What I Read: August 2017

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What I Read: August 2017

August was such a great reading month for me! All of these books were at least four stars, and two were five-star books for me on Goodreads.

What Falls from the Sky by Esther Emery – This memoir follows Emery as she chooses to take a year without the Internet: no e-mail, texting, blogging, or even using a debit card. She has just moved to Boston with her husband and kids after a major marital rift and leaving a theatre career. Esther’s raw emotions definitely spring off the page as she discovers the art of writing letters, how to bake bread, contemplates her odd childhood, and reconnects with God and her late mother’s memory.

I didn’t come away ready to give up the online world myself (or move to a yurt, like Esther and her family have), but it definitely gave me a lot to think on and desiring more quiet. A really beautiful book that speaks to our modern age. (I also love that the events of this book happened quite a few years ago; I don’t think she was performing the experiment just to get a book deal.)

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas – You may have heard the premise of this timely book: teenager Starr is with one of her best friends, Khalil, when they are pulled over by a white police officer and Khalil, unarmed, is shot and killed. In the aftermath, Starr tries to make sense of her two worlds: the projects where she lives and the wealthy school where she and her brother are two of a handful of minorities.

The book is gritty but feels so real, and I think it’s an important one for those of who are who privileged, white people to read especially. It’s YA, but if your kids are going to read it do be warned there is a lot of language and some sexual content.

The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui – This graphic memoir explores Bui’s family history: her parents’ growing-up years in Vietnam, their marriage and the young years of Bui and her siblings, and how they all fled to America in the midst of conflict in Vietnam. There is still a lot I don’t understand about the history of Vietnam, but Bui’s drawings and writings both illuminated the grief and hope of the times. I found the way Bui wove her current situation as a parent with reflections on her own parents’ parenting to be skillful and thoughtful.

Trajectory by Richard Russo – Trajectory is Russo’s latest work, a collection of four short stories. I am not generally a short-story reader, but I liked that these are longer, about 75 pages each, giving time to know the characters and get the feel of the story. I loved how the first three felt slightly connected – like a minor character from the previous story morphed into someone in the next tale. (Although the fourth one didn’t have that connection, so maybe it was coincidental?) I found “Voice,” the third story, to be the most provocative.

Russo’s writing is just so darn good. The only one of his books I have read is Bridge of Sighs, but I think I’m going to need to dig into his other works. There’s a reason he is a Pulitzer Prize winner.

Beartown by Frederick Backman – Y’all, this book broke my heart into little pieces. (That might be a theme this month. Nothing light here.) It’s another way-too-relevant read for right now. If you’ve read A Man Called Ove, you know Backman is a masterful writer. He uses the same voice in Beartown, but a much more serious tone. You think this book is about hockey in a small town. And it is. But it’s also about small-town thinking, growing up, secrets, and the politics of wealth and privilege. So much good here, although it’s certainly not easy to read certain events in the book. Five stars all the way.

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So what have you been reading lately? 

This will be added to Quick Lit at Modern Mrs. Darcy

What I Read: July 2017

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I’m so excited to share my July reads because several of them were so good!

Moloka’i by Alan Brennert – This book is more than a decade old (2003), but I hadn’t heard of it until I became a part of a Facebook group that talks books. It got rave reviews there, and so I grabbed it somewhere (a thrift store, I think) when I saw it for cheap. I was not at all disappointed.

Moloka’i is the island to which Hawaiians with a form of leprosy are shipped in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Separated without choice from their friends and family, the “colonists” of the island form family units and unshakeable bonds. Rachel is just 7 when her sores are discovered and she is cut off from her close-knit family, including her beloved father, a merchant who sails around the world. Rachel finds her own dreams of seeing the world cut short, instead facing a lifetime of the sameness of Moloka’i.

The novel follows Rachel’s whole life. It is heartbreaking – especially because this island and the epidemic really did exist – and beautiful. I was so moved and tearful over one part that I had to chant “it’s just a book” to myself for awhile. I highly recommend you invest the time to read this 400-page novel soon if you haven’t yet.

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon – Dimple and Rishi are betrothed. Except Rishi knows, but Dimple doesn’t. All Dimple knows is that she’s going to her dream camp, a six-week summer program centering around designing a smartphone app. Fiercely driven and Stanford-bound, Dimple has her eyes set on the prize, not on having a relationship, and especially not finding that “Ideal Indian Husband” her mom is always talking about.

Rishi is the boy you fell in love with in high school or wanted to find: hopelessly romantic, artistic, utterly devoted to his family and culture.

Yes, the plot may have been slightly predictable, but the different cultures and people represented really livened it up. I thought the one scene of intimacy probably could have been left out, but that’s just not my thing.

I stayed up way too late finishing this one, because it swept me away in ooshi-gooshyness, as any good YA romance should.

Someone Else’s Love Story by Joshilyn Jackson – I have mixed feelings about this one. I even emailed (my now obvious best friend since I was on her podcast) Anne Bogel, because she’s highly recommended Joshilyn Jackson as an author, and we had a chat about this book and others.

I think the plot of this book is really interesting. Shandi, a young, single mom, is held up at a gas station with her son. William puts himself in the path between the robber and her son, and her heart is stolen. Shandi doesn’t know William has his own long and sad story, and their attraction might be just too messy.

Meanwhile, there’s a lot of very graphic sex here as we find out how Shandi’s son was conceived and about William’s past relationships. It doesn’t feel entirely extraneous to the book, but it was a lot for me. I really don’t enjoy reading graphic stuff like this. Anne assured me not all her books are like that, and I’m willing to give another one a try, because I really did think the story was excellent. Just a little gritty for me.

Light a Penny Candle by Maeve Binchy – Have I had this book in my possession forever? Yes. Have I ever read it? No. Why? I have zero idea. This is Maeve Binchy’s first novel, and I think it’s the only one of hers I had never read. I’m a huge Maeve fan, but this one was a little awkward.

The first half felt like many of her other books: comfortably settling oneself into the story of Elizabeth, an English girl, and Aisling, an Irish preteen, who are thrown together when Elizabeth’s mother sends her off to live with Aisling’s family in Ireland during World War II. After spending five years together as sisters and best friends, their bond extends throughout their lives.

Here are my two complaints: first, the last maybe 10 percent of the book feels incredibly clunky and like it was rushed. It doesn’t feel like Maeve to me. Second, my copy had what I thought I was a spoiler on the back cover. If it was really a spoiler, it would have been for the last 50 pages of the book; but I came to find out it was really juicier than what actually even happened. I was annoyed the whole time that I hadn’t reached that obviously pivotal event from the back cover, and then realized it wasn’t even accurate. Granted, this copy was probably from 1985 so I guess I can’t complain to the publishers now. Note to self: never read the back cover or flap copy. Ever.

(This makes five finished and one abandoned from my 2017 Read the Shelves challenge!)

Rabbit Cake by Annie Hartnett – And now for something completely different … this is a new book, published in March. It’s about a 10-year-old girl but not classified as YA, but it is written in a 10-year-old voice. Elvis loves animals passionately, adores and is scared of her older sister Lizzie, and misses the rabbit cakes her mother baked. Because her mother sleepwalked herself to a river and drowned, and Elvis’s counselor has given her 18 months to complete the grieving process. Meanwhile, she’s trying to keep Lizzie from sleep-eating, her dad is wearing her mom’s robe and lipstick, and Elvis still has to stumble through fifth grade.

It’s as quirky and crazy as it sounds, and I found it absolutely charming.

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So those were my reads for July! I’ve already finished one five-star read in August and am working through another which I think will also be five stars for me! (COMPLETELY different books.) You can follow me on GoodReads if you want to know what I’m currently reading and finishing!

What I Read: June 2017

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I’m beginning to face the fact that I am probably not going to reach my reading goal for this year, which was 80 books. But the more I think about it, the more I feel totally OK with that fact. Because, maybe for the first time ever, I am reading higher-quality books, books I think will be worth the time investment.

With four kids and a home to manage, my time is valuable. I don’t want to waste it reading books I don’t enjoy or love. I put a book down today after a few chapters because I found myself thinking, “I am going to regret putting the time into this book, aren’t I?”

I only finished four books in June, and I was sort of shocked that I did not finish one book while we were at the beach; usually I can plow through 4 to 5. But I did read about half of Middlemarch there, which is an 800-page classic, so that’s nothing to sneeze at, right?

All that said, I really enjoyed all four of these books and am happy to have read them!

Pearl Weaver’s Epic Apology by Rachel Keener – I was so thrilled when Rachel Keener saw my love for her book The Memory Thief and e-mailed me about it years ago. It’s so fun to converse with an author! So I was pleased as punch to hear from her again this year, asking if I would read and review her new, self-published book, Pearl Weaver’s Epic Apology.

Pearl only remembers being with her father in their museum-like home, filled with the relics of their ancestors. She remembers her first literary obsession, Cassandra from the myths. And when she quickly loses all she’s known, Pearl takes us for a crazy joyride of emotions; the preteen brain leading us through more literary trails, assumed identities, and wild journeys.

I don’t know if Pearl’s tale is 100% believable, but it sure is interesting. Keener gracefully weaves in the Southern enchantment, faith, and Pearl’s family history. It’s a hefty book, but a lovely story. (Although it takes until the last page to “get” the title!)

Rachel provided me with the book to facilitate my review; I did not receive any other compensation and provide my truthful review here!

Rhinestone Jesus by Kristen Welch – Yes, this was on my Read-the-Shelves challenge for the first three months of 2017. Apparently that is going to take me all year. Oh well!

I gave this book five stars on GoodReads. I have read Kristen’s blog sporadically (I am honestly not much of a blog reader anymore …), but I do get e-mails about her ministry, Mercy House, which I have supported some through the years. This is the story of her marriage and family, and how she grew and changed, became a writer, traveled to Kenya, and then founded Mercy House. It’s also a challenge to Christians to look beyond the acceptable, American Christianity and into a Jesus-filled life that is terrifying but fulfilling.

I appreciated and was challenged by Kristen’s words, as I am every time I read something from her. I hope this book will continue to challenge my faith and heart as I reflect on it.

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate – I have heard so many good things about this middle-grade book, and it did not disappoint! I wanted something kid-friendly to listen to on the way to the beach, so we downloaded this on Overdrive. I thought the narration was excellent, and the book has a dry humor that is perfect. It is touching and sad while at the same time funny and uplifting in places.

Note: It does talk some about humans being descended from apes, so if that is going to be a huge issue for you, here’s your fair warning.

Middlemarch by George Eliot – I’ve been reading bits of this since early April, but I finally settled down and made myself read JUST it in June so I could actually finish. There were parts when I wished I had a little better understanding of English society in the early 1800s to help clarify, but in general, it’s a story that focuses on relationships. And these relationships feel much more modern – or at least truthful – than some of the ones we see in classic literature. The marriages are difficult. Friends are flighty. Families aren’t always awesome. Money makes problems.

Eliot’s famed work is really masterful, and I won’t forget these characters quickly. Classics are classics for a reason, apparently. 😉

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How is your summer reading going? Read anything wonderful lately?

This will be added to Quick Lit at Modern Mrs. Darcy.

What I Read: January/February 2017

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Well, y’all. The beginning of February was nuts, so I never got my January book post up here! C’est la vie. Now we have a double whammy for January and February. (February is over. How did that happen???)

A Portrait of Emily Price by Katherine Reay – I really want to like this novel (a lot like I did The Bronte Plot [my review here]). There’s nothing wrong with it, and Reay writes so beautifully. I just felt like there were two books packed into one. DO NOT READ THE COVER COPY OR SYNOPSES. It gives away the entire first half of the book, and I hate that! I liked this one better than The Bronte Plot, but definitely less than Lizzy & Jane and Dear Mr. Knightley. I LOVE that Reay weaves faith into her novels without being heavy-handed, and I have faith she will write more novels I adore in the future.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi – This is a book everyone was talking about during the second half of 2016. I snapped it up on sale for my Kindle and read it almost right away in January. It didn’t read quickly for me, but the pictures Gyasi drew are vibrant in my mind. The book follows two women from modern-day Ghana: one marries a British merchant who is part of the slave trade in her country; one becomes a slave. The novel features one story from each family line per generation, up to the modern age. It’s striking and beautiful and ghastly and definitely worth reading.

Giddy Up, Eunice by Sophie Hudson – Sophie continues to be hilarious and wonderful. I loved this book, a study of pairs of women in Scripture and mentoring relationships. Her message that mentoring relationships don’t need to be formal in the church but they sure are needed really hit home with me. And I love the stories about Hudson’s mother-in-law, Martha. She is truly a hoot.

Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal – Another collection of interconnected stories, this one follows Eva Thorvald from her infancy to young womanhood, as told by those around her. Her father, her cousin, acquaintances, friends, enemies – all tell us a tiny bit about Eva, a girl and woman with a passion and talent for food. There was one part of this book where I thought I might quit; Eva’s cousin, Braque, has quite a filthy mouth and her chapter was hard for me to get through. But the rest was more “palatable.” It didn’t blow me away, but I LOVED how it wrapped up.

So … I read one more book in January. But it was as a result of the fact that Anne Bogel recommended it to me on her podcast, What Should I Read Next? I KNOW. I am such an Anne fangirl and this was SO EXCITING. So I’m going to keep that book a secret until after the podcast airs (should be the next few weeks), but I will say that I read it in 24 hours and it was totally a 5-star book for me.

The Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell – I’d heard this one recommend from several sources. America seems to be obsessed with hygge, the Danish word that can’t really be interpreted but seems to mean finding comfort and warmth with family during the winter. In this memoir, Russell shares about the year she and her husband moved to Denmark. Her husband fulfills a childhood dream of living abroad and working at Lego; Russell gives up her fast-paced work for a freelance lifestyle. Russell is British, and I will confess some of the British lingo mystified me. Russell reports on medicine, children, work, food, and other areas that make up life in Denmark. All of her experts report themselves to be extremely happy. I read some criticism that yes, but none of her experts were minorities or others to whom Denmark might show its harsher side. Despite talking about how expensive Denmark is, Russell and her husband seem to have enough money for daily pastries and to buy expensive home decor constantly. This was a pretty solid 3/5 star book for me. I didn’t love it, in some places things seemed glossed over, but it is readable and interesting.

The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio by Terry Ryan – The 50s and 60s were an era of jingles and contests for all kinds of brands: in this book, we find contests sponsored by everything from Bic pens to laundry detergents to Almond Joy bars. And Evelyn Ryan, a housewife and mother of 10, works hard at these contests to keep her family afloat while her husband drinks away a good deal of his paycheck.

Told by Terry, one of those 10 children, this true story is unique and heart-warming. It was fun to find out that one of the fellow contest winners whom Evelyn befriends (Emma) was my uncle’s aunt. Such a neat tie-in! The never-ending lists of contest entries can get to be a bit much, but I understand why they’re there. Has anyone seen the movie? I’m interested to see it now.

The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher – Many of my favorite books are long, family-centered dramas. Last summer I read Winter Solstice by Pilcher (review here), and knew I wanted to read more of her work. I think The Shell Seekers is her most famous and successful novel. Sixty-something Penelope Keeling lives in the country in England. She has three adult children, a giant garden, and a fascinating history. Her father was a famous artist, her mother young and French. Through the novel, we see through the eyes of Penelope and all of her children. The family struggles as they battle over her mother’s prized possessions: artwork done by her father, whose paintings are now selling at high prices.

This novel is 30 years old, but the story is timeless. Penelope’s wartime remembrances are enchanting and heartbreaking. I can almost guarantee you will like it, no matter who you are.

Bridget Jones: Mad about the Boy by Helen Fielding – Thirteen years after her last appearance, Bridget Jones comes back as a widow in her early fifties. Unfortunately, in her head she still seems to be a twentysomething with no idea what’s going on. She wants to be a screenwriter, but mostly she’s on Twitter.

I remain baffled how any grown woman can eat like Bridget does and not weigh 400 pounds. (Maybe she doesn’t eat on the days she doesn’t write?) I am a little concerned that Bridget doesn’t seem to have evolved as a character: she is still flighty, self-absorbed, and generally confused about life. And yet, the book was still a fun read. I just hope I have life slightly more figured out at 51 than Bridget does.

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So from my Read the Shelves Challenge, I’ve finished two and abandoned one book that just wasn’t resonating with me right now. I had checked out a big stack from the library but made myself return almost all of them so that I will actually read the books from my list!

How is your 2017 reading so far? 

This post will be added to Quick Lit at Modern Mrs. Darcy

What I Read: December 2016

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I’m almost surprised at how many books I finished in December, given the harried schedule I felt like we were keeping and having a new baby. But I keep my routine of a hot bath and book before bed most nights (SELF CARE for the win), and it keeps me reading most days. Plus several of these were easy, two-sittings kind-of reads.

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick – In episode 40 of the What Should I Read Next Podcast, bookstore owner Holland Saltsman mentioned this book alongside The One-in-a-Million Boy and The Sparrow as favorites of hers. Since I love both of those latter two books, too, which are vastly different, and I thought the description sounded wonderful, I decided to pick up Arthur Pepper. 

Widower Arthur is fairly reminiscent of A Man Called Ove – he’s hiding from his neighbor, wondering what to do with the rest of his mundane life without his wife. But the stories diverge greatly. Arthur finds a charm bracelet that belonged to his late wife; he doesn’t remember ever seeing it nor does he understand where the charms came from. This book tells of his journey to discover the sources of the charms … and maybe some things about his wife he didn’t really want to know.

Although in some places his search just seems too easy and unrealistic, I liked the tale, especially his relationship with the neighbor and her son. It was sweet and fun, a little like Ove but maybe without the emotional pull being as high.

All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood by Jennifer Senior – I mentioned this book in my top 11 of 2016 post the other day. It takes a really interesting nonfiction book to catch my attention. This one is a parenting book that focuses on parents, not children. Senior tackles the question of how modern parenthood affects all kinds of parents with both research and her own firsthand observation of families. While she definitely finds that parents are stressed by the current definition of childhood and overscheduling, Senior isn’t judgmental at all. The whole book is easy to read, packed full of information, and a little too relatable for this mom.

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch – Dark Matter was a big hit among the women of the book discussion Facebook group I’m in. It came out in July, and was an Amazon Book of the Month. This is the kind of book where it’s better to know very little going in and simply experience it; let’s just say that Jason, the main character, is whisked away on a trip to the grocery store and wakes up in a realm that isn’t his. The physics of this premise definitely go over my head (and my husband, the mathematician who was a physics minor, says, “It’s bad physics, but it doesn’t really affect the book”), but I still enjoyed reading this thriller. It’s incredibly readable; I think it took me three days and my husband two days to finish. I wasn’t quite as enamored with the book as some of my bookish friends (like Amy Allen Clark, who listed it among her favorites of 2016), but enjoyed it as a quick, interesting read. I’m always up for something a little different.

The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon – I really loved Yoon’s 2015 book Everything Everything. It’s one of those books that I like even more the more I think about it. So I was super anxious to get my hands on The Sun Is Also a Star after it was released in November. In it, we meet Natasha, whose family is Jamaican and in the middle of an illegal immigration crisis, and Daniel, American-born of Korean parents, who is facing his future with confusion. These high-school students meet by chance, and the whole book takes place over the one day they spend together. Daniel’s poetic spirit and Natasha’s insistence on realism and science will both capture your heart. I loved it, and will quite happily read anything else Yoon writes.

My Name Is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout – This is not a book with a lot of plot. If you’re looking for something plot-driven, this is not going to be your book. But if you enjoy a good character study, you will probably delight in My Name Is Lucy Barton. Lucy, now in middle age, reflects on some weeks she spent in the hospital in the 80s. Through this reflection, we learn about her parents, her upbringing, her time raising her two daughters, and how these things influenced the rest of her life. Most poignant is her troubled relationship with her parents, coming to a head as her mother visits her in the hospital.

Strout does an amazing job really capturing a character. To me, this was well worth the short time it took to read.

Chains by Laurie Hale Anderson – I found this in the library while searching for something YA to read. And here’s the thing: I just don’t think it was the right time for me to read this book. My December brain was too frantic, and I just couldn’t give enough attention to this story. Isabel is a young slave girl during the beginnings of the American Revolution, sold from a kinder owner to an upperclass, Loyalist couple in New York City. The picture of slavery in NYC alongside the information about the Revolution was very interesting. The characters are vivid, and honestly, I would like to read the other two books in the series. I just need to wait until I have more brain space for them.

Hillbilly Elegy by JD Vance – Strangely enough, once on Christmas Break I had plenty of brain space to dive into Vance’s 2016 memoir, extremely relevant to this election year. Vance grew up in Middletown, Ohio, pretty close to where my parents were born and raised. He tells the story of his grandparents, who left rural Kentucky for a better life in Ohio, but carried with them the “hillbilly” lifestyle. Growing up poor, with a single mother, among drug and alcohol abuse, Vance was destined to repeat the mistakes of those before him. And yet, Vance went to Ohio State and then Yale Law School and is a lawyer in California. How did he escape? What made it different? Can anything be done to help those in the same cycles of abuse, divorce, and poverty?

While his conclusions might not be especially hopeful, his story is powerful. I grew up middle-class with the knowledge I would always have meals, no one was going to hit me, and I was going to college. This election has, honestly, been really puzzling to me, as I know it has been to many. And this book did help me get a little clarity on how this all happened.

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I’m working on a few more books, but that’s what I finished this month. How about you?

This will be added to Quick Lit at Modern Mrs. Darcy

My Favorite Reads of 2016

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In 2016, I’ve read 79 books (and will almost definitely finish the 80th before this week is out, I am about halfway through Hillbilly Elegy. Which, by the way, I think would have made this list if I’d read it before now. An excellent read!). I tried to narrow this list to 10, but I couldn’t bear to cut another book. So here are my top 11 books I read in 2016.

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Fiction

The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood – This tale of a young boy obsessed with world records and the elderly woman he befriends is unique, sweet, and memorable. (Full review.)

Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher – One of those books that made me want to read EVERYTHING by the author. Also, I’m kind of sad I didn’t read it around Christmas. A sad tragedy brings a motley cast of characters together for Christmas in Scotland. Adored it! (Full review.)

Anne of Green Gables series by LM Montgomery – What a treat to read these treasures for the first time as an adult! I loved living in Anne’s world for a while. (And the world of her children, too!) (Full review.)

Station_Eleven_CoverI'll Be YoursA Man Called Ove

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel – Something about this post-apocalyptic novel is so intense, haunting, and lovely at the same time. Probably my #1 read of the year and one I would recommend to everyone. (Full review.)

I’ll Be Yours by Jenny B. Jones – I am a total sucker for Jenny B. Jones, especially her hilarious yet adorable YA romances. Raced through this one. (Full review.)

A Man Called Ove by Fredrick Backman – I love it when a book lives up to its hype. This one totally did. Backman’s book is funny, sad, poignant, memorable, and all-around lovely. How does a man in his 30s write older curmudgeons so well?

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Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte – I read part of Jane Eyre in college, but it must not have been much because there was nothing I remembered in this volume. A classic for a reason, Eyre is a fascinating heroine and I think I could reread this and get all kinds of different things from it. (Full review.)

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton – I keep finding myself recommending this Kate Morton historical mystery to others. A great book to dive into, Morton opens with a family drama that continually flashes back to World War II era. One I stayed up late to finish. (Full review.)

Nonfiction

All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood by Jennifer Senior – Full review coming, as this was a December read for me. Senior’s study on modern parenting focuses on the parent, not the child. Reinforced my strongly held notion that we should only do at most one activity per child, and challenged me in some other areas. Just a really interesting read.

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Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker – This was definitely a faith-stretching year for me. We left our church and found a new one that is a completely different space. Jen Hatmaker helped me  through that somewhat with this book and armed me with the knowledge that I wanted a Christianity that looked outside the walls of the church. I have not arrived, but I’m growing. Whatever your feelings on Hatmaker at present, I think this is great, stretching read for those who no longer feel OK with casual faith. (Full review.)

Choose Joy: Finding Hope and Purpose When Life Hurts by Sara Frankl and Mary Carver – I was on the launch team for this book, compiled by my good friend Mary from her late friend’s blog and writings. But my five-star review was not related to that; this is an excellent book, a book pushing the reader to truly live in faith and outside circumstances. Sara’s story is hard and heartbreaking, but her intense faith and optimism is inspiring. (Full review.)

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It was hard to cut out a few other favorites, but I think those are truly my top reads of the year. I’m excited that I will finish at least 80 books this year (plus I reread the seven Harry Potter novels – that counts, it’s just hard to count on GoodReads). What was your best read of 2016? What do you think I should read in 2017? I’m anxious to hear your answers!