Tag Archives: amelia nagoski

A Look Back: Five Star Books

2020 is coming to an end, and for my own curiosity, I thought I would share the books that moved me in the last 12 months. I count December 2019 in this collection since I’m obviously not done with December 2020 yet.

Vicious – The first book in a duology by VE Schwab. All of her books usually garner a four or five star for me. In this book, there are two scientists trying to figure out how to give themselves special powers. And when they finally figure out what it takes, things go horribly wrong.

The Starless Sea – Erin Morgenstern’s most recent book. I love her lyrical writing and fantastical settings. A man finds a scene of his life written in an incredibly old book. Upon further investigation, he finds an entire world of magic that is on the brink of trouble.

The Stationery Shop – I love this book by Marjan Kamali because it addresses pregnancy loss and mental health, though it is not really a part of the main plot. Two lovers get separated during a revolution. Decades later, they are reunited and discover exactly what happened and why it happened on that fateful day in history.

When God Made the World – Any book of Matthew Paul Turner usually gets a five star from me (as you will see on down this list). The illustrations are beautiful. Lovely children’s book that explores God’s creation and how we play a wonderful part in it.

The Best Yes: Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands – One of my absolute favorite nonfiction/self-help books this year. Lysa Terkheurst shares the beauty of boundaries and changes the perspective of saying no to waiting to say the best yes.

Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle – The other favorite nonfiction/self-help book. Written by sisters Amelia and Emily Nagoski, it explores stress as a study and how to work through it to live a healthier, slightly more sane life.

Don’t Overthink It: Make Easier Decisions, Stop Second-Guessing, and Bring More Joy to Your Life – Sweet memoir kind of book from Anne Bogel, who has a blog (Modern Mrs. Darcy) and a podcast (What Should I Read Next). Very appropriate book for this year.

Lovely War – Julie Berry Novel set mostly during World War One. The twist of this book is that the author incorporates Greek Gods who narrate the story. Aphrodite is trying the tell Hephaestus what love is when he finds her in the arms of Ares.

This Tender Land – William Kent Kruger novel that gives both Odyssey and Tom Sawyer vibes. Set during the Great Depression. Odysseus and Albert escape the abusive boarding school in the North and travel along the Mississippi river in hopes to reunite with their aunt.

The Color of Compromise: The Truth abut the American Church’s Complicity in Racism – Jemar Tisby’s excellent look at the history of the American church and slavery. I learned so much about how everything has evolved throughout time and how it has complicated everything today.

A Darker Shade of Magic – One of my hands-down favorite authors, V. E. Schwab. This was probably the series that put her in the spotlight, though I read some of her other novels first. It really does live up to the hype. The story takes place in London but there are four Londons, four worlds, once connected by magic. But when one world fell, it was shut out in hopes of containing the destruction. However, Kell and Lila have stumbled upon something that could change and destroy everything.

The Jane Austen Society – Natalie Jenner’s novel. Another historical fiction set in the town of Chawton, England after World War II. The town is known as one of the last places Jane Austen resided, writing some of her last novels there. A group of people connect over her books and seek to preserve her memory when the famous estate her brother owned might get sold off by its owner. TW: There is pregnancy loss in the book, but it is well-handled

All the Colors of Christmas – The second Matthew Paul Turner book on this list. No surprise here. Very beautiful book for Christmas that talks about the different colors that we find during this season, including ourselves as part of the beautiful picture.

How to Be an Antiracist – Ibram X. Kendi’s memoir-esque book about his journey to becoming more antiracist. It includes history and the people who inspired him along the way.

The House in the Cerulean Sea – This absolutely lovely book by TJ Klune is magical, fantastical, sweet, heartbreaking, and the closest thing to a perfect story. Linus Baker is a social worker who observes orphanages of magical creatures to see whether they are appropriately caring for their wards. When he is given a special assignment, his isolated, quiet life is turned upside-down in the most delightful way. Lucy was my favorite character.

Middlegame – A Seanan McGuire alchemical story about two people created as counterparts to each other and how they try to stop the end of the world. Beautiful, hopeful and heartbreaking.

What are some of your 5 star books this year?

Gift Ideas for Christmas

Christmas is coming. I mean, some people have had their decorations out all month. And I know that gift lists are already being shared. If you are looking to add to your list or are looking for a gift idea for someone else, I may be able to help. I have read a lot of books this year (and some in years past) that I think are very noteworthy and would make great gifts

For the kid selections, I will preface this with the fact that these books are based on my own experience of having a toddler. Here are some of our favorites this year.

I try to buy a new Christmas book every year, and this year my favorite children’s book author released one in September called All The Colors of Christmas! In a nutshell, it’s a beautifully illustrated, beautifully written book full of nostalgia and the real meanings of the Christmas season listed by color.

The Truly Devious series by Maureen Johnson is a double murder mystery set in an elite boarding school. Each of the three books in the series reveals a little more of the clues of each mystery, one set in the 1930s and one present day. The character growth and inclusion in this series is stellar. I wrote about the first one here.

Neal Shusterman’s The Arc of the Scythe series is a bit more science fiction. It faces the ideas of death, mortality, love, and humanity in a three book series. It also strives to be inclusive as well. While the ending wasn’t what I expected, it was still a fun ride. The first book’s review is here.

The Last Train to Key West by Chanel Cleeton, which is more of a straight historical fiction based on a hurricane that Florida in 1935. It follows three different women as they are searching for different things within their lives, defining what freedom really is in a post-WW1 America.

For a literature friend, or someone who loves Jane Austen books, The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner is an absolute delight. There is the trigger warning of pregnancy loss, but I felt that it was appropriate and well done. I wrote more about it here.

The last three are my favorite authors, so any from them I would recommend, but here are a few ideas.

Deborah Harkness who wrote the All Souls Trilogy. She is a professor and historian which comes across in her books in a beautiful way. I first read Discovery of Witches back in 2014 and wrote this review.

VE Schwab, or Victoria Schwab, is also an amazing author who writes YA, Adult, and Middle Grade. There are so many I could recommend. Most of her books are in paranormal or fantasy genres. Her middle grade series starts with the City of Ghosts which is excellent, and the next (and I think final) book in the series is coming out soon, so it would be a fun series to read straight through!

Erin Morgenstern hasn’t written as many books, but the ones that she has are amazing, lyrical fantasies. I would recommend Night Circus first, though her books are not connected. I just felt like the Night Circus was a little easier to follow for someone who hasn’t read her before.

This year there have been a lot of books about race and racial justice, and a lot of suggestions in this category from years past. I haven’t read nearly as many as I would have like, but if you have someone in your life who is reading these topics, I would recommend How to Be Antiracist by Ibram X Kendi. It follows his own journey in social justice, people who inspired him and mistakes he made.

Another book in this category that leans more towards history, particularly within the church is The Color of Compromise by Jemar Tisby. I learned a lot about the evolution of the church in America, both white and black.

And finally, Burnout by Emily and Amelia Nagoski has to have been my all time favorite book this year. It changed the way I saw stress and how I was contributing and sabotaging my own life. Game. Changer.

There are so many books that I loved this year, that it was hard to suggest just a few books. What are some books you have enjoyed this year?

February Books

My February TBR

So this was the stack of books I set out to read in the month of February. I actually read more than just these books, and I didn’t completely finish the stack. However, I knew I would be reading at least a few of these into March. Here’s how the reading month went.

Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler.  This was a Life’s Library book club pick, and I knew nothing about it going into it.  I had never read anything by this author before, but I knew that she was very respected and lots of people enjoyed her writing.  I liked this book, but it gave me nightmares.  It’s a dystopian novel set in 2024 (the book was written in 1993).  It felt like our society would only have to take a couple of steps in the wrong direction to end up on the pages of this book.  It’s a heavy book, full of violence, sexual assault, promiscuity, and language.  But it will stretch you in much needed ways.

Followers by Megan Angelo.  I think I found out about this book either by Instagram or my local library’s website.  I believe this is a debut novel.  It is also a kind of dystopian future, but I didn’t feel as deep into this story as I did with the Parable of the Sower.  It follows two characters, Orla and Floss, in present day who are roommates chasing after fame and all the promises of being famous and then jumps every other chapter about forty years into the future after a big event called The Spill suddenly made people distrust the government and putting any of their information online (this reveal didn’t feel realistic, which it doesn’t have to, but it took me out of the story a bit).  In the future, we follow Marlow who lives in a town that is watched by millions of people (like a Truman Show type of town) and she begins to question the life that has been written for her by the powers that be.  All of the book centers around this idea of fame and the cost it takes to get it.

Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle by Emily and Amelia Nagoski.  I loved this book.  I heard about it on a podcast, and I’m so glad I picked it up.  It addresses stress, the science behind it, and how we can survive it.  It is directed to women and the stressors that most women face (including the patriarchy and the bikini industrial complex).  Everything was fascinating and challenging, and I felt like the authors really tried to take on this subject as clearly and with as much data as they could.  It’s definitely one that I will re-read at some point.

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E Harrow.  The book for the Modern Mrs Darcy Book Club. This was such a sweet story of fantasy and imagination.  January Scaller lives with a rich bachelor while her father hunts for priceless treasures all over the world.  One day, she manages to open a door into another world, but when she tells her guardian about this experience, she is locked away and convinced that she needs to put away such childish fantasies.  But these doors keep coming back into her life, and with a door comes change, she just has to have the courage to step through them.  Reminded me a bit of The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern.

Don’t Overthink It: Make Easier Decisions, Stop Second-Guessing, and Bring More Joy to Your Life by Anne Bogel.  This is the third book I have read by this author, and I was able to be a part of the launch team for this book (which let me read the book before it came out).  Anne is the kind of writer that makes you feel like you are chatting with a friend over coffee when you read her books.  The kind of friend who does excellent research on a topic that she can’t wait to share with you.  I made so many notes with this book, great points to remember and incorporate into my life.  Highly recommend!

Rhythms of Renewal: Trading Stress and Anxiety for a Life of Peace and Purpose by Rebekah Lyons.  This was a book recommended on Instagram by some other authors I follow.  I had been wanting a book about stress coming from a Christian perspective.  But I think I was expecting something a little different than what I read in this book.  I thought I was going to get more of “when this happens, it’s good to remember this” kind of language, but the book seemed to be a list of self-care options that worked for the author throughout her life.  Things that may help others.  I think I preferred Burnout because there was more science of why things work which is what my brain really likes.  It was still a good book, and the last couple of chapters raised my overall rating, but it wouldn’t be the first book I would recommend about stress or even Christian self-help.

I am currently reading Children of Virtue and Vengeance by Tomi Adeyemi and The Hand on the Wall by Maureen Johnson, both continuations of their series. So far, I’m enjoying them as expected, one being a book based on African mythology and the other a murder mystery (this is the book it will all be revealed!). Both are YA, and I will be sharing my March TBR (with these books included) on my Instagram, so check out that sneak peek there!

Did you enjoy any books in February? What’s next in your reading life?