Jennifer's books

Goodbye, Vitamin
American Fire: Love, Arson, and Life in a Vanishing Land
Mrs. Hemingway
Poetry Will Save Your Life: A Memoir
The Princess Diarist
Watch Me Disappear
Hello, Sunshine
Peak Performance: Elevate Your Game, Avoid Burnout, and Thrive with the New Science of Success
A Man Called Ove
The Heirs
Our Souls at Night
White Fur
Confessions of a Domestic Failure
The Map That Leads to You
The Little French Bistro
Love the Wine You're With
Always and Forever, Lara Jean
Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore
The Party
New Boy

Jennifer Curry's favorite books »
Showing posts with label Booklists. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Booklists. Show all posts

Sunday, December 31, 2017

My Favorite 16 Reads of 2017

I read 90 books this year! While a few ended up being disappointing, most were quite enjoyable. But, it is super challenging to narrow down a list of 90 books to a small list of my favorites. Keyword here is "my." There will be plenty of people who disagree with my decisions. However, I created this list by thinking about which books stood out to me and which ones I safely recommend to my friends. Without further ado, here's my list of The Best Books of 2017.

The 16 Best Books of 2017

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

A beautiful delightful work of fiction - stick with it even if you think the concept is slow at first. My full review

The Child by Fiona Barton

You will not be able to put down this crime thriller which has plenty of good guys to cheer on.

The Party by Robyn Harding

You will hate the women in this book, but you will love the plot! Juicy and fun fiction. My full review

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson

Eye-opening nonfiction about the unjustness of the criminal justice system following a case similar to To Kill a Mockingbird in the same setting. My full review

Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout

One of my favorite writers - she makes the everyday seem extraordinary. My full review

Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf

The language of the book will sweep you away in this love story about senior citizens.

American Fire: Love, Arson, and Life in a Vanishing Land by Monica Hesse

This was my favorite audiobook of the year. I was completely drawn into the chaos and her investigative journalism.

Love and Other Consolation Prizes by Jamie Ford

It's got a world's fair, a brothel, and a tragic love story. My full review

Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin

A political affair told from the viewpoints of the mistress, the mother of the mistress, and the wife.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Thought-provoking, incredible fiction about the choices women make as mothers.

Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstances by Ruth Emmie Lang

This book was different than anything I've read before featuring a boy raised by literal wolves. It will make you feel warm and fuzzy. My full review

When We Were Worthy by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen

A heartbreaking story for fans of the show Friday Night Lights (or small towns where football rules).

The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson

Comic books, biracial relationships, the South, long-held secrets. 

So You've Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson

Nonfiction piece about the ways social media and the internet have become the new public stocks where people earn their Scarlet Letters. 

Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone by Brene Brown

Maybe the most convicting book I have ever read - and the most difficult to apply in real life (but all the more reason to try)

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

He's still got it. My full review

*You can purchase these books from Amazon by clicking the titles. These are affiliate links. Thank you for supporting my blog! 

Monday, July 24, 2017

This Might Have Been My Best Book Week of 2017...

Book of the Month picks

I am not exaggerating. I read three excellent, extremely different books over the last 8 days. All courtesy of Book of the Month Club (BOTM). I do not work for BOTM. I am simply a recent subscriber, and I am sharing my love for the service with all of you because I love it (and you will too).

To be fair, I am posting a referral link to BOTM which offers new members 3 months for $9.99 each – that equals 3 new release hard back books for $29.97. If you so choose to click on the link below and give it a try, I will get a free month.

Now that the nasty business stuff is out of the way, let me tell you about the 3 incredible books I read this week. I have one for nonfiction lovers, one for realistic fiction lovers, and one for the horror lovers. It’s been a strange and delightful week.

American Fire by Monica Hesse

American Fire by Monica Hesse

Whoa. I didn’t choose this as one of my BOTM pick because I knew another friend choose it (we plan our months accordingly), but when I saw it pop up on my library’s Hoopla app, I downloaded it immediately. And, holy smokes (ha), is it good! I started listening and could not stop. I felt like I was listening to a Serial-like podcast.

American Fire by Monica Hesse hoopla

American Fire is the true story of a couple that goes on an arson spree in a rural town in Virginia destroying more than 80 residences. The firefighters are depleted. The community is reeling. The couple is on fire.

I had the opportunity to go hear Monica Hesse speak at Hub City Bookshop this Tuesday after listening (reading? Do you we call it reading if you just listen to the audiobook? What verb is more appropriate?) to the book over the weekend. She was wonderful. Her experience as a journalist and her passion for the story was evident. She lived in the town for months at a time – and she grew to know the members of the community.

It is a must read. I did buy a copy and asked her to sign it at the event.

Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong

Goodbye Vitamin Rachel Khong

The next book I read was Goodbye, Vitamin. This was one of my BOTM selections. This story focuses on a 30-year-old woman who returns home after breaking up with her fiancĂ© to help take care of her father who is starting to show signs of Alzheimer’s.

Written in a sort of diary format, this book made me laugh and cry within pages of one another. Ruth’s journey back home reveals truths about her father and her family and herself. As she struggles to come to terms with the father she thought she knew and the one she learned he is, the reader is right alongside her on the journey.

No one in the book is evil. No one is perfect. The characters are all real. The situation is realistic. You will feel frustrated and hopeful just like you would in real life.

It is one of the books you read that you are immediately glad you read. It was highly satisfying and one I think those who like family dramas, diaries, and heartbreak with laughter will love.

Final Girls by Riley Sager

Final Girls Riley Sager

Confession – I have not read a horror novel since I read R.L. Stine. I chicken out anytime I start to read Stephen King (just ask my book club). I have nightmares from shows like Criminal Minds. So, this novel was far from my usual reads.

 But, with all the positive reviews for Final Girls, I decided to pick it as one of my BOTM selections. I put off reading it until last night. And I started it when we put the kids to bed and did not put it down until I finished it around 1 AM.

Because, while it was horrifying, I had to know what happened and what was happening and why it seemed like it was all about to hit the fan.

Final Girls refers to the final girls that somehow survived bloodbath style massacres (think movie style massacres – college students in a cabin, sorority girls in their sorority row house, a cheap motel). The comparisons to slasher films is what ultimately made me buy it.

When one of the three nationally recognized final girls dies of an apparent suicide, the other two final girls meet in person. And, all hell breaks loose.

Told with flashbacks to the original Pine Cottage massacre and present day, you do not find out what happened or is happening until the final pages of the novel. It is a page-turner with entertaining plot points and quirky characters.

I am surprised (and happy) to announce I not only read the entire book without hiding it in my freezer, I enjoyed it and I did not have nightmares! (That may also be because I made my husband talk about all sorts of bright and shiny things like unicorns to take my mind off it before sleep).

Again, I think BOTM is great because it has introduced me to books I would never have picked on my own, but books that are some of the best I read this year – and this is just July’s book selection. However, if getting fun book mail monthly is not your thing, these books can be purchased on Amazon by clicking the pictures or links (or from your local library’s hold list).

*This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting my blog!*

Sunday, July 16, 2017

10 Books to Help Reshape Your Faith

I have a lot of church baggage. I’m talking giant trash bags full of garbage that sometimes rips the plastic and falls onto the sidewalk. Locked luggage that only a few people have keys to open. For most of my adult life, I hid this part of myself. But I’m learning that I am not alone. And, more importantly, my church baggage is no reflection of Jesus.

This is why, as an adult, I have had to reshape my faith. I knew I wanted no part of any legalism that tried to draw a line between me and Jesus. As an adult, I now understand that I do not have to be so sure about everything “God-related.” I am 100% at peace with admitting “I don’t know” and I don’t think that makes me loved any less.

For many years, I tried to follow the rules and not do the things they said I should not do. No bikinis! No yoga pants! No wine! No Halloween! No cuss words! I also tried to do all the things they said I should do (believing it would make me look better in their eyes and closer to God).

While I do not think most of these things started with bad intentions, here’s what I finally realized. That was them. Not God. God does not love the person who reads their Bible every day any more than the illiterate woman who prays fervently. God does not love the person who does not drink or cuss any more than the person who cusses like a sailor but loves others deeply because of his faith. “They” may, but God doesn’t.

With that being said, here are some books I have used to help move away from the religion of God-in-a-box and allowed me to ask big questions. Again, many of which I do not have the answers. But, I finally feel safe both asking questions and not knowing the answers. I can fully accept that God is simply too big for me to comprehend, but I know he loves me. So, if you are struggling with the church and wrestling with your faith, here are some of the books that have helped me. I hope they help you too. 

10 Books to Help Reshape Your Faith

The Message by Eugene Peterson

The first time I read the entire Bible was after I had my first child and right about the time when I realized I needed to start revisiting my long-held beliefs. So, I started with the Bible. This version was one that I could understand.

Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality by Donald Miller

Popular back when I was in college, Donald Miller's classic is a must read for people considering why they believe what they believe. 

Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving and Finding the Church by Rachel Held Evans

I am a huge Rachel Held Evans fan. I loved A Year of Biblical Womanhood that she also wrote, but this book spoke to me in many ways. It is a collection of essays on her ideas on faith along with research about why people are leaving churches today and what is bringing them back.

Love Does: Discover a Secretly Incredible Life In An Ordinary World by Bob Goff

Bob Goff is fun, and he reminded me that a life following God should be fun! Believers have the opportunity to see beauty in each day and to share it with others. 

A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet: Southern Stories of Faith, Family, and Fifteen Pounds of Bacon by Sophie Hudson

Sophie Hudson has the ability to make me laugh and cry within the same page. She is honest and open about her life and faith in this memoir. If you were raised in the South (especially in a church), you don't want to miss this one.

Interrupted: When Jesus Wrecks Your Comfortable Christianity by Jen Hatmaker

The title is totally true for this one - Jen Hatmaker's book shook me to the core. I go back to it often. Here is one quote to give you an idea: "“My people are crumbling and dying and starving, and you’re blessing blessed people and serving the saved.” It radically changed the way I give and how I serve.

All the Pretty Things: The Story of a Southern Girl Who Went Through Fire to Find Her Way Home by Edie Wadsworth

Edie Wadsworth's memoir is beautiful. She tells the story of growing up poor in the Appalachian mountains with an alcoholic father. It is incredibly moving. I could not put it down and have been recommending it to everyone. Through her story, readers see how her faith grows and evolves. 

Jesus Feminist: An Invitation to Revisit the Bible's View of Women by Sarah Bessey

I know some people are put off by the term "feminist" in the title - don't be. Bessey handles the topic with sensitivity, as well as discussing how we interpret the Bible. Anyone who has had the Bible used as a weapon against them will appreciate her words. "People want black-and-white answers, but Scripture is rainbow arch across a stormy sky. Our sacred book is not an indexed answer book or life manual; it is also a grand story, mystery, invitation, truth and wisdom, and a passionate love letter.”

Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott

Oh, Anne Lamott. She is such an amazing writer and her thoughts on faith often cause me to stop and consider why I believe the things I do. To give you an idea, here is one of her most famous quotes: "You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do."

Love Story: The Hand That Holds Us From the Garden to the Gate by Nichole Nordeman

I knew Nichole Nordeman as a singer. It wasn't until I heard her speak at an event that I realized she is an incredibly gifted speaker and writer. I loved this book where she intertwines her personal experiences along with the stories of some of the most well-known Bible characters to focus on God's love for his creation.

***You may purchase all of these books on Amazon by either clicking on the title of the picture. These are affiliate links. Thank you for supporting my blog!***

Sunday, July 2, 2017

My Favorite Reads of 2017 So Far

It’s July. That means we have officially reached the 2017 halfway point. I cannot believe it. But, while the year has flown by, so have all the books. At this point, I have read 40 books this year. I decided to highlight the 6 books that have stayed with me the most – these are the books I have been dying to discuss with others. They cover a wide range – from nonfiction to literary to women’s fiction. If you have not read any of these books, I encourage you to add them to your stack.

Hillbilly Elegy

If you have not read this one yet, you may be the only one. It is a bestseller for a reason. You can read my full review here.

Anything is Possible

I cannot express my love for Elizabeth Strout in words. You have to trust me – she is one of the best. Her latest novel was remarkable. You can read my full review here.

A Gentleman in Moscow

This was such a delightful read. It is stuffed to the brim with literary references, excellent characters, and an ingenious plot involving a man imprisoned in a fancy Russian hotel. You can read my full review here.

Just Mercy

Bryan Stevenson writes a moving novel about his experiences defending those on death row. It opened my eyes and I talked about it for days – you will too. You can read my full review here.

The Party

This is the one “less than literary’ novel on the list, but by golly, it is a fun read! I devoured on our beach trip and I am itching to talk about it with my mom reading book friends. You can read my full review here.

Our Souls at Night

This is the only book on the list I have not written a full review on yet, and this is because my book club has not discussed it yet. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone in the group, but I will tell you I fell in love with the writing. Full review to come later in July! 

* You may order all these books from Amazon by clicking the links or simply clicking the picture. These are affiliate links. Thank you for supporting my blog!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

If You Have Lego Fans In Your Home, You Need These Books

Introducing the BRICK Series

I am one of those people who will do whatever it takes to get my kids to read. Take this a step further, and I will do anything I can to get them to read the classics. As a teacher, I fully believed in allowing students to read material or view material in other mediums (films, graphic novels, etc.) to help their overall appreciation for the text. (I’m such a rebel – ha!)

Just learning about Macbeth's witches
Totally normal to see this in our home

I was thrilled to come across the BRICK series. Essentially these books are comic versions of classic stories told using Legos, creative photography, and storytelling. Lo and behold, as soon as my son saw these in our home, he grabbed hold of them. So, I just kept adding to our stack. The kids are drawn to the bright pictures and ask questions about what they are “reading.” It makes me very happy to answer questions about Macbeth to my little ones. (Once a teacher, always a teacher.)

* I do need to point out that these books are not all intended for children. Apparently, some people have mistakenly purchased the Bible thinking it would be a Children’s Bible. Its Lego pictures depict the more graphic scenes in the Bible, so use your own discretion. My husband and I are fine with it as we think it will open doors to difficult, but necessary conversations about truth and interpretation. However, the creators of the BRICK Bible did take note of parent’s complaints and have released a smaller less graphic one – The BRICK Bible for Children. *

Brick Shakespeare

Brick Greek Myths

Brick Shakespeare

Brick Fairy Tales

Brick Bible

Brick Bible for Kids

If you like the idea of your elementary children knowing Shakespeare and mythology, these are fun books to add to your collection.

* You may order all these books from amazon by clicking the links or simply clicking the picture. These are affiliate links. Thank you for supporting my blog!