Best Books of 2016

It's crazy to think about another year gone by. So many blessings and great memories made I can't even begin to wrap my head around! But there is one thing that I can keep track of, and that's this little hobby of mine called reading. So as if I could possibly name just a few (I tried!) here are my favorite books of 2016. Please let me know about your favorites in the comments below! 

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood- I have found that this year, I tried to steer towards topics that were out of the realm of my usual reads (family drama, starting over, women in their mid-thirties). And this is the book that really helped me break that mold. It's about so many things- but mostly, it's about what forms of love are acceptable and how the outside world really has an effect on our lives. Situations, lifestyles, who we love and who we hate- they all create circumstances that make every person's life something you have to be able to understand, even if you can't accept it. There's a young girl, a lost soul of a young man, parents who are lost on drugs and a murder. Not to mention the writing, which was astonishing-raw, honest but not in a showy way. It was amazing. This book was the winner of the Lottie Award from Book of the Month Club. 

Faithful by Alice Hoffman - This is about a young girl who survived a car crash that left her best friend in a coma. The guilt she feels and the literal pause the accident puts on her life is a heartbreaking tale. However, the growth in the characters and the self reflection made me feel hopeful. I really, really loved this book. 

All is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker - I devoured this book. A high school girl is brutally attacked in the woods outside of a party. Told from the physcologist who is treating the girl after the attack, this viewpoint gives a very interesting outlook on the characters and their choices. There are many people at play here- the girl, her parents, who are both in messes of their own and many more outlying characters that make this story a thrilling page turner. My favorite part about this book is when I started to realize the narrator was not trustworthy in his storytelling, like he was lying right to my face about what happened to the girl. I felt like I was a part of it and it was thrilling. 

The Mothers by Brit Bennett -A book called “The Mothers” is automatically a book that gets my attention. As I age and especially as I make my journey through the various stages of life, I recognize that the one topic that strikes the biggest cord in my heart is the topic of motherhood. This one really hit home for me - mostly just because it dives into the sacrifices we make as mothers and how those choices will effect generations...  

Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler - This is sort of a guilty pleasure read. It got a lot of buzz- a first time author who was discovered as she waited tables in New York- it's a modern day Cinderella story. Stephanie creates a world we often don't realize has such a strong pulse- the back waiters of the hottest restaurants in NYC. Who are these people and what drives them to work these crazy shifts,  follow insane schedules and rules- and what do they do with their knowledge of worldly cuisine and expensive wine? It's sophisticated but juicy, starved but hungry and such a good read.

Siracusia by Delia Ephron Two couples, a vacation in Italy, two secret affairs and one dead body. Lots of great scenes. A definite thumbs up from me. 

One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid - If you didn't see my going gaga over this on Instagram, then I will say it over and over again: This is the best love story I have read in a very long time. Is it the best book of the year worthy? Probably not, because at the crux of it, it's fluff but really, I think the author writes romantic fluff in a way that is indulgent but still believable. It was simply wonderful. 

Honorable Mention:
The Flood Girls by Richard Fifield
Sound of Gravel by Wariner
The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware
The Marriage of Opposites
Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld

This year was a wonderful year for books. Around every corner, there was yet another one I couldn't wait to dive into. What were your favorite reads of 2016?

To check out allll the books I read this year, check out my Goodreads Challenge!

#ShowUsYourBooks November

November...WHERE DID YOU GO? 

Seriously, 10 minutes ago I was making green bean casserole and lighting my pumpkin marshmallow candle and then BAM, December. 

My reading time was most definitely hindered by my Gilmore Girls binge watching in preparation for the revival, which I have to say, made me fall even more in love with Stars Hollow. I will continue to be in love, even if the writers totally left us in a cliff hanger. It was just so great to see the characters again, like I was meeting old friends! Loved every minute of it. 

Speaking of binge watching, I've lost my husband's attention due to a chronic condition called The Walking Dead. I tried to watch it with him, I really did. But just no. Those sounds?! I can't hack it. But now that binging has ceased, I can get back to my first real love: reading. 

And now back to the show: My #ShowUsYourBooks November Edition: 

Faithful by Alice Hoffman - Just yes. Yes allll the way around. Shelby, now in her  twenties, was just a teenager when she was in a terrible car accident that left her best friend's life changed forever. Shelby's guilt over the accident sets her life on a completely different and strange path; one that she has no idea how to navigate. The characters are amazing, the setting is described just right and the emotions are raw. It was and will continue to be one of my favorite stories I have read in a very long time. 

The River at Night by Erica Ferencik- Thanks to Gallery Books for this Advanced Reader's Copy! I really enjoyed the very fast-pace of this thriller, set in the rapid rivers and wilderness of Northern Maine. Five girlfriends, all with interesting back stories and reasons for why they need a trip away, set out on an adventure that turns deadly. It's very In a Dark, Dark Wood meets Misery so if you like twisted stories and Ruth Ware, you'd love this! 

Talking as Fast as I Can- Lauren Graham- (See binge watching paragraph above-I'm obsessed with Lauren Graham) and this book is so HER. I listened to it on Audible and it was awesome because it wasn't just Lauren Graham reading her book out loud. She read it TO you, like she knew you were listening and it was so funny and engaging. 

The Hating Game- Sally Thorne - This came highly recommended by @BookBaristas so I gave it a shot. I am usually not a huge fan of cutesy love stories but this one was really fun. Lucy Hutton and Joshua Templeman hate each other. They are enemies, competitors and co-workers and nothing else. She has her quirks-she's single and collect Smurfs and he's the most unapproachable man on the planet. But they say that the opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference so maybe that hatred Lucy things she feels is actually an attraction that she can no longer deny. There are high stakes, lots of lust and humor in this story and I really enjoyed it! 

Podcast Recommendation: Up and Vanished by Payne Lindsay- If you like to listen to podcast, I highly recommend this one. It's a really great whodunnit and it's relatively recent. Very interesting, with lots of twists and turns. 

So that's it friends! 

What did you read in November? I want to hear about it, so leave your list in the comments or find me on Instagram! @Thatiswhatshereadreviews 

Linking up with my favorite bookworms: Steph and Jana for #ShowUsYourBooks Link Up! 

Gratitude is Everything

A month ago, I started a gratitude journal. I knew that as the holidays came around, there would be quotes and memes about being grateful for your blessings this time of year and I wanted to just have a real and honest conversation with myself instead of telling everyone else what I was thankful for. 

When I know no one else is going to read it and I'm not stressed about judgement or number of likes, what will I really be thankful for? I had to think about being completely honest and not try to say things just because I thought that's what people wanted to hear. What I found out about myself was really helpful- I am thankful for many tiny things, here and there. Somethings are so small and simple that if I didn't stop and think about it, I might not even notice the little joy it gave me. But a lot of little joys add up together to make you feel whole. Writing down these little joys as made a big difference.

But once I started writing, I couldn't stop because each day, I would challenge myself to really think about the tiny details of life that are actually pretty awesome... those small details often fall through the cracks because as an anxious person, sometimes the failures or not-so-perfect moments are the loudest, when really I should be listening to the whispers of positive moments more carefully. Because when you do stop and listen, they are always there.

After I decorated our house for Christmas and prepare for the holidays, I realized how much we all have to be thankful. I started writing little things in my journal,  like friends who will come rescue you because you accidentally brought home a giant tree from the Christmas tree farm and you have now idea how to decorate it. Or the mom friend who always knows just what to say when you can't handle how ornery your kids are acting. 

I am thankful for my grandpa, who dug out his old Christmas decorations from his attic that he used when I was little so that I could use them for my own kids' enjoyment. I am thankful for a huge group of coworkers who make me laugh so hard I could cry. I am thankful for people who aren't considered my friends but who take time out of their day to give me advice and humbling points of view so that I can be a better person. I am thankful for my sister's Facetimes, without which my life would be incomplete. I'm thankful for a fireplace, a blankie and a living room with lots of windows. 

I'm thankful for my family, this huge patchwork of awesomeness that I can't even begin to describe. 

I am thankful for peace, for adventure, for my couch and our giant Christmas Tree. I am thankful for blankets, funny Youtube videos, our lazy cat and our daughters' brilliant imaginations. I am thankful for Uno, Gin Rummy and Phase 10. 

I am thankful for books, especially when I have enough to make the Christmas tree I've always dreamed of: 

I am thankful for grace, forgiveness, patience and humor. 

No matter what, I am always thankful for what I have.  It takes a lot of hard work to be conscience of being a good mother, wife, friend and person. Sometimes I slay, as they say. And sometimes I fail. But I am grateful for the opportunity to wake up each day with a clean slate. 

This holiday season I just want to focus on being present and in the moment. I want to show patient, work on easing my RBF and anxiety and just let things roll. All from the comfort of our big living room couch with our kids lounging in cozy blankets and eating candy canes all around us.