Monday Confessions, Recent Reads Fiction

Hello blog friends! I hope this chilly first Monday of March finds you well. I had some requests last week to do an updated book recommendation post on here and you can follow my hashtag on Instagram that is #emilytroutmanreads to get updates when I post shorter comments on books. It honestly helps me keep track of what I read and helps when I get asked for recommendations! This post will strictly be fiction and I will try again soon with non-fiction (I promise there’s lots of great non-fiction out there)

Some of you might remember I had a dream trip to Paris last fall with my parents. Part of my book-loving self could not wait to check out Shakespeare and Company book store, right along the Siene river, across from Notre Dame Cathedral. Shakespeare and Company is a famous book store that hosted the likes of Ernest Hemingway, among other well know writers who lived in Paris. It’s just a neat experience to walk into places like that, which have birthed inspiration for so many. I thought I would share a few shots from my Shakespeare visit along with this book post! I bought and read The Paris Wife in Paris. It’s about Ernest Hemingway’s first wife Hadley (more thoughts on this book below)!

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“I wish I could show you when you are lonely or in the darkness, the astonishing light of your own making.” My mom’s feet are at the top, making it even better for me. She’s a librarian now and leaves a legacy of a love of reading!

“I wish I could show you when you are lonely or in the darkness, the astonishing light of your own making.” My mom’s feet are at the top, making it even better for me. She’s a librarian now and leaves a legacy of a love of reading!

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1. The Paris Wife by Paula McLain - I adored reading this book in Paris and in general, I enjoy historical fiction. I was seeing some of the places and spaces that she was writing about. I was also understanding the magic and appeal of a life in Paris for the young couple. This is a fictionalized version but I am pretty sure it’s close to truth. It was easy and enjoyable to read until later in the saga, when Ernest starts to stray. It then becomes difficult to root for him as a man…but I would say a good follow up read to this was Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast. It’s his own take on some of these early days in Paris with Hadley. Order here if you want your own copy to arrive from Paris :)

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2. Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan was a delightful fiction read and also had some Parisian scenes that I appreciated. I took this photo of the book though literally minutes before I got into an accident at my kids school and NO it wasn’t my fault and NO I wasn’t reading at the time…I digress, back to the book review….I loved this read because it shed some light onto Asian culture that is not as main stream as one might think. My husband works at a prestigious boarding school and it gave me a giggle because in some ways it really shed light on what some of the Asian students deal with in their families and with their parents. Some things are based on stereotypes but also most stereotypes are based in some type of truth. I definitely recommend reading this book for the great writing and then rent the movie, which is just as enjoyable!

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3. Marilla of Green Gables by Sarah McCoy - If you grew up loving the Anne of Green Gables series, this is a great read for you. It’s like finally getting the back story on Green Gables and what it was like growing up there or why Marilla and Matthew are single siblings living there until adulthood. I admit, I realized I knew scant amounts of Canadian history before reading this and I had to look up some little nuggets of info to help shed light on the story. It wasn’t an overwhelming amount of historical details but I did want to make sense of the times. I really liked this read but some people that are purists to the original series might not like someone adding to it (which is kind of how I feel with the second season of Anne with an E on Netflix. Not my favorite.)

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4. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens - I also really enjoyed this fictionalized story of the North Carolina marshlands. It weaves together a modern crime being solved while flashing back to the beginning of the story. It was thankfully so well written that the time hoping did not confuse me (sometimes I can’t track with books that jump around in time). It’s the story of Kya, growing up in the marsh land and often alone. It was tender and hard to read at times, but it also just made you cheer for the main character to persevere. It has a fantastic ending in my option and it’s just a great read that takes you to another time and place! I found it recommended on Reese’s Hello Sunshine book club.

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5. The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon - This was an interesting coming of age story set in New York City with two main characters from completely different backgrounds. I really enjoyed this young adult read for the most part. It was a quick read and an interesting ending. I think it drives home the idea of some people being in your life for a reason, even if only for a brief time and I am not spoiling anything - there are many examples of this in the book. I have to say though, of all the other books I review here, this one probably goes as my least favorite, as in, read the other books first! (If you liked Park & Eleanor a few years ago, you might like this one :)

Monday Confessions, Recent Reads

   We just had what might have been the craziest, busiest week of our year, which is saying something! My brother-in-law got married on Friday in a beautiful outdoor ceremony, in which the whole family was involved. I also photographed another wedding over the weekend and had daylight savings time change. Needless to say, I'm going to be sipping coffee and reading off a to- do list today to keep my head on straight! I have had a few requests for a recent reads post so here's a few!

Freefall to Fly by Rebekah Lyons: Non-fiction

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I really enjoyed this honest read that shares the authors struggle with anxiety and changes of life seasons. It's small and I read through it fairly quickly. It left me encouraged and gave me lots to think about though. If you don't think you'll have time to pick up the book, definitely still go and read her article Why Women are Fading and you will get insight into some of the book. 

The Lucky Few by Heather Avis: Non-fiction

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 Not even kidding when I say the first page of this book is so beautifully written and convicting that I had to stop and read it a few times. Heather and her husband have gone through adoption for all 3 of their children, two children also with special needs, specifically Down Syndrome. I read through this book very quickly and found myself being both challenged and encouraged by her story. Definitely worth the read!

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery:  Fiction

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I picked up this classic again after watching Anne with an E on Netflix earlier this year. Anne is such a great heroine for a young girl and as it turns out, 35 year old women as well! I loved reading through this again because it has been such a long time. It makes you laugh and cry all along while routing for Anne Shirley in her various circumstances. Sometimes revisiting a classic is the best reading, it's familiar and brings warmth to your soul. There's way too many quotes to choose from but this one always stays with me, "Isn't it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?" 

The Hamilton Affair by Elizabeth Cobbs: Fiction

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     If you want to get in on the Hamilton craze but aren't feeling reading a lengthy biography, this was the perfect solution. It's a historical fiction version of Alexander Hamilton's life that fills in just  enough details while keeping the story going. We all know how Hamilton met his demise, but I always somehow want a different ending! I really did enjoy this read though. I have no idea how much is true or isn't true but it tells the tale of Hamilton meeting and falling for his wife, as well as other dalliances along the way. I liked the blend of the romantic story with historical elements.

 

Of Mess and Moxie by Jen Hatmaker: Non-Fiction

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 I laughed a lot through this one which goes along with the subtitle "wrangling delight out of this wild and glorious life." It's written in an essay form so it's very easy to pick up and put down if you're not wanting to get bogged down in something serious. Jen Hatmaker has been involved in some different agendas and theological controversies over the last few years, so I went into the book with the knowledge that we disagree on some things. I actually think there's tons of value in reading opinions differing from your own. That being said, she kept it fairly light and I really enjoyed it. If you're in the thick of raising a family, it will help make light of life. We have even made some of the recipes from here, because you know she's all about food as well. If you find you like this book, check out the For the Love Podcast with Jen with various guests and topics.

Monday Confessions, Recent Reads

    Remember how last week I had all these great plans? Well sickness knocked me down and out along with Benjamin, so our week was altered. I was thankfully on the mend by Friday and enjoyed my birthday very much! Thanks to my husband, family and all the friends who made it a great day. My 35th year is looking promising!

     As for my confessions, today I have been up since 4:30am listening to the crazy wind blowing. It sounded as if the house would blow down multiple times! Instead of my regular confessions today, I am going to share some recent reads with you. I am just sharing my own opinions and if I would recommend the read or not. (Apparently I am still on a pretty big non-fiction kick and sorry if some of these reviews get long! Just skim if necessary :) I realized that I should be posting my winter reads a little more often because there's been so many. Here's a handful I chose and in no particular order, here we go!

 

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson; This is a non-fiction work by Bryan Stevenson, recalling his work with those found on the wrong side of the law. His stories are varied but almost all heart breaking. His particular focus as an attorney is to help those that can't afford the proper representation. He has fought for many on death row, some who were wrongly convicted. Honestly, a lot of the stories are hard to read. They're full of sad realities but the thread was trying to find justice for all. Mr. Stevenson continues to champion for those who have been wrongly condemned to death. This book forced me to contemplate heavy questions, such as if I even support the death penalty (that's a whole different topic on it's own). He questions all different areas of the law on things from how we should treat children or mentally ill when convicted of crimes. All in all though, I found myself inspired with this read. It's uncomfortable to be exposed to things in our society that need work. I was reminded that these incarcerated people are humans, with their own stories and complexities. I had the particular pleasure to hear Mr. Stevenson speak just a couple weeks after finishing his book. I found his speech just as inspiring as his book, encouraging us all to get uncomfortable and proximate to issues in our community. My rating: a must read

 

Hillbilly Elegy by JD Vance:  I have been hearing bits about this book so I grabbed it at the library. It's the story of a young man being raised with Appalachian hillbilly roots and how he now sits on the other side of having served in the US Marines and  earning a Harvard law degree. His writing is poignant at times and in touch with the white working class poor of America. I could find some common ground with parts of his story, although certainly not to the extreme of some circumstances. When I was 13 years old, I served on a youth trip week where we worked in a small Kentucky town. My crew worked on a dilapidated trailer on a Kentucky mountainside, which was home for a sweet family. I learned a lot about the plight of coal mining families as well as challenges to rural life. So much of what I witnessed as a teenager is exactly what JD describes here.

 There was a line his grandfather said to him that stuck with me. His "Papaw" told him, "Our generation has made our living with our hands and your generation is going to make your living with your minds."  You know I always love a good memoir, as well as a story where the underdog wins. (The timing of reading this right after Just Mercy was also intriguing to me because I has just contemplated the struggles of many poorer African Americans while reading Just Mercy. Following up with reading the similar but different plights of the poor white American population made for good contemplation.) My rating: A good read if you know a hillbilly and like a memoir

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah: This is a WWII fiction work that I really enjoyed. It was a wartime story so there were lots of hard things still, but the resiliency of the human spirit to survive is always something I enjoy. It's definitely a longer book but there were lots of different characters  and stories developing. I learned a few new things as well, which is always a bonus. My rating: A good read, especially if you love history or WWII or France :) 

She Reads Truth by Amanda Bible Williams and Rachel Myers:  This is another memoir but it's interesting because I was written by two authors. Their stories are woven together beautifully along with the truth of God's word.  I found myself so encouraged both by the women's stories and by the lasting truth of scripture. I already loaned this book to a friend but probably will read parts of it again. If you love the bible and a good written memoir, this book is for you! My Rating: great read

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd: This is a historical fiction work set in pre civil war Charleston, SC. It was also a longer read over decades of time so there was a lot of character development. I would say in the end I enjoyed the characters and historical commentary, but it did start to feel drawn out after a while. I guess I didn't realize but I have been reading all different eras and perspectives on the American struggle to get where we are today. I don't alwa My rating: good read

Grace Not Perfection by Emily Ley: This is a great read for women in my stage of life or any similar stage of young adulthood. It's a beautifully designed book and has a bit of a "workbook" style in some sections to help you think through the chapters. I liked her easy and honest writing style but to be honest, the content was similar in vain to some other things I had recently read. Don't get me wrong, it was still helpful and enjoyable read but it wasn't as fresh for me because I had also recently Present Over Perfect and Loving Your Actual Life. My rating:  an easy, helpful read

I am currently in the middle of a few books at once so I need to focus in one them and finish. I get major book ADD when there's so many things I want to be reading! What's your reading style? I can definitely read lots of non-fiction at once, but I guess it's not saying much for my productivity or organizational style is it?! I also always get lots of questions on "finding time to read." I have to say, I really just have to make time like anything else. If I am honest though, if you cut out social media or just "phone scrolling," you can definitely get some books in instead! 

Hope you all have a great Monday and don't blow away out there!

Monday Confessions, A glimpse into our weekend

    Here's a little glimpse into our weekend with Macy's first horse show Saturday and some cookie baking on Sunday! 

I confess that I am feeling a bit overwhelmed lately. I tend to feel this way during a busy family and photography season. It's all good things, don't get me wrong, but it's still a mountain of things I feel responsible for. It's the life of all mothers right?! I am trying to do it all with a toddler who is sort of walking and into everything! His latest achievement is being able to open all the doors in our house, heaven help me! 

I just finished reading, Rare Bird, and it literally made my heart hurt reading it. I was full on ugly crying at 6:30 in the morning Saturday while reading. Ben was up early and although I love Elmo as much as the next girl, I preferred picking up a book. I do whole heartedly recommend this book but at the same time, read with caution. If you have recently lost a dearly loved one, it might be balm to your soul. It also could crack your heart open into a million pieces if your a mother. It reaches right into all of our deepest fears, yet at the same time promises us God will still be there. It's a small but mighty book. I will not soon forget it or the story of Jack, a brown-eyed boy who loved his legos and God. Read with tissues!!!

So although I feel far less than capable of all the needs and to-do's in my life today, I am going to repeat this truth from Psalm 62 (& go get my free coffee, Go Eagles!),

"I wait quietly before God,
    for my victory comes from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
    my fortress where I will never be shaken."

Monday Confessions, Recent Reads in Fiction

     Well friends, I promised a recent reads in fiction post after my lengthy post about non-fiction. I have gone through phases in my life of reading a lot and other phases where I hardly read a thing, unless I had to. I recently heard a saying though, "readers are leaders" or maybe it was "leaders are readers," but either way it applies. I find that when I am in a constant reading pattern, even if just for entertainment, it keeps my brain functioning more efficiently. I find that the more I read, the better I express myself in language both in writing and speech. I recently joked on social media if it would be a big nerd move to just ask for books for Christmas?

Here are some thoughts on my recent reads...

What Alice Forgot, By Liane Moriarty - I really enjoyed this read. It was easy to get through but made me think. The premise is that the main character, Alice, wakes up after a bad head bump and doesn't remember the last ten years of her life. It got me to thinking, if I didn't remember the last decade, I wouldn't know my kids or barely know what marriage is all about. It was a charming and thoughtful read, true to Liane Moriarty's style. She has a way of keeping you interested and not doing anything too expected in her tales. (I also liked her book Big Little Lies, which I believe will also be a movie soon). 

Stern Men, By Elizabeth Gilbert - If I am being honest here, I had to make myself finish this one. I find myself really pushing through a book when I don't attach to any characters. If I don't find characters relatable or redeemable, I tend to get disenchanted by the book. I really like Liz Gilbert (of Eat, Pray, Love fame) but this one just wasn't worth it for me. It had bits of dark subject matter and just felt sort of depressing. If you like Liz Gilbert though, check out her recent podcast called Magic Lessons. It's an exploration of creative living, which was the topic of her bestselling book, Big Magic. I've listened to first few episodes and really have enjoyed them. Hint: episode two was Liz interviewing Cheryl Strayed, the writer of Wild (another great memoir). The interview explored creativity and motherhood interestingly enough. (There is occasional foul language in the podcast, giving it the explicit label but I assure you in the few I listened to I did not hear much.)

Keeping Faith, By Jodi Picoult - I have mixed feelings about this one really. I sometimes love Jody Picoult's writing and other times I find myself skimming because I feel like the story drags. The one was gave me those mixed feelings. It was an exploration of ideas of faith, as well as human relationships being tested. The thread woven through was a mother's persistent love, which so many of us can relate to. In the end, I wouldn't necessarily categorize it as "must read" but it was an interesting enough story.

After You, By Jojo Moyes - If you liked Louisa Clark in Me Before You, then you will still love her in this sequel. It is hard to imagine what Louisa face where Me Before You left off (no spoilers here.) I found myself cheering Louisa on as she searched for what was next in her life. It's hard to really say much without spoiling Me Before You, but I liked this sequel. It helps answer a few questions as to what happened with some characters down the road. 

 

Back in non-fiction land, the Magnolia Story officially comes out Tuesday! I can't wait to get my hands on a copy. I read the first chapter over the summer as treat for those that pre-ordered. It was charming as well as hilarious, much like Chip & Joanne themselves.

Recent Reads, memoirs and non-fiction

 It's so hot in Delaware right now it feels like the surface of the sun. Ok I maybe exaggerate, but seriously, it's hot. Here's today's heat index is literally over 100. In this heat, you really only have two options. Option one is to stay in the air conditioning at all times. Freezer aisle anyone?! Option two is to sit in or by a body of water, such as a pool, lake, ocean or otherwise. Both of those options lend themselves to some reading, which is just what I've been doing.  When gathering my book list as of late, I realized that I had too many for one post if I could actually expect you to read it, so I will post later this week on fiction reads! Here's a run down of some of the non-fictions reads I've finished from spring through summer.

American Wife by Taya Kyle - I had previously read and really enjoyed Chris Kyle's memoir, American Sniper. Through reading that and also seeing the movie, I thought I might enjoy hearing his wife's perspective. In all honesty though, it was hard for me to pick this up to read knowing how it ended for Chris. It still seems so senseless and crazy to me that in all Chris endured during war, that he was gunned down by a mentally ill man that he was trying to help. All that aside, I liked reading her side of things but it was hard at times. I think if anything, both this book and her husband's book reminded me just how much we need to be thankful for those that serve in the military and their families. As Chris would've said, they chose that life, but it still costs them something above and beyond just a job.

Strong and Kind by Korie Robertson - I really enjoyed this read as fodder for parenting. Korie writes about the value of instilling character traits into your kids that you want them to have as adults. We can't just say we want our children to be these things, we need to show them. We need to parent in a way that allows them to exercise character traits like being strong and kind.  Korie's family growing up would take a list on vacation that has written out all of their family's values and rules. For example, their number one was, "Actions have consequences: you reap what you sow. What you do, does affect others.'I am responsible.'" I love that idea, although we have not formally created our list yet, it has given me something to think about. 

Food by Jim Gaffigan - I picked up this book with a sincere need to laugh. Sometimes life feels heavy or things feel out of control, but reading this book was a good way to get a giggle and remember not to take yourself too seriously. The chapter on eating vegetables alone had me in tears. I now have my family relating the taste of kale to bug spray, thanks to Jim.

Dad is fat by Jim Gaffigan - I realized that I was reading Jim's books out of the order he wrote but this book is his take on parenting a large family. I could relate to many things he joked about, such as the sheer noise level in a house with 4/5 kids or the intricate game of musical beds that happened every night trying to get all the kids asleep in their respective rooms. It was a funny, fast, easy read that I would totally read again!

Bossy Pants by Tina Fey - I guess I was on a comedy kick because I read this around the same time as the Jim Gaffigan books. I don't know if it was the proximity to growing up in Philly or what but as I laughed, I totally understood the nuances of her childhood tales. The chapter on her dad, Don Fey, might have been my favorite. Although she's a bit older than me, I could definitely relate to some things about growing up as a strong female, aka "bossy." Most girls could relate to other sentiments she shared, like how boys paid more attention to her when she was thinner than seasons when she was thicker. There were definitely some language and precarious situations she found herself in, but overall it's another fun, light read that will make you laugh.

Hope Heals by Katherine and Jay Wolf - Swing the pendulum far to the other side of light, funny reads to this beautiful but heavy memoir on suffering and God's grace. I first saw Katherine speak on a snippet from If:Gathering earlier this year. I knew this was a lady I wanted to hear more from. I wept, laughed and generally just felt convicted while reading this book. It's a beautiful story about hardship, suffering and what God can do in the middle of it all. I just passed it to a friend and I think I will be most likely buying and sharing it with others along the way. If you don't have time to grab the book yet, check out Katherine's interview on Jamie Ivey's Happy Hour podcast that I also love! 

Loving My Actual Life: An Experiment in Relishing What's Right in Front of Me by Alexandra Kuykendall - I tore through this book on my last couple days of vacation with Matt. I think it's combination of perfect timing in my life to read this and just the fresh way she approached every day issues for mamas. Alex gives good perspective on how to tackle issues in our every day lives to help us gain more enjoyment from our days. I had some big take aways that I am still working on but one of them was cutting out noise in my life. I have 4 kids, so some noise in unavoidable but it's the "noise" like social media that I need to get rid of. I had already locked my phone in the safe on our resort most days on our trip and I LOVED it. (I had my phone out on this particular day for a while because Matt was off on a fishing adventure and we would eventually need to reconnect). Not having my phone for days, except when I actually needed it, was a huge push to keep that lifestyle going when I got home. I have been docking it when I am at home and doing FAR LESS Facebook and such. It's been so good for my head and heart. We let so much noise seep in when we don't even realize it. Alex writes that when we get rid of some of that excess noise, we realize how much God is there in our every day moments when we make space to actually hear from him. I could honestly probably write a whole post on life applications from this book but I will spare you. If you are a mama raising young kids and trying to live a life of faith, grab this book. You'll be glad you did! (Alex also did an interview with Jamie Ivey on the Happy Hour podcast).

Lovable Livable Home by Sherry Petersilk - I needed some home inspiration and I love the couple from the Young House Love blog.  I used to love decorating and doing this around my house but parenting small children has almost wiped me of my will to live on some days, much less worrying about my house. They break things, spill things and generally ruing whatever you own. I try to keep a nice home but I thought that this book might inspire me to make some small, realistic updates when I get some time. I haven't read cover to cover but have been browsing it in sections. They have practical helps and tips as well as lovely photos! It makes a cute coffee table book that I can pick up and put down easily. 

 I have a stash of things I want to read and the list is always growing! What am I in the middle of reading?

Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist ( I might finish this today, Shauna is my favorite!)

Wild and Free by Jess Conolly and Hayley Morgan (Been reading in chunks)

Calm My Anxious Heart by Linda Dillow (Also been reading in chunks because I feel so convicted)

Radiant by Marian Jordan (I read this with some friends but have a few chapters left. It's a little slow and I need to convince myself to finish it but I will if my friends do ;)

And if you didn't read For the Love when it came out last year... seriously buy it. Jen Hatmaker is both real and hilarious in her observations on life and faith.  If you haven't pre-ordered Joanna & Chip Gaines' Magnolia Story, it comes out in October so you have time. I got to read the first chapter electronically because I pre-ordered it as a gift. I was laughing and feeling all the feels as I read their first date story. I can't wait to read the rest this fall!