Never Unfriended: A Book Review and Giveaway!

This past month I had the opportunity to be on my very first book launch team to help promote the release of Never Unfriended by Lisa-Jo Baker. Lisa-Jo is the community manager for (in)courage, a website that I love and that has encouraged me greatly over the years. When I saw that Lisa-Jo’s book was going to be about friendship, I jumped at the chance to review it.

NU_OrderNow-1_1024x683Friendship is something that I have struggled with ever since I graduated college and realized that friendships don’t come as naturally when you’re not constantly surrounded by peers in the same stage of life. I actually wrote a little about my difficulty with friendships on my blog back in 2009 (holy cow, I have been blogging for a long time), and reading that post again made me thankful that 1) so many people in the comments echoed my sentiments and 2) I have come a long way in my pursuit of friendships since that post. Nevertheless, I still feel that I have a lot to learn in this area, and so I was eager to read Never Unfriended and see what it had to say.

The book did not disappoint. I found myself caught up in the book’s opening pages and put my trusty pink pen to work highlighting sentence after sentence.  I took my time with this book so I could stop and think about each chapter and what it said about friendships. I loved Lisa-Jo’s confessional, relatable tone and found so many parts of this book that resonated with me and challenged me to think about the way I approach friendships. Some of my favorite quotes:

“While we might have defined friendship our whole lives by what others do to us, in the end it’s what we do for others that will define us as friends or not.”

“We have worshiped at the altar of inclusion when we were built to worship at the altar of the only living God.”

“Latching in to a friend with the hope that they will give us God-sized affirmation will always disappoint.”

“When we are convinced that our lives bring delight to a God who views us with such an all-consuming passion that He would choose to woo us, love us, die for us, sing over us, and celebrate us, then we are women who can give other the gift of guilt-free friendship.”

“Perfect will leave you lonely. But friendship teaches us that perfect is rarely as interesting and never as satisfying as real.”

“God is wildly in love with even the people who might make us the craziest. The people who are difficult and the people who are grumpy and unhelpful and hard to understand. And sometimes those people are us.”

I wish I could quote all of chapter 10, the chapter titled, “Live Like the Kingdom of God is a Co-Op, Not a Competition.” It talks about jealousy and comparison and how those things can eat away at us and our relationships. It is the chapter that convicted me the most, as I am the queen of comparison and everyone comes out a loser in that game.

The few nitpicks I have are related to the writing style, which uses a lot of choppy, fragmented sentences. She also quotes a lot from secondary sources, and I thought some of the integration of those quotes into her writing could have been smoother. Neither of these things detracts from the book’s message, however.

Bottom line: If you’re someone who has struggled with friendships, this book is for you. If you’re someone who wants more out of your friendships, this book is for you. If you’re someone who loves the friendships you have but want to be a better friend, this book is for you. I definitely recommend it, and the good news is, I want to give away the copy I pre-ordered!

TO ENTER THE GIVEAWAY, just leave a comment on the post answering this question: What is one quality you value in your friends? 

The giveaway will remain open until Thursday at midnight. I’ll announce a winner this Friday, April 7. Good luck!

*Disclaimer: I received an advanced reader’s copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.*

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Pregnancy Update: Almost 27 Weeks!

How far along? Almost 27 weeks. I can’t believe I’m almost finished with the second trimester.

How big is the baby? Ava is about the size of an eggplant, weighing somewhere around 2 pounds now!

Maternity Clothes? Yes, 90% of the time. I had to order some warm weather maternity clothes this week because it’s been unseasonably warm for this time of year, and most of my maternity clothes from my last pregnancy are winter and fall clothes. I knew I was going to be pregnant for a whole different season this time, but the warm weather snuck up on me!

Sleep? Still very hit or miss. I got a Snoogle Mini pillow in the hopes that it would help, and I do think it has helped some, but I still have a lot of difficulty getting comfortable and wake up frequently, even when I take Unisom.

Symptoms? I still get headaches, though not as frequently, and heartburn has been pretty fierce.

Food Cravings? Fruit and desserts (so basically my normal food obsessions).

Name? Ava Nicole.

Movement? So much movement! Ava seems to really come alive in the late afternoon and at night when I’m trying to go to sleep. I love feeling her kicks. I only wish that Stephen and Charlotte could feel them too, but I’m afraid that my thick abdomen is preventing that.

Best Moment of the Week? Finding some good deals on baby clothes at a consignment sale.

What I Miss? Nothing, really.

What I’m Looking Forward To? Getting the nursery put together. Right now it’s still functioning as our guest room, so we have a lot of work to do. I’m thinking about buying this adorable literary heroines banner from Carrot Top Paper Shop to hang in the nursery, but I’m not sure what else I want to put in there. I’m also really looking forward to seeing what Ava looks like and if she will resemble Charlotte.

Fun Fact? Ava’s brain wave activity is picking up, and she’s able to hear and respond to noises now. Charlotte loves talking to my belly, so I hope that Ava will recognize her voice after she’s born.

I feel like these next few weeks are going to fly by, as Charlotte’s 6th birthday is coming up on Saturday, and then we have a trip to Chattanooga planned for spring break just a few weeks after that. I have started making a list of all the things we still need to do and gear we need to borrow or buy (we borrowed quite a few things for our last pregnancy so we’ll need to fill in what we don’t have anymore), and I am feeling the need to start crossing some of those things off the list. Ava will be here before we know it!

An Overdue Pregnancy Update

How far along? 21 weeks. I’m past the halfway mark!

How big is the baby? Baby Mount is about 10 1/2 inches long, weighs 11 to 12 1/ 2 ounces and is the size of a large carrot.

Maternity Clothes? Almost all of the time, although I can still get away with wearing a few non-maternity tops. I recently purchased a pair of maternity jeggings that I’m loving. (Yes, I said jeggings. Don’t hate; they are super comfy!)

Sleep? As my husband can tell you, I’m a big fan of sleep, but it has been hard to come by, mostly because of hip pain. I knew going into this pregnancy that my hip pain would be difficult to manage because I’m very limited in treatment options right now, but that doesn’t make it any easier to have pain wake me in the middle of the night on a regular basis. Still, I know that at the end of all of this I will have a baby to love, and that helps get me through it.

Symptoms? Nothing new, and thankfully the headaches have decreased in frequency, although they still make an appearance on a weekly basis.

Food Cravings? Oranges, apples, grapes, oatmeal creme pies (I had you going with the fruit for a minute, didn’t I? Nope, not all of my cravings are healthy).

Name? After MUCH discussion (and indecision on my part), we FINALLY decided on a name this past weekend! Without further ado, the name of our BABY GIRL is

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Can’t wait to meet our sweet Ava!

Movement? I’m feeling those sweet little flutters, and I feel like they have increased in frequency over the past few days.

Best Moment of the Week? Deciding on and announcing a name and buying Ava some adorable summer clothes.

What I Miss? Still missing my double dirty chais, but I can’t think of much else at this point.

What I’m Looking Forward To? My next ultrasound on February 6. Ava was lying on her side when we got the ultrasound a few weeks ago, and the tech wasn’t able to get good images of her heart, face, or both kidneys, hence the follow-up ultrasound. The doctor told me that I shouldn’t be worried, so instead I’m excited I get to see my girl again soon!

Fun Fact? Ava’s taste buds are developed, so the amniotic fluid she tastes will be tinged with the taste of foods I eat. She should love apples after she’s born, then! And ice cream. 😉

What I Read in 2016

Of the goals I made for 2016, I am chagrined to admit that I only succeeded in achieving one of them: reading 25 books. In fact, I managed to read 31.5* books this year, so really I’m an overachiever. While for some this is a paltry amount, I’m rather proud of it, as my reading in the past few years has been scattered and lackluster (I didn’t read more than 15 or 16 books in 2014 and in 2015). Like I have for several years, I tracked all of my books using Goodreads, and I thought I would also share them here. I’ve listed the books in the order that I read them, along with the rating I gave each one.

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Photographic proof of my goal achievement. 128%! It’s better than getting an A. 🙂 And yes, that profile picture is not at all current.

  1. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (4 stars)
  2. Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster (5 stars)
  3. Undone by Michele Cushatt (4 stars)
  4. The Trunk Key by Carolyn Nash (2 stars)
  5. Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn (I didn’t rate this, but this was my review: “This book was so disturbing I can’t recommend it at all.”)
  6. Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith (3 stars)
  7. Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan (4 stars). I read this aloud to Charlotte and enjoyed it as much as I remember enjoying it as a kid. I read a lot of other books to Charlotte but didn’t think it was fair to count those, so I just counted one. 🙂
  8. Holding on to Hope: A Pathway Through Suffering to the Heart of God by Nancy Guthrie (5 stars)
  9. Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult (2 stars)
  10. Looking for Lovely: Collecting the Moments that Matter by Annie Downs (4 stars)
  11. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah (5 stars)
  12. The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom (3 stars)
  13. The Insanity of God by Nik Ripken (5 stars)
  14. Spurgeon’s Sorrows: Realistic Hope for Those Who Suffer from Depression by Zack Eswine (5 stars).
  15. Everyone Brave Is Forgiven by Chris Cleave (4 stars)
  16. Eligible: A Modern Retelling of Pride and Prejudice by Curtis Sittenfeld (2 stars)
  17. I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh (4 stars)
  18. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by JK Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne (4 stars)
  19. The Girl in Seat 24B by Jennifer Peel (2 stars)
  20. *No One Knows by JT Ellison, the reason I only read 31.5 books. I realized about halfway through this one I didn’t care what happened to any of the characters, so I stopped reading. Life’s too short to read books you don’t like, unless you’re in school, kids. Then tough it out. 🙂
  21. Big Little Lies by Lianne Moriarty (4 stars)
  22. Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple (4 stars)
  23. A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park (4 stars)
  24. Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala (3 stars)
  25. Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham (4 stars)
  26. Distant Shores by Kristin Hannah (3 stars)
  27. All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda (3 stars)
  28. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein (3 stars)
  29. Before the Fall by Noah Hawley (2 stars)
  30. The Scars that Have Shaped Me: How God Meets Us in Suffering by Vaneetha Rendall Risner (4 stars)
  31. A Man Called Ove by Fredrick Backman (4 stars)
  32. Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing (4 stars)

Before I looked at this list I felt like I read a lot of the same kind of book, but I think I ended up with more variety than I initially thought. 19 out of the 32 books got a rating of 4 or above, and I am pleased with that. All of the books that got 5 stars (5 of them) I absolutely loved and would wholeheartedly recommend, but they are all pretty different from one another. The books that got 2 stars (5 of them) I really didn’t like much at all, but I kind of hate giving out 1 star ratings, so I ended up not even rating the one book I detested (looking at you, Sharp Objects). Of all the books I read, only 2 are books that I purchased. The rest I read through my library’s online eBook collection, borrowed from a friend (thanks, Leah!), or got for free on my Kindle. I used to buy a lot of books, but as I have gotten older and have more limited space, I really appreciate the ability to borrow books from the library and hope to read most of my books in 2017 that way as well.

I want to approach 2017 with a more structured plan (more on that later), but I’m happy with what I read this year and can’t wait to discover more great books! What were your favorites books from this year?