reading goals

Books #22

This is probably the last book review post of the year!

I used to average somewhere around 100 books a year. Last year I fell very short in my goal on GoodReads. I knew I’d be busy, new baby and all, so I set my goal low (80) and only read 62 books last year. I was ok with that. I just didn’t have a lot of time. 😉

This year has been easier to read more. I’m not breastfeeding anymore so I have time, and I have more time at work to read on breaks because of that. I read on the bus, I read before bed. This year my goal was 65 books and I surpassed that!

 
157%  —  39 books ahead of schedule

 

1 ) The Good Daughter by Karin Slaughter

This book may not be for everyone. There were parts that were a bit graphic, but the story was pretty good. I’ve read a lot of books by this author and she crafts good, interesting stories and is really skilled at character development.

In this particular stand alone book, there are a few stories going on in one. Sam and Charlie were teenagers in Georgia when two intruders murdered their mother right in front of them and tried to kill them both. The story is a bit about that and then 20 years later when Sam and Charlie are adults. They are both still feeling the effects of the tragedy and their family has been fractured since.

The other story is about a school shooting. Sam and Charlie’s father, Rusty, is a defense attorney (and the girls have also become lawyers) and takes on the shooter as his client.

The story is a little about the investigation and trial of the shooting (but that’s not the focus), about history and family secrets, but it’s feels more about the relationship between the sisters and healing and redemption.

2 ) What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton

I know what a lot of people might be thinking about feeling seeing this book on my list. You’re probably like me and burned out on politics, the 2016 election, Trump, Hillary…everything. I wasn’t clamoring to read this book (even though I wanted to) because I am so sick of all of it. But it finally came up available at the library and I was excited to get Hillary’s take on what happened.

The book begins with Trump’s inauguration. I remember watching part of it and thinking just how strong, brave (and crazy) Hillary was for attending. Sure, it was tradition. Sure, it showed the world she lost but wasn’t beaten. But damn, I don’t think I could have been that strong to sit on that stage and watch a buffoon blather on and on about winning.

“The new President’s speech was dark and dystopian. I heard it as a howl straight from the white nationalist gut. Its most memorable line was about ‘American carnage,’ a startling phrase more suited to a slasher film than an inaugural address. Trump painted a picture of a bitter, broken country I didn’t recognize. [pg 7]”

“…listening to Trump, it almost felt like there was no such thing as truth anymore. It still feels that way. [pg 8]”

” ‘That was some weird shit,’ George W reportedly said with characteristic Texas bluntness. I couldn’t have agreed more. [pg 11]”

I kinda loved George W for that. And I was not a fan at all when he was in office.

The books then goes on to describe the days and weeks following the election and how Hillary felt. She shared insights and stories into her personal and private life. She shared stories of her and Bill’s relationship. She said she hid out in their house in NY wearing yoga pants, drinking Chardonnay, watching HGTV, reading mystery novels and walking in their woods. I kind of LOVED that image. It definitely made her seem more human and relateable (And part of me was like, why didn’t we see THAT Hillary during the election cycle??!!!)

I am sure a ghost writer wrote this book, but despite that, I enjoyed reading it and I enjoyed Hillary’s “voice.” A lot of critics of this book said she spends a lot of time “blaming everyone else” for her failure. While there might be a little bit of that (yes, there were outside sources that did influence the election, as we are now seeing), I didn’t get the vibe she wasn’t taking any responsibility.

The book then shared the campaign ins and outs. I really enjoyed the chapter on her typical day on the campaign trail and a typical day with her family. It was nice and interesting.

She also shared advice she’s been given along the way. Obama said: ” ‘Don’t try to be hip, you’re a grandma,’ he’d tease. ‘Just be yourself and keep doing what you’re doing.’ [pg 67]”

I agree with her assessment that the Democrats played fair and Trump played dirty (and I think if the Dems want to take make progress in 2018/2020, they need to figure their shit out!):

“I was running a traditional presidential campaign with carefully thought-out policies and painstakingly built coalitions, while Trump was running a reality TV show that expertly and relentlessly stoked Americans’ anger and resentment. I was giving speeches laying out how to solve the country’s problems. He was ranting on Twitter. Democrats were playing by the rules and trying too hard not to offend the political press. Republicans were chucking the rule book out the window and working the refs as hard as they could. I may have won millions more votes, but he’s the one sitting in the Oval Office. [pg 76]”

“Donald Trump did something else: appeal to the ugliest impulses of our national character. He also made false promises about being on the side of working people. [pg 81]”

 

I also liked how she described what it was like being in politics (and law) as a woman:

“I’m not jealous of my male colleagues often, but I am when it comes to how they can just shower, shave, put on a suit and be ready to go. The few times I’ve gone out in public without makeup, it’s made the news. So I sigh and keep getting back in that chair, and dream of a future in which women in the public eye don’t need to wear makeup if they don’t want to and no one cares either way. [pg 88]”

Whatever your personal feelings about Hillary might be, she’s an amazing, accomplished career woman and politician, who was more than qualified for the job of President.

“I was one of just 27 women out of 235 students in my class at Yale Law School. The first woman partner at the oldest law firm in Arkansas. The first woman to chair the national board of the Legal Services Corporation. The person who declared on the world stage that ‘human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights.’ The first First Lady to be elected to public office. The first woman Senator from New York. [pg 113]”

“The moment a woman steps forward and says, ‘I’m running for office,’ it beings: the analysis of her face, her body, her voice, her demeanor; the diminishment of her stature, her ideas, her accomplishments, her integrity. It can be unbelievably cruel. [pg 116]”

There were about a dozen more highlights from the book that were really profound, but I won’t share them all here. This is just a taste. The book is 500+ pages, a fast read honestly, and there’s a lot of good information and insights in it.

It was a well done book. It could have been edited down a little bit in the middle, but other than that I enjoyed it.

3 ) In This Moment by Karma Brown

Meg is a middle-aged married mother of a teen daughter. She’s a realtor, her husband is a doctor. They seemingly have a good life in a nice town, albeit a bit hectic. Then a tragic accident happens right in front of Meg and her daughter, Audrey. The twin brother of Audrey’s boyfriend, Jake, is crossing the street near the school when another car comes out of nowhere and hits him. The other driver was texting and speeding.

As you can imagine, both Meg and Audrey are traumatized. The description of the accident was fast but real and I found myself almost hyperventilating as I read it. It was very real, very scary and fast (like an accident would be)…it just came out of nowhere.

The book is about the guilt Meg feels about waving Jake across the street, thinking it was safe. It’s also about Meg basically failing as an adult. She’s having a hard time with the guilt she feels, it brings up a traumatic event from her childhood, she’s drifting away from both her husband and her daughter, and she’s making mistakes at work. The story is about making mistakes, dealing with big consequences and healing.

4 ) Two Kinds of Truth (Harry Bosch #22) by Michael Connelly

Harry is back! Working as a volunteer for a local police department to solve cold cases. He gets pulled into a current investigation at a pharmacy (pill-mill) murder and ends up going undercover. It was fascinating to read about how pill mills function and how they use addicts to get more pills to sell on the streets. What a crazy system!

While Harry is undercover, his cover is blown because a 30-year old case makes the newspapers. The murderer is on death row and claiming that Harry planted evidence to frame him. So now Harry gets pulled into that debacle! And his half brother, the “Lincoln Lawyer” (aka Matthew McConaughey) joins the team to clear Harry’s name.

This was another stellar Harry Bosch book. The characters are all so well-written and well-developed it feels like you are reuniting with family when you read the books. The story was fast moving and unexpected.

5 ) The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America, 1858-1919 by Douglas Brinkley

A very, very detailed and long biography about Theodore Roosevelt and how our president established wilderness conversation laws. His legacies led to the creation of the US Fish & Wildlife Services, passage of the Antiquities Act and saved the Devils Tower, The Grand Canyon and the Petrified Forest.

It’s a very long, very detailed book and I’m only about 50% done with it, but I wanted to include it here because it’s a really fascinating read!

6 ) Consent to Kill (Mitch Rapp #8) by Vince Flynn

I was a bit on the fence with this book for the first 40% or so. It was dragging a bit and I wasn’t enjoying the story much but then it got really good. I don’t want to give away a spoiler, but something pretty dramatic and awful happens and Mitch wants revenge.

Someone has hired an assassin to kill Mitch. The author develops this new assassin pretty well and their story was interesting and kept me reading, even when the book was a little slow.The last half of the book was a whirlwind and so, so good. I’m glad I hung in there. The finale was excellent and I can’t wait to read the next book to see where the story goes.

7 ) Dead Woman Walking by Sharon Bolton

WOW! What a crazy book!

The book starts with an exciting bang. About 12 people are in a hot air balloon in England. Two of the passengers are sisters and this was a gift for one of the sister’s 40th birthday. While they are up above the earth, taking in the sights, they see a horrific crime take place below them. The next few chapters are a crazy roller-coaster ride describing in great (and heart-pumping) detail the hot air balloon crash and aftermath.

There are SO many twists and turns and surprises in this book I don’t even know where to start and I don’t want to give spoilers. I will say every little bit of the story was absolutely unique and jaw-dropping. Such a great read!

These posts have Amazon affiliate links.

Looking to 2016

SNOWMAGEDDEN!

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Sunday morning we awoke to snow in Portland! And not just a light dusting of white, but actual snow! However, it was not a “blizzard”. The above news article is pretty hilarious because people tend to freak out when it snows here. Which doesn’t happen a lot. But it was kind a nice start to 2016!

We had plans to take maternity photos Sunday morning and what’s funny is that our friend, Christi, who did our engagement pictures, originally wanted to go up to Mount Hood to take the baby bump pictures in the snow. Instead I found a nearby park that had covered areas because we were all sure it would be raining when we planned on doing the photos…So it’s pretty funny that she got her wish in Portland–snow. We were going to cancel the photos and reschedule but…it seemed a shame not to take advantage of snowy Portland for our photos. So we did it. 🙂 I’m happy we were able to do them (and get snow photos!) and I can’t wait to see them.

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Since the new year is off to a pretty good start, I’d like to make some goals for 2016 even if I’m a little wary of doing so. I mean, I have no idea what it’s going to be like suddenly being a family of three. I don’t want to set myself up with unrealistic expectations, or feel like I’ve somehow been lax in my goals. Really, my big goal for 2016 is to give birth to a healthy baby, recover and learn how to be a mom.

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But in the spirit of goal making, feeling nostalgic for past New Year’s Eves and wanting to have something on my radar for 2016 I will make a small list.

Run a 5k.

5k’s are a good distance for me. My body doesn’t seem to rebel against it and I can train for a 5k without injuring myself. In 2015 I ran two 5k races (both while pregnant!) and would LOVE to run another one this year. Obviously that will depend on how my body heals and how the training goes but it’s my goal. I like doing the Portland Parks and Rec 5k series so I will probably pick one of those and I’ll do one at the end of summer or early Fall. That seems to give me an adequate amount of time to train. Wish me luck!

Lose the baby weight.

I’ve talked about this a lot throughout my pregnancy–I dislike the pressure that is put on women to lose the baby weight IMMEDIATELY (and to also not gain very much weight while pregnant). I hate it. I hate the pressure, the expectation; I hate the judgment, the side-eye you often get from other people. I do NOT expect the baby weight to melt off the second I give birth.

During my pregnancy I still counted my calories. I was definitely eating more calories but I did my best to be reasonable about it. I was NOT “eating for two”. I was eating for ME and for the baby, who only needed like 300 extra calories a day. I followed my doctor’s instructions and counted my calories (without beating myself up if I did go over once in awhile) and I tried to make good choices about the food I was eating. Which was a lot easier once I got out of the first trimester. I still worked out (even during the worst of the morning sickness). I listened to my body and did what I could. Sure I modified a lot of things and wasn’t going at the same intensity but I was still very active. Overall I am happy with how I’ve maintained my health while cooking this little bug.

Now that I’m in the last few months, I’m trying to enjoy my changing body. I’m looking forward to the “after” too, because honestly, the biggest adjustment being pregnant for me was my body was no longer my own. I’m looking forward to getting that back–in whatever shape it ends up being in.

All that being said, I do want to lose weight because I am healthier and happier at a lower weight. I lost 110 pounds, kept it off for 7 years and would like to get back somewhat close to what I was at before getting pregnant. I’m not going to be crazy or restrictive about it. I’m simply going to go back to doing what I did before: continue exercising and reduce my calories in a reasonable way.

I know it will take time. I’m willing to do the work. The hardest part will be the mental aspect of it. My body shape being different. The weight coming off slowly. Clothes not fitting quite right. I hope I can adjust ok.

This goal won’t start for awhile. I’ll be following my doctor’s advice, listening to my body and not rushing back into anything until the time is right. My goal is to breastfeed and I know that trying to lose weight while that is happening is not wise, so this goal might be for later in the year. I know *I* won’t be the focus for a long time–but at the same time, I think it’s important for mom and dad to be healthy and take care of themselves, too. So I won’t just be letting things go–taking care of myself is important just like taking care of the baby. I will try and find balance.

Don’t forget about my fur-babies when the real baby gets here!

I really really want to give them all attention and love. I know it may not be the same or the same amount of attention but I’m going to try my best. Bella, Fat Kitty and Maya are family and they will still be family.

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I’m really looking forward to getting back into hiking. Bella loves it. I want our baby to be exposed to nature and grow up loving tromping through the woods. I am inspired by the blogger at Trail Snail, who hiked throughout her pregnancy and has THE most adorable little girl who has been going into the woods with them since birth! Love it! I think getting back to hiking will be a good goal for us as a family and a good way to give Bella attention.

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Focus on Slowing Down.

I saw this article:  Healthy Habit Forming Gifts to Give Yourself that suggested practicing things like awareness, forgiveness, focus, patience (I need this one!) and community. Those are good categories to build resolutions around as well!

One thing I want to focus more on in the new year is making time for myself and SLOWING DOWN. I tend to overbook my life, over-schedule activities and then when I do get downtime I am burned out and just want to sit in front of the TV and watch Netflix for hours, totally checked out. It’s not a good cycle. But I find that I struggle with just sitting and doing nothing, so I tend to fill my time. ALL my time. I can’t remember the last time Michael and I decided to forgo a scheduled activity and do something on the spur of the moment. It’s time to learn how to stop and smell the roses.

Learn my new camera.

I love the new features of my camera! Michael got me the Canon 760D camera for Christmas and I’ve been slowly experimenting with the new features. I love the photos I’m getting but I need a lot of practice. I have two months to figure out my camera before baby gets here and I’ll take a zillion pictures. 😉

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Read 80 books in 2016.

I’m sure all the parents out there reading my goal are laughing at me…but…I have to have a goal, right? I may not get there with a new baby but we’ll see. It feels odd to have such a low goal set for myself after last year’s monster goal! 2015 I read 150 out of 140 books. 2014 I read 139 out of 125. Each year I’ve read roughly 10-20 books more than whatever goal I set for myself. Last year was the biggest goal I had and I met it. Friend me on Goodreads! And send me your favorite book recommendations. 🙂

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What about you? Any goals for the new year?