Book Club: My Sister, the Serial Killer

I missed Book Club Friday last week and this week is a bit off schedule, so I figured I would get it in today.  Our book for June was My Sister, the Serial Killer (Amazon) by Oyinkan Braithwaite.  This book came recommended by a few of my friends as well as by actress, Kimberly Williams Paisley.  This book is a quick, easy read.  I read it in a couple of hours.  It is a really short story with super short chapters.  Most chapters were only one to two pages long.  I will say that I have mixed feelings about this book, and I can’t quite say that I liked it or that I didn’t like it.  I felt like it jumped around a lot and that there wasn’t enough character or story development for me. I like stories that let you really get to know the characters.  I found myself wanting more. However, it did keep my interest for the most part. Again, I didn’t love it, but I didn’t hate it either. If you are looking for a quick beach read this summer, this one would fit the bill.  

This is a story of two sisters. Korede is the oldest and is a hardworking, practical nurse.  She considers herself the ugly sister. Ayoola, the youngest, is a wild, carefree beauty that seems to have a knack for having men swoon over her.  The two were brought up in a wealthy family in Nigeria. However, unbeknownst to everyone around them, their family had a dark secret. Their father was a very violent man who attempted to sell his daughters to his important friends, beat his wife (and sometimes daugthers), and participated in shady business deals. Their mother resorted to sleeping pills to hide away from the horrors of their life behind closed doors. Following their father’s death (the author even makes you question the nature of his death), Ayoola’s boyfriends seem to keep ending up dead.  Although Ayoola gives excuses as to why she kills them, the true reason behind her killings never seems to be revealed.  Korede, was her protector, even from their father at a young age. She cleaned up the messes made by Ayoola every single time.  Despite her feelings about what was happening with her sister, Korede would do anything to help her, no matter the cost to her own happiness. This story seems to focus more on the strength of the family bond, specifically the bond between two siblings, than the actual murders. It demonstrates the old saying that blood is thicker than water. 

This story is surrounded by dark humor and mystery.  If you are looking for a quick read, this is the book for you.  While I am unsure of my love for this book, I can certainly see why it has become so popular. It has mystery, intrigue, family dynamics, and more. Let me know your thoughts if you read along with me.  I am interested to hear what others think about it since my feelings on it are so mixed.  

Let’s move on to my pick for July.  I hope you will come along and read with me. My pick for July is Summer of ’69 (Amazon) by Elin Hilderbrand. This #1 New York Times bestseller quickly rose to the top after its release last month. It has also made it on USA Today’s bestseller list.  I generally like historical fiction, and I hope this one doesn’t disappoint.  Here is what Apple Books has to say about this novel…

“Elin Hilderbrand’s first historical novel is a fun twist on the classic Nantucket beachside read she’s so well known for. A first love, an illicit affair, and Woodstock are all woven into this engrossing family drama, which follows four siblings over the tumultuous summer of 1969. While the era’s big social movements—like civil rights and gender equality—are front and center, Hilderbrand also has a lot of fun with the small period details, whether it’s serving relish trays or drinking to “settle the nerves” during pregnancy. Make sure there’s room for this nostalgic, summer pageturner in your beach bag.”

Come along and read with me!

Anchored in a Good Book,

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Book Club: Where the Crawdads Sing

It is the last Friday of the month, which means that it is Book Club Day! I am excited to share my review of this month’s book, Where the Crawdads Sing (Amazon) by Delia Owens. I really enjoyed this book a lot. It was one of those books that I didn’t want to put down, and I certainly didn’t want it to end.  If you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend that you do.  It is a great summer read.  I found it to be an easy, quick read as well.  

This story takes place on the marshes of North Carolina. It centers around a girl named Kya.  The story chronicles her life as she navigates the unfortunate circumstances she was faced with growing up as “the marsh girl.” She did not lead an easy life, coming from a poor family that lived in a small shack in the marsh.  Her mother left without a word when Kya was just 6 years old because of the abuse she suffered at the hands of Kya’s father. All of Kya’s siblings left one by one for the same reasons leaving Kya to fend for herself with her abusive, alcoholic father at such a young age.  Once her father left her too, Kya was completely alone as a child with no money, no food, no education, and only the wild around her.  Kya learned how to survive in the marsh living on the land, making friends with the wildlife, and closely studying the environment around her.  Eventually she connects with two young men. When one of those men, a young and wealthy guy, turns up dead, Kya becomes the number one suspect is his murder.  

This is a story of heartbreak, survival, pure innocence, and love.  The author takes you through a journey by flashing back from the past of Kya’s youth to the present day with the investigation of the murder of Chase Andrews.  Kya’s story of her childhood is one that is hard to imagine.  What is sad to me is to think that there are so many kids just like Kya that are abandoned and left alone to figure the world out on their own. I thought a lot about that as I was reading.  I guess some of that comes from my background as a teacher and seeing things and hearing horror stories about students.  The positive is that we see Kya’s resilience and strength shine through over and over again while we, as the readers, are rooting her on.  Delia Owens does a great job really describing the marsh and what it was like for Kya to survive there.  I could totally imagine the scenes in my head and the marsh sort of came alive for me.  When the book flashed to the present and to the murder investigation, you could see how the town was prejudiced towards Kya and were looking for ways to point towards her guilt while there were those select few who deeply cared about Kya and were doing all they could to take the spotlight off of her.  This truly was a great story and one that I really loved. Again, I highly recommend this book. You truly will feel like you are in the marsh right alongside of Kya.  

Now, let’s move on to my pick for June’s book club. For this month, I have chosen My Sister, the Serial Killer (Amazon) by Oyinkan Braithwaite.  It is her debut novel, and I hope you will join me in reading it this month. Here is what Apple Books has to say about this book.

“Set in Lagos, Nigeria, this fun and twisted novel uses a nasty case of sibling rivalry to keep us in suspense. Older sister Korede is an experienced nurse who’s a stickler at work and a fuzzy, unfulfilled shadow in her personal life. By contrast, Korede’s younger sister, Ayoola, is a shooting star: an aspiring fashion designer, a social media influencer, and a glamorous beauty who turns heads wherever she goes. But Ayoola’s shiny image hides a nasty history of fatally stabbing her boyfriends. Oyinkan Braithwaite’s debut novel unfolds in sharp, snappy chapters that keep your wheels spinning as you try to parse out the truth of the two sister’s lives.”

 Come along and read with me!

Anchored in a Good Book, 

Book Club: Normal People

I cannot believe that April is almost over.  This year is totally flying by.  The end of the month means I’m giving you my take on this month’s book club book, Normal People(Amazon) by Sally Rooney and telling you what my next pick is for May. I have to say that I was slightly disappointed with Normal People.  I wouldn’t say that the book was awful because it did hold my attention for the most part. However, I didn’t think there was enough plot development for me, and I thought it was a little choppy the way it jumped ahead months at a time.  I just felt like there were things that were left out that I as the reader wanted to know. This book came with high praise and tons of buzz about it, so I was expecting more.  It just didn’t excite me enough, I guess.  Had I not picked it as our book club book to review, I may not have finished reading it.  I don’t know why really. I just didn’t love it. I would be very interested to hear what you all think if you read along with me.  

This story was about two people that met as kids, Connell and Marianne.  Both came from very different backgrounds.  In fact, the two met because Connell’s mother (a struggling teen mom) was the housekeeper for Marianne’s family.  Connell was the popular football player while Marianne was the lonely, girl who kept to herself with secrets of a tumultuous family life. They pretended not to know each other for all of their high school years while they had a secret romance behind closed doors.  Their roles sort of reversed when they ended up at the same college.  Marianne became the boisterous, popular girl while Connell became a quiet reserved guy. They develop this weird connection to each other over the years as their relationship continued off and on throughout their lives.  There was a lot of turmoil within each of them individually that seemed to really affect their relationship as well. Even though they both dated other people, they just couldn’t seem to resist this hold they had on each other.  There relationship was very strange and, at times, unhealthy.  There was a lot of psychological things that both of them needed to work through, and I am not sure that they ever fully dealt with all of it in the end. Again, I didn’t love this book.  It is hard to put into words why I didn’t like it, but I just didn’t. Let me know what you thoughts, though!

My pick for next month’s book is one that I have heard great things about from friends who have read it, and the reviews are very good.  It is also a Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick and a #1 New York Times Bestseller.  My next selection is Where the Crawdads Sing (Amazon) by Delia Owens. Here is what Apple Books had to say about this book,

“Abandoned by anyone who should care, Kya lives deep in the swampy North Carolina lowlands. She understands the creatures that live there and waits for someone to understand her—but the locals in town call her Marsh Girl. Delia Owens’ enchanting mystery follows Kya’s exhilarating and terrifying first steps into the outer world, and the murderous betrayal that happens when she lets two young men get close to her. Thanks to Owens’ lyrical prose, we could hear the rustling of the cypress leaves and were pulled headfirst into her complex, emotional story.”

Will you come along this journey with me this month? Happy reading!

Anchored in a Good Book,

Book Club: Girl, Stop Apologizing

If you have been holding your breath to hear my thoughts on Rachel Hollis’s latest book, Girl, Stop Apologizing (Amazon), here is comes.  Just kidding! I doubt any of you noticed that I missed writing my review last week.  Anyway, this book was highly anticipated by thousands of her followers and me.  I could not wait to get my hands on this book.  Let me tell you, it did not disappoint.  She had just as many amazing nuggets inside this book as Girl, Wash Your Face (Amazon) did.  If you didn’t read Girl, Stop Apologizing along with me last month, I highly recommend it.  The premise behind this book is Rachel Hollis giving you her “shame free plan for embracing and achieving your goals. “ If you are stuck in what direction you wanted for your life or are at a crossroads, this book will give you the motivation to figure out what you want your future to look like and give you practical advice on how to get there. This book is broken up into three sections. I will go through each of those three sections and tell you which chapter was the most meaningful for me.  

Excuses To Let Go Of

In this section, Rachel goes through 9 different excuses that many of us tell ourselves and that prevent us from succeeding and reaching our goals.  The excuse that I identified with the most was “I’m Not Enough to Succeed.” I have written about this several times before. I tend to think that I am not good enough all the time.  I will start this negative self-talk where I talk myself out of things. I start doubting myself.  Rachel talks about how we subconsciously think that we are going to fail at something before we even get started.  I know that I do this a lot.  I don’t even begin to try something new because I have already convinced myself that I am not good enough.   Other times I will decide that I am going full force on a goal, but then I hit roadblocks and my forward progress comes to a halt.  The self-doubt enters again.  I start thinking that all of these obstacles are signs that I am not good enough and that I should just give up. She talks about how we need to get over this self-doubt and push forward.  Instead of giving up right away, you have to realize that although you haven’t met your goal yet, it doesn’t mean that you never will.  Rachel says that it is the YET that matters. She says, “You are enough. Today. As you are.  Stop beating yourself for being on the beginning side of yet, no matter what age you are. Yet is your potential. Yetis a promise. Yet is what keeps you moving. Yet is a gift, and you are enough to get to the other side of it.” Over that past year, I have begun to believe that.  I am beginning to realize that I am enough and I am worthy of pursuing my dreams and goals for my life.  I haven’t reached them YET, but I WILL! I just have to be patient, give it time, and keep plowing through the obstacles.  

Behaviors to Adopt

This is the section that really applies to my current situation in life.  I have made the decision to go for my goals and dreams, but now I am trying to figure out how to get there.  I have to have a plan.  Our behaviors are how we live our lives day to day.  The things that we do daily as part of our routine are the things that are going to keep us pushing forward.  These behaviors should become habits and things that are just natural for us. In this section Rachel gives us 7 behaviors that she believes we should adopt in order to get us to our goals.  There were actually two chapters in this section that really spoke to me.  The first was “Ask for Help.” I have always struggled with this.  I have always taken on everything myself and done it all alone.  Even when I was teaching, I had a hard time letting things go for my assistants to do or for others to help me with.  I wanted it done the right way, and I felt like only I could do that.  There have been so many times in my life when I have needed help, but I didn’t ask for it. I thought it would make me look like a failure.  Rachel says to allow yourself to admit that you are drowning.  There have been so many times in my life where I have felt that I was barely keeping my head above the water because I was trying to project my weird version of perfection.  Rachel encourages you to ask for help because it truly takes a village to get through life. She says that you will burn out if you keep trying to do it all on your own and that is exactly what happened to me with teaching.  Her advice is, “Stop pretending. Stop faking it. Stop taking it all on alone and then later feeling bitter about it. Stop wasting your time on activities you hate as penance for the time you want for yourself. “

The other skill in this section of the book that really spoke to me was “Learn to Say No.” This is one of my biggest flaws.  I cannot say no.  It kind of ties in with the behavior of asking for help.  I can’t say no. I take on more than I can handle all the time because I cannot tell people no. Then I refuse to ask for help when I am drowning.  When someone asks you to do something, Rachel recommends that you respond right away, be polite but honest, and be firm.  She says, “You have made the commitment to you and your goals, and it’s important that you stick to your guns. Learn to say no and to say no effectively.” 

Skills to Acquire

To wrap up the book, Rachel gives you 6 skills to acquire to help you reach your goals. The one that I most identified with is “Confidence.” I don’t know if you see a pattern here or not, but the whole feeling of not being good enough goes hand in hand with confidence.  I am not confident in my abilities.  I don’t trust myself enough to reach my goals. If you are always doubting yourself and feeling like you aren’t good enough, you never will succeed.  There are three things that Rachel recommends as ways to help you develop confidence in your self. The first is how you look. She says, “Confidence comes from you liking the way you look, not from you looking any certain way.” I always say that when you look good you feel good.  This is exactly why I get up and shower every single day.  I put on make up and do my hair on put on clothes that make me feel good.  The second way to gain confidence is in how you act.  You have to act like you are confident even when you don’t feel confident. She says, “You can make yourself feel anything you put your mind to as long as you back it up with action.” The third way to develop confidence is with who you hang out with.  I think this is so true.  We adapt and change who we are based on who we hang out with.  If you are around people that are always negative, then you are going to become a negative person too.  The same is true that if you hang out with people who exude confidence, you will start to feel that way too. Rachel says, “Be mindful of the people you hang out with, the words you use, and the way you present yourself to the world around you. Pay attention to the times or the circumstances that make you feel the most self-assured, and then work to cultivate more opportunities like those.” 

There really is so much more to gain from this book to help you become the best version of yourself, someone that goes for her goals with all she’s got and never gives up until she reaches them. Again, I highly recommend this book for any woman.  It really makes you think about your life and how you approach things.  It inspires me to keep pushing to become who God meant for me to be.  

Now, on to our book for April. For this month, I have chosen the book Normal People (Amazon) by Sally Rooney.  Check out what Apple Books had to say about this book.

“Irish author Sally Rooney’s second novel is a sharply observed story about growing up and learning to love. Connell is a popular kid from the wrong side of the tracks, while Marianne is a rich, slightly awkward school outcast. From their respective childhoods in rural west Ireland to their college years in Dublin, Marianne and Connell struggle to square their shared intelligence and passion with the calcified gender and class politics that define so much of their lives. Normal People is both a timeless love story and a resonant cautionary tale. Rooney’s characters feel poignantly, painfully real—we wished her book were twice as long.”

I hope you will read along with me.  Let me know your thoughts on Girl, Stop Apologizing, too! 

Anchored in a Good Book,

This post contains commissioned links.

Book Club: Left Neglected

I am sorry that I didn’t get this up yesterday like I said I was going to try to do. My whirlwind travel did not allow me enough time to finish it enough that I felt good about posting, so here it is today. Better late than never, right?

Our February Book Club book was Left Neglected (Amazon) by Lisa Genova. I chose this book because it was by the same author that wrote Still Alice (Amazon), and I really enjoyed that book.  This book did not disappoint either.  I actually found myself relating to the main character a lot. The story centers around a woman named Sarah who is at the top of the world.  She has the job, the family, the house, the nanny, and even the vacation home. Her days were scheduled from the moment she woke up until the moment her head hit the pillow at night and then some. She was practically married to her job and spent the majority of her time on being the best of the best and moving up the corporate ladder.  Everything was great in her mind, until it all came to a crashing halt. One car ride, one attempt to make a call while driving, and a devastating crash that almost killed her left Sarah with a brain injury called Left Neglect.  She suddenly had no awareness of the left side of her body or that left side of the world and her surroundings.  The story follows her journey to overcome her injury, retrain her brain, and to figure out what her new normal would be.  

The beginning of this story made me nod my head yes over and over again.  I was living that life just a few short years ago.  I devoted everything in me to my job and being the absolute best in my field.  I let it control me and everything I did.  I forgot what was important just like Sarah.  She kind of gave me the impression that her view of being perfect was very similar to mine.  Thankfully, it didn’t take a life altering accident for me to realize that way of thinking was skewed.  While my journey to the place I am now was not as tragic as hers,  I found myself seeing similarities in her discovery of who she was, who she had become, and who she really wanted to be.  Here is an excerpt that hit home for me because I had very similar ideas about my life. 

“Ever since business school, I’ve had my head down, barreling a thousand miles an hour, wearing the flesh of each day down to the bone, pointed down one road toward a single goal. A successful life. And not just run-of-the-mill success. The kind of success that my fellow elite classmates would envy, the kind that my professors would cart out to future students as a shining example of achievement, the kind that even the exceptionally prosperous citizens of Welmont would aspire to, the kind that Bob would be proud of. “

Then this realization that was also similar to mine, and I feel like it could have been something that came directly from my mouth not so long ago.  

“And I’m starting to wonder. What else is there? Maybe success can be something else, and maybe there’s another way to get there. Maybe there’s a different road for me with a more reasonable speed limit.”

I highly recommend this book. It is an easy light read and story that could teach us all a thing or two.

I couldn’t be more excited about my pick for March.  It is a book that I have been waiting on for what seems like forever! It is being released in a few short days, and I preordered it months ago.  I am sure you can probably take a good guess as to what it is because I have talked about it many times before.  If you guess that it is by my imaginary BFF, Rachel Hollis, you would be correct! Girl, Stop Apologizing is almost here and I CANNOT WAIT! I hope that you all have already read Girl, Wash Your Face, because it is phenomenal.  I know that this new one is going to be just as great, if not better.  I have already heard excerpts of it from Rachel herself during her live videos every morning on Instagram and Facebook and it’s so good.  The book releases on March 5.  Here is the publisher’s description of the book:

“In Girl, Stop Apologizing, #1 New York Times bestselling author and founder of a multimillion-dollar media company, Rachel Hollis sounds a wake-up call. She knows that many women have been taught to define themselves in light of other people–whether as a wife, mother, daughter, or employee–instead of learning how to own who they are and what they want. With a challenge to women everywhere to stop talking themselves out of their dreams, Hollis identifies the excuses to let go of, the behaviors to adopt, and the skills to acquire on the path to growth, confidence, and believing in yourself.”

Will you join me in reading this book on our way to self discovery? I can’t wait to get started!

Anchored in a Good Book,

Book Club: Pachinko

I just finished our book club book for January yesterday afternoon. Did anyone else read it with me? It was a pretty long book with over 600 pages, so you may not be done yet. It was an easy read, but I think it was a little too long.  I was hesitant about this book and went back and forth before I chose it for our book club.  I wasn’t sure how I would like it as I don’t typically read a lot of historical fiction. I had heard good things about it and the book had won several awards so I decided to go for it.  I will tell you that I am glad that I read it.  The book, Pachinko (Amazon) by Min Jin Lee, is set in areas of Korea and Japan. It is a story of a Korean family’s journey through 4 generations whose lives are greatly impacted as they navigate the trials of life in occupied Korea and later as outcasts in Japan. It is a beautiful story of love, discontent, hardships, devotion, and perseverance. The story spans this family’s life for over 79 years.  The story is broken into 3 parts.  Each part tells the story of a different generation of the family. 

The story begins in 1910 with a young man who was born with a cleft palate and a twisted foot. Despite his physical appearance, he was a very bright, hardworking man, but he was considered crippled and unfit for marriage. When he was 27 years old, Japan took control of Korea. The story is a journey that began just after that when the matchmaker visited the young man’s home and was able to find him a simple wife.  Life was very difficult for Koreans at that time and the young couple struggled greatly. The story continues as the young couple has only one surviving child, a girl named Sunja.  Lies and adultery change the course of Sunja’s life forever as she is forced to move to Japan.  Her story is a sad one filled with many trials and tribulations, but her determination and perseverance keep her going strong for many years.   Sunja had 2 sons along the way and the story continues with their lives and the struggles they endured as Koreans in Japan, a country that despised them and treated them like scum.  As Sunja’s sons grew up and the war ended, the family continued to have struggles as they remained outcasts in Japan.  The third part of the book, covered the lives of Sunja’s grandchildren and how the Pachinko business changes the lives of the entire family, some for good and others for bad. 

I really enjoyed this book a lot, and I liked getting to see how the family’s circumstances of their birth and the war affected their lives over generations.  Min Jin Lee’s story was very well developed and and so well written that I could visualize the story as I went along. Sadly, I was really unaware of just how difficult it was for Koreans at that time.  It was very interesting to me.  I did feel that the story was a little too long, though.  There were a couple of times when the story seemed to go astray with add on characters that I felt were not necessary.  Overall, though, I would definitely recommend this book.  It has a little bit of everything: adultery, suicide, organized crime, gambling, illness, drama, and more. If you haven’t read it, I think that you will find it to be a heartwarming story of love and devotion. 

Now, on to the next book! First, let me say that having this book club has forced me to get back in to the habit of reading everyday which is something that I really enjoy doing. I have loved books for as long as I can remember, and I had let life get in the way of doing something that I love. Even if no one chooses to read these books along with me, I will keep this book club going with just me because it gives me great joy.   If you love to read, join me. I would love to talk to you about the books as we read together! Second, I will tell you that I really put a lot of thought into the books that I choose for this book club.  I look through many titles and reviews before I choose the book, and I really do hope that you enjoy them as much as I do. Now, the new book I have chosen for February is Left Neglected  (Amazon) by Lisa Genova. Genova is a neuroscientist as well as an author and often write stories of characters with neurological disorders. I read another book by her several years ago about a woman with early-onset Alzheimer’s called, Still Alice (Amazon).  You may have heard about or read this book as it was turned into a movie staring Julianne Moore, Kristen Stewart, and Alec Baldwin. I really enjoyed that book, so I wanted to read something else by Lisa Genova.  Left Neglected (Amazon) is a New York Times Best Seller and it is an older book. It was published in 2011. It is a story of mother whose life was turned upside down after a car wreck left her with a traumatic brain disorder called “left neglect.” Here is what Apple Books has to say about this book:

“In this powerful and poignant New York Times bestseller, Lisa Genova explores what can happen when we are forced to change our perception of everything around us. Left Neglected is an unforgettable story about finding abundance in the most difficult of circumstances, learning to pay attention to the details, and nourishing what truly matters.”

Come inside this book with me and see where the journey takes us! 

Anchored in a Good Book,

Book Club: Educated: A Memoir

The first month of our Book Club has come to an end.  I hope that you joined me in reading the book,  Educated: A Memoir (Amazon) by Tara Westover.  I will tell you that I wasn’t sure about the book when I first picked it because I don’t typically read many memoirs.  I have nothing against them.  They just don’t interest me most of the time.  This book, however, grabbed my attention right away and I was hooked.  This is a story about Tara Westover’s life growing up in the mountains of Idaho. In the book she describes her experiences growing up as the daughter of a man who spent his life preparing for the end of days, or the Days of Abomination as he called it. Her father was a man of many words who truly believed that not only was the government a conspiracy out to get him but that the world was coming to an end.  He refused to send his 7 children to public school for fear that it would brainwash them and lead them away from God. Four of the seven children did not even have birth certificates (didn’t even know their exact birth date) because he thought it was better if the government did not know of their existence. He also believed that hospitals and doctors were also the work of the devil and refused to get medical attention even in the worst of accidents such as a traumatic brain injury or severe burns. Tara’s mom was an herbalist and later a non-licensed midwife who created her own medicines and tinctures from herbs and essential oils. She went along with all of her husband’s beliefs and followed whatever he dictated. Where did these irrational thoughts and beliefs come from? Some would say that he was mentally ill, bipolar.  Some would say that it came from radical Mormon beliefs from “prophets” like Joseph Smith. Others would say that the fears came after the incident at Ruby Ridge where Randy Weaver and his family were in an eleven day standoff with US Marshalls and FBI over firearm charges where 3 individuals were killed including Weaver’s wife and son. He believed the same could happen to him because he didn’t send his kids to school. Maybe it was a combination of all three. Whatever the reason, his beliefs were certainly not the norm and had a deep psychological impact on Tara’s life. The story depicts her struggles against following her parents and their beliefs and her desire to learn. Tara began her education at the age of 17 at BYU. She overcame the odds stacked against her and eventually earned her PhD ten years after she first set foot onto BYU’s campus. 

I found this book to be fascinating, especially when I considered that it is a true story.  I was baffled that there are people in this world today that have these crazy beliefs and ways of life. She is about 10 years younger than I am and to think that these things happened to her in this day and age is unimaginable.  She suffered abuse at the hands of both of her parents as well as mental and physical abuse from her brother, Shawn. In one chapter she wrote, “’It’s strange how you give the people you love so much power over you,’ I had written in my journal. But Shawn had more power over me than I could possibly have imagined. He had defined me to myself, and there’s no greater power than that.” Isn’t that true sometimes of all of us? We are defined by the people in our lives who molded and shaped us. How grateful am I that the people that defined me were not ones that always tore me down and made me feel small and insignificant like Tara? She fought hard to rewrite her story, to become someone better than her family defined her as.  I am inspired by her strength and will to move forward with her education.  It is truly amazing to look at where she started and see where she is now. Here is another quote from the book that really stood out to me.  It comes from a conversation with one of her professors at Cambridge.  He said to her, “The most powerful determinant of who you are is inside you. Professor Steinberg says this is Pygmalion. Think of the story, Tara. She was just a cockney in a nice dress. Until she believed in herself. Then it didn’t matter what dress she wore.” Tara had to learn to believe in herself, to cast away the years of brainwashing (because that’s really what it was) and become who she was meant to be. 

This story is one of great inspiration and an example of how a strong will can pull you from the depth of darkness into the light. I highly recommend this book.  In fact, I am trying to get my husband to read it as well because I think he will find it just as fascinating as I did.  Let me know your thoughts.  Below are some questions that I asked myself while I was reading.  Feel free to look them over and send me your feelings on any of them.  I would love to chat with you about it. 

  1. Mom suffered a serious brain injury and did not receive medical care.  How did this injury affect not only her personality but also her relationship with her husband and children?
  2. How did the way they were raised affect each of the 7 children.  It was different for each one of them. What about the difference between the ones who left to get and education vs. those that remained uneducated?
  3. Was Shawn’s behavior/aggressiveness a product of the way he was raised or was he mentally ill like his father?
  4. What would I do in her situation? Would I be brave enough to walk away?
  5. Dad began to have “followers” including mom.  Did they believe he was a “prophet” that was sent from God? 
  6. What makes people follow someone so blindly and wholeheartedly? Is it a cult? 

For January, I have chosen a book that was a National Book Award Finalist, a New York Times Top Ten Book of the Year in 2017, and Goodreads Choice Awards Winner for Best Historical Fiction. It is entitled Pachinko (Amazon) by Min Jin Lee. This is a story of four generations of a poor Korean immigrant family as they fight to control their destiny in 20th century Japan. Here is Apple Books review of this book.

“An immersive and compulsively readable saga, Min Jin Lee’s novel follows one family for more than half a century, tracking their winding course from a seaside village in an occupied Korea to gambling halls in Japan. We adore this 2017 National Book Award finalist for its beautifully realized characters, historical insights, and flawless depictions of family strife, loyalty, and love. “

Will you join me on the journey inside this book? 

Anchored in Good Books,

Friday Favorites: Book Club

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You know what? Sometimes life gets in the way of the best laid plans.  As you all have learned by now, I am a planner.  I like to plan things out.  Without a plan, I am lost.  Well, my plan for this blog was to share a book with you on the last Friday of every month as part of my Friday Favorites because books are one of my favorite things.  Unfortunately, the holidays and life in general got in the way, and I haven’t finished reading the book I was going to do today.  But….the good news is that it gave me a great idea.  I have been an avid reader since I was little.  I have always loved books and reading. When I was in high school, my mom let me join one of those book of the month clubs where they sent you 3-4 books in the mail each month and you mailed back the ones you didn’t want and kept the ones that you did.  I think that is probably showing my age because I don’t think that those even exist anymore with the world of technology.  I so looked forward to that box arriving each month.  That was the old version of Stitch Fix and Fab, Fit, Fun boxes! Ha ha! I still have some of those books on a shelf in my guest room.  I don’t know why I hold on to them. I guess I have been known to go back and read books that I loved again, so maybe one day I will read some of them a second time. I love books of all genres, including fiction and non-fiction books.  Back in those high school days, I read a lot of Danielle Steele and John Grisham. I don’t think I would be caught dead reading a Danielle Steele book now! LOL! My tastes have definitely improved. Some of my favorite authors now include Karen Kingsbury, Jodi Picoult, Kristin Hannah, Liane Moriarty, Paulina Simons, and Gillian Flynn.  I’ll read most anything, though. Even if I don’t really like the book, I will finish reading it.  There have been some books, series even, that I have read that absolutely drove me nuts because I thought the writing was terrible, but I read them anyway because I had started them. Sad, I know! That’s probably the OCD in me that won’t allow something to go unfinished. I really like series of books, too. I love the anticipation of waiting for the next book to come out.  Some of my favorites are The Redemption Series (Amazon) by Karen Kingsbury (She has several series, and I love them all.), The Hunger Games (Amazon) by Suzanne Collins, Harry Potter (Amazon) by JK Rowling, and The Bronze Horseman (Amazon) by Paulina Simons. I am also pretty obsessed with children’s books.  That’s the teacher in me. My collection of children’s books from all of my years of teaching and from my own kids, is pretty incredible.  My absolute favorite children’s author is Audrey Wood.  I would always do an author study on her in my class just so that I could have an excuse to read all of her books again each year.  If you have young kids, go check out her books. My favorite one is The Napping House (Amazon).

I am not one of those people that has to have the actual hard copy book to read.  I read as many books on my iPad as I do in hard copy.  I do prefer to read self-help/motivational types of books in hard copy because I like to write and highlight in them.  I am one of those people that even writes all in the margins of my Bible. I am a visual learner and writing things down has always helped me retain the information. Other than that, I don’t have a preference if it’s a hard copy or not.  I have never really been a library kind of person either.  I only ever went to the library when I was in high school and college for research purposes.  I don’t really know why other than I like owning the book. Maybe it is so I can read it again one day. I don’t really know.  Some people that I know love going to the library, and I think that is great. It is definitely the more economical way of reading. Only one of my children got my reading gene.  The other one HATES to read (probably because reading has always been difficult for her), and it drives me nuts! I always give my kids books for Christmas hoping that they will actually read them, but it never works out the way I want for that kid. You would think I would stop wasting my money on books for her. I can still hold out hope, right?

Reading has always been such a huge part of my life, which is why I wanted to share a book with you each month.  I sadly don’t get enough time to read as much as I want to, so this is where my new idea comes in to play.  I think we should do a book club each month and hold each other accountable for reading the book.  Instead of just me reading a book and telling you about it, let’s read it together. We should all take time for ourselves, right? Reading a good book is such a great escape from reality, and one of those things that I really need in my life. I know many of my friends reading this are avid readers like me.  What do you think? Do you think you would be interested in doing a book club with me? We could discuss it along the way on my Facebook and Instagram pages with a big summary at the end of each month here on the blog. I am going to make it a goal to read at least one book a month, and I need you all to hold me accountable.  It will force me to take the time I need to read.  If you really want something, you can find the time to do it.  I am going to pick the book for December, but I would love for you to share your suggestions with me for future books.  Maybe it is one you have already read that you think others would enjoy, or maybe it is one that you have been wanting to read.  Let me know! We can do it together.  I have always enjoyed discussing books with my friends, and I think this will be fun.  Will you join me?

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The book I have chosen for our first book club book is a New York Times Best Seller and is a memoir by Tara Westover called Educated (Amazon). Here is Apple Books’ review:

“Like Mary Karr’s The Liar’s Club (Amazon) and Jeannette Walls’ The Glass Castle (Amazon), Educated is a beautifully written testament to human resilience: The story of a seriously messed-up childhood and an against-all-odds journey toward empowerment. Tara Westover grew up in rural Idaho, where her family stockpiled supplies and weapons for the end days. Instead of going to school, young Tara worked alongside her father salvaging scrap metal (resulting in harrowing near-misses) and assisted her isolated herbalist mother. Westover has a rare talent for writing about both grace and horror—her story of starting her formal education at age 17 and finding her calling imprints itself in the imagination.”

The book has 40 chapters, so we should set a goal of reading 10 chapters each week for the next 4 week. Each week I will make a post on my Facebook and Instagram pages for us to discuss what we have read that week. Will you commit to reading this book and discussing it with me? Will you take some time for yourself to immerse yourself into someone else’s world? I know it is a busy time of year, but I think we can do it! Don’t forget to send me suggestions for the next book, too! Happy reading!

Anchored in a Good Book,

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Friday Favorites: Girl Wash Your Face

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When I started thinking about what favorite thing I wanted to write about today, I decided it was about time that I wrote about my newest obsession with Rachel Hollis and her book Girl, Wash Your Face (Amazon). I can’t even begin to describe to you how life changing this book has been for me. The way I feel about myself as a person, as a mom, as a wife has totally changed since reading this book. I know I’ve quoted it a couple of times (okay maybe more than a couple) and I’ve mentioned her book in another post, but I’m telling you, every woman in America needs to read this book. I don’t know a single person that has read it that hasn’t had some sort of emotional connection/reaction to it. Her husband, Dave Hollis, is actually in the process of writing a male version of the book. My husband doesn’t know it yet, but when it comes out, I am going to strongly encourage him to read it. Yep! I sure am!

From the day I started reading the book, I began watching Rachel’s daily Facebook live every morning and it is always so inspirational. Then I got to watch her speak virtually at our Rodan + Fields convention last month. I swear that everything that comes out of this woman’s mouth makes me want to stand up and shout “YES!” at the top of my lungs. I had so many of those moments reading the book as well. I will tell you that I do not normally read self-help books. That just wasn’t my thing until recently. I don’t know that I had ever read a self-help book before this except for devotional kinds of books. That has definitely changed now.  I saw a lot of my friends posting about Girl, Wash Your Face and talking about how amazing it was, so I finally decided to get it and dive in. Wow, am I glad I did!

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I read books all the time, and I typically purchase books on my iPad, but for some reason I felt the need to buy the hard copy of this book.  If you read it, and you should, I would highly recommend that you get your own hardcopy.  I highlighted and wrote my thoughts all over every page of this book.  I even kept a journal while reading it where I wrote down things she said that I wanted to remember and then my thoughts on each chapter and how it related to me in my life. I’ve heard people say that they sat down and read the whole book in a day because they just couldn’t put it down.  I, on the other hand, only allowed myself to read one chapter a day and then went and watched the Facebook live episode from where she and her husband did a book talk and talked about a chapter a day.  You can go back and watch them as you read too. You can also get a free study guide to go along with the book if you go to her website and sign up for her newsletter.  The reason that I only read one chapter a day is because I wanted to take the time to reflect on the topic of each chapter. I will tell you that I had a lot of revelations while reading this book. It forced me to really get to the core of who I am as a person.

So what is this book about and why should you read it? In the book Rachel writes about 20 lies that she used to believe about herself. These lies range from things like “I’m not good enough” to “I’m defined by my weight.” She goes through each one of these 20 lies and tells you what she used to believe and how her belief has changed, and then she offers some tips on how she was able to change her belief. The cover of the book says, “Stop believing the lies about who you are so you can become who you were meant to be.”  That is the whole premise behind the book. Although you may think that some of the lies don’t apply to you, I promise you that there is a lesson you can gain in each one.  Don’t skip over a chapter because you think it won’t apply to you. For example, one of the lies is, “I need a drink.” For those of you that don’t know me, I have never had a drink of alcohol in my entire life.  I have nothing against anyone that does, and I know that I am in the minority.  It is just a personal decision I made as a teen.  Anyway, my first thought was that this lie doesn’t really apply to me, but I kept reading.  In this chapter she talks about drinking as being her way to escape the realities of her life.  As the chapter went on I began to think about what my “drink” was.  I came to realize that it didn’t necessarily have to be a drink of alcohol that you used to escape your life or something that you did when you were stressed.  It could be anything.  What am I using to escape the hardest parts of my life? What am I using as a distraction from reality? These are the questions I was asking myself, so I started making a list in my journal.  Some of the things on my list were things like shopping (remember I’ve admired to being a shop-a-holic), being totally absorbed in my phone (playing games, scrolling though Facebook or Instagram, totally tuned out from everything around me), bing-watching shows on Netflix, and many others. Then I asked myself what I was trying to escape by being addicted to those things.  Thinking about it gave me a lot of insight into my way of thinking and really what I was doing. Do I really NEED all of those things? Do I need to be totally absorbed in them so much that I tune everything and everyone else around me out? Do they really make the tough and stressful parts of my life better? Do they make it go away or do they just mask it temporarily? Again, these were the questions racing through my head as I was reading. In this chapter Rachel says, “Food, water, shelter, healthy relationships…those are the things you need. Anything else you insert into that category becomes a dangerous crutch—and you don’t need a crutch if you are strong enough to walk on your own.”  Am I strong enough to walk on my own? I believe that I am.  Do I think it will be easy? Absolutely not, but it is a journey that I am willing to make. She says, “You’ll have to learn and grow in new areas, which can feel discouraging if you’ve already walked through hard seasons in the past. But fighting through those times is how you get tougher: it’s how you become the person you were meant to be.”  Wow!  She is so right.  Instead of trying to cover up and escape the hard things in your life, you have to fight through them.  It will only make you stronger in the end.  I am telling you, every single chapter was like this for me. It made me think hard about my life, my actions, and my beliefs about myself.  Some of it wasn’t a pretty sight to look at, and parts of it I’m not proud of.  This book made me realize that I wasn’t living the life that I truly wanted for myself. It made me begin to change my habits and my way of thinking so that I can become a better version of myself. Reading this book gave me the courage to start this blog and this new journey in my life. Did the book magically make me a better person? No! That is going to take a lot of hard work and a lot of self-reflection, but it is a mountain that I am willing to climb because I am worth it! I want more.  I was made for more.

I will say that if you continue to follow me on this journey, you will see more quotes from Rachel Hollis.  She is just that good. She really speaks to my heart. She actually has a new book coming out in March called Girl, Stop Apologizing (Amazon), which you can preorder now.  She has given some sneak peaks inside this book on her daily Facebook live videos, and I CANNOT WAIT to get my hands on it.  I know it is going to be just as great, and I will be quoting it just as much as this book. Go out there and get a copy of Girl, Wash Your Face.  If you don’t have the money to buy it, go to the library and check it out.  You need to read this book.  Don’t read it just to read it, though.  Use it to dig deep inside yourself and reflect on who you are now and who you really desire to be.  It can change your life. I will leave you with one last quote from the book…

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Anchored and Wanting More,

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