Book Review – Hallelujah Anyway by Anne Lamott


I’m so excited to be a part of a new post series for So She Slays! Every month, I’m going to be reviewing an empowering, encouraging, and inspiring book for a special Friday edition. We won’t be limiting ourselves to only the latest self-helps, however. We will be exploring any and all books that can give your brain a boost, either to look through a window at a larger world view or to fall into the smallest crack for a peek within yourself.

I’ve been hearing and reading quite a lot about Anne Lamott and her latest release, Hallelujah Anyway. When it was released in early April of this year, I immediately put it on my list to check out, and when thinking of a read to start off this new series, I thought this would be a perfect fit.

Hallelujah Anyway is a collection of essays that feel like you’re talking to an old friend. Some of the conversation is familiar, straightforward, honest. The remainder jumps around a bit, both of you so excited to finally connect that every update and thought wants to come out at once. Some of the words get jumbled, while others eventually wind their way back to the original point and get wonderful conclusions.

Lamott’s latest work is about mercy, the lack of it in the world, and how she has found it in some rather interesting places throughout her life. Most critically of all, she talks deeply about how it is mercy to ourselves, our individual beings, that needs more tending. She starts with her upbringing, of how there was an underlying tone that she must hide away her care and merciful nature, and how she feels her connection to mercy was driven to the point of being unrecognizable. She then spends seven chapters recounting a time when she experienced mercy, and the situations leading up to and surrounding each encounter.

Some of the tales are simple and familiar, like when Lamott tells of a time when she had an inner argument about buying an expensive sweater, trapped between a rambling thought that it would be nice to have a new sweater for her upcoming travels and a replay of an argument with her son. Lamott finally stopped herself when she realized she was self-medicating her sorrow of the argument with shopping therapy and calls in her friend to help stop the horror.

Some of the stories are more in depth and harder to connect with, for myself at least. Lamott writes of a story she heard about an African village suffering from a water shortage, and how with a little bit of outside help, the villagers Lamott tradition and allowed the women to take an active role in bringing life back to their community.

If you have read any of Lamott’s past books, her writing style is probably familiar to you. Hallelujah Anyway is no exception. It is full of Lamott’s humor and wit, although her tales seem to wander a bit more than I’ve read previously. Even though she seems to jump around without rhyme or reason, she still makes it feel as if you are sitting with her for a cup of coffee, and catching up after years of being apart. She makes you feel hopeful and comforted with whirling stories and encouraging quotes.

Hallelujah Anyway is a wonderful book to take along for a quick getaway or beach trip, and being a short 176 pages, is an easy-going read. Oh, and did I mention the print is blue and purple? A fun little addition to your summer reading list, for sure.

Have you read Hallelujah Anyway? What did you think of Anne Lamott’s latest? Please feel free to let us know in the comments!

Have a recommendation for an empowering book to review? Let me know in the comments below, and I’ll do my best to make it happen!

Happy Reading!


***I wrote this review as part of a series for So She Slays.  Head over to to check out more!! ****


Review – Panda Planner

As a writer, mother, and wife of a busy husband, my days can get pretty hectic. I am constantly looking for any tools to help me achieve an acceptable balance of work and life. Organization, at least on the planning side of my day, is crucial. Writing things down not only helps me remember appointments and tasks, but helps alleviate anxiety when brain-fog creeps back in.

In the past, I’ve tried your typical daily and weekly planners, a few more specialized market-centric planners, and have even dabbled in Bullet Journaling. The only thing that seems to have stuck is using an Outlook calendar for our family needs. On a personal level, nothing, so far at least, has stuck, and for various reasons – size, layouts, organization. You name it, there is always something that bugs me enough to not want to follow the system anymore.

Out of all of those things that have caused me to stop using a system, I have discovered what I truly need versus what I want in a planner or journal. I like having something undated, so I don’t have to wait until the beginning of a year or quarter to buy a new one, or have a ton of un-used pages hanging about, making me feel wasteful. I also like to have an area to write out goals, not just tasks, for both long term and short term. Of course, having a monthly, weekly, daily, AND hourly layout all in one book are also big pluses for me, but not necessarily a requirement if everything else flows together and helps me get to where I want to go.

While I was perusing Amazon yet again for a planner to meet my lofty expectations, the Panda PlPanda Planneranner popped up. It had a lot of great reviews, and seemed like a pretty straightforward system, so I thought “Why the hell not?”. There were two versions available: the Panda Planner and the Panda Planner Pro. I decided to go with the first, as I knew it would fit in my bag without any issues. And, to be honest, the price was a factor as well (about $26.00 at the time of purchase), being a product that I had not used before, and with my history of planners, I didn’t want to spend too much on something that I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to stick to.

The Panda Planner is non-dated, with three sections devoted to a different spread layout – monthly, weekly, and daily. The daily spread also included an area for an hourly breakdown, so already four big checks in the win column for me. For some, the sectioning by spread type versus by month (for example organized by one month, four weeks, and thirty days) was frustrating, but there are three ribbons sewn into the binding for you to use to mark your place in each section, so for me it’s not a deal breaker.

Panda Planner Month_LIThe monthly spread includes space for targeted plans, goals, a habit to focus on for the month, and self-review when it’s time to move on. It also includes an area for notes, although it is so narrow, it’s hard to fit much. The squares for the days are also in the small side. I found it hard to write in appointments, so instead, I am writing in an asterisk for every appointment that is occurring on that day. This at least gives me heads up that I need to peek at my Outlook calendar to see what I have going on while I am figuring out my week. I am also using the monthly spread to block out larger amounts of time (for trips or if we have visitors), and to write in holidays or special events.

The weekly spread is not like any weekly spread I have seen before. Rather than having each day listed Sunday through Saturday, it instead focuses oPanda Planner Week_LI (2)n planning and goals. It starts off with a review of the previous week, a breakdown of targeted goals for the week ahead, and then gives you an area to plan the steps you need to take to reach those goals. It also has a ‘built-in’ priority system, giving you only 4 project areas to write in for the week. I am typically one of those people that writes everything down that I can possibly think of, only to be overwhelmed when it comes time to switch to another task. With only four spots available, it forces you think about the tasks you MUST work on for the week, versus the things you just WANT to work on.

The daily spread is probably the most useful for me. It has a morning planning area to help get you in the right mindset from the very beginning. Again, it has sections devoted to your goals and plans for that day, as well as an area for more general tasks and quick notes. Most important for me is the hourly schedule. I’m very visuPanda Planner Dayal, and to be able to see my appointments and deadlines versus my free time for the day helps me avoid over-planning my day. I even go so far as to put in eating times and nap times, may seem a bit extreme to some, but when you are in the grip of brain-fog, every little bit of clarity helps. The only drawback for me with the daily spread is the range of the hourly schedule. My days tend to start much earlier than 6 am and end later than 9 pm. It would be nice to have a bit more to play with in that area.

So far, this system is something that is easy to work with and incorporate into my family scheduling style, and I can see myself buying this again in a few months. I might even bump up to the Pro so that I have a bit more room to get everything laid out. The Panda Planner is definitely something that I would recommend to anyone trying to get a grip on organizing their life so they can get ahead.

**This page may contain affiliate links. These do not create any extra expense to the reader, and help me immensely. Besides, I wouldn’t endorse anything that I don’t believe in 🙂 This is NOT a sponsored post. This product was purchased by me for me.**

2017 Reading Challenge

**Updates below original post!!**

I love books.  I love their presence, their smell, the knowledge they spread.  Everything about them.  And like most people that love books,  my “to read stack” is actually a “to read bookcase” (yes, I am being literal).  I broke up my books into two groups last year in an attempt to reign myself in and limit my book buying spree.  1) the To-Learn group, ie anything that enriches my brain with knowledge. 2) the For-Fun group, ie anything that enriches creative thought or encourages escape from reality.

This did help me knock down my TBR bookcase ….. ok, ok who am I kidding.   For every book I read, no matter which group it came from, I bought two more … or three, or four, or… (where’s the sign up sheet for booksaholic anonymous? ).  What did end up happening, though, was I found myself reading more books from my To Learn group.  My For Fun group kept growing,  but very few books moved off my TBR bookcase and onto my Read It case.

I saw this list floating around Facebook, and thought it would be a great way to challenge myself to finally get to some of those stories for entertainment. The list on Facebook was pretty open to how to complete it, so I thought I would add some personal rules to follow.

1) Each book read can only be used on one line. (Meaning by the time I am done, I will have read 26 books).

2) Each book must be a previously unread book, unless stipulated otherwise by the challenge.

3)(Not shown in picture above) I must share a review/thoughts for each completed line.

I’m actually really excited to give this a try. What about you? Any exciting book challenges or goals that you’ve set up for yourself for 2017?


I thought I should take a moment, now that I’ve been doing this for a bit, and add all of my challenge reviews to this page as well. I’ve put the entire list below, with links to books that I’m planning to read and posts if they’ve been completed. If you have any recommendations for the blanks (meaning I don’t have anything on my TBR bookshelf to fit that challenge – seriously, anyone with any ideas for a book with Brittnie as a character or set in Wyoming/Utah – help a gal out!), let me know in the comments below!

    1. A book you read in school
    2. A book from your childhood – Nancy Drew 35: the Haunted Showboat ~  Book Review
    3. A book published over 100 years ago – Journey to the Center of the Earth ~  Book Review
    4. A book published in the last year – The Universe Has Your Back
    5. A non-fiction book – Undeniable
    6. A book written by a male author – The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
    7. A book written by a female author – Frankenstein
    8. A book by someone who isn’t an author – A Brief History of Time
    9. A book that became a film – Inferno
    10. A book published in the 20th century –
    11. A book set in your home town/region –
    12. A book with someones’ name in the title –  After Alice
    13. A book with a number in the title – Edgar Allan Poe ~ Book Review
    14. A book with a character with your first name –
    15. A book someone else recommended to you – You Are a Badass
    16. A book over 500 pages – The Cuckoo’s Calling
    17. A book you can finish in a day – How to Be a Bawse ~ Book Review
    18. A previously banned book – Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
    19. A book with a one word title – Cosmos
    20. A book translated from another language –
    21. A book that will improve a specific area in your life – Spark
    22. A memoir or journal – Wild
    23. A book written by someone younger than you – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
    24. A book set somewhere you will be visiting –
    25. An award winning book – The Devil in the White City
    26. A self-published book –




**This page may contain affiliate links. These do not create any extra expense to the reader, and help me immensely. Besides, I wouldn’t endorse anything that I don’t believe in 🙂 **

Book Review – Four Beasts in One & Three Sundays in a Week by Edgar A. Poe

2017 Reading Challenge – No. 13 ~ A book with a number in the title

If you know Poe’s slightly more exclusive works, than you’ll know that the two titles I have chosen to review are not books at all. They would probably fall into the category of short story, or perhaps even essay they are so short. Before anyone cries cheater (or perhaps that is only my more critical side talking) I would like to say that this challenge is supposed to be focused on eliminating as much of my To-Be-Read bookcase as possible, and to be able to do that, I’ve had to take some liberties with the challenges. This would be one of those liberties. I do not have a novel with a number in the title, but I did have these two short stories as part of an anthology that I bought of Poe’s. To try and make myself feel a little less guilty about cutting corners, I read both. Still not more than 12 pages combined, I know, but I did what I could with what I had.

The other thing you might be yelling in your head is “You’re really going to review Poe?” And my answer to that is no, not really. I will certainly write about my thoughts on these two stories of his, but I’m not going to rate them or anything like that. To me, Poe is up there in a category all his own, one that does not warrant ratings.

Four Beasts in One – The Homo-Cameleopard is based upon the many stories told of Greek king Antiochus IV Epiphanes. The tales of his crazy and eccentric behavior carried on long after his death in 164 BC, so much so that it was not out of reason for Poe to base a story on him in 1833. Poe combined the history of the ancient monarch with some more current perceptions of France’s King Charles X and his gift of a giraffe from the Pasha of Egypt to create a story both grotesque and amusing.

The narrator talks to the reader directly, navigating a path through history to show some of the finer points of a brilliant spectacle of a parade, with animals leading the way for the mad king through a charged crowd towards the amphitheater. When the King Epiphanes finally makes his way behind his trained baboons, he is dressed as an animal himself, and crawling through the streets as if he has become one of his leopards.

True to Poe’s style, the short story ends with a dash of ruckus and mutiny as the outraged citizens, having had enough of the Kings craziness, charge the amphitheater and chase the monarch out of the city. Although it is a little hard to read technically, the way Poe is laid out this story is very entertaining. He finds a way to mix history with satire, creating a time-traveling tale that could easily be mistaken for truth.

Three Sundays in A Week is a fun little story Poe released in 1841 about a conniving old man trying to keep his daughter and his great-nephew from marrying, and therefore coming into a great inheritance. To put them off, he tells them they would be allowed to marry when there are three Sundays in a row. Thinking he was clever and had created a position that the two lovebirds would never be able to meet, he continues in his days without a care. Until, that is, two old companions come to visit, both of whom are sailors. As they are talking with the old man, the daughter, and the great-nephew, it comes about that there may be a solution to the couple’s troubles after all.

A silly rather than scary or macabre story, Poe deviates from what he is now known for. However, he is as clever and cunning in his telling as ever, and creates a brilliant little tale for an indulgent reader.

Are you a fan of Poe? What are some of your favorite tales or poems? Let me know in the comments below!

Here is my version of Poe’s complete works pictured above:

Edgar Allan Poe: Complete Tales and Poems (Fall River Classics)

To read more about my 2017 Reading Challenge, check my post 2017 Reading Challenge

Happy Reading!!



References used in writing this post:

**This page may contain affiliate links. These do not create any extra expense to the reader, and help me immensely. Besides, I wouldn’t endorse anything that I don’t believe in 🙂 **

Book Review: How to Be a Bawse by Lilly Singh

Lilly Singh How to Be a Bawse


Lilly Singh is Superwoman. Seriously, her media handle is iiSuperWomanii. She has built a following of more than 10 million subscribers on YouTube, along with hundreds of thousands (if not more) views. With all of the hard work and dedication needed to accomplish this, it is only fitting that she write a book dedicated to the art of the hustle.

The book itself is straight forward, filled with color, and with a clear, no-fuss message: If you want to be successful, put in the work. While some of the ideas Singh offers up to inspire the readers work ethic are simple and common sense, most are refreshing takes on old adages that some could argue (particularly after reading How to Be a Bawse) are in need of a serious update.

Take her chapter “The Alphabet is a Lie” as an example. In it, Singh talks about always being told to have a backup plan. Pretty standard advice, right? However, instead of following the age-old recommendation, Singh decided to completely invest in her dream and focus 100% on being a YouTube creative. I was a bit skeptical of the advice at first, but after I finished the chapter, she had me convinced. When you have a plan A and a plan B, you aren’t able to commit 100% of your effort towards what you really want (most likely plan A) and aren’t as successful because of it. Sounds intimidating, terrifying, and unsound, sure. But Singh has arguably used it with resounding success.

How to Be a Bawse is a must read for anyone in need of a little encouragement, feeling a bit stuck, or just wants to be entertained and perhaps learn a little while they’re at it. Whatever the reason, any reader will finish this book with tools to be used, not just survive, but to conquer their life. I feel Singh will soon be able to add Best-Selling Author to her already admirable list of accomplishments, and I, for one, couldn’t be more pleased to support her.

I am using How to Be a Bawse to check off Number 17 in my 2017 reading challenge: A book you can read in a day. Did I actually read the book in a day? No, but that was only because life is a thing and I had people to feed. Had I not had any responsibilities – or even a straight chunk of hours to myself *sigh*, it would have happened.

Purchase on Amazon here:

How to Be a Bawse: A Guide to Conquering Life

Read more about my 2017 Reading Challenge here:

2017 Reading Challenge

Book Review – Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne

Journey to the Center of the Earth

3/5             Reading Challenge #3: A book published over 100 years ago

This book was originally published in 1864, and was first translated into English in 1871.  I’m a fan of Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, so this seemed like a no brainer for my reading challenge.  Admittedly, the language is hard to follow at times; not surprising as it has been over one hundred years since it was first written, as well as being translated from French. However, that in no way detracts from the adventure-ness of the story.  There is a reason why Journey has been adapted into four movies and used as inspiration for countless books and TV specials.  It still carries the essence of the beginning of the “Adventure Era” – of which anything, even the highly unprobeable, could be possible.

Supposedly, Verne was inspired to pen Journey by geologist Charles Lyell and his works arguing the history of man and evolution. It might seem an odd place of inspiration for a story about  traversing into the middle of the Earth until it is remembered that at that time, geology, archeology, and paleontology were all still relatively new sciences.  Put together, they were creating all new ideologies, flipping known science on its head and opening the flood gates of imagination for what was most probable in our history, including the Ice Age and the existence of man as a species long before the Bible states we were created. To take those advancements of thought and adapt them to an exploration of the Earth’s Center is actually not that far of a reach, and one that paid off for Verne.  He furthered his just begun writing career, and went on to create the need for an entirely new genre for literature – Science Fiction.

The story itself is worth a read for the adventure alone, although the technical language could be a detractor for some.  If you can find a way to navigate that, however, you are in for an awesome peek at the beginning of the Father of Science Fiction’s writing career.

Want to give it a read? Check it out on Amazon (link below), or head on over to your local library!

Journey to the Center of the Earth (Dover Thrift Editions)

Curious about my reading challenge? Read more about it here:

2017 Reading Challenge

Happy Reading!


Book Review – The Haunted Showboat by Carolyn Keene




2017 Reading Challenge – A book from your childhood 

The original girl detective herself, Nancy Drew, played a fundamental role in my love of reading.  The Nancy Drew Mysteries were the first chapter books I read growing up.  I loved how talented and independent Nancy Drew was.  It also didn’t hurt that at the time, Costco was selling new prints of Nancy Drew in packs of six books for about ten dollars a pack, so it was an affordable way for my parents to keep me entertained for a few days.

I haven’t read any of the stories in years, mostly because I left all my copies at my parents house when I moved out for college.  My husband, though, saw some origional editions at a used bookstore  in town, and bought me five for Christmas one year.  The Haunted Showboat was one of those.

I remember reading this story when I was younger.  I was amazed at the determination of bad guy ( as every antagonist in a 10 year old mind is called) to keep Nancy and company away from their final destination; perplexed at the crazy idea that people would coordinate their outfits so closely to each other – as Nancy, Bess, and George did when going out on their boat tour of New Orleans;  and astonished at how quickly Nancy got both of the perpetraitors to confess.  It snagged me (well, the 10 year old me) hook, line, sinker, and was of my favorite stories out of the series.

Re-reading it as an adult, different thing stood out to me.  For example, the language the author used, how dependent Nancy actually was on her male companions even though the series was created for female empowerment, and how much filler was used in telling the main plot points. Times, and writing, have definatly changed since 1957.

The story itself is still a fantastic one, and a wonderful gateway into the world of mysteries for young readers – or anyone that enjoys a quick read.  I would only caution parents (or anyone unfamiliar with the series) that these books were written in a different time, and the verbage and language reflect that.  In comparing my origional 1957 print to my re-released 1981 print, it seems that the language was not updated to be more current.  With that in mind, I would still recommend this book, as well as the rest of the series, with the understanding that they could create some questions in the minds of younger readers.


Click to purchase Nancy Drew 35: the Haunted Showboat … or heck, check out your local library ( you know, that place where you can borrow books for free!)

Til next time~