What I’ve Been Reading Winter/Spring 2017

Short-ish reviews of what I’ve read so far in 2017!

Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas by Stephanie Barron

A book I couldn’t resist from an MMD Kindle Deals email around the beginning of the year. I love mysteries but have to avoid them because of an overactive imagination and inability to forget creepy details when I’m home alone. If Jane Austen is involved I figured the murder couldn’t be too gruesome. I enjoyed this and would read others in the series.

What Women Fear: Walking in Faith that Transforms by Angie Smith

We are fans of Audrey Bunny in my household (I can’t read it without tearing up), but this is my first experience with Angie Smith as an author for adults. I listened to the Audible version read by Pam Turlow which was a little stiff (Angie’s sense of humor came off flat) but was still very engaged by this take on fear. Angie is real with her struggles with fear (that are definitely more than the average – she was hospitalized as a young girl because of anxiety). Tied with Unafraid: Trusting God in an Unsafe World by Susie Davis for most impactful books I’ve read about fear/anxiety.

A Portrait of Emily Price by Katherine Reay

I’m a huge fan of Katherine Reay. She expertly weaves classic literature into her own narratives, creating page turners that will effect you deeply. Dear Mr. Knightley is still my favorite of her four novels, but Emily Price delivered Reay’s signature subtle spiritual themes around the enjoyable framework of food, Italy, art, and romance.

Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home by Richard Foster

One of my 101 things in 1001 days was to read five books about prayer. Richard Foster’s was book number one! With similar accessibility to The Celebration of Discipline, Foster’s guide describes 21 types of prayer that help move us inward, upward and outward. I loved this book.

Coming Clean: A Story of Faith by Seth Haines

A fascinating peak in the mind and heart of a man who realizes he’s an alcoholic and journals through his journey to sobriety. Slim and well-worth the read.

Praying in Color: Drawing a New Path to God by Sybil MacBeth

The second of my five books about prayer was a complete departure from Foster, though I think he would approve of this practice. As someone whose perfectionism often stifles their prayer life, using a kinesthetic activity to focus your mind and heart on the subject of your prayers was intriguing and welcome.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Another of my 101 things in 1001 days is to read the favorite book of 10 readerly friends. (This has lead to the discovery of gems such as The Penderwicks and Code Name Verity.) The Great Gatsby is one of the favorites of a friend I’ve had since childhood. I hadn’t read it since high school and then heard this podcast where Megan Tietz (of the Sorta Awesome Podcast) raves on an on about The Great Gatsby. I may have understood it better on this second read, but I’m still not a huge fan.

Radical Spirit: 12 Ways to Live a Free and Authentic Life by Joan Chittister

Picked this up because the MOPS theme for next year is Free Indeed and my Input strength (yay StrengthsFinder) now compels me to consume everything within reach about freedom. Radical Spirit explores the 12 steps of humility laid out in the Rule of Benedict. Humility, to Joan, is the key to ultimate freedom in faith.

After reading the first few chapters, I realized I only needed to read the section addressing the spiritual implications of that step of humility to grasp all the concepts laid out in the entire chapter. And even those could have been said in a couple sentences. I did come aways with a few chewy nuggets but wonder if just reading the Rule of Benedict would have been more productive and insightful.

(I received this book from Blogging for Books for free but all opinions are my own!)

Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah

Previous to reading this, I knew nothing about Russia’s involvement in WWII. Winter Garden explores mother-daughter relationships and the hardships endured by inhabitants of Leningrad before and after Germans laid siege to the city. The narrative flits back and forth between past and present. Fantastic read.

The Coincidence of Coconut Cake by Amy E Reichert

I was (and still am) in the middle of four non-fiction books and needed a light fiction read to break things up a bit. This was definite fluff. I enjoyed learning more about the Milwaukee food scene as the food writer gets shown the city by a chef, but the rest was unremarkable. A good diversion, tho!

What I’m Reading

Apparently I had a thing for red covers… I’ve read a decent amount since our sweet little Kennedy arrived, though I probably should’ve been using that time to sleep.

Linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy!

The Dirty Life by Kristin Kimball

I’m increasingly getting in touch with my crunchy side so this memoir made my inner earth-mother really happy. At one point in reading, I asked Tim if we could get a cow… Kristin gives up the city life for a farmer she just met and his dream of offering a full diet CSA from land he doesn’t own yet. I loved this book.

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

Masterfully written historical fiction about Sarah Grimke, an early nineteenth century abolitionist, and the life of her “human present” (household slave) Hetty. Kidd weaves a captivating and hear breaking narrative using both women’s perspectives.


Emma (A Modern Retelling) by Alexander McCall Smith

Part of The Austen Project which recruited world renowned authors to reimagine Austen’s six novels, McCall’s Emma was just so-so. Emma is my favorite Jane Austen novel (if you could actually pick such a thing…) so I had high expectations. Some of McCall’s modern interpretations didn’t sit right with me, but I was curious enough to keep reading.

The Bronte Plot by Katherine Reay

Katherine Reay is a delightful author. Her ability to seamlessly weave classic literature into her own works is endlessly readable. I devoured her first two books (Dear Mr. Knightley and Lizzy and Jane) and this one was no different. However, I’m much less familiar with the Brontes and Gaskell, so connected a little less with the characters in The Bronte Plot. Still a great read.

The Royal We by Heather Cocks

I’m not sure I would actually recommend this to anyone because of some questionable content, but it was a fun and light-hearted read perfect for my postpartum late nights. If you’re a fan of Kate and William, you’d love this book.

Nom Nom Paleo: Food For Humans by Michelle Tam

Our effort to eat more protein, more vegetable, and more healthy fats led me to Nom Nom Paleo at the end of Summer. I’ve made a few of her recipes with success and love their podcast. I was pleased that one of our local libraries had their cookbook, but most of the content can be found on the blog so I wouldn’t spend the money to have this on your shelf.


Paleo Lunches and Breakfasts On The Go by Diana Rodgers

We aren’t Paleo, but this cookbook (also borrowed from the library) gave me a ton of good ideas for incorporating more meat and veggies in to my diet.

What are you reading?

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What I’m Reading {Summer 2015}

Please don’t be alarmed by the length of this list. If pregnancy is the kryptonite to my writing, it seems to have the opposite effect on my reading habits. And this list is really what I’ve read from April thru August, not just over the Summer.

I kept my commentary pretty short since there are 29 books listed, but I’d love to hear what you thought if you read any of them or have recommendations! I also didn’t really describe what many of the books were about because this post would have been ginormous, so the links will take you to Amazon if you want to know more about one in particular. (Amazon links are affiliate.)

My Fall plans look like rereading Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre, which I haven’t read since high school, in preparation for Katherine Reay’s third novel, The Bronte Plot, due out November 3rd.

What I'm Reading

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh: Lovely, complicated story of forgiveness and family that made me want to surround myself with flowers.

Food A Love Story by Jim Gaffigan: Abandoned midway.

Longbourn by Jo Baker: I know Austen fans are split on this rendering of Pride and Prejudice. I fall in to the Nay camp.

Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple: This had been on my list since Shauna Niequist talked it up last year. An engaging and humorous read.

Cold Tangerines by Shauna Niequist: Reread. Loved as per usual.

Violet Dawn by Brandilyn Colllins: The setting of this particular novel is reminiscent of the little towns a wee bit North of where we lived in Idaho (Brandilyn lives very near where Tim and I used to live in Coeur d’Alene), which made for fun reading. I have to be careful though, with this type of novel, since the murder aspect can get in my head.

Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott: So many authors I respect love Anne Lamott, so I jumped on this for 25 cents at a thrift store. Struggled to get half-way and then didn’t want to waste precious reading time on finishing.

Miracle at Higher Grounds Cafe by Max Lucado: My first encounter with Lucado’s fiction. Kind of predictable, but good characters and a really neat perspective on spiritual warfare.

The Secret of Mirror Bay by Carolyn Keene: I’m a huge Nancy Drew fan and still pick them up every once in a while for a light, quick read. This one is set in Cooperstown, NY which is 20 miles from where my parents live.

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr: Incredibly well-written. Beautiful and heartbreaking.

Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn: What would happen if it were illegal to use an increasingly large number of the letters in our alphabet?… Lots of fun for the English major types.

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell: First but won’t be my last of Rainbow Rowell.

The Nesting Place by Myquillin Smith: Loved everything about this book. I’m a horrible unpacker and avoid putting decor up because it may not be perfect or the best place to put it, so The Nesting Place was like a needed and beautiful kick in my decorating bum.

Rules of Civility by Amor TowlesWas on Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Summer Reading Guide. Left me kind of depressed, though it was well-written.

All Dressed Up by Scarlett BergFun, light read that felt like a mash-up of Robin Jones Gunn and America’s Next Top Model.

First Impressions by Charlie LovettAlso on MMD’s Summer Reading Guide. Jane Austen + mystery + antique books = loved it!

Bossypants by Tina FeyI expected to love this one because I think Tina Fey is quite funny. Abandoned half-way. I’ll stick with Mindy Kaling and Ellen DeGeneres.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie KondoI’ve done some simplifying before, but the KonMari method of evaluating everything you own by asking, “Does this give me joy?” really seemed to resonate with me. People get up in arms about the oddities in this book (which do exist, mostly due to cultural differences), however, I think it’s worth looking past. Since reading it in July, I’ve tidied our books (never thought I’d do that), clothes (even the hubs jumped on board!), our files, the kitchen (another one I didn’t think needed any work), my hard-copy photographs, and various boxes from the garage. We’ve taken endless loads to Goodwill. I’m much more mindful of what we own and what we purchase.

The Road to Yesterday by L.M. Montgomery: A nice collection of short stories from an author I love.

Well Fed & Well Fed 2 by Melissa Joulwan: Though we don’t eat Paleo, these two cookbooks have provided amazing inspiration and recipes for cutting back on sugar and preservatives while amping up our protein and vegetable consumption.

Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee: Our son’s middle name is Atticus. Needless to say, I’m a huge fan of TKAM and the Finch family. I’m not sorry I read this (mostly from a literary history and criticism stand point), but it’s definitely not going to be for everyone.

Daddy Long-Legs by Jean Webster: Finally read the book that Dear Mr. Knightley a fantastic read) is loosely based on. Quick and very enjoyable.  The movie, with Fred Astaire, was great too.

All Things New by Lynn Austin: Lynn Austin is a reliably good Christian fiction author. Her novels are always well researched and engaging. Having recently read Go Set A Watchman, the Antebellum setting of this particular novel was timely.

Sparkly Green Earrings by Melanie Shankle: Wasn’t the best mom-memoir I’ve read. (Surprised by Motherhood is one of my favorites.) I wouldn’t be opposed to reading one of Melanie’s other two books – one on marriage, the other on friendship.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan: Fantasy isn’t generally my genre, but I really enjoyed this book (another from MMD’s Summer Reading Guide).

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer: I apparently had something going for epistolary novels this year… Utterly lovely book written in letters. Wonderful characters.

For The Love by Jen Hatmaker: I don’t want to be too nit picky about this book because I adore Jen Hatmaker. Let’s just say it wasn’t my favorite of the three books that I’ve read (plus her blog). It was good, I think I just had REALLY high expectations.

What I’m Reading {February 2015}

Thanks to free audio books on OverDrive, I did pretty good on my reading this month! I’m still making my way through Keep Your Love On: Connection, Communication, and Boundaries and You and Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity.

I always like to know what you’re reading so chime in in the comments! Here’s what I’ve finished so far this year:

Jesus Prom by Jon Weece

I haven’t read Love Does yet (It’s on my shelf.), but I’d imagine this is similar. I guess that’s a no brainer since Bob Goff wrote the introduction… Jon is a pastor of a large church in Kentucky and a darn good story teller. He uses that skill to champion the importance of love in the life and ministry of believers in Christ. Bonus: the book has a grammar theme (makes more sense when you read it, but think verbs, nouns, adverbs in relation to love). I cried and underlined my way through the stories and will probably read it again. It’s the kind of book that you almost wish you hadn’t read because it necessitates change and action.

Give Them Grace by Elyse M. Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson

I won this in a giveaway and was pleasantly surprised when it came in audio format. Though I whole heartedly believe the message delivered in this book, I can’t picture myself actually saying any of the suggested responses for teachable moments. I know they’re examples and not meant to be repeated verbatim, but it’s the practical part of showing your kids grace that is difficult and that’s where I disconnected from the book. It did challenge me to consider if I was practicing grace in my own personal life.

The Art of Whimsical Lettering by Joanne Sharpe

I mentioned a couple weeks ago that I’ve gotten hooked on Bible journaling. It’s reawakened my love of lettering. This was a fun and inspirational book that majors on making your own handwriting into something special. I loved the exercises Joanne lays out to get you practicing.

Zenspirations: Letters & Patterning by Joanne Fink

Not much instruction in this little book, but I especially enjoyed the monogram inspiration. The ideas in this book are based on the Zentangle Method of drawing. Joanne translates that into lettering in a fun and easy to follow guide.

Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear

Sarah Kerner had recommended Maisie Dobbs and while scrolling the OverDrive audio books I ran into the first in this mystery series. It’s part Sherlock Holmes, part All Quiet on The Western Front, part Downton Abbey. Maisie is maid turned nurse turned personal investigator. There was suspense and intrigue but nothing that kept me up at night. I listened obsessively and then downloaded the next two books in the series.

The Secret Life of Book Club by Heather Woodhaven

Heather contacted me to see if I’d like to review her new book and I’m so glad she did. I don’t think I’ve ever read anything in the Chick Lit genre, unless you count novels by Meg Cabot read in early high school, and those would be more Chickie Lit… Well, this was Chick Lit and it was a quick, enjoyable read. Four gals in a book club embark on a alphabetical challenge to try new things. The challenge effects each woman (and her family) differently.  The characters are likable, the plot convincing. Bonus: the Kindle version is only $3.99.

Birds of a Feather by Jacqueline Winspear

A suicide, two murders, and a missing person. Is there a link between them? Maisie Dobbs is the woman to find out. The second in the Maisie Dobbs mystery series is more Psych then Sherlock, but her methods didn’t bother me. The series doesn’t need to be read in order, but I would read the first one to get her back story before skipping around. Bonus to this one, her love life develops.

Pardonable Lies by Jacqueline Winspear

I was sad to realize the third installment of the Maisie Dobbs series was the last available on audio via OverDrive… They all had different readers which took a little getting used to. Pardonable Lies was another enjoyable mystery focusing on the aftermath of WWI. Maisie is investigating the death of a fighter pilot who went down across enemy lines in France. There are 11 books in the series so far. I’m interested to see if/how Winspear handles WWII.

Light in the Wilderness by Jane Kirkpatrick

Light in the Wilderness is a fictionalized true story about Letitia Carson, a free slave who travels the Oregon Trail with her non-legal, white husband. Not only was this a well crafted and engaging story, I’m related to Letitia’s husband, Davey! I’m going to geek out genealogically for a second about this book… I’m the fourth great granddaughter of Smith P. Carson (mentioned a couple times in the book), the brother of Davey Carson. Which means, I’m the fourth great grand niece of Davey. It was so neat to read about my own relatives! My grandparents are genealogy buffs and some of their research was used in the book. My grandma (Lila Hyder) is mentioned in the acknowledgements. Okay, geeking out is over. Bottom line – it’s a good read.

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My favorite books of 2014

One of things on my 2015 Manifesto is to read more than I watch. Aside from last weekend when Tim and I watched an alarming amount of Frasier, I’ve been sticking to that guideline. The books on my to-read list are constantly elbowing each other for a better place in line, but I’d love to know what’s at the front of your reading list this year!

I’m in the middle of two books (Give Them Grace and Jesus Prom), so I don’t have much to report for January book reviews. In their stead, I give you a wrap-up of my reading habits and my favorites from 2014.

favorite books

Books by the numbers:

  • 29 books in total
  • 16 non-fiction, 12 fiction
  • 15 books by authors I hadn’t read before
  • 4 by male authors
  • 2 books abandoned
  • 1 re-read (Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist – so good!)

Favorite books of 2014:

Katherine Reay is a standout author – my favorite from 2014. Dear Mr. Knightley is a rich and readable story with subtle spiritual themes. It is sure to get you busting out your college English syllabus and dropping your favorite Austen quips in everyday conversation. Mrs. Reay cleverly integrates classic literature into a nuanced plot that is both charming and poignant. Veins of social justice, faith, and romance add to the literature steeped narrative. It’s a must read.

Reay’s sophomore novel did not disappoint. Lizzy & Jane centers around a tense sibling relationship, complicated by cancer and career trouble. There’s love and food and grace in there too. I didn’t want it to end.

This one has a special place in my heart because I, too, was surprised by motherhood. Lisa-Jo documents her journey to motherhood in a heartwarming and poignant narrative that had me crying, laughing, and amening.

I’m actually still working my way through this book, but it deserves to be on the favorites list this year. Reading Pursue the Intentional Life is like reading Jean Fleming’s journal. She documents the importance of making our God-ordained years matter by sharing own journey, her own pursuit of an intentional life. Her words are both sobering and encouraging.

The Rosie Project is a fun read. Graeme Simsion’s narrative is told via Don, a genetics professor with Aspergers who doesn’t realize he’s on the autism spectrum. Don comes up with the Wife Project to help him find true love. The escapades that follow are off-beat and charming. There’s a reason so many people recommended this book last year.

Fun fashion advice combined with an encouraging and realistic look at the way a woman’s body changes during pregnancy and motherhood. I needed this fresh perspective on beauty! Read the longer review for more on my journey with motherhood and beauty. My interview with Trina has more insight on her writing process and her daily beauty routines.

Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good was a wonderful way to end my reading year. If you’ve never picked up a Mitford book, you’re missing out on engaging dialogue and lovable characters. Jan Karon has a way with words that makes everyday life seem interesting.

Tim and I read this aloud to each other on long drives. I don’t find myself in many meetings or reading business fiction very often, but I found Death by Meeting fascinating and applicable to family life (which I said I was going to write about and still intend to!). Patrick Lencioni crafts a leadership fable that illustrates his model for better meetings.

Honorable Mentions:

Can I Ask That? 8 Hard Questions About God and Faith by Jim Candy, Brad Griffin, and Kara Powell and A Modern Girls Guide to Bible Study by Jen Hatmaker.

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