kindle deals

Friday Book Chats: What’s on My Kindle

I have a problem. I am addicted to buying books. This has been a problem for a long time now, but it’s gotten especially out of hand lately. Living abroad in a country where it’s difficult to find English books and living in a state of transience where it’s impractical to accumulate possessions has made my kindle a necessity. But reading primarily on my kindle means I have instant access to thousands and thousands of books with just one click.

Admittedly, I almost never buy anything at full price and when I finish a book I always choose my next book from what’s already on my kindle. I have an enormous Amazon wish list which I check every day to see if anything’s gone on sale, and I’m always hunting for deals to share with you. This results in lots of split-second purchases, sometimes on books I’ve been wanting to read for a long time, and sometimes on books I was suddenly seized with the desire to read once I realized it was only $2.99.

Today I want to share what’s on my kindle. This will serve to tell you about books I’m interested in, but also to provide some public accountability when I admit to all of the books I’ve impulsively purchased and not read. Maybe. Also, I’m included a list of current kindle sales at the end of this post…which might be counterproductive, but there are some really good books on there right now!

Books I’m Currently Reading

1. Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church, Rachel Held Evans. I am about 65% through this book and it is a book I have desperately needed for a long, long time. I’m sure I’ll be writing more about it soon.

2. Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals, Shane Claiborne. I read this book devotionally in the mornings (and sometimes evenings). It’s a book of common prayer that integrates many Christian traditions worldwide into its liturgy. I highly recommend it.

3. Listening to your Life: Daily MeditationsFrederick Buechner. I also read this devotionally off and on. It’s short passages from various parts of Buechner’s work (fiction and non-fiction) that reflect on spiritual truths.

Books I Haven’t Started Yet

4. STORY STORY: How I Found Ways to Make a Difference and Do Work I LoveKola Olaosebikan. Kola is a blogging/internet friend who recently published this book and was kind enough to send it to me to read and review. This is what I will read as soon as I finish my current book and I am really looking forward to it!

5. Siege and Storm (The Grisha Book 2)Leigh Bardugo. Read book 1 in this YA series a few weeks ago and would have moved straight to this one, but I’m one of those weirdos who doesn’t like to read series’ straight through. I love to have a wide variety of genres in my reading, so after finishing a YA fantasy, I want to switch genres for a book or two.

6. Ruin and Rising (The Grisha, Book 3)Leigh Bardugo. Same as above.

7. Mariana, Susanna Kearsley. A historical fiction book/time travel book set in present and 17th century England.

8. The Invention of WingsSue Monk Kidd. There is absolutely no good reason I haven’t read this yet. A highly-praised historical fiction book by a favorite author. It’s about slavery and struggle, but also about liberation and empowerment.

9. Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro. Bought this in a sale. Not sure if I’m going to like, but it’s on of those I want to have read.

10. The Middle Place, Kelly Corrigan. A memoir of a daughter and a father who bond for the first time when they are both diagnosed with cancer.

11. Interrupted: When God Wrecks Your Comfortable ChristianityJen Hatmaker. Hatmaker asks (and answers) hard questions about the purpose of the church and what the Christian life is really meant to be.

12. Cress (The Lunar Chronicles Book 3), Marissa Meyer. Read the first book in this series (Cinder) and loved it. Bought book 3 because it was on sale, but haven’t read book 2 yet because it’s not on sale. But I’ve got my eye on it…

13. How to Make Money Blogging: How I Replaced My Day-Job With My BlogBob Lotich. Because I’d like to know how to do that. But not enough to read it, apparently. Also got this for free.

14. Learning to Walk in the Dark, Barbara Brown Taylor. Love BBT. I actually read the first 7% of this and then realized that An Altar in the World sort of came first and went back and read that one instead.The 7% I read was already great.

15. The Bible Tells Me So:Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read ItPeter Enns. The title and premise of this book intrigues me. I know that Enns is considered a controversial biblical scholar so I really have no idea if I’ll agree with his conclusions or not, but I’m interested to read his perspective.

16. The Mistborn Trilogy, Brandon Sanderson. I read (and enjoyed) the first book in this trilogy a few months ago and need to move on to the next two books, but as I said above, I’m weird about series and take breaks sometimes.

17. The Secret History, Donna Tartt. Not a fan of The Goldfinch, so hoping this one is better!

18. The Year of Living Biblically:One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible, A.J. Jacobs. This is supposed to be an entertaining, interesting read akin to Rachel Held Evan’s similar book A Year of Biblical Womanhood.

19. Courageous Compassion:Confronting Social Injustice God’s WayBeth Grant. Something I want to spend more time and energy thinking about and working towards.

20. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, Dave Eggers. Because I WILL FINISH THIS SOMEDAY!

21. Red Seas Under Red Skies (Gentleman Bastards Book 2), Scott Lynch. I read the first book in this series, The Lies of Locke Lamora, a while ago. It was like Pirates of the Caribbean meets Oceans Eleven. Then hubby borrowed my kindle to read this series and while he was using it I got distracted and started reading other things and haven’t come back to it yet.

22. The Republic of Thieves (Gentleman Bastards Book 3), Scott Lynch. Same as above.

Books I’ve Read That Are Still on my Kindle

23. Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading, Nina Sankovitch. I mostly enjoyed this, but I totally forgot to write about it in last month’s What I’m Into Post so it stays until I can do a review.

24. Happier at Home: Kiss More, Jump More, Abandon Self-control and My Other Experiments in Everyday LifeGretchen Rubin. Read this month. Will review at the end of the month.

25. Shadow and Bone (The Grisha, Book 1), Leigh Badusco. Read this month (really enjoyed it!) and will review at the end of the month.

26. One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are, Ann Voskamp. I keep this one around cause you never know when you need a little reminder.

27. The Secret Place (Dublin Murder Squad #5) Tana French. I’m a huge fan of French’s. I’m keeping this one around because hubsters hasn’t read it yet and would like to.

So, yeah….told you I have a problem!

Are you a book hoarder like me? What are you reading right now?

Current Kindle Deals

*As of May 14th. I use the US Amazon site. Prices may vary on other sites.

New On Sale:

Case Histories, Kate Atkinson($2.99). Fabulous mystery. One of my faves. (First in a series).

Human Croquet, Kate Atkinson ($3.99) This one’s not a mystery and is a little trippy since it experiments a bit with time, but I really think she’s a masterful writer.

The Magicians, Lev Grossman ($2.99) This is like a more adult version of Harry Potter plus Narnia. Oddly enoough, not my favorite, but a lot of people really like it.

Still on Sale:

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My LifeDonald Miller ($3.99)

The Good Luck of Right Now, Matthew Quick (author of Silver Linings Playbook) ($1.99). I read this last year and wrote about it here.

The Mysterious Benedict Society, Trenton Lee Stewart ($2.99)

Me Before You, JoJo Moyes ($2.99) Read with Kleenex!

Divergent, Veronica Roth ($2.99)

The Getaway Car: A Memoir About Writing and Life, Ann Patchett ($2.51)

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you click through to make a purchase a small percentage of your purchase will go towards supporting this site. This does not affect the price of the items in any way. 

Friday Book Chats: Books You Can’t Believe Are Real

Today’s book chat is a just for fun post. Sometimes when I’m browsing through Amazon looking for good deals some pretty amazing things pop up. Amazing in the sense that you can’t believe that 1) someone actually wrote it and 2) people actually buy it on Amazon. I know there are a few Buzzfeed articles with ridiculous books or book covers on them, but this is my personal list of books I’ve run into that I can’t believe are real.

Don’t forget to check out the list of kindle books currently on sale at the bottom of this post.


Walter the farting dogWalter the Farting Dog
by William Kotzwinkle. Not only does this book exist, but it has several sequels, too. Unlike most of the books on this list, I’ve actually read this one. One of the kids I used to babysit for loved it so I’ve actually read it many times. Walter is a great dog with just one problem. His farts are the worst. They are so bad that dad says he has to go. But the night before he’s supposed to go to the dog pound, robbers break into the house and Walter has to use his special skills to protect the family. It’s kind of funny and charming – if you’re into that kind of thing. Probably not a book I’d naturally gravitate towards, but hey, some people are super entertained by fart jokes.

ZombiesThe Amish Vs. The Zombies by Gregory Zschomler. This book has everything. ““Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.” ~Deuteronomy 31:6  HANNAH STROVAL is restless. She has the wanderlust and dreams of exploring the wonders of the world. She wants out of her restrictive Amish community…bad. Zechariah Miller has loved Hannah all his life, but being tied down isn’t what Hannah wants just now. As Hannah is about to leave on a rumspringa excursion to New York, her mother drops a bombshell on her daughter revealing a long-held secret that rocks Hannah’s universe. But the big city wild life isn’t all Hannah hoped it would be and she brings home an unimaginable terror that pits pacifist against predator and nearly tears her district apart. Hannah, Zechariah, her family and friends must come face to face with life, death and choices that will change them…forever. A Romantic Thriller, coming of age story filled with heartache and hope, faith and forgiveness, loss and love.” – synopsis from Amazon. Not gonna lie, it sounds kind of awesome.

How to date a white womanHow to Date a White Woman: A Practical Guide for Asian Men by Adam Quan. Not sure if this book is serious or not, but it does really exist. Make of that what you will. I don’t really have anything else to say about it.

dancing with jesusDancing with Jesus by Sam Stall. This is a board book that I would really love to see in person. It is a set of “easy-to-do” dance moves inspired by “the deeds of the original Lord of the Dance, Jesus of Nazareth.” The book contains instructions and illustrations for such dance moves as “The Water Walk,” “The Carpenter Clog,” and “The Temptation Tango.” Intrigued? I know I am.

who cares about elderly peopleWho Cares About Elderly People? by Rachael Letch. So, I think this is a book aimed at preschoolers to teach them about caring about other people. It’s part of a whole series of “who cares” books. But you have to admit that the author/publisher did not think it through. Because it sounds like a book all about why the elderly don’t matter. Don’t know anything about the elderly. Who cares?

SpamSpam: A Biography: The Amazing True Story of America’s “Miracle Meat!” by Carolyn Wyman. I actually feel like this book would do great in Asia. Or at least in Korea. Spam is actually something of a delicacy here. It’s sold in special gift sets for you to give to family and friends for all the big Korean holidays. The priciest gift sets will include a large bottle of canola oil surrounded by four cans of spam in a beautiful box. Because nothing says, “I love you,” like canned meat.

I hope you enjoyed this glimpse into the world of lesser-known books. And hey, if you’re an aspiring writer, you should be encouraged by this. If these books could all get published, why not yours? That’s what I tell myself.

Current Kindle Deals

*As of May 1st. I use the US Amazon site. Prices may vary on other sites.

New On Sale:

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My LifeDonald Miller ($3.99)

The Good Luck of Right Now, Matthew Quick (author of Silver Linings Playbook) ($1.99). I read this last year and wrote about it here.

The Mysterious Benedict Society, Trenton Lee Stewart ($2.99)

The Husband’s Secret, Liane Moriary ($2.99) Love all of her books.

Me Before You, JoJo Moyes ($2.99) Read with Kleenex!

Divergent, Veronica Roth ($4.99)

The Getaway Car: A Memoir About Writing and Life, Ann Patchett ($2.51)

Still on Sale:

Cold Sassy TreeOlive Ann Burns ($2.99)

The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald ($1.99)

Fall of Giants, The Century Trilogy #1, Ken Follett ($2.99) Follett is a GREAT historical fiction writer. This one is set in the First World War era.

Found: A Story of Questions, Grace, and Everyday Prayer, Micha Boyett ($3.03)

Eleanor & Park, Rainbow Rowell ($4.99). Adorable. One of my favorite YA books.

BossypantsTina Fey ($6.99)

We Should All Be Feminists, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. ($1.99)

The Maze Runner, James Dashner ($1.99) I haven’t read this, but the movie was mildly entertaining. Fans of The Hunger Games and Divergent might be interested.

The MartianAndy Weir ($5.99) Another one I haven’t read, but everyone who has raves about it.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you click through to make a purchase a small percentage of your purchase will go towards supporting this site. This does not affect the price of the items in any way. 

Friday Book Chats: Most Interesting Fictional Characters

Some books are great because of a unique plot that keeps you guessing. Some stick with you because they deal with themes that resonate with you. Some have such vivid settings that you feel you’ve actually taken up residence in the world of the book while you read it. Most good books have at least one of these things, but almost all good books have characters you find compelling.

This is a list of some of the most interesting characters I’ve encountered, which is different than saying they are my favorites. Some of these are heroes, but some of them are villains or are otherwise unlikeable characters. What they all have in common is that they are complex, dimensional characters. These are the kinds of characters who aren’t just one thing and their ambivalence is the very thing that makes them so intriguing and memorable. These are the characters that expose the good and the bad in themselves, in humanity, and even in the reader. In no particular order, here is my list of most interesting fictional characters.

1. Ivan from The Brothers’ Karamazov. Ivan is the middle brother, the tortured intellectual, struggling with the moral implications of his philosophical agnosticism. Ivan voices those central questions of existence – Does God exist? How can I love and empathize with my fellow man? Why is there suffering? – and grapples with the answers.

2. Severus Snape from Harry Potter. Snape is set up as a villain from the get-go, but as the series progresses we are confronted here and there with actions that challenge that label. Snape’s motivations are complex and convoluted, but that’s what makes him such an interesting character. Is he ultimately a good guy or a bad guy? Is he self-serving or self-sacrificing? I say he’s both.

3. (and 4) Hazel Grace and Augustus from The Fault in Our Stars. Two terminally ill teenagers try to answer the questions of existence. Augustus tells Hazel,

“I’m in love with you, and I’m not in the business of denying myself the simple pleasure of saying true things. I’m in love with you, and I know that love is just a shout into the void, and that oblivion is inevitable, and that we’re all doomed and that there will come a day when all our labor has been returned to dust, and I know the sun will swallow the only earth we’ll ever have, and I am in love with you.”

This is heartbreaking and endearing and depressing and precious all at once. These two characters stayed with me long after I finished the book–the rawness of their pain, the sweetness of their love and the sadness of their nihilistic conclusions about life.

5. Denna from Name of the Wind.  Denna isn’t an entirely likeable character. She plays Kvothe like a lute. She’s inconsistent. She’s emotionally volatile. She’s kind of a slut. And yet…she’s so much more interesting than most female characters in fantasy. She has this mysterious past and mysterious goals. She’s incredibly smart which helps her to be manipulative, but there is this sense of something truly haunting her. She panics when she’s contained or pinned down and even when that’s frustrating, you can’t help wondering why. And then there’s the matter that everything we know about her is coming from a potentially unreliable narrator, so there’s the possibility that we don’t even know what we think we know.

6. Oskar from Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. Oskar is brilliant and precocious and hilarious. He has all of these strange phobias and compulsions like only wearing white clothes and carrying a tambourine with him everywhere he goes and becoming fixated on things like finding out what lock a random key will fit into. But he is endearing and unforgettable and I love him.

7. Tyrion Lannister from Game of ThronesI admit that I didn’t finish these books (which I wrote about here) but by the time I stopped, Tyrion was by far the most interesting character. He is cynical and cunning, but he knows how to survive in a world where no one is ever on his side. He sees the intricacies of alliances and betrayals with more clarity than most and while his core ambition is to take care of himself, he has these shining noble moments that soften us towards him, even as he tries to shake those off. He is part of one of the most powerful families in the country, but he is also an outcast and an outsider. To me, he is the least predictable character in this series and that’s part of what makes him so interesting. Sometimes he’s a villain, but sometimes he acts heroically and you are left saying, “How am I supposed to feel?” which I kind of love.

8. Jay Gatsby from The Great Gatsby. Oh Gatsby. Tragic, relentlessly optimistic Gatsby. Gatsby is the most hopeless romantic of all time. He is the great embodiment of the American dream and its failure to deliver. But he is more than just a symbol, he is a complex person who is driven by a singular passion. To me, he is equal parts tragic and fascinating.

9. Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird. What can I even say? Atticus is the pinnacle of literary fathers. He is the ultimate role model for honor, justice, and courage. His heroism is in his quiet strength and his unwavering convictions of right and wrong. He’s an interesting character, but he’s also an inspiring character.

10. Long John Silver from Treasure Island. Treasure Island was my first love in terms of classics. I read it at some point in elementary school and proceeded to read it five more times. Pirates, deserted islands with buried treasure, mutiny at every turn – what’s not to love? Even with my limited literary experience, Long John Silver captured my attention – he was the villain, but he also seemed to care about Jim Hawkins in spite of himself. He couldn’t change that he was a pirate and villain, but he was also more than that and every time I read it I couldn’t help hoping that he’d change sides.

What are the most interesting literary characters you’ve encountered? Which characters leave you wanting to know more?

Current Kindle Deals

*As of April 17th. I use the US Amazon site. Prices may vary on other sites.

New On Sale:

Found: A Story of Questions, Grace, and Everyday Prayer, Micha Boyett ($3.03)

Eleanor & Park, Rainbow Rowell ($4.99). Adorable. One of my favorite YA books.

The Gifts of ImperfectionBrene Brown ($6.99) I wrote about this here.

BossypantsTina Fey ($6.99)

We Should All Be Feminists, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. ($1.99)

The Maze Runner, James Dashner ($1.99) I haven’t read this, but the movie was mildly entertaining. Fans of The Hunger Games and Divergent might be interested.

The MartianAndy Weir ($5.99) Another one I haven’t read, but everyone who has raves about it.

Still on Sale:

The HobbitJ.R.R.Tolkien ($2.99)

Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn ($4.20) Not my favorite but lots of people love it.

The Giver, Lois Lowry ($2.99) Still on sale, but for $1 more than last week.

Cinder, Marissa Meyer ($2.99). This is a YA book, the first book of the Lunar Chronicles. It is a futuristic sort-of Cinderella story, except Cinderella is a cyborg and there’s a planet-wide pandemic. Just reading the synopsis, this is not the sort of book I would naturally gravitate toward, but it came highly recommended and I was impressed. It’s clever and imaginative and I couldn’t put it down.

Cress, Marissa Meyer ($2.99). The Lunar Chronicles, book 3. This is part of the same series as Cinder.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)Mindy Kaling ($4.99). I thought this book was hilarious. Then again, Mindy Kaling is like my spirit animal. But still. Loved it. Love her.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you click through to make a purchase a small percentage of your purchase will go towards supporting this site. This does not affect the price of the items in any way. 

Friday Book Chats: Books I Own But Haven’t Read (Yet!)

Usually I write about books I’ve read, but today I’m going to write about books I haven’t read.

Most readers keep some sort of “to-read” list, mental or otherwise, for books they want to read in the future. I’d be willing to bet that most readers also have at least a few books on that list that have been there for years without ever being read. I have my fair share of these and there are lots of reasons why I’ve never gotten around to reading those books. Sometimes it’s a matter of getting sidetracked by other books that turn into whole series and keep me busy for a while. Sometimes I have trouble getting ahold of a particular book. And sometimes I’m simply not in the right mood.

Today I’m going to share some books with you that go one step beyond “I’ve been meaning to read this but haven’t yet.” These are books that I not only have intended to read for a long time and never have, but books that I actually OWN and still have not gotten around to reading.

In fairness, I will say that I very rarely buy new or full-priced books. We have a large library, but most of our books were handed down, given as gifts, purchased from a library sale where each book cost $1-$2, or purchased with a gift card. Also, I haven’t had most of these books here in Korea with me during the last two years and I’ve done most of my reading on my kindle while living abroad. But still, I owned most of these books for at least a year before moving and never read them.

These are all books that I still genuinely hope to read, especially before adding new books to our collection.

There is a list of Kindle books on sale this week at the bottom of this post. I do also occasionally tweet or post one-day deals to my Facebook page, so be sure that you are following me there if you are interested in those alerts. You can also follow me on Goodreads if you are interested in more book reviews and reading updates.

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. Jonathan read this book a few years ago and really loved it. David Mitchell is one of his favorite authors and from the time he first told me about it I was interested in reading it at some point, but there just always seemed to be other things I wanted to read first. When the movie version came out a while later, I was completely mesmerized by it. It’s honestly one of my favorite movies. I think it’s fascinating and beautiful and brilliant. So now I really want to go back and read the book which I believe is even more nuanced than the movie. This book has a very unusual structure. There are six stories that happen at different points in time that are only very loosely linked to one another. The book alternates stories by chapter in such a way that you read the first half of the first story, then the second and third on up to the sixth, and then the second half of the stories are told in reverse order, starting at six and going back down to one. In other words, the whole first story is in the first and last chapters of the book. After loving the movie so much I want to read this eventually and see if and how it changes my perspective.

Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver. Kingsolver is one of my all-time favorite writers. I think she is a fabulous storyteller and her interest in biology and botany makes her subject matter and approach to her novels unique. I have loved every book of hers that I’ve read. This one is set in Appalachia and follows three separate story lines that are tied together around the theme of human love. This book was well-received by critics for it’s rich sense of place and its perfect marriage of narrative, ideas, and drama. Characters include a reclusive wildlife biologist, a city girl turned farmwife, and a pair of elderly neighbors locked in a feud.

The Known World by Edward P. Jones. This Pulitzer Prize winning novel tells the story of Henry Townsend, a former slave who is now a farmer and his relationship with William Robbins, the most powerful man in the county. After Townsend dies unexpectedly, his wife, Caldonia, struggles to hold onto all that he has built. This book is lauded for it’s straightforward look at the moral ambiguities of slavery. I suppose this is one of those books that feels weighty – worth the read, but also worth being in the right frame of mind to read it – which is why I haven’t picked it up yet.

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See. I’ll be honest, before moving to Korea I wasn’t hugely interested in books or movies that were set in Asia. Most people have settings or cultures they are more drawn to than others, and Asia in general wasn’t at the top of my list. But I’ve been hearing about this book for years and I bought it from the annual library sale thinking that owning it would encourage me to go ahead and dive in. Unfortunately, it didn’t (yet!). Set in nineteenth century China, this book tells the story of Lily and Snow Flower whose friendship begins when Lily is only seven years old. The two women send secret messages back and forth to one another in a secret language, using silk fans and handkerchiefs to communicate with one another about their isolation and loneliness, the rituals of footbinding and arranged marriages, and the agonies of motherhood.

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett. I’ve heard so many good things about this book. I even listened to the first 30 pages or so of this as a free sample from Audible and was hooked, but didn’t have my copy available at the time to continue reading. Dr. Marina Singh heads off into the wilds of the Amazonian jungle in search of her colleague, Dr. Annick Swenson, who disappeared while doing research for a valuable new drug. I badly wanted to read this when it first came out, but wasn’t able to get it from the library. Then I bought it at a big book sale, but somehow owning it made reading it feel less urgent. Since I didn’t have to return it, I adopted the attitude that I could read it anytime, and that resulted in my never reading it. Out of all of the books on this list, I think this is the book I would most like to get to this year.

Other books I could list off the top of my head are: A Visit to the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke. Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden, and Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson.

Do you absolutely love any of these books and think I’m crazy for not reading them yet? Do you have any books that have been sitting on your shelf unread for years?

Current Kindle Deals

*As of April 10th. I use the US Amazon site. Prices may vary on other sites.

New On Sale:

The House at Riverton, Kate Morton ($1.99) I love Kate Morton’s books. Part mystery, part love story, totally worth the read.

The HobbitJ.R.R.Tolkien ($2.99)

What Alice ForgotLiane Moriarty ($6.61). One of the best books I read last year (read my review in this post). This is the cheapest I’ve ever seen it.

Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn ($4.20) Not my favorite but lots of people love it.

Teach Us to WantJen Pollock Michel ($2.99) This was an excellent book about desire, ambition,  and longing and the role they play in the Christian life. Read my thoughts here.

Still on Sale:

State of Wonder, Ann Patchett ($5.94) Which I wrote about above!

The Giver, Lois Lowry ($2.99) Still on sale, but for $1 more than last week.

Cinder, Marissa Meyer ($2.99). This is a YA book, the first book of the Lunar Chronicles. It is a futuristic sort-of Cinderella story, except Cinderella is a cyborg and there’s a planet-wide pandemic. Just reading the synopsis, this is not the sort of book I would naturally gravitate toward, but it came highly recommended and I was impressed. It’s clever and imaginative and I couldn’t put it down.

Cress, Marissa Meyer ($2.99). The Lunar Chronicles, book 3. This is part of the same series as Cinder.

A Prayer for Owen MeanyJohn Irving ($3.36) A classic. Many people list this in their all-time favorites.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)Mindy Kaling ($4.99). I thought this book was hilarious. Then again, Mindy Kaling is like my spirit animal. But still. Loved it. Love her.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you use a link to make a purchase a small percentage of your purchase will go towards supporting this site. This does not affect the price of the items in any way. 

Friday Book Chats: My Favorite Spiritual Memoirs

I’ve only discovered spiritual memoirs in the past few years and it was a revelation to me when I did. Somehow, I hadn’t realized this genre existed. Not only do I find these books meaningful for my own spiritual life, but discovering these books was like discovering my tribe. For the first time I found people who were writing the kinds of things I was writing – people who were working out their faith through their stories – and this inspired me to pursue writing more wholeheartedly.

If you aren’t familiar with the spiritual memoir genre, it is characterized by non-fiction stories and vignettes like a regular memoir, but these focus on some aspect of the author’s spiritual life or journey. Some are conversion stories, some are about struggling with doubt, going through dark periods, or cultivating particular spiritual disciplines.

Spiritual memoir is a genre that some people love and others hate. My husband, for example, is not a huge fan of the genre (which is a pity for me since that’s what I write). He says he doesn’t want to read about the spiritual struggles of someone who is just like him. He would prefer to read something inspirational from someone he looks up to or to read  something that is teaching him facts or sharing information, not just sharing reflections on personal experiences.

I, on the other hand, have found spiritual memoirs to be transformational. I am moved by the ordinary stories of ordinary people who manage to see the spiritual woven throughout the physical world and who make me feel like, “If they can do it, so can I.” When I read about Mother Theresa it’s easy to think, “She’s so far beyond anything I could ever be,” but when I read about Addie Zierman, I think, “She’s a regular person who is a lot like me sharing some great insights about how I could live a more intentional life.”

Today I want to share my favorite spiritual memoirs. Opinions on books are always subjective, but this genre is particularly subjective because the subject matter is so personalized. I might read a spiritual memoir that is really well-written and has some great insights, but that doesn’t resonate with me as deeply simply because the author’s background isn’t all that similar to mine. My favorite spiritual memoirs are those that I see myself in. The ones that I connect with and that also challenge me. These are the books that have stayed with me – the ones that make me believe my story matters.

You can find a list of Kindle books that are on sale now at the bottom of this post.

17934779When We Were On Fire: A Memoir of Consuming Faith, Tangled Love, and Starting Over by Addie Zierman. This book is one of the biggest reasons that I am still writing this blog. I stumbled on Addie’s blog just after her book launched and this launched me into a whole world of authors and bloggers who I connected with on a deep level. Addie’s story of growing up at the height of evangelical youth culture – when Christianity was all about being “on fire” and faith ran on an emotional high- was so eerily similar to my own that I sometimes questioned whether I was reading my own diary. She writes candidly about what happens when a faith that was measured by emotional fervor seems to burn out and how faith can mature into something real and meaningful, even when we are no longer “on fire.” It was this book that made me believe I had a story worth telling. Addie is also one of the most gifted non-fiction writers I’ve ever read. Her prose is beautiful and precise. She is a role model of mine both as a writer and as a person.

Faith unraveledFaith Unraveled: How a Girl Who Knew All the Answers Learned to Ask Questions by Rachel Held Evans. This book was right up there with When We Were on Fire  in terms of how closely it paralleled my own life experiences. Evans’ story about coming from a fundamentalist evangelical “it’s us against the world” background and learning to be ok asking questions, even if you don’t find answers right away resonated deeply with me. I love that she actually articulates some of the really hard questions of life and faith in this book and doesn’t try to smooth them over with Bible verses or trite Christian phrases. My biggest takeaway was something Evans said at the very end of the book – that there is a difference between questioning God and questioning what you believe about God. I’ve read Evans’ blog off and on and sometimes find her tone to be aggressive or abrasive there – I suppose she is more confrontational and perhaps a bit more liberal than I am – but I have loved all of her books and look forward to reading her newest one, Searching for Sunday, when it’s released later this month.

FoundFound: A Story of Questions, Grace, and Everyday Prayer by Micha Boyett (still on sale for Kindle $3.03). This book is so beautiful. Boyett is a poet and it shows through in her beautiful prose. This is a story for tired Christians who need to experience God in the ordinariness of life. After the birth of her son, Boyett finds that she has lost prayer, something that was always a staple in her life before, and she sets out to rediscover it. What she discovers is that sometimes prayer doesn’t look the way we expect it to. This book particularly resonated with me as a fellow evangelical who grew up and feeling burdened by the need to pray more, read more, do more. This book will probably be especially meaningful for those who feel they’ve lost themselves in parenthood, but even as someone who is not a mother I could relate so well.

PastrixPastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint by Nadia Bolz-Weber. This book was profound to me in many ways. I read this after listening to an interview that Bolz-Weber gave a few months ago for Krista Tippett’s “On Being” podcast. I admit that it’s not for everyone, but I am not the kind of person who has to agree with everything someone else says in order to appreciate the truths they share. Bolz-Weber is the pastor of an unconventional Lutheran church in Denver, Colorado called the House for All Sinners and Saints known for such things as the blessing of the motorcycles and the chocolate fountain in the baptismal on Easter Sunday. She writes beautifully about how she came back to faith by believing that there was a place in the Church for someone like her—covered in tattoos and recovering from addictions. One of the most beautiful bits of her book to me was when she talked about falling in love with the liturgy. She says she loved it, “because the liturgy has it’s own integrity. It doesn’t depend on mine.”

bread and wineBread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table by Shauna Niequist. It was hard for me to know whether this book counted as a spiritual memoir, though I’m not exactly sure what other genre it would fit into. This book is about food and hospitality and about the table as a place for building community. As someone who genuinely loves food, it was moving to me to read these stories of good food and shared meals being a way to honor God for the gifts of the earth and to love the people who share our lives. While Niequiest’s other books Cold Tangerines and Bittersweet fit more cleanly into the category of “spiritual memoir” this book about food and hospitality is my favorite. It is a feast in every sense of the word.

Leaving ChurchLeaving Church: A Memoir of Faith by Barbara Brown Taylor. I had been looking forward to this book for a long time and I was not disappointed. Taylor’s story of her call to the Episcopalian priesthood and later her decision to leave the priesthood and become a professor was full of beautiful thoughts about how the world and the church need not be enemies – separate entities that are necessarily opposed to one another. She writes beautifully about the ways she encountered God and grace outside of the church as well as inside it. Among many great quotes, here was one I particularly enjoyed since it describes my current faith journey so well, “I wanted to recover the kind of faith that has nothing to do with being sure what I believe and everything to do with trusting God to catch me though I am not sure of anything.” I am currently reading the book she wrote after this, An Altar in the World, and am very moved by it.

I have a few honorable mentions in this genre – books that I thought were quite good and well-written but that didn’t make my top favorites list because they didn’t resonate as closely with my own experience. They might, however, resonate with yours and you should check them out.

Girl at the End of the World: My Escape from Fundamentalism in Search of Faith with a Future by Elizabeth Esther. Esther grew up in a legitimate Fundamentalist cult. This book was heartbreaking and hopeful and impossible to put down.

Girl Meets God by Lauren F. Winner. The story of Winner’s conversion from Orthodox Judaism to Christianity. I wrote more about this here.

Shauna Niequist’s two other books which I mentioned above, Cold Tangerines and Bittersweet.

Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller. A classic. I think this was my first foray into the world of spiritual memoirs.

Do you have any favorites that I should know about? (For the record, Mary Karr’s Lit, BBT’s Learning to Walk in the Dark, Christian Wiman’s My Bright Abyss are already on my list!)

Current Kindle Deals

*As of April 3rd. I use the US Amazon site. Prices may vary on other sites.

New On Sale:

Cress, Marissa Meyer ($2.99). The Lunar Chronicles, book 3. This is part of the same series as Cinder, mentioned below.

State of Wonder, Ann Patchett ($5.94)

Mere Christianity, C.S, Lewis ($4.99)

The Giver, Lois Lowry ($1.99)

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)Mindy Kaling ($4.99). I thought this book was hilarious. Then again, Mindy Kaling is like my spirit animal. But still. Loved it. Love her.

Still on Sale:

Cinder, Marissa Meyer ($2.99). This is a YA book, the first book of the Lunar Chronicles. It is a futuristic sort-of Cinderella story, except Cinderella is a cyborg and there’s a planet-wide pandemic. Just reading the synopsis, this is not the sort of book I would naturally gravitate toward, but it came highly recommended and I was impressed. It’s clever and imaginative and I couldn’t put it down.

Happier at Home: Kiss More, Jump More, Abandon Self-Control, and My Other Experiments in Every Day Life, Gretchen Rubin ($1.99). I just purchased this one myself. This is by the author of The Happiness Project.

The Bible Tells Me So; Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It, Peter Enns ($1.99). Again, just purchased this on good recommendations. I’m really curious about this one.

Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel ($5.99). Price has gone up a bit, but still a pretty good deal. Get it, get it, get it!!!!!! Read my review here.

A Prayer for Owen MeanyJohn Irving ($3.36) A classic. Many people list this in their all-time favorites.

Wild by Cheryl Strayed ($4.40) You can read my review here.

Mistborn– The Final Empire, Brandon Sanderson  ($4.99) This is the first book in Sanderson’s Mistborn fantasy trilogy. Just finished this. It’s great. I wrote about it here.

The Secret Life of Bees, Sue Monk Kidd ($3.99). There’s a reason this book is so popular. It’s great.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you use a link to make a purchase a small percentage of your purchase will go towards supporting this site. This does not affect the price of the items in any way. 

Friday Book Chats: Guilty Pleasure Books

I like to think I have pretty good taste in books and that most of what I read is high quality (and let’s be honest, I want YOU to think I have really sophisticated taste in books), but I think we all have moments when we just need something light and breezy that doesn’t require too much of the reader. So basically, chick lit. I consider these my guilty-pleasure books. These are books that I know aren’t great literature – they are often predictable and formulaic, maybe even a bit silly, and they certainly don’t stay with me in any significant way –but every so often I just need a book like this to relax, unwind, and escape for a little while. I especially like to read these kinds of books after finishing a particularly long book or if I’ve been reading a lot of didactic non-fiction.

Even when I’m in the mood for something light and easy, the books I read still have to meet a certain internal standard. Sometimes a book is just too poorly written or the plot is too ridiculous for it to be enjoyable to me. I have abandoned quite a few beach reads because I found the prose to be distractingly bad or the main character unrelateable. That internal standard is different for everyone and it’s hard to pinpoint exactly where that line is, so instead of trying to explain my criteria, I’m just going to share some books (or writers) that have made the cut for me.

This list doesn’t include YA books (which I’ll do a separate post about) or humorous non-fiction (also a separate post). It also doesn’t include books in that difficult to pin-down genre that’s somewhere between chick lit and literary fiction (authors like Jennifer Weiner and Liane Moriarty whose books are much more complex and nuanced but still have an entertainment aspect to them that is typically lacking in more high-brow literary fiction).

As always, there is a list of Kindle books that are currently on sale at the bottom of this post.

sophiekinsella_confessionsofashopaholic_small1

Sophie Kinsella’s Shopaholic series. I’ve read a few of Kinsella’s other books as well (some written under the pen name Madeleine Wickham), but none enchanted me as much as her Shopaholic series. In spite of her frankly ridiculous escapades and the fact that everything works out perfectly in spite of her irresponsible choices, I couldn’t help being charmed by Becky Bloomwood. I loved that the series continued through her life. I haven’t read the latest installment, Shopaholic to the Stars, but all the previous ones have been lots of fun.

emily-giffin-kindle-book-saleEmily Giffin’s books. Giffin’s books are a bit more nuanced than your typical rom-com (more-so than Kinsella’s at least), but are very fast and enjoyable reads. I will say that her first book, Something Borrowed (which was made into a movie a few years back), was problematic for me since it sort of justifies a situation where one character steals the other’s fiancé. The friendship dynamic was the most interesting part of that book, but it did irritate me the way the main character wanted to be with this guy regardless of the fact that he was unable to stand up and make a commitment. I enjoyed her subsequent books, Something Blue, Baby Proof, Heart of the MatterWhere We Belong and Love the One You’re With, much more. My favorite was Heart of the Matter which deals with two women with little in common whose lives collide due to a tragic accident and is probably the least standard chick-lit of the bunch. I don’t recommend Giffin’s most recent book, The One & Only. I was really excited when it came out last year since I had enjoyed her previous books, but I couldn’t even finish this one. The prose was bad, the subject matter was kind of creepy, and the main character was obsessed with football, which didn’t easily endear her to me. If you stick with her other books though you should find some entertaining, quick reads.

Rosie project

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. This was a completely delightful rom com. Socially awkward genetics professor, Don Tillman, embarks on a quest to find the empirically perfect wife for himself based on scientific facts. What he isn’t counting on is falling in love with a woman who doesn’t meet any of his criteria. There is a sequel to this out now, but I haven’t read it yet.

where'd you go bernadette

Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple. This was such a fun, quirky, unpredictable book. Unlike most of my guilty pleasure books, this one isn’t really a romance. Instead it tells the story of 15-year-old Bee whose mother, Bernadette, is a once-renowned architect who has become a recluse. Bernadette is eccentric and unpredictable, but she is also Bee’s best friend. Bee is preparing to leave for boarding school, but first she and her family will take a long-anticipated trip to Antarctica. That is, until Bernadette disappears. Bee pieces together all the information she can find to figure out what happened to her mother.

Chateau Marmont

Last Night at Chateau Marmont by Lauren Weisberger. Weisberger is best-known for writing The Devil Wears Prada, but this is my favorite book of hers. This book explores the dynamics of a marriage when one partner skyrockets to fame and fortune. People seemed to either love or hated this one. I enjoyed it.

nannydiaries

The Nanny Diaries by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus. Maybe it’s just because I’ve been nanny and so could identify with a lot of the the situations in this book, but I really connected with this and enjoyed reading it. Follow Nanny as she stumbles into the world of Manhattan’s elite with an irrational boss and a 4 year old boy in tow.

AttachmentsAttachments by Rainbow Rowell. I read this book a few months ago and couldn’t help being charmed. A modern twist on the epistolary novel, this book is comprised of a series of emails between two best friends who work in the same office. When Lincoln is hired to keep tabs on employee use of the internet at work, he finds himself falling in love with a woman he only knows from reading her emails.

What are your favorite guilty-pleasure books? Leave a comment below!

Current Kindle Deals

*As of March 27th. I use the US Amazon site. Prices may vary on other sites.

New On Sale:

Cinder, Marissa Meyer ($2.99). This is a YA book, the first book of the Lunar Chronicles. It is a futuristic sort-of Cinderella story, except Cinderella is a cyborg and there’s a planet-wide pandemic. Just reading the synopsis, this is not the sort of book I would naturally gravitate toward, but it came highly recommended and I was impressed. It’s clever and imaginative and I couldn’t put it down.

Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro ($2.99). This book is widely acclaimed. I just purchased this, but haven’t read it yet.

Happier at Home: Kiss More, Jump More, Abandon Self-Control, and My Other Experiments in Every Day Life, Gretchen Rubin ($1.99). I just purchased this one myself.

The Bible Tells Me So; Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It, Peter Enns ($1.99). Again, just purchased this on good recommendations. I’m really curious about this one.

Murder Must Advertise, Dorothy Sayers ($1.99). A classic Lord Peter Wimsey mystery.

Name of the Wind, Patrick Rothfuss ($4.99) I’ve already talked about this like 7 times, but if you need a refresher, read the blurb on this post.

Still On Sale:

Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel ($2.99). Get it, get it, get it!!!!!! Read my review here.

A Prayer for Owen MeanyJohn Irving ($1.99) A classic. Many people list this in their all-time favorites.

Outlander, Diana Gabaldon ($1.99) I mentioned this series in my Books I Love to Hate post, but a lot of people disagree with me.

Wild by Cheryl Strayed ($4.40) You can read my review here.

The Bean Trees, Barbara Kingsolver ($4.99) One of my favorite writers. Kentucky native Taylor Greer tries to escape her roots but succeeds in collecting a 3-year-old native American girl along the way.

An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith, Barbara Brown Taylor ($3.99)

Mistborn– The Final Empire, Brandon Sanderson  ($4.99) This is the first book in Sanderson’s Mistborn fantasy trilogy. Just finished this. It’s great.

Found: A Story of Questions, Grace, and Everyday Prayer, Micha Boyett ($3.03) One of my best books of 2014 and one of my favorite spiritual memoirs.

The Secret Life of Bees, Sue Monk Kidd ($3.99). There’s a reason this book is so popular. It’s great.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you use a link to make a purchase a small percentage of your purchase will go towards supporting this site. This does not affect the price of the items in any way. 

Friday Book Chats: Books from my Childhood

No reading impacts you like the reading you do in your childhood. Perhaps it’s because your imagination is so vibrant and alive, or perhaps it’s because your mind isn’t so cluttered with other things. Regardless, many of my childhood games and fantasies were the product of books I read. I wore dresses, aprons, bonnets, and boots until I was twelve thanks to Little House on the Prairie, the American Girl books, and Mandie. This post is dedicated to the books that shaped my childhood and have maybe even shaped who I’ve become.

I learned to read when I was 3 years old. When I was very small, my mom made recordings of herself reading my favorite books. They were my own books-on-tape. I followed along with her voice over and over again until I could recognize every word. By the time I started kindergarten I was reading Little House on the Prairie books on my own.

My dad read books with me until I left for college. In the beginning he would read to me, but by the time I was in middle school and high school we would divide the reading. Many of my favorite childhood books were ones we read together.

It was so hard to narrow down this list, so I decided I would only include books I read pre-high-school.

As always, you can find a list of current Kindle deals at the end of this post.

Picture Books

Max the Bad-Talking Parrot by Patricia Brennan Demuth. I know almost no one who read this book as a child, but I just adored it. Max the parrot lives with his person, Tillie, and always speaks in good-natured rhymes. One day, Max’s rhymes turn rude when he overhears what he thinks is an insult, but an encounter with a burglar turns him sweet again.

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown. What even is there to say about this book? It’s the most classic bedtime book of all time.

The Giving Tree by Shel Siverstein I always hated the boy in this so much. Poor tree.

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst. Sometimes you just have a bad day and Alexander gets that – gum in your hair? lima beans for dinner? These really are life’s worst tragedies. Besides, when you’re a kid it’s always entertaining to watch other people being unhappy. 😉

The Berenstein Bears by Stan and Jan Berenstein. I think I have read every single one of these except for the new Christian ones that have come out in more recent years. I still remember Mama Bear’s line from the one about telling the truth – “Trust is one thing you can’t put back together once it’s broken.” Wise words, Mama.

Chapter Books

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White. Really I should just say the whole E.B. White trio – Stuart Little and Trumpet of the Swan are equally fabulous. But Charlotte’s Web is the one that made me a collector of stuffed pigs for a good year or twoOne of the things I most remember about this book was the way it dealt with the death of Charlotte. It was one of the first children’s books I read that addressed death and it really stuck with me.

Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater. My dad has a penguin obsession – well, I don’t think it’s a real obsession, but for as long as I can remember any time there was an animal involved in anything – a card, a game, etc. – he has always chosen a penguin. So reading Mr. Popper’s Penguins together is a strong memory.

The Mandie books by Lois Gladys Leppard. I cannot in good conscience recommend these to children today since they are full of embarrassing racial stereotypes like Mandie’s Cherokee friend, Uncle Ned, who frequently says things like, “I promise your father, Jim Shaw, that I take care of Papoose when he go to Happy Hunting Ground.” Also, Mandie is quite spoiled and a little bratty (after the first book). Still, I LIVED these books in elementary school. I adored them.

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine. I think this book was my gateway into fantasy. This is probably the best retold fairytale I’ve ever read (a genre I particularly like) and was before its time. I read this book over and over and over again and it will always hold a special place in my heart.

Pocahontas: True Princess, and Two Mighty Rivers: Son of Pocahontas by Mari Hanes. This is another pair of books that most people haven’t heard of, but some of my other uber-conservative homeschool family friends have read them. They are more historically accurate fictional stories of Pocahontas and her son, Thomas Pepsironemeh Rolfe. These books had everything – danger and intrigue and romance and Native Americans. In my mind I made the perfect Pocahontas in my brown fringed shirt and moccasins, never mind my blond braids and blue eyes.

The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. I remember reading these, but I more vividly remember the radio dramatizations we would listen to in the car on road trips. They are so very well done, really bringing the stories to life. The Horse and His Boy is probably my favorite – I don’t think it gets enough love.

The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien. I read these books with my dad before the movies came out. I think I spent the whole year I was thirteen in Middle Earth. I was one of those kids that tried learning elvish. This was my first introduction into more adult fantasy and I was utterly captivated. It was shortly after reading these books that I started working on my own fantasy novel, which I still have 50,000 words of somewhere.

The American Girl Books – I’m just going to mention these all together briefly and say that this books really did make me interested in history in a way that influenced a lot of my future reading. I particularly loved Felicity and still have the doll.

What were your most-cherished childhood books?

Current Kindle Deals

*As of March 20th. I use the US Amazon site. Prices may vary on other sites.

New On Sale:

Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel ($2.99). Get it, get it, get it!!!!!! Read my review here.

A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving ($1.99) A classic.

Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis, Lauren Winner ($1.99) I did a mini-review here.

The Alphabet of Grace, Frederick Beuchner ($1.99)

Outlander, Diana Gabaldon ($1.99) I mentioned this series in my Books I Love to Hate post, but a lot of people disagree with me.

Still On Sale:

Wild by Cheryl Strayed ($4.40) You can read my review here.

The Boys in the Boat, Daniel James Brown ($2.99) I haven’t read this one, but it has rave reviews.

The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins ($6.49) This is the lowest price I’ve ever seen this new release. I haven’t read it yet, but it’s recommended for fans of Gone Girl

The Bean Trees, Barbara Kingsolver ($4.99) One of my favorite writers. Kentucky native Taylor Greer tries to escape her roots but succeeds in collecting a 3-year-old native American girl along the way.

An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith, Barbara Brown Taylor ($3.99)

Mistborn– The Final Empire, Brandon Sanderson  ($4.99) This is the first book in Sanderson’s Mistborn fantasy trilogy. Just finished this. It’s great.

Found: A Story of Questions, Grace, and Everyday Prayer, Micha Boyett ($3.03) One of my best books of 2014 and one of my favorite spiritual memoirs.

The Secret Life of Bees, Sue Monk Kidd ($3.99). There’s a reason this book is so popular. It’s great.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you use a link to make a purchase a small percentage of your purchase will go towards supporting this site. This does not affect the price of the items in any way. 

Friday Book Chats: My Favorite Mysteries

This week’s book chat  is another favorites list. This time I’m talking about my favorite mystery books. Mystery is one of my favorite genres because I enjoy trying to piece things together and figure out what happened. Mysteries tend to be fast-paced and engaging for me. I have no patience when it comes to waiting to find out what happened, so I tend to fly through mystery novels faster than any other genre.

Having said that, one downside to the mystery genre is that mysteries often sacrifice character development and nuance for the sake of the plot. The scenario is what drives the story and the detectives and even the criminals are often colorless vehicles for moving the story along. The books on this list are books that manage to find a middle ground. They are books that present fully formed characters as well as interesting circumstances. They are centered on crimes or mysteries that are far more nuanced than cops vs. criminals. Whether you are a mystery-lover or just an occasional dabbler, I think these books are worth the read.

As a disclaimer, all of these books contain a fair amount of language and some sexual content (not necessarily violent). Nothing Girl-With-The-Dragon-Tattoo level, but I wanted to give fair warning.

There is a list of current Kindle deals at the bottom of this post.

When will there be good news started early One Good Turn Case Histories

Kate Atkinson’s Jackson Brodie Mysteries. Atkinson is a brilliant writer. Her literary novels are fresh, fascinating, and incredibly well-executed. I genuinely think she is one of the best writers of our time and I love what she brings to the mystery genre. The Jackson Brodie mysteries interweave the personal life of Jackson Brodie, an ex-cop turned Private Investigator, with mysteries that range from the criminal to the bizarre to the mundane. In the first book, Case HistoriesBrodie investigates the disappearance of a young girl thirty years ago, the case of a young woman who is the victim of a seemingly random attack, and a young mother who is trapped in a life that is driving her to take drastic action. Brodie’s investigations reveal complex characters and intriguing connections. Atkinson made me care about Brodie as a multi-dimensional character, not just a wisecracking gumshoe and that’s what made me devour each new book she wrote. Start with Case Histories,but  the other three One Good Turn (2), When Will There Be Good News (3) (Jonathan’s favorite), and Started Early, Took My Dog (4) are all great. I don’t know which is my favorite – I liked One Good Turn least, but I still enjoyed it a lot. The BBC has turned these books into a miniseries called Case Histories which stars Jason Isaacs as Jackson Brodie and is extremely well done.

likeness in the woods FaithfulPlace_LOW broken harbor

secret place

Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad mysteries. This is an Irish book and the characters speak authentically – a.k.a mostly in expletives. For being police procedurals, these mysteries are quite unique. The books are only tangentially related to one another and each one focuses on a different detective within the fictional Dublin Murder Squad. They do happen sequentially in time, but they aren’t heavily reliant on one another and could be read in any order. For me, the standout is The Likeness (Book #2).  It is unlike any other mystery I’ve ever read. Detective Cassie Maddox finds herself in a perplexing situation when she begins to investigate the murder of a woman who looks uncannily similar to her and whose identification bears the name Alexandra Madison, an alias Maddox herself had previously used. French’s books can be a bit dark, even disturbing to some (though I’ve never had a problem with them) but they are fantastic suspense dramas. I am always impressed to read a book convincing enough to get my heart racing. If I had to rank these books I’d put The Likeness first, In the Woods (#1) and Faithful Place (#3)  next, followed by the latest two – Broken Harbor (#4) and The Secret Place (#5). These are books I buy the day they are released. I loved them all.

cuckoo's callingThe Cuckoo’s Calling by J.K. Rowling (as Robert Galbraith). I was so curious to read this after being less-than-enthralled by The Casual Vacancy. It turns out Rowling makes a  pretty good mystery writer. Her storytelling abilities are peerless and I was impressed with how much I enjoyed this book. Rowling has also created a private detective (Cormoran Strike) whose personal life bleeds into his professional life in a way that makes him an interesting character in his own right. I read The Silkworm as well and while I enjoyed it, The Cuckoo’s Calling was better. Cormoran Strike is a wounded Afghanistan veteran now working as a private investigator who is hired to investigate the suicide of a legendary supermodel.

Big Little Lies

Big Little Lies by Liana Moriarty. While this isn’t a procedural or detective mystery, the story revolves around the death of an elementary school parent at a school function, but who died and how it happened remains a mystery until the very end. This is a story about a community, family relationships, and suburban politics with the extra element of mystery woven in.

Current Kindle Deals

Kindle devices are on sale for the month of March starting at $59.

*As of March 13th. I use the US Amazon site. Prices may vary on other sites.

New on sale this week:

The Last Anniversary, Liane Moriarty ($3.30). I wrote about this here.

Three Wishes Liane Moriarty ($2.99)

A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian TrailBill Bryson ($5.70)

Wild by Cheryl Strayed ($4.40) You can read my review here.

The Boys in the Boat, Daniel James Brown ($2.99) I haven’t read this one, but it has rave reviews.

Still on sale from last week:

The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins ($6.49) This is the lowest price I’ve ever seen this new release. I haven’t read it yet, but it’s recommended for fans of Gone Girl

The Bean Trees, Barbara Kingsolver ($4.99) One of my favorite writers. Kentucky native Taylor Greer tries to escape her roots but succeeds in collecting a 3-year-old native American girl along the way.

An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith, Barbara Brown Taylor ($3.99)

 Mistborn– The Final Empire, Brandon Sanderson  ($4.99) This is the first book in Sanderson’s Mistborn fantasy trilogy. I’m currently reading this.

Found: A Story of Questions, Grace, and Everyday Prayer, Micha Boyett ($3.03) One of my best books of 2014 and one of my favorite spiritual memoirs.

Looking for AlaskaJohn Green ($2.99) This is the author who wrote The Fault in Our Stars. Read my review here.

The Fault in Our Stars, John Green ($2.99) So good, but read with tissues.

Me Before YouJoJo Moyes ($2.99) Ambitionless twenty-six year old Louise loses her job and takes a temporary position as a caretaker for a 35 year old quadripalegic who challenges her to live life on a grander scale. This is a quick read, but not a particularly light one.  Be warned that you’ll need Kleenex.

The Secret Life of Bees, Sue Monk Kidd ($3.99). There’s a reason this book is so popular. It’s great.

Eleanor and Park, Rainbow Rowell ($4.99)  One of my new favorite young adult novels. So sweet.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you use a link to make a purchase a small percentage of your purchase will go towards supporting this site. This does not affect the price of the items in any way. 

Friday Book Chats: My Abandoned Books-shelf

This post is dedicated to those books that I’ve never been able to finish, but still sort of want to someday. Books I abandoned because I didn’t have enough time to invest, because I just couldn’t get into them, or because they were due back at the library and I had maxed out my renewals. I’ve read enough of these books that I like to pretend that I’ve read them, but I’m confessing today that I’ve never made it all the way through any of them.

There is a list of Kindle books that are currently on sale at the bottom of this post. These are books I personally recommend or that are on my to-read list. Kindles are actually on sale as well for the month of March, so if you’ve been thinking of purchasing one, this is a great time. The base model (which is a touch screen) is only $59.

hearbreaking A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers. I feel really awful about this one. Partly because I’ve started it four times, including once as an audio book and I’ve never even made it halfway. But mostly because my dear friend, Rachel, actually loaned me her copy of this years ago and I TOTALLY STOLE IT and then never finished reading it! (Hangs head in shame). I now have this on my kindle because I don’t have my enormous book collection in Korea with me and I got it on sale once thinking this would force me to read it. But I still haven’t. I honestly think I will really like it when I make it all the way through, but something has stopped me every time. This is an autobiographical novel based on the events of Eggers’ life, becoming and orphan and parent to his 8-year-old brother at the age of 22 when both of his parents died within 5 months of each other.

The_Casual_Vacancy The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling. I got this from the library after being on the waiting list for approximately 7 million months. I only had two weeks to read it because you can’t renew a book that other people are waiting for. This was during a time in my life when I didn’t have as much reading time as I do now and it’s pretty long and frankly, it just wasn’t that compelling. I could have bought it at some point after returning it to the library or tried to borrow it again, but I never went back to it. I stopped about halfway through. This was Rowling’s first adult novel and is about small town politics in a village where a parish council seat has opened up due to the unexpected death of the councilman. I enjoyed Rowling’s Cormoran Strike mysteries (written under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith) very much, but this one just didn’t hold my attention so well. I’d still like to finish it someday, but it’s not a priority.

atonement Atonement by Ian McEwan. I enjoyed the movie version of this book but have never been able to get past the first third when reading. I don’t know if it moves too slowly or if it’s because I already know the story and am not compelled by curiousity to keep reading and find out what happens next. I’ve tried reading the book twice and listening to the audio book once, but I’ve failed every time. Atonement tells the story of 13-year-old Briony Tallis who witnesses a crime in 1934 that her immaturity and precociousness cause her to misinterpret and embellish. The story tells about the repercussions of this crime through WWII and beyond.

short history A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson. Despite the title’s claim, this history is not so short. The length was the primary reason I didn’t make it through this one, but I also attribute it to reading it during a period of my life where I didn’t read a lot of non-fiction. Although Bryson is a fantastic and engaging writer, compared to the novels I’d been reading, it was dry and hard to stick with. I’m really interested in picking this up again now that I read and appreciate non-fiction so much more. I’ve found that I’ve become much more interested in non-fiction since finishing school and seeing it as a form of continuing education. As the title suggests, this book is about origins – the beginning of the universe, of time, of humanity, and of civilization.

storm of swords A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin (Game of Thrones #3). I’ve actually been on-board with Game of Thrones since high school, long before the television series was even on the horizon. But I only read the first one at the time (and there were only 3 published then). Since I was still in high school and very sheltered some of the sex and violence was just too much for me and I decided not to continue the series. Fast forward to when everyone and their mother is watching/reading Game of Thrones. I decided to pick it back up since I was a less sensitive reader at this point and I had really enjoyed the first one. The second book was decent, but by the time I got to this one, it just drags on FOREVER. It feels so unnecessarily long and I just don’t think the writing is that good. The story keeps getting more and more convoluted, which in my opinion is not necessarily a good thing, and I just got to the point where I didn’t want to spend any more time on it. I abandoned it mid-Book-3 and decided I’d either come back to it or just watch the show and catch up. I haven’t done either yet.

What’s on your abandoned books-shelf? 

Current Kindle Deals

Again, Kindle devices are on sale for the month of March starting at $59.

*As of March 6th. I use the US Amazon site. Prices may vary on other sites.

New on sale this week:

The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins ($6.49) This is the lowest price I’ve ever seen this new release. I haven’t read it yet, but it’s recommended for fans of Gone Girl

I Know Why the Caged Bird SingsMaya Angelou ($3.99)

The Bean Trees, Barbara Kingsolver ($4.99) One of my favorite writers. Kentucky native Taylor Greer tries to escape her roots but succeeds in collecting a 3-year-old native American girl along the way.

Fangirl, Rainbow Rowell ($4.99) I haven’t read this but am told fans of Eleanor & Park will enjoy this one as well.

An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith, Barbara Brown Taylor ($3.99)

Still on sale from last week:

To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee ($3.99)

 Mistborn– The Final Empire, Brandon Sanderson  ($4.99) This is the first book in Sanderson’s Mistborn fantasy trilogy. I’m currently reading this.

Found: A Story of Questions, Grace, and Everyday Prayer, Micha Boyett ($3.03) One of my best books of 2014 and one of my favorite spiritual memoirs.

Girl Meets GodLauren Winner ($1.99)  I read Winner’s more recent book Still last month (review here) and am now curious to read this book, which tells the story of her conversion from Orthodox Judaism to Christianity.

Looking for AlaskaJohn Green ($2.80) This is the author who wrote The Fault in Our Stars. Read my review here.

Paper TownsJohn Green ($3.99) I haven’t read this one, but wanted to include it for John Green fans who might like to pick it up.

The Fault in Our Stars, John Green ($2.99) So good, but read with tissues.

Me Before YouJoJo Moyes ($2.99) Ambitionless twenty-six year old Louise loses her job and takes a temporary position as a caretaker for a 35 year old quadripalegic who challenges her to live life on a grander scale. This is a quick read, but not a particularly light one.  Be warned that you’ll need Kleenex.

The Secret Life of Bees, Sue Monk Kidd ($3.99). There’s a reason this book is so popular. It’s great.

Eleanor and Park, Rainbow Rowell ($4.99)  One of my new favorite young adult novels. So sweet.

Name of the Wind, Patrick Rothfuss ($4.99) I’ve already talked about this like 7 times, but if you need a refresher, read the blurb on this post.

The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern ($4.99) I adore this book.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you use a link to make a purchase a small percentage of your purchase will go towards supporting this site. This does not affect the price of the items in any way. 

Friday Book Chats: My Favorite Contemporary Literary Fiction

As part of my Book Chat I’ve decided to share some of my all-time favorite books in different genres.  Contemporary literary fiction is sort of a mouthful as far as a genre goes so let me clarify – these are adult fiction books that have been written in the past 20 years or so and that are highly literary in style. These are the types of books that win major literature prizes and awards, but are still deeply engaging. Many of these books are a bit slower-paced, written with careful attention to the language, the character development, the tone, and the greater themes rather than being primarily plot-driven. These are the kinds of books that might take a bit longer to get into, but will stay with you forever.

Disclaimer: my book recommendations may contain language, sexual content, or (non-gratuitous) violence. I don’t discount books based on those things if I think they serve a purpose or don’t detract from the overall impact of the book. If you have specific questions about the content of a particular book, I’d be happy to answer them!

As always, there is a list of current Kindle sales on books I recommend at the end of this post.

Peace like a River Peace Like a River by Leif Enger. This book is narrated by 11-year-old Reuben Land who is traveling with his father Jeremiah and his sister Swede through the Dakota Badlands in search of his fugitive brother, Davy, wanted for killing two men who were terrorizing his family. The true hero of this story is the father, Jeremiah, an Atticus-Finch-like character who is known for a faith so devout he’s been rumored to produce miracles. This is a book about family and faith, about unseen spirituality and maybe even magic that hides itself in ordinary places. And, of course, it is about love. This book is stunning.

 

Kavalier and Clay The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon. This book very deservedly won the Pulitzer Prize in 2001. This book has everything – Houdini-style escape artists, comic book superheros, and the American dream. (Side Note: Every time I say something “has everything” I can’t help hearing it in the voice of Stefon from SNL. “This place has everything – sheep, freckles, potato people, a room full of heprichauns…”) In all seriousness, I think one of the things that makes Michael Chabon such a fantastic writer is his ability to take things you may not be interested in, maybe even something you’ve never given any thought to, and make it compelling. This is the story of Joe Kavalier, a young Jewish artist who escapes from Nazi occupied Prague and ends up in New York City with his cousin, Sammy Clay, who convinces him to help create a comic book series with a hero to rival Superman. It’s an unconventional, yet quintessential story of the American dream.

Poisonwood Bible The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. Gah. I don’t even know where to start. This book has five alternating narrators, the wife and four daughters of intense Baptist missionary Nathan Price. In 1959 Price takes his family to the Belgian Congo where he tries to force both Christianity and Western culture on a land and a people who are unwilling or unable to assimilate. This book is fascinating, disturbing, compelling, and unforgettable. As a side note, every other book of Kingsolver’s that I’ve read has also been great. I’d start with The Bean Trees.

 

19398490-1All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. This was a best book of the year for many in 2014. In alternating chapters the book tells the story of a blind French girl whose father is the Keeper of the Locks for the Museum of Natural History in Paris and a German orphan boy whose talent with engineering gets him recruited into an elite military academy and then sent into the field tracking the Resistance during WWII. It is a gorgeous and haunting book.

 

 

 Extremely Loud and InExtremely loudcredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer. This book is (partially) narrated by Oskar Schell, an exceptionally intelligent, eccentric, and precocious nine-year-old who has recently lost in father in the 9/11 attacks on New York City. Oskar finds a key among his father’s possessions and becomes fixated on finding the lock this key fits into. His quest takes him all over New York City and into the lives of hundreds of people also reeling in the aftermath of the attacks. Some people felt this book was emotionally manipulative or that the use of the child narrator was gimmicky in some way, but I’ve read this multiple times and it will always be a favorite of mine. I think it is deeply moving, profound, and also entertaining.

Bridge of Sighs Bridge of Sighs by Richard Russo. Russo won the Pulitzer Prize for his book, Empire Falls, in 2002 and Empire Falls is also a spectacular book, but I have a slight preference for this one. Russo is known for his small town settings and average-Joe characters who resonate with readers so deeply because they remind us that even the simplest and smallest lives are complex and rich with meaning. Bridge of Sighs tells the story of Louis Charles “Lucy” Lynch, a 60 year old man who has lived contentedly in Thomaston, New York his entire life building a successful chain of convenience stores, now writing his memoirs. Lucy, who has barely been outside of his hometown, is preparing to take a trip to Italy to see his childhood best friend, now a renowned painter. The juxtaposition of these two men – the one who never left and the one who couldn’t stay –and the story of their strange, undefinable friendship is mesmerizing.

Honorable Mentions go to: Life After Life by Kate Atkinson, The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obreht, The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert, Gilead by Marilynne Robinson, and Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

What are your favorite contemporary literary fiction books?

Kindle Books On Sale

*As of February 27th. I use the US Amazon site. Prices may vary on other sites.

New on sale this week:

To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee ($3.99)

Leaving Church, Barbara Brown Taylor ($3.99)

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot ($1.99) I read this book a few years ago and found it very interesting – it’s the story of a poor black tobacco farmer whose cells were taken without her knowledge and became instrumental in hundreds of medical innovations from the polio vaccine to gene mapping.

 Mistborn– The Final Empire, Brandon Sanderson  ($4.99) This is the first book in Sanderson’s Mistborn fantasy trilogy.

Still on sale from last week:

Found: A Story of Questions, Grace, and Everyday Prayer, Micha Boyett ($3.03) One of my best books of 2014 and one of my favorite spiritual memoirs.

Girl Meets GodLauren Winner ($1.99) I actually haven’t read this one yet, but I did buy it. I read Winner’s more recent book Still (see below) just this month and am now curious to read this book, her first, which tells the story of her conversion from Orthodox Judaism to Christianity.

Looking for AlaskaJohn Green ($2.80) This is the author who wrote The Fault in Our Stars. I’m just finishing this book now and have enjoyed it. It’s a coming of age story that, like Green’s other books, deals with the usual sex, booze, and rebellion parts of adolescence, but also grief, loss and the greater meaning of life.

Paper TownsJohn Green ($3.99) I haven’t read this one, but wanted to include it for John Green fans who might like to pick it up.

Me Before YouJoJo Moyes ($2.99) Ambitionless twenty-six year old Louise loses her job and takes a temporary position as a caretaker for a 35 year old quadripalegic who challenges her to live life on a grander scale. This is a quick read, but not a particularly light one.  Be warned that you’ll need Kleenex.

The Secret Life of Bees, Sue Monk Kidd ($3.99). There’s a reason this book is so popular. It’s great.

The Fault in Our Stars, John Green ($2.99) So good, but read with tissues.

Eleanor and Park, Rainbow Rowell ($4.99) Just finished this a few days ago. One of my new favorite young adult novels. So sweet.

Big Little Lies, Liane Moriarty ($3.99) Wrote about this here. Really love all of her books.

Three Wishes, Liane Moriarty ($2.99)

Name of the Wind, Patrick Rothfuss ($4.99) I’ve already talked about this like 7 times, but if you need a refresher, read the blurb on this post.

The Wise Man’s Fear, Patrick Rothfuss ($5.99) See above.

The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern ($4.99) I adore this book.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you use a link to make a purchase a small percentage of your purchase will go towards supporting this site. This does not affect the price of the items in any way.