, affirming, and changing our thoughts to more positive ones. This idea of changing your life through affirmation and visualization is called manifestation. Yes, I know it sounds a little "wooo-wooo," as I like to call it, but I'm starting to see what people are talking about and why so many people believe in manifestation.

And no, manifestation doesn't mean that I'm just sitting around imagining my life and hoping it comes to fruition.

It means that I give myself a positive mindset and know exactly what I want each morning, and then I go after it and work hard for it. Haha so don't worry, I haven't gone off the deep end! All of these things are positive, helpful tools that I'm adding into my life, along with the consistent, hard work that I know it takes to get me to where I want to be. I figure it can't hurt, right?

I'm really enjoying giving all of these techniques a try.

If you want to see me chat about this topic in person, here's a live video I did on my Facebook Page about the book and how I'm enjoying affirmations and visualization: