Book Reviews, Fiction, Nonfiction

Recent Reads Roundup | Round #1

Alright, so I’m trying something new with this roundup. I wanted to share some more of the books I’m reading and thought up this idea. Some I may have posted to my Instagram, but there’s some others as well! Be sure to share some of your recent reads!

The Girl in the Glass by Susan Meissner: We have a summer book club for WaterBrook and Multnomah (you should join the fun here!) and this one is our August read. I’m a big fan of Susan’s and this one is a new favorite.

Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine: An important piece people should all read.

Caraval by Stephanie Garber: I remember seeing this book everywhere when it was first released last year (props to the publishing team at Flatirons!). I added it to my list and finally decided to grab a copy and see what the fuss was all about. The verdict? I can’t resist a fantasy book with magic and mystery y’all! With feelings of The Night Circus, this was just the book I needed to escape into. Got the sequel waiting for me!

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury: I’ve read this a few times, but there’s still bits I forget each time I read it. Just a heads up, if you love the book like I do, don’t see the HBO movie that came out. There were just too many changes. I get there needs to be some to make it work for a movie, but when things/people/events are changed that played a major role in a character’s development, I’m not okay with that.

The Lost City of Z by David Grann: What a fabulous read! There were many things I learned from reading this book, one of the main things being that I’m going to pass on any opportunity to hike through the Amazon for weeks on end. As much as I’d love to encounter a 27 foot anaconda or cyanide-squirting millipedes (and many other nasty nasties that while reading about caused my face to be locked in a perpetual look of horror), I think I’ll just read about them instead. 🙃 Fascinating book though and highly recommend!

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch: Part thriller and part sci-fi, but a creative concept that kept me reading. I skimmed over some way-beyond-my-brain-physics-science, but overall I enjoyed it. I was really curious how it would all turn out and liked what the author did. If you like thrillers with hints of sci-fi, this might be for you.

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders: This one was hard to put words to after I first read it. Many have called it unconventional and that’s spot on. It’s different from what I normally read. It won’t even be for everyone. But! I’ll also say this is the kind of book where 10 different readers will come away with 10 different responses of what hit them the most. Grief, empathy, what could have been…so many themes and pieces. If you want to try something creative and different that hits you deep, check this one out.

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Book Reviews, Nonfiction

Everyday Holy by Melanie Shankle | Book Review

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If y’all have been around the blog for a while, then you know I’m a Melanie Shankle fan. Her humor and writing always have me laughing and leaving encouraged. Her latest devotional is no different. Sharing every day stories from her life, Shankle’s daily devotions encourage, remind and teach about God’s truth in the everyday. How much I need this! There’s been quite a few daily devos that were just what I needed and when I did. It’s something I’m so thankful for during this season.

I also have to say, this book looks and feels so fancy…I’m a fan! Beyond the hardcover, there’s really nice paper (I know that’s a terrible description, but my brain cannot come up with the right name, weight or style of said paper, but trust me, its legit) and I love the cover. Honestly, this would make a great gift for yourself #treatyoself or a woman in your life!

What devotional or book is ministering to your heart right now?

(Thank you to BookLook Bloggers for a copy of the book. All views expressed are my own.)

Where to Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | CBD | Goodreads

It seems to be a rite of passage for every woman: you wake up one day and think, “Wait. THIS is the life I signed up for?”
We’ve all been there. Melanie Shankle, New York Times bestselling author and writer at The Big Mama Blog, is just brave enough to say it out loud. And Everyday Holy is your invitation to reexamine your life and find the little pieces that create a beautiful picture of a big God.

On any given day, you may be asking yourself:

  • Is Instagram making me crazy, or am I actually supposed to have a perfectly curated cup of coffee on my artfully rumpled throw blanket every morning?
  • Doubts about my faith are normal, right?
  • Is eating cookie dough straight from the fridge fine as long as it’s organic?
  • Could it be that loving my family well is my spiritual gift?

It’s a common theme: Am I okay? Is my life significant? And how do we measure significance, anyway? Melanie’s hilarious and poignant insight offers you the deep breath of relief that God is working in all the moments, no matter how big or how small. In 100 devotions, Everyday Holy: Finding a Big God in the Little Moments invites you to see your life as God intended: rich with opportunity, significance, and beauty, even on days that feel overwhelmingly ordinary.

If you’re looking for the line that connects the dots, Everyday Holy is for you. If you wonder where God is in this mess or how exactly He’s working behind the scenes, this book is for you. Whether you feel overwhelmed or disillusioned or frustrated by how your life feels, there’s room for you at this table. And here’s the best news: We’re all in this together.

Book Reviews, Nonfiction

ICB Prayer Bible for Children by Thomas Nelson | Book Review

Help your children develop a heart for prayer with the new Prayer Bible for Children. This colorful Bible in the ICB version, the simple translation children can read and understand, highlights the most famous and beloved prayers featured in the Bible throughout the text. To put prayer life into practice, the Bible comes with a free prayer journal and a handy pocket on the back flap to carry it!

Prayer can be challenging and fearful for children to grasp sometimes, and the new ICB Prayer Bible will help show children that God loves to hear from His children and loves answering prayers.

With 160 pages about prayer and special features that show how God answers prayers throughout the Bible, you and your family will love to study this special Bible together! Featured throughout the text are the most famous and beloved prayers featured in the Bible. From Abraham’s prayers to the Lord . . . to Jesus praying before his crucifixion . . . to the way Paul prayed for the churches he planted, this Bible will teach young readers about a God who loves to hear from His children and loves answering prayers.

Special features include 160 full page prayer articles throughout the Bible. These special pages help children learn how to pray, to not fear prayer, and to see within the Word how and when God’s people prayed. The 64 colorful decorative pages will feature kid-friendly scripture prayers, topical poem prayers and fun questions and answers kids have about prayer. To put prayer life into practice, the Bible comes with a free prayer journal and a handy pocket on the back flap with to carry the prayer journal.

I love coming across books that are meant for children, but after looking through, know the adults reading with the child will be just as encouraged and engaged. This Prayer Bible for Children by Thomas Nelson is one of those!

I really loved the prayers throughout this Bible. While they are for children, so many of the words ring true for adults. Part of one of the prayers from the book of Zephaniah reads:

“Lord, I don’t need to be afraid. You, my God, are always with me…You sing over me with delight. My heart is peaceful and happy.”

It also comes with a 64 page prayer journal. It’s a fun extra for the young journaler in your life. It’s lined and matches the Bible design. This is right in the age range of my oldest niece, so I look forward to giving this to her!

(Thank you to BookLook Bloggers for a copy of the book. All views expressed are my own.)

Where to Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | CBD | Goodreads

Book Reviews, Nonfiction

The Dream of You by Jo Saxton | Book Review

Let’s be honest, the life you lead isn’t what you’ve always dreamt. And maybe the person you’ve become isn’t who you’ve always imagined. Sure, you can clean it up. You can work longer, love harder, and eat better. You can scrub the surface of your life until it gleams and still never address the fact that somehow you lost sight of who you really are and what you’re living for.

Is this the life you were meant to live?

As the child of Nigerian immigrants in the UK, author and speaker Jo Saxton knows firsthand how quickly the world can cause us to doubt our dreams and question who we are. She understands how easily we can exchange our true child-of-God selves for an identity built on lies, guilt, and brokenness.

In this powerful book, Jo examines Biblical figures and shares her personal story as she invites you to turn to the One who knows you intimately and loves you deeply. He sees all you’ve struggled to hide. He hears the voice inside you that others have silenced. He knows the potential and purpose that no one valued. He longs to redeem the story of your life and set you on the path to reclaim The Dream of You. Are you ready?


There were many things I enjoyed about this book. I love the humor, the vulnerability, the hope and the truth in this entire message. I know it’s needed for so many people, myself included. I also really loved how she weaved both biblical stories and her own. It was a double packed punch of the truths in each chapter.

And since this is just that kind of book, here’s a few quotes. Quotes. All the Quotes:

“If you read his story in the Bible, you’ll see that insecurity and other issues buried Saul’s potential. He lived for the approval of others, even at the expense of obeying God…it’s human to experience insecurity.”

“He doesn’t shame or condemn you for your past. He breaks the chains of all the controlled you and limited your identity. He redeems your true identity, which was interrupted by your life experiences and crushed by the mixed messages of the world. He even redeems the dreams you had of the person you hoped to become. He redeems the Dream of You.”

“Sister, you need to know this: The “ordinary” you, the person you were before all the achievement and recognition, was already extraordinary.”

“When we trade our identity for a perfectionistic alternative, even when it’s for survival, it comes at a heavy cost. We lose our true selves and we lose our voice. We lose our spiritual authority, because perfectionism relies on our skills rather than God’s power. It costs us our purpose because perfectionism has a different purpose to the one God has given us. We lose our courage, because at the root of perfectionism is fear.”

“God redeems our voice. He gives us a new song.”

“Would I settle for a life that kept me small, or would I allow myself to dream and explore what God could do if I put my life in His hands? I had to slay the giant.”

“God had set the Israelites free and given them a new identity and purpose. Yet the wilderness experience revealed they were still captive to the wounds of the world and the ways of Egypt.”

(This book was published by WaterBrook an Imprint of Penguin Random House)

Where to Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | CBD | Goodreads

Book Reviews, Love and Faith, Nonfiction

CSB Apologetics Study Bible | Review

The CSB Apologetics Study Bible helps today’s Christians better understand, defend, and proclaim their beliefs in an age of increasing moral and spiritual relativism. This revised and updated edition includes new articles and extensive apologetics study material from today’s leading apologists to reflect and provide deeper understanding of the relevant apologetics issues and questions being discussed today.

Includes commentary from over 90 leading apologists, including: Ted Cabal, Lee Strobel, Chuck Colson, Paul Copan, Norm Geisler, Hank Hanegraaff, Josh McDowell, Albert Mohler, J.P. Moreland, Ravi Zacharias, and many more — plus a lead article by Lee Strobel (The Case for Christ).

Features include: Presentation page, Book Introductions, Study Notes, Apologetics articles from leading apologists, “Twisted Scripture” explanations for commonly misunderstood passages, Profiles of Christian apologists, Two-color interior, Two-column text, 9.75-point type size, Smyth-sewn binding, Ribbon marker, Full-color maps, and more.

The CSB Apologetics Study Bible features the highly readable, highly reliable text of the Christian Standard Bible® (CSB). The CSB stays as literal as possible to the Bible’s original meaning without sacrificing clarity, making it easier to engage with Scripture’s life-transforming message and to share it with others.

I was really impressed with this Bible. Full disclosure, I didn’t review every single article, but I didn’t read several and thought they were helpful pieces to the conversations many of us have with unbelievers. It helped that one of the random profiles I came across was on C.S. Lewis :).

I also thought the “twisted scripture” bits throughout were really helpful. How do other religions use scripture to fit their theology? Explaining the reasons and other scriptures helped my understanding of other religions. I think information like this is not only important to engage in intelligent conversations, but also strengthens my beliefs in Scripture.

What’s one of your favorite apologetics resources?

(Thank you to Holman Bible Publishers for a copy of the book. All views expressed are my own.)

Where to Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | CBD | Goodreads

Book Reviews, Love and Faith, Nonfiction

She Reads Truth Bible

The She Reads Truth Bible aims to live at the intersection of beauty, goodness, and Truth. Featuring devotionals by the She Reads Truth team, and Scripture reading plans that include supplemental passages for deeper understanding, this Bible invites every woman to count themselves among the She Reads Truth community of “Women in the Word of God every day.” The She Reads Truth Bible also features 66 key verses, artfully lettered to aid in Scripture memorization.

Features include: almost 200 devotionals, 66 artist-designed key verses, 35 full-color timelines, 20 full-color maps, 11 full-color charts, reading plans for every book of the Bible, one-year Bible reading plan, detailed book introductions, key verse list, carefully curated topical index, smyth-sewn binding, two colored ribbon markers, and wide margins for journaling and note-taking.

The She Reads Truth Bible features the Christian Standard Bible (CSB) text. Translated by more than 100 scholars from 17 denominations, the Christian Standard Bible features an optimal blend of accuracy and readability that’s faithful for serious study, and written with heart-stirring clarity that inspires readers to live and share it.

Well, simply put, this is a beautiful Bible! I’m such a visual person, so beautiful maps, script, quotes, images, they will inspire me every time. This will make a beautiful gift for any woman who loves God’s Word. Outside of the actual scripture, there’s plenty of inspiration throughout AND lots of space for journaling and note taking. I love that there’s a one year reading plan included as well.

I also love the devotionals sprinkled throughout. There’s an incredible variety, voices and topics. I truly believe they’ll encourage you wherever you’re at. This is a beautiful bible and would make a very special gift!

What kind of Bible owner are you? Keep one until it falls apart? Try new versions? Have multiple ones?

You can find out more about the details of the bible at shereadstruthbible.com.

(Thank you to B&H for a copy of the book. All views expressed are my own.)

Where to Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | CBD | Goodreads

Book Reviews, Nonfiction

How to Fix a Broken Record by Amena Brown | Book Review

“God’s story is about grace, adventure, peace, risk, courage, and trust, and that story is the best page-turner of them all.”

Your soul holds a massive record collection: melodies, rhythms, and bass lines. Memories that ask you to dance and memories that haunt you in a minor key. Lies that become soundtracks to your days while truths play too softly to be heard.

Spoken word poet Amena Brown’s broken records played messages about how she wasn’t worthy to be loved. How to Fix a Broken Record chronicles her journey of healing as she’s allowed the music of God’s love to replace the scratchy taunts of her past. From bad dates to marriage lessons at Waffle House, from learning to love her hair to learning to love an unexpected season of life, from discovering the power of saying no and the freedom to say yes, Amena offers keep-it-real stories your soul can relate to.

The hurtful words of others and the failures of your past often determine what record you play the most in your mind. Those painful repetitions can become loud at the most inopportune time, keeping you from speaking up, pursuing your dreams, and growing closer to God.
Recognize the negative messages that play on repeat every day in your mind. Learn how to replace them with the truth that you are a beloved child of God. And discover how to laugh along the way as you find new joy in the beautiful music of your life.

If my memory is correct (which you never know these days), I first heard Amena Brown speak a few years back at IF:Gathering in Austin. Among many things, she’s a spoken word artist and I thoroughly enjoyed hearing from her at the conference.

Fast forward a few years and I’m so excited that she’s released another book and, that I get to share it with y’all! Sharing bits of her life, Brown reminds readers of important truths we can hold on to as believers. She’s honest, vulnerable and reading it felt like we were having coffee (tea for me) and chatting about all the things. There were several quotes that grabbed me on a variety of topics, but I’ll share this one.

“God understands the power of no. He is not a constant Yes God. Sometimes when God says no, it will hurt. It will sting. I will beg God to explain. Sometimes He never gives an explanation. In other moments, time will be the greatest explainer of all. Sometimes we ask God for things and He says no because He knows we can’t handle what we’re asking for. Because He knows what we’re asking for isn’t His best for us. Because it isn’t time. Because it isn’t good. Because God always knows better than we do.”

Truth! If you enjoy non fiction, make sure you add this to your pile!

What’s a recent memoir you really enjoyed?

(Thank you to Zondervan for a copy of the book. All views expressed are my own.)

Where to Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | CBD | Goodreads

Book Reviews, Nonfiction

The One Year Experiencing God’s Love Devotional by Sandra Byrd | Book Review

Why is it pretty much November? It was about 37 seconds ago that we were ringing in 2017. I need to know scientifically how this year went by so fast :). Outside of my time rushing woes, this time of year, I like to start thinking about reading plans and devos for 2018. If y’all are like me and thinking for yourself or Christmas gifts, I definitely recommend this latest devo from Sandra Byrd!

When was the last time you took a break to experience God’s love? To experience something is to live it, to encounter it, to understand it, to explore with our hearts, minds, and souls as well as with the five physical senses and our God-given spiritual ones. Every action we do with and for God, every good day and bad day, we walk hand-in-hand with God, experiencing Him.

Experiencing God’s love takes time. Love unfurls its blossoms in our lives when we concentrate all of our senses on the small gifts we pass by every day. Time slows, and we finally get to hear God’s beautiful background hum to our lives.

The One Year Experiencing God’s Love Devotional helps you intentionally carve out those moments in your day to savor God and His love for you.

After going through several of the devotionals, I decided to start using it now, instead of waiting until Jan 1. Byrd’s devotional style and stories are relatable and her writing style engaging. Not only that, but I was truly encouraged by the truths she shared and the verses highlighted stuck with me throughout the day. Definitely what my hope is with any devotional!

If you’re looking for something daily to draw you closer to Jesus, I highly recommend this one!

(Thank you to Tyndale for a copy of the book. All views expressed are my own.)

Where to Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | CBD | Goodreads

Fiction, Nonfiction, Travel Adventures

10 Books I Want to Read After Visiting D.C.

I thought I’d have a different kind of travel “recap” with my recent adventures to D.C. I’ve been a couple times before, but there’s so much to see that I could visit 10 more times and still have a list! We were able to see the monuments (including the new MLK Jr. memorial), visit Mt. Vernon (home to George Washington), The Holocaust Memorial Museum, The National Museum of African American History and Culture and The National Gallery of Art. I love these type of cities. With such a historical city full of museums and bookstores, I managed to add 54837543957430 more books to my reading list (naturally), so I thought I’d share some with y’all!

1.  My Life, My Love, My Legacy by Coretta Scott King

2. The Blood of Emmett Till by Timothy B. Tyson

3. Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave

4. Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

5. The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I’ve had this book for years and only read bits. He saw early on how the German “church” supported Hitler and gave up everything (including his life) to fight against it. After visiting the Holocaust museum, I really need to finish it.

6. Van Gogh: The Life by Steven Naifeh & Gregory White Smith

7. Monet, or the Triumph of Impressionism by Daniel Wildenstein

8. Claude & Camille: A Novel of Monet by Stephanie Cowell

9. Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow

10. Eleanor Roosevelt, Vol 1, 1884-1933 by Blanche Wiesen Cook (there’s three volumes total)

And because you can always add more to the pile, here’s a list of books and movies I’ve read/seen that are worth your time.

I’ll end with a few pics from the trip!

The crew

Another must see – the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

The Lincoln Memorial is beautiful, especially at night!
A girl can’t resist going to local book stores!
I’ve mentioned before how much I love art, especially Impressionism, so I LOVED getting to see Van Gogh’s self-portrait.
And Monet!!
I’ll close with this one – I didn’t know that there was a second edition of the Shaw Memorial by Augustus Saint-Gaudens (a memorial to the Massachusetts 54th in the Civil War), but there is! The original is outside The Boston Commons.

What books have you picked up after a trip?

Book Reviews, Nonfiction

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson | Book Review

Bringing up issues remotely related to politics is always a tricky situation. It’s hard. It isn’t easy. But, my call to be the light is far more powerful than the fear of anything else.

Because I believe story is powerful and if we aren’t willing to talk about these stories, especially as believers, we are missing out on being leaders and light to the world.

“Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.” Benjamin Franklin

So with that, I present a book I will recommend to anyone and everyone. You know those books that light, stir or blast full flames onto an already existing fire? This is one such book. I’ll warn you, a lot of this book doesn’t leave you with warm fuzzy feelings, but instead lots of anger at injustice. (And if you read it and it doesn’t, then that’s another conversation for us to have)

But.

This is a story too important not to tell, to read and to pass along because there is good and hope in this world.

“Love is the motive, but justice is the instrument.” Reinhold Niebuhr

A powerful true story about the potential for mercy to redeem us, and a clarion call to fix our broken system of justice—from one of the most brilliant and influential lawyers of our time

Bryan Stevenson was a young lawyer when he founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice dedicated to defending those most desperate and in need: the poor, the wrongly condemned, and women and children trapped in the farthest reaches of our criminal justice system. One of his first cases was that of Walter McMillian, a young man who was sentenced to die for a notorious murder he insisted he didn’t commit. The case drew Bryan into a tangle of conspiracy, political machination, and legal brinksmanship—and transformed his understanding of mercy and justice forever.

Just Mercy is at once an unforgettable account of an idealistic, gifted young lawyer’s coming of age, a moving window into the lives of those he has defended, and an inspiring argument for compassion in the pursuit of true justice.

The story itself will captive your attention, with Stevenson deftly weaving history, the case and other important stories. The story of Walter McMillian feels like a novel, that it couldn’t possibly have happened how it did, but this story was true and you’ll be inspired by the work and hope that comes from Stevenson. There’s a lot of work to be done, but stories like this encourage to keep moving forward and fighting the good fight.

When blatant corruption exists, mentally ill aren’t given treatment (and instead jailed), when states can legally try 13 year olds as adults and give them life in prison without parole (example, by 2010, “Florida had sentenced more than a hundred children to life imprisonment without parole for non-homicide offenses, several of whom were thirteen years old at the time of the crime. All of the youngest condemned children – thirteen or fourteen years of ago – were black and Latino. Florida had the largest population in the world of children condemned to die in prison for non-homicides.”), there is something desperately and morally wrong.

“Our brokenness is also the source of our common humanity, the basis of our shared search for comfort, meaning, and healing. Our shared vulnerability and imperfection nurtures and sustains our capacity for compassion.” Thomas Merton

Here’s a few more quotes:

“Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done.”

“My work with the poor and the incarcerated has persuaded me that the opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice.”

“The true measure of our commitment to justice, the character of our society, our commitment to the rule of law, fairness, and equality cannot be measured by how we treat the rich, the powerful, the privileged, and the respected among us. The true measure of our character is how we treat the poor, the disfavored, the accused, the incarcerated, and the condemned.”

“It’s when mercy is least expected that it’s most potent – strong enough to break the cycle of victimization and victimhood, retribution and suffering.”

“We have to reform a system of criminal justice that continues to treat people better if they are rich and guilty than if they are poor and innocent.”

And in case you’re wondering if I’m exaggerating at how important/excellent this book is, here’s a quick list of the awards won:

  • #1 New York Times Bestseller
  • Named one of the Best Books of the Year by: The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, The Seattle Times, Esquire, Time
  • Winner of the Carnegie Medal for Nonfiction
  • Winner of the NAACP Image Award for Nonfiction
  • Winner of a Books for a Better Life Award
  • Finalist for the Los Angeles Book Prize
  • Finalist for the Kirkus Reviews Prize
  • An American Library Association Notable Book

Also, if you’re interested in checking out more, here’s the link to the Equal Justice Initiative.

What’s a recent book (either nonfiction or fiction) that had a dramatic impact on you?

Where to Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads