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Best Books Read in 2017

Posted on December 29, 2017 by Sarah Brown | 4 Comments

It has been a LONG time since I've posted anything on this blog - so many reasons for that, but not feeling any guilt over it at all! Jumping back in today to share some of my favorite reads from this past year. I had another great year of reading - finished 115 books! Of all the books I read this year, these are the ones I find myself recommending over and over when friends ask for book recommendations.

Non-Fiction:

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah: I loved this on audio and would highly recommend that format. A story of a boy growing up in South Africa as a mixed-raced child during apartheid, I learned so much listening to this story. It is also fun and funny! A captivating memoir that is outstanding.

Falling Free by Shannan Martin: Talk about a book that really makes you look at things differently, Falling Free made me re-evaluate what I deemed as "comfortable" in my day-to-day and how my life could and/or would look different if I actually believed and did some of the things the Bible calls me to do (i.e. helping those in need and loving your neighbor). Martin is a great story teller, making this convicting read very enjoyable.

Deep Work by Cal Newport: Finally found time to read this one after I saw it pop up on "best of" lists last year - I can definitely see why! I find myself thinking about this book all the time as I try to find a balance in my work life. 

Unseen by Sara Hagerty: Oh man, this was an excellent read. I loved Hagerty's first book and had been highly anticipating her second book - it did not disappoint! As a mom of small children, this book really hit home for me in my current "season"; however, this would be a great read for anyone. Probably my favorite non-fiction read of the year.

Option B by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant: I never would have thought that a book about grief would have made my "top" reads of the year, but I found this book compelling and one of those "everyone should read this" type of books. Detailing the unexpected death of her husband, Sandberg writes a powerful book on how to engage with and talk to those who have lost someone, or how to man those waters yourself if you are currently grieving. 

Tattoos on the Heart by Gregory Boyle: This is a book I think I could recommend to anyone - young, old, male, female, religious or not. While it is technically a Christian book, the author weaves a universal story of hope. Detailing decades of work with gang members in Los Angeles, I found myself laughing out loud at many parts while also feeling my heart being tugged towards compassion throughout. This book was excellent (and despite my super long TBR list, I ordered his newest book immediately after finishing this one, if that tells you anything).

Fiction:

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas: This year I discovered a new genre that I love - fantasy (who knew)! I just LOVED this Court of Thorns and Roses series and pre-ordered the last book to arrive on my Kindle immediately, which I never do, if that tells you anything about how much I wanted to keep the series going. Great story line, great characters, and just a captivating "other world", I found myself looking for comparable other fantasy series to read after finishing this one (check out Daughter of Smoke and Bone!)

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult: I've dabbled in Jodi Picoult books for years but haven't read one in a while…so glad I grabbed this one! Looking at the death of a white supremacist's baby in a hospital immediately after birth, and the black nurse being charged with the murder, this book opened my eyes to so many things, giving new understanding through the multiple character viewpoints used throughout the book. Really loved it.

It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover: I just checked on Amazon, and I have bought this book 8 times this year to give to people, if that tells you anything! Another genre I would have said that I would NEVER read - romance (I actually didn't know it was considered a romance novel when I started, or maybe wouldn't have read it). Much like Small Great Things, this book tackles some big topics in an amazing way - I just loved it. I have read a few more of Hoover's books since then, and while they were good, this is my favorite.

This is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankle: Another one of those "tackling a big topic through fiction" reads of the year, this book tells the story of a young five-year old boy who decides he is actually a girl, and how his family deals with the that decision in his life. As a mom of a five-year old boy at the time, this book hit home in a big way, showing the sacrifice and love of family, no matter what. 

The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson: My first novel by Jackson (how did I wait so long?) but definitely a great read. Growing up in Alabama, I loved the Southern charm and "bones in the closet" family lore found in this one. An engaging and easy read with equal parts laugh-out-loud funny and family loyalty, no matter the cost, at the same time. Perfect lighter book.

Goodbye Vitamin by Rachel Khong: This might have been my favorite fiction read of the year, which is saying quite a lot, since it is a book centered around dementia. When a daughter returns home to help her father who is slowly succumbing to dementia, she learns so much about herself and her family in the process. This book is funny - I literally laughed out loud many times, while also being equal parts heartbreaking. What I found most endearing was the way the author showed how we are all dealing with our own little bit of crazy, humanizing the father's situation all the more. May not be for everyone, but definitely for me.

Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool: I read some excellent Middle Grade books this year and am slowing making my way through the Newberry winners list. Of all the middle grade books I read, this was my favorite. A heartwarming story of a young girl discovering who she is (and who her father really is) through small town life in Kansas, this story gives you equal parts mystery, coming-of-age, small town drama, friendship, loyalty, and more. Just excellent. (Other great ones: Wolf Hollow, The War That Saved My Life, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian)

Excited to jump into reading in 2018! What books should I add to the list?

Posted in Books, What I've Been Reading

2016 Book Superlatives

Posted on December 27, 2016 by Sarah Brown | 5 Comments

It has been a wonderful year of reading for me! Trying to just pick out a few superlatives turned into a LONG list I had to sort through, mainly because I enjoyed so many books this year. I was absolutely shocked to see that I had read 111 books this year, especially since I had a three month old at the start of this year, which I assumed would put a big damper on my reading (apparently not).

A few things that really helped my reading this year? I got a Kindle Paperwhite as a baby gift, and it has been life changing for me, especially when I was feeding my son so many times a day. Instead of scrolling through my phone, I read a TON on my Kindle. The other thing I enjoyed so much this year was joining the Book of the Month club. My parents were members over 30 years ago, and I remember when they would get books in the mail. It is fun to pick a newish book and receive it each month; it also pushes me to read things I wouldn’t normally pick out.

Here are my 2016 Books Superlatives; make sure to check out my favorite reads from 2014 and superlatives from 2015.

Book I feel like I could recommend to anyone:
Hope Heals by Katherine and Jay Wolf: This book was just so very good and one that I think everyone would love. Young, old, married, single, feeling like things are going well in life, or having a hard time - this book is a great story of redemption, hope, and love. When I think through my list of friends, I can’t think of anyone I wouldn’t love gifting this book to this year.
Runner-up: Peace Like a River by Leif Enger 

Most creative Christian read:
Giddy Up Eunice
by Sophie Hudson
: I read a good number of popular Christian books that come out each year, and I find that many times the books seem very similar. I always appreciate when an author really digs into a new topic or presents something with a new perspective. Sophie Hudson really did that with Giddy Up, Eunice; looking at the importance of friendship across a wide age range, this book was not only eye-opening and relatable, but also extremely entertaining (as usual with Hudson’s books).
Runner-up: Guarded by Christ by Heather Holleman

Book that made me feel like I was reading poetry (even though I wasn’t):
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson: Written in a very lyrical style, this was a definite favorite read of the year. A memoir told of life growing up as an African American in South Carolina in the 60’s and 70’s, this book just painted such a vivid picture of Woodson’s family and of a young girl finding out who she is through that family. Excellent read.
Runner-up: Roots and Sky by Christie Purifoy

 

Hardest to read:
A Mother’s Reckoning by Sue Klebold: A very difficult read about a horrible tragedy… the mother of one of the Columbine school shooters gives her account of her family, her son, and the tragedy that unfolded. Being in high school during this tragedy, I remember it well; reading it from the mother’s point of view gave an entirely new way of seeing this tragedy. I think it is so very easy to be judgmental of the killer’s family in a situation like this; however, this book truly gave me a new perspective.
Runner-up: The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom (slavery) and All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven (mental illness)

Book I talk about the most with others:
So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson: This book was just captivating to me. Looking at how social media has refueled public shaming as a form of punishment, the author delves into specific individuals who were slaughtered publicly, telling first hand accounts from these shamed individuals. Seeming shame in such a stark light was incredibly heartbreaking and fascinating.
Runners-up: An Unhurried Life by Alan Fading and Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer

Longest:
The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson: I bought this book three years ago and have been wanting to read it for quite some time; but, at 1280 pages, the mere size held me back from even starting it. This year, I finally tackled this one and am so very glad I did. I enjoy books like Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones, and this fit right into that category. I didn’t know it was the beginning of a series, which means keeping up with it signs me up for thousands upon thousands of more pages. 
Runner-up: A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin

Book I’m glad I read but would have a hard time recommending to others:
The Association of Small Bombs by Karan Mahajan: A National Book Award Finalist, this was a difficult read due to the subject matter and unfolding of events. Following the lives of people involved with and affected by a small bomb exploding in a Delhi marketplace, the many lives and their unfolding can only be seen as tragic. I am glad that I read this; however, I would have a hard time recommending this to that many people.
Runner-up: The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (slavery)

Book I read this year that everyone else read too:
The Martian by Andy Weir: While this came out in 2014, I didn’t jump on the wagon until early in 2016 with about everyone else. I wasn’t expecting to like this after hearing what it was about, but I enjoyed it so very much. Very thankful I read it before seeing the movie too. I’m glad I jumped on the bandwagon on this one.
Runner-up: Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance

Best Children's reading:
Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo: I just adored this book. Great characters, wonderful illustrations, a fun story. I have no doubt why this book was a Newberry Medal winner. This book is worth picking up, even if you’re not in middle school, as it is just a fun and delightful read.
Runner-up: The Midnight Fox by Betsy Byars

Book that gave me a new perspective on something that I thought I understood:
The Enduring Community by Brian Habig & Les Newsom: Written by one of our pastors, this book was a phenomenal look at the importance of the local church. The audience for this book is really anyone, but leaned more towards young adults, specifically the college-aged, looking at why investing in and committing to a local church, even during college years, is necessary. Really eye-opening to me about your local church in general.
Runner-up: When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett

New release I was most looking forward to that didn’t disappoint:
She Reads Truth by Raechel Myers and Amanda Bible Williams: I was so excited to see the authors of She Reads Truth writing a book this year, and pre-ordered it as soon as I heard about it. The cover is beautiful, but the words inside? Outstanding! I really loved this book - very relatable and easy to read, as well as encouraging.
Runner-up: When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

Best audio book:
The Crossover by Kwame Alexander: This middle-grade book was fantastic on audio. Told in a very poetic, lyrical type of language, I absolutely loved listening to this. A Newberry winner and a very short listen!
Runner-up: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Most Suspenseful:
Fool Me Once by Harlan Coben: I have had some mixed opinions of Coben’s books, but I really enjoyed this one. I was hooked right at the beginning and just wanted to keep reading and reading to find out what happened. And, with the storyline being about a wife seeing her recently murdered husband in their nanny cam, the premise of the book just got me from the beginning; with us having a baby monitor in our house, I just kept imagining what I would do if I saw something like that in our monitor!
Runners-up: The Likeness by Tana French and Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

Most enjoyable literary-fiction read:
One in a Million Boy by Monica Wood: This book really shot up everywhere after Modern Mrs. Darcy started recommending it to everyone. When it went on sale on Kindle, I snagged it quickly, and then proceeded to read it very quickly. The story was a mix of hope and sadness, joy and defeat, longing and ending - a great, more literary-fiction type of read with some excellent characters, a fun plot, and a look into some deep issues.
Runner-up: The Mothers by Brit Bennett

Christian book I keep going back to as I loved it so much:
Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst: This was hands-down my favorite Christian read of the year, and I find myself going back to it over and over again. I have so many sections underlined and starred, and I just love how TerKeurst points you towards Scripture over and over…makes for a great companion when doing my quiet time.
Runner-up: Fervent by Priscilla Shirer

Book that I still don’t know how I feel about:
Fates and Furies by Lauren Goff: I don’t even know how to describe my feelings about this book. While reading it, I felt kind of bored. It was long, not a lot going on, tons of description, characters with really cruddy personalities - I just didn’t get into it. Even with the big “reveal” in the middle, I was intrigued, but more excited to finish; and when I did finish, I thought “I just don’t like this book.” However, I keep thinking about it and feel like I can definitely see the genius in it now. Would I want to read it again? No. But I feel like the author is way more brilliant than I originally gave her credit for when reading.
Runner-up: Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Book I just didn’t like:
My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante: I actually read quite a few books that other people LOVE that I just couldn’t get into. This is definitely one of them. I saw this book all over social media and heard friends talk about loving the series; I could hardly make it through this book I disliked it so much. The characters were annoying to me in ways that I just couldn't get over, and the story just dragged for me. No interest in reading any more of these at all.
Runner-up: H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald

What books did you enjoy this year? Let me know below!

 

 

 

Posted in Books, What I've Been Reading

Books read in March, April, and May 2016

Posted on May 24, 2016 by Sarah Brown | 0 Comments

Looking at this list below, it was a very good few months of reading. I should not wait 3 months to update my book reads, as it makes for quite the long list to go through. Some amazing books, some really good books, and then some just-okay books these past few months…a few I would even deem as some of my favorite reads in a LONG time. Make sure to check out my full list of books read so far this year.

 

Favorite reads in March, April, and May

Unhurried Life by Alan Fadling: This book was life changing for me. I liked it so much I convinced my Bible Study to read it together over the summer. Made me question, and continue to question, how my hurry fits into God’s plan for me, and why I believe that hurrying is going to speed up God’s work and answers in my life. 

Hope Heals by Katherine and Jay Wolf: Powerful, powerful read. Made me re-examine my life, priorities, and made me think hard about my marriage. This is a great read for anyone - men, women, old, young, married, not married. Excellent.

A Mother’s Reckoning by Sue Klebold: I almost had to stop reading this multiple times; the best word I can think to describe this one is “harrowing." From the mom of one of the Columbine shooters, this book was an eye-opening look at parenting, how well you know your kids, tragedy, and grief. I’m very glad I kept at it and finished it.

A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin: Quite a weighty tome but one I thoroughly enjoyed. The character development and simultaneous movement of multiple stories…superb! Looking forward to reading the next in the series.

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi: Finished this book in less than 24 hours and immediately wanted to go back and read it again. When I tell people the gist of the book (a young doctor coming to grips with his fatal cancer diagnosis), many friends turn up their nose at it sounding so sad…I’d disagree - sad parts, but extremely hopeful.

Flora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo and KG Campbell: Such a fun middle grade reader book. I loved it - wonderful characters, laugh-out-loud funny, and great illustrations.

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson: This book was eye-opening. Looking at the ways that social media has reinvented public shaming, the stories and accounts of people ransacked in social media were extremely interesting (and awful). Glad I read this one.

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson: Finished this one in less than a day. Loved it! A big part of the book takes place in Greenville, SC (where I live!) so loved that as well. What a wonderful, easy-to-read story about growing up African American in the South.

Roots and Sky by Christie Purifoy: Lyrical and hopeful, the author painted such vivid pictures of her life through the changing seasons. It was a beautiful way to weave a Biblical perspective into the everyday. A wonderful read. 

Peace Like a River by Leif Enger: This was just fun. I really loved the characters and found myself really cheering for the Land family. Just an easy and enjoyable read.

I Want it All by Gwen Smith: This book kind of ebbed and flowed for me, but found myself highlighting big sections and going back to them after the fact. Really enjoyed her idea of holding your words up to a KUT test (kind, useful, true).

Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh: Listened to the audio book of this one and really, really enjoyed it. I found the chapter on company culture especially good. It changed my perspective on why I’m working and why I’m doing what I’m doing.

Life after Life by Kate Atkinson: This was an interesting read - the story keeps re-starting, playing out different scenarios based on the main character making different choices in life. With a plot like this, it is hard to really root for someone, as the main character’s personality changes based on the way her life plays out; but, I found the whole idea fascinating, as such truth in the way our decisions can affect so much in life. 

Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger: An easy but weighty read, with an added element of mystery. Really great character development, especially the two brothers and their understanding of life and tragedy. Find myself thinking on this one long after its been done.

The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom: How have I missed reading this book for so many years? I don’t typically enjoy fiction about slavery, but I could not wait to pick this up every time to read it. Such a wonderful story. 

The Martian by Andy Weir: This book has received so much hype, and I felt doubtful it could live up to the expectations - after reading it, I definitely get it. Such great sarcastic humor throughout that I thoroughly enjoyed!

Other books read these past 3 months (many were excellent!):
• Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates: Eye-opening look at growing up African American.
• My Year with Eleanor by Noelle Hancock: Taking the example of Eleanor Roosevelt, a young woman decides to do one thing that scares her every day for a year.
• Live Original by Sadie Robertson: Very teen-focused Christian inspirational on living out who God made you to be.
• Take This Bread by Sara Miles: Had high expectations for this one but not my favorite. 
• Curious Faith by Logan Wolfram: Really loved her idea of praying backwards for those that really bug or bother you.
• Girl Meets Change by Kristen Strong: A focused look on what to do and how to react to life-change from a Biblical perspective.
• Circling the Sun by Paula McLain: I really enjoyed the beginning of this book, but felt like things started to drag pretty quickly.
• Looking for Lovely by Annie Downs: I adore Annie Downs and loved the beginning of this book.
• In the Name of Jesus by Henri Nouwen: Always love a great Nouwen read; quick and very insightful.
• Wild and Free by Hayley Morgan and Jess Connolly: Some of the visuals painted through this book were especially good and really stuck with me, especially the idea of wild horses.
• I Said Yes by Emily Maynard Johnson: I unabashedly admit that I enjoy the Bachelor, which made this a fun read. The last chapter was by far the best one.
• Never Broken by Jewel: Did the audiobook on this one - Jewel’s life is very interesting; she has a very open spiritual practice, making me wish she knew Jesus.
• Crucial Conversations by Patterson, Grenny, McMillian, and Switzlier: A re-read of an excellent book about how to enter difficult conversations.
• The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater: This received such hype on social media but was a tad too far "out there" for me? Can’t decide if I’ll continue the series.
• The Son by Phillip Meyer: A long read, but overall, I enjoyed it. Interesting look at family dynamics and learned many interesting things about Native American tribes.
• The Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard: The follow up to the Red Queen; a tad more slow, but think I’ll still read the next in the series.
• No One Knows by J.T. Ellison: A suspense thriller that kept me reading. Would be great for the beach or a long car ride.
• Just Show Up by Kara Tippetts: A great and practical guide on how to be there for friends going through extreme tragedy or sickness.
• Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff: Jury is still out on this one. I finished the first half of the book and could not figure out why I was still reading; the 2nd part definitely helped redeem the read. 
• The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner: Wished this one had rounded out some of the characters more and wrapped up some story lines. 
• All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven: A really good read looking at teen suicide and young love; heartbreaking.
• Wisdom Distilled from the Daily by Joan Chittister: Found myself underlining and underlining again. 
    What have you been reading lately?

    Posted in Books, What I've Been Reading

    Books Read in January & February 2016

    Posted on March 04, 2016 by Sarah Brown | 0 Comments

    Oh my…it’s been a while. This year has been filled with so many things - and I just don’t quite know where I am with it all right now. I have given myself a big break from feeling obligated to blog or post on social media - because of that, I have been quite absent all around. The Lord is doing some serious work in my heart, and to be honest, I don’t quite know what that means. But, feel like more will be coming soon here on the blog.

    In the meantime, it’s been a slower reading year for me and will continue to be for this season. For one, I can’t stay awake at night! I read about 2 pages and am out like a light…it’s just a season of little sleep and lots of work, so just can’t stay up. And second, I’m giving myself a break from feeling like I have to read all the time - I love it, but sometimes can feel pressure to “keep up the pace” - so just taking it slower this year for many reasons.

    But, I did read some GREAT books the past two months, and I am excited to tell you about them. Make sure to check out the updated Books list and let me know what I need to check out in the next few months:

    Favorite Books read in January & February:

    When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett: Recommended by my pastor, this book was unbelievably eye-opening to how our efforts to “do” missions might actually be perpetuating the cycle of poverty and need, instead of helping. My whole perspective was rocked with this one.

    Fervent by Priscilla Shirer: I really loved the War Room movie and feel like creating the Praying for your Husband journal came out of my desire to pray fervently for my husband. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this continuation of the movie, and LOVED this guide…we are in a battle but have such power within us. Grab this one!

    Frozen in Time by Michael Zuckoff: As a history buff, I loved reading this one about what happened to multiple planes in Greenland during WWII and the continued effort to recover those planes, and their crew, today. Author did a great job going back and forth in time, keeping my interest piqued. 

    Strong and Kind by Korie Robertson: I’m a Duck Dynasty fan so was looking forward to reading this one. I really enjoyed the book - it gave me SO MUCH ENCOURAGEMENT in making decisions right now about how we are going to raise our two boys. The writing is simple and to the point (no fancy, lyrical prose here), but her overarching message was very good for the soul.

    Walkable City by Jeff Speck: This book really blew my mind in some regards, as I just had no idea about how cities are designed and how simple decisions make a HUGE impact on how people use spaces and the businesses that thrive (or die) in those spaces. Living in a highly walkable downtown (go Greenville!), I was pretty fascinated by the info.

    Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: It took me a while to get through this one, mainly due to its more serious nature, long length, and my extreme tiredness. But, so glad I stuck with this one, as it was very good. Really eye-opening look at some race issues going on in America; I had truly never thought about what it means to be “black” in America when you might actually immigrate from another country and not consider yourself “black” at all. 

    Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon: This is teen fiction at its finest - you’ve got love, a tough family situation, difficult circumstances, and the possibility of death. Not necessarily the finest of reading, and I guessed the “twist” pretty early on, but from a “keep your attention” standpoint, it was an enjoyable read that went very quickly.

    The Enduring Community by Brian Habig and Les Newsom: A wonderful book about church…why it’s important, why we shouldn’t choose when and how we go to church, and why being in a messy church situation is actually quite good. Really good look at the church today.

    The Cruelest Month & A Rule Against Murder by Louise Penny: More in the Gamache mystery series, I am still really enjoying these. There are slow parts in both books, but definitely a fun series that I’m looking forward to continuing. 

    2 a.m. at the Cat’s Pajamas by Marie-Helene Bertino: This book was highly recommended by a great Internet friend who has good taste in books. I ended wanting to know what happened after the very end of the book, which is a sign of a good read.

    All Joy and No Fun by Jennifer Senior: Being a mom to small kids, I could definitely relate to this one - looking at the happiness and woes of parenting and where that leaves us. Interesting read with good research.

    Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein: Another teen read, enjoyable and quick reading. Liked the twists and intrigue throughout. This would be a good read for teens as they think about friendship and what it could mean.

    Accidental Saints by Nadia Bolz-Weber: I really enjoyed her first book, and I found this one even better. A great look at how loving those around you and even in your church can often be hard and not fun…but how the Lord calls us to love in so many different situations. (Disclaimer: Nadia is not afraid to cuss…a lot! Refreshing?)

    Other books read this month:

    Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans: I read this right after reading The Enduring Community, and the books are pretty opposite in viewpoints. I think I would have enjoyed this more if I hadn’t read the two books in that order, but I just identified with the argument in Enduring Community much more.

    Learning to Walk in the Dark by Barbara Brown Taylor: Also read this while reading Walkable City, and you could put these two arguments right up against each other too. Great points, but not as much Christian connection as I was hoping for.

    #Girlboss by Sophia Amoruso: Did the audio book on this one. I didn’t know anything about her company but was seriously impressed. It felt a tad heavy on cliche business advice, but an enjoyable listen.

    Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo: This bestseller was good. I need to declutter majorly, and so many great thoughts on how to do it. I couldn’t get into the “socks have feelings” part of it, but overall good.

    It was Me All Along by Andie Mitchell: A good memoir about a blogger’s struggle with weight gain and then weight loss through her many life changes and tragedies.

    H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald: I enjoyed this, but it was a bad season for me to be reading this one - too serious for when I’m so tired. I think I would have liked this more at a different life stage.

    See Me by Nicholas Sparks: Quick, easy read - great for the beach or just when you need something fun. 

    The Good Girl by Mary Kubica: Easy and quick read on this one too. Not really quite sure what I’d say on this - I read it quickly and wanted to know what happened, but not entirely satisfied with how it all wrapped up?

    What would you recommend for the coming months??

    Posted in Books, What I've Been Reading

    2015 Book Superlatives

    Posted on December 30, 2015 by Sarah Brown | 1 Comment

    What a wonderful and interesting year of reading. I finished the year having read a total of 109 books - I can’t believe it! I had quite a few books I just couldn’t put down, a few series I can’t wait to continue, and a few authors I am eagerly awaiting new releases. Definitely a great year of books.

    I had a baby in October and was surprised at how pregnancy and having a baby affected my reading this year. I felt pretty bad the entire pregnancy and am still so very tired with the newborn phase; because of this, many books I thought I would enjoy just did not hold my attention; I really loved suspenseful, fast moving stories (lots of mysteries this year!)

    Instead of doing a top list of books this year, I decided to give my 2015 book superlatives. (Make sure to check out my 2014 list here).

    My 2015 book superlatives go to:

    Book that made me laugh out loud: Home is Where my People Are by Sophie Hudson. Such a fun book with so many funny stories, I wish I was friends with Sophie Hudson (she even lives in my hometown Birmingham - extra awesome!) Loved this second book from her, and hope she is working on number three.
    Runner Up: Nobody’s Cuter Than You by Melanie Shankle

    Favorite Christian read: Simply Tuesday by Emily Freeman. I love everything Freeman has written and couldn’t wait to get my hands on this gem. My days with a newborn feel extremely monotonous and mundane…and that is exactly why this book was so good for me (or anyone) who feels stuck…how God works in the everyday simple Tuesdays and how we can see Him there.
    Runner Up: Hands Free Life by Rachel Macy Stafford

    Most harrowing: Five Days at Memorial by Sheri Fink. Wow - I had no idea that doctors euthanized patients during Hurricane Katrina. Did you? A true story that read like an amazing mystery novel - I told so many people about this book.
    Runner Up: The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

    Favorite Non-Fiction read: Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson. This book changed me in ways I wasn’t expecting, and I find myself thinking about it months after reading it. A lawyer fighting to get those wrongly incarcerated (or those who didn’t receive a fair trial) off of death row. Truly gripping.
    Runner Up: Being Mortal by Atul Gwande

    Favorite Audio Book: As You Wish by Cary Elwes. I loved the Princess Bride and this audio book was a real treat. What I especially loved about the audio version was how the original characters from the movie narrated different sections so you actually heard their own voices - so cool!
    Runner Up: Food, a Love Story by Jim Gaffigan

    Book I Read the Fastest: Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty. Finished this one in just under 24 hours - absolutely loved it. Gripping and engaging. Exciting and suspenseful. Moriarty has many books that would fall into this “read fast” category for me.
    Runner Up: First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen

    Best Ending to a Series: Warden and the Wolf King by Andrew Peterson. I LOVED the Wingfeather Saga and have recommended it to so many people. Do yourself a favor and pick up the first book in the series this new year. 
    Runner Up: Winter by Marissa Meyer

    Most Girly and Fun: Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay. I don’t read a ton of girly fiction, but this book was just fun. Told through a series of letters, it was fast moving, thoughtful, and romantic. An easy book for sure!
    Runner Up: The Royal We by Heather Cocks

    Most convicting Christian read: Seated with Christ by Heather Holleman. I know Heather through my work and have read her blog for quite a while. A great book reminding us all that we are ALREADY seated with Christ and don’t need to strive for anything….nothing…nada. I especially loved her chapter that gave specific ways she engaged with those in her own neighborhood.
    Runner Up: Keep It Shut by Karen Ehman

    Most magical & captivating: Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen. Don’t judge this book by its cover - I almost didn’t read it when I saw the cover, assuming it was cheesy. I loved this book, and have since read it’s sequel, and plan to read many more from Allen this year.
    Runner Up: A Fall of Marigolds by Susan Meissner

    Best book geared towards a middle schooler: The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt. I don’t read a ton of middle school fiction, but this was a fun read that I was glad I picked up. Easy, and will remind you of your own middle school days.

    Best Thriller: I am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes. This is super suspenseful, no doubt. It is weighty coming in at over 600 pages, but well worth the read. I was easily captivated, and it even kept me up at night (which was hard to do this year!)
    Runner Up: Those Who Wish Me Dead by Michael Koryta

    Series I can’t wait to continue next year: Still Life by Louise Penny. I love a good mystery, but especially one with great character development and funny personalities. I laughed out loud at multiple lines in this book. I have already read the 2nd book in this series and just picked up the 3rd from the library this week.
    Runner Up: Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith

    Best Memoir: Wild in the Hollow by Amber C. Haines. Gripping, engaging, gut-wrenching, lyrical - I really enjoyed this one. Taking a broken past and showing how God makes himself real despite the circumstances.
    Runner Up: Make It Happen by Lara Casey - if you consider this a memoir :)

    Best Young Adult fiction: Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen. Families are complicated, and Dessen does a great job weaving a lovely story showing how certain decisions affect all people involved. Easy and quick read, with some fun romance mixed in.
    Runner Up: The Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

    Book I really enjoyed even though I was reluctant to read it: Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin. I was gifted this book almost 3 years ago but just never wanted to read it. I am so glad that I did - I really loved it. I have already gotten my hands on the 2nd book and plan to start it soon.
    Runner Up: Pastrix by Nadia Bolz-Weber

    Most anticipated new release that didn’t disappoint: The Lake House by Kate Morton. I really love anything Morton writes and had been eagerly awaiting this release. It is one of my favorite Morton books to date - so very good.
    Runner Up: For the Love by Jen Hatmaker

    Book everyone loved but me: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. This book is making many “best of” lists this year, but I just didn’t love it. As I mentioned above, it was a weird year for me and books, so maybe the end-times thing just didn’t sit well with having a new baby? Maybe I need to try this again sometime.
    Runner Up: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

    What books did you read this year? What should I check out in 2016?

    Posted in Books, What I've Been Reading

    Books Read Over the Summer

    Posted on September 02, 2015 by Sarah Brown | 0 Comments

    We just got home a few weeks ago from our summer away, and I still feel like I am getting my feet under me. I needed to take a little break before diving back into blogging…it has been much needed! I don’t read many books over the summer due to my crazy work schedule, but here are some of the books I read since my last book update

    Favorite Books Read this Summer:

    Wild in the Hollow by Amber C. Haines: I saw this book pop up everywhere on social media, so as soon as we returned home, I couldn’t wait to dive in. The writing is very lyrical and the author is a great storyteller, weaving some wonderful honesty with some gut-wrenching challenges over the years. Really enjoyed this one.

    The Royal We by Heather Cox: I saw this book pop up all over the place in the spring/summer and was a little hesitant about it. It is very fun! I thoroughly enjoyed it and could think of about 5 different friends who I wanted to lend it to next. If you want something light with a little romance, definitely a fun read.

    Simply Tuesday by Emily P. Freeman: I have ready all of Emily’s other books and couldn’t wait to get my hands on her newest one!  I really, really enjoyed it and found it to be so thought provoking regarding how you can either live your life at full speed or take the time to savor the little things. Great read.

    The Selection series by Kiera Cass: I feel a little silly recommending this series as it is mindless and kind of like the Bachelor in book-form. I couldn’t believe that I kept reading them and couldn’t believe that I kept ordering the next book. But, for summer reading, these were easy reads when I just needed a mental break.

    Other books read this summer:

    Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo: Enjoyable read but don’t know if I’ll be buying any more in the series - just didn’t hook me enough.

    Paper Towns by John Green: I know this book is very popular and many people love it; I just couldn’t get over how annoyed I was with the main characters. Think I am just over the teenage drama after working at a camp all summer, but I just found myself getting annoyed with Quentin and Margo.

    Posted in Books, What I've Been Reading

    Great Reads if you are Surrounded by Middle Schoolers

    Posted on July 29, 2015 by Sarah Brown | 0 Comments

    Have a middle schooler? Work with middle schoolers? Don’t ever want to remember anything about your middle school days? (Well, can’t help you with that last one…unless you want to commiserate.) Middle school is a rough time for everyone. These great books give a  look into the life of middle schooler and would be good reads for people surrounded by that age:

    Wonder by R.J. Palacio: This book made my best book list from last year, and I can’t recommend it enough. Telling the story of a boy with a face deformity, and how he manages the 5th grade world, it is a great read and shows how kindness can be seen and found in so many different ways.

    Graceful by Emily P. Freeman: I read this book as an adult, and knew that it was written for young girls, but gosh…it hit home with me in big ways, and most definitely would hit home with any young girls you are around. Talking through the struggle of trying to be the “good girl” and what God has in store for us instead. Even us big girls could really use this message. 

    Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt: This sure was a fun and good read. A young boy in middle school who deals thinks his teacher hates him…but really digs into the heart of some middle school stuff, like dysfunctional families, friendship, finding mentors in unlikely places, and the true goodness of people. Definitely one of my favorite books from this year.

    Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt: While this book is about high schoolers instead of middle schoolers, it is still a good read for that age group. The book really delves into family dynamics and how sisters grow, develop, and lose connection over the years. It made me really think about how people communicate, and how I might be missing what people are saying to me.

    Perfectly Unique by Annie F. Downs: One of my favorite Annie F. Downs books, it is written for young girls…but makes a great read for anyone that works with young girls. Talking through issues like self-image, praising God, and loving yourself, Perfectly Unique gives great advice and suggestions on making it through the tough middle school years.

    Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay: Once again, not a book about middle schoolers, but it hits on such big things that kids deal with growing up (like loss, pain, fear, tragedy, hope, love, etc.) It does a good job laying out the social dynamics of the school scene and how people who are different try to find their way in it. One of my favorite books from last year as well.

    What books do you recommend for someone surrounded by middle schoolers?

    Posted in Books, Middle School, Summer

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