June favorites + a giveaway.

Ah, June, one of my favorite months. It feels like berries and sunshine.  I’m grateful for the opportunity to pause and remember the grace to be found in recent days.

June is birthday month for so many of our ladies! It was my birthday, my mother-in-law’s, two of my sisters’ and my daughter’s. Our birthday banner was well used and it was a gift to celebrate these people Jesus has given us, whether it was from afar or at home.

L and I went strawberry picking and it was pure DELIGHT. She couldn’t stop giggling and giving me hugs over the wonder of being allowed to pick and eat as many berries as she wanted. It was good for my heart to slow down, enjoy the process and eat berries with my girl. And man, do they taste SO MUCH BETTER than any strawberries you could get in a grocery store. I want to bottle this sunshine-strawberry delight and open it up in the dead of January.

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In the midst of moving and transition, it never worked out to dedicate L in our church. It was a gift to my heart to commit our girl and our parenting to Jesus in front of the people we have found home with on this side of our transition. And to hear my husband pray for our girl felt like pure grace.

Guilty pleasures this month included Season 2 of Agents of SHIELD (which we were starting to give up on, but the finale drew us back in!), decaf coffee and cookies before bed. YUM.

Bedtime dance parties are my favorite. L can outlast all of us and she has got MOVES.

While I would NEVER choose to get the flu, there was grace to be found in being taken care of at my weakest and changing our expectations for a birthday that weekend. The bug took a while to beat (and if I’m honest, I’m still regaining my energy) but it was a reminder to my heart that I have nothing to prove, that rest is a gift and I am loved.

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Only a few weeks before our anniversary, my husband and I had the chance to go away for a weekend together. We went to a movie (Finding Dory, which was sweet), people-watched for the town’s Beer festival, read over a mocha, slept in, napped, thrifted, ate good food and just enjoyed the gift of rest together.

And no surprise, I found grace in the books I read this month. I enjoyed a good stack of stories AND non-fiction this month.
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Fiction

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

My brother recommended this book, and so I picked it up from the library. I couldn’t put it down and read it in an afternoon. I don’t want to give away too much, but I thought it was really good story-telling, as the events and understanding of the bigger picture were slowly unfolded. I’m always a sucker for any story with a time travel element done well, and this one qualifies. I thought it was imaginative and the photographs sprinkled throughout the pages added well to the story. No telling what the movie version will be like later this year, but I enjoyed the book. A- for me.

Miriam

I am always cautious when entering into biblical fiction. I want a better understanding of Scripture. I want help with my imagination, as familiarity tends to creep in and I lose my sense of wonder. But I don’t want those things at the expense of truth, hence the caution. This beautiful story fulfilled all my hopes. We aren’t given many details of Miriam’s life in Scripture, and I found these fictionalized details to only enhance what I know of Scripture. And how refreshing to follow a main character who is wise and tempered, yet real. Miriam is in her eighties when we come upon her, and I quickly found myself cheering her and her family on, as her story, and the greater story of God and his people came to life. A- for me.

*Blogging for Books has provided me with a complimentary copy of “Miriam,” in exchange for my honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255

Cinder

Scarlet

Cress

Winter

I’m a little wary of teen-oriented fiction, but I’m a sucker for fairy tales, even when they involve a cyborg. I was impressed with this fictional, dystopian setting for Cinderella and the creativity behind this adaptation. It felt like science fiction meets fairy tale meets Hunger Games. I’ll admit that I blazed through this book in an afternoon and eagerly awaited the arrival of the next book to the library. If you can set aside any self-induced (or perhaps others-induced) shame for reading anything resembling Twilight, I’d say these are worth the risk. These books are creative and fun, not taking themselves too seriously. There are imaginative winks towards the original fairy tales (Cinderella, Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel and Snow White) while weaving together a skillful saga. A fun summer read in this series of four.  A- for me.

The Distant Hours

This book had the feel of Jane Eyre to me. It was haunting and a slow, savoring kind of suspenseful. It was not my favorite of Kate Morton’s books, but it was still captivating enough to keep me up late and conclude the novel in less than 24 hours. A solid B for me.

The House at Riverton

This book was beautiful, reminiscent and reminded me of Downton Abbey. I loved the look into the loyalty and complexity of life as a servant in a world quickly changing. Kate Morton is a wizard at unfolding a mystery over multiple eras and keeping you hooked until the very last page. I really enjoyed this one. *Although fairly tastefully written, this book did involve an affair. I felt like it was treated rather factually, as part of the story, not as an endorsement for unfaithfulness. A- for me.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

These books are comforting and a wonderful world to get lost in, which was perfect for my recent sick days. This book feels like the turning point for the series, where things start to get more serious (or is it Sirius? Ha.) I feel like I always forget the depths of detail and humor to be found in the books, compared to the movies. (No complaint about the movies, just a different medium.) I was grateful to revisit one of my favorites for a few hundred pages, while I rested this month. A for me.

 

Nonfiction

Beloved Mess

In the first pages, I could tell I liked Kimm Crandall. Her candor and humor made me feel right at home, as she shares the truth of what it looks like to be loved by Jesus in the midst of our mess. One of the parts that was my favorite was hearing about the depression that struck right after signing the book deal for this book, and the grace that hounded her heart in the midst of circumstances that didn’t “feel worthy of grace.” Kimm and I are both prove-ers and people who want to hide the mess. This book pointed straight back to the gospel and what it means to follow Jesus as our messy, loved selves. A for me.

*Baker Books has provided me with a complimentary copy of “Beloved Mess,” in exchange for my honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255

The Diary of Anne Frank

Somehow I think I missed reading this in my school days, so it seemed like a good idea to make up for lost time now. I loved reading this vulnerable account of Anne’s teenage days in a dark age for our world. To spend her coming of age years in hiding was profound, yet her courage and self-awareness was truly beautiful to read in contrast to her setting. A- for me.

How to Survive a Shipwreck

Have you ever read a book and felt like it was meant for you? This book reminded me of an afternoon where I sat in the middle of the sidewalk next to my friend in her hot mess moment. People walked around us, and we just sat and talked and cried. This book felt like that, except that I was the friend in my own hot mess season. Jonathan Martin offers his own story and the hard-earned lessons he learned in the midst of his life “shipwrecking.” He uses all sorts of sea metaphors to convey truth and it really, truly works. I’m still absorbing all the courageous things he shares.

I want to buy this book for every friend who is going through something awful and hard. I’m so grateful for the message, the timing and the truth of this book. It is brave, honest and feels like hope when you’re running out of your own. A+ for me.

*BookLook Bloggers and Zondervan provided me with a complimentary copy in exchange for my honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255

The Power of Together

When I’m tired and in the midst of my own Hard, sometimes it sounds like a good idea to take a break from people. But I am so grateful for the truth of this book, pointing back to how people are exactly what Jesus uses again and again to draw us to himself. Relationships are where our faith is lived out. Jim Putman shares about the proof of spiritual maturity is found in our relationship with others, our love in action. We were made to connect and we need others, just as they need us to function as we were created to be. I thought this was a good blend of teaching, Scripture and personal stories from a pastor’s heart. B+ for me.

*Baker Books provided me with a complimentary copy in exchange for my honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255

Return to Joy

First of all, I loved the cover of this book, and may have partially picked it for the balloons. But the rest of the pages didn’t disappoint. The cover is an accurate picture of the hope found within. Bev DeSalvo shares her painful story, not merely to shock, but to point to the hope that is ours in Jesus for healing. I’m so grateful for Bev’s courage in speaking about her deep wounds, and through them, pointing the reader straight into Jesus’ arms. This is a book of wisdom and kindness, walking through the layers of forgiveness and darkness that come with real heart healing. (Also, each chapter ends with discussion questions, making this a great choice for a group study.) B+ for me.

*Tyndale Publishers provided me with a complimentary copy in exchange for my honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255

A Different Kind of Happiness

This book kicked my butt. I’ve always appreciate Larry Crabb and have found him to be a wise teacher in the past. This book preached the truth that REAL happiness comes when we love sacrificially like Jesus did. There is no “nice” way to love sacrificially, but a messy, fierce commitment to love even in the midst of pain and suffering. In the season I’m currently in, these words were straight from Jesus, convicting my heart. I don’t need my circumstances to change. I need my heart to change to love those Jesus has given me, even when it costs me much. The truth is that this narrow road is the road to happiness in the heart of Jesus himself. A for me.

*Baker Books provided me with a complimentary copy in exchange for my honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255

Oh Crap! Potty Training

This isn’t a book that I thought I would enjoy, but I’m happy to be wrong. The humor and practical tips were good for my mama’s heart,  as I did some research on what to expect for these days in the not-so-distance future for me and my toddler girl. I’ll definitely be checking this one out from the library again when the day comes to start potty training. A for me.

Bird by Bird

I’d heard this recommended for writers, again and again, so I thought it was time to check it out. While I don’t agree with everything Anne Lamott says, particularly about God and spirituality, I still thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was a good reminder for my heart of what truly MATTERS in writing, and arguably, life. It isn’t a book deal or becoming famous. It is the JOY that comes from doing good work, creating something and being brave to tell the truth. She says good things (with wit and humor) about perfectionism, about just doing the next thing and telling a good story. I know I’ll be returning to this book for writing inspiration and truth in the future. A- for me.

Radical Prayer

I loved this simple, candid book, straight from a pastor’s heart. Manny Mill is upfront about his own struggle to pray, even as a pastor. When the Lord challenges him to commit to walking and praying, it is beautiful to hear how his life is literally transformed. From his faith to weight loss, the Lord used those hours of prayer to do big things. This book wasn’t a guilt-trip or five easy steps to certain results. This book was a reminder of how prayer invites us into the story the Lord is telling, giving a chance to give him glory. Bold and persistent prayer is what Manny Mill encourages the reader towards, including moments of asking the reader to pause and pray, right now! If you want prayer to be more part of your life, without piling guilt or shame onto your heart for what it “should” look like, I’d recommend this book. It is kind and humble, brave and bold. A for me.

*Moody Publishers provided me with a complimentary copy in exchange for my honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255

Unashamed

I love the heart behind this book. Heather Davis Nelson takes the shame research of Brene Brown one step further. She lays the groundwork for an understanding of how shame plays out in our lives, and invites the Lord into the equation. She outlines shame in the context of performance, marriage, parenting, church, and our physical bodies, helping to frame shame in a Christ-centered context. I’m grateful for another resource to continue the shame conversation. Because this topic is something I’m interested in, much of the book felt familiar to me. I would recommend this book for someone who is newer to the shame conversation. A solid B for me.

*Crossway and FlyBy Promotions provided me with a complimentary copy in exchange for my honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255

The Life We Never Expected

This book impressed me with humility and grace. The parents to two children with special needs share about what it looks like to suffer and how they find Jesus in the midst of their particular Hard. I loved that their book didn’t create camps; those who have special needs kids and those who don’t. Instead their story is one that anyone with their own Hard can relate to, the frustration, the anger, the mess, the grace in the midst of it all. This book pointed me straight back to Jesus. I was so grateful for the reminder of the “essentials” like “staying married” and sleeping and food, in the midst of Hard. I’m so grateful for this courageous book on suffering well and following Jesus, even when you get a different story than you expected. A for me.

*Crossway and FlyBy Promotions provided me with a complimentary copy in exchange for my honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255

 

GIVEAWAY: I’m so grateful that I have the opportunity to share two of the books I read this month:The Life We Never Expected and Unashamed!

Crossway Publishers and FlyBy Promotions are providing me with one copy of each book to giveaway to two of my readers. Comment below if you would like to be entered, and indicate which book you are interested in (both is okay!) Two winners will be announced in a week!

 

*I joined up with  What I’m Into at Leigh Kramer’s blog as she shares her favorites and invites others to do the same. What a gift to reflect and learn together!

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8 Comments Add yours

  1. Is the giveaway open to people outside the continental United States? I’m in Canada, but both books sound great if I’m eligible to enter.

    Also, strawberry season is my favourite! They’re so flavourful, I can’t even bring myself to buy them the rest of the year. And I loved the Lunar Chronicles series. My husband picked up a copy of Cinder when it first came out and I was a little put off by the Twilight-esque cover art, but I’m so glad I got over it. I love redone fairy tales and these are so well done!

    Like

    1. It’s open to the US and Canada! I’ll enter you. 🙂 So glad to find a fellow strawberry-Cinder lover!

      Like

  2. Mama Muse Me says:

    You did a lot of reading last month! Also, I wanted to thank you for the book I won last time. I used it as a devotional and learned so much about the attributes of God. It shifted my thinking in a good way 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh good! I’m so glad to hear it!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Rachel says:

    I’d love to be entered into the drawing for “Unashamed.”

    Thanks for these monthly reviews, Alison! I’m always on the lookout for good books, but tentative to explore new writers because I am disproportionately impacted by stories. You’ve guided me to a lot of GOOD. Thank you!

    Like

  4. I love books! Either one. These strawberry photos are mouthwatering. And today’s blog is so true and what we all need to hear. Love you forever!

    Like

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