This last month of the year, I finished 17 books (including the Bible!) and finally hit (and passed!) my 200 book goal for 2017. What. A. Month.
We're also launching our new link-up this month too-- add your links to any bookish blog post at the bottom of this post!
Here's what I read in December:
Nobody's Cuter than You by Melanie Shankle
THE STARS: 3/5
THE PLOT: "Written in the same comedic style as the New York Times bestsellers Sparkly Green Earrings and The Antelope in the Living Room, Nobody’s Cuter than You is a laugh-out-loud look at the special bond that exists between friends and a poignant celebration of all the extraordinary people God had the good sense to bring into our lives at exactly the right moments. From the friendships we develop over a lifetime to the ones that wounded us and the ones that taught us to love better, Melanie Shankle reveals the influence our friends have on who we were, who we are, and who we will become. And on a day when our jeans feel too tight, our chins have decided to embrace hormone-related acne reminiscent of our teen years, and our kids have tested the limits of our sanity, they are the ones who will look at us and say, “Nobody’s cuter than you!” (from here)
THE THOUGHT: This book is such a sweet and encouraging look at friendship throughout our lives, as told in heartfelt and hilarious stories from Shankle's life. It’s a fun read, a light read, and it will make you want to call your girlfriends. Everybody needs a lifelong friend like Gulley!
Someone Else's Love Story by Joshilyn Jackson
THE STARS: 3/5
THE PLOT: "Shandi Pierce is juggling finishing college, raising her delightful three-year-old genius son Nathan, aka Natty Bumppo, and keeping the peace between her eternally warring, long-divorced parents. She's got enough complications without getting caught in the middle of a stick-up and falling in love with William Ashe, who willingly steps between the robber and her son.
Shandi doesn't know that her blond god Thor has his own complications. When he looked down the barrel of that gun he believed it was destiny: It's been one year to the day since a tragic act of physics shattered his world. But William doesn't define destiny the way others do. A brilliant geneticist who believes in facts and numbers, destiny to him is about choice. Now, he and Shandi are about to meet their so-called destinies head on, making choices that will reveal unexpected truths about love, life, and the world they think they know." (from here)
THE THOUGHT: Overall, this was an interesting story, but it felt SO slow and a little too drawn out for me. I didn’t particularly engage with any characters and found some parts to be too far fetched, but the story was engaging and held my interest! Not the best I’ve read by her, but a solid read nonetheless!
Watch with Me by Wendell Berry
THE STARS: 3/5
THE PLOT: "Never has Wendell Berry seemingly had so much fun as he does in spinning the tall tales of Ptolemy Proudfoot, “a member of a large clan of large people.” Tol Proudfoot is a farmer, a longtime bachelor at war with his clothes. The challenge of arriving in presentable fashion at the harvest festival in order to court Miss Minnie, Port William’s schoolmarm, is an epic battle. But Miss Minnie is delighted to have "Mr. Proudfoot" bid on her cake at the bake auction for a princely sum, and pleased to have him see her home." (from here)
THE THOUGHT: Did you know Wendell Berry is the living person I would most want to have dinner with? He’s a brilliant man with a heart for the world that I connect with so much, and he’s a masterful storyteller. This collection wasn’t my most favorite fiction from him (that’s Hannah Coulter so far) but the short stories of this country couple were well-written and charming and just felt like days in the real life of a slow-paced small town.
I Was Amelia Earhart by Jane Mendelsohn
THE STARS: 3/5
THE PLOT: "In this brilliantly imagined novel, Amelia Earhart tells us what happened after she and her navigator, Fred Noonan, disappeared off the coast of New Guinea one glorious, windy day in 1937. And she tells us about herself. There is her love affair with flying ("The sky is flesh") . . . . There are her memories of the past: her childhood desire to become a heroine ("Heroines did what they wanted") . . . her marriage to G.P. Putnam, who promoted her to fame, but was willing to gamble her life so that the book she was writing about her round-the-world flight would sell out before Christmas. There is the flight itself -- day after magnificent or perilous or exhilarating or terrifying day ("Noonan once said any fool could have seen I was risking my life but not living it"). And there is, miraculously, an island ("We named it Heaven, as a kind of joke"). And, most important, there is Noonan . . ." (from here)
THE THOUGHT: This tiny book was such an interesting fictionalized look at what Amelia Earhart’s story might have been leading up to, during, and after her big attempt to fly around the world. The writing style and point of view are unique in this one and I didn’t always enjoy it (trying to be omniscient but sometimes being from one of the characters, trying to be poetic but sometimes was too much) but it was a super quick read about a fascinating woman!
Speak: How Your Story Can Change the World by Nish Weiseth
THE STARS: 3/5
THE PLOT: "Speak, by popular blogger Nish Weiseth, is a book about the power of telling our own stories and hearing those of others to change hearts, build bridges, advocate for good, make disciples with grace, and proclaim God’s kingdom on Earth today." (from here)
THE THOUGHT: I am such a huge fan of Nish (one of the best people I follow on Twitter— do the same if you aren’t already!) and can’t believe I’ve waited so long to read her book. I’m such a fan of sharing stories and being brave with my own, and loved her thoughts in this one about how our stories can change the world, truly. The inclusion of snippets of so many women’s stories as they had been shared on the site she runs was awesome, and I especially loved seeing some of the comments that had been left on those posts originally. Such a good reminder that our transparency and vulnerability are gifts to those around us and to ourselves.
The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult
THE STARS: 4/5
THE PLOT: "Mourning the passing of her mother, Sage Singer decides to attend a grief support group. She doesn’t expect to start an unlikely friendship with an elderly man also attending. Josef Weber is a beloved, retired teacher and Little League coach. Together they attempt to heal.
But one day he asks Sage for a favor: to kill him. Shocked, Sage refuses but then he confesses his darkest and long-buried secret, one that irrevocably changes Sage’s worldview. She suddenly finds herself facing questions she never expected, such as what do you do when evil lives next door? Can someone who’s committed a truly heinous act ever atone for it with subsequent good behavior? Should you offer forgiveness to someone if you aren’t the party who was wronged? And most of all, if Sage even considers his request, is it murder or justice?" (from here)
THE THOUGHT: This book... wow. I’ve never read a book by Picoult that wasn’t convicting and relevant and powerful, and this one, about the Holocaust and its survivors and forgiveness, was no different. Goodness, it blew me away and broke my heart and just was incredibly moving. So many tough themes here, some really intense and hard to read parts, some descriptive violence, and a handful of different characters and storylines weaving together, but it all works to make this one an incredibly good read.
Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No To Take Control of Your Life by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend
THE STARS: 4/5
THE PLOT: "To regain control of your life, you’ve never needed Boundaries more than you do today in today’s always-on, always-connected digital world. Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend wrote the New York Times bestselling book on Boundaries – the personal property lines that define who you are and who you are not, and influence all areas of your life – physically, emotionally, spiritually. And now, over 2 million changed lives later, Cloud & Townsend have updated and expanded this bestseller with essential guidance for setting Boundaries in today’s digital age.
If you’ve ever wondered: Can I set limits and still be a loving person? How do I answer someone who wants my time, love, energy, or money? Why do I feel guilty when I consider setting boundaries? Unpacking the 10 laws of boundaries, Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend give you biblically based answers to these and other tough questions, and show you how to set healthy boundaries with your spouse, children, friends, coworkers, and even with yourself.
In Boundaries, Drs. Cloud and Townsend show you how to bring new health to your relationships. You’ll discover firsthand how to reclaim your freedom to walk as the loving, giving, fulfilled individual God created you to be." (from here)
THE THOUGHT: This book will change your life. Enough said. ...But I'll say more... This book was one I have heard about for years, but resisted reading. (That totally should have been a sign I needed to read it!) No matter who you are, what relationships you have, or what your personality is like, this book will absolutely help you to create boundaries in the best ways, in order to help you (and others) live your best life. It's helpful, encouraging, wise, and thorough. This book helped dispel any myth you might be believing about setting boundaries, and it gave such helpful perspectives on what healthy, solid boundaries look like. I appreciated how many stories and anecdotes were included-- it made it feel like there was less pressure on me, and that I wasn't alone in the need for creating better structure and boundaries in my own life, work, and relationships. I'll be changing and implementing so many things in my life because of this book, and I know I'll be so much better for it.
Let's All Be Brave: Living Life with Everything You Have by Annie F. Downs
THE STARS: 4/5
THE PLOT: "How often does fear hold us back from the very things we most want to taste, touch, and experience? The call to be brave isn't just for one person―it's for everyone. Let's All Be Brave is more than a book, it's a battle cry. Annie challenges us to live boldly, she calls us to step into those places that require courage, and she gives us the help to take the next step forward―even when it's scary."(from here)
THE THOUGHT: Annie, you have done it again. Shot straight to the heart with such honesty and realness, in such love, with such grace. Man, this book is good. And it reads like a great coffee shop story swap date with a BFF, and every single chapter will make you want to be more brave, and it’s a beautiful thing. I’m fired up! So, so good.
Because of Bethlehem: Love is Born, Hope is Here by Max Lucado
THE STARS: 2/5
THE PLOT: "Max Lucado loves Christmas. Let the sleigh bells ring. Let the carolers sing. The more Santas the merrier. The more trees the better. He loves it because somewhere someone will ask the Christmas questions: What’s the big deal about the baby in the manger? Who was he? What does his birth have to do with me?
And the answers he’s found give us all hope. God knows what it’s like to be a human. When we talk to him about deadlines or long lines or tough times, he understands. He’s been there. He’s been here. Because of Bethlehem, we have a friend in heaven. And Christmas begins what Easter celebrates. The child in the cradle became the King on the cross. Because of Bethlehem, we have a Savior in heaven.
These are the heart shaping promises of Christmas. Long after the guests have left and the carolers have gone home and the lights have come down, these promises endure. Let’s turn on the lamp, curl up in a comfortable spot, and look into the odd, wonderful story of Bethlehem. Max has found a lifetime of hope. We will too." (from here)
THE THOUGHT: This one fell a little flat for me this Christmas season (but maybe that’s because I’m reading two other incredible Advent/Christmas books?) — it felt too simplistic, cliche, and overdone to me. It wasn’t awful, but just wasn’t the style and depth I prefer, especially when it comes to this time of year and wanting a fresh perspective on this season.
The Trouble with Poetry: And Other Poems by Billy Collins
THE STARS: 2/5
THE PLOT: "In this dazzling new collection, his first in three years, Collins explores boyhood, jazz, love, the passage of time, and, of course, writing–themes familiar to Collins’s fans but made new here. Gorgeous, funny, and deeply empathetic, Billy Collins’s poetry is a window through which we see our lives as if for the first time." (from here)
THE THOUGHT: I was at a Christmas party recently where the conversation turned to our favorite books, authors, and poets. (MY KIND OF PARTY.) One girl said Billy Collins was her favorite, and she read several of her favorite poems out loud to us all. (A DREAM, I TELL YOU.) I promptly ordered two of his books and couldn’t wait to dive in! His poetry is fresh, simplistic yet profound, witty and humorous and real, and it was a delight to read this collection. Can’t wait to start the second!
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
THE STARS: 5/5
THE PLOT: "In this entrancing novel “that speaks to the Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor in us all” (Kirkus Reviews), a legendary film actress reflects on her relentless rise to the top and the risks she took, the loves she lost, and the long-held secrets the public could never imagine." (from here)
THE THOUGHT: I loved everything about this book. It hooked me and I couldn’t put it down until I finished it, and I loved every twist and turn and heartbreak and reunion and power move and tear jerking moment. This is fiction done SO RIGHT.
THE STARS: 5/5
THE PLOT: "Beginning with Jesse, the father of David, The Greatest Gift retraces the epic pageantry of mankind, from Adam to the Messiah, with each day's profound reading pointing to the coming promise of Christ, so that come Christmas morning you find that the season hasn't blurred past you but your heart's fully unwrapped the greatest gift you've always yearned for." (from here)
THE THOUGHT: This book. Hands down, my favorite Advent read year after year. Beautiful, rich, poignant, heartfelt, lovely in every way.
No One Ever Asked by Katie Ganshert
THE STARS: 5/5
THE PLOT: "When an impoverished school district loses its accreditation and the affluent community of Crystal Ridge has no choice but to open their school doors, the lives of three very different women converge: Camille Gray--the wife of an executive, mother of three, long-standing PTA chairwoman and champion fundraiser--faced with a shocking discovery that threatens to tear her picture-perfect world apart at the seams. Jen Covington, the career nurse whose long, painful journey to motherhood finally resulted in adoption but she is struggling with a happily-ever-after so much harder than she anticipated. Twenty-two-year-old Anaya Jones--the first woman in her family to graduate college and a brand new teacher at Crystal Ridge's top elementary school, unprepared for the powder-keg situation she's stepped into. Tensions rise within and without, culminating in an unforeseen event that impacts them all. This story explores the implicit biases impacting American society, and asks the ultimate question: What does it mean to be human? Why are we so quick to put labels on each other and categorize people as "this" or "that", when such complexity exists in each person?" (from here)
THE THOUGHT: I was so pleasantly surprised by this one. It’s exactly the kind of fiction I love— well crafted, engaging, strong characters, and relevant plot points. It addresses racism, segregation, education, relationships and marriage, adoption, and all the aspects of community and family life SO well and it just a really good story too. So, so well done.
THE DEETS: Thanks to Blogging for Books for sending me this one! (Releases April 2018!)
Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas by various authors
THE STARS: 4/5
THE PLOT: (from here)
THE THOUGHT: (originally read/wrote this in Dec. 2016) I found out about this book from Emily Freeman's post of advent book suggestions here, and I knew I would love it as soon as I saw it. So many of my favorite writers were included in this book (Lewis, Merton, Dillard, etc.) and it was a thoughtful, intentional, not fluffy daily dose of reading that I really enjoyed throughout advent, Christmas, and even after. This is a GOOD one. Highly recommend. (still true another year later!)
THE STARS: 4/5
THE PLOT: "Life is crazy. Prayer is simple. Prayer seems like it should be so simple. Yet when it comes to actually praying, it often feels awkward and complicated.
I mean, what should you actually pray about? What do you say? Is there anything you should or shouldn’t say? Do you have to speak out loud? Where do you even start? To make matters worse, we’ve heard about prayer for so long that we feel awkward asking about it. It’s like having to ask a person’s name after knowing them for years. We’re embarrassed to ask because we really should know their name by now. Then comes the reality and craziness of life. Between work, parenting, walking the dog, a full inbox, keeping up on social media—who has time to pray?
The truth is, prayer is simple. It’s like talking; talking with a good friend. Here’s the best part: No matter where we are in life, God can’t wait to talk with us. What does it look like to pray in the midst of your life? What do you say when you don’t know how to pray? I’m asking the same questions. Let’s talk." (from here)
THE THOUGHT: THIS WAS BOOK 200 of my 200 BOOK GOAL! I DID IT!!! // I loved this one from @adamaweber — I first heard him on the That Sounds Fun pocdcast with @anniefdowns and loved his easy, hilarious, wise conversation style, and this book was exactly that in print for! Such a great read about talking with God through prayer— not dense or overwhelming, but so relatable, relevant, and engaging. If you’re looking for a way to connect with God in every day without making prayer some huge and complicated ordeal, this is a great book to read!
THE STARS: 5/5
THE PLOT: "In Just the Essentials, Grigore offers a 21st-century guide to these ancient oils, offering a fresh, fun, and authoritative overview of what they are and how they can be easily incorporated into anyone’s life. From plant-based medicine to all-natural skincare to safer and cleaner household products to aromatherapy, this handy and entertaining guide provides detailed advice for a wide array of oils, safety guidelines, and a range of do-it-yourself recipes to get started." (from here)
THE THOUGHT: This book was AMAZING and so incredibly helpful as a guide to all things essential oils. The information is brilliantly explained, easy to understand, and fun, too. The recipes and DIYs are great and I can't wait to make a million of them! Highly, highly suggest reading this one if you have oils, want to have oils, are clueless about oils, or if you're a huge oily fan.
THE STARS: 5/5
THE PLOT: "The One Year Bible, which helps you read the entire Bible in one year in as little as 15 minutes a day, has a fresh, new look. The One Year Bible guides readers through God's Word with daily readings from the Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs." (from here)
THE THOUGHT: This is the third time I've gone through this One Year Bible and I love it every time. I so appreciate the layout of this reading plan and the way it gives short and accessible readings for each day, helping me spend committed time in Scripture each and every day. It's wonderful!