Five Star Books I Read In 2017

I love to read.  I track my books read on Goodreads.  My goal is to read 52 books per year.  So far, for the last two years, I’ve exceeded this goal.  One thing I love about Goodreads is that I can track the books I read.  I can also track how I rated them.  This is great because I can look back at books I loved.  I can track authors that I’ve enjoyed reading and find their latest books.  Here are my five star books from last year.  These were the best of the best from my perspective.

Revelation – Carter Wilson

This was one of the first books I read on my Kindle during vacation, and I loved it.  Wilson is not a well known author.  The book only has 255 ratings on Goodreads.  Still, it’s a great book if you love dark reads.  A man wakes up trapped in a room with a typewriter, and instructions to write a story.  He knows his kidnapper, but he has to figure out how to write what the kidnapper is looking for.  It bounces back between the kidnapping and the prior couple of years.  It’s a very creepy and disturbing read but very intense and well written.

Setting Free The Kites – Alex George

This book was set in the 1970’s and tells the tale of two teenage boys who become friends among shared tragedy.  You really feel like you get to know both of them, and the events and experiences that bond them together are written so that you feel you’re really there.  Being able to visualize myself watching the story is a sign of a well written book.  I couldn’t stop reading this book once I started.  I think it only took me a couple of days.

A Thousand Acres – Jane Smiley

I had written a previous review on The Last Hundred Years trilogy.  While the final book in that series disappointed, I loved the first two.  This is one of her older books, that got her on the map, and I loved it.  It’s again set in the Iowa cornfields, but from the perspective of three sisters who are turned against each other when their father reveals his intention to his 1,000 acre farm to them.  It isn’t a peaceful transition by any means, and it’s fascinating to watch things unfold.  Smiley has a way of making you root both for and against characters at the same time.  I love this and loved reading this book.

Beartown – Fredrik Backman

This is a book about a hockey team.  This is a book about the players and coaches of the hockey team.  Also, this is a book about the town where the team plays.  Honestly, this book is about so many things but it’s just wonderfully written.  Characters are unfolded in layers.  You start hearing the story of any character, and you form a first impression.  As the stories are told throughout the book, your perspective will shift slightly.  Then it will change again and again.  This effect happens with a whole bunch of characters, and it’s done almost flawlessly.  This was probably my favorite book that I read all year.

Image courtesy of morguefile via beanworks

Little Fires Everywhere – Celeste Ng

As you can tell, I love books about characters, and this is a book that fits the bill perfectly.  It touches on a family and the dynamics that build and break bonds.  Understanding of how parents become who they are and how it impacts who their children become are major themes.  This isn’t a book full of twists and turns.  You see much of what’s coming.  But, how everybody gets there and the stories that go into that are what make this book great.

A Man Called Ove – Fredrik Backman

Since Beartown was such a great book, I wanted to read another Backman book.  And, it did not disappoint at all.  This is a book that is about an old man who hates the world.  Or does he?  As the book unfolds, he gets ripped out of his routine.  He isn’t happy about this and isn’t afraid to let everyone around him know about it.  Even so, it happens anyways, and his acceptance of change is the story here.  You want to pull your hair out as you read about Ove.  At the same time, you nod along as he describes some of his many frustrations.  This book has a lot of laugh out loud moments, many involving a character simply known as ‘the cat’.

That’s it.  Those are the books that stood out in 2017.  I’ll definitely be checking out more from these authors, both older books and future releases.

Readers, what books did you read that stuck with you recently?

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8 Simple Ways To Be Happier

Are you in a rut?  Feeling blue?  It might not just be the time of year.  You might have just hit a low spot.  If you’re there, that’s OK.  But, how do you get out of that and find your happy spot?  It might not take a big change.  Here are a few simple ideas to be happier.

Make Time For Yourself

The demands of life can take away all of your free time.  Family, work, the house, even planning vacations can all drain you.  One thing all happy people do is make sure that they have time for themselves.  This could mean time to exercise.  Or read. Maybe it’s just time to unwind. Either way, it’s important.

Connect With Loved Ones

Your family and friends know you best. They’ve been there with you during happy and sad times.  Make sure that you have loved ones in your life.  I sometimes find that social media makes it so we have access to a huge number of people, yet we often lose connections from the ones that matter most.  Find your anchor person (or people).  It’s important.

Learn Something New

Sometimes being bored can lead to unhappiness.  If you have nothing new to look forward to, the days become dreary.  You can snap out of this by learning something new.  Take a class.  Watch a podcast.  Read a book.  No matter what your idea is, a new challenge can help spark you toward happier feelings.

Do Things You Like To Do

If you have a favorite hobby or pastime that you just don’t have time for, find it again.  I can’t tell you the number of people that say “I used to love…”  My question to those people is simple: Why?  Why did you stop doing something that you love?

Get Rid Of Things You Don’t Like To Do

If you have things in your life that bring you down, try to get them out.  Now, this doesn’t mean to run out and quit your job tomorrow.  Nothing that drastic to start off.  But, think of little things, like a TV show.  How many of you watch a TV show that you once loved but is now a chore to watch? If you have that, it’s time to tune out.  That will free up some time for things that can bring you joy.

Automate Tedious Chores

Are you still writing a check to the gas company?  Why? Chances are you can pay that bill online.  If it’s not the gas company or a check, chances are there’s something you can automate.  Free up time and you have more opportunities.  Finding something to automate can help change your routine, and that alone is worth something.

Stop Being Around Unhappy People

If you have people in your life that bring you down, stop being around them.  Or if you have no choice (e.g. co-workers), then minimize their impact.  At work, this can be as simple as listening to music which reduces how much you hear from them.  Either way, reducing your circle of unhappy people will only serve to help you.  People that are positive will help you be more positive.

Count Your Blessings

Everybody has blessings in their life.  Look around and offer thanks.  This doesn’t even have to be a religious thing.  It can just be a moment to appreciate a nice sunrise or a child’s laughter.  Finding the good in the world around us is very worthwhile.  It’s also very easy to skip over, so make it a point not to.

Those are just a few ideas that I’ve had.  These aren’t life changing, but they can help change your perspective.  Sometimes a big change isn’t what we need to find more happiness.  The little things, as they say, do count.

Readers, what are some of your simple ideas to be happy?

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Books I Read In January & February 2017

I love to read.  I have loved it since I was a kid.  It’s something I try to do every day.  Here are some books I read during the first two months of the year.

Books I Read In January 2017

  • Monsters In Appalachia by Sheryl Monks.  I love a good set of short stories and this did not disappoint.  As you might guess, they’re centered around the region known as Appalachia, an area known already for many struggles.  The people here definitely fit the bill.  Rating: Four stars (out of five).
  • The Whistler by John Grisham.  I’ve read every book by Grisham since he started writing.  He’s been around for so long and has written so many books, that it’s now sort of hit or miss.  This one was definitely a
    Photo by EthanN77 courtesy of MorgueFile.

    miss for me.  It was about a whistle blower within the judicial system.  Not his best work.  Rating: Two-and-a-half stars.

  • The Unseen World by Liz Moore.  This was a really cool book.  It is a combination of a mystery, coming of age,  family history, with a touch of science fiction thrown in.  A girl sees her father start slipping away to Alzheimer’s, and as she grows up and into adulthood, she uncovers many secrets.  This has definitely been my favorite book that I’ve read so far this year.  Rating: Five stars.

Books I Read In February 2017

  • The Things We Wish Were True by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen.  The events take place in a community pool over the course of a summer in small town North Carolina.  This is a book that is character driven, with a whole bunch of characters narrating chapters.  Lives change, relationships develop, and self-learning takes place.  Not bad at all.  Rating: Four stars.
  • Furious by T.R. Ragan and Outrage by T.R. Ragan.  These are the first two books of a trilogy with human trafficking as the focal point.  A woman sees her husband murdered and her children taken, and must uncover truths that had never crossed her mind as she tries to find her children.  The books are very fast paced and action packed.  As the trilogy probably could have been combined into one longer book, they’re quick reads.  I’m looking forward to reading the concluding book, which comes out this month.  Rating:  Both books – Four stars.
  • The Years by Nicholas Delbanco.  This was the first book I read on my Kindle, that I got through the free lending library.  It was OK, but it probably didn’t connect because it was about two people later in life that were lovers decades earlier and re-connect via a chance encounter.  The story goes back and forth in time.  It wasn’t a bad read, but one that I was definitely ready for to be over.  Rating: Three stars.

And One Book I Didn’t Finish

  • We Eat Our Own by Kea Wilson.  I get a lot of my books by looking at the description of books as they get added to the library catalog.  So, I’m taking a chance on many and there are some books that I can’t finish.   This was one of those books.  I gave it my standard 100 pages, but was done.  It was something about filming a movie in the rain forest and I think bad things started happening, and it seemed like it was going to involve cannibilism or something.  Anyway, I was glad to put this one down.  Rating (on what I read): One star

Readers, have you read any good books lately?


Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.