Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Books Worth Reading

Searching for Spring* // If you're walking through a season of suffering or even just waiting for something in your life to become beautiful, this book is for you. Christine Hoover has filled this book with so much rich truth and so many great reminders about how God never stops his redemptive work, and that even the most painful experiences can lead us to the beauty of perseverance, hope, and even God himself. This book was such a timely read for me as I've struggled these past months with questioning God about this season of life he's put us in, wondering what the purpose is, and definitely not thinking it's a beautiful thing. I needed to hear these words that struck a chord deep within me: "Nothing changed except the posture of my heart...[God] was asking me to submit to the unchangeable blueprints in a way that would build beauty rather than bitterness, faith rather than futility, for his glory and for my good." This book was excellent, and I highly recommend!

The Masterpiece* // If you've not read any of the novels by Francine Rivers, then you are missing out! I love the way she writes and crafts her stories. This is a contemporary novel about a famous painter and a woman who begins work as his assistant. The book goes back and forth in time through both of their difficult pasts and their current faith journeys. The book is compelling, and I read it in one weekend! I highly recommend this if you're looking for a well-written, fast-paced, enjoyable story. Bonus: the cover artwork is gorgeous!

Never Unfriended* // I received this book last year when it first came out, but then my life kind of got a little crazy when we moved across the country! It ended up working out perfectly, though, because I am now in a season of making all new friends. This book was an easy and enjoyable read, and I thought it had some really great nuggets of truth about friendships! Whether you're in a season of walking through difficult hurt and struggles in friendships, or if you're in a season of making all new friends (like me!), I recommend reading this book!

Unbroken // If you are one of the few people who has not read this book, then I am here to tell you to read it as soon as you get your hands on it! This has been on my TBR list for years, and I finally picked it off our shelf last month. I could not put this book down! This is truly one of the most incredible books I have EVER read. It is absolutely mind-boggling to think of all that this man endured in his life. I felt extremely emotional throughout the whole book, and tears were definitely shed. This is a story that everyone needs to read and hear about, in my opinion. Definitely one of my favorite books of the year!

*Disclosure: I did receive these books for free from the publisher in exchange for my review. All thoughts and opinions expressed are 100% my own.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

In All Things

What devotionals or Bible studies do you have planned to do this year? I'm wrapping up a study at my church tomorrow, and we're jumping into another study next week! I enjoy doing corporate Bible studies with a group, but I also really enjoy working through studies on my own. On the top of my list for this year is Melissa Kruger's new devotional In All Things. This nine-week devotional studies Philippians, a book written by Paul who is filled with joy, peace, and contentment despite his difficult circumstances. I love Philippians, and I'm excited to learn more through this devotional! I've previously worked through Melissa Kruger's Walking with God in the Season of Motherhood, and I love the format of her studies. Her questions are thought-provoking, and her writing is packed with truth and insight. If you're looking for a new study for this year, In All Things will be on sale June 5!

Disclosure: I received this book for free from Blogging for Books in exchange for a review. All opinions expressed are 100% my own.

Friday, December 1, 2017

5 Recent Reads

Hum If You Don't Know the Words // I can't say it better than Amazon does: "Perfect for readers of The Secret Life of Bees and The Help, a perceptive and searing look at Apartheid-era South Africa, told through one unique family brought together by tragedy." This is beautifully written, unique, and I loved it so much. 5 stars

Victoria // This is a novel based on the diaries of Queen Victoria, so much of it is true! Daisy Goodwin wrote the PBS Masterpiece show Victoria, and this book follows season 1 of the show almost exactly, as you can imagine. We watched the show first and then I read the book, and both are great! I don't think you need to do both, since they are so similar. Either one is perfect for fans of Downton Abbey or The Crown. 4 stars

The Four Tendencies // This is Gretchen Rubin's newest book, and since I'm a big fan of her work, I naturally had to read this one. She touches on the Four Tendencies (her personality framework that looks at how we respond to expectations) in her book Better Than Before, but this book is a complete deep dive into the framework. I LOVED the chapter on the Four Tendencies in Better Than Before (and the whole book, for that matter. Find more of my thoughts here), so I was super excited to read this. I did enjoy it, but the chapter about my tendency was obviously my favorite. The chapters that didn't apply to me or Caleb were a little bit of a drag to get through. But, I do think it's totally worth picking up to read the chapter on your tendency as well as your spouse/partner. It has sparked really great conversations! 4 stars. I did receive this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for a review. All opinions are 100% my own.

The Lifegiving Table // This book is all about creating a rich culture around your table, something I am all about! Sally Clarkson covers why spending time with your family (and friends) around the table eating is important, and how it impacts your children for the rest of their lives. She shares many practical ideas for conversations, personal stories from their own family, and recipes to try yourself. I really enjoyed reading this one, as it reinforced many things I believe and also gave me some new ideas. I've only tried one of the recipes so far, but we loved it and Caleb told me I definitely need to make it again! 4 stars. I did receive this book from the published in exchange for a review. All opinions are 100% my own.

Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World // This book has been on my shelf for a while, but I had an itching to read it as we enter this Christmas season. I loved it, and I found it to be very thought-provoking but also offer practical tips for helping cultivate gratefulness in kids of all ages. It's one of those books that I've been thinking about since I read it, and I'm sure I will either read it or reference it many times in the future. A great read! 4 stars

Thursday, September 7, 2017

5 Good Books I Read This Summer

Lucky Boy // This is one of the best books I've read in a while, and it will probably end up on my "best books of 2017" list! This story explores the strength and depth of a mother's love throughout every stage of mothering: infertility, pregnancy, birth, fostering, adoption. It was beautifully written, and the story was original, and I couldn't put it down. Highly recommend! Bonus: it just came out in paperback! 5 stars

The Alice Network // This is an excellent book about a network of female spies during World War I. It's loosely based on fact, with a lot of imagined elements thrown in, but it was so fascinating and well-done. It was really enjoyable to read a different type of World War fiction, as this was different than anything else I've read. I flew through it (it's deceivingly long at 500+ pages) and thoroughly enjoyed it. 5 stars

The Windfall: A Novel // This is the story of money, status, family, and nosy neighbors: Mr. & Mrs. Jha get an unexpected enormous amount of money and find themselves trying to fit in on the super-rich side of Delhi. This book had me laughing at how ridiculous they were acting and the great lengths to which they went while trying to keep up with the Joneses. It was a fun and quick read, and I loved reading a book set in modern India. I received this book for free from Blogging for Books but this review is 100% my own. 4 stars

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo // This was such a fun book to read! Evelyn Hugo is a famous actress who has lived a very full life and is ready to divulge all of her secrets in an end-of-life interview. She's been married seven times and each chapter of the book chronicles her relationship with that particular husband. The book was really interesting, well-written, and fun to read. I was surprised by some of the plot twists in the book, which is always a bonus! 4 stars

We Were the Lucky Ones // This is one of the better World War II fiction books I've read, because it was so beautifully written and gave a more comprehensive look at how the war affected different countries and families. The story is about all of the members of one family and how each of their lives was turned upside down by the war. It was a heartbreaking read, but so very good. 4 stars

Disclosure: Please keep in mind that books are very personal, so what I like you might not like, and vice versa! I try to read and share a variety of books on this site. Some of the books in this post may include coarse language or sensitive material, so please be aware of that as you choose what to read next. This post does include affiliate links, meaning if you click through and purchase one of these books, I may get a small commission! 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

What I Read in May

It's summer which is my favorite time for reading! May weather in South Carolina is HOT, so it feels like summer has been hanging around for the past month or so. The number of books I read each month increases dramatically in the summer; I just love taking extra time to read in the summer months. Here are the 12 books I read in May! Tell me what you've been reading lately!

Dark Matter // I loved this book! I couldn't put it down, and it was one of those books that I had to talk to Caleb about (there's not very many books that I do that with!). It was outside of my normal reading realm, with a mixture of science fiction, suspense, and even a tiny bit of romance. As the author's note says in the back, this book is the "manifestation of everyone's existential question: Am I who I was supposed to be? Is this the life I was meant to be living?" He explores this through a story that involves quantum mechanics, but don't let that scare you away! It was absolutely fascinating, and I highly recommend it! I did receive this book for free from Blogging for Books in exchange for my review. 5 stars

None Like Him: 10 Ways God Is Different from Us (and Why That's a Good Thing) I really enjoyed working through this book and studying different characteristics of God. Jen Wilkin's style of writing is very straightforward and no-frills, which I love. Each chapter was filled with Scripture passages and also questions to work through (that weren't lame), and I really enjoyed studying through this book. I found myself thinking things about God that I've not thought of before, and I loved what I learned. This is a great book for individual or group study! // 5 stars

Threads of Suspicion // This is the second book in a series about a lieutenant in the police force who works cold cases in various counties across Illinois. I've said this before, but I love Dee Henderson's books because they're suspenseful but never gruesome or terrifying. I'm not one for a true horror or intense mystery, so this is the perfect amount of suspense for me in a mystery book! I find Dee Henderson's books to have almost perfect pacing, so that I never want to put the book down. The plot and the cases are always interesting, and I appreciate her character development as well. Worth reading if you enjoy a more mild mystery/suspense book! I did receive this book for free from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. 4 stars

The Hopefuls // This book fell a little flat for me. The characters were annoying and the story was a little predictable for my taste. Others really enjoyed this book, so this is probably one of those books that just comes down to personal taste. 3 stars

Secrets of a Charmed Life // This is the first book I've read by this author, and I really enjoyed it. It's a WWII fiction, specifically revolving around two sisters during the evacuation of children from London and the blitz on London. I thought it was a great story, it was well written, and I flew through it. 4 stars

Ginny Moon // This was a debut novel, which I always enjoy reading and spreading the news about. Ginny Moon is a young adopted teenager with autism, and Ginny is also our narrator. I loved reading through her perspective. The story moved quickly (I finished it in a couple of settings), but I did find it sad. Ginny doesn't completely understand why she can't live with her biological mother anymore, and she's struggling to identify family and home. It's a great story and one worth reading this summer! 4 stars

Messy Beautiful Friendship: Finding and Nurturing Deep and Lasting Relationships // This was an excellent book! If you've ever thought that adult friendships are difficult to make and/or maintain, or if you've ever been hurt (or have hurt) a friend, or if you've ever felt like you don't know who your true friends are, read this book! I found myself underlining so many passages, which is always a good thing! Christine Hoover has so much wisdom to offer in the area of friendships, and I really thought she offered a great perspective on the topic. I was challenged by ways that I can be a better friend, and I was encouraged by the friendship that I have in Jesus and the friendships I have with other women. Highly recommend! 5 stars

The Nightingale // Everyone has raved about this book for a couple of years now, but I have hesitated to read it. I started another Kristin Hannah book years and years ago, and I didn't finish it. Something about her writing turned me off, so I've put off reading this title as well. Finally enough of my friends said it was excellent, so I gave it a try. It was so good! The writing style/content didn't seem anything like what I remembered from her other book, which was a pleasant surprise. If you enjoy reading historical fiction, you will like this book! I've read a lot of WWII historical fiction, but this story was unlike any of the ones I've read, which was refreshing. If you haven't read this one yet, it's now out in paperback, which would be perfect to throw in your beach or pool bag! 4 stars

A Family Shaped by Grace: How to Get Along with the People Who Matter Most // I heard about this book through Emily P. Freeman & The Nester, because their father is the author! I was able to be a part of the book launch team, so I got to read this book before it was out. Whether you have great family relationships or very strained family relationships, this is a great book to read, and I highly recommend it. He gives some very practical advice about how to create a culture of grace in your family (hint: it starts with you!), whether your immediate family or extended family. As we remember who we are in Jesus, we are free to accept our family members as we've been accepted in Jesus, and we are freed from the need to criticize, compare, and find fault with our family members. A great book that I think all families should read! 4 stars

This Is How It Always Is // I heard great reviews of this book from a couple of my trusted book recommendation sources, so I had high hopes for the book. I don't tend to know a lot about a book's plot before I jump in, and this one caught me a little off guard. It's about a family whose youngest son (age 4) wants to be, and thinks he is, a girl. This is what I would call a sensitive subject, which made for really surprising subject matter in a fiction book. I didn't particularly love that central theme of the book, but I did enjoy the other themes throughout - parenting, childhood, lies, secrets. Worth reading if you enjoy reading about dysfunctional families and are okay with reading about perhaps a more sensitive topic. 3 stars

Surprised by Motherhood: Everything I Never Expected about Being a Mom // This book was such a treat to read. Lisa-Jo always swore she never wanted to be a mom, but her heart changed some years into marriage and she and her husband had several kids. This is not a how-to parenting book by any means; it's Lisa-Jo's story, reflections, and lessons through the early years of motherhood. I laughed, I cried, and really enjoyed this book. I think any young mom would really enjoy it, or if you are also a woman who does not want kids, this book brings an interesting perspective that I haven't read elsewhere. 4 stars

Still Life // I heard about this book through the What Should I Read Next podcast. It seems like there's quite a Louise Penny following, so I picked up this first book in the Chief Inspector Garmache series.  It started off pretty slow but the story grew on me as the book progressed. Not the best book I've read, but I also heard that her books get better and better. I'm going to keep working my way through the series with that in mind! This is a great book for people who like a mystery but do not enjoy horrific, gruesome mysteries; this one is pretty tame! 3 stars

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

What I read in April

America's First Daughter: A Novel // This was such a good book! It's historical fiction about Thomas Jefferson's daughter, but it's loosely based on letters from Thomas Jefferson's personal correspondence. There were parts of the story that I was familiar with, but much of it was new to me. It was all so interesting, and I really got swept up into both the historical facts and the fictional aspects that were added.  Definitely worth picking up! 4.5 stars

Girl Meets Change: Truths to Carry You through Life's Transitions // I am not one who loves change, so any big life change (even the good ones!) can be challenging for me. My sister has recommended this book several times, and after having Cora I knew it was time for me to read it. I really enjoyed the truths that Kristen shared in this book about change, how to view change, and how to trust in the God that never changes. If you're going through any type of change (a move, a new baby, a new marriage, a new job, etc.), I would recommend this book! 4 stars

You Are Free: Be Who You Already Are // I enjoyed this book while I was reading it, but I can't say it was deeply impactful or made a huge impression on me. The truths that Rebekah shares are good: we are free in Christ, and because of that, we are free to rest in the presence of Him, free to grieve and confess, and free to move forward into what God has called us to. If you feel bogged down by the expectations of others (or yourself) and are striving for approval, this might be a worthwhile read for you. 3 stars

The Girl on the Train // This is a book that needs no introduction, and I might have even been the last person on earth to have read it. Unfortunately I didn't really like it, and I definitely didn't think it was worth all of the hype! Paula Hawkins' next book Into the Water came out this week, but I don't feel inclined to read it. Just not the type of suspense novel that I enjoy! 2 stars

Peace Like a River // This was our book club book for April, and it was a book that I had had sitting on my shelf for quite some time. I had heard excellent things about the book, but I'm disappointed to say that I didn't like it. The story was a little too slow for me, and if it hadn't been for book club, I don't think I would have finished it. 2 stars

Friday, March 31, 2017

What I Read in March

My Not So Perfect Life // Sophie Kinsella books are my go-to when I want a quick, light read. Her stories are silly, yes, but they are the perfect escape book, and I sometimes even laugh out loud. After wrapping up last month with a slightly depressing book, this was the perfect book for me to fly through during a Saturday afternoon. The story is about a girl who doesn't love her life but portrays a perfect though inaccurate life on her social media. She of course falls in love and has struggles but everything turns out in the end, but if you don't mind a predictable book, this one is really enjoyable. 4 stars

Small Admissions // This was not my favorite book of the month: the story had too many moving (and disconnected) parts for my taste, and overall it just fell a little flat. It's about a woman who winds up working in admissions at an uppity day school in Manhattan. There are a few funny scenes in the book, but I didn't love it. 3 stars

The Magician's Assistant // If you've been reading my monthly reading recaps, then you know that I've been reading a lot of Ann Patchett books. This is her first book that I was disappointed in. The story was very odd, and I never really connected with it. I wanted to finish the book to see what would happen and find out if the book would get any better, but it never really did. It was disappointing, but it doesn't erase the fact that I love all of her other books that I've read so far! 2 stars

Love Lives Here: Finding What You Need in a World Telling You What You Want // You might remember that just last month I read Love Does by Bob Goff. His wife, Maria, just came out with this book the beginning of the month, and I was curious to read it as well. I didn't find Love Lives Here as good as Love Does; Bob had more fascinating stories and also told them in a way that was a little more engaging than Maria's writing. That being said, I did enjoy reading about Maria's marriage, family, and home. She clearly loves people, and I thought she gave a good perspective on loving well right where you are. If you're fans of Bob & Maria Goff, you will enjoy this book! I did receive this book for free from the publisher in exchange for a review. 3 stars

This Is Where You Belong: The Art and Science of Loving the Place You Live // If you enjoyed books like Gretchen Rubin's The Happiness Project or Better than Before, then you will probably really enjoy this book! Melody explores what it means to put down roots and really love where you live. In each chapter she shares her own personal experience, extensive research, and then action steps and tips for readers to settle and love where they live. It was one of those books that I kept talking to Caleb about. It triggered some really interesting conversations between us, and I found the entire book fascinating. It also hit particularly close to home for me because Melody moves to Blacksburg, Virginia and doesn't love it. Her big experiment that this book is based on takes place there, and it was so fun to read about familiar places and feelings (I went to college in Blacksburg and also lived there after getting married, and I didn't particularly love living there either). Such a great book, I highly recommend! 5 stars

Paris for One and Other Stories // I don't typically read short stories, but I am a fan of Jojo Moyes so I gave these stories a try. They were perfectly enjoyable to read, and I can imagine if you really like short stories you would enjoy these! The stories are all about women in their everyday lives, though each of the stories is quite different from the others. My favorite was "Crocodile Shoes", which I found quite clever. Worth reading if you don't have time for a longer book or really like short stories, but not a must-read in my opinion. 3 stars

The One-in-a-Million Boy // This was my book club's book for this month. I had heard rave reviews of this book here and there, so I was really excited to read this one! I thought it was such a beautiful book. It was well-written, and I found myself underlining phrases and passages that just struck me. I don't often do that in fiction books, so I really enjoyed that aspect of it. Beyond the writing, the story was clever and interesting and I read most of the book in one sitting (yay for nap time!). The story is about a young boy and his relationship with a 104 year-old woman, but it's also about the boy's parents and the old woman's long life and dreams and regrets and so many other things. This was a fantastic read, and I highly recommend it! 5 stars

Notes from a Blue Bike: The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World // If you're not familiar with Tsh Oxenreider, she has a blog and a podcast that are all about living simply - focusing on what's important and "living holistically with your life's purpose". I love this approach to life, so I really enjoy her work. This is the first book of hers that I've read, and in it she breaks down life into five different areas (food, work, education, travel, entertainment) with thoughts on and examples of how their family has decided to life more intentionally in these areas. I loved hearing her perspective. It gave me a lot to think about and a lot of her thoughts really resonated with me. I really enjoyed this book! 4 stars

No More Faking Fine: Ending the Pretending // This was one of those books that got better the further I got into it. The first part of the book is the author's story: her difficult childhood as her parents divorced, her teenage years as her mother began to hate her, and her young adult life as her biological father (and convicted criminal) stalked her. Her story didn't resonate with me, and I found it a little disjointed to read. However! I really enjoyed the second half of the book where she actually dives into what it means to lament and pour our hearts out to God, and what that looks like practically. I thought she did a great job walking through passages of lament in Scripture and explaining how important it is to lament and cry out to God. If you've experienced something difficult in your life or are dealing with deep feelings of hurt or pain, or even if you're struggling to forgive, the second half of this book would be a great read for you!  I did receive this book for free from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. 3.5 stars

Exit West // I got this book in my first Book of the Month Club box, which is a really fun book subscription! Anyway, I chose this book out of the five options for March. If you're not familiar with the story of this book, it's about two young people who live in a country on the brink of war. There's rumors of secret doors that whisk you away to other places - presumably better, safer countries somewhere else in the world. The whole concept was clever, and it's a timely book to read with all that's going on in the world with refugees and immigration. It was interesting and I'm glad I read it, but at times it was a little slow. 3 stars

At Home in the World: Reflections on Belonging While Wandering the Globe // I LOVED this book! As I said above, I'm a fan of Tsh Oxenreider, and this is her memoir of the year she and her family spent traveling around the world. I've been looking forward to reading this book for months, and I was lucky enough to get an early copy from the publisher! It comes out in a couple of weeks, but go ahead and pre-order it here! Their family visits countries in 4 different continents, and each chapter of the book is dedicated to each particular country they visit. I couldn't put this book down! I love traveling, and I loved how Tsh's wrote about the places I've visited and the many, many places I haven't (yet) visited. Each chapter covers both the touristy things they did in each country, but also the time they spent just doing life in that culture. Tsh also spends a lot of time writing about what home means and how you can feel at home in more than one place in the world, yet at the same time long that for that one place that feels like home. If you love to travel, if you love hearing about different cultures, if you want to learn how to travel with kids, read this book! 5 stars

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