2015 Book Superlatives

Posted on December 30, 2015 by Sarah Brown | 3 Comments

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

New Baby Boy and Christmas Coupon!

Posted on December 07, 2015 by Sarah Brown | 0 Comments

Hello friends!

It has been a while since I have done much on Glowing Local, as we have been taking some time off to welcome our new baby boy to our family. Another red head and such a great little baby…we are all thrilled to add him to our pack.

The past two months have been a much needed break for me. I had great intentions of getting some good blogs written, planning quite a few things for a holiday Christmas launch, working on some new journals; but, none of that happened…and it is great. Our family, my body, my soul…it all just needed a good rest and break from it all.

It has been nice to not feel the pressure to “do more” this holiday season, like trying to sell products or get our family overbooked in December. It’s been nice to take a big break from social media, having deleted the apps from my phone for a good chunk of time. It was especially nice to delete my work e-mail off my phone, making sure that I didn’t feel the pressure to “do something” all the time. Overall, it was just what I needed as we readjusted to our new normal routine around here.

I have been praying over Glowing Local quite a bit lately…after the summer, I was having funny feelings about doing the whole Christian business thing - whether I was being authentic, whether this is the direction I still wanted to go, whether I was allowing comparison affect me more than I realized. The past two months have been good to just step back and reset…I am still not quite sure what is next, but I know it has been good for my soul!

As the year winds down, I am thankful for so many blessings, especially our family, my work, our friends, and this great community who have supported Glowing Local over the past year - THANK YOU!  To show my appreciation, I want to offer 15% off individual Praying for your Husband journals from now until December 18. Use Code GLChristmas15 to get your discount. As the New Year rolls in, what a wonderful time to commit to praying intentionally for your husband (or future husband!)

Merry Christmas, and check back soon for more updates and end-of-year book posts!

Posted in Christmas, Coupon, Praying for Your Husband Journal

What I've Been Reading - September

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

It’s been a great month of getting back in to reading, and I have really enjoyed some of the books I picked up. Make sure to check the full list to get some more recommendations.

Favorite Books Read in September:
For the Love by Jen Hatmaker: I have been a big fan of Hatmaker for a long time and was eagerly anticipating the arrival of her new book. It was so very good – a great mix of Jesus, life, humor, and much more. An easy and quick read you won’t regret.

Life Intended by Kristin Hammel: Probably my favorite book from the month, I really enjoyed this story of moving on after you lose someone you love, but also how good life can be if you look beyond yourself. It made me think and contemplate my own life and where I am just allowing life to pass me by.
Hands Free Life by Rachel Macy Stafford: After reading Stafford’s first book Hands Free Mama, I was excited to check out her new release. The books are pretty similar, in the sense that they are encouraging the same idea. Even still, it was a great kick in the pants (again) and has made me rethink some big things I want to change in my life.
Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin: I have read a few books on habits and wasn’t sure what to expect with this one. I enjoyed her perspective about how your personality affects how you can make and keep habits. Easy reading; not overly research heavy, which was nice.
The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey: After seeing this one explode on social media amongst some different blogs I follow, I was eager to give this one a go. I would classify it as futuristic, paranormal, and just plain creepy. It was suspenseful and very interesting; I can definitely see why so many people like it.

Other books read this month:
Scary Close by Donald Miller: I really enjoyed this book but wouldn’t say I that I absolutely loved it. But, still a good read on vulnerability.
Mr. Penumbras 24-hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan: A fun read with a great magical quality to it. Enjoyable for sure.
What did you read this month? Any new book recommendations?

Posted in What I've Been Reading

Fighting By Praying

Posted on September 22, 2015 by Sarah Brown | 0 Comments

Two weeks ago, our large Bible study group combined with another large ministry in our area to do a private movie showing of the War Room…we had close to 600 women there! To be honest, when I heard we were seeing a Christian movie, I instantly thought it would be cheesy. But, due to some prodding from some friends, I ended up going - and boy, am I glad that I did! 

(my current morning War Room)

The movie centers on the idea of prayer and how we can fight for so many things by laying them at Jesus’ feet through prayer. In the movie, a mom is facing many struggles: failing marriage, disconnect with her daughter, financial struggles, job loss, and more. With prodding from an older mentor, this young mom sets up a War Room…a closet with no distractions dedicated to fight for important things in her life by giving them over to God in prayer.

I can’t help but thinking about the many things I fight for in my life: my schedule, time alone, how I am perceived, our financial situation as a family, and so much more. I find myself fighting for these things on a daily basis.

But, the things the Lord tells me to fight for are so very different:

• Fight for a heart that shows love and openness to those around me (Phil. 2:3-4)
• Fight for joy, not allowing the devil to steal it away from me (John 10:10)
• Fight for an abundant life rooted in the Lord (Eph. 3:20)
• Fight for a mouth that speaks kind words and isn’t easily prone to gossip (Eph. 4:29)

The Lord gives us so many things to fight for, and one of the best ways I find to fight for these things is through prayer. To fight for joy by asking the Lord to protect it during busy seasons. To fight for love by praying different scriptures that remind me of how loved I am.

I love the idea of a War Room - a place to go that is your spot, with no distractions and nothing that can pull you away so that you can fight in prayer. When is the last time I decided to fight for the woman I want to become by getting on my knees in prayer?

I highly recommend for everyone to see War Room; as I think about the movie just a week later, I am still convicted and inspired to war through prayer (and not through my own doing). Definitely a movie that sticks with you.

What things do you battle daily that are easier to take on yourself? Do you have your own version of a “War Room” where you can go (distraction-free) and battle in prayer for the things worrying you in life?

Posted in Prayer, War Room

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

Best Friend Friday #7 - Fall Faves

Posted on August 07, 2015 by Sarah Brown | 0 Comments

Fall and school will be here soon. Are you ready for the fresh start, or will you be mourning the passing of summer? I always see Fall as a way to regroup, start over, instill some new habits, and try some new things. For this edition of Best Friend Friday, if you were my best friend, and we were sharing a cup of tea on my dog-hair covered couch, I would want you to know about these cool things to help you start fresh this fall:

Life Lived Beautifully journal: If you are looking for a way to jumpstart your quiet time, Gretchen of Life Lived Beautifully has created an excellent Give Me Jesus journal to help you get your thoughts down when studying Scripture. If you just need a fresh Scripture start this fall, it’s a great way to be intentional. I use it and love it!

Daily Adoration: Sara Hagerty of Every Bitter Thing is Sweet puts out a monthly Adoration list, which is a Scripture verse each day to focus on a particular aspect of God’s character. If you’re feeling like you could use a does of Scripture in the middle of the day, when everything feels overwhelming, I’d recommend committing to a month of adoring God using these lists. It’s a great thing to do over lunch or right when you put kids down for naps.

Le Pens: Now, for something practical, using fun pens can surely make you feel good about starting fresh. I love these Le Pens - they write very smooth, and they also don’t bleed through paper…major win for the new year!

Book club: Want to tackle some more reading this fall? There are some great online book clubs out there that are fun to try out. I’d suggest checking out the one through Incourage, the Influence Network, or the Red Couch book club. Know of any other good online book clubs?

What helps you start fresh each fall? Are you ready for fall, or sad to see summer go?

Posted in Best Friend Friday

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