My Italian Bulldozer – Alexander McCall Smith: What a fantastic, easy-to-read, fun book – especially as you’re on a train traveling throughout the Italian countryside. Thanks to Mom for buying it for me to take to Italy, as it was absolutely perfect. It’s a quirky read about a food writer going through a divorce who just needed to get away and get inspired. It’ll leave you salivating for a trip to Montalcino.
Option B – Sheryl Sandberg: I’ve already written an entire blog post about this book, so I’ll keep this short. This book rips you apart, then helps put you back together again. I want everyone to read it – especially if you’re grieving or if you’re close to someone who is.
The Magnolia Story – Chip and Joanna Gaines: If you’re a fan of Fixer Upper, you’ll be a fan of this book. It gives you an inside look at the Gaines’ story – from their first date to their first call from HGTV and everything in between. It’s an interesting, refreshing love story that makes you fall in love with Chip and Jo even more. (And I didn’t even think that was even possible.)
Into The Water – Paula Hawkins: From the writer of Girl On The Train (one of my favorite books of 2015), I was a little skeptical about this one. I wasn’t sure how she could possibly follow such an incredible debut. Yet, she did. Though not quite as thrilling and page-turning as the previous, the story and characters were still terrific. I was thoroughly entertained throughout and pleasantly surprised. Her next book will definitely be on my list.
You can read all my book reviews here.
As you know, I typically do book review posts with short commentary on books I’ve read and give them a grade. I love sharing what I’m reading and inspiring others to read more as well.
However, sometimes there are books that are just so eloquent and inspirational, they deserve their own post. First of which was Carry On, Warrior, which you can read here. And now, Option B by Sheryl Sandberg.
I read Sheryl’s first book, Lean In when it came out several years ago and loved it. I blogged about it in my book reviews in 2013 and gave it an A, saying it had inspired me to lean in and take more control of my career. I knew then Sheryl was a remarkable, passionate woman and someone to follow.
Fast forward to her new book, Option B. Not only do I still believe she is a remarkable, passionate woman, but I’m convinced her writing is changing peoples lives all around the world, something I’ve always aspired to. And I say that, because her writing changed my life back in 2013 and again in 2017, and I’m just a simple 20-something girl in small-town Bentonville.
Option B is about facing adversity, building resilience and finding joy. It sounds like it could be a cheesy self-help novel, right? Completely wrong.
She opens the novel by sharing the story of her husband’s sudden death while on vacation in Mexico, and having to travel home and tell the kids their father wasn’t coming home. I read this on a train in Italy and had to literally stop myself from just losing it. It was so real and so raw and so emotional, and I could feel it all.
The thing about this book is, though it rips you apart, it then helps put you back together again. As she was telling her story of grief, it opened up all the wounds of my own grief from a few years ago when my Dad died. But then it put me back together again. Not only could I relate to so many things she wrote (like, the elephant in the room or using journaling as therapy), but she also gives very practical advice on how to build resilience and find joy again. She validated all of my feelings and reminded me I wasn’t alone on this journey of grief, even 3.5 years later.
I want everyone to read this book. Especially if you’re grieving or if you’re close to someone who is. And if for any reason you can’t afford it, I will buy one for you.
“Life is never perfect. We all live some form of Option B. This book is to help us all kick the shit out of it.”
Fates and Furies – Lauren Groff: There are only two reasons this book gets A minus – it starts a little slow and it’s a little too long. But everything else about it is just fabulous. It is a truly epic and fascinating love story that takes you on a ride with no clue of the final destination. Told in two parts – Fates is from the husband’s perspective and Furies is from the wife’s perspective. The latter infinitely more interesting and has a shocking twist.
What Alice Forgot – Liane Moriarty: I’ve read several of Liane’s books, and I absolutely adored this one. It’s a tragic plot – she hits her head and has seemingly forgotten 10 years of her life, including her kids and her failing marriage – but it’s also so endearing. She sees her current life through a totally new, un-jaded lense and vows to get her marriage back on track. It’s cute, it’s easy, and it makes you thankful for what you have.
Wearing God – Lauren F. Winner: Highly recommended from a friend, I’m passing along this recommendation to all of you. This is a thought-provoking book about metaphors of God – though not the ones you immediately think of such as King or Shepherd, more like Clothing, Laughter, Laboring Woman… intrigued yet? This is a great book to read with a friend and discuss together. It will probably make you feel uncomfortable, but I promise it will also give you a new perspective on God.
The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood: I vowed to read this book before I watched the show on Hulu, and I’m so glad I did. Oh.My.Gosh. This book AND the TV show are absolutely incredible. It’s creepy and weird and will make you cry and will make you gasp, but it is such a good story. I’m so glad Hulu has taken it over so well and expanded upon the book, because I finished it and was dying for more.
You can read all my book reviews here.
What She Knew – Gilly Macmillan: This falls in to the typical genre of books I lean towards – thriller with a lead female character who’s a little shady (a la Gone Girl, Girl on the Train). That being said, I enjoyed it enough, but it didn’t hold up against the others on the list which kept me turning the pages all night. The ending didn’t close all the holes and left you with an uneasy feeling.
Present Over Perfect – Shauna Niequiest: Let me start by saying, I love Shauna Niequiest. She gets me, I get her and she is just wonderful. I love love loved her book Bread and Wine, which I’ve reviewed previously, so I was highly anticipating this book. However, it kind of let me down. There were great points that I totally related to, especially the main point of the book being present over perfect, but it seemed to kind of ramble/drag on. This would have been better in a series of blog posts or a chapter or two of another book.
The Girls – Emma Cline: This book has been on my list for forever, finally became available at the library, and oh my gosh I devoured it! Set in 1960s California, the book follows a teenage girl who gets caught up in a cult that ends very very badly. I was fascinated not only with the cult, but also the transformation of the main character. If you’re interested in cults at all or just want a unique read that will pull you in, this is for you.
The River at Night – Erica Ferencik: What I learned from this book: I will never ever ever go white water rafting in a remote location, especially on an annual girls trip – which is exactly the basis of this book. The book started out a little slow and I almost put it down, but then it started getting intense and I just couldn’t turn my eyes away from the horror. And it was literally that, horror. I couldn’t put the book down the last 100 pages, though I’m not sure it’s because I was enjoying it. It still freaks me out to think about it now.
You can read all my book reviews here.
Mermaids in Paradise – Lydia Millet: This book is funny and spunky and totally surprised me with how enjoyable it was. I’ve always loved anything mermaids so when I heard about this one (a couple honeymooning in the Caribbean stumbles upon mermaids) it sounded right up my alley. It’s a little weird/sci-fi-ish, but still a fun, easy read. Warning: the ending is extremely weird. And if you read it, we must talk about it.
Talking as Fast as I Can – Lauren Graham: What a perfect stocking stuffer from Husband! I adore Lauren Graham and this book was no exception. She is so personable and quirky, and you can literally hear her voice reading the book to you. The best parts of the book were when she talked behind the scenes of Gilmore Girls and gave you juicy info like you’re an insider. However, if you haven’t watched GG or Parenthood, you might feel a little alienated reading the book.
Paris My Sweet – Amy Thomas: Another great surprise Christmas gift from Mom! This book follows an advertising copywriter as she moves from NYC to Paris, and eats her way through the City of Light and all the sweets it has to offer. I love both cities and love desserts, so this book sounded perfect for me, as Mom said. (And it was!) It reads like fiction, but is actually non-fiction so the book also gives you loads of places to actually visit in NYC or Paris for the best macaron or cupcake or chocolate chip cookie or anything your heart so desires.
Executive Presence – Sylvia Ann Hewlett: It’s often difficult to force myself to read these types of books instead of getting lost in a fictitious world, but I’m always glad when I do. This was a very practical book for anyone in the business world. The author shares the qualities of Executive Presence (EP), why they’re important, studies and stories to go with each, then tips for how to get better at each. I thought it dragged on just a touch, but overall I gained some good personal knowledge for my own EP.
You can read all of my book reviews here.
T V S H O W S
5. Gilmore Girls: A Year In The Life – Netflix: I have been on pins and needles waiting for this show for a year. Well, actually more than that since I’ve wanted more ever since it ended!! I was so concerned it wouldn’t live up to my high expectations, and while it clearly wasn’t my number 1 for the year, it definitely makes the top 5. There were a few quirks about it I didn’t love, but overall I felt like I was chatting with my old friends again, going to my old haunts and swooning over my old boyfriends (#TeamJess). I binged this all day with a friend and it just made me so, so happy. Full blog post to come soon.
4. The Crown – Netflix: This show is absolutely fascinating. If you have any interest in the Royal family or British history, then this should be a must on your list to get an inside look at the rise of Queen Elizabeth II at 25 years old (crazy!!). The acting is absolutely phenomenal and the show is extremely well made. I can’t wait for more seasons as they introduce Prince Charles and Princess Diana.
3. Younger – TV Land: I love this show!!! This is the show I’m dying to watch every single week and indulge myself in without husband. The characters are so fun and relatable, and makes me wish I was in the publishing industry in NYC. This season they introduced a love triangle that pulls at all the heartstrings. (#TeamJosh) It just ended and I’m already dying for more!
2. Westworld – HBO: I was super skeptical about watching this. All of our friends claimed they stopped watching The Walking Dead and started watching this instead. So while it took me a minute to give it a chance, I was hooked from the very first episode. It is sooooo creepy and will have you seriously concerned about the future of AI, but you won’t be able to tear yourself away.
1. Stranger Things – Netflix: It can’t be a surprise to anyone that this was my number 1 show of the year. We dressed up as the kids for Halloween, and we found and stood in line for a Stranger Things bar over Christmas. If you love 80s nostalgia, being a little bit scared and rooting for a group of adorable kids then put this first on your list.
Way to go, Netflix! Seriously, they are stepping up their game in the original TV show department – 3/5 on my list! Sadly, there were a few shows this year that have been on my list in previous years, but are slowly declining … namely, The Walking Dead.
B O O K S
5. Bread & Wine – Shauna Niequist: I.am.obsessed.with.this.book. I seriously could read it all over again right now. The author shares life stories and intermingles them with her favorite recipes. I felt like I was in her kitchen, living life with her, breaking bread and drinking wine. She is so honest and transparent, and shares her faith in such an amazing way.
4. Along the Infinite Sea – Beatriz Williams: This book captured me from the first chapter. It tells the story of two very different women, one growing up in WWII and one in 1960s America, and how their lives intertwine. This is a dazzling love story that will sweep you off your feet, thanks to the incredible writing. By the end I was bawling and dying for more.
3. The Nightingale – Kristin Hannah: I adored this book! Set in France in WWII following two stories, it was reminiscent of All The Light We Cannot See (my #1 book of 2015). The character development was phenomenal and the writer painted the scenes so well. At one point I was crying so hard because I felt like I was in an internment camp and told husband through bleary eyes how I just couldn’t get over the fact that this happened in real life. Yes, there are some sad parts, but I promise you will not regret reading it.
2. Me Before You – Jojo Moyes: This book surprised me so much by how much I enjoyed it. It had been on my reading list for a couple of years now, and I finally decided to give it a shot when I saw it at the library. It is such a beautiful tragic love story that makes you fall in love with the characters and then cry your eyes out at the end.
1. Brain on Fire – Susannah Cahalan: This is one of those books (like I’ve said before in my reviews) you just HAVE to read! Seriously, go buy it right now. It’s a true story about a 24-year-old journalist who gets very sick, very fast, and no one can figure out what is wrong. You will be fascinated by the medical and biological side of the story, as much as you will the personal and relational side. It’s non-fiction, but totally reads like fiction.
[You can read all of my book reviews here.]
So, in years past I’ve shared my top tv shows, books AND movies of the year. However, as I started thinking about this post, I couldn’t even think of 5 movies we’d seen this year! They say we are in the golden era of TV, and I completely agree. It was a lot harder to come up with my top 5 TV shows because we’ve watched a lot of incredible TV this year.
Of course there are a lot of buzzworthy Oscar movies out right now that I’m dying to see, and I’m literally going to see La La Land in an hour. I’ll go ahead and say my favorite movie of 2016 was La La Land.
It seems like forever ago when I read the three books in this review because I’ve been failing miserably to find my next book. I started and stopped four books that I just couldn’t get in to, and then just gave up and fell back into my latest TV binge, Suits.
Then, the book gods blessed me with three new books in one week, and I’ve been devouring them. So, I decided to do my book review with only three books instead of my typical four, so I can start fresh with my new books.
Grade: A Pretty Girls – Karin Slaughter: This one falls under a typical, go-to genre for me – mystery thriller with a female lead, a la Gone Girl, Girl on the Train, The Good Girl, etc. While I enjoyed it, I didn’t love it. There were some very dark themes in the book that I wasn’t prepared for (torture, rape) and were written about in more detail than I would prefer. If you like darker thrillers, you would probably really enjoy this.
Grade: B The Hating Game – Sally Thorne: This one was given to me by a friend out of the blue so I knew absolutely nothing about it, and sometimes those are the best. I often build up books in my head so much that they don’t live up to the expectation. Well, I loved this book! It was such an easy, fun read that follows two work enemies who end up anything but enemies. It’s a very cute, playful love story with a sexy edge.
You can see all my book reviews here.