Amber Can Read : December 2017

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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!!)

You can do anything, but you can’t do everything

I am worn out.

I wanted to start this post with a fun story about to-do lists or all of the things that women have to do in a day, but everything I wrote kept falling flat. I would reach a certain point and try to transition into talking about my main points, and the words just would stop.

So, I took that as a sign that I need to be real with everyone.

I have been struggling lately. This is a really busy time for me, and I feel a little bit overwhelmed and like I am starting not to be able to handle everything. I feel off-kilter and frazzled. And when I’m frazzled, do you know who suffers? It’s not the relative strangers and acquaintances I encounter daily.

It’s my husband.

It’s my daughter.

It’s my family.

It’s me.

I have determined one big reason why I am burnt out : I want to “do it all.”

I want to be a great wife, a fabulous mother (to the human and non-human children), a hard-working employee, a successful writer, in fantastic shape, have a spotless house, read often, cook real meals for my family, have a daily quiet time, volunteer more, clean up my blog and website, and sleep more, among other things.

Just reading that makes me tired.

So, it’s time to embrace a new life motto : I can do anything, but I can’t do everything. I have to have balance.

I recently had the chance to part of a book launch team for Finding Your Balance: An 11-Lesson Bible Study“>Finding Your Balance: An 11-Lesson Bible Study by Sandy Cooper.

(Yes, I was on two book launch teams at the same time – this one and Finish. Add that to the list above…)

I started reading the digital copy I received, and I didn’t get too far into it before I jumped online and ordered it. If you know me, then you know I don’t really buy books, but I just needed to own this one.

I haven’t read much of the book yet, and I haven’t started using it as a Bible study yet, but I’ve already gotten so much out of the content. There is a section where Sandy talks about how if we look at our daily lives, things look out of balance, but if we look at a weekly picture, we’ll realize that things aren’t so bad.

There’s also a section where she discusses how she accepts the busy seasons in her life but plans around them. For example, when she has had a few days in a row of dealing with a lot of people, she will plan a bit of an introvert day to make sure that area of herself remains balanced.

I can’t wait to dig into this and start realigning myself for the good of everyone around me!

Sandy has created great resources for her new book, including this book trailer :

She also offers a sample chapter so anyone who isn’t sure if this is the study for them can read a little more before committing to buying it. Check out the sample chapter here.

Sandy is starting a virtual group on Facebook on September 25. It does cost $10 to join it, but I think it will be a good investment when it’s tied into the book and led by the author!

Is achieving balance a myth? It sure is, and I can’t wait to drop the balancing act and regain some sanity!

I’ve used affiliate links in this post. Want to know what that means? Check out my disclosure policy.

Let me know if you’re joining the Facebook group on the 25th, or if you would like to meet locally to discuss the possibilities of a study, just let me know!

Learning to Finish What You Start

Slack Free September

Make Yourself Amazing in April


What do these three links have in common?

They’re all post series that I started but never finished.

The list doesn’t end there either. I am full of great ideas about things I want to start. I can start things all day. The half unpacked boxes scattered throughout my house and the partially filled out planners can attest to that. It’s the finish that trips me up. Finishing proves to be an elusive goal that I almost never reach.

I’m not alone in my struggle. According to Jon Acuff, author of the forthcoming book Finish, nearly 92% of New Year’s resolutions fail. Acuff equates this to almost having a better chance of being accepted to Julliard than finishing a goal.

Now, since I made an A in my Intro to Dance class in college, this comparison doesn’t ring true with me, but for you non-dancers out there, this should be a little shocking. How can be possible? Why do we have such a problem finishing things?

Acuff explores this topic in-depth in Finish. One reason we fail to finish is that we’re making our goals too lofty. Instead of starting with a small goal, like completing a 5K, we immediately dive into the deep end, headfirst, with no lifeguard on duty, and say that we’re going to complete a triathlon. We create elaborate plans for how we will reach these goals, and then the minute one tiny piece of the plan is off track, we abandon it faster than it takes to spell triathlon.

Another obstacle to finishing is that we are our own worst enemies. We need to be easier on ourselves. One example Acuff gave was that if we set a goal to lose 10 pounds but only lose 6, we think we have failed. But, if we set a goal to lose 5 pounds and lose 6, then we have met and exceeded our goal. We shouldn’t feel like we have to go all in at full speed. Progression that helps us actually finish is much better than having good ideas, even if the progression is slower than we want it to be.

Another reason that we don’t finish is that we pursue “noble obstacles.” Acuff defines a noble obstacle as “a virtuous-sounding reason for not working towards a finish.” Another way to look at this is the sudden urge you get to sketch out your idea for a queso-on-demand delivery service instead of going for your training run. While a queso-on-demand delivery service might be a cool idea and be used by many people (or just Jon Acuff. Same difference), it doesn’t do anything to help you finish your goal of running a half-marathon. I am so, so, so bad about doing this, so this chapter was especially eye-opening for me!

Finish comes out on September 12, but you can pre-order a copy now. If you pre-order by September 11, then you receive the bonuses shown in the picture below.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I didn’t expect it to be so timely for me though as I’m starting to plan out a few goals that I really, really, really, really (really) want to finish. I have been a fan of Jon Acuff since the “Stuff Christians Like” days and even guest-posted there once! I was excited to have this opportunity to be on the launch team, especially since this is a book that I enjoyed and can see revisiting many more times in the future. Perhaps there could even be a Fall Finisher challenge coming up soon…

I’ve also used affiliate links in this post. Want to know what that means? Check out my disclosure policy.

What is something you’re struggling to finish? Let me know in the comments!

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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Book Review: Together: A Journey in Godly Marriage

Together: A Journey Of Godly Marriage (Christian Female Book 2) by [Coleman, Sarah]

I read “Make Yourself Amazing” and really enjoyed it, so I had high expectations for this book. I was especially interested in this one because it’s a short read and since having a baby, our marriage has changed, so I wanted to see if she addressed anything like that here. Unfortunately, this book did not live up to my expectations. It felt very scattered and unfocused. Coleman touched on things that I found interesting, such as an analogy between making sure you back up your technology and your marriage, but she didn’t go into any detail about how to back up your marriage, so it left me wondering why she brought it up. She also painted a very flowery, almost romance novel version of marriage. She married later in life (at 31), and I got married at 29, so I understand that it’s going to be different than it would be for younger people, but it makes marriage seem unrealistic. It’s easy to think marriage is the greatest thing in the world when you and your husband are on a road trip adventure across Australia; it’s another thing when you’ve been up and down all night with a baby and your husband tells you how tired he is the next day. That’s where the digging down deep comes in. That’s where your marriage is tested and refined. That’s where you have to be more Christlike and use every ounce of Christian discipline you have not to wring his neck.


I received a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review, and I have been hesitant to post anything because I don’t like leaving negative reviews, but there was so much potential here. There were so many more things that Coleman could’ve delved into and developed in order to make this a broader, less romanticized view of marriage. Yes, a godly marriage is going to look different than a secular marriage, but reading this book makes me see how people think that if they’re not living this life then they must not have a godly marriage. At least that’s what I felt like a few times while reading this. All in all, I would say skip this one unless you’re looking to read a real life love story that may or may not encourage you in your own marriage.