Show Us Your Books Link-Up: 2018 Favorites

Hello, fellow readers! Hope you have had a wonderful Christmas/holiday season. Today is the day we look back over our favorite reads of the year.

I had a lot of great reads this year, and kicked my reading goal's ass with 52 books read, 12 over my goal of 40!

This was such a beautiful read of an emotional puzzle. Deals with marriage and love and fame and work and racism and LGBT+ issues and parenthood and the ties that bind us. Highly recommend. 

If you have any questions/concerns/judgements about poverty in America, read this. It was a supremely logical explanation of the psychology of poverty and provided self-realization (which, for a classic overthinking introvert, is a rare thing). Made me angry, but in a "more aware" way.

So late to the party on this one. But it was Southern creepiness done right.

This book is hard and controversial and I get it, but ugh. Made me think and feel and hurt and cry and rejoice. It questions right and wrong and love and sex and protection and rules and family and youth and life. It is not an easy book or a book you want to read if you live in a black and white world. But if you believe in the gray, it will ruin you in the best way. 

Ahhh! Callie may be one of my favorite characters of the year. She is good and bad and strong and sassy and insecure and I looooooove her. And Millie. And everything about this book. Wonderfully fun in a YA way but so thoughtful. 

This was such a fun roller coaster of a read. It is a collection of stories about females in America. It moves in chronological order, but the stories have nothing to do with one another. Some are fantasy, some are current-day fiction, some have humans as protagonists, some have fantasy or mythological beings as protagonists, some are rich, some are poor, some are black and some are white and some are Hispanic...overall just a super cool collection of stories by females about females. 

 I definitely still found some problematic issues with this book, but I love the way it delves into the divisions and differences within Christianity. Too often, both inside and outside the faith, Christians are painted with a broad stroke. But there is a good bit of diversity within the faith and we all need to acknowledge that. 

Keeping with the somewhat theme of strong women, Circe rocked. She's a quiet but emotional witch from Greek mythology, and one of my favorite characters this year. I can't even describe exactly what it was that I loved about this book, but I just loved it. It was a reminder of myself and a hope and a comfort and...yeah. Sometimes books come at the right time, and for whatever reason this was right for me.

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
I finally finished Children of Blood and Bone on December 30th, after this link-up went live, but I'm coming back to add because THIS BOOK WAS GREAT. I knew it would be, and I'm so pumped for the rest of the series. The first time I read it I just wasn't in the mindset to focus and give it the proper energy, but that was my issue and no reflection of this book. Once I finally committed, it sucked me in and captured my attention and I loooooved it. Just read it.

What were your favorite reads of 2018? 
Link-up & let us know!
Life According to Steph

Following Your Program

Recently Jenny Lawson, aka The Bloggess, talked about published a post called Working the Program. She was talking to a friend who was in AA and the friend mentioned working the program, aka "doing the steps you continually need to do to stay healthy."

Jenny struggles with mental health issues and related to this a lot, as do I. I've been thinking about this a little because of listening to the Armchair Expert podcast from Dax Shepherd. He is also in AA and talks about having a list he runs through when he is feeling poorly- has he exercised, reached out to someone, etc...I don't remember exactly because it's been a quick mention here and there but each time it came up it struck me as very smart (lots of things he mentions about AA sound smart and helpful, actually, which is probably why it's been around so long with so many advocates).

While there are some basic things that could probably be on everyone's list- working out, for example- the program is going to look different for everyone. 

Dax has mentioned that he has a weight room in his house that his kids sometimes come into with him and that he hopes that is the one habit his children form before leaving the house, Jenny's doctor prescribed 30 minutes of walking a day, and I definitely tell a dip in mood if I can't go to FiA at least 2x a week.

I'm still figuring out my individual program. 

  • It includes working out.
  • It includes getting up earlier, shockingly enough, so I have enough time to actually wake up before I have to jump into my day. 
  • It means looking around and seeing if there is something in my house I can clean or organize, because being surrounded by a mess stresses me out. 
  • It includes praying and reading my Bible. 
  • It includes spending time with my kid without screens. 
  • It includes reaching out to my friends and planning social time together. 

Most of us probably have things like this that bolster us in life. But I'm a big fan of having it literally spelled out so I think this is worth really considering.

It's hard to dig yourself out of the hole, so anything that helps prevent you from falling in the hole is a good idea.

Show Us Your Books Link-Up: December 2018

Last monthly link-up of the year! And thankfully, the last month has been an awesome reading month.

3 Stars

This was a similar vein to The Reading Group (see below), but I didn't enjoy it quite as much. It discussed a smaller group of lifelong friends, death and mourning, motherhood, found family, and jealousy. Not a bad read, but not a must read.

Think I found this on the link-up last month. It was...okay. Interesting, but didn't suck me in quite as much as I wanted. May just be over this genre. Basically like reading a Hallmark movie. I didn't really like either of the main female characters...each had moments where they were understandable, and then other moments where they were completely awful. Kind of reminded me of The Marriage Pact- each had a lot of possibility but something about the pace and writing just didn't do it for me. Worth checking out though, if that's your genre.

4 Stars
Continuing my chick-lit/female friendship vibe from last month, this was an enjoyable read. It follows the lives of several women who intertwined to varying degrees, for varying lengths of time. The women join together for a book club, where they rotate taking turns picking a book and discussing it monthly. I am actually not normally a fan of books about books/readers (or songs about songs, FYI), but it was thoughtful and moving and I enjoyed it a lot. Discussed female friendship, family, motherhood, lack of motherhood, love and marriage, adultery, and youth.

This was a really fun fantasy mystery. It follows a doctor to...monsters? Non-humans? Vampires, ghouls, etc. Basic plot problem- someone, or something, is attacking both humans and the undead. Can't exactly go to the police with additional information like "Hey, they are also specifically targeting undead" because...well, the undead aren't supposed to exist and that would just make things worse. So Greta and her Scooby-Doo like gang are on their own. I feel like they identified the problem almost too easily, but giving a pass because I enjoyed the characters and specifically the way modern medicine and traditional monsters interacted. Definitely checking out the rest of the series.

 Smoke Gets In Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty
 I checked out Caitlin's books after watching her YouTube channel Ask a Mortician. While her second book (From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death) sounds more interesting to me, this one was available right away via audiobook so I downloaded it. It was an interesting sneak peak behind the death industry and worth picking up if you like learning random facts about random things like...the death industry. Caitlin is funny yet respectful and thoughtful. 

5 Stars

This was my favorite read of the month...and will probably stand as one of my favorites of 2018. I had been wanting to read more about Greek mythology and this follows one of the witches, Circe, probably most notable for turning Odysseus' men into pigs in The Odyssey. Some have complained that the pace is very slow or boring, but I personally really enjoyed it. It worked with the idea of an immortal being, the almost calm version of time, unconcerned with the hustle and bustle of hurried and short human lives. I loved the background story and development of what could easily be seen as a villain. I loved Circe's quiet power and determination and sight/intuition. The beginning pushed a little too much of the "non-human" aspect, repeatedly talking about her golden eyes/etc. But thankfully that calmed down after the first quarter of the book or so and everything flowed very smoothly.

What have you read this month? Link-up & let us know!

Life According to Steph

Brittany's Guide to Surviving the Holidays

Hello, lovely people of the internet!

We are officially in full swing of CHRISTMAS/THE HOLIDAY SEASON!

It's the most wonderful time of the year...right?

Kind of.

Some magical things happen at Christmas. But, at least in America, we have rejected the idea of Christmas spirit and instead believe in forced Christmas perfection. Therefore, the holiday season can also make you hate your family and pull your hair out.

Just me? 

Liars, I've read the Facebook and message board complaints! IT'S MOST OF US, at one point or another.

So I lovingly and gracefully bring you BRITTANY'S GUIDE TO SURVIVING THE HOLIDAYS.

You're welcome, folks.

  • Shop EARLY
    •  Okay, I realize we are week into December already so this one may have passed you by already. But my goal is usually December 1st for having purchased all my Christmas presents. It doesn't happen, but I knock about 80% of it out by that point. This can be the most stressful part for me, which is exactly why I do it early. For one, it is better for my budget because I buy gifts mostly one month and then pay for the gas/food/etc of actual holiday celebrations the next month. Also, it means that the biggest stress is out of the way and I can actually enjoy the holiday season's parties/get-togethers/events. Bonus- I avoid the worst of the crowds. I can make time to wrap presents by my pretty tree with hot chocolate and Netflix binging in December way easier than I can make hours to drag my toddler around a crowded mall.

  • Schedule It
    • The great and awful thing about my husband's job is that he does not get the option of taking holidays off, ever. If he's scheduled, he works, the end. However, he knows that schedule way in advance. So in November I went ahead, took the plunge, and said "He's working on Christmas, these are our available dates, when do you want us to show up?"  Everyone has time to accept that we won't be there on the day (but really, who cares, not me) and gets over their crying by the time the holiday actually rolls around. Yay, enjoyed family time not clouded by grumpiness!

  • Actively choose something NOT to do
    • There's so many Christmas activities. So. damn. many. And once you have a kid it's even more intense. Choose something you are NOT going to do. 
    • For me, I don't drive my two year old to large lighting events to stand for hours in the cold. We will do a Christmas Light Scavenger Hunt from the warm comfort of our car, with hot chocolates in our thermos, sure. But no fighting hundreds of other people and paying money for a monstrous display.
    • One of my friends doesn't do Christmas cards. That's fine- personally, I love sending and receiving Christmas cards. But she doesn't, so she opts out.

  • Booze
    • I'm not advocating drunkenness as a lifestyle or even an option for every person. But holidays got a hell of a lot easier once I turned 21. Just sayin'. 

  • Decide what you want your holiday to be about. Stick to your guns.
    • I hear people complain all the time that Christmas just isn't like it used to be, it's too commercial, etc.  I have a family member who was bummed last year that things weren't as family-centered as they used to be. Well one, it's a lot easier when you are 6 versus most things in life. But I wanted to say "Your family is RIGHT THERE. GO MAKE IT ABOUT YOUR TIME TOGETHER INSTEAD OF WHINING." 
    • I want my Christmas to be about spreading the love of Christ. I've always celebrated Christmas as His birthday, so I want to this season to be an extra push to be more like Him. I will give gifts out of love, not obligation. I will focus on spending time with family, not on perfectly wrapped presents. I will focus on being generous to those around me when I take part of community events rather than being annoyed at people bumping into me because we're in an extremely crowded area.

What is your guide to getting through the holiday season?