Monday, October 31, 2016

Walking on Broken Glass

I have been reading a lot about women with dysfunction or addiction problems lately...and this latest fits right in that bunch. Walking on Broken Glass by Christa Allan, released in 2009, is a novel about a good Southern girl's alcoholism, and her road to recovery.

Leah has a slight breakdown in the grocery store's frozen juice section. Her tumbler full of booze isn't making the trip any easier. The next day her best friend Molly confronts her about her drinking, and much to her husband's dismay she signs up for a 30 day treatment program. Her husband isn't used to her making decisions on her own, that is his job. During the course of her treatment we learn Leah's story...her upbringing, the death of her baby to SIDS, her unhappy marriage. Will the program work? And what's in store for the new Leah when she returns home?

I thought this book was pretty good, although I really didn't like the ending. This was the author's first novel, and I stumbled across it looking for books set in the South on Goodreads. The main character lives in the outskirts of Houston, and has family in New Orleans. I'm sure it popped up when I searched for Louisiana fiction. Anyway, I had recently read a memoir written by a bipolar woman from Louisiana, and this one, although fiction, reminded me a lot of it.

Leah struggles initially with feeling like she isn't a "real addict" because she really just drinks beer and wine. She doesn't drink during the weekdays, and is a terrific teacher. Reading her drinking rules honestly cracked me making sure she had a dark tumbler for drinks that might need an olive, so folks don't realize there's booze in her cup. How she doesn't drink while driving, unless she's in Louisiana and buying daiquiri's from the drive-thru! It was humorous, while also being seriously disturbing. Despite alcohol seriously impacting her life she was initially taken aback by rehab because she's not the person she pictures in her mind when she thinks Alcoholic.

I would say that from what I have read, and know myself, this is a big thing for suburban middle class women. What you picture in your head when you think Alcoholic is generally not your children's favorite school teacher...or your neighbor across the street. I feel like more needs to be put out there that most alcoholics aren't derelicts living on the street. I think it would help more people to get help when needed.
"Well, if you're a real alcoholic, then where are you stashing it? That's what real alcoholics do, right? Hide bottles?"
As someone whose life has been impacted by alcohol, I enjoyed this first hand look at a woman trying to fix her life. With a blog name like Tomes and Tequila, that may seem a little less than genuine, but trust me...I am a woman who is very careful with her booze consumption. I also really enjoyed Leah's struggle to make God a bigger part of her life. She didn't really make progress until she started praying and keeping a journal, etc.

This book has a lot of good discussion material. From her judgment of the other folks in rehab with her, to the status of her marriage at the end of the book...there is plenty to talk about. I was just disappointed with the ending. It felt like a to-be-continued, only there is no book 2! There were too many things left just wasn't wrapped up very well. But I'd give it a solid 3 1/2 stars.

So, if you're into southern books...or curious on another take at alcoholism, take a look at Walking on Broken Glass. From what you have experienced, did it seem realistic? Was her sarcastic humor a little too much for you? Let me know either in the comments here, or over on my Facebook page.

Friday, October 28, 2016

New Releases for Fall

The wind has blown virtually every leaf off of the trees in my neighborhood, and pumpkin spice EVERYTHING has been on the shelves for over a month now. Surely this means we're firmly entrenched in Autumn!! It's the perfect time to curl up with a blanket and a toasty beverage and read a new book. So here's a few New Releases I think would be great additions to your To Read list...we'll call this the Fall Edition.

Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple

I really enjoyed the book Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple. It was fast paced, funny and incredibly quirky. It stands out in my mind as a memorable Book Club selection. So I can't wait to get my hands on her new book Today Will Be Different. It is sitting on my library new releases shelf, but I've restrained myself thus far in the hopes of letting someone else get their hands on a new release before I've drooled over it. I have been really into books about women in crisis lately...not sure what that says about me. Anyway, this one is about Eleanor and her bad day. Count me in.

Hungry Heart by Jennifer Weiner

I have already expressed my friendly feelings for Jennifer Weiner over here. Her memoir Hungry Heart is sitting on my nightstand right now, and I'm about halfway through it. I plan on finishing this weekend, so should have a full review soon...but I'm liking what I've read so far. I think her personality really comes through in her fiction writing, and if you follow her on social media you will recognize her sassy humor and commentary. Right now I'd say it's definitely a go for the over 40 crowd (Hey, that's me!)

The Survivor's Guide to Family Happiness by Maddie Dawson

I absolutely LOVED this book, and am so grateful to Netgalley for sending me a copy in advance so I could shout from the rooftops in conjunction with it's release! Nina Popkin is one of my favorite literary characters, right up there with Isabel Spellman. Some women find their fantasy man in fiction...I just find women I want to be best friends with. I won't go on and on again, just head over here to see what I thought about this book. OH, and ten bonus points go out to the author for regularly liking my tweets!!

This Book is Out of Control by Richard Byrne

I am a huge fan of the children's book This Book Just Ate My Dog! by Richard Byrne. As someone who regularly does a preschool story time, I love interactive books...and funny books. If you give me one that is both, I am over the moon! The look on a little kid's face when they realize the book has eaten the dog, and when the dog materializes again it's feet are on upside down, is priceless. So I have high expectations for this new tale. Ben got a new gadget which he believes isn't working...until he notices it's working on the book instead. I imagine lot's of giggles.

Faithful by Alice Hoffman

I have seen a lot of really good advanced reviews for this new Alice Hoffman book, Faithful. First off, I have to give a big ole Kudos to whoever came up with the cover...because it is absolutely beautiful. I know it sounds silly to be judging a book by it's cover (*ahem) but it can really make the difference in a big seller, or heavy use library book...and shouldn't be overlooked. (I love the Maddie Dawson cover too!) And then when the book blurb on Goodreads says "A fan of Chinese food, dogs, bookstores, and men she should stay away from, Shelby has to fight her way back to her own future." I am sold...hook, line and sinker.  I can't wait until the 1st of November so I can get my hands on it.

So there ya go...a few new releases for your To Read list. I don't know about you, but my pile has hit Eiffel Tower proportions, and is a bit of a safety hazard. Here's hoping I can recover from this chest crud that has sidelined me, and finish a few of them this weekend!

Any new releases you think I should be aware of? Read any good books lately? (When I read that in my head it sounds very smarmy and almost like a pick-up line, FYI.) Let me know in the comments or over on my Facebook page.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Before I Go To Sleep book club is back up and running. Yay!! I have so missed having some girlfriends over and discussing books, and whatever else is going on in our lives. This will be my first get-together with this group, and I have high hopes for some good talk. Not to mention a chance to have a few drinks and not feel like a solitary alcoholic, making vodka and cokes to drink all by myself ;)

If you're reading this, and plan on coming over on Thursday might want to stop reading now!! Just walk away from the computer screen, we don't want to spoil all the fun. But if you don't happen to be one of my neighbors, feel free to see what I thought of the book Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson. Christine has amnesia. It's a special kind of amnesia, brought on by a traumatic incident the likes of which are slightly shady. Every morning she wakes up and has no idea where she is, how old she is, and who the man is laying next to her in bed. Every day she has to be told what year it is, how much her husband loves her, etc. But then she meets with a doctor who wants to help her regain her memories. He tells her to keep a journal, and every morning he calls and tells her where it is...and to keep it from her husband. So...what happened to Christine? And will she ever regain any of her memory?? Tada...Before I Go To Sleep, in a nutshell.

I gave this a solid 3 stars on Goodreads...on a good day I may have rounded it up to 4, but today is not a good day. 

I won't get into the science of this book, because clearly I'm not a neurologist or a specialist in brains and amnesia. But I found her particular kind of amnesia to be a bit far fetched. Not only does she not make new memories, but she has also lost most of her old memories. And she conveniently remembers things after naps...but not after going to sleep for the night. I had a hard time buying this, and at one point was expecting to learn she was being drugged on a daily basis. 

And then there's the constant rehashing of her days via her journal. To me it got a bit old after awhile. Yes, we have to hear about things again because it's perpetually the first time Christine has read them, but it can  make for slightly boring reading material. I just kept waiting for it to get more interesting. At one point I was tempted to just put the movie on and see whether they got the anticipation down a bit better than the book. That doesn't sound good coming from a book blogger does it?

There's a twist...which makes sense because the genre is "Thriller". I try very hard not to put spoilers on the blog because I don't want to keep someone from picking up a book themselves, so we'll just say that I found a lot of what brought about "The Twist" to be unrealistic. I guess I was just having trouble suspending my brain during this one. 

But the writing was good...and it certainly could've been a much worse book. I guess I was just waiting for a little more excitement...a little more shock during the big reveal. 

I think we'll have some good discussion about this book though. I'd like to pick the girls brains on friendship, marriage, parenthood...and how much memories can make or break a person. I really just want all of my dear friends to know that if the events of this book happened to them in real life, I would NOT act like Christine's friend Claire. There...I said it.

I think I just had the movie Memento in my head while reading this...and 50 First Dates. I kept expecting either extremely crazy memory manipulation or goofiness. And the build up just wasn't enough, in my opinion. 

So...clearly I need someone to recommend to me a really GOOD thriller, as I didn't like this a ton or the previous one I read. Maybe I have unreachable expectations...

Literary Libation:
For this book I'd suggest a few really strong Long Island Iced Tea's. Drink a few of them and you won't remember what happened today either...

If I'm too sassy in this review, I blame the chest cold I have going on!! Let me know what you think either in the comments here or over on my Facebook page

Friday, October 21, 2016

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things

I'm struggling to figure out how to start this book review. I have been sitting here looking at this picture for awhile trying to figure out how to get this ball rolling...and I keep coming up blank! I guess it's best to just dive in with both feet forward and all the gusto I can muster.

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, a novel by Bryn Greenwood, is a very controversial book...and most of the reviews over on Goodreads vacillate between 1's and 5's, so it has garnered some much warranted attention and very strong emotions from it's readers. I'm leaning towards the five star review.

The book tells the story of Wavy...short for Wavonna, the child of a meth dealer and a drug addict. We begin with her as a very young child, about 5, and the viewpoint of her grandma...then her aunt...then her cousin. Her mother is in jail, so she goes to stay with family. All are describing this disturbed and odd little girl who doesn't speak, won't eat, won't let anyone touch her and sneaks out of the house in the middle of the night. They initially believe she is mentally challenged, until she wows Grandma with a pen and paper. When mom gets out of jail and comes to get her, with a new baby in tow...we finally get to the viewpoint of Wavy.

It turns out there's a reason she doesn't speak. Her mother has taught her that her mouth is dirty. She has taught her not to speak to anyone, least of all her father Liam. The reason she doesn't eat is her mother has taught her food has germs, her mouth has germs, food is threatening. She doesn't want anyone to touch her...she is dirty, infected and gross...and doesn't trust anyone. So she sneaks bits of food out of the trash can, and eats when no one is looking...just enough to sustain her fragile and delicate body. She sneaks out at night to steal food...and to look at the stars. She knows the names of all the constellations and loves to watch them anytime she can.

Her living conditions are deplorable...and she is raising her baby brother the best she can, while her mother is in bed drugged to the hilt, or raving mad manic and obsessive and her father is down at "The Ranch" cooking meth and sleeping with his live-in girlfriends. She knows how to cook her grandma's recipes, if she can get anyone to bring her food. And she scrubs and cleans the best she can.

One night, at the age of 8, she is out in the meadow surrounding her house looking at stars when she hears a motorcycle coming up the drive. She goes to see who is coming, and inadvertently makes the giant figure wreck his bike. There is something about him that is different than everyone else. So she talks to him, touches him, and helps him get help for his injuries. He is so taken by this angelic girl that once he is healed he returns to the house of his "boss" to tell the child thank you for saving him. His arrival coincides with her first day of school, and he accidentally makes her miss the bus so he gives her a ride on the back of his motorcycle.

This is the beginning of their love story.

Yes, you read that right.

Kellen is about 20/21 years old when he sees Wavy and wrecks his bike. He sees how she lives and wants to take care of her. He buys her food. He takes her to school. He cleans her house. He has had a hard life and wants to take care of Wavy...she is the only thing he cares about besides working at his shop. But as they both grow, the relationship changes. By the time she is 12/13 it has morphed into romance. And then everything takes an even more horrifying turn...

This book is so well written that in the midst of being shocked and outraged by what is going on, you can also see that in a way Kellen and Wavy are good for each other. As a mother, I would never in a million years condone this relationship. I think you could safely say I am very much me. It is horribly inappropriate, and at times this book goes to graphic places that are incredibly hard to read. But it never felt exploitative to me. It didn't feel like it was being written for shock value. It just felt sad...and very real.
The author does such an incredible job of creating depth in these characters, and you are privy to so much of their internal dialogue, that the relationship between Wavy and Kellen almost makes sense. Almost. I just couldn't put the book down. It felt similar to Sharp Objects in a way. The subject matter is horrifying really, but it's written so well that you are left wanting you just keep flipping pages until it's done. I would definitely pick up Bryn Greenwood's next novel, regardless of the subject because she is good at what she does. I almost feel guilty for liking it so much!  

I'm torn in a way on whether or not it would be a good book club selection. I think that some people just aren't going to be able to stomach it. They won't be able to get past the premise, and it's definitely not an easy read. But there are oodles of good conversation topics so...if you can get past the outrage the discussion would be bountiful. The author states she is "the daughter of a mostly reformed drug dealer" so I'm curious how much of the book she took from real life experiences, even if it's just a tattoo she once saw or a peculiar trait she put into a character.

So, would you give this book a shot, even though the content disturbed you? Do you think it helps to have books like this on the shelf, whether to create empathy in someone who hasn't experienced anything even remotely similar, or to help someone who has to not feel so alone? I'd love to hear your thoughts, either here or over on my Facebook page. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Wake Up Happy

If you've been reading this blog for awhile now you should know how much I love reading nonfiction, mainly of the spiritual-memoir-self help variety. And as someone who has struggled with depression in the past, I love reading about happiness (part of why I enjoy Gretchen Rubin and her happiness project so much!). So while looking for something else in the stacks of my library I stumbled across this book by Michael Strahan and thought I would give it a try.

To start with, and to be truly honest with you, I know very little about Michael Strahan. I could probably sum it up by saying, I know he played football...he is a military kid...and Kelly Ripa was furious when he left their morning show. At best, I have seen a few clips on YouTube of that show...mainly because I'm at work during the day...but I also rarely watch regular television. I guess what I'm trying to say is, he could have a bad reputation...there could be horror stories on the internet about him, and I probably wouldn't know about it. So I kind-of came into this book as a blank slate.

BUT, I once saw a clip of him dancing with the Rockettes...and it blew me away for some reason. Here was this big ole football player high kicking with them, and making it look easy! And every clip I had seen of him on television, he just seemed like a genuinely happy and friendly kind of guy. So I thought I'd give his smallish (196 pages) book a whirl and see if it had any useful gems in it's pages.

Wake Up Happy is part memoir-part self-help, and written with the aid of author Veronica Chambers. It was published in 2015. Each chapter starts with a "Strahan Rule" such as "Dreams Don't Work Unless You Do" and "It's natural to have doubts. But hit pause before you out-and-out quit"...and then the chapter tells a story from his life that relates to his Rule.

I really enjoyed the first few chapters of this book, talking about Michael's parents and his childhood living in Germany as a military kid. His father went back to school in his 30's to become an Officer in the Army and then retired in Germany to run a truck/moving company. It really made me think fondly on the time my own family spent living in Germany with the Air Force, and my children's difficulties transitioning to life in the States after living overseas for so long. I would love it if he used his celebrity status to make a GOOD military kid more than a handful of athletes have written children's books...and there really aren't very many military kid's books out there that aren't depressing and sad. But I digress...
Photo of Michael Strahan from his personal website
I found it interesting how he hadn't grown up playing football, and struggled with his weight when he was young. And the relationship he has with his father is the stuff of parenting books. This boy was loved! So I think you could learn a lot about determination and perseverance from his struggle to become a football player, and a great one at that.

The latter chapters I didn't enjoy quite as much mainly because there were so many holes in his life story since it wasn't a straight memoir. It is written as if every reader already knows about his ugly divorces, or his struggles to have joint custody with a couple of his children. And I personally don't know the stories, so I felt a bit lost. I also thought that in the later chapters you could really hear his co-writer, which I thought was a bit odd. There were a few inserted bits of happiness advice thrown in from other authors, and quotes from other people ABOUT Strahan that felt like they were thrown in at the end of his story as filler. But that filler held actual practical advice on putting some of his Rules into practice...and I love when this style of book actually gives you something you can try.

So I give it a solid 3 stars. There is an epilogue about women and finding love that in my opinion should've been left out, as it doesn't fit the tone of the rest of this book and reads a little odd. BUT he gets bonus points for having a playlist included of his Happy Songs. I'm a huge music freak, and any book with a playlist gets a big boost in my eyes. I loved his ideas about listening to music in the morning to get motivated to have a good day. That is an applicable tip I plan on incorporating into my daily life.

Do you have any memoirs you think I should read and review? Do you like Michael Strahan? Do you have any happiness tips you could share with me? Let me know in the comments or over on my Facebook Page. 

Monday, October 17, 2016

Bookish Goodies Vol. 2

The Jane Edition

*this post uses affiliate links, for more info please visit my review policy page

Today's Bookish Goodies Guide is about one of my all time favorite classic books, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. I have enjoyed this book since I was in high school, when I was forced to read it for an English paper. Watching my beloved Fassbender play Rochester in a recent adaptation just reinforced my intense love. Clearly I am not the only person who feels this way, as Etsy is FILLED with super cool bookish gifts inspired by Jane Eyre. 

Here's my Top 10 picks from the plethora I stumbled across!! 

Jane Eyre Hardcover Children's Picture Book
For $15.99 over here on the Little Literary Etsy shop you can get this adorable abridged and illustrated adaptation by Melissa Niemann! This is so cute, and honestly just cracks me up. I would love to see how she adapted this!! Surely there's not a creepy and crazy wife burning in the attic in the children's edition.

Jane Eyre Book Purse
Take a look at this beautiful book purse over here on the Bookarelli Etsy shop for $69.48. I have seen a lot of book purses, and have even purchased a Harry Potter one for my daughter, but this one looks more elegant, in my opinion. I think it would make a pretty clutch for dressing up occasions, where you only need a couple select items in your handbag.

Jane and Rochester Bookmarks
Everyone loves a good bookmark, or at least the people who would frequent a book blog, and these magnetic ones from Beyondthepages19 for $3.91 over here are adorable. I love this style of bookmark, as they tend to get lost a little less often.

Vintage Style Jane Magnets
For $10.50 over here at The Quoted Page you can get this set of 4 tile magnets inspired by Jane Eyre. The quote "I am no bird; and no net ensnares me." is on all sorts of goodies, but I think it looks elegant here.

Jane Eyre Book Scarf
This beautiful book scarf bucks the trend of literary scarves that are just words on a creamy background. It is beautiful and feminine, and I think it would make a wonderful conversation piece. It is $60 over here at Enjoy the Traffic.

Literature Rocks Glass
For $13 over here at The Uncommon Green you can get this snazzy drinks glass with chapter 1 of Jane Eyre printed on it. To me this screams of a Scotch glass...sitting in wingback chair with your leather bound edition next to a roaring fire...perhaps smoking a cigar. LOL

Jane Eyre I Am No Bird Bracelet
Here is that quote again! This beautiful and delicate bracelet can be found over here at Emery Drive for $16. It's a beautiful reminder, and would be the perfect accessory to dress up your average jeans and t-shirt outfit.

Jane Eyre Quote Shirt
And hey, here's the t-shirt!! Same quote, with a little more added at the end. You can find it for $38 over here at Neena Creates. This shirt screams jeans and a cute color of converse, in my opinion. But then I blog about books and not fashion, so I may not be the best fashionista to plan your literary wardrobe.

Jane Eyre Loose Leaf Tea
For $12.00 over here at First Edition Tea Co. you can get some loose leaf Currant and Spice Black Tea leaves in a cute Jane Eyre reusable tin. This is the drink to have in your cup when it's not appropriate to drink the scotch from the glass up above!

Jane Eyre Mug 
And I guess this is the cup to hold your Jane Eyre tea in! I love this simple coffee mug for $18 over here at Farizula Designs. Jane fan or not, this would be a great edition to your coffee mug collection.

I hope all of my Jane Eyre fans have enjoyed this second installment of my Bookish Goodies shopping guide. Writing these posts makes me feel like I'm being productive when I scour Etsy in the middle of the night from my cell phone! Do you have any fandoms you'd like me to do a shopping guide for? If so, let me know in the comments either here or over on my Facebook page. Let the shopping begin!!

Friday, October 14, 2016

Love Warrior

I don't think I have every actually sought out an Oprah Book Club Selection...even back in the day when she was on regular t.v. and not on her own network. I don't know why really, as from what I've read quite a few of them are really good books. And I know Oprah is a reader, just like me. She enjoys learning new things and reading about different people with different lifestyles, etc. But for some reason I have never waited eagerly to see what her next selection is. However, this latest pick caught my attention for some reason.

Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton moved me. I know that is probably horribly cheesy to admit, and not the best way to start a review, but I had so many emotions while reading it, I'm not really sure where to start! I'm hoping I can at least get my sister to read it so we can have a deep discussion, since she knows everything about me...warts and all...and would probably have some insight on why this book made me feel the way it did. Why it occasionally felt like reading my inner thoughts in someone else's voice. And it will be very hard to give it a good review without getting extremely personal, but I'm going to try.

I have also tried really hard not to read too many other reviews before writing this. Occasionally I find myself being swayed by others opinions, despite my initial impressions. With this I really only read the negative ones, to see their reasons for hating this tale. Generally speaking it was because they found it too raw, bordering on exploitative, or too whiny. I think this is a difference between people who don't relate to her feelings...who have never had any of the issues she faces or similar issues, and they just don't want to be privy to thoughts they have never experienced. I almost think that's a shame because it could help you to empathize more with people you love who might be going through a tough time.

Love Warrior is a memoir detailing the struggles Glennon has been through in her life. It starts with her bulimia, builds into full blown alcoholism and drug dabbling, and then culminates in her husband's admission of affairs and the aftermath. It is written in such a raw and detailed manner that it is sometimes horribly uncomfortable to read. It feels like someone peeled back so many layers, you almost feel dirty seeing them.

She admits to thoughts I have never heard vocalized before, and there were times I thought...I can't believe she actually wrote that down for public consumption?! The courage that must've taken astounds me. It's one thing to have those thoughts, and another thing entirely to write it down, get it published, and then have Oprah tell everyone they need to read it. I think it's incredibly brave. And I can't imagine what she told her husband to get him to say it was okay to put so much about him in there!

My summary of this book would be that it shows you what can happen when one part of the mind-body-spirit triad is out of balance. But don't get me wrong, this isn't a new agey tome filled with flowery mystical such and such. This is a down and dirty tale, although God is definitely there. But it is best described as...standing in front of the candles in a Catholic church, with your hooker heels in your hand, wearing a tube top and mini with last nights makeup smeared across your face...instantly feeling God's love beaming down at you from the statue of Mary and Jesus, and it causing an epiphany that you are loved, flaws and all. And then remembering it again sitting on a beach for hours on end, just watching the waves.
I don't think this book is for everyone, nor do I think it's perfect. I am giving it 4 stars because there were definitely some sections in the middle that I rushed through because they weren't speaking to me as loudly and started feeling a tad repetitive. And I also think that if you've never had dark thoughts before, you are going to be repulsed by the raw emotion in this and be turned off. But if you are a little dark and twisty (to quote Meredith Grey) then you will probably relate to at least some part of this book.

Glennon is lucky to have grown up in such a loving family. Her parents are still married and a large part of her life. Her sister is supportive and her rock in troubling times. The little stories of things her father did to help her out were some of my favorites. I can't imagine how much worse of a train wreck this would be had her upbringing been different. If she'd not had this immense support system there to catch her when she fell, more than once. And enough money in the bank to relocate, stop working and focus on herself when the need arises.

Sorry if this has been a very rambling all over the place review. I honestly just have so many thoughts floating around in my head (and truth be told, I haven't slept a lot lately) that I'm struggling with cohesion. I think I'm still processing. It has made me really think on how the body part of my equation is clearly messed up, and has been messed up since I was about 12 in one way or another...and perhaps I might be able to use some of her same tools to try to rectify my issues. I don't know...perhaps that's putting too much of myself out here in the blogosphere.

I'd love to hear what everyone else thinks of this book. I can't really say I "liked" it...because I don't think it's the type of book you "like". But it did resonate so deeply in me that I'll probably be thinking on it for awhile. So let me know your thoughts if you pick it up, either in the comments here or over on my Facebook page. And let me know if you've ever read a nonfiction book that made you sit back and analyze your life!
*Update: I have gone back and changed my review to 5 stars. I am still thinking about this book...and have even ordered my own copy from Amazon so I can re-read it. After I read it again, I may go back and rewrite this review, as I don't think I did the book proper justice. This book just blew me away, and I'd love to hear what others have thought about it.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Ten Favorite Spiritual Books for Women

I know I have told y'all before, but I very much enjoy reading what I call Spiritual Christian Women Books. I usually have one I'm slowly reading through at all times. I didn't grow up going to church, so consider myself to be a self-taught Christian to a certain extent. In a way, it has probably made me a little more picky with which of these books I really enjoy, because occasionally they can come off a little heavy handed for someone who hasn't been raised in church doctrine, etc. So for some people, my books might be a little fluffier than they like but all of them have helped me in one way or another.

(On a small aside, even if you are not a religious person, you still might find something in these books that resonates with you. I have replaced Universe with God seems like it would work the other way also.)

So for this Wednesday's Top 10 I'd like to introduce you to a few of my favorite Spiritual Christian Women books.

A Year of Miracles by Marianne Williamson

This book was my introduction to Marianne Williamson, and is the first devotional I have really and thoroughly enjoyed. I guess for some reason I always thought she was more new agey than my tastes, but clearly I was wrong. My Kindle copy is covered in highlighted passages...things I wanted to re-read, memorize and mull over. 

I honestly think I could write an entire review on this book, just filled to the brim with little tidbits that I gleaned. The fun thing about nonfiction reviews is I don't have to worry about spoiling something! But instead I'll give you a nice long quote to give you an idea of what all I highlighted.
"How often do I not notice the miracles all around me, or honor all the kindness shown me, or allow myself to fully embrace the good that's in my life? Today I remember that every day is precious, every heart carries within it the spirit of God, and every event contains the platform for a miracle. May I not be blind today to the awesomeness of life. May the days be gone when I took for granted all the blessings in my life. May my eyes be open, that I might see more beauty; may my ears be open, that I might hear my truth; may my spirit be open, that I might feel the tender touch of God. May I not be tempted by the darkness of the world to think that God is gone, or lured into the thinking of the world to ever doubt love's power. God is here, love is real, and I am safe. These things I know and will not forget. Amen"
I truly think this book is amazing, and definitely worth picking up a copy of.  I have dabbled in her other books, but this one was a real winner. 

Find Your Brave by Holly Wagner

Find Your Brave by Holly Wagner is a no-brainer for this list, as I exclaimed quite loudly how much I loved it over here. I think books, just like people, have a tendency to come into your lives when you need them. I clearly needed to read this because it is another one covered in highlighter. 

I will try not to gush on and on (because you can just read my review!) but I think this is a great book to give to your friends and family when they are going through a difficult time. There are some really good gems of practical advice that you can squirrel away for when you need it. I love when books don't just tell you grand ideas, but actually give you hows and practical tips for applying them to your life. This one hands out the plans. 

The Universe Has Your Back by Gabrielle Bernstein

This is another one I already reviewed over here. I feel like I really owe Gabby Bernstein an apology for thinking she was too hip and "spiritual" for little ole me. She is considered the Marianne Williamson for younger folks. I genuinely got a lot out of this book. It is one where I replaced "Universe" with she says you can in the beginning of the book. And once I did all hit me. 

This "Spirit Junkie" is all over social media, so maybe take a peek at some of her stuff...and then if you find it potentially interesting, pick up this one, which just came out a couple of weeks ago. And don't be put off by the meditations and such (like I was at one time)....because for the most part, prayer and meditation can be very similar things. 

7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker

Jen Hatmaker cracks me up. I find this lady to be SO FUNNY...and I think some of her detractors don't realize that a lot of the time she's poking fun, and normally at herself. But this book combines two of my favorite topics; spirituality and minimalism. You could call it a gimmick book, one not of a year but of 7 months, but I don't mind that sort-of thing especially if you can get something out of it. So Jen spends a month each fasting from things she believes she uses in excess. For example, in her month on clothes she only wore 7 she only ate 7 types, etc. 
"Would Jesus overindulge on garbage food while climbing out of a debt hole from buying things He couldn't afford to keep up with neighbors He couldn't impress?"
Some of the months resonated more with me than others, but I definitely think there is something to be said for the point she is trying to make.  

For Women Only: What You Need to Know About the Inner Lives of Men by Shaunti Feldhahn

Okay, I have a few marriage books in here...and most revolve around the title of the book below this one, Love and Respect. I have been married for almost 23 years, and I'm still continually trying to build up my marriage and grow in my relationship with my husband. Shaunti Feldhahn has done a series of relationship books based on surveys and research she has done on what men (and women in the other half of this) really feel in their marriages. A lot of it builds on common sense, but there are other things that I found almost shocking. It really is a peek into the secret thoughts of men.
"Not surprisingly, men said they judge themselves--and feel that others judge them--based on the happiness and respect of their wives."
There are going to be sections that aren't very popular, like the one going into how visual men are and how not taking care of your self and your body expresses your unhappiness. "What's on the outside does matter." (This is an area I really struggle in.) But this tiny little book is jam packed full of insight. 
Love and Respect by Emerson Eggerichs

This classic book has been helping married couples for years now and was given to me by my sister-in-law Twilla. It is based on the premise taken from Ephesians 5:33; "Each one of you must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband". It's not a very popular point of view at this juncture in time, and a lot of women are turned off immediately upon hearing it. But I believe Dr. Eggerichs has a point in regards to the differences in a lot of men and women and what makes them feel loved. Does it apply to everyone? Absolutely not, there are definitely going to be exceptions. Can it be taken too far? Of course. Am I advocating any of that? NO. But what I took away from this book (that ran a little too long IMO) is that most men and women are different...and sometimes you need to remember that what makes you happy may not make your husband happy. 

*There are a lot of very heated arguments against this one by women on Goodreads...but just as many good reviews. It is almost as heated as the Proverbs 31 wife books...which I have actually read a ton of. 

Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint by Nadia Bolz-Weber

To be honest with you, I picked this book up because I wanted to read how someone who cusses too much, has drank an alcoholic beverage before, and has tattoos is a Godly women and a Pastor. I guess I have always been a little insecure in how my faith is perceived by others...or just insecure in myself. Like "Wow, loud-f bomb using-margarita swilling-dirty joke telling Christina reads the Bible?!?" Lord only knows if anyone has actually thought that...but it's always been a worry of mine. I really think it's just a cliche built from feeling like an outsider at times when attending church. Like everyone else knows what they're doing and I don't. I blame my mom! LOL (Sorry Mom)

I found Nadia Bolz-Weber's story to be quite interesting. Did I agree with all of her sentiments? Of course not. But it was an entertaining memoir nonetheless. 
"God's grace is a gift that is freely given to us. We don't earn a thing when it comes to God's love, and we only try to live in response to the gift. No one is climbing the spiritual ladder." 

Women Living Well by Courtney Joseph

I think this book would be better for women who still have little ones at home than for someone like me with my children grown, but I still enjoyed it. I skimmed over the little kid parenting bits! Courtney Joseph is the creator of the Women Living Well website, formerly called Good Morning Girls blog. I had been on the website numerous times before I picked up this book and have used her chapter a day Bible Study programs (She uses a SOAK Bible Study method that I follow). 

Back to the book, she really focuses on a lot of ways to bring Joy into your everyday life and find God in everyday moments. Occasionally I felt she came off as a little too perfect...I like my mentors to have flaws I tell ya...but the book had some solid info I highlighted to reflect on later. 

Fervent by Priscilla Shirer

Where some of these books are silly and fun, Fervent is very serious and very very Christian. If you wouldn't call yourself devout, this one probably isn't going to be for you. I told a coworker recently that this could be summed up in two words. Pray...HARD. 

This book is in conjunction with the movie War Room, which I haven't watched yet. My main highlights from this one were all scripture...which I can of course find in my Bible, but I enjoy getting the highlights. If you're having a hard time...pray. If you're struggling with past issues...pray. I think the author focuses a little too much on Satan...or The Enemy...and is very fire and brimstone, etc. But the underlying basis of this book is prayer. And sometimes we need to be reminded to Pray...HARD.

The Four Agreements by Miguel Ruiz

This last book is certainly not a woman book, and is spiritual more than Christian, but I found it compelling. It is tiny, you can read it in one sitting, and you can memorize the four agreements with ease. But I could ruminate, meditate and conversate (it's not a word but I'm using it) on them for the rest of my life really. Be impeccable with your word. Don't take anything personal. Don't make assumptions and Always do your best. If I could continually remember those things, and live my life in that manner, it would take away virtually every issue, ill or worry I've ever had. He makes it sound so simple! I thought it was a good book, and definitely worth reading.

What are your favorite Spiritual/Christian Women books? Do you have any favorites I need to check out? Lord knows I'm always looking for a new one! Let me know either in the comments here or over on my Facebook page. Do you think there's a place in Christianity for meditation and yoga poses? Can you replace God with Universe in a book, and still get something out of it? These are all things I'd love to discuss with other women. Let me know...

Monday, October 10, 2016

Good In Bed...

I LOVE Jennifer Weiner. I follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. She totally cracks me up, and I've read a few of her books in the past that I really enjoyed. Netgalley gave me the opportunity to read her first book...the one that started it all...Good In Bed. This is Chick Lit in all it's luscious glory, and I see nothing wrong with that. I couldn't wait to see how much she's grown in her time as an I jumped at the chance to get my hands on a copy. Thanks again Netgalley!!
Cannie Shapiro is a smart, sassy and successful woman who just happens to be a size 16. She has a great support system...good friends, a fabulous rat terrier named Nifkin, a loving mother (who came out as a lesbian a couple of years ago), etc. But her whole life is turned upside down when her ex-boyfriend writes an article in a national magazine about "Loving a Larger Woman". This causes her to go into a bit of a spiral...not exactly downward, but kind-of all over the place. Good In Bed chronicles a crazy year in her life.

I really enjoyed this book, and gave it 4 stars on Goodreads. Initially I thought this was just going to be a feel good whirlwind girl loses weight and gets back man story, but it proved more complicated than that.

First someone who is plus size and larger than a size 16...I can not even IMAGINE having an ex write something like hers did. I would have freaked the f**k out!! I could feel myself getting all worked up for her as I was reading it. To have your personal life put out there for everyone to consume would be wretched because even though he only used her initial, everyone who knew the two of them were together would know he was writing about her. It makes me feel bad for celebrities whose every move is documented. That can't be fun.
And I just have to say, I am so glad that Jennifer Weiner didn't make Cannie a plus sized cliche. Cannie is active. She walks, she rides her bike...she takes care of herself. Yes, she has self-esteem problems, a lot of them stemming from her childhood and a horrible relationship with her father. But I never felt like this was a fat girl parody. I have read a few other books with plus size main characters, and they usually leave me with a bad taste in my mouth...but not this one.

Yes, there is a section in the book that I think suspends belief a tad. Cannie goes to New York to interview an actress who happens to be her idol...and they spend an entire day together and become the best of the point where she moves in with her in California for a bit. Call me slightly cynical, but I don't imagine that happens often in real life.

In short, I honestly thought this was just going to be a fluffy classic chic lit book, but it actually went a lot deeper than I expected. There is a point near the end of the book where the story takes a turn I wasn't expecting...and it made me reevaluate my feelings. This isn't just a quick read girlie story. I think it has a lot more to it than that so I think it would make a good book club selection. It's not too long for the ladies who aren't readers. It's not too complicated to make reading it a chore. But there are plenty of conversation topics that would be intriguing to get into with other women. Depression, weight, parenthood, relationships, friendship, etc.

You can see Jennifer Weiner's growth as an author, between this and her newer books. I think she writes a lot about what she knows...and at the end of this anniversary edition she talks about the real life story that led to her writing Good In Bed, and her struggle to get it published. She makes me laugh, and I'll continue to add her books to my To Read List. I can't wait to read her Memoir and Children's book that just came out.

So...are you a fan of Jennifer Weiner? Did you read Good in Bed when it first came out? Like me, do you enjoy reading a light and fluffy book every once in awhile? Let me know in the comments or over on my Facebook page!

Friday, October 7, 2016

Eat Pray Love Made Me Do It...

Like most women my age, I read the book Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert when it came out in 2006. I have always, and probably will always, be a fan of adventurous women books. Well...I like adventure books in general, but I love ones that include a woman close to my age running off and doing something no one expects her to be able to accomplish. They almost satisfy the itch I have always had to do something super adventurous and crazy....almost.
So the original book Eat Pray Love was about a woman going through a divorce, and it's split into thirds. The Eat portion is spent in Italy, the Pray in India and the Love in Indonesia. Like a lot of the other readers, some sections spoke to me a lot more than others. I was a fan of the Eat and Pray parts, but found the Love part incredibly boring. Her experiences in Italy reminded me a lot of the time I spent living there...and really made me miss the food. Her experiences in India, attempting to find God were intriguing also. But Bali and meeting a new man were just meh.

Even though I didn't think it was the best adventure memoir out there, it still stuck with me. Plus it was probably one of the first books like this I ever picked up, so I feel a little nostalgic towards it. Anyway, when I saw that a book was being published about people's stories inspired by this book...I was incredibly curious. What exactly did Eat Pray Love make other people do??
Honestly, about three quarters of the way through this book I started skimming. I feel a little guilty...but only a little. I just found the stories to be so repetitive. I don't know what I was expecting from a book about a book I gave 3 stars to. I think I was hoping to be inspired by other's inspiration...or moved to re-read the original book because it might hold the secret "thing" I have always been looking for. Alas, my expectations were clearly too high.

I'm sure there are a few stories in here that rate above humdrum, but I can't think of one to relay to you. I like Elizabeth Gilbert, in that I follow her on social media, and have her book Big Magic on my TBR list. But there is a lot of hero worship in here that I can't really relate to. I guess there was one too many "and then this book showed up at the perfect time" moments, and referring to the author as they were all best friends with her. Clearly I did not have that connection.

So, if Eat Pray Love made you do something...then you will probably like this book. It should definitely be on your to read pile, if for no reason other than to see if anyone else had a similar experience to yours. As for me, I am giving it 3 stars. It wasn't a bad book, I just didn't connect with it.

Did you read Eat Pray Love when it came out? Did it inspire some sort of change in your life? If so, let me know in the comments here or over on my Facebook page! Are you a fan of inspirational adventure books? Do you have any suggestions for me?? Let me know :)

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Bookish Goodies Vol. 1

*this post uses affiliate links, for more info visit my review policy page

So, as a book lover and all around literary FIEND I spend a lot of my spare time time perusing Etsy and other online shops for super cool gift ideas...mainly that I want people to buy for me, if I'm being totally honest with you. I mean, who doesn't want a pillow shaped like Jamie from Outlander...or a Harry Potter purse?? Anyway...I thought that in the giant commercial 3 month lead up to Christmas, I would start a regular gift buying guide to help my like-minded bookies (wait, that doesn't sound right?!?) start their shopping early!

Hence I give you....Bookish Goodies Vol. 1

Goofy name, I'm sure. I'll probably end up regretting it one day, but it is what it is...

Well-Read Women: A Reader's Journal:

I think book journals are a wonderful item to have and use regularly. Speaking for myself, I know my retention isn't very good, but if I write about the book I've just read, it sticks longer. This beautifully illustrated reader's journal has a spot for plot notes, character notes, favorite quotes and your 1-5 star rating. You can find it on Uncommon Goods and Amazon for about $14.95.

Currently Reading Phone Case:

Pink is my signature color (Steel Magnolias anyone??) and I think this phone case is adorable. Ombre pink background, pink flower in a mason jar and a shelf of books...what's not to love? There are a lot of bookish cell phone cases, but right now this one is my favorite. You can find it on Etsy for $30.00. 

Novel Teas:

This package of 25 English Breakfast tea bags from Sri Lanka has classic literary quotes on each tea bag tag (Is there a technical term for that little tag? If so, I don't know it).  Tea and literature have a well-known symbiotic relationship for a reason. These little tea bags just elevated the relationship to goal status. You can find them on Uncommon Goods and Amazon for around $13-$16. 

Book Page Wreath:

I have one of these wreaths on the door to my office at the library, and I get complimented on it regularly! The one I have is made from French book pages, but you can find a plethora of different styles on Etsy....from children's books to sheet music. Just search for Book Page Wreaths and prepare to be blown away. This particular one goes for $27. 

Bookish Sweatshirt:

I think this sweatshirt is adorable! Geeked Out Threads on Etsy has numerous literary inspired clothing pieces. This one runs at $22-24 depending on the size and comes in grey or the pictured ivory color. The perfect top for weekend days spent under a cozy blanket sipping literary tea and reading the latest bestseller. 

Pride and Prejudice Matchbox:

PortmanteauPaperCo out of Grants Pass, Oregon has a huge selection of book covered matchboxes for about $3.00 each. I'm not sure why I love them so much, or what I would do with them if I had them, but I seriously covet these conversation piece match boxes. You can find the Pride and Prejudice one here

Burning Books Candle:

You can find a huge selection of book inspired candles on Etsy, but I really like the label design on this one from Hearth and Hammer. Burning books smells of cinnamon, orange and fir...which I think would smell phenomenal. This 8 oz candle goes for $18 over here

Jane Eyre Coin Purse:

This cute Jane Eyre coin purse can be found for $20 in the Sweet Sequels Shop on Etsy, along with numerous other literary inspired coin purses, pillows and blankets. They have way too many cool items that I have favorited, but I'm a HUGE Jane Eyre fan so this particular piece called to me. 

Jane Austen Coaster Set:

This Jane Austen coaster set can be found in the Neurons Not Included shop on Etsy for $22.50. I love the old school classic book style of this particular set. It perfectly matches my leather bound classics collection! 

Oscar Wilde Inspirational Art Piece:

This Oscar Wilde art print can be found in the Lily and Val shop on Etsy for $24-53 depending on the size. They have some beautiful hand drawn pieces, many being in the chalk art style. I love the script style, the beautiful flowers and one of Oscar Wilde's best literary quotes. 

This first installment of my Bookish Goodies series is just a tiny smattering of the items on my GIGANTIC bookish wish list! Do you have any favorite unique bookish items I should know about?? I hope you enjoyed my first curated list...and let me know what you think of my selections either in the comments here or over on my Facebook page