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I am a 24 year old Christian, bookworm, lover of all things chocolate, and soon to be knitter from Upstate New York, currently residing in sunny New Mexico (thank you U.S. Air Force). I spend my days as a Children's Librarian Assistant in a public city library and my nights working towards my MLS degree.
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1. House of Hawthorne review

Since the release of Hemingway's Girl, I've been a huge fan of Erika Robuck and her ability to take a historical figure and weave their life into a fictional story, resulting in a wave of interest in that person that might not have previously existed. It's a special talent, my friends and I'm on the train of love for these books. 


After finishing one of Robuck's books, I've found myself researching Ernest Hemingway, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Zelda Fitzgerald and now Nathaniel Hawthorne and his wife Sophia. To take a fiction novel to the level that Robuck does - making me want to read more about these real people and the lives they led - is fantastic and unlike any other reading experience I've had before. 

When I first opened the beautiful deckled-edge pages of The House of Hawthorne (the edges always deserve comment) I knew I was in for a treat. I had no prior knowledge of Nathaniel Hawthorne's life and I had never heard of his wife, Sophia. I'm in the minority of adults who has not had to read The Scarlett Letter at some point in my life and so, though I knew of Hawthorne, I did not have any info going in. And let me tell you, his adult life was a bit rough. 

Overall, this is the love story of Nathaniel and Sophia. Their incredibly intense romance was fascinating to read about and the atmosphere Robuck created surrounding their relationship was complicated and beautiful. I could feel the passion and pain of the characters as I read the words and really just wanted to see their story have a happy ending. Life in the mid-19th century was difficult, to say the least.  

I was completely transported to the time period and setting and after finishing the last page, found myself looking up information about Nathaniel Hawthorne. Well done, Erika Robuck. Another winner!

Review copy provided by publisher. 

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2. The Reluctant Midwife by Patricia Harman

I love companion novels. I'm one of those readers who loves to have a story continue, but not necessarily follow the main character. Typically, unless the book is part of a series, the main character has had her story told and the ending is there for a reason, but there are always secondary characters I'm interested in and would love to see expanded upon. 


Sometime last year, my book club read The Midwife of Hope River and I thoroughly enjoyed it, but was left wanting to know more about Becky. I apparently just needed some patience. The Reluctant Midwife follows Becky as she returns to Hope River during the Great Depression, accompanying Dr. Blum to help care for the poor. 


The characters are well-formed and detailed, as in Harman's previous novel, and I enjoyed this one very much. I really loved all the bits of American history woven into the story and it was obvious the author did an immense amount of research before creating this story. It was believable and felt like it could have been out of the pages of a diary of a midwife in the early 1930's. 

Highly recommended for fans of historical fiction or Call the Midwife.

You can find Patricia Harman on Twitter, Facebook, and at her website. You can find the rest of the TLC Book Tour here.


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3. Silent Alarm by Jennifer Banash

Alys has a pretty typical high school life. Boyfriend, best friend, good grades, etc. She's a talented musician with a hopeful future and not much to truly worry about. Then her older brother walks into their high school and kills fifteen people and then himself. Her friends, her classmates, her teachers are dead. Her brother is gone.

Alys must deal with the aftermath of her brother's decision, all while grieving the loss of her sibling. She is shunned by people she thought loved her, her parents can't stop arguing, and she can't help but feel she should have known something was going to happen and have been able to prevent such a horrible tragedy.

This is a dark, gritty, novel filled with hard stuff. So close to reality for too many people. The writing is beautiful and haunting and I felt an instant connection to Alys. She was just a girl who went to school one day and her sibling made a horrific decision, forever changing her entire life.  Her brokenness after the shooting was expected, but the way Banash put it on the page felt real and honest.

I finished this a week ago, but I can't stop thinking about it. The perspective was unique and the emotion was just pure and raw. A hard read, but a good one.

Thank you to Penguin for the review copy.

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4. The Tell-Tale Heart by Jill Dawson is out!

After years of excessive drink and sex, Patrick has suffered a massive heart attack. Although he's only fifty, he's got just months to live. But a tragic accident involving a teenager and a motorcycle gives the university professor a second chance. He receives the boy's heart in a transplant, and by this miracle of science, two strangers are forever linked.

Though Patrick's body accepts his new heart, his old life seems to reject him. Bored by the things that once enticed him, he begins to look for meaning in his experience. Discovering that his donor was a local boy named Drew Beamish, he becomes intensely curious about Drew's life and the influences that shaped him--from the eighteenth-century ancestor involved in a labor riot to the bleak beauty of the Cambridgeshire countryside in which he was raised. Patrick longs to know the story of this heart that is now his own. (publisher) 

Out now, go check it out!



You can find the rest of the stops on the tour here


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5. The Beautiful Daughters (giveaway)

If you've been with me since the beginning (7 years -- can you believe it?!) you'll know that I've been a huge fan of Nicole Baart since her very first book, After the Leaves Fall came out. It was the first in a trilogy and I absolutely loved it and gave it as gifts to all my girlfriends. Since then, Nicole has published several other books and I've loved them all, so when I had the chance to read an early copy of her latest book, The Beautiful Daughters, I jumped at the chance.

A story about family and best friends and first loves, and what it means to help mend the hearts of people you love. The characters were the shining star of the entire book and I felt connections with all of them -- despite also wanting to shake them sometimes. Adri had her moments of being incredibly frustrating with her consistently stoic behavior and Harper was just a hot mess, but understandably so. Trust me, pick up this book and you'll become invested in the lives of these women and the men in their lives. It was enthralling.

I'll add a finished copy to my shelves once the book is published (April!!), so I'd love to share my advanced reader copy with one of you. Whether it's your first Nicole Baart novel or you've been following her for years as I have, you should enter! Leave a comment on this post by Friday night and I'll pick a winner Saturday morning. It's definitely worth a read!

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6. Twitterature

One of my favorite bloggers, The Modern Mrs. Darcy, occasionally hosts a feature she calls Twitterature, where bloggers can share what they've been reading in short, casual reviews. Though she hasn't posted one in awhile, it's my favorite way to review lately as my time is short but my desire to share about my reading is high! I often review picture books this way, but I wanted to briefly fill you all in on my own reading and hopefully give you a few more titles to add to your own TBR piles.

First up, a couple of non-fiction titles.


The Smartest Kids in the World by Amanda Ripley

Absolutely fascinating. Traveling around the world, Ripley explores huge differences between American schools and other education systems. A lot of information was given on the lack of quality education in the U.S. and how other countries manage to achieve higher test scores with less (or more) work. As the parent of a child who will soon be school age, this was incredibly eye-opening. Highly recommended.


The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

This one has been all over the place and I finally got my hands on one! If you follow me on Twitter, I talk a lot about simple living and not having a lot of stuff, and the author expands upon this idea, teaching readers just how to get rid of stuff and why we should do it. Some of her ideas are a little extreme (thank your bag or sweater for a "job well done" at the end of the day), but overall, a great resource for someone needing that extra push to start decluttering.





A couple of notes on books I haven't been loving lately. I rarely finish books I'm not loving, but I did finish these two and felt the need to chat about them.

Living Well, Spending Less by Ruth Soukoup

I really like the blog this book is based on, also titled Living Well, Spending Less, but I was disappointed in the book. This read more like a memoir (and not a well-written one) of how Soukoup got over her own spending addiction, than an actual guide on how to spend less money and still live well. There were very few actual frugal living tips, instead, briefly mentioning things in a very basic manner, like budgets and not buying things that aren't necessities, then going right back to her own personal story.  I was left wanting a lot more.


The Taste of Many Mountains by Bruce Wydick

This was a hard one to get through. Despite the fascinating topic of fair trade coffee (something I'm passionate about) it felt like reading a journal article or textbook every time the characters were speaking to each other. Flat, wooden dialogue with uninteresting characters. What was supposed to be a thrilling story was actually dry and boring. Such a bummer.

Both of these books were sent courtesy of BookLook Bloggers.

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7. National Readathon Day

I've participated in many readathons since I've started this blog, but jumping in today was a last minute decision. Penguin Random House has started this movement of National Readathon Day and they're encouraging readers all over the world to make time to stop and read for 4 hours today. 12pm-4pm in your own time zone. 


My pile:





Together, we can raise money for the National Book Foundation and remind ourselves that we can make #timetoread. Donate here

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8. Migratory Animals


When Flannery, a young scientist, is forced to return to Austin from five years of research in Nigeria, she becomes torn between her two homes. Having left behind her loving fiance without knowing when she can return, Flan learns that her sister, Molly, has begun to show signs of the crippling genetic disease that slowly killed their mother. 


As their close-knit circle of friends struggles with Molly's diagnosis, Flannery must grapple with what her future will hold: an ambitious life of love and the pursuit of scientific discovery in West Africa, or the pull of a life surrounded by old friends, the comfort of an old flame, family obligations, and the home she's always known. But she is not the only one wrestling with uncertainty. Since their college days, each of her friends has faced unexpected challenges that make them reevaluate the lives they've always planned for themselves. (Goodreads)

I admit, I struggled to get into this. I'm in the middle of another book that contains several of the same themes (returning from Africa after 5 years, past secrets, difficult family relationships) and this one is not nearly as readable. It takes some patience to understand Flannery and the way the author wrote her story, but once I got into it, I wanted to see where the story would go. 

The effects of the disease Molly is diagnosed with are devastating to the family and the circle of friends, yet I didn't necessarily feel that emotion like I wanted to. The passages describing her downward turn were moving, yet not as powerful as I had hoped and I always closed a chapter wanting more. 


If you'd like to check out the rest of the stops on the tour, go here


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9. Elliott's Picks: Weather and Seasons

It's been cold and cloudy here in Northern Virginia and our family is currently working with just one car. This means Elliott and I have been spending a whole lot of time inside our house trying to make the days pass. Lots of playing with trucks and trains and, of course, lots of reading.

We've been making our way through piles and piles of picture books, both review copies and library books, and these are the ones Elliott really loves and seems to request over and over.

Blizzard by John Rocco is the true story of the author's experience during the Blizzard of 1978, which brought over 50 inches of snow to Rhode Island. Simple text and Rocco's amazing illustrations helped my 3-year-old truly understand what was happening on the pages and exciting him about the prospect of "so much snow, Mama!"

On each page spread we talked about what the boy was doing during the blizzard and what happened once the snow stopped. We talked about how he performed a good deed for his family and neighbors by walking through all the snow to pick up supplies and how the plows would eventually be able to do their jobs and life would go back to normal.

A great story to read together during these cold, dreary days.

After the story about too much snow, I was anxious to read about spring, so we picked up Finding Spring by Carin Berger (out on 1/27). The illustrations are what initially drew me to the book and the story was just as charming.

A sweet bear named Maurice really wants to find spring. It's all his friends can talk about and, despite being almost time to hibernate, Maurice is determined to find it. What he finds and believes is spring is completely adorable and resulted in lots of giggles from Elliott. He also noticed the illustrations being different than "typical" illustrations. Mixed-media, made into beautiful collage scenes, they definitely are different then paint or drawing illustrations and I was impressed with his noticing.

The story allowed for us to talk about the different seasons and why winter was different than spring and why Maurice was silly to think that what he found was a sign of spring. It also made this winter-weary mama desperate for some spring sunshine!

Caldecott medalist Beth Krommes illustrated Elliott's next pick: Blue on Blue by Dianne White. This one is perfect for reading inside on a stormy day, whether that storm is snow or rain, as in the story.

The illustrations are perfection, depicting each rain drop, cloud, and puddle beautifully. The text is incredibly simple - just a few words on each page to describe the scene - allowing for the illustrations to really tell the story of this family and the thunderstorm on their farm.

For me, the mark of an amazing book is pacing and the author and illustrator absolutely got it right with this story. I read it aloud slowly, letting each page sink in before turning to the next, and we then went back and started right over again. When we were finished, we immediately picked up our library copy of Rain by Peter Spier, one of our absolute favorites, and spent time comparing the two storms.

Caldecott winner, maybe??

More picks to come soon!

Thank you to Disney-Hyperion, Harper Collins, and Simon & Schuster for the review copies!







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10. A Sister to Honor review


Afia Satar is studious, modest, and devout. The young daughter of a landholding family in northern  Pakistan, Afia has enrolled in an American college with the dream of returning to her country as a doctor. But when a photo surfaces online of Afia holding hands with an American boy, she is suddenly no longer safe - even from the family that cherishes her. 


Rising sports star Shahid Satar has been entrusted by his family to watch over Afia intros strange New England landscape. He has sworn to protect his beloved sister from the dangerous customs of America, from its loose morals and easy virtue. Shahid was the one who convinced their parents to allow her to come to the United States. He never imagined he'd be ordered to cleanse the stain of her shame... (from publisher)

A timely story and a well-drawn main character made this a fascinating read. I loved the alternating perspectives, allowing a glimpse into the minds of everyone involved in the story. Honor codes are something we learn about here in the U.S., but are rarely faced with the reality of, and though fictional, this story brought those cultural aspects smack into my face. 

I thought the story authentic, with its exploration of culture and faith and was fascinated with the decisions these characters, and so many across the world still, are faced with, due to traditions within their cultures. For them, it's not as simple as refusing to participate in these roles. 

I'll definitely read whatever Lucy Ferriss writes next. Thank you to Penguin Random House for the review copy. 

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11. All the Bright Places review


I had to take a break from teen fiction for awhile. All of the stories started to blend together for me and nothing really unique was on my radar. When All the Bright Places showed up, I was pretty sure it was going to be just another book about teens with depression, lacking in anything truly special, but I picked it up -- honestly, because I loved the cover. Well done, cover artist. 


What I found in this story was two teens that seemed so incredibly real, I was instantly connected to both of them. Violet and Finch are a pair of kids screaming for help, but so silently that no one can hear them, except each other. 

Jennifer Niven wrote a beautiful story about finding first love, what it means to save someone, and how depression can infiltrate every portion of someone's life without anyone else ever knowing. The grief Violet was suffering from and her manner of dealing with it were realistic and pure and had me tearing up several times. She was a broken girl, yet people just let her pass through life like it was ok, always believing she would just snap out of it. 

Finch was absolutely fascinating and just might make the list of Fictional Characters I'd Like to Have Dinner With. He had enough quirks that I couldn't wait to see what he would do next, but also an underlying sadness that showed the truer side of depression. Amazing characterization. 

As someone who has suffered from depression on and off for almost half my life, Jennifer Niven got it. She wrote a beautiful story with fabulous characters, all while getting to the depths of what depression can mean, especially when in the years when you simply don't understand the resources available to you and that there really can be light in the darkness. This is an incredibly important book that I hope gets into the hands of lots of teens. 

Comparisons have been made to John Green and I definitely get the reference. The love between these characters, though slightly more awkward, is reminiscent of Hazel and Gus, which is obviously one of my favorite teen love stories of all time. If my words above don't convince you to read it, maybe a Hazel/Gus comparison will. 


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12. A new reading year...

Well, it's 2015. I had grand plans for a big end-of-year post with the typical list of all my favorite books and reading stats, but my December was filled with parties and family and travel. In 2014 I vowed to be more intentional with my time and I think I fulfilled that resolution all the way to the end of the year. I spent the last few weeks catching up on titles Book Riot recommended on their Best Of 2014 list, which proved to be some great reading. 

This year, I really hope to just read more. I'm back at the bookstore and will be ending my time leading MOPS in a few months, so I hope that leads to more reading time on a daily basis. Elliott is getting older and that also means less of being right by his side all the time and more time to stick my face in books. I managed a pretty good number this past year, but would often find myself with the same book for a week and that's just too long for me. 

I also plan to be blogging more than I did the 2nd half of 2014 and have already read a few excellent books coming out in 2015. Stayed tuned! And Happy New Year from this sweet face:


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13. What We're Reading: Christmas Edition (and some others)

I was determined to have this holiday season be slower than years past. To be more intentional in our time and not crazy stressed trying to get last minute gifts all purchased as wrapped. For the most part, my wish has come true and Elliott and I have spent a lot of time reading by the light of our Christmas tree, wrapped up in warm blankets and sharing stories. 

This year, I wrapped 25 Christmas books for E to open throughout December and that's been a blast. He has a mini-tree in his room and each morning wakes up to a new book under the tree. My environmentalist side felt guilty using all that wrapping paper, but the look on his face each morning is worth it!

These two have been read over and over:

Little Blue Truck's Christmas by Alice Schertle and Jill McElmurry

A short counting story complete with twinkle lights at the end! We've had fun counting all the Christmas trees Blue loads into his truck and describing the shapes of the ones he unloads to each of his friends.

It's the perfect size for little hands and if your child isn't quite ready to listen to the longer Little Blue Truck books, this is a great intro. A bit shorter and, of course, the twinkle lights!

Star Bright by Alison McGhee and Peter H. Reynolds


If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you know that Peter Reynolds is a rockstar in my children's book world. I love everything he illustrates AND writes, but my favorite books are those he does with Alison McGhee. Now there's a Christmas one and my life is complete!


The story of a small angel who doesn't know what gift to send for the Savior child. He goes through a list before finally landing on what could quite possibly be the perfect gift - becoming the Star of Bethlehem and leading others to Christ. 

The illustrations are, of course, AMAZING and the story is sweet. I love books that can be entertaining and cute, yet might spark a conversation about Jesus. This one will definitely be added into our yearly Christmas book pile!

For me, I've been in the middle of two fantastic books by women I truly admire: Liz Curtis Higgs and Ann Voskamp. I've been doing Bible studies and reading books by each of these women for years, but had yet to pick up their Advent books. This was the year and I'm so glad I dove in.


The Women of Christmas gives a play-by-play of 3 women vital to the story of Christ's birth: Elizabeth, Mary, and Anna. The way Higgs displays their stories opened up whole new meanings to seemingly simple lines of Scripture and I truly found myself looking at them in a completely different light. Especially Mary. What an amazing young woman. 


Higgs style of writing is perfect for reading with a cup of tea in the evening, as it reads just like a conversation with a friend. She makes even complicated thoughts easy to understand and leaves me feeling like I really do know more than I thought. I'll definitely be gifting this book next year. 


The Greatest Gift is a true Advent book, taking each day from December 1st - December 25th and pairing a Scripture reading with a devotional. The writing is incredibly poetic and also includes space for reflection and an activity to complete for each day. The book pairs wonderfully with her Jesse Tree ornaments, which you can download from her website. 


I will always be an Ann Voskamp fan, as she makes me think deeper than any other Christian author I've come across, but I always walk away from her work wondering how a busy farm wife and mother to 6 homeschooled children can possibly write that poetically. And why did I not get an ounce of talent like that? Ha!


 Other than Christmas titles, I've been flying through some other books that I've had on my shelves for awhile. These are just a few thoughts on what I've read the last few weeks.


The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd is one I picked up back in January and really loved. In the middle of my never-ending stomach bug this week, I reread it and loved it just as much. The setting and time period are so well-described and the story just draws you in. If you're at all a fan of historical fiction, I cannot recommend this one enough. 



The Same Kind of Different As Me by Ron Hall and Denver Moore is a book one of my book clubs read earlier this year, but I missed that particular meeting. From what I heard, all of them loved it, so I'm kinda glad I didn't have a chance to talk about it - I really didn't care for it at all. 


The actual plot was interesting, but the characters did not feel authentic. I found myself rolling my eyes more than once and feeling frustrated that the powerful white man was portrayed as such a better Christian than anyone else. Not cool. 


The Feast Nearby by Robin Mather was also read in the middle of being sick and it was the perfect read for only being able to focus for small periods of time. I love memoirs of people moving from a busy life to smaller homes and slower schedules and Mather's story fed right into my own desires. 


Though much of the book focused on food and eating locally, I loved the portions about moving into a tiny cabin, living on a tight budget, and starting a smaller, more all-around locally focused life. It was a great read!

I would love to just sell our house and move to a tiny cabin on a lake somewhere like Heather did, but I don't see that happening anytime soon. For now, I'll keep reading books like this and being inspired to buy local. 

This is my last review post of 2014, but I'll be back in a few days with my best of 2014 list. I'm looking forward to getting back into regular blogging next month!



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14. Thankfully Reading Day 2

I managed to avoid the turkey coma. I set out to eat until I was full and I did exactly that. No stuffed feeling! We ate dinner with friends and ended up eating in 3 waves, because of all the food! Roasted turkey and sides first, smoked turkey and smoked mac and cheese second, and dessert third, including this ridiculous Mile-High Apple Pie topped with caramel and pecans. Yes.


That was easily the best apple pie I have ever consumed. My friend said it was a Paula Deen recipe, so if you're interested in recreating that amazing deliciousness, I'm sure you could Google it!

On the reading side of things, I managed to get quite a bit done yesterday! We didn't head to our friend's home until 4:30, so all morning and E's nap time were spent occasionally fitting in 10 or so pages and when we got home and the little one was off to bed, I sat for a couple hours and sped through The Book of Strange New Things. Almost done with that one and it's 500 pages! Hoping to finish that and maybe 2 more of the course of this long weekend. 


For today's update, Jenn asked us to answer the question "what book are we most thankful for this year?" I didn't even have to think about my answer, as it's the one book that brought back my love of reading this fall. The Best Yes by Lysa Terkeurst. 

I had too much on my plate, signing up for event after event and though most of these things were fun and I had a great time while I was out, it definitely took away my reading time and often left me exhausted. I didn't have time to read, because I wasn't ever home and when I was home, I just wanted to sleep. The Best Yes spoke truth into my life and made me realize that I was craving the ability to slow down and return to the quieter life I loved... and how to be ok with saying no. 

I have started slowly taking myself out of obligations that were making me exhausted and that I felt like I absolutely had to do and sticking with the things I truly love. My dinner club and book club are sticking around, but the second book club and my Bunco group had to go. I've taken leave from the bookstore, so I'm no longer working on weekends, and amazingly my reading numbers have gone up and I'm just happier. So, thank you Lysa Terkeurst, you changed my year. 

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15. Thankfully Reading Weekend Kick-off

I'm thankful for a lot of things this year. The special parts of my life that I give thanks daily for: family, friends, my home, the resources we've been blessed with, etc. But, I'm also thankful for my love of reading. In the first half of this year, I lost it a bit. I couldn't pick up a book and want to finish it... couldn't seem to keep my attention on anything. For the first time in my life, I didn't want to sit down and read at the end of a long day. I didn't want to browse books online or talk about books with my other book nerd friends. No podcasts, audiobooks, or long visits to the library to browse. I sort of lost myself for awhile.

Around September, I got it back and I realized that loving books and reading is a gift. I am truly thankful that I have this little world -- really, a big world -- of bookish friends and book clubs and awesome podcasts to listen to. I'm so thankful for audiobooks and people to talk about them with. I'm just thankful for books. Period.

I'm spending my weekend participating in the Thankfully Reading Weekend, hosted by Jenn at Jenn's Bookshelves. Relaxed weekend, reading when I can, and focusing on the important things rather than Black Friday shopping madness. Amen for that.




I'm starting off with The Book of Strange New Things by Michael Faber and if I get through that with a 3-year-old running around, it will be a Thanksgiving miracle!


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16. Thankfully Reading Weekend and 2 quick reviews


One of my blogging besties, Jenn, over at Jenn's Bookshelves, is hosting her annual Thankfully Reading Weekend (starting tomorrow!!)


and I just signed up! I wasn't sure if we'd be traveling for the holiday, but since we're just staying at home and eating with friends, I know I can spend some time relaxing and reading. I'd love to get another 10 books or so read before the end of the year and this is a great, laid-back, way to starting that challenge off.

Let me know if you decide to sign up!

I recently received a couple of books from BookLook to review and I wanted to sneak them in here before Thanksgiving.

The first, Every Bitter Thing is Sweet by Sara Hagery is one I'll be giving to several of my friends this Christmas! Her writing, reminiscent of Ann Voskamp, made me tear up in the middle of every chapter, speaking truth to my soul. Despite every setback - no matter how big or small - the hope the author exhibits is both intense and inspiring. She constantly recognized that God was present in her life and helped lead her to the adoption of her beautiful children. If you have a friend going through a rough patch (or you are!), read this book and it will change your heart.

The First Christmas Ever, illustrated by Dennis Jones, a book sent for Elliott to "review," unfortunately didn't please either of us. Though he seemed intrigued by the silly illustrations, the text was much too wordy to hold his attention. I was disappointed in the writing style, as the words and message seemed too 2014 (possibly to reach for higher appeal...?) and dumbed down. There are lots of excellent books on the Christmas story out there, so we'll pass on this one.

Not every book can be a winner!






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17. Put Me in the Story giveaway!




One of my very first memories is unloading the entire Berenstain Bears shelf at the library into our book bag to take home. The librarian didn't say a word and despite the length and wordiness of each book, my mom and I sprawled out on the living room floor and read every single one over and over. It was hours of reading, without a single complaint from my mom about spending so much time in the land of that bear family, and an awesome memory was implanted.

Many of my memories of growing up include books and the reading lifestyle I created for myself. Books make amazing memories and they're instantly what I go to when needing to buy gifts -- as do most of you! Finding that special book for each child on my list is my favorite part of shopping during the holidays.

When Sourcebooks contacted me about hosting this contest for Put Me In a Story, I jumped on it. Personalized books make that gift even more special, as it's obvious you were thinking exactly of that particular child when you chose it. Books were such a treasured position in my own childhood, that I really wanted to help one of you make a great memory with your own kids. They have a huge range of titles for you to chose from and below you could win one of 50 copies or a $500 shopping spree!

I had the chance to chose a book to be personalized and because a very special little girl in our lives is having a birthday soon, Doc McStuffins: A Knight in Sticky Armor  is being personalized just for her! I know she's going to love it.

Simply fill out the Rafflecopter below to enter to win! All winners will be chosen on December 6th. If you choose to Tweet about this contest, be sure to use #BookMagic! 
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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18. While Beauty Slept review

A reimagined telling of the famous Sleeping Beauty story, Blackwell has given us a beautiful novel filled with backstory and details on all the characters within reach of who "Sleeping Beauty" really was. Told from the perspective of a young girl, Elise, raised in poverty and eventually ending up in service at the castle, we are able to watch the story unfold from the eyes of an insider to royalty. 

Fairy tale retellings are some of my very favorite books and with While Beauty Slept, Elizabeth Blackwell has rocketed to the top of my favorites list. I loved the story, with the cozy feeling it managed to evoke despite the darkness in the story, and managed to read it in one sitting -- no small feat with an almost 3-year-old. The setting, the incredible descriptions, and an amazing cast of characters has made this a book I'm going to recommend again and again. 

Thanks to Penguin for the review copy! 

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19. The night before.




I started running 2 years ago and chronicled my journey here. How excited I was to be able to run 3 miles without stopping, the struggles I had, and the pounds I lost. However, my true love of running didn't show up until just about a year ago when it also became my form of cheap therapy. All of my insecurities and stresses poured out of me while I was running and so I just ran. A lot.  

I felt so much better when I was moving, but I don't think I ever truly let go of those things that were powering my legs to go. I just used them as fuel. Every day stresses, major insecurities, hurts, family drama, work stress, etc. I'd run and get out the frustration and anger, but it would always show back up, worming its way into my optimistic nature and positive attitude and leaving me mentally tired. 

This training has been amazing. Hard -- brutal some days -- but so worth it. I'm in better shape than I've ever been and most of all, I'm proud of myself. I haven't felt that way in a very long time and I know I deserve it. I've worked so hard and have fought against asthma, humidity, heat, time constraints, and my own brain telling me I'm not good enough, but I am. I am good enough for this. 

Tomorrow, when I reach that finish line (and I WILL reach the finish line) in all of my hot pink glory, I'm finally letting it go. I'm leaving it all out there on that course. It's going to be one of the hardest things I've ever physically done, but one of my very best friends, an ultra-marathoner, sent me a text today that said "when your legs and body get tired, run with your heart. Run with your spirit. You know why you're running, so just do it." And that's exactly what I'm going to do. I'm going to run. And I'm going to run for me. 




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20. 24 Hour Readathon and what we're reading lately

Up until Elliott was born, I always participated in Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon events with all my blogger friends. Once he arrived, my free time obviously took a drastic nosedive and I just couldn't give up even a few hours during the day to just read -- no laundry, no cooking, no cleaning, no playing, etc. It just didn't happen. Well, E will be 3 next month and I've decided it's time for me to once again join the masses who participate in this awesome event. Tomorrow, starting at 8am (EST), I'll be reading all.day.long. My awesome husband has graciously told me he'll have a "man day" with our little guy and I won't have any responsibilities other than finishing my pile of books. If you're participating, let me know!

My blogging has definitely been put on the back burner lately, so my reviews have been nonexistent. We're reading, just not talking enough about the books! Below are a few we've been loving lately. 



Bear Sees Colors by Karma Wilson, illustrated by Jane Chapman

Wilson is one of our favorite authors and this is probably my favorite from the Bear series. The illustrations are fabulous and the color theme is great for the stage of learning we're in. The rhymes are always spot-on in these books and this one is no exception. 

Is There a Dog in this Book? by Viviane Schwartz 

I have never witnessed my child laugh at a book quite as hard as he laughs at this one. He finds hilarity in the cats being afraid of the cute little dog in the first few pages and is always excited to help "find" the dog in the last few pages, despite how many times we've read it. We've yet to check out the first two in the series, but they'll be added to our library list, for sure. 






Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld

I read the entire Uglies series years ago and loved them, but this book was even better! It was suspenseful and had me totally sucked in from the first few pages. I loved the alternating chapters and the book-within-a-book concept. 

The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

I should have known by the 2 authors that I would love this one. Though the concept isn't necessarily new (boy finds out he has a magical background, not sure he wants it), the writing is great and the plot thrilling. The characters were realistic and the setting well-described. Younger Percy Jackson fans will love it! 

The Sacred Year by Michael Yankoski

The author takes a whole new look at what it means to be a Christian, refreshing himself and me, as his reader. It's one thing to talk about all the goodness God brings us, but a whole other to actually experience that goodness. I was fascinated by the journey Yankoski took and was left thinking about my own spiritual life in a whole new light. 

Five Days Left by Julie Lawson Timmer

I have a feeling this is going to my "it" book of the year. I loved every single minute of my experience with this story and cannot stop recommending it. It will completely wrench your heart, but it's so beautifully done, you can't help but love it. The characters could be anyone you know -- they could be YOU -- which makes the relationships feel all the more real. Definitely check this one out. 

I do tend to talk a lot about our current reads via Twitter, so if you're looking for more frequent book talk, start there. 


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21. Readathon: Starting Line





It's here! It's here! As I mentioned in my post yesterday, I haven't done a readathon in just about 3 years, so this one is a big deal for me. Having a husband willing to take total control of our toddler is awesome and I'm looking forward to a full day of reading and connecting with all of you. Ya'll are my people. :)

Coffee is brewed, book pile is stacked (and ebooks ready), and snacks are in the fridge! The opening meme was just posted and my answers are below. I'll do a few updates throughout the day. Happy reading, friends!






What fine part of the world are you reading from today?

I'm reading from Northern Virginia, just about 20 miles outside D.C. It's going to be a beautiful October day, so I'm sure I'll spend some time with my books on our back porch!

Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?

Probably Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer. I've heard so many great things about it and I finally got my hands on a copy. I'll probably wait until I'm getting tired to start it and hope it wakes me up.

Which snack are you most looking forward to?

Eek. I don't have any interesting snacks this time around. I used to go all out with my readathon snack stash, but I'm happy enough to just be reading this year. I'm sure I'll have some popcorn at some point in the day, so I'll go with that one.

Tell us a little something about yourself!

I'm a self-proclaimed coffee addict, wife to an occasional reader, mom to a super-reader, and loved by an 8-year-old pit bull who will spend most of the day at my feet. She doesn't read, but she's a great cuddler. ;)

If you participated in the last readathon, what's one thing you'll do differently today?

It's been a few years, but I'm sticking with my past rules of taking lots of breaks to connect via Twitter and all of your blogs. That's part of the fun of this day! Can't wait to meet some new bloggers!

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22. Readathon: Update #1

Well, it's about 7.5 hours in and I'm loving this. It's such a great feeling to be back, enjoying this awesome readathon event with all of you!

I started with (and finished) Boxers by Gene Luen Yang and read the rest of The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey. Started and just finished Small Victories by Anne Lamott.  I've also been listening to Sarah Addison Allen's Garden Spells while reading blogs and scrolling through Twitter.

My husband had the child out for the morning -- guy date! -- but, quickly ran back home with a "readathon porch delivery" for me. Flowers from the farmers market and more coffee. The man knows the way to my heart. Let me read all day and deliver me coffee?? He's a keeper. They're heading back out soon for more fun, while I keep it parked here!

I did get outside for some exercise and audiobook listening. Walked to my library to pick up another graphic novel and when my book didn't want to cooperate, I listened to the awesome Read Aloud Revival podcast. I love that one and highly recommend checking it out!


Totals

Pages read: 814
Books finished: 3
Time spent reading/listening: 6 hours 35 minutes




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23. Readathon: Mid-Event Survey

Well, I've made it to the halfway mark! It's just about time for the little guy to go to bed, so I'll have to take a break here soon to tend to my bedtime duties, but otherwise, I'm going strong. I plan to read as long as I can tonight - probably 11-ish - and then get back up early tomorrow and finish up. I'm so glad I've checked all these books off my list!

From the main Read-A-Thon site:

1. What are you reading right now?

I'm about 1/4 into Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer and totally hooked. Glad I waited until this point to pick it up.

2. How many books have you read so far?

Belzhar will be my 5th. I've had a great mix of graphic novels and short non-fiction to keep me going, but the novels will definitely take me longer.

3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-Thon?

Saints by Gene Luen Yang. Loved Boxers, so Saints will be next!

4. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those?

My husband was kind enough to take charge of our son for the day and planned lots of fun adventures out of the house. They did come back for nap time and now bedtime, and E insists I do those, so I've just taken short breaks. It's refreshing to look up from the pages for awhile anyway.

5. What surprises you most about the Read-a-Thon, so far?

I'm surprised with how many books I've gone through. I've always been a fast reader, but in recent months I seem to have slowed way down. Guess staring at pages all day long has helped me speed back up!

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24. Readathon: End of Event Meme

This 24hrs went by so quickly! I ended up going to sleep around 12am, but was back up at 5:30 when E decided to wake up for the day. Typically, Sunday is my day to sleep in (meaning 7:30), but today the husband got a 2nd day of extra rest, so I could finish up a book!

I had a lot of fun, knocked a bunch of books off my TBR, and had a great time connecting with new bloggers around the world. This readathon is unlike anything else I participate in and I'm definitely going to make it a priority from now on. Thanks to all the hosts and cheerleaders and organizers -- you guys are fantastic!

End of Event Meme

1. Which hour was most daunting for you?

Around 11pm I began to really lose interest in my book. I just didn't want to look at pages anymore, so I slowly read a few more pages while watching an episode of Call the Midwife before crashing.

2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?

Both Boxers and Saints were quick, graphic novel reads that kept me turning pages quickly.


3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?

Nope, you guys are great! 

4. What do you think worked really well in this year's Read-a-thon?

I haven't participated for a few years, so this might not be new, but it seemed like the variety of mini-challenges was great. I didn't participate in a lot of them, just because I preferred sticking with my book, but they were fun!

5. How many books did you read?

5.5, plus some audio. 

6. What were the names of the books you read?

Boxers by Gene Luen Yang
Saints by Gene Luen Yang
Brave Mom by Sherry Surratt
Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer
Small Victories by Anne Lamott
2nd half of The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey

7. Which did you enjoy least?

The Infinite Sea. The beginning was great, the middle and end totally lost me. 

8. How likely are you to participate again?

I absolutely will, as a Reader. 

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25. Brave Mom by Sherry Surratt

As most of you know, I'm the coordinator for my local chapter of MOPS International. It's an amazing position to hold -- leading over 40 women in biweekly meetings of fellowship, prayer, crafts, speakers, and just a good, relaxing experience. I feel completely overwhelmed with the passion I have for helping these women experience a couple hours of escape from mom-life. It's amazing.

Sherry Surratt is the President of MOPS International and Brave Mom is the theme book this year. It's filled with great advice for the us moms, battling through the trenches of raising little ones, and focusing on ten of our biggest fears as mothers. I can always use encouragement direct from Scripture, as well as from a seasoned mom.

Nothing in the book was new information to me or totally attention-grabbing, but it was a nice read to confirm that my fears as a mom are completely normal and reiterated practical ways to get over them and move on. Would make a great gift for a new mom!

Thanks to Zondervan for the review copy!

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