february’s fifteen [or what was on my bookshelf this month.]

I would say I read a lot in February because I am in my final days of pregnancy, but if you know me at all, the truth is that I might have read this much anyway. I find myself once again with a full and grateful heart for the gift it is to read. I enjoyed a wide array of books, spanning immigration to parenting, from courageously following Jesus to cooking, from racial tension to fairy tales.

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41e7bmiiyyl-_sx336_bo1204203200_7 Men. 

I have yet to read something by Eric Metaxas that I don’t love. This book was no exception. While not all of the seven men’s stories were new to me, each was told masterfully and prompted my heart towards a life beyond myself, towards courage and following Jesus. As a bonus, I got to read this with my mom and celebrate the lives of these men together as we worked our way through its pages. I highly recommend this one, along with 7 Women, especially if you’re a little intimidated by his (excellent but larger) volumes on Bonhoeffer or Wilberforce. A+ for me. 

51dfjvuvcil-_sx331_bo1204203200_Long Days of Small Things.

How sweet to have someone validate the beauty and tedious, the difficult and grace of life with little ones. This mama shares her own experiences and offers a way to find Jesus in the midst of taking care of children that we don’t often hear. I feel like we have certain ways of experiencing the Lord declared (whether by the church or simply in our own minds) as the only ways to experience the Lord. And in a season where life looks so different, where there might not be 30 minutes of consistent quiet every day to read Scripture, where we feel so different as we are now parents, I found this book to be a much needed message to moms (& dads, too, although she writes from her own experience as a mom) of how to invite the Lord to the every day life with small children. She gives practical, humble, honest examples and practices (at the end of each chapter) for how to slow down, how to pursue gratitude and how to be truly present with the Lord in motherhood. A for me. 

*NavPress provided me with a complimentary copy of this book. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255

51fjgcore4l-_sx319_bo1204203200_Fear Fighting.

This book has a solid message of what it looks like to combat fear and to embrace a life of courage. I came into this book expecting more of the author’s personal journey with fighting fear, and while she shares some of that from time to time, I think that this is a more ideal book for a study (whether personal or as a group.) There is an excellent section of questions to work through the material in the back. I would have enjoyed hearing more of Kelly Balarie’s stories of her own health issues or the losses that impacted her wedding day, and deeply appreciated any time she shared of her own experience. Regardless, she dives deep into the truth of Scripture and how we have access through Jesus to a life of true freedom. B for me. 

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

61vhe0u9ppl-_sx329_bo1204203200_The Sun is Also a Star.

I’m always a little skeptical of “love at first sight” stories, but this one seems to pull it off. I loved this story of immigrants and the complexities of growing up with multiple cultural influences. It offered what is often missing in our arguments and conversations surrounding these “issues”: actually knowing people’s stories. In light of our current political climate, I found this to be an engaging and timely story, that feels a little like a modern fairy tale. I could have done without some of the sexual content, but it wasn’t terribly explicit and could still enjoy the book. A- for me. 

51addzfe1dl-_sx331_bo1204203200_Life After.

This is the story of the lone survivor of a train bombing as she struggles with survivor guilt a year after the incident. Her life intersects with some of the victim’s families and she works to cope. The melancholy feel of the book matched the reality of the aftermath of the tragedy of this train wreck that impacted so many lives.  I was engaged the whole time and rooting for the characters. Yet, the ending felt a little too neat and tidy for me, but over all decent. B for me. 

*WaterBrook and Blogging for Books provided me with a complimentary copy of this book. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255

51pj9dbbegl-_sx331_bo1204203200_Dream With Me.

From Randy Alcorn’s introduction, I was hooked. I learned that John Perkins was the inspiration for a favorite fictional character (Obadiah Abernathy from Dominion, if you were wondering) and I knew I was in for a treat. At 84 years old, John has lived through years of racial turmoil and inequality. This book feels like what I would imagine it would be like to sit across from him and hear him share about his life, what the Lord has taught him and the hope he has for reconciliation that can only come from Jesus. His story is one of true courage and humility, as he was on the front lines of working to end segregation in the South and continues the fight for true justice even now. This is a timely and redemptive read for the racial tension of today. A for me. 

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

51sz0tslgal-_sx330_bo1204203200_Red Rising.

One of the reviews claimed that this was a story reminiscent of Hunger Games & Ender’s Game, and I came away agreeing, yet liking it less than the two aforementioned stories. While the world of this post-apocalyptic story is a fascinating premise, the feel of the book feel darker and grittier and crude for me. While I easily was rooting for the protagonist, it felt hard for me to like this book all the way. I was pleased at the pro-marriage elements and appreciated what this book said about leadership. Yet, I don’t plan to continue to read the series. B- for me. 

51vssduiybl-_sx437_bo1204203200_How To Cook Everything Fast.

At first I was intimidated by how LARGE of a volume this book was when I got it from the library, but soon discovered that I needn’t be worried. It was easy to page through, taking or leaving meal ideas. While it didn’t have the vivid food photography that I often enjoy in a good cookbook, it did provide plenty of inspiration for meals and many practical ways to make wholesome food in a short amount of time. The recipes ranged from 15-45 minutes and of the ones I tried, held true to the time that was claimed. I love getting food inspiration and our favorite from this book were the wraps I made with chicken, turkey bacon, avocado, sauteed mushrooms & peppers, dotted with hummus. A for me. 

41lhgcw3ial-_sx331_bo1204203200_The Confident Parent.

I don’t often stumble upon a parenting book that I find helpful and practical and wise, so this one was a tremendously pleasant surprise. The author offers credibility as not only a cross-cultural parent to four of her own children, but as a pediatrician as well. It is clear that her heart is for parents and children to have a less anxious experience for the years of childhood than is typically seen in our country. This book offers the practical tools to put into place principles that might feel counter-cultural in America, but that my husband and I have found to be instrumental in our parenting thus far. Some of these include:

Nurturing a marriage or partnership is as important to child-rearing as nurturing the child.

Children are strong and resilient-unless parents teach them not to be.

Sometimes a parent’s needs must come first.

Picking eating is learned, not innate.

There is such a thing as being too careful. (The Confident Parent, 5-6)

I deeply appreciated the permission Jane Scott gives to find freedom in parenting, by offering truly practical ways of finding a less anxious, more balanced way of doing life as a family. I highly recommend this to any parent. A+ for me. 

51wpju6dp3l-_sx331_bo1204203200_Far Far Away.

This fairy tale reminded me of a darker (less Disney-ified) one, reminiscent of Grimm’s tales, which is fitting as one of the main characters is the ghost of Jacob Grimm. It took me a while to decide if I liked this book, as it wasn’t a particularly happy story, but I enjoyed the main characters and found it to be a satisfying read. B for me. 

517u4a4jjxl-_sx322_bo1204203200_The Lost Husband.

Sometimes a good story can preach a sermon better than a sermon ever could. This story preaches a compelling charge towards healthy living, good boundaries, working through grief and choosing growth over comfort, all in the midst of likable characters and an endearing story. While not perfect by any means (there is a general attitude of permissibility towards sex outside of marriage), Katherine Center is a fabulous story teller and I loved this book. And bonus, I laughed out loud at ALL the sections about goats (they are all named for famous women) and their goat ways. If you read it, you’ll know what I mean.  A for me. 

51eh4adm-il-_sx326_bo1204203200_An Everlasting Meal.

I’m so grateful for the loan of this book by my trusted friend and fellow food appreciator, Saritha. The passion and enthusiasm for good food from Tamar Adler is practically pulsing from the pages. She wants the reader to see just how accessible good food truly is and offers vivid and practical descriptions of her own food practices to demonstrate just that. Her meals are often humble, teeming with vegetables and often using what might be considered scraps or the undesirable leftovers of a previous meal. I loved all her descriptions of meals (although as a gluten-free girl, some of the bread ones were a little hard to not envy!) and  came away with a renewed desire for caring for my people and myself through good food. B+ for me. 

419pblhybxl-_sx331_bo1204203200_The Promise of Jesse Woods.

This book was a pleasant surprise from the shelf of Christian Fiction. It was gritty and didn’t shy away from the darkness and exploitation and racism of this small town. There wasn’t a cookie-cutter, story book ending. And I loved the main characters. I felt like difficult things were dealt with tastefully, and redemption was hard won in the end.  I really enjoyed it.  A for me. 

51pni65afrl-_sx332_bo1204203200_The Court of Thorns and Roses.

I almost didn’t read this one because of how ridiculous this fantasy world sounded from the front cover. But I heard some good things and decided to give it a chance. It was far more engaging than I could have anticipated, a Beauty-and-the-Beast feel in a mythical, dark world (think Hunger Games meets a magical realm.) I skipped past the few pages of sexual content, which was disappointing to find in what otherwise was a really fun read. B for me. 

51yk4xcixyl-_sx328_bo1204203200_The Lucky Few.

I’ve already shared about this book here, but it was my FAVORITE book that I read this month. I can’t recommend it enough. If you want to be encouraged towards saying yes to Jesus and living the best kind of story, this book is for you.  A+ for me. 

 

What is on your bookshelf, friends?

 

*affiliate links used

*I joined up What I’m Into at Leigh Kramer’s blog as she shares her highlights from the month, including what she’s been reading.

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