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.