Top Ten Books in 2017 and other Bookish Ramblings


Well hello there Young Whole Essential, and hello fellow book friends.

It’s been a while since I last blogged, and my hopes is that I come back to it in 2018.  If you have followed me for any length of time over on my instagram, you’ll notice that it’s slowly transformed from just essential oils to oils and books. I’m so excited to transform my blog into a hub for my reading life in 2018 as well as my love for oils!

Today I’m going to share some reflections on my 2017 reads.   I read SO many great books and read the most books ever: 70!   I discovered the best podcast: What Should I Read Next.  I’m in two bookclubs: Modern Mrs. Darcy and the most fun vino book club here in Des Moines a la the DSM Girl Gang.

I’m also a doting member of Book of the Month Club! Book of the Month Club is my favorite subscription mail service. Have you heard about Book of the Month? It’s a great way to discover new books you wouldn’t have found on your own. I love being a member, and I think you will too.

Get your first book for $9.99 + a free tote bag when you join using my referral link. Happy reading!


Top Ten Reads of 2017

Without further ado, let me reveal my ten favorite books of 2017.  This was really hard to narrow down.

1. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas – 5/5 Stars


From Goodreads: Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.
Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life

This book rocked me to my core.  It is Young Adult and does a great job of putting you in someone else’s shoes.  I’m still thinking about it six months after reading it.


2. A Man Called Ove by Frederic Backman – 5/5 Stars


From Goodreads: A grumpy yet loveable man finds his solitary world turned on its head when a boisterous young family moves in next door.

Meet Ove. He’s a curmudgeon—the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him “the bitter neighbor from hell.” But must Ove be bitter just because he doesn’t walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time?

Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove’s mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents’ association to their very foundations.

Most chapters made me laugh out loud and then ugly cry.  Ove pulls at your heartstrings.

3. Columbine by Dave Cullen – 4/5 Stars


From Goodreads: “The tragedies keep coming. As we reel from the latest horror . . . ” So begins a new epilogue, illustrating how Columbine became the template for nearly two decades of “spectacle murders.” It is a false script, seized upon by a generation of new killers. In the wake of Newtown, Aurora, and Virginia Tech, the imperative to understand the crime that sparked this plague grows more urgent every year.

What really happened April 20, 1999? The horror left an indelible stamp on the American psyche, but most of what we “know” is wrong. It wasn’t about jocks, Goths, or the Trench Coat Mafia. Dave Cullen was one of the first reporters on scene, and spent ten years on this book-widely recognized as the definitive account. With a keen investigative eye and psychological acumen, he draws on mountains of evidence, insight from the world’s leading forensic psychologists, and the killers’ own words and drawings-several reproduced in a new appendix. Cullen paints raw portraits of two polar opposite killers. They contrast starkly with the flashes of resilience and redemption among the survivors.

Man you guys, this book.  I haven’t stopped thinking about it.  Cullen does a masterful job of making nonfiction read like a riveting story, while honoring the victim’s lives.  I remember Columbine happening but had no idea of the full story.  It’s shocking, sad, and ultimately hopeful.  This book goes through every facet of that tragic day.  I was the most fascinated by how the families handled the grief and how the cops totally mishandled the situation.  I had no idea.  If you are looking for a powerful and sobering read, grab this.

4. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah – 5/5 Stars


From Goodreads: Despite their differences, sisters Vianne and Isabelle have always been close. Younger, bolder Isabelle lives in Paris while Vianne is content with life in the French countryside with her husband Antoine and their daughter. But when the Second World War strikes, Antoine is sent off to fight and Vianne finds herself isolated so Isabelle is sent by their father to help her. 

As the war progresses, the sisters’ relationship and strength are tested. With life changing in unbelievably horrific ways, Vianne and Isabelle will find themselves facing frightening situations and responding in ways they never thought possible as bravery and resistance take different forms in each of their actions.

A fabulous World War II read.  I read it on my way to Colorado and had it finished before we got home.

5. Just Mercy by Bryan Stephenson – 5/5 Stars

Just mercy

From Goodreads: A powerful true story about the potential for mercy to redeem us, and a clarion call to fix our broken system of justice—from one of the most brilliant and influential lawyers of our time

Bryan Stevenson was a young lawyer when he founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice dedicated to defending those most desperate and in need: the poor, the wrongly condemned, and women and children trapped in the farthest reaches of our criminal justice system. One of his first cases was that of Walter McMillian, a young man who was sentenced to die for a notorious murder he insisted he didn’t commit. The case drew Bryan into a tangle of conspiracy, political machination, and legal brinksmanship—and transformed his understanding of mercy and justice forever.

Just Mercy is at once an unforgettable account of an idealistic, gifted young lawyer’s coming of age, a moving window into the lives of those he has defended, and an inspiring argument for compassion in the pursuit of true justice.

This should have been required reading in law school.  It wasn’t. However, this beautifully written book has been tucked into my own heart for future practice.

6. Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist – 4/5 Stars

Bread and Wine

From Goodreads: This book is a collection of essays about family relationships, friendships, and the meals that bring us together. Written by well-loved writer and blogger, Shauna Niequist, this mix of Girl Meets God and the Food Network is a funny, honest, and vulnerable spiritual memoir. Bread & Wine is a celebration of food shared and life around the table, and it reminds us of the joy we find in connection and relationship. It’s about the ways that God teaches and nourishes us as we nourish the people around us. It’s about hunger, both physical and otherwise, and the connections between the two. Recipes are included for the dishes you can almost taste as you read about them. From Butternut Squash Risotto to Apple Crisp with Vanilla Ice Cream and Salted Caramel Sauce, you will be able to recreate the comforting and satisfying meals that come to life in Bread & Wine.

I adore food memoirs and even more so when they are written by Shauna with a nice dose of Jesus.  I couldn’t put this down.

7. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman – 4/5 Stars


From Goodreads: After the grisly murder of his entire family, a toddler wanders into a graveyard where the ghosts and other supernatural residents agree to raise him as one of their own.

Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn’t live in a sprawling graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts, with a solitary guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor of the dead. There are dangers and adventures in the graveyard for a boy. But if Bod leaves the graveyard, then he will come under attack from the man Jack—who has already killed Bod’s family… 

Beloved master storyteller Neil Gaiman returns with a luminous new novel for the audience that embraced his New York Times bestselling modern classic Coraline. Magical, terrifying, and filled with breathtaking adventures, The Graveyard Book is sure to enthrall readers of all ages

If you read this, I highly recommend listening to it on Audio.  Neil narrates it and it is a delightful jaunt.  I really enjoyed this book!

8. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Schaffer and Annie Barrows – 5/5 Stars


From Goodreads: Written with warmth and humor as a series of letters, this novel is a celebration of the written word in all its guises, and of finding connection in the most surprising ways.

“I wonder how the book got to Guernsey? Perhaps there is some sort of secret homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers.” 

This is getting made into a movie and I. CANNOT. WAIT. Book lovers…you must read this.  It’s a love story to books.

9. Ginny Moon by Benjamin Ludwig – 4/5 Stars


From Goodreads: Told in an extraordinary and wholly unique voice that will candidly take you into the mind of a curious and deeply human character.

For the first time in her life, Ginny Moon has found her “forever home”—a place where she’ll be safe and protected, with a family that will love and nurture her. It’s exactly the kind of home that all foster kids are hoping for. So why is this 14-year-old so desperate to get kidnapped by her abusive, drug-addict birth mother, Gloria, and return to a grim existence of hiding under the kitchen sink to avoid the authorities and her mother’s violent boyfriends?

While Ginny is pretty much your average teenager—she plays the flute in the school band, has weekly basketball practice and studies Robert Frost poems for English class—she is autistic. And so what’s important to Ginny includes starting every day with exactly nine grapes for breakfast, Michael Jackson, bacon-pineapple pizza and, most of all, getting back to Gloria so she can take care of her baby doll.

Ginny Moon is a compulsively readable and touching novel about being an outsider trying to find a place to belong and making sense of a world that just doesn’t seem to add up.

Ludwig does a fantastic job getting readers to step into the shoes of an autistic teenager.  This book reminded me a lot of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night and I was constantly stressed out guessing what Ginny would do next.

10. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline – 5/5 Stars


From Goodreads: In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he’s jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade’s devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world’s digital confines, puzzles that are based on their creator’s obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them. When Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade’s going to survive, he’ll have to win—and confront the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.

I listened to this on audio.  It’s incredibly fun and nostalgic.  I immediately had my husband read it.


Well there you have it! I’m so excited for 2018.  I have a goal to tackle #theunreadshelproject2018, the PopSugar Reading Challenge and the MMD Reading Challenge. Blog post to come on that soon.

If you read something incredible in 2018, feel free to share it with me in the comments.  My TBR list can always get longer!

Making Space During Lent

Making Space This Lent

With Lent in full swing, I wanted to take some time to reflect on observing Lent this season.  As these next 45 days (give or take) are a season of reflection with a greater eye towards Christ’s life, today I reflect on how I plan to make space for Lent.

I was born and raised Catholic.  Liturgy and the Liturgical Calendar was something I took for granted, and gave no thought to growing up as it was a familiar motion that made sense.  It wasn’t until I left the Catholic Church and joined the Reformed Church that the liturgical calendar had a lasting impact.  My church doesn’t practice liturgy all the time.   I find that despite my church, I still find myself observing certain liturgical practices like Lent.  It’s partially out of habit and partially because I like the tradition and cyclical reminder.

Growing up Lent was always about giving up something. However, today I learned that Lent is never once mentioned in the bible and isn’t even a required practice per the Bible.

Lent is a forty day period (not counting Sundays) in which we mirror Jesus’ time in the wilderness.  I personally love it because it is a time to reflect upon myself and turn my focuses on to God. It’s a time of repentance and honesty.  In Genesis 3:19 (NIV) we are told: “By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”  I haven’t been to a formal Ash Wednesday service in years, however I find it beautiful and telling that this sacred day is what kicks Lent off.  Lent is a time in which I reflect upon my own mortality and the reminder of ashes to remind us that we will become dust again is so coming. winterland-free-license-cc0

What I’m Making Space For

This Lent, I’m focusing less on giving up anything and more on making space in my heart.  I’ve found a few podcasts specifically related to Lent that I wanted to share because they not only taught me quite a bit but also have created some new practices for this Lenten season.

  1. Ash Wednesday and Fasting – Sacred Ordinary Days
  2. Lent + Prayer – Sacred Ordinary Days
  3. Lent + Almsgiving – Sacred Ordinary Days
  4. That Sounds Fun Podcast: She Reads Truth & Lent

These four podcast episodes are great if you are trying to learn about lent as well as the observation and practice of such.

This year, I am making space.  I’m making space in my heart for the ascension of Jesus.  I want to make sure I am in the Word of God every. single. day.  Further, I want to learn more effective prayer practices and make that a priority in my life.

I’m working my way through the bible in 2017. Ever day I’m doing assigned reading in this bible: The Daily Bible.  It’s a chronological bible and each day is usually a few chapters of the Bible.  I’m in Deuteronomy and Leviticus right now, and as rough as it is, I’m appreciating the legalism of the books.  As a lawyer, I find these easy to read, however, difficult to truly grasp.


My other goal for Lent is to spend more time in prayer. I often feel as if I’m not good at it, or I let life get in the way of it.  How often do we, as humans, feel as if our worries are not big enough to lay at God’s feet? I do this all the time.  However, He is El Roi, the God who Sees Me.  He cares about us so much and wants us to speak to him.  I’m tired of making excuses that I’m not good enough or that I don’t have time.  Thus, this Lent, my priority is to pray at least twice daily and to not make excuses.

Being the avid book lover that I am, I snagged a few books to gain new perspectives on prayer:

  1. Prayer that Works by Jill Briscoe (I saw her speak at If:Gathering and she was the greatest.  I learned so much truth through her!).
  2. Praying God’s Word by Beth Moore
  3. The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson

Regardless of reading these books I am being intentional and cultivating a prayer life.  My goal is to pray in the morning at night.  I enjoy journaling my prayer, so I will attempt to at least do that once a day. winter-road

Making Space in Our Hearts

Another way in which I’m making space is to participate in the Enjoying Jesus study from If:Equip.  Through six weeks, the study is teaching twelve different spiritual practices.  Essentially it’s a study on making space in your heart, and I’m thrilled that it was announced at If:Gathering!

These forty days are a time of reflection and preparation as we prepare for Jesus’ coming.  If you choose to observe Lent, it is so important to make space. How are you making space this Lenten season?  Do you give things up? Do you add something in?


February Reads

February was good for my reading life!  Not only did I discover the What Should I Read Next podcast, but I also joined the Modern Mrs. Darcy bookclub and subscribed to her blog.  It was a game changing reading month for me.

Last week I did a post on my 2017 Reading Challenge and this month I was able to cross off five books from that challenge! Below is a list and mini-reviews of my February Reads.

February Reads

February Reads

  1. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Anne Barrows.

    This book is easily in my favorite books of all time category.  It’s not terribly long and is a good-hearted, powerful, read.  I categorize it as a book about books, with history and love thrown in. Writer Juliet Ashton receives a letter from the island town of Guernsey, occupied by the Germans during WWII and decides that this little island is the subject of her next book.  I love the snippets we get into the island occupation, as well as the hilarious reactions to a persnickety lady that lived on the island.  If you enjoy historical fiction, well-written novels, and a little dash of humor, this book is for you!

  2. The Girls by Emma Cline.

    This book got a lot of fame and press, but I have to be honest, I wasn’t terribly impressed with it.  Plot:  Evie Boyd lives in Northern California in the 1960s and becomes a tagalong to a cult.  I think the author was trying to show just how easy it can be to get swept in to something and be in over your head, but I just couldn’t identify with any character.  Evie is whiny and unlikeable.  The writing is eloquent but almost too much.  Finally, there’s a whole modern day plot line that I’m just not sure about in any way, shape or form.

  3. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah.

    This book is incredible.  I read it on our vacation in Breckenridge and could not keep my nose out of my kindle at all! Kristin has a way of writing that gets you totally sucked into the story.  This book follows two sisters as they live in German occupied France during World War II.  I adored how humanized a german soldier who billeted with one of the sisters became. I’ve never thought of Nazi’s as people, and unfortunately so many were pulled into Hitler’s ploy despite having pure hearts.  This book made me feel sympathy to a Nazi, so you know the writing is good.  Further, each sister did miraculous and courageous things to bring justice to the marginalized in times of fascism and terror.  There were many cringeworthy moments in this book, however the ending had me weeping tears of joy and sadness.  It’s a beautiful read!

  4. Getting Noticed by Lindsey Teague Moreno.

    This book was a business development book for my Young Living business.  It wasn’t terribly long (it took me half an hour to read on my Kindle).  Lindsey writes about how you can get noticed by effectively using social media.  If you team isn’t very social media based, this book is helpful.  However, for most Happy Oilers (my team) we have many of these resources and strategies to our disposal, so personally it wasn’t a very helpful book to me.

  5. Full Spectrum Success by Jacob Adamo.

    This book is short, sweet, to the point.  If you are looking for high-quality literature, this book is not it.  That being said it breaks down personalities and is insanely helpful if you are building a team and want to promote growth.  I reference this book all the time and it has made me a more effective leader. I know how to communicate with different personality types because of it.

  6. For the Love by Jen Hatmaker.

    Finally, For the Love! This book rocked me to the core.  This book is a series of essays covering everything from religion to Thank You Notes by Jen.  I went between two constants: laughing out loud and being humbled.  The GoodReads review states that this will cause readers to “reimagine Jesus’ grace as a way of life,” and I completely agree.  I think what stuck out with me the most is this: “if it isn’t true for a poor, single, Christian mom in Haiti, it isn’t true.”  This quote challenged everything that Western Christians hold true.  If the gospel doesn’t apply to that single Christian Haitian woman, it isn’t true for me.  Just take a while to ponder that whammy. I love that Jen calls out the evangelical church but in a way that makes me want to grow and challenge my church in the best way.  For example, she makes a point to state that Christians are often the meanest to other Christians.  Why is that?  Why can’t we all come together in solidarity to fill heaven and empty hell?  On a serious note, my favorite non-religious quote from the book is this: “Thank you, Coffee. For everything. You make life possible. I don’t want to make you feel weird, but you are my soul mate. Well done.”  This book rocks and you should all read it!

March ReadsMarch Reads

These books are what I’m reading in March!

  1. Rising Strong by Brene Brown
  2. Emma by Jane Austen
  3. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
  4. A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline
  5. Columbine by Dave Cullen

So, What’s on your reading list for March?