January in the books

The first month of 2020 was filled with a lot of rest and reading for me. I was sick with a cold for most of the month and although I spent a lot of time traveling for work, I still got in a lot of reading.

Here’s a look at what I read in January:

1. China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan – 3.5/5 stars

I’ve enjoyed reading the series. I preferred the first book but thought this was a solid continuation. It was funny, outrageous, and fun. I am team Rachel and will read the third and final book in the series at some point this year.

2. Verity by Colleen Hoover – 4/5 stars

This book was creepy. I read it in less than 48 hours because I wanted to know what happened. I had an idea where this thriller was heading plot wise but still ended up being somewhat surprised. The ending was a little ridiculous, but it got under my skin. I want to check out some other books by Colleen.

3. Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators – 5/5 stars

I listened to the audiobook and was floored. I thought I knew the story but there was so much to it that I didn’t know. I do suggest listening to the audiobook and hearing Ronan Farrow tell his own story. It is infuriating at most times because of the amount of people who have been silence and hurt by people in a position in power. It’s a powerful read and ended up being my favorite book I read in January.

4. The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley – 3/5 stars

I enjoyed this book. It’s not earth-shattering but it kept me guessing the whole time. I enjoyed learning more about each character as the book went on. I thought each character was guilty at different parts of the story and didn’t guess the ending. It’s fun to read a thriller or mystery novel that keeps you guessing.

5. Circe by Madeline Miller – 4/5 stars

I honestly was surprised I liked this book. Circe has a lot of great reviews, but I personally put off reading it for a long time because Greek mythology isn’t something I’ve enjoyed reading in the past. I downloaded the audiobook and couldn’t stop listening while I traveled for events. I enjoyed that it was a coming of age and a story about choosing your own path.

6. If You Want to Make God Laugh by Bianca Marais – 4.75/5 stars

Have you ever finished a book and exhaled and just sat in silence for a little bit as you thought about what you read? That was this book for me. I didn’t tear through it and it’s not a quick read at just over 400 pages. It took me a bit to get into it because of the short chapters and shifting perspectives of the three women, but I couldn’t help but fall in love with the book and the women in it. It’s both haunting and beautiful as well as heartbreaking and uplifting. Bookstagram made me read this one and It didn’t disappoint.

What books have you read so far this year? Would you recommend them?

How my bullet journal is helping me plan, organize, and keep memories in 2020

This new year I decided to start a bullet journal. Before getting started I read The Bullet Journal Method by Ryder Carroll, the creator of the Bullet Journal. I was a little overwhelmed at first wondering if I would be able to keep up with it.

Although I’m still a newcomer to the process it really has helped me plan, track, organize, journal, and keep memories.

The Bullet Journal really clicked for me when I saw it all come together on the page. The future log (for the year), monthly log, and daily log helped me feel more clear-headed and like I had the capability to tackle whatever task, work event, or errand I need to.

In the past I would buy planners and use them for three months before I set them aside and used them less and less as the year went on. The journal has allowed me to keep track of both work and personal stuff. I added a section to each of my daily logs to reflect on the day and keep track of memories.

I also started a section to keep track of the books I’m reading. I created a double spread to write down the books I read each month as well as a bookshelf where I can decorate a book cover. There is another double spread of a “book bracket” where I will choose the best book I read each month and narrow it down throughout the year until there is one book chosen as the book of the year.

One quote in the Bullet Journal Method book is, “in a cut-and-paste world that celebrates speed, we often mistake convenience for efficiency. When we take shortcuts, we forfeit opportunities to slow down and think. Writing by hand, as nostalgic and antiquated as it may seem, allows us to reclaim those opportunities…true efficiency is not about speed; it’s about spending more time with what truly matters.”

The first thing I learned about the bullet journal is that there are a lot of different versions. The creator of the method keeps his journal minimal but very detailed and creative spreads can be found on Instagram and Pinterest. I decided to make my daily logs a little more detailed but have attempted to start small and simple as to not overdo it.

I have created some special collections outside of the monthly and daily logs and the book spreads. I created a gratitude log, a short-term and long-term goals log, a photo log that I’ll update throughout the year, as well as a spread where I tracked the kind of tea my husband and I liked.

Here’s what I’ve used to create my bullet journal: A5 Dot Grid Notebook by Archer and Olive, a six-inch acrylic ruler, Tombow brush pens with soft and hard tips, Sakura Pigma Micron 05 Black pen, Midliners, and Crayola super tips markers.

Do you have a Bullet Journal? What tips do you have?

My year in books

This year I decided to make more time for reading. I grew up reading a lot of books and getting lost in the different worlds and I wanted to get back into the hobby that I enjoy so much. I set a goal of reading 50 books this year and today I finished my 54th book.

Shortest book: Elevation by Stephen King – 146 pages

Longest book: The Stand by Stephen King – 1153 pages

Least favorite books: The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna by Juliet Grames and The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh

Favorite books: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens, The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah, Where’d you go Bernadette by Maria Semple, and Beartown by Fredrik Backman

Favorite books broken down by genre:

General fiction – Beartown by Fredrik Backman and The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

Fantasy – After the Flood – Kassandra Montag

Mystery/thriller – The Whisper Man by Alex North

Horror – The Institute by Stephen King and Imaginary Friend by Stephen Chobsky

Memoir – Know My Name by Chanel Miller, Born a Crime by Trevor Noah, and Educated by Tara Westover

Young adult – Tell me three things by Julie Buxbaum

Science fiction – Recursion by Blake Crouch

Romance – Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan, Unhoneymooners by Christian Lauren, and Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory

Historical fiction – The Huntress by Kate Quinn and Lost Girls of Paris by Pam Jenoff

True crime – I’ll be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara

Detection fiction The Cuckcoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith

Debut Novel – Miracle Creek by Angie Kim

Some of the other books I read this year: Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult, Something in the Water by Catherine Steadman, The Night Oliva Fell by Christina McDonald, Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid, Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng, Bad Blood by John Carreyrou, The Other Woman by Sandie Jones, Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty, One Day in December by Josie Silver, River by Peter Heller, The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides, My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman, and Three Women by Lisa Taddeo.

It felt good to set a goal this year and meet and exceed it. I plan to continue reading in 2020 and have set a goal for 55 books next year. Some books on my to be read list include China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan, The Wedding Party by Jasmine Guillory, Twice in a Blue Moon by Christina Lauren, Children of Vengeance and Virtue by Tomi Adeyemi, and Daring Greatly by Brene Brown.

A conversation with Bob Goff

Bob Goff is the New York Times Best-Selling Author of Love Does and Everybody Always. But more than that he’s kind, loves Jesus, loves others, and helps people go after their dreams.

I had the opportunity to interview him recently and kept my cool on the outside, but inside I was fangirling. If you’ve read his books you understand he’s a gifted storyteller and I was honored to be able to hear some of his stories in person.

Bob discussed the power of love, availably, and building character rather than career.

“Instead of telling young people what they should do, we should remind young people about who they are and then they’ll figure out the rest,” he says. “…I want us all to take a genuine interest in each other.”

He told the story of a women named Kelly who received a heart transplant and now travels the world climbing mountains with her new heart.

“But here’s the deal, her heart always thinks it’s at sea level so she had to figure out how to whisper to her heart,” he says. “I hope young people are reminded about whispering to their heart about who they used to be, who they want to be, and what they want to be remembered for. I want to remind people about who they are – that’s where it gets good.”

His biggest advice is to maintain childlike faith as you get older.

Maintain youthful idealism and enthusiasm,” he says.  

Some other takeaways:

-There’s power in availability. Bob printed his cell phone number in the back of his book. He believes there’s a power in being present and available to the people in your life.
-God doesn’t think less of you because you keep messing up. Failure is part of the process and it’s more about how God helps us keep going.
-We can’t fix what we don’t understand. Go deeper to understand who you are and what you want to do. That will help you be able to change the things you want to change.
-Use what you already have to get what you want. You are gifted with certain skills and character traits. Use them to get what you want and encourage others to do the same in the process.
-Your words can impact others. Words can change everything for someone and God made it so ordinary people can launch each other.

I walked away from the conversation with a smile on my face. Bob’s smile and laugh is contagious as well as his love for others.

Want to know more about Bob? He’s an attorney and the founder of Love Does- a nonprofit human rights organization operating in Uganda, India, Nepal, Iraq, and Somalia.

Growing through loss

I had an epiphany at an Andy Grammer concert.

If you don’t know Andy Grammer, he is an American singer/songwriter and some of his singles have included “Keep Your Head Up”, “Fine by Me”, “Honey, I’m Good”, and “Good to Be Alive (Hallelujah).”

His latest album came out in July and is called Naïve. Grammer has said it’s for the light bringers and the people who choose to see the good in everything, even in the overwhelming chaos of bad. Some of my favorite songs from the album are “I Found You”, “She’d Say”, “Stay There”, and “Best of You.”

My husband and I attended his concert in Indianapolis on Sunday night and it was everything I thought it would be- joyful, inspiring, uplifting, positive, dance worthy, and sing-along-able.

When Grammer got to his song “Wish You Pain” he talked about how going through life’s difficulties can make you a stronger person and can help you grow. To illustrate this idea at his concert he asks an audience member to share a lesson they’ve learned from a painful time in their lives and then writes a song about it on the spot.

It was during this time that I started thinking about the past several years and how I’ve had some of these hard times. My father passed away three years ago, my father-in-law passed away two years ago, and my grandma passed away one year ago. But during that time I met and leaned on my now husband. I prayed more and leaned on God because all of these things were out of my control. I spent more time with my family. I spoke more openly about heartache, grief, and loss. I read and wrote more. I let myself be sad and happy and I spent more time growing into who I am right now.

I still miss them every day but I also know that a part of them is with me. So I’m choosing to lean into that and grow a little each day.

“If it’s stupid to see the good in everything, then call me naive.”

Andy Grammer

And just like that it’s fall

It’s hard to believe that it’s almost October. This year has flown by, especially these past two months. I’m really taking advantage of the new season to reset, slow down and enjoy the apples, books, pumpkins, cozy sweaters, fall-themed candles, cider, cooler temperatures, and turning leaves.

Here’s some fall inspired quote to kick off the season:

“And all at once, summer collapsed into fall.” -Oscar Wilde

“Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.” -F. Scott Fitzgerald

“Breathe in, folks. Smells like fall.” -Gilmore Girls

“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.” -Albert Camus

“Fall is a three-month exhale.” -Mari Andrew

“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” ―L. M. Montgomery

“Every leaf speaks bliss to me / Fluttering from the autumn tree.” -Emily Brontë

What’s your favorite quote about fall? Did I miss any?

My very own summer reading program

One of my favorite childhood memories is participating in my library’s summer reading program. Basically the more books you read, the more points you earn and you can exchange your points for prizes.

I decided this summer I would do my own summer reading program, if you will. No, there aren’t points or prizes. I’ve just been checking out books from the library and reading as much as I can.

Here are some of my favorite books I’ve read.

1). Beartown – Fredrik Backman

I started Beartown in the spring and read a few chapters before I put it down. The chapters were short but there were so many characters it was hard to keep them straight. I decided to pick it up again in June and I’m glad I did. It’s a slow burn, but the character development and story is so good. Beartown is a book about a hockey town, but it’s not a hockey book.

2). Us Against You – Fredrik Backman

I loved Beartown so much I had to read the sequel. Sometimes sequels get a bad rap, but I didn’t find that to be true with Us Against You. The book broke my heart into a million pieces, but in the best way. I fell in love with the characters and hurt when they hurt and cheered on their successes.

3). Miracle Creek – Angie Kim

Miracle Creek was more than just a thriller or courtroom drama. I thought the author did a great job of conveying deep, complex, and messy people. The book tackles family ties and facing the consequences of your actions. It also kept me guessing until the end.

4). The Lost Girls of Paris – Pam Jenoff

The Lost Girls of Paris started a little slow, but after awhile I couldn’t put it down. It’s a historical fiction novel about women working with the SOE as spies during World War II. It was nerve-wracking and pulled on my heartstrings at the same time. I can’t say I loved everything about it, but it did a great job of showing how fierce and resilient women are.

5). The Wedding Date – Jasmine Guillory

After diving into some historical fiction novels and thrillers, I needed a break. The Wedding Date was just what I needed. It was a quick read and it was charming. I loved reading about Alexa and Drew. I also read The Proposal – the second book in the series. The third book, The Wedding Party is up next for me.

Just like everyone, I have also read books that I wish I could unread.

The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna by Juliet Grames was that book for me. I thought it was unnecessarily long and unnecessarily depressing. It has a lot of good reviews on Goodreads, but it was not the book for me. I will say the beginning was intriguing and had a lot of promise and I liked reading about the Italian-American immigrant family. But, I found it so grim and depressing that I wouldn’t recommend reading it.

What about you? What are you reading? What did you like and what ended up on your did not finish list?