Books, In My House

Books: Looking for Lovely

I write about most of the books I read, and that means writing about the ones I didn’t love. I didn’t love Looking for Lovely by Annie F. Downs, but I really liked certain parts, which was a enough to keep me going. Downs is a public speaker and author of several inspirational books. This is the first of her books that I have read.

In some chapters I was irritated by this woman, but not to the extent that Rachel Hollis drove me nuts in Girl, Wash Your Face. Downs does annoying things like name-dropping country music band Lady Antebellum, but then she throws the reader a real-life gem of wisdom on finding ways to find beauty and joy in the simple parts of life. Her honesty about her battle with food addiction and depression is inspiring and brings meaning to the message of the book.

Downs does a good job of balancing hardship and humor. For instance, she is not afraid to poke fun at herself, writing about things like the earrings she wore in middle school that featured a pig’s face as the front and the pig’s behind as the back. I had those exact earrings!

Looking for Lovely is a quick read that provides the reader some nuggets of genuine, applicable ideas for being joyful and positive. It is worth weeding through a few lackluster chapters to grab onto them. The overall message of finding happiness in simplicity resonated with me, even if it wasn’t my favorite book of all time.


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Books: Before We Were Yours

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate gave me an intense need to hug my children. Parents with little ones: Do not, I repeat, do not, choose this book to read on a vacation away from your kids. I wasn’t on vacation while I read this, and I was thankful for that. Trust me when I say, you’ll want them close while you’re reading it.

That being said, I really liked this novel. It is a fictional account of real events involving Georgia Tann, Director of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society, arranging for the abduction of poor children who were then sold to wealthy families. Wingate tells the story of siblings separated by this injustice, and flashes forward to one of their descendants, an attorney attempting to solve a mystery when she has an unusual encounter with an elderly woman at a nursing home.

Though this is a fictional account, these arrangements truly took place. They went on from the 1920s all the way until as late as 1950. Georgia Tann died before she could be arrested or tried for the pain and suffering she caused.

Wingate’s character development was really effective to me, despite the bouncing between decades. That approach to the story was done in an organized way, which made the story flow well. Heart-wrenching in many ways, the book does offer hope, and is a beautiful depiction of the bond between siblings.


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Books: The Adults

I was looking for a light, fun read to ring in 2019, and The Adults, Caroline Hulse’s debut novel, fit the bill. I loved this book. When Claire and Matt, divorced parents of a little girl, decide to spend Christmas together at a resort with their daughter and their new significant others, chaos ensues.

The dialogue was absolutely hilarious. It reminded me of the humor in Bridget Jones’ diary, and I found myself imagining who would play the characters in the movie version, if and when this hits the big screen. I’m usually a “the book is better than the movie” kind of gal, but I think the film version of this would be fantastic if the right actors were cast. I’m thinking Colin Firth as Patrick.

The book does have some deep moments. It reminds us how divorce, parenting, and new relationships can be challenging for all involved. In trying to be mature and do what is best for 7-year-old Scarlett, the four adults in the book let their insecurities get the best of them and end up acting like anything but adults.


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Books: Tell the Wolves I’m Home

Happy 2019! I only read 14 books in 2018, which is nowhere near what I would’ve liked to have read, but the books I did read were almost all fantastic. (I blame Girl, Wash Your Face for lowering the average.) Educated and The Great Believers were two of the best books I have ever read.

The last book I finished in 2018 was Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt. In it, June, a teenager in the 1980s, befriends her late uncle’s boyfriend. June is trying to navigate being a teenager while having just lost her beloved uncle, who was also her best friend. She builds a deep friendship with Toby, who is dying of AIDS.

Despite being a bit dry at times, the book did finish strong. I found June’s volatile relationship with her older sister especially moving. In the end, the book focuses on the way life reveals good in people despite hardship and sadness.


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Books: A Thousand Naked Strangers

A Thousand Naked Strangers by Kevin Hazzard is, as the cover says, a wild ride. Hazzard, now a journalist and television writer, writes about his decade-long gig as a paramedic in inner city Atlanta, one of the most crime-ridden areas of the country. The book is his non-fiction account of that time and some of the most interesting, gruesome, and touching experiences Hazzard (no, I’m not sure if that’s his real last name) had.

Hazzard’s stories are definitely macabre and he acknowledges the desensitization that takes place when individuals encounter blood and gore on a very regular basis. I found this to be an interesting and necessary survival tactic for people in this highly difficult job. I don’t have a weak stomach by any means, but I wouldn’t recommend reading this one on your lunch break. I tried a couple times and had to put it down.


Working in a hospital, I found it especially interesting to learn more about this very important aspect of first-on-the-scene healthcare. Hazzard also describes the complicated dynamics between paramedics, physicians, firefighters, and law enforcement. The book is a quick and exciting read. It is also a reminder of the special, highly dedicated person it takes to do this important work.


Books: Girl, Wash Your Face

I wasn’t going to read Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis. Something about all the hype surrounding it turned me away. Then I spotted it on a shelf near the children’s section of the library while on my weekly visit with the girls and seized the moment.

It was a quick read, which, in all honesty, is about the only reason why I finished it. Some of the chapters were somewhat relatable and enlightening. Some of them made me strongly dislike this woman. When Hollis writes about real, hard-hitting topics like suicide and serving as a foster parent, the message is compelling. When she writes about “achieving the goal” of purchasing a $1,000-handbag, she seems petty and clueless.


At the beginning of the book, she attempts to lay out a platform of lifting other women up instead of tearing them down. That’s a concept I can definitely rally around, despite the fact that I’ll admit I’m kind of tearing her down right now. I’m aware of that, but I also believe in expressing my honest opinion of the things I read. They can’t all be the best thing ever!

A few chapters into the book, I was feeling beaten down by her for enjoying Diet Coke and getting a little winded running a mile on the treadmill. She hasn’t had a Diet Coke in years (never mind the fact that she slams non-fat lattes like they’re going out of style) and she runs marathons. I have nothing against lattes and marathons, but Hollis makes it sound like her way is the only way.

At the end of the day, this book didn’t live up to the hype. In fact, most of it kind of annoyed me. I wanted reading it to feel like chatting with a good friend, but it didn’t feel that way at all. I still do not ever feel that time spent reading is wasted. Even if the book isn’t great, or doesn’t uplift or intrigue me, I still believe it is worthwhile to have read someone else’s thoughts, ideas, and stories.





Books: Educated

Educated was another book I grabbed off the shelf at my local library when I was there with my kids. I read a few pages right away that evening and was instantly hooked. Tara Westover grew up in rural Idaho. She never attended school and didn’t have a birth certificate.

Despite the odds stacked against her and parents who are adamantly against higher education, established medical care, and any government involvement, Westover obtains a decent score on the ACT and gets into Brigham Young University. Rather than being proud of her, her parents try anything they can to keep her away from her pursuit of higher education.

Westover describes the tragedies that come from her parents’ views against established medicine. She details her father’s paranoia over Y2K and his preparations for the end of days. Her ability to overcome her background is shocking and powerful.


Westover’s story of overcoming great odds to obtain a doctorate from Cambridge is inspiring. Her success is not without sacrifices. She reminds us that sometimes the people we want to love us are the ones who hurt us the most.

I kept going back to the fact that someone who had little to no education up until the age of 17 could not only write a book, but could write a book as amazing as this. Westover’s writing is, at times, so painfully honest and thought-provoking. This is one of the best books I have read this year. It would make a great book club read.