Top 15 Reads of 2020

Out of the more than 100 books I read this year, here are the ones I enjoyed the most:

Juvenile and Young Adult Fiction:

Eloise by Kay Thompson
From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

Adult Fiction:

The Theban Plays by Sophocles
Jane of Austin by Hillary Manton Lodge


Think Like a Monk by Jay Shetty
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi
More Myself by Alicia Keys
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
Seriously…I’m Kidding by Ellen Degeneres
Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow
Mobituaries by Mo Rocca

Honorable Mention:

Nancy Drew Mysteries: Book 1-7 by Carolyn Keene – audiobook narration by Laura Linney

Favorite Read of 2020:

a race


    So You Want to Talk About Race


                  Ijeoma Oluo


Book Review: Time Management Ninja

timeTitle: Time Managment Ninja
Author: Craig Jarrow
Genre: Nonfiction/Self-help
Publisher: Mango
Publication Date: September 15, 2019
Pages: 236
Format Read: Audiobook
Standalone or series: Standalone
Where I got the book: Library Hoopla app
Date finished reading: January 30, 2020

Goodreads Description: Time management made simple and easy

Fans of The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy, Eat That Frog by Brian Tracy, and 12 Week Year by Brian P. Moran and Michael Lennington will love Time Management Shouldn’t Take Time.

More time, stress relief, and relaxation: You want more time in your life. Time to spend with family, to achieve big goals, and to simply enjoy life. Yet, the world we live in is busier and changing faster than ever before. More things competing for your time, and more distractions interrupting your day.

Simple and practical time management: You have tried to manage your time better but have found that most time management systems and tools are too complex. Or they are too unwieldy to be effective or sustainable. Time management shouldn’t be difficult, and it shouldn’t take up more of your precious time than it gives back!

Easy tools, rules, and tactics: Craig Jarrow has been there, too. However, after spending many years testing time management tactics, tools, and systems and having written hundreds of articles on productivity, goals, and organization, Jarrow discovered a simple truth. Time management should be easy.

More productivity and less stress: It is only when you simplify your approach that you can rise above the busyness and chaos of our fast-paced society. Time Management Shouldn’t Take Time offers “21 Rules” that will show you an easier and more effective way to take control of your time and manage your busy life. If you follow these simple principles, you will get more done with less effort. You will have less stress and more time to do the things you want to do.

No-stress, uncomplicated time management that works

My Review: At the start of every year, I love bingeing on self-help audiobooks, especially ones that discuss organization and time management. I feel it puts me in a good frame of mind to tackle my yearly goals and have a successful year. I’ve already listened to The 5 Love Languages and Spark Joy this year.

Here are the 21 Tips that the author suggests for better time management:

  • Tip 1: Take time to make time. Take the time to create a schedule. This will help you manage your time and prioritize.
  • Tip 2: Have these four items. These items can be physical or digital versions. You can combine these items but don’t have more than one of each.
    • To-do list
    • Notebook
    • Calendar
    • Address book
  • Tip 3: To-do list = best friend. Take it everywhere.
  • Tip 4: Make appointments with yourself and your work.
  • Tip 5: Write things down now so you don’t forget about it later.
  • Tip 6: Have a plan then prepare.
  • Tip 7: Get up earlier.
  • Tip 8: Complete tasks fully and don’t put off tasks. 
  • Tip 9: Put things away right away, so you always know where items are.
  • Tip 10: ABC method of cleaning. Clean regularly to avoid big time-consuming messes.
  • Tip 11: Complete one task a day that you keep putting off.
  • Tip 12: Never confuse busy with productive. Stay focused on your prioritized tasks.
  • Tip 13: You can’t finish if you don’t start.
  • Tip 14: You are stronger than you think. Believe that you can accomplish what you want to accomplish.
  • Tip 15: You are what you do today and everyday.
  • Tip 16: Use your tech for good not for evil. The average person checks their phone over 150 times a day.
  • Tip 17: Make choices or life will make them for you. Make timely decisions.
  • Tip 18: Passion makes you more productive.
  • Tip 19: Let it be. You can’t do it all.
  • Tip 20: Don’t create your own life friction. This can happen through forgetfulness or procrastination.
  • Tip 21: Live your life or you won’t have one. Your time is yours. Make sure you use time to do what you want to do.

This is a great beginner’s guideline to time management. I try very hard to utilize time management skills in both my work life and my home life. I don’t know how I would exist without my notebook/daily to-do list. I have a different method in relation to the to-do list than the author discusses. The author stresses that one should just have a single to-do list. I disagree with that. I feel very strongly about keeping my work and home life separate. I have a work to-do list that I leave at the office, and a personal/home life to-do list that I have with me everywhere (Tip 3). The author also is highly against disposing of the previous day’s to-do list, but I am not. I believe each day should start fresh. I don’t want a written reminder of the things I did not accomplish the day before. I normally just move those tasks to a day in the future.

Realistically, I never accomplish everything I want to accomplish. Sometimes I realize that my daily expectations are just too high – like the author mentioned. However, for the most part, to-do lists and time management do not allow for the flexibility of life when things just come up – and they often do. The author talks about it being okay to just say “no” when people ask things of you that you just don’t have time for, but that is not necessarily how life works or relationships for that matter. I am fortunate to be married to a man who loves to cook. This opens up time in my evenings for me to accomplish other tasks, but if he calls me and says that a work meeting popped up so he won’t be home in time to prepare dinner, I need to arrange my time to take care of that task, whether I planned for it or not. Sometimes things just pop up.

Here is my own personal helpful tip that goes along with the author’s Tips 1, 6 & 9. At the end of every night, I allow myself 5-10 minutes to put things away that may have been left out (Tip 9) and to prepare for the next day (Tips 1 & 6). This preparation is making sure that my work bag is packed with everything I need and my to do list is ready for the next day. This makes the beginning of my day start strong with a clear vision of what needs to happen, because as much as Tip 7 sounds good in theory, I doubt I will ever accomplish that, nor am I sure I want to. I really like my sleep time.

One area that the author stresses a lot throughout the book that I personally struggle with is using technology to solely help accomplish daily tasks and goals. I still spend more time browsing news topics or looking at Facebook, etc. than I would like. These are hard habits to kick.

How do you feel about time management? Do you have any time management tips of your own that you would like to share?

One idea that I am personally struggling with lately is that if I live by my lists and plan out all my time, is that truly living life? When does having this kind of structure become too confining? What do you think?

My Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ ½

“Live in the present. Note the past. Plan for the future.”

Book Review: The 5 Love Languages

123456Title: The 5 Love Languages
Author: Gary Chapman
Genre: Nonfiction Self-Help
Publisher: Northfield Publishing
Publication Date: January 1, 1990
Pages: 204 pages
Format Read: Audiobook
Standalone or series: Standalone
Where I got the book: Library Libby app
Date finished reading: January 9, 2020

Goodreads Description: Couples who understand each other’s love language hold a priceless advantage in the quest for love that lasts a lifetime — they know how to effectively and consistently make each other feel truly and deeply loved. That gift never fades away.

My Review: After years of counseling couples and talking with people about their relationships (both good relationships and bad relationships), the author, Gary Chapman, derived a concept on how to build strong relationships and marriages. This concept is the understanding of what he deems the five love languages. The five love languages are:

  1. Words of Affirmation
  2. Quality Time
  3. Receiving Gifts
  4. Acts of Service
  5. Physical Touch

I was curious about this book, because even though it is 30 years old, I still keep hearing about it on a regular basis. Plus, I am always looking for books that can help me strengthen my personal relationships.

The first step in utilizing this concept is understanding your own love languages. I admit that the more examples I read of each of the love languages the more I believed my love language was a bit of everything, so taking the free online quiz was really helpful. Apparently “Words of Affirmation” is my love language and then all the rest are pretty closely tied. A big tip I got out of this book is that we often treat others through our own love language and not their love language. Since I like to feel appreciated through complimentary words, I may speak those positive words and compliment my partner all the time and be frustrated when I don’t receive those words. Turns out my partner’s love language may not be the same as mine, so those words hold a different meaning for my partner than they do for me.

The second step and one that isn’t really addressed too much in the book is convincing your partner to also take the quiz. Yes, I could guess what my partner’s love language is, but I could be wrong. Taking the quiz prevents that error and will give further insight. It just may not be that easy to convince your partner to take the time to do that.

The third step is realizing what you want in a relationship based on your love language(s), and then also treating your partner the way that he/she wants to be treated based on his/her love language(s). Gary Chapman covers many case studies related to all the different love languages that can help those wanting to do things based on their partner’s love language(s). He helps us think a bit outside the box, when our partner may not be helpful in providing examples or expectations. However, if this is a concept that you really want to work on, it should be a team effort – you and your partner should both be investing time to meet each other needs. If you are finding it difficult to do that even once you know each other’s love language(s), that is when it might be useful to accept some outside help. Marriage/relationship counseling can be very useful.

Gary Chapman made a comment in the book that really moved me into action with this concept when he stated that there are “tremendous benefits to meeting the emotional needs of your spouse”.  If you listen to podcasts, the podcast By the Book discussed this book. They decided to live by this book for two weeks with their spouses and discovered many realizations regarding their own behavior and their own needs as well as their spouses. Jolenta made a comment on this podcast episode that this book was about getting over insecurities and putting focus on each other. I like that this book generates revelations, such as this one, to its readers and am not surprised that it continues to be a well-respected book and a well-used method in strengthening relationships.

My Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ 

Reading Stephen King – September 2019

One of my reading goals for 2019 is to become more familiar with works by different authors by featuring a different author every month (see A Focus on Authors Reading Challenge). I thought the best way to start my Fall reading is with some Stephen King books. I have only ever read his novella, Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption, which was fantastic. I was looking forward to joining the millions of readers that love Stephen King.

0671024256.01.LZZZZZZZTitle: On Writing
Author: Stephen King
Genre: Memoir, Writing
Publisher: Scribner
Publication Date: 2000
Pages: 288
Format Read: Audiobook & Book
Standalone or series: Standalone
Where I got the book: Library Libby app & Library book sale
Date finished reading:  September 6, 2019

Goodreads Description: “Long live the King,” hailed “Entertainment Weekly” upon the publication of Stephen King’s “On Writing.” Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer’s craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have. King’s advice is grounded in his vivid memories from childhood through his emergence as a writer, from his struggling early career to his widely reported, near-fatal accident in 1999 — and how the inextricable link between writing and living spurred his recovery. Brilliantly structured, friendly and inspiring, “On Writing” will empower and entertain everyone who reads it — fans, writers, and anyone who loves a great story well told.

My Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ½

christineTitle: Christine
Author: Stephen King
Genre: Horror
Publisher: Viking
Publication Date: April 29, 1983
Pages: 503
Format Read: Audiobook
Standalone or series: Standalone
Where I got the book: Library Libby app
Date finished reading: September 14, 2019

Goodreads Description: Just Another Lovers’ Triangle, Right?

It was love at first sight. From the moment seventeen-year-old Arnie Cunningham saw Christine, he knew he would do anything to possess her.

Arnie’s best friend, Dennis, distrusts her—immediately.

Arnie’s teen-queen girlfriend, Leigh, fears her the moment she senses her power.

Arnie’s parents, teachers, and enemies soon learn what happens when you cross her.

Because Christine is no lady. She is Stephen King’s ultimate, blackly evil vehicle of terror…

My Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ½

apt pupilTitle: Apt Pupil 
Author: Stephen King
Genre: Horror
Publisher: Viking Press
Publication Date: 1982
Pages: 179
Format Read: Ebook
Standalone or series: Part of Different Seasons short story collection
Where I got the book: Amazon Kindle
Date finished reading: September 15, 2019

Goodreads Description: Todd Bowden is an apt pupil. Good grades, good family, a paper route. But he is about to meet a different kind of teacher: Mr. Dussander. Todd knows all about Dussander’s dark past. The torture. The death. The decades-old manhunt Dussander has escaped to this day. Yet Todd doesn’t want to turn him in. Todd wants to know more. Much more. He is about to learn the real meaning of power—and the seductive lure of evil.

My Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ 

38926465._SY475_Title: The Body
Author: Stephen King
Genre: Horror
Publisher: Viking Press
Publication Date: 1982
Pages: 80
Format Read: Ebook/Audiobook
Standalone or series: Part of Different Seasons short story collection
Where I got the book: Amazon Kindle
Date finished reading: September 21, 2019

Goodreads Description: It’s 1960 in the fictional town of Castle Rock, Maine. Ray Brower, a boy from a nearby town, has disappeared, and twelve-year-old Gordie Lachance and his three friends set out on a quest to find his body along the railroad tracks. During the course of their journey, Gordie, Chris Chambers, Teddy Duchamp, and Vern Tessio come to terms with death and the harsh truths of growing up in a small factory town that doesn’t offer much in the way of a future.

My Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ ½

shiningTitle: The Shining 
Author: Stephen King
Genre: Horror
Publisher: Doubleday
Publication Date: January 28, 1977
Pages: 659
Format Read: Ebook
Standalone or series: Series Book #1
Where I got the book: Amazon Kindle
Date finished reading: September 30, 2019

Goodreads Description: Jack Torrance’s new job at the Overlook Hotel is the perfect chance for a fresh start. As the off-season caretaker at the atmospheric old hotel, he’ll have plenty of time to spend reconnecting with his family and working on his writing. But as the harsh winter weather sets in, the idyllic location feels ever more remote…and more sinister. And the only one to notice the strange and terrible forces gathering around the Overlook is Danny Torrance, a uniquely gifted five-year-old.

My Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

My Review: As an introduction to Stephen King, I think this month went really well. I do not read many horror novels, so I was nervous on how I would handle reading Stephen King, hence why I started with his nonfiction memoir On Writing. However, much to my surprise I really enjoyed reading Stephen King from his memoir to his short stories to his full length novels.

First, let me say that his memoir is fantastic and should be read even if you are not a Stephen King fan. I am not just saying that because he mentions DePere, Wisconsin, a town I lived in for 3 1/2 years. Half of this book is a memoir about Stephen King’s life and the other half provides his writing tips and conversations he has had about writing. On Writing gives you a glimpse into King’s childhood. He also discusses his addiction to alcohol and his recovery after being struck by a car. That event in his life occurred during the writing of this book and almost killed him. For the most part, I absolutely loved this book. I guess the only thing that started to make me a bit uncomfortable was how many times King mentions the full name of the individual who was driving the car that struck him. Frankly, that individual was not sufficiently punished by the judicial system, and so maybe King mentions him repeatedly in his book out of the bitterness of this situation, which is justified, but still made me feel uncomfortable.

After reading, On Writing, I was ready to dive into his works of fiction. I listened to Christine on audiobook. When I was on my lunch break, I would read his short story from the Different Seasons collection called Apt Pupil. I actually thought this was a good pairing, because it helped me establish why I loved Christine but did not like Apt Pupil very much. Christine was an absolute thrill ride (pun maybe intended). Apt Pupil really dragged for me. While they both had very violent scenes, I found those scenes much more tolerable in Christine than I did in Apt Pupil. The characters in Apt Pupil were just so sick and twisted. I can also say to myself that those were humans doing those acts of violence in Apt Pupil, where as in Christine much of the violence is done by a car (an object). I also really enjoyed the telling of Christine through a narrator (Dennis).

The Body was also told through a narrator, Gordy, and was a good next short story to read, as it was far less disturbing than Apt Pupil. I feel horrible writing this, but this style of literature made a much better movie. If you haven’t seen Stand By Me, you should. It is a great adaptation of this story. I found it a little confusion in the reading of The Body to understand if the narrator was in the past or the present. That could also be because I listened to it on audio instead of reading my physical copy. However, the experiences and conversations between the four friends, Gordy, Chris, Teddy, and Vern, as they go in search of a dead body, were wonderfully told – entertaining and at times funny.

To end my month of reading Stephen King, I finally read The Shining and no it is not like the Jack Nicholson movie (though I admit I love the movie too). This was a great conclusion, as I absolutely loved this book. It was my favorite for sure. It had characters I cared about, fantastical elements (a possessed murder house & people who have a special ability called the shine), and intense, scary moments that made it hard to read but at the same time made it hard to stop reading. Also, Dick Halloran, you rock my world! I can’t help but be tempted to read King’s follow-up novel called Doctor Sleep, but I am nervous that he changes the characters enough (especially Danny) that I won’t enjoy it.

I have heard from other readers, that Stephen King’s writing it too simplistic. It may be simplistic, but I think he creates magic with his words – simple or not. He makes you scared of things you never thought you would be scared of and uses important topics as themes in his stories, like bullying, alcoholism and friendship. “Friends come in and out of your life like busboys in a restaurant, did you ever notice that?” (from The Body) I avoided Stephen King for so long, because I just did not think I would enjoy his type of horror (or the horror genre in general). I was wrong though and am glad I finally read his works. I will definitely be reading more.

My Overall Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Have you ever read Stephen King? If so, what are your favorites?

Book Review: The Kiss Quotient

kissTitle: The Kiss Quotient
Author: Helen Hoang
Genre: Romance
Publisher: Berkley
Publication Date: May 30, 2018
Pages: 333
Format Read: Audiobook
Standalone or series: Standalone
Where I got the book: Library Hoopla app
Date finished reading: September 25, 2019

Goodreads Description: A heartwarming and refreshing debut novel that proves one thing: there’s not enough data in the world to predict what will make your heart tick.

Stella Lane thinks math is the only thing that unites the universe. She comes up with algorithms to predict customer purchases — a job that has given her more money than she knows what to do with, and way less experience in the dating department than the average thirty-year-old.

It doesn’t help that Stella has Asperger’s and French kissing reminds her of a shark getting its teeth cleaned by pilot fish. Her conclusion: she needs lots of practice — with a professional. Which is why she hires escort Michael Phan. The Vietnamese and Swedish stunner can’t afford to turn down Stella’s offer, and agrees to help her check off all the boxes on her lesson plan — from foreplay to more-than-missionary position…

Before long, Stella not only learns to appreciate his kisses, but to crave all the other things he’s making her feel. Soon, their no-nonsense partnership starts making a strange kind of sense. And the pattern that emerges will convince Stella that love is the best kind of logic…

My Review: As far as romance novels go, this was not high on my TBR list, but I needed to find an audiobook to listen to that would offset the scary horror books I have been reading, and this one popped up on the screen, so I thought I would give it a try. As it turned out, I ended up loving it. It is a steamy romance with quirky characters and an actual realistic plot. It was very much like a modern day Pretty Woman or Wedding Date. Stella, the main character, has Asperger’s and so sees the world and relationships differently. When she hires Michael to teach her about dating and sex, she realizes that those two things can be enjoyable and wonderful with the right person, which may in fact be Michael. Stella’s honesty and openness were refreshing. I am a little jealous of that character’s realistic look at things and the ability to say what she thinks and feels. This is more than a story of two people who find each other and fall in love. It is a story of human relationships and connection with a side of nerdiness.

Math is the single most elegent thing in the universe and economics is what drives the human world.” said by Janie (Michael’s sister)

My Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦


Fall Reading – 2019

Fall is almost here! I will be continuing to read for my Reading the Classics Challenge and my 2019 Focus on Authors Challenge. Titles are mostly based on giveaways and book club picks. What are y’all reading this fall? Any reads you are most looking forward to? Here is my list:

Book Club Reads

  • Adam Bede by George Eliot
  • As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
  • House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danieleweski
  • The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler

NetGalley Reads

  • Manhunters by Steve Murphy & Javier F. Pena
  • Christmas in Vermont by Anita Hughes
  • One Night Gone by Tara Laskowski
  • A Stranger on the Beach by Michele Campbell
  • The Sacrament by Olaf Olafsson
  • One Day in December by Josie Silver
  • Tiffany Blues by M.J. Rose

Bookish First

  • The Trouble with Christmas by Amy Andrews


  • Dune by Frank Herbert

2019 Focus on Authors

  • The Body by Stephen King
  • The Shining by Stephen King
  • The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
  • The Lottery by Shirley Jackson
  • We Have Always Lived in a Castle by Shirley Jackson
  • American Gods by Neil Gaiman
  • The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
  • Coraline by Neil Gaiman
  • The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah


  • Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand- audiobook
  • The Fact of a Body by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich – audiobook
  • The Trauma Cleaner by Sarah Krasnostein – audiobook
  • The Ghosts of Eden Park by Karen Abbott – audiobook
  • The Woman Who Smashed Codes by Jason Fagone – audiobook
  • Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport – audiobook
  • The End of Procrastination by Petr Ludwig – audiobook
  • American Predator by Maureen Callahan – audiobook
  • The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang – audiobook
  • His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet – audiobook
  • Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson – audiobook
  • Midnight in Chernobyl by Adam Higginbotham – audiobook
  • Force of Nature by Jane Harper – book
  • Love Big by Rozella Haydee White – book


Book Review: Stay Sexy & Don’t Get Murdered

ssdgmTitle: Stay Sexy & Don’t Get Murdered
Author: Karen Kilgariff & Georgia Hardstark
Genre: Memoir, True Crime
Publisher: Forge Books
Publication Date: May 28, 2019
Pages: 304
Format Read: Audiobook
Standalone or series: Standalone
Where I got the book: Library Libby app
Date finished reading: September 16, 2019

Goodreads Description: The highly anticipated first book by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark, the voices behind the #1 hit podcast My Favorite Murder!

Sharing never-before-heard stories ranging from their struggles with depression, eating disorders, and addiction, Karen and Georgia irreverently recount their biggest mistakes and deepest fears, reflecting on the formative life events that shaped them into two of the most followed voices in the nation.

In Stay Sexy & Don’t Get Murdered, Karen and Georgia focus on the importance of self-advocating and valuing personal safety over being ‘nice’ or ‘helpful.’ They delve into their own pasts, true crime stories, and beyond to discuss meaningful cultural and societal issues with fierce empathy and unapologetic frankness.

My Review: Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark are rocking the podcast world with their true crime/comedy podcast, My Favorite Murder. If you haven’t listened to it yet, you should! As in the podcast, Karen and Georgia use some of their clever sayings (like “buy your own shit”, “you’re in a cult, call your dad” and “stay out of the forest”) to continue to open up to their fans about topics that they and so many others have struggled with like alcoholism, family grief, eating disorders, and difficult relationships to name a few. It is vulnerable and real. When I wasn’t laughing to the point of tears, I was nodding yes Yes YES!

Of course, they also dive into their love of true crime. As a girl who also grew up in the 80s, I too can relate to the section where Karen and Georgia talk about what it means to be latchkey kids. I wasn’t so much left at home alone, as I was left outside. It wasn’t until boys were disappearing from my neighborhood that my mom stopped allowing us to ride our bikes anywhere we wanted. Within a couple months, Jeffrey Dahmer was arrested within a few miles of our house. When a story like that dominates your childhood, it is no wonder that I became fascinated with true crime. Karen and Georgia, along with the My Favorite Murder family, have made me and thousands of others around the world feel that it is okay to like true crime. This book covers some of the key advice they have given to Stay Sexy and Don’t Get Murdered, including my favorites of ALWAYS trust your instincts and FUCK POLITENESS!

I adored this book. For audiobook listeners, you will get a special treat by hearing the occasional soothing/sexy voice of Paul Giamatti. SSDGM, Murderinos!

My Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ 

Book Review: Park Avenue Summer

Park Avenue Summer
Author: Renee Rosen
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Berkley
Publication Date: April 30, 2019
Pages: 368
Format Read: Audiobook
Standalone or series: Standalone
Where I got the book: Library Libby app
Date finished reading: May 24, 2019

Goodreads Description: Mad Men meets The Devil Wears Prada as Renée Rosen draws readers into the glamour of 1965 New York City and Cosmopolitan Magazine, where a brazen new Editor-in-Chief–Helen Gurley Brown–shocks America by daring to talk to women about all things off limits…

New York City is filled with opportunities for single girls like Alice Weiss who leaves her small Midwestern town to chase her big city dreams and unexpectedly lands the job of a lifetime working for Helen Gurley Brown, the first female Editor-in-Chief of a then failing Cosmopolitan Magazine.

Nothing could have prepared Alice for the world she enters as editors and writers resign on the spot, refusing to work for the woman who wrote the scandalous bestseller, Sex and the Single Girl. While confidential memos, article ideas, and cover designs keep finding their way into the wrong hands, someone tries to pull Alice into this scheme to sabotage her boss. But Alice remains loyal and becomes all the more determined to help Helen succeed. As pressure mounts at the magazine and Alice struggles to make her way in New York, she quickly learns that in Helen Gurley Brown’s world, a woman can demand to have it all.

My Review: I enjoyed this book far more than I was expecting to. It is a glimpse into the life of Helen Gurley Brown and her ideas to revamp Cosmopolitan magazine to a magazine that was geared more toward everyday women’s issues. Her story was told through the eyes of a fictional character, Alice Weiss, Helen Gurley Brown’s secretary. I had an immediate connection to Alice Weiss – more than just the fact that we share a same last name (my maiden name at least). She represented the type of intellectual, self-assured and independent woman that Helen Gurly Brown wanted to reach with her magazine, and she did.

Park Avenue Summer was intriguing from the very beginning and continued to hold my often distracted attention. I was never much of a reader of Cosmopolitan, but I really enjoyed learning about Helen Gurley Brown. She wanted to make huge changes for Cosmopolitan, including switching from depressing/stuff stories written by famous male authors to stories told by the likes of Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan and Nora Ephron and also covering a wide variety of sexual topics that might interest women but were shocking for that time. It seemed that the odds were against her and yet she still managed to do the impossible with Cosmopolitan and be a powerful woman in a man’s world. This story is one of inspiration. Alice Weiss may be a fictional character, but she represents many women who were directly touched and inspired by Helen Gurley Brown.

I highly recommend this book. It will make a wonder summer/beach read. If you are listening to the audiobook, don’t skip the extra Author’s notes at the end, where the author describes the scenes throughout the book that really happened.

My Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ½

Book Review: The Man from the Train

the-man-from-the-train-9781476796277_hrTitle: The Man from the Train
Author: Bill James & Rachel McCarthy James
Genre: True Crime
Publisher: Scribner
Publication Date: September 19, 2017
Pages: 464
Format Read: audiobook
Standalone or series: standalone
Where I got the book: Library Libby app
Date finished reading: May 20, 2019

Goodreads Description: Using unprecedented, dramatically compelling sleuthing techniques, legendary statistician and baseball writer Bill James applies his analytical acumen to crack an unsolved century-old mystery surrounding one of the deadliest serial killers in American history.

Between 1898 and 1912, families across the country were bludgeoned in their sleep with the blunt side of an axe. Jewelry and valuables were left in plain sight, bodies were piled together, faces covered with cloth. Some of these cases, like the infamous Villasca, Iowa, murders, received national attention. But few people believed the crimes were related. And fewer still would realize that all of these families lived within walking distance to a train station.

When celebrated baseball statistician and true crime expert Bill James first learned about these horrors, he began to investigate others that might fit the same pattern. Applying the same know-how he brings to his legendary baseball analysis, he empirically determined which crimes were committed by the same person. Then after sifting through thousands of local newspapers, court transcripts, and public records, he and his daughter Rachel made an astonishing discovery: they learned the true identity of this monstrous criminal. In turn, they uncovered one of the deadliest serial killers in America.

Riveting and immersive, with writing as sharp as the cold side of an axe, The Man from the Train paints a vivid, psychologically perceptive portrait of America at the dawn of the twentieth century, when crime was regarded as a local problem, and opportunistic private detectives exploited a dysfunctional judicial system. James shows how these cultural factors enabled such an unspeakable series of crimes to occur, and his groundbreaking approach to true crime will convince skeptics, amaze aficionados, and change the way we view criminal history.

My Review: As an avid true crime reader, I was intrigued to hear about this book on an episode of the My Favorite Murder podcast. However, this book did not at all come close to meeting my expectations. The details about why it is believed that all these murders were connected is fascinating. The authors did a good job of mentioning all the similarities in the crime scenes, but that is really the only credit I can give this book. It was poorly written and disorganized.

One paragraph in the book that represented why I disliked this book so much is when the author stated that he was going to hold off on telling a story until later and for now was going to give that story the back of his hand. What???!!! First of all, if a book is well organized, an author or authors should never have to put stories on the back burner. I care about that story at that moment not 15 chapters later. Second, who says that they are going to give a story “the back of my hand.” I am not even sure what the authors were implying by using this phrase, but I found this phrase offensive, and it had no place being in this true crime story. When I read nonfiction, I want facts put intellectually. I don’t want silly comments or phrases. Those just take away from point of the story and the seriousness of the murders. It almost felt disrespectful.

Along the same lines as the disorganization of this story, it dragged on and on. It felt like I was reading about the Wilkerson character for a decade. There should not have been more than 10 pages dedicated to that horrible character. So much of this book was a struggle to get through. After so much pain and effort, you finally read about the man from the train, but you can’t help but feel like it wasn’t worth the reading time invested.

So many people were brutally murdered by the man on the train. So many innocent people were put to death for these murders. The authors did not do all those people justice.

I just want all true crime to be as intelligently told as in the writings of Ann Rule and Michelle McNamara. Is that too much to ask? So just in case it wasn’t clear, I do NOT recommend this book.

My Rating: ♦ ½

Book Review: Made to Stick

Made to Stick
Author: Chip Heath & Dan Heath
Genre: Nonfiction Business
Publisher: Random House
Publication Date: December 18, 2006
Pages: 291
Format Read: audiobook
Standalone or series: standalone
Where I got the book: Library Libby app
Date finished reading: May 5, 2019

Goodreads Description: NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER – The instant classic about why some ideas thrive, why others die, and how to improve your idea’s chances–essential reading in the “fake news” era.

Mark Twain once observed, “A lie can get halfway around the world before the truth can even get its boots on.” His observation rings true: Urban legends, conspiracy theories, and bogus news stories circulate effortlessly. Meanwhile, people with important ideas–entrepreneurs, teachers, politicians, and journalists–struggle to make them “stick.”

In Made to Stick, Chip and Dan Heath reveal the anatomy of ideas that stick and explain ways to make ideas stickier, such as applying the human scale principle, using the Velcro Theory of Memory, and creating curiosity gaps. Along the way, we discover that sticky messages of all kinds–from the infamous “kidney theft ring” hoax to a coach’s lessons on sportsmanship to a vision for a new product at Sony–draw their power from the same six traits.

Made to Stick will transform the way you communicate. It’s a fast-paced tour of success stories (and failures): the Nobel Prize-winning scientist who drank a glass of bacteria to prove a point about stomach ulcers; the charities who make use of the Mother Teresa Effect; the elementary-school teacher whose simulation actually prevented racial prejudice.

Provocative, eye-opening, and often surprisingly funny, Made to Stick shows us the vital principles of winning ideas–and tells us how we can apply these rules to making our own messages stick.

My Review: I work in the medical field and one of the researchers recommended this book to me after we had taken some required work trainings on communication and excellence. I unfortunately did not get a lot out of those work trainings, but I did get much more out of Made to Stick and immediately recommended it to my husband who is a university professor.

The authors focused on expanding on their six principles to making ideas “stick”:

  1. Simplicity
  2. Unexpectedness
  3. Concreteness
  4. Credibility
  5. Emotions
  6. Stories

One of the most helpful tips when you are trying to share information or convince someone of an idea is to not stray too far from the core point. I especially enjoyed when the authors stated that just because you have a “sea of information”, you do not have to share it. I have definitely experienced sitting in classes or book clubs, where conversations start moving further and further from the original point that you forget where the conversation began and why.

I like how the authors used real work examples of companies and ideas to confirm their basic principles. It really helps you grasp the importance of these principles and why they will work.

This was an interesting and insightful read. As mentioned, I have already recommended it and think that it is most helpful for entrepreneurs, professors, and anyone who needs to share and communicate ideas on a regular basis.

My Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦