The Books That Got Me Through 2018

We’re coming up on the end of 2018 and I’ve been thinking a lot about all that’s happened this year…

My oldest daughter graduated from high school in May and went away to university in August.

My youngest daughter moved in with her father in August.

My husband and I had our first foster placement come into our home on December 1, 2017, and we said goodbye to them almost a year later, in November 2018. So I went from daily caring for 5 children in our home to 0, in what felt like overnight.

Throughout the year, my blood pressure continued to do what it does… go crazy high for no reason and make my husband (and sometimes the doctors) start preparing for my inevitable stroke.

And during all that, I thought the stress occurring both inside and outside our home was causing physical symptoms (my right arm would get weak, I couldn’t turn my head, a lot of pain). Last week, I found out that it’s not some sort of weird stress thing, it’s arthritis along with protrusions hitting my spinal nerves and cord. (We’ve already got a ton of medical bills so this was disturbing on multiple levels).

Basically, 2018 has been a crazy heavy year.

Friends, family and acquaintances are always asking how my husband and I are holding up. And while I really don’t mind them asking how we’re doing, my mom actually shared this with me on Facebook today, which I found hilarious…

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I’m actually not sure which is funnier though… the above FB post, or what happened the day the foster kids left…

I have red, puffy eyes and am wiping my nose (so it’s obvious I’ve been crying), when my husband asks “Are you okay?”

I looked at him like he had 4 heads. “Did you just ask me that?”

“Uh, yeah. Are you okay?”

To which I responded with something like “No, I’m not okay. I’m not going to be okay for a really long time and if you ask me if I’m okay again, you’re not going to be okay either.”

Now, any normal man with self-preservation skills would have seen the “You can’t win here, walk away or I’m gonna murder kill you” look in my eyes and given up. But not my husband. He’s a fixer. After 6 years together, he still hasn’t figured out that there are some things that can’t be fixed and he has to just let me be upset for a while… so he says… “Yeah, I know, but I can I get you anything?”

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A lot of violent responses went through my head at that moment… Thankfully, I went with the only one that wouldn’t require bail money.

“A box of wine.”

“I was gonna go to the store anyway. I’ll get you a bottle while I’m out.”

“No, a box. I’ve decided to give alcoholism a try and it’s going to require an entire box of wine to get a good start at it.”

Something you should know at this point… I’m not really a drinker and haven’t been since I was in my 20’s. The box of wine comment has been a joke between my husband and I for years now. I never actually want a box of wine, nor could I drink a box of wine on my own, but ya’ll…

He got me a BOX of wine to drink with dinner that evening!!

Anyway…

While I didn’t turn to a box of wine, I did turn to the one thing I’ve always counted on to deal with the real world – the fictional world!

So here are the books I read in 2018 that helped me escape, laugh, cry, and deal with all the feelings of this past year:

(You can click the titles of books I’ve reviewed to read my complete thoughts)
  1. The Bible.
    Yeah, I know, some of you just rolled your eyes and others are scrolling on down to the next book on the list, but it’s true. I’ve poured over more scripture in the last year than I have during any other year of my life, and it’s definitely been the most beneficial book to help me get through the year. It’s easy to blame God and get angry when we hurt, but I learned a lot about suffering, love, acceptance, and how to grieve without falling down my normal rabbit hole of despair. I also did a lot of reading plans through the YouVersion bible app, which was great. I recommend checking them out!
  2. Beneath the Same Heaven37795839-_sy180_You would think that as emotionally wrecked as this book left me I’d be upset that I chose 2018 to read it in, but no… I’m saying the opposite. Sometimes, escaping into a familiar world filled with pain, heartache, confusion, etc. of other people is just what the doctor ordered when you’re going through all that in your own life. Beneath the Same Heaven is one of the best books I’ve ever read and I wish everyone would read it!
  3. Auschwitz Lullaby 36576005
    This book was also incredibly emotional and had me crying so hard my husband tried to take it away from me! Seriously, I was an emotional mess the entire time I was reading it!
  4. Edge of the Known Bus Line
    Okay, you definitely have to have a certain kind of twisted humor to enjoy a book like this… Cannibalism, murder, cults – what’s not to find humorous, right?? Yeah, I probably laughed a little too much during this one, but it was needed. It’s a short and disturbing read that had me looking at the bus with fresh, slightly fearful eyes!
  5. the_irrationalist_coverThe Irrationalist.
    Just when you thought I only listed depressing, emotional, dark on this list, I give you… The Irrationalist! It’s comical in both it’s dry and not-so-dry humor. The main character, Adrien Baillet bumbles his way through much of the investigation into the murder of René Descartes and his suspects pretty much do the investigating for him. He learns a lot though and comes out a different person at the end, but it had me laughing through the whole book. (Plus, it taught me the word defenestrate… which I threaten to do all the time now!)
  6. Mammoth
    Another lighter, happier book got me through 2018 was Mammoth. It’s a young adult book about a girl with dreams of becoming a paleontologist who’s hero turns out to be someone completely different from who she thought he was. It’s a super fun read!

So those are the books that helped me get through some tough times in 2018. What was 2018 like for you? Do you have a “go-to” book (or 10) for when you’re having a hard time? Let me know in the comments section below!

BOOK REVIEW: Beneath the Same Heaven by Anne Marie Ruff

37795839-_sy180_Title & Author: Beneath the Same Heaven, Anne Marie Ruff
Publication Date & Publisher: March 2018, Open Books
Genre(s): General (Adult) Fiction, Literary Fiction
Length: 410 pages
My Rating: 4.5/5.0

Description (from Goodreads):

A story of love and terrorism.

Beneath the Same Heaven is a love story of an American woman and a Pakistani-born Muslim man, who seem to have bridged the divide between Western and Islamic world views. But when the husband’s father is killed by a US drone attack near the Afghan border, their cross-cultural family descends into conflicting ideas of loyalty, justice, identity, revenge, and terrorism. With candor, beauty, and unusual insight, their story reveals both how decent people can justify horrific acts, and the emotional power required to heal.

My review:

If you’ve read my WWW Wednesday from July 18, then you know that this book turned out to be so good that it just about broke me emotionally. It reads as a mystery combined with a love story combined with intense family drama.

The main character, Kathryn, is an American woman who marries Rashid, a Pakistani-born Muslim man.  Their love story is raw and believable in a way that draws you in without you noticing how attached you’re becoming to the characters.

Beneath the Same Heaven is broken up into Four Parts: The Book of Before, The Book of Kathryn, The Book of Rashid, and The Book of After.  When I first began reading it, I didn’t think I was going to like it. BUUUUTTTT…

I now believe Beneath the Same Heaven should be required reading! 

By the end of Part Two, I was so deeply committed and emotionally involved in the story of Kathryn and Rashid, that I had to take a break and walk away. This has never happened to me before! But mine and Kathryn’s hearts had been broken… our world was upside down… nothing had turned out the way it was supposed to, even though it seemed that things would be okay in the end… But things weren’t right!

I found myself talking about Kathryn as if she were a real person whose life was intertwined with my own. The problem (other than being that attached to a fictional character) was that there was no way for me to talk to her and give her my advice or comfort her at all! And her situation felt so real that I had broken right along with her…

My poor husband had to suffer the wrath of my intense emotional breakdown over what Rashid had put Kathryn and their children through. It felt as if he had just put me through it as well… I felt bad for abandoning her in her time of need, but my family needed me to take a break and come back to reality before proceeding with the rest of story.

And WHAT a rest of the story it was…

Anne Marie Ruff actually managed to make me root for the terrorist!!!

Still, I wasn’t all that thrilled with the beginning… to the point that I almost DNF’d the book! (Insanely glad I didn’t!!!) The problem was what seemed to me to be near gratuitous sex scenes between Kathryn and Rashid. I understand that the author was trying to show their deep desire & connection to each other, but it came across as forced and overly detailed at times. If it hadn’t been for this, Beneath the Same Heaven would easily be a full 5.0 instead of the 4.5 rating I gave it.

I definitely recommend picking up this book and devouring it as soon as possible!

What do you think? Have you read Beneath the Same Heaven? I’d love to hear your thoughts below!

Thank you to Open Books for providing me with a free digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Click Here to Purchase Beneath the Same Heaven from Book Depository.

 

 

July 2018 Wrap-Up

July was a complete and total blur for me! We were so busy I didn’t get to finish anywhere near as many books as I had planned, but I did get to discover a few really great new books and authors.

So here’s my July Wrap-Up of all the books I reviewed in July:

40598920Truth Seer by Kay L. Moody.  Not only did I LOVE this book, but I also was able to interview the author. If you haven’t had the opportunity to do so already, be sure to check out the review and interview!

 

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The Dead Key by D.M. Pulley. This was the first time I’d read anything by D.M. Pulley, but it definitely won’t be the last!

 

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Mystic Dragon by Jason Denzel. For the first time ever, I actually jumped into the middle of a series and wasn’t upset about it!

 

 

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Priceless by Jen Barrick. I wasn’t as blown away by this devotional as I expected to be, but it was still a good devotional for teen girls.

 

 

I also finished reading Beneath the Same Heaven by Anne Marie Ruff, which I absolutely loved, but I haven’t been able to finish up the review yet.

I’m looking forward to my August TBR and hopefully a more productive month!

 

WWW Wednesday -July 25, 2018

img_1384-0WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Taking on a World of Words.  I’ve been doing it for a few weeks now and it’s a lot of fun sharing what all I’m currently reading and visiting the other participant blogs to find more to add to my TBR pile!!!

Don’t know what it is or how to participate??? All you need to do is answer the following three questions and link back to Taking on a World of Words, or you can put your answers in the comments on her blog!

The three WWW questions are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

 

Today’s WWW Wednesday is going to be much shorter than usual (I skipped my normal little comments). We’ve got a stomach bug wreaking havoc in our home and well, I love WWW Wednesday but I’ve got 2 dogs, 5 kids and a husband… and I’m still semi-standing. Basically…

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via Giphy

(Hehehe… I’ll be honest… I probably could’ve added in a few sentences, but I’ve been dying to use that meme!)

So here’s my shortened WWW Wednesday

Here’s what I’m currently reading:

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I recently finished:

37795839-_sy180_Beneath the Same Heaven, by Anne Marie Ruff

So… I became so attached and involved with the characters in this book that when their world fell apart, I actually had to take a break for a while and come back to it when I could handle it.  I’m not sure what that says about my emotional stability, but I do know it says great things about Anne Marie Ruff’s ability to connect her readers with her characters!

 

What I’ll be reading next:

the_sun_king_by_allison_lee_palmer_200 

 

What’s your WWW? Any thoughts on the books above? Leave a comment or send me a message through the Contact Me page.