2nd Quarter Reading: April-June 2016


I’m a bit late with posting my 2nd quarter reading — I managed to read a ton from April-June! Here are my recommendations —

My 5 Star Recommendations:

The Crucible of Doubt: Reflections on the Quest for Faith by Terryl & Fiona Givens (168 pages), Adult, Religious. Deep and complex — I think it is a must read for anyone wanting to learn about faith. Love the emphasis on faith as a daily choice.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (400 pages), Adult, Science-Fiction, Dystopian. Two friends have read this since I recommended it and didn’t love it– but I LOVED this book. It is so not in my wheelhouse, but I loved it. Fascinating and terrifying. Great read.

Welcome to the World, Baby Girl! (Elmwood Springs #1)by Fannie Flagg (512 pages), Adult, Fiction. Fannie Flagg NAILS southern charm. Loved the characters, loved the story. Loved it.

Call the Midwife: Farewell to the East End by Jennifer Worth (336 pages), Adult, Non-Fiction, Memoir. An impressive end to the series — loved delving more into Chummy’s life!

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson (240 pages), Middle Grade, Graphic Novel, Fiction. Seriously original and fun. Loved learning about roller derby.

Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven (Elmwood Springs #3) by Fannie Flagg (375 pages), Adult, Fiction. My favorite of the trilogy. Elner is so lovable.

Rosalie Lightning by Tom Hart (272 pages), Adult, Non-Fiction, Memoir, Graphic Novel. Serious trigger warning for new parents or people sensitive to the topic of death. This book was devastating — I bawled through all of it. Hart shares his experience losing his daughter as a baby. Heart wrenching but important to try to understand the experience of losing a child.

Jefferson’s Sons: A Founding Father’s Secret Children by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (400 pages), Middle Grade/YA, Historical Fiction, Biographical Fiction. Goodreads review:  This book is packed full of historical information that was relatively new to me — I knew that Jefferson was believed to be the father of several of his slaves by Sally Heming, but I didn’t know any of the details. This book was intended for middle readers and I think that the writing was incredibly engaging — something I can see many middle school/high school readers enjoying (as well as adults). Of course, Bradley doesn’t know how much of her information is completely accurate — some of it is conjecture, but I think that her idea of what it would have been like to be the slaves of Jefferson and yet simultaneously his children rings true.

My 4 Star Recommendations:

The Fifth Wave by Rick Yancey (512 pages), YA/Adult, Fiction. I thoroughly enjoyed this page turner. It is another dystopian novel – but still worth the read I think. Not as good as Hunger Games, but way better than Divergent.

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi (256 pages), Adult, Non-Fiction/Memoir. Beautiful memoir written by a young neurosurgeon after his terminal cancer diagnosis.

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach (303 pages), Adult, Non-Fiction. If you’ve ever wondered about what happens to bodies after death — Roach approaches this topic in a highly readable and interesting way.

Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes by Shauna Niequist (288 pages), Adult, Non-Fiction, Memoir. Niequist is such a great writer — relatable and down to earth.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon (226 pages), Adult, Fiction. Intriguing story from the perspective of a young autistic boy. The voice feels real and authentic. I think this would have been a 5 for me if there wasn’t so much language.

The Infinite Sea  by Rick Yancey (352 pages), YA/Adult, Fiction, Dystopian. After watching the movie of the first book of this series, I’m annoyed even thinking about this series. I can’t punish the book for the movie though (which was truly awful). I actually like this book (not as much as the first book in the series, but still liked it quite a bit). I’m pretty invested in the story & its characters. I hope the 3rd book doesn’t fizzle.

Call the Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times by Jennifer Worth (352 pages), Adult, Non-Fiction, Memoir. This show is one of my favorite series and its done a phenomenal job of capturing the feelings of this novel. Great novel!

Call the Midwife: Shadows of the Workhouse by Jennifer Worth (304 pages), Adult, Non-Fiction, Memoir. Heart-wrenching. The workhouses are cruel and inhumane. Interesting read.

Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek by Maya Van Wagenen (272 pages), Middle Grade/YA, Non-Fiction, Memoir, Self-Help. Copied from my goodreads:

Young 15 year old Maya Van Wagenen sets out to try the tips for gaining popularity her 8th grade year from a book written in the 50’s. Lovely & hilarious concept– Maya is incredibly brave. I can’t believe some of the things she did with no explanation to her bewildered classmates. Maya’s voice is outstanding for a 15 year old writer. The beginning terrified me a little, as she discusses her weight/dieting/being fat (which she clearly isn’t). It makes me sad with our society that a 15 year old girl who is perfectly average would think she is fat–but I guess that is the reality of what teenage girls feel. The end had a fantastic message as she really learned how to get outside her comfort zone and befriend others. Not saying that extroverts are innately better than introverts (AT ALL), but do think it’s wonderful to talk to others when you want friends instead of waiting someone to come to you.

Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin by Liesl Shurtliff (272 pages), Elementary School/Middle Grade, Fiction, Fairytale. Super fun retelling of a classic.

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys (400 pages), YA, Historical Fiction, WWII. Fascinating story of a basically unknown maritime disaster during WWII. I think middle schoolers and highschoolers would love this. I enjoyed it, but couldn’t get into the characters as much as I like to because it jumped so frequently.

Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham (368 pages), Adult, Fiction. This could have easily been one of those things where a celebrity known for one thing tries her hand at another and basically bombs it but is still successful because she is already well known– but guess what? It wasn’t! Graham is not only a crazy talented actress, but she’s a great writer! Really loved the main character and the hilarious dialogue.

My 3 Star Recommendations:

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson (560 pages), Adult, Fiction. I loved the idea of this novel and some parts of it. It took me quite awhile to finish because I didn’t love all of the storylines. It is about a woman who is reincarnated over and over and how different choices she makes affect her life differently.

Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate (256 pages), Upper Elementary/Middle Grade, Fiction. A good read for children to introduce poverty & homelessness.

The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis (291 pages), Adult, Non-Fiction. Interesting and confusing. Lewis is a great writer and so I now have a vague understanding of what happened during the 2007 Subprime Mortgage Crisis.

Standing in the Rainbow (Elmwood Springs #2) by Fannie Flagg (560 pages), Adult, Fiction. I’m sorry to my friend who recommended this as her favorite book — I LOVED the first and last book in this series and liked this one–but not as much as the others. The plot was too scattered in this book. Still recommend the whole series though.

Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble by Dan Lyons (272 pages), Adult, Non-Fiction, Memoir. My review from goodreads:

This book was eye opening about the cultures of tech start ups. I could easily see how some of the culture was toxic and discriminatory and how it became that way. It was so interesting to learn about so many companies who are never making revenue– losing millions every year– and yet make a huge amount of money with an IPO. I did think Lyons was unnecessarily crass. He also seemed to be pretty full of himself– he was angry about discrimination when it affected him negatively (ageism) but didn’t ever mention discrimination in his chosen field –tv writing — which is still mostly about white men. Probably just because he enjoyed that job more and believed in it more. A lot of the stuff at Hubspot was ridiculous but he also seemed very unteachable and frankly, quite sexist (every time he describes the women working at Hubspot they seem like a gaggle of airheads or out of control emotional maniacs). I don’t know that I would enjoy working with him. He thinks he deserves respect but refuses to give it to others. Hubspot execs were absolutely in the wrong but, unfortunately, so was Lyons. Luckily, I enjoyed the information regardless of the other issues.


My 2 Star Recommendations:

Paper Wishes by Lois Sepahban (192 pages), Upper Elementary/Middle Grade, Historical Fiction. This book is set during WWII in the Japanese Internment Camps. I thought the characterization was lacking and when that is the case, I have a hard time connecting to a book.

Total: 26 books. Total Pages: 8,739 pages. Average: 336 pages. 4 children’s books, 5 YA, 17 adult books. 11 Non-Fiction, 15 Fiction. 



Craigslist Etiquette (How to Know If You’re Part of the Problem)

There are two types of people in this world: those who innately understand Craigslist etiquette and those who, very sadly, do not. Every person knows the anguish of buying and selling on Craigslist–especially when you are dealing with several interactions over the course of a few days (maybe moving time?) I have met some civilized people on Craigslist, but I have far too frequently had to deal with Craigslisters who besmirch the good name of online hagglers everywhere. Here is my plea: STOP IT!!!

I juat had one such dealing and instead of screaming murderous rage into my pillow decided to write out a code of conduct for people who are confused. Send this to everyone you know who does not understand that buying and selling things online should be governed by some sort of civil code — maybe email it to the person who just backed out on you last minute?

This post is dedicated to you, m2rkk-55992773.

Completely refurbished, antique, vintage garbage- $500!

Rule #1: The Rule of Halves.

This one is pretty simple. Your junk isn’t worth as much as you think it’s worth. This includes things you have just purchased. Once you buy it and it leaves the store and enters your lives, no one wants it anymore. UNLESS they are going to get a great deal on it. If you have something that is between 1 second and 1 year old and in fairly good shape — give it a 50% discount. No one wants to read, “I bought this brand new for $400, so I’m asking for $350. I just got it three months ago and there’s only a few scratches.” If I want a 12.5% discount, I will use a coupon. Especially if it’s a piece of furniture! If I buy a new piece of furniture, I typically can get it delivered for FREE–so if I’m coming to you and taking a piece of furniture off of your hands, it better be at LEAST 50% off. Every year you’ve owned it beyond the first year, take an additional 10-20% off your original price. A good rule of thumb is, take whatever you think it is worth and then HALVE that and there’s a good price for you.

Pro Tip: If you want to get rid of your stuff quickly, set your prices dirt cheap. Remember, they are also doing you a favor by getting rid of stuff for you. Now you don’t have to carry a couch to Goodwill — and you get some cash! Win-win!

Note: This doesn’t apply to *ACTUAL* vintage items that are worth more than they were purchased for originally. But warning, you cannot label some random piece of trash “vintage” and expect it to sell like an actual vintage item. People have the internet on their phones and access to Ebay, so they will be able to figure it out.

Dealing with Craigslist chicanery

Rule #2: Dibs Rule (AKA: don’t be a jerk rule)

If someone responds to your ad and you in turn respond to them and you make a plan for them coming to pick up your item and pay you — they now have dibs. If someone else responds to your ad, it is too late. You have already made a commitment. Now, if someone else offers to pick up an item earlier or pay more, it is fair to want to take advantage of this. However, you must let the first person know that you have been offered a better deal–would they like to match this deal? Now it is up to the person who has dibs to match the deal or decide they don’t want it as badly as person #2. Now you have been honorable in following through with your commitment.

It is not okay to email or text them a day before they are planning on picking something up (and have possibly planned their whole week around!!) and let them know that you already gave it to someone else. This is very, very rude.

You may be tempted to be rude because the people you are interacting with are strangers. Don’t fall prey to this though. If you’re rude to a stranger, it still counts. You are still being a rude person.


Rule #3: No Ghost Rule (AKA: Basic common sense kindness rule)

If you respond to an ad on Craigslist, follow through. You may be tempted to stop responding if you decide you don’t want it. This is not fair to the person you contacted. If you change your mind, send them an email saying you changed your mind. It’s called manners, the Golden Rule, what have you. You may be responding to several ads at once–try your hardest to stay on top of it and resolve all of your conversations.

*HUGE PART OF GHOST RULE: Do not, under any circumstances, set up a time to come look at an item on Craigslist and not show up. This is the ultimate bad manners. The person who put up the ad is a human, just like you, and has his/her own things going on–work, school, other commitments and does not have time to sit around at their house all day waiting for you to show up. If you cannot make it or you change your mind, let that person know. You may have wasted some of their time, but the sooner you tell them — the sooner they can get back to their regularly scheduled program. People who do this are probably part of the reason many people say they want to sell things to whoever can pick it up first, which is understandable, but makes for kind of a crazy Craigslist anarchy with no rules. (I’m basically picturing the movie Rat Race, but the end goal is an old couch.)

Debatable Rule #4: Haggling/No Haggling?

Some people think it is impolite to lowball on Craigslist and get very offended if you offer anything lower than the price they requested because, they assume, their price is reasonable. If you are offended someone is trying to haggle with you, you may be breaking Rule #1 and have overpriced your item. If you haven’t overpriced your item and you think someone is asking a price that is too low, go ahead and say no–no need to be angry. In my opinion, Craigslist is all about haggling. If  you know you will be offended by someone asking for a lower price– say on your listing that your price is firm.

These are the rules folks. Please, for the love, follow them and make Craigslist a better place to be. I’m considering starting an online selling forum with a strict screening process (not really, but that sounds amazing, right?) Let’s stop this tomfoolery. BE NICE.

1st Quarter Reading: January-March 2016

booksAlas, my blog has really fallen by the way side. But, hey! I do a book post every few months. That’s pretty cool, right….?

This has been a bad quarter for reading for me. I haven’t been able to read as much as I want to. I’m supposed to read 90 books this year and I’m already 4 books behind schedule. I have been working on my Real Estate courses (60 hours down, 30 to go) and have really gotten into my crafting (started an instagram, learned how to sew) and you know, basic life stuff. I have this daydream where I get to be all the way by myself for a week in a not too hot, but not too cold (I guess that’s called warm) beach in a beautiful beach house and there is lots of amazing food there already prepared and all I do all day long is read. FOR A WEEK PEOPLE (yes, you are correct — this is said in Craig’s voice from Parks and Rec).

Okay, well, let’s cut to the chase. The books.

My 5 Star Recommendations:

The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia by Candace Fleming (304 pages), Middle Grade/YA, Non-Fiction. Outstanding non-fiction about the Romanov family. I’ve always been curious about this part of history and this was such a great way to learn about it. If you’re into aristocracy, communism, & mysteries — this is for you.

Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan (288 pages), Adult, Non-Fiction/Memoir. This is a crazy medical mystery — and it’s TRUE. Yep, recommend this one.

The Conservative Heart: How to Build a Fairer, Happier, and More Prosperous America by Arthur C. Brooks (256 pages), Adult, Non-Fiction. Woah, all of my 5 stars are non-fiction this quarter. My dad read this and insisted I read it (even sending it to me for added encouragement). I loved this book and kept texting pictures of excellent paragraphs to my sisters. Don’t let the title scare you away if you’re not conservative. I think this is an excellent read for anybody and everybody.

My 4 Star Recommendations:

The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown (416 pages), Adult, Non-Fiction. Brown is able to get your average non-athlete (me) super interested in competitive rowing, which is a feat. Great storytelling about a pretty charged time during world history. There were stretches that got long to me, but overall — excellent.

The View from the Cherry Tree by Willo Davis Roberts (256 pages), Middle Elementary, Fiction/Mystery/Suspense. I love it so much when an adult author is able to tell a story from a child’s perspective and the voice sounds real. Roberts did such a great job with her character, Rob. He sounds like a real 11 year old boy, and he’s pretty hilarious. Oh, and the suspense in this story is great. The ending was pretty intense. Kids will LOVE as a read aloud.

Fuzzy Mud by Louis Sachar (192 pages), Middle Grade, Fiction/Suspense/Science Fiction. Oh, Louis. Can I call you Louis? I love you. I mean, HOLES! Wayside School! You are amazing. This story is imaginative and wonderfully told.

After You by Jojo Moyes (368 pages), Adult, Realistic Fiction. I was between a 3 and a 4 on this one, but I think just the fact that the MOVIE IS COMING OUT (the movie Me Before You, this book’s prequel) pushed me up to a 4. This book was good in its own right, but not as good as Me Before You. It also had a lot of racy scenes that I had to skim, which I don’t love.

Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen (432 pages), Adult/YA, Realistic Fiction. This was just a sweet, enjoyable love story. It was about a young woman who has been living in her brother’s shadow, even as he perpetually makes horrible choices. He finally makes a really bad choice that puts him in prison. Sydney has to navigate these tricky family situations in a new school and with a MAJOR creeper obsessed with her (he was the worst part of the book. I wanted to scream every time he was in a chapter).

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling (222 pages), Adult, Non-Fiction/Memoir. The comedian memoirs have been falling kind of flat for me (including Kaling’s 2nd book, which I actually picked up before this one). This was a bright exception. This book was hilarious and fun.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer (368 pages), Adult, Fiction. Book about a family touched by 9/11 and the Dresden bombings during WWII. It seems like a lot of people don’t like this book, but I really enjoyed it. I thought Oskar was such a wonderful character, and I  just loved him. His descriptions of things seemed so real to me — like calling grieving, having “heavy boots.” I read this for my friend book club and it made for excellent discussion!

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin (288 pages), Adult, Fiction. Can I please just own a book store on an island?! I think the best adjective for this book is delightful. A.J. Fikry is incredibly depressed over the death of his wife — when an unexpected gift is left in his book store, and it completely changes his life.

The Good Nurse: A True Story of Medicine, Madness, and Murder by Charles Graeber (320 pages), Adult, Non-Fiction/True Crime. This book is seriously crazy. Don’t read it if you have a fear of doctors/hospitals. It is about a serial killer disguised as a nurse. Oh, and it’s true. (And disclaimer: it seems like people in the medical profession who read it say that this could never happen today).

Kisses from Katie: A Story of Relentless Love and Redemption by Katie J. Davis & Beth Clark (304 pages), Adult, Non-Fiction/Memoir. Read for our friend book club and it made for excellent conversation! Katie is an incredible woman who moved to Uganda to serve and help. Her story is incredible. I gave it a 4, although at the beginning I thought I would give it a 2 or 3. She definitely grew throughout writing her book. For my incredibly detailed review, check out my goodreads.

My 3 Star Recommendations:

Home Front by Kristin Hannah (432 pages), Adult, Fiction. It’s been awhile since I’ve read this, so I’m going to copy/paste my goodreads review: It looks like this book really polarizes people, but I feel pretty stuck in the middle. I’d say a 2.5-3 for me. I read because I loved Nightingale and heard that some of Hannah’s other stuff was good too. Maybe this was the wrong one to jump in on. It is about a marriage in trouble, a wife who is in the National Guard and then gets deployed to Iraq, her husband a lawyer incidentally doing a murder case with a victim of PTSD from the same war, etc. It had a lot of touching things and I’d say the last half I was reading quickly and couldn’t put it down. The first half really dragged for me though. I also think the characters were not very relatable–at times, the husband is a little too villanous (followed by a VERY sudden change), the teenager TOO teenager-y. Also the 4 year old ?? Seemed way too baby-ish. My 2 year old talks better than her/is done playing patty cake. Overall, I think it brought up a lot of issues that I’d never considered and helped me understand PTSD a little bit better, but I don’t recommend it.

Voracious: A Hungry Reader Cooks Her Way through Great Books by Cara Nicoletti (304 pages), Adult, Non-Fiction/Memoir. Cara goes through her life using books and sharing recipes inspired by those books. I love food and I love books, so this seemed like a no brainer to me. I loved the beginning, because I had read most of the books. As she went on, I had read fewer and fewer of the books and couldn’t relate as much as I wanted to.

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng (320 pages), Adult, Fiction. Excellent writing and engaging story, but thoroughly depressing.

My 2 Star Recommendations:

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett (352 pages), Adult, Fiction. Terrorist attack in the middle of an opera performance. Sounds interesting right? Wrong. It is pretty boring and I felt almost zero emotional attachment to any of the characters.

Total: 17 books. Total Pages: 5,422 pages. Average: 319 pages. 3 children’s books, 1 YA book, 13 adult books. 8 non-fiction, 9 fiction. 

4th Quarter Reading: October-December 2015


I had to read a lot this time because my year end goal was coming up and I was a little behind. I read a TON of really good books this quarter! Now that it’s a new year, I hope you’ll join me in setting a reading goal for this year and keeping track of which books you read. I would love to get your recommendations as well!

My 5 Star Recommendations:

Okay For Now by Gary D. Schmidt (368 pages), Middle Grade/YA, Realistic Fiction. Incredible characterization and use of voice in a novel. If you can read this book and not fall in love with Doug Swieteck, you may not have a soul. Loved this book and recommend it without reservation.

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd (384 pages), Adult, Historical Fiction. Great historical fiction about the Grimke sisters who were a great force in the anti-slavery movement before the Civil War.

Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast (240 pages), Adult, Graphic Novel, Non-Fiction/Memoir. Funny, sweet, sad graphic novel about the author’s experiences with her aging parents and their deaths.

Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead (304 pages), Middle Grade/YA, Realistic Fiction. Rebecca Stead is kind of a genius when it comes to this age. Endearing characters, great story, important subject matter. I think this would be great to read with older children/students (middle school or higher) to discuss dangers of cell phones.

The Opposite of Spoiled: Raising Kids Who Are Grounded, Generous, and Smart About Money by Ron Lieber (256 pages), Adult, Non-Fiction. One of my favorite parenting books so far. A great resource for parents in teaching children about finances.

Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai (288 pages), Middle/Upper Elementary, Half Memoir/Half Historical Fiction, Verse. If you think you don’t enjoy books of poetry or stories told in verse, pick this book up. This story is incredible! Inspired by the author’s early childhood experiences of moving from Vietnam and settling in Alabama. Highly recommend this book to everyone.

A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel by Madeleine L’Engle, Adapted by Hope Larsen for Graphic Novel Format (416 pages), Middle Grade/YA, Fantasy, Graphic Novel. Since tutoring some middle grade boys, I’ve been getting more into the graphic novel format. I keep trying to find books that I think would appeal to them but also have some real literary substance. The past few years have seen several wonderful graphic novels and we are starting to see more like this–adaptations of works of literature. I loved this and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys the novel, the graphic novel format, or for somebody looking for something for their children or students who enjoy comic books or books like “Diary of a Wimpy Kid.”

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande (304 pages), Adult, Non-Fiction. I recommend this book to everyone because it will ultimately affect every single person. Gawande writes about end of life care in such a sensitive, yet direct way.

The Thing about Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin (352 pages), Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction. I thought Benjamin really hit it out of the park with her first novel. This book deals with death of a friend, grieving, and bullying. Tough issues handled very well.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah (440 pages), Adult, Historical Fiction. Devastating. Beautiful. WWII.

Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: Donner Dinner Party by Nathan Hale (128 pages), Middle Elementary-Upper, Graphic Novel, Historical Fiction. Nathan Hale is a genius. If I was an elementary/middle school librarian, I would be recommending these books like nobody’s business. He has several of these graphic novels and they are such a great way to get kids into history.

Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: Big Bag Ironclad! by Nathan Hale (128 pages), Middle Elementary-Upper, Graphic Novel, Historical Fiction. Same as above. Civil War. Epic Ironclad Fight.

The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz (400 pages), Middle Grades-High School/Anybody, Historical Fiction. Do you like Anne of Green Gables? Little Women? You will love this. You’re welcome.

The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (320 pages), Middle Grade, Historical Fiction. This book deserves all the Newbery buzz it’s getting and I hope either this one or The Hired Girl take the Newbery. Great WWII novel. Definitely not your typical WWII as it focuses on Ada–a girl with a handicap and severe emotional and physical abuse (from her mom) and how she grows and heals. Set in London–London Blitz & Evacuation of Children also covered.

My 4 Star Recommendations:

Sounds Like Me: My Life (So Far) in Song by Sara Bareilles (208 pages), Adult, Non-Fiction/Memoir. Sara Bareilles’ memoir. I love her music and loved hearing about her writing process and her life experiences and musical journey so far.

Red Joan by Jennie Rooney (390 pages), Adult, Historical Fiction. WWII, atomic bombs, Russian spies = good.

Landline by Rainbow Rowell (320 pages), Adult, Fiction. Emotional read for me. A marriage is falling apart, but through some weird phone time machine, the main character is able to talk to her husband of the past. Beautiful story. Would have given it a 5 but there is heavy language.

One For the Murphys by Linda Mullaly Hunt (256 pages), Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction. A little girl enters foster care because of physical abuse. I think it shows her inner conflict and struggles very well.

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee (288 pages), Adult, Historical Fiction. This was simultaneously better and worse than I thought it was going to be. This was a hard read for me, but it was worth it in the end. Some of the book was a bit confusing and some parts I wish hadn’t happened–but I think the ideas in it are important–we are all human and imperfect; eventually you have to carve your own conscience; and it is important to have a variety of people and mindsets in each community.

My 3 Star Recommendations:

All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood by Jennifer Senior (336 pages), Adult, Non-Fiction. An enjoyable read about what makes parenting difficult and how parenting affects parents in general. There are very few actionable items, but interesting nonetheless. My biggest takeaway was probably the overscheduling of modern children and how to avoid it.

The Lincoln Hypothesis by Timothy Ballard (240 pages), Adult, Non-Fiction. Really enjoyed the ideas and the connections between Abraham Lincoln, the Civil War, and the Book of Mormon. The writing style bothered me sometimes–overly repetitious.

The Willoughbys by Lois Lowry (176 pages), Upper Elementary, Fiction/Satire. A satire of several 19th and 20th century children’s stories. Semi-fun read, but missing something for me. Sometimes I thought the satire was emphasizing itself too much–they said “old-fashioned” about 30 times a chapter.

Graceling by Kristin Cashore (480 pages), YA/Adult, Fantasy. I put this down several times and it took me awhile to pick it back up (never a good sign for me), but then when I finally got into it, I found it interesting and engaging. I disliked the main character sometimes.

The Power of Half: One Family’s Decision to Stop Taking and Start Giving Back by Kevin & Hannah Salwen (256 pages), Adult, Non-Fiction/Memoir. I read this book because it was mentioned in “The Opposite of Spoiled.” I was debating between a 2 and a 3 rating. I actually enjoyed the premise of the book–giving up half of some significant part of your life to give more to others–through this you can connect more deeply as a family. Many people have pointed out that it obviously wasn’t a significant sacrifice for them because they couldn’t even sell their home for 2 years and their only consequence for the 800k donation was dipping in college savings funds. I agree, but I do think that parents pointed this out–they weren’t saying they were saints or sacrificing everything–just half of one significant thing to them. I also felt like I learned a lot of new things about what type of service and charity work is most beneficial. What was needed in this book was a lot of editing–some of the scenes just felt completely unnecessary and way too detailed. There is a ton of name dropping and brand name dropping (?Surprising for an anti-consumerism book). I felt like the father also told tons of weird anecdotes in which he tells a joke and his family all laugh or something weird. He just told family anecdotes that felt like maybe they would be interesting or funny to just their immediate family and nobody else.

Breaking Stalin’s Nose by Eugene Yelchin (176 pages), Middle-Upper Elementary, Historical Fiction. Impressed that such a young children’s book is taking on Communist Soviet Russia. Loved the period, the author’s connection, and the age it was targeted to. A lot of the things that I had issues with would probably be fine for his target age. I didn’t love how quickly the story moved and how the plot bounced around–not a lot of character development.

The Slight Edge: Secret to a Successful Life by Jeff Olson and John David Mann (280 pages), Adult, Non-Fiction, Self-Help. This one is strange for me–I’m super glad I read it, but it was also really annoying. The message is spot on, but the writing is hard to swallow sometimes.

Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose by Tony Hsieh (272 pages), Adult, Non-Fiction, Memoir (kind of). Really enjoyed the first part of this book about Hsieh’s early life and his entrepreneurial drive. The second and third part dragged and definitely needed some editing. Probably a good read for people really into business and business culture (because he says the word culture about every 3 words).

Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan (592 pages), Middle Grade, Historical Fiction/Fantasy. I don’t think this should win the Newbery this year, as many others do, but I think it’s good. I can see how elementary students and middle schoolers would love it and how it would help them get into WWII era. I liked how it explored different aspects of WWII (Germany, America, Japanese Internment, etc.), but it was a little too over the top for me.

Fish in a Tree by Linda Mullaly Hunt (288 pages), Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction. I was expecting a lot because I’d heard such good things (and to be honest, because I really liked the cover..haha). It was good. I liked the overall story line and the characters. I thought some bits were a bit over dramatic for my taste.

My 2 Star Recommendations:

Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell (192 pages), Upper Elementary, Historical Fiction. Didn’t live up to the hype for me. at. all. It was about a young girl stranded on an island–but not exciting or interesting like Hatchet or My Side of the Mountain. I found it dragged and was really boring.

When to Rob a Bank by Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner, (400 pages), Adult, Non-Fiction. Random compilation of their blog posts. Not a fan at all. Thinking about this, I really should have given this a 1 star.

Total: 31 books. Total Pages: 9, 478 pages. Average: 305 pages. 11 children’s books, 5 YA books, 15 adult books. 18 Fiction, 10 Non-Fiction, 3 In betweens (Kind of historical fiction/kind of non-fiction). 

The thing about anxiety is…

It sucks.

Me innocently googling a random symptom I've been experiencing. Uh-oh. I'm dead.
Me innocently googling a random symptom I’ve been experiencing. Uh-oh. I’m dead.

I’ve read a lot of friends’ posts on social media and their blogs about their mental illnesses and I always thought– “good for them! The world totally needs awareness about these type of things!” Then I would just kind of do that whistle/eye roll combo that people do when they’re trying to act like nothing happened and they have nothing to do with anything (just kidding, I can’t even whistle. But if I could, I would). Although I didn’t believe shame should be associated with mental illness, I still felt a little bit of shame about mine. As time has gone on, I have finally accepted that I have a mental illness, opened up with others about it, and it’s gotten a lot easier. But there are still things that would be helpful if the general public realized. So the general public of 30 people that read my blog, learn away…

I’ve had anxiety probably since birth. I can imagine myself coming straight out of the womb screaming bloody murder (as most infants do) and thinking, “I can’t leave this place! Where am I going? It doesn’t feel safe. I’m going to die!!!!” Then being surrounded by huge giant people and screaming some more. As a kid, my general anxiety (parents will die, siblings will die/be kidnapped, tornadoes, earthquakes, sinking sand!!) was pretty intense and led to some ritualistic habits–OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder). I had some of the classic old school counting ticks, etc. For some reason, I felt the only way to control the things I was afraid of was to perform these rituals. Despite this, I actually had a fairly normal childhood and because I knew that these thoughts I had weren’t “normal,” I tried to hide them and was pretty successful (except for my siblings who would always be like “why are you counting? You’re so weird.”) At the time, I had no idea that what I was experiencing was anxiety/OCD and was never diagnosed or anything. Over time, I learned some strategies to help me cope and pretty much overcame it. My general anxiety was still there, but it wasn’t so bad I couldn’t handle it and the OCD went away.

In high school, my anxiety resurfaced one year and led to massive stage fright. Although in several performing groups, I declined any solos and had to force myself to perform even in groups on stage. That lasted about a year and through more coping techniques I tried, I was able to overcome that as well.

Up to this point in my life, I would never have labeled anything I’d experienced anxiety or mental illness. I had too many negative connotations with those words and I didn’t want to be those things.

As an adult, I was able to serve an 18 month mission in a foreign country with little grasp of the language initially. I was successful in my academics at college and managed to work and do school simultaneously. I felt that I had overcome all aspects of my anxiety and would just label myself as a “worrier.”

With pregnancy and birth, a whole new level of anxiety opened up that I had never experienced before. The thought of possibly losing this child was enough to take my breath away. I had never loved someone so intensely before and so I had never feared losing someone so much. That combined with the hormones was pretty intense. Although I knew I was supposed to let my baby sleep in a crib on her back, I was terrified. The first night home I rocked her to sleep and then couldn’t put her in her crib because the paralyzing thought of a spider crawling up her crib and biting her in the night was on my mind. I brought her in bed with me. At first, I tried to put her in her crib. I knew that logically that was the right thing to do–the safest. But every time I did, I couldn’t sleep at all. I was terrified that I would walk in to see her not breathing. I had to hold her close so I could feel her breathing all night. There are about a million other crazy thoughts I had/things I did while she was an infant. The bottom line is, my anxiety got worse.

After I lost my ovaries (and natural hormones) in 2014, everything went a little bit crazy. Trying to find the right hormone balance was a challenge and at the same time we were dealing with grief from losing fertility. During the middle of our home study, I started having panic attacks–something I hadn’t had for quite some time (probably since high school or when I was a kid). I was pretty resistant to the idea of any type of medication initially, because I had been able to handle my anxiety and still live a happy, successful life thus far–and in some way, that was a source of pride for me. The social worker we were working with pointed out that medication for illness is normal and if I was physically ill, I would use medication. I had said that exact thing to other loved ones who experienced anxiety or depression, but at my core I didn’t believe it applied to me. I decided that it was time for me to try it. I spoke to my doctor about anxiety–the first time I had ever spoken to a medical professional about it at all–really the first time I had ever been able to come out and say, “I have anxiety.” In my mind I imagined him rolling his eyes or looking down on me or somehow making me feel stupid, but of course, he didn’t do any of those things. He helped me understand how common it was and we talked about my options. Right now I’m on a low dose of a medication that is helpful for me. I’m still a worrier, but I am more able to talk myself down from irrational worry. I am far less likely to have a panic attack. I probably won’t be on this medication my whole life–as my life has shown, my anxiety kind of ebbs and flows, but for now this is working. I have also found peace with the idea of being on the medication my whole life if that is what works.

I want people to know that mental illness isn’t just something that affects people who may “seem” mentally ill. It doesn’t always look like erratic behavior or people talking to themselves (although it can look like this). The truth is about 1/4 of people in the US have some type of mental illness–so for the most part, it looks like a lot of the people who are around you every day. People who are going to school, working, raising families, and living life.

I will now give you the top 6 things that make anxiety difficult–


  1. Something that makes anxiety difficult for me is not being able to trust my instincts, my feelings, or my gut reactions. I have heard so many people tell me to trust my gut, use mother’s intuition, I will know it when I see it, I would be able to tell if something was really wrong with my body, etc… but that really hasn’t been my experience. Oftentimes, my anxiety will lead my mind somewhere very far off course of what is probable. I have had to learn to do the opposite–discount my gut and often how my body is feeling. Loving friends and family members have told me not to worry, that if something really bad was happening with my body, I would feel it. The problem is, a panic attack feels like something REALLY bad is happening inside my body. Somebody with anxiety cannot tell if what they are experiencing is a panic attack or something medically wrong with them. I am often struggling with my mind–is this a real thing or is this anxiety? It’s like a constant Peeta/Katniss scenario between my husband and me– “real or not real?” People with anxiety often start to doubt their bodies and their feelings. They’re worried about that time that something actually is wrong/their gut is kicking in and they tell their anxiety to go away and ignore it. *This becomes especially hard when you have experienced medical emergencies. Sometimes it IS an emergency and sometimes something truly is wrong. How can I tell?
  2. Something else we deal with is other people not trusting our feelings and downplaying them openly. I understand why this happens, but it hurts. It’s hard when we are expressing worry or stress and the common reaction is, “I’m sure it’s not that bad” or “you’re overreacting.” Even if it’s not and even if we are, it just stinks that that is the typical response. What if we aren’t overreacting? What if it is that bad? Or what if even if it’s not that bad, we feel it as if it were that bad? This can be especially difficult with medical concerns. Since we already don’t trust our bodies (is this real or anxiety?) when we have outside voices telling us our feelings aren’t real, we get extremely confused. I start off most queries to my doctor with, “I have anxiety, but…”
  3. Anxiety about anxiety. This is a fun one. Have you ever had a panic attack because you were worried about having a panic attack? It is like the most horrible kind of frame story.
  4. Mocking. People with all mental illnesses have been mocked since the beginning of time. It is one of the main reasons people experience shame with mental illness. I think we often tend to mock ourselves in an attempt to keep things funny. As part of my anxiety, I have some definite hypochondria. This seems to be the brunt of a lot of jokes. (PS. I do think that laughing at ourselves is important–balance here)
  5. Incredibly realistic imaginations. One of the reasons I experience so much fear about events out of my control (illness, violent crimes, etc.) is because when I hear about them or read about them, I imagine it is happening to me. I can imagine things extremely well. I remember being a child and crying because I had this vivid image of a “Missing” poster for my little sister. After my marriage, I was on a WWI kick (reading books and watching movies) and remember crying at night to my husband because what if we lived during that time period and he had to go to war? (For the record, my husband cannot imagine scenarios like this and was looking at me like, umm.. what? I’m here. I’m not at war. What are you talking about?)
  6. We want to share about ourselves, but we also don’t. Just like anybody else, we have the fear of being defined by something like anxiety. Anxiety is a condition I have and it’s part of me, but it’s not me. A person with anxiety can also be extremely capable, a high performer, outgoing, or any other personality trait you can think of.

What you can do if you know someone who has anxiety: Love them! Please, do not roll your eyes at them. Do not talk to them like they are a child. Ask them what they prefer you to do/how to respond.

What I have learned about my own personal preferences for a response are- 1. Listen to worries and concerns 2. Validate feelings 3. Reassure them it’s okay. My husband is the genius mastermind of this–he always listens, always. Somehow having him listen, validate me & my feelings, and reassure me has been the magic sauce so far. Sometimes I say, “Kyle, I can’t seem to get ____ off my mind. Would you please tell me that it’s ok?” He will then reassure me that everything is okay. Sometimes all I need is that quick, loving, outside voice to calm my mind. Remember, there is a big difference between telling someone, “uhhh, everything is fine! Chill out!” (eye roll). and saying in a loving, calm voice, “everything is fine” with a hug. Of course, sometimes things are not okay–people with anxiety (like everyone else) do experience disease, trauma, relationship problems, death. When these things are happening, continue to help them figure it out in a loving way.

The main thing with anxiety, like any other human condition, is empathy and love.

How do people wrap up blog posts?? Okbye.

3rd Quarter Reading: July-September 2015


I’m a little embarrassed this time around, because it seems like I give out 5 star ratings willy nilly. Out of 16 possible books, I do have 10 five star ratings. Maybe I was a little too liberal with my 5’s this time around, but really, I read some great books.

My 5 Star Recommendations:

  • Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking  by Susan Cain (368 pages), adult, non-fiction. This was a powerful book for me! I have always identified as an extrovert because I’m “not shy,” but after reading this book, I’ve started to understand that introversion/extroversion is a lot more than your classic shy/outgoing. I’ve also realized that our world definitely favors extroverts and what that can look like/feel like to introverts. I wouldn’t say I’m a strong introvert, but I definitely am somewhere in the middle. This was so helpful for me and helpful in identifying these traits in others around me and how to value them.
  • What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty (488 pages), adult, realistic fiction. This book was one of the few books I have legitimately bawled during. Kyle was sleeping and I was trying not to wake him with my sobbing, haha. This book is about a woman who falls and has partial amnesia–she can’t remember the last 10 years of her life. The last thing she remembers is being a newlywed and pregnant with her first child. When she wakes up and is told she is going through a horrible divorce, has several children, etc. she is astonished and unbelieving. The story is so beautiful as she tackles some of her new problems with some of the optimism and faith in others she had lost along the way.
  • Smile by Raina Telgemeier (224 pages), middle grade, graphic novel, non-fiction, memoir. I’m so in love with these middle grade memoir graphic novels that have really started cropping up. This is another awesome one that captures the essence of middle school. It follows a girl with braces and honestly I can’t remember it too well, but I loved it. It is a fast read. I highly recommend this for middle grade students too–especially some who love the Diary of a Wimpy Kid style.
  • Chains (The Seeds of America Trilogy, #1) by Laurie Halse Anderson (316 pages), middle grade, historical fiction. Really loved this book and its sequel. It is definitely a trilogy but Laurie Halse Anderson is taking her time with the third one. I went into it not knowing all three weren’t already released, so I’m feeling pretty antsy. The stories follow a slave during the Revolutionary War.
  • Forge (The Seeds of American Trilogy, #2) by Laurie Halse Anderson (320 pages), middle grade, historical fiction. The second book in this trilogy is told in the voice of Curzon–a slave who enlisted in the Revolutionary War in the place of his master for his freedom. He is a runaway slave trying to pose as a free man. Incredible read.
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (384 pages), adult, historical fiction. Reread. Loved this book just as much as  I did the first time–maybe even more.
  • Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick (336 pages), adult, non-fiction. I was pretty horrified reading about the lives of North Koreans. I knew it wasn’t great in North Korea, but I really didn’t realize how bad it was.
  • Counting by 7’s by Holly Sloan (400 pages), middle grade, realistic fiction. A coming of age story of a young (genius) girl who is suddenly reliant on a few strangers as her world comes crashing around her. As she learns to live again, she lifts the others around her to new heights.
  • The Magician’s Nephew by C. S. Lewis (208 pages), children, fiction, fantasy. Reread. I read this with the student I’m teaching right now and I loved it again. C.S. Lewis is such an incredible writer. All humans should read this.

My 4 Star Recommendations:

  • The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, Illustrated by Dave McKean (336 pages), middle grade, fiction, fantasy. Incredibly unique story about a child who is raised by ghosts.
  • Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner (315 pages), adult, non-fiction. Fascinating introduction to the “freakonomics” mindset. A good read with lots of good discussion topics. Probably better for those who aren’t super familiar with them already (through podcasts/documentary).
  • Positive by Paige Rawl & Ali Benjamin (288 pages), adult/YA, non-fiction, memoir. Paige Rawl’s true story about her growing up years dealing with huge amounts of bullying because of HIV. She has overcome so much and is an incredible advocate for those with AIDs/HIV. Great read for middle school/high school.

My 3 Star Recommendations:

  • The Magic of Ordinary Days by Ann Howard Creel (304 pages), adult, historical fiction. Enjoyed this story–I often love stories where love grows slowly. However, I thought I would love this story so much more. I think it needed deeper characterization to really feel connected with the characters.
  • The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, Illustrated by Ellen Forney (229 pages), YA, fiction (based on real life events of author). The narrator in this book is hilarious. I enjoyed reading this, but it was pretty crude so I wouldn’t say that I would recommend it to others. It’s also pretty depressing, but it is realistic with what this author experienced about life living on an Indian Reservation.

My 1 Star Anti-Recommendation:

  • The Heir by Kiera Cass (368 pages), YA, fiction. Everything that made the first three books in this series bad are worse than ever and any redeeming qualities about the characters are gone. I feel like, at this point, Cass is going off of the idea that people will keep reading no matter what. The main character in this book is probably the worst character I’ve ever read.

Total: 16 books. Total Pages: 5, 236 pages. Average: 327 pages. 6 children’s books, 3 YA books, 7 adult books. 10 fiction, 6 non-fiction. 



 I kind of think these pictures speak for themselves, but in case you weren’t sure– I love America and I love my family. Madi 4th of July 3 Madi 4th of July Madi 4th of July 24th of July Family Cropped 24th of July Family croppedFamily 4th of July 2Family 4th of JulyP.S. This is my little brother below and I love him too.


2nd Quarter Reading: April-June 2015

I know I haven’t been updating as regularly as I usually do. I’m sorry for that. I’ve been busy working on setting up a blog that is all about reading (more to come on this later), moving into a new place (which we love), and trying to start a small business (preschool!) with my sister. Things have been a little hectic. That doesn’t mean I stopped reading though. Not even close. In fact, as I write this I am on a family vacation–blissfully reading as much as I want (okay, not as much as I actually want, but as much as any normal human being should want). So here we go–the good, the bad, and the meh.

2nd Quarter Reading

My 5 Star Recommendations:

  • These Is My Words by Nancy E. Turner (416 pages), adult, historical fiction. When I first started this, I definitely thought this was going to be a “meh” for me, but luckily my sister told me she enjoyed it and I trust her reading choices. Turner really hit it out of the park with her characterization. If you aren’t in love with Sarah and Jack and their relationship by the end of this book, you may not be a real human.
  • Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (352 pages), adult, science fiction/dystopian. I’d heard good things about this, but I was feeling pretty over dystopian fiction at the moment. This kicked the pants off of all the other recent dystopian novels. Crazy huge pandemic, Shakespeare, everything tying and connecting together around one seemingly random character connection. This book is worth the hype.
  • When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead (208 pages), upper elementary/middle grade, fiction. Time travel + friendship + awesome female protagonist = 5 stars.
  • Letters to a Young Mormon by Adam S. Miller (78 pages), adult, non-fiction/religious. This book is written by a father to one of his children on various gospel topics. Given this premise, it could have read like a list of commandments, but it actually has some of the most profound insights I’ve heard in my life. After one read, I think I will need to give this book a few more reads to really glean all of the meaning he has put into such a small space. I hope he will write more books!

My 4 Star Recommendations:

  • Happier at Home: How I Learned to Pay Attention, Cram My Day with What I Love, Hold More Tightly, Embrace Here, and Remember Now by Gretchen Rubin (304 pages), adult, non-fiction/self-help. I really enjoyed her emphasis on happiness through growth and self-mastery, rather than through pure pleasure and thrill seeking. I always enjoy her books and this was no exception.
  • The Distant Hours by Kate Morton (576 pages), adult, historical fiction. I was reading this on my kindle from the library and was in the last few chapters (which, if you’ve never read a Kate Morton novel mean things were intense) when my book was returned suddenly. I was pretty devastated. I got it back a week or two later, so things worked out I guess. 🙂 I didn’t enjoy this one quite as much as The Forgotten Garden but I did enjoy it quite a bit.
  • The Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline (278 pages), adult, historical fiction. I’ve been intrigued with the whole era of orphan trains in the US, especially since learning a little bit more about it from our adoption training. Reading this book was a beautiful way to learn more about the practice with a little more humanistic perspective. I would love to read some non-fiction on the topic.
  • The God Who Weeps: How Mormonism Makes Sense of Life by Terryl and Fiona Givens (160 pages), adult, non-fiction/religious. This was beautiful and poignant. I had to stop underlining in some parts or the entire chapter would be underlined. Some of the writing is hard to digest and a little too academic for my taste, but I love the subject matter. Would love to read some of their other books as well.
  • Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George (256 pages), upper elementary/middle grades, fiction/fantasy. Sweet story (with an awesome female protagonist) about a castle that chooses its rulers and guides the kingdom. This story is about a group of loyal siblings helping each other (and their kingdom) out. Highly recommend for children (and adults!) who love magic and fantasy.
  • Me Before You by Jojo Moyes (369 pages), adult, fiction. I think this book deserves all the hype it gets as well. Story about a woman taking care of a young quadriplegic and their developing relationship. I think this would be a great book club book, because there are a lot of moral issues to discuss.
  • Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty (460 pages), adult, fiction/mystery/thriller. I was sucked into this story right away. Despite its length, I finished quickly because I couldn’t put it down. I would like to note that there is language and scenes of domestic and sexual violence.
  • The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant (336 pages), adult, historical fiction. This was slow for me at first, but then I really fell in love with Addie’s character and couldn’t put it down. It read like an oral account of someone’s life and shows what life as a Jewish woman during WWI era could have been like.

My 3 Star Possible Recommendations:

  • What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe (320 pages), adult, non-fiction/science. I was reading this for a book club and there were no available copies at the library when I needed it, so I bought it. Kind of disappointing because I wasn’t a huge fan of it. I liked the premise behind it (answer weird questions in a scientific way) but the science was a little intense for me. I still gave it three stars though because I could see how someone more scientifically minded would truly enjoy it. Also, it helped me fall asleep quickly every night.
  • Inside the O’Briens by Lisa Genova (352 pages), adult, fiction. I received an advance copy of this from the publisher and was so excited. I LOVE Lisa Genova. I read Still Alice and then devoured her other books. Unfortunately, I don’t think this book was as good as her others. There was a LOT of language. I know it was used for character development, but it really got on my nerves. I also feel like it was a very similar plot line to Still Alice, but I didn’t like the characters in this book quite as much. I love that Genova raises awareness for diseases through her books and definitely learned a lot about Huntington’s through this.
  • The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux (352 pages), adult, fiction/classics/gothic. I am glad I read this, because I think it’s important to read classic novels (especially one like this in which I am so familiar with the storyline because of the musical and movie). I didn’t love it. I didn’t hate it. It was a solid “meh.”

My 2 Star Book:

My 1 Star Books:

  • The Elite (The Selection) by Kiera Cass (352 pages), YA/Adult, fiction/dystopian. I know this series has a huge following, which is one of the reasons I kept reading it despite my distaste for it. I also kept reading it because it felt like watching a really hilariously bad movie. The idea is intriguing and Cass is probably a much better writer than me, so all respect to her. However, I feel like she didn’t want to develop her ideas fully enough before writing–the love triangle is hilarious, her protagonist is hard to relate to (everyone is IN LOVE with her for no obvious reason so I’m assuming it’s beauty. She is supposed to be funny and witty, but Cass never shows that in the writing.), and the history and world building are overly simplistic. The prince is fine but makes me a little gaggy sometimes. I guess it’s my bad for reading a book about teenagers intended for teenagers, because if I’m being honest, this may be pretty accurate about that fun stage of life.
  • The One (The Selection) by Kiera Cass (368 pages), YA/Adult, fiction/dystopian. I liked this one slightly more than her first two. The ending was laughably simplistic (killing off all characters that make things even slightly complicated).

Total: 18 books. Total Pages: 5,857 pages. Average: 325 pages. 2 children’s books, 2 YA books, 14 adults books. 13 fiction, 5 non-fiction. 

Lawanna (1928-2015)


This beautiful woman, my grandmother, passed away on Easter morning. Nothing could be more fitting. My grandma, was a woman of faith and devotion to God. She loved the Lord with all of her heart and she served Him as best she could her whole life.

My grandma wasn’t looking forward to death. She often told me, even in her final weeks, that she was a “scaredy cat.” I don’t think she was actually afraid of what was coming after death, but death itself. I mean, it is scary. None of us have experienced it. It is unknown. However, the timing was so perfect that I have to believe that God was giving her this final gift– she went quietly and peacefully on a beautiful Easter morning.

I also believe my grandpa had something to do with that. Her husband passed away more than 24 years ago. They have been apart for so long. I know he’s been waiting for her.

16938371308_16e503a2e6_oMy grandma was stories at bedtime. She was wafer cookies and orange sherbet. She was endless hugs and kisses. She was love. 17124605742_5904b103e0_oI was close with my grandma. The thing is I still I am. I believe she is still with me. My mom called me early in the morning right after she passed and I felt this incredibly calm, peaceful feeling. I think she was telling me that she is happy and all of those fears she had were gone. And since she knows I’m a scaredy cat too, I think she was telling me that I don’t have to be.

I believe in eternal families and I believe I will see my grandma again. In the meantime, I will honor her the best way I know how–by trying to be a kinder, more Godly person. Love you Grandma. Give Grandpa a kiss from me.