What I Read in 2018 (Fiction)


My fiction selections were way stronger this year as opposed to last year, which had lots of misses in-between the hits. This year I noted which titles were audio selections. I hope out of this list you will get some new novels to add to your own reading list this year!

Books can earn up to five starts (*****) in my numbering system, five being excellent!

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie**** (audio)
I watched the film first and then decided it was time to finally read this classic crime novel. It was great as audio (read by Dan Stevens, aka “Matthew” from Downton Abbey) and of course the end is so unique handing the reader a real moral dilemma to consider.

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie****
I mean, you can never go wrong with Christie!

Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher****
I attempted reading this book a year ago, but it didn't connect. This year it did. It took a bit to really get engrossed but once I did, I'm so glad I read it. It's the type of writing style I enjoy and the story has a lot of depth. The last few paragraphs made me tear up--in the best of ways!

The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare***** (audio)
I really wish Speare had more novels! I love them all so much. No one really writes with the quality of this period of books. I can't ever quite put my finger on what I love so much about "older" writing. I hadn't read this since I was a girl and really forgot most of the plot, so it was like a totally fresh book. I liked it just as much as I did when I first read it. It held up just as well for me as an adult--maybe even better--than it did when I was a kid.

Calico Captive by Elizabeth George Speare**** (audio)
Sometimes middle grade novels really are the best! Young Miriam must come to terms with her prejudices and think through her preconceived ideas about the cultures she encounters when she is captured by Indians and lives in the wilderness and then is sold as a prisoner to French Catholics.

To the Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey***
I really loved the characters and the style of writing. It's almost a "scrapbook" in style, which adds to the story.  I DID have to slug my way through portions of it. I got a bit stuck, especially in the early parts and almost gave up, it's such a huge book. But the second half I liked better. I also like the "magical realism" the author included, which was inspired by native Alaskan mythology.

In the Woods by Tana French****
My first Tana French. It was a “slow burn” sort of crime story.

Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham***
When I first became familiar with the Tulsa race riot of 1921 (which I only learned about a few years ago) I was shocked and horrified. So I was interested and nervous to read this YA novelized version of it. The book definitely reads YA in tone but the topic is one more people need to remember. The blight of the Tulsa race riot is a horrific memory in our nation's history that is often conveniently "forgotten."

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles***
This was not for me. I forced my way through the entire thing. I appreciated Towles writing ability but I just could not get into it.

The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan***
I found myself in a reading rut at this point. After Rules of Civility this one also wasn’t for me. I wanted to like it but it was just okay. I liked the cover more than the book.

Idaho by Emily Ruskovich****
A brutal but quiet book with great writing and a difficult story. I thought the ending had closure, although the "why" was never answered and I don't think there was an answer to be had anyway. The book is about how a tragedy can change lives and pull people together and apart.

I Found You by Lisa Jewell**** (audio)
A great psychological thriller! A perfect blend of plot, character development, and description in my opinion. I listened on audio and loved all the accents. However, there ARE triggers. There is a sexual assault episode which is not glossed over. It could easily be skimmed past, however, because it pretty much is one main scene. Also, if you don't want to read the F-bomb than this book is not for you, because it is used often. ;)

The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bag by Alan Bradley**** (audio)

A Red Herring Without Mustard by Alan Bradley*** (audio)

I Am Half-Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley**** (audio)

Speaking from Among the Bones by Alan Bradley***** (audio)

As the Chimney Sweep Comes to Dust by Alan Bradley**** (audio)

Thrice the Brindled Cat Hath Mew’d by Alan Bradley**** (audio)

The Grave’s a Fine and Private Place by Alan Bradley**** (audio)
I am not going to review each of these books but will just say that the series is one of my favorites! Flavia de Luce is a character like no one else! Bradley is masterful writer (just look at those titles) who develops his characters with precision, the feel of time and place is masterful, and his plots always become page-turning. I love all the literary references and his ability to write a metaphor is incredible. I’m sad to think that there is only one more novel in the series left!

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson****
At first I thought the book was weird. I mean, I knew the premise, but could I read 529 pages of the same but different life? Then I wondered when the plot would start? Was it all going to just be little vignettes? But then I got into the rhythm and soon I had to find out what was going to happen to the Todd family. This is a thought-provoking book that makes you think about the choices you make, and how they direct your life. What if you stood here vs. there? Meet this person or don't meet them? In the end, I think this book has the making of a classic. I especially enjoyed all the literary references and Ursala's life/lives during the Blitz. It made that awful time more alive to me and emphasized the strangeness of war and everyday life.

A Murder for the Books by Victoria Gilbert***
A fun cozy type of mystery. Think a Hallmark movie in book form, so at times, it verges on cheesy, but a nice summer-type of read.

A Confusion of Languages by Sioban Fallon****
This book was better than I expected it to be, it immediately swept me into the story. The structure was interesting, as was the setting, middle-eastern Jordan.

The Likeness by Tana French*****
I liked this a lot better than In the Woods. Although the plausibility of the premise was one you definitely needed to suspend belief, I didn't mind it. It made for such a cool story. I really enjoyed getting to know Cassie more (she was in book #1 too).

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen***** (audio)
Delightfully read by Rosamund Pike I absolutely loved revisiting Austen’s world again.

The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman****
This one grabbed me from chapter one and never let go. And yes, tears were running down my face by the end.

First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen***
I have enjoyed Allen’s other magical realism titles and I did find this one enjoyable too, but not quite as good.

The Chilbury Ladies Choir by Jennifer Ryan***** (audio)
I ADORED this book. I listened to it on audio and it enhanced the experience dramatically. Since it is a novel written in letters the different voices was a wonderful addition as was the music throughout the recording.
I had attempted listening to it once earlier in the year and couldn't get into it. But several months later I tried again after seeing a favorite bookstagramer talk about how much she loved it. I'm so glad I did because it is probably my favorite book of 2018 tied with the Flavia de Luce series. If you loved The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society I think this might be the book for you.

What was your favorite fictional book of 2018?

What I Read in 2018 (Non-fiction)


It was a good reading year for me! As I look over my list from the past year I see that in terms of non-fiction I read a lot of books with either a spiritual or educational/parenting focus. This was driven by my desire to particularly focus on helping my dyslexic kids in their educational journey. One thing that is missing is biographies and narrative history, which I love but just didn’t get to. Next year I hope to at least get one or two books of that genre into my rotation.

Books can earn up to five starts (*****) in my numbering system, five being excellent!

Different: The Story of an Outside-The-Box Kid and the Mom Who Loved Him by Sally Clarkson and Nathan Clarkson ****
Sally Clarkson’s books are always an encouragement and this one was unique because it was co-written by her son. The story shares what it was like to parent as well as to be a child who had learning differences, anxiety, and clinical OCD. The chapters alternated between Sally (the mother) and Nathan (the son) giving different perspectives to their experience and offering hope who might be walking a similar journey.

Founding Mothers: Women Who Raised Our Nation by Cokie Roberts*** (audio)
This was the only biography/narrative history I listened to in 2018. It was at times a highly editorialized history, with Roberts inserting herself rather frequently. That added to the "chatty" quality that wasn't terrible but sometimes seemed to lack professionally. I did love learning about some women I never had heard of: Mercy Otis Warren and Mary Katherine Goddard for instance. Goddard was the original printer of the Declaration of Independence right here in Baltimore! 

Keep a Quiet Heart by Elisabeth Elliot***
This one didn't speak to me as much as "A Lamp Unto My Feet" or "Be Still My Soul” which I thought were better compilations.

Parenting Is Your Highest Calling: And 8 Other Myths That Trap Us in Worry and Guilt by Leslie Leyland Fields*****
Refreshing and encouraging! This should be the first parenting book anyone reads, by doing so it will lay a great foundation and help them weed out all the parenting books they DON'T need to read.

Know and Tell: The Art of Narration by Karen Glass*****
A MUST-READ for anyone interested in narration. She explains with clarity what it is and is not, how to use it in a classroom, how to use it with kids with learning difficulties, how to move from oral to written narrations from age 6 to high school.

Book Girl: A Journey through the Treasures & Transforming Power of a Reading Life by Sarah Clarkson*****
With chapter titles like "Books Can Stir You to Action" and "Books Can Foster Community" Sarah Clarkson's Book Girl is a joyful manifesto of all the good that books bring to our lives. Almost every chapter has a booklist too, so lots more titles to consider adding to your reading list!

Not by Sight: A Fresh Look at Old Stories of Walking By Faith by Jon Bloom*****
Gritty, earthy, imaginative while staying true to scripture. I read this as a devotional, reading the scripture each chapter was based on. So good!

Mere Motherhood by Cindy Rollins*****
I read this for the second time. Written in a conversational—sometimes sarcastic style—I learned a lot from Cindy’s memoir on homeschooling.

Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Every Life by Tish Harrison Warren****
I enjoyed reading this thought-provoking book (with cool chapter titles) a little bit each morning.

The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp*****
This is my favorite Ann Voskamp book and this is my third time reading it as my Advent devotional. Always speaks to me.

Hallelujah: A Journey through Advent with Handel’s Messiah by Cindy Rollins****
I definitely enjoyed this more than my kids did! We listened our way through Handel’s Messiah for Advent this year. It was very easy to follow along with this book as a guide.

The Dyslexic Advantage: Unlocking the Hidden Potential of the Dyslexic Brain by Brock L. Eide and Fernette F. Eide
A book every parent and educator must read about dyslexia. The first half of the book is dedicated to brain science while the second discusses more practical application in the skill work of reading and writing and how that applies to different ages. Focusing on the STRENGTHS of dyslexia is important too, because there are strengths as well as weaknesses. And the teacher/student/parent knows the weaknesses only too well, so it is equally important to tap into the strengths.

What was YOUR favorite non-fiction book this year?

What I'm Into Right Now (October 2018)


It’s been a CRAZY few weeks here for us! From an emergency gallbladder removal to ultrasounds on lymph nodes, we’ve been making lots of trips to the doctor's office. I’m really hoping it will calm down now that everyone is alright and on the mend. So now that I’ve had a chance to breath I’ve put together what I’ve actually enjoyed from the month of October (and doctor visits definitely wasn’t one of them—although I’m well aware of my thankfulness for them!).

In one of Over at Alicia’s podcast episodes she mentioned that as a family they were watching I Love Lucy episodes on Amazon prime. Well, I decided to give it a try with my clan. At first there was some complaining—as I expected. As soon as they saw it was black and white—THE HORROR—they started saying how they didn’t want to watch it.

“Look, just try one episode. That’s all I ask,” I told them. “It’s really funny. If you watch one episode and hate it, I won’t try to get you to watch anymore.”

We were about ten minutes in and everyone was roaring with laughter! And the main complainer was begging for “just one more” by the time it was over. ;)

It’s really fun to be sharing a show that’s funny but clean enough for the whole family to watch down to Ava. And the episodes are really short too, which is also nice.

I am listening to The Daily Poem podcast by Circe, which is just lovely. It’s a wonderfully simple way to get a little poetry into your life. David Kern’s voice is soothing and I love how he give a little background and context with a few observations without going overboard. He mostly lets the poems speak for themselves. Which also lends itself to being easy to listen to because they are only a few minutes long.

When we’re driving around in the car we are listening to the third Penderwick book The Penderwicks at Point Mouette, which I don’t like quite as much as the last one. And at lunch we just started Caddie Woodlawn, a favorite from my childhood. I’ve not read it since my mom read it to me, so I hope it stands the test of time.

Actually, it was Caddie who gave me faith that there were more great books in the world than I thought. You see, when we finished reading the entire Little House series as a kid, I cried my eyes out. I was sure there would be no more good books. None wonderful and captivating as Little House. I was sure of it. But then, thankfully, I met Caddie. And I realized there WERE more great books out there!

I’m reading The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton. I was so excited to get my hands on it, but I’ve really struggled getting into it. It’s been the hardest of all her novels for me to be captured by. It seems a bit wordy and there are so many characters! I will suspend my final thoughts for when I’ve completed it, however.

I also just started Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Harrison Warren. So far it’s a unique book, with chapters like “Brushing Teeth” and “Eating Leftovers” that have some surprising spiritual insights. I’m reading a few pages every morning and am finding it an encouragement to remember everyday matter.

Now that soccer is over dinner time is a little easier to manage. These Sloppy Joes were a huge hit with all the kids. Which when you have four kids and a few are picky eaters, that’s saying something. We also loved these Roasted Veggie & Sausage Penne Bowls and I’m looking forward to making this Pasta with Smoked Sausage, Cherry Tomatoes + Kale.

What are YOU into right now?

Discovering the Strengths of Dyslexia


I stood in the hallway of our local school and listened while the psychologist explained terms to me like auditory processing, visual processing, and working memory. My head spun as I sought to understand these new phrases and their implications. My eyes filled with tears as I fought to keep my emotions in check and a million questions exploded in my mind. A strange mixture of grief and relief threatened to overwhelm me.

We finally had a word for what described my twin boys’ struggle with reading, writing, and math. Dyslexia.

I am privileged to share that journey today in honor of Dyslexia Awareness Month for the subscribers of the Wild and Free monthly bundles. I’ve come to see dyslexia as not only a weakness but also a strength. Dyslexic learners are often entrepreneurial thinkers, good at recognizing patterns, can expertly manipulate 3D objects in their mind, and think in pictures instead of words. My own boys are excellent visual problem solvers and artistic. As Brock L. Eide writes in this book The Dyslexic Advantage, “Dyslexic brains have their own kinds of strengths and benefits, and these advantages should be recognized and enjoyed. Our goal is to help individuals with dyslexia recognize these many wonderful advantages, so they can enjoy the full range of benefits that can come from having a dyslexic brain.” In this article I share our story as well as some practical resources that have benefitted our family.

Once again my friend Molly Balint of The Farmhouse Creative photographed my boys as they drilled sight words while playing Connect Four, did some phonics play, and practiced their writing.

If you are interested in subscribing to the bundle (which is basically a digital magazine), check out the details here. You can even try one for FREE!

I will be posting daily over on Facebook this week about Dyslexia, so if you are interested in finding out more, follow me there.


Favorite Autumn Quick Breads


After the heat of summer I usually get the itch to start baking again in the autumn. I reach for recipes that are full of autumn flavors: pumpkin, cinnamon, and apple.

Pumpkin Bread

I love this Pumpkin Bread recipe given to me by my friend Briana, especially because the recipe makes TWO loaves. One to eat and another to give away or tuck into the freezer.

3 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons nutmeg
1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
3 cups sugar
1/2 cup oil
2/3 cup water
4 eggs
2 cups pumpkin puree
1 cup pecans or walnuts

Mix altogether and divide into two regular loaf pans. Bake at 325 degrees for 1 1/2 hours, although I usually start checking on it after an hour. It seems to take more like 1 hour and 15 minutes for me. The smell in your house will be divine!

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins

These Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins are SO good. I mean the flavor combination is just amazing! I made them every year, several times a year. Again, this recipe like the one above makes more than just 12 muffins, it makes about 20-24 muffins, so plenty to share or once again pop into the freezer for later. You see a theme here, right? ;)

Check out Edie Wadsworth’s blog right here for the recipe.

Apple Muffins

These apple muffins are delicious and pretty healthy too. I tend to sub out the raisins for dried cranberries instead, though.

1 egg
3/4 cup milk
1 cup raisins
1 chopped apple
1/2 cup oil
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup quick oats
1/3 cup sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoons cinnamon

Beat the egg; stir in remaining ingredients, mixing just to moisten. Pour into 12 greased muffin cups until 3/4 full. Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes. Serve cool or piping hot with butter.

I hope you make some of these delicious breads. What is your favorite thing to bake during the autumn season?

Emerald Isle, NC | 2018


A few weeks ago we spent our fifth vacation in Emerald Isle, North Carolina. The weather ended up being PERFECT! It was actually less humid in North Carolina than it was back at home in Maryland. The sun shown everyday, the breezes were strong, and the waves were delightful.

This year Ava really came into her own at the beach. She screamed with delight with every wave she jumped and loved going out past the waves with Josh where it was calmer--she wasn't scared at all!


We spent everyday out on the beach. Other years we've needed a mid-week break or there's been at least one rainy day, so we've visited the aquarium or something like that. This year it was beach time all the time. We also had movie nights, went to Beaufort for ice cream and to look at the boats, got seafood takeout, and did LOTS of bike riding.


We also did our annual family photoshoot on the beach the last evening we were there. It's so neat to have these picture to put in our Blurb books every year and see how the kids have grown and changed.


There was a sea turtle clutch on the beach and the sea turtle volunteers had roped off the area to protect the site. They were having a "sea turtle party" to watch for the turtles to emerge. The eggs would have already have hatched and the turtles were building up strength to dig out of the sand and make their long trek to ocean. Our last evening there they hadn't yet emmerged but they were hopeful that night would be the one!


Emerald Isle, thanks for another great year!

What I'm Into Right Now (August 2018)


I'm a bit late with my monthly "what I'm into" post because of vacation but here we are, in the midst of September already! I'm so ready for cooler weather, apples picking, cozy sweaters, and pumpkin baked goods of all sorts!

While on vacation we watched Jumanji: Welcome to the Junglewhich was quite fun! Otherwise, we've just been watching Parks and Recreation on Netflix because it's short and funny (and we love Ron Swanson).

I just finished my latest Flavia de Luce novel on audio and the kids and I are listening to The Yearling by Marjorie Rawlings together for our homeschool bookclub. I remember absolutely loving that book when I was younger.

I just finished Sarah Clarkson's delightful and inspiring Book Girl and added some good books on my to-read list for fall. Most of them are older books, as opposed to newer, and I can't wait to dive into some Elizabeth Goudge and Rumer Godden. Over vacation I was looking for a fast-paced thriller and really loved The Likeness by Tana French. The premise was on the unbelievable side, but I could suspend belief because the story was so intriguing.

I’m also reading Not By Sight by Jon Bloom. I’m reading it as a devotional—reading the scripture he notes at the beginning, then reading the short chapter that corresponds each morning. The writing is fresh and vivid, breathing life into familiar stories.

These Smashed Sweet Potatoes were so delicious as were a batch of Pumpkin Spice Granola. I also made a batch of our favorite Quinoa Muffins (I use cranberries) for breakfast/snacks this week. They are tasty with a hint of sweetness and so filling!

What are YOU into right now?

My Favorite Homeschool Books


I must confess I've not read many books on homeschooling, partially because I was homeschooled myself, loved it, and had a great experience, so I never went through a "research" phase to determine if it was something I wanted to do or not. 

But this time of year I am deeply thinking and planning about our upcoming academic year, and I find myself returning to some books again and again, as well as discovering some new favorites.

One book that I read almost annually is Sarah Mackenzie's Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler's Guide to Unshakeable Peace. This is a slim volume that is full of wisdom, encouragement, and practical suggestions. This book introduced me to loop scheduling, using a "time budget," and choosing a literary mentor to guide my reading through the year.


I'm currently really loving the influence of Cindy Rollins. First, I read her book Mere Motherhood: Morning Times, Nursery Rhymes, and My Journey Towards SanctificationIt's really more of a memoir than anything else, but filled with so much goodness that includes what she did right--and wrong--told in a conversational way with a side of sarcasm. I've also become a Patron of her podcast, and am literally sitting down and taking notes of the exclusive content I've received by joining here.

Know and Tell: The Art of Narration by Karen Glass is a book I wish had been written several years ago when I was just starting this homeschool journey. It has cleared up all my questions having children narrate ("tell back") the material that is read to them (or they read) either orally or in written form. Since my boys struggled so much with reading/writing due to dyslexia we have not been consistent in this area, but this book has helped me as I plan for this year. There is even a chapter on narrations and learning challenges, so there is much to consider in this wonderful book. I will also be implementing some of the content from the "narration in the classroom" chapter in my co-op class this year.

What is your favorite homeschooling book? Or, if you don't homeschool, a book that has impacted your educational philosophy or parenting style?

The Power of the Voice


I'm very excited to share that an essay I wrote about my life as a homeschooled student has been featured in Wild + Free's most recent subscriber bundle, Wander. Wild + Free is a beautiful homeschool community. I have benefitted from their conferences, digital bundles, Instagram, and podcast.

I was thrilled to write about one of the most treasured memories from my days as a homeschooled student when my mom read to my siblings and me after lunch. I couldn’t wait to find out what would happen next to my favorite character, while being transported to another time or place by the power of Mom’s voice. These books were dubbed 'family books,' and we continued to read aloud together even long after I was old enough to read on my own. The power of the audible voice captured any wanderings of my mind, making the stories dance off the page and into my imagination.

To illustrate this article, my friend Molly Balint of The Farmhouse Creative photographed our own read-aloud moments. It's so special to have these images, not just for the article, but to treasure and document our days.

I also got to chat with Jennifer Pepito about reading aloud as a family and how to know whether we're doing too much or enough in the podcast portion of the bundle.

If you are interested in subscribing to the bundle (which is basically a digital magazine), check out the details here. You can even try one for FREE!


What I'm Into Right Now (July 2018)


July is almost over (can you believe it!) and since I wasn't able to post in June I have a nice round up of favorite things for you this month.


We've been watching When Calls the Heart for all five seasons as a family because it's a clean show the kids enjoy. Kind of reminds me of Christy or Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, remember those? Season five, however, ended in a very un-Hallmark manner with a shocker that left the kids in tears! What!?! Definitely will be interested in what plays out next season!

I still am enjoying Father Brown on Netflix. It's my laundry-folding show and it's a comfort that the bad guys are always caught and the mysteries are tidily solved each episode.


I've become a Patron of Cindy Rollins' podcast, The Mason Jar and am enjoying the exclusive content from her site. I am literally taking notes, the content is just that good.

Also, I just finished the fourth book in Alan Bradley's charming Flavia de Luce series. I adore them on audio. I don't know anyone else personally who has read them, however Cindy Rollins and Jen Hatmaker are fans. I was really happy to hear Jen rave about them on a recent episode of What Should I Read Next. These books really need more people to discover them!


I've read some good books lately, one of my favorites was this psychological thriller I Found You. Caveats include strong language and an especially icky assault scene, but overall I just couldn't put it down. Can't wait to try more of her books. A Murder for the Books has been a fun cozy type of mystery. Think a Hallmark movie in book form, so at times, it verges on cheesy, but a nice summer-type of read.

Parenting Is Your Highest Calling: And 8 Myths That Trap Us in Worry and Guilt was one of the best parenting books I've ever read. Seriously, there's not many more books you need to read besides this one. It was my first introduction to Leslie Leyland Fields, but I definitely plan to read more of her work!

I picked two books this summer to be my "professional development" to help me become a better homeschool parent to my kids. The first title, The Dyslexic Advantage: Unlocking the Hidden Potential of the Dyslexic Brain has been hugely helpful and encouraging as I look to more year helping the boys thrive not only in spite of, but because of, their dyslexia. The other is Know and Tell: The Art of Narration by Karen Glass which I'm busy highlighting. It will be helpful in not only our narrations at home, but as I teach a Writing and Rhetoric class at our local co-op.


I made these Stuffed Sweet Peppers (by one of my favorite Instagrammers) for a party and man, were they delish! Also easy, which is always a plus. The other night we also tried these Korean BBQ Burritos which were quite tasty and had a unique blend of flavors.

What are YOU into right now?