Category Archives: What I’m Reading

What I’m Reading, May 2018

Spring is finally here, welcome but long in coming.

This has been a great month for reading.

Linking up my May reviews at Modern Mrs Darcy this month.

On to the books!

Saving My Assassin by Virginia Prodan

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” ‘I should be dead. Buried in an unmarked grave in Romania. Obviously, I am not. God had other plans.’

At just under five feet tall, Virginia Prodan was no match for the towering 6′ 10″ gun-wielding assassin the Romanian government sent to her office to take her life. It was not the first time her life had been threatened–nor would it be the last.

As a young attorney under Nicolae Ceausescu’s brutal communist regime, Virginia had spent her entire life searching for the truth. When she finally found it in the pages of the most forbidden book in all of Romania, Virginia accepted the divine call to defend fellow followers of Christ against unjust persecution in an otherwise ungodly land.

For this act of treason, she was kidnapped, beaten, tortured, placed under house arrest, and came within seconds of being executed under the orders of Ceausescu himself. How Virginia not only managed to elude her enemies time and again, but how she also helped expose the appalling secret that would ultimately lead to the demise of Ceausescu’s evil empire is one of the most extraordinary stories ever told.

A must-read for all generations, Saving My Assassin is the unforgettable account of one woman’s search for truth, her defiance in the face of evil, and a surprise encounter that proves without a shadow of a doubt that nothing is impossible with God.” — from Amazon

I read I Shall Be Near to You by Erin Lindsay McCabe

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“Rosetta doesn’t want her new husband, Jeremiah, to enlist, but he joins up, hoping to make enough money that they’ll be able to afford their own farm someday. When Jeremiah leaves, Rosetta decides her true place is by his side, no matter what that means, and follows him into war.

Rich with historical details and inspired by the many women who fought in the Civil War while disguised as men, I Shall Be Near To You is a courageous adventure, a woman’s search for meaning and individuality, and a poignant story of enduring love.

I liked learning about a piece of little known history during the Civil War. It’s hard to even imagine life in those circumstances.”– from Amazon

I wasn’t expecting the story to go the way it did, so I’m feeling a little ambivalent about the whole book.

I can’t say I loved it wholesale. It was well written and it’s always good to imagine a life that’s totally different from your own.

A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park

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“A Long Walk to Water begins as two stories, told in alternating sections, about a girl in Sudan in 2008 and a boy in Sudan in 1985. The girl, Nya, is fetching water from a pond that is two hours’ walk from her home: she makes two trips to the pond every day. The boy, Salva, becomes one of the “lost boys” of Sudan, refugees who cover the African continent on foot as they search for their families and for a safe place to stay. Enduring every hardship from loneliness to attack by armed rebels to contact with killer lions and crocodiles, Salva is a survivor, and his story goes on to intersect with Nya’s in an astonishing and moving way.was good, just like everyone said it was.”– from Amazon

It was much shorter than I expected.

Again, it’s good to imagine what someone else’s life is like.

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Hurston

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“One of the most important and enduring books of the twentieth century, Their Eyes Were Watching God brings to life a Southern love story with the wit and pathos found only in the writing of Zora Neale Hurston. Out of print for almost thirty years—due largely to initial audiences’ rejection of its strong black female protagonist—Hurston’s classic has since its 1978 reissue become perhaps the most widely read and highly acclaimed novel in the canon of African-American literature.”– from Amazon

It’s kind of a Huck Finn story, except for adults, not for kids.

There’s a lot of vernacular.

It was published in 1937.

That’s before World War II.

I’m still not sure what I think about it. It’s definitely not one of my favorites. As far as showing a slice of culture, I think it’s a better story than The Great Gatsby.

The Penderwicks at Last by Jeanne Birdsall

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“The finale you’ve all been waiting for: The Penderwicks at Last is the final, flawless installment in the modern classic series from National Book Award winner and New York Times bestselling author Jeanne Birdsall!

It’s summertime, and eleven-year-old Lydia is dancing at the bus stop, waiting for big sister Batty to get home from college.

This is a very important dance and a very important wait because the two youngest sisters are about to arrive home to find out that the Penderwicks will all be returning to Arundel this summer, the place where it all began. And better still is the occasion: a good old-fashioned, homemade-by-Penderwicks wedding.”– from Amazon

I just love the Penderwicks. I love seeing happy, healthy kids who pursue their interests. The Penderwick kids are characters that you love to love.

Jeanne Birdsall is a master at capturing all the best parts of growing up.

This book comes full circle, with lots of fun throwback references.

Timeless.  Wholesome. Satisfying.

And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer by Fredrick Backman

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“A little book with a big heart!

From the New York Times bestselling author of A Man Called Ove,My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry, and Britt-Marie Was Here comes an exquisitely moving portrait of an elderly man’s struggle to hold on to his most precious memories, and his family’s efforts to care for him even as they must find a way to let go.

With all the same charm of his bestselling full-length novels, here Fredrik Backman once again reveals his unrivaled understanding of human nature and deep compassion for people in difficult circumstances. This is a tiny gem with a message you’ll treasure for a lifetime.”– from GoodReads

It’s called a novella, but it was even shorter than I expected.

It’s a beautiful, literary expression of the aging mind.

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe

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“Robinson Crusoe is a novel by Daniel Defoe, first published on 25 April 1719. The first edition credited the work’s protagonist Robinson Crusoe as its author, leading many readers to believe he was a real person and the book a travelogue of true incidents. Epistolary, confessional, and didactic in form, the book is presented as an autobiography of the title character (whose birth name is Robinson Kreutznaer)—a castaway who spends twenty-eight years on a remote tropical desert island near Trinidad, encountering cannibals, captives, and mutineers, before ultimately being rescued. The story has since been thought to be based on the life of Alexander Selkirk, a Scottish castaway who lived for four years on a Pacific island called “Más a Tierra”, now part of Chile, which was renamed Robinson Crusoe Island in 1966, but various literary sources have also been suggested.”– from Amazon

I was impressed by the spiritual themes explored in this book that you don’t see in modern literature.  That is our culture’s loss.

Full disclosure: I only read the last half of the book, but I read it out loud to my 18 year old, who’s graduating from high school next month. It marks the end of an era.

Our first grandbaby is due in October, so I’m looking forward to starting a new era: reading aloud to my grandkids.

Have you read any of these books?  What did you think?

In case you missed it, here’s three things I learned this spring and what I read in April.





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7 Books to Help You Win at Self-Management

Life management is complicated these days. There’s so much to juggle. There are so many demands on our time, efforts and energy.   There’s a lot of advice out there.

These are my favorites.

Practical. Actionable.

It helps to have a plan. It helps to have a guide. Someone who’s been there before and is winning the game.

At school you have a teacher to tell you what to do. At work you have a boss.

But when it comes to managing your life, you have to boss yourself.

We can use help from those who are further along on this journey than we are. We can glean wisdom from the masters.

(Disclosure:  this post contains affiliate links.  At no extra cost to you, a small portion of your purchase goes to support this site.)

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey

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7 Habits is a classic for a reason.

The seven habits are highly actionable.  They permeate everything you do, giving you a framework for your life.

Covey fully explains the seven habits as well as fleshing out practical implementations with some of the best stories in all of self-help literature.

The seven habits are:

  • Be Proactive.
  • Begin with the End in Mind.
  • Put First Things First.
  • Think Win/Win.
  • Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood.
  • Synergize.
  • Sharpen the Saw.

Margin by Richard Swenson

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“Margin is the space that once existed between ourselves and our limits. Today we use margin just to get by. This book is for anyone who yearns for relief from the pressure of overload. Reevaluate your priorities, determine the value of rest and simplicity in your life, and see where your identity really comes from. The benefits can be good health, financial stability, fulfilling relationships, and availability for God’s purpose.”– from Amazon

Tell Your Time by Amy Lynn Andrews

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Amy calls it her unique selling proposition to offer a short book on time management. At only 52 pages, it fulfills that requirement.  It’s also economical at  $2.99.

She incorporates and implements a lot of the principles found in the books Margin and The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, but distills them into a shorter format.

I learned from her blog why she turned down a traditional book publisher.  The book publisher wanted it 7 times longer, to justify the cost of printing and selling the book.

Of course, that defeated her purpose.  Which goes to prove a lot of books are “stuffed with fluff” (to quote Winnie the Pooh) in order to make them long enough to print as a traditional book.

Tell Your Time is concise and practical.

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

“In The Power of Habit, award-winning business reporter Charles Duhigg takes us to the thrilling edge of scientific discoveries that explain why habits exist and how they can be changed. Distilling vast amounts of information into engrossing narratives that take us from the boardrooms of Procter & Gamble to the sidelines of the NFL to the front lines of the civil rights movement, Duhigg presents a whole new understanding of human nature and its potential. At its core, The Power of Habit contains an exhilarating argument: The key to exercising regularly, losing weight, being more productive, and achieving success is understanding how habits work. As Duhigg shows, by harnessing this new science, we can transform our businesses, our communities, and our lives.”– from Amazon

Not many books fit in the category of life-changing.

This one does.

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg changed my life.



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Eat That Frog! by Brian Tracy

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Eat That Frog! is a quick read.  It is a compilation of wisdom from many gurus of time management, self-management and motivation.  The subtitle is “21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time.”

If I have one beef with the book, it’s that he doesn’t attribute his ideas to the original authors.  But, the content is gold.

Simple and profound.  So why isn’t everyone doing it?  Because it’s hard.  At least, it’s hard to start.He does tackle the psychological side of motivating yourself to do difficult things.

It is a book full of action points, laced with a few stories to illustrate the effectiveness of the principles he advocates.

The whole “eat the frog” analogy comes from Mark Twain who said that “if the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you can go through the day with the satisfaction of knowing that that is probably the worst thing that is going to happen to you all day long.”

Talking ourselves into doing difficult things instead of avoiding them gets us ahead.


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Willpower Doesn’t Work by Benjamin Hardy

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“If you’re relying on willpower alone to help you lose weight, improve your relationships, or achieve more at work, you’re doomed to fail. The environment around us is far too powerful, stimulating, addicting, and stressful to overcome by white knuckling. The only way to stop just surviving and learn to truly thrive in today’s world is to proactively shape your environment.”–from GoodReads

I heard Ben speak at Tribe Conference last year.  It’s amazing the following he’s gained on Medium.  He writes good stuff, too. Helpful stuff.

Well-written. Great message.


Deep Work by Cal Newport

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Newport first builds the case for the importance of deep work, then he expounds on practical steps to accomplish it.  Simply put, what is needed is focus and discipline.

I agree with Newport’s main premise:  we are doing worse work because we’re distracted.  I see it all the time in the low quality of books that are published and the huge vacuums that exist in many genres for high quality work.

Newport is a college professor.  Publishing in scholarly journals is the deep work he needs to accomplish.  I think the principles apply to all writers, and probably all knowledge workers in general.

I think the most profound books are ones that are simple common sense:  ones that people agree with and see the wisdom of, but didn’t take the time to articulate themselves.  It seems so simple.  So obvious.  And, yet, it wasn’t done before.

It is the path of least resistance to fritter away our time.  When we are careful about every working minute and rest well away from work, we accomplish so much more.

I was intrigued by the end of the day ritual.  For sure, it is the lingering worries of work that sap your peace and relaxation when you’re away from work.  Learning to wrap things up at the end of the day and be at peace with where you’re leaving them is critical for resting well.

His chapter, “Quit Social Media” is a little misleading, because he doesn’t really advocate that you quit social media.  Some would argue that if you want to write, you have to leverage social media.  But, the irony is that social media is keeping you from doing your best work, because you become a consumer instead of a producer.

The instant gratification is a problem, as well.  The instant distraction, the problem of never being bored.  If you’re never bored, then you never think.  You don’t create to fill the hole of that boredom.  You don’t wonder, daydream, imagine.  That vacuum is filled.


Looking for courses that will help you with self-management?

I highly recommend Crystal Paine’s Make Over Your Mornings and Make Over Your Evenings.

These are not set routines that you implement into your life.  Instead, Crystal teaches you the why and the how to create the routines you want and need.

(Note: these are affiliate links.  At no extra cost to you, a percentage of your purchase will go to support this site.)

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What is the secret of the success of Jesus Calling?


What is the secret behind the runaway publishing success of Sarah Young’s devotional, Jesus Calling?

Could it be the power of prayer?

“Ever since the publication of Jesus Calling, I have prayed daily for people who are reading my books. Over the years, these prayers have become longer, covering a wide range of topics. Even when I’ve been hospitalized, I have not missed a day of praying for readers.”–Sarah Young from the introduction to Jesus Always.

“Before I begin writing, I spend time in prayer — including prayers for protection of my mind from distractions, distortions and deception. I ask God to guide my mind as I focus on Him and His Word. Then I simply pray, “Help me, Holy Spirit,” and I wait. I have been strongly influenced by the Bible verse, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).”  –Sarah Young, from an interview with Gloria Gaither and Phil Newman in

Prayer is the heart of Sarah Young’s ministry.

The discipline of praying for her readers.

The discipline of listening prayer.

“GLORIA: Can you define “listening prayer” for those who may not be familiar with the term? What led you to begin the practice? What would you say to others who want to begin the practice?

SARAH: In the introductions to all my books, I state clearly that my writings are not inspired as Scripture is. When I began my practice of listening to Jesus and writing, it was solely for my personal benefit; in fact, it was years before I shared my writings with others. As my husband says, “This method of communicating could be compared to a pastor who prays, reads the passage he is working on, and then explains the text as he learns from the Holy Spirit what the text is saying.” I am not preaching — just sharing what I have gleaned from my times of waiting in God’s Presence.

I want to make it clear that I do not have audible conversation with Jesus. Rather, it’s a quiet and personal time of praying, pondering Scripture, and seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit.”–from

(Note: This post contains affiliate links.  At no extra cost to you, a percentage of your purchase will go to support this site.)

Sarah and her husband were missionaries to Japan, then missionaries to the Japanese in Perth, Australia.  Now they live in Tennessee.

Sarah came to faith as an adult.

“When I majored in philosophy at Wellesley College, I was a non-Christian searching for truth. Each time I began studying a new philosophy I’d get excited, thinking this one might end my quest. However, further study always revealed flaws. Eventually, I became disillusioned and concluded there was no absolute truth. A few years later, though, when I read Francis Schaeffer’s Escape From Reason, my background in philosophy helped me understand his reasoning. I found in that book answers to questions I had previously considered unanswerable. This opened the way for me to study at L’Abri, a Christian community in Switzerland begun by the Schaeffers.
At L’Abri I found a wonderful combination of intellectual integrity and a caring Christian community. This was just what I needed. While living and studying at L’Abri, I became a Christian. Finally, I had a solid foundation on which to build my life! ”

As a bookseller,  I can see firsthand the impact her devotional writings have had on people. Time after time I’ve heard that the devotional of the day was just what they needed.

I’ve noticed it in my own life as well.  It doesn’t happen every day, but often a phrase or a thought will hit home with a current struggle.

There’s often no explaining why some books take off and become bestsellers, even though people try to figure it out.

I still have to wonder, though, if the power of prayer is the secret behind the success of Jesus Calling.

Buy now from Amazon










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What I’m reading, April 2018

Still waiting around here for some consistent warmer temps. The end of the school year is in sight and the end of an era for our family as our youngest graduates from high school.

Lots of great books this month.

My reading life has improved so much, thanks mostly to bloggers and podcasters.

Linking up with Modern Mrs Darcy’s Quick Lit.

(Note: This post contains affiliate links.  At no extra cost to you, a percentage of your purchase will go to support this site.)

Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry

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“Ignorant boys, killing each other,” is just about all Nathan Coulter would tell his wife, friends, and family about the Battle of Okinawa in the spring of 1945. Life carried on for the community of Port William, Kentucky, as some boys returned from the war and the lives of others were mourned. In her seventies, Nathan’s wife, Hannah, has time now to tell of the years since the war. In Wendell Berry’s unforgettable prose, we learn of the Coulter’s children, of the Feltners and Branches, and how survivors “live right on.”—from GoodReads

Enthusiastic five stars from me.

Brilliantly written, wholesome story.

The story spans the decades of Hannah’s life, giving a panoramic look at her life.

Human drama at it’s literary best.

Wrecked: When a Broken World Slams into Your Comfortable Life  by Jeff Goins

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“Wrecked is about the life we are afraid to live. It’s about radical sacrifice and selfless service—how we find purpose in the midst of pain. It’s a look at how we discover fulfillment in the least likely of places. It’s about living like we mean it. It’s a guide to growing up and giving your life away, helping you live in the tension between the next adventure and the daily mundane.

This book is for us—a generation intent on pursuing our life’s work in a way that leaves us without regrets.

Author Jeff Goins shares his own experience of struggling as a missionary and twentysomething who understands the call to live radically while dealing with the everyday responsibilities of life. Wrecked is a manifesto for a generation dissatisfied with the status quo and wanting to make a difference.” — from Amazon

I loved the honest, transparent exposure of what ministry is really like. How there’s not a lot of happy endings. How there’s not a lot of neat bows. How your heart breaks and you try to help people, but mostly they want to stay in the pit that they’re in.

It gets discouraging.

And that is real life.

It takes a lot to change people. It takes a miracle, really.

The Mountain Between Us by Charles Martin

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“When a blizzard strands them in Salt Lake City, two strangers agree to charter a plane together, hoping to return home; Ben Payne is a gifted surgeon returning from a conference, and Ashley Knox, a magazine writer, is en route to her wedding. But when unthinkable tragedy strikes, the pair find themselves stranded in Utah’s most remote wilderness in the dead of winter, badly injured and miles from civilization. Without food or shelter, and only Ben’s mountain climbing gear to protect themselves, Ashley and Ben’s chances for survival look bleak, but their reliance on each other sparks an immediate connection, which soon evolves into something more.

Days in the mountains become weeks, as their hope for rescue dwindles. How will they make it out of the wilderness and if they do, how will this experience change them forever? Heart-wrenching and unputdownable, The Mountain Between Us will reaffirm your belief in the power of love to sustain us.” — from GoodReads

Another brilliantly written story with a commitment to traditional values.

The plot differs at critical points from the movie version.  Skip the movie.  Read the book instead.

Thrifty and Thriving:  More Life for Less Money by Victoria Huizinga

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I’ve followed Victoria’s blog for a couple of years, so I wasn’t sure I was going to learn anything new reading her book.

I was wrong.

First of all, even though she covers a lot of tips and practical suggestions that can be found on the blog, it is organized, compact and easy to find in the book.

Aside from practical ideas on how to save money (which I was expecting)  it unrolls a mindset, a foundational paradigm to the way you think about money and even life.

Money can be hard to manage.  Victoria shows, with a lot of personal stories, that so much is about attitude, strategic living and long-term victories. It starts with changing your thinking.

This book is an investment in your future. Implement just a few of the suggestions, and you will recoup the price of the book.

I’d say that’s a thrifty purchase.

Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser

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“The Vanderbeekers have always lived in the brownstone on 141st Street. It’s practically another member of the family. So when their reclusive, curmudgeonly landlord decides not to renew their lease, the five siblings have eleven days to do whatever it takes to stay in their beloved home and convince the dreaded Beiderman just how wonderful they are. And all is fair in love and war when it comes to keeping their home.”– from Amazon

A sweet story. A cute story.  A nice, fast read.

I agree that fans of the Penderwicks books will like it.

The One Thing: The surprisingly simple truth behind extraordinary results by Gary Keller with Jay Papasan

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“The One Thing explains the success habit to overcome the six lies that block our success, beat the seven thieves that steal time, and leverage the laws of purpose, priority, and productivity.” –from Goodreads

I re-read The One Thing. It is such an incredible book. And, yet, it taunts me.

So many great things that I can’t implement into my life right now.

Specifically, the four hour plan.

There’s just no way I can do it right now. I’m working on so many other things, I just have to follow through with what I have going right now.

I will be coming back to it, though.

It’s just too good not to integrate it into my life.


Willpower Doesn’t Work: Discover the Hidden Key to Success by Benjamin Hardy

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“If you’re relying on willpower alone to help you lose weight, improve your relationships, or achieve more at work, you’re doomed to fail. The environment around us is far too powerful, stimulating, addicting, and stressful to overcome by white knuckling. The only way to stop just surviving and learn to truly thrive in today’s world is to proactively shape your environment.”–from GoodReads

I heard Ben speak at Tribe Conference last year.  It’s amazing the following he’s gained on Medium.  He writes good stuff, too. Helpful stuff.

Well-written. Great message.

Columbine by Dave Cullen

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“What really happened April 20, 1999? The horror left an indelible stamp on the American psyche, but most of what we “know” is wrong. It wasn’t about jocks, Goths, or the Trench Coat Mafia. Dave Cullen was one of the first reporters on scene, and spent ten years on this book-widely recognized as the definitive account. With a keen investigative eye and psychological acumen, he draws on mountains of evidence, insight from the world’s leading forensic psychologists, and the killers’ own words and drawings-several reproduced in a new appendix. Cullen paints raw portraits of two polar opposite killers. They contrast starkly with the flashes of resilience and redemption among the survivors.”– from GoodReads

How could something like this happen? Why did it happen? What could prevent it from happening again?

There’s some real lessons to be learned here.

One lesson was for the journalists.  A new trend in journalism gives criminals minimum press coverage and focuses on the victims’ stories.  This gives perpetrators less motivation to seek fame through their crimes.

There’s also the importance of follow through with high risk people.  Although, apparently psychopaths are masterfully deceptive.

The Read Aloud Family: Making Meaningful and Lasting Connections with Your Kids by Sarah Mackenzie

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“Connecting deeply with our kids can be difficult in our busy, technology-driven lives. Reading aloud offers us a chance to be fully present with our children. It also increases our kids’ academic success, inspires compassion, and fortifies them with the inner strength they need to face life’s challenges. As Sarah Mackenzie has found with her own six children, reading aloud long after kids are able to read to themselves can deepen relationships in a powerful way.

Founder of the immensely popular Read-Aloud Revival podcast, Sarah knows first-hand how reading can change a child’s life. In The Read-Aloud Family, she offers the inspiration and age-appropriate book lists you need to start a read-aloud movement in your own home. From a toddler’s wonder to a teenager’s resistance, Sarah details practical strategies to make reading aloud a meaningful family ritual. Reading aloud not only has the power to change a family—it has the power to change the world.”–from Amazon

I’m a huge fan of Sarah Mackenzie’s blog, podcast and mission.

Of course she outlines the benefits of reading aloud to your kids.  Of course she includes a age graded book list of books she recommends.  This is what you expect.

She’s also pinpointed the hidden value of reading aloud to your kids: making meaningful and lasting connections.

And, she’s also a good writer. She’s a good thinker and master communicator.  What’s not to love?

Have you read any of these titles?  What did you think?





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What I’m Reading March 2018

There’s nothing like the end of winter.

Even it’s been a good winter.  Warmer air and natural light make it easier to get out of bed.  It’s easier to be happy when you’re not fighting the cold.

I’m training for a 5K for the first time in my life.  It hasn’t been smooth sailing, but there’s nothing like the feeling AFTER a good workout.

Great books this month.  I’m loving my reading life right now.

Linking up with Modern Mrs Darcy’s Quick Lit.

(Note: This post contains affiliate links.  At no extra cost to you, a percentage of your purchase goes to support this site.)

Profit First by Mike Michalowicz

Buy now from Amazon

What an incredible book.

It tackles the default method of operating a small business:  pay all expenses first and take profit last.

Michalowicz argues that you when you operate that way, expenses will take all your income.  If you plan to take profit first, and also make a plan to compensate the owners, set aside money for taxes and operate on what’s left, your business becomes much healthier.

Expansions are realistic.  You don’t face cash flow problems.

I think it’s a great way to go.

I want to implement it.

Into the Free by Julie Cantrell

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“Millie is just a girl. But she’s the only one strong enough to break the family cycle.

In Depression-era Mississippi, Millie Reynolds longs to escape the madness that marks her world. With an abusive father and a “nothing mama,” she struggles to find a place where she really belongs. For answers,

Millie turns to the Gypsies who caravan through town each spring. The travelers lead Millie to a key that unlocks generations of shocking family secrets. When tragedy strikes, the mysterious contents of the box give Millie the tools she needs to break her family’s longstanding cycle of madness and abuse. Through it all, Millie experiences the thrill of first love while fighting to trust the God she believes has abandoned her. With the power of forgiveness, can Millie finally make her way into the free?” (Amazon summary)

A masterfully written book.

I wasn’t expecting thematic elements and just wasn’t prepared for it. Somehow, it took away the enjoyment of the book for me.

I can handle those type of things if I know that’s what I’m getting into.
But, it just isn’t what I wanted right now.

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

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An older couple move to Alaska to start a new life when their dreams of parenthood are not realized.

A little girl enters their lives under unusual circumstances.

It’s propelled by the mystery of whether the snow child is real or not.

But, it also touches at the deep longing to be parents, that maternal instinct that calls for fulfillment.

That is a story line that people can relate to. Bonus is how to cope when life doesn’t turn out the way you’d hoped.

I give it 4 and a half stars for traditional values.

Very well-written.

The Austen Escape by Katherine Reay.

Buy now from Amazon

Fun, fast read.

The story centers around Mary and her friend, Isabel, and their two week trip to England to live out a real life fantasy as Jane Austen characters.

Complicating this vacation is the problems Mary is having at work with her boss, crisis with a big project and navigating a relationship with the good-looking consultant, Nathan.

I would have enjoyed it more if I knew the Austen stories better, but it was enjoyable even knowing some.

Even though you have to suspend belief at times, I still liked it.

It was predictable, but in all the acceptable ways.

Chalk it up as a feel good story.


In other news, I surprised myself when I counted up 55 book reviews written in 2017.  Out of all those books what bubbled to the surface as my top pick?  Read about it here.

What are you reading?

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3 Things I’ve Learned, Winter 2017

This has been a good winter.

I’m grateful  because  they haven’t all been good.

I’m grateful for opportunities to learn things that make life better.

Here’s to winter.

Linking up with Emily Freeman sharing what we’ve learned.

Run your own race.

Credit to Jeff Goins for this nugget.

I needed this reminder.

I’ve had a hard time finding my way on this blogging journey.

I’m having trouble finding my voice, my niche, my tribe and my compensation.

My daily appointment with the keyboard is driven by a need to figure things out for me. To make sense of life and come to peace. Because it doesn’t always make sense. You have to evaluate your experience with your beliefs and make adjustments when they don’t line up.

I’m driven by an inner compulsion to find answers for myself. Maybe the answers will help you as well.

Your journey is not the same as anyone else’s.

You have twists and turns that they don’t have.

You have hills to climb that they didn’t deal with.

Granted, they face different obstacles than you, as well.

But, the point of having this mantra echoing in your head is that you avoid the comparison trap and the discouragement that trips you up or sidelines you.

Run your own race.


I wrote 55 book reviews in 2017.

I found this surprising because I never stopped to count before.

Writing book reviews has been good for my reading life.

Reading book reviews has been good for my reading life.

I get it. You’re busy. I’m busy. You don’t want to waste your time on bad books.

That is why I read book reviews. That is why I write book reviews.

Out of the 55, one rose to the top as my favorite for the year.

Read about my favorite book of 2017.

I need the structure and accountability of the pillars in my week. 

Spontaneous and impulsive is hard for me.  Life tends to throw curve balls.  It helps to have weekly rhythms I can count on.

Writing for Five Minute Friday every week.

Wednesday night Family Night.

Tuesday morning moms’ prayer group.

Sunday morning worship.

It helps immensely to have those planned into my schedule. Without them, it’s easier to get sucked  into the pit of negative emotions.

The daily rhythms help, too.  Pausing for gratitude every day changes my outlook.

Here’s what else is saving my life right now.

What are you learning this winter?

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My favorite book of 2017

I wrote 55 book reviews in 2017.

That translates into quite a few hours reading.

I get it.  Your life is busy.  My life is busy.  We want to spend our time reading good books.

That is why I read book reviews.  That is why I write book reviews.

Out of the 55, one rose to the top.

I want more people to know about this book.

I want more people to read this book.

(Note: This post contains affiliate links.  At no extra cost to you, a percentage of your purchase will go to support this site.)

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity by Nabeel Qureshi

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This is the raw, treacherous journey that Nabeel Qureshi took to find faith in Jesus. The sacrifices he made. The intellectual and emotional and relational barriers that kept him from finding faith in Jesus. And the story of overcoming those barriers.

Why do we need to know Nabeel’s story?

Because no man is an island. His pain is our pain. His victory is our victory. His story is our story.

There are millions of devout Muslims on the planet. If we understand Nabeel’s story, we come closer to understanding them.

There exists a great chasm of beliefs between us, but we share the same humanity. Our desires and dreams are common to the human experience.

To understand the Muslim mindset opens the door to greater compassion, to a better chance of building bridges to individuals who are seeking.

Statistics are one thing.

One person’s story is something else altogether. What difference can one person’s story make?

I can be inspired by their story. I can travel the road with them and return to my own life and take the courage with me. This is the power of story.

We are faced with the same choices Nabeel Qureshi faced.  Are we going to accept what we were taught growing up? Or are we going to search for something else?

We have no say about the situation we were born into. But the time comes when we accept or reject the life we were given. Do we perpetuate the values, attitudes and beliefs we were given or turn from it to something else?

These are the questions that individuals from every devout family faces. These are the issues that we wrestle with. These are the answers that we must find. This is the peace that we must come to.

It might be a life long journey. It might takes years to find that peace. Our foundational beliefs might be shaken to the core.

But, we must search. We must know if the values, attitudes and beliefs that we were handed without our knowledge or consent are truly ours. Every person must choose.

And that is why Nabeel’s journey is everyone’s. Coming of age has nothing on coming to faith.

We need to struggle deeply with these critical issues. We need to come to peace.

Irregardless of the belief system we choose, the struggle is universal. It’s the dragon we all must fight.

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity by Nabeel Qureshi

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What I’m Reading, February 2018

Indiana weather is living up to it’s reputation this winter: unpredictable.

The past twenty-four hours have been foggy as snow from last week melts and evaporates.

I’m grateful to be feeling better physically than other winters, but I’ll be happy to see Spring.

Linking up with Modern Mrs Darcy’s Quick Lit.

(Note: This post contains affiliate links.  At no extra cost to you, a percentage of your purchase will go to support this site. )

In Bloom: Trading Restless Insecurity for Abiding Confidence by Kayla Aimee

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Highly recommended!

Light-hearted stories that highlight deep truths.

I liked the way her faith was real and scripture informed her decisions and changed her life.

I loved her emphasis on grace. I loved her views on traditional values.

When Crickets Cry by Charles Martin

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A doctor running from his past.  An endearing little girl fighting for her life.

Masterfully written.

Traditional values.


Just when you thought you had it figured out, you didn’t.

One of the best inspirational fiction I’ve read in years.

Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder

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The orphans on the island follow the rules.  There’s a set way of doing things.  How and when they arrive, what they learn, how they live, how they live. Their survival depends on it.

I understand that this is a parable about childhood rather than a literary novel.

For me, it didn’t really accomplish either.

Maybe I’m missing the implications and parallels, but the story didn’t land for me.

A Spiritual Heritage: Connecting Kids and Grandkids to God and Family by Glen and Ellen Schunnecht

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It has been a long time since I read a parenting book.  Even longer since I liked one.

I liked the multi-generational approach in this book.  I liked the stories.  Realistic approaches to the challenges of parenting from a Christian perspective.

The Green Ember by S.D. Smith

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I’ve had trouble getting my hands on a copy of this book.

The first book in a trilogy, The Green Ember tells the story of a kingdom of rabbits.

Heather and Picket, brother and sister rabbit, are the main characters.  Lots of intrigue. Lots of action.

I can see boys really liking this book.


It’s been a good month for reading and for my first foray into fiction.  Check it out here.


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My Favorite Best of 17 Book Lists

For the third year in a row, I’m publishing a round up of top books read in the previous year.

Best selling lists are interesting and fascinating, but aren’t as helpful as a curated list from someone you admire, know or trust.

Modern Mrs Darcy

Beautiful Hope

Sarah from Orthodox Motherhood

Crystal Paine from Money Saving Mom

I have not kept up with 800CEORead this year.  I even had some trouble digging up this year’s list. Their short list includes their eight top books of the year in each category.

Sarah from Read Aloud Revival posted her list.

And a list posted on facebook by my friend, Karla, with her commentary.

1. Davita’s Harp by Chaim Potok. Ok, this is first because I love Potok, so I guess this one is in particular order. I first read this just after college, long before I knew we would live in Spain. Upon rereading it, I discovered that this book about a young girl growing up in a Jewish community in New York is full of connections to the Spanish Civil War, making it even more meaningful to me this time round. Potok is a treasure.

2. Miss U: Angel of the Underground. Autobiography of an American nurse in the Philippines during World War 2 who helped smuggle goods to men in prison camps. Couldn’t put it down. Contains graphic war violence and torture.

3. Funny in Farsi by Firoozeh Dumas. Story of growing up in American in an Iranian family. Full of cross-cultural humor.

4. Sky Unwashed by Irene Zabytko. Moving novel set around the Chernobyl disaster about old women and their little town.

5. Ava’s Man by Rick Bragg. Well-written true family story from the states of Georgia and Alabama during the depression years.

6. Spill, Simmer, Falter, Wither by Sara Baume. A book about an outcast man who takes in a one-eyed dog. Beautifully written, a bit quirky, and downright sad. I didn’t want it to end.

7. In the Land of Invisible Women by Ahmed Qanta. This fascinating look inside the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was written by a Muslim woman doctor who grew up in the UK, trained in the US, and spends 2 years practicing medicine in Saudi (pre-9/11). Intriguing.

8. Telling Room by Michael Paterniti. This is the story of a small village in northern Spain and a feud over cheese.

9. The Alice Network by Kate Quinn. This spy novel from World War 1 is also a mystery book. It was riveting and based on real women. Be warned, there are some pretty graphic torture scenes.

10. Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy. I first saw the miniseries, then went looking for the books. There 11 books in three trilogies (I know, that leaves 2 books – they are brief linkage books that aren’t technically in the trilogies.) I fell down the Galsworthy rabbit hole and read them all. Period literature, family saga, the self-destruction of an obsessed man – I really enjoyed them.

11. Pearls of Great Price by Yazz. This collection of women’s stories of faith was written by a friend of mine. Lovely book. Great to hand to a friend who is searching spiritually. Unfortunately at the moment it seems to be only available on and not, but it has just been released, so hopefully you will all have access to it soon.

Honorable mention:
East of Eden by John Steinbeck

The 100-year-old man who climbed out the window and disappeared by Jonas Jonasson

Push Not the River is the first of a trilogy of historical novels by James Conroyd Martin. I enjoyed all 3.

Emigrants by Vilhelm Moberg is the first in a series of Swedish immigrants to the US. I hope to read the rest of them.

Check out last year’s round up.

And the Best of 15.

What were your favorite books from 2017?


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What I’m Reading, January 2018

Around here, January means crazy Indiana weather and basketball.

We had a good Christmas with our kids.  Pete got a puppy for Christmas.

The stress of December spills over into January, but good things are on the horizon.

Linking up again with Modern Mrs Darcy’s Quick Lit.

(Disclaimer:  This post contains affiliate links.  At no extra cost to you, a percentage of your purchase will support this site.)

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How to Think: A Survival Guide for a World at Odds by Alan Jacobs

I had trouble focusing on this book, but I think it’s indicative of stress in my life, not necessarily any fault of the book.

I liked the fact that he comes from the perspective of a Christian and an academic and even addresses biases people tend to have against those two groups.

Chapter one, Beginning to Think, has the subtitle “Why it wouldn’t be a good idea to think for yourself, even if you could.”

My favorite Chapter was The Age of Lumping and the very telling illustration of the author’s experience with Timothy. The point here is that we’re conditioned to categorize people, but sometimes it works against us.

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The One Thing: The surprisingly simple truth behind extraordinary results by Gary Keller

I’ve been wanting to read The  One Thing FOREVER. I think I’ve been on my library’s waitlist for over a year.

Now I know what all the rave reviews are about.  This is a GREAT book!

It addresses the problem of distracted focus and the importance of lasering in on your most important work in order to achieve excellence.

A huge light bulb moment for me reading The One Thing was the idea of chaos derailing you and distracting you from your one thing.

Chapter 17, The Four Thieves of Productivity hit me hard.

The Four Thieves are:

1. Inability to Say “No”
2. Fear of Chaos
3. Poor Health Habits
4. Environment Doesn’t Support Your Goals.

Wow. These were so good and right on the money.

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Count to Ten by James Patterson

I picked up Count to Ten at the library because I know James Patterson is a super best selling author and I wanted to study his work.

The story is fast moving.

It has short chapters.

There were quite a few characters with strange names that were hard to keep track of.

That’s one thing that John Grisham does well– starts with only a few characters and adds them slowly.

Interesting plot. It’s a mystery, so the intrigue and unanswered questions moved the story forward.

In my mind, every great novel is a mystery answering the question, 
What happens next?

Another reason I picked up the book is that it is set in India. My parents live in India 8 months out of the year, so I was interested to learn more about life in that country.

Although there were a few tidbits here and there that reminded you of the setting, I didn’t feel like it really explored the culture. I felt like the characters could have been Americans. They didn’t seem to think and act like Indians.

Maybe I was expecting too much.

I just know that it’s possible to live in a country and not really understand the way of thinking of the people around you.

I won’t be picking up another James Patterson soon. Even though language and thematic elements colored only a small percentage of the book, it’s enough to put me off further reading.

Buy now from Amazon

In Bloom: Trading Restless Insecurity for Abiding Confidence by Kayla Aimee

Highly recommended!

Light-hearted stories that highlight deep truths.  Her daughter is a hoot and she’s got some pretty funny stories herself.

I liked the way scripture informed her decisions and changed her life.

I loved her emphasis on grace. I loved her views on traditional values.

I started following Kayla Aimee’s work after I took her Affiliate course as part of The Genius Bloggers Toolkit. Her course was packed with so much helpful information. I knew when she offered something it was going to be high value.

When I had the chance to be part of the launch team for the book, I jumped at it.

In Bloom is about overcoming insecurity and Kayla tells personal experiences.


I will definitely be hand-selling this one at the store.

What are you reading this month?



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