Books #16 – 21

This post is part of my ongoing battle project to tame my TBR pile. As usual, all descriptions are from Amazon.

I’m way behind on making these updates, so although I have actually read about 55 books so far this year, this list only goes through #21 :(. Maybe someday I will catch up. Maybe.

For the record, July was not a very good month for me in terms of keeping my numbers under control. I bought seven new books and only read two old ones. Also, in June I used Overdrive for the first time and while I think this is an awesome service…well, let’s just say I can see how it is likely to throw a wrench into my plans to read my own books! Unless I can stay away from it for a while. To that end, I’ve vowed to only read books from my own collection throughout the month of August. Preferably stuff I’ve had since before the beginning of the year. That should help make up for July. Sort of. Wish me luck :)!

Now, on with the updates…

#16: Sweet Valley High #18: Head Over Heels, by Kate William

Bruce Patman and Regina Morrow in love? No one at Sweet Valley High can believe it. Regina is beautiful and shy, one of the nicest girls at school. Bruce is a real snob, and the only person he’s ever cared about is himself.

Jessica Wakefield figures the romance can’t last. She knows Bruce too well. She’s even willing to bet Lila Fowler that Bruce and Regina break up within two weeks. The stakes are high, and Jessica can’t afford to lose. If she has her way, Regina and Bruce won’t be happy for long.


This one was pretty cute. I really like Bruce with Regina. There’s just something about a hardened guy softening for a sweet girl :). Jessica tries to cause trouble, as usual, and Elizabeth tries to help everyone out. There were some really sweet moments between Elizabeth and Bruce in this, actually, including one where Elizabeth is so impressed by the changes in his behavior and attitude that she impulsively gives him a kiss on the cheek. It was really cute!

#17: Dancing Through Life: Steps of Courage and Conviction, by Candace Cameron

Candace Cameron Bure has grown up before our eyes and we’ve watched as she’s balanced life in Hollywood with her faith for many years. But that all reached new heights when she was given the opportunity to join the cast of Dancing With the Stars. Being on the show was one of her dreams come true; and with that dream came the opportunity to display her Christian faith in front of millions of people, through an intense season of stretching beyond her limits, and to run the race God gave her with joy and perseverance.

Join Candace as she reflects on the self-discovery that came through leaping out of her comfort zone. Go behind the scenes and experience the highs and lows, the roadblocks, and the personal victories. Hear straight from her heart on tough lessons learned about grace, rejection, perfectionism, disappointment, accountability, dealing with criticism, and more. Through God’s strength, and with the help of endless support from her family and friends, see how Candace stayed true to herself and publicly lived out her faith in Christ all the way to the finale.

How do you stand with conviction in your world? Where does your courage come from when faced with challenges? How do you live out your faith on a daily basis despite opposition? Your stage probably isn’t in Hollywood and the challenges you are facing may not be on live television, but they are no less real. Come along with Candace as she shares how she found the courage to stand with conviction on one of the largest platforms of her life.


I downloaded this for 99 cents back in 2015. Actually, I’ve gotten all three of Candace Cameron Bure’s books for 99 cents each, at some time or another. Not a bad deal! I’d only read one other one before this: Balancing It All. I liked that one because it was more autobiographical, describing her experience growing up as a child actress. This one was good, too, but it is about Dancing with the Stars and I don’t watch that show, nor have I ever even seen an episode of it! I think if you’re a big fan of DWTS (and don’t mind reading a lot about God) you’d probably enjoy the book a lot, as she really gives a detailed look from behind the scenes at how the show is run. Sounds pretty brutal!

The bulk of the book is about Candace’s experiences on the program, and how she tried to reconcile her religious beliefs with being part of a mainstream show sometimes known for “sexy” dances and tiny, potentially immodest costumes. Unsurprisingly, she received a lot of flak for participating in a secular show. Some of it seemed to me as though it might be rationalization (with her telling herself certain things were okay because she really wanted to continue being part of the show) but I suppose only she knows for certain. Regardless, it was an interesting read and gave me some things to think about.

#18: No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State, by Glenn Greenwald

In May 2013, Glenn Greenwald set out for Hong Kong to meet an anonymous source who claimed to have astonishing evidence of pervasive government spying and insisted on communicating only through heavily encrypted channels. That source turned out to be the 29-year-old NSA contractor and whistle-blower Edward Snowden, and his revelations about the agency’s widespread, systemic overreach proved to be some of the most explosive and consequential news in recent history, triggering a fierce debate over national security and information privacy. As the arguments rage on and the government considers various proposals for reform, it is clear that we have yet to see the full impact of Snowden’s disclosures.

Now for the first time, Greenwald fits all the pieces together, recounting his high-intensity ten-day trip to Hong Kong, examining the broader implications of the surveillance detailed in his reporting for The Guardian, and revealing fresh information on the NSA’s unprecedented abuse of power with never-before-seen documents entrusted to him by Snowden himself.

Going beyond NSA specifics, Greenwald also takes on the establishment media, excoriating their habitual avoidance of adversarial reporting on the government and their failure to serve the interests of the people. Finally, he asks what it means both for individuals and for a nation’s political health when a government pries so invasively into the private lives of its citizens—and considers what safeguards and forms of oversight are necessary to protect democracy in the digital age. Coming at a landmark moment in American history, No Place to Hide is a fearless, incisive, and essential contribution to our understanding of the U.S. surveillance state.


I really wanted to read this after watching Citizenfour and Snowden, and I was psyched when it went on sale for $2.99. Glad I got it; it was super interesting and I read it really fast. Although that may have had something to do with the fact that the day I started it, I got stuck at the dealership, having about twenty different things done to my car. I was there for hours and had plenty of time to read! Anyway, I liked it a lot. It will make you paranoid, though, if you aren’t already. Although is it really paranoia if we really are being watched-? :O 😉

#19: Amethyst, by Lauren Royal

London, 1666: Amethyst Goldsmith makes dazzling jewelry, but her future isn’t nearly as bright as the pieces she creates. Though custom dictates she wed her father’s apprentice, her heart rebels against the match. In mere days Amy will be condemned to a stifling, loveless marriage, and she sees no way out–until the devastating fire of 1666 sweeps through London, and tragedy lands her in the arms of a dashing nobleman who knows a diamond in the rough when he sees it…

Colin Chase, the Earl of Greystone, has his future all figured out. He’s restoring his crumbling castle and estate to its former glory, and the key to its completion is his rich bride-to-be. But the Great Fire lays waste to his plans, saddling him with trouble–in the form of a lowly shopkeeper’s daughter with whom he’s most inconveniently falling in love…


I’ve wanted to start this series for a while and I’m happy I finally did. This was quite cute. Felt a little too long toward the end, and the H had a strange personality quirk of liking to play odd pranks/practical jokes on people (they weren’t very funny) but aside from that I have no complaints!

Quote:

“…what he felt for her had nothing to do with wealth or position, and everything to do with the way just looking at her made the blood course through his veins. His need for her was illogical, emotional…Dangerous. It didn’t bear thinking about.”

#20: A Million Little Ways, by Emily P. Freeman

The majority of us would not necessarily define ourselves as artists. We’re parents, students, businesspeople, friends. We’re working hard, trying to make ends meet, and often longing for a little more–more time, more love, more security, more of a sense that there is more out there. The truth? We need not look around so much. God is within us and he wants to shine through us in a million little ways.

A Million Little Ways uncovers the creative, personal imprint of God on every individual. It invites the discouraged parent, the bored Christian, the exhausted executive to look at their lives differently by approaching their critics, their jobs, and the kids around their table the same way an artist approaches the canvas–with wonder, bravery, and hope. In her gentle, compelling style, Emily Freeman encourages readers to turn down the volume on their inner critic and move into the world with the courage to be who they most deeply are. She invites regular people to see the artistic potential in words, gestures, attitudes, and relationships. Readers will discover the art in a quiet word, a hot dinner, a made bed, a grace-filled glance, and a million other ways of showing God to the world through the simple human acts of listening, waiting, creating, and showing up.


Oh my gosh, this was so good! Freeman’s sort of flowery/poetic writing style took me a while to get into (and there were points where I didn’t really even know what she was saying, tbh) but overall, the message was great and I loved it.

It was hard to pick just one quote (I high-lighted SO much in this book) but here’s one:

“Instead of setting off on a journey to find your art, consider staying right where you are to uncover your art. Like the tree with roots crawling deep into the ground, God has already done the work of putting his art within you. I believe he’s asking us to do the work of uncovering what is already true and trusting him to release it for his glory and the benefit of others.”

#21: Once Upon A Bride, by various authors

Six captivating novellas from six New York Times and USA Today bestselling authors!

Fall in love with six grooms-to-be as you escape to medieval Scotland, 17th century England, 19th century America, Georgian London and the high seas. These steamy, seductive stories will warm your heart!

THE HANDFASTING by Glynnis Campbell
The Highlands, Scotland, 1199: When Sir Noel de Ware claims his betrothed—the most beautiful heiress in the Highlands—he’s sure he’s getting the best gift ever…until he discovers he’s wedded and bedded the wrong sister. Spirited Ysenda of Rivenloch never intended to be a counterfeit bride, and when she falls in love with her handsome husband, she becomes trapped in her own deception.

FOREVERMORE by Lauren Royal
England, 1667: Sensible Clarice Bradford is content in her widowhood. She has a pretty one-room cottage and a lovely little daughter, and the last thing she wants is another husband. Until one fairytale evening when she’s invited to a wedding at a castle…

FALL FROM GRACE by Jill Barnett
Scottish Highlands, 17th Century: The Clan McNish is left starving by their bitter rivals, the McNabs. Granddaughter to the chieftain, Grace McNish, decides it’s her duty to capture and ransom a vile McNab. But she and her clan of misfits capture the wrong man, Colin Campbell, Earl of Argyll and Lord of the Isles, who holds her clan’s fate in his powerful hands.

HEART OF FRAGILE STARS by Cynthia Wright
Georgian London and the High Seas: Dashing French pirate Jean-Philippe Beauvisage revels in his life of freedom…until the night at a ball in Georgian London, when a Russian beauty steals his heart. The instant attraction he feels for recently-orphaned Antonia is soul-deep, but she is bound for America with an arrogant captain.

THE FOUR-LEAF CLOVER by Cheryl Bolen
Missouri, 1870: The wealthiest man in Peace, Missouri, Norman Sterling can’t believe his good fortune when the beauty he worshiped from afar years ago moves to his town. At their Fourth of July picnic, he blurts out a proposal to Millie Gresham—and to his profound surprise, she accepts. But can she ever win his love?

A WINTER HEART by Annette Blair
Ohio, 1873: Hannah Peachy has nurtured a winter heart since she lost her family. Caleb Skylar struggles with the horror of his wife’s drowning. When Caleb aimlessly pulls up stakes and leaves his home behind, the spirit of Hannah’s earthbound twin leads him straight to Hannah. But how can two guilty souls accept love as a reward for their transgressions? A Sensual Amish Historical Romance.


This was such a great bargain at 99 cents!

I bought it because I wanted to read “Forevermore,” by Lauren Royal. That alone would have been more than worth the price, but I got 5 other stories out of it, so I’m happy. Especially since I liked all of them, and I LOVED the first story, “The Handfasting” by Glynnis Campbell. It was so cute and perfect. I looked her up and she’s got some free books available, which is nice except…it means I’ll probably end up with more books soon. Yeah, just what I need :/!

Cute quote: 

“’Ye know I’m your protector now.’ Indeed, he was surprised by just how fiercely protective he felt. “If anyone touches ye, he’ll have to answer to me.’

Her eyes went all soft and dewy when he said that. But he was serious.”

(from The Handfasting, by Glynnis Campbell)

‘Til next time, y’all!

XOXO,

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Books # 10 – 15

#10: Factotum, by Charles Bukowksi

One of Charles Bukowski’s best, this beer-soaked, deliciously degenerate novel follows the wanderings of aspiring writer Henry Chinaski across World War II-era America. Deferred from military service, Chinaski travels from city to city, moving listlessly from one odd job to another, always needing money but never badly enough to keep a job. His day-to-day existence spirals into an endless litany of pathetic whores, sordid rooms, dreary embraces, and drunken brawls, as he makes his bitter, brilliant way from one drink to the next.

Charles Bukowski’s posthumous legend continues to grow. Factotum is a masterfully vivid evocation of slow-paced, low-life urbanity and alcoholism, and an excellent introduction to the fictional world of Charles Bukowski.


I liked this a lot, although not as much as Ham on Rye. Factotum is quite funny but in a dark way, since the main character is a terrible alcoholic and his life is bleak. The book is much shorter than I’d anticipated. I read it in two days!

#11: Post Office, by Charles Bukowski

“It began as a mistake.” By middle age, Henry Chinaski has lost more than twelve years of his life to the U.S. Postal Service. In a world where his three true, bitter pleasures are women, booze, and racetrack betting, he somehow drags his hangover out of bed every dawn to lug waterlogged mailbags up mud-soaked mountains, outsmart vicious guard dogs, and pray to survive the day-to-day trials of sadistic bosses and certifiable coworkers. This classic 1971 novel—the one that catapulted its author to national fame—is the perfect introduction to the grimly hysterical world of legendary writer, poet, and Dirty Old Man Charles Bukowski and his fictional alter ego, Chinaski.


Like Factotum, this one was shorter than I’d anticipated. It went really quickly! This was darkly funny and interesting and I enjoyed it (although I probably liked Ham On Rye and Factotum better).

Btw, when I was a kid, I wrote a lot of letters to pen pals. I loved mail, and I used to think it would be so fun to work at the Post Office. This makes it sound awful, though. Ha.

#12: Heartless, by Marissa Meyer

Long before she was the terror of Wonderland, she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love. Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland, and a favorite of the unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, all she wants is to open a shop with her best friend. But according to her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next queen.

Then Cath meets Jest, the handsome and mysterious court joker. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the king and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into an intense, secret courtship. Cath is determined to define her own destiny and fall in love on her terms. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.

In her first stand-alone teen novel, the New York Times-bestselling author dazzles us with a prequel to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.


I’m not a big Alice in Wonderland fan but I wanted to read this because I enjoyed Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles so, so much. I’d read the excerpt for this, too, and liked it. Ultimately, however, the book just wasn’t for me. It’s not that I disliked the writing – it is well-written – it just wasn’t my kind of story. Too dark for my taste. I’m still looking forward to Renegades, though.

#13: Dressed To Kiss, by various authors

True love never goes out of style….

Once renowned for creating the most envied gowns in London, Madame Follette’s dressmaking shop has fallen far out of fashion. The approaching coronation of King George IV offers a chance to reclaim former glory by supplying stunning new wardrobes to the most glittering society in Regency England. In the face of long-held secrets, looming scandals, and the potential ruin of their shop, the dressmakers of Follette’s are undaunted, not even by the most unexpected complication of all: true love.

The Duke’s Dressmaker by Madeline Hunter

When the Duke of Barrowmore walks into the dress shop, Selina Fontaine assumes her secret identity will compromised. Four years ago this man’s brother seduced her and abandoned her to scandal, and she holds the duke responsible. To her amazement the duke is more interested in pursuing her than exposing her, however—and that pursuit soon becomes seductively pleasurable.

The Colors of Love by Myretta Robens

Delyth Owen’s exuberant passion for her new job as a dressmaker at Madame Follette’s is matched only by her love of diverse, vibrant, and frequently unfortunate color combinations. Simon Merrithew, the pseudonymous author of a well-regarded fashion column, is horrified by the gown Delyth creates for a friend, and suspects her motives. He sets out to uncover her duplicity, but instead, he uncovers genuine joy and discovers the colors of love.

No Accounting for Love by Megan Frampton

Miss Katherine Grant is a lady’s companion, one whose number of dishonorable offers (six) greatly outweigh her honorable ones (zero). Now tasked with making certain her charge, Lady Euphemia, does not contract herself to someone inappropriate, she finds herself inexplicably drawn to Mr. Henry Dawkins, the inappropriate gentleman Lady Euphemia wants to charm, who keeps the books at Madame Follette’s. But it seems that Henry only has eyes for Miss Katherine Grant.

A Fashionable Affair by Caroline Linden

Madame Follette’s is Felicity Dawkins’s birthright; her mother founded it, and now she runs it. She’s fiercely committed to making it the most exclusive modiste in London. The Earl of Carmarthen also has big plans for the shop—he wants to buy it and tear it down, to make way for a grand new boulevard of shops. One way or another, he’s determined to persuade Felicity…not only to sell her shop, but to explore the passion that sparks between them every time they meet.


When I first heard about this book, I knew I wanted to read it. I’ve read a lot by Megan Frampton already and I like her humorous writing style, plus the premise of this book just sounded too cute. I like anthologies where all the different stories are inter-connected, and I wanted to read about the dress shop. I wasn’t disappointed; this turned out to be super cute. I enjoyed the first story best, and will definitely look for more books by the author, Madeline Hunter, because I liked her minimal writing style a lot, but all of the stories were entertaining in different ways. I will probably look for more stuff by all of the writers, actually.

#14: With My Eyes Wide Open, by Brian Welch

He left KoRn to help himself. He went back to help others. And along the way, he nearly lost everything.

A life-changing spiritual awakening freed Brian “Head” Welch from a stranglehold of drugs and alcohol and prompted him to leave the highly successful nu-metal band KoRn in 2005. What followed was a decade-long trial by fire, from the perils of fathering a teen lost in depression and self-mutilation to the harsh realities of playing solo and surviving the shattering betrayal of a trusted friend. In this intensely inspiring redemption saga, perhaps most inspiring is Brian’s radical decision to rejoin KoRn and reconcile with the tribe of people he once considered family in the metal music scene.

Brian returned to his musical roots with a clear head and a devoted heart. Though his story is wild, hilarious, and deeply poignant, the message is simple: God will love you into the freedom of being yourself, as long as you keep the relationship going and never, ever quit.


I read Brian’s previous book, Save Me From Myself and really liked it. This one was great, too; it was interesting to learn what happened to him after he left the band, and why he ultimately decided to rejoin Korn. I’m glad he did, because I love the band so much and I definitely think they are better with Brian around!

#15: Got the Life, by Fieldy

From Reggie “Fieldy” Arvizu, legendary bassist of nu-metal pioneers KORN, comes Got the Life: a no-holds-barred look at his extreme highs, drug- and-booze-fueled lows, and, finally, redemption through a conversion to Christianity. Got the Life is simultaneously an insider’s look at rock n’ roll superstardom—the good, the bad, and everything in between—and a survivor’s story of a life brought back from the precipice by a new found belief in religious salvation.


After finishing With My Eyes Wide Open I felt like reading more about Korn. I’m glad I did because this was so good! I’ve read a lot of “rock star books” over the years and it can get tiresome hearing about their binges, but I do always enjoy a good redemption story. This one seems like nothing short of a miracle, given just how horrible Fieldy’s self-described behavior was. He definitely doesn’t try to sugar-coat his past, and even for a rock star he sounds bad :(. But of course his life is completely different now and I’m very glad for him (and for us Korn fans :)).

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Heaven

Second book of the year:

A Funny Thing Happened

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Heaven (or How I Made Peace with the Paranormal and Stigmatized Zealots and Cynics in the Process) by Corey Taylor

Description from Amazon:

In this book, Corey Taylor undertakes something never before attempted in the history of rock superstardom: he takes you with him as he journeys undercover through various ghostbusting groups who do their best to gather information and evidence about the existence of spirits. Some are more credible than others, and, frankly, some are completely insane, but all are observed with appropriate seriousness as Taylor attempts to better understand some of the spooky things that have happened to him in his life, especially that night at the Cold House.

But that’s not all, folks. Taylor once again gives you a behind-the-scenes tour of his crazy life and the many beyond-the-grave events he’s encountered. (You’ll be shocked how often Slipknot has been invaded by the supernatural.) Taylor also touches on his religious background and how it led him to believe in much more than the Man in the Sky.


I didn’t receive too many books for Christmas this year, but I got Amazon gift cards, so before 2015 was out I bought myself a few things off my wishlist. This was one of them.

Corey Taylor, in case you don’t know, is the singer of Stone Sour and Slipknot. I’ve been on a bit of a HUGE Slipknot kick ever since S and I saw them play live back in September. They were amazing and I’ve just been really into obsessed with them ever since. When I found out Corey Taylor had written several books, I knew I had to give at least one of them a try. I decided to start with this one because the premise was just so strange and intriguing. Why would a rock star write a book about ghosts, of all things? Well, it turns out, because he is haunted. Ha, ha. Okay, so that’s not entirely precise, but…he does seem to have had an inordinate number of run-ins with the paranormal throughout his life (although, is there such a thing as an “ordinate” number of paranormal experiences? Probably not). Ghosts just seem to like him.

Overall, I enjoyed this book. It’s not fantastically written. Frankly, parts of it are a mess. But it is interesting and thought-provoking and very, very funny. Or at least I thought it was funny. Maybe I just have a comparably juvenile/sick sense of humor to Taylor’s, but I laughed out loud so many times while reading this. I enjoyed all of his Star Trek and other sci-fi references, as I had not known he was One of Us, and I liked that he poked a lot of fun at himself because I appreciate it when famous people don’t take themselves too seriously. Honestly, he seems like one of those people that just has a million funny stories to tell you, and I came away with the feeling that he’d be a cool person to hang out and have a beer with. Although I don’t think he drinks anymore now that he’s sober. But you get what I’m saying.

I think this book may be most interesting to Taylor’s fans, and to people who like ghost stories.

But really, who doesn’t like a good creepy ghost story?

31 Days to Clean

So here’s the first book I’ve finished reading so far this year:

31 Days to Clean

31 Days to Clean – Having a Martha House the Mary Way, by Sarah Mae

This is a short little e-book that I bought almost a year ago. The edition I have seems to no longer exist :(. According to the author’s website, it’s been picked up by a traditional publisher and will be re-released in April. This is the Amazon description for that upcoming edition:

Get your home and your heart in order in just 31 days!
Sarah Mae wants to let you in on a little secret about being a good homemaker: It’s not about having a clean house. She’d never claim to be a natural, organized cleaner herself—yet, like you, she wants a beautiful space to call home, a place where people feel loved and at peace. Where people can really settle in with good food, comfy pillows, and wide-open hearts.

Is it possible to find a balance? To care for your heart—and your home—at the same time?

Journey with Sarah Mae on this easy, practical 31-day plan to get you moving and have your house looking and feeling fresh. But even more than that, you’ll gain a new vision for the home of your dreams, and how to make it a place of peace, comfort, and community. Originally published as the e-book 31 Days to Clean and now revised and expanded in print for the first time, Having a Martha Home the Mary Way will inspire you to find a happier, healthier . . . cleaner way to live.


I am one of those weird people who actually enjoys cleaning. Even the parts I dislike, I don’t mind very much. That’s part of why I like to read books about cleaning! I think this guide would probably be more helpful for people who are extremely reluctant cleaners, though, because it spends a lot of time on encouragement and motivation. But the fact that Sarah Mae focuses so much on the “why” of housecleaning rather than the “how” does make this a unique sort of book about cleaning.

I liked that she takes you through two different challenges each day, one for your heart/soul (a “Mary challenge” — a reference to the biblical story of Mary and Martha found in Luke 10) and one for actually cleaning part of your home (a “Martha challenge”). And I agree with her that when it comes to keeping house, motivations are important. It’s good to ask ourselves whether we are just trying to impress the people we live with and invite into our homes, or whether we are trying to create a loving, comfortable environment for them. Obviously it’s better to stay focused on the latter :).