Quick Lit: Summer Reading Edition 2015

summertime reading 2015 There are still a few weeks left of summer for us-- we start school officially after Labor Day-- which means we are still enjoying the freedom and warmth of summer (yay!), although I am starting to feel the pull towards getting back into the rhythm and routine that the school year provides.

It's been a good summer of reading. In fact, I had to revise this post several times because I kept remembering more books that I finished this summer. Here's what I've read and what's still to come before this season is over.

what i'm reading in 2015  nicolevbennett.com


All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

This book was a real pleasure to read. I ended up reading it rather slowly (it has ridiculously short chapters, which I loved because it was easy to read in snippets of the day). Because the library holds list was so long I couldn't renew it... I ended up buying it. I knew it was one I would like to be able to loan out or read again. I'll be honest: I wasn't crazy about the ending. If you've read it, I'd love to hear what you think (send me an email and let's chat!). But it was such a beautifully crafted story, so well-written and well-told, that the whole of it made up for that. A true literary gem, this one.


The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty

I definitely did not love this as much as I loved What Alice Forgot, but it was a good read still. The ending had a sufficiently surprising twist, and I enjoyed Ms. Moriarty's description of the school culture and community. It was a thought-provoker, too, that's for sure.


Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist

I really love reading Shauna's memoirs. In fact, I love them so much that they make me want to abandon my dreams of writing fiction to write my own memoir. She's so honest and raw, and yet also encouraging, in this book as she process going through tough paths that come her way in life. The tagline, thoughts on change, grace, and learning the hard way, says it all.


Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

This was definitely a departure from my usual genres of choice. But it's a departure I'm glad I took. This book came highly recommended and for good reason. It was a really interesting look at a post-apocalyptic america with no electricity (and no internet!). It was intriguing and mysterious, carefully crafted and really well-written. And one of those books that makes me go, wow, I wish I could think up a story like that!


Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty 

I'd probably rate this one second in terms of Moriarty books-- still not as good as Alice but I liked it better than The Husband's Secret. The interesting thing about this one was the perspective, as the story was told through more than one character's experiences. The details of the mystery gradually unfolded throughout the book in a creative way that really captured me.


Knowable Word by Peter Krohl

This summer our women's group has been studying Mark inductively and this little book was a great tool for expanding my understanding of what it means to do the three main steps of inductive Bible study: observation (what does it say?), interpretation (what does it mean?), and application (how does it apply or change my thinking about God?). Reading it felt a little like studying literature in college again, in a good way. It's an easy read.


The Boy Next Door by Meg Cabot

This a super fun and easy read that a friend handed me to read. She knows I love Meg Cabot and this reminded me why I love her so much. It was written completely in emails (which I know isn't a style everyone loves) but I tend to enjoy that kind of book. A great summer read-- comparable to something like Shopaholic but with a more likeable main character.


Yes Please by Amy Poehler

I finally finished listening to this. I'm still not very good at audiobooks-- because I have so many podcasts and Voxer messages I get distracted by. :) But you really can't beat a memoir written and read by a comedienne. Amy Poehler is definitely crass at times but her book was entertaining (complete with guest voices and a chapter read to a live audience) and even inspiring-- I found myself quoting her last night to some friends. She's a strong, talented, passionate woman, and I enjoyed getting to know her story.


Fit to Burst by Rachel Jankovic

I wish Rachel was a real life friend. She inspires me more even than I realized I needed in terms of motherhood and the gospel. This book was convicting in all the right ways, as I said on Instagram when I posted about it. It's pretty short, and easy read, and when I finished I made plans in my mind to begin it again almost immediately.


Where'd Ya Go Bernadette by Maria Semple

This was our first book club selection. I was intrigued by the fact that most friends I know who'd read it really liked it, but Anne, who is usually my reading guru, hated it! Well, it turns out I was in the first camp. I enjoyed it quite a bit (but you know I like epistolary books and this one was written as if it were compiled with emails, journal entries, letters, etc, which was fun).  More thoughts on this to come one after my book club meets.


 Currently Reading:

If it appears that I have all but abandoned Les Misérables, it's because, well, I have. :| It was so hard to get into and I think I was just too lazy to read it. The year's not over yet, so maybe I will go back to it, but I feel a bit bad that I've basically abandoned the FB book club.  The Motherhood & Jane Austen Book Club technically still exists but I'd say it's pretty dormant right now. Maybe another time it will awaken again. For everything there is a season, right?

For now, leaning into a real life reading community was more on my heart, so for the first time, I decided to start an in-real life book club. We're meeting next week for the first time to discuss Bernadette and I'm quite excited!

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What have you been reading? 


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3 Cookbooks I'm really loving (+ a few more)

I've grown to love cookbooks, not just for the how-to, but also simply for reading-- especially books that share a bit of narrative along with the recipes. And beautiful photos? That's a bonus. 3 cookbooks

It's pretty awesome to have friends who write books, and friends who develop recipes and write cookbooks impress me greatly. Today I wanted to share a few cookbooks that were written by friends of mine-- beautiful books that I have welcomed into my repertoire with open oven mitts.

Each of these books has its own focus and niche, and I can see any of them making a nice gift. I've cooked and baked from each of them and see them being a staple on my shelf for years to come.

everyday grain-free baking and 2 more cookbooks

1. Everyday Grain-Free Baking: Over 100 Recipes for Deliciously Easy Grain-Free and Gluten-Free Baking by Kelly Smith

Kelly and I are in a blogging mastermind group together, and while I haven't met her in person yet (even though we live just an hour or so away), she has been a great encouragement to me and others in our group, and it's been fun to watch her journey from blogger to author.

Kelly's book is a great resource for those that want to have baking options that are grain-/gluten-free. Baking with out conventional grains can be so tricky but Kelly makes it way more approachable and attainable with her book. Her beautiful pie is calling to me to try, but in the meantime, I can vouch for the Apple Streusel Muffins which were devoured by the entire family. Now to get some more blanched almond flour so I can try more recipes!

2. Good Cheap Eats: Everyday Dinners and Fantastic Feasts for $10 or Less by Jessica Fisher

Jessica is a real-life friend, thanks to blogging. She lives nearby and we have hung out a few times (and even ran into each other recently at Legoland!), and I was lucky enough to get to sample some of her freezer meals when she was recipe-testing for her first cookbook after Hallee was born.

Good Cheap Eats is quite the anthology of budget-friendly meals, so there are many more recipes I want to try but I've already made several which have become family favorites. I love Lui's Kitchen Almond Cookies and Buttery Dill Carrots, and her Cajun Shrimp and Sausage Rice has probably been made at least a half-dozen times in the last few months. Most recently I made a (huge) double batch for our big family gathering for Father's Day. It's incredibly delicious (we serve it with a dollop of sour cream for those who need to chill out the cajun spice a bit), and it got rave reviews.

brown eggs and jam jars and 2 more cookbooks

3. Brown Eggs and Jam Jars: Family Recipes from the Kitchen of Simple Bites by Aimée Wimbush-Bourque

I've been a huge fan of Simple Bites ever since my friend Aimée and I began working together for Simple Living Media years ago. So many of her recipes are standards in our family now, and to have this work-of-art cookbook in my home is a real treat.

Brown Eggs and Jam Jars is the epitome of the balance of beauty and utility, with charming glances in at Aimée's homestead family life, delicious recipes and stunning photographs. The book is setup seasonally, which I love. A few favorites already are the Marinated Beets, Peach-Glazed and Grilled Salmon (with the delicious Roasted Peach Barbecue Sauce), and her Caprese Salad with Fresh Thyme Drizzle. I mean, wow. Aimée's recipes really dazzle, and this is already one of my favorite cookbooks I own (and I'm thrilled that she is working on her next cookbook already).

A few more in the cookbook department I've been checking out lately:

Just a tip: I've started requesting cookbooks at the library and then I can look through them and decide which ones I want to buy. I'd love to know what cookbooks you are enjoying these days!

Some of these books were provided to me by the publisher or by author (all opinions are my own). Affiliate links included; thanks for your support!

Quick Lit~ late spring edition

what i'm reading in 2015  nicolevbennett.com During my little absence from my blog, you can bet I've been doing quite a bit of reading.

It's been a particularly good couple of months of reading in fact, and it seemed like it was about time to share all the good things I've read since my last Quick Lit post.

I do have to confess that I have all but given up on Les Miserables, which was the book choice for the book club. I still want to read it, but there's no way I'm going to finish by June which was the original goal. I don't know what it is exactly, but the easy answer is that I just keep getting distracted by easier books.

the Rosie Effect

 The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion

This is the fun sequel to The Rosie Project, which I read last year and loved. While I didn't quite enjoy this one as much as the first, it was still quite entertaining and captivating.

There's just something about Don Tillman's narration that makes for easy and smooth reading, despite him being quite a technical and logical character. I'm still excited to see Don and Rosie in film format someday, since I know Simsion has worked on a screenplay for the The Rosie Project.


A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet

A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet by Sophie Hudson

I bought this book on a Kindle-deal whim. I had put it on my to-read list a while before but didn't know much about it. When I saw it on a friend's IG feed and then saw it for cheap or free (I don't remember which), I snatched it up, which turned out to be a good grab. I really enjoyed reading it, and it got me realizing that I really love reading memoir before bed, because it's the kind of thing that I can stop any time, and while thoroughly enjoyable, it doesn't tempt me to stay up till 2am to see what happens next, like a novel. This was a sweet read, and while I had never read Sophie's blog before, I enjoyed her writing style and stories immensely-- a nice blend of laugh-out-loud funny and cut-to-the-heart moments.


UnbrokenUnbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

I've been on a bit of a WWII kick, sort of by accident. Reading this book felt really monumental. It explored a side of the war that I felt like I didn't know much about (the Pacific war), and gave me a serious dose of perspective when I considered all Louie Zamperini went through when I was having a "hard day" of parenting. The way Ms. Hillenbrand writes is downright captivating. She masterfully presents all her incredible research into what reads like a page-turning novel. I still haven't watched the movie yet because-- I'll be honest-- I'm a bit nervous to see it, knowing how intense the story is. But to say I was inspired by Zamperini's life, would be an understatement. Reading this made me wish my grandpa, who served in the Pacific during WWII, was still alive to talk to, and it also gave me a sobering education as Memorial Day approached.


What Alice ForgotWhat Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

When I started this book, I didn't really know what it was about, which I'm kinda glad about. As the story developed, and I figured out what was going on, I fell in love with both the whole idea and the characters, and basically couldn't put it down until I finished. I conveniently read it over Mother's Day weekend which meant I didn't feel bad reading it all day long essentially. ;) Not only did this novel captivate me, but it got me thinking about my own life, which I think is a good sign of great writing. I'm looking forward to reading more of Ms. Moriarty books now, and recommending this one left and right. Last weekend I picked up a copy as a garage sale for $1 (score!) because I knew it was one I would want to re-read and loan out to friends.


Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands

Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands by Paul David Tripp

David and I have been leading a community group for about six years, and this is a book that I wish I'd read oh, about six years ago. In my opinion, it's a must read for anyone in ministry or leading any kind of small group or really just living in Christian community with other believers. It's a wonderful resource for iron-sharpening-iron kind of living, and for believers who want to share wise Biblical counsel with one another and be living out the gospel. I'm so glad our church leadership handed this one out to community group leaders and I'm sure I'll be referencing it for years to come. Tripp uses lots of stories and hypothetical situations to convey his points which makes the information really come alive.


comforts from the crossComforts from the Cross by Elyse Fitzpatrick

Elyse has become one of my favorite gospel-centered authors. This book is a simple devotional-- just 31 days' worth of reading, that points us to what Jesus did on the cross for us, and how that applies to our everyday life.

I read this one while making my coffee over the last several weeks and it was a really great way to start the day.


little hands and hearts

Never Say NoNever Say No by Mark and Jan Foreman

I've read a lot of parenting books, but I think what I like most about this book is what its tagline proclaims, it's about "raising big-picture kids." And that's exactly the kind of book it is. This isn't a nitty-gritty how-to-parent book, it's a big-picture look at parenting, and about raising children who love the Lord and who are fully living out who God created them to be.

Let me go a little fangirl on ya and say that I've loved Switchfoot since they were college kids (and I was in high school), playing on a virtually empty corner of the local street fair. I have every album and have probably seen at least a dozen of their shows. But what's always stood out to me is that the band members seem to have integrity and have, over the years, created quality work that reflected their values and beliefs but appealed to a broad audience (which just happens to be a quality I aspire to  in my writing). So to read first-hand how the brothers were raised has been a real special experience. Mark Foreman pastors a church just up the street from mine, and while he and his church might vary a bit theologically from mine, he comes across in this book as someone who genuinely loves Jesus and deeply desired to follow Him as he and Jan raised their children. Thanks to Litfuse for this review copy; I've really enjoyed this book.

Currently reading:

So that's it! I'd love to know your thoughts on any of these books or hear what you've been reading. I'm pretty sure every book on this list was one recommended by a friend-- that's why I love sharing book lists and reading others'.

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Quick lit 2015, first edition, part 2

i have a weakness for hot right now books Do you go through phases with your reading speed? Sometimes, I'm racing to finish a novel, and then when I do, I feel like I can't quite jump into a new one yet.

It's like I need some time to let the characters hang out in my mind a bit longer before I move on. I get really attached to characters, and then I have a hard time letting them go.  I suppose that's a sign of a good book. It happened to me this past weekend with my most-recently finished book.

(I post quite a bit about books here on the blog. If you find yourself looking for a friendly kick in the pants to up your own reading, I have just the thing for you. Download my free ebook, Read More, today for instant inspiration on the why and how.)

And now for part two of this year's books read so far (in order read). And I'll tell you what I'm reading right now too, because I know you're dying to know. ;)

what i'm reading in 2015  nicolevbennett.com


The Hundred-Foot Journey by Richard C. Morais

I have a weakness for the "hot right now" bookshelf at the library (that shelf beckons to me with a challenge and calls me "chicken" until I snatch a book off it), and also for books that have been made into movies. If I know I might see the movie, I find myself needing to read the book first. I also love books about food and food cultures and foreign countries. So basically this was a perfect book for me. It had some slow parts, and in some ways I liked the movie better, but overall, a good read.


 The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

I really loved this book. I think I usually prefer stories that happen over a shorter time span (shorter than half a life anyway), but I really loved journeying through A.J.'s life. The characters were so well-developed in this book and there was a bit of a mysterious thread of a story running through it. It had a lot of wonderful literary references, too, the majority of which were short stories I've never read, and now want to.


The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo

Such a fun little book to read, with all of its Japanese culture references and its funny little stories of young Marie's "tidying" escapades. And of course, like pretty much everyone else who has read this, I have completely overhauled my clothes-folding system and my dresser will never be the same. It's amazing. I haven't ventured further than clothes with her methods but she's got some awesome ideas for simpler home organization (hint: it starts with getting rid of a lot of stuff).


I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

I adored this book. Thank you, Anne, for recommending it. I saw the movie ten years ago, and did not know it was a book until last year. I completely loved Cassandra's narrating style (it's written as her journal); she completely captured me (see what I did there?) with her coming-of-age story. It almost read like a Jane Austen but with a setting a century and a half later. Unrelated bonus points for me for getting a reference to medieval English history in it that I never would have gotten before studying the middle ages with Gigi this year. This is a book to buy and add to my personal shelves.


 

Read aloud to the kiddos: Little House on the Prairie (we all loved it, I need to buy the next book!)

Currently reading:

Part 1 of this edition of Quick Lit can be found here.

Lovely friends, I'd love to know what you're reading these days!

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Quick lit 2015, first edition, part 1

what i'm reading in 2015  nicolevbennett.com I can't believe we're almost three months in to 2015 and I haven't posted a summary of what I've been reading for you! I've already read some really good books, and I'm knee deep in a few more. Quick lit is my favorite way to share books with you because I can squeeze so much into one post-- okay, maybe 2 posts in this case. ;)

So here are the books I've read so far in 2015, in order finished.


You are a Writer  by Jeff Goins

This was a quick read, and a veritable kick in the pants. Just what I needed honestly. I'm always inspired by what Jeff writes. I'm still working on acting like a writer, but at least now I'm not afraid to call myself one, after reading this.


Lizzy & Jane by Katherine Reay

I was thrilled to read Katherine Reay's second novel since I loved Dear Mr. Knightly so much. This one didn't disappoint. It was a captivating story, albeit not exactly what I was expecting. Lizzy & Jane explores the depths of family relationships, a bit of sweet romance, food, and fighting adversity.


Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

The book club bled over into 2015 for me as I wrapped up my last Jane novel in early January. It took me longer than I expected to get through S&S this time, but I still loved it. Recently I rewatched the Hugh Grant/Emma Grant movie version and remembered how well done it was-- Kate Winslet's Marianne is so spot on.


The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Mayes

Another great novel by Mayes. This one was a story of survival in German-occupied WWI France, within a modern tale of unlikely love and legal turmoil. I loved the juxtaposition of the two heroines as they fought their way through their own struggles.


Bossypants by Tina Fey

This was my first foray into audiobooks. I dabbled a little with some LibriVox recordings of Jane Austen's novels, but this one I checked out through OverDrive and my library. Honestly, having Tina Fey read her book made it for me. It was slow getting in to it. I wasn't really into the first third, but I loved it after that as she got more into her career and family stories.


The Art of Work by Jeff Goins

This book moved and challenged and inspired me in so many ways. It's all about finding your calling in life and it just wasn't really what I was expecting (in the best sort of way). Jeff doesn't just talk about himself for a couple hundred pages. Throughout the book he tells stories of real people and how they've found their callings through their life journey.  I can't recommend this one enough.


I really want to get this post out to you today, so I'm going to stop here and wrap up the rest in a part two. Got to get some homeschooling and life-living done now!

Read Part 2 and more great reads (including what I'm currently reading) here.

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3 Little things: a book, a drink, and a good habit

good stuff In the last week, I've found myself more than once sitting on the stairs, my head in my hands in defeat. I confess and plead with the Lord while the drama drags on upstairs.

"I know not what to do, but my eyes are fixed on you."

I have committed to this verse for this year-- to pray it, to live it out, especially on the hard days-- because striving to figure it all out myself and wallowing in the challenges do nothing for me except to wear me out more.

It's more than a cry for help. It's an active stance of leaning on Him to guide and direct me.

He has yet to audibly answer me (though it's only February so who knows what the year holds... ;) ), but He speaks to me through His word and through godly people and through good books.

Today I'm bringing back my weekly-ish 3 Little Things post because I like how it gets my eyes on things I'm digging, things I'm thankful for, things building and filling me up.

the abundant life- Becoming a Spiritually Healthy Family

The 3 Little Things series is all about living the abundant life and seeing the abundant goodness in life. And that's what the first little thing I'm sharing today is all about. I've been reading Becoming a Spiritually Healthy Family by Michelle Anthony and it's been a great tool for pointing out the dysfunction that might be creeping in to our families.

I love that quote above from her book that I put in that graphic up above. I think it's easy to focus on pursuing the abundant life instead of pursuing Jesus Himself and receiving the abundant life as a by-product, like she says. (Michelle is a wise woman, and I actually know that because she is a friend and mentor of my sister-in-law. I read and enjoyed her book Spiritual Parenting years ago and so I was excited to read her newest book).

Becoming a Spiritually Healthy Family is not just philosophy; it's super practical and it's teaching me more and more about how practically I can fix my eyes on Jesus and get more of His wisdom. It shows us the various ways that dysfunction can play out in our families, and counters with ways of living out the abundant life in our parenting and in marriages, too.

"In the struggle to determine what is good and what is better, only God can inform me from a perfect and loving perspective." ~Becoming a Spiritually Healthy Family

So this book is one of those things making me happy-- because it's giving me hope and direction and I can always use more of those things in my parenting and family journey.

3 little things

 So what else has been making me happy lately? 

- Good Earth Original Sweet & Spicy herbal tea-- I'm not a big herbal tea fan but I fell in love with this tea the first time I drank it. It's one of the only teas I've ever liked enough to not add anything to it, and its cinnamon-y spiciness takes me back to the spiced tea my mom gave me when I was home sick as a kid.

- Getting organized! I emptied our art/school cabinet and have been relegating all that stuff to go elsewhere in an effort to downsize our furniture collection by one hutch. We also got the girls an awesome double desk (!!) that has helped with the organization and also the school time by giving Gigi a place to do her independent work alone. I'll share details of that when I finish the whole area up there. It's so fun!

Bonus: how great is that Laura Ingalls Wilder quote up top there? I found it via Instagram and it encompasses so much of what we're working on with Gigi! I'm going to have her memorize it.

I hope you're finding some things making you happy this week. Share in the comments if you feel so inclined! :)

Linking up with Amy @ MomAdvice for the 3 Little Things!

Thank you to Litfuse for the review copy of Becoming a Spiritually Healthy Family; read more reviews here. Affiliate links included, thanks for your support.

Books to read in 2015 (with lots of room for adding in more)

15 books I want to read in 2015 I don't really like to try my hand at predicting how things will turn out. I prefer, rather, to leave lots of wiggle room and see how things play out on their own. Examples: hearts, rather than spades, homeschool planning, and well, reading lists.

The minute I saw Anne's 2015 Reading Challenge, I knew it was the perfect list for me. I don't like to be too pinned down to a reading list because I never know what books are going to show up on the "hot now" or the holds shelf for me at the library, and I often add random books to my Kindle simply because they are on sale or free.

The great thing about this challenge is that it's not a specific list of books to read, but rather (fun) categories. I've chosen books that can fit in this list that I already have been wanting to read, with lots of room for spontaneous reads.

Have you taken on Anne's challenge? Here's some of what I'm planning to read this year.

A book you've been meaning to read

the read-aloud handbook

A book published this year

the art of work

A book in a genre you don't typically read

Louise Penny

  • Still Life by Louise Penny (and maybe more in the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series-- I haven't read mystery since my Nancy Drew days)

A book from your childhood

harriet the spy

A book your mom loves

believing God

  •  Believing God by Beth Moore (my mom loves Beth Moore (as do I!) -- she's done the study version of this book, and I picked this up free for Kindle a few months ago)

A book originally written in another language

les mis

A book "everyone" has read but you

bossypants

  • Bossypants by Tina Fey (I'm listening to this one)

A book you chose because of the cover

the storied life of a.j. fikry

A book by a favorite author

royal wedding

  • Royal Wedding by Meg Cabot (guilty pleasure? maybe, but I've read the whole series :) )

A book recommended by someone with great taste

The secret keeper

  • The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton (recommended by more than one fried with great taste)

A book you should've read in high school

jane eyre

  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë (I'm ashamed to say, I started in H.S. English but never finished)

A book currently on the bestseller list

all the light we cannot see

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