In 2005, Allison starting blogging to track the ups and downs of living life as an artist.
Today, she blogs to share our Infinitely More adventures in music and ministry! 
Read, comment, share! 

Book Review: Being Lena Levi by Bobbie Ann Cole 

One of the perks of being an artist is enjoying the art of your talented friends. 
Today's review falls into that category!

I first met Bobbie Anne Cole when she attended our Infinitely More concert in Pennfield, NB. At that time, she gave me her inspiring first book, She Does Not Fear The Snow. Since then, Bobbie has moved to England and continues to write and teach.

When I saw she had written a new novel, I jumped at the chance to review it. If you saw my reading list from 2018, you'll know that WWII became an unexpected theme in my choices of fiction. Well, it seems to be a theme I can't escape! (Or maybe, a theme I keep pursuing? I'll let the psychology students hash that one out...)

Being Lena Levi starts five years after WWII. Young Marlene returns home from school one day to find her mother acting uncomfortably and a strange woman in their living room. When Marlene asks about the stranger, her mother tells her, "She's your mother."

Marlene, born Lena, discovers she's not a born-and-bred English schoolgirl. Instead, she's German Jew, who had been sent to England on a Kindertransport to escape the horrors of Hitler and the Holocaust. Her birth mother, her "Mutti," has finally returned to bring her home.

What ensues is a romp through England and Israel as Lena takes on the challenge of discovering her true identity. Who is her "real" mother? How can she reconcile her Christian faith with her Jewish heritage? And what is the real country that shapes us?

Lena, Mum and Mutti are all strong and wonderful characters. 
Through each, we see different versions of passion, family, and independence, 
all reflecting their unique upbringing and life circumstances. 

One of the reasons I love historical fiction is the opportunity to learn about little known chapters of human history. With all my WWII reading, I'd never heard of the Kindertransport and its legacy on the lives of German and English families. To save their children, German parents put their children on trains and sent them off to England, with the hopes that they'd be safe through the war. The initial separations caused tremendous pain to German families. Over the years, many children, especially young ones, made deep bonds with their English foster parents. Reunions were often complicated, especially as German parents struggled with the physical, emotional, and financial toll of the war and the Holocaust. Many parents never returned, leaving a lifetime of unanswered questions for their children. Bobbie uses detailed research to share a fascinating piece of history with heart and passion.

Being Lena Levi is categorized as "young adult" or "adult fiction" and I think it works for both age groups. The fast pace makes it a quick and engaging read for adults. I think teenagers, in particular, will identify with Lena and her fierce independence in the face of a such a life-changing discovery.

I encourage you to pick up your copy of Being Lena Levi 
and discover this charming heroine and her fascinating journey!

You can learn more about Bobbie and her beautiful writing at 

Book Review: Whose Waves These Are, by Amanda Dykes 

Lghthouses, lobsters, poetry, and just the right bit of romance...

Whose Waves These Are 
is the perfect summer read!

Amanda Dykes takes us to the fictional Maine town of Ansel-by-the-Sea - a sleepy cove where everyone knows everyone, and community ties run deep.

After losing his brother in the horrors of WWII, Bob, a great fisherman but an unlikely poet, writes an inspired verse. Its clarion call: send me a rock for the person you lost, and let's create a tribute to their lives. Only meant for his grieving community, the poem takes on a life of its own, and his world begins to change.

By the time his great-niece, Annie, discovers the odd treasure trove of stones, a lifetime of hurt and secrets have passed. One fateful summer, the waves bring new stories, and all is revealed in this epic tale of love, loss, family, and redemption.

So many things I enjoyed about this book:

- I love the ocean, and if I can't be there myself, reading a tale inspired by the waves is the next best thing! The only way to make it better would be to actually read it by the sea. 

- I'm always excited by fractured narrative, multiple time periods, and historical fiction. Amanda handles all these techniques beautifully to tell a story that's engaging and emotionally satisfying.

- Technically, this falls under the category of "Christian fiction". If I'm being completely honest, that phrase can scare me. I'm wary of books that will get too preachy, or will start to feel too agenda based. The people of Ansel-by-the-Sea remind me of Christians I know. Just normal people, who happen to believe in a loving God. They have doubts and imperfections, but they're on the path of love. Faith is simply woven into the story and characters in the same way that's it's woven into most of our lives: a prayer or quote when needed, a doubt or question in the tough times, and a reminder of the Creator when amazed by His creation.

Oh, and one more fun thing: if you visit Amanda's site, she's created the quiz, 
"Which Ansel-by-the-Sea Locale Are You?" 
You know, if you just need to dig in a little deeper!

If you're looking for a great summer read, I highly recommend Whose Waves These Are
Grab a spot by the ocean, and enjoy...

I received this book to review from the Nuts About Books Blogger Program and Graf-Martin Communications Inc.  I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Book Review: Loving My Actual Neighbor, By Alexandra Kuykendall 

When I read this title on the list of books for possible review, I knew I had to grab it:

Loving My Actual Neighbor 
By Alexandra Kuykendall

In a world where most of our "friends" are represented heavily curated profile pictures, could there be any more timely book for us to read?

Don't get me wrong. I love social media. I'm sort of active on Twitter, and completely active on Facebook. I'm thankful that I can keep in touch with friends from across the country with a simple login.

But when we moved to St. Catharines, things started to change. We bought a house. We had no plans to move in the next year. Suddenly, my neighbourhood became a much more important place. Who lived near me? What does my community value? How can I be part of the larger picture of caring for my neighbours?

Alexandra Kuykendall presents a thoughtful, practical, and generous approach to changing your relationship with those around you. This isn't about your friends and family. As the Sesame Street song taught us all: "these are the people in your neighbourhood." The people who live near you, the colleagues at work, the staff at your local store, and the members of your community group.  Inspired by the first chapter of 2 Peter, Alexandra creates a 7-step system for getting to know and love your neighbours.

Each chapter combines relatable stories with easy practical advice. What are the simple things we can do? After these become second nature, what are the bigger things we can do to get into deeper relationship with those around us?

Steps are reinforced with "Questions for Reflection," 
"Practicing the Practice" list of tips, and "Scripture to Digest." 

Alexandra also has a beautiful and inspiring concept called "Saturday Living." It's that tension we feel when we strive to live an earthly life with a spiritual focus. The name references the first Holy Saturday, that day when the cross was reality, but Sunday was coming. Grief on one side, freedom on the other. Finding ways to love those who are different than us, to communicate with those who speak a different language or have an opposing worldview, or remaining humble when making bold steps. Saturday Living is how we take the theory of love and live it out in a practical way.

As people of faith, we are particularly called to love our neighbour. When Jesus was asked about the greatest commandment, he very boldly stated "Love your neighbour" right after "Love God." Not only are we called to do it, but we're designed to do it. We love because we are loved.

Wouldn't it be awesome if Christians and the Church were known 
by our generous, creative, limitless love for all humanity? 

This is our call to live out that love.

Buy this book! Read it. Share it with your neighbours. 

Let's change our communities, one step at a time...

I received this book to review from the Nuts About Books Blogger Program and Graf-Martin Communications Inc.  I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

When Was Your Last Day Off? 

Today, I found myself looking at painted furniture online.

Now, this isn't unusual for me. I'm happy to spend hours looking at before-and-after shots, learning new skills, and dreaming of my own projects.

As any crafter will tell you, the dreaming is almost as good as the doing!

But this wasn't normal looking. I was looking a lot. Like, a lot! I kind of couldn't stop. 
And then I realized it. I wasn't just looking at furniture...

I was procrastinating.


I've got lots of faults, but I'll admit: I'm not a procrastinator. 
For me, one of the keys of being successfully self-employed is self discipline. 
I'm good at making my list, sitting down, and doing the work.

But not today. 

Today, I dreamily drifted over photos of chalk paint and thrift store finds while my To Do List sat abandoned.

I was a little taken aback when I realized what I was doing. Why was I procrastinating? There's nothing too intimidating or burdensome on my list right now. Everything's pretty straightforward. We did a concert last night, but I got a good night's sleep. I should be good. Wait, we've been on the road for a while now...

When was my last day off?

So, I pulled out my calendar and started scrolling back. Back through the ten days in New Brunswick, back through East Coast Music Week, back through the final days of tour prep, back through our busy Easter season, and then I found it.

My last day off was SIX WEEKS AGO!!!

And if I'm really honest, my day off six weeks ago was technically a sick day, so not a proper day off at all...

Many years ago, when we were working on staff at a church, I started insisting on taking Mondays off. I realized that, if we didn't claim a day, everyone else would claim our time for us. Now, in freelance ministry, we continue to recognize the need for time off, so Monday is our day. I'm pretty strict about it. I keep it free of appointments, set up a vacation reply so I don't check email, and hide my phone.
Monday is our day...

Until it isn't.

I could tell you all the reasons why my busyness has been justified over the last few months - full performance schedule, tour planning, grant writing, and just to complicate things, a puppy in need of medical treatment and surgery.

But the fact is, I needed to take time for myself, and I didn't do it.

So, now I find myself on the road, which is always the busiest time of our year. On any given day, we're either rehearsing, planning, booking, performing, interviewing, driving, or some combination of these. For these two months, we'll drive across six provinces, sleep in about 50 different beds, and interact with thousands of people.

Don't get me wrong: it's amazing and we love it and we wouldn't give it up for anything! I love working hard, and I love what I do. My lifelong dream was to be a touring artist, and here we are, making that dream come true.

But the artist life is intense. Touring is especially intense. We need to be open and present at all times, and that takes energy and focus.

So today, I found myself feeling a little worn, and needing to look at furniture.

As soon as I realized what was happening, I took a deep breath. In the past, I might have reprimanded myself for procrastinating.

Today, I chose gentleness. I reminded myself of how often Jesus took time to rest. He also lived life on the road, traveling and sharing the Gospel. His work was much more intense and important than mine.

If Jesus could take time to rest, 
surely the world can turn without me for a day.

(And if you caught the Jesus Christ Superstar reference in there, you are truly my people!)

This weekend, most of Canada will take a break as we celebrate Victoria Day. We're leading worship, and we can't wait to share Sunday morning with the wonderful people of Shediac Cape.

But Tuesday, we're taking a day off.

A full, proper day off.

On Tuesday, we'll be in beautiful Lunenburg. I'm going to sleep late, walk by the water, eat seafood, and visit gift shops. Or curl up in a cafe and read a book. Or maybe tour a museum. Or maybe, just do nothing.

We'll wait and see what the day holds...

That's the beauty, and necessity, of a day off.

"You Should Be Dead" - 10 Years Later... 

10 years ago today, this happened:

You can see the original post HERE.

We had been leading worship in a little church in Kingston Springs, just west of Nashville. It had been a great morning. We were having that typical Sunday drive home from church, talking about the sermon, and deciding where to go for lunch.

A tractor trailer changed lanes and smashed into our little Toyota Corolla.

He hit us so hard we crashed into the right-side guard rail and spun out in front of his truck, where he began to push us down the highway at 70 miles an hour.

We took another hit and spun around to the left side of his truck where we were trapped between his wheels and the guardrail, being dragged backwards down the highway.

We spun again, this time with the hood of our car spinning under the bed of his truck, and his wheels coming up on the hood of our car.

At that point, the guardrail ended, so instead of crushing us, his wheels pushed us off the road where we flipped, rolled, and landed upside down on the side of the highway.

And we walked out of the car.

With a little help...

There had been a light rain, and the final landing was oddly soft, like the slow-down at the end of a roller coaster ride. We had landed just inches from a stone outcropping which, had the car shifted just a bit in that final spin, would have given us a different ending.

The first person to approach our car was a vacationing paramedic from New Orleans. He talked us out of our seat belts and helped us open a door so we could walk back to the road.

Did we mention our guitar was in the backseat? 
The same guitar Gerald plays in every concert today. 

The car was crushed beyond recognition. Even the veteran tow truck driver had to ask the make and model of our super common Corolla. But somehow, Gerald and I (and the guitar) walked out.

That day, we heard the same words over and over:

"You should be dead."

The paramedics, state trooper, tow truck driver, witnesses. 
Over and over:

"You should be dead."

Those words will play on your heart and your mind.

The months and years that followed were filled with all kinds of struggles - physical, emotional, financial, and spiritual.

We sued the second largest trucking company in the United States. After years of depositions and negotiations, we finally settled for a pitiful amount, sparking a new family debate. Which was worse - the accident or the lawsuit?

And now, it's 10 years later.

10 years today, we stood on the side of the road, shocked and amazed that we were simply alive, with no idea what was coming next.

In those first few years, pain and healing were prominent themes in our lives and in our marriage.

The accident is a before and after moment, shaping us in countless ways.

As we started our journey of healing, we lost all tolerance for petty annoyances. "Life is short." "Don't sweat the small stuff." "Be thankful you're alive." All those cliches became powerfully true.

Family, faith, and purpose became even more important, and we discovered a sharper focus for our art and calling.

As fairly newlyweds (we had only been married three years at the time), we learned to trust in a new way, leaning into our marriage and each other through some truly difficult times.

But as the years went on, the accident took on a different place in our lives.

It's become a source of strength. We conquered a beast of a struggle, and came out stronger and healthier than before. When we doubt ourselves, we remember that journey.

It's a reminder of priorities. I wish I could say that I'm still immune to petty annoyances. Truth be told, I give them far too much attention some days. But when I think back to that fateful day, priorities line up pretty quickly.

It's a source of shared pain and healing. For ourselves and our family, but also for others. We've shared our story in our concerts. We've also spent hours post-concert, holding someone's hand as they share their accident story. Some of these stories have been victories, but many have been tragic. But somehow, sharing them allows each of us to feel seen and loved, and it adds to the healing.

It's become an inspiration for gratitude. When we think back to that day, we're reminded that it could have ended very differently. We will never complain about getting older, because we know that, in a different version of the story, we might not be here to celebrate that next birthday. We are thankful for our whole bodies and our emotional healing. We're overwhelmingly grateful for our amazing family and friends, who fed us, cared for us, prayed for us, and surrounded us with patient and generous love.

I'd be remiss if I didn't name our parents, Helen and Hollis, Sandy and Gerry, and our amazing friends, Tara and Kyle. Words can't express our love and gratitude for how you brought us through that season.

And we are eternally thankful to God. Not only did He see fit to bring us through such an ordeal, but what a plan He had in store for us!

And as Gerald alway says, "It's not lost on us that the God who saved us on the highway is the same God who called us into a nationally touring music ministry!"

So today, I'm going to take a deep breath, and give thanks.

For the struggle, 
the healing, 
the journey, 
the lessons, 
the love 
and the Spirit.

"Praise God, from whom all blessings flow..."

Book Review: We Hope For Better Things, by Erin Bartels 

Every once and a while you pick up a book to review, and you forget that your job is to review it.

That's this book for me.

Elizabeth Balsam is a fast moving reporter on the verge of her biggest story. She gets annoyed when a stranger asks her to deliver a box of old photographs to a distant aunt. But that one task starts to unravel a family story interwoven with race relations, local history, and the power of secrets and truth.

Quite simply: I loved everything about this book.

Erin Bartels is a great writer, creating scenes and characters that are captivating and compelling. Set in Detroit, we experience Elizabeth and two other women of her family in three distinct generations: present day, the 1967 Detroit Riots, and the American Civil War. Each story line is told in revolving chapters, with dialogue and details to create an immersive environment.

Through these three interwoven stories of Elizabeth, Nora, and Mary, we see one family's struggle with racism. Where are our prejudices born, and can they ever be shut down? How do love, hatred, secrets and truth weave themselves into a family history? How can we learn from the past if we never share our stories?

Once I locked into this book, I couldn't put it down. More than once, I was up late, using my iPhone light to brighten my page and not wake my husband. We Hope For Better Things wrestles with vast and complicated ideas but in the context of intimate family relationships. We journey with three women who choose love and family, even when challenged with heartbreak and prejudice. The way the story is revealed kept me turning the pages and riding the emotional roller coaster of this amazing family.

Prejudices of any kind are always based on hating a group, but time and time again we see how hatred can break down when we get to know people as individuals.

Jesus asked us to "love our neighbour." Doesn't loving our neighbour start with getting to know our neighbour? Not as part of a group, with all our biases and assumptions attached, but just as a person, created in the loving image of God? 

I recommend this book as a compelling novel, but more than that, I encourage it as a spark for conversation.

Let it challenge your heart. Learn your own history. 
Tell your own stories. We can always do better. 
We must always hope for better things...

I received this book to review from the Nuts About Books Blogger Program and Graf-Martin Communications Inc.  I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Why You Can't See My 10-Year Challenge... 

By now, we're all familiar with the infamous 10-Year Challenge:

"Let's see how much you've aged! 
Post a photo of yourself from 10 years ago and one from today."

Some are funny - people posting their crazy teenage hairstyles, or folks substituting their face for a celebrity doppelgänger.

A few are inspiring - men and women celebrating a substantial weight loss or surviving a challenging illness.

Some groups are using the challenge to show the lack of change in important areas of our world, such as race relations, gender representation, or the environment.

But for the most part, it's people either complaining about their own aging or, even worse, people sharing highly photoshopped versions of their current faces.

Ugh, do we really need to create more opportunities to competitively obsess on appearance?

As I looked at these posts, I couldn't help but think back to where I was 10 years ago - living in Nashville with my still-relatively-new husband, making music, and about to go through some of the most vibrant years of my life.

I thought about what picture I could find to capture who I was then, 
and how I could even encapsulate who I am now.  

And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it couldn't be done.

Because, you see, you can't see my 10-Year Challenge.

There's no way a photo can show you how much I've changed in 10 years.

You can't see how Gerald and I were almost killed by an 18-wheeler, ten years ago this May, and the pain, grace, courage, and healing I experienced in the years that followed.

You can't see every time I've chosen faith over frustration, and how that choice has shaped my heart and my patience.

You can't see the way both my literal and my creative voices have become stronger, more authentic, and more expressive.

You can't see how I'm surrounded by friends and family who really know and love me, and how their love makes me a better person.

You can't see the thousands of kilometres I've driven on our Infinitely More tours, and how I've fallen so deeply in love with this country, our churches, and the diverse people of faith who fill the pews.

You can't see the time I was hurt by people I loved, and the immense struggle it took to forgive friends who never asked for my forgiveness.

You can't see the times I've had to stretch my skills outside my comfort zone, and the way that's made me a better manager and administrator.

You can't see the hundreds of times I've tried and failed and tried and failed, and yet somehow become even more eager to try and fail again.

You can't see the way I've grown into my marriage, working through the challenges, dancing through the good stuff, revelling in the blessings, and loving my husband more and more each year.

I've changed a lot in 10 years. You might not see it. But I can. 

And for me, I'm more beautiful and more interesting than ever.

Covered in battle scars you can't see. 
Filled with more love and gratitude than I could ever express.

And most of us are probably the same. 

The world may see your wrinkles, weight gain, or the way bodies just change over time.
But I hope you see your true strength and beauty.

Forget the photos. 
Look at You.

You've lived. You've survived. You've risked. You've grown.

You. Are. Awesome!

So, forget the 10-Year Challenge. 

Instead, I hope you have 10-Year Celebration of all the wonder of you.

You've earned it.

I Have Laryngitis ... and I'm Thankful! 


What singer wants to hear their doctor say this word?

I was tired yesterday, and after our busy December, that just made sense. But this morning, when I woke up with that telltale grip on my throat, I knew something was wrong. Gerald called our doctor. He saw me right away, and sent me home with the diagnosis.


Ugh. Not from overuse or mistreatment of the vocal chords. This is a straight up proper infection. Germs on parade. Symptoms include sore throat, loss of voice, and, if you're a singer, potential crankiness (or at least, that's what Gerald diagnosed...)

I need to sing by the weekend, so I went to bed this afternoon with tea, honey,
 and my own personal pity party.

I was listing my various and well-earned complaints, when
I started to feel a little tug on my heart ...

I remembered a friend of mine, about my age, who just today shared news about his ever-worsening cancer diagnosis.

And my thoughts went to my friends in Nashville, who just last night, lost a sister and cousin who was far too young.

"Well," I thought, "Maybe my complaints are starting to sound a bit selfish..."

Don't get me wrong, vocal problems are terrifying for singers. They can get us into all kinds of fits and worries. (And right about now, I'll take all the prayers I can get for a swift and complete healing!)

But as things fell into perspective, 
a whole new wave of gratitude started to wash over me:

Yes, I have laryngitis, but I also have the self-employment power of flexibility that will give me time to rest.

I have a loving husband to care for me, puppies to cuddle, and money to buy medication.

I'm too sick to celebrate my Mom's birthday, but I have my Mom, she's healthy, and we have a fantastic relationship.

Not only was I able to see my doctor today, but I live in a country where my healthcare isn't tied into my job or my bank account.

As my voice suffers, I'm reminded how blessed I am to be able to make a living in music, a rare feat in our industry.

And in a world, or let's face it, in a country, province, or city, where many people don't know if they'll eat tonight, I was able to find all the ingredients in my fridge to make nourishing chicken noodle soup - the exact meal I want right now.

So, I won't go so far as to say I'm thankful for my laryngitis, 
but the pity party is over.

Instead, I'm sipping my tea and honey, 
awash in gratitude, 
and excited to sing again ...

24 Books for 2018 

One of my 2018 resolutions was a simple one: 

Read more!

When I looked back on 2017, I realized I'd spent too much time with my nose in the screen instead of in the pages, so I set a goal for the new year:

 I decided to read 24 books in 12 months. 

It seemed like an easy number to track, but not quite easily attainable. In 2017, I'd read less than one book a month, so I knew this goal would require a bit of planning and pushing.

(On a side note, telling people I wanted to read two books a month was an interesting experience. For some people, this number was far lower than their regular reading rate, and for others, it felt quite unattainable. Just another lesson in choosing personal goals that are reasonable for you, but also push you to do better.)

It was a fascinating experience! I didn't start out with any kind of reading list or design. It could be a mix of old and new, fiction and non-fiction. Some were given by friends, some written by friends, some were books I reviewed, and others were just finds along the way. As I went through, I realized that length had to be a factor. When a month included one long book, I also needed to read a short book to squeeze them both into four short weeks.

Reading on tour proved to be a bit of a challenge, too. Even though I'll always be a paper girl, e-books became an easy way to lighten our luggage and read at night.

As the year unfolded, certain books would spark others. When I read "The Happiness Project," I was so inspired by Rubin's excitement for St. Therese that I then picked up "Story Of A Soul". And someday I'll need to write about the intriguing connections I discovered between St. Therese and, of all people, Anne of Green Gables. Unusual themes also unfolded. Without planning it, I read three very different books on World War II, all from different voices and with different insights.

It was such a powerful experience that I've already set my 24-in-12 goal again for 2019!

So what are your reading plans for 2019? 
Have you read any on my list? 
What books would you recommend? 
Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments...

Here are the 24 books I read in 2018:

Your Best Year Ever
By Michael Hyatt

This was an awesome book to kick off 2018. 
Actually, I'll probably read it again in January 2019. 
An easy and powerful approach to goal setting for the New Year.

Free Of Me
By Sharon Hodde Miller

This was a book I received for review.
You can read my review HERE.

The War Of Art
By Steven Pressfield

If you're going to achieve anything creative, you'll need to overcome Resistance.
Pressfield's classic is a powerful and practical book on conquering the things that hold you back, and helping you to achieve your dreams.

I Am Malala
By Malala Yousafzai

A Christmas gift from my sister-in-law, Kristi. I'd wanted to read this book for a while, and it was fantastic. It gave so much more insight to a story we all think we know. A moving and challenging book that will leave you inspired.

The Hiding Place
By Corrie ten Boom

I'd seen lots of quotes by Corrie ten Boom floating around the internet, but it wasn't til I watched an episode of See, Hear, Love that I was inspired to pick up this book. When a table full of women are calling it one of the most influential books they've ever read, you want to pay attention.

I devoured this book. The true story of a Christian family that literally hid Jews in their house during WWII. I can't recommend this book enough! Difficult and fascinating and surprisingly inspiring!

Paul: Apostle of Christ
By Angela Hunt

This was a novelization of the movie by the same name.

I reviewed the movie HERE and the book HERE.

Do The Work
By Steven Pressfield

The follow up to The War Of Art. You'll notice several of Pressfield's books on this list. I can't recommend him enough!

I Will Not Fear
By Melba Pattillo Beals

Written by one of the Little Rock Nine.

I reviewed this book HERE.

The Happiness Project
By Gretchen Rubin

What if you spent an entire year trying to increase your overall sense of happiness?

This was the challenge taken on by Gretchen Rubin. A fun, smart, easily devoured book that can either be simply read or practically applied.

One of the side perks for me was the chapter on spirituality that sparked my reading of Story Of A Soul...

Truth & Beauty: a friendship
By Ann Patchett 

Known for her fiction, Ann Patchett opens a vein and shares with us her beautiful, difficult, and passionate friendship with poet Lucy Grealy. I couldn't put this one down. My own dear friend, Martha Tatarnic (also a writer!) lent me this, and I'm forever grateful. Patchett is a glorious writer, and I've already added several of her titles to my 2019 list.

Story of a Soul
By St. Therese of Lisieux

This is a book that kept coming to me, so I had to read it. St. Therese passionately tells the story of her short life, and her desire to live our her faith in her "Little Way". Gerald and I have had the chance to sing for the staff and students at the St. Therese Institute of Faith and Mission in Bruno, SK, and see the Little Way in action. This April, I'll be sharing a message on St. Therese during an Advent Cafe preaching series, so I imagine I'll be digging back into this book over the next few months...

Anne of Green Gables
By L.M. Montgomery

The one, the only, the original! I picked up this special Canada 150 edition at L.M. Montgomery's birthplace in PEI this spring. What a gorgeous story and beautiful writing! I read the books as a little girl, and re-reading as an adult was wonderful. A perfect summer book!

Life Happens
By Stacy and Derrick Mueller

Written and given to me by my friend, Stacy Mueller. Stacy and her husband, Derrick, tag-teamed this short book to share their stories of abuse, brokenness, and healing. Written with bold rawness and honesty.

The Prophet
By Kahlil Gibran

Probably the 3rd time I've read this? We had the chapter "On Marriage" read at our wedding. There's always something new to discover in this classic.

The English Patient
By Michael Ondaatje

When this was awarded the Golden Man Booker prize this summer (best novel in the past 50 years), I decided to pick it up for a re-read. Definitely the most involved book I read this year. A slow detailed read worth every minute.

My second WWII book of the year...

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
By Mary Ann Shaffer and Anne Barrows

I picked this up (also a re-read) after the movie was announced. Still haven't seen the movie, but I devoured the book. This is probably one of my all-time favourites. The writing, characters, and storytelling are so lovely. Told in a series of letters, this is a uniquely told bit of WWII history.

And yes, that marks my third WWII book of the year! An unplanned theme, but interesting to see one period shared from three very different perspectives...

Every Hallelujah
By Sue C. Smith

Written by my mentor and (I hope I can say) my friend, Sue C. Smith. This is a great book for Christian songwriters, calling on inspiration from the Book of Psalms. This book is personal, inspiring, and incredibly practical.

Sue runs an amazing songwriting conference called Write About Jesus and is also Gerald's cowriter on our radio single, My Soul Is Spoken For.

7 Essential Habits of Christian Writers
By InScribe Christian Writers Fellowship

It was interesting to read two books on Christian writing back-to-back. Unlike Sue's book with her singular, personal perspective, this book is a collection of essays, stories, and poems by the writers of the InScribe Christian Writers Fellowship. The pieces were widely varied on themes and approach, but all aimed to provide inspiration, encouragement, and practical support.

Our talented friend, Sally Meadows, is one of the contributors!

Jonathan Livingston Seagull
By Richard Bach

I read this for very practical reasons - I needed a short book on my iPad that I could quickly read on tour. Again, I've probably read this book about three times, but there's always something interesting and inspiring to be found within its sparse pages.

The Artist's Journey
By Steven Pressfield

His latest and my third for the year! This books encourages the artist to step back and take a wide-angle view of your creative life. As always, inspiring and must-read for anyone on the artistic path.

I'd Rather Be Reading
By Anne Bogel

I read this book for review which you can read HERE.

Probably one of my favourite review books ever! I would have grabbed this from a bookstore any day. A love letter to books and "the reading life."

By Michelle Obama

I've always been a fan, but my admiration for Michelle grew through reading her inspiring story. Her writing is beautiful and engaging, and her transparency is startling. It's a book about family, values, finding your path, and lifting others up.

A Christmas Carol
By Charles Dickens

Tis the season! I've seen lots of movie adaptations, but I don't know that I'd ever read the book? After sharing that I'd be reading it during Christmas week, my Dad also decided to pick up a copy. Even if you think you know the story, Dickens is such an engaging writer that it's well worth making an eggnog latte and spending an evening with this classic.

How The Grinch Stole Christmas!
By Dr. Suess

Okay, not a full novel, I know! I found myself at 23 books for the year with only a few days to go. I thought I'd cut myself a break and read one well-written, substantial seasonal story to round out my 24.

And what a perfect choice! Writing, characters, story, voice - brilliant in every aspect.

So those are my 24 Books for 2018!

Please share your thoughts, or your book suggestions, in the comments below...

Book Review: I'd Rather Be Reading, by Anne Bogel 

I'd Rather Be Reading 
- The Delights And Dilemmas 
Of The Reading Life

With a title like this, how could I resist?

As soon as I saw I'd Rather Be Reading on the review list, I ordered my copy. I've been dipping my toe into the e-book world over the last few years, but something told me that this one would be best read in hardcopy, and it was definitely the right call.

This sweet collection of essays is written by a reader, for readers. If you love books, reading, bookstores, libraries, book clubs, book shelves and all aspects of literary life, this wee tome is for you.

I wasn't familiar with Anne Bogel's work before this, but I'm curious to look into her blog, podcast, and other writings.

It can be quickly read in one sitting, or devoured over a few days in bite-sized portions.

I started it last week, but finally finished it by sitting up late this week, reading well past midnight by the light of the Christmas tree. Somehow, I felt Anne might approve...

If you love books, you'll love I'd Rather Be Reading. I might even recommend buying several copies - one for yourself, and ones to give your other reading friends. 

I received this book to review from the Nuts About Books Blogger Program and Graf-Martin Communications Inc.  I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.