Monday, December 5, 2016

My Whole 30 Experience in November 2016

On a totally spontaneous whim, I decided to try WHOLE30 during the month of November. My cousin was going to do it and I decided to join in to support her and also kick start my own plateau. We were going to be together for a weekend in November to celebrate a family Christmas and I figured we could support each other by avoiding all the sugary deliciousness that goes along with a family gathering. Even though we live 8 hours apart, we've been able to support each other through the whole process.

When I started WHOLE30 on November 1st, I wasn't prepared. I hadn't shopped and filled my fridge with fruits and veggies and planned out my meals. So, honestly, the first few days were quite rough for me. I was drinking coffee without cream, having major sugar withdrawals, and STARVING. But, once I had time to go to the store, and plan out some meals, I did much better. But, I will say that the sugar withdrawal headaches lasted about a week. Pretty scary, huh?!? In fact, I had finally gotten through the sugar withdrawals when I had to work the election on November 8. It was a 16 hour day and I couldn't leave the center at all. So, I had to take plenty of food to get me through the day and guess what showed up....

...and they smelled Ah-Mazing! But, I didn't have a single bite and let me tell you. That was BRUTAL!

If you haven't heard of WHOLE30 you can check out the website HERE. But basically for those that may have food/dietary issues, WHOLE30 is a way to cleanse your body and see how you feel without some of the typical gut-disturbing foods in your system. WHOLE30 is also focused on changing your habits. That was the reason why I committed to it.  It was always so easy to grab something sugary to fill my stomach that I was falling down a horrible whole of sugar cravings and crashes. I knew I needed an intervention and WHOLE30 was just what I needed.

I have never done ANYTHING like this before. WHOLE30 asks that you remove dairy, legumes, grains, sugars, and alcohol from your diet for 30 days. Then reintroduce them at a schedule the book explains to watch for triggers or issues related to your health. The only thing remotely close to this that I have ever done is cut out diet soda from my diet for Lent. That worked really well for me and ever since then, I haven't been able to drink diet soda or anything with aspartame or sucralose without getting extremely sick to my stomach.

So, back to my WHOLE30 experience. I was all in. I stuck to the plan making my own mayo, searching for a dressing that didn't have sugar (so difficult). By the way, this was the only one that I found, Bolthouse Farms Classic Balsamic.  During our family Christmas, my cousin and I ate our own specially prepared food avoiding all the delicious sweets and food that appeared healthy but was prepared with butter or soy sauce or other forbidden foods.  I prepared separate meals for myself than I did for my family. I noticed the triggers I had for snacking and when I needed a snack I chose a handful of almonds or fruit or veggies or just didn't have anything at all. Not once did I have my usual go-to of cookies or candy. I kept baggies of grapes or clementines or apples on hand at all times to battle through late morning/afternoon hungry stages and traveling in the van.

The negatives:
Eating out was tough. It was hard to know exactly how food was prepared...with butter? With soy? So, I just didn't stress about it. I chose dishes that looked the least detrimental to my WHOLE30 plan and ate what I could. My usual choices were fish or grilled chicken. I still enjoyed the experience of dining out without the pile-on of calories. I also struggled a bit on Thanksgiving. We always eat at Cracker Barrel for our noon meal. I just decided I was going to enjoy the meal that I was paying for. I ate the turkey and ham even though the turkey had gravy on it. I had a couple bites of stuffing. I ate the sweet potato casserole that probably had butter and brown sugar in it. I chose baby carrots as a side even though I pretty sure they were smothered in butter. And, yes, I had the pumpkin pie. I didn't have the corn bread (which I love) and I only drank water and black coffee. I did have a few bites of other goodies later, on that day, but for the most part, I stuck to the plan.

What did I miss most during this time? Cheese, sugar, and sadly...alcohol. I missed having a glass of wine in the evening once in awhile. I stared longingly at cheese in the fridge. And, yes, like any normal human...I missed sweets. I made brownies and cookies several times over the month and I never once licked the spoon or snuck a bite of cookie dough. THAT WAS BRUTAL!

But, the great part is, I survived it. I did it (mostly). I completed the challenge and feel better because of it. I am not the same person I was on November 1st. I am 11 pounds lighter. I think differently about what I put in my stomach. I think about the worth of that food. Is this 10-second sugar pleasure worth it or can I eat a handful of grapes instead? I've noticed that dairy and grains make me feel bloated and foggy. So, I'll definitely be thinking twice before having them. I haven't really had too much sugar yet to notice any effects.

The only thing I didn't add into this WHOLE30 challenge was working out. Did I exercise? Yes, a few times, but definitely not regularly and didn't push myself at all. I felt I could only focus my energy on one thing and that was my eating. So, now I am hoping to add in the exercise component. Will I continue with WHOLE30 into December? Not really. I'll think more carefully about my food choices. When I can, I'll eat fruit, veggies and meat and avoid the others...especially when I am home alone and fixing meals for myself. But, the rest of the time, I want to eat with my family and share the experience of cooking a meal for them that may have pasta or grains or dairy and not worry about it. During this Christmas season, if I want a cookie or a Starbucks White Chocolate Peppermint Mocha....I'll order one. But then make sure I eat better the rest of the day. It's all about moderation and making better choices and WHOLE30 has helped me become more aware of that. I also like the idea of 3 bites. If you want something like ice cream, or a dessert...just taking 3 bites is enough to give you the enjoyment of eating something sweet but not overwhelming you with sugar. In fact, I did this just the other day. I shared creme brulee and had 3 bites. It was so hard not to snarf down the whole thing because it was so good, but the 3 bites were enough to give me the enjoyment of having a delicious dessert without stuffing me and making me miserable.

Would I do WHOLE30 again?
Sure....just not during a holiday month! LOL! But, I think anytime we can take a step back and look at our health and make some changes it is a good idea.

What saved me during the WHOLE30?
LaCroix. When I felt like I needed something special to drink besides water or lemon water, I grabbed a LaCroix.

Larabars. Not all of them are WHOLE30 compliant, but a great number of them are. These were great for when I was subbing or traveling. My favorites were the Lemon Bar, Blueberry Muffin, Pumpkin Pie and Cherry Pie. Anything with peanuts or chocolate are not allowed on WHOLE30. My local Hy-Vee sells the Larabars individually so you don't have to commit to a whole box which is nice.

Hardboiled eggs. I kept them in the fridge at all times. They were an easy/quick snack.

Good Foods Guacamole. I found this at both Hy-Vee and Target. No sugar or other forbidden ingredients and was great to add on top of eggs for flavor or to dip carrots and celery into. There is even one that has pineapple in it that was quite good.

If you choose to start WHOLE30, I highly recommend these two books. IT STARTS WITH FOOD is best for understanding the philosophy of WHOLE30 and what to expect while you are on it. The THE WHOLE 30 gives you a much simpler overview and is full of awesome recipes. THE WHOLE 30 COOKBOOK comes out tomorrow and even more recipes to help you through the 30 days.

My favorite recipes while on WHOLE30 included:

This homemade mayo - Make it exactly like it says.

Whole 30 Chicken Chowder

Chicken Chowder from THE WHOLE 30

Tuna Boats (adapted onto greens rather than on endive) from THE WHOLE 30

I also adapted a PF Chang Lettuce Wrap to be Whole 30 compliant.

To purchase the books I mentioned above, click the photos below:

I would love to hear about your Whole 30 experiences and if you have any great recipes or tips.  I have created a Pinterest Board with any awesome ideas and finds related to Whole 30 that you are welcome to follow, HERE.  Just be aware that just because it "says" it is Whole 30 Compliant, it isn't necessarily. Read the ingredients list yourself to be sure.

This Whole 30 experience is all my own. I highly recommend you consult your physician before taking on an extreme plan that cuts out certain nutrients from your diet, especially if you are diabetic. If you choose to purchase the books through the above links, I may receive a small commission without you having to pay a cent more for your purchase. Thanks for supporting 

Friday, December 2, 2016

Children's Book Reviews: How the Grandmas and Grandpas Saved Christmas Book II and Book III By Richard J. Gausselin

Book II

By: Richard J. Gausselin

Published: November 14, 2015

Publisher: Outskirts Press


Santa has returned to the North Pole after another successful Christmas Eve trip around the world delivering gifts to all the boys and girls. He couldn't have done it all without the help of his trusty elves and the Grandmas and Grandpas that fly in to help Santa get all the toys made.  He has a saying that is important to him "Toys are to be made with hands and heart" and had to get the Grandmas and Grandpas to help him meet the needs of all the boys and girls in his first story. See my review, HERE.

In Book II, the elves and Santa realize kids want more electronic gadgets and gizmos and Santa's workshop is going to need "THEM" or what Santa calls Thoughtless, Heartless, Emotionless Machines. He hates to admit it, but there is no way the elves can produce electronic gadgets the kids want without machines. So, he and the elves take off to Argentina for a machine show to purchase the machines. After returning, Santa runs into some serious trouble and calls in the Grandmas and Grandpas, hoping they can save Christmas yet again!

Much like Book I, this is a book with short chapters and one you could read over a couple of nights with your child. The illustrations are excellent and give kids a lot to look at. The story also has some grown-up humor to keep the parents entertained as well.

This story has a wonderful lesson on helping others, working together as a team and that sometimes change is okay. This is a story to get kids excited about the magic of Santa and Christmas Eve.

Book III

By: Richard J. Gausselin

Published: June 2, 2016

Publisher: Xlibris


In the 3rd edition of Gausselin's children's Christmas series, a natural tragedy strikes the North Pole and Santa doesn't think there is any way for them to recover and still make the toys on time for Christmas Eve. But, thankfully the Grandmas and the Grandpas are willing and able to make the trip North to help Santa and the elves bring Christmas to all the children around the world.

Just like in the other books, there is a lesson for the readers, this time focusing on overcoming tragedy and eating healthy. Of course, there is the ongoing lesson of coming together as a team to help each other.

This story is a bit longer than the other two books and again is one read to younger children over a few nights or one for older children to read to themselves. The colorful and detailed illustrations will keep kids interested and get them excited about what is happening at the North Pole.

Gausselin has created a fun series of books for families to share with their children over Christmas....especially for grandparents to share with their grandchildren.  

Richard J. Gausselin’s books are inspired by his childhood Christmases of the 1940s and ’50s when toys were “made with hands and hearts.” As a father of six and grandfather to thirteen, he has enjoyed reading ’TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS on Christmas Eve for over fifty years. He hopes adults and children will enjoy HOW THE GRANDMAS AND GRANDPAS SAVED CHRISTMAS (Books I, II, and III) and make them part of their holiday tradition. For more on his books, visit his website, HERE

To purchase a copy of HOW THE GRANDMAS AND GRANDPAS SAVED CHRISTMAS Book I, Book II, and Book III, click the photos below:

I will be linking up this review with Booking Mama and other bloggers on her regular Saturday feature, Kid Konnection. Click HERE to see posts related to children's and YA books. 

Thanks to the author for sending copies of his books for the purpose of this review. This review is my honest opinion. If you choose to purchase these books through the above links, I may receive a small commission without you having to pay a cent more for your purchase. Thanks for supporting 

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Books that Came in November 2016

I have received so much great advice in relation to my reading life. From bloggers to friends to business experts the tips and suggestions have truly been helpful. I appreciate every piece of it and am really taking them all to heart. I've implemented some changes already. But with the holiday season, I'm truly going to not stress during the month of December and focus my new plan in 2017. I'm determined to not get so far behind and tackle that ever-growing to-read list!

I've got a lot of books this month from authors I've already read and loved. So, that should mean I have some awesome reading ahead!

December is the month of giving and I plan to give several books as gifts this year. I'm also getting back to a regular book club which gets me excited about reading again. Just talking about books and being around fellow readers makes me want to read.

There are some really neat books for adults and kids that I'll be sharing this month. Many of them would make great gifts. I hope you will find a way to get books in the hands of at least one of your gift recipients this holiday season!

If you would like to purchase any of these books, 
clicking on the photo of the book will take you directly to Amazon.  
If you choose to purchase, I will receive a small commission 
without you having to pay any more for your purchase.  
I appreciate your support of reviews. 

I'll be linking up with The Deliberate Reader 
to share our stacks of books for November
To see her Stack of Books 
as well as other bloggers' Book Stacks, click HERE.


By: Alexandra Burt
Published: February 7, 2017
Publisher: Berkley
Format: Paperback

I read Burt's debut novel REMEMBERING MIA and loved it. See my review, HERE. So, I was thrilled to get a copy of her sophomore novel. 

What if you were the worst crime your mother ever committed? 
Dahlia Waller's childhood memories consist of stuffy cars, seedy motels, and a rootless existence traveling the country with her eccentric mother. Now grown, she desperately wants to distance herself from that life. Yet one thing is stopping her from moving forward: she has questions. 
In order to understand her past, Dahlia must go back. Back to her mother in the stifling town of Aurora, Texas. Back into the past of a woman on the brink of madness. But after she discovers three grave-like mounds on a neighboring farm, she'll learn that in her mother s world of secrets, not all questions are meant to be answered.

By: Jay Greenfield
Published: April 18, 2016
Publisher: Chickadee Prince Books
Format: Paperback

The synopsis alone sold me on this one. I am trying not to take on too many novels, but this one got my attention.

A stunning decades-spanning debut novel, about a man, forced to confront his moral culpability, the legacy of impossible loss, and the claims of his Jewish identity.

Paul Hartman, coming of age in postwar Rockaway, grows up haunted by the specter of his cousin Max, an Auschwitz survivor, and his mysterious cache of diamonds, which fund Paul’s Harvard Law education and even sparkle in his fiancĂ©e’s engagement ring. When a stranger from his past confronts him with an impossible demand, one that could destroy his law career, his marriage and his sense of self, Paul must make choices that will change his fate forever.

By: Amanda Prowse
Published: December 1, 2016
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Format: eBook

This was a choice in the Kindle First November edition. I loved the cover and the synopsis hit my heart as a mom. 

Freya Braithwaite knows she is lucky. Nineteen years of marriage to a man who still warms her soul and two beautiful teenage daughters to show for it: confident Charlotte and thoughtful Lexi. Her home is filled with love and laughter.

But when Lexi’s struggles with weight take control of her life, everything Freya once took for granted falls apart, leaving the whole family with a sense of helplessness that can only be confronted with understanding, unity and, above all, love.

In this compelling and heart-wrenching new work by bestselling author Amanda Prowse, one ordinary family tackles unexpected difficulties and discovers that love can find its way through life’s darkest moments.

By: Amanda Eyre Ward
Published: February 14, 2017
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Format: eBook

Ward's first book THE SAME SKY was my favorite book of 2015. See my review, HERE. I'm hoping to dig into this one over Christmas break!

Brilliant heart surgeon Suzette Kendall is stunned when Hyland, her husband of fifteen years, admits his yearning for a child. From the beginning, they’d decided that having children was not an option, as Suzette feared passing along the genes that landed her mother in a mental institution. But Hyland proposes a different idea: a baby via surrogate.

Suzette agrees, and what follows is a whirlwind of candidate selections, hospital visits, and Suzette’s doubts over whether she’s made the right decision. A young woman named Dorothy Muscarello is chosen as the one who will help make this family complete. For Dorrie, surrogacy (and the money that comes with it) are her opportunity to leave behind a troubled past and create a future for herself—one full of possibility. But this situation also forces all three of them—Dorrie, Suzette, and Hyland—to face a devastating uncertainty that will reverberate in the years to come.

Beautifully shifting between perspectives, THE NEARNESS OF YOU deftly explores the connections we form, the families we create, and the love we hold most dear.

By: Kimberly Stuart
Published: October 31, 2016
Publisher: Blom Books
Format: eBook

Stuart is an Iowa author and one I've been wanting to read for awhile. In fact, I have her books on my Kindle just waiting to be read. Since she has a new book to promote, I decided now would be a great time. I've followed her blog for quite awhile and love her writing.

Heidi Elliott is busy, busy, busy. 

Now that she and Jake are parents of a kindergartner, Heidi has a to-do list a mile long. Like deep clean the kitchen cabinets. Volunteer in Nora’s classroom. Create sparkly USA ninja warrior Halloween costumes for two. Repaint several pieces of household furniture. Meddle in her best friends’ relationships. 

Grieve her most recent failed pregnancy. 

Find her misplaced hope. 

Jake wants to adopt. Nora plans to pray a sibling into existence. And Heidi keeps moving to avoid thinking about anything other than paint colors. 

Thoughtlessness, of course, leads to mistakes and misunderstandings, and in the space of a month, Heidi manages to lose control of a group of kindergartners, make a terrible impression on the social worker, and damage—possibly irreparably—her closest friendships. 

And then she remembers. She doesn’t have to go it alone. Sometimes we really are better together. 

By: Lynne Branard
Published: January 10, 2017
Publisher: Berkley
Format: eBook

I loved Branard's book THE ART OF ARRANGING FLOWERS. See my review, HERE.  This one definitely sounds like joyful read!

Driving from North Carolina to New Mexico with her three-legged dog, a strange man's ashes, and a waitress named Blossom riding shotgun isn't exactly what Alissa Wells ever wanted to be doing. But it's exactly what she needs... 

It all starts when Alissa impulsively puts a bid on an abandoned storage unit, only to become the proud new owner of Roger Hart s remains. Two weeks later, she jumps in her car and heads west, thinking that returning the ashes of a dead man might be the first step on her way to a new life. 
She isn't wrong. 

Especially when Blossom, who just graduated from high school, hitches a ride with her to Texas and Alissa has to get used to letting someone else take the wheel. Posting about their road trip on Facebook, complete with photos of Roger at every stop, Blossom opens Alissa s eyes to the road in front of her and to how sometimes the best things in life are the ones you never see coming 

By: Jewell Parker Rhodes
Published: July 12, 2016
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Format: Hardcover

I won this through but found out after I had purchased a copy through our daughter's Scholastic order. So, I will have one to giveaway soon! I previously read the author's novel about Hurricane Katrina, NINTH WARD and thought it was a great way to share the story of such devastation for the YA reader. See my review, HERE. This one about 9/11 sounds just as good.

When her fifth-grade teacher hints that a series of lessons about home and community will culminate with one big answer about two tall towers once visible outside their classroom window, Deja can't help but feel confused. She sets off on a journey of discovery, with new friends Ben and Sabeen by her side. But just as she gets closer to answering big questions about who she is, what America means, and how communities can grow (and heal), she uncovers new questions, too. Like, why does Pop get so angry when she brings up anything about the towers?

Award-winning author Jewell Parker Rhodes tells a powerful story about young people who weren't alive to witness this defining moment in history, but begin to realize how much it colors their every day.

By: George Wells
Published: July 5, 2016
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Format: Paperback

I've already reviewed this book, HERE. It's a sweet story with a lesson for all perfect for reading next to the twinkling Christmas tree. 

The author's thoughts on the book: Pee Wee is based on a song I had written in 1972. Recently, I came across a file with a copy of the sheet music in it, and the thought came to mind. Hey, this just might become a good Children's book. I wanted the story to have a good moral to it. That is: If you have a goal in life, do not be discouraged, keep believing in yourself and don't surrender that dream. Yes, there will be roadblocks and setbacks, but keep moving toward your goal. Pee Wee, had an obstacle to overcome. He was much smaller than the other Christmas trees and was often overlooked. Yet, he got his opportunity to literally shine. Pee Wee was the perfect match for one family, proving that large or small there is room for us all. It is my hope that everyone finds a bit of hope and encouragement in these words.

By: T.J. Resler 
Published: October 25, 2016
Publisher: National Geographic Children's Books
Format: Hardcover

I love these kinds of children's books and National Geographic always does a superb job creating books to get kids excited about.

Ever wanted to take apart the microwave to see how it works? Crack open your computer and peek inside? Intrigued by how things work? So are we! That's why we're dissecting all kinds of things from rubber erasers to tractor beams! Read along as National Geographic Kids unplugs, unravels, and reveals how things do what they do. Complete with "Tales from the Lab," true stories, biographies of real scientists and engineers, exciting diagrams and illustrations, accessible explanations, trivia, and fun features, this cool book explains it all! 

Atom Smashing, Food Chemistry, Animals, Space, and More!
By: National Geographic Kids
Published: October 11, 2016
Publisher: National Geographic Children's Books
Format: Hardcover

Another exciting National Geographic book to get kids excited about science. I'll be gifting this to our daughter's science teacher when I'm done with it. It'll be great for his classroom!

Food chemistry, atom crashing, wave power, food chemistry, and robots! These are just a few of the topics covered in this fantastic new science encyclopedia, which presents a comprehensive overview of physical and life sciences from A to Z. Super smart and kid-friendly, it’s packed with full-color photographs, weird but true facts, amazing statistics, do-it-yourself experiments, plus profiles of scientists and National Geographic's explorers who rock the world of science. Keep up with the changes happening all around us with this stellar science reference book.


A Middle School Story
By: James Patterson
Published: December 9, 2013 - January 26, 2015
Publisher: jimmy patterson
Format: Paperback

I purchased these for my great-niece who told me she likes funny books and had just read the book MIDDLE SCHOOL THE WORST YEARS OF MY LIFE. I thought these would be perfect for her.

I FUNNY: Jamie Grimm is a middle schooler on a mission: he wants to become the world's greatest standup comedian--even if he doesn't have a lot to laugh about these days. He's new in town and stuck living with his aunt, uncle, and their evil son Stevie, a bully who doesn't let Jamie's wheelchair stop him from messing with Jamie as much as possible. But Jamie doesn't let his situation get him down. When his Uncle Frankie mentions a contest called The Planet's Funniest Kid Comic, Jamie knows he has to enter. But are the judges only rewarding him out of pity because of his wheelchair, like Stevie suggests? Will Jamie ever share the secret of his troubled past instead of hiding behind his comedy act?

I EVEN FUNNIER: Middle schooler Jamie Grimm has big dreams of being the best stand-up comic in the world – and he won't let the fact that he's in a wheelchair get in his way.

After winning the New York state finals in the Planet's Funniest Kid Comic Contest, Jamie's off to Boston to compete in the national semi-finals. But when one of his best buddies runs into trouble at school and a sudden family health scare rears its head, Jamie has to put his comedic ambitions on hold and stand by the people he cares about.

Can Jamie pass up the big competition for the sake of his friends and family? 

I TOTALLY FUNNIEST: Jamie Grimm is back and better than ever in the third episode of James Patterson's bestselling I FUNNY series. Finding himself one step closer to his dream of being the best kid comic in the world, Jamie faces his biggest challenge yet.

After scoring big on national TV in the semifinals contest, everyone back home is jumping on the Jamie Grimm bandwagon, and all the attention might be going to his head. Not only are his friendships starting to suffer, but the pressure of coming up with his best material ever for the ultimate standup act to snag the final win in Hollywood is pushing Jamie to the brink. Suddenly, life isn't looking very funny anymore. Can Jamie take the grand prize without pushing away his fans, friends, and family? 

Mutts, Mares, and Laughing Dinosaurs
By: Gary Paulsen
Published: September 27, 2016
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Format: Paperback

That same great-niece also loves animals and I thought this one sounded really neat. I hope she likes it.

The Newbery Honor–winning author of HATCHET and DOGSONG shares surprising true stories about his relationship with animals, highlighting their compassion, intellect, intuition, and sense of adventure.

Gary Paulsen is an adventurer who competed in two Iditarods, survived the Minnesota wilderness, and climbed the Bighorns. None of this would have been possible without his truest companion: his animals. Sled dogs rescued him in Alaska, a sickened poodle guarded his well-being, and a horse led him across a desert. Through his interactions with dogs, horses, birds, and more, Gary has been struck with the belief that animals know more than we may fathom.

His understanding and admiration of animals is well known, and in THIS SIDE OF WILD, which has taken a lifetime to write, he proves the ways in which they have taught him to be a better person.

By: Mike Lupica
Published; September 13, 2016
Publisher: Philomel Books
Format: Hardcover

My son needs to read books for his English class and do book talks over them. Since this is a new one from Lupica, I thought he might be interested in it.

When the Brighton Bears suit up on game day, 12-year-old Tommy Gallagher is the toughest kid on the football field. And the bravest. After all, his father Patrick is a Boston firefighter--one of Boston's bravest. Tommy's dad taught him everything he knows about football--and life.

Yet even Tommy isn't strong enough for what happens when the sirens ring and, for the first time, they're racing away from the fire. "First man in; last man out" had always been his dad's motto . . . yet he never said anything about leaving in an ambulance. Now Tommy's biggest battle has nothing to do with a football field.

Set in New England, home of the Patriots' football dynasty, Mike Lupica shows off his trademark knack for spinning a tale that's equal parts sports action and heart. LAST MAN OUT is a thoughtful tribute to the bravery of firefighters and the need we all have to live up to the level of our heroes.

By: Louise Erdich
Published: October 2, 2012
Publisher: Harper
Format: eBook

My nephew told me recently that this was one of the best books he has read ever. He is a high school English teacher in a Native American reservation school. This book has been on my to read list for awhile anyway and now I know I must read it. It has been on the Kindle Deal list this month, but as always that price could change at any time.

One Sunday in the spring of 1988, a woman living on a reservation in North Dakota is attacked. The details of the crime are slow to surface as Geraldine Coutts is traumatized and reluctant to relive or reveal what happened, either to the police or to her husband, Bazil, and thirteen-year-old son, Joe. In one day, Joe's life is irrevocably transformed. He tries to heal his mother, but she will not leave her bed and slips into an abyss of solitude. Increasingly alone, Joe finds himself thrust prematurely into an adult world for which he is ill prepared.

While his father, who is a tribal judge, endeavors to wrest justice from a situation that defies his efforts, Joe becomes frustrated with the official investigation and sets out with his trusted friends, Cappy, Zack, and Angus, to get some answers of his own. Their quest takes them first to the Round House, a sacred space and place of worship for the Ojibwe. And this is only the beginning.

How Learning to Say Thank You Changed My Life
By: John Kralik
Published: December 27, 2011
Publisher: Hachette Books
Format: eBook

This was part of an Audible deal and I felt like giving it a shot. I've listened a few times, but it hasn't grabbed me quite yet. The author is still explaining what got him into the negative state that he was in, so I'm hoping once he gets to the gratitude part, I'll be more interested.

One recent December, at age 53, John Kralik found his life at a terrible, frightening low: his small law firm was failing; he was struggling through a painful second divorce; he had grown distant from his two older children and was afraid he might lose contact with his young daughter; he was living in a tiny apartment where he froze in the winter and baked in the summer; he was 40 pounds overweight; his girlfriend had just broken up with him; and overall, his dearest life dreams--including hopes of upholding idealistic legal principles and of becoming a judge--seemed to have slipped beyond his reach.

Then, during a desperate walk in the hills on New Year's Day, John was struck by the belief that his life might become at least tolerable if, instead of focusing on what he didn't have, he could find some way to be grateful for what he had.

Inspired by a beautiful, simple note his ex-girlfriend had sent to thank him for his Christmas gift, John imagined that he might find a way to feel grateful by writing thank-you notes. To keep himself going, he set himself a goal--come what may--of writing 365 thank-you notes in the coming year.

One by one, day after day, he began to handwrite thank yous--for gifts or kindnesses he'd received from loved ones and coworkers, from past business associates and current foes, from college friends and doctors and store clerks and handymen and neighbors, and anyone, really, absolutely anyone, who'd done him a good turn, however large or small. Immediately after he'd sent his very first notes, significant and surprising benefits began to come John's way--from financial gain to true friendship, from weight loss to inner peace. While John wrote his notes, the economy collapsed, the bank across the street from his office failed, but thank-you note by thank-you note, John's whole life turned around.

By: Susan E. Fletcher
Published: August 25, 2015
Publisher: Chicken House
Format: Paperback

I purchased this at our school's Scholastic Book Fair for our daughter. I LOVE Les Miserable and haven't shared it with her yet. But, this story caught my attention as a way to introduce her to the story. 

As a young child Eponine never knew kindness, except once from her family's kitchen slave, Cosette. When at sixteen the girls' paths cross again and their circumstances are reversed, Eponine must decide what that friendship is worth, even though they've both fallen for the same boy. In the end, Eponine will sacrifice everything to keep true love alive.

By: Luanne Rice
Published: Point
Publisher: February 23, 2016
Format: Paperback

I also purchased this at the Scholastic Book Fair. I've been seeing this book all over and wanted to check it out for myself.

When Ruth Ann (Roo) McCabe responds to a text message while she’s driving, her life as she knows it ends. The car flips and Roo winds up in a hospital bed, paralyzed. Silent. Everyone thinks she’s in a coma, but Roo has locked-in syndrome—she can see and hear and understand everything around her, but no one knows it. She’s trapped inside her own body, screaming to be heard.

Mathilda (Tilly) is Roo’s sister and best friend. She was the one who texted Roo and inadvertently caused the accident. Now, Tilly must grapple with her overwhelming guilt and her growing feelings for Roo’s boyfriend, Newton—the only other person who seems to get what Tilly is going through.

But Tilly might be the only person who can solve the mystery of her sister’s condition—who can see through Roo’s silence to the truth underneath.

Somehow, through medicine or miracles, will both sisters find a way to heal?

Told from alternating perspectives, this gorgeous, unputdownable story of love, hope, and redemption marks bestselling author Luanne Rice’s dazzling entry into the world of YA.

By: Lynda Cohen Loigman
Published: March 8, 2016
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Format: eBook

I snagged this on the Cyber Monday Kindle Deals. I don't remember where I heard about this book, but it was already on my list. It sounds like a perfect book to get lost in.

Brooklyn, 1947: in the midst of a blizzard, in a two-family brownstone, two babies are born minutes apart to two women. They are sisters by marriage with an impenetrable bond forged before and during that dramatic night; but as the years progress, small cracks start to appear and their once deep friendship begins to unravel. No one knows why, and no one can stop it. One misguided choice; one moment of tragedy. Heartbreak wars with happiness and almost but not quite wins.

Books I Received as a Gift

The 30-Day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom
By: Melissa Hartwig, Dallas Hartwig
Published:  April 21, 2015
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Format: Hardcover

My cousin and I have been doing the Whole30 plan during the month of November and she gifted me this book. If you are interested in my experience, check out the blog next week where I'll share my results and how I survived the last 30 days!

Melissa and Dallas Hartwig’s critically-acclaimed Whole30 program has helped hundreds of thousands of people transform how they think about their food, bodies, and lives. Their approach leads to effortless weight loss and better health—along with stunning improvements in sleep quality, energy levels, mood, and self-esteem. Their first book, the New York Times best-selling It Starts With Food, explained the science behind their life-changing program. Now they bring you The Whole30, a stand-alone, step-by-step plan to break unhealthy habits, reduce cravings, improve digestion, and strengthen your immune system. THE WHOLE30 features more than 100 chef-developed recipes, like Chimichurri Beef Kabobs and Halibut with Citrus Ginger Glaze, designed to build your confidence in the kitchen and inspire your taste buds. The book also includes real-life success stories, community resources, and an extensive FAQ to give you the support you need on your journey to “food freedom.

As you are considering your gift giving this year, ask yourself if you could give a book. If you have a local, independent bookstore, please support them. In fact, anytime you can support a small, local business for your gift purchasing, I hope you do. Obviously, online shopping is easier, mostly hassle free, and saves time and money, so feel free to use the above links as well. 

Thanks for sharing in my reading enjoyment this year and as always, let me know if you choose to read any of these great books.  Happy reading!