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Amber Can Read : January 2018

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Time to talk about books again!

Books read this month : 9

Book 1 : Of Mess and Moxie by Jen Hatmaker

I really enjoyed this one! There were a lot of parts that resonated with me, but of course since I didn’t take notes or write anything down, I can’t remember any of them right now! Recommended for fans of funny, Christian based nonfiction.

Book 2 : Before We Were Yours  by Lisa Wingate

I started reading this one the night that Will met some friends to see The Last Jedi. When he got home, I told him I would just read another couple of chapters, but then I stayed up until past 2 AM to finish it! Oops! Recommended for those who like mysteries and don’t mind a story going between past and present.

Book 3 : The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

This one was not my favorite. Early in the book, the main female character described how the main male character could be ugly, and the author chose to use cleft lip as a descriptor of an ugly person. As a mother of a child who was born with a cleft lip, I may be oversensitive to things like this, but it immediately shut me down. I slogged through this one because one of my friends loves it, but I wouldn’t recommend this one at all.

Book 4 : Slider by Pete Hautman

A pretty quick read about a teenager who wants to be a competitive eating champion. Those who know me in real life know that I have a strange fascination with competitive eating. This story even mentioned some of the real eaters (Joey Chestnut!). It was fun, but I probably wouldn’t read it unless you have a bit of the same fascination and don’t mind some very…realistic…descriptions of what could happen during a contest.

Book 5 : The Wonder  by Emma Donoghue

I think this one is considered historical fiction, and it takes place in Ireland, so it may not be interesting to everyone, but I liked it! The premise of this involves what some may consider child abuse, so if that makes you uncomfortable, skip this one. Otherwise, I recommend it because it has a twist that I didn’t expect and enjoyed!

Book 6 : Cheap Girls Club  by Crystal Lacey Winslow

Will got this one for me for Christmas since we’re focusing on finances this year. I thought it was sweet of him to get it! There were a few times that I got a little lost – like when she detailed a business she used to have or still has…I’m not sure – but otherwise, it was full of practical and straightforward information. I recommend it if you like to read about personal finance without it being too detailed or boring.

Book 7 : A Life in Parts  by Bryan Cranston

The first of three Erin 8.0 challenge books I read! I am a sucker for celebrity biographies and autobiographies. I feel like I always learn something new about people, even when the books aren’t very well-written. Thankfully, this one was well-written and captured my attention, even as I started fighting sickness! Random Bryan Cranston fact – he had initially planned to be a police officer. Can you imagine Breaking Bad without him?? I recommend this for anyone who is a fan of his work or of celebrity books in general.

Book 8 : A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Okay, I know it’s only January 11, but I’m going to just go ahead and declare this my favorite book of the year!! I loved this one so, so much. If you read Beartown first, like I did, you are going to be in for a surprise when you read this one because it hardly seems like the same author! I can’t recommend this one enough! Stop reading this blog (okay, not really) and click that link and go buy it…or go borrow it from your local library! And if for some reason, you don’t like it, just don’t tell me, or I will judge you… 😉

Book 9 : Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple

Poor Bernadette. This book was perfectly fine – a little weird and draggy at parts – but perfectly fine. However, since I read it right after the best book of 2018, I knew that it probably would be a letdown. This one is okay. I don’t really recommend it or not recommend it.

Read anything good lately? Have you read A Man Called Ove? Don’t answer that unless you absolutely loved it too!

Linking up with Steph and Jana

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Book Challenge by Erin 8.0

I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. Clicking on these links will not add any additional costs to items you order and helps support my blogging costs. Thank you!

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I have been writing this post for about a week now! Christmas (and the FIVE different celebrations we went to) has gotten me all thrown off of my schedule!

I can’t remember how I first heard about the Book Challenge by Erin, but I participated in the last one and am really excited about the upcoming challenge that starts January 1! I think it helped me read more because I was determined to finish the challenge, so I read instead of playing games on my phone…or cleaning…whatever.

Here are some of the rules for the challenge, straight from the Book Challenge by Erin Facebook group.

• First and foremost, have fun. Don’t stress. No one is being judged, graded, or penalized. Even if you finish only one book the entire challenge, if you enjoy it and it’s an accomplishment for you, then that’s awesome.

• The challenge will run from JANUARY 1, 2018 to APRIL 30, 2018. No books that are started before 12 a.m. on January 1 or finished after 11:59 p.m. on April 30 will count. (We live in different time zones – follow this according to your own time zone.)

• Each book must be at least 200 pages long. Audio books are fine too.

• A book can only be used for one category, and each category can only be completed once. If you want to switch the category of a book, or change the book you originally chose, no worries.

• You can read your books in any order you choose.

• Rereads can be used only once. If a book you love fits into a category, go ahead and visit it again. Read it in its entirety. But, only do this once for the challenge.

• There will be 10 book categories with a possibility of earning 200 points. That’s 10 books in four months. For some of you, this will be a BIG challenge; for others it will be easy peasy. It’s all for fun, remember!

• The first three people who finish the challenge will be invited to contribute a category for the next challenge. The following will get a small prize from me (1st to complete 1st round; 1st to complete both rounds; and WILD CARD random draw – all who finish the 10 book challenge will qualify as an entry!) Plus, everyone who completes the challenge will gets all sorts of recognition and support!

• Lastly, have fun. Don’t stress. No one is being judged, graded, or penalized. Even if you finish only one book the entire challenge, if you enjoy it and it’s an accomplishment for you, then that’s awesome. Wait, I’ve read that somewhere before…Good luck!

I didn’t finish first or get a wild card prize last time, but I still had a lot of fun participating! I also read a few things that I probably wouldn’t have read otherwise!

Here are the categories and points for this round, along with my selections for each category.

Book Challenge by Erin 8.0 – Categories:

• 5 points: Freebie – Read a book that is at least 200 pages

My pick : In This Moment by Karen Kingsbury

Why I chose this one : Karen Kingsbury is totally my guilty pleasure author. If I’m going to read one of her books, I might as well get some reading challenge credit for it!

• 10 points: Read a book that starts with the letter “L”

My pick : A Life in Parts by Bryan Cranston

Why I chose this one : I’ve had it checked out from work for a ridiculously long time, so I need to read it. Plus, I’m a sucker for celebrity autobiographies/biographies.

• 10 points: Read a book that has a (mostly) red cover

My pick : Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

Why I chose this one : I had a hard time with this one because I did a search for “books with red covers” and then couldn’t find anything my library had (I got all of my challenge books from the library I work at since it was easy to get them in one trip and so I know when things are placed on hold). This was the first red cover book that I found that my library had. Such a precise system, right?

• 15 points: Read a book with a character’s name in the title (i.e. Jane Eyre, The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, We Need to Talk about Kevin, A Prayer for Owen Meany, Harry Potter books, etc.)

My pick : Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple

Why I chose this one : This one has been on my “to read” list for a while, so when I saw it at work and realized I could use it as a challenge selection, I was sold!

• 20 points: Read a book from this list: Book Riot’s 100 Must-Read Books with Plot Twists https://bookriot.com/2017/04/11/100-books-with-plot-twists/

My pick : The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Why I chose this one : It was the first one on the list that I found at work! 😉

• 20 points: Read a book with the words “house” or “home” in the title

My pick : Crooked House by Agatha Christie

Why I chose this one : I had originally chosen another book with house/home in the title, but my library didn’t have it. I found another one that my library had, but when I read the description, I was completely uninterested in it. I browsed our new purchases shelf and found this one.

• 25 points: Read a book by an author whose first and last name begins with the same letter (i.e. Cassandra Clare, Melina Marchetta, Ransom Riggs, Chris Cleave, etc.)

My pick : Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

Why I chose this one : I had a hard time figuring out one for this prompt, so when I saw this one on the new purchases shelf at work, I grabbed it!

• 30 points: Read a book that was originally published in a different language than your own

My pick : A Man Called Ove by Frederik Backman

Why I chose this one : As I shared in my last book review post, I really enjoyed Beartown, also written by Backman, so I wanted to read another one of his books and see if I like his writing.

• 30 points: Read a book where most of the action takes place on a form of transportation i.e. bus, boat, car, plane, etc.

My pick : The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

Why I chose this one : This has been on my “to-read” list for a while, so since it fit the prompt, I decided it was a good time to read it!

• 35 points: Read a book with a character that suffers from a debilitating physical illness

My pick : Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

Why I chose this one : I’ve heard a lot of good things about this book and have been wanting to read it.

Are any of you planning to participate in this challenge or another reading challenge in the new year? Let me know if you are!

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Amber Can Read : December 2017

I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. Clicking on these links will not add any additional costs to any items you order and helps support my blogging costs. Thank you!

Amber Can Read

Hey, remember that time I read 10 books in a month? Well this month, I didn’t read that many. I read a grand total of 3 books.

Books read this month : 3

It was such a busy time with the end of the semester at work and the start of the holiday season that I just didn’t read nearly as much. The good news is that I read a couple of things that have been on my “to-read” list for a little bit, so at least it was productive reading!

Book 1 : Beartown by Frederik Backman

This one was a surprise for me. I read a lot of reviews where people unexpectedly loved it. It started off a little slow, and I had a bit of a hard time keeping up with the characters (#mombrain), but once I got hooked, I was hooked! There is some heavy subject matter in this one, but if you don’t mind reading about those types of things, then I would recommend this one!

Book 2 : Love Your Life, Not Theirs by Rachel Cruze

Since our debt free journey is a huge part of our 2018 goals, I was interested to see what she has to say on the topic of comparison and jealousy. I think this is the first book of hers (or at least the first one I’ve read) that is not co-authored with her father, financial expert, Dave Ramsey. I didn’t know what to expect with just her voice, but I really enjoyed it! There was a lot of practical information in here (“don’t live beyond your means…”), but she also addressed the trade offs for being diligent and responsible now to make your future better. I also liked hearing about her financial struggles because I related more to those (I also would dine out nightly if given the opportunity) than I relate to her father’s struggles. If you’re looking for something practical and fun, I recommend this one.

Book 3 : The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

I really wanted to like this one. I had read enough reviews about it to kind of know one of the twists, but I wanted to see how Reid revealed everything. I liked a lot of this book, and then I didn’t. I know that seems abrupt, but there was an element that she threw in related to the lady interviewing Evelyn Hugo that just seemed, well, thrown in. I don’t recommend this one unless you’re prepared to be a little let down.

I’m also participating in the Book Challenge by Erin 8.0, which starts on January 1! I’m going to write about that on Friday, so come back and visit if you want a reading challenge to kick off 2018!

Linking up with Steph and Jana (I almost missed this one! Ack!!)

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Book Review + Two Reading Challenges

Several months ago, I received a review copy of Head First! A Crash Course in Positivity by Steve H. Lawton in exchange for an honest review. I usually don’t take nearly this long to read review copies, but life just kept getting in the way of this one!

In this book, Lawton starts out by talking about his near-fatal skiing accident that occurred in 2014. As he tells the story of his recovery process, he talks about the eight positivity principles that he believes helped him nearly fully recover in a short amount of time.

I’ll admit, when I started reading this, I was having a pretty meh week at work, so I didn’t approach it with the best frame of mind. That being said, I still enjoyed it and found a few takeaways about how my attitude and thinking can affect my mood. Lawton includes several exercises, at least one per principle, that readers can use to integrate the principles into their own lives. That will be helpful once I can sit down and go through them and give them some thought.

Overall, I gave it a 3 out of 5 stars. I’ve been trying to be more conscientious of not giving everything 5 stars because as I’m reading more, I’m finding that only a few things are worthy of that top prize!


Now, on to the reading challenges!

The first challenge I’m doing is called the Book Challenge by Erin 7.0. She explains it on her blog, but the basic premise is that from July 1 – October 31, you need to read as many of the 10 books you’ve selected from the categories she provides. All books must be at least 200 pages long, and you can only use one book you’ve read before. Everyone who finishes the challenge will be entered into a drawing to win a small prize, plus the first three people who finish will contribute categories to the next challenge. She also has a Facebook group that looks like it’s pretty active.

Here are the categories and my selections:

  1. Freebie – Read a book that’s at least 200 pages – Love Story: A Novel (The Baxter Family) by Karen Kingsbury…she is my guilty pleasure author for sure!
  2. Read a book that starts with the letter “B” – Beastly (Kendra Chronicles) by Alex Flinn
  3. Read a book that has a (mostly) yellow cover – The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl by Issa Rae (I don’t know much about her, but I heard an interview with her on NPR and thought she was hilarious)
  4. Read a book that has a picture of an animal on the cover – Dogs and Their People: Photos and Stories of Life with a Four-Legged Love by Morgane Chang
  5. Read a book that was published in 2017 – The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (I’ve read so many reviews that recommend this one. This is the book I’m most excited to read).
  6. Read a book with a compass or cardinal direction in the title – Heisman’s First Trophy: The Game that Launched Football in the South by Sam Hatcher (this is about my undergrad alma mater!)
  7. Read a banned book (since the challenge occurs during Banned Books Week) – The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  8. Read a fictional book about mental illness – Impulse by Ellen Hopkins
  9. Read a book with a non-human main character – The Underneath by Kathi Appelt
  10. Read a book a Disney movie was based on or a book based on a Disney movie – Beauty and the Beast: Lost in a Book by Jennifer Donnelly

Some of these I chose because I’ve been wanting to read them, and the others I chose because they were available at work! #frugal #broke

If you want to join in this challenge, choose your books and join the Facebook group to let Erin know what you’ll be reading.


The other reading challenge I’m participating in is a little easier if the idea of 10 books is overwhelming to anyone! It’s called “Quirky Blind Date With a Book”. For this challenge, fill out a Google Form by July 1, and then shortly after you’ll be sent a mystery eBook to read and review. If you’re a first time participant, you’ll only be able to select one book. They also have a Facebook group you can join, and they also award prizes to some finishers. If you do sign up and put me (Amber McKee) as the one who referred you, I believe that gives both of us an extra entry in the prize drawing!

This challenge requires using a Kindle or the Kindle App. If you don’t have a Kindle, then you can download the app for free here! I’ve got the app on my iPad, and it makes it easy to read while I’m trapped with a napping child! 😉

Phew! This was a lot to cover, but I hope it inspires some of you to check out Head First or to get involved in one or both of the reading challenges! If you do decide to do one of the challenges, let me know which one and which books you choose or get paired up with!

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