sunday book review: the silent wife

I read The Silent Wife by A.S.A. Harrison over the weekend. I read several articles that compared it to Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn–some said it was even better than Gone Girl. I was intrigued.


This book is about the troubled marriage between Jodi and Todd. Each chapter alternates telling their perspectives of life together–a “his and her” kind of thing. The book doesn’t have a remarkable plot, but the way it is told is chilling. I personally enjoyed reading Gone Girl more, but it was still a good read and a psychologically-thrilling experience. And I stayed up way too late finishing it.

Good night.

13 books to fall for

I’ve never been one to take Halloween too seriously. When I was 16, I dressed up as a monk for my church’s fall festival and told everyone “Happy Reformation Day!”

However, one of my very best friends is the Queen of Halloween. She’s a bona fide, pinterest-recipe maker, decorative Fall-banner-sewing, Halloween movie connoisseur.

She was my roommate my last year of college. When you’d enter our apartment on October 1, you’d enter a world of lighted owl figurines, glittery orange pumpkins, scary cobwebs in the ceiling, and a delicious fall scented candle burning.

Under her watch, I baked sugar cookies to look like pieces of candy corn, dressed up like Charlie Brown for the annual Famous Maroon Band Halloween Rehearsal, and indulged in candy corn frappes from StrangeBrew Coffee House while watching Hocus Pocus for the 10,000th time. (Let’s be honest, can you watch that movie too many times? I don’t think it’s possible.)

She even convinced me to watch Halloween with her in the dark one time.

Although I will never be up to her Halloween standard (though I did make a fall centerpiece for my dining room table this year), fall is, and has always been, my favorite time of year.

I love the cooler weather, leaves changing colors, and getting to wear a sweater. I love sweaters. Cardigans. Hoodies. Sweatshirts. Yes.

I love crock pots of chili cooking all day, baking scones, watching football, and feeling cozy under a blanket.

And I may be the only white American 20-something female who doesn’t like Pumpkin Spice Lattes (I like pumpkin and I like coffee, but the two flavors are way too strong together), but I always enjoy drinking coffee more when it’s cold outside.

My birthday is always around Thanksgiving, so usually my birthday cake consists of an entire Thanksgiving feast.

And all you fall-haters out there, did you forget you get an extra hour of sleep soon? Come on, people.

So what could you add to Fall to make it even better?


Here’s a list of 13 books for you to read during the Halloween/Thanksgiving season.

13. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
If you haven’t read Harry Potter yet (watching the movies don’t count), Fall is the perfect time to start. You’ll be finishing the series around Christmastime, which is already the most magical time of year. You can buy the paperbacks at a really inexpensive price, or dust off your library card and get to work. You won’t regret it; the hype is real.

12. Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
If you’ve been keeping up with my blog, you know I’m shamelessly addicted to Gillian Flynn’s novels. Be warned: Dark Places is scary. And disturbing. And CRAZY GOOD. Dark Places lives up to its title, and it’s an excellent story to get sucked in during Halloween.

11. Night Film by Marisha Pessl
I wrote a review on this book in an earlier post. It’s about a horror-film maker and the mystery surrounding his family and his daughter’s death, and you’ll be up all night trying to finish it.

10. Carrie by Stephen King
If you’re excited to see the new remake of Carrie, I encourage you to read the book first. I read Carrie for the first time when I was in high school, and later fell captive to Stephen King’s books. Read the book and be creeped out before the movie.

9. Nancy Drew and The Password to Larkspur Lane by Carolyn Keene
Reading Nancy Drew as a child was a life-changing event for me. Why? Because Nancy Drew made me love books. These books were the first “real” books I ever read. I felt like I achieved a huge accomplishment when I finished them, and for a first/second grader, it was a huge accomplishment. Nancy Drew laid the foundation for my love of a good mystery. The Password to Larkspur Lane is my favorite, if I absolutely had to just pick one favorite. You can read it in a day.

8. Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult
This is about a hidden pregnancy and murder among an Amish farm community. It’s like reading a novel-length episode of “Law and Order: SVU.”

7. The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown
I read this book in high school so I would understand all the brouhaha surrounding this book and Christianity. The book is fiction, as indicated on the cover. The conspiracy theories in the book are just that–conspiracy theories. As a Christian, I read this book and was not offended or upset…in fact, I loved it, and I’ve probably read it twice since. It’s a murder-mystery treasure hunt intertwined with history, religion, conspiracy theories, and a tiny shred of romance.

6. Divergent by Veronica Roth
Again, this would be a great book series to start during the fall (and in time for the spring movie). The third installment comes out next week, so get busy!

5. The Green Mile by Stephen King
This book is probably my favorite Stephen King novel. It’s one of the few books out there that made a movie adaptation equally as good. Even if you have seen the movie, I encourage you to experience this story the way it was intended.

4. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
My husband got me to read this book a few weeks ago, and I could kick myself for waiting this long to read it. If I were a teacher, this book would be required summer reading. It’s packed with literary elements and social commentary.

3. Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
This is my favorite of Flynn’s novels, and probably in my top 5 favorite books of all time. This is a story about a journalist recovering from her addiction to cutting herself, investigating murders in her hometown, and facing her troubled past. I stayed up until four in the morning trying to process this book after I finished it.

2. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
This book is brilliant. It’s fun, light-hearted, witty, and adventurous. I can’t say too much about it because I’m waiting on my husband to read it and I don’t want to spoil anything. I will say this: it’s like National Treasure meets The Social Network. Only better.

1. Goosebumps: The Haunted Mask by R. L. Stine
Does anyone else remember how CRAZY MESSED UP this story was? Especially for an 11-year-old! I remember vividly picking up this book at the library and finishing it so fast it made my head spin. This, like Nancy Drew, was foundational for me: it scared me, and I liked it. I like reading books that made my heart pound. So this fall, pick up a Goosebumps book for old time’s sake and re-live your fourth grade nightmares.

Happy reading, and Happy Fall, y’all.


sunday book club: two books to make up for tardy posts

I realize this is my Sunday book review on a Tuesday, again, but I have a good reason this time.

My husband and I flew to my hometown of Somerville, Tennessee (metro Memphis area) for the weekend to hang out with my family and visit my alma mater for a football game down in Starkville. It was a lovely weekend and I really enjoyed getting to see my parents, my sister, my friends, and let’s be honest…the most important thing: my dog. Just kidding. Kind of. 

With all this traveling around, I got to finish Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl and also read Dare Me by Meagan Abbott. 

Of all the books I’ve read in the past few months, Special Topics in Calamity Physics is at the bottom of my list of favorites. I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy it–I did, and I think Pessl is a talented writer. I just had such a hard time getting used to how the story was told. It was so wordy and complicated. But if you enjoy complicated, you’ll like it. I liked it. I really did. It just didn’t blow me away like some of the other books I read. 

I picked up Dare Me for two reasons: 

1. I read an article about a list of books suggested by Gillian Flynn, and this was mentioned. I’m having severe Gillian Flynn withdrawals. Flynn’s quote about the book was on the front cover, and she described it as “Lord of the Flies set in a high school cheerleading squad.” Uh, heck yes. 

2. Said article described it as the “Pretty Little Liars” of the book world. And since I (now) shamelessly watch “Pretty Little Liars,” of course I had to get this book. 

Dare Me was crazy. I like crazy, so I definitely enjoyed this read. It sort had a “Great Gatsby” feel to it–the book is told from the perspective of a girl who isn’t directly involved in the major conflicts. Very Nick Carraway. 

The story is exactly what Gillian Flynn said it would be: Lord of the Flies in a high school cheerleading squad. It affirms my belief that there is nothing more mean, crazy, or dangerous than a teenage girl. 


find joy here

One dreary, rainy morning, I was driving down the infamous Peachtree Street in downtown Atlanta. (Not to be confused with Peachtree Road, West Peachtree, or the other 500,000 variations in the metro area.) It’s easy to lose yourself in the sea of cars and seemingly endless windows reflecting in towering skyscrapers. I always notice the old brick churches housed between the illustrious skyscraper landscape–they can’t help but stand out. There’s one particular beautiful church I notice every time I drive down Peachtree. On that rainy morning, I saw the sign in front of the building said “Find Joy Here.” As soon as I read those words, I noticed two homeless people sleeping outside on the front steps, all of their possessions being soaked in the rain.

This image was a kick in the chest. For one thing, it was real. It wasn’t some photoshopped image used for ignorant Facebook propaganda. I was hurting for the two people trying to find rest and a place they should be able to find rest. I don’t know if the church has a homeless ministry; I don’t know if the doors were locked; all I know is what I saw. And it hurt to see.

There are a lot of people suffering in Atlanta. I don’t know their stories, I don’t know if they’re addicted to drugs or just down on their luck, but I hurt for them. Earlier this summer, I saw a guy in a truck go out of his way to drive on a patch of water on the side of the road to drench a homeless man. I was literally speechless.

Ask yourself this: How do you react when you see homeless people asking for food? What goes through your head when you see someone using food stamps?

Do you feel angry that someone would have the nerve to ask you for money and not just go get a job?

Are you disgusted that your hard-earned money is being taxed to assist people who, perhaps, don’t deserve it?

People are suffering everywhere. Right in your hometown, people are struggling to make ends meet. Barely making enough money for food. There are people actively seeking jobs and simply can’t find employment. There are people who work hard every day, but can’t afford proper healthcare. And these people aren’t in some distant hypothetical place, they’re in your own backyard.

I think a lot of today’s Christians are severely lacking compassion. I think our desire to be “right,” our selfish human greed, and the manipulation of how information is presented clouds our judgement and dries up our compassion.

I’ve personally encountered people who live in crummy apartments, can’t afford a car so they rely on MARTA or walk, are on Medicaid or have no health insurance at all, and live paycheck to paycheck they receive from the jobs they work hard to have. I know it’s hard to imagine, but there are people in this country who can’t work. They can’t find employment. They have disabilities. The list goes on.

Since I google things like “how to pass car emission test” and “how many movies has Kevin Spacey been in”, I figured I’d try out googling “what does it mean to be a Christian?” I’d like to share two of the top responses:

“Being a Christian means that you are changed on the inside, not controlled from the outside.  It means that your heart has been changed by the presence of God.”

“Christians are people who follow the teachings of Jesus.”

I also found ten adjectives to describe Jesus, in no particular order (and there are many more adjectives out there to describe Him).

1. Compassionate
2. Merciful
3. Good
4. Caring
5. Submissive
6. Honest
7. Patient
8. Loving
9. Humble
10. Sacrificial

After a little more digging, I came across a rather interesting blog post addressing the 7 marks of a stereotypical American Christian. Let’s take a look:

1. You love to fight, argue and attack.

“…There’s nothing quite like flooding people’s Facebook feeds with posts about the sins of gay marriage, abortion, and the Democratic Party or the volleyed claims of bigotry, hypocrisy, and self-interest. American Christians seemingly love to argue with people and engage themselves in various culture wars. Whether it’s about the existence of global warming, prayer in schools, evolution, gun control, or homosexuality, you love to let people know that you’re RIGHT and they’re WRONG. Oh yeah, and if you don’t agree with me —You’re going to hell! Literally….”

2. You Practice Christianity Through Groups And Institutions

“Without structured, regulated, and organized religious affiliations, your faith would be radically different.”

3. Your Theology is Burrowed

4. Your Online Faith Doesn’t Reflect Reality

“You post Bible verses on Twitter, claim ‘Christianity’ as your religion on Facebook, and proudly put inspiring quotes about God and faith on your Tumblr account. But in reality you never pray, read the Bible, or practically live out your beliefs. If only your faith was as strong as it appeared on Social Media.”

5. You Love Labels

“When you meet a fellow Christian, you immediately classify them. Are they a Liberal, Conservative, Calvinist, Open Theist, Pacifist, Methodist, Egalitarian, Complementarian, Premillennial, Postmillennial, Lutheran, Charismatic, Catholic, Dispensationalist, Literalist, Universalist, or Annihilationist?”

6. You Crave Efficiency Over Spirituality

7. You Need Entertainment

These seven stereotypes are the expressed views of the author, and don’t necessarily reflect my personal opinion–but he’s got a point. And like I said earlier…stereotypes exist for reason.

So how can we, as Christians, find a way to make sure our stereotypes match the adjectives of Christ?

Here’s five points of my rough draft:

1. Stop judging others. I long for membership in a church body that would welcome anyone with open arms and genuine love. I want to see a drag queen walk in the doors and be greeted with a cup of coffee and intentional conversation. We have GOT to stop thinking we have everything figured out and that we understand the lifestyles of people we clearly do not. We can’t preach hour-long sermons about how gay people are an abomination to the world (I’ve been through one, it was awful). Sermons like that aren’t constructive or correcting; they’re destructive and condemning. You know what? They’re no more of an abomination to the world than we good ol’ Southern Baptists are. The sooner we realize that, the sooner we can begin to actually show people what Jesus was like. There’s a distinct difference between compromising your own convictions and following Jesus’s command to love and serve everyone–not just the people who believe the same way as you. Don’t use the first as an excuse for the latter.

To quote Pope Francis: “Who am I to judge?”

2. Get your hands dirty. We need to get outside our comfort zone. Talk to people who are nothing at all like you. Get to know the people who are so easy to judge. Get to a place where you don’t feel uncomfortable investing in people who believe differently than you.

3. Have compassion for the people you can’t stand. Do you get angry when you see homeless people? Take them to dinner. Hate the President? Pray specifically and lovingly for him every single day.

4. Stop relying on other people to meet the needs of others. If you sit in church on Sunday and talk, as a congregation, about how “we need to reach the people around us” and do nothing, STOP IT! Don’t talk about doing something. Do something.

Mom and Dad, don’t freak out about this next part.

I, like any other sinner, am of course guilty of things I write passionately against. I’m an imperfect human being. But I’m trying.

Who doesn’t enjoy their comfort zone? Does anyone actually enjoy being uncomfortable?

A few weeks ago, my husband and I broke out of our comfort zone tremendously. After church one Wednesday night, Christopher and I were leaving a restaurant when a woman flagged us down in the parking lot. We stopped to talk to her. In tears, she begged us for a ride home.

My mind, of course, went directly into “Law and Order: SVU” mode. The entire ride, I was praying that we wouldn’t be assaulted by a group of gang members or have our car stolen or be stabbed.

I was thinking about me.

Meantime, the woman named Lisa was weeping in the backseat and repeating over and over, “I just want to go home.”

I’m not encouraging all Christians to drop their common sense. Use the brain God gave you. If something seems dangerous, don’t do it.

Lisa wasn’t dangerous at all. She was hurting and lost. She just wanted to go home.

I did get her phone number and have tried to check on her, but I can’t help but think about the opportunity I missed to pray for her, with her.

Don’t be like I was. Get out of your comfort zone.

5. Be a source of joy. Forgive easily. Love tremendously. Err on the side of grace.