Tag Archives: book reviews

5 for Friday: What I’ve Been Reading


Well, it’s been a while since I’ve updated on what I’ve been reading. {Well, other than soup cookbooks or books about hygge!} Still, I have been reading a good mix of fiction, non-fiction, print and audio that it’s about time to let you in on what else I’ve read so far this year.


The Art of War
by Sun Tzu (nonfiction) – skip

This one came up on a list somewhere. I thought maybe it was one that included classics or texts that everyone should read. But truthfully, I think I found it on a list of “books you can read in a day”. Well, I didn’t because it really didn’t capture my attention. Yes, it’s great that we have a piece of this history available to us, but reading about strategies of war is not exactly my idea of a good time.


Good Karma
by Christina Kelly 
(fiction) – worth a read

With a photo of dog on the cover, I thought this book was going to be more about a dog than it really was. My hardest part was getting past the beginning – mostly the reality of the transition into retirement not being what one expects. Probably because I could see myself thinking entirely those things. But with a Savannah backdrop, a happy ending and a book including a dog, the read was a nice little escape.


The Perfume Collector
by Kathleen Tessaro (fiction) – worth a read

This book was handed to me by my mother-in-law last fall, who enjoyed it and encouraged me to read it. My TBR pile is quite large, but I wanted to make sure I’d read it before we visit again. She knows I love stories that take place in Paris! I also loved the historical context, a little empowerment of women along the way as well as the beautiful descriptors of scent as an art!


Madonna in a Fur Coat
by Sabahattin Ali (fiction) – worth a read/listen

I came across this book on a list of underrated books. The only way I could get my hands on a copy was by downloading it on audio from the library. For some reason, I am unable to get the volume high enough when I try to play books in the car connected via bluetooth, so this one is one I’d listen to at home with my earbuds in while I was doing dishes or putting the laundry away.

I really enjoyed it and it kept me cleaning! I knew nothing about the book in advance, which may have been why I read it. But I will tell you that it takes place in Turkey and Germany in the 20s and features a woman whose quotes I would have highlighted often if I had been reading the book in print! I guess you could say it’s a love story… but I feel that sometimes that is what turns people off from reading. It’s much more than that.


The Power
by Rhonda Byrne (fiction) – must listen

I’m a huge fan of The Secret, The Power, The Magic books. After I first read The Secret, I started keeping a gratitude journal. It changed my focus on what was going wrong on a daily basis to what was going right. Back when I was doing in-home wine tastings, a woman on my team said that she not only read the book, but had the audio version that she’d listen to in her car. I found it genius to listen to positive practices on repeat!

When The Power came out, I never bought it in print, only on audio. Unfortunately, I lost the CDs in our car accident two years ago because they always stayed in my car. On a side note, perhaps it was because of gratitude that we walked away from that event because if you read my post, the words “thank you for our safety” went through my head during each turn of our rollover.

Still, I recently found a used library copy of the audio version of The Power on Thriftbooks {<–referral link} and I once again have my own to listen to whenever I desire. It felt really good to listen to it again. It’s like it came back into my life at the right time. Which means that the universe is always responding!


What is the most underrated book you’ve read?



Five for Friday: What I’ve been Reading


Each week day, I think of something other than books that I can post about: my awesome birthday, our summer trip to Duluth Charter Fishing, any new restaurant/brewery we tried, our new deck that our friend Dom built for us, all the cooking I’ve done lately, anything and everything about our pupper dogs. Still, I come up short with the time and enthusiasm to post anything other than book lists as of late.

People, I haven’t even had time to go on trips this year! {I know, poor me! First world problems!!!!} The one we trip we did take this year {other than to visit family} was back in April/May to beautiful Charleston, South Carolina. Maybe one day, I’ll post on that. In the meantime, here’s what I’ve been reading… (Mostly before bed!)


Reading People
by Anne Bogel 
(nonfiction) – worth a read

I wasn’t intending on purchasing this book and until I listened to Bogel read her first chapter on on her blog Modern Mrs. Darcy. Let’s just say that I learned a thing or two about myself, most importantly that I am an HSP. I’ve been many times throughout my life that I’m sensitive, but it has always had a negative spin on it, such as “You are just too sensitive!” or “You’re just going to need to get over that!” To me, being highly sensitive felt like a character flaw. I’ve learned that is not the case. And being an HSP doesn’t mean one is overly sensitive to emotions or that people need to tiptoe around you. It also means that too many people talking at me at one time can be frustrating. Or that I need time to sort things out if they feel like they are thrown at me all at once. I now know that it is a trait not a flaw and can learn how to work with it. I’m looking at reading more up on this topic.

That being said, describing an HSP is only a small blurb in the book. There is much more to this! Overall, I’d say it’s very helpful in pointing out how everyone is different, why not everyone thinks nor reacts in the same way and that we shouldn’t expect anyone to do so. Understanding these different types might explain some of your relationships and help with frustrations and help to appreciate the people in your life for who they are. It’s about understanding not only your own personality, but others as well.


A Three Dog Life
by Abigail Thomas 
(fiction) – worth a read


Per the usual, I have no idea how I heard of this book. I’m sure I was drawn to it by the word “dog” in the title. Before I read it, I showed my husband the little quote on the front by Stephen King. He is a huge King fan and said that he knows he’s a dog-lover; but Rob said he still didn’t want to read it. He doesn’t like when a book ends with a dog dying. Okay, so he wouldn’t like it if the dog died in the middle of a book either. He just can’t handle it.

I’m not giving anything away here by telling you that this is not what happens. This book is more about life after the author’s spouse’s accident. They dogs comfort her, but there was so much more to this book than expected. It makes me wonder, “What would I have done?”


Scrappy Little Nobody
by Anna Kendrick (non-fiction) – worth a flip

My reading of this little autobiographical account of Kendrick’s journey to Hollywood fame coincided with revealing of the Harvey Weinstein scandal. While she mentions nothing about Weinstein nor any other sexual harassment accounts that I can think of now, by her descriptions on what is like to try to make a career living out of acting, I can definitely see how blowing the horn on someone would be difficult!

While Kendrick does benefit from fame and fortune now, I found it interesting how fortune didn’t immediately follow the fame game! {At least in her case.} Her accounts of what it is like to promote a big film in the midst of becoming famous and still going back to her tar-stained carpeted apartment and fall asleep in her single IKEA bed all while feeling like promoting the whole thing was a lie gave me a new perspective.

Her writing style is one that makes you feel like you are hearing from a friend. I felt like I got to know her in this quick read. Her down-to-earth vibe feels relatable, even if you aren’t a celebrity. Her hope is that her book might make feel a “little less alone, a little less weird.”



The Book of “Unnecessary” Quotation Marks:
A Celebration of Creative Punctuation

by Bethany Keeley (non-fiction) – worth a read

Somehow, someway, when I went down the rabbit hole that is the internet, I came across the “blog” of “unneccessary” quotation marks. I spent a lot of down time laughing at that site. Grammar geeks, rejoice! You will have a ton of fun reading these signs by readers. While the submissions themselves are funny due to incorrect usage, Keeley’s comments and explanations can push some to over-the-top hilarious.

The book might be even better. When I read that she published one, I promptly ordered it from PaperBackSwap.com. The book is separated into sections by usage. {You might even learn a thing or two!} My favorite, however, may be the Miscellaneous section at the back of the book. This book did a stint on my coffee table, sparking laughs and conversation!


Goodbye, Vitamin
by Rachel Khony (fiction) – worth a read

LOOK! Me reading fiction! I don’t know why I’ve been reading so much non-fiction lately. Partly, it’s all the cookbooks: I’ve been trying to read one of those a week! Still, this one is a quick and easy read. The writing is almost fluffy, while it’s not a fluffy subject. I’m not sure anyone will understand what I mean there. But it’s a quick enough read that you can make up your own mind. 😉


To be quite honest, I’m missing my commute so I can listen to audiobooks! The one on the top of my list needs a good 36 hours of drive-time. Sure, I know people who clean, eat breakfast or listen to audiobooks at other times of they day. However, I find it impossible. I miss so much when I start concentrating on what I’m doing and lose concentration of the story.


If you listen to audiobooks, when do you listen to them?
Any tips and tricks to get in more audiobook time?


5 Books I’ve Been Reading


Yeah, one day I’ll get off the books on Fridays. It just seems this is where they fall… Here are the five latest books I’ve finished.

The Couple Next Door 
by Shari Lapena
 (fiction) – toss up


I listened to the audio version of this book. I found the narrator’s voice a bit annoying; but really, it probably worked for the genre. It was entertaining, but not something I’d say is a must read that you need to go and check out immediately. I liked it enough to finish it, but I’m not sure I’d recommend it. Maybe reading over listening to this one would have been different for me.


Love Poems
by Nikki Giovanni
 (poetry) – worth a read if you like poetry


As usual, unless it is a personal friend who has recommended a book, I can’t figure out where I got the idea to it. To be honest, I don’t always “get” poetry. Many of these poems seemed very personal to the author, too. So it almost felt like I was the odd one out. But, there were a few I really enjoyed. And sometimes, I imagined them being put to music and that made those seem a bit more enjoyable, too. Because isn’t that what songs are – poems set to music?


by Tina Fey
 (non-fiction) – worth a read/listen


I love listening to comedians’ books on audio; so this was no different! It passed the time nicely on commute, Fey forcing me to laugh out loud more than once. I especially liked her section on photoshopping. She compares it to make-up, that we all want to see the best version of ourselves. And that magazines aren’t fooling anyone, so what’s the harm? The only one fooled is your 80-year-old grandma who thinks that really is Sarah Palin posing with a machine gun in an American flag bikini. Fey also predicts that we’ll one day be touching up all of our own photos of ourselves. This book was published in 2011. Um, yes, you were right, Tina. You were definitely right.


They May Not Mean To, But They Do
by Cathleen Schine
 (fiction) – worth a read


This book is a work of art; but I had a hard time reading it – not because of style of writing or a lack of plot – but because of the content. I didn’t want to pick it up again and endure the lives of the characters. I didn’t want to feel what it’s like to age and or for your kids to mean well, but not really come through the way you might have hoped.

I read this book described somewhere as a “different kind of coming-of-age story”. Coming-of-old-age, that is. Although it is inevitable for us all, I don’t want to think what this will be like when my own parents and in-laws get to those stages, nor do I like thinking about what it will be like for me. Schine features both perspectives here. I was a bit overrun with emotions reading this.


The Dead
by James Joyce
 (fiction) –Hmmm…



I don’t always do well with the classics or what feels like overly-flowery language to me. However, I think watching Downton Abbey helped set me up for something written in such times past. I’ve never read Joyce before and I’ve learned that this is actually the last short story in the book Dubliners. Although it was a fine story illustrating what may have been life during these times in Dublin, I wasn’t sure where it was going… and per the usual, I didn’t really think much of the ending. But an ending I love is quite rare.


Is there a book that was difficult for you to read, but you still enjoyed and appreciated it?


5 for Friday – Last of the 2016 Book Series!


After this post, I should be about all caught up with what I’ve been reading. Well, except for all of the holiday books I’ve been reading. I’m going to write that post, but save it for just before the holidays next year to, you know, get you in the holiday spirit. So let’s just get right to it!



Today Will be Different
by Maria Semple 
(fiction) – worth a read

Semple is probably best known for Where’d You Go Bernadette, which I have not yet read. I liked this character’s honesty about how she feels. It was a quick, easy read; but in retrospect, I can’t remember the ending. I probably didn’t like it.



The Girls
by Emma Cline
 (fiction) – worth a read

This book had so much hype and high ratings. I was on my library waiting list for a long time before I received the notification that it was ready to be picked up. Cline is a definitely a talented writer. She can describe situations in such a beautiful way and envoke a mood. And while the story content is very intriguing, I felt some of the book was left unfinished. Not necessarily the ending, but maybe parts of it. There are also pieces that were either never explained or that had me confused what the purpose was to the story. I’m still not 100% sure why she was so fearful at the beginning of the book nor what she was really doing, other than reflecting.



Behind Closed Doors
by B.A. Paris
 (fiction) – must read

Yes! I never *think* that I’m a person who likes thrillers, but once I got a bit into this book. I couldn’t put it down. One Sunday, I made my husband wait until I was finished with it before I would go out to dinner.

I find the tagline on the book, “The perfect marriage or the perfect lie?” kind of annoying and it almost turned me off at first. But guess what? I loved the ending. And not because of what happens. You figure that out way before the story actually ends and it’s just the details that matter. The ending I liked was the very last page – and the dialogue that transpires.



Another Brooklyn
by Jacqueline Woodson
 (fiction) – worth a read

Woodson is a poetic author. I think I would have enjoyed this book more if I had a big chunk of time or a long afternoon to read this. Instead, due to life circumstances, I was only reading tidbits at a time and I had a hard time picking up where I left off. It’s a short book, so it should be savored in one or two sittings, I think. This is the second book of Woodson’s that I’ve read. I’m starting to see a theme in her stories…



Talking As Fast As I Can:
From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls (and everything in between)
by Lauren Graham (non-fiction) – worth a read (especially if you liked Gilmore Girls)

Yes, I’m a Gilmore Girls fan and spent Black Friday binging (boy do I hate that word) the revival with one of my best friends. I found it so wonderful to revisit that story that I was somewhat confused by all of the backlash after it aired! Still, Graham’s book became available at my library shortly thereafter. I guess I didn’t know a ton about her; my only intrigue was the show. But I learned a bit more about her through the book… and how crazily the Gilmore Girls Revival all came together!

One of my favorite lines:

But life doesn’t often spell things out for you or give you what you want exactly when you want it, otherwise it wouldn’t called life, it would be called a vending machine.

Graham also wrote a novel – Someday, Someday Maybe – which is on my “to-read” list.


 Maybe next week I’ll recap the best books I read all year.

What is the best book you’ve read this year?


5 for Friday – I Hate Book Endings!


While I don’t always plan to do my 5 for Friday posts about books, I feel the need to catch up since I’ve been gone for so long. I love to read l others’ short recaps on books to know what I would like to spend my time reading or what I can ultimately skip.

But here is something you may not know about me…

Although I love to read, I usually hate the endings to books.

Generally it’s not because they don’t turn out the way that I’d like. It’s because they often feel rushed, like the author really just wanted to hurry up and finish. Other times, they add too much extra stuff that didn’t need to be just to explain what happened after the book’s climax. And still other times, the ending just fades into the distance, leaving me feeling lost. I think, “why did they even mention XYZ.” There is often no explanation nor did that part have any importance to the structure of the story.

Now, know that I’ve never taken a creative writing class outside of high school nor do I have any training in plot development. I’m only offering up my feelings on how a book makes me, as a reader, feel. This is what adds or subtracts to the enjoyment of a book.

Despite this fact of disliking endings, that doesn’t mean that there are books I don’t love nonetheless. It’s strange, isn’t it? But let’s carry on…



It Ends with Us
by Colleen Hoover
 (fiction) – worth a read

I’ve never read one of Hoover’s books; but I’m told that fans of hers will find this a very different novel from her others. I really liked the opening line of the book, but as the storyline grew, I got really annoyed. There were times that I almost threw it across room and thought I should just put the damn thing down. I mean, I was on a yoga retreat at the time and shouldn’t have been reading something that wasn’t calming me, right?

But it was like a trainwreck and I ended up staying up one night while on the retreat just to finish it and was glad I did. I liked how this one ended and the message the author was trying to convey. Really.


The Gifts of Imperfection
by Brené Brown
 (non-fiction) – worth a read?

It’s been a while since I’ve read this book and I can’t remember too much about it. That’s why I’m so glad I took notes! It’s sad when you think of a book you read where you can’t recall any tidbit of new information nor how a story ended. I should take more notes, really.

My Notes:

  • A description on the book reads “Your Guide to a Whole Hearted Life”. I wouldn’t agree that it is a guide. There is a lot of theory here, but not a specific guide. Brown is a researcher, and a very good one at that. Still, she does a much better job at describing her findings rather than guiding you into such a life.
  • Brown has extensively studied shame and the number one thing I learned: You need to talk about it. Everybody feels it. Acknowledging it can help you feel better and move past it.
  • Religion and spriituality = connectiveness. I have not spent much of my life focusing on this area, so the fact that I was at a yoga retreat put this into perspective. To me, it related to mindfulness, too.
  • Boundaries – I wrote this one word. I can’t remember why, but I think it was about creating boundaries with other people. I also have “prana-sucking” written next to it, which I note was not in the book, but we explored prana in one of our workshops at the retreat. I think setting boundaries had something to do with the people in my life you suck the prana out of me! Now. how to do that is another story. I’m not so great with that.
  • You can never love others more than your self. Brown goes into depth on this and it was pretty eye-opening. But I could never explain it myself to you.
  • Create a different kind of list – one that lists your ingredients for joy and meaning in your life, meaning list the specific conditions that are in place when everything feels good in life. Compare this to your to-do list. It’ll put things in perspective.

Boy am I glad I took notes! When thinking about this book, nothing triggered in my brain, but those notes sure did!



The Happiness Dare:
pursuing your heart’s deepest, holiest, and most vulnerable desire

by Jennifer Dukes Lee
 (non-fiction) – DNF

I’m always interested on reading books about happiness. Who doesn’t want to want the happiest life they can possibly live? Reading about it always gives me new ways to look at what happiness means to me. I can also discover new ways to create it in my life. However, I couldn’t get past the beginning. Maybe I’m reading too many of these books as of late or maybe I was turned off by the incorporation of religion to more of an extent than I’d like.



The Travelers
by Chris Pavone
 (fiction) – worth a read

This is a thriller that I thought would read more quickly than it did, but it could have been my life circumstances. I liked how many places I got to travel through this book, as well as trying to figure out who was who. I could see it as a thrilling action-packed movie, though not a blockbuster. Though, I would see it for the landscapes! Decent ending for someone who doesn’t like endings. 🙂



Skinnytaste: Fast and Slow
by Gina Holmoka, Heather K. Jones
 (cookbook) – must read

Did you know that I read cookbooks like novels? I may occasionally skip a passage and I don’t read every line or ingredient, but I do read them from cover to cover. Although I rediscovered the library just this past year, it wasn’t until very recently that I could check out cookbooks! One can often order cookbooks via kindle, but I don’t like reading them on my phone. I’d rather thumb through the pages and mark my favorites.

But borrowing a cookbook from the library is like giving it a test drive! I read this cookbook on the way to Green Bay in November (while my husband drove, of course) and by the time I’d finished I knew I’d be returning the book and purchasing it for myself as well as for Christmas gifts. (Shh…)

Holmoka – who blogs at Skinnytaste, which I’ve been following for years – offers up flavorful recipes made with real food that’s healthy but can be fit into a busy lifestyle. Recipes are either quick and easy (fast) or thrown into the crockpot (slow). Genius.


 Do you take notes when you read books? Why/how?

Have you ever discovered a cookbook elsewhere, but after thumbing through it, knew you had to have it?


5 for Friday – What I’ve Been Reading


I always love the 5 for Friday posts I see across the web. There is something wonderful or people expressing 5 little tidbits that come together, whether they be expressions of gratitude, products or services liked, events that happened, links they enjoyed.

Since I’ve been absent for over two months, you can imagine that I was either busy or not motivated. I was overcome with waves of emotion that only a good book could tame and keep my brain occupied. I thought about grouping the books together for you in little 5 for Friday snip-its; but they proved more difficult to categorize than I thought. Besides, I didn’t want to share all of my favorites and then have a post of duds! So you may just get them chronologically over the next few weeks.

All of the books in this post were read right around our October trip to Michigan…



Underground Airlines
by Ben H. Winters 
(fiction) – worth a read

It’s present day. However, 4 states in the U.S. have not abolished slavery. Seriously. It’s a crazy concept. I heard a review of this book on NPR while driving to Green Bay one weekend. I was immediately intrigued. While I felt a different story could have been done much better in this insane setting, I could see this book as a movie. Though, I haven’t researched if that will be happening.



Loner: A Novel
by Teddy Wayne
 (fiction) – worth a read

I knew nothing about this book before reading it, nor do I remember where I heard about it. It’s a new release that I put on hold and got to be the first to read my library’s version when it came available. Whoa. I don’t want to give too much away and giving my opinion of what it reminds me would spoil the end. Let’s just say that it’s written from an, um… interesting perspective.



Beautiful Blue World
by Suzanne LaFleur
 (fiction) – worth a read

Whoa. This is an imaginative take on war and how children could be sent to participate. It takes place in a total fictional setting from the eyes of a child. It’s a very quick read and filled with emotion.



Hyperbole and a Half:
unfortunate situations, flawed coping mechanisms, mayhem, and other things that happened

by Allie Brosh
 (non-fiction) – worth a read

This is a book with illustrations from the blog of the same name. I discovered it when I was looking for some feel-good books. I like the humorous perspective because it makes you laugh, but it’s not 100% feel-good. I was, however, intrigued by her take on depression. Also, some good dog stuff, too… if you like that sort of thing. (I do.)



Miracle’s Boys
by Jacqueline Woodson
 (fiction) – worth a read

This is a quick, worthy read of only 144 pages. What amazes me is how Woodson can fill such few pages with a full and beautifully-told story. I’ve just read another book of hers and find her writing soothing even though she explores how death affects people.



The Bafut Beagles
by Gerald Durrell (non-fiction?) – DNF

I know that this book turns my “5 things Friday” in 6, but I wanted to add a book that I Did Not Finish.

I ordered this book from PaperbackSwap.com because I couldn’t find it at my local library even though it gets such high ratings on GoodReads. It was the last book I was reading on our trip to Michigan and I was having such a hard time pushing through it. It is an account of the author’s trip to the Cameroons in the 1949 for the collection of zoo specimens. I believe that is is non-fiction; but the book reads more like a novel and some of the accounts just seem unbelievable or embellished. But what do I know about such things or that era?

It was a difficult book for me to read because of some of the treatment of the animals, but would we know about so many animals in the world today if someone had not collected specimens? Alas, I unintentionally left this book behind at my in-laws’ place. I didn’t bother with asking them to send it to me. I wasn’t really enjoying it anyway.

Name your favorite feel good books! {fiction or non-fiction}

{I’m looking for suggestions!}


Up in Here… This & That


Well, hello there, beautiful blog…

It’s been a week. Did you miss me?

What’s been goin’ on up in here, you ask?

Well, let me tell ya…

I’m sure you’ve heard the adage that if you want to be happier, you need to do more of the things you love. So I’ve been doing…


I’m not sure I love this yet, but I’ve been diligent with my weight training with my Personal Trainer – aka my husband {and I love him!} So far, I have lifted three times a week, every week in 2016. Knock. On. Wood.



I made this recipe this week when I had the girls over for dinner. It turned out better than I anticipated…

Marinated Kale & Chicken Bowls with Sundried Tomato Sauce

Marinated Kale & Chicken Bowls with Sundried Tomato Sauce

The “sauce” was more like a topping, really, and I have so much left over! I decided to put some on my eggs with avocado this morning.


I’ve been obsessed with “bowls” ever since I had the Autumn Bowl at Studio 2

Here are some on my list of bowls to try:



I finally, after all this time, have gotten back into reading… How did I forget how much I loved always having a book to read? What makes it even better is that I gave myself permission to stop reading something if I didn’t like it. And the best part – I’m reading what I want to now. All I had to do was update/renew my library card and put books on hold. It’s wondrous. Here are a few books I’ve been reading this year:

Emory's Gift

Fiction – Emory’s Gift was a good read, though I much prefer Cameron’s books A Dog’s Purpose and A Dog’s Journey. Those books left me wanting more written in that style.

It was me all along

Non-fiction – Mitchell’s memoir is a must-read for anyone struggling with weight or disordered eating. You can also follow her healthy eating blog here.

all dogs go to kevin

Non-fiction – I don’t know why I’m into dog books so much lately. In any case, this is a must-read if you own a pet. I love Vogelsang’s perspective as both a vet and a pet owner. You can also find her blog here. {It’s how I found out about her book!}



We went from having no vacations to having all of them for the year booked in a matter of weeks! Here’s where we are so lucky to go this year:

  • Winter Trip/Domestic Trip: Phoenix – Got any must sees or dos? We are visiting friends and family, so we have no real agenda.
  • Annual Trip: Michigan to spend time with Rob’s parents {We want to start making this bi-annual and this is the year to start!}
  • Quick Weekend Getaway: Chicago – This was a spontaneously booked event! It’s only because Frontier had a $39 each way deal and we found a decent hotel for about $100/night. And – it just happens to be over our anniversary.
  • International Trip: Quebec – Can you believe I’ve never been to Canada before?
  • Green Bay: And of course, we make our quick jaunts to Green Bay for our Packer games and Christmas toward the end of the year.

What do you love to do that makes you happy?

Are you doing more of that this year?