What I Read and Watched January 2017

Hello! I wanted to start a series this year summarizing what I read and watch each month. I’ve noticed some other blogs that do this and I really enjoy it. I’m always up for more recommendations of books, tv, and movies, so maybe you are too!

BOOKS

the edge of never

The Edge of Never by J. A. Redmerksi
Rating: 4 stars

An interesting YA book that mostly takes place on a Greyhound bus. It’s about character development between the two main characters as they slowly get to know each other and inevitably fall in love.

the edge of always

The Edge of Always by J. A. Redmerski
Rating: 3.5 stars

The sequel is more about trials and challenges the couple faces after their whirlwind romance. It’s about loss and heartache, but ultimately sticking together and becoming stronger. Both books in this series were solid YA novels, though neither were un-put-downable.

a man called ove

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
Rating: 3.5 stars

There was so much hype about this book. Everywhere. So many people absolutely adored it. I did not. I actually found the first 3/4 of this book to be very predictable and boring. I’d rate that portion of the book 2 stars, which is about the lowest I’ve ever rated anything. But I powered through and it got really touching and wonderful at the end. I’m not sure I actually recommend reading it, but if you’ve started, it’s worth finishing.

did i mention i love you

Did I Mention I Love You? by Estelle Maskame
Rating: 3 stars

A story about a girl who spends a summer with her dad and his new wife and 3 sons. Predictably, she falls for her stepbrother. Normally I’d like this story line, but I HATED the main male character. He was pretty much the worst teenage boy you can imagine. So it was a struggle to be invested in their relationship. And yet I kept reading.

did i mention i need you

Did I Mention I Need You? by Estelle Maskame
Rating: 3 stars

This follows the main characters a year later in New York for the summer. They’re a little more mature and likable, but there was just a lot of excess detail and drama that annoyed me.

did i mention i miss you

Did I Mention I Miss You? by Estelle Maskame
Rating: 3.5 stars

Another year later, the story of Eden and Tyler concludes. I liked the character development better in this one, though from the beginning of the series to the end, it’s truly hard to believe it’s the same boy turned man. This series really could have been condensed to a single book. Possibly two. Three was way more than you need.

the night bird

The Nightbird by Brian Freeman
Rating: 4 stars

This was my Amazon Prime pick of the month. I really enjoy reading the occasional psychological thriller, even though it’s not a genre I read regularly. This story was pretty fairly fast paced. The character development did not delve very deeply, but the story line was intriguing. Worth a read if you like psychological mysteries.

the sun is also a star

The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
Rating: 3.5 stars

Another book that was getting a lot of attention in my online circles. I’ve been trying to throw in a lot more popular and well talked about books in between my favored YA novels. This was the story of a teenage undocumented Jamaican girl on her last day in New York City, and a first generation Korean American teenage boy that met her that day. They have a worthwhile adventure together and ultimately fall in love, after spending the intense day together. I didn’t appreciate having that obvious deadline looming over the whole book. Why read something when you know they can’t possibly have a happy ending? But I’m glad I read it overall.

too late

Too Late by Colleen Hoover
Rating: 4.5 stars

Colleen Hoover is one of my all time favorite authors. Her books are intensely romantic and fast paced and addicting. This one didn’t disappoint, but it was also very dark and violent. The story centered much more around an abusive relationship than the romance between that woman and the undercover cop who was there to take down her boyfriend. It was certainly a unique story and I couldn’t put it down. But it also made me uncomfortable and sad to see a woman used in such a way, so I couldn’t quite give it her usual 5 star rating. If you like romance novels with legitimate and interesting story lines, though, check out some of her other books! Slammed is one of my all time favorites. November 9 is also really good.

MOVIES

lalaland

La La Land

When I first saw a preview for this movie I wasn’t interested at all. But after it won so many Golden Globe awards and people were talking about it all over the place, I decided to check it out. I thought it was a little bit slow going at times, but definitely a very uniquely put together movie. The ending really threw me for a loop and I wasn’t in a very good head space at the time to appreciate it. But it truly was a wonderful movie.

sing street

Sing Street

We just watched this the other night and I loved it! I’ll watch pretty much anything that takes place in Ireland or has Irish actors. I’ll also watch just about anything with singing in it. ๐Ÿ™‚ It was a really sweet movie about a bunch of Irish teens that started a band to try and better their lives. I found it highly enjoyable.

storks

Storks

I’m not usually a huge fan of animated movies. But we were looking for something we could all watch together and this was new at redbox and looked cute. I really liked it!!

honey i shrunk

Honey, I Shrunk the Kids

Caden and I needed something to watch together on the day he stayed home sick. All he wanted to watch were Pokemon things, which I have ZERO interest in. So I found this on netflix. He was not impressed. But he did start “playing invention” that day, so it did help his imagination a little! ๐Ÿ™‚

antman

Ant-Man

Another family movie night. My kids used to hate movies, but suddenly this winter it’s all they want to do, if video games aren’t an option. Greg’s been watching a lot of Marvel movies with them, and I tuned in for this one. I’ve seen it before, I like it. But it does have a whole lot of swear words in it, very worthy of it’s PG-13 rating. Oops.

TV

I watch a lot of tv because I can do it while I’m working on an abundance of hand sewing. With doll making there’s a lot of that. Greg and I usually watch one tv episode a night as well.

TV – By Myself:

  • Shameless – I started this maybe in November. I’m just about caught up with all seven seasons.
  • Grimm – The newest (and last) season just started a few weeks ago. Still love this show!
  • Bones – This newest (and also last) season recently started too. Always a good one!
  • New Girl – I stick with New Girl purely for Schmidt, Nick, and Winston. I can’t stand Jess. Seriously, so annoying. And most fake laugh ever.
  • Vampire Diaries – I think this is also the last season for this show. What am I going to watch next year?!
  • Quantico – Still hard to follow half of the time, but I like the second season more than the first. We used to watch together, but Greg got sick of it.
  • No Tomorrow – I just found out about and started this one on netflix. I don’t think it’s one of my favorites, but it’s cute and fun.

TV – Together:

  • The Affair – Still trucking along. I’m not really sure where this show is going. It’s okay.
  • Crazy Ex-Girlfriend – Funny and entertaining and a little bit annoying. I’ve been irritable ever since Greg, my favorite character, left the show. I don’t like it as much as I used to.
  • Riverdale – This just started and we watched the first episode. I think we’ll like it!
  • The Flash – Always a favorite! Love that Barry Allen. ๐Ÿ™‚
  • Arrow – Not so much a favorite anymore. But we can’t give it up.

I think that’s about it! With such a cold, icy, gloomy month there’s been a lot of book and tv consumption. I’d love to hear what you’re reading and watching!

 

My favorite books of 2016

Nothing makes me more excited on the internet than to see lists of people’s favorite books. I love reading, I always have, and it’s the one thing I will never, ever skip doing a single day of my life. I’m always searching for new books to read, no matter how many I have queued up on my kindle. I love wandering bookstores for new ideas and inspirations. I savor all the Goodreads emails I get and I’ve started stalking Instagram feeds for companies like Book Riot and Book of the Month Club for more recommendations. I also listen to multiple podcasts that are all about books (What Should I Read Next? with Anne Bogel is my favorite). Books are a major part of my life and I’m really excited to share some of my favorites from the year as well.

Looking back over my year, I realized I read a lot of Young Adult fiction. A LOT. There’s something about the simplicity of a teenage love story that really pulls at me. Maybe because my own love story started at age 15 and I so strongly identify with them? I also think it has a lot to do with just needing to escape reality. I have almost no interest reading about the drudgery of parenting or failing relationships or novels steeped in grown up realism. I much prefer books that focus on growing relationships and have happy endings. I don’t, however, like total fluff. I’m not a fan of the actual Romance genre because I need to see a lot more substance in the characters before they progress. I also tend to avoid the books that I know are going to make me think a little too much. Bestsellers and award winners are great in moderation, but most of the time I’m reading purely for my own enjoyment and prefer to stick with what I love. And just to clarify, I do read almost all the books that get a lot of buzz (or at least they’re waiting for me on my kindle!), but they just don’t usually get my highest ratings.

Every year I keep a spreadsheet of what I’ve read, along with a rating between 1 and 5. My criteria for a five star rating is simple – it needs to make me cry at some point (happy or sad), and it needs to make me want to stay up too late or skip doing household chores because it’s just too good to put down. If I was completely immersed in the story line, I read it in just a day or two, and the characters stick with me, it was probably worthy of a five star rating. Anyway, my list is long, so I better get started!

ps-i-like-you

ALL THE BOOKS by Kasie West

This has been by far my favorite newly discovered author of the year. I rated ALL HER BOOKS 5 stars. My favorite was P.S. I Like You. I liked it so much I immediately wanted to read it all over again. That never happens! Kasie West is classified as Young Adult and I absolutely adored every single book. Beautifully written and engaging teenage love stories. My other favorites (I think every book she’s written) were The Fill-In Boyfriend, Pivot Point, Split Second, The Distance Between Us, and On the Fence. I found all of these books to be deliciously delightful to read.

carry-on

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Rainbow Rowell is another really great author. When I picked up her newest book Carry On, I was a little surprised by it. I wasn’t aware that it was Harry Potter fan fiction until about a third of the way through when I kept complaining to Greg about how I didn’t understand how one of my favorite authors could keep ripping off the story line of such a great series of books. He looked it up and set me straight. Obviously this is my first encounter with fan fiction! Once I understand what it was, I really, really enjoyed this book. It’s about the unexpected relationship that arises between the hero and supposed villain when they band together to fight evil. It surprised me how invested I was by the end.

a-thousand-boy-kisses

A Thousand Boy Kisses by Tillie Cole

This book was both heartbreaking and beautiful. It’s about the love between a boy and a girl that begins at age eight. The book follows the story of their lives and relationship until their late teenage years. It’s tender and sweet, but also incredibly sad. This book will stay with me for a long time.

roomies

Roomies by Lindy Zart

I’m such a sucker for love stories that begin in unexpected places (though are totally predicable in books). This book is about roommates who are in love with each other, but too afraid to cross the divide between friendship and what could be more. I found this book to be refreshing because man in the story was truly the good guy. It seems that so often the heroine falls for the bad boy, the brooding type that needs to be won over. I really appreciated the character traits that made this guy the type you’d really fall for in real life.

the-testing

The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau

I read a lot of dystopian fiction. It’s interesting to see what new realities authors create after the inevitable fall of life as we know it. Similar to Hunger Games I found this trilogy to be very intriguing. I liked the first book the best, but the whole series is definitely worth reading if you’re into that type of fiction.

adorkable

Adorkable by Cookie O’Gorman

This is another fairly predicable, but still completely juicy and beautiful teenage romance. I clearly had a book type I continued to seek out again and again this year. I love them, though. This book is about a girl whose mom and friend continue to set her up on horrible blind dates. She finally gets them off her back by begging her best male friend to pretend to be her boyfriend for awhile. The path they take from there is highly entertaining, but also emotional and sincere. Another great YA read!

holding-up-the-universe

Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven

This was a fascinating read about the intricate relationship between a boy who suffers from prosopagnosia (face blindness) and a girl who was at one point so fat she had to be rescued from her house by a crane. Full of emotion, this book will really tug at you as you see the characters struggling with their own doubts and ultimately coming together to make each other stronger.

tell-me-three-things

Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum

You guys, I was so emotionally invested in this book. I’m not sure I’ve ever been more happy with an ending. It’s about a girl whose mom died and her dad soon after remarried and uprooted their midwestern life to big city LA. The story follows her as she struggles to fit in at a private school with a stepmother and brother she can’t stand, still still reeling in grief from losing her mother. On one of her first days of school she begins to receive anonymous emails from somebody at school that wants to help her out, but also isn’t emotionally ready to get involved with her in person. I think I’m greatly addicted to books where characters fall in love through letters (P.S. I Like You!), but this is seriously another awesome one.

between-shades-of-gray

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

This is a somber, but enthralling story about a Lithuanian girl and her mother and little brother who are sent to a Soviet work camp during World War II. It’s definitely sad, but also beautifully written and surprisingly positive. This is a portion of history that I was completely unaware of before reading this book. Their story was harrowing and insightful.

it-ends-with-us

It Ends with Us by Colleen Hoover

Colleen Hoover is one of my favorite authors of books I literally cannot put down. This is her newest book and while it’s not my favorite of hers, I thoroughly enjoyed it. All of her books are deep and real, diving into the characters’ deepest pain, while still showing us a fantastic evolving relationship.

bread-and-wine

Bread & Wine by Shauna Niequist

I mentioned this the other day in my Favorite Things post. This is definitely one of the best books I read all year. I’m kind of obsessed with finding new and intriguing nonfiction books to read, but really horrible at following through on them. I only have so much time a day to read and my fiction selections usually win out. But this is a nonfiction title I couldn’t put down. It really spoke to me about the kind of person I want to be when it comes to my family, my friends, and opening my home and heart to the people around me. It’s kind of a food memoir, but also a lot about faith and entertaining and life in general. I loved her writing style and am greatly looking forward to reading all of her other books in the coming months.

a-homemade-life

A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg

I picked up this book because Molly Wizenberg is one of my favorite podcasters on Spilled Milk.ย I was also a lot more interested in checking out other food memoirs after readingย Bread & Wine. I really enjoyed reading more about Molly’s life and how food impacted her story. The chapters are short and always followed by a recipe. It was a great book to pick up when I just needed a five minute break from something else.

cookies-cups

The Cookies & Cups Cookbook by Shelly Jaronsky

No book list of mine will be complete without a cookbook thrown in the mix. ๐Ÿ™‚ Once upon a time, my cookbook shelf was filled with dessert books. I wanted to be a baker and I found my greatest joy in making treats to share with people. In more recent years I realized that I really better learn more about cooking and actually making healthy and fulfilling meals. But occasionally I get wind of a new dessert cookbook that I just have to check out. This one was well worth the money! I think I got the book in November and I’ve used it at least ten times since then. Many delicious recipes to try and love!

the-magnolia-story

The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines

I picked this book up because my mom talks about them a lot and there’s been a ton of buzz around the internet about it. I’ve never seen their show Fixer Upper and I barely knew a thing about this couple. But I loved the book! It was really interesting to learn about the love story of a real life couple. But I found it especially inspiring to read about the business side of their lives. These two people followed their passions again and again and carved out a professional life for themselves that is completely dream worthy. It was a little bit overwhelming to see how far they’ve come just by doing the things they love and never giving up. It’s given me more confidence to dream more about my own life, though, and where I want to go with my business and other passions in the coming years.

After going through my list, I’m thinking I might need to go back and write more posts on books I loved from other years. 2015 was a great year of books and I’d love to share some more recommendations for you. In the meantime, though, I would LOVE to hear some of your favorite books of the year!

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Desperate: A Book Review

Tomorrow there is a fantastic new book being released called Desperate: Hope for the Mom Who Needs to Breathe. Along with many other bloggers, I was given the opportunity to read the book ahead of time in exchange for an honest review. So here it is!

I honestly can’t even tell you how it happened, but a few months ago I started receiving emails of blog feed from a woman named Sarah Mae. I don’t remember ever actually going to her blog, let alone signing up for emails, so it must have been a God thing because they appeared right when I started needing them the most. Each email was short, but always incredibly in tune with what I was going through at that time with my kids. After a few months when I heard that Sarah Mae was writing a book I couldn’t wait to read it! Especially once I heard the title – “desperate” and “needing to breathe” describe perfectly how I feel almost all the time. I needed to read this book.

Desperate is written mostly for mothers with young children. Mothers who are often lonely, frustrated, angry, and overwhelmed. Women who feel like even though they love their children, they’re trapped in a very hard life that doesn’t seem to have an end in sight. I am definitely one of those women.

I really enjoyed the format of this book. Co-authored by Sarah Mae, a mother of three young children, and Sally Clarkson, a mother of four adult children, they each had a very interesting perspective on not only getting through the early years of motherhood, but also making the most of them and truly enjoying life rather than just getting by day by day. The chapters are relatively short, focusing on a single problem at a time, making it easy to understand without getting overloaded by information and ideas.

The first section of Desperate is about accepting your role as a mom and realizing that you’re going to need help. Help from God, help from your husband, help from friends. You don’t need to go at it alone and you’re not expected to. I loved the first section of this book because it gave me the amazing affirmation that I really am not alone! There ARE other people in the world that are going through the same things that I am. For me, it’s so hard because I’m pretty isolated. As a stay at home mom who isn’t involved in much of anything besides staying at home, I don’t get much chance to talk to other moms. It was such a relief that these authors, especially Sarah Mae who is going through these things right now, understood me. I’m not crazy!

I also enjoyed how this section validated the need for “me time” and time for friends. Sometimes I feel so guilty because all I want to do is get away. But when I have those breaks I come back feeling so refreshed and calm and ready to tackle the next day with enthusiasm instead of dreading it. Sally Clarkson stated it like this, ” Having a friend who shared my ideals was essential to my own well-being and the emotional health of my family.” What an accurate statement for my own life as well.

One of the things I really liked about this book was how the authors give you the freedom to simply do the best you can without worrying about formulas or fitting all of your children in the same box when it comes to learning or discipline. I was so relieved by this because I’ve gone to classes and listened to webinars and read books in the past that swore if you did something a certain way your child would turn out right. Granted, Caden is only four, but so far none of those “proven methods” have worked for us. Which only made me feel like more of a failure. Desperate helps you to truly understand each of your children and their unique differences and how you can adjust to their needs, rather than expecting them to fit into the box you’ve designed for them.

This might be an obvious statement, but this idea really stood out to me:

If you expect perfection, you are bound to become angry more often, with yourself and with your children.”

This idea really touched my heart as I realized how often I expect Caden to behave exactly how I want him to. And how much I’m harming both of us by my unrealistic expectations. He’s four! Shepard is still only one! How can I expect so much from them when I’m such a sinner too, making so many mistakes of my own on a daily basis? It’s only been a week since I read this particular statement, but I’m trying to live with this new idea of “offering them loads of grace and affirmation, so that they can be confident that we get it and we are on their team.” I want to be a safe place for my kids. I don’t want them to think that I’m always going to be mad when they mess up. Who would want to be around somebody who is constantly condemning them when they’re only trying to find their place in the world? Certainly not me.

The second section of Desperate focuses on more practical applications to making your life and home a happier place. The authors offer plenty of ideas for evaluating your needs and attending to them before you become too desperate, keeping up with housework, and giving encouragement for enjoying your children instead of always pushing them away.

Another idea that I loved in this book was this:

One of the marks of a godly woman is that she takes responsibility for her soul’s need for joy and delight… There was some point in my life when I accepted that no one else was going to take responsibility for me, and if I didn’t take care of myself, my soul would die a slow death by exhaustion, boredom, loneliness, and mediocrity.

This idea has really clicked with me. I realized how much I depend on other people to make me happy. I think that if Greg doesn’t do this or that I have reason to get angry and not talk to him for days. If Caden is especially crabby I have no excuse not to be crabby myself. If nobody ever asks me to do anything with them then I must not be worth anybody’s time. But that’s not true! I have power over myself. I have responsibility to myself. It’s nobody else’s job to take care of me and make me happy. If I want to do something I should do it! If I want to go somewhere during the day with the boys, even if it’s farther away than normal, we should do it. If it’ll make us happy and bring joy to our otherwise somewhat mundane lives, why not? I love this idea and hope to start applying it to my own life so much more in the future.

There was an underlying theme in this book that I wasn’t expecting, but have really enjoyed thinking about. Both authors, though particularly Clarkson, have built their homes with the intention of bringing warmth and beauty into the lives of their families.

Picture yourself as an artist. Crafting beauty, color, aromas, tastes, fun and humor, love, and comfort – these are all aspects of creating a life-giving environment in your home.”

I was surprised by how much attention they paid to this idea throughout the book, but I loved how validated it made me feel. Sometimes it feels like buying new decorations for my home, trying to celebrate little holidays in special ways, lighting candles every night, etc. is just such a waste. Does my family even appreciate it? Maybe it doesn’t seem like it, but at least according to the authors, they will as they grow. They’ll learn to love and appreciate beauty and warmth and the happy memories associated with a warm and inviting house. And if that candle and those decorations make me happy, won’t that make them happier as well?

The third and final section of this book is about figuring it all out. Learning to accept your role as a mom and live for that, not for yourself. Me time is needed, but so is kid time. They sum it up so easily with the following idea:

If every morning you look at your child as a gift from God, a blessing that He has bestowed today, and thank Him for that blessing, you will approach your children with love, patience and grace.”

I hope to take this message, as well as all the other great ideas in this book to heart, changing my soul and my attitude to love and accept my boys, being the best mom that I can be. I want to live intentionally, take responsibility for myself, and create a happy home for my family while they’re still here to enjoy it. I highly recommend this book for any young mom out there looking for a little encouragement!

For more information on the book and authors, visit www.desperatemom.com