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What I Read: October 2016

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October was a much better reading month for me. I read some really great books and every single one of them came from the public library so they were free to read! I’ve had most of these on my radar to read for awhile so it was nice to finally make time to enjoy them.

1. Without Warning by Lynette Eason– Katie Singleton, a partner with the Elite Guardians Protection Agency, stumbles upon her next assignment quite by accident. Spotting blue lights at a familiar restaurant, she stops to investigate, only to discover that owner Daniel Matthews has become the target of someone who will go to any lengths to put him out of business. Daniel might be concerned, but he’s not convinced that a bodyguard–and a female one at that–is necessary. A new attack and his niece’s urgings are enough to make him reconsider. He and Katie must figure out who’s behind the intimidation and threats–before a would-be killer strikes again.

This was definitely a 5 star read for me. It had action and drama and love- what could be better? This is book 2 in the Elite Guardians series and it’s every bit as good and the first book. Highly recommend! 

2. Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton– Just when Glennon Doyle Melton was beginning to feel she had it all figured out—three happy children, a doting spouse, and a writing career so successful that her first book catapulted to the top of the New York Times bestseller list—her husband revealed his infidelity and she was forced to realize that nothing was as it seemed. A recovering alcoholic and bulimic, Glennon found that rock bottom was a familiar place. In the midst of crisis, she knew to hold on to what she discovered in recovery: that her deepest pain has always held within it an invitation to a richer life. Love Warrior is the story of one marriage, but it is also the story of the healing that is possible for any of us when we refuse to settle for good enough and begin to face pain and love head-on. This astonishing memoir reveals how our ideals of masculinity and femininity can make it impossible for a man and a woman to truly know one another – and it captures the beauty that unfolds when one couple commits to unlearning everything they’ve been taught so that they can finally, after thirteen years of marriage, fall in love.

I love Glennon Doyle Melton and I was so anxious to read this book. It did not disappoint. I read it all the way through and then went back and read it again. The book is powerful, it’s raw, it’s real, and it took incredible courage for her to write it. Definitely recommend. 

3. Apprentice In Death by J.D. Robb– The shots came quickly, silently, and with deadly accuracy. Within seconds, three people were dead at Central Park’s ice skating rink. The victims: a talented young skater, a doctor, and a teacher. As random as random can be. Eve Dallas has seen a lot of killers during her time with the NYPSD, but never one like this. After reviewing security videos, it becomes clear that the victims were killed by a sniper firing a tactical laser rifle, who could have been miles away when the trigger was pulled. And though the locations where the shooter could have set up seem endless, the list of people with that particular skill set is finite: police, military, professional killer. Eve’s husband, Roarke, has unlimited resources—and genius—at his disposal. And when his computer program leads Eve to the location of the sniper, she learns a shocking fact: There were two—one older, one younger. Someone is being trained by an expert in the science of killing, and they have an agenda. Central Park was just a warm-up. And as another sniper attack shakes the city to its core, Eve realizes that though we’re all shaped by the people around us, there are those who are just born evil.

This is book #43 in the In Death series. This is one of my most favorite book series ever written. I love it. I’ve been reading it for over 2 decades now. This one is my favorite out of the last 4 or 5 that she has written. It was really really good and I could not wait to see how it ended. These characters feel like old friends now and I’m always anxious to catch up with them in a new book. 

4. After Anna by Alex Lake– A girl is missing. Five years old, taken from outside her school. She has vanished, traceless. The police are at a loss; her parents are beyond grief. Their daughter is lost forever, perhaps dead, perhaps enslaved. But the biggest mystery is yet to come: one week after she was abducted, their daughter is returned. She has no memory of where she has been. And this, for her mother, is just the beginning of the nightmare.

I wasn’t sure what to expect with this book. I wasn’t sure if it was a mystery or a thriller. It’s a little bit of both, I think. I had an inkling of who was responsible but then dismissed it. Then waffled back and forth for awhile. I definitely did not expect the ending. I love books that keep me guessing because it happens so rarely!

5. Her Darkest Nightmare by Brenda Novak– Evelyn Talbot knows that a psychopath can look perfectly normal. She was only sixteen when her own boyfriend Jasper imprisoned and tortured her—and left her for dead. Now an eminent psychiatrist who specializes in the criminal mind, Evelyn is the force behind Hanover House, a maximum-security facility located in a small Alaskan town. Her job puts her at odds with Sergeant Amarok, who is convinced that Hanover is a threat to his community…even as his attraction to beautiful Evelyn threatens to tear his world apart. Then, just as the bitter Alaskan winter cuts both town and prison off from the outside world, the mutilated body of a local woman turns up. For Amarok, this is the final proof he needs: Hanover has to go. Evelyn, though, has reason to fear that the crime is a personal message to her—the first sign that the killer who haunts her dreams has found her again. . .and that the life she has so carefully rebuilt will never be the same.

I was drawn to this book because the blurb gave me a Criminal Minds vibe. And I was right. The book was interesting and engaging and I enjoyed every page. I did not guess who the killer was until the very end, which always makes it a more fun read for me. The story was light on romance but heavy on the suspense, which was awesome! 

6. Rushing Waters by Danielle Steel– Hurricane Ophelia is bearing down on New York City. And in a matter of hours, six people, along with their families, friends, and millions of other New Yorkers living around them, will be caught up in the horrific flooding it unleashes. Ellen Wharton has flown into New York from London, regardless of the weather and her husband’s worry. The successful interior designer is intent on seeing her lively architect mother and has an important personal appointment to keep. But despite Ellen’s urging, when the storm hits, seventy-four-year-old Grace Madison refuses to leave her Tribeca apartment in the midst of the evacuation zone, and they must eventually wade through chest-high water to the police boats outside. British investment banker Charles Williams is traveling on business but is also eager to see his young daughters, who live with his beautiful, estranged ex-wife in SoHo. Desperate to find them, he checks the shelters where thousands have taken refuge and runs into Ellen and her mother. Juliette Dubois, a dedicated ER doctor, fights to save lives when the generators at her hospital fail. NYU students Peter Holbrook and Ben Weiss, living in a shabby downtown walkup, are excited by the adventure of the approaching hurricane, refuse to evacuate, and settle in with junk food and beer until their building threatens to collapse. Should they swim for it or not? A day of chaos takes its toll. Lives, belongings, and loved ones are swept away. Heroes are revealed as the city and New Yorkers struggle to face a natural disaster of epic proportions. And then the real challenge begins, as the survivors face their futures, with damage to repair and scars to heal.

I love books that deal with natural disasters and Danielle Steel wrote a good one! The characters are engaging and real and easy to relate to. I loved how each characters story was woven into another’s story. This was a long read but it was really hard to put down! Definitely recommend this one!

7. The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena– It all started at a dinner party. . . A domestic suspense debut about a young couple and their apparently friendly neighbors—a twisty, rollercoaster ride of lies, betrayal, and the secrets between husbands and wives. . . Anne and Marco Conti seem to have it all—a loving relationship, a wonderful home, and their beautiful baby, Cora. But one night when they are at a dinner party next door, a terrible crime is committed. Suspicion immediately focuses on the parents. But the truth is a much more complicated story. Inside the curtained house, an unsettling account of what actually happened unfolds. Detective Rasbach knows that the panicked couple is hiding something. Both Anne and Marco soon discover that the other is keeping secrets, secrets they’ve kept for years. What follows is the nerve-racking unraveling of a family—a chilling tale of deception, duplicity, and unfaithfulness that will keep you breathless until the final shocking twist.

This was a mystery/thriller for sure. It definitely kept me guessing. I think I changed my mind about 20 times about who was the kidnapper. The truth is revealed before the end of the book so you get to see the aftermath and the angst. It was really good! I definitely recommend this one. Warning: it deals with Postpartum depression so if that’s a trigger for you then you might want to skip this one. I can’t say anymore without spoiling the storyline. 

8. It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover– Lily hasn’t always had it easy, but that’s never stopped her from working hard for the life she wants. She’s come a long way from the small town in Maine where she grew up – she graduated from college, moved to Boston, and started her own business. So when she feels a spark with a gorgeous neurosurgeon named Ryle Kincaid, everything in Lily’s life suddenly seems almost too good to be true. Ryle is assertive, stubborn, and maybe even a little arrogant. He’s also sensitive, brilliant, and has a total soft spot for Lily, but Ryle’s complete aversion to relationships is disturbing. As questions about her new relationship overwhelm her, so do thoughts of Atlas Corrigan – her first love and a link to the past she left behind. He was her kindred spirit, her protector. When Atlas suddenly reappears, everything Lily has built with Ryle is threatened.

Oh this book. This book gave me all the feels. All the feels, y’all. It’s an amazing story and I wasn’t sure which way the story would turn up until the very end. I loved Lily and I loved Atlas. I loved their story. I loved her journey. Definitely a 5 star read. Warning: this story does contain scenes of domestic violence so if you are triggered by that you will probably not enjoy this book. 

I have some great books on my list to read next month so I hope they are as good as these ended up being!

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What I Read: September 2016

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September was a hard reading month for me. Life was super busy and I just did not have much free time. I had hoped that the kids being back in school would give me a little more time but so far that has not been the case! I only read 4 books for the entire month of September, y’all. That’s so bad. And I have a huge stack waiting for me to get to- HUGE stack of great great books by amazing authors. I will do better in October.

1. First Star I See Tonight by Susan Elizabeth Phillips– Piper Dove is a woman with a dream—to become the best detective in the city of Chicago. First job? Trail former Chicago Stars quarterback, Cooper Graham. Problem? Graham’s spotted her, and he’s not happy. Which is why a good detective needs to think on her feet. “The fact is…I’m your stalker. Not full-out barmy. Just…mildly unhinged.” Piper soon finds herself working for Graham himself, although not as the bodyguard he refuses to admit he so desperately needs. Instead, he’s hired her to keep an eye on the employees at his exclusive new nightclub. But Coop’s life might be in danger, and Piper’s determined to protect him, whether he wants it or not. (Hint: Not!) If only she weren’t also dealing with a bevy of Middle Eastern princesses, a Pakistani servant girl yearning for freedom, a teenager who just wants to fit in, and an elderly neighbor demanding Piper find her very dead husband. And then there’s Cooper Graham himself, a legendary sports hero who always gets what he wants—even if what he wants is a feisty detective hell bent on proving she’s as tough as he is. From the bustling streets of Chicago to a windswept lighthouse on Lake Superior to the glistening waters of Biscayne Bay, two people who can’t stand to lose will test themselves and each other to discover what matters most.

This is book 8 in the Chicago Stars series that I have been reading for many many years. I love this series. Every time a new book is released it’s like catching up with old friends. I loved the humor in this book as well as the chemistry between Piper and Cooper. This book was so good! 

2. Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris– Everyone knows a couple like Jack and Grace: he has looks and wealth, she has charm and elegance. You’d like to get to know Grace better. But it’s difficult, because you realize Jack and Grace are never apart. Some might call this true love. Picture this: a dinner party at their perfect home, the conversation and wine flowing. They appear to be in their element while entertaining. And Grace’s friends are eager to reciprocate with lunch the following week. Grace wants to go, but knows she never will. Her friends call—so why doesn’t Grace ever answer the phone? And how can she cook such elaborate meals but remain so slim? And why are there bars on one of the bedroom windows? The perfect marriage? Or the perfect lie?

I loved this book. It was fast paced, and engrossing, and I had to know how it ended. It was great. Definitely not a romance book, more of a suspenseful thriller and absolutely worth the read. I’m branching out more and more into other genres other than romance and this book reminded me why I should keep doing so! I’m not spoiling anything, you have to read this one for yourself! 

3. Family Tree by Susan Wiggs– Annie Harlow knows how lucky she is. The producer of a popular television cooking show, she loves her handsome husband and the beautiful Manhattan home they share. And now, she’s pregnant with their first child. But in an instant, her life is shattered. And when Annie awakes from a year-long coma, she discovers that time isn’t the only thing she’s lost. Grieving and wounded, Annie retreats to her old family home in Switchback, Vermont, a maple farm generations old. There, surrounded by her free-spirited brother, their divorced mother, and four young nieces and nephews, Annie slowly emerges into a world she left behind years ago: the town where she grew up, the people she knew before, the high-school boyfriend turned ex-cop. And with the discovery of a cookbook her grandmother wrote in the distant past, Annie unearths an age-old mystery that might prove the salvation of the family farm.

This book gave me all the feels. I was sucked in right from the very first page and I had to know how it ended. I felt so many feelings for the main character, Annie. She got the short end of the straw in so many ways and I needed her to be okay. As great as this book was, it took me over a week to finish it because it was so emotional. I highly recommend this read!

4. Up In Flames by Abbi Glines– As the Prada-clad bad girl of Rosemary Beach, Nan Dillon has been called every vile name under the hot summer sun. Some of her reputation is deserved—she’s never had to worry about anything but maintaining her perfect figure and splitting Daddy’s private jet with her brother, Rush. But Nan is far from happy. Rush has another kid on the way and doesn’t have time to catch up with his sister. Grant, the last guy she truly cared about, chose to be with her half-sister, Harlow, instead of her. And Harlow, who has never gotten over the way Nan treated her when she first moved to town, remains distant. So when Major asks her out, she jumps at the chance to date the gorgeous charmer. Though she doesn’t know much about the sweet-talking Texan, and though it’s clear he doesn’t want to be exclusive, dating him beats hanging out with vapid socialites or watching Netflix alone at home. For a while, Nan deals with Major’s playboy ways, but after he burns her one too many times, she takes off for an impromptu wild weekend in Vegas. There, she meets Gannon, a darkly seductive and oh-so-dangerous businessman who knows exactly how to handle her. With Major asking for a second chance and Gannon haunting her dreams, Nan has to decide who to give her heart to. But what she doesn’t realize is that these players are involved in a much bigger game—and they’re already two moves ahead of her.

This is the book I’ve been waiting for! If you’ve been reading the Rosemary Beach series then you know Nan! I’ve been waiting for her story. I was curious to see if Abbi Glines to take a character that I hated so much and redeem her to make her likeable. I had my doubts. But she did it! 

So that’s all I got to read this month. Here’s hoping for a better reading month in October! 

*Check out all the details about HelloFlo’s first period kit if you have a tween daughter! It’s an amazing resource- for moms and girls!

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What I Read: August 2016

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I didn’t have a whole lot of free time in August so reading had to take a back burner to other stuff. Every year I underestimate just how much effort and time is going to be involved in the back to school season. I’ve had kids in school for over a decade now, you’d think this would be old hat by now. But it’s not. I conveniently seem to have back to school amnesia every single year. But I did read a few really good books this month.

1. All Is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker– In the small, affluent town of Fairview, Connecticut everything seems picture perfect. Until one night when young Jenny Kramer is attacked at a local party. In the hours immediately after, she is given a controversial drug to medically erase her memory of the violent assault. But, in the weeks and months that follow, as she heals from her physical wounds, and with no factual recall of the attack, Jenny struggles with her raging emotional memory. Her father, Tom, becomes obsessed with his inability to find her attacker and seek justice while her mother, Charlotte, prefers to pretend this horrific event did not touch her perfect country club world. As they seek help for their daughter, the fault lines within their marriage and their close-knit community emerge from the shadows where they have been hidden for years, and the relentless quest to find the monster who invaded their town – or perhaps lives among them – drive this psychological thriller to a shocking and unexpected conclusion.

I must admit that I almost stopped reading this book about 2 chapter in. The style of narrative was hard to get used to and the narrator was annoying. But I kept on reading and it ended up being a 5 star read for me. After a few chapters I got used to the writing style and I could see why the narrator was written the way he was. It made sense. The story is graphic. It’s brutal, almost. If you have triggers around rape or assault then you might want to skip this book. The story itself was really intricate and well done. There were a lot of layers and subplots that all were tied up neatly by the end. 

2. Appealed by Emma Chase– When Brent Mason looks at Kennedy Randolph, he doesn’t see the awkward, sweet girl who grew up next door. He sees a self-assured, stunning woman…who wants to crush the most intimate – and prized – parts of his anatomy beneath the heels of her Christian Louboutins. Brent has never let the loss of his leg in a childhood accident affect his ability to lead a fulfilling life. He sets high goals–and then he reaches them. And now he has his sights set on Kennedy. When Kennedy looks at Brent Mason, all she sees is the selfish, Abercrombie & Fitch catalogue-worthy teenager who humiliated her in high school to join the popular crowd. A crowd that made those years a living hell. She’s not a lovesick social outcast anymore – she’s a DC prosecutor with a long winning streak behind her. Brent is the opposing attorney in her next case and she thinks it’s time to put him through a little hell of his own. But things aren’t exactly working out that way. Because every fiery exchange has her wondering if he’s as passionate in the bedroom as he is in the courtroom. Each argument and objection only makes him want her more. In the end, Brent and Kennedy may just find themselves in love…or in contempt of court.

Emma Chase is one of my favorite authors. Her writing is flawless and hilarious. I laughed out loud so many times while reading this book. Kennedy was an amazing main character. She was funny and real and flawed and stubborn. I loved her. The relationship between Brent and Kennedy was awesome. I haven’t read any of the other books in this series yet but I’m going to!

3. Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty– Six responsible adults. Three cute kids. One small dog. It’s just a normal weekend. What could possibly go wrong? Sam and Clementine have a wonderful, albeit, busy life: they have two little girls, Sam has just started a new dream job, and Clementine, a cellist, is busy preparing for the audition of a lifetime. If there’s anything they can count on, it’s each other. Clementine and Erika are each other’s oldest friends. A single look between them can convey an entire conversation. But theirs is a complicated relationship, so when Erika mentions a last minute invitation to a barbecue with her neighbors, Tiffany and Vid, Clementine and Sam don’t hesitate. Having Tiffany and Vid’s larger than life personalities there will be a welcome respite. Two months later, it won’t stop raining, and Clementine and Sam can’t stop asking themselves the question: What if we hadn’t gone? In Truly Madly Guilty, Liane Moriarty takes on the foundations of our lives: marriage, sex, parenthood, and friendship. She shows how guilt can expose the fault lines in the most seemingly strong relationships, how what we don’t say can be more powerful than what we do, and how sometimes it is the most innocent of moments that can do the greatest harm.

This book was so good. The story was unique and flowed beautifully. It was told in both past and present, which normally annoys me, but it was done so well. I loved the pacing and the characters were real and authentic and flawed. I won’t spoil the story, you have to read it!

4. Dark Carousel by Christine Feehan– The moment Charlotte Vintage walks into his club, Tariq Asenguard’s blood is set on fire. The ancient Carpathian had given up hope of finding his lifemate, but now he will do anything to make Charlotte his own. What Tariq doesn’t know is that Charlotte is using herself and her best friend as bait—to try to draw out the bloodthirsty killers who have already murdered Charlotte’s brother and mentor. Charlotte is familiar with Tariq. Not only is he one of the richest and most eligible bachelors in the city, but he’s also a renowned collector of old carousel horses, which Charlotte restores. Their shared passion opens Charlotte up to trusting him with her life and with the desire she can no longer control. But it also makes her vulnerable to a centuries-old curse that will unite her and Tariq in a war against the enemies of humans and Carpathians alike.

It’s no secret that Christine Feehan is one of my most favorite authors. I love her Dark Carpathian series so much. This is book #30 in the series and I’ve read them all. I loved this addition to the series. Charlotte was bad ass. She was smart, capable, and funny. I always read these books too fast and then I’m sad when they’re over! 

5. Results May Vary by Bethany Chase– She never saw it coming. Without even a shiver of suspicion to warn her, Caroline Hammond discovers that her husband is having an affair with a man—a revelation that forces her to question their entire history together, from their early days as high school sweethearts through their ten years as a happily married couple. In her now upside-down world, Caroline begins envisioning her life without the relationship that has defined it: the loneliness of being an “I” instead of a “we”; the rekindled yet tenuous closeness with her younger sister; and the unexpected—and potentially disastrous—attraction she can’t get off her mind. Caroline always thought she knew her own love story, but as her husband’s other secrets emerge, she must decide whether that story’s ending will mean forgiving the man she’s loved for half her life, or facing her future without him.

This book gave me all the feels. I love books about married couples. They’re written so differently than books about couples newly in love. I could feel the pain and the heartache as Caroline began to unravel the untruths of her marriage. I won’t spoil the story but just know that this one is an emotional, intense read. 

I have a stack of books waiting for me to read in September so here’s hoping I have more than a few minutes to actually read them!

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Some Non-Fiction Books I Want To Read

I told you recently that I’ve been working on organizing my Kindle categories. I have a lot of books, y’all. A LOT. So in the process of sorting through all these books I’ve found quite a few that I forgot I even had. Books I was so excited to buy and then they got lost in the shuffle. So these are a few on my immediate TBR list, some I want to buy or borrow soon, and a couple that I’m looking forward to coming out soon!

Books I Already Own:

1. Carry On, Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton– Glennon Doyle Melton’s hilarious and poignant reflections on our universal (yet often secret) experiences have inspired a social movement by reminding women that they’re not alone. In Carry On, Warrior, she shares her personal story in moving, refreshing, and laugh-out-loud-funny new essays and some of the best-loved material from Momastery.com. Her writing invites us to believe in ourselves, to be brave and kind, to let go of the idea of perfection, and to stop making motherhood, marriage, and friendship harder by pretending they’re not hard. In this one woman’s trying to love herself and others, readers will find a wise and witty friend who shows that we can build better lives in our hearts, homes, and communities.

2. Hands Free Mama by Rachel Macy Stafford– If technology is the new addiction, then multi-tasking is the new marching order. We check our email while cooking dinner, send a text while bathing the kids, and spend more time looking into electronic screens than into the eyes of our loved ones. With our never-ending to-do lists and jam-packed schedules, it’s no wonder we’re distracted. But this isn’t the way it has to be. In July 2010, special education teacher and mother Rachel Macy Stafford decided enough was enough. Tired of losing track of what matters most in life, Rachel began practicing simple strategies that enabled her to momentarily let go of largely meaningless distractions and engage in meaningful soul-to-soul connections. She started a blog to chronicle her endeavors and soon saw how both external and internal distractions had been sabotaging her happiness and preventing her from bonding with the people she loves most. Hands Free Mama is the digital society’s answer to finding balance in a media-saturated, perfection-obsessed world. It doesn’t mean giving up all technology forever. It doesn’t mean forgoing our jobs and responsibilities. What it does mean is seizing the little moments that life offers us to engage in real and meaningful interaction. It means looking our loved ones in the eye and giving them the gift of our undivided attention, leaving the laundry till later to dance with our kids in the rain, and living a present, authentic, and intentional life despite a world full of distractions.

3. Nobody’s Cuter Than You by Melanie Shankle– There is nothing as precious in life as a friend who knows you and loves you in spite of yourself. Yet over the last couple of decades, we’ve substituted the joy of real friendship with cheap imitations. We settle for “community” on Facebook and Twitter and a series of text messages that allow us to communicate with someone without the commitment. We like each other’s beautifully filtered photos on Instagram and delude ourselves into believing we have a community. But real friendship requires effort. It’s showing up, laughing loud, and crying hard. It’s forgiving and loving and giving the benefit of the doubt. It’s making a casserole, doing a carpool pickup, and making sure she knows those cute shoes are 50 percent off. 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!”

4. Simply Tuesday by Emily P. Freeman– If you’ve grown weary of do more and dream bigger, small-moment living is just what you need. Real life happens in the small moments we find on the most ordinary day of the week. Tuesday holds secrets we can’t see in a hurry–secrets not just for our schedules but for our souls. In Simply Tuesday,Emily P. Freeman shows you how to embrace today’s work, find contentment in the now, replace competition with connection, and learn to breathe in a breathless world. It’s time to release our obsession with building a life, and believe in the life Christ is building within us–one simple Tuesday at a time.

5. A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet by Sophie Hudson– There’s nothing quite like family—for good or bad. But in a world where we sometimes know more about the Kardashians than we do the people sleeping right down the hall, it’s easy to forget that walking through life with our family offers all sorts of joy wrapped up in the seemingly mundane. There’s even a little bit of sacred sitting smack-dab in the middle of the ordinary. And since time’s-a-wastin’, we need to be careful that we don’t take our people—and their stories—for granted. Whether it’s a marathon bacon-frying session, a road trip gone hysterically wrong, or a mother-in-law who makes every trip to the grocery store an adventure, author Sophie Hudson reminds us how important it is to slow down and treasure the day-to-day encounters with the people we love the most. Written in the same witty style as Sophie’s BooMama blog, A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet is a cheerful, funny, and tender account of Sophie’s very Southern family. It’s a look into the real lives of real people—and a real, loving God right in the middle of it all.

6. Home Is Where My People Are by Sophie Hudson– All roads lead to home. It’s easy to go through life believing that we can satisfy our longing for home with a three-bedroom, two-bath slice of the American dream that we mortgage at 4 percent and pay for over the course of thirty years. But ultimately, in our deepest places, we’re really looking to belong and to be known. And what we sometimes miss in our search for the perfect spot to set up camp is that wherever we are on the long and winding road of life, God is at work in the journey, teaching us, shaping us, and refining us—sometimes through the most unlikely people and circumstances. In Home Is Where My People Are, Sophie Hudson takes readers on a delightfully quirky journey through the South, introducing them to an unforgettable cast of characters, places, and experiences. Along the way, she reflects on how God has used each of the stops along the road to impart timeless spiritual wisdom and truth. Nobody embodies the South like Sophie Hudson, and this nostalgic celebration of home is sure to make even those north of the Mason-Dixon line long to settle in on the front porch with a glass of sweet tea and reflect on all of the people in our lives who—related or not—have come to represent home. Because at the end of the day, it’s not the address on the front door or even the name on the mailbox that says home, but the people who live and laugh and love there, wherever there might happen to be.

7. Ever After by Vicki Courtney– Most every woman dreams about having a family and a building a home. We grow up on a steady diet of fairytales and chick flicks that drive our dreams . . . and leave us with a sugarcoated version of reality. We want it all: the prince, the kiss, the proposal, the ring, the castle, and eventually, the kids in smocked rompers playing cheerfully on the perfectly manicured lawn. Our hopes and dreams are pinned on the world’s version of happily-ever-after. The problem is, the fairytales and chick flicks end where real life begins. We never see that follow-up scene where the prince and princess argue at 3 a.m. over who will get up with the colicky newborn. Or the princess reluctantly returns to work to help pay the bills and feels the stress of juggling work and family. And you certainly won’t see that part where the princess moves her last child into the dorm and realizes the bulk of her identity has been based on being a mother. The truth is, marriage and motherhood are hard. Few of us are prepared to handle the balancing act of being a good wife and a good mother, without one or the other getting the short end of the stick. No matter how much we give or how hard we try, we never quite feel like it’s enough. And heaven help us, we always imagine every one else is doing a much better job. In Ever After, best-selling author Vicki Courtney addresses the realities of marriage and motherhood, the difficulties and the blessings. It offers women a behind the scenes glimpse of what a fairytale really looks like on the average day for the average wife and mom. Poignant, funny, and even cathartic, Vicki shares mistakes made, lessons learned, and memories to keep. Most of all, she reflects the hope and promise that God meets us in the middle wherever we are in the journey.

Books I Want To Borrow or Buy Soon:

1. Giddy Up Eunice by Sophie Hudson– It’s easy for women to focus on what seems to separate us: differences in age, parenting styles, career goals, or maybe even core beliefs about whether leggings can adequately serve as pants (the struggle is real, y’all). The reality, though, is that we have far more in common than we realize, and since Scripture shows us the blessing of friendships across generations, it’s high time we step out of our same-age, same-stage silos. Life is so much better that way. Sophie Hudson, in the delightfully quirky Southern style her readers have come to know and love, sends out a rallying cry for women everywhere to open our eyes and see the people God has put in our lives—whether they’re behind us, beside us, or in front of us. It is such a gift to love one another, walk with one another, and soak up the blessings that flow across all generations. Saddle up, sister. This is going to be fun.

2. Surprised By Motherhood by Lisa-Jo Baker– A lawyer with a well-stamped passport and a passion for human rights, Lisa-Jo Baker never wanted to be a mom. And then she had kids. Having lost her own mother to cancer as a teenager, Lisa-Jo felt lost on her journey to womanhood and wholly unprepared to raise children. Surprised by Motherhood is Lisa-Jo’s story of becoming and being a mom, and in the process, discovering that all the “what to expect” and “how to” books in the world can never truly prepare you for the sheer exhilaration, joy, and terrifying love that accompanies motherhood. Set partly in South Africa and partly in the US (with a slight detour to Ukraine along the way), Surprised by Motherhood is a poignant memoir of one woman’s dawning realization that being a mom isn’t about being perfect—it’s about being present.

3. Hope Heals by Katherine Wolf– Katherine and Jay married right after college and sought adventure far from home in Los Angeles, CA. As they pursued their dreams, they planted their lives in the city and in their church community. Their son, James, came along unexpectedly in the fall of 2007, and just 6 months later, everything changed in a moment for this young family. On April 21, 2008, as James slept in the other room, Katherine collapsed, suffering a massive brain stem stroke without warning. Miraculously, Jay came home in time and called for help. Katherine was immediately rushed into micro-brain surgery, though her chance of survival was slim. As the sun rose the next morning, the surgeon proclaimed that Katherine had survived the removal of part of her brain, though her future recovery was completely uncertain. Yet in that moment, there was a spark of hope. Through 40 days on life support in the ICU and nearly 2 years in full-time brain rehab, that spark of hope was fanned into flame. Defying every prognosis, with grit and grace, Katherine and Jay, side by side, struggled to regain a life for Katherine as she re-learned to talk and eat and walk. Returning home with a severely disabled body but a completely renewed purpose, they committed to celebrate this gift of a second chanceby embracing life fully, even though that life looked very different than they could have ever imagined. In the midst of continuing hardships and struggles, both in body and mind, Katherine and Jay found what we all long to find…hope, hope that heals the most broken place, our souls. An excruciating yet beautiful road to recovery has led the Wolf family to their new normal, in which almost every moment of life is marked with the scars of that fateful April day in 2008. Now, eight years later, Katherine and Jay are stewarding their story of suffering, restoration, and Christ-centered hope in this broken world through their ministry Hope Heals.

Books I’m Anxiously Waiting To Be Released:

1. This Life I Live by Rory Feek– Joey and Rory Feek were enjoying a steadily growing fan base in country music when Joey was diagnosed unexpectedly with a rapidly spreading cancer. This vibrant and beautiful young woman would soon be on a unique journey for which no one is ever fully prepared. Her husband, Rory, and children, Heidi, Hopie, and Indiana, were beside her each step of the way. Rory, a prolific songwriter, entrepreneur, farmer, and overall tender man, has seen God bless his life in countless unexpected ways and had started a blog, thislifeilive.com, not really knowing its purpose other than he needed to write. That purpose soon became clearer when Joey’s cancer battle hit. By inviting so many into the final months of Joey’s life, this astounding couple captured the hearts of millions with their powerful love story, the manner in which they were handling the diagnosis, and the inspiring simple way they had chosen to live their lives. In this vulnerable book, Rory takes us into his own challenging life story and shows what can happen when God brings both his presence and the right companion into our lives. He also gives never-before-revealed details on what he calls “the long goodbye,” the blessing of being able to know that life is going to end and taking advantage of it. Feek shows how we all are actually there already and how we can learn to live that way every day. He then goes into detail toward the end of the book on what it’s like to try to move on with your life once you’ve “had it all.”

2. Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton– Just when Glennon Doyle Melton was beginning to feel she had it all figured out—three happy children, a doting spouse, and a writing career so successful that her first book catapulted to the top of the New York Times bestseller list—her husband revealed his infidelity and she was forced to realize that nothing was as it seemed. A recovering alcoholic and bulimic, Glennon found that rock bottom was a familiar place. In the midst of crisis, she knew to hold on to what she discovered in recovery: that her deepest pain has always held within it an invitation to a richer life. Love Warrior is the story of one marriage, but it is also the story of the healing that is possible for any of us when we refuse to settle for good enough and begin to face pain and love head-on. This astonishing memoir reveals how our ideals of masculinity and femininity can make it impossible for a man and a woman to truly know one another – and it captures the beauty that unfolds when one couple commits to unlearning everything they’ve been taught so that they can finally, after thirteen years of marriage, fall in love. Love Warrior is a gorgeous and inspiring account of how we are born to be warriors: strong, powerful, and brave; able to confront the pain and claim the love that exists for us all. This chronicle of a beautiful, brutal journey speaks to anyone who yearns for deeper, truer relationships and a more abundant, authentic life.

So there you go, friends. If you’re in a book rut and struggling for something to read next maybe one of these books will appeal to you. 

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What I Read: July 2016

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I read some great books in July. I had lots of time to read while I was sitting in the car waiting for Ty at football conditioning three times a week. What I was dreading at the beginning of the summer turned out to be a nice little reading break for me. I borrowed a lot of these books from the library this month.

1. One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid– In her twenties, Emma Blair marries her high school sweetheart, Jesse. They build a life for themselves, far away from the expectations of their parents and the people of their hometown in Massachusetts. They travel the world together, living life to the fullest and seizing every opportunity for adventure. On their first wedding anniversary, Jesse is on a helicopter over the Pacific when it goes missing. Just like that, Jesse is gone forever. Emma quits her job and moves home in an effort to put her life back together. Years later, now in her thirties, Emma runs into an old friend, Sam, and finds herself falling in love again. When Emma and Sam get engaged, it feels like Emma’s second chance at happiness. That is, until Jesse is found. He’s alive, and he’s been trying all these years to come home to her. With a husband and a fiancé, Emma has to now figure out who she is and what she wants, while trying to protect the ones she loves. Who is her one true love? What does it mean to love truly?Emma knows she has to listen to her heart. She’s just not sure what it’s saying.

This book was so good! It was one of those books that really hit you in the heart. You experienced every emotion with the lead characters and it was very powerful. And I didn’t know up until the very end who she was going to choose so that added so much to the story for me. 

2. Into The Whirlwind by Kat Martin– Megan O’Brien is at her wit’s end. Her three-year-old son has been kidnapped. No police, says the ransom demand. Fearing for her son’s life, Meg has no choice but to turn to her former bodyguard, Dirk Reynolds. Dirk’s never forgiven Meg for the way she left him after their brief affair. But with bounty hunter Luke Brodie on his side, Dirk knows he’s got to help Meg rescue her son. The few clues they’ve gathered send them spiraling into a murky world of big banking and international crime. Meg may be way out of her depths, but she’s seeing a side of Dirk she never suspected—one no woman could possibly resist.

This book was packed full of action and adventure and angst. I loved every second. This is book 2 in the series and it was as great as the first one. The main characters were fantastically written and their reactions were realistic. I highly recommend this series!

3. Returned Broken by Judith Keller– How does one return from a nightmare unscathed? Dr. Clair Stevens, a newlywed pediatrician, has to come to terms with that question when she is suddenly and violently kidnapped while volunteering in Syria. Surrounded by violence and horror, she must find solace in even the smallest acts of kindness—but not even these are without peril, and soon she must reckon with the unthinkable when she begins to develop feelings for her captor. Clair is only just learning how to survive when she is finally rescued and brought back to her loving husband. But when it seems that a normal life is once again within her grasp, she learns a truth that, if revealed, could undo everything she’s started to rebuild. The thrilling debut novel by Judith Keller, “Returned Broken” tells an unforgettable story of one woman’s battle with trauma, forgiveness, and self-discovery as she is thrust into a nightmare that refuses to end.

I loved this book. It was powerful and realistic and you really could picture every scene. It was a curious mix of sad, hopeful, and panic inducing all at the same time. 

4. His by Brenda Rothert– Quinn~I’d say I’m down on my luck, but that’s an understatement. I’m flat on my ass. Homeless, hungry and in hiding with my little sister at the age of twenty-one, I’ve never been so desperate. I’ve hit rock bottom when I get an offer I can’t refuse. Sell my body to save my sister? There’s nothing I won’t do to keep her safe. I make the rules and I’m not afraid to defend myself if this rich guy crosses the line. But once I see beneath his cold, calculating façade, the lines aren’t so clear anymore. Andrew~ She’s an intoxicating mix of tough and vulnerable I’ve never known before. This homeless woman who fits right into my upper-class world is running from someone powerful, and I’ll do whatever it takes to protect her. But Quinn isn’t meant to be controlled, so I’m forced to choose between owning her and loving her. I’ve finally met my match, and I’ll do whatever it takes to make her truly mine.

Oh man, this book. I read it from beginning to end in less than 3 hours because I could not put it down! It was that good. I had to know what was going to happen and it was so worth the total exhaustion the next morning when I didn’t finish until after 3am. I started reading thinking I would just read a couple of chapters but then I couldn’t stop. You have to read this book!

5. Traces of Guilt by Dee Henderson– Evie Blackwell loves her life as an Illinois State Police Detective . . . mostly. She’s very skilled at investigations and has steadily moved up through the ranks. She would like to find Mr. Right, but she has a hard time imagining how marriage could work, considering the demands of her job.
Gabriel Thane is a lifetime resident of Carin County and now its sheriff, a job he loves. Gabe is committed to upholding the law and cares deeply for the residents he’s sworn to protect. He too would like to find a lifetime companion, a marriage like his parents have. . . .When Evie arrives in Carin, Illinois, it’s to help launch a new task force dedicated to reexamining unsolved crimes across the state. Spearheading this trial run, Evie will work with the sheriff’s department on a couple of its most troubling missing-persons cases. As she reexamines old evidence to pull out a few tenuous new leads, she unearths a surprising connection . . . possibly to a third cold case. Evie’s determined to solve the cases before she leaves Carin County, and Sheriff Thane, along with his family, will be key to those answers.

Dee Henderson is always a must read author for me, ever since her O’Malley’s family series. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this new series but it was so good. It brought in a lot of old characters from her previous books and it was like reuniting with old friends. The story was fantastic and the characters were awesome. I can’t wait for the next book in the series. 

6. She’s Not There by Joy Fielding– A lifetime ago, every year Caroline Shipley looked forward to her wedding anniversary. But then a celebratory trip to Mexico for the occasion with her husband and friends ended in the unsolved kidnapping of her infant daughter, Samantha. Now, fifteen years after that horrific time, divorced and isolated,Caroline is forced to relive the kidnapping by reporters who call every year on the anniversary of Samantha’s disappearance. However, this year when the phone rings, Caroline hears the sweet voice of a girl claiming to be her long-lost daughter. Plunged back into the world of heartbreak, suspicion and questions that led the case to run cold so many years ago, Caroline doesn’t know what or who to believe. But when she starts to figure it out, she finds the answers dangerously close to home.

This book made me have all the feels because I could picture it happening while I was reading. I could put myself easily into the place of the main character. I had an inkling which way the story was going and I was right but that didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the story at all. 

I already have several books picked out for August, including the all new Christine Feehan book that’s coming out, so here’s hoping I’ll have some great 5 star reads for you at the end of the month!

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