The February Book Talk Where Friends Come in from the Cold

Since the Lord in his infinite wisdom has ordained that, here in Mid-Coast Maine, snow and cold should always be followed immediately by rain and warm temperatures, it’s unusual for the ground to be covered with white for weeks at a time.

Here’s what snow sounds like underfoot at zero degrees Fahrenheit, and my opinion is that if it’s going to be winter anyway, then let it be cold.  Let the ground stay hard, and let the sky send a fresh, clean blanket of white every few days to relieve the monotony of all that has expired.  Better to walk on frozen ground or across the crunch of snow than to sink into the mud of late winter acedia.  Better to bring my mittens, my shovel, and my small resiliency to a beautiful frosty world than to mourn the slow and uncertain advent of spring.

Better to walk on frozen ground or across the crunch of snow than to sink into the mud of early spring acedia.  Better to bring my mittens, my shovel, and my small resiliency to a beautiful frosty world than to mourn the slow and uncertain advent of spring.

February is the perfect time to curl up with a good book, so come in from the cold and share what you’ve been reading! And if you’ve written a blog post about your reading life, the welcome mat is down in the comments below!

February Book Reviews

I’ve broken out of my genre rut this year! You’ll see a couple of memoir-ish reads and a work of legal fiction alongside my usual faith-oriented non-fiction books.

What are you reading this winter? Be sure to share highlights from your own reading life in the comments below.

Shift

When I find myself sliding into the mid-winter doldrums, it’s time for a shift in my perspective. After all, it may be gray and cold outside, but there are paths for walking through the woods. There’s still the blessing of bird song and beautiful sunsets. There’s a candle on my dining room table, plenty of food in my refrigerator, and a posse of people who love me well.

Of course, it’s not always the season of the year that gets us down, and Abby McDonald has lived through this reality. In Shift: Changing Our Focus to See the Presence of God, she shares her season of discontent, caught between a home that wouldn’t sell and the need to live in her in-laws’ basement. She shares her season of anxiety after discovering her son’s severe food allergy, and opens her heart about the every-woman struggles of negative self-talk and people pleasing.

When it’s time for a shift in perspective, it feels seismic to go from a legalistic heart to a grace-filled lens, from a short-term view to a long-term hope, from hoping in your own plan to hoping in God’s. McDonald comes alongside readers with the good news that God walks with us in our battles, ever-present and ever-powerful–and then shares strategies and biblical insights that have changed the way she sees the world.

And there’s a Give Away!

Leafwood Publishers has graciously given me one copy to share with a Living Our Days reader! To enter, simply leave a comment below. Let’s have a conversation about the life-changing truth that when we adjust our lens to focus our eyes on God rather than what we wish were were seeing in our lives, he reveals himself to us and to those around us.
I’ll announce the winner next Tuesday, March 2 to give everyone a chance to enter and spread the word.

A Severe Mercy

In keeping with my intention to read more “old” books to offset all the “new” books I read, I pulled this book off my shelf, a gift from an almost stranger, and a real game changer for me as a senior in high school. A Severe Mercy includes correspondence between Sheldon van Auken (the author) and C.S. Lewis, but most of all, it’s the story of God’s love invading the lives of two very self-centered people and turning them upside down. I rediscovered some Lewis quotes I’d forgotten, and enjoyed the story of a blossoming romance from the perspective of my thirty-year marriage.

Every disability conceals a vocation, if only we can find it.”

C.S. Lewis

All Things Are Possible

I started a new journal for 2021, and to be honest, I began looking forward to opening its pages weeks in advance. There’s just something special about a pretty new place to store my thoughts and observations!

Melanie Redd has put careful thought into designing just the right space for YOUR words, and if you’re thinking right now, “I never know what to write,” Mel has already taken care of that, too!

All Things Are Possible focuses on ten specific areas of spiritual growth, and each day’s entry includes scripture and then a prompt for reflection to move both your pen and your soul in the right direction. Beautifully illustrated by Enya Todd, this guided journal will inspire readers to turn the thin, crisp pages of their Bibles long after their ninety journal pages have been filled. Research shows that habits are formed with repetition, and it’s my hope that many women will form the habits of reading, study, contemplation, prayer, and journaling as a result of Melanie’s good work.

Share Your Stuff. I’ll Go First.

What if you had a friend whose vulnerability paved the way for you to be fully yourself whenever you were together? If you are tired of surface level coffee dates and image management as a way of life, Share Your Stuff. I’ll Go First. will land on your heart like a breath of fresh air. Laura Tremaine shares ten questions guaranteed to take your friendships to the next level, but she does it in the context of her own messy story.

One unexpected benefit of this reading experience is that I couldn’t help but swivel the beam of those ten penetrating questions onto myself, and the beginning of a new year isn’t a bad time to be reviewing my pivotal decisions, pondering the people who have “taught me to be,” or what still scares me, even at age 58. I reached the final page wanting to be a better listener, to be the kind of friend who encourages others to be themselves and to know that they have been heard. Whether you implement Laura’s list of ten questions or come up with some doozies of your own, I hope you will lean into relationships in 2021, reaching across the space that separates mask from mask by posing a question, going first, and then really listening as your friend shares her heart.

It’s Never Too Late

I am embarrassed to admit that I almost missed this book because of my snobbery. I’ve never been a fan of daytime TV, and I had pigeon-holed Kathy Lee Gifford as a beautiful and entertaining intellectual light weight. And I have been wrong. As Gifford shares her fascinating story, she is also teaching her readers how to lament what is truly sad and to celebrate what is truly a blessing, because it all comes to us through God’s sovereign plan.

A woman who has experienced both heady success and gut-wrenching tragedy, Gifford bears witness to a surprisingly even-keeled life and invites her readers to take a second look (or even a first look!) at the faith that has served as her own life-long ballast. Even if her gift for writing song lyrics had not sparkled its way into her prose (which it did), the epigraphs at the beginning of each chapter felt like little word-bonuses. If you were a faithful viewer of Regis and Kathy Lee in your youth, It’s Never Too Late will be a treat, but even if not, you will be inspired by her challenge to “make the next act of your life the best act of your life.”

Trial and Error

A child’s tragic disappearance sizzles alongside the slow burn of a generational secret as Buddy Smith, small town lawyer, works to end a mother’s grief–and to resolve his own. I don’t read nearly as much fiction as I’d like, and Robert Whitlow’s deftly drawn characters and skillful pacing made Trial and Error a true delight. His roots in the legal field help him to write with real credibility, and there’s plenty of local color and southern cooking!

As a mum to four sons of my own, I especially enjoyed Buddy’s relationship with his mother and found myself wishing I could zip down to Milton County for a coffee date with Beatrice Smith!

Come in from the Cold!

It’s been a beautiful month of reading, and I look forward to talking books with you!

Praying for you in 2021,

I’m breaking out of my genre rut this winter! Come in from the cold for the February Book Talk!

On the Third Thursday of every month, I send biblical encouragement and newsy insights to newsletter subscribers. You can sign up using the handy (and only slightly annoying) pop-up form or simply click here to subscribe.

And as always, you can also subscribe to Living Our Days blog to get regular content delivered to your inbox twice a week. Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page. If you’re encouraged by what you read here, be sure to spread the word!

Many thanks to Thomas Nelson, Zondervan, Net Galley, Callisto, and Leafwood Press for providing these books in order to facilitate my reviews which, of course, are offered freely and with honesty.

I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees. If you should decide to purchase any of the books I’ve shared, simply click on the image, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

57 thoughts on “The February Book Talk Where Friends Come in from the Cold”

  1. I enjoyed reading the book reviews. I was a fan of Kathie Lee in my early stay-at-home mothering days. I had just seen the book in a CBD catalog. Now I think I’ll get it.
    Thanks, Donna

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    1. It is absolutely my favorite thing when someone I know IN REAL LIFE shows up here in the virtual living room of my blog! Thanks for reading, Donna! It’s always a joy to share books with friends.

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  2. I first read “A Severe Mercy” only a few years ago and it really moved me. I’d like to give it a re-reading sometimes. I’ve got “Share Your Stuff” on my list too. I’m also 58 so I likely should swivel the questions back to myself as well. 🙂 The next book I plan to read is “Caste” – I’ve had it on hold for months at my library and it’s finally available to me.

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  3. Thanks for sharing books – it gives food for thought and future reading. And thanks for the giveaway. Think I read C.S. Lewis’ book many years ago; sounds like I need a re-read!

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  4. I have been wanting to read Abby McDonald’s book for some time. It may just be time to do so! Thank you for giving such wonderful reviews!

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  5. Thank you for this eclectic collection of book reviews! I am often tempted by memoirs. When I read the review for Shift, I was struck by how we sometimes allow minor annoyances to color our whole outlook. Of course, I was in the middle of a tech meltdown at the time. Lucky for me, I have sons who are “experts” and the crisis was soon resolved. I smiled to myself when you wrote about negative self-talk. At the moment, I was calling myself an idiot for not being able to figure out the dilemma myself! 🙂

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  6. I love these book posts of yours, Michele. I’ve just put holds on two more books at the library, and am secretly holding out hope about that little contest you’ve got going on. 🙂

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    1. I’ve enjoyed putting them together, and it does seem as if sharing a group of books all at once is serving my readers better. It also frees up my writing schedule for more variety of blog posts throughout the month.

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  7. Such a variety of subjects and themes here! The beautiful painted cover of the “All Things are Possible Journal” grabbed my attention. I’m excitedly awaiting the arrival of a blank journal and hope to start a perpetual journal which is based on seasonal observations captured in ink or watercolours. Might have to add some words too!

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  8. I read A Severe Mercy some years back and was moved by it. But I have forgotten lots of it. I just started journaling again with a journal that allows just a few lines for each day. But I am wishing now I had purchased a regular journal or just a notebook so I could write as much or as little as I wanted. I am not a talk show fan, either. I didn’t see much of Regis and Kathy Lee, but I’d occasionally see Kathy Lee and Hoda while at the dentist. Someone on my Twitter feed posts a lot of Kathy Lee’s tweets, and she seems to be a genuine Christian. I might look into her book. I read one Robert Whitlow book years ago and should read more from him. I posted about the books I’ve read in my end-of-month post here: https://barbaraleeharper.com/2021/02/25/february-reflections-2/.

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  9. So fun to hear more about what you’re reading! I’ve been so moved by Shift. It’s funny how God has us read just what we need at the right time!

    Also, Share Your Stuff. I’ll Go First. keeps popping up everywhere. It may be one to add to my list. And the Whitlow book sounds like an interesting escape from all that introspection!

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  10. You’ve piqued my interest in A Severe Mercy, All Things Are Possible, and Trial and Error, Michele. I’m currently working through Jan Karon’s Mitford series (14 books, I think). Such delightful reading–calming for heart and mind. Then to challenge myself, Live Not by Lies by Rod Dreher, that takes an honest look at where our country seems to be heading and how we can prepare ourselves for what may come. Eye-opening, concerning, yet full of hope. Strong Christians in times past and/or in other places have thrived through crises; we can too. Dreher tells us how, based on their experiences.

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  11. Michele, you have an interesting collection of books. All are intriguing! Thanks for linking up and have a great weekend.

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    1. Yes, I’ve learned that March 21 means absolutely nothing here. The planet may be tilting toward the sun, but we are hanging back like the cautious New Englanders we are lest we be too forward and friendly with our nearest star!

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  12. This is such a fun roundup!! The one I knew of was Shift (which is amazing!) “Share your stuff” really intrigued me. Friends who are willing to go deep in conversation are such a blessing. Thanks for the recommendation! I recently started reading more fiction, and have found that Sherlock Holmes stories are even better than the movies, no surprise!

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  13. I love the sound of crunch of walking on snow and agree winter should be cold, not wet. It’s also like the crisp of autumn with the leaves on the ground. It’s been far too muddy for me around here recently. Thank you for linking with #pocolo and hope to see you back later this week

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  14. Snow has got to be better than mud – anything has got to be better than mud, from someone who spends a lot of time slipping through the mud! Loved the book reviews and I also have read some fiction recently, which made a refreshing change.

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  15. I’m a bit south of you in Connecticut and it is really cold today! I’m working on finishing the last few chapters of Steven King’s Revival, set in Maine as most of his books are. #mischiefandmemories

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  16. Thank you for sharing at #OverTheMoon. Pinned and shared. Have a lovely week. I hope to see you at next week’s party too! Please stay safe and healthy. Come party with us at Over The Moon! Catapult your content Over The Moon! @marilyn_lesniak @EclecticRedBarn

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  17. That snow really does crunch doesn’t it! Our little sprinkle of snow only lasted a few days. It’s now sunny and fresh here in the UK. I agree, it’s a perfect time for a good read. I’ve got a new stash of books I’m keen on reading too. Just have to squeeze out a bit of time to do it. Thank you for joining us for #mischiefandmemories

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  18. A fab book collection this month! I like the way you admit to judging a book by its cover with regard to the TV personality (pun intended!) Thanks for linking up with #MischiefAndMemories

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  19. Michele, I love your attitude about winter and the frozen crunchy snow. I live in a very snowy place and while I don’t mind the snow so much, I do mind the bitter cold. And even more so, the muddy mess when it all starts to melt in preparation for spring. It is a great time of year to get lost in books though! I have been reading lots of older fiction set in times of yore. It has been helping me keep a proper perspective as well as gratitude for the abundance and conveniences in my life. I recently read two books by O. E. Rolvaag (Giants in the Earth and Peder Victorious) which followed the lives of two generations of Norwegian pioneers who settled the Dakota territories in the late 1800’s. And now I am currently reading A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. The parallels of life in London and Paris during the French Revolution are so very similar to what the world is experiencing right now. It is fascinating to look back at that time in human history. Thanks for sharing what you have been reading and linking with me!

    Shelbee
    http://www.shelbeeontheedge.com

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