What I've been reading: Early 2016

spring Winter has come and gone (praise hands from the summer-lover!), spring has officially sprung, and I realized I haven't shared the books I've been reading, or rather devouring, with you, not even once yet this year. Oops!

(I did share a bit about what we've been reading with the kids, and in our homeschool over on my homeschool blog, so you can check that out if you're curious.)

what i'm reading 2016

As for me, I have had the pleasure of enjoying some great books this year so far, including some good YA which has been fun to dip back into. I'll go ahead and dig right in to my recent books list...

Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen

I have enjoyed all of SAA's books and this one did not disappoint. It had a slightly darker feel to it (just in the sense of tackling deeper issues of the heart), which makes sense considering this was her first book after her battle with cancer (she's in remission now!). I loved the characters, and the setting, and I'm hoping she revisits them in another book.


Silver Bay by Jojo Moyes

Another good Moyes romance; I especially loved the setting-- on the water's edge in a seaside South African town, where the location was as much a character as the people. I always enjoy her multi-POV stories, as she has a real knack with changing voice seamlessly.


Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg

Lots of great writing inspiration in this book, even if it means wading through some serious zen-mumbo-jumbo to find it. The chapters are short, the writing prompts are fun, and she's very encouraging to the writer-dreamer. I was greatly inspired to start writing in a notebook-- someday I hope that will actually become a daily discipline.


First Frost (Waverley Family, #2) by Sarah Addison Allen

A friend who is also a big SAA fan couldn't get into this one as much but I really enjoyed it. Similarly to The Girl Who Chased the Moon (my fave of her books), she follows both an adolescent (Bay, grown up from when we met her in Garden Spells) and some adult characters in this one, giving it a little YA flair. (I always love returning to characters I befriended before, so I'm probably not as critical as some when it comes to follow-up novels.)


Mr. Kiss and Tell (Veronica Mars, #2) by Rob Thomas

I was incredibly disappointed to find that Kristen Bell did not read this audiobook like she did the first. I almost had to turn it off because the narrator started out so droll, but as I got into it, I found she did a great job of changing her voice for different characters. The story was captivating and well-written but would probably say I liked the first one better. Here's hoping Rob Thomas keeps going with these books because I love Veronica so much that I don't want this series to end.


The Lake House by Kate Morton

This was our last book club pick. It was a great title to discuss-- Morton always gives us lots to talk about. I don't want to say too much because that's just how her books are, but this was more of an actual mystery (and the main character was in fact a mystery writer). Lots of people love this one, but I'll go on record and say it was really good, but I liked The Secret Keeper better. I prefer to read her books in actual paper form because I constantly feel the need to flip back and review things.


The Royal We by Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan

Favorite novel I've read this year so far. These two authors are so good at telling a story and crafting characters, and after reading a bit about them, I found myself wanting to find a friend to write a book with (Amy has a great interview with them on MomAdvice). I sincerely hope they write a sequel, because when the book ended, I was downright depressed to let go of the characters, and I felt a bit obsessive about them and their story for a while. I don't go ga-ga for Will-and-Kate mania but I loved this fairytale story and the rawness and "real" struggles the authors brought to it.


Paper Towns by John Green

A great YA read-- Green is a wonderful storyteller, and I was glad to read a less-depressing book by him. ;) This wasn't all sunshine and rainbows of course; it had plenty of YA angst and a good dose of getting-to-know-your-real-self. But it was a fun mystery, with a fair share of adventure, and I look forward to watching the movie now (after sobbing through The Fault in Our Stars, I had no desire to watch the movie, so this is a big improvement in my book).


Side by Side: Walking with Others in Wisdom and Love by Edward T. Welch

We read this with our church, discussing it in our community groups. It was easy to read and incredibly encouraging as we strive to live in community and interact with each other the way Jesus would want us to. Very practical help on how we counsel one another, and come alongside one another as we walk with the Lord. I'd say a must-read for small group leaders and people who want to really live out the gospel.


Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success by K.M. Weiland 

I picked this up at the writer's conference I went to last year and I'm so glad I did as it's exactly what I needed as someone who's not very good with following through. I read it all the way through and now am working through it to outline a new project. I'll share more about the project and the book soon. :)


Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling

I read the Harry Potter books probably about 15 years ago or so, so it's really fun to revisit them now with kids. We read this aloud to our kids (and listened to a big chunk on audio while road-tripping), and they fell in love with Harry and the wizarding world-- especially Brody. We intend to take our time (we didn't jump right in to book #2 yet) and only read books 1-3 until the littles are a bit older. They loved reading the book and then watching the movie.


First & Then by Emma Mills

I definitely picked this up because I was drawn to the cover (isn't it so pretty?!), but then when I read the jacket cover I was convinced to check it out. I really adored this story-- a story "about falling in love--with the unexpected boy, with a new brother, and with yourself." Quintessential (non-fantasy) YA. Plus, the author is a young grad student and vlogger, which is pretty fun.


Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella

Another spontaneous find of the YA library shelf. I had no idea SK had written a YA book- how fun (and another cute cover, too)! This was another great read. I don't know how realistic its treatment of anxiety and mental illness is, but I appreciated that it was raw, without being depressing. I do love how Sophie Kinsella tells a good British story, too. ;)


Follow Me: A Call to Die. A Call to Live. by David Platt

This was a super legit book at what it really looks like to follow Jesus. Lots to think about, lots of evaluation of the heart and what life looks like. This was a great companion/followup to Side by Side.


 

So that's what I've been reading so far this year-- whew! I should really write these posts more often I think so they aren't so loaded with titles.

And again, if you are interested in more of what we've been reading with the kids and in our homeschool time, you can visit my recent post over on my homeschool journal, February in books, pictures, and a few thoughts.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on these books if you've read any of them! And here's what I'm currently reading...

Affiliate links included; thanks for reading and for your support of this blog.

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!

Need some practical inspiration to do more reading? Sign up for my newsletter (which will go out soon with some fun news!) and receive my free ebook Read More

What have you been reading? 


Affiliate links included; thanks for reading and supporting!

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'.

Affiliate links included; thanks for your support, and thanks for reading!

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!

Affiliate links included in this post; thank you for your support!

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.

Affiliate links included in this post; thank you for your support!