Browsed by
Tag: Show Us Your Books

Show Us Your Books – February

Show Us Your Books – February

Show Us Your Books link-up February book reviews


Before I get into this month’s book reviews, I wanted to pimp out a podcast I’ve been enjoying! In “By the Book”, the two hosts pick a different self help book every two weeks and live by its instructions. They’ve done the Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, The Secret, and more. It’s fairly new, but fun if you have either read the books they discuss or like the concept of someone else reading them for you and reporting back.



Educated by Tara Westover

Goodreads * Amazon

This book, y’all. It’s the memoir of a woman who was raised in a crazy fundamentalist/survivalist family that didn’t allow their children to go to school, see doctors, or for a long time, even have birth certificates. At ten years old, she’s helping her father collect heavy scrap metal from the junk yard – SUPER SAFE. After watching her older brother study at home and get into college, she starts to toy with the idea, and eventually escapes to a totally unfamiliar world.

Skip the next couple italicized sentences if you don’t want a minor spoiler, but it’s so crazy I can’t NOT share. When Tara finally does go to college and takes an art history course,  she raises her hand to ask the professor a question – there’s a word in the caption of a painting they’re studying that she doesn’t know, and she’s curious what it means. When she asks, everyone thinks she’s making a really distasteful joke, but she was serious. The word? Holocaust. Her home schooling was so non-existent that she thought Europe was a country, and that FDR might be a kind of forklift? 

I read most of this in one night – it’s riveting. I’ve read a couple of books by people who grew up in cults or fundamentalist families before, but the kind of interesting thing with Tara’s is that although her family was Mormon, it was more her father than the church setting the insane guidelines they lived by. You know that moment when you’re growing up when you realize that your parents actually DON’T know everything, and they’re just normal humans? Imagine that times a million.

So much crazy shit happens that you kind of wonder how her entire family didn’t die along the way. Important note– there are several fairly graphic descriptions of injuries that various family members sustain either working in the junkyard or from auto accidents. If you’re squeamish, be prepared to skip a few paragraphs when something bad happens. With that note in mind, if you have any interest in unusual memoirs or crazy off the grid survivalists or the whole “super sheltered religious kid discovers the real world” type of books, definitely pick this one up!



A Little Piece of Light by Donna Hylton

Goodreads * Amazon

You know your life has been rough when being sentenced to 25 years in prison is one of the best things that has ever happened to you.

Yes, I read not one but TWO not-so-cheerful memoirs this month! The first half of this one was much tougher to read than Educated – the author endures pretty much every kind of abuse you can imagine from the time she’s a child until she’s arrested at 19 for kidnapping and second degree murder. The childhood of abuse takes up about the first 1/3 of the book, and so many awful things happen to her one after the next that I wasn’t sure I could keep reading it. The next 10% or so covers the crime that landed her a prison sentence, but after that, things (mostly) start looking up for her.

Like Orange is the New Black, this memoir offers an inside look at the justice system and a woman’s experience in prison, but unlike OITNB, the author is a woman of color from a completely non-privileged background. There’s a lot of focus on just why so many women ended up there – desperation. Many were in for killing their abusers, and almost all had suffered abuse.

According to NetGalley, this is being made into a movie with Rosario Dawson portraying the author, so this is your opportunity to be one of those people who sighs about how different things were in the book. (The book will be released in June.)

I’ve Got This Round by Mamrie Hart

Goodreads * Amazon

This was exactly the book I needed last week/early this week when my stress level was super high. I haven’t read Mamrie’s first book yet, or really watched much of her YouTube (I’m mostly just familiar with her because I watched Grace Helbig back when she just did Daily Grace and no TV or movies or other things). The book is still enjoyable without being that familiar with her. Her stories are a lot of fun, and her writing is relateable even if her lifestyle isn’t. (I don’t know about you guys, but I don’t have the $ to drop on plane tickets to Spain for a Backstreet Boys cruise on a whim. Kinda fun to live vicariously, though.) This was a nice change of pace from the two depressing books above!

The only bummer was that my advance review copy didn’t have most of the photos that were supposed to punctuate the stories in the book; only about 10% had been added in, so I felt like I was missing out!

(I received a complimentary review copy via Netgalley)


Head over to Life According to Steph and Jana Says to see what dozens of other bloggers in the link-up have been reading lately!

Show Us Your Books – October Edition

Show Us Your Books – October Edition


Happy Show Us Your Books Day! I don’t have many reviews to share this month, so be sure to visit Life According to Steph and Jana Says to check out the link-up and see what dozens of other bloggers have been reading lately! It’s the 3 year anniversary of the link-up!


Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher

Goodreads * Amazon

“When two celebrities mate, something like me is the result.”

I placed a hold on this audiobook shortly after Carrie *almost* survived the deadly year of 2016, and it finally became available last month. I definitely recommend going the audio route if you can since it’s read by the author, so you get a real performance of the story. I was surprised by how short it was; I listened to it in an evening. I felt like it was about what you’d expect from the celebrity memoir genre, but Carrie’s storytelling style does make it unique.


The Wife Between Us

Amazon * Goodreads

This book will be released in January 2018.  I received an advance copy via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I liked this one. I don’t read a lot of books in the psychological thriller genre, but I realized a while back that I can’t do the super suspenseful ones or I end up feeling anxious. This one hit that balance of being interesting without putting me on edge. It wasn’t a “I can’t put it down!” – I read it over the course of a couple of days, split up into several sessions. It was compelling enough that I wanted to finish and figure everything out, but not one of those books that’s SO good that you’re tempted to skip work or plans to find out what happens. I did appreciate that one thing I kept expecting to happen never did, so high five to the author for not taking a disturbing route juts for the sake of it. (It’s hard to write thriller reviews without spoilers, y’all!)

I guessed one “big twist” by 15% into the book, but was still a little surprised when I turned out to be right. (If you’ve also read it, I’m referring to the thing that’s revealed after Part 1.)


Reach Out by Molly Beck

Amazon * Goodreads

I probably wouldn’t have normally picked up a book about online networking, but I’ve followed the author’s blog, Smart Pretty Awkward, for years, so I was curious to check it out. The basic idea is that by contacting one new person per day, you can grow your network and influence quickly and use who you know to advance your career.

The book includes a lot of actual e-mails and the responses they received, which I liked because emailing any kind of new potential business contact is kind of a weird art. You want to blend sounding professional with not sounding like a robot, actually catch their attention, etc etc. There are tons of email formulas out there, but seeing real emails that got a good response is a nice change.

A minor pet peeve, but every time the phrase “reach out” appears, it’s capitalized. I get why they did that since it’s the book’s premise, but given that it appears multiple times per page, it got annoying really quickly.  “The day after we met at the party, I reached out to her…” would be just as effective as “I Reached Out to her…”, but not interrupt the flow so much.

This is a pretty short read – two or maybe 3 hours at the most. I have to admit that I ended up skimming a lot because I already kinda know why you should have a blog or how to set up a good LinkedIn profile. I already contact businesses I’d like to work with all the time, so I didn’t really need the section on conquering the fear of reaching out. That said, I think this book would be great for someone in college or the early stages of their career. It’s well-organized and breaks things down for specific situations – reaching out to get a mentor, reaching out to get a promotion, etc. There’s a great section of tips from bloggers and other entrepreneurs on inbox management. So basically there’s some good info in here, it just wasn’t a great fit for me personally.


Hoping to find more time to read this month, although given that it’s probably the last month of good outdoorsy weather, that may not happen (again!). Have you read anything awesome lately?

Show Us Your Books – August Edition

Show Us Your Books – August Edition


Happy “Show Us Your Books” link-up day! Okay, it was actually yesterday but I’ve been running behind on all he things. Better late than never?

Here’s what I’ve read lately!


Talking as Fast as I Can  – Lauren Graham

Goodreads * Amazon

I joined my library’s hold list for both the audiobook and regular book and was excited that the audio version became available first, since for some reason celeb memoirs always seem better that way. This was a fun listen. I had no idea about LG’s whole theater background (or really anything else non-Gilmore), and somehow hearing about how long someone struggled to make it is usually reassuring.

The latter part of the book includes her notes as she re-watches the show for the first time in pretty much forever. There’s nothing groundbreaking there, mostly like “Wow, my hair was weird”, but it’s fun. There’s a part of that where she discusses how much things have changed since those days (like when Lorelai insists to Emily that they do NOT need DSL because dial-up is just fine, thank you.) that kinda points out how much of a LA bubble she lives in, which was surprising. For instance, she talks about things like business cards and DVDs as if they’re relics from centuries ago, not things still commonly in use in most parts of the country/world. Still, she’s so likeable that it’s hard to fault her for it. Hearing how serendipitous the whole experience of making the new Netflix…thing? sequel series? What are we calling it? was got me right in the feels, too. Lorelai forever.

Sensation – Isabel Losada (Coming out in Sept 2017)

Amazon * Goodreads

Gotta be honest here – I’m pretty sure I requested this book based on the cover. I like sex and love and laughter and non-fiction! It didn’t end up being a good fit for me, though. There were so many close-minded comments, unintentionally offensive remarks, and inaccurate info in the first few chapters that I almost quit immediately, but I wanted to give the book a real chance. I assumed from the writing style that it was the author’s first book, but then she references previous works and the Netgalley description describes her as a bestselling author. My copy was clearly not through final edits yet, so I’d be curious to see how much more polished the final version is.

This is a tough one for me to review, and I’d probably skip writing one except that I’m like 98475 Netgalley reviews behind so I need to get better about reviewing everything I read to save my poor tanking percentage. There are parts where the author talks about workshops and conferences she attends and her experiences with them that are compelling and enjoyable to read, but then she’ll go off on multi-page musings or conversations with her friends about sex that feel more like what you’d find in a teenager’s diary than coming from a middle-aged woman. Amazon tells me this book is 276 pages… I feel like if you just edited most of that stuff out and brought it down to like 200 pages, it would have been significantly better.

The lengthy yet basic tangents would be way more tolerable if I wasn’t already frustrated by the super normative and kinda judgey outlook that keeps popping up. I don’t even think the author realizes she’s being totally inappropriate a lot of the time, but it’s glaringly obvious if you’re used to a more inclusive way of speaking. One example that I highlighted – after writing about a friend’s experience talking to her son about internet porn, the author says, “So if you have a son – you may want to have this conversation and not assume that, ‘my son wouldn’t watch stuff like that’. Yes – he would.” You know, because girls never watch porn. Zero need to have that kind of conversation with a daughter.   ([sic] on the grammar in that quote, btw. That was painful to type. Ah, the fun of unedited ARCs.)

TL;DR – Didn’t hate it, but wouldn’t really recommend it, even though I appreciate the author’s vulnerability discussing what’s clearly a really uncomfortable subject for her. Like… really uncomfortable. As in she writes her boyfriend a letter asking him to try a very mundane thing because she’s too afraid to just ask. Yeah. And I do applaud her for exploring her sexuality and becoming more knowledgeable rather than just continuing down an unfulfilling and narrow path in that area of her life.


Get Your Shit Together

Amazon * Goodreads

I actually got this from NetGalley several months ago, read 75%, and then got distracted by library books that my holds finally came through on. But then last month I was at the mall (those still exist!) and stopped in a cute store and saw this display:


Thanks for the reminder that I needed to finish the book and review it, universe! Of course, by that point I’d read like 4 other books and had totally forgotten most of what I’d read, so I started over.

A lot of the advice is obvious (“Break things up into manageable chunks!”) but I think that we often pick up this kind of book more for the motivation it provides than for brand new ideas. The only real implementable takeaway I picked up was timing how long tasks *actually* take so that you can be way more accurate planning out your schedule.  I was pretty on point with my estimations for how long some items on my to-do list would take, and SO FAR OFF on others.


Currently reading: I just started “This Fight is Our Fight“, which is Elizabeth Warren’s new book. I’m on the #Warren2020 train so hard. I do wish that my library would’ve had the audiobook available because I really liked her reading of her last book, but texty Warren is still excellent.


Head over to Life According to Steph and Jana Says to check out the link-up and see what like a bazillion other bloggers have been reading! (Or almost 50. Close enough, math is hard.)

Show Us Your Books – May Edition

Show Us Your Books – May Edition

may book reviews


Happy Show Us Your Books Day! I am running on like 3 hours of sleep this morning, so I’ll skip the lengthy introduction and just get straight to this month’s book reviews!


One Part Plant by Jessica Murnane

Goodreads * Amazon

I’ve been listening to Jessica’s podcast, One Part Podcast, for over a year – it actually made my post about my 8 favorite podcasts a few months ago! She shared the whole process of writing and publishing this book on a second podcast, “The Cookbook Deal”, which has also been interesting to follow, and definitely got me excited to check out the actual book.

First, this cookbook is gorgeous. I’m *so* thankful that the publisher (Harper Wave) sent me an actual hardcover copy to review rather than just an e-book, because so much thought clearly went into the design that it seems like not enjoying it in print form would be a shame.

But let’s talk food. The philosophy behind One Part Plant is basically what it sounds like – adding one plant-based meal per day into your lifestyle. No crazy diets, no “omg you can never eat the stuff you like again”, just adding in a little something here and there. I love how approachable and flexible that is.

After an introductory section that covers things like suggested ingredients to keep on hand and FAQs about plant based diets, the book is divided into sections of recipes for breakfast, soups and salads, main courses, desserts and snacks/beverages.

I was worried that not many of the recipes would appeal to me, but just flipping through for the first time made me hungry. A few that I can’t wait to try include:

  • Almond Cherry Muffins
  • Chilaquiles with Cilantro Cream
  • Strawberry Chia Jam
  • Vinson Petrillo’s Fresh Chickpea Spread with Crispy Black Olives
  • Open-faced Falafel Sandwich

I had this glorious vision of trying out a bunch of recipes before it was time to post my review, but you know how life goes. Despite making it through fewer recipes than I’d hoped, this book *has* already had an effect on what I eat in the form of two ingredients: masa harina and nutritional yeast. (I posted about my newfound love of nutritional yeast in a Friday Favs post a couple of weeks ago, but long story short: I add it to everything now.)

The first recipe I tried was  Corn Cakes with Black Bean Spread, and I have to admit that after trying out some experiments with the Masa Harina that’s the base for the corn cakes, that was basically all I wanted to eat for like three days. If something was in my kitchen, I probably tried mixing it with masa , and it probably turned out delicious no matter what it was.

Overall, a big thumbs-up for this one. If it can get a non-foodie like me excited about cooking healthy stuff, it clearly has superpowers.

Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick

Goodreads * Amazon

Who doesn’t  Anna? I don’t read many celeb memoirs, but this was fun. She’s not trying to be the world’s greatest author, just sharing interesting stories in a very “girl next door” vibe. I didn’t know she did Broadway before getting into film, so that was interesting to read about. I love that she shared that even after Twilight and Up in the Air, she was coming home to her IKEA bed in the stained carpet apartment she shared with several roommates. It’s easy to assume that once someone gets their break, everything changes instantly, so it’s nice to have some light shed on that illusion.

I wanted to do the audiobook version of this, but my library had an insanely long wait list for both the audio and the e-book , so I joined both and went with the one that was available first.


Happy Pretty Messy by Natalie Wise

Oh man, you guys. I almost never have DNF (Did Not Finish) books, but I just could not. The description of the book on Netgalley (who provided the free review copy) sounded great:

“Happy Pretty Messy is a modern-day inspirational guidebook for women of all ages seeking to live with beauty and bravery. As a modern lifestyle philosopher, Natalie Wise brings her trademark poetic prose to finding and cultivating balance, joy, and depth of self in daily life. Filled with wit and fresh insights for the heart and home, you’ll learn how to: Thrive through tragedy, Turn off your inner monologue, Get ‘back to brave'”

Great in theory! But the writing style was something I could not get over.

There’s an episode of the “Mortified” podcast where a guy reads the poem he wrote for his high school English class assignment after attending a poetry summer camp. It sounds exactly how you’d expect a poem written by a teenage boy sure of his poetic greatness to sound, down to lines like “Why praise the trees when they did not arrive there on their own accord?” and “When a moose ceases to be a moose, it begins to be a woman!” (Go listen to episode 6 of Mortified, it’s amazing.) Anyway, the point of this tangent is that there’s a quality to the writer’s style that reminded me of that episode. You can always just tell when an author is trying REALLY HARD to write in an “artsy” style rather than their authentic voice, and it comes off sounding forced and fake and for me in this case, painful to read.

The reviews that are up so far on Amazon and Goodreads are mostly positive, so maybe it’s just that the writing style was a bad fit for me and you will dig it. I wish I could provide more in depth feedback but despite picking this up four separate times to “give it one more try” because I really wanted it to get better, I only finished 12%.

Since I couldn’t finish, the best I can do here is give you guys an excerpt (from the page where I finally 100% gave up) and let you decide if you find the writing style inspiring and poetic or impossible to get through.

I clicked the author’s bio on Goodreads and was surprised to see that she’s written a few other books, including one on organic housekeeping, one about self discipline, and one about DIY gifts in jars. That makes me feel like she’s still trying to find her place in the world, so maybe finding her “voice” goes along with that.


The Goddesses by Swan Huntley

Goodreads * Amazon 
This book was totally different from what I expected based on its Netgalley description, the short version of which was, “The Descendants meets Single White Female in this captivating novel about a woman who moves her family to Hawaii, only to find herself wrapped up in a dangerous friendship.” I guess I expected something more thriller-ish?

It definitely started off slowly – I found the main character SO unlikeable for the first few chapters that it made it tough to get through, but eventually I was drawn in. It’s a slow build, but overall I was kind of “meh” by the end. I saw the plot twists coming way ahead of time, never did manage to like the main character, and the climax didn’t feel climactic enough after so much build-up. To borrow a term from Steph, I’d put this in the “passed the time just fine” category.

(This book will be released in July 2017. Complimentary review copy received from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)


Life According to Steph
Head over to Life According to Steph and Jana Says to see what dozens of other bloggers have been reading this month. I always come out of this link-up with a billion new books on my to-read list!

Show Us Your Books – April Edition

Show Us Your Books – April Edition

Happy Show Us Your Books Day! I’ve been SO busy writing lately that I haven’t had much time to read, so I only have two book reviews to share with you guys this month. They’re good ones, though!

This post contains Amazon affiliate links because coffee and cat food are expensive. I received both of these books compliments of the publishers via NetGalley in exchange for honest reviews. 

The Yellow Envelope by Kim Dinan

Amazon * Goodreads

I think we’ve all fantasized about selling everything we own and taking off to travel the world. If you’re a fan of travel books like I am, you’ve probably read at least half a dozen by authors who did exactly that. This travelogue has an interesting twist, though. Before leaving on her trip, the author is given an envelope of money by friends and encouraged to give the money away throughout the trip in whatever way she wants. What results is a different lens through which to view the people she encounters, as well as an interesting meditation on the act of giving and how it makes us feel.

I was impressed by the author’s honesty about her thoughts and actions. She reveals a lot, particularly about interactions with her husband, that would generally make her a less likable “character”. I’d be curious to hear how you guys felt she came across. I eventually decided that revealing her less noble side showed both an interesting level of self-awareness and a vulnerability that’s hard not to appreciate. It would have been so much easier to only share the stories that made her look good and thus lessen the likelihood of judgment – something we see a lot of in the world of social media – but she instead chose to commit her flaws to the page, and  admire the bravery in that.

Good writing, interesting story. Grab it if you’re a fan of travel memoirs or need a good read on your upcoming summer travels.


A Colony In a Nation by Chris Hayes

Amazon * Goodreads

A Colony In A Nation takes a look at the two very different justice systems that you might encounter in America, depending on where you live, how much money you have, and most influential of all, the color of your skin. The fact that our criminal justice system is broken isn’t news to anyone. We have far more incarcerated people than any other country, and the past couple of years have brought issues to light on what feels like a regular basis.

I still remember the time that Chris Hayes had to pause mid-sentence as he walked down a street in Ferguson, MO because a police officer had just threatened to mace him if he continued walking that direction. Sure, he was on live TV, but he’s a super threatening-looking dude, right?

A post shared by Crystal Ward (@crystalward11) on

He’s also so adorable that if you find yourself taking a selfie with him, you may end up looking super derpy because you’re checking him out on your iPhone screen instead of, you know, looking at the camera. Oops.

The images of Ferguson we saw on the news, which looked so much more like the latest dystopian movie than a small city just a few hours from where I grew up, were eye opening for many of us. For Chris, the experience covering the events in Ferguson, as well as reporting on what felt like an endless stream of protests following the deaths of other unarmed black men, sparked the idea that became this book.

I highlighted so many passages while reading this, and I felt like my mind was blown at least a few times per chapter. Often, I was highlighting relatively simple sentences that had caused me to pause and get lost in thought. Things like, “If a cop shoots someone because he is angry, he is a murderer. But if he shoots a suspect because he is afraid, he is innocent.”  Can such huge topics of morality and ethics really come down to human emotion? And if not, what does determine innocence vs guilt? And if we follow that chain of thought, in how many circumstances is fear a valid reason for innocence? “I ran the stop light because I was afraid the car behind me was following me home.” seems more likely to be seen a justified than “I stole the money because I was afraid of not being able to afford rent and ending up homeless.” But both are unlawful actions based on fear, and you could argue that the latter has more potential to end in finding oneself in a dangerous situation that the former. Where is the line?

The writing manages to be both incredibly smart and easy to understand. It’s a deep dive into a serious topic, but it doesn’t feel at all like the kind of super dense nonfiction that takes forever to get through. Instead, the writing style is approachable and engaging.

So many topics were broached that I’d never given much thought to, such as how different it is to be a police officer in the US, where guns outnumber people, compared to almost any other first world country. My first thought was that I’d never given topics like mass incarceration, how it’s affected by the “War on Drugs”, and how the prevalence of guns in the US plays into it all much thought because I was born into circumstances where those things don’t come up in my everyday life often, if ever. (The only unusual law-related experience I’ve ever had was getting pulled over for expired tags as I was pulling into the parking lot of the DMV to renew them. I could go off on a huge tangent here about how we punish people for being poor. Cant’t afford the $25 to renew your tags? Here’s a $100 ticket!) Eventually, I realized that it’s also because a lot of the changes that led to the current system happened in the 80s, which means that those of us who are under 40 have simply never known things to be any other way.

Given the current political climate, I think it’s more important than ever to seek out information on what it’s like to have a different experience of being American than the one we know. It’s important to educate ourselves about the topics that come up in political debates so that when a candidate throws out something that’s just not true, we know. Whether you agree with the author’s politics or not, I’d suggest picking this book up, taking in both the  facts and the personal experiences presented, and giving them real thought.  If this isn’t the kind of topic you’re usually interested in, I’d double that recommendation.


Head over to Life According to Steph and Jana Says to check out what dozens of other bloggers participating in the Show Us Your Books link-up have been reading this month! And be sure to stop by tomorrow – I’m sharing my experience of escaping life’s craziness by running off to a cabin in the woods for a night.