book review

{book review} On The Road To Find Out


Recently, I read a YA book for my sister-in-law’s book review blog, Jenna Does Books, which is always a treat. I am certainly not the reviewer that she is, but it’s fun to give my opinions on a book when she asks. Here is the review that I shared with her for her blog…


One of the many perks of being Jenna’s sister-in-law is that she shares books with me. She knows me well enough to know when I will like a book. So, when she asked me last month if I wanted to read a book about a runner and review it, the answer was a quick YES.


on the road to find out cover


I am a runner. I love to run. I have not always loved it; in fact there was a time that I would joke about only running if I was being chased. But running became a way of dealing with stress and heartbreak and taught me how strong I really am. And that is exactly what takes place for Alice Davis, the main character.

Alice is a senior in high school, the class valedictorian, and an over-achiever. She is the daughter of a dermatologist and a lawyer, has a best friend named Jenni, and a pet rat named Walter. Despite having everything she could ever want, all she wants is to go to Yale. When she is rejected, she feels like a failure and has to find something to do. And that is how she starts to run.

It’s not pretty at first, but running teaches her new lessons and leads her to meet new people. It shows her how to push through pain and limits and to be strong when she feels she can’t. She befriends the owner of a local running store, a patient of her mother’s, and takes on a part time job. She also meets a boy, cleverly named Miles. Being rejected by the one and only college she ever wanted to go to sends her down a different path that ultimately leads her to bigger decisions, better relationships, and helps her through heartache.

I really enjoyed this book. I love the running aspect because I can sympathize with running for the first time and feeling like I can’t possibly do it again. And how getting lost in a run, good or bad, can give you the clarity you need for just about any situation. Even though it is fiction, the development of Alice’s running is pretty spot on… It is well written, easy to read, and the characters all work well together. I especially love the use of SAT words throughout with the definitions, such as this…


As the sole offspring of two conspicuously consuming professionals riddled (“filled or permeated with something unpleasant”) with guilt about working too much and not paying enough attention to their precious child, I am often the beneficiary of bouts of excessive spending.


The author, Rachel Toor, is also a senior writer for Running Times magazine and has written Personal Record: A Love Affair with Running, a book that I have already added to my to-read list.


You can also read my review on Jenna Does Books here.

Read more about Rachel Toor here.

{book review} Marathoning For Mortals


Every day I have an internal debate with myself, usually while I’m out on my morning run. Could I really run a full marathon? Do I have what it takes? A few weeks ago, I went to the library and checked out a handful of books on the subject to see if I could answer that question. I just finished the first book. Marathoning For Mortals by John “The Penguin” Bingham and Coach Jenny Hadfield.


marathoning for mortals cover

Source: Goodreads


What did I love about this book? It is written by to very real people who offer real advice for the person who is not a “easy” runner. John Bingham completes races in run / walk intervals. And Coach Jenny’s account of her first half marathon reminds me very much of mine.

This book is written for the person who questions whether or not they can complete what much of the population does not. A full marathon. (It also addresses half marathons, but for my purposes I am referring to the full.)


By getting to the starting line, you’ve already placed yourself in the top echelon of athletes. You may or may not be in the top tier of that race, but as a long-distance athlete, you are fitter, better trained, and more disciplined than 99 percent of the population that has ever lived. Remind yourself of that when you start to obsess about your pace or finish time.

It gives real advice from making the decision to do it, training, having the right gear, preparing for the big day, having three plans for race day, race day itself, and even the days after. The book ends with training plans for walk/run, run/walk, and run methods.

What did I take away from this book? That I can probably do a full marathon. It won’t be easy, I’ll have to train my heart out, and maybe my first go-round with training won’t lead me to the start line. But once I make it to the start line, my chances of crossing that finish line very likely.

Early on in the book, there is a personal inventory quiz that helps you decide where you’re now, where you want to be, and your goal for completing along distance event. Everyone has different goals. Is your goal just to complete the marathon? Do you have a specific time goal in mind? And most importantly, your goals may change as you train..

My favorite quote in this book, and one that I’ve read before from John Bingham is:

“The miracle isn’t that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start.”

If you, like me, are contemplating a full marathon, I highly recommend this book. It is food for thought, full of real advice and thoughts from people. I love nothing more than someone who never thought they could do it and then cross the finish line in tears. To me, that is motivation to get out there and do it.

What books did you read when contemplating a half or full marathon?

{book review} The Willpower Instinct


I am no stranger to willpower – or the lack of willpower. I’m sure we can all agree that willpower is strongest when things are going well, when you are in control of your environment. When we lack control – or when stress prevails – the willpower goes out the window. We don’t often think about the fact that there is science behind willpower. The Willpower Instinct was a wonderful insight into something I – and many of us – struggle with.




In her book, Kelly McGonigal,Ph. D., explains that willpower is actually three powers… “I will” power, “I won’t” power, and “I want” power. “I will” and “I won’t” power are the two sides of self-control, but they don’t alone constitute willpower. To say no when you need to say no, and yes when you need to say yes, you need a third power: the ability to remember what you really want.

I really enjoyed this book. Admittedly, I do not read self-help books on a regular basis. With The Willpower Instinct, I liked the layout, the explanation of each topic, and the summary at the end of each chapter. This book could absolutely be a great reference tool as you encounter difficult situations where you may struggle with willpower.

Other topics you will learn in The Willpower Instinct:

  • Willpower is not an unlimited resource. You only have so much of it, and too much self control can actually be bad for your health.
  • Willpower is a biological function that can be controlled through mindfulness, better sleep, and even what we eat.
  • Guilt and self-criticism undermine willpower, but self compassion improves willpower.
  • Giving up control is sometimes the only way to gain self-control.
  • Willpower is contagious – you can catch temptation from your friends, but you can also catch self-control from the right role models.

While my struggles with willpower generally revolve around weight loss and emotional eating, everyone has a different struggle. Money, spending, smoking, drinking, infidelity, and more. Willpower may seem very complicated, but it boils down to a simple question when you are faced with it. If you are trying to lose weight and someone offers you a slice of cheesecake, it is your choice whether or not to have it. Sure it will taste amazing, but will you feel guilty afterwards? Do you need it? And then you remember that as good as it tastes, it will never feel as great as seeing the numbers go down on the scale. You have the power to choose.

A favorite thought of mine in the book is:

Sometimes our strongest motivation is not what we think it is, or think it should be. If you’re trying to change a behavior to please someone else or be the right kind of person, see if there is another “want” that holds more power for you.

For me, my struggles with weight loss are not always about the numbers on the scale. Sometimes thinking about what the scale will say is not always the motivation I need to avoid a dessert I shouldn’t have. But if I focus on how I will feel better in my clothes, it brings on a whole new side to my goals.

If you are interested in reading more, I highly recommend this book. You can also read more about it on the BlogHer Book Club page and participate in discussions about the book.

Disclosure: This is a paid review for BlogHer Book Club but the opinions expressed are my own.

Books of 2012


This year, I set a goal of reading 40 books for the year on Goodreads. As we quickly approach the end of 2012, I am 5 books behind that goal. I would have loved to meet that goal and even pass it up. Alas, that did not happen but I will instead focus on the 35 books that I have read.


Edge of the Past (Edge, #2)    Pretty Amy    Sharp: A Memoir    Terra (Terrestrials, #1)    When it Happens to You    Love Anthony

Heart of the Matter     Twenty Weeks     Swim: An eShort Story     A Three Dog Life    Lucky Man: A Memoir    No Need for Speed: A Beginner's Guide to the Joy of Running

Whole Latte Life     Life on the Edge (Edge, #1)    Life From Scratch    One Good Dog     Poser   What Alice Forgot

Let's Pretend This Never Happened: (A Mostly True Memoir)     Something Like Normal     A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table    Dog Days: Dispatches from Bedlam Farm    Still Alice    Radiate

Starters (Starters and Enders, #1)      Dog Years: A Memoir     Home Front     The Fifth Child     The Long Run    The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight

The Fault in Our Stars    The Color of Heaven     Sing You Home     Chasing Rainbows    Comfort and Joy


As you can tell, I have a wide variety of reading interests. I enjoy YA Lit, and always take recommendations from my sister-in-law Jenna and her blog Making The Grade. If she suggests I read a book, she’s usually right and I will love it. This was absolutely the case with:

  •  The Fault In Our Stars by John Green
  • The Statistical Probability of Love At First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith
  •  Starters by Lissa Price
  •  Radiate by Marley Gibson
  •  Something Like Normal by Trish Doller (read about meeting Trish here!)
  •  Life On The Edge by Jennifer Comeaux
  •  Pretty Amy by Lisa Burstein
  •  Edge of the Past by Jennifer Comeaux


I also love books about dogs and their relationship with people. A favorite author of mine is Jon Katz and I have several books of his on my to-read bookshelf this year.


For all of you runners out there who feel like you’re not really a runner (ooh that’s me!), I strongly suggest you read No Need For Speed by John “The Penguin” Bingham. You can read my review on it here.


A new favorite author of mine this year is Lisa Genova. After reading Left Neglected in 2011, I had to read Still Alice. Both are thought-provoking, about very strong women facing medical crises that affect their lives and the lives of their families. 2012 also brought her newest book, Love Anthony, about a grieving mother, her autistic son, and new friendships. What I loved most about this book, was the voice of Anthony and her perspective on everything. Very touching…


This year, I also took part in my my first book club, thanks to the Tampa Bay Lady Bloggers. The theme is to read books written by bloggers. The first book we read was A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg. What a fantastic read this was, I enjoyed every bit of it. The second book we read was Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson (The Bloggess). This book was laugh out loud funny and I thought it was the perfect book for a book club setting. You can read about our night out here. What a fun time we had talking about the book!


I also had the pleasure of reading a book by a fellow blogger who I follow and talk to on Facebook. Terra by Gretchen Powell is a must read. I just finished it last week – you can read my blog post and review about it here and here. I’m already thinking about reading it again.


So you’re probably wondering which of these books was my favorite? And my answer would be, you want me to pick just one?! That is a tough question! I enjoyed so many of them, all for different reasons. But if I had to pick just one, my favorite read of 2012 would be… A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg. All around a wonderful book about food and family, meeting her husband all because of her blog, and sharing a recipe in each chapter. Loved it!!


And because I hate just picking one, here are my top 5 books of 2012:

  • A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg
  • Terra by Gretchen Powell
  • Something Like Normal by Trish Doller
  • The Fault In Our Stars by John Green
  • Love Anthony by Lisa Genova


I’d love for you to follow me on Goodreads… You can read my Goodreads profile here and add me as a friend! For 2013, I will set another goal of 40 books for the year and see if I can hit that goal this time. There is certainly no shortage of books on my to-read list!


What was your favorite book of 2012? Do you like to set reading goals for yourself?

{book review} Terra by Gretchen Powell



terra signed 1


terra signed 2


When a fellow blogger writes a book, you have to read it. Especially when she starts a second blog about the writing of her book and self-publishing, and you get more and more excited about it as she gets closer and closer to publishing it. So, when it was released on Amazon on December 11, I immediately downloaded it on my Kindle, anxious to read it.

And when your sister-in-law, asks you to write a guest review for her fabulous YA Lit review blog Making The Grade, you jump at the chance. I am happy to share my guest review with you here…


Gretchen Powell has written her first book titled Terra, a YA dystopian book about a girl, her brother, and their life in Genesis X-16. Terra’s life is changed forever when a discovery leads her to a world she never thought she would be a part of and a boy named Adam who is unlike any other she’s ever met.

I love this book. From the beginning, I was hooked. The characters are real and likeable, and a perfect fit for the world that Gretchen has created. I was held captive by the entire story line – the interaction between Terra and the government was as enthralling as that between her and Adam. And the odds they face are unimaginable… Acid rain that keeps them inside for days, a quarantine line that can’t be crossed, and meals that come in pill form.

I admit that there are some dystopian novels that I just cannot get through, the characters and worlds that the authors create are far too complicated. Not the case with Terra. And while I can never imagine living in a time or place where the government has divided the people so far, or where I would have to go out and scavenge for recyclables in exchange for currency to live off of, Terra is very easy to empathize with because her character is so REAL. Forgetting about the futuristic theme of the book for a moment, Terra struggles with loss, fear, and desire. Real qualities.

Terra can be compared to the likes of The Hunger Games and Starters. Gretchen Powell can absolutely hold her own in the YA world and will go far with Terra. There is no doubt that I want – and need – to read more. I cannot wait for the next one. In the meantime, I am sure I will read this again and again.


Terra is available on Amazon (Kindle and paperback) and Barnes and Noble (Nook).



For more on Gretchen Powell, you can follow her on:

Honey, I Shrunk The Gretchen

Gretchen Powell

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