A few years ago, I went on a Netflix environmental documentaries binge. I watched as many documentaries about the environment, sustainability, food, and animal welfare as I could get my eyes on. I realized that recycling my plastic and eating a vegetarian diet wasn’t enough. As a result of watching these environmental documentaries, I have made many changes in my life.
If you want to watch documentaries to get inspired, watch 1 or all of them on my list. Some of the environmental documentaries I watched were more interesting, eye-opening, and thought-provoking than others. So, I’ve narrowed down my list to include only the best. Below, see my top 10 environmental documentaries to watch on Netflix.
Cowspiracy explores the devastating effects industrialized animal agriculture has on our planet. Combine this message with the secret conspiracy going on among environmental organizations who refuse to promote a plant-based diet. This is an award winning and extremely frustrating environmental documentary. If you’re left wanting to attempt a plant-based diet, check out my post on tips to make the transition easier.
If you like Cowspiracy, check out the follow-up documentary, What The Health. It takes the conspiracy angle to health organizations, questioning why they are still promoting a meat-based carcinogenic diet. The answer, as it always is, is money.
Fed Up looks at the amount of sugar we consume in our daily diets. While not directly an environmental documentary, our diet undeniably plays a part in destroying our planet. This documentary is alarming and eye-opening and will make you want to immediately cut out sugar cold tofurkey!
Blackfish is a well-known film documenting the sad lives of orcas in captivity at Seaworld. I put off watching it for a long time because I thought I already knew the message. Unfortunately, I had no idea how deep the abuse went. Above all, orcas undeniably belong in the ocean, where they can swim miles each day and contribute to our natural ecosystem. Watch this movie and then never support Seaworld again.
Before the Flood
Before the Flood is a well-made environmental documentary starring Leonardo DiCaprio. Leo travels around the globe exploring the devastating effects of climate change. From melting arctic ice to waters flooding the streets of Miami, this film will leave you with little doubt about our warming planet.
Forks Over Knives
Forks Over Knives is a documentary that promotes a plant-based diet. It tracks the health changes of people who are eating unhealthy, meat-laden diets, to becoming plant-based. Spoiler alert: the result is a healthier lifestyle with fewer pills necessary. The less animal agriculture in our diets, the better off our planet is.
Plastic Paradise looks at the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and the effects it is having on the local wildlife. Prepare to be outraged at the amount of plastic found in the stomach of a dead bird washed ashore.
This documentary will really open your eyes to the amount of disposable plastic we consume each day. This may even shift you into more of a zero-waste lifestyle. (If you need some easy tips to begin going zero waste, check out my post for beginners here.)
I watched Sustainable recently, drawn by the film being set not too far from Indianapolis, where I live. The documentary follows farmers trying to make an honest living growing crops. They work closely with restaurants to organically produce the crops that are desired.
We can’t feed the world’s population with our current production methods, or even the ones outlined in this film. But the farmers aren’t trying to feed the world’s population. They are trying to feed the local consumers, by growing the food they eat right there. You’ll want to join a local CSA by the end.
A Plastic Ocean
A Plastic Ocean opens with a man’s quest to find blue whales for a documentary he planned to shoot. After locating them, the camera pans back to show plastic trash surrounding the whales’ location off the coast of Sri Lanka.
The documentary he set out to film shifts gears and explores the incredible amounts of plastic flowing into our oceans. Heartbreaking scenes of dolphins and seals trapped in discarded fishing nets will cause you to rethink not only your plastic usage but hopefully your seafood consumption as well.
Vice Garbage Island
Similar to A Plastic Paradise, Garbage Island also explores the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. My boyfriend actually watched this with me. He was captivated by the swirling bits of plastic and microplastic that exist in the Pacific Ocean. (Sidenote: I accidentally wrote Plastic Ocean at first…fitting.) Produced by Vice, this film takes a grittier approach to reveal the truth. This may appeal to anyone who prefers a more straight forward message in their documentaries.
Environmental Documentary Wrap Up
These documentaries all horrified me in various ways, and I hope you found them just as eye-opening. If so, remember to try to align your actions with your values, and take steps towards changing your lifestyle. If you’ve seen any other great environmental documentaries, please let me know in the comments! I’m always down to check out something new.
Alright, I’ll admit it. I don’t actually have my life together. Do any of us, really? Probably not. But we can fake it until we make it, right? Over the past few years, I’ve been implementing a few easy changes in my everyday life that have helped me in many different ways – from improving my mental and physical health to having a cleaner home. Read on for my tips and tricks to get your life together! Or at least pretend like you do.
1. Drink. More. Water.
It’s obvious, right? We ALL need to drink more water. Prior to my New Year’s Resolution of 2013, I drank nothing all day every day except Mountain Dew. Now the thought of even having a sip of that fluorescent green sugar substance makes me gag. I had to cut soda out of my diet cold turkey for it to work. To make water more palatable, I started buying Crystal Light to flavor it. There are many zero calorie drink flavorers on the market today, so I’m sure there’s one for everyone. I also love to cut up a lemon and use half in a glass of ice water.
If you have trouble drinking water, consider buying a pretty water bottle to carry around. You can get one that has ounces marked on it, or mark them yourself. Then simply track throughout the day and try to hit your goals! You’ll look and feel better, I promise!
2. Take Off Your Makeup
I’m notoriously horrible at remembering to take my makeup off, so this one has been a challenge for me. But once I found my rhythm in a night routine I started to finally remember. Taking your makeup off will help keep your skin clear, which is a sure sign of someone who has their life together! It’ll also keep your pillowcases cleaner, and you won’t wake up with raccoon eyes in the morning.
3. Do The Dishes
Ugh, I know. But dirty dishes in the sink or on the counter are a clear indication that you do not have your life together! For a few weeks last year I loaded and ran the dishwasher every single night. I didn’t find it too hard to fill it up, because I added in things like my coffee pot or the microwave plate spinner thingy (you know).
Now that I’m working full time, I’m cooking less and don’t need to run it as often. Still, every single night before I go to bed I spend a few minutes loading the dishwasher up. This way I walk into the kitchen every morning to clean countertops. It really doesn’t take much time, and it’s quick and easy if you haven’t let things pile up. So put on your big girl pants and just do the dang dishes!
4. Make Your Bed
This one’s easy and takes only a minute. Every morning when you get out of bed, pull the sheets and comforter back. Arrange your pillows on top, and ta-da! Your room instantly looks cleaner. A cleaner bedroom leads to less anxiety for me and makes the space feel more zen. If anyone pops over and glances in the bedroom, they’ll definitely think you have your life together.
If your room still looks like a hurricane with the bed made, consider doing a major declutter. I created an easy 30 day declutter challenge to help you get started. The less stuff you have, the less you have to clean!
5. Create To Do Lists
If you have trouble keeping yourself on track, to do lists are perfect. I like to break larger tasks down into smaller, bite-sized ones that I know I can accomplish. For example, rather than “clean living room” I might put “wipe off coffee table, dust shelves, sweep floor, vacuum rug, mop floor” etc. This way as I complete each task I can check it off and feel accomplished. That helps me build momentum and I can tackle everything on my list!
6. Do Some Yoga
Yoga is great because you can make the practice whatever you want it to be. If you want to get fit you can go to a hot yoga class and sweat your buns off. Want to improve your flexibility? Grab a strap and some blocks and sink into and then hold some poses. If you want to relax you can put on some chill music and lay in child’s pose or corpse pose. I wrote a whole post about yoga, so start there if you’re new. Exercising releases endorphins, and you’ll feel so good about yourself after a session, I promise!
7. Learn a New Skill
Let’s face it, adults should know how to do a ton of stuff. It’s a bit overwhelming at first. Cooking, taxes, changing a tire, creating a budget…it’s a lot to learn! If you want to have your life together, you really should know how to at least prepare a decent meal. Spend some time learning how to cook one or two meals to perfection, and then move on to mastering a new skill. Once you have the basics down you can level up, and try something like calligraphy or handlettering! People who know calligraphy obviously have their lives together.
8. Make Enough Money
This is probably the hardest item to check off on this list. But if you’re eating ramen every night and can’t afford to grab drinks with your friends, do you really have your life together? I still haven’t fully accomplished this yet, but I’m working on it! Obviously getting a better paying job is no easy task, so I’ve recently fallen in love with the idea of side hustles. I started walking dogs on Rover last year and made up to $500 per month. If you start a side hustle, you can pay down your debt and then do the ultimate adult thing – open a savings account. You know you have your life together when you have a savings account!
9. Sunday Meal Prep
Once you’ve nailed a few easy dinner recipes, learn how to make big batches of them! Cook once on Sunday evening, and then portion the leftovers into containers to take into lunch for the week. Make a few meals so that you can switch things up throughout the week. You can even make ahead breakfasts so that your morning goes smoothly.
I’ve probably never felt like I had my life together more than the time I meal prepped everything for the week. I made 2 different lunches to switch between throughout the week, a big thing of oatmeal, and even a few iced coffees. I cut up extra fruits and veggies to have as snacks. It made my week SO much better! If you usually bring a frozen burrito in to work, your co-workers will be really impressed when you show up with a multi-course lunch. You’ll definitely look like you have your life together!
10. Get Enough Sleep
Finally, one of the best things you can do for your health and life in general is to get enough sleep. I used to stay up all night and operated on a weird 25 hour sleep cycle. When I started taking melatonin and going to bed at 10:30 every night my life literally changed overnight. I didn’t need to nap every day anymore, and I had so much more energy. The more energy you have, the more time you’ll have to tackle all the rest of this list! Your body, your mind, your home, and maybe even your wallet will thank you.
If you implement any of these easy changes in your life, please let me know how they go! I would love to hear what else you do to feel like you have your life together. After all, I’m still working on mine and need tips myself!
Ah, a new year. A fresh start! Time to take down the Christmas tree and decorations, and put everything back in order. But wait, what’s that? Your holiday decorations are overflowing? You have leftover wrapping paper and bows crammed into a box? All your gifts are piled on the table, waiting to be put away? So. Much. Stuff. We all have it! I’m using the new year as an excuse to go through and do some decluttering. Because the process can be overwhelming for some, I’ve decided to create a 30 day declutter challenge.
This 30 day declutter challenge will walk you through 30 steps of decluttering your home. You don’t have to strive for a simple, minimalist home to participate! Almost everyone has at least some extra *stuff* in their home that they can part with. The benefits of decluttering are numerous, but for me a less cluttered home means less anxiet. Whether you want to save money (by not accidentally buying duplicates and using up what you have), calm the anxiety that arises from being surrounded by stuff, or simply have less stuff to clean, you can benefit from this challenge. So let’s roll our sleeves up and get to work!
Day 1 – Food
A lot of times, *stuff* builds up because we have a sentimental attachment to the objects. Most of us aren’t very attached to expired food, though. That makes it an easy target for Day 1 of our declutter challenge. Do a quick inventory of your refrigerator, freezer, and pantry. Have anything expired or stale? Chuck it. Bask in the glory of how easy it was. This won’t be so hard after all!
Day 2 – Pens
Another easy task to help us ease into the month. I don’t know about you, but I have pens stuffed in every drawer of my home. Go around and gather up every pen (and pencil!) you own. Grab a sheet of paper and test each pen out. Dried up? Toss it. Don’t like the way it writes? Take it to the office and give it a new home.
Day 3 – Gift Supplies
Remember all that extra wrapping paper and bows I mentioned? Sort through your supplies now. Get rid of scraps of paper too small to be useful. Peel off old tags on boxes you want to keep to reuse. Decide which bows are too worn to be used again.
Day 4 – Holiday Decorations
I threw away a set of lights this year. I felt awful doing it, but I had tried everything to get them to work. Did you know there’s a tiny little fuse box in the plug? Nothing fixed them, so I closed my eyes and said goodbye. If you have burnt out strands laying around, do the same. Broken ornaments? Sayonara. Tinsel garland that’s seen better days? Retire it.
Day 5 – Candles
After Christmas, I had 4 leftover holiday scented candles still scattered around. I was ready for new, fresh scents and totally over gingerbread cookie smells. I burned them all, to use them up and now I’m making way for new smells. Go around your house today and burn any half used candles. Once their useful life is over, you can recycle or repurpose the jars and move on!
Day 6 – Paper
Alright, here we go. We’re getting into one of the hardest parts of the home to declutter. Why do we keep so much paper? We all do it! Go through mail, your desk, your junk drawer, anywhere you may keep paper. Sort through and place the paper into piles. Bills to pay, important receipts, insurance info, etc. Create binders for categories that make sense to you. This will make you feel very organized, and help you eliminate the clutter. Don’t forget to sign up for paperless billing where possible, to cut down on the source of paper coming into your home in the first place.
Day 7 – Pictures
Here’s our first really sentimental category to declutter. I have 2 shoeboxes filled with loose pictures and small albums. Most of the pictures I wouldn’t throw away for anything. But when I sorted through them, I noticed LOTS of duplicates or awful pictures of mostly fuzzy blackness. I tossed the bad pictures, and then gave the duplicates to friends and family. If you aren’t attached to the physical objects, you can scan all the keepers into your computer and store them on a cloud. Otherwise, buy a couple of large photo albums and spend the afternoon sorting through the memories and figuring out how best to arrange them.
Day 8 – CDs/DVDs
Keeping with the theme of going down memory lane – time to tackle those NSYNC CDs! Do you REALLY still listen to CDs? Or have they have been entirely phased out and replaced with Spotify? I went through all my CDs, picked out a few favorites, and took the rest to Half-Priced Books, a used bookstore that also sells other media. I did the same with all my DVDs (Okay, I kept “Love, Actually”). They sort through what they want and give you a cash offer. You can take back what they don’t buy, or just let them recycle the leftovers. Depending on the size and quality of your media collection, you could make a couple hundred bucks at this step!
Day 9 – Books
I did the same thing with books as I did CDs/DVDs, and sold them off. But, man…was it hard. I love to read, and I LOVED my book collection. Then one day I decided I didn’t. I’ve moved around a lot over the past 10 years, and lugging box after box of books got really old. I decluttered them in stages. First, the ones I never liked. Then, the ones I somehow acquired from other people without ever even reading. Then, the ones I liked okay but would never read again. If you’re like me, this stage will be hard for you! But you’ll make some extra cash and dump tons of weight from your home.
Day 10 – Electronics
One last category of stuff you can potentially take to your local media resell store. In the past couple of years, I’ve gotten rid of old cell phones, a Nintendo Wii, a Nintendo DS, a digital camera, a broken laptop, and probably even more. Everything was sold, either through my cell phone carrier’s buyback program, a reputable computer scrapper, or Half-Priced Books. I made over $300 on all of it. I don’t have to tell you how freeing it is to part with the excess junk and replace it with dollars in my pocket!
Day 11 – Cords/Cables
After decluttering your electronics, you may be left with some spare cords. You probably have no idea what the cords even go to. I rounded up several old coax cables, along with an ethernet cable and a few random cables that I couldn’t place. Best Buy usually has a drop box for old cords and they will recycle them for you!
Day 12 – Artwork
Do you have cheap art hanging on your walls that you don’t really love? Maybe you did at one point, but since then you’ve acquired other pieces that fit your life better. Too much hanging on walls can make the room feel smaller and darker. Use today to look around and see if there are any old art pieces you can donate and brighten up your space.
Day 13 – Tupperware
What is it with tupperware? The lids are like socks, always going missing and leaving an incomplete set. Plus, I often acquire new plastic containers, taking leftovers home from friends. Sometimes they get returned, other times I forget where it came from and it permanently joins my family. Which leads to WAY too many containers! Pull everything you own out and make sure each container has its own lid. The rest can be recycled.
Day 14 – Dishes
Moving along in the kitchen, we come to the cabinets. Mugs seem to be a favorite gift around the holidays, and I acquire one or two more each year. They would overrun my space if I didn’t do an occassional clean out. Sort through your collection and only keep the mugs you use on a regular basis. If it was a gift you never use, it’s okay to pass it on to someone else who will love it. The gift giver will never even know! As for other dishes, if it’s chipped, stained, or made of cheap plastic, it’s time to remove it from your collection.
Day 15 – Kitchen appliances
I got rid of a bread maker last year. I got it for Christmas in 2006, and used it that very day. And then…never again. I lugged it around with me for over 10 years before finally deciding it just wasn’t worth keeping. If you have appliances you only use once in a blue moon, see if one of your friends or neighbors owns a similar one you can borrow. And if not, do they want yours? Clear your countertops of it, and simply borrow it if you ever need to use it again.
Day 16 – Medicine
Medicine and vitamins can lose their effectiveness over time. Expired vitamins and outdated prescriptions should be taken to a pharmacy to be disposed on properly.
Day 17 – Linen Closet
I keep all my excess towels, sheets, and blankets in my linen closet. Some of the items I frequently rotate through what I use, others have sat there collecting dust since I moved in. If your closet is similar, donate the good items to Goodwill, and the worn or stained items to your local animal shelter. Dogs will appreciate curling up on your old blanket more than you will with it stuffed in the back of the closet.
Day 18 – Shower
I keep my shower pretty tidy, but I’ve noticed a lot of other people have dozens of bottles of half used shampoo or body wash in theirs. If that sounds like you, use up the products you like and get rid of the rest. The fewer items in the shower, the easier the surface is to clean.
Day 19 – Bathroom Cabinets
The area under my bathroom sink is a mess, and I know yours is too. Use a similar process here as in the shower, using up products you like and tossing the ones you don’t. Treat yourself to a spa day, testing out various lotions and cuticle creams, finally trying out that sheet mask, pouring Epsom salts into your now clean bathtub to soak. Then buy organizers and get your stuff together!
Day 20 – Makeup
I blame YouTube for my previous makeup obsession. I wanted a huge collection of it, just like the beauty gurus had. Eventually, I became overcome with guilt and anxiety over the amount of unused product I had sitting around. I passed most of it along to my nieces, and now I only keep what I wear on a daily basis, plus a few extras. Trust me, you don’t need 10 tubes of dried up mascara! Toss the expired stuff, donate the unused, and pass on the rest to friends or family. I use this organizer to keep my makeup visible and easily accessible.
Day 21 – Shoes
I’ll be brief here. If you haven’t worn those 4 inches heels in the last year, it’s time to move on. What may have once been a staple in your wardrobe may now be collecting dust in the back of the closet. It’s okay to let go of that part of your life.
Day 22 – Closet Clothes
I like to use a similar method for clothes as I do shoes, with a little more wiggle room. I’m working on my closet, and would like to par it down and replace cheap pieces with quality, sustainable items. But until I get there, I think it’s okay to have more clothes, since they are poorly made and wear out quicker. Don’t aspire to have a capsule wardrobe right away. Simply take stock of what you actually wear and/or love, and pass the rest on.
Day 23 – Dresser Clothes
My dresser holds my oversized sleep t-shirts, of which I have amassed many over the years. I don’t need 30, and neither do you. Pare your collection down and make some room in those drawers. Mismatched socks, uncomfortable bras, and well worn undies get the boot. You’re better than that.
Day 24 – Coat Closet
I wear the same 2 or 3 coats all winter, and yet I have about 10 in my closet. If you live somewhere warm, you probably can get away with only one. Keep a rain jacket as well, and part with any you haven’t worn in the past year or two.
Day 25 – Hangers
Now that you’ve clear out all these clothes, you probably have extra hangers lying around! I hate the skinny metal hangers, and I NEVER take the plastic hangers home from the store when buying new items. Try and keep your hangers as similar as possible, and get rid of the excess ones. Dry cleaners will often recycle them, and Goodwill usually needs them to display clothes as well.
Day 26 – Junk Drawer
This one shouldn’t take long, in theory. How much junk could one drawer hold, really? Sigh. I think the worst part of this task is not having homes for the items inside. Hopefully, by now you’ve cleared the drawer of its paper and pens. But what to do with the rest? Try and find homes for the rest of the contents. Put the batteries with tools, the paper clips in the office, the expired coupons in the garbage. Ideally, you want this drawer mostly empty.
Day 27 – Purse/Wallet
If you swap your handbags out often, you may not have accumulated much stuff in one. If you’re like me, though, and use the same one for everything, you may be surprised by what you can find in the depths. Loose ibuprofen, almost used up chapsticks, spare coins. Dump everything out and put back only what you need inside. Find new homes (like the trash can) for other items.
Day 28 – Pet Supplies
No pets? Skip this step! Pets? Round up every collar, leash, Kong, and catnip toy you can find. Use this time to sanitize any rubber/plastic toys (I run my dog’s Kongs through the dishwasher). Get rid of any stuffed toys that are ripped. Have a talk with your cat about all the little mice they’ve hoarded under the fridge. Anything that doesn’t currently serve a purpose for you, but still has some life left, can be donated.
Day 29 – Toys
I wish I could say this step is only for kids, but my boyfriend has more than one plastic lightsaber in the house, so I guess this category can be for anyone. If you do have kids, include them in the process. Bring them with you to donate the toys they don’t play with anymore, so they can be a part of the journey to someone else who will love it.
Day 30 – Digital Clutter
Finally, Day 30. Your home is probably a lot less cluttered, and your space calmer. But when you fire up your laptop, is your desktop crowded with icons? Are you constantly getting a message on your phone that you’re almost out of storage? Digital clutter can create stress, too. Take it easy today, and do all your work from the couch. Dump anything important on a hard drive, and delete anything unimportant. Start anew with a clean slate.
30 Day Declutter Challenge Wrap Up
If you made it this far, pat yourself on the back. Look around you and feel a sense of ease. Or, if you’re like, notice even more junk you need to get rid of! Decluttering is a process, and this challenge hopefully helped you get started. You may want to work through it again in a few months, once you’ve thought about items some more. Be sure to bookmark this page and come back any time you notice clutter accumulating! Let me know how the challenge goes, and if there are any areas of your home or life you find impossible to declutter!
2018 was a busy year for me, and I didn’t get to read as much as I normally do. Luckily, things slowed down for a few months in the summer. My first very stop the day after I took the bar exam in July was the library. I traded in my MBE Practice Questions book for a stack of fiction. I escaped my nail-biting reality (did I pass the exam?!) and entered worlds vastly different from my own. Some of the worlds I loved, others I hated. Below are my 2018 book reviews.
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The Little House on the Prairie Series – Laura Ingalls Wilder
I’m not sure what made me start out 2018 longing to be a pioneer in the late 1800s. But the obsession with covered wagons and building houses log by log hit me hard. For those who don’t know, this is the basic plot of The Little House on the Prairie series. The story is told through the eyes of young Laura as her family struggles to set up life in the unsettled American West. I’d read some of the series as a girl, but this year I dived right in and read them all.
The books are as interesting as they are dated, with many references to Laura’s Ma being afraid and speaking ill of Native Americans. Those plots wouldn’t stand today, and it’s fascinating to see just how far we’ve come. I don’t just mean in terms of “tolerance” but also simple things like using electricity to heat our homes. The Ingalls family didn’t live *that* long ago, but their lives were so completely different from my family’s. I just couldn’t put the books down. If you haven’t given these American classics a shot, I definitely recommend them!
Turtles All the Way Down – John Green
The first book I read after taking the bar exam was Turtles All the Way Down. I was excited to kick off my relaxing August with an easy read. The basic premise is that a teenage girl with a lot of anxiety reconnects with an old friend. She struggles with whether to turn her friend’s dad into the police for a white-collar crime. Not a terrible plot.
I was almost immediately annoyed with the book, though. It’s set in Indianapolis, which has absolutely nothing to do with the plot. The story could take place literally anywhere and be the same story. Yet John Green decided to REALLY MAKE SURE the readers knew it was set in Indianapolis. Maybe I’m biased because I live in Indianapolis myself. Some of the street names or parts of the town mentioned really stuck out to me since I recognized them and could picture exactly where the book was taking place. But my God, I couldn’t focus on what was going on, since I was so bombarded with Indianapolis! Overall, the book was fine, although definitely not his best work. But if you live in Indianapolis, steer clear.
Calypso – David Sedaris
Ah, David Sedaris. The man who can do no wrong. I’ve read every book Sedaris has ever put out. So at this point, I know that he’s definitely used up his best material for his witty memoirs. And yet, his stories remain entertaining, and Calypso proves that. I still laughed out loud and even audibly gasped at some points (the snapping turtle, anyone?) and anytime a book can move you to react in the real world, you know it’s good. When You are Engulfed in Flames may be my favorite of Sedaris’ works, but Calypso isn’t too far behind.
Ready Player One – Ernest Cline
A friend read Ready Player One over the summer and absolutely hated it. She bashed it so much that I obviously had to read it. I mean, it had great reviews, so somebody was wrong! Going into it with the low expectations she set for me allowed me to be a bit more open minded about what I was reading, and I was actually engaged throughout the book. I found myself rooting for Parzival and his friends in the near future as they sought out easter eggs in a virtual world which would lead them to a huge prize. It may not be worthy of extremely amazing praise, but I think it’s entertaining and that’s good enough for me. The movie on the other hand…(spoiler alert: it freaking sucks.)
Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World – Haruki Murakami
I was pretty positive I had read Murakami before (specifically, Kafka on the Shore), but after reading Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World and doing some research, I realized this had actually been my first foray into the surrealist worlds that Murakami is known for. This book has chapters of alternating viewpoints/narrators, and they seemingly have no real connection to each other. I knew they would wind up intersecting, of course, but the way Murakami teases the plot out left me finishing each chapter with more questions than I had in the beginning. The only way to answer them was to keep reading, classifying this book as a real page turner. Reader be warned: you may need Botox to straighten out your furrowed brow by the end!
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – Stieg Larson
One day, I didn’t feel like going to the library, so I pulled The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo off my own shelf. I read it and the other two in the trilogy several years ago. I have a bad habit of forgetting details about books I’ve read, remembering only the vaguest plots and whether or not I liked it. My memory of this series was that I liked it enough, so I opted to re-read the first book just to pass the time.
I definitely had forgotten how much I actually enjoyed it, and I devoured the book much in the way the main characters devour coffee (seriously, how is that much coffee consumption possible?). There are a couple brutal and hard to read pages, but overall the book is less of a gruesome mystery and more a day-to-day look at the life of a man living on an island in Sweden. Quite interesting, to say the least.
Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
This is another of my own books, which I read practically two decades ago. Again, I vaguely recalled liking Memoirs of a Geisha, and I picked it up to read while doing a Rover homestay. I sort of expected to only read the first chapter or two, and then set it aside and forget about it once I returned home. However, I was hooked!
I immediately was swept back in time to the Gion district of Kyoto, Japan, following along with the young girl from a fishing village as she journeys into becoming a geisha. The narrator paints such a great picture of her surroundings that the reader has no trouble picturing the scenes being described. A few times I paused to Google Japanese words, such as “okiya” which is the house geisha live in, just to get a better image of where the scene was taking place. Overall, the book does an amazing job at describing what life was life for a geisha in the 1930s and ’40s. I recommend it to anyone wanting to escape modern life to delve instead into a classic, beautiful world of yesterday.
You Are a Badass – Jen Sincero
I picked up You Are a Badass off the shelf of a home I was dog sitting for via Rover. I don’t normally read self-help type books, but it was just sitting there, right in front of my face. Sincero sucked me in with her “you can do it” attitude, but I lost interest quickly when she seemed to repeat herself throughout the chapters. The message is great and important, but the book could have been halved and still gotten the point across. Still, it’s worth a skim if you’re ever feeling uninspired and like you don’t know how you got to where you’re at in life.
Anne of Green Gables series – L. M. Montgomery
When I finished the Little House series, I longed to read more about pioneer life. I searched for similar books, and Anne of Green Gables always topped the lists. It isn’t pioneer life, but it is a young girl growing up in the early 1900s, so there are some similarities. The first book details Anne’s journey from orphanhood to being adopted and adored, and all the mishaps she finds herself in along the way. The book is a treasured classic to many, and Anne’s bright personality and zest for life supposedly have helped generations make it through dark times.
I won’t hold it quite so near to my heart, but I did enjoy the book so much that I promptly returned to the library and got the next in the series. Now, I’m finishing out the year having just started the 4th book in the series. I’ll likely continue making my way through the books and watch Anne grow up, just like I did with Laura Ingalls.
First Light – Bill Rancic
I grabbed First Light off a library shelf, knowing nothing about it. The blurb said it was about surviving after a plane crash, and I didn’t need to hear any more. Sign me up! The main characters went down on a plane in the Yukon Territory of Canada in the winter in the middle of a bitter snowstorm. Can’t get much worse than that. It isn’t really an actual survival story though, as the focus is more on love and companionship. I kept waiting for the passengers to start eating each other, but it never happened. It was a light, fun read, if not what I expected. When I finished I googled Bill Rancic and realized he is husband to Guiliana Rancic, and winner of the first season of The Apprentice. Huh.
P.S. From Paris – Marc Levy
I read P.S. From Paris for free via Kindle Reader through my Amazon Prime account. I didn’t expect much of it since it seemed like a basic chick lit love story. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised by the turn of events throughout the book. Although, almost everything could have been solved with some good old fashioned communication. Without giving away too much of the plot, the story centers around an American writer living in Paris, and a British actress who retreats to Paris amidst her failing marriage. Hijinks ensue and romance blossoms!
The Sky Below – Scott Parazynski
The Sky Below was another free Amazon Prime book for Kindle. I downloaded it based solely on the cover, which is a man in an astronaut’s space helmet. I sort of assumed it was fiction, but instead it’s an autobiography of sorts. Scott Parazynski served on several NASA missions to space, and he recounts them in detail in this book. He also regales the reader with tales of growing up around the world, climbing Everest, and becoming an Olympic team coach in luge. Oh, and he’s an emergency medical doctor. A bit name-droppy at times (“I had invited my good friend Jacques Cousteau to my launch…”) but overall a very engaging and thrilling read.
American Gods – Neal Gaiman (didn’t finish)
A friend who enjoyed American Gods recommended it, but I unfortunately only made it about 100 pages in before I had to return it to the library. I assumed I could renew my rental, but it turned out there was such a waitlist to get ahold of it that renewals weren’t allowed. The pages I read were good and weird, and I may in the future attempt to give it another go. Honestly, I’m still not even sure what the book is about!
White Teeth – Zadie Smith (didn’t finish)
The same friend mentioned she had also picked up White Teeth, so I followed suit without looking into the subject matter of the book. I read one chapter and messaged her that it felt like work. It was almost hard to read, and I wasn’t sucked in. I like when a book magically transforms before my eyes into a realistic scene that I feel a part of, and that didn’t happen with this one. My friend said she felt the same, that she wasn’t at all invested in the characters. Knowing that it wasn’t going to get any better, I decided to give up.
I used to be able to count on one hand the number of books I started reading and didn’t finish, but a few years ago I decided I didn’t care anymore. Life is too short to read bad books. If I’m not interested after a couple chapters these days, I move on.
Go Set a Watchman – Harper Lee (didn’t finish)
Speaking of not finishing, I gave up on Go Set a Watchman for a very similar reason. I fully intended to see the book through, despite all the lackluster reviews, simply because To Kill a Mockingbird is easily one of my favorite books, and I felt I owed it to Harper Lee. Alas…the reviews were lackluster for a reason, and I felt no connection with grown up Scout. I read several chapters and then set it down to pick up something else, and never went back. C’est la vie.
2018 Book Reviews Wrap Up
So, 12 books for my 2018 book reviews! If you count all the Little House and Green Gables books separately, I finished the year with a solid 20. Not bad for a crazy busy year! Only a few of the books were misses for me: White Teeth, Go Set a Watchman, and maybe Turtles All the Way Down. The rest of the year’s choices were all pleasant and I recommend them! Let me know what you read and loved this year! I’m already putting books on my list for 2019, and I’d love to add more!
CoverGirl recently announced they were officially cruelty free. This is huge! CoverGirl was my go-to brand when I started wearing makeup because it’s affordable, accessible, and good quality. (Plus I loved those “easy, breezy, beautiful” commercials back in the day!) As more and more brands achieve cruelty free status, the list of acceptable beauty products I’m willing to purchase grows.
Leaping Bunny certification is the ultimate cruelty free designation for a brand, so at first I wanted to mainly focus on the popular brands that have achieved that status. However, I noticed MANY of the brands that I personally have looked into and know to be cruelty free weren’t actually certified. So I included these brands regardless of the certification.
I created this list to refer back to any time I’m at Target and want to pick up something new. Now, I’m sharing it with you! There are many, many brands that I haven’t heard of/can’t get at my local drug store or Target, so I’m not including those, since I likely won’t come across them. The next time you want to make a purchase, check the list below of cruelty free beauty brands to ensure you aren’t supporting any icky animal testing.
Note: If you’re vegan, some of the products produced by these brands may contain animal ingredients, such as beeswax. Because it varies by product, I still included those brands, since many of the items are 100% free of animal products and therefore entirely vegan. I’ve linked each brand to their website’s page/FAQ on being cruelty free and/or vegan, so you can verify the info for yourself.
This list is current as of December 2018. I will update it periodically to ensure it contains accurate info. Feel free to bookmark the post to check your potential purchases the next time you’re shopping and share with your friends! And if you’re interested in some of my absolute favorite products from this list, be sure to check out my post on making the switch to cruelty free beauty products!