January & February Reading Round-Up

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This year I have had the opportunity to read a lot more than the end of last year. I haven’t posted a reading review lately, so since I’ve hit my 10 books this year mark, I figured I would share a little bit about them. I’ve also been listening to the podcast What Should I Read Next? with Anne Bogel and continuing my TBR list. It is ever-growing. Another fun reading thing I have done is make a list of bookstores all over the United States that I would like to visit. There are so many cool independent book stores that are begging to be explored. Last but not least, I started a Facebook Book Club for book recommendations. To be added to that group, just click here and request to be added. I would love to have more friends and more readers to discuss with!!

“But God showed us that even in the midst of a crisis, we can look for His gifts of joy and peace.” // The Yada Yada Prayer Group by Neta Jackson is the first book I read this year. It is about a group of women who meet at a women’s conference and form a prayer group that gets them through some hard times. While it wasn’t anything that stood out to me, the story and characters were likable. I found the main character Jodi Baxter to be relatable. It is the first book in a series. I would probably pick up the next ones at the library if I were to find them!

 “But it is not bravery; I have no choice. I wake up and live my life. Don’t you do the same?” // All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr was available at the library, and I snatched it up as quickly as I could. I saw that everyone was raving about this book and wanted to see if it lived up to the hype. The answer is YES. It is the story of a blind French girl and a German Nazi soldier boy. Their paths intersect in occupied France. I was blown away at how this story came together at the end. It is both sweet and tragic juxtaposing the innocence of childhood and the corruption of war. The character development was incredible, and I loved how you got to peek into each of their thoughts and actions. This is one that I haven’t stopped recommending.

“So, in a world that likes division and categories, that sections us into the homeschoolers and the public schoolers, the breast-feeders and the bottle feeders, the “working moms” and the “stay-at-home moms”…how do we link arms?…I think the answer is listening to each other.” // Women are Scary: The Totally Awkward Adventure of Finding Mom Friends by Melanie Dale was laugh out loud funny. There hasn’t been a book that I have felt myself nodding and saying, “Yes, that’s me,” in a long time. Dale uses baseball to talk about the stages of “momlationships.” I read this on my Kindle, and I underlined so many things. Dale is encouraging, funny, and real about what it takes to make deep heart friends. I loved this one!

 “Daddy gave me real useful information to protect me in the real world. If anyone hits me, I’m not to hit them back. I wait until their back is turned, then hit them in the head with a brick.” // Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man was my first Fannie Flagg book. It is the coming-of-age story of Daisy Fay Harper. It is set in Mississippi in the 1950’s. Daisy Fay is funny, sassy, and determined to make something of herself. The story is told in her journal entries, and you will learn about her loyalty and optimism. I will say that at the beginning of the book, I wasn’t sure where it was going, but by the end, I didn’t want it to end! If you are a fan of Southern novels and haven’t read this one, you should pick it up.

“I learned that there is good in this world, if you look hard enough for it. I learned that not everyone is disappointing, including me, and that a 1,257-foot bump in the ground can feel higher than a bell tower if you’re standing next to the right person.” // All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven is the only YA book I have read this year so far, and it is a good one! It hooked me from the very beginning. You meet the two main characters Violet Markey and Theodore Finch while they are both at the top of a bell tower. The story continues from there. While I had a gut feeling of what was going to happen the whole time, it was beautifully and tragically drawn out. Fans of John Green would enjoy this one!

“William knows that science and magic are the same thing; magic is only science that hasn’t been explained yet.” // Someone Else’s Love Story by Joshilyn Jackson drew me in from the very beginning, probably because the first scene is a gas station robbery. The story that follows traces the steps of the people in the gas station and how their lives intersect. I had a soft spot for Natty, the main character’s son. While part of the ending was very predictable for me, another part took me by complete surprise. There are some heavy topics that this story hinges around, but I thought they were handled well.

 “Why do we do this? Why do we undervalue things when we have them? Why is it only on the verge of losing something that we see how much we need it?” //  After I Do by Taylor Jenkins Reid had been on my Kindle for awhile, but I decided to start it after hearing Anne Bogel recommended Reid on WSIRN. While the premise of taking a year-long break from marriage is not something I morally agree with, the book sucked me in. The story was good, and I loved seeing the main character’s transformation throughout the story. The ending was a bit unbelievable, but it was sweet and even made me tear up at one point. It was a good book that I would recommend for a fun, quick read!

“I know this isn’t a conventional love story. I know there are all sorts of reasons I shouldn’t even be saying what I am. But I love you. I do… And I think you might even love me a little bit.” // I was obviously late to the Me Before You train, but when I saw it at the library, I decided to pick it up after all the hype I had heard about it a couple years ago. Honestly, I didn’t want to love this book. I thought it surely must be overrated… I knew how it was going to end from the beginning, and it still made my heart ache. One of my favorite parts was Louisa’s transformation from the beginning to the end. So no, I didn’t want to love it, but love it I did.

“First we only want to be seen, but once we’re seen, that’s not enough anymore. After that, we want to be remembered.” // Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel is a post-apocalyptic story, but the cool thing about it is that it only takes place a short time after not hundreds or thousands of years after when society is all different and moving along. Mandel does an excellent job at world-building, and I really enjoyed her writing. There are several characters that you follow throughout the book, and the way they come together is beautifully tragic. Loved this one!

 “It wasn’t so much the discovery of one single clue, as the coming together of many small details. That moment when the sun shifts by a degree and a spider’s web, previously concealed, begins to shine like fine-spun silver. Because suddenly Sadie could see how it all connected and she knew what had happened that night.” //  The Lake House by Kate Morton left me with my jaw dropped the way it all comes together. It is told in varying perspectives and varying time periods. It is all based around a lake house and the disappearance of an 11-month-old child 70 years prior that was never solved. I felt like I couldn’t read this book fast enough when trying to put all the pieces together. This is one of my favorites that I have read in quite some time, and it makes me want to read more books in this genre and by Morton.

I’m linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy to talk book recommendations!

Have you read any of these books or books by these authors? Tell me what you thought in the comments or email me at openhandsopenhome@gmail.com. I love talking books!!

Top 16 Books of 2016

Disclaimer: The links below are affiliate links. That means that if you purchase something through my link, I will make a small percentage in commission. Thank you for supporting Open Hands, Open Home! 

In February of 2016, I set a goal of reading 50 books by the end of the year. Since it was already February, I had to make up for some lost time in January, but I quickly got on track. As we moved to Atlanta, had Henry, got situated over here, and just moved again, my reading slowed down a little bit, so I didn’t read all 50 of the books I wanted to. I got about 75% of my books read though, by reading 37 books total. I think setting a goal just encouraged me to read more, which is something that I want to continue doing in the new year as well.

According to GoodReads, I read 11,342 pages (some of the books I read were on my Kindle though, so they were “e-pages” if you will). The shortest book I read was 120 pages, and the longest book was 560 pages. The average length of the books I read was 307 pages. My average rating for books was a 3.8 out of 5 stars.

After reading 37 books, you realize there are some really incredible books out there, so I am going to list my favorite 16 books (in no particular order) that I read this year. I’m linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy to talk about these books and all the other ones people are reading!

 “I couldn’t have explained then how the oak tree lives inside the acorn or how I suddenly realized that in the same enigmatic way something lived inside of me–the woman I would become–but it seemed I knew at once who she was.” // The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd is the most recent book I have read that made the list. It is historical fiction, which I never realized I liked until this year and a few books. This book is about Sarah Grimke (who was a real person) and one of her family’s slaves, Handful. It is told in alternating points-of-view between the two of them. It is a story of friendship, determination, and equality. There are parts that will make your heart ache and parts that will make you laugh out loud. I was satisfied with the ending and found it to be beautiful. This was one of my six 5 star books from this year.

We need different eyes, a different mind. One that lifts us above the seen and our short time here, above the fears that invade our lives, above the snapshots in our scrapbooks.”  // Anything: The Prayer That Unlocked My God and My Soul by Jennie Allen was one of those books that keep you thinking about it long after you read it. She is a fantastic writer who bares all in the name of Jesus. Her story makes her relatable, and I love that her heart for Jesus is so evident. My favorite part of this book was part one in which she talks about what is keeping us from praying “anything.” This book encouraged me, inspired me, and challenged me in the best way.

“What the color is, who the daddy be, who the mama is don’t mean nothin’. We a family, carin’ for each other. Family make us strong in times of trouble. We all stick together, help each other out. That the real meanin’ of family. When you grow up, you take that family feelin’ with you.” // The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom is a book that I could. not. put. down. It was similar to The Invention of Wings in a lot of ways, but because the main character is an Irish girl who gets orphaned on her way over to America and, therefore, becomes an indentured servant who lives among the family’s slaves, there are some major differences. This is the book that made me realize I was interested in historical fiction. I haven’t read the sequel to this yet, but it is on my to-read list.

But if, sometimes, an unspeakable horror arises from the smallest error, I choose to believe that it’s possible for an equally unimaginable grandeur to grow from the tiniest gesture of love. I choose to believe that it works both ways. That great terror is the result of a thousand small but evil choices, and great good is the outcome of another thousand tiny acts of care.” // We Are Called to Rise by Laura McBride is told from the perspectives of the four main characters. For awhile, you are wondering what these people even have to do with each other at all, but then they all collide in a beautifully, tragic coincidence. Set in Las Vegas with lovable characters, this was a great read. It was another book I thought about long after I was finished with it.

“Dear goodness, the things I learned. I did not want my world disturbed, but I wanted to crush the man who’s trying to preserve it for me. I wanted to stamp out all the people like him. I guess it’s like an airplane: they’re the drag and we’re the thrust, together we make the thing fly. Too much of us and we’re nose-heavy, too much of them and we’re tail-heavy–it’s a matter of balance.” // Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee was one of the books I loved this year, but I heard that not everyone had the same opinion… Jean Louise Finch, or “Scout” you may remember her as, stays true to herself and her beliefs, fighting the very people that she loves when it comes down to it. I am disappointed by the number of people who didn’t like this book. SPOILER ALERT: I understand that people did not like Atticus Finch’s character to be tarnished, but this book is real and raw. Like my friend Sara said, “the reader becomes disillusioned alongside Scout, realizing that her father isn’t perfect.” This one may not be your cup of tea, but I thought it was great. (Review from my What I’m Into (November 2016) post)

“I am a sometimes-believer, in love with Jesus. I am a mystic who can’t grip tight enough to the mystical. I long for order but can hardly make a list. I need something ancient, not ruled by the culture that rules me, to tell me what to do when my boy is throwing a tantrum on the plane… I need to know how to love God when all I have to offer is my daily chaos. Mostly, I long to know a quietness in my soul, true contentment, despite my spiritual unimpressiveness. I need believe that my simple life really is a gift and really can be holy.” // Found: A Story of Questions, Grace & Everyday Prayer by Micha Boyett was a memoir of sorts. I loved the vulnerability and truth that Micha Boyett wrote about in this book. I didn’t really know anything about monks or St. Benedict before reading this, but I thought that she did a great job relating everyday prayer, motherhood, and simple truths about the Lord and His character. I underlined a lot of good stuff in this one!

“That’s what I love about reading: one tiny thing will interest you in a book, and that tiny thing will lead you to another book, and another bit there will lead you onto a third book. It’s geometrically progressive – all with no end in sight, and for no other reason than sheer enjoyment.” // The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Schaffer and Annie Barrows was a quirky little read that was high up on my to-read list up until I read it. I was extremely impressed by this book. I usually get annoyed with books written entirely in letters, but this one was different as it let me into the minds of the characters and created a love for the friendships they had between them! I did not see the ending coming and was very pleased with the characters.

“Parents almost always want what’s best for their children. They just don’t always know what that is.” // The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy by Jeanne Birdsall was a fun, YA read! This is about a family made up of four sisters, their dog, and their father who go to live at an estate called Arundel for the summer. Their adventures and run-ins with the estate’s owner, Ms. Tifton, kept me reading. The girls are unique and lovable. This is a charming read that gave me a sense of nostalgia while reading it. I would absolutely read this to my kiddos one day.

“Your memory is a monster; you forget–it doesn’t. It simply files things away. It keeps things for you, or hides things from you–and summons them to your recall with a will of its own. You think you have a memory; but it has you!” // A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving took me awhile to get through because it is very long and a little slow at the beginning, but it’s been awhile since I have read a book that has been so thoroughly and perfectly wrapped up at the end. Throughout it, I was thinking, “What does all this random stuff have to do with anything?” but at the end, it all came together in a way that was terrific. Just a heads up, there was some risqué content that I wasn’t expecting, but it didn’t change my opinion on the book.

“I look back at the road and am reminded that when we are confronted with difficult change, time doesn’t heal all wounds–time with the Healer does. Time with him spent giving up what I think I want for what God knows I need.” Girl Meets Change: Truths to Carry You through Life’s Transitions by Kristen Strong was a book I would recommend to anyone who has either just gone through a change, is about to go through a change, or someone who knows how much they dislike change. As someone who has always said I like change, but then realized it was only when it was my own idea, this book hit home for me. Reminding me of the truth of God’s Word and stories from people she knows, Kristen Strong did a great job articulating the way change affects us and how we can respond in a way that allows us to trust the Lord. Some chapters were extremely timely, and I underlined quite a few quotes.

“And while all those shallow qualities I listed on paper are obviously essential to finding someone who is socially competent and well groomed, what you really need is someone you’d want next to you in battle, someone who can make you laugh even in the tough times, someone who will encourage you to be the best that you can be.” // “In that moment, as I looked at my little girl lying in my arms, I realized this whole process was such a striking picture of how Christ works in us. He takes our disappointments, rejections, and hard times, and he makes something beautiful. He creates life and shows us what beauty looks like in places where we look and see nothing.” // This is a 2-for-1 including The Antelope in the Living Room: The Real Story of Two People Sharing One Life and Sparkly Green Earrings: Catching the Light at Every Turn by Melanie Shankle. These are the kind of books that make you want to be best friends with the author. She does a great job telling stories that make you laugh out loud and remind you of Jesus and all He has and does for you. I couldn’t include one of these and not the other, so that’s why this is a 2-for-1. She also has one about friendship called Nobody’s Cuter Than You that I need to get my hands on and read.

“I’ll tell you something, something important. Write this down. You ready?’ ‘Yes, yes, I’m ready.’ ‘Love is a decision.’ ‘Love is a decision?’ ‘That’s right. A decision. Not a feeling. That’s what you young people don’t realize.” // The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty is a quick read with an interesting story. It is part mystery, which makes it a page-turner, as I was wanting to figure it out the whole time. It was a bit risqué at some points, and I didn’t love the ending, but it did make me more interested in reading more of Moriarty’s books!

All we are, all we can be, are the stories we tel…Long after we are gone, our words will be all that is left, and who is to say what really happened or even what reality is? Our stories, our fiction, our words will be as close to truth as can be. And no one can take that away from you.” // Anything But Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin is about a 12-year-old boy who has autism. The story documents him making his first real friend through the internet, and he finally gets a chance to meet her. It’s a YA novel with a unique and interesting perspective. I found it raw and real and beautiful.

“From that time on, the world was hers for the reading. She would never be lonely again, never miss the lack of intimate friends. Books became her friends and there was one for every mood.” // A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith is a classic and for good reason. It is a coming of age story about the main character, Francie, and her life as she grows up in a poor family in Brooklyn. When looking back, it’s hard to remember what really happened in the book, but it leaves you with a feeling of nostalgia for the things that led you into growing up. France is a lovable character who is easy to root for all the way through.

Child, the good Lord got plans for all of us that we don’t know–and he always got his reasons. He want us to learn and rejoice in the good that come from his design.” // Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall had been on my to-read list since I made the list and decided to stick with it, but I just got around to reading it this past month. When I saw it at the library, I grabbed it, and it did not disappoint. This book is set in 1963 Mississippi. I loved the main character, Starla, and while there are some heart-breaking parts of the story, they are balanced with Starla’s laugh-out-loud comments.

“I realized that my determination to make things perfect meant I was chasing an empty obsession all day long. Nothing was ever going to be perfect the way I had envisioned it in the past. Did I want to keep spending my energy on that effort, or did I want to step out of that obsessions and to enjoy my kids, maybe allowing myself to get messy right along with them in the process?” // The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines is the story of the Gaines family from the time Chip and Joanna met up until the pretty recent past. I love Chip and Joanna, so reading their story was such a treat. After reading this, I feel inspired to go do something – whether it’s start a business, fix up my home, or just take a risk of some kind. I liked feeling like I was just talking to them and getting to know them better!!

So, there’s my top 16 of 2016! Have you read any of these books? What did you think of them? Do you know of a book I may like?? Comment on this post or email me at openhandsopenhome@gmail.com.

November Reads (Quick Lit)

Disclosure: The following links are affiliate links. That means that if you purchase something from a link I share, I make a small percentage in commission. Thank you for supporting Open Hands, Open Home!

I set a goal back in February that I would read 50 books this year. Everything was pretty much right on track until Henry got here. Babies take up a lot of time, okay?? So, it doesn’t look like I will meet my goal, but I have read some really great books this year.

Sam and I watched all of the Harry Potter movies last month, because he had never seen them or read the books (crazy, I know). After watching them all again, I have an itch to re-read all the books. I’ve never really been one to re-read books before, but I’m thinking now may be the time to start.

I’m linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy to talk about the books I am currently reading/have already read this month. Unfortunately, I haven’t finished a book already this month, but I am currently reading a few that I will share here.

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

First of all, this book is LONG. I am reading it on my Kindle, and I am making sloooow progress. Second of all, the characters are very intriguing!! The narrator, Owen Meany, and several others have me hooked in. There’s an element of wondering what in the world is going on as it is told in memories, but overall it has been enjoyable, and I plan on continuing to read it.

Letters of Note: Volume 1: An Eclectic Collection of Correspondence Deserving of a Wider Audience

This book contains 125 letters written by all kinds of people to all kinds of people. We are talking presidents, queens, artists, and so many more. There are even pictures of some of the letters included. This has been such an interesting and easy read. It is easy to pick it up and read a few letters at a time. Shaun Usher also gives a little insight into why the letter was written before the letter itself is included. It is so cool to read what people put in the letters they were sending. It really gives you more information about who they were as a person and the things they really cared about. Definitely something I would recommend.

Grace-Based Parenting by Tim Kimmel

We’re reading this book in the MOPS Bible study I am in, and wow, it is good stuff. This is another book I am reading on Kindle, and I already have so much underlined. I’m only a couple chapters in, but I have already recommended it to my sister-in-law. While Henry is only 3 months old right now, I’m excited to read this as foundational in the way I want to parent.

I wish I was reading more right now, but I’m trying to figure out a rhythm of making it part of my daily routine. What works for y’all when you’re trying to read more? What books are you reading?? I love book recommendations! Comment on this post or e-mail me at openhandsopenhome@gmail.com, and if you’re looking for more book recommendations, check out Modern Mrs. Darcy.