Ree Reads: May Book Reviews

I’m reading 9-10 books a month these days, well on my way to reaching 100 books in 2018 (want to read more? Try these tips!) With so many books to cover, I decided to make these reviews shorter, or only review the real winners each month. I’ll have to start next month, because May was ALL WINNERS. Non-fiction wise, I have a refreshingly different Christian book, a Pulitzer Prize winning presidential biography, and an inspiring feminist memoir that read like a novel. Fiction-wise, I started a new audio-mystery series, continued another, listened to a delightfully soapy book I wanted to read before the movie comes out, and FINISHED the last of the books-I-previously-abandoned from my failed April reading challenge. I fully recommend all of these books (with one exception), how can I not tell you about them??

May Books

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Ree Reads: April Book Reviews

The reading challenge I set for myself in April was a TOTAL FAIL. Sigh. I did read a lot of great books, but my plan to go back and finish books I’d tried to read and quit was….maybe not that great a plan?

Two readerly goodies that I’m excited about and that may be relevant to your interests because FREE BOOKS. (Disclaimer: I tend towards being a book collector more than a book reader, and both of these free book opportunities are probably not helping with that… I am supposed to be reading the books I own before buying or borrowing this year, maybe that self-given challenge is going to fail too? #sorrynotsorry #freebooks!)

#1 Do you know about Amazon First Reads? If you’re a prime member, you get a free new release kindle book each month. I have an Amazon account, but we shop and buy and have Prime on Matt’s account, so I don’t get any Amazon emails, and missed out on quite a few free books when we first signed up for Prime. I’m finally in the habit of checking the Amazon First Reads page at the beginning of every month and choosing my free book. They have 6 to choose from, and there’s almost always one (or more!) that sound really good to me. There are several great choices this month, I chose this one, which sounds delightful.

#2 Have you heard about the free audiobook summer program at This is for you if you enjoy YA or have a teen in your life whom you’d like to encourage to read more. SYNC is a free summer audiobook program for teens (aimed at getting teens to read, but open to everyone). Beginning April 26 2018, SYNC will give away two complete audiobook downloads a week – pairs of high interest titles, based on weekly themes. You have to download the overdrive app (that’s where the books are stored once you download them), but it’s easy and FREE and they have a great variety of interests represented over the course of the summer.

(This isn’t a sponsored post  – not that I’m against sponsored posts, a blogger has to make a living, and the links below are all my affiliate links as always… Both of these programs are free, I’m not receiving compensation for sharing them – I just thought you’d be interested and I love to share!) Now on to my…

Book Nerd Failure Confession: I’m not afraid to quit a book I’m not enjoying, but I have a stack of books that I thought I’d quit because my attention span was spoiled by the internet, or because I tried them on audio and they weren’t a good listening fit for me. So I checked out a giant stack from the library, all books reader friends have loved and encouraged me to go back to, and gave myself the challenge of finishing them.

Guess what? I read ONE of them. ONE. It took me FOREVER to finish it, and then April was nearly over. I picked up 2 or 3 more (and drove around town with one in the car for a week), but… I’m thinking maybe I quit because I didn’t like them? It’s like I thought we were just on a break, but now it seems I  need to break up with them forever. Sorry books. Maybe I’ll put a list at the end of this post and let y’all tell me if there are some I’ll be sorry I missed?

In spite of my fail, I managed to read 13 books this month (thanks, audiobooks!). Read on for quick reviews of the books I did manage to finish this month (and to chime in on the books I’m breaking up with!), including a mystery series I’m loving on audio, a Christian book from a new-to-me (and super helpful) perspective on Jesus, two heart-breaking non-fiction books, a fun read-aloud and the one book I managed to go back and make myself finish.

This month: Readerly goodies (#freebooks!) My reading FAIL Challenging books from diverse perspectives A fun new-to-me mystery series/palate cleanser


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Ree Reads: March Book Reviews

Well, I hit an all-time high in March. Thanks to great audio books and the 8 hour drive to and from my sister’s new home in Illinois, plus several books I COULD NOT PUT DOWN, I read eleven books this month. YAY!

I loved all of the non-fiction I read this month for very different reasons, but if I had to name a favorite I’d probably go with the one that has stuck with me the most. I listened to this at the very beginning of the month, and I’m still thinking about it.

I also thoroughly enjoyed all the fiction I read, including some totally discussable reads that would make great book club choices. But if I’m being honest? My favorite reads in March were light and fluffy, with hardly any substance at all: a new cozy mystery series that I’m practically obsessed with.


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Ree Reads: February Book Reviews

Every month I do quick reviews of the books I’ve read: Because I love to share good things and because the only thing I like better than reading books is TALKING about books.

This was a GREAT reading month, partially because of good books, and partially because my poor kids had influenza, so I was stuck at home for over a week.

We have a wonderful non-fiction book I think you all should read, an excellent book club read, a sweet story from an author I’ve loved in the past, another book from an author whose works I make myself wait to read until I really need happiness, and the latest in two fun mystery series (one of which I actually read in January and somehow missed in last month’s post.

February Book Reviews from Her Royal Spyness, Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, The Music Shop, The Girl Who Chased the Moon, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, Miss Kopp's Midnight Confessions



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What I’m Reading: January Book Reviews

Every month I do quick reviews of the books I’ve read. I LOVE to read, but have very specific tastes and am a highly sensitive reader, so for years I just read non-fiction and middle-grade novels (with Hunger Games and the like, large portions of YA entered territory too stressful or graphic for me.)

I like and can highly recommend nearly every thing I read, because I (finally) learned how to pick good books for myself.

It took me years to learn what I like and don’t like in books, and to make peace with why I read and what I like to read (as an English major, I wish I liked more “important” and less “fluffy” fiction, but I’ve decided to let myself off the hook for that. Who decides what is fluffy and what is important anyway? And why is so much that is labeled “women’s fiction” also considered fluffy, even when it is about important subjects?)

I am still trying to stretch and grow as a reader, and we all need to push against the attention span our brains are being trained into by the internet and social media. But I had nearly quit reading because I didn’t feel OK about reading what I wanted to read, and when I did, I didn’t know how to find it.

So: If you’re looking for negative reviews, you usually won’t find them from me. I only read things I’m relatively sure I’m going to enjoy. I have a limited amount of time to read, and I don’t want to waste it with something that isn’t for me.

I’m also nearly always reading at least 3 (often more) books: An audio book, a non-fiction, and a fiction. This month I returned to a beloved audiobook series, read a FANTASTIC Christian memoir, finally finished the non-fiction book I’ve been reading over many months, and fought my way through a great fiction book that wasn’t as much a-book-for-me as I would hope (but it was good and I think many of you will enjoy it more than I did!)

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My Best Reads: 2017

It was a GREAT year for reading! I didn’t make my goal (100 books in 2017), but I did read  23 more books than I read last year. And I might make it to 72 books read by the actual end of the year, if I finish everything I’m reading right now.

Goodreads makes a fun “Your Year in Books” page, so you can see all 69 of my books if you’re interested. (Fun fact: I started using Goodreads to track books last year just so I could get a “my year in books” page!) But I’m sharing the best of the best here.

My Top 3 Books of 2017


The Hate U Give


The Hate U Give: This is listed as YA and advertised with a “ripped from the headlines” flavor, but both of those things can be misleading. It’s a good story, well told. And the characters felt like actual people you could meet, living actual lives I now understand and have compassion for. So good.


When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi


When Breath Becomes Air: I was afraid to read this, knowing the author died before it was finished. But it is much more about life than death, and it is the best written book I read this year (except for maybe Jayber Crow.)




The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson


The Almost Sisters: This book might not be for everyone, but it was definitely for ME. Such a fun book, and about so much more than it is about. I can’t remember when I enjoyed a book this much, I wanted it to go on forever. I finished my library copy in 2 days and immediately handed it to my best-book-friend so she could read it without waiting on the hold list. We both loved it.



Best Book to Read With Your Kids

A Wrinkle in Time (I’m BEGGING YOU: Read this yourself and/or with any kids in your life before the movie comes out this spring!)

Runner Up: When You Reach Me (recent Newberry winner, a super fun mystery/sci fi read, and an homage to my beloved Madeline L’Engle)


Favorite Audiobooks

Nearly half of my 69 books were audiobooks, it’s the biggest way I have increased my reading, especially once I figured out what type of book I prefer in audio (light fiction and narrative non-fiction.)

At Home in the World (I’ve had it on Kindle since it came out, but hadn’t made time to listen to it: Got it on audio from the library, read it fast, and LOVED it.)

Gretchen Rubin’s Books (The lastest is The Four Tendencies, but Better Than Before is my favorite, and one I’ll probably listen to again early in 2018.)

Young Jane Young (If you liked Be Frank With Me or Where Did You Go Bernadette, you’ll like Young Jane Young.)

As You Wish (this is a MUST LISTEN, it would not be half as enjoyable as a real book.)



Other Reading Highlights

My first (and probably only) Stephen King, and the longest book I read this year.

I discovered several authors who are new favorites (Sarah Addison Allen, Wendell Berry, Joshilyn Jackson)

I discovered a new series that I love, the third book will probably be my first read of 2018.

I read a classic I can’t believe I’ve never read (and started another).

My 10 year old read a book for school and told me that I HAD to read it because I would LOVE it (which thrilled me of course, and he was right. Of course.)


Since I didn’t do a dedicated December post, the books I read this month are:


At Home in the World

The Last Anniversary: My first Liane Moriarty, it won’t be my last. This would be a great beach/vacation read, I read it on the plane home for Christmas.

To Be Where You Are: The latest in the Mitford series, which I’ve been reading for years. I’ve known these characters longer than anyone in my daily real life.


Wonder: Loved it, cried big fat tears. Haven’t seen the movie yet.

Frientimacy: I read this as part of my preparation for a speaking opportunity at a retreat, but it was good for me personally to have a framework to think through friendship struggles and how I can grow my relationships.


And as we close out 2017, here are the books I’m reading right now.

What I'm reading right nowI should finish at least 2 of these by the end of the week…

Daring to Hope by Katie Davis Majors (LOVING IT.)

Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown (I forgot to bring that to Texas with me, otherwise I’d be finished already.)

Tell Me Three Things (YA that’s been on my TBR since last year, I’m listening to it on overdrive.)

I’m also slowly listening to Anna Karenina, but it’s daunting with Audible telling me I have 30 hours to go…


I’d love to hear what your top three books of the year were! And if you had any reading goals, did you make them?


Best Books 2017

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What I’m Reading: October Book Reviews

October Book Reviews: Jayber Crow, The Four Tendencies, Young Jane Young, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, First Frost, As You Wish, Someone Else's Love Story

I am in the middle of about 6 books right now. Seriously, I need to stick with one at a time. But I’m usually listening to one, and reading a fiction and a non-fiction. At the moment I had so many non-fiction books I want to read I started a bunch and read whatever I feel like in the moment.

When I realized it was time for my October books post, I thought I might just have one or two books to talk about, since I’m in the middle of so many. I was happy to see I managed to read SEVEN in October. Not counting the six I started and haven’t finished yet. Yay for good books!

Unfortunately not all of my October reads were actually good books, I struggled to get through a couple of these but there were also some real winners, including one I’m all but bullying other people into reading.

I only finished two non-fiction books this month, both on audio, and both of which I enjoyed and can’t really name a favorite because they are so different from each other.

For my fiction winner, I have to go with my first Wendell Berry book. I am still starry eyed about his writing, and this story.

Read on for more good books!

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What I’m Reading Right Now: September Book Review


Things stay pretty full around here until our college retreat in mid-October, so I’m excited to see that I was able to get 6 books read in September. But because I know some of you think audiobooks don’t count as reading (they totally count.), full disclosure: I listened to 3 of these.

I can’t really pick a favorite non-fiction this month, I LOVED all three, for totally different reasons. I think you should read them all.

Fiction is easier, Garden Spells was a DELIGHT. Like last month, I set aside part of my Saturdays specifically for rest and reading, trying to care for my soul in the midst of this busy time of year. Garden Spells was my book date on one of those Saturdays and I read it in that one day, practically in one sitting.

Read on for more specifics!

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I am a Shalom Sista

I’ve been thinking about the concept of peace for a long time.

In my family, peace was the absence of conflict, something you kept by not arguing, not rocking the boat.

In the Christian environment I was born into in college, peace was this magical quality that helped you make decisions. “I had a peace about it.”

Lovely, except that “not rocking the boat” can lead to enabling unhealthiness, and create more relational strain than an honest approach.

And for me, decision making is inherently un-peaceful. I literally have NEVER “had a peace” about a decision before it is made, because I fear making wrong decisions.

Thankfully, at some point in my twenties, I heard one of my favorite Bible teachers explain peace as the product of trust in God and submission to the Prince of Peace. “AHA!” I thought, “Finally, a peace that seems healthy and attainable for me.” And I still think true peace in my spirit comes first and foremost when I am trusting God and surrendered to His goodness, regardless of my circumstances.

But that definition of peace is limited to my own experience – I can trust and surrender to God’s goodness myself, but I can’t force it on others.  And as I continued to study my Bible, particularly the Psalms and New Testament Kingdom theology, I increasingly felt the need for a broader definition. A peace we can live out of, but also into.

I found it when I learned the concept of Shalom. The word translated peace in our English Old Testaments means wellness, completeness, safety, flourishing. 

This is what God is doing in our hearts and in the world, bringing Shalom. And this is what God is inviting us to join Him in: experiencing His shalom and carrying shalom into the world.

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The Journey from People-pleasing to God-pleasing (a review of UNSEEN: The Gift of Being Hidden in a World that Loves to Be Noticed, by Sara Hagerty)

My whole life I’ve cared more about what people think of me than is healthy or helpful. Image management has been my mode as long as I can remember, and I have a pattern of caring more about reputation than I do about reality. In my first days learning to follow Jesus I began to realize how this focus on externals and others’ opinions can infect my faith just as it infects every other relationship and activity.

I write about Jesus, I teach people about Jesus, it is my job to talk to college women about Jesus, weekly and even daily. In these things, I have to keep vigilant watch over my tendency to care more about the outside than the inside. I am called to live my faith out in the open where people can see and invite others to join me, but I need to be very careful that I’m actually living my life with Jesus rather than just talking about Him.

If my first priority is what I can see, what others can see and comment on and measure, I easily lose sight of the things that last, the things that matter, the things God cares about most. I easily lose sight of my heart, which only God truly sees and knows. Matthew 6 teaches me that if my audience is the world, then the praise of the world is the most I’ll ever get. But if God is my first audience, then I get His reward, His notice, His praise.

“Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don’t make a performance out of it. It might be good theater, but the God who made you won’t be applauding… Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace. Matthew 6:1, 6 (The Message)

I have grown hungry to protect out part of my relationship with Jesus for just me and Him. And I’ve prayed and thought and worked to focus and prioritize and value the things I can’t see over what I can see, touch and measure (hence the name of my blog.)

Over the last year in particular I’ve been seeking hidden places, asking God to meet me in ways I don’t share, that aren’t for public consumption.

Imagine my joy when I learned that one of my favorite writers, a fellow blogger and adoptive parent who has consistently pointed me to Jesus, had a new book coming out called, UNSEEN: The Gift of Being Hidden in a World That Loves to Be Noticed. Continue reading