I can't decide which one of these books to talk about first. The Rosie Project was by far my favorite of anything I've read in 2014, so I think I'll talk about that one first.
The Rosie Project is another book I read with a very different narrator than any other story I've read before! I'm reading a lot of those lately! See my post on The One and Only Ivan, where the narrator is a gorilla, and then I'm currently reading The Book Thief, where the narrator is Death. So this book is narrated by Don Tillman. The way he is described in the book's description is "a brilliant yet socially challenged professor of genetics who has decided it's time he found a wife." It sounds kinda weird, but if you watch Big Bang Theory, you will immediately identify with him as someone similar to Sheldon Cooper, except with a little more flexibility and understanding of appropriate social cues, even if he doesn't always follow them. Maybe I loved this because I love Sheldon on Big Bang so much, I'm not sure, but I just found the whole story so endearing! He decided to take a wife and then created a questionnaire to use to eliminate people who just aren't compatible. The process of finding a wife and in the middle of developing this friendship with Rosie, who doesn't fit anything he's looking for in a wife, is just so fun and adorable. I really enjoyed it. I can't say enough about it. I loved seeing the world through Don's eyes for a while and I found him just really funny! I laughed out loud when Rosie takes him on an impromptu drive to the coast in a convertible and he just starts telling you that he's going to enter that pattern of thinking that he only uses when he's at the dentist. I just found all of his little quirks to be so funny. I really loved this and I think you will, too - whoever you are!!
Paper Towns is my first book I've ever read by John Green. It was on the NPR Best Young Adult Novels list, which is where I have to find several books for my annotated bibliography in my Young Adult and Children's Literature grad school class. So I have a couple more John Green novels on my list to read. I'm not sure what attracted me to this book as far as which one to start with of his, but I think it had something to do with the mystery aspect of it and the search to find someone who has disappeared. I did enjoy following all the clues and figuring out what had happened to Margo Roth Spiegelman, but more than anything, I enjoyed the idea that the book is about discovering who we really are and about discovering the truth about people who have maybe idealized in our minds. We all remember high school and having this perfect picture in our mind of our crush and what they are really like. This book just dove into what it looks like when that picture unravels and not because there is anything specifically wrong with them, but because there's something wrong with everybody. We're all flawed. Nobody is really perfect and learning to love and appreciate people is learning to see them for who they really are and accept them there. I loved that theme in this book. I enjoyed reading about the change in relationships between some of the characters and just about the discovery of who we all really are in general. It makes me excited to pick up another one of his books!
I've been reading quite a bit, but haven't had much time to post! I'm currently taking 2 grad school classes in an 8 week session. I'm about to start a second 8 week session with 2 classes. So to say I've been busy is an understatement. Here are the highlights and I've got 2 special books I'm saving for their own post!
I have some pretty independent, sensitive and strong-willed children. I appreciate all these things about my kids, but I also know that without proper boundaries and discipline, these things can lead to some rather out of control kids. Enter Love and Logic. I had read the general Love and Logic book last year, but then I found out they had this one that is specifically aimed toward birth through age 6. I completely agree with and embrace everything they talk about in this book. I found myself at a difficult point with Isis were I wanted to encourage her independence, but I also wanted to help her make good choices and recognize the consequences of bad choices. I love his this book talks about helping children learn that their decisions have consequences, but doing it naturally and with love. Everything they do is focused around a calm, controlled and very loving parent. It encourages lots of choices for kids so that they feel ownership of their behavior. It increases their confidence because they feel that they are making decisions and learning how to work through bad choices. I have started implementing these things with Isis and I can already tell a huge difference!!! She has started going into our dining room by her own choice to sit down and calm herself down so that she doesn't yell or scream at us. She's learned that otherwise, she will have to go spend some time in her room for yelling at mom or dad. This is tip of the iceberg as far as how this has changed things for us and I just cannot recommend enough that parents look into the Love and Logic series. They have books all the way up through teenagers and they have them for teachers and for couples. We are currently reading their book on entitlement, which is another conversation for another day. I'll probably add that to my 50 in 2014 later.
This is a book I had to read for my grad school class called Writing in the Content Areas. This book is written by several individuals who were close to the writers of the Common Core State Standards. As a teacher, I found the information in the book invaluable. I know that it's probably strange that I'm posting a book like this on my 50 in 2014, but I read the entire thing cover to cover. I loved it. It gave me a lot of insight into the purpose behind CCSS and the change it encourages as far as teaching and understanding for student benefit. I know there are a lot of debates about the implementation of the CCSS in the US and I encourage parents or those who are interested to also read this book. While I understand the argument against big government and standardizing curriculum, I do believe in what the CCSS emphasizes and the standards it holds our children to. After reading this book, I felt like I was more confident going into understanding how best to help my students rise to the levels required by the CCSS.
I am about to start a Young Adult and Children's Literature class for my Masters program and I have given myself a headstart on reading some of the books for this class. I emailed the professor and got a copy of the syllabus for the class and it includes an Annotated Bibliography with several different types of books. The One and Only Ivan was the 2013 Newberry Medal Winner. The Medal is given each year to the American Library Association's choice for the most distinguished American children's book published that year. I loved this book! It's told from the perspective of Ivan, who is a silver-backed gorilla living in a big top mall. I loved that the story was told from his perspective. It was just a really fun take on all of it. At the same time, the book raises some great issues and questions about the treatment of animals in captivity. It would raise some great conversations with students if read in a classroom or with your children at home. I definitely recommend it! According to Amazon, it's recommended for ages 8-12, grades 3-7, but I believe it was enjoyable for anybody older than that as well! I wouldn't read it to younger children just because some of the treatment of the animals could be upsetting. There is an elephant who deals with some pretty sad stuff. I don't want to give anything away, but I loved it!!!
So now I've had a little young adult breather in terms of my reading for the year. I read Avalon High by Meg Cabot and What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen.
Avalon High is sort-of a retelling of the King Arthur, Lancelot & Guinevere story. It centers around this girl named Elaine who starts at a new school only to realize that something seems weird & that there are a lot of similarities to the old King Arthur story. It wasn't my absolute favorite book, but I do like retellings, so it was interesting on that front. It was also a really quick read, which is why I call these breathers. They just don't take me any time really to read & there's not much complicated thoughts going on while I read them.
What Happened to Goodbye is about a girl, McLean, who moves around frequently with her dad. His job basically has him go into restaurants that aren't doing well and he helps them get back on their feet - or sometimes says that can't be done and has to close them down altogether. Her parents got a divorce & there's some complication with her & her mom. But she's shown up in a town in the beginning where she finally finds herself wanting to stick around. Again, it was good, not great. Quick, easy read. I actually realized that the ebook was going to expire from my library in like 3 days, so I read it really quickly before it expired.
So I find myself wanting a little more depth in my next reads. I'm trying to decide on something more like a Beth Moore or Andrew Murray book. When I decide & finish one, I'll let you know!
Finished 2 more books! Nadia Knows Best is the 2nd book I've read by Jill Mansell. The first was Rumour Has It. I talked about that one when I went over my summer reads last year. I actually felt about the same about Nadia Knows Best as I did about Rumour Has It. It was pretty enjoyable. I read it fairly quickly. But again, I wasn't super invested in the characters. I'm not sure what it is, but I just don't get into her characters like I do in some other books. The weird thing for me, though, is that I'm still willing to pick up another one of hers if I'm in a book slump & just need something to read. I have a couple more on my Kindle that I got for like $1.00 one day. So maybe I'll try out another sometime in the future.
Now, the second book I read was The Art Forger. This book was actually really good! I enjoyed the mystery aspect of it. It's about a woman who is a painter and her job is to do reproductions or famous paintings for a website called reproductions.com. She is asked to do a reproduction of a famous painting and when she is investigating the famous painting, she actually starts to believe that it is a forgery itself! So it was really interesting! I don't know much about art or paintings, but I still was able to get into it! I definitely recommend that one. Again, not my absolute favorite, but it's great writing & great characters & definitely one of the better books I've read.
I finished 2 more books! Splendor, the final book in The Luxe series was great! I wasn't sure that I liked the ending, but after giving it some thought, I really did. I think the character of Diana Holland is one of my favorite female characters in a young adult book. She's really strong. I definitely recommend this series! It's not my absolute favorite series ever, but it's up there!
I also finished Hopeless by Colleen Hoover. This one was ok. I mean, on the one hand I must've liked it because I finished it in less than 24 hours. Literally couldn't put it down! But on the other hand, now that I've finished it, I just don't think it was the best. For one thing, it was a little more risque than I usually like to read. Nothing too bad, but just more than I usually go for. I also wasn't crazy about reading what happened to the characters - and by that I mean it's very sad. It's about abuse and stuff and I didn't totally realize that before I started it. I got it for free on Amazon and I figured I'd give it a shot. Again, if you're looking for a quick read, this is great for that, but don't expect to be blown away by great literature or anything.
Just checking in to say I finished book 3 in The Luxe series! I flew right through Envy and enjoyed it as much as I did the first 2! It's been a while since I've gone through a series like this! I'm really enjoying it. Onto book 4!!
Books 1 and 2 on my list of 50 for the year were actually finished in 2013. This was unintentional. I started reading The Luxe on December 29 and thought I'd finish it in 2014 and it would be ok. Well, instead I got totally sucked into it and finished the first 2 books in 3 days. It is currently January 1 and I am on the 3rd book right now, Envy.
The Luxe is basically Gossip Girl, but set in 1899. So if you are at all interested in Gossip Girl, or the lifestyles of the rich & fabulous back when girls wore beautiful dresses like those on the cover, then this book is for you. It has drama, romance, forbidden love, family struggles, money, social climbing, etc. I was really impressed by how quickly I was drawn into it.
The second book, Rumors, just continues the story and I was just as captivated by it as I was by the first one. There are 4 books total in the series and as I said already, I'm currently in the beginning of book 3.
I'd definitely rate both of these at least a 4 out of 5, so check them out!!
I've chosen a word for 2014 that I'm going to focus on. I prayed about it for a while and honestly didn't have to do as much soul searching as I thought I would because it was pretty apparent to me what word I needed to focus on.
I'm going to try to simplify in all areas of my life: physical, mental, spiritual, emotional, relational and financial. I'm trying to give myself a goal with each area to help myself simplify. Some may not seem like simplifying to you, but to me they are.
Physical: Work out at least 3 times a week
This strangely adds more to my week, but I want to make sure my time is spent on things I should be prioritizing and not on things I shouldn't.
Mental: Read 50 books this year
Again, this adds more time in this area, but it means I have to take time away from other areas. I'm going to stop watching some TV shows and stop surfing around on my iPad and focus on reading.
Spiritual: Spend time daily reading the Bible
This is something I strive to do anyway, but it just can get pushed aside in the day to day and it should be the first thing I focus on. I'm going to try to wake up earlier and do this really intentionally.
Emotional: Blog more
I know this is a weird place to put blogging - as an emotional goal - but for me, blogging has always made me slow down and stop and think for a little bit. And the reason why I haven't done it much in the last year is because I haven't allowed myself time to slow down and stop long enough to do it. So setting aside time to stop and reflect through blogging is helpful for me emotionally.
Relational: Monthly dates outside the house with Lewis (& friends)
Lewis and I have regular time throughout the week that we hang out and watch a movie or something, but we need to focus on getting out of the house for some dates. It requires us to stop and talk and it's just exciting. I also need to do the same with some of my girlfriends. We will fit time in here and there but it's never really consistent and I want some intentional time with people I love.
Financial: Do not purchase clothing in 2014
This is the hardest one for me. It really is going to be a huge challenge, but I've been thinking a lot about it and I didn't think a month or even 2 months was enough time to set this goal. I want to cut it out for the entire year and see what kind of a difference it makes.
Honorable mention thoughts:
I have signed up for an account with mint.com to try to track our finances. I would love to pay off some student loans this year.
I'm also going to try to not bring school stuff home unless it's absolutely necessary. I've gotten into this habit of working a lot at home and I just won't have time honestly.
I will finish my Masters in June and I want to start my Rank 1 in August. These are huge steps for me and I'm excited about them!
I would also like to save up the majority of our money for Christmas gifts before December. I have a few ways I'm going to try doing that and I'll post later about how that goes.
Quotes in italics are Brennan Manning's words from the book
This chapter is all about how big God's love is. It begins with a discussion of the perfection and majesty required to create a universe like ours. Looking at the world around us, it is easy to acknowledge that majesty, but Brennan Manning argues that we have a difficulty attributing that same majestic quality to the depth of God's love. We find all sorts of ways and reasons to make His love smaller. This is another thing Brennan (I refer to him by his first name now because I feel like we're friends) talked about in the video I posted with Chapter 1 - the way we allow God's love to become as small and judgmental as we can be.
The God of the legalistic Christian...is often unpredictable, erratic, and capable of all manner of prejudices. When we view God this way, we feel compelled to engage in some sort of magic to appease Him....The struggle itself is exhausting.
I feel like what happened to me when I first really came to know Jesus, and maybe this is familiar to a lot of people, is that I became so caught up on what I should or shouldn't be doing. It was definitely very legalistic. It was exhausting for me and led into my own judgment of others and myself. I remember feeling so happy with the relationship, but at the same time so full of guilt and shame because I couldn't "live up to" this image I had in my head of what a Christian should be. That time in my life led to a time where I was really broken by my own decisions and my own failures and only then did I truly come to know Jesus as He is - so full of grace and love - that I was amazed by it. And not only that, but the people in my life who really knew Him as well, also showed themselves to be so full of that grace and love as well.
But trust in the God who loves consistently and faithfully nurtures confident, free disciples. A loving God fosters a loving people. The fact that our view of God shapes our lives to a great extent may be one of the reasons Scripture ascribes such importance to seeking to know him.
Seeking to know Him. Really know him. That is something I don't think I've spent enough time really trying to do. This chapter motivated me to learn more about the character of God and the promises He has made about Himself in His word. I recently picked up the book Praying God's Word by Beth Moore. I feel like sometimes I can't find any better words than to just repeat the ones in the Bible when speaking to God. So I'm loving going through the book and finding scripture that speaks directly to what I'm going through. I loved how Brennan also said "The Word we study has to be the Word we pray." And in all of that I need to remember Who it is I'm praying to and what that means for me. There is a section on page 46 of my book that talks about the fact that we can truly know and feel God, that He makes His presence felt. I loved that. I love that truth and that promise.
In essence, there is only one thing God asks of us - that we be men and women of prayer, people who live close to God, people for whom God is everything and for whom God is enough. That is the root of peace. We have that peace when the gracious God is all we seek.
Wow. People for whom God is enough. I wonder if someone would describe me in that way right now. I actually doubt it and that only makes me want to grow closer to Him. To recognize and accept the grace He gives so completely and freely would be truly life-changing for anyone. To truly understand and accept that He accepts us exactly as we are. If we truly understood who He is, His character, His majesty, His grace, His love, then it truly would be enough.
One of my favorite things Brennan says at the end of the chapter is that "love is a far better stimulus than threat or pressure." He says that just because we come to accept the grace of God and understand that we are accepted as we are and can therefore accept ourselves as we are, it doesn't mean we will just become apathetic and lazy about becoming more like Christ. Actually, understanding that love only stimulates us more to want to be more like Him. To be closer to that kind of love and grace is much more motivation to me than fear of being apart from it.
Those are just my thoughts. Is anyone reading this or has read it before? What stuck out to you?
Again, I want to memorize a verse from this chapter. This time I'm going to do...
I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die.
This is the 3rd book in the Matched series. I read Matched and Crossed a while ago and finally picked this one up. I had to go back to read a summary of the first 2 so I could remember what happened and it took me a couple chapters to get into it because of that, I think. But by the end, I really enjoyed it! It wasn't my absolute favorite dystopian series, but it was enjoyable!
This is the 2nd book in the Delirium series. I read Delirium last year sometime and I remember picking up Pandemonium but not being able to get into it for whatever reason. I think it was during the school year and books are always harder for me to read then. Reading it this summer was perfect because I got into it quickly and really liked it!!
This is a chick lit novel about a girl who starts a life-consulting kind of company. She takes men shopping for clothes & teaches them how to behave on a date and stuff like that. She will also pretend to be someone's girlfriend at a family event or something - but no funny business. LOL. I actually enjoyed it a lot! There are 2 more in the series and I have the 2nd one checked out from the library & ready to read!
This book was enjoyable enough and a very quick read, but not very realistic. I was actually kinda annoyed by how totally unrealistic it was for a realistic fiction novel. It's another chick lit book. I've read another Jennifer Crusie novel, The Cinderella Deal, and I liked that one better than this one, although none of hers are really the best in the genre in my mind. (Also, I know this is stupid, but if you have a Goodreads account, the book I read has the cover above, not the one on the Goodreads site. I've said before, I totally judge books by their covers & I must say if the one I'd picked up had the cover on the Goodreads page, I wouldn't have read it.)
Another chick lit novel, this was my first Jill Mansell book. I enjoyed it enough, but I didn't think it was very good. Now, granted, sometimes I'm not looking for "good." I'm looking for enjoyable & an escape. This was very much both of those. But I didn't feel like the relationship between the characters was very well developed. I didn't really understand what made the narrator all that different to the love interest. Why was she the one who finally got him after all this time of being a bachelor? It just was never really clear to me and therefore lost some of its appeal. I'm going to find some more of hers, though, to see if maybe it was just this book and not the author in general.
This is a good girl/bad boy young adult novel. It definitely captured my attention from the beginning and I read it quickly & loved it! It's not as good as Beautiful Disaster by Jamie Mcguire, which I read earlier this year, but it's good enough!
I loved the Delirium series by Lauren Oliver, so I decided to try this one. I got about 5 chapters into it and I just hated the narrator. She's a high schooler with few redeeming qualities & I could tell it was kinda building toward her learning about herself and making some better decisions, but I just couldn't get myself to care about her enough to care if she did figure it all out. Annoying. I didn't finish it.
This is another young adult book that I just couldn't get into. I tend to try to read young adult novels because they are less racy and I get less embarrassed reading them, but I have to really get into it by the first 2 chapters or I'll just put it down. Mainly because I'm not in high school anymore and while I can still remember what it was like, I relate more to adult characters. So this one may be okay in the end, but I couldn't really get into it after chapter 2, so I put it down as well.
I'm currently going through this bible study with some women from school. I love it!! I did the Daniel study and this one is more practical life application and less history and prophesy. I loved the Daniel study, too, so I recommend both.
I really haven't read many non-fiction Christian books lately and I picked up this one also after that ladies night at church. I'm blogging through my reading of it, so follow along if you're interested!
Do you have a Goodreads account? I'm trying to keep mine up to date with books I want to read, am reading and have read!!Follow me on Goodreads!!