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Good Reads

Book Club On The Blog: Volume IV

It’s been a minute y’all.
Life in a nutshell right now: buying a house, planning renovations for said-house, not living in this house but making mortgage payments on it, creating elaborate narratives about what our new neighbors are like.  It’s a whole thing you guys.

In other news, I’ve been reading some good books lately and thought I’d share.  With fall here, I feel like I’m supposed to tell you to grab a book and get cozy under a blanket by the fire.  But we all know it’s more like: read your Kindle in bed with retainers in your mouth and kind of sleep-swipe a few pages until you pass out and your husband has to reach over you to turn out the light.  But I wouldn’t know.

  1. Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine // Gail Honeyman
    eleanor oliphant is completely fine
    If you enjoyed “A Man Called Ove”, you’ll like this one.  I thought Eleanor Oliphant was even better; it’s such a fantastic book.  She’s 30, living the life of a loner, sticks closely to her established routines, and is enormously awkward in social situations.  Eleanor meets Raymond from work and for the first time, she experiences friendship.  There are a lot of layers to this book that are pieced together as you read and get to know Eleanor more.  The novel is divided into three sections: “Good Days”, “Bad Days”, “Better Days”.  Lots of emotions but mostly a lot of love for Eleanor, who grew on me.
  2. These Is My Words // Nancy Turner
    [Historical Fiction]
    these is my words
    This is written as Sarah Prine’s diary entries in the late 1800’s, taking place in the Arizona Territories.  It’s strangely more entertaining than that first sentence makes it sound.  A friend recommended it and when I finally picked it up, it kept my interest each time I sat down to read.  With that said, while there is triumph and romance and adventure, there is also tragedy and a significant amount of trauma Sarah is working through as she journals. Some people may find it hard to push through certain parts.  It’s not a “feel-good”, light read, but in my opinion, it’s worth picking up and there are moments that will leave you cheering.
  3. Of Mess And Moxie: Wrangling Delight Out of This Wild and Glorious Life // Jen Hatmaker
    [Nonfiction: Humor/Essays]
    of mess and moxie
    Of Mess and Moxie read very similarly to Jen’s previous book, For The Love.  She balanced her content with humor, depth, and recipes- FIIIINE I TOOK PICTURES of the smoothie recipes before returning to the library so sue me.  (Fun fact- I’m meeting Jen and Nichole Nordeman on Monday. I’ve already made peace with the fact that they will be darling and even more wonderful in person, while I’ll probably say something that will result in carrying the burden of my awkwardness for the next three decades.  Almost guaranteed.)
  4. The Magnolia Story // Chip and Joanna Gaines
    [Nonfiction: Memoir]
    Hi, remember how I had to stage a house and channel all of my inner Joanna? (Which really means: I lost my ever-loving mind and long story short, I glued my fingers together.)  I joined the Fixer Upper bandwagon over the summer while all our house stuff was going down.  The Magnolia Story went on a summer vacay with me and was a great, easy beach read.  Chip and Joanna write in alternating voices/fonts and share their story- how they met, what their journey’s been like with Fixer Upper up until now, etc.  (Another fun fact: My sister-in-law borrowed the book at the end of our vacation, but y’all.. she didn’t get to finish the last two chapters.  So please make space for this humble brag: I sent her picture texts of the pages from the last two chapters while in the airport because I couldn’t let her not finish this book.  Is that OCD or deep and abiding family love.. who will ever know?)
  5. Best Day Ever // Kaira Rouda
    [Fiction: Thriller]
    best day ever
    Y’all don’t even knowwwww how fast I read this book.  To be fair- it’s a pretty quick read as it is, but it was an excellent thriller.  Paul and Mia live a charmed life: the perfect marriage, a big house, two beautiful children, lots of money.  Their story takes place in a 24 hour window on the way to their lake house, where Paul has planned “the best day ever”.  As you read, you realize not everything is as it appears, and the plot begins to twist and turn.  Slightly predictable, but still enjoyable.  (Disclaimer for some: occasional strong language)
  6. None Like Him: 10 Ways God is Different Than Us (And Why That’s a Good Thing) // Jen Wilkin
    [Christian Nonfiction]
    none like him
    Jen Wilkin wrote such a profound and important book in None Like Him. As humans, we reflect God’s image in numerous ways, but from the beginning of time, we’ve wrongly wanted to be like God. She writes,
    “God is (and we can be): Holy, Loving, Just, Good, Merciful, Gracious, Wise, Faithful…
    Only God is: Infinite, Incomprehensible, Self-Existent, Self-Sufficient, Eternal, Unchanging, All-Present, All-Knowing, All-Powerful” (paraphrased, page 24)
    This book does a great job explaining how limited we are in relation to God’s limitless attributes.  It breaks down big theological ideas so that they aren’t as intimidating.  Can’t recommend highly enough; I’ll be picking this up again and again over the years.book club on the blog

Books I’m Reading Now But Can’t Vouch For Quite Yet:
Always // Sarah Jio
I Remember Nothing: And Other Reflections // Nora Ephron

Previous Book Recommendations
Book Club on the Blog Posts 1, 2, 3

Finally: Unrelated to books, but completely related to my gym class nemesis, if you haven’t read my last post: People of the Gym: Group Fitness Participants please do so now.  Maybe one of you knows the girl who kept crowding My Spot at my last gym class and can forward the post to her, so she can get some chill.  Unresolved anger alert.

Back to books.. Your turn: What are you reading?  What needs to go on my list?

Things I Love And You Might Too

Summer’s unofficially here!  It’s my favorite season… beach trips, fresh tomato sandwiches, grilling out, outdoor live music- or more accurately, people watching at the outdoor live music.  As your summer begins, take a look at some recommendations I have for you- a beach read, an encouraging podcast for moms, an app (developed locally!), a delicious recipe, and a bingeworthy Netflix show.  These are some of my recent favorites… and I have a feeling you may love them too!

things i love

Your Next Summer Read

Since my last book club on the blog post, I’ve read a handful of books, but by far the best one I want to tell you about is The Pearl That Broke Its Shell by Nadia Hashimi.  Set in Afghanistan, the novel flashes between the separate stories of two women who disguised themselves as boys to create a better life for themselves.  If you need something to read on the airplane, at the beach, before bed… check this out.    the pearl that broke its shell

current favorite podcast

Thanks to the recommendation of my friend, Holly, I’ve really been enjoying the Risen Motherhood podcast.  Most episodes are 20 minutes long; all are gospel-centered and cover topics relevant to being a mom. (Topics like: adoption, disciplining our children, miscarriage/infertility, “Mom Guilt”, putting your marriage first, etc.)   New episodes drop on Wednesdays.. it’s so worth the listen!

the app you didn’t know you needed

Several months ago, my friend, Becky, casually mentioned that she and her husband were “creating an app”.  I think I just stared at her like “………………………………how do you do that”.  Then she used smart words for a few minutes and I made a mental note to download the app when it was ready.  Their free app is officially live and it’s called Just My Style.  This app is perfect for me because y’all know I have issues with shopping in public places (see previous blog posts on: Target, Grocery StoreCostcoOpening Doors While Shopping With a Stroller). With this app, think like: online window shopping + Tinder for women’s clothing.

You choose a category you want to browse in- say, sleeveless tops- and then you either give it a thumbs up or thumbs down before you can move on to see the next sleeveless shirt.  The more you use the app, the smarter it gets to learn what types of styles you’re into.  Some of the clothes I’ll give a thumbs down, but as I keep using the app, it shows me more and more styles that I’m interested in (thumbs up!).  I can then go to my “Love It” list to see store/pricing details or buy it directly if I want to.

The app uses clothing options from Anthropologie, Athleta, GAP, JCrew, Lands End, Old Navy, Eddie Bauer, Target, Under Armour, Nordstrom Rack, Ann Taylor, Banana Republic, Amazon, + more.  Love the concept, love supporting local awesomeness, and love not leaving my couch to window shop.  Available for download with Apple or Android devices: get it here.

if you’re not on a diet, make these.

Clearly I’m not a food blogger, but I have to share a cookie recipe with you guys.  It will be like a turning point in your life once you’ve eaten them… they’re that good.  Here is a photo of the homemade Oatmeal Creme Pies:
cookiesThis past weekend, I went on a Girl’s Weekend with some of my best friends from college.  (Last year’s recap can be read here.)  This year, we went to Nashville and terrorized the city in all the best ways- did some of the music scene, ate good food, took pictures like middle school girls.  One of our friends is named Amy and she can work a kitchen.  On our last night together, the group decided we needed to peer pressure Amy to make her homemade Oatmeal Creme Pies.. so we did a 9pm grocery run and sent her to slave in the kitchen until we had these cookies in our hands.  I may or may not have appointed myself as her apprentice and stalked her in the kitchen in case she “needed help cleaning” or “wanted to let me lick any spoons or cooking tools”.

Here are screenshots of her recipe so we can all get fat and love life.  (I have no clue how Pioneer Woman makes fancy recipe cards embedded into her blog and I have no interest in finding out so make peace with your screenshots.)

our netflix binge can be yours too

We love finding a good show that sucks you in and makes you watch three episodes in a row on a weeknight.  The one we’ve gotten into earlier in the year is a British crime drama called Broadchurch.  Don’t let the heavy accents throw you off; this show is worth watching and keeps you on the edge of your seat.  There are currently two seasons on Netflix or you can watch online here.  We just found out that Season 3 is coming to BBC America on JUNE 28 so naturally I have it in our iCalendar because that’s what normal people do.  You have less than a month to crank through the first two seasons of Broadchurch so you can catch the third and final season at the same time as the Barker fam.


Also, not on Netflix but- The Bachelorette.  Who else is watching this season?  Who else’s husband “doesn’t watch that show” but happens to be in the room making comments on half of the content? Watching the show always generates that age old question… “If I have Bible Study the same night as The Bachelor, which one cancels out?”  Just had to throw it out there that I’m hunkered down on Monday nights filling my mind with nonsense, so if you are too, let’s have a conversation about how “the whaboom guy” needs a life coach.  Stop trying to make fetch happen, Lucas!


That’s all I’ve got, people.  Everything else in my life is regular and boring EXCEPT FOR the aforementioned book, podcast, app, recipe, and TV show.  They will take your summer to the next level and that’s a fact.  If you try any of them out, let me know what you think!  Now it’s your turn… what do I need to read? Listen to? Eat? Download? Watch?  Talk to me Internet!

Book Club On The Blog: In Honor Of “Read Across America” Day

It’s been awhile since I’ve updated what I’ve enjoyed from my reading list.  “Read Across America” Day is celebrated annually on March 2nd, which is Dr. Seuss’ birthday.  In honor of this nationwide celebration of reading, I bring you this blog post.  These are a few I would recommend:

good reads the chemist
The Chemist // Stephenie Meyer

[Fiction: Thriller]
So, so good.  The Chemist is an ex-agent who could’ve easily stepped right out of the Bourne movies.  She is constantly on the run from her former employers and must sacrifice any sense of normalcy to preserve her own life.  She is offered an opportunity to take one last job which appears to guarantee her an “out”, but only complicates things and endangers her further.  Find this book and read it ASAP.

good reads harry potter
Harry Potter and The Cursed Child // JK Rowling

[Fiction: Fantasy]
Some people expressed disappointment in the newest Potter book released, however I read it in 24 hours on a kid-free vacation and passed it off to my husband who did the same.  We both really liked it.  Easy to read because it’s entirely written as a script for the play.  Harry, Ron, and Hermione are all grown with children.  The main character, Harry’s youngest son, Albus, is a sulky misfit at Hogwarts and ends up wondering how the past could have been different.  Someone described this as the wizarding version of “It’s A Wonderful Life”, and I agree.

good read the scars that have shaped me
The Scars That Have Shaped Me // Vaneetha Rendall Risner

[Nonfiction: Memoir]
Excerpt from Desiring God -“Twenty-one surgeries by age thirteen. Years in the hospital. Verbal and physical bullying from schoolmates. Multiple miscarriages as a young wife. The death of a child. A debilitating progressive disease. Riveting pain. Abandonment. Unwanted divorce… In The Scars That Have Shaped Me, Vaneetha does more than share her stories of pain; she invites other sufferers to taste with her the goodness of a sovereign God who will carry us in our darkest of days.”

good reads small great things
Small Great Things // Jodi Picoult

Just finished this one and it was one of those I was trying to read sentences/pages while dinner was cooking on the stove with a one year old putting stickers down my pants leg.  I got sucked in and really wanted to see how it ended.  Ruth, an African American labor and delivery nurse, is caring for a newborn, doing a routine check-up, when his parents- white supremacists- demand that she is reassigned and doesn’t touch their baby.  Later in the nursery, the baby goes into cardiac arrest and when she hesitates to provide medical care, she ends up facing very serious criminal charges.  The author addresses important and relevant perspectives on racism, discrimination, “white privilege”, and justice.  [Disclaimer: The story is told in alternating perspectives, some of which contains strong language that could be offensive.]

good reads treasuring christ
Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full // Gloria Furman

[Nonfiction: Christian Parenting]
The subtitle to this is “Gospel Meditations For Busy Moms”.  Really, really good thoughts- especially liked this quote,

“By God’s grace I can resist the temptation to treat my children as interruptions to my will for my life.  Instead, God’s enables me to treat my children as precious gifts he is using to shape me into his image according to his will for my life.”

Currently Reading:
Present Over Perfect // Shauna Niequist (I tried highlighting her sentences while I was on the elliptical if that gives you any sense of my current feeling for/dedication to this book.)
The Girl Who Drank The Moon // Kelly Barnhill (Heard of this Juvenile Fiction book via @readaloudrevival on Instagram)

Coming Up:
Idaho // Emily Ruskovich
Circling The Sun // Paula McLain


If you’re interested in seeing other books I’ve recommended in the past, enjoy clicking through past posts:  Book Club 1 or Book Club 2
What have you been reading lately? Always love hearing about a great book!

Book Club On The Blog: Summer Reads

If you’re looking for a new book to pick up, these are a few that I’ve enjoyed over the summer!

breathWhen Breath Becomes Air // Paul Kalanithi
[Nonfiction: Memoir]
A young neurosurgeon diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer writes about his experiences as both the doctor and patient. I found his memoir to be touching, poignant, and reason to be thankful for the gift of good health and a new day.  Short read.


what she knewWhat She Knew // Gilly Macmillan
[Novel: Thriller]
A mother allows her eight-year-old to run ahead while walking in the forest and he disappears.  I love a good thriller and enjoyed this book.  For those queasy about what the ending may be- no spoilers here- but the book primarily focuses on the entire search, leaving you hanging on to find out what happened to Ben.


lifeanimated-216x300Life, Animated // Ron Suskind
[Nonfiction: Memoir]
Owen, a boy with autism, grows up obsessively watching Disney movies and uses their dialogue, characters, and themes to make sense of the world around him.  I randomly came across this book and decided to pick it up.  I really enjoyed reading about Owen’s journey more than I realized I would.  Fascinating and inspiring.


i said yesI Said Yes // Emily Maynard
[Nonfiction: Memoir]
Emily was a contestant on the Bachelor and later became the Bachelorette.  This book will obviously be most interesting to those who watch the show, however she also writes very openly about her life before/after the show which includes the plane crash that killed her boyfriend, the pregnancy she found out about a week after the crash (her daughter Ricki), past struggle with depression, and her faith journey as a Christian.  Quick read.


antelopeThe Antelope in the Living Room // Melanie Shankle
[Nonfiction: Humor, Marriage]
Melanie Shankle is a blogger who wrote a memoir on marriage- the good, the bad, and the antelope he hung on her living room wall.  Her stories were funny and entertaining, with my personal favorite being the time her husband took pain meds for a back injury and had to officiate a wedding soon after.  Some deeper thoughts mixed in, but mostly humorous.


women of the wordWomen of the Word // Jen Wilkin
[Nonfiction: Studying the Bible]
Passionate to see other women learn how to study the Bible with their hearts and minds, Jen provides a comprehensive framework for approaching passages of Scripture.  She’s methodical in her approach and refreshing in her instruction. Looking forward to digging deeper than a breezy devotional to internalize what God’s Word says, what it means, and how it applies to my life.


Lilac book jacketLilac Girls // Martha Hall Kelly
[Novel: Historical Fiction]
-WWII, Ravensbruck concentration camp.  Obviously this novel will, at times, make your heart feel really heavy.  With that said, I’m really glad I read this book and it’s one of my favorites I’ve read this year.  The lives of three women (a NY socialite, a Polish teenager, and a German doctor) intersect and I was intrigued to read at the end of the book that they were based on real people and events.  Absolutely worth reading.

Want some more recommendations?
Check out other books I’ve read here: Book Club on the Blog

Book Club on the Blog

IMG_4738I love to read and love sharing book recommendations with others.  The eleven books below are some of my 2016 Good Reads so far: a fair mix of fiction novels, nonfiction (spanning topics from motherhood to Christian life), and four fantastic children’s books.  You can click on the title to read a more detailed summary on Amazon.  Hope you find a title that sparks your interest!


  • BITTERSWEET: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way by Shauna Niequist
    GENRE: Nonfiction (Christian Life/Spiritual Growth)
    THE SKINNY:  I’ve heard a lot of buzz about Shauna Niequist and enjoyed reading her book.  It reads very similar to the style and voice of a blog.  After enduring numerous difficulties and major life transition including birth of a child, job loss, a miscarriage, and an out of state move, she settles on the idea that “…in all things [bittersweet] there is both something broken and something beautiful, that there is a sliver of lightness on even the darkest of nights, a shadow of hope in every heartbreak, and that rejoicing is no less rich when it contains a splinter of sadness“.  Also looking forward to reading her book “Cold Tangerines”.



  • THE NIGHTINGALE by Kristin Hannah
    GENRE: Historical Fiction, Novel
    THE SKINNY: “In love we find out who we want to be.  In war we find out who we are.”  This is such an outstanding novel and definitely one of my favorites in awhile.  It details the stories of survival and love experienced by two sisters in German-occupied France during WWII.  Couldn’t put it down!



  • THE SONGS OF JESUS by Tim Keller
    GENRE: Christian Devotional
    THE SKINNY:  First of all: Tim Keller.  Anything he writes is really good and I’ve loved starting my days with this daily devotional.  The book is structured so that within a year, you end up reading through the entire book of Psalms from the Bible.  He writes out a few verses for each day’s reading, has a very brief reflection on the text, and finishes with a 2-3 sentence written prayer.  Encouraging, quick way to focus your day and could be a great introduction for anyone unfamiliar with the Bible but interested in learning more.



  • LOVING THE LITTLE YEARS: Motherhood in the Trenches by Rachel Jankovic
    GENRE:  Nonfiction (Motherhood)
    THE SKINNY: This was the first book I read in 2016.  I loved the short chapters, her perspective on motherhood (doesn’t romanticize but also doesn’t martyr herself), practical advice mixed with insightful godly reminders that I soaked up as a new mom.  “Prioritize your children far and away above the other work you need to get done.  They are the only part of your work that really matters.”


  • WE ARE CALLED TO RISE by Laura McBride
    GENRE: Fiction, Novel
    THE SKINNY: This story is narrated from four alternating perspectives by characters who end up connected by the end of the novel.  I could visualize one character, Bashkim (an eight year old immigrant), so strongly that I felt like he sat in my own third grade classroom.  Some occasional strong language and weighty topics (PTSD, foster care system, abuse) are present in this book, however the author does tie hope and redemption into the storyline.


  • BIRD BY BIRD: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott
    GENRE: Nonfiction (Writing)
    THE SKINNY:  If you enjoy writing and pursue it in some form (work or pleasure), I’d strongly recommend this book.  I was such a fan that my highlighter pretty much could have been on autopilot and highlighted the entire book.  Not only does she offer some great points about the writing process, she is also very, very funny.



  • DARING GREATLY by Brene Brown
    GENRE: Nonfiction (Personal Growth/Relationships)
    THE SKINNY: I think I’m late to the Brene Brown party but DONT WORRY EVERYBODY I made it! The subtitle summarizes the book pretty well: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead.  In a year of learning a lot about vulnerability (what it is and what it isn’t), this book has resonated with me.  “Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage.  Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.”


As a former third grade teacher, I can’t help but love children’s literature.  Being at home with my daughter hasn’t kept me from exploring fun, new (to me) picture books; I’ve enjoyed reading them with her and showing her all the pictures. Whether you’re an educator looking for a fresh story for a lesson, a parent looking for a delightful alternative to the firetruck book you’ve read 84 times, or a fellow children’s lit enthusiast, below are a few picture books I’ve recently enjoyed from our local public library:


    ABOUT: Julia advertises for lost creatures to move in to her too-quiet house and ends up with a full crew including a mermaid, dragon, troll, and ghost.  When they become too unruly, Julia decides the best way to solve the problem is by making a Chore Chart and putting them all to work.  The graphic novel style of illustrations are just as entertaining as the story.
    GOOD FOR TEACHING: onomatopoeias (bang! crash! scritch scratch! boom!)



  • LAST STOP ON MARKET STREET by Matt de la Pena 
    ABOUT: As a boy and his grandma travel together through town by bus, he questions why they have to ride the bus on a rainy day instead of driving a car.  Or rather, “How come we gotta wait for the bus in all this wet?”  His grandma patiently and creatively answers his many questions on their journey, which takes them to the soup kitchen where they’re volunteering to serve food.
    GOOD FOR TEACHING: questioning, using descriptive language



  • WOLFIE THE BUNNY by Ame Dyckman
    ABOUT: A baby wolf is left on the doorstep of a bunny family.  Papa and Mama are excited to have Wolfie but Dot is convinced he is going to eat them all up.  At the end, the book takes a fun turn away from sibling rivalry and shows Dot standing up for Wolfie when a bear tries to eat him.
    GOOD FOR TEACHING: predicting, how real life experiences help you to imagine stories (author’s note in back explains how she came up with the story)



  • SIDEWALK FLOWERS by JonArno Lawson
    ABOUT: I love wordless picture books!  This one is so rich with meaning and tells a beautiful story through the illustrations.  A little girl walks with her distracted father through the city and picks flowers growing from the sidewalk throughout the beginning of the book.  Then, seemingly as a gesture of kindness, she leaves her flowers with others as she passes by: a dead bird on the sidewalk, a man sleeping on a park bench, her mom and siblings.  My favorite part is how the book starts off in black and white with occasional color and then slowly more color is added as the story and characters come to life.
    GOOD FOR TEACHING: reading the pictures, questioning, making inferences


I always love book recommendations from any genre.  If you’ve read a good one, tell me about it!