BLOG

Categories

Archives

Subscribe to My Blog

Updated: 2 days ago

Last updated: November 2020 (updated monthly, 2020) Here are the books I've read in 2020 that I've given 4 or 5 stars on GoodReads.

I read an array of different genres (although I really love fantasy novels).

Leave your recommendations in the comments!




Cress, by Marissa Meyer

(third installment of Lunar Chronicles)


Cinder and Captain Thorne are fugitives on the run, now with Scarlet and Wolf in tow.


Together, they're plotting to overthrow Queen Levana and prevent her army from invading Earth.


Their best hope lies with Cress, a girl imprisoned on a satellite since childhood who's only ever had her netscreens as company. All that screen time has made Cress an excellent hacker. Unfortunately, she's just received orders from Levana to track down Cinder and her handsome accomplice.


When a daring rescue of Cress goes awry, the group is separated. Cress finally has her freedom, but it comes at a higher price. Meanwhile, Queen Levana will let nothing prevent her marriage to Emperor Kai. Cress, Scarlet, and Cinder may not have signed up to save the world, but they may be the only hope the world has.



The Hate You Give, by Angie Thomas


Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.


Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.


But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.


Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, this is a powerful and gripping YA novel about one girl's struggle for justice.



Throne of Glass, by Sarah J. Maas

(Book one of Throne of Glass series)


After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin.


Her opponents are men-thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the king's council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she'll serve the kingdom for four years and then be granted her freedom. Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilarating. But she's bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her ... but it's the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best.


Then one of the other contestants turns up dead ... quickly followed by another. Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.



Shadow and Bone, by Leigh Bardugo

(first of Shadow & Bone trilogy)


Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.


Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.


Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha . . . and the secrets of her heart.



The Body, by Bill Bryson


In the bestselling, prize-winning A Short History of Nearly Everything, Bill Bryson achieved the seemingly impossible by making the science of our world both understandable and entertaining to millions of people around the globe.


Now he turns his attention inwards to explore the human body, how it functions and its remarkable ability to heal itself. Full of extraordinary facts and astonishing stories, The Body: A Guide for Occupants is a brilliant, often very funny attempt to understand the miracle of our physical and neurological make up.


A wonderful successor to A Short History of Nearly Everything, this book will have you marvelling at the form you occupy, and celebrating the genius of your existence, time and time again.





**FIVE STARS**


Crown of Midnight, by Sarah J. Maas

(second book in Throne of Glass series)


From the throne of glass rules a king with a fist of iron and a soul as black as pitch. Assassin Celaena Sardothien won a brutal contest to become his Champion. Yet Celaena is far from loyal to the crown. She hides her secret vigilantly; she knows that the man she serves is bent on evil.


Keeping up the deadly charade becomes increasingly difficult when Celaena realizes she is not the only one seeking justice. As she tries to untangle the mysteries buried deep within the glass castle, her closest relationships suffer. It seems no one is above questioning her allegiances—not the Crown Prince Dorian; not Chaol, the Captain of the Guard; not even her best friend, Nehemia, a foreign princess with a rebel heart.


Then one terrible night, the secrets they have all been keeping lead to an unspeakable tragedy. As Celaena's world shatters, she will be forced to give up the very thing most precious to her and decide once and for all where her true loyalties lie... and whom she is ultimately willing to fight for.



Winter, by Marissa Meyer

(fourth installment of Lunar Chronicles)


Princess Winter is admired for her grace, kindness and beauty, despite the scars on her face. She's said to be even more breath-taking than her stepmother, Queen Levana...


When Winter develops feelings for the handsome palace guard, Jacin, she fears the evil Queen will crush their romance before it has a chance to begin.


But there are stirrings against the Queen across the land. Together with the cyborg mechanic, Cinder, and her allies, Winter might even find the power to launch a revolution and win a war that's been raging for far too long.


Can Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter claim their happily ever afters by defeating Levana once and for all?



I Am a Tiger, by Karl Newson


When is a mouse not a mouse? When he's a tiger of course! This funny story is all about being who you want to be!


This is a story about a mouse with BIG ideas. Mouse believes he is a tiger, and he convinces Fox, Raccoon, Snake, and Bird he's one, too! After all, Mouse can climb a tree like a tiger and hunt for his lunch, too. And not all tigers are big and have stripes. But when a real tiger shows up, can Mouse keep up his act?


With hilarious text by Karl Newson and bright and vivid illustrations from Ross Collins, this uproariously funny, read-aloud picture book encourages children to use their imaginations and be who they want to be!


Doesn't everyone want to be a tiger?





A Hungry Lion, by Lucy Ruth Cummins


Once upon a time there was a very hungry lion and some adorable little animals...


What do you think happened next?







Why?, by Laura Vaccaro Seeger


Two-time Caldecott and Geisel Honoree Laura Vaccaro Seeger tells a disarmingly simple story about the lovable characters Bear and the unfailingly curious Rabbit.


Bear just wants to water his flowers, but Rabbit needs to know: why? Bear is looking forward to a peaceful night of stargazing, but all Rabbit cares about is: why?


As the two friends spend time together through spring, summer, and into fall, Rabbit persistently and simply asks Bear why, encouraging the reader to figure out for themselves the reason for each question that Bear patiently answers, over and over again. . . until there's a questions that he has no answer for.


In this beautifully produced, tactile book with hugely expressive characters, Laura Vaccaro Seeger both departs from her signature style by dabbling for the first time in watercolor and creates a simple and engaging story with big emotional impact.





**FIVE STARS**


The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows


January 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she's never met, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book by Charles Lamb...


As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, Juliet is drawn into the world of this man and his friends—and what a wonderfully eccentric world it is. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society—born as a spur-of-the-moment alibi when its members were discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island—boasts a charming, funny, deeply human cast of characters, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all.


Juliet begins a remarkable correspondence with the society's members, learning about their island, their taste in books, and the impact the recent German occupation has had on their lives. Captivated by their stories, she sets sail for Guernsey, and what she finds will change her forever.


Written with warmth and humor as a series of letters, this novel is a celebration of the written word in all its guises and of finding connection in the most surprising ways.





The Rosie Project, by Graeme Simsion


An international sensation, this hilarious, feel-good novel is narrated by an oddly charming and socially challenged genetics professor on an unusual quest: to find out if he is capable of true love.


Don Tillman, professor of genetics, has never been on a second date. He is a man who can count all his friends on the fingers of one hand, whose lifelong difficulty with social rituals has convinced him that he is simply not wired for romance. So when an acquaintance informs him that he would make a “wonderful” husband, his first reaction is shock. Yet he must concede to the statistical probability that there is someone for everyone, and he embarks upon The Wife Project. In the orderly, evidence-based manner with which he approaches all things, Don sets out to find the perfect partner. She will be punctual and logical—most definitely not a barmaid, a smoker, a drinker, or a late-arriver.


Yet Rosie Jarman is all these things. She is also beguiling, fiery, intelligent—and on a quest of her own. She is looking for her biological father, a search that a certain DNA expert might be able to help her with. Don's Wife Project takes a back burner to the Father Project and an unlikely relationship blooms, forcing the scientifically minded geneticist to confront the spontaneous whirlwind that is Rosie—and the realization that love is not always what looks good on paper.


The Rosie Project is a moving and hilarious novel for anyone who has ever tenaciously gone after life or love in the face of overwhelming challenges.



**FIVE STARS**


(this is the third time I've read this book)


Atomic Habits, by James Clear


No matter your goals, Atomic Habits offers a proven framework for improving--every day. James Clear, one of the world's leading experts on habit formation, reveals practical strategies that will teach you exactly how to form good habits, break bad ones, and master the tiny behaviors that lead to remarkable results.


If you're having trouble changing your habits, the problem isn't you. The problem is your system. Bad habits repeat themselves again and again not because you don't want to change, but because you have the wrong system for change. You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems. Here, you'll get a proven system that can take you to new heights.


Clear is known for his ability to distill complex topics into simple behaviors that can be easily applied to daily life and work. Here, he draws on the most proven ideas from biology, psychology, and neuroscience to create an easy-to-understand guide for making good habits inevitable and bad habits impossible. Along the way, readers will be inspired and entertained with true stories from Olympic gold medalists, award-winning artists, business leaders, life-saving physicians, and star comedians who have used the science of small habits to master their craft and vault to the top of their field.


Learn how to:

*  make time for new habits (even when life gets crazy);

*  overcome a lack of motivation and willpower;

*  design your environment to make success easier;

*  get back on track when you fall off course;

...and much more.


Atomic Habits will reshape the way you think about progress and success, and give you the tools and strategies you need to transform your habits--whether you are a team looking to win a championship, an organization hoping to redefine an industry, or simply an individual who wishes to quit smoking, lose weight, reduce stress, or achieve any other goal.





Outliers: the Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell

In this stunning new book, Malcolm Gladwell takes us on an intellectual journey through the world of "outliers"--the best and the brightest, the most famous and the most successful. He asks the question: what makes high-achievers different?


His answer is that we pay too much attention to what successful people are like, and too little attention to where they are from: that is, their culture, their family, their generation, and the idiosyncratic experiences of their upbringing. Along the way he explains the secrets of software billionaires, what it takes to be a great soccer player, why Asians are good at math, and what made the Beatles the greatest rock band.



Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens


For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life–until the unthinkable happens.


Perfect for fans of Barbara Kingsolver and Karen Russell, Where the Crawdads Sing is at once an exquisite ode to the natural world, a heartbreaking coming-of-age story, and a surprising tale of possible murder. Owens reminds us that we are forever shaped by the children we once were, and that we are all subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps.



Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, by Gail Honeyman


Meet Eleanor Oliphant: she struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she’s thinking. Nothing is missing in her carefully timetabled life of avoiding unnecessary human contact, where weekends are punctuated by frozen pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy.


But everything changes when Eleanor meets Raymond, the bumbling and deeply unhygienic IT guy from her office. When she and Raymond together save Sammy, an elderly gentleman who has fallen, the three rescue one another from the lives of isolation that they had been living. Ultimately, it is Raymond’s big heart that will help Eleanor find the way to repair her own profoundly damaged one. If she does, she'll learn that she, too, is capable of finding friendship—and even love—after all.


Smart, warm, uplifting, Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine is the story of an out-of-the-ordinary heroine whose deadpan weirdness and unconscious wit make for an irresistible journey as she realizes. . .


the only way to survive is to open your heart.





Empire of Storms, by Sarah J. Maas

(fifth installment of Throne of Glass series)


Kingdoms will collide.


The long path to the throne has only just begun for Aelin Galathynius as war looms on the horizon. Loyalties have been broken and bought, friends have been lost and gained, and those who possess magic find themselves at odds with those who don't.


With her heart sworn to the warrior-prince by her side, and her fealty pledged to the people she is determined to save, Aelin will delve into the depths of her power to protect those she loves. But as monsters emerge from the horrors of the past, and dark forces become poised to claim her world, the only chance for salvation will lie in a desperate quest that may mark the end of everything Aelin holds dear.


In this breathtaking fifth installment of the New York Times bestselling Throne of Glass series, Aelin will have to choose what—and who—to sacrifice if she's to keep the world of Erilea from breaking apart.





No recommendations to list :(





A Woman of No Importance: the Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II by Sonia Purnell


In 1942, the Gestapo sent out an urgent transmission: "She is the most dangerous of all Allied spies. We must find and destroy her."


This spy was Virginia Hall, a young American woman--rejected from the foreign service because of her gender and her prosthetic leg--who talked her way into the spy organization deemed Churchill's "ministry of ungentlemanly warfare," and, before the United States had even entered the war, became the first woman to deploy to occupied France.


Virginia Hall was one of the greatest spies in American history, yet her story remains untold. Just as she did in Clementine, Sonia Purnell uncovers the captivating story of a powerful, influential, yet shockingly overlooked heroine of the Second World War. At a time when sending female secret agents into enemy territory was still strictly forbidden, Virginia Hall came to be known as the "Madonna of the Resistance," coordinating a network of spies to blow up bridges, report on German troop movements, arrange equipment drops for Resistance agents, and recruit and train guerilla fighters. Even as her face covered WANTED posters throughout Europe, Virginia refused order after order to evacuate. She finally escaped with her life in a grueling hike over the Pyrenees into Spain, her cover blown, and her associates all imprisoned or executed. But, adamant that she had "more lives to save," she dove back in as soon as she could, organizing forces to sabotage enemy lines and back up Allied forces landing on Normandy beaches. Told with Purnell's signature insight and novelistic flare, A Woman of No Importance is the breathtaking story of how one woman's fierce persistence helped win the war.




Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward


Jojo and his toddler sister, Kayla, live with their grandparents, Mam and Pop, and the occasional presence of their drug-addicted mother, Leonie, on a farm on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. Leonie is simultaneously tormented and comforted by visions of her dead brother, which only come to her when she’s high; Mam is dying of cancer; and quiet, steady Pop tries to run the household and teach Jojo how to be a man. When the white father of Leonie’s children is released from prison, she packs her kids and a friend into her car and sets out across the state for Parchman farm, the Mississippi State Penitentiary, on a journey rife with danger and promise.




A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas (A Court of Thorns and Roses #1)


Feyre's survival rests upon her ability to hunt and kill – the forest where she lives is a cold, bleak place in the long winter months. So when she spots a deer in the forest being pursued by a wolf, she cannot resist fighting it for the flesh. But to do so, she must kill the predator and killing something so precious comes at a price ...


Dragged to a magical kingdom for the murder of a faerie, Feyre discovers that her captor, his face obscured by a jewelled mask, is hiding far more than his piercing green eyes would suggest. Feyre's presence at the court is closely guarded, and as she begins to learn why, her feelings for him turn from hostility to passion and the faerie lands become an even more dangerous place. Feyre must fight to break an ancient curse, or she will lose him forever.





Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado Perez


Imagine a world where your phone is too big for your hand, where your doctor prescribes a drug that is wrong for your body, where in a car accident you are 47% more likely to be seriously injured, where every week the countless hours of work you do are not recognised or valued.


If any of this sounds familiar, chances are that you're a woman.


Invisible Women shows us how, in a world largely built for and by men, we are systematically ignoring half the population. It exposes the gender data gap – a gap in our knowledge that is at the root of perpetual, systemic discrimination against women, and that has created a pervasive but invisible bias with a profound effect on women’s lives.


From government policy and medical research, to technology, workplaces, urban planning and the media, Invisible Women reveals the biased data that excludes women.




A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

(A Court of Thorns and Roses #2)


Feyre survived Amarantha's clutches to return to the Spring Court—but at a steep cost. Though she now has the powers of the High Fae, her heart remains human, and it can't forget the terrible deeds she performed to save Tamlin's people.


Nor has Feyre forgotten her bargain with Rhysand, High Lord of the feared Night Court. As Feyre navigates its dark web of politics, passion, and dazzling power, a greater evil looms—and she might be key to stopping it. But only if she can harness her harrowing gifts, heal her fractured soul, and decide how she wishes to shape her future—and the future of a world cleaved in two.





No recommendations to list. :(




Educated by Tara Westover


Tara Westover was 17 the first time she set foot in a classroom. Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, she prepared for the end of the world by stockpiling home-canned peaches and sleeping with her "head-for-the-hills bag". In the summer she stewed herbs for her mother, a midwife and healer, and in the winter she salvaged in her father's junkyard.


Her father forbade hospitals, so Tara never saw a doctor or nurse. Gashes and concussions, even burns from explosions, were all treated at home with herbalism. The family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education and no one to intervene when one of Tara's older brothers became violent.


Then, lacking any formal education, Tara began to educate herself. She taught herself enough mathematics and grammar to be admitted to Brigham Young University, where she studied history, learning for the first time about important world events like the Holocaust and the civil rights movement. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge. Only then would she wonder if she'd traveled too far, if there was still a way home.


I've been meeting with my therapist online once a week for over five months now. (I live with depression with mixed features.)

For the past two weeks, we've been working on creating a routine for every day of the week so I'm able to consistently work toward my goals and live the life I want to live, even when my mental illness symptoms attempt to steer me off course or stop any progress.


Even if someone has superb mental health, I think the flexibility of self-employment comes with the difficult task of enforcing ones schedule. I think everyone can benefit from creating a routine.



First, I wrote down my every day (M-F) requirements:

  • Eating

  • Sleeping

  • Working my part-time job

Then, I added the other things I'd like to accomplish each day:

  • Household chores (tidying)

  • Meditation (via the Calm app)

  • Getting ready for the day (dressing, make up, etc.)

  • Author work

  • Exercise

  • Personal tasks


Using Google Calendar, I divided these priorities into time slots.



Habits take a while to stick, and I'm only approaching week 3, not yet adhering to the routine 100%. (I keep telling myself that it isn't all or nothing--it's just 1% better every day.)


I've listed what I've struggled with below. If you've successfully addressed any of the tasks below, please share your possible solution in the comments!


Getting out of bed


I live with a sleep disorder called Idiopathic Hypersomnia (IH). Translated, it pretty much reads, "we don't know why you're so tired all the time." Typically, upon waking, I take a stimulant and wait to feel the effects. In the past, I would snooze my alarm, take a med, and go back to bed or putz around on my phone until the grogginess lifted. More recently, I got in the habit of staying on my phone well past when the meds started working.


Lately, I've been setting an alarm in the other room. It is the loudest alarm clock I've ever heard in my life. I can easily hear it through the closed door, and the one time I set it in the bedroom, my boyfriend awoke, yelling in surprise.


I get up when I hear the aggressive trilling, trudge to the other room, shut the alarm off, and avoid laying back down, sitting, or leaning of any kind. This is harder than you might imagine and more than once I found myself sitting on the floor.


My therapist suggested I tidy for my first task of the day during this groggy time. This was working well for the first few days (about the amount of time that was needed to clean up my office/studio), but lately I've started aimlessly ambling about the house, shuffling things around and not really accomplishing anything.


Possible solution: The night before, I will write down what I'm tidying the next day since apparently this is too monumental of a decision for the morning.


Transitioning between tasks


Even with my Google Calendar notifications coming through, I struggled with pulling away from one task and starting another. If I was behind schedule, I wasn't sure if I should shorten all my tasks so I could still work on them all, or if I should just start with whatever I'm supposed to be doing at that time.


Possible solution: I suppose if I wake up late, I'll still need that zero-energy tidying task to start. I'm going to try the "adjust the whole day's schedule" route.


Getting ready in 30 minutes


Last month, when I was using the app Toggl to keep track of my time, I was appalled by how much time I spent getting ready: showering, dressing, brushing my teeth, and doing my makeup (not even doing my hair).


I would be ok with spending 30 minutes each day getting ready (the current time I have allotted), but it's not realistic. I spend around 20 minutes putting on makeup, alone. If I skip this step, I'm fairly certain it will influence whether or not I leave the house.


Since it takes me more than the allotted 30 minutes to get ready, I'm always running late for the following task.


Possible solution??


How much time do you spend getting ready each morning? How have you streamlined your process?


Getting a good exercise in


Since I don't have a designated time slot for socialization in my schedule, I've been trying to pair up social-distancing with friends with physical activities.


Unfortunately, while the social aspect is good, the cardio isn't: I've rarely had an elevated heart rate.


If I stop trying to pair up exercise and time with friends, where would socializing fit into my schedule? I've been feeling extremely lonely, and I think socializing (preferably in person) is an important activity for my health, but I don't see another activity it can replace. I also crave social interaction every single day, so I don't think weekend-only activities would be a solution.


Possible solution??

How do you fit socializing into your schedule (without it replacing other priorities)?


Staying off my phone (my ultimate form of procrastination)


Two weeks ago, I removed all social media and email from my phone (except for Snapchat). Even though I didn't have social media on my phone, I ended up browsing my phone regardless, looking for distractions most often in my photo album and Google search.


Last week, my therapist suggested that I put my phone away during the day, but I didn't listen because I kept telling myself that I needed Google Calendar notifications to tell me when to move on to the next task.


Possible solution: With just two day before my next session, I pull out a notepad for a handwritten schedule to replace Google Calendar, and I dig out my watch.

Going to bed by a certain time


My skin care regimen and brushing and flossing and blah, blah, blah, takes so long.


Some nights I procrastinate starting this nightly process. I think I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing, so I don't know how to change this.


Possible solution: I suppose not having my phone on me will cut procrastination dramatically--along with getting in better workouts during the day to make the call of my bed louder than the dwindling effects of my stimulants.


Using "good" phone apps without distraction


I have an audiobook or a podcast playing during the majority of my menial tasks: chores, getting ready, eating food. Will I have to give this up in order to stay away from the allure of my phone?


Possible solution: I will dig out my long abandoned Alexa and see if I can get her to play these programs without accessing my phone.

© 2020 by Katy Jo Turner

  • Black Facebook Icon
  • Instagram
  • Black Twitter Icon
  • LinkedIn
  • TikTok
  • Amazon

Minnesota author, illustrator, outdoor educator

0