On The Consideration of Being a Pet Owner.

You know how kids go through that stubborn phase where they will absolutely not try anything you want them to, for no other reason than because you want them to?

“Seriously, son. You will LOVE this dessert, made with all the things you love – chocolate, marshmallows, graham crackers, and more chocolate.”

“NO. I WILL NOT TRY IT.”

Whatever kid. I’m not going to shove sugar down your throat. 

And then, a month later, completely out of the blue and in no way related to any recent opportunities, the kid says “You know what I’d really love right now? A s’more. Mom when can we get s’mores? Can we have a s’more now? Hey do you think you could go to the store and get the ingredients for s’mores? I’m super craving a s’more.”

And you’re all like WHAT THE WHAT YOU ILLOGICAL BEING I TRIED TO OFFER YOU ONE OF THOSE A MONTH AGO AND YOU ACTED LIKE I WAS GIVING YOU MONKEY BRAINS SERVED ON AN ARMADILLO HALF SHELL.

That’s exactly how it went down with Noah, and I, and snakes.

I guess most of you don’t revere snakes on the level with s’mores, but we all know that I do. I’ve long held a great fascination and bordering-on-obsession with the species. And last year, we found snakes on almost every hike we went on – it was The Year of The Snake. Multiple times I was able to identify the snakes with 100% certainty so that I could pick them up and hold them, and I let the other children we hiked with hold them as well, and in some cases experience the delight of allowing said snake to wrap around their arm (all while I kept tight hold on the head.)

But my kids? No way. They wanted to have nothing to do with it. They didn’t scream and run away but they were NOT going to be touching, observing closely, or  experiencing a snake’s immensely cuddly qualities.

Fast forward a year. We haven’t seen hardly any snakes on hikes. And so it makes perfect sense that this year, Noah would decide, entirely unprovoked and without any experience whatsoever, that he
a.) Loved snakes,
b.) Desperately wanted to hold a snake (and regularly got irritable when I couldn’t locate said snake on a hike,) and
c.) Wanted his very own pet snake. AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.

WHAT. THE. WHAT.

Why do children have to be so freaking weird.

But because of my own personal love for snakes, my enthusiasm over having someone to share my feelings with trumped my frustration and his craptasmic timing.

So we began by visiting our local quirky pet shop that specializes in reptiles, the only place in Birmingham where you can walk in without an appointment or a plan and end up with a large snake wrapped around your neck in ten minute’s time.

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When we arrived, the rickety screen door was open, and sitting a foot from the entryway was a teenage girl with a very obese skink on her shoulder. A giant tortoise was free-roaming one room over – the room that held the collectible toys. Yes, this was where we wanted to be.

We were there for an hour. In that hour, Noah held four different snakes, was fully educated on all sorts of things about pet snakes and snakes in the wild, and fell head over heels. As I watched his eyes, I saw them gain an amount of LoveLight that I’d never witnessed before in my son.

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A week later, after Noah having talked about his experience incessantly for said week, we took Chris back with us. This was the kind of decision that needed to be Father-Approved WAY in advance. Because I love snakes. Noah loves snakes. Ali likes snakes enough to say that she’s fine with Noah having one as a pet as long as it doesn’t keep her friends from wanting to come over. But what about Chris? He’s never really been on the snakey bandwagon. One could only hope that our obsession somehow softened the scaly blow for him.

We started out by asking to see The Big Snake – we’d heard of it on our last visit, but his cage was being cleaned on our last visit, so we couldn’t lay eyes on him.

As an aside, my own obsession with snakes started 21 years ago with a massive snake – a snake as big around as a large child. I met this snake when I was in Cyprus. He was in a rickety cage with a screen door latch and a crack in the opening. The whole thing looked like he could huff and puff and blow it right over any old time he wanted to. The thrill of seeing such a magnificent, gigantic creature so close to me and so able to squeeze me to death was oddly addictive. Perhaps I’m a Reptile-Specific Adrenaline Junkie.

So walking into a closet in Birmingham with no lightbulb (“The snake got in a fit and knocked the lights out the other day”) to see a snake the width of a telephone pole was right up my alley. We turned on our cell phone flashlights to see the cage at the back of the closet – or rather, the cage that was the entire back wall of the closet. Sure enough, he was delightfully huge. When inquired as to what he ate, they said “Oh, you know. Rabbits or Gerbils.”

…which explained the small furry animal section in the back of the pet shop. What a brilliant recycling program.

Then we went to the baby Ball Pythons, which is the kind that Noah wants. The employee handing him to Noah said that this particular snake was the only one that hadn’t eaten that day, so don’t worry if he was a little nippy.

(Noah: “I wanna be bitten by a snake!!”)

(Seriously. What happened to my son.)

As we held him, I inquired as to how many snakes the salesman personally owned.

“Oh I have 53 in my bedroom alone.”

“Umm…exactly why does one need 53 snakes in ones bedroom??”

“Because I’m working up to having 3,000. Because then I’ll have enough to breed them and make $150,000-200,000 a year. That’s what I’m going to do when I retire from here.”

I was then distracted entirely by the practicalities and the math involved here…

3,000 snakes means 3,000 mice a week. Except that he told Noah when you’re raising breeding snakes, you feed them every 5 days. So that’s 3,000 mice every five days. How do you keep up with who has had their mouse? Don’t you spend all day every day putting mice in tanks? And how do you possibly get that many mice? Is there a bulk mouse superstore somewhere that I don’t know about? Does CostCo have a Mouse Room in the back? Or is a mouse delivery service? Can you get 3,000 mice via Prime Shipping? That would be a fun overturned truck to see.

Now.

As for the explanation as to why one would do so well breeding Ball Pythons….

Ball Pythons are really popular right now – the most popular pet snake. They’re docile, they’re easy, they don’t grow too big (2-5 feet at full size), and breeders are creating some really wild and wacky colored and patterned Ball Pythons by breeding them with albinos and playing with genetic mutations. While a plain old Ball Python can be $50, a Morph can be $6,000 or more.

If you want to see all these bizarre creatures (there are ones that look like rotten bananas, ones that look like orange sherbet, ones that look like calico cats…), I recommend browsing the Morph Market. Careful – it might take the rest of your evening. They are FASCINATING. (At least to me.)

The thing is, though, I just have a bad feeling about the market for Ball Python morphs. What if it tanks like the Beanie Baby market? What do you do with 3,000 Ball Pythons in your bedroom alone at that point? I mean sure, it really makes for an interesting bullet point on your online dating profile, but…

Back to The Pet Shop.

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We moved on to a “teenage” Ball Python, to experience how they feel once they’re nearly full-size. This was the one I insisted Chris get his feet wet with. And I don’t mean by peeing on them in complete fear, but he might have come close.

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Actually he handled it all very well and said he was open with having such a creature live in our house.

Finally, Noah really wanted to hold the larger Python he’d held last time – one that gets bigger than his Ball Python ever would. 

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The first thing the snake did was wrap around Noah’s neck and give it a little love squeeze. Noah’s reaction – one of a calm statement – “Ouch. He’s squeezing my neck.” and quiet “yeah.” when I asked if he wanted him moved – sealed the deal for me. This kid was ready for ownership.

He doesn’t have one yet – we’re making him wait until a little closer to his birthday to make sure the obsession sticks. But we’ve pretty much decided. Even though we’re a staunch no-pet family, snakes are easier than fish. You only have to feed them once a week (which we’ve practice with Not-Crazy-Renee’s snake), and if you leave home for vacation, you just leave them and they’re perfectly happy to be left alone to digest last week’s mouse. They don’t shed (except for their skin, that is), they don’t pee on furniture, you don’t have to let them outside, and they cuddle really well.

But for now, it seems like True Love.


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Ali just needs reassurance that it won’t keep her friends away.

Red Light Therapy: Insights and Updates After Nine Months of Daily Use.

RED LIGHT THERAPY Follow Up

I have now been using my Red Light Therapy panels for nine months, so I wanted to share an update, answer some of the questions I’ve received, and share some stories from friends. Because I’ve gotten so many questions about my lights and how they’ve been performing long term, this post is going to be a little long, but I’ll break it up into sections based on the questions I regularly receive to make it less painful and easy to skip around.

What are you talking about, Rachel? I have no idea what Red Light Therapy Is.

 

The quick version: Red Light Therapy consists of using specific wavelengths of red and near-infrared light to heal your body. There have been many clinical studies proving their effectiveness at healing and strengthening the body at a cellular level (they have been shown to stimulate mitochondria), and they have been used in many types of medical clinics for quite a while. They have just now become affordable for individuals to own, and I believe in a few years they will be a typical component of households. For me, they replaced daily muscle relaxers, pain medicine, ibuprofen, heating pads, and twice weekly physical therapy within days.

To get the detailed version of my story (and believe me, I was skeptical), click here. I know it sounds weird and hokey, but it is by far the most objectively measurable health improvement I have ever experienced.

I bought my lights originally to help with recurrent and long term back and shoulder pain (after my physical therapist had been urging me to look into it for a year or more), and I experienced immediate relief to that pain within days. Within a month, I noticed that it didn’t hurt to run anymore, and I was able to run significantly faster.

For an expert’s explanation on how they work and what all they can help, read this – it was written by the same author whose book I bought and read before investing in my own lights.

Okay, so they took away your pain. Are you still using them? If so, why? What other changes have you noticed?

 

I am still using my lights on a daily basis. I have had to go without them a couple of times while traveling, and though I missed them, I didn’t experience an immediate back-sliding into symptoms. I did have an uptick in back and shoulder stiffness when I was in Macedonia for ten days, but it was manageable and quickly righted back to zero pain when I got back home to my red lights.

Besides the fact that the lights are relaxing and calming, they keep my back from becoming inflamed again. Also, now that I’ve been using the lights for nine months, I have noticed some more long-term benefits:

Objective Benefits:

– I had deep neck injuries from my car wreck in 2015. Although it didn’t hurt during the day, I hadn’t been able to comfortably sleep on my stomach or side since the wreck. (I was always a stomach sleeper before the wreck, but couldn’t even lay comfortably on my stomach for a minute after the wreck. I know, I know – stomach sleeping isn’t good for you anyway – but it makes me delightfully sleepy.) This May, five months into my light usage, I realized that I was sleeping on my stomach and side again, and my neck wasn’t hurting. I suspect that my neck problems were such deep injuries that it took longer for the light to heal them. But the red light certainly did heal them, as the pain had been present for over three years and I haven’t changed anything else that could have instigated the healing.

– My running is still showing improvement. I ran my fastest 5K this year. I ran it in 27:37, which is a pace of 8:55. Before using the red light and after the wreck (which slowed me down tremendously), I felt like I was doing good to be in an 11 minute pace. I also ran the Lake Martin 27.1 Ultra Trail Marathon this year, and my total time was 1 hour and 19 minutes faster than when I did the same race last year.

red light therapy Running pace improvement

– My ability to run without injury has been exceptional. Before getting my red light, I had never run a race that was 13 miles or longer without ending up with an injury of some sort that required me to go to physical therapy for a few weeks. (My body likes to break. Often.) Since I’ve been using the red light, I’ve run a half marathon and an ultra marathon without having any hint of injury. I have not been back to my Physical Therapist a single time since I got my red lights on December 1st. I have not gone this long without some sort of PT in five years.

– I’m still sleeping well and quickly. I haven’t had any periods of insomnia since I started using my lights.

– I have significantly less overall soreness after running.

– Chris and Ali also used my red lights before and after Lake Martin (Ali, my 12 year old, ran the 27.1 mile race with me, and Chris, my husband, ran the 100 mile race.) Both of them had significantly shortened recovery time. Ali woke up the next morning and said “Welp, my legs are healed!!” Chris bounced back from his epic adventure in just a few days. 

Subjective Benefits:

– Red Lights are supposed to help reverse some skin aging, wrinkles, and discoloration. I didn’t notice any results in my first couple of months. However, I do think I have less wrinkles around my eyes and mouth now. The results aren’t spectacular and I didn’t take before and after pictures, though, so I cannot say for sure. 

– I definitely have significantly less cellulite. Again, no before and after pictures. Nobody wants to see my thighs like that.

No Results:

– The Red Light Therapy has not helped with my tinnitus (ear ringing), though there weren’t any studies that showed it would. I was so hopeful, though.

– I still haven’t seen a significant change in my cognitive functions that were decimated by my dysautonomia. I’m holding out hope that I just have a thick skull and it’s going to take a little longer to repair my brain.

Sure, they worked for you. But has anyone else used these lights with success?

 

I have had eight other people come to my house to use my “spa”, and most of them have subsequently bought their own lights because they found it helpful and wanted daily access. Here are a couple of their stories:

Kris:

It’s a gross understatement to say I’ve tried everything in the last 20 years to alleviate the horrible joint and muscle pain, exhaustion and fog from Fibromyalgia. I was often bed-ridden and when I could walk it was with a painful limp. Becoming sugar, gluten and dairy free has helped immensely but this red light of mine has taken away ALL of the residual joint and muscle pain. It’s just incredible!

And even more miraculous, I just got my bone scan back to find that the osteopenia in my spine is IMPROVING! I HAVE MORE BONE MASS! The only change to my lifestyle has been a daily dose of my glorious red light.

Nikki:

I have chronic lower back pain, ranging from unpleasant to unbearable, and it has been a recurring issue for the past seven years. It very much escalated last year and resulted in numerous MRIs, doctors, chiropractors, and extensive physical therapy. I’m thankful for each of those options, and they all play a role in bringing my back to a better place. Nonetheless, it is a fact that my issues are here to stay, and there isn’t just a “fix” for them. We were, however, able to determine that inflammation is a huge part of my problem. When I have inflammation in my lower back, it greatly exacerbates the issue and leads to nerve pain as the inflammation pushes my spine into a nerve cluster.

Rachel encouraged me to try the red light therapy as a way to possibly combat the inflammation. I began using the light a few times a week at a friend’s house about 8 months ago. Initially, I was uncertain as to whether or not it was working. I wasn’t having any big flares, but I’d had good spells before. How could I know it was the light?

I became convinced when I had to go on an 8 hour road trip and stay in a hotel for three nights then drive back another 8 hours. I hadn’t been able to do more than 2 hours in the car without a flare for years, but I made this trip with nothing more than some minor discomfort in the car. The BIG test came when I decided to go on a trip to Macedonia. I had been convinced for years that an international flight was permanently off the table for me. There was no way I could sit in an airplane that long. To prep, I ramped up to using the red light everyday for a week and a half before the trip. I traveled over 24 hours both coming and going, slept on a not-so-hot mattress for ten nights, and had to ride on the worst van ride ever from the airport a couple of hours away. Afterwards, I was tired and miserable just like my travel companions. JUST LIKE THEM! I wasn’t having searing nerve pain shooting through my back and down my leg. I was just really stiff and tired like a normal person after a whole lot of travel. That’s when I was truly sold.

I saved up and bought my own light, and I use it every day now. It is not a magic cure all. I recently had a car wreck and have been experiencing lower back pain since then. It has not escalated though and is improving much quicker than a flare used to improve. I haven’t had any nerve pain whatsoever. The red light therapy has kept my inflammation at bay.

So, What lights do you have? And where do you buy these things?

 

NOT from Amazon. There are a lot of really cheap options out there that have no therapeutic benefit because they’re the wrong wavelengths.

I read a book (highly recommended) about red light therapy before purchasing any. The book is awesome because it takes the thousands of clinical studies and puts them into plain English. It’s also a great resource to look up specific ailments to see if the light helps them, as well as to help pick out an effective light. The author of the book had tried out dozens of different brands of lights and had tested their wavelength and output. He only recommended three or four brands.

I researched/stalked the brands he mentioned and landed on one company, Platinum LED Therapy Lights. After my extensive stalking, I felt they were the least expensive, most effective, least sketchy company out there (for instance, one of the other companies that was recommended in the book stated on their website that they had a 90 day return period on their lights. But when I read the fine print, it said the return period applied to regularly-priced items only. Yet they only had one product and that product was permanently on sale. Therefore, nothing was *actually* returnable.) I have been extremely impressed with Platinum LED – the lights are very high quality, obviously effective, and their customer service and responsiveness has been really spectacular. For example, one of my friends had a question about how to set the lights up for a clinical setting, and the president of the company gave him his direct number to discuss it and figure it out.

My original light purchases were two of Platinum LED’s BIO-600s, which makes my setup a little more more than body length. A few months after my original blog post, the company found my post, contacted me, and sent me a BIOMAX-900 before it was released to the public to try out and give them feedback. The BIOMAX series has more wavelengths to provide more benefits, and also has a system built in to where you can link the lights together for more seamless operating. The merging of five wavelengths makes the lights able to penetrate farther, including to and through bone (and the skull – so maybe my brain has hope after all.)

The previous line of lights had 660nm and 850nm wavelengths. The BIOMAX lights have those and add 630nm, 810nm, an d 830nm. 630nm is good for the skin layer, including wrinkles, psoriasis, hair regrowth, and acne. 810nm has shown benefits for brain injuries, wound healing, stroke recovery, and improvement in psychiatric conditions. 830nm offers the “feel good” endorphins, improved bone repair, and accelerated healing and reduced infection.

(You can read about the new BIOMAX series’ benefits here in more detail.)

So now I use a combination of one or both of my BIO-600s and the BIOMAX-900.

Having already been using the BIO lights for six months, I could tell an immediate difference to the heat output and penetration of the BIOMAX, and it definitely made me significantly happier feeling the first time I used it. I started noticing the facial wrinkle reductions after I got the BIOMAX, so that could be why that result took so long – I needed that 630nm wavelength. I also like how the red and near infrared lights are spaced in the BIOMAX – it makes a lot more sense and doesn’t give a whole strip of your body just red or near infrared light.

However, the BIO lights dropped in price by $100 after they came out with the BIOMAX lights, so if you’re looking for the least expensive option, the BIO lights are excellent.

The company also gave me a discount code to share on my blog, so the code “ObjectivityLight” gets you 5% off any purchase at Platinum LED Therapy Lights.

You don’t need three light panels to get the results I have had, but you want a light big enough so that getting red light to a large part of your body doesn’t take all day. If you want the least expensive but still practical option, I would go with one BIO-600 (make sure you get the dual light option.) If you want the most effective, most wavelengths, quickest option, I would go with either a combination of one BIOMAX-300 and one BIOMAX-600 or one  BIOMAX-900 and one BIOMAX-450.

Platinum LED Light Comparison

Tell me exactly what it looks like to use these red lights of yours. Like, do you lay on them or what??

 

I lay my lights end to end on their side and have a yoga mat next to them. I use an app on my iPhone called “Interval Timer” that will beep at me at the intervals I set up (“every x minutes.”) I lay on my back six inches away from the lights to get my right side lit, on my right side to get my back lit, on my left side to get my front lit, and then flip to the opposite end of my yoga mat (so that my feet are where my head was) and lay on my back again to get my left side lit. I usually give my back an extra rotation when I’m laying the opposite way so that both my shoulders get equal attention. I typically do 6 minute intervals (a total of 30 minutes), but if I’m in a hurry, I’ll do 4 or 5 minute intervals. 

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I read while I’m lighting, or play on my phone. It’s actually a lovely forced break somewhere during my day which I look forward to quite a bit. The light is warm and comforting and definitely makes me feel happier and calmer.

…And, you aren’t supposed to have clothing between you and the lights, so…. Yeah. We also keep Lysol antibacterial wipes next to our yoga mat to complete our spa health regulations.

What time of the day do you lay in front of these magical red lights of yours?

 

Whenever it fits in my schedule. I move my lighting time around quite a bit. I try not to do it right before bed, or if I do, I wear sunglasses or don’t face the light. A couple hours before bed and it makes me sleepy at bedtime. But right before bed it makes me feel awake and alert. Chris uses it every morning before work while he’s drinking his coffee, and he said it helps him start the work day off more calmly and positively.

Also I’ve noticed the best results for my runs is to light about two hours beforehand. It makes me more energized, prevents soreness or achiness while running and after, and makes me run faster. If I have a really long run, I’ll use my lights afterwards as well to speed up healing and prevent any soreness.

Are there any dangers of red light therapy?

 

Not that I can find, nor have I seen any studies that have shown negative side effects. I’ve read a lot of studies, and I’ve read the book that breaks down a lot of the scientific studies into normal language. The only thing I can find is that if you use the light too long, the benefits are negated. One of my friends felt achy and flulike the first couple days after she started using the lights, but that faded, and the lights really helped her quite a bit. I did find that when I went from one light to two lights, I felt kind of achy at first (double the power and all), so I backed my time down. Other than that, I have not experienced any negative side effects.

Is this a sponsored post? What is your relationship with Platinum LED?

 

I bought their lights (at full price) because in my research, they were the most effective, least expensive lights on the market. I have been extremely happy with them.

A few months AFTER writing my original post, Platinum LED contacted me because they’d been getting a number of link-throughs from my post. They offered to send me one of their new lights to try out since I had been so studiously documenting my results and could study the differences objectively. They also gave me the coupon code mentioned above, which does pay me a referral percentage. They did not pay me to write this post, nor did they have any part in the writing of it.

As my regular readers know, I typically do not promote things on my blog – I like my blog to be my personal space, that is only a reflection of my life and the things I love. These lights have been so life changing to me that they absolutely are a huge part of my life – I would never give anything 30 minutes of my day every day if it weren’t life changing. I’ve been thrilled to see how it’s helped my friends and other people who have contacted me from the internet, and I’ve had many people ask for a follow-up post.

All opinions are my own and will always continue to be.

What are some of the other things that the studies have shown that the red light therapy can help?

 

There are quite a number of things I haven’t mentioned yet. Click to this article for a more comprehensive list.  Some of the other things that studies have shown it helps includes:

  • Lose fat (nearly twice as with diet and exercise alone)
  • Rid the body of chronic inflammation
  • Fight the oxidative damage that leads to aging
  • Combat some autoimmune conditions and improve hormonal health
  • Overcome fatigue and improve energy levels
  • Combat other skin conditions like acne, keloids, vitiligo, burns, herpes virus sores, and psoriasis
  • Reduction of cellulite: one study found that when it is combined with massage, it created a 71% reduction in cellulite
  • Enhanced quality of life for fibromyalgia patients, including decreased pain, muscle spasms, and tender points.
  • The most amazing benefits I’ve read about were for for autoimmune hypothyroidism. A randomized, placebo-controlled study in hypothyroid patients demonstrated that in people who got near-infrared light therapy, thyroid function dramatically improved, and thyroid antibody levels were massively reduced. 47% of patients were able to stop medication completely. The researchers also followed up 9 months after treatment and found that they did not have to restart their medication even after ending their red light treatment.
  • Speed up bone healing
  • Decrease anxiety and depression
  • Potentially increase fertility

I know – it sounds way too good to be true. But I have experienced such inexplicably amazing results of my own that I do not doubt the results of these research projects.

How can I try a light out before buying?

 

If you are local and know me IRL, send me an email.

If not, some gyms, physical therapists, aestheticians, and other types of health clinics do have red lights. If your gym has one, it’s worth googling the brand to see if it’s a the right wavelengths or not before wasting your time on it (I’ve heard that some are not.) I bought my lights instead of trying them out elsewhere, fully intending on taking advantage of the return window (60 day window, minus a 20% restocking fee) if it didn’t work for me. I wanted the freedom to try it out in my own home, on my own time, every day to see if it really worked.

What do your neighbors think about the totally sketch “red room” in your house?

 

I haven’t asked them. Sometimes it’s best just to leave things up to the imagination.

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WHY IS THIS POST SO LONG, RACHEL?!!

 

Because I’ve gotten so many questions about these lights, and there is far too little public awareness about them. Forgive me? 

…But let me know if I didn’t address your particular question – I’ll be glad to email you back or answer in the comments!

Let’s Curl Up With A Good Book.

2019 book recs

So I’ve been reading a lot in the past few years. But the last time I told y’all about my favorite books was February of 2018. Since that post, I’ve read 131 books. Ergo, I clearly have a backlog of amazing books (and also a few awful ones. Should I list the books I didn’t enjoy? I feel like I should) to share with you. You can find a list of all the books I’ve read and my ratings over at GoodReads (I think you’ll have to friend request me), but for the sake of this post, I narrowed down my recommendations to my top 12 books (or series) out of the 131. 

But first, the best ones. 

The only book I’ve read twice in less than a year: 

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. 

 

I read this book last year on vacation and had to finish it at perilous risk of no sleep (which was followed up by the hotel fire alarm going off twice in the middle of the night, so that was just great) and so, 10 months later, I went back and read it again – slower this time, since the suspense wasn’t killing me. I enjoyed it just as much the second time around. I love a book that is written in a happy tone, regardless of the circumstances going up and down in the book. This book has some darker themes, but the overall feel of the book, from the very first page, puts you in a light, happy mindset. I thoroughly enjoyed the characters and the storyline, and it gave a thoughtful, original approach to several issues.

The books I had to read because I got into the television series but the books were better:

The Poldark Series.

Have you watched Poldark on Amazon Prime yet? It’s a really fantastic show for those of you who enjoyed Downton Abbey, or who just like a good British drama. It happens right after the US War for Independence and is about a British soldier who comes home, defeated, and trying to put his life back together. But the books are funny and delightful in a way that the show totally misses out on. The show is fantastic too, and I recommend both. I like how authentic the peek at the late 1700s is – it’s not overglamorized or over-makeuped. (Let’s pretend that’s a word.) Caution: the books were written quite a while ago and many of their covers are atrociously ugly. Don’t let them scare you away.

Engrossing, Beautiful Fiction:

The Night Circus.

This book was lovely. It built a world that I could visualize and desperately wanted to enter into. The buildup of the story is slow, but it is created with such purpose and beauty that you don’t want it to be an iota faster. If you want to sink into a lovely fantasy world and just stay there for a while, this is the book for you.

 

 

The Only Non-Fiction, Non-Memoir Book I’ve Finished in a Long Time:

The Critical Journey: Stages in the Life of Faith.

If you’ve ever found yourself feeling like you’re going backwards in your faith, or find yourself thinking differently than you used to, or wondering why everyone in their 30s is going through a Mid-Life Belief Crisis, this book is so enlightening. It explains a general framework that we go through during our life as our viewpoints, perspectives, understanding of others, and maturity levels change. I have recommended this book to so many people. It’s crazy expensive, but there are a few used copies floating around.

 


The Book That Got Me Hooked on Memoirs:

The Fox Hunt.

If I were to have to choose one book to command you to READ THIS ONE BOOK ON THIS LIST, The Fox Hunt would be my choice. This was a serendipitous random book buying in the airport before getting on a flight. There were only 10 book choices at the kiosk, I was desperate for a new book, and I picked this one up. It had me riveted the entire flight and I wished my flight had lasted longer because I didn’t want to quit reading for a second. Such a fabulous, beautiful, important story about how a man, who grew up in a country torn apart by religious civil war and completely brainwashed into hating all other religions, was rescued from that war by friends on the internet from three different religions. He captures the essence of respect for other people’s humanity and not “othering” others just because that’s what you’ve been taught. But besides the deeper meaning, the story itself will have you on the edge of your seat.

A Fun, Happy, Quirky, Funny  Read:

Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions.

I rarely find fiction funny. But this book was definitely a laugh out loud book. I love the witty, snarky, busybody, indecent character of Auntie Poldi, I adore her determination for solving mysteries for herself, and I can’t wait to read her sequels.

 

 

A Series Worth Delving Into:

The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency.

These books are a delight. The slow, comforting voice they’re written in combined with the exotic setting of Botswana will let you experience a world that you’ve never quite imagined before. They will take you on a calm, relaxed journey through a beautiful country and culture while solving mysteries and learning about life.

 

 

A Book That Reads Like a Tell-All Blog:

Educated.

 This book fascinated and horrified me, but I was also shocked that it was written (and also that she was very brave to write it.) Because as soon as I finished the book, I stalked down all the people in it on Facebook – it took all of five minutes – and matched up their “fake” names with their real names. I felt so creepy (okay I am creepy) as I looked at the real pictures and Facebook statuses of this family that were absolutely bashed in a 20-something year old’s memoir. But wow it was a good book.

 

The Books My Husband Won’t Let Me Tell You About:

Sometimes I read books and tell Chris about them and he’s like “uh yeah don’t blog about that because I don’t want those people coming after you.” (The first one of these commands came after I read a couple insider tell-all books about a certain cult that a certain Top Gun movie star is involved in – those books were craaaazypants.) The two I read this time were so fascinating but also horrifying. They read like post-apocalyptic fiction, and you totally start subconsciously assuming it is fiction, then you remember that it’s real stuff that really happens in this world, in a country that gets mentioned in the news quite a bit. But I guess for a complete list of Banned-To-Blog-About-Books, you’ll have to email me.

A Book That Will Make You Feel All The Things:

All of Me.

This is an autobiography from a woman who has Disassocitive Identity Disorder (formerly called Multiple Personality Disorder.) She has a very severe, “gold standard” case where her personalities never overlap, never have the same memories, never interact with each other. So for 40 years, she lived with life gaps and memory gaps and didn’t understand why she was being blamed for things she didn’t do. It took her doctors years to convince her that she had multiple personalities – and this is just the main personality’s story – the doctors had to convince each personality separately (and some still do not believe that other personalities share a body with them.) Her story is a hard one to read, one that will blow your mind, one that will give you hope for humanity and healing, and one that will make you really mad at parts of humanity. But mainly it will blow you away – especially the second half.

Gossipy, Funny, Lighthearted Trilogy:

Crazy Rich Asians.

First of all: The movie was so dumb. Thank goodness I had read the trilogy before it came out. I made it halfway through the movie and turned it off. But the books were a fun ride through the insanely rich lifestyles of Singapore and China, and the footnotes were the best part.

 

 

You Must Read If You Live In Birmingham:

Fried Green Tomatoes and the Whistle Stop Cafe.

Yeah I should’ve read this years ago but I didn’t. It was such a fun trip into a Birmingham that existed before I was born, and had so much old Birmingham landmarkery and history in it. It was just a fun read (the movie cuts out all of the Birmingham-specific lore.)

(I also enjoyed her book “The Whole Town’s Talking” last year but it confused me because I kept waiting on the plot and there isn’t really one. So go into it more as a winding tale about a town over many generations and it’s quite enjoyable.)

 

A Book I REALLY should have read a long time ago:

Prince Borghese’s Trail.

This book is about the 1996 road rally that spanned 10,000 miles in 45 days, traveling from Beijing to Paris. My dad rebuilt two 1950 Fords for this race and navigated one of them across the most crazy roads in the world. His team came in second place. The lady that wrote the book was a good friend of my dad’s on the race, and he gets referenced and quoted a lot. I read this book in the month following my Dad’s death – it was bittersweet. In one way, it felt like I’d discovered a journal of my dad’s, and it gave me a piece of him that I didn’t have when he was alive. In the other way, I regretted not having read it while he was alive so that I could discuss various aspects of their adventure with him. But at any rate, the book is an interesting chronicle about a bizarrely unique experience. The first couple chapters have way too much technical “car talk” in them, but once they head across the world, it gets really fantastic.

Books I didn’t enjoy:

The Great Alone. I really thought I would love this since it had rave reviews and I enjoyed The Nightingale. But I did not. It was one tragedy after another and so much sad. Blech.

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. Holy Crap this book was depressing. But what really bugged me about it was its complete lack of realism. The kid was old enough to understand things. It’s like he originally wrote a book about a three year old but then the publisher said the kid should be nine, and he made him nine without making any changes to his level of intellect or understanding. 

Dead End in Norvelt. It always makes me sad when I don’t like Newbery books. This was one of them.

The Wangs Vs. The World. Hands down the worst book I’ve ever made myself finish. The kind that makes you mad at yourself that you finished it.

Raymie Nightengale. Weird, depressing, and fell flat.

The Selection Series: The first book was excellent. The second and third books went downhill fast. It’s YA, but got way too graphic in book three, which made me super irritated. 

Books I Couldn’t Finish:

I have never allowed myself to not finish fiction books (yet somehow I’m allowed to not finish non-fiction books), but I had two last year – both, interestingly, were heavily pushed to me by Amazon. So I’ve decided to not believe Amazon’s book recommendations ever again. They were Matchmaking for Beginners (HATED the main character so hard) and The Paper Magician (so cliche and cheesy.)  Now that I think about it, The Wangs Vs. The World was an Amazon recommendation, too. DANG YOU AMAZON. 

So. What have you loved, hated, or not finished this year? Do we line up in our book tastes?