Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Best Books You've Read in 2017 So Far

Welcome to Top Ten Tuesday hosted by The Broke and the Bookish!

Hard to believe we're at the half-way point of 2017! This year is really flying.

Here are the books that I'd say are the ten best I've read so far this year. It'll be interesting to see how this list changes by the end of the year.

1. The Names They Gave Us - Emery Lord

2. Who Thought This Was a Good Idea?: And Other Questions You Should Have Answers to When You Work in the White House - Alyssa Mastromonaco

3. Alex, Approximately - Jenn Bennett

4. Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis - J.D. Vance

5. All the Light We Cannot See - Anthony Doerr

6. The Hating Game - Sally Thorne

7. The Princess Diarist - Carrie Fisher

8. Talking as Fast as I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls, and Everything In Between

9. The Skeptics' Guide to the Mysteries of the Universe - Jessica Arden

10. All I Ask - Nicole McLaughlin

All images via Goodreads

Monday, June 26, 2017

Book Review - Along Came Us by Nicole McLaughlin

From Goodreads: He’s Mr. Wrong, she’s Miss Independent. When the two come together, sparks fly! Don’t miss Along Came Us, a sexy and heartwarming romance from Nicole McLaughlin.

National Guardsman Tyler Cavallo knows all too well what it feels like to be a volatile teenager. There was a time when it seemed like everyone—be it his father, a rival gang member, or his opponent in the MMA cage—was out to get him. These days he focuses that fight into his gym where he mentors at-risk youths. But one particular teen has Tyler more concerned than usual, and if he’s learned one thing in life, it’s to trust his instincts, and right now those instincts are telling him that this boy isn’t safe.

Lia Hanson is a woman on a mission. With bills to pay, and a younger brother to raise, and two full time jobs, she’s working her ass off and doing the best she can. But in a few months she will finally graduate from college and be able to put most of that behind her for good. Or so she thinks, until a certain overbearing and stupidly good looking gym owner acts like he knows what’s best for her brother. A man is the last thing she wants, and this man is certainly not who she pictured as a stable role model. Lia thought she had a plan, but Tyler’s support, strength and passion have her realizing that sometimes the best things in life come when they’re least expected.

My Thoughts: I received an advanced review copy of this book and was so excited to get my hands on this. This is the second book in McLaughlin's Man Enough series and I really liked the first one, All I Ask.

This story continues off of Reeve and Emily's story by focusing on one of Reeve's friends, Tyler, and the sister/caretaker of a student of Tyler's gym, Lia. Tyler and Lia are both great characters. They have flaws (stubbornness, self-doubt, moments of doing or saying the wrong thing) but they are both learning and growing and you can't help but root for them. 

McLaughlin has built such a great story with this series; the characters are all compelling, the settings come to life and make you really want to go there. I loved the references to the characters and storyline from All I Ask. It was a fun little game to catch all of these.

Overall I really recommend you pick this up when it comes out on 6/27/17, and definitely pick up All I Ask first if you haven't read that one yet.

Review copy provided by Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

Photo from Goodreads.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Book Review - The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord

From Goodreads: When it all falls apart, who can you believe in?

Everything is going right for Lucy Hansson, until her mom’s cancer reappears. Just like that, Lucy breaks with all the constants in her life: her do-good boyfriend, her steady faith, even her longtime summer church camp job.

Instead, Lucy lands at a camp for kids who have been through tough times. As a counselor, Lucy is in over her head and longs to be with her parents across the lake. But that’s before she gets to know her coworkers, who are as loving and unafraid as she so desperately wants to be.

It’s not just new friends that Lucy discovers at camp—more than one old secret is revealed along the way. In fact, maybe there’s much more to her family and her faith than Lucy ever realized.

My Thoughts: I read Lord's Open Road Summer a few years ago and she quickly moved onto my (very short) Authors I Will Always Pre-Order list. There is something about her writing that so perfectly captures the good and bad of life, people, places, everything that just really draws me in. I want to be Lord's friend and I want her to teach me how to be the kind of writer she is. And the thing is, the characters she creates are the kind of people you want to be friends with too.

This book made me laugh and made me practically sob. Look up the term emotional roller coaster and the definition should just be the cover of this book. Lucy is such a perfect character - she has flaws and she has so much to learn but you can't help but root for her, even if she's having a moment where you just want to shake her a little to get her to see what's really going on. All of the outside characters are amazing, from her family to the people at camp. You'll immediately start rooting for them all, even if you haven't quite figured out their whole story yet.

And that's another amazing thing about this book, just when you think you've got it all figured out there's suddenly a curve ball. And the best part is, the curve ball works. I never had a moment of thinking "what? That doesn't make sense." It was all perfect.

I cannot recommend this book enough. I honestly want to buy a copy for everyone I know and bring them a mug of hot chocolate when they're done. That's how amazing this book is.

Photo from Goodreads

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Book Review - All I Ask by Nicole McLaughlin

From Goodreads: Staff Sargent Reeve Miller lives by his own golden rules: Train hard, work hard, and f*ck hard. This way of thinking has served him well. He’s enjoyed a successful career in the military, started his own landscaping business while serving part time in the Guard, and left a string of very happy females in his wake… until he meets one feisty, smart woman in a bar looking for a one-night stand.

Emily Phillips is tired of working her ass off and not enjoying her life. According to her accountant, Emily is a millionaire. But her friends say she is a workaholic heading for lonely spinsterhood. The night of her high school best friend’s bachelorette party seems like a good time to try something new, and when the blue-collar hottie at the bar gives her the look, she’s ready to take a walk on the wild side. He makes it clear that he can give her a night to keep her very satisfied, and since it’s only a night, why bother sharing her title of CEO? But as one night becomes two and three, both Reeve and Emily find it harder to keep their hearts safe.

My Thoughts: I received an advance copy of this from Netgalley and was so excited to read this because I've loved Nicole's previous books and this one did not disappoint!

I really enjoyed this book. Emily and Reeve are great characters who you really feel like you get to know. You'll root for both of them, want to give both of them hugs at some point, and possibly even want to smack them both in the head to knock some sense into them once or twice.

McLaughlin creates a great story with a setting that will instantly seem familiar, characters that you'll become invested in, and a story you can't get enough of. 

Review copy provided by Netgalley. All opinions are my own. 

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Book Review - Year of Yes

Year of Yes: How to Dance it Out, Stand in the Sun and Be Your Own Person

From Goodreads: In this poignant, hilarious, and deeply intimate call to arms, Hollywood’s most powerful woman, the mega-talented creator of Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal and executive producer of How to Get Away with Murder reveals how saying YES changed her life—and how it can change yours too.

She’s the creator and producer of some of the most groundbreaking and audacious shows on television today: Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, How to Get Away with Murder. Her iconic characters—Meredith Grey, Cristina Yang, Olivia Pope, Annalise Keating—live boldly and speak their minds. So who would suspect that Shonda Rhimes, the mega talent who owns Thursday night television (#TGIT), is an introvert? That she hired a publicist so she could avoid public appearances? That she hugged walls at splashy parties and suffered panic attacks before media interviews so severe she remembered nothing afterward?

Before her Year of Yes, Shonda Rhimes was an expert at declining invitations others would leap to accept. With three children at home and three hit television shows on TV, it was easy to say that she was simply too busy. But in truth, she was also afraid. Afraid of cocktail party faux pas like chucking a chicken bone across a room; petrified of live television appearances where Shonda Rhimes could trip and fall and bleed out right there in front of a live studio audience; terrified of the difficult conversations that came so easily to her characters on-screen. In the before, Shonda’s introvert life revolved around burying herself in work, snuggling her children, and comforting herself with food.

And then, on Thanksgiving 2013, Shonda’s sister muttered something that was both a wake up and a call to arms: You never say yes to anything.

The comment sat like a grenade, until it detonated. Then Shonda, the youngest of six children from a supremely competitive family, knew she had to embrace the challenge: for one year, she would say YES to everything that scared her.

This poignant, intimate, and hilarious memoir explores Shonda’s life before her Year of Yes—from her nerdy, book-loving childhood creating imaginary friends to her devotion to creating television characters who reflected the world she saw around her (like Cristina Yang, whose ultimate goal wasn’t marriage, and Cyrus Beene, who is a Republican and gay). And it chronicles her life after her Year of Yes had begun—when Shonda forced herself out of the house and onto the stage, appearing on Jimmy Kimmel Live, and giving the Dartmouth Commencement speech; when she learned to say yes to her health, yes to play and she stepped out of the shadows and into the sun; when she learned to explore, empower, applaud, and love her truest self. Yes.

This wildly candid and compulsively readable book reveals how the mega talented Shonda Rhimes, an unexpected introvert, achieved badassery worthy of a Shondaland character. And how you can, too.

My Review: So first let me just get this out of the way: I am not a frequent resident of Shondaland and I'm not a frequent watcher of TGIThursday. I've seen Greys and did watch the first season or two but otherwise I don't really watch it. I also never watched Private Practice and I've never seen Scandal or How To Get Away with Murder. I may flip past Greys if I know something is going to happen (Oh, McDreamy....) but that's about it. So basically my Shonda watching stopped with Denny's heart (it's not a spoiler if it was like 8 years ago, right?).

So, why did I not only want to read this but want to so much I asked for it for Christmas? Because I think Shonda is impressive and I loved the concept.  I've spent the last few years trying to amp up my game, which is why last year's word was Conquer and this year's word is Do. I'm trying to take on life, carpe the heck out of the diem, not let life pass me by. So basically this book spoke to me, just by the description.

And it did not let me down. 

I saw so much of myself in Shonda it was kind of weird. I had no idea she was a nerdy kid who preferred reading to going out and doing. That was me as a kid. I had no idea she was so introverted as an adult and that she used her characters to express herself. That's me too. I love what she did on her year of yes. I hope that's what I'm doing now.

While I may not be saying yes to award shows, commencement addresses, or photo shoots the things I'm saying yes to (or should be saying yes to) are just as important to me and my life as those things are to Shonda. 

If someone like Shonda, who has so much attention on her and so much to lose by shaking up her life, can do this - say yes to the things in life that come her way - then so can I. This books reminds me of this.

I completely recommend this book, even if your word for the year isn't Do and your goal isn't to shake up your life. I think everyone can find something in this book that speaks to them, that makes them get up and go do something, or even that just makes them nod their head or laugh out loud (which I did a few times). This book definitely goes on the shelf with the other books that inspire me and that I reach for as inspiration again and again.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Welcome to 2016

A few years ago my friend Jennie introduced me to the idea of picking a word for the upcoming year - something to focus on and think about  as you travel through the next 12 months. I adore this concept and have done it the past few years.

In 2015 my word was Conquer and I feel like I did a pretty good job with that. I conquered some financial goals, I conquered some things I wanted to do around our house, I conquered a few small health related goals, and I really conquered some things with work. So having that word to focus on really worked for me.

It actually didn't take me too long to come up with my word for 2016 - Do. I'm very much a creature of habit, an introvert, and someone who doesn't like to step out of my routine. Ok and I can be a bit lazy at times too. So my goal for 2016 is to always keep the idea of Do in mind.

Do good.
Do well.
Do something fun.
Do something new.
Do something that scares you.
Do go on an adventure.
Do something with the ones who are important.
Do something that is important to you.
Do or do not, there is no try.
Do epic shit.
Do what needs to be done.
Do what you want to Do.
Just Do something!


So welcome to 2016, my year of the Do.


Does anyone else pick a word to describe their upcoming year? If so, what did you pick?


Tuesday, November 24, 2015

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