Thursday, April 4, 2019

My Top Books for 2019: The First Quarter, Plus an Update

2019 has been a whirlwind for me! I was excited about the plans I had for my blog this year, but on the very first weekend of January, everything changed. My family and I travelled to eastern Oklahoma, where my husband was voted in as pastor of a wonderful church. We went back to southeast Texas, and the following weekend, my husband resigned from our church of twelve years. The transition process started, and at the end of February, we moved 450 miles away. After twelve hours on the road and a broken trailer axle that set us back a couple of hours, we arrived in Oklahoma and started our new lives here. It's been an exhausting adventure and an emotional roller coaster! While it was hard to say goodbye to Texas, we're excited about our future in Oklahoma. And since my husband and I were born and raised in Arkansas, being so close to the Arkansas/Oklahoma border makes us feel like we're back home. Isn't it gorgeous?

I haven't done nearly as much reading as I normally do during the beginning of the year. Last year I read seven books in January alone. This year, at the end of March, I'd only read six. Life looks a lot different this year than last year, though. We're getting settled into our new town and new church, house hunting, job hunting, getting our oldest ready to start full time college in the fall, and so much more. We're in a very different season of life, and my reading time is a lot more limited. It's worth the trade-off, though.

Now that life is settling down a little, I plan to be on the blog more. I've missed it, and I've been excited about my plans for this year, even if they were a little delayed.

While my reading list was short in the first quarter of 2019, I read some amazing books! The following all got five-star Goodreads reviews from me:

The Curse of Misty Wayfair--Jaime Jo Wright

Sometimes an author comes along who always writes a great book that hooks you from the first chapter. Jaime Jo Wright is one of those. When I started The Curse of Misty Wayfair, I knew this book was different. As great as Jaime's first two books were, this takes her writing to a new level. Jaime tackles some very tough issues - anxiety, mental illness, the struggles of abandonment in childhood and adulthood, and more. This is definitely Jaime's best book yet! In fact, I loved this one so much that when the character-inspired cozies appeared in The Cozy Life Shop on Etsy, I ordered my favorite. Isn't this the perfect cozy for a mystery lover?

The Wind Will Howl--Sibella Giorello

I've been reading about Raleigh Harmon from the beginning of her story, and every book just keeps getting better. The ending of this book...oh my goodness! If you're already a Raleigh fan, you have to read this one! If you're not a fan yet, start at the beginning and catch up on this series.

The Wedding Dress, The Wedding Chapel--Rachel Hauck

For years, I avidly avoided romance novels. I repeatedly said I didn't like them, with the exception of romantic suspense. But last year, I needed a book recommendation for a reading challenge, and someone recommended Rachel Hauck's The Love Letter. I was hooked. The Wedding Dress is the second book I've read by this author, and as soon as I finished it, I dove directly into The Wedding Chapel. I love the dual timelines of Rachel Hauck's books, and her writing is phenomenal. Every single story draws me in and wraps me up in the story.

What are you reading this year? What are your favorites of the year so far?

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Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Top Books of 2018

My reading life surprised me last year. I read more books than in the past few years, and my focus shifted considerably. The ways I read also changed a lot. Before I get into my top books for 2018, let me give you a quick breakdown of my reading habits.

I read 50 books:
  • 44 fiction
  • 6 nonfiction
Ten of these were audiobooks - a big change for me! I just got into audiobooks a few years ago, but this year they became a huge part of my reading life. I read longer books this year, and I read a lot of classics (ten total - these made up the bulk of my audiobooks). I also read a lot of YA, a genre I'm really coming to love.

Now for my top eleven books of 2018. I read so many great ones that it was hard to narrow down my list. It was supposed to be a top ten list but ended up being a top eleven list. In no particular order, here are the best books I ready last year:

1. The House on Foster Hill by Jaime Jo Wright

I started the year off with a bang! I kept hearing this book mentioned in online groups and talked about among friends with great reading taste. I picked up a Kindle copy when it was on sale and started 2018 with this book. I couldn't stop reading! This split-time mystery is so unique and so well written! I was such a fan I've joined Jaime's launch team to help launch her second book (#10 on this list) and will help her launch her third novel later this month. She's such a fantastic writer!

2. Simply Tuesday by Emily P. Freeman

Emily P. Freeman is one of my go-to authors when I'm stressed. Her words always seem to speak peace to my anxiety riddled mind. Simply Tuesday is about finding joy and contentment in the small, ordinary, not-so-glamourous things in our lives. It was just what I needed to read this year.

3. The Masterpiece by Francine Rivers

The title describes it well. Beautiful and full of hope. It's no wonder Francine Rivers is one of the top Christian fiction authors out there.

4. The Solace of Water by Elizabeth Byler Younts

The gorgeous cover for this book first drew me to it on NetGalley. Within the first two chapters, I knew it would become a favorite for the year. In fact, I loved it so much I joined Elizabeth's launch team. This heart wrenching, beautiful story is full of loss and hope. Not just a favorite for the year, this is one of the books I now recommend to everyone.

5. Cold Tangerines by Shauna Niequist

Shauna Niequist is another go-to author when I'm stressed. I first read Cold Tangerines a few years ago, and after struggling through the early part of this year, I decided it was time for a re-read.

6. Lady Jayne Disappears by Joanne Davidson Politano

Another book that came highly recommended, this debut novel did not disappoint. It was unique, with a story that I couldn't stop reading.

7. Thirst of Steel by Ronie Kendig

Ronie Kendig definitely tops my list of favorite authors. This conclusion to her Tox Files series left me an emotional wreck, but I really think it's her best yet.

8. Book Girl by Sarah Clarkson

What's better for a book lover than a book about books? This entire book was like a great conversation with a book-loving friend. My TBR list is much longer now, thanks to Sarah.

9. A Place to Land by Kate Motaung

Hope in the midst of tragedy seems to be a theme for 2018's books. Kate's story of finding home halfway across the world, love, family, and grief was so good I couldn't put it down.

10. The Reckoning at Gossamer Pond by Jaime Jo Wright
Every bit as good as The House on Foster Hill! Jaime's books are so unique and just the right amount of eerie suspense. I'm counting the days until I can get my hands on her latest novel, The Curse of Misty Wayfair!

11. The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck by Bethany Turner

My ten ten list became a top eleven when I finished this book late in the year. It's laugh out loud funny but also tackled some heavy issued rarely touched in Christian fiction. I absolutely love this book!

What were your favorite books in 2018?

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Book Girl

There are few things in life that make a book lover happier than talking about books with other book lovers. Sarah Clarkson's new book, Book Girl, feels like a great conversation about beloved books. Book Girl is divided into themed chapters full of lists of Sarah's favorite books and why she loves them. I loved reading about some of my own favorite books, and my TBR list is now much longer thanks to her recommendations. Whether you're already an avid reader, a former bookworm trying to find your reading groove again, or someone who wants to be a reader but doesn't know where to start, this is the perfect book for you.

When I first heard about Book Girl, I was excited. Over the past two years, my reading habits have gone through a lot of changes, and I've been looking for direction. I've been a mystery fan since elementary school, when I first discovered Nancy Drew, Trixie Beldon, and the Three Investigators. But recently, I've made an effort to branch out more. First it was women's fiction. Then I started reading (or rereading) more classics. I've added more historical and split-time authors to my reading list. I also find myself listening to more and more audiobooks. My taste in books has become very broad. This was exactly the resource I needed to help me.

Book Girl is a great guide for new readers or lifelong readers who want to branch out. This is a great book to read straight through. It's also a great book to pick and choose chapters from, depending on what you're looking for. My first reading definitely will not be my last. This is a resource I'll return to again and again for years to come.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

When Dreams Wait and God is Silent

Patience isn't my strong point.

When there's a problem, I want it fixed yesterday. When I decide I need to get something, I want to drop everything and go get it right away. When I dream about something, I want to start taking concrete steps towards it immediately. I want a step-by-step plan and a bulleted checklist, and I'm ready to start on it right away, thank you very much.

Not all dreams come true right away, though. Dreams often make us wait, and sometimes dreams turn into hard seasons of waiting. Waiting for direction, for answers, for things out of our control to fall into place. Waiting, knowing that a hard road lies ahead. Waiting, knowing that your hopes and dreams may not be realized. 

Waiting can mean days, weeks, months of praying feeling as if your prayers never reach past the ceiling. It means you sometimes wonder why God is silent, if He's still listening, if He still cares.

Life is full of hard seasons of waiting. 

The great heroes of the Bible weren't immune to long seasons of waiting, either.

Abraham and Sarah waited years for their promised son. They aged well past their child-bearing years. Sarah's heart must have ached at the emptiness of her womb and her arms. She must have mourned as she watched women all around her become mothers, but her own dreams waited. At some point, she gave up, realizing her dream must have passed her by. But God wasn't done. Long after all hope seemed lost, Sarah gave birth to her miracle baby.

David, the least of his brothers, was anointed king over Israel. But as soon as it happened, he was back to tending his father's sheep. Nothing changed. As the years crept by, David must have wondered if his time would ever come. Life got harder and harder. David lost friends. He ran for his life on multiple occasions. God seemed silent. Until finally, almost fifteen years after he was anointed as the next king of Israel, David took his throne. 

God's people waited a very long time for the promised Messiah. From Adam and Eve's first sin, God promised a coming Messiah, One who would defeat the enemy once and for all. Generation after generation passed as humanity cried out for their Deliverer. How many people must have wondered when He would come? How many must have wondered if the promises were still coming or of God had given up on His people? Until one night, in a stable in Bethlehem, the promised Messiah was born, and the world changed forever.

And even today, God's people wait for His promised return. We wait for Him to take us to our forever home with Him, for Him to make all things right and perfect once and for all. We watch, helpless, as sin abounds, growing deeper and darker with every passing day. We watch pain and headache multiply. We see innocent people suffering. Sometimes we wonder if God still sees, if His promise to return is still true. We wait. 

But we can wait with hope, because His promises are true. His time may not be our time, but He will never turn back on His Word. We can hold onto 2 Peter 3:9: "The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance." When our dreams become seasons of waiting, we can wait with hope in Him.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Books to Pull You Out of a Reading Slump

Sometimes even an avid readers hits a reading slump.

What pulls me out of a reading slump? A book I can't put down. A trilogy that leaves me hanging on for more at the end of each book.

1. K. E. Ganshert's The Gifting trilogy

I can't say enough about these books. This is the best dystopian trilogy I've read since The Hunger Games--and that's high praise coming from someone who loved The Hunger Games as much as I did. The story is non-stop. The events are eerily similar to things that are playing out in the real world today. 

2. Terri Blackstock's If I Run trilogy

Everyone was talking about these books for months! Everywhere I went, I heard about them. It had been years since I read a Terri Blackstock book, but I finally checked out the first book from our local library. All I can say is, I'm glad I waited until the final book was out to start these, because once I started, I didn't want to stop.

3. Ronie Kendig's Tox Files

The final book of the series, Thirst of Steel, just released. I read it through tears. What an ending! This series is military fiction meets Indiana Jones, and I couldn't put it down!

4. Ronie Kendig's Operation Zulu series

When this series first released, a new installment came out once a week, like a serial novel. The only problem: I was in the middle of a major project at church, and all I wanted to do was read! I was sneaking in reading time during every spare moment because I couldn't get enough. This series got me hooked on Ronie Kendig's books. 

5. Susan Collins' The Hunger Games trilogy

I usually post about - and usually read - Christian fiction, but I'm including this series for two reasons.

First, it pulled me out of a major reading slump. When I returned to college in 2010, my reading time vanished. Balancing school with family, work, and life left no time for fun reading. When I graduated in 2013, I struggled to get back into reading. Nothing seemed to grab my interest anymore, until I read The Hunger Games.

Second, this series is so clean. One of the reasons I made an exception and read a non-Christian series was because friends with similar reading taste told me it was super clean. It's violent, but I love mysteries, so that doesn't bother me. 

One last tip for a reader who finds yourself in a a different genre. 

One reason The Hunger Games struck such a chord with me is that it was a totally new genre. I'd never heard of dystopian fiction until the series became popular. I'm a huge mystery/suspense fan, but I needed something different to break my slump. The action of a dystopian novel, combined with a very different storyline than I was used to, was exactly what I needed. Dystopian is now among my favorite genres. 

I'm excited about linking up this week for Top Ten Tuesday! This is my first time to join in, and I look forward to "meeting" other book bloggers. 

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

What I'm Into: July 2018

This summer has been full of changes for our family. A few weeks ago, my oldest turned sixteen, got his first job, and got his driver's license--all within ten days! Now he's working plus studying for his college entrance exams. He will start dual credit college classes this fall. My youngest went to camp in July and turned thirteen, so I'm now officially the mom of two teenagers. Add in lots of church activities and it's been a busy summer. 

Here's what I've been enjoying this month...


Our busy schedule has definitely slowed down my reading. In July, I read...

  • The Reckoning at Gossamer Pond by Jaime Jo Wright - I started this year off by reading Jaime's first book, The House on Foster Hill. I loved it so much I joined her launch team for her second book. The Reckoning at Gossamer Pond is just as good as her previous book! I love these split-time suspense novels. 
  • Lady Jayne Disappears by Joanna Davidson Politano - I needed a book nominated for an award in 2018 to fill a category in the Modern Mrs. Darcy reading challenge. Lady Jayne Disappears was nominated for, and won, several awards, so I picked it up on sale for Kindle a few weeks ago. I wasn't disappointed! As I write this, I'm over halfway through the book, and I'm on the edge of my seat waiting to see what happens next. It's hard to believe this is a debut novel. 
  • Thirst of Steel by Ronie Kendig - I've been waiting months for the final book in The Tox Files series! I'm sad to see this series end, but I'm devouring this book. Think military thriller meets Indiana Jones, and you've got Thirst of Steel.


I'm not a big TV person, so it usually takes me forever to finish a Netflix series. I just finished season one of The Crown this month.


  • Emily P. Freeman's podcast, The Next Right Thing, is keeping me sane right now.
  • Needtobreathe has a new album! Everything they do is amazing. My favorite songs are Darling and Bridges Burn.
  • Crowder - My youngest is a huge Crowder fan and he's got me hooked, especially his American Prodigal album.
  • Ledger - Jen Ledger, Skillet's drummer, released her first solo album. As much as I like Skillet...I think I like Ledger even more. Her album is incredible! I love every song, but I have to say Foreigner is her best.


  • This blog--I'm redesigning logos, changing my Facebook page, and much more. I'm getting into a rhythm of regular posting.
  • Our church Back to School Blowout 


  • My bullet journal. I've been using one for about three years now, but this year I've really found my groove with it. I switched to a dot grid notebook and went with a whole new layout. It's working great! My bullet journal has become part planner, part memory keeper.
  • Carpe Diem mini planner stickers. These are perfect for my small bullet journal, and they're so cute. I've found my planner people!
  • Plan to Plan Sticker Co. Again, these are the perfect size, and they're super cute.
  • My new wardrobe. I've lost more than 30 pounds over the last year, and nothing in my closet fit anymore. I've slowly added all new clothing, and this month I finished it out new dress clothes from Maurice's and Versona, two of my favorite stores. I really love what I'm wearing!
  • Ipsy. I got my first bag this month, and I really liked everything in it. My runaway favorite, though, was Realher Moisturizing Lipstick in Girl Power. I liked the sample so much I bought a full size lipstick. You can find out more here.
  • Yasso Greek Frozen Yogurt Bars in salted caramel. Really good and only 100 calories! I'm just five pounds away from my goal weight, so a sweet snack that's low calorie is exactly what I need.


I finished a She Reads Truth study on 1 and 2 Corinthians. It was really good! The study on forgiveness from chapter --- was really powerful. Now I'm starting a study of Judges.


  • How to use Canva. I love this app! It lets me design professional images for my blog and social media and gives everything a cohesive look.
  • How to wait. Patience is not my strong point, but God is teaching me to trust Him and His timing for my dreams.
  • How to use the Xodo app for digital planning

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

What I'm Reading This Year

My Goodreads goal for this year scares me a little. I bumped it up to 50 books, almost a book a week. With church events, kids, work, family plans, and more, it's a tough goal. But I have a reading list that's 200+ books strong and growing, so I knew I needed to step up my goal this year. 

My go-to genre is mystery/suspense. It's been my favorite since I was a kid reading every Trixie Beldon and Three Investigators book my hometown library had on the shelves. Lately, though, I've been making an effort to branch out a bit more, and I've found some really amazing authors. The Modern Mrs. Darcy reading challenge is also pushing me to go outside of my reading comfort zone, with categories like "a classic you've been meaning to read" and "a book in translation."

Just over halfway through the year, I'm on track with a total of 28 books read so far. I'm reading a combination of print books and ebooks, with some audiobooks thrown in for my commute. I've found some new genres I love and rediscovered a love for others. Here's what I'm reading a lot of this year:

1. Classics

I love the LibriVox and Audible apps, and for the past couple of years, I've used them to listen to a lot of classics. This year I listened to Pride and Prejudice on Audible (my "classic you've been meaning to read"), and Emma on LibriVox. I'm not sure how I lived almost forty years and never read Jane Austen until this year, but it happened. At least I'm fixing it.

I'm also hooked on classic mysteries. I've read two Agatha Christie novels so far this year and watched two movie adaptations as well. I'd forgotten how much I love classics.

Next on TBR list: undecided. Maybe another Jane Austen, or maybe Little Women, the book that made me want to be a writer--I have an Audible version that would be perfect for my drive to and from work.

2. Split-time stories 

I started 2018 with a bang and read Jaime Jo Wright's The House on Foster Hill. Wow! It's a mystery, but with a unique twist: two mysteries in two time periods, woven together into one amazing story. I just finished her second novel, The Reckoning at Gossamer Pond, and it was just as good as the first book.

Last year I was introduced to split-time stories with two Kristy Cambron books - The Butterfly and the Violin, and The Ringmaster's Wife. I really enjoyed both! I have all of Kristy's books on my Kindle app. I'm looking forward to reading more.

Next on my TBR list: The Love Letter by Rachel Hauck. This fills a category on the Modern Mrs. Darcy reading challenge - "a book recommended by a librarian or indie bookseller."

3. Deep women's fiction

The cover of Elizabeth Byler Younts' The Solace of Water grabbed my attention first, but when I read the description, I was already hooked. This historical/women's fiction set in the 1950's tackles deep issues like race, grief, and friendships that cross boundaries. The fact that one of the main characters is a pastor's wife was a plus, too. This is one of the best books I've read in a long time and may end up being my favorite of 2018.

Last year I read The Feathered Bone by Julie Cantrell, another book that fit this category. It's a deep, heartbreaking, hopeful story that stayed with for a long time after I finished. I love books that aren't afraid of hard topics and grim realities.

Next on my TBR list: The Space Between Words by Michelle Phoenix

4. YA fairy tale retellings

After a really deep, heavy book, I have to balance it out with something light and fun. I love YA fairy tale retellings! I've spent the past few months reading The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer. Melanie Dickerson is another favorite. I'm in the middle of The Princess Spy right now.

Deep, realistic fiction is my favorite - heavy hitting books that tackle life's most difficult issues head on. But sometimes life itself is too heavy and difficult, and I want a fairy tale. I want to know that the good guys win, that the princess finds true love, that the good guy gets the girl he loves. I want a guaranteed happily ever after. Fairy tales are a natural fit! And for the record, Beauty and the Beast is still my favorite story ever.

Next on my TBR list: finishing Melanie Dickerson's series (I'm on book five)

What are you reading now? What books would you recommend for me in these categories?