July’s Book and Bike Break Down

Catch up on what Mandi’s reading and how may miles she’s riding!

Booking and biking my way through 2020.


Life has been crazy – I kind of feel like I’m dragging my feet on my goals, despite the fact that I’m still sitting very comfortably on both. 40 books. 2020 miles. I’ll make it, but I like the months that I come out of so far ahead that I feel like I should take a bow at the end.


Books

24. The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennet (Contemporary, Race, Historical Fiction)
Well, this one was my final Book of the Month selection. As of June, I am no longer a member (WHAT?!). BOTM was so fun, but once I started falling behind and not reading them as they landed on my doorstep, it began to feel pointless to me. Why not just wait and borrow them from the library then? Regardless, this one also got picked in my book club as our July book, is written by a black author, and touches on currently trending topics (notably race and transgenderism). While I’d hoped for more depth on the obvious topics at hand, I found myself really enjoying this story and the way the author took “abnormal” situations and made them seem normal/non-controversial. 4 STARS

25. The Dressmaker’s Gift by Fiona Valpy (Historical Fiction)
I’m not sure when or why this read ended up on my Kindle as it took a back burner for quite some time, but in search of a book that would make me cry, I assumed one involving the concentration camps would do the trick. What kept me from the 5th star was Harriet’s plot line. Interwoven with her grandmother’s story, I did not care for Harriet’s part until the last 10% of the book. However, Claire, Vivi and Mirielle’s story was great. This was, of course, not an easy book to read because of the content, but I reminded myself the whole way through that we read these stories so we do not become ignorant to what others have had to face in life. With that perspective, yeah, I cried a lot. But at one point I thought I was giving it 3 stars because of the level of cheese with Harriet. 4 STARS

26. We Should All be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Nonfiction, Feminism)
Ope, read a book with the word “Feminists” right in the title, there. For a short book, a long explanation: As the Black Lives Matters movement engulfed our nation, I became aware of two things. One – I don’t know much about what it’s like to be black. Two – my only real experience of oppression is a result of my being a woman. While I’ve never been denied the right to vote, I have a respectable level of education and I have made many large decisions on my own, I cannot say that I feel equal to men because, among countless one-off conversations/experiences, I have simply assumed my gender role. And in beginning to understand what that means as a woman, I begin to understand what it means to be black. The entire way through this book I was shocked by how easily I could remove the words “man” and “woman” and replace them with “white” and “black” and have the content resonate the same way. Chimamanda is right. We should all be feminists. It means something powerful to be a woman, and men and women should take pride in that. We should all also acknowledge that black lives matter. It means something powerful to be black, and whites and blacks should take pride in that.

I can’t do this book justice without sharing an excerpt:

Some people ask: “Why the word feminist? Why not just say you are a believer in human rights, or something like that?” Because that would be dishonest. Feminism is, of course, part of human rights in general—but to choose to use the vague expression human rights is to deny the specific and particular problem of gender. It would be a way of pretending that it was not women who have, for centuries, been excluded. It would be a way of denying that the problem of gender targets women. That the problem was not about being human, but specifically about being a female human.

For centuries, the world divided human beings into two groups and then proceeded to exclude and oppress one group. It is only fair that the solution to the problem acknowledge that. Some men feel threatened by the idea of feminism. This comes, I think, from the insecurity triggered by how boys are brought up, how their sense of self-worth is diminished if they are not “naturally” in charge as men.

Chimanada Ngozi Adichie, We Should All Be Feminists

5 STARS

27. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (The Hunger Games #0) by Suzanne Collins (Dystopian)
Ironically, The Hunger Games was, for the longest time, the only book I ever quit. I picked it back up last year and zipped through the whole series, throwing 4-5 stars at each book and excitedly awaiting the release of this, the prequel. Before getting the chance to dig into it, I watched the ratings come in as slightly less than the raving success of it’s counterparts. I had friends read it and tell me their critique of it and why it didn’t really hit home like the others did. But when I got to the end of it myself, I couldn’t see a reason to not give it 5 stars. The book is probably about 70% focused on the 10th Hunger Games and 30% focused on a short bit of Snow’s life thereafter. Like any book, the climax was within the last 10% or so. But unlike most books, the first 90% was also incredibly engaging. I mean, it’s the Hunger Games. It moved slow at times, but I would expect the games to move slow at times, too, which made it feel more realistic. And while Snow doesn’t exactly grow up to be our vision of a model citizen, his rise to presidency felt oddly natural. Not to get super political, but what politician do we love and trust? If we lived in a dystopian world, would our politicians not take more extreme morally questionable measures than they currently do? I don’t know, folks, it didn’t seem that far off from reality… 5 STARS

28. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (Historical Fiction, Mystery)
In search of my 5 star read, this is actually the one I chose thinking it would be it. Everyone loves this book. And it was great – I understand why it’s well loved. But it didn’t pull me in as much as I had hoped. While I cared for the characters, I felt parts of it were predictable and (tiny spoiler alert), as it drew towards the court case, I found myself thinking, why do we love books about court cases? Why do we rally around wanting to decide who’s right and who’s wrong? By all means, serve the justice where necessary, but why does that have to excite us? Still, this was a great book. Earlier this month I realized my library has seriously upped their digital game on account of COVID, making books like this one more readily available for Kindle users. I went through and requested several highly rated books – just looking to push me over my 4 star average right now… 4 STARS

29. Educated by Tara Westover (Memoir)
To be honest, I’d seen Educated around and judged it right by its cover. I love memoirs, but the title and the image did not resonate with me before I knew more about it. For over two years, now, it’s been raking in great reviews, so I finally checked out this eBook and dove in. And I loved it. Like a good, strong memoir should, it cracked into Tara’s soul, sharing everything from major successes to literal and metaphorical deep wounds. Tara has overcome so much in her life, and it’s all been in such a unique setting. I’m fascinated by her story because I see myself so easily in the shoes of multiple character. Could I be the crazy, convinced parent? Probably. Could I be the daughter trying to escape? Definitely. Could I be the outsider trying to help? Of course. I loved getting to know more about the many settings of Tara’s story, and I’m so grateful she chose to share the innermost caverns of her heart. 5 STARS


Biking

And now, onward with the goal to ride 2020 miles in 2020 on a bike.

My current total…

1442

We’re now up to 388 of those miles having been outside (183 of them pulling a kid). Oh, and we’re also up to one flat tire – which I suppose had to happen sooner or later.

I’m a little disappointed in the amount of miles I’ve ridden outside. I would like to get that number up, but (1) it’s hot, and I don’t do heat and (2) I’m in a phase of life where I need to multi-task if I want to do everything I want to do. When I bike inside, I can read, crochet, watch TV, etc. The stars have to seriously align in order for me to do the work of getting my bike all set up with our Burley and getting both kids out there with me.

Hope you had a great July! Stay healthy everyone!

June’s Book and Bike Break Down

Catch up on what Mandi’s reading and how may miles she’s riding!

Booking and biking my way through 2020.


Life has been crazy – I kind of feel like I’m dragging my feet on my goals, despite the fact that I’m still sitting very comfortably on both. 40 books. 2020 miles. I’ll make it, but I like the months that I come out of so far ahead that I feel like I should take a bow at the end.


Books

21. A Good Neighborhood by Therese Anne Fowler (Contemporary)
This one was a Book Of The Month choice of mine. I like contemporary fiction. The third paragraph of the synopsis grabbed my attention: “Told from multiple points of view, A Good Neighborhood asks big questions about life in America today―What does it mean to be a good neighbor? How do we live alongside each other when we don’t see eye to eye?―as it explores the effects of class, race, and heartrending star-crossed love in a story that’s as provocative as it is powerful.” What I didn’t know was just how relevant it would be to current events while I was reading it. It took me a bit to get to the meat of the story, but once I got there, it just took off. I absolutely loved the writing style – so unique and fun! I have to highly recommend this read on account of it’s relevancy. It could be a game-changer for your perspective on racism. 4.5 STARS

22. The Honey Bus: A Memoir of Loss, Courage and a Girl Saved by Bees by Meredith May (Memoir)
How many times can I say how much I love memoirs? I just think it’s incredibly beautiful and empowering to allow people to tell their stories. Some hit home with me, some are shockingly different from my experience and some are less meaningful to me. This fell into that third category. What I loved was her comparisons to and knowledge of honeybees. That side of it was so interesting. While Meredith experienced far more than I did as a kid, parts of the written story were slow. The last quarter of the book had all the makings of a great book and arguably made the book as a whole worth a read, but I struggled to get into it quickly. Though I should mention, I’ve already suggested to my husband we start a hobby honeybee farm… 3 STARS

23. All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood (Contemporary)
June’s book club book was this highly rated/reviewed story. I had nabbed in as a Kindle daily deal because of the ratings. I wanted it to rock my socks off. I wanted to cry, but here’s why I didn’t. First, the story had an ick-factor to it; an inappropriate relationship that I struggled to get over for approximately the first half of the book. By the time I got over the icky-ness and started rooting for these characters, the book felt entirely too predictable. I had figured out the ending far before the end and was unsatisfied with the amount of proper resolution. It felt, to me, as though the bad guys got bad things and the good guys got good things. That being said, I did appreciate the points of view/writing style. And the story as a whole was interesting. 3 STARS


Biking

And now, onward with the goal to ride 2020 miles in 2020 on a bike.

Again, 2020 miles in a year means approximately 5.5 miles/day. Some days I ride 12. Some days, 8. Some days I don’t ride at all, but my current total…

1232

We’re now up to 258 of those miles having been outside (147 of them pulling a kid).

We ended June in a horrendous heat wave, and as someone who really only tolerates temperatures up to about 75 degrees, that means I’ve been back to biking inside. I don’t hate biking inside. I get to read at the same time when I do that. But it’s harder to get motivated to bike inside. As the heat wave spills over into July, I’ll just be over here racking up my indoor miles I suppose…

Hope you had a great June! Stay healthy everyone!

May’s Book and Bike Break Down

Catch up on what Mandi’s reading and how may miles she’s riding!

Booking and biking my way through 2020.


It was a great month for biking… but the smallest amount of books I’ve read in a month in the past two years. Balance I guess.


Books

18. The Last House Guest by Megan Miranda (Mystery, Thriller)
Started the month off with the pick of the book club I’m in. I was not excited about this choice going into it, but I voted for it because the Kindle book was cheap and I’m Dutch like that. Either I was pleasantly surprised by this book or I just really needed to get away from reading books for work. At times, it felt a little repetitive, and by the end I’d figured it out, but as a whole, I really liked it and it kept me wanting to pull it back open. 4 STARS

19. Beartown by Fredrik Backman (Contemporary)
Followed up May’s book club pick with finishing out April’s book club pick. Oops. I tried twice to get into the audio book version of this one so I could finish it in time for book club last month, but I just couldn’t. The first third was way too much hockey talk and I couldn’t really see it going anywhere. There were lots of characters and plot lines to keep up with, but the main plot line was gold once I got through all the hockey talk in the beginning. I loved Maya’s and Benji’s characters especially. This book is the first in a series, and I won’t lie, the end made me 100% intrigued about where the series was going to go next, but… I don’t like committing to a series (especially since I’m still half way into HP). 3.5 STARS

20. Silver Sparrow by Taryari Jones (Contemporary)
Silver Sparrow is written by the same author as An American Marriage, another book I loved. While the themes in each were somewhat similar, the books were very different. This story dove into the life of a bigamist in Atlanta in the 1980s. With one public family and one private family, this story was so heart-wrenching. I loved getting an inside look into this situation; it was fascinating. And while I loved the two viewpoints, my only critique on the book is that switching from Dana (private family) to Chaurisse (public family) halfway through instead of alternating back and forth felt slightly disruptive. Regardless, it was wonderfully done and my heart hurt for these characters. 4.5 STARS


Biking

And now, onward with the goal to ride 2020 miles in 2020 on a bike.

Again, 2020 miles in a year means approximately 5.5 miles/day. I’ve gone pretty aggressively at it these first 5 months, and I’m on track to reach my goal with ease if I continue at this pace. What’s the current total?

1052.

I won’t lie, hitting 1010 felt good… like REALLY good. After 5 months of riding almost daily, I think I realized at 1010 (which I happened to hit on Memorial Day) just how proud I might be of myself if I achieve this goal.

This past week was filled with some great rides, too. I went two miles with my daughter riding next to me on her balance bike. I got a ride in on country roads, making a big loop instead of weaving through neighborhoods. I ran an errand on my bike. I biked a quick 8 by myself outside the morning I hit the halfway point. This might be my favorite week for biking so far…

As for the 1010 miles, we’re now up to 168 of those miles having been outside (89 of them pulling a kid).

Hope you had a great May! Stay healthy everyone!

April’s Book and Bike Break Down

Catch up on what Mandi’s reading and how may miles she’s riding!

Booking and biking my way through 2020.


As I mentioned last month, I was worried about COVID-19 causing a drastic change in the amount of time I would have to read and ride my bike since my husband and I are without childcare but still working just as many hours. However, I found a compromise for the month of April – not an exciting one, but a compromise. In the month of April, I tackled three books I’d been needing to read for work – the books were read while riding my stationery bike; turning pages, racking up miles and getting in those hours for work. The “Books” part of this Break Down is not so exciting (except for number 11). But I made it through April, and that’s pretty exciting.


Books

13. Redemptive Compassion – The Defining Difference by Lois Tupyi (Christian Nonfiction)
Ok, so this is one I read for work. A lot of our work at Love INC is based on the concepts of Redemptive Compassion®, and while I love the work we do, I was super conflicted on these concepts. Yes, everyone has value, relationships are key, everyone has potential, we can all play a part in this world, we have to use discernment and be wise and we have the opportunity to transform. But who am I to deem what the “other” must do in order to receive my “help”? I understand not just donating to get it over with and feel good about yourself, but I think there are times in life when giving a handout is very necessary. Perhaps even such a time as now (amidst COVID-19), when you could not have possibly prepared for our predicted what was going to come. It’s not a time for trying to discern how people can contribute in order to receive what you have to give. It’s a time for survival. I will give what I have and trust that you will give what you have. I don’t need to refrain from giving because of the chance that you will refrain. May what I have to offer inspire you to give what you have to offer. And if it doesn’t, I hope you remember that I offered…  3 STARS

14. When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor . . . and Yourself by Steve Corbett & Brian Fikkert (Christian, Social Justice)
Another work read: first, I’ve never read a book that talks about itself so much (In this chapter… As you read in chapters 2, 3, and 4… You’ll read later about…). Second, this felt like a very right-winged approach to poverty alleviation. While I agreed with some of the thoughts and felt heart-broken by many of the example situations, I don’t know that I could jump on board 100% with these concepts. It almost seemed as though their answer to poverty alleviation is, 9 times out of 10, that you’re not to do anything about it. And then if you do something, the person receiving the something (be it money, skills, relationship, etc.) must prove their worthiness of receiving and their ability to change because of what they receive. Who am I to judge who is worthy to receive what I have to give? Who am I to set stipulations on the outcome of my giving? No, I can’t afford to give handouts left and right, but I do hope that the times I do give handouts, even something as simple as my generosity in the moment might spur good things if not immediately, maybe somewhere down the line…  . 2 STARS

15. We Will Rise: A True Story of Tragedy and Resurrection in the American Heartland by Steve Beaven (nonfiction, sports)
If you have a Kindle and Amazon Prime, you are missing out if you’re not taking advantage of first reads. This is not the first time my first reads selection was pure gold. Occasionally I got confused about who was who, but wow, this book was captivating! Full disclosure, I think you have to be a bit of a sports enthusiast to love it, but it was so great. I basically love any story that dives deep into a sports team or band or town – there’s something about different personalities coming together for a purpose and seeing the way they deal with each other and what they’re doing together pan out. I cried way too many times. 4.5 STARS

16. Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message so Customers Will Listen by Donald Miller (business)
Yup, another work read. While this type of book is not my preferred reading, I did find it inspiring and it did give me lots of great ideas and conversation starters for where we go next within our organization. It’s not a thrilling read, but it’s worth it if you’re running stuck or have just been generally doing the same thing for too long with your marketing. 3 STARS

17. I Think You’re Wrong (But I’m Listening): A Guide to Grace-Filled Political Conversations by Sarah Stewart Holland & Beth A. Silvers (politics)
My husband and I have been working our way through this book for months with our small group. While the book itself was not earth-shattering, the conversations that came from it were really refreshing. Politically, much of our small group aligns, but we could all think of people we do not align with and discussing how to approach conversations with those people was really helpful. Even just discussing politics and how to become more passionate (rather than passive) about them was helpful. My husband and I have not notoriously been people quick to deeply form and/or discuss our political opinions, but being reminded of the importance of doing both of these was great. 3 STARS


Biking

And now, onward with the goal to ride 2020 miles in 2020 on a bike.

2020 miles in a year means approximately 5.5 miles/day. I’ve been trying to do at least 8 each time I sit down, with the goal of 202 (10%) per month in these lead-off months. So far it’s happening! My total?

840.

We’re up to 61 of those miles having been outside (34 of them pulling a kid).

I went hard in April once I realized this was my chance to work/bike/get books read. And yes, the knee pain is back. But also, we got a trampoline, so the jury is out on why that pain is truly back. We will see how May goes…

Hope you had a great April! Stay healthy everyone!

March’s Book and Bike Break Down

Catch up on what Mandi’s reading and how may miles she’s riding!

Booking and biking my way through 2020.


Books

6. The Murmur of Bees by Sofia Segovia (historical fiction)
Ears deep in a search for that book that I can’t put down, I thought this one could be the answer so I grabbed it for $1.99 when it was a Kindle daily deal. It’s got an average rating of 4.28 on Goodreads with over 15,000 ratings. That’s incredible, but it just didn’t do it for me. I see that it has all the making of a good book, I really do, but it just dragged on and on. It had a solid beginning and end. The writing was heart-felt, but there was lots of wandering. 2.5 STARS

6. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling (fantasy)
First, why is this 734 pages long? I genuinely liked the story, but, yeah, it felt long, and I’m not certain it needed to be that long. The idea of the Triwizard Wizard tournament was a fun twist from the first three stories. I also really liked that I could not figure out where this one was going the entire time. I like a book that keeps me guessing. 3.5 STARS

7. The Magical Language of Others by E.J. Koh (memoir)
I generally love a memoir, but this one was not deep enough for me. I won it at my library’s book bingo back when we were allowed to go to public things and read it this month because I thought it was a sure-fire answer to my search for that really good book since few memoirs have let me down. This one was interesting, at times, but I wish the author would have cracked herself open more. I think her experience is so unique, but the delivery was just flat. 2 STARS

8. The Infinite Pieces of Us by Rebekah Crane (young adult)
This cute, quick read (free from Prime Reading) was written by the same author as The Odds of Loving Grover Cleveland, which I read last month. I mostly saw a trend. Her thing appears to be writing about young adults who pave their way on their own. I don’t hate the concept, I just felt like this book mirrored much of the other I read of hers and was therefore overly predictable. It’s probably worth the read, but of the two I would recommend The Odds of Loving Grover Cleveland before this one. 3 STARS


Biking

And now, onward with the goal to ride 2020 miles in 2020 on a bike.

2020 miles in a year means approximately 5.5 miles/day. I’ve been trying to do at least 8 each time I sit down, with the goal of 202 (10%) per month in these lead-off months. So far it’s happening! My total?

612 miles.

So far, only 26 of those miles have been outside (18 of them pulling a kid).

I can’t say for certain, but I would imagine my pace will quickly begin to change. COVID-19 is actually making it harder to find time to ride (as we quarantine, I don’t have childcare during the day, so I spend my days with the kids and my nights working). And then as it gets nicer out, I have hopes of riding more outside, but my plan was to front-load my year, knowing my outdoor riding would take me longer on account of pulling kids behind me.

In an ideal world, I’m not quarantining and can spend my free time riding… whether I’m pulling kids outside or riding at night inside. Nothing is really ideal right now, though, is it?

Hope you had a great March! Stay healthy everyone!

February’s Book and Bike Break Down

Catch up on what Mandi’s reading and how may miles she’s riding!

Booking and biking my way through 2020.


Books

5. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling (fantasy)
So I haven’t given up on HP. Book 3 has brought some redemption. It was deeper, more exciting, and, now that I know the characters better, much more emotional. I really liked the change-up in this one from the Voldemort focus to the prisoner of Azkaban. We needed a change and this one was perfect. 4 STARS

6. The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls by Anissa Gray (contemporary)
This was February’s book club choice. I campaigned hard for it because the author is from St. Joseph, MI and the book takes place in that area. Plus, she’s black and it’s Black History Month. I wish I could say it was a homerun, but I was a little disappointed with it in the end. Once it got going, the bones were there, but it took a while for me to sort out the characters and then I found the ending dissatisfying. 3.5 STARS

7. Don’t Miss It: Parent Ever Week Like it Counts by Reggie Joiner, Kristen Ivy (parenting)
I can see why this book is so necessary for a lot of people, but it mostly just felt like a 78-page panic attack for me. The entire book is a reminder of how fast your kids will grow up and that you should make the most of it. I already feel the pressure to do that and think about it constantly. However, my church suggested we read this per our child dedication process, and so I did. For me, personally? 2 stars. But because I think a lot of people do need to hear this message… 3 STARS

8. American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins (contemporary)
March’s book club pick already – did anyone hear about “the controversy” of this book? Because it was deemed one of the most-anticipated books of 2020 and then there was all this fuss over it and I’m like kind of confused about the hype. The first quarter of this book had me on the edge of my seat, and then it turned into a rather predictable immigration story. I didn’t feel controversially threatened (and I kind of wanted to feel that way). The story was good, and if you have strong thoughts about undocumented immigrants, I would recommend the read. But it did start to drag for me at about the halfway mark. 3 STARS


Biking

And now, onward with the goal to ride 2020 miles in 2020 on a bike.

2020 miles in a year means approximately 5.5 miles/day. I’ve been trying to do at least 8 each time I sit down, with the goal of 202 (10%) per month in these lead-off months. So far it’s happening! My total?

410 miles.

As of yesterday, I was 20% done with 2020 in 2020. Eek!

My knees seem to have adjusted to all of the riding, which is a major relief. I can’t exactly afford an injury with a baby and toddler at home. There have been other minor discomforts, but as a whole, I’m just cruising along!

Hope you had a great February!

January’s Book and Bike Break Down

Catch up on what Mandi’s reading and how may miles she’s riding!

Hi friends! I didn’t forget about you – I just needed a break from the weekly posts for a minute there and that lead me to my decision to switch to a new format here. Instead of one post per book, this year I’m changing it up a bit and lumping a month’s worth of books together so I don’t clog your inboxes and because, well, my time is a wee bit limited with another little at home.

And also, just for fun, I’m going to share an update on my 2020 goal (ride 2020 miles on a bike in 2020) each month in the same post.

From this was born… the Book and Bike Break Down.

Let’s get to it!


Books

1. A Nearly Normal Family by M.T. Edvardson (legal thriller)
This was our January Book Club pick and one I nabbed for free from my local library’s Book Bingo event. I was honestly excited for anything but historical fiction given the many historical fiction novels I read last year, so I went in really optimistic. I can’t say that it disappointed – I was en route to at least 4 stars until I rounded the corner toward home and felt like it kind of fell apart at the end. Like, why build and build if that’s it? 3.5 STARS

2. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling (fantasy)
How late is too late to jump on the bandwagon? We’ll say I inherited the entire HP series from my in-laws and I’m finally getting to it now. I’ve never had an interest in reading HP. My mom read the third book to me as a child and it scared the bejeebers out of me so I never cracked one open again until approximately 22 years later. Now that I can handle it, I’m kind of surprised it did as well as it did. Book one read fast – it’s a children’s book – and it really seemed mostly cutesy fantasy with very little depth. Sorry HP lovers. 2 STARS

3. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling (fantasy)
Like, why did I read book one? Because they entire thing is summed up in the first ten pages of book two. And was book two not just a repeat of book one with minor tweaks to the plot? If Voldemort just keeps coming back in various forms in each book I’m not sure I can stick this out to the end. 2 STARS

4. The Odds of Loving Grover Cleveland by Rebekah Crane (young adult)
I bought this one as a Kindle daily deal because it looked cute and cute it was. First, it’s set at a summer camp in Michigan and I’m fairly certain it’s the exact same one I grew up attending – at least that’s all I could picture when I read it. Similar to Extraordinary Means, teens with “problems” are sent away to a place where they’re to deal with their problems together. I think that’s a really unique environment for a writer to tackle, but int his book, too, I loved it. There were laugh-out-loud moments and moments where I was on the brink of tears. All-in-all, it’s a feel good, young adult read. 4 STARS


Biking

Ok, so my goal is to ride 2020 miles in 2020 on a bike. I specifically use the word “a” in there because I’m including my stationary bike as well as my actual bike given the fact that I live in Michigan and get a not-so-solid five months of outdoor riding.

2020 miles in a year means approximately 5.5 miles/day. Obviously, I will do more or less depending on each day’s schedule to allow myself time off here and there, but my current status?

212 miles.

I won’t lie, my knees feel a little too 30 for this right now, but I’m hoping that is something that’s going to get better as my body gets used to this. (Right?)

Oh, also, a stationary bike is a great place to read a book…

Hope you had a great January!

2019 in Books

What a whirlwind 2019 has been for reading. I didn’t quite set out to read this many books when I began, but I just plowed through one after another, consuming like an all-you-can-eat buffet. I don’t know that I’ll keep up this pace going forward, but it was fun for a while.

What a whirlwind 2019 has been for reading. I didn’t quite set out to read this many books when I began, but I just plowed through one after another, consuming like an all-you-can-eat buffet. I don’t know that I’ll keep up this pace going forward, but it was fun for a while.

And while I don’t think I read any life-changing books this year – nothing that I’m telling all of my friends to read – I do think the quality of the books I read was altogether higher than years past. I wasn’t surprised when my average rating was higher despite my not having any major stand-out books.

It was a good year. A wild ride. A whole lot of reading, so let’s get into it…


Books read:

54


Pages read:

17,118


Average Page Length:

317


Longest Book:

The Hearts Invisible Furies by John BoyneThe adopted Cyril Avery’s story of finding identity in a world he’s only ever been adrift in. 


Shortest Book:

The Red Pony by John Steinbeck – A classic story of a boy restlessly anticipating having his own horse.


My Average Rating:

3.7


My Highest Rated Books (5 stars):

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Catching Fire
by Suzanne Collins
The Hearts Invisible Furies by John Boyne
Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
The Rabbit Girls by Anna Ellory
Wild Game by Adrienne Brodeur
The Beantown Girls by Jane Healey


My Lowest Rated Books:

Way Out Here by Richard Leo (2 stars)
The Red Pony by John Steinbeck (2 stars)
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (1 star)
A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving (2 stars)
Three Women by Lisa Taddeo (2 stars)


Goodreads Highest Rated Book of my 2019 Books:

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (4.52 average rating)


Goodreads Lowest Rated Book of my 2019 Books:

The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner (3.5 average rating)


My Favorite Book of 2019:

The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John BoyneThe adopted Cyril Avery’s story of finding identity in a world he’s only ever been adrift in. 
The Rabbit Girls by Anna Ellory (first runner up)
A realistic fictional story of Miriam, a German who discovers her father’s ties to Auschwitz as he lies on his deathbed amidst the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid (second runner up) – A fictional oral history of one of the biggest bands of the 70s.


The Book(s) that Changed the Way I Think About Something:

Motherhood so White by Nefertiti AustinNefertiti’s true story of the adoption of her black “crack baby” as a single, black woman.
The Heart’s Invisible Furiesby John Boyne The adopted Cyril Avery’s story of finding identity in a world he’s only ever been adrift in.
Murder, Motherhood, and Miraculous Grace: A True Story
by Debra Moerke – The true story of a foster care situation that would both bind and change two families forever.
Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter by Kate Clifford LarsonThe true story of Rosemary Kennedy, based on Kennedy family documents, letters and journals, being hidden away for being different and lobotomized at the age of 23.


The Book(s) I’m Most Likely to Recommend to Others:

The Hearts Invisible Furies by John Boyne – The adopted Cyril Avery’s story of finding identity in a world he’s only ever been adrift in. 
The Rabbit Girls
by Anna Ellory – A realistic fictional story of Miriam, a German who discovers her father’s ties to Auschwitz as he lies on his deathbed amidst the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Daisy Jones & The Six
by Taylor Jenkins Reid – A fictional oral history of one of the biggest bands of the 70s.
Into Thin Air
by Jon Kraukauer – The true account of Jon Krakauer’s Mt. Everest Climb amidst a ravenously deadly storm.
Recursion
by Blake Crouch – The science fictional story of preserving memories, the curation of False Memory Syndrome, and the opportunity to re-experience memories.


The Book(s) I’m Least Likely to Recommend to Others:

Three Women by Lisa Taddeo
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Way Out Here by Richard Leo


The Scariest Book I Read:

Watching You by Lisa Jewell (I wasn’t really one for scary books this year, so this is really not that scary.)


The Happiest Book I Read:

The Overdue Life of Amy Byler by Kelly Harms


The Saddest Book I Read:

Murder, Motherhood and Miraculous Grace: A True Story by Debra Moerke


The Funniest Book I Read:

How Not to Die Alone by Richard Roper


Broken Down by Genre:

Historical Fiction: 12
Nonfiction: 9
Young Adult: 9
Literary Fiction: 7
Memoir: 6
Chick Lit: 5
Mystery/Thriller: 3
Classic: 2
Sci-Fi: 1


If you’ve made it this far, you must be a reader as well. Please comment to let me know your book recommendations!

Book Review – Murder, Motherhood, and Miraculous Grace

Murder, Motherhood, and Miraculous Grace is Debra Moerke’s true story of the stations God has called her to in life, be it a profession, a relational role, or a major traumatic hurdle. Debra and her husband had fostered numerous children, but none affected her life quite so much as the Bower children did. When tragedy strikes, and the Bower children’s mother, Karen, calls from prison asking a colossal favor of the Moerkes, Debra has to decide whether she’s all in for what she believes or not. Can she extend a miraculous amount of grace from one of the darkest episodes of her life? What does this mean for her family? And how can you even move forward from such a traumatic mile-marker?

Sorry about all the extra posts – who knew I could read so many books in a year? Hang tight, one more post coming this year!

And finally, my last book of the year. I won this one on Goodreads and it has all the making to be a book that I would love – memoir, motherhood, foster care – three things I’m very intrigued by.

Book 54:
Murder, Motherhood, and Miraculous Grace: A True Story
by Debra Moerke

Genre:
Memoir

Published:
October 2019

Synopsis According to Mandi:
Without spoilers, Murder, Motherhood, and Miraculous Grace is Debra Moerke’s true story of the stations God has called her to in life, be it a profession, a relational role, or a major traumatic hurdle. Debra and her husband had fostered numerous children, but none affected her life quite so much as the Bower children did. When tragedy strikes, and the Bower children’s mother, Karen, calls from prison asking a colossal favor of the Moerkes, Debra has to decide whether she’s all in for what she believes or not. Can she extend a miraculous amount of grace from one of the darkest episodes of her life? What does this mean for her family? And how can you even move forward from such a traumatic mile-marker?

Favorite Quote(s):

“My encouragement was to not wait for government agencies to do the work of caring for people around us. We can be a part of changing lives by showing we care and demonstrating that with love and action.”

“Suddenly, I realized I had no business wrestling with Karen’s sin. I had my own to deal with. Like Paul the apostle, I do what I don’t want to do and don’t do what I should. And yet, like me, Karen had the promise from God to forgive her and cleanse her from all unrighteousness. I had to remember that.”

“But life isn’t a fairy tale, and we are not owed blissful happy endings. We are called to run the race marked out for us until we are called heavenward, and that, I was assuming,”

– Debra Moerke, Murder, Motherhood, and Miraculous Grace

Awards (based upon my brief research):
None yet.

Pages:
326

My Overall Rating:
4.5 – Well rip my heart out. First, I read this book in 5% bursts while up at night with my son. I cannot recommend you read it while holding your baby. Waterworks. Every night.

Literally my only complaint about the book is that it got a little preachy at times. However, I could tell it was intentional, and I’m grateful there are people who are as audacious in sharing their faith as Debra. God was mentioned on almost every page.

I am so impressed with the things Debra has done with her life and so grateful she chose to share her story. I have hopes of one day doing foster care, and reading her story was a great reminder of the challenges that calling can bring but also of the opportunities it brings. Every new day is opportunity to be a light in this dark world. Debra lived into that in even the darkest of times. She forgave in a situation where many could likely not fathom forgiveness, and then she went further to extend a miraculous amount of grace because the Lord would want her to.

This book challenges its readers to consider where they might extend grace, where the Lord might be calling them to, or what the Lord might be showing them in their dark times. It’s not just for mothers. It’s for those who want or need to be reminded that God calls us to stations in our lives that are challenging and dark and fruitful and opportunistic. We choose where to go from there…

Book Review – The Glittering Hour

The Glittering Hour is the story of high-society’s flapper-girl Selina Lennox getting involved with penniless artist Lawrence Weston despite her better judgement. With the financial stability and social status secured in Rupert Carew – who was all but handed to Selina on a silver platter – Selina had to choose what mattered most to her in life and where she could carve out her best future. It’s a story of love, choice, tragedy and riches. A story of secrets and mystery. A story of truth.

My last Book of the Month book of 2019, and my last historical fiction read for hopefully a while, because wow, there’s been a lot of those this year.

Book 53:
The Glittering Hour
by Iona Grey

Genre:
Historical Fiction

Published:
December 2019

Synopsis According to Mandi:
Without spoilers, The Glittering Hour is the story of high-society’s flapper-girl Selina Lennox getting involved with penniless artist Lawrence Weston despite her better judgement. With the financial stability and social status secured in Rupert Carew – who was all but handed to Selina on a silver platter – Selina had to choose what mattered most to her in life and where she could carve out her best future. It’s a story of love, choice, tragedy and riches. A story of secrets and mystery. A story of truth.

Favorite Quote(s):

“We’re all going to die sometime – that’s a fact. And the only thing we can do to cheat death is to live properly. Bravely. Love wholly. Living, instead of just existing.

– Iona Grey, The Glittering Hour

Awards (based upon my brief research):
None yet.

Pages:
480

My Overall Rating:
4 – The slow start on this one had me thinking it was a secure 3, but the further I got, the more invested in the story I became. Rich people are always kind of fun to read about, and especially rich people from the 20s/30s (1900s that is…), so it had that going for it the whole time.

However, once the story really picked up, I was genuinely trying to guess what the outcome was going to be and I think that’s always a good sign. While I was able to figure out maybe a third of it, the other two thirds took me by surprised and got me emotionally involved. I was seriously rooting for certain characters and was pleasantly content with the conclusion of their story.