Books I read in 2018

books i read in 2018

I had a goal of reading 25 books in 2018. I made it to 20 and I’ll probably finish one more before the year is out. So close!

Here is a round-up of the books I read this year. I love to read, and I love it when I can recommend good books to others.

But a big problem I have is that even when I super-duper LOVE a book, I quite often completely forget the details, or even what it was about! All I remember is that I loved it and I couldn’t put it down.

So I thought this would be a good exercise in trying to stretch my memory back into the books I read this year.

Before we go further I should let you know that this post contains affiliate links. That means that if you purchase one of the books on this list after clicking on the link, I get a small commission. It doesn’t change how much you pay for the book, just puts a little moolah in my pocket. The links are in the titles of the books and also if you click on the images. Clicking on the links will also let you read full reviews and descriptions on Amazon.

Emma’s 2018 bookshelf

Before We Were Yours, Lisa Wingate

Book cover: Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

This Goodreads Choice 2017 winner has a rating of 4.37 stars and over 171,000 ratings. So I was pretty confident that it would be a good book, and I was right. From memory, it was about a family torn apart and children stolen as part of an adoption scandal. It was really heart-wrenching, and even more so when I realised it was based on a true story.

The Daily Struggles of Archie Adams, Katie Kirby

Book Cover: The Daily Struggles of Archie Adams, by Katie Kirby

Absolutely hilarious!! My mother-in-law gave me this book after we called our baby Archie. My husband and I often give voices to our dogs and our baby, making them “say” ridiculous and grown-up things. This book was written from the perspective of a 2¾-year-old boy with a very naughty grown-up attitude! It had me shaking with the giggles and tears rolling down my face. If you’re looking for something quick and easy and funny to read, this is the one.

We Were the Lucky Ones, Georgia Hunter

Book cover: We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter

To be honest, I can’t remember much about this book. I rated it 3 stars on Goodreads, which generally means it didn’t make me cranky or bore me to tears, but I just didn’t love it enough to rave about it. It was about a Polish Jewish family surviving under Nazi occupation. There were a lot of characters to follow, and it was a good story with some quite interesting bits. But nothing that really stuck with me.

The Ladies of Missalonghi, Colleen McCullough

Book cover: The Ladies of Missalonghi by Colleen McCullough

I pretty much love anything written by Colleen McCullough (author of The Thorn Birds). And this book was no exception. A nice easy read. Set in the Blue Mountains. Can’t remember much more about it but I rated it 4 stars!

Bittersweet, Colleen McCullough

Book cover: Bittersweet by Colleen McCullough

This one was okay, but not one of my favourite Colleen McCullough books. Set in Australia during the Depression, and telling the story of four sisters finding their independence in their nursing traineeships. I only rated this one 3 stars.

The Judge’s Wife, Ann O’Loughlin

Book cover: The Judge's WIfe by Ann O'Loughlin

I really enjoyed this one. It’s about a young woman uncovering secrets and mysteries from the past. A 1950s love story and scandal. Intriguing and emotional.

The Alice Network, Kate Quinn

Book cover: The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

I loved this book! It tells the story of one woman working as a spy in France in the Great War, and an American woman searching for her cousin in 1947. The two storylines are quite different but come together nicely. I think it took me a while to get into one of the storylines, but once I made a couple of little connections, I was good to go.

Once We Were Brothers, Ronald H. Balson

Book cover: Once We Were Brothers by Ronald H Balson

This story begins with a Holocaust survivor pointing a gun at and accusing a wealthy American businessman of being a Nazi officer. The story is of the lawsuit that follows, and the memories of a Jewish boy whose brother became a Nazi. I enjoyed this book. It only got three stars from me, but I can’t remember what dragged it down. Overall it rates 4.37 stars on Goodreads with lots of ratings, so maybe it was just my mood at the time.

The German Girl, Armando Lucas Correa

Book cover: The German Girl by Armando Lucas Correa

I only rated this one 2 stars, which is a pretty rough rating from me. I just kept waiting for something to happen. It was a weird and confusing story and I can’t tell you much more about it!

Sisters One, Two, Three, Nancy Star

Book Cover: Sisters one two three by Nancy Star

This is another one I loved at the time but then forgot all about. It digs up family secrets and unravels mysteries that have shaped the personalities and relationships in the story. Complex mother-daughter relationships, flawed but interesting characters, and a secret reveal made this an enjoyable read.

The Smallest Part, Amy Harmon

Book cover: The Smallest Part by Amy Harmon

This was a beautiful story of love, friendship, and loss. I liked the characters and it was a nice easy read that I found hard to put down. I’m pretty sure I’ve read a couple of Amy Harmon’s books and liked them, so I might check out some others in 2019.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, Susan Cain

Book cover: Quiet by Susan Cain

This book is often referred to in personal development, happiness, and personality discussions. I’m very much an introvert myself, which influences a lot of my personality and preferences. Learning more about what that means and how I can still thrive as an introvert has been life-changing. This book was interesting and easy to read, and I’d recommend it to anyone who thinks they are an introvert.

The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald

Book cover: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

I always try to fit in a couple of “classics” and this was one I had been curious about for a while. I didn’t love it. It was only toward the very end that I started to actually develop any interest in it, and it clawed it’s way back up to 3 stars. I was left wondering if maybe I just didn’t “get it”. Perhaps it’s the sort of book I’d enjoy more if I was forced to study it deeply and discuss the various themes. But I’m kind of glad no one is going to force me to do that.

Beartown, Fredrik Backman

Book cover: Beartown by Fredrik Backman

I have found my new favourite author. I loved ‘A Man Called Ove’ which I read last year, so I decided to give the author another go. Beartown was incredible. I could not put it down. It explored some really powerful themes and emotions in a really accessible, realistic, and often-amusing way. I was just blown away by this book.

Out of My Mind, Sharon M. Draper

Book cover: Out of my Mind by Sharon M Draper

I love books that are written from a child’s point of view. And I love working with people with disabilities and discovering unique and wonderful things about them. This book is about an eleven-year old girl with a photographic memory and more intelligence than anyone at her school (including the teachers). But she also has a disability which involves no fine or gross motor control, and she is non-verbal. So she’s usually perceived as being unable to learn. Until she gets access to a communication device that has the potential to change her life. Unfortunately, a device alone is not enough to give a person equal opportunity. The prejudices and attitudes of society also have to change. This was such an easy-to-read book. I think it’s actually written for young people / kids. But I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Winging It, Emma Isaacs

Book cover: Winging it by Emma Isaacs

If you ever find yourself unable to start something because you don’t know how, or because you don’t have everything perfect, you should read this book. We too often get paralysed by our fear of looking silly or of failing. But sometimes you just have to take a leap and then figure it out. I’m doing more of that as I get older, and sure sometimes the plan changes mid-way. Sometimes it doesn’t work out. But other times it grows into something more than I could have expected. This book reinforces that.

Mini Habits: Smaller Habits, Bigger Results, Stephen Guise

Book cover: Mini Habits by Stephen Guise

This guy has come up with the idea of breaking habits down into something so small that you can’t NOT do it. For example, his goal of getting fit was broken down into just one push-up per day. He finds that once he does the one push-up it’s easy to do a few more. And over time because he has succeeded every single day, it builds into a more positive self-belief which makes it easier to build on the habit. However, one of his other “mini habits” was to write just 50 words per day, and sometimes it’s very clear that the book has been written that way. It jumps around a bit, and his enthusiasm and energy is clearly portrayed in the writing, but it sometimes felt like following a kid with ADHD and a belly full of sugar through a busy carnival.

My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises, Fredrik Backman

Book cover: My Grandmother Sends her Regards and Apologises by Fredrik Backman

Ah, another one from my newest literary love. This book had me laughing and crying. Again, exploring deep themes with humour and incredible writing. It used an interesting technique of delving into some fantasy and fairy tales, which, if done by any other author would probably annoy the hell out of me. But it was done in such a clever and tolerable way that it did not ruin the book in any way for me. This book also sets a bit of background for another one of his which I’ll get to shortly.

#GIRLBOSS, Sophia Amoruso

Book cover: #girlboss by Sophia Amoruso

From dumpster diving and eBay selling to CEO of a multi-million dollar company, Sophia Amoruso tells her badass success story. This was a motivating and inspiring read, and I would especially recommend it to girls who don’t necessarily fit into the “standard” expectations of society. The girls who have the smarts but don’t like school, or can’t find a job they can stick with.

Britt-Marie Was Here, Fredrik Backman

Book cover: Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman

Okay, as soon as you finish reading this post, you need to go and buy ‘My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises’. Read it, and then URGENTLY buy and read this one. I loved it so much that I started fretting when I got more than halfway through because I didn’t want it to end. But I couldn’t put it down. I was reading while cleaning my teeth, I was reading in my car if I got to work a bit early, I was reading at 3am after feeding the baby. You don’t actually have to read ‘My Grandmother…’ first, but I’m glad I did because there’s a character in that one (Britt-Marie) who is then the main character of this one. I loved that it built on what had already been painted of her in the first book. My husband actually got a bit irritated with my constant giggling as I read this book. I just loved how well it was written, and how such a pain-in-the-arse character became so lovable and heroic.

The winners

My favourite fiction book was Britt-Marie Was Here, but it was very hard to choose between the Fredrik Backman ones!

Favourite non-fiction was probably Quiet by Susan Cain.

My goal for reading books in 2019

I’ll aim for 25 books again in 2019. I think I managed to get through as many as I did this year because for the first few months of the year I was breastfeeding and up a lot during the night when it was quiet and I had to keep myself awake. So I’m not sure if I’ll get as far in 2019, but I’ll try. I love that reading opens up my mind to new ideas and different lives. I like a good mix of fiction and non-fiction, classic and contemporary.

Join me on Goodreads

I love to get recommendations from other people. Reading is so much more enjoyable when you can share the experience! Let me know any of your favourite books or authors in the comments, or join me on Goodreads.

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#19for2019 – My 19 Goals for 2019

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After listening to the Happier podcast by Gretchen Rubin & Liz Craft, I’ve decided to set my own #19for2019 list of goals. These are some things that I’d really like to do in 2019. As I was writing the list I thought I was being pretty realistic, but after looking back on it I’ve realised it’s actually a bit ambitious. But I like to be ambitious! 

I’m publishing my list even though that scares me. I don’t like to share my goals because I worry about what people will think if I fail. But I think it’s also a great way to stay motivated and accountable. I’ll check in every now and then and let you know how I’m going with the list! 

So here it is… my #19for2019:

#19for2019
#19for2019
  1. Start swimming lessons with Archie 
  2. Rejoin Rotary
  3. Write an e-Book
  4. Learn & use Pinterest better for my blog
  5. Catch up with a friend at least once a month
  6. Run my first workshop/seminar for Fly Life
  7. Get my backyard sorted
  8. Get security screens installed
  9. Have a weekend away by myself for writing
  10. Plan a surprise weekend away for my little family
  11. Read 25 books
  12. Declutter my house
  13. Cook a new recipe once a fortnight
  14. Attend a blogging/business event
  15. Have my women’s health check up 
  16. Move more – steps, yoga, swimming, SOMETHING
  17. Weekly gratitude practice
  18. Write every day
  19. Experience something new with Archie every week

So that’s my list! Now I’m going to have fun planning and plotting and scheduling some of this stuff into my diary so that it doesn’t get forgotten… 

Want to join me? Try to think of 19 things you want to do in 2019. I’ve made mine a mix of big projects, regular activities, new habits, and things I can tick off relatively quickly and easily. I’d love it if you share your list with me! 

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Start planning now for your best year ever!

There’s something at this time of year I get even more excited about than Christmas. Don’t get me wrong – Christmas is great. I love the special time with family, the music, the food and drink, the games… and of course I love tracking Santa so I know when it’s time to go to bed.

But there’s something else that I get really excited about, but I never tell anyone. It’s the approaching new year. A fresh start! The opportunity for new goals and resolutions! A brand spankin’ new diary!!! Squeeeeaaaal!

I really do believe that you can start a new goal or a new resolution any old time. But at the start of a New Year is obviously the ultimate starting point.

This gets a little tricky in one way. Here in Australia we are still often in holiday mode right throughout January. Even if we’re back at work, the long summer days and hot weekends tend to mean more socialising and relaxing than normal. Which in turn can be detrimental to your goals… unless of course your goal is to socialise and relax more.

So the way I handle this is to treat all of January as my starting point. I work on my new goals with the plan to have them firmly in place by the end of the month.

Make the whole month the starting point, not just Jan 1.

For several years I tried to quit smoking. I tried at all different times of the year, but it was always a New Years Resolution. It was eight years ago that my resolution changed slightly. Instead of “Quit Smoking on January 1”, my resolution became “Be a healthy non-smoker by the end of January”.

Quit Smoking
I had the whole month to practice quitting, but after I got through the first three days I knew that it wasn’t worth going through it again. So I quit on the 9th of January 2011 and haven’t looked back.

I was still on holidays from work for that first week of January, so trying to completely stop smoking during that time would be a disaster. Like it had been every other year! But every other year when I failed on day two and had a cigarette, I just accepted that I’d failed my resolution again, and went on smoking.

This time though, things were different. During that first week of January I would think about quitting every time I lit up. I would try different techniques like delay and distraction for as long as possible. But when I eventually caved and lit the cigarette, rather than calling myself a failure, I acknowledged that I was making progress and there was still time to quit before the end of the month.

The last time I smoked a cigarette was 9 January 2011. Almost 8 years ago. I was successful that time for a number of reasons, which I’ll write about in another post, but one important reason was that I’d given myself some room to move. Maybe that would work for your resolutions, and maybe not. But it’s something to consider!

All I know, is that year I changed how I approached my New Year’s Resolutions, and that was the beginning of a totally new and happier life.

Start planning now.

Anyway, back to my geeky excitement over the prospect of setting resolutions…

New Year’s Resolutions are too important just to make on a drunken whim on New Year’s Eve.

Start thinking now about how you want next year to look. More than that, how do you want it to FEEL?

Imagine this: It’s this time next year. You bump into an old friend who asks how your year has been. Your response is: “2019 was my best year EVER! Nothing could have been better!” Now pick apart what things might have happened during the year that could lead to that statement.

You might have just identified some goals to work toward!

Start thinking now about how you want 2019 to look. Having the plan formulating in the back of your mind will help set you up for success.

There’s no need to sit and do a whole planning session right now. I’m sure there’s a million other things you need to get done before the fat man in red turns up. But I think it’s good to at least have this stuff swirling around in your mind so that when you do sit down to do some serious planning, you’re already primed.

Looking back on this year.

I think it’s always important when looking forward to your new goals, to also reflect on the past. It’s good to recognise what went really well, because this encourages us to keep going. Acknowledging what the challenges were helps us to plan for similar situations in the future.

Here are some questions you might like to ask yourself:

Ask yourself some big questions to reflect on the year that has just passed.

  • What has gone particularly well for you this year?
  • Did you achieve something great?
  • What did you work really hard at?
  • What is your happiest memory of the year?
  • Are there things you could have done better?
  • What things about the year do you wish you could have changed?
  •  What was the hardest thing you faced this year? How did you get through it?

These questions might also feed into how you setup your resolutions for the New Year. We want more of the good stuff and less of the crappy stuff!

Set aside a planning date.

Those days between Christmas and New Year are a beautiful time to set aside some time to sit and work through all of this in detail. You are setting your year up for happiness and success, so it’s worth putting a little bit of time and effort into.

Set yourself up for an explosion of possibilities!

For me, I’ll be trying to put aside a couple of hours at least. The house will need to be quiet. I will need a glass of wine and a clear desk. I’ll reflect on 2018, and plan for 2019. Perhaps I’ll consider the different domains of my life and have resolutions for each one. Maybe I’ll think about doing my own Happiness Project (which I’m currently reading). Or maybe I’ll have an overarching theme for the year that I’ll break down into goals.

Ohhhhh the possibilities. I can’t wait to let my mind explode with ideas, visions, goals, and plans.

And perhaps in another 8 years’ time, just like my quit-smoking achievement, I’ll be able to identify this as another significant turning point in my life.

Will you join me in setting up 2019 to be your best year ever? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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Let’s NOT catch up before Christmas!

She’s making her list and checking it twice. Make that six times. Because even though she looked at it five other times, she was also juggling a screaming baby, trying to get the washing in, doing some overtime, and answering a bajillion questions from her husband. So she forgot what was on the list.

But now she’s checked it six times and rushed out to get some late-night groceries after the baby has gone to bed. Don’t worry, daddy is home with the baby! She’s madly trying to find everything in the store and wondering how far in advance she can buy Christmas food. Will it go bad? Will it get eaten before Christmas meaning not only that it goes BACK on the list, but so does a new pair of jeans in a bigger size?

She’s just remembered the Christmas party this weekend that she needs a Secret Santa gift for. Add that to the list. She’s wondering if she’s got the energy to get a few gifts from K-mart after this since it’s the only place she can think of that’s still open at this hour.

And then she turns the corner and sees a familiar face. It’s an old friend she hasn’t seen in a while. They have a great chat about how busy and stressed they both are. And then comes the dreaded phrase she knew was coming…

“Anyway, let’s catch up before Christmas!”

WHYYYYYYY dear God?! WHYYYYY?

One of two scenarios often happen next:

  • They agree on a time and place and she goes home feeling more overwhelmed and stressed.
  • They agree to catch up but don’t arrange anything specific so she feels stressed anyway and awkwardly avoids that friend until the same thing happens sometime next year.

Now step this way, and stay with me…

Imagine for a moment. You’re working at a retirement home and there’s an assembly for all the female residents. Tom Jones swaggers in and promises to take one lucky lady out for dinner. The first person to reach the stage wins.

Suddenly you have old ladies who haven’t walked in years leaping out of their wheelchairs. Others are whacking the competition with their walking frames, with a strength they certainly didn’t have when you were asking them to move from their bed to the chair.

Nobody gets between Martha and Tom Jones

Hips are breaking, wigs are flying. You’re trying to push three wheelchairs at a time so as not to show any favouritism. Martha reaches the stage and Harriet screams that Martha’s a no-good lesbian cheat. (Harriet’s not a nice person actually, and we’re secretly glad she didn’t win after this snarky comment).

The residents from the dementia ward next door have just arrived and most of them believe they’re under attack. And now you’ve been informed that you must assist everyone back to their rooms within the next ten minutes…

Hectic, right?

This scene is maybe a bit fun to watch,  but also panic-inducing and very alarming! That’s what life is like in the lead up to Christmas. (I promise I’ll work harder on my metaphors).

But seriously, life is crazy at this time of year. So unless there’s some urgent pressing reason you NEED to catch up with that person in the very near future, DON’T!

Catch up after the craziness when you can relax and enjoy!

It doesn’t mean you don’t care about them or value them. It means that you value your sanity. And it also means that you value that person enough to want to save the catch-up until after Christmas, when things are quieter and calmer. When you can relax together and laugh about all the family madness you’ve both experienced over Christmas.

I’ve started politely declining invitations to catch up before Christmas. Most people understand when you say that you just can’t fit more in but would love to catch up after Christmas.

You know that quiet period when you feel a bit lost because all the excitement and madness is over? You’ve come out of your food coma and you’re ready to face the world again. The only thing you really should be doing is that big decluttering project that you swore you’d do in your holidays… THIS IS THE PERFECT TIME to squeeze in those extra catch-ups!

So do whatever is right for you in the lead-up to Christmas. If catching up with friends is what gets you through the season, do it. But if it adds a layer of stress, just lovingly say no. Arrange a later session instead. Start the new year with some fun social engagements to look forward to.

How do you feel about pre-Christmas catch-ups? Love them? Hate them? Think I’m just a grumpy loner who doesn’t get it? Let me know in the comments!

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Surviving grief

So many people I know and love are grieving at the moment. I have been absorbed in my own grief for the past two years after my friend was killed in a tragic theme park accident. Dealing with grief has been one of the hardest things I’ve experienced. So to witness my loved ones experiencing it now is tough. There is nothing I can say or do to make it better for them.

My husband’s cherished grandmother passed away very recently. The grief has hit him hard. For many years she has been warning the family that she won’t be around the for the next Christmas. So I guess in a way we all thought we were prepared for this. But you can never really be prepared to lose someone you love, regardless of their age or the circumstances leading to their death.

Other friends and loved ones have recently lost their dads, their mums, their brothers, their sisters, their partners, their pets, their mates. And they weren’t prepared either.  In fact, most of the deaths were sudden and unexpected.

Grief is an emotion that can have more power than anything you’ve experienced before. It hits you when you least expect it. A smell, a song, an object, a phrase… tiny details that trigger massive waves of emotion.

Not the kind of waves that lap at the shore, either. The kind that knock you over, drag you under, and throw you around until you don’t know which way will bring you back up to the air.

Over time, you might learn to let the wave drag you under. You’ll learn to stop fighting it,  just give in to it, knowing that once it does its thing, you’ll eventually float back up to the surface.

Soon, you’ll start to see the wave coming, and you might learn to swim into it, making it a much less frightening experience. Eventually, the waves will mostly just lap at the shore. Consistent, frequent, but manageable.

And then it will only be the very occasional moments that you’ll get hit by a strong one again when you’re not looking. You’ll be dragged under, tossed around, and eventually come back up for air thinking, “where the hell did that come from?”

Surrender to the grief and let love be your lifebuoy.

They say grief is the price we pay for love. When you’re experiencing grief, it makes love seem too expensive. Like if you knew it was going to cost this much, maybe you would have left it on the shelf. But in time, when the initial pain has dulled a little, you remember all the happiness. You realise that the value of the love was much higher than the cost.

 

So surrender to the ocean of grief. Love will be your lifebuoy.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Grief is a very normal and healthy emotion and process. But if you are having difficulty dealing with your grief and need support, please speak with a professional or someone you trust.

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