• Lists,  mental health,  Top Ten Tuesday,  Writing

    Top Ten Tuesday: Mental Health Awareness

    May is Mental Health Awareness month – a cause near and dear to my heart. So for Top Ten Tuesday, I have a list of ten books that highlight mental health, the need for it, or one that takes steps forward in removing the stigmas of mental illness and/or asking for professional help.

    1. Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty – This book highlights grief, loss, the stigmas of suicide and tackles all of it in an unconventional wellness retreat setting. While I definitely do not recommend a wellness retreat with a crazy director, the messages were not lost in the story.
    2. There There by Tommy Orange – One of my favorite books this year, this book highlights addiction, mental health, suicide, and the overwhelming need for better mental healthcare in the Native American community. It’s a must-read.
    3. The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan – This is a beautifully written young adult book that addresses severe depression, the aftermath of suicide, grieving, and healing. I have read this book twice.
    4. My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh – The definitive guide on how not to pick a psychiatrist. This is not a book to read while actively dealing with depression. But on the other side, it is one of the more accurate depictions of what it’s really like to struggle with severe depression and loss.
    5. This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel – This book takes on the stigmas of having a transgender child and highlights the importance of family and community support. This story can make you a better person.
    6. Stitches by Anne Lamott – Anne is one of my favorite writers. I read this book during an enormous season of change in my life. She addresses change, loss, and grief with both humor and candor. It’s a short book and I recommend it often to those in the midst of change.
    7. Normal People by Sally Rooney – I finished this book in a few sittings earlier this month. It tackles abuse, loss, suicide, depression, and asking for help through therapy and medication. I found this story to be very raw, honest, and helpful in addressing the stigmas around asking for help and what can happen when help is not received.
    8. Dry. by Augusten Burroughs – One of my favorite memoirs. Too often I feel that addiction is left out of the mental health discussion. There is an overwhelming need for understanding and education around what addiction is and how to support a loved one dealing with addiction.
    9. Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal – While this book will raise some eyebrows when reading it in public, it highlights the need for community, loss, grief, and the power of telling your story.
    10. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo – Despite the public uproar over throwing away your house, this book and method really did change our lives. I have become a big believer in less physical clutter = less mental clutter.
  • Bookish,  Lists

    2018 Books: favorites, surprises, misses, and reflections

     

    2018 was a lot of things but at the top of my list was re-discovering my love of reading. In January I set a goal to read 52 books in 52 weeks. Once I realized I was going to surpass that goal, I set a new goal of 75 books read for 2018 and I met that goal. Here’s the breakdown:

    • 75 books completed
    • 26,121 pages
    • Longest book – A Little Life, 720 pages
    • 38 audiobooks (I drive A LOT)
    • 30 five star books
    • 13 nonfiction books

    My Top 10 Books of 2018:

    1. Where the Crawdads Sing – Delia Owens
    2. A Little Life – Hana Yanagihara
    3. The Incendiaries – R. O. Kwon
    4. The Nix – Nathan Hill
    5. The Rules of Magic – Alice Hoffman
    6. Bitter Orange – Claire Fuller
    7. Bear Town – Fredrick Backman
    8. Heavy – Kiese Laymon
    9. Next Year in Havana – Chanel Cleeton
    10. Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows – Balli Kaur Jaswal

    For me, the top 10 list is always the hardest to write so here are a few surprise favorites that didn’t quite make the list but should be on your To-Be-Read list:

    The misses a.k.a the books other raved about that I didn’t love:

    • The Great Alone – Kristin Hannah
    • Still Lives – Maria Hummel

    Both of these were misses for me for the same reason – graphic domestic violence/violence against women to the excess and wasn’t necessary to the plot.

    My one abandoned book was Less by Andrew Sean Greer. I just didn’t get the Pulitzer award given to this book. And maybe I would have liked it more if it hadn’t had that hype before I picked it up to read.

     

     

    2018 was one of the hardest years of my life both personally and professionally. On the personal front, I’m happy that our family is bringing this year to a close and we are all healing and healthier. On the professional front, we will have to see what 2019 brings but I’m encouraged by the direction I am headed and so very thankful for my husband and his unrelenting support and encouragement.

    I am also thrilled to have reconnected with my love of writing here on my blog as well as other outlets and I’m looking forward to seeing where that takes me in 2019. In addition to that, the bookstagram community on Instagram is a wonderful and supportive place to find fellow bookworms and I am so happy to have connected with so many like-minded readers and writers.

    And last but not least… two communities I connected with late in the year, The Himalayas of Literature and Book Club for Introverts. Both of these groups have been highlights of 2018 for me and I can’t wait to continue with both in 2019.

    All in all, 2018 has been a year of goals met, lessons learned, new directions, and finding the things to be thankful even in the midst of the valleys.

    Here’s to a new year full of promise! Happy New Year!

  • Lists

    Top Ten Tuesday: Winter reads

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    Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

    Happy Top Ten Tuesday!

    One of my very favorite parts of winter is that time seems to slow which means more time for reading.

    It is common to see descriptors for summer books: easy read, beach read, poolside read, summer read, etc. But you don’t see that as much for the other seasons which I find highly unfair because it’s not their fault that they aren’t summer.

    So now it’s time to put the spotlight on winter. Here are my top ten winter books:

    1. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis – This is a childhood favorite of mine. Not even knowing exactly what “Turkish Delight” was, I always hoped for some in my stocking.
    2. The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman – Interesting characters, a magical plot, and the value of having family make this a great read.
    3. Murder on The Orient Express by Agatha Christie – Another childhood favorite and who doesn’t like a cozy mystery in the winter?
    4. Skipping Christmas by John Grisham – This is really the only overtly Christmas book. It’s a quick read that is humorous. It sums up the madness of the holiday season and what happens when we resist.
    5. The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens – A great mystery with highly interesting backstories of the characters.
    6. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens – When you’re cold and tired of the snow, the rich imagery and descriptions of marsh life will warm you up.
    7. Educated by Tara Westover – This is the only memoir to make the list. It’s an amazing story of survival and the power of education.
    8. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte Who doesn’t need a little attic wife hilarity during the holidays? Also check out the book Texts From Jane Eyre – SO funny!
    9. Calypso by David Sedaris – Want to feel better about your dysfunctional family? Here you go… but with a healthy dose of laughter too.
    10. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace – This is my “long book” for December. At over 1000 pages, I’ll be spending a lot of time in front of the fire with this book. So far, it’s amazing and I’ll write more about it tomorrow.

    Other than coffee or bourbon, my favorite accessory to read with is my weighted blanket. It helps tremendously with anxiety and pairs perfect with a good winter book.

    What are some of your favorite cold weather books?

  • Lists

    November Reading Wrap Up

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    I missed the memo but apparently “nonfiction November” is a thing. Perhaps subconsciously, I followed along because I read more nonfiction in November than I read the entire rest of the year. I also only listened to one audiobook which is strange for me.

    Six of the ten books I finished were nonfiction:

    • Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott
    • Hope and Other Superpowers by John Pavlovitz
    • Meaty by Samantha Irby
    • Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope, and Repair by Anne Lamott
    • Dress your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris (audiobook)
    • Shrill by Lindy West

    The other four fiction books:

    • The Farm by Joanne Ramos (ARC)
    • Bitter Orange by Claire Fuller – Our Book Club for Introverts November pick
    • Little Darlings by Melanie Golding (ARC) – look for this one stopping by on its blog tour in April!
    • Running from Scissors by T.C. Westcott

    My favorite nonfiction book was Shrill. The message is so important. Bird by Bird was a close second.

    My favorite fiction book was Bitter Orange with Little Darlings coming in second. Both books had dark twists and turns and were enjoyable reads.

    I have four books left to hit my 2018 reading goal of 75. I should meet that goal that goal this coming week so then my December plans are to dig into some tougher books and enjoy my book club book, Nine Perfect Strangers. And BTW, it’s not too late to join Book Club For Introverts for December. Anyone is welcome!

  • Bookish,  Lists

    Top Ten Tuesday: favorite platonic relationships

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    Happy Top Ten Tuesday! After a week of cooking, cleaning, working, writing (NaNoWriMo), and event going, this list was a fun way to get back into the blogging routine.

    Today’s top ten is all about my favorite (platonic) book relationships. Here goes!

    1. The Owens siblings from Practical Magic – Franny, Jet, and Vincent had a unique bond because of their magical abilities. They, and their family, were avoided by most people who believed that the family would ensnare them in back luck and tragedy. As they grew up in the novel it was interesting to watch their relationship change and mature as it does with most siblings.
    2. Madeline, Celeste, and Jane from Big Little Lies – Female friendships are tricky and I thought this book did a great job of accurately portraying their lives as individuals with different backgrounds that become friends.
    3. Leigh and her mother from The Astonishing Color of After – This book handled such a tough subject (the suicide of her mother) with such grace and dignity. The way that Leigh sought out her mother and her family from Taiwan turned into a beautiful remembrance of her mother and her life.
    4. Willem, JB, Malcolm, and Jude from A Little Life – Following four college friends through their 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s – the author did a wonderful job of capturing the ups and downs of friendship in the midst of success, failure, tragedy, and love. Warning: this book will make you cry.
    5. Mia & Pearl from Little Fires Everywhere – I love a good mother/daughter plot that has tension, love, and secrets. This duo had all of these elements and watching them unfold slowly made this a great book.
    6. The Sedaris family portrayed in Calypso – Nonfiction relationships are allowed too, right? David Sedaris is known for writing about his family and his life experiences. But this newest book was different as he tackled some tough issues: aging parents, fractured sibling relationships, mental illness, drug use, etc. It was raw, honest, and makes you feel a little less alone.
    7. Hanna & her mom (Suzette) from Baby Teeth – If you want to read about a parent/child relationship that is creepy and downright frightening, this is your book. Little Hanna spends most of her time plotting to kill her mother while charming her father. Her mother goes to great lengths to love her daughter and get her the much needed help she needs all while trying to preserve her own sanity and safety.
    8. Mary B. Addison and her mother from Allegedly – Nine year old Mary was convicted of killing a baby who was in her mother’s care. Allegedly. Mary’s mother can be syrupy sweet and viscous all in the same visit when she sees her daughter in the group home. The book tackles tough issues and the relationship between Mary and her mother keeps you guessing until the end.
    9. Offred and Serena Joy from The Handmaid’s Tale – Classic tension in a female relationship with a dystopian spin. What could possibly go wrong?
    10. Scout & Atticus Finch from To Kill A Mockingbird – He is her father but she and her brother don’t call him anything other than his first name. He is a single father but unconventional. He teaches, rather than telling and demonstrates tolerance and reason through his actions. I loved reading how he and Scout interacted throughout the book – there was a mutual respect that wasn’t common in that time period.

     

    If you could be friends with any fictional character, who would it be?

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