Friday, December 29, 2017

2017: My Year In Books

This year, I was able to get in 130 books, and y'all some of them were absolutely amazing. Others were great, some were okay, and thank goodness, only a few were duds. 

I linked all of my reviews from the year below. However, I'd like to unveil my top ten. 

1) Get Your Sh*t Together: How to Stop Worrying About What You Should Do So You Can Finish What You Need to Do and Start Doing What You Want to Do by Sarah Knight - I adored this book. I especially love that it was built on analogies involving Alvin, Simon, and Theodore (I hope y'all sang the song as you read that). I love Sarah's books because they don't mess around when it comes to advice. She's all about getting to the core of what you actually want and not worrying about what everyone else will think. It's a message I need to hear/still need to hear, and she masterfully reminds me.

2) Who Thought This Was a Good Idea?: And Other Questions You Should Have Answers to When You Work in the White House by Alyssa Mastromonaco - I loved this read. I loved the stories. I loved the emotion. I loved it all. It's funny that as I sit to write this I can't tell you the specifics of what I loved, but I'm also getting all teary and smiling as I think about how much I loved sitting and reading this one. So, I'll just keep telling you I loved this, and I'll need you to trust me. Also, this cover is the best. Oh, and it has one of my favorite quotes of the year, "And that's how this story starts - with the humble goal of seeming competent and not too annoying. Like most women I know, I ultimately want to be likeable and trustworthy - as well as glamorous - but it's important to take baby steps."

3) There's No Good Card for This by Kelsey Crowe and Emily McDowell - This is hands down the book I have recommended the most this year. I've loved Emily's artwork for awhile, and when I heard she was writing a book, I was so excited. This is a book about grief and tough stuff, but it's told in a beautiful way. It made me think about how I comfort and connect with others, and I have been able to use so much of the book. It's an absolute must read for everyone.

4) The Simplified Life by Emily Ley - Never has a book inspired me to take every item out of my kitchen, pantry, and each and every closet of my home in the name of organization. This book is fantastic. For 2018, I've got a Simplified Planner on the docket, and this book is really just an overview of Emily's simplified philosophy. It's nothing revolutionary, but also, the way she wrote this is just perfect messaging for how to make a more simple life happen.

5) After You by JoJo Moyes - I was hesitant to read this one. Me Before You gave me so many feels, and I just wasn't sure I could revisit these characters. But y'all, this book was beautiful. It centered Louisa's story so well. Were there sad moments? Oh yes. But there humor and joy and love, and it was fantastic. Soon after finishing, I realized there was going to be a third book in this series, and I cannot wait.

6) The Animators by Kayla Rae Whitaker was just a wonderfully written story. It's about two friends who could not be more different that are (spoiler!) animators together, and it tracks them through the years. This was book that had a depth of characters that sucked me in right away, and I was in tears by the end. 

7) Anastasia Krupnik by Lois Lowry - For about half the year, I took on a reading challenge, and one of the great things is that it brought me to this book. Y'all, how did I go through my tween years and not know this book was around? I absolutely and completely loved this character. She's one of my favorites of the year.

8) What Made Maddy Run by Kate Fagan - This book is the story of a college athlete who outwardly seems to have it all outwardly, but inwardly she's struggling, and she ultimately completes suicide. The author treks back through her social media and stories from her family and friends to understand just what happened. It's well-written as she masterfully explores the depth of what Maddy was feeling and saying and doing. It's tragic and incredibly powerful.

9) Lucky Bastard by Joe Buck - Okay, so this one is totally and completely. I listened to this audiobook to and from St. Louis. I laughed, I cried (no, I really did), and I actually kind of dig Joe Buck now. Going in, I never would have thought that this would be the result of eight hours in a car with Joe Buck, but this one got to me.

10) The WIfe Between Us by Greer Hendricks - This is an outstanding thriller. There are twists and turns here, and ones you just can't possibly see coming. It was a page-turner that made me gasp as I read, and it's outstanding. This was an ARC, so technically it's not even out until 2018, so y'all when it comes out, Read. This. Book.

Oh, and if you've been following along since the beginning, I had decided to take on two new reading challenges. I shelved those in May because they weren't working like I wanted them, too. If I'm being honest, it's because I hit a few really terrible reads and was a bit frustrated. However, as I look at my top ten list, I realize that many of my best reads of the year are due to this challenge. I even unknowingly completed a few challenges as I was going through the latter 2/3 of the year. I'm even going to take on another one in 2018 that I sketched out here.

And AND here's all the things I read this year! I bolded my favorites (and also noted a few audiobooks and re-reads), and I hyperlinked all of my reviews, so enjoy my quasi dreams realized of being a reviewer on Reading Rainbow.

(1 - 3)
1. Otherwise Known As Shelia The Great - Judy Blume (Reread)
2. Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret - Judy Blume (Reread)
3. It's Not the End of the World - Judy Blume (Reread)

(4 - 5/18 - 22)
(6 - 7/8 - 9/10 - 17/23)
4. My Not So Perfect Life - Sophie Kinsella
5. With A Little Luck - Caprice Crane
6. Kristy's Great Idea - Ann M. Martin (Reread)
7. Kristy's Great Idea - Raina Telgemeier (Graphic Novel)
8. George Washington's Secret Six: The Spy Ring That Saved the American Revolution - Brian Kilmeade
9. Anastasia Krupnik - Lois Lowry
10. Samantha Learns a Lesson - Susan S. Adler (Reread)
11. Felicity Saves the Day - Valerie Tripp (Reread)
12. Meet Molly - Valerie Tripp (Reread)
13. Kirsten's Surprise - Janet Beeler Shaw (Reread)
14. Kaya's Hero - Janet Beeler Shaw
15. Caroline's Battle - Kathleen Ernst
16. Marie-Grace and the Orphans - Sarah Masters Buckey
17. Troubles for Cecile - Denise Lewis Patrick
18. The Paris Wife - Paula McLain
19. Tribal Leadership: Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organization - Dave Logan
20. Midwives - Chris Bohjalian
21. Girls in the Moon - Janet McNally
22. Here We Are: Feminism for the Real World - Kelly French
23. Allergic To My Family - Liza Ketchum Morrow (Reread)

(25/27 - 29/32 - 35)
(30 - 31)
24. It's Okay to Laugh (Crying is Cool, Too) - Nona McInerny Purmort
25. Eight Hundred Grapes - Laura Dave
26. As Red As Blood - Salla Simukka
27. The Grown-Up - Gillian Flynn
28. Still Life with Bread Crumbs - Anna Quindlen
29. Gone Without A Trace - Mary Torjussen
30. The Age of Miracles - Karen Thompson Walker (Reread)
31. Little Town on the Prairie - Laura Ingalls Wilder (Reread)
32. Tell the Wolves I'm Home - Carol Rifka Brunt
33. Start Right Where You Are - Sam Bennett
34. Books for Living - Will Schwalbe (Audiobook)
35. The Sun Is Also A Star - Nicola Yoon
36. Hillbilly Elegy - J.D. Vance

(37/39/41/43 - 46/48 - 50)
37. The Hypnotist's Love Story - Liane Moriarity
38. Lucky Bastard - Joe Buck (Audiobook)
39. Sarah's Key - Tatiana de Rosnay (Reread)
40. There's No Good Card for This - Kelsey Crowe and Emily McDowell
41. You Are Here: An Owner's Manual for Dangerous Minds - Jenny Lawson
42. We Are Okay - Nina LaCour
43. Love, Ish - Karen Rivers
44. Hamilton: The Revolution - Lin-Manuel Miranda (Audiobook)
45. She Wanted It All - Kathryn Casey
46. Nothing to Prove: Why We Can Stop Trying So Hard - Jennie Allen
47. The Princess Saves Herself In This One - Amanda Lovelace
48. Catstronauts - Mission Moon - Drew Brockington
49. Catstronauts - Race to Mars - Drew Brockington
50. Exit West - Mohsin Pasid
51. Wonder - R.J. Palacio
52. The Arm: Inside The Most Valuable Commodity in Sports - Jeff Passan
53. Girls In Pants: The Third Summer of the Sisterhood - Ann Brashares (Reread)

54. The Roanoke Girls - Amy Engel
55. House of Dies Drear - Virginia Hamilton (Reread)

(56 - 59)
56. A Grown Up Kind of Pretty - Joshilyn Jackson
57. Go Set a Watchman - Harper Lee
58. BeDADitudes - Gregory Popcak
59. The Power of Meaning - Emily Esfahani Smith
60. Tuck Everlasting - Natalie Babbitt (Reread)

61. Hoop Dreams - Ben Joravsky

(62 - 67)
62. Grace Not Perfection - Emily Ley
63. Home Is Where My People Are - Sophie Hudson
64. Just Fly Away - Andrew McCarthy
65. The Card Catalog - Library of Congress
66. Sync or Swim - Gary Chapman
67. The Carrie Diaries - Candace Bushnell

(68 - 70)
68. Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience and Finding Joy - Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant
69. Reading with Patrick: A Teacher, A Student, A Life-Changing Friendship - Michelle Kuo
70. Watch Me Disappear - Janelle Brown

(71 - 72)
71. The Phenomenon - Rick Ankiel
72. This Is Your Brain On Sports: The Science of Underdogs, the Value of Rivarly, and What We Can Learn From the T-Shirt Cannon - L. Jon Wertheim and Sam Sommers

(73 - 75)
73. What Alice Forgot - Liane Moriarity
74. Radical Candor: Be a Kickass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity - Kim Scott
75. 'Round Midnight - Laura McBride

(76 - 83)
76. The Bluest Eye - Toni Morrison
77. In The Woods - Tana French
78. Still Missing - Chevy Stevens
79. Mortified - David Nadelberg
80. Who Thought This Was a Good Idea?: And Other Questions You Should Have Answers to When You Work in the White House - Alyssa Mastromonaco
81. Lilac Girls - Martha Hall Kelly (Audiobook)
82. The Good Stuff - Joe Posnanski
83. Insight: Why We're Not as Self-Aware as We Think, and How Seeing Ourselves Clearly Helps Us Succeed At Work and In Life - Tasha Eurich

(84 - 88)
84. The Disaster Artist - Greg Sestero (Audiobook)
85. Emma in the Night - Wendy Walker
86. Get Your S--- Together - Sarah Knight
87. Approval Junkie - Faith Salie
88. Counting by 7s - Holly Goldberg Sloan

(89 - 96)
89. Fool Me Once - Harlan Coben
90. Where We Belong - Emily Giffin
91. Luckiest GIrl Alive - Jessica Knoll
92. Good As Gone - Amy Gentry
93. The Nobodies Album - Carolyn Parkhurst
94. Miller's Valley - Anna Quindlen
95. The Shape of Ideas - Grant Snider
96. A Man Called Ove - Frederik Backman

(97 - 104)
97. The Light We Lost - Jill Santopolo
98. The Wife Between Us - Greer Hendricks
99. Red Teaming - Bryce G Hoffman
100. Beautiful Boy: A Father's Journey Through His Son's Addiction - Jonathan Sheff
101. Bumped - Megan McCafferty
102. Small Great Things - Jodi Picoult
103. What Made Maddy Run - Kate Fagan
104. Enjoy: A New Approach to Stress & Burnout Prevention - Nicole Seichter

(105 - 108)
105. Finish - Jon Acuff
106. Snow Angels - Steward O'Nan
107. The Drowning Girls - Paula Treick DeBoard
108. Hello Sunshine - Laura Dave

(109 - 112)
109. Friend Request - Laura Marshall
110. After You - Jojo Moyes
111. The Animators - Kayla Rae Whitaker
112. Fierce Kingdom - Gin Phillips

(113 - 116)
113. True Gentlemen - John Hechinger
114. Tolstoy and the Purple Chair - Nina Sankovitch
115. The Power of Moments - Chip and Dan Heath
116. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F--- - Mark Manson

(117 - 120)
117. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian - Sherman Alexie
118. How to Think - Alan Jacobs
119. Sisters First - Barbara Pierce Bush and Jenna Bush Hager
120. A Short History of the Girl Next Door - Jared Reck

(121 - 124)
121. Redeeming Love - Francine Rivers
122. The Perfect Girl - Gilly Macmillan
123. You Do You: How to Be Who You Are and Use What You've Got to Get What You Want - Sarah Knight
124. A Simplified Life - Emily Ley

(125 - 130)
125. Little Fires Everywhere - Celeste Ng
126. The Wonder- Emma Donaghue (Audiobook)
127. The Iowa Baseball Confederacy - WP Kinsella
128. Bitter Harvest- Ann Rule
129. The Liars Club - Mary Karr
130. The Church of the Small Things - Melanie Shankle

Thursday, December 28, 2017

December Reads

Little Fires Everywhere was fantastic - just all-around fantastic. It had a great plot. It had great characters. It had emotion It had an ending I didn't see coming. It was the Goodreads winner for fiction book of the year, and y'all, it deserves every bit of that. My review here is sparse because I don't have much to say except READ. THIS. BOOK.

Read this book if - You've literally read any fiction book ever and are looking to read another. You like strong character development. You dig feelings.

The Wonder was okay. I'll own that I was reading this for my online book club, and I listened via audiobook while I was doing lots of other things. I also may have listened at 1.5x speed to ensure I made it through. I'm not sure I would have liked this one more had I read it at a normal pace, but you know - You win some, you lose some. 

Read this book if - Historical fiction is your jam.

Iowa Baseball Confederacy was also okay. I picked it up because it was by the guy who wrote Shoeless Joe which Field of Dreams was based on, and that book was on my to-read list. This one was interesting. It was about a guy whose dad has told him about a storied game between the Chicago Cubs and Iowa Baseball Confederacy. The problem is there's not record of this game, so he has to go through history (literally) to figure out just what happened. It was well-written, but also not totally my thing. Again, better luck next time.

Read this book if - You've been wanting something that reminds you of Field Of Dreams. 

Bitter Harvest was a true crime read that actually takes place in JoCo - Prairie Village specifically in the late 90s. I don't remember this case at all, but was in a reading rut and after seeing My Favorite Murder live (!!) I decided to check it out. It read just like a Dateline, 48 Hours and/or 20/20. While it was well-written and researched, it's also a super tragic story on so many levels.

Read this book if - You enjoy Dateline, 48 Hours, 20/20 and/or My Favorite Murder. 

The Liars Club was a book I received in my Holiday Hannah gift exchange. I asked for a memoir written by a woman, and this was what my HH found for me. This actually came out in the mid-nineties. The author's childhood is terrible, but she finds humor and resilience in her story. Her writing style is also phenomenal. I never would have found my way to this one without the gift exchange, so I was thankful this was the book I received.

Read this book if - Memoirs are your jam.

The Church of the Small Thing was the fourth Melanie Shankle I've read. I absolutely adore her books. First of all, she's an Aggie, and second of all, she just writes with so much authenticity. This is another one where I laughed and cried as I read. I'm glad I got to end my year of reading with this one because it was the perfect inspiration injection as I look to 2018. One quote in particular stuck with me:

"So many of us choose our path out of fear disguised as practicality. . . I believe God wants us to walk out of the waters of faith and calls us to things that are greater and deeper than our fears. And we realize that failure at some point in life is inevitable - whether we're doing what we want or not - we might as well take a stab at doing something we love. We might as well go with the dream."

Read this book if - You need a reminder of what really matters. You want to take a moment to get re-grounded in faith and what really matters.

And with this, it's a wrap on my year in reading! Stay tuned for the recap, especially because it's already drafted, and I just need to hit publish.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Late November Reads

At the end of November, I hit an especially good stretch of books and had some good energy to power through and read some gems. I'm up to 124 books on the year, so provided I keep reading (Spoiler Alert: I already have), this will be my best year of reading ever.

I promised these reviews would start being less book report-y, so I'll see what I'm able to make happen. . . 

Redeeming Love was a book a friend recommended to me literal years ago. I happened upon it at the JoCo Used Book Sale, and I decided to check it out. It's Christian fiction which I don't read often/ever. Y'all, this book was beautiful. It's a retelling of the story of Gomer and Hosea (I have no idea what that story is, but okay) during the California Gold Rush. It's got drama and love and everything in between. It's just under 500 pages which is longer than I usually go on most reads, but y'all, it didn't feel long at all, and I wanted the story to continue. Also, there was some faith undertones, but it also was just a really well written historical piece. This one is definitely worth checking out.

Read this book if - You like one or more of the following - A). Christian Fiction B). Historical Fiction C). Love Stories - Non-Cheesy

The Perfect Girl was this month's book club selection. Due to some insomnia issues, I actually ended up reading this in one night. I'd also attribute this to it being a really captivating thriller. The book starts with this girl's mom getting murdered, then backtracks (and is in real-time) to piece together just what the heck happened. There are lots of twists and turns (admittedly, a few I figured out, but some I didn't) as you read. I'm always down for a thriller, and this one hit the spot for the genre.

Read this book if - You've liked literally any of those other thrillers that have "Girl" in the title - Girl On The Train, Gone GIrl, The Good Girl, etc. And/or you like thrillers in general.

You Do You: How To Be Who You Are and Use What You've Got To Get What You Want was Sarah Knight's newest foray into self-help of the nontraditional variety. You may remember me raving about her second book a few months back here. This one really builds on that book and talks more about being your authentic self. I love Sarah's writing (We're on a first name basis. After all, she replied to my tweet of my Simon cup), and I feel like she gives me the advice I need to hear that I"ll actually put into practice. This book was a great nudge to be confident who I am - flaws and all. Y'all if you're not reading her stuff, you need to be.

Read this book if - You've read Sarah's second book. If you haven't read that first, as it'll make this read make way more sense. You like advice that is practical and usable with a side of curse words. 

The Simplified Life was AH-MA-ZING. Y'all, this book inspired me to clean my whole kitchen. I literally took each and every thing out of my kitchen and pantry and reorganized it and found things to donate and just made it all make sense. And then? AND THEN, I DID THE SAME THING FOR MY CLOSET AND ALL MY CRAFT SUPPLIES. And then? AND THEN? Dustin and I went through our atrocity of a media cabinet and even labeled and sorted all our cords together. It is rare that a book inspires me to do all of this, but this book did just that. For 2018, I've shifted over to The Simplified Planner, so I knew a bit about Emily. This book though was a gamechanger. It's nothing revolutionary, but at the same time, it is. It was such an affirming and inspiring read about how to focus less on "stuff" and more on what truly matters. This one has my heart, and I'm even sitting her blogging right now because this book reminded me that words are what I love, so I need to make space for them. Love, love, LOVE this one.

Read this book if - You need a recalibration of your priorities/life. You're looking to reflect on how life is going and what you need to do more/less of. You need a good inspiration for organization. You want to get rid of lots of your crap and don't know whre to even begin.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Posts I Should Have Written

Let me let y'all in on a terribly kept secret - I've been awful at blogging. In retrospect, it's nothing new. Each of my blogs has had a post or ten about how I promise to be better. I'm also quite sure my haphazardly kept grade school diaries were in the same vein. 

So, why the heck do I keep trying? Because I love writing. Always have. Anyone who knows me knows I'm a written words person. I do okay with spoken word, too, but writing y'all, that's my jam. 

And here's the thing, my head is constantly swirling with ideas of posts.

In fact, here are some ideas from this week:

  • Where did this zit in my eyebrow come from, and why does it hurt so bad?
  • Why is Topanga wearing business attire for most of season five and six of Boy Meets World? Is she going to a meeting later? Is this what we all were wearing in the late 90s? If so, WHY?
  • Boy Meets World totally jumped the shark after that Cory and Lauren situation.
  • Blossom is on Hulu! Also, I totally wanted to be Blossom in the opening sequence.
  • The adulting excitement of cleaning and organizing our garage.
  • All the great deals I got on Cyber Monday for stuff I wanted needed.
  • How I'm going to organize and decorate my new Simplified Planner.
  • Reflections on two years (tomorrow!) in my current job.
  • This zit though. How does this happen?
So, where do I go from here? Here's some ideas:

  • Better book posts. My forever dream has been to be one of those kids on Reading Rainbow who reviews books. In fact, I used to practice regularly in my mirror. Book reviews are the one consistent feature of this little blog, but they can get a little book report-y, so I'm going to work on that.

  • The return of What's Making Me Happy. It used to be a regular feature. Then, it wasn't. Now, it will be again.
  • More cross-stitch project sharing. Because y'all, I love a good cross-stitch, and I've done some neat ones.
  • The sh*t I want to write. I overthink which means I then don't write at all. I'm adopting a new mantra - Think Less, Write More. So, I'll do that starting now.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

November Reads

Note: I usually post pictures of the books I read. 
I don't know where they all are right now. Instead, here's a meme.

The Absolutely True Diary Of A Part-Time Indian was a selection for a book club I actually led, then left, then never read. It's a bummer this one took me this long to read because it's fantastic. It's about Junior who is attending high school on an Indian reservation, then moves to the public high school. It is just such a wonderfully told story about high school (in all its emotional angst), as well as how Junior navigates his identity in different spaces. It is fantastic.

How To Think is a book people who are not me will probably enjoy. It's all about this idea that we don't think as individuals rather we think about our thoughts in the context of other people. Sound confusing. It can be. For me, the stories and examples were really interesting and helpful to understand the concepts, and I wish there was more of that.. For others, I think they'll likely dig the theory that is throughout. Again, it's for people who aren't me. Oh, and I got this book for free. Thanks Blogging for Books.

Sisters First: Stories From Our Wild and Wonderful Life is a memoir by Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara (Pierce) Bush that was just a good read. It was literally just a collection of stories and what it was like to be in the White House, twins, sisters, etc. The Bush twins are my age, so I've also been intrigued by them and followed their lives. A lot of what they shared here I didn't know, and I appreciated their authentic storytelling. Before reading this, I was in a bit of a reading funk, and this one broke me out of it.

A Short History Of The Girl Next Door IS A SAD BOOK. I'm going to write that in all caps because you need to know that going into reading this. Heck, I knew that, and you know what? IT WAS STILL SAD. It starts with unrequited love which was formerly my area of expertise. Then, IT IS JUST SAD. SAD. It's sadness well done because the characters are endearing, but y'all, this one kind of broke me. Oh, and this was also free. You the best, Blogging for Books.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Late October Reads

October was a good month as far as books were concerned. Here are four more that I squeezed in to the month.

True Gentlemen: The Broken Pledge of America's Fraternities was a book I read for work. It's a tough read (as far as emotion), but a needed one. It's a deep dive into fraternity culture and how a toxic culture develops. It's really well researched and explained, and it made me think quite a bit. It even also has some emotion and hope at the end, and I even ended up tearing up on the plane. For those of my friends who do the kind of work I do, it's a must read.

Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading is about a woman who decides she is going to read one book a day after her sister's death. It was interesting. As per usual, I feel weird judging memoirs. I did find I wanted to know more about all of the books she's read via the book. She did do a good job of explaining how books connected her to her sister and other times in her life. As a reader, I related with that part. Also, the prospect of being able to do nothing but read for a year is pretty great.

The Power of Moments is the newest book by one of my favorite pairs of business-y books. Surprise - It's about how moments stick with us! There was some interesting research throughout, and more than anything, it made me think about how I structure educational experiences. It's a quick read, but not one to rush to check out.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck was one a co-worker had told me to read awhile ago. Finally, my turn came up at the library. It is outstanding. It made me think a lot about how I'm spending my time and what it says about what I value. It's made me stop and think a lot about how I could definitely be doing better at some aspects of my life as far as the time and energy I give. Similarly, there are some places where I need to care less. This one is quick read that is definitely worth moving up your book queue.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Early October Reads

Oh, hi, here's what I read lately-ish.

Friend Request was good, but the ending wasn't great. I wanted so much more. The book is about a woman who receives a facebook friend request from someone who she thinks/knows is dead. So, the book is then her unweaving the web of what the heck is going on. It goes back and forth between the present and the past to start connecting what really went down and is currently happening. It built some good suspense, but the twist was one that's honestly been in a lot of thrillers I've read as of late, so that was a bummer. 

After You is the sequel to Me Before You. I was hesitant to take this on because Me Before You was such an emotional investment. I mean, y'all, it broke me. This one ended up surprising me. Predictably, it's about (SPOILER ALERT - DO NOT PASS GO IF YOU HAVEN'T READ THE FIRST BOOK) Louisa's life after Will. I absolutely loved it. It's a well-done read about how Louisa works through the grief of losing Will and also how she tries to find a new life where she belongs. There's even some love story mixed in which I enjoyed. Turns out, there's a third book coming out about Louisa in early 2018, and I am so here for that.

The Animators was a Book Of The Month selection from awhile ago. Honestly, I just hadn't gotten around to reading/hadn't really been drawn to the plot. This is another one that surprised me. This one is about two friends who are in the animation (surprise, huh?) business together. They're on the cusp of really, really making it big, but there are some pieces of their past (and present) they each need to work through. It's hard to truly explain the plot of this one, but the characters and stories are all-around outstanding. It took me a minute to get into this one, but once I did, I was absolutely swept away.

Fierce Kingdom was okay. It takes place over the course of three hours at a zoo where there's an active shooter. The ending was odd, some of the character's decisions were puzzling, and it was just an all-around "meh" read. Better luck next book, I guess.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Hitting the Reset Button

Y'all, I'm in my MID THIRTIES. How did that even happen?!? I mean, I know how it happened, but you know. . . 


I've spent a lot of time reflecting these past few weeks. Originally, I thought I was going to write some capstone piece about my 34th year. Well, I didn't. And now, I'm three days into 35, and I'm going to put together some assorted thoughts.

Here's the thing - I had too many expectations for 34. I tried to write the story instead of just letting everything happen. I tried to overplan and overcommit and overdo which let's be real is classic Andrea. Honestly, it took me until my last days of 34 to realize my pattern of behavior.

However, the best thing about birthdays (I mean, after cake and presents and the birthday love from friends and family) is the chance to start anew. It's the chance to hit that reset button.

Image result for reset gif

Note: I contemplated using the analogy of "blowing on the cartridge on this game called life," so there's that. . . 

I don't really have much to share with y'all beyond this. I could tell you I'll try to blog more, and that's maybe true. I'd like it to be, but at the same time, I'm tired of overthinking this space, then not blogging, then feeling bad, then ghosting my own space.

So, here's to 35. What will be will be. . . 

The Rest of September's Reads

Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done was Jon Acuff's latest read. I first got exposed to Jon Acuff when a colleague gave me one of his books when I was in a bit of a career rut. Since then, I've been a big fan of his work around career/life development. No surprise that this book focuses on finishing goals which people are kind of terrible at for the most part. The focus is on strategies around how to actually do what we set out to do. I found lots of good nuggets of advice in this one, and I'm excited to put them into action.

Snow Angels is a book that's been on my to-read list for quite sometime. I found it this summer at the JoCo Used Book Sale. Y'all, I'm not totally sure what to tell you about this one. The writing was fantastic, but also it's not one I could rave about to you. It's a bummer of a read as far as plot is concerned as it focuses on death and tragedy, but it's well-written? This review is weird.

The Drowning Girls was this month's book club read. P.S. Don't confuse it with The Drowning Girl and/or The Drowned Girl which are also apparently books. This thriller kept me reading mostly from nerves about what was going to happen next. This reads like a good Lifetime movie plot, and y'all, does it get any better than that? Spoiler Alert: It doesn't. 

Hello, Sunshine was this month's read for my online book club. I had to read quickly because the book is due tomorrow. However, I also felt like the plot moved super quick. The book was short-ish (242 pages), so there wasn't a lot of time to dig into characters. While I liked this book overall, I also wanted to know so much more. 

And that's a wrap on September's reads!

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Labor Day & Vacation Reads

The first few weeks of September I read some really great things, and then I predictably didn't get around to blogging until now. So, here's the latest and greatest books I've found!

The Light We Lost was a recommendation from a co-worker. It was beautifully written, so much so that I ended up in tears at the end. The book starts on September 11th, 2001, and it follows a couple through their lives together (and apart). It's worth the read, but Kleenex is necessary for sure.

The Wife Between Us was an advance reading copy I received. This one comes out in January, and when it does, Y'ALL NEED TO GET THIS BOOK. The initial premise is about an ex-wife and her replacement - or so you think. There are so many twists in this one, and I could not stop reading. I had to know what was next. Calling it now that this is the next big thriller that everyone will read and want to talk about. Just remember, I was ahead of this trend.

Red Teaming: How Your Business Can Conquer the Competition by Challenging Everything was interesting at times, but also, not all the times. The book was a little too business-y for me. There were a few activities and things that are transferable, but for a lot of it, it just wasn't my jam. Oh, and thanks to Blogging for Books for the hook-up once more.

Beautiful Boy: A Father's Journey Through His Son's Addiction was phenomenal. From the title, you can figure out the subject. This was such a fantastic read that really explained what it's like to love an addict, try to get that addict help, and what the recovery (and relapse) process looks like for all involved. It's an honest and raw memoir that really helped me learn more on the topic of addiction.

Bumped was okay. Megan McCafferty wrote one of my all-time favorite teen angst series - Jessica Darling (aka Sloppy Firsts, Second Helpings, Charmed Thirds, etc.) This one was an intriguing concept, but also just wasn't my thing. It's about a society where teen girls become infertile at 18, so getting preggers early is big business. So, yeah.

Small Great Things was outstanding and infuriating and everything in between. It's a story that alternates between a black labor and delivery nurse, a white supremacist whose son has died in the nurse's care, and the lawyer who is defending the nurse. The storytelling is amazing and real and y'all, check this one out.

What Made Maddy Run: The Secret Struggles and Tragic Death of an All-American Teen is another heartbreaker, but amazing read. It's about Madison Holleran, a freshman runner at UPenn who completes suicide. Kate Fagan (who is an incredible writer) goes back through her social media to trace just what happened and show the dichotomy of how Maddy lived on social media and in real life. It's a read that also had me in tears and also really made me think.

Enjoy: A New Approach to Stress and Burnout Prevention was okay. It was a Strengths-based look at how to manage stress in your life. There were some good tips there and there. However, there were also profiles of the author's clients she used as examples. Because their Strengths weren't my Strengths, I struggled to connect/do anything with these. I wanted something more actionable, and it just wasn't what I got.

Stay tuned for the rest of Septembers reads soon-ish!

Sunday, September 3, 2017

August Reads

I'm unsurprisingly behind in blogging books. Conveniently, I read all of these in August, so let's pretend this octet of reviews was planned.

Harlan Coben is the only "mainstream" mystery writer I regularly read. He writes a good story, and his plot twists are not too predictable. Fool Me Once definitely kept me guessing. It was a multilayered story, and the ending was definitely a surprise. If you love Coben, you won't be disappointed with this installment. If you've never read Coben, this is a good one to check out.

Where We Belong was okay. There have been Emily Giffin reads that I have loved, ones that I hated, and ones that were just meh. This was meh. I felt like the story was going somewhere, and then it just kind of stopped. The ending wasn't my favorite, and while I know what I'm getting with these reads, I guess I just wanted more.

Luckiest Girl Alive was a good thriller. It was not the best thriller of all-time. It was interesting, but not something I would recommend to any and everyone. Honestly, I think the book falls victim to the hype. I hate when authors are compared to other authors because THEY ARE NEVER GOING TO BE THE SAME. Because of this, I went in wanting something from that OG author. That is not what I got. 

On the other hand, Good As Gone is a thriller that you should absolutely check out. I read it for my online book club, and it kept me guessing. There were lots of twists and turns, the character development was great, and the ending was one I didn't see coming. 

Carolyn Parkhurst is an interesting author for me in that she wrote a book I just loved (Lost & Found) and one I absolutely hated (The Dogs of Babel). The Nobodies Album was the tiebreaker by default. Good news - I really liked it. The book is interesting in that it has a couple of storylines. First, the narrator's son is accused of murdering his girlfriend. Second, the narrator is an author, and she's writing new endings to all her old books. So, the chapters alternate between the main plot, and then the old and new endings of her books. Honestly, I wish some of those books were real. It was a really interesting spin, and I'm glad Carolyn and I have reconciled as author and reader.

Miller's Valley was my fifth or sixth Anna Quindlen. I like her because she writes strong, deep characters and really captivating plots. This one was interesting. It was about a family and the stories they each had through years of living in the same area - an area that was going to be soon gone. I've liked some of her other stuff better, but still enjoyed this one.

The Shape of Ideas was a graphic nonfiction book that was just a fun read. It's one that I'd highly recommend for a quick dose of creativity and inspriration.

A Man Called Ove was the first read for my new in-person book club. It's one of those books that gives you all the feels. You also don't realize how many feels until you get to the last page, and you're a hot, sobbing mess. Ove is one of the most endearing and interesting characters I've read in a long time, and I still find myself thinking about this one days later. 

P.S. Pictured in this book picture is my new Jessie Spano figurine. Fun Fact - Jessie is my fave SBTB character.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Things That Are Making Me Happy. . .Er, Feel Some Kind of Way

I wanted to bring back this regular feature, but then I quickly realized the things I want to write about are not necessarily happiness inducing. So, I suppose this is just a recap of things that are in my life this week.

I've been re-watching Dawson's Creek for the last few weeks. I started doing this awhile ago, and honestly, the angst was just too much, so I suspended the re-watch at Season 3. I finally picked up back at Season 4, and it was great. It was all the Pacey/Joey/Dawson/Jack/Jen I have grown to love with heaping helpings of high school angst.

And then I got to Season 5 and 6. 

Y'all these seasons are a mess. They include:

  • Joey sort of having a thing with a professor. This has already been done y'all. See Season 1 with Pacey and Miss Jacobs. . . 
  • Joey gets mugged, but also spends an exorbitant amount of time talking with her mugger about life. In the end, as her mugger walks away, HE GETS HIT BY A CAR. Joey goes to the hospital, and she even ends up comforting the mugger's daughter. THIS IS THE WORST EPISODE EVER MADE. THE LEGIT WORST.
  • The gang goes on Spring Break to Miami where M2M preforms. Since when does the gang do mainstream Spring Break?!?!
  • Joey finally sleeps with Dawson. She accidentally sends an email about to the entire campus. Aren't their safeguards for that?!?? Even back in 2001?!?
  • A guest spot by Seth Rogan. It includes lots of farting.
  • A guest spot my Jack Osbourne on multiple occasions. This includes a bleeped out profanity tirade and some other really awkward scenes.
  • The gang goes to a No Doubt concert. They never interact with No Doubt. They just go, and we see No Doubt perform three songs?
  • Loveline comes to Jen and Jack's college. There are lots of weird moments with Adam Corolla.
  • Audrey goes to rehab after hitting rock bottom when she drives Pacey's car through Dawson's house.
  • Joey has this weird relationship with a professor who wears Hawaiian shirts a lot. They have really strange banter all season, and Joey also helps him care for his teen daughter.
  • The professor's teen daughter dates Oliver from The O.C. This is not a crossover plot line, but it is worth noting.
  • Pacey becomes a stock broker. He loses all of Dawson's money.
Also, all of the music has been changed, so the angst levels I remember are dramatically reduced because I've never heard these songs.

Despite this all, this show is one that is part of my teen years, and I will forever love it. Also, I'm really glad the show ended with Pacey and Joey together, so I suppose that makes Season 5 and 6 sort of worth it.

Speaking of my formative years, I finally found something I've been trying to find for years. Remember that day where the boys went to one room, and the girls went to another, and you learned all about what was going to happen to your body. My first venture into this world was via a film called Growing Up On Broadway. It starred the cast of Annie, and it talked all about their experiences. Last week, I finally found the video on Youtube. Here it is in all its glory. 

Oh, wait, there is something that legit made me happy this week - SESAME STREET DID A PARODY OF DESPACITO - I give y'all El Patito. . .

Finally, I found out this week thanks to the Beloit College Mindset List that today's college freshman doesn't know who *NSYNC is. I'm not sure what to do with that information.

Oh wait, one last, last thing, the solar eclipse on Monday was incredible. I'm already excited to see one again in 2024.

Monday, July 31, 2017

The Rest of July's Reads

July was a good month where reading was concerned. It felt really great to get back on track with my regular reading rate.

Here's how I finished out the month.

Y'all have you heard about The Room? If you haven't, this book will make zero sense. If you have, this book is an essential read. Also, if you're in the former category, go watch the movie (widely regarded as the legit worst movie there is, but in a "THIS IS HILARIOUS!" kind of way), read the book, and let's chat. Now that we've covered that. The Disaster Artist is actually a James Franco movie due out later this year. The trailer came out last week, and y'all, it's going to be great. The book is a fascinating look into the making of the movie, the quirks of Tommy Wiseau, and just everything in between.

Emma In The Night was an ARC I received awhile ago. It was good. I'm not always a fan of unreliable narrators which this book had. I find myself reading just because I need to know what the heck is happening. The good piece of that is this one kept me reading. If unconventional mysteries are your thing, you'll dig this book.

I already talked about Get Your Sh*t Together here. I'd reiterate here that it's a worthwhile read.

Approval Junkie was a book I wanted based on title alone. It's also a good read that makes you think, "I'm so glad it's not just me." It's pretty obvious in these parts that approval is something I struggle with myself. I really liked the way this book talked about the topic. It was more memoir than life advice. It was a good, thought-provoking read. Also, it make me cry and laugh which I generally appreciate. Oh, and bonus, it's another free read from Blogging for Books.

Counting by 7s is a children's book, and y'all, it's FANTASTIC. I absolutely loved the characters. It's a unique story in both plot and characters, and it's just so, SO wonderful. I can't even delve into it here because y'all need to stop reading here and go read this book.

Onto my August reads. . . 

Friday, July 28, 2017

Time Out - Soda Foundations, Simon & Self-Care

Y'all I've written so many blog posts these past few days. I had so many ideas about how I'd articulate all of these revelations. Ultimately, all those posts were shit. Seriously. I didn't realize it at the time, but now that I look back and admit it.

I read a book this week Get Your Sh*t together. I could have told you before the book I don't always have my sh*t together (especially not as of late), but it was good to read through and not only affirm this, but get some strategies for getting better.

Side Note: She uses Alvin and the Chipmunks as an analogy. It's great. Surprising no one, I'm totally a Simon.

Anyway, as I was thinking, I realized I have once again filled my cup to the brim. You know how when you go to a soda fountain, and the soda fizzes up, and you kind of wait for it to go down, and then you add just a little bit more, then wait for the fizz to go down, then add a little bit more. Then, you just repeat this over and over until you get as close to the lid as possible. Yeah, that's what I do in life. So, that's the worst.

Last week, I presented at a conference on self-care. It was one of my favorite topics and presentations I've ever done. Here's the thing (which the book also affirmed) I know very well what I enjoy doing. I know very well what I want to be doing. However, I run rogue on my to-do list, find mindless ways to hijack my own day, and I can fill a day without every actually feeling full - in the emotional sense, not the food sense to be clear.

As I thought about how much I enjoyed the space I created for others last week, I realized I need to take a moment and create that space for myself.

I had this grandiose vision of how I was going to do this here. I'll lead everyone through the reflection I did last week! Y'all, what the heck? That's not space for me. That's space I'm giving to someone else. There I go filling up that soda cup yet again.

This is probably the one and only time Beavis & Butthead makes the blog.

I'm writing this to say I don't have my sh*t together right now, and I'm offering myself forgiveness. I messed up, and that's on me. I'm also publicly saying I'm making myself a priority. I'm going to be more selfish than usual, and I'm not going to feel bad about it. The things I love the most are the things that are going to start taking more of my time. And the other stuff? It's time to start letting go. It'll take time, and I won't tell you that I'm going to be all awesome, all the time at this. However, what I am saying is that this post is soley about me and what I need and what I must do to feel better. And it feels really great to give that space.

P.S. For the record, I used to say pop, not soda. Kansas is totally pop country. Then, I moved to Texas. I got tired of being the rogue pop user, so I converted. Six years later, it's stuck with me.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

June and July-ish Reads

Hey, here's what I've read lately.

The Bluest Eye (not pictured) was a book I read for my online book club. It was the first time I'd read Toni Morrison, and it was a good read. She writes beautifully, and while the story here is definitely tragic, it's well-told.

In the Woods was a mystery/thriller read. It's been in my queue for awhile, and I'm not sure why I waited so long to read it. It's a masterfully written thriller, and I dug it so much I ended up getting too much Tana French reads at the JoCo Book Sale.

Still Missing was another mystery/thriller. It's about a realtor who's kidnapped while on the job (#creepyaf), and then her experience is retold through her therapy appointments. There are some b-a-n-a-n-a-s twists here, and it's another great read.

Mortified was okay. I love, LOVE, LOVE the podcast, and I feel like some of the humor of that was lost in translation. The book actually had some reads that were from the podcast, and as I was reading I realized how the emotion of the live shows is what really makes this all work. So, don't read this, but absolutely 100% go and check out the podcast.

Who Thought This Was A Good Idea? is incredible, amazing, and all the things. I laughed out loud, I ugly cried, and I just adored this one. I've recommended it left and right, and I may just read it over and over and over again. If/when I write a book, I want it to be like this one.

Lilac Girls was this month's selection for my online book club. It is outstanding. It's the story of three women with three different experiences during World War II. The stories and issues covered are ones I previously knew little about and was captivated. It's an emotional read, but a worthwhile one for sure. Highly recommend, and I'm excited to discuss it at book club tomorrow.

The Good Stuff was a collection of my all-time favorite sports columnist's work. It's from 2001, so it's missing some of my most favorite pieces he's written, but these were still so great. If you're not familiar with Joe Posnanski, stop what you're doing, and read these:

Home in Capital Letters

You're welcome. (P.S. There are so many more of his pieces I could share, so make sure to dig deeper on his blog to fall more in love.)

Insight: Why We're Not as Self-Aware as We Think, and How Seeing Ourselves Clearly Helps Us Succeed at Work and in Life was fantastic. I learned a lot about how I seek out feedback (or don't) and give feedback (or don't). It made me reflect a lot about how I go through work/life, and it gave me some good tools for how to make some changes. The other perk of this book is that it's got lots of assessments and questions. I will actually probably read it again because there is so much to think through and process. (Oh and shout out to Blogging for Books for allowing me to check out this awesome book for free. Please accept this rave review as a big thanks for letting me do what I love!)