Category Archives: Year In Review

COVID-19 Pandemic: One year time warp

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels

It’s officially been a full year of pandemic and living with all the things that have come with it. 2020 both feels like the longest year I’ve ever lived, and that it sped past so quickly that there’s no chance it has already been a year, right? I look back on my post from the six-week mark and it is laughable how we thought it was somehow going to end soon. I’m somewhat at a loss for words of how to adequately sum up what the last year has brought but feel like, as a writer, I must try.

Many feel that 2020 was the worst year ever. Certainly there are many reasons to think that way. 500,000+ Americans have lost their lives to COVID-19, and people are still dying. That’s a lot of people grieving the loss of friends and loved ones. In America violence and hatred abound, politics are like a dumpster fire, and the new adults joining the scene believe they will see another Civil War in their lifetimes. But all that aside, I’d rather look at the positives and silver linings of what living through this experience has taught me.

Social Media

Dear god, is there anything more toxic in our society right now? I argue, no. I remember many weeks last year where I thought I was being helpful and sharing legitimate science and research as things were shared with me by medical experts – remember, my day job is in healthcare – only to be met with rage and conspiracy theories and general negativity from many of my “friends” on social media – particularly FaceBook. I got so spun up and would sit around the quarantine dinner table venting about the drama of the day, feeling all the anxiety and frustrations it brought with it. Around the same time, I watched the documentary “The Social Dilemma” which rocked my world. Seriously, if you haven’t seen it, check out the trailer HERE!

Go on, I’ll wait….

See what I mean?

Sometime mid 2020, I got really clear on the effects that social media was having on my sanity, and my health and wellness overall. This led to what I refer to as The Great COVID Purge where I took my social media back for myself. For years – since I became a published author – I had been juggling this weird dichotomy of “needing” to be a public figure and still somehow protecting my private life. Gone were the days where I didn’t connect on social media with people unless I would both recognize AND stop to talk with someone if I ran into them in a public place. Now, I had a completely segmented audience with “Acquaintances” that were separate from my “real” friends and family. That way, I could limit who saw posts with my kids and my intimate private life. What I realized was that this is merely a manipulative way to measure self worth by external validation and that instead I had become this weird pseudo public view of myself. I deleted hundreds of “friends” who over the years I couldn’t even remember where I had met them and who I didn’t ever interact with. These strangers got to see details of my life just because we had attended the same writing conference at some point and met.

My new motto: if it doesn’t make me happy when I see your posts or I wouldn’t be happy to run into you in real life, you don’t get to see me and what I post on social media. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that many actual people I know and even people I share DNA with in some way are not in that category. For those, it was harder but not when you look at people like my husband who isn’t on a single social media network and still maintains quality relationships. It doesn’t make us not connected in other ways, just because we aren’t connected on social media. Read that again because I’m pretty sure a lot of people have become so consumed and manipulated by social media that they don’t know how to do that anymore. Myself included until this epiphany midyear.

It felt like an extreme weight lifted off my chest and I’ve never been happier on social media minus those early days when it was all brand new. I also have completely changed my social media habits. It used to be that it was the first thing I checked in the morning and constantly checked in throughout the day. Now, I could go all day without popping on. I’m still trying to find the best balance between all the different platforms but overall I have really enjoyed being more authentically connected to people that uplift me and add to my joy in life.

Quality over Quantity

I have always been a very social person with a lot of friends and colleagues in circles that I participate in. But I’ve now been super high risk for DYING if I contracted this COVID-19 virus (remember my shitty kidney disease? Yeah, that has been terrifying!) I couldn’t be with people safely and I literally stayed home to stay safe. For a year. As an extrovert, this was hard when it was happening. It required me to set and maintain boundaries with people who weren’t at risk like I am. Coming through it on what I hope is the tail end, and as with anything, hindsight is much clearer than life as it unfolds around you.

Over the course of the year, it turns out that while I didn’t get to see a lot of people, the people who found ways to stay connected to each other did it in very creative ways. My social circles shrunk, but the quality of my relationships improved – even without social media, go figure. This was also true of my little family – my husband and kids and our pets. We watched a lot of people talk about how their lives were worse because it was so hard to entertain their kids or be with their spouse ALL DAY or whatever it is that lots of people struggled with. Our world became each other. We continued to build on achieving our dreams together. We grew as people and as a family. We laugh and we talk and we connected in a deeper way than we would have if pandemic life hadn’t been forced onto us. For this alone, where we are almost to the phase of life where our children are grown and will soon launch into their own lives, I’m grateful for this silver lining. There’s still no one I’d rather spend time with more than the guy I married over a quarter century ago. That makes me happy.

I also have a shiny new therapist… in case you’re wondering. I argue now more than ever every single person in the world needs one of their own.

So here we are, a year later, lots and lots of people dead, vaccines rolling out across the globe, and hopes rising that it might be over soon. I am re-emerging from this year that happened with not a lot to measure its passing and reconnecting with all the things that make me feel like I’m living rather than merely surviving. Most notably, that includes my website, which has been woefully neglected while my job supporting and innovating in the healthcare IT industry to support frontline workers took far more of my time than it ever has before. I hope your “lost year”, as I think of 2020, brought at least some things you can classify as positive to outweigh the trauma and stress we’ve felt on the global stage as a society.


2020 Books Archive

How is it already time to look back on and recap another year of reading? 2020 started out so beautifully, and hopeful, and quickly went down the pandemic drain for basically everyone on the planet. The only “normal” activity I did last year was reading – an activity which I did a whole lot of. Fifty-seven books of the super-aggressive-stretch-goal of sixty books I set for myself. Here’s my rundown of all the books I read, mostly for my own benefit, but also presented as a way to share high level book review details in case anyone is looking for their next read. Also, a plug for GoodReads if you are an avid reader who likes to keep track of such things like I do. Their yearly Reading Challenge keeps me motivated all year, year after year.

  • The Immortalists, Chloe Benjamin – one of the many I hauled home from a writing conference that also focused on reading widely. Great family drama with lots of diversity that lived up to the recommendation.
  • A Memory Called Empire (Teixcalaan, #1), Arkady Martine – a very political, not-based-in-our-world and science fiction read, also hauled home from a librarian/bookseller recommendation, I picked up in an attempt to read outside my preferred genres. It was a difficult read to get into but paid off greatly. If you’re into the genre, it is a great one.
  • One Small Sacrifice (Shadows of New York, #1), Hilary Davidson – also hauled home from librarian/bookseller recommendation in the crime/thriller genre. I really enjoyed it.
  • The Road, Cormac McCarthy – I picked this one up since it had been on my list forever and is considered a must-read. It proved just as difficult to read as I had assumed based on the movie they made from it but it is also in my preferred horror/dystopian genres and I enjoyed it.
  • The Minimalist Way: Minimalism Strategies to Declutter Your Life and Make Room for Joy, Erica Layne – the first nonfiction of the year. I’ve been trying to declutter my life according to the recommendations and concepts ever since. A great place to start on this very popular trend lately.
  • Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, Gail Honeyman – book club pick that I didn’t know what to think about in the beginning and which turned out to be hauntingly good with a very satisfying ending. We had a great discussion about it as well.
  • Scythe (Arc of a Scythe, #1), Neal Shusterman – I typically don’t love YA books, but I couldn’t get enough of this one that was recommended and co-read with my daughter.
  • Everything I Never Told You, Celeste Ng – a haunting read about a child who doesn’t connect with her family and their discovery of this fact in the aftermath of her death. This was a great read!
  • Thunderhead (Arc of a Scythe, #2), Neal Shusterman – See, I liked the first one so much that I had to keep reading!
  • The Toll (Arc of a Scythe, #3), Neal Shusterman – a very satisfying conclusion to this YA trilogy with just enough politics and morality to satisfy my adult reader tastes. If you haven’t read this series, I recommend it.
  • Trail of Broken Wings, Sejal Badani – a book club pick which was amazing. About an immigrant family and the abuse the women of the family share in looking back over the course of their life when the family patriarch falls ill. A great book club pick.
  • The Science of Sci-Fi: From Warp Speed to Interstellar Travel, Erin Macdonald – this was an Audible Original that satisfied my inner sci-fi geek who wonders just how much of the stories and movies I love could ever be plausible. Very entertaining and accessible.
  • Tell Me Lies, J.P. Pomare – another Audible Original that I listened to as a distraction from all the things going on in the world. Psychological thriller has apparently become my go-to genre. This was nothing memorable but was not terrible either.
  • November Road, Lou Berney – I wanted this to be so much better than it was. I picked it up during the holidays and, while it had promise, the end was just dismal and bleak. I don’t regret reading it, but by April of 2020, I needed something that was far more hopeful.
  • The Wife Between Us, Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen – another psychological thriller that kept me guessing until the very end with a twist even I didn’t see coming. Highly recommended.
  • Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, Anne Lamott – if you’re a writer, this is a fantastic and frank look at what it means to be creative with honest and straightforward advice.
  • Structuring Your Novel: Essential Keys for Writing an Outstanding Story, K.M. Weiland – I keep trying these craft books and occasionally I can come away with some nugget of possibility that might improve my own process, but usually it’s just another writer telling us what works for them without anything concrete to take away from it. I fear this one is in the later category.
  • ITIL Service Transition, Cabinet Office – I’m a glutton for all things process and this was a textbook/certification book that I read just because I needed a deeper understanding of building processes at work. Yes, I know I’m crazy!
  • The City We Became (Great Cities #1), N.K. Jemisin – I wanted to read something from a Hugo Award winner and this one looked interesting. It did not disappoint! I loved this book. Great SciFi/Fantasy with tons of diversity.
  • Write Naked: A Bestseller’s Secrets to Writing Romance & Navigating the Path to Success, Jennifer Probst – read as part of my exploration of other genres and to get a glimpse into this whole romance thing. It wasn’t anything super earth-shattering or memorable this far down the road after reading it, unfortunately.
  • Little Fires Everywhere, Celeste Ng – a book club pick and an amazing book. Family secrets and intrigue might be my new guilty pleasure genre!
  • Bird Box (Bird Box, #1), Josh Malerman – I loved the movie on Netflix and wanted to see if the book gave more depth to the story. Unfortunately, it didn’t. I’m not sure I would have loved it as much if I didn’t have the images of the movie to fill in some of the blanks. Kind of disappointing.
  • Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone, Brené Brown – I love everything Dr. Brown does and recommend this book to anyone looking for ways to feel like they truly belong in a see of judgement and societal pressures. I will definitely re-read this one.
  • How to Be an Antiracist, Ibram X. Kendi – part of my journey this year to be an ally and to check my own inherent bias. It was a hard read in many ways because it spoke so much truth and exposed a lot of things I hadn’t even considered. Highly recommend this one!
  • Silver Sparrow, Tayari Jones – another book club pick that was fantastic. Raw, real, and hard to put down. This story stayed with me long after I was done and I even told my kids about this one. Highly recommended.
  • The Mountain and the Sea, Kwame Dawes – an Audible Original when I needed something light between college assignments. I loved this one but only because I had no expectations going in and found it about a mature woman who finds herself in the context of her encounter with another person. Very literary and very good. Don’t expect a romance, but definitely read this one.
  • Even Tree Nymphs Get the Blues, Molly Harper – an urban fantasy, also a quick Audible Original between school assignments. It was good but not memorable.
  • Starsight (Skyward #2), Brandon Sanderson – my kid loved this one more than I did but it was a well-written YA like only Sanderson can do. If you love the genre, then this one is a good one.
  • The Whisper Man, Alex North – super satisfying psychological thriller with a side of serial killer. Suprisingly, my kid bought this book for herself and I stole it to read one weekend in the woods this summer. It was so good! Spoiler: I’m going to pick this one for my book club to read in 2021!
  • By Virtue Fall, Bryan Young et all – disclaimer: I have a story in this one. I read it cover to cover and am amazed at the level of talent there is in this collection. The editors were amazing and the writers are all very talented. If you’ve ever wanted to pick up a collection to sample local Utah authors, this is one I recommend for everyone.
  • City of Girls, Elizabeth Gilbert – a book club read that I absolutely loved. Women’s lit at its finest and a period piece on top of that. We had an amazing discussion. Disclaimer: there are some very mature themes so if you’re sensitive to sexuality be aware you’re in for some with this although it is not on the scale anywhere near erotica.
  • Mindtap Business Communications, Mary Ellen Guffey – textbook for my Master Degree. I’m counting it anyway since a book is a book!
  • The Institute, Stephen King – after so many years of being a King fan, his novels all start to tie together and his universe is vast. This one had a lot of things to make you think about the current world we are living in with a side of horror thrown in. I liked it, but I wonder how many brand new King fans there are born every year and how much someone who wasn’t already a fan would think of this.
  • The Roommate, Dervla McTiernan – a crime story Audible Original. They kind of all are just okay and something to entertain. I use them to keep reading without derailing myself in the middle of other large projects.
  • Gideon the Ninth (The Locked Tomb #1), Tamsyn Muir – This came highly recommended and it is in the fantasy genre which I don’t read widely in. I really enjoyed it but it took me a while to really wrap my head around the world and what was happening. The learning curve is a little steep for those who don’t read the genre often. I’m very glad I stuck with it because it was very good overall.
  • Managing Human Capital, Jean M. Phillips – textbook… need I say more?
  • The Wife Between Us, Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen (re-read) – I loved this book so much that I made my book club read it when it was my turn to pick. They all agreed that it was a good book with lots of twists that left us all satisfied. I thought it was super predictable in the beginning but I was very wrong so stick with this one if you pick it up.
  • The Decision: Overcoming Today’s BS for Tomorrow’s Success, Kevin Hart – hands down, one of THE BEST books I’ve ever read when it comes to personal development/self-help. Yes, it’s by THAT Kevin Hart. It is super entertaining, very authentic and real, and hits you in the gut with reality and tools to eliminate the bullshit everyone has in their life that holds them back from achieving full potential. I wish that this came in physical book because I would have it highlighted and dog eared and flipped through all the time. Unfortunately, it is only available on YouTube or Audible and is read by the author. Highly recommend this one to everyone!
  • The Forgetting Time, Sharon Guskin – fascinating book club read about what happens to us after we die. It was so interesting to watch the story unfold and it wasn’t until the book club discussion that we all realized it was rooted in someone’s actual theories.
  • The Outsider, Stephen King – I’m a sucker for Stephen King – have been since I was a kid. This one was one of his better ones from recent years. How do you discount a crime when there’s indisputable evidence but also proof against it? A story of being in two places at the same time.
  • White Trash Warlock, David R. Slayton – the debut novel of a friend and also an amazing urban fantasy about witches and warlocks and magical realms. It was also super diverse with LGBTQ+ characters that was refreshing to see done so well. I devoured this on Audible!
  • Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting out of the Box, The Arbinger Institute – a leadership self-help book that doubled as a textbook for a class. A pretty good concept but lots of anecdotal stories to lead you by the nose to the point.
  • As Bright as Heaven, Susan Meissner – book club read set against the backdrop of the Spanish Flu in America. It was fascinating to watch this historical piece (written years ago and not recently) play out and see the parallels to the current pandemic we are living through. A poignant family drama period piece that was well done.
  • Leadership 2.0, Travis Bradberry – another leadership book for a class
  • Humble Leadership: The Power of Relationships, Openness, and Trust, Edgar H. Schein – and another leadership book for the same class. Although I thought this was a nice approach to looking at some aspects differently.
  • Feed, M.T. Anderson – a disturbing look at our future where people have hardware jacked into their brains to see social media feeds and the evolution that young people take. It was written several years ago and is very relevant today.
  • Dune, Frank Herbert – I’ve seen the movie years ago, it is a classic, and they are doing a new movie. I finally made time to put it on the top of my to-read pile and finally see what all the hype was about. It was good, although the style is very 1960’s science fiction which has become a little hard to read and enjoy for me.
  • The Cuckoo’s Cry, Caroline Overington – an Audible Original set in Australia at the beginning of the COVID lockdown. A family drama/thriller that was entertaining but a little difficult to read since it was so close to current events. If you read to escape reality, this one isn’t for you.
  • BattleTech: Honor’s Gauntlet (BattleTech Novel), Bryan Young – a novel written by a friend in the BattleTech licensed universe. I was told you didn’t need to be a gamer to understand or enjoy this and it was true. It was a fast read that felt like Pacific Rim in space/on other planets. If you like scifi, this one is worth picking up.
  • The Conception of Terror: Tales Inspired by M. R. James – Volume 1, M.R. James – an Audible Original that was supposed to invoke terror and which was a childish ghost story collection at best. I was disappointed.
  • Ink, Jonathan Maberry – horror and tattoos, what more does anyone need? This was a fascinating take on the concept of someone stealing your memories that I really enjoyed.
  • The Chronology of Water, Lidia Yuknavitch – a memoir I stumbled across on a Twitter feed of recommended books. I listened to this amazing and literary treasure while I wrapped all my gifts one weekend and am so glad I found it. Very heavy read, but beautifully written, raw and real.
  • Mars One, Jonathan Maberry – I liked this author so much that I picked up another standalone about the first trip to Mars. It was more of a YA that was not as gritty or satisfying as the last. Still an entertaining and fast read for scifi fans.
  • King of Sting: The Story of Australian Conman Peter Foster, Justin Armsden – an Audible Original that sounded like a podcast that was packaged together about someone I never heard of and who didn’t do anything all that unusual. Kind of disappointing.
  • Silverswift, Natalie Lloyd – had a fascinating premise about mermaids and their hidden island but turned out to be more of a middle grade. An Audible Original that would appeal to kids or someone who wants a whimsical little adventure story.
  • Evil Eye, Madhuri Shekar – a surprisingly good Audible Original about an Indian-American with a fantastic twist at the end. This one is not what you think and is well worth the read/listen.
  • Harrow the Ninth (The Locked Tomb, #2), Tamsyn Muir – It took me two attempts to finish this sequel because it was SO confusing at the beginning. I think I liked it but probably would need to read it again to fully grasp all the things that happened and the complexities woven into it. Probably why I don’t read this genre very often. Still glad I read it.


Putting 2019 In the Rear View

It’s officially 2020. A new year. A new decade. A new chapter. The past week has been full of those end-of-year, search-the-soul, write-something-witty-and-inspiring (or gritty and real) to share online from seemingly everyone.

Not me. I’m still not someone who does resolutions. Plus the last half of 2019 was one of the hardest six months I’ve ever endured and I’m not sure I really want to do anything but celebrate that I survived with my family and my sanity intact. You know, put the whole last half of 2019 in the rear view and never look back.

That’s what I I told myself anyway. I wasn’t going to be just another end of the year looking to the future blah blah blah among the masses. Turns out I can’t help myself. Although I am going to be real. Vulnerable even. So bear with me…

There was a little re-vitalizing of this site midyear 2019 – you might have noticed (if any of my readers are still with me after the recent neglect of my website) but appearances can be deceiving. The reality is that was part of a class at school – one of the last of my degree program. Which means I wasn’t slaying anything, just scraping by with what I hoped was at least a passing grade that term. It is an apt metaphor for my year…

Here’s the biggest thing I want to take away from 2019, and why I can’t help myself from this post. I am a college graduate – with a Bachelor of Art in Creative Writing and English and a minor in Communications. I never want to look back. Further, I want everyone reading this to stay in school and understand the importance of an education. I’m glad I did it. Even more glad that I did it on my terms and got a degree I wanted rather than the easy one building on my IT experience.

Truth is, I almost immediately am reaping the rewards with a shiny new promotion at work, managing a technical support team, which was the exact reason behind my doing it in the first place. Everything works out for a reason. I just wish I didn’t have to go through such a shitty three years because I had better things to do thirty years ago when I graduated high school. But I digress.

What also happened – the flip side of the shiny degree coin – is that I didn’t write anything of substance for the past year while I was working on reading and analyzing/deconstructing literature others have written. I am publishing two stories in 2020 but both are stories I wrote originally more than two years ago before college consumed me. Worse, it feels like I am starting over since I’m so damn rusty. My daily writing habits? They are as good as gone. Most days I waffle between the urge to give in and veg on the couch in front of whatever show my family is currently binge watching and the self-doubt and imposter syndrome telling me why bother.

The two extremes – successfully finishing my degree but also losing so much ground with my writing efforts – are currently at war within my psyche. 2020, I’m looking at you and am vowing to end said war.

It isn’t all sadness and despair, though. We took an island vacation and for two glorious weeks I read for leisure and slowly regained both connections to my family (it’s hard to maintain deep relationships even with those you live with when you’re as consumed as I’ve been trying to finish as quickly as possible) and myself. Specifically that piece of myself that creates something from nothing when I nurture it.

Suffice it to say that I was successful in comparing less last year as I set out to do and I finished what I started. As for the rest of the shit show that can be chalked up to 2019 (including the torn meniscus I suffered with for most of the year), I say good riddance. 2019 will always live in my memory as the year I hit the bottom while achieving my greatest measurable accomplishment – all at the same time. Here’s to the future – may it be brighter than last year!


2019 Books Archive

Time once again for an old favorite… the recap of what I read last year so I can look back on it with satisfaction and celebration. And what is this? Also within the first week of January? Yes, life is slowly getting back to normal in every area of my life. As always, this list is mostly for myself but if you’re looking for recommendations or get ideas of what to put of your list, then I’ve paid it forward for a fellow author, too. This year in books in chronological order looks like this:

  • Where Should We Begin: The Arc of Love, Esther Perel – an Audible Original that I found fascinating.
  • The Knife of Never Letting Go (Chaos Walking #1), Patrick Ness – a YA read that Big Sister (who’s an actual adult now) recommended. It was entertaining but not enough to read more.
  • To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee – assigned reading for my Lit class. I’m sure I read this as a kid (also as assigned reading then) and it was interesting to have an adult perspective this time. A classic, but I’m not sure why it is still held up as the best example of literature when so many other books have been written on the topic more recently.
  • Power Moves: Lessons from Davos, Adam M. Grant – another Audible Original that was very political and fascinating. A very quick read.
  • The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Mary Ann Shaffer – a book club pick that at first I didn’t think I would like but which grew on me and stuck with me after I finished. Recommended read.
  • Rule of the Bone, Russell Banks – requiired read for Lit class. This one I really liked. Gritty, real, relevant. Highly recommended.
  • The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life, Mark Manson – I thought this was the book by an author I saw on a TED talk but wasn’t. It was still a good book, but not the one I was looking for. A great topic for anyone – especially if you suffer with the “what will other people think” syndrome.
  • Brave, Rose McGowan – I devoured this book and found it a fascinating look into all the things in our society that came to a head with the #metoo movement. If you’re political and a feminist, this is a must read. If you’re not, why not start your journey with this book?
  • The Scribner Anthology of Contemporary Short Fiction, Lex Williford (editor) – required reading for Lit class. I didn’t read the entire thing but liked what I read.
  • Augmented: Life in the Smart Lane, Brett King – for the tech geeks and the futurists among us. This was a recommendation from one of the ladies in my book club and it was a very eye opening look at the technologies that exist today and how they are predicted to change our experience of the world in the future. Highly recommended.
  • Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, Jamie Ford – book club read that was not especially noteworthy. Another wartime novel if you’re into that genre.
  • The Silent Patient, Alex Michaelides – one of the best books I read this year. The structure and pacing added depth to a fascinating premise and left me completely satisfied. I couldn’t put it down.
  • 2018 Associated Press Stylebook, Associated Press – textbook
  • McGraw-Hill’s Proofreading Handbook, Laura Killen Anderson – textbook for my Copy Editing class. The logical and detail oriented part of me actually really loved this class even though it is a LOT of work. Not that I ever have, but I will definitely never take a copyeditor for granted!
  • This is PR: The Realities of Public Relations, Doug Newsom – textbook, obviously. For a class I ended up getting a ton of relatable information out of. I have zero regrets about my Communications minor.
  • Out of My Mind, Alan Arkin – an Audible Original that I thought was going to be about mental health but turned out to be new age meditation nonsense that didn’t resonate with me.
  • Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch, Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman – book club pick that I would not have read otherwise. I had tried to read it before unsuccessfully. While I don’t regret having read it, I can’t say I totally enjoyed it. There’s something about irony and British humor that just doesn’t resonate with me.
  • The Last Days of August, Jon Ronson – Audible Original that was like a train wreck you just can’t look away from. Don’t waste your time.
  • The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, Alan Bradley – book club pick. It was my first cozy mystery and I can safely say that I’m not a fan of the genre. I need my murder on the page and bloody or I am not satisfied, I guess.
  • Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, Dr. Brene’ Brown – I love everything Brene’ Brown. Each book builds on each other as her research grows and evolves. If you haven’t read anything by her, start with this one. It is amazing. Big Sister had to read it for her English class and she loved it, too.
  • Sometimes I Lie, Alice Feeney – a book club pick and a great thriller that I thoroughly enjoyed.
  • Lucky Suit, Lauren Blakely – a romance novella that was a quick and satisfying read. Pretty sure this was also an Audible Original.
  • Educated, Tara Westover – I’m not always a fan of the memoir but this one was fascinating about a woman who was home schooled by a conspiracy theorist and religious extremist. Highly recommended read!
  • Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts., Dr. Brené Brown – another great one with the focus on working relationships and leading effectively while being vulnerable from my favorite shame researcher. Seriously, if you haven’t read Brene’ Brown you really need to fix that.
  • The 3-Day Effect, Florence Williams – a quick psychology-based study about how getting into nature and away from constant connection to the world can affect us.
  • Profit First, Mike Michalowicz – a fantastic business book for entrepreneurs who want a way to be profitable in their business from the beginning.
  • Mala, Melinda Lopez – another Audible Original that I think was actually a screenplay that was acted out.
  • I, Jedi, Michael Stackpole – a Star Wars book not based on any of the movies. I’m a Star Wars movie fan but had never read any of the tie-in books. This was one of our keynotes at Quills and is said to be one of the best. It felt to me like what fan fiction must be like – a story that feels familiar because the world is familiar but it isn’t any of the characters you know.
  • Social Media for Writers, Tee Morris & Pip Ballantine – assigned reading for my New Media class and a great reference book for writers. I’m distilling this down to key takeaways for a class I want to teach to other writers because it was invaluable.
  • Create Your Writer Platform, Chuck Sambuchino – also assigned reading for my New Media class and a great book to establish what people actually mean when they talk about having a platform as an author.
  • Social Media Communication, Jeremy H. Lipschultz – textbook for class of the same title
  • Becoming, Michelle Obama – I admit, I had no real opinion (good, bad or indifferent) about our former First Lady. After reading this, I am a huge fan. Highly recommended especially for working moms. I loved this book. It was also a book club pick after I read it on my own.
  • Eat Fat, Get Thin, Mark Hyman – my new healthy lifestyle approach grew from the basics of this book that did an amazing job explaining why American’s are more obese and sicker than any other time, and how to correct it. At the risk of sounding like a keto-obsessed freak, everyone should read at least the first half of this book for all the science.
  • The Murder House, James Patterson – book club pick that was a very satisfying thriller.
  • It’s Not What It Looks Like, Molly Burke – an Audible Original that I can’t even remember much about.
  • The First 90 Days: Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders, Michael D. Watkins – nothing earth-shattering about this book except that it takes concepts you can get by reading several other business leadership books and boils them down into an easy to consume summary. Truth: I saw the senior leadership team reading it while I was going through the manager interviewing process and wanted a leg up in speaking their language. Maybe it helped?
  • Skyward, Brandon Sanderson – a surprisingly good YA book that the whole family loved – listened to on our summer vacation road trip.
  • The Silent Patient, Alex Michaelides – re-read when it was picked for book club. Even better the second time!
  • I Know Who You Are, Alice Feeney – I picked this one up because I liked the first book by this author. It was a pretty good thriller but not as good as the first I read by her.
  • Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, Elizabeth Gilbert – recommended to me by a coworker. One of the best books about effective approaches to nurturing creativity. If you’re a writer, this is a highly recommended read!
  • Three-Fifths, John Vercher – I loved this book and the ending still stays with me. Highly recommended contemporary drama #ownvoices read.
  • Organizational Behavior, Talya Bauer – the last textbook I will every read for my undergraduate degree!!! Surprising timing: getting to take away HR concepts to apply immediately as a new manager.
  • Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel, Lisa Cron – a craft book for writers. One of the better ones that started very strong and resonated with great ideas and approaches to story but which then derailed (for me anyway) when the author tried to then tell me how exactly I had to execute said ideas. I loved the first half and skimmed the second half at best. Still a great read for writers.
  • We Need to Talk About Kevin, Lionel Shriver – book club pick that was extremely difficult to get into but which finished amazingly.
  • Stillhouse Lake, Rachel Caine – a great strong female character thriller that came highly recommended by a friend. I loved it and will definitely read more in this series.
  • The Luminous Dead, Caitlin Starling – a great mix of horror, science fiction and thriller that I picked up at a writers conference and loved.
  • The Ninja Daughter, Tori Eldridge – the first book I’ve read specifically because of who the editor was so I can decide if my books would be a fit for them. It was good!
  • The Man Who Knew The Way to the Moon, Todd Zwillich – very cool insider NASA story for the space geeks among us which sadly took a turn in the middle. The ending made up for the whiny middle section and I am overall glad I read it.
  • Polaris Rising, Jessie Mihalik – holy shit this one was good!! The best of so many things that I love all rolled into one: space-based science fiction with a strong female lead and a steamy romance that was well done and didn’t detract from the fact that this is first and foremost a scifi action story. I can’t recommend this one enough. Another of my top reads for the year.
  • Bannerless, Carrie Vaughn – an okay book but which I thought was going to be about something that it wasn’t (based on the cover blurb). Kind of disappointed by the ending but overall not sad I read it.
  • Sleeping Beauties, Stephen King & Owen King – so long but reminiscent of the old Stephen King with a giant cast of characters that all contribute to the story in meaningful ways.

2018 Books Archive

Yes, I know it is already well into 2019. As with most things in my life, I’m behind a bit. Maybe I could count the first quarter of 2019 as a trial period and we just pick up as if nothing left off from here? I like it. Pretend it is early January if that doesn’t work for you.

At any rate, here’s my recap of last year’s reading. It is a very long list (in the order read because OCD planning last year prevailed). It’s also more for my own look back for future reference. But if you see something you like here and pick it up because of my brief recommendation then I’ve done something good to pay things forward for the authors.

I’m proud of myself for reading as much for leisure as assigned and textbooks in 2018. A win if any I’ve heard for last year! Here’s to keeping that trend up in 2019.

  • It Came From the Great Salt Lake: A Collection of Utah Horror, K. Scott Forman (editor) – I have a story in this one so it was very cool to read. Many of the authors are friends and it was a pleasure reading such great stories. Not sure you love horror or want short bedtime stories, pick this one up!
  • Monster Hunter Alpha (Monster Hunter International #3), Larry Correia – I wanted to like this more but maybe if you’ve read one you’ve read them all?
  • Big Little Lies, Liane Moriarty – this was a book club pick and what a great little gem it was! Great characters and great story.
  • Radical Candor: Be a Kickass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity, Kim Malone Scott – this was an amazing read for anyone in management or leadership especially. It is good for anyone in the business world – more so if you work in a culture full of passive-aggressive folk. Highly recommended!
  • Artemis, Andy Weir – almost as good as his first one and very entertaining.
  • Personality: Theory and Research, Cervone – textbook!
  • Henry V, William Shakespeare
  • Sonnets, William Shakespeare
  • Macbeth, William Shakespeare
  • A Thousand Splendid Suns, Khaled Hosseini – book club pick
  • The Taming of the Shrew, William Shakespeare
  • Twelfth Night, William Shakespeare – can you tell I took a Shakespeare class? Sigh… at least it is behind me now!
  • Flipped, Wendelin Van Draanen – book club pick
  • What Immortal Hand, Johnny Worthen – this one started out a little slow but SO worth the build up. By the end I couldn’t put it down.
  • Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov – a classic but I’m not sure how I feel about it after having read it.
  • Hamlet, William Shakespear
  • Team of Teams, General Stanley McChrystal – the latest buzz book at work. It was just meh for me.
  • Rot & Ruin, Jonathon Maberry – I heard lots of great things about this one and I had to pick it up after I met the author in person. No disappointment here! There are lots more in the series which I will likely return to when I have more time.
  • Shadow and Bone (The Grisha Trilogy #1), Leigh Bardugo – another one with super hype. It didn’t suck but it is clearly written for a young-adult audience and I didn’t love it enough to read more in the trilogy.
  • Red Clocks, Leni Zumas – amazing book that an agent who I pitched my own novel to said it sounded like. Sure enough, this is very similar to the world my own novel is set in. Both awesome and a let down at the same time. To make myself feel better, I made my book club read it, too. They loved it, which was very cool.
  • Wonder, R.J. Palacio – book club pick
  • Feed, Mira Grant – pretty interesting new take on zombies.
  • Love on Location, September Roberts – written by a friend and such a fun read (romance erotica genre)
  • American War, Omar El Akkad – read more because it is a comparable title to the novel I wrote last year. It was interesting but took a while to really get good.
  • Introduction to Mass Communication: Media Literacy and Culture, Stanley J. Baran – you guessed it, text book!
  • Criminal Behavior: A Psychological Approach, Curt R. Bartol, Anne M Barton – love me some psychology textbook (seriously, though. Don’t judge me!)
  • The Code Red Revolution: How Thousands of People are Losing Weight and Keeping it off Without Pills, Shakes, Diet Foods, or Exercise, Cristy Code Red Nikel – my new lifestyle starting point. If you want easy to follow Keto-based life, this is very easy to follow with clear and simple “rules” to live by. If you want just the details and don’t need all the inspirational stories, I recommend the actual book (or Kindle version) because the audible you can’t skip around as easily.
  • The Red Tent, Anita Diamant – book club pick
  • Human Evolution and Culture: Highlights of Anthropology, Carol R. Ember, Melvin Ember, Peter N. Peregrine – turns out I really love anthropology!
  • Linguistics for Everyone: An Introduction, Kristin Denham, Ann Lobeck – textbook!
  • The Hate U Give, Angie Thomas – one seriously amazing book that everyone in America should read. No, really. Go read this book. (The movie was not as good!)
  • The Great Alone, Kristin Hannah – book club pick. Kristin Hannah never disappoints and this one was great.
  • Playing Big: The Unsexy Truth About How to Succeed in Business, Kim Flynn – very fluffy entrepreneur book for people who may have never worked in the business world. Maybe I’m just far more well-rounded than most but I found not much new or noteworthy in this one.
  • Annihilation, Jeff Vandermeer
  • Authority, Jeff Vandermeer
  • Acceptance, Jeff Vandermeer – I read this entire trilogy back to back as if it were one big book. Because of that, I had a complete story and was not disappointed. Had I waited in between (or read them at the rate they were being published) I would have been pissed. Overall a cool story. The movie sucked in comparison.
  • The Raven Boys – Maggie Stievater – book club pick. Another interesting YA that I probably won’t continue. If I didn’t have to read so many textbooks, I might have read more.
  • The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood – finally got around to reading this one. I think I liked it more than I would have because I watched the first season of the Hulu series based on the book. Overall, pretty disturbing and fantastic all at the same time.
  • Design Solutions – Robin Landa – textbook (I kind of hate graphic design, for the record)
  • The Dream Thieves, Maggie Stievater – okay, I lied. I found time for the second one of this series after my oldest read it.
  • Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, Neil deGrasse Tyson – I thought I would like this one more than I did. It was fascinating but not always the easiest to follow.
  • The Yellow Wallpaper, Charlotte Perkins Gillman – school assigned
  • The Silence of the Girls, Pat Barker – fabulous read of the Trojan War from the women taken as slaves in the Greek camp. I made the book club read this one, too.
  • Tear Me Apart, J.T.Ellison – a quick and satisfying mystery.
  • The Calculating Stars (Lady Astronaut #1), Mary Robinette Kowal – I love this author and follow her podcast but this was the first book that struck me as something I would like to read. Alas, I was pretty disappointed. It was interesting but not compelling.
  • Children of Blood and Bone, Tomi Adeyemi – one of the best reads of the year. Interesting and full of diverse characters and cool magic.
  • The Devil’s Only Friend (John Cleaver #4), Dan Wells – I keep coming back to this series but I’m not sure where it is headed. I had limited time between classes and wanted something I could read quickly.
  • Literary Theory: The Basics, Hans Bertens – one of the most dreaded classes that ended up being one of my favorites. Who knew!
  • A Cold and Lonely Place, Sara J. Henry – probably shouldn’t start with book two in a series even if it is a stand-alone story. I just couldn’t get into the character who I assume readers knew more to keep them reading from the first book.
  • Midnight Riot, Ben Aaronovitch – just meh for me – British police who also hunts ghosts story.
  • New Family Values, Andrew Solomon – one of Audible’s free reads that was very compelling and made me think about how we define family in our current culture.

2017 Books Archive

Time again for my annual housekeeping where I archive for my own posterity the things I read over the course of the year. These are in reverse order because I successfully avoided the OCD trap that screamed I needed to put them back in order of reading. I initially aimed for more reading in 2017 but fell short. Since I’m still in school and a lot of the books on the list this year were textbooks, I count it as an overall achievement that I read more than the year before.

  • I’m Thinking of Ending Things, Iain Reid – this was a short read over Christmas break. It was confusing during the reading but couldn’t put it down because it was so different. It left me with a WTF kind of response but it keep me thinking about it for days later which was pretty cool. If you like psychological mind twists, this one is good.
  • Orphan Train, Christina Baker Kline – read for upcoming book club discussion. A quick read that gave me some insights to events in American history that I hadn’t heard of before. I wish it had been longer and gave more details but it was entertaining.
  • Enchantress from the Stars, Sylvia Engdahl *didn’t finish* – It is rare that I don’t finish books but sometimes it happens. No one has time for books that don’t hold your attention and this one read like Star Trek fan fiction rife with “telling” rather than showing. After giving it a fair shot, I put it down. It was a book pick for a SciFi/Fantasty book club I’m in but it wasn’t for me.
  • The War of Art, Steven Pressfield – highly recommended for artistic types. This was a quick read but had a ton of “Ah-ha!” moments (as well as “oh shit” ones) when I discovered a lot of behaviors I had been doing that follow self-sabotaging patterns. 2018 will be much more productive because of this little book.
  • 100 Years of The Best American Short Stories, Heidi Pitlor (editor) – one of my textbooks for my creative writing degree. Great collection of short stories arranged by decade. I enjoyed it as a reader and as a writer studying successful authors.
  • The Book of Joy, Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu – a book club read. If you’ve ever read any self-help/enlightenment books it will seem like a recap but if you haven’t ever read this particular genre it was a great one to start with.
  • First, Break All the Rules, Marcus Buckingham – I read this after I became a supervisor of people at the recommendation of my manager. It has lots of insights about the nature of people and how to play to their strengths (instead of focusing on weaknesses) to lead more effectively. It was a great book, if you’re into that kind of thing.
  • IT, Stephen King – this was a re-read after I watched the latest movie version. I initially read this when I was a teen and wondered if it would scare me as much as an adult. Surprisingly, I remembered so few details and I thoroughly enjoyed all the tie-ins to the Dark Tower series that I hadn’t realized were there until now. Still love this book.
  • The Real World: Introduction to Sociology, Kerry Ferris – surprise, a textbook! This course taught me that while I really enjoy reading about Sociology, I don’t like writing papers about it. No more plans for a Sociology minor for me.
  • A Man Called Ove, Fredrik Backman – a book club pick that I didn’t love in the beginning but ended up SERIOUSLY loving by the end. It’s a slow build but so worth the read. One of the best books I read this year.
  • Ready Player One, Ernest Cline – finally read this one when I saw the trailer for the movie coming out in early 2018 and after hearing a bunch of hype from friends who had read it. It’s a fun book, mostly because I’m a child of the 80’s and lived all the things that were referenced (and adored) in the book. A surprisingly enjoyable read based solely on the entertainment value.
  • Unwind (Unwind #1), Neal Shusterman – I had several people recommend this book to me when they heard the premise of my latest novel. It was a quick, YA read that held my attention enough to entertain me but not enough to keep reading the series. Another example of the dystopian YA trend that has been done to death in my opinion.
  • The Art of Writing Fiction, Andrew Cowan – a fabulous book on how to write that was used as a textbook in one of my classes. I made a ton of notes, used it to build a new presentation that I taught to high school creative writing classes, and will continue to reference. If you’re a writer, you should have this on your to-be-read list.
  • A Grown Up Kind of Pretty, Joshilyn Jackson – a book club pick that was very entertaining. Adult themes and a story about three generations of women full of twists. A great discussion at book club. If you’re looking for an accessible book, easy to read with lots to talk about for your book club, I recommend this one.
  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams – another pick of the sci-fi/fantasy book club. I read this mostly because so many people quote this classic and I felt left out (and not geek enough) having not read it. It was disappointing. I liked the movie much better!
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot – book club pick and a fascinating Non-Fiction read. I came away from this looking at the medical profession and the medical research field completely different. A fabulous read for anyone, especially for a book club.
  • The Lie that Tells a Truth: A Guide to Writing Fiction, John Dufresne – another book on the writing craft used as a textbook. This one had fewer takeaways for my personal writing but it did influence me to do more free-writing to collect character sketches from real-life. A good one, but not a great one.
  • A Game of Thrones (Song of Ice and Fire #1), George R.R. Martin – I gave into the hype (hubby watches the HBO series and I met George R.R. Martin in person this year) and wasn’t disappointed. Although, I wonder if I would have been able to keep the characters straight if I didn’t have actors to picture from the TV series. I don’t have much time for epic tomes of this size much but I will slowly make my way through the series at some point. (It isn’t like they come out very regularly, so I hear!)
  • A Monster Calls, Patrick Ness – a book club pick this year which I had read previously. I listened to it again to refresh my memory for the discussion and loved it just as much the second time around. Still one of my all-time favorite books.
  • Sustainable Energy, Jefferson W. Tester – a textbook (no surprise) about one of my favorite subjects. I loved this course and would take it again if they’d give me credit for it. Interesting tidbit: three years ago I had a discussion about current research my brother in law (a materials engineering major at the time) was up to. At the time, I used the future possibilities he told me about as world building for my current novel. Then I got to see what had already been implemented and what is already emerging commercial technology now when I wrote the research paper for this class. I’m definitely a science geek (minus the math skills!)
  • Introduction to Mythology, Eva Thury – a textbook for a class I thought was going to be my favorite and which was actually my LEAST favorite to date. I wanted this class to be something totally different (not sure why) and ended up hating it. I don’t want to read old texts and analyze them, I’d rather discuss myths and what they all have in common I guess. *shrug*
  • Finders Keepers, Stephen King – a second in the series book with only a slight tie-in to the original book’s cast of characters. Not sure I love that approach but I’ve got a signed first edition of the third book in the series so I had to read this one.
  • The Haunting of Hill House, Shirley Jackson – my attempt to read classics in the horror genre. Apparently I’m a jaded horror girl who doesn’t like her horror subtle. This felt like watching a sixties movie today. So disappointed.
  • Bluescreen (Mirador #1), Dan Wells – who knew I liked cyberpunk!? This was a great read from one of my favorite local authors. If you like science and like to imagine what the future is like, pick this one up.
  • Small Great Things, Jodi Picoult – book club pick that was just meh for me. If you’re a privileged white person who’s never considered how it is to be black in America, you’ll probably love this book. (Because that’s who it was written for.) If you already read very diverse books, this will fall somewhat flat for you like it did for me.
  • Service Fanatics, James Merlino M.D. – I read this because our new CEO at work was quoted in it and I wanted to know the culture of the Cleveland Clinic where he came from. It was a fantastic read! I love that my company will help shape the future of medicine in the U.S.
  • Middlesex, Jeffrey Eugenides – one of my all-time favorite books that someone else picked for book club so I got to re-read it. Just as good the second time around!
  • The College Handbook of Creative Writing, Robert DeMaria – the first textbook on the subject I’ve read. It slants a LOT toward literary fiction but it had many great lessons to teach me that I have already applied to my writing toolbox. A great starting point if you’re a writer.
  • Red Queen (Red Queen #1), Victoria Aveyard – my teen couldn’t stop talking about this book and finally convinced me to read it. It was, you guessed it, another YA dystopian world. It had some great ideas and was entertaining, but I have no desire to keep reading the series.
  • Dark Matter, Blake Crouch – an impulse buy for myself at the bookstore that I couldn’t put down. I ended up picking it for book club this year and everyone else who read it raved about it, too. If you’re a fan of sci-fi and like mind-twisting plots, you’ll love this one.
  • Pope Joan, Donna Woolfolk Cross – book club pick based loosely on evidence that there once was a woman who pretended to be a man so she could be educated and ended up as Pope. It was entertaining and fascinating from a historical perspective.
  • The Dark Tower (The Dark Tower #7), Stephen King – this rounded out my re-read of the entire series that I started in 2016. Overall, I still love the ending (especially as it plays into the new movie of the same title that came out in 2017.) I love the first four books in the series much more than I love the last three which came out so close together I had never re-read them. Still my favorite King series.

Finding Better Balance in 2017

The Universe has a way of sending me exactly what I need, when I need it. As I wrapped up 2016, I reflected on the year. While I had stayed on top of all the things I’d said yes to (and then some that I inherited out of familial duty) with most of my sanity intact, I hadn’t accomplished as much as I wanted to or had set out to do. Keeping up isn’t always the same thing as being effective, I found.

Confession time: I had a really rough January.

I spent the last half of 2016 teetering at the edge of losing all the things I was juggling just trying to stay on top of everything. I volunteered enough hours in my several roles within the League of Utah Writers that I won a really prestigious award (when I’ve officially been awarded it, I’ll share details!) but I hadn’t completed the novel I’d been on track to finish when the year started.

I still haven’t.

A lot of this is because I decided (almost on a whim) to return to college to finish my degree. However, that wasn’t the only reason if I was being completely honest with myself. In the darkest moments of January I actually resented my shiny prestigious award. It represented concrete evidence of over 500 hours that I’d given to people besides me and my writing.

I spent 2016 doing things that were amazing. Don’t get me wrong. But much of it was at the expense of my own dreams and goals. I had done it all, except what made me happy and what meant the most.

Here’s where the Universe comes in. I follow a blogger and fellow writer who is a productivity expert. She supplies me with my yearly statistics and writing progress tracker and I’m in an online writing group she started. I don’t know her personally but she changed my life by writing about her own similar struggles last year. When I read her blog post reflecting about it, I realized just how ineffective I’d been last year at the things that really mattered to me.

I got to take a turn with my friends receiving, rather than giving, support and talked through a ton of these things with Hubby. Hard as it is to hear “I told you so”, he HAD been telling me this was where I was headed all year long. I just hadn’t believed him, thinking I had it in the bag and could handle whatever life threw at me. I was wrong.

Yes, me. Wrong.

Mark your calendars. This might not happen again for eighty years, folks!

What I realized from all of this is that my personal productivity was suffering because I was not focusing on the right things. I was doing everything believing I was being successful and effective and in reality I was neither. I started taking stock of things I did and evaluating if they were the right things to be spending my time and energy on based upon whether doing them would bring me happiness or achieve my own goals. When I approached things from this place, it was much easier to say no to things without my FOMO (fear of missing out) rearing up.

I spent February implementing changes and am in a much better place because of it. Here’s a rundown of the subtle changes I made that had the most impact.

FACEBOOK LAST

I moved Facebook (and all the other social media I do) last in order of things I do each day. I thought I was already doing this since I usually set aside specific time every day for that. The small change I made was to stop getting notifications that popped up when I would get a new message or someone would interact with me online. I was getting them so I would know if something pressing came up that I could handle easily. These things I thought kept me on top of things were actually Unscheduled Interruptions. Once I eliminated them, it was easy to see how much. I still can see the total number of notifications as a passive thing if I happen to glance at my phone over the course of the day. But not knowing the details of what I’m missing gives me the freedom to “do” my social media on my own time after the things that matter most are done. I do this even for email – which surprised me. But, the idea of keeping up on email and being reactive to requests doesn’t support the reality of getting the right things done. Let’s face it, email was created as a way to communicate without the need for instant response.

SHORT STORY A MONTH

I knew when I enrolled in school that my writing time would be cut in half at best and I was right. I lost steam on the novel and found it harder to pick up seamlessly when I only had stolen moments to write. But I still have stories in me and I’m much happier when I’m writing. So I committed to what’s left of my writing group to write a story a month with specific deadlines. We’ve only been at it for a month but January was successful. By the end of the year, I’ll have at least twelve drafted stories that I can have at my disposal when that perfect opportunity presents itself without stressing about how I’ll find the time. Making my writing the first thing I do when I have free time has kept the focus on my own creativity.

DELEGATION

This one is a tough one for me. But it’s been a year with my fellow leaders within the League and I’ve discovered others who are just as anal and committed to getting things done as I am. Knowing what each of their strengths (and weaknesses) are and who has what specific skills has allowed me to trust more and more things to others. I also get to be in charge of building a team to split up the work of putting on conferences and it’s going extremely well. Much more so than where I was a month ago when I was ready to quit completely so I could spend all my free time on my own writing. Bottom line, I love the work I get to do to help others achieve their dreams and find opportunities within the writing community to grow. I wouldn’t trade it but I’ve also found a way to make it work better within the boundaries of my life.

Spending time on what is really important to me and focusing my efforts on activities that drive my goals, not just crossing off things on a list, has made a huge difference for me. The key for me is mindfulness about what each thing I’m doing and how it is contributing to those things that matter most to me.

Shout out to Jamie Raintree, without whom this journey out of my dark place would have taken forever! Here’s to a fantastic and productive 2017.


2016 Book Archive

Time once again for the yearly recap of my reading. I’ve read a bunch of books this year and while I no longer have time to do extensive reviews of each on GoodReads, I offer you the following short reviews in case you’re looking for recommendations. This also is my way of keeping track of what I’ve read in one nice and neat format I can look back on. These are in chronological order because this year my OCD got the best of me. Enjoy!

  • Heart-Shaped Box, Joe Hill – I wanted to love this one after NOS4A2 but it was not quite as good. It was enjoyable as a horror/thriller but it didn’t stick with me like previous reads written by Hill.
  • The Finger Trap, Johnny Worthen – great meandering mystery with a main character who has distinctive voice. It was like getting a glimpse inside a middle aged guy and figuring out exactly what makes him tick while he tries his best to become an unwilling private investigator to save his own skin.
  • The Nightingale, Kristin Hannah – this was a book club pick and was heart-wrenchingly good. I cried, I rejoiced, I weeped. A period piece about WWII, which I don’t always love, but was extremely good. Highly recommended.
  • Old Scratch and Owl Hoots: A Collection of Utah Horror, short story collection – this was a fun jaunt through the minds of Utah Horror with a western theme. Western is not one of my preferred genres and not all the stories were created equal but there were several that were worth reading that I enjoyed. Short story collections are fabulous when trying out new authors or for fast reads between larger ones.
  • Waiting for Sunrise, Eva Marie Everson – another book club selection but one I didn’t particularly enjoy. It was light beach reading with a side of religious overtones. I know lots of people who liked it and thought it was inspiring but it wasn’t my cup of tea.
  • The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, Stephen King – what’s not to love in a story collection by my favorite author? Some were weird, some were frightening and all had something to like.
  • Shadows of Self (Mistborn #5), Brandon Sanderson – the “middle” book in the second Mistborn series. I LOVED the first three books and while it is interesting and fun to revisit the world that has evolved around the magic from the first three for 500 years, I don’t love or feel as invested in these characters as I wish I did. A fun fantasy from my favorite fantasy author but not my favorite from him.
  • Physics of the Future, Michio Kaku – research for my current novel in progress. Should have been titled “Technology of the Future” since it was more about that than physics. Exactly what I wanted and sparked many of my futuristic elements when writing my future-based story.
  • Shadow of the Wind (Cemetary of Forgotten Books #1), Carlos Ruiz Zafon – another book club selection and a fabulous experience on Audible. It was written in Spanish and translated to English and hearing the audio narrator pronounce all the words properly gave it a beautiful tone. Many remarked that this one had so much going on that they felt like it was heavy and needed cliff notes but I loved it because it was meaty with layers that built upon themselves. Highly recommended.
  • The Tell Tale Heart, Edgar Allan Poe – a classic horror tale that I had never read. I don’t always enjoy classics but this one was light and fun and a quick read.
  • Living the Secular Life, Phil Zuckerman – I heard an interview with the author on NPR and it intrigued me. Loved reading this one since it applied very much to my own secular life. If you’re a secular person, or love someone who is, this is a great book!
  • Strangers, Michaelbrent Collins – I gave this local favorite horror author another try after hearing the premise of this story at a convention. While I liked it better than his zombie series, it was very fast paced and heavy handed. It also left you hanging at the end with a cliffhanger that feels like a ploy to get me to pick up the next installment. Still a huge pet peeve for me when authors don’t finish a story and think it necessary to leave readers dangling. It was fun and gruesome so if you’re into that kind of thing it was not disappointing. Just be aware of the loose ends left dangling at the end and if it isn’t something you can get past, don’t start it.
  • Yellow Crocus, Laila Ibrahim – another book club pick that I really liked. This one was a period piece from the era of slavery written from the perspective of the privileged white girl raised by the African American wet nurse. It was very entertaining with great characters that I felt connected to. The story felt fresh to me with a perspective I’ve never considered. Very good pick for a book club discussion on diversity.
  • Calamity (The Reckoners #3), Brandon Sanderson – the final installment of this fabulous “superhero” fantasy series that my entire family was highly anticipating. The whole series is well worth your time if you love fantasy or superheroes.
  • A Walk In the Woods, Bill Bryson – this started out well but was more a travelog than a memoir. I had hoped it was another like “Wild” but it was merely an account of one man’s attempt to hike the Appalachian Trail in middle age. Skip the book and watch the movie on this one. All the funny parts and none of the boring recounts.
  • The Dark, James Herbert – this was a monthly selection of the Horror Afficionado Goodreads group that sounded interesting at a time when I needed something new. It was meh – mostly because it was more suspenseful because the author strung the reader along with very little new information. The reveal at the end was a let down and I realized it was an older book and forgave the shortcomings. If you want a scary story but don’t love the modern horror genre, this would be a good one to check out.
  • David (The Unseen #3), Johnny Worthen – I had been waiting for this final installment of one of the best written YA series ever and was lucky enough to get an advanced reader copy so I didn’t have to wait until the release date. Lucky since it kept getting pushed further and further out. It helps to know the author personally. This was a very satisfying wrap up to a fantastic story. If you haven’t read all three, you should.
  • Keep Quiet, Lisa Scottoline – another book club pick. The premise is that a father and son are driving home late, the son driving even though he only has his learner permit and isn’t supposed to be driving at night, and they hit a jogger on a deserted road. The father decides his son’s future is too valuable to risk and tells his son to keep quiet. I found the story extremely frustrating because the characters kept making insanely bad choices and the plot twists were outrageous and unbelievable. Not one of my favorites but could be a light beach read if you’re into that kind of a story.
  • Vicious, V.E. Schwab – book club pick that I really enjoyed. Another take on people with extraordinary gifts where two extremely intelligent college friends become nemesis’. It was a great book for a discussion with readers since there was no clear-cut good guy or bad guy but rather complex and layered characters with believable motivations. Highly recommended.
  • The Bands of Mourning (Mistborn #6), Brandon Sanderson – had to finish the series but, again, not my favorite. It has more of a steampunk flavor and none of the characters I initially loved from the first three books. It was fun and lighthearted but I’ve come to more fully appreciate Sanderson’s epic fantasy.
  • The Gunslinger (The Dark Tower #1), Stephen King – after discussion with a friend who was reading the Dark Tower series for the first time, I decided it was time to re-read one of my all time favorite series. I more fully appreciate the first installment knowing exactly how the entire series plays out but it is still my least favorite of all seven.
  • The Drawing of the Three (The Dark Tower #2), Stephen King – being back in the world of the Gunslinger and his Ka-tet, I couldn’t stop. This was the first volume I read – back in junior high when it was first released – and still is so much fun to read.
  • The Passenger, Lisa Lutz – book club pick that was layered with suspense and mystery and thoroughly enjoyable. There were mixed reviews from some during our discussion but overall well received. If you like psychological thrillers that keep you guessing, this one is a fabulous one.
  • The Waste Lands (The Dark Tower #3), Stephen King – still my favorite series ever and I loved being back with my favorite characters on their journey.
  • Burying the Honeysuckle Girls, Emily Carpenter – this was a book club book that was surprisingly good. About a girl whose mother and grandmother are surrounded by mystery when they go crazy and either died or disappeared. As her own 21st birthday approaches, she tries to unravel the mystery before she suffers the same fate. I really enjoyed this one and later found out it is a debut from a brand new author.
  • Wizard and Glass (The Dark Tower #4), Stephen King – still my favorite in this series. I found myself quoting the iconic lines along with the narrator several times. Still one of the few books I’ve read more than once. I believe this is the sixth go for me and I still loved every minute of it.
  • The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt – this was my pick for the book club since no other book I’d read since my last pick was as poignant. I listened to it again in preparation for leading the book club discussion and it was even better the second time. Such beautiful language and such a heart-wrenching story. Highly recommended!
  • Jewel, Bret Lott – book club pick that I, unfortunately, couldn’t find unabridged on audible. I thought it wouldn’t matter if I read the abridged version but found I had missed a lot of the meat of the story once I was mid-discussion at book club. A story about a mother who has a child at a later age, after she already has a house full of children, who has Downs Syndrome. The emotional parts were skimmed and if you’re going to pick this one up you should NOT settle for the abridged version.
  • Wolves of the Calla (The Dark Tower #5), Stephen King – I realized that while I’d read and re-read all the books in the series leading up to this installment, while I and the rest of the world waited impatiently for King to finish what he started, I had only read this one the one time when it was released. While the first 4 volumes felt like visiting with old friends and reminiscing about all the most loved stories from our past, this one was fresh and new and I’d forgotten a lot of things. Loved it as much as the first time.
  • Song of Suzannah (The Dark Tower #6), Stephen King – again, fresh and new and felt like I was reading new material. So glad the last one was on the book shelf and ready to go once I finished this one.

Thanks to Audible and the power of multi-tasking, I was able to read 30 books this year. A number I thought I’d never attain again when life got crazy. So glad technology allows me to continue to enjoy this pastime I so enjoy. Here’s to reading even more in 2017!


2015 In the Rear View

I am not one who makes resolutions with the changing of the calendar. Instead, I’m continually analyzing, taking stock of where I am and where I want to be, making course corrections as I go. As the year rolls over to a new one, I do like to look back at the last year and note the lessons learned.

2015 was monumental in many ways.

In terms of my writing career, this was a banner and extremely noteworthy twelve months.  My first publication Secrets & Doors released in February. In May, I sold my first short story to an online magazine. All while I revised my second novel. In August, I submitted to my first writing contest, where the old adage of “you cannot please every reader” was proven, and got valuable feedback from professionals. In September, I submitted to my first open call for submission and edged out thirty other writers for a spot in a new collection releasing next month.

That last one was the writing highlight of the year for me. As much as I love focusing on the successes along the way, I am also secretly worried that I don’t really have what it takes to make it as an author. That no one but my friends and family will enjoy what I read. I shrivel and give in to self-doubt often and have to remind myself that just putting my work out there is a step many artists and dreamers won’t ever take. While my first publication was traditionally published, I didn’t have to submit as part of an open call once I joined the collection of authors that eventually became the Secret Door Society. My self-doubt always whispered in my ear that if I had to go up against an open call of other professionals I may not be worthy. By taking that step and proving myself wrong, I have been able to quiet some of those internal fears that seem always lurking.

On the other side of the coin, this was a very eye-opening year for the more disappointing side of writing. While I sold a short story to a magazine, it was not published. What was to be a print magazine with a broad readership potential turned out to be a fledgling idea prone to delays. The format changed to an online magazine instead and then put on hold until further notice. I got the rights back to my story, but it was a sad disappointment all the same.

The most difficult lesson I took away from 2015 was the value of time. Time as a commodity has been a consideration for years. Each time I decide to do something new, like pursuing being an author, means I have to give up other things, like television. This year I got caught up in activities that took a lot of time, too much time, time I didn’t have, to be part of a writing organization. At the end of the year, the organization had ultimately failed and all I had to show for the time I’d devoted were months where I’d spent all my writing time NOT writing. Because of this, I’ve decided to devote 2016 to producing rather than associating. I can aspire to be on writing panels and making appearances at writing conferences when I have more publications under my belt. If I’m a writer who doesn’t spend the majority of my time writing, I’ll never get to where I want to be as an author. Bottom line, it makes no sense to promote yourself to potential fans until you have something for them to read. I lost sight of that for a few months this past year. Months I won’t get back, which makes me a tad bitter when I let myself dwell on it. Which I don’t very often.

The other areas of my life were overall positive this past year.

The flip side of the time coin came with the improved family dynamics as a result of Hubby’s new job. Having him on a day shift schedule and home with us all the time has made a huge difference in the quality of our family. I can’t wait to spend as much time together in 2016 as we didn’t in the preceding eight years of dreaded night shift. Every day that we get home from work together and spend the evening taking turns running the kids around and cooking dinner together is a gift.

Financially, 2015 was also noteworthy. We achieved our ten-year goal of being debt free except for our mortgage. Which was also why Hubby had the luxury of quitting to find a day job. Of course, it didn’t last long since the cars are all old and paid for (aka time to die!). I leased my first brand new car and I love being part of the Volkswagen family. 2016 will see a massive remodel to our house, which will be fantastic – when it’s OVER. During will be another story…

My health this year has still been a bit of a roller coaster but more like the kiddie coaster with baby hills and far easier to manage than years past. I still struggle with things like how much is too much fluid to drink every day – enough to stave off a flare-up of gout but not too much so I retain water and have to take diuretics that give me massive charlie horses and require yet another drug to counteract the effects. I’m still in remission and according to my doctor that means I have an indefinite number of years ahead of me. I’m far luckier than a lot of people and, considering all the insanity I’ve been through in past years to get here, I can deal with monthly blood draws and relatively few medications. Even being a vegetarian has become somewhat routine after two years.

I’ve struggled the past year where it came to fitness. Two years of focusing on survival and treatment of my disease relegated fitness to the back burner. I consider it a win that I’ve been able to maintain my weight overall, minus the water retention fluctuations of course, for the last couple of years. However, I’m ready to get beyond the mere survival and 2016 is the year I get back to being strong and fit, which has suffered since I had to give up running. The last half of 2015 has been off and on for yoga with my new, more demanding day job schedule and I’m feeling the effects. I’ve recommitted to my twice a week yoga practice and have started incorporating more cardio in the other days of the week. I may never run a Ragnar again but I can be strong and fit again.

This year brought three weddings within our immediate families – my sister, Hubby’s sister and Hubby’s brother – and the birth of a new niece who I adore. So much joy to counteract another year I had to spend without my Mom who I still miss every day. Life is a balance like that and what we’re left with overall is up to each of us as individuals.

I didn’t read as many books as I wanted to last year – but I still read a lot of great ones. I didn’t write as much as I wanted to – but I still wrote 84,966 words over the course of the year. (Yes, I track it to the individual word. Don’t judge, you know I’m a data geek!) I didn’t travel as much as I wanted to – but I got to go to Hawaii with my entire immediate family. Overall it was a fantastic year simply because I got to live it. And because I am the master of my fate and the captain of my journey, I can make 2016 an even better representation of my hopes and dreams.

May 2016 treat you well. Live in the moment, surround yourself with positive people who contribute to the achievement of your dreams rather than pulling you down, and take risks to live the life you love. That’s what I’ll be doing! Thanks for joining me on my journey and thanks always for reading.


Book List Archive 2015

Time for the yearly round up and archive of my efforts to remain a well-read person. This year I did not reach my goal but I did read a lot of really great books. Here they are, all summed up, for your reading pleasure. And in reverse chronological order because my OCD did not win that fight – this time.

  • The Innocent, Harlan Coben (Book Club) – a light yet entertaining whodunit perfect for the beach or a long weekend. The ending was satisfying although pieces of the story were a tad predictable.
  • The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt – one of the best books I read all year which definitely lived up to all the hype I had heard about it. There are very bleak elements that leave you feeling grateful for the life you have since they are painted so authentically through the characters. A truly phenomenal book that everyone should read!
  • The Phantom of the Opera, Gaston Laroux (Book Club) – a classic that I hadn’t read. I probably would have put it down had it not been a book club pick. I just can’t get into period pieces that old but still I’m glad I read it.
  • The Good Girl, Mary Kubica – also a good read but only because of how it was written. I found myself trying to solve the mystery of “before or after WHAT” all the way through. The ending was very satisfying. A great read for anyone who likes a whodunit.
  • The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins – one of the best reads of the year. Finally a smart, adult novel with twists I didn’t see coming and characters with real depth. It kept me guessing to the end and I recommend it now to everyone who asks.
  • Birthmarked, Caragh M. O’Brien (Book Club) – a light and easy read that left me wanting far more details than were given since it was written for the superficial YA market who doesn’t demand it. Such a shame!
  • All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr – had so much potential but, just like most novels set in the WWII era, left me feeling bleak and unfulfilled. I think it’s safe to say this is not one of my favorite genres.
  • The Fold, Peter Clines – I picked this up because I recognized the author’s name from the best scifi book I’d read the last year or so. Little did I know it was a continuation of that story which had stuck with me so much. Very enjoyable read!
  • The Paper Magician, Charlie N. Holmberg – I disliked this book so much. It was very clearly written for a YA audience who cannot think critically for themselves. The concepts were intriguing but not enough detail was given for anything to be plausible and the whole thing left me feeling insulted. My daughter probably would have liked it when she was eleven. To be fair, that’s probably the intended market so there’s that.
  • Warbreaker, Brandon Sanderson – a great stand-alone read from the master of epic fantasy. He is still one of my all-time favorite authors.
  • Mao’s Last Dancer, Li Cunxin (Book Club) – it was interesting to see how poor Chinese live but the book overall was not a very compelling one.
  • Mr Mercedes, Stephen King – a good old horror novel by one of my favorite authors.
  • Being Mortal, Atul Gawande – a fantastic book about living on our own terms and dying the same way. Every person everywhere should read this book. I expected it to be a social commentary about the current hot topic of Physician Assisted Suicide or The Right to Die which I was also expected to hate. What I got instead was one of the best books about one of the hardest topics any of us will ever face. I wish I’d read this book before my Mom passed away…
  • Celeste, The Unseen #2, Johnny Worthen (ARC) – the much anticipated sequel to Eleanor which did not disappoint. Except for the fact that the third is not released yet and so I must wait.
  • The Wise Man’s Fear (Kingkiller Chronicles, Day 2), Patrick Rothfuss – a much anticipated sequel that fell short for me and felt disappointingly like a setup book for the third one.
  • Altered Perceptions, short stories to benefit mental health – I bought this as part of a crowd fund campaign to benefit a local author suffering with a mental health disorder. It is a collection of well-known authors with either deleted scenes or unpublished works. I got it for the Brandon Sanderson early draft of The Way of Kings. And THEN…. It was by far one of the BEST books I’ve read in a long time. Not because of the stories themselves, but because every author included a personal essay about how mental health had touched their lives in some way. Every person everywhere should read this book! Better yet, they should just publish the author essays and that is what everyone should read. Seriously, go read this book.
  • The Brand Demand, Johnny Worthen – FABULOUS social satire set in Salt Lake City so it felt like all the politics and struggles were real. One of my favorite books of the year.
  • Bog Child, Siobhan Dowd (Book Club) – a novel set around the time of the IRA in Ireland with some interesting facts about archaeology.
  • ITIL Service Strategy – a brutal course but I passed the exam and am now certified!
  • The Dovekeepers, Alice Hoffman (Book Club) – an interesting novelization of ancient Christianity with strong female characters. I wanted to hate it but it was a good read.
  • The Archangel Agenda, A.K. Alexander & Jen Greyson – this was a light and semi-steamy read but felt like a serialized novel where just the first act of the story was included and you had to buy the second (and probably third) to get the entire story. Apparently that’s the “in” thing now for Kindle readers?
  • Cutting For Stone, Abraham Verghese (Book Club) – a very slow burn but a fantastic read with a killer ending.
  • Firefight, Brandon Sanderson – much anticipated sequel to Steelheart which Hubby and I both loved.
  • Pretty Things, Christine Haggerty – a novella retelling of a Grimm Fairytale. I’m not a huge fan of the fairy tale but this was not a bad read. Not as Grimm or as dark as I had anticipated and it was very short.

It was disappointing to count and realize I only finished twenty four books of the forty total I set out to read this year. That’s an average of two books a month which is better than years past when I struggled just to finish the book club pick each month. I consume most of my books on Audible which means this small list represents the amount of time I had over the year where it was possible to multi-task. Because of that, it still feels like an overall accomplishment for the year. Here’s to bettering it next year!


Book List Archive 2014

It’s New Year’s Day – time for reflection and putting away Christmas decorations. It has become tradition to capture my yearly list of books I’ve read from the site and archive them as a blog post with a little insight about each one. Long gone are the days I had time (or energy) to review every one as separate posts. However, if you’re on Goodreads, friend me up since I give at least a little blurb and a rating there when I finish reading. Here’s my efforts this year to become remain a well-read author.

  • The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor (work book club) – Self-help is not my favorite genre but this one was fabulous and just what I needed at the time. It even influenced my January blogging.
  • These Is My Words, Nancy E. Turner (book club)
  • Lone Survivor, Marcus Luttrell – the movie was better. Rarely is this true, but this time it is.
  • The Way of Kings, Brandon Sanderson – rocked my epic fantasy world like nothing else since Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time.
  • Wild, Cheryl Strayed – a great read and another surprise since I rarely like memoirs
  • A Prisoner of Birth, Jeffrey Archer (book club)
  • Beatrysel, Johnny Worthen – one of the best books I read this year. Mostly because it was dark and unique and spoke to  me deep down in my core like nothing before it. (Caution: Not for the faint of heart!)
  • Words of Radiance, Brandon Sanderson – more than hooked on this author and this series especially. I devoured it!
  • In My Hands: Memories of a Holocaust Rescuer, Irene Gut Opdyke (book club)
  • The Colony: Genesis, Michaelbrent Collings (not my favorite this year!)
  • Eleanor, Johnny Worthen (ARC*) – seriously, if you haven’t read this book go get a copy right now. Kids and adults and everyone in between will love this one. Johnny won Utah’s Writer of the Year for this book and it was deserving.
  • NOS4A2, Joe Hill – fabulous horror book like Stephen King used to write.
  • The Circle, Dave Eggers – (work book club)
  • The Tipping Point, Malcome Gladwell (work book club)
  • Monster Hunter International, Larry Correia – great military fiction with a supernatural twist
  • Heft, Liz Moore (book club) – one of the best we read this year.
  • Copper Descent (ARC*), Angela Hartley – one of my first blog tour posts
  • The Shining, Stephen King – I read this as a kid and wanted a re-read before the sequel. Not as frightening the second time around.
  • Doctor Sleep, Stephen King – changed the way I look at a mundane piece of the world. Still the master!
  • Second Firsts, Christina Rasmussen – (book club) – great read about dealing with loss. It was amazing to help deal with the loss of my health at the time. Little did I know I’d need it on such a deeper level later.
  • ITIL Service Operation – technical manual for a certification. Not a light or very enjoyable read, but necessary. I lament all the great fiction I could have read instead!
  • The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman (my pick for book club) Amazing, amazing. I love Gaiman!
  • Monster Hunter Vendetta, Larry Correia – guilty pleasure via Audible
  • Plot and Structure, James Scott Bell – great read if you’re a writer
  • Call the Midwife, Jennifer Worth (book club)
  • Divergent, Veronica Roth (book club) – I wanted to hate it after seeing the movie but it was better and I didn’t.
  • The Colony: Renegades, Michaelbrent Collings – got a free copy on Audible and hoped the sequel was better. It wasn’t.
  • The End of Dieting, Joel Fuhrman – the book my doctor told me to read when embarking on veganism
  • Suspect, Robert Crais – recommended author to study on writing action which did not disappoint
  • Mitosis, Brandon Sanderson – more like a short story but I had to buy it so it counts!
  • Heart of Annihilation, C.R. Asay – (book club) another blog tour visitor (written by my writing group buddy)
  • The Giver, Lois Lowry – my oldest had to read it and kept talking about it and the movie was coming out so…
  • How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie (book club)
  • ITIL Continual Service Improvement – another technical manual and certification that took far too much time away from “real” reading. But I passed!
  • The Martian, Andy Weir – best science fiction of the year that I happened to just stumble upon on Audible.
  • The Fault In Our Stars, John Green – did not live up to the hype!
  • Revival, Stephen King
  • Insurgent, Veronica Roth
  • Shadows Beneath: The Writing Excuses Anthology, Brandon Sanderson, Mary Robinette Kowal, Dan Wells, Howard Tayler – great stories and a great behind-the-scenes look on the writing process of successful authors.

I have a rule that life is too short to waste time on books I don’t like after a few chapters. This list does not include two books I put down only partially read this year. One of them being Outlander, yes the same one everyone raves about and that they made a television series about. The other was some drivel that I don’t even remember the title of. Given all the time outside of work it took me to obtain two new professional certifications this year, I got a ton of great reading in. Can’t wait to do it all again in 2015! Happy reading to all my fellow readers out there.

*ARC = Advanced Reader Copy in the publishing world. Which means I got to read it before it was available to the public. Always a fabulous thing for an impatient woman like me!


2013 In a Nutshell

I’m reading a book called “The Happiness Advantage” with my work book club. I’m not a huge fan of the self-help genre (and for some reason these are the kinds of books that always get picked by the group) so it is taking me months (and hopefully not countless library fines) to finish this one even though it is a fabulous book. What I’m learning is that success, performance at work, and general happiness are all a product of your positive outlook on life and not the other way around. As I am wont to do with every book I read, I’ve been internalizing all the different points the author makes and realize that somehow intuitively I’ve been applying some of these principles in my life already. Mostly because 2013 was by far the most roller-coaster of a year to date in my life.

Here’s a recap of the year:

  • I’m so glad to be alive since I didn’t die from the pulmonary embolism
  • Happy birthday, I’m done taking Coumadin! Let’s celebrate with leafy green vegetables!
  • I finished my first novel – finally!
  • Just kidding, back on Coumadin
  • Wait, why did I just gain thirty pounds in a couple of weeks? 
  • Good news, mammograms don’t hurt and I have medical proof I have a great rack
  • Wow, biopsy of the kidney really hurts but not as much as finding out I have a chronic kidney disease that I will never get rid of.
  • I’m officially more of a yogi than a runner but that’s okay
  • Treatment of kidney disease commences and I am feeling better
  • Started teaching yoga at work since no one else would get the ball rolling
  • Treatment isn’t working, how ’bout chemotherapy? We settled for vegetarianism and immunosuppression after I argued with my doctor for a plan that didn’t come with cancer side effects later.
  • Immunosuppression sucks ass! Time for a pity party from hell
  • Just kidding, I’m over the pity party and ready to BE healthy instead of wallow
  • When the dose is finally right, immunosuppression is actually great since I feel fabulous now!
  • Focus turns back to fitness and surprise – yoga is keeping me from being any worse off than I was before this whole mess.
  • Everyday yoga practice commences – I’m addicted
  • I finished my second novel – in a month!
  • Christmas in California’s warm weather – although the Californians think it is winter we know they are crazy.

The book is full of examples of positive psychology and proof that you are more productive and successful if you first start with a positive outlook rather than saying that once you get {fill in the blank} I’ll be happy. The one that struck me the hardest was talking about how there is a small subset of people who are more successful and happier because they can more successfully pick themselves up off the mat after failures or setbacks. They are the people who define themselves not by what has happened to them but instead by what they can make out of what has happened.

There is no doubt about it that I am a changed person because of the last year. I have always lived life with a touch of spontaneity but now I’m even more apt to jump first and ask questions later. I also cherish my relationships with people – not just those closest to me but everyone I know – differently and more deeply. I know more than most how tenuous life is and how today just might be your last. If you know me in real life and I tell you that I love you, rest assured that I mean it. But that isn’t where I stopped. Back in October when I was deep in my pity party, I could easily have stayed there dwelling on how bad my life was and how I had been forced to turn vegetarian and how I will never be cured and blah blah blah. But instead, I switched my focus to all the things that could have been worse. I’ve never been hospitalized with all this insanity of health issues, I only had a couple of weeks that I couldn’t do yoga to the fullest, and I am able to do whatever I want now in terms of fitness – although running is again something I have to build up to since it has been so long since I did it. I learned last month that the six months I thought I had of immunosuppression treatment is actually a two year gig but I’m rolling with it. It isn’t chemo after all. Sure, I’ll have to be far more diligent with my facial waxing since one of the side effects apparently is increased hair growth but there are worse things, right?

If I’m recapping 2013 in a nutshell, I’d say it gave me a far greater perspective on how I want to live my life. I am still grieving in many ways about the loss of my perfect vitality but I’m also taking steps to get past that loss. I didn’t lose a husband, and I didn’t get a terminal illness (chronic doesn’t directly translate to terminal after all) but I did suffer a loss in the form of seeing the end of my life as I had previously defined it. Instead of wallowing in the grief, I’m redefining my life and living that new life fully. I’m not one to make resolutions with the New Year but I’m far more prone to reflecting this year. As I look ahead to 2014 and all the craziness I’m certain is in store for me and my little family, above all I am happy and hopeful. May your 2014 be the same whoever you are and wherever your circumstances find you. Thanks for reading!


    Book List Archive 2013

    Time for out with the old and in with the new posts recapping the major accomplishments of the past year (and cleaning off the side bar to make room for tracking this year’s list). I thought 2013 was going to see far more books under my belt since last year was truly an overachiever one when it came to reading. However, I’ve had far more energy to be off my couch in recent months and you can’t listen to audible while doing yoga like you can while running.

    • The Winter of Our Disconnect, Susan Maushart (book club) – this book changed my children’s lives and is well worth reading
    • A Memory of Light, Wheel of Time #14, Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson – so much better than I ever hoped for and well worth the 15 years it took to wait for the end of this series.
    • Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power, Rachel Maddow – disturbing and eye-opening
    • Firefly Lane, Kristin Hannah
    • Still Alice, Lisa Genova (book club) – frightening look at Alzheimer’s
    • The Reservoir, John Miliken Thompson
    • Mistborn: The Final Empire, Brandon Sanderson 
    • Behind the Beautiful Forevers, Katherine Boo
    • Dark Places, Gillian Flynn
    • 14, Peter Clines – best scifi read this year
    • And I Don’t Want to Live this Life, Deborah Spungen (book club)
    • The Dog Stars, Peter Heller
    • Mistorn #2: The Well of Ascension, Brandon Sanderson
    • Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn (book club) – this time I read it instead of listened and loved it even more
    • The Kitchen House, Kathleen Grissom (book club)
    • Mistborn #3: The Hero of Ages, Brandon Sanderson – the ending of this series cemented Sanderson’s place as my new favorite fantasy author
    • Old Man’s War, John Scalzi
    • A Monster Calls, Patrick Ness – this was a haunting read that stuck with me a long while
    • Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Carol S. Dweck (work book club)
    • Horns, Joe Hill – one of my very favorite reads this year
    • The Rent Collector, Camron Wright (book club)
    • Joyland, Stephen King
    • Hounded, Kevin Hearne
    • The Dog Stars, Peter Heller (my pick for book club so I re-read it in print instead of listening). This is a far different book in print than in audible and I liked the audible far better.
    • Hexed, Kevin Hearne
    • The Light Between Oceans, M.L. Stedman (book club)
    • Rainbows End, Vernor Vinge – not my favorite scifi and proof that if you put something down twice it probably doesn’t deserve getting finished
    • The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman – also one of my favorite reads this year – such a great one!
    • Mistborn #4: The Alloy of Law, Brandon Sanderson
    • Happy Money, Elizabeth Dunn (work book club)
    • Slim for Life, Jillian Michaels
    • Immortal Instruments: City of Bones, Cassandra Clare – I hope the movies are better than the books
    • The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman (book club) – I’m now officially a huge Gaiman fan, too
    • Mothers & Other Liars, Amy Bourret (book club)
    • No Plot? No Problem!, Chris Baty – oh how I wish I’d read this years ago to make NaNoWriMo easier!
    • Steelheart, Brandon Sanderson – read aloud with hubby on our road trip
    • The Name of the Wind: The King Killer Chronicles Day One, Patrick Rothfuss – also read aloud for hubby on our road trip after I filled him in on the first half; and yet another epic fantasy series I want to grab the next one immediately.

    That’s thirty seven books this year. A far cry from the goal I set of fifty but still impressive since the theme this year was apparently fantasy. I read some major tomes that in terms of sheer number of pages alone could count as several books. I set the goal of forty books in 2014. Whether I hit that goal or not, you can be certain I’ll be reading every chance I get!