Five Friday Faves – Summer Reading List

Summer is comin’!

Or so they tell me. I’m still in denial. I love my kids, but I also love when they have the structure of their individual preschool classes.

We neeeeeeeed the structure of school.

So, I’m attempting to get my brain used to the idea that the kids will be home for three months.

Deep breaths.


One great thing about summer though is all the summer reading. My kids love to play outside in the yard, on our little playground, or in the water. This mama loves to sit in a chair and read a book while soaking up some rays.

In the summer, I seem to crave good stories (fiction or memoirs) and short reads. The kids are forever (you know, being kids) interrupting, so I cannot get into something too deep.

Maybe you’re feeling the same about needing some good reads for these warmer months, so today I’m sharing my five summer reading suggestions for you:

Remember, when you use my links it doesn’t cost you anything extra, but I make pennies which eventually add up to a dollar and I can contribute to my family’s water bill as I mercilessly hose down my sweaty children from my comfy lawn chair. Not that I would do that…



I just finished this book a couple weeks ago. It is INTENSE, but the story is fascinating. Five-year-old Jack narrates the story; his innocence and naivete are endearing.

His mother was abducted seven years prior and has been held prisoner in an eleven-by-eleven-foot room. Jack was born in the room, and it is all he has ever known. His mother realizes it is time to find a way out…

This storyline will suck you in and hold your interest. Jack and his mother’s relationship really touched me as her love had to be displayed for him in such a unique way.


When Breath Becomes Air

Author, Paul Kalanithi, was 36 when he was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. This book is his grappling with the meaning of his life as a neurosurgeon facing imminent death.

Paul died while writing his memoir, but he would be ok with his readers knowing that ending. He wanted us to follow him along his journey of death and not be surprised by it.

This book was incredibly inspiring and heart-warming.


A Long Way From Chicago

I just love this author. His way of telling stories – sometimes the most ornery stories – is unparalleled. His wit and humor make the time pass and the pages turn!

Author Richard Peck is actually from the central IL area. This collection of stories revolves around a boy, Joey, and his sister, Mary Alice. They live in Chicago but spend their summers “a long way from Chicago” in downstate Illinois with their VERY peculiar grandmother. The stories are so entertaining!

The stories are so entertaining and easy to envision!


A Different Beautiful

So, I know this author. Like, we’re friends. I know their story and I see them living out their mission of celebrating differences as beautiful every day.

Courtney is a great writer with quite the story to tell. Her daughter Brenna was born with a skin disorder that has affected every fiber of their family. Through this diagnosis, their family could have fallen apart and grown bitter. Instead, Courtney shares her heart on how different truly can be beautiful.

Also, a certain family (mine, ahem) makes an appearance in one of the short chapters in this quick read.

The ebook is on sale right now for less than $2.00! Hurry and grab it because the sale ends really soon.

Love and Gelato

Someone tells Lina (the main character) that most people come to Italy for love and gelato. This teen (whose mother recently passed away) came for different reasons, however. She traveled to Italy to get to know her absent father. And of course, as all good novels go, she discovers much about herself along the way.

This perfect summertime read has an adorable and captivating plot. The whole book is squeaky clean. It will make you smile as you sit in the sun, for sure.


So, tell me – what’s on your summer reading list? Anything I need to add? (Although let’s be honest, my list is already more than can be conquered in just three months!)


Five Friday Faves

I started something new last week and decided to share some of my favorite things with you all on Fridays.

This week’s edition is a little heavy on relaxation though as my family is currently vacationing in Florida.

(Some of these links are affiliate links because, while I do love you all, it would also be nice to get paid once in a while. I only recommend things I TRULY love though. No worries.)


My family is having a blast visiting my parents in Naples, Florida. We’ve already eaten too much, swam too hard, and slept… well… can one ever sleep enough?

One of my favorite things right now is most certainly Florida with my family!

GAP shorts

I snagged these adorable shorts from my favorite shopping app: ThredUp. It’s a second-hand store, entirely online!

I had purchased a similar pair of shorts at GAP last year and decided I needed another pair for our vacation. I got these babies for $9.99!

Because ThredUp loves me, AND because they love you, they have a code for anything GAP on their site! It’s an amazing deal of 50% off anything GAP, up to $50. (The code only works for first-time ThredUp shoppers.)

Use code GAP50 and search all the GAP merchandise by clicking here.

I’m going to hurry up and go shop again…


This may be the weirdest product I ever recommend… The Tinkle.

This little gadget is marketed as an eyebrow shaper, but a friend turned me onto it as a facial hair trimmer a while back.

Thaaaaaat’s right.

Facial hair.

It’s amazing though. You just run this baby over your problem areas, put a little facial lotion on, and BOOM – baby-smooth face.

I gave one to my mom, and she ordered twelve more. If you know my mom, that’s a big deal. No one messes with her beauty routine…

Hillbilly Elegy

People have been telling me to read this book for a while, but when I requested the e-book from the library, I was number 36.

So, two years later (kidding) it was finally my turn. It has been a great read!

Over on my Goodreads page, I wrote the following:

“J.D.’s book is written as a memoir – a peek inside the hillbillies’ lives. I see it as covering much of the low-income problems throughout our whole country though. Excellent writing with an optimistic voice.”

The book taught me a lot about the lower socio-economic class and the struggles being faced daily. My husband has a similar story of overcoming and achieving, so the author’s words had extra meaning for me.

I loved it.


Since life has been a bit slower on vacation, I’ve had time to appreciate art and creativity. I stopped and took this photo of a cool mosaic today. Just because.

Also, while at the beach yesterday, I decided to create something in the sand. I knew my creation would wash away in a matter of hours, but I really enjoyed the process and the art of it.

I imagine my creation made at least one person smile; the work was worth it.


How about you? What are you loving this week?

Do you have anything you think I would love (especially items you sell or create yourself? Contact me!)

Books and Coffee to Love – FOR YOU!

Two things I love most in life –

Jesus and my family.

Ok, the next two things I love most in life –

Very possibly books and coffee.

Y’all know how I love to read. I’ve made that abundantly clear. And coffee? I somehow made it through college and past first-time mom and the newborn stages without it.


When Nasko was more challenging and dangerous last year, I realized I needed something to keep me alert and awake.

Enter dirt water.

It took me a looooong while to get coffee right, but now, it’s love.

Books and coffee. Love.

And because I love them so much and I love you, my readers, I want to share my loves with my loves.

You trackin’? That was a lot of “loves.”

(I’m giving you books and coffee. For free. Click here.)

See? It’s important to keep up.

My buddy Courtney and I looked around our houses and realized we had libraries of amazing books. We’ve read them, and we want to share the love with others. We want others to love reading (and coffee) too, so we are doing a giveaway!

Here’s what you could win –


Choosing Real: An Invitation to Celebrate When Life Doesn’t Go as Planned by Bekah Jane Pogue

Doing Good is Simple: Making a Difference Right Where You Are by Chris Marlow

The Broken Way: A Daring Path into the Abundant Life by Ann Voskamp

From Depths We Rise: A Journey of Beauty from Ashes by Sarah Rodriguez

A Different Beautiful: Discovering and Celebrating Beauty in Places You Never Expected by Courtney Westlake (woot, woot! I know her!)

Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible with Both Our Hearts and Our Minds by Jen Wilkin

The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines

Full: Food, Jesus, and the Battle for Satisfaction by Asheritah Ciuciu

Move Toward The Mess: The Ultimate Fix for a Boring Christian Life by John Hambrick

It’s Not Fair: Learning to Love the Life You Didn’t Choose by Melanie Dale

Worth Living: How God’s Wild Love for You Makes You Worthy by Mary DeMuth

The Key to Everything: Unlocking the Secrets to Why Some People Succeed and Others Don’t by Matt Keller

Fear Fighting: Awakening Courage to Overcome Your Fears by Kelly Balarie

(not pictured, but included:)

Four Letter Words: Finding Hope in a Tiny Wild Life by Krista Wilbur


Custom Cup Coffee grounds

Katie’s Koffee grounds

Live A Different Beautiful coffee mug

Books and Coffee.

And you could win it all. (Click here.)

This week, I’ll be sharing parts of these books on my Facebook and my Instagram, so you’ll want to join in on that fun.

Courtney and I just want to get some amazing reads into the hands of our people. So please enter to win!


All you have to do is click here and enter your email address. You can get extra entries just by sharing on your social media too!

Click here to get all the details! You have until Friday at 5:00 (CST) P.M. to enter and share! Good luck, my loves!

Enter the Giveaway!

Book Recommendations For You!

Like I mentioned in my last post, I read fifty-two books in 2016.

I track these books on Goodreads, and it’s a good thing; I wasn’t sure I read many worth recommending, but then when I went back to see what all I had read, I struggled to choose just a few favorites.

So, well, I didn’t choose.

Today I’m sharing almost twenty of the books I really enjoyed in 2016.

Don’t mind me being all nerdy up in here.

[All links are affiliate links. If you take my recommendations – you should – and purchase one of these books, I get a few pennies as a referral fee from Amazon. Then, I will buy more books. It’s just what I do.]




I love reading real-life stories of people who have unique histories and unique voices. This is probably one of my consistently favorite genres to read.

  1. The Sound of Gravel

    This memoir is written by a woman who grew up in a polygamist family and escaped the religion. It was captivating. I read all 350+ pages in one day.
  2. A Thousand Naked Strangers

    An EMT shares stories of his life on the ambulance and in the face of emergencies. Some of the stories are heart-wrenching while some are hilarious!
  3. Four Letter Words

    I actually know the author of this book personally. It is self-published, but Krista is a creative writer. She absolutely has a story – and every chapter of it can be summed up in a four-letter word: fear, pain, hope, love, etc.


Young Adult:

I have recently discovered a love of books written for teenagers! They are the perfect thing to smash between books that are heavy or full of self-help suggestions. My favorite YA books are usually a little sappy and a whole lot sweet. They also remind me why I am SO thankful to no longer be in high school…

  1. Tell Me Three Things

    A young girl moves to a new school where someone begins to anonymously email her with life advice and finally a budding friendship. Most of the book leaves you wondering who the anonymous person is!
  2. Emmy & Oliver

    Emmy and Oliver were neighbors and best friends until the day Oliver was kidnapped. He went missing for ten years. When he was found and returned home, so much had changed. It was intriguing to watch him acclimate back into his daily life and an unfamiliar friendship with his neighbor.



I got a little burnt out on parenting this year, as it was such a hard year for my family. Most of these books are not actually manuals for how-to, but rather books to inspire or, more likely, make you laugh!

  1. Dad Is Fat

    There is no one better to give parenting advice or share funny stories than the comedian, Jim Gaffigan. I listened to this as an audiobook. Chance listened to it and loved it too!
  2. My Practices of Mothering

    I wrote a full review of this short ebook back in April of last year. Sweet Sarah Bessey even took the time to comment on it! Read that post here, and then read her book! You cannot beat the price.
  3. Sparkly Green Earrings

    This was the first Melanie Shankle book I had ever read. Her reflections on mothering were sometimes laugh-out-loud funny. I remember having to apologize to a neighbor on an airplane while I was reading this one!



Historical Fiction:

I didn’t read as much from this genre this year, but I plan to change that next year. I love, love, love a good story mixed with accurate historical details.

  1. The Kitchen House

    I got this one on audio and looked forward to riding in the car just to be able to listen to it. It tells the stories of the kitchen house from the perspectives of the slaves and indentured servants. It was so easy to fall in love with every one of the characters.




My mother jokes that she can’t join Goodreads because then everyone will know how much fiction she actually reads. (Now that I’ve outed her, I’d say she can join.) I don’t get my love of a story from any stranger.

I never write fiction, but I believe fiction is one of the biggest influences on my writing. I love the art of telling a good story. Because of this though, I’m also VERY hard on fiction authors. I did manage to find a few worth recommending this year!

  1. Cuckoo’s Calling, The Silkworm, Career of Evil

    This is a three-book series written under J.K. Rowling’s pseudonym. My brother and sister-in-law gifted me these books, knowing I had never read Harry Potter. They are big Potter fans and I think they were trying to trick me into reading his books next.
    This series follows Cormoran Strike and his secretary as private investigators. It was well-written and easy to read.
  2. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

    Welp, my brother and sister-in-law got their wish, and I read the first of the Harry Potter books. I see what all the hype is about. It’s so well thought-out. I hear the series only gets better. I’ll be reading more this year!
    This ebook is free for Prime Members! Click my link to get to it.
  3. One-in-a-Million Boy

    If I had to pick (don’t make me) just one book to recommend from 2016, it would be this one. A young, socially-delayed boy passes away shortly after beginning a boy scout project. His deadbeat dad steps in to finish the project – helping an elderly woman. The lessons this man learns from his deceased son and the woman he is serving are heart-warming.



Christian Non-Fiction:

I read a LOT of blogs and books in this genre. Again, like with fiction, I am pretty picky. These books though, should be on every woman’s shelf. They would be great gifts for a girlfriend as well!

  1. Bread and Wine

    I had started a book by Shauna Niequest once, and I’m not even sure I finished it. I wasn’t a fan. Courtney is a HUGE fan though and kept pressuring me to read Bread and Wine.
    When I finished Shauna’s book of stories and recipes from gathering friends and family around the table, all I wanted to do was host dinner parties and cook risotto. So, well, I did. Such an inspiring read about community and sustenance.
  2. Wild in the Hollow

    Amber Haines’ voice was so refreshing for this genre. She writes in a way that is almost poetic and tells her story with her experience and life lessons woven throughout.
  3. Women of the Word

    I take back what I said. If you’re going to buy just ONE book from this list, let this be the one. I have mailed this book directly to a friend (love you, Amazon Prime) after we’ve discussed ways to study scripture. My church has used it for bible study. I have highlighted and quoted it. I have used it to outline the specific steps I use to study God’s Word.
    Jen Wilkin is a phenomenal teacher of how to study the bible and how to understand God’s word. EVERY woman needs to read this book.

You can see the entire list of books I read in 2016 by clicking here.

What did you read? Do you have any recommendations for my 2017 list? I need to fill it up with at least 75 titles!


Were my twenty suggestions not enough? Check out similar lists from my friends: Courtney, Kelly, Johanna, Beth, and Heather.

What I’ve Been Reading – Five Book Recommendations

I’ve been spending more and more of my time reading lately, so I thought I could occasionally share the especially good stuff with you.

Five Book Recommendations from to get your 2016 reading list off to the right start!

I just recently signed up as an Amazon Affiliate, which means that the links within this post are technically affiliate links. So, if you are interested in a book I suggest, you can click on the link or the picture, buy the book, and I get an eeeensy weeeeensy cut of Amazon’s profits.

With those eeeensy weeeeensy profits, I will probably buy more books. So there’s that.

What I’ve Been Reading:

In January, I read five books. I listened to two audiobooks and I began two bible studies. Here are five of my highlighted recommendations.


1. Emmy & Oliver

This Young Adult book was my favorite read of the month. One night, I wasn’t feeling too tired at 8:30 (even though that’s when Chance and I usually climb in bed most nights), so I decided to start a new book.

This one.

Bad idea, apparently.

I got sucked in and read the entire book by 1:30 AM. So, obviously I liked it.

The book is a fictional story about Oliver, who was kidnapped and disappeared for ten years. The narrater is his former next door neighbor, Emmy.

“[Oliver] tapped his fist against the car door a few times, then looked at me. ‘I’m glad you never moved.’ 

It was the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me.”

The book deals with the themes of love, acceptance, grief, and finding oneself. That probably made it sound cheesy, but it really wasn’t. It was a quick, take-me-away type of read!


2. Gods & Kings

I’m typically leery about biblical fiction, but Lynn Austin does a great job in this book about King Ahaz and his son, Hezekiah. After reading the book, I felt encouraged to re-read that portion of the Old Testament. This full novel was based on just one chapter of scripture (2 Chronicals 28), but the cultural practices and stories from bible times help make such a simple chapter of history come alive.

“‘Grandpa?’ he asked at last, “couldn’t Yahweh kill all our enemies and save us?… Couldn’t Yahweh do that?’

‘Certainly He could, [Hezekiah]! Yes of course Yahweh could defeat all of Judah’s enemies.’

‘Then why didn’t He, Grandpa?’

Zechariah’s face looked sad as he shook his head. 

‘Because our nation no longer believes in Him… and so no one bothered to ask Him to.'”

There are more books in this series, and I’m excited to read those as well.


3. Sparkly Green Earrings

It wasn’t until I started reading this book that I recognized who the author was! She’s from The Big Mama Blog, and I’ve been reading her writings for years. (Also, she is by no means big. The story behind her nickname is in her book though!)

She writes in a very personal way, and shares her musings about her daughter’s first few years of life. I really resonated with her stage of life as she wrote this, so I highlighted half of the book!

“Real motherhood is different. It’s better and it’s messier and it’s more complicated. It will break your heart and make you laugh harder than you ever imagined. You find yourself alternating between feeling like your friends talked you into some sort of pyramid scheme so you could share in their misery and thinking this is the most fulfilling thing you’ve ever done in your life.”



4. Dad is FAT

I have watched and loved Jim Gaffigan’s stand up comedy routines on YouTube. Listening to him narrate his own audio book was like listening to a seven-hour comedy show. It was laugh-out-loud funny. It was perfect for car and airplane rides by myself (which I actually did last month!).

“Every night before I get my one hour of sleep, I have the same thought: ‘Well, that’s a wrap on another day of acting like I know what I’m doing.’ I wish I were exaggerating, but I’m not. Most of the time, I feel entirely unqualified to be a parent. I call these times being awake.”

“Bedtime makes you realize how completely incapable you are of being in charge of another human being. My children act like they’ve never been to sleep before. ‘Bed? What’s that? No, I’m not doing that.’ They never want to go to bed. This is another thing that I will never have in common with my children. Every morning when I wake up, my first thought is, ‘When can I come back here?’ It’s the carrot that keeps me motivated. Sometimes going to bed feels like the highlight of my day. Ironically, to my children, bedtime is a punishment that violates their basic rights as human beings. Once the lights are out, you can expect at least an hour of inmates clanging their tin cups on the cell bars.”



5. Open Your Bible

I have only completed a couple weeks from this devotional so far, but the ladies from my church are doing it together, and I just love it already!

The book is written by two of the ladies from the She Reads Truth App. They handle scripture very responsibly and seem to be taking us back to the very basics of why reading the bible is important. I love that they are laying a foundation on which to build the rest of the study.

“We open our Bibles not just because we feel lost, but because without Him we truly are lost.”

The book is very aesthetically pleasing also, which is rare in bible studies!


Hopefully, if you were looking for something new to read, you’ve found something interesting in my list! More to come next month, I’m sure!


For The Love #forthelove

I’ve visited the south occasionally. I’ve benefitted from their southern hospitality (see also: needing someone to help three college girls change a tire on a six-lane highway in Alabama).

I can barely force myself to call it soda (it’s pop, you guys) even though everyone here calls it that. I can’t even BEGIN to grasp the concept of calling it “coke.”

This week though, I have regularly found myself saying the very southern phrase, “For the love!”

And it’s all because of this book…

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