Book Picks: Winter Reads

bookpickscoverWinter is my favorite season for reading. There is nothing cozier than a couch, a cup of tea (or glass of wine) and a good book. Of course that arrangement only happens for me when Baby Bird is asleep, so naptime and bedtime, but a few stolen minutes are better than nothing. Here are a few of my favorite reads that I’ve been able to get through so far this year:

The Undoing of Saint Silvanus by Beth Moore

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Did you know Beth Moore, queen of the in-depth Bible study, has written a novel? Well she has, and it’s delightful. Main character Jillian lives a happy though dependent life in Southern California. She has heard nothing but horror stories about her father’s family, and would never dream of even visiting them until a crisis forces her to flee CA and take refuge in the first place she thinks of, New Orleans. More specifically, a church-turned apartment building that is owned by her grandmother and populated by a group of unique and quirky tenants. Set against the steamy, mystic backdrop of the Big Easy, Moore weaves together a tale of mystery, romance, and redemption with the threads that bind us together whether we want them to or not. This is definitely a page-turner with a little bit of everything, including a satisfying ending. I can almost guarantee you’ll enjoy it.

Silent in the Sanctuary by Deanna Raybourn

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This is the second book in this mystery series set in late 19th century England. The cast of characters includes blue bloods and their poorer relations, and they exhibit all manner of delightful quirks and eccentricities. Lady Julia, the main character, is herself torn between maintaining her persona as a well-bred lady and satisfying her innate curiosity and penchant for trouble and sometimes mortal danger.  Her counterpart, the mysterious and complicated Nicholas Brisbane, is a self-made man and one of England’s leading private investigators (read a more dangerous and passionate Sherlock Holmes). This story is set in an ancient country estate, complete with hidden passageways, priceless family heirlooms, and of course, ghosts. Julia and Brisbane resume their verbal sparing and subtle flirtations, but when a gristly murder happens and a seemingly innocent woman confesses, they must put aside their games and work together to solve the crime. This series reminds me a bit of my beloved Amelia Peabody mysteries, although the characters are more complex and much darker. The mysteries themselves have pretty perverse and twisted conclusions, just to warn you. But the characters and tension between Julia and Brisbane make these fantastic books to curl up on the couch with on a wintery evening. You will want to start with the first one in order to properly meet the characters, but I will warn you the conclusion is pretty disturbing and it wasn’t my favorite read.

The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan

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If you are looking for a dishy escape into another life, this is the book for you. It’s basically a fictionalized account of Princess Kate and Prince William’s romance, although main character Bex (the princess-to-be) is an American. The story follows her as she strikes up an unlikely friendship with Prince Nicholas at college, engages in a hidden relationship with him, and meets the royal family who don’t particularly approve of her. It continues through all the complications, drama, and angst as they struggle to keep their relationship private while being in the forefront of the media’s crosshairs. This is by no means great literature and though it’s never overtly racy there are plenty of references to illicit liaisons, drug and alcohol use, and some language. But if you can skim through some of that it’s a fun and fascinating read for those of us who have ever wondered what a real-life Cinderella story might look like (hint, it’s not all fairy godmothers and glass slippers).

Present over Perfect by Shauna Niequist

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Lest you think I’ve been frittering all of my reading time away on frivolous novels, I want to mention a couple non-fiction reads that are well worth your time. I find winter fosters the need for quiet reflection and introspection, and Shauna’s latest book is the perfect jumping off point if you feel like you need to reevaluate some of your priorities. In this memoir of sorts Niequist recounts her experience with hitting the wall and realizing that she had completely denied herself the life she wanted in favor of the life other people thought she should have. It’s an honest, convicting look at how easy it is to let other people’s expectations lead us away from the life God means for us to live. Such a thought-provoking and encouraging read, a perfect way to prepare your heart before the avalanche of spring and summer activities and invitations begins.

Grace-Based Parenting by Tim Kimmel

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This is a different kind of parenting book than any I’ve read so far. It takes a big picture, principle-driven look at how to raise God-fearing kids in today’s seductive and often destructive society. Kimmel addresses why it’s healthy and good for our kids to fail, how sheltering them too much from the world can actually hurt them, and gives biblically-based values to aim and focus our parenting toward. This isn’t a how-to parenting manual but is instead more of a deep-dive into the way God parents us as His children and how we can follow His guidelines. I was challenged and enormously encouraged by this book. I think it’s a must-read for Christian parents trying to navigate bringing up kids in this often hostile world so that they develop their own faith and courageously tackle the mission God has called them to.

Your turn! What books are keeping you pinned to the couch, sipping hot cocoa during these long, dreary days of winter?


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