Tag Archives: book

For the Love of Books

This piece originally appeared on Everyday Exiles.

One of my (very loose and mostly ideal but certainly not practical) goals of 2018 was to read more.

Yeah, I told you it was loose.

Anyway, I certainly accomplished it, and I’m proud to say that this week, I finished my 52nd book of the year. I know you people who have had reading goals every year and accomplished some sort of list of genres, authors, and new releases have certainly still beaten me, but for my life stage and loosey-goosey approach, I’m happy. My parameters were every bit as loose as the goal itself; almost anything counted. A mix of fiction and nonfiction, a mix of classics and modern YA lit. Some books took me more than a month to chip away at, one page and one day at a time. Other books I finished in a single day, and didn’t discount them for that. I read a poetry collection, and counted it. I counted two of the chapter books that I read aloud to my daughter. I also counted my advent devotional and a few books I read simply because I was interviewing their authors.

All this is to say that I learned a few things during my year of simply reading more. First of all, I learned that I like it better than watching TV. I don’t have anything against TV – in fact, I have several TV shows I love and have watched every episode of a hundred times. But when, at the end of the day, I need quiet moments of relaxation, I turn to books more happily. I also learned that while novels go very quickly for me, nonfiction is more than worth chipping away at. I used to hate reading nonfiction, but this year I have enjoyed more than a few spiritual memoirs, Scripture-based, and Christian lifestyle-type books (What even is the genre for all that, by the way?) and even a narrative nonfiction book that restored my belief in learning history past high school. I’m kidding, a little, but still.

I know a lot of people who would read, but “don’t have time” or they “can’t find anything they like past a few chapters in”. But to you guys, I’d encourage you to stick it out. Stick it out, try to build in the time, stretch your literary vocabulary, and explore a new kind of book you don’t usually read. If you haven’t yet found something you love, try the library instead of a bookstore until you find what you like, (It’s free, y’all. No-brainer.) even if it takes a little while.

What else did I learn? Well, I continue to learn that I’m no good at saying “No” to a book that looks even remotely interesting. A used book sale has my whole heart, and whatever cash I happen to have on me. I like libraries, but usually struggle with returning the books on time. I love my Kindle for the portability, but there’s nothing like turning pages. Reading in front of my kids makes them want to read, too. I’ll never stop buying books. I’ll never stop trading books with friends. I’ll never stop taking books to our neighbors’ little free library. I’ll never give away books that I loved – which results in a truly puzzling storage issue in my home. But most of all, I learned that I still really and truly love to read. I love it. I LOVE IT and I don’t care who knows it.

Authors I Love Right Now – Kate Morton and Kristin Hannah

So, y’all know I love reading. I’m not a picky reader, usually, widely spanning genres, years, fiction and nonfiction… I just love books. That being said, I have a few authors I’ve read a lot of – Kate Morton being one. She is one of my absolute favorites, and I think there’s only one of her books I haven’t read. I enjoy her historical fiction so much, as well as the contemporary story lines of her others. She is, in my opinion, a masterful plot creator, weaving storylines, connecting dots at the perfect moments, giving little bits you can figure out on your own, but never giving quite everything away, so that there are still a few surprising turns – you know, so you keep reading! She adds a perfect dose of mystery, so that her narrative isn’t predictable. I always plow right through her books quickly, partially because I become immersed in her stories, and partially because I cannot think of reading anything else until I find out what is really going on. I can’t put her books down!

Now that I’ve sung the praises of my beloved Kate Morton, I’ll move on to a new favorite: Kristin Hannah. She does for me something a little different than Kate Morton, although off the cuff, you might say they are similar writers. While Kate is a wonderful storyteller, Kristin Hannah also refreshes you with her unrivaled character development and incredible setting displays. She can take you right to the heart of why she chose a certain place or time, drop you right into that exact moment, and make you feel like you actually are her main character. It’s incredible to read her environmental descriptions (I mean, have you even read The Great Alone yet?!), and I can’t imagine how much research goes into making sure things are accurate and thoroughly described. Her descriptions of character relationships are so believable; you feel like you grew up in the climate of the community she describes. I truly love her style.

While I have read all but one of Kate Morton’s books (I’m coming for you, The Clockmaker’s Daughter!I have only read The Great Alone and The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. If you have read either of these ladies’ works, do you agree with me? Have you found that to be true to Kristin Hannah’s backlist? Do you also love their unique styles? This is great literature, friends. Go and read their books! I have several if you’re local and want to borrow mine!

Girl Wash Your Face

This piece originally appeared on Everyday Exiles.

Have you read Girl Wash Your Face yet? It’s a hot topic around the country, with many people singing the praises of this Rachel Hollis gal who went from zero to hero, all by making the choice to do so. She just decided it. Sounds easy enough, right?

This media and marketing “guru” has a story like many of us… lowly beginnings, hardships, and extra-relatable troubles in the job, family, and dating world. Although she meets Matt Damon, which puts her leaps ahead of me, personally. She has several pieces of good advice, which she has personally experienced to be able to write this book. No one is arguing that. Also, I LOVE the premise of the book: Stop Believing the Lies About Who You Are So You Can Become  Who You Were Meant to Be. Who doesn’t want to read a book about disproving lies and destroying strongholds? I need more of that in my life! After all the great press and positive reviews from friends, I decided to read the book for myself.

She’s a great writer. All the lies that she picked (one per chapter) are very real struggles that women have, many of them every day issues. The lie that you’re not a good mom, that you’re defined by your weight, or that you’ll never get past this – well, those are all lies that we ALL want dispelled so our focus and our lives can move on to bigger and better things. I’m not here to tell you her main ideas were wrong.

But what really gets me going is the fact that she’s writing as a “Christian” and rarely mentions Jesus. She parades herself as the hero of the story, how her hard work, her tough choices, and her knowledge contributed to her success. And that’s the American dream, right? Knowing if you fail, you have no one to blame but yourself. If you succeed, you’re the only one who gets the credit. Right?

In my opinion, wrong.

Jesus is the hero of my story. He’s in control (just like the cliche says) and I know that first and foremost, I have to trust Him with everything. As much as I LOVE to think I’m in control, I’m just not. I can make choices, yes, and do things inside and outside of God’s will for my life. But ultimately I know that joy is better than happiness, and peace is better than success, and God is the Giver of those things. The book is full of dos and don’ts, full of ideas to help you be more efficient and focused. But what the book isn’t full of is prayers for when you’ve hit the bottom, praises for when you’ve been delivered out of something, or reminders that your identity is not in YOU – or your critics and onlookers – but in JESUS and His sacrifice that placed you into the family of God. Your identity is the one given to you by your Savior, not the one that you imagine up for yourself.

A quick chat with a friend last night helped me realize that what throws me off the most about the hype surrounding this “Christian” book that doesn’t point me to Jesus is this: it isn’t heresy. It’s not bold-faced lies or something outlandish like devil worship. It’s not that obvious why it’s not on track with Biblical truths. It’s Jesus and. Jesus and making good connections in LA, and marrying the right guy. Jesus and self-confidence, and control of my situations. Jesus and knowing my self-worth and not taking no for an answer. Well I have news for you: Jesus IS. He IS in control, my confidence is in HIM, and HIS yes or no or not yet are the only answers I care about.

5 Books to Read and Love

This piece originally appeared on The Grit and Grace Project at the beginning of the year. These books are still great, even if you’ve already kicked off this year’s reading venture!

Every year, I make a resolution to read more. I know it’s a common resolution, so I’m assuming a few of you out there made it this year, as well! Here are a few reads I’ve loved recently to get you started on your reading goal!

The Book of Lost and Found by Lucy Foley. What a beautiful, beautiful story this was! I grabbed it off the employee’s picks at Barnes and Noble, and I read it in less than two days. It’s the story of a woman whose mother was adopted, searching for her family history, not knowing what (and how much) she’d find. I loved the artistic influences there as well.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple. This mystery had me thinking about it all day, even when I wasn’t reading. Bernadette is lost somewhere, and it’s her daughter and husband’s job to track her down. Full of surprises and oddments, with a little drama, this book is one you’ll fly through, just so you can know how it ends!

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty. If you haven’t read this one, it’s a must! I love Moriarty’s books anyway (specifically What Alice Forgot) but this one is a book I couldn’t put down till I’d solved the puzzle. I encourage you to read before you watch the miniseries, if it’s on your list, too. The cast is great but there are some changes, so read first if you can!

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. I know this one isn’t remotely new – quite the opposite! This classic is timeless, and full of beautiful imagery. This year is the perfect time to read it, or REread it, since the movie comes out in March!

Confessions of a Domestic Failure by Bunmi Laditan. If you don’t know about Bunmi Laditan, look her up and give her a follow right now. She’s hilarious, and her novel is no exception! More horribly laughable things happen to the protagonist (a business woman-turned-stay-at-home mom) than you would think possible; you will literally laugh out loud!

AND! Coming out this year are some other books by authors we love, so keep a lookout for I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes with Death by Maggie O’Farrell (I love her book This Must Be the Place) and You Think It, I’ll Say It: Stories by Curtis Sittenfield (I love her book American Wife). There are also new books on deck from James Patterson, David Baldacci, and Danielle Steele, if you have been reading their books for years like I have! Good luck with your reading goals – and tell me what you like, so I can read it, too!

NEW BOOK! Mom Life: Perfection Pending

I have a friend I’ve met through writing online – not just any friend, but one who writes amazingly well, inspires me to be a better mama, and sometimes even publishes my work on her site (Heyyyyyy Meredith, thanks!). Just this week, she just released her first book! I couldn’t WAIT to share about it, so I thought I’d give her some love.

The book is called Mom Life: Perfection Pending (a nod to her website’s title). She writes about the imperfection of good moms everywhere… how we do the best we can, even through our failures and shortcomings, at the hardest task: parenting. It’s a read that’s relatable to everyone with a child of any age!

Here’s the Amazon link if you’d like to purchase it!

As always, you can follow Meredith Ethington on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for humor and a healthy dose of parenting realness.

PLEASE go read her book! I promise you will LOVE it! And don’t forget to buy a copy for a friend 🙂

Book Review: The Book of Lost and Found by Lucy Foley

Y’all know I love a good book. I love it even more when I just can’t put it down. I love it EVEN MORE when I simultaneously can’t wait to see how it ends but don’t really want it to be over, because I’m attached to it. This book was all of that for me. I read it in a little over 24 hours – a testament to how good it was, and also that it happened to be that time of limbo between Christmas and New Year’s. The perfect time for a splendid read.

lost and found.jpg
Image found on Amazon.com

It was an awesome combination of romance, a little history, some art, and surprises. Lucy Foley did an amazing job hopping back and forth from the past (mostly the 20s, but some parts up through WWII) and “present” (which happened to be the 80s). That often tends to confuse and/or frustrate me, but it was done clearly and purposefully, which I totally appreciated.

We follow Kate, who has recently lost the only family she knows, through a journey to find where she came from. Her mother, a prima ballerina, was adopted, and Kate needs to know who her family would have been if she hadn’t been given up. It’s an incredible journey through the past, and Kate’s feelings during the present, to find the truth, and from there, decide where she should go. There are wonderful, true feelings on every page, and a couple of love stories told, wanted, missed, and achieved. There are intricate characters to love, and ones to hate, just like every great book should have.

I can best describe the book with a great quote from near the end: You want a love story.  But you see, I’ve given you a love story. It just doesn’t all work out the way one might have written it.

Book Review: The Longest Ride by Nicholas Sparks

A couple of weeks ago, my family went down to my in-laws’ lake house, about an hour from our home. I packed some reading, you know, in case naps went as scheduled and I ended up in the sunshine with a drink in my hand. And what do you know? I did. But I was NOT in the mood for any of the reading I had packed. It was mostly non-fiction, which I’m not opposed to, generally. But they were all a little heavy in nature, and I was feeling a little more lighthearted on our mini-vacation.

Sometimes I need a beach read. Here’s my definition of “beach read”: not difficult to read, totally enveloping, can’t put it down, captivating story, and no real-life application. I’m not reading a “beach read” so that I can apply it to my life or think about it for the rest of the week. I’m reading one so that I can dissolve into another world, another story besides my own, and lose track for a few moments (or two days, as it was with this one). So naturally, I perused my mother-in-law’s bookshelf, and spotted a Nicholas Sparks book I hadn’t read. You probably already know that he’s famous for his “beach reads” and The Longest Ride is no exception!

Because I’ve read a lot of his books, I knew that when the book began by alternating between two seemingly unrelated stories, we’d find them intertwined by the end. But even I was a little taken aback by how the stories came together at the end. I enjoyed the little surprise – especially since so many love stories follow a formula that’s fairly easy to predict. As an art history buff, I especially appreciated his nod to abstract expressionism and modernism throughout the story. And if that wasn’t enough to make me love it, one of the stories was also set right around where I live. Crazy!

Loves old and new were explored through the two “separate” stories, and I enjoyed the character exploration in each, as well as the varying points of view. It’s a creative way of the book being “third person omniscient”. If you’re looking for an easy read, full of feelings and a little historical enjoyment (without being a period piece), then you’ll love The Longest Ride. Channel your inner teen girl and you won’t be able to put it down.