march book review + giveaway!

Three months in, and I almost didn’t meet my one book quota for March.

However, I am proud to say that, thanks to Jake’s shift schedule, my kids actually staying in bed at bedtime, and my ability to sit in one place for hours at a time, I read 399 pages across two nights and finished All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr juuuuust in the nick of time. 

Everybody told me to read this one after I read The Nightingale in January and asked for light and easy suggestions for my next book.

So, another WWII novel it was!

This particular one follows Marie-Laure, a young French girl who became blind at the age of 6, and Werner, a German orphan recruited by an academy for the Hitler Youth because of his mechanical prowess. The book tracks their respective stories from the beginning of the war to the end until they ultimately (you guessed it) converge.

Someone aptly described Doerr’s writing style to me as something like a scientist with an art degree. His descriptions are so intricately woven together and his voice so captivatingly unique that my tendency to skip entire paragraphs while I read (I know. It’s a terrible habit.) had to go by the wayside for this one. 

Like The Nightingale (or most novels I read, for that matter), there is a lot to take from fictional lives within these pages, but one particular conversation keeps running through my mind.

Someone (I’ll never tell who!) tells Marie-Laure that she is very brave.

She responds keenly:

When I lost my sight, people said I was brave. When my father left, people said I was brave. But it is not bravery; I have no choice. I wake up and live my life. Don’t you do the same?

I’ve been thinking lately about how sometimes the most extraordinary people don’t even realize how extraordinary they are.

They wake up, take what they’ve been given, and make a choice to do well with it.

No matter the obstacles. No matter the difficulties. No matter the fact that they can’t see to the other side.

They wake up and they live their lives.

And that’s something, if you ask me.


Yes, of course I’m going to give this book away. Like I keep saying, books are worthless when you keep them all to yourself. (Cheers to Jess for getting my highlighted copy of The Screwtape Letters!) 

So, if you want me to send you my copy for FREE, you (anyone who is reading these words) have two options:

  1. Comment straight on this post.
  2. Comment on or reply to whatever social media outlet led you to this post.

Throw up those hand-raising emojis or give me another recommendation (bearing in mind that I’ve decided to take a break from war-related novels for a few months).

Happy reading! (I mean this literally.)

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thoughts on fiction and reality (and also a giveaway!)

I set a pretty intangible goal for myself in this new year with the whole “pray for hard things to change me” business.

And, while it’s one of the better resolutions I’ve ever set for myself, I also made a tangible one (I love a good SMART goal as much as the next, people).

Read (at least) one book a month.

So far? So good.

Although, I almost didn’t make it because I literally chose the most stressful book of all the books: The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah.

I know, I know. I can’t believe I hadn’t already read it either.


This particular novel is historical fiction, and, in its briefest terms, follows two sisters as they struggle to survive the German occupation of France throughout WWII.

It only took two chapters for me to realize I was going to read the entire thing with bated breath.

You likely know by now that I am a naturally angsty (my second favorite adjective) person. I don’t disconnect wires very well. When I think about something, I also think about how it connects to everything else I am also thinking about.

Anyway, I was telling Jake about the book a few nights ago, and as I tried to convey just how anxious I was about where the story was going, he responded as anyone would expect him to:

“You know it isn’t real, right?”

And I’ve been thinking about that question a lot since.

Of course I know that it isn’t real. The characters were fictional. It was a novel, after all.

But a good novel, I think, blurs that line between fiction and reality. And, you can’t reinvent the human condition. Love and sacrifice and fear? They are real even if a story is not.

I’ve been thinking a lot about love and sacrifice and fear lately. Wondering what exactly my responsibility is in the numerous small-scale and global problems I see or hear about on a daily basis. Feeling vastly insignificant in my desire and ability to incite change. I’m only one person after all.

But my wires crossed while I was reading The Nightingale yesterday.

In the end, fifty years after the end of the war, one of the characters (no spoilers!) remarks:

It strikes me suddenly: These are the families of the men who were saved. Every man saved came home to create a family: more people who owed their lives to a girl and her father and their friends.¹

I think the ripple effect is real, and I honestly hope that someday I get to look back on my life and see how far-reaching each moment was. To especially see the things that felt insignificant at the time and the lasting impact they had for the Kingdom.

To see how love and sacrifice and fear worked together to make a difference.

A large-scale impact can start small after all.

And that’s a reality I hope never to blur.


Now, here’s something fun: I’d like to give away my copy of The Nightingale. What good is the literary experience if you don’t share it with others?

Also, I’d like this book to wreck somebody else’s life for a few days like it did mine (you’re welcome and I’m sorry in advance).

If you’d like my copy, there are two ways you can let me know:

  1. You can comment on this post.
  2. You can comment on or reply to whatever social media outlet led you to this post.

Whatever route you choose, either type in a few hand-raising emojis OR tell me a good, non-stressful book to read next. Goodness knows my blood pressure can’t take another one like this for awhile.

I’ll put all your names in a hat and make Jake draw one out Friday!

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¹ I altered this quote slightly so as not to spoil one of the plot lines.

a few of my favorite things.

I tend to love things emphatically. Harry Potter. McDonald’s soft serve ice cream. My kids’ bedtime (and when they actually stay in bed WHICH HAS BEEN HAPPENING). The way a fine-tip sharpie changes your handwriting from everyday average to fancy in just moments (this last one has helped increase my correspondence tremendously).

I’m finding that summer intensifies my love of things which I think is mostly thanks to Vitamin D and longer days to fill with wonderful things.Anyway, mostly for my own reflective purposes and because I love to tell other people about the various things I love, here are a few of my favorite things right now:

The library. More specifically, the fact that I can check eBooks out and have them delivered wirelessly to my Kindle from the comfort of my home. Attention, people who are buying books: libraries let you read these same books for free! Free!

I have, lately, been obsessively reading memoirs and autobiographies. I already referenced Kelle Hampton’s book, Bloom: Finding Beauty in the Unexpected, awhile ago, but recently I’ve been making my way through the minds of various actresses (you can click on the pictures to read more via Amazon although obviously I would suggest utilizing your local library).

I usually stick very closely to fiction, but I can’t stop swimming around in other people’s brains and looking at the world as they see it (which in turn causes me to think about my own lens and perspective).

Our minivan. I almost wrote an entire essay entitled “A Love Letter to My Minivan,” but given that a year ago I wrote an impassioned post about my dishwasher, it felt a little much. Attention, people who have made a solemn vow against minivans: DO YOU EVEN KNOW ABOUT ALL THE SPACE? You can’t because you have vowed to never step foot inside one!

In case the space alone doesn’t convince you, here are some additional perks: The doors open automatically as if by magic. You can fit more people than just your family which often eliminates the need for multiple vehicles. When you go through a drive thru, you are the same level as the cashier which I find to be especially pleasant.

The West Wing. I started watching this series when we moved to Cleveland a year ago and am only now nearing its end. This can be attributed to the fact that I don’t like the things I love to end and because I wanted Jake to watch with me (which slowed me down considerably).

Attention, people who think this is just a boring television show from the late 90s: I’m rolling my eyes at you. Everyone else: Bartlet for America!

Mexican Restaurants. Attention, people with small children: You CAN still go out to eat in your new life. The beauty of a good (“good” here meaning cheap, hole-in-the-wall) Mexican restaurant is that the chips will tide your kids over for exactly the amount of time it takes to cook your food. And then, if you’re real pros like Jake and me, you know how to feed a family of four with two lunch combos and will leave having spent no more than $12.

I could go on and on. The month of July. Splash Parks. Books written by Mo Willems. Rocking chairs on the front porch. Pictures lit by natural, summer sunlight. Oh, and coffee that is sent anonymously to me through the mail.

The other day I was feeling sorry for myself about something particularly insignificant when I stopped and thought about all the good things that had happened to me during that single day. It’s obviously not any sort of original practice (there are books written on the concept, for crying out loud), but it did recenter me. It reminded me that if I can make a list of even one good thing, that’s something to be thankful for.if i can make a list of even one good thing, that's something to be thankful for..jpg Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll spend the rest of the evening watching The West Wing with Jake while I catch up on some correspondence with the Sharpie pen I just found. It’s almost election day and things are really heating up. Santos for a Brighter America!