Category Archives: 2018

Books Read in August 2018

I started stepping up my reading game this month. I managed to finish 15 books!

  1. God, I Need to Talk to You About Sharing by Dan Carr

    I gave this one 3/5 stars. It was okay. It’s meant to help teach morality to your child, and it gave decent examples of some of the repercussions to being selfish as well as how you can be forgiven for your bad behavior.
  2. Little Goblins Ten by Pamela Jane

    I gave this book 5/5 stars. The illustrations were fantastic! This was a counting book and each type of family had one more kid than the last family. Each family had a unique scary sound that they made, so the kids would mimic the parent in howling, haunting, etc. I picked this one up because Gabby has been liking Halloween books lately. She liked it, but I think I enjoyed it more than she did. Counting books are getting just a little young for her. She did like looking at the pictures with me and making up stories about what the kids might be doing.
  3. God, I Need to Talk to You About Whining by Susan K. Leigh

    I gave this 3/5 stars. This is another book in the “God, I Need to Talk to You About…” series. It is supposed to teach your child about not whining to get what they want. However, almost immediately after reading this story, Gabby started whining for something (a glass of milk?), so clearly the lesson didn’t sink in.¬† ūüėČ
  4. The Chemist by Stephenie Meyer

    I gave this one 5/5 stars. This was a really good read!

    It comes across more in the genre of a Tom Clancy/Vince Flynn thriller, which is unexpected from a Stephenie Meyer novel, but I think she pulls it off remarkably well. I’d love to see more books of this genre from her.

  5. Too Late by Colleen Hoover

    I gave this book 4/5 stars.¬†This book was a little edgier, darker, and more explicit that Colleen Hoover’s other novels. I read it as an audiobook, and I have to admit that there were quite a few times where I had to decrease the volume of the radio as I was arriving at work, lest I scandalize coworkers and passers-by.

    I enjoyed the characters in this book, particularly Sloan and Asa. Asa is a very complicated character, but that made him especially interesting. Carter was interesting in a way, but he wasn’t on the same level as the other two characters. I would have liked to have known more about his back story or how he got into the situation we find him in.

    This book did have me on the edge of my seat several times and I was frequently wincing as characters did things that I knew were going to come back to cause them pain and suffering.

    It is more sex and explicit situations than I typically prefer to read, but it was enjoyable. I felt that the situations were believable.

    If I were to meet a character in real life, I’d probably pick Dalton. He was a good supporting character and I feel that he would be fun to hang out with and has good priorities in life. Asa would be interesting, but in real life, you don’t want to attract attention from someone like him – he’s just too dangerous.

  6. There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed Some Leaves by Lucille Colandro

    I gave this story 3/5 stars. I was not as big of a fan of this story as Gabby is. She’s had me read it to her about 3 times in the past week or so. I think part of the draw is the “Halloween/Fall” theme to the story.

    The illustrations were done with short strokes, almost like pointillism. It was probably technically very difficult to draw. The bugs were super cute and I loved watching the animals’ reactions to this woman.

  7. Franco by Kim Holden

    I gave this one 4/5 stars. This book is the third in the Bright Side series. I really enjoyed the other two books, so I was excited to read this one.

    I liked Franco and Gemma. They were enjoyable people to hang around and listen to their story. I loved that both of them were bad ass in their own arenas and that Franco never assumed that Gemma’s career would take a back seat to his own. His humility and regard for her were refreshing.

    I found their struggles to be realistic and engaging.

    I really appreciated that this book was just a good read, and not the sob-fest that prior books had been. It didn’t have the same emotional rollercoaster, but it felt more like the gentle ending of the trilogy. The other books gripped your emotions by the throat, while this one just made you hold your breath from time to time.

  8. Top Ten Uses for an Unworn Prom Dress by Tina Ferraro

    I rated this book 4/5 stars. This was a cute story and a book you can (and I did) read in one sitting.

    While the back of the book makes it seem as if there were 10 things that the protagonist did to the prom dress which resolved all of her issues, the 10 uses were really just in her imagination, for the most part.

    I liked the characters and felt they were pretty authentic. There were a couple scenarios that didn’t ring quite true, but I’ll let a lot slide for the sake of entertaining fiction.

  9. I Don’t Want to Eat Bugs by Rachel Branton

    This was a 4/5 star story.¬†This was a cute little read about a girl who was hungry, but dinner wasn’t ready yet. I read this to Gabby from my Kindle account on my phone last night. She enjoyed it too.
  10. There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bat by Lucille Colandro

    I gave this one 3/5 stars.¬†I wasn’t a fan of the book, “There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed Some Leaves,” but since Gabby had me read it 3 times in one week, I figured there was something about it that she really liked, so I looked on Amazon for some similar stories that we could read together.

    I found out that there are a *lot* of these books! Since Gabby loves Halloween stories, I picked this one. Before we even started, she said, “I bet she eats a ghost!” She was also interested to see what the Old Lady would make, since in the Leaves story,¬†she ends up sneezing out a scarecrow. In this one, what comes out is “Halloween,” which was a little too abstract for Gabby, but cute nonetheless.

    I would recommend this one, if you are new to the “There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed…” series.

  11. Like Living Among Scorpions by Jennifer Fulwiler

    5/5 stars, as always!¬†Apparently, this is my day for finishing books I’ve started a long time ago, and the day for reading Jen Fulwiler!

    Thank you, Jen, for taking Texas completely off the list of possible states to live. No thank you to living with scorpions. I suppose I’ll have to appreciate my black-ice laden Michigan winters just a little longer.

    It’s all fun and games and delightful internet stories until someone’s stung in the face in bed in the middle of the night. NOPE.

    Hang in there, Jen!

  12. One Beautiful Dream by Jennifer Fulwiler

    I gave this 5/5 stars, which is not at all surprising.¬†Jen’s writing has drawn me in from back in the early blog days when she ran Et Tu? (Before it became Conversion Diary and then JenniferFulwiler.com.) She has a way of making the ordinary extraordinary and relating events with a lot of negative emotion in a way that shows great perspective and understanding. Her books always make me laugh out loud and shed some tears.

    She has a way of sharing stories that would make you look forward to reading her grocery list, while at the same time she will slip in some profound insights and wisdom that will deeply change the way you live your life.

    Needless to say, I recommend this book to everyone. Especially those who are in the middle of the storm of raising littles and worrying that they are not enough; you completely are. God has made us for community; never be afraid of leaning on your people.

  13. Everyone We’ve Been by Sarah Everett

    I read the hardcover edition of this book, which I borrowed from the library. It is YA fiction, basically set in the present day, with the addition of some medical technology that we do not yet have in real life.

    Central to the book is the question, “What does it mean to move on?” I guess part of my answer to that question is the reason why, while I liked her, I couldn’t identify as much with the main character.

    This was an interesting story, but I wish the trauma that caused her to make her decision (sorry, I’m trying to be vague and non-spoilery) had been fleshed out and described in more detail. As it is written, it feels more superficial and poorly reasoned.

    Addie as a character does have a lot of growth as she discovers more about herself and her past, and I have a feeling that she will do just fine going forward.

    This book made me feel grateful for all of my past – both the good and the bad memories. They make me who I am today.

    Overall, I liked the story. I’m a little bit of a hard grader, so it only gets 3/5 stars, but for me, this is not a bad rating. I’m glad I read it. I may or may not re-read it. I would probably read a sequel, if one were ever written. It might be interesting to read a story about Zach or from Zach’s POV.

  14. A Matter of Heart by Amy Fellner Dominy

    I gave this 4/5 stars. It was a good, quick read. I liked that the character had good personal growth throughout the course of the story and that there was a magical, super-happy ending, but a realistic one instead. I also liked the conflict that the main character had in her love life, as I feel too many girls find themselves in this situation as they first start navigating the relationship world.
  15. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

    I gave this one 5/5 stars. This was truly a great read. From the beginning, the writing was fantastic and the characters vibrant and compelling.

    I picked up this book as one of my Book of the Month choices, but it took me a while to actually bring myself to start reading it. Perhaps because it was an adult contemporary novel, and I tend to find these a little less exciting than the bubble-gum YA that I usually prefer. But even 9 pages in, I knew that this was going to be a gripping story. And it did not disappoint. I read it in two marathon reading sessions and enjoyed every sleep-deprived minute.

    The story within the story basically takes over the plot of the book, and this is fine. It is an epic tale that teaches you in a subtle way some truths about human nature, both admirable and despicable.

    I didn’t expect this to be a favorite book, but I have a feeling that this story will stay with me for quite some time to come.

Back to the Books!

It’s that time of year again, when kids go back to school. I’m going to be hitting the books again, but not in the same way.

I have always loved reading, but lately, this hobby has been put on the back burner. In fact, most of my previously-loved hobbies have been shelved for a while: reading, photography, blogging (obvs)…. It’s hard to say why in particular. I’ve been working a lot, spending time with my goddaughter and her family, and when I come home, I tend to watch TV while I eat dinner and this turns into several hours of TV and then bedtime. I used to read at dinner.

One of my friends, Monica, mentioned a BookTuber whose channel is @Booksandlala (also Instagram, etc.), and I’ve been watching Kayla/Lala’s content for the past several days. This has made me want to get back into the reading habit again.

As always, this year I made a ridiculously high number of books as my goal in Goodreads: 102! So far, I’ve only read 33, so I will have to read one book every two days to get back on track and make my reading goal by the end of the year. In addition, I set my goal to 102, because I decided to participate in several challenges (PopSugar, Goodreads YA Group), so I have committed (maybe less than true commitment, perhaps more like vaguely intended) to reading books within particular parameters. I see this as less likely to be completed by the end of the year. I tend to read more when I can have free-reign over what I decide to pick up.

Since it is the end of August, I want to set up a TBR list for September and then track the number of books/pages that I read in September. I also went onto my Goodreads account and cleared out my Currently Reading section. Most of the books on that list were ones that I have started, that I still intend on finishing, but that I haven’t touched in years. I figure it’s better to put them as Want to Read – I’ll probably have to start from the beginning anyway when I go to pick them up again.

One Beautiful Dream by Jennifer Fulwiler

This also means that I should dedicate at least some time every day to reading. Today, I want to work on finishing Jennifer Fulwiler’s book, “One Beautiful Dream.” I had read about half of it in one sitting as soon as I got it, but then it was set down and I haven’t circled back to it. That’s no reflection on the book – the book is fantastic! – but more on the chaotic nature of my life.

How I Rate Books, In General.

Sometimes I wonder if I’m too stingy with my star ratings. 3 is a hard category, because I feel some people will look at it and think that I did not like it. I’m trying to go with the Goodreads guidelines for some consistency in my grading. 3 means that I liked it. I may or may not read it again. I may or may not buy a physical copy if I got this via Kindle/Audiobooks/borrowed from a library.

4 means that I really liked the story and would recommend it to most people.

5 means that I want to live in this world, read everything there is about the characters, and buy the book in every version possible.

Going in the opposite direction, 2 means that I didn’t really like it. It was “meh” or boring or there was something wrong with it. I probably slogged through it and finished, but it’s not a book that I’d typically recommend. I’d probably give this book away rather than keep it (which is saying a lot, since I tend to hoard books).

I feel really bad about giving books a 1 rating. Most likely, I will also mark it as DNF (did not finish). I either hated it with a passion or just could not bring myself to make it through it.

However I feel about a certain book(s), I really try to keep an open mind about the author (for as long as I can, certain styles are just not my cup of tea and that’s okay as well). I always appreciate the effort that it takes to write a book and feel bad about a less-than-stellar review.

You Can’t Force the Things You Love

Now that we are just over a week into the new year, this is the time for all those bright, shiny New Year’s Resolutions to start falling by the wayside. It’s the time where you cheat for the first (or millionth) time, where you let yourself not do something *just this once*, where you promise to double up tomorrow. It’s a slippery slope and the slide starts early.

This evening, I started reading Emily Ley’s book, “A Simplified Life.” I bought two copies of this book: one for myself and one for my best friend. We both have aspects of our life which are hectic and frustrating and often feel that each day has far too much in the To Do column than will ever get checked off as Done.

Emily starts by talking about our environment and how clutter can make you feel overwhelmed and defeated before you even begin. So true, Emily. So true. I was read in a little bit, and then when I turned the page, there were some questions for us to answer about our home and what kind of environment we imagine for ourselves. So, of course, I decided that I would answer these for myself, instead of just plowing forward in reading the book. But then, I didn’t want to write in the book, because maybe I’d want to read it again later? So, sticky notes to the rescue! I had to then get up and find some sticky notes. And a pen. And while I’m up, I might as well put the phone on the charger since it’s almost out of battery. And let’s move the phone stand from the office to the bedroom (I’ve REALLY got to go to the Container Store and get another one! I am SO SICK of moving it from room to room every day!). Then, I consider blogging my responses instead, since I want to get back into blogging more anyway. So now, I need to go back into the office to grab the laptop (Is it charged?!). Finally, I cozy myself into the chaise with my sherpa throw and go to my website. And I can’t remember my password. Ugh! Seriously? I try a few times, because I know basically what it is, just not if the current iteration has a number or a different capital letter or what special character I added (did I add one?). *sigh* FINE. I’ll get up. And go BACK into the office, because I know that I have the password on a sticky note by the desk (I think so anyway). FINALLY, I’m logged in. Back to the chaise and my sherpa throw. Well, maybe not the throw, after all. I’m kind of warm. But not too far away, in case I get cold. how about right beside me? Oh yes, the blog post. What did I want to blog about? Forget environmental clutter, all of this mental clutter exhausts me before I can even consider my surroundings. Not that the surroundings help. So.

What’s the title of this post? You can’t force the things you love? Right. Back to the topic. Somewhere between charging the phone and grabbing the laptop — when I was thinking that I’d like to blog more — I segued into thinking about the various things I wanted to get back into doing. Things that I make “resolutions” around. Things that I used to do a lot and enjoyed doing. Like blogging and photography. And how I rarely do these things any more. I thought about how they have been on my New Year’s Resolutions list for years now. How every year, I am determined to get back into my old habits and how every year I don’t succeed. Why not?

Why not indeed. I think it’s precisely because I make them into a resolution. I make them into an item to complete and check off. Instead of being something that I enjoy and that I’m passionate about, I’ve suddenly made it into a chore or an errand. Something ELSE that I have to do. But that’s not the way I want to feel about these things. I want to do them because I love doing them. Not because a prompt in #cy365 says that today is the day to take a photograph of something From a Different Perspective (not actually today’s prompt – I haven’t looked at today’s prompt yet).

So, maybe I’ll focus more on Enjoying instead of Task Completion. Goals are fine and can be motivating, but at the end of the year, will I be better off from having a bunch of checkboxes, but feeling as though I need a vacation from my free time? Or should I not worry about accomplishing anything at all and allow myself to relax. Can I allow myself to be happy with wasting a day without getting frustrated with myself? I don’t know.

But I do know that I cannot “list” myself into passion for any particular thing, no matter how pretty the paper or how many colored pens I use. (Blasphemy!) I would rather Experience and Live and Enjoy and Savor, than check off yet another box.

And then, perhaps, I can use my lists to dream….

New Year’s Angst

Week 1:  "Cold" and "The New Year"

Every year it’s the same, I make New Year’s resolutions, then promptly screw them up or forget about them before the month (week) is out.

Usually, they are the same resolutions, too.

So… at what point do I either decide that they are not important enough to me to make a resolution or hold my feet to the fire and actually follow through?

Why is it so HARD?!

I think I found part of the reason earlier this year, when I was taking Naina’s Wild 30 Meal Prep course. One of the activities was to take a personality test to learn more about yourself. Gretchen Rubin has categorized people into four groups: Upholder, Obliger, Rebel, and Questioner. I am an Obliger, meaning that I tend to do things for other people, but am not particularly motivated to do things for myself. So, it’s easy for me to do dishes at the office or to clean a friend’s house, but it’s like pulling teeth to do it at my own house. New Year’s resolutions are right there too, since they are commitments to myself and I’ll always give preference to tasks that are for other people and not reserve the energy or time for things for me.

So, should I fight this tendency and keep trying to make these resolutions work? Or should I refocus them to good things that I can do for other people and leverage my natural inclinations?

I’m not sure.

Hence the angst.

I’d *like* to get everything together and focus more on personal goals. But, in all reality, I’ll probably make as much progress on them this year as I have every other year, which is not much.

What to do? What to do? I have no answers, so I guess I’ll just leave you with that question. Perhaps it’s your question also. #miserylovescompany #andsuggestions