Category Archives: Books

Favorite Books of 2016

I didn’t read enough this year, but did discover some gems, both old and new.

The year started out with a big high as I binged on all things Liane Moriarty, (as a side note, guess who’s on the February 2017 cover of  Writer’s Digest???)

But after the summer I went into a reading slump, with just so-so feelings book after book (coinciding with a hard summer, so maybe it was me, not the book 🙂 )

Here are my top picks for the year (and make sure to leave me some recommendations!)

 

The Light Between Oceans
The War that Saved My Life
Mindset: The New Psychology of Success
Christmas Day in the Morning
Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives
The Nightingale
When Breath Becomes Air
Waiting for Augusta
Truly Madly Guilty
Hamilton: The Revolution
Writing Irresistible KidLit: The Ultimate Guide to Crafting Fiction for Young Adult and Middle Grade Readers
The Hypnotist's Love Story
The Last Anniversary
Three Wishes / The Last Anniversary
Medium Hero
The More of Less: Finding the Life You Want Under Everything You Own
God Wants A Powerful People
The Five Love Languages of Children
Crossing to Safety
Ramona the Pest
Alexander Hamilton
Today Will Be Different
Love Warrior
Commonwealth
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Summer Reads {including my current obsession with Lin-Manuel}

What I love about summer? More reading time. One day I told Paige we were having a reading hour right in the middle of the morning. We laid on my bed for a whole hour and read. It was quite blissful and I vowed to make a daily habit. It wasn’t, but I encourage you to lay aside tasks and chores and television for more words and books.

Paige finished the 7th Harry Potter book – a huge feat for a 9-year-old, but especially gratifying as this was my child who did not care much for reading; it was too hard! But then she discovered Harry. She was in mourning for days with a beloved Harry book to read, but I pushed Laura Ingalls and she’s enamored with a whole other world once again.

I just love good books. Here are my summer reads: what I loved and what I didn’t.

  1. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah: Covers WWII in France and serves as a warning of how insidious Hitler’s type of evil can spread. Hard to read at times as it deals with the choices mothers and fathers are forced to make during wartime. Really well written and definitely worth the read! And it will make you cry and pray for peace.

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2. The Book of Mormon: I read this often, almost everyday, and always learn new life insights. It’s changed my life. And it’s free 🙂

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3. Food Matters by Mark Bittman: Terrific, easy, unprocessed food and recipes.

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4. God Wants a Powerful People by Sheri Dew: Another life-changing book. Empowering.

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5. The Self-Care Solution by Julie Burton: Julie reached out to me and asked if I would read and review her new book. It was terrific, a read mothers should read, study, and heed. I’ve got a copy to give away to the first person who asks! I’d love to send it your way. Congrats, Julie!

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6. Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee: I resisted for months – who dares to complicate or cast a shadow on my favorite of books, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD? Alas, I opened the book and was quite delighted with Scout, all grown up. There’s so much controversy over the discovery of this manuscript (Google it – fascinating!), but I’m most intrigued by the fact it was the first draft of what would become her great classic. It shows the great power of an editor!

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7. Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo: I just love that DiCamillo, whatever she writes!

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8. The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman: I loved this. The movie is coming out in September and Cope and I will be first in line! A great love story. How far would you go for the one you loved? Would you let your wife keep a baby that wasn’t really hers – even under serendipitous circumstances? What would you do if someone tried to take away your only child? The writing is tremendous – and you will cry! My favorite type of book 🙂

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9. Truly, Madly, Guilty by Liane Moriarty: My BFF librarian, Gail, ordered Moriarty’s new book and personally handed it over as soon as it came in. What a gal, right!? As always, Moriarty nails character. She always makes me laugh and think. I didn’t love the plot as much as her other books, but I still enjoyed the read.

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10. Hamilton, The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter: This book is the score, with footnotes on how each original Broadway cast member was cast, and the long road of writing such a brilliant work of art. Hamilton, the Musical is now an 11-times Tony-award winning hip-hop musical on broadway. Don’t like musicals? Put that aside. This is unlike anything you’ve ever heard or listened to.

Have you ever wondered how a tiny band of scholars and mercenaries defeated the greatest superpower in the world? And then went on to write a Bill of Rights and Constitution, something never before seen or heard in the world?

Do you know anything about Alexander Hamilton? “Every other founding father’s story gets told. Every other founding father gets to grow old.” Lin-Manuel has put Hamilton’s extraordinary life to music in the form of a rap: “How does a rag tag volunteer army in need of a shower, somehow defeat a global superpower?”

I’m OBSESSED with the genius of it all. Back story: Lin-Manuel Miranda was on vacation reading ALEXANDER HAMILTON by Rob Chernow. He was struck by the brilliant, young, ambitious founding father and told his wife, “I think this could be a hip-hop musical.” She didn’t laugh. Instead: “That would be cool.” And so it began. Chernow’s book is on my list. The girls and I don’t drive anywhere without blasting and rapping Hamilton lyrics (to Nelson’s great embarrassment). There are a few expletives…beware. It will make you grateful for America, it will make you want to “rise up!”, and it will make you cry. It’s SO GOOD!

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Bestsellers I read and didn’t like:

The Swans of 5th Avenue by Melanie Benjamin (was there even one redeeming character? Maybe one.), and Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah.

What I didn’t like and didn’t bother finishing:

The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney.

It’s been a whirlwind of a summer, but reading was a priority…and now we are plunging into the fall. But wait, what did you read and love? Do tell!

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A Great New Book: The More of Less

I read this great book last month:

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It opens with a Will Rogers quote: “Too many people spend money they haven’t earned to buy things they don’t want to impress people they don’t like.”

Isn’t it funny? Even as adults we’re still trying to impress each other.

Warning: Reading this book may lead to the frantic purging of closets, drawers and cupboards that require multiple trips to Goodwill and the curb. This behavior may also leave you feeling like the weight of the world is off your back … at least that was my reaction after just two dressers.

I often wonder about this phenomenon; why do we feel so much better when we get rid of stuff? What is it about stuff that is so burdensome?

In “The More of Less: Finding the Life You Want Under Everything You Own,” author Joshua Becker wrote a personal note: “Amy, if you like the book, help spread the word. It’s important stuff!”

He’s right – it’s important stuff. I’m spreading the word!

The book begins with a story: “Our two-car garage, as always, was full of stuff. Boxes stacked one on top of another threatened to fall off shelves. Bikes were tangled together, leaned against a wall … Rakes and shovels and brooms leaned every which way. Some days we’d have to turn sideways when getting in and out of our cars to squeeze through the mess that filled the garage.”

Oh my gosh, he’s been in my garage!

Reading prompted multiple questions: Why are we working such long, hard hours just so we can buy, collect and store stuff?

Why? What’s the point of it all?

As a society we may be working more, but for what?  I don’t want to live in a tree house, but my lifestyle is certainly far more extravagant than my parents, and far far more luxurious than my grandparents and their grandparents! I have a feeling they would be astounded at our wealth – I’ve seen the pictures of their poverty.

It’s hard for us in different ways. We’ve created a lifestyle that requires us to work longer hours, find multiple jobs, and make dual incomes. To alleviate the stress, many of us make it worse: We buy more (dopamine hit!)

And then, to take care of all our stuff, we have to clean it, organize it, buy more containers to organize it, and spend our precious weekends moving our stuff from one location to the other.

STOP the insanity!

We don’t really need to own all this stuff.

These were the words that changed Becker’s world in 2008 while talking to his elderly next-door neighbor as he struggled to clean his garage. While pulling out dusty, underused possessions, Becker noticed his son alone in the backyard. His son had wanted to play with him that morning, but alas, dad was too busy. “The juxtaposition of the two scenes dug deep into my heart, and I began to recognize the source of my discontent for the first time. … It was piled in my driveway.”

This moment is when Becker’s journey into minimalism began.

The whole point is this: “Our excessive possessions are not making us happy. Even worse, they are taking us away from the things that do. Once we let go of the things that don’t matter, we are free to pursue all the things that really do matter.”

Using both scientific studies and anectdotal stories, Becker tells us what our closets are telling us:

In America, we consume twice as many material goods as 50 years ago. Over the same period, the size of the average American home has nearly tripled and contains about 300,000 items. On average, our homes contain more televisions than PEOPLE! Home organization is now an $8 billion industry and still, one of out every 10 American households rents off-site storage, “the fastest-growing segment of the commercial real-estate industry over the past four decades.”

We Americans have a personal-debt problem, with the average household’s credit card debt over $15,000 and the average mortgage debt over $150,000.

Debt makes us very very unhappy.

Becker wants us to see our overstuffed homes for what they are: distractions from the source of true happiness like relationships, free time, financial freedom and less stress.

He acknowledges it’s not easy, particularly for families with children, pets, and a lifetime of momentos. It takes a hard look and family agreement to know how to realistically downsize. It can take months and even years to change our habits and actually own less. I’m finding this to be true.

Purging is not an overnight phenomenon.

(I know, hadn’t I already done this?). Habits are hardwired. It’s very difficult to say good-bye. For instance:

unnamed-5 I’ve kept my sun-bleached lifeguarding hair for TWENTY YEARS.

unnamed-3 I made these crayfish claw earrings for my sister as a joke in high school or college. She kindly regifted them to me. I bravely tossed them. And now I’m actually sad because they’d make a great gag gift! See? That’s another reason we don’t throw away – sometimes we regret it!

unnamed-4 A small white statue with a broken arm. It has sentimental value, but alas, it has sat at the back of my drawer for decades.

unnamed-7 Do I really need a dusty tassle?

unnamed-6 What this is and where did it come from?

Brynne has also caught the decluttering bug. Outside her bedroom I heard her say, “Paige! You can’t keep it! Does it SPARK JOY???!”unnamed-2

unnamed-1I purged most of our CDs and many many movies that I can stream from Spotify or Netflix.

I’ve still got drawers and file cabinets and rooms to go, but it feels SO SO good to have less stuff.

Read this book! (and no, I’m not getting anything out of this review.) Becker makes such a great case, I’m convinced that if we followed a path of minimalism (owning less stuff) we would reap the benefits Becker is seeing all over the minimalist world: greater joy, more contentment, increased generosity, more high-quality possessions, a better example to our children, less work for ourselves and others, less comparison, less distraction, and freedom to pursue what we were really put on this earth to do.

Though its not a religious book, Becker is a preacher (love that). He’s a seeker of happiness and enlightenment. He recounts the story of the rich man who asks Jesus what he can do to gain eternal life. Jesus says to sell all that he has, give it to the poor, and follow him. But when the young man “heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.”

I recently read in the New York Times, that it’s not possible to be an atheist: we all worship something. A good question for us all: What are we worshipping?

The More of Less was released on May 3 and after its first week, landed on many National Bestseller Lists:

  • USA Today Bestsellers List: #10 in Nonfiction; #2 in Self-Help
  • Publisher’s Weekly: #13 in Hardcover Nonfiction
  • iBooks: #10 in Nonfiction
  • Amazon: #1 in Several Categories

Becker also writes a great blog, Becoming Minimalist!

Henry David Thoreau and John Ruskin are often referred to as the “fathers of the minimalist movement.” Becker? I’d say he’s a modern-day leader.

We don’t need to own all this stuff. I vow to keep trying.

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Recent Book Reads and Recommendations!

Book recommendations are some of my favorite posts to write!

If you read my last book post, you know of my utter obsession with Liane Moriarty (Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon will soon star on-screen in Big, Little Lies.) I gobbled up three of her books late in 2015 and spent January and February running back and forth to the library to check out her earlier books. Have I mentioned? My librarians are my BFFs.

Here’s what I’ve been reading the last few months…

1. The Hypnotist’s Love Story by Liane Moriarty: Ellen is a hypnotherapist and finally falling in love. But new love, Patrick, has a stalker ex-girlfriend. Ellen is intrigued and thinks it would be fun to meet stalker…she doesn’t know she already has…

2. The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriary: Sophie has unexpectedly inherited her ex-boyfriend’s Aunt Connie’s house on Scribbly Gum Island—home of the famously unsolved Munro Baby mystery. A cute read about finding your own happiness. And I love the name “Scribbly Gum Island.” I want to move there.

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3. Three Wishes by Liane Moriarty. Moriarty’s debut novel about 3 beautiful triplets – they are so dramatic! As a reader who loves character-driven novels, Moriarty nails it every time. I’ve asked Moriarty to tone down the swearing but she says her characters have a mind of their own…

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You can tell how much better Moriarty has gotten as her subsequent books are released – a very fun author observation! This is also great news for all of us: WRITING IS A CRAFT we can all learn.

And now I’ve read all her books and am in a deep, dark slump…but don’t fret, Ms. Moriarty has a new book coming out this July! And my BFF (dear librarian, Gail) has already ordered it for me. I tell you, there are benefits living in the sticks!

Coming in July… (I mean, shouldn’t they hire me to be her publicist or something?)

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4. Writing Irresistible Kidlit by Mary Kole: So, so, good. A former literary agent, Kole knows the business. Want to write for kids of any age? READ THIS NOW. I’ve underlined and ear-marked every page.

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5. The War That Saved my Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley: “Mom, you HAVE to read this book!” my 11-year-old Brynne insisted. It was a very good, award-winning middle grade read set in WWII.

6. Finding Audrey by Sophia Kinsella: My first Kinsella book, I had to read this young adult novel after my oldest couldn’t stop laughing and saying, “The mom in this book is SO YOU!” Which, after reading, was totally unflattering. Kinsella does a great job using humor to write about a serious, psychological issue.

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7. Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meisner: An adult historical fiction novel set in WWII that features two young sisters separated during the Blitz in England. Heart wrenching for me to read about a missing child.

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8. Medium Hero by Korby Lenker: A collection of short stories, Korby Lenker CAN WRITE! I loved this collection so much. Lender will make you laugh and cry and think about your faith as he searches for his own.

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9. The More of Less: Finding the Life You Want Under Everything You Own by Joshua Becker: THIS BOOK is going to be big and deserves its own post. Joshua, of the hugely popular blog, Becoming Minimalist sent me an Advanced Reading Copy as he is about to release this gem of a book. Pre-order before May 3rd and you’ll have free access to the Minimalist class. I’m not joking: this book is a life-changer. It’s fantastic. You’ll be hearing more…

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10. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi: I weep. What happens when a brilliant neuroscientist gets cancer just as he is finally embarking on his calling in life? A #1 New York Times Bestseller, “For readers of Atul Gawande, Andrew Solomon, and Anne Lamott, a profoundly moving, exquisitely observed memoir by a young neurosurgeon faced with a terminal cancer diagnosis who attempts to answer the question What makes a life worth living?” I was trying to drift into a restful Sunday nap while reading but couldn’t stop crying and sniffling. The Professor puts up with a lot, I tell you. Worthy read.

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And now on to the next batch of books. Tell me, dear friends, have any book recommendations for us?

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Recent Reads: Books I Loved {and some I didn’t…}

A good book is an event in my life. -Stendhal

1. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. It won the Pulitzer for heavens sake, aren’t I supposed to love it? My overall feeling: meh. If I’m going to take two months to read a 772-page book that weighs ten pounds I’d like to feel a few things: enlightened, empowered, inspired. Sadly, I felt none of those things. There is no doubt that Tartt has an immense capacity to string words into beautiful sentences. She’s very very good. I just wish I hadn’t been left feeling so…meh.

2. In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick. Based on a true story, I read this as Cope embarked on ocean classroom. The beginning hooked me right away, though I had trouble wading through the middle. I was left feeling thankful I’ve never had to send a loved one off to sea for two-three years. Also, thankful I’ve never had to contemplate whether or not to eat a human or starve. Wonderfully researched.

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3. Missing You by Harlan Coben. I needed something light and quick after cannibalism. Coben knows how to create a page-turner. Didn’t hate it. Didn’t love it. Feels a bit formulaic. ho-hum.

4. Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. Nonfiction. I adore Gilbert’s writing. And if she’s going to write about writing? I snatched this one up quick! I underlined many many passages. A great read for anyone who wants to write. Big takeaway? You have a work to do. Only you can do it. So get it done and let the haters be darned! Oh, and Gilbert has this most remarkable theory regarding a big story idea, Ann Patchett, and a kiss…fascinating.

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5. The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty. I have a new favorite author. I was hunting for some exciting, adrenaline-pumping fiction and found my match! Moriarty is so good – she nails the dialogue, the pacing, the inner thoughts we think and can’t articulate. There are a few “parts” but not too racy. I RAN to the library after I read this to get her next book, crossing my fingers I would like her as much the next time around.

6. What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty. Oh, I was not disappointed! This was fantastic. It made me think about how we grow older with our spouse. Remember when it was all rose pedals and butterflies? Alice, our heroine, bumps her head and when she wakes up, she discovers she’s getting a divorce! She can’t remember the last ten years or that she has THREE CHILDREN. She only knows she adores her newlywed husband – what could possibly have driven them apart? IT’S SO GOOD. January, (okay, life in general!) feels so good knowing I have more Liane Moriarty books to read 🙂

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7. The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin. This was a big winner in the middle grade world. I liked it okay.

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8. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty. Yep, I went back for more. Here she dives into serious issues like domestic abuse with couples who live seemingly “perfect lives.” She also makes you laugh at all the right moments. OMGoodness, I love this author.

9. The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sender. A beautifully written book about a great love story…you may weep. Reminded me of Pearl Buck and The Good Earth.

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10. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck. Okay, friendlies. If there is one book you need to read this year – THIS IS IT. It has changed my life because it has changed the way I think. It is SO incredibly powerful for me as a parent, teacher, and writer. It’s readable, filled with practical examples, and has the potential to open up worlds of opportunity. I love this book. It was our faculty’s summer reading – what a gem! READ THIS. Or you can start with Dweck’s TED talk: The Power in Believing You Can Improve.

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And that’s all for the latest edition of Recent Reads. What am I reading now? Another Liane Moriarty book…:)

What are you reading? As always, I love to hear!

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I Loved These Books…and You Might, Too

There are few things I love more than discovering a great book – and then recommending it. With Labor Day upon us, I suppose this means summer is truly coming to an end. Take heart! Perhaps you can squeeze one more book in. This summer I was determined to read more, and though I still have a stack and a wish list, here are my summer reads and recommendations:

51EvfaFpHOL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_The Storied Life of A.J. Fiery by Gabrielle Zevin. I loved this book. It’s subtle, and a page-turner. A.J. Fikery is sad. He lives alone, runs a bookstore experiencing its worst sales in history, and his prized and rare collection of Poe poems is stolen! But when someone wrapped in a very small package arrives on his doorstep, A.J. has a chance to start a new life. A love story that may make you cry. A.J. also makes me laugh. I recommend this book!

510bcEfPizL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein. I absolutely do not read books about dogs and pets; I’m just not that person. But then I began writing a story about a dog (go figure). To get me in the mood I opened this book. Oh, why did I resist so long? You’ll definitely cry. You’ll laugh, too. You won’t be able to put it down even whilst touring the great sites of Europe (true story.) This book was passed, grabbed, and fought over among many members of the family this summer (a few racy parts had to be skipped for children’s sake)!

UnknownWhen Will There Be Good News? by Kate Atkinson. Wow. What a voice, what a way with words. I’m not sure I even liked this book, but I must sing this author’s praises. This book is so English and not exactly an uplifting read. But Atkinson can write! The horrible first scene hooks you and you must know what happens to little Joanna…and Reggie…and Detective Brodie who is down on his luck and hoping to find the one who got away (both love and murder.) In my opinion, Atkinson, is one of the great writers of our time.

Unknown-1 The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. I finally read it. I know, it took me awhile. This is the story of the ability of books to feed the soul. It’s 1939, Nazi Germany. Books are being burned. Jews are being rounded up. Death has never been busier. An orphan, Liesel, steals something she can’t resist: a book. Zusak has a writing style that I had to adjust to – I’m glad I did. Worth the read.

51YUtiQEGDL._SX281_BO1,204,203,200_Suspect, by Robert Crais is the type of fast-paced thriller my husband likes to read at night. I read it because it features a main character named Maggie who is…a dog! Maggie is a bomb sniffer. She teams up with LAPD cop Scott James. Both of them are not doing well. They’ve suffered heavy losses. This is the story of a man and a dog who need each other. I’m now an expert on sniffing and the incredible olfactory bulbs of canines (and you can be too)!

511Y1shNp+L._SX337_BO1,204,203,200_From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by e.l. konigsburg. A middle grade book I loved as a kid and rediscovered on my mother’s bookshelf this summer. It was good (though not quite as good as I remembered) and fun to revisit. It’s a classic, but also startling: children’s literature has evolved!

51CWAtRJpGL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_At the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen. I wanted to love this book. The premise was fantastic: a young woman and her privileged husband embark on an adventure to prove the existence of the Loch Ness monster. It’s a love story. It’s a historical period. Cope loved this book and read it twice. I wanted to love this book…but it fell a little short for me. I felt the author was holding back.

41qODNLMRnL._SX343_BO1,204,203,200_This is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett. I took a break from fiction and picked up this collection of Patchett’s nonfiction essays, only one of them being on marriage. I WAS BLOWN AWAY by Patchett’s writing skills. I adore her. I long to write like her. Also, I’m fascinated by Ann’s personal life. In addition to being a best selling author, she owns a bookstore in Tennessee (road trip, anyone???). She doesn’t have children. She has a dog. I dog-eared a million pages and underlined hundreds of sentences. I will share this book with you if you want to read it next!

Unknown-2Paper Towns by John Green. Meh. It’s hard for an author, don’t you think, to have a hit like The Fault in Our Stars, and then be measured by it forever? On the other hand, young adult writer Green has gotten better over time and practice – a great take away for any writer. This book is a love story about a good boy, Quentin, worshipping Margo Roth Spiegelman who is not at all the girl he thinks she is. I’ve got this book, and I can loan it!

41nHbHx4BYL._SX338_BO1,204,203,200_The Penderwicks at Point Mouette by Jeanne Birdsall is the third in a series of children’s literature. I read this book to Paige; we love The Penderwicks! It’s the story of four sisters, Hound the dog, and their summer time adventures. Very fun. Very sweet, with nothing deep dark and dangerous. Refreshing.

What am I reading now? Daunted by the weight of the book, I finally broke down and began reading the pulitzer prize winning The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. It’s GOOD. So far, there is no dog.

And that’s all folks, Maisymak’s summertime reads and recommendations! I’m always looking for recommendations, so pass them along. What did you read this summer and love?

 

 

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The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up

Perhaps your first reaction is like Brynne’s: “A New York Times Best Seller? It’s a book about cleaning!”

Ah yes, my young padawans, we are not yet Jedis. There is much to learn…

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Marie Kondo is a tidy-Jedi. I love this book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.” Now quite famous in Japan, this method is called the “Kon-Mari method.” Very Jedi-like.

The word “tidying” does not refer to organizing. Rather, this book is about ridding our life of everything unnecessary. In the process, we find joy.

It’s not really about organizing and cleaning. It does not speak of The Container Store, buying more bins, or storage units. In fact, Kondo has something to say about that:

Storage Experts Are Hoarders.

Woah! Hold on to your boot straps, missy, we are going for a ride!

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Kon-Mari is both funny and serious about her quest to organize. She was born wanting to organize. Even in kindergarten, she didn’t like to play. She liked to put things away. In middle school she rushed home so she could organize the house. This girl is now using her innate organizing super powers to change the world!

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What prompted me to pick up this book? I am on a serious quest to feel less crazy, less busy, less frazzled. I’m craving simplicity. So often, I just feel like I’m moving stuff around the house. This book was quite a serendipitous find.unnamed-4

Section One. I ask you, WHY CANT I KEEP MY HOUSE IN ORDER?

I have kids! I swear that’s the reason. I’m pretty sure our Jedi master, Kon-Mari, doesn’t have kids. Just saying. That’s my only criticism. I could be wrong. Maybe she has 12. But she lives in Japan, so probably not.

Excuses. Once I got past “it’s all the kid’s fault,” I dug deep, read, and examined my habits and flaws.

There are five basic sections of the book:

1. Why Can’t I Keep My House in Order?

2. Finish Discarding First

3. Tidying by Category Works Like Magic

4. Storing Your Things to Make  Your Life Shine

5. The Magic of Tidying Dramatically Transforms Your Life

Kondo takes you by the hand and gently says, “Its not your fault you’re a slob. You just haven’t been taught how.” For instance, her clients are most often women in their 50s.

Some Highlights: Did you know you’ve been insulting your socks?unnamed-3

“Never ball up socks…look at them carefully. This should be a time for them to rest. They’ve worked hard for you. Do you really think they can get any rest like that?”

Ha! This is for real! I love it.

Did you know your real life begins when home gets put in order?

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“Tidy a little everyday and you’ll be tidying forever.”unnamed-5

“If you’re mad at your family, your room may be the cause.” unnamed-8

Outer order contributes to inner calm!unnamed-9

As you can see, I did  A LOT of folding down of pages:unnamed-10

If books have voices, this one spoke to me.

Kondo states that storing stuff just hides the problems, conceals things we don’t need under a lid. Putting things away creates the illusion that the clutter problem has been solved.

This is why tidying must start with discarding.

In the last month I have gotten rid of at least ten bags of stuff. It feels so good.

Kondo says to work in categories, not by room: clothes, books, papers, miscellaneous (CDs, skincare products, makeup, household equipment….), sentimental.

For clothes, hold it up each item and ask, “Does this spark joy?” If not, give it away.

It’s all about feeling. It’s our rational brain that gets in the way. I might use it. I might need it. It was expensive. It was a gift.

How do you get rid of something that doesn’t spark joy? “Express your appreciation for their contribution to your life. Tell them, ‘Thank you for the boost you gave me when I bought you,’ or ‘Thank you for getting me a little more fit.'” and then say good-bye.”

I laughed out loud several times, but then I actually tried it. It really works!

“Say good-bye joyfully with words, like ‘Thank your for finding me’ or ‘Have a good journey. See you again soon!'”

I tried this out on The Professor.

Me: “Okay, honey, does this bring you joy?” (old t-shirt)

“I guess not.”

Me: “Okay, thank it for its service in your life and then say good-bye.”

“No, I’m not doing that.”

Obviously, some of us have a hard time getting in touch with our feelings.

What about the rebound effect? “Rebound occurs because people mistakenly believe they have tidied thoroughly, which in fact they have only sorted and stored things halfway. If you put your house in order properly, you’ll be able to keep your room tidy, even if you are lazy or sloppy by nature” (which she says she is).

People cannot change their habits without first changing their way of thinking.

There’s so much wisdom in this book I want to reread it all over again.

I highly recommend it!

You want the space you live in to be graced only with those things that speak to your heart and bring joy. 

“Tidying is our opportunity to express our appreciation to our home for all it does for us.”

Amen to that. And now, back to tidying.

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Book Recommendations (and more!)

Here we go with some book recommendations that will surely thrill your heart and stir the soul. I tell you what, a good book is what gets me through February and March in New Hampshire.

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We Were Liars by E. Lockhart.  Young Adult. Tragic, page-turner, very tight writing. John Green says,”Thrilling, beautiful, and blisteringly smart, We Were Liars is utterly unforgettable.” I liked this, didn’t love it, but it’s a great book to study for sparse but powerful language, the ending is what Cope calls, “cray-cray.” Interpretation: crazy. I didn’t see it coming!

Fan Girl by Rainbow Rowell. Young Adult. I thought this could have been 100 pages shorter 🙂 but it was really funny, the dialogue was fabulous, and I thought Rainbow (great name!) did freshman sexuality well. A few too many swears for my taste, but Ms. Rowell (Eleanor and Park) is a superb storyteller.

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline. Loved this! Baker tells a forgotten chapter of American history, (at least I didn’t know about it) the part where hundreds of thousands of orphans would get on a train and travel across the country, hoping a family would adopt them. Babies, toddlers, teens. Love the structure of this novel, how it switches back and forth between present and past. Big take away: the human spirit is incredibly resilient. I shall never complain again.

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Arming Your Children With the Gospel by R. Wayne and Leslee S. Boss: I try to always be reading something enlightening and spiritually beneficial for my family. This is great. Told with real life stories and great quotes, this book is very applicable to modern culture. I dog-eared many many pages. Chapters I particularly liked: Why Teach the Gospel in the home (no one can do it better than you), The Good Neighbor Policy (sometimes we treat neighbors better than our family), Teaching Children Obedience (obedience is the first principle of family life; all interactions and behavior flow from it), and Developing a Love for the Scriptures (it’s not a burden, rather a marvelous opportunity.)

Helen Keller, a Photographic Story of a Life by Leslie Garrett I love autobiographies. Helen Keller is astoundingly smart, but who I admire even more is Anne Sullivan. She had a very difficult life; was exhausted, nearly-blind herself, and orphaned. This teacher is my hero.

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Einstein’s Beach House by Jacob M Appel I’ve long-admired Mr. Appel’s ability to have a full-time career as a doctor AND write hundreds of short stories. He’s won the Writer’s Digest Competition a few times. I received this for free (by emailing him after a webinar!). I have to say, this collection is brilliant story-telling. Didn’t love all the swears in a few stories, but wow, this guy can write!

The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly Saw the movie many years ago, but never read the book. Love lawyer conundrums with page-turning story telling. And all I could see was Matthew McConaughey on every page. Need I say more?

Still Alice by Lisa Genova. Just finished this yesterday! This is my kind of book. Told from the perspective of a brilliant Harvard professor with early-onset Alzheimer’s (she’s only 50), this is a book everyone should read. Loved all the medical jargon, human interactions, and the thoughts of a mother who knows she will forget her children. Heartbreakingly good. Now I need to see the movie…Julianne Moore won the Oscar! Also, if you’re a writer, Ms. Genova has some fantastic advice. For instance, this was originally a self-published book. Her advice: don’t get stuck in that holding pattern of not writing and waiting for the literary agent to pick you. Act! Pick yourself. Um, hello Amy.

A Mango-Shaped Space by Wendy Mass. Middle grade read my 5th-grader loved. Mia Winchell has synesthesia, the mingling of perceptions whereby a person can see sounds, smell colors, or taste shapes. A coming-of-age book. I thought it just okay.

What I’ve started: The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Families. So good, so much information.

Other Entertainment News in Television:

1. We did it. In one year, averaging one show a night, we finished all eight seasons of 24. (I’m so proud). Jack Bauer, we love you. No, really. LOVE.

2. We did it. In 6-7 years, we watched the last episode of Parenthood. Best series of real life on t.v. Loved this show. I cried during the season finale…dare you not to.

3. Downton Abbey! The girls and I looked forward to this bonding Downton night every week. The season finale? Carson and Mrs. Hughes! So amazing. And who is this dashing man with a too-fast car? I have high hopes for Mary. Oh, and Edith and her baby! There’s never enough!

4. Chicago PD. A little obsessed with Sophia Bush. I want to be her. Love this show.

The two movies we saw in the last year were recent:

1. McFarland. This is a post by itself so I’ll just say: FANTASTIC! I LOVED it. A must-see for more reasons than running shoes, a coach seeking redemption, and rooting for the under-dog.

2. Cinderella. This movie sparked quite the debate in the house. I loved it. Not everyone did 🙂 Casting was terrific. Cate Blanchett as wicked stepmother? Perfect. And Lily James from Downton? Maybe I was just obsessed with her hair. Her hair. Did you see her hair?

Well, that’s how I got through winter. How did you do it? Did it involve books or shows? I’d love to hear.

xoxo!

 

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Book Recommendations

Oh, I do love posting book recommendation. It’s like telling you a big secret and in return, you tell me something juicy too.

January was a good reading month. I took Word Nerd’s advice and made it part of my to-do list.

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How Will You Measure Your Life? by Clayton M. Christensen with James Allworth and Karen Dillon.  *national best seller. Ya’ll, you have to read this. Every single page in my copy is dog-eared and underlined. Christensen is a brilliant Harvard business school professor…booorrrring? Oh contraire! Diagnosed with cancer, he taught what he thought might be his last class: how would he measure his life? Why, he wondered, were so many of his brilliant classmates, who had every advantage and capability so very unhappy 20 years later? He tells us why and then teaches us how to make our life more happy. Five Stars.

Fight club by Chuck Palahniuk. *lots of indie book awards. Okay, I admit it, the biggest draw was a certain P-I-T-T in the movie. I never actually saw the movie, but I did see A River Runs Through It. We clear? I also read this because I’ve heard many people say it’s “the best book, HANDS DOWN, I’ve ever read.” It just goes to show how vastly book taste varies. I would have quit reading before chapter 1 ended. I pretty much despised this book. There, I’ve said it. I skimmed to the end because I thought perhaps I was going to miss the great literary merit. There’s a great twist at the end and the writing is very good. That will give it Two Stars*.

*I feel mean writing that about another author's work but it's just my little opinion!

Leroy Ninker Saddles Up by Kate DeCamillo. Whatever DeCamillo touches is gold. How about that name? Leroy Ninker. This was a Paige book. She’s 7. We both loved it. It’s short and funny and full of big dreams. “Leroy Ninker has a hat, a lasso, and boots. What he doesn’t have is a horse — until he meets Maybelline, that is, and then it’s love at first sight.” Giddyap! Four Stars.

The Birchbark House by Louise Erdich. *national book award.Brynne, my 10-year-old came into my room and said, “Mom, you HAVE to read this. It is so good!” It reminded me of Little House on the Prairie, but from a little Indian girl’s point of view. I was hooked by the first line: “The only person left alive on the island was a baby girl.” Brynne keeps reading the last line in this fabulously dreamy voice: “Omakaya tucked her hands behind her head, lay back, closed her eyes, and smiled as the song of the white-throated sparrow sank again and again through the air like a shining needle, and sewed up her broken heart.” Five Stars.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. *national book award.This book has a lot of buzz. I begged the librarian to order it. It’s good. The writing is exceptional. It’s deep and literary. Historical fiction. I wanted to like it more; I felt like I should. I just wasn’t moved the way I was hoping. Hmmm. Literary merit alone is Five Stars but my personal “liking” is Three Stars. p.s. Mr. Doerr lives in Boise, Idaho. I’m so happily surprised when greatness lives in seemingly ordinary places. I wonder if he has a pet cow.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. Another book with a lot of buzz. I begged my librarian for this one too; Priscilla is so good to me! This book has a more unreliable narrator than Gone Girl and I COULD NOT PUT IT DOWN. Luckily we had a major snowstorm and I could not leave the house and had to ignore the darlings (just one second honey, go forage for breakfast downstairs…and hush) so I could finish the book in two long sittings. Written by a female journalist, you’ll know she’s English with the word “rubbish” in the first paragraph. Also, unfortunately, English authors are a little more “free” with language. Now listen, bad things happen when you drink too much and have affairs. Just don’t do it! It NEVER ends well. EVER. You like thrillers? You’ll love this. For unputdownable factor: Four 1/2 Stars

For Christmas Nelson gave me a beautiful leather journal. I knew exactly what I wanted to do with it: A book journal. I’ve tried Goodreads and old notebooks, but this is just what I needed. I’m keeping track of it all with a pink uniball pen. It’s dreamy fun.

Now it’s your turn. Tell me what to read next. Actually I have a stack. Tell me anyway – and happy reading!

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A Sanely Wonderful Holiday Guide

I didn’t come up with the idea, but here’s what we’re doing for Christmas this year:

holiday guide

I could have sworn I saw this idea on Momastery.com, but for the love of peanut butter I can’t find it idea anywhere! I suspect brain malfunction. In A&P this is exactly what we’re studying. I’m becoming suspicious of my actual sanity.

Anyway, let’s get back to Christmas!

The simple guide above has brought my stress level back to the state of a somewhat normal mother (is that even a thing?) I’m as calm as the summer sun, which is amazingly refreshing given it’s barely 30 degrees outside.

I think this list has been fun for the kids too as they carefully plot out what they really, really want instead of bringing me a ginormous Christmas list that stretches from here to Nebraska.

Also: we had to break down and buy a minivan – Merry Christmas, kids!

Some Maisymak ideas…

One thing you want

1. Give the gift of health:  A Runner’s Gift Guide

2. A Vitamix. Splurge for your health. Use this FREE SHIPPING CODE: 06-008623 (SAVE $25US/$35CN)

3. Paige wants a hair-curling Barbie. I’m still working on that.

One thing the world needs

1. Give the kids $20. Tell them they can spend it any way they want as long as it’s for someone else. A charity, a pair of shoes, a neighbor gift, pay for someone’s gas or groceries, toys for tots…

2. It doesn’t have to mean money. The world needs quiet service.

3. The Camellia Network. Vanessa wrote one of my favorite books, The Language of Flowers. Her organization helps foster kids.

4. Multiply Goodness. 24 Days of Doing Good. I love this.

5. Lisa shares a list any busy family can do!

6. Sponsor a child – Compassion International is a legit organization

7. Children need water! Freedom in Creation can help.

8. Lemonade International! “I can sit at the edge of La Limonada…and all I smell is hope.” -Tita Evertsz. I’m going to meet Tita someday!

Great books for you and your friendlies:

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Great Books for Tweens and Teens 

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*Cope is English monarchy obsessed. So sorry if you don’t relate.

Great Books for Kiddies

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May your days be merry and bright…and may you share your light and read lots of good books! 

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