Category Archives: Book Reviews and Recommendations

Wednesday Reads: A Reading To-Do List

Wednesday Reads WideEvery so often I go through a book slump. This is the moment when I lose interest in books (yes, it happens, occasionally) and each book I pick up fails to keep my attention. Or it’s the moment when there seems to be absolutely nothing interesting to read.  Since I’m more of a book buyer than borrower, I don’t want to spend my money unless it’s going to be worth it. Lately, I’ve been floating among a few interesting reads here and there. Some I purchased; some I borrowed; some I read; and some bored me and got shelved.

Suddenly, however, there seems to be a plethora of books begging for my attention. Their covers intrigue me and their jacket covers pull me inquisitively into their plots. Here’s a few that I have found appealing and will be adding to my to my Reading To-Do List over the next few weeks.



The Secrets of Midwives by Sally Hepworth

A captivating tale of life, loss, and love…Neva Bradley, a third-generation midwife, is determined to keep the details surrounding her own pregnancy–including the identity of the baby’s father– hidden from her family and co-workers for as long as possible. Her mother, Grace, finds it impossible to let this secret rest. (synopsis from






Mercy Snow by Tiffany Baker

In the tiny town of Titan Falls, New Hampshire, the paper mill dictates a quiet, steady rhythm of life. But one day a tragic bus accident sets two families on a course toward destruction, irrevocably altering the lives of everyone in their wake. (synopsis from






The Magician’s Lie by Greer Macalister

The  Amazing Arden is a famous female illusionist known best for her illusion to saw a man in half. However, when her husband shows up dead one night after a show, Arden finds herself as the prime suspect.  Now a young policeman who has seen her show must decide if her alibi and story are the truth or simply  illusion at its finest.






The Dress Shop of Dreams by Menna Van Praag

Since her parents’ mysterious deaths many years ago, scientist Cora Sparks has spent her days in the safety of her university lab or at her grandmother Etta’s dress shop. Tucked away on a winding Cambridge street, Etta’s charming tiny store appears quite ordinary to passersby, but the colorfully vibrant racks of beaded silks, delicate laces, and jewel-toned velvets hold bewitching secrets: With just a few stitches from Etta’s needle, these gorgeous gowns have the power to free a woman’s deepest desires. (synopsis from





The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

This is what happens when a socially awkward genetics professor decides he needs a wife. He develops and implements a plan to find the perfect wife with a sixteen page  survey. Along the way he meets bartender Rosie Jarmen, who goes against the every correct answer on the survey. Rosie is on a journey of her own to find her biological father.  The reader finds that soon the wife project and father project intertwine to reveal a quirky and romantic love story where the unexpected is to be expected.




The Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

LIncoln O’Neil has landed a job monitoring inter-office emails making sure to report dirty joke emails between co-workers as well as non-work-related messages that clutter up the office email system. The only problem is he has fallen in love with one of the two female employees who constantly exchange emails about their personal lives. How will he ever go from email stalker to potential boyfriend?



I can officially declare my recent book slump is over. Now my only problem is deciding which one to read first!

How about a little help?  Which one would you read first?



Wednesday Reads: Exchanging Chaos for Intention

Wednesday Reads Wide

Notes from a Blue Bike: The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World caught my attention for one reason – the idea of a bike. For the past few years, I’ve so wanted to own a “cruiser bike.” You know the kind with a cute basket on the front, painted in a sweet color like turquoise or pink. I can easily imagine myself just puttin’ around with flowers dangling picturesquely out of my little basket — headed nowhere but blissfully happy.

Now I will say that parts of this book do speak to that fantasy, but most of it is about living in the real world. Not just living but living in a way that breeds positive and life-changing choices for families. It offers the hope of living a slower paced life because you choose it. While this concept is no easy feat in our insanely scheduled and overly busy lives, Tsh Oxenreider presented doable steps to achieve the art of living intentionally. Here’s a few reasons why I like the book:

1.  After living a few years in a foreign country, I gained a new perspective. A perspective stateside friends didn’t really understand – even though they tried. Reading this book was a comfort because Tsh had lived abroad as well. I identified with her and felt comfort knowing someone felt the feelings that bubbled constantly beneath the surface of my heart. In chapter 2 while speaking of her family’s return to the states after a long stint in Turkey, she articulated exactly what I was feeling: “But the truth is, it was hard for us to dive into the deep end of life. Our skin felt itchy, as though our home culture were now a too-tight sweater. And why did everyone seem to be in such a hurry?” I knew she understood me, and I wanted to hear more.

2. She speaks convincingly not condemningly. So much of what she writes gently opposes the modern American life. The subtitle of the book truly is the point. Tsh shares first her reasons for living intentionally and then gives some practical suggestions on how to make that happen. She discusses grocery shopping, child rearing, traveling, career pursuits, education, and even entertainment. Each area of our lives can be lived by choice and not by force. Just the simple act of making that choice in various areas of our lives will render them more enjoyable and purpose-filled. One of my favorite quotes from the book is the discussion of purchasing fair trade foods. While the younger generation is living for a “cause” they often – like the older generations – don’t really know why. Tsh says it this way: “Jesus taught that we should love one another just as he loved us, and that we are called to look out for the interests of others and not just ourselves (John13:34, Phil. 2:4). This means we shouldn’t, in good conscience and to the best of our ability make daily choices that harm others. This includes where we spend our money.”      This concept was easy for me to see after spending many weekends at the local open air food markets in Costa Rica and Ecuador. I adored this part of my week. Most Saturdays were spent procuring various fruits and vegetables from local farmers and then cleaning and storing them all. My family was eating healthier and I was a part of that. In Costa Rica, I could have easily gone to the grocery store and purchased many of the same items, but it was a better choice to support local farmers and a step toward living a more intentional life.

3.  Her book gently confirms the heart’s longing for a fuller life without all the extra work. Learning to live with the idea that less is more, in every aspect of life, is difficult in a world where everyone consistently seizes more, more, more. As I read each page I noted ways that I could make my life more intentional. I discovered ways to incorporate that concept into every day life – not just on Saturdays. I think it was easier for me to adapt to her ideas since I had been somewhat forced into simple living while in Ecuador, but I do know that this way of life is so much more fulfilling. As Tsh says, “we were made to live with intention, beyond the status quo. Don’t waste your years punching time clocks, sacrificing your ideas and passions and relationships without purpose. You have them for a reason – use them well.”

4.  I would whole-heartedly recommended this book to young wives and mothers. I read many of Tsh’s words and thought if only I knew this when my kids were younger. I would have done things so differently. Young wives and mothers need to have tools to build the best home they can for their spouses and children. Often they fall prey to the idea that it’s a bigger home, better-paying job, and college-prep kindergartens. Tsh helps the reader see that while those things have value, there is no greater value than making the choices that are truly best for your family. It doesn’t matter what other moms or wives are doing. But learning to define at a young age what your family will be about is invaluable. This will be my next baby shower or wedding gift. Such truths that need to be learned early.

On her blog The Art of Simple, Tsh best sums up the concept of the book.

“It doesn’t always feel like it, but we do have the freedom to creatively change the everyday little things in our lives so that our path better aligns with our values and passions.”

So often I’ve felt I had no choice but to live the busy, over-scheduled life I was dealt. I had no idea that I could make small choices to change that life into a better one for my family and me. Living intentionally has made me a happier person and my family more focused on what’s truly important to us.