2015 Reads

One of my goals for this upcoming year is to spend less time in front of the TV and more time with my nose in a book.  As much as I do love a physical book, I’ve seen several folks I hear and see  out there in blogs, Instagram and podcasts -(Emily, Jessica and others) talk about the ease of a kindle and how it’s really helped them to read more–especially being super busy gals, wives and moms. After using the app consistently on my iPad in the fall and actually making it through several books, I was grateful to receive the Kindle Paperwhite for Christmas.  I’m excited as it’s much easier to use one-handed than the iPad (which will come in hand when the Bebe arrives!) I also love taking the kindle to bed because I’m much less apt to browse social media when my only option is the book I’m reading.  And it automatically updates to Goodreads which I’ve re-started using to keep track of my reads (you’ll see a nifty new little widget down there on the right side of what I’m currently reading). I will say I am still a fan of a traditional paperback for non-fiction especially and love the kindle for fiction, but it’s hard to pass up a great Kindle sale on some of the books on my wishlist when they are $1.99!

Goodreads has a yearly reading challenge each year which I’ve never “officially” participated in. My goal this year is 26 books, which seemed really lofty.  The beau did it a few years ago and warned me that it was challenging. Granted his book selections are quite different than mine, I felt up to the challenge.  So far I’m ahead of my needed pace and have already finished 3 books–ALL on the Kindle!  One additional thing I love is that two of the three books were checked out from our local library!  One challenge is only having 7 days to finish them, but I’m making it work and it’s keeping me on pace.  I plan to update each month with my books read the previous month, so be on the look out for that post soon!

In the meantime, I thought I’d share the 11 books I read in 2015.  I have logged them on Goodreads but hope to do a better job of sharing a review on there as well this upcoming year. These reviews are MUCH shorter than the upcoming ones will be!

Let’s All Be Brave: Living Life with Everything You Have-Annie Downs

I met Annie a few years ago at Allume and it felt as if we were instant friends.  Reading this book was like catching up at her favorite coffee shop. Fantastic read!

Where’d You Go, Bernadette-Maria Semple

Super duper fun fiction read!  Highly recommend.

Cold Tangerines: Celebrating the Extraordinary Nature of Everyday Life-Shauna Niequist

Shauna is probably my favorite voice right now speaking right into this season for me.  This, her first book, was no different than her more recent works. I love the short story-ish format.

The Nesting Place: It Doesn’t Have to Be Perfect to Be Beautiful-Myquillyn Smith

Not your “typical” book, but a great illustrated example of how I hope to create our home as we’ve journeyed through a year of renovations (the end is in sight!) Love reading her blog and this book was no different.

A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet: Southern Stories of Faith, Family, and Fifteen Pounds of Bacon-Sophie Hudson

This was purchased on a kindle deal and it was a great fun read.  Definitely one that’ll make you laugh!

Picking Cotton: Our Memoir of Injustice and Redemption-Jennifer Thompson-Cannino and Ronald Cotton

This was our Common Reading Experience book selection at UK this year and although a difficult read, an important one.

Anything: The Prayer That Unlocked My God and My Soul-Jennie Allen

I had purchased the previous version on a kindle sale, but after Jennie updated this with a bible study, I jumped in with two feet with a group of 20-ish other ladies at 6:30am this summer (YIKES!) It is such an important book with an amazing take-away.

Big Little Lies-Liane Moriarty

After a heavy year and hard season I needed some more fiction.  I heard a lot of great things about Liane for several guests on The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey podcast and found this one at half-price books on the discount bin.  I’ve read several more of hers since then (some in 2015, some in 2016 already) and this one is still probably my favorite.

The Husband’s Secret-Liane Moriarty

My second Liane read–another great one!


For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards-Jen Hatmaker

Read this book.  I took it with me to Virginia when my mom passed away and Jen’s truth and humor were a balm to my saddened heart.

Simply Tuesday: Small-Moment Living in a Fast-Moving World-Emily P. Freeman

This book. I slowly savored this book since the fall and didn’t finish until right before the new year. It was released the same day as For the Love–which everyone seemed to be guffawing about at the time–and rightfully so, but my heart was in this message. Small-Moment Living in a Fast-Moving World. There were nights I’d read this before bed and just be in tears (It could also be that pregnancy had something to do with that). I can’t wait to go back through this with a pen and highlight my favorite parts. The first go through just wasn’t enough for me.  Looking forward to a long weekend with nothing to do but just devour this after savoring it.

What reads do you recommend I add to my 2016 list?

Book Review #2 of 2012

The Gifts of Imperfection

I had been wanting to read this book after seeing Brené Brown’s TED talk posted on Facebook by a colleague over the Winter Break.  It was on my list, but after reading that Melicious over at The Clothes Make the Girl was having a book club on this very book, I just had to join in sooner than later.

Boy, oh boy, am I ever glad that I did!  The beau wanted to read this book after me, so I tried to keep it clean and not mark it up, but I feel as if I could have underlined  something on each page!

If you can’t tell from the photo, the title is The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are.  The tagline also states: Your Guide to a Wholehearted Life.

So that thought excited me, but also wanted to make me crawl under the covers and not come out for days.  Let go of who I think I am?  Embrace who I really am?  How do I even know who that is?  Wholehearted?  What does that mean?

Brené  has an extensive “About Me” on her site, but for the purpose of this review, I’ll share some of the highlights (excerpt from http://www.brenebrown.com/welcome).  She is a writer  and research professor at The University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work who has studied vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame for the past 10 years. Brené spent the first five years of her decade-long study focusing on shame and empathy, and is now using that work to explore a concept that she calls Wholeheartedness. She poses the questions:

How do we learn to embrace our vulnerabilities and imperfections so that we can engage in our lives from a place of authenticity and worthiness? How do we cultivate the courage, compassion, and connection that we need to recognize that we are enough – that we are worthy of love, belonging, and joy?

The book has short introductory piece that is very foundational to her work and then 10 Guideposts which are relatively short looking at difference pieces of wholehearted living.  Brené also includes some wonderful descriptions of definitions that are woven throughout her book.  I’ll highlight each Guidepost and a few short snippets of what I got out of it.  It was difficult for me to just choose a few statements, but I also want you to gain something for yourself if you choose to read it! I highly recommend this book!

  • Guidepost #1: Cultivating Authenticity: Letting Go of What People Think–Being Vulnerable is okay.  Being authentic in vulnerable situations is desired.  There is something sacred about being true to yourself.
  • Guidepost #2: Cultivating Self-Compassion: Letting Go of Perfection–Perfectionism is self-destructive and addictive.  It is not the same thing as striving to be your best or self-improvement. Perfectionism in my life must becoming “healthy-striving.” I must exercise Self-Compassion.
  • Guidepost #3: Cultivating Resilient Spirit: Letting Go of Numbing and Powerlessness–When we numb the dark, we numb the light.  “Hope is a combination of setting goals, having the tenacity and perseverance to pursue them and believing in our own abilities.” (p. 66)
  • Guidepost #4: Cultivating Gratitude and Joy: Letting Go of  Scarcity and Fear of the Dark–“We are hungry for joy because we are starving for gratitude.”(p. 83).  Ordinary does not mean meaningless.
  • Guidepost #5: Cultivating Intuition and Trusting Faith: Letting Go of the Need for Certainty–We question our intuition/gut/faith because we are vulnerable to being wrong. Similarly, faith is a mystery and something that cannot be contained. LOVE the Ann Lamont quote: “The opposite of faith is not doubt,  but certainty. (p. 91–from Plan B, Further Thoughts on Faith–another book on my list this year!)
  • Guidepost #6: Cultivating Creativity: Letting Go of Comparison–When we create, we are cultivating meaning–cook, paint, scrapbook, garden, dance, decorate, sing–CREATE!  Don’t compare your creativity–art is meant to be original!
  • Guidepost #7: Cultivating Play and Rest: Letting Go of Exhaustion as a Status Symbol and Productivity as Self-Worth–Saying  “No” and creating margin is important to our health.  Ingredients for joy and meaning should be a staple of how you spend your day.  Play helps shape our brain as children–but then we grow into adults, we stop playing. 
  • Guidepost #8: Cultivating Calm and Stillness : Letting Go of  Anxiety as a Lifestyle–Be quiet.  Breathe.  Listen.  Create space for a quiet emotional clearing. Give yourself an anxiety detox. 
  • Guidepost #9: Cultivating Meaningful Work: Letting Go of Self-Doubt and “Supposed To”–Meaning is tied to several things that are all important in us finding our own meaningful work.  Don’t brush any of them under the table. Slashed titles should become the norm as we all do many things–I’m working on mine now, but it’ll be something like Educator/Wife/Encourager/Singer/Writer/Renovator/Counselor
  • Guidepost #10: Cultivating Laughter, Song and Dance: Letting Go of  Being Cool and “Always in Control”–Fun is so important, but yet so often looked over!  Dance in the kitchen.  Sing at the top of your lungs.  Make videos with your family.  And most of all, don’t worry abut what people think!


Overall Grade: A++

Category: Self-Help/Emotional Health (Got this from the back cover!  It really could fit so many categories!)

The Good: Everything.  Seriously.  Everything.  Especially the part on DIGging deep.  And Guidepost 7.  and 8.  Oh–and that part in 9….

The Not So Good: It’s not the easiest book to read when you lay the things she’s saying on top of your own life.  It really sheds light on the dark corners and cobwebs we many times try and avoid.   But as I’m learning, great and beautiful things happen in the light.

Miscellaneous: From a researcher standpoint, I love that Brené breaks down how she’s done her research at the end in the section titled: “Research Notes: For Thrill-Seekers and Methodology Junkies”  Great stuff there too (if you’re into that kind of thing).


Book Review #1 of 2012

One of my new year’s goals last year that I was pretty fortunate to keep was to read one book a month.  Now, basically, I wanted to read 12 books in 2011.  I’m sure that I didn’t finish each month checking off the book I was reading, but I did try my hardest.  Some months I read more than one, and other months it took forever to get halfway through the one I was in.  When 2011 came to a close though, I was stoked to have read 15 book in the year!

This year I’ve kept that same goal, and started out reading something we found in the cheap-o book bin at our local big-box store.  It was $3, I believe and although I am a lover of technology, there’s just something for me that longs for the spine of a book in my hands versus a digital version.  I was able to finish the first one last night, January 31st.

It’s funny because as one of my goals this year is to make sure to read a book before I watch a movie version, I didn’t even realize this WAS a book when the movie came out.  I watched and consequently LOVED the movie.  I loved both main actresses and the storyline–well, I was hooked!  It spoke to me on several levels, I loved the back-and-forth between the characters and there’s just something about watching a movie with characters that have interests so similar to yours.  Julie and Julia is a favorite of mine.  And the book did not disappoint.

I was hopeful to purchase the original book, but when you find it on clearance, you suck it up and have Amy Adams and Meryl Streep’s face gracing a book on your shelf. A few reasons I loved the movie and consequently the book–I have so much in common with Julie Powell.  Well, not everything.  I don’t live in New York City working as a secretary for a job I hate, I don’t have cats, and I don’t live in a tiny little apartment in Long Island City and ride the subway each day to work.  What I do have however, is a love for cooking and blogging.  And having people over to cook for them.  And stories.  Making lists of things you want to do before a certain time period in your life.  Julie Powell was in her year of turning 30 when she did the experiment.  Cooking through Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cuisine (MtAoFC for short as I quickly learned in the text) in a year.  Trying to balance doing  (one of the many ) things you are passionate about and love with that thing that you do from 9-5, Monday through Friday.  (Not to say I’m not passionate about my “day job”–I just have so many interests and passions it’s hard to find time to fit them all in!) I could be Julie Powell for crying out loud!

What was interesting was reading something from someone whose life is so very different from my own, yet seeing so many similarities laced throughout. Here was this woman, married to the love of her life, no kids (yet) and wanted more.  Wanted fulfillment.  Wanted to find meaning–and looked to food to find it (that’s a whole other blog for another day!)

What I learned in reading this is that even when it was crazy and impossible, she kept going.  Even when recipes looks insane with ingredients I had never even heard of, Julie kept going. When there was no water, Julie kept cooking.  When there was no electricity, Julie didn’t just keep going and just keep cooking, she hosted a flipping dinner party!  What do I do when things aren’t ideal?  Well, the last thing I think about doing is calling all my friends over for a night of laughs and good food.

Julie and Julia (the book) is quite different from the movie, but if you love cooking or just love food, it’s a great read. 


Overall Grade: B

Category: Memoir

The Good: A good story about real people with real normal lives to choose to do something bigger.  Something hard.  Something crazy and outlandish.

The Not So Good:  There is a lot of recipe talk written out.  At times it was like reading a cookbook.  I loved it.  If you aren’t a cook, you might not.  This did make things tend to drag along at times.  It literally took me the entire month to read this book.

Miscellaneous: The language was much rougher than I thought it would be.  Sweet little Julie Powell has quite a mouth on her that doesn’t come out in the movie.