Monday, December 4, 2017

Best Christian Non-Fiction of 2017

Yes, it's been quite a while, but I can't let the year end without doing at least a few best of posts.  Only a couple this year, because it has been a really slow reading and blogging year for me, but I do have some books I want to share.  Today I'm sharing the Best Christian Non-Fiction I read this year.  I read a lot of really great Christian authors this year in various attempts to deal with my divorce and hold on to something a little bit bigger than myself.  I found a lot of really great books about dealing with pain and loss and finding comfort when you need it.  Hopefully some of these will speak to you as well.

Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy

I read this one while I cried on my mom's couch after a particularly devastating weekend in the spring.  It was a perfect-book-at-the-perfect-time moment, when I needed mercy for myself and for others.  And, as always, Anne Lamott has something to say for everyone and pretty much every situation in life.  Read my review here.

The Broken Way: A Daring Path into the Abundant Life

This is one my mom and I read together and discussed.  Like Anne Lamott, Voskamp has a beautiful way with words and writes about loss and death and brokenness and new life beautifully in this book.

One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are

Another I read with my mom (you can see a theme emerging here) and another by Voskamp, this one on gratitude.  It has the same beautiful words and style as her second book and examines gratitude in ways I had never considered before.

Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life

I loved this one so much I read it twice in one year, once during Lent and once over the summer with my church mission community.  Warren links everyday practices with each step of the liturgy we practice in church on Sunday and it is a gorgeous meditation on allowing God into the everyday moments of our lives.  Probably my favorite of the year.

When God Doesn't Fix It: Lessons You Never Wanted to Learn, Truths You Can't Live Without

I read this one at the beginning of the year when my divorce was still fresh and it helped me tremendously.  Laura Story tells her own story of how her husband was impacted by a traumatic brain tumor and how, even after his surgery and recovery, his injuries have left him a changed man.  She delves into the hard places of how to keep going when God doesn't give you the fix you were looking for and doesn't heal things in the way you imagined he would.  A very good read for trying times.

The Anglican Way: A Guidebook

I finally dug into this one in an effort to learn more about the history and theology of the church I attend and what it really means to be Anglican and wound up so impressed that I chose to become a confirmed Anglican at the next opportunity in my area.  This book is really well written and provides great information for anyone seeking more information on Anglicanism and what the church believes.

Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint

Bolz-Weber is an author I enjoy reading and I have had this book on my shelf for ages and finally dove into it in the last few weeks.  I'm glad I did because she tells a great story of redemption and faith and doubt and ongoing struggle with what it means to follow Christ in the midst of difficulty.

Did you read any great Christian non-fiction this year?  Care to share in the comments?

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Book Review: How to Find Love in a Bookshop by Veronica Henry

How to Find Love in a Bookshop
Nightingale Books, nestled on the main street in an idyllic little village, is a dream come true for book lovers--a cozy haven and welcoming getaway for the literary-minded locals. But owner Emilia Nightingale is struggling to keep the shop open after her beloved father's death, and the temptation to sell is getting stronger. The property developers are circling, yet Emilia's loyal customers have become like family, and she can't imagine breaking the promise she made to her father to keep the store alive.

There's Sarah, owner of the stately Peasebrook Manor, who has used the bookshop as an escape in the past few years, but it now seems there's a very specific reason for all those frequent visits. Next is roguish Jackson, who, after making a complete mess of his marriage, now looks to Emilia for advice on books for the son he misses so much. And the forever shy Thomasina, who runs a pop-up restaurant for two in her tiny cottage--she has a crush on a man she met in the cookbook section, but can hardly dream of working up the courage to admit her true feelings.

Enter the world of Nightingale Books for a serving of romance, long-held secrets, and unexpected hopes for the future--and not just within the pages on the shelves. How to Find Love in a Bookshop is the delightful story of Emilia, the unforgettable cast of customers whose lives she has touched, and the books they all cherish.

In spite of the chick lit cover (which, to be honest, I kind of love), this one keeps up just fine with works that received a more literary slant, like The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry.  I loved the cast of characters Henry creates and the way she brings them to life on the page.  She has quite a bit going on here, but she manages to keep it all running smoothly and integrates each part into the whole in a clever way.  

Entertainment Value
I loved, loved, loved reading this one.  It's got everything I could ask for - a little bit of romance, the charm of an English village, cozy autumn nights, and loads of books and book references.  Add in the food and music descriptions and the whole thing is just perfection.  It's perfect for book lovers of all sorts.  

I highly recommend this, particularly to those who loved A.J. Fikry, but also to anyone who loves happy endings and cozy nights by the fire.  This is an absolutely perfect fall read and it's got all sorts of warm fuzzies to boot.  Read it wrapped up in a snuggly blanket and fall in love with the whole village of Peasebrook.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

What I Read in August

August was another fast and busy month, but filled with lots of good times with family and friends.  I was finally able to meet the newest Clark, my brother David's little son Wesley.  He's as precious as I knew he would be.  We spent a weekend at a cabin in Virginia, hiking and movie watching and just relaxing with family.  Of course I also had various book club adventures, and got to do some fun things with church friends. It wound up being my best reading month of the year so far as well. 
Here's what I read:

My Sister's Bones by Nuala Ellwood
Comics for a Strange World by Reza Farazmand
Rising Strong by Brene Brown
Ink in Water by Lacy J. Davis
Introvert Doodles by Maureen Marzi Williams
A Game for All the Family by Sophie Hannah
Adulthood is a Myth by Sarah Andersen
The Memory Book by Lara Avery
The Readers' Advisory Guide to Horror by Becky Siegel Spratford
The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown
It's Messy by Amanda de Cadenet
Are You Sleeping by Kathleen Barber
Pandora's Lab by Paul A. Offit
Adulting by Kelly Williams Brown
Spinning by Tillie Walden
Little Monsters by Kara Thomas
Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin
The Moth Presents: All These Wonders edited by Catherine Burns
Quiet Girl in a Noisy World by Debbie Tung

What did you read in August?

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Book Review: It's Messy by Amanda de Cadenet

It's Messy
In this deeply personal collection of essays, creator of the The Conversation Amanda de Cadenet shares the hard-won advice and practical insights she’s gained through her experiences as businesswoman, friend, wife, and mother.

Amanda is on a mission to facilitate conversations that allow all women to be seen, heard, and understood. Through her multimedia platform The Conversation, she interviews some of today’s most bad ass women—from Hillary Clinton to Lady Gaga—in no-holds-barred conversations that get to the heart of what means to be female. Now, in It’s Messy, Amanda offers readers an extension of that conversation, inviting them into her life and sharing her own story.

From childhood fame to a high-profile marriage (and divorce) to teen motherhood to the sexism that threatened to end her career before it started, Amanda shares the good, the bad, and the messy of her life, synthesizing lessons she’s learned along the way. Through it all, she offers an original perspective as a feminist on the front lines of celebrity culture. Edgy, irreverent, poignant and provocative, It’s Messy addresses the issues, concerns, and experiences relevant to women today.

As a fan of essays, and feminist essays in particular, I was excited to get a chance to review this collection for a TLC tour.  I wasn't familiar with the author and her past when I started the book, but I appreciated how candid she was about her history and how it impacts her as an author and interviewer now.  I wasn't overwhelmed with the quality of the writing here, but it was solid.  It felt like reading celebrity essays, more than reading author essays, and that's what we were getting.  No complaints, but no raves on quality of writing.

Entertainment Value
Thoroughly enjoyable.  These are all easy to read and the book itself is short.  It can be read in one sitting if you give yourself an hour or two or you can dip in and out as you want.  They don't need to be read in any particular order, so it's also possible to skip around to the topics that interest you the most.  I found them to be quite entertaining and the book as a whole to be a fun read. 

I recommend it to those who, like me, enjoy essays about feminism or to those who enjoy celebrity memoir.  Of course, those who are familiar with the author will also want to check it out.

Thanks to TLC and to the publisher, Harper Collins, for having me on the tour.  Click here to see the other stops.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Book Review: There Is No Good Card for This by Kelsey Crowe and Emily McDowell

There Is No Good Card for This: What To Say and Do When Life Is Scary, Awful, and Unfair to People You Love

From Goodreads:

The creator of the viral hit "Empathy Cards" teams up with a compassion expert to produce a visually stunning and groundbreaking illustrated guide to help you increase your emotional intelligence and learn how to offer comfort and support when someone you know is in pain.
I loved the combination of illustration and writing in this one.  They blend perfectly to create a manual for empathy that is easy to read and digest.  I learned so much about empathy from the very simple presentation and the conversational tone presented here.  The most important thing I learned was the importance of saying something, not just disappearing from fear of saying the wrong thing.  Thankfully, Crowe and McDowell present the reader with many great options for things to say to those who are suffering.

Entertainment Value
Of course it's a difficult subject to read about, the suffering of people we love, but the topic is handled so compassionately and with humor and heart that it is easy to read.  I thoroughly enjoyed my read of this, and, with some friends going through some particularly difficult moments in their lives, I may make it a point to reread it again sooner rather than later.

I can't recommend this one enough.  If you've ever struggled with what to say with a friend or loved one who is suffering, this is a must read.  The authors give specific and detailed help on words of empathy and how to treat loved ones who are struggling with scary, life-changing moments in a way that is easy to read and understand.  

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Book Review: My Sister's Bones by Nuala Ellwood

My Sister's Bones
Kate has spent fifteen years bringing global injustice home: as a decorated war reporter, she’s always in a place of conflict, writing about ordinary people in unimaginable situations. When her mother dies, Kate returns home from Syria for the funeral. But an incident with a young Syrian boy haunts her dreams, and when Kate sees a boy in the garden of the house next door—a house inhabited by an Iraqi refugee who claims her husband is away and she has no children—Kate becomes convinced that something is very wrong.

As she struggles to separate her memories of Syria from the quiet town in which she grew up—and also to reconcile her memories of a traumatic childhood with her sister’s insistence that all was not as Kate remembers—she begins to wonder what is actually true…and what is just in her mind.
Ellwood is a debut novelist, but you wouldn't know it from the quality of writing found here.  I was really impressed with how well she drew me into Kate's story and how well written her characters are.  I was pulled into the story from the very beginning and, while the characters aren't necessarily likable, I wanted to know their outcomes.  In a book like this, I think you can say that the author achieved her purposes.

Entertainment Value
Again, I was captured from the beginning and found it an easy book to breeze through in just a day or two.  The plot is detailed, but straightforward and easy to follow and the the pacing is perfect for carrying the suspense.  I wouldn't consider this a thriller in the traditional sense, but it is certainly one that will keep you guessing about the outcome.

It's a good addition to the collection of psychological/domestic suspense books that are popular at the moment, and is particularly admirable as a debut novel.  It avoids many of the pitfalls of other books in the genre and kept my interest throughout without revealing any surprises too early.  I'd recommend it for fans of the genre.

Thanks to Harper Collins and to TLC for having me on the tour for this one.  Click here to see the other stops on the tour!