Book Review

Books I've Read... January, February and March 2019

I’m definitely reading a lot less than I have in the past (it’s hard to have both reading and needlepointing as hobbies… but I just got an audiobook from the library!). However, I’m definitely still reading! I’ve been a bookworm since I can remember and I know that will never stop.

The books I’ve read in the first quarter of 2019 have quite a range of genres and topics. I also listened to a few of them since I did so much driving at the beginning of this year with my trips to Utah, Aspen and Santa Fe. I didn’t write reviews for all of them, but I’m including the whole list here and in order of when I finished reading (or listening) to each one.

Feel free to share your book recommendations in the comments. While I have quite a “to read” list, I’m always open to more suggestions!

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Something in the Water by Catherine Steadman - 4 stars

I don't generally read suspense novels because, well, they make me anxious. However, I chose this novel in audiobook form because I figured it would keep my attention on a couple very long road trips and it certainly did! I love the main character and how the story is told only from her point of view. I also loved the character of Eddie Bishop. The whole theme seemed to be that people are often so much more (and different) than you may think from the outside - that we shouldn't judge people because they've been in jail or because they're some amazing guy that you think is perfect. The suspense part also kept me intrigued and guessing the entire novel, which is hard to do with me! I definitely recommend.

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate - 4 stars

Another one out of my normal genres, I chose to read Before We Were Yours because it came highly recommended by several people. I had also never heard of this particular part of our American history and really wanted to learn more. I found the whole story fascinating and sad at the same time, which is expected based on what these children went through. Honestly, I thought the author could have shared more of their stories but I also understand she was only telling one family’s story and from the limited perspective of those people within it.

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi - 4 stars

ANOTHER book I would never normally pick up! However, I again heard such great reviews that I figured I should give it a try and I was pleasantly surprised (plus it wasn’t too long). The novel was a very interesting look at one person’s battle with cancer and how that person dealt with the idea of life and death from the inside.

Confess by Colleen Hoover - 3.75 stars

More of a “fun read” than the other two, Confess was a nice break from the three above as it was more about romance than anything else. I also loved the concept of Owen’s art studio and hearing everyone’s “confessions.” More proof that we are never alone in circumstances we go through or our own inner dialogue, fears and wishes.

Surprise Me by Sophie Kinsella - 3.5 stars

Another cute Sophie Kinsella novel, although this time about a couple farther into the marriage and faced with the idea of just how many years they have left together. I only gave it 3.5 stars because it was cute and interesting but just not quite a “4 star” novel.

Becoming by Michelle Obama - 4 stars

I had a hard time starting out with this one as I don’t love nonfiction, but once I got into it and especially once the presidential race began, I flew right through this memoir. It was incredibly interesting to learn all about Michelle Obama’s life both before and in the White House and helps me appreciate her even more (if that’s possible).

All We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin - 3.5 stars

I really liked Nina's character and the picture that the author painted of her life in Nashville. I could definitely feel the emotions between characters, which I think takes great writing. The author was really able to express the mixed emotions that come with knowing someone you love is doing something wrong or being faced with your own wrongdoings. However, I only gave the book a 3 (more like 3.5) because I felt the book was a bit scattered. While I appreciate very much the topics that this book touched on, I felt like there were far too many. I kept getting pulled in all different directions and wished I could have heard more on each story on its own rather than trying to fit in all into one. 

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen - 5 stars

An always enjoyable re-read (or listen in this case…).

100 Days to Brave by Annie F Downs - 3 .25 stars

This certainly took me more than 100 days to get through… but I’d heard good things about this devotional so I decided to give it a try. I’m sure most devotionals are this way but some days really struck a chord with me while others I didn’t relate to at all. For the most part, I enjoyed this devotional and got some really great journaling out reading it. However, I think in the future I need something that builds on the days before it a little more as I’m not sure I felt like I’d grown by the end.

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan - 4 stars

I absolutely loved this movie and didn’t realize the movie came from a book (let alone a series!) until afterwards, so I was really looking forward to reading this novel. While it is looooooong, it is also very interesting and entertaining. I thought the movie did a pretty good job of depicting the original story and enjoyed both!

Turtles All The Way Down by John Green - 3.5 stars

My boss actually gave me this book because I mentioned I deal with anxiety… thanks, Charlie. Not sure what I’m supposed to take from that BUT I did enjoy this novel. Reading what Aza was thinking was, honestly, a bit sad but I also appreciated seeing her perspective and the spirals her mind went into because it helps us all better understand those we know who deal with anxiety and depression (and even helped me recognize my own, less extreme, spirals from an outside perspective). I also loved the characters, especially Davis. He was broken in his own way but so kind and thoughtful and just what Aza needed to shift her own life. My only reservation was just how knowledgable these high schoolers were about certain things... as though they spent all their free time studying and reading things that had nothing to do with school. Most of the kids I knew growing up definitely didn't have such extensive knowledge on such subjects! Overall all though, a great book and an "easy" read to get through. I never once felt bored.

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn - 4 stars

I ended up liking this book a lot more than I expected. I'm not generally a huge fan of "scary" novels because I live alone and get easily freaked out, but this one was much more of a mind-bend type of suspense where you're guessing what's really going on throughout the entire novel. I also enjoyed hearing the entire story from the protagonist's point of view. I came to like her character very quickly and the insight into all of her thoughts - she felt very realistic and relatable despite the fact that what she was going through at the time is not something most people experience.

Follow me on Goodreads to see more of what I read and what I plan to read!

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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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.\


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!