#FridayReads: I’ll never eat the same way again

I recently read I Quit Sugar by Sarah Wilson, and at the end of it I was completely freaked out.

We’ve been paleo for quite some time and mostly refined-sugar free, and thoroughly enjoy it.  I thought this book would be somewhat similar to what I learned, but instead I had massive panic attacks at how much sugar is in everything.

Although I highly doubt we’ll actually follow the 8 week sugar detox plan outlined in the book anytime soon, there were definitely a few ideas in the book that I’ll definitely be implementing, such as

  • limiting fruit intake to 2-4 servings a day.  I’ve already stopped allowing fruit at dinner time, and will probably stop making it a side dish at lunch since it’s an easy snack and breakfast add on
  • read even more labels!  This reason is pretty much why it takes me about 4 hours to shop at the grocery store, but I’m going to just continue doing that.  I’ve already learned that the almond milk I buy has sugar in it, and so does the all-organic Greek yogurt so I’m going to just read more labels.
  • there were a few tips/recipes for sugar-free pick-me-ups:  things to eat if you’re craving sugar but don’t want to actually eat sugar

I Quit Sugar was informative, pretty, colorful, and easy to understand. But I have to admit, the parts I found most helpful and applicable were the parts on meal prep and ingredient buying.  That’s the hardest part about eating natural, whole foods–all the food preparation and time spent in the kitchen that has to be done–and this book had some tips to make it faster and easier.

I also commend Sarah on leading a basically sugar-free life, but I’m coming to understand that will probably not really happen for us.  Not because I believe in everything in moderation, especially since sugar is basically a drug and definitely shouldn’t ever be eaten, but because I’m being realistic.  We live in America, where sugar is in absolutely everything and all foods are processed.  We live in the age where friendships are made over coffee and scones and romance is kindled over candlelight dinners with Chinese takeout.  But if I can be 80/20 paleo and 80/20 refined-sugar free, then that’s about 80% better my body and my life would be if I didn’t try.

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#FridayReads: The Giver

Okay, let me admit something to you right now.

I have never read The Giver.

I know.  You’re shocked.  It’s a dirty secret I’ve kept my entire life, too ashamed to even tell my husband.  And when I realized my short term sub assignment was happening right in the middle of them reading the book, I decided it was probably time to come clean.  {I know this feels sarcasm, but really it’s not.  My husband went around for days after I told him that I was reading it for just the first time muttering, “I can’t believe, I just can’t believe.”}

ANYWAY.  I read it.  Quickly.  And you know what?  I was unimpressively impressed.

So it’s about a boy who lives in this society who promotes Sameness.  Everyone looks the same, acts the same, and follows the same rules.  Adults have to apply to obtain a spouse, and then that family unit has to apply to obtain children who are birthed from designated Birthmothers.  At the age of twelve, all the children are given their assignment, and Jonas, the protagonist, is assigned the job of The Receiver of Memory.  So he goes to the current Receiver–who becomes The Giver–and slowly has all the world’s memories transferred onto him.  And then obviously, and predictably, Jonas wants to change the society.

And when I was finished I was just.so.mad.

There are so many YA books/series that have stolen this plot! The poor Hunger Games trilogy will be viewed in a new way.  Divergent is no longer so “unique.” And don’t even get me started on my dearly beloved Matched Trilogy, which probably violated The Giver‘s plotline worst of all.

So now I’m so mad that I didn’t know all these books stemmed from this one that set before it.  My blissful ignorance has been shattered.  And I am so very torn up about it.

But really though, I thought that The Giver should’ve been about 80 pages longer.  Maybe that’s because I’m used to reading these long, drawn out series that are becoming so popular, but I have to agree with my students that the little action and all the details can make for a boring read.  I devoured it in a weekend because I was desperate to know more, but there wasn’t any more to know.  And I hated the ending.  Where did he go?  What happened to his community? Why aren’t there more details???  How could Lois Lowry do such a thing to me?!

Or, did Lowry really get it right all along?  I mean, after all, she did stop when she’s ahead.  And probably the best cliff hanger of all time.

And now I can jump on the hate train and bash all this nonsense about how the trailer for the movie doesn’t look anything like the book (while I secretly harbor intense opinions about how I think the movie will actually be a lot better than the book).

#FridayReads: A very interesting plot & a personal giveaway

I’m officially part of BookLook Bloggers, and I’ve finally had a chance to finish the book they sent me a while ago.  (I promise I read it all guys!  Things have just been really stupid crazy over here.)  From what I gather, I think most (if not all) of the books are part of HarperCollins’s Christian publishing brand.  Which completely makes sense if you start reading the titles they have.

I will be completely honest with you.  I HATE Christian fiction.  I mean, there are some quality books out there, sure, but about 98% of the time the books are stupid, have bad writing, faulty plot lines, and are in general just bad bad bad.  But I didn’t know that’s what these books were.  I thought I had picked a non-Christian book.  But I didn’t.  I picked Stranger Things by Erin Healy.

I won’t go as far as saying that Erin Healy redeemed the entire Christian-fiction genre.  But I will whole-heartedly admit that this book superseded my expectations and made me think that there could be hope for the genre after all.

Okay, without further ado, my review.

In a nutshell, the book is about human trafficking.  Which caught me off guard, because who writes a book about that?  I mean, who writes a book about human trafficking that doesn’t come off as sordid or seedy?  Erin Healy does.  And she does it very well, I might add.

Serena Diaz is a high school Biology teacher who is accused of molesting one of her students, Brock Anderson.  Her parents have run a safe house for trafficked girls for about 30 years, so it’s sort of ironic that she would be accused of doing the opposite of what they’re trying to end.  She is also accused of being involved in the human trafficking movement by the Fire Followers, an organization whose entire intent is to rescue trafficked girls.  She has no idea that when she enters the school building one morning that her entire life is going to change in an instant.  (I tried to find a less cliched way of saying that, but I couldn’t.)

What I hate about the book is that Healy uses about 50 different viewpoints to tell the story.  (Not really.  More like 8.)  So it’s really hard to set it down and pick up a few days later, because you have to remember who’s telling the story and what time frame they’re in at the moment.  I also hate the weight that a plot like this one has, because it doesn’t make for an easy read.  The plot moves quickly, there’s a lot of suspense, but when you’re reading about something so heavy you just need to get a break from it sometimes.

That being said, with all the things this book juggles–intricate plotlines, numerous viewpoints, a huge cast of characters–Healy handles it all with finesse.  Not once does she drop the ball or forget a detail and it doesn’t end so suddenly you can’t figure out how we got there.  The plot line continually moves along and pushes forward to an very non-contrite ending.  Albeit a predictably happy one.  (Happy in the sense that everyone is fine, although there are definitely life issues everyone needs to work out.)

I’d probably gives this three gold stars, a thumbs up, and five smiley faces.  And a wish that this would someday be a movie (because I think Hollywood would actually do good with this one).

And I liked it enough that I’d like to give you my copy for you to read!  All you need to do to enter this mini-giveaway is one (or both!) of two things:

1.  Share this review on Facebook or Instagram
2. Comment below with your favorite Christian fiction book.

I’ll pick a winner next Tuesday and send the book to your mailbox.

Happy weekend!

#FridayReads: The one you’ve all been waiting for.

Okay, so YOU probably haven’t been waiting for this review.  But I’ve certainly been waiting a very long time to finish this series and post my thoughts.

Oh dear, dear Veronica Roth.  You are amazing.  And you suck so terribly.  But alas, so amazing.

What I love most about the series is that the entire trilogy is one long story.  None of them can stand alone.  With The Hunger Games, the first book is awesome, but you can’t read the second without the third and vice versa.  With Harry Potter, each book has a beginning and and end, but yet they’re all connected.  Even with The Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy, there’s a beginning and end to each book, but you still can’t’ read the second without the third.  Not so with Divergent.  You can’t read one without the other without the other.  And she weaves such a beautiful story throughout.

There are a bazillion different things I could write about.  Like I could post the summary, but chances are you’ve already read it and don’t care.  Or you haven’t read it and won’t read this post in case there are spoilers.  I could compare this book to The Hunger Games trilogy.  But I’m guessing you could find a million of those posts all over the interwebs.  I could also write about the this whole Utopian/post-apocalyptic theme that’s running in YA literature.  But that’s another post for another time (and another website.

Instead, what I’m going to write about are the characters.
Because, oh man, these characters.

I’ve written before about how I’ve found the best characters in 21st century literature.  But I’m going to have to amend that statement by saying that Celia and Marco are the best characters in ADULT literature.  Because I have learned that Tris and Four are the best characters in YA literature.


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First, I have to commend the author on the amazing job she did on making an entire dystopian world so very real.  The second I started reading I felt like I was Beatrice, I was living in her city, and I would’ve left Abnegation to go to Dauntless, too.  And then throughout her entire initiation process I felt like I was also a Dauntless initiate.  And I cried at the end of Divergent–which made my students look at me weird–and I audibly gasped aloud saying, “OH EM GEE” at the end of Insurgent–which also made those students look at me weird–and I bawled my eyes out at the end of Allegiant–which made the husband roll his eyes.

What I love about Tris and Four are their chemistry.  But not they’re lovey-dovey, can’t live without each other, let me stroke your jawline chemistry.  More their motivations for leaving Abnegation and their determination at being Dauntless, and their sense of protecting each other and their loved ones.  They’re insightful, well-rounded, well-developed characters hardened by their past, their present, and their future.  They take on the world just the two of them because that’s the only one they have and the only one they trust. (And for good reason.  There are some whacked out characters in this series.)  The two of them steam off the page and tell their story in front of my eyes.

Divergent movie Tris Dauntless jump

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But even if Tris and Four weren’t so steamy, their individual characters would be just as palpable.  It’s a case where the two are certainly better together, but even a story about just one of them would get me reeling and wanting more.  They’re strong and mature and don’t take things lightly.  They’re also a little juxtaposed throughout the story.  Tris wants to leave Abnegation in order that she might figure out who she is.  Four has spent so long ignoring his old life that he has created a persona of himself, and it isn’t until he finds Tris that he realizes he hasn’t grieved his past and that he doesn’t know himself as well as he thought.

I think most people could argue that this book is all about mindsets and points of views and what happens when one group of people think themselves higher than another.  It could almost be a reflection of today’s society.  And I’d agree with those people.  But I think more than that this is a book about identity–another common YA lit theme–about how events and people shape who you are and how your choices can define you.

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And that ending, oh my gosh that ending.  It was so wrong and perfect all at the same time.  I loved what she wrote and hated that she did it.  It was so appropriate and just reinforced the entire theme of making choices that will define you as a person, that no one is ever who you think they are, and that it takes more than just one person to tell a story.

If you haven’t read this trilogy yet, DON’T!  At least, don’t start until you have access to all three books.  I started it before Allegiant was published, and then was number 110394320 in line at the library to get it after it came out and it drove me bonkers.  So if you don’t plan on purchasing all three right away, then wait until you can get it easily at the library.  Because once you start, I promise you won’t want to finish.

#FridayReads: A cute & random find

It’s been a while, but here’s a #FridayReads for your Valentine’s Day.

I’ve been looking for escape literature lately.  Not the amazing writing kind that takes me to different places.  The chick lit, predictable kind that gets me swept up in the story and allows me to forget where I am.

I stumbled upon Emily and Einstein by Linda Francis Lee and was pleasantly surprised.

After reading the first two pages, I figured out the plot. Spoiler Alert:  when the husband dies, his soul is transported into the dog’s body and Emily adopts him.  Yeah, super corny, right?

But that’s what chick lit basically is, corny and predictable.  But Lee did a great job not making the soul-in-a-dog plot too over the top and ridiculous.  This book even had some depth to it.

Emily works as an editor at a publishing company.  After her husband, Sandy, dies she realizes there had been a lot of lies about her marriage and her life in general.  She struggles with her loss and with realizing all the lies Sandy kept from her.  When her sister comes to visit, bringing news about their mother–a woman activist who raised two almost opposite daughters–she realizes that most of what she thought about her sister, her mother, and her life with them was not what she thought it was either.  As she tries to get past the loss of Sandy and the lies she’s discovering, she realizes she has to get past her emotional baggage, too.

Meanwhile, Sandy is in the dog’s body, Einstein, and he gets to tell his side of the story, too.  (That’s probably the weirdest part.)  He’s all mad that he’s a dog and this mysterious old man who tells him if he helps his wife he’ll become some sort of awesome soul or something.  So Einstein tries to help his wife to get back on her feet.

It’s a book about self-discovery and new starts.  I may not read it again, but I enjoyed the story well enough. It kept me entertained on a dull, sub day at the high school.

#FridayReads: A random yet interesting find

I’ve been pulling books off at random at the library lately, hoping for a good one.  Mostly I’ve been getting duds, but this one was a win in such a big way.

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I’ve been obsessed with Anne Frank’s story ever since I read her Diary when I was about 13 or so.  It was probably the book I most frequently checked out of the library until I got my own copy.  My dad found the 1959 movie based on the book at his school library and brought it home one day.  I think I’ve read the book and watched the movie about twice a year since.  The husband still can’t understand why we own the book and movie and what my fascination with it.  I don’t really understand it myself.  I think it must how World War II is romanticized in a very real, non-fiction sort of way.

As much as I love the book, I always wondered about the other characters and what happens after the diary ends.  For example, Anne lived such a big life in that tiny attic, what were the others thinking and feeling and doing?  Were they writing diaries?   What were their life dreams and big goals for when they got out?  And when the Nazis found them and took them to the camps, what happened there?

Apparently I’m not the only one who has ever wondered this, because Jillian Cantor basically has answered all my questions with her book Margot.

This is the story of Margie Franklin, who is really Margot Frank, after the war is over and she has fled to Pennsylvania and created a new life for herself.  The book opens the day the movie premieres.  How weird would that be to be so well-known yet never quite famous and then to see yourself on the big screen?

What I liked most about the book was the inner struggle with Margot to accept what has happened to her and to learn how to merge who she was with who she is now.  I think Cantor does an excellent job with keeping the main storyline moving while fully developing Margot’s character.Even if you don’t care for this piece of history, this is definitely a must-read.

#FridayReads: The two best characters in book history.

Remember when I posted about the two worst characters in book history?  Well, never fear, because I’ve found the two best characters in Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus.

I could say a lot about this book.  How the summary on the inside initially caught my attention but that the book ended up being much more than that.

I could say that this cast of characters was probably the best cast I’ve read in a long time.  They were developed, interesting, lovable, and worked so fluidly together you wouldn’t think it possible that only one person came up with the whole thing.

I could say that the writing in this was stellar, and even if the story wasn’t interesting (it was) Morgenstern knows just when to cut off one storyline only to start another one just as interesting and just as eager to be read.  There are some books where you get to a point that it’s time to put the story down, live a life, and then you can pick it up again.  I couldn’t find a point where this book allowed you to live a life.  It begged to be read in it’s entirety.

But what I really want to talk about are the characters–Celia and Marco.  Two magicians who have to battle each other to the death.  So, of course, they fall in love with each other instead.

It’s been a reeeeally long time since I read an adult book that had characters so intriguing as these.  And there were times when the tension between them seeped off the page only to inhabit my very being.  And times when the love they felt for each other was so palpable it filled the air around me and was too thick for me to breathe in.

What I’ve found with adult books is that authors tend to write about whatever relationship they’re currently in.  You’ve got those that are bitterly married or bitterly divorced, and their books are fraught with adulterous spouses or a character’s lust after someone or something.  You’ve got those that are happily  married that their books end up being so predictably happy and easy to read you wonder if this person has experienced anything but cliches in their life.  You’ve got those whose relationship statuses change so frequently you have no idea where they are, and their books end up portraying their own search for someone to spend the rest of their lives with.  And then you have those who pine after their first love, teenage love, so hard that they can’t think of anything else.  This is where YA literature comes in.

It may be predictable that these two young magicians fall in love, and I thought that’s what the book would be about.  While the storyline largely centers around this relationship, I have a very hard time calling it a “love story” or even a “love storyline.”  The entire Night Circus is dependent on these two, but the depth that’s alive in their childhood, adolescence, and adulthood is moving and a bit disturbing.  They aren’t just in love with each other.  One can’t exist without the other.  Which makes battling to the death the hardest and worst possible thing that could be asked of them.

I’m not going to go on, because my paltry writing will not do justice to the book or characters.  All you should know is that you need to drop everything now and go get this book.  Just make sure you’ve got sufficient time to devote to it.